Wisdom and the Fear of the Lord
Proverbs and Job
Understanding the Old Testament Lesson #016
April 23, 2000
"Father, we do thank You for this privilege we have as believers to come before Your Throne of Grace; that this is a unique ability in human history that each believer, every ordinary believer is a priest to You and that we have immediate and direct access to You because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross; His death, burial and resurrection provided everything we need for our salvation and laid the groundwork for the unique spiritual life in this church age, which is based upon the ministry of Holy Spirit of God. Now Father we pray that under the teaching ministry we might understand the things we study and be challenged by this. We pray this in Jesus' Name, Amen."
We are making our way through the Old Testament in our Old Testament orientation series. We are going to look at wisdom literature this morning. The last two Sundays we have looked at the hymnic literature, Psalms. We talked about Hebrew poetry and the significance of Hebrew poetry and before we begin looking at wisdom literature I want to back-up a minute and remind ourselves, remind us where we are in our study of the Old Testament. When we started off we looked at Genesis 1:26-27 were God created man and placed him in the Garden. At that point I brought in something that was probably new to everybody here; and that was a reference to the secular covenant or treaty form known as the Suzerain-vassal treaty form. Suzerain is a great king or a great lord; the vassal is a servant to a nation or a client nation.
In the ancient world what would happen was when a great king or emperor conquered a country, then he would impose this contract, this covenant, upon that lesser power. He would lay out certain stipulations; he would review historically what this great king had done to benefit this smaller country and smaller power. Then he would lay out the stipulations that as long as you want to continue in this relationship, these are the requirements. This is what you must do to fulfill your obligations on this side of the covenant. If you don't then you will receive these punishments; if you do then I will bless you in these additional ways. It lays out the fact for us and what it helps us to understand fro the background of the culture at that time is that man is seen as the vice gerent of God to reign upon the earth as His representative. That is man's original function in the Garden of Eden. He is the image of God; that not only refers to his internal make-up, his immaterial make-up in his soul in terms of all the components of the soul, the mind, the self-consciousness, mentality, emotion, volition, conscience. But it also indicates that this has a purpose. It is not just what it is but what it is for; we are here for the purpose of representing God as His representative to the earth to rule and reign the earth in His place.
Now we must set this in the total context of Scripture because what is eventually going to happen in the millennial kingdom is that church age, we who are believers today, will ultimately fulfill that in our resurrection bodies by coming back with Jesus Christ to rule and to reign over the earth. So you see once again that as I pointed out before, the Bible almost functions like a mirror. You take a cross in the middle, you fold it in half, and many of the themes and events that occur in the introduction to Genesis, what some people call protology; how is that for a fancy word. From the Greek word for beginnings or first. Protology mirrors eschatology. We can see this dynamic taking place that as Adam fell from this original position and became cursed and now we still try to function in that servant role in that vassal role, yet we are struggling with a creation that is cursed. We are struggling with a body that is cursed and a sin nature. That is why Jesus has to come and exercise redemption and pay the price for sin and then from the point of the cross on you see how everything is better than it was in the Old Testament and it continues to increase as God works out His redemptive plan.
Now keep that in mind when we come to wisdom literature because one of the unique things about wisdom literature is that it doesn't focus so much on Israel as Israel. There is some element of that, but not as much as you find in the Psalms or in the historical Books because wisdom goes beyond simple Israelology. It is that which is applicable to all saints, all believers, from all times. Now what do we mean by wisdom literature? Wisdom literature consists of four Books in the Old Testament: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Songs; that is the Hebrew title, "Song of Songs." The English title is "Song of Solomon." It is this Song of Songs that was written by Solomon according to the first verse. So the English picked up that title, Song of Solomon. But in the Hebrew it is Song of Songs.
Now wisdom literature is a particular classification of literature. As I have said before, when you study any kind of wisdom literature, any kind of document, as soon as you pick it up you immediately classify it. You know what a poem looks like and you pick up a poem you know to expect certain things; that there will be rhyming; that there will be a certain amount of imagery and metaphor and the use of hyperbole. The way that you interpret the words and the figures that are used in poetry is different to some degree from how you would interpret those same words if they were found in the context of a legal document, let's say or a work of fiction. You know that when you pick up certain kinds of fiction you go down to Barnes or Noble or Waldenbooks or one of the other bookstores and you walk the isles, you know that if you pick up a mystery that it is going to follow a certain format. It is going to have some kind of crime in the first two or three chapters and then you are going to have a lot of red herrings throughout the book and then there is going to be a revelation of the criminal in the last chapter and it is going to be somebody that you never expected because the one clue that the detective needed in order to find out who it was; he knew about but you didn't. So you know that about a mystery.
You pick up a romance novel and you know to expect certain characteristics of a romance novel. I've never read a romance novel so I do not know what those characteristics are. You pick up a historical novel and you know that you expect certain things there because these literary types contain certain key characteristics and you know how to interpret and how to understand what is going on in those literary types or what is called literary genres because you know what those characteristics are. You have learned them over the progress of time. Well the same thing is true here when we get into wisdom literature. It was a secular category of literature that is found all over the ancient Near East. It was characterized by certain piety sayings or proverbial saying which were designed to provide instruction to people for successful living. So all kinds of people were writing proverbs and various different cultures.
