Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1997
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 4: Disciplinary Truths of God’s Kingdom
Chapter 1: The Golden Era of Solomon: The Discipline of Blessing
Lesson 72 – Golden Era of Solomon: Biblical Wisdom and Cultural Fruit
11 Dec 1997
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to get into the golden era of Solomon. In this section we’re dealing in a large scale with the doctrine of sanctification and no matter what detail we are in, these details all fall in a cluster of truth, known as sanctification. When we ended the last section we had talked about items 8 and 9, the conquest and settlement, and the accession and reign of David. Both of those events are historical pictures of sanctification and they set up the categories in the handout I gave out tonight. The first chart summarizes those five categories. This isn’t the only way to deal with sanctification but it’s a way that I find useful. Notice in that chart that we deal with the phases, the aim, and different things. I’ve tried to summarize some of the historical illustrations in that chart. There are a lot more historical illustrations, obviously, that aren’t in the chart. But what I want you to see tonight is to be able to look at these events in the light of Genesis, in light of the rest of the Pentateuch, in light of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and Kings and think in terms of how God progresses.
Do any of you notice, as this doctrine progresses through here, what are the prerequisites for talking about things like the Christian life? What I’m doing is pointing out something that doesn’t usually happen in our evangelical churches, because what happens is that we, I believe too fast, get into the doctrines of the Christian life. What we’re taking for granted is that we understand all the preparatory doctrines, all the preparatory truths that have to be assumed in order for the truths of the Christian life to work. Look at the sequence of events we’ve studied, just on a large scale. We dealt with creation, the fall, the flood and the covenant. In those four events we dealt with the basics of God, man and nature. That set the frame of reference. You can’t talk about salvation, can’t talk about sin, can’t talk about Christian life unless those truths are fixed. So there’s no way around it.
This sequence of events controls and here’s a tool, it’s a tool and sometimes maybe you can use this to kind of diagnose spiritual problems. Just because we may be having a problem in some area of the Christian life may not be due to the fact that that area is where the problem is. It could be understanding who the Creator is; it could be understanding what the fall and the whole issue of evil is about. It could be the institutions that were laid out at point 1, creation, and point 4, the Noahic Covenant, the authority structures of marriage, family and point 4, civil government.
For example, maybe if we don’t understand the authority structures here we can’t understand the authority structures that God uses in sanctification. You can take somebody, and I’ve seen this many times, who was raised in a very liberal promiscuous home, and when these people become Christians they have one difficult row to hoe because all of a sudden they find out that God doesn’t run His family, like the way their parents ran that family. The simple concepts of submission to authority are just missing. You can’t go very far in the Christian life without the Lord dealing with that problem because He is going to deal with that problem because He is the authority, and He will show who the authority is.
That’s an example of the fact that it’s not that we don’t understand of the Christian life, it’s something we don’t understand about simple and human authority. That’s why there’s a danger in our own time because we’re so weak on those first four points that I think we’re misinterpreting a lot of the other stuff that comes after. Later on, next year, when we get into who Jesus Christ is, and how He was born and His work on the cross, you’ll see that that’s incomprehensible apart from all this preparatory work that God used in a sequence in which He wrote the Bible. So I can’t emphasize strongly enough to start thinking sequentially if you’re not already thinking sequentially. Ask yourself, where did this truth come in? It kind of puts things in perspective.
We’ve belabored those four events and said that that sets up the basic foundational truths. Then we spent time with the call of Abraham, the Exodus and Sinai. How would we characterize that? That’s dealing with God setting up a counterculture in history. That sets up how we ought to think about salvation. That sets up God’s interference, His rescue work, as it were, as He invades, disturbs, and causes turmoil in history by His intervention. Those three are key things; the call of Abraham is very offensive to a lot of evangelical Christian—that God chooses. I mean, isn’t He supposed to choose, He’s sovereign, what’s the problem here. But we have people that really get offended when they come face to face with the idea that God chooses, and He doesn’t ask for their opinions when He chooses. He doesn’t form a committee, He just chooses, how arrogant of God to do that. That’s His sovereign, and that’s what happened with the call of Abraham. He didn’t ask for a vote when He called Abraham.
Then we come to the Exodus and here you have the picture of massive, catastrophic intervention: judgment/salvation, all the way to the point of dying children, the first-born dead. What a cruel God in Scripture, people say, but that’s what it takes to separate good from evil. If we’re going to sit here and whine and belly-ache about all the evil in the world, and at the same time when God reaches down and tries to separate the good and evil and there’s all kinds of sparks that fly, we don’t like that either. You can’t have it both ways. Either we sit and whine and fuss about all the evil in the world, or we accept the fact that it’s going to take a strong solution to solve the problem and God is going to shake the furniture when He interferes. That’s the Exodus, that’s a picture of salvation, and it gets us away from thinking in terms of psychological salvation, that it’s just internal to the heart.
Then we went into the conquest and settlement and it was in these areas where that chart that I handed out tonight, we’ll cover it more next time, but I’m using it just to summarize what we’re doing here in the area of sanctification, because obviously in this section we’re going to draw the doctrinal conclusion to this event that we’re studying in Solomon’s great era, the golden era. Those events shape this sanctification era, the holy war, the accession of David, it’s offensive. We even have Christians in churches who have actively argued that we need revisions of our hymn books to eliminate hymns like Onward Christian Soldiers because those kinds of hymns promote violence. My answer to that is how do you separate good and evil without violence? There has to be a thread of violence in the Scripture. We have to be careful in our objections to bad violence… to bad violence, we cannot object in a fallen world to violence per se. The emblem of civil government’s authority in the Scripture is what? The sword. That’s a tool of violence. When Jesus Christ says He rules the nations with “a rod of iron,” that’s a tool of violence, He hits people with it. And when He comes back, His garments are saturated with blood; that’s violence, bloody violence, so get used to it.
