February 4

“Praise the LORD! Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments! … the generation of the upright will be blessed…. his righteousness endures forever. Light dawns in the darkness for the upright; he is gracious, merciful, and righteous…For the righteous will never be moved… his righteousness endures forever.” (Psalm 112)

The writer of the Psalms has taught us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom at the end of Psalm 111, and now gives us a description of personal wisdom in Psalm 112. The one who fears the Lord savors God’s commandments (v. 1). We embrace what we enjoy, so obedience to God’s commands is implied. The psalmist goes on to say that the godly person is gracious, merciful, and righteous. These are all communicable attributes of God, shared by believers in Christ, who has imputed his righteousness to us. Righteousness is mentioned five times in this short psalm. It is linked to blessing (v. 2), eternality (v. 3, 6, 9), light (v. 4), and stability (v. 6). The more we embrace God’s commands and his Word, the more like Christ we become. As we grow to be more God-like, as we are sanctified, our worship for God becomes more holy and reverent leading to more fear of the Lord.

In his commentary on Psalm 111, James Boice wrote, “No people ever rise higher than their idea of God…We deplore the breakdown of moral standards, but what do we expect when we have focused our worship services on ourselves and our own often trivial needs rather than on God? Our view of God affects what we are and do.” * In his book, “Everyone’s a Theologian,” Dr. R. C. Sproul teaches that religion is the worship practices of man whereas theology is the study of God. Wise believers marry the two, our worship is our theology.

Our worship this Lord’s Day will either be high and exalted, focused with reverence on God or self-centered. We will either humbly appreciate and thank Christ for his sacrifice, giving us his righteousness or we will allow ourselves to slip into an unconscious reverie of Super bowl plans. We know what is right to glorify God. Will you pray for his help with your worship today? “Because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (Corinthians 1:30)

* Boice, James M., Boice Expositional Commentary Series, “Psalm 111,” Baker Books, 1998.

February 3

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” (Proverbs 1:7)

“Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28)“

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10)

Do you  read, watch, or listen to the same news story multiple times in one day? This is one thing that retired people seem to do a lot, but for what purpose? Repetition about current events may make us more informed but doesn’t make us smarter. Financial brokers may profit from watching the stock market, but only politicians benefit from awareness of small changes in the news cycle. There are helpful uses of repetition, when learning math, science, or historical facts, studying a foreign language or learning lines for a drama skit, to name a few. In the Bible, repetition of a truth or precept reminds us of its importance, especially when the same doctrine shows up in various passages or contexts.

In our sampling today, we find “the fear of the Lord” that leads to wisdom mentioned at least four times in the Old Testament. In his commentary on Psalm 111, James Boice wrote, “True wisdom begins with acknowledging or reverently bowing before God as God, and it progresses by getting to know God well, which includes not only our coming to know who he is but also learning that his thoughts and ways are infinitely above and beyond ours.” It is not enough to know who God is, and what he has done, to be wise. We must have respect for the Lord built on personal trust. We must also embrace the truth that God’s ways are not ours; he is perfect and we are pathetic—he is holy and we are unholy. Therefore, in order to be truly wise, we must also regularly confess and repent of our casual approach to knowing God, to acquire wisdom, as if it is a simple thing to do. In the Bible’s wisdom literature, the “simple” person is a fool, which is what we are when we do not guard ourselves against the danger of a casual approach to God. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 27:12)

In what ways are you casual with the Lord? How will you confess, to avoid being unwise, simple, and foolish?

February 2

“And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, ‘Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?’ And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.'” (Mark 6:2-4)

There are some musically gifted children and adults in my church congregation, and in the retirement community where I live. Every once in a while, I have the opportunity to witness their talents on display, seeing them in a very different way. Since my only musical abilities consist of listening and appreciating others, I am awed by the beautiful notes from their voices and instruments. I wholeheartedly celebrate these lovely friends and their glorious gifts.

