Wisdom Precedes Understanding

Proverbs 4:7 begins: chokmah re’shiyth= “wisdom first”. However, it is translated awkwardly as ‘wisdom is the principal thing’, or ‘the supreme thing’, and then adds; and with all your getting, get understanding. This wordy, over translation can be easily understood with this simple statement:   Wisdom precedes understanding.

In other words, trying to understand the word of God without divine wisdom will always fail, and the results are evident in the range of interpretations obtained by trying to gain understanding through knowledge.

This is why Jesus said:

 John 3:3.   I tell you this truth, you must be born from above. 

This verse is usually mistranslated as ‘born again’ to align with 1 Peter 1:23, but then a footnote is added to inform the reader conveniently ‘or from above’, which is what is actually written. This is critical to properly connect this statement with many other verses on the subject, particularly in regard to wisdom.

Gentle Wisdom from Above

 James 3:13-17.  Who among you is wise and understanding? By his good conduct let him show his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not boast and lie against the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, non spiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial, not hypocritical.                                      

Understanding divine truth requires divine wisdom. This is taught in a simple, childlike way by Jesus;  ‘Ask, and you will receive.’ This was also taught by his forerunner,  John the Baptist:

John 3:27.  John answered, “A man can possess nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”     

 He then adds later;   

 John 3:31,32.   “The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth is of the earth, and of the earth he speaks. The One who comes from heaven is above all.  And what He has seen and heard, He testifies to that.”                 

The Voice of the Bridegroom

In between these two statements we find a now familiar expression that has been used for discipleship training, stewardship, names of books and outreach ministries. This is the phrase ‘friend of the bridegroom’ and the extraction of that title from context clouds the real significance of the verse.

John 3:29.  He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.                                    

The most important point of this statement is for the friend to hear the voice of the bridegroom. This point is brought into clear emphasis by Jesus in His Good Shepherd discourse in John 10. This is critical to receiving the wisdom from above, and is the focus of all devotions. Whether we are praying, singing psalms, studying the word, reading passages aloud or meditating in His presence, the ultimate goal remains consistent, to hear and recognize the voice of the good shepherd, the bridegroom, the Master.

The Fear of God

This relationship of the disciple to his master’s voice provides the correct understanding of ‘the fear of God’. When one first begins to recognize the presence of the Lord and hear the voice, the experience can be a bit unnerving. However, the real fear of God should result from losing that contact. 

The gift of the Holy Spirit develops this relationship, and the proper definition of the fear of the Lord is ‘to maintain a continual awareness of His presence’. Jesus explains this way: 

John 15:4.  ‘abide in Me, and I will abide in you.’ 

James 1:17.  Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.

Now we can properly relate the fear of God to wisdom.

 Proverbs 9:10.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,  and the knowledge of the Holy One (the I Am) is understanding.                                                

John 8;23,24.  Yeshua said, “You are from below; I Am from above. You are of this world; I Am not of this world. Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. If you don’t believe that I Am, you will die in your sins.”

John 8:28.  So Yeshua said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I Am. I do nothing by Myself, but speak just what the Father has taught Me.”                

John 8:31,32.   Then Yeshua said to the Judeans who had trusted Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!”           

John 8:58.    Jesus then said to them,   “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”   

Preaching Blasphemy

Acts 9:20.  At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.   

How much significance should be placed on this point that Paul immediately began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God?  First, consider the evidence that came out at the trial of Jesus Christ.

John 19:5-7. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate said unto them, Behold the man! When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him.

Pilate said unto them, you take him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him.  The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God.           

At a public trial, the testimony of His accusers was that Jesus must die for claiming to be the Son of God. Now the man who was previously persecuting the church, one of high esteem among the religious leadership, was preaching this very thing! This is an extraordinary turn of events, that the one who was identified and accepted by the original disciples as the “apostle to the gentiles”, would first boldly preach in the synagogues of every place he visited.

For many have come before and after claiming to be a messiah, a fact of which has often been attested. For messianic Jews to simply proclaim Yeshua haMashiach in Israel or anywhere in the world is nothing new under the sun.  If you want to stir up the status quo, preach the Son of God. 

Acts 5:34-39.   Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men.  For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined , who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.                                 

It is noteworthy that this same Gamaliel was the headmaster of the school of the Pharisees where Saul trained. And who was the one man that disregarded this advice and set off on a murderous rampage against the church?  Irony!

Before appearing at the judgment seat of Pilate, Jesus was examined by the High Priest, along with the scribes and elders. Many false witnesses came forward to accuse Jesus, but none of the charges held. Then the High Priest played his trump card:

Matthew 26:63-66.  But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.                                  

And so the religious authorities found Jesus guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death for claiming to be the Son of God. Then Saul, upon his conversion immediately preached this in the synagogues, thereby, bringing the same charge against himself. Then he gave this testimony of himself before his conversion.

1 Tim 1:13.   Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.

This is his conversion, to embrace what was called blasphemy, and reject what was before:

Acts 22:3.   I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day.                                

The Lord Jesus Christ expects us to preach His Blasphemy, for this is the most excellent glory that He received:

2 Peter 1:17.  For he received from God the Father honor and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.   

John 10:36.  Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?