Archive for the ‘wisdom’ Category

19:8 Dwight Handles Yale Radicals Wisely

Sunday, November 18th, 2012
timothy dwight

Dr. Timothy Dwight

He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. Proverbs 19:8.

The United States has produced a number of educators who obtained wisdom as well as learning and saved not only their own souls, but those of their hearers. One of them was Dr. Timothy Dwight. An orthodox thinker, when he became president of Yale College he found the students largely apostate and Deistic in outlook.

These students of his first debate class asked for permission to argue the question “Are the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament the word of God?” Although direct challenges to the Bible were banned by the rules of the college, Dwight acceded to their request. Every student took the case against the Bible, leaving Dwight alone to defend it. He did so with vigor, marshalling facts and logic so persuasively that revival broke out.

(He also had the courage, in keeping with the charter purpose of Yale, to dismiss Deistic and skeptical professors.)

In his attitudes toward wisdom and truth, he was not a faint echo of his master Christ, who is the very incarnation of wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:30).

21:22 City of the Mighty

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust. Proverbs 21:22

When the Greeks could not defeat the Trojans, crafty Odyssus is supposed to have suggested leaving a giant horse outside the city with one soldier. The Greeks would sail away and the “abandoned” soldier would tell the Trojans the horse was a gift for the goddess Athena. Inside the horse soldiers would be hidden, and when, as expected, the Trojans hauled the horse into the city and the Greeks returned, the soldiers inside would pour out and open the gates. The strategem worked.

Many people make a stronghold of something which is not really a source of strength. The walls of the Trojans became their coffin. God does us a favor whenever he exposes the weaknesses of our vaunted positions.

Perhaps this proverb was based on the exploit of Joab, who broke into Jerusalem by leading his men up a water shaft which the Jebusites no doubt would have considered one of their chief assets in a seige.

Christ also scaled the fortress of Satan in a sort of Trojan Horse move, descending to the bottom, subjecting himself to death and apparent defeat that he might ascend to the highest eminence in the universe.

16:23 Wise Heart, Wise Tongue

Sunday, August 14th, 2011

The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Proverbs 16:23

Bud Robinson

When Bud Robinson became a Christian he was a stammerer and could not even write his own name. He felt called to preach, telling others of the liberation he had experienced in Christ, and stood up before the rough ranchers he worked with in Texas.

Here was fun! The men gathered around, taunting and mimicking the stutter they anticipated. They fell silent when Bud began to warn them of coming judgment and point them to Christ. His stammer completely disappeared. That this was a supernatural work of the Spirit was evidenced by the fact that as soon as he had finished preaching, his stammer returned.

Aided by Sally, his godly wife, Bud Robinson eventually overcame his stammer, learned to read and write, and went on the become a holiness leader in the Nazarene church and editor of its paper, for which he wrote hundreds of thousands of words. During his life, he won thousands to Christ.

The wisdom of Christ had taught his mouth to speak and given his lips power. It was the same wisdom that Christ demonstrated when he walked the earth: powerful, well-considered, and so persuasive it reaches across the ages to touch other lives like Bud Robinson’s to this day.

13:10 Pride Brings Strife

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice. Proverbs 13:10.

Cardinal Beaton, a man of much ability—and pride.

A few years ago I attended a banquet at a local lodge in appreciation of several honors students. Tension was thick between the leaders, evidenced in surly remarks, butting in, and talking over each other. Clearly they were vying for precedence.

It reminded me of a notorious scuffle between two churchmen in Glasgow. Cardinal David Beaton and the Archbishop of Glasgow were at odds, and arriving at the door of the church simultaneously, each claimed precedence to enter first. Their men soon were shoving and tearing at each other. The pride of these grandees brought nothing but strife.

How different the spirit of Christ. Greatest in heaven, he stooped to become the lowest on earth, basing his whole life on the word of God. In this and his subsequent elevation to the highest place at God’s right hand, he demonstrated that the foolishness of God is wiser than the greatest wisdom of man.

15:18 Angry or Calm?

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention. Proverbs 15:18

Quarreling men

Christian astronomer and apologist Hugh Ross tells that following one of his talks, an angry man, who had avoided the lecture itself, began ranting at the start of the question and answer period. The tension in the room rose as this man, who described himself as an atheist, gushed hostility.

