A Marvelously Wise Message

Prov 3:5-6

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths. NLT

This message was preached December 29, 2002 at FBC Toulon, by Albert Harmon. See it at toulonbaptist.com  

There's a true story that comes from the sinking of the Titanic. A frightened woman found her place in a lifeboat that was about to be lowered into the raging North Atlantic. She suddenly thought of something she needed, so she asked permission to return to her stateroom before they cast off. She was granted three minutes or they would have to leave without her.

She ran across the deck that was already slanted at a dangerous angle. She raced through the gambling room with all the money that had rolled to one side, ankle deep. She came to her stateroom and quickly pushed aside her diamond rings and expensive bracelets and necklaces as she reached to the shelf above her bed and grabbed three small oranges. She quickly found her way back to the lifeboat and got in.

Now that seems incredible because thirty minutes earlier she would not have chosen a crate of oranges over even the smallest diamond. But death had boarded the Titanic. One blast of its awful breath had transformed all values. Instantaneously, priceless things had become worthless. Worthless things had become priceless. And in that moment she preferred three small oranges to a crate of diamonds. Charles Swindoll --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 489.

In our responsive readings we read of the wise men who came to worship the new born king. They are called wise men from the meaning of the name. They probably were not kings but were the educated people of their land.

Wise men (magoi) originally denoted the priestly caste among the Persians and Babylonians (cf. Dan 2:2,48; 4:6-7; 5:7). Later the name was applied by the Greeks to any sorcerer or charlatan (Acts 8:9; 13:8). (from The Wycliffe Bible Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1962 by Moody Press)

From the account of Matthew, the wise men had seen a phenomena in the heavens. They had linked this with the birth of a king, the king of the Jews. This might have come about in several ways.

They might have read of the prophecy of Balaam in Numbers 22-24. Num 24:17 A star will rise from Jacob; a scepter will emerge from Israel. NLT It is said that the city of Balaam, PETHOR, A town of Mesopotamia.(Num 22:5; Deut 23:4). Head quarters of the Magi, who congregated in particular spots (Strabo 16:1). (from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)

They might have come from those reading the prophecies of Daniel. Dan 9:24 "Seventy 'sevens' are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. (from New International Version)

The Jews had been dispersed over the then known world and had taken their Scriptures with them everywhere. Some how these wise men had come to understand that this phenomena in the heavens that they have seen is a sign of the birth of the Jewish Messiah.

Once convinced of this they set out on a long and costly trip to find this King of the Jews.

This morning we want to address this wise decision they made and a few things we can learn from all of this. Especially as we approach a new year.

  1. The Value of Wisdom
    1. First we want to define wisdom.
      1. It might be understood by what it is not.
      2. Wisdom is not being foolish, or foolhardy.
      3. Wisdom is not education but knowing how to use your education.
    2. The Magi were wise to travel hundreds of miles to seek out the King.
      1. Some at home might have thought this was a foolish trip.
      2. To go to all of the expense only on a hunch.
      3. Some of their friends no doubt though it was a waste.
      4. But they saw what millions of others have only dreamed of, the Christ Child.
    3. The real fools were those Jewish leaders who had heard of the birth of the Messiah and had made no effort to see Him.
      1. Even now they send the Magi on alone, not caring that the Messiah might be born.
        1. They no doubt had good reason.
        2. They no doubt were quite busy.
        3. They not doubt were well entertained by their own doings.
        4. But what ever the reason they missed it all.
      2. The birth of Jesus had taken place at least a year ago.
        1. He had been dedicated in the temple according to the law.
        2. There, two people had proclaimed quite loudly of the birth of the Messiah. Luke 2:25-38
        3. This no doubt would have come to the ears of the Jewish leaders who took little notice of it.
      3. The fools here were not the Magi but the Jewish leaders.
    4. We ought to be willing to obtain wisdom at any cost.
      1. Prov 2:1-8 My child, listen to me and treasure my instructions. 2 Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. 3 Cry out for insight and understanding. 4 Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. 8 He guards the paths of justice and protects those who are faithful to him. NLT
      2. Prov 2:1-19

My child, listen to me and treasure my instructions. 2 Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. 3 Cry out for insight and understanding. 4 Search for them as you would for lost money or hidden treasure. 5 Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God. 6 For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. 7 He grants a treasure of good sense to the godly. He is their shield, protecting those who walk with integrity. 8 He guards the paths of justice and protects those who are faithful to him.

9 Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will know how to find the right course of action every time. 10 For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy. 11 Wise planning will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.

12 Wisdom will save you from evil people, from those whose speech is corrupt. 13 These people turn from right ways to walk down dark and evil paths. 14 They rejoice in doing wrong, and they enjoy evil as it turns things upside down. 15 What they do is crooked, and their ways are wrong.

