Why is Wisdom So Important in 2020? #279

So, WRT the Abomination of Desolation… There are three Jewish Temples (not counting the Temple made without hands) in history. The first temple is Solomon’s, ca.1000 BCE – Ca. 500 BCE, and it was defiled when the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem at the beginning of the Babylonian Captivity. The second temple, ca.450 BCE – 70 CE, was restored (badly) by Ezra and Nehemiah, and in the first century AD was still being remodeled and improved by Herod the Great. It was defiled by Vespasian, at the beginning of the Jewish Wars, leading to the Great Diaspora. The third and final temple has not yet been built, and will be defiled by the antichrist, at the midpoint of the tribulation. The Abomination of Desolation of the Second Temple was an act by the Roman Emperor Vespasian, who demanded that a statue of himself be placed in the Most Holy Place. That action led to the Jewish Wars of 62-69 CE, which led to the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple. The siege of Jerusalem was so horrible … we know of this from Flavius Josephus … that those who saw Vespasian’s statue standing where it ought not to be … an abomination that led to desolation … that those seeing such a thing were well advised to flee to the mountains, and to pray that it would not happen during winter, as Jesus advised. Jesus’ predictions here came to fruition within 40 years after his death. * The Abomination of Desolation of the Third Temple we may reasonably assert to be similar in nature to the end of the Second Temple. We might reasonably expect an idol to be placed in the temple, in betrayal of the worshipers therein. We might also reasonably expect a battle that is as devastating to the modern Jerusalem as the siege of Jerusalem in 69/70 CE. Woe to those within that city in that day. _________________________________________________________________ * The delay of 40 years after the crucifixion is thought by some to be because of the piety of James the Just, brother of Jesus. James was known for his precise practice of Judaism, including frequent attendance upon the temple. James was executed on the orders of Ananias (Flavius Josephus, AOTJ , 20:9:1), removing this as a bar against the destruction of the temple. From a purely theological standpoint, the second temple was unnecessary following the resurrection: its purpose was fulfilled.
Fascinating, and thank you, Chief Inspector!
Today’s Bible readings are all going to be focus passages, because they all have content that we need to discuss. We’ll begin with 1st Kings 3, then Psalms 83, 84, Ezekiel 34 and Ephesians 1.
In 1 Kings 3, we see the famous episode where God offers Solomon anything he wants, and Solomon wisely chooses…wisdom. Let us read and discuss.
Interestingly, the Bible does not actually say that Solomon asks for wisdom here, but it does in the parallel account in 1st Chronicles, and 1 Kings 4 does indicate that God gives Solomon wisdom. Here is the specific request of Solomon:
And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
1 Kings 3:7-9
Leadership is so difficult, and I can’t think of a more difficult year to lead in than 2020. I pray every day, every night for wisdom right now. Who is up for the task of shepherding and leading a family, a business, or a church family during these pandemic times when it is so very confusing to know who to listen to and who to give credence to, and when people’s opinions are SO strong and almost violent?? If you think you know exactly what is going on right now, and you think you can see crystal clear in the midst of this pandemic, then let me tell you something: You are either wiser than Solomon and able to see with amazing clarity when everybody else is shrouded in fog and can barely see ten feet in front of their face, or you are deluded, and only think you can see clearly.  We must ask God the same as Solomon did, because we all have great need of wisdom right now. And, good news on that prayer – we have a promise: “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” James 1:5
We will discuss this in the coming days, but I should note here that one dose of wisdom from God to Solomon was not enough. Knowing is never half the battle, and even though Solomon knew God’s word and had an incredible amount of wisdom, he did NOT FOLLOW THAT WISDOM, and instead thought himself able to disobey God’s commands and yet still thrive as the king of God’s people. Not even his great wisdom enabled him to do that. Solomon is a cautionary tale for the wise and gifted.
Next we come to the beautiful Psalm 84:
Better a day in your courts
than a thousand anywhere else.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God
than live in the tents of wicked people.
11 For the Lord God is a sun and shield.
The Lord grants favor and honor;
he does not withhold the good
from those who live with integrity.
Psalms 84:10-11

Here is Spurgeon commenting on this beautiful text:

“For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand.” Of course the Psalmist means a thousand days spent elsewhere. Under the most favourable circumstances in which earth’s pleasures can be enjoyed, they are not comparable by so much as one in a thousand to the delights of the service of God. To feel his love, to rejoice in the person of the anointed Saviour, to survey the promises and feel the power of the Holy Ghost in applying precious truth to the soul, is a joy which worldlings cannot understand, but which true believers are ravished with. Even a glimpse at the love of God is better than ages spent in the pleasures of sense. “I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” The lowest station in connection with the Lord’s house is better than the highest position among the godless. Only to wait at his threshold and peep within, so as to see Jesus, is bliss. To bear burdens and open doors for the Lord is more honour than to reign among the wicked. Every man has his choice, and this is ours. God’s worst is better than the devil’s best. God’s doorstep is a happier rest than downy couches within the pavilions of royal sinners, though we might lie there for a lifetime of luxury. Note how he calls the tabernacle “the house of my God;” there’s where the sweetness lies: if Jehovah be our God, his house, his altars, his doorstep, all become precious to us. We know by experience that where Jesus is within, the outside of the house is better than the noblest chambers where the Son of God is not to be found.

C. H. Spurgeon, The Treasury of David: Psalms 56-87, vol. 3 (London; Edinburgh; New York: Marshall Brothers, n.d.), 435.

And then we get to Ezekiel 34, where God calls out the shepherds and leaders of His people. Let this passage penetrate you, dear friends. Listen closely for God’s understanding and definition of what a spiritual leaders of His people should be like – how they are called to care for His people, and the dangers of such leaders developing a ‘serve me’ mentality. See also God’s challenge to those cruel and selfish people who have gotten rich and powerful on the backs of other people:

20 “‘Therefore, this is what the Lord God says to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. 21 Since you have pushed with flank and shoulder and butted all the weak ones with your horns until you scattered them all over, 22 I will save my flock. They will no longer be prey, and I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will establish over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will shepherd them. He will tend them himself and will be their shepherd. 24 I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be a prince among them. I, the Lord, have spoken.

Ezekiel 34:20-24

Those who have gained wealth, power, and privilege by trampling over others will be judged by God, and those that were trampled will be shepherded and taken care of by Jesus Himself.

Finally, we come to Ephesians 1 – one of the most glorious books of the Bible, with some of the deepest and most profound truths.

13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, to the praise of his glory.

Ephesians 1:13-14

Becoming a Christian is to receive the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is a down payment, a deposit, which means it’s the first installation, the first installment, of the future redemption of the universe. It’s a down payment, an installment, of the future come into your life. That’s the reason 1 Peter 1 has the audacity to say, “We’re born again into a living hope.” There’s a future, and when our connection to that future becomes a living thing in our lives, it so changes us we have to talk in terms of dying and rising. You can’t live without hope.

Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).

If you want to learn how to pray, go directly to the prayers of Jesus (like John 17) and the apostolic prayers in Scripture, inspired directly by the Holy Spirit – those are better places to learn how to pray than a thousand books on prayer. Let’s close with this Apostolic Prayer:

17 I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, would give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the mighty working of his strength.

Ephesians 1:17-19

 


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