Wisdom: Part II
1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14
“The Right Request”
“Nothing is foolproof to a talented fool.”
“The early bird may get the worm,
but the second mouse gets the cheese.”
“Borrow money from a pessimist; they don’t expect it back.”
“Experience is something you don’t get
until just after you need it.”
What is wisdom? And why do we want it so much and then when we get it we ignore it?
There are a lot of advantages to being wise. According to Proverbs 3:13-18:
Wisdom has the potential to bless us with longer lives, wealth, and peace. Ecclesiastes tells us that wisdom is better than weapons for war. Proverbs says that wisdom will save us from the ways of the wicked and from the adulterous. If we don’t let it out of sight, we will find that wisdom keeps us from stumbling and maintains our safety.
But it does more than that. Wisdom protects our reputation. In Matthew Jesus reflects on the ridiculous things that people are saying about he and John the Baptist. How people think that because John fasted he was possessed by a demon and because Jesus hung out with sinners he was a drunkard. Then Jesus says “But wisdom is proved right by her deeds” or “by her children.” Wisdom bears good fruit and speaks on behalf of one’s reputation.
Wisdom also facilitates happiness. A person who works for a wise supervisor enjoys their work. Queen Sheba observed this when visiting wise King Solomon. She saw how his wisdom impacted the work environment of all under his authority and care. She also noted how blessed people were to get to hear Solomon’s wisdom. People are attracted to the wise.
Another blessing of wisdom is the impact it has on your relationships. God honored Solomon’s request for wisdom, and the gift of wisdom helped facilitate peaceful relationships with the rulers of the countries around him.
Proverbs 4:6 tells us, “Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.”
Before going on a business trip to Europe, a man drove his Rolls-Royce to a downtown New York City bank and asked for a loan of $5,000. The loan officer requested collateral and the man handed him the keys to his Rolls-Royce.
The loan officer then had the car driven into the bank’s underground parking for safekeeping and gave the owner of it the requested $5,000.
Two weeks later, the man returned from his trip to Europe and returned to the bank. He walked up to the loan officer and asked to settle his account – paying back the $5,000 in principal and the $15.40 in interest.”
He then turned to walk out of the bank but was stopped by the loan officer,
“Wait, sir!” The man turned back. “While you were gone, I found out you’re a millionaire! Why in the world would you need to borrow $5,000?”
The owner of the car smiled, “Where else could I safely park my Rolls-Royce in Manhattan for two weeks and only pay $15.40?
The Merriam – Webster online dictionary defines wisdom as accumulated philosophic or scientific learning or knowledge; the ability to discern inner qualities and relationships or insight; a good sense or judgment; and generally accepted belief. My theological dictionary defines wisdom as knowledge of what is good and true; the basis for knowing what is true or false; and an attribute of God.
But what is wisdom according to the Bible? How does Scripture define this wisdom that appears so attractive because of its benefits?
First we learn that wisdom existed before the rest of creation. Wisdom claims in Proverbs 8:22, “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ago, at the beginning, when the world came to be.”
Then in the early parts of the Old Testament we learn that wisdom is knowing how to use our profession and the skills with which God has gifted us for God’s purposes. It is knowing how to apply what we have learned for a specific purpose. This is seen in God’s commission to artisans, seamstresses, stone-workers, wood-carvers, and metalworkers to apply their skills in the building of the tabernacle and in the creation of the clothing and tools used by the priests. They are to apply wisdom to using their gifts to achieve God’s goal.
We read of Joseph gaining wisdom from God, which enables him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt, so that he can apply his wisdom to preserving the people during a devastating drought and famine.
In today’s reading we see how King Solomon asks for wisdom with his royal calling – that he might act wisely in judging the people and managing his assets.
In Acts we see the early church delegating people to different types of ministry and doing so by seeking people who are filled with wisdom and the Spirit to know how to use their gifts for the benefit of the church.
We also read in Colossians about how the early church used wisdom to teach about Jesus Christ.
From the life of King Solomon we learn that wisdom is about having a relationship with the source of wisdom: God. The one who by wisdom laid the foundations of the earth. We also learn that wisdom is understanding the world and how it works.
We also find definitions of wisdom in the book of Proverbs. Here wisdom is described as knowing and doing what is right, just, and fair – every good path. It is giving thought to our ways; a fountain that becomes a rushing stream; a partnership with prudence, knowledge, and discretion; the feminine aspect of God.
Wisdom is also an outgrowth of righteousness or obedience to the laws of God. “From the mouth of the righteous comes the fruit of wisdom.”
Interestingly, wisdom isn’t just about the application of head knowledge to life, but it is also about the heart. The Bible is pretty explicit in stating that wisdom comes from the heart and abides there. Proverbs 2:10 reads “for wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul,” and 14:33, tells us that wisdom rests in the heart of the discerning. In many ways wisdom is when the heart connects with and gives understanding to the knowledge that we have - so that we might use and apply it to life.
James chapter 3, verses 17 and 18 presents a beautiful description: “wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure, than peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.”
God’s wisdom is different from the wisdom of the world.
But how do we attain wisdom?
In today’s Bible reading, King David has just passed away and his son Solomon has claimed the throne. Solomon goes to seek God’s wisdom by offering sacrifices on the high alter of Gibeon. There he encounters God who asks what it is that Solomon desires. And Solomon’s request is striking, because he asks in a manner that is not for himself, but is for the people. He recognizes his duty to the people, the tasks that are at hand to act as judge and manager of what seems like a multitude. He acknowledges his weakneses, his youth, and lack of experience, and asks God to bless him with wisdom!
