Wisdom from an Old Owl

Written By: Chris Mace

Barred Owl, Sorrento, Maine

A wise old owl sat on an oak\ The more he heard\ The less he spoke.

The less he spoke\ The more he heard\ Why not be like that wise old bird?

That bit of proverbial wisdom became my first public “speech” in first grade. Although this particular saying is not attributed to him, King Solomon was the king of proverbs, one of which is: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Really? Is God a celestial policeman to be feared?

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of (God’s) throne…” (Psalm 89:14) That God is righteous and just is certainly intimidating for all of us because we struggle to do (or even know at times) what is always right and just. But this Psalm continues on to speak of God’s “steadfast love” and “faithfulness.” Other Scriptures teach us that “God is love,” that He loves all humanity, and that “perfect love casts out fear.” (1 John 4:8,16)(John 3:16) (1John 4:18). So, is there some conflict, some incongruity, or tension between justice and love in God’s nature?

Biblical “fear” carries the connotation of “reverence” which is much more than respect. When my Dad spoke, he had my undivided attention! He was not all knowing but knew what was best for me at the time. (And I knew when he spoke what was best for me at that time!) I think that idea is at play in Solomon’s word of wisdom about fear. The remainder of Solomon’s thought is that “the knowledge of the Lord is understanding.” “Fearing God” implies devotion, trust, and obedience or adherence to His omniscience. Not only is God all knowing, but He is morally pure: “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look at wrong…(Habakkuk 1:13) His moral purity demands that He wants and does only what is good for us.

Therein comes the rub. Although God has great compassion for us, our moral brokenness or sin is abhorrent to Him and separates us from Him. However, in His remarkable love, God desires that none should perish and willingly, eagerly, and graciously redeems us. His remedy for our brokenness is the person and the work of Christ. Through him, God has shown “his immense love for us “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) When we accept the grace and mercy of forgiveness poured out at the cross, “Christ Jesus becomes to us wisdom from God, righteousness…and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). If we choose to believe that and receive the gift of saving faith, he reconciles us to God. If we choose not to listen to Christ as God’s wisdom, our ultimate fear should be that we would be separated from God and “perfect love.”

It is easy to allow our minds and voices to off-put or over-speak God. But there is a lesson to be taken from that wise old owl. Man’s wisdom is fallible, but God’s is not. Man’s voice is often in conflict with God’s. However, if “Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.” and if “in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge,” then listening to Jesus is not only a wise move, it is crucial. (1 Corinthians 1:24,30) (Colossians 2:3),


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