Jesus' Wisdom Greater Than Solomon's
August 16, 2009 | Andrew Davis
So, I'm going to just tell you, I had a lot of different ways I was going to begin the sermon, but I'm just going to tell you my strategy today. I'm just going to tell you the nuts and bolts of the sermon, so you can just know right away what I'm going to try to achieve. I'm preaching today a sermon of contrast. I'm going to set up a contrast, and I'm going to contrast Solomon to Jesus Christ. And I'm going to make much of Solomon, so that I can make even more of Jesus Christ. I'm going to talk about the greatness of the wisdom, the gift of wisdom that God gave to Solomon, not so you think highly of Solomon, but so that you think highly of Jesus Christ.
I want to talk also from Proverbs 8 about the greatness of the wisdom of God displayed in physical creation, in the physical universe that surrounds us, so that you may marvel in the wisdom that God displayed in the physical universe but so that you can marvel more in the cross of Jesus Christ, because I think the wisdom of God displayed in physical creation is small compared to the wisdom of God in the cross of Jesus Christ.
And so, I'm going to talk to you also about the gift of the book of Proverbs, and the wisdom displayed in the proverbs of Solomon that we have, and the nuts and bolts of it, and the rubber meets the road, and trying to understand how to live a wise life and the value that there is in that. I want to make much of that, but I want to make even more of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And so, Solomon is great; Jesus Christ is greater. The wisdom of God in creation is great. The wisdom of God and the new creation and the gospel is greater.
The wisdom of God in the book of Proverbs is great, but the wisdom of God displayed in the cross of Jesus Christ is infinitely greater. That's the sermon. And so, if you get that, you get it all. So now I have to go do it. I have to find a way to make you think great thoughts of all of these things, and I'm trusting in the Holy Spirit and the Word of God simply to do it. So, let's start with Solomon. Let's try to understand just how great he was, and we'll start with the Queen of Sheba. You know who she was. She had heard a reputation, by reputation of Solomon, of this Jewish king living in Jerusalem, raining in Jerusalem - how there didn't seem to be anything that he couldn't explain.
She had this reputation from other kings, perhaps in that region, she was down in perhaps modern-day Ethiopia, somewhere down in that area, Eritrea, somewhere there, and she had by reputation, this man, Solomon. And she resolved she was going to believe enough with that reputation to make the 1,200 or so mile journey to Jerusalem and see if it was really so. I have a feeling she was a brilliant woman, and she wanted an intellectual challenge. And she wanted to go and test him with hard questions, see if she could best him, like she'd probably best all the men in her life.
So, she wanted to see if she could take Solomon on and win the chess game of conversation with him too. I don't really know what her motives were, but I do know she made the journey. She came from the ends of the earth, for a thirst for wisdom, a thirst knowledge, a seeker of truth, and she's willing to spend herself and of her resources lavishly to get it. And so, she came and maybe she came across the burning sands of the desert. In any case, you have to imagine that a 1,200-mile journey would have been arduous and difficult in that day, and so she arrives to see and to meet Solomon. Solomon, his court was arranged, she saw all of the arrangement of how his servants worked, and she brought with her gifts of spices and gold and precious stones. I don't think she realized just how common gold had become in Jerusalem at that point, but she brought it anyway. And I wonder if Solomon's advisor said, "Put it over there with the rest," but she did bring some spices that he hadn't had before, and she brought her questions. She came to ply him with difficult questions.
And 1 Kings 10:3-9 says this, “Solomon answered all of her questions, there was nothing too hard for the king to explain to her. And when the Queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace that he had built. The food on the table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cup-bearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord. She was overwhelmed.” That's what it says in the NIV. I like another translation better: “there was no breath left in her.” She was breathless.
Now, you have to know how infrequently this happens in life - how rare it is that reality exceeds great expectations. It doesn't happen often, but it happened in this case. There was no breath left in her. And she said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true, but I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes, indeed not even half was told me, in wisdom and wealth, you have far exceeded the report I heard, how happy your men must be, how happy your officials who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom" (1 Kings 10:6-8).
