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The Seven Pillars of Wisdom ~ Discretion

Proverbs 9:1 Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:

Here is a review of the seven pillars that hold up Wisdom’s house.

Proverbs 8:12 I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions8:13 The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate8:14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.

So we see that the Seven Pillars of Wisdom correspond to the following seven qualities that dwell with Wisdom:

  1. Prudence
  2. Knowledge of Witty Inventions [Discretion]
  3. The Fear of the Lord
  4. Counseling
  5. Sound Wisdom [Judgment]
  6. Understanding
  7. Strength

This week we will explore the meaning of what it means to “find out knowledge of witty inventions”. The description of this one aspect of wisdom may sound somewhat strange and we may wonder just what does that mean: to find out knowledge of witty inventions…..and what does that have to do with wisdom?

Proverbs 8:12 I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.

Other Bible translations other than the King James translate “knowledge of witty inventions” as “discretion” or “I know how to be discreet”.

The Hebrew word used for this combination of words as translated in the King James (witty inventions) is mezimmah (Strong’s #4209) and means: wicked device, discretion, intent, witty invention, lewdness, mischievous device, thought, wickedly. From zamam; a plan, usually evil (machination), sometimes good (sagacity) — (wicked) device, discretion, intent, witty invention, lewdness, mischievous (device), thought, wickedly. see HEBREW zamam (Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance)

And the word zamam (Strong’s #2161) means: to consider, purpose, devise. (Strong’s Concordance)

From the Strong’s definition of the word mezimmah we learn that this word for discretion can be used for good or for evil. The word mezimmah can be used to speak about people with evil purposes and who plot wicked plans; or it is used when the plans, purposes, devices are for good. 

Dictionaries describe the evil type of plotting as “machination”; in other words when a person who uses cunning and subtlety to devise a wicked plan, such as when Haman devised a plan to have all the Jews killed, or when the princes and rulers under King Darius devised a plan to have Daniel thrown into the den of lions: to make evil plans is called machination. But when someone devises something in order for good to happen, that type of mezimmah is sagacious.

Sagacious means possessing or showing sound judgment and keen perception in a good way. When someone’s thoughts are for good and he has a good purpose in mind, and then makes plans to bring about a righteous solution, that is considered “sagacious”.

The Hebrew language uses the word mezimmah when speaking of either good or bad devices. Here are some verses which use this Hebrew word and they give us an idea of what Solomon was talking about when he wrote “to find out knowledge of witty inventions”. This word [mezimmah] is usually translated as “devices” [plans] “thoughts”, or “intents” as per the following verses:

Job 21:27 Behold, I know your thoughts, and the devices  [mezimmah] which ye wrongfully imagine against me.

Job 42:2 I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought [mezimmah: purpose, discretion, device] can be withholden from thee.

Jeremiah 30:24 The fierce anger of the Lord shall not return, until he hath done it, and until he have performed the intents  [mezimmah] of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it.

Proverbs 12:2  A good man obtaineth favour of the Lord: but a man of wicked devices [mezimmah] will he condemn.

Psalm 10:2 The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices [mezimmah] that they have imagined.

Psalm 10:4 The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts [mezimmah].

Psalm 21:11 For they intended [mezimmahevil against thee: they imagined a mischievous device [mezimmah, which they are not able to perform.

From these Scriptures we get a clearer picture of what Solomon is referring to when he says “to find knowledge of witty inventions” only it is for good plans when it is associated with Wisdom as is indicated in Proverbs 8:12.

This way of describing “discretion” is used only once in the Bible and only in the King James version and it is in the verse that lists the pillars of Wisdom. Everywhere else mezimmah is translated as: device, purposes, intents, thoughts, mischievous.

So we see that this word mezimmah means the power of forming plans; of coming up with well thought-out devises to bring about a desired result (whether they be good of evil). In the case of Proverbs 8:12 mezimmah is the type of Godly thinking [discretion] that is wisdom for bringing about what is good and what is based on the knowledge of what God says is good and righteous. It is the sagacity type of discretion.

Another definition that clarifies what this phrase means even further is from the KJV Dictionary:

DISCRETION, n. L, a separating. See Discreet.

1. Prudence, or knowledge and prudence; that discernment which enables a person to judge critically of what is correct and proper, united with caution; nice discernment and judgment, directed by circumspection, and primarily regarding ones own conduct.”

A good man–will guide his affairs with discretion. Psalm 112.

My son, keep sound wisdom and discretion. Proverbs 3.                

(KJV Dictionary)

DISCREET, a. L., Gr. It is sometimes written discrete; the distinction between discreet and discrete are arbitrary, but perhaps not entirely useless. The literal sense is, separate, reserved, wary, hence discerning.

