Lesson Text: Proverbs 8:22-35
Background Scripture: Proverbs 8
Devotional Reading: Psalm 8
22The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
23I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
24When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
25Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
26While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
27When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
28When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
29 When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
30Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
31Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
32Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
33Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
34Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
35For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.
To understand that true wisdom has its origin in God himself and played a role in the creation of the universe.
To know that choosing God’s ways of wisdom always results in God's timely blessings, and favor.
Each morning we should pray for God’s wisdom to direct us throughout our day. It is more important that when we hearHis instruction, we are careful to obey it. For“blessed” are those who keep His ways (c.f. Proverbs 8:32).
Wisdom in Our World
How do we recognize wisdom today? How do we identify wise people? All religions stake some type of claim to wisdom. This is sometimes justified by nothing more than a claim to antiquity: “Our traditions are really old, so they must hold some secret wisdom.”
Tradition that has weathered the test of time is certainly an alluring characteristic. But the assumption that teachers of the distant past had a better handle on wisdom than moderns do has no rational basis. In fact, we could argue that later teachers should be wiser because they benefit from the accumulation of learning over the centuries.
Christians believe that while we may find strands of wisdom in many places, the Bible has priority in helping understand the nature of wisdom. The Bible also has priority in showing us what constitutes wise actions as opposed to foolishness. Genuine wisdom is not a human invention, open to endless innovation and modification. Rather, it has its origin in God himself and played a role in the creation of the universe.
The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom, for it is mentioned in about half of its books and discussed extensively in a half dozen. Chief among these is the famous book of Proverbs. Proverbs is a collection of “wise sayings” from King Solomon and other authors. But what makes them “wise”? In order to understand this, we must understand the concept of wisdom from a biblical perspective.
The book of Proverbs teaches us that wisdom is the just and righteous use of knowledge. Once we have learned what God’s will is, what God’s standards of justice and personal righteousness are, we are counted wise when we choose to obey God. The book itself falls into three major sections: (1) a long introduction to the collections of the proverbs (Proverbs 1-9); (2) the collections of the proverbs themselves (10:1-31:9); and (3) an acrostic conclusion (31:10-31). Proverbs 8, from which today’s lesson comes, thus falls within the introduction.
Solomon, the author of Proverbs 8 (see Proverbs 8:1), treats wisdom as a person in a poetic way to explain its (in the text, “her”) characteristics and source. This literary technique is called personification.
“Some Bible students say that wisdom in verses 22-31 refers to Christ. Of course He does reveal God’s wisdom to believers (1 Cor. 1:30) and in Him is all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3), but Proverbs 8:22-31 gives no indication that it is Christ who is referred to as wisdom. If that were so, then all other references to wisdom in Proverbs should refer to Christ too, which is unlikely” (Walvoord and Zuck, eds., The likely” (Walvoord and Zuck, eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Victor).
WISDOM BEFORE THE WORLD BEGAN (Proverbs 8:22-26)
1. What does the expression "the Lord possessed me in the beginning" mean (vs. 22,23)?
We should be careful not to take the figurative expressions of these verses (and others) in a casual way that assumes God is like us; even so, we are given insight into wisdom’s relationship with God. First, we are told that God possessed [wisdom] in the beginning. The language is reminiscent of Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God...”
Second, the wisdom of God was present before the earth was. God’s wisdom is unlike our own, which grows by our accumulation of knowledge through trial and error, experimentation, or chance discovery. No one gave wisdom to God, for He already had it at the beginning. Wisdom is part of the nature of God and is therefore uncreated.
2. What four statements does Solomon use to affirm wisdom’s presence prior to creation (vs. 24-26)?
The preexistence of wisdom continues to be stressed. This time the comparison is withfour parallel statements. The first two thoughts are related to water (v. 24) and the last two to earth (vs. 25,26). God’s wisdom was evident prior to the creation of the oceans or freshwater springs and also before the creation of the mountains and hills. Earth's geographical features seem unchanging and eternal to us, yet these seemingly eternal things are not without their beginning.
The point here is not to explain these wonders, however, but to assert that the wisdom of God is already there at their creation. God does not “get wiser” as a result of trial and error in creating oceans and bubbling springs. God was fully wise all along.
WISDOM DURING GOD’S CREATION (Proverbs 8:27-31)
3. To what extent did wisdom participate in the creation of the world (vs. 27-29)?
In this verse and the next, Solomon makes a slight shift from his emphasis on the preexistence of wisdom to the role of wisdom in creation. It is obvious that since wisdom was here before the creation, she (8:1) was present during the creation. Wisdom is personified with dramatic assertion while describing the heavenly realm:"I was there."
The “compass” on the ocean is the horizon, the point at which the heavens and the seas meet visually. We feel the same amazement today, even with our maps and satellite photo images of the earth. When we stand on the beach and look out at the seemingly limitless ocean, it makes us feel small and vulnerable. Yet God’s wisdom not only comprehends this immensity, it rules over it. I was there.
