Wisdom can be tricky, and the wisdom literature of the Bible can be even trickier sometimes. Wisdom is more than morality. It is beyond morality. We tend to think in moral terms- what is right or wrong in this situation. Our hearts long for this simplification of life. We live our lives from this linearity. “If I do A I will get B.” If I study hard I will pass the class. If I don’t speed I will not lose my license. If I never go to bed angry I will have a happy marriage. If I save myself sexually for marriage, God will give me a spouse.
But wisdom isn’t just about linearity. And life is rarely that simple as we will see in part 2.
God’s big story for the world is what we have called the Creation- Fall- Redemption (C-F-R) narrative. Understanding this meta-narrative is the key to wisdom. The C-F-R narrative tells us that in life there is a pattern, but there is not a pattern, but there is a pattern. Confusing right?
Today I want us to briefly look at how Creation tells us that there is a pattern.
When God created the world he made it to follow certain laws (natural laws, relational laws, the law of love, etc.). These laws put patterns into place. Things like “you reap what you sow” are rooted in creation and create a pattern for living.
The Proverbs are full of these kinds of patterns. If you do A you get B. For example in Proverbs 5 God says that if you pursue the “strange woman” it leads to death. Why does God call some things “Strange” or foreign for us? Because they are not what we were created for. The pattern for marriage is one man and one woman leaving and becoming one flesh, creating a new family together (Gen. 2:24).
To be “strange” is to go against the pattern. Just like if you breathed in carbon dioxide gas you would die because that violates the natural pattern– so to, if you sleep with an adulteress you violate God’s pattern. Why would God tell you not to jump off the roof from 40 feet in the air? Why would God tell you to forgive, be generous, tell the truth, or avoid lust? (hint: it’s the same answer).
God does not say: “follow my directions or I’ll smack you.” He does say: “If you don’t follow my directions, you will smack yourself.” Read Romans 1:24 and 26. God’s wrath is when he gives us over to our own desires. His wrath occurs when He allows us to live outside of His pattern and go our own way. When we live inside of God’s pattern, we are not just fulfilling an obligation or duty– we are living up to the glory that we were created for. The glory of imaging the Trinity. There is a divine spiritual order or reality. Wisdom is knowing that order and living within it.
Much of the wisdom literature of the Bible deals with identifying these patterns. Again these are not just moral rules. They are realities that we live within, that shape our lives. You are a fool if you do not search for an understanding of God’s patterns. You do not fear God if you do not seek diligently for this wisdom.
But now a warning: Often these patterns are broken or hidden. And failing to understand this truth will also make you a fool.
And that will be Part 2: There is no pattern.