April 27, 2008
Part 4: The unsearchable riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge
Have you ever looked back on a decision you made and thought, “If I had known then what I know now…?” I’ve made so many stupid decisions! I told some students this week that the more you know, the better decisions you’ll make. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had access to more knowledge, more wisdom? We do! The apostle Paul sang,
Romans 11:33 “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments and His paths beyond tracing out!”
And later, speaking of Jesus, he said,
Colossians 2:3 “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom of knowledge.
This series of talks, “UnGoogleable”, is about the unsearchable, ungoogleable riches of Jesus which He makes available to us. Today, we’re going to talk about the unsearchable riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge.
Romans 11:33-36 Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! 34 “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” 36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen.
In Romans 9-11, Paul discusses God’s great plan for mankind, specifically how the Jews and Gentiles each fit into God’s plan. He ends with this doxology, this song of praise to God for the wisdom of His plan.
ILL: This kind of thing happens all the time at my home. Laina asks me what we’re doing for the day, and when I lay out the plan, she sings, “Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of Joe!”
That’s what these verses are: Paul’s impassioned response to the wisdom of God’s great plan for the human race! Paul is marveling at God’s wisdom. Let’s take a closer look.
1. God is all-knowing and all-wise.
The riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge are deep. How deep? Unsearchable! So deep that you’ll never find the bottom, you’ll never come to the end.
Of all there is to know in the universe, how much do you know? A tiny fraction of one percent. If all there is to know was represented by all the grains of sand in the world, what you or I know would be one or two grains of sand.
Of all there is to know in the universe, how much do all of us together know-all of mankind? Still only a fraction of one percent; maybe a few handsful of sand.
Of all there is to know in the universe, how much does God know? Everything. One hundred percent. All the sand on all the beaches. The technical name for this is “omniscience”. God knows everything.
1 Kings 8:39 says that God “alone knows the hearts of all men.”
1 Chronicles 28:9 says that “the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts.”
Psalm 33:13-15 says that God sees all mankind, and considers everything they do.
Listen to Psalm 139:1-6 “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. 2 You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. 3 You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. 4 Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. 5 You hem me in–behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. 6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.” God knows everything about you: every thought, every word, every way you take.
Psalm 147:4-5 says that God “determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name.” There are over 400 billion stars just in our galaxy, and over a billion other galaxies like ours…and God calls each star by name. Mind-boggling, isn’t it? No wonder the Psalmist said, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
In Matthew 6:4, 8, Jesus says that God sees what is done in secret, and that He knows our needs even before we ask.
In Matthew 10:30, Jesus said that God even knows the number of hairs on your head. This is no small feat since, for some of us, that number changes every time we take a shower!
1 John 3:20 sums it up pretty well: “God knows everything.”
Oh the depth of the riches of the knowledge of God!
Knowing everything comes in really handy…especially when you have to make decisions. But knowledge alone isn’t enough. I know some smart people who know lots and still make stupid decisions. You also need wisdom. Wisdom is the ability to apply what you know in the right ways, the ability to use your knowledge to make right decisions. God knows everything, and He has wisdom to match His knowledge.
Psalm 104:24 “How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all…”
Proverbs 3:19 “By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place;”
Jeremiah 10:12 “But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.”
Isaiah 28:29 says that God is “wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.”
Isaiah 33:6 says “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”
1 Corinthians 1:25 sums it up this way: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.”
Oh the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.
Ok, God is all-knowing-He is omniscient. And God is all-wise. And Paul says in Colossians 2:3, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” He’s got it all. But how does that help us?
ILL: The Internet is a huge network of computers that are linked together all around the world. Together, they contain mind-boggling amounts of information. Imagine all the information in all the libraries and universities of the world available through your computer. It’s there! Now let me ask you: how many of you don’t have a clue how to get at it? It’s there, but it’s not doing you any good because you don’t know how to go online and get it.
God is all-knowing and all-wise; all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him. But it won’t do you any good unless you know how to go online with God and tap into His limitless resources.
Here are some ways in which God shares His wisdom and knowledge with us.
2. How to discover the treasures of God’s wisdom and knowledge.
A. Fear the Lord.
First, fear the Lord. The Bible says that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge. This is the place to start. You all know the song: “let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…”
Psalm 111:10 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.”
Proverbs 1:7 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.”
Isaiah 33:6 “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.
What does it mean to fear the Lord? Some people fear the dark and can’t sleep unless a light is on; some children fear boogie-men or monsters under the bed. Is it that kind of fear? No.
Some people fear a parent or spouse with an uncontrollable temper, someone who beat them physically or verbally; they cringe in terror or dread upsetting that person. Is it that kind of fear? No.
