By Bro. Mark Schroeder
As a young man I came upon Psalm 27:4 in my devotions. It says, “One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple.”
That scripture led me to Proverbs 3:1-7, “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.”
In my late teens and early twenties, I made many mistakes, but my desire to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life kept bringing me back to these scriptures.
I felt like Solomon in 1 Kings 3:7, “I am but a little child: I know not how to go out or come in….” Because of this, I “lived” in the book of Proverbs, focusing my studies on what was found in that book, especially the first few chapters. I studied wisdom and knowledge. I knew I needed it to avoid doing something foolish. I could see in my own actions that I needed spiritual wisdom to make good choices for my soul. Then I went to James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally…” and I started asking for it. I had enough wisdom to know I needed more (and I still need it).
Now, I am not the wisest person and I hardly feel wise at all, but even at a young age I realized that stupidity was not a virtue! I saw foolish people suffer in ways that I did not want to suffer. I saw where foolishness has a creeping, entangling nature that ensnares so many young people and I wanted to be wise!
It’s not my aim to point out how wise I am – I don’t think that at all. I have made many mistakes over the years and to God be the glory for every good and right decision I have ever made. God allowed me to seek wisdom. I believe He has enabled me to put on wisdom from time to time. I look back with humility, tears, even unworthiness at the spiritual success God has allowed in my life. Lately I have felt like I should go back to these verses and study them again. I know I still need wisdom.
How do we put on wisdom? How do we act wise? A truly wise person never really feels wise. It’s like a brave or courageous person; they don’t see themselves as being brave or courageous. I’m sure it’s not some great feeling that arises, but a daily, matter-of-fact attitude. But we can have wisdom because we put God first and look to Him for guidance. We can have confidence that He will guide us, lead us and give us wisdom.
This wisdom is greater than knowing how to lead a company, or how to make millions in the stock market. We could call that knowledge (which will perish), but wisdom is for eternity. It will keep your soul from evil.
God has given us several scriptures to direct us. In Psalm 90:12 we read, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” We want to apply ourselves to learn wisdom. Proverbs 2:2 tells us, “So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom…” We want to listen and learn wisdom.
Moving on to Proverbs 3:13-18, we find, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”
Let’s look again at verses 13 through 15. In this scripture we find a reference to “the merchandise and the gain of wisdom.” Let’s look closer at both.
What is merchandise? If you go into a store, you see what that store has to offer you – its merchandise. The merchandise of wisdom is better than the merchandise of silver; it has so much to offer us spiritually. Ten pounds of silver is worth $1800 today. If you had ten pounds of silver, it would purchase: 654 gallons of gas, or 550 gallons of milk, or a daily cup of coffee at McDonalds for almost five years, or 972 cups of Starbucks coffee.
But the merchandise of wisdom is worth more than any of these. The Bible says the gain of wisdom is better that the gain of fine gold. What is gain? It is profit; growth; progress toward a goal. Just one pound of fine gold is worth $19000 today. That would purchase 1400 large pizzas, or 7000 gallons of gasoline, or eight shares of Amazon stock.
The scripture says wisdom is more precious than rubies – a quick check found a small, five carat ruby is valued at $142,000. All of these will not last – even the precious stone or the investment will only bring a fleeting return. But if you have wisdom you have something that will last; you have an eternal value.
Let’s keep reading. Proverbs 3:21-26 says, “My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.”
Wisdom will bring life to the soul, grace, and spiritual stability. It will bring safety because our steps will be ordered of the Lord and we will have peace and sweet rest in this life!
A look at Proverbs 2:10-12 reveals, “When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things.”
With wisdom comes discretion. To know when to stand up and when to fade into the background is part of discretion. Wisdom will also bring understanding. It will keep us and deliver us from the froward person, who is cantankerous, contentious and hard to get along with. I have worked on an auto assembly line, and later as support staff to the assembly lines. As I worked with people, I felt that some people came to work to make others miserable. They enjoyed putting people on edge, always ready to stir up contention. A froward person can be poison to the attitudes of those surrounding him. Wisdom will keep you from being this person and it will also enable you to be unaffected by their poison.
I see three basic groups of people; the young, the seniors, and those in the middle. God wants us to have wisdom at every stage of life. We need to earnestly pray for God’s direction at the beginning of our life and seek His continual support as we go through life, that we may be pleasing to Him at the end of our life.
To those readers who are young, in the early stages of adult life, you are choosing your path in life right now. If we think about a decision before making it, we combine our knowledge and our experience to make that decision. When we are young, we may have gathered a good bit of knowledge, and may even have a degree or two, but it takes time to gain experience. We may have educational choices to make, and dating and marriage choices. Even if those decisions are behind us, we still have career and household choices to make – on our own or as a married couple. We may be just getting started making choices to establish our home and to direct it in the paths of righteousness.
We are probably all familiar with 1 Timothy 4:12, where Paul tells young Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” We will need wisdom to do this. In fact, we won’t be able to do it at all, without wisdom.
