“For it is written, “I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE, AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (1 Corinthians 1:19–21, NASB95)
Have you ever tried to make things more complicated than they really are? I think we all have at times, and I think we’ve all shaken our heads as we’ve walked away from conversations of misunderstanding when others have done the same toward us. When we receive a gift, it is so common for us to try to justify in our minds a reason that we might have warranted such a gift. It is really hard for most of us to accept that we might receive something without any merit on our part simply because the giver loved us and chose to act so graciously toward us.
We like our systems of how things should work. We like to be able to see, touch, reason, and devise. We like to think that things were our idea. Yes, I thought about using a less general term than “we,” but I think the reality that we all struggle with is that we have our desires and our preferred ways, and those desires do not always match up with the desires and the ways of God. This is something that we as Christians struggle with, and why verses like Proverbs 3:5-7 are so important to our lives. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” (Proverbs 3:5–7, NASB95)
Speaking of man apart from God, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Then the Lord said, “Because this people draw near with their words and honor Me with their lip service, but they remove their hearts far from Me, and their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote, Therefore behold, I will once again deal marvelously with this people, wondrously marvelous; and the wisdom of their wise men will perish, and the discernment of their discerning men will be concealed.” Woe to those who deeply hide their plans from the Lord, and whose deeds are done in a dark place, and they say, “Who sees us?” or “Who knows us?” You turn things around! Shall the potter be considered as equal with the clay, that what is made would say to its maker, “He did not make me”; or what is formed say to him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?” (Isaiah 29:13–16, NASB95)
God is infinite in all ways. He exists outside of time and is in fact the creator of time. He exists outside of creation and all that is created comes from Him. His knowledge (including foreknowledge) is absolutely complete. His plans are unwavering, and His wisdom to execute them is unbounded. On the other hand, we see, we reason, and we speculate being extremely limited in all areas. And yet, man apart from God lives as if He were the one calling the shots. We read in this passage from Isaiah that it is as if man turns things around and makes himself as the clay equal with the potter who formed it. Oh, the arrogance and the complete lack of understanding. God is God, and He has graciously revealed Himself to us. We are not to set aside reason, but what we are to set aside is the foolish pride that blocks our hears from seeing the great works that God has revealed to us and the reason that He has given us for Him doing so as we acknowledge Him and look to His ways for us.
Paul wrote, “Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” Earlier Isaiah wrote, “The princes of Zoan are mere fools; the advice of Pharaoh’s wisest advisers has become stupid. How can you men say to Pharaoh, “I am a son of the wise, a son of ancient kings”? Well then, where are your wise men? Please let them tell you, and let them understand what the Lord of hosts Has purposed against Egypt. The princes of Zoan have acted foolishly, the princes of Memphis are deluded; those who are the cornerstone of her tribes have led Egypt astray. The Lord has mixed within her a spirit of distortion; they have led Egypt astray in all that it does, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit. There will be no work for Egypt which its head or tail, its palm branch or bulrush, may do.” (Isaiah 19:11–15, NASB95) Wow, “as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.” These are pretty strong words of condemnation for those who professed to be the wisest men in their land. Their wisdom proved to be foolish in giving direction, and Isaiah said that the leaders had become “mere fools” and their wisest advisers “stupid.”
And the reality is that nothing has changed. It hadn’t changed when Jesus confronted the Pharisees and the religious leaders of His day, and it hasn’t changed today when we see the leaders and thinkers of our land mocking God and claiming to know a better way. Fools and stupid people still exist, and what makes them this way is their refusal to look to God and heed His infinitely wise, inspired in origin, and unfailing in argument Word.
Paul went on to add, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” God made Himself known to us. We did not find Him. The wisdom of man is shrouded in spiritual darkness, and it is the Light who shone on us so that we might come to known, understand, and believe. We can’t pat ourselves on the back for the magnificent discovery of God, but we can surely bow in worship and gratitude for Him having shown Himself to us and for giving us the great gift of forgiveness and life in His Son.
“There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:9–14, NASB95)
There is salvation in this simple truth. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NASB95)