By calmly and prayerfully answering with facts, Ross deflected the man’s antagonism and was able to share the gospel.

Christ also deflected antagonism by remaining calm. There were times when his enemies tried to trap him; he answered wisely and then left them speechless, and the argument was at an end, when he posed questions to them that they could not answer.

However, one of the most astonishing incidents did not develop as Christ’s enemies expected. The Jewish Council had sent soldiers to arrest him, but the men returned empty handed. Asked why, they replied simply, “Never man spoke as this man spoke.” Contention was deflected because the Lord had calmly proceeded with the work given him by the Father.

25:11 Witty Retorts

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver. Proverbs 25:11

Denarius with the image of Tiberius Caesar.

Denarius with the image of Tiberius Caesar.

If you are like me, you think of the perfect reply long after you need it. Then you kick yourself and groan, “That is what I should have said.”

Some people seem to always have an apt reply on their tongue. Francis Bacon used to study clever retorts in advance so that he might drop them when predictable topics arose.

My own appreciation is reserved for those who deliver their retorts more spontaneously. One slam-dunk that sticks in my mind is that of the sparkling Quaker girl Mary Pryor, who, when pressured to marry a rich old man, was told, “Why, you could eat gold!” She replied, “But I would find it hard to digest,” and married a poor but honest fellow-believer.

One of the wittiest replies of church history was that of Erasmus when Frederick the Wise asked him if Luther was in error. He thought a few moments and answered, “He has erred in two things: He has attacked the pope in his crown and the monks in their bellies.”

Neither of these examples shine like the replies of Jesus. For example, when a broad hint was dropped that he was illigitimate, Jesus did not protest his mother’s innocence, but in his reply pointed his detractors to the more relevant question, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8).

When the Pharisees and Herodians buttered him up (Mark 12) in an attempt to trap him with a question about taxes, he responded, “Why are you trying to trap me? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” They brought the coin, and he asked them, “Whose portrait is this? And whose inscription?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”

And they were amazed at him, as we also should be. His replies were indeed apples of gold in settings of silver.

Proverbs 1:24-28 Mocked in Calamity

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them… — Proverbs 1:24-28.

On his death bed a man I know of became uneasy. I learned later that he began to fear the eternity he had scoffed at all his life. He had reared his daughter without fear of the Lord, and was now in her hands. When a relative suggested that a minister should be called to speak with the man about his soul, the daughter flatly refused, saying that he had never wanted anything to do with Christianity while he was healthy and she wasn’t going to flout his wishes now that he was faltering. This man brought his own doom upon himself and died without solace.

Jesus warned the people of his generation again and again, and his word still speaks to us today. What is our answer to his claims on us? The day will come when the stone the builders rejected will crush them.

16:21 Facilitating Learning

Sunday, August 15th, 2010


Jan Amos Comenius, innovative educator.

The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increases learning. Proverbs 16:21

In one of her poems, Emily Dickenson wrote, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” I always interpreted this to mean to tell the truth but through simile, metaphor or other artistic devices that make knowledge more memorable and palatable—sweet lips that increase learning.

Centuries before Dickenson, the notable Christian educator Jan Amos Comenius had adopted a similar principle. He developed the first graded textbooks. These included pictures to make their content more memorable, a tactic followed by educators ever since.

Jesus also used the “slant” technique. He spoke in pithy parables and word illustrations, sarcasm, hyperbole, parallelism and other literary devices aimed to help his learners retain his word, including similes and metaphors. The results are some of the most memorable statements in all of literature, showing great wisdom and vividly illustrating the truths he wished to impart. He was the master exemplar of this proverb.

8:27 In Synch with the Creator

Sunday, June 20th, 2010

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking in a NASA photo.

When he prepared the heavens I [wisdom] was there; when he set a compass upon the face of the depth. Proverbs 8:27.

I hope I never forget the thrill of insight I experienced as I read Stephen Hawking’s Brief History of Time. Hawking was one of the great physicists of our age. In Brief History he showed that just a tiny bit of matter less and our universe would have blown apart at creation. A tiny bit more, and it would have collapsed on itself. The amount is so tiny that Christian astronomer Hugh Ross holds up a dime to demonstrate how much we are talking about. Imagine—one dime’s worth of matter is all that stands between a habitable and inhabitable universe. My thrill was because I recognized God at work.

