Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 (EHV)
1 Do you hear Wisdom calling out?
Do you hear Understanding raising her voice?
2 On the hills above the roads,
she takes her stand at the crossroads.
3 Beside the gates leading into the city,
at the entrance to the doorways, she cries out:
4 I call to you men,
and I raise my voice to the people.
22 The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his way,
before his works of long ago.
23 From eternity I was appointed,
from the beginning, from before the origin of the earth.
24 When there were no deep waters, I was brought forth,
when there were no springs filled with water.
25 Before the mountains were settled in place,
before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 when he had not yet made land or fields
or the first dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there.
When he drew the horizon around the surface of the deep,
28 when he placed the clouds in the sky above,
when the fountains of the deep gushed out,
29 when he established his decree for the sea,
so that the waters could not go beyond the limit set by his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30 I was beside him as a master craftsman.
I was his joy day after day.
I rejoiced in his presence at all times.
31 I rejoiced in his inhabited world.
I was delighted with the children of Adam.
Dear heavenly Father, send your Holy Spirit on us so that we might look to your wisdom, who came to us in the form of your Son Jesus. Amen.
I wonder if many people are very interested in gaining wisdom these days.
It wasn’t long ago when people used to respect and seek out the elderly and listen to their wisdom, in order to gain from their experiences. History was studied so that we could learn from the lessons of the past. People knew the difference between a man and a woman and valued the differences. People used to respect those in positions of authority, even if they didn’t like them or agree with them. People learned about their family heritage, church members knew and valued the important differences between denominations, and if you weren’t a Christian, you were considered foolish.
But these days the elderly are largely considered useless and of no real benefit to the wider community. The young give them little or no respect, but rather try to take advantage of their frailty. Many people of today have the audacity to think they know better than anyone else in history, to the point they assume to know better than those people who were around when the event actually happened. The lines between men and women have now become blurred to the point some have forgotten what it means to be a man, or what it is to be a woman, or even what marriage is all about. Today many people think they know better than their parents, bosses, pastors, police, or parliamentarians, and so don’t give them much respect. Many people tend to ignore or pay no attention to their family heritage and quickly criticise and pass judgment on any denominational differences or loyalties. And Christians are considered to be the foolish ones.
Now this isn’t an attempt to glorify the past. No matter how much we romanticise ‘old times’, there were problems in the past as well. We can’t turn back the clock and go back to the ‘good old days’. But these changes in society seem to indicate not many people seek wisdom these days. Wisdom somehow seems undesirable. Instead, many people chase after riches, fame, knowledge, and beauty.
Of course, some may argue that unless you’re rich, well-educated, beautiful, and famous that you’re not successful. Today’s advertisements will try to tell you what you need in order to be well-liked, or happy, or successful. But is that where wisdom is really found? Is wisdom found in wealth, knowledge, beauty, or fame?
So, what is ‘wisdom’?
Well, some would say wisdom is accumulated knowledge, but that’s not totally correct. We might gain much knowledge, but unless we’ve learned from it and learnt how to apply our knowledge, we’re still not wise. We can be a ‘know-it-all’ and yet not be wise! So then, perhaps wisdom is accumulated learning and the insightful application of that learning.
But the application of your knowledge and learning might also need to tempered with good judgement between a right and wrong choices. And this is how people learnt wisdom in Old Testament times. For example, the book of Proverbs was, among other things, a collection of accumulated learning from the wise so that the young could learn the difference between making a right and wise choice, and a foolish and wrong choice. It was like a practical wisdom book for living. It’s a pity we largely ignore it, even though it has such pearls of wisdom as:
A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother. Prov 10:1
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman without discretion. Prov 11:22
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones. Prov 12:4
Some fathers may have liked this one:
Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him. Prov 13:24
The elderly may appreciate:
Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life. Prov 16:31
And for those who can’t help themselves:
A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
and his mouth invites a beating. Prov 18:6
But then Proverbs does something very interesting and unexpected. Wisdom and its opposite; folly, take on personalities. They’re no longer just instructions or choices between wise and foolish actions, but a choice to follow one of the two women calling us.
On the one hand, lady wisdom calls people to life and righteousness. On the other hand, the foolish whore calls people to live in morally deficient ways.
