The Lord's Eternal Wisdom

October 28, 2018 Preacher: Luis A. Cardenas Series: Proverbs

Topic: English Passage: Proverbs 8:22-36


Depending on which translation you use, Proverbs 8:22 might begin by saying, “The Lord possessed me,” or, “The Lord created me.” Over the centuries of church history, that has been a much-debated verse, because many took this passage as a reference to Jesus.

If we understand the identity of Jesus correctly, it should make us uncomfortable to say anything that makes it sound like Jesus was created.

But the primary question we’re supposed to ask when we come to any text in the Bible, is not “How does this fit into my belief?” The first question should be, “What is this saying?” Then, secondly, we can think about how that might change what we believe if that needs to happen.

In our section for today, all those questions about whether or not this word means “created” go away because this section isn’t talking directly about Jesus. I want to make that clear. This is not Jesus speaking directly. Much of it will obviously apply by extension to Jesus, because He possesses all wisdom. But it’s not Jesus talking. And I’d like to start by making that point very easily.

The official teaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses is that Proverbs 8:22 is specifically speaking about Jesus. And their translation says “Jehovah produced me.”

Well, how can you respond to that? It’s not a complicated response. All you have to say is that Jesus isn’t the one talking here. It’s that simple.

Whenever you study the Bible, you need to make sure you look at context. Look at the words surrounding the verse you’re looking at. Look at the rest of the section. Look at what comes before and after. And if you do that, then many times you don’t have to unnecessarily complicate a verse by adding all kinds of interpretations.

Before we ever get to Proverbs 8:22, we have to get through Proverbs 8, verse 1. And in that context, it’s completely clear who is talking. It’s wisdom. Wisdom calls. Wisdom lifts up her voice. Just so you know, the Hebrew Bible includes the feminine form “her,” but, in keeping with their own false interpretation, the Jehovah’s Witness Bible says “it.” Because they want to avoid using a feminine pronoun for Jesus.

But again, that’s not a problem, if you just accept that this section is a speech given by the personification of wisdom. This is Lady Wisdom. That’s how the Israelites of the Old Testament would have understood it. And it’s how we should understand it.

In case you’re not too familiar with the term, personification is when we take an object or an idea, and we attribute to it the qualities of a human. We treat it as if it were a person. That’s personification.

And, like I said last week, it’s not completely foreign to our culture. Just to give you some examples, there are occasions when someone might say, “Opportunity is knocking at your door.” Someone else might say: “The fire swallowed our homes.” Or, “The trees were dancing in the wind.” Those are other examples of personification.

Obviously, opportunity is a thing that doesn’t actually knock on your door. And fires don’t eat, and trees don’t dance. But we get the idea. The personification makes it more vivid. More tangible.

Now, personification can be pressed even farther when we actually turn a concept into a person, Lady Luck is an example in our culture. We mentioned her last week. Two more examples would be Lady Justice (she’s the blindfolded woman holding the scales) and the Grim Reaper, who is the personification of death.

Turning an idea into a person makes it come alive, and it reminds us of the reality of it. It calls us to respond appropriately. If something simply exists as an idea, out there in the world, you might not respond to it. But when you describe it as a person, now you have to relate to it. You have to make a decision. Ignore the person, or respond to it.

That’s exactly what’s happening here with Lady Wisdom. She is calling out to us. She’s inviting us to sit with her and learn from her. She’s inviting you to walk in her righteous ways, and to experience her blessings.

In a way, she’s kind of like a commercial or a pop-up ad. She’s calling out to you, but in this case, it’s for something positive. Don’t just close the ad, follow this trail, and learn from me.

Also remember, this is a speech that the father is communicating to his son. He wants his son to lean into wisdom. To embrace her and learn from her.

And now, as we finish chapter 8, we find Lady Wisdom, once again, tooting her own horn. And what does she say about herself? Let’s read verse 22. Prov 8:22.

The first message we get from Lady Wisdom is that Wisdom belongs to God. Wisdom belongs to God.

