Faithlife Sermons

Where can wisdom be found

Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings
· 1 view
Notes & Transcripts
Sermon Tone Analysis
A
D
F
J
S
Emotion
A
C
T
Language
O
C
E
A
E
Social
View more →

What is wisdom? First of all, according to the book of Proverbs, wisdom is knowing yourself

Wisdom is not just morality or moral obedience to God’s law. Facts are extremely important, and of course doing what God wants you to do is pretty important too, very important. The law of God is crucial, but wisdom is knowing what to do in the 90 percent of all life situations where the moral rules don’t really apply.
1. What is wisdom? First of all, according to the book of Proverbs, wisdom is knowing yourself.
If you’re wise in your own eyes, according to the Bible, you’re a fool. If you’re a fool in your own eyes, according to the Bible, you’re on your way to being wise.
1. If you’re wise in your own eyes, according to the Bible, you’re a fool. If you’re a fool in your own eyes, according to the Bible, you’re on your way to being wise.
2. Secondly, a big part of wisdom according to the Bible is knowing the times and seasons,
A right word and a right action (perfectly right, perfectly moral, and perfectly good) at the wrong time, in the wrong order, in the wrong place, will still be a disaster. For example, everybody has to change. You have change. Churches have to change. Organizations have to change. Families have to change. Yet we all know in change some things should not change, some things should change quickly, and some things should change slowly.
3. Lastly, to understand what it means to have wisdom is understanding the complexities of life. Here’s a principle. In so many different ways, I find myself saying this in different contexts. Biblical wisdom, godly wisdom, godly truth is always more complex. Error and heresy and foolishness are always too simplistic
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
The skeptic, the relativist, tends to say, “Life is irrational. We’re here by accident. Live the way you want.” The moralist, the religious person, says, “If you do everything just right, your life will go right.” Both of those are foolishness. Why? They’ve too simplistic.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

1. The importance of true wisdom

This poem is all about wisdom. Largely, in other words, Job is saying suffering is a matter of wisdom.
It requires wisdom to handle it rightly, and, rightly handled, suffering produces more wisdom.
This poem is all about wisdom. Largely, in other words, Job is saying suffering is a matter of wisdom
The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

2. The inaccessibility of true wisdom

Wisdom is absolutely important, you can only find it in God, and how you can get some of it for yourself.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Notice verses 9–15. The poem is making the case that wisdom is a treasure
It’s really saying gold and silver are nothing compared to wisdom. Why?
The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

3. The source of true wisdom

In other words, if you have a naïve idea of the complexities and dynamics of poverty, you can do everything right, your motive is right, your ethic is right, your method is right and moral and so on, and yet you destroy the people. Why? You’re incompetent with regard to the complexities of life. That’s what wisdom is: competency with regard to the complexities of life. You have to have wisdom. Its price can’t be weighed in silver. Especially when it comes to suffering you need to have wisdom to know what to do, when to cry, when to start this, when to stop this, and so forth.
The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

In other words, if you have a naïve idea of the complexities and dynamics of poverty, you can do everything right, your motive is right, your ethic is right, your method is right and moral and so on, and yet you destroy the people. Why? You’re incompetent with regard to the complexities of life. That’s what wisdom is: competency with regard to the complexities of life. You have to have wisdom. Its price can’t be weighed in silver. Especially when it comes to suffering you need to have wisdom to know what to do, when to cry, when to start this, when to stop this, and so forth.

The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

2. The inaccessibility of true wisdom

The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

If you actually look at the first stanza, you’ll see it’s not just saying wisdom is more valuable than silver or gold; it’s actually saying also that it’s inaccessible, unlike silver and gold. It tells us man’s hand assaults the flinty rock and lays bare the roots of the mountains. How does that happen? Technology, craftsmanship.

