Choose wise, understanding, and knowledgeable men from among your tribes, and I will make them heads over you. (Deuteronomy 1:13)
Where Israel is concerned, the selection of leaders was to be based on integrity. In other words, it was never to be a popularity contest but a selection of men who had proven themselves to be “wise, understanding and knowledgeable.” In order, the corresponding Hebrew terms are חכמה chakhmah (wisdom), בינה binah (understanding) and דעת da’at (knowledge), three attributes so esteemed that Judaism considers them to be representative of the Godhead (their terminology). This concept is very prevalent in Judaism and in ways that most of us would not recognize. For example, the first letters in each of these Hebrew word forms the acronym חבד chabad — perhaps you have heard of the ultra-orthodox Jewish sect identified by this word.
The importance they see in these attributes is well founded, indeed, all of God’s people should recognize the need for such in the Body today. However, I want to make this point: just having one of these attributes isn’t enough — it takes all three. In the verse, wisdom is mentioned first suggesting it is the primary attribute, however, wisdom cannot be attained without first obtaining knowledge. And while knowledge is the first important step — “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) — knowledge alone tends to puff us up (1 Corinthians 8:1). Therefore, knowledge must lead to understanding. It’s one thing to know what the Scripture says; it’s another thing to understand what it means, in other words, the intent and substance of the message.
Understanding is not something that can be taught necessarily, at least not by men. Understanding comes by the Spirit of Truth who “searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). Once we have clear understanding, then it is needful for us to apply our understanding to our walk — that is where wisdom comes into the picture. It is wisdom from on High, coupled with the wisdom gained by experience, that distinguishes leaders from followers. All of God’s people should strive to obtain the wisdom that comes from Him so that we may all walk the path that He has established for us, and in so doing, inspire others to do the same. So in closing let us consider what we have discussed within the context of this Psalm:
“Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:104-105)
Blessings and Shalom,