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Monday, July 18, 2011

The Importance of Understanding

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.--Proverbs 2: 6 NIV 2011

So often concepts like life experience, school learning, and relationship building are separated in our minds from religion and the knowledge of God, but I see in ever-increasing measure in my own life that these things are all from God, and all attributable to God.  They come to teach us wisdom, knowledge, and understanding, and so I have to call them divinely-arranged appointments.  This is so obvious, even fundamental, but I tend not to look deeply enough at this until a crisis arises to challenge my thinking.

I could go on about all three qualities here, but I feel I have written about the first two qualities extensively before on Savvy Sheep.  Today I wanted to focus on understanding, because I think that is something God has been developing in me lately.

 What is Understanding?

In the verse at the beginning of this chapter, the word for understanding is teb-oo-naw`, a derivative of the Hebrew word for intelligence.  It isn't simply about intellectual brainpower, however.  It is specifically talking about reasoning, argument, discretion, or a skillful handling of the facts.  In other words, understanding isn't just learning facts; it is about knowing how to put together what we have observed and gleaned.

Understanding makes knowledge meaningful, just as wisdom governs what we do with the concepts we understand.  When we say that understanding comes from the mouth of God, we are really saying that God is our teacher, directing us toward the connections we need to make.  If we try to steer ourselves, we many never make the right connections. 

From Where Does Understanding Come?
Human beings are made to glean facts from the very beginning, but they need someone to teach them how to put them together in the right patterns.  From scientific breakthroughs to intercultural communication, I see that an ingredient outside of our usual line of thinking is necessary for understanding.  I attribute that to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, who reveals things that God has hidden (Luke 10:21).

I don't believe that the Holy Spirit only reveals things to those who know the Lord, but I think He always brings understanding to accomplish God's purposes in this world.  He spoke a few words and the world was created, so the understanding that comes from His mouth is no different!  It proceeds from His mouth and doesn't return until it has accomplished His purpose (Isaiah 55: 10-11).

Seek Wisdom, Get Understanding
I chose the title for this blog post after doing a Google search on it.  Apparently, someone published a handbook on Chinese Buddhist and Confucian teachings called "The Importance of Understanding"  back in the 1960s.  I wanted to bring that up because I want to contrast that perspective with the Christian one.

Based on what I have read about it, the handbook seems to put a lot of emphasis on knowledge and learning facts and folk wisdom about life.  While this can sometimes be good, it could be very misleading if the ancients were mistaken.  Worse still, it seems to blur the line between understanding (skill with handling and assembling facts) and rote learning (gathering established knowledge and keeping it).  By the end of things, we are being directed to memorize what other people have ruled is the truth.

When we seek human sources of understanding, and try to will ourselves to understand, it seems we can only go as far as the limited people we call our teachers.  We are stunted in our learning, and no breakthroughs can occur.  But if we let God teach us--and He knows everything--suddenly new learning comes.  We have to sacrifice pride and let God lead before what we are doing will come to anything!

Today, are you facing a situation or a problem that seems to have no solution?  If you've been seeking understanding from human sources, and it hasn't resolved the problem, I want to remind you to go to the pure source, that is, straight from God's mouth, to resolve this problem.  Ask God to reveal it to you, since it is within His ability to do so, and let Him guide you to the solution beyond your grasp.  It is within His power.  If it is also in His plan for you, He will make the breakthrough come.

As always, this is me reminding you to stay savvy and lean on God's understanding!

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.--Proverbs 3: 5, 6 NIV 2011