In other words, wisdom is not something you can find in the empirical realm.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
We live in a culture that says we weren’t made for anything; we’re here by accident.Unless we have some idea of having been created for something, there’s no way we can solve our problems, because there’s no way we can agree on what good human life is, what human flourishing is, what a healthy human life is, what just and unjust, good and bad human behavior is. So not only is wisdom important, but secondly, it’s inaccessible.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Ultimately the inaccessibility of wisdom is most related to its place in time rather than its place in space. Why?
Wisdom is to be found in the decisions made in the original arrangement of the cosmos, for wisdom is to be found in the ordering of the components of the cosmos. p 290 Order is not readily observable in daily operations, but it was instrumental in the foundation of creation and is inherent in the ongoing operations. That primordial perspective is inaccessible to humans.
Unless we have some idea of having been created for something, there’s no way we can solve our problems, because there’s no way we can agree on what good human life is, what human flourishing is, what a healthy human life is, what just and unjust, good and bad human behavior is. So not only is wisdom important, but secondly, it’s inaccessible.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 289–290.
Wisdom is to be found in the decisions made in the original arrangement of the cosmos, for wisdom is to be found in the ordering of the components of the cosmos. p 290 Order is not readily observable in daily operations, but it was instrumental in the foundation of creation and is inherent in the ongoing operations. That primordial perspective is inaccessible to humans.
This is an important statement for the case the book of Job is making. Job and his friends think that they know how the cosmos is ordered (the RP with justice as the foundation). God will eventually demonstrate that their model is flawed. God’s perspective on the foundation of the cosmos is based on causes (all instigated by him), not on effects (what humans experience). There is no foundational principle that runs the cosmos. The cosmos runs by God’s continuous and ongoing activity. It is dynamic because he is dynamic; this is why he acts according to circumstance and not by a rigid set of strictures. This is why modern empirical science (which is based on constancy and laws) has to remove God from the equation before it can do anything.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 289–290.

This is an important statement for the case the book of Job is making. Job and his friends think that they know how the cosmos is ordered (the RP with justice as the foundation). God will eventually demonstrate that their model is flawed. God’s perspective on the foundation of the cosmos is based on causes (all instigated by him), not on effects (what humans experience). There is no foundational principle that runs the cosmos. The cosmos runs by God’s continuous and ongoing activity. It is dynamic because he is dynamic; this is why he acts according to circumstance and not by a rigid set of strictures. This is why modern empirical science (which is based on constancy and laws) has to remove God from the equation before it can do anything.

Secondly, on the notion of justice, and imposing in on the way the cosmos is created and operated - that God would have appraised the cosmos in light of justice because that is what they valued above all else is to be challenged.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 289.
They expected that God would have appraised the cosmos in light of justice because that is what they valued above all else.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 290.
---
Let me tell you. Sometimes you can read scientific articles on how to handle anxiety, maybe, saying, “Well, if you have stress and anxiety, we know you should exercise, or you should do this or that,” but you’re never going to find a scientific, empirical, experimentally-based answer of “Here’s how you can handle the horrible, horrendous suffering of your life.” Science can’t tell you a thing. Technology can’t tell you a thing. Tunneling, drilling … It cannot be found in the land of the living.
The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

3. The source of true wisdom

Where is wisdom found then? That’s the second major point of this text, and it tells us, “… it cannot be found in the land of the living.” Do you see? Verse 13. Down in verse 21, “It is hidden from the eyes of every living thing …” Then it says down in verse 23, “God understands the way to it and he alone knows where it dwells …”
Now this second point is a dual point. It’s very important to understand the balance here. On the one hand it is saying there is true wisdom somewhere.
It’s God. Someone has ultimate wisdom, but the other side of that is only God has ultimate wisdom. Only God can see the whole thing, and that’s the second point. God alone is wise. God only is wise.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
What does that mean? It means God has wisdom and only God has wisdom. God can see the pattern.
There is an order to everything, both the material world and the immaterial world, because God created the world.... There is a pattern, but only God can see it. You can’t figure it out yourself. Ironically, that means the beginning of wisdom is to realize only God has wisdom. If you think you have wisdom, you’re a fool. Only God has the wisdom.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).There is a pattern, but only God can see it. You can’t figure it out yourself. Ironically, that means the beginning of wisdom is to realize only God has wisdom. If you think you have wisdom, you’re a fool. Only God has the wisdom.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
------
You have the source. Notice the first question in the first stanza is verse 12, where it says, “Where can wisdom be found?” But the second time a question is posed, in the second stanza, the question is changed, isn’t it? The second time in verse 20 it says, “Where then does wisdom come from?” That’s a different question.
See, the first question is, “If I’m trying to find it with my human technology, can I find it?” and the answer is, “No.” But the second question is, “Can I receive wisdom if I listen to it?” and the answer is, “Yes,” because it’s in God. Down in verse 28 it says, “And he said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom …’ ”
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Now what’s the second stanza saying? It’s simply saying you’ll never find true wisdom out, you’ll never get a real grip on how life works and what people are for through human reason, but you can get a grip on it through revelation. You can get a grip on it if God speaks into our world and tells us what life is about, how it works, and how we can handle suffering.
We’ve seen the importance, we’ve seen the inaccessibility, and we’ve seen the source of wisdom, which is the Word of God giving us an understanding of how life works.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive Where Can Wisdom Be Found?