Now, just stop there. I just want to jump ahead to my purpose in the sermon: how happy will we be to stand in Jesus presence and hear His words for all eternity? Just to stand in the presence of the King of kings and listen to Jesus speaking. Oh, what joy that will be for us, just to hear him speaking to each one of us who have believed in him individually. But she's just saying to Solomon, how happy they are to stand and listen to you. "Praise be to the Lord your God," she said, "who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel, because of the Lord's eternal love for Israel, He has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness" (1 Kings 10:9). She was a woman deeply satisfied by her journey. She was happy she made the journey; she went away filled with praise for the Lord, who had given such wisdom to a man.
Solomon was indeed the wisest man who had ever lived. But a thousand years later, one of Solomon's own descendants was born, 26 generations later. He was supposedly the son of a carpenter; He was before his calling into ministry a carpenter himself. He went around teaching and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. Of course, I'm speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, and this is the claim one day that Jesus made concerning Himself. In Matthew 12:42, speaking to his fellow citizens there in Capernaum, who knew Him well - had kind of watched Him from the very beginning, who understood who He was in a physical sense, but who greatly underestimated who he truly was -4 He said this, "The queen of the south will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here." And it's in the name of that one, the one greater than Solomon that I stand and preach to you today.
Jesus is infinitely greater than Solomon, and I want to explain how. I want to show how Jesus is the wisdom of God for us. Not merely that he speaks wisdom or He displayed wisdom, or He lived a wise life, but how He actually is wisdom from God for us. We're going to see that in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The Greatness of Solomon’s Wisdom
An Origin of Humility
So, let's talk more about the greatness of Solomon's wisdom. Solomon's wisdom came. It had its origin in humility. You remember the story: Solomon was about to take over the kingdom from his ailing and soon-to-be-dead father King David. And so, he knew he was the heir apparent. He had some time to think about it. We don't know for certain. I looked and researched, and I could not find out how old Solomon was when he took the throne, but he was following the greatest king that Israel would ever have in the Old Testament - His daunting father, David, a man of great achievements, militarily and wisdom and leadership and in piety godliness. And now ruling, Solomon would feel grossly inadequate, way over his head. He felt he did not have what it took to rule. He felt intensely his inexperience and perhaps even felt ashamed of himself, unready to take over this great responsibility.
So, he went to Gibeon one day to offer sacrifices. It says in 1 Kings 3 that was the most important high place, and Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings on the altar to the Lord. And that evening, the Lord came to him in a dream and made an astonishing offer. I bet you wish the Lord would come to you in a dream and make this kind of offer. "What shall I do for you? What shall I give to you? Whatever you wish, it will be granted for you." Solomon made a wise reply. Isn't it interesting how wisdom gives birth to greater wisdom?
So, he already had a certain level of wisdom in his humility; that's what he said in the dream. He answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father, David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart, you have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day. Now, oh Lord, my God, you have made your servant King in place of my father, David, but I am only a little child and I do not know how to carry out my duties, your servant is here among the people you have chosen, great people too numerous to count or number. So please give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong, for who is able to govern this great people of yours” (1 Kings 3:6-9).
At the core of this request is humility. He finds himself what I think Jesus would later call in Sermon on the Mount a spiritual beggar. He doesn't have what it takes. And so, he goes to God, and he begs for wisdom. King David had said of him, "My son Solomon is young and inexperienced” (1 Chronicles 22:5). It was true. Solomon wisely assessed himself in the same way. The wisest thing any of us can do is recognize who we truly are before God, and I would say flee to Christ as a result. That's the wisest thing you can do.
A Supernatural Gift
And so, Solomon shows the kernel of wisdom here, in that he finds himself inadequate for what is facing him, and so God gives him a supernatural gift. It says the Lord was pleased that God had asked for this, and then He gives him a promise in three parts. The first two are unconditional, and the third one is conditional. First of all, unconditionally, He's going to give him wisdom - the very thing he asked for - greater wisdom than anyone had ever had up to that point, this is what God said to him, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies, but for discernment in administering justice, I will do all that you have asked, I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be" (1 Kings 3:11-12). See, but that's God, isn't it? The God who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. He asks for wisdom. He gets this kind of wisdom, almost immeasurable wisdom. What must heaven be like then? What must it be like, the new Heaven, the new Earth? Words cannot describe what heaven is going to be like, to be in God's presence. Let your heart be captivated. You can't meditate on it enough. It's not a guilty pleasure, friends, let's meditate on it. How great must it be to be in the presence of such a generous God as this?
