We live in a world that values knowledge and therefore education. Malcolm X famously said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.” Nelson Mandela added, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world,” while John Dewey plainly stated, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.” These quotes highlight the value that our culture places on education but also betray the (sometimes) subtle idolatry of education.
The reality is, we sometimes think that education is the answer to all of life’s problems. We simply need facts, obtained through learning, to navigate the challenges of life. There is nothing new about this. We see the same in Daniel 2.
In this chapter, Nebuchadnezzar was presented with a challenge. He had a dream, which he needed to correctly interpret to know how to navigate the challenges before him. His solution was education: “The king commanded that the magicians, the enchanters, the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans be summoned to tell the king his dreams” (v. 2). These men (collectively called “wise men” in v. 12) were schooled in the interpretation of dreams. We saw in chapter 1 that Daniel and his friends “were to be educated for three years, and at the end of that time were to stand before the king” (1:5). Education was the key to success. Properly educated, the king placed great confidence in his wise men. But education failed them. And when they could not reveal the dream to him, “the king was angry and very furious, and commanded that all the wise men of Babylon be destroyed” (v. 12).
When Daniel stepped in to assuage the anger of the king, he made it plain that the source of his wisdom was not education: “No wise men, enchanters, magicians, or astrologers can show to the king the mystery that the king has asked, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries, and he has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days” (Daniel 2:27–28). King Nebuchadnezzar might have wholeheartedly affirmed John Dewey—education is life—but he received in this chapter an important lesson about the source of wisdom. Wisdom for life came from the God of heaven, not from the education of men.
As we navigate life in Babylon, we need the same conviction. We need to realise that there is one source of wisdom and go directly to the source to get it. “Get wisdom,” urged Solomon (Proverbs 4:5, 7). The pursuit of wisdom is far superior to the pursuit of wealth (Proverbs 16:16). But wisdom is not found in education—or, at least, not in education alone—but in submission to the God of heaven. As we pursue wisdom, here are three indispensable strategies to bear in mind.
First, wisdom must be gotten in relationship with Jesus Christ. Paul identified Christ as “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18–2:5). True, God-honouring wisdom for life cannot be found in isolation from Christ. You can learn street smarts and obtain the best education the world has to offer but, apart from Christ, you will fail miserably at living a life that is honouring to God. God-honouring wisdom rests solely in the person and work of his Son. Wisdom, therefore, begins with a humble acknowledgement of sin and repentant submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Calling on the name of the Lord is the first step to wisdom.
Second, wisdom must be gotten in the context of prayer. James said it plainly: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5). This is particularly true when it comes to wisdom for tackling life’s difficulties. James writes in the specific context of trials. As we prayerfully praise God, we enhance our relationship with him, which gives us opportunity to draw on his wisdom as we lay our problems and confusions bare before him. God-honouring wisdom is not automatic; it must be sought prayerfully.
Third, wisdom must be gotten by carefully searching the Scriptures. Divine wisdom is contained for us most clearly in the Scriptures. But Scripture must be carefully wielded to obtain this wisdom. A sloppy approach to Scripture can be dangerous. Solomon compared a proverb in a fool’s mouth to “a lame man’s legs, which hang useless” and to a drunk man playing with thorns (Proverbs 26:7, 9). Biblical truth sloppily handled can be dangerous. We must take great care as we search the Scriptures for wisdom, which takes us back to the need for prayer.
As you meditate on Daniel 2 this morning, and seek to navigate the challenges of life wisely, ask God for the ability to find wisdom in relationship with Christ, in the context of prayer, and by carefully searching the Scriptures.