As I have often told folks, in these blogs and other instances, I believe I take the cake for making the most foolish decisions of all the people I know. Rather than going down the list, allow me to share a couple of my earliest examples. Then, I know you will heartily agree with me.
The first example took place when I was either at pre-school age, or maybe in the first grade. I was playing outside when I discovered a spider web in the lower-left corner of our living room window. And a huge spider was sitting in the center of that web. I hated spiders back then and would usually try to kill everyone I saw. So, I picked up a rock, aimed at that spider (in the web, in the corner of the window) as carefully as I could and - - - Well, my dad and mom have always wondered at just how foolish their son really was.
The second example occurred when I was in about second or third grade. It was winter and there was snow on the ground. All of the boys in our class had "BIG" plans for recess that day. We had packed snow around the back tires of the bookmobile vehicle that driven onto the school yard that morning. (It was a three-room country school) And, we wanted to watch the driver try to get "unstuck" during recess. But, someone in the class had maliciously ripped all the buttons off the coat of one of the girls in the class. Back then the coats were all hung along the wall in the "cloak room." When the missing buttons were discovered the teacher began questioning the class as to who it was that had done such a thing. After several minutes of cross-examination she finally made the statement: "If we don't find out who has done this, nobody will be going out for recess." Well, that would ruin all of our plans for recess. So, after thinking it through I decided to raise my hand and say that I had done the deed - which I hadn't. So, after my so-called confession the teacher stated: "OK, everyone but Kent is excused for recess."
Now, think about that for a minute. There had to be some child in the classroom that sat there wondering... "What an idiot! I'm the one who did it. What's with that kid named Kent?"
It is no wonder that the Book of Proverbs is one of my favorites in the Bible. It begins with, "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, . . ." Yep! That's me. And over the years I cannot say I have gotten any wiser but I may have figured out my problem! And that is the first step in the right direction.
So, why would I put a blog together pointing out the difference between wisdom and understanding. Because I believe anyone can obtain wisdom but not everyone can possess understanding. The Book of Proverbs was written by King Solomon who became the wisest mortal man to ever live. In First Kings, chapter three there is a good lesson to be learned by all of us; When Solomon was made king of Israel the Lord appeared to him in a dream and asked him what he desired. Solomon was smart enough to ask for a wise and understanding heart. And in verses eleven through thirteen we read: "And God said unto him, Because thou hast asked this thing, and hast not asked for thyself long life; neither hast asked riches for thyself, nor hast asked the life of thine enemies; but hast asked for thyself understanding to discern judgment; Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee. And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: . . ."
So, what is the lesson to be learned from this passage? Well, I believe it is NOT "If we ask God for wisdom and understanding - He will give us that, plus many riches" - as He did for Solomon. Solomon asked God for an "understanding heart." And God gave him that besides all of the wisdom we find in the Book of Proverbs. The thing we call understanding is only found within the heart. When we look closely at the two words, wisdom and understanding, as found in the Book of Proverbs we soon recognize that wisdom is a product of the mind while understanding seems to be a product of the heart."
We often hear the term "Worldly wisdom" used when speaking of someone who is either not a child of God or is a Christian but not living for the Lord. Worldly wisdom is usually synonymous with "shrewd, cunning, clever, etc." In almost all such cases a foxy, resourceful mind is being used to manipulate a situation for the purpose of self-satisfaction. That is not to say that another person may possess what we call "Godly wisdom." That is the wisdom that Solomon was given and which is also available to every child of God who desires to acquire it: James 1:5; "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him."
So it appears that wisdom is something that is associated with knowledge and contained within the mind. But when we look closely at the word, understanding, and how it is used in the word of God, we discover that it comes from the heart rather than the mind. When trying to describe the difference between wisdom and understanding I often turn the word understanding around and it becomes, standing under. And, what does that mean? Well, knowledge and wisdom help us to be able to grasp a principle or concept. And once we really have a handle on it and truly believe in it, we are willing to hold it up above other things and take a stand for it, as if we were holding it in our arms above our head, standing under it.