The reason we say get used to it is, not to be facetious, but the hardest struggles that we go through are spiritually violent struggles, in our heads. A massive amount of violence goes on up here, of choosing God’s will over against all the temptation, all the crud, all the pressure, all the peer pressure, and all the other things daily that we have to make choices on. We can choose to be passive, lie down and let the world roll over us, and just not be actively obedient. Active obedience precipitates a violence; it precipitates a spiritual violence of the principalities and powers, and they don’t like it and they’re going to fight back. We’re not going to win all the battles. We win the war, but we’re not going to win all the battles because the principalities and powers are going to fight us, they are not going to let us take ground, they’re powerful, they’re strong, they’re more intelligent than we are, and they can really screw us up. But we have to say, like David did with Goliath, “who are these uncircumcised Philistines,” these rebellious creatures who choose to rebel against the creator of the universe. Who do they think they are! I don’t want to be aligned with them. That is standing up to a terrorizing and intimidating kind of enemy. That’s why we have “Onward Christian Soldiers”, “A Mighty Fortress is our God”, and those hymns. They’re there to breed an attitude that we need in sanctification.
Then we went into the area of the land, and how did that end? Israel couldn’t get all the land; there was the event, the judgment at Bochim, the valley of tears. “Bochim” is the Hebrew word that means tears, and the tears were shed because God said I gave you the land, you could have taken it all and you didn’t, so you’re not going to get it all, I’m not going to push the enemies out any more, what you’ve got is what you’ve got and that’s it. That means that the land will never be Israel’s until the Messiah comes back. They had the opportunity to do it their way, and it screwed up, so now it’s on hold until Jesus comes back.
The same thing is going to happen when we get into the best time, just as in this area they could have gotten the land together, in Solomon’s era they could have erected a Bible-friendly culture. They did a lot to do that, but they lost it. That’s the lesson. Just like back here we learned they weren’t aggressively obedient and they lost the opportunity to get all the real estate; here they had the opportunity to actually generate one of the finest cultures in human history.
If you go back to page 5 when I started this whole thing, I made a point when I defined culture, and I want to take you back to page 5 in the notes, then we’ll go to a passage of Scripture. In Solomon’s era, I gave examples of his wealth, examples of his architecture, examples of his commerce, his businesses, his tax revenues. This guy was fantastic; there was a tremendous amount of wealth and culture there. But what we want to see, and it’s the third sentence in the paragraph on the bottom of page 5. This is a contemporary issue, right here; this is where it’s at right now. “Traditionally culture is viewed as a religiously and ethically ‘neutral’ description of social life since on pagan-basis religions and ethics emerge from, and are defined by, the culture.” Let’s take that sentence apart. “Culture is viewed as … neutral” because religions and ethics are secondary to the culture. This is what I mean. This is what everybody out there is thinking today. All the talk shows, all the magazines, all the TV, you get a steady diet of this thing.
There’s an error, so let’s look at the error. The error is that we have culture that is viewed as a neutral description of human behavior, and we may have a people group here, a people group here, A-1, E-2, to A-N, all kind of different people groups. And these people in their culture develop this ethic, these people develop E-2; these people develop E-N, so all the cultures are developing their own ideas of right and wrong. That’s why we get into school and we have a discussion, well gee, Jimmy, what do you think? You don’t run a math class that way. I guess they do now, we’ve even got fuzzy math. [He asks someone in the audience what that math question was about birds.] “There were four birds in a nest, and one flew away. How do you think the bird felt that flew away from the nest?” That’s the new math test… it’s going to the birds. But presumably if there are real ethics, is 2 + 2 = 4, is something right or is it wrong? There’s a standard here. There is no standard there as far as most people are concerned because of this, they claim that it’s out of the culture; the culture builds the ethic. Why is that? What’s behind this idea? Something is behind it. What do you see lurking behind that? A heresy, a basic heresy. It goes back to the very first event, creation. So who preceded in His holiness man’s conscience? The Creator. So if you get creation started, you have the standard in God’s heart as His holiness. Adam and Eve are Johnnie-come-latelys to this whole process. God’s been going on for some time and now all of a sudden Adam and Eve come along. What they’re generating isn’t new, it’s derivative of what was there before, God’s holiness. So the preexisting Creator is a source of value. It’s not the culture; it’s the Creator. It’s one or the other. That’s where we part company; we have to say we’re sorry; we’re sorry as believers we don’t agree with that. Well you have to accept it… we’re gracious to people but that doesn’t mean we buy into their ideas. Tolerance is not the same thing as neutrality. We don’t have to be neutral; we do have to be gracious and tolerant.
Watch the sentence, here’s the dilemma if you think that way, “Occasionally, history shocks mankind with something like cannibalism or the Nazi phenomenon so that even committed unbelievers slip into moral judgments upon culture.” Inevitably they make a judgment that says that was not uncomfortable but that was bad… ooh, now where are we getting a judgment. If I’m a German, 1930s why can’t I argue, you have no right, I’m people group A-1, you people are in people group A-2, what right do you have with your ethic to judge mine? That’s the dilemma you wind up with. And biblically speaking we cannot share that because of our belief in a Creator who preceded man.
