Wisdom and Life
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom and the one who gets understanding…. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed” (vv. 13, 15).- Proverbs 3:13–18
The concept of a Tree of Life is not unusual in the ancient Near East, and archaeologists have uncovered many ancient depictions of what looks to be a tree brimming with life in that region. In many of these images, animals and people are clinging fast to the tree as a picture of how true life is impossible without the tree.
Human beings everywhere are involved in a quest to regain access to this tree that was lost when our first parents broke God’s law in Eden (Gen. 3:22–24). Our neverending attempts to extend our lifespans and the search for salvation through various world religions represent some of the most easily identified ways that mankind is trying to eat of a Tree of Life once more. We all know that something is wrong and that we were not meant to suffer death and decay.
Only Scripture, which tells us about the real Tree of Life, can tell us how we can get back to the eternal life of blessedness possible to those who lived in Eden. Since Adam’s fall resulted from his attempt to shun the Lord’s wisdom as he grasped for knowledge where God told him not to look (2:15–17; 3:6–7), only by submitting ourselves to divine wisdom shall we find the Tree of Life again. Proverbs 3:13–18 represents a further development of the Tree-of-Life theme that was first introduced in Genesis 2. Wisdom is likened to a “tree of life” to those who will cling to her (Prov. 3:18), which makes sense because those who hear and trust in God’s wisdom — who is Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:24) — are those who will be granted the right to eat of the Tree of Life forever (John 14:6; Rev. 22:14). Receiving and eating of the Tree of Life of God’s wisdom now will enable us to eat of it forever in the world to come. The eminent Reformed Old Testament scholar Bruce K. Waltke explains, “Human beings regain that tree [of life] by humbling themselves and receiving words of eternal life” (Proverbs, vol. 1, p. 260).
When we were outside the covenant God made with Israel and without hope in the world, we did not eat of the divine wisdom that is the Tree of Life. Having been transformed by the Spirit through faith, we dine on the riches of Christ and live according to the revealed wisdom of His Word. Abiding in Jesus and the way He has given us is the means by which we reach the Tree of Life (John 15:1–11).
Our forebears rejected God’s wisdom in Eden, but in His grace He has made a way for mankind to feast on the treasures of Christ so that we might eat from the Tree of Life forevermore. All of us who trust in Jesus alone for salvation enjoy this wisdom that guarantees eternal life, and we have a responsibility to let others know how they too can find this wisdom in Him. Let us show forth how much we treasure this wisdom by sharing the gospel with others.
Passages for Further Study
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