The Wisdom of this World.
2 Samuel 1-2, 1 Corinthians 3
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. – 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 ESV
After years of running for his life, you would have thought David would have rejoiced over the news that his archenemy was dead. But instead, David mourned, wept and fasted. He found no joy in Saul’s death, and even executed the young man who claimed to have taken his life. Having come upon the slain body of Saul, this young Amalekite came up with the brilliant idea to take Saul’s crown and arm band, bring them to David, and present himself as the one who took the life of Saul’s mortal enemy. Conventional wisdom told him that David would reward him. But instead, he was put to death. “David said to him, ‘How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?’” (2 Samuel 1:14 ESV). God had not given David permission to take the life of Saul, so why did this young man think he could do so? Worldly wisdom proved to be folly in his case.
With David’s anointing as king over Judah, there appears to be a turning point in the life of the people of God. He will prove to be a different kind of leader than Saul. David was a man after God’s own heart. He had a sensitivity to God and a desire to do things God’s way. When he heard the news of Saul’s death, he didn’t rush into Israel demanding to be crowned king. He had every right to do so, because he had been crowned king by the prophet of God. Instead, he sought the mind of God. He wanted to know what God would have him do. He wanted God’s wisdom, not the wisdom of men. This characteristic of David would set him apart from his peers. It would mark him as God’s servant. He didn’t always act wisely or seek God’s will entirely, but David attempted to live his life according to God’s direction.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God had always wanted to guide and direct the lives of the people of Israel. He wanted them to submit to His will and obey His commands. He had promised to bless them if they would. But they had a track record of disobedience and unfaithfulness. They had an insatiable love for the world. Paul could have been referring to them when he wrote, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh” (1 Corinthians 3:1 ESV). They were driven by their passions and controlled by their sinful nature. You see in this story the actions of sinful men acting out in selfish, unspiritual ways. Abner refuses to recognize David as king, anointing Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, the king of Israel instead. There are murders, intrigue, deception, political positioning, and revenge killings. Everyone is doing what they perceive to be right. But few, if any, of them are doing what God would have them do. The only one who seems interested in seeking the will of God is David. Everyone else simply does what is right in their own eyes. But Paul reminds us, “He catches the wise in their craftiness” (1 Corinthians 3:19 ESV) and “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:20 ESV).
What does this passage reveal about man?
It was God’s will that David be the next king of Israel. But men muddied the water. Abner refused to acknowledge David as king, putting the heir of Saul on the throne instead. So for a number of years, there was a divided kingdom. On top of that, there was war between the people of Judah and the people of Israel. This unnecessary conflict resulted in the deaths of countless Israelites, including Asahal and Abner. It resulted in a curse on the house of Joab. The wisdom of this world is futile and results in folly. No matter how good it may sound, worldly wisdom will always disappoint. It will never deliver as promised. It is marked by jealousy, strife and conflict, because it is almost always self-centered and selfishly motivated. It is centered around man’s glory, instead of God’s.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
When Paul accused the Corinthians of being people of the flesh, he was referring to their petty divisions regarding who had baptized each of them. They had actually allowed divisions to develop within the church over who was baptized by Paul and who was baptized by Apollos. Some were claiming to be followers of one or the other. And Paul told them that they were “behaving only in a human way” (1 Corinthians 3:3 ESV). Rather than focusing their attention on God, they were making it about men, and they were missing the point. The key to discovering true wisdom is recognizing our own stupidity. Without God we are all lacking in wisdom. What we have is a human wisdom that is ultimately futile and foolish. God is not impressed with our wisdom. “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile” (1 Corinthians 3:20 ESV). So we need to recognize that man’s wisdom, no matter how impressive it may appear to be, is no match for the wisdom of God. And there is no reason to boast about or place our hope in men. Like David, we must turn to God. We must seek His will and desire to know His wisdom. James tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5 ESV). God’s wisdom is available at all times. He desires to give it. All we must do is recognize our need and ask Him for it.
Father, I need Your wisdom each and every day. There are so many things that happen in a given day that require me to make decisions or choices. If I rely on the wisdom of this world, it almost always results in disappointment. I need Your wisdom. I want to live according to Your will. Help me recognize my need and turn to You for help. And give me the patience to wait until I hear from You. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men