Wisdom Without God Is Folly.

1 Who is like the wise?
    And who knows the interpretation of a thing?
A man’s wisdom makes his face shine,
    and the hardness of his face is changed.

I say: Keep the king’s command, because of God’s oath to him. Be not hasty to go from his presence. Do not take your stand in an evil cause, for he does whatever he pleases. For the word of the king is supreme, and who may say to him, “What are you doing?” Whoever keeps a command will know no evil thing, and the wise heart will know the proper time and the just way. For there is a time and a way for everything, although man’s trouble lies heavy on him. For he does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be? No man has power to retain the spirit, or power over the day of death. There is no discharge from war, nor will wickedness deliver those who are given to it. Ecclesiastes 8:1-8 ESV

It shouldn’t be surprising that Solomon has a lot to say about wisdom. After all, he was known for his wisdom. In the early days of his reign, when given an opportunity by God to ask of Him whatever he wished, Solomon had asked for an “understanding heart” so he could govern the people of Israel well. And God responded, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies—I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have!” (1 Kings 3:11-12 NLT). And God followed through on His commitment, blessing Solomon with unsurpassed wisdom. Even when the queen of the nation of Sheba (modern-day Ethiopia) made a royal visit to Jerusalem, she was blown away by Solomon’s wisdom.
2 When she met with Solomon, she talked with him about everything she had on her mind. Solomon had answers for all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba realized how very wise Solomon was, and when she saw the palace he had built, she was overwhelmed. – 1 Kings 10:2-5 NLT
Like everything else in his life, wisdom became an obsession for Solomon. Seemingly unsatisfied with what he had been given by God, he constantly pursued wisdom. He even wrote and collected wise proverbial statements and put them in a book. In this book, known as The Proverbs of Solomon, he describes wisdom as a woman calling out from the streets, attempting to get the attention of those who pass her by.

20 Wisdom shouts in the streets.
    She cries out in the public square.
21 She calls to the crowds along the main street,
    to those gathered in front of the city gate:
22 “How long, you simpletons,
    will you insist on being simpleminded?
How long will you mockers relish your mocking?
    How long will you fools hate knowledge?
23 Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you
    and make you wise. – Proverbs 1:20-23 NLT

But everyone ignored her calls. They rejected her advice and shunned her correction. Nobody wanted what she had to offer. And as a result, they were left in their ignorance and complacency. But when the time came when wisdom was needed, she would be nowhere to be found. For Solomon, wisdom was a commodity worth pursuing. He even explained his purpose for writing his book of proverbs by stating:

Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,
    to help them understand the insights of the wise.
Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,
    to help them do what is right, just, and fair.
These proverbs will give insight to the simple,
    knowledge and discernment to the young. – Proverbs 1:2-4 NLT

Wisdom became one of many obsessions for Solomon. He pursued it with a vengeance, and never seemed to think he had enough of it. But it seems that he often forgot his own advice, failing to remember that “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7 NLT). The pursuit of wisdom without a healthy fear and worship of God is a futile effort. But too often, we make wisdom the focus of our attention, not God. And Solomon knew the benefits of wisdom. He had experienced them firsthand. Which is why he could sing the praises of a life of wisdom. “How wonderful to be wise, to analyze and interpret things. Wisdom lights up a person’s face, softening its harshness” (Ecclesiastes 8:1 NLT). 

And it’s interesting to note that in the following verses, Solomon provides those to whom he is writing a number of examples of what wisdom looks like in real life. But notice that they all have to do with their allegiance to the king. In other words, their faithful service to him.

He starts out with a not-so-subtle admonition to “Keep the king’s command.” This is the king telling his own people that if they’re wise, they’ll obey him. Sounds more like a threat than a recommendation to live wisely. While there is tremendous truth and wisdom in what Solomon has to say, it can’t help but come across as a bit self-serving. Yes, it makes sense for a servant of the king, someone who has made an oath to faithfully serve the king, to follow through on their commitment. It would be unwise to shirk your duty or to join in a plot to overthrow the king. It’s also a bit foolish to question the decisions of the king, because his word is final, and he has the power to enforce whatever he determines to do. If you obey him, you won’t be punished. The wise person will know when to speak up and when to shut up. He will understand that there’s a time and place for everything, even when facing trouble. And it’s our inability to control our words during times of difficulty that can get us in hot water. We say things we end up regretting. We express thoughts that haven’t been fully thought through. And hasty words spoken in the presence of the king can expose our folly and prove deadly. This thought sounds reminiscent of something Solomon said earlier in his book.

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. – Ecclesiastes 5:2 ESV

The apostle Paul shared a similar word of counsel in his letter to the church in Colossae.

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. – Colossians 4:5-6 NLT

For Solomon, it simply made sense not to question the wishes of the king. Of course, since he was the king, we can somehow understand why he felt this way. As king, he had probably heard more than one citizen of his kingdom say to him, “What are you doing?” And he most likely found the tone of that question offensive and, its timing, unwise. No one likes to have his wisdom and authority questioned, especially the king. And Solomon appears to view his authority as supreme, almost all-knowing in nature. He states that the one who questions the king “does not know what is to be, for who can tell him how it will be?” (Ecclesiastes 8:7 ESV). This individual has no control over anything, including their day of death. Nobody can hold on to their spirit when the time comes for it to depart. Nobody can get out of their obligation to serve when conscripted for battle. They simply have to go. They must do their duty. And the one who chooses a life of evil will find himself hopelessly stuck, experiencing the inevitable outcome of his decision. There is a certain sense of fate in Solomon’s words. You can’t know the future, so you have no control over it. Which brings us back to Solomon’s earlier admonition: Keep the king’s command.

