2 Also it is not good for a soul to be without knowledge, and he sins who hastens with his feet. 3 The foolishness of a man twists his way, and his heart frets against the Lord. (Proverbs 19:2–3, NKJV)
I grew up hearing that “ignorance is bliss.” Maybe you did, too. Sometimes it was said somewhat sarcastically to warn us against thinking it is true. But sometimes I heard it said to justify choosing a particular (usually foolish) course of action. After all, we frequently hear people say, “I didn’t know” to explain something they did or did not do. We have most likely used that line, too. The Bible does not teach ignorance is bliss; just the opposite. Solomon said a lack of knowledge propels us into doing dangerous things that lead to sin (v. 2). To think ignorance is bliss and then act without understanding puts us on a twisted path (v. 3). When trouble comes due to our foolish choices, many get angry at God for the problem. The remedy is to accept instruction from the Lord and gain knowledge and wisdom (Prov. 1:1-6). Solomon said, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7). Bliss comes from revering God, not getting angry at Him. When we respect God, we can “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). By doing so, our feet will not run to sin but walk the path that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
18 We know that whoever is born of God does not sin; but he who has been born of God keeps himself, and the wicked one does not touch him. 19 We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one. 20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life. 21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen. (1 John 5:18–21, NKJV)
God assures Christians of knowing we have eternal life in the Son of God (1 Jno. 5:11-13). We are confident of this wonderful blessing in Christ because we are born of God through His word (Jno. 1:12-13; 3:3, 5; 1 Pet. 1:23). John tells us some things we know as God’s children, which testify to God’s grace and our faith as His children. 1) We know whoever is born of God does not practice sin, but guards himself against the evil one (5:18). We do not say we “have no sin,” but that we practice righteousness (1 Jno. 1:8; 2:29; 3:6-10). 2) We know we are different from the world (5:19). We do not love the world and its lusts, but God and His will (1 Jno. 2:15-17). 3) We know the Son of God has given us an understanding (5:20). Jesus Christ is the Truth, and His word lights our path (Jno. 14:6; 1 Jno. 1:6-7). We have fellowship with the Father and the Son when we walk in (obey) apostolic truth (1 Jno. 1:2-3; 2:3-6; 3:24). Let us guard ourselves against false gods and their false concepts of salvation by faithfully following Jesus Christ (1 Jno. 5:21).
44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day,” (Luke 24:44–46, NKJV)
The Old Testament prophecies concerning the Christ were fulfilled in Jesus. The Lord Himself explained those prophecies to His apostles, opening their minds (understanding) to comprehend their meaning. Here is a key to understanding the OT prophecy: The New Testament explains the OT prophecies about Christ. The Holy Spirit inspired the apostles and prophets of Jesus to tell us what the OT prophecies meant (see examples in Acts 2:25-31; 13:32-41; 2 Pet. 1:19-21). We cannot lay a pre-conceived template over the inspired Scriptures and demand they conform to what we have already decided. Such an approach twists the Scriptures and destroys souls (2 Pet. 3:16). We must come with open hearts to comprehend the Scriptures (Acts 17:11-12).
33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of Your statutes, and I shall keep it to the end. 34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep Your law; Indeed, I shall observe it with my whole heart. 35 Make me walk in the path of Your commandments, for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to covetousness. (Psalm 119:33–36, NKJV)
Living by faith is not a blind leap in the dark. Faith is the rationale response of the heart that longs for God, His ways, and His blessings. Note this as the psalmist implores God to teach him the path of divine statues, and he will keep them (v. 33). He pleads for an understanding of God’s law so that he may keep it with a heart that is enlarged and completely devoted to God (v. 34; Psa. 119:32). He yearns for the discipline that comes with divine instruction so that he will walk on the path of obedience (v. 35). He obeys the commands of God with delight because his heart is full of the love of God, not greed for plunder (v. 36). Like the psalmist, let us pray for understanding to keep God’s word with our whole heart (Col. 1:9-11). Obeying the gospel from the heart freed us from sin’s slavery (Rom. 6:17-18). Now, let us keep on learning and living the commands of God with our whole hearts “to the end” (v. 33). Problems of sin arise when we no longer want God to teach us. The heart hardens against the way of His statutes. The path of His commands is no longer delightful. If this is where your heart and life are, then repent (change your heart) and return to the delight of obeying God with your whole heart.
103 How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! 104 Through Your precepts I get understanding; Therefore I hate every false way. (Psalm 119:103–104, NKJV)
God’s word is pleasant to the taste of those who meditate on it continually, who rest their understanding in it, and who follow it to avoid evil and do good (Psa. 119:97-102). Possessing a knowledge of truth and an aversion to error equally describe the lover of God’s word. The real test comes when God’s word reproves us and rebukes us. Does God’s word become bitter to us when it exposes our sin and error? It ought to remain just as sweet as when it approves us, for its reproofs identify where we need to correct ourselves and grow in the Lord. Does God’s word become bitter to us when it rebukes our sin? It ought to remain just as sweet as when it approves us, for in its rebukes are pleas to repent and be renewed. Solomon wrote, “The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding” (Prov. 15:31-32). Preaching the word of God includes reproof and rebuke – not to become a judge over others – but to proclaim God’s word of warning and salvation to the lost (2 Tim. 4:2). Whatever message God’s word contains, it will always be pleasant and refreshing to those who accept its wisdom and obey its precepts.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. 100 I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. (Psalm 119:99–100, NKJV)
I remember a course in school called Reading Comprehension. We learned to read with understanding, retention, and application (the essence of education). Repetition assists comprehension and retention. By repeatedly hearing and using information, we learn and retain knowledge. Over time, the ability to comprehend and retain information educates the child, whose use of that education can produce success. Today’s passage explains the advantage of being educated and trained in the word of God. The student may even surpass the teacher in wisdom and understanding by consistent meditation on God’s word, as well as persistently obeying His mandates (Col. 1:9-10; Phil. 1:9-11). The “uneducated and untrained” apostles had a greater understanding than the religious intellectuals – much like their Master before them (Acts 4:13; John 7:14-15). Age does not necessarily mean greater understanding (Job 32:6-9). God’s word contains the knowledge and understanding we need to wisely “abhor what is evil” and “cling to what is good” (Rom. 12:9). Let us be humble enough to realize wisdom does originate with us, but with Almighty God. Then, may we absorb understanding from His word to live in harmony with Him, even when doing so does not harmonize with the learned ones of this age (1 Tim. 6:20-21).
