wisdom isn’t a what

The Word for today:
Proverbs 9

mark this: Proverbs 8:22-23
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

and this: Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.

So a person takes a test, and then we assign an intelligence quotient based on his answers.

That is so wrong, on so many levels.

First of all, intelligence is more reliably discerned by the quality of a person’s questions than by his answers. In order not to offend anyone else, I’ll use myself as an example to show you what I mean…

Once upon a time, I set out to find wisdom. What is wisdom, I wondered, and where could wisdom be found?

Directed by my questions, I chased wisdom over hill and dale. I climbed every mountain and forded every stream until my questions led me straight down the rabbit hole. “What?” and “Where?” led me to a dead end.

But down there in the rabbit hole, I happened upon a looking glass (1) which saw right through me; my sin had found me out. Fortunately for me, the knowledge of good and evil did not arrive empty-handed. It brought fear along with it–the same fear that prompted Adam and Eve to hide in the garden.

So for the first time, on an existential level, I was afraid.

***

I thought I’d reached the end, but it proved to be the beginning:
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. (Proverbs 9:10)

Exposed before that mirror, in fear for my life, I wondered who could save me.

“Who?” The question contained its own wisdom. I wasn’t any longer asking what or where, but Who? My real intelligence, measured by the eternal absolute, shot through the roof that day even though I had no answer at that point.

***

Wisdom isn’t a what. Proverbs chapter 8 shows Wisdom personified. Wisdom as a person is revealed to be the preincarnate Christ, coeval and coexistant with God:

The LORD possessed me (not ‘created me’) in the beginning of his way, before his works of old (Proverbs 8:22).

This beginning, like John 1:1–“In the beginning was the Word”–is an absolute, timeless beginning.

The rest of this magnificent passage anticipates 1 Corinthians 1:24 and 1:30, where Jesus is identified as both God’s wisdom and our wisdom. Which means he’s wisdom through and through!–

The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the primal dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Blessed is the man who hears me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoever finds me finds life, and shall obtain favor from the LORD.
But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul: all they that hate me love death.   (Proverbs 8:22 — 36)

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(1) see James 1:23-25

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a package deal

The Word for today:
Proverbs 8

I used to wonder why many New Testaments come with Psalms and Proverbs (from the Old Testament) printed in the back.

I get why the Psalms are there. They are exquisite, sublime, transcendent.

But Proverbs? They are so prosaic (for the most part) when placed next to the Psalms.

***

Then one day, not too long ago, as I was reading the gospels I came across what we call Jesus’ “Great Commandment.” An expert in the Mosaic law asked Jesus this question:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment.
And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’
On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:36-40)

As I read those words, this thought came to mind:

The Great Commandment is what you’d have if you boiled down the Psalms and the Proverbs.

The first part of the Great Commandment speaks, on the vertical plane, of our relationship with God:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”

The second part of the Great Commandment speaks, on the horizontal plane, of our relationship with man:
“You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

A schematic of their inter-relationship might look something like this:

Together, the books of Psalms and Proverbs reflect the Great Commandment because Psalms is primarily about our relationship with God, while Proverbs is primarily about our relationship with man. That’s why Psalms so often soars while Proverbs stays intentionally earthbound.

***

So I’ve come to appreciate Psalms and Proverbs as a package deal–

as much a package deal as the first and second parts of the Great Commandment;

as much a package deal as the Bible–which was written by man, by God;

and as much a package deal as Jesus–”very God of very God, very man of very man.”

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hearts in sync

The Word for today:
Proverbs 6, 7

So taken was I with Pastor Joe’s article yesterday–”how’s your heart?“–that I decided to pursue the topic further.

Thus I set out to explore Psalms and Proverbs in search of the heart. I intended to summarize what I found in this article today.

But I found too much heart to summarize. So I’ll simply show you what I found and let you synchronize the beat of your heart with the heart of God…

Psalms:
God gives his whole heart.
(The word heart appears in Psalms 125 times.)

Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. (Psalms 16:9-10)

I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death. For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet. (Psalms 22:14-16)

The poor shall eat and be satisfied; those who seek Him will praise the Lord. Let your heart live forever! (Psalms 22:26)

The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of His heart to all generations. (Psalms 33:11)

I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart; I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation; I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth from the great assembly. (Psalms 40:10)

Reproach has broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; I looked for someone to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none. They also gave me gall for my food, and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink. (Psalms 69:20-21)

So he shepherded them according to the integrity of his heart, and guided them by the skillfulness of his hands. (Psalms 78:72)

My heart is stricken and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread….You will arise and have mercy upon Zion; for the time to favor her, yes, the set time, has come. (Psalm 102:4…13)

For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. (Psalm 109:22-27. Verse 25: cf. Psalm 22:7; Jeremiah 18:16; Lamentations 1:12))

He heals the broken in heart, and binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. (Psalm 147:3-4)
(He knows the stars; He made them. He knows the broken heart; He had one.)

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Proverbs:
Give your whole heart to God.
(The word heart appears in Proverbs 81 times.)

