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The impossibility of a comprehensive knowledge must not blind us to the benefits of true wisdom. Any sluggishness in our pursuit of it should be thrown off by a glance at the rewards to be gained. Wisdom has indeed its dark side in a world in bondage to corruption inhabited by fallen sinners under the judgement of God. "For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow." (Ecclesiastes 1.18) Greater acquaintance with reality cannot leave the heart untouched but this inevitable shadow must not obscure the Light by which it is produced. "He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good." (Proverbs 19.8)
Wisdom is an invaluable treasure providing the hedge against the chill winds of reality. In every life situation it will prove adequate and its vaults will never be exhausted. "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her." (Proverbs 3.13-18)
Wisdom is synonymous with possession of life and preparation for life. Throughout his days not only is the wise man prepared for the avoidance of evil, he is also equipped for the performance of good. He does not fall headlong in the pitfalls of life. He is not one of the many wrecks along life's way. He does not have a head stuffed with useless facts but in his diversified life experiences he has the ability to apply his knowledge to the best advantage. He is equipped to choose the way that will promote the highest good. Nothing could be more precious to that man who would take up his cross daily and follow Christ in the way of obedience to his heavenly Father. He will be personally blessed and will be a blessing to others. In this life he will be a burning and shining light to God's glory and in the next life he will behold His glory for evermore.
With those that fear him is
the secret of the Lord;
The knowledge of his covenant
he will to them afford.
If the parent or teacher is going to say, "My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding" (Proverbs 5.1) it is crucial that he gives "good doctrine" (Proverbs 4.1) and that his instruction is rightly rooted. One of the greatest works on Christian truth commences with the words "Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves." It is these two interrelated parts that lie at the heart of all true wisdom. This is not merely our starting point but the path along which we progress all the while. I can only say "I am" because God is and I can only affirm anything about anything because it is part of God's creation and has a place in the outworking of His purpose.
With respect to the totality of life, God is to be in the foreground as the God "who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will." (Ephesians 1.11) All of the parts and structures of the universe derive their significance from Him and it is as we make progress in understanding their place in God's plan that we advance in true wisdom. We are not to impose our structures on His world but in humble dependence upon Him we are to endeavour to increase in understanding the Divine order with respect to the universe and to adore the Creator's perfections that are displayed in it. We are not to put our interpretations upon History but we are to acquiesce in the God-given interpretation and worship the supreme Governor and Redeemer.
Avoiding the wisdom of this world, which has been made foolish by God, necessitates a reorientation of thought arising from spiritual rebirth. We learn as we approach each investigation as God's creatures being equipped by Him to exercise our stewardship role to His glory. So we read that "the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof." (Genesis 2.19) Professor E. J. Young remarks on this passage that it "indicates the essential difference between man and the animals. Man named them, that is, he had the capacity to understand what they were, what their functions were, by what means they existed, how they could serve him, and so on. Adam acted as a creature created in the image of God." We can add that this early increase in understanding was accomplished in dependence upon God as the sovereign creator whose infinite wisdom was manifest in the creatures investigated.
As God has given to us his inscripturated Word we are not left to stumble around in darkness with respect to what God would have us to know about basic interrelationships. Not only does Scripture point us to the important areas of investigation, it enables us to locate the various things that we learn in their proper relation to God and His purpose. The wisdom of this world inevitably distorts these relationships because it will not give to the Lord the glory due to His Name. Various matters are thus thrust into positions of undue prominence and others of greater importance are relegated to subordinate positions as if of little significance. If Adam in his original integrity benefited from the Divine initiative in the above mentioned learning experience, how much more needful must Divine light be for sinners in order that sure progress can be made.
Scripture is dominated by the Divine purpose of reconciliation and the consequent fellowship between God and men. The covenant of grace was in order to the accomplishment of this loving counsel. "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: (Hebrews 8.10) This covenant has to do with the restoration of sinners to fellowship with God and could only operate through an adequate Mediator. That Jesus Christ is the Mediator of the new covenant is the apostolic faith. "And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9.15)
This world is the scene of these transactions. History is their record. The future brings their completion. True wisdom is centred in these things and brings all things into relation to them as the following passages show.
"And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17.3)
"Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2.3)
"Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (2 Corinthians 10.5)
Take these things away and even our wisdom "is vanity and vexation of spirit." (Ecclesiastes 1.14)
"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding." (Proverbs 3.13)
comprehensive, sluggishness, acquaintance
inevitable, invaluable, vaults
merchandise, synonymous, diversified
crucial, structures, significance
endeavour, acquiesce, reorientation
functions, distort, prominence
relegate, initiative, restoration
1. What is the "dark side" of wisdom?
2. Why is wisdom an invaluable treasure?
3. How does wisdom prepare the wise man for life?
4. What are meant by the "pitfalls of life"?
5. What are the two parts of wisdom?
6. What is the relationship between God and the universe?
7. How are we to approach each investigation?
8. What is the essential difference between man and the animals?
9. How does the Bible help us to increase in true wisdom?
10. How does the wisdom of this world fail?
11. What theme dominates the Scripture record?
12. What is the covenant of grace?
13. Who is the mediator of the new covenant?
Westminster Shorter Catechism questions 20 to 23.
John Calvin Institutes of Christian Religion Chapter 1.
Collect pictures of some of the most precious things in the world. Find out where they come from and to what use they are put. Consider the words of the Lord Jesus Christ in connection with them. See Mark 8.36.
Find out the value of each of the following:
1 ounce of gold
1 ounce of silver
1 ounce of copper
List the things that you could buy with the money value of 1 ounce of gold.
List some of the things that cannot be purchased with the money value of any quantity of gold.
"Gold, silver and wisdom."