Proverbs 3:13-18 (NKJV) Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding; 14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. 15 She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. 16 Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. 17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace. 18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.
Just reading this text should show us the importance of having wisdom and give us a desire to attain it. Note carefully, all the blessings that wisdom brings. After reading this text, you should only have one question, "How do I get wisdom?" That's a good question, how would you answer it? To answer it, you would have to know what wisdom was, do you? How would you define it?
In the entrance hall of Rockefeller Center in New York City are found four large murals that depict the progress of mankind. The first painting is a picture of primitive man laboring with his hands in an attempt to survive in his alien environment. In the second scene, he has become the creator of tools, and the comforts of his civilization are multiplying. The third mural shows man to be both master and servant of the machine, and the vast forces of the material world are under his direction and control. The last picture shows Christ delivering the Sermon on the Mount, and up toward him are struggling masses of men, women, and children. Underneath the mural are these words:
Man's ultimate destiny depends not on whether he can learn new lessons or make new discoveries or conquests, but on his acceptance of the lesson taught him close on 2,000 years ago.
This is the artist's way of saying that true wisdom, for man, is adjustment to and acceptance of God's revealed truth. It lies in seeing himself, the creature, in right perspective to God, the Creator, and in acting accordingly.
Philosophers have taught that wisdom is that for which man should most singularly strive. Siccero, in 52 BC wrote, "Wisdom is the best gift of the gods, it is the mother of all good things." This is not only the view of philosophers, but much more importantly, it is what the Bible teaches:
Proverbs 4:1-7 (NKJV) Hear, my children, the instruction of a father, And give attention to know understanding; 2 For I give you good doctrine: Do not forsake my law. 3 When I was my father's son, Tender and the only one in the sight of my mother, 4 He also taught me, and said to me: "Let your heart retain my words; Keep my commands, and live. 5 Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 WISDOM IS THE PRINCIPAL THING; THEREFORE GET WISDOM. And in all your getting, get understanding.
The world in which we live cries out that "Money, sex, power, or luxury is the principle thing" but God says, "it is wisdom."
WHAT WISDOM IS NOT:
To understand wisdom, we need to understand what it is not. If you were to stand at the airport and watch the planes coming and going, you might be able to get a general idea of the overall plan of the various flights. As you watched them take off, land, circle the runway and taxi in, you could learn some things about the overall plan.
But if you were to go into the tower with all the radar showing the visible location of every plane and hear the tower's communication with the planes, you would learn much more. At once you would be able to look at the whole situation through the eyes of the men who control the aircraft. You would see why the plane must circle the runway before it lands. You would see why the plane on the ground must wait for clearance to take off. You would understand why that plane stopped its taxing and returned for repairs. The why and wherefore of all these movements becomes plain once you can see the overall picture.
This is NOT an illustration of what God does when He gives us wisdom. Wisdom does not consist of a deepened insight into the providential meaning and purpose of events going on around us. It is not the ability to see WHY God has done what He has done in a particular case, and what He is gong to do next.
Was Job a wise man? The Word of God says he was:
Job 1:1 (NKJV) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.
The Word of God says that Job feared God, and as we'll see in a minute, it also teaches that wisdom is inseparably linked to fearing God. Right now, I want you to see that Job was wise but yet he never understood WHY all his trials came upon him.
Job 2:3 (NKJV) Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, one who fears God and shuns evil? And still he holds fast to his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to destroy him without cause."
God said that Job's trials were "without cause" so there is no way he could have understood the WHY.
WHAT WISDOM IS:
It is like being taught to drive. What matters in driving is the speed and appropriateness of your reactions to things, and the soundness of your judgement as to what scope a situation gives you. You don't ask yourself, "Why is this road so slippery" or "Why is the turn so sharp" or "Why is that car parked where it is" or "Why did they suddenly stop right in the middle of the road?" Does the "why" really matter? Instead of asking "why," you simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation. Divine wisdom enables you and me to do just that in the actual situations of life.
To drive well, you have to keep your eyes focused to notice exactly what is in front of you. To live wisely, you have to do the same thing. Wisdom is properly evaluating circumstances and making right decisions. It's the ability to respond correctly to the circumstances of life.