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

He also taught me, and said to me: “Let your heart retain my words; keep my commands, and live.” (Proverbs 4:4)

My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your eyes; Keep them in the midst of your heart; for they are life to those who find them, and health to all their flesh. (Proverbs 4:20-22)

Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you. Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding your nearest kin. (Proverbs 7:1-4)

The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil. (Proverbs 15:28)

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, and before honor is humility. (Proverbs 18:12)

Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”? (Proverbs 20:9)

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.
(Proverbs 21:1)

My son, if your heart is wise, my heart will rejoice–indeed, I myself.  (Proverbs 23:15)

Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the LORD all the day. (Proverbs 23:17; cf. Proverbs 9:10)

Hear, my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way. (Proverbs 23:19)

My son, give me your heart, And let your eyes observe my ways. (Proverbs 23:26)

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how’s your heart?

(by Pastor Joe)

The Word for Today: Proverbs 4 & 5

mark this: Proverbs 4:23
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”

I am not sure if you are at all interested in the newest wave of television programs and movies that are in three dimensions (personally, I think that the glasses are cooler than the effects). But in any case, the Bible declares that we humans are, by nature, 3-D. Think back to the Great Commandment given by Jesus: “Love the Lord your God with all your HEART and with all your SOUL and with all your STRENGTH and with all your MIND (1).” Loving God is goes beyond the physical (strength) and beyond the mental (mind). So does everyday life.

Atheists and materialists would beg to differ. They say we are merely the sum of our genes and our environment, that there is nothing beyond the cells in our body and the synapses firing in our brain. But the Bible, thousands of years of history, and our everyday human experience proves them wrong. When you see a beautiful sunset, listen to Handel’s Messiah, hold a baby, or eat a good soup on a cold day, something more is happening than just your nervous system relaying sensations. Whether you like it or not, humanity has a “soulishness” that cannot be explained by all the genetics or behavior science in the world.

The first chapter of C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man is entitled “Men Without Chests.” But the chapter title makes no sense until the very last pages. Lewis takes the classic Christian understanding of what it means to be human. He divides us into three parts the head (mind), the chest (heart/soul), and the rest of us (strength). He then argues that our world addresses our heads via education, training, science & psychology (That which thinks, reasons, analyzes, decides etc.) Our world also address our bodies- fitness, sports, looks, lusts & desires (That which hungers for food, drink, pleasure, sleep etc.) But it fails to address the center of who we are, the heart. Our modern society produces people without chests.

I suppose that is why we have so many intelligent, beautiful, talented, athletic people- who are bankrupt when it comes to their soul.

The Bible, in today’s proverb and elsewhere, takes the exact opposite approach. It certainly has much to say regarding our physical bodies and our minds, but it tells us to “Above all else, guard your heart…”

Why?
The most important thing about us is not our mental or physical capabilities. Everything that really matters are qualities that come from the heart: character, courage, honor, love, integrity, personality. Our heart is what makes us really “human” We are not machines (merely minds) . We are not animals (merely bodies). God is interested in your heart! Without your heart, you really have nothing. Think back to old Pharaoh during the time of Exodus. His body was afflicted by the various plagues. He knew in his mind that they were from God. Yet that did him absolutely no good because his “heart was hard and he would not listen (2).”

So the question for today is “how’s your heart?” Is it open to God? Are you taking care of it?

If I have a physical or mental malady, I may find help from a doctor or medicine. But there is only one who can “create in me a pure heart, and renew a steadfast spirit within me (3).”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Luke 10:27
(2) Exodus 8:19
(3) Psalm 51:10

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I can’t help it if I’m lucky

The Word for today:
Proverbs 2, 3

mark this: Proverbs 3:5-6
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.

In the Song of Solomon (blush!) God speaks of his Beloved.

Today I’m going to speak about mine.

Despite the sullied life I’ve led, God has graced me with one true sterling treasure. Her name is Michelle, but no one ever calls her that. Many call her “The Franchise,” which is a pro sports term designating the one indispensable member of the team.

She is certainly that, and so much more.

Others call her “The Shellster.” The article ‘the’ confers a uniqueness, an originality, an irreplacability upon the noun that follows it. She is all of that, and so much more.

Our sons call her “Mommy.” I call her “Shelley.” And because of her, I call myself lucky.

Shelley’s favorite verse, her “life verse” from the Bible, is Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.

Many Christians say they have a “life verse.” But among those who say they have one, I say there are some who do and some who don’t.

Because to me, a life verse is one you live up to. I, for one, would not claim Proverbs 3:5-6 as my life verse. I might call it a verse I aspire to, but my life does not yet match that verse.

My Shelley’s life, however, is the very picture of that verse. Through the miracle of sheer faith, she has turned those words into flesh. And I have been blessed by the LORD Jesus Christ–for lo, these twenty-some years–to have witnessed this incarnation.

I can’t say I have a life-verse, but I just showed you my life’s miracle.

I can’t help it if I’m lucky.

~~~~~~~~~~~

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