I know that this morning there are more people here than just the confirmation students. I pray that as you hear this sermon, God’s Word comes to you as well to strengthen your faith and assure you of his forgiveness. But, this sermon is especially for these seven who will be confirmed. So, for you guys, imagine for the next little bit that it’s just you and me. The parties, the family and friends, all of that is going to come later, but for right now, let it all fade into the background. They’ll be listening to the sermon, but this is primarily for you. Let’s pretend for a little why that it’s just us.
As you guys grow up, what do you envision people saying about you? Do you picture people saying that you’re great at sports? Great at acting and theatre? Great at shooting? Funny? Smart? Rich? When your friends talk about you, how do they describe you? How about your parents and grandparents? If I asked them to tell me what you were like, what would you like them to say? There’s probably more answers to that question than I could guess or maybe even think of right now. What I want to know, though, is where on that list is wisdom? Is it the first thing? Is it somewhere in the middle? When you picture your 20 year-old self, your 30 year-old self, or maybe your 80 year-old self, do you want people to say that you are wise?
In the year 600 B.C., there was a boy who lived in western China, near the Himalayan mountains, who decided that what he wanted from his life was to find wisdom. But, he didn’t know what wisdom was. He didn’t know where wisdom came from. All he knew was that when people spoke of wisdom, they said it was a good thing. So, he wanted it. In an effort to learn more, he went to his parents one night after dinner and asked them, “How do I become wise?” The parents, frankly, were startled by this question. They told him after some discussion that the secret to wisdom was hard work. So the boy set out to work hard on their family farm, and he worked really hard. He really wanted to be wise. Every so often, he would go back to his parents and say to them, “Am I wise now?” His parents would always say, “Nope. Not yet.”
After years of hard work, the boy met a traveling merchant who had come from far away in the West. He wore clothes that were all blue and purple with gold trim. He came with a huge caravan of servants, animals, and stuff to sell. When this boy, now a teenager, when to buy some supplies from the merchant they got to talking. Wisdom came up in their conversation, and the teenager asked the man, “Are you wise? Do you know how a person becomes wise? My parents say it comes from hard work.” The merchant told him, “It sometimes comes from hard work, but I’ve found that it comes from having money. I know I am wise because I have so much stuff and so many people come to me asking how I did it.”
That night the teenager decided to, unwisely, to run away. It hurt him to leave behind his parents, but he had to find wisdom. He didn’t find it on his family farm, so he joined the merchant’s caravan. They traveled west together, over the mountains. As they traveled together, he watched the merchant buying and selling things. He learned how to be a merchant himself. He started to make money. In every village that they came to, he bought and sold items. At first, it was hard for him to make any money, but soon his own treasure began to accumulate.
After a few years traveling with the merchant, he left his caravan to set up his own. He traveled all over the world. To the east he crossed the sea to Japan. To the south, he visited the land of India. To the north, he camped on the frigid plains of Siberia. To the west, he even saw the temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. By this time, he was not longer a teenager, but a man—and a rich one. People would come from all over to ask his advice on what things to buy and sell. They want to know what things they should sell in which places. Sometimes, the man would ask those who came to him for advice, “Did you come to me because I am wise?” They would respond, “It’s not really about wisdom. We came to you because you are successful.”
It took a while, but the man eventually learned that being smart and successful was not the same as wisdom. Hard work was not the same as wisdom. He finally decided that there was no wisdom. There was no one who had the answer. He had been all over the world and no one knew what it was or where to find it. They all had their ideas of what it would be like, but no one could know for certain. So, he moved to the city of Babylon. It was a booming metropolis. He set aside his days of being a traveling merchant, and he set up a shop in the city. But, he only worked so that he could go out and have fun. He had decided that if there was no wisdom, then the only thing people could agree on is to have as much fun as possible. So he did. Every night there were new people to meet, new things to experience. He tried everything. He ate until he was sick. He drank until he couldn’t remember the night before. He met women. He partied. “This must be wisdom,” he said to himself, but he could tell those words were empty.
