“Wise up!” Not a few people have thrown that phrase in my direction, and I am sure that I have not heard it for the last time. The question is how does one “Wise up”? A story is told of a young and newly anointed King who asked God, not for money, land, women, or wealth. Instead, this young King made only one request of God, “Give therefore Thy servant an understanding heart to judge Thy people, that I may discern between good and bad.” (1 Kings 3:9).
That young king was Solomon, the son of David, and God answered his prayer by making him the wisest man to ever live: “Behold, I have done according to thy words: lo, I have given thee a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee” (1 Kings 3:12).
Solomon’s God-given wisdom has been divinely inspired in the book of Proverbs. For anyone wanting to “wise up”, Proverbs is the place to go. Proverbs 4:1-13,
“Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my father’s son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee. Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble. Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.”
All people should seek to “get wisdom”. Are you wiser today than you were yesterday? Compared with last year? How does a person get wisdom? Some would say, “Through education; ‘get wisdom’ means ‘get a degree’.”
Formal education is just one stage in the process of becoming a wise person. Much of life has been professionalized and institutionalized; making it easy to believe that imparting wisdom is the job of some profession or institution. “Continuing education” has become synonymous with taking college/university courses, but it is a misnomer to believe that continuing education requires tuition, book fees, and a class schedule. When Solomon says in Proverbs 4:5, “Get wisdom, get understanding” he does not mean “Go to school, take more courses!”
Not that education is wrong, but the idea that getting wisdom only from the classroom is wrong. Wisdom, continuing education, is a lifelong process of growth. It is also a command from God: get wisdom; get understanding.
The first characteristic of wisdom is found in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.” (1:7; 22:4). The wisdom that leads to life, as well as present and eternal joy begins with knowing and fearing God. To fear God means to revere Him; to be in awe of God. It means fearing to run away from Him; fearing to seek refuge, joy, hope, purpose, and happiness anywhere but in God. It means keeping before our eyes what a fearful prospect it is to stop trusting and depending on God to meet our needs.
Therefore, in order to get wisdom and to get understanding one must “fear the Lord,” and this leads to the second characteristic of wisdom: humility.
Proverbs 11:2, “When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” The wise person is characterized by humility. The humble man depends upon God and fears to take credit for what God has done. The proud person does not like to admit errors and his need for growth, but the humble person is open to counsel, will listen to reason, and is ready to take correction and follow truth.
Unlike pride, humility does not recoil when asked, or commanded, to do something. This is important because Moses said that wisdom consists in knowing and doing God’s commands.
- Deuteronomy 4:5-6, “Behold, I have taught you statutes and judgments, even as the LORD my God commanded me, that ye should do so in the land whither ye go to possess it. Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.” Jesus said the same thing in…
- Matthew 7:24-29, “Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man.”
Consequently, a good definition for Godly wisdom is: hearing and doing God’s Word. The only people who will hear and do God’s Word are the ones who humbly rely on God for help, fearing to seek joy and fulfillment anywhere but in Him. Therefore, the fear of the Lord is the beginning and spring of all true wisdom.
However, it is not enough to say wisdom is a humble hearing and doing of God’s Word because the Bible does not specifically address every human situation or dilemma. An example from Solomon’s life illustrates this well. 1 Kings 3:16-28 is the record of two harlots who were quarreling over which one was the rightful mother of a baby boy. King Solomon heard their testimony, and their bickering. He called for a sword and then threatened to cut the baby into two equal parts. The true mother was revealed by her desire to spare the child even if she was not able to keep him. The story concludes with this observation: “And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared (means they stood in awe of) the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment” (verse 28).
Obviously, there was no Biblical command informing Solomon what to do when two harlots claimed the same child! Wisdom must include a sensitive, mature judgment/discernment of how the fear of the Lord should work itself out in all circumstances which are not specifically dealt with in the scriptures. Paul calls this the “renewing of your mind” in Romans 12:2 and “spiritual understanding” in Colossians 1:9.
Of course the wisdom which follows God’s word and the wisdom which discerns the way to act when there is no explicit command from God are not separate. It is precisely by saturating our minds and hearts with God’s word that we gain the spiritual wisdom to guide us in all situations. Such a person will be humbly obedient to the “thou shalts” and he will be filled with Godly wisdom when two harlots show up claiming the same baby.
Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord and consists in humbly hearing and doing God’s will as revealed in Holy Scripture. The person with such wisdom has life, joy, as well as ultimate and eternal happiness (Proverbs 3:13; 8:32-36; 24:13-14).
Here are five Biblical instructions for how to “get wisdom”.
1. Desire Wisdom
Proverbs 4:8, “Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.” “Exalt” and “embrace” are not cheap words; they are signs of intense desire and love. Wisdom must be valuable to you.
2. Dig for Wisdom
Proverbs 2:4, “Seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures.” (Psalm 19:7) Since wisdom is found in the Bible, you need to apply yourself to study and meditation on the Bible if you are to hear so that you may do! Be a reader! Study, memorize, and meditate. Your mind will be stretched. Your heart enlarged. Your zeal more fervent and, above all, you will grow in wisdom!
3. Pray for Wisdom
James 1:5; 1 Kings 3:11; Daniel 2:23; Colossians 1:9; Ephesians 1:17.
4. Think Often of Your Dying
Live with eternity in view. Moses’ prayer from Psalm 90:12 should be the prayer of all Christians, “Teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” Think of the shortness of this life and of the infinite length of the next. No other thought will be so helpful in purging worldly perceptions and vain priorities. Death is imminent and eternity is forever!
5. Come to Jesus!
Matthew 12:42, “The queen of the south shall rise up in the judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: for she came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and, behold, a greater than Solomon is here.” What an understatement from the lips of the Lord!
Solomon spoke God’s wisdom. Jesus IS God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). I preach the truth, but Christ IS the truth. That is why all true preaching exalts and proclaims Christ! Jesus Christ IS the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). “All the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20). Jesus bought our salvation by his death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, in Him are “hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3).
To know and love and follow this Jesus is to own the treasure of ultimate and eternal joy and happiness. Therefore, the command, “Get wisdom” means first and foremost “Come to Jesus! Come to Jesus!” in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom.