February 8

“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.” (1 John 5:20a)

As a missionary in Africa with the Rafiki Foundation I had the joy of using the Rafiki Bible Study (RBS). The RBS starts in Genesis 1:1 and ends with Revelation 22:21, teaching every book of the Bible exegetically, including the revelation of Jesus Christ. I made an interesting observation among many of the adult African Christians, who had powerful personal testimonies of faith in Jesus Christ. Frequently, when a question would come up about how God reveals himself and is glorified, the answer would be that He makes himself known mainly through general revelation, in nature specifically. This is surprising since Christians have even more profound wisdom in the person of Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament is full of wisdom, and heavenly pleas for God to make this wisdom accessible. Psalm 119:18 says, “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” Indeed, the Ten Commandments and statutes of the Old Covenant are full of glorious truths, when we view them as gifts of love from our Creator. By them, we know his character, desires, and expectations of us. Furthermore, Jesus came to fulfill the Law, every promise made by God in the Old Covenant, and the ministry of the temple sacrifices. (Matthew 5:17-18) As Mark wrote, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11)

“Christians receive grace in order to grasp biblical teaching and receive the will to put it into practice.” * It is by the grace of Jesus Christ, through personal application to the study of wisdom that believers obtain profound biblical wisdom superseding all other knowledge and understanding. And it is through our Savior that we can put understanding into practice. In Christ, we can discern false teaching and subtle digressions from the truth. We have the mind of “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. I say this in order that no one may delude you with plausible arguments.” (1 Corinthians 2:16; Colossians 2:2-4).

When I study the Bible to write these devotions, teach a specific lesson, or for my spiritual growth, I usually check the cross-references for key verses of the passage I am studying, seeing the big picture of a doctrine or idea. In this way I expand my wisdom, asking God for the most in-depth understanding I may have, knowing that in Christ I have grace to put it into practice. How do you apply the grace of Christ to obtain greater wisdom from God’s Word?

* ESV Study Bible, “1 John,” Crossway, 2008.


 

February 7

“The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth. Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” (Proverbs 1:1-6)

Over the last two days, we have seen how God reveals wisdom in the creation and our consciences. A third primary source of God’s general revelation is the Bible. Scripture offers superior wisdom from God in the Old and New Testaments, and all the genres—the historical books, poetry, prophesy, wisdom literature, doctrinal letters, and gospels-all are for our instruction. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

When the writer of 1 Kings describes Solomon’s unique wisdom, he notes that “He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005” (1 Kings 4:32). Proverbs is intentionally direct in its goal of teaching wisdom to God’s people grounded in “the fear of the LORD.” This book paints two portraits. One picture is that of the wise, humble, biblically grounded person’s response to daily choices and temptations, while the other is of the fool who arrogantly rejects wisdom and lives according to the desires of his flesh, ignoring the consequences of this foolish way of life. This theme runs throughout the Bible for our instruction and guidance.

Some passages are especially instructive for learning godly wisdom from God’s Word. Psalm 119 is a manifesto on the benefits of reading, understanding, and embracing Scripture. “The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130) A study of Psalm 119, section by section, linked with confession would be an educational and possibly life-transforming endeavor for the student of wisdom.

The importance of Scripture in your life is equal to the authority of God and his truth over your life. The influence of biblical wisdom over you is directly related to the time you spend in the Word. Do the Bible’s insights and instructions permeate your life? If not, what does?

February 6

“For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them.” (Romans 2:14-15)

In “Guilty Conscience,” a rap video that was nominated for a Grammy award, music artists Eminem and Dr. Dre play the bad and good conscience of three people who are about to commit crimes. The “good” conscience wins over the first person, and the “bad” conscience defeats him in the second. However, in the third person, they agree that the evil desire is morally right. If you can handle the violence and rapping, it’s an excellent commentary on our world today. What is biblically sound is seen as restrictive and outmoded, while that which is evil is called good and acceptable. The video highlights the workings of the conscience, that part of our minds that evaluates our desires, choices, opinions, and actions.

Here is another way that God gives us wisdom: he puts it in the conscience. God gave every person a conscience when he created us. Thus, he gave us the ability and the necessity of judging our desires, choices, opinions, and actions as either good or bad. This is the highest wisdom of the world-knowing what is right and what is wrong, what is evil and what is right and God has given this knowledge to everyone. The existence of our conscience is well-documented in Scripture.

However, our conscience is subject to our belief systems, and thus it can be corrupted. My conscience has been sinful from the time I was born and is being continually ruined by the world, the devil, and my polluted flesh. But Paul teaches us that even in its corrupted state, the conscience is an instrument to determine right from wrong, and therefore, an instrument of wisdom or foolishness (Romans 2:14-15). Paul states that his “conscience bears witness” in Romans 2 and Romans 9:1. Believers who submit to Christ, under the Word of God, can conform their conscience to God’s standard of goodness and evil, with the help of the Holy Spirit. This is biblical wisdom.

Martin Luther was unwilling to recant his position on his ninety-five thesis and published doctrines when instructed to do so unless his conscience would allow him. He said, “Unless therefore I am convinced by the testimony of Scripture, or by the clearest reasoning- unless I am persuaded by means of the passages I have quoted-and unless they thus render my conscience bound by the Word of God, I cannot and I will not retract, for it is unsafe for a Christian to speak against his conscience.” Paul wrote, “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” (1 Corinthians 1:12)

Will this be your testimony?

February 5

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1-2)

We can simply look out a window to obtain wisdom. God’s power, his infinite creativity, generosity, and wisdom are all revealed in his creation. God made one moon for the earth, but so many stars, in so many galaxies, that we can only estimate the number, something over ten billion. In the country, away from city lights, on a cloudless night, the light from the moon and the stars can provide enough light to read! I know because I have done so in Africa when the power was out.

Just as a talented artist paints an artistic portrait or a skilled carpenter builds a sturdy, beautiful desk, God, who is perfectly wise, made everything to reflect his wisdom. This is what is known as the general revelation of God, and it is the way that God makes himself known to everyone everywhere. God glorifies himself through nature, and it is wise to recognize that he has done so. “His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:20).

Evidence of God’s wisdom is found in the smallest crevices of creation and in the largest expanses of the heavens. In many parts of Africa where I lived, there are driver or safari ants that move in long lines across roads, over hills, sometimes for miles. Soldier ants accompany the safari ants to protect them. They are mesmerizing to watch and I am reminded of Proverbs 6:6-8 “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest.” The flowers in my garden aren’t just pretty, they also provide food for the butterflies and hummingbirds. The sun is warm on a winter’s day and gives animals relief from freezing temperatures. In the summer the clouds and trees provide much needed shade in parts of the world where there is no air conditioning. Everything works together wisely by God’s power.

I don’t know about you, but I am quite humbled by the idea that I am a sluggard who should learn something valuable from an ant. Proverbs 6 addresses laziness, which we will explore another time. But aren’t we sluggardly when we go in and out while completely ignoring nature? Perhaps we would benefit from studying the creation as least as much, if not more than we search for new wisdom with our devices. Why not try it today; what might you learn from God’s creation?

 

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?