Job demonstrated wisdom in his responses to the circumstances that he found himself in. He never understood the WHY, but he did respond correctly.
Job 1:20-21 (NKJV) Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
Job 2:9-10 (NKJV) Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
In Jewish usage, wisdom described the individual who possessed moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct. A wisdom derived from his personal knowledge of God.
I love the story of the young man of 32 who had been appointed President of the bank. He'd never dreamed he'd be president, much less at such a young age. So he approached the venerable Chairman of the Board and said, "You know, I've just been appointed President. I was wondering if you could give me some advice." The old man came back with just two words: "Right decisions!" The young man had hoped for a bit more than this, so he said, "That's really helpful, and I appreciate it, but can you be more specific? How do I make right decisions?" The old man simply responded, "Experience." The young man said, "Well, that's just the point of my being here. I don't have the kind of experience I need. How do I get it?" The older man replied, "Wrong decisions!"
We all need wisdom and we need a better way to gain it than the experience of making wrong decisions! Well, if you want to learn about wisdom, the Bible is the place to go. It has a lot to say about wisdom and how to obtain it.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, we have "The Preacher" trying to bring home to the unbeliever the impossibility of finding happiness "under the sun" apart from God. The author speaks as a mature teacher giving a young disciple the fruits of his own long experience and reflection. He wants to lead this young believer into true wisdom, to keep him from the "control tower" mistake. He didn't want him to think that wisdom, when he gained it, would tell him the reasons for God's various doings in the ordinary course of providence.
What the "preacher" wants to show him is that the real basis for wisdom is a frank acknowledgment that this world's course is perplexing, that much of what happens to us is inexplicable to us.
Many of life's occurrences bear no outward sign of a rational, moral God ordering them at all. This book is a warning against a misconceived quest for understanding. It states the despairing conclusion to which this quest, if honestly and realistically pursued, must lead.
Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 (NKJV) When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth, even though one sees no sleep day or night, 17 then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it.
Solomon is saying, "You can't understand the divine purpose in the ordinary providential course of events, and the harder you try, the more meaningless it gets. It is to this pessimistic conclusion that optimistic expectations of finding the divine purpose of everything will lead you.
Seldom does the world appear to us as if God is running it. Has anyone ever said to you, "Why did God let this happen?" Why do two teenage boys go to school with bombs and guns and kill many of their classmates? Why does a man blow up the federal building and kill so many helpless people? Why does a mother kill her two young children? Why are children abused by their own parents? I don't know! Wisdom is not understanding the "why" of all these things. Wisdom is responding correctly to all of life's circumstances.
In chapter 12, verse 13, Solomon give us his conclusion:
Ecclesiastes 12:13 (NKJV) Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, For this is man's all.
Wisdom is not understanding, but responding correctly to the circumstances of life. Wisdom is acceptance of, and adjustment to, God's revealed truth. Herbert Hoover defined wisdom as "knowing what to do next."
HOW DO WE GET WISDOM?
God is the source of all wisdom:
James 1:5 (NKJV) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
Proverbs 2:6 (NKJV) For the LORD gives wisdom; >From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
This makes sense, doesn't it? Since God is the Creator of all life, it only makes sense that He is the source of wisdom. The Scriptures tell us that it is the fear of God that is the beginning of wisdom.
Psalms 111:10 (NKJV) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
In scripture, wisdom is inseparably linked to fearing God.
Proverbs 9:10 (NKJV) "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.
So, wisdom starts with a fear of God. To the Hebrew, wisdom is right living, responding correctly to life's situations. So, when you fear God, you will begin to live right. If "wisdom" and "understanding" are parallel in this verse, and I believe they are, then the "fear of the Lord" and the "knowledge of the Holy One" are parallel also. If we fear God, we will walk in wisdom and if we know God, we will walk in understanding. To know God is to fear Him, and to fear Him is to walk in obedience.
In our day, the idea of "fearing God" seems old-fashioned to many Christians. But there was a time when to be called a "God-fearing man" was a great compliment. You don't hear that phrase used anymore today. I don't think we understand what it means to fear God. Let's look at how the Bible uses this word "fear." Paul said the ungodly have no fear of God:
Romans 3:18 (NKJV) "There is no fear of God before their eyes."
