In 1 Corinthians 1:24, Paul calls Christ “the wisdom of God.” Jesus referred to Himself as “wisdom” when He said, “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds” (Matthew 11:19).
I believe Jesus is speaking of Himself here as the well-known personification of wisdom in Proverbs 8. (Note how Jesus teaches that wisdom is justified by “her” deeds—a clear connection to the figure scholars call “Lady Wisdom” in Proverbs 8.)
I share some thoughts in this video, and more below:
In his commentary on Proverbs, Puritan John Gill said chapter 8 is about “Christ, under the name of Wisdom.” Charles Bridges claimed that the wisdom referred to in Proverbs 8 is “the voice of the Son of God.” Scottish clergyman Ralph Wardlaw wrote, “The majority . . . of those regarded as evangelical expositors, interpret what is said…by Wisdom as the words of the Second Person of the ever-blessed Trinity.” Modern Anglican scholar Derek Kidner also took this position, as does Old Testament professor Tremper Longman III: “Jesus claims [in Matthew 11:19] that his behavior represents the behavior of Woman Wisdom herself.”
Chad Bird writes, “…in Proverbs, divine Wisdom speaks, as indeed the Word of God does….This divine Teacher of God’s ways and will portrays what the best, blessed life looks like; how love takes shape in the lives of God’s children; how to walk in the paths of righteousness. We might say it like this: In Proverbs, Wisdom reveals what the thoughts, words, and actions look like for those who bear the image of the Father’s Son.”
In Proverbs 8, then, we almost certainly see the words of Christ, speaking of the Father: “When he established the heavens, I was there. . . . When he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman” (vv.27,29-30). Jesus says of the Father, “I was constantly at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind” (vv.30-31, NIV).
Dylan Demarsico says of this passage, “Rejoicing is a conservative translation of the Hebrew word sachaq. More accurate would be laughing or playing. We’re understandably reluctant to ascribe laughing and playing to Almighty God. Still, you can see for yourself in any Hebrew lexicon what the word means—and subsequently what God and wisdom were doing when they created the world: laughing and playing.”
The Common English Bible captures these words of God’s all-wise Son: “I was having fun, smiling before him all the time, frolicking with his inhabited earth and delighting in the human race” (8:30-31, emphasis added). The Good News Translation says, “I was his daily source of joy, always happy in his presence—happy with the world and pleased with the human race.”
Creation is attributed to Christ (see John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16). But here He’s seen as playfully interacting with His Father and His creation. What an amazing portrayal of the preincarnate happiness of Jesus!
Demarsico continues, “If you had witnessed this transcendent Being-in-Three-Persons letting out roaring laughter as he played, thus creating the universe, you probably would have shouted and cried out with joy. . . . The joy of the Lord is not something trifling. It’s a playfulness that created and sustains the universe, a laughter that guides history to its glorious end.”
Since we’re told that the angels shouted for joy when the triune God created Earth (see Job 38:4,7), surely we would have done the same. Perhaps we will, someday on the New Earth—maybe God will open the past and delight us with a front-row seat beholding His original creation!
If, as compelling evidence suggests, Jesus was referring to Himself as incarnate wisdom in Proverbs 8, then Scripture affirms not only the happiness but also the playfulness of God’s Son. It’s not a stretch to believe there was beautiful laughter among the triune God before the creation of the first human beings.
If it were true, as Oswald Chambers suggests, that “it is an insult to Jesus Christ to use the word happiness in connection with Him,” then Proverbs 8, along with Psalms 16 and 45, Acts 2, and Hebrews 1 would all be insults to Jesus!
Scripture contains many additional indications of Christ’s happiness. It takes a joyful person to instruct His disciples in the art of rejoicing. Jesus said, “Do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20). The CEV renders the verse, “Be happy that your names are written in heaven!”
The next verse connects His disciples’ joy to Jesus’ joy: “In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit” (Luke 10:21). The Weymouth New Testament reads, “Jesus was filled by the Holy Spirit with rapturous joy.”
Consider this part of the verse: “At that very time [the Son] rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, ‘I praise You, O Father . . .’” (Luke 10:21, NASB). This verse clearly affirms the Trinity’s gladness—Jesus overflows with joy from the Holy Spirit, and the Father finds pleasure in revealing Himself to His children.
And why would He tell us, “I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10) if that abundance did not include happiness, laughter, and celebration? All through Scripture—even the Old Testament—Jesus invites us into His joy!To further explore this topic of Jesus, Lady Wisdom, and Joy, see Randy’s book Happiness.
Photo by Ryan Hutton on Unsplash
Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries.