Proverbs 4:7 American Translation (AT)

7 Above all things get wisdom; whatever else you get, get understanding.[1]

Our heavenly Father, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, has an absolute understanding (correct mental grasp) of everything, and in His Word, the Bible, he is generous enough to let us in on some crucial issues, helping us to understand. Having an understanding (correct mental grasp) of Scripture is what differentiates the spiritual babe from the mature Christian. Wise King Solomon tells us “The fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Prov. 9:10, ASV) Jesus himself tells us, “this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3, LEB) This knowledge, knowing, and understanding of the Father and the Son are much more than mere head knowledge, or awareness of their existence. Here, we are talking about knowing, in an experiential way, i.e., intimate relationship, personal experience.

 This proven and tried knowledge is something that we need to pursue daily. In fact, it is something that no disciple can truly function without if we hope to enjoy the life joyfully that we now have and the life that is coming in the next age. We need to keep this ever in mind, as well as growing in our appreciation of the force and meaning of Proverbs 4:7. We know that God is our Father, and he has sought us out to teach us personally, to help us walk with him in these difficult times.

Proverbs 4:1-4, 7 American Translation (AT)

1 Hear, my son, a father’s instruction, and attend, that you may gain understanding; 2 because I give you sound learning, forsake not my teaching! 3 When as a boy I was tender in my father’s sight, and dearly beloved in the eyes of my mother. 4 He taught me, and said to me: “Hold fast my words in your mind; keep my commandments, and live. 7 Above all things get wisdom; whatever else you get, get understanding.”

Here is the great irony of it all, one may have a tremendous amount of Bible knowledge, and yet still lack understanding, i.e., failing to have the correct mental grasp of what the writer meant by the words that he used. Knowledge simply means having a thorough familiarity of the facts learned from personal experience, observation, or study. Wisdom is the application of our knowledge, the intellectual application of learning.

Understanding is having the capability to see how the different parts or facets of something relate to one another, to be able to see the entire picture and not just pieces of it, the isolated facts. It is possible for many Bible students to sit through a Bible study class that is covering the Bible book of Romans, with all of them hearing what has been said, but some not understanding, or not having the correct mental grasp of what the instructor is saying, or what Paul has written. They are not able to put the isolated details together, to paint the bigger picture. They were not able to grasp how the points or thoughts fitted together and arrive at the correct meaning. A person who possesses understanding can take new information and connect it like a jigsaw puzzle to what he already knows. Thus, it could be said of him that “knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.” (Pro 14:6, ESV) Thus, we can certainly say that knowledge without understanding is of no value.

Proverbs 2:3 The Jewish Publication Society (JPS)

3 If you call for understanding
and lift up your voice for discernment

The Hebrew word rendered “discernment” is tevunah, which is related to the binah, and is translated “understanding.” Just like with understanding, discernment involves seeing or recognizing things but narrows in on distinguishing the parts, deliberating or assessing one piece of our jigsaw puzzle in the light of the others.

Proverbs 17:27 English Standard Version (ESV)

27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of [discernment].

Proverbs 21:30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

30 There is neither wisdom nor [discernment] nor counsel
can avail against Jehovah.

The counsel from Proverbs 4:1-4, 7, in principle can apply to all of us that have accepted Christ. We have received a loving counsel, guidance, advice and exhortation from both the Father and the Son, which is found in the Word of God. Both have implored us to take advantage of their letter to us, to buy out the time to take in knowledge and acquire understanding and discernment. By doing so, we will develop our relationship with the Father and the Son, which should be greatly valued and taken very seriously. There is an obligation on our part, as we are the ones, who must evidence our faith by setting aside some of our other pursuits, so as to get an understanding of God’s will and purposes for us as an individual, humankind as a whole, as well as the earth itself. If we reject or neglect to get this understanding, we jeopardize our future hope of being in any part of God’s kingdom.

