Psalms

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions” (v. 1).

- Psalm 51

We have noted that each book that makes up the Old Testament Wisdom Literature provides a specific perspective on wisdom that enhances our understanding of what it means to live wisely before the face of God. Now it is time to look at what the book of Psalms says to us about godly wisdom. While Proverbs emphasizes practical day-to-day living, that does not mean that the other Wisdom Books are to be regarded as less practical. Psalms, for example, is one of the most practical books in the Bible.

Since the book of Psalms is filled with prayers and songs, it might be hard for us to consider it a book of practical importance. Yet to think that way is to neglect the essential role of prayer in living wisely unto the Lord. It is easy to think about wisdom purely as a matter of acquiring new knowledge and looking at examples of everyday situations in which we can apply it. But even though it is important to engage in lifelong learning, particularly lifelong learning of the Word of God, gaining wisdom is more than just increasing our head knowledge. It is also important for us to have a deep relationship with the Lord so that we are prepared to act wisely in specific circumstances. This relationship requires knowledge of Him and His Word, but it also demands a life of prayer. This is what the book of Psalms tells us.

Throughout Scripture, we find a close connection between wisdom and the prayers of God’s people. Solomon, for instance, is known for his wisdom, but he did not gain this wisdom until he asked the Lord for it in prayer (1 Kings 3:1-15). James 1:5 instructs us to ask God for wisdom, knowing that He will always answer that prayer in the affirmative if we offer it in faith.

Many Christians find prayer to be a difficult spiritual discipline to practice. Often, we are unsure of how or what to pray. Thankfully, God has given us the Psalms to guide our practice of prayer. In the Psalms, we get a picture of the adoration that comes from the man or woman who is completely dedicated to the Lord. We also see ways in which we may wrestle with the Lord in prayer when it seems that the world is against us. Many of the Psalms, such as the one chosen for today’s study, are prayers of deep contrition and repentance. Wise people do not run from God when they sin; rather, they turn to Him in prayer, seeking His face so that they can be forgiven and restored.

Coram Deo

One of the first manifestations of ungodly wisdom occurred in the garden of Eden just after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. Instead of turning to the Lord, our first parents hid from Him. That is not the model that Scripture gives us. Wise people know that they cannot truly run from God and that it is better to come to Him when they sin than to hide themselves. Only He can provide the forgiveness and the covering for our shame that we need when we have fallen.

Passages for Further Study

Psalms 19; 33
Proverbs 3
Luke 11:1–4
1 Thessalonians 5:17

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