The Holiness of Wisdom
Text: 1 Kings 3:3-14
Rev. Dr. John E. Manzo
August 16, 2009
When Solomon was a child his prayer to God was a prayer for an understanding mind. Of all the things he desired in life, the thing he desired the most was wisdom. God, of course, is pleased and promises Solomon that when he becomes the king he will reap the benefits of requesting such a great gift. We get the impression that wisdom is something imbued with holiness. The holiness of wisdom is something precious----something almost beyond precious, in the Bible.
There are several things to be said about wisdom.
First, in Proverbs 1:7 it says:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Wisdom and knowledge all start with fear of the Lord.
But often people don’t realize what fear of the Lord is.
It isn’t about being afraid of God. In fact, one of the most common statements in the Bible is: Do not be afraid! So it’s not about being afraid of God. It is, however, being in awe of God.
And being in awe of God, is really being in awe of God. It’s almost like being in the presence of God and shaking in the awe of the moment; not shaking in terror, but shaking in being overwhelmed by the awesomeness of God.
Wisdom comes when we recognize that God is beyond your comprehension and understanding.
Wisdom comes when we stand in the presence of God and are overwhelmed by God.
Wisdom comes when we learn that we don’t know it all.
A seminary professor was vacationing with his wife in Gatlinburg. One morning, they were eating breakfast at a little restaurant, hoping to enjoy a quiet meal. While they were waiting for their food, they noticed a distinguished looking, white-haired man moving from table to table, visiting with the guests. The professor leaned over and whispered to his wife, 'I hope he doesn't come over here.' But sure enough, the man did come over to their table.
'Where are you folks from?' he asked in a friendly voice.
'Oklahoma ,' they answered.
'Great to have you here in Tennessee ,' the stranger said. 'What do you do for a living?'
'I teach at a seminary,' he replied.
'Oh, so you teach preachers how to preach, do you? Well, I've got a really great story for you.' And with that, the gentleman pulled up a chair and sat down at the table with the couple.
The professor groaned and thought to himself, 'Great .. Just what I need... Another preacher story!'
The man started, 'See that mountain over there? Not far from the base of that mountain, there was a boy born to an unwed mother. He had a hard time growing up, because every place he went, he was always asked the same question, 'Hey boy, Who's your daddy?' Whether he was at school, in the grocery store or drug store, people would ask the same question, 'Who's your daddy?'
He would hide at recess and lunchtime from other students. He would avoid going into stores because that question hurt him so bad. When he was about 12 years old, a new preacher came to his church. He would always go in late and slip out early to avoid hearing the question, 'Who's your daddy?' But one day, the new preacher said the benediction so fast that he got caught and had to walk out with the crowd.
Just about the time he got to the back door, the new preacher, not knowing anything about him, put his hand on his shoulder and asked him, 'Son, who's your daddy?'
The whole church got deathly quiet. He could feel every eye in the church looking at him. Now everyone would finally know the answer to the question, 'Who's your daddy?'
'This new preacher, though, sensed the situation around him and using discernment that only the Holy Spirit could give, said the following to that scared little boy.. 'Wait a minute! I know who you are! I see the family resemblance now, You are a child of God.'
With that he patted the boy on his shoulder and said, 'Boy, you've got a great inheritance. Go and claim it.'
With that, the boy smiled for the first time in a long time and walked out the door a changed person. He was never the same again. Whenever anybody asked him, 'Who's your Daddy?' he'd just tell them, 'I'm a Child of God.''
The distinguished gentleman got up from the table and said, 'Isn't that a great story?'
The professor responded that it really was a great story!
As the man turned to leave, he said, 'You know, if that new preacher hadn't told me that I was one of God's children, I probably never would have amounted to anything!' And he walked away.
The seminary professor and his wife were stunned. He called the waitress over and asked her, 'Do you know who that man was -- the one who just left that was sitting at our table?'
The waitress grinned and said, 'Of course. Everybody here knows him. That's Ben Hooper. He's governor of Tennessee !'
It’s stories like that which make us stand in awe of God, a God who can change and transform lives.
There is another aspect of wisdom, however, that is important.
The philosopher Aristotle said that wisdom begins with wonder. Wisdom begins with wonder.
It really does.
Last summer we went to Kitty Hawk and went to the Wright Brothers museum. They wondered how to fly; and flew.
Growing up in New Jersey we all learned a lot about Thomas Edison. He wondered if he could make a light bulb; he did.
Henry Ford wondered what would happen if you had large assembly lines for cars; and he made it happen.
With faith, however, it is also about wonder. Faith begins to grow when we begin to wonder and ask questions.
Much of how we practice our faith begins with wonder. We tend to view how we do things as having tradition, but take note that these traditions started with someone wondering something.
Russ Mitman is the United Church of Christ Conference Minister for the Philadelphia Southeast Conference. He wrote a book several years ago and observed that the largest innovation in Worship in the 20th century was the invention of the mimeograph machine.
We say ‘huh?’ to that now, but before that, the Worship Service started at page three in hymnals and the only changes were the hymns which were posted on the wall and the Scripture readings, and the sermon. And I am sure some people were outraged at this modern innovation that would never last.
We have electric lights in churches now because someone wondered how that would go.
We have sound systems in churches. Years ago preachers used to preached under a huge cone with large bellowing voices. Someone said, ‘I wonder what would happen if we put a microphone up there?
Someone wondered what would happen if they air conditioned churches. I am sure that some clamored that air conditioning was no necessary but they tried it anyway.
So much of what we do now in church and in the practice of our faith comes because people wondered. Wisdom begins when we wonder.
And lastly, no sermon that references wisdom and Solomon should lack a caveat.
Solomon turned out to be a bad king a man of wretched excess.
Solomon, 1st Kings tells us, had 700 wives and 300 concubines or mistresses.
He built a Temple not to honor God as much as himself.
He made peace treaties with nations he had no business in doing so. He did it for money and more wives.
Solomon enslaved his own people to do his work. This was, for a people who had been led from slavery by Moses and spent their history so often slaves to others, a grotesque sin.
Solomon wrecked the Kingdom and it split in two upon his death.
He abused the wisdom God had given him and remind us now that wisdom is a gift from God. And it is only a good gift when we, unlike Solomon, actually use it to honor God and not ourselves.