There is this thing that occurs in Exodus, which is repeated also in many other places, where God says “Behold, I have called Bezalel by name … and put in him a spirit of wisdom and skill” to be the head of the artists who fashioned the tabernacle of Exodus. In chapter 36, for instance, you find the opening verse referring to Bezalel and Eliab, “and every workman in whom God had put a spirit of wisdom and understanding to execute the work”, and that is the pattern elsewhere.
Nobody is wise of his own accord. As with other good things, this comes from the Father of Lights. And, as is the case whenever men are called, this is always due to God’s own will, not due to any good in the one called—wherefore none can boast before God.
What I want to discuss, here, is two-fold: that some people regard with envy and jealousy those in whom God has put a spirit of wisdom, to their own self-condemnation and destruction; and that some people regard it as pious to be falsely-modest about it, when God has made them wise, thereby insulting and reviling God—may they be anathema—showing faithlessness, deceitfulness (for God cannot have lied), and flattery of mere men rather than seeking the glory of God.
And we have a particularly clear example of this in the story of Joseph. He was speaking the truth when he told his brothers that he had received clear signs, in his dreams, that indeed the rest of the would bow to him. Rather than studying that, as we do, for what value is in it, concerning the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—they fell into the trap of envy and jealousy.
Now, if it had been that God had not promised to make Joseph tower over them, as the dreamer claimed, they would not be to blame for his deceitfulness. But had Joseph been unduly modest, denying the gift of God because his stiff-necked brothers had touchy egos, he would have been deceitful. Imagine, if, in line with their expectations, these dreams had been given to their father, Jacob, or to the eldest son, such that they said “Of course! Any news?” But now, as it stands, they were led away into grievous sin because they did not believe.
Moreover, they are condemned by the words of Pharaoh, a heathen pagan, who said of Joseph “is there any man like this one, in whom is the Spirit of God?” And Joseph, a condemned Hebrew slave sold by his own brothers (not just a last-born son any more), was made to sit on the right hand of the Pharaoh, as a type of Christ—and rules among the Gentiles as Lord and Bread of Life—even among these Egyptians to whom it is an abomination to eat with a Hebrew. God says to His Son, “Ask of me and I will give you the heathens for your inheritance.” Wherefore now we are Christians. For, as Paul makes very clear, God does not repent, and His calling is eternal. Whether Joseph be in a dungeon, the Word of God is not chained; and it will never return to Him empty-handed, but will accomplish all that He has said. Those whose envy and jealousy drives them into stupid rages against those who have been called and blessed and elevated by God sin against their own souls.
Moses, also, in Genesis 4, sinned against God, “and God was very angry with Moses”, when Moses had said “Oh, but I do not know how to speak! Appoint another able person …” and God had told him “Who has fashioned the mouth of man? Who has made the hearing-impaired, the deaf, the sighted, and the blind? Isn’t it I, God? Just go, and I will make your mouth fluent.” But Moses, steeped in the wickedness we are discussing here, answered back to God “Send an able person!” Wherefore the Lord was very angry with him—the first time that Moses made God angry.
Now, notice there that God takes all responsibility for making the slow and the fast. It is just as in the case of “that awful decree” of election and reprobation. God is in charge of everything; no ifs, no buts, no funny business. If someone is fluent, and therefore has no such stumbling-block before his consideration of ministry, saying in his heart “I am fluent of tongue!” that is all very well, but not because of his own self; rather, it is because of God, who made the stutterer and the fluent. If a man be a stammerer, that too is the work of God—and, if he wants fluency, and receives it, that is also because of God, who opens up mouths and seals up eyes. (Wherefore Christ said “Not for his sin, nor his parents’ sin, was this man born blind; but for the glory of God.”)
Also, God alone confers wealth and office. These are too well-settled as sound doctrine—too well-attested as scriptural teaching—that it doesn’t serve much to belabour the point.
