Sunday, June 28, 2009

Jesus is Wisdom (Proverbs 8:22-36)

MP3: Jesus is Wisdom - Dave Bish (20mins)

These are my notes not a script so please forgive lack of detail:
Ever felt out of your depth – in need an expert? Try Parenting. Or, see Gordon calls Sir Alan. Everyone’s an expert in the age of Google and Wikipedia. Progress or regress? People build libraries – curiosity killed the cat, but I don’t see cat’s at uni in the SW. Curious like Zach. God made us to be wise – but wisdom is to be received not grasped.

Proverbs read wrong is holy self-help. Not in church! Proverbs is about Jesus – how to live, not what you expect – Proverbs 8:22-36 hear the supreme expert – hear wisdom speak, speak to all of life. Makes British Library and Internet look like a post-it note.

A. YOU NEED THE ULTIMATE EXPERT (v22-31)
(muchly helped by Matthew Henry in this section, Henry notes these five characteristics)
Listen and hear: First, His personality.
V22 brought forth by the LORD, V24 given birth, V25 given birth, V30 at his side
Zach not concept, photos, records. A person – as is Wisdom. Who? The person Christ. Lady Wisdom, in story of father teaching son how to work and who to marry shows us Christ, the one the church is to marry.

Second, His eternality.
V22 Before the deeds of old, V23 From eternity, V23 There before the world
Jesus: before Abraham was, I AM. Wisdom precedes all created. He’s before all people.
2nd Adam b4 1st Adam. Unlike all others – his books stand above Waterstones Spirituality – human ideas vs. the heart of God. He wrote the book on life.

He is before the sea. V24 He was there when there were no oceans. Devon! He is before the sea! Makes the pyramids look like prefabs. Makes Stonehenge look like a new build. Prov 28v2: Four managers NUFC get relegated. Ecc 1v10: innovation is repetition. Recessions come and come again. Political corruption comes and comes again. Precedes all: ‘in him was the life of men’.

Third, His creativity.
He can ask: where were you at creation? We’re speechless. By Jesus all that has been made was made.
We imagine: masters of universe, makers of god. He made us. Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, ‘lady wisdom’ with the Father at creation. 1st Day God said, ‘let there be light’ – Jesus spoke, turned on the lights. 2nd Day God made the expanse of the heavens – v27 –Jesus marked out the horizon. 3rd Day Waters were gathered – v27 – Jesus put the clouds in place. BBC Jet Stream Doc. Jesus made clouds.
Jesus, creator, recreator.

Fourth, His delight, by his Father. How can we know God? Son reveals Father. Son signifies Father. Zach and Dave.V30 Jesus was with his Father. William Cowper: “Myself the Father’s pleasure” 
The Father delights in his Son!


Fifth, His delight in us. Cowper “Myself the Father’s pleasure, and mine the sons of men”. Man climax of creation – even planned salvation & the cross before creation. Joy in us! (though how can he delight in us...?) - how amazing that he who has the eye of the Father would take joy in us... such is adoption!... such is the glory of the cross..

B. YOU’RE INVITED TO COME AND FEAST (v32-26)

LIFE TO THOSE WHO HEAR.
V32 Listen to Wisdom! V34 Daily watch at wisdoms doors, wait in his doorway. For, V35!! Take all opps to get. Come daily to the door. Hang on every word. Bible to adore him. Eternal life is to know Jesus.
Remarkable! Cowper: “Thus wisdom’s words discover, your glory and your grace, you everlasting lover of our unworthy race!” And See the Wisdom of the Cross: “Your gracious eye surveyed us, before the starts were seen above, in wisdom you have made us, and died for us in love” Majestic personality, eternality, creativity and delight. How can he delight in us!? THE CROSS!! Shame + folly, History. Secures favour where there was deserved wrath

DEATH TO THOSE WHO REFUSE
Sin isn’t wrong ideas or broken commands – it’s personal turning from Jesus. V36: harms self. What does it look like to refuse wisdom?
a) taking on Stephen Hawking at theoretical physics or Usain Bolt at running. Puffed up self-obsession. Instead of Jesus-obsession and self-forgetfulness.
b) Pity, self-fixing. Puffed up self-obsession. Instead of Jesus-obsession and self-forgetfulness.

Refusing Jesus is to go to the house of Madam Folly to eat. House of death. Wisdom, v36, passes sentence. We all try to solve the riddle of life ourselves – we and all in Arb, Rdg, Wok. We turn from Wisdom to self. 17 year old passes test – unconsciously incompetent. Confess our folly. Face wisdom we can become consciously incompetent and enter his house, v35, 9v5. Eat + drink, know him! Have him! Personal, eternal, creational, delighted. Cowper: “Unfathomable wonder, and mystery divine! The voice that speaks in thunder, says ‘sinner I am thine!’

