In the Bible, in the Old Testament there are three books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job) that can be grouped together under the same genre known as “wisdom literature”. Each book addresses the question of “what does it look like to live well in this world” from its own unique perspective. In Ecclesiastes this summer, when talking about wisdom, we learned how being wise doesn’t guarantee good results. Bad things can happen to good people. But in Proverbs, we learn that if you do follow wisdom, in general, things do go better for you.
In Proverbs wisdom is described as being woven into the fabric of our universe. Wisdom is personified as a lady, let’s call her Lady Wisdom, and she has several poems in Proverbs 1-9, and the summary concept from Lady Wisdom is that there is a hidden force in our universe that affects everything we do. Wisdom is an attribute of God that God used when he created the world and now this wisdom is the hidden force behind everything, and it is available to us, if we pursue it, if we ask for it.
So, where anyone is making good or just or wise or loving decisions, they are tapping into God’s wisdom. And when anyone is making a bad decision they are working against this wisdom force. It’s a hidden force that exists in your life whether you like it or not. Proverbs 1:32-33 sums this up “the complacency of fools (working against wisdom) destroys them, but those who listen to me (that is listen to Lady Wisdom) … whoever listens to wisdom will dwell secure.”
So it is a moral law of the universe, a cause and effect situation that no one can escape. Wisdom again, is woven into our world, in our relationships, in our jobs, in our families, in our church. And this wisdom is available to anyone who asks for it. It is like as if Lady Wisdom is roaming the earth offering wisdom to anyone who calls for it.
But wisdom is more than just knowledge. It is much more than mental activity. This word translated as wisdom means action, also. So we should think about this in terms of applied knowledge, or skill. There are examples in Exodus where this word wisdom was applied to artists and craftsman. These people were said to have wisdom in their vocation. So Proverbs, is setting out to give you a set of applied skills to live well in this world.
But, this wisdom is not impersonal. It is an attribute of God and it is from God. So your journey to obtaining wisdom has to begin with God.
Proverbs says wisdom is found in “the fear of the Lord”.
How does this work that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord? See, in our life we all have the tendency to want to do things our own way and not listen to God. We think we have wisdom in and of ourselves. But fearing the Lord is having a respect for God where you are in awe of him, you acknowledge him, and you want to listen to him. You look to God for the definition of good and evil, and not define it on your own.
It’s this fundamental shift where you stop fighting God, you stop working against him and his wisdom, and you turn to trust God and say, “ok God, I’m going to let you be God and not me. I want to listen to you. You are wise.”
True wisdom is following God and learning the boundary lines he has set forth in this world so that when we live our daily lives we desire to tap into true wisdom. A healthy fear of the Lord is a moral mindset that begins with reverence and awe where we want to follow God.
I want to exhort us this morning to stop working against God’s wisdom, but rather pursue wisdom, and work hard in making good decisions, but to do so out of faith in God, from a healthy respect of God.
A real practical way to take this first step is to work with the people God has put in your life to listen to others to help find wisdom.
Proverbs 11:14 says “Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.” Community is a critical element to tapping into God’s wisdom and I exhort you to let people into your life to help offer guidance. Hearing from others is part of trusting God.
Let’s humbly turn to Jesus, study our Bibles, pray in the Spirit, be visibly present in community, and by doing so live with wisdom by putting God at the center. I exhort us to embrace God’s definition of right and wrong, even when that is inconvenient for us. In general, life will go better for you if you pursue wisdom and a healthy fear of the Lord.
Father, thank you for Wisdom. Wisdom comes from you. You are wisdom. Thank you that you give us the opportunity to receive this wisdom. Help us to take that first step to listen to you. Help us to study our Bibles so we can find wisdom and align ourselves with it.
We often ignore you. We ignore your wisdom. We seek to do it on our own. And this is because we functionally think we are god. Help us to trust you. Help us to humble ourselves before you. Help us see that the world does not revolve around us. This is a freeing thing. Help us put you at the center of our world. Help us to work hard, study hard, pray hard, make good decisions, knowing that the end all be all is YOU and not us.
Father, we confess that we often rely on our own understanding and efforts. We often live like we have the words of eternal life.
Father, this is a great evil, and we know that if we in the church regard sin in our midst, our prayers will be ineffectual, so we confess our individual sins to you now in a time of silent confession.