Some people fear the police, because they are doing the wrong thing and don’t want to get caught. Is it that kind of fear? No.
So what does it mean to fear the Lord? To fear the Lord is to recognize God’s power and greatness, and to stand in awe and reverence of Him. It happens when you encounter God and realize how awesome He is, and how small you are by comparison.
ILL: I love the ocean. I love to go to the beach; I love to boogie board and bob in the waves-I’m especially good at bobbing-and at night I love to fall asleep to the sound of waves. I love the ocean. And I fear the ocean. When I was child, my parents taught me a healthy respect for the ocean. “Never turn your back on the ocean,” they told me. It’s very big and very powerful and not always predictable. So when I’m at the beach, I’m relaxed and enjoying myself; I’m not paralyzed by fear, but I’m careful.
You fear the Lord when you recognize the enormous difference between the infinite Creator, and you, His finite creation. It is reverent respect for Almighty God that results in willing obedience to His commands.
ILL: When my doctor says that I need to take a medicine twice a day with food, I do as he says. Why? I fear the doc! I have a healthy respect for the doctor because I know that he knows more than I do about medicine.
My nephew is in med school. By the time he finishes his training, he’ll have 11 years of higher education. How many of you are glad that doctors have that kind of training?
Here are “Things you don’t want to hear during surgery.”
“Everyone stand back, I think I lost a contact.”
“Someone call the janitor, we’re going to need a mob and a bucket.
“Sterile, schmerile; at least the operating room floor is clean.”
“Hey, that’s cool! Now can you make his leg twitch?”
“Nurse, did this patient sign the organ donor card.”
“Med school? Naw, I got one of those mail-in diplomas.”
I’m glad that doctors have lots of training. It’s one of the reasons we have such respect for physicians. So, we respect doctors and trust them and do what they say. We “fear the doctor”.
That’s what the fear of the Lord is like. We recognize that God knows more than we do; He is greater, wiser, and more powerful. So we respect Him and trust Him and do what He says. If you want to write down a definition of fearing the Lord, write down “respect, trust, obey“.
Obedience is an essential part of fearing the Lord.
Deuteronomy 6:1-2 “These are the commands, decrees and laws the LORD your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear the LORD your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life.”
How do you fear the Lord? By keeping all His commands. To fear the Lord is to have a deep respect and reverence for Him that leads to trusting obedience. Do you want more wisdom and knowledge?
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge.”
B. Ask the Lord.
The second way to access the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge is to ask the Lord.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
There it is as plain as the nose on your face! Ask God.
If you lack wisdom-how many of you meet that qualification from time to time? I constantly find myself in situations where I lack wisdom-I need wisdom as a father, as a husband, as a pastor. I need lots of wisdom. What should I do? Ask God.
And here’s the cool part. God will give it! He will give you wisdom. But it gets even better. Look how God gives wisdom to us.
James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Generously. God gives generously. Not stingily, not meagerly, not begrudgingly. Generously!
ILL: My son asks me for money. “Hey Dad, could I have a couple bucks? I’m going out for lunch with some friends.” What do I do? I give it to him. How much? I give him a couple bucks! What would “generously” look like? I’d give him a ten, or a twenty, or the credit card and tell him to treat his friends!
That’s giving generously. It’s giving more than was asked for. That’s how God gives when we ask for wisdom. There’s a limit to my resources, and thus to my generosity. But all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ; He is a rich store of wisdom and knowledge. His resources are unlimited and He can afford to give generously! He gives generously…
To all. Who does “all” include? You…and me! You don’t have to worry that you’re unworthy! You are! And so am I! And so is everyone else! But God gives generously to all! He doesn’t play favorites. You can ask with confidence. God gives generously to all…
Without finding fault. Has someone ever given you something and made you feel badly at the same time?
ILL: My son asks me for money. I give him some and I say, “Why are you always asking me for money? Do you think money grows on trees? That I’m made of money? Here…and don’t ask for more.”
I don’t do that. And God doesn’t either. He doesn’t find fault, and I’m so glad He doesn’t because He certainly could with me! He has given me wisdom that I’ve ignored, and He could have thrown that back in my face, but He doesn’t. He gives generously to all without finding fault.
So ask! Ask God for wisdom if you need it. Solomon did. Look what happened to him in 2 Chronicles 1:7-12. God gave Solomon a blank check. “Ask me for whatever you want.” Solomon could have asked for riches or honor or power or the death of his enemies. Instead, he asked for wisdom and knowledge so that he could lead well. He knew that he was in over his head, that leading a nation was a bigger task than he could manage, and he needed wisdom and knowledge. So he asked God for it, and God gave it to Him…generously. How generously?
