In my last post I noted that the Bible says we are to fear God — and I confessed confusion over precisely what that means.
The next step in my progression of thought is to recall that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and of understanding.
I think that means it’s okay I don’t fully know what it means to fear God, but as I contemplate it, I will begin to understand.
I will begin to realize that God is almighty and all powerful, that he is our awesome creator, our loving savior, and our ever-present guide. For that I can revere him, worship him, respect him, and perhaps have a bit of reverent fear.
But there’s more…so come back next week to find out.
Until then, What wisdom do you have as a result of fearing God?
If “wisdom” is the theme of Proverbs, then “path” may be the context. There are good paths and evil paths, straight paths and crooked paths. There are the paths of the righteous and paths of the wicked.
For those who are wise and make good decisions, there is the right path, the path of life, of peace, of justice, of the upright, and that leads to immortality.
Taking a journey — the journey of life — implies making decisions. Which paths do you take? This isn’t a one-time selection, but a series of choices, of continuing to choose the right path, repeatedly making the good and right decision.
And the best part is that we don’t need to travel alone. We have a “spiritual” GPS to guide us, God’s spirit. David acknowledged that God had supernaturally revealed the right path to him (Psalm 16:11) and Peter confirmed that many centuries later (Acts 2:28).
We also have the Bible to guide us in selecting the right paths, with over 100 mentions of the word. Proverbs is especially helpful (as are the books of Job and Psalms). Not only does Proverbs mention “path” 28 times, but its sub-contexts point to it as well.
Consider the words that we’ve highlighted in Proverbs. The sluggard and the simple choose the wrong paths. Folly takes one there, as does being quarrelsome or following the adulteress. However, the prudent, those with wisdom, know which paths to take.
Consider the mentions of “path” in the Bible and then choose the right ones.
Among all the reoccurring words in Proverbs, it is “wisdom” that is the most prominent — mentioned 54 times. Wisdom, in fact, is the central theme of the book, effectively summarizing its focus and purpose.
The dictionary defines wisdom as “the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight; common sense; good judgment.”
Given this definition, it would seem that wisdom is more of an innate characteristic than something that can be learned or acquired. Yet Proverbs continually advises readers to seek wisdom, to obtain wisdom, to get wisdom, to keep wisdom, and to gain wisdom. Not only is wisdom imperative, it is apparently also accessible.
But, how? From God. He gives wisdom. James writes that “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
This is how we seek wisdom. Proverbs is the primer; God is the source.
There are several words that appear with disproportionate frequency in the book of Proverbs — and with minimal representation in the rest of the Bible. They are:
- Sluggard occurs 14 times in Proverbs and nowhere else in the Bible.
- Prudent occurs 10 times in Proverbs and only twice elsewhere.
- Simple is found 14 times in Proverbs and only six other times in the entire Bible.
- Folly occurs 23 times in Proverbs and 16 times in the rest of the Bible.
- Quarrelsome occurs 6 times in Proverbs and only one other time in the rest of the Bible.
- Adulteress is mentioned 7 times in Proverbs and only 5 times elsewhere in the Bible.
Plus, there are some additional words that appear with surprising regularity in Proverbs:
- Wisdom occurs 54 times in proverbs.
- Path and paths are mentioned 29 times in Proverbs.
In upcoming posts, we will look at each of these words.
[The 1984 NIV version of the Bible was used in determining the number of occurrences.]
Song of Songs is commonly categorized as wisdom literature in the Bible. With the possible exception of Job, it is not like the other wisdom books, nor like any other book in the Bible. It is easy to imagine Song of Songs as being the lines to a play that King Solomon wrote to both entertain and teach his people. As such, Song of Songs may be more akin to a modern-day screenplay than anything else.
There are three characters in this play, the beloved (the girl), the lover (the king), and the friends (think of them as the “chorus”). Headings, indicating the three parts, are inserted in some versions to reflect the pronouns used in the original Hebrew text, though some of the delineations between speakers are not absolute.
The book can be read straight through as a narrative or the various speakers (lover, beloved, and friends) can be pulled out read individually to gain a better understanding of each character. In doing so,
- the lover mostly upholds and celebrates her beauty,
- the beloved mostly talks about her deep yearning for him and desire to be with him, and
- the words of the “friends” often provide a transition or information for the play.
In reading the words of the lover (the king), we can gain insight into God’s love for us and how he views us.
In focusing on the words of the beloved (the girl), we get a glimpse of what our response to God should rightly be.
Reading the Song of Songs with this perspective, gives me much to consider.
God told King Solomon to ask for anything and it would be given to him. (I think this is the closest thing we see in the Bible to God granting wishes like a genie.)
Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge. And God gave it to him — along with wealth and power as a bonus. The Bible later says that Solomon was wiser than anyone else who ever lived.
It is from this man — the wisest one who ever lived — that we get the book of Ecclesiastes. Go figure. If Solomon’s writing in Ecclesiastes is a showcase of wisdom and the result of knowledge, then I’ll pass.
However, we also know that Solomon was distracted by the beliefs of his many wives. They turned his attention away from God and towards other things.
So, despite being wise, Solomon became unwise and strayed from God. I wonder if the book of Ecclesiastes is a reflection of that.
[2 Chronicles 1:7-12, 1 Kings 10:23, 2 Chronicles 9:22, 1 Kings 4:30-31, 1 Kings 11:1-13]
Check out these books of the Bible, which are not found in all versions, but are in others, such as The Jerusalem Bible:
Tobit is a story of Tobiah who journeys with Raphael to retrieve some money for his father (Tobit). Along the way he is attacked by a fish and gets married; when he returns home, he restores his father’s eyesight.
Judith is an account of beautiful and pious women, who daringly and single-handedly delivers the Jewish people from their enemy, using her beauty and charm, while remaining pure and chaste.
1 Maccabees is both a historical and literary work about stoic faith; it addresses the politics and military situation around Israel circa the second century BCE.
2 Maccabees covers approximately the same time as First Maccabees, but from a different perspective and includes signs, wonders, and miracles.
Wisdom (aka The Wisdom of Solomon) is like other wisdom literature in the Bible.
Sirach (aka Ecclesiasticus, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is a compilation of sayings similar to Proverbs, concluding with a tribute to notable Jewish figures.
Baruch, written by Baruch (Jeremiah’s scribe), is effectively a sequel to the book of Jeremiah, written after the people are exiled.
Are you wise? Do you possess wisdom?
According to The Free Dictionary, Wisdom is “The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight; common sense; good judgment”
However, according to the Bible, Wisdom—that comes from God [James 3:17] is:
- peace loving
- always gentle
- willing to yield to others
- full of mercy
- full of good deeds
- doesn’t show favoritism
- is always sincere
That sounds a lot different, doesn’t it?
By this standard, are you wise?