In my last post we read some quotes from Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God (Nottingham: IVP, 2006).
We looked at the international character of the Wisdom literature in the Old Testament. Here we will take a look at how that character is based on Israel’s convictions about creation. This is in fact quite obviously, but I guess it is easy to miss if we don’t pay attention.
There are, according to Proverbs, general principles that lead to a good and successful life. But it does not always turn out according to these principles. The realities that stem from Genesis 3 are the stark background for the wrestlings of Job and Ecclesiastes: satanic malice, suffering, frustration, meaningless toil, unpredictable consequences, uncertain futures, the twistedness of life and the final mockery of death. Wisdom by itself cannot answer these questions, but it provides the clue that points to where the answer maybe found—in the fear of the Lord God himself. (p. 447)
But the most marked difference between the law and the prophets on the one hand and wisdom on the other lies in the motivational appeal that is characteristic of each. The former appeal predominantly to Israel’s redemptive history, whereas the latter appeals predominantly to Israel’s convictions about creation. (p. 449)
The emphasis here [in Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 19:17; 22:2; 29:7, 13; Job 31:13–15] is entirely on our common humanity, common because we all share the one Maker, God. So rich or poor, slave or free, oppressed or oppressor, we are all alike the work of God’s hands. What we do to a fellow human being, therefore, we do to his or her Maker, a profound ethical principle that Jesus reconfigured in relation to himself. (p. 449)
Nevertheless it is a striking fact that while the law and the prophets are so solidly founded on the core history of Israel, the Wisdom literature draws its theology and ethics from a more universal, creation-based moral order. (pp. 449–550)
This too has its missiological implications. In approaching people of other cultures, faiths and worldviews, we nevertheless share a common humanity and (whether they acknowledge the fact or not) a common Creator God.” (p. 550)
The biblical wisdom tradition shows us that there is a certain universality about biblical ethics simply because we live among people made in the image of God, we inhabit the earth of God’s creation and however distorted these truths become in fallen human cultures they will yet find an echo in human hearts. (p. 550)