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 (Manna 67: The Bible)
True Wisdom: Finding Knowledge and Life in the Scriptures
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True Wisdom: Finding Knowledge and Life in the Scriptures

K.C. Tsai—Toronto, Canada

Learning the Holy Scriptures is an essential part of Jewish life since the Jews believe that eternal life lies within them (Jn 5:39). Jewish children learn the Scriptures from young so that they will know the Law and the prophets by the age of thirteen. This is when they become a “Bar Mitzvah”, or “Son of the Commandment”, and start to be accountable for their own actions.

Despite such emphasis on learning the Scriptures, the Jews rejected Jesus when He came into the world. Jesus rebuked them:

You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.

(Jn 5:39–40)

On the other hand, there were many who did go to Jesus. They were there when He preached the gospel of the heavenly kingdom and performed miracles. They followed Him, amazed by His miracles, and they desired Him to feed them with physical bread. Jesus fed them but He also taught them the truth about the bread of life. He said He was “the bread which came down from heaven” (Jn 6:41), and “those who eat this bread will live forever” (Jn 6:58). After hearing this, many of His disciples left.

These were people who had come to Him. They had eaten and drunk their fill in His presence; they had heard His profound and precious teachings. Yet pitifully, they remained mere bystanders of His salvation.

Today, some of us may be guilty of the same mistakes. We devote our lives to the study of the Bible but fail to see the eternal life that is within it. We think we have come to Jesus because we regularly attend Sabbath services (and more) and read our Bibles on schedule. Yet in the Lord’s eyes, we may have turned our metaphorical backs on Him.

So how do we avoid repeating history? How can we truly gain life from the Scriptures?

I. Bar Mitzvah: Strive to Be a True Son of the Commandment

But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

(2 Tim 3:14–15)

Timothy had known the Holy Scriptures since childhood (2 Tim 3:15). Therefore he qualified as a true Bar Mitzvah when he turned thirteen, although he was not circumcised at the time. However, giving young Timothy access to the Scriptures had not been an easy task for his mother, Eunice.

During Timothy’s time, the Holy Scriptures—comprising just the Old Testament—had to be inscribed word by word onto parchment. To listen to God’s word, the people had to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath (Acts 15:21). But was there a synagogue in Lystra where Eunice and her son lived? From the following, we can infer that there probably was not any synagogue.

Throughout his missionary journeys, Paul made it a principle to always preach in the Jewish synagogues first (Acts 13:5, 14–41; 14:1; 17:1–2, 10, 16–17; 18:1, 4; 19:1, 8–10). He did so because he thought, “it was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you {the Jews} first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles” (Acts 13:46).

However when Paul and Barnabas arrived in Lystra during their first missionary trip, they immediately performed a miracle and preached the gospel on the street. Later, they were stoned and dragged out of Lystra by the Jews who came from Antioch of Pisidia, and Iconium. Throughout all the events, there was no mention of a synagogue in Lystra. Had there been a synagogue, they would have gone there upon their arrival, as Paul’s principle dictated.

In addition, the Bible says that Timothy was praised by the brethren, both in his hometown, Lystra, and in Iconium (Acts 16:2). This indicates that he must have been a regular there. Since Timothy’s father was Greek, it was his mother who made the effort to bring him up in the faith. Most likely, she took Timothy to Iconium to listen to readings of the Scriptures and the rabbinic teachings. To do this, mother and son would have had to leave early on Friday in order to arrive in the neighboring village of Iconium by sunset. In this way, Timothy acquired his knowledge of the Scriptures and became just as well-versed in God’s word as most of his Jewish peers.

In 2 Timothy 3:14–15, Paul said Timothy knew from whom he had learned the truth. There were clearly three sources. The first must have been the Holy Spirit. Without the revelation of the Holy Spirit no one can truly understand the things of God, for the Holy Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God (1 Cor 2:10).

Second, Timothy gained a profound understanding of the salvation grace from Paul, his spiritual father, who took him along on missionary journeys. These helped Timothy explore the depth and true meaning of life. But the most fundamental role belonged to his mother, Eunice. She did whatever was necessary to ensure that her son was educated in the word of God. Simply put, she had sparked and accompanied him in his spiritual journey towards maturity.

This is thus the first step to receiving the true wisdom of salvation: We must strive to ensure that we and our children and grandchildren receive God’s word of life.

II. Shema (Hear): Strive to Understand the Oracles of God

Our heavenly Father is a God Who seems to hide Himself, for we often find it difficult to understand His plans and actions (Isa 45:15). Yet He puts in much effort to convey His oracles to His chosen people (Rom 3:2) and uses various ways to do so.

