How Wise is Man?
March 1, 2010 - A generation that has sought its own wisdom rather than the wisdom of God is beginning to taste the wine of wrath mentioned in Jeremiah 25. Governments and people are beginning to reel, just as the prophet described centuries ago.
By Billy Graham
Jeremiah said, “For thus says the Lord God of Israel to me: ‘Take this wine cup of fury from My hand, and cause all the nations, to whom I send you, to drink it. And they will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.’ Then I took the cup from the Lord’s hand, and made all the nations drink” (Jeremiah 25:15-17).
The question comes to us: Has the world been given this drink already? Throughout much of the world there is a defiance of authority, a revolt against law and order, an ungoverned passion to kill.
Today, when we have the highest literacy rates in history and when universities and colleges are crowded with students, the words of Jeremiah the prophet come ringing in our ears once again: “Thus says the Lord, ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, Let not the mighty man glory in his might, Nor let the rich man glory in his riches; But let him who glories glory in this, That he understands and knows Me, That I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness in the earth. For in these I delight,’ says the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23-24).
With all his knowledge and wisdom, man seemingly cannot solve his problems. I want to rush out into the streets and shout with Solomon of old, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Proverbs 3:7). I want to remind people that “there is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
The Bible teaches that there are two kinds of wisdom. First, there is a wisdom that is God-given, a wisdom that, after the mind of Christ, views life in terms of eternity.
Of this wisdom the Scripture says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).
This God-given wisdom is not brash, cynical or high-minded. Its roots are in Christ, and it is characterized by reverence, meekness and faith.
It is the kind of wisdom Solomon referred to when he said, “Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). Godly wisdom pulls all the meaningless pieces of life together and makes them fit. This is what we call understanding.
But worldly wisdom is entirely different. It is cunning, clever, subtle and designing. It schemes, connives and is motivated by animal instincts. A person may have an earned doctorate from the finest university and yet be lacking in basic understanding of the events that are transpiring round about us.
The Bible warns about this kind of wisdom. Isaiah the prophet wrote, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes” (Isaiah 5:21). Also, “Therefore the Lord said … ‘For the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, And the understanding of their prudent men shall be hidden.’ Woe to those who seek deep to hide their counsel far from the Lord, And their works are in the dark; They say, ‘Who sees us?’ and, ‘Who knows us?’” (Isaiah 29:14-15).
Jeremiah had been given wisdom from God to understand the events of his day. He lived in the midst of a people who were intellectually wise, but they fumbled their God-given opportunity. They laughed at Jeremiah’s warnings. His preaching was not in the intellectual context of his day. It was filled with pessimism and warnings of judgment. He refused to be intimidated or to tickle the ears of his hearers.
The people called him a fanatic and refused to listen. They had forsaken the God of their fathers, and now they were paying the penalty for their folly. They were now slaves and servants of an enemy people.
Jeremiah said, “For my people are foolish, they know me not; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but how to do good they know not” (Jeremiah 4:22 RSV).
Skilled in doing evil—what a picture of the modern person, with his vast array of scientific progress, his genius for organization, his mechanical skill, his unprecedented achievements; and yet with all this a slave of passion, a dupe of appetite—a picture of inner frustration and defeat.
The people of Jeremiah’s day had lost their sense of sin. We moderns have also lost our sense of sin. There are evidences of this lost sense of sin in a thousand facets of our modern life. It is evident in the increase of profanity and obscenity. Our depraved speech is a direct reflection of our depraved lives. Our lost sense of sin is evidenced by our accent on pleasure. We are becoming a nation of playboys and are debasing the wisdom God has given us upon the altars of appetite and desire. We are becoming skilled in doing evil.
Our lost sense of sin is evidenced by our unnatural emphasis upon sex. The sin of impurity does not appear ugly and venomous at first. It comes in the guise of beauty, symmetry and desirability. Satan clothes his goddess of lust as an angel of love, and her appearance has deceived the strongest of men.
God hates this unnatural emphasis on sex in America. It has caused nations to fall. It has over and over ruined the sanctity of the home. It has caused the spiritual downfall of thousands.
Presidents, premiers, kings and rulers are asking, “What is causing all this trouble in the world?” The Scriptures teach that behind the world system in which we live is the supernatural power of Satan himself.
The Bible teaches that Satan is “the god of this age” who has blinded the minds of those who do not believe, “lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Thus, the world is faced with two kinds of wisdom: the natural wisdom that is implemented by the subtlety and cleverness of Satan, and the wisdom that comes directly from the Spirit of God, who is called the Spirit of Wisdom.
We view things from this world of time and space, but God views us from His throne in the heavens in the light of eternity. We see ourselves as self-sufficient, self-important and self-sustaining; but God sees us as dependent, self-centered and self-deceived.
The Spirit of Wisdom today would point everyone to the cross of Jesus Christ, where there is forgiveness of sin and the solution to the dilemmas and problems that face us corporately and individually.
However, the natural wisdom of this world, encouraged by Satan, is cynical about the cross. It is impossible for the natural man to understand how God, in His grace and mercy, can cleanse sinners from sin, transform individual lives and through these individual lives transform society. The natural man’s worldly wisdom does not understand the workings of God.
God says there is no hope for the world aside from His cross. The world for centuries has rejected God’s method and plan of redemption. Thus, we fight, kill and destroy. Now, because man has refused God’s way, he stands on the threshold of what former Prime Minister MacMillan called “the extinction of civilization itself.”
Man in his pride, stumbling and fumbling, thinks that somehow he will pull out, and that by his own wisdom he can save himself. God warns that this perverted wisdom of man will lead only to destruction and judgment.
The people of Jeremiah’s day hardened their hearts and refused to repent of their sin. Thus, the desolation and judgment came. Jerusalem was destroyed as Jeremiah had predicted.
In Jeremiah’s words, I plead with you before it’s too late, “wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you?” (Jeremiah 4:14). Let us return unto the Lord and unto our God, for He will have mercy upon us and He will abundantly pardon (Cf. Isaiah 55:7).