Wisdom


Proverbs 4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom protects our hearts and determines our course in life

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” (7)  Deep.  We probably won’t spend a lot of time dissecting and examining this statement.  It says what it means, and it’s true. Solomon went on to advise that after we get wisdom, we should develop good judgment, not forget her, not forsake her, guard her with our lives, love her, embrace her and exalt her. (5-13)  It’s interesting to note that wisdom is personified as a woman. That’s all I’m saying…it’s just interesting.  That being said, following Solomon’s instructions will involve the commitment of our will, our emotions and our minds.  In other words, our hearts must be committed in the process of getting wisdom.

The care and protection of our physical hearts get a lot of attention in the media today.  As the list of what we should not eat to protect our hearts grows daily, the list of what we are permitted to eat is reduced to oatmeal, fish oil, fruits and vegetables – make a meal out of that, will you.  Billions of dollars have been dedicated to research regarding the human heart, but Solomon had something completely different in mind when he wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”(23)

While billions of dollars have not been spent researching the spiritual heart, we know from scripture that the heart is viewed as the center of spiritual life, involving our intelligence, our emotions, our will and our morality.  Wherever these characteristics are focused, that is where our heart will be.  Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)  The Wisdom of Solomon and Jesus is really the only information we need in order to protect our spiritual hearts.

When asked what He considered to be the most important commandment of all time, Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)  Well, that about covers it – all.  When we love the Lord with everything within us, there isn’t room to love those things  in opposition to Him. We’ll follow Solomon’s advice, “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.  Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.  Turn away and keep moving.”(14-15) In the long run, it’s much easier, much wiser to resist sin at the very start than it is to fight its progress throughout our lives.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  Solomon said we guard our hearts by protecting what we say, “Avoid all perverse talk,”(24) and Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  We guard our hearts by protecting where we look, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” (25) Eve’s downfall escalated when she looked where the enemy was tempting.  And we guard our hearts by protecting where we go, “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.  Don’t get sidetracked, keep your feet from following evil.” (26-27)  Solomon offered simple tools, full of wisdom, for protecting our spiritual hearts.

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!”  Deeper than we thought! 

Moving Forward: While eating my oatmeal, fish oil and veggies today, I’ll guard my words, my focus and my steps to protect my spiritual heart.  May I leave a legacy of wisdom to be passed on to my children and to my children’s children. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 1-6

1 Kings 10-13 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He grants wisdom for our lives as we follow Him

Sadly, we learn that the wisest man that ever lived wasn’t always all that wise. “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…The Lord had clearly instructed the people of Israel, ‘You must not marry them, because they will turn your hearts to their gods.’  Yet Solomon insisted on loving them anyway.  He had 700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines.  And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.”(11:1-3)  Soon God allowed foreign kings to rise up against Solomon as well as his own people, shortening his reign and his life, ultimately splitting the kingdom.  What was the wisest man in the history of the world thinking?

In response to Solomon’s love for Him, God offered Solomon the moon, but Solomon asked for wisdom instead.  In and of itself, this was wise.  As a young, inexperienced king, he knew he could only survive with God’s help.  As time passed, Solomon’s kingdom was lavished with prosperity and notoriety, so much so that the Queen of Sheba traveled over 1,000 miles to visit him, and in those days that was quite the trip. (10:1-13)  With all this prosperity and unlimited wisdom, Solomon’s reign could have lasted much longer than 40 years, but he had disregarded the if clause in his granted wish.  God said He would give him wisdom and understanding as well as riches and fame for the rest of his life, “…if you follow me and obey my decrees and my commands as your father, David, did, I will give you a long life.”(3:14)

Solomon lost God’s moral direction for his life, the thing that had guided his great wisdom, when he followed his own moral code and worshiped other gods with his many wives.  It seemed wise to Solomon to marry women from neighboring royal families, shoring up his strength in the region, protecting him from foreign invasions.  However, this seemingly altruistic wisdom was contrary to God’s instructions, “You must not marry [foreign women], because they will turn your hearts to their gods.  And in fact, they did turn his heart away from the Lord.”  I’ve often heard repeated the Chinese proverb, “Man is the head of the family, woman the neck that turns the head,” and for Solomon this proved true.

Solomon wrote in Proverbs 14:12 and again in 16:25, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” (NIV)  He would know.  Written late in Solomon’s life, Ecclesiastes reveals the regrets and final conclusions of this one-time great king. Great lessons can be learned from Solomon’s life, the good, the bad and the ugly.  God loves and rewards us when we ask for His wisdom to guide our lives, and He loves it, even more, when we follow it. 

Moving Forward: I will follow the dictates of His wisdom today, not those things that just seem wise to me. 

