Saturday, June 29, 2013

Human Suffering Explained

God: Have you noticed My servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity (upright, honest). He fears (honors) God and stays away from evil.  Job 1:8 (NLT)

Job is the book of the Bible that raises the confusing question of human suffering. If God is in control and loving, then why does God allow human suffering? Clearly, Job is a perfect and upright man. Even God held Job up as model of goodness and integrity (Job 2:3). Job feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:8; see also Ezekiel 14:14–20 and James 5:11). Job’s life could not have been more blameless. He had done nothing wrong or sinful. Job was honest and totally devoted to God. Even more, Job lived a prosperous life with family, wealth, and high community honor. 

Evil claimed that people like Job loved God only because of the good things God provided. Remove the good things, evil challenged, and Job’s faith would melt away along with his wealth, family, and health (Job 1:12-2:6). Evil asked God’s permission to attack Job. Job was unaware of the conference between God and evil. The Holy Bible records at least one other instance where evil specifically asked permission to attack an individual:  Luke 22:31-32. 

In this extreme test of faith, Job suffered the worse troubles. Job suffered the loss of his children, most of his servants, and all that he owned. Then, Job was inflicted physically with painful sores all over his body. Job’s wife scorned him, “Are you still holding on to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). With all his losses, Job even cursed the day he was born (Job 6:9). Then, Job’s loss was compounded by the poor comfort of his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. In the beginning, Job’s three friends sat with him for a full week in shared, silent grief (Job 2:11-13). As it turned out, their compassionate silence was the best help Job’s friends gave to him – a good lesson to remember for any who works with suffering people. Eventually, Job’s friends tried to comfort Job in his suffering although they insisted that Job had sinned before God and done something wrong to deserve his suffering (Job 5:17). During three rounds of debate (Job 4-31), Job’s friends argue with Job over this common explanation of suffering.  

Job defended his innocence and integrity. Job repeatedly looked to God and considered His creation as he struggled to make sense of the loss of his family, riches, and health (e.g., see Job 26; see also Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:17). Creation itself did not answer Job’s profound questions, but the heavens and the earth did point Job to God the Creator, who alone responds with help and hope. Creation testifies to God’s sovereignty, wisdom, power, goodness, and loving care (Job 38:4-39:30) and ultimately to God’s true justice in the world (Job 40:8-14; see also Romans 12:17-20).

Despite all his loss and suffering, Job NEVER cursed God and never stopped trusting God. Job expressed astonishing hope and belief in God, in the midst of suffering and agony (Job 19:25).  He said with confidence, “For I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25 (NKJV). Job kept on believing and trusting in a loving, fair God even though all the evidence pointed against Him. 

During the deepest moments of Job’s struggles, he wanted one thing:  the appearance of God face to face to explain his miserable fate. Job got his wish. God appeared and spoke to Job (Job 38:1-42:6). The Theophany (appearance of God), consisted of two discourses or speeches by God (Job 38:1-40:2; Job 40:6-41:34) with a brief response from Job (Job 40:3-5; Job 42:1-6). God spoke to Job not to give Job any reason or justification of His ways. Out of the awesome majesty of the thunderstorm, God reminded Job that His ways, purposes, and His wisdom is greater than any human understanding (see also Isaiah 55:8-9).

8 “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And My ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. 9 For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so My ways are higher than your ways and My thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)

In the end, Job emerged from this dramatic testing with a new reverence and honor for God and His greatness, sovereignty, and abundance for a person’s life (Proverbs 42:1–6). Job learned that God and His purposes are supreme (Job 42:1-6; see also Isaiah 6:5) and through faith he can always accept all God’s purposes, even suffering. God does not allow us to suffer for no reason because He is fair in all His ways even when we do not know or understand His purposes. Even though the reason for human suffering may be hidden in the mystery of God’s divine purposes, Job learned he must continually TRUST God and live righteous. 

The book of Job reveals to humanity the inadequacy of human reason to understand human suffering. There is a mystery of God’s freedom that remains mysterious to humanity. Even more, the book of Job teaches that all of suffering must be seen in light of the cosmic struggle of God against evil. Job was involved in a cosmic test of good verse evil that he did not realize was happening. Therefore, humans must continually have an attitude of TRUST AND DEPENDENCE on a good God who ultimately rights all wrongs. Like Job, we must persevere and refuse to give up on God even when we do not understand the difficulties we face. 

In the end, God restored Job with twice as much as he had before with more children, more property, and good health (Job 42:10-17). God blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the first. Job learned the God is good all the time.

