the Son who listened

The Word for today:
Proverbs 26:13 – 27:27

mark this:
So listen, my son, to your Father’s instruction… (Proverbs 1:8, etc., etc. — see below)

What does it all add up to? When you take all of the Proverbs and knit them all together, what have you got?

You’ve got the Son who listened.

At the heart of the book of Proverbs is a Father-Son relationship. The Proverbs are addressed to “My son” in each of the following verses:

1:8;
1:10;
1:15;
2:1;
3:1;
3:11;
3:21;
4:10;
4:20;
5:1;
5:20;
6:1;
6:3;
6:20;
7:1;
19:27;
23:15;
23:19;
23:26;
24:13;
24:21;
27:11;
31:2.

I don’t list all those verses as an exercise in overkill. I mean to point out that Proverbs isn’t an aimless bunch of maxims. Instead, there’s a shaping process that’s going on before our very eyes. And here’s the result of the process:

Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52)

***

We are so often forgetful that Jesus was like us in every way. His character did not come fully formed, it increased. Just as his body had to grow into its full stature, his wisdom also had to grow into itself.

The only thing we know of Jesus from the time of his infancy to the time he was thirty is the scene from Luke which shows him, at 12 years old, subjecting himself to the Word of God:
And when He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem according to the custom of the feast. When they had finished the days, as they returned, the boy Jesus lingered behind in Jerusalem. And Joseph and His mother did not know it; but supposing Him to have been in the company, they went a day’s journey, and sought Him among their relatives and acquaintances. So when they did not find Him, they returned to Jerusalem, seeking Him. Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers. So when they saw Him, they were amazed; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:42-52)
***

The Word of God shaped the formless and empty cosmos in Genesis 1. In Philippians 2:6-7, Jesus emptied himself of the prerogatives of deity in order to become one with us and serve as an example for us:
Although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.

Emptied, he then let the Word of God shape him into what he was–the Messiah the Old Testament foretold.

He listened to His father’s Word, and conformed to it. That is the same process by which we, too, will become like Him, for we are predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)

God, whose mind is not confined by time, sees us already clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. As we subject ourselves to His Word, we will increasingly become what we already are.

So listen, my son, to your Father’s instruction…

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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hiding in plain sight

The Word for today:
Proverbs 25:1-26:12

The Bible, as has been noted in this space before, should be titled, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ,” because that is its sole purpose. That’s the quality of the book. But what about quantity? How much of Jesus Christ does it reveal?

The answer: Just enough, and no more.

For a book that purports to reveal, there sure is a lot we’re not shown. Consider this:
It is the glory of God to conceal things… (Proverbs 25:2a)

And this:
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deuteronomy 29:29)

God has shown us his hand, but he hasn’t shown us his cards. We know only enough about God to know that we aren’t even seated at the table unless we know his Son, Jesus Christ. We know only what he’s chosen to show. The reality of our situation is that we see him through a glass darkly, but.

***

The future is in the little word ‘but.’ Consider:
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Corinthians 13:12)

Now let’s complete the verse we started with:
It is the glory of God to conceal things…but the glory of kings is to search things out. (Proverbs 25:2)

Our mission is to seek him.  And if we will, we will find him, as he promised:
Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. (Matthew 7:7)

Today we search the scriptures, for they point the way to him through Jesus Christ:
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me. (John 5:39)

One day we will range throughout his cosmos, men and women after God’s own heart.

***

But if the Bible isn’t an adventure for you, or if you are a Christian who has lost the sense of discovery, of new vistas, then something is sadly amiss.

If you have the sense that you’ve pretty much got scripture and Jesus figured out, then I can barely begin to express how sorry your situation is. Saved as you may be, God’s managed to let you think that the tip you’re standing on is the whole iceberg.

Startling as it may seem, God veils himself to the self-satisfied heart. He said he would:
Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?”
And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.'” (Matthew 13:10-15)

For most of the self-satisfied, he’s hiding in plain sight–right between the covers of the Bible they disdain to systematically search.

But the sorriest situation of all is when he hides right there in the pews of the typical church–whose pastors, elders, and teachers are themselves so ignorant of scripture that they can impart no sense of the limitless discoveries which still lie before us.

If those are the pews you’re sitting in; if your pastors and teachers have not the ability to impart a sense of adventure, exploration, discovery, and awe, then gather your little ones and run for your lives.

As you run, look for Him everywhere. Just don’t look back.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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I just ‘m.

The Word for today:
Proverbs 24

Most of my life I’ve been pretty queer (if queer still means queer.) I’m pretty much a square, if you know what I mean. But you probably don’t.

I was pretty groovy in my day, but that lasted for all of about 24 hours. I was never cool, and probably never will be. Which is probably good, because if I were ever to become cool, then cool wouldn’t be cool anymore. If you know what I mean.

The Bible exudes a timelessness which out-cools cool. It is not subject to the winds of change, which makes it cooler still.

Because, as we all know, the one thing which disqualifies a person from being cool is trying to be cool. In fact, the ultimate law of cool is this:
If you’re trying to be, you’re not.

