If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking (James 1:5).
My husband and I recently built our downsized retirement home. Maybe I should qualify that further: we watched our builder and his subs build our home. First, there was a beautiful plan that caught our imagination. Secondly, there was a well-thought-out process that began with clearing the land, running power and water/sewer lines, and laying the foundation. Apparently, you can’t just have them deliver and install the roof if you haven’t laid a foundation and don’t have the walls up. Many times it seemed things were going slowly. It was tedious to wait for the installation of the plumbing and electrical. Progress seemed to move at a glacial speed. And then there were the inspections, which seemed to cause delays. From my anxious vantage point, it didn’t appear as if anything was happening. The superintendent assured me there would be a day they would install all the bells and whistles that would delight me. But if we wanted a complete, safe, and beautiful home to move into, all of these steps were necessary.
As we begin to build an understanding of God’s omniscience (His wisdom), we need to take a similar approach. So in the next couple of weeks let’s focus on the basics; we’ll consider we are laying a foundation for wisdom. We’ll get to all the bells and whistles before we end our study, and you will see how everything you have ever desired is at your disposal. This will take some time and a layering of knowledge. So once again, let’s dig in as we begin our study of the first of God’s Powers: Wisdom.
THE DEFINITION OF WISDOM
Exactly WHAT is wisdom? In an article published online by Precious Seed International, Brian Clatworthy states, “The Hebrew word for wisdom, hokmah, is used in the Old Testament to refer to ‘knowledge coupled with an inner quality that embodies a heart and life in conformity with the purposes and character of God,’ Prov. 1.2-6.1. Wisdom is not simply a theoretical concept or an intellectual pursuit, but underpins an individual’s behavior and conduct. As Whybray” (a Biblical scholar and specialist in Hebrew studies) “states on the book of Proverbs, ‘But in Proverbs hokmah is always life-skill: the ability of the individual to conduct his life in the best possible way and to the best possible effect.’”
How does the definition of wisdom as life skill—underpinned by our behavior and conduct—affect your thinking about wisdom?
We can all agree wisdom is more than common sense. Wikipedia’s definition describes wisdom as “the judicious application of knowledge.” Thus, one could construe man’s definition of wisdom is “doing what one knows is the right thing to do.” Likewise, Godly wisdom is more than a head-knowledge of the Word of God; it is at least fundamentally the application of the knowledge of God and His principles and laws. Wisdom isn’t about knowing; it’s about skillful doing. Wisdom requires ACTION. But more importantly, wisdom implies the requirement for choosing the right action. A wise person would be skilled at life. We would recognize him or her by his/her behavior.
THE BASICS OF WISDOM
From these precepts, we might begin to assume God’s definition for wisdom would require at least three fundamental building blocks relative to God’s granting true wisdom:
- Knowledge/Understanding of The Word and Laws of God:
Fundamental to wisdom is a foundational knowledge of the laws of God. Long ago, man realized knowledge lays a firm foundation for success and prosperity. Unfortunately, many have limited their pursuits to man’s knowledge. But we have come to the place where we know that is not enough. We are seeking the power of God’s wisdom to ignite our lives. God’s laws and principles of wisdom pave the path to success (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1). If we (or our children) do not know the Word of God, His basic laws, and the principles of God, how can we (or they) be expected to apply them? Make no mistake, ignorance is no excuse.
- Knowledge/Understanding of the Will of God:
Have you ever wished you could know God’s mind, so you would know what you should do in an uncertain circumstance? These moments in life make us desire to have all wisdom at our disposal. We realize knowing the difference between right and wrong, and being willing to do the right thing, still may not reveal the next right step. Sometimes two or more steps are not wrong. So which path is God’s will? In these times we call on Him to order our steps so not even one step will slide (Psalm 37:31). We cry out for wisdom. When you cannot see your next step and He can, you need His leading. At these pivotal decision points, God instructs us to be still and know He is God (Psalm 46:10). He will indeed reveal His path if we just wait (Isaiah 40:31). The ability to discern the will of God is fundamental to our desire for wisdom: the “doing” or “application of knowledge.”
I want to point out that the will of God may not always feel good. We cannot rely on our feelings to discern God’s will. We must rely on His Word. For example: when Christ died on the cross, it wasn’t an occasion that made observers feel good. If we had stood beside Mary and the disciples, we might have cried out, “This surely is not wisdom.” Jesus had been trying to tell His disciples of the plan, but they did not understand; they even resisted the teaching that He must die. But, as heart wrenching as this scene was for them and the Father, it was indeed God’s will: wisdom. It was His perfect plan for our redemption and our salvation. He was not willing any should perish. God’s plan, God’s will, God’s wisdom—sometimes the hard choice leads to the right end.