In preparing for today’s sermon I was impressed with the quantity of material in the Bible about wisdom. I was even more amazed by the various ways that God has provided for us to attain wisdom. When I started searching the Scripture, I expected that there would be perhaps one, two, or three ways of attaining wisdom. But in fact there are many!!! So, I’ve limited myself to quickly outlining 12 different ways we can gain wisdom. Ready to take notes?
First, I was reminded over and over and over again that God is the source of all wisdom. “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” acknowledges Romans 11:33. “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom,” claims 1 Corinthians 1:25.
Specifically, the Spirit of God is the source of wisdom. We see this in the life of Moses and Joshua, who were filled with the spirit of wisdom. We see in Acts that those opposed to the new Christians could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave the disciple Stephen when he spoke. And Paul claimed “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.”
So, the first way that we can gain wisdom is by seeking and fearing or respecting God!
Multiple times in the Bible we are told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Specifically in Isaiah 33:5-6 we read “The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”
The second way we can gain wisdom is by following Solomon’s example and asking for it. “If any of you lacks wisdom,“ according to James 1 verses 5-6a “you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.”
The third way to attain wisdom is not a means by which we have control, some people are just born with wisdom. Psalm 51:6 gives witness to God teaching wisdom to us, even while we are still in the womb.
A fourth way is to seek it. We are admonished in Proverbs to search for it like a hidden treasure. We are encouraged to be willing to give up everything for it – to recognize that its value is great. “Get wisdom, get understanding” the Proverb speaks, “I love those who love me and those who seek me find me” wisdom claims. “Turn your ear to wisdom and apply your heart to understanding,” reads Proverbs 2:2. “Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice?” announces Proverbs 8:1. Wisdom calls out to us, it is present for us to grab, if we are willing to make the sacrifices to attain it.
The fifth way is to find someone to teach us wisdom. Moses laid hands on Joshua, he mentored him, prayed for him, walked beside him, and passed wisdom on to him. Moses himself gained wisdom as part of his education in Egypt.
A sixth way is by studying the proverbs – a book of wisdom that is a collection of the teachings of Solomon and other wise men. The book actually starts by stating its purpose, which is “for the gaining of wisdom.”
A seventh means for gaining wisdom is through obedience to Scripture and Christian morality. Our desire to be and act righteously births wisdom within us.
An eighth way is through the practice of humility. -- Our recognition of the limits of our humanity. The acceptance of the reality that our days are numbered guides us to have wisdom. To not trust in our own cleverness, but to be willing to receive the advice of others.
The ninth way some receive wisdom is as a spiritual gift - one of many that is given by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the church.
A tenth way is through the church where God’s wisdom is revealed. One way it is revealed is through the psalms, hymns, and songs of the church that proclaim Christ and the wisdom of God.
An eleventh way is through discipline. Proverbs 29:15 tells us that if parents reprimand or discipline their children they are helping their children to gain wisdom and are protecting them from disgrace. A person who loves wisdom also brings joy to his or her parents.
And a twelfth way - - is to impart wisdom on others - by praying that God might bless them with wisdom. In Paul’s letters we often read his prayers for the reader, asking that God might give them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation that they may know Christ better and live in a way that pleases the Lord.
Now I mustn’t go further without sharing some warnings in our seeking of wisdom. First, we need to be aware that there is such a thing as false wisdom and knowledge that may mislead us. Often this false wisdom is built on pride and the denial of God. It can also be found in regulations and rules that create a false humility and are driven by cultural fads of our time. This false wisdom is also often driven by envy and selfish ambition and leads to disorder and evil practice.
The second warning is to not boast in our own wisdom. In a message to the king of Tyre captured in Ezekiel 28, God explains – “because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor.” “Will you then say ‘I am a god,’ in the presence of those who kill you?”
Note: This is the same king, whom God identified as “the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” We learn that his heart became proud on account of this beauty and he corrupted his own wisdom through pride. Instead of boasting in ourselves, we are to boast in our relationship with God, a God who acts with wisdom.
The third warning is to recognize that God’s definition of wisdom is different from the world’s definition. As we read in 1 Corinthians, “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.”
With all that being said, I realize that I have not mentioned the most important source of wisdom. That is Jesus Christ. When John the Baptist was commissioned to prepare the way for the Messiah – he was to turn the disobedient towards wisdom. The prophecy foretold that
“the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD – and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.”
From early childhood, Jesus amazed people by his wisdom and insight. As 1 Corinthians states “[he] has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption.” He is the wisdom of God.
So, we’ve learned that wisdom has many attractive benefits and that it is defined by our heart and mind working together to use the knowledge and skills we’ve gained to do justice, to act mercifully, and to walk humbly with our living God. We’ve also seen that there are many ways for us to gain wisdom.
And now that we think we’ve have learned how to gain wisdom, I want to tell you that none of this matters. In many ways this entire sermon has been a complete waste of our time.
Because we don’t have to have wisdom, or at least not in the way in which we have spoken of it today. – all we really need is God’s grace.
Jesus really is it all!
Wisdom is acknowledging Jesus Christ as savior of the world – the one who was crucified and condemned, but who rose to life and calls us to unity and faith. Jesus is it all! Christ crucified and resurrected – that is wisdom!
“Worthy is the Lamb,
who was slain,
to receive power