4. The secret of true wisdom

3. How you can get wisdom for yourself

I said the source can handle the shock, but we still have something left that we still have to handle if we’re suffering, and that’s the pain. Even if you’re not shocked, shocked, shocked, even if you have a worldview that’s biblical enough to say, “Okay, I get it. I know it. This isn’t a big shock to me. I understand it,” the pain is still horrible, and how are you going to handle the pain?
I would say the climax of this chapter, and maybe the climax of the book in some ways, is verse 28, the last verse in the chapter: “And [the Lord] said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom …’ ” See, there have been these questions. “Where do I find wisdom? Where does wisdom come from? How do I get the wisdom to handle suffering?” “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”
Now what is the fear of the Lord? Notice, by the way, shunning evil is morality, but morality isn’t enough. The fear of the Lord is an inward attitude of the heart. That’s what you have to have if you’re going to face suffering. That’s what you’re going to have to have if you’re going to be wise enough to face suffering, and what is that?
---
To fear God is not just to obey him ethically or believe in him mentally. It’s an attitude of the heart in which you see his magnificence and you’re filled with awe and wonder, and you’re still before it
---
What I mean to say there is there are an awful lot of people who don’t really trust God’s wisdom. What they’re really doing is saying they know how life ought to go. That’s why you’re so anxious. That’s why you’re so worried. That’s why you’re praying so furiously and frantically. That’s why you’re telling God what to do. You’re not trusting his wisdom.
You’re trying to use God to get him to do what things you think need to happen according to your wisdom.
“Lord, I’m in pain. I’m in trouble. I don’t understand this, but you see the whole picture. I don’t. You’re God and I’m not. I’m going to trust you. I’m going to obey you. I can’t wait for it to be over, but thy will be done.”

Fearing the Lord means to take him seriously as opposed to:

• thinking him detached (therefore to be ignored)

• thinking him incompetent (therefore to be treated with disdain)

• thinking him limited or impotent (therefore to be scorned)

• thinking him corrupt (therefore to be admonished)

• thinking him shortsighted (therefore to be advised)

• thinking him petty (therefore to be resented)

Were Job and his friends taking God seriously? Job is identified as one fearing God in the introduction to the book, but his fear of God demonstrated itself at the level of meticulous ritual and conscientious submission. The dialogues, however, show his perception of God to be lacking key components. He is unwilling to give God the benefit of the doubt and inclined to think that God is deficient in some way. The fear of God involves more than recognition that he has the power to act for or against people.
Of course God has power, but this context suggests that an issue of trust is involved. The fact that wisdom is inaccessible to humans except through God requires that we trust him—and this aspect of trust is therefore included in his instruction to “fear the Lord.”

We trust that he is not p 292 detached, incompetent, impotent, corrupt, shortsighted, or petty.

John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 291.
The NIV Application Commentary: Job Job 28 and Its View of Wisdom

The poem shifts the book from a search for justice to a search for wisdom

God and wisdom. The term used predominantly in Job 28 for wise/wisdom is ḥakam/ḥokmah. A study of the root ḥkm throughout the Old Testament turns up some surprising results. The Old Testament rarely suggests that God is wise.15 The noun (ḥokmah) refers to that which belongs to God p 295 (Job 12:13) and which is given by God (1 Kings 3:28; 10:24; Prov. 2:6; Eccl. 2:26). God operates in wisdom (Ps. 104:24; Prov. 3:19). God is the one who brought wisdom forth (Prov. 8:22

Wisdom should be understood as that which brings order and coherence

Since before there was creation there was only God, there was nothing for God to provide coherence for and no one to seek coherence. Order implies a relationship of things and there was nothing else. God is the author of order and the foundation for coherence, but one would not speak of God himself, alone, as coherent or orderly. Only as creation was put in place could God envision order and inculcate it into the cosmos. One can then say that God was exercising wisdom to do so, but to say that God is wise understates God’s nature. Affirmations such as “God is wise,” “God is good,” or “God is holy” are misleading and ultimately reductionistic, though the Bible makes such statements legitimately. The adjectives themselves find their definition in God, so one may as well say “God is God”—a philosophically meaningless tautology. Humans can only approach wisdom, goodness, or holiness by being like God—not because he is wise, but because any wisdom we might find has its foundations in him.

These observations help us to begin to understand the point being made in Job 28. The cosmos is permeated with wisdom because God made it that way. The poem does not suggest that God is wisdom or that he has wisdom. Certainly God understands and knows wisdom because it finds its source in him. One can only perceive order and coherence if one takes seriously that those qualities of wisdom emanate from God; thus fearing the Lord is wisdom. We are used to the saying, “All truth is God’s truth.” The variation of that saying that emerges from this discussion is “All order is God’s order.”