We also have to understand the purpose of God’s work in our life: He wants to conform us to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). This conforming process helps us realize His work is not necessarily instantaneous and our path may not always be an easy one.
- Application of God’s Principles:
Application seems to be one of the real difficulties. Let’s just suppose we have managed to gain all knowledge, and we even know the will of God. That alone will not make us wise. The possession of knowledge is not wisdom. Remember our definition? Wisdom involves action; wisdom is knowledge in action.
Let’s look at Jonah. He knew the right thing to do and understood the will of God. He had clearly been given a mandate to go to Nineveh. He wasn’t in a quandary at all as to the will of God. Unfortunately, he did not choose to order his steps accordingly. This was a very unwise move on his part. Wisdom is not merely knowing the right thing to do; it is skillfully and consistently choosing to apply knowledge to one’s actions, so you actually choose to do the right thing.
Just like Jonah, I struggle with this concept in every area of my life. For example, I know, and indeed understand, I should exercise, eat a balanced diet, and drink plenty of water every day. However, applying this knowledge and understanding to my choices—well, you see the difficulty. And like Jonah, there are consequences for poor choices.
Once we have a basic knowledge of the Word, have obtained understanding (of the Holy One’s desires, ways, and indeed His will), then it is our CHOICE what we will do with knowledge and understanding. Will we choose His way? Will we allow God to order our steps? Will we choose to be wise, to act wisely?
Pursuing wisdom on your own can be quite difficult. Certainly you would need a tremendous portion of self-discipline. Having someone hold you accountable to Scripture, truth, and knowledge would be a helpful resource. Thus, God’s Word advises, “in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). This truth has several applications, but it certainly applies to someone seeking wisdom. We are prone to lean on our own understanding, will, and emotions. A key step in a pursuit of wisdom might include a personal cabinet of strong men and women of the Word, people you empower to hold you accountable when you face key decisions. Even presidents don’t pretend to know everything. Their first act, even before taking office, is to appoint a cabinet of wise counselors. Who is on your cabinet of wisdom advisors?
TYPES OF WISDOM
There are three types of wisdom:
- General Wisdom: Wisdom is all around us and cries out to us (Proverbs 1:20). Solomon admonishes us to get/take hold of this wisdom. Some might call this wisdom common sense or common knowledge. I think of things like the law of gravity, mathematics, science principles, and grammar—the things we learn in school—man’s wisdom. Don’t minimize this type of wisdom. It is fundamental to building a firm foundation in life.
- Generational Wisdom: Solomon displays generational wisdom as he teaches his son what he had learned from his life experiences. Fathers strive to pass great wisdom nuggets to their children (Proverbs 4). This type of wisdom falls into the category of instruction in wisdom referenced in Proverbs 1. This is a second type of wisdom and God instructs us to get it. I think of these nuggets as character development; e.g., honesty, trustworthiness, hard working, avoidance of evil, etc. It typically requires listening.
- God’s Wisdom. God’s wisdom is without measure and only comes to us as a gift from Him (James 1:5). It is only given by Him. God’s gift of wisdom is reserved for those judged righteous and pleasing before Him (Prov. 2:7). This is the wisdom we are seeking in our study together.
God tells us our role in obtaining general and generational wisdom is to seek it and to be sure we get it (Prov. 4). However, we must recognize only God grants His wisdom. The first two types of wisdom will certainly add good things to our lives; but, if we want our lives to shine radiantly, we have to set our sights on God’s wisdom. We’ll learn more about what moves Him to give us His wisdom as we continue on.
TOOLS OF WISDOM
In Proverbs 1 we find the seven tools of wisdom. These tools will assist us as we seek the right thing to do. This would be a good list to put in the back of your Bible. When faced with a decision, apply these tools to find wisdom.
- Perception of understanding—the ability to see, hear, or become aware of something through the senses
- Instruction of wisdom—detailed information telling how something should be done, operated or assembled
- Justice—the legal or philosophical theory by which fairness is administered
- Judgment—the ability to make considered decisions or come to sensible conclusions
- Equity—something that is fair and just
- Subtlety—this word has a lot of relevant meanings. In essence it is denoting someone who moves delicately, with refinement, gentleness, and without a lot of fanfare
- Discretion—the art of suiting action to particular circumstances.
We have learned that wisdom is skillful, right doing. In these next few weeks we are going to delve deeper into how this is accomplished. Our goal for this study is that you understand how to become skilled at life. Certainly the book of Proverbs offers a lot of good advice for skillful living and should be read faithfully. There are, however, some principles we want to explore to help us understand what God expects from us and to show us how to build/lay a foundation upon which we can build wisdom for our life.
 Brian Clatworthy, Newton, Devon, England, Precious Seed, April 2016
 Wikipedia.org/wiki/wisdom, July, 2014.