We find Jehovah in the Hebrew Scriptures praising wise King Solomon for seeking an understanding heart above everything else. We can benefit by the exchange,

1 Kings 3:5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

At Gibeon Jehovah appeared to Solomon in a dream by night, and God said, “Ask what I shall give you.”

1 Kings 3:9-13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

9 Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”

10 It pleased Jehovah that Solomon had asked this. 11 And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, 12 behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you. 13 I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.

What does Solomon’s choice evidence? It showed that he saw God as supreme, above all others. It showed that he understood God to be the only real source of knowledge and understanding and that Solomon hoped to have access to that source, to better serve him faithfully as he was assigned the task of overseeing God’s people. We need to evidence this in our heart as well. Are we doing so, if we are so overly involved in the world of mankind that is alienated from God? (1) Are we evidencing if we miss religious services? (2) Are we evidencing if we have no personal Bible study in our lives each day? (3) Are we evidencing if we do not have a consistent Bible reading plan? (4) Are we evidencing if we do not actively share biblical truths with others? Who is our greatest example in this?

John 5:30 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

30 “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.

Once we have acquired a measure of understanding of the Bible as a whole, i.e., seeing the big picture, with all of its details, can we then ease off the accelerator so to speak? No. We are always in need of refining our understanding, as well as retaining what we have. We must always seek to make sure that what we hold to be true, is, in fact, true, because an increase in knowledge can mean we may need to revise our understanding at times. Does this mean that we are easily blown about by new knowledge? No, it is true humility, if we realize that our increasing of knowledge may require adjustments in our thinking. We must appreciate that our ‘heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick, and we cannot fully understand it.’ (Jer 17:9) Even the great king Solomon, who was gifted with an enormous amount of knowledge, wisdom, discernment and understanding, fell away into apostasy.  Solomon was well informed of the consequence of his path that he was heading down but chose to ignore the counsel; which was a grave step and meant his understanding has become misunderstanding.

Inclining Your Heart to Understanding

Likewise, Moses, who was by far one of the meekest men to ever live, had to possess great discernment and understanding of God’s will and purposes for him, as well as the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt. Moreover, he was accountable for hundreds of thousands of Egyptians that chose to join them; thus, the exodus numbered over three million persons. Moses had received, so Much Holy Spirit to help him through forty years in the wilderness with these very difficult people. Even when Holy Spirit was taken from him and given to seventy other older men, to help with the responsibilities, he was still one of the greatest leaders who has ever lived. However, he too, like Solomon went from understanding to misunderstanding because he lost sight of his place in the scheme of things. He had a momentary slip where possessed too much self-importance while becoming increasingly irritated with the difficult people that he was to lead to the Promise Land.

Numbers 20:10-12 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 and Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly before the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring forth water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came forth abundantly, and the congregation and their beasts drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you have not believed me, to treat me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.”

What had proven to be the greatest enemy to Solomon and Moses’ understanding of God’s will and purposes, which if it can happen to these, it certainly can happen to us? In both cases, it was themselves who got in the way of continued understanding. It can be arrogance that begins to grow within ourselves, being absorbed in our lives or indulging more in our lives than the happiness and wellbeing of others. If we get lost within ourselves, it becomes too difficult to see what God meant by what he had penned because we will have become the center of our misunderstanding. If we are to stay balanced in our relationship with God, we have to remember our place in that relationship. All glory belongs to the one who created us and has offered us an opportunity to restore a relationship that had been severed long ago. We need to continue our study of God’s Word, appreciating such great persons as Solomon and Moses, as well as identifying what it was exactly that got them derailed in their walk with God. Moreover, we need to follow in the steps of our most excellent example, Jesus Christ, understanding and appreciating his three and half year ministry.

