“… wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom” -Isa 28:29
Read Job 28
I remember at 18 years old, before I was a Christian, I was given a Bible for graduating high school. NASB if I remember right. It was simple – not small, not big. It wasn’t a study Bible so there was no commentary, which helped keep it comfortable to carry. It wasn’t genuine leather, but, bonded. On the inside presentation page was a verse reference. It was Proverbs 3:5-6. Just the reference, the words weren’t written out. I had to find it if I wanted to know what it said. I like that approach btw. Once I found the location my eyes took in the words:
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
The words sounded nice. But, to really live by that “advice” you have to trust that this LORD really knows what He’s doing. How can you “trust with all your heart” if you don’t believe that what He knows is best?
Only now, prepping for this sermon, reflecting on those “first” words from the Bible I ever remember reading, I am making the connection between my faith and God’s wisdom. What I mean to say is that for me to trust God with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding I have to believe that God’s understanding, and God’s wisdom is exceedingly beyond my own. I have to realize that the choice is between trusting me with my limited understanding and trusting God with His infinite wisdom. This decision should be a “no-brainer”. Go with the One who knows it all – not the one who barely knows anything (if anything!).
Our summer series on Knowing God: A Study of His Attributes will be ending in a few weeks. This week we look at His wisdom. Praise God for His wisdom. I don’t know if you’ve thought of this – if not I’m about to suggest it. I don’t know if you’ve thought of it, but, this study should really enlarge your prayer life. In my opinion we should be in the habit of praising God at the outset of our prayer time. Before we ask of Him – even before we would confess. Why should praise precede requests? Because in praising God you’re acknowledging Him and your giving Him glory for Who He is. Beginning with praise exalts your thoughts to be more fitting of Him so that you feel in your soul more the glory of who He is. Your asking is only as good as your praising. When you start by praising God you are more ready to ask of Him. Praise Him for His infiniteness, for His eternality, for His self-existence, for His glorious Triunity, for His love, for His holiness, for His faithfulness, for His justice, and today praise Him for His wisdom. Let the word of God lead you in this. You could pray like
- Psalm 92:5 or Job 9:4 which say, “how profound are your thoughts, O God”
- Or as Isaiah 28:29, which says that the LORD is “wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.”
- Soon you just get so awed at God’s endless wisdom that you say with Psalm 139, “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them they would outnumber the grains of sand.”
- Or so full of worship you just blurt out like Paul does in the very last verse of Romans, “Now to you the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen!”
The wisdom of God is not simply that He knows the facts of everything. That is His omniscience – His “all-knowingness”. He knows absolutely everything that can possibly be known. Wisdom we could argue is a particular branch of that perfect knowledge in that wisdom is knowing how to act. God’s wisdom means that He knows how to act perfectly, justly, holily all the time, in every situation, so as to glorify Himself.
His wisdom is His wisdom. He did not learn it from anyone. At least that’s what Job 21:22 says,”Can anyone teach knowledge to God?” Job 22:1 picks up the same point, “Can a man be of benefit to God? Can even a wise man benefit him?” You can almost hear Isaiah laughing when he says in chapter 40
“Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed Him as a His counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten Him, and who taught Him the right way?” Who was it that taught Him and showed Him the path of understanding?”
Right here is the idea of God’s “perfect” wisdom. It is perfect in that it is complete, not lacking anything. Because God is God, God is perfectly wise. No man, no angel – no one – can help God be more wise. You can’t make perfect more perfect. And God’s wisdom is perfect.
That would be backwards too by the way. We are deficient in wisdom and we are dependent on Him. He doesn’t need us – we need Him. And He is willing to share His wisdom with us.
By the way this is what theologians call God’s “communicable” attributes. I love categories so I love when theologians do this. A communicable attribute is one of God’s attributes that are in some measure shared by His creatures. God is wise, and we can be wise. God is holy, and we can be holy. God is compassionate and we can be compassionate. God is merciful and we can be merciful. On the other hand, there are attributes of God that are “non-communicable”, which means that you have to be God for these things to be true about you. These are attributes that are seen only in God and not in any of His creation. He is self-existent and needs nothing to exist. Only God. He is eternal, without beginning and without end. Only God. Non-communicable.
