Monday, June 9, 2014

Wisdom Listens

2 Chronicles 1: 7-13
As far as kings go in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible, King David is known as one of the greats, if not the greatest or at least the one that’s gotten the most press time since 970 BCE.  He’s got quite an impressive Curriculum Vitae: he conquered the City of Jerusalem from the Philistines, he brought the ark of the covenant also to Jerusalem thus consolidating worship, he set up a striking dynasty again through covenant, he whipped enemies, you know those pesky Amalekites, Moabites, Ammonites and so on and so forth.  Most probably his most noted accomplishment was that he untied the Northern and Southern kingdoms of Israel.  Not an easy task but something that the people cried out for.   And, in his spare time he composed and wrote a few Psalms.  It’s pretty remarkable what one person can do in their lifetime.

And yet David had equally as many flaws.  I think he acted on impulse most of the time.  He was filled with pride, which caused all sorts of difficulties for him.  He was always on the brink of despair causing tremendous anxiety, not to mention the very vengeful acts he performed and his incredible lust and love of women.  In fact that is how our main King for consideration today King Solomon was conceived. 

Solomon was the son of David and Bathsheba.  The apple does not fall far from the tree.  Solomon too was flawed even though he also had an outstanding CV.   He built the very first Temple on Mount Moriah thus bringing together Jerusalem as the religious and political capital of the united kingdom.  He built many other buildings too and installed advanced water systems throughout.  But unfortunately, he was a murderer, a lust filled man with over 700 wives and he loved worldly riches.  He could probably be compared to Donald Trump, sans murder, when it comes to brokering deals and amassing wealth.  Of course, in the end he falls away from Yahweh (God) because he meets the Queen of Sheba and she brings all of her foreign gods with her.

And yet, God loved both David and Solomon and was willing to give each one anything that they asked for. 

God appeared to Solomon that night in a dream and said, “Solomon, ask for anything you want, and I will give it to you.”

Solomon answered:
Lord God, you were always loyal to my father David, and now you have made me king of Israel. I am supposed to rule these people, but there are as many of them as there are specks of dust on the ground. So keep the promise you made to my father and make me wise. Give me the knowledge I’ll need to be the king of this great nation of yours.

God replied:
Solomon, you could have asked me to make you rich or famous or to let you live a long time. Or you could have asked for your enemies to be destroyed. Instead, you asked for wisdom and knowledge to rule my people. So I will make you wise and intelligent. But I will also make you richer and more famous than any king before or after you.

Solomon then left Gibeon and returned to Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel.

Solomon didn’t ask for money, or to be famous, or to have power, or to be the most educated man in the Ancient Near East.  No.  He asked God for wisdom.  He asked God to give him wisdom so that he would be able to handle whatever task being ‘the King’ could possibly need.  And that, is remarkable because he really did make some wise decisions that were recorded in the Bible. 

Oh that we all had the wisdom of Solomon to make the best choices possible for our lives at all times.  Oh that we could foresee into the future our current day actions so that our lives and those around us would be lifted up to our highest and greatest potential.  Oh, if only we knew when to speak and when to keep silent there would be a whole lot loss broken hearts and hatred in this world, if we only knew.  But alas, we, like Solomon and his father king before him, are flawed.

But that doesn’t mean, by any brushstroke of our wildest and most imaginative dreams, that we should not try.  God has given us incredible minds to think with, to explore, to solve problems, to wonder, to compute with, to make value and jugement statements with, all with the intention of making this world and your surroundings a better place.  So it behooves us to give it ‘the old college try’ that is, our very best most fervent effort.  And that brings me to you graduates today.

We love you, and although reluctantly, it’s time to let you go to further your education.  And this you will certainly do, some of it will even come from books!  But all of the education that you will garner will not be useful unless you use it wisely.  Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “It is the province of knowledge to speak, and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen”, or, more plainly adapted ‘they’ say by Jimi Hendrix, ‘Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens’.  Who knew? 

You see you need education and knowledge to get along in this world and to accomplish the wonderful things and attain the ideals that you hold today.  Hopefully, some day then you’ll be able to impart that knowledge to others.  But more importantly you need the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent, when to act and when to listen because there is a whole lot that can be gained by listening.  In the listening comes discernment and discernment sets your course for action.
Barbara Brown Taylor says in her book, ‘An Altar in the World’, “Wisdom is not gained by knowing what is right.  Wisdom is gained by practicing what is right, and noticing what happens when that practice succeeds and when it fails.”  That is wise discernment, it’s knowledge, reflection and doing with all intentionality so that understanding will come.

They say wisdom comes with age but it doesn’t have to because wisdom also comes by inviting God into the process, and onto your path of life.  That’s what Solomon did.  He invited God to be a very active part and partner in his life and that’s what we must do as well.

God won’t ‘make’ everything go right, but if God is present in your mind wise decisions and actions should follow.  With God in your heart you have everything you need as you start this new chapter in your life.


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