Apparently, the Jews in the synagogue were unused to the sound of true wisdom when they heard Jesus speaking on the Sabbath, and were astonished since they had never considered him as one who is able to teach so astutely. Christ had humbled himself quite successfully and now his neighbors were seeing him in a new light. They admitted that Jesus had wisdom. This insight, paired with his miraculous works baffled them. “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands?” Only the Holy Spirit working in them would give them the answers they sought if they had been receptive. But they instead chose to be offended. They would not listen or give him honor, not to this lowly carpenter. They would not concede that he was superior to them in his understanding and knowledge of God and the Tanakh. Perhaps if he had been trained by one of the leading rabbis of the time, like Gamaliel, who taught Paul, they would have responded differently to his teaching. They were judging God by the world’s standards, which they had adopted for themselves.

Every Christian has the opportunity to sit under Jesus’ teaching in the Old and New Testaments to become wise. As we share this wisdom, those who love the world will have the opportunity to hear something different and glorious. We are not to worry about the results, but to focus on giving evidence of the truth of the gospel. Are you willing to let others see and hear your love for Christ through the wisdom he has given you?

February 1

“There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siegeworks against it. But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man. But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard. Wisdom is better than weapons of war…” (Ecclesiastes 9:14-16, 18a)

I enjoy stories of underdogs who turn out to be heroes or under appreciated nobodies who become people of great renown, based on their morals, character traits, and priorities. Even more inspiring are stories of real Christians who have lived quiet lives of faith but were only known by a few people. Their faith has yielded its greatest reward-the crown of life. It is a reassuring to know that “the last will be first, and the first last” (Matthew 20:16). The story in Ecclesiastes, about the forgotten poor, wise man is a case in point. His wisdom is recorded in Scripture for eternity, as a great example and encouragement for humble wisdom. We are not told his name, and we will not recognize him in heaven unless he introduces himself as the poor, wise man who delivered his little city with a few people.

God’s wisdom does what human strength cannot do. The world despises God’s wisdom and will not hear His words, out of hard-heartedness. “Men may brag and boast and display their might, but it is the quiet word of wisdom which saves.”* Christians who desire wisdom undertake a continual battle against popularity and worldly recognition or at least we should. There is great danger in fame; it is a small but deadly spot of invisible black ice on the path of wisdom. The only way to avoid smugness is to constantly be on the watch for it. To be wise, we must be willing to be Christ-like, according to Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” The more we embrace the idea of being quiet and unknown to the world, the more wisdom we will accumulate, and the more useful we will be to Christ.

Are you willing to become small and quiet? Will you ask God to give you the willingness to be forgotten to the world, but wise for His use?

* Zondervan Bible Commentary, One-Volume Illustrated Software Edition, F. F. Bruce, General Editor

January 31

“Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long…Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way.” (Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9)

My dear friend and sister in Christ has congestive heart failure. She delights in God’s Word, especially the psalms. So, when I first arrive to visit with her, she usually wants me to read one or two psalms, pray, and then read another psalm. Somehow, she adds a prayer for me at the end of my prayers for her and her family, because that’s just the kind of believer she is-always outwardly focused. Her desire to hear the psalms is helping me to appreciate them more. She is so wise!

In Psalm 25, David refers to the path he walks. He wants to know God’s ways and paths (v. 4). He seeks the way that is good, upright, steadfastly loving, and faithful (v. 8, 10). In each case, David also makes reference to his sin nature and need for humility. “Let me not be put to shame” (v. 1, 20). He declares that God is his salvation (v. 5) and that he is in need of God’s mercy (v. 6). “Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions” (v. 7). “He instructs sinners in the way” (v. 8) “…pardon my guilt, for it is great” (v. 11). “Guard my soul and deliver me!” (v. 20) This psalm reveals David’s heart for the Lord. “The friendship of the LORD is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant” (v. 14).

