Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

1 Kings 3:1-15 (Part 2 of 2)
Solomon Asks for Wisdom

That legendary rock and roll icon, Tom Petty, once had a song where the title and part of the chorus was “the waiting is the hardest part.” I would like to usurp that line today and change it a bit to the following: “the listening is the hardest part!” As we move through this blog, you will see why that change to Tom Petty’s lyric is appropriate.

Have you ever thought that God’s will for your life was a certain thing and you fully believed that but yet things did not turn out as you thought they would? We’ve all been there, maybe more than once or twice in our lives. You think that it’s God will for you to do this or do that. Then, you find out that it turned out to be something quite different than you had imagined as God’s will. What I am talking about kind of reminds of that old show from the 1970s that was wildly popular at the time, Fantasy Island.

In that show, guests would pay what was assumed to be significant amounts of money to come to this unnamed island resort somewhere in the Pacific Ocean owned by Mr. Roarke. They would pay Mr. Roarke for a two-week adventure where they could live out their fantasy of being this or being that. They would get to live out their dream, their fantasy of something that they wanted do all their life. There would usually be three guest stars who would play ordinary people coming to the island to live out their fantasy. The show would follow the same formula every week. The guest stars would arrive and Mr. Roarke would greet the guests and then he would tell his assistant, Tatoo, about each guest and their back story and what their fantasy was to live out while they were there on the island. Each guest would then settle in and go to their separate parts of the show and we, the audience would follow each one. With each guest, the formula would be (1) intro into the fantasy they had chosen, (2) things seemed awesome for a while (3) something would happen that would cause a moral dilemma for the guest where the fantasy seemed to backfire on them and (4) the resolution where the guest would figure out that their current life was pretty good and they learned something from the experience. The idea was kind of simple, “be careful what you wish for because you just might get it.”

Sometimes, we are that way with God. We pray for our personal desires rather than for God’s will. We sometimes wish for what we want and not for what God’s plan is for us. We sometimes confuse what our personal desires are with the will of God for our lives. Sometimes, we get so busy telling God what we want for our lives that we forget to listen for what His will is for our lives. We pray to God as if he is a vending machine. I want this so I push this button and God will vend that right then and there. We then push ahead with our desires and not realizing that it may not be what God desires for us. Then, like in Fantasy Island, something goes wrong with the desire that we have followed and we wonder why God has failed us. Haven’t you been there?

That was the thing that I thought of this morning when I read through 1 Kings 3:1-15 a second time. How we forge ahead with our personal desires and confuse those desires with God’s will and then get angry with God because what we called “his will for our lives” did not turn out like we planned. That is pretty much the opposite of what Solomon prays for in this passage and that is what makes it remarkable:
Chapter 3
1 Solomon made an alliance with Pharaoh, the king of Egypt, and married one of his daughters. He brought her to live in the City of David until he could finish building his palace and the Temple of the Lord and the wall around the city. 2 At that time the people of Israel sacrificed their offerings at local places of worship, for a temple honoring the name of the Lord had not yet been built.

3 Solomon loved the Lord and followed all the decrees of his father, David, except that Solomon, too, offered sacrifices and burned incense at the local places of worship. 4 The most important of these places of worship was at Gibeon, so the king went there and sacrificed 1,000 burnt offerings. 5 That night the Lord appeared to Solomon in a dream, and God said, “What do you want? Ask, and I will give it to you!”

6 Solomon replied, “You showed great and faithful love to your servant my father, David, because he was honest and true and faithful to you. And you have continued to show this great and faithful love to him today by giving him a son to sit on his throne.

