transcripts

Wisdom and Christ ( Proverbs 3:13-20)

WISDOM AND CHRIST JESUS (PROVERBS 3.13-20)
INTRO
Life throws all sorts of circumstances upon us. And God’s Wisdom is sufficient for us
to navigate all of life’s complexities.
And so, a lot of what we’ve heard over this series on Proverbs has been very practical.
We’ve heard about why, for example, it’s wise to be content. We’ve heard about why
it’s wise to be careful how we use our words. We’ve heard about being wise in our
friendships – in the situations of our lives whether we are in poverty or in riches. . .
and so on.
But here’s the thing. The Book of Proverbs is not a ‘how-to’ book. You’ve seen books
like that, haven’t you? How to Win Friends and Influence People; How to Make
Candles; How to Cook and so on.
We certainly get some of that in the Book of Proverbs. You’ll most likely get along
well in life if you follow the advice of the Book of Proverbs. And in some ways, it is a
book that teaches you ‘How to Do Life’.
But what this book offers is, really, much deeper than practical advice. The book
makes a much greater claim. It tells us that when you act in Godly Wisdom, you have
somehow made a deep connection with God himself. When you act wisely, you’re
enjoying union and communion with God.
And that’s what I want to look at this morning as we come to the final sermon in this
series.
This morning, I want to look at a short passage and then speak around it. So, turn
with me to Proverbs 3.13-18. I’ll be reading mostly from the NIV version of the
Bible. And I’ll be working through the passage verse by verse.
THE BLESSEDNESS OF FINDING WISDOM
13 Blessed are those who find wisdom,
those who gain understanding,
And, here you have it. Following the ‘Way of Wisdom’ is not just about being smart
about life, it’s about enjoying ‘blessedness’.
Well, what is ‘blessedness’? What is ‘beatitude’ (which is another word for
‘blessedness’?
Let me try and explain it this way: God has designed everything that he has created
to have its own unique purpose. The earthworm has its purpose. The soil that the
earthworm is burrowing through has its purpose. Every aspect of God’s creation has
a unique function.
God has designed humans to function according to our own unique purpose.
‘Blessedness’ or ‘beatitude’ is functioning according to the purpose that God has
designed for us. When humans function as God has designed us to operate, we enjoy
‘blessedness’.
So, what this proverb is telling us is that when we walk the way of wisdom – when we
are wise, for example, by being diligent or dependable, we are functioning as we
were designed to function. We are enjoying ‘blessedness’.
And ‘blessedness’ is much better than any of the other perks of wisdom. Let me read
ahead:
14 for she is more profitable than silver
and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
nothing you desire can compare with her.
Sure, all things being equal, acting wisely increases your chances of becoming
prosperous. But wisdom is much better than financial prosperity. In fact, if you think
that the whole point of being wise is that you’ll get rich, or that you’ll become
popular or that you’ll have fewer strains in your relationships – if that’s what you
think, well, then you’ve really missed the point of wisdom. Wisdom is better than
these perks.
Sure, there are other perks to acting wisely over the course of life. Reading on:
16 Long life is in her right hand;
in her left hand are riches and honour.
Some of the benefits of acting with godly wisdom is that you’re less likely to do
something stupid and endanger your life. And so, if you act in godly wisdom, you’ll
most likely avoid an early grave. You’ll most likely avoid doing something that will
compromise your reputation. But the worth of wisdom is better still. Let me read on:
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
and all her paths are peace.
So, walking the way of wisdom increases your chance of enjoying life in quantity
(that is to say, you have the chance of living longer). But now this proverb tells us
that you also have the chance of enjoying life in quality. Those who walk the way of
wisdom are usually at peace. They have a better quality of life.
But riches, honour, health and pleasantness are only the minor perks of walking the
way of Godly Wisdom. You see, if you decide, after reading the Book of Proverbs,
that you’re going to choose a wise course for your life because that way you’ll get
rich, you’ve set your sights too low. If at the end of this series, you’re thinking to
yourself, ‘You know what, I’m going to try and pursue God’s Wisdom because I’ll gain
a good reputation for myself, you’re still thinking too small. If you say to yourself,
‘Great if I live by God’s Wisdom, I’m likely to be healthier’, you’ve sold yourself too
short.
And here’s why. Wisdom’s offer to you is ‘blessedness’. You’re offered the chance to
live in your ‘sweet spot’. You’re offered the chance to experience the joy of
functioning as you were designed to function.
WISDOM IN GOD’S CREATION DESIGN
And this is what the passage tells us next:
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
those who hold her fast will be blessed.
Wisdom is a ‘tree of life’. Those who embrace her will be blessed.
THE SECOND CREATION ACCOUNT
THE ACCOUNT SUMMARISED
What does it mean for ‘wisdom’ to be a ‘tree of life’? To get our heads around that
imagery, we need to go back to the Book of Genesis where we find two accounts of
creation.
