I have been listening to a Mercy storyteller who fancies himself to be a historian, spinning the stories of Moses, Buddha, Confucius and Socrates. As a non-believer, he dances uncomfortably around the issues of power and focuses instead of the acquisition and dispensing of wisdom by these sages of yore.
It is fascinating to look at a culture’s social constructs and their religious constructs through those two grids.
Broadly, Asian theologies lean heavily toward wisdom. Broadly, Western theologies are visibly split between the power streams and the wisdom streams. Broadly, African indigenous theologies had one of the most even handed blends of wisdom and power in the hands of the elders, but African Christianity today favors power much more than wisdom.
It is interesting to drill down to smaller subsets of the culture and watch the tension. In our current presidential elections, those with sophisticated wisdom platforms are getting mowed down by the power people in this season of the seemingly endless election campaign.
By contrast, academic circles are infamous for harboring people who purport to be wise, but can’t build anything more complicated than a syllabus.
Conversely, the mom and pop businesses of our nation are largely staffed by people with the power to build a widget who have not read a book on business wisdom in the last five years – which is why they still run a mom and pop business!
God gave the Israelite culture a lot of wisdom. He perfectly understood the laws of science and the rest of natural law – since He created those laws – and the mandates He gave them were simply an active expression of what they had to do to benefit from the laws He gave them. Or to put it a different way, the power was wrapped up in the wisdom, but was not evident as power. But it was there.
This is captured exquisitely in this promise. It represented a transition from just power, to power wrapped in wisdom. They had just experienced the raw power of bitter water becoming potable due to the symbol of the stick thrown in, and God announced a change of program. It was not going to be power, power, power. They had experienced that in the past, but now power and wisdom were going to meet.
“He said, ‘If you listen carefully to the voice of the LORD your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the LORD, who heals you.'” Exodus 15:26 NIV
This passage is where we get the name The Lord who Heals. And our culture massively takes it out of context and misapplies it making it a power name, not a wisdom/power concept. When someone gets sick, we claim this name and ask God to use His power to heal them of their sickness. But that is so not what the passage says at all. God says that if we will embrace the power that is embedded IN the wisdom principles, we won’t get sick in the first place.
And that set the stage for endless conflict between Israel and God. They would violate the principles because they disdained the power that is IN wisdom. Then, when the consequences of their violation of principles hurt them, they would cry out to God for Him to do a straight up power encounter to solve their problems. And when God did a power intervention on their behalf, they named Him and built a memorial and celebrated Him for His power. But they did not readily celebrate His wisdom for the greatness of the wisdom, much less for the power perfectly embedded in the wisdom.
Modern Christianity is not too different.
We hear lots of celebrations of powerful healing, supernatural economic relief and governmental documents coming through in record time or marriages being restored against all odds. God’s power is very much loved these days – as long as it is divorced from wisdom.
Yet, our lives demonstrate far more of the power of God IN wisdom, than apart from wisdom.
Take our company. We have applied the wisdom of God related to the principle of flow, and as a result of that, our shipping is incredibly blessed. Even though the shipping companies are robustly cursed by their angry customers day in and day out, our products fly through their cursed systems on miraculous fast tracks, because of the principles. We used wisdom. There was power in the wisdom. We have good results day in and day out, and most people who receive a package a couple of days after they order it are pleased, but don’t stop to name God, build a monument or worship the power embedded in the principles.
By contrast, we have two rooms that have had a bad smell in them for eight years. We have tried every principle we knew of to cleanse the land and the air and the furniture and the people, but have been unsuccessful. The other day, a small team of Servants took on the project and were able to appropriate the power of God in a wonderful intervention that has nearly fixed the problem. It is wonderful. I have asked them to go back and see if they can get the last 10% and then to see if God would be willing to release the fragrance of heaven into those two rooms. We shall see.
If God provides His power to do that, we will be thrilled. We will celebrate. I wholeheartedly receive the full measure of the power of God unleashed on our behalf in such visible ways.
But the reality is, I experience the power of God wrapped up in wisdom day in and day out – far more often that stand-alone power. Unlike the Israelites, I readily worship The God of All Wisdom, knowing that you can easily have human power without wisdom, but you cannot have the wisdom of God without having power embedded in it.
The wisdom of God and The God of All Wisdom were wonderfully celebrated by Solomon, especially in Proverbs 8.
Join me in a celebration of the glory of the wisdom of God, with its rich treasures of power.
Copyright January 2016, by Arthur Burk
From the Hub