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Sun, Jun 09, 2013

20 - Wisdom Brings Life [b]

Proverbs 8:22-36 by Robert Dean
Does God know more today than He did in the past? Is He learning from what is happening around Him? Listen to this lesson to find out how God's knowledge has no beginning and no end and that when He began His creation, He already knew all that is knowable. See how living by God's truths leads to stability, contentment, and happiness that doesn't depend on what's going on around us. Discover the contrast between the rich full life of those who find wisdom and the death-like existence of those who hate wisdom.
Series:Proverbs (2013)
Duration:45 mins 29 secs

Wisdom Brings Life. Proverbs 8:22-36

 

This week (June, 2013) things continue to come as revelations about our government—numerous scandals, numerous illegal activities conducted against people in this country because of their political and some of their religious beliefs. We also come to understand that under the guise of security there have been continual and egregious invasions of individual privacy, so that the freedom that we have often talked about and believed that we have has become more and more illusory. In fact, it is perhaps a thing of the past. There have been many who have warned about this over the past fifteen or twenty years and it is indeed a frightful thing. But it is not something that we as believers should be too overwhelmed by because we know that we are living in the devil's world and that the trend in the devil's world is darkness. It is away from freedom; it is always in the direction of tyranny. But the basic orientation of the human heart and the sin nature is to tyrannize, not to give freedom.

 

We have lived for 300 years in this continent benefiting from the tremendous impact of the scriptural studies and scriptural orientation of the colonists and founding fathers. Whether they were actual believers or not may be in question but the fact is that they were taught and educated and their ethics and their value system came out of a framework that was heavily influenced by a Judeo-Christian understanding of the law and of absolutes.

 

But as we go forward and further away from that heritage there are fewer and fewer things that we can count on. We can't even count anymore on the rule of law. A comment was seen this morning: "What we are witnessing right now is the total collapse of the rule of law in the United States." And that is true. We are witnessing not only a collapse here in the United States but we are witnessing it in western Europe and around the world. We live in a time period with its zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, is pure relativism. This is not anything new but it is new in our experience, especially in the United States. We are reaping the consequences of about a 150-year slide into moral relativism so that nobody really understands absolutes anymore. And neither can they live on the basis of absolutes, so everything becomes relative.

 

There are numerous reports coming out about the infiltration of Sharia law through the courts of Germany, England and other nations in Europe. Once again it is the same thing. We have lost sight of what absolutes are, and this won't get any better. But we do have hope as believers, and there is one place where there are eternal truths that never change. Those eternal truths are expressed in Proverbs under the term "wisdom." This isn't just a knowledge of what the Bible says, not just information from the Scriptures. It goes beyond that. Wisdom isn't knowledge and knowledge isn't information. We live in the information age and people often think that because they are exposed to some information or can acquire information and knowledge that somehow that makes them smarter, wiser. But it doesn't. Wisdom, especially when we talk about biblical wisdom, is something that goes far beyond just simple knowledge of facts and data and information. And spiritually, wisdom in the life of the believer is taking the spiritual knowledge that we have learned under the study of the Word of God by the power of the Holy Spirit and developed a skill set in terms of application.

 

It takes a long time to develop that. You don't get wisdom simply because you have applied doctrine, claimed a promise, manage to pray and read your Bible today; it is something that accumulates over time. It produces in our lives a work of artistic value. And this goes all the way back, we learn from this passage, to God's creation. 

 

 When we look at wisdom when it is personified as it is in this chapter it is really the expression of the omniscience of God. It is the outworking of all that He knows. And God's omniscience is intuitive, direct. He always knew everything that there is to know. He doesn't increase or decrease in His knowledge. But in terms of expressing that remarkable wisdom that God has, we can imitate to a degree because of our knowledge of God's Word, that wonderful wisdom that God has is expressed in the creation through the beauty, the artistry and aesthetics of His creation. When we observe the intricacies of God's creation we come to recognize that these things are not just functional. God didn't just create a functional universe but it has beauty and artistry, and that is all bundled up in the biblical concept of wisdom. But wisdom comes from the essence of God, from His attributes. Therefore it is related to all three members of the Godhead.

 

In the closing part of the introduction—the first nine chapters which present ten lessons from the father to the son—there are now two closing sections in chapters eight and nine which present the appeal of wisdom to all of humanity. It closes out with the fact that there is a choice, and the choice for each of us is: Are we going top choose the path or the way of wisdom, the way of God, or are we going to choose the path of the fool?

 

Wisdom is the outworking of the Omniscience of God. In terms of the value of wisdom. Too often wisdom is not valued by us. There is one statement in the New Testament which gives us an idea of how we ought to prioritize this. In Matthew 12:42 as Jesus is uttering a condemnation and judgment upon His generation: NASB "{The} Queen of {the} South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here." There is a pattern here. The Queen of Sheba left her kingdom, everything, travelling for many weeks to get to Jerusalem to learn of the wisdom of Solomon. How many people today are unwilling to get in their air-conditioned car and drive for 20-30 minutes to hear the wisdom of Solomon?Our priorities are all askew.But something greater is here than the wisdom that we have of Solomon in the Old Testament, we have the Lord Jesus Christ who is the incarnation of the wisdom of God. And we have the teaching of the New Testament but people don't want to come and hear that, they are too busy to prioritize the Word of God.

