Knowing God, Chapter 9

Is God Really Wise?

When the Bible speaks of God, one of the key attributes that is emphasized is his wisdom. In the case of Almighty God, wisdom is the ability to see, the will to choose, and the power to accomplish the ultimate good. Packer describes divine wisdom for us: “God’s almighty wisdom is always active, and never fails. All his works of creation and providence and grace display it, and until we can see it in them we just are not seeing them straight.” In other words, God never fails to see and to choose the best course of action, unlike us humans, who rarely know just what to do or have the power to do it. But this presents us with a challenge, for if God always knows and does what is best, why does he not put an end to all pain and suffering and unhappiness?happy

Packer suggests that this is the wrong question, for it presupposes that happiness and comfort are the ultimate good toward which the Lord’s wisdom ought to point. But what if this is wrong? What if the Lord has some other, better good in mind? That is, in fact, exactly what Packer says is the case, and understanding the actual goal toward which God is moving is critical to dealing with the disappointments that are so frustratingly present in this life. This goal is explained using 3 examples from the book of Genesis: the patriarchs of Israel, Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph.

  • Abraham was a man without moral conviction or deeply held principles, who was willing to put his wife’s purity in danger in order to save his own skin and gave in to Sarai’s pressure to father a child through her servant Hagar, only to driver her out of the house when Sarai became jealous. Over a quarter of a century (from age 75 to 100), the Lord taught Abraham to depend on God’s wisdom so completely that when he finally had received the long-awaited heir, he was willing to sacrifice him at the command of the Lord, trusting that God would raise Isaac from the dead.

  • Jacob was a mamma’s boy, spoiled and selfish, who learned from childhood the ways of deception and manipulation. Hardly a man of faith or righteousness, Jacob had to learn to depend on the Lord’s wisdom by experiencing the full consequences of his ruthless behavior. After alienating his older brother Esau by stealing both his birthright and blessing, Jacob fled to his uncle Laban, fearful of Esau’s murderous rage. Over the course of 20 years, Jacob and Laban proved to be kindred spirits who took every opportunity to gain advantage over the other. The climax of Jacob’s life was a night in which he wrestled with God, having nowhere to turn as the deceptions and schemes that he had depended on his entire life came crashing down around him. Ultimately, Jacob was forced to cling to the Lord, without even a shred of self-reliance or conniving wit, and in weakness he prevailed with the Lord.

  • Joseph was impetuous and confident as the favored son, even though he was the youngest of 11 brothers. He boasted that he would one day be exalted over them, generating a great deal of resentment which led them to sell him into slavery in Egypt. Many difficult years followed, with Joseph being falsely imprisoned and forgotten by his allies, but the Lord remained faithful, even though his wise purpose could not have been visible until many years later. It was Joseph himself who explained exactly what the Lord had in mind when he said to his brothers, “you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to…save many people alive.” (Gen. 50:20)

What conclusion do we draw from these examples? That God is both wise and powerful and therefore worthy of our utmost trust and confidence. Packer offers this helpful advice: “We should not, therefore, be too take aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Simply that God in his wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and he is dealing with us accordingly.”

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