What Ever Happened On the Way to Wisdom?
August 1, 2016 Leave a comment
Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?
It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing,
concealed even from the birds in the sky.
Destruction and Death say,
“Only a rumor of it has reached our ears.”
God understands the way to it
and he alone knows where it dwells,
for he views the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
When he established the force of the wind
and measured out the waters,
when he made a decree for the rain
and a path for the thunderstorm,
then he looked at wisdom and appraised it;
he confirmed it and tested it.
And he said to the human race,
“The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
As children our mother and father would read a chapter of Proverbs after every weekday dinner meal. With lilting voices and raised eyebrows they would teasingly “note” the passages related to children listening to their parents as in, “Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” (Prov. 23:22) Us kids would snicker, “Yeeeeah, dad.” A desire for wisdom was fostered in me during those times.
As a teen I read a Tyndale House Publishing compilation that consisted of five Psalms and one Proverb for each day of a month. After several months of reading, my soul started tuning to the A-440 of wisdom’s standard pitch. I found delight in the harmony of wisdom, knowledge and a good understanding. In fact, the tritone became a lifetime prayer: “Lord, I ask for wisdom, knowledge and a good understanding.”
Seeking the simple matters of wisdom with humility would soon become a gift of discernment for me to use. And though confusion (a characteristic of evil) is everywhere, I could see what was true and what was false, the good and the bad. Now, I will say that most people do not like to be around polemics. So be it!
There is nothing on this earth like finding a wealth of wisdom. And wisdom is free for the asking, unless, of course, your feet stray off the path of wisdom. Then, according to Proverbs, you will pay Big Time! And that is where we find our nation wandering today – having turned out off the path of wisdom and mired in the slough of deconstructionism.
The “folly of fools yields folly”: Self-actualization mumbo-jumbo, social media promoted narcissism, psycho-therapy nursed introversion, university humanities programs which have switched out revelatory wisdom-of-the-ages study for belly-button gazing identity politics, atomistic Enlightenment preaching – all of these “elements of the world” are man-made ear plugs drowning out the shouting of Wisdom in the streets. Reject ages-old wisdom and you make an ass of yourself!
I find it fascinating that the writers of Proverbs who were inspired by the Holy Spirit and were living within a patriarchal world used the imagery of a woman to reveal God’s mysteries, that which has been hidden, to us. See Proverbs 1:20-33 and 9:1-6.
Perhaps it is a reference to what is common in all cultures across time – women have traditionally epitomized the foundations of home, marriage, family and of prudence, while men could be typified as Trekkies who “go where no man has gone before” (and sometimes go where no man should ever go, see Wisdom’s admonition below) and then return home to journey another day. (Please note: Both female and male roles – in general, one earth-bound, the other as planetary trailblazer – are of equal importance for human flourishing. One role should not be placed above the other.)
And Wisdom as woman is very vocal in her appointed calling! Wisdom clamors to be heard!
“Wisdom shouts in the streets.
She cries out in the public square.
She calls to the crowds along the main street,
to those gathered in front of the city gate:
“How long, you simpletons,
will you insist on being simpleminded?
How long will you mockers relish your mocking?
How long will you fools hate knowledge?
Come and listen to my counsel.
I’ll share my heart with you
and make you wise.” Prov. 1:20-23
Wisdom is no Sophia-come-lately:
“The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.” Prov. 8:22-23
Now you must set your own cosmological foundations with wisdom. Here is short list of Wisdom’s ways to whet your appetite for more “wisdom, knowledge and a good understanding”.
Wisdom says to observe and then take responsibility for yourself:
“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise. It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” Proverbs. 6:6-8
I have yet to find the Scripture verse that says “Go to the candidate, you sluggard; consider his/her ways and be taken care of for life.”
Wisdom leads to wise words and to righteousness.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” –Prov. 10:11
Wisdom can see that evil is a synthesis of good and evil. (e.g., sex and homosexuality). That is why evil can be so tempting.
“Evildoers do not understand what is right,
but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.” -Prov. 28:5
Wisdom knows when to speak up and when to be silent.
“To answer before listening— that is folly and shame.” Prov. 18:13
Wisdom warns and defends. Upon rejecting wisdom, Wisdom says,
“Then they will call to me but I will not answer;
they will look for me but will not find me,
since they hated knowledge
and did not choose to fear the Lord.
Since they would not accept my advice
and spurned my rebuke,
they will eat the fruit of their ways
and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,
and the complacency of fools will destroy them;
but whoever listens to me will live in safety
and be at ease, without fear of harm.” -Prov. 1: 28-33
Upon accepting wisdom, Wisdom says,
“Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.” -Prov. 2: 9-11
Wisdom acknowledges the meritorious efforts of others.
“She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.” –Prov. 31: 27-31
Wisdom is its own reward. You won’t need to pat yourself on your back or require a “Participation Trophy” . Wisdom does that for you when you make the right choice.
“Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honor.
Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.” -Prov. 3: 13-18
“The wealth of the wise is their crown,
but the folly of fools yields folly.” -Prov. 14:24
Wisdom is an antidote to confusion in a world that increasingly embraces moral relativity – all values are to be made equal.
“The simple believe anything,
but the prudent give thought to their steps.” -Prov. 14:15
Wisdom keeps good company:
“Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.” -Prov. 13: 20
Wisdom, to paraphrase a quote from William F. Buckley, stands athwart the wide road yelling, ‘Stop’!
Regarding the prostitutes along the great wide way, wisdom says,
“Now then, my sons, listen to me;
pay attention to what I say.
Do not let your heart turn to her ways
or stray into her paths.
Many are the victims she has brought down;
her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is a highway to the grave,
leading down to the chambers of death.” -Prov. 7:24-27
“Give careful thought to the[c] paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.” Prov. 4:26-27
Wisdom accepts correction.
“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” -Prov. 12:1
“Whoever heeds life-giving correction
will be at home among the wise.” -Prov. 15:31
Wisdom seeks knowledge.
“The heart of the discerning acquires knowledge,
for the ears of the wise seek it out.” –Prov. 18:15
Wisdom doesn’t deceive or treat a neighbor unfairly.
“Differing weights and differing measures—
the Lord detests them both.” –Prov. 20:10
Wisdom applies healthy introspection.
“Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
I am clean and without sin”?” –Prov. 20:9
What the world needs now: One night, over the shouting of Wisdom, it was the heavenly host who clamored for our attention. They proclaimed the birth of Jesus who “became for us wisdom (σοφια, sophia) from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption”. (1 Cor. 1:30). Jesus, “wisdom from God” was before the foundations of the word; Jesus is everything you need to know, he is the Logos, the Word made flesh, Wisdom incarnate.