When he had been living in Babylon for a few years, he met an official in the emperor’s court. This man was highly respected by everyone. He was known for his ability to interpret dreams. He was known for having the trust of the most powerful person in the world. He was known for being a vegetarian of all things. But, most of all, he was known for his wisdom. His name was Daniel. He came into his shop one day to browse and see some curiosities from around the world. The man introduced himself, and when he learned that he was talking to Daniel of all people, he couldn’t help but ask the question one more time. This man was called wise by everyone. Certainly he knew what wisdom was and where to find it.
“Most excellent Daniel,” the man began to say, because that’s how you were supposed to talk to important people, “I have been all over the world. I have met people in the east, the west, the north, and the south. I have sought wisdom in hard work, in riches, in pleasure—no matter where I go, whom I talk to, or what I know, I cannot find it. Surely, you must know. What is wisdom? Where can I find it?” Daniel stroked his beard. He looked longingly toward westward.
Then, he said, “Wisdom is not the sort of thing you will find on this earth. It is worth more than all the gold in the world. You cannot buy it with jewels or silver. No creature could come up with it on their own, though many have tried. Even if you could travel to the afterlife, beyond death, and come back, even then you would not learn of it. But, I do know what wisdom is. I know the only One who understands wisdom. ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom’” (Job 28:28). The man stared at Daniel. The answer seemed wrong. But, he couldn’t help, but he couldn’t help, but press on.
“What do you mean? What is fear? Who is the Lord?” he asked Daniel. Daniel stayed in that shop for a long time that day. He told the man a long story. It started way back with the beginning of all things, and even looked to the future. The story told about sin, about the failure of human beings to find any sort of wisdom or value by themselves. It told about how a nation of people had been driven from their homeland into exile by their God, but that this wasn’t an act of wrath, but one of love. The best part of the story though was when Daniel talked about the “Son of Man.” (Daniel 7:13) He was the one Daniel feared, but not in the way a child fears the dark. It was reverence. It was awe. Daniel longed for the Son of Man who would come to take away the sins of the whole world. “That is wisdom,” Daniel said. “True wisdom is to believe in the one God will send to save us. Now you know it, and where to find it.”
My friends, you have been blessed to spend time studying God’s word. You know what the Bible is about and why it is so important. Don’t lose focus on that. If you do, you might go out to seek wisdom in other places. But if you want to know how to be wise—wiser than most adults, wiser than most of your teachers, knowing how to live a good life with those around you—then you need the Word of the Lord. I know you will be tempted to look in other places. I know you already have been tempted. Some of you have already thought you could find true wisdom in popularity, in having fun, or being the best at something. But it’s not there. In your life, you might seek wisdom by falling in love, by trying to earn enough money, or through drugs or alcohol, but it’s not there.
There is only one way to wisdom. “God alone understands the way to wisdom; he knows where it can be found” (Job 28:23). So praise God that he has made known to us the way to wisdom as well. That is what you have been studying for the last three years. The way to wisdom—what it means to receive grace and faith from God. It is only by that grace and faith that you come to know the Son of Man—Jesus Christ. It is through him that all of the benefits of wisdom become yours—righteousness, holiness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:31). Find this wisdom of God. Seek it with all your heart. Believe in the Lord.
One more time, imagine what people say about you. Imagine what you want them to say about you. Do you want them to say that you are a wise person? I hope so. Not because you everyone to think you are so amazing, but because you know what true wisdom is. The only true wisdom is faith in Jesus. Today, you will let everyone know that the best thing, the most important thing, in your life is wisdom. You are going to stand in front of everyone here and say that you would rather be a wise person who believes in Jesus than anything else. You would even rather die. May God give you the grace and faith to say those wise words you soon will, “I do, and I ask God to help me.” Amen.