David wonderfully set up his son to succeed in every possible way. Yet the bottom line is that it still came down to Solomon’s decisions. God appeared to him in his sleep and offered him anything he wanted. We know that wisdom was the outcome. But that was not actually what Solomon asked for, at least not directly. Solomon’s choice was this:
Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours? 1 Kings 3: 9, emphasis added
Solomon requested an understanding heart. Certainly this was the result of David’s command to the child Solomon to pursue wisdom, and in the process to get understanding. But even this, as rich as it is, contains a deeper insight. The Hebrew word used here for understanding is the word shama, which means “to hear.” Solomon was not asking simply for understanding; he asked for a hearing heart! In doing that, he was asking to be a well-equipped part of God’s process. God’s response to Solomon is so wonderful:
Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked long life for yourself, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have asked the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern justice, behold, I have done according to your words; see, I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you. And I have also given you what you have not asked: both riches and honor, so that there shall not be anyone like you among the kings all your days.1 Kings 3: 11– 13, emphasis added
Let me put this in my words: Solomon asked for a hearing heart, and God said, Okay, I’ll give you wisdom. The implication is that wisdom is not just a deposit made into somebody who now has all the answers. It implies that the ability to hear the voice of God is the key to wisdom. Wisdom, then, is a relational fruit. If the key to wisdom is hearing God’s voice, then interestingly, this puts faith on similar terms with wisdom. We know that faith comes from hearing (see Romans 10: 17). It does not come from having heard. The very nature of faith implies a present-tense relationship with God in which we are in the process of hearing Him. It is not a relationship based solely on what God has said in the past. Wisdom takes on a similar nature in that in order for it to continue functioning, we must have an ongoing relationship with God and a desire to hear His voice in our lives. This is consistent with the rest of God’s word to Solomon in this exchange: “So if you walk in My ways, to keep My statutes and My commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days” (1 Kings 3: 14). In other words, God was saying, Keep current in our relationship and I’ll make sure you do great.