Bible Topics In The Christian Library
Chapter 3
The Sources and Benefits of Wisdom
Access to Wisdom

Wisdom, Solomon said, has "built her house"; she has "furnished her table." She now "cries aloud" inviting the needy to "eat and drink" what she has carefully prepared; to give heed to her "thoughts" and "words." These are figurative expressions indicating what scholars and scientists have long known. Namely, that knowledge comes through patiently researching the laws of God in nature and holy Scripture. God Himself is a spiritual being. He resides in a different realm. What we know of him comes to us through various material manifestations.

We can know something of his glory and majesty by observing the beauty and order of nature.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork (Psalms 19:1; KJV).

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made (Romans 1:20; RSV).

Seeing God's deity in nature is not done with the naked eye; it is perceived with the mind, much as we perceive otherwise invisible natural phenomena. For example, the ever-present force of gravity is something every school child knows about, but it remained unrecognized until three centuries ago. When the force was finally revealed by Newton, its discovery was heralded as a milestone in the history of science. In the same way, the Lord's wisdom is not readily apparent with our eyes, and the Lord has his own lofty reasons why he does not make Himself and his wisdom easily known. Solomon mentions one: It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter (Proverbs 25:2; KJV). The Lord has hidden his wisdom in the elements, and it is an advantage for rulers to encourage research. Solomon assures us the answers to our questions and the solutions to our problems do exist. In fact, as we have seen, they are eagerly waiting for us to discover them. Of course, the process is often slow and laborious, coming only by "the sweat of our brow." Such is the case with mankind collectively, and so it is with each of us individually. Life involves a struggle to know what are the right and good things to do; but in the process, we develop a better appreciation for the magnificent wisdom of God.

Philosophers, scholars, and scientists have debated and tested many ways to aid in the search for knowledge and understanding. They have developed many ingenious ways to unravel the mysteries of the Lord in the world, and to uncover the latent knowledge we need to live and progress. Much has already been uncovered. Over the centuries mankind has been accumulating a vast reservoir of knowledge which is contained either in records of various kinds or in the minds of knowledgeable people. These sources of wisdom, knowledge, and understanding can be found whenever and wherever there are opportunities to learn. Wisdom, Solomon said, can be heard at these places:

in the streets in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city (Proverbs 1:20-22; KJV).

in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors (Proverbs 8:2, 3; KJV).

What Solomon means by those words is that knowledge is as freely available to us as food and drink. And it is no less essential for our survival and good health. When we are young, the major source of both our physical and our mental nurturance is our parents. Therefore, Solomon repeatedly urged children to appreciate the value of parental wisdom, and take advantage of that excellent resource. Hear, my son, your father's instruction, and reject not your mother's teaching (Proverbs 1:8; RSV).

My son receive my words, and lay up my commandments with thee (Proverbs 2:I;ASV).

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments (Proverbs 3:1; KJV).

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live (Proverbs 4:1-4; KJV).

Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings (Proverbs 4:10; KJV).

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart (Proverbs 4:20, 21; KJV).

My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding (Proverbs 5:1; KJV).

My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck (Proverbs 6:20, 21; KJV).

My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live (Proverbs 7:1, 2; KJV).

Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth (Proverbs 7:24; KJV).

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old (Proverbs 23:22; KJV).

My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Proverbs 23:26; KJV).

Of course, the Lord is the Father of us all and the ultimate source of all our nurturance. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding (KJV). He layeth up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to them that walk in integrity (ASV) (Proverbs 2:6, 7). The collective reservoir of human knowledge is now very large, and there is no way for any individual to grasp it all. Hence, we must be selective. Perhaps struggling to understanding too much is like eating too much; it weighs a man down, and interferes with his overall functioning. Also, perhaps becoming overly wise makes a man’s mind too foreign to his friends and neighbors, thus provoking alienation. I have not been able to think of anything else that the following words could possibly mean: do not make yourself over wise; why should you destroy yourself! (Ecclesiastes 7:16; RSV). A more serious problem, however, is that our library of human knowledge (like the world around us) is a jungle of conflict. Too often truth and error are mixed up as a dark thicket. Virtually every area of human endeavor not only contains knowledge generally recognized (which may or may not be true), but there is also much in dispute. Therefore, attempting to accept human knowledge indiscriminately is naive and childish; it is like going out and eating whatever you can put in your mouth. Much of what goes for knowledge is garbage at best and poison at worst. Consequently, we must use prudence and caution, accepting only wise counsel and verified knowledge, seeking to develop correct understanding.

