Imagine you are invited to two breakfast banquets this morning. The first breakfast banquet will be serving freshly made delicious Dunkin donuts. The host will be serving a variety of flavors, including Double Chocolate Crème Donuts, Bavarian Kreme Donuts, Butternut Donuts, Chocolate Butternut Donuts, and much more, there is surely a favorite for everyone. The second breakfast banquet will be serving fresh fruits and vegetables, the menu including fresh grapes, apples, avocado, bake kale, and steamed broccoli. Which breakfast banquet will you choose to go to? You may be thinking: “I really want to stay healthy on my diet, however, I am craving sweet delicious donuts this morning. Let me just go to the donuts breakfast banquet and enjoy my favorite donuts, it is just a breakfast, it will not hurt my health.” You are right that one sweet donut breakfast will not hurt your health, it is not going to make you sick overnight. However, what if you are invited to another breakfast banquet tomorrow morning, and once again you choose to go to the Dunkin donuts breakfast banquet. Now, imagine what will happen to your body if you choose to eat donuts for breakfast every day for your entire seminary journey?
We as seminary students are frequently faced with decisions to make. Some decisions are trivial like what breakfast to eat. Some decisions are more serious like should I choose an agape project because it is easier, or because it is where I think God wants me to serve, even it will take more of my time? Some decisions are even more serious like should I sign up for more courses to graduate sooner, or take fewer courses so I can spend more time with family, even if I have to delay my graduation? Or should I get married and have children now or wait until I am done with seminary? Or should I choose a concentration because it is easier or because I think it is God calling for me, even if it is harder? Or when I am staring at an online close book exam at home and do not know how to answer the question, but I know the answer is seating right there on the bookshelf, should I take a peek at the books?
We all need wisdom to make decisions, the question is what kind of wisdom? Is it worldly wisdom, or heavenly wisdom? Of course, we all want to rely on heavenly wisdom, but the world is constantly feeding us with worldly wisdom. Imagine what will happen to your life if you constantly make the wrong decisions because you being influent by worldly wisdom? What can we do to gain heavenly wisdom and understanding in life?
Today, I am going to talk about how to gain heavenly wisdom and understanding while in seminary so that we can make the right decisions that will please the Lord. Please turn to Proverbs 9:10 with me. Let me repeat, our text for today is Proverbs 9:10. This proverb has two parts, the first part is about fearing God as the way to gain heavenly wisdom. The second part is about knowing God’s Holiness is the way to gain heavenly understanding. Therefore, I will first talk about fearing God, follow with knowing God as the Holy One, and will end with an application for our life.
First, we need to fear God to gain heavenly wisdom. This God is not any gods, but the God of Israel. The Hebrew word for the LORD is Yahweh. It is the covenantal God of Israel. This is extremely important. If we fear any other man-made gods, we will not gain heavenly wisdom. If we fear our professors, we will not gain heavenly wisdom. If we fear Satan, we will not gain heavenly wisdom. We must fear the LORD Yahweh, the God who made the new covenant with us through His Son Jesus Christ.
Fearing God is the foundation principle of all the proverbs. The Book of Proverbs tells us what does the life of a person who fears God looks like. I say that because The Book of Proverbs starts with fearing the LORD, and ends with fearing the LORD. Look with me at the beginning of Proverb, chapter 1 verse 7: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: fools despise wisdom and instruction.” Now flip to the end of proverbs, chapter 31 verse 30: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.” The next book, the Book of Ecclesiastes talks about a vanity life. See chapter 1 verse 2: “ “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” ” How do we make sure we do not keep making decisions that will lead to a vanity life? The answer is at the end of the book of Ecclesiastes, in chapter 12 verse 13: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments because this applies to every person.”
Fearing the LORD means we should be in awe, or in reverence to God. In other words, we need to acknowledge that God is in charge of our life. Fearing God means in everything that we do, we do it with submission to the authority of God in mind. That is the way to gain heavenly wisdom.
Some of us might think fearing the Lord is only an old testament concept, we are new testament Christians, we are under grace, and should not fear the Lord. Paul did not think so, for he instructed the Christian slaves in Colossians to serve their masters with the fear of the Lord, not to please men but to please God. Let’s open your bible to Colossians 3:22-23: “Slaves, in all things, obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.”
Before I move to Dallas, I took a lot of Lifesize online courses. An online course is a great tool, but sometimes it became a great temptation for students. There were many times on closed books quizzes and tests, I was tempted to look into my Greek or Hebrew textbooks to get the answer. By the grace of the Lord, I was able to overcome most of the temptations. However, one time, I gave in, I started to look for answers in the textbook. And then the fear of the Lord was on me. I asked myself, why do I do this? Do I fear a bad grade on a Greek test or a bad grade on God’s test? After that struggle with myself, I put the textbook back on the bookshelf. I did not have a good grade on the Greek test, but I hope I had a good grade on God’s test. Living our life in the fear of the Lord does not mean we will always have smooth sailing in our seminary journey, but living our life in the fear of the Lord will surely conform our life to be more like Jesus Christ over time.
