The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to him: “Because you have asked for this– not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right– I do as you requested. I give you a heart so wise and understanding that there has never been anyone like you up to now....
King Solomon's record in the Bible is checkered. He is admired as the wisest of kings, and reviled for compromising with pagan nations. He was said to have a thousand wives, a regular Genghis Khan, and to have worshipped the gods of these foreign women. Today's scripture passage honors the former memory, the righteous king who ruled with the wisdom God gave him.
Perhaps everyone in the world agrees that a government should reflect the "Just World Hypothesis." Honest and fair dealings with one's family, neighbors, friends and strangers should be both protected and rewarded. No one should be punished by the government for doing right.
That assumption also hopes that wickedness is punished by an honest and fair government. Even if a racist government maintains the bigotries and segregations of society, the oppressed who don't make trouble should be treated fairly; and vicious, violent people should suffer for their crimes.
Inevitably, we learn "It ain't necessarily so." We learn that many lawyers who argue before judges are not fighting for truth or justice; they are only trying to win their case. No matter how right your case might be, you will probably lose if your lawyer is incompetent. In fact, you're probably better off with an unscrupulous lawyer on your side.
And yet we pray that the government, founded upon a worthy constitution, might reflect God's justice and mercy.
As Christians we know that King Solomon was asking for a measure of Holy Spirit, that impulse which directs Jesus and his disciples. This "Third Person of the Holy Trinity" is just and merciful; for justice without mercy is not justice, and mercy cannot be unjust.
Human beings, driven as we are by fears, ambitions, misgivings and misunderstandings -- often preoccupied with ideologies, prejudices and unresolved bitterness -- cannot see clearly enough to govern ourselves. We need God's spirit. And so we pray with Solomon for our government, its bureaucrats and its citizens.