Creation and Wisdom
Post date: Mar 18, 2016 5:00:35 PM
Explorations into Creation and Faith: Proverbs
Intro: We challenged ourselves to look at creation care in some less obvious or commonly thought corners of Scripture.
Wisdom, and Job.
In the Hebrew Bible, wisdom is represented by Solomon, who asks God for wisdom in 2Chronicles 1. Much of the Book of Proverbs, a book of wise sayings, is attributed to Solomon. In Proverbs 1:7 and Proverbs 9:10, the awe of YHWH is called the beginning or foundation of wisdom while Proverbs 8:13 declares "To fear YHWH is to hate injustice". In Proverbs 1:20, there is also reference to wisdom personified in female form, "Wisdom calls aloud in the streets, she raises her voice in the marketplaces." (Adan) Continuing in Proverbs 8:22–31, this personified wisdom is described as being present with God before creation began and even taking part in creation itself, delighting especially in human beings.
Wisdom was regarded as one of the highest virtues among the Israelites along with kindness and justice. Both the book of Proverbs and Psalms urge readers to obtain and to increase in wisdom. Here are some of the roles that the Hebrew Bible ascribes to wisdom:
Building and establishing civilization (Proverbs 24:3–4).
Elevating life (Proverbs 3:21-23).
Safety and avoiding misery (Proverbs 3:21–23).
Exceeding the value of gold and silver (Proverbs 16:16).
Giver of patience and glory (Proverbs 19:11).
The book of Proverbs like all of scripture after Genesis 1, presupposes that God is creator of all that is. Creator is an important part of God's identity. The speaker in Proverbs is the figure Wisdom. She presents God as the one who founded the earth, established the heavens and broke open the deeps. Therefore to dishonor creation, by treating plants, animals, and lands as mere matter to be exploited, is to dishonor God. “Those who oppress the poor insult their Maker …” On the other hand, to honor creation by nurturing and caring for our fellow creatures, is to honor to God. “but those who are kind to the needy honor him.” (14:31)
The figure of Wisdom, was present with God from the very beginning. In naming herself firstborn of all creation Wisdom also gives a wonderful, full description of their work.
“The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth-- when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.” (Proverbs 8:22-31)
Because creation is the work of God, the created order reveals God to us. In other parts of the bible creation reveals God's glory, or power, or compassion. Since the book of Proverbs is a compilation of wise sayings, in it we find creation revealing wisdom. It does so rather in the manner of koans – statements designed to make you think rather than giving you one precise bit of advice.
“Four things on earth are small, yet they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people without strength, yet they provide their food in the summer; the badgers are a people without power, yet they make their homes in the rocks; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard can be grasped in the hand, yet it is found in kings' palaces.” (Pro 30:24-28)
Wisdom also makes some statements in Proverbs that, while not directly connected to creation, are very relevant to our current struggle to transform our businesses, governments and other institutions from destroyers of the natural world to advocates and nurturers of God's creation. In the last chapter, she gives us our marching orders: “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (31:8-9) She suggests attitudes that will be extremely helpful in living within the planets resources: “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, or else, having too much, you will vomit it.” (25:16) and “The good leave an inheritance to their children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.” (13:22)
She condemns those who do evil.
“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that hurry to run to evil, a lying witness who testifies falsely, and one who sows discord in a family. (6:16-19)”
And blesses those who do good.
Perhaps the most powerful, even overwhelming self identification of God as creator and master of creation is found in the conclusion to the Book of Job. Job has dared to question God. God’s answer is to proclaim—for four entire chapters, a total of 129 verses—how much greater and more powerful God is than Job. God describes his power and greatness in terms of all the elements of nature that God created and has power over. The sect ion begins “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4) Further on God asks, “Have you commanded the morning since your days began?” (Job 38:12) By way of a long series of rhetorical questions God lets Job know that God is: the maker of clouds, the one who cut a channel for the torrents of rain, sender of lightening, master of the wild ox, maker of the behemoth and the only one who can control it. (Job 38:1-41:43) These chapters make it abundantly clear that God is maker of heaven and earth.1
What is Wisdom?
More than just knowledge. It is ability to make wise decisions and take right actions.
In the realm of environmental stewardship, that means taking wise action to preserve the creation we depend upon for our very existence.