So wisdom literature combined a certain literary form. Usually these are two line sayings with a specific kind of content. That content was designed to teach people how to live life successfully. In wisdom literature the theme usually focuses on the basic questions of life that everyone struggles with, but there is a universal appeal here. That is why the wisdom literature rises above just simple Israelology in the Old Testament and just the relationship to Israel itself goes beyond something like the Mosaic Law and has universal appeal. It deals with the basic questions like how to live your life with skill. How to find happiness in life; what is the meaning of existence; why are we here? That is what Ecclesiastes is all about. Solomon is trying to determine why am I here? What is the purpose of life? How do I find real meaning and value and fulfillment in life?
Wisdom literature struggles with the question of why is there suffering in the world? What is the purpose of suffering? Why does evil exist? If God is good and God is omnipotent why evil does exist and is it simply the result of punishment for sinners or some greater purpose to it? Why do we have adversity? This of course is covered in Job. The search for truth is also evident in wisdom literature; how to find truth and of course how to find success in life, in all the affairs of life, in business, in family, and childrearing and leadership; all of these different elements and areas that makes up life is found in Proverbs; a tremendous selection of literature in Proverbs. Yet, at the very core of all this literature you have different types from Ecclesiastes to Job to Proverbs. Underneath all that if you probe beneath the surface you discover that there is in the biblical wisdom literature a profound theology; by theology I mean that there is a profound understanding of Who God is and what He has done. He is what undergirds; everything in wisdom literature is that God is the One Who created all things. He is the Sovereign Creator of everything and that this Creation is intricate; it is complex and that everything in it reveals an extreme degree of skill, creativity, knowledge, and attention to the most minute detail.
If man is to live successfully he must understand the principles that God has put into the universe. So we would sometimes call it establishment principles, but they go beyond that really. At the core there are many principles here that the believer and unbeliever can equally apply. But there are also elements that go far beyond anything that an unbeliever could do. If we are to live a life that is successful, then we must learn what these principles are and align our thinking to them. It is the same thing that we find in the New Testament in Romans 12:2, not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. That is the challenge of Proverbs. Proverbs is one of the most important Books that we can study. Unfortunately, I think that sometimes we neglect it. It takes a different approach to study it and to teach it. I will have some practical guidelines at the end that you can do in your family that I think would revolutionize some of your family training time.
As we look at the wisdom literature what we discover is that following the path of wisdom, learning wisdom and applying wisdom, is ultimately the only way to become intimate with the God who created everything and to know Him and to know His will. Now there are in our overall understanding of knowledge and learning; there is a tremendous theory of education in the Psalms. There is a lot of repetition and memory; things that are not in vogue today have been discounted as not good for education anymore, but there is a lot to learn. There are a lot of different words and I do not want to take the time. It would take a study of several weeks to go through all the key words for wisdom, understanding, knowledge to look at them. But just to plug it into our frame of reference, what we have is three key concepts in the Scripture:
1. Academic knowledge, which is represented by the Greek word GNOSIS. This is the word that Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 8:1where it says knowledge makes arrogant or knowledge puffs up in the Old King James. You have to understand that that is GNOSIS that is not EPIGNOSIS; it is not chokhmah there. Many people will look at somebody who goes to church like ours where there is a lot of emphasis on teaching and learning and knowledge; they often make some kind of disparaging remark and somebody who knows a little Scripture, but doesn't understand it mouths off with 1 Corinthians 8:1, "well don't you know that knowledge puffs up" so let's just enjoy our experience with God. And of course that is a misunderstanding of the process. In the Scripture there is a process of learning.
First you learn academic knowledge. That is how you learn anything in life whether it is mathematics. You think about mathematics when you were a kid. You learned all the basics 1+1=2; you learn addition, subtraction, multiplication, and it may not have been for several years before you really had a practical application and started to do things like balance a checkbook and figure out your taxes; all of those wonderful things that make up adult life. But you have a vast reservoir; everyone of us has a vast reservoir of academic knowledge no matter what your field is; whether your field is computers, auto mechanics, construction, whatever it is you have a vast pool of just academic knowledge. Some of it is partitioned and some of it is not partitioned, but it is just a small percentage of that reservoir of academic knowledge from which you pull applicational knowledge.
You always hear somebody who hasn't thought very much; they repeat something they thought sounded good; saying, 'well, if we just applied all that we know.' Let's quite learning so much and just go back and apply all that we know. Well that is not true in any arena of life. That is a very superficial and inadequate way to look at knowledge. We apply only a small percentage of what we know in any field. That is how knowledge functions. The more we learn the more we are able to apply and we always know in terms of academic knowledge a vast amount more than we have that is actually useable applicational knowledge.
