Throughout our study of Proverbs we have examined the best practical advice for living life that the world has ever known. The broad range of Solomon’s advice to his son is just as relevant, just as applicable today as it was in the day in which these lessons were originally taught. If you and I will devote ourselves to the study and living out of these biblical principles then we will avoid so much heartache and trouble in life.
When we come to the section of Scripture that we are studying together today we find that the advice of the previous chapters isn’t really present. We don’t hear things like, “When sinners entice you don’t go along with them,” or “Don’t stand as surety for your neighbor’s debt.” In our section of Scripture for today we read about Lady Wisdom speaking of her origins and her delight. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Proverbs 8:22-31.
22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; 23 I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. 24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; 25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, 26 before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. 27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. 30 Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. (Proverbs 8:22-31 NIV)
Before we take a look at our Scripture I need to let you know that this is poetic language. There are many different types of literature in the Bible: History, poetry, prophesy, parables, narratives, letters, etc. It is always important for us to try and understand the type of literature that we are studying so that we can rightly understand what is being taught.
What we have here in Proverbs 8:22-31 is poetic language. Within the poetic sections of the Old Testament we have different styles of poetry. The Psalms are poetic song lyrics, an early hymn book of the Hebrews. The Song of Songs is made up of romantic poetry set in story form, and Proverbs contains poetry that conveys teaching in a poetic form.
One of the key features of Hebrew poetry is that the Hebrews didn’t put any effort into rhyming. The Hebrews were more drawn to what we call “parallelism.” Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In Proverbs 11:22 we read, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” In Proverbs 22:1 we read, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Parallelism starts with a short thought and is then followed by another thought that either underscores what has already been said or contrasts what was just said. You can easily see this in the two Proverbs I just shared with you.
The poetic language of Proverbs 8:22-31 is not an example of parallelism, but it is instead an imaginative, picturesque view of the origin, value, and purpose of Lady Wisdom from a poet’s perspective. Now that we understand what we are dealing with here in Proverbs 8:22-31 let’s dig in.
Many of the commentaries that I have read this past week have enthusiastically jumped at the idea that it is Jesus who is being described here in Proverbs 8:22-31. I can see how it would be easy to make that jump, but we need not jump so fast or we could find ourselves branded as a heretic. This section of Scripture was at the very heart of the controversy that led to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.
Over 100 years before the Council of Chalcedon there was another Council convened over heretical teaching concerning the nature of Jesus. The Council of Nicea was convened with 318 Church Fathers present in 325 A.D. to settle a debate that began around 311 A.D., when a priest named Arius came from Antioch and was appointed to a major Alexandrian church. Arius was charismatic and persuasive. He was a great poet and musician and he got the word out about his theology not only by teaching and preaching, but by writing a series of popular folksongs that were sung all over Alexandria. Arius caused quite a buzz around Alexandria with his controversial views about the nature of Jesus.
What did Arius believe? I’m so glad you asked! Arius taught that Jesus was superior to people. He was like God, but not fully the same as God, because God had neither a beginning nor an end, but there was a time when Jesus the Son did not exist. Arius believed that if Jesus was equal with God then we would have to admit that we have more than one God. The Church saw this teaching as undermining the doctrine of the Trinity so they persuaded Emperor Constantine to call a Council to settle the debate. The Council of Nicea was convened in 325 A.D. and Arius lost the theological debate. What came out of the Council is what we know today as the Nicene Creed.
I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried; and the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and he shall come again, with glory, to judge both the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost the Lord, and Giver of Live, who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spake by the Prophets. And I believe one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. AMEN. (Nicene Creed)
I share all of that with you to say that it is so important for you and me to study God’s Word with those who have gone before us. Those Church Fathers and theologians who tackled the controversies of the past have given us wisdom to help us better understand God’s Word today. The controversies have not gone away. There are many still with us who believe that Jesus was a good man, a wonderful teacher, but He was not God. Many well-meaning folks get sucked into these groups not knowing how vitally important it is to believe what God’s Word teaches us about the uniqueness of Jesus instead of what pop culture or preachers who don’t believe the Bible to be God’s Holy Word teach us about Jesus. My friends, our faith hinges on this truth!
In Proverbs 8:21 we read, 22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old;” The controversies we just examined were rooted in two different understandings of this one sentence. The Hebrew word used here can mean, “to get, acquire, create, buy, or possess.” It is best to understand this verse as God “brought forth” wisdom or He “possessed” wisdom. Later in this section of Scripture we see that God gave “birth” to wisdom. There is no problem in this as long as we are talking about wisdom, but the problem comes into play when later Christian teachers began to say that wisdom is really synonymous with Jesus. I can see how they would make that jump because John 1 teaches us that “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”
Proverbs doesn’t say that wisdom is God; it says that wisdom came from God, was present with God before the creation took place. Wisdom was present worshipping and praising God in His creation. Wisdom was given birth by God as an extension of God’s attributes. These things can be said of wisdom, but they can’t be said of Jesus. God did not create Jesus or give birth to Jesus. Jesus is the second Person of the Godhead, the second Person of the Trinity. He is eternal, co-existent with the Father and the Spirit, not a created being. To say anything less about Jesus is not consistent with God’s Word and it is something other than Christian.