This proverb says fearing the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. When you fear God, God will give you heavenly wisdom. But this is just the beginning, like a place taking off to the sky, think about the potential of the kind of wisdom you will get from God when you fear Him!
Who is this God that we should fear? It is impossible to fear God if we do not know Him. The more we know Him, the more we will understand our life and have the wisdom to make decisions that please God. Out of all God’s characters, this proverb highlights the Holiness of God. Look at the second part of verse 10: “and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
The Holy One in Hebrew is Qedoshim, it is in plural form. It does not mean they are many holy gods. Similar to Elohim, the Hebrew word for God, it is the plural of excellence. Qedoshim expresses the majesty, greatness, excellence, comprehensiveness of the Holiness of God. Holy in Hebrew means set apart, unique or distinct. God is the creator, He is distinct from all creations. The theologian RC Sproul famously said: “Holy is the only attribute of God that was elevated to the third degree. He pointed out the orophet Isaiah once saw the Seraphim cried out: “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory”, as recorded in Isaiah 6:3. The Seraphim did not cry “mercy, mercy, mercy”, or “love, love, love”, or “justice, justice, justice” or “wrath, wrath, wrath”. But that He is Holy, Holy, Holy. It is the dimension of God that consumes His very essence.
Why do we need to know God’s Holiness? Because the more we know God’s Holiness, the more we will understand what is worldly and what is holy! The world-renowned evangelist Billy Graham hold on to four biblical integrity principles that are known as the Modesto Manifesto. He and three other evangelists came up with these life principles at their young age, early in their ministry, in 1948, when he was 30 years old. The second of these principles is about sexual morality. They pledged among themselves to avoid any situation that would have even the appearance of compromise or suspicion. From that day on, Billy Graham did not travel, meet or eat alone with a woman other than his wife. They determined that the Apostle Paul’s mandate to the young Timothy would be theirs as well: “Flee from youthful lusts”, as written in 2 Tim 2:22. I know my own weakness, when I read about this 16 years ago, I adopted it as my own, to protect my marriage. There are times it has created inconvenience to me and others, but I felt that the holiness of our marriage is worth the cost.
This semester, I signed up for an Agape project to help international students in DTS. I offer to give them rides around town. But soon after the international office sent this news to the international students, I realized I have a problem. Women started to ask for rides. What should I do? Spending time alone with another woman in a car might not seem to be a big deal to many people. But for me, it would be a compromise of my principle. What should I do? I asked God for wisdom. And God gives it to me. I have a ten years old boy, I asked him to come along with those rides. My son, Isaac enjoyed those rides because he got to take a break from his homeschool. He asked interesting questions to our lady friends. Like do you like to play with Nerf guns? What is your favorite dog? We had lots of fun. Knowing God is the Holy One motivates me to made decisions to protect the holiness of my marriage. And God gave me insight on how to handle situations like this. In 1 Peter 1:15-16, Peter wrote: “but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.” ” When you are faced with decisions to make, do you think about the Holiness of God? Do you think about what is worldly, and what is holy? Are you willing to sacrifice convenience for holiness? When you think about the Holiness of God, God is going to give you heavenly understanding into your life situation.
You may be asking, I know I should fear God, I know my life should reflect the Holiness of God. But I do not have the strength to do so. What can I do so that I am constantly reminded and have the strength to fear the Lord, and to know His Holiness in my life?
You need to come to feast with Jesus daily to fear God and to know God’s Holiness to gain heavenly wisdom. The context of Proverb 9:10 is chapter 9. In the first half of chapter 9, Wisdom is personified as a lady, called Lady Wisdom. She has prepared a banquet with food and wines in her house. Then she invited people to come and feast with her. And then she told them: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” I believe Lady Wisdom is a shadow of the Lord Jesus Christ. Because Jesus said He is greater than Solomon in Matthew 12:42. And Paul wrote that Christ Jesus has become to us wisdom from God in 1 Corinthians 1:30. Paul further wrote that in Christ are hidden all the reassures of wisdom and knowledge in Colossians 2:3.
In the second half of Proverb chapter 9, there is another lady who was also hosting a banquet. Her name is Lady Folly. Her drink was sweet, her food was pleasant, look at verse 17. If you are lacking understanding of what is going on in your life, come to her, she is going to feed you with food and teaching of the world. I believe Lady Folly is a representative of the worldly system. The world is constantly teaching us worldly wisdom, a worldly understanding of life. The world teaches us to make decisions based on instant gratification. The world teaches us there is no God. The world teaches us there is no need to fear God. The world teaches worldliness, not holiness.
In the book “A Hunger for God”, John Piper wrote: “The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rate video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night.”
Do you want to have heavenly wisdom to handle the challenges of living a holy life while in seminary? Do not feast with the world, came feast with Jesus so that you will have the strength to fear God and to know His holiness. And when you do that, God is going to give you heavenly wisdom and understanding to handle life challenges. Imagine what kind of heavenly wisdom God will give you when you choose to feast with Jesus daily!
Let’s pray. Father, help us to feast with Jesus daily, so that we will fear you and gain greater knowledge of your holiness. Please grant us heavenly wisdom to make decisions that will please to you, in Jesus name we pray, amen.