BiND: Day 45 (II) – 47
Well, we’ve reached Proverbs! We’re halfway through, friends! I hope you’re enjoying this Scripture adventure—I know I am.
Proverbs is one of three wisdom books in the Bible (the others being Job and Ecclesiastes). Some of the psalms also are considered wisdom literature, but these three books are the big ones. Wisdom literature is designed to teach and to reflect on how we experience and interpret life and how we are to act in light of what we learn from God and from the world.
Proverbs is an interesting book in that a large chunk of it is said to be written by Solomon, to whom God gave the gift of great wisdom. There are over 3,000 pithy proverbs attributed to Solomon. Have you ever tried to write a proverb? It’s hard!
One of the most common phrases in Proverbs (and one we’ve heard before, in Job) is “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” We don’t like to talk about “fear” of the Lord—we’re not into fear that much and many of us have enough baggage from being afraid of God in our faith journey. We know that all through scripture we have God and God’s messengers saying “Do not be afraid”—which implies that “afraid of God” and “fear of the Lord are not the same thing. So what is the “fear of the Lord”????
Well, I suspect it something more like awe and humility, and less like being afraid. Knowing that God is great and good, and knowing that often we fall short of that, being in awe…in contrast to pride and arrogance in ourselves. When we think about this kind of “fear” then I think we begin to get at what Proverbs is talking about. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (perhaps because they think they don’t need it?). It’s interesting to think about what we mean by “wisdom” and “knowledge”—what does it mean to be wise? There’s worldly wisdom and there’s wisdom in God’s ways—can they be the same? Proverbs suggests that the more attached we are to worldly things, the harder it will be to attain God’s wisdom. Proverbs also says throughout that practicing the ways of wisdom is one of the only ways to attain it. We don’t just “get” it, we have to live it and eventually we live into it. And that is wisdom.