WISDOM GAINED – God’s wisdom is found in fearing and obeying Him.
Memory verse: JOB 28: 28 And he said to man, “The fear of the Lord--that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding."
We live in an information rich era. There is no shortage of information in books, on TV, or the computer internet. In fact, we are bombarded and influenced each day in our culture with worldly information.
People are seeking words of wisdom and dependable counsel concerning how to navigate life’s challenges. They are looking for something to trust in and hold on to. The Bible reveals that the source and goal of wisdom is God, true wisdom comes from Him and leads to Him. Job 28:12-28 emphasizes this truth.
THE CONTEXT (JOB 22:1 – 31:40)
Job’s friends did not let up, they had reached their verdict. Job must be guilty. What was their evidence? It came down to the fact that Job had experienced extreme suffering. According to them, his sin had brought all of this about. In fact, chapter 22 lays out the case as plain as it can be. Again, according to his mistaken friends, Job’s circumstances revealed his hidden evil, and he needed to repent. Job’s reply in chapter 23-24 landed the responsibility on God, who had chosen him as an instrument of suffering. Bildad attempted to reply in chapter 25, but Job abruptly interrupted him and further asserted that an explanation of the trial was ultimately hidden in divine mystery. Job’s friends had no more arguments or comfort to offer him.
Job’s friends became silent after their final plea. Job, however, had more to say. In chapter 28, he launched off on a monologue and offered a profound reflection on God’s wisdom, using all of creation as points in his speech. In the last three chapters of this section (29-31), the reader is set up for Job’s final case. Job began with reflection on his blessed life before tragedy (chap. 29), only to follow it with a searing protest about his dreadful present situation (chap. 30). From here, Job offered one final protest of his innocence and then fell into silence himself (chap. 31).
Job and his friends exhausted their verbal ammunition and argued themselves further apart. One thing is clear; Job realized that neither he nor his friends had any wisdom to offer in this matter. Therefore, his only hope was to be able to stand before God to be vindicated (23:1-17). Job and his friends explored all the human wisdom available. Now the question was where wisdom could be found. This lesson in humility is important for the reader. As we have seen before, God does not always reveal the reasons for His activity. Even in the things God does reveal, He often does not exhaustively reveal His plans. Certainly, what God chooses to reveal is sufficient. For those who have learned to trust in Him, that should be enough.
VALUED (JOB 28:12 – 19)
12 "But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell?
13 Man does not comprehend its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, 'It is not in me'; the sea says, 'It is not with me.'
15 It cannot be bought with the finest gold, nor can its price be weighed in silver.
16 It cannot be bought with the gold of Ophir, with precious onyx or sapphires.
17 Neither gold nor crystal can compare with it, nor can it be had for jewels of gold.
18 Coral and jasper are not worthy of mention; the price of wisdom is beyond rubies.
19 The topaz of Cush cannot compare with it; it cannot be bought with pure gold.
The search for wisdom had driven philosophers and scientists to the highest peaks of human achievement. Yet, all the human ability in the world put forth in the efforts to find wisdom will end in futility. In essence, no human has the ability to discover wisdom in his or her own power independent of God.
The wisdom of God is beyond our comprehension. It cannot be purchased with any human resources. In fact, Job argued that no one even knows it value. Building his case, Job listed the most precious resources mined from the earth and showed their inadequacy to pay the price for wisdom (vs. 15-19). Neither gold, silver, onyx, lapis lazuli, coral, quartz, pearls, or topaz can compare to the value of wisdom. This is a point with which the teacher of Ecclesiastes would certainly nod in agreement.
Job’s friends claimed that Job loved God because of the gifts that he possessed. But now all these gifts had been taken away from Job. In verse 22, Eliphaz accused Job of loving gold and silver more than God. They insinuated that Job was really greedy. Job defended his innocence the entire time and never indicated that he struggled with greed. His friends based their arguments on a wrong premise, and Job had been trying to show them their mistake the whole time.
The Book of Proverbs compares wealth and wisdom also. Just like Job, the writer of Proverbs teaches that wisdom cannot be purchased with wealth. In Proverbs 8:18-19, we read: “with wisdom are riches and honor, lasting wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better that solid gold, and my harvest than pure silver”.
Wisdom literature is primarily focused on wise living and is application driven. All the wealth in the world cannot buy wisdom, which is a crown of honor. Wisdom cannot be purchased, nor can it be found by human exploration. Wisdom does not reside in the “land of the living” or in the deepest depths of the sea (28:13b-14). In the ancient world, bodies of water were often regarded as the personification of chaos and evil. Whether in good or evil, order or chaos, the wisdom of God cannot be found by human ingenuity. The wise person, according to the inspired writers of wisdom literature, values and treasures godly wisdom over all worldly treasure and earthly exploits.
Jesus states in Matthew 6:19-21 that where our treasure is, there our hearts will be also. Job understood this. Like him, we should treasure the Giver above the gifts. This is true wisdom.
HIDDEN (Job 28:20-22)
20 "Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell?
