Jan 15 2015
‘Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding’ (Prov 4:7). These are the words of King Solomon, a man famous for his wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
God told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted and he asked for the wisdom to govern God’s people. God was so impressed that Solomon had asked for this rather than for honour or wealth that he gave Solomon wisdom, honour and wealth (1 Kings 3:5-13). Deal!
But let’s focus on the important one: wisdom. How did Solomon’s wisdom actually form, and how did it reveal itself? Well, he devoted himself to study (Ecc 1:13) gaining great knowledge of animals, birds, fish and plant life (1 Kings 4:33). He also composed over 3000 proverbs and over 1000 songs (1 Kings 4:32). He also did research on big questions like the meaning of life as is described in the book of Ecclesiastes ♦ (This last one is the subject of my next sermon).
Now, can you imagine living in a city with a ruler like Solomon? I mean people came from all over the known world just to hear him speak, but the locals had his wisdom all around them. The people of Jerusalem would have used his proverbs on a daily basis; I mean, proverbs are kind of proverbial, right? And I can imagine that the people of the City who took pride in being up to date were always making sure that they were the first to hear his latest compositions.
Among the men that came from far to hear Solomon was a woman; yes, and a very interesting woman she was too. The Queen of Sheba was successful, wealthy, and no one’s idiot. When she heard of Solomon’s great wisdom and that he worshiped a God called Yahweh, she decided to go and see it for herself.
In those days most cultures worshiped numerous gods and if a certain god was benefitting someone, you checked it out and then added that god to your god-list so you could benefit too.
The Queen arrived and tested Solomon with some hard questions. I don’t think she wanted to discredit Solomon, rather I think she was hoping that he had something that she could have too (1 Kings 10:1-9). And if that something was Yahweh, then she would become a believer.
This kind of reminds me of the Alpha Course (or the Beginners Course). It is a course in basic Christianity that is suitable for non-Christians who want more information. Many curious and even sceptical people arrive with tough questions, but their aim is not to discredit Christianity, their aim is to see if its claims are true.
Well, Solomon was in this kind of situation. The Queen was sceptical but hopeful and she tested him with hard questions, but he answered all of them, none was too hard for him. And the report says she was overwhelmed by his wisdom and the wealth she saw all around, and she began to praise Yahweh. Now, that is what you call a successful testimony. One country’s ruler leads another country’s ruler into a relationship with the Living God!
Now, don’t you wish you could answer your friends like Solomon did? Well, Solomon seems to think you can. In Proverbs 4:7 he tells those who follow after him to ‘Get wisdom!’ Wisdom will enable us to answer the hard questions! So let’s talk a bit about that.
Knowledge is an important part of wisdom. Proverbs 8:12 says ‘I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence; I possess knowledge and discretion.’ 1 Chronicles 1:10 says that when Solomon asked for wisdom he also asked for knowledge saying ‘Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?’ So let’s focus for a moment on knowledge.
We often say ‘knowledge is power.’ This is not a Bible statement, but the Bible would agree with it. Hosea 4:6 says ‘My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.’ And we can easily give examples.
If you are uneducated and live in a remote West African village, you may think Ebola is an evil spirit rather than a virus. Such lack of knowledge may cause a well meaning pastor to get his congregation to lay hands on Ebola victims in order to deliver or heal them, and this would result in many more deaths. Knowledge that Ebola is a highly contagious virus gives you the power to protect yourself and your people.
But let’s give an example that is closer to home. If a sceptic says that Jesus never claimed to be God, but you know the Bible verses where he did claim to be God, you can quote Jesus immediately or show them the verse in the Bible and they will be corrected on the spot. Knowledge of the Bible gives you power. And so knowledge is something required alongside wisdom, and knowing this Solomon asked for both.
But what about the apostle Paul, doesn’t he speak against wisdom? I mean, he says ‘Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe’ (1 Corinthians1: 20-21).
