God is… infinitely wise

In the seventh part of the Get to know God series, we’re looking at how God is infinite in wisdom. We’ll think a little bit about what wisdom is, how it relates to God, and what we need to do. As usual for this series, firstly we’ll look at what the Bible says, and then we’ll think through some practical points for us.

What does the Bible say about God’s wisdom?

Wisdom belongs to God

Where then does wisdom come from?
   Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
   concealed even from the birds in the sky.
Destruction and Death say,
  ‘Only a rumour of it has reached our ears.’
God understands the way to it
   and he alone knows where it dwells
Job 28:20-23

Wisdom is something that God alone possesses. This is echoed in the New Testament in Romans 16:27 where Paul says, “to the only wise God”. Wisdom is something that God simply has perfectly and infinitely, it is part of who he is.

In the Bible, wisdom is about making good and right decisions. (If you’re interested, I have a post about Wisdom and Guidance in Proverbs). It’s about doing what is good and avoiding what is evil. We human beings have limited wisdom – and we’ll come onto that later. But this is not the case with God.

God doesn’t have to listen to advisers to tell him what the right course of action is. God simply knows, because he is perfect wisdom. We human beings are capable of making poor decisions for all sorts of reasons. Maybe we make decisions based on misunderstanding or incomplete knowledge. But God never has that problem: all of his decisions are perfect. God never has to worry about which way to go – he always knows.

God created the world with wisdom

The miracle of creation

But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.

Jeremiah 10:12

When God made the world, he made it with his wisdom. This means that the universe reflects something of God’s wisdom. As Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God”. When we look at the universe, we see a universe that has been created with perfect wisdom. Of course, we know that the universe is not as it should be – it was marred by sin (you can find out more in the What is Christianity course). But the universe displays the wonder and wisdom of our creator God.

God’s wisdom is beyond ours

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!

Romans 11:33

The Bible makes clear that God’s wisdom is beyond our own. Sometimes God chooses to do things which we don’t understand – but that’s not because they’re not wise! It’s simply because we are finite. We do not have all the facts at our disposal. As Isaiah 55:9 puts it: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” God’s ways are higher than ours, his wisdom is higher than ours. God often does things in ways that we cannot understand or could never have imagined.

God often does this so that the glory goes to him rather than to human beings. In 1 Corinthians 1:27-29 Paul says: “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise … so that no one may boast before him.” God deliberately chooses things which appear to be foolish in the eyes of the world to display his wisdom. This is so that it is clear to the world that it’s not human wisdom which has prevailed!

God’s wisdom is displayed at the cross

The cross

Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:22-24

The ultimate expression of God’s wisdom is the cross – Christ crucified. That might come as a surprise to you: when Jesus was crucified, wasn’t it the worst thing that’s ever happened in the world? How could it then be God’s wisdom?

But, as we’ve seen, God’s wisdom is higher than our wisdom. He chooses to use bad things to display his own power and wisdom. In the case of the cross, it was the worst thing to ever happen in the world… it was also simultaneously the best thing. Through the cross, God conquered sin – the sin which put Jesus there. Evil thought it was a victory against God, but actually through it God was triumphing over evil. This is the wisdom of God.

This is something that we need to remember in our lives – let’s start looking at that now.

What does God’s wisdom have to do with us?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7

The very beginning of human wisdom is “the fear of the Lord”. This is where we need to start in order to be wise. It makes sense if wisdom belongs to God and comes from him. If we want to be wise, we need to know him.

Why should this be the case? It’s because, as we’ve thought about a few times already, God is our Creator. God made the universe and everything in it, including us. Living wisely means living in his world in accord with the way that he made us. We’re not supposed to live our lives apart from God, we are supposed to live our lives with him at the centre. This is true wisdom.

Godly wisdom is different to worldy wisdom

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.