In the second account of creation (Genesis 2), we find God’s creation compared to a
beautiful garden in which God places humans. It’s perfect in every way. It’s
nourishing. It’s engaging. It’s fulfilling. It’s complete.
Now, God places two trees in the middle of this garden. The first is called ‘the Tree of
Life’ (Gen 2.9) and the second is called ‘the Tree of Knowledge’ (Gen 2.17).
The humans are given permission to enjoy all the garden (in other words, they are
permitted to enjoy all of God’s creation). They can enjoy the other animals. They can
even enjoy the ‘Tree of Life’.
There’s only one prohibition mentioned in that account. The humans are forbidden
to eat from the ‘Tree of Knowledge’. If they eat of it, they will surely die.
TWO OBSERVATIONS
I want you to notice couple of things from the account that will help us understand
the passage we’re reading:
Firstly, the real difference between the ‘Tree of Life’ and the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ is
that you partake of the ‘Tree of Knowledge’ by disobeying God’s command. And
disobeying God may mean ‘knowledge’ of sorts, but it also means death for the one
who partakes of it.
In other words, the two trees are really about obedience and disobedience to God.
Obedience is to have life and disobedience to experience death.
Secondly, I want you notice that not all knowledge (from God’s perspective) is lifegiving. You often hear folk puzzle about why God would prevent humans from
partaking of knowledge. Is God just keeping people from information so that he can
exercise power over them? Surely, you would think, that there’s nothing wrong in
knowing everything there might be to know.
And the answer to that is, no, that’s wrong! There are many things not worth
knowing. Even God, for example, doesn’t know what it feels like to be Satan. God has
experienced the consequences of evil, but God doesn’t know evil from an insider’s
perspective, from the perspective of the one who commits evil.
That’s the point that the Creation Account is making. All knowledge is not life-giving.
Only knowledge that comes in surrender – only knowledge that comes out of an
obedience to God, gives life. If we pursue knowledge apart from God, we take the
road of death.
WISDOM AND THE TREE OF LIFE
Okay, let’s return now to the proverb. ‘Wisdom’, the proverb tells us, ‘is a tree of life
to those who cling to her’.
What that means is that whatever we seek to know in life – whatever information we
may seek to gain – whatever smarts that we may hope to acquire – we aren’t really
acting wisely until we bring all that information under the submission to God.
Or, let me put it in a way that you’ve heard mentioned several times over this series.
If we don’t begin with the ‘fear of the Lord’, if we don’t begin with the reverence of
God, all the information you want to possess will really mean ‘death’ and not life.
For example, we may have gained the knowledge that if you split the nucleus of an
atom, you’ll get an incredible release of energy. If you’re not wise with that
information, you’ll think it’s fine to create an atomic bomb that can reduce an entire
city to rubble with all its inhabitants in it.
Wisdom is about knowing how the ‘Fear of God’ applies to all the information we
seek. So, for example, we may discover that we are able to find amazing treatments
for rare and terminal illnesses. You learn that you can find cures by taking a few stem
cells from a human embryo. You also discover that there’s no way of taking those
cells without killing the embryo who has (from the Bible’s perspective) all the dignity
and worth of a human person.
You see, God’s Wisdom is always informed by the Fear of the Lord. True Wisdom that
is learned from obedience to God tells us that if we don’t consider God, we can end
up doing some terrible things with the knowledge we’ve acquired.
Wisdom is not just about knowledge. It’s about knowing the right things and
knowing it in surrender to God. And when we are wise in this way, we experience the
very life of God. We enjoy blessedness. We live as we were designed to live.
WISDOM BEFORE CREATION
If you notice in the Creation account, the ‘Tree of Life’ appears as a feature of God’s
Creation (the tree is part of the garden)? So, the question is: Is Wisdom just one of
God’s many creations?
If you read ahead in this passage, we learn something quite surprising:
19 By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations,
by understanding he set the heavens in place;
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided,
and the clouds let drop the dew.
And here’s what we discover. Wisdom has been around before God creates anything
– before God lays the foundations of creation – before God orders nature’s cycles
and rhythms.
The picture here is a of an architect building a house. And the architect has plans in
his own head before the building is made. And the point I’m trying to make is that
Wisdom isn’t one of God’s creatures. She exists before God has created anything.
I’d love to read you another passage from Proverbs that goes into a lot more detail. I
won’t read it this morning, but if you get a chance jot this proverb down and read it
when you get a chance. It’s Proverbs 8.22-31. It tells us a bit more about Wisdom’s
role in Creation.
WISDOM AND THE IDENTITY OF GOD
Now this is the puzzle. We know from the rest of Scriptures that the only being that
exists before creation is God. We also know from Scriptures that this God is One and
there’s not another, apart from him. We know from Scriptures that it’s only after God
creates, that we start seeing other entities, beings, objects and things emerging.
