Monday, 11 November 2013

Thoughts on God's wisdom (3)

One of the encouragements that can be experienced from knowing about God’s wisdom is the reality that we can pray for his wisdom to be given to us. We are exhorted to pray for divine wisdom in James 1:5: ‘If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.’ Asking for wisdom pleases God, as we can see in the case of Solomon: God answered Solomon, ‘Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked possessions, wealth, honour, or the life of those who hate you, and have not even asked long life, but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself that you may govern my people over whom I have made you king, wisdom and knowledge are granted to you. I will also give you riches, possessions, and honour, such as none of the kings had who were before you, and none after you shall have the like’ (2 Chron. 1:11-12).

How do we receive his wisdom? It comes from reflecting on God’s Word: ‘The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple’ (Ps. 19:7)

But for what are we given wisdom? Not to search the secret things of God but to study and obey the revealed details of his Word. We are always to depend on God, that is true wisdom. Yet many Christians can find this harder to do than ceasing to depend on their own righteousness. They attempt to solve the mysteries of providence. But theorising about our circumstances is often a sure way of depriving our souls of peace and security, which are only found from depending on what God has revealed of himself in his Word.

So how should we respond to his wisdom? At one level, the intellectual, it is easy enough to affirm the wisdom of God. But we have to allow its existence to affect our exercises of faith.

The knowledge that God is wise brings confidence for the future, whatever the obstacles. The future is one of our greatest difficulties because we want to plan ahead. But if everything worked out the way we planned it, then it would mean that we are as wise as God and that he agreed with our purposes. It would also mean that we would not need to exercise faith. But the wise God has our personal future and the church’s future mapped out, and our awareness of this should lead us to trust him for what is yet to happen to us.

The knowledge that God is wise brings comfort for the present, whatever the circumstances. He is able to work all things together for our good, although on many occasions we cannot see how.

God in his wisdom has purposed that his people should go through dark times because it is through these situations that they discover his faithfulness, his ability to turn things round. These times can be spiritually profitable, provided we do not rebel. He promises to us, as he did to Cyrus: ‘I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name’(Isa. 45:3). There are spiritual riches to be found in trusting the Lord’s wisdom as we go through difficult and costly situations where our hearts may be broken, our desires disappointed, and our hopes seemingly dashed to pieces.

God often does his greatest things in the darkness. When he created the world, he brought light out of darkness; when he brought his people to the promised land of Canaan, he did it through the darkness of slavery; when Jesus became incarnate, he did it through the darkness of Mary’s womb; when he delivered the world from sin, he did it at the darkness of Calvary; when he takes his people to heaven, he does it through the darkness of the tomb. And frequently he does the most important things in our lives when we are in situations of darkness. For example, the necessity of prayer can be strengthened at such times, even if all we can muster is a groan, and such times equip us or train us to be people of prayer, even although we do not realise it at the time.

The knowledge that God is wise should encourage us to obey his commandments. He has marked out the best way for us to live. Jesus, when inviting sinners to follow him, informed them that his yoke was easy and his burden light. He was not describing providences, because many of them can be very difficult to bear. Rather he was describing his commandments, particularly in contrast to the heavy demands of the Pharisees. The Lord wants each of his people to live the best kind of life, and obeying his commands discovers that life. Each requirement of God is given to us through the wisdom of God. There are many other demands that God could have made of us, but his wisdom selected the ones that would be for our benefit and for his glory. Says the psalmist: ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endures for ever’ (Ps. 111:10)

The knowledge that God is wise should encourage us as we pray. He can read our requests and knows best when to answer them. Often we are totally confused and perplexed about various situations, be they in our families, our communities and our church. We cannot see any way out of it. But God can: he knows all the possible ways to answer our prayers, he possesses sufficient power to answer them in each of these ways, but his wisdom chooses the best time when to answer and the best way how to answer. We are not to see delays as denials – God is not saying ‘no’ but ‘not yet’. Neither are we to regard apparent refusals as rejections of our prayers by God – God can say ‘yes, but not in the precise way you want’, for he can answer our prayers far above all that we can ask or think.

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