“See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’” (Deuteronomy 4:5–6, ESV)
At my church we just finished a series that looked at sections of the book of Ecclesiastes. During the sermon we read from chapter 7 and this particular verse stuck out to me.
“For the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it.” (Ecclesiastes 7:12, ESV)
So I thought, what does Wisdom really mean? Then I could better understand how it can preserve life.
First I looked up the definition in Holman’s Bible Dictionary and found this basic definition:
First, wisdom is considered by many to be simply the art of learning how to succeed in life. Apparently ancient persons learned very early that there was orderliness to the world in which they lived. They also learned that success and happiness came from living in accordance with that orderliness (Prov. 22:17–24:22). Second, wisdom is considered by some to be a philosophical study of the essence of life. Certainly much of the books of Job and Ecclesiastes seem to deal with just such existential issues of life (Job 30:29–31). Third, though the other definitions might include this, it seems that the real essence of wisdom is spiritual, for life is more than just living by a set of rules and being rewarded in some physical manner. Undoubtedly in this sense wisdom comes from God (Prov. 2:6). Thus, though it will involve observation and instruction, it really begins with God and one’s faith in Him as Lord and Savior Hunt. (2003). (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.)
The first two definitions seem to be the more predominate views that I have heard on wisdom in the past, and the third view is one I have heard more frequently in church settings, but does it really capture what it means?
I went back to Deuteronomy 4:5-6 and found that the definition for wisdom was laid out plainly by our Lord…I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do them.
I looked up the OT word for wisdom (ḥokmâ) in the Theological Wordbook of the OT and believe that it actually captured the essence of Deut 4:5-6:
The wisdom of the OT however, is quite distinct from other ancient world views although the format of wisdom literature is similar to that of other cultures. Reflected in OT wisdom is the teaching of a personal God who is holy and just and who expects those who know him to exhibit his character in the many practical affairs of life. This perfect blend of the revealed will of a holy God with the practical human experiences of life is also distinct from the speculative wisdom of the Greeks. The ethical dynamic of Greek philosophy lay in the intellect; if a person had perfect knowledge he could live the good life (Plato). Knowledge was virtue. The emphasis of OT wisdom was that the human will, in the realm of practical matters, was to be subject to divine causes. Therefore, Hebrew wisdom was not theoretical and speculative. It was practical, based on revealed principles of right and wrong, to be lived out in daily life. (Goldberg, L. (1999). 647 חָכַם. (R. L. Harris, G. L. Archer Jr., & B. K. Waltke, Eds.)Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. Chicago: Moody Press.)
There are 2 verses that come to mind that also encapsulate this basic idea in the NT.
“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16–17, ESV)
It equips us, is this not what we are to gather together each week to do?
“And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,” (Ephesians 4:11–13, ESV)
Then, as we are equipped (See, I have taught you statutes and rules, as the Lord my God commanded me) we are then suppose to use them in our daily walk with the Lord:
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” (James 1:22–25, ESV)
Again, this is what we find in Deut: “Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples.”
Today, we do everything in our power to find the loop holes in the Words of God. Just like we do in our american legal system. We argue passionately over what God expects of us based on our own desires, and many even use the erasable Bible to justify living the way they want instead of seeking the way God desires us to live.
Yeshua has paid the penalty for our sinfulness, but that does not give us the license to live our lives the way we want to live them. The Lord’s standards for living in His covenant community have not changed, nor has He. Yeshua set the standard for us to follow by living it out in it’s fullness through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have that same Spirit dwelling in us and therefor the full power of God giving us the ability to live the same way.
Is it not really our stubbornness and pride that truly stand in the way?
Lord, help me to put away pride and stubbornness. Help me to hear your words and Keep them and do them for living each new day that you bless us with.
I can now fill in a more complete version of Ecclesiastes 7:12:
“For the protection of hearing and doing the words of God is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that hearing and doing the words of God preserves the life of him who has it.” (hmm, sounds like obedience!)
Is that not what Solomon concludes at the end of Ecclesiastes?
“The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, ESV)