Monday, October 23, 2023

Giving Up Leads to Fruit

I have been spending some time reflecting on harvest during the fall season.  With all of the fall community celebrations along with apples, fruits, preserves, there is an atmosphere of celebration in enjoying the fruit of labor.

I am reminded of something Jesus said during the fall season of his life.  In the upper room, he had his final Passover with this disciples and friends.  Soon, he would be the new Passover.  There, he instituted a new, weekly Passover when he transformed the meaning of the cup and bread.

His choice of words bears some reflection.  In Matthew 26:27-29, he said, And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.” 

When Jesus gave them the cup of Passover wine, he assigned new meaning to it.  For wine to be associated with the new covenant evokes the common scriptural images of a bountiful harvest that comes because of the favor of the Lord.  Part of this imagery includes the joyful abundance of wine (Isa 25:6; 55:1-2; Hos 2:21-22; Hoel 2:18-24; Amos 9:13-14).  For years in my Bible reading, I did not notice the abundance of wine as a sign of God’s favor.  This way probably because of the negative connotations associated with strong drink.  However, in these cases it is not about drunkenness, which the Bible condemns, but about an abundant harvest that is a sign of God’s favor due to human faithfulness.  For example, in a message of hope for future restoration, Isaiah 25:6 says, On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.”  On the other hand, the lack of wine is a sign of God’s disfavor and judgment to due sin (Jer 48:33; Hos 2:8-9; Joel 1:10; Hag 1:10).  For example, due to Israel’s consistent sin, in Hoses 2:9 God said, “Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season.”  (This may offer a subtle message that God’s favor has returned when Jesus turned water to wine in John 2.)

Jesus’ choice of words also bears reflection.  Jesus could have said, “wine,” and all of the above images related to wine would still be there.  However, he said, “fruit of the vine” and connected it to his blood which he would shed for our sins.  The connection of wine, fruit, his blood, and his death is a powerful reminder for us.  When he shed his blood on the cross, his death bore abundant fruit.  It was the restoration of God’s favor, expressed in a new covenant that has been inaugurated by the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross.  This calls to mind when Jesus announced his impending death with this explanation in John 12:24: Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”  Truly, Jesus’ death bore much fruit. 

It occurs to me that we also need to “die” in order to bear fruit for God.  His death, burial, and resurrection is the pattern for our new life in him, which we demonstrated by being buried with him in baptism, dying to ourself, and being raised up as a new person in him (Rom 6:1-7).  When we truly die to ourselves in him, our death will produce abundant fruit.  The only way to bear fruit is in giving up of ourselves.  

One practical example of this in action comes from 2 Corinthians 8:1-5; 9:6-11 and also bears reflection.  In pointing out some of the poverty-stricken brethren’s overwhelming generosity in giving to needy brethren, the text goes on to say this. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God” (2 Cor 9:10-11).  The self-sacrificing spirit in the name of Christ will not only produce an abundant harvest of thanksgiving to the Lord, strengthening the faith of the brethren, but God will also continue to bless with more seed for more harvests!


Follow The Leader

This last summer we had the opportunity to take a trip through the desert where there were no roads.  We drove a four-wheel drive vehicle through sand, up rocky hills, and on the side of cliffs with sheer drop offs on either side.  Sometimes it was a joy, and at other times it was a nail-biting experience either due to the extremely rough terrain or because of the drop off only a few inches away from our tires.  In addition to this, the temperature was over 110 degrees, which made us thankful for the water we brought along.

Being our first time in this type of vehicle in a place where there were no roads, we elected to take the guided tour rather than go on our own.  The guide drove on ahead of us and communicated to us via walkie talkie, making us aware of safety issues that would avoid rolling the vehicle, falling off a cliff, or damaging the vehicle on the rocks.  As long as we followed the leader and listened to her instructions, we did just fine.  It was a fun trip filled with beautiful scenes of the desert, which included the Colorado River that ran through the area.

After that two-and-a-half-hour bumpy, hot, and dusty trip in the desert, we found out that we needed the rest that came afterward.  After our return, we relaxed with a cold drink in an air-conditioned room.  I didn't realize how tense all my muscles had been out on that trail in the desert until after we returned and were able to relax.    