Solomon advised to look for authentic truths and sound wisdom. It can he seen wherever you find knowledge of "excellent things," knowledge of clever inventions," information about the "ways of righteousness" and the "paths of justice." (See Proverbs 8.) The Lord's wisdom is about all things noble, constructive, and beneficial. It contributes to the uplifting and advancement of mankind.

Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things (Proverbs 8:6; KJV).

I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions (Proverbs 8:12; KJV).

Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength (Proverbs 8:14; KJV).

It can be seen, for example, in the knowledge men use to build and manufacture successfully. Notice how they create all the precious goods of human enterprise. Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches (Proverbs 24:3, 4; KJV). The Lord's wisdom can also be seen at work in the behavior of successful leaders and authorities. Whenever possible associate with wise men, and learn from them. Notice how they attend to their affairs, and reach their decisions. Solomon said their use of wisdom gives them power to succeed: By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth (Proverbs 8:15, 16; KJV).

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20; KJV).

No less important is a hatred of evil of all forms. Wickedness is anathema to the wisdom of the Lord. Solomon said that you will find nothing proud, arrogant, rebellious, or perverse in truth. We can learn a lesson from the body. As our body is attracted to the pleasing odor of good food, so it is repelled by the stench of garbage. Wisdom says: For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them (Proverbs 8:7, 8; KJV).

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate (Proverbs 8:13; KJV).

Happily, once seen, truth becomes clear and delightful. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge (Proverbs 8:9; KJV).

A man's wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his countenance is changed (Ecclesiastes 8:9).

As we have seen, because of the problem of false knowledge and erroneous understanding, it is vital that we acquire the ability to discriminate the good from the bad; what is true from what is false; the helpful from the harmful. Indeed, this skill is what Solomon specifically requested from the Lord when he first spoke to him—the ability to judge rightly. He prayed, saying, Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between good and evil (1 Kings 3:9; RSV). There is one other problem with human knowledge that should be recognized. The world is dynamic and ever changing, and our knowledge changes with it. Much (perhaps most) of human knowledge is relevant only to a particular place and/or time. It could even be said that like the things of nature, it lives for a time and then dies. Some knowledge survives for but a moment (like much of the advice about the stock market); other knowledge may remain true and relevant for years, perhaps even for centuries. The Word of God is eternal. the word of the Lord endureth for ever (1 Peter 1:25; KJV). In sum: Like our daily bread, God's wisdom is essential both for our survival and our progress. Like our daily bread, the Lord provides for its availability, but it too must be sought out and acquired by the sweat of our brow.
Wisdom in God's Book

Solomon wrote much more than we have contained in the Bible.

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the nations round about. He also uttered three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall: he spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. And men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom (I Kings 4:29-34; RSV). Concerning Solomon's writings, the nineteenth-century Bible scholar, Adam Clarke, said: Of the three thousand proverbs which Solomon spoke, we have only those contained in [The Proverbs] and in Ecclesiastes; and of the one thousand and five songs which he made, only the Canticles [Song of Solomon] have been preserved: or, in other words, of all his numerous works in divinity, philosophy, morality, and natural history, only the three above mentioned, bearing his name, have been admitted in to the sacred canon. His natural history of trees and plants, of beasts, fowls, and fishes, (for on all these he wrote). is totally lost. Curiosity, which never says, It is enough, would give up the three we have for those on the animal and vegetable kingdom, which are lost. What God judged of importance to the eternal interests of mankind, is preserved What the Lord chose to preserve from Solomon's writing contains lasting truth; words to help every generation know how to become wise. The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; to know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; to give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion (KJV). The wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles (RSV) (Proverbs 1:1-6).

Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee? (Proverbs 22:20, 21; KJV).

