Wisdom


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 a risky 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 a 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

Proverbs 22 (NLT link)

Discover His heart: He, the great Counselor, has provided counsel through His Word

When we’re going through a difficult season in life or find ourselves questioning things that have happened to us, we usually find a good friend or counselor to talk to about it.  They don’t always have the answers we need, but it helps to express our thoughts and feelings.  However, the Holy Spirit, the great Counselor, is our greatest listener and leads us to whatever truth we seek through His still small voice and through the pages of Scripture.  Our reading today expresses a way of counseling that is like preventive medicine.

“Listen to the words of the wise; apply your heart to my instruction. For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart and always ready on your lips.” (17-18)  Beginning with verse 17, Proverbs shares its wise sayings with a different approach.  Rather than single verses giving wisdom on different subjects, now several verses are combined to reveal wise instruction.  “I am teaching you today—yes you—so you will trust in the Lord.” (19)  And of course, Solomon was writing to us as well, yes us!

I like reading through Psalms and Proverbs entirely every month.  Reading just five Psalms and one Proverb each day makes this possible.  Talk about keeping “these sayings in your heart and always ready on your lips!” Taking just a few minutes each day to read these wonderful words of instruction and wisdom can result in life-changing benefits.  The counsel and example of David through praise and worship and the incredible wisdom of Solomon are at our fingertips every day.  They reveal to us in advance how we should respond to the challenges we may face on any given day and serve as preventive counseling.

We may save ourselves a lot of future pain by reading these treasures in God’s Word every day and keeping them in our hearts and on our lips, and I’m all for that!  “I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. I praise you, O Lord; teach me your decrees.” (Psalm 119:11-12) 

Moving Forward: So thankful today for the mighty and trustworthy counsel of His Word! 

Tomorrow @ Joel

Proverbs 10 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He purifies our hearts, producing wise words from our lips

With the advent of texting, tweeting and Facebooking, not to mention old-school emailing, one might think that speaking has become passé.  However, let me reassure you, as long as at least two women know that there’s a sale going on somewhere, the conversation will flow.  It’s just the way it is.  When my seven-year-old granddaughter chattered for 20 minutes without noticeably breathing, I knew the art of speaking was alive and well. Solomon had much to say about the words we speak – perhaps something to do with having multiple wives – but regardless, his cautions and observations will save us from a great deal of heartache.

Classic wisdom for me is found in Proverbs 10:19, underlined in red in my Bible, “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”  Simple, straight up advice.  All of us say words that cause pain at one time or another, intentional or not, and we would give just about anything to retrieve them.  Once our words leave our mouth or enter the social networks, it’s impossible to take them back…frightening.  This thought alone should persuade us to guard our words, whether spoken or written.

Jesus took the impact of our words a step further, “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.” (Luke 6:45)  Our words reflect what is in the heart, producing a double exposure, if you will, of not only our thoughts but also of the character we possess.  Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Better to be silent and thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

I have always wanted my words to speak life and not death, to speak blessing rather than cursing.  Sadly, I have failed on occasion.  However, Solomon’s words encourage me to move on from spoken sins and mistakes and continue striving for words of wisdom, “The words of the godly are a life-giving fountain…Wise words come from the lips of people with understanding…the words of the godly are like sterling silver…The words of the godly encourage many…The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice…The lips of the godly speak helpful words.” (11-32)   Oh, that I will always communicate the words of the godly! 

Moving Forward: Lord, touch my heart today to where my words, both spoken and written, reflect purity and bring encouragement to others. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 25-30

Proverbs 8-9 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He is wisdom, understanding and counsel for those who reverence Him

I know others may never have done this…I mean, only a procrastinator would need to do it.  But I confess – I have done it. I remember a moment of sheer panic back in college when I realized a big exam was the next day, and I hadn’t studied.  There was no time to read the entire History of Western Civilization.  At that time, I hadn’t really lived much of it, so first-hand knowledge was not very helpful.  I decided to study just the large, the colorful and the bold print in my history book, and somehow the next day I aced that exam.  I learned what happened in history, but I didn’t know why.

Several times through the years I have chosen to read for the week just the red letters in a red-letter edition of the Bible.  These are the powerful words of Jesus, the wisdom of Christ, who is our Counselor, words that teach us how to live. However, I think I would be short-changing myself if I didn’t read ALL of God’s word on a regular basis, all the Old Testament stories and New Testament inspiration because they give an explanation of why He said what He said.  He used these illustrations Himself on occasion as examples.  Because of this, I love ALL Scripture, but I must admit that sometimes those red letters just knock my socks off, so to speak. 

Proverbs 8
In our reading today, Solomon was finishing up his lessons on wisdom.   He concluded that wisdom is for everyone (1-5).  It is easy to understand and find (8,9,17).  It is invaluable (18), true and fair (20).  It is established, not whimsical and elusive. (22-31).

In Proverbs 8, wisdom itself explains how it was established, “The Lord formed me from the beginning, before He created anything else.  I was before the earth…before the oceans…before the mountains…before the soil…before the heavens and oceans…before the clouds and seas…I was the architect at His side…I was His constant delight.” (22-31) Wisdom described here sounds a lot like Jesus, the Word with us of John 1 and the wisdom of God in I Corinthians 1:24.

Most do not believe Proverbs 8 is an Old Testament representation of Jesus but instead tells how, with wisdom’s skill, God created the Universe.  Neither a scholar nor a theologian, I am not required to debate this, which brings me great happiness, but one thing I know, “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot – yes, a new Branch.  And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him – the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, and Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1)  Jesus, the Messiah, is wisdom, understanding and counsel!

When I need wisdom and counsel from heaven, I read those red letters in the Bible, the words of Jesus, the One who was there at the very beginning with God.  Through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, He tells me truths I need to know about relationships, finances, success, eternity and everything else that concerns me… and Him. It’s all right there in red!

Moving Forward: With gratitude in my heart, I move through this day, confident that His wisdom will counsel and help me.  With certainty, I know I will need it. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 19-24

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

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