So, he lavishes wisdom on Solomon. That's the first gift, unconditional, lavish gift of wisdom, but secondly, he gives him the gift of wealth and honor. Moreover, he says, "I will give you what you have not asked for, both riches and honor, so that in your lifetime you'll have no equal among kings," (1 Kings 3:13), and so it was given to him again, unconditionally, just a gift. You didn't ask for it, but I'm going to go ahead and give it to you. But then the third would be conditional, and I think it really stood as a warning to Solomon, stood as a warning. “And if you walk in my ways and obey My statutes and My commands, as David, your father did, I will give you a long life” (1 Kings 3:14). Conversely, if you don't, I will kill you. Isn't that about what he's saying? You will not have a long life. You will die.
And so, this stands as a warning over all of Solomon's life, I believe. God holds the power of life and death. So be careful, keep my commands and keep my statutes as David, your father did. And so, this is the promise God made. God keeps His promises and how? 1 Kings 4 describes just how lavish the reality was, that was just a promise. What did God actually do? Well, 1 Kings 4 tells us what He did. God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon's wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, greater than the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan, the Ezrahite; wiser than Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs numbered 1,005. He described plant life from the cedar of Lebanon to the Hyssop that grows out of the walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon's wisdom sent by all the kings of the world who had heard of his wisdom.
So, this is a sense of the greatness of the gift of wisdom that God gave to Solomon, and this is what the Queen of Sheba came to listen to. Plant life, animals and perhaps rivers and laws of physics before there even was an Isaac Newton, and stars and planets and all kinds of things. I mean, it must have been an incredible time if you had a curious heart and wanting to learn some things as I'm sure she did.
So, we see the greatness of Solomon's wisdom and, I think even more, the book of Proverbs itself - inspired scripture, inspired by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Solomon wrote these proverbs. Over 800 of Solomon's proverbs are recorded here. Choice proverbs. A picture of wisdom. Now, one chapter in Proverbs, which you heard Wally read earlier, Proverbs chapter 8 gives us an insight concerning the antiquity or even the origins of wisdom itself, and, as we come to Proverbs 8 which we're going to look at briefly, try to understand what Solomon is saying about the origins of wisdom. There are some questions that come to our mind.
The Ancient Existence of Wisdom – Proverbs 8
This is a fascinating chapter, and it's linked to Jesus Christ is really what attracts me this morning. I'm preaching on the greatness of Jesus Christ and the wisdom of Jesus Christ, and I'm starting in Proverbs chapter 8. So, I want to ask three questions about Proverbs 8. First of all, what does the chapter say? What does Proverbs 8 say? What does it teach us about the wisdom of God displayed in creation? Secondly, I want to ask the question: why is wisdom personified as if it were somehow separate from God and working alongside of God? What does that mean? Why this language? How do we understand it? And thirdly, how does Proverbs 8 relate to Jesus Christ? How do we understand this chapter as it relates to Jesus Christ?
The Wisdom of God in Creation
So, let's start with the first and just try to understand Proverbs 8 and what it teaches us about the ancient, the origins of wisdom itself. And Solomon goes back to the wisdom of God in creation, and wisdom is personified. He uses a technique of personification here to make wisdom, which is an attribute of God, somewhat come alive. The beginning of the chapter, personified as a wise woman.
And Proverbs 8:1-6, it says, "Does not wisdom call out? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights along the way where the paths meet, she takes her stand, beside the gates leading into the city at the entrances, she cries aloud to you, oh men, I call out, I raise my voice to all mankind, you who are simple gain prudence, you who are foolish gain understanding, listen for I have worthy things to say. I open my lips to speak what is right."
Wisdom’s Origin: Before Creation
So, there is wisdom speaking to us. Wisdom is personified as a woman calling out and beckoning for people to come and listen. So, Solomon there is arguing for the value of wisdom as worthy of human desire, and it's going to do it, saying that God possessed it since the creation of the world. And so, Proverbs 8:22-31 describes the wisdom of God in creation, but he's using again this technique of personification, so he says wisdom's origin is before creation. Look at verses 22 through 26: “the Lord brought me forth as the first of His works, before His deeds of old, I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning before the world began when there were no oceans, I was given birth. When there were no springs abounding with water before the mountains were settled in place, before The Hills I was given birth, before he made the earth or its fields or any dust of the world.”
