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.”

January 25

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ” (Ephesians 1:7-9)

Mysteries have always captured our attention. There is something seductive about the thought that we might be given some special knowledge that remains hidden from others. Our sin nature is attracted to the idea that we are superior in our intelligence or that there is some quality in us that makes us deserving to know a secret. But the biblical definition of the “mystery” to which Paul refers, in his writing in Ephesians, is the gospel, which was revealed in full through Jesus, the promised Messiah of the Old Testament. For some of us it’s actually hard for us to believe that this is the “mystery” that Paul describes, as if it were too easy. But this mystery, that is given to us in all wisdom, and is beyond our human reasoning, is a supernatural work of God in the hearts of His enemies.

Perhaps that is why Paul wrote, in Romans 11:25, “Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.” Did the Gentiles in Rome think they had God all figured out? Do we? God has not given up on the Jews, or any other people group, be they religious, tribal, racial, educational, or economic. This is the mystery that was hidden in the Old Testament, but revealed in the New Testament—that Christ is the Messiah, the Redeemer who brings every elect, lost child into God’s kingdom. “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Colossians 1:27-28)

Would we deny the gospel to anyone because we want to be superior? Then we are condemned by our pride. Would we want to keep the mystery of forgiveness and reconciliation with God hidden, while it has been revealed to us? Then we are doomed by our selfishness and hard-heartedness. Would we want only particular people to be given this revelation and others to remain without the riches and wisdom of Christ? Then we are judged for our partiality. What foolishness! We are to teach “everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.”

January 24

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5)

“And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)

Proverbs 3:5 is one of the most beloved verses in the Bible for Christians. I find this very interesting, because it’s so hard to do—it’s downright impossible! It’s much easier to obey one of the new-age and eastern philosophies that are so popular today. Steve Jobs wrote (about being successful), “You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”1 I guess, to be fair, I should write to Jobs and ask him to explain his quotation, rather than take it out of context, which is exactly what I am warned against in Proverbs 3:5—leaning on my own understanding—the “whatever.”

 

I admit that my heart is an enigma to me, physically and spiritually. Physically I know that it beats about eighty times every minute, pumping blood to my organs and keeping me alive. We can have part of our brains removed and still live on, with an unexpectedly high level of functioning, and this boggles my mind. But I cannot live with part of a heart, or one that been “divided.” How much less can I live spiritually with a divided heart? My inability to know what to do drives me to Scripture. “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls” (Luke 11:17).

John Gill, who preached in Spurgeon’s church, wrote in his exposition on Proverbs 3:5, “The understanding of man is darkened by sin; yea, is darkness itself; it is like the first earth, covered with darkness, till light is let into it, and therefore not to be leaned unto and depended on.”2 I long to know the truth, but I find that my unrighteous biases, opinions, preconceptions, and self-justifications are always there, affecting every aspect of my life, including my Bible study. I am driven to Jeremiah, who assures me that God will give us shepherds with His heart to teach us. Who are these shepherds? They are Jesus, first and foremost, along with the Holy Spirit. They include Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, and Peter—the writers of the New Testament, God’s apostles. They are Moses, David, Solomon, and the prophets—the writers of the Old Testament. They are the fathers, brothers, and sisters of the faith who rule and preach to us, give us creeds, catechisms, and hymns.

We have strong shepherds today who will guide us into biblical truth. The question is, will you and I seek to follow God with our hearts, willing to be challenged and rebuked by Scripture, or will we revert to what we think we already know because it’s just easier to follow the “whatever”?

  1. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/steve_jobs_416875?src=t_trust
  2. https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/

January 23

“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” (Proverbs 20:5)

“A wise man’s heart inclines him to the right, but a fool’s heart to the left.” (Ecclesiastes 10:2)

Now that Christmas and New Year’s is behind us, stores and public places are filled with hearts to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The heart has become a symbol for emotional affection, sentimentality, and the idea of loving something (as in, I “heart” puppies). What a contrast to Scripture’s concept of the heart! In the Bible, the heart is often referred to as the center of belief, the seat of truth, and the window to the soul. Our hearts contain our purposes and control our behavior. A wise person, who has knowledge and understanding, has buried biblical wisdom deep in the heart and can bring it out to made wise choices. This is the heart that trusts in Christs, and has discernment by the power of the Holy Spirit.

A good example of biblical wisdom, through Christ, is found in Acts Chapter 8. Simon, the magician wanted to purchase the power to grant the Holy Spirit from Peter and John. Peter wisely discerned that Simon’s heart was “not right before God” (8:21). Peter rebuked Simon for considering God’s gift of grace as something to be purchased, and called for him to repent, seeking God’s forgiveness (8:22). The apostle specifically named the sinful intent of Simon’s heart, which was “in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” In other words, Simon’s heart was under the control of Satan in spite of his profession of faith (8:23). Peter’s heart moved him to the right (toward righteousness and wisdom), while Simon’s foolish, unbelieving heart pulled him to the left, away from righteousness.

Here is a reminder that our behavior originates in our hearts. No wonder Christ spoke so clearly on this matter. (See Luke 12:34; 24:25, and other passages.) Two applications may be drawn. Believers have been given the Holy Spirit, by God’s grace at regeneration, to discern right from wrong and wisdom from foolishness, even when it is deeply embedded in our hearts. On the other hand, we should not expect our children or other unbelievers to be able to act wisely or faithfully, as God’s defines wisdom, because they do not have the Spirit’s help. It is our responsibility, as believers, to use the graces of God to bring our wisdom to maturity in the hopes that we will become Christ’s ambassadors as He works in the hearts of the elect.

Do you have wisdom buried in your heart? If not, will you get it by immersing yourself in Scripture? If you do have this buried treasure, will you put it to use, for Christ’s sake?