7 “Now, O Lord my God, you have made me king instead of my father, David, but I am like a little child who doesn’t know his way around. 8 And here I am in the midst of your own chosen people, a nation so great and numerous they cannot be counted! 9 Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom. 11 So God replied, “Because you have asked for wisdom in governing my people with justice and have not asked for a long life or wealth or the death of your enemies— 12 I will give you what you asked for! I will give you a wise and understanding heart such as no one else has had or ever will have! 13 And I will also give you what you did not ask for—riches and fame! No other king in all the world will be compared to you for the rest of your life! 14 And if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”

15 Then Solomon woke up and realized it had been a dream. He returned to Jerusalem and stood before the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, where he sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. Then he invited all his officials to a great banquet.

In this passage, we see that Solomon ask for wisdom, not wealth, but God gave him riches and long life as well. While God does not promise riches to those who follow him – most often it is quite the contrary, he gives us what we need if we put His kingdom, his interests, and his principles first (Matthew 6:31-33). If we put God and His interests first, we may not always find earthly riches in it but we will come to find satisfaction in the joy of the Lord and being in and doing His will. In asking for wisdom, Solomon was asking for the discernment to do God’s will. He did not ask God to do his job for him but he was asking God to shine his wisdom through him. Solomon was asking the ability to understand and know God’s will in everything that he did. When we chase after our own desires, we sometimes mistake our own ego-driven desires for the will of God. When we pray about things going on in our lives, we must pray as Solomon does here. We must seek His will and the wisdom to understand what that is.

That is the takeaway this morning as I ponder and pray upon what I have read. Wisdom is as much discernment as it is anything else. Discernment is in part listening and then considering. When we spend our prayer time bringing our petitions before God, we must take the time to listen and consider. So often, we pray to God but we do not wait and listen. We place our order and think that because we prayed what we prayed, that it is now a God’s will thing. Sure, we in our state of the flesh must grapple with things before the Lord. We should have earnest conversations with him about our highs, our lows, our problems, how we see that those problems should be fixed. We should come to our Abba Father as an open book. We should come to him and lay everything all out before him. Just as we often do with our earthly dads, we should lay out the issue before God, and tell God what we think about it and how we should be proceeding. We then wait for our earthly dads to give us their sage advice as to what to do in the situation. As we grow up, we often find that our resolution to the situation gets more similar to our dad’s way (but not always). As we grow up in Christ, we find that our resolutions to situations may become more closely aligned with His will for our lives, but not always. We are all flesh so we cannot know God’s will perfectly. However, instead of listening as we do often with our earthly dads, we often treat God like hopping in Santa Claus’ lap – this is what I want and then hop down.

What I will takeaway from Solomon’s request for wisdom today is that wisdom is knowing and understanding God’s will in the situations of our lives. Wisdom comes from making the right choices based on discerning the various options. Discernment comes from listening. And there lies the learning thing for today. Listen to God. How can we know God’s will for our lives if we do not listen for His response to our petitions? Sometimes in our prayer life, instead doing all talking, we should spend some time just being quiet and listening. That’s hard for us in this world of constant multimedia input into our lives. Be still and listen. God is not our vending machine. He is our Father. He is Lord. He is Creator. Let us gain his universal and eternal wisdom and purpose for our lives by listening in our prayers as much or more than we do the talking.

Amen and Amen.

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Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 9)

The Levites Dedicated

When I think about being in my fifties now and the facts that (1) I will be 54 years old in just 15 days and that I am now a grandfather (going with G-Pa or Poppy instead of like grandpapa, or grandfather), I want to scream hey wait a freakin’ minute! What the hell happened? How did I become “sir” to people I work with or at church? Inside I am still this devilish little 15 year old or maybe even a precocious 25 year old but everybody on the outside is seeing this man with grey streaks in his air and a grey goatee and a greying mustache. Somehow, somewhere along the life just shot on past. The streak of time from say 23 years old when my first child was born until these 31 years later have gone by in an immeasurable flash of light speeding along at 186,282 miles per hour.

