The Wisdom Of God
I want to give a word, the Lord helping me, in regard to the vastness of the scope of the divine revelation that we have in Ephesians 3 and the wonderful grace of our God in calling Paul and using him to pass on to us the administration of the mystery, so that today we might be in the light of what God is doing for His glory which is all centred in Christ. We, through infinite grace, have been given that revelation today so that we can move here for God in the administration of that mystery in view of that glorious day of display to which we are going, for ultimately that glorious assembly shall be there for the glory of God in the new heaven in the 'eternal state'. I feel pressed this evening to speak on some well known verses with a view to building upon this line of thought.
The Secret of Wisdom
"And that he would show thee the secrets of wisdom, that they are double to that which is! Know, therefore, that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth. Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection? It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure of it is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. If he cut off, and shut up, or gather together, then who can hinder him?" (Job 11:6-10)
The outstanding feature connected with the book of Job is the divine problem and the searching for a solution. Beloved, everything in the divine circle is a mystery utterly beyond the conception of the natural intellect of men, and God intends it to be so because in wonderful counsel He has marked us out to have the ability, to have the key to solve the problem. In this remarkable book we have the reasonings of the wisest men of the day in which they lived attempting to solve this divine problem of wisdom only for them to collapse in absolute defeat unable to find the solution.
We need not say much about Job, I am sure we are all well acquainted of that which befell him in the first two chapters of the book. His whole business goes with one stroke, his family goes with one stroke, his health is broken down, everything is gone, and he is ebbing away, scraping himself with a potsherd as though God would allow to accumulate around that man and upon that man every difficulty, as it were, that can meet us in our pathway through this world. The Devil was behind the difficulty so far as the immediate difficulty was concerned, but let us remember, beloved, God was behind the Devil. God saw something in Job, wonderful man though he was, and God wanted that put right, if he was perfect to begin with to make him more perfect! You may tell me that that is not good English, but God said he was perfect and yet he was far better off at the end. And who is God going to use to do this? He uses Satan. The Devil got at him to crush him down but all he succeeded in doing was to take that one little thing out of Job that God wanted removed, his thought that his righteousness was in himself. Job missed the fact that it was altogether of God. The Devil put that right, but let us never forget beloved, God was behind the Devil whatever he may have brought against God's servant Job.
Hearing of Job's suffering, three wise men, the leaders and princes of their day, conspired together, saying, 'Job is in a terrible state. We will go and find the solution of this problem for him', and here they are grouped together: Elihu we leave out of this altogether for he was the one man who was wise enough to speak for God, but here they are grouped together Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, all perfectly sure they can solve this difficulty for Job.
Eliphaz the Temanite was the experimentalist, he was a man who would solve the problem by what he had learnt with the observation of his eyes. You will find these things if you care to look for them, "I have seen". A lot of things in this world have been found out by observation. Men will watch animals, birds and fish, and by observing their different habits they have a good idea of the things that mark them in the environment in which they live. They receive them like Eliphaz, by observation.
Bildad practically says 'It does not matter what we have seen with our eyes, we want to listen to the people who know better than we do - the men of a former generation. Children receive their information by going to school, being taught certain things, by listening with their ears.
Finally Zophar the Naamathite did not care for what was obvious to everyone's eyes, nor was he interested in what his forebears had taught him, he thought he was clever enough to solve this problem for himself, he had enough intelligence of his own to solve it. Hence you find Eliphaz the Temanite used his eyes, Bildad the Shuhite used his ears, and Zophar the Naamathite used his brain. But all this wisdom was hopeless, beloved friends, when it came to this divine problem that was surrounding this wonderful man Job.
Only by the Spirit of the Father can we possibly understand the very first thing about these wonderful mysteries in the wisdom of God that has come through infinite grace as intelligent light into every one of our hearts today. If it depended upon our eyes or our ears or our brains, where would we have been, beloved, in these divine things? He has not revealed His thoughts unto the wise or prudent, He has revealed them unto babes (1 Cor.2:1-10) and how glad we are tonight to be in the position of a babe, quite prepared to listen to what God Himself has to say about it. If the first man was an experimentalist, the second man was a traditionalist and Zophar the Naamathite, the one that we have before us at the moment, was a materialist. You find this in reading their arguments.