10 When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before! 11 Then all his brothers, sisters, and former friends came and feasted with him in his home. And they consoled him and comforted him because of all the trials the Lord had brought against him. And each of them brought him a gift of money and a gold ring. 12 So the Lord blessed Job in the second half of his life even more than in the beginning. For now he had 14,000 sheep, 6,000 camels, 1,000 teams of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. 13 He also gave Job seven more sons and three more daughters. 14 He named his first daughter Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. 15 In all the land no women were as lovely as the daughters of Job. And their father put them into his will along with their brothers. 16 Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. 17 Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life. Job 42:10-17 (NLT)

The tragic events related in the book of Job were started by God. God did not allow Job’s sufferings because of sin in his life. Instead, God acknowledged Job’s righteousness and honesty. A new reader of the book of Job can easily get lost because the complete “story line” of Job is found in the first two chapters and the last few chapters, Job chapters 38 through 42. Everything in between are a series of long speeches. The book of Job is one of the oldest books of the Holy Bible. Many people date the acts of Job very early, before the time of Moses.

6 Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. 7 Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously. Isaiah 55:6-7 (NLT)

References:
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York, NY: Zondervan, 1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Guard Your Heart

My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully (closely) to my words. Do not lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, for they bring life to those who find them, and healing (health) to their whole body. Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course (wellspring) of your life. Avoid all perverse talk (lies or dishonesty); stay away from corrupt speech (gossip, white lies, and banter). Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you. Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Do not get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. Proverbs 4:20-27 (NLT).
 
The book of Proverbs is listed among the wisdom books of the Holy Bible. Proverbs is not preoccupied with rules of “Don’t do this, don’t do that.” Rather, the advice or counsel of Proverbs tries to help the reader develop a love for the best things in life. This love for the best focuses the reader on getting wisdom above all else. The love of wisdom makes a person wiser and leads to a happier life (Proverbs 6:20-23; Proverbs 9:5-6, 10-12). Wisdom’s call is directed to the heart (Proverbs 4:23; Proverbs 8). To love God from your whole heart for His sake is the core of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 2:5; Proverbs 3:9-12). Our hearts must diligently love, trust, and obey God to find wisdom, hope, and life (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 3:5, Proverbs 9:10; see also Lamentations 3:25).  Loving and obeying God is the big end of all of life (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)! 
 
If you want favor with both God and man, and a reputation for good judgment and common sense, then trust the Lord completely; don’t ever trust yourself. In everything you do, put God first, and He will direct you and crown your efforts with success. Proverbs 3:4-6 (The Living Bible)
 
Wisdom is the most important thing; so get wisdom. If it costs everything you have, get understanding. Treasure wisdom, and it will make you great; hold on to it, and it will bring you honor. It will be like flowers in your hair and like a beautiful crown on your head. Proverbs 4:7-9 (NCV)
 
The book of Proverbs speaks to the human heart. The word “heart” occurs ninety-four times in the book of Proverbs. Now, the heart is the source or center of human life (Proverbs 4:23) and a religious organ. The Hebrew words for heart are “leb” and “lebab”. Both words are hard to translate because they rarely refer to the physical human heart. Rather, the heart means the center of a person’s being, mind, emotions, will, and behavior. As the center of physical life, the heart came to stand for the whole person or the entire internal life of a person. In Proverbs, the uses of the word heart breaks down into the following percentages: center of emotions (21%); trust, which also involves morality (19%); intellect, mind, reason, or motive (40%); behavior or actions (3%), and will, choice, or volition (14%). Thus, the word “heart” as found in the Bible means behavior 3% of the time; will or choice 14% of the time; emotions 21%; and trust 19% of the time. Most or 40% of the time, the word heart means intellect, mind, or reason.  
 
The heart and the intellect are closely connected as the heart is the place of intelligence and thinking. Because the heart is connected to thinking, as a person “thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV). If we store up good things in our hearts and continue seeking God, our words and actions will be good. “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34; Mark 7:21; see also Proverbs 27:19).

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I (God) give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.” Jeremiah 17:9-10 (NLT)

Our hearts are naturally sinful, scheming, and wicked. As time goes on, the sinful heart becomes more arrogant, insensitive, dishonest, hypocritical, and stubborn. Even worse, sinful hearts really only loves themselves. Ultimately, this sinful heart leads to a destructive way of life and eternal death (Proverbs 1:15-33; Proverbs 5:7-14).  Because the heart is naturally sinful, only God can heal and cleanse the sinful human heart. As we trust God and open our whole hearts to Him, then and only then will we walk a path way of life, find heart cleansing, and wisdom. Ultimately, all good wisdom comes from God. God’s wisdom is found in His Son Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 1:24; Colossians 2:3) and His Holy Bible (Deuteronomy 4:3-8).  If we want God’s wisdom, we can ask Him for wisdom through prayer. James 1:5 promises us that God will grant our sincere request. Seeking God's wisdom is the most important choice we can make.

