The Wisdom of God
Focus Passage: Matthew 11:25
‘Thou didst hide these things from the wise and understanding’
Why do people smoke tobacco today, fifty years after the surgeon general of the United States required health warnings to be placed on the packaging of cigarettes, and other tobacco products? In 1965 the first warnings appeared, albeit they only advised that ‘Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health.’ This did cause a temporary drop in the sale of cigarettes in our country, but the sales rebounded after only a few months, returning to their previous levels. In 1985, the Surgeon General required the more intense warning that we may continue to see even today; this intensification is clear and to the point:
‘SURGEON GENERAL’S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, and May Complicate Pregnancy.’
Such a pronouncement would seem to be, on the very surface, more than adequate to deter people from lighting up, and yet millions continue to puff away, and millions continue to die from the stated diseases. Is the public quite stupid, or unwise? Are they without understanding? They surely cannot claim ignorance in the face of such open declarations on the package containing their ‘coffin nails’ and their ‘cancer sticks.’ Why would anyone continue such a practice in the face of the certainty of the negative effects upon their health and lives? And yet they do! Just what is wisdom, and just what is the understanding? These adjectives are applied by our Savior to those from whom ‘these things’ were hidden. In other words, who are the ‘wise and understanding’?
Paul gives us great insight, I believe, into this matter, in his letter to the church at Corinth and the first chapter. He is speaking to this very distinction in verse 21 where in contrasting true wisdom, the ‘wisdom of God,’ with the so-called ‘wisdom of the wise,’ he enjoins the truth that Christ and the gospel are indeed, in themselves, the Wisdom of God. He explains further in verses 25-28:
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are.
When it is expressed in such relatively simplistic terms, we wonder if we have ever known just in what true wisdom and real understanding consist. To return to our initial comparison with tobacco smokers, are we not each of us familiar with a friend or relative that we consider to be very intelligent, perhaps even brilliant, and yet one that continues to take tobacco fumes into their lungs? These friends and relatives may be ‘wise and understanding’ in some things, yet not in others. This reality strongly suggests that it is not a matter of intelligence at all. In fact, it is almost certainly a matter of the will.
Is this not the difference between those of whom Christ is speaking in our focus passage? Is this not the difference to which Paul alludes in writing to the church at Corinth? Jesus contrasts ‘the wise and understanding’ with ‘babes.’ Paul contrasts ‘the foolish things of the world’ with the ‘wise’ things of the world. But are these comments not referents to those who only imagine themselves to be ‘the wise and understanding;’ to those who only think themselves to be wise? And they judge themselves, unsurprisingly, by the standards of the world, not the Word. It is not really difficult to be considered wise by the ‘pack’ when, in fact, we are just ‘following the pack;’ if we allow ourselves to be judged by the standards of the ‘pack.’ This is conspicuously not the standard employed by our Lord and Savior, nor by his faithful follower, Paul. Even as the world speaks of the gospel of Jesus Christ as the ‘foolishness of God,’ so we read that ‘God made foolish the wisdom of the world.’ There is an infinite distance between the wisdom of God and the wisdom of this world, and yet they engage one another in the creature called man, finding themselves often joined in conflict.
Moses, the man of God, recorded for us in the ninetieth psalm, this most plaintive prayer, ‘So teach us to number our days, That we may get us a heart of wisdom.’ True wisdom and understanding are matters of the heart. The will is a matter of the heart. The things hidden from the wise and understanding were not, and are not, hidden from those who have been given a new heart, yea, a heart of wisdom. Jeremiah and Ezekiel both prophesied of the New Covenant gifts of God. They spoke of these promises in such beautiful language. Ezekiel declared the Word of God, ‘A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you; and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.’ Well may we see Ezekiel’s heart of flesh corresponding to Moses’ heart of wisdom. Adding the words of Jeremiah to Ezekiel’s, we find God saying, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it.’ Only those that have been regenerated; given a new heart by the Holy Spirit, know what it is to have access to the Wisdom of God, and the gift of any spiritual understanding. These may be those of whom Koheleth is speaking in Ecclesiastes 9:11, when he has said; ‘I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill,’ but to ‘babes’ born from above.
David Farmer, elder
Fellowship Bible Church
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