To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
In Proverbs 1:2 we’ve discovered one of the great goals of the book of Proverbs is to allow us to know, in an intimate and experiential sense, both wisdom and instruction. We’ve already looked at what the word know means in this passage in yesterday’s post. But what about wisdom? And instruction?
Wisdom is defined as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment, or the quality of being wise. It’s the ability to discern or judge what is right, true, and lasting.” Wisdom is not the mere accumulation of facts about someone or something, it’s the ability to properly apply those facts in a given situation to determine the right and God-honoring outcome. Wisdom is manifested when a person can see the circumstances they face and match them with truth they know, God’s Word, and then plot a course of action based on the truth and not on the urgency of the situation.
Instruction, surprisingly, is not primarily defined as teaching or exhortation, as we would expect. Instruction (muwcar) is defined as discipline, chastening, and correction, with the imagery of a father disciplining his son. So the book of Proverbs is designed to help us know (yada) by doing, to learn by experience, in an intimate, personal way, the ability to discern what is right, true, and lasting versus choosing the cheap trinkets and toys our culture offers. And we are to learn the wisdom of God by discipline, correction and chastening. After all, the Lord disciplines the ones He loves (Heb. 12:6).
How to Get Wisdom
And that’s a question we all ask, isn’t it? How do we get wisdom? There are several verses that speak to this desire. The most well-known is found in James:
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8).
As we can see, wisdom is given to anyone who asks, just as long as they ask in faith. For if they doubt when they ask, they shouldn’t expect to receive anything from the Lord. Why? Because they are “double-minded” and “unstable” in all their ways.
So let me get this straight. All we have to do is ask for wisdom, for God’s wisdom— like something He possesses within Himself, as a part of Himself— and He will lavishly give His wisdom to us, to anyone for that matter, just as long as we ask in faith, without doubting. And why would God do that? Is it because He has a great desire for us to be wise? Or, maybe He wants His church and His children to be known as the wisest in all the land and show the world what it looks like to belong to Him? Or again, maybe He doesn’t relish the idea of His children struggling to make sense of the fallen world He placed us in?
But that can’t be true. Why? Because the Lord tells us a few verses earlier to “count it all joy when you fall into various trials” that we obviously didn’t have the wisdom to see or avoid in the first place (James 1:2). Plus, the word fall implies stepping into a hole we either didn’t know to look out for or we weren’t wise enough to step over.
Talk about not having wisdom. Also, if it’s really just that easy, then what’s the point of the book of Proverbs? If all we have to do is pray and the wisdom update is automatically downloaded, why would we need the instruction manual? Can we really become Yoda by just asking?
Wisdom is Found in Just One Man
But if we keep looking for the true meaning of wisdom in His Word, we will soon find ourselves walking through the pages of 1 Corinthians and find:
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God— and righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30).
Now, what does this mean? Exactly what it says. Jesus, by His own doing, has literally become for us the “wisdom from God.” So when we see Jesus we see, in perfect clarity, all the “wisdom from God.” If we want to know (yada) the “wisdom from God” all we need to do is know (yada) the Son of God. Since Jesus has “become for us wisdom for God” we need only to look and learn from Him to have that wondrous wisdom. Don’t you see? If we want more wisdom, we must seek and ask for more of Jesus.
The answer for our lack of wisdom is more Jesus. It’s all about Jesus.
So when James speaks of asking God for wisdom and knowing God gives “liberally and without reproach” to all who ask, He just may be speaking of the wisdom found in Jesus. Or, he may just be speaking about Jesus Himself.
If any of you lacks wisdom (what Jesus literally became for us), let him ask God (for more of Jesus, for the revelation of Jesus, to receive Jesus) who gives (Jesus) to all (“Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden” – Matt. 11:28) liberally and without reproach (there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus – Rom. 8:1), and it will be given to him (to make us complete in Christ – Col. 2:10).
After all, Jesus has become for us “wisdom from God — and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus is all in all.
To Know Wisdom is to Know Jesus
When Proverbs 1 states the main purpose of the book is for us to know (yada) wisdom, we’re also talking about knowing Jesus and the life in Christ and how to live in Him in a practical, hands-on, everyday sense. Proverbs gives us instruction on Godly living, and examples on how to put into practice the wisdom found in Christ. After all, He’s our perfect example, tested and tempted in every way we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15).