When Jesus was led away to Pontius Pilate, although Pilate was sinning, Jesus did not deny that, first of all, Pilate had authority, that, secondly, it was by God’s decree, and that, third, it was not terminated now just because Pilate was one of those committing this grave sin of killing the One In Whom Is No Sin. In John’s account, you find that Caiaphas has a prominent role as high priest that year because, even though his advice, that Jesus should die instead of the whole nation, was sinful and murderous plotting, he had been chosen as high priest, and, even in his sin, officiated as such. God had not repented of His call to Caiaphas; wherefore even his incidental words became fulfilment of prophecy, and the ultimate execution of the office to which Aaron’s descendants were called.
Moreover, when Jesus could have saved Himself by a false modesty, denying before Pilate that He was a king, He had to confess the truth: indeed I am a king, and for this reason I came. He confessed that He was the King of the Jews, and that by eternal Divine decree.
We have seen, then, that no man has any right to claim to have over-ridden the call and gift of God, and that it would be sin to deny the truth which God has ordained. This holds in all such cases, because of He Who Calls. Moreover because it is a call of God, rooted in His secret counsel, we are not bound to it because we can justify it: wherefore the youngest can be the head, “the elder will serve the younger,” and this, too, being decided by God “before any of them has done good or bad, that God’s purpose in election should stand.” If God’s purpose, in the calling, depended on them, it would not stand; but it doesn’t depend on them—it depends on God alone—that it should stand.
Unfortunately, as it was with Joseph’s brothers, so it is today. When a man is shown by God among his fellows to have been blessed, no man, by his own fleshly nature, will immediately impute it upon God. This is why many people claim to have tricks for success—whether which schools, universities, careers, or methods—other than the one trick that works: turning to God. This is to be expected of men in the flesh; it is not surprising.
Nevertheless, it is well-attested: the elder ones take most offence when the younger is glorified by God, and those with a higher and better education take the most offence when a man less-educated than them is shown forth by God as wiser than them. They then sin against their own souls, by envy and jealousy. Their sin begins by their “not knowing the power of God, nor the things written, and they go astray—they go far astray.” If they knew why one man is wiser than another, they would not be jealous, because what is one clay jar that the other should envy it? As Moses told the Israelites, “Who is Moses and Aaron, that you should grumble against them? Why do you test God?” The wise one, regardless of his claims, is not responsible for his wisdom. Neither the well-educated one, nor the fluent one. But if you ignore this, you have already started to sin against your soul, imputing upon man what is the preserve of God alone, and then falling into pride or envy, which are sins against your very soul.
When a man is shown forth as wealthy, it is God’s doing that he is wealthy. If such a man denies that he is rich—for we live with cultures, now, that glorify this false modesty—he commits the sin of deceit, and then many sins consequent to that (for instance, that he is consequently not required to behave to the poor as the rich should, and he doesn’t glorify God with the wealth He gave Him, not getting for God a harvest of thanksgiving from poverty-stricken lips by anonymous gifts, as commanded by the Lord—let not your left hand know the donation of your right hand—for, as Moses said, “the poor shall always be with you, therefore I charge you this day to help them” and the psalmist added “to You, O Lord, the poor commits himself, for You note mischief and vexation”). Just acting poor while one is rich requires constant deceitfulness; and people do not bless their parents, or their neighbours, or their congregations, or their communities, or their wives, or their children, or their God, because they are feigning poverty. May they be anathema.
But when God has made you rich, celebrate; call your neighbours and tell them the goodness of the Lord to you, and say, with the psalmist, “In what shall I repay the Lord for all the goodness and kindness He has shown me?”
The accursed ones sin against their own souls, either by thinking that they made themselves rich, or by denying the evident fact of their blessing—that they are rich.
But the more-common damnable thing is those who are envious and jealous of the rich, as though they did it themselves. They sin against their own souls—and often go all the way to theft, murder, and so on, especially with inherited wealth (“old money”) and so-called over-night success, which, more than all other cases, shows most-clearly the hand of God in decreeing forth the wealthy and the poor alike, with no regard to their efforts, being “due neither to the one who wills nor to the one who runs, but to Him who calls.”
Obviously, the same goes for positions of authority. And for this reason democracy is a horrible heresy and a stupid idea. Power does not belong to the people! Power belongs to God, and to God alone. “The kingdom of men belongs to God; He gives it to whomsoever He wants to.” If God desires to raise a harsh ruler up, whether it be bad that he be harsh (as in Isaiah 19), God shall have His way—and all fault is with us, for He cannot be charged with wrong. This is why He tells Pharaoh “For this reason I raised you up.” and He raised up Nebuchadnezzer, and He raised up Cyrus—for His own glory, due to His own will. Power belongs to Him.