We know that Jesus was perfect, but he still had to grow in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and discernment. We know that he grew up in a household that took serious their obligation of studying the Hebrew Scriptures. (Lu 2:41-42; Deut. 17:18-20) Jesus set the perfect example for us to follow. (1 Pet. 2:21) We have to acknowledge that his understanding of his Father’s will was perfect, and because of his natural inclinations toward following that will, he has set a perfect example. However, while he may have been fully divine, he was also fully human, and he had much to go through that would cause anxiety, stress, pain, and suffering; which means that he can relate to our circumstances that we face each and every day. Thus, we have the perfect example right before us within the four Gospels. Of course, we need to acknowledge that we, on the other hand, are imperfect, and our natural desire is to sidestep difficulties. We naturally try to take the easy way out of difficult times, avoid anxiety, fear, suffering, and pain; when, it may be that the right course is to stay the course right through those things, to be steadfast in doing so, keeping our integrity along the way. Our success in doing so is to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom. 12:2) While it is true that we cannot have the mind of the Father, we can “have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor. 2:16) From the perspective of perfect understanding, what exhortation did Jesus give his disciples?

Matthew 22:37 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

37 And he said to him: “‘You must love the Lord[2] your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’[3]

This is what moved Jesus to walk through three and a half years of very difficult time; many times he was tested by man and even Satan the Devil personally, not to mention the torturous, ransom sacrificial death that he succumbed to, for the sake of many. When Satan tempted him in the wilderness, he sought to get Jesus to walk with the Father unsteadily, hoping he would stumble. How? He wanted Jesus to follow in the footsteps of Solomon and Moses, by getting him to look out for himself, putting his self-interests first. How did he do this? Satan misquoted the Hebrew Scriptures, twisting them so that they could be used to take care of the personal needs that Jesus sorely needed at the moment. What did Jesus do? He ‘loved the Father with all his heart and all his soul and all his mind.’ He responded to Satan with the correct understanding of Scripture, ignoring self, for the glory of the Father. In return, the Father responded to Jesus act of faithfulness, by sending him angels to minister to him.

Matthew 4:1-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he later became hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”[4] But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”[5]

Then the devil took him into the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’

and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”[6]

Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”[7]

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”[8] 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God[9]
and him alone[10] shall you serve.’”[11]

11 Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and began to minister to him.

Let us take a moment to consider the example Jesus set for us. We note that Jesus did not go off and follow his will and purposes. He willingly let himself be led “by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted.” Before looking further at Jesus example, let take a moment to deal with what may appear to be a Bible difficulty here.

Matthew 4:1-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

1 Then Jesus was (1) led up by the Spirit into the wilderness (2) to be (3) tempted (peirazo) by the devil.

God does not tempt us, but he does allow us to go through temptations. As we know from Abraham, God can test us, but never tempt us with sin. God allows us to face the trials that the natural course of life takes within this imperfect age. He allows us to face the trials of our own free will decisions. Simply being steadfast to a Christian life that is counterintuitive to the wicked world that we live in can be a trial that God has allowed.

The text specifically states that the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness “to be tempted.” How do we reconcile that Jesus is being led by the Spirit “to be” tempted?

First, (Peirazo) can be rendered either as “tempted” (ESV, NIV, LEB) or “tested” (CEV, MSG), but seeing that Satan is carrying this out, it is best to be rendered “tempted.” This is not a literal versus a dynamic equivalent issue, because almost all dynamic equivalents have “tempted.”

Second, God would have foreknown that Satan was going to tempt Jesus and that he would wait until his weakest moment to do so. What Satan would see as an opportunity to tempt Jesus, God may very well see as an opportunity to allow Jesus to be tested as he did with Abraham, establishing his faithfulness. Therefore, God allowed Jesus “to be” tempted/tested, which he used as a test to confirm what he would already know to be true, an evident demonstration of Jesus faith. Jesus’ actions would establish or demonstrate the Father’s confidence in him. Jesus clearly revealed that his faith was a living faith.

