Wisdom Books Part 3 of 5
The Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon comprise the Hebrew wisdom literature and form a unit. As such, they offer deep insights into the biblically legitimate ways to understand both life and the Author of life. This series will examine each book in successive order.
Proverbs frames life in terms of wisdom and knowledge, exhorting us to “Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding! Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will guard you; Love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; And with all your acquiring, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:5-7). Wisdom is personified as being with God at creation (Proverbs 8), and in Christ “…are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Colossians 2:3). (I will be using knowledge and wisdom interchangeably, though there are nuances of difference.) Clearly wisdom and knowledge are important to God. However, they can easily be misused for both are seductresses. This is not because of a failing in them but in us.
Reason is necessary for the apprehension of knowledge. Ever since Eden and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, man’s reason has tempted him to treat knowledge as an end in itself. When we use our reason to do so, we are seduced into inventing idols of our own imaginations. And those idols lead men into sin, error, pride and presumption. Granted, there are many secondary reasons for the acquisition of knowledge, but we do well to remember that God accepts nothing that is not done for Him. Flee idolatry.
But wisdom is a means and not an end. And the end which it serves is relationship. The sole purpose of reason is to know Him and His purposes. When we employ our reason to do so, we soon realize how short of the mark we fall. This realization is meant to bestow the great gift of humility. A foolish man might mistakenly believe that he has mastered such and such a discipline, but is anyone so foolish as to believe that he has mastered his relationship with men, let alone God?
We see then that reason may be used for two divergent purposes. It can perceive knowledge as an end in itself, spawning pride and idolatry, or it can be deployed as a means to relationship, yielding humility and the knowledge of God.