For the Wisdom of this World is Foolishness in God’s Sight

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EZRA 4:24-6:22 | 1 CORINTHIANS 3:5-23 | PSALM 29:1-11 | PROVERBS 20:26-27

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Thanks to the intervention of some opposing forces, and with the permission of King Artaxerxes, the rebuilding of the Temple has been stopped.  This, despite the decree that was issued by Artaxerxes’ predecessor, Cyrus the Great, to allow the Jewish people to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. 

And yet, since the Trans-Euphrates people in the region begin to make a fuss, they succeed in having Artaxerxes halt the work.  But not for long.  After some years, the people resume their rebuilding efforts.  And when Darius, the present-day king of Persia, makes inquiries about the scope, purpose, and mission of the people engaged in these rebuilding efforts, the Jewish people in Jerusalem send word to him as follows:

“We are the servants of the God of heaven and earth, and we are rebuilding the temple that was built many years ago, one that a great king of Israel built and finished. 12 But because our ancestors angered the God of heaven, he gave them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar the Chaldean, king of Babylon, who destroyed this temple and deported the people to Babylon.  13 “However, in the first year of Cyrus king of Babylon, King Cyrus issued a decree to rebuild this house of God. 14 He even removed from the temple of Babylon the gold and silver articles of the house of God, which Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple in Jerusalem and brought to the temple in Babylon. Then King Cyrus gave them to a man named Sheshbazzar, whom he had appointed governor, 15 and he told him, ‘Take these articles and go and deposit them in the temple in Jerusalem. And rebuild the house of God on its site.’16 “So this Sheshbazzar came and laid the foundations of the house of God in Jerusalem. From that day to the present it has been under construction but is not yet finished.”  17 Now if it pleases the king, let a search be made in the royal archives of Babylon to see if King Cyrus did in fact issue a decree to rebuild this house of God in Jerusalem. Then let the king send us his decision in this matter.

And so, a search is made for the decree—which is found without much difficulty.  And since it was clearly established that this rebuilding effort was a consequence of Cyrus’ decree, Darius takes it one step further with another decree of his own. 

Darius decrees:  7 Do not interfere with the work on this temple of God. Let the governor of the Jews and the Jewish elders rebuild this house of God on its site.  The decree goes on to say, 11 Furthermore, I decree that if anyone defies this edict, a beam is to be pulled from their house and they are to be impaled on it. And for this crime their house is to be made a pile of rubble. 12 May God, who has caused his Name to dwell there, overthrow any king or people who lifts a hand to change this decree or to destroy this temple in Jerusalem.  I Darius have decreed it. Let it be carried out with diligence.

So, just as Darius and his predecessors had decreed, the work on the temple is resumed and completed.  Not only is it completed, but it is dedicated, and there is great rejoicing among the Jewish people who have returned from exile at long last. 

The text tells us this:  They finished building the temple according to the command of the God of Israel and the decrees of Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerxes, kings of Persia. 15 The temple was completed on the third day of the month Adar, in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.

Turning now to our reading in I Corinthians, we find Paul writing about another kind of temple.  Paul says it is our body that is the temple of God.  He says, 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

Paul continues to exhort the early Christians in Corinth to not be swayed and influenced by one over the other; rather, to focus their attentions on the risen Lord Jesus Christ, the reason for our faith.  As for relying on earthly wisdom, Paul cautions that we do not put our stock in our own wisdom. 

He says, 18 Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”; 20 and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.” 21 So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

Turning now to our psalm for the day, we find the psalmist offering up praise to the Lord Almighty.  Although the psalmist urges the “heavenly beings” to offer praise, it would do well for all human beings to do the same as well!

1 Ascribe to the LORD, you heavenly beings,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.

Finally, one verse from the book of Proverbs, penned by Solomon, wise king of Israel, who says:

27 The human spirit is the lamp of the LORD
that sheds light on one’s inmost being.

Commentaries suggest that the “human spirit” is akin to the words spoken by a human being.  Would that we might take that to heart in choosing carefully and controlling the words that come forth from our mouths.

May God bless the reading and reflection of His Word.

2 thoughts on “For the Wisdom of this World is Foolishness in God’s Sight

  1. This portion of Paul’s letter is very moving. He is dealing with divisions within the community, which should not be possible if people were focused on Jesus, as you point out. It’s sad to think how this has survived, even grown today, as people are more loyal to an individual or church community and miss the bigger picture. I also like your contrast between the two kinds of “temple.”

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