2. Well, when we learn doctrine under the filling of the Spirit; we learn it first as academic knowledge, as GNOSIS. Then under the filling of the Holy Spirit when we chose to believe it and make it ours, then the Holy Spirit transfers it into the innermost part of our soul, the KARDIA, and there it becomes EPIGNOSIS, which is useable knowledge. That is the second category of knowledge.
3. The third category is what we see in the Psalms, which is wisdom, which goes a step further and that is chokhmah.
If I were to graph this out it would look like this: First you have GNOSIS, this is just academic knowledge; and then under the filling of the Holy Spirit that is transferred into the innermost thinking of your soul; what the Bible calls your heart or the KARDIA. There it becomes EPIGNOSIS or useable doctrine.
You may know a lot of GNOSIS. This is typical. You get with some seminary student and they have a tremendous reservoir of academic knowledge about the Scripture. But what happens when somebody goes to seminary is that they accelerate their GNOSIS and their EPIGNOSIS lags way behind. Sometimes you will run into men that have been through seminary and they confuse GNOSIS with EPIGNOSIS; then you are in a lot of trouble. EPIGNOSIS is useable doctrine and the meaning of chokhmah sort of overlaps that. In some sense chokhmah is useable doctrine. In other places chokhmah is used doctrine, which is regularly used to produce something. We will see why I say that when we get into the study. But I just want to start off with showing you the relationship of these key words. There are many more words that are used in Scripture to define the learning process. We'll just start off with these.
When we look at proverbs we need to remember that Proverbs was written as a father who was a king prepared his son to be a wise ruler. By application we need to remember that everyone of us as believer priest in the church age is under preparation to be a wise ruler as a servant king in the millennial reign of Jesus Christ. So Proverbs, therefore, provides the training manual for believers in preparation to be wise kings. In that sense I think that Proverbs was designed and written as the training of a father to his son. I think that Proverbs provides the model for family training for parents to children. If you are parents here you can use this and there are many different things that you can do with the Proverbs as a training framework for teaching your children practical applications of Scripture. So Proverbs is written to prepare a ruler. The Song of Song addresses marital love and the fidelity of the servant of God, the ruler.
Job and Ecclesiastes speak more to the ultimate meaning of human existence. Job faces the problem of the existence of evil, suffering, and adversity; from Job we learn how the servant is to handle adversity under the Sovereignty of God without getting out from under the authority of God and blaming God and cursing God and understanding his role within the invisible angelic conflict. Job explains how the servant of God is to handle suffering and what his role is in the angelic conflict. Ecclesiastes presents the flip side. Ecclesiastes is the portrait of the man who has rejected God; the man who is operating on pure cosmic thinking and trying to solve the problems of life and find meaning and value in life completely apart from a relationship to God. In Ecclesiastes we learn from the dark side, from the negative side, that the servant who fails to relate property to the Great King is going to end up frustrated, depressed, discouraged, and as if life itself has no meaning; existence for that person becomes empty and unbearable because they have forgotten that their primary purpose is to live out life in relationship to the Great King.
1. Having said all that, by way of introduction, we need to take some time to look at the importance of wisdom and the role of wisdom within the framework of this body of literature. So the first thing we will look at is the meaning of wisdom. What is wisdom? When you think of wisdom perhaps you've already frontloaded your thinking with a lot of baggage. We need to change our frame of reference because for most of us our background for understanding a concept of wisdom has more to do with Greek philosophy, with Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, then it does with the Hebrew or Jewish concept of wisdom. In the Old Testament the key word for wisdom is the chokhmah. חכמה. Now this always confuses people because when they look at Hebrew this little vowel point is normally an 'a' and when it is in a closed unaccented syllable it is always an 'o'. That is one of those minor little rules in Hebrew that people forget; chokhmah. All of the various forms of chokhmah, the nouns, the verbs, all relate to the meaning of wisdom.
The verb is hakam to be wise. The noun is hochma, wisdom; and these are used frequently in Old Testament and they are particularly prominent in Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. For example, this word in all the cognates is found in these three Books 189 times out of the 346 occurrences in the Old Testament. That means that more than half, 54.6% of the times that this word occurs it occurs in these three Books. That is why they are called "wisdom literature;" it is the prominent concept. So let's look at a definition of wisdom. Wisdom in the Jewish sense refers to skills in relations to the working of crafts, the giving of advice or sure counsel. The managing of people or tasks or intellectual acumen, intellectual skill and ability. But the key concept is skill. So that if you've been working at a craft; let's say you work with your hands, maybe it is in carpentry, maybe it is on automobiles, furniture, whatever it might be; if you have a level of skill with that, that is what the Bible would call chokhmah. If you work with computers and you are adept with computers and understand all the program systems and everything, the Bible would call that chokhmah.