20 comments:

  1. I know it sounds intuitive, but could you spell out why we should think wisdom is jesus? Sure, wisdom is fulfilled (both in him & peoples' reactions), but I think you're missing the force of proverbs if you thnk wisdom is Jesus. Whether you do an OT or a NT wordsearch, It's just more broad than that. It sounds neat, but (a) we should think carefully before sawing off various branches we may well be sitting on (ie a lot is at stake here) and (b) a mormon could say what you say here - in fact they often do.
    1) in proverbs, wisdom is personified, not a person.
    2) in proverbs, wisdom is a woman/wife, contrasted with folly.
    3) in proverbs, wisdom is discretion, prudence, insight, skill - ie something we either attain/have, not something we are.
    4) there is pagan wisdom (eg later chapters of proverbs), and ironically so (eg Daniel 2-4)
    5) in the OT, the wise one lives in accordance with what God has revealed (eg Psalm 1 & Psalm 14 are about Jews - which is what makes Rom 3 so shocking)
    5) wisdom is often linked to the law (the "wisdom of the wise" in Isa 29 is referring to Isa 5, similarly in Jeremiah 8-9. Consider eg Jer 8:8-9 - 'How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have?
    6) Jesus calls himself wiser than Solomon, not wisdom.
    7) Jesus speaks of wisdom in the 3rd person, saying "wisdom is justified by her actions" and "wisdom is proved by her children", as if a project had been summed up in people's NOT knowing how to respond to him - "we played and you did not dance, we sang and you did not cry"
    8) when Paul says Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God, he may well be referring to 1 Kings 3v28 (esp. given context)
    What do you make of Goldsworthy's view in Gospel & Wisdom?

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  2. Chris,

    I can and will. I've written up a file on the subject and I'll probably blog it out soon. This was the last of a 4-5 week series so I didn't feel the need to spell it out fully in this talk. In September I'm preaching the first of a long series on Proverbs which will argue the case.

    Before that I'll endeavour to remember to blog a response to your 8 points.

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  3. Great read, reminded me of Piper's second conference talk on Sex and the Supremacy of Christ.

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  4. Chris..

    It's more broad than that - yeh, more but not less than..
    (a) I'm not sure what branch I'm sawing off?
    (b) I don't think a Mormon is going to say Jesus is God or what I end up saying about the cross..


    1) in proverbs, wisdom is personified, not a person. - yes, and? Are you saying Christ isn't the personification of wisdom??
    2) in proverbs, wisdom is a woman/wife, contrasted with folly. Yes, totally, it's a gospel drama - but what's the issue??
    3) in proverbs, wisdom is discretion, prudence, insight, skill - ie something we either attain/have, not something we are. - the wise life is in Christ??
    4) there is pagan wisdom (eg later chapters of proverbs), and ironically so (eg Daniel 2-4) - True, but what's wrong with that? All we're then saying is that there is truth out there in God's word - but the true place to find it is in Christ...
    5) in the OT, the wise one lives in accordance with what God has revealed (eg Psalm 1 & Psalm 14 are about Jews - which is what makes Rom 3 so shocking) - And?
    6) wisdom is often linked to the law (the "wisdom of the wise" in Isa 29 is referring to Isa 5, similarly in Jeremiah 8-9. Consider eg Jer 8:8-9 - 'How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? The wise will be put to shame; they will be dismayed and trapped. Since they have rejected the word of the LORD, what kind of wisdom do they have? - A fool does think himself wise, thinks himself to have true knowledge of God, doesn't mean he does... again, what's your issue?
    7) Jesus calls himself wiser than Solomon, not wisdom. - And the Holy Spirit and Paul say that Jesus is wisdom.
    7) Jesus speaks of wisdom in the 3rd person, saying "wisdom is justified by her actions" and "wisdom is proved by her children", as if a project had been summed up in people's NOT knowing how to respond to him - "we played and you did not dance, we sang and you did not cry" - um.
    8) when Paul says Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God, he may well be referring to 1 Kings 3v28 (esp. given context) - or he may have something else in mind??

    What do you make of Goldsworthy's view in Gospel & Wisdom? - not read it though I have his commentary on Proverbs. Makes good points but I think he misses some of the big picture of the book as a whole...

    Maybe this is the angel of the LORD debate all over again... or not.

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  5. 1) in proverbs, wisdom is personified, not a person. - yes, and? Are you saying Christ isn't the personification of wisdom??

    To me this is the problem. Lady Wisdom and Christ are both made personifications of this thing called wisdom. Wisdom which we don't really know is the god that Lady Wisdom and Christ are just one of an infinite number of personifications of. God can have many faces but ultimately is unknowable, hidden behind masks. But we don't believe in one mediator, one revelation, one perfect image of God - Jesus Christ?

