The Poor Wise Man
C. Gahan, Ilminster
In the Old Testament, the Lord Jesus is set before us in a wonderful system of typical persons, typical places and typical things, and if we would "grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ", we cannot do better than study what they have to tell us of His Person and work. Of the personal types one of these is Solomon, and in these verses we are reminded that he is a type of the Lord Jesus in His use of parables. It is said of our Lord: "All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them", Matt. 13. 34. How many rich and illuminating parables fell from His lips! The same thing is true of Solomon; in his writings he makes a constant use of parables to enforce his teaching, and in Bible times this parabolic form of teaching was well-known and highly esteemed. It was a commendation of Solomon that the Jews were fond of saying that he wrote in parables, and in the Apocrypha it is said of him: "How wise wast thou in thy youth, and as a flood, filled with understanding! Thy soul covered the whole earth and thou filledst it with dark parables". This was, of course, the one thing lacking in Solomon's parables, they were "dark parables"; in the words of Psalm 49. 4, they were a "dark saying". Notwithstanding his profound knowledge and wisdom, the true meaning of most of Solomon's parables was hidden from him.
We have a striking example of this in "The Song of Solomon", for the whole of that beautiful little book is a parable, a parable setting forth the ardent love and mystical union subsisting between the Bridegroom and the Bride, the Lord and His Church. But although Solomon wrote it he was completely unaware of its inner, spiritual meaning. Most of his parables were "dark sayings"; their true meaning was hidden from his day and generation, and for the most part in these parables Solomon wrote more wisely than he knew. The time had not yet come for God to speak plainly; hence the so many "dark sayings" of the Old Testament. The fact is, the key to their meaning could only be found in Him who was to come - in Him who said: "I will open my mouth in parables] I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world". Matt. 13. 35. In the light of the New Testament Solomon's parables are no longer "dark sayings"; we now know them to be so many fore-shadowings of the Christ who was to come, and the wonderful work He was to accomplish in the fulness of time. These long-hidden "treasures of darkness" have now been brought into the open light of day. Such a parable is the parable of these verses. We shall consider first-
The Parable. In the Bible sense of the word a parable is a picture with a heavenly meaning, and this distinguishes the parables of the Bible from all others - they are heavenly, heavenly in their meaning and purpose. We have a beautiful example of this in the parable now before us, the parable of the Little City, the Great King, and the Poor Wise Man. The words are few but what a wealth of truth is suggested to us here! Here is a little peaceful city, but a great king came against it with an invading army intent on utterly destroying it. What hope can there be for the little city with a few men in it, and few resources to defend it? Its destruction seemed absolutely certain; such a danger had never threatened this little city before, and in all probability it would never survive to face such a danger again. But at the very moment of extremity a poor wise man delivered the city; and who would have thought that "a great king" would have been defeated by "a poor wise man"! The king was strong; in the sequel the poor wise man was stronger than he.
Such, in a few graphic words, is the parable; and can there be any doubt as to its heavenly meaning and spiritual application? The little city recalls the city of man's soul; the great king points with unerring finger to Satan "the god of this world" and "the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience"; and in the poor wise man we can think of none other but the Man Christ Jesus, the One in whom are hid "all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge"; the One who "though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich", 2 Cor. 8. 9. Satan, the great enemy, invaded the city of man's soul and utterly laid it waste, leaving man a moral and spiritual ruin. But man's extremity became God's opportunity, for in the fulness of time the Son of God came to rebuild the fallen citadel of man's soul; He by His wisdom has made null and void the destructive work of Satan. Every truly saved soul, therefore, is a little restored city where the name of the Lord Jesus is loved, owned and honoured, and where peace, truth and righteousness reign. Thus the Lord Jesus in the days of His flesh, in the work of man's salvation, became "the poor wise man". He, by His wisdom, delivered the city. Truly, in the words of verse 16 of this chapter, "Wisdom is better than strength"; the wisdom of the Lord Jesus is better than the strength of Satan. Our deliverance from sin and Satan's power is the work of Him "who of God is made unto us wisdom", 1 Cor. 1. 30. Contemplating such an exhibition and demonstration of divine wisdom, well might we say with the apostle: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!", Rom. 11.33. But not only the parable-
The Forgetfulness of these verses requires our consideration. Solomon does not tell us by what strategy the poor man's wisdom delivered the city; in all probability he did not know. He certainly did not know by what expedient, in the fulness of time, divine wisdom would save fallen man. In these New Testament times we now know that, in order to save, the Lord Jesus had to humble Himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Rich indeed was our Lord, but to what an unmeasured depth of poverty and suffering He abased Himself for us! But more remains to be told: the poor wise man delivered the city, yet it is recorded in these verses that "no man remembered that same poor man". After delivering the city from such a terrible danger the poor wise man was completely forgotten, and this is just as true of the Lord Jesus today; in the words of these verses His "wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard". Multitudes of men and women today are living as if the Lord Jesus had never suffered, bled and died for the emancipation of man's soul. What wicked and guilty forgetfulness!, to forget the Deliverer, "even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come", i Thess. i. 10. We also who are the Lord's people can be forgetful; all too often we forget whose we are and whom we serve. How often in the Old Testament, in the oft-repeated words "remember" and "forget not", does God make it clear that He wishes to be remembered by His people! The Passover feast, with its constant reminder of Israel's wonderful deliverance from Egyptian bondage, was intended to be a means to this end. Nevertheless, they did forget God and no other sin provoked and grieved the God of Israel more than this one. How often did they forget God? God Himself tells us: "Can a maid forget her ornaments, or a bride her attire? yet my people have forgotten me days without number", Jer. 2. 32.
They saw His wonders wrought, And then His praise they sung;
But soon His works of power forgot, And murmured with their tongue.
Are we any better than they? The fact is, like Israel of old we are prone to forget God's works and the wonders He has shown us. Is it not clear from the New Testament that the Lord Jesus wishes to be remembered by His people? Few things grieve Him more than our forgetfulness, and nowhere do we see this more clearly than in the Lord's supper. We, also, have our memorial feast, our feast of remembrance, and when our Lord instituted this feast He had in view the perils of forgetfulness. Knowing the coldness and slowness of the human heart, He took care that His death should not only be recorded in the Bible and made known in the preaching of the Gospel, but that it should be demonstrated in visible signs and emblems in a special ordinance. If we "have tasted that the Lord is gracious", these memorials of our loving, suffering, dying, and soon-coming Lord will keep our memories fresh and green, and move us to gratitude and adoring worship.