Chapter 9, “God Only Wise,” discusses what the Bible means when it says that God is wise and acknowledges that Biblical wisdom is not merely intellect, knowledge, or cleverness but also includes a moral quality. “Wisdom is the power to see, and the inclination to choose, the best and highest goal, together with the surest means of attaining it. Wisdom is, in fact, the practical side of moral goodness. As such, it is found in its fullness only in God. He alone is naturally and entirely and invariably wise” (p. 90). But His wisdom doesn’t guarantee a comfortable, trouble-free life: “He has other ends in view for life in the world than simply to make it easy for everyone” (p. 92).
God’s wisdom cannot be thwarted as human wisdom can “because it is allied to omnipotence…Omniscience governing omnipotence, infinite power ruled by infinite wisdom, is a basic biblical description of the divine character” (p. 91). “Wisdom without power would be pathetic, a broken reed; power without wisdom would be merely frightening; but in God boundless wisdom and endless power are united, and this makes him utterly worthy of our fullest trust” (p. 91).
After discussing God’s purposes or goals for us, part of which is to draw us into a loving relationship with Himself which involves faith in Him and deliverance from sin, manifesting His grace through our lives, Packer traces that wisdom in God’s dealing with three Biblical figures: Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph. I won’t list everything he skillfully brings out about them, but I loved this section, and his descriptions reinforced in me the need to not just read the facts, but to notice what is going on with the people in the Bible and how they change. Packer then briefly discusses how we can trust that same wisdom to be working through the perplexities in our lives.
Chapter 10 is “God’s Wisdom and Ours” and discusses what the Bible means when it says we are to be wise. It doesn’t mean that we know everything God knows or what His purposes are in what happens in the world and our lives. There is much that doesn’t make sense in life, and Packer brings out some truths in Ecclesiastes to illustrate that but also to show that ultimately we can trust God no matter what is happening or what sense it does or doesn’t make to us. He emphasizes the need for realism in our view of life and compares it to driving: we may not know why certain roads are laid out the way they are or why other drivers are acting they way they are, but we “simply try to see and do the right thing in the actual situation that presents itself. The effect of divine wisdom is to enable you and me to do just that in the actual situations of everyday life” (p. 103).
That wisdom is gained first by reverencing God (“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” – Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 9:10, and others) and then by receiving His Word (Psalm 119:98-99, Colossians 3:16).
[Wisdom] is not a sharing in all his knowledge, but a disposition to confess that he is wise, and to cleave to him and live for him in the light of his Word through thick and thin.
Thus the effect of his gift of wisdom is to make us more humble, more joyful, more godly, more quick-sighted as to his will, more resolute in the doing of it and less troubled (not less sensitive, but less bewildered) than we were at the dark and painful things of which our life in the fallen world is full. The New Testament tells us that the fruit of wisdom is Christlikeness–peace, and humility, and love (James 3:17)–and the root of it is faith in Christ (1 Cor. 3:18; 2 Tim. 3:15) as the manifested wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24, 30).
Thus the kind of wisdom that God waits to give those who ask him is a wisdom that will bind us to himself, a wisdom that will find expression in a spirit of faith and a life of faithfulness (p. 108).