But what are we to do with this? How are we to take what Solomon says and apply it to our daily lives? I believe it is essential to read the book of Ecclesiastes with a clear understanding of the state affairs in Solomon’s life at the time of its writing. He is an old man, having served as king of Israel for a long period of time. He has not finished well. His kingdom is marred by the presence of many idols to false gods. He has repeatedly disobeyed God, marrying more than 700 different women and amassing a harem of 300 concubines. He has been unfaithful to Yahweh. And his unfaithfulness would ultimately lead to God ripping the kingdom from his hands and dividing it in two. Solomon was still a wise man when he wrote the book of Ecclesiastes. But it is safe to say that he no longer feared God as he once had. His wisdom had been marred by sin. His perspective had been skewed by his pessimistic take on life. There is a lot of truth in the words that Solomon speaks, but we must remove the gems of truth from the muck and mire of Solomon’s sin-distorted viewpoint. Wisdom is a good thing. Remaining faithful in your service to the king is solid and sound advice. The one thing that is missing is a recommendation to fear the Lord. To his credit, Solomon will weave that message into the verses that follow. But it seems that Solomon struggled with maintaining the vital connection between wisdom and the fear of God. At times, wisdom became a stand-alone for him. He seems to have applied to wisdom the same philosophy of life he used with everything else: More is better. There were occasions when he seemed to sincerely believe that wisdom was all you needed. But wisdom without a fear of God is useless. It too will prove futile and meaningless. It is our fear and reverence for God that gives wisdom its power. Knowing right from wrong, good from evil, and righteousness from wickedness, begins with knowing God. Being able to make good decisions stems from a solid understanding of who God is and what He expects of us. When we live to please God, we make wise decisions. When we live to please self, we end up living like fools and, as Solomon put it, eating our own flesh. In our effort to make it all about ourselves, we end up destroying ourselves.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)  Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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Wisdom From God.

Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. And she said to her young men, “Go on before me; behold, I come after you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal. And as she rode on the donkey and came down under cover of the mountain, behold, David and his men came down toward her, and she met them. Now David had said, “Surely in vain have I guarded all that this fellow has in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that belonged to him, and he has returned me evil for good. God do so to the enemies of David and more also, if by morning I leave so much as one male of all who belong to him.”

When Abigail saw David, she hurried and got down from the donkey and fell before David on her face and bowed to the ground. She fell at his feet and said, “On me alone, my lord, be the guilt. Please let your servant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your servant. Let not my lord regard this worthless fellow, Nabal, for as his name is, so is he. Nabal is his name, and folly is with him. But I your servant did not see the young men of my lord, whom you sent. Now then, my lord, as the Lord lives, and as your soul lives, because the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from saving with your own hand, now then let your enemies and those who seek to do evil to my lord be as Nabal. And now let this present that your servant has brought to my lord be given to the young men who follow my lord. Please forgive the trespass of your servant. For the Lord will certainly make my lord a sure house, because my lord is fighting the battles of the Lord, and evil shall not be found in you so long as you live. If men rise up to pursue you and to seek your life, the life of my lord shall be bound in the bundle of the living in the care of the Lord your God. And the lives of your enemies he shall sling out as from the hollow of a sling. And when the Lord has done to my lord according to all the good that he has spoken concerning you and has appointed you prince over Israel, my lord shall have no cause of grief or pangs of conscience for having shed blood without cause or for my lord working salvation himself. And when the Lord has dealt well with my lord, then remember your servant.” – 1 Samuel 25:18-31 ESV

In these verses, we are provided with a stark contrast between Nabal and Abigai, and it shows up in their speech, their choice of words. When Nabal had first encountered the men sent by David, he responded rashly and rather harshly.

“Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” – 1 Samuel 25:10-11 ESV

Nabal treated David’s men with disrespect and dishonor. His words were flippant and filled with disdain. All the time that his shepherds had been tending his flocks in the wilderness of Paran, David and his men had provided protection. One of Nabal’s own shepherds confirmed this fact when he appealed to Abigail to intervene.

“These men have been very good to us, and we never suffered any harm from them. Nothing was stolen from us the whole time they were with us. In fact, day and night they were like a wall of protection to us and the sheep.” – 1 Samuel 25:15-16 NLT

And yet, Nabal refused to acknowledge any of this and treated David with contempt rather than showing him gratitude. He was a fool. He fit the biblical definition of a fool.

Wise words bring approval, but fools are destroyed by their own words. – Ecclesiastes 10:12 ESV

Fools’ words get them into constant quarrels;
    they are asking for a beating.

The mouths of fools are their ruin;
    they trap themselves with their lips. – Proverbs 18:6-7 NLT

And Nabal was about to get a beating from David. In fact, David was planning on wiping out Nabal and every one of his men.

“A lot of good it did to help this fellow. We protected his flocks in the wilderness, and nothing he owned was lost or stolen. But he has repaid me evil for good. May God strike me and kill me if even one man of his household is still alive tomorrow morning!” – 1 Samuel 25:21-22 NLT

But wiser minds prevailed. Abigail, the wife of Nabal, when apprised of the situation, stepped in and determined to right the wrong her husband had done to David. This was probably not the first time she had been forced to intervene in her husband’s affairs. She is well aware of his reputation and, as his wife, she had first-hand experience with his foolishness. She was extremely blunt when describing him to David.