But the democratic heresy allows people to store up in their hearts envy and jealousy, and to let it fester and ferment, and they scream condemnation upon themselves, and sin against their souls. They think—having been deceived by pagan Greek homosexual philosophers—that the leaders are the work of man, and that therefore they should be judged and either appointed or dismissed by men. None of the leaders whom God ever raised up, like Herod and Nero, for instance, were ever raised up because they were pious saints; that is why their acting like wicked heathens is not what causes them to be dismissed by God. These things are merely true, whether we hate the fact of them (as is natural—see the remonstrant arminian heretics, for instance), or we love the fact of them (as is revealed by the Spirit to enlightened eyes—see the Canons of Dort, for instance).
On the other hand, sound doctrine permits only of the result of contention (as with most royal dynasties) and lot (as with the high priests of the Bible, and things like primogeniture and gender parametrised over prevailing culture), because those God has ordained as an expression of His will. Moreover, He has roundly rejected, in many places in the Bible, that the heart of man “deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” should be the one to choose, by its own good pleasure, and then He be accused of being responsible for it. 1 Samuel 8 is not against kings—because neither is Deuteronomy 17—but it is against democrats. May they be anathema. Indeed, 1 Samuel 16 goes on to affirm Deuteronomy 17 and, one more time for emphasis, denounce the very basis of democracy in the case when God, rather than man, chooses the king.
Yet, indeed, the reason I wrote this was to reprove the sin of envying the wise. For I am wise, myself, having been given a spirit of wisdom and understanding and skill, by God, the Father Almighty. This is not something I can change—“for who can resist His will?” And who am I, mere man, to talk back to God?—and it is not something I am at liberty to deny, either, for it would be better for me to be ignorant of His blessing to us—“even us, whom He has called” to whom “Christ has become wisdom, righteousness, and power from God”—than to be continually deceitful about this, His work. Remember the sin of Assyria! For while God says “Assyria, my handiwork, and Israel, my inheritance,” He charges Assyria with denying His creation of them—“shall the axe glory itself without the Hand that cuts with it?”—as He charges Israel with denying His ownership of them—“go check among the Kedarites; has any nation ever abandoned its deity?” I am the handiwork of God—to His glory alone (soli Deo gloria), for I am reformed by His very hand.
But, for everybody blessed this way, the main challenge, as it was for Joseph, is those people, like his elder brothers, who walk according to the flesh and say, to Moses as to Christ of whom Moses was a shadow “Who made you king over us?” They look, and see no inherent worth in me, and say in their hearts that, without this many years of age, or this much education, or this much exposure to this many things, it cannot possibly be that I am wiser than them.
I never chose to make myself pious for the words of the Lord. Yet, as Psalm 119 says, “Because of your Law, O Lord, I am wiser than my teachers.” Now, they ignore that no man saves himself from the carnality in which they are involved, to which they are desperately addicted, which I find repugnant, and from which I recoil in horror. The natural man hates the things of God; if I do not, it is because God eternally determined, based on no virtues of mine, to save me from that carnality. Therefore, now, I am wise—the fear of the Lord being the beginning of wisdom—and the only response they muster up is “Your problem is that you think you know everything!” God spares me listening to them another day when they say that, for then my heart starts to despise them greatly. I have never said that I know everything—I have never claimed to be God—but any man who claims it for me, may he be anathema; he has stored up envy and jealousy in his heart, and sinned against his soul. But as for me, I do not have the right to deny that I am wise—I am wise. Indeed, I am wiser than them—there is nothing I can do about that. If I were richer than them, I would confess as much; but I am not. (Usually, also, they are rich, or richer, and they think that this should have a co-relation with wisdom; as though God is a respecter of fiat currency. Haha.) Moreover, God always reserves, and characteristically uses, the His sovereign right to take the weakest and most-unfit thing, and use it most-gloriously—the death of Christ, even the death on a cross, being the ultimate—such that, indeed, it makes me wonder what they expected, what they would have been happy with; that God must (they insist!) put these treasures in jars of gold? They are accursed.
