When God Gives Wisdom
Proverbs 2:5 says if we fear the Lord, we will find the knowledge of God. One verse later, Proverbs 2:6 tells us what we find is what God gives. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” In other words, the wisdom we need does not rise up from within us; it comes down from the wise God above as we seek him out. God offers his wisdom from his book for his people.
Proverbs 3:13-18 takes us further in to God’s wisdom.
13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed.
Verse 13 says the one who finds wisdom is blessed. Well, if we want that blessing, we need to understand what wisdom is.
Proverbs 1 gives some synonyms for wisdom.
Wisdom is related to instruction. That is, training, a hard-won aspect of our character, as endurance to an athlete.
Wisdom is related to understanding, insight, and wise dealing: practical knowledge of what to do in the hard-to-understand aspects of life.
Wisdom is learning or knowledge, which Proverbs 2:5 and 3:6 tell us isn’t merely about facts but about a Person, about God himself, from whom wisdom originates.
So Proverbs shows that wisdom is more than a single thing—it’s a multitude of things that, together, define wisdom. We see this in the wise characters of our popular stories: Yoda, Dumbledore and Gandalf and so on. Why are they wise? Because they have a combination of all the necessary things: experience, knowledge, prudence, instruction, learning.
Everyone else in the story seeks their wisdom. But as wise as they are, Jesus is clearly the wisest man the world has ever seen. Up until his coming, Solomon, the author of many of these Proverbs, was. But when Jesus came, he said, “One greater than Solomon is here.” And unlike finding Yoda, you don’t have to travel to a different planet to access his wisdom. He’s promised to be with us by his Spirit. So the wisdom we need is not something unobtainable. It’s part of the deal God made in Christ. When we know Christ, we get wisdom—and anyone willing to repent of their sin and trust Christ can get in on this.
Consider again chapter 3, verse 13: blessed is the one who finds wisdom. The Hebrew word for one is the generic word for man or human being. God’s wisdom is available to anyone willing to come to God. The New Testament author James says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all.” There is no caveat in that: if any of you. Not if any of you super-smart people, any of you Ph.D.s. You—whoever you are, if you lack wisdom, ask God and he’ll give it. God does not make this too hard for us! You just have to be alive and open to God. You just have to pay attention to his teaching, to his gospel message, and wisdom flows down from heaven. And when it flows down, we realize that what we search for in so many other things is found in getting wisdom.
Consider verses 14-16. “For the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor.”
God says compare wisdom with anything else you can get, and wisdom is better because wisdom helps us know what to do with what we get. You might think you need more money, but maybe you just need wisdom to know what to do with the money you have. Get wisdom, and you’ll make the amount of money right for you. Get money only, and you might miss out on both wisdom and money in the end. Remember, King Solomon wrote this. He wasn’t a poor man! He was one of the wealthiest kings in Israel’s history. He spared no expense on his life, but in the end, he realized the best thing he had was the wisdom he got from God.
We in America live have more concentrated wealth than in just about any place in the history of the world. Many of us have jobs that pay well. We have houses full of comfortable things. We have cars that rarely break down. We have vacation spots we visit annually. But do we have wisdom? What’s fancy food on the table without laughter to enjoy it? What’s a nice house that isn’t a home? What’s a family without unity? What’s a retirement plan without a reason to live? All the world’s goods without wisdom is like the Dragon Smaug in Tolkien's The Hobbit: a cave full of treasure but sleeping on it alone!
God offers a better way through wisdom in verses 17-18. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed.”
Wisdom keeps us from wasting our life on important but not ultimate things. What we need is not the weight of the world’s treasures but the lightness of God’s wisdom. We reach too low for “the good life.” God wants more for us than what this world can offer. He wants to free us from the chains of this world. That means God will ask us to give certain things up, not because he wants less for us, but because he wants far more for us. He wants pleasantness and peace of a good conscience before him, of a life well lived in his presence by his wisdom granted on terms of grace.
But gaining wisdom might not always feel like pleasantness and peace. But wisdom teaches us to look beyond our feelings. In fact, it helps to see the verses leading into this passage. Verses 11-12 show us that if we want God’s wisdom, it comes through his discipline. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.”
Why does he tell us not to despise the Lord’s discipline? Because he knows we’re prone to despise it! Why? Because it’s hard! Who wants discipline?
Every parent knows without discipline the child never grows up right. But with the proper discipline, the potential of the child is huge. We are to accept God’s discipline because it’s one channel through which God’s wisdom comes down to us. When he corrects us, we learn. When he reproves us, we grow. We tend to think of God’s discipline as his disappointment in us, but that’s not how the Bible presents it. The Bible says God’s discipline is his investment in us.
Wisdom teaches us that everything in our life is an investment in us from the good God above. He may take us through some really rough passages, but in every adventure, there is a bridge you don’t want to cross. And when you put your foot on the creaking board, and it sways a little more than you’d like but it holds you up, you realize the adventure God has for you is better than the one you dreamed up for yourself. It’s far more dangerous but far more exciting, and he’s leading you to something far more glorious than you ever imagined. He’s taking you from the silly life you’d live in foolishness to the full life you’ll live in wisdom.
All you have to do to go on the journey to wisdom is say yes to God. And when you do, when you say yes and follow him wherever he leads, you find that, ultimately, no matter what happens, his purposes for you are good because he’s your Father, and father’s don’t abandon their children, they invest in them. Sometimes the best gifts are ones we don’t think we need, and sometimes wisdom comes through things we’d rather not face. But he who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
God’s investment is his delight in you. Just think, if you feel under God’s discipline now, how much delight he must take in you.
This is an excerpt from a sermon on Proverbs 3 & 9 preached at Refuge Church Franklin.