One day some Pharisees and some supporters of Herod attempted to trap Jesus. Traps have three components, the deception of safety, the bait, and the hook. In this case, the deception was flattery, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.” The bait was the temptation to be counted among the movers and shakers of society, “Tell us then, what do You think? Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” But Jesus perceived the trap and wisely turned the trap back on them. Why are you testing Me, you hypocrites? “Show Me the coin used for the poll-tax.” And they brought Him a denarius. And He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” (Matthew 22:15-22) This is one event among several confirming Isaiah’s prophecy in 11:2 concerning the Messiah and the Spirit of the Lord, in this case, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.
This is the second article in a series based on Isaiah 11:1-2, “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.” (Isaiah 11:1–2, NASB95) The first article can be found HERE. The first couplet used to describe the Spirit of the Lord is that of the spirit of wisdom and understanding. There is a God wired human ability for both of these attributes found mankind’s ability to understand and act through common sense. However, the spirit of wisdom and understanding goes beyond human ability.
Wisdom is the ability to know what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. As stated above, in human terms we would call this common sense. But, spiritual wisdom goes beyond human wisdom and contains the wisdom of God. Consider this from the James, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” (James 3:17-18, NASB) The Pharisees and Herodians seeking to trap Jesus employed human wisdom. James wrote, “But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing.” (James 3:14-16, NASB) Jesus’ response to the Pharisee’s is an example of spiritual wisdom, not only did Jesus escape their craftily laid trap, He turned it back on them as a means of calling them to God’s truth. I cannot think of a better example of the spirit of wisdom.
Understanding is not knowledge, although it relates to knowledge. Instead, understanding could be called perception or discernment or (used in the proper sense) discrimination. It is not only seeing but understanding the implications. In the story of the coin, Matthew records that Jesus perceived the trap. He understood that which was not visible. Jesus, through the spirit of wisdom and understanding, discerned the deception of the Pharisees. This again goes beyond the human ability to observe and analyze. In this attribute of understanding the Holy Spirit sees that which we cannot see and reveals, as He wills, things of God and of man.
Paul often included the spirit of wisdom and understanding in his prayers for the believers receiving his letters. To the Ephesians, he wrote, “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:17–18, NASB95) To the Colossians, “For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,” (Colossians 1:9, NASB95) We too can pray Paul’s prayer for ourselves and those in our circle. We are living in a day when we need to see and speak beyond our abilities, to perceive the trap of words and thoughts offered with flattery or guilt. Responding through the spirit of wisdom instead of our own common sense, our own assumptions, or our own analysis. So I too join in Paul’s prayer for you, that you too would be filled with a spirit of wisdom and understanding through the Spirit of the Lord so as to see the unseeable and answer the unanswerable with mercy, gentleness, reasonableness, and good fruit.