Having said that, what we’re saying now, in Solomon’s era, is that the culture is caused by something prior to it. So go to page 7, we’re going to pick up some of the Bible verses that show this. The culture that Solomon and his contemporaries built was a culture that was grounded on a principle. We have the Word of God, and the Word of God expresses something about the structure of the universe. The first 8 chapters of Proverbs define wisdom, biblical wisdom. Proverbs 1:7, many of us are well aware of this verse but it’s good to keep coming back to it. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” So there’s an authority structure, and the culture is built on the authority, the Word of God, and out of this is built a structure, and it takes generations to build that. That’s the thing about wisdom. It’s amazing that this could have been built in one generation in Solomon’s time. But it was built because it’s an inheritance of his dad, David’s time and some of the godly prophets, Samuel, some of the guys in the Judges period. So it wasn’t really developed overnight. It was rapidly developed but it was developed by a group of people and those people had as the basis the Word of God because they believed in the authority of Scripture, “the fear of the Lord,” that’s what that means, the respect for His authority is the starting point.
We started off last year and the year before talking about presuppositions and how important presuppositions are. We can also say that presuppositions are like predispositions, a predisposition of the heart to honor the authority of God. Obviously when you define a presupposition that way, now all of a sudden we see why repentance is necessary in order to believe in the gospel. What is repentance? A changing of a presupposition, a changing of the predisposition, at a very basic, root level. So we’re not talking surface conversion, we’re talking a profound heart conversion, down at the deepest levels. Proverbs goes on to describe this, and it describes it in terms of a woman. Sometimes it’s masculine, for example Proverbs 4:1, “Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father, and give attention that you may gain understanding,  For I give you sound teaching,” and by the way, notice of all the social vehicles, which one do you notice is doing the educating in this Scripture? Civil government or family. That’s not to say you can’t hire a teacher etc. but the obvious point here is that the school educational establishment should be under the control of the family. That’s biblical. Who is doing the teaching here?
It goes on and wisdom is sometimes spoken of as lady wisdom and lady folly, there’s a metaphor in these chapters. That’s not without a profound reason. When Adam was created originally without Eve, how did the Bible describe Adam’s existence? It didn’t say he was lonely, he might have been lonely but that’s not the Hebrew word. What is said is that he was alone, not necessarily that he was lonely. But he was alone and he needed a helper, and the helper, the woman is brought in as this helper to someone who had a predefined calling, which is kind of interesting. She is a helper, and he can’t complete his task without that helper. The analogy is that we, as men and women, need the helper and it’s called hokmah or wisdom. It is that that becomes the ground of biblical culture. Where you don’t have a biblical culture you have a foolish culture. There’s either a wise culture or stupid culture. You know which one we have, and it’s because the wisdom has drained out of it, daily it is being drained out, bled off.
Like the latest episode in Alabama where this judge said that the kids can’t have any religious expression in the public school, and then the story goes on to point the real reason it ever got in the court room was because the principle of the school got angry at the Christian students. I mean, they had prayers before class; we can’t have that in my class—that offends me. What finally really offended him was that the Christian kids were going around the school with bracelets, WWJD, and it was an abbreviation for “What Would Jesus Do.” And it was just a thing the kids wore on their wrist, and that got him so angry he called a bunch of lawyers together and said how can we stop the kids from doing this. This is the animosity and the hatred for Christianity that’s developing in this country.
For crying out loud… now if the kids brought guns and drugs and knives in, yes, let’s call the lawyers, call the police. But here you’ve got Christian kids who have the audacity to pray, following all the rules, and they have a little bracelet with WWJD on it and this becomes tremendously offensive, this is a real state issue here. That’s what’s going on, just this week. Can you imagine how many thousands of dollars it took them to get this to the court levels? Do you know where that money came from? Somebody doesn’t like us, paying that kind of money. So this culture issue is a very contemporary one and that’s why we’re going to spend some time so at least we get oriented to what Solomon and his people were trying to do in developing a Bible-friendly culture.
Proverbs 8 gives you the basics of it; beginning in verse 22, here is what wisdom looks like biblically. We go to Proverbs 8:22 because we want to avoid a false view of wisdom. Here’s the false view of wisdom that, that wisdom is just a set of success rules. A lot of people think that. Now there are success rules in the book of Proverbs, and they equate wisdom with shrewdness. They equate wisdom with “how-to-do-it” stuff. The problem with that approach is, and those of you who are business people and you’ve worked with organizations, every once in a while somebody in your organization, usually in senior upper level management decides they’re going to get some of these courses in, and these courses are going to teach you how to be sensitive or something like that, and some of them are just absolutely ludicrous. You have to go to them because you’re the employee, but you sit there and say holy mackerel, I don’t have enough time to do my job and they’ve got me doing this stuff, where do they get these people, what planet does this stuff come from. By the way, there go the profits; you know how many dollars are we putting in the budge in this organization for that stuff. That’s not the biblical view of wisdom.
Scripturally wisdom flows, the success rules flow out of something bigger and something bigger is here, Proverbs 8:22, “The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way,” think of this for a minute, “before His works of old.  From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.  Before the mountains were settled, before the hills I was brought forth.  While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, nor the first dust of the world,  When He established the heavens, I was there, when He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,  When He made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed,  When He set for the sea its boundary, so that the water should not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth,  Then I was beside Him, as a master craftsman: and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him,  Rejoicing in the world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of men. …For blessed are they who keep my ways.” This isn’t talking just about wisdom inside the church; this is talking about wisdom inside the entire creation. That’s the big base that we have here.
Said in a nutshell, the idea of wisdom in Scripture is that this is God’s design. It’s the design of us, of our social life, of every little detail, every molecule, every spirit, every angel; every thought is embedded in this principle of wisdom. That’s why there can be success rules in the Bible, only because of this prior big picture of wisdom who was there when God created the universe.
