As a part of my daily devotions, I have been reading J. Mark Bertrand’s book (Re)Thinking Worldview and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Throughout the years I have been amazed at how God aligns my reading to guide me in a certain direction. So today, the chapter I read in Bertrand dealt with understanding wisdom from a biblical point of view. When I picked up Grudem, and turned to my bookmark, the topic was the wisdom of God! I think this is not a coincidence.
Bertrand introduces the idea of understanding wisdom with the story of Solomon. When Solomon became the king of Israel, replacing his father David, God came to him in a vision. God offered Solomon whatever he wanted; virtually a blank check. What Solomon asked for was wisdom to rule God’s people well. Here is Solomon’s request, as recorded in 1 Kings 3:6-9.
Solomon answered, "You have shown great kindness to your servant, my father David, because he was faithful to you and righteous and upright in heart. You have continued this great kindness to him and have given him a son to sit on his throne this very day.
"Now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?"
In Solomon’s request, we see the biblical definition of wisdom. Wisdom means having a discerning heart to know what to do and when to do it, and having the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. These two concepts go hand in hand. They clearly define what true wisdom looks like. True wisdom is practical. It is not being able to spout clever or profound statements. It is knowing what the right thing is to do and doing it. This practical side is governed by an ultimate, moral standard. That standard is not created by humanity, but is determined by God as an outworking of His character.
We live in a world that has lost its grasp of wisdom because we have lost our grasp of right and wrong, good and evil. Without an ultimate standard of good and evil there can be no morality. Without an ultimate standard of right and wrong there can be no wisdom. What we are left with is what is pragmatic or pleasurable. In our world today we start with the action and work backwards. Because this works or because this makes me feel good, then this is right. That is faulty logic. We have been set adrift in a sea of competing pleasures and pragmatic purposes that war with one another.
All genuine wisdom must begin with truth; not relative truth, ultimate truth. Ultimate truth must come from outside of us, not from our own imaginations. Therefore ultimate truth sends us back to the source of life itself. Jesus is the ultimate source of life and all that it holds. Only in Jesus can we discover genuine wisdom. Jesus made it very clear in John 14:6 when he said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Genuine wisdom is knowing right from wrong and knowing how to apply that knowledge in practical ways in our everyday lives. The ultimate standard for right and wrong comes from God, the creator of all that is. If we want to be truly wise, we need to submit to God’s ultimate standard. Everything else is thinly veiled foolishness.
I highly recommend J. Mark Bertrand's book (RE)THINKING WORLDVIEW published by Crossway Press.