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Chapter 3


Pharaoh’s Wisdom



“Now there arose up a new king over Egypt, which knew not Joseph. And he said unto his people, Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we: Come on, let us deal wisely with them; lest they multiply, and it come to pass, that, when there falleth out any war, they join also unto our enemies, and fight against us, and so get them up out of the land.”                               (Exodus 1:8-10)


This was the wisdom of a man who not only “knew not Joseph,” but of one who knew not Joseph’s God. Pharaoh’s wisdom was but the wisdom of a fool. He was well educated. I do not doubt that he was a brilliant man. But he was a fool. God was not in all his thoughts (Psalm 10:4). He had never learned to take God into his calculations. That is the case with every natural, unregenerate man. The unregenerate mind is a mind of utter darkness. The most brilliant reasonings of fallen men are rightly compared to blind men groping about in utter darkness. The worldly wise are just fools. Their greatest wisdom is vain folly.


How absurd it is for us to be influenced by, much less admire, that wisdom that has for its basis the total exclusion of our God and Savior! To do so is to be influenced by and admire the wisdom of unbelief and atheism!


Pharaoh, according to the light of his darkness and the folly of his wisdom, calculated that the children of Israel were multiplying so rapidly, and so greatly increasing in strength, that they would soon take over the land. In fact, he stated that this was already the case in verse 9. — “Behold, the people of the children of Israel are more and mightier than we.


            Dishonesty is another common trait of man’s wisdom. By exaggerating the facts, Pharaoh knew he could more easily raise the hostilities of the Egyptians against the Israelites. He said, “These immigrants will soon take over the country. If we do not do something, they will unite with our enemies and go to war against us.” With great sagacity, the king of Egypt took everything into consideration — except God. Though he knew it not, that wrote “absurd folly” in capital, bold letters across all his schemes. It is written, Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness. And again, The Lord knoweth the thoughts of the wise, that they are vain” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20). So all Pharaoh’s wisdom was overturned. The wise man was taken in his own craftiness. — “Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh treasure cities, Pithom and Raamses. But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were grieved because of the children of Israel” (Exodus 1:11-12). And so it shall ever be! Our God ever makes foolish the wisdom of this world (1 Corinthians 1:20).


Infidels and Skeptics


The wisdom of Pharaoh is the wisdom of all infidels and skeptics. It is the wisdom of all unbelief. Human reason shuts God out and tries to keep him out of consideration. The very Being of God is the death-blow to all skepticism and infidelity. Until God is acknowledged, the proud wisdom of infidelity and skepticism struts up and down the stage, displaying clever chains of “logic,” “scientific” evidence, and “irrefutable” facts, laughing at us poor, ignorant fools who believe God and his Word. If ever the thought of God’s Being is taken into consideration, the worldly wise man’s “logic,” “scientific” evidence, and “irrefutable facts” all come falling to the ground like a house of cards.


Creation is no difficulty, if God is. The plagues in Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, manna falling from heaven, water flowing from a rock, and a rock following Israel through the desert for forty years are not difficulties, if God is. The virgin birth is no difficulty, if God is. Our Lord’s miracles are not difficult, if God is. Redemption and righteousness by the God-man is no difficulty, if God is. The salvation of our souls by grace alone is no difficulty, if God is. Providence is no difficulty, if God is. The resurrection is no difficulty, if God is.


Like the Sadducees of our Lord’s day, Pharaoh did “greatly err” (Mark 12:27), not knowing God, his unalterable purpose, his sovereign power, or his sure word of promise. Pharaoh did not know that, hundreds of years before he had breathed the breath of mortal life, God’s word and oath, “two immutable things,” had infallibly secured the full and glorious deliverance of that very people against whom he devised plans of annihilation in his great “wisdom.” He was ignorant of God, his purpose, and his promise. All his “wise” thoughts and plans were founded upon utter ignorance. He vainly imagined that he could, by his “wisdom,” prevent the increase of those people concerning whom God had said, “They shall be as the sand which is upon the sea-shore, and as the stars of heaven” (Gen. 22:17; 26:4). Pharaoh’s ignorance of God made his “wisdom” simply madness and folly.