And, as it turns out, a person with an understanding heart, like that of Solomon, described in First Kings, chapter three, cares as much or more of others than he does for himself. An understanding heart is generally found within a person who has chosen a closer relationship with the Lord than with the things of this world.
And as we read in the Book of Proverbs, wisdom and understanding, although quite different from each other, are very closely related.
At least that is how this old fool seems to understand it.
Someday, when I get to Heaven, there are some folks I want to spend some time with. I want to hear, in their own words, what it was like as they were part of the stories we read about today in the word of God. I want to talk to the people who were sun-bathing on the beach at Nineveh when that big fish burped up Jonah. I want to ask Moses' big sister, Miriam, how it felt watching her baby brother float away down the Nile River past the Pharaoh's mansion, not knowing what might happen to him. I want to talk to Lazarus to hear how it felt to get a new set of legs after his trip to Heaven in the arms of angels.
I especially want to find my grandma and hug her for a thousand years, thanking her for putting up with this spoiled, bratty, little kid and for never giving up on me. And for the day she took me to hear Billy Graham back in 1951 so I could hear the good news of salvation from hell.
But lately I have been thinking about the poor widow mentioned in today's scripture, because I am excited to be able to hear how things went after she had placed everything she had into the offering box on that special day that the Lord has mentioned twice in his precious word. Did she just go out and die of starvation? Did she become one of the beggars we read about in the Bible? Or did she simply worry herself to death over where her next mite might come from? Where did she go and what happened to her following this incident that Jesus noticed on that day of worship in the synagogue. FYI, I'm smiling as I write this because I have a suspicion that, although we have no idea of what may have happened next, I am guessing that we may all be surprised someday at how good things got after she gave everything she had to God.
This blog is NOT about "Give it all to God and He will make you rich!" It is simply about "Give it all to God . . . ."
That is the very best thing we can do to please the One who loves us so very much. That is all He asks for - - Simply EVERYTHING. Sure, your tithe is part of everything. But it is not everything. Sometimes I sit and wonder why some folks just cannot understand that word. How many times have we heard or read the following verse?
Matthew 6:25, 26; "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?"
If you and I have truly put our trust in Jesus why do we so often trust in our own understanding instead of leaning back into those comforting arms of our Lord Jesus Who promises to take care of us. Does God break His promises? And, just as Jesus noticed what that poor widow did, He will surely take notice of everyone else who is daring enough and willing enough to give everything in our lives to Him.
And consider this poor widow, who may or may not have heard Jesus' words quoted in Matthew's account. She most likely had read or heard the words written in the book of Psalms, chapter 23, verse 1, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want." Who knows? I don't know the thoughts or concerns she may have had on that day. But these are the things I want to find out when I see her someday in Heaven.
I will never forget the good things God did for me on the day I Gave it all . . . . back in the spring of 1976. I gave up a good-paying career teaching in the public schools to go into full-time service for the Lord at a much, much lower salary. If I were to begin listing all of the miracles I experienced following that day you would accuse me of bragging, or trying to sound super-Spiritual. So, for now I will just ask you to wait until we all get together in Heaven, sitting around that (not so) poor widow woman telling of all the wonderful things we also experienced here on earth after truly trusting in Jesus.
With a title like that I suppose some readers may be visualizing all kinds of altars of all different shapes and sizes. And that is good because I, myself have no idea of exactly what the altar this blog is focusing on looked like.
I have just finished reading the Book of Joshua and ready to start on the Book of Judges on my current trip, reading through the Bible one more time. If someone were to ask me how many times I have read through the Bible, my answer would have to be, "Not enough!" That is probably true of each one of us. But there is a very interesting lesson to be learned near the end of Joshua that can easily be applied to our lives today. But before we can look at that lesson we need to do a little review of what has happened to the Children of Israel leading up to this point.