Wisdom? Communicable. His creatures can be wise: “If any of you lacks wisdom” James 1:5 promises, “he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” Then there is Proverbs 2:6 “For the LORD gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
Now there is a condition in asking. James tells us first that we must ask in faith, that we must believe that God will faithfully give us the wisdom we need. But we also read that a condition for acquiring wisdom is the “fear of the LORD”. This is not the same as being afraid of the LORD. Afraid is what is felt when you are alienated from God and don’t know Him.
The “fear of the LORD” however is different, and it is what someone feels who does know God. Fearing God is described as careful, intentional obedience to God’s commands out of a loving, awe-filled respect for God as God.
For example, turn to Exodus 20:20. Here we come to the very famous moment when God gives the 10 Commandments. He gathers all the Israelites around Mount Sinai and summons Moses up the mountain. After the giving of the commandments. The people were terrified because they say God come on the mountain in a great cloud and pillar of smoke, the mountain trembled and from somewhere an incredibly loud trumpet blast kept getting louder and louder. They were shaking in their sandals. Moses says to them in verse 20,
“Do not be afraid. God has come to test you,so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
Did you notice how Moses says 1) Don’t be afraid, and 2) have the fear of God? Two different things. Did you also notice how the “fear of God” would be good for them? “to keep you from sinning.”
Ah! Now we come to see what the fear of the Lord is: keeping oneself from sinning. Or to say it positively, keeping the commands of God. Job 28 is a powerful chapter. The first 11 verses marvel at how adventurous and curious man is to explore the earth. Then verse 12 asks “But where can wisdom be found?” Then verse 13 through 22 is a poetic way of saying it can’t be found anywhere on earth. In other words, all the noble exploring man has done of the earth will lead to many great discoveries – but it will never lead to the discovery of wisdom. You feel the chapter becoming more and more pregnant with anticipation with each verse and you’re starting to blurt out: “Well where can I ge wisdom?!”
Then verse 23 says, “God understands the way to wisdom, and He alone knows where it dwells.” Again, God is the source of wisdom for man. But perhaps the most profound point about wisdom is found at the end, in verse 28, “The fear of the LORD – that is wisdom and to shun evil is understanding.”
Do you see it? The moral aspect of wisdom? Just like Moses said the fear of God would keep them from sinning, here fear of God is wisdom and again it is tied to avoiding evil/sin. Or James 1:17 says “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.” See the moral output of God’s wisdom?
Wisdom is not found in academic achievement and letters behind your name. Academia is brimming over with fools. Wisdom is not found in worldly success either. It’s not street-smarts either, where you’ve learned to make it through in this world because you’ve learned people and situations and are clever.
Wisdom is knowing how to act in order to please God with your life. That’s why Proverbs starts out in chapter 1 with “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (Proverbs 1:7)
Of course, what does the fear of the LORD have to do with wisdom? The fear of the LORD is your attitude, whereas wisdom is your know-how. You have to have an attitude where you want to live for God’s honor, where you want your life to glorify Him, where you want to please Him in all you do. Wisdom is the skillset to do that. Wisdom is the moral know-how to live your life in a way that is pleasing to God.
Sometimes wisdom is confused with knowledge or facts. No. Wisdom is not the ability to regurgitate facts about your environment, or learning about some matter where you can give correct answers. Wisdom is not merely idle knowledge; it is not the passive possession of facts about the world around you. A person may have been immersed in Christian atmosphere their whole lives and be able to say “Yeah, I know all that.” But while they “know all that” they don’t live their lives to the glory of God. They don’t choose to please Him with their decisions and direction in life. Wisdom is knowing what is right in God’s eyes and DOING IT! Wisdom is practicing moral, spiritual, biblical truths that you know. Wisdom is action.
That’s why one of the most powerful books of wisdom, the book of Proverbs, is such a practical book – it tells you specifically how to act. Think about all the practical themes in those 31 chapters from work ethic to money to marriage, to integrity, to self-discipline, to substance use and abuse, to life priorities, to wealth and poverty to laziness and hard work to choosing a spouse to fear to family life and on and on it goes. God what is the best way to act in life? That question is asking for wisdom. A fool can tell you that adultery is wrong, but his practice of adultery despite what he “knows” proves he is a fool. In other words, it isn’t what he knows in his head, but, it is what he does in his life that exposes him as a fool.
Use a different example: take a
Wisdom is learning how to cut through a situation with the right decision, the right behavior, the right words, so as to honor God.
CHRIST OUR WISDOM
First Corinthians 1:27