The introduction indicates that Job fears God (1:8). This is demonstrated by his pious attention to ritual and his turning away from evil. But p 296 there are other areas in which to express fear of the Lord. Does Job consider God to be the author of coherence? Fearing God in that manner would be demonstrated in giving him the benefit of the doubt even in the midst of perceived incoherence. For Job, coherence can only be found in justice. It would seem that if Job is unable to identify a coherence associated with justice, God becomes suspect and should be called to account. In this sense, Job at least tacitly believes that he knows the path to wisdom and the shape that it needs to take. Job’s friends suffer the same overconfidence.

Job 28 therefore serves an important function at this juncture in the book. It serves notice that Job is not in the position of control and that his expectations should not dictate the direction in which the situation proceeds. It also serves notice that the friends’ perception of coherence is flawed and simplistic.

--
Now listen. Nobody has thought about this term more than I have over the years, because as a preacher, I’m always having to preach on it. The English term fear of the Lord doesn’t seem to unlock itself right away for people. When you and I hear the word fear we think it means to be scared of, yet there is an element there …
Here’s how I would like to put it. There’s a scariness in the presence of something bad, and that scariness consists of, “I’m afraid it’s going to hurt me,” but there’s also a scariness in the presence of something incredibly good, incredibly beautiful, incredibly wonderful. There’s something scary about that too. That comes across in The Chronicles of Narnia in that famous line Lewis keeps writing when somebody says, “Oh, Aslan, the lion. Is he safe?” The response is basically, “Safe? Whoever said anything about him being safe? Of course he’s not safe. But he’s good.”
Someone who’s so good he’s not safe. There’s something scary about something incredibly beautiful. What is so scary about something incredibly beautiful and good? Well, it’s scary because it’s threatening. It’s threatening because we know it’s going to expose our flaws. Even more than that, I think it’s scary because we know in the presence of the infinitely good we’re going to lose control. We’re going to have to submit to it, because it would be wicked not to, but we’re going to lose control.
In the presence of suffering, here’s what Job means, I think. What does the fear of the Lord mean in the presence of suffering? It means scary-level unconditional trust in the love of God in the midst of the darkness. The fear of the Lord is scary-level unconditional trust that God is loving you even though it doesn’t feel that way, that God is loving you even though everything around you seems dark. The fear of the Lord is scary-level unconditional trust that God loves you in spite of how it looks. It’s trusting God in the dark, trusting his love in the dark.
Let me tell you why that’s so, so important. The only way you’re really going to become better rather than worse in suffering is if you do that. I still can’t come up with a better illustration than the one Elisabeth Elliot tells about how she was staying at a farm in the highlands of Wales, a place Kathy and I have been to, basically. Not the farm, but in that valley.
She was staying with these farmers who had a lot of sheep. One time every year, the sheep had to be dipped into a big vat of antiseptic. Otherwise, the sheep would be literally eaten alive by parasites and insects. When Elisabeth Elliot watched the process by which these sheep were being put into the vat, she started to feel rather sympathetic to them. Here’s how it looked.
To paraphrase, she says, “One by one the shepherd would seize the sheep as they struggled to climb out of the vat. If they tried to climb out of the vat on the other side, Mack the sheep dog would run around and snarl and snap in their faces to force them back under. If they tried to climb up the ramp toward John the shepherd, he would catch them, spin them around, force them under again, and hold them ears, eyes, and nose totally submerged.
As I watched him do this, I realized I’d had many experiences in my life that made me feel very sympathetic to those sheep. A number of times I felt that the Great Shepherd, the Lord, was doing the very same thing to me. He was holding me underneath. I felt I was drowning, and when I asked, I didn’t get a word of explanation.”
Let me tell you why that metaphor is so good. If I was a shepherd and I saw my sheep feeling like, “You’re killing me! You’re killing me …” You know, you love your sheep, so you’d want to give them an explanation. So go ahead. Just try. Try to give the sheep the explanation. I can guarantee you something. They will not be consoled by anything you say. Why? Because they’re sheep and you’re a shepherd. It’s a different order of reality. Yet if those sheep don’t trust that shepherd, they’re going to die.
The Bible says he’s the Great Shepherd and we’re sheep, and we know this in our minds. It all makes sense, doesn’t it? Intellectually, metaphorically, it all makes sense, and then we find ourselves being held under, eyes, ears, nose, and we feel like, “I have to come up or I’m going to die,” and he won’t let us up. Yet if we don’t trust our Shepherd in the dark, we are going to die.
If you can trust the Shepherd in the midst of the pain, it will make you wiser. It will make you better. It will make you humbler. It will make you more sympathetic. It will make you better in every way. My question, then, finally is … How do you do it? Here’s how you do it. Remember how I said a minute ago Lewis had this wonderful metaphor in which he said if God exists, then we would relate to God the way Hamlet relates to Shakespeare? Hamlet would only understand anything about Shakespeare if Shakespeare wrote some information about himself into the play.
