Beginning of Wisdom
2010-09-05 (am) Sunday School Kick-off Proverbs 9.10 Beginning of Wisdom
Because today marks the first Sunday of Sunday school, because most, if not all of our students and teachers have returned to school, I thought we should ponder wisdom and understanding.
Isn’t that precisely what students seek, and teachers hope to convey?
Now, the verse we just read in proverbs not only addresses these two things, it really is the theme of the book. Verse ten of chapter nine is very close to verse 7 of chapter one. Go ahead, look it up, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
Even though both verses have the word beginning in them, in the Hebrew, two different words are used, though they are similar in meaning. In chapter one, the meaning of the word beginning has the sense of “to start.” In chapter nine, it has the sense of prerequisite.
So, the prerequisite to wisdom is to fear the Lord.
To fear the Lord, what does that mean?
It means that true wisdom, wisdom that is practical, useful, real, necessary, true, such wisdom begins with a reverence, a respect, a fear of the Lord. Today, many people, by their own admission, are fools, they are unwise; because they disbelieve that there is a God. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘there is no god.’”
It is interesting, then, that those who say they subscribe to reason, those who declare themselves as empirical observers, searchers for truth, categorically deny the existence of God, and they proclaim as foolish those, like us, who say that there is a God.
They, by their own admission, are fools! Their position is unsupported! They say, “prove to me that there is a God.” To which we can just as easily ask of them, “Prove to me that there is not a God.”
They make all kinds of claims about the scriptures, most of which are completely unfounded.
I’m sure you’ve had conversations with people about issues like this. Maybe someone has said to you, “There’s no such thing as God.” Or, “Religious people are mindless, people who believe in fairy tales.” Or, “The Bible is just a story made up by men.”
Do you know how to respond to statements like those? Do you want to learn how to respond to statements like those? Then become wise! Fear the Lord! Come to the Sunday Morning Bible Study starting next week. You will learn practical tools to help you converse with people who do not believe the same things we believe.
A couple of weeks ago, when we had the worship in the park service here, some of you witnessed what happened. I’m sure most of you have heard it already. Close to the beginning of the sermon, while I was preaching, a woman interrupted me and challenged the statement I had just made. What followed was a short back and forth discussion of our difference of opinion. After just a few minutes, she left.
Those who observed that dialogue, which caught me completely by surprise, were impressed by the way I responded. My response was a result of much study and learning, but also from listening to material like the Ambassador Basic Curriculum.
All of us are called by God to be ambassadors for Christ. God makes his appeal to all people, his appeal to reconciliation through his believers. Every single Christian is charged to be an ambassador.
An ambassador needs to know whom he or she represents. We represent God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Now, knowledge that there is a God is different from reverence of God. Consider Adam and Eve. They knew God, but they did not revere God. They disobeyed God. They revered Satan more than God, they subscribed to his wisdom and understanding instead of God’s. And as a result, their eyes were opened, and they became afraid!
Why? Because they understood who God is. He is the creator. He is the giver and taker of life! He controls the universe, which he created simply by speaking! God is an Awesome God! We’re not told much about Adam and Eve after that. We know they had two sons, one who followed and honoured and revered God and one who didn’t. They had other children, one of whom was Seth who followed in the way of Abel, who followed God. I hope that Adam and Eve didn’t just fear God, but that they revered him and honoured him as well.
You might recall a few weeks ago when we looked at the Gospel of Mark where he described Jesus calming the storm. In that story, we noticed that the disciples were even more afraid after the seas were calmed than they were in the midst of the tempest.
Why were they more afraid? They were more afraid because they realised that Jesus wasn’t just a good, a great human teacher. Jesus is God! They were standing in the presence of God the Son, and they were alive! They were his friends! They were his partners in ministry! It was an awesome moment!
Suddenly their understanding of God became more marvellous, more complex, more amazing! They began to revere Jesus, to worship him, to adore him. Well, eleven of them did. Judas, though he was there, though he saw everything, refused to believe. He didn’t revere and honour God.
So, the prerequisite to gaining wisdom is to know there is a one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and to worship and obey God.
That’s the first part of this passage. The second part is “and knowledge of the holy one is understanding.”
To really know anything, to really understand the world we live in, to really know ourselves and our purpose in life, we need to know God. True understanding of the world comes from knowing God.
If I can go back to the beginning of the message when I was talking about those who refuse to acknowledge that there is a God, perhaps we could understand it best through an illustration.
