Wisdom is before him that hath understanding; but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.Proverbs 17:24
As we’ve seen before, wisdom comes from understanding and understanding comes from knowledge. We see these three words (knowledge, understanding and wisdom) over and over in the book of Proverbs. In the case of Proverbs 17:24 we are told that the person who has understanding will see wisdom all around them.
This verse could be read a couple of different ways I suppose. Both are valid and consistent with the text. It can mean that wisdom (personified many times in Proverbs) goes in front of and guides. Or, that wisdom is generally present with the person who has understanding.
Wisdom is given personality in Proverbs. In the early chapters there are whole sections where wisdom speaks directly to the reader. She is there to guide those who are looking to her for direction.
To the person who has understanding, wisdom leads them to greater understanding. Knowledge is facts, but understanding is having experience with that knowledge to the point of the facts becoming intuitive. You spend less time thinking about the facts, but have a greater ability to use those facts when needed. That is understanding.
Wisdom—the skill that comes from applying understanding—will guide the person into making the right choices.
Wisdom Is Present
The more primary meaning of the words used in Proverbs 17:24 is that of wisdom being present with the person of understanding.
Do you feel comfortable in the presence of certain people? Are you uneasy in the presence of certain other people? It could be because the person has a higher perceived status than you or you just don’t like them for whatever reason. The main reason we are less comfortable with certain people is that we don’t know them as well as we do others.
We are comfortable in the presence of those we know well. Those who we consider friends or who just have a comforting presence about them. There are certain pastors that I have been with in more than 25 years of traveling church ministry that I love to get with any chance I can. I am comfortable in their presence. There are others that make me want to check to see if my tie is on straight and that I don’t have any stray hairs sticking up on my bald head. It is not because they are unkind or mean, but that I haven’t had as much personal time with them.
How familiar are you with wisdom? Has she been a consistent presence in your life to the point you are comfortable around her? Or, are you struggling to even find her?
The Bible says that wisdom can become a companion. A familiar friend. How? By learning what God’s Word says (knowledge) and gaining experience with it to the point of understanding. This is when wisdom can show up and guide. She can be part of your daily life.
But just learning God’s Word does not necessarily bring understanding and the presence of wisdom. You must apply it. Get God’s Word into your head (think right) and then apply God’s Word in your actions (do right).
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.Proverbs 9:10
At some point we will have to take a look at the second half of Proverbs 17:24 where it talks about the fool searching for something, but not finding wisdom.