Guess what? We are, in a sense, in a play, and we have the great Playwright, God, but he didn’t just write into our history some information about himself. That would be wisdom, yeah, but he wrote himself into the play in the place of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” Truth. What he is saying is not just, “I’m a true person,” but “I am the Truth personified.” He’s saying, “I’m not just a wise person; I am wisdom personified.”
The only way for you to really get the wisdom that will enable you to handle the pain and become, in the end, a better person is not just if you have abstract principles, not just if you read the Bible so you have a doctrine of fall and creation. You have to know the One who is wisdom personally. How does that work out practically? Just like this. This is the most practical thing I could possibly tell you.
You will never be able to hang on when you feel submerged, you’ll never be able to hang on in the dark, just by telling yourself, “I have to trust him. What else is there to do?” The doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the fall … That won’t work. That’s all cognitive. You have to see Jesus Christ being true to you in the dark, in Gethsemane, on the cross.
You will never be able to be at a scary level unconditionally trusting in God in the dark unless you see him being true to you in the dark, holding on in spite of the garden of Gethsemane, holding on in spite of the crown of thorns, holding on in spite of the spear in his side, holding on in spite of the fact he’s totally abandoned by God. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
I said the source can handle the shock, but we still have something left that we still have to handle if we’re suffering, and that’s the pain. Even if you’re not shocked, shocked, shocked, even if you have a worldview that’s biblical enough to say, “Okay, I get it. I know it. This isn’t a big shock to me. I understand it,” the pain is still horrible, and how are you going to handle the pain?
I would say the climax of this chapter, and maybe the climax of the book in some ways, is verse 28, the last verse in the chapter: “And [the Lord] said to man, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom …’ ” See, there have been these questions. “Where do I find wisdom? Where does wisdom come from? How do I get the wisdom to handle suffering?” “The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.”
Now what is the fear of the Lord? Notice, by the way, shunning evil is morality, but morality isn’t enough. The fear of the Lord is an inward attitude of the heart. That’s what you have to have if you’re going to face suffering. That’s what you’re going to have to have if you’re going to be wise enough to face suffering, and what is that?
Now listen. Nobody has thought about this term more than I have over the years, because as a preacher, I’m always having to preach on it. The English term fear of the Lord doesn’t seem to unlock itself right away for people. When you and I hear the word fear we think it means to be scared of, yet there is an element there …
Here’s how I would like to put it. There’s a scariness in the presence of something bad, and that scariness consists of, “I’m afraid it’s going to hurt me,” but there’s also a scariness in the presence of something incredibly good, incredibly beautiful, incredibly wonderful. There’s something scary about that too. That comes across in The Chronicles of Narnia in that famous line Lewis keeps writing when somebody says, “Oh, Aslan, the lion. Is he safe?” The response is basically, “Safe? Whoever said anything about him being safe? Of course he’s not safe. But he’s good.”
Someone who’s so good he’s not safe. There’s something scary about something incredibly beautiful. What is so scary about something incredibly beautiful and good? Well, it’s scary because it’s threatening. It’s threatening because we know it’s going to expose our flaws. Even more than that, I think it’s scary because we know in the presence of the infinitely good we’re going to lose control. We’re going to have to submit to it, because it would be wicked not to, but we’re going to lose control.
In the presence of suffering, here’s what Job means, I think. What does the fear of the Lord mean in the presence of suffering? It means scary-level unconditional trust in the love of God in the midst of the darkness. The fear of the Lord is scary-level unconditional trust that God is loving you even though it doesn’t feel that way, that God is loving you even though everything around you seems dark. The fear of the Lord is scary-level unconditional trust that God loves you in spite of how it looks. It’s trusting God in the dark, trusting his love in the dark.
Let me tell you why that’s so, so important. The only way you’re really going to become better rather than worse in suffering is if you do that. I still can’t come up with a better illustration than the one Elisabeth Elliot tells about how she was staying at a farm in the highlands of Wales, a place Kathy and I have been to, basically. Not the farm, but in that valley.
She was staying with these farmers who had a lot of sheep. One time every year, the sheep had to be dipped into a big vat of antiseptic. Otherwise, the sheep would be literally eaten alive by parasites and insects. When Elisabeth Elliot watched the process by which these sheep were being put into the vat, she started to feel rather sympathetic to them. Here’s how it looked.