Jesus was not seeking to look out for himself but was following the will of the Father. Regardless of what Satan threw at him, he trusted the Word of God to be the best course of action, not what he needed emotionally or physically. He was not tricked by Satan to try to take the easier way out of what his Father allowed to come before him. He fully understood that God’s Word is true, and if applied correctly, it would carry him through the greatest temptation Satan could place before him. Jesus was well aware of the Father’s will and purposes for him, and he did not waver from it. It was the Spirit, which enabled Jesus in his weakened state, to understand the Hebrew Scriptures, and to apply them correctly.

Would it not have been a selfish act for Jesus to use his powers to turn the stones into bread? What kind of example would this have set for the disciples that were to come? How would it look, if this were the way that Jesus chose to use his God-given powers, simply to provide comfort for himself, as oppose to seeking to bring glory to the Father? Would such an abuse of power have not placed an obstacle before his future followers?

Jesus would have known that if he followed through with the temptation of Satan to throw himself off of the highest point of the Jerusalem Temple that the Father would have saved him miraculously. As a result, that would have been a sign seen by hundreds of thousands if done at the right time, under the right condition, and would have generated a huge following for him. However, Jesus would have understood that such an abuse of power would not have gained him followers because they valued him or his Father, and the eternal principles that had been laid out in the 39 books of the Hebrew Scriptures. No, they would have stalked him because of his great powers, not followed him out of love and genuine appreciation. There would have been no real glory for the Father, nor any actual lasting benefit to the people he had come to save.

In addition, to bow down in worship to Satan, what would that have accomplished, if what Satan had said had been true? Let us say that Satan did hand over the world of humankind to Jesus; it would have been a world of imperfect humans heading for old age and death, with a long trail of pain and suffering in between. Satan’s plan would not have resulted in bringing glory to God. Satan’s initial plan that he had laid out after he got Adam and Eve ejected from the Garden was a complete failure. (Romans 9:21-23) Jesus understood that the Father had the best interests of all at heart, wanting individuals, under their own will, to see the reasonableness of submitting themselves to the Father and the Son. They would discover this throughout the three and a half year ministry of Christ Jesus. The Father sought persons that had the law written in their hearts.

Satan has stayed with his very active approach of hitting servants of God, when they are in a weakened state mentally, emotionally, physically, or spiritually. He seeks to get to them through “the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance of material possessions.” (1 John 2:16, 17) What was it that enabled Jesus to resist the temptations of Satan in such a weakened state? Satan came at Jesus with the knowledge and experience that he had picked up throughout four thousand years of tempting individuals. Jesus in return defended himself with understanding, discernment and thinking ability.

Understanding is the capacity to see all the separate pieces together as the big picture. The one possessing understanding can see how the pieces of knowledge are interrelated, how they fit. Proverbs 14:6 tells us “knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.” Both knowledge and understanding are related to one another. However, you can have knowledge without having understanding, but you cannot have understanding without having knowledge. Discernment is similar to understanding, in that you are able to see or recognize the inner works, the details, but discernment is focuses on the individual parts of the big picture. The person with discernment is weighing one part of the picture in light of the other parts. For example, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of discernment.” (Pro. 17:27) In other words, discernment will help one to see inside of a hurtful comment, the possible outcomes, moving him to control the impulse to blurt out something hurtful. Thinking ability is taking the time to slow down and scrutinize or paying close attention to what you know or have experienced. For example, we can take all that we know about Jehovah God, giving more than the usual attention to certain aspects; can help us grow ever closer to him, which serves as a protection. (Proverbs 5:1-2)

[1] The more highly one esteems wisdom, the more highly wisdom lifts that person. – MacArthur, John (2005-05-09). The MacArthur Bible Commentary (Kindle Locations 24856-24857). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

[2] This is a reference to the Father, I.e., Jehovah of the Old Testament

[3] A quotation from Deut. 6:5

[4] Or loaves

[5] Deut. 8:3

[6] Psa. 91:11-12

[7] Deut. 6:16

[8] Deut. 11:16

[9] Deut. 5:9

[10] Deut. 6:13

[11] Gr latreuseis; you shall render sacred service (worship), Deut. 10:20