I hope this doesn’t upset you, but, believe it not, even though,
“For thousands of years, from Ancient Greek legend to modern literature and TV, humans have portrayed owls as sage and wise [and] the wise owl appears in everything from The Iliad to Winnie the Pooh…it turns out, though they’re excellent hunters, owls probably aren’t any smarter than a lot of other birds.
In fact, they may be significantly worse at problem solving than other big-brained birds like crows and parrots. One study found that great grey owls repeatedly failed a simple cognitive test—pulling a string to get a treat—that had been successfully solved by several other bird species.” (http://mentalfloss.com/article/69941/are-owls-actually-wise)
But, don’t despair, wisdom can still be found in other places.
So-called ‘wisdom literature’ has been around a very long time and continues to be written.
For example, Socrates (490-399 BC) wrote,
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
And Confucius (551-479 BC) said,
“By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.”
In Psalm 34 we find an example in verses 8-14:
8 Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.
9 Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
10 The lions may grow weak and hungry,
but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
11 Come, my children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
12 Whoever of you loves life
and desires to see many good days,
13 keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from telling lies.
14 Turn from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.
“The lessons of this part of the psalm are chiefly that the true good is to be in concord [i.e. harmony] with God. It is the answer to the hardest times (19f.) and to the most ultimate questions (21f.). Almost every word [from verse 11 -14] is in the style of the wisdom instructor, as in Proverbs 1-9, with his fatherly tone and the stress on the fear of the Lord as the beginning of wisdom. This continues with the teaching that the good you enjoy (12) goes hand in hand with the good you do (14). It is an emphasis which answers the suspicion (first aroused in Eden) that outside the will of God, rather than within it, lies enrichment.” (# 29)
Let’s do as suggested 2500 years ago and learn some wisdom by ‘reflection’ on what we have read above.
- ‘true good is to [found] in concord [harmony] with God’ – The psalmist says in verses 8-9,Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The advice given is for a very intentional moving towards God with the desire to know him intimately and to enjoy the goodness of God as a daily experience. To ‘hide ourselves in God’ (TPT) and experience a peace and security available only in relationship to him. To have a reverent ‘fear’ or awe and wonder of our God and discover in him is all we need for real deep life satisfaction. The reality is that nothing else we ‘taste’ will ultimately satisfy.
- ‘it is the answer to the hardest times’ – The psalmist says in verse 19, The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all. David knew about troubles from experience, and I’m sure none of us have been exempt ourselves. But, says David, the Lord delivers us. Now his deliverance may come in various forms, depending on the type of trouble itself and just what God is up to in our lives. Paul wrote about such a situation in one of his letters. He wrote: In order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
- ‘It is the answer to … the most ultimate questions’ – The psalmist says in verses 21-22, But the wicked commit slow suicide. For they hate and persecute the lovers of God. Make no mistake about it, God will hold them guilty and punish them; they will pay the penalty!
But the Lord has paid for the freedom of his servants, and he will freely pardon those who love him. He will declare them free and innocent when they turn to hide themselves in him. (TPT). Paul summarizes it as follows: Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8)
- ‘the good you enjoy (12) goes hand in hand with the good you do [and speak] (14).’ – The psalmist says in verse 12-14, Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from telling lies. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Because God is good (verse 8), then it is only natural (or supernatural) that his people (in his strength and with his help) should also live good lives and speak that which is good and helpful to others.
- ‘It is an emphasis which answers the suspicion (first aroused in Eden) that outside the will of God, rather than within it, lies enrichment.’ – And, the author’s point being that ‘the suspicion’ has and always will be proved to be false. True and ultimate satisfaction can never be found in any substitute for a right relationship with our Creator. As the psalmist puts it here in verse 5, Gaze upon him, join your life with his, and joy will come. Your faces will glisten with glory. You’ll never wear that shame-face again. (TPT).
So, asks the writer of the Book of Proverbs (written “for learning wisdom” 1:1), How then does a man [and a woman] gain the essence of wisdom?
He then answers the question for us with the words, We cross the threshold of true knowledge when we live in obedient devotion to God. (Proverbs 1:7 TPT)
Father, our lives are full of everyday choices and decisions. We need wisdom from above to navigate our way. Thankyou for your promise that ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.’ (James 1:5) Amen.