Dr. Richard L. Strauss
March 9, 1980
Suppose for a moment that you owned one of those famous magic lamps, and your own private genie promised to grant you anything in this world you desired. What would you ask for? Stop and think about it for a moment. When you have your answer, continue reading.
Money would probably be a popular request. Maybe a new car or a new house. Good health might rate high, particularly among those who are losing it. Happiness would be a leading desire with others.
There was a man who had such a choice offered to him, not by a fictitious genie, but by the true and living God. This offer was for real!
"That night God appeared to Solomon and said to him, 'Ask for whatever you want Me to give you.' ...[Solomon answered,] 'Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead this people, for who is able to govern this great people of Yours?'" (2 Chronicles 1:7, 10).
Solomon was told to ask for whatever he wanted. The responsibility of leading God's people was so great that he asked for wisdom. God was pleased that Solomon asked for wisdom rather than riches, honor, a long life for himself, or short lives for his enemies, so God granted his request. The Bible testifies that all of Israel "saw that the wisdom of God was in him" (1 Kings 3:28).
The wisdom of God! God has wisdom.
More than that, God is in Himself infinite and perfect wisdom.
A suffering Old Testament believer named Job was willing to admit that even while he was enduring grievous agony and affliction that made no sense to him. "With Him is wisdom and strength," he declared (Job 12:13).
The prophet Daniel said much the same thing after God revealed to him King Nebuchadnezzar's dream and its meaning. "Blessed be the name of God forever and ever; for wisdom and might are His" (Daniel 2:20).
God is a God of wisdom!
1. The Meaning of God's Wisdom
What is God's wisdom? The words used in the Bible have the idea of skill and expertise. When applied to God, those words seem to refer to His skill in establishing the best goals and choosing the best means to attain them. Most theologians are agreed that God's wisdom is His ability to use the most effective means to accomplish the highest and best ends. Just as a skilled craftsman fashions a beautiful wood carving or embroidery, God fashions perfect goals and means to accomplish.
Wisdom is mental excellence in its greatest sense. It is thorough comprehension and penetrating insight. It's more than knowledge. Knowledge is an awareness and understanding of the facts. Wisdom is the ability to adapt those facts into accomplishing a desired end. God knows everything. He knows all the facts and has the ability to work everything He knows, including the free actions of men, into a perfect plan that accomplishes His perfect purposes.
W.G.T. Shedd, the great theologian who wrote his classic theology in 1888, said, "Wisdom implies a final end, to which all secondary ends are subordinate."
If we ever hope to understand God's wisdom, then we must first understand the primary end or goal toward which He is moving. What is God's goal? That should not be difficult to discover. We have learned that God is infinitely holy and righteous, and will learn later in this series that He is good. Therefore, He must exist for what is best. God is sovereign, the highest and greatest Being there is and infinitely good. In other words, He is best. If He must exist for what is best, and He Himself is best, then He must exist for Himself; He must live to demonstrate His own glory.
That may sound selfish the first time we hear it, but it really is not. It is essential because of who God is. If He existed for anyone outside of Himself, then the one for whom He existed would be greater than He, and therefore would be God. But that would be absurd. God is God and there is none greater, so His chief end must be to glorify Himself.
The writer to the Hebrews assured us that He is the one "for whom and through whom everything exists" (Hebrews 2:10, NIV). He exists for Himself. His chief end is His own glory. And He has the skill to weave everything into the ultimate accomplishment of that end. That is His wisdom.
God never faces a situation He cannot handle or a problem He cannot solve. We certainly do. We often get ourselves into predicaments where we simply do not know which way to turn or what action to take to best fulfill our purposes. We know what end we'd like to reach but we don't know how to get there. We lack wisdom.
But God doesn't lack wisdom. God is wisdom. He is the master of every situation. He knows how to use every one to attain His perfect results. He has a plan whereby He can use crisis in your life to glorify Himself. Nobody else can do that. God's wisdom is unique.
That is why Paul called Him "the only wise God" (Romans 16:27, NASB). God alone has perfect wisdom in and of Himself. All other true wisdom is merely a reflection of His wisdom.