We who desire to be wise must recognize that our wisdom is directly proportional to our friendship with God. How much greater is our intimacy with God, united to Christ, and having the Holy Spirit living in us, convicting, directing, and teaching us daily? David has demonstrated his wisdom and love for God in this psalm. How will we exhibit ours today?

January 30

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27)

When I toured Ireland in 2013 our tour guide arranged for us to observe three sheepdogs demonstrating their skills with a shepherd-trainer. The dogs were remarkable. As we watched them work, we noticed how the sheep quickly submitted to the dogs’ redirection, sometimes with a one hundred eighty degree turn. Thinking about it now, the picture of the shepherd who signaled the dogs, who then herded the sheep reminds me of how Christ, our Good Shepherd works with his under-shepherds to move his sheep in the right direction.

We are, by nature, lovers of sin and mischief. When Christ captures our hearts, making us his sheep, we submit to his redirection, turning one hundred eighty degrees, by his irresistible grace and the Holy Spirit’s working in us. It is then and only then that we can begin to acquire godly wisdom. This wisdom includes the intellectual knowledge that we belong to Christ, having been adopted into God’s family. Fortunately for us, we do not need to know or believe this in order to be saved, since salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. (See Ephesians 2:1-10.) The indwelling Holy Spirit helps us to understand Scripture and recognize and deal with the conflict between the old “man” (our sin nature) and the new “man” (our identity in Christ). Wisdom increases as our knowledge and understanding begin to work. We make connections as we apply our studies with the prophets in the Old Testament and the apostles in the New Testament, who are God’s under-shepherds. We gain wisdom as we pray, acknowledging God’s character and works, confessing our sins, giving thanks and requesting his help. Wisdom continues to grow whenever we worship God corporately, fellowship with other Christians, participate in communion and learn from our pastors, who are also God’s under-shepherds, having been called by our Chief Shepherd, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 5:1-5).

What shall we do with the wisdom we are acquiring? Whatever we do, in all our different circumstances, we should do wisely, for the sake of Christ. We are not to collect biblical knowledge, understanding, and wisdom as a trophy. As I move through my day, I first apply wisdom to myself, and then put it to use in my relationships. “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (James 1:22-25).

January 29

“But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living.” (Job 28:12-13 )

“I said, ‘I will be wise,’ but it was far from me. That which has been is far off, and deep, very deep; who can find it out?” Ecclesiastes 7:23-24)

Do you seek wisdom in the same way that you look for the latest app for your smartphone? Do we even realize how much value we assign to news, twitter feeds, Facebook postings, or advertisements? When I receive an evaluation from a company who performed services for me I will usually delete it, because my wellbeing is not hinged on their service. The company will just have to wait to see if I return if they want to know “how they did.” In our trials, we tend to eliminate these distractions. Job, afflicted and feeling estranged from God, was consumed with finding wisdom. He compared his search for wisdom to a quest for precious gems and the pursuit of light (28:1-6). But man cannot excavate biblical wisdom in the way he finds earthly treasures (vs. 7-11). Unwilling to give up, Job persevered in his investigation.

In the following verses, Job stated where wisdom is not found. It cannot be found in the oceans or seas (v. 14).  Job then compared wisdom to precious gems, which can be valued, bought and sold. Wisdom is not comparable to gold, silver, onyx, sapphires, glass, coral, crystal, pearls, or topaz. These natural riches, made by God, can be exchanged in a marketplace, assigned monetary worth by the world (vs. 15-19). Godly wisdom is of infinite value, but cannot be seen with our eyes, like gems or light (vs. 20-21). If the living cannot see wisdom, then surely death has only “heard a rumor of it” (v. 22). Job finally determines that “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place” (v. 23).

Job has been brought down by God with illness and tragedy, and now admits that he knows very little of true wisdom. God often throws us into trials and difficulties to humble us, increase our dependence upon Him, and seek His wisdom more diligently. But we shouldn’t wait for affliction, illness or hardship to draw close to Christ. Are you studying the Bible to draw closer to God, to receive and use more of the wisdom available to you? Are you taking the warnings seriously, in humility, and recognizing the limitations of worldly values and possessions?

