The Seven Pillars of Wisdom
Study No. 130
Wisdom, the principal attribute of the Almighty, has seven key aspects, or "pillars." "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:" Proverbs 9:1.
There is something so important that it existed "before the works of old." "The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was" Proverbs 8:22-23. (See also verses 24-30.)
The subject is, of course, wisdom. And, even by the rudimentary standards of the world, it can be seen wisdom is crucial, often a matter of life and death!
Then, if it is such a grave matter, shouldnít we understand the "seven pillars"?
Consider the saga of Elmo Zumwalt II, admiral in the U.S. Navy. He was responsible for the decision to spray the controversial and carcinogenic "agent orange" on the banks of the rivers in Vietnam to defoliate them. Many U.S. soldiers were inflicted with cancer as a result. His own son, Elmo Zumwalt III, was among them! Was it then a wise decision? Most strategists believe that many more lives would have been lost had the Vietcong had the cover of the forest to continue sniping at our patrol boats. Even as Elmo III lay dying, he supported his fatherís decision.
Many believe thousands of lives were saved when President Truman hastened the end of World War II by his decision to drop atomic bombs. Churchill did not warn his people of a known air raid so the Germans would not discover we had broken their code. Many died but we kept a great strategic advantage.
And how often every day are doctors, scientists, leaders, police, judges, and maybe even yourself called upon to make decisions that may have serious, even life and death, effects on oneís self or others? How often are people hurt by unwise actions? How often by your or my foolishness?
Foolishness is just lack of wisdom. Conversely we may say that wisdom is knowledge righteously and appropriately applied.
We all exercise good and bad judgments daily, but even our wisest decisions seem to fall short. Our best efforts may mitigate a problem but who has the ability to stop or prevent the problem?
Truly it can be said that the world is wise ó according to the laws and principles of man. But, I Corinthians 3:19, "the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness." This scripture indicates that the good examples of the wisdom of the world we have seen are, at best, damage control. For who has the perfect wisdom to prevent any or all of the evils of this present day?
We can all agree there is no shortage of wise acres, wise crackers, wise guys, wisenheimers, or sophomores (literally "wise morons"). But where are the "Solomons"?
Pre-eminence of Wisdom
Let me emphasize: "Wisdom is the principal thing" Proverbs 4:7. "Principal" means first in time, place, order, and rank. Now we understand why wisdom was with God in the beginning. Wisdom works in concert with the preordained laws of God.
Proverbs 10:21, "The lips of the righteous feed many: but fools die for want of wisdom." If the wise live and fools die, letís learn wisdom! There must be a deep respect or awe of that which can make or break you.
We know that "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction" Proverbs 1:7. And we know, "the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom," Job 28:28. If the fear of the Lord is (equals) wisdom, then wisdom is (equals) the fear of the Lord.
"Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God," Deuteronomy 6:13. This command is the very heart of our endeavor. It is enjoined in regard to the feast: "And thou shalt eat before the LORD thy God, in the place which he shall choose to place his name there, the tithe of thy corn, of thy wine, and of thine oil, and the firstlings of thy herds and of thy flocks; that thou mayest learn to fear the LORD thy God always" Deuteronomy 14:23.
Two Surprises of Wisdom
1. Wisdom is "married." And we even know the name of this inseparable friend: prudence! Proverbs 8:12, "I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions." Bible name definitions are usually significant and so it is here. Wisdom and Prudence are always together, they act as one, and they are discreet, subtle, and delicate. Never brash, coarse, rude, or blunt. And they always express themselves in the exercise of thought, reason, and self-control. Proverbs 8:13, "The fear of the LORD (Wisdom) is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate."
2. Wisdom lives in a house they have built. Proverbs 9:1, "Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars." The foundation, upon which the pillars rest, is God. Interestingly, pillars are also called uprights. And they support the roof which is "protection."
Four Types of Wisdom
There are four types of wisdom: First, there was the perfect wisdom that was with God "in the beginning" as He created the worlds. The second type of wisdom is the wisdom of the world. It is according to the laws and principles of man. Third is the "wisdom of Solomon" given for man. Fourth is the wisdom of God for man.