2. The Expression of God's Wisdom
Everything God does reveals His wisdom, but several specific things are mentioned in the Bible about His wisdom. We need to know what they are so that we can appreciate them and enjoy them.
a. Creating the World (Psalm 104:24)
For instance, creating the world was an expression of God's wisdom.
"O Lord, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your possessions" (Psalm 104:24, NASB; see also Proverbs 3:19).
God knows how to make His universe. It is an evidence of His wisdom and so displays His glory. You can look around at nature and if you're intellectually honest, there is no way that you can deny the splendor of God's creation and the wisdom it took to create it.
"The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands" (Psalm 19:1, NASB).
b. Sending His Son (Colossians 2:3)
Sending His Son was another expression of His wisdom. Jesus Christ is the personification of God's wisdom. Turn to Proverbs 8. In this eighth chapter, Wisdom is speaking; wisdom is a person (see Proverbs 8:1, 6). In verse 22 Wisdom says he was with God when the world was created:
"The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way, before His works of old. From everlasting I was established, from the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth" (Proverbs 8:22-23).
The subsequent verses talk in more detail about this, and in verse 30, Wisdom concludes:
"Then I was beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him" (Proverbs 8:30).
Solomon wrote this, and likely without knowing it, he wrote about Christ in Proverbs 8.
To the Corinthians Paul wrote that Christ is "the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). He taught the Colossians that in Christ "are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3).
All wisdom resides in the Lord Jesus. If you want to see God's wisdom, study the life of Jesus Christ. Get to know Him.
As a boy, Jesus "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:52). When He began His public ministry, He taught with such penetrating perception and amazing authority that people asked, "Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers?" (Matthew 13:54, NASB).
He confronted the hypocritical Scribes and Pharisees with such crisp thinking that they could not answer Him (see Matthew 22:46). They had the finest theological minds of the day, but their mouths were stopped before the wisdom of Christ. God gave the world His most complete and comprehensive demonstration of wisdom possible when He sent His Son to earth. And it gave great glory to God. Near the end of His life, Jesus could say to His Father in His high-priestly prayer, "I have brought You glory on earth" (John 17:4).
But that was not the final expression of God's wisdom. There's more.
c. Redeeming the Lost (1 Corinthians 1:21-24)
He likewise expresses His wisdom by redeeming the lost.
"For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe" (1 Corinthians 1:21, NASB).
The people of the world think they can get to know God by using their own human wisdom. God knows they cannot, so in perfect wisdom He provided the way. His wisdom seems like foolishness to them, but through it He still manages to deliver people from their bondage to sin and bring them into a satisfying relationship with Himself. How does He do it?
"Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:22-24).
Christ crucified! That's God's way. That's the gospel, the good news. It sounds ridiculous to the unbeliever to admit that God's Son died on an ugly cross to pay the penalty for his sin. But that's the heart of God's wisdom and that's the message that brings eternal salvation. The death of His sinless Son was necessary to satisfy His offended holiness and pay the infinite debt of man's sin. That's the heart of His wisdom.
Those who believe that message are brought into living union with God through Jesus Christ, and become members of a body called His church. That's not a building or body like Emmanuel Faith Community Church. That is the body of Christ made up of every believer in this age. And there is nothing that displays His wisdom and demonstrates His glory more dramatically than that body of redeemed sinners, who have been eternally forgiven and accepted by His grace.
"His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms" (Ephesians 3:10).
"To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever! Amen" (Ephesians 3:21).
God's matchless work in calling sinners to Himself caused Paul to exclaim, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God" (Romans 11:33).
d. Ordering our Lives (Psalm 18:30)
And now He has another way of expressing His wisdom by ordering the lives of believers. If God knows how to handle every situation to bring glory to Himself, then He can obviously handle the trying situations in our lives. And He promises to do just that. We all know Romans 8:28: "All things work together for good to those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose."
I'd like to show you a "Romans 8:28 verse" in the Old Testament. God promises:
"I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them" (Isaiah 42:16).
We can trust God in the dark places of life because He knows the way through the darkness. In His perfect wisdom, He already has every circumstance in our lives worked out for good (Romans 8:28), and His wisdom guarantees that He will never make a mistake in anything He does (Psalm 18:30).
