Daily Archives: June 8, 2010

The Problem With Wishes

“Wish fulfillment?” Aladdin asks the magic genie in the Disney’s Aladdin.

“Three wishes to be exact,” the genie answers back. “And ix-nay on wishing for more wishes.”

If a genie popped out of a bottle and promised to grant you three wishes, what would you wish for?

What would you wish for if you were limited to only one wish?

Good looks?

Good health?

Limitless riches?

Your answer reveals a great deal about who you really are inside.

Today, we’re going to look at a man who was given a similar offer.

Please join me as we look at his answer.

TODAY’S READING

1 Kings 3:3-4:34
Acts 6:1-15
Psalm 126:1-6
Proverbs 16:26-27

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

1 Kings 3:3-4:34. The New American Commentary explains the nature of Solomon’s request:

Given this personal dilemma, Solomon requests “a discerning heart.” This phrase literally means “a listening heart” or “an obedient heart.” In the Old Testament “hearing” and “obeying” come from the same word, a linguistic trait with practical implications. Only those who obey authority figures have really heard them. Solomon must obey the Lord by keeping God’s commands in order for his heart to be prepared to lead others. This listening to God will also enable him to listen to others.

Following this exchange, we watch Solomon’s newfound wisdom in action when he judges between the stories of two prostitutes who claim the same child as their own. The one woman probably lied because she wanted a son to provide for her when she was old.

Acts 6:1-15. Yesterday, Eugene commented that the early Church had problems just like we do today. Building on that theme, we read that the burgeoning church was wrestling with growing pains. The Hebraic Jewish widows were receiving preferential treatment over the Greek Jewish widows. The Bible Background Commentary adds some interesting details that explains what caused the problem:

Because it was considered virtuous to be buried in the land of Israel, many foreign Jews would come to spend their last days there, then die and leave widows.

In the end, deacons (which means “servant” in Greek) were organized to distribute the food to people in need. But also, the 12 disciples recognized the importance of giving their attention to “prayer and ministry of the word.”

One of the deacons appointed by the 12 disciples was Stephen. We read in verse 8 that Stephen “did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.” This is significant because he was wasn’t one of the 12 disciples. At various times I’ve heard respectable teachers proclaim that signs and wonders were performed only by the twelve, and since they died out, the possibility of working signs and wonders died out with them as well.

But it ain’t necessarily so. This leads me to conclude that God’s ability to perform signs and wonders through his followers hasn’t died out.

Psalm 126. This obviously wasn’t written in David’s day because it begins with the words, “When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion.” The context is likely

Verse 4 reads “Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like streams in the Negev.” The Negev is a desert south of Jerusalem. Like many deserts, it contained dry creek beds so that when a rainstorm finally hit, the creeks were overflowing with water. In the same way, the psalmist is asking God to suddenly overwhelm them with blessing.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

If God were to grant you any wish, what would you wish for? The answer to the question reveals your deepest-held values. Solomon could have asked for a long life or wealth, but instead made this request: “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?”

A discerning heart isn’t the “right” answer for everyone, although you can’t go wrong with wisdom. But as king, Solomon’s response obviously made God extremely pleased.

But what was it about Solomon’s answer that pleased God?

Solomon could have asked for something that benefited only him (i.e. long life or wealth). Instead, Solomon desired something that benefited others.

This follows Jesus’ law of love: to love your neighbor as yourself (Mark 12:31).

It seems to me that God is intent on pulling us out of our self-absorbed world.

With only one wish to fulfill, I could benefit me or I could benefit the people around me.

The most fulfilled people in the world aren’t the ones who live for themselves or mortify themselves so they live miserable lives. The people who live the most fulfilled lives are the ones who forget about themselves.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. If you could have one wish granted to you, what would it be?
  3. How does it reflect your values?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.

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