Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

Don’t you love it when you discover an outstanding Bible passage you just didn’t remember studying before? Last week I stumbled upon Job 28. May I share some thoughts from that chapter?

Gold MineJob has been debating with his three friends in chapters 3-27, and 28 is a continuation of Job’s reasoning. The main question of the chapter arrives in verses 12 and 20, but watch how Job builds up to the question in verses 1-11:

1     “Surely there is a mine for silver, And a place where gold is refined.
2      Iron is taken from the earth,
And copper is smelted from ore.
3      Man puts an end to darkness,
And searches every recess
For ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.
4      He breaks open a shaft away from people;
In places forgotten by feet
They hang far away from men;
They swing to and fro.
5      As for the earth, from it comes bread,
But underneath it is turned up as by fire;
6      Its stones are the source of sapphires,
And it contains gold dust.
7      That path no bird knows,
Nor has the falcon’s eye seen it.
8      The proud lions have not trodden it,
Nor has the fierce lion passed over it.
9      He puts his hand on the flint;
He overturns the mountains at the roots.
10   He cuts out channels in the rocks,
And his eye sees every precious thing.
11   He dams up the streams from trickling;
What is hidden he brings forth to light.

Ancient PathsBy gorgeous imagery, Job transports us into the recesses of the earth, into the mines, into the center of the rock. What does man find hidden there in the darkness? He finds precious things, gold, silver, iron, glittering jewels, sparkling dust.

What’s the point, Job? We read on…

12    “But where can wisdom be found?
        And where is the place of understanding?
13    Man does not know its value,
Nor is it found in the land of the living.
14    The deep says, ‘It is not in me’;
And the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15    It cannot be purchased for gold,
Nor can silver be weighed for its price.
16    It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
In precious onyx or sapphire.
17    Neither gold nor crystal can equal it,
Nor can it be exchanged for jewelry of fine gold.
18    No mention shall be made of coral or quartz,
For the price of wisdom is above rubies.
19    The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
Nor can it be valued in pure gold.
20    “From where then does wisdom come?
        And where is the place of understanding?

WisdomVerses 12 and 20 create an inclusio, which is a section bracketed by two nearly identical statements. The twin statements expose the main point of the section: “Where can wisdom be found, and where is the place of understanding?”

We brilliant humans can search and find so many wonderful, valuable, precious items hidden in the earth…but can we find wisdom in all those places? Man doesn’t even know the value of wisdom–it cannot be measured like gold or silver. You cannot find wisdom in the ocean, you cannot purchase wisdom from a merchant, and you cannot measure wisdom’s value using any earthly economic system.

So, Job reiterates, from where does wisdom come? The answer challenges many:

21    It is hidden from the eyes of all living,
And concealed from the birds of the air.
22    Destruction and Death say,
‘We have heard a report about it with our ears.’
23    God understands its way,
        And He knows its place.
24    For He looks to the ends of the earth,
And sees under the whole heavens,
25    To establish a weight for the wind,
And apportion the waters by measure.
26    When He made a law for the rain,
And a path for the thunderbolt,
27    Then He saw wisdom and declared it;
He prepared it, indeed, He searched it out.
28    And to man He said,
‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
        And to depart from evil is understanding.’ ”

Wisdom is hidden from mankind. There is a wisdom which comes with age and experience, but not the wisdom which Job seeks: the wisdom of the ages, the rock-solid truth, the understanding of life. That wisdom is hidden from all the living. In fact, those irresistible forces of nature, Destruction and Death, have only heard rumors about wisdom!

God's PaintingGod understands wisdom. Of course He does! Being the Creator of this life, He surely knows how this life operates! He sees and establishes everything. He’s the one who created the physical laws in the first place. Even wisdom He spoke into being.

But God not only understands wisdom, He gracefully reveals wisdom to us! He says to man, “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding.”

Apart from God’s revelation, man cannot be truly wise. The most learned scientist, the most widely-traveled archaeologist, the most introspective guru among men still has not found wisdom until he opens up the word of God and examines what God has actually revealed about man and about Himself. In His word we find truth and wisdom, those things which are hidden from mankind.

Does that fill you with excitement? Isn’t that brilliant? Doesn’t that make you want to dig into God’s book and share it with your children? That’s the way I feel, too!

Let us fear the Lord, our Maker. Let us depart from evil. Therein lies wisdom.

Sermon: Holding Up Each Other’s Hands

From the life of Moses, three events clearly expose the leader’s need for help at different points in his life. How did God help Moses when he was fearful, weary, or overburdened?

God and State-of-Being Verbs

In my homeschool group we recently discussed a simple sentence:

“He is in the car.”

First, we remove prepositional phrases before we figure out the main sentence pattern, and in this case we removed “in the car” which left “He is.” Someone insisted that couldn’t be right–how can “He is” stand alone as a sentence? It didn’t seem to make good sense.