Tomorrow @ Psalms 69-71

Proverbs 2-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires to give wisdom to all those who follow after Him

Everyone wants to be wise.  No one has ever said to me, “I can’t wait to be foolish today!”  Most of us have a natural curiosity about how things are made, where they come from and how they affect us.  When I was a teenager, I was asked what my favorite book was, and without hesitation, I replied, “The Encyclopedia.”  I know this sounds strange coming from a young person, and of course, my answer should have been the Bible, but I’ve always loved moments of random learning.

We couldn’t afford the coveted set of World Book Encyclopedia, and the internet was not available back in the dark ages; but every chance I got, I paged through the volume of knowledge held between the pages of the encyclopedia at the library. However, possessing all this knowledge does not a wise person make.  Wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge we have, and this is what Solomon was addressing in our reading today. 

@ Proverbs 2
Proverbs 2 is a tutorial on how to find wisdom, where to find it, who it is for and what we receive once we obtain it.  All this in 22 little verses!  Only a very wise man could accomplish this in so few words. 

How:  Listen for wisdom, concentrate on it, ask for it with fervor and search for it like one who is digging deep in a mine for silver.  This proves to the Lord that we respect Him and what He has to say. (2-5)

Where:  Wisdom comes from the Lord. “For the Lord grants wisdom!” (6) 

Who:  God responds with wisdom (knowledge, understanding, common sense, protection) to those who are honest, walk with integrity, are just and faithful. (6-8) 

What:  We will understand what is right, just and fair; we find the right path to walk; we are filled with joy; we are kept safe; we are protected from evil people, including immoral woman and men; and we make right choices. (9-16)

The process is like a chain reaction.  We ask for wisdom and diligently search for it > through His Word we learn how to live a life of integrity and righteousness > He grants wisdom in response to our life of integrity > we are blessed with understanding, guidance, joy and protection.  What a deal!  All of this is ours today for the low, low start-up cost of asking. 

@ Proverbs 3
The mark of a truly wise person is one who follows this advice from Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.  Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.”(5-7) It’s difficult to trust with all my heart in someone I don’t know very well, risky at best.  Trust develops through relationship and time spent together – enough said.

We may say that we have faith in God, but it is trust that applies the action to our faith.  Faith is the noun, and trust is the verb that demonstrates our faith.  Faith without trust is like knowledge without wisdom – great to possess but not always useful.  When I depend on my own understanding, there’s really only one person to trust in, and that’s me – not very wise when the wisdom of heaven is mine for the asking.

Moving Forward: “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her.” (18)  Today I seek His wisdom in what I do and say.  And I trust His wisdom to guide and direct my steps. 

Tomorrow @ Lamentations

Proverbs 1 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He supplies all the wisdom we need to live right, just and fair

“These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise.  Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just and fair.  These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young.” (1-4)  We want wisdom to be sure, but discipline? Not so much.  Yet, they always seem to go hand in hand.

“Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.”  Well, I’d stand in line all day for that!  Wisdom, however, is not a destination, but a journey.  We never stop gaining wisdom unless we want to stop, “but fools despise wisdom and discipline.” (7)  By nature, we don’t really want to hear about the disciplines of God.  We want to hear sermons that only make us feel good about ourselves, pat us on the back and say “Good job!”  Every pastor knows that a feel-good message will draw a crowd, but then according to Solomon, does this mean we are fools?

“Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge.” (7)  To fear God, which is to reverence and respect, to honor, and to obey, is what we are encouraged by Solomon to build upon for our entire lives.  We can only respect and build on what we know. The Proverbs of Solomon, as well as the rest of God’s Word, were written so that we may know His wisdom and his disciplines (1). And the end result is true knowledge.  Everyone seems to search for counsel today, but they tend to seek the negotiable areas of man’s wisdom rather than the well-defined areas of God’s wisdom.  Doesn’t that seem… foolish?

I love Solomon’s picture of wisdom shouting in the streets, an ethereal form, calling out, “Follow me. Follow me.”  Wisdom calls, “Come and listen to my counsel.  I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise.” (23)  When Jesus lived on earth, He was Wisdom personified as He called out, “Follow me! Follow me!” We, too, share in that calling when our message to the lost calls out to follow Him.  “He who wins souls is wise.” (Proverbs 11:30 KJV)

The wisdom and disciplines of God are a constant source of comfort and security for me because they show me how to behave in life, how to respond to life and how to love in life.  I’d rather know the disciplines of God than to be one who flounders through life like, say, a fool. 

Moving Forward: Today I will look to wisdom in His Word and respond to its call to come and listen to its counsel.  And if I take heed, it will make me wise. 