“I know Nabal is a wicked and ill-tempered man; please don’t pay any attention to him. He is a fool, just as his name suggests.” – 1 Samuel 25:25 NLT

But it was her words of reconciliation to David that provide us with the greatest insight into the difference between Abigail and her husband. Her words and actions were marked by wisdom and insight. And what she exhibited was far more than mere human intelligence. She was not just a smart woman. She was a godly woman.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. – Proverbs 9:10 ESV

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding. – Psalm 111:10 ESV

Abigail was wise because she was godly. She feared the Lord. She saw the hand of God at work in the life of David. God had provided her with insight into the circumstances surrounding David’s life. While Nabal saw David simply as a man on the run, a fugitive from justice; Abigail saw him as the next king of Israel.

“The Lord will surely reward you with a lasting dynasty, for you are fighting the Lord’s battles.” – 1 Samuel 25:28 NLT

When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel,  don’t let this be a blemish on your record. – 1 Samuel 25:30-31 NLT

Abigail was not just buttering David up, stroking his ego in an attempt to get on his good side. She had divine insight from God. She had been given wisdom from God that enabled her to assess the situation and recognize that David, as God’s hand-picked successor to Saul, would not want to do anything that would blemish his future reputation or dishonor the name of God. Her words and actions reveal her wisdom.

From a wise mind comes wise speech;
    the words of the wise are persuasive.

Kind words are like honey —
    sweet to the soul and healthy for the body. – Proverbs 16:23-24 NLT

Every aspect of Abigail’s handling of this delicate and dangerous situation reveals a divinely inspired understanding of human nature and the keys to the successful mitigation of difficult circumstances. Her provision of food for David’s men and her choice of words for David’s ears were both divinely inspired. One of the most insightful things Abigail did that day was to get David to see things from God’s perspective. She knew David would be upset, and rightfully so. She fully understood how her husband’s foolish actions and words would cause David to take offense and be tempted to seek revenge. But what would God have David do? She wanted David to understand that God was working through her to prevent the unnecessary slaughter of innocent people, an action that would place a permanent blight on David’s reputation. It is impossible to think about this fact and not fast-forward to a future event in David’s life when he failed to heed the words of Abigail.

“When the Lord has done all he promised and has made you leader of Israel, don’t let this be a blemish on your record. Then your conscience won’t have to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed and vengeance.” – 1 Samuel 25:30-31 NLT

Years later, after David had become the king of Israel, he would have an affair with Bathsheba, the wife of one of his soldiers. And when she became pregnant with his child, he would arrange for her husband, Uriah, to be exposed to enemy fire on the front lines, in order that he could legally take Bathsheba as his wife. And he would know what it was like for his conscience to bear the staggering burden of needless bloodshed.

The words of Abigail were wise because they were godly. And they were godly because they came from the mouth of a godly woman. And we will see that David was going to recognize the hand of God in the actions of Abigail. His God would use this woman to accomplish His will regarding David.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Fear Foolishness.

When David’s young men came, they said all this to Nabal in the name of David, and then they waited. And Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is David? Who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters. Shall I take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers and give it to men who come from I do not know where?” So David’s young men turned away and came back and told him all this. And David said to his men, “Every man strap on his sword!” And every man of them strapped on his sword. David also strapped on his sword. And about four hundred men went up after David, while two hundred remained with the baggage.

But one of the young men told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “Behold, David sent messengers out of the wilderness to greet our master, and he railed at them. Yet the men were very good to us, and we suffered no harm, and we did not miss anything when we were in the fields, as long as we went with them. They were a wall to us both by night and by day, all the while we were with them keeping the sheep. Now therefore know this and consider what you should do, for harm is determined against our master and against all his house, and he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” – 1 Samuel 25:9-17 ESV

We discover in these verses that Nabal was a man who lived up to his name, which happened to mean “fool”. He had all the classic characteristics of a biblical fool.

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice. – Proverbs 12:15 ESV

The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge,
    but fools broadcast their foolishness. – Proverbs 12:23 NLT

Short-tempered people do foolish things… – Proverbs 14:17 NLT

He was arrogant, full of himself, quick-tempered, resistant to counsel, and ignorant of the consequences of his behavior. He treated David, a mighty warrior, as if he were a nobody. He showed him no honor or respect. He looked down his nose at him, foolishly saying, “Who does this son of Jesse think he is? There are lots of servants these days who run away from their masters. Should I take my bread and my water and my meat that I’ve slaughtered for my shearers and give it to a band of outlaws who come from who knows where?” (1 Samuel 25:10-11 NLT). He knew exactly who David was. Even the Philistines had heard about David’s reputation as a mighty warrior. But Nabal, knowing that David was a man on the run, made a very foolish decision to treat David with disrespect and disdain.

One of Nabal’s shepherds, when he had witnessed what his foolish master had done, ran and told Abigail, Nabal’s wife. Even his words reveal the depth of Nabal’s problem: “he is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him” (1 Samuel 25:17 ESV). Nabal’s foolishness ran so deep that he could not even recognize the folly and danger of his own actions. And he was totally resistant to the wise counsel of those around him who might have been able to protect him had he only listened.

What would have possessed Nabal to act so foolishly and risk the wrath of someone as powerful as David? We have to remember that, according to the Bible, foolishness is not a mental or psychological problem, it is spiritual. At the heart of Nabal’s folly was lack of respect for and fear of God. He had placed himself at the center of his own life, making himself his own god and arbiter of his own fate. Ultimately, foolishness is the lack of wisdom. And Psalm 111 tells us:

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding. – Psalm 111:19 ESV

Scripture repeatedly warns us that a person who denies, ignores, or neglects God lacks wisdom and inevitably displays the characteristics of a fool.

