Day 89

How to Become Wise

Wisdom Proverbs 8:12–21
New Testament Luke 7:36–50
Old Testament Numbers 26:12–27:11


Oprah Winfrey says, ‘Follow your instincts. That’s where true wisdom manifests itself.’ In other words, wisdom comes from within and is a kind of intuition. Since you are created in the image of God, there is truth in this. However, as we see in today’s passages, true wisdom comes from God and it is supremely acquired through your relationship with him. As we have seen, knowledge is horizontal. But wisdom is vertical. It comes down from above. You will grow in wisdom as you learn, reflect and live in relationship with God.

We all desperately need wisdom. In the Old Testament there are several books of ‘Wisdom’: Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. In addition, sprinkled throughout the Bible are various writings which might loosely be described as ‘Wisdom Literature’, dealing with such diverse areas as the power of the tongue, the blessings of faithfulness, the dangers of adultery, the hazards of strong drink, the inequalities of life, the sufferings of the righteous, the skill of leadership and the art of parenting.

This wisdom is a kind of sanctified common sense. It leads to greater self-understanding. It gives you the ability to cope in life and to steer through and master its challenges. It is the sort of legacy good parents want to hand on to their children. Ultimately, wisdom is found in Jesus Christ, who is the ‘wisdom of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:24).


Proverbs 8:12–21

12 “I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence;
   I possess knowledge and discretion.
13 To fear the LORD is to hate evil;
   I hate pride and arrogance,
   evil behaviour and perverse speech.
14 Counsel and sound judgment are mine;
   I have insight, I have power.
15 By me kings reign
   and rulers issue decrees that are just;
16 by me princes govern,
   and nobles—all who rule on earth.
17 I love those who love me,
   and those who seek me find me.
18 With me are riches and honour,
   enduring wealth and prosperity.
19 My fruit is better than fine gold;
   what I yield surpasses choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
   along the paths of justice,
21 bestowing a rich inheritance on those who love me
   and making their treasuries full.


Seek wisdom from God

Wisdom is immensely valuable: ‘My benefits are worth more than a big salary, even a very big salary; the returns on me exceed any imaginable bonus’ (vv.18–19, MSG). This wisdom is worth more than all the material wealth in the world. Apart from anything else, unlike material wealth, it lasts for ever (v.18).

In this passage, we see why wisdom is so valuable and how we should seek God for such wisdom:

1. Wisdom comes from God

Wisdom begins with a relationship with God. It starts with the ‘fear of the Lord’ (v.13). ‘Fear’ means ‘respect’ and a deep awareness of God that is the foundation of all wisdom.

2. Wisdom is pure and beautiful

The writer of Proverbs says, ‘To fear the Lord is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behaviour and perverse speech... I walk in the way of righteousness, along the paths of justice’ (vv.13,20). This is the test of true wisdom that comes from God. As the apostle James writes, ‘Wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere’ (James 3:17).

3. Wisdom helps you lead well

Wisdom is of particular importance for leaders. If you want to be a good leader you need wisdom and common sense: ‘With my help, leaders rule, and lawmakers legislate fairly; With my help, governors govern, along with all in legitimate authority’ (Proverbs 8:15–16, MSG).

4. Wisdom is available to you

God promises wisdom to all who seek after it: ‘I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me’ (v.17). As the apostle James puts it, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you’ (James 1:5). This is a prayer you can be sure will be answered.


Lord, I desperately need your wisdom today. Please give me wisdom that is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

New Testament

Luke 7:36–50

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


See people with wise eyes

Have you ever made a misjudgement about somebody based only on outward appearances?

In today’s passage we see a woman with a past, who sold her love by the hour as the town sex worker, washing Jesus’ feet with her hair, kissing them and pouring perfume on them. The Pharisee’s reaction was the natural one: ‘If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is – that she is a sinner’ (7:39).

But Jesus, ‘filled with wisdom’ (2:40) right from his earliest days, could see beneath the surface. He saw the fact that the woman was expressing her immense love for him because she knew how much she had been forgiven. You may have had a negative past but you can have a positive and blessed future.

We see the wisdom of Jesus both in his insight into people and in the way he chose to teach. He tells a parable about an eccentric bank manager. He has two customers. One owes £5,000, another £50,000. He lets both of them off completely. No human bank manager is likely to act like that. But that is exactly what Jesus’ love is like. All your sins are wiped out. You receive total forgiveness. The greater the debt, the more grateful you will be and the greater your love for Jesus.

This parable enabled Simon the Pharisee, unwittingly, to answer his own concern (7:43). Jesus wisely and gently points out that Simon had not given him a very warm welcome, nor shown a great deal of love. Simon’s problem was that he didn’t realise how much he needed forgiveness.

