READ – 2 Chronicles 1:1-13
The transition from 1 Chronicles to 2 Chronicles follows a major transition and change in Israel. The nation’s greatest leader and model king, David, has died and passed the leadership baton to his son Solomon. In describing this leadership transition, Chronicles puts a strong emphasis on the continuity between David and Solomon. But Chronicles also emphasizes something that Solomon excelled at that it never mentions as one of David’s strengths. It’s what Solomon realized he most needed to navigate the massive changes and challenges he and his people were facing. It’s what the the Christian faith says is necessary (maybe most important) during times of change, transition and upheaval in our lives and in our world. It’s what turns times of change and transition – that bring all kinds of disappointments & difficulties – into times of renewal. It’s wisdom.
SUMMARY: Because our lives are marked by constant change and because we live in a rapidly changing world, our need for a renewal of wisdom has never been greater.
THE DREAM QUESTION
Solomon officially began his reign by leading a massive assembly of worship with all the leaders of Israel (1:16). That night (2 Kings tells us that it was in a dream) God appeared to Solomon and said to him “Ask what I shall give you.” God is offering Solomon a divine blank check! He’s saying, “What do you want? Ask anything and I’ll do it.” Isn’t that our dream question? Wouldn’t we all love to have God ask us, “What do you want me to do for you?” with the understanding that - whatever we ask for - He’ll give us? This is especially true when we are facing a difficult transition in our lives.
In the gospels, we find that this question was one of Jesus’ favorites. In Mark 10:35-52, Jesus asks, “What do you want me to do for you?” twice – in order to draw out the one thing that people felt they needed to be fulfilled, satisfied and whole. The first lesson of this text is that in order experience renewal, in order to get to wisdom, we must begin by first (honestly) answering the question posed to us by God Himself - “What do you want me to do for you?”
THE SURPRISING RESPONSE
Solomon doesn’t ask for any of the things a typical king in his time would ask for - wealth, fame, power, victories, control or the approval of the people. Instead, he asked for wisdom and knowledge to lead the people and God said, “I will give you that.” Surprisingly, the best response to God’s question, “What do you want me do for you?“ at any time in our lives, but especially during seasons of personal and cultural change is, “Give me wisdom.” God will always answer this prayer.
What is Wisdom? The best short definition of wisdom is “know-how.” Wisdom is made up of two parts - knowledge and the ability to know how to use it in practical, everyday situations. Bruce Waltke says wisdom is “masterful understanding.” JI Packer - wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it.
Why do we need it? If wisdom is knowledge applied to our specific situation, then any change in our situation calls for fresh wisdom. If our lives are constantly changing, then we have a constant need for fresh wisdom! Knowing information (or theology) is necessary but it isn’t sufficient. We also need to know our situation and how the knowledge and information we have applies to our situation.
Since the pace and complexity of cultural change is unprecedented, our need for wisdom has never been greater. Though we have access to more information and knowledge than ever before, wisdom for dealing with our cultural changes, divisions and disagreements appears more elusive than ever. Solomon’s example is an encouragement to every Christian and every church to make it a top priority to ask for and seek wisdom.
How do we get it? There are at 3 least important steps alluded to in the text: 1) Always start at the beginning. Solomon began his reign with worship. This was Proverbs 9:10 in action - “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Worship precedes wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the submission of our intellect, desires and will to God. 2) Ask for it – We must admit our need for wisdom. This takes humbly realizing our inadequacy and inability to handle life’s changes on our own. 3) Allow time for it – Solomon’s writings and the other wisdom literature of the bible show us that wisdom is the fruit of prayer, patience and dialogue.
THE ULTIMATE ANSWER
Solomon is an example to us of how to respond to transition in our lives and world by seeking wisdom from God. But following Solomon’s example isn’t the ultimate answer for our need for wisdom. For one, reaching Solomon’s level of wisdom is an unattainable goal – he was the wisest of all people in the Old Testament. But even more to the point – the wisdom we need often seems so inaccessible. Proverbs 2:5 says, “If you seek wisdom like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Often our search for wisdom is either half-hearted or fraught with mystery, like looking for hidden treasure.
The gospel is that God has uncovered for us the hidden treasures of wisdom in His Son. In Luke 11:29 Jesus says, “The Queen of the south will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and look – something greater than Solomon is here. Jesus is talking about himself. He’s saying the Queen of Sheba gave up everything to hear the wisdom of Solomon. In Jesus, we see that God gives up everything for us to have the wisdom of the gospel.
The apostle Paul, In Col 2:2,3 writes in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” The gospel provides us with the lens to interpret our lives and the world. The cruciform wisdom of the gospel is the hidden treasure God gives us in Jesus. Though the wisdom for our life transitions and cultural changes may not always be straightforward, the gospel provides us with wisdom that ensures that our “hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, reaching all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, Christ” (Col 2:2).
The ultimate answer to the dream question, “What do you want?” in any circumstance is, “I want Jesus more than anything else.” That is ultimately and finally the wisest response in any situation. What we need is not first an answer, more insight or more information – we need a person.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. What one thing in your life would you ask God for if he appeared to you in a dream and said, “What do you want me to do for you?” Be honest. What one thing do you think – if God gave you – would lead you to a renewed sense of life, vitality and happiness?
3. What personal change or transition (current or upcoming) do you most need wisdom for in your life? Which
cultural change or issue do you feel you most need wisdom for understanding how to respond?
4. Read the quote below from Andy Crouch’s Tech-Wise Family. Do you agree? If wisdom is more rare and precious than ever before, what implications should this have for you personally, your family and the church?
“Knowledge, these days, is very easy to come by - almost too easy, given the flood of search results for almost any word or phrase you can imagine. But you can’t search for wisdom - at least, not online. And it’s as rare and precious as ever - maybe, given how complex our lives have become, rarer and more precious than ever before.”
5. Of the 3 steps listed in “How do we get it?” (above) which is most challenging or helpful to you? What would
it look like for you to incorporate this step into your life as you seek God’s wisdom?
6. How does it encourage you to know that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ? How does the statement below help you address the hardest personal or cultural changes you are facing right now?
The ultimate answer to the dream question, “What do you want?” in any circumstance is “I want Jesus more than anything else.” That is ultimately and finally the wisest response in any situation.