Wisdom Wednesday :The Discernment of the Wise
Submitted by Debbie’s Dad
Whoever is wise, let him understand these things;
Whoever is discerning, let him know them.
For the ways of the Lord are right,
And the righteous will walk in them,
But transgressors will stumble in them.
(Hosea 14:9 NASB 95)
Discernment is an attribute of the wise and the Bible stresses the importance of Godly discernment.
Hosea’s book of prophetic messages spoke of the sin of ancient Israel, the coming inescapable judgment, and the future reconciliation with God. He spoke clearly during the reigns of four kings in the Southern kingdom of Judah (kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah), but he spoke to the sins of the Northern kingdom of Israel. Hosea uniquely spoke of the unfaithfulness of Israel as though the nation was an adulterous wife—just as his own wife was unfaithful to him. His description of the kingdom’s sin is described in explicit terms.
In the final verse above, the epilogue to Hosea’s long prophecy, the prophet exhorted the wise to pay attention and understand the things he had written. The wise are also call discerning, that is, they act wisely by considering or thinking about what was said. We use the term discerning to refer to consider something, distinguish between things, and to make a proper judgment.
In this verse, Hosea concluded his book by alerting the wise and discerning readers to understand and know the straightforward message of His book (v. 9):
- The ways of the Lord are right,
- The righteous will walk in those ways, but,
- Transgressors of those ways will stumble.
Jesus described the ways of the Lord as the “narrow way” and contrasted it with the broad way (of transgressors) that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). The wise must discern between the ways of the Lord and the ways of transgression. Discernment enables the wise to distinguish between good and evil. The Lord looked to a day that the failing nation would again properly discern: “So you will again distinguish between the righteous and the wicked, between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him”. (Malachi 3:18)
Hosea illustrated the distinction between the two ways throughout his book, enumerating the ways of the transgressing nation:
- Unfaithfulness to God- as an adulterous woman who left her husband is an overriding theme of the book. (Chapters 2, 6)
- Rampant Sinfulness- as diverse as swearing, deception, murder, theft, adultery, violence and bloodshed in cycles of revenge. (Chapter 4)
- Pride and Corruption- (uncleanness) that prevented them from returning to God (Chapter 5)
- Rebellion and turning to others for strength–they sought political strength and military protection from other nations (Egypt, Assyria) rather than from God. (Chapter 7) “They turn, but not upward” v.16.
Today, we all need to be discerning so we can distinguish the ways of the Lord and the ways of the transgressors. The need for discernment was understood throughout the Scripture:
- Solomon prayed for wisdom, “to discern between good and evil” I Kings 3:9.
- God instructed Ezekiel that the priests were to “… teach My people the difference between the holy and the profane and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean “ (Ezekiel 44:23).
- Paul prayed that new believers would develop discernment: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ… (Philippians 1:9–10a).
- The writer to the Hebrews instructed mature believers to develop discernment “But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” (Heb. 5:14.
Jesus explained we are not to judge others (decide to condemn) in Matthew 7: 1-2 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.” This is not discernment—it is judgment.
But immediately after this, He warned we are to be discerning – to distinguish between the narrow and broad ways (7:13-14) and the false teachers that lead people away from the narrow way (7:15-20).
Let us pray for discernment and seek to study God’s Word to become mature in distinguishing the holy and the profane, the clean and the unclean, the good and the evil.