To paraphrase, she says, “One by one the shepherd would seize the sheep as they struggled to climb out of the vat. If they tried to climb out of the vat on the other side, Mack the sheep dog would run around and snarl and snap in their faces to force them back under. If they tried to climb up the ramp toward John the shepherd, he would catch them, spin them around, force them under again, and hold them ears, eyes, and nose totally submerged.
As I watched him do this, I realized I’d had many experiences in my life that made me feel very sympathetic to those sheep. A number of times I felt that the Great Shepherd, the Lord, was doing the very same thing to me. He was holding me underneath. I felt I was drowning, and when I asked, I didn’t get a word of explanation.”
Let me tell you why that metaphor is so good. If I was a shepherd and I saw my sheep feeling like, “You’re killing me! You’re killing me …” You know, you love your sheep, so you’d want to give them an explanation. So go ahead. Just try. Try to give the sheep the explanation. I can guarantee you something. They will not be consoled by anything you say. Why? Because they’re sheep and you’re a shepherd. It’s a different order of reality. Yet if those sheep don’t trust that shepherd, they’re going to die.
The Bible says he’s the Great Shepherd and we’re sheep, and we know this in our minds. It all makes sense, doesn’t it? Intellectually, metaphorically, it all makes sense, and then we find ourselves being held under, eyes, ears, nose, and we feel like, “I have to come up or I’m going to die,” and he won’t let us up. Yet if we don’t trust our Shepherd in the dark, we are going to die.
If you can trust the Shepherd in the midst of the pain, it will make you wiser. It will make you better. It will make you humbler. It will make you more sympathetic. It will make you better in every way. My question, then, finally is … How do you do it? Here’s how you do it. Remember how I said a minute ago Lewis had this wonderful metaphor in which he said if God exists, then we would relate to God the way Hamlet relates to Shakespeare? Hamlet would only understand anything about Shakespeare if Shakespeare wrote some information about himself into the play.
Guess what? We are, in a sense, in a play, and we have the great Playwright, God, but he didn’t just write into our history some information about himself. That would be wisdom, yeah, but he wrote himself into the play in the place of Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life …” Truth. What he is saying is not just, “I’m a true person,” but “I am the Truth personified.” He’s saying, “I’m not just a wise person; I am wisdom personified.”
The only way for you to really get the wisdom that will enable you to handle the pain and become, in the end, a better person is not just if you have abstract principles, not just if you read the Bible so you have a doctrine of fall and creation. You have to know the One who is wisdom personally. How does that work out practically? Just like this. This is the most practical thing I could possibly tell you.
You will never be able to hang on when you feel submerged, you’ll never be able to hang on in the dark, just by telling yourself, “I have to trust him. What else is there to do?” The doctrine of creation and the doctrine of the fall … That won’t work. That’s all cognitive. You have to see Jesus Christ being true to you in the dark, in Gethsemane, on the cross.
You will never be able to be at a scary level unconditionally trusting in God in the dark unless you see him being true to you in the dark, holding on in spite of the garden of Gethsemane, holding on in spite of the crown of thorns, holding on in spite of the spear in his side, holding on in spite of the fact he’s totally abandoned by God. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
Now there’s somebody who has absolutely been submerged, who is absolutely being held under. He went under, but he went under not just a vat of antiseptic. He didn’t just go under our ordinary suffering. He went under the very divine justice, divine wrath. He was essentially sent to hell. When you see him being true to you in the dark, you can be trusting of his love, because there’s the ultimate example of it, and there’s the ultimate proof of it.
That doesn’t just work on my will to tell me, “Oh yes, I have to be trusting in him.” It melts my heart and shows me the beauty that makes me fear. It’s scariness in the presence of the ultimate beauty, Jesus Christ, dying in the dark, being true to you in the dark. That’s the reason, ultimately, as one writer put it … Here’s what the fear of the Lord is.
“Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in.” Let’s pray.
Timothy J. Keller, The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive (New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church, 2013).
Now there’s somebody who has absolutely been submerged, who is absolutely being held under. He went under, but he went under not just a vat of antiseptic. He didn’t just go under our ordinary suffering. He went under the very divine justice, divine wrath. He was essentially sent to hell. When you see him being true to you in the dark, you can be trusting of his love, because there’s the ultimate example of it, and there’s the ultimate proof of it.
That doesn’t just work on my will to tell me, “Oh yes, I have to be trusting in him.” It melts my heart and shows me the beauty that makes me fear. It’s scariness in the presence of the ultimate beauty, Jesus Christ, dying in the dark, being true to you in the dark. That’s the reason, ultimately, as one writer put it … Here’s what the fear of the Lord is.
“Give up your self, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fiber of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will ever be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find him, and with him everything else thrown in.” Let’s pray.
---
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 296.
Role of Wisdom in the Cosmos