Let’s say that the universe is like a painting. In this painting, there are people, characters. The characters can talk to one another, just like people today. For a long time, after the painting was made, the people in the painting remembered that a famous artist had painted them. But as the painting got older, the people in the painting kept talking, after a while they forgot all about the artist. They began to think that they’d always just been there.
Atheists, those who refuse to think that there is a God, are like those people in the painting. They refuse to accept the fact that there is a creator. Someone who made the universe.
This conclusion was powerfully demonstrated in the film/documentary called “The Privileged Planet.” In this film, scientists state some interesting facts. They state that there are some 20 prerequisites for the existence and sustainability of life on planet earth. These include: H2O, water, in liquid form, a sun the size of our sun, the earth’s location relative to the solar system, the solar system’s location relative to the galaxy, a large moon in orbit, the tilt of the axis, the liquid iron core which gives us our magnetic poles, and so on. Mathematically speaking, the chance of having all these prerequisites in place at the same time, via random chance, is next to impossible. Mathematically speaking, the earth is unique, it is privileged, and it is likely the only planet of its kind in the whole universe.
What the makers of the movie found fascinating is, almost every single factor that makes life possible, also makes observations possible. For example, the earth’s atmosphere is thin and translucent as far as atmospheres go. If we were on Venus, we wouldn’t be able to see beyond the atmosphere at all. The size of our moon is exactly 1 400th the size of the Sun, and 1 400th the distance from the sun, which allows us, not only to observe the sun’s atmosphere during a solar eclipse, but also to observe stars near the sun, that we cannot otherwise see, because the sun’s brightness overpowers them.
The creators of the movie make a statement along these lines. The elements that are necessary for life on earth, also happen to be conducive to observation. Then, what do we find on this observable earth? Observers, human beings. Coincidence? Not at all! We are able to observe because the creator designed the universe to be observable. We can gain knowledge and understanding.
And true knowledge and understanding begins by acknowledging the creator, the Holy One. Everything we learn, informs us about the creator, in one way or another! Math, science, language, art, history, music, the study of all these things is limitless! Our understanding is only limited by our ability to understand. Humans are not brilliant enough to be able to understand everything.
In fact, life is so complex, that we need specialists to specialise in everything. It wasn’t long ago; it seemed that a general practitioner, a family doctor was good enough. But now, our understanding has grown so much, and so many aspects of the human body are so complex that we need specialists for just about everything!
Now, consider God. He understands everything. God created everything, he knows everything, he knows how everything works, and he knows why things do what they do. What is man compared to God? Truly, we are like dust!
But we are created in God’s image! We are created to know, to learn to observe, to grow in our understanding! And there’s nothing greater than desiring to know God. Christians who seek wisdom and understanding, seek to understand and know God more and more. Indeed, the scientific movement was borne out of the idea that by studying creation, we could gain a better understanding of God.
Such knowledge of God, such observations, prompted the psalmist to write, “better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere.” What the psalmist knew, and what thousands of Christians have understood, is there is no greater pursuit than knowing God.
In fact, there is a result, a benefit, if you will, from growing in our understanding of God. We receive wisdom. We exercise discernment. We gain confidence in life. Knowing God, knowing how he made us, how he made the world, how he made us to live, what he expects of us, gives us tremendous freedom!
Freedom, to do what God calls us to do! Freedom from bondage to sinful living, freedom to make good decisions! When we know God, we won’t have to ask, “What is God’s will for me in this situation?” We’ll know God’s will! God gives wisdom to those who ask!
Now, I’ll close with this. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Pursue knowledge of God. Make it your lifelong goal. Yes, this is Sunday School kick off Sunday, but really, it is a reminder for everyone that we are to be constantly growing in our knowledge and wisdom of God!
Ask yourself how well you’re doing in that regard? How can you increase your knowledge? I encourage you to get online, download messages, lectures. Look at websites like Biblicaltraining.org. Get audio books, get the Bible on cd, listen to it while you drive. Even if you’re making short trips around town, use the time to listen. Even if you’re not paying full attention, it sneaks in! Redeem the time you have.
Make a practise of reading the Bible when you go to bed and when you get up in the morning. There are countless ways to learn. Form a Bible Study. Come early next week! When you get together with your family, spend time together with God. Pick a text. Read a whole book of the Bible in one sitting! Try different things, but above all, learn, study, gain understanding, gain wisdom. Amen.