A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth strength.
Strength here is the ability to know and do good and the ability to detect and oppose wrong, in all areas of life. Wisdom gives a man this strength. A wise man is strong. A man of knowledge gains in strength. Fools are weak. They do not know what they should do, so they do not do it, nor can they understand or resist what they should not do.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626) said, “Knowledge is power.” But he was only plagiarizing Solomon, who wrote these words 2500 years earlier. Give God the glory! The power and strength of wisdom and knowledge is before you, reader. Embrace the book of Proverbs!
Wisdom is the power to judge rightly in any situation. It is the ability to see trouble and danger, avoid their temptations and snares, and choose a superior course of action. Wisdom is founded on the fear of the Lord (Pr 1:7; 9:10), but it also includes the prudent management of matters in the natural realm. Wisdom is indeed strength (Pr 8:14; 10:29).
Folly is the confusion of not knowing right or wrong and defaulting to the lusts and instincts of the human heart. It cannot see trouble and danger, resist the snares and temptations of life, and choose the right thing to do. Folly rejects the fear of the Lord and trusts its own heart (Ps 14:1; 53:1). It shows itself by making numerous mistakes in simple matters of life (Pr 13:16; 14:8,18; 15:21; 16:22; 26:11). Folly is indeed weakness.
How much difference is there between wisdom and folly? King Solomon, after observing and analyzing all that is done in this world, concluded that wisdom is better than folly as much as light is better than darkness (Eccl 2:12-14). A poor, wise child is better than an old, foolish king, who will not accept correction (Eccl 4:13). Every young reader ought to rejoice at this wonderful opportunity to gain in strength by wisdom even over kings.
Consider a wise man and a fool each trying to cut down a tree with a dull axe. The fool swings and swings the heavy axe until he is exhausted and barely chips the meat of the trunk. The wise man sits down in the shade, sharpens the blade with a pocket file, and cuts the tree down with just a few well placed blows. This is Solomon’s illustration of the strength of wisdom (Eccl 10:10)! Give God the glory!
Of course, the fool shows everyone at the supper table his impressive forearms and biceps from swinging his dull club against one tree all day. The wise man quietly listens and eats, with twenty trees down, stripped, sized, split, and stacked! Ah, wisdom! Real strength is not the size of your arms but the amount of your wisdom! Without wisdom, no matter what the endeavor might be, you must put forth much more effort (Eccl 10:10).
Solomon valued wisdom much higher than physical strength (Pr 21:19; Eccl 7:19). He described how a poor wise man in a small city was able to defeat a great king besieging the city with great bulwarks (Eccl 9:13-18). Solomon wrote, “Wisdom is better than strength – wisdom is better than weapons of war.” Powerful! A wise king will always be able to defeat a foolish king, even with a smaller army and fewer weapons.
Such wisdom is displayed in the witty inventions of the world (Pr 8:12). It has been said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” But only a wise man will consider an invention to save labor and difficulty. The fool continues on with excessive effort, blinded by habit, tradition, and his little mind. Continents and nations still display this stubborn ignorance.
Many enjoy a proliferation of machines and devices in your generation that multiply physical force and strength by factors of thousands. The great bulk of these inventions are the direct result of wisdom through the knowledge of God in the English-speaking countries of the last two centuries. The fear of the Lord is wisdom! Wisdom is strength!
But more importantly, wisdom is also strength of character. The man who fears the Lord and knows his God is able to withstand the temptations of sin and choose righteousness instead. Such a man has the directive power of God’s word to keep him strong in the very face of Satan’s and the world’s three attractions to sin against God (Ps 119:9; I Jn 2:16).
Joseph was a wise man. This handsome young man was in a foreign city on an extended business trip. He was both successful and anonymous in this distant city. A beautiful woman desired to make love with him. He strictly turned her down, calling such an adulterous affair “great wickedness, and sin against God.” The woman daily tried to seduce him. He ignored her. One day during business, when they were alone together, she grabbed him and begged for him to make love to her. He ran away without the delay of a single word or second (Gen 39:7-20). He was strong! He ended up on Egypt’s throne.
Samson was a foolish man. This physically strong young man traveled to foreign cities to admire their beautiful women. He was frequently in trouble with whores there. Finally, one seduced him, who had told him three times she would destroy him, but he told her all his heart anyway. She sold him to his enemies. They put out his eyes, bound him with fetters, and made him grind in prison. His life was over. Samson was weak, weak, weak!
Which man was stronger? Mighty Samson or slave Joseph? Solomon told of many strong men destroyed by strange women (Pr 7:26), and Samson was one of their victims. But Joseph was wise by knowing God, which gave him strength. It is a foolish simpleton who even goes near loose or wild women (Pr 7:7). Strength of character, a result of God’s wisdom, is an exceeding precious thing. Those who do know their God will do exploits (Dan 11:32), while the foolish rejecter of holy religion is destroyed by a mere woman!
A wise man knows to carefully consider matters before making decisions. He knows that wise counsel from others, and a multitude of them, can save him from serious trouble (Pr 24:6). Such wisdom provides strength. It helps a man do well and avoid trouble. Wisdom is strength, and some of it comes through counselors. Fools cannot see the danger, nor do they ask if others can see it. They rush ahead blindly (Pr 14:15; 22:3; 27:12). The great decisions of life, such as war, should only be made based on much counsel (Pr 24:6).
Strong men retain riches (Pr 11:16). Their estates are great and secure, filled with precious things. Consider the preceding context (Pr 24:3-4). There are many traps and snares in life to take a man’s money, but strong men are not touched. How? They are wise! They have the discernment and prudence to avoid the dangers and errors of money.
They avoid the pits of folly Solomon warns against with his proverbs. They avoid slothfulness, too much sleep, gluttony, drunkenness, excessive pleasure, waste, vain ideas of making money, foolish investments, talk about financial independence, political change, cosigning loans for friends, strange women, disrespect of authority, heavy spending, fraudulent business practices, neglect of business, and all the other lying vanities that take a man’s money from him. They are wise. They are strong.
Wisdom also knows answers to life’s questions, which stagger the fool. These answers are found in the Holy Scriptures (Is 8:20). So wisdom provides strength for any debate or discussion (Pr 15:28; 22:17-21; 24:26; 26:4-5; Ps 119:42). A man with the wisdom of God is not ashamed in any company: he knows the needed truth (Ps 119:46; Dan 3:16).
The strongest men are those who fear the Lord Christ, know the Scriptures well, walk in the Spirit, and pray for wisdom. These are the ultimate sources of wisdom, the basis for great strength (II Tim 3:15-17; Eph 3:16; 6:10; Jas 1:5). It is the salvation of your soul, your family, and your church to be established with strength in the truth (Heb 13:9), lest you instead be a child tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14).
All men want to be strong, but only a very few will seek strength at these sources. What will you choose this day, dear reader? Strength or weakness? Strength with all might is offered (Col 1:9-11). Humble yourself, and choose the fear and wisdom of God today!