It seems that wisdom is something everyone in the world wants and something we all believe is valuable. For example, in our day, as the economy is seeing hard times, one can find numerous books on wise investing. And yet our quest for wisdom is not limited to the financial realm. A quick search on the internet can lead one to materials on eating a wise diet, making a wise college or career choice, wisdom for everyday living, and even becoming baby wise in scheduling your infant’s naps and meals.
And we’re willing to pay for it. Obviously publishers don’t continue to publish books that don’t sell, so we should assume that consumers are buying them. In fact, it may be that the greatest financial move you can make in a down economy is to write a book on making wise financial investments.
Yet, our day and time is no exception. In 1 Kings 10, we read that the Queen of Sheba gave Solomon spices, very much gold, and precious stones in order to have him answer her questions. Everyone in the world craves wisdom.
Nor are we in the church some exception. Consider our prayer requests on Sunday nights. Often they are for wisdom in knowing what job to take, what to do now that our job is going away, what to do with our children, how to handle our siblings’ rebellion, and on and on and on. But all of them are a request for wisdom. Consider your own life right now, aren’t there a number of things that you would feel much less anxious about if you just knew you were doing the wise thing? Wouldn’t it be easier to continue doing what you’re doing or do something drastically different, if you only knew you were doing what was wise?
Well, it’s no secret that the Bible treasures wisdom as well. In fact, the whole section of books in which Proverbs falls in the Scripture is known as wisdom literature. And of those books, Proverbs is at the top of the list. If you want to know wisdom, you are right to study this book as we’ve been doing. But even in Proverbs, chapter 8 seems to rise above the other chapters. Tremper Longman (whose commentary on Proverbs is excellent) tells us that “Chapter 8 is the most . . . profound chapter in the book.”1 If you want to know about wisdom, why we should get it, and what are its benefits, then chapter 8 will remind us.
So, as those who know we so desperately need wisdom, in the midst of a world that craves wisdom, let’s consider what Proverbs 8 tells us about wisdom?
I want to start out by looking at verses 22-31, because I first want us to see what we are talking about when we speak of wisdom. In these verses, we see that . . .
The wisdom mentioned in this chapter is the very wisdom of God
In this chapter, once again wisdom is personified. That is, wisdom takes on the characteristics of being a person. And in this chapter, she is a female, whom Solomon is telling all his sons that they should desire. Whereas in the last chapter he was telling them to stay away from the adulteress, in this chapter he is telling them to desire this woman who is wisdom itself. And in verses 22-31, this woman wisdom tells us somewhat of an autobiographical account of herself. Wisdom lets us know what it is.
We read in these verses: “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.”
Now, I did leave out a portion of Tremper Longman’s quote from earlier. He actually said of this chapter, “Chapter 8 is the most difficult and profound chapter in the book.” And I think the reason it’s seen as the most difficult chapter is because of this section. What does it mean that wisdom was the first of God’s acts of old, that wisdom existed before the earth began, that wisdom that present at creation, and that wisdom was beside the Lord, rejoicing before him always? These are hard questions. And some have suggested that wisdom is being pictured here at Jesus Christ. After all, we know that the Son was indeed present with the Father before creation, was the one through whom all things were created, and would absolutely have rejoiced before the Father always. Furthermore, we know that in 1 Corinthians 1:24, Jesus Christ is called “the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
But instead of trying to figure out how lady wisdom in this chapter is a type of Jesus Christ, it is best simply to acknowledge that wisdom in Proverbs 8 is nothing less that the very wisdom of God. I think we might be pressing the language a bit too much to insist that the text says that wisdom was “brought forth,” meaning “created,” which wouldn’t fit the suggestion that the wisdom spoken of here is God’s wisdom, for it is God’s very wisdom, then it would have always existed even as he has always existed. Rather, the idea that wisdom is suggesting is better understood, it seems, as that of preeminence. That is, wisdom was seen as superior from the beginning as God was creating the world, for it was the very wisdom of God.
