(These overviews are for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders of the Lifeway “Explore the Bible” literature. They may also be watched in video form by searching YouTube for “Shawn Thomas Explore the Bible.”)
For an introduction to this week’s lesson, you could ask your class: “What is some of the WORST advice you have ever been given?” (I bet you might get some interesting answers to THAT!)
(One of the worst pieces of advice I THOUGHT I had been given, was to de-hydrate myself before a 5k race. I about died! That was NOT wise!) We have to be careful where we get our wisdom and guidance.
Then you can emphasize the importance of wisdom, and getting wisdom from the RIGHT SOURCE, which is what Sunday’s lesson is all about from Job 28.
THE CONTEXT: Context is always important. Here, Job is responding to Bildad, one of his 3 friends who had been criticizing him in his trial. Bildad had said in 25:4 “How then can a man be just before God?” (which is true), but Job responds in :26:2, “What a help you are to the weak!”
And that’s a pretty good summary of what’s been going on with Job and his friends. Some of the things they said were true, but they were not comforting – did that need to be said just THEN? We need to be careful with our words to others (which we’ll speak more about next week!)
Then we come to Chapter 28, where Job is still responding to Bildad. The context of the first part of the chapter is that Job talks in :1-11 about mining silver and gold. He says you sink a shaft and mine those things — that is how you get THEM …
Which brings us to 28:12+ — our focus passage for today, where he says: “But where can WISDOM be found?” He’d = you get gold & silver from mines, but where can you get WISDOM (which is more precious than silver or gold!). And that search for wisdom is the focus on this week’s lesson.
You could divide up this week’s session into 2 main sections:
- where you DON’T get wisdom, and
- Where you DO
:13-22 tell where you DON’T get wisdom
:13 = “Man does not know its value” — you most likely are NOT going to get it from other people.
:15-19 lists all the things you can’t “trade/buy” it with: gold, silver, onyx, crystal, etc.
:21 = “It is hidden; it is concealed.”
??? CLASS QUESTION??? Where are places where people mistakenly look for wisdom today? (You can suggest some:
— Media/newspapers/tv/popular books.
Some of the top, best-selling books today are “self-help” books that offer wisdom for how to lead your life, make decisions etc.
If you look at the New York Times non-fiction best seller list, you will see over HALF of these books are for people seeking wisdom and self-help. For example:
— #1 “What Happened To You,” how to deal with trauma, co-written by Oprah Winfrey
— #3 I “You Are Your Best Thing”!
— #5 “The Body Keeps The Score” about having healthy body & mind
— #9 “Untamed” how to listen to “your inner voice”
All these books seek to give people wisdom for their life, choices, and outlook. But real wisdom is not found there.
— Friends: it’s amazing how many people turn to friends who have absolutely NO wisdom or knowledge, and have a poor track record themselves, to give them wisdom for their problems. I heard of a college student at Michael’s school, who was getting his counsel for a problem in his life from a guy who is all messed up; with broken relationship with his parents, wrestling with his own gender identity, rebelling against God and the church — and yet there were people getting their counsel from THIS guy? But that is what a lot of people do — they get counsel from a “friend,” but your friends are often not the best source of counsel, unless they are godly friends.
??? CLASS DISCUSSION/QUESTION??? You or your class members might be able to share recent experiences you’ve heard about, of people you know who have received UNWISE counsel & advice recently.
But all this just emphasizes, you DON’T get wisdom from the world.
The SECOND part of this text tells us where we DO get wisdom:
:23 gives the answer: “GOD understands its way, and HE knows its place.
Here Job = if you want real wisdom, you have to get it from GOD.
Over the next verses we see some reasons WHY we can get it from God:
— :23 He knows it
— :24 He sees everything in the heavens. This is where (just ONE of the places where) He has the advantage over us. He sees all; we don’t. He sees the “big picture” from above that we can’t see.
In a sense, you & I and all people are like “foot soldiers” on the ground, engaged in “hand to hand combat” in our daily struggles.
