When I read it in Proverbs 4, it sounds like something I should add to the grocery list – like it’s one of those things I can just pick up on the way home from work and in between stops on my hour-long commute.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. Prize her highly, and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a graceful garland; she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.” (Proverbs 4:7-9, ESV)
The beginning of wisdom is to get wisdom. Hm.
It’s a rough and tumble struggle when it comes to ironing out the practicalities of Proverbs. But this past Sunday and in recent conversations, the Lord has been so good to remind my heart why practicalities are as much a good gift as wooey-wooey, spiritual moments.
Practical is not a word I would use to describe myself. Two days ago there was a Blueberry Crisp cooling on my kitchen counter while various “extra” and “oops” leftover ingredients cooled in the fridge. I have taken a different train route to work every day and have a different very impractical story about each journey. While still in the process of moving in, baking ingredients are among the highest on my priority list and (though I stop often at the corner store) I rarely come home with more than a few items.
I am not naturally very practical, but I made peace with that a long time ago.
So, when Tim Keller said the new sermon series was on wisdom from the book of Proverbs, my ears perked up. Though a very impractical person about many ordinary things, I desperately want to be practically wise about the most important things. And God’s directive is very clear: get wisdom. God says to go get wisdom – actively and certainly. Get wisdom.
Okay, Lord. You have commanded this and I will obey, but how? Part of believing God for His promises is believing that He will never ask anything of me that is impossible. I do believe I can grow in wisdom. I believe that He will show me how and that He will make me able.
The possibility of His promises depends on His faithfulness because I cannot do anything He asks without His help.
Now, back to last Sunday in those plush, uncomfortable theatre seats at the Salvation Army downtown. As we read through Proverbs 1 and Keller started to outline the importance of wisdom and what it means to acquire it, this little gem rolled out:
You get wisdom through paradoxical fear and the foolishness of grace.
The paradoxical fear is reference to Proverbs 9:10 (fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom) and the foolishness of grace references 1 Corinthians 1:18 (the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing). How do you get wisdom? By a righteous and reverent fear of the Lord and through the unbelievable work of Christ on the cross. Keller gave an analogy that is helpful here. He described the fear one might have if he were holding a very valuable, very rare and very breakable vase. He does not fear the vase – that it will harm him – but, instead he fears that he will drop the vase because he values it so much.
This is where we start when we determine to “get wisdom” – the fear of the Lord. And how do we have a right fear of the Lord? The foolishness of the cross. This, more than anything else, speaks a spiritual language of value. The beauty of this language is that it translates into the practicalities of everyday questions and doubts.
I better get to “getting” … maybe along the way I’ll gain some knowledge that will make my life less like Amelia Bedelia.
Well, maybe not. But there is grace for Amelia too.