It used to be a byword about the harmony of the Testaments, ‘The Old is by the New revealed; the New is in the Old concealed’. Sadly, some modern Bible teachers are tending to isolate the two Testaments unduly, causing among other things Old Testament pictures of Christ to be obscured.
We reject any suggestion that the New Testament has made these pictures unnecessary. After all, it is on the Old Testament foundation that the New is built. A building without a foundation will not stand.
Proverbs 8. 22-31 is a case in point. Here is a wonderful description of Christ as the Wisdom of God, later developed in the New Testament, ‘Christ’, we read, is ‘the power of God, and the wisdom of God’, 1 Cor. 1. 24. In Him ‘are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge’, Col. 2. 3.
While it is true that wisdom as a quality is a recurrent theme in Proverbs, there are no grounds for saying (as some do) that therefore the passage before us cannot refer to Christ as the personification of divine wisdom. Quite the contrary. Here we have a wonderful picture of the eternal Son of God.
In a very real sense every mention of wisdom in Proverbs, and in the Scriptures as a whole, can be said to apply to the One set before us in Proverbs 8. The Lord Jesus Christ is God’s wisdom and all true wisdom must come from Him. Yet there are special insights to be gleaned from this passage:
‘The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old’, we read. ‘I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was’, vv. 22-23.
He existed with God, as God, before all creation. The words ‘set up’ do not mean that at a point in eternity Christ was not the Wisdom of God. The Hebrew does not so much mean ‘acquired’ as ‘created’ (cf. Septuagint), or as paraphrased by Athanasius, ‘constituted me as the head of creation’.
Does not this remind us of the prologue to John’s Gospel, and the use of ‘Word’ (Gk. logos) in reference to Christ, John 1. 1-14? Among the ancients logos was associated with wisdom in its fullest sense. Philo and his predecessors used itto represent God and His communication with people.
It was a broad term covering very much more than speech. E. M. Blaiklock writes, ‘In John’s use of Logos we must certainly see (the) blending of Judaic and Hellenistic concepts which appeared in Philo’s use of the term. From its Greek ancestry, etymological and philosophical, the Johannine word would contain the notion of reason, but also the active expression of reason on a divine and perfect plane’. In other words, ‘Wisdom’ in its fullest sense, as we have it in Proverbs 8. This Logos, says John, is none other than God incarnate, the Son in whom all glory dwells, vv. 8-14. He is the ‘Wisdom’ of God revealed.
So also here in Proverbs we see Christ existing with God, as God, before creation.
The first part of verse 30 in the AV says pictorially of Christ, ‘1 was by him, as one brought up with him’, but this is probably inadequate. While the Hebrew could refer to an intimate relationship, as of a child, it also conveys the idea of faithfulness, as of a skilled workman. Thus it has been variously rendered, ‘master craftsman’, NKJV, ‘master workman’, NASB and ‘the craftsman at His side’, NIV.
The picture is of Christ as the all-wise Creator. It is significant that John’s prologue also speaks of this aspect of His work, ‘All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made’, John 1. 3. The writer to the Hebrews says of God’s Son, ‘by whom also he made the worlds … upholding all things by the word of his power’, 1. 2, 3.
Here then is an Old Testament picture of Christ as One who not only pre-existed before all creation, i.e. is eternal, but who was in fact then the Master Workman involved in creation. He is clearly seen as the Son of God the Executor, working in blessed harmony with God the Father, the great Designer of all being. Wisdom indeed!
The word ‘wisdom’ sometimes has had the connotation of headiness or highmindedness. The slang ‘egghead’ is occasionally used of intellectuals to convey the thought of theory over reality. Among such, wisdom is often confused with human speculation and ‘truth’ which is not according to godliness, Tit. 1. 1. Such is the wisdom of this world!
Paul’s exhortation to Timothy in this regard is worth noting, ‘O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science (knowledge, Newberry) falsely so called: which some professing have erred concerning the faith’, 1 Tim. 6. 20, 21.
The wisdom of God on the other hand is not a matter of speculation. It is the way things are by divine decree.
Human wisdom is sombre because it is unsure of itself. Divine wisdom is joyful; it is the truth that sets people free, John. 8. 32. Thus we read in Proverbs 8 of the One who is the fount of all wisdom in His relationship to the Father, ‘And I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him; rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men’, vv. 30b, 31.
This joy was in what the Wisdom of God had created, the sons of men. Yet sin entered human history to destroy the beautiful, the wonderful creation of Christ. Soon, in human terms, God saw that the wickedness of man had become great in the earth. Instead of rejoicing there was grief, Gen. 6. 5, 6.
That grief then led God to reveal His wisdom and love in redemption. He sent the very One who was ‘daily his delight’ to become a sin offering and sacrifice for those whom He had created. To those whom God was calling to Himself Christ became ‘the power of God, and the wisdom of God’, 1 Cor. 1. 24.
‘He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall (God’s) righteous Servant justify many’. And God says, ‘Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong’, Isa. 53. 12.
In that day we shall be seen as the fruit of His consummate wisdom. And by His grace we shall rejoice before Him because God has said, ‘We shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is’, 1 John 3. 2.