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The beginning and meaning of wisdom

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By Pr Isaiah White

Proverbs 1:7 says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” However, a few of us have pondered what that really means. About wisdom, Jack Wellman said: “For the Christfollower, it isn’t a fear of being struck dead or the fear of hell, but a reverential holy fear, respect, and having a high regard for God and His Word.”

Where there is a deep reverence for God and His Word, you will fi nd wisdom, but if you still lack wisdom after all this, then do what James tells us: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).

Wisdom is divine inspiration

The book of Proverbs argues that the only good and right choices are godly choices. In other words, wisdom is having our volitional capacities and mental faculties under the influence of the all-knowing God who is the source of wisdom. This divine influence on individual talents, exposure and potential is what the experts call inspiration.

Wisdom is an influence on our particular talents, exposure and potential to make our existing intellectualism wise. The wisdom of God does not fill a vacuum of understanding in us but rather the wisdom of God illuminates and stretches our existing understanding beyond its comfortable horizons and conclusions (Psalm 119:130). Wisdom as divine inspiration is when the thoughts of God higher and more advanced than our thoughts, inspire our thoughts.

It is when his ways show our ways the way (Isaiah 55:8-9). Our high thinking, Philosophy and skill are stupid without the illumination of divine wisdom (Jeremiah 51:17).

Apostle Paul understood the importance of wisdom inspiring our knowledge. “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. Having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:17-18).

The spirit of wisdom that Paul talks about here is God’s supernatural influence on the mental faculties of particular human beings.

According to Biblical Theology, however, this phenomenon can only happen when a man has the fear of the Lord. Proverbs 1:7 reminds us that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom”. Note that it doesn’t mean to say that one’s fear of the Lord is a means to earning wisdom; in that sense then, the fear (reverence) of the lord would be our means to attain the wisdom of God. The text communicates that our reverence to God is the beginning of God’s wisdom working on us.

We don’t fear the Lord as a means to attain wisdom but rather, it is after we have reverence for God (according to God’s judgment) that wisdom begins working on us. We don’t work our way into the wisdom of God but instead, the wisdom of God works on and in us.

The wisdom of God is not a concept that we can access through observing nature, experiences, theories and hypothetical speculations of academia but the wisdom we are talking about here is a being. A Being who is inter- ested in challenging our mental abilities, our mind and understanding.

When the Prophets predicated about the Messiah, they kept the idea of wisdom connected to the fear of God. Isaiah said, “And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of Jehovah.” (Isaiah 11:2).

Wisdom, therefore, cannot be a source of any other inspiration, but only God himself working on us. It is a divine inspiration and a heavenly endowment.

Divine wisdom not limited to skill

In studying the theology of wisdom in the Bible, we have to appreciate the fact that wisdom is morally demanding. Prudence, discretion, selfdiscipline, integrity, humility, sound judgment, hard work, acceptance of correction, keeping promises, generosity, and wise and honest speech; rather than foolishness, erratic behaviour, pride, arrogance, ambition, dishonesty, laziness, evil behaviour, and destructive speech (Proverbs 8:12-14, 12:1-28, Psalm 15). However, a study of wisdom and the wise must go beyond a moral appreciation.

When we say ‘Divine Wisdom’, we don’t intend purity but primarily we emphasize its objectivity in relation to primal reality (God). Divine Wisdom is not just morally upright but rationally coherent and consistent. Judaism perceived wisdom to be the application of one’s knowledge practically in the form of a skill (Exodus 31:13, Proverbs 24:3). However, we cannot conclude that wisdom is just a skill.It was because of such a limited understanding of wisdom that the Jews concluded that Solomon was the wisest man on planet earth.

This conclusion was deduced from two areas of Solomon’s life: 1-his Judgment (1Kings 3:16-28) and 2- his administration and organization (1Kings 10-11). All this, however, makes Solomon a very skilful king Just, as his father David was skilful in wars but not wise per the theology of wisdom. Well as both David and Solomon worshipped the Lord, we cannot determine their wisdom based on their skills.

If we did this, then we would be justifi ed to conclude as well that a skilled footballer is wise off the fi eld. While a skill might be a product of wisdom, it does not determine and defi ne wisdom. Whether the traditional prayer-request of wisdom in 1Kings 3:5, 9-11 by Solomon is palace praise by palace scribes or not, we should appreciate the text to be restricting the source of wisdom as God and God alone.

God as the sole source of wisdom is attested to in the New Testament as well by James when he says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given him. (James 1:5)”. Note that those in search of wisdom are not referred to any other source but to God

Wisdom is what you make of life

This is not to say that Solomon had no wisdom, however, we can only judge his wisdom based on an objective evaluation of key events of his life. Let us look at a few here: In his leadership, he made the yoke of citizens heavy (1Kings 12:4), in his family life He married 700 wives and had 300 concubines (1Kings 11:3).

Later in his old last days, his evaluation of life was that Life is a vanity of vanities; all is vanity (Ecclesiastes 1:2). In his religious life, he was a faith deserter (1Kings 11:4). How meaningful life is or has been to you apparently and finally determines how wise you have been.

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