That is why they are ungodly, they don't fear God. What we think about God will determine our behavior. God is Holy and He is Just. God's main attribute is not love, it is holiness.
1 Peter 1:13-17 (NKJV) Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
God is Holy and we are to fear Him. As God dealt with the children of Israel, he continually stressed that they were to fear Him.
Deuteronomy 4:10 (NKJV) "especially concerning the day you stood before the LORD your God in Horeb, when the LORD said to me, 'Gather the people to Me, and I will let them hear My words, that they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth, and that they may teach their children.'
Deuteronomy 5:29 (NKJV) 'Oh, that they had such a heart in them that they would fear Me and always keep all My commandments, that it might be well with them and with their children forever!
Do you see the connection here between God's Word and fear? It starts with God's Word, which produces fear, and then comes obedience.
Deuteronomy 6:23-25 (NKJV) 'Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. 24 'And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. 25 'Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.'
The fear of God is not strictly an Old Testament concept, it is very much part of the New Covenant.
Jeremiah 32:40 (NKJV) 'And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me.
Paul and Peter both use "the fear of the Lord" as a motive to holy living. And Isaiah, speaking of Christ, said:
Isaiah 11:3 (NKJV) His delight is in the fear of the LORD, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
If Jesus, in his humanity, delighted in the fear of God, surely we need to work on having this attitude in our lives.
The Bible uses the term "fear of God" in two distinct ways: that of anxious dread, and that of veneration, reverence, and awe. Fear, as anxious dread, is produced by the realization of God's impending judgement upon sin. For the child of God, the primary meaning of the fear of God is: reverence and honor. It focuses not upon the wrath of God, but upon the majesty, holiness and glory of God. It could be compared to the awe that an ordinary citizen would feel in the presence of a great king. Notice how John responded when he saw Christ in all his glory:
Revelation 1:17 (NKJV) And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, "Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.
The reverent Christian first see's God in His transcendent glory, majesty, and holiness. In our day, we have magnified the Love of God almost to the exclusion of the fear of God.
Hebrews 12:28-29 (NKJV) Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.
2 Corinthians 7:1 (NKJV) Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
The way to perfect holiness in your life is to have a fear of God.
2 Corinthians 5:10-11 (NKJV) For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.
Paul says, "Influenced by the fear of God, I persuade men." The Bible teaches that God is holy and that He is to be feared. We desperately need to recover a sense of awe and reverence for God in our day. We must begin to view him in the infinite majesty that belongs to Him who is the Creator and Supreme Sovereign of the universe. There is an infinite gap in worth and dignity between God, the Creator, and man, the creature. The fear of God is a heartfelt recognition of this gap-- not a put down of man, but the exaltation of God.
Notice the attitude of the redeemed in heaven:
Revelation 15:3-4 (NKJV) They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: "Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! 4 Who shall not fearYou, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, For Your judgments have been manifested."
To fear God is to confess his absolute uniqueness-- to acknowledge his majesty, holiness, awesomeness, glory, and power.
The reason that there is so little wisdom in the church today is because there is so little FEAR of God. We do not know Him, so we do not fear him. God is holy and he is to be feared. The fear of God should provide a primary motivation for, as well as result in, obedience to him. If we truly reverence God, we will obey him, since every act of disobedience is an affront to his dignity and majesty. Fearing God results in obedience, and this is wisdom. How can we come to really know God so that we do fear Him? There is only one way and that is through the Bible, which is God's self revelation.
If you discipline yourself in the area of Bible study, you'll begin to know God, and as you get to know Him, you'll fear Him, and as you fear Him, you'll walk in wisdom.
True wisdom comes only from God and it comes only to those who fear Him. And wisdom is divinely wrought in those, and those only, who apply themselves to God's revelation.
Psalms 19:7 (NKJV) The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple;
It is God's word that makes wise the simple. So many Christians live as fools simply because they will not put forth the time and energy to spend time in God's written word.
Colossians 3:16 (NKJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Wisdom is acceptance of, and adjustment to God's revealed truth. Those who have wisdom will be blessed:
Proverbs 4:7-9 (NKJV) Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. 8 Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. 9 She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you."