There is Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. In his account of his life, in Acts, he says that he sat at the feet of Gamaliel—got the best education in his times—and was excellent beyond all his generation, and was zealous for the traditions of his fathers. This another would have credited to his own piousness, especially in light of the fact that Paul went on to fight unto death this same faith in God Who has mercy on whom He will have mercy. “But,” adds Paul, “God, who knew me and called me from before birth …” Even the excellent education choices of Paul’s father for his kids, and the strange and enlightening journey that Paul took, as an enemy to the truth, such that later he was able both to preach at the Areopagus, with references to classic Greek poetry, and lecture in the school of Tyranos for two years (you can bet he was not speaking street Hebrew there), was all designed by God, who calls that which is not as though it is, and commands light out of darkness, and sees the end from the beginning. The problem is not a good/university education, per se, but ultimate rebellion against God, which makes of the education a curse and a grave mistake that leads men away from simple faith and piousness to proud and ignorant sinfulness. Just as the gospel leaves one man, the rebellious reprobate, without excuse and ripe for condemnation, it leaves the other man, the repentant elect, with light in his eyes and quivering before the cross of Christ to the salvation of his soul. These things I say leave men without excuse, for having been literate and yet disregarded the message in the Bible, in favour of the wankery of heathenous and purjurous secularists, for instance, or they leave men convinced that they have been party to the most-pernicious sin that can be committed by the sons of Christian fore-fathers: denying the lordship of Christ, who is Lord over all, for ever and ever, amen.
I know men on whom God conferred blessings of excellent educations and great wealth; yet they supported and pursued things opposed to the will of God—such as, say, the false modesty and democracy discussed above—and those God has held up before my eyes, saying “See what a curse their blessings have become. For I blessed them, and they turned from my testimonies; though I gave them everything, beyond even their wildest dreams, they reviled my Lordship; and though I glorified them before their nation, they did not glorify my Son before their nation. But for this reason I raised them up, that my glory may be shown in them.” And he hardens whom He wills, and He pities whom He wills. Moreover, He kept me from getting such education and wealth, that my faith may not be in those things, and, lacking them, I may cling ever more to Him; and that no man may say “We made him wise, we made him wealthy,” but that I may be preserved from the temptation of ascribing to flesh what God alone confers, I got no contribution from men, for wisdom or for wealth. You see, the only way to survive temptation is, not in the flesh, but as taught in the Prayer “Our Father in Heaven, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Accursed is every man who looks to his own resources to survive temptation! —For then he has already sinned.
The most-intriguing thing is that they never stop to ask “How can I be wise, also?” They could commit the sin of Simon, who tried to buy the gifts of the Spirit with money. Or, they could cling to Christ, who Proverbs 8 prophesied as wisdom, and Paul’s epistles taught as wisdom from God. For once a man draws near to God in Christ, all the blessings of God are his. No man will pray to God for wisdom, but will seek it in universities and all sorts of other reprobated places, unless God has turned him to wisdom; but whoever God turns to wisdom, Christ is the first and last stop. “Cast all your cares upon Jesus.” “Does any of you lack anything? Let him ask God.” He who fashioned the smart and the dumb alike, the wise and the foolish, He—even He—will give a spirit of wisdom and skill and understanding. They do not ask me; and since I would point them to Christ, the reprobate would either not ask or not believe. But they lag behind because jealousy and envy blinds their eyes, while I pull ahead by faith in God. Wherefore God has made me wise, and given me authority, and elevated me above my brothers, and glorified me before my nation, that, as a king on the Earth, I may kiss the Son as a sign and warning to all the rest—whether to leave them without excuse, or to give them encouragement to like piousness. Those who are envious and jealous of what God has done for me, to me, that is their problem—and there are many, for I have heard directly from many—but because He decided, and delighted in me, He elected me to these things, and now we all live with the consequences thereof. Shall I live with the consequences of denying His truth—be that of His election, or of my calling? No; I would rather that the wicked reprobates live with the consequences of their walking according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit, and living by sight not by faith.