Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Winsomeness of Wisdom

“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom...Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” (Prov. 3:13, 17)

“Winsome” is an old English word meaning “pleasant.” Before I gave it to my older daughter, Leah, I used to have a very old book that was published in 1900, and which I treasured, called Winsome Womanhood. It enumerates (and extols) those virtues found in the truly beautiful woman. Perhaps one reason God chooses to replace the word “wisdom” with the feminine “she” or “her,” is because wisdom—true Biblical wisdom—is enveloped in beauty. Not that wisdom is soft, or effete (weak or ineffective), for there is nothing sturdier or more resilient than the wisdom of God. But the wisdom that is from above, says James, is pure, peaceable, and gentle—adjectives more often used for a godly woman. Wisdom does not shout profundities; it whispers truths. It does not indoctrinate; it instructs.

Verse 14 of this chapter in Proverbs tells us that wisdom is worth spending for—time or money. This is one reason why Paul points out that those who are able to effectively and powerfully expound the Word of God are worthy of both (double) honor and monetary reward (1Tim.5:17-18). Solomon repeats this theme in chapter 23, where he admonishes us to “buy the truth.” Nothing can begin to compare with wisdom—neither precious jewels nor fine metals—nothing. Wisdom is absolutely incomparable (v. 15). Solomon never seems to run out of good things to say about it. It’s the “principal [first] thing” (Prov.4:7).

I have said that wisdom, though gentle and peaceable, is, at the same time, strong and sturdy. In fact, verses 19 and 20 inform us that wisdom, coupled understanding and knowledge, was the tool God used to form the earth, establish the heavens, and inaugurate the cycle of precipitation. It has been said that the Bible is not a book of science as such, but, one thing is sure: every true law of science had its conception in Genesis 1:1, with the wisdom of God.

No wonder Solomon urges his son to “let them not depart from thine eyes” (v. 21). “Read, read!” he says. “Read them and keep them.” The Proverbs are not platitudes to intone; they are principles to instruct. They’re rules to live by. When you walk, he says in verse 23, they’ll keep you from stumbling and making a fool of yourself. A fall may not do irreparable damage (although it might), but it always brings embarrassment. Everyone falls, but when people do it constantly, something is wrong. Perhaps their balance is off, maybe they are in too big of a hurry, or they simply may not be watching where they’re going. “But,” says the wise man, “Wise-up, and you won’t fall so much!”

Lastly, in verses 24 and 25, we find out that Biblical wisdom is a safety net against fear:

“When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.”

When my husband used to be away overnight preaching somewhere, I would climb into bed at night and pray, “Lord, protect me,” as though I didn’t need His protection long before I laid my head on the pillow. It’s just that somehow I always feel more vulnerable when asleep than when I am awake. God knows that about me (and you?), so He has given this and other promises to comfort us. Not only can you and I sleep safely, we can sleep sweetly, as a baby sleeps, knowing we have a loving Heavenly Father standing watch. Like Jacob, who slept soundly on a pillow of stones (Gen.28:11), or Peter, chained between two soldiers, who had to be struck by the angel to be awakened (Acts 12:6-7), we can close our eyes with the calm assurance that however we are awakened, we will awake with our Savior.

John Foxe tells in his famous book of Christian martyrs about a man named John Rogers, who, he says, “on the morning of his execution, being found fast asleep, scarce with much shogging [shaking] could be awaked.” Neither “sudden fear” nor “desolation of the wicked” can overwhelm the soul fastened upon its God, that happy man or woman who has found—and has retained—true Wisdom.

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