Before mountaintops touched the underbellies of clouds, before God ironed flat the flyover states, before birds and bees and Bonsai trees, Wisdom stood by the Father’s side.
The Father turned his head to gaze at Wisdom. Wisdom turned to gaze at the Father. Their eyes met and they both smiled the Spirit’s knowing smile. “Let’s rock and roll,” they said. And so they did. The Father loved creation into being by a Spirit-drenched Word.
From Gorillas to Galaxies
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). But this “beginning,” what was it? It’s not simply the kickstart of a cosmic party. It’s not even a “what” but a “who.” Beginning is another name for Wisdom—or, as we say in Hebrew, Chokmah.
First, a word about Wisdom. In the Old Testament, Wisdom is not divine IQ. Nor is wisdom just sacred street smarts. Rather, Wisdom is with God, alongside God, speaking and acting with full divine authority. Wisdom is a divine person. This person is elsewhere called Adonai, the Root of Jesse, the Key of David, Emmanuel.
In other words, Wisdom is the Son of God.
Now, back to the phrase, “in the beginning.” In Proverbs, “Beginning” and “Wisdom” are linked. Wisdom says, “The Lord begot me, the beginning of his way” (8:22 [my translation]). Wisdom is begotten or “brought forth” (8:24) by the Father as the beginning. The Hebrew noun for beginning, reshit (pronounced “ray-sheet”), is the same word in Genesis 1:1 (b‘reshit).
Therefore, the very opening word of the Bible refers to Christ. In the Beginning, that is, in that one who is Wisdom, God the Father created the heavens and the earth. Echoing this in Greek, Jesus tells John that he is “the beginning [arche] of God’s creation” (Rev. 3:14). John probably had both Genesis 1 and Proverbs 8 in mind when he wrote, “In the beginning [arche] was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (1:1-2). This Word or Wisdom is the Beginning, not because he is made, of course, but because “all things were made through him” (John 1:3) and “by him” (Col. 1:16).
In the Beginning who is Wisdom, God the Father made everything from gorillas to galaxies, from sticks to stars.
O Wisdom, Come!
Today, December 17, the church sings the first of the “O Antiphons.” For 1300 years, if not longer, these have been on her lips during these last seven days of Advent, as we tiptoe toward the manger. Each of these antiphons addresses the Messiah by a different name. All are steeped in Old Testament stories and imagery.
Together, these seven “O Antiphons” preach the richly textured, Hebrew-accented Gospel. We will look at each of them in this series of daily articles.
On this day, we sing to Christ as the Father’s Chokmah or Wisdom:
“O Wisdom, proceeding from the mouth of the Most High, pervading and permeating all creation, mightily ordering all things: Come and teach us the way of prudence,” (LSB 357).
Wisdom flies down into our world through the open mouth of God to verbalize all things into existence. He is the let-there-be-this and let-there-be-that of Genesis 1. Upon this divine Son rests “the Spirit of Wisdom” (Isa. 11:2). Paul says that in Jesus “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom” (Col. 2:3) and that he “became to us wisdom from God” (1 Cor. 1:30).
This Wisdom pervades and permeates all creation. It’s not just a churchy thing, a little cubicled square of life we christen “religion.” Wisdom kicks down boundaries. Wherever wisdom is found in our world—in science, in agriculture, in music, in education, in church—there the Son of the Father is mysteriously and profoundly at work as Creator.
You don’t imagine, do you, that Jesus is somehow absent from medical science? That he is bored by geology or geometry or genetics? None of these things would even exist without him. He spoke them all into being. “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). All things hang on Wisdom, who, at every single moment, speaks our every breath and the twinkle of every star into ongoing existence.
Wisdom Become Tiny
“Come,” we pray to Jesus, “come and teach us the way of prudence.” Imprudence is so natural to us that, for the most part, we are blind to our folly. We waste our lives repeating the stupid creed “just a little more and that will be enough” while our souls wander about threadbare and shoeless.
We are like starving men in the food-laden kitchen of God who sit scrunched in the corner nibbling on rat poison.
“O come, Thou Wisdom from on high…to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.” Teach us prudence. Teach us love. Teach us humility. Teach us awe and wonder and delight in the sweeping grandeur of your world and the profound richness of your word.
Above all, lead us to the manger, O Wisdom, and show us yourself. Wisdom become a tiny human with flesh and blood and skin and bone. Wisdom swaddled in cloths that he made, drinking milk from the breasts he fashioned, rocked back and forth on soil that his hands formed ages ago.
O come, Thou Wisdom from on high.
Come and teach us prudence.
*In tomorrow’s article, we will look at “O Adonai.”