It’s easy to look at these stories and say to ourselves, “Boy they were foolish!” but how often in our own lives do we look at God’s plan with a similar arrogance. In essence, we say to ourselves, “God doesn’t have as much wisdom as He thinks He does.” Of course, we would never outright say that, but our doubt says it for us. I once heard a preacher say it this way: “God’s will is exactly what you would do if you had all of the wisdom that God has.” When we consider the scope of God’s power, and the breadth of His wisdom, Psalm 148 leads us to the right response. Praise. The. Lord!
There is an old Indian tale that my grandfather used to tell me.
A young brave was tired of the old chief gathered some of his friends to figure out how to show the old man’s time was passed. They concocted a simple scheme to trick the old man into showing that he was not as wise as the tribe made him out to be. So the young men went out and caught two small birds. They killed one and left one alive. The arrogant brave would put both birds in his cupped hands and ask the chief if the bird in his hands was alive or dead. If the chief said alive, he would drop the dead bird on the ground and if the chief answered “dead,” he would release the live bird and let it fly away.
The day came for them to put their plan into action. As practiced, the boys went before the chief under the guise of seeking wisdom. The brave then asked, “Tell us, oh wise one, is the bird in my hands alive or dead.” The chief’s reply took them all by surprise: “That, young man, is for you to decide.” It was at that moment that the group of ambitious braves realized that the old man DID have wisdom and that they had chosen foolishly to follow this young fool.
In today’s readings, the Pharisees, Sadducees, and a lawyer all tried to trick Jesus. They knew if they could trip him up just once, they could prove that he wasn’t a true prophet and stone him according to the law. The only problem was that Jesus, in His wisdom and understanding of the Scriptures, not only answered their questions well, but in so doing, made them look foolish for asking the questions in the first place. He even says in Matthew 22:29, “Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God.” What a call out for those ‘teachers of the law!’
In another situation of overreaching ambition, the children of Joseph went to Joshua discontent with the portion they had been assigned in the promised land. “We’re such a great people, both in number and strength, you should give us more!” they argued in Joshua 17:14. However, in the previous verses, we read that they were not strong enough to push the Canaanites out of the land like they were supposed to! (This would cause great problems down the road!) Joshua responds with the equivalent of, “If you’re so strong, then go cut down those trees over there and you’ll have plenty of room.” Maybe the children of Joseph thought that they could push Moses’ successor around, but they were mistaken.