July 22, 2001
We live in a world that is exploding with knowledge and in which knowledge is at our fingertips. I don’t know how many times in recent months I have had a conversation with someone about something we didn’t know and the response was “look it up on the internet.” It is now possible to find anything out in minutes. I have a great library, two sets of encyclopaedias on computer and access to the internet. There is very little knowledge that I can’t have if I want it.
Knowledge is great and I support the concept of education and in fact of life long learning. My Uncle Roland, whom we visited in Annapolis, MD is 80 years old and still has plans to learn many things before his life is over. I applaud that attitude. Knowledge can help us in many ways, but knowledge is not the same as wisdom. We see the disturbing reality of our world in which knowledge is abundant, but wisdom absent in a piece written by a high school student following the Columbine High School tragedy. “The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings, but shorter tempers; wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints; we spend more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts but less solutions; more medicine, but less wellness. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years to life, not life to years…”
What is wisdom? One writer says, “Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.” I have never yet done one of those corn mazes. When you enter them, you have to find your way out without knowing where you are going. Complete wisdom would be like having the ability to see it from the top.
If that is wisdom, then who has wisdom? Listen to what it says in Job 28:12-24.
This morning, I want to point to the one who has absolute wisdom and encourage us to look to the wisdom of God.
As we travelled during the last few weeks, we saw some amazing things. The waters of Chesapeake Bay, four of the five Great Lakes, the mountains of West Virginia, the power of Niagara Falls. We saw many birds and fields of flowers. It gave us occasion to think about the wonder of the one who had created it all. All of creation speaks loudly of the wisdom of the one who created it. Even if we think about something as close to us as our own eye, we are filled with wonder at the wisdom of God. We had our pictures developed yesterday and are very thankful for the amazing way in which cameras work. But they are not nearly as amazing as the human eye which God has created. The lens permits light to pass to a place in the back of the eye which allows us to see images. Have you ever considered the intricacy of the eye? The fact that light is translated to images? The fact that it can automatically adjust for changes in light conditions? No camera can as easily repeat what the eye does automatically. Consider the way in which it is covered and lubricated? What about the psychological powers of the eye. The messages that can be communicated with our eyes? Truly the wisdom of the one who created it is great!
My uncle was a scientist with NASA at the Goddard Space Flight Center and we toured the facility and he told us things about how they put a satellite into space and how it transmits messages back to earth. We learned things that went way over our heads and were amazed at what man has accomplished. Even more amazing is the way in which the entire universe has been put together by God. What scientists do is learn and use the things that God created. The satellites which God has put in place, the earth, moon etc. are even more amazing. The earth is the right distance from the sun to provide life on the earth. The way in which it houses an environment that allows us to live and make a living tells us of the even greater wisdom of God.
Listen to what the Bible says in Psalm 104:24, “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all…” Listen also to Jeremiah 10:12, “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.”
What tremendous wisdom it would take to create in such a wonderful way.
Please turn with me to I Corinthians 1:17- 24 and let us read these verses.
This passage talks about the foolishness of the work of God in salvation. That is the perspective of the world, of those who are perishing. The true perspective, however, is that it is the wisdom of God as we read in verse 24. How is salvation the wisdom of God?
For me, there are several things which help me see it as the wisdom of God and to worship God for his wisdom in salvation.
There is a line in Romans 3:26, “so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” If we understand this phrase, we will see the wisdom of God in salvation. God is just and can do no wrong. We, on the other hand do wrong all the time and are completely overcome with sin. God’s desire is to make us right with Himself. How can he do that? If he overlooks our sin in order to make us right with himself, he is no longer righteous and holy. If he judges us in our sin, as we deserve, he does not express his desire to make us right with Him. The glory of salvation is that in the wisdom of God, he planned a course of action which would allow him to both justify us and remain just. This he did in Christ when he allowed the sinless one to die in our place. The work of salvation is indeed a work of the wisdom of God.
