It’s difficult to drive through the Rockies of Alberta and British Columbia in western Canada without being awestruck by the majesty of the mountains. Recently we had this privilege again taking a couple of extra days to rest and renew in Canmore, Alberta. While we were there, we learned about these three peaks just to the south-east of Canmore popularly known as the Three Sisters whose names are Faith, Hope, and Charity. Evidently, they are the highest mountains in the region, the tallest standing at 9,632 feet.
What comes to mind in looking at these three great mountains, with their appropriate names, are the words of Psalm 36:5, and 6: “Your love, O Lord, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep” (NIV). The reference implies that God’s righteousness (and all that such entails) is larger than anything else in our everyday world.
Because I have been reading recently in the Book of Proverbs, I’ve been thinking about God’s greatness (including His righteousness) in the context of His great wisdom and our need for it. Though all of the five books of wisdom in the Old Testament are rich with the nature of God’s wisdom, Proverbs appears to be the most specific about what it is all about. Right at the outset, by way of introduction, wisdom is spoken of as a disciplined life — of “doing what is right and just and fair” (1:3). As I’ve been reading and meditating on the idea of wisdom from these opening chapters of the Book, I’ve been impressed with a variety of elements concerning the matter of wisdom:
- That wisdom, in human experience, is never complete because there is always more to learn, always more for which to experience God’s guidance. i.e. “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance” (1:5). This means that we are never too old to learn more or to seek guidance from the One who is the Source of all wisdom. This entails the essential element of humility in recognition that none of us have come to the place of knowing all there is to know or experiencing all that is needed by way of direction. Certainly I find this to be true in my experience. Though aging provides the occasion for a sense of acquired wisdom through experience and accumulated knowledge, one comes to realize increasingly there is much more to know and apply. Wisdom’s association with guidance here also implies that wisdom is all about receiving insight for decisions that we must make in our everyday lives — how to conduct our lives, relationships, conversations, and work.
- The second observation in the Introduction to Proverbs regarding wisdom is that it begins with a certain regard for the existence of God as this has been revealed to us in nature, in the Holy Scriptures, and especially in His Son. (See 1:7 and compare with 9:10.) The “fear of the Lord” is the most fundamental attitude of heart that a man or woman can possess. It determines everything else about us. It simply means that we take Him seriously — that our daily and ultimate accountability to Him is upper-most in our minds and hearts. This quality causes us to constantly ask the question, “What is my responsibility before God in this matter?” It is the God-consciousness of our lives that seeks to discern His way in every circumstance.
- At the same time, one of the realities concerning the quest for wisdom is its contrast with the existence of foolishness. In fact there is a sense in which wisdom is defined in terms of the existence of its opposite. There is a significant contrast here — as light is separated from darkness, truth from falsehood, and good from evil. We should have no interest in wisdom, no consciousness of its wonderful value without making this distinction. And one of the most basic and important realities of our lives is that there is this distinction, seen throughout the Proverbs (and the Scriptures). There is this recurring theme in Proverbs that there are two ways, two appeals, two kinds of lives that we can lead. And it strikes me that part of what wisdom is all about is making this distinction every moment and day of our lives. This difference is presented to us in this Book in terms of two kinds of women that are calling for a young man’s attention (see 1:20 and 2:16, etc.). And so elsewhere, I have referred to Proverbs as, The Parable of Two Women.
- It is the responsibility of the parent, the one who is mature, to pass on this meaning of wisdom to the next generation. And it is the responsibility of the next generation to heed the instruction of the one who has gone before. Wisdom is acquired through listening to the wise teacher. This in itself takes a good deal of humility. One of the reasons people end up not finding wisdom and, instead, experience all of the problems that come from a life of foolishness, is that they are too proud to listen to their teachers. The tendency of a younger generation is to want to do it, “all by myself” (or “all my byself” as I remember hearing our young children say it). It’s always a blessing when a younger person looks to be mentored by someone they admire. Recently I’ve been reminded that older people need to take the responsibility of mentoring seriously. Because there are young people who are looking for this. This is one way in which I can serve in these days.
- The final observation about wisdom in this brief introduction to Proverbs is the unsurpassed value that is associated with it. It is more valuable than silver and gold; in fact, evidently, there is nothing that compares to the value of acquired wisdom (3:14, 15). Because it is in finding true wisdom that every other possible blessing is also ours — health, long life, prosperity, a good reputation, and God’s special favour. By contrast, the life of foolishness results in every possible misfortune and personal curse. That’s because the face of the Lord is against those who pursue a life of pride and its wickedness.
There is so much more that could be said from the Book of Proverbs about the value of pursuing a life of wisdom. These days, I am blessed with the opportunity to focus more specific attention about what this all means for me. I hope I can weigh all the issues of my life in the light of God’s true wisdom. I look forward these days to seeing the results of this kind of concentration.