If you are a musician and you have skill with the piano or violin or organ or whatever the instrument might be; that is chokhmah, and it is not just intellectual. It is skill; that is the basic idea. It's the ability to take something and make something beautiful and attractive from it. The word is used in a variety of different ways in the Old Testament. The tailors who made the priestly garments for Aaron were said to possess chokhmah in Exodus 28:3. The tabernacle workers, the metal workers, the stone cutters, the wood carvers, the embroiderers, the weavers and designers; all were said to possess chokhmah, in Exodus 35:30-36:2. It is used a number of different times. The women who spun the yarn and linen to make the fabric for the tabernacle all had chokhmah in Exodus 35:25-26. Hiram of Tyre, who was hired by Solomon to work on the temple, was called a skilled craftsman. He had chokhmah in bronze. He was able to work in bronze, 1 Kings 7:13-14. The various artisans and craftsmen for the temple were likewise said to possess chokhmah in 1 Chronicles 22:15 and in 2 Chronicles 2:7.
Interesting, one phrase in Psalm 107:27 refers to some seamen, some sailors who were lost at sea and it is translated into English that they were at their wits end. Literally what it says in the Hebrew is that "all of their chokhmah departed. Their skill departed. They no longer had skill to deal with the adversity that they faced. Women are said to be skillful in mourning in Jeremiah 9:17. Chokhmah not only referred to the ability or skill of craftsmanship, but it also dealt with skill in advising or administration. The elders of the tribes were said to possess chokhmah in Deuteronomy 1:13-15. They knew how to administer and how to lead. So we see from this an indication that the chokhmah is necessary for good leadership. Good leadership in the home; leadership at work is vital for every believer to develop this because we are going to have leadership roles in the millennial kingdom. Joseph and Daniel had chokhmah. Joshua had chokhmah. King Solomon, of course, is renowned for his wisdom. So what we see from this is that the biblical concept of wisdom is vastly different from the Greek concept that has dominated Western civilization.
Just a side note: we live in an age where people really are dumping negatively on Western-European tradition. We are the bad boys of history now. What that really is, if you think about this, is an attack on Christianity. Western civilization before Christ, before Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 4th century was pagan. There were the Druids and the tree worshipers and all of the polytheism that was going on, fertility worship; that has a modern ring to it doesn't it? It was only as a result of Christianity coming in and changing the nature of Western culture that produced what we know now as Western culture. Of course there are still those who go back to the Greeks and the Romans in terms of philosophy. But there was a merger, a compromise as it were between Aristotelian thought, Platonic thought and Christianity. So what Western civilization really is is a product of Christianity to one degree or another. I am not saying that everybody is a believer or that it is the highest expression of Christianity in culture, but to attach Western civilization is really to attack what made it what it is distinct from all of the other civilizations, which are routed in paganism, and that is Christianity.
Always remember, culture is ultimately the outworking of religious presupposition. Always remember that culture is the outworking of religious presupposition whether you are talking about a meta-culture; I think that is the term they use as a meta-narrative, like the culture of the United States, the culture of Russian, the culture of Iran and China, but are small cultures, the culture of your home. How you do things in your home, the value system is there, your procedures, your policies all reflect to one degree or another your value system, which in return reflects your assumptions about life, Christianity and God and ethics and every thing else. So culture is the outworking ultimately of your religious presuppositions and today that is what is under attack and something that is not understood by many people because they want a free culture that is some sort of nonreligious isolated absolute that exist in and of itself. But constantly our culture should be challenged by biblical Christianity. That is just an aside; no extra charge this morning for that point.
So we have seen that wisdom refers to the skill. It can refer to the skills of working crafts; the skill of giving advice or counsel, administration, management is related to wisdom or intellectual accruement.
2. The second point is the source of wisdom. Proverbs encourages man to pursue wisdom with all that he has. We are to listen to wisdom, Proverbs 1:33 and Proverbs 2:2. But he who listens to me; wisdom is continuously personified as a human being in the proverb. So when you read the proverb wisdom is pictured as a person who is calling us. Who is constantly inviting us and challenging us to come to wisdom. Here we see this especially in the first few chapters of Proverbs. He who listens to me, that is wisdom speaking. He who listens to me shall live securely and shall be at ease from the dread of evil. Make your ear attentive to wisdom. That is a command that is not an option. Make your ear attentive to wisdom; incline your heart that is the innermost thinking of your soul to understanding.
Notice the synonymous parallelism in Proverbs 2:2; how the second line mirrors the same idea as the first line. We are to acquire wisdom. We are commanded to acquire wisdom, Proverbs 4:6-7. Do not forsake her and she will guard you. Love her and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is "acquire wisdom," and with all your acquiring get understanding. Notice that the second proverb is an example of synthetic parallelism. The second line picks up the idea of acquisition that is in the first line and develops it a little further. The beginning of wisdom is "acquire wisdom." What does that mean? "With all your acquiring get understanding." So it is pushing you. Notice it is mental; it is thinking. It is not emotive. It is not sitting back and being sentimental about God; isn't Jesus wonderful… It is thought that is involved in all of this.
