Navigating Wisdom: How Wisdom Calls Out in the Streets

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Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof,
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.Proverbs 1:20-23 (ESV)

Reflection

Holy Hubert used to visit my campus, the University of Washington. His gravelly but booming voice could be heard at a great distance. He delighted to call college students sinners and to warn them of the dangers of hell fire.

It was preaching as street theater, as he was most “effective” when he provoked an argument. To this day I recall Hubert going nose to nose with a young socialist student, with blue cap and red star to match the color of the student’s angered countenance.

Wisdom cries aloud in a different way. I don’t think we are speaking here of street evangelists like Holy Hubert. We are speaking of Wisdom personified. She appears often in Proverbs 1-9. Her discourse can be confrontational, as in the above passage, or more gentle as in Proverbs 8.

Wisdom in Proverbs 1-9 is I believe the same as natural revelation—the idea that God reveals himself not only through the scriptures, but also more universally through the created order. Psalm 19 compares this to the heat of the sun that reaches everywhere.

It rises at one end of the heavens

            And makes its circuit to the other;

            Nothing is deprived of its warmth. Ps 19:6 NIV

Wisdom cries out in the street, in public places. She is not confined to the church or to the coffee shop. She cries out in the lab and in the library. She cries out in the search for justice and in the search for a cure. She can be heard by anyone with a willingness to listen. The “wise” in Proverbs more or less correspond to those who are willing to listen. The “fool” is the one who knows it all.

Christians in the academy can follow the example of Wisdom. As you engage in your academic field, and that would include any academic field, you are discovering what is. Faith says that Someone made things the way they are for a purpose. Wisdom exists because the world is more than matter and numbers.

For instance, Paul gave an agricultural lecture in Acts 14, “…{God} has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.” (Acts 14:17)

Study the world energetically, both to offer praise to the Creator and also to learn his ways. You do not need to stand behind a pulpit to cry out in the streets, but a lab and a laptop might do.

Questions

In what areas of my own field do I see Wisdom crying aloud? How does my growth in knowledge about my subject show me God’s natural revelation of himself?

Prayer

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth. You have set your glory in the heavens. Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies.” (Psalm 8:1-2) Grant that we might see your glory with our eyes and instruments. Grant that we might by our conversation bring wisdom to the place where we live and to the marketplace where we work. In the name of Jesus in whom all Wisdom dwells.

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David Carlson

David Carlson was born and raised in Port Orchard, Washington and attended the University of Washington, getting a BA in History in 1978. He took two years to do volunteer work with InterVarsity at the University of Montana in Missoula. The most interesting job he had at that time was to work on a helicopter logging operation. He graduated from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL with a Masters of Divinity with an emphasis in Urban ministry in 1985. He has pastored in Queens, New York for 9 years and Madison, Wisconsin, about 2 miles from the campus of the University of Wisconsin, for 20 years. He has a blog on the Bible called Fresh Read at http://freshread.wordpress.com/, and one on the arts at http://twobookretreats.com/ in which he seeks to engage an unchurched audience.

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