There is a section of the Bible called the books of Wisdom. Right in the middle. The books of Wisdom are the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Songs. Most Christians only read Psalms and Proverbs. Occasionally Job, rarely Ecclesiastes, and never the Song of Songs. The Song of Songs is a love story, gets a bit steamy here and there. Ecclesiastes, well people wonder how it sneaked into the holy writ because it seems so gloomy. And Job is the story of how this previously lucky guy gets nailed by the devil, and never finds out why.
Wisdom. If you want to find out early about Wisdom, start with Proverbs. You discover some interesting things. Firstly, Wisdom is a woman. Honest to goodness. Always referred to as a She. Secondly, she is in the most obvious places. She stands at the traffic lights, at the entrance to the city by the freeway exits. She shouts as everyone walks busily by.
And hardly anyone sees her.
Nobody wants to listen to her. She promises long life, happiness, wealth, contentment, but very few even see she is there yelling out the answers to them in such an obvious manner. Wonderful picture. The book of Proverbs goes on about this for some time. You think people would get the picture, wouldn’t you?
Armed with this knowledge, the same people then turn to Ecclesiastes. And they declare the book gloomy, and not helpful. Then they read Job, and can’t understand it, or think that God is the bad guy. For crying out aloud, they only just read five minutes ago that Wisdom was not going to be seen easily.
So help me, it took reading a book written by a non-Christian to point out something I had never seen before. The Bible is a book about God’s dealing with the world, among other things, right? Well, the longest conversation attributable to God is in the book of Job. The preachers never pointed it out to me. How come? Simple. Wisdom is standing there, really obviously, but who wants to see her?
This dialogue spoken by God in the book of Job, well at first sight, it looks like God goes on about crocodiles and hippos a tad too long. Fancy God himself wasting his big chance talking about crocs?
Give me strength. If there is a God out there, and this Bible is his message to mankind, do people think He is dumb enough to talk at length this once, and then squander it on a wildlife program? Maybe the message is hidden, deliberately so because Wisdom warned us it would be hidden. Some no-brainers here aren’t there?
Anyway I am just as bad because I didn’t see any of that until this writer pointed it all out to me. His interpretation was great. And if you think I am about to do a precis of it here, you are mistaken.
Ah, well, I can’t resist having a crack.
The clue is to think of Leviathan, the big crocodile, as the Devil himself. If God created good and evil, then in the book of Job, he admits that it was a tough call making the universe, and running it. Evil is allowed it’s run, for reasons we don’t understand. Good grief, we can hardly see the beginning of the Milky Way, this small time galaxy we are part of. How could we really appreciate good or evil? If there is a God, and if he created the universe, and if he allowed good and bad, could we understand his purposes? Or even the difficulty of setting it all up in the first place?
Ecclesiastes is my favourite. Talks a lot about timing. There is the famous passage, immortalized by the music of Peter, Paul and Mary long ago.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
I once worked for a stupid boss. Gee, welcome to the world, you are thinking. Sure. Well, I never knew what sort of mood this overseer would be in, when I phoned him on the other side of the world. He would pour his venom about life down the phone to me, at expensive cellphone rates that he would later pay for.
But I had learnt my verses from Ecclesiastes. Here they are;
Do not be a hurry to leave him. Do not join in an evil matter, for he will do whatever he pleases. Since the word of the Boss is authoritative, who will say to him, “What are you doing?”
He who keeps the Bosses command experiences no trouble for a wise heart knows the proper time and procedure. For there is a proper time and procedure for every delight, when a man’s trouble is heavy upon him.
I know, I changed the word ‘King’ to ‘Boss.’ But my point is, I learnt to shut up and let him get his anger out of the way. Eventually he would realise he had been monologuing all this time, and he would ask, “Oh, how is so and so going?”
And then I had my moment to bring out what was really troubling the huge project we were working on for him. If I had done it earlier I would have been crushed. He taught me how to use time.
If you want to, you can see how simple rules of timing work. Like speaking last if you want to succeed. Have you ever seen others influence business decision meetings, even though their ideas are not that good? Somehow they know how to wait for the right moment. You might have had a better solution, but theirs prevailed because your timing in presenting yours was wrong. You can even get to the point where you are questioning the others in the decision making group about their ideas, quizzing them until they betray the flaws in their own thinking, all the while knowing you have a solution. Then silence starts to descend on the meeting. You casually mention your idea. As an option to consider. Your chances of acceptance are close to total.
We can learn wisdom. We can learn that people want to be heard before they will hear you. Some people know it intuitively. They are the nice guys of the world. Often they are not that smart, but wow, are they nice. They get their way because of their niceness. The world opens up to them. Don’t despise them for this. Follow them around instead. Observe how they greet people, laugh at their jokes, remember their wife is having surgery next week and ask how the kids examinations went.
Took me decades to see it.
Sorry, not it. Her. Wisdom.
And you know what? I’m still not wise. Wisdom, this wonderful wild, unpredictable woman, is out there. Externally. Just that sometimes I can see her and listen to her. And other times I completely forget she exists.
So in your next business meeting, lean back in your chair, and look around the room. Imagine Wisdom is sitting there, smiling at you.
She has always been there. She was at the freeway entrance this morning when you started to get hassled with the traffic. But you didn’t recognize her then. Then she was in the gas station as the friendly attendant came up. You wondered briefly how that attendant could be consistently happy with all these busy passing motorists. Fleetingly Wisdom flashed in and out of your sight.
And now you sit together with her watching the group dynamics of your workaday world unfold in front of you.