To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
In Proverbs 1:2 we’ve discovered one of the great goals of the book of Proverbs is to allow us to know, in an intimate and experiential sense, both wisdom and instruction. We’ve already looked at what the word know means in this passage in yesterday’s post. But what about wisdom? And instruction?
Wisdom is defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment, or the quality of being wise. It’s the ability to discern or judge what is right, true, and lasting.” Wisdom is not the mere accumulation of facts about someone or something, it’s the ability to properly apply those facts in a given situation to determine the right and God-honoring outcome. Wisdom is manifested when a person can see the circumstances they face and match them with truth they know, God’s Word, and then plot a course of action based on the truth and not on the urgency of the situation.
Instruction, surprisingly, is not primarily defined as teaching or exhortation, as we would expect. Instruction (muwcar) is defined as discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son. So the book of Proverbs is designed to help us know (yada) by doing, to learn by experience, in an intimate, personal way, the ability to discern what is right, true, and lasting versus choosing the cheap trinkets and toys our culture offers. And we are to learn the wisdom of God by discipline, correction and chastening. After all, the Lord disciplines the ones He loves (Heb. 12:6).
How to Get Wisdom
And that’s a question we all ask, isn’t it? How do we get wisdom? There are several verses that speak to this desire. The most well-known is found in James:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).
As we can see, wisdom is given to anyone who asks, just as long as they ask in faith. For if they doubt when they ask, they shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. Why? Because they are “double-minded” and “unstable” in all their ways.
So let me get this straight. All we have to do is ask for wisdom, for God’s wisdom— like something He possesses within Himself, as a part of Himself— and He will lavishly give His wisdom to us, to anyone for that matter, just as long as we ask in faith, without doubting. And why would God do that? Is it because He has a great desire for us to be wise? Or, maybe He wants His church and His children to be known as the wisest in all the land and show the world what it looks like to belong to Him? Or again, maybe He doesn’t relish the idea of His children struggling to make sense of the fallen world He placed us in?
But that can’t be true. Why? Because the Lord tells us a few verses earlier to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” that we obviously didn’t have the wisdom to see or avoid in the first place (James 1:2). Plus, the word fall implies stepping into a hole we either didn’t know to look out for or we weren’t wise enough to step over.
Talk about not having wisdom. Also, if it’s really just that easy, then what’s the point of the book of Proverbs? If all we have to do is pray and the wisdom update is automatically downloaded, why would we need the instruction manual? Can we really become Yoda by just asking?
Wisdom is Found in Just One Man
But if we keep looking for the true meaning of wisdom in His Word, we will soon find ourselves walking through the pages of 1 Corinthians and find:
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
Now, what does this mean? Exactly what it says. Jesus, by His own doing, has literally become for us the “wisdom from God.” So when we see Jesus we see, in perfect clarity, all the “wisdom from God.” If we want to know (yada) the “wisdom from God” all we need to do is know (yada) the Son of God. Since Jesus has “become for us wisdom for God” we need only to look and learn from Him to have that wondrous wisdom. Don’t you see? If we want more wisdom, we must seek and ask for more of Jesus.
The answer for our lack of wisdom is more Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.
So when James speaks of asking God for wisdom and knowing God gives “liberally and without reproach” to all who ask, He just may be speaking of the wisdom found in Jesus. Or, he may just be speaking about Jesus Himself.
If any of you lacks wisdom (what Jesus literally became for us), let him ask God (for more of Jesus, for the revelation of Jesus, to receive Jesus) who gives (Jesus) to all (“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” – Matt. 11:28) liberally and without reproach (there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus – Rom. 8:1), and it will be given to him (to make us complete in Christ – Col. 2:10).
After all, Jesus has become for us “wisdom from God — and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus is all in all.
To Know Wisdom is to Know Jesus
When Proverbs 1 states the main purpose of the book is for us to know (yada) wisdom, we’re also talking about knowing Jesus and the life in Christ and how to live in Him in a practical, hands-on, everyday sense. Proverbs gives us instruction on Godly living, and examples on how to put into practice the wisdom found in Christ. After all, He’s our perfect example, tested and tempted in every way we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
Just think, when we want to know how to respond to someone who verbally attacks our loved ones, what do we do? We look to Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), and see how He responded in the same situation. We see His perfect example and, like true disciples, follow Him. He becomes for us the “wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). When our rights are violated and we scream for justice or vengeance, what should we do? We look to Jesus to see how He responded in the same situation. And we do what He did. We learn from Him. We learn His wisdom by learning more about Him, walking with Him, and choosing to live like Him.
This is what it means to know (yada) wisdom and instruction. It means to know (yada) Jesus (wisdom) and to be disciplined (instruction), or disciples of His. And the answer to our lack of wisdom is, as always, our lack of Jesus.
And the reason for the Proverbs? Simply this, to give us hands on examples of how Jesus would handle a situation that wasn’t recorded in the Bible. For example, how would Jesus handle sexual temptation? Or was He even tempted in that way?
But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how the Proverbs complete the life of Christ not recorded for us in the Gospels.
1. What does it mean for you, in a practical sense, to see Jesus as the wisdom from God (Col. 1:30)?
2. Do you have the wisdom of God? How would you know?
3. Since instruction in our passage primarily means discipline, how disciplined are you in your walk with Christ? Do you have daily time with Him? When? Where? And how long?
4. Can you remember an example of God giving you His wisdom at just the right time? What was that experience like? How often does it happen?
5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life and in your decision making process? What was it three months ago? One year ago? Are you growing in His wisdom or are you stagnated?
Next Step Challenge
Take a Bible Concordance or an online source like www.blueletterbible.com and do a search of the word wisdom in both the Old and the New Testament. Write down at least 20 passages that speak to you personally. Do you see any difference between the description of wisdom in the Old versus the New Testament? And, if so, what are those differences?
Why did you choose the 20 passages that you did? What has the Lord shown you through your word search and those 20 passages?