“All the psalms are part of Israel’s Wisdom Tradition, but Psalms 111 and 112 are some that sing and eloquently that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Fearing the Lord. Surrendering to the Inscrutable. Awed by the Awesome. While, biblically, the “fear of the Lord” generally means submission, allegiance, and obedience, this “fear” also suggests an appropriate heart-thumping, knee-knocking, spine-tingling response. The fear of the Lord comes from faith that trembles at the majesty and marvels at the mystery.”
Wisdom is a tradition that stands in healthy tension with the covenantal narrative of the Law. When the Law offers “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” as the Word of the Lord delivered from the mountaintop and set in stone, Wisdom says yes-and; the “word is very near you, it is in your mouth and in your heart” (Deut 30: 14). When the Law’s Deuteronomic understandings say “you get what you deserve,” Wisdom argues “yes-but . . . sometimes life doesn’t work the way it’s supposed to work.” When the Law thunders, “thus saith the Lord . . .” Wisdom hears the voice of God in the silences and in the still small voice, trusting that “when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (Isa 30: 21).
When the Law reveals the will of God in the offering of the sacrifices, the duties of the priests, and the practices of the Temple, Wisdom also discovers the will of God in a mother’s love, a father’s devotion, and the faithfulness of a friend.
Within the sweep of the biblical story, all the various voices must always be heard and respected, but in our own time in particular, I think we modern church folks need to listen more carefully and more attentively to the voice of Wisdom. We need to pay attention because wisdom traditions offer the deep wisdom of lived experience. This is a kind of knowing that comes from doing, from actually living our lives with compassion and grace, with love and mercy. Lessons learned and truth discerned—this too is a way of knowing—not just “what the Bible says.” The practical theology of our living helps us to discover something about the God who is; the God who creates, redeems, and sustains.
The Wisdom tradition of Israel is grounded in creation, and the Wisdom of creation teaches that all things are made for God’s purposes and God’s glory. All-that-is IS good and is created to work together for good. All things are connected and interconnected, intimately woven together into a harmonic wholeness.
Read more at Charlotte Vaughan Coyle. Living in The Story: A Year to Read the Bible and Ponder God’s Story of Love and Grace (p. 357-365). Resource Publications. Kindle Edition.
Living in The Story readings for Week 31
(This looks like a lot of reading but if you are able to take the time to consider all these works during one week, you will find wide and rich connections. Consider setting up some of these long readings in an audio Bible app so you can listen instead of read.)