Discerning Minds

Discerning Minds


1 Kings 2:10-12 (NRSV)

Then David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned for seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

1 Kings 3:3-14 (NRSV))

Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt-offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, 'Ask what I should give you.' And Solomon said, 'You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart towards you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?'

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, 'Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honour all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.'


I can't imagine what it was like to be in the shoes of Solomon, having been raised on the stories of God's work in the life of his father, David; having witnessed the wonders and learning how to offer sacrifices to appease this God, and now knowing that God was as closely watching his own life as well because he was now King of the Israelites. How profound to have that moment in his dream when God appeared and said, "Ask what I should give you."

How would you answer? Would you ask for health and well-being or the resolution to one of your many life challenges or questions? In your times of prayer, have you ever asked for a discerning heart and mind? I'll be honest, I haven't put it in those words, but I've asked a few times in a roundabout way for such.

I've been in several moments when I've realized that the only prayer I could offer is for a sense of God's presence and guidance because I sure had no idea how things would unfold in a current situation, when all I could do is surrender and wait, because I couldn't take any actions and had to practice living into the unfolding and watching. I've been in moments of awe and deep gratitude as I've witnessed the divine Spirit bringing about a resolution that I could not have dreamed possible.

Years ago, I remember learning the words of the hymn "Seek Ye First." "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and God's righteousness. Then all these things shall be added unto you, Allelu, Alleluia!" There was a whole year during seminary when I'd be singing that hymn in my car as I drove the two hours from my home in Niantic to Andover Newton Seminary and back, just surrendering to listen, trying to discern how to live into what was unfolding in my life. The transformation was too complex and overwhelming, and I knew it was larger than my mind and heart could understand. That experience was foundational for other moments in my life when I've realized that the situations before me were not allowing for simple answers but calling for me to surrender again and listen for God's compassionate love to guide me, so that I didn't make knee-jerk reaction choices or ones based on my limited understanding or fear.

"Ask what I should give you." May we all remember to ask for a discerning heart and mind as we go into the coming days and months with the transformation happening within our homes, congregations, state, nation, and world. For as we do, our grounded presence can lead into moments of awe and grace, because we allow God's love to guide us.


Gracious and compassionate God, on this day, help me to pause from the busy-ness of my life and thinking I am in charge of the details. Help me to surrender and live into the words of the hymn: "Seek ye first, the kingdom of God and God's righteousness." Guide my thoughts and my heart. Give me a discerning mind to follow your will and act in your ways of love.

Lee A. Ireland

Interim Pastor of the First Congregational Church UCC in Westbrook, Connecticut

August 12, 2015
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