Wisdom and Holiness: Reflecting the Beauty of God’s Multi-Colored Wisdom

In this first episode of the Holy Joys Podcast, Johnathan Arnold and Philip Brown discuss the relationship between wisdom and holiness.

Quotes from Philip Brown:

  • Wisdom is a lot like light. It can be broken into many different colors. Knowledge, understanding, discretion, prudence, and insight are all colors of wisdom.
  • Wisdom is the skill of perceiving and navigating life in harmony with Yahweh’s design. Wisdom is the way Yahweh thinks. It originates with Yahweh and he is the source of all wisdom.
  • In humans, wisdom is the skill of seeing life the way God does. Wisdom’s sight penetrates beyond appearances to the real nature of things and its choices reflect such penetrating sight.

Wisdom’s sight penetrates beyond appearances to the real nature of things and its choices reflect such penetrating sight.

  • The fear of the Lord is the compass for wisdom. It guides, directs, and orients all of its perceptions and choices. If you don’t have your compass oriented correctly, no matter how carefully you make your decisions, they are going to be taking you the wrong way.
  • At the root of wisdom is the word skill. Anything that is skillfully done can be called wise in its most basic sense. There are skillful sinners, there are skillful cheats. That is the wisdom which is from below. But Proverbs says that there is no knowledge or counsel against Yahweh. So no matter how skilfully a person contrives their sinful plans, Yahweh’s reality and plan will always triumph ultimately and thus their so-called wisdom will turn out to be folly.
  • Holiness, like wisdom, is complex and multifaceted. In Scripture, it may refer to a person’s status, behavior, or in the case of God—and I think humans as well—it can refer to a person’s nature. In one word, holiness is separateness or set-apart-ness. Separateness always entails both a from and a to.
  • When Yahweh says he is holy, he means that he is so superior to all other beings that he is separated from them.
  • Holiness is first a status. It is a position or a condition that is the consequence of being set apart to God.
  • We are to be excellent in our likeness to God to the degree and extent that he empowers us to be.
  • God’s glory is the unique excellence of his character and being. It is very closely related to holiness because holiness is God’s transcendent separateness due to the unique excellence of his character and being. Wisdom is certainly a dimension of God’s unique excellence. There’s no wisdom that transcends or even compares with his wisdom.
  • When you are skilled in thinking the way Yahweh does, that’s holiness of mind.
  • When we see how all that God is is ultimately good for us and glorifying to him, what other response is there but amazed and awe-struck worship as we see that beauty?
  • So many people who label themselves as “holiness” and want to talk about holiness and make it the flag that they wave, their lives are not beautiful—in terms of their attitudes, the way in which they present themselves and their opinions on social media or in public, and in their interactions.
  • The mainstream of Old Testament scholarship would be to identify five books as wisdom literature: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. But on the basis of Deuteronomy 4:6–8, where God describes the Torah, the instruction that he has given to Israel, as wisdom and making them a wise people, I’m not sure that the Old Testament recognizes a wisdom genre. I am inclined to argue that the Old Testament sees all genres as subsets of wisdom. You get narrative wisdom, legal wisdom, poetic wisdom, proverbial wisdom, prophetic wisdom, and so on.
  • What is typically designated as the wisdom literature reflects the heart, not the periphery, of the Old Testament understanding of right relationship with Yahweh. If law provides framework and guidance, wisdom literature is the beating heart—the passions, the affections, that live within the framework of instruction.
  • All of revelation is necessarily wisdom because it is the word of God reflecting the mind of God. Divine wisdom is polychromatic: multi-colored, multi-form. Any place I land in the Bible, whether it’s Leviticus or Lamentations or the Book of Revelation, I am in wisdom literature. The question then is, Do I know how to extract, properly read this literature so that I am reading the mind of Christ rightly?
Philip Brown
Philip Brownhttp://apbrown2.net
Dr. Philip Brown is Graduate Program Director and Professor at God's Bible School & College. He holds a PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of A Reader's Hebrew Bible (Zondervan Academic, 2008).