In the four Old Testament books called the wisdom literature, Job through Ecclesiastes, the word “wisdom” is used 103 times. We are in an age that has increased many fold in knowledge. Through the internet we have unprecedented access to information on all kinds of subjects. Unfortunately the internet does not give us wisdom. Some of those working in the highly advanced fields of study are beginning to ask the question – “Just because we can do something, should we do it?” That question can only be answered by seeking wisdom, and Scripture teaches that the source of wisdom is in the Lord. To seek that wisdom one must be willing to humble themselves before the Lord, and read and meditate upon His Word. A culture that exalts knowledge, and rejects the Lord is a culture that will destroy itself. So whether we are a researcher deeply involved in an advanced project, or just an average person trying to get through our day, we need the wisdom only our gracious Lord can give.
Young children learn the word “why” early, and use it in response to many statements we make to them. If we are asking them to do something, or to stop doing something that is harmful, we really can’t give them an answer they would understand. We are asking for compliance for their good. The reason comes from our experience and a view of life that they don’t have and can’t yet see. We have seen consequences to certain actions or inactions they have not. We are asking for trust in love. It is the way God deals with us when He gives directions that are for our good. Because we love Him we trust in His greater wisdom. The same with parent and child, but it is difficult. It takes patience, and persistence. Continuing to give guidance in love, especially in the face of repeated resistance, is painful. It has been painful to God, and it is painful for us. Yet there is hope. There is forgiveness. There is a new beginning. And the love, strength, and guidance of God never fails. We continue each day in the best wisdom God gives, trusting in the depth of love He has for each of us.
Our little grandson is learning to do many things. He’s come up with the expression “I do it myself”. He says it in a very emphatic way, and if one does something for him that he wanted to do himself he gets very angry. He will grow and learn to curb his anger, but it strikes me that this is a good picture of original sin. God created man and woman. He put them in a Garden giving them all they needed for the best of life. But the devil said to them, “You can do better. You can have more. You will not die. You can even be like God” And man said, “I will do it myself”. So, instead of yielding to the wisdom of our gracious Lord, we do it ourselves. When we do something for our grandson it is often to keep him from hurting himself which he would do if he tried to do it himself. There are some things that he is just not ready to do by himself. Unfortunately, mankind has not learned that, and we are living with many of the visible results of demanding to do it ourselves. We really should recognize that there are some things we should not do ourselves, and trust the One who has far more wisdom than we do.
I know a few very smart people. There is nothing wrong with being smart. It is a gift of God. But as with any gift it is to be guided by God’s wisdom and used for God’s glory. Our country is being run by some very smart people, but for the most part, not under God’s wisdom or to His glory. The result is not a good direction. The Apostle Paul was a very smart and highly educated man. After reviewing his credentials in a letter to the Philippian Church he said, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,…”(3:7-8) Paul knew that it was only through Christ that he could properly use the knowledge he had for the good of his people. In our desire to create a secular society, accepting of all values as equal, we’ve gone off in very wrong directions. The writer of Proverbs understood this three thousand years ago. He wrote, “Desire without knowledge is not good– how much more will hasty feet miss the way!”(19:2) Many very smart leaders face tremendous problems today. The true knowledge that is necessary to meet our needs can only come from the Lord. “Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”(I Corinthians 1:25) Can we humble ourselves enough to seek that wisdom?
We passed this April Fools Day with surprisingly few pranks. At least I didn’t hear of many. But it brings up an interesting exercise – to do a Bible search of the words fool, foolish, and foolishness. They come up about 175 time throughout Scripture. Do you think maybe God is telling us something? We love to exalt human wisdom, our increase in knowledge, the growth of our technology, and everything we call progress. But is it really progress? The Apostle Paul wrote, “Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe.”(I Corinthians 1:20-21) The only real progress comes in understanding, and obeying our Lord. Every other right direction in life flows from this. And that is no April Fools joke!
God gave Solomon great wisdom. Many of his words in the Book of Proverbs make good sense. He speaks on a whole range of topics from personal relationships, good business practices, avoiding sexual sins, family matters, and so on. There are right and wrong ways to live and get along in the world. We cannot do our own thing believing everything will be fine. We need to listen to good counselors. Unfortunately, good counselors are hard to find in the midst of all the voices that are speaking today. That is why we continue to turn to Solomon, and all of the other writers of Holy Scripture. We go to the wisdom above all others, Almighty God who gave us His Word. We declare that it is our guide in all matters of faith and life. All true wisdom is from God. With the guidance of His Spirit, we search out that wisdom from Scripture, and we say with the Psalmist, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. “(119:105)
In the book of Job, Elihu was the fourth man who spoke to Job concerning all his troubles. He was reluctant to speak because he was younger than the others. He said, “I am young in years, and you are old; that is why I was fearful, not daring to tell you what I know. I thought, ‘Age should speak; advanced years should teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in a man, the breath of the Almighty, that gives him understanding.”(32:6-8) Much later Paul would write to Timothy, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.”(IT.4:12) Wisdom, a true understanding of God and of life, is based upon reading God’s Word, and becoming quiet in one’s heart, meditating on that word. Hopefully, the older we are the more time was have had to do that, but at any age wisdom comes from being quiet and listening to God.
God sent many prophets to his people seeking to turn their hearts back to Him. They would listen for a time, particularly when they were in trouble, but always fell away again. In Isaiah 31 God said, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.”(31:1) Egypt represented worldly power. We could also say human knowledge and reasoning. God has given us strength, knowledge, great powers of reason, but if we are not guided by first seeking the Lord, it leads to disaster, as it did for ancient Israel. The writer of Proverbs cautioned, “There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”(14:12) The words of the wisdom books and the prophets were written 3000 years ago, but speak with more relevance than much of what is put forward as truth today.
In Psalm 119 is the longest of the Psalms, and many people find it too redundant and boring to read. I think we would do well to reconsider.
“Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long. Your commands make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever with me. I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. I have more understanding than the elders, for I obey your precepts. I have kept my feet from every evil path so that I might obey your word. I have not departed from your laws, for you yourself have taught me. How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.”(vss.97-104)
In a world where we think we know more than God does on virtually any subject, considering the writers words is a necessary correction. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge…”(Proverbs 1:7)
Mankind does a wonderful job of growing and processing crops for food. Did you ever wonder how we learned this in the first place? How did we figure out how to plant wheat, then learn that only the kernel was good, but had to be ground into flower to bake bread? Or weaving cloth, or working metal, or any of the skills we depend upon. The Bible says that God taught us. We are a bit too arrogant when we think we did it all on our own. Isaiah 28 tells about farming saying, “God instructs him and teaches him the right way.”(vs.26) And a little further on, “all this also comes from the Lord Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.”(vs.29) Does God understand how computers work? Of course. He opened the way for all that is useful for our good. All knowledge is from the Lord. He cares about us so much He has provided for all of our needs. He has also given us the freedom to use knowledge in harmful ways. Knowledge must be used with wisdom if it is to work for our good. Wisdom comes from humbling one’s self before God, and learning His will for life. Knowledge, in itself, can and has led us into destructive paths. Knowledge guided by Godly wisdom leads to great blessing.