16 Wisdom will save you from the immoral woman, from the flattery of the adulterous woman. 17 She has abandoned her husband and ignores the covenant she made before God. 18 Entering her house leads to death; it is the road to hell. 19 The man who visits her is doomed. He will never reach the paths of life. NLT

  1. The Cost of Wisdom
    1. Most things that are worth anything will cost you considerable.
      1. Either in money, time or effort.
      2. These wise men went to great expense to bring gifts to the baby king and to worship Him.
        1. Back then a trip of this nature would take several months.
        2. There were no Holiday Inns along the way.
        3. They would subject themselves to groups of roving robbers who made their living by stealing and killing.
        4. The gifts they brought were kings gifts.
          1. That means they were expensive.
          2. You do not give a king a cheep gift lest you insult him.
          3. Therefore we can be sure that they brought gifts worthy of the receiver.
    2. But in the long run foolishness will cost you more.
      1. Recently I heard about a man who wrote a book on how to mess up your life.
      2. I didn't think they needed to put it down on paper, I thought that everyone kinda came self programed for that.
      3. But as he went through the list of things that you can do to really mess up your life, I realized that the things he was warning people about were the very same things the Bible has warned people of for over 3000 years.
      4. I thought if we could just get our kids to read and believe the Bible we could save ourselves a lot of problems.
      5. The prisons are filled with those who have found the cost of ungodliness.
      6. The psychological wards are filled with those who discovered first hand how to destroy their lives.
      7. Yes, drink all you want, do drugs all you want, have sex with anyone whenever you want and you too can ruin your life.
  2. The Source of Wisdom
    1. Ps 111:10 Reverence for the LORD is the foundation of true wisdom. The rewards of wisdom come to all who obey him. Praise his name forever! NLT
    2. James 1:5 If you need wisdom--if you want to know what God wants you to do--ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking. NLT
    3. Dan 2:20-23 saying, "Praise the name of God forever and ever, for he alone has all wisdom and power. 21 He determines the course of world events; he removes kings and sets others on the throne. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the scholars. 22 He reveals deep and mysterious things and knows what lies hidden in darkness, though he himself is surrounded by light. 23 I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors, for you have given me wisdom and strength. You have told me what we asked of you and revealed to us what the king demanded."

Num 24:17

17 "I see him, but not now;

I behold him, but not near.

A star will come out of Jacob;

a scepter will rise out of Israel.

He will crush the foreheads of Moab,

the skulls of all the sons of Sheth.

(from New International Version)

PETHOR A town of Mesopotamia. Balaam's abode (Num 22:5; Deut 23:4). Head quarters of the Magi, who congregated in particular spots (Strabo 16:1). From paathar "to open" or "reveal." Phathusae (Zosim. 3:14), S. of Circesium, and Bethauna (Ptolemy, 5:18, section 6), corruptions of Pethor, answer to Ahab, meaning the same in Arabic (Anatha, Ammian. Marcell. 24:1,6); on an island in the river Euphrates, and partly also extending both sides of the river; for ages the seat of an ancient pagan worship; a good center for influencing the Arabs on the E. and the Aramaic tribes W. of the river. (from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)

Matt 2:1-8

The Jews regarded not Christ, but these Gentiles enquired him out. Note, Many times those who are nearest to the means, are furthest from the end. (from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Matt 8:11-12

11 And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. 12 But many Israelites--those for whom the Kingdom was prepared--will be cast into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." NLT

Matt 2:1-8

Some think this star put them in mind of Balaam's prophecy, that a star should come out of Jacob, pointing at a sceptre, that shall rise out of Israel; see Num 24:17. Balaam came from the mountains of the east, and was one of their wise men. Others impute their enquiry to the general expectation entertained at that time, in those eastern parts, of some great prince to appear. Tacitus, in his history (lib. 5), takes notice of it; A persuasion existed in the minds of many that some ancient writings of the priests contained a prediction that about that time an eastern power would prevail, and that persons proceeding from Judea would obtain dominion. Suetonius also, in the life of Vespasian, speaks of it; so that this extraordinary phenomenon was construed as pointing to that king; and we may suppose a divine impression made upon their minds, enabling them to interpret this star as a signal given by Heaven of the birth of Christ.

(from Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

Matt 2:2

[To worship him.] Or, To do him homage; proskuneesai (NT:4352) autoo (NT:846). The word proskuneoo, which is compounded of pros (NT:4314), to, and kuoon (NT:2967), a dog, signifies to crouch and fawn like a dog at his master's feet. It means, to prostrate oneself to another, according to the eastern custom, which is still in use. In this act, the person kneels, and puts his head between his knees, his forehead at the same time touching the ground. It was used to express both civil and religious reverence. In Hindustan, religious homage is paid by prostrating the body at full length, so that the two knees, the two hands, forehead, nose, and cheeks all touch the earth at the same time. This kind of homage is paid also to great men. AYEEN AKBERY, vol. 3 p. 227. (from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. To know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom. Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) -Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entries 11973-11976.