Living Flame of Ancient Wisdom

St. John of the Cross once wrote, “In the evening of life, we will be judged on love alone.”

We have recently discussed how the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – and furthermore, how the love of God is truly the fulfillment of wisdom. On that note, let us again remember the goal of our studies – the goal of any pursuit of truth, for that matter – which is to draw us closer to the Lord. Wisdom is a pathway that leads to life, and when we hold to its path, the ultimate fruit will be greater divine intimacy.

Wisdom is more than an accumulation of facts and knowledge. It transcends learning and the intellect. It is the living substance of God that must captivate our hearts.

:: sophia ::

The book of Proverbs tells us that wisdom was present from before the world began, when the heavens were set in place and the horizon was marked out on the face of the deep. Wisdom was there “when He marked out the foundations of the earth. Then I (Wisdom) was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence” (Prov. 8:29-30) Wisdom is found “rejoicing” in this passage, which literally means “playing” before God. Wisdom is not so sober that it loses its joy and childlike wonder. Proverbs also states that wisdom was “given birth,” but never that it was “created.”

There are, of course, countless benefits and promises toward those who seek and pursue wisdom, not least among them the following:

“For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord” (Prov. 8:35) In fact, attaining wisdom is one of the chief ways of receiving special benefit from God. Consider Solomon’s wealth and riches. It is also a means of avoiding much unnecessary suffering.

We should remember that Wisdom is a person. Wisdom is an extension of God Himself. Or better yet, God Herself! Whoa! We better explain that one.

Wisdom, or “sophia” in the Greek, is always a “she” or a “her” in scripture. There are all sorts of bizzaro beliefs and conjecturing around this fact. But where new age has stolen this understanding and perverted it, it is critical that the church reclaim the truth. Wisdom is not a separate being outside of the Godhead. Not an angel or a goddess. The church has erred in regard to this throughout history, believing on one extreme that Sophia speaks of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and on the other extreme, that scripture only allegorizes wisdom’s personification as a tangible “being.”

But the Spirit of Wisdom is no less than the very Spirit of God. Or to put it more clearly, an element of the sevenfold spirit of God listed in Isaiah 11:1-3:

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord – and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. …”

You may remember that we touched on this sevenfold aspect of God’s Spirit last week (also mentioned in Zechariah and Revelation), as we discussed the Spirit of the Fear of the Lord. It may also help you to understand the following verse:

“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn out its seven pillars. She has prepared meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table.” (Prov. 9:1-2)

Truly, God Himself must build our spiritual house, and the fullness of Him alone is our foundation. Furthermore, without the depths of wisdom, we will never encounter the meatier things of the word, nor the intoxicating wine of His presence. It is wisdom to embrace both the strong meat (the word) and the strong wine (the Spirit).

As for the gender thing, we should not get hung up on that. But it is important to understand that God is neither male nor female. It takes man and woman together to reflect God’s image, as we see in Genesis 1:26-27:

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air. … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”

Furthermore, we should remember that we reflect God’s image, not the other way around. Nevertheless, I believe that most specifically within the Godhead, the Holy Spirit reflects those more feminine qualities of God’s nature. His sensitivity. His nurture. I do not want to sound chauvinistic, but Holy Spirit is the Comforter, the Helper. This in no way diminishes his raw power and dominance, but God’s presence is a thing of beauty and romance.

:: resting in us ::

Our relationship with Holy Spirit, in this regard, requires a special sensitivity and emotive response which we do not always directly associate with Jesus and the Father. There is a most holy tenderness and nearness that we experience with Holy Spirit (He dwells within our very being!) that is unique and sacrosanct. Could this deep sensitivity be the very reason we are most cautioned beyond all else against blaspheming the Holy Spirit? (Mark 3:28-29)

The Holy Spirit seeks a place to rest, and in this way, we become the very resting place, the very temple, of God. As we just read in Isaiah, “the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him,” and “Wisdom reposes (rests) in the heart of the discerning …” (Prov. 14:33)

It is the very seal of the Holy Spirit upon us and within us that makes us so beautiful to the Bridegroom. The depths of the Holy Spirit within us cry out to the depths of Jesus. It is His presence within us that literally draws God to us and us to God. Deep calls out to deep.