Listen, people . . . ! The Lord our God is the only Lord. 5 Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Always remember these commands I give you today. Deuteronomy 6:4-6 (NCV) 

So in summation, we are to love and obey God with our whole hearts which means our minds, intellect, emotions, will, behavior, and choices. The Old Testament gives many rules and regulations. However, these rules and regulations were meant to penetrate into a person’s heart (Deuteronomy 26:16). Unless God’s rules and regulations become part of a person’s heart, life will probably make no difference. As we turn our whole hearts to God, God will write His rules and regulations on our hearts (see Ezekiel 11:19-20; Luke 8:15; Romans 2:15; Romans 10:9-13; Hebrews 3:12).

What made King David a “man after God’s own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14; Acts 13:22)?  The Holy Bible reveals that throughout his life, David demonstrated that he loved and trusted God with his whole heart, as the law in Deuteronomy 6:4-6 demanded. David had an undivided and committed heart for God that loved God completely (Psalm 86:11; see also Jeremiah 17:9-10).  

The book of Proverbs reveals our daily actions or behavior is motivated by love. In other words, the choices we make flows from what or who we love the most (see Proverbs 1:22; Proverbs 4:6; Proverbs 8:36). The only way to find wisdom is to love God and obey Him (Deuteronomy 4:3-8; Matthew 22:4-40; John 15:1-17). Wisdom is a matter of loving God and living a righteous life before Him. Apart from a loving and obedient relationship with God there is no wisdom and no life. As we love God and obey God’s Holy Word with our whole heart, we find wisdom!

As the water reflects the face, so the heart reflects the person. Proverbs 27:19 (HCSB)

References:
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
New Student Bible. New York, NY: Zondervan, 1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Schwab, George. The Book of Proverbs: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2009.
 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

What Do We Need From God?

1 These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel. 2 Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline, to help them understand the insights of the wise. 3 Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives, to help them do what is right, just, and fair. 4 These proverbs will give insight to the simple, knowledge and discernment to the young. 5 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser. Let those with understanding receive guidance 6 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables, the words of the wise and their riddles. 7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline. Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)

The book of Proverbs is for everyday life and gives practical suggestions for effective living. This book is not just a collection of sayings but also contains deep spiritual insights drawn from life experience to gain wisdom and discipline. The key term in Proverbs is wisdom. Wisdom includes skills in living that only comes by fearing God (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 31:30; see also Psalms 111:10 and Ecclesiastes 12:13). The phrase “fear of God” does not mean terror or fright. Instead, fearing God means a loving, trusting, dependent, reliant, and obedient relationship with the true and living God and His commands and hating evil (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 8:13; Job 28:28). A wise person knows, trusts, and wholeheartedly depends upon God for all of life (Proverbs 3:5-7; Jeremiah 9:23-24). Fearing God is more than just reverence of God but also means living closely with God, relating to God personally in EVERY aspect of our life. Wisdom is connected to righteousness and moral living while remaining far from evil, fraud, and self-reliance. Proverbs encourage people to get wisdom in all circumstances (Proverbs 4:5; James 1:5) for wisdom is worth more than silver, rubies, or gold (Proverbs 3:13-15). The New Testament describes Jesus Christ as God’s wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30; Colossians 2:3). In essence, the fearing God means righteous living.

The opening verses of Proverbs introduce the reader to the book of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:1-7 is the introduction of Proverbs. This introduction makes many promises. According to this opening, these verses promises that whoever reads them will gain “wisdom,” “discipline,” “understanding words of insight,” “prudence,” “righteousness, justice, and equity,” “discretion,” “learning,” “wise counsels,” and “to understand proverbs and parables.” Thus, Proverbs promises to help the reader gain skills for living, help one make the best possible choices, and acquire a working knowledge of the world and its complexities. The book of Proverbs does not give any secular truths. However, the book of Proverbs does provide sweeping promises of life and death and promises to give wisdom or expertise. The personification of wisdom found in Proverbs 1:20-33 claims that the issue is one of life and death. So, Proverbs provide a structured mind with right and wrong defined and not shifted about by every wind of doctrine. Also, the opening verses of Proverbs introduce the reader to four groups of people: the “simple,” the “young,” the “wise and discerning,” and the “fool.”