So, wisdom here is celebrated as ancient from the beginning, from the creation of the world, from before the creation. Verse 22, the mysterious key: “the Lord brought me forth as the first of his works were possessed me, at the beginning are acquired.” There are different ways of translating that Hebrew word as the first of his works. Simply put, I think we can at least say this, that Solomon is celebrating wisdom as ancient. It's not some new thing, but it's been around since the creation of the world. And it's not a human creation; it's really tied to God Himself. That's what he's saying. It was by wisdom that God created all of these things.
Now, what is wisdom? Well, we've defined wisdom, especially as it's nestled in the book of Proverbs, as skillful living or dealing with the physical world and all of its surroundings in a skillful and wise way, dealing properly with this physical creation. And so, Solomon is arguing that God used wisdom itself in arranging this physical world, this universe, and all of its marvelous and complex systems before the oceans, before the springs, before the mountains, before the earth or the fields or the dust.
Often, we use that expression that something's older than dirt. I think that Solomon's literally saying that wisdom is older than dirt here. We wouldn't have dirt if it weren't for the wisdom of God. That's about what he's saying. It's about that practical. And wisdom is about making right choices, right selections from an array of possibilities and opportunities. So, I believe that, as God in his infinite understanding searched out all of the possible ways he could express himself in creating some universe, He chose wisely. He chose the best way to display Himself. He chose the best way to put His wisdom on display. I think that's all that Proverbs 8 what Solomon is saying here.
Wisdom’s Presence and Celebration During Creation
God selected wisely as he created. As he looked at the various options, he selected wisely. So, wisdom is ancient. It predates the universe and, therefore, a worthy object of human desire and ambition. He also personifies wisdom as kind of being there while God was making everything and just enjoying it, celebrating it. Look at verse 27 through 31. Again, wisdom personified says, "I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, and when he gave the sea its boundary so that the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth, I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with the light day after day, rejoicing always in His presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind."
So, wisdom just is enjoying what God is making. That's the personification of wisdom, and wisdom is just delighting in what God's doing. Again, just pause for a moment and meditate on your own personal happiness and delight in the new heaven and the new earth. How much delight will there be in your heart as you range out over the new earth and you see all of the hills and the valleys and the streams and the clouds, and whatever it is there? I don't want to say something would be here and it won't be there, but I'm just saying just all of the beauty and the glory and the majesty and just how much pleasure that's going to bring you.
Satan has lied to us about God, that He is against pleasure. He is the God of pleasure, and there's all this delight and joy in what God has made. And so, it is wisdom delighting in what God has made. Wisdom soars up into the cosmos, to speak of the realm where God made the sun and the moon and the stars and set them in perfect order. You know the wisdom of God, and this is really amazing, how God set up the solar system exactly right with forces balanced in just a marvelous way. We are just the right distance from the sun, not too close, not too far away. And there's actually... You can go on websites and they'll go on much further than you probably want to about how much God displayed in science, how much God displayed His wisdom in the cosmos and the arrangement of the universe, with the stars and the planets and the sun. Just marvelous - the wisdom of God there. Everything focused on life, that there would be life here on this planet.
Or, the wisdom of God in the careful crafting of the earth's atmosphere. Proverbs 3:19, it says, “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, and by understanding he set the heavens in place,” including the clouds and just what we would call the atmosphere. He celebrates that in Proverbs 8. When scientists writing about this put it this way: “Earth biosphere is poised between a runaway freeze-up on one hand and a runaway evaporation on the other. If the average temperature of the earth surface cools by even a few degrees, more snow and ice the normal form, snow and ice reflect solar energy more efficiently than other surface materials, and it would result in ever lowering temperatures, resulting in more ice in a downward spiral into a great freeze. But on the other hand, if the average temperature of the earth's surface warms just a few degrees, more water vapor and carbon dioxide will go into the earth's atmosphere, resulting in a much stronger greenhouse effect, this would in turn cause the earth's temperature to rise even a little bit more and you get runaway heating.”
Everything's just set perfectly for life, and it's not an accident, dear friends; it's something that the wise God did so that we would be able to live. Wisdom is also seen in the boundary of the oceans, God setting a limit for them, so that they cannot inundate the earth as they once did in the flood of Noah. God is able to set a boundary, and the ocean cannot cross. And so, wisdom is personified as delighting in what God has made. Look again at verse 30 and 31, "I was the craftsman at his side, I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world, delighting in mankind." So, wisdom speaks of herself as somewhat of a craftsman, a craftsman makes and shapes and crafts things, but it doesn't seem like wisdom is doing that, but that just delighting in God doing all of those things.
