How does someone obtain wisdom? Wisdom is obtained through various means: parents, elders, friends, education, experience, the Bible, spiritual teaching, etc.… The Bible also suggests one more way to obtain wisdom:
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:5-8
These instructions, which are found in the book of James, encourage individuals to go directly to the source, to God Himself, to obtain wisdom from above.
Asking God For Wisdom
I remember putting these verses into practice a number of years ago when I needed wisdom in making a decision. After finishing my undergraduate university degree and working for a couple of years, I was considering whether or not to pursue further education through a masters degree. Over a period of a few days I prayed and asked God for wisdom regarding whether or not to pursue a masters degree or to wait a few years.
During these few days when I was specifically praying and asking God for wisdom in this matter, I distinctly remember one afternoon while I was literally praying that the phone rang. I answered the phone and it was a friend of mine named Charlie. As Charlie and I began talking he asked me what I was doing. I told him that I was praying. He then asked me what I was praying about. I told him that I was asking God for wisdom regarding whether to pursue a masters degree at that time or to wait a few years. Charlie then proceeded to give me some advice.
Charlie told me that, as a newly married man and a husband of a newborn baby, he has no time between his job and family responsibilities to pursue further education. He continued to advise me that since I had the time to purse a further education, it would be better to do it then and not to wait. Charlie’s advice provided a direct answer to my request from God for wisdom and I acted upon it. I pursued my masters degree and graduated two years later.
Asking In Faith
I believe that the key to obtaining wisdom from God is by following the instructions given in the book of James; “But he must ask in faith without any doubting” (James 1:6). When I asked God for wisdom concerning whether or not to pursue my education at that time in my life, God spoke to me very clearly and provided wisdom through my friend Charlie. At that point I had the option to believe that this was the answer from God to my situation or to doubt. Thankfully God gave me the faith to believe at that time without any doubting. I was convinced that God had answered me and I went forward in that wisdom.
“Asking in faith” demands that we believe in the response that we receive from God. I will be the first to admit that it is not always as black and white as the story that I shared above, however, I can honestly say that God has always provided the wisdom that I need when I needed it. I have waited days, weeks, months, and even years for a certain answer from God but He has always been faithful. “Asking in faith” is based on a relationship of faith in God in which we ask and trust Him to guide us in His perfect timing, without doubting.
The Danger Of Doubt
When a person asks God for wisdom and doubts, that person sets him or herself up for spiritual failure. Doubt casts a shadow of uncertainty in the outcome and adds confusion to the situation:
But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. – James 1:6-8
A single drop of doubt brings forth an ocean of uncertainty and instability that will leave a person unable to receive anything from the Lord.
So what does spiritual doubt look like in our relationship with God? In reading this week’s Torah Portion, we see a perfect picture of one who doubted God while pursuing God for wisdom and advice.
Balak – בלק
This week’s Torah Portion is called “בלק” – “Balak.” Balak was the king of Moab during the days when the Israelites were wandering in the desert. Although the Israelites did nothing to the people of Moab, Balak feared the Israelites and sought to curse them and cause them harm. Part of Balak’s plan to curse them was to hire a well-known man of divination at that time, Balaam of Pethor (Num. 22:5-6).
King Balak sent a delegation to Balaam with a ready payment to bring Balaam from his home to the kingdom of Moab to do his bidding and curse the Israelites. Balaam welcomed the king’s delegation and advised them to stay the night as he would seek the counsel of the LORD. God came to Balaam that very night and questioned him about the men who had come to him.
After Balaam explained to God the offer that was before him, to go and curse the Israelites, God replied to Balaam’s request: “Do not go with them; you shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” (Num. 22:12) God had clearly spoken to Balaam and he obeyed the word of the LORD and sent a reply to the King of Moab that he could not fulfill his request.
If the story would have ended here, Balaam may have made it into the list of the men and women of faith, however, the story goes on and Balaam’s faith turned to doubt. King Balak did not like the answer that he received from Balaam and so he sent a second delegation, larger and more distinguished from the first one.
The Doubting Of Balaam
When the second delegation arrived, Balaam first responded in the faith of what he had already heard from God but then he allowed doubt to creep in and the situation changed quickly:
Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the LORD my God. Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the LORD will speak to me.” God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise up and go with them; but only the word which I speak to you shall you do.” So Balaam arose in the morning, and saddled his donkey and went with the leaders of Moab. – Num. 22:18-21
Balaam already knew what God had spoken to him regarding this matter with Balak but instead of holding fast to the instructions that God had already spoken to him, Balaam sought to possibly find another word from God. To read more about adding to the words of God, please read the previous commentary on this Torah Portion: When God Says No!
God permitted Balaam to go with Balak’s delegation, however, this was not God’s desire for Balaam. This became clear when the angel of the LORD stood before Balaam with his sword drawn ready to kill Balaam for going contrary to the way of God (Num. 22:22-32). God used Balaam to bless the people and not curse them, however at some time later, Balaam was used to bring immorality and destruction into the camp of the Israelites (Num. 25:1-9. Rev. 1:14) and as a result, Balaam himself was later killed by the Israelites (Num. 31:8).
Balak had sought wisdom and direction from God and had received a clear response from God the first time not to go with Balak’s men. Rather than holding to what he knew to be true, Balak doubted and wavered in his faith by seeking another possible answer from God. Balak’s doubt brought confusion into his life, which eventually led to his downfall.
Receiving In Faith
We each have the unique opportunity to go before the God of heaven and earth and ask for wisdom in any and every situation. God’s only requirement is that we ask in faith, believing in who He is, and receive in faith, trusting Him for the right response in His perfect timing.
The Word of God encourages us to seek God for wisdom and to bring our requests before Him, with a promise that God will answer and provide:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. – Matt. 7:7-8
We need to constantly ask, seek, and search out the best paths along the various roads that life offers us and respond to the wisdom and guidance that He provides.
The Word of God also encourages us to not be timid about our coming before the King of the universe but rather, to come boldly into His presence:
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Heb. 4:16
There is confidence in coming before the Father in heaven in our understanding of the Great High Priest Yeshua, who has provided complete cleansing from our sin and intercedes on our behalf.
Asking & Receiving In Faith
The principle of asking and receiving in faith is a biblical truth that is available to each and every person. As we reflect on this week’s Torah Portion, we need to remember the story of Balak and Balaam and not allow doubt to enter into our relationship with God. Leaving all doubt aside, we must come boldly with our requests in faith before the throne of heaven in full knowledge of the finished work of Yeshua and wait patiently for God to respond! Both asking and receiving are actions that we participate in by faith!
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Torah Portion: Num. 22:2 – Num. 25:9
Haftara: Micah 5:6 – Micah 6:8
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