We are to love wisdom, Proverbs 8:17. Wisdom says, I love those who love me and those who diligently seek me will find me. We are to esteem or value it above everything else. Wisdom is to be our highest priority in life. Proverbs 4:8, prize her and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. It will always come back to benefit us if we have our souls flooded with the wisdom of Bible doctrine. We are to seek wisdom. We are to seek wisdom. Again, Proverbs 8:17, I love those who love me and those who diligently seek me will find me. Now I quoted that earlier when I said that we are to love wisdom, but we are to see it. The word here is very interesting. It is the Hebrew word shachar and it is a piel participle here. It means to seek diligently, to seek eagerly.
It (shachar) had the connotation of seeking early. Getting up early in the morning and making this the priority. It indicates that nothing takes priority over it; it is energetic, it is somebody who: "I don't care what else I do in life I am going to get my doctrine today! I am going to make sure I listen to a tape; I am going to be at Bible class tonight because I know that no matter what else I get in life, if I don't get doctrine in my soul to be able to develop the capacity for life and the decision making that is necessary in life, then when it is all over with then it is worthless. This is a person who just everyday wakes up and realizes the sole reason they are here is to live for God and that means that they have to learn everything they can to know God. It is a dynamic concept that should challenge every one of us to figure out what our priorities really are.
3. This leads to the next question which is: where is this wisdom to be found? Job asked this question a couple of times. He said in Job 28:20, where then does wisdom come from? Where is the place of understanding? Earlier Job had said that wisdom belongs to God in Job 12:13. God's wisdom, Job says, is profound. Proverbs tells us that God possessed wisdom in the beginning. He created the earth in wisdom, Proverbs 3:19. He counts the clouds in His wisdom, Job 38:37. Therefore, wisdom is more than some humanly conceived trait. It is not just academic knowledge; it is not an interesting fact, but it has to do with understanding the very core dynamics that make up the universe. It is a divine enabling; it is an ability to cope with life, to handle all of life's problems and to succeed without converting adversity into stress. We see the emphasis on the priority of wisdom in Proverbs 1.
Turn with me to the first chapter of Proverbs, Proverbs 1:20. We will briefly examine Proverbs 1:20-33. What happens with most of us is that life is going along pretty well and we think well, I will be in church on Sunday morning and maybe I will be at church this Wednesday, maybe not. We easily slip into a standard of operating where we think well we are complacent about the Word and learning the Word. And then all of sudden a big catastrophe comes along in life. We don't know what it is; maybe you lose your job; maybe it is a health problem; maybe a child dies and you get that dreaded knock in the middle of the night and your seventeen year old just got put in jail for heroine possession. You never know what it might be, but all of a sudden God has designed the big test to come into your life and now it is here and it is too late to prepare.
You see the thing is that we have to prepare when things are going easy because when things get rough it is too late. That is the point of Proverbs 1:20 and following. Look at Proverbs 1:20, wisdom shouts in the streets. I want you to notice the imagery here. This is not just, okay, here is doctrine, come and get it. There is a demand, an insistence that you need this, come and get it now! It is not simply just another option of the many options in life. Wisdom shouts in the streets; she lifts her voice in the square at the head of the noisy streets. She cries out at the entrance of the gates of the city; she utters her sayings. In other word, all around town you see wisdom. God is always going to make doctrine available to the believer who is positive. It doesn't matter where you are; it doesn't matter whether you are here in Connecticut; it doesn't matter if you are in Poland; it doesn't matter if you are in South Africa; especially today with internet and tape recordings and every thing else that is available; anywhere you are on the planet you can get an overwhelming amount of doctrine.
I have never seen so many books published with Christian titles, good titles, old classics republished. You can get more than enough; it is just everywhere. So it is not as if I don't have time or I am too busy or my job causes me to travel a lot or I just have so many demands at home. You have tape recorders; you have cassette players in your car; you have the Internet; you've got palm, individual hand held computers, now. We are going to be putting out doctrine; we are converting a lot of our doctrine that is out on the Internet and we are going to be putting into a palm format so you can download that on your palm and take that with you and study while you are travelling on an airplane or riding in a car or whatever you are doing; so that this is easily available.
Wisdom is shouting in the street; it is always there; there is no excuse for not spending time learning wisdom. Proverbs 1:22, how long oh naïve ones will you love simplicity. That is an insult in the Scriptures to be naïve. That is like being stupid. It is an insult because there is no excuse for you being naïve. Naïve is a person who does not understand reality because they don't understand doctrine. Only by understanding God and God's plan are we oriented to reality; if we are naïve we are living divorced from reality and we are living in our own world of self-deception. Proverbs 1:22, how long, O, naïve ones will you love simplicity and scoffers delight themselves in scoffing. Notice this is another example of synthetic parallelism; each line builds upon the previous one. How long, O, naïve ones will you love simplicity and scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools; notice it goes from loving simplicity to delighting in scoffing, cracking jokes, making negative comments about the Word. Scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge.
