A message of February 21, 2021 for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
This message is about how we are to be wise. To be wise in thought. To be wise in living. To be wise in our faith.
It is not about being wise in our own abilities. In some parts, this behavior can be referred to as being a “wise guy,” which is certainly not a compliment. This message is actually about how we are to be wise as we draw upon the power of the Holy Spirit in our relationship with Jesus Christ. There are lessons to be learned as we continually seek the wisdom of God.
Stephan Pastis is a former lawyer turned comic strip artist. He authors a relatively well-known comic strip named Pearls Before Swine. My wife and I have seen Mr. Pastis in person, and he is a very nice gentleman who obviously has a screw or two loose. His comic strips are a reflection of his personality. With characters named Pig, Rat, Goat, Zebra, Guard Duck and Larry the Crocodile, you get the picture.
There is one recurring character in the strip that I will refer to with my carefully edited proper name, “Wise (Donkey) on the Hill.”1 Now, I’m not editing a curse word, but in the interest of the utmost tastefulness, I will leave it to your imagination as to the actual name of the character as he is a wise donkey sitting on a pail on top of a large hill. Pig and Rat climb up a hill to reach the wise donkey and ask for advice. As you can imagine, with the premise of humor in the plot line, the donkey’s advice was really not all that helpful. He was more of a wise guy than wise.
When we seek advice, do we go to someone who ultimately says what we want to hear, or much better than this, someone who has knowledge and intuition? To go to someone who just repeats or regurgitates what we want to hear is the equivalent of seeking the advice of the donkey on the hill. Our problem in taking advice has a direct correlation to how our flesh impacts our ability to take the best course of action and to make good decisions. This is not just about being wise, but also about being smart and using your resource of wisdom very wisely.
Let’s narrow the focus of this message from generalities to your reality:
Where do you go to seek wisdom?
To the internet?
To your father or mother?
To a co-worker?
To your spouse?
To your best friend?
The number of sources are almost endless. But who is your best source?
Jesus Christ is, of course. Through the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus can, and has, worked through the Holy Spirit in a number of ways to share points of wisdom to his people. It starts with His Word, of course. The book of Proverbs has a number of verses that note the importance of loving wisdom and how a person should not live in foolishness. If only the fools in life would listen to God’s words of wisdom.
Let’s take a look at one of the strange but compelling ways that God shared His wisdom to man. We will note that He did not use our Wise Donkey on the Hill, but He shares with us from Scripture the story of a donkey who was carrying his owner, Balaam the prophet.
Before we look more at Balaam and who he was, we must see what each of us need to be aware of as we go and look for advice, and this is an important reminder for me, as well:
We must be careful to seek wisdom that is coming directly from God and not from this world. This was discussed at length in one of our seminars in making a PACT with Jesus Christ…
P is for prayer
A is for asking God with specificity
C is for consulting others for wise counsel, and
T is to trust in the results
If you are putting Jesus Christ at the forefront, He will give you wisdom.
You must use discernment as you search for advice and test it against God’s Word. If the advice is contrary to Scripture, it must be a non-starter. It’s all about living for Jesus Christ and resisting personal fleshly desires and worldly counsel.
Galatians 2:20 ESV
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Next, we must understand that false teaching and false prophets can be found anywhere and everywhere–especially on the internet. Please be mindful that the internet has a lot of good information that is applicable to godly wisdom, and it also has the worst, most ungodly advice that you can ever take and act upon. Discernment is very, very important. When seeking advice, tread carefully and always proceed with caution.
Satan has an active network of willing and unwary false teachers and false prophets. Some of them are his useful idiots. Some of them are ignorant of God’s Word and His principles; therefore, they may speak about half-truths as they offer advice. Also no good. Some of them are knowingly deceiving people with falsehoods in the guise of wisdom and knowledge, and most likely for personal gain. Balaam was one of these people.
Now, understand that Balaam, while he was self-serving, deeply flawed and generally wicked in nature, did hear directly from God on several occasions. We will also see that he was a pagan (non-Israelite) prophet who practiced divination and led the people of Israel into apostasy.2 Balaam had to be a very influential man because people listened to him and believed him. He indeed heard from God, but he was stubborn, wicked and disobedient, and both Peter and Jude referred to him as a greedy, unscrupulous man:
2 Peter 2:15-16 NKJV
15 They (the false prophets) have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
Jude 1:11 ESV
Woe to them (the false teachers)! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion.
Peter and Jude are warning us, in their own letters, to the dangers of heeding the words of slick-talking, self-serving false teachers and false prophets.
Please note that it does not matter if the advice given is done with or without malice…following it can mess you up if it’s not of God or according to His will for your life.
God knew that Balaam had issues that, in this situation, only a talking donkey could ultimately address. He was so headstrong that he disobeyed God and didn’t follow His advice. His donkey had to speak wisdom, based upon reasoning and logic, in order to get through to his owner.
God’s wisdom is always good and is compared to precious metals like silver and gold. The key here for us to remember is that godly wisdom, like these precious metals, is valuable.
Proverbs 9:9-12 NIV
9 Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.
10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
11 For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”
Here’s something to consider from this passage:
People who are wise before the Lord will want to learn more.
People who scoff at godly wisdom will face hardship.
To be wise before Jesus is to seek after Him. To be foolish is to not take His good advice.
