1Who is like the wise? And who knows the interpretation of a thing? A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.
(Ecclesiastes 8:1 ESV)
Chapter divisions in the Bible are not divinely inspired. They were created by people to organize the Bible into topical sections. As such, they may sometimes be misplaced and the first verse of Ecclesiastes 8 is likely one of those. It deals with wisdom, the topic of chapter seven, and is not much related to the rest of chapter 8.
Nevertheless, it contains some wonderful information about the benefits of having godly wisdom.
- Wisdom that comes from God will make that person a unique human being: “Who is like the wise?” The implied answer to this rhetorical question is “no one”. One of the mistakes of life is to imitate others. We blindly go along with the masses so as not to to be considered different. But God doesn’t want us to be like everyone else. He offers to make us new and unique [2 Corinthians 5:17].
- Secondly, godly wisdom gives us reasoning ability that others do not have: “Who knows the interpretation of a thing?” Only the one who receives wisdom from God, as opposed to relying on imperfect human wisdom, can truly understand how to solve life’s problems. Only such people are really qualified to lead others for only they can truly interpret things and can, therefore, determine the proper course of action [1 Corinthians 2:15].
- Thirdly, those who seek God’s wisdom experience a visible joy: “A man’s wisdom makes his face shine.” Our face reveals what is going on inside of us. When we are distressed or worried or sad it will show in our face, notably our eyes and mouth. The face of the wise man reveals an inner peace and joy that comes from giving up self-reliance and instead relying on the perfect and infinite wisdom of God. And it will be visible to all [Proverbs 15:13].
- Finally, a relationship with God changes the very inner disposition of a person: “The hardness of his countenance is changed.” Not only does one’s face shine with the wisdom of God but their heart is changed also so that their outward appearance is not false or contrived. It is real.
Christian history is rife with stories of those who lived hard and difficult lives and as a result developed calloused personalities but who, after believing in Jesus, had a 180° personality change.
Probably one of the best-known examples is that of Englishman John Newton. At age 18 Newton joined the slave trade, running slaves from Africa to England. He fell into wild, drunken living as he sold people for profit. But that life failed to fulfill him.
While on a voyage back to England his ship ran into a terrible storm in the Atlantic. It was during this trip that he admitted to himself that his life was all wrong and he accepted Jesus as his savior – something he had resisted his whole life.
Newton gave up his slave trading life – a life based on human wisdom – and accepted God’s wisdom for his life. He went on to oppose slavery and to write many hymns some of which are still sung today. You may have heard of his most famous one: Amazing Grace.
Too often we regard what God says is right or wrong for our life as limitations. We think God is trying to prevent us from having joy. That is all wrong.
Joy is God’s purpose for us [1 Thessalonians 5:16]. These apparent restrictions are designed to guard us so that we actually find joy as opposed to following the rest of the world and ending up miserable wretches.
As John Newton found out, there is no joy in following the wisdom of the world. Joy can only be found by following Jesus.
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