Time for another! Today’s section is a bit smaller than others we’ve examined, but next week’s will be quite lengthy. I try to divide the text into segments which make sense together, so we’re looking today at 2:6-8.
For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.
Where the previous verses spoke of the seeker of wisdom, these turn to the Lord’s part in our pursuit. When people seek wisdom, it is God who gives it to them. God is the only one who can possibly grant wisdom, as He is the source of it! There are numerous Christological implications to this verse as well; Christ is repeatedly identified as the “logos” in John 1, which we translate as “Word,” but which also can be translated as “logic” or “reason.” Paul identifies Christ as “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24). Christ is the wisdom of God, and as His Word, He serves as the mouth of God.
The tripartite “wisdom,” “knowledge,” and “understanding” is very much reminiscent of 1:7’s “knowledge,” “wisdom,” and “instruction,” and indeed other assessments of what it is to know the deeper things of God throughout the book. This same structure is found quite often and the Christ follower cannot help but notice the parallel with the triune God here.
God helps those who are “upright” and “walk in integrity.” Where Wisdom has previously laughed at those who choose the paths of folly, God is pleased to not only approve of the ways of the upright, but to actively protect them as they continue in these ways. Wisdom simply looked on as the fool wandered into destruction, but now God shows personal care for the upright. This does not indicate that God’s favor and protection are predicated on our actions, but rather that those who follow after Wisdom will find themselves on paths of integrity because of how Wisdom has informed what they do. Not only this, but they will find that God guards them on the way because His desire is that they would find success in these pursuits – not as the world defines success, but as He does.
God will “guard” and “watch over” those who walk in His ways. “Justice” in 2:8 brings to mind the exhortation of Micah 6:8 to “…do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” This image is further emphasized by “the way of his saints” in the following line, which carries with it some interesting implications which will go unnoticed by English speakers at first glance.
“Saints” is a common term in the letters of Paul, and for those with some familiarity with New Testament imagery and language, the term is often translated as “holy ones.” The term in Greek, “hagios,” is all about holiness (in fact, writings on the lives of the saints are often referred to as “hagiography”). However, the Hebrew term translated here is “chasid,” perhaps translated as something like “godly ones.” The same word – “saints” – is used to translate both terms, but where the NT implications speak of holiness, the OT is much more focused on the mercy and lovingkindness of God. “Chasid” is a word which finds its roots in “hesed” – the term we often translate as “lovingkindness.” In other words, “chasid” are those who model the “hesed” of God – those who demonstrate His love, mercy, and compassion to the world around them. For those who are dedicated to the ways of God, He watches over their paths and gives them the strength they need to prove faithful.
Last night I had a “what a sucker” moment, which happens every so often as I watch a movie from the perspective of a dad now. Mary Grace decided that she wanted to watch Finding Nemo, which I obliged. We reached the scene in which Nigel (the pelican who befriends the fish in the dentist’s fish tank) tells Nemo of all the things Marlin has done to reach him, crossing the ocean, fighting sharks, dodging jellyfish, and much more in his efforts to be reunited with the one who matters more than anything in the world to him. Before becoming a dad, the scene would sometimes make me tear up a bit as I thought of my own dad’s love for me and knew he would do likewise. Now, however, watching with my little girl, I found myself tearing up far more than ever before because I finally noticed something new – upon hearing of Marlin’s determination, Nemo’s response is to redouble his own efforts to get free of the tank and to get back to his dad. It’s not only that Marlin has crossed the entire ocean to find his son, but that his son finally understands the depths of his dad’s love and is renewed in his own efforts to be with him once more.
We can easily grow lost while we ask questions in our theology. Does God choose us or do we choose Him? Do we find wisdom or does God give wisdom to us? Far too many pages have been wasted on bitter disputes over these issues and those pages reveal that their authors miss the mark entirely – both are true, and both are true because the foundation of the faith is relationship with the Father.
This text quite frequently uses imagery of protection and guardianship over the ways of God’s people, and although people often lament that they are in difficult situations because of their faith, let us not grow weary of doing that to which we have been called in Christ Jesus! We are sustained and protected in the way by the hand of the Father, who watches over our every step.
I think it’s important that we recognize the link between godliness and holiness, given the fact that “saints” is used to translate both “godly ones” in the OT and “holy ones” in the NT. To be holy is to walk in godliness. Do we model godliness to those around us? Do we pursue righteousness and justice in the world? What do we do to promote the work of our Father in those moments where we feel despairing and hopeless? As saints, it is our duty to walk in faithfulness to the call of God – so let us go where He leads.