Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people? (1 Kings 3:9 ESV).
In Hebrew, the heart and mind were NOT separate, they were one entity. For example: In the Shema, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut 6:4-5). Loving God with one’s mind was implied in the Hebrew meaning (the Hebrew understanding of heart also represented a person’s will and emotions). By the time Jesus spoke the Great Commandment the Gnostics and Hellenistic culture separated the heart and mind. Hence why Jesus says, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:29–30). This is not a contradiction, Jesus is not adding anything to the Shema. He is speaking to His audience in the language and thought context of His audience’s day.
All this background is to say, I am in desperate need of a listening heart and an obedient heart as Solomon is requesting in 1 Kings 3:9. In Hebrew, understanding here literally means listen or obey (the same Hebrew word that begins the Shema). What is significant about Solomon’s use of understanding is that it is a participle. Solomon is continuously asking God for a listening/obedient heart. This is NOT a one time request; it is a repeated request.
Why does Solomon ask for this? So that he can govern the people discerning between good and evil. Discern here is a hiphil verb, which in Hebrew is a verb of causation. Solomon is asking God to cause him to discern between good and evil. True wisdom, understanding and discernment are only found in an ongoing, continuous relationship with the Lord. As House says, “Only knowledge of what God considers fair and unfair can guide the king to act justly with any consistency” (1, 2 Kings NAC, 1995, p. 111).
God was obviously pleased that Solomon asked for a listening heart; otherwise, He would not have said, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you” (1 Kings 3:11-12, emphasis mine). Discerning here is also a participle. It is in God’s nature and character to continuously give wisdom and discernment to those who are in relationship with Him, asking in faith.
The Lord is pleased when we ask for a listening heart and discerning mind . My prayer request whenever anyone asks is always for “wisdom and discernment.” We are encouraged by Solomon and admonished by James (esp chapters 1 and 3) to seek wisdom. May we have obedient, listening hearts that seek to discern right from wrong. By having obedient, listening hearts may live in a manner that pleases and glorifies God, in this ever darkening and evil world.
Father God, I ask that You will continuously give us a desire to seek wisdom. Cause us to understand Your will and way. May we have obedient, listening hearts that are set to do good, administer justice and love others in a way that pleases, honors and glorifies You. Lord God, now more than ever we are seeing how Your wisdom is foolish to those who do not know You. Lord, cause those who are Yours to continuously seek Your mind, to seek Your heart, will and way. Lord God, thank You that You are Wisdom in nature and essence. Praise You for who You are even when we do not understand. Lord God, fill this reader with wisdom. Fill this reader with a desire to obey You and do Your will more than temporarily satisfying their earthly desires. Lord God, wise people seek wise people, may that be said of us! Lord, may we rather be filled and motivated with a heart bent toward You, even if it makes us foolish. Lord, I ask for wisdom for all people in leadership. Lord God, give us a desire for wisdom, holiness, righteousness and justice by the power of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’s Name to the glory of God the Father, Amen.