The Way of Wisdom

Posted on 01 April 2008

Evangel 10:1 (Spring 1992)

The Way of Wisdom

Evangel 10:1 (Spring 1992)

Emphasis upon the newness of the Gospel means that evangelicals are always in danger of falling into the Old Marcionite error. Though Reformed theology is sometimes guilty of leveling the covenants and failing to adequately note the progress in redemptive history, evangelicalism on the whole tends to overemphasise the differences between the two testaments. The result of this is that the Old Testament is sometimes seen as little more than a testimony to a superceded (sometimes a failed) religion. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the realm of guidance. The average Christian bookshop is full to overflowing with volumes on ‘How to find God’s will’ but seldom is there even a passing reference to the Old Testament and rarely, if ever, a mention of God’s own textbook on guidance, the book of Proverbs.

  Yet there is no book in the Bible that is more relevant to today. The chorus line of Proverbs reminds us that ‘the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom’. Within this over-arching framework God’s people are called to work out his will by a sanctified common sense. Such wisdom can sometimes be drawn from worldly sources (as in Proverbs 31:1-8) but is distinguished from it in that its basic principle is theological not utilitarian.
 
  Nevertheless, such guidance is viewed as the mature and spiritual way; the way of adulthood not the heavy discipline of infancy. It demands thoughtful and godly lives, responsible meditation upon God’s word, ways and world. This was not always the way in Old Testament times. Just as the discipline of a child is more directive than the decision making of an adult, so God operated in a more directive way. Dreams, theophanies, Urim and Thummim and oracular guidance flourished at the earlier stage of God’s dealings with his people; they never completely passed away. However, a shift is discernible; to the way of wisdom.
 
  While the New Testament continues to emphasise that God is able to ‘break into’ a situation and provide a ‘supernatural’ means of guidance, there is no suggestion that this is the usual means or that it is a superior method. Indeed, a consideration of the pattern of biblical revelation would suggest otherwise; dependence on such approaches is to revert to spiritual infancy. As with the book of Proverbs, the New Testament suggests that the spiritual and mature way is the way of wisdom.
 
  To recognise this is at once both liberating and awesome! It is encouraging to discover that finding God’s will is not by means of techniques which seem inaccessible to the average (dare one say the normal) Christian. However, it is profoundly challenging to recognise that to know God’s will is the fruit of a mature life, grounded in an ever deepening relationship with God.
 
  Why, then, is God’s own blueprint for guidance so neglected? Too often, one suspects, such a life and its fruit is eschewed as too demanding and time consuming in our ‘instant’ age. In reality, however, a relationship with God demands time, prayer, meditation, study of God’s word and a knowledge of his ways in his world. It demands devoted commitment to the means that he has given to enable us to develop a relationship with him. Is it because we don’t know God that we seek short-cuts to guidance.
 
  The present issue of ‘Evangel’ includes several articles that seek to apply this biblical approach to both individuals, community and church life. It is to be hoped that such will encourage us as God’s people to truly seek his will and walk in his ways.

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