Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

Don’t you love it when you discover an outstanding Bible passage you just didn’t remember studying before? Last week I stumbled upon Job 28. May I share some thoughts from that chapter?

Gold MineJob has been debating with his three friends in chapters 3-27, and 28 is a continuation of Job’s reasoning. The main question of the chapter arrives in verses 12 and 20, but watch how Job builds up to the question in verses 1-11:

1     “Surely there is a mine for silver, And a place where gold is refined.
2      Iron is taken from the earth,
And copper is smelted from ore.
3      Man puts an end to darkness,
And searches every recess
For ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.
4      He breaks open a shaft away from people;
In places forgotten by feet
They hang far away from men;
They swing to and fro.
5      As for the earth, from it comes bread,
But underneath it is turned up as by fire;
6      Its stones are the source of sapphires,
And it contains gold dust.
7      That path no bird knows,
Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.
8      The proud lions have not trodden it,
Nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
9      He puts his hand on the flint;
He overturns the mountains at the roots.
10   He cuts out channels in the rocks,
And his eye sees every precious thing.
11   He dams up the streams from trickling;
What is hidden he brings forth to light.

Ancient PathsBy gorgeous imagery, Job transports us into the recesses of the earth, into the mines, into the center of the rock. What does man find hidden there in the darkness? He finds precious things, gold, silver, iron, glittering jewels, sparkling dust.

What’s the point, Job? We read on…

12    “But where can wisdom be found?
        And where is the place of understanding?
13    Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
14    The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15    It cannot be purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
16    It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx or sapphire.
17    Neither gold nor crystal can equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
18    No mention shall be made of coral or quartz,
For the price of wisdom is above rubies.
19    The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20    “From where then does wisdom come?
        And where is the place of understanding?

WisdomVerses 12 and 20 create an inclusio, which is a section bracketed by two nearly identical statements. The twin statements expose the main point of the section: “Where can wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?”

We brilliant humans can search and find so many wonderful, valuable, precious items hidden in the earth…but can we find wisdom in all those places? Man doesn’t even know the value of wisdom–it cannot be measured like gold or silver. You cannot find wisdom in the ocean, you cannot purchase wisdom from a merchant, and you cannot measure wisdom’s value using any earthly economic system.

So, Job reiterates, from where does wisdom come? The answer challenges many:

21    It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
22    Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
23    God understands its way,
        And He knows its place.
24    For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
25    To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
26    When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
27    Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
28    And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
        And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”

Wisdom is hidden from mankind. There is a wisdom which comes with age and experience, but not the wisdom which Job seeks: the wisdom of the ages, the rock-solid truth, the understanding of life. That wisdom is hidden from all the living. In fact, those irresistible forces of nature, Destruction and Death, have only heard rumors about wisdom!

God's PaintingGod understands wisdom. Of course He does! Being the Creator of this life, He surely knows how this life operates! He sees and establishes everything. He’s the one who created the physical laws in the first place. Even wisdom He spoke into being.

But God not only understands wisdom, He gracefully reveals wisdom to us! He says to man, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Apart from God’s revelation, man cannot be truly wise. The most learned scientist, the most widely-traveled archaeologist, the most introspective guru among men still has not found wisdom until he opens up the word of God and examines what God has actually revealed about man and about Himself. In His word we find truth and wisdom, those things which are hidden from mankind.

Does that fill you with excitement? Isn’t that brilliant? Doesn’t that make you want to dig into God’s book and share it with your children? That’s the way I feel, too!

Let us fear the Lord, our Maker. Let us depart from evil. Therein lies wisdom.

Time Markers in Apocalyptic Literature

Time PassingPerhaps one of the most misapplied passages of our time is Matthew 24, in which Jesus answers the disciples’ questions concerning the destruction of the Temple. Another greatly-abused scripture is the entire book of Revelation! Throw in a number of other Old and New Testament apocalyptic passages and you have an excellent recipe for outlandish and obscure results.

Ironically, Jesus warns several times in Matthew 24 against false Christs and false prophets who claim to know when the Lord is coming! Don’t listen to them, Jesus instructs. We ought to pay close attention to what Jesus articulates and block out the massive volume of junk interpretations of what He meant.

One helpful interpretive device is the time markers the speaker or author reveals. For instance, if you wonder exactly when the events of Matthew 24.1-35 (and possibly extending through verse 44 or beyond) take place, examine the context for time markers from the Lord. In the greater context, Jesus warns in the previous chapter of the fall of Jerusalem: “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Matthew 23.36). When? Within a generation from the time Jesus spoke the words. In the immediate context, we find 24.34: “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” What things will take place? Return to the beginning of the chapter in which Jesus boldly proclaimed that the great temple would be torn down, “not one stone shall be left here upon another,” and include all He said with reference to that event up through verse 34.

Those terrible judgments would happen in their generation. Jesus was not speaking of something 2000+ years in the future, so we should not be looking for these signs today.

Also, John reveals time markers in Revelation to which we should pay heed. In the very first verse John marks for us, “things which must shortly take place.” How misleading if what he meant by “shortly” was “in a couple of thousand years.”

Sand FallingAgain he writes in Revelation 1.3, “for the time is near.”

Revelation is addressed to the seven churches of Asia (1.4, 11), which collectively probably symbolize the overall Christian church in the first century; nevertheless, they were actual, historical churches, and Jesus targeted His seven letters of Revelation 2-3 to those specific churches. John then records all the wild visions Jesus gives him and ends the book with several statements of Jesus, “Behold, I am coming quickly!” (22.7, 12) and “Surely I am coming quickly” (22.20). The time marker at the end of the book reflects the first chapter: “And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place” (22.6).

While I don’t believe Matthew 24 and Revelation deal with the same judgment, they both use similar language, sometimes quoting the exact same Old Testament passages or using the same judgment symbols. Both speak of Jesus coming in judgment and Him coming quickly. Both indicate a time frame within about a generation. If we interpret those scriptures in the time frames they themselves present, we will find ourselves on a firmer foundation than if we attempt to apply those things to our period of history thousands of years later!

Take care to interpret Scripture using Scriptural time frames.