TEXT: “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:12 ESV) “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?” (Job 28:20 ESV)
INTRODUCTION: Those who suffer personally can struggle to understand why they are suffering and they may feel that they have no access to God to plead their case. This was the experience of Job revealed in the Biblical book by his name, Job. We certainly have gained a fuller understanding of suffering through our Suffering Savior and His Cross and Resurrection. But, there is still the need for wisdom as we live in this world filled with suffering. Indeed, it is after addressing the issue of trials that James instructs and encourages his readers with these words: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…….” (James 1:5). Ultimately, as we will see, Job 28 will point us in the same direction.
The 28th chapter of Job contains a poem on the subject of wisdom. This poem is found in this unique Biblical book that wrestles with the reality of and the reasons for suffering in this world. These words are part of one of Job’s discourses. We have to read the complete account (Job 1-42) to appreciate the dynamics of the discourses that take place - after the amazing introduction (Job 1-2) and before the climactic conclusion (Job 38-42, esp. 42). Wisdom is especially needed when one suffers in our world for no “apparent” reason, even as righteous Job suffered. Let’s gain solid insight on the search, the source and the secret to wisdom.
Using various images related to mining and examples from nature, we are shown that wisdom cannot be found in this world (1-14). It is not in the land of the living (13), it is not in the deep or the sea (14), it is hidden from all living (21), and it is only a rumor in the realm of death (22). Thus, although the miner can find valuable treasures hidden below the earth’s surface, wisdom cannot be found by man’s search in this world. The whereabouts of wisdom remains a mystery.
Wisdom cannot be found and wisdom cannot be bought (16). Wisdom’s value cannot be matched by the treasures that man can find (15-19). The various precious stones mentioned indicate that the value of wisdom is great and beyond human calculation. When the hidden-ness and the value of wisdom are brought together, we are forced to conclude that there is a mystery to wisdom that must be revealed or discovered. Man cannot search out wisdom and it is too valuable to purchase.
God is brought into the poem in verse 23. With beautiful descriptive words, we are shown that God is the ultimate majestic source of wisdom. The God who sees all and directs His creation, knows all about wisdom. Wisdom is not a mystery to God. Indeed, “he saw it, and declared it; he established it, and searched it out” (27). These verbs indicate that the omniscient creator God is the author of wisdom. This must be read in contrast to what we have already noted in the earlier part of the poem. Wisdom is not of man, nor can it be found by man in this world. Wisdom is of God and can only be found in God and through God.
It is one thing to say that God is the source of wisdom, but how does mankind learn or gain wisdom. We learn in this text that wisdom is dependent upon God’s revelation, the words of God (“And he said to man…..”) Wisdom will not be found through a search in this world, nor can it be purchased. Wisdom is revealed by God to man. The secret to wisdom is not really a secret. It is the revealed truth of God Himself. God’s Word and His words give us wisdom. (See also Proverbs 2:6-15) And here God is going to teach us about the beginning or the foundation of wisdom.
In Job 28:28, God gives man the key to wisdom, indeed the way to know wisdom and to live wisely is as follows: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (28 ESV). This statement is really the summary statement concerning wisdom found in the “wisdom books” of the Old Testament, and it is confirmed and vindicated when you reach the end of Job. So, wisdom is out of this world because it must come from God Himself.
Positively speaking, it is wise to live reverently in the light of who God is. To acknowledge who God is and therefore to live obediently before Him is the basis of wise living. And God has given us His Word to guide us into a relationship with Himself and to know how to live wisely before Him.
Negatively speaking, turning away or departing from evil reveals the same wisdom or understanding, since one is rejecting a life that disregards God, His covenant and righteousness. So, one does not find wisdom by searching in the material world, one is wise by honoring God and living in accord with His Word. This is the way not only to gain wisdom, but to “live wisdom.”
CONCLUSION: Especially in the context of suffering, there is the need for wisdom. Certain knowledge can be gained in this life through human discovery, study, reflection, interaction and experience. But, ultimate wisdom is not found through a philosophical search, wisdom is found in God, His revelation, and in obedient faithful living in the light of both God and His revelation.
FINAL THOUGHT: The Apostle Paul, many years after the book of Job was written, writes that Christ Jesus “became wisdom from God” for us (1 Cor. 1:30 ESV). We are grateful for the new and further revelation of God that has come in Christ. Christ is everything to the believer. God has made Christ “our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor. 1:30 ESV). Just as Job 28 teaches us, Wisdom still had to come to us “out of this world,” God is its source and we acquire real spiritual wisdom through Christ Jesus responding rightly to God’s revelation (now in Christ Jesus). Job’s word on wisdom is fulfilled in Christ, even as Christ became the ultimate living redeemer of whom Job spoke (Job 19:25). Christ ultimately is the revealed Secret of wisdom, because he made a right relationship with God possible, providing forgiveness for our sins through His death on the cross. It is through Christ that our lives are set apart by God, and we can live as God intended us to live.