Like I said, there’s a debate as to what the best translation is for the verbs, but once you forget about this idea that it’s talking about Jesus, then it’s not really that big a deal. The word’s range of meaning can include both. And in the broadest sense, it really just means “to get.”

God has possessed wisdom ever since the beginning. Why is that so significant?

Back in 2017, Forbes ran an article that estimated what the top NBA stars earned in one year because of their shoe deals. So, that would include the contract, and any earnings connected to sales. Let me give you the top 6.

Stéphun Curry partnered with Under Armour and got $12 million dollars. James Harden went with Adidas, and got $14 million.

The top four, however, are all partnered with Nike, and here’s what Forbes estimated they earned in one year. Kobe Bryant with Nike got $16 million. Kevin Durant got $25 million.

Number two on the list is the top shoe-selling active player in the NBA. That’s LeBron James, who, in one year, earned an estimated $32 million.

As for number one on the list, the Forbes article called him “the king of the basketball shoe market.” In one year, because of his shoes, this man earned an estimated $110 million. And, if you haven’t guessed it already, that’s Michael Jordan.

All that money, from shoes. Why do companies do that? How does someone make that much money on shoes? The answer is not that complicated. It’s all related to trust.

If someone is famous enough or beautiful enough or talented enough, they have some credibility. We view them as experts in their field, and people want to emulate them. So when someone with a high enough status comes along and says, “Use this product,” people listen. That’s called an endorsement.

Well, in a similar way, Lady Wisdom here is asking you: “Do you know who uses wisdom? Do you know who endorses me?” It’s God Himself. Yahweh, the Almighty. Wisdom belongs to the Lord.

Job said it himself. Job 12:13—“With God are wisdom and might; He has counsel and understanding.”

In other words, Lady Wisdom might say, don’t worry so much about being “like Mike.” Worry about being like the Lord. And if you want to be like the Lord, what you need is wisdom. It’s what He’s always used. It’s what He always uses.

In the Hebrew, the name of the Lord is emphasized. Which means that Lady Wisdom is using this as her main selling point. That’s on the top of her resumé.

In Romans 16:27, Paul referred to Him as “the only wise God.”  He never does anything without wisdom. And so, neither should we.

Last week, we talked about how wisdom and righteousness are inseparable. You can’t divorce the two. Now, it gets even more clear. Wisdom and God, also, are inseparable. If you want real wisdom, there’s only one source—God Himself. You can’t find it anywhere else. You can’t even learn it on your own.

Go back for a second to Proverbs 2, verse 6. This is so you can see that this isn’t anything new in Proverbs. Proverbs 2:6-7.

James picks up on the very same truth in his letter to the saints. “If anyone lacks wisdom…” what should he do? Try harder? Study more? No. What? He must ask God. Ask God.

You can learn more about anything from a book. You can ever learn more about God in a book. But that doesn’t get transferred into wisdom unless God grants it. He is the true source, and we don’t get wisdom apart from him.

Going back to Job, I’d like you to turn there for a moment. Skip back to the book right before Psalms, and go to Job chapter 28. This is really a key chapter in the book. And we aren’t completely certain who’s talking here. It might be Job, or it could be some kind of narrator, adding this lesson at a key moment in the book. Job 28:1-6.

Those verses are talking about man’s ability to extract the natural resources of the earth. We dig and we mine, and we get silver and gold and iron and copper and precious metals. We dig deep into the earth for that stuff. And verses 7 and 8 say that no animal even sees what we’re doing. They don’t understand what’s going on.

Look at verse 9. This is man’s ability to uncover what is in the earth. Job 28:9-11.

But notice the shift here now in verse 12. Job 9:12-18.

We can find so many things in so many places in the earth, but mankind is incapable of finding wisdom. And wisdom is worth much more than all those things. More than the gold. More than the oil. More than the diamonds. So, if wisdom can’t be found on earth, where does it come from? That’s the question of verse 20. Job 28:20-22.

Here’s the answer. Job 28:23.

God knows where wisdom is. Only God. Job 28:24-28.

Again, this is the message: Wisdom belongs to the Lord. So if you want true wisdom, you will only get it from Him. Let’s go back to Proverbs 8.

