Tying up Proverbs – Looking Forward

So this is the last week in the Proverbs series.  In the words of Dan Patrick, what have we learned.

  • Wisdom is  knowing how to live well and please God in your life.
  • The Fear of the Lord is the starting place to gain Wisdom.
  • Choose carefully who you listen to for advice.
  • Wisdom is calling for you to listen to her and receive her gift of life.
  • There are two paths: Wisdom and Folly.  Choose Wisdom.
  • Wisdom is a Tree of Life –
  • Wisdom connects us to God and to our Neighbors.
  • The kingdom of Ants reminds us to work diligently.
  • The Simpleton listens to bad advice and comes to a bad end.
  • God created the world by Wisdom; Let’s live by Wisdom

Now then, Chapter 9 lays out two banquets – one by Wisdom, this time seen as a Hostess, inviting the unwise to come and feast on her Wisdom.  Folly is calling the unwise to enjoy the pleasures of things stolen and hidden in the darkness.  We note that the appeal is the same (v. 4 and v. 16) but the consequences are far apart – life or death.  So the the idea that all ideas, word views, wisdom, religions, cultural practices and the like are the same, Proverbs says “Poo poo”.  (See Madeline for literary reference.)

Some suggest that verses 7-12 are in insertion.  Well, yes, but by whom.  Much of proverbs is a collection of received wisdom, run through the screen of “the Fear of the Lord”.  We think the verses offer a sampling of Wisdom’s table, with a particular emphasis on teach-ability and reverence.  Folly only gets one verse for her sample (v. 17) because we don’t need to study folly, and because that verse makes it clear that she is appealing to our baser instincts.

So here ends our Proverbs discussion.  Our next topic will be a year entitled “We Believe” where we follow selected texts each month on the topics found in these two sentences:  We believe that God created and Spoke to Us about Jesus our Savior: The Spirit Unites us in Faith, in Hope and in Mission.  That is: Creation, Revelation, Humanity, Jesus, Jesus’ work, The Holy Spirit, the Church, Love of God, Love of Neighbor, The Future and the significance of Choice and of telling the Gospel.

We might throw in observations from Walter Kaiser’s new book, “The Promise-Plan of God” that seeks to unify the themes of OT and NT under the rubric “Promise”.  This is a reworking of his book from 30 years ago, “Towards an OT Theology”.

Proverbs 8 – some preaching

 Some excerpts from Sunday past:

Proverbs 8:22-26
    ” The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
        the first of his acts of old.
    [23] Ages ago I was set up,
        at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
    [24] When there were no depths I was brought forth,
        when there were no springs abounding with water.
    [25] Before the mountains had been shaped,
        before the hills, I was brought forth,
    [26] before he had made the earth with its fields,
        or the first of the dust of the world.

               v. 22-26 says that God possessed Wisdom before there was a single speck of matter.  These descriptions, including dust in verse 26 remind us of Genesis 1 which tells us that the world did not exist apart from God. God brought it all into existence.  Even the dust from which Adam and Eve were formed came into existence by God.

            As old as the universe may be, wisdom is older.  Whether you hold to a young earth, or whether you think the earth is millions of years old, wisdom predated everything.

            This flips Naturalistic Materialism on its head.  For those who see everything inn the light of evolution say that knowledge and wisdom are also things that evolved with the universe.  And as CS Lewis noted, if they evolved from an imperfect world, they too would have to be imperfect.  In other words, Naturalism can not support the idea of truth – or it redefines it to mean “what we know today, imperfectly.”  So is it any wonder that we live in a world that affirms evolution as the full explanation of life but denies truth?

Proverbs 8:27-31
    When he established the heavens, I was there;
        when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
    [28] when he made firm the skies above,
        when he established the fountains of the deep,
    [29] when he assigned to the sea its limit,
        so that the waters might not transgress his command,
    when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
        [30] then I was beside him, like a master workman,
    and I was daily his delight,
        rejoicing before him always,
    [31] rejoicing in his inhabited world
        and delighting in the children of man.

      v. 27-31 says that Wisdom was present in the creation of the world.  Again one thinks of Genesis 1 when reading these verses.  When God was separating sky from sea and land from water, and day from night, Wisdom was there.

             The question is what was wisdom doing? 

            V.30is hard to translate.  The NIV and ESV support the most widely accepted version and the one that I think makes the most sense.  If you study this passage you will find that Wisdom might be considered a Craftsman, and observer or a happy infant delighting in its father’s work.

            What I believe is that Wisdom was the means by which God created.  In Proverbs 3 this is stated in non-poetic language.

            “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundation,

            By understanding he set the heavens in place;

            By his knowledge the deeps were divided,

            And the clouds let drop the dew.”

             God created things in order – some obvious like day and night, and summer and winter.  Other obscure – like genetics that we are only starting to understand.  But there is reasonableness.  The times of sunrise and sunset, the movement of the tides, the phases of the moon can all be predicted.  God does not have gravity go up on Monday and down on Tuesday.  Gravity always goes down.  You do not weigh 100 pounds today and 200 tomorrow.  It is always better to eat fruits and vegetables than a bag of potato chips.           

The point Proverbs is making:  Since we live in a Wise World, created by a Wise God, we should choose wise paths.

