“that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Ephesians 1:17, NASB95)
At each point Paul gives God all of the glory for what He had done and was doing. This is true of the Ephesian believers as he shared with them his joy in the reports he had heard and the things he was praying on their behalf. Here Paul said that it was his desire and prayer that God would give them a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. This was not a general request that they be made wise and smart, but that it would be specifically that which comes from God as He reveals Himself to them and they are enabled to discern what they know properly and respond accordingly.
When Solomon had become king of Israel after his father David we read, “Now Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places [“except….” an indication that he did not completely follow after the Lord]. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. In Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream at night; and God said, “Ask what you wish me to give you.” Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. “Now, O Lord my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. “Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. “So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” It was pleasing in the sight of the Lord that Solomon had asked this thing. God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. “I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. “If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.”” (1 Kings 3:3–14, NASB95)
Solomon asked to be made by God into a wise a discerning leader, and God granted that desire adding riches beyond imagination to it. “Now God gave Solomon wisdom and very great discernment and breadth of mind, like the sand that is on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the sons of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men….” … “Men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.” (1 Kings 4:29-31, 34, NASB95)
And as Solomon followed after God in leading the people, building the temple and consecrating it while also building his own home and his own wealth, God repeatedly said to Solomon that if he followed after the Lord then he would be blessed and that his rule would endure. In 1 Kings chapter 9 this is extended to a longer blessing and warning from God concerning the entirety of the people of Israel. As time continued Solomon continued also to grow in fame and wealth. “So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom. All the earth was seeking the presence of Solomon, to hear his wisdom which God had put in his heart. They brought every man his gift, articles of silver and gold, garments, weapons, spices, horses, and mules, so much year by year.” (1 Kings 10:23–25, NASB95)
Then in chapter 11 of 1 Kings things changed. We read that Solomon changed. “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the sons of Israel, “You shall not associate with them, nor shall they associate with you, for they will surely turn your heart away after their gods.” Solomon held fast to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines, and his wives turned his heart away. For when Solomon was old, his wives turned his heart away after other gods; and his heart was not wholly devoted to the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father had been. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians and after Milcom the detestable idol of the Ammonites. Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not follow the Lord fully, as David his father had done.” (1 Kings 11:1–6, NASB95)
God had given Solomon more than he asked for. He had blessed him beyond measure, yet Solomon did not keep His eyes on God and he used what God had given him for his own gain and pleasure. 1 Kings chapter 11 continues, “Now the Lord was angry with Solomon because his heart was turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not observe what the Lord had commanded. So the Lord said to Solomon, “Because you have done this, and you have not kept My covenant and My statutes, which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you, and will give it to your servant. “Nevertheless I will not do it in your days for the sake of your father David, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son. “However, I will not tear away all the kingdom, but I will give one tribe to your son for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” Then the Lord raised up an adversary to Solomon….” (1 Kings 11:9–14, NASB95) The rest of chapter 11 speaks of what then happened to Solomon and his reign, culminating with verses 41-43, “Now the rest of the acts of Solomon and whatever he did, and his wisdom, are they not written in the book of the acts of Solomon? Thus the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David, and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place.” (1 Kings 11:41–43, NASB95)
Ecclesiastes chapters 1 and 2 include for us a commentary from Solomon about his discovery of how fruitless and vain were all of his efforts to use his wisdom for his own gain. Then at the end of chapter 2 Solomon says, “There is nothing better for a man than to eat and drink and tell himself that his labor is good. This also I have seen that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat and who can have enjoyment without Him? For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24–26, NASB95)
Solomon was given much and with that much we see that he did great things with what God had given him but that he also did great evil. In our passage today Paul tells the Ephesian believers that it is his prayer that the wisdom and understanding of God from God be used for His glory as their hearts are continually stayed on Him.
Jesus prayed to the Father, “I [Jesus] have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word. Now they have come to know that everything You have given Me is from You; for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. I ask on their behalf; I do not ask on behalf of the world, but of those whom You have given Me; for they are Yours;” … “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word;” (John 17:6-9, 20, NASB95)
God has shown Himself to us and His Spirit works in us to give us both understanding of Him and the wisdom to walk before Him. We are called to seek after Him, grow in the knowledge of Him from His Word, listen to the leading of His Spirit, and follow Him with our whole hearts. And the amazing thing about all of this is that He is the One that makes us able to do so.