Wisdom’s Final Invitation and Warning
And the chapter ends in verse 32 through 36 with wisdom making a final invitation and a warning. Look at verses 32 and following. "Now then my sons listen to me; blessed are those who keep my ways. Listen to my instruction and be wise, do not ignore it. Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord. But whoever fails to find me harms himself; all who hate me love death." So, wisdom is just standing there begging to you, as the reader, as the hearer, saying "Come to me. Follow me." Wisdom is a worthy object of desire; it will lead you well in life. You'll have a wise life. You'll be fruitful and productive in this world. Conversely, you'll be cursed in this world if you do not follow my ways. As a matter of fact, if you hate me, you love death. And so wisdom is making an invitation.
Alright, so this is what Proverbs 8 says. What does all this have to do with Jesus Christ? Well, in order to answer that, we have to go back into church history and clear up what's known as the Arian error. Arianism is the doctrine that Jesus is God the Father's first created being, that Jesus Christ is actually a created being, His greatest created being. And He's the first created being that He ever made. Arianism kind of resurfaced in the 19th century with the Jehovah's Witnesses, and they're around us today. So, when the Jehovah's Witnesses come and talk to you about Jesus, they do not believe in Jesus the way we do. They believe He's a created being. The slogan of Arianism is, “There was when He was not.” In other words, there was a time when Jesus didn't exist, and Arias sees this in a number of places. Colossians 1:15, for example, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” That's what they think is an Arian verse, "For by Him, all things were created, things in heaven and earth, visible and invisible." So, in their mind, the order in Colossians is, God brings Jesus forth and then, with Him, kind of creates the universe, and then they take that understanding and they go back to Proverbs 8. And what do they do with it?
This is definitely Jesus. Do you not see? “I was the first of His creations, and then I was by His side while He was making everything.” The Son speaking of the Father. And so, you look at verse 22, "The Lord brought me forth as the first of His works." Verse 27, "I was there when he set the heavens in place," kind of observing and watching. Verse 30, "I was the craftsman by His side” - I was participating in creation. Well, Arias thought that these verses were speaking of Christ. Now, as you heard, read right here earlier, how God revealed through John that it was through Jesus that God created all things. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning, through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:1-3). But the way they think about that, the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Arians, the way they think about that is that God first created Jesus and then with Him in some way created the universe, and they think that Proverbs 8 teaches that.
Arias was very successful in selling this for a while. It really teetered on the edge of being accepted as the orthodox view of Jesus, until God raised up Athanasios, one of the great heroes of church history, who stood famously against the world with his view that Jesus was not a created being. He was eternal God, the doctrine of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, co-equal, co-eternal. There was never a time that Jesus didn't exist. And so, we have the Nicene Creed as a result of that doctrine, "I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father, before all worlds, God of god, Light of light, very God of very god begotten, not made. Being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made." And so, that's the creed that we hold together with Christians all over the world.
Athanasios then taught us that Proverbs 8 cannot possibly be teaching that Jesus is a created being. Alright, well, that leads us to the next question in Proverbs 8: Why is wisdom personified here, as though it is somehow separate from God? Now, you could just... I think in one sense, kind of... I think a lazy answer is saying it's just poetry. It's a poetic representation of wisdom and how great wisdom is. I guess that would work, but it doesn't really satisfy me. I just wanted to know a little bit more. I said why? It just so leads to that Arian error. I just am troubled by it but not in any way disrespecting Proverbs 8. I just want to understand it.
First of all, let's establish this: Isaiah 44 in verse 24 says that Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God that gave the Ten Commandments, the God of the Old Testament, the Lord was completely alone when he made the universe. There was no one with him. Very plainly taught many places. But listen to this, Isaiah 44:24, "This is what the Lord says, your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself." Now, what is the significance of that? There was no non-Yahweh being at that time. No one by his side celebrating anything. There weren't any angels. There was nothing. There was just Yahweh, the Lord. That heads right to the doctrine of the Trinity. Do you not see it?
