As I continued reading my Bible this week, I came across a passage I have not studied since high school thirty-two years ago. Many people know the basic story of Job. Job was the man who had everything and lost it because God gave Satan permission to test him. Satan believed that Job revered and followed God solely because God blessed him. Satan wanted to prove his theory and asked God to give him permission to do that.
My reading this week focused Job 28. This chapter is in the middle of the third discourse of the book. Job spoke about wealth versus wisdom. In the previous chapter, Job compared a man of integrity, himself, with a wicked man. A key feature of a man of integrity, according to Job, is his righteousness. God brought before Job’s eyes in chapters 38-42 that he was not righteous or wise. He rebuked and challenged Job in chapters 40 and 41 about his brazenness in contending with Him and his rebuking of Him. God also challenged Job about his justifying himself while condemning God, the One who created everything including the behemoth and the One who can stand against Leviathan. Before Job gets to this point with God, we must read and study a very astute point he makes to his four friends.
Job told about his righteousness and what becomes of the wicked in chapter 27. In chapter 28, the chapter of our study, Job began by speaking of earth’s treasures - gold, silver, and jewels - and the trouble man goes through to acquire them. He spent eleven verses explaining the effort humankind expends getting the earth to release these “treasures.” Job contrasted this with acquiring wisdom. He began this contrast in verse 12, “Where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?”
Humankind does not understand the value of wisdom, nor is it found in the land of the living. Job began to explain how rare and priceless wisdom is. No part of creation holds wisdom. Its value is incomparable with regard to minerals or jewels. Acquiring wisdom is of greater importance than all things earth gives. With this foundation laid, Job asked again in verse 20, “Where then does wisdom come from? And where is the place of understanding?” God hides wisdom from the living and from the birds that see everything as they are flying. Abaddon and death (destruction and death) heard of wisdom. Since wisdom is a greater wealth than minerals and jewels, we must search for wisdom.
What, then, is wisdom? Where do we find it and how do we acquire it? Understanding about wisdom was my study this week. The four books within the wisdom literature of the Bible say the same thing, “The fear of the LORD (Yahweh) is the beginning of wisdom” (Job 28:28; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10, 15:33; and Ecclesiastes 12:13). This “fear” the Bible writers speak of is awe, respect, and reverence of God and His majesty, greatness, and power. Job 28:21 says, "Thus it (wisdom) is hidden from the eyes of all living." Verse 23 says, "God understands its way and knows its (wisdom's) place." As we recall, created things do not hold wisdom nor dispense it. Proverbs 8 gives detail about wisdom. It says in verses 22 and 23, with examples in verses 24-29, the LORD possessed wisdom before the beginning of creation. The LORD is the possessor of wisdom. Neither earth, jewels, nor minerals possess wisdom. Since God is the originator and establisher of wisdom (Job 28:27) and His works come from wisdom (Psalm 104:24), He is the giver of wisdom. God knows where wisdom resides (Job 28:23).
Before we go any further, we want to understand what wisdom is and why we want to find it. Most dictionaries define wisdom as good decisions, justice, and judgment, based upon knowledge, insight, understanding, and commonsense. Dictionary.com, macmillandictionary.com, merriamwebsterdictionary.com, cambridgedictionary.com, freedictionary.com, and urbandictionary.com each define wisdom this way. A biblical dictionary adds other elements to this definition. Biblestudytools.com says wisdom comes from moral thinking leading to moral conduct and deals with moral problems. It also defines wisdom as being socially sensitive. Biblehub.com adds that wisdom is prudent in matters of war, administration, religious affairs, and active everyday life. Biblehub.com states wisdom is shrewd, active, and careful. From these we realize wisdom is more than just knowledge or understanding. Wisdom is action based on knowledge. This makes us able to understand why Job spoke of wisdom and understanding separately in verses 12 and 20. Action is the difference between wisdom and understanding. A wise person has these characteristics according to the wisdom literature of the Bible (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and parts of the Psalms):
- Knowledgeable (Proverbs 8:12),
- Moral (Proverbs 8:5-7),
- Just (Psalm 37:30 and Proverbs 8:15 and 20),
- Understanding (Proverbs 4:7, 8:12 & 14, 14:33, and 17:24),
- Skillful in every part of life (Proverbs 8:5-7 & 12),
- Seeks wisdom (Job 28:18, Proverbs 8:1, 8-9 & 19),
- Recognizes God as the only God and turns to Him (Job 28:28 and
- Reveres God (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7 & 9:10),
- Keeps God’s commandments (Ecclesiastes 12:13),
- Asks God for wisdom (Proverbs 2:6),
- Blessed by God through wisdom (Proverbs 3:13 & 8:35),
- Learns from all situations (Proverbs 8:2-3),
- Understands wisdom and receives it benefits of being, existence,
substance, and wealth (Proverbs 4:7, 8:18-19 & 21),
- Righteous (Psalm 37:30, Proverbs 8:5-7 & 20, 10:31),
- Humble (Proverbs 11:2 & 15:33),
- Hopeful (Proverbs 24:14),
- Heart is given to God (Ecclesiastes 8:16-17),
- Works for God (Psalm 104:24),
- Noble (Proverbs 8:5-7 & 12),
- Can be powerful (Proverbs 8:14),
- Can be rich and honored (Proverbs 8:18),
- Rejoices at God, His work and majesty (Proverbs 8:30),
- Respects and listens to wisdom (Proverbs 8:31), and
- Is favored by God (Proverb 3:13 & 8:35).