31 The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. 32 He who disdains instruction despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding. 33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 15:31–33, NKJV)
When these proverbs are combined they give us good insight into developing and living in wisdom. First, we must accept the rebukes of life (v. 31). There are lessons to be learned from the school of hard knocks. Life’s ups and downs will teach us wisdom – if we will hear them. Otherwise, we foolishly continue to repeat the same mistakes. Secondly, redirecting our lives through instructive rebukes means we care our about our own soul (v. 32). Understanding comes from accepting wise instruction. Unfortunately, pride and selfishness will prevent us from learning and heeding the rebukes of life, as well as the rebukes contained in God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Matt. 16:26). Thirdly, when we couple fear (reverence) of God with humility we will gain wisdom and its honor (v. 33). Jesus repeatedly said only by humbling ourselves will we be exalted (Lk. 14:11; 18:14; Matt. 23:12). God gives grace to the humble, but He resists the proud (Jas. 4:6). Let us humble ourselves to hear the rebukes of life (v. 31). Let us reverence God and properly value the life He gives us (v. 32). And let us fear God, receive His wise teaching, and humbly do His will (v. 33). God will come in due time if we will hear, heed and humble ourselves before Him (1 Pet. 5:6).
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.” (James 3:13–16, NKJV)
Wisdom and understanding are traits much needed by every Christian. These are observable character traits – shown by one’s good and meek conduct (v. 13). Wisdom is the skillful use of knowledge; it is excellence in the application of knowledge. Understanding is akin to this, as it is the evaluation, comprehension, perception, or discernment that gives knowledge its skill and usability. Understanding evaluates and wisdom actuates knowledge. We must avoid the false wisdom that is generated by selfish conceit. Measuring itself against others and elevating itself over others, earthly wisdom works on the basis of self-interest instead of truth (v. 14, 16). Its selfish, sensual instinct of survival leads to bitterness, envy, confusion, and evil. It is fleshly, faithless, futile, and demonic. We remember those became fools while professing to be wise. They plunged into the darkness of sin’s depravity and death by refusing to recognize, honor, and thank God (Rom. 1:20-23). The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). To leave God and His truth out of your life is exceedingly foolish.
14 When He had called all the multitude to Himself, He said to them, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: 15 There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. 16 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 7:14–16, NKJV)
We can understand the teachings of Jesus by listening to them. It concerns us when Christians take exception with that simple statement of trust in the inspired word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 5:17). When we reduce the teachings of Christ and His apostles (who taught His commands, 1 Cor. 14:37) to personal and relative “interpretation,” we have elevated ourselves above the Lord and surrendered our allegiance to His authority (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 3:17). In today’s passage, Jesus taught that spiritual corruption does not occur because of what one eats, but is due to what comes out of the heart (Mk. 7:17-23). Understanding that evil proceeds from the heart and is identifiable is not a personal, relative, or so-called traditional interpretation of the Scriptures – it is what Jesus said (read Mark 7:20-23). We ought to ask ourselves, “Do I have ‘ears to hear’ Jesus?” If so, you will understand Him. Do not be deceived by attempts to persuade you that understanding God’s word amounts to accepting a tradition about the Scriptures. Truth is not open to different interpretations or opinions. Therefore, neither is understanding it. We open our hearts to the devil when we close our ears to the word of God by reducing an understanding of it to “our tradition.”
5 “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. 7 Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5–7, NKJV)
People everywhere are trying to get fortune, fame, and fun. But, when was the last time you heard someone say, “I want to get some wisdom!”? Unfortunately, wisdom is not like driving up to the gas station and topping off the tank. Wisdom is the careful understanding and application of truth. Solomon prayed for “an understanding heart” to judge Israel and to “discern between good and evil” (1 Kings 3:9). He asked God for a “hearing” heart, and God blessed him with “a wise and understanding heart” (1 Kings 3:12). So, how do we “get wisdom?” James said to “ask of God” for wisdom (James 1:5). Today’s passage adds that we must listen to and not turn away from the words of our heavenly Father by loving and keeping the wisdom that comes from God. God’s wisdom is revealed in the gospel of Christ (1 Cor. 1:23-25). Wisdom is developed by having a hearing heart that receives God’s words, loves them, and keeps them. Many people are striving to get many things – wealth, fame, power, a name for themselves, etc. – but, the principal thing to get is wisdom from above. That wisdom, when remembered and kept, will bring you blessings now and forever more (James 3:13-18).