Wise God

Wise God

TEXT: Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 19:7-8; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Do you want to be wise? I do! How do you get wisdom? How do you become wise?

That’s what we are going to look at this morning. Of all the weeks trying to answer “What is God like?” this is the one most focused on us reflecting the character of God. Most weeks we have focused on God (holy, just, merciful, loving, faith), ending with the call to be godly in our own thinking and behavior. But this week it is presumed that God is wise and most of the scripture I found has to do with how we can be or become wise with godly wisdom.

So that’s where we’ll focus. And I’ll give you the whole of it up front: we grow in godly wisdom through knowing and worshiping God, through learning and obeying scripture, and through trusting and following Jesus Christ. So let’s dive in!

Fear of the Lord (Proverbs)

Look at our call to worship this morning from three different chapters of Proverbs. Really the whole book of Proverbs is about wisdom: what is wise, how to be wise, and how to not be foolish. These three different verses say that wisdom starts with the fear of the Lord.

17 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
Fools despise wisdom and instruction.

910 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

1533 The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom,
And before honor comes humility.

What is the fear of the Lord? It’s not being scared, which is probably our first thought when we hear ‘fear.’ Rather the sense of “fear of the Lord” is one of awe and reverence and respect. In one sense it’s the kind of posture we might have toward a thunderstorm. It’s not out to get us, but one should not take it casually or flippantly. This might even be why some ancient culture made gods out of forces of nature like thunderstorms. “Fear of the Lord” is a posture of worship, one that recognizes God for Who He is and has the proper respect and reverence for God.

This is one reason we are having this series. Hopefully it is broadening our understanding of Who God is. Think about what we have looked at so far. God is holy, just, merciful, loving, and faithful. Today we are talking about God as wise, and next week as good. The Proverb tells us that we are wise to worship, to reverence, to respect this God; and in doing so, we begin to learn wisdom.

Learning and Obeying the Written Word in Scripture (Psalm 19)

The last part of our call to worship came from Psalm 19:7-8. These two verses lift up the many blessings and benefits of God’s Word. One of those many blessings is “making wise the simple.”

197 The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
8 The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.

Consider all four blessings listed in these two short verses. The first part of each line is just a different way to talk about God’s Word: the law, God’s testimony, the precepts (teachings), the commandment(s). This is Hebrew poetry, which I’ve noted delights in repetition!

How does God’s Word bless us?

It RESTORES THE SOUL, that deepest part of what makes you you and makes me me. It heals and restores and makes complete what is missing. The mathematician Pascal talked about void in our hearts that only God could fill… God’s Word leads us to God, filling that God-shaped hole with the knowledge and love of the Lord.

God’s Word MAKES WISE THE SIMPLE, which is what led me to these verses since or topic today is wisdom. God’s Word teaches us and even shapes us with godly wisdom so that we become more wise, more knowledgeable of God and the things of God.

God’s Word REJOICES THE HEART. It is not a buzz-kill or a downer, but brings JOY into our lives. Have you had that experience of Scripture? If not, I wonder how you read it and what you read? Have you dug into the themes of deliverance, justice, salvation, healing, the Kingdom of God, victory over sin and death? Or do you view it as a rule-book? I’d commend the whole of Psalm 19 as a great place to start to understand the deep blessing and joy of God’s Word for our lives.

God’s Word ENLIGHTENS THE EYES. This is more granting of wisdom. God’s Word opens our eyes, not just literally, but in the metaphorical sense of understanding: “Oh, I see; I get it; I understand!”

And how does the blessing of God’s Word happen? This is obvious, but I want to say it out loud. It doesn’t do it by proximity. Having a Bible in your house or on your phone doesn’t magically bless us. Touching it or sleeping with it under our pillow doesn’t bless us. It is through study, rumination, and incorporation of its truths into our lives that God’s written Word blesses us.

I was visiting recently with one of our older adults who had just finished reading through the whole Bible for the 21st time in his adult life. And he’s not just powering through, but meditating on it each day. I asked him if he learned anything new this time through. And he smiled (joyfully!) and said, “I do every time.” Besides being positively challenged by his example, it also reminded me that we can never exhaust what scripture can teach us. It is a deep, deep well for wisdom and blessing that will not run dry.

Trusting and Following the Living Word, Jesus (1 Corinthians 1)

18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.” 20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; 27 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, 28 and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, 29 so that no man may boast before God. 30 But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, 31 so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”

The rather long passage we heard from 1 Corinthians is an extended reflection by the Apostle Paul on the wisdom of God in Christ. Paul lived several hundred years after the golden age of Greek Philosophy (think of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle), and the Roman Empire had eclipsed the Greek. But the influence of the Greek culture still dominated. People spoke Greek; the Romans adopted the Greek gods and religious system, just renaming all of the Greek gods with Roman counterparts. And Greek philosophy still stood as the measure of education and thought in the Roman Empire.

Paul was on a mission to carry the message of Jesus Christ to the Gentile world, and he and the other Apostles’ were running into resistance from Jews and Greeks. In this text in 1 Corinthians Paul addresses both groups, saying that “Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom.” (v.22) He goes on to say that his message, preaching “Christ crucified” is “to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness.” (v.23) But he goes on to say that to those God calls, those who can see and believe, Jesus is the answer to both obstacles: he is the “power of God” to the Jews and the “wisdom of God” to the Greeks. (v.24)

What is he talking about? Look at v. 18. It’s the cross. If the Jews were looking for a triumphant King to lead revolution and take on the Romans, the cross was anything but the sign they sought. It seemed like failure. If the Greeks were looking for wisdom in any new philosopher, then focusing the message of Jesus on his death (the “word of the cross”) would seem foolish indeed. But Paul focuses on the apparent weakness of Jesus as God’s ultimate power and wisdom.

If God can even use defeat and death to save and redeem us, then surely God is more powerful and more wise than anything and anyone. God’s wisdom is seen most powerfully and perfectly in Jesus himself. And so Paul can conclude in v. 30, “By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.”

How do we gain and grow in godly wisdom? We do so by being “in Christ Jesus” – that is, by believing, trusting, and following Jesus. If you are “in Christ” you are in and with the one who IS God’s wisdom as well as the one who makes us righteous, holy, and redeemed!

Do You Want to be Wise?

God wants us to be wise with godly wisdom. And that wisdom is rooted in God’s own wisdom, revealed in God’s character, written Word in scripture, and Living Word in Jesus.

I said something earlier about our Bibles, how we don’t grow in wisdom by merely being near a Bible. That’s true all around about God’s means of growing us in wisdom. It’s not enough to simply sit in a church service, have a Bible in the house, or know something about Jesus. I mean maybe at first, if any of that is new to you. Then there’s the potential to get interested, to draw nearer, to enter into worship, to read the Bible, to get to know Jesus personally. But for most of us, becoming wise takes ongoing interest and connection through the means we’ve looked at today: worshiping regularly and intentionally; studying scripture with regularity and responsiveness to what it teaches; and following Jesus in life, asking “where are you leading me?”

910 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.


Faithful God
Good God