  • He acts thoughtlessly: He gives little or no thought to God; refusing to consider the truth about God. His treatment of others is simply a byproduct of his lack of thought regarding God’s holiness and judgment.
  • He becomes dull-minded:  When a man fails to consider God, his mind becomes dulled by the things of this world. He begins to lose the ability to see clearly, having his spiritual vision clouded by materialism, success, comfort, and pleasure. not being sharp in his thoughts about God. His mind becomes intoxicated with the things of this world and he sluggish toward God.
    • He becomes senseless: A man who neglects God finds himself lacking in wisdom and acting contrary to good common sense. Because he is deficient in his thoughts about God, he becomes in his ability to think clearly and sensibly. He may be smart and successful, but he will be plagued by senseless decision-making and the harmful outcomes it brings.
    • He will be without understanding: Because he fails to grasp or comprehend God; he will end up with wrong conclusions or thoughts about God. He will wrongly assume that God is not there or that God does not care about what he is doing. He will make godless decisions because he is essentially living a God-less life.
    • He will exhibit an ignorance of God: He won’t truly know God. Because he has left God out of his thought processes, he will display behavior that reveals his faulty understand of God. He won’t fear God’s holiness. He won’t worry about God’s judgment. He won’t seek God’s wisdom. He won’t see a need for God’s forgiveness.
    • He will be unwise: Without God in his life, he will lack wisdom. If fact, regardless of what he tries to do, he will act contrary to wisdom. His behavior will make sense to him, but it will actually lead to dangerous and foolish outcomes.

These characteristics, while true of the lost, should be especially scary to the believer, because any of us can exhibit these same qualities at any time. All it takes is for us to neglect God in our lives, to fail to fear Him and treat Him with the honor, respect and worship He is due. When we leave God out of our lives, we open up the door to foolishness. Foolishness if nothing more than a lack of wisdom and, as the psalmist said, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Nabal was a fool because Nabal was ungodly. If he didn’t fear God, why in the world would he fear David? If he was willing to treat God with disrespect, what would prevent him from treating David the same way?

It is interesting to note that, in the Proverbs, there are five different types of fools mentioned. They seem to run on a continuum, moving from bad to worse. There is the simple fool, the silly fool, the sensual fool, the scornful fool and the stubborn fool. Each is characterized by a different Hebrew word. The last one, the stubborn fool, is the word, “nâbâl”, which just happens to be the name of the character in our story.

According to the Proverbs, this is the most dangerous type of fool. A stubborn fool rejects God and His ways. He is self-confident and close-minded. He is his own god, freely gratifying his own sin nature. It is his goal to draw as many others as possible into following his ways. His actions tend to impact all those around him, just as Nabal’s actions were going to result in the deaths of all those around him. The Proverbs make it clear that only God can reprove a stubborn fool. And we will see in the story that, while David had a heart for God, he ran the risk of acting foolishly himself. He was going to let the foolish actions of Nabal cause him to respond in a godless, foolish way. But wiser heads would prevail.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

No Brag. Just Fact.

I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not as the Lord would but as a fool. Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast. For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face.  To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!

But whatever anyone else dares to boast of—I am speaking as a fool—I also dare to boast of that. Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. – 2 Corinthians 11:16-28 ESV

Paul is about to do something that everything in his being wants to resist. He is about to boast. And he feels like a fool for doing so. But he feels compelled to do so in order to wake up the Corinthians and to get them to see the stupidity of their logic. Paul’s adversaries are constantly boasting of their own reputations and qualifications. They have set themselves up as somehow superior to Paul. So, against his better judgment, Paul decides to play their game of one-upmanship. He begs the Corinthians to “accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little” (2 Corinthians 11:16 ESV). And he sarcastically explains that, “Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast” (2 Corinthians 11:18 ESV). He accuses the Corinthians of being “so wise”, and yet allowing themselves to be enslaved, devoured, taken advantage of, easily impressed, and humiliated, like being slapped in the face in public. 

And since they seem to be attracted by the boasting of his adversaries, Paul decides to play their game, all the while admitting, “I am speaking as a fool” (2 Corinthians 11:21 ESV). Paul is much more comfortable and at home with his weaknesses. He sees them as assets, not liabilities. In the very next chapter, Paul will write, “That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT). But at this point in the letter, he is attempting to show the Corinthians the foolishness of their obsession with qualifications and outward appearances. So he gives them a rather exhaustive outline of his credentials, matching his critics line by line. These “false apostles” bragged of being pure-blooded, Aramaic, speaking Hebrews. Well, so was Paul. They boasted of being Israelites, part of the chosen people of God. So was Paul. They claimed they could trace their roots all the way back to Abraham. So could Paul. And they had presented themselves as servants of Christ. But Paul flatly asserts that he is a better one, and then goes on to explain why – all the while admitting that his words sounded like those of someone who has lost his mind.

Paul says, “I have served him far more! I have worked harder, been put in prison more often, been whipped times without number, and faced death again and again” (2 Corinthians 11:23 NLT). Then he gives specific details regarding his claims, explaining that he has been lashed, beaten, shipwrecked, stoned and left for dead, faced threats from rivers, robbers, the Jews, and even the Gentiles. He has been in danger in cities, the wilderness, at sea, and now, from these false “brothers”. He knows what it feels like to work hard, experience sleepless nights, go without food and water, nearly freeze to death, and face the daily pressure that came with being responsible for all the churches he had helped to start. And all of this was due to his commitment to his calling as an apostle of Jesus Christ. He suffered because he was faithful to his commission, given to him directly by Jesus. If the Corinthians were looking for someone who had the proper qualifications for being an apostle, they need look no further than Paul. He had the scars to prove it. His resume, while not pretty, was a powerful statement of his calling and commitment. When many other men would have given up and walked away, Paul had continued to stay the course, fight the good fight, and run the race – all the way to the end.