 

January 28

“Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’” (Revelation 5:11-12)

 John’s vision pictures the expanded choir of myriads of myriads (hundreds of millions) and thousands of thousands of angels, surrounding the elders and ministers of the gospel, praising the slain Lamb on his throne. The living creatures continually proclaim him “holy, holy, holy” (4:8). The elders have fallen before him and cast down their crowns, which rightly belong to Christ, as the one who called and empowered them to service (4:10). Then they exclaimed the Lamb worthy of his “glory, honor, and power” (4:11). A new song has begun: “for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (5:9b-10). And finally, in our passage, there is a seven-fold declaration of the Lamb’s power, wealth, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing” (5:12)

Louis Berkhof gives this definition of wisdom in his Systematic Theology: “wisdom is that perfection of God whereby He applies His knowledge to the attainment of His ends in a way which glorifies Him most…and according to Scripture the final end [purpose] is the glory of God.”

As we worship as a body and family, in Christ’s wisdom, let’s rejoice in a crescendo of praise for God, who is the source of all wisdom.

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’ ‘Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?’ For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:33-36)

January 27

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.” (James 3:13-16)

The wise believer acquires biblical wisdom from Christ, who was, is, and ever will be perfect and without sin. Jesus Christ lived a perfect, sinless life in his incarnation, conforming to the Ten Commandants.  The Tenth Commandment says: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17). However, the world today thrives on the concept of coveting that which we do not have, promoting and esteeming jealousy and sinful ambition. These are character traits of Satan, who is unspiritual and demonic, seeking to encourage disorder and vile practices.

We are barraged with offers and find ourselves watching the advertisements, reading the catalogues, responding to the emails, thinking we should take advantage of coupons and sales when we already have everything we need. Where is the wisdom for dealing with this overwhelming onslaught from the world? John writes, “By this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:3-6)

If we are to be wise Christians we must keep God’s commandments, but we are unable to do so. (See Romans 7.) Rather than despair, we run to Christ for glorious blessing of confession and forgiveness, followed by repentance. John did not intend for us to wallow in our sin and guilt but advises us, “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

The wise in Christ reject the premise of our world—that our satisfaction lies in our earthly condition or possessions. Where will you find your satisfaction today?

January 26

“Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:13-18)

The epistle of James is to the New Testament as Proverbs is to the Old Testament, in that they are both considered wisdom literature. James helps us to understand and develop applied wisdom—wisdom that bears fruit. The passage above is a parenthesis on godly wisdom between a warning about the danger of the tongue (3:1-12) and a warning against worldliness (4:1-16). James informs us that our good conduct is evidence of our wisdom, when carried out with humility. By implication, arrogance is foolish, even when a person’s intention is correct. This truth has particular relevance to the rising volume of anger, criticism, and accusations in our culture today, and acceptance of harsh words, even for a good cause.

James goes on to say that we should not boast about being truthful, since biblical purity cannot be offered by one who is bitterly jealous or selfishly ambitious. If I am arrogant, envious, or ambitious for my own sake, I cannot be wise, where God is concerned, no matter what the world might say, since jealousy and selfishness go hand-in-hand with disorder and sinful practices.

After these warnings, James lists eight characteristics of godly wisdom in verses 17 and 18, reflecting the attributes of the Jesus Christ, who is its source.  This pure, peaceful, gentle, merciful, impartial, and sincere wisdom can only be received as a gift from Him. The good news is that God will give us this wisdom if we ask in faith (James 1:5), because He is generous. God’s generosity results in a bountiful goodness that is produced by His wisdom, yielding full mercy, good fruits, and a “harvest of righteousness.”

Will you ask God for the wisdom that exceeds all our human sinful tendencies, receive it in faith, and put it to use with humility? The reward is a “harvest of righteousness.”