Thursday, 4 September 2014

(248) September 5: Proverbs 7-9 & 1 Corinthians 14:21-40

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read note what we learn about wisdom.

To ponder:
Solomon continues urging his son to keep his teaching (7v1-2). The “apple” of the eye is its pupil. So he is urging him to guard it as carefully as we would our vision, no doubt because God’s wisdom enables us to metaphorically see clearly. Again, we have the dualism of outer adornment like jewellery and inner engraving, foreshadowing the new covenant (7v3). Indeed, writing the father’s commands on “the tablet” of the heart surely pictures the law written on the heart as it was on the stone tablets (see Jer 31v33). This is to be as close to wisdom as to a family member (7v4).
            Yet again, we then see a focus on how wisdom protects against adultery. Solomon uses the example of a simple youth lacking judgement that he saw meeting an adulteress and being drawn in by her enticing dress and speech (7v5-23). It is not just looks, but the feeling of being desired that leads people into adultery, as well as the sense that they can get away with it (7v19-20). Astonishingly, the woman could even suggest she had fulfilled her duty to God (7v14), warning us that those tempting us may see nothing wrong in their actions and even be found amongst the church. Yet such temptation is deadly. The youth goes in, like an animal to its slaughter, unaware it will cost him his life, no doubt because that was the penalty for adultery (7v22-23). So we are warned once more not to turn to the adulteress’ ways, but recognize how many have fallen by this means, and that her house leads to death – for us, everlasting death if we don’t repent (7v25-27).
           Chapters 8 and 9 are an extended portrayal of wisdom as a woman calling us to herself. This may explain why the writer has focused on the adulteress to this point. It stresses that wisdom is the woman we should truly love and embrace, because she brings life rather than death. Here, wisdom foreshadows Christ beckoning us to himself as the bridegroom to his bride. So whereas the adulteress lurks in the streets (7v11-12), wisdom loudly calls out to the simple and foolish to gain prudence (caution) and understanding (8v1-5). She affirms that she speaks only what the discerning see is actually right, true and just, for she hates wickedness. She therefore calls her hearers to choose her instruction as more precious than treasure, and more desirable than anything else (8v6-12). And she demonstrates her righteousness in declaring that just as the fear of the LORD hates evil, so she does, whether pride, arrogance, or bad behaviour or speech. Moreover, she grants sound judgement by which rulers reign and make just laws (8v13-16. Obviously this isn’t suggesting tyrants reign by wisdom). Wisdom also declares that she loves and so does good to those who love her, granting them wisdom, wealth, and prosperity because she does what is just and right (8v17-21). We therefore see that it is a matter of justice that those who commit to Christ are granted these things in glory, if not in the present. 
            Wisdom goes on to describe how she was “appointed” from eternity and before the creation. So she was not only there when the sky, sea and earth were formed, but she was involved as a craftsman, delighting in the presence of God at the world and mankind within it (8v22-31). Of course wisdom here patterns the role of God the Son, who was with the Father at creation, and through whom all things were made (Jn 1v1-3). But the point seems to be that just as God did nothing without wisdom, nor should we. Moreover, as wisdom was involved in creation, living in harmony with creation requires that same wisdom, and results in joy. Those who listen to wisdom and keep her ways are therefore blessed, finding life and favour from God; whilst those who hate or fail to find her, harm themselves and love death (8v32-36).
            In chapter 9 wisdom contrasts the adulteress who prepared her bed (7v16-18). Instead, wisdom has prepared her house. It is complete (“seven” pillars) and ready to host. The table has been set. All is ready so the maids have been sent away. And from the highest point where all can hear, wisdom calls people to come and feast on her food and wine, leaving their simple ways to walk in the way of understanding (9v1-7). 9v7-9 seem to then encourage the reader to do as wisdom does. The verses warn against correcting and rebuking the mocking or wicked man because he will respond with hatred and insults; yet commend rebuking and instructing the wise and righteous man, as he will become wiser still. It’s the same sentiment as Jesus’ maxim not to cast one’s pearls before swine, as they will just turn on you (Matt 7v6). In our complacently tolerant age, we are reminded that we should seek to gently turn a sinner from his sin (Gal 6v1), whilst being urged to assess their receptiveness before doing so. 9v7-9 also indirectly ask the reader whether they are one of the wicked or the wise, commending fear and knowledge of the LORD as the essence of wisdom and understanding. True insight is not simply to know facts, but to know what God is like and how he acts, living accordingly in all reverence, recognising this will bring life and reward (9v10-12).
            The chapter ends contrasting wisdom with the woman Folly. She is loud, undisciplined and lacking knowledge, like wisdom, seated at the highest point, and calling to those who lack judgement to come into her house. Yet the feast she offers is of stolen water and food that therefore has to be eaten in secret. The point may be that feasting with her will get us into trouble. Indeed, her house is full of the dead, for everlasting destruction is the destiny of the fool (9v13-18). In this chapter we therefore see that we are constantly beckoned by both wisdom and folly, each enticing us to good or evil. And Solomon asks which we will listen to.
Praying it home:       
Praise God that we are not just left in sin, but wisdom does constantly beckon us to do what is right. Pray that you would embrace and listen to her.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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