Today: [Job Twenty-Eight] Is Wisdom What You Know or Who You Know? In this chapter Job decries the lack of wisdom among men. He compares the pursuit of wisdom to the efforts men make to mine precious gems and metals from the earth. From Job’s standpoint wisdom is to be sought after by much effort that will rarely meet with success. Is this the New Testament idea of wisdom? Is wisdom only for the few? 1 Co. 1:30 tells us that our wisdom is not something we learn but rather God makes Jesus to be our wisdom – in His person and not in our efforts of religious striving to become more “wise” or “deep” in the things of God that those around us.
[Job 28:1-28 KJV] 1 Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold [where] they fine [it]. 2 Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass [is] molten [out of] the stone. 3 He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection: the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death. 4 The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; [even the waters] forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from men. 5 [As for] the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up as it were fire. 6 The stones of it [are] the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of gold. 7 [There is] a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture’s eye hath not seen: 8 The lion’s whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it. 9 He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the mountains by the roots. 10 He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every precious thing. 11 He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and [the thing that is] hid bringeth he forth to light.
This is an interesting chapter in Job and while it may not appear on the surface to be so – it is quite controversial. Many scholars believe that this poem that Job is purported to recite does not belong between chapters 27 and 29 and in fact was never spoken by Job but inserted later by a revisionist. The primary reason this is believed is because it’s content and tenor is so incompatible with what Job says both before and after chapter 28. The academics who make this claim assert that this chapter is too calm, too reflective and thoughtful to be compatible with Job’s demeanor and monologue throughout Job and therefore must have been inserted later. This is entirely possible but not necessarily the only solution.
Remember that at this point Job is exhausted mentally, physically and spiritually. His three friends likewise have exhausted themselves into astonished silence. Elipaz, Bildad and Zophar have ceased speaking and now Job goes on for what constitutes many chapters in his diatribe against God’s unfairness (in his view) and his own self righteous opinions of himself. All of the content ascribed to Job and his friends is singularly lacking in faith and in love for God or each other. They are angry, frustrated and exasperated in the midst of the controversies provoked by Job’s horrible suffering.
1 Cor. 13:8 tells us that love never fails. God is love and as such when we move in God’s love we will outlast all our detractors. Moving and speaking outside of love we will eventually run out of energy and motivation. Hatred and criticism and strife fueled arguments run out of gas sooner or later. Here in this chapter Job seemingly is recovering himself somewhat, seeking to strike some balance and regain his composure after a long and intense debate with his friends and with God himself.
Whatever may be the case the passage is in the pages of holy writ and has value for us nonetheless.
12 But where shall wisdom be found? and where [is] the place of understanding? 13 Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is it found in the land of the living. 14 The depth saith, It [is] not in me: and the sea saith, [It is] not with me. 15 It cannot be gotten for gold, neither shall silver be weighed [for] the price thereof. 16 It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir, with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. 17 The gold and the crystal cannot equal it: and the exchange of it [shall not be for] jewels of fine gold. 18 No mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls: for the price of wisdom [is] above rubies. 19 The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it, neither shall it be valued with pure gold. 20 Whence then cometh wisdom? and where [is] the place of understanding? 21 Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living, and kept close from the fowls of the air.
The entirety of this passage we identify as chapter 28 is Job apparently comparing the pursuit of wisdom to man’s pursuit of precious metals. Job makes mention of metallurgy, geology and natural history as a metaphor for the quest for wisdom that he concludes cannot be found among men just as rubies and topaz were difficult to find out and mine from the earth. Job’s idea of wisdom then is quite esoteric and specialized, only available to a small group of people privileged by birth or disposition to receive the wisdom that is denied to common man.
Is this true? Is wisdom a rare commodity among men? There may not be much wisdom seen among men but does that mean it is not available? Christian culture itself consigns much of the available of spiritual wisdom to the mystics and ascetics who cloister themselves away from society in pursuit of deeper truths. In so doing we have come to define wisdom falsely as that which is hidden deep and away from common man and therefore unattainable.
1 Cor. 1:30 tells us that God made Jesus to be our wisdom. What that means is that our wisdom is wrapped up in the person of Jesus Christ – not in the pages of a book or secret writing on a dusty shelf somewhere. Our wisdom is a person and not some secret knowledge. Today it is popular among certain believers to seek out hidden books and writings as though they contain some secret knowledge that will give them an advantage spiritually that isn’t commonly available to others. The book of Enoch is popular and the the Nag Hammadi scrolls, the books of Thomas, the Sheperd of Hermas only to name a few. It is certainly not immoral to read such things but what is the point of doing so when our inquiry into the accepted 66 books of the bible is so shallow and half hearted?
Consider the words of James – the most conservative of the New Testament writers:
[Jas 1:5 KJV] 5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all [men] liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Wisdom is something freely given of God. It is readily available throughout the scriptures and is something that God offers us without condition or reproach. The wisdom of God is not something we attain to gain advantage over one another but rather to uncomplicated our lives by yielding to God’s heart toward us and his plan for our lives.
[Jas 3:15-17 KJV] 15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but [is] earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife [is], there [is] confusion and every evil work. 17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, [and] easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
The wisdom that Job and his friends demonstrate is all about one-ups-menship and these men seeking to justify themselves and tear each other down. Once you find yourself in the company of such strife-mongers it is very hard to extricate yourself. This is a great pitfall for Christians that can be seen in many places and most demonstrably on social media where everyone is an expert and everyone has something to say about anything and everything. Learn to withdraw from such foolishness. Job would have been much better off not to have spoken up at all or to have replied to his bitter and critical friends. When you wrangle with people such as this the spirit they operate in will take you captive, extinguish your hope and violate your faith. Make it your determination to demonstrate the godly wisdom James speaks of and not the wisdom of the world which only contaminates all who embrace it.
22 Destruction and death say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears. 23 God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. 24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth, [and] seeth under the whole heaven; 25 To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. 26 When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder: 27 Then did he see it, and declare it; he prepared it, yea, and searched it out. 28 And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that [is] wisdom; and to depart from evil [is] understanding.
After making the point that he thinks wisdom is unattainable among men Job concludes the passage with a summation of what wisdom would dictate to mortal man. The fear of the Lord is wisdom and to depart from evil is understanding. This particular portion of the book of Job would make the case for it’s authorship to belong to king Solomon. Solomon in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes echoes the themes very closely. Certainly it is evidence of wisdom in a man’s heart that he fear God and depart from evil but is that is a concept of wisdom based upon what man does in response to God thus it is law-based and not reflecting the grace of God that always comes first in our lives.
In John 6:44 Jesus tells us that no man comes to the Father unless the Spirit draws him. 1 Co. 1:30 tells us that our wisdom is not bound up in our personal morality – rather our wisdom is contained in the person of Jesus Himself whom God makes to be our wisdom. Our wisdom is a person. We can certainly be taught and gain from teaching and spiritual inside but in the final analysis the wisdom of God in our lives is not about what we know but about our personal and intimate relationship with Jesus on a day by day basis.
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