Job is known primarily for his patience, but his portrait has its place in this gallery of wisdom. Although he sat in the dust and ashes of unspeakable affliction, he appears to us as if in a pulpit, delivering a sermon about wisdom, in Job 28. He begins his sermon, “Where shall wisdom be found?” (v. 12) and concludes, “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (v. 28). We again see the heart of wisdom as the fear of the Lord, and like Solomon in his proverbs, Job sees wisdom as a practical rather than a speculative way of life—it is to “turn away from evil.” Job complements Solomon in that wisdom, whether viewed from the heights of power and fame or the depths of grief and suffering, never changes in its definition and always begins with the fear of the Lord.
Ezra was “a scribe skilled in the Law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6), and a single key verse captures the wisdom that was exhibited in his life and ministry: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the Law of the Lord, and to do it and to teach his statutes and rules in Israel” (v. 10). There is an important sequence here in the verbs “study,” “do,” and “teach.” Wisdom begins with a heart full of God’s Word (Prov. 7:3), which flows into a life of practical obedience (James 3:13) and results in being equipped to teach it to others (Prov. 13:14). These three things, each in its proper order, gave Ezra such wisdom that “all who trembled at the words of God” gathered around him when wise advice was needed most (Ezra 9:4).
A few of the first characters we meet in the New Testament are “wise men,” and whatever or whoever else these “magi” were, they exhibited the undeniable wisdom of seeking out Christ, rejoicing to find Him, and worshiping Him (Matt. 2:1–11). This is what makes wise men wise.
The new covenant would bring with it other vivid portraits of wisdom, such as Barnabas. This “Son of Encouragement” no doubt encouraged others with his example of peaceable wisdom. He was instrumental in convincing the church at Jerusalem to receive the newly converted Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:27). He welcomed with open arms the first gentiles who believed in the gospel at Antioch (11:19–24). He also played a part in the Jerusalem council, forging a peaceful understanding between the churches of Jerusalem and Antioch (15:2, 22, 25). In these instances, he exemplified the wisdom from above, which is “first pure, then peaceable” (James 3:17).
But it is no doubt Paul who gives the face to Apostolic wisdom, eschewing the wisdom of men for the power of God in his preaching (1 Cor. 2:4–5). To be wise, according to Paul, is to understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17). Thus, the fallen world will always turn the definition of true wisdom on its head and mistake folly for wisdom (Rom. 1:22). Paul teaches us neither to fear being thought a fool nor to desire to be thought wise by the world (1 Cor. 1:18–31). His example to us is to aspire to no other knowledge than that of Jesus Christ and Him crucified (2:1–2).
There are many other portraits to see in this “Hall of Wisdom,” but even as in the “Hall of Faith,” we have come to this point: “What more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of . . .” (Heb. 11:32). Time would fail us to observe all the portraits of the patriarchs, prophets, and Apostles who each left a unique example of wisdom, but each is only a faint reflection of the true wisdom of God. All these “portraits of wisdom” point to Him.
Christ alone is “the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:24), and since He is the eternal Son of God, “all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are found in Him (Col. 2:3). But as a true man, Christ had the experience of growing in wisdom (Luke 2:52). That may be hard for us to fathom, but it means that we can look to Him to see what true wisdom looks like in a true man and find a perfect example. He relied on the Word of God alone (Matt. 4:4). He kept the Father’s commands and abided in His love (John 15:10). He submitted to the Father’s will (Matt. 26:42). He came as a servant, humbling Himself in love for His people, and sacrificed Himself for our good. This is the mind of Christ that is to be in us (Phil. 2:5–8). He also gave us His own portraits of wisdom in His parables. The wise man is the one who hears Christ’s words and does them, like a wise man who builds his house on the rock (Matt. 7:24–27). The wise are those who eagerly await, and are ready to greet, the Bridegroom for the wedding feast, like the five wise virgins who kept their lamps lit (25:1–13). It is our wisdom in life to hear and keep the words of our Savior and to joyfully prepare for His glorious return.
Our own calling, as the image bearers of our Savior, is to be a portrait of His wisdom in the sight of those around us. By living in and following the wisdom of Christ, we may, amazingly, be faint but true reflections of the depth and riches of something that is otherwise past finding out (Rom. 11:33).