I am reminded of Israel's trip through the desert.  They also had hazards along the way.  The most important thing was for them to trust their leader and listen to his instructions.  God went on ahead of them in the cloud and led them safely through each hazard, whether it was lack of water, food, or even facing a hostile enemy.  In the desert with all its dangers, the people needed to learn to follow their leader to make it to the promised land.

One of the Psalms commemorates these events with these words, "13 He divided the sea and let them pass through it, and made the waters stand like a heap. 14 In the daytime he led them with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light. 15 He split rocks in the wilderness and gave them drink abundantly as from the deep. 16 He made streams come out of the rock and caused waters to flow down like rivers" (Ps 78:13-16).  As long as the people continued to follow God who went on ahead of them, God continued to provide for them.  However, what should have been a much shorter trip wound up taking forty years due to the rebellion of the first generation of Israelites.  The Psalm goes on to say, "17 Yet they sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert (Ps 78:17).


This is a reminder of how important it is to follow our Lord as he leads us in the spiritual wilderness.  This spiritual wilderness is full of hazards that include those who hate, tempt, manipulate, lie, or use us.  It is also full of the temptation to trust more in money, power, and self rather than God.  The question for myself is, "Do I respond according to the flesh, or according to the spirit in these things?  What is God's will according to his word?  Do I have the faith and courage to do according to his will instead of according to the flesh?"

Filling in The Hollowed Out

I recently read an interesting book review on Jonathan Grant’s book, Divine Sex.  It points out that today’s culture has hollowed out sex of its divine meaning.  It has been nothing more than a means of self-gratification.  The irony is that as a means of self-gratification, it results in frustration and despair rather than fulfillment.

Grant lays out the case that this emptying of sex’s divine meaning has happen in five phases:

1) The separation of sex from procreation.  This happens through contraception or even abortion.

2) The separation of sex from marriage.  This happens regularly when couples decide to live together without getting married.

3) The separation of sex from partnership.  This refers to recreational sexual activity without relationship.

4) The separation of sex from another person.  The rise of pornography in all of its forms has depersonalized sex completely.

5) The separation of sex from our own bodies.  This has happened through the questioning of the categories of male and female.

As I reflect on this, I have to wonder how much this is connected to the anger, despair, and hopelessness that seems to plague so many people in our current time.  I am reminded that God observed that “it is not good for man to be alone,” which led to his creation of woman.  The two were to become one flesh.  The two were given the task to have dominion over the earth as partners with their distinct roles in their marriage together.  Part of this included sex, which God reserved for marriage and no place else.  As part of marriage, this union is a physical, emotional, and spiritual oneness that reflects the beauty and holiness of God.  This union is holy.  It is for our spouse and no one else.  It seems that so many social, emotional, and spiritual woes result from the perverting of God’s design regarding marriage.  The fact that God prescribed such extreme judicial penalties for sexual sin in Israel reveals the gravity of God’s sexual design.  From adultery, incest, fornication, and rape all carried the death penalty in ancient Israel.  

On the other hand, when one honors God and his design for love, sex, and marriage, life flourishes and God is honored and pleased.  Here are some passages to reflect on:   

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” (Prov 18:22 ESV).

“Enjoy life with your beloved wife[w] during all the days of your fleeting life that God has given you on earth” (Eccl 9:9 NET).

“Guard your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life” (Prov 4:23).

“Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Should your springs be scattered abroad, streams of water in the streets? Let them be for yourself alone, and not for strangers with you. Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Prov 5:15-18 ESV).

These passages remind us of the beauty, blessing, and joy that come as a result of honoring God’s design in our relationships, especially marriage.  This is part of what it means to be holy and is one of the ways we worship and honor God.  The only way to fill up what the world has hollowed out is to honor God’s design.

Tuesday, October 03, 2023

It IS the Lambie!

Some of us were on a roll quoting lines from the comedy movie, “The Quest for the Holy Grail.”  In one scene, Tim the Enchanter leads King Arthur and his knights to the cave of a terrible and vile monster.  Tim had terrified them by warning, “Death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth!”  The men arrived to find the area in front of the cave littered with bones and broken armor.  “There he is!” Tim announced. “Where? Behind the Rabbit?” Arthur asked.  “It IS the rabbit!” answered Tim.  At this point, a sense of relief and ridicule came from Arthur and his men.  Even though Tim pointed out, “Look at the bones!” they were no longer convinced. When Arthur ordered one of his men to get the rabbit, it suddenly lunged and killed him along with two more of Arthur’s men before they ran away.