Now, this close connection between God and wisdom continues into the second message. And you’ll notice some of the same thoughts here as we read in Job 28. Let’s look at verses 23-29 as Wisdom continues her speech. Prov 8:23-29.

What are these verses saying? What are they pointing to? They are pointing to wisdom’s longevity, wisdom’s eternal quality. Message number one was: Wisdom belongs to God. Message number two is this: Wisdom is eternal. Wisdom is eternal.

Almost all the phrases used here are talking about time. There’s a time component here. When, when, before, before, before, when, when, when, when, when, when. But what’s the main point? It’s in verse 27. “I was there.” I was there.

Going back to Job for a second, near the end of the book, when God is emphasizing His point, He asks when: “Where were you when I created the world? Where were you?” And Job couldn’t answer. He wasn’t there when God created the world. But guess who was… Lady Wisdom. Lady Wisdom.

This is pointing to a longevity that wisdom has. It is time-tested. It lasts.

I think that one of the main characteristics of our culture is the pursuit of what is new at the expense of what is old. Think about that for a second. The culture’s default view is that old means outdated. Useless. We don’t always want what’s tried and true. We want what’s flashy and new. Maybe that’s especially true for the younger ones.

Some of that may be connected to the belief in evolution, which assumes that things are getting better. But as Christians, we need to recognize that newer isn’t always better. Wisdom wants us to know that she is an ancient woman. She has been around for a long time.

Let’s imagine that you moved into a new town, and you were looking for some good food. Whatever you want. Chinese, American, Mexican, Pizza, whatever. And one of your neighbor says to you: “Hey there’s this new Pizza shop in town (or whatever food you like). It just opened last week, and the atmosphere is to hip. News reporters were there. Some celebrities showed up. And it’s got a bunch of new followers online with social media. Maybe you’d be interested.

Well, what if, before you went there for lunch, your other neighbor came to you and said, “You know, if you want some really good pizza, there’s this place on the other side of town. It’s not that far. The place isn’t as modern-looking, but they have great food. The owner and his family have been in business there for 50 years.

Which place would you go to? Tried and true or flashy and new? It’s not automatically wrong to pick one over the other, but it might tell you a little bit about what you value. Do you have a disdain for what’s old?

Sometimes I see shirts or sweatshirts for a company or for a school, and underneath the name it’ll say “established 1965” or whatever year. Why do they put that there? Because longevity is a testament to quality, right? We’ve been around a long time, so we know what we’re doing.

Well, if Lady wisdom made her own sweatshirts, they would say: “Lady Wisdom, established since creation.”

By the way, the way creation is described in Job and here in Proverbs is one of many clear indications that God never expected His people to believe anything other than that He personally and actively created this world. It was a direct act on God’s part in six days.

He didn’t just create it all and then sort of oversee some long process. He made it. He shaped this world. Day one—light. Day two—water and the sky. Day three—the land and vegetation. Day four—the sun and the moon and the stars. Day five—the animals that swim and fly. Day five—the animals on the land, and finally a man and a woman.

And that’s what you see in the language here. God established the heavens. God, verse 27 says, drew a circle on the surface of the water. That would be a reference to the fact that the horizon is a circle, which means the earth is round. God made it like that. And then God brought the dry land forth.

It’s all very amazing. But since we live on the planet, it’s easy to stop being impressed by it all. God did this. He gave us the sun. He gave us life. He set up our solar system. He set up the human body. How? With wisdom. He did it with wisdom.

And He offers that same wisdom to you and to me so that we can fear Him, and obey Him, and express His character, and invite His blessing into our life, and experience true joy and satisfaction.

And this leads us to our final point for today. It’s wisdom’s final message in the chapter. And again, it’s nothing new. Wisdom belongs to the Lord. Wisdom is eternal. And lastly, wisdom brings joy. Wisdom brings joy.

Let’s read verses 30 and 31. Prov 8:30-31.

This is not some cold, detached description of an instruction manual. This is something the produces joy and happiness. Wisdom describes herself as a joyful woman.

