Saturday, January 15, 2022

Bible Reading Reflection (Job 32-34): Where Does Wisdom Come From?

Where does Wisdom come from?  Most would answer that wisdom comes with age and experience.  However, the Bible says otherwise.  I was reminded of this in a Bible reading from Job.  After listening to a wisdom debate, young Elihu responds:  “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you.  I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right…” (Job 34:6-10).

Young Elihu received no rebuke from God at the end, which seems to indicate that he spoke more rightly than Job’s friends.  Elihu both spoke and demonstrated an important truth.  Wisdom does not automatically come with age.  In fact, there are aged people who are fools and young people who are wise. This is why the book of Proverbs declares, “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your possessions, acquire understanding” (Prov. 4:7).  Wisdom doesn’t fall into one’s lap with age.  Wisdom doesn’t just happen with age.  One must make a focused and intentional personal investment to grow in wisdom.

The book of proverbs also says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” (Prov 9:10).  The foundation for wisdom is honoring God and knowing him.  One who tries to gain wisdom without God becomes foolish rather than wise. Romans 1 says that who did not honor God or give him thanks “became futile in their reasonings, and their senseless hearts were darkened.  Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Rom 1:21-22).  Those who increase knowledge without God become crafty instead of wise, which is a form of foolishness.  I am reminded of the quotation from C.S. Lewis: “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.”

In 1 Corinthians, Paul says that it is Christ Jesus “who became wisdom to us from God” (1 Cor 1:30).  However, this wisdom is not the same as the wisdom of the world.  Earlier in the chapter Paul quotes God from Isaiah, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the understanding of those who have understanding, I will confound” (1 Cor 1:19).  Therefore, Paul went on to ask, “Where is the wise person? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Cor 1:20).  If he had been writing in today’s time, he might well have asked, “Where is the university professor?  Where is the politician?  Where is the scientist?  Where is the celebrity?”  These may claim that God’s wisdom is foolishness, but God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of the world (1 Cor 1:25).

Those without the Spirit of God do not accept the things of the Spirit of God because they seem to be foolishness (1 Cor 2:14).  They cannot understand the wisdom of God because the wisdom of God is revealed through the Spirit (1 Cor 2:6-10), which they do not have.  In other words, wisdom is not something we seize by our own ability but is ultimately a gift from God for those who faithfully love, honor, and obey God: “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding” (Prov 2:6).

Fully understanding and appreciating this should help to decrease pride and increase humility.  This prepares our hearts to receive wisdom from God through its various avenues, which include living in his Word (Ps. 119:98; 2 Tim 3:15), listening to godly people who instruct us (Prov 1:8), fear of and obedience to God (Ps 111:10), and personal reflection (Ps 49:3; James 1:22-25). 

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