While Paul hates the fact that he is having to boast, he is doing so for a good reason. He wants the Corinthians to wake up and smell the coffee. In their “wisdom” they were bearing with fools. They were listening to these false apostles and giving their words credence, all based on nothing more than their self-proclaimed qualifications. These men had no track record of service to the Lord. They had played no part in bringing the gospel to the Corinthians and, if anything, were actually undermining all the work that Paul had poured into them. They were preaching a different gospel, another Jesus and  offering a different Spirit than the one the Corinthians had received at salvation. This was dangerous stuff. Paul knew that their work among the Corinthians would be deadly, if not stopped in its tracks. So he resorted to boasting. He lowered himself to their level, only in order to expose them for what they really were: charlatans and liars. Paul cared for the Corinthians. He was willing to die for them, in necessary. He would gladly take a bullet, or a stone, for them. And he was not above being seen as a fool if it helped them see the folly of their ways.

 

The Wisdom of the Cross.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
    nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. – 1 Corinthians 2:6-13 ESV

Earlier in this same chapter, when Paul had written, “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV), he was stating that the knowledge of and belief in Christ and His death was all he needed to know. It was the very wisdom of God revealed to men and was sufficient to make men right with Him. It was a secret and hidden wisdom that had been unknowable up until the point that God had revealed it to men through His Spirit. Paul claimed that if the rulers in power when Jesus was alive had understood this wisdom, they would not have crucified Him. But in their human wisdom, they had been ignorant of the reality that Jesus really was the Son of God and the Savior of the world. From Pontus Pilate and Herod the king to the high priest of Israel, none of them were able to recognize who Jesus was and what God was doing through Him. Their human wisdom proved insufficient. And while they believed they were doing the right thing by eliminating Jesus as a threat to their way of life, they were only accomplishing the divine will of God. Peter made this point clear in his prayer after having been released from arrest by the high priest for preaching the resurrection of Jesus.

for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” – Acts 4:27-28 ESV

Only those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ, recognizing Him as the Son of God who died on the cross in their place, can recognize the wisdom of God in this seemingly hopeless event. And only the Spirit of God can make the wisdom of Jesus’ death make sense. It was not until the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples at Pentecost that they were able to recognize the wisdom behind God’s plan of redemption. Jesus had to die. Without His death, there would have been no means by which men might be restored to a right relationship with God. As the writer of Hebrews states, “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 9:22 ESV). Jesus’ death had made no sense to the disciples in the days immediately following His crucifixion. In their minds, the whole cause for which they had signed up, had been an abysmal failure. Their Messiah had been murdered and all hopes tied to His kingdom died with Him. His death had meant a death of their dreams. But they had been wrong. God’s ways are not our ways. His wisdom is greater than ours. His Son’s death, viewed as a tragedy from the perspective of the disciples, was actually a victory over sin and death. Jesus had not been a helpless victim, but a conquering King. As Paul states later on in this letter:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
   “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. – 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 ESV

Quoting from the prophet, Isaiah, Paul states, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 ESV). The death of Jesus had been a part of God’s divine redemptive plan long before the creation of the world. Even before sin entered into the world, God had ordained that His Son would die for the sins of mankind. And our ability to see and understand this reality is made possible by the Spirit of God. It is only with the help of the Spirit of God that man can understand the wisdom of God. Otherwise, it all sounds like foolishness. As Paul said earlier, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23-24 ESV). The only way we can comprehend the wisdom of God in the cross of Christ is through the insight provided by the Spirit of God. He is the one who helps us “understand the things freely given us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:12 ESV). As the Spirit of God, He alone can understand the thoughts and ways of God, and He makes known to us the wisdom of God – “interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual” (1 Corinthians 2:13 ESV).

Paul’s use of the phrase, “those who are spiritual” is not a reference to those who happen to be somehow more mature or further along in their faith. He is simply referring to all those who have placed their faith in Christ and in whom God has placed His Spirit. It is the presence of the Spirit of God within us that makes us spiritual. He provides us with the capacity to understand the mind of God – “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10b ESV). It is the Spirit of God who helps us comprehend the wisdom behind the cross of Christ. With His assistance, we can understand how death brought about life, how seeming tragedy resulted in victory, how our condemnation has turned into a guarantee of our future glorification, and how we can enjoy the unfailing love of God rather than the inescapable wrath of God.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV

Think Before You Act.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. – Ephesians 5:15-21 ESV

Once again, Paul brings up the issue of our walk. He has already told his readers “to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called” (Ephesians 4:1 ESV). He has warned them “you must longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (Ephesians 4:17 ESV). Back in verse one of this chapter, he wrote, “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1 ESV). And then he gave his readers yet one more admonition: “Walk as children of the light (for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true)” (Ephesians 5:8-9 ESV). Now, in verse 15, he provides yet one more more word about the walk of the believer. “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time” (Ephesians 5:15 ESV).