Likewise, science is showing us that many, many things must be just right for the earth to support human life. It has to be the right size, with the right orbit around the right kind of star, in the right region of the right kind of galaxy, with exactly right proportions of carbon and water, metals and gases. Two hundred or more factors are now known which have to be right for a planet to support carbon-based life (the only possible kind in our universe). The discovery of over three hundred planets around other stars in the last decade has shown us just how difficult it is to find those “just right” conditions together in one place at one time. Truly we see God’s wisdom at work in fashioning our world.

This is Jesus’ doing. Scripture is unequivocal that everything we see was made through Christ and for him. Indeed, it is he who is speaking as wisdom personified in Proverbs 8:22-36. The lesson of this is that if anyone of us is not living for him, we are out of synch with the purpose of the universe we live in.

1:7 Wise Fear

Sunday, June 13th, 2010

Charles Simeon trembled to take the Lord's Supper without repentance.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:7

Many of the people we admire as great historical Christians went through severe distress before their conversions, fearing God and his judgment. Perhaps best known of these was Martin Luther, whose agonies have been well documented. But David Brainerd, George Whitefield, John Wesley, Charles Simeon, John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon and dozens of others might also be cited as examples. Perhaps God permitted them such anguish of soul that he might awaken in them a desire to rescue others from spiritual danger.

Charles Simeon’s dread fell upon him when he learned he was absolutely required to take communion at Cambridge. He knew that anyone who eats and drinks unworthily eats and drinks damnation to himself. Many of the godless students did so without regard to their spiritual danger. Simeon quaked at the thought. “Conscience told me that, if I must go, I must repent and turn to God.” That act of repentance was the beginning of a walk with the Lord that led him by degrees to become a zealous college chaplain who captured the souls of many of England’s upper class students.

Jesus exemplified the fear of the Lord more than any person who has ever lived. Absolutely determined to obey God with his whole heart, he refused to cut a single corner or escape a single detail God had planned for him. He accepted hunger, thirst, rejection, cold, and even a cruel death rather than defy God by so much as a thoughtless word.

Among his notable sayings was this, “Do not fear those who kill the body, and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: fear Him who, after the killing of the body has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I say, fear Him.”

10:19 Wordy Sins

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Abraham Lincoln, whose Gettysburg Address is a masterpiece of brevity.

When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise. Proverbs 10:19.

The more we talk or write, the more likely we are to say something stupid, false, or harmful. Josephus is an example. His lengthy histories, which were written to ingratiate the Romans, reveal him as a schemer, boaster, and a traitor to his own nation. As his biographer Bentwich says, “Hard circumstances compelled him to choose between a noble and an ignoble part, between heroic action and weak submission. He was a mediocre man, and chose the way that was not heroic and glorious. Posterity gained something by his choice; his own reputation was fatally marred by it.”

Short speeches and writings often have power completely out of proportion to their length. Consider Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. He spoke so briefly that the professional photographer did not have time to complete the adjustment of his old-fashioned equipment. The other lengthy orations of that historic occasion have not been remembered, but what an inspiration the president’s few words became to the United States!

Jesus also couched almost all of his most memorable teachings in just a few, well-chosen words and images. Such were the Lord’s Prayer, the Beatitudes, all of the parables, and most of his answers to questions. Only the Sermon on the Mount, the Olivet Discourse, and his final instructions to his disciples before his crucifixion approach lengthiness. He knew the power of succinctness and showed an absolute mastery of his tongue that we would do well to emulate.

12:11 Frivolity or Labor?

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

Space Invaders

He who tills his land will be satisfied with bread, but he who follows frivolity is devoid of understanding.

Years ago, I banned video games from my home and pulled my computer games into the trash, too. Too often they had held me captive longer than they should. I knew first-hand just how addictive they could be and saw how pernicious they were for some young men who lived with us. When they should have been finding work and taking their first steps to success they were instead battling imaginary enemies. Unable to conquer their sins and worthless desires, they fancied themselves conquerors of empires.

