“And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the Lord is his treasure.” (Isaiah 33:6)
This world has been in a perpetual state of chaos and turmoil since the sin of Adam cursed this world and all its inhabitants. How then can we have any real “stability” in the midst of a world that is filled with so much calamity, sorrow, pain, and vitriol? God gives us the prescription for that “stability” here in his word: it’s by “wisdom and knowledge” that our times can be stabilized while we briefly sojourn here in this world.
Isaiah, like many of the Old Testament prophets, was called to prophesy during a time of severe turmoil and ungodliness in Judah. He prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah; while three of those kings were reasonably good, the wickedness in Ahaz’s reign was thoroughly pervasive. It’s probably during the severe ungodliness of Ahaz’s day that many of the judgmental prophecies of Isaiah were delivered. Consider how ungodly of “thy times” that Isaiah was called to prophesy and live in. Isaiah 1 gives a summary of the scathing rebuke from the Lord to Judah. We won’t recite the whole 1st chapter (you can read it in full on your own), but in summary they had forsaken God, their country and land was desolate, burned with fire, offered vain worship and feasts, engaged in open harlotry with the world, and their wickedness was equated to that of Sodom & Gomorrah. Maybe the worst problem that caused all of this wickedness was “Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (1:3). They had forsaken the Lord and did not know or consider or remotely acknowledge God at all in their lives.
When we read “thy times” that Isaiah lived in the midst of, can we relate to that at all today? Do “our times” not seem as wicked and ungodly as those days in Judah? Do we not see our culture (and I’m sad to say even the professing, so-called “church”) progressing towards the wickedness of Sodom & Gomorrah that was so bad the Lord resorted to just burning it up with fire? Now, I do understand that there have been wicked cultures in this world ever since creation; this is not a new phenomenon. You can make a strong case that those ancient cultures were much more abjectly wicked than what we see in America. We American Christians have been coddled and providentially protected by the Lord from governmental persecution of the church that was an expectation for the early New Testament church. I believe history will prove out that Noah’s culture (that God resorted to having to destroy by a flood), Sodom & Gomorrah, Judah under Manasseh, Israel under Ahab, the Assyrians, the Romans, etc. were much worse than what we currently see in America. I get that, and I’m not an alarmist. However, I think we can certainly see America quickly descending on the slippery slope to getting to that level of wickedness. It might seem to us that the world around us is already “on fire” with such chaos and calamity every day on the breaking news.
If we can relate to the ungodliness of Isaiah’s times, how then can we have any “stability in thy times” when the world around us seems to be characterized only by chaos instead of stability? God gives us that stabilizing prescription: by “wisdom and knowledge”. Don’t forget the root cause of many of those problems in Judah during Isaiah’s day. Before God begins to name off all the individual characteristics of the ungodliness in their culture, he first gives what could be determined to be the root cause: “but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider” (1:3). God’s people (not the world) obviously lacked knowledge (Israel doth not know) and wisdom (my people doth not consider). When God says that my people do not “consider”, that word means “to separate mentally, to discern, to understand, to consider thoughtfully.” Therefore, God’s people were not using any discerning wisdom from the Lord in their lives or decision-making. Instead, they only considered the world around them with their natural minds and natural wisdom.
Notice the stark contrast between the natural wisdom of this world and the spiritual wisdom that comes from God. “But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” (James 3:14-17) If we only consider the wisdom and knowledge that this world offers unto us, we shall only be perpetuating the ungodliness in these verses and will no doubt continue to descend into the same wickedness of Isaiah’s times. For God’s people, we must process everything in this world from a God-oriented worldview, from the perspective of the wisdom that is from above.
If we do engage in “spiritual from above wisdom” instead of “sensual from beneath wisdom”, note the effects of that heavenly wisdom. It’s “pure, peaceable, easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy”. In a world that is in chaos, do you think it would promote stability for the children of God to act peaceable, to be merciful, to live honestly without partially or hypocrisy? In a world that is openly hostile, it’s the child of God’s responsibility to let that wisdom from above guide their actions to act “peaceably”. “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matt. 5:7). If the children of God followed God’s prescribed pattern for this spiritual wisdom, it would have a profound salt-preserving, stabilizing influence on the rapid descent of our culture into immorality.
Remember, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:7) and “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the holy is understanding” (Prov. 9:10). Essentially all of the book of Proverbs is about the correct practical application of wisdom and knowledge in our lives. Don’t miss though the beginning and source of that wisdom and knowledge: the fear of the Lord. In the second half of Isaiah 33:6, the man who has stability in his times, “the fear of the Lord is his treasure.” It’s by the fear of the Lord that we can have great treasure even in a calamitous world. Our culture (and dare I say primarily the people of God) have lost a fear and reverential awe for God, and thus a godly wisdom and knowledge has seemingly faded from our culture as well. To have any stability in our lives, we must rediscover that reverence for the Lord that will originate our growth in the wisdom and knowledge of God.
We were also told that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, spiritual knowledge. It’s a characteristic of the wicked to “not retain God in their knowledge” (Rom. 1:28) and thus the child of God should never be guilty of looking just like the world by rejecting the knowledge of God. Those who are being called to repentance by wisdom and by the Lord (Prov. 1:20-27), they chose to reject the fear of the Lord. “For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would (follow) none of my counsel: they despise all of my reproof.” (Prov. 1:29-30) What a stark statement for even God’s people to hate God’s knowledge and not choose to reverence their God; even to reject to follow all of God’s counsel. It is any surprise when just like Judah who did not consider or know if we choose to reject God’s wisdom and knowledge, that God allows us to fully reap what we sow?
How then do we know the wisdom and knowledge of God? By the word of God. Again, the book of Proverbs gives us practical instructions for how we are supposed to apply wisdom and knowledge in our daily actions and decisions. “Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, thou shalt not covet.” (Rom. 7:7) How did Paul have the knowledge and wisdom to know that lust and coveting was wrong and to not do it? He knew it was against God’s standard and commandment because the law, the word of God, told him it was wrong. God inspired his word for us to give us a glimpse into his own divine mind, into what the “from above” wisdom and knowledge looks like and how we can apply that wisdom and knowledge in our daily lives. If God’s word is the standard for wisdom and knowledge, then there can be no “stability in our times” without a recommitment to God’s word.
All fervent, sincere revivals in scripture centered around a recommitment to the authority of God’s word. Even in a culture that was so wicked that God was left no alternative but to destroy it by water, God’s word still came to Noah in giving him an ark, and Noah obeyed God’s word to the saving of his family. It was while the children of Israel were engaging in debauchery at the bottom of the mount that God gave his word to Moses on Sinai to give his people the standard for how they were to act and they were held to that standard when he came down from the mount. In the revival led by King Josiah, they found the book of the law in the house of God and instituted what the word said for the most fervent revival in Judah’s history. The early church remained steadfast in the apostles’ doctrine as the Lord added to the church daily. From just these few excerpts of many examples in scripture, we see that the word of God is central to the “stability” of any culture, and it’s been that way since creation.
How then can we feel any sense of “stability” in this world that seems to be spiraling again out of control? It might seem that any measure of stability is impossibly elusive in this world, but instead, God gave us that stabilizing prescription. Stability in thy times is found in a recommitment to the authority and following of God’s word, a renewal in the fear and reverence of the Lord in the eyes of his people, followed by the studying of God’s word to learn God’s prescribed pattern for wisdom and knowledge. Even in a world that seems to be filled with chaos and turmoil, if we look to God’s word for the stability of godly wisdom and knowledge, we can have a salt-preserving stabilizing effect in our nation, in our culture, in our communities, in our schools, in our homes, and in our churches.