Divine CreationMy mind immediately jumped back to Exodus 3.6 where God introduced Himself: “I am the God of Abraham…” A little later in Moses’ fearful discussion with God, he asked God how He would like to be introduced to Israel. God responded with, “I AM WHO I AM…Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” (Exod. 3.13-14).

I would never say “Nathan is” without a greater context. Maybe if someone asked, “Who is hungry?” I might answer, “Nathan is,” or in the first person, “I am.” But you understand I’m saying “Nathan is hungry,” “I am hungry.” There would be a qualification after the state-of-being verb to tell you just what I am.

A well-known maxim goes thus: “I think, therefore I am,” expressing in a cute, philosophical way our existence. But we know there was I time when we were not, and there is coming a time when we will not be on this earth and in this body.

In the BeginningGod is (of course) totally unique and different from us! We CAN say simply “He is.” He just is. He exists. The state-of-being verb simply says God exists, and that’s all there is to it. Is there a greater context? There is NO greater context than Him!

This is why the Jews became so upset with Jesus in John 8.57-59 when they asked Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus responded, “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” In this way, Jesus identified Himself with God, nay, as God. Understandably, the Jews attempted to stone Him for that, not stopping to really ponder the ramifications of His words or His mighty deeds.

God is. Jesus is. The Holy Spirit is. Together, they are the One “who is and who was and who is to come” (Rev. 1.4, 8; 4.8), “the Alpha and the Omega” (Rev. 1.8), “the first and the last” (Rev. 1.17; 2.8), “the beginning and the end” (Rev. 22.13), “the living God, enduring forever” (Dan. 6.26), “the Ancient of Days” (Dan. 7.9), who has always been from “in the beginning” (John 1.1; Gen. 1.1).

We began. God instigated our beginning. He had no beginning and will have no end. He is the great singular cause of all things.

He is!

A Christian’s Acts of Worship

Pagan TempleHistorically, men have worshiped gods of all shapes, colors, and sizes. With a wide variety of activities, they have attempted to prove their reverence, devotion, and fear. From burning incense to hurling a human victim into the fire, from bowing the knee to cutting the body, from performing holy washings to performing holy sexual acts, people have worshiped their gods.

Disciples of Jesus Christ stand upon the shoulders of the Jews when it comes to religious acts of worship. However, we do not perform all the acts of worship the Jews did because we recognize God has changed some requirements. In fact, we might say He has relaxed the requirements. The Jews had many specific forms of worship which were commanded of them–such things as the Levitical priesthood system with all their duties of washings, keeping the tabernacle, playing specific musical instruments, burning incense on specially-crafted lavers, sacrificing animals each morning and evening, etc. Thank God He does not require these of us today! (Although, if He had, we would be compelled to obey Him in all these things, just as were the Jews.)

Praying KenyaToday, God has commanded an astonishingly few acts of worship, and He has not so much commanded them as He has granted them to us for our own good and growth. What ritual does the Christian have except to meet together in a regular assembly to eat the Supper of the Lord? Should we meet in the evening, in the morning, or at lunchtime? God has not specified. Should we meet all day or only for a few hours? God has not specified.

God has told us of what the Lord’s Supper consists (bread and fruit of the vine–see Matt. 26.26-29 and 1 Cor. 11.23-26). How much of it should we eat; how much should we drink; how should we distribute it among the disciples? Again, God has left much of these things for us to decide.

CommunionAs we read through the New Testament, we find the disciples regularly met together (Acts 2.42-47; Heb. 10.25-26); sang together (Matt. 26.30; Acts 16.25; Eph. 5.19); prayed together (Acts 1.24; 2.42; 4.24-31; 12.5); taught one another from Scripture (1 Tim. 3.16-4.4); read publicly from Scripture (1 Tim. 4.13); devoted themselves to one another (Acts 2.42, 46-47); and ate the Lord’s Supper together (1 Cor. 11.17ff; 10.14-22; Acts 20.7). Although the word “worship” is not directly associated with any of those activities, other words such as “praise” and “thankfulness” and “joy” and “gladness” and “glorify” are used–words which give us the sense of a worshipful attitude behind the activities.

When we come together as a church, our main goal is to encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10.25-26; Eph. 4.11-16; 1 Cor. 14.3, 12, 15-19, 24-25, 31). In a word, we are to edify (build up) one another. This building up of one another serves to glorify God, and is, therefore, a beautiful form of worship and includes many acts of specific worship. When we act properly as the church of God, as we continue in holiness, as we provoke one another to love and good works, we build up the temple of the Lord, and God is magnified.

But there is much more to an individual’s worship which he does apart from his brethren. We will consider more in the near future.

Worship…Not Just a State of Mind

Hands lifted in praiseIs worship just a state of mind? Is it a special feeling that lets you know you are properly connected to God? Is it a great swelling in your chest or a fire in your bones?

Let’s consider how the Bible talks about worship.

