The Wisdom of God in
the Foolishness of the Cross
Dr. Douglas Haas
"What kind of fool am I?" So went the lyrics in
a Broadway musical of three decades ago. The leading character
asks this question near the end of this musical, which chronicled
his life of manipulating others to get to the top. Having
finally achieved the fame he was striving for, he was shortly
replaced by another upstart who used the same unethical methods
His short stay of success caused him to look back on his
life and realize that he had been foolish in striving for
the fleeting vapor of such an empty goal. In a very real sense,
this fictional character echoes the "vanity" that
was oft on the lips of Israel's most lucrative King at the
end of his days.
What kind of fool was King Solomon? Having received from
God more wisdom than any man before or since, he died unfulfilled,
leaving a divided kingdom in his wake. And why would Israel's
most lucrative king finally conclude that "all is vanity
and vexation of spirit" Ecc 2:17.
And what similarity with King Saul, who realizing he had
targeted a course in direct conflict with the anointing of
God, utters these empty words near the end of his life, "I
have sinned ... behold, I have played the fool, and have erred
exceedingly" I Sam 26:21.
King Solomon's life is strategically set in the Holy Scriptures
much in the way a "Dead End" sign is placed before
a road that leads to nowhere. It is a sign that says, "there
is nothing of value at the end of this path." It is needed
because at the point where it is set, the road appears to
lead somewhere. Thus, an unknowing traveler may assume it
leads to his destination. So too, the wisdom of this world
promises a fulfilling reward, but in the end, "all is
vanity and vexation of spirit" Ecc 2:17.
Like the unknown traveler, a "youth void of understanding"
may, as Solomon, give his heart to know wisdom, and to know
madness and folly as well, only to come to his same sad conclusions.
Ecclesiastes is aptly set before us to warn that the paths
of human wisdom, fame, avarice, frivolity, and covetousness
are simply dead ends. He who walks therein plays the fool.
How stark the contrast between the lives of Solomon and Job.
Similar in their beginnings, they end literally worlds apart.
Of Job it is recorded,
"His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and
three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of
oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great
household; so that this man was the greatest of
all the men of the east" (Job 1:3).
Solomon, the Scriptures say, "exceeded all the kings
of the earth for riches and for wisdom" I Kings 10:23.
Both possessed great wealth and were "at the top"
in their respective times; and both fervently served God.
Job was "perfect and upright, feared God, and eschewed
evil" Job 1:1. He continually offered burnt offerings
for himself and his family, and according to Ezekiel 14:14,
was a righteous man before God.
Solomon likewise resolved to serve God from the outset, saying,
"Behold, I purpose to build an house unto the name of
the Lord my God, as the Lord spake unto David my father"
I Kings 5:5a. "And Solomon loved the Lord, walking in
the statures of David his father" I Kings 3:3a.
To what, then, do we attribute the great disparity between
these lives? Was it merely fate, or were they randomly predestined
to walk the course designed for them? Rather, there was the
embracing of an intangible variable by the one, and not the
There is a wisdom that is not given, a wisdom not of this
world, but wondrously hidden in the foolishness of the cross
- the stumbling block of some, and the foolishness of many
"But unto them which are called ... the wisdom
of God" I Cor 1:24.
Solomon did not possess this hidden "wisdom of God,"
even though his request for wisdom in I Kings 3:9 was granted
to him. He received the wisdom of this world, the external
and earthy, but lacked the inner, hidden, spiritual wisdom.
"And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the
children of the east country, and all the wisdom of
Egypt ... And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree
... even unto the hyssop ... he spake also of beasts,
and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes.
And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of
Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard
of his wisdom" I Kings 4:30-34.
Due to his wisdom, Solomon gave wise counsel to the two harlots
and took the spirit out of the Queen of Sheba. Yet in all
his wisdom, he was made a fool.
"Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is
the disputer of this world? hath not God made
foolish the wisdom of this world?" I Cor 1:20.
Solomon rejected the higher wisdom - even Christ crucified.
"Thou fool," the Holy Spirit would seem to say,
"that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die."