1 Kings 4:29-34 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. 30 Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the men of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. 31 He was wiser than any other man, including Ethan the Ezrahite-wiser than Heman, Calcol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. 32 He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. 33 He described plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also taught about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. 34 Men of all nations came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.
That’s generous! God gave Solomon a heaping portion of wisdom and knowledge. And for good measure, God threw in a generous helping of wealth, riches and honor! Kind of makes you want to ask, doesn’t it?
So here’s the second way to access the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge: ask the Lord. Pray!!!
C. Study the Bible.
A third way to access the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge is to study the Bible. The Bible is full of God’s wisdom and knowledge. When you read and study and apply the Bible to your life, you become wise.
Deuteronomy 4:5-6 “See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.”
Wouldn’t it be nice to be so wise that it would be obvious to everyone around you? Those who observe God’s commands are wise. But you can’t observe them if you don’t know them. Christians claim that the Bible is their standard of faith and action. We believe that this book is God’s word, that it teaches us what to believe and how to live. And yet many Christians have never even read the Bible all the way through! Imagine: we hold up this book and say, “I believe and obey this,” when we haven’t even read it! We struggle to know God’s will, to do the right thing, to have wisdom for every day decisions-and it’s here. It’s here-but many of us don’t open the book. But it’s here! God’s wisdom and knowledge is available to you in His word.
Colossians 3:16 “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.”
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, live in you richly. Here is a treasure chest of the riches of God’s wisdom and knowledge. Let it live in you richly. When you do, you’ll speak with “all wisdom”. How do you let the word live in you richly?
At the beginning of the year we talked about this in a series called “Only One Thing.” In that series I talked about setting time aside each day to sit at Jesus’ feet, read the Bible and let Him speak to you. We talked about using the SOAP method. Read the Bible, and ask God to give you one thing for the day. Then write in your journal:
- S: the Scripture that spoke to you.
- O: your observation about it. What does it say to you?
- A: application: what are you going to do about it?
- P: a prayer.
We have Life Center journals available at the resource center, and there is a Bible reading plan included. We also have copies of the Bible reading plan at the resource center and on our website. Get a journal, get a plan, and get started. Read every day and let God speak to you and begin to give you wisdom and knowledge. One more.
D. Seek counsel.
One of the ways God shares His wisdom and knowledge with us is through others. God uses people to educate and inform us, and to guide us and make us wise. This is a theme all through the book of Proverbs; here are a few examples.
Proverbs 8:33 Listen to my instruction and be wise; do not ignore it.
Proverbs 13:10 Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.
Proverbs 13:20 He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.
Proverbs 18:15 The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge; the ears of the wise seek it out.
Proverbs 19:20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.
Do you want more wisdom and knowledge? Find people who are wiser and know more than you and listen to them. Walk with the wise and you’ll grow wise. Seek counsel and learn from others.
ILL: Some of us are investigating the possibility of drilling wells in an African village that has no access to clean and safe water. I’m very excited about it. World Vision says that single most effective thing you can do to alleviate poverty in the majority world is drill a well. Clean and safe water is saves lives, dramatically improves health, makes education more possible and changes the economy. It’s huge. And it’s not rocket science-it’s well drilling and we know how to do that…here.
Doing it in Africa-we know that we are on the front end of a steep learning curve. So guess who we are talking to? People who have successfully done it before. People who are more experienced and wiser than us when it comes to drilling wells in that part of the world. We had a meeting with some of these wise people on Tuesday, and they raised issues we hadn’t thought of. Light bulbs were going on all over the place. God was sharing His wisdom with us…through people.
Are you in a situation where you need some wisdom or knowledge? Seek counsel. God may have deposited exactly what you need in someone you know.
How do we access God’s wisdom and knowledge?
Fear the Lord! Develop a relationship of trusting obedience.
Ask the Lord! Pray, and He will generously give you wisdom.
Study the Word! Let God’s word live in you richly!
Seek counsel! Find people wiser than you and ask questions.
3. What do we do with all these riches? Share it!
If you know the Lord, don’t keep it to yourself. You know something-or better, Someone-that everyone needs to know. Share what you know! We talk all the time about doing find, tell, bring. Find someone you love, tell them what you know, bring them with you to church. If you’ve got Jesus, you are rich! Share the wealth!
When you learn something from God’s word, share it! Do your SOAP each day, and then look for an opportunity to share what you learned with someone else. Sharing it spreads the wealth of God’s wisdom! Share it with your spouse or your kids or your friends or classmates or co-workers. “Hey, I was reading in the Bible today and learned something really cool…” God might speak to someone through you! Share the wealth!