 

Man, a lifetime has happened to me in 30 years. I have had two daughters of my own who are now grown. I have been a stepfather to three boys for nine years (who are now grown, one of which is deceased) and now for the last 6 ½ years a stepfather to another girl. She’s grown up too. I have been through two divorces and have lived to tell about it. I have bought two houses and given them away in two divorces. I have made money and lost it. I have been in desperate need as a result of the divorces. I have been so broke that I have had to buy 4 hot dogs so I would have dinner for 2 nights. I have lived to now being able live comfortably and be generous to family, friends, and strangers. I have gone from this inexperienced internal auditor working for the school district in Greenville County, SC who knew little about what he was doing to now where I am an experienced accountant and understand my profession with great precision. Although I am not a superstar accountant or anything, not a CFO for a Fortune 100 company or anything like that but I am respected and I make a good living and am living a blessed life. Of that, I have no doubt. But it all happened in a flash! It’s been almost 40 years since this 14 year old boy met his first real love who would become his first wife and mother of his children. Equally stunning is that my first wife and I split up 23 years ago. Just thinking about it yesterday, it has now been 21 years since I married the second time and that it’s been 12 years this month since my second wife and I split up. Too, it blows my mind that it’s been 9 years since I met the woman who is now my wife. It just seems like yesterday that Elena and I met for the first time in the laundry room of an apartment complex in Rock Hill, SC. Since then we have been lived in Rock Hill, SC, Livermore, CA and now Duncan, SC. A lifetime has been lived in what seems like the time it takes it takes to make instant mashed potatoes. Somehow I am in the last third of my life. I want a re-do. I am NOT a candidate for AARP membership. I am still a silly little boy who still giggles when he hears the word, boobies! I love puns. I love “that’s what she said jokes”. I love to laugh. When most people my age have grown serious, I am still silly. My mind is still young. I love to make people laugh with my goofy, wacky sense of humor. My wife says I am a fifteen year old boy trapped in a 54 year old body. Growing old gracefully is not in my vocabulary. I am going down with a fight. Scratching, clawing, screaming.

 

Since moving to Duncan, SC from California, we have a whole circle of friends who have only known me since I was like 47 years old. They know the older me. They know the overweight me. They know so little of who I have been. They don’t know the skinny little guy I once was who dropped down from 180 to 168 when going through my second divorce. They don’t know the teenage me that was a damn good basketball player that could hit from three point range back in the day. They don’t know the kid that even in his early to mid thirties could still outrun his stepsons. That don’t know the pre-casual office days when everyone wore suits to work and I looked really good in a suit. They don’t know the guy who could tackle people twice his size when he played football. They don’t know the defensive back with might not have had lighten speed but had football smarts and could be there when the ball got to the receiver. They don’t know the fearless ride anything high and scary at the amusement park as late as 7 or 8 years ago. I don’t want to grow old. Although I have had a lot of knocks and bruises along the way and some periods of profound sadness and times of wondering how I was going to make it through to the other side, I still feel young on the inside and see the world ahead me with the same hopefulness as I did as kid graduating from Furman University in 1983. I still think, like a young person, that there is still more out there for me. I am not done yet. I have much left to do. But, yet, I am about to be 54. Some my age are settling in and thinking of retirement, but not me. I don’t want to give up or give in. I still feel like a kid who believes there is more candy or cookies in the jar. I don’t want be old. I don’t feel old. Sure, my body reminds me quite frequently that I have lived over a half of a century, but no one told my mind. My mind is still like a kid discovering new things and wanting to learn more. My mind and heart knows that I don’t know everything and I still want to learn more. Stop making me older, Lord. I don’t want to be perceived as old and slowing down. I want to be seen as that kid who just happens to have a little grey hair. I don’t want to grow up. I want to be a Toys R Us kid! Too many times in our society, we glorify chronological youth as the ideal and we begin shoving people to the edges when they pass into their mid-fifties. We are judged by our age in our society and growing into your fifties is often seen as the farming out, put them to pasture years as if you don’t any longer have that hip edge. I don’t want to play that game! I am just a kid trapped inside a 54 year old body. Look inside not at the slightly tattered book cover on the outside.