Notice how Zophar looks at this in relation to the universe. 'You have a lot to say, Job. You will not justify yourself by talking' (11:2), and he reminds him of the magnitude of God Himself and of Job's inability in moving in that sphere to find a solution. But we want to look briefly now at the specific verses,
"And that he would show thee the secrets of wisdom that they are double to that which is!" (v.6a)
Zophar thought he knew all about them, but as a matter of fact, beloved, he did not know the first thing about them, although he does say the secrets of wisdom are "double to that which is". We had in our reading yesterday that this very creation, the heavens and the earth that are in existence, is a provisional state of things. Every one of us by our natural lives can observe this, but the secrets of wisdom are "double to that which is". Behind this material creation God is working out ulterior thoughts; thoughts in mystery that the eye of man on the surface knows nothing at all about. While all can observe natural phenomena around us on every hand, nobody except those who are taught of God can see the other side of the question - the secrets of wisdom, "double to that which is". Whenever we touch a chapter like this we feel bound to ask ourselves, beloved, do we value these things as we ought to do? God is not only interested in us in a material creation that we can all be interested in with ordinary intelligence, but He has given us light as to why He has brought that original creation, as to what is lying behind it, the working out of His own eternal plan in that eternal purpose for His own glory and the glory of Christ involving the blessing and the glory of every one of us, "they are double to that which is".
"Know, therefore, that God exacteth of thee less than thine iniquity deserveth" (v.6b)
Zophar immediately plunges back to his materialism and makes a complete blunder in what he is saying. God was not exacting anything from Job, that is not God's character at all. All the comforters agreed with Zophar that God was dealing with Job because of his sins, but we know very well that God has already said of this man that he was righteous (1:8, 2:3).
"Canst thou by searching find out God? Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?" (v.7)
Dearly beloved, in that day (and particularly to Zophar the Naamathite) the answer is found in just two letters - NO. "Canst thou by searching find out God?" We must write 'NO' over this chapter so far as that man and his companions are concerned. Now, beloved, if Zophar the Naamathite comes along today and in that sarcastic way should say to us "Canst thou by searching find out God?" are we going to say 'No'? No, thank God we are not. We can find Him out! Thank God we have found Him out, we know the movements of His heart, we know the thoughts of His plan, we know what He is doing for His glory, we know why He created the world, and we know what He is doing with it and what He is going to do for it. Yes, thank God, by searching we have found out God, but we have not used the means Zophar the Naamathite used or we would not know any more about God than we did before ever He spoke to us in infinite grace.
"It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do? Deeper than hell; what canst thou know? The measure of it is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea" (v.8-9)
We come in these verses to four dimensions. Firstly, "It is as high as heaven; what canst thou do?" Yes, it is as high as heaven, but thank God, beloved, we have the ability to rise to things that are as high as heaven, we are in the heavenlies. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies, (a word used 6 times in that Ephesian epistle).
"Deeper than hell"? Yes, that is also true, but the Son of God has gone down into death in order that He might lay a foundation by overthrowing every opposing force in order that God might work righteously, holily, to the satisfaction of His will as He is doing today and it is revealed to us now.
"The measure of it is longer than the earth". Why, of course it is! We have found that out too, it was counselled in eternity and it will ultimately end in eternity when the thought of God is secured.
".....and broader than the sea"? Indeed it is. We have found it is broad enough to take in everything in heaven and everything on earth, summed up in the Christ soon to be displayed in the world to come. But if we can answer in the affirmative to Zophar's question today, we have to give a different answer to Zophar in the way he asked it and in the region he was searching it out. 'Oh yes, Zophar, keep on in the circle where you are, keep on the resources that you have and you can keep talking about it until the day of your death and, quite right, you will not get a step further forward in the knowledge of these things.'
