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The Limits of Understanding 

Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad: for who is able to judge this thy so great a people? 1 Kings 3:9 

When we think of Solomon, one word that comes to mind more than any other:  wisdom.  In this passage, Solomon had a dream in which the Lord came to him and gives this earth-shaking command: “Ask what I shall give thee.” Here was a golden opportunity, a priceless moment, a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get anything Solomon might want from a God who is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. So, what did Solomon ask for?  He asked for wisdom, he asked for understanding.  And so he received it.  That wisdom was immediately demonstrated by the two mothers who stood before Solomon as king.  One had accidently suffocated her baby during the night, so she stole the other woman’s baby.  The king proposed to divide the baby in half and give a half to each mother.  One mother said go ahead and do it.  The other mother pleaded with him not to do this.  Since she wanted the baby to live, Solomon knew that she was the real mother.  That was wisdom in action.

Next, we are treated to long passages of scripture about how Solomon built the temple for the Lord.  Solomon’s Temple.  It was the most extravagant, ornate edifice in history.  People came from around the world to see it.  The Queen of Sheba said, “It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom.  Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.” 1 Kings 10:6-8,

But after Solomon built the temple, he had another visitation just like the first one in Gibeon.  This second visitation was a warning about the first dream.  (God never intended for us to have a one-time experience with Him!  For every stage of your life, for every turning point, for every big decision—actually, every DAY!—God has a fresh experience, a new and relevant word for you!  That’s why you need to come to church on a regular basis!)  Here is the warning:  But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: Then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: 1 Kings 9:6-7.

Please note there is a difference between unconditional  and conditional eternal security.  God has never allowed people to mock His commandments with impunity.  He built a caveat into his promises.  Essentially, He told Solomon, “If you turn away from following me, there will be consequences.”  Solomon did exactly that.  He turned away from following the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  But king Solomon loved many strange women, together with the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites;  Of the nations concerning which the LORD said unto the children of Israel, Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love.  And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. 1 Kings 11:1-4.  Why did Solomon do this?  He was wise and his wisdom was a gift of God.  It was documented time and again.  If you will notice, however, Solomon’s conversations with God, and God’s words to Solomon were both in the context of dreams and visions.  They happened when Solomon was in a spiritual frame of mind.  Here’s what Apostle wrote to the Romans: So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. Romans 8:8-9. 

Every believer should understand that serving God only makes sense when one is in a spiritual frame of mind!  When you grow carnal, it all looks foolish.  When you resort to your own understanding, the Bible seems oppressive, the church looks confining, holiness looks like bondage, worship looks like insanity, doctrine looks like dogmatism, baptism looks like a meaningless ritual, the Holy Ghost looks like fanaticism, truth looks like tyranny, sacrifice looks like silliness, paying your tithes looks like a stick-up in church and prayer looks like an exercise in futility.  But, when you are in a spiritual frame of mind, the Bible is liberating, the church looks like the body of Christ, holiness looks like freedom, worship looks like loving God, doctrine looks like the dew of heaven, baptism looks like taking on the name of the bridegroom, the Holy Ghost looks like joy unspeakable and full of Glory, truth looks like Jesus, sacrifice looks sacred, paying your tithes looks like heaven’s financial plan and prayer looks like tapping into God’s promises!  “God is a Spirit and they that worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and in Truth!”

When you try to worship God in the flesh instead of the Spirit, nothing works.  If only Solomon had all the understanding he talked about.  Understanding is a Biblical concept.  It is also a quality, an attribute, a skill that educators, psychologists, therapists, counselors and everyone in the helping professions, along with some politicians and diplomats seek to possess.  We are told that we need to understand people.  We need to understand why people do what they do.  We need to understand the motives behind the behaviors.  And it all sounds so convincing, so logical, so necessary to good human relations.  But there is a very strict qualifier placed on the understanding that God gives us.  It is the understanding of God, of the nature of God, not an understanding of the world!

So, what about us?  Should we understand?  Should we understand the terrorist?  The serial killer?  Should we understand why people commit perverse acts?  Should we understand why people sin? Why shame?  Why degradation?  Why transgression?  Once we begin to understand the why of sin, we get curious about the how of sin.  Then the devil takes us by the hand and leads us into the fascinating world of human wisdom.  But there is a problem with human wisdom.  “In the day you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall die!”

There is a limit to understanding.  There are some things we are told not to understand, not to learn.  I want to be an ignoramus when it comes to sin.  I want to be wise when it comes to the knowledge of Christ!  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 1 Corinthians 1:21.

The world says understand me!  Get to know me!  Get to know why I lie, cheat, steal, fornicate, kill, commit adultery, live in immorality and rebel against God.  Understand why I’m so angry; why I hate; why I curse; why I am so bitter.  Understand why I sin.  The world wants the church to understand it?  Where will that lead?  It will lead to death!  Here’s what I believe:  I want the world to understand something called the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!  I don’t want to understand sin; I want the world to understand God’s salvation! I want to lead people into a life of grace, peace, joy and love!  When you begin your journey of understanding God, you begin to understand the reason why God created man and why he re-created him and redeemed him! 

Understand the love of God that covers a multitude of sins.  Understand the grace of God.  Understand the power of the Cross.  Understand what happens in repentance.  Understand what happens in the waters of baptism.

Understand what happens when you receive the Holy Ghost.  Understand prayer, worship, Bible study, coming to church, giving to God.  We have a challenge to either know God or know the world.  Choose to know God!

That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead.  Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:7-14.

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