Sad Mistake


What a sad mistake it is for man to ignore God and his Word! Sooner or later, the fact of God’s Being, wisdom, and power will force themselves upon every man. Then, all their plans, and schemes, and hopes will come crashing down around them. C. H. MacIntosh wrote, “All that is merely human, however solid, however brilliant, or however attractive, must fall into the cold grasp of death, and molder in the dark, silent tomb.” “Mortality” is engraved upon everything human. But God and his work are forever (Ecclesiastes 3:14). — “The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations…His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in him: all nations shall call him blessed” (Psalm 33:11; 72:17).


All who set themselves up against the eternal God and devise their own way are fools. Pharaoh could as easily have stemmed the tide of the ocean as prevent the increase of Abraham’s seed. Therefore we read, that though “they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens,…the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.”


Our Peace


Thus it shall ever be. “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall have them in derision” (Psalm 2:4). Eternal confusion shall be inscribed upon all the opposition of men and devils to the will and purpose of our God. This is our peace. This gives sweet rest to the believing heart. Though everything around us appears so contrary to God’s Being, so contrary to his promises, and so contrary to faith in him, we are assured “the wrath of man shall praise” him (Psalm 76:10).


            But the moment we begin to look at anything from a mere rational standpoint, the moment we begin to act after the wisdom of the flesh, our hearts are troubled, our spirits sink, and we are cast down. Therefore we are urged to fix our eyes upon things above, not on things on the earth. — If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3). Let us, like the Apostle Paul, “look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass (Psalm 37:7).


            The children of Israel only “looked at the things that are seen,” and that made their lives “bitter with hard bondage” (v. 14). They saw Pharaoh’s wrath, their stern taskmasters, their heavy afflictions, their hard bondage, the mortar and the bricks. How different things might have been for them, even in such hard circumstances, if they had looked “not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.” If only they had looked steadfastly upon God’s eternal purpose, his unfailing promise, and the rapidly approaching dawn of that day of salvation that was at hand, such blessed realities would have made their bitter cup sweet.




It is faith and faith alone, God-given faith, God-wrought faith, faith in Christ our God and Savior, our Lord and Redeemer, that looks beyond the temporal to the eternal. We are “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Jesus Christ” (Romans 8:17). “We walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). We are the children of God, heaven born citizens of another world (1 John 3:1-2).


            For now, we must live in (pass through) Egypt. But we are Christ’s freemen. In spirit, we are in the heavenly Canaan. With the eye of faith, trusting Christ our Savior, trusting God manifest in the flesh, by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, we set our hearts upon “unseen things above.” Mounting up with wings as eagles, let us look down upon this time world with disdain, in which sin, and death, and darkness appear to reign, “looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 1:21). Oh, that God the Holy Spirit might ever give us that simple child-like faith that sits beside the pure and ever-flowing fountain of living waters, drinking in those deep and refreshing drafts that lift the fainting spirit and inspire confidence in him!


Be Wise


Now, let me ask you a question. — Would you be wise? I mean truly wise. If you would be truly wise, if you would have spiritual wisdom, wisdom with which to discern all things, you must become a fool. “Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise” (1 Corinthians 3:18).


            This world, all the world, especially the religious world, counts the gospel of Christ foolishness. If you would be wise, you must count the wisdom of the world foolishness, and trust Christ alone as your God and Savior. If you can, God has given you that “wisdom that is from above” that James describes (James 3:17).


A Contrast


Pharaoh was a man of great earthly wisdom; but his wisdom was folly. Moses was a man the whole world would count a fool. He turned his back on all the riches of Egypt, and chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, because he believed God. But Moses was truly wise.


            The natural man, though he may be very religious, very smart, and very learned, is utterly ignorant of all things spiritual. That is to say, he is truly ignorant of all things, understanding nothing. And the man or woman who is born of God is taught of God. Having faith in Christ, being taught of God, the believer has “an unction from the Holy One and knoweth all things” (1 John 2:20; 3:20).


            Let me show you what a great contrast there is between the wisdom that God gives and the wisdom of the world (1 Corinthians 2:1-16). In preaching the gospel we preach salvation by the crucified Christ, and do so in utter simplicity, “That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (vv. 1-5). Yet, we preach that which is true wisdom (vv. 6-9). Now, look at the contrast between the wisdom of this world and the wisdom that God gives.


“But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:10-16).


