Job 28:28 “And to man He said, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’”
Job is a difficult book to apprehend in its parts, yet its whole is remarkably easier to comprehend. The prose narratives of chapters 1-2 & 42 function as bookends which contextualize the entire dialogue (or multilogue). From the outset, the reader knows Job is not culpable, and by the end, he is vindicated. However, standing between the beginning and the end are chapters which may be difficult to parse at times, or at the very least require Selah, i.e. pause, quiet meditation, and sober reflection.
The structure of the chapter itself remains very subtle, and one would very easily miss it apart from slow reading. Verse 28 is the final verse of chapter 28 (hence, an easy reference to commit to memory). But it is the arrival to the verse that is interesting. The first 12 verses of the chapter describe the various processes and methods whereby man obtains valuable jewels and precious metals. Man employs industriously hard work to obtain these small items, and he knows where to find them. Man ventures into the utmost depths of the earth to find these small trinkets so that he may enrich himself and adorn women with them.
The next 12 verses explain that wisdom is even more arduous to find, yet it is far more valuable and precious than gold, silver, coral, crystal, pearls, inter alia. These verses ask twice of wisdom’s location. Both questions receive similar answers in the negative. The next 5 verses (verses 23-27) explain Who truly understands and knows wisdom’s location. Job does not play coy: God understands its way and knows its place (v. 23). These final 5 verses culminate in the chapter’s conclusion in the aforementioned verse 28. This last verse provides closure to the chapter as well as to the reader. After trudging through the depths of the earth, and even after consulting death and Abaddon, man still has no idea where to find wisdom, until he inquires of the One Who knows its place and understands its way.
Yet, the answer is not immediately revealed. The author of Job first establishes God as the ultimate knower of wisdom, and it is only then that the long sought after answer is finally revealed. And though verse 28 in many ways is self-contained, reading the preceding 27 verses enriches it even more. For what wisdom was man actually seeking? If he had been seeking human wisdom, he would have found it in the earth’s depths (i.e. be rich!), and he would have found it in Abaddon (i.e. stave off death!). But this is earthly wisdom (i.e. imperfect, incomplete, and insufficient). Man yearns for higher wisdom—for Divine wisdom. But who knows this wisdom? Only the Divine Being Himself—Adonai, Elohim.
Verse 28 is where man learns the adversity of obtaining divine wisdom. God reveals unto man “Behold! The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom…” This verse does multiple subtle things simultaneously. First, the yearned-for answer obtains by revelation—by something external to man himself. He cannot obtain this wisdom in and of his own industry. His mind cannot fathom the depths of the riches of God’s wisdom. He cannot find it of his own volition! It can only be revealed.
In tandem with the revelatory nature of it is the essence of divine wisdom: the fear of the Lord. Christians (correctly) understand this fear as reverential awe. But what is entailed within this reverence? What does it mean to revere something? What is the essence of reverence itself? To revere is to show deference, to show honor, to show respect toward something worthy of it. However, this deferential honor presupposes a recognition of something greater than oneself. This willingness to recognize something greater requires a quality not naturally found within human beings, but something that must be learned. This quality is humility—a quality not very many human beings possess.
Behold! As revealed from Adonai Elohim, the humility to recognize God as immensely greater than myself and pay Him His due deferential honor—that! is divine wisdom—that is the beginning of wisdom as Psalms and Proverbs inform us (Psa. 111:10, Pro. 9:10). Brothers and sisters let us have the humility necessary to begin to obtain such divine wisdom. It is certainly not easy. Indeed, it is harder to find than any precious stone or metal, yet far more valuable. Thus, the “payoff” is completely worth the effort. So long as we sustain humility within our respective Christian walks, we will obtain many things, not least of which are knowledge, long-life, peace, and wisdom. Who does not love nor greatly desire these things? We must work arduously and strive to obtain them, but the very first step toward doing so—the prerequisite to working with our hands to move the depths of earth to obtain something precious as wisdom is humility.
Just as the miner must humble himself to overcome the drudgery of becoming filthy at even the mere prospect of finding gold—how much more should we as Christians do so as to obtain something promised from God (especially if we ask! cf. Jas. 1:5) that is also far more valuable than gold!