15 Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others. 16 A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted. Proverbs 12:15-16 (NLT)

26 Those who trust in themselves (or their own heart) are foolish, but those who live wisely (trusting in God) will be kept safe. Proverbs 28:26 (NCV) 

The “fool” (the Hebrew word is evilim) hates wisdom, resents discipline, refuses to learn, and hot tempered. This person will not listen to wise teaching and advice (Proverbs 27:22) and dies for lack of wisdom (Proverbs 10:21; Proverbs 12:15). Fools have some smarts but have made a conscious decision to live by their own hearts, independent of God, and independent of others advice. Significantly, the fool is never directly addressed in Proverbs because the fool will not cherish discipline, seek advice, or grow and learn. The fool only boasts and is “a know-it-all.” Thus, a fool “hates knowledge” (Proverbs 1:22) and correction of any kind (Proverbs 12:1). They are “quick to quarrel” (Proverbs 20:3) and give “full vent” to their anger (Proverbs 29:11). Even worse, a fool trusts only in themselves (Proverbs 28:26) rather than in an all-loving and knowing God (Psalms 14:1; see also Romans 1:18-25).

15 Only simpletons believe everything they’re told! The prudent (wise) carefully consider their steps. Proverbs 14:15 (NLT) 

The next group is the “simple ones” (the Hebrew word is pethaim). These people are “open-minded” and live without thinking. That is, their minds are like an empty container and can be filled with anything (Proverbs 14:15). The simple are gullible, vulnerable, and open to any various opinions, influences, and philosophies. They are easily impressible, na├»ve, and lack good judgment (Proverbs 9:4, 16). The simple needs wisdom and counsel, the lack of which leads to their death (Proverbs 7:7). Proverbs 14:15 says the simple believes everything but the wise looks where one is going. 

The “youth” (Hebrew word is naar) is a rare word in Proverbs, occurring only seven times. Five times youth seems to mean an age group (Proverbs 20:11; Proverbs 22:6, 15; Proverbs 23:13-14; Proverbs 29:15), but usually the word youth is used in a context of disciplining a child or young person. The naar is inexperienced, spiritually immature, and lacks discretion. Proverbs 1:4 states that a naar needs discretion and knowledge. Punishment with the rod will save the young’s soul from death’s path (Proverbs 23:12-16). Proverbs 7:7 says young without wisdom commits adultery, lives for oneself, uncommitted and lazy. In Proverbs 7:7, the “youth” is trapped by an adulteress that leads to death and destruction. The idea seems to be that a child may grow up and still be immature. The young needs discipline with a rod. This disciple will force the young to make a commitment to wisdom’s path and find life. 

The final category of people is the “wise.” The wise also benefits from Proverbs. The wise person is a counselor. The principal feature of the wise seems to be the accepting of other wise counsel together with the offering of wise counsel to others in need (Proverbs 9:8-9; Proverbs 10:8; Proverbs 12:15). The wise will listen to advice, separate between good and evil, and provide good counsel (Proverbs 1:5). The wise pays attention and open to the wise advice of others but also weighs and considers this advice (Proverbs 12:15). Proverbs 9:8-9 states that giving instruction to wise person and that person will be even wiser and increase in learning.  The wise of heart will know and obey God’s commandments (Deuteronomy 4:3-8; see also Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21; Deuteronomy 6:4-6).  

The wise loves discipline and reproof, walks humbly, and do not trust their own insight. Instead, the wise TRUSTS God and God’s commandments (Proverbs 3:5-7; see also Psalm 119:33-40; James 1:22-24)! The fool offers counsel but never accepts counsel. Thus, counsel is not for fool. The simple may be fascinated by a counselor, but can never offer counsel. The young is close to becoming either wise or evil and therefore cannot give any counsel. The young requires wise counseling in the form of a rod and discipline, to lead the child towards maturity and life. The simple must be filled with counsel. Yet, the wise benefits from counsel and become ever wiser and gives wise counseling. 

Remember, only the all-knowing and omnipresent God knows it all. We must honor, love, trust, depend, and obey God to be wise indeed.

