Monday, February 23, 2009

Proverbs (3) wisdom: what is it good for?

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for attaining wisdom and discipline;
for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life,
doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young-
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance-
for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline. (Prov 1:1-7)
What is wisdom?
Is your brain is full of facts but you're hopeless at relating to people? Do you know your Bible well but struggle to be godly? Are you trying to decide which job to choose or who to marry? Do you have kids and want to know how to teach them? Would you like more insight into people and situations? Wisdom covers all areas: discipline, understanding, insight, prudence, knowledge, discretion, discernment, and guidance.

Who is wisdom for?
There are 3 kinds of people in Proverbs: the wise, the simple, and the fool. Proverbs makes the wise wiser, and gives the simple wisdom. Only fools are beyond the reach of wisdom, because they've rejected her invitation (Prov 1:20-33). We've all known fools, people who refuse to listen to advice or teaching; and we've all known people who are simple, ignorant but eager to learn. I know which I'd rather be. But when I close my ears to rebuke or instruction, I'm a fool (13:1).

How did Proverbs come about?
It's called "The proverbs of Solomon", but Proverbs has several authors: Solomon, the wise, Agur son of Jakeh, and King Lemuel's mum (Prov 10:1, 25:1, 22:17, 30:1, 31:1). Solomon, who "spoke 3000 proverbs" (1 Kgs 4:32), probably wrote some and collected others from sayings handed down through generations, since this is how proverbs usually come about.

Can you have wisdom without God?
Wisdom happens as people use their minds to reflect on God's world. But true wisdom doesn't happen independently from God. For this is God's world, made in accord with his wisdom. True wisdom means living in the way we were created to live.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov 9:10)
Non-Christian wisdom looks wise - and there's a lot of truth in it, for we've been given good minds by God to make sense of the world - but it ultimately proves empty. True wisdom comes about as God's redeemed people reflect on God's world in the light of God's word.

Why Solomon?
That's why the time wasn't ripe for the full expression of wisdom until Solomon arrived on the scene. God's promises to Abraham were fulfilled: God's people lived in God's place under God's rule. God had redeemed his people from slavery in Egypt, and he dwelt with them in the temple. The people had God's word: the history of salvation and the law.

Now was the time to reflect on how to serve God faithfully in the nitty gritty of everyday life: business relationships, marriage and parenting, sleeping and buying and eating. Now was the time for God's wise king to rule and judge with God's wisdom, and to share wisdom with his people (1 Kgs 3, 4:29-34). Now was the time for the blessing of wisdom to spread from God's people to other nations (Gen 22:15-18; 1 Kgs 10:1-13).

What about us?
In Solomon, we see the forerunner of a far wiser king: King Jesus, who exercises a greater rule with a greater wisdom (Isa 11:1-3; Matt 12:38-43). If wisdom begins with fearing God, then it also begins with loving and serving King Jesus.

Let's get wise!

This is a summary of a Bible study I led just over a week ago. Next week, I'd like to share with you what we learned last week about the fear of God.

images are from stock.xchng

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