But in olden times, a general might set himself on a hill to get the bigger picture — and interestingly, during the Civil War, Union General George McClellan sent up an observation balloon, so that he could see the location of Confederate troops — and they said they could see everything all the way to Richmond! It gave them the bigger picture than “the man on the ground” could have.”
And that’s the way it is with us and God. We’re like “the man on the ground;” we don’t have the view that God does of everything. But God is like the general up in the balloon — He sees everything; He knows everything. He has the “big picture” that we don’t.
— Then :25,26 = God MADE everything “He imparted weight to the wind; He “meted out the waters by measure, He set a limit for the rain,” etc. God MADE everything, so He knows how it works.
When something goes wrong with something, we go to the designer, to the manufacturer. They MADE it; they know how it works. They know how to fix it. That is how it is with God. He MADE everything. So if we have problems, we need to look to HIM for wisdom.
THAT IS WHY WE NEED TO GET OUR WISDOM FROM GOD, Job says here. “God understands (wisdom’s) way, :23 says.
:28 says “To man, He (God) says, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, THAT is wisdom, and to depart from evil, that is understanding.”
He says, if you want wisdom, look to GOD.
This expression “The fear of the Lord” is an important one throughout the OT.
— It does NOT mean you walk around all the time, shaking in your boots, afraid of God.
— It DOES mean that you live your life with the knowledge that you are accountable to God, and so you live your life accordingly, with a life of holiness.
(You SEE that meaning of “Fear of the Lord” by the way the second par of :28 parallels it: “to depart from evil is understanding.” So “the fear of the Lord” and “depart from evil” are paralleled; they are basically the same thing.
AND we need to understand that Job is telling us that this is a key to wisdom:
— if you want wisdom, you need to seek it from GOD
— AND if you want wisdom, you need to be HOLY, and “fear God” and keep away from evil.
I think a lot of people don’t realize this connection between holiness and wisdom. You cannot truly be wise unless you are holy. Because sin, and a desire to sin, will separate you from God and His wisdom. We see numerous examples of this:
— There are some men who are brilliant, intellectually, but they are foolish in their outlook because they do reject God. These atheists reject the clear evidence of God in DNA and the intricacies of creation, NOT because there is no evidence, but because they don’t want to have obey God. If there is a God, they are going to have to change their lifestyle, which they do not want to do.
The famous atheist Aldous Huxley wrote:
‘I wanted to believe the Darwinian idea. I chose to believe it not because I thought there was enormous evidence for it, nor because it had the full authority to give interpretation to my origins, but I chose to believe it because it delivered me from trying to find meaning and freed me to my own erotic passions.’”
What a revealing statement: he didn’t choose Darwinism because it was right — but because it let him do what he wanted to do, morally! So these men ignore the clear evidence for God, and as Romans says, “thinking themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
But significantly, the reason men like this miss wisdom, is that they will not choose “the fear of the Lord,” or “depart from evil.”
All of this challenges US, doesn’t it?
- If we want wisdom, we need to seek it from GOD, not the world. (????) And where is God’s wisdom found? (In His word). If we want to be wise, we need to be in God’s word every day. Re-emphasize the importance of your members’ daily time with God.
2) If you want wisdom, you have to be HOLY. Just like those atheist scientists and philosophers, if you continue in known sin, it will BLIND you to God’s wisdom.
Suggest to your class members: if you are seeking for wisdom in an area of your life, but are not finding it — search your life: is there an area of sin, of disobedience to God, that may be blinding you to His wisdom? Repent of that sin, walk in “the fear of the Lord” and “depart from evil” as Job 28 =, and God will give you His wisdom.
SO you could lead your class in a closing prayer time:
— have them bow their heads
— have them silently confess where they have been looking for wisdom in the wrong places (give them some time to do this)
— have them confess known sins to God that may be keeping them from God’s wisdom (and again, give them some silent time to do this)
— and then give them some time to ask God to help them seek Him in His word every day, and to ask Him to show them HIS wisdom.
What a difference it would make in the lives of the members of your group, if they would do these things! YOU have the privilege of leading them to do that this week. It’s a great opportunity and big responsibility; I will be praying for you as you do that!!