Expecting Knowledge yet Gaining Wisdom
Judges 7:1-8 & 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
In this service, I want to open up the opportunity for anyone to share an experience where your knowledge or expectation of what to do in a situation was overtaken by God’s intervention that led to a new wisdom for you.
In 2013, Thea and I were travelling with a dozen Christian clergy throughout Israel. In the area of Caesarea Philippi, there is a spring near Banias Falls where the Jordan River begins. While there, one of us knelt down to simulate the events of the first reading today.
A debate ensured, about who were the chosen 300 to fight with Gideon – those who cupped the water to their lips or those who lapped at it – many translations from both the Hebrew and Greek tradition do not make this clear.
The consensus had been that it was those who cupped their hands – because it was more dignified, more human and less animal like. We simulated the action and read the translations before realising that we were looking at it from a very human point of view and not necessarily that of God’s. Our expectations, preconceptions and understandings may have subsumed God’s real message.
The first clue as to God’s choice sits in verse 3 – those who tremble and are fearful – will not be chosen – that is, those do don’t trust God to bring the victory God promised. The action of drinking one way and not the other is also about an act of trust..
Consider this – show them the action – someone who laps has to put down their spear, put their eyes towards the water and away from their surrounds, and trust that they will not be attacked. They have become prone to the will and actions of another – they have to ‘trust’. I now think this is not so much a story of preparation for war and choosing troops – but instead a story of trust.
Having a degree or doctorate may give knowledge but wisdom does not necessarily follow unless we are open to the other –what they bring and how we respond. The getting of wisdom often involves overcoming ourselves, our preconceptions, and as the lectionary psalm alludes this week, acknowledging and trusting the other (verse 9) – in this case God – his grace, power and provision, and standing in awe of it – or as is says in verse 10 “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. But then true wisdom means that we ’follow his precepts’ (verse 10) – that we change our ways, that we apply it to our lives and that we tell and show others.
Our second reading reminds us that wisdom is often found in unusual or unexpected people, places and circumstances.
True wisdom does not only rely on intellect, nor does it rely on lofty characters and rarefied environments. In fact, wisdom is not earned – it is about transformation gifted by God.
Think about the times Jesus lauds children – for their wisdom – he talks of how blessed they are – particularly in Matthews gospel (Chapters 5 & 19).
A favourite story for me is one called the ‘Story of Shaya’ – you can google it if you’d like –
It goes like this…….
One truly wise man I met years ago while training to be a Minister of the Word, would have seemed when judged by worldly standards to be anything but wise. This man I’ll call ‘Jim’ was a client of a Uniting Church drop-in centre – for folks who lived in half-way houses, boarding houses and those at risk of homelessness – in the inner south west of Sydney.
Jim was a chain smoker, and thus was not allowed in the hall to have his coffee, so I would sit with him and keep him company as he sat on the front fence having his morning tea.
Jim also had many mental health issues that stemmed from a major tragedy he had suffered many years before. Sometimes, this would reveal itself in a mania where he would see conspiracies manifesting around him. Often he would say the signs on walls had secret messages. For example, a sign for the Com Bank – he would say the Com is for Communist, B for baffling and A for all, N for neurotic and K for kids.
I used to listen and not argue, but one day he broached an topic in which I was not willing to stay silent.
He said ‘God is a dog’ – I retorted that my faith would not accept what I considered was a huge slap in the face.
But, he went onto explain, GOD spelt backwards if DOG – he wanted to remind me that like a faithful furry friend – God will never leave your side, will remain with you through good times and bad, and a dog’s love is unconditional.
This reminds me of another story, this one is about ……..
(will need to scroll down to the story called Go for the Dog).
Our knowledge of the Bible, or ability to quote scripture, and even our free will offerings will not get us into Heaven. It’s what sits in our heart.
If the foolish and childish are wise enough to speak of God and act for God – what is our excuse for not speaking and acting. Maybe our heart and head should be more in sync, and knowledge and wisdom be put together to create an awesome legacy for the next generation.
Your turn – can you think of a time when your knowledge and understandings have been turned upside down by the wisdom of another (ten minutes).