Fearing the Lord means to take him seriously as opposed to:

• thinking him detached (therefore to be ignored)

• thinking him incompetent (therefore to be treated with disdain)

• thinking him limited or impotent (therefore to be scorned)

• thinking him corrupt (therefore to be admonished)

• thinking him shortsighted (therefore to be advised)

• thinking him petty (therefore to be resented)

- Past not present. When life goes wrong, we look for reasons. Where do we expect to find them? This poem suggests that the wisdom for finding such explanations is not available. We should not expect that we will ever deduce or receive a rationalization that justifies our suffering.17 Consequently it is futile to spend time and energy trying to decipher the situation.
Past not present. When life goes wrong, we look for reasons. Where do we expect to find them? This poem suggests that the wisdom for finding such explanations is not available. We should not expect that we will ever deduce or receive a rationalization that justifies our suffering.17 Consequently it is futile to spend time and energy trying to decipher the situation.
I would note the exceptions in which there is a direct and observable cause-and-effect relationship (you want to know why you are in jail—well, you broke the law). But in these the cause-and-effect situations are tangible and in the human realm.
Our circumstances find their roots in the past, not in the present. In other words, our circumstances, for good or ill, are based in God’s ordering p 297 of the cosmos of creation. Perhaps a mundane illustration will help. We can say that God created gravity at the beginning. God’s wisdom is inherent in gravity. When any of us do something intentional or accidental that results in us leaving the ground, gravity will become evident. God’s wisdom is not to be sought in every individual expression of gravity, though we dare not say that it operates without him (one form of deism). He could theoretically disengage it in a particular moment or instance, but we should not expect it. The explanation for gravity would therefore be sought at the beginning of time, not in the present expression of it. One could ask endlessly why gravity expressed itself in a particular situation, but such answers are inaccessible and reflect a wrongheaded question.
Are our questions about our suffering really any different? When God made gravity, it became inevitable that some people would fall, resulting in death or injury. When God created our nervous systems, it became inevitable that there would be pain. Each experience of pain finds its ultimate explanation in how the system was initially constructed. When we move from the question, “Why do I experience pain?” (nervous system) to “Why did this particular pain-causing experience happen to me?” we should not expect to discern an answer.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 296–297.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 297.
We might then wonder why God has set things up in such a way that suffering could happen. This is a better question and has a different sort of answer. It is different in that it is theological and focuses on the systems inherent in the cosmos instead of on my specific experiences. Instead of asking questions about whether I or a loved one deserves to suffer (situational justice), it asks whether it was wise or just for God to set up such a system so that these things could happen
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 297.
Wisdom and justice.
Wisdom and justice. The next question, then, becomes whether justice was the central element in God’s creation of the cosmos. That is, did he set up the system so that justice would always be done?
If God had set up the cosmos so that justice would be the default, a fallen world could not exist. As it stands, however, there is more to the world than justice, and we should be glad of this reality. Otherwise none of us would exist.

If God had set up the cosmos so that justice would be the default, a fallen world could not exist. As it stands, however, there is more to the world than justice, and we should be glad of this reality. Otherwise none of us would exist.

John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 298.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 298.
We should not seek an explanation for our personal circumstances, and we should not seek an understanding of how the larger issue of justice is served in our suffering. Instead we should understand that we have experienced one of the consequences of the way that God organized the cosmos as well as the consequence of the fall and the curse. We should seek out the wisdom of the cosmos rather than seek out the justice behind our circumstances.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 298.

Fear of the Lord

The key, not a secret at all, is that God can take all of the pain and devastation that might occur in our lives and bring good from it. That does not make the pain and devastation good. Rather than thinking in terms of forgiving him, we should think in terms of trusting his wisdom and loving him. He does care for us more than for the pebbles on the beach and experiences our pain along with us.
and devastation that might occur in our lives and bring good from it. That does not make the pain and devastation good. Rather than thinking in terms of forgiving him, we should think in terms of trusting his wisdom and loving him. He does care for us more than for the pebbles on the beach and experiences our pain along with us.
The alternative that the text offers is that we partake of the wisdom that is expressed in fearing the Lord. This is different from the fruitless search described.
This becomes a matter of trust rather than understanding. Adopting such a posture does not require us to affirm that “there is a reason even though I don’t know what it is.” Instead it asks us to move beyond reasons. Our confidence is not that there is an explanation. We trust that God has established the cosmos wisely and that whatever comes our way is reconcilable with his wisdom.