I was a master workman, rejoicing with the Lord. Rejoicing in the creation. Rejoicing in mankind. This is like the joy of a coach who’s watching his strategy pay off. He’s watching his team win the game. It’s joyful. It’s satisfying.

True, biblical wisdom cannot be separated from righteousness. It cannot be separated from God. And it cannot be separated from joy.

Creation, by the way, was a very joyful time. At the end of day six, God said: “It is very good.” Job 38:7 says the angels sang together and shouted for joy. Well, if we listen to wisdom, if we accept her invitation, we get a piece of that joy.

Lady Wisdom is promising fulfilment and happiness. Prov 8:32-34

This is the attitude the Father wants for us. Do you remember? A heart inclined to instruction. This is a receptive heart. A humble heart. Come, and learn from God. Desire His wisdom.

Verse 34 says we should be watching at the gates and waiting at the door. That could picture a couple of things. It could be the image of a beggar, desperately waiting outside for someone to give him assistance. Or it might picture the students of a teacher, who would wait outside his home, and then, once he came out, they followed him around for the entire day.

Either way, it’s a picture of eagerness and anticipation. Our thoughts concerning wisdom should be: “I need this. I value this. I want this.” Is that how you feel about God’s wisdom? Is God’s wisdom that valuable to you?

When you understand wisdom correctly, then you understand that you don’t have it all. So, there’s a continual searching. A continual longing to get more of it. So that our lives will glorify God.

Here’s another way to think about wisdom. Wisdom is what God used to create a “very good” world. But we know it didn’t stay like that. Satan’s scheme and mankind’s disobedience brought sin and death and suffering and pain.

So, wisdom brought order to this world and sin brought disorder. Sin and foolishness bring disaster, and wisdom brings healing. Those are two opposing ways of life. And if you want to be a part of God’s plan to fix this broken world, then you need wisdom. Otherwise, things will not end well for you.

And that’s the message of the closing couple verses. Prov 8:35-36.

To reject the wisdom of God is to follow a path of self-destruction. It is spiritual suicide. This world will tell you that there are so many ways to pursue pleasure and satisfaction in life. But our Father reminds us that those things end in death. Only the wisdom that He gives can lead to true and everlasting life.

So, what does that mean for you. We’re talking about pursuing wisdom, but what does that actually look like in your life.

Here is where we get the connection to Jesus Christ. Remember, I said that it’s not Jesus talking here, but it can be applied to Him by extension.

The first step in pursuing God’s wisdom is to receive Jesus Christ. The One who died on the cross and rose from the dead to pay for sin.

Paul told the Corinthians that the cross of Jesus Christ is foolishness to the world, but God has turned the wisdom of this world into foolishness.

Remember, you can’t separate wisdom from God, and so if you’re separated from God, you can’t have true wisdom. The world may praise you. You might think highly of yourself. But your life will end in ruin because God is opposed to you.

But it doesn’t have to stay that way. God made a way to reconcile sinners to Himself. And that way is Jesus Christ who bore the punishment for sin.

And if you will recognize your own stupidity and foolishness, and if you will call out to Him for mercy and forgiveness, and if you will turn from your sin and selfish way of thinking, God will save you. God will bring you into His family.

And what God has possessed for eternity, He will share with you. He will give you His wisdom. He will transform you, if you come in humble faith.

And here’s what’s amazing. God will begin a personal apprenticeship in wisdom. He will personally teach you and lead on the path of wisdom. That’s what His word does, and that’s what His Spirit does. He walks alongside every single one of His children.

And if you’ve already been born again into God’s family, then this is how you do it. We read it at the beginning of the service from Galatians 5. You live by the Spirit. You keep in step with the Spirit.

You and I never outgrow our need for God’s wisdom. We are fully dependent on the Lord, and wisdom belongs to the Lord. It is an ancient, eternal truth that will guide us every day. And if we walk in its ways, God will bless us.

Christ came to give us life. And that life is in Himself. Find Christ, and you’ll find life. Walk with Christ, and He will guide you.

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