Beginning on page 7 I’m going to describe some of the features of this wisdom; this is what is the root of Israel’s culture. The first thing it did for them, because we want to ask what does wisdom do for us, because now when you read the New Testament and you go into some of the New Testament epistles like Colossians, watch the word w-i-s-d-o-m, wisdom, and watch how many times it’s used of Jesus Christ. Many scholars believe that Proverbs 8:22 is an actual Theophany of the Second Person of the Trinity, that the One who was beside the Father was the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the wisdom; this is why John the Apostle calls Him the “Logos” of the world. So this is why Jesus is more than just a religious figure. Jesus is also the grand center of the design of the cosmos; He carries the blueprints, so to speak. A very powerful picture of Jesus.
This, then, is going to lead us to some exciting conclusions later, but right now let’s look at this. The first one, “biblical wisdom gave unity to all the details of life.” In that Solomonic era they had people from every walk of life. “Behind each and every event, object and person lies God’s overarching creative genius.” I quote from Dr. Whybray, “The interest of the men who surrounded David and Solomon were not confined to politics. These men constituted the cultural elite of the nation, and the educational system by which they had been trained prepared its pupils not merely for a professional career,” watch this now, think of our educational system, it prepared “not merely for a professional career,” it would be great if we could even prepare them for a professional career in most cases. Not merely for a career, “but for the enjoyment of life in all its aspects.” “For the enjoyment of life in all its aspects, making no distinction between the ethical, social, political, and cultural, but regarding them all as comprised within the single notion of the ‘good’….” Yes, you could train in math, and you could train in literature, you could train in politics, you could train over here, but the idea was that these weren’t compartments, these were just stations, you could walk from one to the other, and it breeds a sense of completeness.
I think that’s one of our problems today, is that we’ve grown up in a fragmented culture. We’ve had this idea that all my life I’ve trained to be an engineer, all my life I’ve trained to be a musician, or all my life I’ve been raising kids, all my life I’ve run my business, and we kind of brainwash ourselves and we think we can’t do anything else. Worst of all, we brainwash ourselves into thinking we can’t see God in everything. You know, over here where I know what I’m doing I can kind of see a little bit of His handiwork, but I don’t know anything over there. That’s not the mentality. If we had a really profound idea of biblical wisdom we ought to be able to walk into any area, not become expert in it, but basically know where it fits in the big scheme of things. That’s the idea; it gives unity to the details of life. What do we call a college when it gets big? Where’s the unity? It’s very interesting. If there’s no absolute truth and there’s nothing to hold it together, why do we call it a university. The reason we call it a university today is because it’s under one administration. But that’s not the old-fashioned way. The idea of the university originally was it’s the unity in the diversity, that’s where the word comes from. But ask an average college student where the unity is today.
“The biblical wisdom literature reflects this wide scope of interest,” and there I show you how each of these books in that wisdom section of the Scripture, they span the length of life. “Job deals with suffering, Ecclesiastes with early philosophic reflection on mortal life, Song of Songs with marital love and sex, Psalms and Chronicles with musical expressions of praise, Daniel with national strategy in light of God’s strategy, and Proverbs with attitudes toward work and social life.” See what wisdom did, there weren’t sacred and secular things, and there weren’t specialists. So one of the things it does, it radically transforms your whole idea of what it means to be an educated person. See, being an educated person biblically doesn’t mean you have a lot of degrees after your name. You may never even go to school. Some of the finest educated people I have ever met have been self-educated people who have read, first of all the very fact they didn’t have to go to school or couldn’t go to school because they didn’t have money to go to school, or opportunity to go to school, they learned how to read, and they had that discipline of learning how to read makes some very good Bible students. Some of the best Bible students are people who never had a degree, never even finished college. Why? Because they have learned.
One of the finest pastors in this country that was ever seen in this 20th century was A. W. Tozer. A. W. Tozer never graduated from seminary; he never went to college that I know of. A. W. Tozer has written some of the finest devotional literature in the history of the Christian church. How did he do that? Do you know the story they used to tell about A. W. Tozer, how he learned? He asked God to teach him to read, and they said that when you walked into Tozer’s study he would take a book of Aristotle off the shelf and he’d open Aristotle, and he get down on his knees and ask God to teach him the thoughts of this man, and that’s how he learned Aristotle. And in his preaching and teaching he would bring these great thinkers in, and for years he had one of the finest ministries in this country in Chicago, and has written books, The Pursuit of God, classics. I’m not saying don’t go to college, I’m just saying here’s a guy that made it fine without any degree, just simply humbly asking God to open his mind so he could understand these things. That picture of A. W. Tozer is a picture of biblical wisdom at work.
Let’s go on for another characteristic, page 8, the second one, “biblical wisdom applies to all men,” let’s remind ourselves, turn to 1 Kings 5, look what Solomon did. In 1 Kings 5 there’s a description of Solomon’s relationship with the king of Tyre, and he’s talking about a deal these guys got together, and they set up a deal. Verse 6 he’s asking the king of Tyre to supply him with the raw materials for his architectural masterpiece, the cedars of Lebanon. “Now therefore, command that they cut for me cedars from Lebanon, and my servants will be with your servants, and I will give you wages for your servants according to all that you say, for you know that there is no one among us,” look at that, this is a Hebrew speaking, this is Solomon speaking, in all of his racial identity as a Jew, what does he say at the end of verse 7, “you know that there is no one among us who knows how to cut timber like the Sidonians.”
