“One wish…anything.” If you are a kid, or a parent of one, you might think this was a line from the film Aladdin. In that story, the genie, who was awakened from a 10,000-year nap, grants his new master three wishes. With wishes come some stipulations, one of which was that he couldn’t wish for more wishes. Makes sense. Don’t want to wear out the genie.

In the Scriptures, God grants young King Solomon one wish. Now, understand something: God is no genie. To reduce Him to such frivolous status would be sacrilege. That’s not to say some people don’t try to do that by the way they treat Him.

Nevertheless, Yahweh God did grant Solomon one wish. Maybe it was to test him. Better yet, maybe it was to prove him. In either case Solomon, by his choice, demonstrated the very thing he wished for, which is wisdom. “Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people” (2 Chron.1:10, NASB). This wisdom would eventually permeate his whole life experience, from the work he performed as king to the words he expressed as sage. Christians today are enriched by his contributions to the believing community as they apply to wisdom. Countries need leadership that emulates it.

Solomon’s wish was not his first encounter with God. The Scripture tells us that the Lord “loved him” when he was born the second child to David and Bathsheba. Nathan the prophet, for the Lord’s sake, gave him the surname Jedidiah, which means “beloved of the LORD” (2 Sam. 12:24–25). And it was the Lord’s throne on which Solomon would later sit as king of Israel and “the LORD his God was with him and exalted him greatly” (2 Chron. 1:1, NASB).

The wish itself came to Solomon just after his inauguration. The Lord appeared to him and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you” (2 Chron. 1:7). This was no beauty pageant interview. He was not competing against others before judges. His was a heartfelt response to a probing question from the God of the universe.

In the suburban section of our local newspapers is a section featuring volunteers in the community who have distinguished themselves through their          service. This column offers a “snapshot” of that week’s volunteer, somewhat like a personality profile. It’s interesting reading especially when you get to the question, “If granted one wish, what would it be?” Some answers have been of the self-serving sort, citing such luxuries as a world cruise or a beachfront cottage. Others have been more altruistic, listing everything from world peace to the cure for serious illness.

It’s easy to critique others’ responses, but when confronted with the question ourselves, it’s difficult to say what we’d wish for. Solomon’s response no doubt was born out of the tremendous sense of responsibility he felt for leading the nation of Israel. His wish singled out wisdom because his work called for wisdom.

In the events leading up to Solomon’s appointment as king, the matter of wisdom played a key role. King David had prayed for discretion and understanding on behalf of his son Solomon, since he was the heir-apparent to the responsibility of building the temple (1 Chron. 22:12). In that same blessing, David informed Solomon of the skilled artisans who were at his disposal to help accomplish the task (vv. 15–16). Interestingly, the concept of skill is at the very heart of wisdom. Both are from the same Hebrew word and are often used interchangeably. In 1 Kings 7:13-14, Solomon sent for Hiram from the city of Tyre to use his special ability in building fine things. Hiram was “highly skilled and experienced in all kinds of bronze work.”

Whereas skill and wisdom are closely connected in meaning, it is important to understand that they are not merely technical in function. Wisdom has a moral dimension. It was seen in Solomon’s ability to make sound judgments in difficult situations. One of his most famous decisions involved the conflict between two harlots who were in dispute over a living and a dead child. When Solomon decreed that the living child be literally divided between the two mothers, his ruling exposed the rightful mother who naturally was willing to spare the child by forfeiting him to the other woman.   By this Solomon knew to whom the child belonged. “When all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had handed down, they feared the king; for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to administer justice” (1 Kings 3:28, NASB).

Solomon, it could be argued, is the earthly progenitor of godly wisdom. His wisdom came as a result of making a good choice when given the opportunity. For Christians, the opportunity is all the more accessible. Jesus, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3, NASB), has given us the opportunity to receive wisdom from Him. In doing so, we gain the wisdom that not only affects the life that now is, but also the life to come. “One wish …anything.”

Steve Faulkner (Th.M. 84) serves as pastor at Grace Church of Richardson in Texas.