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Finding Favour in the Sight of God: A Theology of Wisdom Literature (New…

by Richard P. Belcher Jr.

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There has been an explosion of interest in wisdom literature, and many studies are now available. There is every opportunity for people to "get wisdom, get insight" (Prov. 4:5). However, in today's world it seems the practical sensibilities that come from wisdom are found in very few places. Wisdom literature is needed now more than ever. By walking in the way of wisdom, we will "find favour and good success in the sight of God and man" (Prov. 3:4). In this New Studies in Biblical Theology volume, Richard Belcher begins with a survey of the problem of wisdom literature in Old Testament theology. Subsequent chapters focus on the message and theology of the books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. These point forward to the need for Christ and the gospel. Belcher concludes by exploring the relationship of Christ to wisdom in terms of his person, work, and teaching ministry. Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprising New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.… (more)
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Summary: A study of the message and theology of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes concluding with an exploration of Jesus and wisdom.

The wisdom literature of the Old Testament is both treasured and puzzled over. Sometimes as we read Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, we wonder "what do we make of these books?" Once we get beyond the first nine chapters of Proverbs and Proverbs 31, is there any structure or order to these sayings? How should we understand the message of Job? Of Ecclesiastes? These books seem very different from the rest of the Old Testament, so much so that Richard P. Belcher, Jr. notes that these books are sometimes referred to as the orphans of Old Testament theology.

This study seeks to address this challenge, beginning with rooting the wisdom books on a foundation of creation, in which wisdom is grounded in observing, interacting with, reflecting on, and drawing conclusions from creation, rather than revelation from God, which helps connect these texts to other parts of the Old Testament. After discussing these issues, Belcher outlines the plan of the book which is three chapters on each of the three wisdom books, considering their message, interpretation, and theology, with a concluding epilogue on Jesus and how wisdom was evident in his person, life, and teaching.

In his chapters on Proverbs, he explores the message of the first nine chapters including the two ways and the person of Lady Wisdom. He then tackles the hermeneutics of proverbs and the question of whether proverbs should be understood as absolute statements. Finally, he considers the theology of Proverbs focusing on the sovereignty of God and the how the Proverbs reflects the creation order within which we seek to live wisely and well. He concludes with a fascinating discussion of "life" in Proverbs, proposing that the horizon of this life, though a focus of Proverbs, is insufficient to understand all references.

The study of Job begins with a discussion of the theology of the first three chapters followed by a discussion of the speeches of Job 4-26. He characterizes Eliphaz as the counselor who misses the mark, Bildad as the defender of God's justice, and Zophar as the interpreter of God's ways. None credit the possibility that sometimes the innocent suffer. This sets up his concluding chapter on Job 27-42, in which it becomes clear that wisdom is not to be found among men but only as revealed in Job's encounter with God, where both his innocence is vindicated and the folly of his challenge to God is revealed. The book stands as a challenge to an inflexible doctrine of divine retribution and looks ahead to the ultimate innocent sufferer, Jesus.

Belcher approaches Ecclesiastes or Qohelet as largely written from an "under the sun" perspective and that the "wisdom" derived from such a perspective is ultimately hebel or futile. Positive passages are offset by the bleak ones. Human wisdom is revealed to be unable to answer either "what is good?" or "what will come in the future." Belcher believes the postscript is key for countering this bleak assessment in its encouragements to fear God and keep God's commands--a wisdom from "above the sun."

The epilogue concludes with connecting wisdom in the teaching, person, and work of Christ with the wisdom books. He draws helpful parallels between Proverbs and the Sermon on the Mount, and discusses how Christ's person and work fulfills wisdom.

I found three things that were helpful in this study. One was the care given to how we read the wisdom books. The second was a clarity in his summaries the message of the books, probably as clear as I've found anywhere. Thirdly, the discussion of the connection of wisdom to creation order as well as the fulfillment of wisdom in the person of Christ addresses the orphan character of these books. It seemed to me the author hit all the important aspects to be addressed in these books within the limits of te format of this series.

___________________________

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. ( )
  BobonBooks | Dec 13, 2018 |
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There has been an explosion of interest in wisdom literature, and many studies are now available. There is every opportunity for people to "get wisdom, get insight" (Prov. 4:5). However, in today's world it seems the practical sensibilities that come from wisdom are found in very few places. Wisdom literature is needed now more than ever. By walking in the way of wisdom, we will "find favour and good success in the sight of God and man" (Prov. 3:4). In this New Studies in Biblical Theology volume, Richard Belcher begins with a survey of the problem of wisdom literature in Old Testament theology. Subsequent chapters focus on the message and theology of the books of Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes. These point forward to the need for Christ and the gospel. Belcher concludes by exploring the relationship of Christ to wisdom in terms of his person, work, and teaching ministry. Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprising New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.

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