             This is not, by the way, hard an un-fun.  For look at what Wisdom was doing in creation:  She was rejoicing and delighting in the ways of God.  The bible speaks of the whales of the sea playing and making sport – they seem to have fun in God’s world.  Certainly monkeys know how to have fun.  So God has made his world delightful, beautiful, surprising and enthralling.  You can immerse yourself in gardening, bird watching, cloud watching, star gazing, hunting, cooking, painting, hiking, discovering and all other things we have to do with the created world with great joy and wonder at the beauty and complexity of it all.

            So the Chapter concludes:  Choose Wisdom and you choose life.  For Wisdom is the very pattern used by the Creator when he founded the earth.

God created by Wisdom: Let’s live by Wisdom.

Proverbs 8 – mid view

So I am finding things other than v. 22 and v. 30 interesting.  Those are the particular verses of long discussion.  v. 22 is Wisdom a person of some kind or a metaphor?  v. 30 is wisdom a master workman, or a playful child, or is God the master workman and Wisdom is watching?  Well, despite what I have been reading I am not sure I can resolve them before Sunday.  Big surprise there.  Some say a Preacher has to have convictions or s/he will blow an uncertain trumpet.  I say, it is folly to be decided before the evidence is examined fully – and the usual pastor’s study in the week before a message is most likely not going to resolve issues that have been discussed for centures.  (I lean Metahpor/master workman).

However what about the idea in v. 14-16 that rulers rule by Wisdom.  That does not say, as M. Fox has noted, that only the kings of Israel rule by Wisdom.  But that all kings (can) rule by Wisdom.  That it is not exclusive to those who have the divine revelation of the scriptures.  Luther is rumored to have said “I’d rather be governed by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian.”  (Some things attributed to Luther and to Yogi Berra were not acutally said by them.)   What implication for public policy is this?  Should believers seek to vote for c0-religionists, or perhaps more broadly for those who are ‘wise.”   Can we find common ground with people of other or no faith?

In v. 8-9 it says all of Wisdom’s words are right and none are cro0oked.  then it says. “they are straight to him who understands…”  Have you noticed that various biblical ideas (sexual fidelity, humility, living simply, servant leadership) are hard to receive for some people because they are so different from their own views.  There are those today who suggest a biblical sexual ethic is not only outdated, but unhealthy and dangerous.  (Read the literature on what should be in public school’s sex education courses.)   These verses suggest that it takes some previous commitment or knowledge of wisdom to accept that wisdom is in fact straight and not twisted.

In whatever the particular decision one makes on v. 22 and 30, it is clear that chapter 8 is saying that the world we inhabit is based on rationality – and a particular kind of rationality called Wisdom.  This runs against a purely accidental/materialistic view of life as some capital E evolutionists suggest.  Yet, it does suggest a potentially universal set of precepts that can guide all people.  The Bible upholds that idea. The Enlightenment to Modernist eras also hoped for universals.  Pre and Post moderns seem unconcerned with such things.

Yet, why do all hold that love and justice are good and that exploitation and greed are wrong.  The definitions differ and the admission may by hypocritical, but the concepts are almost universal.

Well, we are on Thursday afternoon, there is a wedding, a seniors group, and the stuff of life and a sermon to attend to. 

Stay tuned.

Proverbs 8 – a pre-view

So Proverbs 8 has been fascinating, confusing and controversial for centuries.  Is it, as Christians have said, a prediction of the coming Christ. (see 8:22ff).  Would then it mean that Wisdom/Christ was created?  Is this even a legitimate question?  What is the relationship of wisdom to the created order?  Will this sense of order prevail under the current view of the chaotic and haphazard origin of life?

So dear read, it is time for us to take a Fresh Read – do you remember the concept.  With the aid of tools (your English bible is a tool after all) we will read and discover for ourselves from the text. We will take a Fresh not a Rehashed view of the text.

What will we find?  Well you tell me!  Later I will tell you what i have found.

Goldilocks among the Commentaries

“Oh this one is too boring.  This one is too dry.  But this little commentary is just right.” 

Regarding Proverbs 7:

So I have a very big commentary and an almost very big commentary that had the unfortunate habit of putting me to sleep.  Well, I struggled on anyway.  However, my very small commentary was a hit on this text.  So if you use tools, such as commentaries, get a bucket load so that you have a shot at getting one that hits.  I found a great deal in Derek Kidner’s Proverbs commentary in the Tyndale Old Testament Commentary Series.  These are smallish books, but well worth the price most of the time.  Anything by Kidner is interesting.  I found this quote to be quite satisfactory:

“…the best advice is useless against strong temptation unless it is thoroughly taken to heart and translated into habits.”  p. 75.

Proverbs 7 pits the clueless young man against the relentless woman seeking a sexual partner.  Her speech is shockingly compelling which makes the point quite well that the illicit can sound wonderful, but the reality falls short.

I wonder if “tying the instruction to your fingers”  (v. 3) was the origin of the idea of tying a string to your finger to remember something. 

Well Fresh Read is back from vacation and the family wedding and plans to be posting regularly.  Thanks to the readers for pushing us to the exalted heights of almost 8,000 blog lifetime readers.