There is another way that I like to look at the wisdom of God in salvation. The Bible speaks of the holiness, justice and compassion of God. The holiness of God demands that he can have nothing to do with any evil, but is absolutely pure and perfect. The justice of God demands that anything that is wrong must be punished. Perfect justice carried out perfectly. The love of God requires that he express his love to all his creation. None of these are optional elements of the nature of God. They are at the core of who he is. The work of salvation is a work which takes into account each of these aspects. God, in his wisdom is making us holy and justifying us so that he can express his love to us. He is doing it in such a way that he remains holy and just. The wisdom of God is seen in that.
Add to this the wisdom of God in bringing it about, planning salvation before the foundation of the world, announcing it at the beginning of time when sin entered the world, bringing Jesus into the world at just the right time and having the sinless Christ come to earth as a baby through the virgin birth as both man and God are all aspects of the work of salvation that cause us to stand in awe of the wisdom God as it is demonstrated in salvation.
Listen to Romans 11:33, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!”
Proverbs 5:21 says, “For a man’s ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all his paths.” In fact, as we look at individuals lives, we see that God does more than examine our paths, he guides us in them.
I have been reading Genesis lately and was interested by the story of Jacob. I read this description of his life somewhere and found it very interesting as I read Genesis. Was Jacob a man of faith? We see some pretty serious character flaws in him. He was a grasper. He liked to manipulate situations so that he would come out ahead. He was born second, but came out grasping his brother’s heal. One day when Esau had been out hunting, he came back hungry and Jacob took the opportunity to force Esau to sell the birthright. He knew the plan of God, but was determined to get it by any means he knew how. When the opportunity came to steal the blessing from his father, even though he deserved it, he did not trust God to give it to him. He concocted a scheme at the prompting and with the help of his mother to receive the blessing, not because God gave it to him, but because he grasped for it. As a result, he could no longer stay at home. His grasping ways had caused him to have a broken relationship with his brother to such an extent that he had to leave.
He went to his uncle Laban’s place where he met his match. His uncle was as much of a grasper as he was. He fooled Jacob into marrying Leah, even though he wanted to marry Rachel. But Jacob was good as a grasper. He manipulated the reproduction of the herds and flocks of Laban in such a way that he greatly increased his own stock holdings. Again, he was a grasper. In spite of the fact that he had met someone like him and must have fought with him all the time, he did not learn to trust God instead of grasping for things.
Finally the pressure at Laban’s got too much and he had to leave. He chose to return home. On the way, he sent a message to his brother Esau that he was coming and wondering what kind of a response he would get. When he heard that Esau was coming with a large army of men, he was finally afraid. His grasping had landed him between a rock and a hard place. He could not go back to Laban and he was afraid to go to Esau.
It was at that time that God met Jacob at the brook Jabbok and Jacob wrestled with God. He became crippled when God touched the socket of his hip and finally got to the place where he sought God instead of trying to do it himself. He finally learned what trust in God is. “Jacob must be weaned from trust in his own cleverness to dependence upon God…”
In this story, we see the wisdom of God in dealing with a man to teach him to follow Him. God knew Jacob and all his ways and his character. He knew how to work with Jacob in order to teach him and bring him along.
In the life of Jacob, the wisdom of God is seen “ordering the events of a human life for a double purpose: the man’s own personal sanctification, and the fulfilling of his appointed ministry and service in the life of the people of God.” God’s wisdom is truly amazing! He knows us thoroughly and knows how to work in our lives for our good.
As I look at my own life, I am becoming more and more aware of the way in which God has dealt with me to help me clean out my weaknesses and to begin to grow in faith. I see how he has guided my life to force me to face prejudices and get rid of them. I have seen how did not let me have what I wanted in order to give me something better. That is the wisdom of God!
We have barely scratched the surface of examining the wisdom of God. We could examine history, we could look at the way God directs nations, we could spend much more time looking at nature, we could listen to testimonies of how God has worked in people’s lives. As we do, we reinforce the wonder of the wisdom of God, but what do we do with the wisdom of God?
First and foremost, as I reflect on the wisdom of God, I am brought to praise. God is absolutely amazing. What he knows, how he brings it together is absolutely astonishing. Nowhere is there anyone or anything which causes me to have such awe. So as we contemplate this, we are brought to a place of praise.
Take time to praise God for his wisdom.