The scene brings to mind another scene that is neither comedic nor ridiculous.  In Revelation chapter 5, John saw God on his throne holding a scroll that no one was worthy to open except the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who had conquered.  John looked at the Lion, but “saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…” (Rev 5:6).  There are several words in Greek that can for “lamb.”  The one in this verse is interesting.  “Arnion,” is a diminutive form of “aren.”  The “ion” at the end of a Greek word makes it diminutive.  An example of an English diminutive is “let,” as used in words like piglet, eyelet, droplet, booklet, starlet, or kitchenette.  Other examples are duckling, gosling, cigarette, diskette, doggie, kitty, and so forth.  The Greek word “arnion” could be rendered as “lambling,” “lambette,” or “lambie.”

I have been reflecting on what “lambie” communicates.  This is not just a lamb that John sees, but a little lamb.  It seems mild and harmless on the surface.  However, the text refers to the “lambie” as the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah,” which communicates agility, power, and strength.  This lambie was slain, but is now standing, never to taste of death again.  At one point, when the commanders and kings of the earth were trying to hide from judgment, they cried out to the rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them “from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the lambie, for the great day of their wrath has come” (Rev 6:16-17).  In Revelation 19, the lambie appears as the fiery eyed warrior riding on a white horse as King of Kings and Lord of Lords wearing a robe with blood, wielding a sword from his mouth to strike the nations and has the armies of Heaven following him!

This “lambie” reminds me of the nature of God’s power.  It is often perceived as weakness, especially by those who do not have eyes to see and ears to hear.  With hearts that see, we know that “he was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God” (2 Cor 13:4). We understand that “power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).  We recognize that “the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but are divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses” (2 Cor 10:4).  God has demonstrated this through people like Gideon (Jud 7:1-22), Young David (1 Sam 17:44-51), Jehoshaphat (2 Chr 20:20-25), and others.  I am reminded of something Jimmy Allen, one of my instructors, used to say.  “One man with God always makes a majority.”  

The power of God is not behind the lambie, it IS the lambie!

Friday, September 29, 2023

The Meaning and Purpose of Life

When I was in graduate school studying Old Testament wisdom literature, I had some intriguing conversations with a young man in the congregation who was attending the local community college.  He was taking a class in Philosophy, which included readings from the Bible, particularly Job and Ecclesiastes.  Both book deal with, among other things, the issue of meaning.  The meaning of life is a questions mankind has wrestled with from the beginning.

It is interesting that the book of Ecclesiastes opens with the statement that everything under the sun is meaninglessness piled on top of meaninglessness.  The sage’s pursuit of meaning in every type of endeavor always ended up with empty meaninglessness.  In the end, the conclusion was simple yet profound: The whole of man is to fear God and keep his commandments.  The pursuit for meaning in life will always come up empty in the end.  Instead, one should pursue God, and meaning will come.  

Where does one start in keeping God’s commandments?  Are there certain commands that are greater?  This was a discussion among the teachers of Jesus’ day.  They came and asked him for his assessment as to which commandment was the greatest.  Jesus answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Mt 22:37-40).  

Every commandment given in the Bible is connected to the greatest command, which is love for God.  This is why Paul wrote that, “love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13:10).  This is why John elevates love when he speaks of keeping the commandments of God: “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us” (1 Jn 3:23).

Love is the one command that will either make our service acceptable or render it meaningless.  If my religious speech is without love, I become a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Cor 13:1).  If I serve sacrificially without love, I am “nothing” (1 Cor 13:2).  In other words, it is meaningless.  Without love, everything is meaningless.  The pursuit of meaning in life is a chasing after the wind if it does not begin with love for God.  

If anyone asks the question of Christians, “What is your purpose?”  Without hesitation, our biblical answer should always be this: “Our purpose is to love God.”  Unpacking this statement biblically will help to order our lives in a way that is in harmony with the heart of God.  Love is what is to motivate worshipping, serving, teaching, maturing, and sharing the Gospel.