Wisdom not only seeks to rest within us, but the Spirit of Wisdom also brings rests to our own souls. The yoke of the Lord is light, it is not burdensome. We also read that the anointing, the manifestation of His presence, is the very thing that breaks a heavy yoke. As Christians, we are always living a paradox between working diligently and living lives of rest. There are always two pitfalls to this path: strife and complacency, either of which we can fall into.

But the narrow path is usually to align ourselves in a place of rest and submission, so that the Spirit of God can work mightily from within us. Otherwise, we are prone to Saulish labors, sacrificing for God inappropriately with sinful motives. Or like Uzzah, we try to reach out our own hand to uphold the glory of God. But God cannot be upheld by an arm of flesh. We must learn to operate out of stillness and cultivate the interior life. This takes wisdom. To cease from our own labors – even and especially religious ones – so that God can begin to perform His.

:: garden works ::

This does not mean we are called to slumber, but it does mean we are not called to toil. Toil – striving labor by the sweat of our brow – is a result of the fall of man and its subsequent curse. But the blood of Christ has freed us from that curse, and He is calling us back into a lifestyle of “garden works,” which elicit peace, joy and creativity. The life of faith is one which turns from the toiling anxieties and worries of the world. The world always fends for itself, yet we cheerfully surrender self to God. This, of course, is the wisdom of God which is foolishness to the world.

Wisdom cannot be earned or learned, but it must be pursued. We must learn to embrace wisdom and ask for it, for “if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5). God only allows man to diligently seek a thing, when it is somehow an extension of Himself, because God alone is worthy of pursuit and adoration. This is why we are permitted to “follow the way of love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy” (1 Cor. 14:1). The gifts can be pursued because they are simply expressions of Jesus. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy, so we can desire to prophesy. We can seek gifts of healing because Jesus is the Healer. He is healing itself. These are extensions of His nature.

The same is true of wisdom. Jesus is Truth. The fullness of wisdom rests within Him. He is “Christ Jesus who has become for us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30). Therefore, our pursuit of wisdom is tantamount to our pursuit of God Himself. God cannot be separated from true wisdom.

:: god revealed ::

True wisdom is not an esoteric intellectualism. It is not theology or philosophy. Neither is it a gnostic form of “saving” wisdom that rejects the work of the cross. Simply stated, wisdom is revelation. It is God revealed to us. And how can we love God more, unless He is displayed to us in a greater way?

“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better” (Eph. 1:17).

If wisdom represents the mind of God, then it is ever speaking about the heart of God. Wisdom always leads to intimacy. But if we depart from its paths, that desire for intimacy will be skewed. Consider Solomon, the wisest man on the face of the earth. At his end, wisdom had already awakened great desire within him. Yet when he directed it toward his hundreds of wives and concubines, and not toward the Lord, he was led astray to idolatry.

Nevertheless, we cannot underestimate the glory that was afforded under Solomon’s reign. God revealed Himself quite openly and tangibly. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the heavy “kabod” weight of God’s glory – His tangible presence – rested so strongly on the priests that they were unable to stand to minister. With Moses, this same glory was so intense that it caused his face to become luminous. The only way to reach beyond ourselves and our own human limitations is to tap into this heavy weight of glory, this manifest presence of God that literally drops us to our knees. Like the great Welsh revivalist Evan Roberts, our prayer should be “Bend us, Lord!”

Wisdom involves the mind and precepts of the Lord, but it also encompasses and directs us to the very tangible substance of God’s manifest presence. Let us abide in that place of intimate union which is so intense that the very substance of God drips from our pores. Is it natural to desire such supernatural manifestation? Quite so. We were created for it.

John Crowder, 3/23/2005