Is Paul contradicting Solomon? Does he think Solomon’s wisdom and knowledge about nature and gaining wealth is worldly? No. Here we need to understand that when Paul talks of ‘the wisdom of this world’ he is not referring to natural wisdom about animals or economics, he is referring to a wisdom that has an attitude against God. In Romans 1:21-23 Paul says, ‘For although they (the godless) knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. ‘
The bottom line: It’s good to study nature; it’s bad to worship it. It’s good to gain wisdom that is godly; it’s bad to gain wisdom that is godless. Wisdom is good if it reflects the Creator.
Solomon would agree with Paul for Solomon said ‘The fear (reverence) of God is the beginning of wisdom’ (Prov 9:10). In other words godly wisdom begins when we acknowledge God.
Later on in 1 Corinthians 1:13-14 Paul goes on to talk about ‘the wisdom of the Spirit.’ Here he is talking about how the Holy Spirit enables the believer to see the world differently. Let me say a few words about that.
Recently a Hindu girl who converted to Christianity said to me, ‘I feel God’s presence now, and I have seen miracles with my own eyes.’ I could tell she was excited because she was seeing the world differently. It’s like she had suddenly put on a pair of spectacles that made everything clear.
Many people have experienced this. They may be botanists studying plant life, but when they receive the Holy Spirit they suddenly see the flowers as coming from God instead of just the ground. It’s the same with relationships. An atheist may see romance as a mere expression of body chemistry, but when the atheist becomes a Christian and receives the Holy Spirit they suddenly see love as having a spiritual dimension, they see it as an activity of the soul and a reflection of who God is. This gives love and romance a higher status, a status that most people sense is true. And so we see that there is a discernment that comes with having the Holy Spirit in us which adds an important dimension to the overall package that the Bible refers to as ‘wisdom.’
Solomon said ‘Get wisdom!’ But as we have just seen there are various types of wisdom. God gave Solomon wisdom to govern, wisdom to research nature, wisdom to judge right from wrong, and wisdom to understand philosophical things like the meaning of life. But please note that Solomon did not awake one morning to find he knew all things. He had to devote himself to study, exploration (Eccles 1:13) and even testing (2:1). He was a man with a thirst for knowledge and a hunger for answers.
Many Christians are lob sided. They are either strong on spiritual intuition and weak on study, or strong on study and weak on spiritual intuition. Christians who are weak on study are easily deceived. How many believers with great faith and spiritual passion have put money in the offering basket because a pastor said their prayers will be answered if they sow a seed? Well, if you know your Bible you will know it does not say that. It just says ‘whoever sows generously will also reap generously’ (2 Cor 9:6). Giving money does not get your prayers answered!
But of course there are also people who are weak on spiritual intuition and it is reflected in the way they interpret scripture. Theologians who have not experienced predictive prophecy will often conclude that such a gift was only for Bible times. But when God gives them a predictive prophecy they suddenly change their interpretation. So there is a need for believers to have the wisdom that comes from the Spirit, the wisdom that comes with thorough Bible study and the wisdom that comes from other types of knowledge.
As I look at Solomon I see a man with a well rounded wisdom. He could speak about spiritual matters, relationships, government, nature and yes, ways to grow your wealth. He could also write poetry and compose songs.
The apostle Paul was also fairly well rounded. He knew God’s voice, operated in the power of the Spirit, knew the Jewish Scriptures, but he also knew how to make tents (Acts 18:3), and he knew Greek and Roman culture (Acts 22:25-29), and he could debate with Greek philosophers (Acts 17:18) and quote the Greek poets as he preached (Acts 17:28).
If we are going to ‘get wisdom’ as the honourable King Solomon suggests, we need to work on our areas of weakness. The person with great spiritual zeal and little knowledge can be really excited about everything that is wrong, and the person with great knowledge and little passion can be really dry about everything that is right. Let’s get wisdom, but let’s also get the type of wisdom we are lacking.
If you are strong on spiritual intuition, are you doing something about growing in theological study and general knowledge? If you are strong on theological study, are you doing something about growing in spiritual intuition? Perhaps you have had some experience in these things or have had some thoughts as you’ve been reading this. Please share them below.
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