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The nature of true wisdom is indicated in the final section of the Book of Ecclesiastes. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man." (12.13) The atheist would have us live as if there is no God. The communist would have us live a life of devotion to the State. The religious formalist offers us Christianity without heart transformation. But true wisdom is to fear God, and keep His commandments. True wisdom is religious and spiritual. Its starting point is the God of Scripture as really and truly existing and the authority of Scripture as His special revelation of Himself. Where there is no rising above the secular, the material and the physical, true wisdom is not being acquired or imparted. True wisdom is personal and experiential. To be truly wise a man must have more than mere head knowledge. There must be personal conviction and personal commitment. The individual must be actively involved in a style of life shaped by the knowledge he has embraced. True wisdom is God-centred. The heavens and the earth are seen as God's workmanship. Man sees himself as God's steward. History is recognized as the outworking of the Divine purpose. Salvation is owned to be of the Lord. The past, the present and the future belong to God. He dominates everything and the truly wise man wants to give to the Lord the glory due to His name. He wants to walk in God's ways, to keep God's commandments and to do God's will. In loving obedience he seeks to attain to man's chief end to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. To do all things as to the Lord is our reasonable service and to be fitted to perform it is to be truly wise. All learning should be in order to this end. The Bible knows nothing of the acquisition of knowledge for its own sake except as a useless pre-occupation. To be of value, our knowledge must be relevant to our calling as God's steward. That person is truly wise who is equipped to serve God in his or her times with knowledge relevant to those times. "Everybody should know what most concerns him and makes him most useful ... It is little use for a horse to know how to fly, it will do well enough it if can trot." (C. H. Spurgeon, John Ploughman's Talk, p.150)
"I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble." (Proverbs 4. 11,12)
The source of true wisdom is of vital importance. If we are to avoid treacherous backwaters we must know where the river takes its rise. "For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding." (Proverbs 2.6) Only God is wise in and of himself and his wisdom is infinite. The universe is a fruit of this wisdom. "He hath made the earth by his power, he hath established the world by his wisdom, and hath stretched out the heavens by his discretion." (Jeremiah 10.12) God is therefore the One who can give wisdom to men and He delights to do so. "God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much." (1 Kings 4.29)
In seeking to understand anything about the created order our starting point must be the Creator. He knows all about it because He brought it into existence in accordance with His own pre-determined plan. God is therefore the infallible interpreter and our interpretation of His creation must be dependent upon His completely accurate interpretation. This means that a true knowledge of the world and ourselves cannot be divorced from a right relationship to God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him and without faith the greatest thinkers end up in "vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world." (Colossians 2.8)
A knowledge of the universe should take its starting point in Jesus Christ, "In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2.3) A false distinction between the knowledge of salvation and the knowledge of other things is often made but such a distinction is not found in the Bible which teaches that Christ is Lord of all. "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist (Colossians 1.16,17) Christ along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit is infinitely wise and we must wait at his door if we would be truly wise.
Where then is this door? Christ directed his contemporaries away from human tradition and autonomous human reason to the Bible as the ultimate and authoritative standard of knowledge "Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." (John 5.39) With respect to wisdom the Bible is therefore indispensable. Lay it aside and we stumble blindly on in the wisdom of this world. Take it up and you will make progress in true wisdom. Such was the experience of the Psalmist, "O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts." (Psalm 119. 97-100) We cannot conclude otherwise than that the Psalmist would approach every aspect of life with an open Bible. We would not expect him to say that divine truth had no relevance whatever the matter in hand whether in home, church or state. The supremacy of Scripture applies not only to doctrinal or church matters but also to every department of knowledge. It is the authoritative Word of the Creator of all things. If we are to bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10.5) no learning can be divorced from his Word. It is to cast its shadow over geography, history, literature, mathematics, science, art and the entire field of human study. Where it does not, the wisdom of this world will prevail and this is not another wisdom for it is no wisdom but "foolishness with God" (1 Corinthians 3.19)
Praise ye the Lord: with my whole heart
I will God's praise declare,
Where the assemblies of the just
and congregations are.
The whole works of the Lord our God
are great above all measure,
Sought out they are of ev'ry one
that doth therein take pleasure.
His handy-works are truth and right;
all his commands are sure:
And, done in truth and uprightness,
they evermore endure.
He sent redemption to his folk;
his covenant for aye
He did command : holy his name
and rev'rend is alway
Wisdom's beginning is God's fear:
good understanding they
Have all that his commands fulfil:
his praise endures for aye.
(Psalm 111. 1,2, 7,10)
"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall given to him." (James 1.5)
Define the following words
indicated, communist, formalist
transformation, revelation, secular
acquired, imparted, conviction
commitment, embraced, dominate
equipped, infinite, discretion
predetermined, infallible, interpretation
rudiments, contemporaries, autonomous
Proverbs 3. 7 - 26
1. How is true wisdom summed up in the Book of Ecclesiastes?
2. How would each of the following have us live our lives? Atheists, Communists, Formalists.
3. What is the starting point of true wisdom?
4. To be truly wise what must a man have in addition to head knowledge?
5. How does true wisdom regard: (a) the universe, (b) man, (c) history, (d) salvation, (e) man's duty?
6. Who is the truly wise person?
7. What are "treacherous backwaters"?
8. Where does true wisdom come from?
9. What is necessary in order to a true knowledge of the world and ourselves?
10. How is the Lord Jesus Christ related to the created universe?
11. Where is the "door" to true wisdom? What is meant by "door" in this question?
12. Make a list of some of the departments of knowledge to which the
List what the Book of Proverbs says about the following:
c) Giving to others,
d) Correction of children,
2. The Bible and Knowledge