Review: The Message of Wisdom

The Message of Wisdom, (Bible Speaks Today). Daniel J. Estes. London: Inter-Varsity Press, 2020.

Summary: A study of the theme of wisdom, primarily in the Wisdom literature of the Old Testament but also incorporating other passages in scripture including those in the New Testament focusing on the culmination of wisdom in Christ.

I’m not sure there has ever been an age when wisdom has been in abundant supply. In this work, Daniel J. Estes, an Old Testament professor at Cedarville University surveys the biblical material focusing around the Wisdom books of scripture: Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. His method is to present and elucidate the key passages in scripture on wisdom and to allow these texts to speak for themselves. Very simply, he believes the intent of wisdom in the Proverbs and throughout scripture is to “guide human beings, and especially the young, in the direction of the good life, not as contemporary culture measures it, but as the Lord defines it.”

He organizes his study of the biblical material into five sections:

  1. The Concept of Wisdom. Through expositions of Proverbs 1, 2, 8, and 9, centering around the idea of the fear of the Lord as the beginning or source of wisdom, reflected in a life centered around obeying God and trusting his teaching.
  2. The Context of Wisdom. Here, Estes widens his focus to the rest of the Old Testament considering history in the law, history, prophecy, and in Psalm 112. Throughout the choice between wisdom and folly is clearly evident.
  3. The Conduct of Wisdom. Estes examines the teaching of Proverbs in four aspects that pervade daily life: work, speech, decisions and righteousness.
  4. The Complexity of Wisdom. What happens when the law of retribution does not work–when the righteous suffer and the wicked seem to thrive? Job and Ecclesiastes address life when this principle doesn’t work and how to live wisely, by trusting in the all-knowing God, and enjoying as it is given, God’s good gifts in life.
  5. The Culmination of Wisdom. Here as in other things, wisdom finds its fulfillment in Christ, who teaches wisdom and is the wisdom of God. To know him is to know wisdom’s source and to walk in wisdom.

While Estes provides lexical and contextual help, the focus is clearly expository and applicative. One hears in Estes writing a teacher who cares that his students walk in wisdom, and who understands how they can be drawn away from it into folly. In his chapter on wisdom in speech, he offers these insights in his concluding section of the chapter:

“Why is it so hard for us to be truthful? Truthfulness can fail for many reasons, but oftentimes it surrenders to fear. We fail to be truthful because we fear criticism, but then we end up looking like cowards when the truth eventually comes out. We fail to be truthful because we fear responsibility, but we end up trapped in a web of our deceptions. We fail to be truthful because we fear the personal cost of getting hurt, but we end up enslaved to the guilty conscience pricked by our dishonesty. We fail to be truthful because we fear upsetting others, but we end up missing the chance to provide constructive reproof that would actually help them” (pp. 121-122).

The book from beginning to end reflects a kind of exegetical and moral clarity much needed in our day, beginning within the Christian community. Engaging this work is aided by a study guide written by Ian Macnair that follows the passages treated in the text, aiding in personal study and group discussion. This book is a gem for those who want to learn to live well and wisely with God and others.

____________________________

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.