Let’s now look at Balaam and where he almost got himself destroyed because of his own anger and arrogance. In the book of Numbers, Chapter 22, Balak, the acting king of the Moabites, received an appeal from his people about Moses and the Israelites, who were traveling through their land after departing from Egypt. They were dreading the presence of the Israelites, who had already routed the Amorites. Balak sent his messengers to Balaam, who had a reputation as a prophet of God, to ask him to put a curse on the Israelites because they were powerful, and he wanted an opportunity to defeat them. God was clear in his communication with Balaam that he was not to put a curse on the Israelites because they were blessed (v. 12). After Balak insisted meeting with Balaam, he gave additional consideration to his request even though God had already forbidden him to curse the Israelites. Balaam went back to God about Balak’s request and was told by God to go but do exactly as He said. We now pick up at the time when Balaam set out with his donkey:
Numbers 22:22-34 HCSB
22 But God was incensed that Balaam was going, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand on the path to oppose him. Balaam was riding his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing on the path with a drawn sword in His hand, she turned off the path and went into the field. So Balaam hit her to return her to the path. 24 Then the Angel of the Lord stood in a narrow passage between the vineyards, with a stone wall on either side. 25 The donkey saw the Angel of the Lord and pressed herself against the wall, squeezing Balaam’s foot against it. So he hit her once again. 26 The Angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn to the right or the left. 27 When the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she crouched down under Balaam. So he became furious and beat the donkey with his stick.
28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?”
29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!”
30 But the donkey said, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?”
“No,” he replied.
31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the path with a drawn sword in His hand. Balaam knelt and bowed with his face to the ground. 32 The Angel of the Lord asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you, because what you are doing is evil in My sight. 33 The donkey saw Me and turned away from Me these three times. If she had not turned away from Me, I would have killed you by now and let her live.”
34 Balaam said to the Angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that You were standing in the path to confront me. And now, if it is evil in Your sight, I will go back.”
God was angry with Balaam because he was knowingly disobedient to God and was high-minded as in proud and arrogant. Balaam, in turn, was so furious and blinded with anger, frustration and embarrassment—perhaps because he KNEW that he was outside of God’s will in his disobedience—and he basically took it all out on his donkey.
Balaam was not using wisdom at all; as a result, God had to open the mouth of his donkey to present him with a logical argument, which opened the door for wisdom. The Angel of the Lord provided the final exclamation point to the donkey’s statement, and the lesson here is that sometimes God must do the extraordinary to get one’s attention.
We can take this even further by trying to get into Balaam’s head as to what he was thinking, but it’s not really all that complicated. When one practices disobedience to God, it is an open defiance to God’s will and His commands.
Does God have to show you things out of the ordinary to get your attention? Even more pointedly, does he have to open the mouths of the donkeys in your life to get you to do what is right?
God wants us to think rightly.
He wants us to make the right decisions.
God wants us to use godly wisdom.
He wants us to be wise.
James 1:5 ESV
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.
In order to be wise, I have created an acronym of the word “WISE” to look at four steps you can take as you operate in obedience and faithfulness to Jesus Christ:
W – Wait. Take a pause.
You’ve heard the expression, “look before you leap,” and even the rhyming phrase, “think before you speak.” Notice that it is always best, when making important decisions, to take your time and give the matter to the Lord in sincere, honest prayer. Allow the Lord to speak and use the PACT methodology as the Spirit provides wisdom. The Holy Spirit will give you what you need.
Psalm 27:14 NLT
Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD.
Proverbs 29:11 ESV
A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.
Lamentations 3:25 ESV
The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.
I – Inquire of God. Pray. Meditate on His Word. Ask. Seek. Knock (Matthew 7:7).
Wisdom is something that God freely provides, but you need to ask God to give it to you. His Word is the Gold Standard of wisdom. It separates the wheat from the chaff.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 CSB
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
Each of these items noted here are centered on God’s wisdom.
Balaam actually did inquire of God, and God answered him, but he failed to heed God’s advice. He is a reminder to each of us that wisdom will be elusive to those who are disobedient to God.
Proverbs 26:12 ESV
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Ephesians 5:15-17 CSB
15 Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk—not as unwise people but as wise— 16 making the most of the time, because the days are evil. 17 So don’t be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
S – Seek His truth.
The emphasis here is to follow God’s truth, which is rooted in His Word. Allow the Spirit to speak to you as you dwell in His Word daily.
If you want to live and act in wisdom…
Jeremiah 29:13 ESV
You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.
Matthew 6:33 ESV
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
To be wise is to love His truth.
John 17:17 ESV
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
E – Exemplary living. It is reflected in your actions.
Your exemplary speech should be a reflection of godly wisdom.
Psalm 19:14 ESV
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
Your exemplary service should be a reflection of God’s wisdom.
1 Peter 4:10-11 ESV
10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Living a sanctified life in Jesus Christ should reflect the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit.
Philippians 2:13 ESV
For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
All of these things are wise. It is how we are to live and breathe each day in obedience to Jesus Christ. All true wisdom comes from Jesus Christ through his empowering and indwelling Holy Spirit. Live in His wisdom. Solomon gives us the same message here:
Ecclesiastes 12:9-10 CSB
9 In addition to the Teacher being a wise man, he constantly taught the people knowledge; he weighed, explored, and arranged many proverbs. 10 The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and write words of truth accurately.
Jesus teaches us through His Word with godly knowledge and truth. Be thankful that He is readily available to assist you.
Wait on Jesus.
Inquire of Him.
Seek His truth.
Exemplify His life.
Be wise and remain in faithful fellowship with Jesus Christ through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To do anything less is to act and live in futility.
© 2021 Melvin Gaines
1 Pastis, S. (2016, March 5). Pearls Before Swine [Wise A** on the Hill]. GoComics.Com. https://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2016/03/05
2 “Who was Balaam in the Bible?” (n.d.). Retrieved February 17, 2021 from https://www.gotquestions.org/Balaam-in-the-Bible.html.