1. Prudent; wise in avoiding errors or evil, and in selecting the best means to accomplish a purpose; circumspect; cautious; wary; not rash.

It is the discreet man, not the witty, nor the learned, nor the brave, who guides the conversation, and gives measures to society. “Let Pharaoh look out a man discreet and wise.” Genesis 41.                    

(KJV Dictionary)

Discretion and prudence are very similar in meaning but in the Hebrew language they are two different words in this verse. The Hebrew word for prudence is ormah and the Hebrew word for “knowledge of witty inventions” (which is translated as “discretion” in many other versions of the Bible) is mezimmah.

As we learned last week “prudence” ormah  (Strong’s #6195) means guile, prudence, subtilty, wilily, wisdom. Solomon uses these two different Hebrew words ormah and mezimmah as separate virtues in the seven pillars of wisdom.

Solomon also pairs these two pillars of wisdom in the very beginning of the Book of Proverbs when he says:

Proverbs 1:2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 1:3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 1:4 To give subtilty [prudence] to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion

In Proverbs 8:12 Solomon pairs prudence and discretion together but they are still two separate components of wisdom.

Proverbs 8:12 I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.

When we look at the definitions for prudence and discretion we see that the meanings of the two overlap in some ways. It is like the fruit of the Spirit whereas love is one of the components of the fruit but when we consider long-suffering, kindness, goodness, meekness, these qualities are all aspects of love as well.

Prudence and discretion as well as the fear of the Lord work together in the lives of those who are applying wisdom to their lives, they are interlaced and they compliment each other.

If we look up the word “discretion” in the English dictionary it has many nuances of meaning and there are many synonyms for discretion but it appears that Solomon is talking about a specific aspect of discretion; the translators of the King James Bible picked up on that aspect more than any other Bible translators and phrased it as “knowledge of witty inventions” rather than just using the term “discretion”.

This aspect of wisdom is to devise, imagine, plot or think up something. It is often paired with prudence and prudence includes a measure of discretion as we saw last week in Abigail’s thought-out plan to convince David to forgive her husband’s foolishness and not take action against her household. She not only used prudence but she also used discretion or knowledge of witty inventions and her quick thinking and the plan she devised show that she used this pillar of wisdom as well. 

So prudence and discretion go hand in hand and work together when it comes to applying the wisdom of God to our everyday living and coming up with solutions to the challenges of life; it is also the wisdom that we need to know the Plan of God and have insights (perception) into what He reveals to His called out children in His Word.

Here is the English definition of discretion:

1. Knowing how to avoid embarrassment or distress “the servants showed great tact and discretion”

2. Circumspection, discreetness, prudence,

3. Confidentiality, discretion in keeping secret information

4. Discernment, judgment, sagaciousness, sagacity

5. The mental ability to understand and discriminate between relations

6. The trait of judging wisely and objectively

7. The trait of utilizing knowledge and experience with common sense and insight

8. Refined taste; tact, appreciation, discernment, perceptiveness, taste

9. The ability to distinguish; judgement.

10. Discrimination. To distinguish between things.

11. To perceive differences that exist.

12. The condition of understanding.

13. Aesthetic discrimination; taste, appreciation.

14. Perceptiveness.

https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/discretion

All of these things are involved when it comes to godly wisdom especially when it comes to the pillar of “knowledge of witty inventions”. But it also has to do with knowing (knowledge) the difference between what is good and what is evil and then consciously choosing what is considered good as God teaches in His Word.

Discretion means to discern between good and evil by comparing all things against the standard of God’s Word and what He considers righteousness! 

Whatever is consistent with every Word of God is righteous and good, and any departure from any part of the Word of God is evil! That is the knowledge that Solomon is talking about: we are to find out what God says is right and good and then implement that knowledge in all of our plans, our devices, intentions for the purpose of His will and His righteousness be done whether it be in our thoughts, words, or actions. That is wisdom! And this is one of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

We must first come to the knowledge of what God determines as clean and what is profane and then learn to discern the difference when we have to make decisions or when we are dealing with problems, or people, and then choose God’s ways. 

We must avoid all that He considers profane whether it be in our thoughts, our speech, our conduct, and in our relationships. We are to learn to be discreet [use discretion] in all that we do separating out from our lives those things that defile or are profane.

Ezekiel 44:23 And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. 

Ezekiel 22:26 Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.

Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

As followers of Christ we are writing His Law into our hearts (into our inner being), and when God’s laws are ingrained into our hearts we will instantly discern between the clean and the unclean and will cleave to what is good and holy and right. To know the Word of God and put it into practice is the wisdom God calls “discretion” or as the King James Version says “to find the knowledge of witty inventions” [intent, purpose, device].

Jeremiah 31:33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.

God wants His children to be clean, to have pure hearts, and to have good intentions in everything they do and it is also about coming up with good and godly plans when we are faced with challenges. It is about leaning how to think and process life’s events and our interactions with people and then choose what is right in God’s eyes. 

That is wisdom and “discretion” is one of the pillars [as it is used in Proverbs 8:12] that hold up the house of wisdom. It is the type of wisdom [just as prudence] that forces us to think, to use our minds for the force of good.  Discretion is to think a problem through and then come up with suitable solutions whether it be to take action; or to hold back and let God take care of the situation in His way and in His timing.

To use our minds and our inner thoughts to discern between what is good and what is evil, and then propose good things to happen or to wisely get out of complicated or dangerous predicaments is what Solomon had in mind when he lists “to find the knowledge of witty things” or “discretion” as a pillar of wisdom.

It is also involves deep spiritual perception for we need Godly insights to know how to act wisely when we are faced with complicated situations because we have thought it through and then choose the wisest course; but also it is to discern when it is wise to hold back and use restraint when the situation warrants it! 

Sometimes we need to speak up and speak the truth in love, and other times we need to keep things confidential and stay quiet about a thing. That is when discretion comes into play. Discretion is putting wisdom into practice as we learn from our personal experiences in life and from our personal growth and maturity as we walk with God.

Daniel ~ An Example of Discretion

To better understand this aspect of wisdom we can see it plainly played out in action in the lives of God’s faithful servants. One person that comes readily to mind is Daniel. From the very first chapter of the Book of Daniel we see that Daniel was a person of wisdom and strong character along with his three friends.

Daniel and his friends were among the captives that were taken to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar invaded and took over Judah,

Daniel 1:2 And the Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, with part of the vessels of the house of God: which he carried into the land of Shinar to the house of his god; and he brought the vessels into the treasure house of his god. 1:3 And the king spake unto Ashpenaz the master of his eunuchs, that he should bring certain of the children of Israel, and of the king’s seed, and of the princes;

1:4 Children in whom was no blemish, but well favoured, and skilful in all wisdom, and cunning in knowledge, and understanding science, and such as had ability in them to stand in the king’s palace, and whom they might teach the learning and the tongue of the Chaldeans. 

1:5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

1:6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: 1:7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

Daniel and his three Jewish friends were given special gifts of knowledge and understanding directly from God. “As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom…” (Daniel 1:17)

In the next verse we are told that Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with eating the unclean food of the Babylonians. 

The fact that Daniel had resolved in his mind that he would NOT eat of the unclean foods, is indicative that Daniel had this attitude toward all of God’s laws and ordinances; but it was this one that came up to challenge him in this first chapter. 

It may seem like a small matter to most reading this account but to Daniel it was a very important matter and he risked his life in order to keep God’s ordinance of eating only clean food. 

This incidence shows us that Daniel and his friends were loyal to the God of Israel and were willing to obey Him no matter what and because of this God granted them even more special knowledge and wisdom.

These young lads had determined from their youth that they would stay true to the Most High God and not defile themselves with the ways of Babylon even though they were captives living in the midst of a pagan nation. 

Daniel was the spokesperson and leader of the group and he was especially imbued with wisdom and understanding….”and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams” (Daniel 1:17).

Daniel set in his heart that he would not defile himself with the king’s rich food that was set before him. The food probably consisted of unclean meats according to God’s mandates as given to us in Leviticus 11 and/or they were foods that had been dedicated to the pagan gods of Babylon. 

We are not told why the food was defiling but Daniel was determined that he would not eat of it. Rather than just blurting out that he would not eat of it, he used careful tack and diplomacy in how he went about presenting his case to the prince of the eunuchs that the king had placed over him and his friends.

Following is the account of how Daniel used discretion to devise a stratagem to get out from the requirement to eat the king’s rich and dainty food which Daniel and his three friends considered unfit to eat.

Daniel 1:8 But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Daniel and his friends found themselves in a precarious situation; they had to eat to survive and they also had to obey the king’s orders. King Nebuchadnezzar had appointed food and drink for them which they considered defiling and they could not in good conscience eat of it. 

Instead of throwing a fit or bewailing their fate Daniel devised a plan, a sagacious idea in which he proposed to the prince of the eunuchs to test them to see if their bodies would suffer or show a decline in healthy appearance if they were to eat only vegetables and water for ten days.

Daniel 1:9 Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs. 1:10 And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king. 

