19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19–20, NKJV)
May disciples of Jesus Christ protect themselves from outside harm when they assemble together? The doors where these disciples assembled were “shut” – closed, secured, made inaccessible – “for fear of the Jews.” This word is used of prison doors (Acts 5:23), of the temple doors (Acts 21:30), and of the door shut by “He who has the keys of David” that no one opens (Rev. 3:7). The appearance of Jesus brought them peace and gladness. Yet, when they assembled eight days later, the doors were again “shut” when Jesus appeared to them. The fact that Christ is with His people when they worship does not prevent a church from securing its safety when it assembles for worship. The prayers made for Peter by many disciples at the house of Mary were offered behind a closed gate that had to be opened from the inside (Acts 12:12-16). Their careful security was not due to a lack of faith, it was a prudent course of action given the present danger of persecution (Acts 12:1-5). Certainly, churches may secure their safety when they assemble to worship God. The principle to “be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” surely finds application here.
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).
2 All things come alike to all: One event happens to the righteous and the wicked; To the good, the clean, and the unclean; To him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good, so is the sinner; He who takes an oath as he who fears an oath. 3 This is an evil in all that is done under the sun: that one thing happens to all. Truly the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil; madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.” (Ecclesiastes 9:2–3, NKJV)
Each of us face common experiences of humanity. We also face death, which is common to us all. Our experiences and our end are true of “under the sun” (life on earth). Whether it is “time and chance” or a “purpose under heaven” in which we choose to engage, human life has been so designed by our Creator that wisdom teaches us to accept that “our works are in the hand of God” (Ecclesiastes 9:11; 3:1-8; 9:1). This does not mean we are doomed to a life of fatalism without freewill. It means the purposes of God will prevail as He sets the boundaries of our times and seasons, and as His providence oversees and operates (Ecclesiastes 5:18-19). The “one event” and the “one thing” in today’s passage (as the end of verse 3 shows) is death. When hearts are set on evil things, no preparation is made for death. That is madness, not wisdom. Knowing we will die, we should get ready for it. Be righteous and wise, fearing God and keeping His commandments (Ecclesiastes 9:1; 12:13).
1 Elihu further answered and said: 2 “Hear my words, you wise men; Give ear to me, you who have knowledge. 3 For the ear tests words as the palate tastes food. 4 Let us choose justice for ourselves; Let us know among ourselves what is good.” (Job 34:1–4, NKJV)
The young man Elihu had listened while Job’s friends charged Job with having committed grievous sins for which God was punishing him with great suffering. He listened as Job justified himself rather than God. Then, Elihu spoke words of wisdom by the spirit God gave him (Job 32:1-14). Elihu challenged these men to listen to his words and test them so as to obtain true wisdom and justice. Like them, we must test the words we hear people speak. Are they true or false? Good or evil? Just as our palate tastes food and distinguishes flavors, so we must test what we hear according to knowledge. The question is, what knowledge base are we using to test what we hear? Is it the truth of God’s word and wisdom, or is it the word and wisdom of men (1 Corinthians 1:18-25)? We are not our own source of knowledge; We have all been educated by someone or something. We must educate ourselves with the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Read it, study it, and learn it – not to pridefully boost of your knowledge, but to humbly submit to the will of Almighty God. His truth frees us from sin and equips us “know among ourselves what is good” (John 8:31-32).
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed.” (Proverbs 13:20, NKJV)
It has been said that courage is contagious. Wise king Solomon said wisdom is, too. Of course, neither courage nor wisdom can be forced into someone’s heart. We must be willing to accept their influence. That’s where choosing to be around people who make wise choices comes into play. Connect with wise people. Watch, listen, and ask their counsel. It will help you become wiser. At the same time, walking life with wise people helps you escape the calamities that confront fools. “Bad company ruins good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33, ESV). Truly, who we spend time with matters! It is no wonder the psalmist said, “Blessed in the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly” (Psalm 1:1). The ungodly are truly foolish about what matters most (Titus 2:11-12). Walk with those who live wisely. Seek and follow heavenly wisdom and you will be blessed with wisdom (Ephesians 5:15; James 3:13-18).
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5–6, NKJV)
Wisdom is the application of known truth, at the right time and in the right measure. It is the use of spiritual discernment, in love and knowledge, to advance the excellent things of righteousness that glorify God and approve us in His sight (Philippians 1:9-11). When we flavor our words with graciousness we walk in wisdom by making the most of our opportunities toward the lost. Like food seasoned with salt, wisdom learns when and how to answer those who are outside of Christ (as well as fellow Christians) so that our opportunity to teach and persuade others is maximized. Put simply, we have an obligation to give gracious answers to others. Wisdom knows this, and helps us speak so as to enhance, not disrupt, our chance to communicate truth to others. Unless we season our words with grace we fail to redeem our opportunity to help someone follow Jesus.
20 “Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and knowledge, 21 That I may make you know the certainty of the words of truth, that you may answer words of truth to those who send to you?” (Proverbs 22:20–21, NKJV)
God’s word repeatedly extols the virtues of wise counsel that comes from God’s words of truth. Wisdom is not merely knowing something is true. Wisdom is correctly and consistently applying one’s knowledge of truth to life’s situations and circumstances. Wisdom is not merely something to possess, it is something we must apply. As James said, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13). The proverbs are a case in point. These general maxims of life do us little good until we practice them. When followed, their wise counsel leads us down constructive and righteous paths. The wisdom of God is contained in the certainty of His words of truth. We see that one’s attitude toward truth is integral to shaping wisdom within the heart. If we refuse to bend and shape ourselves to the truth of God’s word we will inevitably make foolish, hurtful, and sinful choices. To be wise we must listen to and follow the wise counsel of God’s truth. Write His words on your heart and follow them (Hebrew 8:10; 10:16). They will equip you with wisdom for life’s endeavors and insight to sustain you as you face life’s challenges.