The Price of Wisdom

 

1 Samuel 3:1-20
Psalm 139:1-17
1 Corinthians 6:12-20 
John 1:43-51 

 

O Lord, You have examined me and know meJSB

You are so familiar with all my ways
that before I speak even a word, Adonai,
you know all about it already
CJB

The wisdom of God is beyond anything we can comprehend. Before I was born, God knew every word I would say, every thought I would think, every dream I would dream. He also knew every emotion I would experience, every love and every hate.

I took a college class in English history in which I had to wade through the actions of a dozen or so kings, finding out which made wise decisions, and which failed to do so. At least I did not have to keep track of the six wives of Henry VIII (divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived).

When we humans study history, we know next to nothing about what those long-dead people were thinking, and we can only guess what would have been the best choice in every case.

But God knows every thought, as well as every option open to the king, prince, minister, or peasant. God knows what our lives would be like today if King Charles I had not chosen to force the English people to return to the Roman Church. That decision led to a four-year war in which both sides executed uncounted churchmen on both sides. Charles was executed, and Oliver Cromwell set himself up as the all-powerful Lord Protector.

Or consider a smaller decision. During the American Rebellion, a British sharpshooter (sniper) had an American officer in his sights, but when he saw that it was George Washington, he chose not to kill him. That may effectively have ended the war. It certainly would have changed the development of the office of President if we had still won our independence. Only God knows.

One year at church camp—I was about eleven—we all went on a picnic in a wooded spot below a cliff. Several of us ran to the cliff and, having climbed it several times before, we had no fear. What a difference my one decision made. Instead of climbing face in, I chose to face outward and fell thirty or so feet, landing poorly on my feet. I was lucky to sustain a bad ankle sprain as the price for my certainty that I had wisdom.

What is the Price of Wisdom for God? He knew that 146 people would die in the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. It would have been so easy for him to smother the flames that started in one rag bin.

God set us loose in this universe where our decisions often have disastrous results. He created us with the ability to make choices. He gave us the knowledge of right and wrong. He agreed to let us have our way.

The price is that God must suffer all the horrors we suffer. He must stand by as we knowingly or unknowingly harm ourselves and others. He also knew that 79 years to the day, another 87 people would die in a New York fire, the second most deadly in the city.

God cries for us. He does not want these bad things to happen, but He must allow us our freedom. Without freedom, we cannot choose God, and He wants more than all else for us to choose Him. That is the only choice we can be sure will end in the best way.

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence

Baptism of Jesus

 

Genesis 1:1-5
Psalm 29
Acts 19:1-7
Mark 1:4-11

 

Baptism is not a Christian invention. Long before John the Baptizer came along, people used water to purify themselves so as not to offend their gods. Jews took up the practice of immersion to prepare themselves to approach God.

However, the worshiper did all those early practices alone. In Jesus time the mikvah was the place of cleansing for Jews. Jerusalem alone had dozens of them. A person would strip, walk into the flowing water (it had to move in and out), duck completely under the water, then walk up a second set of steps to leave the mikvah.

John practiced a form of this baptism, using the river instead of a mikvah. A person who was baptized by John first repented of his sins and pledged to renew his faith in God. One major difference seems to be that John’s baptism was a one-time cleansing, unlike the mikvah which some did as often as twice a day at Qumran.

Note: For Jews, baptism was something only Gentiles had to do to become Jewish. Mikvah cleansing was not considered to be baptism. John had to transform both concepts of his ministry.

Then Jesus changed the whole water-cleansing image. Jesus was familiar with John’s ministry and understood it as announcing the coming of the Messiah. Jesus fulfilled God’s promise by accepting the mantle of Messiah in the baptism. Picture the scene. John standing in the river preaching to a crowd on the banks. Jesus walking into the water, asking for baptism. John saying, no, this is for sinners. Jesus responding that he will accept all our sins. God the Father, in His joy, sent a visual image of the Holy Spirit and announced to Jesus that He was pleased.

Then, Jesus took up the water baptism of John, adding the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is not clear that Jesus personally baptized people. It may have been done by his disciples only. See John 3:22-4:3. Even so, what an experience it must have been.

As a result, Christians have continued the practice much as John and Jesus did it. Some immerse, some sprinkle, some even go to the nearest river. For us, baptism takes two forms. The water represents the ancient idea of cleansing. We confess to we are sinners in the eyes of God and we represent becoming clean with the water. More importantly, we have the presence of the Spirit by the Grace of God.

Most of us do not see the Holy Spirit like a dove, but that does not mean the Spirit is not present. God cares about us and, while He cannot be here in person, His Spirit can be, and is with us.

It would be nice to have the Spirit be a human standing beside each of us whom we could ask for advice. The Spirit could say, “Don’t eat that, and other helpful advice.”

The Spirit is present, but we must work to hear and understand that still, small voice. Constant prayer, study, and conversations with fellow Christians keep us tuned into the Spirit. Remember that Jesus called us to baptize and teach new believers.

He cannot allow the teaching to slide into the background. How else can we know the presence of the Spirit?

 

Read my earlier comments on this theme here.

 

Be righteous and do good.

Mike Lawrence