And yet Wisdom seems to be serving as a sort of ‘advisor’ to God. God seems to be
making things by the instrument (‘by means’ or ‘through’) Wisdom. You could
perhaps see all this as simply a figure of speech. Wisdom is just being personified. It’s
being treated as if it were a person.
I might, for example, say ‘I was planning to go to the park, but the rain didn’t care for
my plans’. Well, the ‘rain’ doesn’t do things like that. It doesn’t feel care or lack of it.
Persons do. We might personify the ‘rain’.
Is Wisdom just being personified?
You’ll be interested to know that there were Jewish writers living some 200 years
before the New Testament was written. They also seem to struggle to understand the
role of Wisdom before creation. There are a few places where Wisdom is described
as sitting on the Divine Throne, giving counsel to God (1 Enoch 84.2-3; 2 Enoch 33.4;
Wis 9.4, 10; cf. Is 40.13). Now, remember no one gets to sit on God’s throne other
than God.
So, these Jewish writers seem to be saying that Wisdom is really part of the very
identity of the One God who they worship.
But they leave this question open-ended.
CHRIST AS THE WISDOM OF GOD
PAUL
Now, let’s leave the Old Testament. Let’s leave these Jewish writers who are trying to
make sense of Wisdom in the Old Testament. Let’s fast forward to the New
Testament.
Let’s go to Paul. Remember Paul has the benefit of living after the coming of Jesus.
He has seen the risen Jesus. Paul knows that the Old Testament seems to link
Wisdom closely with God. Paul knows that there were things hinted about Wisdom in
the Old Testament that wasn’t quite so clear.
But, now Jesus has come. It’s all clear. Wisdom is the second person of the One God
who has always been Trinity.
Let me read something Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians.
1 Corinthians 8.6 (NLT):
6 But for us,
There is one God, the Father,
by whom all things were created,
and for whom we live.
And there is one Lord, Jesus Christ,
through whom all things were created,
and through whom we live.
This is what Paul is saying, ‘Do you remember how in the Old Testament we heard
that God created all things? Well, that was the Father creating all things. And do you
remember how in the Old Testament it was said that God created all things through
Wisdom. Well, that was referring to the pre-existent Christ through whom all things
were created.
JOHN
We fast forwarded to Paul. Let’s rewind back about 50 years. I’m reading from John’s
Gospel. He’s describing the coming of Wisdom. He’s describing the coming of the
Son of God into the world in the person of Jesus Christ. John refers to this preexistent Jesus as ‘the Word’. Let me read from John 1.1-4:
John 1.1-4 (NIV):
1
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through
him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been
made. 4
In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
Jesus Christ is the Wisdom of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God,
the Word become flesh.
MATTHEW
You see, when you watch Jesus teach, when you watch Jesus live out his earthly life,
do you know what you see? You see what the Wisdom of God looks like in flesh. So,
what you notice is Jesus saying ‘wise things’. But you notice Jesus doing those very
wise things he was talking about. He is ‘Wisdom in Flesh’.
Let me give you a few examples before I close. Jesus says, ‘Blessed’ (by the way,
there’s that word again we find connected with ‘wisdom’). Jesus says, ‘Blessed are the
merciful’ and then you watch Wisdom Incarnate in action. What do you see him do?
You see him ‘showing mercy’ to the outcast, the demon possessed, the oppressed
and the sick.
Jesus says, ‘Do not resist the evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek,
turn the other also’ (Mt 5.39). And then, you watch what wisdom looks like in the
‘Word become Flesh’. Jesus is spat upon. He is struck and slapped. He doesn’t resist
the evildoer.
Jesus says, ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake’. That’s
exactly what happens to Wisdom Incarnate. He is only good. He is Perfectly
righteous. Yet, they accuse him falsely. They give him an unjust trial. They, then
execute, him for a crime he never committed. He is persecuted for the sake of
righteousness.
That’s what Wisdom incarnate looks like.
CONCLUSION: THE BLESSEDNESS OF BEING ‘IN CHRIST’, OUR WISDOM
Here’s what I’m trying to say. Do you want the ‘blessedness’ that comes from finding
Wisdom? Find Christ Jesus who is Wisdom Incarnate.
Do you want the flourishing that comes from embracing the Tree of Life? Cling to
Jesus? Do you want the knowledge that will enable you to navigate the complexities
of life? Find that knowledge in Christ Jesus.
When you plug into Jesus through faith in him, you plug into the very energy and
activity of the God who created this universe.
When you plug into Jesus you, plug into the very Wisdom of God.
The Wisdom of God can be accessed to everyone one through Christ Jesus, our Lord
who is Wisdom Incarnate.