God is all-wise as He orders our steps. For us to do anything less than commit ourselves completely to Him in simple trust during the trying times of our lives is to insult His wisdom. To resist Him, question Him, doubt Him, or criticize what He does to us is to deny that He is the only wise God. It is to claim that we are wiser than He is. We may not always enjoy what God does, but His immediate goal is not necessarily our enjoyment. It is His glory.
Our enjoyment and happiness will come, but it will come as we grow in His likeness, and that is what brings greatest glory to Him. One of His major purposes for allowing trials to invade our lives is to make us more like Him. That will not only accomplish His chief goal of bringing glory to Himself, but ultimately His secondary goal of bringing joy and happiness to our lives. God's wisdom will help us lay hold of His peace in the disturbing circumstances of life.
Some have wondered what good it will do to pray in our difficult moments if God already knows what will best fulfill His purposes and has already decided what He will do. So we're facing a great tragedy or a trial—why pray if God already knows He's going to work it out for His glory and our good? Why pray? Because God told us to pray; it's that simple. God encourages us to bring our requests to Him in every circumstance of life.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).
In everything. In every situation of life, pray. God tells us to pray, so we can conclude that prayer makes a difference.
I read a number of theology books when I prepare messages. Most theologians don't spend a lot of time illustrating the truths they enumerate. But one theologian gave an example that really helped me understand this truth, and I'd like to share it with you: Picture a wise mother caring for her sick child. Before she tucks him into bed at night, she gives him his medicine and quietly reassures him of her presence. She knows he will cry out to her during the night and when the cry comes it does not change her mind about anything. She responds exactly as she planned to respond and does precisely what she knew would be best for him. But her help comes in answer to his request. That's the way she planned it.
God has some good things planned for us but His plan is to give them to us in answer to our prayers. Our prayers are part of His plan. That's all part of His wisdom. So ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full (John 16:24).
3. The Enjoyment of God's Wisdom
The most exciting aspect of God's wisdom is that He offers to share it with us. Most of us are willing to admit that we could use a large supply of God's wisdom in order to handle the circumstances we confront daily.
First let me say that having God's wisdom does not necessarily mean we will know why God allows certain things to happen to us, or how He will work them together for good. The why and the how is not necessarily part of our enjoyment of God's wisdom. It simply means that we will know the right thing to do in each situation: the thing that will bring the greatest glory to Him. That's enjoying God's wisdom.
Wouldn't you like to know that whatever situation in life you encounter, you can know the right thing to do? The Bible makes is clear that we need divine wisdom. Solomon devoted nearly nine chapters in the book of Proverbs to the need for it. He said:
"How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding" (Proverbs 3:13, NASB).
"The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7, NASB).
The New Testament echoes that need.
"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:15-17, NASB).
This passage reaffirms that real wisdom is basically doing the will of God in every situation of life. Wisdom is knowing the will of God. We especially need that wisdom in our encounters with unbelievers (Colossians 4:5), when wrestling with trials (James 1:2-5), and in the use of our tongues (James 3:8-13). We know it comes from God, "For the Lord gives wisdom" according to Proverbs 2:6. But how do we get it?
The Bible establishes several basic prerequisites for getting God's wisdom.
a. Admit our Need (Proverbs 11:2)
The first is to admit our need. Solomon said, "with the lowly is wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2). The lowly are those who do not think more highly of themselves than they should. They are willing to admit that they do not have all the answers, that their opinions may not always be right, and that they need to know the mind of God. In other words, the lowly are people who have a teachable spirit. They are willing to learn and open to change.
God won't give us His wisdom if He sees in us an unwillingness to learn or change.
b. Fear the Lord (Psalm 111:10)
The second prerequisite is to fear the Lord.
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10).
To fear God is not to cower before Him in stark terror, but to bow before Him in awe, respect, trust, and total submission to His purposes for our lives. If we want to know God's wisdom, we need to yield ourselves to Him and be willing to do what He tells us to do. We need to have not only teachable spirits, but broken wills. "Thy will be done."
c. Study God's Word (Psalm 119:97-100)
The third prerequisite is to study God's Word. Turn over to Psalm 119. There are 176 verses and nearly every one of them is about God's Word. In looking at verses 97 to about 105, the Psalmist tells us about meditating on God's Word. By loving God's Word and meditating on it daily, the Psalmist was wiser than his enemies, had more insight than his teachers, and more understanding than the aged (Psalm 119:97-100). Through the Word he found wise guidance in life.