On the other hand, the woman loved Jesus much because she knew she had been forgiven much (v.47). She was willing to risk rejection and give of herself practically, emotionally and financially.

She wept so much that she ‘wet his feet with her tears’ (v.38). In order to wipe his feet, she let her hair down in public (something regarded as shameful). She was in the grip of her emotions and oblivious to what others thought. She did not stop kissing his feet out of deep reverence.

Then she poured rare and expensive perfume (normally reserved for the head) on his feet. She loved Jesus with all of her heart. Jesus sees your heart, rather than your past. He said to her, ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace’ (v.50). Your love is a result of your faith. As the apostle Paul wrote, ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love’ (Galatians 5:6).

You may not have had a good beginning in life but this does not mean you cannot have a great finish. Whatever your past life was like, with Jesus you can make a completely new start and have a great future. You do not need to go around burdened by guilt – from previous relationships or from incidents in your past. The moment you repent and put your faith in Jesus, all your sins are wiped out. It is important that what you know in your head drops to your heart.

Jesus wants you to acknowledge that you are a sinner. You can’t pay off your debts. But Jesus forgives you. Ask the Holy Spirit to fill you today with an overflowing love for God and love for others.


Lord, give me wisdom like Jesus not to judge by outward appearances but to see the heart. Fill me with the Holy Spirit today. May I overflow with love for you and for others.

Old Testament

Numbers 26:12–27:11

12 The descendants of Simeon by their clans were:

through Nemuel, the Nemuelite clan;

through Jamin, the Jaminite clan;

through Jakin, the Jakinite clan;

13 through Zerah, the Zerahite clan;

through Shaul, the Shaulite clan.

14 These were the clans of Simeon; those numbered were 22,200.

15 The descendants of Gad by their clans were:

through Zephon, the Zephonite clan;

through Haggi, the Haggite clan;

through Shuni, the Shunite clan;

16 through Ozni, the Oznite clan;

through Eri, the Erite clan;

17 through Arodi, the Arodite clan;

through Areli, the Arelite clan.

18 These were the clans of Gad; those numbered were 40,500.

19 Er and Onan were sons of Judah, but they died in Canaan.

20 The descendants of Judah by their clans were:

through Shelah, the Shelanite clan;

through Perez, the Perezite clan;

through Zerah, the Zerahite clan.

21 The descendants of Perez were:

through Hezron, the Hezronite clan;

through Hamul, the Hamulite clan.

22 These were the clans of Judah; those numbered were 76,500.

23 The descendants of Issachar by their clans were:

through Tola, the Tolaite clan;

through Puah, the Puite clan;

24 through Jashub, the Jashubite clan;

through Shimron, the Shimronite clan.

25 These were the clans of Issachar; those numbered were 64,300.

26 The descendants of Zebulun by their clans were:

through Sered, the Seredite clan;

through Elon, the Elonite clan;

through Jahleel, the Jahleelite clan.

27 These were the clans of Zebulun; those numbered were 60,500.

28 The descendants of Joseph by their clans through Manasseh and Ephraim were:

29 The descendants of Manasseh:

through Makir, the Makirite clan (Makir was the father of Gilead );

through Gilead, the Gileadite clan.

30 These were the descendants of Gilead:

through Iezer, the Iezerite clan;

through Helek, the Helekite clan;

31 through Asriel, the Asrielite clan;

through Shechem, the Shechemite clan;

32 through Shemida, the Shemidaite clan;

through Hepher, the Hepherite clan.

33 (Zelophehad son of Hepher had no sons; he had only daughters, whose names were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah.)

34 These were the clans of Manasseh; those numbered were 52,700.

35 These were the descendants of Ephraim by their clans:

through Shuthelah, the Shuthelahite clan;

through Beker, the Bekerite clan;

through Tahan, the Tahanite clan.

36 These were the descendants of Shuthelah:

through Eran, the Eranite clan.

37 These were the clans of Ephraim; those numbered were 32,500.

These were the descendants of Joseph by their clans.

38 The descendants of Benjamin by their clans were:

through Bela, the Belaite clan;

through Ashbel, the Ashbelite clan;

through Ahiram, the Ahiramite clan;

39 through Shupham, the Shuphamite clan;

through Hupham, the Huphamite clan.

40 The descendants of Bela through Ard and Naaman were:

through Ard, the Ardite clan;

through Naaman, the Naamite clan.

41 These were the clans of Benjamin; those numbered were 45,600.

42 These were the descendants of Dan by their clans:

through Shuham, the Shuhamite clan.

These were the clans of Dan: 43 All of them were Shuhamite clans; and those numbered were 64,400.

