The Source of Wisdom In the book that bears his name, Job, after describing the wonder of what is discovered in the depths of the earth, asks the profound question, “But where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” – Job 28 v 12. Beneath the surface of the earth, Job tells us, there is gold, silver and precious gems mined by the ingenuity of men. There is truly something mysterious and fascinating about
‘That path no bird knows, Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it. The proud lions have not trodden it, Nor has the fierce lion passed over it’ – Job 28 vs 7-8
From ancient times men have explored beneath the surface of the earth for what is valuable and precious, but says Job: “Where can wisdom be found?”
According to Job, the value of wisdom far exceeds anything else;
“It cannot be purchased for gold, Nor can silver be weighed for its price” – Job 28 v 15.
So, “from where then does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?” The answer Job gives is unmistakable:
“God understands its way, And He knows its place For He looks to the ends of the earth, And sees under the whole heavens, To establish a weight for the wind, And apportion the waters by measure. When He made a law for the rain, And a path for the thunderbolt, Then He saw wisdom and declared it; He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out. And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ” – Job 28 vs 23-28.
With Job the author of Proverbs agrees. There we are reminded:
‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding’ – Proverbs 9 v 10.
Proverbs is a wisdom book as its opening words make clear (Prov 1:1-6). The first nine chapters distinctively are concerned with wisdom in contrast to folly. A young man is being instructed in the way of wisdom. He needs to heed what he is taught and must personally seek it to know its blessing (Prov 1:7-9; 2:1-5; 8:17). Timeless is this advice, which, while addressed specifically to the young man, is equally valid for a young woman:
‘Let not mercy and truth forsake you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart, And so find favor and high esteem In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones’ – Proverbs 3 vs 3-8.
The Voice of Wisdom But not only is there the instruction regarding wisdom for the young man setting out in life, there is also the voice of ‘Lady Wisdom’ who speaks directly and appeals to the simple, the scorners and the fools (Prov 1:20-33; 8:1-36; 9:1-6). This describes those who lack or despise the counsel of wisdom. They are called to ‘turn’ at her ‘rebuke’ (Prov 1:23) and to hear the ‘excellent things’, the ‘right things’ she speaks which are words of ‘truth’ and ‘righteousness’ (Prov 8:6, 7, 8).
‘Lady Wisdom’ speaks with the voice of experience. She reminds us: “I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, before there was ever an earth” – Proverbs 8 v 23.
The whole point to this feminine personification of wisdom is to communicate wisdom’s appeal and show wisdom’s attraction. The young man is told: ‘Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding your nearest kin’ – Proverbs 7 v 4.
Chapter nine of Proverbs brings the opening section of the book to a climax by making the clear contrast between ‘Lady Wisdom, and ‘Mistress Folly’. The simple are invited to ‘come’ and ‘eat’ and ‘drink’ of the bountiful provision in wisdom’s secure and safe house (Prov 9:1-6). In contrast, ‘Mistress Folly’ appeals to the same audience deceptively to partake of what is illicit and unworthy in her house, which in the end, will prove to be utterly destructive (Prov 9:13-18).
The way of wisdom is the way of God. The way of folly is the way of sin. We must make our choice.
The way of folly is the way of the rebellious. The author in Proverbs warns the young man against the enticement of sinners who shed blood to rob others (Prov 1:10-19). He warns against ‘the way of the evil man’ – Proverbs 2 v 12, against ‘the path of the lawless’ which is way of ‘darkness’ – Proverbs 4 vs 14, 19.
But also, the way of folly is the way of a ‘strange woman’ – Proverbs 2 v 16; 5 v 3; 6 v 24; 7 v 5. This woman is an attractive adulteress, a seductress who tempts with her sweet words and seduces with the offer of sensual and illicit intercourse. She represents a woman of such character and she represents the way of the world in its rebellion against God with all the temptations it offers for the flesh. This world is about self-indulgence and self-gratification. It provokes lustful desires and allures men and indeed women to fulfill their base instincts. The three things men lust after most are money, sex and power. Our culture is saturated and dominated by these three things to the extent that common decency and respect for others are fast disappearing. The apostle John tells us that the world is characterized by ‘the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life’ – 1 John 2 vs 16-17. The latter refers ‘to the arrogance produced by material possessions’ (New English Translation).
The end of pleasure in the house of the ‘strange woman’, warns the author, is destruction because ‘her house is the way to hell, Descending to the chambers of death’ – Proverbs 7 v 27. Many years ago, I used to meet an older gentleman in the course of my work. Alcohol had got its grip upon him, sadly, but he was friendly and one day he said to me, “the world will laugh you into hell, but it will never laugh you out”. This refrain was not original to him, I’d heard before and since; unfortunately it’s all too true.
Yes, the way of the world is the way of deceit. It offers pleasures without God. It pretends that happiness is found in doing what I please. Conscience doesn’t matter, truth is irrelevant and morals are only the scruples of the ignorant. But what the ‘strange woman’ fails to declare is the hidden sting of death that lies in her bosom. The Bible says:
‘Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death’ – James 1 vs 13-15.
No wonder we are reminded in Proverbs 4 v 23:
‘Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life’.
The Blessing of Wisdom Wisdom is what marks the just, which is the person who is righteous before God. It is the individual who walks in the blessing of light: We read in Proverbs 4 v 18 that
‘The path of the just is like the shining sun, That shines ever brighter unto the perfect day’.
‘The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know what makes them stumble’ – Proverbs 4 v 19.
But more. The blessing wisdom is the blessing of life:
“For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the Lord; But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” – Proverbs 8 vs 35-36.
And so the appeal of wisdom is
“Forsake foolishness and live, And go in the way of understanding” – Proverbs 9 v 6.
There is the promise of blessing in this life. The blessing of living by wisdom’s values:
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you will bear it alone” – Proverbs 9 vs 10-12
Yes, there is the blessing of living by wisdom’s values and there is the blessing of living by wisdom’s assurance. Wisdom’s assurance is “whoever finds me finds life” and in light of New Testament revelation it is the assurance of eternal life. It was the Lord Jesus in all the wisdom of His divine person who said:
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” – John 5 v 24.
The thief that hung at the side of Christ on the Cross said to his blaspheming companion: “Do you not even fear God?” Of course he was thinking of the fact of their imminent death and the certainty of soon being in eternity. A dying man would be wise to fear. Evidently the fear of God had gripped his own heart and true to what Proverbs promises, it ‘is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding’. This dying thief had his understanding opened to the man on the middle Cross. He addressed his fellow criminal and then Jesus with these words:
‘“Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom”’ – Luke 23 vs 40-42.
When we turn to God in reverential fear and recognition of who He is as we seek His mercy, we will have begun on the pathway of wisdom and that wisdom will lead us to Christ and the understanding that He died for our sins on the Cross and rose again from death for our justification.
Said the Lord Jesus to that unnamed thief:
“Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise” – Luke 23 v 43.
What a blessed assurance for a man who was crushing against the gates of death. This is the blessing of wisdom. These two thieves amplify the warning of Proverbs quoted above:
“If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you will bear it alone”.
May you today begin to reverence the God who is there and walk in the light of His presence and rest in the assurance of the life that He gives to all who believe in the Lord Jesus.