Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God incarnated. Although we already know this, it’s good to have an illustration of it from the life and words of Jesus Himself. And that is exactly what Jesus gives us today – a teaching on the meaning of wisdom.
Biblically speaking, wisdom is knowing God and doing His will. But there is a secondary kind of wisdom that Jesus deals with here (the two are related) – the human wisdom (made possible by the grace of God) that knows how to apply God’s Word in a given situation.
What should we do when it appears that two of God’s commandments are in conflict and we can’t obey them both? We could try to reconcile them, and sometimes this is possible. We could try to compromise, but then we might not be faithful to either. We could choose one over the other and feel guilty about not obeying the other one.
I believe that God never puts us in a situation where it becomes necessary to sin. If the reality is that we truly can’t obey two conflicting commandments, then I think one of them becomes subordinated to the other. In choosing the greater and subordinating the lesser, there can be no sin.
The famous example of this is the importance of Christians speaking the truth and the commandment to protect life. What if Pharaoh tyrannically commands you to kill the Israelite boys? What if the Canaanites ask you if you’ve seen two Israelite spies and you know that if you tell them the Israelites will be killed? And what if the Nazis come to your door and ask if you’re hiding any Jews? In all of these cases, godly women lied and did not tell the truth. But they did so to protect the image of God in man. We have no obligation to tell the truth to those who seek to murder God’s children, at the time they seek to murder.
This requires a kind of wisdom, the kind of wisdom that Jesus always manifested.
God clearly said that God’s people were not to work on the Sabbath. But He also said that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. What if these two commandments are in conflict? Jesus’ answer is that it is always lawful to do good. (Of course, healing on the Sabbath had never been formally defined as work, and it’s likely that the Pharisees were upholding only their own law and not God’s – but the point still stands.)
At stake is not only the wisdom we are required to have but also our view of God and His commandments. Sometimes we fall into the trap of believing that God’s commandments are arbitrary, that is, that they are right simply because God has declared them to be so, regardless of any intrinsic goodness to them. But God’s goodness and His power are more holistically related than this. God’s commandments are right, good, and good for us. How can they be anything else, since they are reflections of His loving, good, and holy character?
The point is that the Sabbath principle was not commanded by God just to create one more hurdle for His children to jump over but because it is a reflection of God and His goodness. The Sabbath is good for us, and even God took a Sabbath rest. The point of the Sabbath is to trust in God. For this reason, no manna fell on the Sabbath, and the people were required to trust in God without the manna on Saturday. They demonstrated this trust by preparing the previous day, remembering both His commandment to not gather on the Sabbath and His promise to give His daily bread to His people.
The point of the Sabbath is to trust in God and to learn to do His will and not ours. The Sabbath was made for man, that He might learn to trust in God, worship Him, and find his rest in Him. Man was not made for the Sabbath. It’s not as if there is a missing verse from Genesis 1 (it’s Genesis 1:23 ½ , if you want to look it up) which reads, “And on the fifth and a half day, God created a set of abstract principles by which He would make man live. And He established a logical system of commandments so that man might unthinkingly follow them. And He saw that they were good, though arbitrary and inscrutable.”
God made man in His image, not His commandments. It’s for us, and not for abstract principles, that He sent His only Son to die. For this reason, we are to obey God’s commandments, not with a slavish unthinking attitude but with a heart of love. Every single commandment has love as its purpose and fulfillment. When we consider God’s commandments, always think of them in terms of how they help you love God and neighbor.
It is a living, loving God that you serve by obeying His commandments, and it is those made in the image of God that you also serve by keeping His commandments.
Obeying God, then, is a very personal decision for each of us, and we must engage God’s commandments with our whole being, including our minds. And this requires wisdom, for which we must always remember to ask God.
Prayer: Father, thank You for sending Your Wisdom down from heaven in the person of Your Son, Jesus Christ. Enlighten my heart and mind today that I may know Your good and loving will and have Your grace to obey. Amen.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to consider my attitude towards God’s commandments. Have I been trying to obey them out of mere duty, or have I been seeking God and His love through them?
Gleaners – In U.S. Public Domain