It’s pretty amazing really. After clamoring for a king, working through Saul, having David for 40 years, followed by Solomon, the Israelite nation has now left the past of wisdom.[audio http://www.buzzsprout.com/33052/320693-wisdom-of-the-elder-wonder-of-the-child.mp3]
King Saul started out okay but ends up as a paranoid train wreck. King David was a pretty good king, all things considered. He screwed up a number of times, some times in amazing ways. And yet he was a faithful kind of guy, warts and all. His forty year reign, an amazing feat at the time and throughout history.
Followed then by his son Solomon. King Solomon had a store of wisdom far surpassing anyone else. There is a reason we hear the phrase, ‘wisdom of Solomon’ on occasion. One of Solomon’s sons was Rehoboam.
Now Rehoboam didn’t seem to take on the wisdom of his father. When he becomes king the people ask him to make their lives a bit better. He isn’t certain what to do about this so he wisely asks his advisors. So far so good. The elder advisors tell him to treat the people well and they’ll treat you well. Rehoboam isn’t so sure about this so asks his younger friends who tell him to make things worse for the people so they’ll appreciate what they had. So much for the path of wisdom.
Rehoboam sounds a lot like Pharoah, doesn’t he? Remember pharoah’s response when the Hebrews, as slaves, asked for some relief in their brickmaking? Make it harder on them so they’ll appreciate what they had and they won’t ask for anything more.
Sounds remarkably like parenting in some, um, less than positive ways. You know, those “If you don’t…” kind of parenting moments.
Rehoboam, grandson of King David and son of King Solomon had huge shoes to fill in his attempt to follow in his ancestor’s footsteps. He failed because he tried to be someone he wasn’t. And he wouldn’t listen to good advice.
Here’s a kicker. With age generally comes wisdom though maybe for some of us it is something of a slower process than we think. And when we are younger we have more questions. It is really the wisdom of the elder and the wonder of the child. How do we balance that, then?
Rehoboam certainly had questions. But look how it worked out when he didn’t want to listen to the answers. He didn’t like the answers he had the first time (elders) so went on to another group (younger) until he had the answers he wanted to hear. Not only that, they suggest that he should make a vulgar insult about his dad, King Solomon.
Now here is something I know for a fact. Nothing good ever comes out of making a vulgar insult about your parents. It doesn’t work like that. Not everyone has a great relationship with their parents and that’s one thing. Even so, a vulgar insult say more about the person who said it than anyone else. So if you’re around someone who is willing to make a vulgar insult about their parents, think twice about spending time with them or listening to much of what they have to say.
They’ve shown you their true colors and for the record, Rehoboam at the very least breaks commandment 4 and commandment 8. He hits a daily double in one fell swoop by insulting his father. Rehoboam doesn’t honor his parents, his father in this case, by not speaking well of him instead choosing to publicly insult him.
Predictably, this attitude works out spectacularly badly. The kingdom united, fought for so hard to create, has become divided in just four generations. Or more accurately, has been split by people more interested in themselves than the greater good.
This is not wisdom. This is leaving the path of wisdom.
Wisdom is not having all the answers but instead wisdom suggests having a good idea of how things may turn out given a certain set of choices. Wisdom isn’t usually innate within us, it comes from experience. We earn wisdom through experience, usually through life challenges. Wisdom is a very good thing.
The trouble with wisdom is that we sometimes confuse it with having all the answers and that can make it difficult to change our mind about anything. It can make it difficult for us to see things in new ways, ways that open opportunities for something new.
Enter wonder. Wonder is the ability to see things through eyes that aren’t clouded by too much experience. Wonder is the ability to see things that have been hidden by the passage of time.
We need both. Especially in our faith lives we need both wisdom and wonder. Wisdom suggests there may have been some sleight of hand earlier in the children’s message. Wonder says I’m a child of God regardless of whatever else happens. Wisdom suggests we know Christ through what we’ve learned. Wonder suggests that we are Christ filled far beyond anything we can know. Wisdom suggests that faith in Christ is our one, true hope for today and for tomorrow. Wonder experiences that faith in ways that connect deeply within our souls.
Wisdom and wonder. We need both.