Some Pictures of Worship in the Old Testament

Genesis 24.26, 48, and 47.31 reference the action of bowing low in worship, and that wording is found all over the Old Testament.

Service and worship are often paired concepts (i.e., Deut. 29.26; 30.17).

When Nehemiah brought true worship back to Israel, we read the following:

On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served. For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were bleaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. (Neh. 12.44-46)

It is said “they performed the worship,” which again couples the concepts of worship and service, specifically temple service, in this case.

Singing kidsPsalm 66.4 parallels worship with singing, indicating that God is worshiped through songs of praises:

“All the earth will worship You,
And will sing praises to You;
They will sing praises to Your name.”

Psalm 95.6:

Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Psalm 96.9:

Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

This does not mean we should dress our best, for some who would impress their brothers and sisters by outward dress are certainly not dressed in holiness! This has to do with the heart’s attire, it’s attitude of holiness before YHWH.

Praying HandsSome Pictures of Worship in the New Testament

The New Testament also shows that worship often involves some physical posturing or activity of service.

The wise men “fell to the ground and worshiped” the Holy Child (Matt. 2.11). Satan demanded Jesus “fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4.9). Jesus pairs worship with service in His answer to Satan: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matt. 4.10). Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples “took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (Matt. 28.9). Before he understood better, Cornelius “fell at [Peter’s] feet and worshiped him” (Acts 10.25)–of course, Peter quickly corrected him!

In the early church, Paul writes of an unbeliever who “will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Cor. 14.25), and in the Apocalypse “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne…” (Rev. 4.10).

How Do We Worship?

Does our worship look like the Old Testament Jew’s worship? Does it look like the New Testament disciple’s worship? When was the last time you fell on your face in worship? When was the last time you knelt in worship?

I might quickly interject: “but it’s not really about the posture, it’s about the heart.”

Praying manIt certainly IS about the heart…but the heart should drive us to DO something, take some sort of action, perform some sort of service to the Lord. Although the word worship is never directly associated with singing, praying, or preaching in the New Testament, we understand all of those activities to be spiritual services of worship. But surely those are not the only ways to worship God! In fact, you might fall prostrate before Him and remain in that posture for a while, just reflecting on how GREAT He is in all His glory and magnificence. You might just kneel with your head bowed for a while, dwelling on God’s majesty and holiness.

Worship is not just a state of mind; it’s actively and intentionally diminishing oneself and magnifying God.

Worship is not just a good mood we get when we hear “Christian music”! So much of the so-called Christian world today thinks music ministry when they think of worship. For them worship is the time when the people on stage play music and get the crowd all worked up. When they cry, laugh, or feel a great swelling in their chests, they feel they have worshiped. But it’s not about the feeling at all. Those feelings may (should) result from true worship, but it’s the God-praising, God-glorifying, God-magnifying activities we do which are the actual worship.

What might we add to our worship? Perhaps we need to change some things? The best thing we can do is look in God’s word to see how He desires to be worshiped. Then do those things with all our might!

Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143.10)

YHWH be praised!

Gathering for Worship

Sabbath for ManUnder the Law of Moses, God expected the Jewish people to meet together regularly. He gave them special feast days and weeks scattered through the year, and their Sabbath Day to be a weekly oasis, a rest from the drudgery of the other six work days.

God had sanctified and blessed the seventh day (Sabbath) in creation:

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen. 2.2-3)

During each Sabbath rest, the Jews were forbidden to do any of their normal work or daily chores. Deadly serious about keeping the Sabbath Day holy (Exod. 35.2), God embedded it as the fourth of the Ten Commandments:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exod. 20.8-11)

Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves. (Exod. 23.12)

Rest DayEvery regular day the priests were to offer one lamb in the morning and one lamb in the evening as burnt offerings to YHWH (Num. 28.3-4), but on the Sabbath Day they were to offer two additional lambs (Num. 28.8-9).

And on the Sabbath Day the people were to gather together for worship.

“So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” (Exod. 31.16)

“For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings.” (Lev. 23.3)

The “holy convocation” was a special time when the Israelite people gathered together for dedicated corporate worship. Jesus faithfully kept the Sabbath Day convocations as the Hebrew brethren gathered weekly in their synagogues for the reading of scripture, singing, and prayer.

WorshipSince the time of Moses, God set forth a pattern of corporate gatherings of His saints, which He has always intended they keep faithfully. The church gathering together in the New Testament is not much different from the Jewish synagogue gathering together. James even called the gatherings of the early Christians a synagogue in his second chapter:

“For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes…” (James 2.2)

The word translated “assembly” in most English bibles is the noun “συναγωγὴν” (sunagogan): synagogue. So the New Testament usage of “church” (which also means “assembly”) flows easily from the first century understanding of synagogue.

Used as a verb, I ask: do you synagogue regularly? Do you church regularly?

More soon to come, Lord willing…