1:11 Then said Daniel to Melzar, whom the prince of the eunuchs had set over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, 1:12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink. 1:13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.

The prince of the eunuchs was willing to give them a chance to prove that they would not suffer poor health or poor appearance if they did not eat of the king’s food for ten days.

Daniel 1:14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days. 1:15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.

Daniel’s plan worked and at the end of the ten days of eating only vegetables they looked healthier and more good looking than all the other young men who did eat of the kings fine and dainty food therefore they were given permission to continue in their vegetarian diet.

Daniel 1:16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

Daniel 1:17 As for these four children, God gave them knowledge and skill in all learning and wisdom: and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.

Because these young men obeyed God and were loyal to all of His ways, God granted them even more knowledge and wisdom. The second half of verse 17 states that Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams, but the way Daniel and his three friends conducted themselves with the many challenges of working for a pagan, unpredictable king demonstrates for us the multifaceted wisdom of God in action in how they handled the problems that came up from time to time.

In the very next chapter we are told that King Nebuchadnezzar had a dream and he demanded that his “wise men” (the magicians, astrologers, his enchanters or soothsayers sorcerers, and Chaldean diviners) supernaturally tell him the dream and its meaning. When they said that they could not possibly do for the king what he was asking, the king flew into a rage.

Daniel 2:10 The Chaldeans answered before the king, and said, There is not a man upon the earth that can shew the king’s matter: therefore there is no king, lord, nor ruler, that asked such things at any magician, or astrologer, or Chaldean. 2:11 And it is a rare thing that the king requireth, and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods, whose dwelling is not with flesh. 2:12 For this cause the king was angry and very furious, and commanded to destroy all the wise men of Babylon.

Even though Daniel and his friends were not magicians or soothsayers they were still lumped in with what Nebuchadnezzar considered “the wise men”.

Daniel 2:13 And the decree went forth that the wise men should be slain; and they sought Daniel and his fellows to be slain. 2:14 Then Daniel answered with counsel and wisdom to Arioch the captain of the king’s guard, which was gone forth to slay the wise men of Babylon: 2:15 He answered and said to Arioch the king’s captain, Why is the decree so hasty from the king? Then Arioch made the thing known to Daniel.

When Arioch the king’s commander came for Daniel and his friends, Daniel remained calm and acted with wisdom when he learned of the King’s decree. Instead of panicking or despairing, Daniel immediately asked the king that he be given a little more time and assured him that he would return to tell him the dream and the interpretation. This shows that Daniel had faith that God would help him even when it looked impossible.

Daniel 2:16 Then Daniel went in, and desired of the king that he would give him time, and that he would shew the king the interpretation.

Daniel not only had wisdom but he had great faith; faith that God would reveal to him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and thereby spare him, his friends and the other wise men. 

Daniel and his friends took the situation to the throne room of God appealing to His mercy that they be delivered from being destroyed; by revealing to Daniel the dream and its interpretation.

Daniel 2:17 Then Daniel went to his house, and made the thing known to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, his companions: 2:18 That they would desire mercies of the God of heaven concerning this secret; that Daniel and his fellows should not perish with the rest of the wise men of Babylon.

That night God revealed the secret to Daniel in a night vision.

Daniel 2:19 Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

Daniel praised the Great God who is the source of all WISDOM, giving God all the credit and all the glory and he thanked God for making known to him the secret of the dream and its interpretation.

Daniel 2:20 Daniel answered and said, Blessed be the name of God for ever and ever: for wisdom and might are his: 2:21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding

2:22 He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. 2:23 I thank thee, and praise thee, O thou God of my fathers, who hast given me wisdom and might, and hast made known unto me now what we desired of thee: for thou hast now made known unto us the king’s matter.

This was not just any dream that was to be revealed but within the dream held the prophecy of the future kingdoms of the world and how they would succeed each other until the King of kings would come in great power (represented by the Stone cut out of a huge mountain) to smite the image (representing all the kingdoms of the earth) on the feet and bring all of the opposing kingdoms of this world (represented by Babylon and the golden image) tumbling down and crushing it to pieces.

Daniel 2:24 Therefore Daniel went in unto Arioch, whom the king had ordained to destroy the wise men of Babylon: he went and said thus unto him; Destroy not the wise men of Babylon: bring me in before the king, and I will shew unto the king the interpretation. 

2:25 Then Arioch brought in Daniel before the king in haste, and said thus unto him, I have found a man of the captives of Judah, that will make known unto the king the interpretation2:26 The king answered and said to Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, Art thou able to make known unto me the dream which I have seen, and the interpretation thereof?