Think of the principle. Solomon is importing things into his kingdom, lumber. What else is he importing? Skills. Why can Solomon import the skills of the Sidonian carpenters? How could he do that without compromising his position, if wisdom isn’t universal? Who designed the treaties? Who made the men who are made in God’s image who cut the trees? There’s a higher order to this, and because there’s a higher order that’s how we can import. Let’s put it this way, it’s controlled imports. He’s not importing everything. Of course, the problem is Solomon over-imported and we’ll get to that. He should have filtered his imports. It’s all right to go to non-Christian scholarship if you filter it. We’ll never be able to dig all the archeological sites in Palestine. Let the unbelievers dig it up, if there’s a piece of pottery, I’ll bring a piece of pottery next time that I dug up, it’s got a 1000 BC date on it, it’s kind of neat, you can see the fingerprints of the person who made it. It gives you the feeling, gee, you know, there was a person who made this whole piece of pottery in 1000 BC, 3000 years ago. You wonder, if this pottery could speak to us I wonder what the history would be, did he ever see Goliath, it was down in the area where Goliath was.
Can we bring pottery in, can we bring potters in, can we bring these guys in? Yes. Can we bring non-Christian music in? Yes, if it’s filtered. That’s the problem. What we do is we don’t have the filters in place so we either import everything or we’re scared that we don’t have the filters so we don’t import anything. What would Solomon have done if he’d said “I’m not going to have any relationship with the Sidonians.” Then he’s not going to get his temple built, because what does verse 6 say, there’s no one among us who knows how to cut the timbers like they do, so I’m going to import them, I’m going to import those skills.
Here’s the second point about wisdom: it applies to all men. Unbelievers in areas can be very wise. We have to be discerning on when to say yes, that is wise, and that’s stupid. That’s just alertness; we have to know where to do it. But what I’m cautioning at this point is it’s a powerful truth, wisdom is applied to all men everywhere, believer and unbeliever alike.
Third point, wisdom, when followed gave blessing and when rejected gave cursing. This is a principle Paul picks up. Paul’s argument in the New Testament is that when a person is negative toward God, Ephesians 4 and other passages, what does he say happens to the heart of this kind of a person? It darkens and becomes foolish, and he’s talking about the non-Christian. He’s talking about the non-Christian becoming foolish, like the non-Christian at one point wasn’t foolish and he became foolish. We would say he was always foolish as a non-Christian; yes, in an absolute degree. But what he’s saying is unbelief, when it gets consistent with itself gets progressively foolish.
That’s what we’re seeing in the legal community right now. The basis for law which is the Ten Commandments has been cut off and we have a judge that can’t even put the Ten Commandments up in his courtroom. What a joke. Anybody, first year law student, knows… where did common law come from in the history of the world? It came from Europe. What was the influence in Europe? The Bible. Don’t sit here and give me this grief that the law just dropped down from the ceiling; it came from the Bible. So this is what is foolish, this is really stupid, to cut the Ten Commandments out from the law because the law historically came from the Ten Commandments. It didn’t come from Hammurabi; it didn’t come from the Eskimos. It came from Europe, British Common Law and Roman law; Roman law was really parallel to the Torah, Jewish law.
We have the third point, wisdom when followed gave blessing and when rejected gave cursing. This is why, last paragraph, page 8, I quote Deuteronomy 4:6. Let’s turn to Deuteronomy 4:6 to be sure we get the context. [blank spot] look at the word that is used to describe the Torah. Moses says, do the things of the Torah, “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” What is it the other pagan nations are looking at that gives them the idea that the Jews have wisdom? They’re looking at their laws. Stupid people have stupid laws; wise people have wise laws. This is not being sarcastic, this is being serious. A wise culture will have wise legislation and a stupid culture will have stupid legislation. All of them have laws, but some laws are stupid and some aren’t. That’s what Moses is saying here, that there’s a testimony, there’s a measuring stick, by looking at a society and asking yourself, what are the controlling principles that govern this people, and from that Moses says you can decide what’s going on.
By the way, the Ten Commandments, with all due respect for the people that persecuted the judge in Alabama, look at what verse 6 is saying. Who is speaking in verse 6 through Moses? God is. What is the assertion of verse 6 with respect to the Ten Commandments vs. any other law code? Which is better? The Ten Commandments. And which is the one being excluded from an American courtroom? There’s a perversity here, a real profound perversity that’s going on.
That’s the third point. The third point is that wisdom blesses people and foolishness is a cursing, and it’s tied in with the law, and the law was measured by the noun describing, qualifying it as a wise thing.
The fourth truth, page 9, wisdom gives a framework for creativity. It’s like this. Back in Genesis 1 God spoke things into existence, and He called the darkness night, and it then it says “and God called,” and God sets up a structure. Then about the fourth day God just stops naming. What does He tell Adam to do? Name. Who started the naming? God did. Who finishes the naming? Man does. Man gets his framework from God, God tells him the day and the night, and the heavens and the earth, He gives it the frame. Then He brings the little dogs and cats and lizards to Adam and He says what are the names? We want to go back to something there. We want to look very carefully at a clause in Genesis 2:19. When that naming started there was something I pointed out and I said I’d come back to it; now I’m coming back it. There’s a little sneaky clause in Genesis 2:19-20 that I want to look at.
By the way, if you’re going to class, Genesis 2:18-20 will be the favorite teachers excuse to ridicule Scripture by saying, ooh, there’s a conflict between Genesis 1 and 2. If a teacher tells you that you just tell them that in the Hebrew it’s pluperfect, they probably won’t know what pluperfect is, but the idea there is that the verb is past tense. “Out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast,” it’s describing the beasts, it’s not saying that He’s building them then, it’s saying He had built them and He’s bringing them to Adam, “…to see what the man would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.” Now look at the last clause; what does it say about the naming? What do you gather from that clause about the power and the authority of man? It’s our right to creatively subdue our environment. There’s freedom there. As long as we stay within the constraints of wisdom, God gives us creative freedom and whatever… WHATEVER Adam named it, that was it.
