Discerning Church Learning to discern the movement of God's Spirit

Rethinking Decisions

As I continue to explore the life of Solomon, I find increasing application around the issue of discernment. Most are familiar with the story in 1 Kings 3 of Solomon’s opportunity to ask God for anything he desires.

(1 Kings 3:5 NIV) At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

It is almost like a bottle genie. Have you ever considered what your answer might be? Solomon appropriately understands his inability to serve as king without God-given wisdom. He responds in gratitude for all that God has given and then presents his request.

(1 Kings 3:7–9 NIV) Now, LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

We know how it turns out. God grants him wisdom and because of his humility God gives him a bonus. He is also granted wealth and honor.

(1 Kings 3:13 NIV) Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings.

This is a cool story. I especially like the phrase a discerning heart in Solomon’s request. It is less about political savvy and more about hearing the voice of God. Discernment is a continual process and Solomon knows he will need the ongoing voice of God in his life.

I was working today on a sermon from 1 Kings 4. This chapter contains a list of Solomon’s officials. It is easy to breeze over the names for more interesting parts of the story. But one name sticks out. If you look in 1 Kings 4:4, you see the names of two priests.

(1 Kings 4:4 NIV) Zadok and Abiathar—priests;

The first name makes sense. If you read chapter 2, you might remember that Zadok was appointed priest when Solomon exiled the traitor priest who joined his brother Adonijah in a attempt to gain the throne. Yet if you look closely you see that the second name is the traitor priest. Apparently, Solomon brings him out of exile at some point; he gains his old position back. What happened? Where is the back story?

We don’t really know why he is listed here. Could it be that Solomon’s new God-given wisdom revealed that the exile was a mistake? Could it be that he changed his mind about Abiathar? We know that Abiathar was a faithful companion of David. Perhaps God revealed to Solomon that he should bring Abiathar out of exile.

Any further description of Abiathar would be conjecture. He is not mentioned again after chapter 4. But perhaps his story is a lesson in discernment. Sometimes we find that God leads us to change direction in a way that reverses a previous decision. Sometimes we find that we made a wrong turn and need to rectify our mistake.

May we not be afraid to rethink a previous decision. May we be open to promptings of the Holy Spirit that require us to go back and redo. It is never easy to admit a mistake. Our pride often gets in the way of such a move. But if we are serious about discerning God’s leading, we must be willing to go back and reconsider.