“Surely there is a mine for silver, and a place for gold that they refine. Iron is taken out of the earth, and copper is smelted from the ore. Man puts an end to darkness and searches out to the farthest limit the ore in gloom and deep darkness. He opens shafts in a valley away from where anyone lives; they are forgotten by travelers; they hang in the air, far away from mankind; they swing to and fro. As for the earth, out of it comes bread, but underneath it is turned up as by fire. Its stones are the place of sapphires, and it has dust of gold. “That path no bird of prey knows, and the falcon’s eye has not seen it. The proud beasts have not trodden it; the lion has not passed over it. “Man puts his hand to the flinty rock and overturns mountains by the roots. He cuts out channels in the rocks, and his eye sees every precious thing. He dams up the streams so that they do not trickle, and the thing that is hidden he brings out to light. “But where shall wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its worth, and it is not found in the land of the living. The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’ and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’ It cannot be bought for gold, and silver cannot be weighed as its price. It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir, in precious onyx or sapphire. Gold and glass cannot equal it, nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold. No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal; the price of wisdom is above pearls. The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it, nor can it be valued in pure gold. “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding? It is hidden from the eyes of all living and concealed from the birds of the air. Abaddon and Death say, ‘We have heard a rumor of it with our ears.’ “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place. For he looks to the ends of the earth and sees everything under the heavens. When he gave to the wind its weight and apportioned the waters by measure, when he made a decree for the rain and a way for the lightning of the thunder, then he saw it and declared it; he established it, and searched it out. And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:1-28 ESV)
Job ask and answers two great questions in this chapter: where does wisdom come from, and where is the place of understanding. The stones he turns over and the caves he peeks in indicate he is looking for a physical location where wisdom and understanding might be found.
As a Christian, you and I might be quick to say that the sole place of wisdom is the Bible. I mean, what other source is there where we might read, learn, and discover the words of the One who alone embodies wisdom? True, true; but this is not the place Job points us to. The place he points us to ends up not being a place at all, but rather a disposition of the heart.
The place where wisdom is found is in the human disposition of fear. Not fear in general, nor fear in any object whatsoever, but in the one particular object of God.
Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom…
True wisdom is found inside the heart of the person who fears God. This disposition of heart reveres, honors, respects, and trembles before the Lord he can not see. The human heart is not the source of wisdom, but rather acts as the longing mechanism which yearns and craves to learn.
My five year old boy Sammy yearns to know everything. He is constantly asking why so that he might learn everything under the heavens. When my mind is dull and longing to just coast the rest of the night, he will not let us. He shows his mind is always on the lookout for something to learn and understand. Last night at the dinner table he blurts out the question, “is Satan dead?” “No Sammy,” says my beloved wife, “he is our enemy and constantly seeks to deceive us.” “I thought Jesus squished the devil’s head with his foot.” “I’ll let Daddy answer that question Sammy,” says Karie.
In the same way that Sammy’s heart craves to learn everything; wisdom begins with an attitude of heart which fears God, the source of wisdom. The Bible contains all of the propositional wisdom God has decided to give us. And we become wise through a heart craving which begins with fear, and ends with thirst to drink from the source of the mighty river of God’s Word. When we turn away from the polluted water of the wisdom from below and towards the source of life, we find both wisdom and understanding.
And to turn away from evil is understanding…