44 The descendants of Asher by their clans were:

through Imnah, the Imnite clan;

through Ishvi, the Ishvite clan;

through Beriah, the Beriite clan;

45 and through the descendants of Beriah:

through Heber, the Heberite clan;

through Malkiel, the Malkielite clan.

46 (Asher had a daughter named Serah.)

47 These were the clans of Asher; those numbered were 53,400.

48 The descendants of Naphtali by their clans were:

through Jahzeel, the Jahzeelite clan;

through Guni, the Gunite clan;

49 through Jezer, the Jezerite clan;

through Shillem, the Shillemite clan.

50 These were the clans of Naphtali; those numbered were 45,400.

51 The total number of the men of Israel was 601,730.

52 The LORD said to Moses, 53 “The land is to be allotted to them as an inheritance based on the number of names. 54 To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one; each is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those listed. 55 Be sure that the land is distributed by lot. What each group inherits will be according to the names for its ancestral tribe. 56 Each inheritance is to be distributed by lot among the larger and smaller groups.”

57 These were the Levites who were counted by their clans:

through Gershon, the Gershonite clan;

through Kohath, the Kohathite clan;

through Merari, the Merarite clan.

58 These also were Levite clans:

the Libnite clan,

the Hebronite clan,

the Mahlite clan,

the Mushite clan,

the Korahite clan.

(Kohath was the forefather of Amram; 59 the name of Amram’s wife was Jochebed, a descendant of Levi, who was born to the Levites in Egypt. To Amram she bore Aaron, Moses and their sister Miriam. 60 Aaron was the father of Nadab and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 61 But Nadab and Abihu died when they made an offering before the LORD with unauthorized fire.)

62 All the male Levites a month old or more numbered 23,000. They were not counted along with the other Israelites because they received no inheritance among them.

63 These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho. 64 Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai. 65 For the LORD had told those Israelites they would surely die in the wilderness, and not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.

Zelophehad’s Daughters

27 The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward 2 and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said, 3 “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the LORD, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. 4 Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

5 So Moses brought their case before the LORD, 6 and the LORD said to him, 7 “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.

8 “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. 9 If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the LORD commanded Moses.’”


Show wisdom in practical decisions

Moses shows very practical wisdom, allotting the size of land according to the size of the group (26:54).

Sadly, not everyone was as wise as Moses. When they were in the desert they rebelled and grumbled against God. As a result, God said that they would not enter the promised land. This is exactly what happened. Of those counted in the desert ‘not one of them was left except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun’ (vv.64–65).

There is an old ditty that goes:

Joshua, the son of Nun
And Caleb
The son of Jephunneh
Were the only two
Who ever got through
To the land of milk and honey.

Zelophehad’s daughters also showed great wisdom in being courageous and speaking out. They stood up for women’s rights (27:1–11). Had these women not done so, the results might have been very different. They were right to have the courage to speak out.

Moses dealt with the situation with great wisdom. He did not simply follow the customs of his day; he was remarkably open-minded. He had the wisdom not to make a hasty decision in his own strength, or automatically equate God’s will with ancient custom.

Yet the heart of Moses’ wisdom lay in his recognition that true wisdom comes from God. Again and again, Moses brought the problems and challenges of the people to God. He sought God’s help and guidance, and it was this that made him wise.


Lord, I need your wisdom for all the decisions I have to make each day. Help me not just to look within at my own instincts but to seek your wisdom that comes from above, to follow the example of Jesus’ wisdom and to be guided by the Holy Spirit, who gives me wisdom in my heart.

Pippa adds

Luke 7:36–50

It is so easy to judge. I remember being on the London Underground with my daughter when she was very small. As we went through the barrier I saw a young woman arguing with the inspector and I made a judgment.

Meanwhile, I had taken my daughter out of the buggy to get on the escalator going down (as you are required to) and the woman had gone ahead of us. My daughter was standing on the step below me and she fell. I had the buggy and bags in my hands and I couldn’t catch her. To my horror I could see the bottom looming and I was convinced she would get caught in the mechanism.

There were other people around but it was this woman who turned, ran and scooped up my child just before she got to the bottom, and handed her safely back to me. I felt deeply repentant of my attitude towards this woman and very grateful to her – and to God to provide this very kind stranger.



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The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel (commentary formerly known as Bible in One Year) ©Alpha International 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Compilation of daily Bible readings © Hodder & Stoughton Limited 1988. Published by Hodder & Stoughton Limited as the Bible in One Year.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (

Scripture quotations marked MSG are taken from The Message, copyright © 1993, 2002, 2018 by Eugene H. Peterson. Used by permission of NavPress. All rights reserved. Represented by Tyndale House Publishers.

The Bible with Nicky and Pippa Gumbel

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