Thursday, July 1, 2021

God's way and everything else


Read Proverbs 1

We begin the study of Proverbs in the third chapter of 1st Kings.  Before the temple and the palace and the wall around the great city were built, Solomon went to Gibeon, the most important high place of that time and he made many sacrifices.

God came to Solomon in a dream and asked this new king what he desired.  Solomon was forthright.  He said I am a kid ruling more people than I can count.  I’m not my dad.  I need help.  I need wisdom.  I need a discerning heart.

God was pleased that Solomon didn’t ask for wealth or to destroy his enemies or other self-gratifying things.  Solomon desired to rule with wisdom.

God granted his request and much more. He made Solomon the wisest man in the history of the world.  He said that none wiser would come after him.

Solomon did not hoard his wealth of wisdom.  He authored over 3000 proverbs and chose to share about a third of them in this collection.  The Proverbs are the product of much of that wisdom.  Solomon is not the author of all the proverbs, but he is surely the editor of godly wisdom when other proverbs are included in this collection.

The Proverbs as we know them today were likely not completed until 200 years later.

For some, this will be your second journey through Proverbs with this congregation.  For those of you who have been down this road with me before, much will be familiar, but I am certain much will be as if you have encountered it for the first time. 

For those embarking upon this voyage for the first time, I will cut to the chase.  I won’t bury the lead.  I will give you the answer to the test question upfront.

There is God’s way and there is everything else.

Proverbs is about wisdom. In the course of our journey, wisdom will be described as a lady.  Wisdom will note its presence at the foundation of the world.  Wisdom is desired by all who earnestly seek God.

Wisdom walks in broad daylight unlike those who despise it and work in secret. You might think that all would desire wisdom, but that is not the case.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

In Hebrew literature—most noted in Psalms and Proverbs—there is parallelism in many forms.  The coupling of lines often entails stating one thing directly and then again less directly or defining an idea or concept using opposites.  Here is a homespun example.

You must walk on the right.  You must not walk on the left.

The Hebrew authors finessed their words a bit more, but you get the concept.

We see such definition in this proverb.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

The person who fears God seeks knowledge but the person who can’t stand wisdom, discipline, and instruction is a fool.  Thus, the person of God fears God and receives knowledge and concurrently desires wisdom, discipline, and instruction.

Those who don’t want to do things God’s way are labeled fools.

There are the wise and there are the foolish.

There are the righteous and there are the wicked.

There are the industrious and there are the lazy.

There are those who live in the light and those who scheme in the dark.

These are not statements of a deterministic nature.  They don’t say that your genes or your environment determine your life.  Consider the beginning of the Proverbs and this chapter.

The Proverbs are for gaining knowledge, understanding, prudence, and wisdom.  They are not a smorgasbord of choices, but a complete offering. What is the whole here?

There is God’s way and there is everything else.

For some reason—surely rooted in our sinful nature—some will reject God and his wisdom and plot against those who seek him and his gifts.  This chapter speaks to the futility of opposing God.  Nothing is hidden from God.  God sees the heart.

Those who are young should be brought up in the way of the Lord and the way of his wisdom.  Those without understanding can benefit from instruction in wisdom.  Those already on the road to wisdom will grow even more, but some will reject the Lord’s offer to be generous with his wisdom.

There is God’s way and there is everything else.

Solomon—the wisest man in the history of humankind and author of this first section—used another literary tool—personification.  He presented Wisdom in the form of a person.  Listen now to wisdom’s personified account.

Out in the open wisdom calls aloud,

    she raises her voice in the public square;

 on top of the wall she cries out,

    at the city gate she makes her speech:

 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways?

    How long will mockers delight in mockery

    and fools hate knowledge?

 Repent at my rebuke!

    Then I will pour out my thoughts to you,

    I will make known to you my teachings.

 But since you refuse to listen when I call

    and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand,

 since you disregard all my advice

    and do not accept my rebuke,

 I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you;

    I will mock when calamity overtakes you—

 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,

    when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind,

    when distress and trouble overwhelm you.

 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer;

    they will look for me but will not find me,

 since they hated knowledge

    and did not choose to fear the Lord.

 Since they would not accept my advice

    and spurned my rebuke,

 they will eat the fruit of their ways

    and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.

 For the waywardness of the simple will kill them,

    and the complacency of fools will destroy them;

 but whoever listens to me will live in safety

    and be at ease, without fear of harm.”

The Forrest Gump summary is Mama always said, stupid is as stupid does.

Solomon has introduced us to a lady.  Her name and her persona are wisdom.  She will not be ignored or scorned without consequence—harsh consequences.

Though less stylish than Solomon's words, the take-home nugget of my composition for this message is simple.

There is God’s way and there is everything else.

We have been introduced to Lady Wisdom.  Let’s get to know her better over the coming weeks.


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