I Cor 15:36. There must needs be an embracing of the wisdom
of the cross. There must be a death, to bring about life.
"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" I Cor. 2:14.
Job is different. Intricately woven into the fabric of his
life is "the wisdom of God in the foolishness of the
Viewing Job's sufferings from the vantage point of the New
Testament, we receive a marvelous revelation and appreciation
for the workings of the cross. Unlike Job, we are privileged
to know three important principles of the Kingdom of God.
These principles which were spoken and demonstrated by Christ
(1) "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground
and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it
bringeth forth much fruit" John 12:24.
(2) "He that loveth his life shall lose it; and
he that hateth his life in this world shall
keep it unto life eternal" John 12:25.
(3) "If any man will come after me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow
me" Matt 16:24.
These principles worked deep things into Job's heart and
character. In the initial confrontation between God and Satan,
with his accusations, it might appear that God had been tricked
into nearly destroying Job. However, the attempted assassination
on Job's spiritual life backfired, for instead of destroying
Job's relationship with God, he established it. God's permission
to try Job was granted with this foreknowledge.
And Satan has yet to learn his lesson. Centuries later, he
made the same mistake. Had the Devil known that the Wisdom
of God was portrayed in "the foolishness of the cross,"
he would have tried to hinder Jesus from going to the cross.
"But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery,
even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained
before the world unto our glory: Which none
of the princes of this world knew: for had
they known it, they would not have crucified
the Lord of glory" I Cor 2:8-9.
There was a time that Job was quite comfortable with his
relationship to God. He sacrificed for the sins of his children,
and walked in integrity. He treated his servants justly and
provided for the fatherless, the widows, and the poor. (Job
Although Job walked in devoted service, God desired to bring
his servant into an identification with Himself; and wanted
to share with him the mysteries of the cross.
Therefore, Job must become a fool. Not as Solomon or Saul,
but as the Apostle Paul - "A spectacle unto this world,
and to angels, and to men ... made as the filth of the world
... the off scouring of all things unto this day" I Cor
"And he took him a potsherd to scrape
himself withal; and he sat down among
the ashes" Job 2:8.
No one knows how long Job stayed upon the ashes of his cross.
He surely felt each twinge of pain for he screamed out his
cries of discontent and self justification. But slowly, the
"seed" among the ash heap began to germinate. Hidden
to the scrutiny of his three false comforters, life was springing
forth out of death. Abundant, resurrection life!
The first evidence of life occurs in Job 6:11-13 when he
came to the place of self revelation. "What is my strength,
that I should hope? and what is mine end, that I should prolong
my life? Is my strength the strength of stones? or is my flesh
of brass? Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite
from me?" The NIV records verse 13 this way, "Do
I have any power to help myself?"
William Barclay says there are two great revelations in Christianity:
the revelation of Jesus Christ, and the revelation of self.
Until we are revealed in the light of Jesus Christ, life cannot
come forth. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me,
let him deny himself, and take up his cross." Without
fail, before the "Here I am, send me" of Isaiah
6:8, must come the "Woe is me! for I am undone"
of Isaiah 6:5.
Job's revelation leads him to this cry in chapter 9. "I
know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with
God? ... For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer
him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there
any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both."
Realizing that he does not possess the power to help himself,
Job begins to long in his heart for a daysman, an umpire,
who will mediate between the man and his creator.
Even though the shed blood of the sacrifice was a type, Job's
cry for a daysman was quite real. It is the cry of all men
everywhere who sense the eternally wide chasm between God
and man. It is the cry for a God-man, one who might "lay
his hand upon us both," a priest who is touched by our
infirmities. It is a cry not one sided, but felt by God even
more than we; who before the foundations of the world ordained
such a daysman, even a Lamb slain. Truly the cross that we
bear, will forever stand shadowed in the cross of Calvary.
The cross will always orient us to our Savior and Lord, Jesus
The seed has extended a root into the rich soil of God's
eternal plan of redemption. Below the surface of the cross'
suffering, a new life has begun, but the work is not yet complete.