Knowledge here is academic understanding of Scripture. So knowledge here is understanding the details of the Word of God and understanding doctrine so that it is a fool that hates knowledge. I love the way the Bible describes "fool." I remember getting set back a little bit two years ago in a conversation; I am just embarrassed that I didn't think of it, and there were three or four of us that were talking about the whole Creation evolution issue. And we were all believers, in fact two of us were seminary trained and one of the other seminary trained guys made the comment and was talking about in relationship to one of the top evolutionists. I can't remember who it was right now. He said, well these guys are just brilliant. The one person who is not a trained seminary student, a trained theologian, made the comment, No, Romans 1 says, "professing to be wise they became fools." What we will see here when we get to the last point is that Creation, the whole doctrine of biblical Creation undergirds all the wisdom statements.
4. The issue is that if you reject doctrine you reject divine viewpoint. You reject Creation and you are a fool the Bible says. It doesn't matter how many degrees you have; it doesn't matter how high your IQ is; it doesn't matter how smart you are. The issue is whether or not you align your thinking with the Word of God because that is reality; that is where wisdom is. So the Scripture points to a wise person not on the basis of IQ or academic achievement or grades, but on the basis or understanding God's will, God's plan, and God's purposes and living consistently with them. That is the wise person. That is the person who is developing a life of wisdom.
Proverbs 1:23, turn to my reproof wisdom says; behold, I will pour out my spirit upon you. I will make my words known to you. In other words, you can't use "I don't understand it" as an excuse, "it is too deep for me." Wisdom will make it clear. The more you pursue trying to understand the Word the more God will make it clear to you. If you are not putting forth the effort first to understand God's Word, be in Bible class to listen and to study to try to see if two or three of your brain cells will somehow connect and generate a spark, then the Holy Spirit is not going to illuminate your mind to understand it because He makes it understandable, but He doesn't understand it for us. He is going to put it in our mouth but we have got to chew it. He is not going to chew it up and swallow it for us.
Proverbs 1:23-33, "Behold, I will put out my spirit upon you. I will make the words known to you because I called and you refused. I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention. And you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof." Listen, this is the result, "I will even laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes:" when the bottom falls out, when your marriage collapses, when the family collapses, when your finances collapses, when your retirement plan goes under; "I am going to laugh at your calamity." It is too late then. You are not going to be able to handle the adversity with doctrine because it is too late by then. "I will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes; when your dread comes like a storm and your calamity comes on like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come on you. Then they will call on me but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently but they shall not find me."
How many times does the pastor see people who just treat doctrine complacently and then the bottom falls out and they hit adversity and they come and it is too late at that point. They come and try to make up for lost time and it takes time to grow and to develop and to build spiritually. It does not happen quickly. There are no drive-through windows where you can get a take-home doctrinal meal that can satisfy your problems for that day. It involves an entire mindset, an entire frame of reference that has to be built over years, line upon line, precept upon precept. It doesn't just happen. "Then they will call on me but I will not answer. They will seek me diligently but they will not find me because they hated knowledge and did not choose." Notice the emphasis on volition.
It doesn't matter where you grew up. It doesn't matter your background. It doesn't matter what happened to you, if you were abused, if you weren't abused; if you were educated, uneducated; if you were impoverished or wealthy it is irrelevant; the issue is: do you choose to fear the LORD and learn wisdom or not; "because they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the LORD; they would not accept my counsel; they spurned my reproof; so they shall eat of the fruit of their own way." Whatever a man sows this he will also reap. It is the consequences of bad decisions. So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way and be satiated with their own devices for the waywardness of the naïve shall kill them; it is self-destructive. Later on in the Proverbs twice it says, "There is a way that seems right to man, but the end thereof is death." But he who listens to me shall live securely and shall be at ease from the dread of evil." That is exactly what was stated earlier in the proverb. The priority of wisdom is to get it now because when the time for application comes it is too late.
5. The prerequisite for wisdom is the fear of the LORD, more than just a simple attitude of respect for God. All kinds of people can have respect for God, but this is much more than that. This is foundational to understanding wisdom. It goes beyond just simple respect. There is a sense of almost dread or awe because you know deep in your soul that you don't absorb this knowledge, this doctrine, into your soul, but it permeates all of your decision making; that something catastrophic either in time or eternity is going to happen. In eternity it would be loss of rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ.
[The recording skipped.] use that phrase. It is used fourteen times in Proverbs. It is used in Proverbs 1:7, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge." The starting point is respecting God; it is a part of authority orientation. It is part of submitting to His will and His plan and His purposes. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and fools despise wisdom and instruction;" specifically wisdom and instruction from the Word. Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." This is the starting point, to understand God. We are going to see that when we get into our study in the second hour as we start a study of the doctrine of the Trinity. We have to understand who God is, what He is, and who He is in terms of His essential being because this in turn has implication for everything in reality.
