Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: Wisdom: What is It?

Friday, May 18, 2007

Wisdom: What is It?

"The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:1-7).

For the vast majority of people, life just happens. Life hits them in the face like a flying brick coming out of nowhere. They simply react to what happens to them driven by the emotions of the moment. They are like a bullet in a pipe ricocheting from one crisis to the next. Their lives end up becoming a long string of disasters connected by broken relationships and destroyed lives. Their lives will be an endless downward spiral continuum headed for self-destruction. This is the ultimate end for those that do not pursue after Biblical wisdom.

Having wisdom is having both God's heart and God's mind regarding every matter of life. Wisdom is knowing what God would do in any situation of life. Being wise is doing what God would do. There is a big difference between having wisdom and being wise. Solomon had wisdom for most of his life, but he was not wise until late in his life after he had already sowed the seeds of selfishness and corruption in the lives of his children and in the nation of Israel.

Chastisement is God teaching us discipline. Wisdom is learning to be self-disciplined. Being wise is putting legs on wisdom. The Proverbs give us the "wisdom and instruction" of our heavenly Father in the matters of life. The Proverbs provide us with God's heart (emotions) and His mind (what He thinks about things). We have wisdom when we know how God feels and thinks about the things and practices of this world. We are wise when we feel and think the same as God feels and thinks and then live our lives proactively (not reactively) according to that wisdom.

It is the business of parents to teach wisdom to their children. It is the work of parenting to model being wise before their children. When parents fail in either of these responsibilities, they program their children for failure and destruction. Children grow up without wisdom because they have never been taught wisdom and they have seldom seen wisdom modeled by their parents. In a Hedonistic world, many parents are making very unwise decisions for themselves and allowing things in their children's lives that are unwise.

First, we must understand that wisdom and knowledge are a gift of God's grace to sinners living in a fallen creation without much knowledge of God. The source of all true wisdom is God. Satan has obfuscated the truth of Who God is and what He expects. Satan has corrupted our fallen natures with desires contrary to God's will. Mankind is in a sad state of affairs. It is into this dark existence of ignorance and spiritual corruption that God in His wondrous grace sends Words of wisdom and knowledge. He wants us to know how to live in a way that will bring us joy and Him glory.

"20 Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? 21 Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air. 22 Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. 23 God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. 24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; 25 To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. 26 When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: 27 Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. 28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding" (Job 28:20-28).

There are a number of phrases in Proverbs 1:1-7 that detail God's purposes in giving the Proverbs and other Wisdom books to us.

  • To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding

Education is much more than knowing how to read, write and do arithmetic. Education is learning how to live life to the glory of God. Living to the glory of God means living every moment of life in a way that reveals God's heart and mind in the decisions we make and in the manner in which we live. The Bible is an instruction book of ethics. The Christian should pursue "wisdom and understanding" not merely to avoid unethical decisions, but to insure making ethical decisions to the glory of God.

Wisdom is the vehicle for individuals to reach their "highest spiritual perfection" (Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible). Wisdom is the word used to describe the gifted craftsman's ability to produce a quality product or piece of art. Wisdom is the word used to describe a wide variety of human experience in the practical affairs of life. There are those who can be described as very intelligent, but at the same time greatly lacking common sense.

The word "wisdom" in Proverbs 1:2 is from the Hebrew word chokmah (khok-maw'). It is a word that combines knowledge with skill. Wisdom is perfect in God and is one of His attributes.

"12 With the Ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. 13 With Him is wisdom and strength, He hath counsel and understanding" (Job 12:12-13; "Ancient" refers to God and I have capitalized it and the pronouns).

God is wisdom personified. The Scriptures frequently refer to wisdom as a hypostasis of God (one of the three real and distinct substances in the one undivided substance or essence of God; i.e., Holy, Wisdom/Truth and Love). Proverbs 8 seems to personify Wisdom as the voice of God as He speaks to us and reveals Himself through His Word. To reject God's Wisdom is to essentially reject the One that gives it.

Read Proverbs 8:1-36.

The word "knowledge" is from the Hebrew word muwcar (moo-sawr'). It literally means discipline or restraint. It can also refer to reproof or an instructional warning.

The purpose in God giving "wisdom and knowledge" is for individuals "perceive the words of understanding." The word "perceive" is from the Hebrew word biyn (bene). It means to mentally separate ideas or things. It refers to spiritual discernment that gives one "understanding" as to what is right (righteous) and what is wrong (sin) before God. The word "understanding" is from biynah (bee-naw'), a derivative of biyn.

  • To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity

The believer is not only to "know wisdom and instruction" (Proverbs 1:2), he is to "receive the instruction of wisdom." The word "receive" is from the Hebrew word laqach (law-kakh'). It means to take or to carry away. The word "wisdom" in Proverbs 1:3 is from a different Hebrew word than Proverbs 1:2. Here the Hebrew word is sakal (saw-kal' ). It probably refers to that which makes one wise, or brings a person to the right, ethical and moral judgments. Therefore, this could be translated "carry away the restraining/disciplining Truth of what makes one wise {practically; in the areas of} justice, and judgment, and equity."

"Justice" is from the Hebrew tsedeq (tseh'-dek). It refers to that which is naturally, morally and legally right. It refers to that which is absolutely just or righteous before God. "Judgment" is from the Hebrew word mishpat (mish-pawt'), referring to making decisions regarding moral and legal issues. Being able to make these kinds of decisions is an outcome of having wisdom and being wise.

"Equity" is from the Hebrew word meyshar (may-shawr'), meaning evenness or straightness. It simply means being fair in the decisions that we make, giving equal consideration, without respect of persons, to all parties involved. Therefore, this second phrase links personal responsibility towards others and accountability before God regarding the "wisdom and instruction" He gives to us.

"43 Blessed is that servant, whom his lord when he cometh shall find so doing. 44 Of a truth I say unto you, that he will make him ruler over all that he hath. 45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken; 46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers. 47 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more" (Luke 12:43-48).

  • To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion

The word "subtilty" is from the Hebrew word `ormah (or-maw'). It refers to discretion. Discretion is the ability or authority to make inventive, prudent and calculated decisions and choices. In God's gift of "wisdom and instruction," He also gives the authority to make diverse choices in the application of "wisdom and instruction" in decisions (this is Free Will). In other words, "wisdom and instruction" have to do with general principles and well as specific details. God has given us the right (Free Will) for diverse choices and decisions in the application of general principles. When God gives more specific details, the believer is responsible to be more specific in the decisions and choices he makes from that instruction.

The word "simple" is from the Hebrew word p@thiy (peth-ee'). It refers to someone that is easily seduced because of lack of wisdom or because he has little experience in the issues of life and its temptations. The "simple" are those that are uninstructed regarding the issues of life and its temptations.

The words "young man" refers to someone that has not yet reach adolescence. In early Bible times, a "young man" began his adult life around the age of thirteen. That means by adolescence, he was expected to be wise enough and mature enough to begin to make discretionary decisions regarding the events of life as they came before him. This involved choosing a vocation, a wife and where he would live and raise a family.

Life comes at us hard and fast. We need to be prepared for it before it comes in order to be prepared when it comes! One wrong decision made in the split of a second can destroy a life or scar it for decades.

Your servant in Christ's service,

Dr. Lance T. Ketchum

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