In Proverbs 8 we find wisdom personified, a woman speaking who is sometimes called Lady Wisdom.
In church history, this chapter has raised all sorts of exegetical and theological questions with respect to eternal deity of Christ—Did God “possess” (ESV), “make” (HCSB), or “create” (LXX) wisdom in verse 22? Is wisdom speaking of Christ directly or indirectly (typologically) or not at all?
These are the debates made famous by the heretic Arius, who denied Christ’s eternal deity, and they are important questions, but my focus is not on this debate. Rather, I want to consider how Proverbs 8 speaks of wisdom with respect to righteousness and reward in verses 8, 15, 16, 18, 20.
In these verses we discover at least four truths about wisdom and righteousness and reward. They are worth our consideration and application, especially as we see how Christ is God’s Wisdom, who teaches his (once foolish) disciples to walk wisely after they have come to trust in his wisdom (cf. Matthew 11:28–30).
Four Truths About Righteousness in Proverbs 8
1. Words of wisdom are the source of righteousness.
Proverbs 8:8 reads, “All the words of my mouth are righteous, there is nothing twisted or crooked in them” (8:8). As Solomon personifies Lady Wisdom, we hear her inviting men to learn from her words (vv. 6–11). She describes these words in verses 6–11 as true (v. 7), righteousness (v. 8), straight not crooked (vv. 8–9), and valuable (vv. 10–11).
In these descriptions, she echoes Psalm 19 and Psalm 119, where the rules of the Lord are described as righteous (Psalm 119:7, 62, 75) and the word of the Lord is venerated as sweeter than honey and more valuable than gold (Psalm 19:10–11). In short, by describing wisdom as righteous, we see where righteousness comes.
Wisdom is the seed from which righteousness is born (cf. Prov. 11:18), and thus wise words are more than righteous words, they are the source and supply of righteousness. Moreover, unrighteousness is one of, if not, the greatest hindrance to wisdom, which in turn unlocks a world of blessing.
2. Good kings rule by wisdom.
Speaking to kings about their rule, Lady Wisdom states, “ By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly” (vv. 15–16). In other words, wise kings are righteous kings; foolish kings who forsake the wisdom of the law, are wicked kings. And the result is that the peace and justice of a kingdom or government will depend upon the wisdom and righteousness of her ruler(s).
In these verses, kings and rulers are in view, but when we remember that mankind—everyone made in God’s image—was created to have dominion over the earth, we see how this applies to all people. In this age, not every image bearer is a ruler; however, this age is preparing a people who will be royal priests in the age to come (Rev. 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). Therefore, the wisdom that comes by keeping God’s righteous rules is for all people, and especially for leaders in our day, righteousness is necessary for lasting impact and positive change.
3. Honor and inheritance depend on wisdom and righteousness.
In Proverbs 8, we also learn how the blessings of the covenant are contingent upon wisdom and righteousness. As outlined in Exodus–Deuteronomy, God called his redeemed people to walk in his ways in order to receive the blessings of his covenant. In the Proverbs, we see how honor, glory, wealth, and prosperity are contingent on righteousness and wisdom.
As Proverbs 8:18 says, “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.” Importantly, these are words spoken by Lady Wisdom to a people dwelling under the old covenant—i.e., a covenant ratified by circumcision in the flesh, not the Spirit. Under this dispensation, Proverbs explicates and applies God’s covenant with Israel to those living under the kingdom of Solomon and his sons. Proverbs 1–9, therefore, speaks to these sons of the covenant, instructing them to walk in wisdom and righteousness, in order to enjoy the blessings of the covenant.
4. Righteousness is a moving path, not a static title.
We learn from Proverbs 8:20 that wisdom walks in the way of righteousness and justice. Or to say it differently, God’s wisdom teaches us how to walk in righteousness. As we’ve seen, righteousness is impossible without wisdom. And God’s reward only comes to those who are righteous. Therefore, as Proverbs 2 teaches, we must earnestly seek righteous wisdom in all of its forms (see vv. 1–4). Or, as Proverbs 4:4–7 says twice “get wisdom”:
Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you. The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight.
In Proverbs 8, we can see how wisdom, righteousness, and reward relate. And this continues in the rest of the Proverbs. Something we’ll look at tomorrow. But for now, it’s worth noting that this call to wisdom that leads righteousness and reward was only perfectly satisfied in Jesus Christ, who is the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30) and the one in whom all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hid (Colossians 2:3).
Thankfully, God’s word unveils the wisdom hidden in Christ. Lady Wisdom stirs up affection for wisdom in Proverbs 8, but ultimately we will not be satisfied until we come to Jesus. Therefore, let let us look to him, because in him we both find the way our follies can be forgiven through God’s wise plan of salvation (2 Timothy 3:14–16) and the way followers of Christ can learn to walk in the wisdom of the word.
Soli Deo Gloria, ds
Photo credit: Melanie Rogers