Consider how great was this "wisdom of Solomon" that it was inspired by God and placed in the Holy Scriptures. How good it would be for the man who adheres to that advice. How noble and renowned that "The queen of the south shall rise up in judgment with the men of this generation, and condemn them: for she came from the utmost parts of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, a greater than Solomon is here" Luke 11:31.
How much greater must be the wisdom of God.
A Conundrum (Puzzling Question)
A little detective work will help us to reveal the wisdom of God and the seven pillars. When we have found the seven pillars, we will have found the wisdom of God.
After the observation of the queen of the south on Solomonís wisdom, Luke reports: "No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light" Luke 11:33. Luke is saying, when a man has found something that enhances his or otherís stature or well-being, he uses it. It is a direct reference to applying the wisdom of Solomon mentioned in verse 31. Then notice that he records "a greater than Solomon is here."
It follows that, if a man has a lighted candle, that is, "Solomonís wisdom," and does not hide it "under a bushel," a man having the wisdom of God will not hide it "under a bushel" either. Therefore if we find another account of "a lighted candle," it may lead us to the answer of what are the seven pillars.
The Seven Pillars or "Uprights"
Another passage of "a lighted candle" does, in fact, exist. Matthew 5:15, "Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house."
What major Christian doctrine precedes this verse? THE BEATITUDES! Is this the wisdom of God? Then it must consist of seven pillars. But there are nine beatitudes, arenít there? Letís "count our many blessedís, name them one by one," from Matthew 5:3-12.
#1 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
#2 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
#3 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.
#4 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
#5 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.
#6 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
#7 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
#8 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
#9 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.
This problem is easily resolved by noting the first seven beatitudes are "active," displaying what we must be. The last two beatitudes are passive. They reveal what will happen to us if we possess the seven "pillars." We will be "blessed" in spite of persecutions.
A Beatitude Review
These are the characteristics shown by the first seven beatitudes:
#1 Poor in spirit. Humble.
#2 Mournful. Hates evil, sighs and cries for the abominations in the land (see Ezekiel 9:4).
#3 Meek. Mild disposition, subtle, wise as serpents, harmless as doves. Does this one remind you of Prudence?
#4 Seekers of righteousness. Obeying the law because it is good and our Father said so.
#5 Merciful. Compassionate, sympathetic, empathic.
#6 Pure. Free from corruption.
#7 Peacemaker. Let me paraphrase Mortimer Adlerís definition of a peacemaker: "One who creates an atmosphere where discussion can continue."
You will be reviled, persecuted, and spoken evil of falsely for His nameís sake because you have the character of the beatitudes. A blessing merely means good speaking. Although the world will speak evil of you, God will bless (speak good) of you. Who do you wish to please?
Colossians 3:22-24 "Servants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh; not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but in singleness of heart, fearing God: And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men; Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ."
It is the righteous who are persecuted, the followers of Godly wisdom ó not the followers of worldly wisdom.
Dangers Within and Without
He who dwells with wisdom has seven pillars in his house. A common placement of pillars in houses of old was to put three on each side and one in the center to support the roof. I think that central pillar represents peace. The house may still stand, though severely weakened, with the loss of any one of the wall pillars. But, if the central pillar (peace) erodes, your protective roof collapses.
A house affords protection but requires periodic maintenance as it withstands the attacks of the elements, nature, and age. Do you suppose our "pillars" could be destroyed by "termites"? Is it just a coincidence that there are seven threats to seven pillars?
Proverbs 6:16-19, "These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren."
Notice how many of the things God hates appear to require deliberate action. Most of these things are the action of troublemakers. Consider also the parallels. Some may match more than once.
Seven Pillars, Seven Things
Active Beatitudes God Hates
1. Humble Proud look
2. Sigh and cry for evils Lying tongue
3. Meek Hands that shed innocent blood
4. Seek righteousness Heart that devises wicked imaginations
5. Merciful Feet swift to run to mischief
6. Pure False witness
7. Peacemaker Sower of discord among brethren
Wisdom is not a thing you inherit, nor is it stolen. It can only be learned and practiced, and must be protected.
1. Read Proverbs chapters 8, 9 and 10.
2. Identify the "pillars" in the following verses: James 3:13-18, "Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him show out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace."
"Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee. Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding. Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her. She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee" Proverbs 4:5-9.
ó written by Steven J. Kieler W
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