Let’s go on. The Lord brought forth wisdom. When was wisdom brought about? Before God brought anything else into existence wisdom was there. In verses 22-29 we read,
23 I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. 24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; 25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, 26 before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. 27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth. (Proverbs 8:23-29 NIV)
Before there was ever an ocean–there was wisdom! Before the mountains were put in their place–there was wisdom! Before the earth was formed–wisdom was there! Before the heavens were set in place–wisdom was present! When God set the boundaries for the waters–wisdom stood in awe of it all! When God hung the clouds above the planet–wisdom witnessed it all!
In verse 22 wisdom was “brought forth.” In verse 23 wisdom was “appointed” from eternity. In verse 24 wisdom was “given birth.” The point of all of these is to say that wisdom was present before Day 1 of creation. Wisdom was observing the wondrous works of God, participating in what God was doing, praising His creative power, and rejoicing in the works of His hands. In verses 30-31 we read,
30 Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. (Proverbs 8:30-31 NIV)
Wisdom was not simply sitting in a corner watching the creation unfold. Wisdom was delighting in all that God was doing. Wisdom was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence.
One of the beautiful things about poetry is that it allows us to “see” things that mere facts can never allow us to see. It takes us places and shows us things that “data” or “facts” are unable to show us. As I was studying this Scripture this past week I had one of those moments. Remember poetry is imaginative language. I imagined God spraying His Heavenly scents on the petals of a rose and Lady Wisdom leaning back with her eyes closed, filling her lungs with the beautiful smell, and…Ahhhhh! Oh, God wasn’t finished distributing His basket of smells! He smeared a little “yuk” on the skunk, baptized a stink bug in a vat of “ooh” while Lady Wisdom held her nose, and then God wrapped the morning rain in a sheet of freshness that scented the whole earth.
I imagined Lady Wisdom leaning over the Father’s shoulder to watch as He taught a classroom of tiny spiders to spin an intricate web. Lady Wisdom just shook her head. I could see Lady Wisdom rolling on the floor as the Father assembled a Duck Billed Platypus–what a sight! I saw Lady Wisdom wipe a tear as the Father hung the exasperated arms of a weeping willow in their place. I saw Lady Wisdom bow in awe as the Father took His brush and stroked the vibrant colors on the fish that live in the sea. Oh, the Lord was just getting started, but we are running out of time so I will stop and simply say that Lady Wisdom was rejoicing over all of this! She was worshipping the Father in all of His glory and grandeur.
What is the meaning of all of this? Is the poetic language of Solomon simply to entertain us? To bring a smile to our face? By no means! Solomon is teaching us, he is urging us, enticing us to trust in God’s wisdom for our own lives. My friend let me ask you something this morning. Don’t you think that if God’s infinite wisdom was able to construct the Universe and sustain it to this day that His wisdom is able to sustain you and me through anything that we might encounter in life?
There are all kinds of new ideas that come around every day. New ways to do things, new ideas for us to consider, new inventions and technology for us to rely upon, but none of these can begin to compare to the infinite ability of godly wisdom to lead us, direct us, protect us, correct us, and counsel us concerning the most important matters of life.
We are not the first generation who has been fascinated and distracted by what’s new. Neither are we the first generation who has sought the novel and new only to be led astray and away from what God desires for each of us. Long ago the prophet Jeremiah spoke these words.
13 “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. 14 They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace. 15 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them,” says the LORD. 16 This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (Jeremiah 6:13-16 NIV)
Don’t look for the latest fad to come down the pipe. Look for the ancient wisdom of God that was present when the first ray of light illuminated the planet, when the first star was hung in its place, and when God knelt down and fashioned a man and woman out of clay. Look for the ancient wisdom that was relied upon by Abraham, that was trusted by Moses, that was sought by King David, and embodied in Jesus.
I mentioned to you earlier that equating Jesus with the wisdom of God described in Proverbs 8 is something that we simply cannot do. Let me share with you something that we must do: It is imperative for you and me to realize that if we want to know the wisdom of God, then we must come to know Jesus. There is no possible way for you and me to live wisely if we do not live “in Jesus.” Jesus is the Wisdom of God. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians.
20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, 24 but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25 NIV)
I don’t know much. I am not a very smart man. Oh, I’ve been to college and I have a degree, but don’t let that fool you–my degree is in P.E. and I’m not talking Petroleum Engineering. I don’t know much. I am much like the blind man who was healed by Jesus and questioned by the Pharisees. They wanted to know how He did it, why He did it, when He did it, and what exactly did He do?. They didn’t believe that Jesus was the Savior and they wanted the blind man to support their suppositions. The blind man said, “I don’t know about ophthalmology, soteriology, or Christology. All I know is once I was blind, but now I can see!”
I came here today to tell you that I don’t know much, but I know that the foolishness of the Cross is my only hope. I’ve tried other things, but I found them empty. I was empty when He found me and He filled me up. He filled me to overflowing and I want to join Lady Wisdom in praising His Holy Name. Won’t you join me by surrendering your life to Jesus, the Wisdom of God, this very morning?