1 My child, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in mind. 2 Then you will live a long time, and your life will be successful. 3 Don’t ever forget kindness (love) and truth. Wear them like a necklace. Write them on your heart as if on a tablet. 4 Then you will be respected and will please both God and people. 5 Trust the Lord with all your heart, and don’t depend on your own understanding. 6 Remember the Lord in all you do, and He will give you success. 7 Don’t depend on your own wisdom. Respect the Lord and refuse to do wrong. 8 Then your body will be healthy, and your bones will be strong. 9 Honor the Lord with your wealth and the firstfruits from all your crops.  10 Then your barns will be full, and your wine barrels will overflow with new wine. 11 My child, do not reject the Lord’s discipline, and don’t get angry when He corrects you. 12 The Lord corrects those He loves, just as parents correct the child they delight in. 13 Happy is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gets understanding. 14 Wisdom is worth more than silver; it brings more profit than gold. 15 Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you could want is equal to it. 16 With her right hand wisdom offers you a long life, and with her left hand she gives you riches and honor. 17 Wisdom will make your life pleasant and will bring you peace. 18 As a tree produces fruit, wisdom gives life to those who use it, and everyone who uses it will be happy. Proverbs 3:1-18 (NCV).

References:
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
New Student Bible. New York, NY: Zondervan, 1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Schwab, George. The Book of Proverbs: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2009.

 

Friday, June 14, 2013

What Is Wisdom?

 29 God gave Solomon very great wisdom and understanding, and knowledge as vast as the sands of the seashore. 30 In fact, his wisdom exceeded that of all the wise men of the East and the wise men of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite and the sons of  Mahol—Heman, Calcol, and Darda. His fame spread throughout all the surrounding nations. 32 He composed some 3,000 proverbs and wrote 1,005 songs. 33 He could speak with authority about all kinds of plants, from the great cedar of Lebanon to the tiny hyssop that grows from cracks in a wall. He could also speak about animals, birds, small creatures, and fish. 34 And kings from every nation sent their ambassadors to listen to the wisdom of Solomon. 1 Kings 4:29-34 (NLT)
 
We are all foolish and need wisdom, particularly when dealing with people and in the area of making life decisions. Wisdom begins with knowing, fearing, and worshipping God (Proverbs 1:7; Jeremiah 9:23-24). God is the Creator and Controller of all. Only God gives us wisdom to make right choices and decisions (1 Kings 4:29; James 1:5). Finding wisdom and meaning in life apart from God is a vain search. We must center our life on God and God’s Word to find wisdom, direction, and guidance for happy living.

Wisdom is practical and affects every aspect of our lives from beginning to end--- speech, pleasure, emotions, humility, time, general, and money. Wisdom means “hokmah”. The word “hokmah” is found at 1 Kings 4:29-34 and 1 Kings 10:1-9 when discussing King Solomon’s wisdom. These verses reveal Solomon's gift of wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom surpassed Babylon, Syria and Egypt. These nations were known for wisdom. Yet, King Solomon was described as wiser than all the other Gentile nations. Throughout most of his reign, Solomon applied his wisdom well when he diligently and wholeheartedly sought God. Queen of Sheba came to visit Solomon and witnessed Solomon’s vast wisdom (1 Kings 10:1-9). 
 
Jesus said: 42 “The queen of Sheba will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now Someone greater than Solomon is here. . . .”  Matthew 12:42 (NLT)
 
Solomon is famous for much more than wisdom preserved in Proverbs. The book of Proverbs records many of Solomon’s 3,000 wise proverbs. Other writings of Solomon include Psalms 72 and Psalm 127, and the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. Solomon's wisdom was known throughout the world. Yet, Jesus’ wisdom surpasses Solomon’s vast wisdom (Matthew 12:42). Jesus is the true wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24) in whom everyone can find true wisdom (Colossians 2:3). A life of wisdom is centered on faithfully trusting and following Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:18-25, 30-31) and obeying the Holy Bible’s teachings (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Colossians 3:16; 2 Timothy 3:14-16).
 
What Was Solomon’s Wisdom? 
 
Solomon’s wisdom is similar to “master of all trades” and the word “hokmah” describes Solomon’s wisdom. Solomon’s wisdom is prosperity, justice and righteousness. Solomon’s administration (1 Kings 4:1-28), his discretion and skill (1 Kings 3:12; 1 Kings 5:1-9), his building projects (1 Kings 5:10–7:51), and his business dealings (9:18, 26-28; 10:15-29) all demonstrated his wisdom. Solomon gathered vast knowledge (1 Kings 4:29-33) and wrote proverbs (the book of Proverbs), songs (Psalm 72, Psalm 127), love poetry (the Song of Songs), and philosophical literature (Ecclesiastes). Solomon also was a man of literature and fine art. Thus, Solomon’s wisdom consisted of highly level of arts, literature, music, and poetry. Even more, Solomon had wisdom regarding life science, plant life, trees, plant species or botany. Also, Solomon displayed wisdom regarding animals or zoology. So, Solomon was also a naturalists or scientists. The Holy Bible also described Solomon as a teacher and builder. Finally, Solomon is described as a man of justice with the ability to discern right from wrong and sort out the truth. 
 