Proverbs refers to the concept of fearing the LORD in some way or another over twenty two times. In Ecclesiastes the cognates for the noun yirah, which means "to fear" are used six times. They are to revere God, Ecclesiastes 3:14; we are to "stand in awe of God" in Ecclesiastes 5:7. The person is to "Fear God" in Ecclesiastes 7:18. You are to be reverent before God. The conclusion of Ecclesiastes is that having tried everything, the frantic search for happiness, to find meaning in life from all the details of life, the writer of Hebrews concludes that the purpose of man is to "fear God." That is the starting point of wisdom. It includes at least the concept of awe, respect, a sense of dread, and putting God first.
So for a definition: Fearing God means to acknowledge His superiority over man, to recognize His deity and thus respond in awe, humility, worship, love, trust and obedience. To fear God means that we acknowledge and recognize His superiority over us. We recognize His deity and respond in awe, humility, worship, love, trust and obedience. Fearing the LORD is a key concept throughout the Old Testament, but that tells us that this is the basic attitude and basic orientation of the soul of the person who is pursuing that servant characteristic. We go back to the Suzerain-vassal treaty form. Man is created to be God's representative. Adam fell in the Garden and then there is the Flood and there was the collapse at Babylon. God works a new program by calling out a new people, his name was Abram. Abraham is again given a covenant and through the nation Israel they are going to fulfill at least temporarily that role as the vassal to the Servant. They are to serve God. They are the servant nation and they are to be characterized by this.
It is no surprise to find the concept of "fearing the LORD" as a key concept throughout all of the Old Testament. When Abraham obeyed God's directive to sacrifice Isaac, God said, now I know that you fear God, Genesis 22:12. Job, who lived at about that same time was said to "fear God" in Job 1:1 and Job 2:3. Joseph told his brothers in Genesis 42:18, "I fear God." The Hebrew midwives who refused to slaughter all the babies "feared God more than they feared Pharaoh." The Israelites when they saw God's power in parting the waters of the Red Sea and destroying the Egyptians soldiers "feared the LORD and put their trust in Him" in Exodus 14:31. When Moses sought leaders, one of the key qualities they had to have was "a fear of God" in Exodus 19:21. After Moses gave the Ten Commandments he said that "fearing God would keep them from sinning" in Exodus 20:20. In Deuteronomy Moses continuously challenged the Israelites to "fear the LORD" in Deuteronomy 4:10, Deuteronomy 5:29; Deuteronomy 6:2; Deuteronomy 6:13: Deuteronomy 6:24; Deuteronomy 8:6; Deuteronomy 10:12; Deuteronomy 10:20; Deuteronomy 13:4; Deuteronomy 14:23; Deuteronomy 17:19; Deuteronomy 28:58; Deuteronomy 31:12-13.
That is a lot of references for fearing the LORD. That is the key concept they needed. The Israelites were also responsible for communicating that value to their children. We have seen that they failed to do that and the subsequent generation collapsed and we will study that in more detail when we get to the study of Judges. Fearing God was also associated with obeying the commands of the Law, the serving Him and with loving Him. References for "fearing the LORD" here in connection with all the major events in Israel's history: when they crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land in Joshua 2:24; in Joshua's farewell address at the renewal of the covenant in Joshua 24:14; before he died he again enjoins the nation to "fear God." Samuel repeated the injunction when he gave his farewell speech to the nation in 1 Samuel 12:14; Solomon emphasizes it in his prayer of dedication for the temple in 1 Kings 8:40; it is mentioned in association with several of the better kings of Israel, Jehoshaphat, Josiah, Hezekiah all "feared the LORD." It is a major theme in all of the Prophets. So for now we see this concept of "fearing the LORD" run from Genesis to Malachi; throughout the Old Testament it is a core concept for those who are to "trust the LORD."
Finally we see the wisdom that is infinitely associated with Creation theology; for example, Proverbs 3:19-20 we read, "By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundation." It refers to the skill, the beauty, the intricacy of everything in the Creation down to the subatomic particles at a microcellular level. "By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundation. By understanding He set the heavens in place. By His knowledge the deep was divided and the clouds dropped the dew." Then in Psalm 104:24. There are several Psalms that are also wisdom psalms. We read, "How may are Your works, O LORD! In wisdom You made them all. The earth is full of Your creatures." So the entire eco-system as originally created has an interrelationship based on God's wisdom. In Proverbs 8 wisdom is personified as being "with God." It could be a picture of the mind of Christ even, because we know from the New Testament that Jesus Christ carries out the creative decree of God. In Proverbs 8 wisdom is personified as being with God as He "set the heavens in place" in Proverbs 8:27.
So what we see from all of this is that wisdom is foundational to living a successful life. Therefore, we need to pay attention to what is in these particular Books. Job is the first of the wisdom Books. We don't know when Job was written. The author is unknown; the date is unknown. In fact the time is unknown. We are not sure when and we don't even know where the land of Uz existed where Job lived, but we assume that probably took place sometime between the Tower of Babel and the call of Abram. Nobody knows for sure, so that is just speculation. The fact is that Job has universal application and it answers the question of why there is evil, adversity and suffering in the world and it gives us that insight at the very beginning of the Book. Now Job does not know what is going on in Job 1. Turn with me and we will look briefly at Job the first chapter.