Daniel continued to give God the credit for giving him the interpretation of the king’s dream. 

Daniel not only had wisdom to interpret dreams, but he also was given the wisdom of knowing how to handle a very volatile situation, saving himself, his three friends, and the whole company of the other wise men.

How did Daniel use the wisdom of discretion in his predicament? First Daniel was able to calm the king down with his sensible approach, by asking for more time; then he enlisted his companions to help him in petitioning the King of the Universe who knows all things, to reveal to him the dream; and by taking their problem to God rather than trying to come up with their own speculations, they showed even more wisdom. 

This whole scenario showed that Daniel was wise in knowing how to handle intimidating and rash people but also by going to God to give him the wisdom he needed. Daniel exemplifies for us perfectly the wisdom of God and discretion as well.

Daniel 2:27 Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; 2:28 But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these; 

2:29 As for thee, O king, thy thoughts came into thy mind upon thy bed, what should come to pass hereafter: and he that revealeth secrets maketh known to thee what shall come to pass. 

2:30 But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.

Daniel knew that he did not have any superior intelligence of his own to be able to see into the secret things of God but that it is God who gives wisdom. It was also God who gave him the prophecy of the kingdoms of the world, and not he himself that figured it out.

Wisdom is a gift from God and it does not originate within ourselves, it comes to us through the indwelling of God’s Holy Spirit which imparts enlightenment and knowledge to His children if they are walking in obedience to Him in all things.

God was able to use Daniel not only in interpreting the dream for Nebuchadnezzar but also in revealing in the pages of the Bible the significant revelations about the future of all the kingdoms of the world and the culmination at the end when all would be fulfilled by the coming of the Kingdom of God.

And it was because Daniel was obedient even in the (seemingly) little things. Daniel was righteous, humble, had great faith and gave God all the glory for the things that were given to him; he praised God and was thankful to Him when God answered his prayer; he therefore serves as an excellent example for all those down through the ages that would read about the accounts that happened to Daniel and his three friends and how God worked in their lives.

The whole Book of Daniel is about the life of Daniel and of his faith and wisdom. He went on to become a mighty prophet of God and God’s people can learn so much from Daniel’s many examples of wisdom.

Other Biblical Examples

There are many other biblical examples of God’s servants using discretion. When we think of witty devices Jacob comes instantly to mind. 

We first read of his shrewd thinking [machinations] to take first the birthright away from Esau and then how he came up with a crafty plan (spurred on by his mother Rebecca) to steal his brother’s blessing. His shrewdness in the beginning were examples of the machination kind of planning. 

But later in his life Jacob repented and became a man of the good kind of shrewdness; thinking and planning ahead which had the purpose of doing good and of avoiding trouble in the many challenges that he faced especially with Laban and Esau. (Genesis 25:28-34, 27:1-29, 30:26-43, Genesis 31, 33)

As we read the accounts of David as a fugitive running and hiding from Saul, we see that David had to be very shrewd and to be able to think quickly on his feet as to what to do when confronted with very dangerous situations. Then after he became king he was constantly confronted with difficult situations in his family and in his kingdom in which he had to use prudence and discretion.

And think of the prophet Nathan who had to come up with a witty device [use discretion] to tell David that he was an adulterer and murderer and Nathan did it in such a way (with a parable) that David would instantly be able to relate to it and then see his sins for what they were. And Nathan was spared getting into any trouble with the king because he used discretion.

Queen Esther was very gifted in discretion and how she handled the situation when she found out about Haman’s devious plot against the Jews and then how she discreetly went to the king to seek his favor and a solution shows that she was indeed a very wise woman.

 Esther 4:1 When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry;  4:2 And came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.  

4:3 And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.

 4:4 So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent raiment to clothe Mordecai, and to take away his sackcloth from him: but he received it not. 

4:5 Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was.4:6 So Hatach went forth to Mordecai unto the street of the city, which was before the king’s gate. 4:7 And Mordecai told him of all that had happened unto him, and of the sum of the money that Haman 

4:8 Also he gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, 4:9 And Hatach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.

4:10 Again Esther spake unto Hatach, and gave him commandment unto Mordecai; 4:11 All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or women, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days.

4:12 And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words. 4:13 Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. 

4:14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

 4:15 Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer, 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. 

4:17 So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

Esther 5:1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. 

5:2 And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. 

5:3 Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.

5:4 And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him. 

5:5 Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared. 5:6 And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed. 

5:7 Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is; 5:8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.

Esther 7:1 So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen. 7:2 And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom. 

7:3 Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: 

7:4 For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.