Let us read Isaiah 40:12 - 14 “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, And marked off the heavens by the span, And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, And weighed the mountains in a balance, And the hills in a pair of scales?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, Or as His counsellor has informed Him? 14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge, And informed Him of the way of understanding?
Isaiah 28:29, “This also comes from the Lord of hosts; he is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in wisdom.”
Pray to God praising Him!
There is a story in the Old Testament about the time when Absalom tried to take the throne from his father David. At that time, there was a realigning of political allegiances much as is happening in the PC and Alliance party these days. One of the leaders who had been with David was Ahithophel. Ahithophel changed allegiances and followed Absalom. In II Samuel 17, we read about how Absalom asked for advice from Ahithophel. Ahithophel gave advice that would have meant the demise of David, it would have spelled the end of him. He was a wise counsellor and from the perspective of the desire of Absalom to take the throne, the words of Ahithophel were wise words. But, Absalom did not heed those words. Although he had wisdom, Ahithophel did not have the power to carry out what was wisdom. As a result, he saw immediately that Absalom would fail and, not wanting to face David again, he went and set his house in order and killed himself. His wisdom was there, but the power to carry it out was not.
God’s wisdom cannot be frustrated by circumstances outside his control for it is allied to omnipotence. For that reason, we can trust the wisdom of God. It is the best course and it is the wisdom that will not fail. “infinite power ruled by infinite wisdom is a basic Biblical description of the divine character.” In Daniel 2, Daniel has to discover the dream God has for the king. When God reveals the dream to Him, Daniel praises God when he says in 2:20, ““Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.”
We make such a decision when we accept Christ as Savior. It may not look popular and it may not look like the way the world is going, but the wisdom and the power of God assure us that God’s plan will prevail and so we can trust His plan and expect eternal life.
When we read, Psalm 147:5 - “His understanding has no limit.” When we read Isaiah 46:10, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” When we read Matthew 6:8, “…your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” We are assured that we can trust the wisdom of God.
If we can trust His wisdom, it stands to reason that we should seek His wisdom. We need to pray and read the Bible in order to understand God’s ways and find out what God’s wisdom is for us and for given situations.
We sometimes make the mistake that knowing the wisdom of God requires seeing all things in the future. I read about the New York subway system. If you were to stand on a platform in the NY subway system and try to understand the system by which the trains are running, it would be a frustrating thing. But if you were to go up to the control tower where an engineer has a map of all the subway trains that are going and where each one is, the way the whole system operates would be quite clear. But as a passenger, you don’t need to see that. All you need to know is when your train is coming and where you need to be to catch it.
Wisdom is the same way. Seeking God’s wisdom does not require that we have a full view of all the things that may come down the road. God is the engineer in the control booth who sees all that is coming. All we need to know is how to live now by the principles and values of God’s wisdom and if we do that, we will know His wisdom.
It would be way to overwhelming to know everything. When you drive a car, if you focus on and try to understand the entire world around you, the shops, trying to understand what the driver on the side of the road is doing and so on, it would drive you crazy. Instead, you need to focus on what is necessary to drive safely, following the rules of the road which make for safe driving.
That is what it means to seek the wisdom of God. As we read His word and see how he operates and what are the principles of wisdom which come from God, we will learn wisdom.
“What is the wisdom that He gives?…It is not a sharing in all His knowledge, but a disposition to confess that He is wise, and to cleave to Him and live for Him in the light of His word through thick and thin.”
Sometimes I get distracted. There are so many things happening in the world which happen without reference to the wisdom of God. I begin to live my life by the principles of the world instead of by the principles of God. Every once in a while, I need to be reminded that this world does not run by the wisdom of people, but by the wisdom of God. I need to be encouraged by the knowledge of the wisdom of God.
I suspect that many of you are a lot like me in this and so this morning, I want to encourage you to consider the wisdom of God. As you go into this week and face a temptation in an area that the world has no problem with - remember the wisdom of God. As you talk to people who live their lives without reference to God and feel fearful about being a Christian - remember the wisdom of God. As you have to make decisions about some matter of life that seems beyond you - remember the wisdom of God.