Father is Yahweh, Son is Yahweh, Spirit is Yahweh - that is the Lord. Now, if that bends and kind of breaks your mind, it's okay. It's been bending and breaking human minds from time immemorial. But it is the doctrine of the Bible. Yahweh was alone when He created heaven and earth and all things. But the Bible does reveal that it was through Jesus Christ that God made all things. I think then to answer my question - Why does he, Solomon, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, personify wisdom as though it's somehow by the side of God? This isn't what I make of it, and do what you want with it. These are the kind of things that trouble me. They won't trouble you, you'll go home and say, "It's just Scripture, I have to accept it, I'm in trouble." But it's my job to be troubled by these things and to make you troubled as well, so here we go.
What I'm thinking is, that God, not having created anything yet, contemplating creation is contemplating why He would create it. The end for which God created all things, as Edwards put it. Why did He do it? And the answer the Bible seems to give is to display or to put on display His glory, that He would put Himself on display. His glory in my mind are His attributes shining brightly and radiantly through what He's made. One of those attributes is wisdom, and when God wisely crafts a universe, wisdom pops up and starts to sing her song. You start to see the wisdom of God in all that God has made, and you wouldn't be able to see it displayed if God hadn't made the world.
And so, we look in Psalm 104:24, it says this, "How wondrous are your works, O Lord. In wisdom you made them all." So, we see wisdom by looking at the physical universe. Jesus said this about wisdom in Matthew 11:19, "Wisdom is proved right by her actions." So, wisdom is justified or displayed or put on display by what it does. When God set forth to create, He brought wisdom into existence and put it on display. That's the best I can make of it. You can come afterwards and talk to me about my heresy, whatever you'd like to do, but I say this to you: Jesus Christ was no created being, no matter what Proverbs 8 says.
Jesus’ Wisdom is Greater than Solomon’s
Alright, so Jesus's wisdom then, as it relates to Solomon, how much greater is it? Well, I don't, at this point, want to talk Solomon down, but you know his sad history, don't you? You know what happened to Solomon? Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived, but he may have been one of the greatest fools that ever lived too. And it's very tragic what happened. Like so many other wise men, he did not practice what he preached. Solomon began the book of Proverbs with this central assertion that I preached on last week. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7). Again, Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." He mentions the fear of the Lord 10 times beyond that first reference in Proverbs 1:7. He carefully tells us what it means to fear the Lord. He says, "Do not be wise in your own eyes. Fear the Lord and shun evil” (Proverbs 3:7). Proverbs 8:13, "To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride and arrogance." So, in other words, Solomon needed to stay humble with all of his great learning. He needed to stay humble or else he's going to stop fearing the Lord, and he's going to lurch off into wickedness. And that's precisely what happened. He stopped fearing the Lord, he became presumptuous, he lost his fear of God, and then thought he could do anything.
Now, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. The word “Lord,” as I said, “Yahweh,” the covenant God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who revealed Himself at Mount Sinai through the Ten Commandments. God gave the Ten Commandments and indeed the Old Covenant to Israel, and that included Solomon. All of these commands were binding on Solomon. He needed to obey them, but he didn't. 1 Kings 11 tells a sad story of Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other gods, and his heart was not fully devoted to the Lord his God as the heart of David, his father, had been. He followed Ashtoreth, the goddess of the Sidonians; and Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. So, Solomon did evil in the eyes of the Lord. He did not follow the Lord completely as David, his father, had done.
On a hill east of Jerusalem, Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the detestable god of Moab, and for Molech, the detestable god of the Ammonites. And he did the same for all of his foreign wives who burned incense and offered sacrifices to their gods, and he sacrificed one of his own sons on one of these altars. Thus Solomon, for all of his wisdom, became an arrogant fool.
Jesus: The Wisest Man Who Ever Lived
Thankfully, for him, and for the entire human race, God raised up one of Solomon's descendants to atone for Solomon's sin, and yours and mine too, if you believe in Jesus. He raised up Jesus, the One of whom we spoke at the beginning, who said, “One greater than Solomon is here” (Matthew 12:42). Solomon was known for his incredible wisdom, for observations on living things like plants and animals. His reputation spread around the world, and yet Jesus said He was greater than Solomon. He said the Queen of the South would rise at the judgment day with that generation, Jesus's own generation, because she recognized Solomon's wisdom enough to sacrifice to get it, to make that long journey. And she's the one that said that Solomon's wisdom far exceeded his reputation, but the Jews of Capernaum, indeed of the whole Jewish nation, grossly underestimated Jesus and the greatness of His person and of His wisdom.