Just think, when we want to know how to respond to someone who verbally attacks our loved ones, what do we do? We look to Jesus, the “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2), and see how He responded in the same situation. We see His perfect example and, like true disciples, follow Him. He becomes for us the “wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). When our rights are violated and we scream for justice or vengeance, what should we do? We look to Jesus to see how He responded in the same situation. And we do what He did. We learn from Him. We learn His wisdom by learning more about Him, walking with Him, and choosing to live like Him.
This is what it means to know (yada) wisdom and instruction. It means to know (yada) Jesus (wisdom) and to be disciplined (instruction), or disciples of His. And the answer to our lack of wisdom is, as always, our lack of Jesus.
And the reason for the Proverbs? Simply this, to give us hands on examples of how Jesus would handle a situation that wasn’t recorded in the Bible. For example, how would Jesus handle sexual temptation? Or was He even tempted in that way?
But you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to see how the Proverbs complete the life of Christ not recorded for us in the Gospels.
1. What does it mean for you, in a practical sense, to see Jesus as the wisdom from God (Col. 1:30)?
2. Do you have the wisdom of God? How would you know?
3. Since instruction in our passage primarily means discipline, how disciplined are you in your walk with Christ? Do you have daily time with Him? When? Where? And how long?
4. Can you remember an example of God giving you His wisdom at just the right time? What was that experience like? How often does it happen?
5. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate God’s wisdom in your life and in your decision making process? What was it three months ago? One year ago? Are you growing in His wisdom or are you stagnated?
Next Step Challenge
Take a Bible Concordance or an online source like www.blueletterbible.com and do a search of the word wisdom in both the Old and the New Testament. Write down at least 20 passages that speak to you personally. Do you see any difference between the description of wisdom in the Old versus the New Testament? And, if so, what are those differences?
Why did you choose the 20 passages that you did? What has the Lord shown you through your word search and those 20 passages?
To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
The Lord tells us in His preamble of Proverbs that one of the purposes of this great book is for us “to know wisdom and instruction” and “to perceive the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2). And bam!— there it is again, right before our eyes— another troubling yet vital four-letter word.
But this time the word isn’t love, but know. What does it mean to know something, to know wisdom and instruction for example? What does it mean to be in the know, to have knowledge, or to acknowledge someone or something?
Our contemporary definition of know is “to be aware of something through careful observation, inquiry, or information; to develop a relationship with someone through meeting and spending time with them, to be familiar or friendly.”
“Oh, ask me, I know the answer to that question.”
“You don’t have to remind me, I know I have to pick them up at the airport at 5:00pm.”
“I know who you are, I recognized you from your Facebook profile.”
“I know all about Abraham Lincoln, I read about him in my textbook.”
But there are several different words that are translated know in the Scriptures: in the Greek, primarily edio (1492 in Strong’s) and ginosko (1097 in Strong’s) and in the Hebrew, yada (3045 in Strong’s). Plus, the Hebrew word yada is essentially the same as the Greek word ginosko. So let’s take a few minutes and dig a bit deeper into the difference between knowing something edio or knowing someone ginosko (or yada) and why that is even important.
To Know With Your Head or Your Heart
This is the question that defines these two words and describes the different aspects of what it means to know. Is it merely head knowledge, the accumulation of facts and raw data? Or can I know someone on a more personal level, with more intimacy and passion? Can I know them by my experience with them and not just know facts about them.
In the Greek, edio (1492) is defined as “to see, to perceive with the eyes or the senses, to observe, to get or gain knowledge of something, to understand.” It’s a mental, cognitive retention of some facts. It’s head knowledge, or book learning. It’s preparing for your final exam by memorizing all the answers and then forgetting them immediately after the test is over. It’s knowing, for example, that George Washington was the first President of the United States yet that fact having absolutely no impact on your daily life. “Yeah, I know all about George Washington. I saw his picture and watched the movie. But so what? Who cares?”
But there’s another word translated know that means something altogether different. The word ginosko (1097) means “to know in a completed sense, to know everything and to know in full, to learn to know; it means to know by intimate experience or expression; to choose, to approve, to love, to embrace, to desire, to place one’s favor upon.”
One can know something by studying the facts (edio) and one can know by choosing to live the experience (ginosko) and loving every minute of it. One is dry, academic and sterile (edio) and the other is complete, life- changing and exhilarating (ginosko).
Let me give you just a few examples.
Matthew 1:25 – “And (Joseph) did not know her (ginosko – or, to know by intimate experience or expression, to choose, to love, to desire, to place one’s favor upon) till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.” This word, in both the Old and New Testament, is used as a euphemism for sexual relations between two people. “Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Gen. 4:1). When Adam knew Eve it was obviously more than memorizing a few facts about her, wasn’t it?
