Many times, I’ve knelt and prayed to receive wisdom. Not just for a day or a single issue but long-term – something I could grow and cultivate to greater strength over the passing years. Yet, it seems I’ve been blessed with more hindsight than foresight. All too often, I’ve acted on the spur of a moment, only to walk away shaking my head and asking myself, “Why was I so stupid?”
I’ve come to the conclusion that while we can request to be given wisdom, like Solomon, or we might earn ourselves a certain degree of street smarts or common sense based on life experience and maturity, true wisdom is something that we can never just hold in our hand. Wisdom does not belong to us. It must come from God alone.
In Daniel 2:1-24, we see a story of how the pursuit of wisdom unfolds, for those who searched for it but missed it, and for those who gained it. Nebuchadnezzar’s haunting dreams keep him awake at night, so he calls those who were known as “wise” men in his kingdom to discover the dream and its meaning for him. Despite whatever credentials had earned them the title of wise men, they found the king’s demand too difficult. Instead, they came face to face with their own shortcomings.
“There is no on earth who can do what the king asks!” was their protest. “[W]hat the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans” (Daniel 2:10-11).
Thus they acknowledged that this level of wisdom was beyond what they could boast of, and in fact beyond the ability of any person on earth. In short, they could be said to be admitting that they were unable to possess such wisdom on their own, whatever their human capabilities were. Rather, they would have had to rely on a god to bestow on them that aptitude.
So, the king flies into a rage and orders all the wise men of his kingdom killed. The result of this ends up trickling down to Daniel and his Hebrew friends because they also are counted among the wise of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom. When they realize their lives have fallen under the sword, they take action in two ways, bargaining for a little more time and praying for mercy from God. Daniel and his friends turn to God to ask Him for what the other wise men had confessed was beyond the power of anyone to discern except with God’s aid.
Almost immediately, on the same night following all these events it seems, the answer is granted. It is almost too easy, for just one sentence sums up God’s quick work in clearing up the unfathomable mystery presented by the king. “During the night the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision. Then Daniel praised the God of heaven” (Daniel 2:19).
And so in one short day and night, God proved his power and man’s dependence on Him for any wisdom. God is indeed the source of all wisdom; “wisdom and power are His,” Daniel said in worship. There is no standard we can achieve, no position, or experience, or study that can obtain for us the true wisdom we would like to have, which only comes from God. Without Him, we are foolishly stumbling and at a loss. Yet, God deigns to impart to us His own wisdom and power when we ask it of Him (Daniel 2:23).
And so, any lack of wisdom we suffer is not due simply to failing to wish for it; it is in seeking in the wrong places for where it is to be found. Wisdom is not something that can be owned. It must be asked for again and again, always new, and with great need. There is no chance for us to act with wisdom apart from God.