The Lord created me [Wisdom] at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth— when he had not yet made earth and fields,[d] or the world’s first bits of soil. When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race.
‘And now, my children, listen to me: happy are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Happy is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favour from the Lord; but those who miss me injure themselves; all who hate me love death.’
I wonder if the writer of today’s passage had been reading the ancient creation story of Genesis 1. There are many parallels between the two passages: establishing the heavens, dividing water and land, filling the earth, delighting in its inhabitants.
This ancient Hebrew character of personified Wisdom carries through into the New Testament and becomes Sophia when translated into Greek. It’s where we get our word ‘philosophy’ – the love of wisdom.
I wonder also if John was musing on this passage in Proverbs when he wrote the opening of his gospel. There are many parallels there too: God’s acting word of creation, with God in the beginning, through whom all was made.
Back in 538, the Emperor Justinian dedicated a church to Holy Wisdom who, in Orthodox theology, is identified with the Logos (Word) of John 1 and incarnated as Jesus Christ. We know this church as Hagia Sophia or Aya Sofya in Istanbul.
So what is this wisdom?
Perhaps easier to say what it is not. We’re not talking head-knowledge here. Wisdom is more about application. I’m sure you’ve heard that knowledge is being aware that tomatoes are technically fruit. Wisdom is not putting them in the fruit basket.
Paul names Christ as the power and the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:24). In the apparent foolishness of his death, Christ outstripped the much valued ‘wisdom’ of classical Greeks. True wisdom here is trusting that God knows what he’s doing, even when we cannot see how.
Matthew records Jesus saying that “Wisdom is vindicated by her children” or, as The Message puts it, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” (Matt 11:19) In other words, wisdom is about putting your faith into action, walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
What is wisdom for you today?
Hagia Sophia, Holy Wisdom, Eternal Word, May we be those who listen to you, who watch daily at your gates, who wait beside your doors. May we be those who find you, and in finding you, find life and favour from our Lord. Amen.
Fay Rowland, author and graduate researcher at Wesley House, Cambridge, worshipping at Christ the King