Friday, June 11, 2010

The Root of Wisdom

"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2.2-3).

We stayed out too late and on the way home I said something I immediately regretted. Blast! Solomon wasn’t kidding when he said that he who controls his spirit is like he who captures a city! Self-discipline is hard. Knowing what is right is simply not enough; one must do the thing. Instead, I am too often willing to forgo what is right in order to indulge my emotions – when in fact it should be the other way around.

By the time I got into bed I was not only discouraged, but mildly nauseous. How could I have been so thoughtless? How can I claim to have knowledge of Christ and still succeed in demonstrating such stupendous breeches of judgment? Unable to sleep, I reached for my Bible and came immediately upon Solomon's words from the book of Proverbs: “If you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for [wisdom] as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2.3-6).

I couldn't help but note what Solomon does not say. He does not say, “Wish for wisdom like you’re wishing on a star. Hope for it like you hope large sums of money will spontaneously fall into your lap. Believe that someday, somehow, by a magic stroke of luck, sage fairies with silver hair will descend from the heavens and sprinkle wisdom dust upon your forehead.”

Instead, Solomon says that wisdom must be sought after like hidden treasure; one must "call out" and "cry aloud," "look" and "search." Just a few chapters later, he adds this charge: “Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4.5-7).

There is nothing equivocal about Solomon’s words; they are not suggestive, but authoritative; he is not offering up a point for my consideration, but an unqualified mandate: get wisdom; get understanding; don’t settling for anything less; seek for it until you find it, even if it costs you everything you have.

This realization filled me with a sense of empowerment: I will do it, I resolved, I will get wisdom! But then two words struck me like the glare of an impertinent child from a vacant corner of the schoolroom: “But how?” How does one go about “getting” wisdom? And what is the best method for acquiring understanding?

I first began to consider the example of Solomon who, shortly after being anointed king, was approached by God in a dream and granted the privilege of asking for whatever he wished. Instead of long life and riches, Solomon asked for wisdom: “I am only a little child,” he said, “and do not know how to carry out my duties. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong" (1 Kings 3.7-9).

"I am only a little give your servant a discerning heart." God was so pleased with Solomon’s request that He not only gave him wisdom, but made him the wisest man who ever lived (1Kings 3.9).

While it is nearly impossible to imagine - (though I must concede it is possible) - that God could grant me anything like the wisdom of Solomon, this story serves to beautifully illuminate the character of God: He not only gives to those who ask, He gives generously. This idea is reaffirmed countless times in the New Testament. “If any of you lacks wisdom,” writes James, “he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” “He should ask God who gives generously…and it will be given to him.” “For he who asks receives” (Matt. 5.45).

And yet, how difficult asking is! Oswald Chambers writes, “We will long and desire and crave and suffer, but not until we are at the extreme limit will we ask.” To ask one must stop what one is doing; one must pull the car over and admit that one is lost, that one lacks, that one is but a child and hopelessly poor.

But the moment we do ask is the moment we are blessed (Matt. 5). Indeed, in the moment of asking no powers of hell or darkness can keep us from receiving wisdom from God: Not that I will receive wisdom to do the thing I want – for that is to ask amiss; but wisdom to recognize the thing that God wants.

Thus, when I am faced with my own shortcomings, with the depth of my depravity and sin, I need not utterly succumb to feelings of hopelessness and despair – instead, I must remember the great riches which God has put at my disposal: namely, Christ, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;” Christ, “who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption" (1 Cor. 1.30).

Not even Solomon in all his splendor had this privilege – of drawing near to the Throne of Grace with confidence to find mercy and help in time of need.

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