The picture I want you to avoid thinking of here is that Adam’s sitting here and here comes this little toad going along, and Adam looks down at it and he’s trying to consider what the name is and he gets very pious and he turns around and says, well, whatever the Lord’s will is I’m going to name it. What’s wrong with that picture in this verse? If he sees the toad he’s going to call it a toad and if he turns around and asks God what do I name this thing, what does God say? Whatever you want to name it, I’m not going to tell you what to name it. I think that’s an exciting verse because that’s an area where you can’t find the will of God. There’s no will of God here. That’s kind of a scary thought until you realize that it’s a privilege, that He thinks enough of you and me to entrust us with the power to create in a limited area our own knowledge and understanding of His creation. Isn’t that what an artist does? Don’t the interpret, they get a canvas and they sit there and they think about the creation they’re seeing and they depict it, they don’t ask God what color do I use, what brush, what tool on the canvas. They may ask God for inspiration to see things, but the idea here is that is human creativity. And that takes place inside a wise framework.
That’s why we struggle, why these culture wars we have to establish wisdom and absolutes are so critical. If you don’t have a wisdom structure in your society based on absolutes, you are going to destroy creativity. Mark my words, there will be no creativity. The only creativity will be released in evil, creating new ways to sin; that’s the only creativity you’re going to find. So the fourth thing about biblical wisdom is it gave those men in Solomon’s time a springboard for creativity and out of that mushroomed all the great literature of the wisdom section of the Old Testament, out of that mushroomed the Levitical choirs, out of the mushroomed the fantastic music that they had in worshiping God. All that creativity burst in a womb that was prepared with wisdom.
The fifth point, page 9, biblical wisdom spread throughout the world. Look carefully at the last half of page 9, I’ll read this. “It is well known that King Solomon had very intimate contacts with the Phoenician civilization along the Palestine coastal areas near Tyre (1 Kings 5:1-12; 9:11-27). After Solomon, King Ahab later married into Sidonian royalty (1 Kings 16:31). Not unexpectedly, Israel’s literary movement shows definite signs of intercourse with Phoenicia. Although he dated much of the Old Testament wisdom literature later than Bible-believing scholars, the famous Johns Hopkins archeologist, W. F. Albright discovered an ideological and literary link between Israel and Phoenicia.” Here’s why this is so crucial. Those of you who have gone to college or you’ve read Plato or Aristotle, you’ve read a little bit about philosophy, do you remember that when you got in that course the first thing that was usually said was we don’t know what started this movement, there’s not a sign of it in Greek history until 600 BC and then all of a sudden it’s there, all fully developed. Where did it come from? Did a Martian bring philosophy to Athens? Where did this start? Or did the Greeks just have an inspiration. Here is what Albright, unfortunately he died before he got the forthcoming book, but look at the thought in this quote.
“In a forthcoming book… I shall deal with the origins of the new ways of thinking which seem suddenly to appear among the Greeks in the early sixth century, BC. I trace them back to a general intellectual movement which probably first appeared in Phoenicia, from which it spread more or less contemporaneously to Israel on the one hand and to the Aegean shores on the other, … The roots of this movement can be traced in the earlier literature of Israel…. We have in Queheleth (Ecclesiastes),” that’s the Hebrew name for Ecclesiastes, “some of the raw material on which the earliest Greek philosophers built their metaphysical structures….”
A profound point. Western philosophy may well have been rooted in King Solomon, not Plato, not Aristotle, but Solomon. Why? Why is this? Here’s the dilemma, and it’s not just an academic point, it sounds academic but let me show you the political and social consequences. Plato was a failed Greek politician. He just kind of tubbed out in his political career and he retreated off and set up the academy and did his thing, he was going to train younger Greek men on how to rule the nation. He didn’t set out to write a book. What is one of Plato’s famous books? It’s called The Republic. His whole idea was to create a perfect society and he went out in his think-tank and decided to do that and out of that came a lot of philosophy. The problem is that he was able to do what he was going to do about a perfect society only because he knew “somehow” (quote unquote), that there was truth out there. Before Plato they weren’t even sure there was such a thing as real truth that would endure, that you could talk about, that 2 + 2 = 4 kind of thing. Plato had that. Nobody has a clue, where did he get the idea from, on which he could build all this stuff. I’m simply suggesting to you that historically he probably borrowed it from a tradition that started with Solomon.
Where did Solomon get it? Solomon got it because of biblical wisdom of Proverbs 8. So what does this tell you about the structure of our civilization? It’s rooted in what? If we go back to what we started with, back to the Word of God. And where you have a rebellion against the Word of God you are going to have profoundly serious effects on a chaotic society. You can show it from centuries, this is not some religious preacher saying this, this is the history of the world. And where you undermine that idea of wisdom, you’re buildings will topple, you have destroyed the foundations.
Turn to page 10, we’ll conclude with what happened to Solomon. If he was so wise, what went wrong? I’ve entitled this “The Rot in Israel’s Cultural Fruit.” Turn to Deuteronomy 17:17, one of the instructions to the king. The instruction to the king was that he “shall not multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly increase silver and gold for himself.” Isn’t that a strange thing? Why is verse 17 in there? What were royal wives all about? What were these princesses that were married off? Their role was to solidify nations. They acted as sort of hostages.
I don’t know whether you saw in the paper last week but the Russians have had a big debate because they went out into some town somewhere and they dug up some bones and they think the bones are Czar Nicholas II, who was reigning on the Russian throne in the days of the Bolsheviks; the Bolsheviks came in, it’s a famous story. They came in and they shot and killed the Czar, his wife, all of his family, gunned them all down. So they think they’ve found the bones. They want to do a DNA analysis on the bones, so they’ve got to find contemporary people that are related to Czar Nicholas. Who did they go to? Prince Phillip of England, and they took DNA samples from Prince Phillip to find out and check whether the DNA out of this set of bones fits Prince Phillip.
