“He Got ONE Wish”
August 19, 2018*
By Pastor John Partridge
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 John 6:51-58 Ephesians 5:15-20
How many wishes do you get if you release a genie from a lamp?
If you’ve ever read “A 1,001 Arabian Nights”, or even if you’ve watched a lot of Bugs Bunny, most of us would say that you “normally” get three wishes. But if you read more about genies you will find that they are often tricksters who are angry and unfriendly toward humans. But obviously, both Bugs Bunny and “A Thousand and One Arabian Nights” are works of fiction. In the real world, there’s no reason to argue over the number of wishes because no one gets wishes granted. As Christians, we are accustomed to praying for the things that we need, but we are, or we should be, regularly reminded that God is not a genie that grants wishes.
So, what’s with the sermon title? “He Got One Wish.”
And for that let’s begin with our first scripture for today. As we have been reading bits and pieces of the story of King David, we knew that there would, eventually, be an end to his story. And so, in our first scripture for today we hear of the end of David’s life and rule over Israel, but also about the transition to his son, Solomon, whom God chose as David’s successor. (1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14)
2:10 Then David rested with his ancestors and was buried in the City of David. 11 He had reigned forty years over Israel—seven years in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 12 So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David, and his rule was firmly established.
3:1 Solomon showed his love for the Lord by walking according to the instructions given him by his father David, except that he offered sacrifices and burned incense on the high places.
4 The king went to Gibeon to offer sacrifices, for that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. 5 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.”
6 Solomon answered, “You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
7 “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. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 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?”
10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 11 So God said to him, “Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, 12 I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be. 13 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. 14 And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life.”
David’s son Solomon becomes the king of Israel and offers sacrifices to God. One thousand sacrifices to God were offered on the altar at Gibeon alone. And that night, after that sacrifice, God came to Solomon in a dream and instructed Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted. It is as if God was offering Solomon one single wish. And Solomon knew what it was that he wanted. He had watched his David, his father, lead the nation of Israel. He knew how hard life had sometimes been. He had seen the trials that his father had faced, he had heard the stories of David’s victories, but also the stories of David’s time in the desert running from King Saul. Solomon had seen David’s faith in God lived out in real life. Solomon saw, firsthand, the conflict between David and Absalom and he knew of David’s great desire to build God’s temple. Solomon knew that David’s faith, and David’s God, were very real.
And so, Solomon asks God for a discerning heart so that he might govern well and know the difference between right and wrong. But the surprising part of the story isn’t what Solomon asked for, but the things for which Solomon didn’t ask. Solomon didn’t ask for sex, or money, or power, or victory over his enemies, or health, or for a long life. Solomon’s only request was a gift that would benefit the people of Israel more than it would Solomon.
And God is pleased.
Let’s stop here for just a moment because this is a lesson worth remembering. God allows Solomon to ask for whatever he wants. Solomon asks for a gift that benefits others. And God is pleased. We are often reminded that God invites us to ask for whatever we want or need. But far less often are we reminded that God is pleased when we ask for gifts that benefit others.
And with that in mind, let’s remember where Jesus fits into what we are talking about as we read from John 6:51-58. Jesus said,
51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”
52 Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”
53 Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. 56 Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”
The confusion in this passage arises because the people thought that Jesus was talking about eating literal flesh but, in our understanding, Jesus was talking something else. Some have taught that this was the origin of the idea of using bread to represent the body of Christ in communion, but a better understanding is to remember that John began his gospel by saying that Jesus was the Word, and the Word became flesh. And so, the two ideas that we need to remember from this passage is first, that we must consume the word of God regularly so that we can live. It is the word of God that sustains our lives and it is the word of God that will lead us to eternal life. Second, remember that Jesus knew that the sacrifice of his life would make it possible for us to live forever. Like Solomon, Jesus, as the son of the king of the universe, could have chosen anything that he wanted, but he chose to suffer so that he could give us the greatest gift of all.
It pleased God that Jesus chose a gift (the gift of suffering and death) that benefitted others.
So, what does that mean for us?
For that, let’s read Paul’s instructions to the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 5:15-20).
15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul says that as followers of Jesus Christ, we need to be careful of how we live. We must be wise, like Solomon, and make the most of every opportunity. We must not be foolish but understand what the Lord’s will is for our lives and for the world. As we look at this and consider the scriptures that we read this morning, we remember that Solomon was wise because he chose the gift that benefitted others. And we remember that the will of God, demonstrated through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, was to rescue all of God’s people from sin and death. Paul says that it is foolishness to get drunk on wine and live a life of debauchery, which is a caution against living a life of excess and selfishness. God’s will is not to make you rich, or for you to ask him for sex, or money, or power, for victory over your enemies, or health, or for a long life. God’s will is to save the world.
We are called to be pure and holy, to follow God’s direction, to regularly consume the word of God, to lift one another up, to be joyful, to be thankful, and to be wise enough to make the most of every opportunity. We are called to be wise, and our examples today showed wisdom when God’s people chose to do what was best for others.
1 John 5:14-15 says, “14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”
Did you hear that? “If we ask anything… according to his will, he will hear us.”
God is not a genie. But God does answer prayers. He is pleased when we ask for things that will help others. John said, “if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.” God will give us anything that we ask that aligns with his will. And his will, his mission, is nothing less than to save the world.
The hardest part in all of this is, to align our desires with God’s desires. To stop being selfish and asking for the things that we want, things like money, sex, power, victory over your enemies, health, or for a long life. And instead start wanting the things that God wants, to be pure and holy, to encourage one another, to lift one another up, to be joyful and thankful, and to rescue as many of God’s people as we possibly can.
God is pleased when we ask for gifts that benefit others and which aid us in rescuing his children.
So, let’s not pray that our church would be bigger, or have more money, or be more popular. Instead, let’s start praying that our church would become a lifeboat, or a light house, a place of rescue, a hospital of hope for the hopeless, and a light in the darkness so that the people around us who are hurting and lost can find a place of healing, hope, and rescue where they can hear the Good News of Jesus Christ and feed on the bread that brings eternal life.
If we could ask God for one wish, for just one answered prayer…
…that ought to be it.
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