Aspiring Meditations: 22. Aspiring to Wisdom
Psa 111:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom
Psa 104:24 How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all;
Prov 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to give thought to their ways
Knowledge, understanding and wisdom go together we said. We have considered the first two and so now we are left with ‘wisdom’ and here we are in for some surprises. Knowledge is given, understanding follows and together they challenge us to live out what we have learned to be the way to live, and that is wisdom.
We have seen previously that the “fear of the Lord is beginning of knowledge” and now we see that it is also the beginning of wisdom. When you realise who God is and what He is, you bow before Him, and surrender to Him. That is wisdom. It is also not surprising that the psalmist tells us that everything God has done, He has done with wisdom. He knows everything and so with that knowledge He brought the world into being. For example, think of Him imagining the world He is going to bring into being. He imagines oxygen and He imagines hydrogen and He sees that the two together make water. He knows the characteristics of the things He brought into being and He knew how they would work – and that includes us.
Wisdom is a potential characteristic He has made for us, but it is not guaranteed and even when it is, there are question marks. Most people know the story of Solomon being given wisdom by the Lord (1 Kings 3) and we see how that worked so wonderfully by the time the Queen of Sheba came to visit him (1 Kings 10). Everything he has done and everything he has achieved is attributed to the wisdom the Lord gave him and yet in the very next chapter (1 Kings 11) we find Solomon taking many foreign wives and giving way to their foreign false religions. It is always possible to walk away from the blessing of God and turn to our own folly, energised by sensual desires, and suffer the consequences of that. Wisdom is not a guarantee. We can reject it even when we have it.
Wisdom comes from a right respect (fear) of the Lord and part of that means we simply accept His will is always best and when we follow it, blessing will always follow. Moses knew this when he instructed Israel on the Plains of Moab: “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” (Deut 4:5,6) Keeping the Law would reveal an orderly and peaceful and harmonious and prosperous society that should have been the envy of the world, showing a wise people (and it did happen initially with Solomon as witnessed by the Queen of Sheba).
That was wisdom in the Old Testament but when we come to the New we see something different. The apostle Paul wrote, “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor 1:22-24) Now that is interesting because he shows us two different sorts of wisdom. First, he refers to the wisdom that the Greeks sought after which was more based on knowledge and logic. However, that logic could never have guessed at the plan of God, hidden as a mystery from before He made the world, a plan that involved the death of His Son. That was the second wisdom in those verses, the wisdom that comes from knowing God’s will, what God has decreed, how God has laid down His strategy to save the world: “we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” (1 Cor 2:7)
But how about the practical “how to live” wisdom? “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” (Jas 1:5) We get it when we first come to God and we get it every time we ask the Lord for guidance as to how to live out our lives. Later in his letter, James goes on to contrast these two sorts of wisdom we’ve already hinted at, and see in the desires of the Greeks.
See: “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” (Jas 3:13-17) Let’s look at this in some detail.
Human ‘wisdom’ puts ‘self’ first and therefore the life of pursuing selfish desires and selfish ambitions inevitably involves coming into conflict with others. That is what James recognizes and speaks about here, but the wisdom that comes from God pursues the plan and strategy formulated by the Godhead before the Creation and it is built on the total knowledge of how the world is designed to work at its best – including how to deal with it when it doesn’t work according to design (and this includes us). The end goal is always to bring mankind back into a place of being able to receive God’s blessing, and that means coming into a place of peace, harmony, divine provision and a glorious destiny in eternity.
Knowledge recognizes that God has given us, for example, many good things to eat and drink. It also observes that eating too much means obesity. It then understands the link and sees the folly of eating to much and the resulting threats to health that follow, and so wisdom sees how to live with a healthy diet and self-control. The same sort of thing can be applied to all bodily desires. Ignoring God’s design, ignoring God’s will, means we stray outside His parameters with all the accompanying ailments we see in modern Western society.
Do I want (need) to aspire to this godly wisdom? Yes, definitely. Why? Because it works and brings God’s blessing, and rejecting it for human, self-centred ‘wisdom’ (which is in fact folly) means my life will start breaking down and falling apart. When we rely on self-centred desires for our immediate pleasure, that reject the will of God, we will get into trouble. Eve knew that would happen when she took the forbidden fruit but for the ‘pleasure’ of the moment, she gave way. It is that example that we see around us so much of the time in the West – obese people, people with problems with alcohol, broken marriages, insecure relationships, children without a father, sexual diseases etc. All of this is because our society has rejected the wisdom of God. May it not be true of you and me!