You say wait a minute; Prince Phillip is in the royalty of England, what’s he got to do with the royalty of Russia? If you’ve studied European history, what do you know? They were all inter-married. The Romanoff family in Russia was deeply into marrying… and this is one of the things because in Czar Nicholas II lifetime one of the people he had in his court was a demonic person by the name of Rasputin, who was a monk, and he had tremendous… something that that’s what caused the whole mess with Czar Nicolas and the communists. But here we have Rasputin who was a monk, a very demoniac man, they shot him, they drowned him, they tried five ways to kill this guy before they finally made it; this guy just wouldn’t die, a very demonic type person. Rasputin’s control over the Czar and his wife was that he could control the bleeding of the hemophiliac son of Czar Nicholas II.
Why do we have so many hemophiliac children in the royal families of Europe? The answer is because they intermarried, they kept intermarrying. Why was there so much intermarriage in the royalty of Europe? Why do you suppose they wanted to do that? That was their way of tying the nations together. If you have a problem, well my little Julie is the princess over there, and I’m not going to sit there and invade this guy because he’s got my daughter. So it kind of cooled relationships by trading daughters around. These girls would go around and get married off and this was going on.
This went on in Solomon’s time. The deeper question we’re going to come to is next week; here’s some questions, think about them. The Bible prohibited intermarriage with Gentiles, in the Old Testament for Jews. We can show that in the Mosaic Law. If that’s so, how do you explain the book of Ruth? That’s a point; we’ll have to talk about that. What is the book of Ruth doing in the Canon of Scripture when it’s a deliberate marriage, inter-marriage between the royal line of David, going to David through Boaz, and this Gentile woman, when the law says you shouldn’t do that? Second question, why, theologically, was it incorrect for Solomon to marry these women for political purposes? What was the political deal that was going on? Forget the girl that’s involved here, what was the political deal going on and why was that wrong, biblically speaking? We’re going to tie marriage and politics together with a third problem, idolatry. Solomon imported idolatry into Israel, he financed it, he built temples for it, and he encouraged a religious syncretism. Can we explain marriage, politics and religious apostasy? That’s the root of the problem, not that Solomon was wise and wisdom in itself is wrong, something went wrong with the wisdom and that’s what we want to work with.
Question asked: Clough replies: I think it’s an excellent question, and it’s a question that goes to the root of the truth of David, it’s on the second chart, David’s conviction, confession and the restoration. We covered that when we were talking about David. The question is this: What is the difference between judicial punishment, like God sends people to hell, judicial punishment where there’s a law issue at stake vs. a pedagogical kind of punishment, and what I was doing when I was trying to illustrate that was deal with how David had to handle his problems. He had two problems, and we get into this ourselves in our Christian life. One was that because he had sinned he was facing a judicial problem with God. Yes, he was the son of the Father, but the sin that he committed, sins, plural, but cluster of sins, were sins. So that’s a legal problem. What do we do with the sins? We know judicially, of course, those sins are captured in the atonement of Christ. However, the way God designs our lives spiritually is He ruptures fellowship with us at that point and makes us… we can’t restore fellowship by positive thinking, by going through any kind of gimmick, by doing the Hindu thing or whatever, none of it works. The only way the fellowship can be reestablished is if we will come back and we will confess the sin as that which deserves death and which is cared for at the atonement. He always makes us do that.
And we know He did that in David’s life because in Psalm 51 there’s a little phrase there, “cleanse me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” The hyssop was the thing the priest used with blood on it, and they’d sprinkle it all over the place, so it’s an obvious case where David, when he says “cleanse me with hyssop,” he has a higher view of what’s going on, he doesn’t view that as just a religious ceremony because he saw it many times, blood all over the place of the animals. He saw the priests taking the hyssop and splattering it. David obviously understood there’s more to this than just the animal blood on the altar here, this is a spiritual truth that’s going on and of course David didn’t know about Jesus dying for sin, but he knew somehow there had to be a blood atonement. In Psalm 51 in the text it’s a story of David’s confessing, he first realizes “Against Thee, and Thee only have I sinned,” and that strikes people as kind of offensive because there were social consequences to all this, and it’s fine but the sin isn’t to society, the sin is to God.
An easy way of seeing that is when you go to court you’ll see that the accusation against the person is an accusation of the lawmaker, which in this case would be the State of Maryland, or the U.S., the law case will be the U.S. vs. somebody. What do you mean the U.S. vs. somebody? I mean, you know, he ran into ME. Sorry, it’s not the victim; it’s the law giving authority vs. the offender, because the offender offended against the law. Yes, he hurt the person, but he offended against the law. That’s the same thing theologically, is that when we sin, yes we hurt people, but we sinned against the lawmaking authority of the cosmos. That’s the problem. So David says “I sinned against Thee, and Thee only have I sinned,” that is talking about the legal side of the issue. And God as the Father is going to train His children so we recognize that again and again and again. We keep having to go back to the cross, back to the cross, back to the cross, over and over and over and that itself is a learning thing. That’s the legal side, the sense that the cross, the atonement takes care of that issue.
