Day 19 | The King is Coming: A Truth’s Table Advent Devotional

Day 19: Waiting with Wisdom | Christina Edmondson

 

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside

Down by the riverside

I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield

Down by the riverside

I'm gonna study, study, war no more

I ain't gonna study war no more

Ain't gonna study war no more

 

If you have ever taken an Introduction to Psychology Course you might recall the marshmallow study. Conducted in the 1960’s by some Stanford University professors, the study sought to examine the factors that cause some children to immediately take the offered single marshmallow or agree to wait for the time-delayed two marshmallows. Subsequently, all kinds of versions of these tests were executed including longitudinal studies looking to see if the ability to self-soothe the impulse of taking the first presented reward would produce higher functioning adults.

However, the truth is all studies are subject to cultural assumptions and biases. So it is not surprising that the study missed some of the factors outside of impulse control and character that would make a child prefer the guaranteed now reward to the unseen future reward. In other words, delayed gratification may not be an adaptive response in a cruel and uncertain environment where tomorrow’s meal or safety is not guaranteed. To the extent that a child (or an adult for the matter) feels that the promised unseen “two marshmallows” will arrive, they are likely to delay instant gratification for the future greater treat.  Finally, another factor that impacted the ability to “delay gratification” was the age of the child. Older children were more likely to pass on the first option and wait for the two marshmallow treat.

We can look back and ask ourselves is this really a test about delayed gratification and self-control or rather a test of confidence in the future to come? Maybe, it is both?

Seems like those of us who are waiting on the soon returning King might be able to relate this study. First, confidence and trust in the giver of the reward including our witness to His faithfulness grows our ability to wait on future promises. Second, Christian maturity allows us to forgo the award of now for the greater award to come. Our maturity grows as we reverence the Lord and obey His word. Wisdom then is sown into us and reaps a harvest of greater patience and trust in the greater reward to come, Jesus Christ.

Here is a question for us to consider. Are you waiting with wisdom for the returning King? To answer this, let’s briefly reflect on two passages that speak to wisdom.

 

Proverbs 4:6

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

 

James 3:13-17

Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.

 

First, the Proverbs passage uses anthropomorphic language to describe wisdom. Having spent the last couple of days reflecting on God’s mercy to Mary, I am struck by just how much wisdom sounds like a mother. It reminds me of the beginning of Proverbs 31 (the part people usually skip). Reflect on the words of King Lemuel’s wise mother.  She provides wisdom designed to protect him from risky choices (“stop all that drinking unless you forget you are King and deprive the oppressed of their rights!). She has plenty to say about his relationships and the community he will serve. Momma is clear with her son that he must prioritize the poor, destitute and voiceless. Finally, she schools him on qualities of a “good women.” Likely, somebody like her.  

The truth is we all don’t have wise mothers and some of us are moms who don’t always feel very wise. However, the failings of our earthly parents only serve as a striking contrast to the excellency of our greater parent, God the father. God is infinitely wise and so gracious that we have the Word of wisdom with us. In scripture, God lifts up wisdom like that of a beloved mother’s teachings to protect us, shape us, and even cause us to bless those who we will serve.

We need God’s wisdom while we wait, Sisters. We need the sure Word of God to help us to resist the lesser things and rewards while we wait.

Secondly, in the New Testament, we find James asking a necessary question. This is a question that will help us to assess to the extent we are wisely waiting on the King. James asks, “Who is wise and understanding among you?”

While we might be inclined to answer hastily and say, I am brother James.  We might want to wait to hear the full description of wisdom.

First, James contrasts two types of wisdom. One, is “earthly, unspiritual and demonic” the other is “pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.”  While we wait we are compelled to model a wisdom marked with truthfulness. The scripture says that wisdom starts there with what is pure. This is important because often truth-tellers are asked to stop saying the truth and simply appear pleasant. But, pleasantries without truthfulness is deception. With that being said, truthfulness without all the other following characteristics lacks love of neighbor and obedience to God. True wisdom seeks authentic unity with purifying truth. It leans into reason with ears open. This wisdom is obvious, orthodoxy (right thinking) and orthopraxy (right living) walk hand in hand. Finally, wisdom is not two-faced but rather authentic and committed to “treating everybody right.”

All of these qualities highlight what James refers to as “the meekness of wisdom.” Remember the meek are from weak but rather they are restrained. The meek hold power and insight that stands at attention ready when the time is right to come forth. In other words, the meek can say I will pass on what looks like accessible pleasure, reward, or even a verbal rebuttal for the greater and ever-satisfying joy to come. God is requiring that we demonstrate the meekness of wisdom because He does. Jesus embodies this very ideal every time we see Him restraining the fullness of His glory, brilliance and power to draw near to us with the witness of His sacrifice, humility and undying love. The meek servant is returning as the victorious King.

After considering these passages, we can communally acknowledge that we fall woefully short of this level of wisdom. I am left thanking God for the sufficiency of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. I am left feeling grateful that Christ speaks for me even now. However, the Holy Spirit continues the work of sanctification by leading us to love what God loves, hating our own sins and seeking after more of God’s wisdom.

Ya’ll it is hard to pass on what seems like the sure thing at the moment. Life is hard. Self-control seems difficult to exercise and wisdom is lacking in a world of lies. Some days you get bad news. Heck, some years you get bad news. It takes deep confidence in the promises of God and not just will-power or behavior modification to wait wisely and pass on what the world says is good, wise and ready for what God promises in the end.  The wise woman knows that God’s promises and blessed return is truly worth the wait.

 

Reflection Questions

  1. What type of wisdom impresses me?
  2. How much do I trust the promises of God and I am willing to wait on the greater reward?
  3. Who are and were the wise women in my life? Thank God for their wisdom and if possible thank them for following in the ways of King Lemuel’s mother.

 

Song of Praise

“Lord Prepare Me” by West Angeles COGIC