We think we are superior in knowledge and values to previous generations but often our values are upside down. We value what is new, instant, youthful, tangible, technological and dismiss the converse. There may be much knowledge and intelligence, but wisdom transcends this. If wisdom is pursuing the best things in the best way, where best is defined by God, then it is in short supply today. Ultimately the one who completely knows how the best goals can be achieved in the best way is God “the only wise God” Himself. He has infinite wisdom. This is not just seen in creation and providence but especially in redemption (Ephesians 3:10). In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). No one knows more or knows better how to apply that knowledge for the good of His own people. We may be tempted to question how things are with ourselves and around us, but infinite wisdom is ordering all things for us.
Christ is fully equipped and qualified to do all that He has purposed for His people. There is nothing required for the work which He does not have. David Dickson imagines a poor soul asking, “Christ may be able to do all I need; but is He willing to employ His wisdom and strength for me?” He answers that Christ not only has wisdom and strength, but He will deal prudently. He foresees all the impediments in His way, anything that could mar the work of salvation. There is no wound His soldiers get that He has no cure for. There is no adversary He does not know how to defeat. In a word, everything from eternity to eternity is managed prudently. Dickson is expounding and applying Isaiah 52:13 “Behold, my servant shall deal prudently” and in the course of doing this he brings out the way in which Christ applies His wisdom. There are twelve ways this is identified in the following updated extract (Dickson’s fifteen ways have been summarised into twelve).
1. Christ Deals With God’s Justice Wisely
The justice of God must lose nothing, before we are reconciled or get heaven, a just God must be satisfied. Our prudent Lord answers, “If these people cannot get to heaven until justice is satisfied, behold I am come to satisfy it.” And yet the Lord’s mercy will have as great a place as it pleases; for He deals so prudently that He makes mercy and justice kiss each other. Mercy runs like a river, and justice is satisfied — is not that prudent dealing?
2. Christ Deals With God’s Law Wisely
The law says, “I will take satisfaction from Christ for past sins; but what obedience will I have for the future? Will those whom Christ has redeemed, be permitted to break me in the future?” Prudent Christ answers, “What the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, for sin condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us.” Before the law could only get punishment for its being broken, now, it gets full obedience by Christ. Christ did not come to abolish but to fulfil the law; He came only to abolish the cursing part of it, but to establish the obeying part of it. Here is prudent dealing.
3. Christ Conquers Satan Wisely
In comes Satan the jailer and death with him; he flies at Christ to get Him overthrown. But prudent Christ destroyed him who had the power of death by the means of death. He overcomes him who had the power of death, and says, he will be the death of death.
So death lies down in the grave and all his own die and lie down with him. Satan thinks to have Christ held in this way. But He could not be held by the sorrows of death. He rises and breaks an opening with Him through death. Like Samson, He takes away the gates and bars of death and has left death neither door nor lock to hold us in. Here is prudence.
4. Christ Enters the World Wisely
See His prudent dealing in His coming into the world. He comes not with pomp or show, but in a humble way. He was meek and lowly, riding on an ass’s colt. Though He was a great king, yet often He went on foot. When He rode, it was on such a low beast, that any might have stood beside Him, and presented their petition in His ear, as He rode.
5. Christ Sends Out His Gospel Wisely
See His prudent dealing in sending His gospel forth to bring home souls. He does not use thunder and fire but poor, weak men with His word in their mouth. By this means, the rod of Zion, He casts down proud hearts and allures others. He puts His heavenly treasure in earthen vessels and lets them carry it and takes the glory to Himself. He puts the sceptre of His kingdom in these weak men’s mouths.
6. Christ Deals with Rulers Wisely
He gives kings no reason to envy His kingdom. He gives his ministers neither crowns nor lands, but only seeks that the workman gets his wages. Is this not great prudence, He does not trouble the kings and nobles of the land with His kingdom on earth. All His office-bearers must be everyone’s servant, “Whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours” (1 Corinthians 3:22). His kingdom is not of this world, but a spiritual kingdom.
7. Christ Declares His Sovereignty Wisely
He deals so prudently, that the mouth of the reprobate shall be stopped, and have no just argument against their condemnation. He either sends His gospel to them and so invites them to repentance. Or He makes them know His goodness by fruitful seasons, summer and winter, and use of all His good creatures. If they will not make use of these, will be found to have in themselves the cause of their own damnation.
He makes the elect abandon their sins and come in, that they may be vessels of honour. He declares His doctrines in such a way that none who desire to quit their sins and come to Him will find a mark of reprobation in themselves. However filthy they are, if they come, He will cleanse them. His doctrine is so wise, that it will hurt none who seek to come to Him only those who will not quit their sins.
8. Christ Deals with His People’s Pride Wisely
The elect are made to see their sinfulness, needs and unworthiness that they may have His sufferings in high estimation, as their main refuge.
9. Christ Comforts His People Wisely
He deals prudently in urging all to believe, and yet He reserves the right to bestow comfort. He urges them to believe and yet keeps back the comfort of believing till they vomit out their sins. He deals prudently in calling His children to peace, joy, and comfort, and yet give them heavy burdens and afflictions lest they go to excess. In this way, He comforts their souls while making sure also to have their flesh mortified. If He lifts them up in Himself, He puts them as low as possible in themselves. He does not let them sink into trouble for lack of comfort, nor let them disregard Him due to lack of affliction. He fills them with comfort and makes them shed tears for affliction.
10. Christ Justifies Sinners Wisely
Christ exercises great prudence to make a sinner righteous, yet that righteousness is not in themselves, neither does it depend on their own keeping. In His prudent dealing, He sends forth ministers to preach, and dispense heavenly mysteries, and yet keeps the seal in His own hand. Paul may plant and Apollos water, but God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6). Thus, none may depend on the minister for the blessing. Christ has great prudence to forgive sin, and yet still keep us crying, “Lord, forgive us our sins!”
11. Christ Feeds His People Wisely
He continues to feed with the food that endures to eternal life and yet still keeps us hungering for it. He holds our mouths to the well and yet we are still thirsty.
12. Christ Exalts His People Wisely
He exalts His own above principalities, powers and afflictions, yet lays them exceedingly low with a sight and sense of their sins. He heartily and warmly comforts and refreshes them, making their bed in their sickness, and yet keeping them humble, so that the better He is to them the humbler they are. He quietly and shrewdly slides consolations into their hearts when no one knows, His voice is not heard in the streets. He keeps a covered table with rich delicacies in the souls of His own, and none know of it, for strangers do not meddle with their joy.
I have told you only of part of Christ’s prudent and wise dealing. But it is a deep which cannot be fathomed, for even the angels stoop down, to learn His wisdom and prudence. They wonder at the wisdom of the cross:
- that by death, so many should be brought to life;
- by His shame, there should come so much glory;
- by abasing Him down to the death, so many should be brought to heaven;
- by His becoming cursed, so many should be blessed.
This wisdom and prudence cannot be fully told, therefore I leave it, as a thing that cannot be grasped. But make use of it. When the work of Christ is not as you would have it, then believe deeper wisdom in it than you can see. His wise and prudent dealing gives to everyone’s condition as their situation requires.
If He has trouble with a distorted piece of wood full of knots, He drives a hard wedge; or if He deals with one that is stubborn, He takes a baton. If there is one whose root is fastened in the earth, He takes a sharp knife to cut these roots. He comforts a heavy heart. If gives a weighty burden it is not too heavy. He lifts us up, but not too high. Everything is done in wisdom, due time, measure, manner, and might.
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