We are never shown Jesus indulging in an act of personal amusement. He came to do a job and did it. When his enemies took up stones to kill him he said, “Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do you stone me?” (John 10:32).

17:27 Few Words, Calm Replies

Sunday, February 14th, 2010

Christ before Ciaphas.

He that has knowledge spares his words; and a man of understanding is of a cool spirit.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie Radio (based on a true story) has Coach Harold Jones (well-played by Ed Harris) criticized in the barber shop for brefriending Radio, a young man with a disability. Rather than defend himself with many words, he asks, “Is that what you think Radio is? A Distraction?” Setting down his coffee cup he adds in a calm voice, “Think I’m going to do us all a big favor and let you all finish this one on your own.”

Whether or not that was the real character of Jones (he loses his temper with a referee once), he comes across as terse, wise and self-controlled in this scene and several others. It aptly illustrates Solomon’s proverb.

Jesus illustrates it even better. His teachings were terse and memorable. His responses to heckling and to honest questions were brief, well-considered, and to the point. On several occasions (most notably with the woman taken in adultery, and at his trials), the Gospels comment on his silence. In all these things, he showed true knowledge and understanding.

10:5 Summer Son

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

Inside McCormick's blacksmith shop in Virginia.

He who gathers in summer is a wise son: but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who causes shame.

There was a time in the United States (and much of the rest of the world) when every able-bodied person was needed to get in the harvest. It made no sense to increase acreage in wheat, because the window for reaping was so narrow and the number of hands required to get the crop in was so great. Had any able-bodied farm-boy slept over-late at harvest, he would have been the butt of scorn. As it was, despite the best efforts of farmers, hogs had to be turned into the fields to fatten when the grain became overripe.

Cyrus McCormick changed that by inventing the first machine with the seven essential parts of a true reaper. He was jeered at first and his efforts considered folly because his reaper did not work well on the uneven, hilly ground of his native Virginia. But he persisted, and the US became the breadbasket of the world.

Jesus placed this whole concept on a spiritual level. There are fields of souls waiting for harvest. He commanded his disciples to reap them now and set the example as God’s only begotten son. Will we not be rebuked in the judgment if we have idled our hours and allowed our neighbors to perish without the word of truth?

9:10 Wisdom in Fearing God

Sunday, November 15th, 2009
King George III. Portrait by Allan Ramsay.

King George III. Portrait by Allan Ramsay.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

George III, the British king against whom the United States revolted, suffered periodic bouts of insanity, probably owing to porphyria, a disorder in which cells fail to make the hemes that give blood their color. George, however, was a Christian. The following anecdote shows him wiser than many a more “normal” king.

One of his first acts after his accession to the throne, was to issue an order prohibiting any of the clergy who should be called to preach before him from paying him any compliment in their discourses. His Majesty was led to this from a fulsome adulation which Dr. Thomas Wilson, prebendary of Westminster, thought proper to deliver in the Chapel-Royal. Instead of thanks, Wilson received from his royal auditor a pointed reprimand, his Majesty observing, “I came to chapel to hear the praises of God, not my own.”

In this George was like Christ Jesus, who lived to bring honor to the Father. The result, according to the Apostle Peter, was that God honored him. “For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, ‘This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'” (2 Peter 1:17)

3:13ff God’s Wisdom in Christ

Sunday, September 27th, 2009

The Good Shepherd rescuing a lost sheep.

The Good Shepherd rescuing a lost sheep.

Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for its merchandise is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain from it than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things you can desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her: and happy is every one who retains her.

The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew. My son, let not them depart from your eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: then they will be life to your soul, and grace to your neck. Then you will walk safely on your way, and your foot will not stumble. When you lie down, you will not be afraid: instead, you will lie down, and your sleep will be sweet.

As we uncover the secrets of the universe, and probe the workings of the human mind and body, we find an amazing richness of design. Whether on the grandest physical scale—the universe itself, or clusters of galaxies—or in the intricate workings of the smallest living cell, we find a wisdom which is almost incomprehensible.

We owe all of this to Christ. He is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:24), and by him and for him all things were made (Colossians 1:15). The Christians who founded modern science believed this, and thought that they were but thinking Christ’s thoughts after him in their researches and experiments.