Also, other Bible verses describe the word “hokmah” as meaning skilled, abled, or capable. Proverbs 30:24-28 discusses the ants, the coneys (badger), locust, and lizards as wise examples of hokmah. These animals are “capable.” Moreover, Exodus 35:25 discusses “skilled” or “ability” as hokmah. Ezekiel 27:8 also discussed wisdom as meaning “skilled” when describing Gentile (non-Jewish) ship builders. Furthermore, Proverbs 8:12-21 describes wisdom as “knowledge” and “discretion.”  Lady wisdom of Proverbs 8:15-16 gives one the skill to govern and rule with justice and equity to make just laws for human life. 
 
Wisdom is closely connected to truth, righteousness, and justice and not intellect or a high IQ. True wisdom hates deception, dishonesty and fraud. Deuteronomy 4:3-8 provides that wisdom in the highest sense is one skilled in living a righteous life before God. Learning to live a righteous life before God means obedience to God’s commandments that helps one develop wisdom. God’s commandments are exemplified most famously in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17; Deuteronomy 5:6-21) and most concisely in the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). These commandments are the heart of God's law and they are still applicable today. All other laws of God are interpretations and applications of these primary commandments. Jesus also encouraged His disciples to obey the Ten Commandments and the demands of the Shema (Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-31; John 13:34-35). These commandments do not bring eternal life and salvation (Ephesians 2:8-10) but they are an expression of our commitment, worship, and love to God the Father and His Son Jesus (Matthew 5:17-19; John 14:15-21). In essence, obedience to God’s Word is wisdom (see also Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Proverbs 1:1-7). Thus, wisdom means the ability to make right choices. Moreover, wisdom applies to large skills such as governing a nation and pleasing God by living a righteous life as well as small skills such as preparing your meals in the summer for the coming winter.
 
How Do You Get Wisdom?
 
Wisdom does not come by polls, surveys, or statistics. Wisdom is a gift that comes from God (1 Kings 3:5-6). While education comes at great expense, God gives wisdom and understanding freely to all who ask (see James 1:5). Solomon became wisdom through asking and seeking God (1 Kings 3:4-15; 2 Chronicles 1:2-13). Solomon met God in a dream. God had to give Solomon wisdom first. So, Solomon was first of all given wisdom by God and then he was able to study plants, animals, write literature and proverbs. Moreover, Joseph was also given wisdom from God (Genesis 41:33, 38). God’s Spirit lived with Joseph as he knew and trusted God. Also, Daniel was given wisdom by God (Daniel 1:17; Daniel 2:20).  Exodus 31:1-11 reveals God gave Bezalel and Oholiab Spirit-filled wisdom in artistic craftsmanship to build God’s Tabernacle. Therefore, only God gives true wisdom, and we must depend upon Him for this lasting wisdom. 
 
Bookstores are filled with “how-to-books” on success and knowledge. Yet, true wisdom cannot be found by any amount of searching nor can wisdom be purchased (Job 28:1-19). Only God has wisdom (Job 28:23-28) and wisdom can never be separated from the true and living God. Wisdom starts with the fear of God and leads to knowledge of Him. The “fear of God” does not mean fright or terror. Instead, the fear of God means a good and close relationship with Him based upon reverence and respect for Him and His commands. In essence, the fear of God is righteous living. 
 
God’s wisdom is more precious than any metals, gemstones, or glass. Wisdom has been with God from the beginning of creation (Proverbs 8:22-31). True wisdom begins and ends with the knowing, fearing, and worshipping God (Job 28:20-27; Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10; Jeremiah 9:23-24; Romans 1:21-23) and obeying and studying His Word (Deuteronomy 4:3-8). According Romans 1:21-23, we must not only know God but also worship Him as the Creator and Sustainer of all and not worship idols. Job 28:28 declares that fearing God and shunning evil is the beginning of wisdom (see also Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
 
True Wisdom
 
Today, becoming a follower of Jesus is the beginning of wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30). In Jesus are hidden all God’s treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossian 2:3). Only Jesus has fully fulfilled and obeyed God’s commandments. Following and abiding with Jesus makes one wise as He changes our hearts and makes us new (John 15:1-10; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21). Fundamentally, all the beautiful qualities of wisdom are revealed in Jesus, and Jesus’ life is a pattern for everyone to follow who wants and seeks God’s wisdom (1 John 2:6; James 3:13-18).
 
