Transcendence in context of that which I wish to speak: to go above circumstance, to dig deep within, to see the author at work. Wisdom is an interesting word and has some definitions within the Bible. One of my favorites comes from Job 28:28- “But to man He said, ‘Behold, the reverential and worshipful fear of the Lord-that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.’” If but a moment we could grasp this wisdom, to see it working in our lives, to see its power being greater than the sum of our knowledge, and to know the difference between a man and a god. The preceding verse of Job 28 describes the wisdom of God (shown below); we get a picture of God the Creator and Ruler. Part of our wisdom is knowing our place on this earth, and thus knowing His.
“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”1 Corinthians 13:12
There is this separation that exists between the Creator and the Creation. Many things we cannot contain in our minds and thus right it off as improbable and impossible. Does this make God an impossibility? Does truth demand, better yet need, belief in order to exist? Moses could only see the back of God. Paul was blinded when confronted by Jesus. Men shrunk in terror when facing angels. There are things in here and now that are beyond our comprehension that would break us if they had the chance. And yet, we see the Creator come to us in the weakest form, a babe. And then suffer. And lose. Jesus taught us to lose in order to live. To Him, it was never about winning. There is no contest and there never was. It is already finished. Jesus taught us how to suffer well. To endure to the end. To weep today and rejoice tomorrow. Tomorrow always comes. It is woven into God’s nature and trusting that is just the beginning. Paul understood this concept of losing (by the world’s standards). Suffering did not mean forsaken. It gave hope a reason to exist and faith room to grow. And if we could just see it. If we could see our place, if we could know wisdom and understand the little control we possess.
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that my circumstances have actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And most of the brothers, confident in the Lord by my chains, now dare more greatly to speak the word without fear.”Philippians 1:12-14
Paul’s circumstance is prison; we know he served much time because of his preaching, and he tells us so here; he also alludes to being Christ’s prisoner. I see two things going on in this latter idea. One, how the outsider would see it and two, how the fellow Christian would see it. The outsider sees a man foolishly throw his life away to a god; he is literally and mentally in a prison because it is all he talks about. He doesn’t give up and is downright an annoyance to society. To the fellow Christian, though, he was always a prisoner to Christ. Really, we all are. He created us all and draws us near to him and pursues us seemingly endlessly. What differentiates the two is that one knows that there is a difference. They saw and believed. And it led them down a path that would satisfy them beyond any earthly years obtained. They tasted wisdom, if only for a moment, and it brings them to a place unfamiliar yet comforting. How can reality become a paradox? We cannot make sense of such things. But do we give up the pursuit? How can we.. Us mortals know nothing of the infinite, so it becomes both an impossible reality and tantalizing realization. We all must choose. The journey to know Christ is wisdom transcendent. And as Paul said it, “all else is loss”. In the end, who is truly losing?
The verse ends with encouragement. Brothers have been spurred on by his suffering; it has had the opposite effect from the expected outcome. Another paradox that we want to make sense of as it relates to what we see in life. Who wants to suffer? What benefit could it possibly have? This is how radical Jesus was and is. This is what restored the heart of men to something not of this world. And when that happens, it is worth sharing no matter the cost.
Excerpt from Job 28
12 “But where shall wisdom be found?
And where is the place of understanding?
13 Man does not know its worth,
and it is not found in the land of the living.
14 The deep says, ‘It is not in me,’
and the sea says, ‘It is not with me.’
15 It cannot be bought for gold,
and silver cannot be weighed as its price.
16 It cannot be valued in the gold of Ophir,
in precious onyx or sapphire.
17 Gold and glass cannot equal it,
nor can it be exchanged for jewels of fine gold.
18 No mention shall be made of coral or of crystal;
the price of wisdom is above pearls.
19 The topaz of Ethiopia cannot equal it,
nor can it be value in pure gold.
23 “God understands the way to it,
and he knows its place.
24 For he looks to the ends of the earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25 When he gave to the wind its weight
and apportioned the waters by measure,
26 when he made a decree for the rain
and a way for the lightning of the thunder,
27 then he saw it and declared it;
he established it, and searched it out.