 

When I read today’s passage for the final time for this 9th part of 9 blogs on Numbers 8:5-26 and read those final 4 verses, I was like no way, man! I thought God was not like our society of today where youth is glorified and people 50 or over are shoved aside as has-beens. It kind of mad me angry when I read it at first pass. So, let’s dig in and deal with what God is saying about age here in the final four verses (vv. 22-26) of this passage. Let’s read the whole thing one more time but focus on those last four verses:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will

purify 3themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

Why were the Levites supposed to retire at age 50? The reasons were probably more practical than theological I would imagine. Although the Bible record tells us in Genesis of people living 900 years and such, with the effects of sin and its results which includes wars, poverty, disease, by the time we reach the sojourn of God’s people in the wilderness, I would imagine that they were not living those long lives anymore. I imagine that their life spans were on average about 15-20 years less than modern average lifespans. Thus, there probably was a practicality to the requirement. Moving the Tabernacle and its furniture through the desert wilderness required the strength and stamina of a man in his physical prime. The younger men were better suited for the lifting and carrying of heavy objects over distances. However, to say the Levites were retired completely would be inaccurate. They were allowed to continue working and assisting with light duties within the Tabernacle. They helped the younger men assume more and more responsibilities as they matured and it allowed the older men to assume positions of advisors and counselors to the younger ones.

 

So, what do we learn from this requirement. Is that we are washed up and set aside when we reach our fifties? No, it is quite the contrary. At my age, I must learn that I am entering an age where I have actually experienced a lot of things in my life. I still have much to offer. I still have that youthful flare in my heart but at the same time, wow, all the things that I have gone through in life have taught me many hard lessons. So, in my fifties, not only can I still feel youthful on the inside, I have experiences that I can share with folks younger than me. I have all these experiences of what not to do! LOL! I can share those hard knock lessons with others while still blazing new trails. God gives us this age of the fifties through the early 70s as a time where we can still be very productive but yet have wisdom to impart. I must accept that I am 54 but it is not a death sentence. I still have much life to live. I still have much to give. Just thinking of my darling grandbaby gives me hope of usefulness as well. Ralyn, my first grandchild, will need that special relationship with her G-Pa. I will have knowledge only I can impart to her as grandfather. She will accept advice from me that she will reject from her mom and dad. I have a special role there that I look forward to playing. Being a granddad does mean I am in my declining years. It just means that I get to be a mentor to my granddaughter in ways that her parents will not be able to do. I am not done yet. I have things to teach my granddaughter and I still have things to accomplish. Just because I am 54 does not mean I am done yet by any means! I still have work to do. As long as we have that, we are still young. When we give up on learning, teaching, accomplishing, then we grow old.

 

God gives us our fifties to realize much has happened but yet much is yet to come. He wants us to use our wisdom gained through a half century of living to help our children and grandchildren learn the world and learn what it means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. If I can do nothing else in this last 1/3 of my life, it would be to teach those younger than me that why waste time on things that don’t matter. Learn of the love of Jesus Christ for you at an early age. Learn what the cross means to you at an early age. Learn that your eternity hinges on how you deal with Jesus Christ. Don’t waste time with a lifetime of mistakes chasing other gods. Get to know the real God through His Son, Jesus Christ. Don’t waste years of heartache like I did chasing after other gods. That is what this time is for. Spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the generations after me. There is no more important job. I thank God for the lifetime that He has given me so far. He has delivered me from my own self-destruction but it is through my experience that I can share the good news of redemption. He has richly blessed me with salvation and with wisdom that has come with age. He has blessed me as I have become more and more obedient to Him. He has blessed me so immeasurably. Take this time, Mark, to teach people not to waste time and make these huge mistakes in life chasing after things that are really not real nor important. Teach others to chase after God from now. Don’t wait. The time is now. Eternity is now.

 

Amen and amen.