By her wisdom and how she handled the problem of Haman with discretion, Esther and Mordecai were able to save themselves and all of their Jewish countrymen. The Book of Esther is all about wisdom and using wisdom to devise plans to overcome evil, and we can learn much about wisdom from reading and studying it.

We see discretion played out in the lives of the many servants of God throughout the Old Testament and when we come to the Gospels, we read of how Jesus used discretion in many of his encounters with those who wished to trip him up and even kill Him. Here is just one example:

Luke 4:28 And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, 4:29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. 4:30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

And then there is Paul who was very skilled in his use of discretion to teach the Gospel but he also was constantly endangered wherever he went and had to think of ways to escape from dangerous situations.  

We see more examples of how prudence and discretion can deliver one from the evil purposes of others.

Acts 9:22 But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ. 9:23 And after that many days were fulfilled, the Jews took counsel to kill him: 9:24 But their laying await was known of Saul. And they watched the gates day and night to kill him. 9:25 Then the disciples took him by night, and let him down by the wall in a basket.

Paul had to repeatedly hide himself from threatened acts against him not because he was a coward but because it was the prudent thing to do. (See also Acts 9:23-25, 17:13-15, whole chapter Acts 23).

These are just a sampling; Jesus and all of the apostles used the wisdom of discretion to out-maneuver those who wished them harm and these men did what they could by quick thinking to save themselves and others. They also use the discretion God gave to them to know how to teach and preach the Gospel.

Godly Men and Women Must be Discreet and Wise

Psalm 112:4 Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness: he is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous. 112:5 A good man sheweth favour, and lendeth: he will guide his affairs with discretion. 112:6 Surely he shall not be moved for ever: the righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance.

The Book of Proverbs and also the Psalms give many instructions on what it is to be a wise man or woman of God. To exercise wisdom a person must be attentive and discerning of all those things going on around him; and not only be attentive but to be able to see beyond the obvious to discern the big picture. A godly person then uses discretion thinking things through and devising the best solution to solve his problems at the same time applying God’s principles in any given situation.

Discretion means to be aware of the things that are going on within our sphere of influence and to be able to perceive the possible outcomes when things get challenging. It is also knowing that we are not just struggling against mere men but in reality we have to deal with wicked spirits that rule this planet and are always plotting against God and His people.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

It is through thoughtfulness and by the knowledge of spiritual things that one devises a practical plan accordingly to bring about the will and the righteousness of God, just as Daniel did when confronted with the unclean food situation and just as Esther did when she needed to devise a plan to save her people from being destroyed. 

A wise man or woman sees a certain situation for what it is and then makes plans as to the best way to avoid sin and/or danger. And there are many examples of men and women being sagacious or showing wisdom in their planning when faced with threats and persecution, etc. 

As the people of God we too need to have this kind of wisdom as we face the challenges of living in an evil world that opposes the things of God and is intent on destroying every thing that is good.

The second pillar of Wisdom’s house is having knowledge of sagacious things. It is knowing what is going on about us and then applying the wisdom and discretion that God provides to us so that we can wisely plan our strategy for the challenges we face and avoid potential dangers or evils if at all possible.

The apostle James describes the two kinds of wisdom as well, and explains that we show that we have the knowledge of spiritual things by our actions when they are accompanied with the kind of wisdom that is from above. 

The two kinds of wisdom James talks about are the wisdom of this world (“earthly, sensual, devilish”); and then there is the wisdom that comes from above (wisdom that is of God). He further describes what that wisdom looks like:  It is pure, peaceable, gentle and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits and is never done for show or in pretense.

In the following passage James is describing discretion [knowledge of witty inventions] in this passage and says that these things are characteristics of what it means to be a wise man or woman of God and how we can know if someone is wise [Godly] or not. 

These are the ways that discretion is played out when they are done according to the kind of wisdom that God wants us to display:

James 3:13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom. 3:14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth. 3:15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 3:16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. 3:17 But the wisdom that is from above [it fruits are] is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 3:18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

Discretion keeps our minds and focus on those things that are from above and on how Christ would have us to handle any given situation; it is giving serious attention and thought to what is going on around us and taking steps to do what is right in the eyes of God in all situations.

If we are walking in wisdom and are always mindful of God’s ways of doing things we will choose our words, attitudes, and actions carefully to exemplify God’s values and His godliness. When we use discretion and wisdom and are cautious in any given situation we will avoid the kinds of words and actions that would be harmful or have a negative impact especially when it comes to relationships with other people.

To be imbued with discretion that comes from above, it must start in the heart. We must resolve and remove anything within ourselves that causes us to have impure motives or any attitude that would cause us to use offensive words or actions to hurt or offend others.

