Saturday, August 6, 2011

Proverbs 8 – Wisdom’s Call and Self-Portrait

“Does not wisdom call, and does not understanding raise her voice?” ~Proverbs 8:1 (NRSV).

As Christians we’re apt to think of the greatest gift of God is the re-birth in Christ. But perhaps God’s greatest, more fundamental gift is the thing that underpins salvation—(being that) Jesus is Wisdom, as is the Godhead.

We find it strange to conjure thought of something coming from where Wisdom comes from; always there, eternally. As God was, is and is to come... so was, is and will be, Wisdom.

Personification – “Wisdom”

One thing we need to continue to recognise within Proverbs is how Wisdom is personified as a woman, and is hence capitalised: Wisdom.

There are important reasons for this—besides the choice of gender—for Wisdom becomes more real to us, like God, when it’s known as a person would be known, with the possibility to attach to it human qualities for our further comprehension. This enriches the character of Wisdom for us.

Reminiscences of Proverbs 1:20-33

Wisdom makes another speech here, calling out to all, including the simple, and the foolish—to all.

We are hearing Wisdom speak perhaps, as the case would have it, with a sense of déjà vu. There is an echo of sense that fills our minds; we’ve heard this before. Of course, there’s good reason for this. We all need messages from Wisdom to ring continually through our minds, filtering in and through our consciousness such that we might grow beyond staying fixed in our plateaus of spiritual convenience.

Wisdom Calling – Proverbs 8:1-11

The truth is God’s calling to us in nothing more certainly than through Wisdom; the agency of life, the Lord cloaked in the manifestation of life, cause and effect, virtue, righteousness, justice and fairness.

Wisdom calls to the whole of God’s creation, to humankind in its totality.

It commands us to listen, for we’re quick to run the way away from Wisdom in our transitory folly. Jesus called it Wisdom, that thing that would be known wise of its children i.e. what comes after (Matthew 11:19). This is the adjudication of both wisdom and folly—how things turn out. Wisdom is calling us to good things as they will turn out and end up, via a process that is also blessed in love, good sense and truth.

The Character of Wisdom – How She is Known

Verses 12-21 tell us a lot of what Wisdom actually looks like, how she interacts and what she values.

Wisdom dwells in and possesses characteristics such as prudence, knowledge and discretion. These are sharply against pride, arrogance and perverted speech. They embrace the much-cherished fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7).

She is the modus operandi of kings, rulers and nobles—they rule righteously with Wisdom. Anything less is a blight on a godless leadership which rules over a cursed people. A sovereign power purposed in the vestiges of Wisdom knows the value of wisdom is of more worth than all the world’s silver and gold.

Personal Benefits

Most applicably, Wisdom blesses the person who loves her, endowing them with much wealth that money cannot buy, filling their treasuries (verse 21).

Proverbs 8:22-36 – Wisdom’s Self-Portrait and Finding Life

“The Lord created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.” ~Proverbs 8:22 (NRSV)

Proverbs chapter 8 is the jewel in the crown of Proverbs’ Wisdom. We could not get thirty-six more insightful verses of Scripture in one delineated section regarding the character of Wisdom.

Here Wisdom’s case is made all the more compelling due to the place she holds with God. Not before God, but there from the beginning she has been.

In the Beginning

Without getting overly analytical, it’s safe to say that Wisdom was there even before creation. She was the first of the Lord’s works.

Verses 22-31 take us faithfully back to the creation accounts of Genesis 1 and 2 and suggest, “There was I [Wisdom],” an eye witness to the splendour of that Divine set of feats.

Now that the credibility of Wisdom is firmly established we can safely go on and venture with her into the meaning of verses 32-36: the penultimate speech of Wisdom in Proverbs’ introductory section.

Finding Life

Blessed, Proverbs says, is the person finding Wisdom:

“For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord...” ~Proverbs 8:35 (NRSV).

This verse is remarkably similar to a later proverb (18:22), for finding Wisdom is like finding a good partner—a faithful wife for an honest man, but no less the other way around.

Finding life is about establishing a life that works.

How can ‘finding life’ end up being a life that doesn’t work—that doesn’t truthfully serve us as much as we serve it?

No, God has more in mind for us, and Wisdom is the way. As we wait daily at God’s gate, watching beside his door, we listen to the nuances of Wisdom as they eek their way out. Wisdom is peace for us and every good way.

Wisdom and Truth

Finally, Wisdom is most abundantly about finding the truth. Indeed, Wisdom and truth should not be seen as separates but as twin siblings, in allegiance for each other in highly complementary ways.

Truth sets aside the right way with a real sense of decisiveness. Truth and Wisdom, then, collude to fuel assertiveness via faith, so that the power of the Spirit is made known in us, and through us by our acts and interactions.

This could otherwise be called a meld of competence and confidence: pure dynamism.

© 2011 S. J. Wickham.

This article is an excerpt from my book, Grow In GOD. All author proceeds from this book go to Compassion Australia to help some of the world’s neediest children and families.

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