A student sat in my office last week. It was the week before finals. The conversation started with concerns over the grades and should have only taken a few minutes to address. An hour later, the student walked out of my office. He emailed me the next day about the healing, freedom and wisdom he received from our time together. Binah?
The book of Proverbs is one of the most read books of the Bible because it offers counsel for everyday living. It is part of the wisdom literature of God’s Word. The Hebrew meaning for wisdom is the skill of living life as God intends for it to be lived, which starts with the understanding that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:8; 9:10). This fear shows up as a growing trust, a deepening reverence and an obedient submission to God and results in developing godly character and behavior.
Proverbs 20:5 reads, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” The motives and intentions of our heart are all too often sealed off to others. The writer of this proverb describes these as “deep waters.” Our reluctance to be transparent with our motivations, whether or not we ourselves can identify them, can be couched in our own fears of being judged, misunderstood, shamed, ostracized or seen as “less than perfect.” Yet, a person of understanding, insight and discernment, or binah, is able to draw these out.
If biblical wisdom is rooted in a relationship with God, then we are called to see and understand everyday kinds of matters through a spiritual lens. So, if wisdom is the skill of doing life the way God intended, then being and having binah may be what we might be missing most in our relationships. Engagement with one who exercises binah brings clarity to life matters and godly wisdom. But beware. This level of friendship requires time, humility, and a trusting relationship. These elements characterize the person whom Klaus Issler describes as, "in my face and by my side" (Issler, Wasting Time with God, 64).
But might there be a lesser known benefit for having the kinds of conversations that not only draw out our heart motives but direct them toward godly choices and a growing dependence on God’s Spirit? Malachi may have an answer for us. The last book of the Old Testament was written by Malachi around the 5th century B.C. He is the last prophet before John the Baptist appears in Scripture in the first century and emphasizes God’s love through a question-answer method of teaching. Among those who have been rebuked for their laxed spiritual condition and callousness to the love of God, there is found those “who feared the LORD, talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name” (Malachi 3:16). These God-fearers held God’s name in high regard and encouraged one another toward renewed faith. We don’t know what their conversations entailed, but we do know this: God listened to their conversations. Not only that, but the names of these faithful redeemed ones are remembered by God, never to be forgotten.
Here are some characteristics of those with binah.
- They have a growing knowledge of God and his Word and a deepening sensitivity to his Spirit.
- They see others as made in the image of God and each has a story. Some of these stories just need a gentle and welcoming ask in order to be revealed.
- They are able to be present and attentive, listening between the lines. Binah resists the urge to glance over, check, or pick up a smartphone, no matter what.
- They make and sustain good eye contact. This signals a welcoming posture and someone who is not afraid of what is about to be spoken.
- They smile. This is proof of the above, as one recognizes walls coming down, the risk it took to be real, or the desire of a heart to be known.
One does not need to be opposed to time alone with God or time in meaningful conversations with friends and acquaintances, or even be anti-“social media” to be pro-binah. Oh, to know and extend binah.