Summary: Lady Wisdom explains her sheer delight in being in the presence of Almighty God and witnessing His glory and grandeur. We are encouraged to join her in amazement at God’s ability to construct and sustain the Universe as well as our lives.
The Delight of Wisdom
Throughout our study of Proverbs we have examined the best practical advice for living life that the world has ever known. The broad range of Solomon’s advice to his son is just as relevant, just as applicable today as it was in the day in which these lessons were originally taught. If you and I will devote ourselves to the study and living out of these biblical principles then we will avoid so much heartache and trouble in life.
When we come to the section of Scripture that we are studying together today we find that the advice of the previous chapters isn’t really present. We don’t hear things like, “When sinners entice you don’t go along with them,” or “Don’t stand as surety for your neighbor’s debt.” In our section of Scripture for today we read about Lady Wisdom speaking of her origins and her delight. Let’s take a look at our Scripture for today found in Proverbs 8:22-31.
22 “The LORD brought me forth as the first of his works, before his deeds of old; 23 I was appointed from eternity, from the beginning, before the world began. 24 When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water; 25 before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was given birth, 26 before he made the earth or its fields or any of the dust of the world. 27 I was there when he set the heavens in place, when he marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, 28 when he established the clouds above and fixed securely the fountains of the deep, 29 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. 30 Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, 31 rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. (Proverbs 8:22-31 NIV)
Before we take a look at our Scripture I need to let you know that this is poetic language. There are many different types of literature in the Bible: History, poetry, prophesy, parables, narratives, letters, etc. It is always important for us to try and understand the type of literature that we are studying so that we can rightly understand what is being taught.
What we have here in Proverbs 8:22-31 is poetic language. Within the poetic sections of the Old Testament we have different styles of poetry. The Psalms are poetic song lyrics, an early hymnal of the Hebrews. The Song of Songs is made up of romantic poetry set in story form, and Proverbs contains poetry that conveys teaching in a poetic form.
One of the key features of Hebrew poetry is that the Hebrews didn’t put any effort into rhyming. The Hebrews were more drawn to what we call “parallelism.” Let me give you an example of what I am talking about. In Proverbs 11:22 we read, “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.” In Proverbs 22:1 we read, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” Parallelism starts with a short thought and is then followed by another thought that either underscores what has already been said or contrasts what was just said. You can easily see this in the two Proverbs I just shared with you.
The poetic language of Proverbs 8:22-31 is not an example of parallelism, but it is instead an imaginative, picturesque view of the origin, value, and purpose of Lady Wisdom—from a poet’s perspective. Now that we understand what we are dealing with here in Proverbs 8:22-31 let’s dig in.
Many of the commentaries that I have read this past week have enthusiastically jumped at the idea that it is Jesus who is being described here in Proverbs 8:22-31. I can see how it would be easy to make that jump, but we need not jump so fast or we could find ourselves branded as a heretic. This section of Scripture was at the very heart of the controversy that led to the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.
Over 100 years before the Council of Chalcedon there was another Council convened over heretical teaching concerning the nature of Jesus. The Council of Nicea was convened with 318 Church Fathers present in 325 A.D. to settle a debate that began around 311 A.D., when a priest named Arius came from Antioch and was appointed to a major Alexandrian church. Arius was charismatic and persuasive. He was a great poet and musician and he got the word out about his theology not only by teaching and preaching, but by writing a series of popular folksongs that were sung all over Alexandria. Arius caused quite a buzz around Alexandria with his controversial views about the nature of Jesus.