Kings 3:9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”
Psalm 111:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever
Solomon – study in contrasts: wise, young, after God’s heart, foolish, etc.
Reputation as a great and wise ruler, being the one king God allowed to build a temple. Solomon is really the star of 1 and 2 Kings and marks a break from the physical valor of leaders like Joshua and David.
What would we ask for? Power, fortune, fame … Solomon asks for wisdom.
1) Youth vs. Wisdom
Age when he took the throne – 20 yrs. Can a young person be wise?
2) Wise person = Good person?
Solomon plotted to have his older brother killed and he worshipped the gods of his wives instead of the one God he knew to be real. Still he ruled with wisdom and love. Good people make bad decisions all the time. This does not make them less wise; it doesn’t even make them less good. It only makes them more human.
3) Smart person = wise person? Knowledge and intellect do not equate to wisdom.
This is the link between all of our passages on wisdom today. Solomon sought wisdom in order to understand how best to rule for his people. He sought an understanding and a perspective that he could not gain on his own. (Psalm, Ephesians admonishes us to seek wisdom and avoid evil.)
You can know all the facts there are to know about the earth and everything in it. But if you cannot understand how they all fit together, you will never be able to understand your role in the world and how you are to live in it. Wisdom as emotional intelligence?
A person can be smart and not be wise. A person can be wise and not “smart”.
Wisdom in its practicality
Biblical Wisdom is essentially practical in nature. The Wisdom Literature in the Old Testament (Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, even James in the NT) is concerned with the daily lives of the children of God. Psalms sing songs of joy and gladness as well as songs of lament and mourning. Ecclesiastes proclaims the many different times we might experience in our lifetime – laughing, crying, sowing, reaping, living, dying – there is something very earthy (down-to-earth even?) and gritty about the concept of wisdom in the Bible.
What does this mean for us?
Wisdom is meant to help us, as Christians, decide how best to live in order to achieve Christ’s aims in the world. This requires a few things.
Coach who has coached forever – he knows how to train his players and get them to play well as a team. He also knows which plays to run when. He is wise in how best to live to find success in his goal to play well and win games.
A young quarterback has spent years figuring out how he works, what his leadership style is, and how to lead a team and recognize the different gifts within his teammates. He is wise in confidence and competence, knowing his abilities and his limitations.
During the game, both the quarterback and the coach must rely on one another’s wisdom in order to work well together and meet with success. Sometimes the quarterback must call the plays from the line of scrimmage because he has a better perspective there of what needs to happen and when. Other times, the quarterback must turn to the coach and either follows the set plays they decided on earlier or ask for the coach’s new perspective from the sidelines – a perspective he can’t get while on the field.
Bringing It Home
The success of the football team rests in the coach and quarterback trusting one another and working together. God was impressed with Solomon because he sought wisdom out of a concern for others. He seeks to be able to do so with a greater perspective and appreciation than he is able to have as a mere human.
The quarterback seeks to be better at his decision making and his ‘command of the field’ in order to benefit his whole team. The coach seeks to better discern and communicate the next step in order to motivate each of his players to individually give their best while winning games together. They both must use their own particular experiences and work together with their wisdom gained from those experiences to attain excellence.
Like the football player and coach, Wisdom is meant to help us, as Christians, decide how best to live in order to achieve Christ’s aims in the world. This requires a few things, but most importantly it requires that we seek out wisdom and understanding. The Psalmist says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom.”
Or as the 1st century philosopher Seneca states, “No one was ever wise by chance.”
We must continually be learning and growing, otherwise we are not paying attention to the movement of God in our lives to the wisdom of faith. When we are seeking a perspective and insight from more than just our perspective, we are appropriately open to the Holy Spirit and may better hear truth when it is uttered.
Let us pray, God of wisdom, grant us curious hearts that are hungry for your understanding of the world. Give us a greater perspective on your world and help us to care for it as you would. Amen.