And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:9-11; KJV).

The Bible, the Word of God, is unexcelled in the quality of its wisdom. Throughout its pages we can find knowledge that is always true and ever relevant. Its wisdom may be applied to every culture in every age. Indeed, both Moses and Jesus said it must be applied. man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the father (Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4; RSV). Within the Bible we find the Lord's standards for us to use in judging right and wrong. It also explains the meaning and purpose of our existence. It contains both direct instructions on how to live and many examples or illustrations of ways of living, both good and evil, with their corresponding consequences. It is our great common tutor from our great common Father. It alone contains the key to understand how we should live to prepare for true life—eternal life. Paul wrote, All scripture is inspired 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; RSV). The author of the Hebrew letter said there is no other source of knowledge about the human mind that penetrates deeper than the Bible. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12; RSV). The world is constantly generating new ideas and opinions. They come and they go, but the truths of the Bible are always relevant. All lasting knowledge and sound wisdom ultimately originate with the Lord, the one Shepherd. Knowledge of his Holy Word should be the foundation rock upon which to build our minds. So use discretion, and seek for it. Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30:5; KJV).

The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings which are given by one Shepherd, My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:11, 12; RSV).

In sum: The most durable and the most essential wisdom is found in the Word of God, the Holy Bible.
The Fruits of Wisdom

As the knowledge of the world continues to increase, adding to the collective wisdom of mankind, we are able to tap deeper into the vast cosmic wisdom of the Lord and become increasingly able to share in his infinite creative power. As our individual wisdom grows, we will be able to live more successfully, achieve more, advance higher, and make a greater contribution to the progress of the world.

The gifts of wisdom cannot be surpassed because it is through wisdom that all good things are possible. By wisdom comes life and health, happiness, grace and honor, material prosperity, power and strength, confidence and security, and, best of all, the Lord's favor. Solomon said,

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding (KJV). For the gain from it is better than gain from silver, and its profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her (RSV). 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 (KJV) (Proverbs 3:13-18).

Who is as the wise? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? The wisdom of man causeth his face to shine, and the hardness of his face is changed (Ecclesiastes 8:1; YLT).

Many times over Solomon listed her benefits; for to love wisdom is to love oneself. He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good (Proverbs 19:8; KJV). Wisdom brings life a long, healthy, happy one. For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee (Proverbs 3:2; KJV).

it will be healing to your body and nourishment to your bones (Proverbs 3:8; MLB).

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom (Proverbs 3:13; KJV).

happy is every one that retaineth her (Proverbs 3:18; KJV).

So shall they be life unto thy soul (Proverbs 3:22; KJV).

Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many (Proverbs 4:10; KJV).

For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh (Proverbs 4:22; KJV).

For whoso findeth me findeth life (Proverbs 8:35; KJV).

For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased (Proverbs 9:11; KJV).

The law of the wise is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death (Proverbs 13:14; KJV).

To the wise the way of life goeth upward, that he may depart from Sheol beneath (Proverbs 15:24; ASV).

Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it (Proverbs 16:22; KJV).

Wisdom, the Grand Lady, brings material prosperity. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice; that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance, and that I may fill their treasuries (Proverbs 8:20, 21; ASV).

The crown of the wise is their riches (Proverbs 14:24; KJV).

A servant that dealeth wisely shall have rule over a son that causeth shame, and shall have part in the inheritance among the brethren (Proverbs 17:2; ASV).

There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise (Proverbs 21:20; ASV).

Indeed, wisdom is better than riches: Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it (Proverbs 8:10, 11; KJV).

Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver (Proverbs 8:18, 19; KJV).

To get wisdom is better than gold; to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver (Proverbs 16:16; RSV).

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel (Proverbs 20:15; KJV) .

Wisdom gives strength and power: By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth (Proverbs 8:15, 16; KJV).

A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust (Proverbs 21:22; RSV).

A wise man is mightier than a strong man, and a man of knowledge than he who has strength; for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory (Proverbs 24:5, 6; RSV).

Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers that are in a city (Ecclesiastes 7:19; RSV).

Wisdom is better than weapons of war (Ecclesiastes 9:18; KJV).

