As I am loquacious and word-loving, my challenge with words lies more in the restraint department than the release department, with the exception of a few loaded phrases.
I am sorry. You are forgiven. I don’t know. These powerful trios have me tongue-tied on a regular basis, as they require an enormous amount of humility and grace to speak. The Lord has been working with me in this current season on the lattermost phrase: I don’t know.
In my mind, I don’t know is a phrase of weakness and incompetence, a badge of dishonor; however, biblically-speaking, this phrase is a sign of strength and wisdom and one often rewarded by God.
When Solomon inherits a large kingdom and even larger shoes to fill from his father, David, we hear him utter a version of this powerful phrase.
Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties… So give you servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours? 1 kings 3:7-9.
How God responds to this bold yet humble request is telling of how God will respond toward our admissions of deficit, weakness and uncertainty.
The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for this. 1 Kings 3:10.
Short but powerful. God is pleased when we come to Him and admit that we do not know.
James mentions something similar in his letter to the scattered churches.
If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5
Life as a human requires learning how to swim through seas of uncertainty and weakness. Although, in seasons we may find ourselves on secure islands of strength or sure-footedness, the tides of uncertainty will certainly set our lives floating yet again. We would do well to learn how to deal with uncertainties and situations that reveal our deficits of wisdom in a manner that pleases the lord.
The stories of two kings, a father Asa and his son Jehoshaphat, give us particular insight into two ways of dealing with our wisdom deficits.
All things considered and all biblical kings compared, Asa was a fairly God-honoring king. More than most, he sought to reform the nation of Israel back to the ways commanded by the Lord; however, towards the end of his life, he made a turn back towards the more base kingships.
When faced with possibilities of war, rather than continue to trust in the Lord’s protection and provision, he began to trust and rely on that which was seen and measurable. Rather than look to the Lord when faced with circumstances that betrayed his own lack of wisdom or strength, he came up with his own solutions to save face. He took gold and silver that belonged to the Temple treasury and used it to make an alliance with a foreign king. Two big no-no’s for the kings of God’s people.
A prophet spoke up, challenging him on his wrong response to the challenges facing his kingship and reminding him of the Lord’s past provision when he had, indeed, looked to Him for help.
Because you relied on the king of Aram and not on the Lord your God, the army of the king of Aram has escaped from your hand. Were not the Cushites and Libyans a mighty army with great numbers of chariots and horsemen? Yet when you relied on the lord, he delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. 2 Chronicles 16:7-10.
Some years later, when his son Jehoshaphat was ruling the kingdom, he was faced with a similar circumstance that revealed his own lack of wisdom and power for the task and challenge at hand. Massive swarms of enemy people were in striking distance of his kingdom and the alarmed nation was all looking to him. Learning from his father’s mistakes, he takes the courageous I don’t know route.
Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the Lord, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. The people of Judah came together to seek help from the Lord…”For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20: 3-4 & 12.
Both Solomon and Jehoshaphat allowed what they did not know to lead them to what they did know, or rather Him whom they knew.
When faced with circumstances that brought them to the limits of their own wisdom, strength and giftedness, they spoke those three brave little words. I don’t know.
But more importantly, they spoke them to the One who did know, to the One who was all-knowing, all-powerful and all-loving.
May we learn to admit our I don’t knows and allow them to lead us to the feet of the One who knows all. May we become people who regularly and boldly declare, “Lord, we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”