 

What God performs is done on the basis of knowledge (His omniscience) but with skill and artistry. Again and again in this opening section of Proverbs we have emphasized that what wisdom gives us is the ability to really live life well, to live life as God would have us live; not necessarily with all of the trappings of success because it is not based upon how much we have materially, but it is based on what we have in our souls so that whatever our external circumstances might be the internal reality allows us to live fully and joyfully whatever else is going on around us.

 

We have seen that wisdom is an eternal attribute of God. It is related to His knowledge which is eternal, so that wisdom itself it eternal, it doesn't have a beginning. This is important to understand in terms of the personification that we find in this chapter. And this we also see that this is part of the deity of Christ because Jesus Christ is eternal God.

 

In the early church this chapter and this section (vv. 22-31) had a significant role to play, but only because they had a little problem with the way they interpreted Scripture. By the early fourth century they were influenced by allegorical and spiritual interpretation, and so they looked at this praise of wisdom and identified that with Christ. They tended to interpret everything with Proverbs 8:22-31 as talking about Jesus Christ, so that wisdom here was seen not as a personification of the omniscience of God but as a personification of Jesus Christ. While there is an application there that is not what the text is saying. But this wisdom expresses the omniscience that is in every member of the Godhead. In 1 Corinthians 1:24 NASB "but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." In the early church they would take a passage like that and say it identifies wisdom in the Old Testament as Christ. What it is saying is Christ in the incarnation was a revelation to us of God's wisdom (one of many). Jesus Christ exhibits for us in His life, wisdom. We see it in the many ways He deals with confrontations with the Pharisees. He doesn't back down, but His responses are very sophisticated and He uses a tremendous amount of skill in His wise responses.

But that wisdom and knowledge that Paul describes in Colossians 2:3 becomes the foundation in His argument in Colossians 2 for the spiritual life. We cannot live our spiritual life apart from the knowledge and the expression of that knowledge in wisdom. We can't live it on any other basis.

Wisdom summarizes the end result of the application of doctrine in the life of the believer. 1 Corinthians 2:6  Yet we do speak wisdom among those who are mature …" The Word of God expresses wisdom and the teaching of the Word of God teaches wisdom. "… a wisdom, however, not of this age nor of the rulers of this age, who are passing away." There is a contrast. You can be wise in the way of the world or you can be wise in the way of God. Wise in the way of the world may relate to academics or it may relate to understanding a skill or profession, but what will transform the life, a skill or profession, is when it is done within the framework of the wisdom of God's Word. 

Wisdom is what the apostles taught; wisdom is what is embedded in the revelation of the New Testament, but we are to let that wisdom richly dwell within us. Colossians 3:16 NASB "Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms {and} hymns {and} spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God." The wisdom here in the structure of this verse becomes the foundation for our ability to minister to one another—teaching and admonishing one another in psalms. So that teaching and admonishing in the context isn't just through speech but it is through the psalms that we sing, the hymns that we sing, specifically in this context. That is part of the worship through psalms and hymns. But that comes out of wisdom, and so it is necessary to grow in wisdom that we may enhance our worship and our mutual encouragement of one another.

Colossians 4:5 NASB "Conduct yourselves with [by means of] wisdom toward outsiders [unbelievers], making the most of the opportunity." We are to live our life on the basis of wisdom.

It should be a focal point in our prayer. Colossians 1:9 NASB "For this reason also, since the day we heard {of it,} we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." This should be part of our daily prayer. We should be praying that God will fill us with wisdom and understanding of His Word as we study, and that this would manifest itself in the decisions we make in our lives every day. One particular area where this is important is in the promise in James 1:5 NASB "But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him." This is in the context of testing and dealing with adversity in life. So our personal prayers for our own spiritual life should focus on praying that God would develop wisdom within us from our study of His Word.

Proverbs 8:22-31 is an integral section dealing with the value of wisdom, answering the question, Why should we really pay attention to wisdom? Why should this be such a priority? That is because wisdom is part of the very makeup of God Himself. If wisdom was an integral part of God's creativity then wisdom should be a part of our day-to-day life, in whatever realm of life we might be. If wisdom was integral in God's creation of the world, even more so His wisdom should be integral to our life in everything that we do.

We can break this section down into two stanzas. Verses 22-26 focus on the eternal nature of wisdom as part of the eternal attributes of God. Verses 27-31 focus on wisdom as being integral to God's creating and sustaining of the universe. 

Then, when we come to the conclusion in vv. 32-36 we are challenged to pay attention to this and to implement wisdom in our life, for that is the path of blessing (34) and is the path of life (35, 36). To refuse wisdom is to choose death and unhappiness in life.