The other side of the problem is the pedagogical, meaning the teaching effect, and for the pedagogical teaching effect God doesn’t always remove the consequences. Remember in David’s life the consequences? Four sons would die, the kingdom would be disrupted. There were some severe consequences and God did not take the consequences out of David’s life. I think that’s a very important truth to understand because when you’re in the middle of this, when it’s you who have committed the sin, and you who have caused the consequences in your life, and you’re walking along and you’ve dealt with the problem before the Lord, you’ve confessed it, you’re convicted that yes, you indeed did this and Lord, I confess my sin, you know, I can’t atone for myself, You have to atone for it. You’ve done that and then you move along and you’re experiencing consequence, consequence, consequence, consequence, and while you’re in that mode the danger is that the evil one comes up to you and says, see, God didn’t really forgive you because if God really forgave you He would have taken all this out of your life, see, He’s really a meany, and it doesn’t matter, you confessed your sin and it didn’t work. I’ve seen that in my own life and I’ve seen it in other people’s lives.
That’s why I think it’s really critical to distinguish between the judicial issue, which is solved only by confession, not by penance, not by doing things, not by promising things to God, there’s one solution, like there’s only one solution to salvation, trusting in Christ. Sometimes grief can accompany it and sometimes grief can’t accompany it, sometimes you’re just in a state emotionally where you’re kind of like a zombie. You still confess your sin. But the other side of the coin is that the rest of it is there for pedagogical reasons, and it’s not because God wants to rub our nose in it. That’s not the spirit of the Lord. It’s rather that He runs His universe by certain objective principles and He wants to illustrate, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap.” David sowed murder and David reaped murder.
David’s consequences, I say it’s pedagogical, who are some of the recipients of the pedagogical lesson? We are, because we read 1 and 2 Samuel. See, the royal chronicles of the consequences come down through the centuries and we all listen to them, we say to ourselves, gee, I don’t want to do that because that follows. So that’s the pedagogical lesson, but the pedagogical lesson can’t be confused with the legal side, because if you do, it wipes out your faith. You can’t walk by faith if you think God is really angry at you, and there’s an issue there, because now you don’t have a clear conscience, now you’re upset because you can’t trust Him because you think He’s going to chew you out. So that’s where that balance comes in.
Question asked: Clough replies: Sin can be in the spirit world, a good example is the fallen angels. There are angels who were called “spirits,” that’s just another name for them in the Bible, and one-third of the angels that were created fell, and are evil, and it’s from that Satan comes, it’s from that the principalities and powers of darkness come, so evil can be spiritual also, as well as just of the flesh. It can be in the world system. So the Bible uses three words for the domain of sin, the world, the flesh and the devil, and all three of those are slightly different. The flesh is things that we have and we cultivate. A good illustration is an athlete; we all know to do anything in sports you have to practice. Why do we practice? Because our bodies, our neurological system adapts to behavior and what we’ve done as depraved beings is we’ve trained our responses in a lot of areas in life to a sinful principle. We’ve become artists through practice.
So the flesh, when you see that term “flesh,” it tends to emphasize the sins that literally are in our flesh. But that’s not to say there’re not sins of the spirit world, and that we in our human spirits can’t sin. Adam and Eve sinned and it wasn’t just because… they had flesh but it wasn’t fallen flesh. The first sin ever done was a spiritual sin of rebellion. Spiritual sin is pure sin in the sense that it’s very clear cut what it is, the spirit of rebellion, in the Old Testament “rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft,” and that kind of thing. So sin can be in both areas. We just happen to be treating them [same person interrupts and says something] You have to get back to the proper standards of righteousness, and it doesn’t happen overnight. We go through a pedagogical process of learning to do right and it doesn’t come natural. Every parent knows that you never have to train a kid to be bad. Right? It just comes natural. Every kid is born potentially a real brat, and we were too, that’s depravity. We really have to struggle to be good.
Question asked: Clough replies: The flesh was fine before, and by the way, the flesh will be very fine after the resurrection. That’s true, that gets you away from this Greek idea that the flesh inherently is bad, that’s not true. [same person says something else] It’s always neat to think that the first sin was nothing like we call immorality, and that ought to make us say wait a minute, what’s going on here. The first sin was not immorality. The first sin was “I am going to be like God.” Everything else followed. The reason that’s important is in dealing with these things, like with a ministry to the prisoners, there are real gross patterns of sin. You’ve got to step back and say as gross as that is, there’s something in back of that, and if you don’t deal with what’s in back of that you can sit here with a bar of soap from now until Jesus comes back and it’s not going to solve the problem, it’s not going to clean up anything, because you’ve got something else going on in back of that.
That’s why I said one of the principles of wisdom in Scripture is adjusting to authority, and why in the home that’s where there’s supposed to be the authority, and that’s where children are supposed to learn that there’s an authority structure there, and it doesn’t ask for your permission, it can be a loving authority, but it still is an authority. And if they don’t learn it in the family, they’re going to learn it on the street. It may be some cop putting them in jail and getting beat up in the jail by the other goons that are in there, and they’re going to learn that there’s an authority out here. So you’re going to learn it here or you’re going to learn it there, but you’re going to learn it. That’s what we find in the prison ministry, some of these guys just don’t have it up here as far as authority, they’re never clued that there’s an authority principle. It’s really interesting and neat to see the change in behavior once they grab the idea that gee, there’s a God there and I’m responsible to Him. That just short circuits all the other stuff, because it deals with the root.
Question asked: Clough replies: That’s a good question about wisdom, what’s the relationship of wisdom to evil? That’s one of the things we’ll deal with next week because we want to study what went wrong with Solomon. This guy had a fantastic gift of wisdom, and the whole culture… he started awry that ruined the nation, and you wonder, for crying out loud, this guy asked God for a gift of wisdom, the guy’s a genius, and somehow he winds up causing the whole thing to fall apart that he built. Why? I’ll kind of hold on that, and if I don’t answer your question, raise it next week.