Beginning of Wisdom

Proverbs 9:10–12

I love to tell about when my family and I went with friends to Kruger National Park. I was eleven years old and excited to see the African wildlife. In addition to elephants and lions, we were hoping to spot a giant kudu. After looking much of the day, we finally spotted a kudu out the right side of the car. It was a little far away, and our view was obstructed by brush. But we were so excited, and we craned our necks in a futile attempt to catch a better glimpse. Then I looked out the other side of the car. There was a second kudu, practically looking right in the window at us!

Just like that carload of animal lovers looking in the wrong direction, so many people chase after the desires of their hearts but look 180 degrees from where true fulfillment is found. Today’s passage tells us where we ought to be looking. Although Proverbs does not give absolute promises, its advice points us in a godly direction. In v. 11, Wisdom offers us long life if we will follow her. That’s good advice!

Verse 10 tells us how to start a life-long pursuit of Wisdom: it begins with the fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord means having a healthy respect for God, as some Egyptians demonstrated when they hurried to prepare for the plagues Moses had announced (Ex 9:20). Fear of the Lord also means caring about what God cares about. For example, Lev 19:14 connects concern for the deaf and blind with the fear of the Lord. God cares about the welfare of the marginalized, and so should we! When we fear the Lord, we obey Him. In Deut 10:12–13, the fear of the Lord is linked to obedience, love, and service to the Lord.

The second part of v. 10 says that knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. This points to a truth clearly seen in the New Testament: Wisdom is a Person, namely Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). As the saying goes, it isn’t just what you know; it’s whom you know—and the who is Christ Himself! God’s wisdom is personal. It is people-focused, not self-seeking. Yet when we consider Christ, we dare not forget that His way (described in 1 Cor as God’s foolishness that is wiser than human wisdom) is the Way of the Cross. To know Christ means to embrace His willingness to suffer on behalf of others. We may imagine that the call of Wisdom is a call to a life of ease—but it is instead a life of discipleship to Christ, who laid down His life for His friends (John 10:11).

According to 1 Cor 2:16, we have the mind of Christ! Not only should we do what He did, we should think the way He thought! In a book entitled The Christian Mind, Harry Blamires traces six facets of what it means to think Christianly (as Christ thought). To think Christianly, we must maintain (1) a supernatural orientation and (2) an awareness of evil. We must recognize that (3) truth is revealed, not merely constructed by human ingenuity. Thinking Christianly means (4) accepting authority: the authority of God, of the Bible, and of God’s faithful representatives. It entails (5) a concern for people, and a recognition of the vital link between physical and spiritual within the rhythms of our daily lives, which Blamires calls (6) a sacramental cast. Blamires makes the profound point that we can think Christianly or unchristianly about any topic. We should reflect even on seemingly mundane issues through the lens of these six characteristics.

As we hone the fear of the Lord in our lives, as we pursue the wisdom of Christ; and as we renew our minds through conformity to Christian thinking, we set our path on the way of Wisdom. We should not imagine that this results in a magic formula that guarantees an easy and long life. Instead it is a life of trust in the Lord. It is a life oriented toward looking in the right place for meaning and fulfillment. Instead of chasing fleeting pleasures, let your 2106 be marked by pursuit of godly wisdom.

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