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Practical Wisdom

And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear.

"How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver" (Proverbs 16:16). These sentiments of Solomon, regarding the preference for wisdom over wealth, stem from a strange dream that changed his life.

Once Solomon attended a solemn procession to the altar at Gibeon, about five miles from Jerusalem. This is where the ancient Tabernacle yet stood. Here the king celebrated an elaborate, religious festival in which he offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar built by Bezaleel nearly five centuries before. While at Gibeon, Solomon received a dream from the Lord, in which God demanded, "Ask what I shall give thee" (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon barely knew what to request from God. Then he remembered the great task that had been laid before him. He was the king of the chosen nation, a great people that could not be numbered for their multitude. Solomon asked for practical wisdom, the ability to discern between right and wrong and to make immediate judgments that were founded on the truth. He was not asking for spiritual discernment; he wanted to rule the people well. God was pleased with Solomon's concern to be a just ruler and thus granted Solomon's request and added riches, honor, and length of days as well.

An occasion soon arose to test this divine gift of practical wisdom. Two harlots came before the king bearing two children, one dead, one alive. Although their stories were conflicting they did agree both lived in the same house and recently, within days of one another, each gave birth to a child. One woman claimed that the dead child was the result of the other mother's carelessness in accidentally laying on the child during the night and suffocating it. She claimed that the other woman rose at midnight, took her living son from beside her, and placed the dead infant in its stead. When the woman arose in the morning to feed the child, she discovered it was dead (1 Kings 3:21). She also discovered in the morning, at the light of day, that it was not her child lifelessly lying beside her in bed. She claimed that the living child was hers. The other woman disputed the claim saying that the first woman's child had simply died and she was now trying to compensate for her loss by taking the live child to be her own.

The situation appeared hopeless. It was the perfect test for Solomon's practical wisdom. What would he do? The king resolved to appeal to the maternal instinct of the women He called for a sword to "divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other." Immediately the child's mother screamed and requested that the king give her own child to the other woman rather than see him slain. Solomon thus discerned which woman was telling the truth and presented the child to his mother.

The fame of this decision spread throughout all Israel, inspiring fear of the king's justice and a conviction that God had given Solomon exceptional discernment. Israel believed that he would carry out his administrative duties with supreme justice.

Solomon's wisdom, however, appears to have gone beyond mere practical shrewdness in everyday affairs: 1 Kings 4:29-34 indicates Solomon demonstrated significant literary ability in speaking three thousand proverbs and writing more than one thousand psalms. One of those proverbs was, "Death and life are in the power of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). On this occasion, a happy mother had just realized the truth of those words.

MORNING HYMN Hover o'er me, Holy Spirit, Bathe my trembling heart and brow; Fill me with thy hallow'd presence, Come, O come and fill me now.

Devotional is used with permission from the author. It may be used solely for personal, noncommercial, and informational purposes. Republication or redistribution of this devotional is prohibited.

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