The Proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for gaining wisdom and instruction. (1:1–2a)
Surrounding the Hebrew word hokma in these early verses of Proverbs are many near synonyms that shed much light on what wisdom is.
The Hebrew musar (instruction in 1:2–3) means training with strong accountability. It means being drilled under an instructor who often gets up in your face. So wisdom often comes through the pain of personal confrontation by friends (Proverbs 27:5), or from learning from one’s mistakes (Proverbs 26:11), or from the suffering that God judiciously allows into our lives (Proverbs 3:11–12).
Every time your car breaks down and you have to figure out how to fix it, you become “wiser” about cars. So it is with life. Proust wrote that wisdom can be discovered only “after a journey through the wilderness which no one can make for us, which no one can spare us.”
To become wise is to become a disciplined person, given not to impulsiveness but to self-examination, to circumspection, and to clear thinking. It is to become a resilient person who through hard knocks has become poised and resourceful. As an athlete becomes physically competent only after rigorous training, so wisdom is hard won.
Can you see in your own life how God has used difficulty to make you wiser?
Prayer: Father, children need discipline even though they may rebel and resist when they receive it. An undisciplined child, however, will have a miserable life. Forgive me for not recognizing the hard knocks and disappointments of my life as your fatherly discipline. Let me learn wisdom from them all. Amen.
Timothy J. Keller is an American Christian pastor, theologian, and author, born on September 23, 1950, in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. He grew up in a Presbyterian family and attended Bucknell University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 1972.