“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”
And so it begins
The first chapter of the first book of the bible sets the scene for creation by opening with this simple verse, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This modest sentence reveals much more about our Creator than its simple arrangement would suggest. In these few opening words an eternal, omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent deity is unveiled who, by inexplicable means and for His own mysterious purpose, brought into being the foundation and framework of our existence. The density of insight presented in such a meager package is a testament to the incomparable workmanship, unfathomable depth, and immeasurable wisdom of its Author. I was amazed to find how much information is packed into these first ten words of scripture but then again, mighty things accomplished through humble means is a recurring theme with the Almighty so it really should have come as no surprise. In light of this, it occurred to me, if the briefest glimpse of the opening sentence to scripture can supply this much insight, then how inexhaustible must the full extent of understanding that could be discovered from the study of its entirety!
My excitement by this monumental revelation was tempered by a sudden sobering cautionary thought. We are all imperfect so the potential to misuse or abuse what we learn is in all of us and knowledge, whether secular or godly, is very powerful both for building up and tearing down. As we each are accountable to God for how we wield His Sword of Truth, our motive and perspective require close examination to ensure the responsible handling and application of that power.
“O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”
A pure motive
To understand or “rightly divide the Word of Truth” we need to verify that our motive in searching it out is pure. Are we searching scripture to find the answers we want to hear or the ones we need to hear? If we’re searching scripture to prove something then our motive no longer lies in seeking the truth but in supporting what we’ve already concluded the truth to be. If we aren’t searching scripture for the purpose of knowing God as the Spirit reveals Him or seeking the answers God chooses to entrust us with, then our motive isn’t to know Him but to define Him and those are dangerously different things.
In order to seek God and His wisdom rightly we must practice setting aside our presuppositions, our expectations, and our pride and simply petition Him, as we study, to reveal to us those things He knows we need to see.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
The proper perspective
Study and truth seeking need a proper perspective in order to keep our pride and expectations in check and prevent us from overreaching into the purview of God. What I mean is, just because we want to know something doesn’t mean we aught to know it.
All the knowledge in all the world no matter how brilliant or ancient amounts to the barest glimmer of nothing when compared to the incomprehensible knowledge of God. The vastness and depth of wisdom found in the living and active Word of God that He has condescended to share with us is like a mobile hung above the crib of humanity when compared to the totality of the Creator’s understanding. We have to accept that we can’t expect to get every answer we want from scripture but only the ones God says we need to have.
We don’t need to know how God created light and separated it from the darkness or how he separated the waters from the waters with the creation of the sky or know by what criteria He determined the limitations of their domains. We only need to know that He created it, bound it, and sustains it by the limitless power of His sovereign will. We miss the significance of “there was evening and there was morning, the first day” if we argue about the length of its duration. Just know that God created light and in separating it from darkness He alone set the wheels of time in motion and in defining and filling the dominions of Night and Day, waters and Sky, Earth and Seas, He displays their dependence upon Him and not His upon them.
“Woe to the one who argues with his Maker — one clay pot among many. Does clay say to the one forming it, ‘What are you making?’ Or does your work say, ‘He has no hands’?
You turn things upside down! Shall the potter be regarded as the clay, that the thing made should say of its maker, “He did not make me”; or the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?
Isaiah 45:9 & 29:16-17
Take no offense
This dependence upon God is what offends our sin nature because of pride’s delusion of independence. It offends our idolatrous sense of self-sufficiency and this must be constantly contended with to correctly and responsibly apply God’s truth to our lives. Many people view the will of God as capricious and whimsical because He chooses not to explain His actions or His reasons to us fully. That is the way petulant children view parents because they don’t understand the boundaries and structure set for them and why it is for their good. Even when the odd parent attempts to explain the reasoning the child still can’t comprehend discipline’s necessity and goodness because they don’t possess enough of an elevated perspective or depth of understanding or breadth of experience to grasp the complexity of nuances that is required. And so it is with us in respect to God. “Why do you allow this?” and “How is this done?” both show a lack of submission to His sovereignty and of trust in His character. Yet these questions are most often the first uttered in times of trouble and disbelief. At these times, the most important thing to remember is, there is only one God and we are not Him. As it says in Proverbs, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:5-8
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding”
Application of wisdom
The application of the truth of scripture to the life of the believer is an intensely personal thing. It is a particularly intimate relationship between the individual and their Creator. While many of the principals of truth discovered in scripture can be generally applied to all believers, such as salvation, most others are specifically spoken into the heart of the believer by the Spirit for their unique walk with the Master. God knows we are frail and weak and apt to struggle with change and salvation’s ongoing transformation is no different. So integrating new truths into our lives is really, as the psalm points out, a matter of practice. Like the label on the shampoo bottle says, “Rinse, lather, repeat.”
“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.”
As you sincerely seek to know our Lord with pure intentions, from a healthy spiritual viewpoint and continue to apply His revelations to your life through practice and perseverance, remember, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8