Luke 8:46 – “But Jesus said, ‘Somebody touched Me, for I perceived (ginosko – or, to know by intimate experience or expression) power going out from Me’.” Jesus knew (ginosko), not by reading a book or sitting in a classroom (edio), that something had happened to Him— He personally experienced power going out from Him to the woman with the issue of blood. He knew (ginosko), without being told, power had gone out from Him because He experienced it Himself.
“I Know My Sheep”
And then there are the incredible passages that show the choice, desire, love, approval and favor associated with Jesus knowing (ginosko) those who belong to Him. This is not cognitive or head knowledge, this is something deeper, something much more intimate. This is Jesus knowing, choosing, loving, approving, and desiring those He places His favor upon, those called the elect in Him (Rom. 8:33).
John 10:14 – “I am the good shepherd; and I know (ginosko) My sheep, and am known (ginosko) by My own.” Jesus knows (ginosko) those that belong to Him. He knows (ginosko) them intimately, He has chosen them, approved of them, embraced them, and has placed His favor upon them. And the elect, those He has chosen for His own, also know (ginosko) Him in return. They don’t just know (edio) about Jesus, they know (ginosko) Jesus by intimate experience and expression. They also choose Him, desire Him, love Him and belong to Him.
But note this: Jesus knows (edio) everything and everyone. After all, He is God and He is sovereign. But He only knows (ginosko) those who are His own, those who belong to Him, those He has chosen, His sheep.
But it gets even better.
John 10:15 – “As the Father knows (ginosko) Me, even so I know (ginosko) the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” As the Father completely and fully, with intimate experience and expression, knows (ginosko) the Son, so the Son, the third Person of the Trinity, also knows (ginosko) the Father in the same way.
“I Never Knew You”
One more before moving on.
Matthew 7:23 – “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew (ginosko) you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” This certainly doesn’t mean there was some body of knowledge in the universe or some group of people the Son of God was unaware of. It doesn’t mean there was something He had to learn, something that slipped His mind, some skill He had yet to master, or something He simply forgot. “Uh, I’m sorry. What was your name again?” No, Jesus knows (edio) all. He is God and, among other things, He is omniscient.
This use of ginosko means there are some whom He has not chosen. Some He doesn’t have an intimate, loving experience with. Some upon whom He has not placed His favor and some He does not desire or approve of. And who are these? Jesus said, “You who practice lawlessness! (Matt. 7:23). You who reject His love, mercy and sacrifice. You who are lost, unredeemed, and unrepentant of your sins.
To Know Wisdom and Instruction
So you see, when you come across the word know in the Scriptures, please understand it can have a far deeper meaning than simply being aware of something because you have carefully observed it or have memorized certain facts that pertain to it. The word you read can mean to know (edio) in a general, mental, cognitive way or it can mean something much deeper (ginosko) that involves experience, intimacy, volition, and love.
And also remember that ginosko in the Greek is essentially the same word as yada in the Hebrew. So when we read in the Proverbs: “To know (yada) wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding”— it means we are to know (yada) in a completed sense, to know everything and to know fully, to learn to know; it means to know by intimate experience or expression; to choose, to approve, to love, to embrace, to desire, to place one’s favor upon.
And what are we to know (yada) like that? Wisdom and instruction. And what do wisdom and instruction mean and how can we choose to have an intimate experience with both and to know (yada) them completely and fully as the Scriptures command?
Stay tuned. Because that’s exactly what we’ll be examining tomorrow.
- When you read the word know, do you mentally define it as edio or ginosko? Which one do you naturally default to?
- What resource do you use to discover the deeper meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words in our Bible?
- How long have you been using that resource? What do you like about it and what are its shortcomings?
- Is taking more time to study your Bible difficult for you? And, if so, do you know why? Do you put the same effort into studying God’s Word as you would, for example, a college History exam? And again, if not, do you know why?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your desire for God’s Word at this point in your life? What was it three months ago? One year ago? Are you growing in your faith or standing still? And finally, what are you prepared to do about it?
Next Step Challenge
During your personal Bible reading time, commit to make it a practice of looking up each instance of the word know and mark in your Bible if it’s ginosko or edio or maybe another Greek word. You may even choose to write above them the Strong’s reference number: 1097 for ginosko and 1492 for edio.
Then look and see if you can find any other words that translate ginosko (such as comprehend, learn, realized, notice, understood, etc.) or edio (such as see, behold, perceive, etc.) to help your further understand the meaning of the Scripture you study.