13 – ENGAGING THE POWERS OF THE KINGDOM – THE POWER OF WISDOM
WISDOM ACCORDING TO THE OLD COVENANT
The next topic we will explore is the kingdom power of wisdom which is an intricate study with many facets.
From the beginning, God wanted a family of sons and daughters who would live together with Him in love and harmony in a beautiful and perfect environment. His verdict on everything He created was “very good”.
All was perfect for a while until sin entered the world through His first son and marred His plan. Instead of love, peace and harmony, Adam’s decision to be his own god brought chaos into the world and produced a dysfunctional family of enemies alienated from God and one another through selfishness and greed.
God set in motion a remedy which would reverse the effects of Adam’s rebellion on the whole human family and eventually restore His creation to its original state. This intricate plan was the product of divine wisdom to get mankind back to living with Him as a loving and harmonious family.
He chose a couple to start a family and a nation that would be the prototype of His restored relationship with mankind. He made a covenant with them, the legal framework within which He would be free to have fellowship with them.
This covenant showed them God’s holiness, righteousness and truth. If they kept His covenant, He would bless and prosper them; if not, He would banish them from their inheritance, the land He gave them, His blessing and His presence.
In the Old Covenant, righteousness, or doing the right thing was tied to obedience to the law. The children of Israel, in the main, failed to keep the covenant, rebelled and were exiled to Babylon for 70 years.
However, Job, who lived in the time of the Patriarchs, is an example of a person whom God judged to be righteous because of what he did. Job believed the philosophy of his day that God’s blessing was the reward for living a righteous life. Yet God put him through a severe test.
Job, in the intensity of his suffering, searched for the meaning of what he was enduring. He never mentioned the devil in his quest for understanding. Instead, he saw God as responsible for his pain but could make no sense of his suffering since he considered himself to be righteous. Why was he being punished for what he had not done?
“But where can wisdom be found? Where does understanding dwell? No mortal comprehends its worth; it cannot be found in the land of the living… Where then does wisdom come from? Where does understanding dwell? God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells,… And he said to the human race, “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.” Job 28:12-13, 20, 23, 28 NIV
It is wise to live according to God’s requirements because right living makes for a harmonious family.
Solomon reached the same conclusion at the end of his quest for the meaning of life…
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” Ecclesiastes 12:13 NLT
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 NIV
This was God’s prescribed way for people to return to His original plan for His human family. If people lived in the fear of the Lord, they would live the right way by doing what God required. However, Israel’s failure to live by God’s law reveals two things about human nature:
- Since we are born with a sinful nature, no amount of right living now cancels out the sins of our past.
- It is impossible for a sinful person to live a righteous life.
Let’s examine “the fear of the Lord” in the context of the Old Covenant.
What is the fear of the Lord? This is also a huge subject. My definition of the fear of the Lord is very simple. TAKING GOD SERIOUSLY.
Wisdom and folly are often contrasted in the Old Testament, particularly in the book of Proverbs. It is wise to do the right thing because it works. It is folly to do the wrong thing because it does not work, i.e. it does or does not satisfy God’s requirement for a righteous life.
The significance of folly is that the fool does the wrong thing out of rebellion, not ignorance. Although he knows what is right, he doesn’t do it, and it ends in disaster.
“The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” Psalms 14:1-3 NIV
“Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools.” Romans 1:21-22 NLT
In the Old Covenant, therefore, God set the standard for wisdom… to live in the fear of the Lord… but showed us how impossible it us for human beings to live up to His standard because our old nature is in rebellion and at enmity against God….
THE POWER OF WISDOM IN THE NEW COVENANT
God’s revelation of His holy requirements in the Old Covenant was a preparation for His wisdom to be revealed in all its glory in the New Covenant.
Proverbs 8 gives us a hint in poetic language, that God’s wisdom was personified in someone called Wisdom who was with Him from the beginning, was involved in the creation of the universe, and was in joyful fellowship with Him.
“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment. I know where to discover knowledge and discernment. All who fear the Lord will hate evil. Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance, corruption and perverse speech…. I walk in righteousness, in paths of justice. Proverbs 8:12-13, 20 NLT
“I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, when he gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not overstep his command, and when he marked out the foundations of the earth.
Then I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. Blessed are those who listen to me, watching daily at my doors, waiting at my doorway. For those who find me find life and receive favor from the Lord .” Proverbs 8:27-31, 34-35 NIV
John, in his gospel, clarifies this thought that it was Jesus, THE WORD, who was with God in the beginning and was the agent of creation. God spoke and the Word did what God said.
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.”John 1:1-3 NLT
When we join together what Proverbs 8 says about Wisdom and what John says about the Word, we have the beginning of God’s amazing plan to recover and restore what was ruined at the Fall.
God’s plan was to do the right thing by sending His Son to earth as a human being to live a perfectly righteous life and die as a sacrifice and substitute for all sinners, and it worked!
“So, the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:14 NLT
To ensure that there would be no mistake about the identity and character of the one He would send, God, through His prophets, painted a word picture of His Redeemer in the Old Covenant writings.
“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord — and he will delight in the fear of the Lord… ” Isaiah 11:1-3 NIV
“Though the Lord is very great and lives in heaven, he will make Jerusalem his home of justice and righteousness. In that day he will be your sure foundation, providing a rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. The fear of the Lord will be your treasure.” Isaiah 33:5-6 NLT
So, Jesus is all of God’s wisdom in one person.
“Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:21-24 NLT
“God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit, God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin.” 1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT
Jesus did everything necessary, through His perfect life, sacrificial death and powerful resurrection, to reconcile us to the Father, restore us to God’s family, recreate us in His image and set us apart from sin to God.
“I want them (all believers) to be encouraged and knit together by strong ties of love. I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Colossians 2:2-3 NLT
How can we apply this wisdom to our daily struggles so that we participate in God’s plan rather than unwittingly fight against it?
James gives us a clue.
“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So, let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone.
Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.” James 1:2-8 NLT
Let me paraphrase.
When we face trials and tests, God is putting into action His plan to conform us to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29). He wants sons, not brats, in His family, those who submit to His discipline and training. When we don’t understand what’s going on, instead of floundering in our faith and resisting God’s discipline (Heb. 12:8-11) we can ask God for wisdom to respond and act in the right way so that we learn from and not waste our hardships.
So, the wisdom God revealed in Jesus and shows us how to live is a powerful kingdom tool to help us navigate and gain the most out of our struggles and hardships. In this way, we learn to co-operate with rather than fight against the ups and downs of life. We are learning to be sons and daughters in God’s forever family.
“If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. Hebrews 12:8-11 NLT
All Scripture quotations in this series
Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.