For Paul, belief and behavior in the life of the Christian were inseparable. Faith in Christ was to have a direct impact on every area of life, including the believer’s attitudes and actions. The Christian’s walk and words were to reflect his new nature. But the verses above are all imperatives. Walk in a manner worthy of the calling. Walk not as the Gentiles do. Walk in love. Walk as children of the light. Walk not as the unwise. They are commands, not suggestions. They require forethought and proper consideration. You have to think about them and plan for them to be a part of your life. And like all commands in Scripture, while they are non-optional, they are not always obeyed. We can choose to ignore each and every one of these commands. That is why Paul was so emphatic. He begged his readers to not act thoughtlessly, and he put it in very blunt terms: “do not be foolish” (Ephesians 5:17 ESV). To “be foolish” was to act without reason or reflection. It was to act rashly, without forethought or proper consideration. Living the Christian life requires a bit of brainpower and intellectual capacity. We have to think about what we are doing. It requires planning and deliberation. Back in verse 10, Paul wrote, “Carefully determine what pleases the Lord” (Ephesians 5:10 NLT). That requires thinking before acting. It means you have to stop and consider the deed before you commit to doing it. In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul provided them with a key to making this happen.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:2 NLT

God wants to redeem our thinking. He wants us to think like He thinks. But that required knowing His will, what He would have us do. Which is why Paul said, “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17 NLT). And just in case his readers couldn’t follow his train of thought, Paul gave them a real-life example. “Don’t be drunk with wine, because that will ruin your life” (Ephesians 5:18a NLT). Think about it. What good ever comes from getting drunk? Who has ever been proud of their behavior after a night of heavy drinking? A better decision, Paul suggests, would to choose to, “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18b NLT). It should be obvious that when Paul compares being drunk with wine with being filled with the Spirit, he is talking about control. When you’re drunk, you are under the control of the alcohol. It dictates your behavior. You do things you wouldn’t normally do. You say things you wouldn’t normally say. So to be filled with the Spirit is to choose to let Him dictate and determine your behavior. There is a big difference between being indwelt by the Spirit and filled by the Spirit. Every believer receives the Holy Spirit at the point of salvation. And while we have all of the Spirit all of the time, we are not always “filled” or controlled by the Spirit. We can choose to ignore Him. We can determine to disobey Him. But when we are filled by the Holy Spirit and are under His control, our behavior will reflect it. Paul provides a glimpse of what that should look like:

…singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. – Ephesians 5:19-20 NLT

Earlier, Paul had warned, “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God” (Ephesians 4:30 ESV). We grieve the Spirit when we choose to live our lives apart from His power and without His guidance. We rob Him of His primary role in our lives. He exists to assist and help us as we navigate this fallen world, but when we refuse to live under His control, we deny Him the joy of producing His fruit through us. We end up producing “bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander” (Ephesians 4:31 ESV), when He longs to make us kind, tenderhearted, forgiving, thankful, and submissive to one another.

That is the will of God. As Paul wrote in his letter to the Thessalonians, “For this is God’s will: that you become holy” (1 Thessalonians 4:4 NET). Forgiveness of sins is great. But even an absence of sin does not make someone righteous or holy. God’s intention is to transform us from unrighteous to righteous. From unholy to holy. His ultimate goal is our glorification, when we will be free from all sin and entirely righteous. But we must stop and consider what it is that God is doing in our lives. We must constantly question why we would do anything that is contrary to His will for our lives. He desires for us to be holy, so why would we do anything that prevents that from happening? That is why Paul tells us, “Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Ephesians 5:17 NLT). Think before you act.

Too Smart For Our Own Good.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. – Romans 1:21-23 ESV

Wise fools. The world is full of them and always has been. Paul describes them as futile in their thinking. The Greek word Paul uses is mataioō and it can mean “to passively become foolish, or to become idolatrous.” Paul says they are without excuse because they have had every opportunity to honor or recognize the existence and reality of God, who has revealed Himself through His creation. “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Romans 1:20 ESV). These kinds of people indict themselves because they all end up worshiping something or someone. They may not call it worship, but they esteem or honor other things, giving them the place of prominence in their lives that belongs to God alone. Some end up worshiping man, making humanity to end-all-be-all of our existence. They believe we are our own savior. Others worship science, placing all their hope and trust in reason and man’s ability to solve all of the world’s problem through scientific research and development. We can end up worshiping political parties or governmental policies. Elevating men or man-made ideas to a god-like status in our lives has been the lot of humanity since the fall. That was the original temptation of the serpent in the garden. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5 ESV).

Paul makes it painfully clear that all men know God. They sense the existence of something bigger and greater than what they can see. Creation virtually shouts that there is something or someone out there, the first cause behind all that we see. Ancient man knew that there was something out there. That’s why they created idols. That’s why they worshiped the sun, moon, stars, animals, nature and every other created thing. But modern man is more sophisticated than that. Our idols are more subtle and sensible. We wouldn’t dream of worshiping the sun. But we will worship the Big Bang Theory. We will go out of our way to concoct every possible explanation for our existence, while refusing to accept the idea that God exists. Claiming to be wise, we become fools, self-deceived and sadly mistaken in our conclusions. We end up exchanging the glory of the immortal God for a cheap, but seemingly plausible replacement.

Paul insists that man’s persistent attempt to explain away God has left him with a darkened heart. What was once clearly visible to them, the invisible attributes of God, has become cloudy and veiled. Man has lost the ability to sense God’s presence and power. This has left him with the nagging need to explain his existence and make sense of a world that continues to spiral out of control, despite all our scientific advances, modern conveniences, and moralistic efforts. We keep hoping and believing that we can make the world a better place. We have made vast improvements in communication, transportation, medicine, education and agricultural production. Yet the world remains plagued by hatred, disease, famine, ignorance, and inequities in all their hideous forms. We have been able to make advances in everything except the state of man’s heart. We can help him live longer, but we are incapable of making him live better. Human reason will never come up with a way to deal with sin. Science will never come up with a solution to the problem of the human heart. In our wisdom, we have become fools.

