Wisdom - A resource for Chistian Living.
Chapter 11 – WISDOM: THEN AND NOW
Purpose: To see wisdom literature in its proper context in order to use it wisely as a resource for Christian living.
Objective: To address the unique character of the 4 books of wisdom and to understand what biblical wisdom is.
The Nature of Wisdom
What is wisdom? Wisdom is making godly choices in life.
There have been many cases of abuse of Wisdom literature.
They are only read in part.
1. People often misunderstand wisdom terms, categories, styles, and literary modes.
2. People often fail to follow the line of argument and follow what is to be understood as incorrect. This happens often in the book of Job where they cite a biblical truth that was intended as an incorrect understanding of life. Consider Job 15:20: “The wicked writhe in pain throughout their lives. Years of trouble are stored up for the ruthless.” We wouldn’t agree with this passage because it’s trying to teach that evil people cannot really be happy. Job didn’t even believe that. One of his friends was trying to convince him that the reason he was suffering was because he had been evil. Without following the whole argument from the friend of Job’s you would know this.
The focus of wisdom literature is most likely about people’s behaviour. How successfully they are making godly choices and whether or not they’re learning how to apply God’s truth to the experiences they have. It’s not so much about learning how to be wise but rather it’s more about seeking a way to get wise. When you apply God’s truth every day and you learn from this your experience can become wisdom.
Understanding the books of Wisdom in the Bible.
1. Wisdom in Job: The book contains 36 of 42 chapters on the plight of Job, which are meant to show all the wrong advice and incorrect conclusions that come from his four friends. The friends believe that if you are blessed you must be doing good, and if you are cursed (as Job is in their eyes) then you must have done some great sin to deserve punishment. The answer to Job’s challenge to God about the fairness of life is, “no, it’s not fair”. God allows suffering. Why? God’s ways are higher than our ways. God is still in control even amid suffering.
2. Ecclesiastes: Cynical Wisdom. point of Ecc. is to show what life would be like without God. It gives us an idea of the philosophical implications of life without God. Sounds like a good book to read if you are discussing God with worldly people.
3. Proverbs: This book is a collection of sayings that show that there are basic attitudes and patterns of behaviour that will help a person grow into responsible adulthood. It concentrates on practical attitudes. Proverbs are a brief statements of the truth, and they are too short to be precise and universally applicable. They do not state everything about a truth but point towards it. They have been abused by taking them too literally and technically. They are just guidelines for the shaping of selected behaviour. Here are some guidelines:
a) Proverbs are often parabolic, i.e., figurative, pointing beyond themselves.
b) Proverbs are intensely practical, not specifically theological.
c) Proverbs are worded to be memorable, not technically precise.
d) Proverbs are not guarantees from God, but poetic guidelines for good behaviour.
e) Proverbs strongly reflecting ancient culture may need sensible “translation”.
f) Proverbs use highly exaggerated language or any variety of literary techniques to make a point.
g) Wrongly used, proverbs might justify a crass, materialistic lifestyle. Rightly used, proverbs will provide practical advice for daily living.
4. Song of Songs: How could this be anything other than the love song of a married couple who are deeply in love? The whole point of having these chapters in the Bible is to show whom to love and how to love. It is an example of how to make two of the most basic choices in life for the believer. Firstly, it is inferred that it is someone of the opposite sex and secondly, that romance and sex can be employed for God’s glory in accord with God’s original design, marriage. In the context of marriage - Sex is God-honoring.
The goal of Wisdom is responsible successful living.
Who is wise? A wise person is someone that thinks and acts according to the truth as he or she makes the many godly choices in life. The wise person is highly practical, not merely theoretical. Read the following paragraph from Fee and Stewart:
Wisdom, therefore, as the Bible defines it has nothing to do with IQ. It’s not a matter of cleverness and quickness or skill in expression or age, even though personal experience is a valuable teacher if interpreted in light of revealed truth. It’s a matter of orientation to God, out of which comes the ability to please him. That is why James 1:5 says that God gives wisdom to those who ask for it. This is a promise not that we can become smarter by prayer, but that God will help us to become more godly if we ask. James defines the kind of wisdom that God gives in James 3:13-18, in contrast to the worldly wisdom by which a person seeks to know how to get ahead of others.
Drawing upon the experience of the group, ask the following questions:
1. Ask the group to give examples of godly wisdom in the following roles:
a) As a parent… As a grandparent… As a friend
b) As an employer…As an employee…As an investor
2. What is your experience in reading Job and Ecclesiastes?
a) Read Ecc. Chapter 1. Discusses how this passage shows how life without God would be meaningless.
b) In what way does the author show what life would be like if God did not play a direct, intervening role in life?
3. What about the song of Solomon? What is been your experience in reading this book?
4. Read the following verses from Proverbs: Proverbs 1:20-21; Proverbs 3:13- 15; Proverbs 8:10 -11. Who is the woman in these passages? Proverbs chapter 1-9 describes wisdom personified. now read Proverbs 31: 10- 31. Do you see any connection between Proverbs 1: 21 and Proverbs 31:31? Who might the wife of noble character actually be?
5. We hear of the Scriptures telling us that the Spirit gave wisdom to individuals in a special measure. We see this in many different examples throughout Scripture.
a) Sometimes wisdom is given to individuals to be applied to technical matters. Read the following passages and discuss what kind of wisdom God gave his people in this context. Exodus 31:3 tabernacle (Building of the) Ezekiel 27:8-9 (navigation).
b) Wisdom was given to those who needed to make decisions affecting the welfare of others. Political leaders such as Joshua (Deuteronomy 34:9), David (2 Samuel 14:20), and Solomon (1 Kings 3:9) were described as having been given wisdom by God so that their role might be effective and successful.
 Fee and Stuart. How to read the Bible for All it's Worth. Michigan: Zondervan. 2003. Page 228.8.