Well then, in what ways was Jesus greater than Solomon? Well, Solomon studied and described plant life; Jesus created it. Solomon's kingdom was wealthy beyond anything the Queen of Sheba had ever seen; Jesus owns every atom in the entire universe. Solomon's wisdom penetrated great mysteries, but Jesus is omniscient; there are no mysteries to Him. Solomon's glory was great but temporary. Jesus's glory is ultimate and eternal, and His glory is going to radiate the New Jerusalem so that you don't need any sun, moon, or stars, or any lamp. That's the greatness of the glory of Jesus.
Solomon, to feed his ambition, I guess, worked his people half to death, so much so that they wanted Rehoboam to go easy on them. But Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I'll give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28). Solomon became an idolater and committed spiritual adultery against the living God; Christ died for Solomon's sins. Solomon died and was buried, and his kingdom was torn from his son because of his sins - Solomon's sins. Jesus died and rose again on the third day, and His kingdom - of the increase of His kingdom - there'll be no end. His kingdom's just going to keep on increasing and increasing and increasing. In those ways and a hundred thousand others, Jesus is greater than Solomon.
Paul made this statement: 1 Corinthians 1:30, "Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God, that is our righteousness, holiness and redemption." Colossians 2:2-3, it says, it speaks of Christ, "in whom are hidden all the treasures," all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In other words, if you have Christ, you have all the treasures of wisdom. You have everything you need of wisdom. And it's a mystery to me; I don't really know how it works. But both of these verses speak of Christ as being wisdom from God, not merely that Jesus lived a wise life, not merely that Jesus spoke wise things, or He displayed wisdom or any of that. He is wisdom. Just as He says in John 14:6, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus is saying, "I am truth." I don't know fully what that means. I've been a Christian now for 27 years, and I'm still learning what it means that Christ has become, for me, wisdom from God.
I think what it is, it just simplifies the quest, go to Jesus all the time. Go to Jesus, go to the cross, all the time. Go to the empty tomb for wisdom. If you're confused, go to Jesus. If you're discouraged, go to Jesus. If you're sinful, go to Jesus. Jesus is wisdom, not merely that He teaches wisdom. Solomon, for all of his wisdom, is inferior to Christ. Solomon spoke of the ideal king. Proverbs 16:12, he said, "Kings detest wrongdoing for a throne is established through righteousness." He described it; Jesus lived it. Because it says in Hebrews 1:8-9, God the Father speaking, God the Son says, "Your throne, O God will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom." Solomon commanded sons to obey their fathers. He says in Proverbs 23:24, "The father of a righteous man has great joy, and he who has a wise son delights in him." Well, that's good, but Jesus lived it perfectly, constantly obeyed His Heavenly Father. John 8:29, He said, "I always do what pleases Him." John 14:31, "The world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me to do."
And of the Son, God the Father said, "This is my Son whom I love. With him, I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). Solomon spoke of worldly treasures and wealth, how to get money and keep it and make it grow. I'll do that sermon in a couple of weeks, God willing. It's like, "Oh, that sounds good to me, how to make my first million by age 75" or whatever it is.
Jesus says, “It would be better for you to trade all the wealth of the world and gain the kingdom. For the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, when a man found it, he hid it again, then in his joy, went and sold everything material and physically he had and bought that field,” (Matthew 13:44), so that he could have the kingdom. He said to the rich young ruler, "If you want to be perfect, go sell your possessions and give to the poor and you'll have treasure in heaven, then come follow me." Solomon spoke of the danger of the tongue and urged people to be careful with what he said; every single one of Jesus's words was perfect. Solomon said that holding on to his words led to a wise and prosperous life. If you followed his proverbs, you'll be a wise and prosperous life. Jesus said this, "Whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, he's crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
Jesus's words are greater than Solomon's. Solomon's wisdom is compared to a bubbling brook (Proverbs 18:4). But Jesus said to the woman at the well, "Whoever drinks the water I give Him will never thirst. Indeed the water that I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (John 4:14). Solomon spoke of a protected tower to which a person can run and be kept safe; Jesus's name is that tower because everyone who calls in the name of the Lord will be saved. Solomon's wisdom calls for obedience, but Jesus actually obeys on our behalf and hands it to us as a gift. Solomon's wisdom commanded that we feed our enemies, but Jesus actually died for His enemies. Again, in this way and a hundred thousand others, Jesus's wisdom is better than that of Solomon.