1 Corinthians 3:19

The world considers certain things to be wisdom which are not wise in God’s eyes. Anything that doesn’t come from God is not wise. For example, there are many philosophies which people believe and cling to, and yet are not based on God’s wisdom. I’ve just been reading Francis Schaeffer’s classic book The God who is There, where he talks about some of the missteps our society made through the 19th and 20th centuries. A more recent example is Carl Trueman’s book The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self.

The essential point to grasp is this: not everything which the world calls wisdom is actually wise! If you want to be wise in God’s eyes, you need to seek his wisdom.

We need to ask for wisdom

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

James 1:5

Because wisdom comes from God, it is something that we need to ask him for. When James says “if any of you lacks wisdom” – who does that not apply to? We all lack wisdom in some way! None of us have perfect knowledge. None of us know for sure what’s going to happen tomorrow, let alone the results of big decisions that we make.

In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us to pray “Your Kingdom come, your will be done … give us today our daily bread”. I think this is basically asking God for wisdom: we ask for help in doing his will for our lives. We ask him to give us everything that we need to do what he wants us to do. This is wisdom, and it’s something that we need to ask for daily.

God is never going to mislead you

One thing which it’s taken me a long time to realise is that God will never mislead us.

He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber

Psalm 121:3

Because God is powerful, and because God has perfect knowledge, he can guide us perfectly. God isn’t surprised by events – there’s nothing which he doesn’t know. God doesn’t have to weigh up risks when he leads us down a particular course.

There have been many times in my life when I thought I’d taken a wrong turn. But, it turned out, in God’s wisdom he was able to use those times for good. A few years ago, for example, I decided to start a YouTube channel about playing worship guitar. The channel never really got off the ground, and I closed it after a few months. But, it did get me started uploading videos about the Christian faith, which became Understand the Bible.

When you think you’re going down a dead end, it’s never a dead end to God. In his wisdom, he always has a plan!

God can answer our prayers perfectly

Tim Keller quote: God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows

There’s a great Tim Keller quote, as in the picture – “God will only give you what you would have asked for if you knew everything he knows”. I really like that: when God hears our prayers, he knows everything. He knows everything about our lives, he knows everything that he has planned for the future. Sometimes he doesn’t give us what we ask for because he wants to give us something better.

For example: let’s say I am planning to take my daughter out for a special surprise outing one day. But when the day comes, she asks me whether she can go round to see a friend. I say no to seeing the friend – because I know that there’s something special coming.

It’s a bit like that with God: because he knows the full picture, he is able to answer prayers from a position of complete knowledge. But that brings us neatly onto the next point.

We shouldn’t expect to understand everything

Because God’s wisdom is higher than ours, we should expect not to understand everything that happens. In fact, if you think you do understand everything that is happening, I’d suggest that you might have missed something! God will often lead us down roads which we don’t understand at the time. In fact, we’ll probably never fully understand.

But I’ve often had the experience of being led down a particular road by God, only to find out some months or even years later why. I think this famous quote by Soren Kierkegaard sums it up: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” Very often, we can only understand God’s wisdom when we’re looking back. This is because God wants us to trust him!

Remember God’s wisdom is cross-shaped

The final thing to remember is that God’s wisdom is cross-shaped, as we saw earlier on. Christ crucified displayed the wisdom of God. What this means is, we should expect to see God’s wisdom displayed in places that the world doesn’t expect to see wisdom. If you look at the people who God has used through history, they’re often the people you’d least expect! Take a look, for example, at the flaws of many Biblical characters. Noah was a drunk, Jacob was a liar, and so on.

God’s wisdom is not found in human power and strength, but in weakness: “my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). If you feel weak and powerless, if you feel that you’re not very wise – then perhaps you’re in a position where God is able to use you!

Further Reading

  • Thomas Watson on The Wisdom of God from A Body of Divinity
  • It’s well worth reading Francis Schaeffer – he died in the early 1980s but I think his works were prophetic. His thought is summarised in his trilogy.
  • If you’re looking for a book specifically about God’s guidance, check out Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung.
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