Wisdom also brings us favor and honor for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck (Proverbs 1:9; RSV).

So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:4; KJV).

in her left hand [are] riches and honour (Proverbs 3:16; KJV).

The wise shall inherit glory (Proverbs 3:35; KJV).

She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee (Proverbs 4:9; KJV).

Riches and honour are with me (Proverbs 8:18; KJV).

For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord (Proverbs 8:35; KJV).

A man shall be commended according to his wisdom (Proverbs 12:8; KJV).

Good understanding giveth favour (Proverbs 13:15; KJV).

The wise heart is called a man of discernment (Proverbs 16:21; RSV).

The words of a wise man's mouth win him favor (Ecclesiastes 10:12; RSV).

Wisdom not only brings good to those who possess her, she also combats evil. Through her power comes safety. Wisdom is as good as an inheritance; yea, more excellent is it for them that see the sun. For wisdom is a defense, even as money is a defense; but the excellency of knowledge is, that wisdom preserveth the life of him that hath it (Ecclesiastes 7:11, 12; ASV). Wisdom insures lasting security. [you] will dwell secure, and be at ease, without dread of evil (Proverbs 1:33; RSV).

So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken (Proverbs 3:22-26; KJV).

Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many (KJV). On the way of wisdom I direct you, I lead you on straightforward paths. When you walk your step will not be impeded, and should you run, you will not stumble (NAB) (Proverbs 4:10-12).

When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life: to keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman (Proverbs 6:22-24; KJV).

When we face a crisis, Solomon said, the Grand Lady comes to our rescue. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is a pleasant unto thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: to deliver thee from the way of the evil man (Proverbs 2:10-12; KJV).

It will save you from the adulteress (Proverbs 2:16; NEB).

he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26; RSV).

I sit in my home and at the flick of my fingers, and the turn of my hand I summon forth the beautiful music of a great orchestra. Indeed, I have my pick of many great orchestras. With other small movements, I can talk with my relatives who live hundreds, perhaps thousands of miles away, or perhaps even with my friends who live in Europe, or in Asia. I can do all of this without leaving my seat. Years ago, in the comfort of my living room, I watched as the first man set foot upon the moon. I heard him speak his first words there. In my home I can experience the sights and sounds of a mountain climbing expedition; I can watch what happens inside a living body; I can look back in history and see the German army conquer Europe, and then suffer defeat. I can travel in comfort for hours at a time at twice the speed a horse can gallop; and I can go virtually anywhere in the land. For a modest fee, I can travel in comfort and ease to almost anywhere in the world in a day or so.

All these things are common everyday occurrences in modern times. But what if I could somehow travel back in time to men of long ago, and told them all that we could now do? The list of wonders readily available to modern man is so great and so incredible that they would certainly have declared me mad. Yet, only a lunatic would deny them now.

Why were men of former times unable to do these things? The laws of nature have not changed. The raw-materials of the earth were there. The potential for all these wonders has always existed. They were laying latent in the earth beneath their feet. But they lacked the key to unlock this latency. They lacked knowledge. Only after knowledge was discovered could these things become reality. And who knows what other wonders await us lying latent in the ground beneath our feet?

In sum: The Lord's wisdom (from which all true knowledge comes) is the root source of every good thing in the world. It is, therefore the most valuable treasure, the "principle thing. " Solomon said:

nothing you desire can compare with her (Proverbs 3:15; RSV).

the reward given by wisdom is success (Ecclesiastes 10:10; JB).

Nevertheless, remember that Solomon said, in spite of its great power, wisdom cannot give complete freedom from sorrow and frustration because this is an imperfect world. Indeed, the wiser we may become, the more we will learn of the evils and sorrows here. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18; KJV).

And I saw that wisdom has the advantage over folly as much as light has the advantage over darkness, The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I knew that one lot befalls both of them (Ecclesiastes 2:13, 14; NAB).

Moreover, unless it is used with love, wisdom cannot benefit us. Paul said a man could have all wisdom, and still be nothing: if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge but have not love, I am nothing (l Corinthians 13:2; RSV).
Copyright 1997 by Walter L. Porter may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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