Just one interesting point, as we leave it, you note Paul reverses the order of these four dimensions in Ephesians 3:18 to the order Zophar uses them in. The apostle speaks of the breadth and the length and the depth and the height, but Zophar speaks, as you see, with the height and depth and length and breadth. One thing we can say about this is that they were working from two different ends, and that made all the difference. Working from Zophar's end, you know, in creation we get nowhere. Oh, but working from Christ the centre in which it is all established, we find it all in the glory of God.
The Mystery of Wisdom
"However, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect; yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought; but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory; which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Cor.2:6-10)
In these verses we have the answer to these three men that we have read about in Job. In writing to these Corinthians, very intellectual people, Paul reminds them of this divine circle into which they had been brought, saying:
"we speak wisdom among them that are perfect" (v.6a)
This word 'perfect' means 'full grown'. The Corinthians had been saying about the apostle, 'He has not said much to us, just a little ABC sort of stuff, and really we are clever enough to go far beyond that'. 'See,' replies the apostle, 'I will tell you why I did not speak much more about these secrets of wisdom, you are far too much involved with the wisdom of this world, that is why I could not speak of it.' (3:1-4). Lay that to heart, beloved. I know people like to search out things down here, but the sooner we give that up, if we value the knowledge of God, the better. We will not find the things of God there. Moreover, this we are bound to say to you, the more time we spend in the wisdom of this world the less capable we will be of understanding these hidden things of wisdom. That was the trouble with the Corinthians. Paul said "You are carnal, you walk as men of the world, you can keep your head up in their world, moving in all that is going on there but you are a long way down in this divine circle in relation to the secrets of wisdom. We do speak wisdom but it is among them that are perfect; those that are growing in the things of God, nourished up in them. We speak wisdom among those that are perfect, not the wisdom of this world which cometh to nothing.
"Yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nothing" (v.6b)
I suppose it really means that this wisdom comes to nothing. I do not like to talk about what the world is doing in these meetings, but with all their plans, with all their schemes, with all their inventions, just write over the whole thing, beloved, 'NOTHING'! The day will come when they will all vanish like a puff of smoke and only what has been of God will be left. Why waste our time with it? The princes of this world, I suppose, in one little type are seen in Job's three comforters.
"but we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world for our glory" (v.7)
As far as I know this is the only thing said in the New Testament to be ordained for our glory. God has ordained much for His glory and for the glory of Christ, but it definitely says that He ordained this for our glory. Oh, to be up to the height of our privilege, to enjoy the things that God marked out, that glorify the saints, even today in this hidden wisdom, that God has made known to us by His Spirit!
"Which none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory" (v.8)
It does not say they did not know Him, but rather they did not know the first thing about the wisdom of God, and the result is they crucified Him and they did then just as Satan did with Job, but in a much greater way. In seeking to destroy what was there, it only brought out the perfection that God wanted. In seeking to destroy the Son of God they only opened the way for God to carry on these ulterior thoughts and secure what God had decreed before this world began for our glory. We know the passage where they are linked together, "ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23), but what did Peter say before that? Christ was "delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God". That is what he said first, only then did he say, "YE have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain". Surely none of the princes of this world knew anything of this wisdom, "for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory".
"But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him." (v.9)
Paul goes on to say "Eye hath not seen" (goodbye Eliphaz) "ear has not heard" (goodbye Bildad) "neither has entered into the heart of man" (goodbye Zophar, we do not need you one little bit, you are no good to us at all). God wipes them all out at a stroke, they are all gone. But what things has God "prepared for them that love Him"? There is a corresponding passage in Matthew 13 to this, "blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear" (v.16). "Have ye understood all these things? They say unto him, Yea, Lord" (v.51) - eyes to see, ears to hear, hearts that could understand, and when all the wise princes of this world are baffled and have not the slightest idea of where they are going or what the end is going to be, here we are calmly, simply, in the light of God, waiting the next event in the movement of God without any fear of the thing failing or breaking up or the end not being reached for it is all in the hands of God to be administered by Christ. Eyes to see then, ears that have heard, hearts that can understand - thank God, in the light of this beloved, we are moving on to its grand climax which for us, of course, so far as the present state will be, will be the coming of our Lord to take us to be forever with Himself.
