In Proverbs 8:12, Wisdom, as personified by King Solomon, declares, “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion.” James Burton Coffman, quoting Anchor Bible, translates this verse “I am wisdom. My neighbor is intelligence. I am found company with knowledge and thoughts.” In this verse, Solomon creates an image of wisdom living surrounded by intelligence, knowledge, and careful thoughts. In the same way, we must surround ourselves with these qualities if we would pursue wisdom. Prudence is defined by Vine as practical wisdom, something we should all strive to acquire. Solomon has much to say on the subject of wisdom. In Proverbs 13:20, he gives clarity to what we just read, saying, “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” Again in Proverbs 15:5, he says, “A fool despises his father’s instruction, But he who receives correction is prudent.”
These verses beg the questions, what makes a man wise or foolish in God’s eyes? And, how do we pursue wisdom? Again, in Proverbs 9:10, Solomon says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Time after time, the Scriptures make it clear that a fool is identified by his ignorance of God and His will. There is no knowledge in this world that can approach the import of the fear of God. And by “fear” we don’t mean an irrational terror, but a righteous, informed regard for the Holy God of Heaven that leads us to do His will. When Solomon sought to sum up all of his teachings, to condense into a single statement all of the wisdom and knowledge he had written down, he wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is man’s all.” Knowing the physical needs of all men – food, clothing, and shelter – still Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” Jesus calls on men to remember that their physical needs will be met, but spiritual sustenance must be sought.
Solomon himself shows us the great value in seeking wisdom. When Solomon was newly enthroned over Israel, God appeared to him in a dream and told him to ask for anything and He, God, would grant the request. Solomon asked for the wisdom to rule over the great nation of his fathers. 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 On that night God appeared to Solomon, and said to him, “Ask! What shall I give you?” And Solomon said to God: “You have shown great mercy to David my father, and have made me king in his place. Now, O Lord God, let Your promise to David my father be established, for You have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude. Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?” Then God said to Solomon: “Because this was in your heart, and you have not asked riches or wealth or honor or the life of your enemies, nor have you asked long life—but have asked wisdom and knowledge for yourself, that you may judge My people over whom I have made you king—wisdom and knowledge are granted to you; and I will give you riches and wealth and honor, such as none of the kings have had who were before you, nor shall any after you have the like.” Solomon did not ask for personal riches, honor, or glory for himself; he asked for the tools to be a great ruler over God’s people. God honored Solomon for his wise request, and not only granted him knowledge and wisdom, but the wealth for which Solomon did not ask, wealth beyond any man before him or after him. We see in Solomon the wisdom to seek things of true worth – knowledge and wisdom to serve God. 1 Timothy 6:6-10 Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. Paul shows us the value of Solomon’s request. The wealth of this world is only for this world, and if we have enough food and clothing, we ought to be content, for wealth is a temptation and a snare, and indeed, the root of all kinds of evil. The love of money can actually cause us to stray from our faith, if we become blinded by the desires of this world and stumble after the glint of gold and the promise of a few dollars more. 2 Timothy 3:15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. If we would serve God, we must seek after His wisdom, only to be found only in the Scriptures.
On the other side of the coin, we have King David’s statement in Psalm 14:1 – “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” In Psalm 19:1, David says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” David makes it clear that there is no excuse for missing the existence of God, as nature herself has revealed the Creator of the universe to mankind. It truly takes a fool to consider the works of Heaven and the earth, to read the Bible, hear the gospel of Christ, and thereafter to declare, “there is no God.” In these verses, we see the opposite of wisdom: man’s folly has led him to elevate himself and to declare himself in need of no savior. It is the gospel of Christ that men regard as foolishness. The apostle Paul, anticipating this, said in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29, “For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence.” The wisdom of the world sees no practical value in the gospel, or in the plan of salvation. It is by design that the simplicity of the gospel requires no Herculean effort on our part. No one can rely on his own wisdom, or strength, or cunning to earn Heaven. Rather, a man submits to the call of the gospel and through belief, confession, repentance, and baptism, is made a part of the body of Christ. Not great feats, to be sure, but the simple, beautiful acts that God ordained as necessary to our salvation.
Just as Solomon portrays wisdom surrounded by virtuous qualities, we must take care what we surround ourselves with today. Paul wrote of this in I Corinthians 15:33, when he said “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits.” If we intend to pursue the wisdom of serving God, we ought to take care to choose our associations carefully, selecting friends, spouses, and, when at all possible, business associates who share our values and whose goals reflect and reinforce our own. We must avoid the “fools” of this life with their ungodly ways and sinful lives, lest they begin to show themselves in our own lives. This means we should seek out the company of our Christian brethren, spending time with each other. Romans 12:10 “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another.” We should also spend time with God’s word. There is no easier way to gain Godly wisdom than to study His word regularly. Paul, writing to Timothy, said in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”We can’t defend what we don’t know, and so a thorough understanding of the Scriptures is vital to obtaining wisdom. Furthermore, we can pray for wisdom. James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. Wisdom doesn’t just happen. It is the result of experience and time. To acquire wisdom, we must actively seek after it through prayer and study of the Scriptures, by surrounding ourselves with like minded individuals, and seeking always to serve God to the best of our abilities.