"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105, KJV).
Again, the New Testament concurs.
"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom" (Colossians 3:16).
Filling our minds with God's Word will also help us get to know the Lord Jesus better, and we've already learned that Christ is the epitome of God's wisdom. Paul spoke of "Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom" (1 Corinthians 1:30).
You want God's wisdom? It's found in His Word.
d. Pray (James 1:5)
The final prerequisite for obtaining God's wisdom is to pray.
"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach"—He doesn't bawl us out for asking—"and it will be given to him" (James 1:5, NASB).
Sometimes that's the last thing we think about doing we face a knotty problem, a difficult decision, a pressing emergency, or an alarming crisis and we think of everything but the Lord. We talk to people, we run around and pull strings, we try to manipulate things. We don't go to the Lord, who is the One who stands ready to give us His wisdom.
It doesn't matter how big or how little the situation may be, God wants us to ask Him for wisdom. Ask Him for wisdom in that business deal you have been struggling with. Ask Him for wisdom in handling your children. Ask Him for wisdom about which information to concentrate on when you are studying for an exam. Ask Him for wisdom in working out tension and hard feelings you've been experiencing with that other believer. Ask Him for wisdom in coping with that pain or sorrow. He cares about things like that and invites you to ask. He is ready to give you a generous supply. He delights in sharing His wisdom—just as He did with Solomon.
Ask God! He promised He'd give you His wisdom if you ask Him for it!
4. The Recognition of God's Wisdom
How do we know whether the wisdom we are exercising is from God or whether it is our own human wisdom?
We do know that God's wisdom will always be consistent with His Word, all of His Word. But there is one special passage in the Word that tells us particularly how to identify God's wisdom.
"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (James 3:17, NASB).
That's our memory verse this week, by the way. And I strongly urge you to memorize it. It's a great verse. It's the acid test for knowing whether wisdom is from God. It's a seven-fold test:
- God's wisdom is pure: unmixed with error, untainted by immorality, unclouded by selfish motives, cleansed of all personal ambition. It is first and foremost pure. And if what you're doing is not pure, you can be sure that it is not God's wisdom.
- God's wisdom is peaceable: not quarrelsome, not contentious or cutting, but promoting the harmony and peace that draws God's people together.
- God's wisdom is gentle: fair, moderate, forgiving, forbearing, and considerate in the demands it puts on others.
- God's wisdom is reasonable: easy to be entreated, not stubborn or inflexible, but pliable and willing to listen to reason. People who have made up their minds and refuse to be influenced by the facts are operating by human wisdom rather than divine wisdom.
- God's wisdom is full of mercy and good fruits. It shows genuine concern and extends practical help toward others in need, even when they have wronged us.
- God's wisdom is unwavering: not hesitant or vacillating. It causes us to stand firm on Biblical principles and undivided in our allegiance to God, consistent in daily living.
- God's wisdom is without hypocrisy. When we are operating by God's wisdom we don't wear a mask, play a role, deceive people by putting on a good front or concealing our true aims and real motives in order to accomplish our own ends. We are open, honest, and straightforward.
That is God's standard for measuring His wisdom. We can see how our homes will be happier and our Christian lives more effective when we begin to get our wisdom from the right source.
Life is flying past us at a rather fast rate. There really is no time to waste. If you haven't been operating in God's wisdom, you should get started today! As the Psalmist put it:
"So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts to wisdom" (Psalm 90:12, KJV).
Trusting Jesus as Your Savior
May I remind you that God has outlined His way of knowing our sins are forgiven and securing eternal salvation. He said it was by that thing the world considers foolish: Christ crucified. Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins, and "salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).
Trust Him. Believe in Him. Put your confidence in the fact that Jesus' death in your place forgives you of your sins. That's God's way. To ignore it is not very wise.
But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
James 3:17 NASB
Continue to AT-19: Let God be True