MAKING THE WISE SIMPLE
“The statutes of the law are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19:7
When Geraldo and Ophra become arbiters of public morality, when the opinion of the latest media personality is sought on everything from abortion to transvestites, when banality is mistaken for profundity because it is uttered by a movie star or a basketball player, it is not surprising that there is less thought than hype.
Ophra shapes more of the nation’s grasp of right and wrong than most pulpits in the land. Personal and social ethics have been removed from the realms of truth and structures of thought; they have not only been relativized, but they have been democratized and trivialized. As a guest on a show dealing with pornography put it, “The great thing about our society is that you can have your opinion and I can have mine.” [D. A. Carson; Quoted in The Gagging of God, p. 24]
Introduction: We are living in a society that is ruled by philosophical pluralism. It insists that there is no ultimate truth. Religion is good if it helps you to experience God, as you believe Him to be, but woe to you if you suggest that your way is the only way to God. It is OK to practice your religion in the confines of your home but you better not bring it to the office or the town square.
Once tolerance meant that because all men were equally valuable, all were to be treated with respect and decency. Now, the concept of tolerance has been transferred into the realm of beliefs and truths. All of the world’s beliefs and all of her religions are said to have some truth in them, so they should all be given equal respect and acceptance. Because it is now assumed that there is no objective and ultimate Truth [or, if there is we cannot know it ultimately], what really matters is the sincerity of one’s faith. The validity of one’s beliefs is no longer judged by conformity to an objective reality. So, what is ultimately decisive is not the trustworthiness of the “object” of one’s faith but the sincerity of the “subjective” feelings of the believer.
So, there is no divine, objective and final standard of right and wrong. Our society is “great” because “you can have your opinion and I can have mine.” But, does that make our society great? I don’t think so. Devoid of ultimate and objective truth, we as a nation have lost our center of gravity. Every man and woman has been cut adrift to do whatever is right in his or her own eyes. Stripped of eternal and divine truth, we have lost our ballast of purpose and our reason for living. A flood of shallowness and silliness covers over our slow but sure slide into disappointment and despair. National unity, marital harmony, family identity, and the basis for personal integrity have dissolved in a fog of tolerance.
Exposition: Some of you may be asking what does what I have already written have to do with Psalm 19:7. Here is my answer. Our society is corporately in the same state as the “simple” described in this passage. The “simple” according to the Bible, are those whose hearts have no convictions and whose minds are always open to the newest and latest version of “truth.” Whatever appeals to their appetites, whatever seems to advance their self-esteem, whatever is presently popular is followed with a passion. Because they have no solid foundation upon which to discern the difference between truth or error, they eventually find themselves in desperate and destructive dilemmas.
Proverbs describes one of the devastating results that can befall a simple man: “With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life.” [Proverbs 7:23-24]
If we have no transcendent Word guiding and controling our life, we will be no different than the simple fool described above. We happily follow the persuasive words and smooth talk without knowing we are being led to our own destruction. That is where our nation is. That is where our church is headed. And, if we do not deliberately and prayerfully instruct our children in the truth of God’s written Word, they will soon follow. The tide of evil dressed up in philosophical pluralism is just too pervasive and persuasive for their Wordless hearts to resist. It is not just a matter of doing the Christian thing. It is a matter of ours and our children’s survival!
That is why it is so important to know that we have a speaking God. God has created us to be able to hear him and know him. That is the thrust of Psalm 19. In verses 1-6, the psalmist powerfully describes how God reveals his awesome glory through the work of his hands. God is speaking at all times and in all places to all peoples revealing “his eternal power and divine nature.” [Rom 1:20] But in verse 7, the psalmist writes of an even more powerful and personal display of God’s glory, revealed in the written law of God. There we hear God speak his transcendent, unchanging, wisdom to our hearts and minds.
In our last devotional we saw how “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” In this verse we see an echo of the creative power of God that was displayed at the beginning. God speaks and out of nothing, a universe is instantly brought into being. In the creation of man, God breathes into his nostrils and he becomes a living soul. In the same way, when God’s Word is spoken to our hearts it revives the dead and lifeless soul. It is perfect in that it is totally sufficient. It needs no supplements to make it more effective. Even today, as we pick up the Bible, God has not only spoken through it, he is speaking through it.