Unpacking this statement as part of an explanation to the unconverted can also lead to a conversation about the Gospel.  Love is what moved God to make his covenant of faithfulness that culminated in Jesus coming personally in the flesh to work his ministry of reconciliation through redemption in his blood, which he shed on the cross.  

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Identity and Treasure

In my daily Bible reading, I once again came across the account of Jesus and the young rich man in Mark 10.  After the young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus listed off the commandments, the young man could say that he had kept all these commandments since the day he was a child.  What jumped out at me is what happens next.  Looking at him, Jesus “loved him.”  What happens next might be a surprise to both disciples and outsiders.  Jesus increases the requirements exponentially.  “You lack one thing…”  Just one thing more?  What Jesus says next is neither easy nor a small thing for this man.  “Go, and sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.”  Rather than responding like the person in Jesus’ parable about the man who sells all that he has with joy in order to buy the field with a hidden treasure, this man gives nothing and goes away disheartened and sorrowful.  

Reading between the lines, I can imagine that this man’s identity is wrapped up in his financial success.  In his mind, it may have represented the blessing of God for living a righteous life as per the book of Proverbs.  He probably gained and maintained his wealth through righteous means.  This means that, unlike the stereotypical tax collector, his wealth represented public respect and stature in his community.  With his wealth and success came a name.  If Jesus had told him to give alms generously for a particular purpose, he likely would have done so gladly.  This would have only added to his stature and strengthened his identity.  However, to give every single bit of it away would have been to give away his identity.  Who is he without his wealth?

As I reflect on the issue of identity, I am reminded of all the various ways we typically identity and define ourselves.  When we are young, we identify ourselves by the town we live in, the school we go to, the grade we are in, and especially the family we belong to.  As we grow older, we go through various transition and our identity evolves.  We become a High School Graduate.  Some of us go on to college, and we call ourselves an English Major, or a Music Major, or something like that.  This only lasts until we graduate.  After graduation, we may identify ourselves as a teacher, accountant, writer, engineer, etc.  Some join the military and identify themselves as an Airman, Seaman, or Solider.  All of these transitions and changes are exciting and we often relish them.  However, some changes in the way we identify ourselves can be extremely difficult.  In fact, some are so difficult, that some people contemplate ending their lives.  When someone is fired an no longer able to work in his career field, or is injured and unable to continue what he was doing before, or loses a loved one such as a spouse or child, one can go through an identity crisis.  Retirement cane be just as difficult for some people.  They may ask questions such as, “Who am I if I am no longer a teacher?  Who am I now that my spouse is gone?”

Sometimes, difficult transitions can cause us to reassess our identity.  Many will tell us that they have realized that their true identity is not bound up with their career, their body, or even their spouse.  All of these things have a limited shelf life.  If our identity is limited to things with a shelf life, then we have truly missed the mark on who we are meant to be in Christ.  We had an identity before an education, before a career, and even before marriage.  That identity continues even after those things conclude.

If I attach my identity to something that is not eternal, than I have missed it.  Not even my name is eternal.  There seems to be nothing more basic and fundamental than identifying myself by my name.  It is mine from birth till death.  However, I am reminded of something I once read in the book of Revelation.  When we leave this life, we will receive a new name!  I will not even bring my name from this life into eternity!  The final scene of the Bible says that we will see the face of our Lord and his name will be on our foreheads!

Rather than saying, “I am a _________,” or even, “I am John,” I need to recognize that the Great I AM is the one who defines me from here to eternity.  Not only is his son seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly places, but we have been raised with him and are also are seated with him in the heavenly places in Christ, according to Ephesians 2:6.  According to 1 Peter 2, we are living stones in God’s sanctuary.  We are his special possession, holy and chosen to proclaim his excellencies both here and in eternity.  We have been delivered from darkness and transferred into his eternal kingdom, according to Colossians 1:13. 