This means that when God was creating the world, he was doing it according to his very own wisdom. He wasn’t taking his cues from another or asking another to counsel him, he was working according to his own wise will and character. Therefore, as we look at the world around us and even consider the complexities of our own bodies, we are beholding the wisdom of God. It was God’s wisdom that considered stars, trees, humming birds, horses, mountain lions, the sun and moon, oceans, fish, etc. It was God’s wisdom that decided the sea would stop at the shore, that there would be mountains and fields, and on and on. These things are a display of the very wisdom of God.
So, what we’re talking about this morning when we talk about wisdom is not simply what man has figured out in his trial and error about how to best live life. We are considering the very wisdom of God, the very wisdom which God displayed when he created the world. Could you imagine having that wisdom available to you? Well, the good new is that it is. In fact, I think this is the point of 8:1-5.
Wisdom is readily available to us
We saw this in chapters 1-2 already, but note how woman wisdom is presented in these verses. We read, “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: ‘To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense” (1-5).
Do you see how available God’s wisdom is presented to us? She calls out, raises her voice, is found beside the way, at the crossroads in the center of town, at the gates of the entrance to the city, and is continually crying out to be heard. This is not a picture of being at the bottom of a mine shaft so that we don’t have access to it. Rather, it seems that if we don’t have wisdom, we have only ourselves to blame. That is to say, the most important qualification for having wisdom is that we want wisdom.
I remember my college roommate talking about a girl in college that he is now married to. She was a lovely girl, sweet, godly, simply attractive in numerous ways. And he said, “You know what’s most attractive about her? I think she likes me.” Indeed, it can no doubt put a damper on one’s attractiveness in your eyes if they want nothing to do with you.
Yet this desire for wisdom seems to be the utmost qualification. And isn’t that our problem so often? In C. S. Lewis’s famous quote he says, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.”
That’s, no doubt, what we might say in regard to wisdom. Consider, for example, the excitement you might feel if the Lord Jesus Christ were all of the sudden to appear in this room and tell you, “I am about to give you my wisdom. In fact, I’m going to put it in this box, and should you want wisdom, just come, open the box, and grow in wisdom yourself.” Then he disappeared. Aside from the fact that God the Son had appeared to you, wouldn’t you go around telling people what you had in your box. You would not worry about pacing yourself but would go to the box again and again and again. I mean, you’d have the very wisdom of God.
Yet, consider what the Scripture is. It is God’s very wisdom – God’s very words – isn’t it? And consider that God tells us that we can ask him for wisdom and he gives generously in James 1. Furthermore, God’s wisdom is more valuable than treasures in this world. That’s what we read in verses 10-11, “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.”
So, if God’s wisdom is readily available to us and is to be desired above riches in this world, let’s ask ourselves how diligently we’re pursuing wisdom. The Bible is indeed like that box full of divine wisdom in our illustration, so do we give ourselves time to reading it, dedicate ourselves to hearing it preached, even memorizing portions of it to store up in our hearts? If not, then we dare not complain that we lack wisdom. Wouldn’t that be like turning down an invitation to go out and have fun and then complaining that there’s nothing fun to do?
Perhaps we should ask ourselves as well how often we actually make wisdom the focus of our requests in prayer. If wisdom is more valuable than riches, then we should no doubt spend more time praying for wisdom than greater finances, shouldn’t we? We should long for wisdom in prayer more than even our own health? But is that descriptive of our prayers, or do we settle for focusing on lesser things?
You see, there is nothing that keeps us from wisdom but the smallness of our own desires. We are so easily drawn in to being content with lesser things that we ignore wisdom’s call to us. Let this reminder, then, spur us on to desire God’s wisdom, seek God’s wisdom in the Word and in prayer, and then to walk in wisdom.
But wisdom doesn’t simply tell us that it is readily available, we also find out that . . .
Wisdom will show itself in righteous living
Perhaps we might ask the question, “How will I know if I truly have wisdom?” That is a good question. But wisdom tells us something about herself in verses 6-9 and verse 13. There, we read, “Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips, all the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge. . . . The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.”
Wisdom tells us that there are certain things that characterize her. She speaks noble things, says what is right, utters truth, hates wickedness and evil, and loves righteousness. Well, the implication is that if you possess wisdom you will become like her. Just as you can’t possess baldness and have a thick, full head of hair, so you cannot have wisdom and walk in wickedness.