We sometimes see attitudes in the young which would indicate they think they already know what they need to know. But Proverbs 28:26 counters that thought with this: “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered.” We should follow that thought with Proverbs 3:6, “In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”
A truly wise man knows he doesn’t know everything. Proverbs 3:7 states, “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.” Those of you who have graduated – did you notice that when you opened that folder with your diploma in it, wisdom did not gush out and envelope your entire being? Those of you who are married, did you notice that a great dispensation of wisdom did not fall on you when you were pronounced “husband and wife?”
In Proverbs 24:3 we read, “Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it is established:” This is actually referencing the building of a home. We could say the house of (insert your name here): “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15). Some readers may be doing this right now – building your home, not a house, but a home. We need wisdom to build a home where God dwells, where we can lie down, and our sleep will be sweet.
Some of the seeds we are sowing in our younger years will bring a harvest that will affect you for the rest of your life. I once attended a funeral of a dear sister who had stood for God through many tribulations and for many years. During her funeral, the minister pointed out that the choices she made in her younger years had a great effect throughout the rest of her life. She left a legacy of over 50 souls saved and living for God because of her choice and witness. In contrast, we should each stop and think about those who made bad choices. They have affected the generations behind them. Each of those have had to overcome others’ bad choices or had to live with the results of those choices for the rest of their lives.
Charles W. Naylor wrote the song “We Reap As We Sow.” The lyrics of this song say, “Soon you shall gather, what you now scatter, Unto your life give diligent heed; What we are sowing, surely is growing, That which we reap shall be as the seed.”1 We should seek wisdom in order to sow good seeds in our younger years, that we might reap good things in the middle and elder years.
To those readers in the middle group, those who are no longer a young person, but not a senior saint either, you still need wisdom. This group may need wisdom to make some corrective changes – changes where we might not have used wisdom in our younger years. Joel 2:25 tells us after the people repented that God said He would, “restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm…” God is in the business of rebuilding what sin and Satan has destroyed. One brother in his 60’s told me, now that he has been saved and living for God that God is letting him benefit from the merchandise and the gain of wisdom – even after years of living in sin! We need to seek wisdom now in order to move into our golden years without regret, but with spiritual stability and spiritual prosperity.
Wisdom is needed to continue where wise choices have already been made. Paul told the Colossians in chapter 1:23, “If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” Regardless of how a person has lived in the past, they need to ask for wisdom to choose for tomorrow. Wisdom is needed to stay the course and continue living for God.
Proverbs 22:28 directs us to, “Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.” As this group becomes the backbone of the local congregations, we know they will not conduct the business of the congregation exactly like the generation before them. Each generation has differences in their administrations. These need wisdom to know what is OK to change and what God requires us to leave as it is. This, of course, has nothing to do with the preaching and teaching of the gospel and doctrine. These are landmarks which must not be moved – even the smallest amount. We know God does not change and His Word is forever settled in Heaven (Psalm 119:89).
To those readers who are senior saints: I haven’t been there yet, but I want to be one who is wise at every stage of my life. Proverbs 19:20 instructs us to, “Hear counsel, and receive instruction, that thou mayest be wise in thy latter end.”
I am glad to have seen those who ahead of me draw from God’s wisdom in their old age. But wisdom is not guaranteed. We have also seen those in the world at 60 years old with little to show for the years behind them. It is important to continue to seek wisdom in order to endure to the end; even more so as we get older. Ecclesiastes 10:1 tells us, “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour.” Some may have worked in the kingdom most of their lives, they may be considered a pillar in the congregation, but a little foolishness can result in losing it all. What a waste! What a tragedy to lose out after all the spiritual successes God has allowed in life!
In the letter to the Galatians 5:7, Paul asks, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” A little foolishness can destroy years of faithfulness and spiritual success. All the good can be lost to a little foolishness. It is amazing how fast a good reputation can be destroyed. But God has promised to keep us – and that includes giving us wisdom in our senior years.
The Bible tells us in Isaiah 46:4, “And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.” The hoar frost is that white hairy frost which only forms in a fog, where there is little to no wind. These are those older years, when things have settled down and you have days of ease. God will still be there if we apply wisdom and shun foolishness. We could re-phrase this to read, “Even when you are old, I will be the same, and when you are white-haired, I will take care of you: I will still be responsible for what I made; yes, I will take you and keep you safe.”
So what is the merchandise…what is the gain of wisdom? The merchandise of wisdom will bring spiritual stability. It will bring life to the soul and grace to the life. It will bring safety. Our steps will be ordered of the Lord and we will have peace and sweet rest in this life! With wisdom comes discretion and understanding, and it will keep us and deliver us from the froward person. Wisdom holds an eternal value. Spiritual wisdom will help us make the right choices when problems are small, enabling us to avoid spiritual catastrophe later. The gain of wisdom is quiet and peace in the midst of the storms of life. The ultimate gain of wisdom will be making Heaven our eternal home.
In James 1:5 we read, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”
Never…Ever…Give Up…Don’t even think about it!
- Naylor, Charles W. & Byers, Andrew L., “We Reap as We Sow”, 1907, public domain.