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A Study Of Wisdom

Laying Out An Idea

The whole idea behind this regular, devotionally styled blog is to use as many of the means available to me as possible to help the church grow in the knowledge and understanding of the Lord. As a pastor, it is my role to equip the church to be able to go out into the world to be salt and light. This means that there needs to be teaching on critical cultural issues, such as work, human sexuality, the sanctity of life, and others. Central to all of this, though, is the desperate need for wisdom. It a very real way, it only matters how much we know if we have the wisdom to use that knowledge. As we seek to continue to grow in knowledge and understanding, we would apply them in light of what the wisdom literature in Scripture has to teach us.

The Beginning of Wisdom

To accomplish this, I want to walk through the Book of Proverbs, which is an interesting book in the canon of Scripture. It is a collection of wise or sage maxims or observations. We need to understand this before we go any further. Proverbs is not a book of promises. It is a book of things that are true but not always absolutely so. There is no set of steps that a person can take to have a sage life. Part of the issue is that we are born in a sinful state and into a wicked world. Sin is corrupting and corrosive. Nothing outside of the Lord himself is free from its influence. So, as we go through these things, we need to understand how everything should be. Some things are axiomatically true in the Proverbs. There are a couple of distinct examples in the first couple of verses.

Let the Wise Hear

Proverbs 1:5-6 states, “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” (ESV) Something that is axiomatically true is that those who are wise seek to increase in learning. We need to be careful with this because it is true in only one direction. It is true that the wise man seeks to increase in knowledge, but someone who seeks to increase in knowledge is not necessarily wise. The reality is that there are a lot of people these days who have an abundance of knowledge but lack all wisdom. If you want a specific example of this, look no further than the abundance of graduates from institutes of higher learning who have a large amount of knowledge and yet reject basic wisdom. Indiana University offers a Ph.D. in Gender Studies. The basic idea behind this program is the rejection of the fundamental wisdom that there are only two genders, and they do not change.

The Beginning of knowledge

The reality is that true wisdom cannot be found outside of God. As Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” If we do not start with a right fear of the Lord, then there cannot be true knowledge or wisdom. It is interesting that the most repeated command in scripture is the command not to fear. We are commanded not to fear the things of this world. We are not to fear the people of this world because we are to have our fear rightly ordered. Some have argued that the fear of the Lord is more about respect, and in a way, this is true. We are to have respect for the Lord, but that is not what is being taught in scripture. We are to have a fear of the Lord. As his creation, and especially as sinners, we need to have a proper fear of going against the one who has all the power. To use a poor analogy, you have a right fear of the police when you watch your speed when driving past one. They have the authority to hold you accountable for speeding. How much more should we fear the one who has the right and authority to judge us eternally?

Right Fear In Christ

As Christians, we do not have the same fear of the Lord that the unbeliever should have. We know that we are forgiven and under his grace. So we do not have to fear the eternal judgment that comes, but we should still fear him. Matthew Henry’s words on the topic are helpful here. He writes, “In order to the attaining of all useful knowledge this is most necessary, that we fear God; we are not qualified to profit by the instructions that are given us unless our minds be possessed with a holy reverence of God, and every thought within us be brought into obedience to him.” Oswald Chambers helps us further by writing, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God, you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God, you fear everything else.”

A Theme Throughout

As we continue to look through the book of Proverbs, the idea of the fear of the Lord is going to come back up again and again. It is the theme or over arching idea that helps us to understand everything else. There is a sense in which this fear is terror; for example, Isaiah cries out in terror when he encounters the presence of the Lord. This is because Isaiah recognizes how far short he falls. He acknowledges his sin and the sinful place that he lives in. And yet, by grace, he is called to stand and is sent out. The question I have for you as you reflect on these first couple verses of Proverbs is, where is your fear? Do you fear what men can do rather than what the Lord can do? When the commands of God and the opinions of men come into conflict, where will you stand? Will you be like Peter and John, who boldly stood before the earthly rulers and said we will obey God, earthly consequences be what they may?

Soli Deo Gloria

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