These are the things from which we get our identity.  These are what is persistent through each transition in life.  When one thing ends and another begins, our identity remains the same into eternity.  Our eternal identity helps us to move forward without being stuck in the past when the past has concluded.  It helps us to be propelled by hope from one day to the next with a clear sense of purpose in every season of life.  It helps us to be like the guy in Jesus’ parable that sold everything he owns to buy the field with the treasure, and to avoid being like the young rich ruler who wanted to hang on to his mud pies rather than sell them for an eternal treasure in heaven.  It will help me to recognize the opportunity for a far greater treasure rather than feel threatened by losing something which is NOT tied to my identity.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Wise & Intelligent vs. Little Children

In Matthew 11:25-26, Jesus offered this prayer of thanksgiving. 

"…I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will."

What a contrast between the “wise and understanding” verses “little children!”  Jesus had just finished condemning several Jewish cities for their refusal to accept his message and change.  The centers of education and wisdom did not accept Jesus and his message.  In contrast, Jesus pointed out that if the pagans had seen his mighty works, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Wisdom can be a slippery thing if one does not approach it from a biblical standpoint.  In the Old Testament, Wisdom is “Chokmah,” and in the New Testament, it is “Sophia.”  Biblical teaching concerning these tells us that it is more than mere knowledge or skill.  It does not come merely from age, education, or merely experience.  It comes from response to God and the pursuit of the knowledge of God.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus compared that present generation to children in the marketplace that call out to each other.

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’” (Mt 11:16-17).

This paints a picture of children who wanted to call the shots with their own agenda.  They Jews who rejected Jesus were like children who wanted everyone else to play by their rules.  If they did not, like childish children, they would become upset of the others did not play by their own rules.  Jesus pointed at that this is exactly what happened when John the Baptist came preaching while fasting.  Since John did not play by their rules, they accused him of having a demon.  When Jesus came preaching while feasting, they accused him of being a glutton and drunkard who hung out with sinners.  In other words, neither John nor Jesus danced to their tune.  They refused to recognize the authority of John, and rejected the lordship of Jesus.

After this, Jesus pointed out, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Mt 11:19).  Jesus didn’t say which specific deeds justified wisdom.  Perhaps it was the signs and miracles Jesus performed along with his preaching.  Perhaps it also included those who responded to Jesus with faithful obedience and repentance.  Whatever it was, the irony is that the “little children” who responded to Jesus surpassed the “wise and intelligent” through their simple obedience to Jesus.  

This is a reminder of how Jesus wrapped up the Sermon on the Mount:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it” (Mt 7:24-27).

The wise man is the faithful and obedient man.  His “house” is solid and sure.  This is the image Proverbs gives when it says, 

“Wisdom has built her house;
    she has hewn her seven pillars”  (Prov 9:1).

The pillars in Wisdom’s house indicate strength and support.  It means a life built with sound building practices.  Interestingly, Wisdom (chokmah) in Hebrew is not singular put plural (chokmoth) in this verse.  This is reminiscent of the most common designation for God in the Old Testament, which is the plural word for God, Elohim, and not the singular word, El, or Eloah.  In Genesis 1, God (Elohim) created the Heavens and the Earth.  In Hebrew, it is not “they created” but “he created.”  The singular verbs indicate ONE God, but stated by a plural designation for God.  This grammatical construction is not uncommon in the Ancient Near East when it comes to an exalted or majestic individual. An exalted or majestic individual would use plural words for himself. No one is more majestic and exalted than God, therefore God, (Elohim).  In Proverbs 9, wisdom, stated as a plural, is also depicted as majestic.  This shows her connection and close association with God.  In fact, in Proverbs 8, she declares that she is the architect of the created order.  Whether it is the physical, ethical, moral, or social order by which all of life was designed, it was designed by the wisdom of God.

This majestic and divine wisdom may seem foolish to those who try to attain wisdom apart from God.  However, the Bible clearly says that wisdom apart from God is foolishness.  But wisdom apart from God is what is foolishness. 

“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” (Rom 1:21-23).

Those who throw of the shackles of religion may think they are more wise, enlightened, and intelligent.  Instead of looking to the creator, they begin to look to the creation.  It becomes all about gaining wisdom from the sciences instead of biblical theology and its philosophy.  This may seem more enlightened and intelligent than religion.  However, the Bible says they become fools when they try to become enlightened without God.

God’s wisdom will seem like foolishness to those outside of Christ.  This should never intimidate nor embarrass us.  It should not cause us to be drawn to the wisdom of the world.  As a reminder of the contrast between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of God, 1 Corinthians says,

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but 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. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:18-25).