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 47-52

Job 31-32 (NLT)

Discover His heart: His wisdom is for young and old alike – ours for the asking

Our eyes are inundated with stimulating and suggestive sights just about everywhere we go, whether in public places, on the television or on our computers. We may be minding our own business, not seeking out anything questionable yet be assaulted dead on. We need to understand that we control how we respond to these visual encounters. I appreciate the wisdom of author Steve Arterburn who cautions men on this subject in his book, “Every Man’s Battle,” and encourages the bounce response.

Arterburn suggests that when the eyes encounter those things that are stimulating and suggestive, quickly bounce the eyes to something else rather than linger. In his day, Job wasn’t privileged nor was he challenged by the media we have at our disposal, but evidently he still was tested in this area and had his own method of dealing with it.

In Chapter 31, Job made his last appeal to the jury of friends about his innocence.  Although his defense had sounded arrogant at times, Job was a good man who loved God. “I made a covenant with my eyes not to look with lust at a young woman.” (31:1) Sin first entered the garden when Eve saw the fruit, lingered on it, and then considered it. With all that is thrown in our view today, oh that we will make a covenant with our eyes like Job did, men and women alike.

Job pleaded innocent to sins against God, to sins against other people and to sins against himself – but no one believed him. Job’s friends felt that all suffering was the punishment for sin. They deducted either God was wrong, or Job was lying, and God is never in error. The three tormentors gave up and finally shut their mouths…ahhhh.

Enter the smart young voyeur into this conversation, Elihu, the moderator in this trial.  While trying to find a solution to this ongoing dispute, Elihu had plenty of insults to pass around, first to the three friends that he thought unwise. Many things Elihu spoke were true, for example, “There is a spirit within people, the breath of the Almighty within them, that makes them intelligent.”(32:8) All wisdom comes from God and is available to all, but it’s usually our experiences in life that cause us to draw from that wisdom.

Naturally, older people have more experiences than do young people, and wisdom hopefully follows those experiences. However, I’ve known many young ones with wisdom beyond their years because they have sought the Source of all wisdom. We can also receive the gift of wisdom, supernatural wisdom that has no age boundary, and also the wisdom given freely by God to those who ask for it. (James 1:5) We really have no valid excuse for the foolish things we do at times.

Elihu concluded his speech explaining that he was like a cork ready to pop with all the wisdom he possessed. I would say that only the young could be so confident, and as we read over the next few chapters, we learn that he, too, was incorrect in his counsel to Job. Imagine.

It was wisdom that led Job to make a covenant with his eyes – an agreement, a treaty, a promise, a commitment – not to look with lust on any woman. Wisdom will always lead us to make right choices in life. I remember a little song we sang in Children’s Church when I was young that helped me to understand at a very early age that we control our steps and actions each day. “Be careful little feet where you go…be careful little hands what you do…be careful little eyes what you see…For the Father up above is looking down in love, so be careful little eyes what you see.” Well, we never outgrow that need to be careful, and that is wise.

Moving Forward: I make a covenant with my eyes not to look at any person, place or thing with selfish desire. I seek His wisdom that He offers so freely in all that I think, do and say.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 17-21

Job 27-28 (NLT)

Discover His heart: He fills our hearts with wisdom when we search for Him

Over the past 40 years, we have had an understanding in our home that I am the finder of all things lost. Socks, homework, ketchup, tools, pencils, scissors, tape, ties, shoes, brush, camera, clickers – well, I think I’ve painted an accurate picture. My husband and children alike often have trouble locating the things they need the most, and I’m called to the rescue. I’ve heard it said that nothing is really lost until your mom can’t find it. In truth, even I, the crack detective, find myself occasionally baffled by the location of a pair of scissors.

Fortunately, my husband was able to find me, something for which I am eternally grateful and more important is that he found the Lord and helps many others find Him too. In our reading today, Job was looking for something that all of mankind searches for with great effort, and he gave us a clue where to find it.

@ Job 28
“Food is grown on the earth above, but down below, the earth is melted as by fire. Here the rocks contain precious lapis lazuli, and the dust contains gold.” (5-6) We rarely think about the treasures that lie beneath our gardens, buildings and superhighways, but deep within the earth is an abundance of precious gems and fuels. Even in Job’s day, man had found these hidden treasures through his digging and searching, shining light in the darkness and exploring the farthest reaches of the earth. (3) Without a trusty flashlight and a good supply of batteries, I’m not sure how this worked for them, but clearly, it did.

With all our wonderful discoveries on this earth, however, there is one thing we cannot find here, “But do people know where to find wisdom? Where can they find understanding? No one knows where to find it, for it is not found among the living.”(12-13) We run to the internet to find answers to some of our dilemmas but discover 150,000 different solutions in response to our searching. Which one is wisdom? Some individuals travel to distant lands and climb high mountains to receive knowledge from an old sage. They believe he must be right because the wisdom was so very difficult to achieve.

