Job 28:20 – From Where Does Wisdom Come?

Why does wisdom seem so elusive?  There is so much knowledge in the world, but smart people appear devoid of wisdom.  Man has extensive capabilities to discover the unknown, yet common sense is a rarity.  What are we to make of that?

Job provided the answer in one of his monologues to his friends.  Although they excoriated him for being wicked, he maintained that he was a man of integrity.  But none of that mattered without the tempering of wisdom.

The context for Job’s questions in this regard dealt with mining of precious materials under the earth.  At that time, that was the limit of technology, yet what he and others knew about the process was cutting edge.  To this end he said in Job 28:9-11:

“Man puts his hand to the flinty rock

    and overturns mountains by the roots.

He cuts out channels in the rocks,

    and his eye sees every precious thing.

He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle,

    and the thing that is hidden he brings out to light.”

Note what he says: Man’s eye sees every precious thing… the thing that is hidden he brings to light.  Isn’t this exactly what God said when men built the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:6?

And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”

The abilities with which God created man are so extensive that nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.”

In other words, man has the capability of approaching god-like knowledge and acts. Of course, man is man. He will never be God. However, what God has imbued man with is so extensive and God-like that he will think that he is on a par with his creator. If nothing is impossible for him in his quest to bring all things hidden to light, what is it that inhibits him from accomplishing anything?

Nothing – unless he has one specific characteristic.

Not surprisingly, Job gets to the heart of the issue in the repetitive verses of Job 28:12, 20:

“But where shall wisdom be found?

    And where is the place of understanding?”

“From where, then, does wisdom come?

    And where is the place of understanding?”

Man has all this technology, knowledge, and understanding at his fingertips, but what about wisdom?

When we look at the world today, don’t we see the very same issues?  Man has plumbed the deepest depths of the universe.  His creations are far beyond the wildest imaginings of science fiction writers of the past.  The making of artificial intelligence is about to breakthrough to simulate how man thinks – to replicate that very process. He has broken the genetic code and can manipulate the incredibly complex software of life – the strands of DNA that contain more information in one double-helix than all the libraries of the earth combined.  What man is capable of seems to have no limits.  This is exactly what Job echoed that God had said at Babel.

Yet, the One who made us in His image with the brainpower to imagine all such things says there is something more important than the sum of what we know and understand.  It is wisdom.  And where does someone find that?  Job 28:23 tells us:

“God understands the way to it,

    and he knows its place.”

Man for all he is and does must search out wisdom.  If he doesn’t, he is no more useful than an animal who has no self-awareness.

There is only one place to obtain this most rare of traits.  In the answer to the questions of verses 12  and 20 above, Job 28:28 explains:

And he [God] said to man,

‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,

    and to turn away from evil is understanding.’”

This is the key.  Without the fear of the Lord, man has nothing.  He certainly doesn’t have wisdom for all he knows and can accomplish.  The truth is that without God, man turns to evil.  Thus all these remarkable achievements end up being used to propagate wickedness.  Only when man turns from evil through his fear of the Lord does he gain actual understanding.

If there is any secret in the world today, this is it.  We must turn to God, or we will destroy ourselves.  And guess what?  We are on that path.  Because man has rejected God, he has no wisdom and the end is foretold.  Only by God’s grace as He punishes an unbelieving world will He save it.  Otherwise through man’s folly and wickedness, he would bring about his own self-destruction.

How foolish man is and how great is our God!

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