How May One Become Wise?
by Doctor David L. Cooper
TWO VERY important scriptures which deal with the matter of wisdom and understanding are Psalm 119:97-104 and Proverbs 2:1-5. The discussions found in these two sections of scripture are of inestimable worth to all who know God. This fact becomes apparent to one who realizes the importance of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding. One of the ancient Greek philosophers said that knowledge is power. Of course he was using the word in the broadest sense of the term. He was, however, correct in his assertion, even though he did not understand fully the subject which he was attempting to expound.
Today knowledge is indeed power. No one can accomplish anything of real value who does not have knowledge and understanding. Everything is related. The universe is a chain of causation--cause and effect. Only those who understand these relations--at least in an appreciable manner--can conform their life to the environment in which they are living and can make their actions and conduct, as well as programs, fit into the plan and pattern which God has for them.
There is a visible world in which we live, move, and have our being, and with which we are in constant touch. There is also another world, the spiritual realm. We are living in it as truly as in physical sphere. They are related in closest manner, one with the other. The one who does not realize this fact cannot evaluate anything properly.
A person may pursue his studies in a given field and advance as far as our colleges and universities may be able to take him. He may do special research in his chosen field and make marvelous discoveries. He may acquire great treasures of knowledge; but, if he does not understand spiritual values and the connection of the things about which he has made his discoveries he cannot properly evaluate that which he does Know or learn. A secular education is necessary for one if he is to accomplish any appreciable task in this life, but an education and knowledge apart from Christ and spiritual understanding are of little avail. An education divorced from God and Christ often does prove to be a positive detriment--a curse to the one who has acquired it. Knowledge puffs up but love edifies. On the other hand the education and the knowledge which one acquires, when laid in full surrender at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ in simple faith, can and often does prove of great value. Everyone should desire to see things as they are and to be able to evaluate everything properly. There is but one source from which to acquire this ability. To this phase of our subject let us now turn.
In Proverbs 2:1-5 we are told that there are four conditions for understanding the Word. They are as follows:
- One must be willing to receive any and everything that God says.
- He must treasure up the words of God in his mind and heart--must actually memorize the words.
- He must pray for spiritual understanding of that which he studies.
- He must constantly dig and toil for truth as one does for hidden treasure in the bowels of the earth.
There is no other way to obtain spiritual insight and understanding of the Word of Almighty God except the one given in this passage. If one will simply follow out the instructions found in this passage, he certainly will come to a fair degree of the knowledge of the Word of God. The clarity of his vision and the comprehensiveness of his understanding will depend upon his surrender to do the will of God and his efforts in the four directions mentioned in this quotation.
NOW let us notice our section from Psalm 119, which begins with this statement: "Oh how I love thy law !" Here the word "law" is not used in the technical sense of the legal code and ceremonial services which were delivered through Moses to Israel at Sinai. In this instance it has the original meaning of instruction which God gives. Very frequently our term has this connotation. The psalmist was not simply looking at legal enactments but at anything and everything which God has revealed in His Precious Word. In our passage he asserted that he positively loved God's instructions. This is the only attitude that one can afford to take if one is to be successful in this life--in functioning in the capacity in which God intends for him to act. This love for the Lord's teaching must be from the very depths of the soul--with all the heart, soul, mind, and strength.
The psalmist followed this statement with the following one: "It is my meditation all the day." Where a man's treasure is, there will his heart be also. If one considers the revelation of God as a treasure of value beyond all rubies and gems, his heart will be centered there. Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. If one really and truly loves the Word of God, he will delight instinctively in meditating upon it. Meditation upon the Word of God is almost a lost art during these days of feverish activity. One must get away from the busy world and get alone with God in order to meditate upon the Word; and one must think of the revelation or some portion of it with the one and only purpose in view--that of understanding fully the message which God has for him. As one meditates, one instinctively begins to breathe a prayer for a clear understanding of the Word. Thus scriptural meditation includes focusing the attention or thought upon a passage, yearning for truth, and praying for spiritual insight in the Word.
According to verse 98 God's commandments made the psalmist wiser than his enemies, for they (the commandments) were ever before him. The man who looks simply at material things cannot evaluate these, but the one who puts God first and meditates in the correct scriptural manner on the things of life gets the spiritual slant on things and can see matters which are unobserved by the one who is not thus enlightened by the wisdom which comes from God through his commandments. Thus the child of God can and does become wiser than those who are his enemies.
In order to enforce this lesson, the psalmist, in verse 99, declared: "I have more understanding than all my teachers," the reason being that the Lord's testimonies were his constant meditation. Wisdom, as a rule, does come with age and experience, but it takes something more than these to bring understanding. If a young person will surrender completely to God and will make the Word the object of his meditation both day and night and if he will apply himself (recognizing the fundamental rules, laws, or principles of interpretation), he has an excellent opportunity of becoming wiser and having more understanding than his teachers. This is a marvelous thought to encourage every young person. The one who wishes understanding, not that he might excel someone else, but that he might understand life with its problems to the end that he might please God can and often does have understanding that one's teachers never acquire.
Moreover, in verse 100, the psalmist declared that he had greater understanding than the aged and asserted that he acquired this because he had kept God's precepts. The doing of God's Word is essential if one is to acquire this understanding. The Lord Jesus Christ first did and then taught (Acts 1:1). In Psalm 111:10 we have this statement:
"The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom: A good understanding have all they that do his commandments: His praise endureth for ever."
Thus good understanding, spiritual insight, is granted to the one who keeps God's precepts.
This statement led the psalmist in 119:101 to declare that he refrained his feet from every evil way in order that he might observe the Word of God. Continuing he affirmed that he had not turned aside from the ordinances of the Lord, the reason being that God had taught him. It is a wonderful thing to be taught of the Lord. He is the only teacher who can instruct one properly.
Finally, in the two concluding verses of this section of Psalm 119, the writer declared that God's words were sweeter to his taste than honey. He believed in verbal inspiration, for he declared that the words were given by the Lord and that they were sweeter to his taste than the honey. He had such a love and relish for the Word of God that he hated all false ways. Things of the world had no appeal for him.
Though he lived in the world and functioned in the capacities to which God called him, he was living for eternity. We are placed here in this life to serve our day and generation, and at the same time to prepare for that eternity toward which we are all moving with lightning rapidity. May God enable us to focus our minds and hearts upon His revelation and pray for understanding in order that we may serve Him acceptably.