The promises of this passage of Proverbs are fulfilled in Christ.

• Length of days — Christ promises eternal life to whoever believes in him (John 5:24).
• Honor — We are told that when Christ comes in his glory he will be ashamed of whoever is ashamed of him now (Luke 9:26).
• Riches — Christ became poor so that we might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
• Pleasantness — Christ’s yoke is easy, his burden is light (Matthew 11:30).
• Grace — grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (John 1:17).

Solomon instructs us to keep wisdom. Jesus instructs us to keep his words, and likens the man who does so to one who plants his foundation on rock (Matthew 7:24-25).

Are we afraid? Jesus is our consolation. He is the shepherd who protects our sheepcote with his very life (John 10).

This passage in Proverbs 3 and another in Proverbs 8 foreshadow Christ wonderfully.

3:19 God’s Creative Wisdom in Christ

Monday, September 7th, 2009

DNA design from the U.S. government's genome project.

DNA design from the U.S. government's genome project.

The Lord by wisdom has founded the earth; by understanding has established the heavens.

Gerald L. Schroeder, in The Hidden Face of God, discusses the wisdom scientists are finding as they dig into the hidden workings of biology (and other sciences). For example, a few strands of DNA, invisible to the eye, carry sufficient information that a complete human being, with all its different cells and capabilities, can form from their blueprint. Or consider our thinking process and the working of nerves which carry information to the brain, a system which is exquisitely simple on one level but extraordinarily complex on another, and certainly indicative of brilliant design to anyone without a closed mind.

I find intriguing Schroeder’s continual references to the wisdom of nature which reminds him of Old Testament wisdom references, including Proverbs 3:19—”With wisdom God founded the world.”

Paul teaches us that Christ is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:22-24) and that it was through him and for him all things were created, visible and invisible (Colossians 1:16ff).

11:30 Soul-Winner Wisdom

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

A. T. Pierson, soul-winner.

A. T. Pierson, soul-winner.

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he who wins souls is wise.

This morning I was looking through a local college catalog. One of the new business courses being touted is Opportunity Analysis. Its purpose is to teach students to assess economic and social conditions for business ventures.

This set me to thinking. Business is indispensable, but its fruits, or profits will ultimately perish. The only business with eternal profits is the Father’s business. Each of us has only a limited opportunity to demonstrate our love for Christ and to win others to follow him. Would we enroll in a course whose purpose was to assess economic, spiritual, and social conditions for spiritual ventures?

Strategically-minded Christians have long thought in these terms. William Carey prepared a careful analysis and heart-felt appeal for missions in a day when Protestants paid little attention to the subject; A. T. Pierson and John Mott showed students how they might win the world in a generation through methodical efforts; and, like a general, Robert A. Jaffrey studied maps and demographics to plot the next advance of his work in the Far East. According to Solomon, such men are wise.

Wiser than all was God himself, who prepared Christ before the world was formed, and in the fullness of time sent him to be born of a woman. Christ redeemed and won untold numbers of souls. The profits of the Father’s wise strategy implemented through the Son are eternal and incalculable. Would God the righteous could do more to imitate their Lord.

29:3 The Wise Don’t Waste

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

The Prodigal Son of Christ's parable.

The Prodigal Son of Christ's parable.

Whoever loves wisdom brings joy to his father: but he who keeps company with prostitutes wastes his wealth.

As soon as I read this proverb in light of Christ’s life and teaching, I exclaimed to myself, “The Prodigal Son!”

Did Jesus have these words of Solomon in mind when he told his famous parable? The prodigal, you will recall, demanded his inheritance from his still-living father and headed off to squander it on prostitutes and fine food. Next thing he knew, he was a pauper during a famine. With rumbling belly he came to his senses and began to grow his first seedlings of wisdom.

In Solomon’s philosophy, wisdom was to steer clear of adulterous women and to live in fear (or reverence) of the Lord. The repentant prodigal did both; he abandoned the scene of his orgies and headed home with the acknowledgment of sin on his lips: “I have sinned against God and you.”

His new-found wisdom brought an almost delirious joy to his father, who ran to greet him, hugging and kissing him, and throwing a party to celebrate his return.

The terms of Solomon’s proverb were fulfilled.