Sunday, June 11, 2006

Wisdom and the Doctrine of Self-Sufficiency

Musings on Job 28 and Isaiah 40

I am reading through the Bible using the technique advocated by my church and published by Discipleship Journal. We have a series of four bookmarks that have different parts of the Bible marked off for 25 days of each month (gives you some days to miss without getting horribly behind). Even so, I am behind/off schedule. But in God's timing He put Job 28 and Isaiah 40 together in one day's reading. Both together hit me like a ton of bricks. You can click on the links below and get the text of each in the English Standard Version (each will open in a new window so you can refer back as you like).

Job 28 (ESV)

Isaiah 40 (ESV)

In Job 28, God describes several capabilities of man regarding the dominion of the earth: mining of ore and jewels, smelting, agriculture, control of waters through dams, creation of light to dispel the darkness. In spite of all this, man cannot find wisdom. Why? Because it cannot be found in the land of the living...and even worse, man does not know its worth!! Let's face it...when man does not value something, he doesn't spend much time pursuing it. Since man doesn't know the worth of wisdom, he won't pursue it...and if he won't pursue it, he certainly won't find it!

And yet, wisdom is worth far more than all the things for which man continually strives: more than gold, silver, or jewels in any amount. What fools are we for not striving for wisdom?

So where is it? From where does it come? Job says it is hidden from all and only God understands the way to it and its place.

And yet, God does reveal that deeply held secret to us in verse 28: "Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding."

Wow! That's it? That's all there is to wisdom, wisdom that is so incredibly important and worth so much as to be incomprehensible? Just fear the Lord? And it's counterpart, understanding, is to turn away from evil? Seems easy enough...

But...what does fearing the Lord entail? What does it mean to turn from evil? Oh, how deep those thoughts can be. In fact, I cannot begin to do them justice other than to say that fearing the Lord means to tremble before His might and His grace, to worship and obey, to contemplate His holiness compared to our sinfulness, to love and adore His Son. (Sidenote: Here is a link to a rather lengthy article on the fear of the Lord by John Bunyon, author of A Pilgrim's Progress, the second-most widely read book behind the Bible.) And it would seem that turning from evil would be a natural outgrowth of fearing the Lord. If one fears the Lord, then one would not want to turn TO evil, but would want to do that which pleases the Lord...turn FROM evil. When our eyes are on Him, our mind is in the Scriptures, and wisdom flows to us along with understanding. I think the Lord would be pleased, for someone with even a smidgen of His wisdom can do mighty works in His name.

So what about the Doctrine of Self-Sufficiency? How does that relate? A wonderful sermon by Bruce Ware, professor at Southern Seminary, on exactly what the Doctrine of Self-Sufficiency is can be found at Bethlehem Baptist's website. Click on the box on the right-hand side referencing "Toward the Fullness of God" sermons.

Why would that relate to this text on wisdom? I think it is primarily because the verses preceding God's revelation that wisdom is the fear of the Lord describe a portion of His self-sufficiency by discussing his power. Earlier in the verses, we are told of man's achievements and capabilities. Yet in verses 24-26, God is shown as one who is so far above man that He is incomprehensible. He even makes a way for the rain and for the lightning! The next time you see the lightning in a thunderstorm, consider that last statement. He obviously is not in need of us.

So shift to Isaiah 40, starting at verse 12. Read verses 12 through 28 nonstop. Then do it again. The impact of those statements when considered as a whole is huge! Who is this God who calls us to fear Him? According to these statements, He is one wholly and completely worthy of the fear and worship He commands. There are no other beings who can begin to do that which these verses describe.

And yet, "Do you not know? Have you not heard?" is repeated over and over. Just how dense are we? Do we not know? Have we not heard? The Lord, our God, is the Holy One, the Creator, the master of all things, completely self-sufficient, completely perfect, completely holy! How dense are we? Why do we continue to go our own way? Why does pride continually get the best of us?

Do I not know? Have I not heard? To use today's vernacular: "Well, duh!" Of course I know. Of course I've heard. And yet...I so often continue to go my own way. My own way is the way of death. My own way is the way of man's knowledge, not the way of wisdom. Knowing and hearing are not sufficient. Fear of the Lord is a more visceral condition, a condition of the heart, not just the brain. God's Word must penetrate my heart such that the knowledge gained from that Word results in fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord causes a change, causes one to desire the way of the Lord, the commands of the Lord, the joy of the Lord. That fear makes one not want to be anywhere but in the bosom of our Lord and Savior. There is no better, no safer, no more profitable place to be!

When one is in the bosom of our Lord, one is waiting on the Lord, content in His way, content in His time. And what happens when we wait on the Lord? Finish Isaiah 40...we will renew our strength! We will run and not be weary! We will walk and not faint! In other words, we will be mighty for the Lord, doing massive damage to the kingdom of this world in the name of our Savior.

That sort of work/ministry requires strength. That sort of work/ministry requires wisdom. The root of both strength and wisdom is Fear of the Lord.

May He grant each of us the gift of fear....

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