A hard shell still needs to be broken down, that other roots
may descend into the nutrients of God, for He desires that
the fruit shall be great, even a hundredfold. "If I sin,
then thou markest me ... If I hold my head high, you stalk
me like a lion, and again display your awesome power against
me" Job 10:14,16 NIV.
See how the accuser of God stands by taunting the fool on
the cross. "Ye shall not surely die" jeers the serpent.
"God is holding something back from you. He has marked
you, and wants to pounce on you the first chance he gets.
The woman, symbolic of the soul, joins in this urging, "Dost
thou still retain thine integrity? curse God and die"
"Do not put up with it," says the Devil. "Curse
God and die," says the flesh. "I will ascend,"
says the strong selfish will within us. But in the midst of
the suffering, and with every temptation to curse and resist
the sometimes heavy hand of love, God provides grace, new
strength, and above all, hope.
Hope born of despair. Hope formed in the womb of tribulation.
Hope crying out in the night from the humble confines of a
manger, to all those despairing lives appointed "wearisome
nights" like Job. Hope quickened to Job by the tender
branch of a tree, "For there is hope of a tree, if it
be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender
branch thereof will not cease" Job 14:7.
In the midst of Job's despair, God reveals to him yet another
mystery of eternity - resurrection. Like a magnet moving steel,
Job's trial draws from his innermost being these precious
truths: "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days
of my appointed time I will await until my change come"
(Job 14:14), and also, "I know that my redeemer liveth,
and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:
And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my
flesh shall I see God: Whom I shall see for myself, and mine
eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed
within me" (Job 19:25-27). What a precious root of faith
this is. Hope in resurrection, for without it, we are most
But in the midst of the promises of the power of His resurrection
in Job, chapters 14 and 19, is the process of conforming to
his death as recorded in chapter 16. For, long before David
prophetically recorded Psalm 22, Job experienced chapter 16.
"They have gaped upon me with their mouth; they have
smitten me upon the cheek reproachfully; they have gathered
themselves together against me. God hath delivered me to the
ungodly, and turned me over into the hands of the wicked"
(Job 16:10,11). The identification is clear, but to identify
with Jesus, we need the vision of Jesus, "who for the
joy that was set before him, endured the cross. . ."
(Heb. 12:2). There is the joy of seeing God in the flesh,
that awaits each obedient victim of the cross.
The transformation is taking place in the Spirit, but the
flesh still reacts, saying, "Oh that I were as in months
past, as in the days when God preserved me: When his candle
shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through
darkness; As I was in the days of my youth, when the secret
of God was upon my tabernacle; When the Almighty was yet with
me, when my children were about me;" (Job 29:2-5). The
Spirit is willing, but the flesh weakens at the cross; but
if we do mortify the deeds of this flesh, we will be able,
as Job, to make this profound confession of faith and trust:
"But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried
me, I shall come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).
Now Job is beginning to realize that "no chastening
for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless
afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness
unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb 12:11). In
submission to the Father, he accepts the cup, saying, "Not
my will, but thine be done." God knows. He knows the
way that we go. And he has promised that "He that hateth
his life in this world shall keep it unto everlasting life."
It is no longer strange that the Lord finally speaks out
of the whirlwind, for in the storms of life we confront God
Himself. And when our words end in surrender to Him, His answer
raises even more questions as vast and searching as the Almighty
God Himself. Questions that reveal who He is, and who we are.
The flesh is never satisfied to say, "Ah, now I understand
you God." We will always "utter and understand not",
for these "things are too wonderful" for any of
us. But, when we have denied ourselves, and have taken up
the cross; when the seed has fallen into the ground, and died;
then, the One who raised Jesus from the dead, will raise up
in us a man, a spiritual man, who can say with Job, "I
have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine
eye seeth thee" (Job 42:5). Then, is given the hope of
glory, Christ in you.
And so the fool for Christ becomes wise.
I am left to ask, "What kind of fool am I?" Both
Solomon and Job were fools, but only one was a fool for Christ.
"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" I Cor 3:18.
Come, let us become fools also - for Christ. Let us deny
ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him.