This becomes a matter of trust rather than understanding. Adopting such a posture does not require us to affirm that “there is a reason even though I don’t know what it is.” Instead it asks us to move beyond reasons. Our confidence is not that there is an explanation. We trust that God has established the cosmos wisely and that whatever comes our way is reconcilable with his wisdom.

Applications:
Do Christians follow a similar train of thought? In many ways, yes. The following questions will help you test your “Great Symbiosis Quotient”:
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 300.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 301.
1. Have sins caused your suffering?
Sin can result in suffering because God does take the punishment of sin seriously and suffering is one possible punishment.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 301.
We can say that sin in the world causes suffering in the world, but is your particular suffering the result of your personal sin? Probably not.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 302.
2. Does God have “reasons”?
It would be incorrect to think of God as acting in arbitrary, capricious, or selfish ways. We have proposed that God acts in wisdom. When we seek reasons, we are generally seeking explanations that will reveal the justice underlying our situations—that is, we are looking for particular sorts of reasons, reasons rooted in our behaviour, for our particular circumstances.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 302.
3. Did God do these things to you?
It would be to our theological peril to think that anything that happens to us is outside of God’s realm of activity and involvement. All that happens is under his supervision and providence and nothing happens that we could claim he did not do. So regarding anything that happens, he “did” it in the same sense that he causes you to stay on the ground rather than float away with each step you take. But when we think of God doing things to us, we usually think of him acting with reasons stimulated by our behavior, and that if we acted differently, he would act differently. Therein lies the Great Symbiosis thinking.
Trusting in his wisdom does not make him the efficient cause of all that we experience.
The NIV Application Commentary: Job 3. Did God Do These Things to You?

Trusting in his wisdom does not make him the efficient cause of all that we experience.

John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 302.
4. Does God “allow” suffering and disaster?
Instead, we settle for no explanation and trust God’s wisdom in how the world was constructed and how it is run. We cannot say that there are reasons or that there are not. At the same time, we should not view God as constrained by the cosmos that he made—it is constructed in his wisdom and he is not contingent on it.
The various times of life come as they will and are part of life under the sun, as Ecclesiastes tells us ().

Seeking coherency. So how should we make sense of God, the world, and our experience? Perhaps there is a prior question: Is coherency to be expected? My reading of Ecclesiastes would suggest that we should not expect coherency. God, despite the fact that he has revealed himself to us, remains mysterious and paradoxical. The world, though under the control of God, is fallen, and as it awaits redemption it is often more chaotic than coherent. Our experiences in this world, given what was just said about God and the world, will evade our vain attempts to be harnessed into some sustained and consistent coherence

Path to Wisdom

In conclusion we must take seriously the claim of the poem that the path to Wisdom is not open to us: “[God] alone knows where it dwells” (28:23). Though that ultimate Wisdom is not accessible to us (even in the Bible), God has made a wise course of action available to us as we fear him, submit to his wisdom, and turn aside from evil.
What does this path look like when life is going terribly wrong?
1. Trust God rather than blame him or make demands of him for explanations.
2. Trust God for strength to endure.
3. Don’t expect it all to make sense.
4. Channel resentment toward the fallenness of the world, not the God who has given all to initiate its redemption.
5. Resist succumbing to the temptation to believe that you could run this world better than God does.
6. Above all, trust that he is wise.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 304.
A personal story:

JHW: Kelly, as you read Job 28 and the present chapter and reflect on the list above, what makes sense and what doesn’t? Have any of these worked for you as you have tried to struggle through your circumstances?

Kelly: After reading and meditating on the meaning of the text and then reading the list above, I think to myself there is so much depth and truth in each point on the list, but how do I convey to the reader the magnitude of each step without appearing clichéd? I guess I can start with stating that when I look at this list, I think every point is a great step on the path towards wisdom, but so many of these points seem almost impossible without God’s power.
Kelly: After reading and meditating on the meaning of the text and then reading the list above, I think to myself there is so much depth and truth in each point on the list, but how do I convey to the reader the magnitude of each step without appearing clichéd? I guess I can start with stating that when I look at this list, I think every point is a great step on the path towards wisdom, but so many of these points seem almost impossible without God’s power.
--
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 305.
When our focus is solely on the pain and “figuring out” the trial we are in, our prayer life can become a desperate plea for an escape. We can get consumed by praying for God to remove this thorn from our life instead of praying and trusting God for the strength to endure it.
John H. Walton and Kelly Lemon Vizcaino, The NIV Application Commentary: Job, ed. Terry Muck et al. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 306.
Related Media
Related Sermons