A Tale of two kings
Unfailing love and faithfulness protect the king; his throne is made secure through love. – Proverbs 20:28
7 O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die.
8 First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
9 For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.
In a piece published in 1883, years after Lincoln’s death, author Robert Ingersoll wrote, “Nothing discloses real character like the use of power. It is easy for the weak to be gentle. Most people can bear adversity. But if you wish to know what a man really is, give him power. This is the supreme test. It is the glory of Lincoln that, having almost absolute power, he never used it, except upon the side of mercy.”
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power” (attributed to Abraham Lincoln).
Essential qualities that contribute to a king’s goodness include strong leadership, inspiring and guiding their people towards a common goal; fairness and impartiality in judgments and decisions, upholding the law and ensuring justice for all; kindness, empathy, focus on their subjects’ concerns and needs; wisdom, a deep understanding of history, politics, and economics; and humility, being receptive to feedback and criticism, and willing to acknowledge mistakes.
Ultimately, a good king puts their people’s well-being above their own interests and rules with wisdom, justice, and compassion.
One of the good kings of history was King Louis IX of France. He ruled France from 1226-1270. He was truly extraordinary. He was known for his acts of charity, including feeding the poor and caring for the sick personally. He was characterized by justice, piety, diplomacy, and military leadership.
How did the kings of the Jewish people fair? Between the time of Solomon and the captivity, they were 39 Kings altogether. Judah had 20 Kings, of which only eight were good while 12 were bad. Israel, the northern kingdom, had one evil King after another. There were 19 total, and none of them were good.
REFLECT & PRAY
Saul’s downfall can be traced back to his foolish and imprudent choices, in which he attempted to mask his disobedience with lies. This marked a tragic decline that led him to seek counsel from a witch and his suicide on the battlefield.
Father thank You that You provide wisdom to all who seek it in humility and devotion to You. Enable me to handle the assignment set before me totally dependent upon You.
A Tale of Two Kings: Saul
King Saul looked excellent on paper. If his resume were available, on the outside, Saul would appear to be a man among men, a natural leader. The people chose him without ever examining his character or heart attitude. A thorough background check was in order but was never performed. The only heart that Saul was concerned about was his own. He lived to please himself and no one else.
Saul started as a humble and reluctant leader but eventually became jealous and paranoid, leading to his downfall. His impatience and disobedience ultimately caused him to lose favor with the Father and the people. Overall, Saul’s character can be seen as a cautionary tale about the dangers of power and pride, and the importance of remaining humble and obedient.
1 Samuel 10:23-25
21 Saul, son of Kish, was chosen from among them . . ..
23 He stood head and shoulders above anyone else.
24 Then Samuel said to all the people, “This is the man the LORD has chosen as your king. No one in all Israel is like him!” And all the people shouted, “Long live the king!”
1 Samuel 13:13-14
13 “How foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the LORD your God gave you. Had you kept it, the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.
14 But now your kingdom must end, for the LORD has sought out a man after his own heart. The LORD has already appointed him to be the leader of his people because you have not kept the LORD’s command.”
The man after his own heart is David, “a man who truly has God’s interests at heart” (EBC). According to Hebrew thought, the heart is where a person’s will, desire, and choice are put into action. This may be expressed as “a person whose desire is to serve the LORD” or “the kind of man he wants” (NCV) (UBS).
A Tale of Two Kings: Solomon
On the other hand, Solomon began his reign with humility and dependence upon the Father. He put the people of Israel before himself.
1 Kings 3:5 The LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”
Pause for a moment and imagine what that was like. The Father came to him in his dreams. The Father was ready to write checks in any amount. He asked Solomon, tell me whatever you want, and I will give it to you.
Solomon’s humility, character, and heart of faith were revealed for all to see.
1 Kings 3:6-9
6 Solomon replied, “You showed faithful love to your servant, my father, David because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued your faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.”
7 “Now, O LORD my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around.”
8 “And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted!”
9 “Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”
The wisest man who ever lived chose to humble himself and become as a child who relies on their father for support. In his time of need, Solomon’s Father showed up and had his back. What could be better than that?
Solomon desperately needed wisdom, knowledge, discernment, insight, and a strong moral compass. He had to discern good from evil, truth from error, and right from wrong. He asked for a discerning heart.
What is a discerning heart?
The phrase a discerning heart is literally a hearing heart. The Hebrew word, which is translated as understanding or discerning, is shama. Shama comes from the Hebrew verb shamah, which is typically translated to hear. It may also mean to understand. The Hebrew phrase could also be translated as an attentive heart or an intelligent heart (UBS).
1 Kings 3:10-14
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.
11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for long life or wealth or the death of your enemies –“
12 “I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!”
13 “And I will also give you what you did not ask for – riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life!”
14 “And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”
Every child of the King has the privilege of requesting a discerning heart from the Father. If one asks with faith and proper intentions, the Father promises to grant their request. (James 4:2-3).
James 1:5 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.
The Father answered Solomon’s prayer and provided godly wisdom, which only comes from above (James 3:15,17). The Father delights in giving wisdom to all children of the King.
© Dr. H 2023