What a lot really does hang upon spiritual understanding and intelligence! How essential it is for the Lord’s people, in a day of crisis and perplexity, difficulty and confusion, to have somewhere, by some means, spiritual understanding! It was a great thing in Israel’s history that the men of Issachar had “understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
Think of those men on the Emmaus road. What a position and a state they were in! Their world had collapsed and everything had gone until He opened their eyes and they understood the scriptures. A new world was recovered instantly, and a new hope and prospect were saved by spiritual understanding. Oh, the tremendous value and importance of spiritual understanding! However, let us be quite clear as to what it is and what it is not.
Of course, it is not worldly wisdom and acute, natural, intellectual acumen. In this Gospel by Matthew the people who are most in evidence are the teachers and rulers of Israel, the scribes and Pharisees, the people who knew it all and gave the interpretation and explanation of everything. They are in the forefront of the scene on the stage here, but later Paul said about them that theirs was the wisdom of men, not the wisdom of God, “which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory” (1 Corinthians 2:8). It was the wisdom of this world that crucified the Son of God. So spiritual understanding is not that!
It is not that we have a great and wonderful religious tradition with all the oracles handed down to us, and we stand possessed of the great inheritance of religion. That is not spiritual understanding! It is quite evident that you can have all that and still go wrong. There was a man in the New Testament who said that he had everything along that line, and yet he was the most vehement antagonist of Jesus of Nazareth and all who were of that way. He pursued them unto distant cities, hauled men and women to prison yet he was a man with the largest tradition. So spiritual understanding is not that! Further, it is not a wealth of truth and Christian teaching. Again, it is possible to have that and not have spiritual understanding.