This past month we learned a story in Ecclesiastes 9:13-16 that left a major impact on the Preacher’s life. He could see the importance and significance of wisdom through what happened. The Preacher says this, “Also this I came to see as wisdom under the sun, and it impressed me. There was a small city with few men in it and a great king came to it, surrounded it, and constructed large siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor wise man and he delivered the city by his wisdom. Yet no one remembered that poor man. So I said, “Wisdom is better than strength.” But the wisdom of the poor man is despised and his words are not heeded.” Despite the outcome for the poor man (he was not remembered, despised, and his words were not heeded) it is still better to use wisdom. There are many experiences that we can face in life where we learn this lesson to. We can even look into our own American history to a remarkably similar story that perfectly illustrates this passage.
In 1781, the battle had turned for the worse for Virginians as they had to deal with the impact of Benedict Arnold’s treason and opposing troops gaining ground under British General Charles Cornwallis. Marquis de Lafayette led his army to fight but there was only so much they could do without information on their enemy’s movements. The battle did not look good for Lafayette’s men just as the battle did not look good for that small city in Ecclesiastes 9 but here is where an unlikely hero steps in. Black slaves had nothing in early America. No power or position. They were, by all means, considered the poorest of the poor. One particular slave from New Kent, Virginia had a deep desire to serve and fight for his country. He also had the wisdom to do so. Under the permission of his master, James Armistead joined the war efforts. In this time slaves were mostly used as spies by both British and American forces to gain information from the other. Armistead managed to be enlisted by both sides gaining him ground with British troops that very few men had. Armistead was given a position under Lafayette and under Benedict Arnold. In Arnold’s camp he played the part of an escaped slave that could guide them through the territories of Virginia. As Armistead spent time with Arnold he gained important information that he sent back to Lafayette. Through Benedict Arnold, Armistead was led right into the midst of General Cornwallis’ camp where he discovered details of battle operation without detection. Britain had planned to move 10,000 troops to Yorktown, Virginia by means of the British fleet. Armistead relayed this to Lafayette who was able to pass it along to George Washington. American troops took hold of the town ahead of the British fleet and, with the help of the French, built a blockade strong enough to dismantle enemy plans. Through one poor man’s wisdom the battle was turned in favor of America. The British military surrendered in October of 1781.
What happened to Armistead after this great act of wisdom and heroism? He returned to slavery, despised and no longer remembered. His wisdom delivered just as the poor man in the Preacher’s story and sadly, his story ended the same. Wisdom is not always honored as it should be under the sun. Foolishness often gains more fame and recognition than wisdom does. Compare how many people know the name Benedict Arnold as to James Armistead! Yet God doesn’t give us wisdom for popularity’s sake. He gives us wisdom to use to glorify Him and to guide us in His way to the eternal benefit of ourselves and those around us. We should use and pass on the wisdom God has given that we may know Him but also to “save the city” by bringing others to this wisdom as well. There’s a powerful ending to James Armistead’s story. He tried to petition Virginia to be freed after his acts in the military but it was not granted him. Lafayette heard the tragic news that one of his best soldiers was in slavery so he took action by assisting Armistead in gaining his freedom. In 1787, Armistead finally was freed under the recommendation of Lafayette. Out of deep appreciation and love Armistead took on Lafayette’s last name for the rest of his life. Although poor in the eyes of our country, Armistead was rich and remembered in the eyes of Lafayette. On this earth we may remain poor and forgotten but through Christ (who is the wisdom of God) we are rich and remembered before our Father in heaven!
Seeking His Wisdom In All Things, Pastor Rudy