God and Wisdom 1: the Awe-fulness of God

Before we even greet wisdom, she tells us what we need to know:

Proverbs 1:7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

And again:

Ecclesiasticus 1:1 All wisdom is from the Lord,
and with him it remains for ever…

14 To fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
she is created with the faithful in the womb.

And even:

Job 1:1 There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

So, wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord.  But what exactly does this mean?  Is it a fear where we run away and keep our distance, never to truly encounter God?  If it is this, then we have mastered the fear of the Lord.   Or is fear something else entirely?

For the sages of Israel, the Fear of the Lord was an attitude that is both fascinated with the divine mind, and convicted that fear of the Lord leads to life. When the fear of the Lord is partnered with the fascination, fear turns from cowardice to reverence.  Those participate in the daily search for God’s wisdom do so out of fascination and love for the divine, and so they are fearful, or reverently in awe of God. [1]

So, this is where we begin, developing our fascination and reverence toward God.

But who is God?  What can the simplicity of wisdom tell us about God?  It affirms for us the very beginning of scripture:

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth…

Proverbs 3:19-20The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
by understanding he established the heavens;
by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
and the clouds drop down the dew.

And in God’s act of creation, God created wisdom first:

Proverbs 8:22-23The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

God is not only the God who created nature and the laws of nature, but God also created the very wisdom that holds all of creation in order.  All orders and laws, all processes and thoughts that lead to life do so because they are of God.  And thus, our fascination with nature should inspire our fascination and reverence toward God.  We should find ourselves in the awkward place of both wanting to rejoice before God (Prov. 8:30) and in humble silence (Job 40:4).  God’s revelation through creation should overwhelm us with the wonder and unfathomable magnitude of God’s order (Job. 38-41).

Even the Gospel of John begins by pointing us to this God:

John 1:1-4 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.[2]

These verses should direct our fascination toward God, and focus it toward the desire to know God.  God has created, and God has revealed Godself in the act of creation.  But John emphasizes something that Proverbs assumes: God’s relationship to God’s Word defines God’s relationship to creation.[3]

Our fascination and reverence should create a desire to know more about the God almighty!  It should drive us toward investigating God’s relationship with the Word and Wisdom of God, and with creation.

(Up next: Almighty God of Creation lives in creation)

[1] Gammie, Holiness in Israel 126, 133-134

[2] The logos of John 1 is a Greek equivalent of logic, order, or wisdom – Chacham of Hebrew

[3] Ford, Christian Wisdom.  55 “In the opening verses John reconceives ‘the beginning’, and also reconceives God in terms of relationship with the word.  The depth and breadth of all meaning, all wisdom, is traceable to this relationship.”


Making the curse of holiness into grace: the mundane teachings of Wisdom

What we struggle with is the necessity to trust in God, as well as the responsibility of diligence to God’s call of holiness in our lives.  The Nazarene manual speaks to this issue in its article of faith on entire sanctification, saying,

“We believe that there is a marked distinction between a pure heart and a mature character. The former is obtained in an instant, the result of entire sanctification; the latter is the result of growth in grace.
We believe that the grace of entire sanctification includes the divine impulse to grow in grace as a Christlike disciple. However, this impulse must be consciously nurtured, and careful attention given to the requisites and processes of spiritual development and improvement in Christlikeness of character and personality. Without such purposeful endeavor, one’s witness may be impaired and the grace itself frustrated and ultimately lost.
Participating in the means of grace, especially the fellowship, disciplines, and sacraments of the Church, believers grow in grace and in wholehearted love to God and neighbor.”[1]

We acknowledge that holiness involves both God and the person.  God initiates holiness, cleansing and preparing the person, giving them the grace of the resurrected Christ, and enabling them to be holy by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This is the “divine impulse” to grow in grace.  However, we must respond by consciously nurturing and involving ourselves in the spiritual habits of Christ.

It is this response to the “divine impulse” that causes us to struggle with ourselves.  We find it daunting.  Not only have we met the divine, and been forgiven.  Suddenly God has impressed on us the need to actually be like Christ, to “be holy as I am holy.”  And we have to respond.  Sometimes it feels more of a curse than a grace from God.  But it is because we sense the need to change ourselves immediately and absolutely.  We miss the language of maturing.  God acts on us in an instant, but we take time to mature.  We must nurture this new grace, pay attention to it, and develop it into habits.  It is not an absolutely instantaneous work.  God’s grace is still a forgiving grace and a nurturing grace.  It does not expect us to be holy, and then abandon us when we fail.  It stands alongside us, lifts us up, forgives us, and nudges us forward.

How is it that we can best hear God’s grace being spoken to us on a nurturing basis?  First and foremost, we must continually read the gospels, the words and works of Jesus, as God and God’s grace with us.  These words will give us the example to live up to.  However, we must not let the example of Christ move from amazing grace to daunting curse.  Instead, I propose that we must read it within the mundane daily happenings of our lives.  We must read it as another form of Biblical literature: as the Wisdom literature.  Wisdom literature is concerned with the mundane activities of our lives.  It is not the grand commands at Sinai, nor is it the grand sermon on the mount.  Wisdom literature is the simple words concerned with the development of a person’s character.[2]  If we read and study the wisdom literature of the Bible alongside the Torah, Gospels and epistles, we will learn to see and hear God’s grace through the small and mundane happenings in life, allowing us to be the bearers of the grace of Christ through daily happenings.  I find that it is necessary for a holy people to focus their sights on the normal pieces of life in order to nurture themselves into the habits of the grace of Jesus.  God has not left us alone, but is teaching us as a parent teaches a child.  So, “Hear, my child, your father’s instruction; and do not reject your mother’s teaching” (Prov. 1:9 NRSV), “For the Lord gives wisdom” (Prov. 2:6 NRSV).

[1] 2009 manual, Article of faith X.14

[2] Crenshaw, Intro OT Wisdom, 3; Brown, Character in Crisis, …