Verse 7: The spirit of wisdom came to me...
Here is a verse for God’s peoplethat is not technical, but personal! Not secondary, but of utmost importance. Not out-of-phase with God’s purposes, but as they say “Spot on!” We do not direct the Spirit! The Spirit of wisdom directs us!
The spirit of wisdom came to me...
A great portion of the Bible is committed to the teaching of wisdom! “But what is wisdom?” we might ask. It is certainly more than intelligence... It is more than the regurgitation of facts and statistics... It is more that cataloguing mankind’s different systems of thought... There is nothing like Biblical wisdom! In a nutshell, it is seeing the world from God’s point-of-view. Sometimes it is called “insight.” At other times “vision” or “discernment.” The Wisdom literature of the Bible includes first of all the Book of Job, then Proverbs, then Ecclesiastes (written by Solomon), then six of the psalms.
In the New Testament, the Book of James has been included in the Bible’s wisdom literature.
And of the fourteen Intertestamental Books (those books located in between the Old and New Testaments) -- more commonly known as the Apocrypha (which means “hidden things”) -- we find nestled away two more books which would fall in the “wisdom literature” category. The book of Ecclesiasticus (which means Of the Church) and the Wisdom of Solomon.
The Bible in its more inclusive form thus includes seven wisdom literature books – reminding us that wisdom hath built her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars.
Our lesson this morning is from the book of Wisdom -- The Wisdom of Solomon. It was written about 100 years before the birth of Christ and 300 years after Malachi closed the Old Testament. That would have been approximately 850 years after Solomon’s reign. Whoever wrote the Wisdom of Solomon was very devout, very learned in the Old Testament scriptures, and very talented. But he never left his identity. Many believe he lived and conducted his work in Alexandria (Egypt), where once stood one of the great libraries of this world (until it unfortunately burned down – some say at the behest of Julius Caesar, during the Roman “civil war” he began). But the author remains a mysterious, unnamed follower of God. In his writing, he has Solomon, the wisest of Israel’s kings, speak to fellow kings and fellow rulers of the earth. It is their duty, he declares, to seek wisdom in all of their actions. Wisdom, he says, will come to the ruler who seeks her – and he who honors her in a very practical sense honors himself!
One of the several reasons why the English Reformers did not accept this book as canonical was the issue of the unnamed author. In the 39-Articles of Religion, dear St. Jerome tells us that despite this issue, it still remains an excellent source of rich wisdom as far as “example of life” and “instruction of manners” are concerned. But it is not to be used to establish doctrine!
It is more than interesting that the Wisdom of Solomon is quoted 26 times in the New Testament! And the text before us this morning is quoted by St. Paul in is Epistle to the Ephesians. It is sad that more Christians do not read the Apocrypha; they, in the long run, are the losers! And their Biblical literacy suffers!
If you have never read all 19 chapters, you should. You might find it interesting to know that the Wisdom of Solomon was one of the most popular books in the Early Church – as new Christians sought to work out their faith in practical Christian living against the pagan backdrop of their day!
The Bible reminds us that Jesus (at the age of twelve) “grew in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.”
The Bible also informs us that Jesus Christ is Himself the wisdom of God – the clearest manifestation of wisdom ever viewed by mankind! The apex, summit, and crowning glory of all Biblical wisdom literature.
And this morning we remember that verse 7 (where we are told by the author that... the spirit of wisdom came to me) applies to our Lord.
How did it happen? The Spirit of wisdom came to our Lord immediately following His baptism! And Jesus was driven away from the comforts of life... from all people... from all food... from all drink... from all human support -- to be tempted of the devil! To win the conflict that Adam lost.
This morning we find ourselves perched on the threshold of a very special 40-day season leading us to Easter!. In three days we will gather at this rail to receive the imposition of Ashes – marking the start of Lent and its long shadows – in which Jesus faced the Evil One... and also wild beasts!
What wisdom is there is this, we ask! Certainly not the wisdom of the world! Certainly not the wisdom of Hollywood! Certainly not the wisdom of the mainline denominations! But it most definitely does show us in firsthand fashion the world as God sees it! There is a physical realm for sure! But we are reminded there is also a spiritual realm where a great conflict is played out... and where great consequences result from our actions (or inactions).
Jesus told us to follow Him… and to be His disciples! And this we do! By following our Lord out into the wilderness, we look and learn and also become wise! By following His steps, we, too, begin to understand our place in this His world... and the true nature of our challenges.
By following Jesus Christ, we see the Master at His very best! We learn from Him the meaning of prayer… the pattern of patience… the growth that comes through resisting evil.
Wisdom is not only found in columned halls of learning... not only found in the quiet successes of life... not only discovered in the engaging dialogue between the learned! It is found also – especially -- in adversity!
Ash Wednesday, strange as it seems, opens up to us the fountainhead of wisdom itself – as we see Jesus in rapid succession endure three withering trials from the one called diabolos (the diabolical one)... endure six trials (three Jewish and three Gentile)... endure the trials of physical torture... endure the spiritual trial of separation from His Father.
Wisdom is found perhaps in its most exquisite form by those who accompany Jesus from the beginning to end of Lent! Look what it did for those from among his number who stood at the foot of the cross looking up to Him! To hear Him say, “It is finished!” What great witnesses they became! In three days it will be discovered under the banner that reads: “Remember, O man, dust thou art. And to dust shalt thou return!”
As it did to Jesus, may the Spirit of wisdom also come to you and me this Lenten Season as we walk behind our Lord in the lengthening shadows of His many trials!
May we become wise and strong in righteousness! And ready to fulfill our callings!
The spirit of wisdom came to me. World without end! Amen.