The Bible never tries to be–because, like its author, it just is.  You don’t need to strive to be what you are.  That’s why God’s name–I AM–is the coolest name that ever was or will be (1).

***

When my daughter Gwenlyn was very small, she was so self-possessed, so absolutely comfortable in her own skin, that it was almost, well, divine.  She was too little to articulate it, but other people could just feel that she had no aspirations to become anything other than what she was; that to become anything other than what she was would be a step down.

People marveled over her, and regularly would ask her, “Gwenlyn, how’d you get to be so cool (or so smart, or so happy, or so gorgeous)?”  Her answer was always the same:

“I just ‘m.”

God just ‘m and his Word just ‘m, too. It doesn’t aspire toward ‘true,’ because it already is. It doesn’t seek to become ‘relevant,’ because it already is.

So to you who have put your faith in–and built your life around–the Word of God, I just want to tell you that you are where it’s at, so don’t move the marker!–
Don’t move an old stone that marks a border, because those stones were set up by your ancestors.  (Proverbs 22:28)

Don’t try to move the Rock! Though the world may try to marginalize you now, remember that if you stand with, by, and for the Rock, then you’re at the everlasting epicenter!

Just stay right where you ‘r’, because cool is eventually going to have to come your way, or it won’t be cool anymore.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) see Exodus3:14; John 8:58

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want some candy? — part 2

The Word for today:
Proverbs 22:17-23:35

Two shadowy figures–the evil man and the strange woman–appear, disappear, and re-appear throughout the chapters of Proverbs. They are not incidental characters. In fact, if Proverbs could be said to have a plot, it would center around the efforts of the evil man and the strange woman to lure the young man (to whom the book is addressed) from the ways of wisdom to the paths of folly.

The evil man and the strange woman represent secular and spiritual enticement, respectively. The evil man seeks to lure the young man with common bait–wine, women, and ‘song’ (secular culture).  He makes his appeal to the young man’s flesh. Many are ensnared by these carnal appetites.

But should the young man not succumb to these generic allurements, the strange woman (who is the far more menacing of the two) enters the scene…

The strange woman represents physical adultery and–on a spiritual level–the allure of cults.

She flaunts her easy morals and seeks to lead the young man down a wrong street:
In the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness,
the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.
She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home;
now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait.
She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him,
“I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows.” (Proverbs 7:9-14)

Notice that she is religious! She leads him to believe that she is right with God–“I have offered sacrifices … I paid my vows.”

Those who would never be taken in by the evil man (who represents the more blatant sins of the flesh) often find these more subtle spiritual charms irresistible.

Of the two, the evil woman is more deadly, because while one might return from the far country of carnal sin (the prodigal son did), there’s often no returning from spiritual adultery, from the lure of cults and idols of any sort:
Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death. (Proverbs 7:27)

***

God calls it adultery when his people leave him to pursue idols. (An idol is anything you place above God.) The entire book of Hosea is built around the theme of spiritual adultery.

Today we have many cults and all types of false religions around us. Often they carry Bibles, which they skillfully distort. Their common theme is that faith alone in Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation–that we must join their group and do certain things. They add something to the gospel of grace, saying you must believe in Jesus, plus. The ‘plus’ is the heresy.

Like the prostitute, they are all dressed up—attractive, alluring, offering something to man that will draw him away from true love, Jesus Christ.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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want some candy? — part 1

The Word for today:
Proverbs 20:14-22:1

mark this:
Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths
to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways. 
(Proverbs 2:12-15)

and this:
It will save you also from the adulteress,
from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God. For her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead. None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.
 (Proverbs 2:16-19)

You’re being watched, and sought after.

Certainly (in the Orwellian sense of the novel “1984”) if you have a credit card and a personal computer your every transaction and click are being recorded by somebody out there somewhere. But those aren’t the lurkers the Bible is concerned with.

Two shadowy figures–the evil man and the strange woman–appear, disappear, and re-appear throughout the chapters of Proverbs. They are not incidental characters. In fact, if Proverbs could be said to have a plot, it would center around the efforts of the evil man and the strange woman to lure the young man (to whom the book is addressed) from the ways of wisdom to the paths of folly:

My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding,
Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair–every good path.

Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse, who leave the straight paths
to walk in dark ways, who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.

It will save you also from the adulteress,
from the wayward wife with her seductive words, who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
For her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.  (from Proverbs 2:1-19)

***

My study of scripture and the experiences of my life lead me to believe that the evil man and the strange woman represent secular and spiritual enticement, respectively.

The evil man seeks to lure the young man with common bait–wine, women, and ‘song’ (secular culture.)  He makes his appeal to the young man’s flesh. Many are ensnared by these carnal appetites. I testify as an authority in this regard; my own tales of temptation are too many and too tawdry to tell.

But should the young man not succumb to these generic allurements, the strange woman (who is the far more menacing of the two) enters the scene…

Tomorrow, we’ll see what she has to offer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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