Our culture suffers no shortage of people with academic degrees, corporate titles, and intellectual know-how. But sadly, those who are wise are still hard to find. Why? It’s simple. The pursuit of knowledge, while often good, doesn’t automatically produce wisdom.
True wisdom requires us to read God’s Word with the goal of practical application, not merely intellectual stimulation. Wisdom applies truth to all of life...and that takes a lot of time, including numerous and painful trials as well.
The inspired poets of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and Song of Solomon—the Wisdom Books—learned how to trust God through the challenges they faced. When hunted by King Saul, David sought the Lord and then praised God when He rescued him. Job endured unimaginable tragedy and ultimately grew to appreciate God’s sovereignty. And Solomon finally found the meaning of life in God—only after exhausting every other meaningless pursuit. In the midst of their experiences, these writers clung to God’s promises and trusted in His faithful character. Years of struggle showed them how to apply God’s truth to life in its raw reality.
As these writers recorded their insights, they employed a method of Hebrew poetry that seems odd to our 21st-century ears. Our poetry commonly communicates thoughts through rhythm and rhyme. But Hebrew poetry conveys an author’s emotions and experiences through parallel thoughts.
From my more than five decades in ministry, I have learned that the quickest way to put the truth of Scripture into people’s lives is first through their heart and then through their head. This is especially true of the Wisdom Literature. God has preserved these wise sayings not simply for the purpose of intellectual stimulation but for their practical application as well. If we are ever going to put biblical principles into action, we must deliberately resist the temptation to substitute analysis for appropriation.
This is not to say that we should drift and dream our way through Scripture, spiritualizing this phrase or that, hoping that a few ideas will inadvertently lodge in our minds like floating sticks snagged on a riverbank. On the contrary, God’s Book deserves our serious concentration as we seek to apply its wisdom to the nagging and inescapable pressures with which we live. At the same time, we must not miss the beauty of its poetry as we pursue the practicality of its message.
And now...let’s press on. God’s wisdom awaits our appropriation. There are many who graze through the Bible, randomly nibbling here and yon with only a passing interest in the words on a page. Few are those who drink deeply and consistently from the streams of living water. May our Lord richly reward you as you commit to learning and living His truth.
Whom have we, Lord, but Thee,
Soul-thirst to satisfy?
Exhaustless spring! The water’s free!
All other streams are dry.1
1. Mary Bowley Peters, “Whom Have We, Lord, but Thee,” in the Little Flock hymnbook, public domain.