Second, Solomon tells us that we must be prepared, in our search for true knowledge, to be content with only partial knowledge. We cannot, he insisted (Ecclesiastes 3:11), know anything exhaustively or completely. We cannot see things with the perfect mind of God, but only with a reflection of that mind, a mind informed by the worldview of Scripture and the counsel of the Spirit of God. Paul says we see things in this life darkly, as in a mirror; full, complete, and entirely true knowledge must wait for the day when we are glorified in Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 13:12).

This does not mean that we can’t truly know. We can, but only in degrees of truthfulness and completeness. So we must always be seeking to “upgrade” our knowledge of anything, and be open to other perspectives, insights, and ways of thinking about familiar knowledge of anything and everything, if only to offer a critique of those views when compared with our Biblical perspective.

However—and this is the third point, already mentioned—even though we cannot know exhaustively, we can know truly, as Solomon indicates throughout Ecclesiastes. The knowledge we gain concerning anything whatsoever will be true to the extent we are able to establish the link between that thing and the design of God to glorify Himself in all the things He has made. Moreover, the true knowledge we have of anything can always be improved; therefore, we should be always involved in seeking more and better knowledge of everything, always, of course, from the perspective of “under the heavens.”

This, in fact, is what Solomon sought to do. Having prayed for knowledge, and been assured by God that he would possess it, Solomon set out to acquire knowledge, as he says in Ecclesiastes 1:13, by applying himself diligently to the task of seeking and searching out by wisdom all things that are and are done “under the heavens.” He set a course of study for himself, in other words, devoting himself to the investigation of God’s Law, keen observations on the creation, on culture matters, and on the ways of human conscience and conduct. All the observations he made and studies he pursued he referred to God’s self-revelation in Scripture, in order to gain the divine perspective on such things.

The Book of Proverbs is a wonderful collection of just a small portion of the true knowledge Solomon gained through his labors. True knowledge, knowledge that is becoming more and more complete, doesn’t come easily. Solomon said that God has made this a “difficult task” and has appointed it to us so that we might fulfill the purposes of His Kingdom (Ecclesiastes 1:13).

Wisdom: The Fruit of Knowledge

This brings us to wisdom, which is the fruit of true knowledge. Solomon said he tested all his studies and observations “by wisdom” (Ecclesiastes 1:13). That is, he would only allow himself to conclude that he had learned something—that he had come to true knowledge of anything—when it led to wisdom in his life. Wisdom, or “skill in living,” relates to following the spiritual and moral code of God, increasing in love for Him and for our neighbor, and seeking to do all things in such a way as to bring honor and glory to God. We can know that we know something truly when it leads us to greater love for God and neighbor, and when, by the use of that knowledge, we bring honor to God. This is wisdom, as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes make abundantly clear. In order to gain wisdom we must pursue knowledge. But we can only be sure that we have come to know something truly, albeit incompletely, when what we know produces wisdom in our lives. Knowledge is the prerequisite of wisdom; wisdom is the fruit of true knowledge.

But both wisdom and knowledge come from the Lord. Both begin in the fear of God (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10); without fear of God—that reverent awe and respect that lead to love and obedience—we can’t hope to increase in knowledge and wisdom. And both come from the Lord, who gives them, as with Solomon, in response to our prayers. So that unless our quest for knowledge and wisdom is suffused with prayer, bathed with prayer, pursued and reviewed in prayer, we cannot hope to gain these precious commodities with anything more than a mere modicum of success.