The Pursuit of Wisdom
Wisdom is the skill which creates beauty out of the raw material of human life. Because it is a skill, no one naturally possesses wisdom; it must be cultivated and developed. This is why there are so many parental exhortations in the first nine chapters of Proverbs to pursue this most priceless and practical of all skills:
My son, if you will receive my sayings, and treasure my commandments within you, make your ear attentive to wisdom, incline your heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of God (Prov. 2:1-5).
But how do we pursue wisdom? The answer is found in the next verse: "For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (Prov. 2:6). This wisdom comes from above (see Jas. 3:17), and we can never hope to attain it on our own.
The treasure of wisdom rests in the hands of God, but we need to be more specific. What are the conditions for attaining it? Proverbs 9:10 gives us the answer: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." According to the wisdom literature of the Bible, the true skill in the art of living life can only be achieved by cultivating the fear of the Lord.
This leads us to yet another question. What is the fear of the Lord? Now we are on the brink of one of the central, yet often overlooked, concepts of Scripture.
Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding (Job 28:28).
Teach me Thy way, O Lord; I will walk in Thy truth; unite my heart to fear Thy name (Ps. 86:11).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever (Ps. 111:10).
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7).
The New Testament, like the Old, exhorts us to live in the fear of God (see Matt. 10:28; Acts 10:35; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; 7:1; Eph. 5:21; Col. 3:22; 1 Pet. 1:17). Yet the Apostle John tells us that "God is love," and that "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love" (1 John 4:8,18). "See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are" (1 John 3:1).
When we placed our trust in Christ, God gave us the right to become members of His family (John 1:12). Now nothing can separate us from our loving Father because we are His children (Rom. 8:38-39). As believers in Christ, we need not be afraid of God. The fear of God, then, does not mean that we are to be terrified of Him. Instead, it refers to a particular attitude that we should develop.
Part of this attitude is a reverence and an awe of God. We should daily remind ourselves of who He really is: the Creator of the hundreds of billions of galaxies; the sovereign God who inhabits the future as well as the present and the past; the almighty One who dwells in all places, and from whom no thought is hidden; clothed in power, glory, and dominion, He reigns over the cosmos in the beauty of holiness.
Another part of this attitude is humility before our King. "The fear of the Lord teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor" (Prov. 15:33). The walk of wisdom is the conscious recognition that all we have and are come from God, and that every aspect of our lives needs to be under His dominion. The fool arrogantly vaunts an attitude of independence and autonomy, but the person who is wise lives in dependence and radical trust in the Author and Giver of life. "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). We will grow in wisdom as we daily cultivate the attitude of awe and humility in our walk with God.
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of
you but to do justice, to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?