So, one of the ways that you will know that you are growing in wisdom is that you will see wisdom bearing the fruit of righteous living in your life.
Some will tell us that you need something more than what the Scripture can give you if you want to see your life change because Scripture can just give us knowledge. It is, after all, a book. You don’t just read a book on diet and exercise, for example, and all of the sudden lose weight and become healthy.
But wisdom is different. As wisdom takes root in our hearts, it does change us. So, just as you don’t have to worry about missing wisdom if you’ll invest yourself in learning the Scripture, so you don’t have to worry about missing out on developing righteous living if you’re truly letting the Word take root in your heart. For the word is wisdom, and wisdom produces righteous living. Remember, it is right before Paul talks about loving your neighbor, walking in thankfulness, living our marriage well, handling work relationships well, and other aspects of living the Christian life well that he says, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16). He is telling us that the Word of God produces these things in your life. If you focus on all the external actions and do not store the Word up in your heart, your change will be short-lived. But if you consistently store God’s wisdom in your minds and hearts, you will find your life characterized by righteous living.
We also see that . . .
Wisdom brings other benefits in this life
In verses 12-21 wisdom tells us all her benefits. Just listen to what she does and what she brings to the one who possesses her: “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. . . . I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength. By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly. I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.”
Wisdom gives insight and strength, kings wisdom in reigning, princes wisdoms to govern, riches and honor, wealth and righteousness, and an inheritance. Wisdom brings many benefits. Now, this is not to say that if you obey the Scripture you’ll be healthy and wealthy. We know many who have been godly and without either. But it is suggesting a general truth that those who decide not to honor God by submitting to his wisdom do not win in this life in general.
Take, for example, the man who does not submit to God’s wisdom that we saw last week in Proverbs 5-7 about sexual sin. Is that guy who’s pursuing the adulterous and walking in immorality really get the riches of this life? No. The text told us last week that it will cost you much to go that route.
I know a man who has been married twice, committed adultery on both, and now rarely has contact with his children. To this day, I’m sure, he’s chasing the supposed pleasures of his next partner. But I think that as he takes vacation, walks the beach, and sees a dad sitting there building sandcastles with his kids while he walks along the sand, looking for his next object of lust, I can’t imagine he thinks he’s getting out of life its deepest blessings.
You see, what this text is saying is that in God’s ordered world, God’s wisdom tells us how to live. There is blessing in working hard, being faithful, and treasuring insight and knowledge. And on the contrary, laziness will catch up with you, immorality and unfaithfulness will leave you empty-handed, and foolishness will not ultimately profit. That’s why wisdom reminds us of her benefits here. God’s ways are indeed the best ways. Proverbs teaches us here how we need to live in God’s ordered world, and that begins with submitting to God’s wisdom, getting all the wisdom you can, and obeying wisdom’s instruction.
Yet, we can all point to exceptions, can’t we? There is the individual who seems to have defied God’s wisdom and is profiting. Perhaps we’ve envied him. He’s promoted himself and it’s worked. She’s been unfaithful and seems to be finding much pleasure. He’s been lazy, yet has a rich inheritance. So, what do we say to this?
The answer is that . . .
Only those who pursue true wisdom will have eternal life
The chapter ends with wisdom saying, “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (32-36).
If we begin to get wisdom but submitting to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith (which is required if we indeed fear the Lord), then the greatest benefit of submitting to God’s Word and to God’s wisdom is that we will have eternal life. Conversely, God is not mocked, and the one who spurns God’s wisdom and seeks after sin will on that final day be thrown into the lake of fire called hell. The one who spurns wisdom, the text reminds us, loves death.
Therefore, the call today is for us to first bow our knee to Jesus Christ who lived, died, and was raised so that we might believe in him and have eternal life. Then, as those who continually look to the gospel in faith, let us be found eager to know more of God’s wisdom, walking in righteousness, and demonstrating in our lives the wisdom of God, all of which will not be known until we hear on that final day, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Amen.