"But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit; for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea the deep things of God" (v.10)
Some of us remember there is a more correct rendering of that word 'deep', it is the very depths of God. Could there be any passage that could tell us of the depths of God as Ephesians 1:17-23, Christ who is the centre of all His thoughts, the Christ who is the centre of His heart, whom God has given to be the centre of His affections that we might think of things as the Father thinks of them in the circle of divine affection? God's deepest thoughts and His eternal counsel are centred in His beloved Son. Oh, yes, "the Spirit searcheth all things, even the depths of God" (J.N.D.).
The Riches of Wisdom
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen." (Rom.11:33-36)
We have looked at, though we have not itemised it, "the secrets of wisdom" and the "mystery of wisdom", but the third one (and there are probably others) that occurred to one's mind is "the riches of wisdom". The apostle having written as he had done about God's dispensational dealings with the Jew and the Gentile as nations, had shown that, while the gospel of the glory has come in today with a view to the formation of the assembly, not quite taught in Romans, apart from "the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery" (16:25), but there is the foundation laid of it in the preaching of this gospel and the setting aside for the moment of God's dealings with the nations as such when these three chapters come in, past dealings in chapter 9, present dealings in chapter 10, and future dealings in chapter 11. There is another interesting point there, in that there is a reference to Christ in every one of these chapters. In chapter 9 it is looking back in relation to Christ, "of whom...... Christ came, who is over all, God blessed forever." (v.5) - that is His birth. The reference in chapter 10 is to where He is as to the fruit of the work of the cross, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" (v.4), and in chapter 11 it looks on to the future, "There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob" (v.26). Just mark this point for a moment, beloved, the breadth of divine counsel. For the moment Israel is set aside, but in these three chapters dealing with the history of Israel, Christ had a link with them when He was born into this world. He still has a link with them as now when He is in heaven and He brings that link into manifestation when He comes for their deliverance. He is the solution to everything, whether in the heavenly company or the earthly company, and I am certain it is that that leads the apostle at the end of this chapter summing it up, and the amazement of this wonderful wisdom of God, to burst forth with this note of praise as the light of it was burning in his soul.
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (v.33)
Why, this is what bothered Zophar the Naamathite and all of Job's comforters. The problem was unsearchable and past finding out. Again, beloved, we have a 'no', and a 'yes', in relation to these things; Paul says so. He says they are unsearchable, and they are past finding out, but again I am perfectly sure he is in the realm of human reasoning when he speaks like that.
"For who hath known the mind of the Lord? Or who hath been his counselor?" (v.34)
Why, whoever could have put thoughts into the heart of God supreme, as God ever is supreme, in the universe?
"Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again?" (v.35)
Zophar saw God in the greatness of His being. In resources He is rich, of His wisdom and knowledge, who formulates it all? Who has sufficient resource to give effect to it all? It will at last eventuate in His own glory in that day, that world to come of which we have been speaking. That is where it will all find its end so far as this universe is concerned, in a burst of glory in the world to come.
"For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen" (v.36)
As Paul sums it up he says "of Him" (God is the source), "though Him" (Christ is the agent) and "to Him" (Christ is the subject of power that will secure it all). This is the working of divine Persons in this wonderful sphere of wisdom, utterly beyond the human intellect. Think of it beloved, simpletons like us today, glad to be looked at as babes in the things of God, ready to be taught of God, but by the Spirit searching out these things in the depths of God! We have been enriched in the light of these things in the secrets of wisdom, in this hidden wisdom, and in the mystery of wisdom for our spiritual education of what God is doing, what Christ is doing, and what the Spirit is doing, and not only looking at our blessing and the blessing of Israel but the ultimate end of it all is going to be in manifestation—“to whom be glory for ever. Amen.”