Get Wisdom and Understanding
Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI
Proverbs 4:5: “Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.”
Solomon continues in Proverbs 4:4-5 to instruct his children of the importance of wisdom. As we keep in mind that these verses are inspired Scripture, the value and importance of these verses is that here God instructs His children, too. Here we are told again of the superior value of wisdom.
Wisdom is the knowledge of God as He reveals Himself and His truth to us in His Word. This wisdom is the same word used in the book of Exodus when God has given Moses instructions on how to make the tabernacle. God told Moses that He gave wisdom to certain women so they could work with fabric to make the curtains. There were men who had the needed wisdom to work with wood and metal to make the furniture and equipment used in the tabernacle. Wisdom is skill. For us, this is the skill we need to enjoy fellowship with God, not in an earthly tabernacle, but the fellowship of living with Him through Jesus Christ in a godly life. Through wisdom, we enjoy the covenant He has established with us.
God commands us to do something. This is not an area of life in which we are given a choice. God commands us to “get wisdom.” This “getting” is not the getting with which we as teachers see our students often struggle so much. This is not an intellectual understanding of a concept. As teachers, we are well aware when our students just don’t “get it,” such as how to do long division. This getting does not refer to grasping something with the mind.
This getting is to obtain something so that it is your possession. It is yours. To obtain something, you have to work for it. We are not speaking here of a gift. People don’t work for things unless they believe it has value and benefits them in some way. Consider the labourer, especially one whose work demands physical exertion. He has bills to pay so he can support a wife and family. He will work in summer’s heat and winter’s cold. He makes demands of his body to do his work and often suffers the consequences. He might be the surveyor who endures the discomfort of bug bites and poison ivy, or the cement contractor whose back and knees grow stiff and creaky. However, to get the money needed to live in our society, the physical strength is spent, the sweat streams, and the soothing ointments spread and therapeutic ice packs are applied. The worker values the money he earns because he needs it as the means to obtain his daily bread.
Do we attribute such value to wisdom? How much exertion is wisdom worth? What are we willing to endure in order to get it? Without God’s regenerating Spirit working in us, we would have nothing to do with God’s wisdom. The natural man sees God’s wisdom as worthless. However, by the working of God’s grace in us, we often pray for God to grant us wisdom. However, God does not package wisdom in a neat, little bundle and implant it in our hearts while we sleep. How much would we value wisdom if it were that easily attained?
Getting wisdom takes work. Children do not know the value of a dollar until they have had to work for it. God makes getting wisdom take great effort so we will value it. We have to read good spiritual, Bible-based material. We have to read His Word and meditate upon what we have read. Most importantly, we have to endure the tough mental and spiritual exertion of paying attention during each part of the worship service, especially during the sermon when God speaks to us, to get wisdom. It is hard to keep the heart focused on worship for an hour and a half to get wisdom.
Just getting wisdom is not enough. God commands that we also “get understanding.” In the following verse, wisdom and understanding are referred to as “her,” singular, as though they are the very same thing. However, one commentary I read said that wisdom and understanding are not identical. There is a subtle, yet interesting difference between the two. I do not think that in this verse we have a repetition of the same idea using synonyms in order to stress a point through repetition.
Understanding is the intelligence to put something to use in practical living. One might have the wisdom or skill to do something, but without the understanding of putting the skill into practical use, the skill is of no benefit to the individual or those around him or her. First, we must have wisdom to know the right way to live an obedient life before God, but then we must have understanding to put that wisdom into actual practice. It doesn’t do the church any good for our children to have wisdom, if, when they are faced with negative peer pressure, they simply give in, keep quiet, and go along with the crowd and do something which they know is not right. Children need wisdom to recognize sin, but then they also need understanding to warn others about the effects of the temptation they face.
That’s why we cannot forget wisdom and understanding. If when we are in the heat of a spiritual battle, Satan is placing temptations in our paths, and then we forget wisdom and understanding, we will fall into sin because we will follow what looks good to our flesh. The same is true when we decline from the words of God’s mouth. God’s wisdom is high. When we leave the heights of His wisdom, and live our lives on the lower plane of our wisdom, we decline into the way of sin.
May God work in our hearts and the hearts of our children that we value His wisdom. Then we need grace to do our part to get the understanding we need to walk in covenant fellowship with our heavenly Father.