Besides wanting these characteristics, why would we want wisdom and how do we acquire it? Our logic stream arrives at these questions after considering what wisdom is. First, Proverbs 24:14 states wisdom is for your soul and gives you a future and a hope. How can this be? The answer to that lies in Ecclesiastes 8:16-17, I gave my heart to know wisdom and to see the task God has done on the earth (my paraphrase). Acquiring wisdom requires your heart. It requires your seeking after God because God is the author and establisher of wisdom. The Bible tells us to seek wisdom and we will find it (Proverbs 8:1). Proverbs 2:6 states, “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” Fear of the LORD, that is reverence, awe, and worship of the One God, is the beginning of acquiring wisdom and continues to be the source of wisdom (Job 28:28; Proverbs 15:33). Wisdom is hidden from the eyes of the living (Job 28:21), but can be found when a person seeks God (Job 28:23). God says many times in His Word, the Bible, that when we seek Him with all our heart, we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13, Deuteronomy 4:29, Matthew 7:7). God said in Jeremiah 24:7 that he would give us a heart to know Him because He is the LORD. A person’s desire is naturally to seek God. He created humankind this way.
In Job 28:18, Job stated that getting wisdom is greater than getting riches. Solomon, the man to whom God gave great wisdom, said the same thing in Proverbs 8:8-9 & 18. Solomon said that a man is blessed when he finds wisdom (Proverbs 3:13). In Proverbs 8, Solomon personified God’s wisdom. Solomon taught, “For he who finds me (wisdom) finds life and obtains favor from the LORD” (Proverbs 8:35). A wise person can glean wisdom in good and bad situations (Proverbs 8:2-3).
At the end of the book of Job, God chastised Job. Job repeatedly asserted to his friends that he did not deserve what befell him as punishment from God for sins. He stated forthright that he was a man of integrity and upright in all things before God. In chapters 38-42:6, God rebuked Job and posed questions to him leading him to see that He was not as righteous as he thought. This reminds us we, too, are not so righteous as to be above discipline, but that God loves us. God reminds us in Jeremiah 29:11-13 and Proverbs 24:14 that if we seek Him with our heart, we will find Him and find a hope and future with Him. Job’s response to God’s chastisement teaches wisdom. He acknowledged the power of God whose purposes he did not and we may or may not understand. Job admitted he spoke of things he did not know or understand. He acknowledged that he saw God then. From what Job saw and heard, he realized his errors and repented (Job 42:1-6).
It takes a humble person to seek for and recognize God. God is faithful and wants be found by each person. He waits for each of us to seek Him. When we seek God and find Him, our honest response to Him is reverence and awe, fear as the Bible says. When we find God, we begin our learning, which includes wisdom, God’s version not humankind’s version. God bases His wisdom His righteousness, truth, and goodness. The wisdom He gives teaches a person to cast aside personal gain and seek truth and good for each situation.
We each have a set number of days in our life. We do not know them, nor does anyone else. God, as the creator of everything, knows how many days each person has to live on this earth. He has not left us without Himself though. God put a desire into each human to seek Him and His absolute truth, rightness, and goodness. He put a desire within us to go beyond ourselves and better the world around us and at large. This requires wisdom and selflessness. God’s Word tells us how to find wisdom, by seeking and fearing Him. When we seek God in selfless pursuit, we will find Him, He says. When we find Him, we will grow in Him and acquire wisdom.
The second most important thing we must understand is that to receive wisdom, we each must give our heart. The most important thing is that God waits to be found and be in a relationship with each one of us. We get to make that decision for ourselves. God does not force it on anyone. From the first persons, Adam and Eve, God sought relationship with humankind, but did not force humankind to choose. We each have the choice to do whatever we want, that is a gift to us from Him. We can choose to seek God with all our heart and be in a daily relationship with Him. Otherwise, we can choose to walk away from God and do what we want. Choice is a gift we are given. Salvation and life are a gift from God to those who choose to have a relationship with Him. Wisdom from God is a blessing from God that comes out of a relationship with Him. Job summed it up in 28:28, “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’” God said in Proverbs 8:35, through Solomon, “Blessed is the man who listens to Me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts.” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and it designates the process by which wisdom matures the individual. A wise person watches and waits for God daily.
We each have a choice to make.
Do we seek God or
Do we turn away from Him and seek just for ourselves?