Get Wisdom, Get Understanding

Photo By    Ryan McGuire

Photo By Ryan McGuire

On August 5, 882, Louis III, king of West Francia, was in pursuit of a girl who was running to seek refuge in her father’s house. Riding a horse at the time, the elevated height resulted in Louis hitting his head on the lintel of the door, falling to the ground, and dying from a skull fracture. He was about 18-years old at the time of his death. History tells us that Louis’ short reign was marked by military success, but his untimely death tells us this: “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25).

Stories like this remind you and I that a brief moment of foolishness can ultimately lead to catastrophe. It also reminds us that our ability to perceive is extremely limited — in our finitude we lack the ability to see around the next corner, as it were. It is for this reason that the writer(s) of Proverbs implore the reader with this: “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7).

But the aim of biblical wisdom is not to serve as some kind of repressive task master, but rather to connect you and I with the way of life. John Piper recognizes this when he observes*:

Biblical wisdom is not a dead-end street leading to a cul-de-sac of misery. It is the path to deep and lasting happiness.

This observation is borne out of the Jewish Proverbs themselves, which note: “For through wisdom your days will be many, and years will be added to your life” (Proverbs 9:11) and “The one who gets wisdom loves life; the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper” (Proverbs 19:8). And so with this in mind, Scripture identifies at least three sources of wisdom that we are to pursue, including:

1. RECORDED WISDOM

Because our ability to perceive is limited, a map is invaluable. I have a map in my car — but its a map of the state of Washington. It won’t help me navigate the northeast. As such, when it comes to life’s journey it is important that we set out with the right map. And God has given us such a map with the Scriptures.

And it is in this recorded wisdom that we find wisdom and direction for life’s journey. Consider the navigational language of the writer in Proverbs 4:

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble. Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way” (Proverbs 4:11-15).

Using the map means that we do well here to make a regular practice of reflecting on the recorded wisdom in Scripture. But sometimes that’s not enough.

2. REQUESTED WISDOM

There are times in life when we are confronted with decisions and challenges that press the limits of our understanding. In those moment, the wisdom of Scripture may seem darkened to us — our limited perception leaving us unable to make heads or tails of the way before us. It is in those moments that we are to stop and ask for direction. Scripture invites you and I to do the same when it comes to wisdom:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5).

The invitation to call on the generous God is an echo of Jesus’ own teaching:

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

When we ask God to give us wisdom, we acknowledge not only our own limitations, but also the abundant resources that God dispenses generously — that says something about who God is.

3. REVEALED WISDOM

“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Hebrews 1:1-3).

And this revealed one, through who God has spoken, is associated with wisdom: 

“… Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).


”… Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God…” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

What is more, this same Jesus is said to be the bringer of life (John 10:10), and way, truth, and life (John 14:6). The way of Jesus stands in stark contrast to the way of death. As we read in John’s gospel, there was a time when many would-be disciples left Jesus. Turning to his earliest followers, Jesus asks if they too wanted to leave — to which Peter replied: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68). 

The way of Jesus is the way of life.

And so in response to this one who is wisdom and way of life, early Christ followers are encouraged to: “…throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And we run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). That sounds a little bit like this: Get Wisdom.

* www.desiringgod.org/messages/how-to-get-wisdom (accessed 06/23/2019)