For today’s reading, we are in Proverbs 8 and 9 where we read about wisdom’s call to us and also the subsequent invitations down the paths of wisdom or foolishness that are presented to us during various points in our lives.
Wisdom wis•dom (wiz′dəm) can be defined as
1. the quality of being wise; power of judging rightly and following the soundest course of action,
based on knowledge, experience, understanding, etc.; good judgment; sagacity
2. learning; knowledge; erudition
It is one thing to have knowledge and it is another to have wisdom. Knowledge can be highly factual full of facts, figures, and concepts that take a great amount of studying and learning to acquire. Once gained, they can teach you skills, understanding about the way things work, and provide a greater ability to reason. Discernment is a lot like a process involving kneading through God’s will for your life. It tries to make practical and applicable something (like a vision, dream, or experience) that is at first obscure. I think growing discernment is like growing one’s spiritual intelligence and takes a solid orientation towards the Lord to do so. Knowledge and discernment mixed can be a pretty powerful combination and like in Solomon’s case produces true God-given WISDOM. BOOM!
What I love about Proverbs 8 and 9 is that it personifies the wisdom that Solomon asks the Lord to grant him. We read about wisdom’s character and picture wisdom almost as a tangible form.
Proverbs 8:22 has incredible imagery as wisdom is personified and speaks,
“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning before the world began. When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.”
How epic is that? “The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old…” And this creation by the Lord has been granted to Solomon! WHAT!
That is crazy to fathom and I can only attempt to imagine what that looks like in the spiritual realm.
Close to King David’s death, he gave a special charge to his son, Solomon, who the Lord so dearly loved and who was next to take the throne. David urges Solomon “So be strong, show yourself a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in his ways, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and requirements…” (I Kings 2: 2-3). (Minor tangent, I love how David basically tells Solomon to step and be a real man…by obeying and loving the Lord. Man, that’s good stuff. I wish that was our barometer for measuring the heart of a man [and woman] today.)
As you might recall the story, the Lord appears to Solomon at Gibeon and grants Solomon anything he asks for. It goes on to say in I Kings 3:7, “Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?” Of all things Solomon could have asked for – wealth, power, long life, etc; he has a heart of service and asks for the discernment and knowledge to wisely govern his kingdom.
Talking with some friends recently, we were struck at how everyone (especially in DC) seems to be doing such grown up/big kid things with fancy titles, comprehensive job portfolios, and impossible deadlines. Our jobs are some ratio of deliverables-people relations and especially with the latter, this can get complicated, messy, and difficult. People relations with a kingdom “too numerous to count” as Solomon’s was, is a tough order. And at times, we feel like in Solomon’s prayer, like little children not knowing how to carry out our duties. Taking NCC’s mission-minded community for example, there are so many talented, visionary, and compassionate people in this congregation that want to do so much and help so many that the work seems too great and the people too numerous to reach. But the humility with which Solomon asked God for wisdom was so earnest and pure that God gave him not only wisdom but riches and honor. Really, the Lord gave him favor in the eyes of God and men so that Solomon could judiciously and sagaciously rule his people and govern the kingdom that God gave him responsibility over.
When the task at hand seems so daunting and the people to serve seem like too many, I encourage you to humble yourself before the Lord and pray a prayer similar to I Kings 3:11 “…for discernment in administering justice…[and] for a wise and discerning heart…” Proverbs 9 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Let us pursue a path of study, prayer, and action to grow our spiritual intelligence and exercise God’s wisdom that he intends for us in our lives.