Once, He spoke directly to the Israelites from the top of Mount Sinai where He gave them the Ten Commandments. However, the people were terrified by the thunder and lightning flashes, the sound of the trumpet, and the smoking mountain. They trembled and stood afar, asking Moses to mediate instead.

God had spoken directly to Moses, both on Mount Sinai and from above the mercy seat on the Ark of the Covenant, so that Moses could pass God’s oracles to the children of Israel. And earlier, God had spoken directly with the patriarchs and the prophets.

Sometimes, God’s word was revealed through the response of various biblical figures. An example was David. After he had done his utmost to prepare the materials for temple building, he said,Who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to offer so willingly as this? For all things come from You, and of Your own we have given You” (1 Chr 29:14).

Moreover, God’s messages may be communicated through events. For instance, He allowed the Babylonians to invade the Holy City and destroy the temple because He wanted His people to realize how repugnant their sins were. On the Babylonian invasion, He sent the prophet Jeremiah to comfort the Israelites. The prophet’s lament reassured the Israelites that they could still have hope in a dire situation; for God’s unceasing mercy and compassion are new every morning (Lam 3:22–26).

Today, God continues to speak to us—through the Scriptures, events in our lives and other channels. We must not only strive to hear but also seek to understand. And the only way to understand His word is to have a reverent heart that is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

III. True Faith in Christ Jesus: Strive to Become Wise for Salvation

Like many Jews in Paul’s time, Timothy had a good knowledge of the Scriptures. However, this could not make him wise for salvation until he believed in Christ Jesus. Today, we have acquired knowledge of the Scriptures and a belief in Jesus but does our faith truly make us wise for salvation? What kind of faith do we require?

Jesus said,

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.“ (Mt 11:28)

If we want salvation (rest for our souls), we must “come to Him”. But coming to Him means taking up His yoke and learning from Him to be gentle and lowly in heart. What does it mean to be gentle and lowly in heart?

The prophet Zechariah said that the King of Peace would make a lowly entry into the holy city (Zech 9:9). However, Jesus was hailed as a glorious king when He entered Jerusalem triumphantly. The multitudes ushered Him in with great honor and praises, saying, “Hosanna to the son of David… Hosanna!” (Mt 21:9). Once in the holy city, He drove out those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. Why did the prophet describe Jesus as “lowly”, despite these vivid scenes of a furious Jesus?

On the surface, Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem appeared to be a splendid affair. But in fact, Jesus demonstrated true humility through His complete submission to the will of the Father. He was determined to endure the agony of crucifixion that awaited Him. He humbled Himself and courageously took up the bitter cup that the Father gave Him. As a sacrificial lamb waiting to be slaughtered, He bore His yoke alone in front of the cheering multitudes, and cleansed the temple for His Father. Only total humility and submission to the Father’s will could accomplish such a thing (Jn 14:10).

Sometimes it may be difficult to be gentle and lowly in heart; but if we strive to imitate the Lord Jesus and focus on the will of God, we shall be victorious. Jesus says that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. If we give up ourselves to follow the will of God, we shall experience this lightness and ease. Like Paul, we shall be strengthened by Christ Jesus and be content in whatever circumstances (Phil 4:11–13). In addition, we shall be free from any complaint against God and men.

To find life in the Scriptures, we need to have true faith in Christ Jesus. This requires us to be true disciples who follow Him in word and deed, and be transformed from listeners to doers. As Jesus says, whoever hears His words and does them, He will liken him to a wise man who built his house upon the rock, able to withstand the rain, floods and winds (Mt 7:24–26).


The world trumpets the importance of knowledge. But as Christians, knowledge of the Scriptures is even more important. Without this, we cannot find the meaning and destination of life.

Eunice was an outstanding mother, and particularly so in the religious education of her son. Through exhausting and countless trips walking the rugged road to Iconium, she made sure that her son was well-versed in the Scriptures. This serves as a beautiful example for us—as parents and believers. No matter what circumstances we face, we must provide our children with access to biblical knowledge. At the same time, parents themselves cannot afford to cease learning and understanding the Scriptures because these are words of eternal life (Jn 6:63, 68).

But having said this, knowledge alone benefits us little. It is vital for us to use our biblical knowledge to nurture a true faith in Christ Jesus—following His footsteps, practicing His word in our daily lives.

In summary, true wisdom is not merely knowledge of the Scriptures. Gaining salvation from the Scriptures demands a genuine faith, discipleship, and an enduring determination to let God’s will dictate our decisions and our life everyday.

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Author: K.C. Tsai