In today’s text, we go a step further. Wisdom is no longer like a woman calling people to life and righteousness, but an actual person who was there even before the creation of the universe. Wisdom is not just a choice, a way of living, or even likened to a lady, but an actual person involved in the creation of the universe.
We’re told that before the deepest depths of the sea were filled with water, wisdom was there. Before the mountains were settled in the mud, wisdom was there. Before the heavens were even sketched out, wisdom was there. Before the boundary lines were scratched into the earth where the water shall not pass, wisdom was there.
So, if we want to truly learn from the past, and if we truly want to learn wisdom, the best way to learn isn’t from books, but learning from a person. In this way, wisdom isn’t just learning about making right choices, but getting to know a person. Wisdom is gained through a trusting relationship. To gain wisdom, you need to get to know wisdom in person.
But then the New Testament makes a startling claim about who wisdom is.
Paul writes to the Corinthians about God, saying:
For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Cor 1:21-25
He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom and our righteousness and sanctification and redemption. 1 Cor 1:30
Therefore Jesus, that is, God the Son, is Wisdom as a human being. He was there with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit before the world began. He came to us as Wisdom in human flesh. Therefore, if we want to know true Wisdom, we need to know Jesus.
But how do we get to know Jesus? How do we know Wisdom?
Well, he sends us his Word, and he taught wisdom to people around him through parables and such teachings as the beatitudes.
Now the Word doesn’t come alone, but the Spirit comes with it. Since the Spirit, who came on Jesus’ followers at Pentecost, is Jesus’ ongoing presence with us, the Spirit communicates the wisdom of the Son and the Father to us. God the Father speaks to us through God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit. In this way, as we hear the Word of God, Wisdom himself talks to us through the Holy Spirit and guides us into his truth, peace, and comfort.
Wisdom himself also comes to us at baptism. Now of course to the world’s eyes it seems like a quaint little ceremony to get people ‘done’. But it’s much more than this! God, in his wisdom, washes us clean in holy baptism, washing away all our sins. In baptism, God grafts us into the body of Christ, which means he’s grafted us into Wisdom himself. This has great significance whereby we also become part of the Triune relationship through Jesus. We’re also granted the Holy Spirit to guide us and lead us through life, who whispers God’s wisdom to us and helps us understand what God is saying to us through his Word.
Wisdom also comes to us in the Lord’s Supper. It’s strange that one of the ways we gain wisdom isn’t through our eyes or ears, but through our mouth! We eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus who is God’s Wisdom in human flesh. We gain wisdom by eating and drinking through faith! In this meal we’re also forgiven our sins and strengthened for faith and wise service to others. As a holy child of God, learning from Wisdom himself, we slowly become God’s wisdom to others.
Now of course, as Paul reminds us, the world will still think this is foolishness and that going to worship is a waste of time. They say there’s no God and Jesus was just a man. They say baptism is only a quaint tradition to ‘get the child done’. They say that the Lord’s Supper is only bread and wine. They say nothing happens when you die – it’s just the end.
But for us this isn’t so. We’re counted among the wise because we fear the Lord. We believe God is real, that he created the world, and that he’s somehow three persons in One. We believe God graciously forgives us, not because any of us deserve it, but because God is a loving, forgiving, and merciful God, and for the sake of Jesus who suffered, died, and rose again for us. We believe he welcomes us into fellowship with him through baptism. We believe Jesus is truly present in his precious meal. We believe he sends us the Holy Spirit to guide us and be his presence with us. We believe he hears our prayers and strengthens us in our time of need. We believe we’ll receive eternal life through faith in him.
Of course, we may not understand how this can be true, because these things seem like foolishness to the world, but understanding isn’t the same as faith. Faith trusts even if it doesn’t understand.
We have faith in Jesus, the Wisdom of God, who came to give us life and peace and hope. We don’t have faith in knowledge itself, but we have an intimate relationship with Wisdom himself and long to learn from him. We don’t have to be old to be wise, but we become wise through our relationship with Jesus. His wisdom impacts our life and the lives of those about us. In this way, as we learn from trusting Jesus, may we all become wise and discerning children of God.
And may the peace and wisdom of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.