In our modern day, everyone wants to be wise. James 3:13-18 explains true wisdom and false wisdom.  True wisdom means pure, peace-loving, mercy, considerate, submissive, full of mercy, impartial and sincere. But evil wisdom stirs up strife, envy, boastful, and self-ambition. In the book of Daniel, Daniel had God’s wisdom while other men of Babylonian only claimed to be wise, but these Babylonian’s wisdom proved to be useless. Also, Egyptian magicians claimed to be wise but their wisdom was also futile against God’s wisdom given to Moses. Ultimately, all human and man-made wisdom fails. “There is more hope for fools than for people who think they are wise” (Proverbs 26:12 NLT). 
 
We must seek and worship the true God as the center of the universe and not selfish ambitions. God must take first place of worship. Only God through Jesus gives true wisdom. Wholeheartedly following Jesus and His pure teaching with thanksgiving protect us from dishonest, worldly, and fraudulent wisdom (Colossians 2:6-8).
 
3 In Him (Jesus Christ) lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. 4 I am telling you this so no one will deceive you with well-crafted arguments . . . . 6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow Him. 7 Let your roots grow down into Him, and let your lives be built on Him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness. 8 Do not let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. 9 For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body. Colossians 2:3-4, 6-9 (NLT)
 
References:
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
New Student Bible. New York, NY: Zondervan, 1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.
Schwab, George. The Book of Proverbs: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2009.

 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Knowing God

23 This is what the Lord says: “Do not let the wise boast (brag) in their wisdom, or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches (money). 24 But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know Me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love (kindness and mercy) and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things.” Jeremiah 9:23-24 (NLT)

Jeremiah 9:23-24 is a beautiful poem on true wisdom. This wisdom comes from knowing God. Wisdom does not mean educated, intelligent, or rich. No amount of intellect or wealth can bring wisdom. True wisdom only comes from knowing and understanding God and obeying His ways (Jeremiah 9:23–10:25). If you know God, then you have the most precious jewel and greatest wealth in the entire universe (Proverbs 1:7).  “Wisdom begins with respect for the Lord, and understanding begins with knowing the Holy One” (Proverbs 9:10 NCV).

The goal of life is knowledge and obedience of God (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14). To know God means to discover His qualities and develop a close, intimate, and personal relationship with Him from our hearts (Deuteronomy 6:4-6). God delights in a pure heart committed to wholeheartedly loving, knowing, and obeying Him (Matthew 5:8; see also Deuteronomy 10:12-17 and I Corinthians 7:19). God is filled with loving-kindness, fairness, justice, faithfulness, and righteousness (Exodus 34:6-7). God wants everyone to do the same. The lives of those who know God will reflect His qualities: loving-kindness, fairness, justice, faithfulness, and righteousness.

Knowing God and finding wisdom start with faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 11:29; John 3:16, 26). In Jesus Christ are hidden all God’s treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossian 2:3). King Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived, and yet Jesus Christ is "greater than Solomon" in all wisdom and wealth (Matthew 12:42). Jesus Christ is the new Solomon, speaking wise words to the people, especially in His parables (Matthew 13). For our benefits, God has made Jesus Christ wisdom for His people so that we can live a life of holiness, righteousness, and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:30). For God’s people today, Jesus Christ is our wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:24, 30).

Following and abiding with Jesus Christ makes us wise as He changes our hearts and makes us new (John 15:1-10; see also 2 Corinthians 5:17, 21). God gives Jesus Christ's wisdom generously to all who seek Him in Jesus Christ (see Proverbs 2:1-10; James 1:5). In essence, all the beautiful qualities of wisdom are revealed in Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ’s life is a pattern for everyone to follow (1 John 2:6; see also Deuteronomy 4:5-8; James 3:13-18). Knowing and obeying God found in Jesus Christ makes one wise indeed (Psalm 111:10).

References:
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Schwab, George. The Book of Proverbs: Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2009.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

True Wisdom

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder (confusion) and evil of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving (peacemaker), gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism (without partiality) and is always sincere (without hypocrisy). 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:13-18 (NLT).