21 It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing, concealed even from the birds of the air.
22 Destruction and Death say, 'Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.'
Not only is wisdom hidden from the creatures who dwell on the earth, it is also elusive to the creatures of the sky. Even birds, who have the highest vantage point, cannot find wisdom. No creature is equipped for this task!
When looking in all the wrong places, the search for wisdom can bring someone to despair. Job was saying, regardless of how high (birds) or low (the grave) you go, the wisdom of God cannot be obtained. This is often expressed today when someone says, “if only I could see the whole picture.” Or more grimly, “perhaps all will be revealed to me after I am dead.” It is a difficult lesson to come to terms with what Job argued in verses 21-22, namely, that the creatures of earth, heaven, and the underworld cannot grasp true wisdom and therefore, cannot guide anyone to its source.
However, we also understand that the wise person searches for godly wisdom.
FOUND (JOB 28:23-27)
23 God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells,
24 for he views the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens.
After Job led the reader on a search for wisdom, both high and low, and consulted all of earth’s creatures, he proclaimed that God alone knows where to find wisdom. Only God understands the way to wisdom. God is the only one who knows its location. People cannot find wisdom in the skies over the earth. They cannot find wisdom in the depths under the earth. But God has the vantage point to see all, to the ends of the earth. He sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he established the force of the wind and measured out the waters,
26 when he made a decree for the rain and a path for the thunderstorm,
27 then he looked at wisdom and appraised it; he confirmed it and tested it.
As almighty Creator, God alone knows where wisdom has been placed. After all, it was God who fixed the force of the wind and measured the water. Likewise, it was He who established a limit for the rain and a path for the lightning. Because God has established the order of creation, He alone can reveal wisdom to humanity. It is important to remind ourselves that everything God has revealed is an act of His grace.
The creator God is not bound to reveal wisdom to any of His creatures. Yet, he chooses to do so in love. Even though He does not reveal all things exhaustively, what He does reveal is sufficient for all of life and godliness. While God reveals His wisdom to those who faithfully seek Him, that does not mean He will reveal all the reasons behind what happens to us and around us.
We must learn to trust Him in the things He has not revealed or the things we cannot understand. Ultimately, this comes down to our understanding of the character of God. If we believe God is good and loving, we can be comfortable with the mysteries that we don’t understand. We must learn, like Job, that only God is the source of true wisdom. Moreover, God’s wisdom is seen in His creative work. If the heavens declare the glory of God, can we not also declare His benevolence? True wisdom belongs to God alone. If we do not proclaim this truth, then the rocks of the earth will cry out in our place (Luke 19:40).
OFFERED (Job 28:28)
28 And he said to man, 'The fear of the Lord--that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’
The answer is finally given. Wisdom is found in the “fear of the Lord”. (Ps 111:10; Prov. 1:7; Job 28:28, Eccl. 12:13).
Eccl. 12: 13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.
Jesus is talking! Matt. 10: 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
This theme is common in all of Scripture. The Law of Moses cites the fear of God as the reason to treat the disabled and elderly well (Lev. 19:14, 32). Moses chose leaders on the basis that they feared God and wouldn’t take bribes (Ex. 18:21). Moses also told the Israelites that God met with them in a terrifying display of His power so that they wouldn’t sin (Ex. 20:20). Even in the New Testament, we are told that the chief sin of mankind is “there is no fear of God” (Rom. 3:18).
The next part, “to turn from evil is understanding”, indicates that wisdom is found in fearing God and tuning away from evil. Once again, the fear of God is linked to a moral command. In the case of Job, it seems that he was primarily focused on one’s respectful attitude or subservient relationship to God, which is expressed in pursuing holiness or an aversion to evil.
The concept of fearing God and turning away from evil is important for understanding the Book of Job as a whole. Job’s friends assumed that he had done something evil, though he maintained his innocence. In the last session, we followed Job’s plea with his friends to beware of wrongly ascribing evil to him - which was evil itself and would bring about judgment on them. The fear of God is a deep reverence and respect brought about by the presence of God, who is vastly more powerful than any human being. The fear of God is an humble posture of submissive reverence.
God created us to stand in awe of Him and keep his commandments.
True wisdom, then, begins with the fear of God. To fear God is to stand in awe of Him. God is the almighty Creator; we are mere creatures. God is sovereign; we are dependent. God is holy; we are sinners. As we have already seen in Scripture, we demonstrate that we fear God by keeping His commandments. If we acknowledge God as our King, we will naturally seek to do what He says. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). The writer of Ecclesiastes wrote that “this is for all humanity” (Eccl. 12:13). That verse reads literally that fearing God and keeping His commandments “is the whole duty of everyone.” It’s not just our duty, it’s our very essence. God created us to stand in awe of Him and keep his commandments. That’s the way to fulfill God’s plan for us. If God created us, He certainly knows what is best for us because it leads to repentance of sin and the pursuit of righteous living.
All of us have failed to fear God rightly and thus to live the perfectly wise life. There is only One who has walked the earth in perfect wisdom, and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus is the wisdom of God for us (1 Cor. 1:18-24).