Summary: Wisdom - choosing the right path. The first of a series on the Seven Virtues.
The Seven Virtues #1 - Wisdom
By James Galbraith
Make a wish
Last week I opened my sermon with a joke about a man who finds a lantern on a beach. He rubs it and out comes a genie, ready to grant him a wish.
I’m not going to repeat the whole joke, but I’ve brought it up because I’d like to think for a minute about what we would ask for if we were put in that situation.
If we were granted one wish, what would it be for?
I’m sure some of us would use our wish for the betterment of mankind, and ask for a cure for cancer, world peace, the alleviation of world hunger or any number of other beneficial things.
I’m also sure that we would be tempted to use our wish for personal gain, and ask riches, or fame or beauty or strength or intelligence.
Perhaps, if we were crafty enough, we would word our swish in such a way that we could accomplish both,
"I would like to have a hundred million dollars so that I could fund research into curing the common cold…"
What would you wish for?
One king in the Bible was given this opportunity that we all, at some point, have dreamed about.
King Solomon asks for wisdom
Solomon, son of King David, has just succeeded his father as King. The succession has not been smooth - his older brother Adonijah tried to claim the throne, even while David was still alive.
King David quickly makes Solomon King, and has those loyal to him out together a huge parade into Jerusalem to announce the real successor to throne. Those loyal to Adonijah run away when they find out, and Solomon manages to bring the rebellion to a quiet end, with Adonijah promising to honor him as King.
Adonijah, however, finds another way to try and take the Kingdom from Solomon, and this time he and those loyal to him find themselves killed or released from their duties.
Now that Solomon has a firm hold on the Kingdom, he sets out to be a King who strives to honor God. He stages an event in which all the important leaders of Israel are brought together, and a huge sacrifice of one thousand animals is made.
We don’t know what was said by Solomon at this gathering, but we do know that it must have honored God, because later that night God comes to Solomon in a dream and makes this promise,
"Ask for whatever you want me to give you"
And what does Solomon ask for?
"Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of yours?"
In making this wish, Solomon pleases God, and ends up receiving wisdom beyond anyone before or after him.
I’d like to spend our time together answering three questions that come out of this encounter -
1. What is this wisdom that he asks for?,
2. Why does Solomon ask for wisdom and why does his request please God so?
3, How can I get me some of that?!
1. What wisdom is, and what it isn’t.
One of the best descriptions I’ve heard for wisdom is simply the ability to choose the right path.
NOT mystical -
Wisdom is not some mystical, vague intuition that comes from thin air or tea leaves or the position of the stars - it is a very real, very practical sense of what to do, how to do it and most importantly - why we are doing it.
Not common sense -
Nor is it what we may call "common sense", because many times the wise person will not choose to do what everyone else might commonly consider the right thing to do.
Common sense, for all it’s strength’s, has one vital weakness - it is nothing more than doing what most people do most of the time. It is what we - as a people - think is right, and not necessarily what God thinks is right.
It was once "common sense" to scorn children born out wedlock, for example. Many children grew up with the label "bastard" - as if the child had done anything wrong by coming into this world.
Wisdom, on the other hand, starts with taking God seriously, and that is why the Bible says over and over again - Proverbs 9:10
10 "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
We find this fundamental principle in the Psalms, the Book of Job, Proverbs, and in the writings of the prophets Isaiah and Micah.
One who is wise respects - even fears - God, simply because of the shear magnitude of who he is!