            There are several things stated here that make stark distinctions between the wisdom of the world and the wisdom of faith. — Natural wisdom is just that, natural, carnal wisdom. Ours is revealed wisdom (v. 10). — Natural wisdom cannot receive the things of God. God-given wisdom knows “the things that are freely given to us of God” (vv. 11-12, 14). — Natural wisdom is communicated from man to man. Spiritual wisdom can only be communicated to a man by the Spirit of God (v. 13). — Natural wisdom, though it appears to understand (judge and discern) all things, really understands nothing. “He that is spiritual judgeth all things” (v. 15). — Natural wisdom knows nothing of “the deep things of God” (v. 10). Bible history, it can easily grasp. Bible facts, religious creeds, and religious tradition it can easily assimilate. But it can never grasp anything taught in the Word of God. “But we have the mind of Christ” (v. 16).




Those general statements might be easily misunderstood. So, let me show you some specifics. The natural man makes everything spiritual carnal. He thinks giving is about money, time, or labor, and is motivated to do it by his own carnal lusts. But giving begins with and is but a reflection of faith in Christ, the giving of ourselves to him (Mark 12:44; 2 Corinthians 8:5), and is motivated by gratitude and love (Mark 14:1-10; 2 Corinthians 8:7-9). The natural man thinks prayer is an act performed by his lips; but prayer is an act of the heart. He thinks prayer is asking God to gratify his lusts; but it is seeking to bow to the will of God. He thinks worship is nothing but “bodily exercise,” not knowing that it is heart exercise. The natural man vainly imagines that good works are conformity to moral, religious traditions. He has no clue what good works really are: works of faith, brotherly love, and forgiveness. The surest thing that can be said about good works is this: Those who think they have them do not; and those who perform them are fully convinced that they haven't (Matthew 25:31-46). The believer understands that all things relating to faith in Christ, the worship of God, and service to God, all things relating to godliness are spiritual (Philippians 3:3).


            There are many who know Christ after the flesh, by natural wisdom. Those who are taught of God know him after the Spirit (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). We know that “if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” We know that “all things are of God.” We know that God has made him sin for us, who knew no sin. We know that all who trust Christ are made the righteousness of God in him. All men, by nature, assume that they must and can make some contribution toward salvation and acceptance with God (Proverbs 16:25). All are will-worshippers (Colossians 2:23). We know that “Salvation is of the Lord!” The wisdom of man understands that righteousness is something we must do. The wisdom of God teaches us that righteousness is something Christ has done for us, and gives to us by his grace (Romans 3:23).


            The wisdom of man thinks God’s requirements are outward. — We understand that everything God requires is inward (Micah 6:6-8). They think godliness is external. We know it is internal. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” God requires a whole burnt offering that cannot be marred, even the Lamb of God.


“Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before the high God? shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of rivers of oil? shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” (Micah 6:6-8)


            This is that good thing that the Lord requires of man. God only requires what he gives; and he gives all that he requires. The vast majority of men writing on these verses, or using them from the pulpit, tell us that God requires all men to do that which is just, right, merciful, and humble in all things regarding men and God. This we are told is the essence of all moral and spiritual uprightness. I have not so learned Christ! Have you? The Prophet Micah is not teaching us that God requires a work to be performed by us, if we would be accepted of him. He is teaching exactly the opposite. The requirement that we do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly is distinctly said to be “with thy God,” with an eye to him, with the eye of faith fixed upon him.


            We do justly with our God when we confess that we justly deserve his eternal wrath, by reason of our many sins (Psalm 51:4). We love mercy with our God when we love the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Mercy promised in the Scriptures (Luke 1:72). All mercy is found in his blood and righteousness. He is “the mercy” God promised (Deuteronomy 7:12). The person who honestly confesses his sin to God can and does say with David, “I trust in the mercy of God forever and ever” (Psalm 52:8). And we walk humbly with our God when we walk before him as sinners, confessing our sins and looking to Christ alone for salvation (1 John 1:9; 1 Corinthians 1:30; John 16:8-11). All this bounteous grace and mercy comes to us by the omnipotent power and irresistible grace of God the Holy Spirit.


            It all comes to this. — Faith in Christ is the fruit of the Spirit, the gift and operation of God the Holy Spirit. If you trust Christ, you “do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” If you trust Christ, you are born of God, redeemed, justified, called, and sanctified in Christ. Faith in Christ is the fruit and evidence of eternal life bestowed upon you and wrought in you, “not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (1 John 5:1, 9-13; John 3:36; Hebrews 11:1-2).






Don Fortner








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