Lady Wisdom and the “Beginning of Wisdom” (Proverbs 1:20-32; 9:10)
We may be familiar with the real women and real situations of the Old Testament. But the Bible also calls us to pattern our lives on the values of an "ideal" woman who we meet as soon as we open the book of Proverbs. She is called Lady Wisdom and she "cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice, at the busiest corner she cries out...'the complacency of fools destroys them; but those who listen to me will be secure and live at ease, without dread of disaster" (Proverbs 1:20-21, 32-33).
The first nine chapters of the book of Proverbs contrast Lady Wisdom to a foolish woman. If we want to be wise in the way we live, we're told to listen to Lady Wisdom, not to the woman without maturity or sense.
Throughout the Bible the concept of wisdom is described as insight that leads to living life well. A wise person uses this combination of acquired knowledge and life experience to make good decisions that lead to positive outcomes. The Oxford English Dictionary defines wisdom as "the capacity of judging rightly in matters relating to life and conduct." Here wisdom is more than knowledge; it's a prerequisite for a successful life.
Proverbs 9:10 tells us that to gain wisdom, there is a starting point we can't ignore. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and a knowledge of the Holy One is insight." In order to see how a "fear" of God leads to wisdom, we must first defang the word "fear." The “fear of the Lord” in the Bible is never "fright." It always means living in awe, not only of God's sovereignty, but also of his goodness and mercy. When we live in awe of God, we learn how to be wise. We begin to see life from the vantage point of the eternities. We focus on the long game, not just on the next play.
The Old Testament gives us many examples of women who made wise decisions because they feared God. Shiphrah and Puah feared God, and that gave them both the wisdom and the courage to defy the Pharaoh (Exodus 1:15-21). Rahab took a risk in siding with an opposing army because she became convinced that "The Lord your God is indeed God in heaven above and on earth below" (Joshua 2:11). Deborah knew that it was God who sent a storm that destroyed the enemy’s army (Judges 5:4). Ruth, a pagan Moabite, left her people and emigrated to a foreign land because she embraced the God of her mother-in-law Naomi (Ruth 1:16). Abigail won over David by reminding him that through her intervention, "the Lord has restrained you from bloodguilt and from taking vengeance" (1 Samuel 25:26). Huldah spoke fearlessly to the king and his courtiers, beginning four times with the words, "Thus says the Lord!" (2 Kings 22:14-20). Esther negotiated peace for her people when she grasped that God had brought her to her royal position "for just such a time as this" (Esther 4:13-14).
Knowing God is the gateway to a perspective on life that changes our thoughts, our actions and our goals. Indeed, when we know God our whole orientation to life changes. So how do we get to know God? We were not left to guess about this. Jesus came from God, taking on human flesh and blood, to reveal God to us. When Philip asked Jesus to show him and the other disciples "the Father" (God), Jesus replied, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). The apostle Paul, writing to the Christians in Colossae, noted that Jesus "is the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). The letter to the Hebrews opens with the statement that Jesus "is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3).
The invisible God has become visible in Jesus. So if we want to know God we can read the four Gospels and listen to Jesus carefully. From his teachings we learn that God is infinitely patient with us. From his actions we learn that God has a heart for people on the fringes of life. From his life, we learn that God loves us so much he was willing to die for us. Somehow as we see God's mercy and grace acted out before our eyes in the four New Testament gospels, it changes us. We get glimpses of what really matters in life. We become wise.
Lady Wisdom still cries out in the streets of our cities, calling us to follow a different drummer. That drummer is Jesus, God-in-the-flesh who gives us a different perspective on life, a different drumbeat. When we fall in behind him, his example will reshape our thoughts and actions. If we make paying attention to Jesus a serious pursuit, it will change us completely.