Application: Wise for Salvation
True Wisdom from God: Salvation through Christ
Christ has become for us wisdom from God - our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, can I just urge you? Be made wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. The greatest wisdom God has ever displayed is at the cross of Christ. Jesus shed His blood for sins. Are you a sinner? Are you a sinner? You have no other Savior than Jesus, but God didn't leave Him dead, on the third day, He raised him from the dead and seated him at the right hand of God in the heavenly realms. And from that place, He will come someday to judge the living and the dead. The wisest thing you can do is fall at His feet and trust in Him for the forgiveness of your sins. That's wisdom. And it will always be wisdom.
Embracing Solomon’s Wisdom and Jesus as Wisdom
Secondly, I want to say to you this: let's embrace both Solomon's wisdom and Jesus's. The beauty of the Christian life is you get both. You don't have to choose, like what will I do? You get them both. As one commentator put it, if you have a $100.00 bill in your wallet, you don't despise also the $5.00 bill you have in your wallet. You get them both. You get to keep them both. And so, we not only have the nitty-gritty every day kind of wisdom of the book of Proverbs, we also get the infinitely greater wisdom of Jesus that saves our souls. You get both. And frankly, I'm glad for it. Therefore, as a Christian, I want to come to the book of Proverbs and read it through the light of the cross. I want to read it as a Christian, so I want to learn how to parent from the book of Proverbs, so that I can bring my children to faith in Christ Jesus. I want to learn how to handle my money the way the book of Proverbs tells us to do in terms of business practices and saving and hard labor and all that, so that I can have more to give for the kingdom of God.
Study Proverbs as Christians
See, Proverbs is valuable. Just let's connect it to the cross and the kingdom of God, and it becomes incredibly valuable. I want to learn about the fruit of the tongue, so I can speak carefully the way that Solomon said that we should. But I want to speak the gospel to one another. I want to learn from Solomon about the dangers of a sluggard's ways. I don't want to be a sluggard; I don't want my house overgrown with weeds. There is a patch... Never mind. There's a part of my land that needs some attention right now; I don't want to be the sluggard, okay? So, the book of Proverbs is a gift from God, but weeding my yard is not going to get me to heaven. Trusting in Jesus will. And having trusted in Jesus, I then go out and weed my yard, so I'm not a sluggard, and I can glorify God, and every weed I pull brings glory to God through the gospel. Learning from Solomon about the dangers of alcohol will help you avoid that trap, so you don't have that woe and misery that Solomon described, but it's in the New Covenant that we get the indwelling Holy Spirit. That's far better than anything alcohol can ever do.
Learning from Proverbs about the virtuous wife will help a Christian man who's unmarried know what to look for. It can help parents of young daughters know what to raise their daughters to be. It can help a young woman - unmarried woman - to know what kind of woman she needs to be, for God to bring a godly husband to her. It can help married men and women to know also how to esteem one another, and it can be a challenge and encouragement to a wife to be a more godly wife. And learning from Proverbs about the dangers of the wayward woman and her dress and how she entices people is valuable to Christians in this sex-crazed age. We need the warning. We need to read Proverbs 6 and 7, about the adulteress. It will help Christian women to dress modestly and not in alluring and enticing sort of way. It'll help men to avert their eyes if there is temptation. It'll help us to lead more godly lives. But apart from the cross of Christ, it's really worthless. It will not save us.
And so, one of my great fears, especially with you parents raising your kids, is that you substitute the morality of the book of Proverbs for the gospel of Jesus Christ. It isn't. You can have all of this wisdom and still end up as poorly as Solomon lived toward the end of his life. The gospel alone saves. So, my final application to you is this: Delight in the infinitely superior wisdom of Jesus Christ. He is a greater, wiser king than Solomon. What He did at the cross and at the empty tomb is infinitely greater than what God did at the original creation. And the gospel gives us a better wisdom than the book of Proverbs. The joy is we get it all. As it says in Corinthians, all things are yours. Close with me in prayer.