Sunday, July 7, 2013

Let's Start At The Very Beginning

It's a very fine place to start...

I'm still in that state of fence sitting about teaching my Bible study class. I've put my decision on hold until a fair and appropriate time.  (As in fall... when the new church year begins.) In the meantime, I started teaching a  summer series from the Proverbs. It's a unit about wisdom.

Appropriate, I think, since I'm in great need of wisdom.  I don't know of anyone who isn't, and I've never met someone who doesn't want it.  I mean, no one willingly goes through life as a fool, right?

But then again, maybe we do.  It seems that way, anyway.  If wisdom is sort of there for the asking, and we don't ask for it, aren't we making the conscious decision to remain unwise?

Yeah, I think so too.

And so, that's where I started with this unit,  at the very beginning... with the asking.

On day 1,  we went back to the reason that the writer of most of the Proverbs was so wise.  I asked the class the usual question: 

Where did Solomon get all that wisdom?

And I got the usual answer. 

He asked for it. 

And that's where we stopped. 

Yes, I realize that's the story we all heard in Sunday school. Solomon was wise because he asked God for wisdom.  Apparently, it all went down in a  Godified version of  The Three Wishes.  God told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted, and Solomon asked for wisdom. Then God blinked his heavenly eyes and twitched his holy nose, and BAM!  Solomon instantaneously became the wisest king in all of Israel.  

OK, maybe we don't actually say all that, but if we're still slurping on the infant formula of Sunday school, that's what we might be tempted to believe.  And if we're tempted to believe that, we might also be tempted to believe that finding wisdom is as simple as asking for it.

So that's exactly what we do.

When faced with a situation that's in need of some wisdom, we close our eyes and ask. And then, we wait. We think we're pretty virtuous for waiting, too. We'll slap some church clothes on it and call it patience... or perseverance... or the granddaddy of them all, longsuffering.  All the while, we wait for Godly wisdom. You know, like Solomon did.

Only that's not what Solomon did. To understand the Solomon formula we have to dig a little deeper. Solomon's wisdom didn't start with the asking. It started with the wanting. 

Scratch that.

It actually started with the realizing. We'll never get wisdom until we admit that we don't already have it.  Solomon realized it.

So he asked...

...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?” (I Kings 3:9)

Well lookie there...He didn't ask for Magical Wisdom Beans.
He asked for a discerning heart.  

There's a difference, you know. 

Actually, what he asked for was a listening heart. The Hebrew  שמע (shama`) means to hear, listen, and obey. When given the option of anything God could give him, Solomon asked for a heart that was teachable.

Wisdom isn't a product; it's a process. 

I don't know about you, but too often I get that one backwards. I ask  wish for wisdom and then try to listen to my heart, as if God were going to miraculously insert it there. Why I do that, I do not know.  My heart is nothing but a big fat liar and trouble maker. Oh the stories I could tell...

No, having a listening heart is not the same thing as listening to your heart. Solomon has a word for folks who do that. He calls us fools.

He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, 
but the one who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
 (Proverbs 28:26)

I don't want to be a fool, and neither did Solomon. That's why instead of listening to his heart, he asked for a heart that would listen.

Of course, to whom it listens  is pretty critical too, but since this post is already long winded, we'll have to save it for another day. I'll just leave you with the best of advice I've ever been given on the subject.  When in need of wisdom, it's always best to start, "In the beginning..."


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