Wisdom is that which is eternal: 22-26. Proverbs 8:22 NASB "The LORD possessed me …" The word translated "possessed" is the Hebrew word qana which is used a number of times in Proverbs in the sense of acquisition of something—1:5; 4:5, 7; 16:16; 17:16; 18:15. It has the idea of possessing something, getting something, having something that is part of someone. The best nuance of it is the idea that the Lord possessed me. There is a shift in terms of representing wisdom in one way in the first 21 verses; it is expressing the wisdom that is part of the attributes of God. "The Lord possessed me." In other words, I was part of what made up the essence, the attributes of God. Wisdom is the expression of God's omniscience, His knowledge. "… at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old." 'At the beginning' is a term that could be first in priority, first in order, first in time, indicating that when God began His creation He already possessed wisdom. The emphasis that we see through here is really that before God did anything, before He created anything in the universe, wisdom was already present. "His way" is a good translation because it emphasizes and ties together the fact that we have seen these synonyms 'way' and 'path' used throughout Proverbs 1-9. We need to choose the right path, and the path that God has is the path of wisdom. That characterizes God's path and God's direction. "Before His works of old." Notice in v. 23, "From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth [or, before there was ever an earth]." Prior to anything that God did wisdom was present. 

 

In vv. 23-27 there are various temporal prepositions: before, when, while as yet. These prepositions are indicating time or temporal priority. And so it is a very simple message that wisdom has here: before there was anything there was wisdom, before there was anything there was God, and so the connection is made between God and wisdom.

Proverbs 8:23 NASB "From everlasting I was established, From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth." The word translated "From everlasting" is m'olam which is a word for eternity past basically. It indicates that before time ever began, in eternity past, wisdom existed. That is defined here, not as the beginning of the earth but before there was a beginning.

Proverbs 8:24 NASB "When there were no depths …" Remember in Genesis chapter one the Holy Spirit hovers over the depths. "… I was brought forth, When there were no springs abounding with water." In the early creation (Gen. 2) we are told that the earth from these fountains. This is a description of the early stages of creation. [25] "Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills I was brought forth; [26] While He had not yet made the earth and the fields, Nor the first dust of the world." The point is simple. Through the compound use of these temporal clauses wisdom is saying, 'I was there before God made anything.'

Then we see that wisdom not only preexisted everything and was part of the very attributes of God, but wisdom was integral, a vital and necessary element in the work of God. The implication of that is that if this is vital to God's creation, then how much more vital and necessary it is to whatever area of labor we are involved in. Whatever responsibilities we have, if God used wisdom to create the universe then it is encumbent upon us to use His wisdom in whatever area of responsibility we have. Proverbs 8:27 NASB "When He established the heavens, I was there …" See the emphasis on the presence, the necessity which is developed from this first thought. "… When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep, [28] When He made firm the skies above, When the springs of the deep became fixed, [29] When He set for the sea its boundary So that the water would not transgress His command, When He marked out the foundations of the earth." These are all things that were accomplished in those six days of restoration and recreation in Genesis 1:2ff.

Conclusion drawn: Proverbs 8:30 NASB "Then I was beside Him, {as} a master workman; And I was daily {His} delight, Rejoicing always before Him." This is poetic imagery, it is not saying that wisdom is something separate from God; it is expressing it that way to show that there was this integral partnership between God's creation and His wisdom. God delighted in what He was creating. He took pleasure in the artistry. [31] "Rejoicing in the world, His earth, And {having} my delight in the sons of men." So in these verses 22-31 we are challenged to make the wisdom part of our life because if it was necessary for God how much more necessary it is for us.

The concluding challenge (32-36). [32] "Now therefore …" This concludes the whole chapter. "…{O} sons, listen to me, For blessed are they who keep my ways." Blessing is mentioned in v. 32 and v. 34. This is more than happiness, more than joy. It is a sense of stability, tranquility, contentment, happiness in life that is completely divorced from circumstances.  [33] "Heed instruction and be wise, And do not neglect {it.} [34] "Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts." This isn't something you do just once a week or even three times a week; it is daily discipline in the life of the believer. You can't get wisdom by doing it occasionally. This is a priority, something that we study every single day. We are to hear instruction and be wise, and not to disdain it, not to treat is disrespectfully or casually. 

Proverbs 8:35 NASB "For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the LORD." Wisdom does not come through external circumstances, wisdom comes through an internal knowledge of God's Word that is matured to the point of wisdom and skill at living.

The contrast: Proverbs 8:36 NASB "But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death." Life and death here is not necessarily eternal life or eternal condemnation. That is certainly an implication. But it has to do with daily living. Jesus said: "I came not to steal and destroy like a thief, but to give life, and to give it abundantly." God wants us as believers to have a rich, full life, a life that is not based on the highs and lows of the experiences that we face through the details of life, but one that is richly informed by the capacity that we develop through God's Word. And that cannot be developed haphazardly; it has to be something we set ourselves to, something that we seek diligently (8:17). He who ignores it reaps the reward of a death-like experience. But the one who absorbs it, the one who takes in the Word, the one who grows spiritually, is the one who has a rich, full life; a life of great meaning that has eternal value.