Job had it right! “God alone understands the way to wisdom; He knows where it can be found…And this is what He says to all humanity: ‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”(23,28) So, it seems that when we need wisdom for a difficult situation in our lives, we should surrender first to the Source of all wisdom instead of soliciting answers from those who are only guessing.

We fear the Lord not by cowering in dread of His mighty hand, but by showing reverence and respect in much the same way we reverence and respect others. We hang on His every word and honor all that He does and says. Our search for wisdom will find us on our knees in prayer, digging into His Word and shunning all that is evil and unrighteous. And according to God, this, in and of itself, is wise. Solomon agreed with Job, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” (Proverbs 9:10)

So in our search for wisdom to help us with all of our life issues, if we find Him, we find wisdom. Somewhere through the pages of His Word or through His still small voice and through Holy Spirit guidance, we will find the wisdom we seek. He is utterly faithful!

Moving Forward: I’m so thankful that I don’t need to travel to the top of the world or search for an internet signal to find the wisdom I need in life. It’s all right here in Him.

Tomorrow @ Jeremiah 7-11

Ecclesiastes 9-10 (NLT)

Discover His heart:  His Word provides the wisdom we need to keep sharp!

A few years ago a friend and I prepared a meal in her home for our families.  My job was chopping veggies, so I searched through her drawer for the best knife I could find.  Now, it needs to be understood that in food prep, it’s all about the knife for me.  Maybe that comes from my Italian heritage, I don’t know, but I want my cutting knife to carry the right weight in the handle, fit easily in the hand and cut like a dream.

On that day I couldn’t find a knife to fit any of those requirements.  The knives were so dull they couldn’t cut through butter…almost.  I ask my friend if she had a sharp knife, and she replied, “No, I can’t have a sharp knife. I would cut myself.”  She didn’t get it.  My job was tedious to say the least.  Aarghhh…

The other day I spent some time in my daughter’s kitchen doing food prep and once again my job included chopping veggies.  In her drawer was the perfect knife, great balance, great fit and the sharpest of blades, and I whipped through those veggies effortlessly.  My daughter got it.  A sharp blade requires less effort for the task and provides greater safety in the process.  Bottom line – we have to keep our edge. 

@ Ecclesiastes 10
“Using a dull ax requires great strength, so sharpen the blade.  That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.” (10)  Well, obviously Solomon got it, and there are some lessons to be learned from a dull ax.  Whether we realize it or not, a sharpened ax will lose its edge over time with use or without use.

An ax that sits on a shelf without being used, no matter how sharp it once was, will begin to lose its edge over time through oxidation from humidity and other elements. Only when it is taken off the shelf and sharpened will it once again be useful to do the job it was intended.  Sometimes we go through periods in life where we feel we are sitting on the shelf, not very useful and, well, kind of oxidizing.  That is where we’ll stay unless we sharpen up – sharpen our skills, our training and get up-to-date in our thinking.  It’s amazing how just sitting in on a local training course or an online session in our field will get our creative juices flowing or open doors for the future.  We have to keep our edge.

An ax will lose its edge from overuse as well.  After a couple of hours of chopping, slicing and dicing the other day, my knife was starting to get a little dull, but I knew my son-in-law would be able to fix that in no time.  When a knife starts to dull, it doesn’t go as easily through the onions or whatever we are cutting and that provides a little play in its action where a slight turn of the blade can cause it to go places where we don’t want it to go. It’s a subtle deterioration that slowly moves to an unsafe venture for us.

We so often are slicing and dicing our way through life, and I mean that in only the kindest of terms, and over time we have dulled our edge.  Our work takes greater effort than ever before and even our safety may be at stake.  This is when it is time to reevaluate the tool, our skill or our vocation by putting down the ax and picking up the sharpener.  Perhaps a little sabbatical is in order or once again attending a class or a refresher online, something that will sharpen our edge and help our efforts moving forward.  I once read, “Don’t work harder, work smarter.”

Most important is our walk with the Lord – we don’t want to lose our edge.  If we sense our relationship with Him is taking more effort and feeling a little dull, it’s time for some sharpening, stepping away from the day-to-day for some alone time with Him.  He said, “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30)

And “That’s the value of wisdom; it helps you succeed.”(10)  Thank you, Solomon, for your wisdom today and encouragement to keep our edge sharp!

Moving Forward:  No dull ax here, I want to keep sharp for Him so that my efforts will accomplish the most for the Kingdom. 

Tomorrow @ Zechariah 8-14

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