The Call of Wisdom

Posted on August 25, 2016
Filed Under From Daily Readings, Wisdom Literature | 1 Comment

As our task for the current calendar year has been to read through a large portion of the Wisdom Literature of scripture, perhaps it is wise to address the very concept of what wisdom is. This week I was reading a discussion online, and one of the participants appealed to James 1:5 with the intent of supporting the idea that God continues to share new revelation with His people today:

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. (James 1:5)

Using this passage exposed that this participant did not truly understand what wisdom is! Unfortunately, many people have the same problem when it comes to understanding scripture. They confuse the ideas of wisdom and knowledge.

Biblical wisdom is:

1. LN 32.32 wisdom, prudence, discretion, i.e., the capacity to understand, and hence act. wisely (Col 1:28; 4:5); 2. LN 32.37 insight, a more or less formal kind of educational teaching in the ancient world, so, the content of what is regarded as wise (Ac 7:22; 1Co 2:6)

The emphasis here is not the gaining of knowledge, but the using of knowledge. When James instructed believers to ask God for wisdom, he was not at all suggesting that God was going to be providing new information to any and all who might ask for it. In fact, the New Testament is quite clear on the subject:  God revealed all that He intended man to have in the first century, through His inspired writers. Jesus told His disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into “all truth” (John 16:12-15). Paul said that this was exactly what happened, as the Holy Spirit revealed the mind of God to him and the other inspired men, and they wrote it down for everyone to read (Ephesians 3). Paul could confidently tell the Galatian brethren that they were not to listen to any kind of new message, even if they (the apostles) or an angel from heaven should try to proclaim it to them (Galatians 1:6-9). This was because all that God intended for Christians to have was already revealed in the first century. The writings that were given, even though they came following the writing of the book of Galatians, merely repeated what had already been delivered by God through inspired teachers.

Wisdom, however, is something that all believers should be seeking. How do we put into practice the instructions that have been given by God? To achieve that end, it is important to have a biblical view of what wisdom is and the part it plays in the plan of God for mankind!

Proverbs 8 provides some insight from God concerning the nature of wisdom. It expresses how important wisdom is, and reflects how those who believe in God should view and respond to wisdom.

The wise man, in this section of proverbs, personified wisdom. By doing so, we come to know wisdom as a wonderful, godly woman. There are several characteristics that we can draw from the descriptions portrayed by the author.

Wisdom is vocal…

Solomon portrays wisdom as a woman who is crying out to all who will listen to her. This is a description that he uses more than once in the collection of proverbs (Proverbs 1:20, 21; 9:3). Wisdom is not something that only the elite have opportunity to hear and apply. She calls out, and gives opportunity to all to hear. Solomon depicts her actions as desperately seeking someone to listen to her, pleading with them to respond:

She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city, At the entrance of the doors: “To you, O men, I call, And my voice is to the sons of men. O you simple ones, understand prudence, And you fools, be of an understanding heart. (Proverbs 8:3–5)

Wisdom is available to all who will listen to her. This is why James could instruct us to ask God for it, and He will provide it liberally. Those who are already willing to appeal to God for such wisdom have their ears open to her cry, and are seeking to employ her righteousness!

Wisdom is righteousness…

Solomon clearly identifies the words of wisdom as being righteous. It is prudent to think of the idea of righteousness as being right-ness. There is a standard of what is right and what is wrong. God’s word defines that for us. Wisdom demands that our actions follow that which is right! One cannot continue to follow that which is sinful, that which is against the revealed will of God, and still either consider himself wise or hold himself up as an example of wisdom!

Listen, for I will speak of excellent things, And from the opening of my lips will come right things; For my mouth will speak truth; Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. (Proverbs 8:6–7)

Wisdom is valuable…

Some may ask the question, “What good is wisdom?”  Sometimes it may seem that those who proceed in their actions with wisdom don’t have much to show for it. But, the problem is that when we make such judgments, we are looking at a small snapshot of a situation, and not the big picture. Solomon said that there is an innate value to wisdom, and that value is far above those things that many believe to be of the greatest value:

Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. (Proverbs 8:10–11)

Sometimes, if wisdom does not produce something tangible (like money can) its value is overlooked or ignored. Of course, such a reaction, in and of itself, represents a lack of wisdom. One who is so shortsighted as to not be able to see the bountiful blessings that come by acting with wisdom are not exhibiting wisdom anyway! Wisdom has the ability to accomplish so much more for us, both in this life and looking toward eternity, than foolishness could ever hope to do.

Wisdom is powerful…

Those who employ wisdom have the ability to harness power. Of course, power can be snatched by those who are foolish, but their power cannot last long. Power established on wisdom is true and long lasting. Solomon said:

Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom; I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, All the judges of the earth. (Proverbs 8:14–16)

This type of power is evident when we examine the rulers of the world at large. Those who show wisdom have a power that is far more stable than those who rule in foolishness. We should appeal to our rulers, wherever we may live, to seek wisdom, and not just human wisdom, but that wisdom that comes from appealing to God’s instruction (James 3:15-18).

As Christians today, we are not looking for some kind of earthly power. We can see, and even appreciate, how earthly rulers can rule well by appealing to wisdom, but that is not our focus. The kind of rule that we want to employ has much more to do with our spiritual wellbeing. Fathers are to rule their families well (1 Timothy 3:4). Elders are to rule the church well (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Neither of these positions are domineering positions of rule, but rather valuable leadership positions in the family and in the church. Wisdom will differentiate between the two attitudes! With wisdom, we may not be the kind of people who rule nations, but we can be the kind of people that develop homes and churches that reflect what God wants them to be.

Wisdom is eternal…

Solomon describes the wisdom of which he speaks as being in existence from before the time of the creation:

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. I have been established from everlasting, From the beginning, before there was ever an earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, When there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills, I was brought forth; While as yet He had not made the earth or the fields, Or the primal dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there, When He drew a circle on the face of the deep, When He established the clouds above, When He strengthened the fountains of the deep, When He assigned to the sea its limit, So that the waters would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him, (Proverbs 8:22–30)

Wisdom has its source from God. It is an innate characteristic of God. It is one of His characteristics that we are to learn to emulate! This wisdom stands in direct contrast to worldly wisdom. James makes this point clearly:

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:13–18)

Our responsibility is to draw our actions from the wisdom that is “from above,” which will be evident by the characteristics that are listed by James. When we are acting within the confines of this type of wisdom, we are becoming more and more like God, which should be our goal in this life!