    Isn't Lady Wisdom a representation of Christ - not Christ himself? Christ (the INCARNATE Jesus) is wisdom, rightousness, truth and love. He defines everything else, and all examples of wisdom, righteousness etc are derived from him.

    I think what you have inadvertently done is lost the uniqueness of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Instead Lady Wisdom is also God of god, light of light. The angel of the Lord is God of God, light of Light. The burning bush is God of God, light of light. All these things represent God, as indeed the incarnate Jesus represents God. However, the unique newness of Jesus is that as well as representing God he is God himself.

    Interestingly I understand the church fathers often identified the Holy Spirit with Wisdom. I think they did that for similar reasons that you have done this for Jesus. However, the very fact that they could do that suggests maybe wisdom is neither, but a personification of both.

    BTW Dan Hames' review of the Shack on Theology Network is great in describing how Young's personification of wisdom (Sophia) is done in such a way that it leads to Unitarianism.

    So, yes it is the angel of the LORD debate all over again. And I increasingly feel that what is at issue is way bigger than OT hermeneutics.

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  6. "But we don't believe in one mediator, one revelation, one perfect image of God - Jesus Christ?"

    should read "But don't we believe". Cursed push-button publishing.

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  7. Lady Wisdom does personify and represent Christ who is wisdom - and as long as we handle the literature well then I think it's not a great disaster to play shorthand on the language some of the time... Undoubtedly I could do a better job than I did, and I'm grateful that I'm preaching on this again in November, with 40mins instead of 20mins to make the case.

    Arguably "the son" in Proverbs also shows us Christ too.

    I agree we need to be careful with language so we don't flatten things out but my suspicion is here in Proverbs 8 it's ok to make the connection, given what we're told of what Wisdom does here... open to being persuaded though.

    There are bigger debates to be had around this OT/Christ stuff, and yet I still often hear Proverbs taught without any reference to Christ at all... I'm not saying that permits loose language, but it does sort of set the context for approaching the issue.

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  8. ESV Study Bible on this:

    Proverbs commends pursuing “wisdom,” portraying it as a virtue. In four poems in chapters 1–9, wisdom is also personified as a noble lady whom one should pursue: 1:20–33; 3:13–20; 8:1–36; 9:1–18 (contrasted with Lady Folly). The poem of chapter 8 seems to go beyond personification to describing a personality, which has led to discussions of whether Christians should relate this description to Christ.

    In the first few Christian centuries it was widely accepted that Christ was the incarnation of Wisdom in chapter 8. The Septuagint translation of 8:22 was read to mean, “the Lord created me” (see esv footnote; the Gk. might not be that specific), and thus the Arians (who denied the deity of Christ) found here a proof that the Logos (the “Word” of John 1:1) was a creature, and not God. But Athanasius, defending the deity of Christ, took the text to refer to Christ's incarnation, and not to his preexistence. The esv renders the Hebrew verb qanah as “possessed,” which is a more accurate translation. The verse means that wisdom is the character of God by which he created (cf. 3:19), and therefore should not be taken as his creature; this is the wisdom he gives to those who will learn from Proverbs. In this light, neither side of those who based their discussion on the Septuagint had the correct understanding of the original Hebrew text.

    It would appear, however, that Proverbs 8 played a role in the way NT authors described Christ. Paul's “before all things” (Col. 1:17) seems to draw on Proverbs 8:23–26, with its repeated “before.” Wisdom in Proverbs 8 seems to be a personality—indeed, it seems to be what rationality would be if it were a person—by which God made the world. This is like Psalm 33:6, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made.” The NT authors further expand this idea in texts such as John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:16–17; and Hebrews 1:3, 10–12, all of which insist that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of that divine person through whom God made the world.

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  9. Hi Bish.

    Thanks for this. Slightly tenuous link to Col 1, but given Colossians' emphasis on wisdom, I'll certainly go away and mull this as I study Colossians this summer. It's wonderful stuff about Jesus, all true that Jesus was there, that he's the ultimate expert, the life giver, etc...

    Apart from tradition, it seems the reason we should read "I" and "me" in Proverbs 8 as "Jesus" is because wisdom is personified as God's craftsman at creation - and "who else could that be?" Interesting Dave K mentions the same line takes you to the Spirit. But couldn't it just be, well, poetry about wisdom?

    1) isn't what makes personification poetic precisely that you personify things which aren't personal (eg "and all who sail in her")?
    2,3,5) We should ask "who is wise/foolish?"; I don't think we should ask "who is folly/wisdom?"
    4-6) Amen on wise-in-own-eyes. My thought here was more that wisdom can't be restricted either to or from special revelation or general revelation, or even pagan perception of general revelation. Jesus is special revelation, not general. I'd even say all special revelation is fully & finally Jesus [thats the link with the angel discussion, but I don’t want to go there :)]. I think this tendency will ultimately blend Jesus into general revelation, like in Phil Wickham's song (which otherwise I love), Beautiful - "I see your face in every sunrise, that colours of the morning are inside your eyes". Proverbs is scripture (special), but includes pagan wisdom (general).
    7) Jesus speaks of wisdom in 3rd, not 1st person. He seems to understand wisdom in a category of "her" own.
    8) even Paul only says Christ has become (for us) wisdom from God.