“The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” The statutes or testimonies of the law refer to the commandments written by the finger of God to his people. They come from God who has all wisdom and knowledge. They are written down for permanence and clarity. They are objective in that they can be found and read in the Book. They remain unchanged and unsuccessfully challenged by philosophers or professors. So, they are trustworthy in that they are “unshakable,” “immovable” and “reliable.” When you pick up the Bible and read, you do not have to wonder about the accuracy or the sincerity of its Author. “Your word O LORD, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.” [Psalm 119:89] Scientists, philosophers, psychologists, dictators, historians, professors and philosophers can take their best shot at God’s Word. It will not be moved. You can stand on it confidently and powerfully and win any battle that the enemies of your soul can throw at you.
The simple are like those Paul described as “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. [Eph 4:14]. They are like a ship that has lost its ballast and rudder. Without ballast they are unstable in all their ways. Without a rudder they have no direction. So, it is only a matter of time before they are overturned by the stormy sea and left ship-wrecked on the rocks and reefs of evil.
Paul goes on to describe the natural man as living with futility of thinking, darkened in understanding and separated from a life in God because of their ignorance. Without an anchor of truth, they give themselves to every kind of sensuality with no hope of every finding the security or satisfaction of safe harbor. [Eph. 4:17-19] What they desperately need they will never find by following their feelings or their faulty thinking. What they need is a wisdom that transcends the Ophras and Geraldos and the public opinion polls of our society.
That is why Paul wrote to the Christians at Ephesus, “You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Eph 4:20-24
Paul says that Christ is not discovered by pursuing our fallen feelings. Our knowledge of Jesus is found in the gospel, revealed in the preached content of his Word. When we repent and believe the gospel, we find Truth so trustworthy, so unshakable and so personally satisfying that we joyfully turn from following the ways of the world. “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.”
Conclusion: Although we have found truth in Jesus, we still live with a sinful nature and live in a world system that actively seeks to resist this change. Our old nature wants to “do it my way” and the world system demands that we “do it their way.” Both make “truth” a subjective feeling and private interpretation rather than an objective and defining fact. Each person then, becomes the arbitrator of what is real and right. Cut off from the wisdom of God, they are then left to their own faulty and failed feelings. They are easily influenced by the popular opinions of the “stars” and the conventional wisdom of society. Although experts fill the airways with promises of the latest methodology or theology that will make everything right and everybody happy, in the end, they never live up to their billing.
Let me conclude by pointing out something that is crucial for our delight and joy. It is possible to interpret what the psalmist has written in terms of rules and regulations instead of seeing it in terms of a personal and powerful relationship. The statutes are not only objective and right. They are personal and spiritual. By that I mean that living by statutes is not just another methodology to success. It is far more dynamic than that. When we engage God’s Word, we engage Christ. He is present in his Word, addressing us by the Spirit, opening our eyes and softening our hearts so that we don’t just see laws, but Him. That is why Paul prays “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” [Eph 1:17]
Jesus comes to us in his Word and speaks through his promises and commandments. He is present to walk with us and to enable us to understand and obey his commands. Through the truth we find there, he sets us apart unto himself. [John 17:17] As we walk in the light of his truth, we discover the hope, and riches and power that only come through Jesus Christ. [Ephesians 1:18] When we orientate all of our desires and dreams and decisions around knowing Jesus and being obedient to him, our life becomes an abundant display of his faithfulness. [Matthew 7:24-25] When we build upon the Rock Christ Jesus, we can joyfully and powerfully stand against any storm that would seek to destroy our faith. That is why we need to know and understand and obey the statutes of the Lord.
Our world needs to see a people who are wise and radical in their confident and competent service. May Jesus Christ be glorified in your life as you passionately and persistently seek to serve him and his world with an uncommon faith in his Word. Don’t be simple. Be wise!
“Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith’s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her Great Guide. Between this and Heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our Covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue.” Charles Spurgeon
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