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The beginning of wisdom

April 03, 2014
If the Old Testament proverbs present the practical wisdom of God's wisest people, the Psalms provide the theological foundation for that wisdom. 

Walter Brueggemann states the Psalms extol the virtues of an orderly universe and the one who created and orders it. The Psalms argue, again and again, the heart of wisdom lies in knowing the heart of God the Creator.

Brueggemann writes, "[The psalms] are expressions of creation faith. They affirm that the world is a well-ordered, reliable and life-giving system, because God has ordained it that way and continues to preside effectively over the process. At the same time, there is a profound trust in the daily working of that system and profound gratitude to God for making it so.  Creation here is not a theory about how the world came to be . . . It is rather an affirmation that God's faithfulness and goodness are experienced as generosity, continuity, and regularity." (The Message of the Psalms, p. 26)

As such, wisdom (from a biblical perspective) is not leveraging one's strength or savvy to secure one's own best future. Instead it is living moment-by-moment in step with God — relying on God's provision, and submitting to God's guidance.

Reliance on God yields two benefits: first, an abiding sense of peace and gratitude based on God's goodness and faithfulness; second, a shift in focus away from individual priorities (personal prosperity and self-gratification) to God's priorities for all of creation.

Brueggemann adds: "The Psalms assert that the creation finally is committed to and will serve the Creator. The Psalms . . . are anticipatory of what surely will be." (Psalms, p. 28)

The narrative arch of the Bible resolves in the restoration of the way the world was meant to be. A reconstituted earth in which every creature has enough. A renewed creation in which people are reconciled to each other, the natural world, and God.

The history and trajectory of American culture attests to the fact a society governed by self-interest eventually unravels. God persistently corrects his people's worst instinct — namely, to live only for self. And God compassionately redirects our attention to the needs of our families, communities, cities and world. True wisdom aligns our hearts with the heart of God — a God whose priority is reconciliation; redemption; and restoration. As Psalm 111 states, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom."

Arragon is the minister of First Christian Reformed Church of Detroit. More of his writing can be found at benvanarragon.blogspot.com.

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