A recurring theme in these columns has been a leadership quality made famous by Solomon, King of Israel nearly 3,000 years ago. That quality?
A listening heart.
With Canada’s Election Day behind us now, I’d like to return to the story of Solomon once more, in the hope that Canada’s elected leaders will themselves be blessed with the wisdom of listening hearts for our own day.
The call to governing a people is well informed by the example of wise King Solomon. When he ascends the throne of his deceased father, David, God comes to him in a dream and asks him what he’d like from God.
Solomon responds: “O Lord, my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:7-9)
Note especially the phrase, “understanding mind,” the focus of his request. In the original Hebrew, that phrase is lev shome’a, literally “a listening heart.”
God is pleased. Solomon could have asked for long life, riches and revenge against his enemies. But no, he asks for a listening heart in order to guide his people wisely.
And indeed, that’s just what God gives him, so that Solomon has come down through the ages as “the wisest king that ever was.”
The listening heart that God gave Solomon was not about prosperity at all costs, but a balance between prosperity and charity, wealth and the welfare of even the poorest among the people. That’s clear from Psalm 72, Solomon’s coronation psalm from which Canada takes its motto, A mari usque ad mare, “From sea to sea.” Only then can blessing be expected, according to that sacred wisdom.
When our political leaders today seem so caught up in the kind of legacy they want to be remembered for, it is instructive that Solomon’s legacy was ultimately to be rooted in one thing alone: godliness reflected in goodness – a legacy that has the potential to benefit the whole world. And with that balance in mind, the psalm pronounces a special blessing for the king:
“May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun. May all nations be blessed in him; may they pronounce him happy.”
The impassioned tone of this coronation psalm is not surprising in light of Solomon’s encounter with God at the beginning of his kingship.
Solomon had a good mentor in his vision and values for leadership. In his final words, his father, the beloved King David, spoke of the most important principle a king – or a prime minister, or an MP – must never lose sight of:
“One who rules over people justly, ruling in the fear of God, is like the light of morning, like the sun rising on a cloudless morning, gleaming from the rain on the grassy land” (2 Samuel 23:3-4).
May our prime minister and members of Parliament likewise be so blessed with listening hearts that they, too, may be like the light of morning, governing with justice, compassion and humility.
In that spirit, then, consider the prayer read by the Speaker of the House at the beginning of each sitting: “Almighty God, we give thanks for the great blessings which you have bestowed on Canada and its citizens…. Grant us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding to preserve the blessings of this country for the benefit of all and to make good laws and wise decisions. Amen.”
2021 Warren Harbeck