And  yet, in the midst of all of mankind’s arrogance and pride, God sent His Son. Paul calls it the gospel, “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16 ESV). In the gospel, the righteousness of God has been revealed. What God expects of humanity has been made known through His Son coming to earth as a man and living a sinless life. Jesus did what no other man had been able to do since Adam. He lived in perfect obedience to the law of God. And it was His sinless life that made Him the perfect sacrifice to pay for the sins of man. He died so that man might live. He gave His life so that we would not have to give ours. The death of Jesus was what God required so that men might be made right (righteous) with Him. And this righteousness is only available by faith. Not by reason. Not by scientific explanations or experiments. Not through human effort or any amount of seemingly moral advancements.

Man, apart from God, is helpless, hopeless, blind, ignorant, and spiritually dead. Even his best efforts on his best day are flawed and, ultimately, worthless. As the prophet Isaiah so aptly put it, “We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind” (Isaiah 64:6 NLT). Man has become to smart for his own good. His intelligence has left him unable to honor God or give Him thanks. He is determined to come up with his own explanation for his existence and his own plan for his future. But in the end, all men must face the reality of God’s existence. God doesn’t go away because we attempt to explain Him away. He doesn’t cease to exist simply because our intelligence refuses to accept Him. God has revealed Himself in His creation. He has made Himself known through His written Word. And He has given men the means by which they can know Him personally and permanently through His Son. But the knowledge of God is ultimately available as a result of faith, not wisdom.

Proverbs 26e

No Honor For Fools.

“Honor is no more associated with fools than snow with summer or rain with harvest.” – Proverbs 26:1 NLT

Why would you praise someone who is essentially worthless and unworthy? Why in the world would you elevate to high position someone who has shown themselves incapable of making wise decisions and using sound judgment? According the the NET Study Bible, “‘Honor’ in this passage probably means respect, external recognition of worth, accolades, advancement to high position, etc.” It seems ludicrous that anyone would want to bestow honor on someone who is undeserving, but the truth is, we do it all the time. A few areas in our society where it is rampant are professional sports, politics and entertainment. Every day we see young men being honored, praised and rewarded for their athletic prowess, while they live like fools. They are children in the bodies of grown men. They lack discernment, common sense, understanding and wisdom. They live as if they are invincible and spend their money like it is inexhaustible. We cringe at their antics and demand that they be role models for our children, but they lack the capacity. We cheer them, pay good money to watch them, and pin our sports hopes on them. Then we are shocked and disappointed when we read of their latest escapades. How about politics? As a society, we regularly elevate men and women to high positions who, while perhaps better educated, are just as foolish and lacking in wisdom as any professional athlete. Some of these career politicians have perfected the art of lying and, while elected as representatives of the people, have become much more concerned about their own well-being than the needs and wants of their constituents. They are self-aggrandizing, power-hungry fools who have no desire to rule according to God’s terms and in keeping with His commands. Yet we regularly re-elect them and give them another chance to prove their foolishness.

And then there is the entertainment world, filled with countless individuals who model the life of foolishness, living in a fantasy world filled with money, power, and popularity. Their lives are followed faithfully by adoring fans who watch their every move and listen to every word that comes out of their mouths, as if they were oracles spouting wisdom directly from the throne of God. Yet their lives are marked by lack of self-control, poor decision making, promiscuity, selfishness and self-centeredness, broken relationships, financial mismanagement, emotional instability and more. And yet, we honor and esteem them. We hold them up as icons of virtue and wisdom. We listen intently as they share their opinions on everything from gun control to world peace. They are rich and influential, but they lack wisdom, common sense, and discernment. And yet, we honor them.

But Solomon warns us, “Honoring a fool is as foolish as tying a stone to a slingshot” (Proverbs 26:8 NLT). What a vivid picture. Imagine the stupidity of tying a stone to a slingshot and expecting anything useful to happen as a result. It would be idiotic. And that’s exactly his point. When we honor those who are undeserving of honor, we are making a mockery of not only honor, but of the value of wisdom. The entire Book of Proverbs is filled with admonitions and reminders about the value of wisdom and it’s non-negotiable role in our lives. It is the wisdom of God, not the wisdom of this world. It is understanding, insight, discipline, discernment, common sense and wise living right from the throne of God Himself. Those who reject it are not to be honored and esteemed. They are not to be given places of responsibility and power. We shouldn’t elect fools or employ them. “An employer who hires a fool or a bystander is like an archer who shoots at random” (Proverbs 26:10 NLT). Fools are a menace to society. They are a danger to themselves and dishonoring to God. We are not to honor them, esteem them, elevate them, or to desire to be like them. Wisdom is God’s measuring stick. It is His standard of judgment. And it should be ours.

Father, forgive us for honoring fools in our lives. We make a mockery of wisdom every time we do. Give us the determination to live wisely and to look for others who do the same. Help us raise the standard and expect more from those who lead us. May we be a wise people who value wise living. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 26d

Confusing Counsel.

“Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are. Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.” – Proverbs 26:4-5 NLT

It’s hard to read these two verses and not be a bit confused by them. They appear to be in direct contradiction of one another. Which is it? Don’t answer the foolish arguments of a fool, or be sure to answer the foolish arguments of a fool? First of all, we need to establish just what kind of fool these verses are talking about. Because, in the Book of Proverbs there are five different types of fools described, not just one. There are five Hebrew words used when speaking about fools and this one is the word kecîyl – which refers to a fool, stupid fellow, dullard, simpleton, or arrogant one. The best way to describe him is that he is a sensual fool. This is the individual who rejects the discipline of his parents or any and all authorities in his life. He is determined to make the wrong choices, regardless of any counsel provided. He tends to focus on that which brings him immediate pleasure, never planning for or thinking about the future. It isn’t that he has a mental deficiency, but he simply chooses to reject the wisdom of God, and glories in that of which he should be ashamed. This kind of fool is unreasonable and unteachable. His motives and methods are subtle and he should be avoided.

The reason it is important for us to know what kind of fool this Proverb is talking about is that we tend to lump all the verses about fools together. And when we do that, it can become very confusing. These verses are not talking about a simple fool (pethîy). The Hebrew word used for the simple fool describes a child who lacks discernment, has no ability to recognize cause-and-effect, is immature, gullible and intensely curious. This kind of fool is to be corrected, disciplined, and counseled. But the fool described in these verses is one that has become stubborn and set in his ways. The issue addressed in these verses is not whether you can or should answer a fool. This kind of fool will likely remain a fool regardless of whether you answer him or not. It is really about the common sense you need in determining how to answer a sensual fool. If you answer him in the hopes to convincing him he is wrong, you will only become embroiled in an argument that leaves you looking as foolish as he is. But if you answer him with the intent of exposing his foolishness, pride, and arrogance, you can walk away knowing that you have done all you can do. It is not your job to change him. You will never argue this kind of fool into seeing reason. These verses are warning us to go into the situation with our eyes wide open, knowing just what kind of fool we are dealing with. One of the big takeaways has to do with our intent. Arguing with a sensual fool is a waste of our time. Exposing a sensual fool is sometimes all you can do, in the hopes that it will help them see their own pride and foolishness. But someone who has reached this stage of foolishness will most likely remain just as they are. Their problem is not a lack of knowledge or cloudy thinking. It is pride, arrogance, and a lack of wisdom. Their hearts are not in love with God. And until that changes, no amount of discussion will change their situation.

Father, there are so many sensual fools in the world. And I have found myself falling into that category at times over the years. Give me the wisdom to know how to answer this kind of fool. Help me recognize them for what they are and realize that only You can change them. I have an obligation to expose their foolishness and pride, but I have to understand that I will never argue them out of their foolishness. Only you can change their hearts. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Proverbs 17b

 

Set Your Sights On Wisdom.

“Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” – Proverbs 17:24 NLT

When reading the Proverbs it sometimes helps if you replace the word, “Wisdom” with Christ. Christ is the epitome, the personification, the embodiment of wisdom. Paul tells us, “It is because of him [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT). Christ, because He is God, doesn’t just have wisdom, He IS wisdom. It is His very nature. So when we look at verse 24 with this in mind, it gives us a new perspective. “Sensible people keep their eyes glued on Christ.” This verse is talking about a person who has understanding, insight or discernment. It is NOT because they have these qualities that they keep their eyes glued on Christ. It is BECAUSE they keep their eyes glued on Christ that they have these qualities. Those who keep Christ “in front of” themselves or right in their faces are the ones who will receive understanding, insight and discernment. They will grow wiser because they have fellowship with the one who is the very wisdom of God.

The idea here is one of focus and expectation. While the godly keep Christ clearly in their sights, the foolish “wander to the ends of the earth.” The fool does not seek Christ. He doesn’t turn to Him for understanding, insight or discernment. Instead, he searches anywhere and everywhere hoping to find what he can only find in Christ. And the sad part is, Christ is available to the fool at any time. He is always there. He is readily findable and accessible – to anyone and everyone. He is no respecter of persons. In fact, look at verse two. It contains a subtle, yet significant message. It describes “a wise servant.” That may not jump out to us, but in their day to call a servant wise would be ridiculous. It would be like an oxymoron. Wise and servant just don’t seem to go together. But a common, household servant who comes to Christ would be just that. He would be wise. In Solomon’s day, a servant who served Yahweh first and foremost would have been wise. He would have gained wisdom from seeking and serving God, and would have been an even better servant to his earthly master.

Christ is available, yet fools seek for understanding, insight and discernment anywhere and everywhere else. But what they discover is more foolishness. They may gain intelligence, but “eloquent words are not fitting for a fool” (Proverbs 17:7 NLT). Fools never really learn. They continue to make the same mistakes over and over again. They become easy prey for the enemy. They are prone to gossip and slander. They are attracted to evil. They use poor judgment. They bring heartbreak to their parents and are constant disappointments to their friends. All because they refuse to look to Christ. They will not focus their attention on Him. And the can be said for so many of us who call ourselves Christ-followers. We can easily take our eyes off of the one who saved us, and decide that we can now save ourselves from all that the world, the enemy and our own sinful flesh throw at us. We turn to the world for wisdom instead of Christ. And we become fools in the process. The New American Standard Bible translates verse 24, “Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding.” The person of understanding is the one who has made Christ his close and intimate companion. He spends a great deal of time with Christ. The wisdom of Christ has rubbed off on him. The prophet Isaiah said it this way: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”

Father, I want to keep my mind and my eyes fixed on Your Son, the one who contains all the wisdom of heaven and makes it available to me. Forgive me for taking my eyes off of Him at times, for looking to the world for understanding, insight and discernment. I know the world can’t deliver. Help me to keep my thoughts fixed on Him. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org