The “wisdom of the wise” in this passage is the same sort of wisdom Jesus spoke of when he said that God hid these things from the “wise and understanding” but revealed them to little children.  The wisdom that God will destroy is godless wisdom.  This has already demonstrated itself in recent history.  Every experiment and attempt to deal with the human condition apart from God has not only failed fantastically, but has backfired and created worse conditions.  

One example of this is Marxism with its different forms throughout the 20th century.  Simply trying to eliminate religion does not make sin go away, but has a tendency to amplify it by removing the only way to deal with it, which is through the cross.  Simply trying to change the system without changing the root of the problem leads to greater and greater tyranny and wickedness. God, the creator, has identified the root of the problem, which is sin.  This is why salvation cannot come through simply changing the system, but has to come through a change in the human heart through the cross.  Only Jesus can deal with our sin.  Truly, the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of men.

The questions in this passage, “Where is the wise man, the scribe, the debater of this age?” could be expanded in our time to, “Where is the philosopher, professor, politician, news anchor, celebrity?”  Just as ancient people looked to the sage, scribe, and debater as repositories of wisdom, people today look to those such as politicians, professors, celebrities, etc. as repositories of wisdom.  However, wisdom comes from the pursuit of God’s wisdom in reverence to him.

The rest of 1 Corinthians lays out what it should look like to deal with various challenges according to the wisdom of God and not according to the wisdom of the world.  The wisdom of the world says to be tolerant and accepting without calling it sin.  Chapter 5 says that we must be pure.  The wisdom of the world says that if you can’t get satisfaction, go to court.  Chapter 6 says that with our brethren, we must work it in the church, and drop it if we can’t.  The wisdom of the world says to get divorced if you are not happy with your spouse.  Chapter 7 says to stay married to your believing spouse.  The wisdom of the world says to insist on your rights.  Chapter 8 says to be willing to give up your rights for the sake of the faith of your brethren.  And the list goes on.  The wisdom of God is different than the wisdom of the world.

All of this is a reminder that wisdom does not automatically come with formal education, status, or even with age.  I used to associate gray hair with wisdom.  However, the Bible says this:

"The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her" (Prov 4:7-8).

I sometimes ask my classes, “What is the beginning of wisdom?”  Most of the time, the answer is, “the fear of the Lord,” which is true according to Proverbs 9:10.  However, this passage says that the beginning of wisdom is this – GET WISDOM!  This is a reminder that wisdom does not usually fall in your lap.  One must pursue wisdom.  It must be searched out.  It must be pursued.  The first nine chapters tells us that Wisdom is available if we pursue her diligently.  Here is an example:  

” …making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD” (Prov 2:2-5).

The image of wisdom being hidden treasure evokes images of digging and mining for it.  It takes planning, dedication, and effort.  Wisdom does not simply come with age.  Many people probably know aged people who are very unwise and young people who are very wise.  This demonstrates that wisdom does not simply fall in one’s lap through experience.  It may take a struggle to gain it.  Job is an example of this.  Job  struggled valiantly to understand and lamented that it seemed that wisdom was buried too deep for anyone to find it.

1“Surely there is a mine for silver,
    and a place for gold that they refine.
2 Iron is taken out of the earth,
    and copper is smelted from the ore. …

12 “But where shall wisdom be found?
    And where is the place of understanding?
13 Man does not know its worth,
    and it is not found in the land of the living. …

20 “From where, then, does wisdom come?
    And where is the place of understanding?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of all living
    and concealed from the birds of the air.
22 Abaddon and Death say,
    ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’ (Job 28).

For Job, it took struggle and agony, but Job’s pursuit of God did eventually result in a new insight in wisdom from God.  He finally declared,

 “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear,
    but now my eye sees you” (Job 42:5).

All of this should remind us that when we “overhear” Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving in Matthew 11:25-26, it should encourage us to be confident in God’s wisdom.  It should assure us that he has truly given us everything we need for life and godliness.  It should move us to pursue God’s wisdom even if it seems out of reach at the moment.  It should strengthen our passion for the wisdom of God even as the wisdom of the world ridicules it.  

”...I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”