Discretion keeps us from treating others with judgmental attitudes or with condescension; to be rude, inconsiderate, crude, offensive, careless, impulsive, irresponsible, irritable, gossipy, and have a lack of concern; all of these things are the opposite of the kind of wisdom that is from above. If we are lacking in discretion and display any of these negative dispositions toward others it can mean that we are thoughtless or that we see them as beneath us and that they are not really worth our effort to treat them in a tactful and kind way; and when we act this way we show a lack of wisdom [discretion]. These things should not be the attitude and conduct of any Christian.

In the world in which we live, most people have the mentality that it is okay to express whatever first comes into their mind and say the most hurtful words with no thought of what their attitude (and the words that show their attitude) is doing to the other person; this kind of mentality and behavior is everywhere. The world is becoming more and more crass and mean-spirited in word and conduct; it seems that the art of discretion (even the most basic kind) is becoming a lost virtue.

God’s called out are to live in ways that show grace and mercy and we are to have empathy toward our fellow man and we must not allow ourselves to say careless words (deliberately or unintentionally, or even in humor) to cause hurt, to discredit, or to tear others down. If we allow gossip and slander to be part of our speech habits we are being used as tools to destroy others and the result will be hurt feelings, ruined reputations, and damaged relationships.

Proverbs 16:27 An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire. 16:28 A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.

Discretion is to know when to speak up and when to keep quiet. It involves self restraint which is one of the nine components of the fruit of the Spirit called: TEMPERANCE [self-control]. 

Discretion is also an expression of agape love to others so we see that being discreet in all that we do plays a big part in exhibiting all the fruits of the Spirit. (Please see 1 Corinthians 13)

To be encouraging and uplifting rather than to cause others to stumble is being lights of God’s ways in this world. There are times when we do need to speak the truth in love and there are times when we need to warn and correct but we must do it with meekness and in all humility.

Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

James 5:19 Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; 5:20 Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.

The correct way of handling problems that come up between brethren is to go to them discreetly at first and try to work out our misunderstanding confidentially.

Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Discretion is learning how to respond to others in every day life as well as in every difficult situation; with thoughtfulness and tact.

Discretion comes from being spiritually mature in Christ, and knowing how to apply all the virtues of wisdom, the spiritual fruit of the Spirit, and the beatitudes in every thing we think, say, and do. It is spiritual perception into the spiritual principles and intent of God’s laws and thinking about how would Christ handle this situation; or how would he respond to this person; would Christ say something to a person about a matter or would he restrain from speaking.

The apostle Paul teaches us that growing in all the many aspects of wisdom is a process and as we grow in faith and in the knowledge of Christ and through experience, we take on God’s wisdom and character and become more and more perfect [complete] as we are being molded into His image.

Ephesians 4:13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 4:14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 4:15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:

As we become more like Christ we grow into the knowledge of what it means to model our Lord and to walk as He walks in all righteousness. Wisdom is knowing in our heart what is appropriate and what is inappropriate and then responding accordingly. Even our choice of clothing is important for it is wisdom in action when we care about how our appearance and decorum [and lack of modesty] may affect those around us. 

A mature Christian will be able to discern the difference between what is appropriate and what is not, and then choose what is best rather than choose according to his own ego and whatever he may be feeling at the time. God’s people must be able to perceive ahead of time the consequences of how their words and actions could affect others around them, or even those far away, and a mature Christian will not allow his moods and feelings to be in control of his actions and his speech . Discretion never imputes motives for only God knows what is really in someone’s heart. It is very important for a Christian to know how to use their words for edification and not for destruction.

James 3:3 Behold, we put bits in the horses’ mouths, that they may obey us; and we turn about their whole body. 3:4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth. 3:5 Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! 3:6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. 3:7 For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind: 3:8 But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 3:9 Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God. 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.

To put the kind of wisdom that God requires into action we must remember to think before we speak, and to always be careful not to use offensive language nor ever say things that could hurt someone or be of a slanderous nature.

To exercise the wisdom of discretion we must realize that we are what we put into our heart, therefore it is imperative that we reject the vile and evil things of this world and then be continually putting God’s Word into our heart; for what is in our hearts is what comes out of our mouth and also motivates the things we do whether for good or for evil. 

Sometimes we may need to take a stand or speak up for what is right, but we must season all our speech with discretion as the apostle Paul instructs:

Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. 4:6 Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Ephesians 4:29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. 4:30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: 4:32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

God allows us to be tested for it is in the trials of life that we grow and learn how to act as wise spiritual mature children of God.

Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

We learn by being challenged sometimes even by our family and friends, and we learn how to be wise through skillful interacting with others. As the children of God we will take the wisdom we learned in this life into the resurrection with us and implement it then as wise and skillful Kings and Priests who know how to rule wisely in God’s Kingdom.

Living in a world that is lacking in wisdom and discretion, we as the people of God must shine brightly to all who see us, refusing to act in the ways the world acts and instead following in the steps of our Lord and Savior who was the epitome of what it means to be wise and who acted with discretion in all that He said and in everything that He did.

Matthew 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Philippians 2:15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

Discretion is righteousness and it is keeping the laws of God even in the spirit of the Law in the way we handle our affairs and by how we interact with others. It is the ability to perceive and then to act in a godly manner. It also involves turning from evil on our own part and also refusing to take part in other men’s sins.

Proverbs 2:10 When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; 2:11 Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: 2:12 To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; 

2:13 Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; 2:14 Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; 2:15 Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: 

2:16 To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words; 2:17 Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God. 2:18 For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.

Discretion guards us from being seduced by false teachers and being led astray by the charmers and the con-men of this world.

Titus 1:9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by [knowledge of] sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

In Conclusion

Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; 1:2 To know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; 1:3 To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; 1:4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.  1:5 A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels: 1:6 To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings.

Solomon associates wisdom with skillful living. He does not mention the term “skill” here, but these verses are implying that we need skill to live the way God would have us to live. Skill is putting into practice our knowledge and expertise of a thing and then applying that knowledge into doing that thing with excellence; doing it as perfectly as we can; and we do so for we have a desire to produce something of value that is lasting and useful. Most of us acquire many skills in this life, but the Bible focuses on the skills we need to live as God’s children and how to put God’s wisdom into practice.

Humanity’s true purpose is to eventually be made into the spiritual likeness of God; therefore, the wisdom that Solomon defines is of the biblical wisdom which provides us with skill for living according to God’s way of life with the end result being resurrected to eternal life as members of God’s own Family.

At this stage only those who are being called by God and who desire to live according to all His ways can assess biblical wisdom for it is only available to those in a close relationship with God. Godly wisdom is a gift of God of which the worldly people want no part of (Romans 8:4-8, 1 Corinthians 2:6-16).

According to James 1:1-8, those who do want to live for God and who need to have more wisdom to do so, should ask for God’s kind of wisdom and He promises that He will give it.

James 1:3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 1:4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing. 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Often we just read verse 5 and think that God will instantly give us wisdom, (on some occasions He may very well do that) but if we back up to the previous two verses we read about how patience plays into gaining wisdom.

James is giving us the formula for attaining wisdom; that it is through patience and through the trials and challenges of life that we obtain wisdom. God gives wisdom to us to be able to  handle those challenges and it requires time, a lifetime of living with God and we must ask for it…. just as Daniel had to ask for the wisdom to know how to answer King Nebuchadnezzar. Wisdom which includes Prudence and Discretion are the skills we need to navigate through this present evil world to be successful in our quest to become like God.

At the very start of the Book of Proverbs Solomon helps to define WISDOM by showing that it consists of many characteristics such as: the knowledge of God Himself, the fear of God, understanding, perception, discernment, prudence, discretion, justice, equity, etc., all of which when integrated together and put to practice produce a skill in living that is in alignment with God’s purpose and way of life and will eventually take us into the Promised Land.

As we know, many people in this world are intelligent and are worldly-wise but being worldly-wise is different than having godly wisdom. God’s wisdom contains those spiritual qualities that help us to live our lives in accordance with God’s Law and according to God’s purposes for us.

Practicing biblical wisdom may or may not provide a measure of worldly success in this life for those who seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first; but as Solomon teaches the primary purpose is to equip us to live a godly life which prepares us for the glorious life that God has in store for us if we remain faithful to Him until the very end.

Wisdom and the pillars of wisdom including discretion are truly blessings for those who seek after them; they make it possible to come to the knowledge of God and then apply that knowledge in every aspect of living, making right choices enabling us to glorify our heavenly Father by our lives; and as we do so we are building the kind of character that He wants us to have, the same character that He and His Son Jesus Christ have. 

Solomon so eloquently describes the delights and the rewards of seeking after and finding wisdom…he proclaims that to possess the wisdom of God is more valuable than anything this world has to offer and as he says: “She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her”. 

And once we have been given this most valuable gift we must never let it slip away from us: “My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:

Proverbs 3:13 Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. 3:14 For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. 3:15 She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. 

3:16 Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. 3:17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. 3:18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her. 

3:19 The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. 3:20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew. 

3:21 My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion: 3:22 So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck. 3:23 Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.

Constance

 

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