Every now and then, I’ll come across a passage of Scripture and simply say, “Wow.” Even though I’ve been reading and studying Scripture for some time now, I still come across passages that take my breath away. When I’m done reading passages like these, I often find myself wondering: “How did I not recognize the beauty of this text before now?”
That’s what this new series of blog posts is about; I’m affectionately referring to it as the “You’ve Gotta Read This” series. When I come across a passage in my personal reading that takes my breath away, I’ll write about it here. Of course, much of this writing is in hopes that you’ll be inspired to read the passage yourself – and that you’ll be as amazed by it as I am. The first passage in this series is Job 28.
When I read Job 28 this week, I was stunned. I’ve read this chapter plenty of times before; I’ve always loved the Book of Job. But for some reason, with this most recent reading, Job 28 stuck out to me in a way that it never has before. That’s part of the beauty of Scripture – no matter how many times you read God’s Word, you never know when a certain passage might strike you in a deep and meaningful way.
In Job 28, Job reflects on several massive theological themes: the transcendence of God (meaning that God is greater than any finite human being can fully perceive), the wisdom of God, and the revelation of God. We’ll talk about each of these themes below.
Job compares man’s search for wisdom to man’s ability to mine into the darkest recesses of the earth (VS. 1-11). Apparently even in Job’s day, mankind had developed the technology and know-how to dig deep below the ground, and come up with precious metals. Mankind has learned how to transport light into those dark recesses (VS. 3), and can even access treasures that water once made inaccessible (VS. 11). These are places no bird or beast has seen (VS. 7-8) – but man can now get there.
However, no matter how far man digs into the earth – no matter how much gold, silver, onyx, or sapphire he finds – he won’t find wisdom there (VS. 12-19). When I was in college, I went on a trip to Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. Mammoth Cave is one of the largest cave systems in the world – and it was well worth the visit. We went far below the surface, and for just a few moments, experienced the complete absence of light. It was a memorable experience, but I can confirm what Job says: there wasn’t any wisdom there. It cannot be found through the human ingenuity that makes mining possible – and even if it could be found, man would not value it appropriately (VS. 13). True wisdom cannot be found “in the land of the living” (VS. 13) or the depths of the sea (VS. 14). True wisdom is priceless (VS. 15-19). In these reflections, Job 28 sounds similar to one of the classic “wisdom passages” – Proverbs 8. In that passage, we read this about wisdom: “My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.” (Proverbs 8:19)
Up to this point, Job’s words may seem discouraging. It may sound as though Job is arguing that wisdom is completely inaccessible to mankind, and that any effort to gain wisdom will ultimately prove fruitless. The man looking for wisdom is going on a wild goose chase; he’s searching for a prize he’ll never attain. In VS. 20-22, Job asks the question on everyone’s mind: “From where, then, does wisdom come? And where is the place of understanding?”
In VS. 23, we get our answer: “God understands the way to it, and he knows its place.” God is omniscient (knowing all there is to know), omnipresent (not limited by the constraints of time and space), and omnipotent (all-powerful). He is the true source of wisdom, and it is only by turning to him that mankind can find true wisdom.
As the chapter ends, God says: “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding” (VS. 28). Yet again, this matches well with the classic wisdom literature of Proverbs: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (Proverbs 1:7). Man’s search for wisdom is not in vain; but that is only thanks to God’s gracious revelation of himself.
As passages like Proverbs 8:1-7 and James 1:5 tell us, God is quite willing to share His wisdom with us. Another important wisdom passage that sometimes get overlooked is 1 Corinthians 2:6-16, where Paul differentiates between the “wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age” (VS. 6), and the “wisdom of God” (VS. 7). Believers in Christ are indwelt by the Holy Spirit – “that we might understand the things freely given us by God” (VS. 12). At times, this wisdom may seem like utter folly to the world; godly wisdom will often rub up against, or even directly contradict the world’s ideas of wisdom, “common sense”, or “street smarts”. However, thanks to God’s grace, and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, Christians are wise in the things that matter in eternity – namely, the things of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Earlier in 1 Corinthians, Paul that Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1:24).
Don’t get me wrong; worldly wisdom is valuable. We gain it through observing the created order of our world, life experience, and even making mistakes. Worldly wisdom helps us understand that we shouldn’t have a picnic in the middle of an interstate, buy every item we see peddled on TV, or go swimming right after we eat a large meal.
However, worldly wisdom isn’t sufficient for eternal life. For that, we need God’s gracious revelation of himself. We need the help of the Holy Spirit. We need Christ himself – “the power of God and the wisdom of God”.
I don’t know about you, but I find Job 28 to be an awe-inspiring bit of Scripture. Upon reading Job 28, may we be moved to look to God for wisdom – because we can’t find true wisdom anywhere else, no matter how much our society learns, advances, and develops. And may we be humbled and grateful that this transcendent God is so graciously willing to share his wisdom with us.