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Sermon - 6/27/10
Matthew 11:16-19 - Wisdom

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 Wisdom

But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon!' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" (Matthew 11:16-19)

Most people would like to be wise, or more accurately, most would like to be thought by others to be wise. And thankfully for humanity, many do recognize that the way to find wisdom is to find God. His wisdom is infinite in scope, beyond the galaxies, greater than the universe, whereas we in our experience and understanding are far too much like little bugs trying to figure out what it's like to be human. We creep around on our tiny planet and wonder about much that is beyond us.  We need the Lord.

If you are looking for “wisdom” as it applies to God and man on the World Wide Web, you’ll find some interesting comments. Here are just a few:

  • Doug Larson said, "Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you would have preferred to talk."
  • Theodore Levitt of Harvard Business School, said, "Experience comes from what we have done. Wisdom comes from what we have done badly."
  • Here’s an anonymous one: "A wise man learns by the experience of others. An ordinary man learns by his own experience. A fool learns by nobody's experience."
  • And I re-discovered an old joke about, "An angel who appeared at a faculty meeting and told the dean that in return for his unselfish and exemplary behavior, the Lord would reward him with a choice of infinite wealth, wisdom or beauty. Without hesitating, the dean selected infinite wisdom. 'Done!' said the angel and disappeared in a bolt of lightning and a cloud of smoke. All heads now turned toward the dean, who sat surrounded by a faint halo of light. At length, one of his colleagues whispered, 'Say something.' The dean looked up and said, 'I should have taken the money.'"

Without the Lord in our lives, money seems essential to our happiness, as does good health, the right marital partner, fame, success, a perfect job or whatever. All too many who live on earth would have “taken the money,” but something, someone higher than our understanding is in plain sight, calling to us deep inside to become wise, to look to the Lord.  Here’s what possibly the wisest person in history said about the wisdom that comes from God, and note that though this man had been given the wisdom we all need, he still made mistakes:

Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, because you disdained all my counsel, and would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes, when your terror comes like a storm, and your destruction comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.” (Proverbs 1:24-28).  God is wisdom personified, and we damage our lives when we don’t seek Him. The Lord has been reaching out to humanity since the beginning, offering us wisdom, knowledge, joy, peace, safety and more.  He has, He is the wisdom we need.

I teach a Bible study weekly on Thursday mornings at a Convalescent Home in a nearby city. The study has continued for many years and we are currently in the Book of Acts for the second time.  Other in-depth studies have included the Gospels of Matthew and John, the Book of Romans and the Book of Psalms. Some of the attendees have been a part of these studies for a good ten years. I originally started it as a way to get my mother to attend a Bible study, and it continues, though she went to be with the Lord in 2005.

This past Thursday morning, a lady who is the manager of many nurses and other personnel in the 160-room facility, drew me aside to talk. We have spoken in the past, and she continues to have a struggle that is common to all who are in some position of authority. It’s about decisions. She makes many decisions about the futures, the lives of the residents of that facility and about the staff. Who will be admitted and who will be turned away? Who will be served and at what level of care? Who will be permitted to return after a hospitalization that reduces life-expectancy and increases the need for such care? Who will work in the kitchen or the front office or be assigned to work one of the three floors?

She makes these kinds of decisions, admitting that there are two key forces involved in making them. 1) She considers the rules, which are sometimes clear for situations, but sometimes not. The rules are designed to answer all situations for her, but all too often they don’t completely fit.  2) She looks to her heart. She really CARES for the people she serves and wants the best for them.  What does she do?  She spoke in our conversation about “wisdom,” using precisely that word to describe her need. She willingly admits that her wisdom falls short in many situations, and she does commend the rules, stating that there is “wisdom” in them. But what she does as an “extra” every day is interesting, for pointing upward she said, “I look to Him.

It is wisdom we need, or more accurately; we need Him who is Wisdom for every moment of each day.  As the lady said, our wisdom is “limited,” whether expressed through what we know or what the rules dictate.  It is God who knows what to do.

Today’s Scriptures are part of a context in which John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to Jesus, asking, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Considering that John had undoubtedly heard about Jesus from his mother, Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45 & context) and John heard the voice from heaven saying of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17), the question presented by John’s disciples, was – unnecessary.  Here is Jesus’ response:

“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places, who call out to the other children, and say, 'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.'… Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds" (Matthew 11:16-19).  We all have expectations about God, including: He will heal the cancer, heal my child, enable us to get the job, save our marriage, and so on. John was in jail and his disciples wondered, “Why?” If we tithe a certain amount or pray many times, surely God will hear and answer our need.  It’s as though we “played the flute” for God, demanding that He would do a certain kind of “dance” in return. We mourn our circumstances and we are troubled if God does not seem to give the answer we expect.  John the Baptist was a man like Jesus Christ, but there the similarity ended.  John was a good man, a prophet (Luke 3:2), but Jesus was and is the Son of God (Matthew 3:17). John and his disciples were motivated by fear, but they did something that was right: They looked to Jesus, for He is the Wisdom of God.

Lord, there is much we do not understand, and there are many problems in life.  We know You hear us, You care about us, and we understand that trusting in You is more important than anything else, but we also worry. Help us to “get it,” Lord, that You are Wisdom, the One who always knows what should be done.  We trust in You.  In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries

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"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
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