The Crucifixion of Strength and Wisdom

Crucifixion, Matthias Grunewald

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. (1 Corinthians 1:22-25)

The crucified Messiah is a scandal to Jews and a form of idiocy to Gentiles. By all human viewpoints, such a Savior seems weak and foolish. Yet it is by this very weakness and foolishness that God reveals His strength and wisdom. Indeed, God’s strength and wisdom unveil the weakness and foolishness of supposed human strength and wisdom. The upside-down ways of God in the Messiah apocalyptically show what is truly happening in this world.

Do we turn again to other forms of strength and wisdom than that of God? Having come to God through the One Mediator, Jesus Christ, do we then set aside His apparent weakness for human strength or His apparent foolishness for human wisdom? Do we turn somewhere else and thereby say that Christ is not sufficient? Do we empty the Messiah of His true power by grasping for other types of power—power of influence, power to dominate, power of money, power of achievement, power of sensuality, power of position? By doing so we forsake Christ and our faith! Paul continues:

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

So let us know where true strength and wisdom come from and not turn again to what is foolishness.. Let us not boast in ourselves—our power, strength, or wisdom—but let us boast in the Lord and His power. Let us follower where He leads us and not turn aside to that which He has unveiled as empty of strength and empty of wisdom.

A Prayer inspired by the prophet Zephaniah

Sovereign LORD,
we know that a time is coming,
the great day of the LORD,
when You will stretch out Your hand
to judge the nations of the earth
and sweep away everything
from the face of the earth.

We tremble before You, LORD,
for who can truly stand in that day?
We seek You, LORD our God,
we seek righteousness and we seek humility
that You might shelter us on that day,
and save a remnant for Your name.

In this present day, we also tremble
over the distress that has come upon us.
Our strength is demolished
and the streets are deserted.

But You, LORD our God, are with us;
a Mighty Warrior who saves us.
Show forth Your great delight in us,
and in Your love rejoice over us with singing.
Remove from us the grief of our losses
and restore our fortunes before our very eyes.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

A Prayer for Distressing Times inspired by the prophet Habakkuk

LORD God, you are our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in times of trouble.
In these days, we are deeply aware
of just how greatly we need Your help.

We see the pestilence that stalks at night
and the plague that destroys at midday.
Like Habakkuk, we say to you,
“How long, Lord, must we call for help?”

Be our refuge in the gathering trouble;
be our strength amidst feeble bodies.
Teach us to dwell in the shelter of Your presence,
and to rest in the shadow of Your might.

And even if the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vine,
grant us, God our Savior, great joy in You
as we tread upon the heights by Your power at work within us.

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

A Prayer inspired by the prophet Nahum

LORD God, King of the earth,
You have created all peoples
and reign over all the nations
that inhabit this earth.

When the nations rage
and put themselves forward as mighty,
You still have the final word,
promising to put all the prideful in their place.

Although tempted to trust in our own strength,
we turn to You, even as the psalmist says,
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God’ (Psalm 20:7).

Teach us to live with trust
in light of the prophet Nahum’s words,
“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.
He cares for those who trust in him” (Nahum 1:7).

All this we pray, through Jesus Christ,
to whom, with You and the Holy Spirit
be all honor and glory, now and forever.
Amen.

A Song of Hope – “You Never Let Go”

I talked with a few different people this past week who are in the midst of some challenging situations. In the midst of our focus on hope this week, the following song came back to my mind. It speaks hope into our lives with the simple, yet profound, truth that God walks with us through the ups and downs of our lives. I hope it’s an encouragement to you today.

[This is a continuation of this week’s theme of “Beginning to Live with Hope.”]