Job's problem is that he loses every thing and he's challenged to just curse God and die, but Job won't do it. He is frustrated with God and angry with God and demands God to answer him and explain why, but he never curses God. He does get out of fellowship and he does have a degree of failure, but he never curses God. But God never answers His question. Never once does God explain to Job why he has suffered, but He does say to Job, I am your God, trust Me in all things; that is all that matters. And Job's comment is, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." In these first chapters we see what is happening, God through the Holy Spirit of revelation pulls back the curtain on the heavens and we see what transpires in Job 1:6," Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them."
So we see that the "sons of God" refer to all the angels, demons as well as holy angels; and Satan comes. There is a periodic conversation of the demons and all the angelic hosts before the throne room of God. Job 1:7 And the Lord said to Satan, "From where do you come?" So he answers the LORD and says, "From roaming about on the earth, and walking around on it." So he is out cruising looking for victims. And the LORD says, Job1:8, "Have you considered My servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil?" So from that we infer that Job is a fairly mature believer; as a mature believer he is going to go through a category of testing called evidence testing – where his life is going to demonstrate to the angels in heaven as well as to man that God is indeed gracious and that His plan is good and perfect and wonderful.
So Satan says, in Job 1:9-21, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" This is his insult; nobody worships You, but all are in it for what You are going to give them. Nobody does it just because You are God and You have made a hedge about him and protected him and You have blessed him and you have given him material possessions. He is wealthy; he is like Bill Gates, nobody is as wealthy as Job in the ancient world. He had it all. Satan says if You take it all away from him he is just going to curse You. So God says, okay, you can test him. God gives permission to Satan in Job 1:12 and so from Job1:13-20 we see all of the things that Job loses: his livestock are plundered by foreign raiders; his servants are slaughtered; his sheep are destroyed by natural disaster; all of his family; all of his material possessions and family are wiped out in a single day; he looses everything except his wife. He might have regretted that the way she handled things.
Then through all that at the end, Job 1:22, "Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." So Satan is frustrated and he says well, let me attack him. So now he has the health test in Job 2; and then he has the friendship test following that where his three friends come, with friends like Job's who needs enemies? There problem is that they don't understand enough doctrine to come in out of the woods. They are like most Christians; they have a simplistic, superficial view of suffering. They think, well, the reason you are suffering (Job) is because you have done something bad. Job knows that he is upright before God. And so the rest of the Book is dialog between his three friends and Job and then Job's confrontation with God and God's response when He says, Job, I'm God, you are a creature, if we maintain that distinction I will do what is best and you don't need to know the answers. Your job is simply to trust Me. You have enough doctrine to do that, so do it. In the end Job did and God restored to Job everything that he had before it was lost.
So that is the issue in wisdom literature; to understand how God works. Proverbs 1:1-5 states it best in the opening verses: "To know wisdom and instruction and discern the sayings of understanding." We are to "receive instruction and wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity; to give prudence to the naïve, to the youth knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear and increase in learning and a man of understanding will require wise knowledge." This is our perfect. Now one thing you can do here; I mentioned this earlier. A great thing to study is to go through the Proverbs and if you look at the Proverbs in the way that they are laid out, the first nine chapters are the teacher's introduction. Then starting in Proverbs 10 there are collections of proverbs. Each one is independent. Each verse covers a different subject. There are a vast array of subjects. Then there are the last four Proverbs for appendices.
For your fathers this is a great thing for you to do; a family thing with your kids. Have your kids with you as well, start reading in Proverbs 10, you can go earlier as well, Proverbs the first nine chapters, and start categorizing the Proverbs according to subject matter and build something like a family training notebook where you take all the different categories of the Proverbs and then line them out according to subject matter and learn: what does God say? What is the mind of the LORD on all these different practical areas of life? It is a great way to approach many things to generate conversation and talking with your kids about all kinds of issues in life and it is all centered around doctrine. So that is just a little practical application from all of this.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed;
"Father, we do thank You for this time to gather for this tremendous wisdom that You have given us and insisted that we as believers because we possess the Scripture, which are the mind of Christ. We possess access to the wisdom of the ages, the wisdom that undergirds all Creation. Father, we pray that as we continue our study of Your Word in our Christian growth that we may be challenged not to treat doctrine lightly, but to make it the priority of our lives that we may be successful in our Christian life. That we may stand before You at the Judgment Seat of Christ and hear that we have been good and faithful servants.
Now Father, we pray that if there is anyone here this morning uncertain of their salvation that they would take this opportunity to make that sure. Salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. You don't have to join a church; you don't have to change your life; you don't have to do anything because Christ did it all at the Cross. There He paid the penalty for every single sin in our life past, present, and future. So all we need to do is trust Him. It is a free gift, not by works of righteousness that we have done, but according to His mercy we are saved. Father, we pray for those believers here that we will be challenged by the doctrines of Your Word that we have studied today, in Jesus' Name, Amen."