Today, everyone has an opinion, view, or belief. With social media and the widespread use of the internet, various ideas and philosophies are running rampant. But, are these many thoughts and opinions wise or even genuine? 

True wisdom begins with God and always has God’s Word at the center. To get your wisdom or beliefs from any other source is speculative and to ask for trouble. True wisdom is not simply intellect or the collection of information but practical insight (see Proverbs 1:2; James 1:5; James 3:13-18). Knowledge or intelligence is not enough. We must have godly wisdom to use that knowledge and information correctly. Wisdom is the correct use of knowledge. True wisdom allows us to use our knowledge as it relates to God's truths for happy daily life. 

Moreover, the Holy Scripture teaches that true wisdom means wise character. True wisdom always reveals itself with good conduct and humility because God’s Spirit is working within their hearts (Hebrews 4:12). Just as we can recognize a tree by the tree’s fruit, we can also evaluate a person’s true philosophies and beliefs by the way they act. Godly wisdom always expresses itself in moral uprightness, peace, and love (James 3:17-18; see also Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:2-4; Proverbs 2:10-15). True wisdom is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, reasonable, full of mercy, good, impartial, and without hypocrisy. 

True wisdom can never be associated with jealousy and selfish ambition. Jealous, self-centeredness, lies, arguing, and swaggering (bragging) are inspired by evil, earthy, and unspiritual philosophies (James 3:14-15; see also 1 Corinthians 2:14; Jude 1:19). Man-made or false wisdom is filled with envy, strife, lusts, boasting, self-seeking, deceit, competition, confusion, prejudice, scheming, and deception (see also Galatians 5:16-21). Often times, this earthy wisdom leads rivalry and war (James 4:1-2). Even worse, man-made wisdom is self-promotion and human glorification. The Holy Scriptures are clear that only God gets the full glory, honor, and praise (1 Corinthians 1:31; see also Jeremiah 9:24). For where envy, mean-spirited ambition, and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

We are judged not by what we accomplish but by our character and actions. A leader may have grand accomplishments but still live a loveless, bitter, and self-centered life. But if a person’s heart is pure, godly behavior will always follow and good leadership will be revealed. A heart fully committed to God produces pure beliefs and conduct. Godly wisdom is productive; earthly wisdom brings confusion and tears down through evil intent. Moreover, true wisdom or God's wisdom begins with a holy life, characterized by getting along with others, and overflows with mercy. This kind of wisdom is always fair, honest, good, and ready to help others. By analyzing the source, intent, and results of wisdom, we can discover whether or not this philosophy it is worthy of acceptance. 

Jesus Christ is the “wisdom from God” (1 Corinthians 1:24-30). In Jesus Christ, we find “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NLT). So, the first step toward true wisdom is the receiving of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Moreover, God’s Holy Spirit brings "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation" (Ephesians 1:17). The Holy Spirit directs our paths to select goodness and not evil. God generously give His Holy Spirit to everyone who turn to Him as found in Jesus Christ (John chapters 14, 15, and 16). Furthermore, obeying God’s Holy Scriptures brings our wisdom. “Look, I now teach you these decrees and regulations . . . . Obey them completely, and you will display your wisdom and intelligence among the surrounding nations” (Deuteronomy 4:5-6 NLT). In essence, God’s Holy Word makes us “wise” (2 Timothy 3:15). “Happy is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gets understanding. Wisdom is worth more than silver; it brings more profit than gold. Wisdom is more precious than rubies; nothing you could want is equal to it” (Proverbs 3:13-15 NCV). “Wisdom is the most important thing; so get wisdom. If it costs everything you have, get understanding. Treasure wisdom, and it will make you great; hold on to it, and it will bring you honor” (Proverbs 4:7-8 NCV). “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10 NIV). James 1:5 indicates that we find wisdom through believing prayer. “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you” (James 1:5 NLT). 

In essence, true wisdom means living an honorable life as evidenced by good character and humility. Wisdom has to do with our behavior rather than human intelligence.  A lifestyle of pride, selfishness, and rivalry is really nothing but superficial and man-made wisdom. This wrong thinking produces wrong living. Where there is jealous, envy, rivalry, hypocrisy and such there will also be confusion and all sorts of evil practices. True wisdom is pure, then peace-loving, courteous, considerate, reasonable, and honest. God's wisdom leads to peace and God loves peacemakers (Matthew 5:9). So, get your wisdom from God because man-made or earthy wisdom ultimately leads to self-destruction (1 Corinthians 1:20-21).

References:
Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989.
Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991.
Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.