Verse 28 alludes to the creative acts of God on the second day of creation (Genesis 1:6-8). Through all the geological and meteorological knowledge we possess today, we understand that nature maintains equilibrium in its water through rain, rivers, and oceans (compare Ecclesiastes 1:7). How this all works is another demonstration of the wisdom of the Creator. God knows exactly how to fine-tune these factors for the benefit of the earth.
Verse 29 reflects the creative acts of God on the third day of creation, when the Creator caused dry land to appear (Genesis 1:9,10). This separation was necessary in the order of creation so that God could create appropriate life forms for the dry land and for the water (1:20-26). For these various life forms to have continuity into the future, it was necessary that this division between dry land and sea remain fixed by God’s decree (Job 38:8-11). All of this is seen as evidence of the magnificent wisdom of God.
4. How can wisdom bring about rejoicing in the presence of God (vs. 30, 31)?
In verses 30,31, wisdom continues to be personified and makes a statement saying that in all of this creative activity, she was there beside God as He did His work. Wisdom was the object of God’s delight, and wisdom rejoiced in everything God did (v. 30). She also rejoiced over the creation of people (v. 31). “The shared task of creation was a delightful one. Wisdom was rejoicing in God’s presence, God’s universe, and God’s people-all fitting sources of rejoicing for us as well” (Anders, Holman Old Testament Commentary, Broadman & Holman).
WISDOM’S PLEA (Proverbs 8:32-35)
5. Why is the role of listening so critical to the wise student (vs. 32,33)?
This section puts a practical spin on the magnificence of God’s wisdom, as wisdom speaks directly to the reader. Wisdom is not something to be marveled at and then ignored. Wisdom demands to be heard and obeyed. If godly, wise instruction is received and realized in actions, the student will be counted wise and will be blessed. Other proverbs warn of the consequences of being a fool, that is, one who rejects wisdom (Proverbs 10:8, 10, 14, etc.).
6. What does Solomon say about seeking wisdom (v. 34)?
This verse encourages us to be more than mere passive receivers of wisdom. We should be seekers of wisdom. We should be like the man watching for a visitor at the gates of the city or the doors of his house. We should have a thirst for the righteous wisdom of God as it has been revealed to us (compare Matthew 5:6).
King Solomon’s reputation for wisdom spread throughout the world of his day, and many journeyed to hear him (1 Kings 4:29-34; 2 Chronicles 9:22). The most famous of these was the Queen of Sheba, who came to Jerusalem with riches and questions for the wise king (1 Kings 10:1, 2); she was not disappointed (10:6-9). We do well to heed his wisdom (1 Kings 4:32; Proverbs 1:1; 10:1; etc.).
What Do You Think?
What do you do to seek wisdom from God? What should you do?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
-In your prayer life
-In Bible study
-In private worship
-In corporate worship
7. What two promises are made to those who seek wisdom (v. 35)?
This section ends with two promises related to wisdom. They should motivate us to seek wisdom. First, the one who finds wisdom will find life. The effects of wisdom begin to give us life as soon as we incorporate them into our lives. Our lives are better and more fulfilling the more they are aligned with the wisdom of God as revealed in Proverbs and the other books of the Bible.
Second, the seeker of wisdom will also find the favour of the Lord. The word favor in this context is related to our word will in the sense of what one desires to be done. If we walk in the ways of wisdom, we find ourselves squarely in the will of God. We are living as God wants us to live, and therefore in harmony with our created nature and purpose.
Living wisely (according to God’s will) is not a ticket to Heaven, for we cannot earn our salvation. Salvation is a gift received by the grace and mercy of God. However, living wisely has benefits for the present. When we live in wise obedience to God, we will find many blessings. On the other hand, living foolishly brings a host of self-inflicted hardships and pain. Not every unfortunate thing that comes upon us is the result of our bad choices. But we are stubbornly foolish to deny the damage of our bad, unwise decisions. The wise person is not exempt from suffering in this life, for bad things can and do happen to righteous people (see Ecclesiastes 9:11,12). But wise living is the best course.
POINTS TO PONDER
1.As in creation, so with our daily lives: wisdom must be first (Proverbs 8:22-26).
2.God is the source of all wisdom, and it is on display every day (vs. 27-31).
3.An obedient child of God is a blessed child of God (v. 32).
4.Knowledge is gained by listening, but wisdom is gained by following instructions (v. 33).
5.Even though God grants wisdom freely, we need to desire it fervently and seek it diligently (v. 34).
6.When we live wisely (according to God’s will), we will find true life, as well as His favor (v. 35).
In today’s lesson we are taught more than that the order of the universe is a created design. God’s creation is more than complexity and more than beauty. The wisdom of God is displayed in His creation. It is not just that God is the skilled Creator; He is the wise Creator. We could even say that the universe as created by God is a wise creation, for it is a reflection of its Creator. This is a profound insight, not easily dismissed or comprehended. We are wise to ponder it.
Dear Heavenly Father, You are all-knowing, and all-wise. How awesome is Your creation! Forgive us when we try to be wise without You. Give us Your holy wisdom so that we may know Your will and obey it. Strengthen our bodies and minds so that we will be able vessels to serve You. In the name of Jesus, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Wisdom apart from God-isn't wisdom at all.