They have been traveling throughout the wilderness for about 40 years and are getting close to the Jordan River. They have recently defeated the Moabites and the Amorites and taken over their land. Just prior to preparing to cross the Jordan river into the Promised Land, the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh discover that this land on the east side of Jordan is very suitable for settling down and staying put instead of crossing Jordan to "who knows what might be on that side."
In Numbers, chapter 32 they spoke to Moses and requested permission to remain where they were, ("And they came near unto him, and said, We will build sheepfolds here for our cattle, and cities for our little ones: But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land. We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance." Numbers 32:16-18) In other words, the men agreed to go with the the rest of the group, across the Jordan, help them conquer the land, and then return to their wives and children when the work is finished. So Moses agreed to that and when the day came to cross the Jordan River these men also crossed over to help conquer the Promised Land. These men would be away from their families for roughly six years. I am guessing the men who were not fit for war probably remained behind to hold down the fort while they were gone, but that is only a guess.
Finally, when we get to the Book of Joshua we see how the land was gradually conquered, starting with the story of The walls of Jericho. And over the next several years the Children of Israel moved in and took over the land that God had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Now, when we get to chapter 22 of Joshua, Joshua tells the men from the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh that they may return back across the Jordan River and join their families. Can you imagine how glad these guys were to hear that! They were a fighting unit of brothers who had helped the other brothers in this large family to conquer the land. Now, they were ready to head home. They are excited!
So, here they go, marching from Shiloh eastward toward the Jordan River. Can you hear them shouting in unison, singing some marching song, as they go. But when they reach the Jordan River they stop and meditate over all that has taken place over the past several years. They remember the victories and the trials they have overcome, and decide that they can't "Just leave" without making it a special occasion of some kind. So they decide to build an altar just like the one in Shiloh. Just as a memorial of all they have accomplished. So they begin building it and when it is nearly finished . . . Word gets out that they have build a different altar from the one God placed in Shiloh. And in chapter 22 of Joshua, verse twelve, we read, "And when the children of Israel heard of it, the whole congregation of the children of Israel gathered themselves together at Shiloh, to go up to war against them."
Fortunately, before attacking, they sent Eleazar, the priest and a group of representatives to investigate. And, as it turned out they discovered that this second "altar" was never intended to be used for sacrifice or worship, but was only an "Image" of the altar used to worship God in Shiloh with their sacrifices. So, in the end, all turned out well and they all parted as good friends and brothers. But, can you conceive of what almost happened? We have a bunch of brothers who were about to go kill their very own brothers who had spent the last six years helping them do what needed to be done.
So, where can we apply this story from God's word to our lives today? I would like you to stop and think of someone in your church, or family who has disappointed you, or made you angry, or hurt you because they say things or do things that seem to get under you skin all of the time.
Oh, this person loves the Lord. This person is born again and on the way to Heaven some day. This person is very much like everyone else in your church but you don't feel that they act like a Christian the way you think they should. In fact, they don't even worship the way you do. They show off when they worship and attract attention to themselves. Or, maybe they don't even sing along during worship, and you think to yourself, "What's wrong with their attitude?"
I may not have pin-pointed the thing that "bugs" you about the person you are thinking of, but we all, oftentimes, find ourselves judging a brother or sister in the Lord because of something they do different. And that puts us into the a very similar state of mind that the Children of Israel had against the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Manasseh. We judge wrongly by not understanding the real reason our brothers or sisters behave the way they do. But in doing so we run the risk of being judged according by the Lord; ("Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matthew 7:1, 2)
So what did the Children of Israel do before taking action against their brothers? They spoke with them and listened to them and came to an understanding with them. And forgave them.
Joshua 22:33, 34: "And the thing pleased the children of Israel; and the children of Israel blessed God, and did not intend to go up against them in battle, to destroy the land wherein the children of Reuben and Gad dwelt. And the children of Reuben and the children of Gad called the altar Ed: for it shall be a witness between us that the Lord is God."
Pray for understanding and wisdom and be a blessing to your brother - and your God.