Monday, 1 September 2014

(245) September 2: Proverbs 1-2 & 1 Corinthians 12

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

To discover:­
As you read note how we are encouraged to seek wisdom.

To ponder:
The proverbs are not all from Solomon (1v1), but included later additions (22v17-24v34, chs. 30-31). However, they reflect Solomonic wisdom. As such they also portray the supreme wisdom that is to shape life in Christ who he foreshadowed - the incarnate the wisdom of God (1 Cor 1v24).
            By imparting wisdom, the proverbs also impart discipline or self-control (1v2) – a life that is not therefore lived following whatever whim or desire, but one that is prudent (sensible), and that does what is right, just and fair. This idea of common sense means the proverbs don’t always reflect the righteous aspects of the law, but often simple observations about the way life works before God. They are therefore of particular use for the young who haven’t had time to learn such things, but can increase wisdom for the wise too. The discerning are therefore urged to gain help in understanding them (1v2-6). And our starting point is made clear: We must “fear the LORD” and so want to learn wisdom and discipline out of reverence for him. Without this, at best we will pick and choose from what we read according to our preferences. Yet to despise such things is to be a fool – the opposite of the wise in the book.
            What follows outlines why despising such things is so foolish. Challenging our own parenting, we see such wisdom is supposed to be passed from parent to child. And the child is urged to see it as something that is precious and will beautify their life (1v8-9). Yet the seriousness of gaining wisdom is seen in the fact that warning is the immediate focus. The writer’s son is told not to go along with those who would entice him to harm another for financial gain (1v10-15), and for two reasons: First, because it is sin. And second, because it will end in the perpetrators losing their lives (1v16-19) – perhaps through Israel’s justice system, but certainly before the judgement of God. So these sinners are also fools who effectively spread a net within their own view that will eventually entrap them (1v17). In the end, crime (and sin) doesn’t pay.
            1v20-33 personifies wisdom as a woman crying out to simple people in the streets, where “simple” denotes those who lack wisdom and so choose evil. This personification legitimizes our imagining wisdom here as Christ calling us to abide by his teaching. So wisdom asks how long such people will mock and hate knowledge, affirming that if they had responded to her rebuke at their lives, she would have given them her thoughts, ie. wisdom. But because they ignored her, she will end up mocking when calamity eventually comes. This is the just principle of the wicked receiving what they have done to others – or being “filled with the fruit of their schemes.” And when they do, wisdom states it will be too late to call on her because their waywardness and complacency will end in death as the law prescribed (see 2v22), whilst those who have listened will live at ease and without fear of such harm. More boadly, it is true that those who live sensibly and scripturally before God are protected against all sorts of things going wrong in life, not to mention being protected from crime with its various penalties. So any readiness to veer away from wisdom or fail to be sufficiently serious about it as we begin the book is soundly challenged.
            2v1-22 moves from the stick to the carrot by way of motivation. Seeking wisdom takes effort. It is to listen, but also apply one’s heart, call out for it (no doubt to God and to teachers), and search for it as one would treasure, because of its preciousness. Yet those who seek in this way will find. They will understand what it is to fear God and receive wisdom from him, because he gives victory over sin and protection from its consequences to those described as upright, blameless, just and faithful. Here we see wisdom is not just knowledge, but understanding – grasping the difference that knowledge makes. And it comes from God’s mouth in the sense that it is revealed from him, to the writer, in scripture, and supremely in Christ, the Word. We also see that although those who receive wisdom are already to some degree upright, they will then deepen in their understanding of what is right, just, fair and good. The picture of wisdom entering the heart looks to the work of the Holy Spirit in writing God’s law within us and moving us to live according to it (Jer 31v33). And its description shows that although wisdom includes common sense, it is primarily to do with applying God’s word to life – and so to living righteously before him. And those who do this, will be protected by their discretion from the paths of the wicked, and from the seduction of the adulteress, whose path leads to death (the penalty for adultery in Israel). Instead, they will walk in the paths of the righteous. They will not therefore face the covenant penalty for serious sin, which is to be cut off from the land in death or exile (see Deut 22, Lev 18-21, Deut 28). Rather, they will remain within it. Likewise, James promises the Christian that God will give them wisdom if they ask him for it with an undivided heart. Moreover, he warns that without it, we will be destroyed at the judgement - which is to be cut off from the land to come (Jam 1v4-8, 3v13-4v12).
Praying it home:       
Praise God for his readiness to grant wisdom to those who seek it. Pray that he would give you just this as you read the proverbs, together with a sufficient grasp of the seriousness and preciousness of wisdom.

Thinking further:                             
To read the NIV Study Bible introduction to Proverbs, click here.

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