    What's the point of Proverbs 8? Is it that Jesus was there at creation, or that wisdom was woven into how God crafted the world, so he calls us to live wisely because it's cosmos, not chaos? Of course they're not incompatible, but isn't one just our sunday school squirrel again?

    We soon discover the cosmos has fallen (but not into total chaos; proverbs still normally work - the curse didn't totally unwind creation). So Job shows us how sometimes the proverbs really don't work (or comparing ps 1 and ps 73) - the fool/wicked prosper and the wise/righteous suffer, and Ecclesiastes shows us that death makes a mockery of "wisdom". In this fallen world, Jesus was the wise one, the true son of proverbs 1-8 (NB kingly context of Solomon's house), who by wisdom didn't "find life" but death; but he died without sin as opposed to Job. He calls people to to exilic wisdom, to follow him being willing to suffer for what is right while we wait for a new order of things, where righteousness dwells (1 Peter).

    Perhaps we might say Jesus embodied wisdom, but we might just as well say Jesus is also the embodiment of rule, riches, righteousness... etc and we'd end up saying "now then, my Jesus, listen to Jesus, blessed are Jesus who keep my Jesus, come to Jesus and find Jesus". I just think that misses the point, and the poetry of Proverbs 8. But I don't think we should say when it says wisdom, what it really means is Jesus - I think that flattens the biblical theology of wisdom, which I think is essentially about living well in God's world.

    What's at stake? (a) whether pagans can be wise, and if they can what that means – that they & their world are deliberate & crafted. (b) the shape of Christian discipleship - whether self-denial is arbitrary or whether repentance makes more and more sense the more you go out & discover God's world and discover...that we're the ones out of joint (cf Gaia).

    Sorry for a long comment. There's so much I don't understand - is "wisdom" the same in Colossians and Ephesians? is that referring to the whole body of wisdom books? or something else referred to by those?
    Chris

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  10. So much I don't understand too!

    I agree Jesus is the wise son, but the language of those who find wisdom find life and those who don't will die, means you have to tie Jesus and wisdom together pretty tightly too. Where else is life found? If I'm to find Wisdom then where do I find him? If I'm to be wise, how will that happen?

    Like Genesis 22 - we find Christ everywhere, the mountain, Isaac, Abraham, the ram, the LORD... the whole thing revealing the Christ-centred gospel...

    In my mind (loopy as that certainly is) so long as we pay good respect to the literature (and what gorgeous literature Proverbs is!!) then I'm still not sure what's wrong with Jesus is Wisdom... I don't mean it simplistically or flatly, or squirrelously, but rather for pondering and chewing and enjoying the richness of Jesus who is, shows us, invites us etc to life itself, which is the goal of wisdom.

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  11. so that's typology, right?

    Climax of drama...resolution of themes...goal of wisdom...amen. I thought you meant exegetically. If you mean "we hear wisdom's voice calling from this side of the cross of Jesus, and we hear more overtones, the minor keys of Job, the audacious major resolution of redemption", I totally agree. "The shadow of the Galilean" casts across the whole of scripture - so I should probably see him way more "liberally" than I do. Thanks.

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  12. Yeh I think that's it. Loving the minor keys and the audacious major resolution... - cracking language!

    Part of me thinks I could live in the wisdom literature a long time, but then I'm drawn back to the Pentateuch so much too... and then...

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  13. BTW appreciating your thoughts folks. Just too exhausted to respond. Maybe that is for the best!

    Just thought it would be rude of me just to not to post some sort of reply.

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  14. Exhausted for offline reasons not the debate!

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  15. It seems you are trying to separate the Trinity too specifically. This is unnecesary. Reflect on Genesis 1:27.

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  16. Not to separate, just to see who is there.

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  17. @Dave K, I think being a fly on the wall here is enough...! :)

    Thanks guys, great to read your discussion. Uplifting :) Going to give this whole thing a lot more time. Love the Proverbs.

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  18. A few months after I did this sermon I preached the passage again, a bit differently... hopefully my thinking developed: The Man Who Knows

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  19. 1 Corinthians 1:24 explicitly says that Christ is God's Wisdom per se.

    Athanasius believes also took the verse at face value.

    Just as Jesus is the literal Son of God in the sense of being " of one substance/nature" with the Father so is he the literal Wisdom of God in the sense that he is the reason and cohesion of everything that exists in all divine activities.

    I am happy to help more about this Christological matter, please, ask me on facebook: radzcbrown@yahoo.com :)

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