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Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

The Proverbs of Solomon

August 1st, 2016

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles. (Proverbs 1:1-6)

Solomon’s heart cried out for wisdom as a young man, and it it still the right thing to desire for us today. The passing of 3,000 years have not changed our need; in fact, if anything, it has increased it! The only way to fix humanity is to fix people. The only way to make society wise is to make individual members of society wise. In that sense every person has an obligation – both to himself and to society at large – to become a wise person. When you and I, at any age, seek to become wiser we are choosing the path of blessing – both for ourselves and for others.

Note the many words he used to describe wisdom:

Wisdom – the whole of biblical teaching that shows us ourselves and God

Instruction – the teaching that reveals the different parts of wisdom

Insight – the teaching that enlightens our understanding of human behavior

Instruction in wise dealing – the practical teaching that tells us how wise people should act

Righteousness – maintaining the standard of God

Justice – doing what is right for others

Equity – doing what is right and fair in all situations and for all people. The word is related to the Hebrew word mishra which denotes rewards, punishments, and equity in all of society.

Prudence – to understand what is right in each situation. This contains the idea of simple honesty, to be the same through and through.

Knowledge – the wisdom of what is right

Discretion – the awareness of how to identify and negotiate deceptions

These teachings tell us about the nature of god, his holiness and knowledge. He is knowledgeable in all aspect of the human heart – knowing both what He had originally designed us to be and how sin has impacted us. His knowledge is also redemptive in nature, teaching us how to negotiate the treacherous waters of this fallen world. There is much to learn here if we will live righteously, joyfully, and helpfully to others.

Christ used the illustration about the mote or speck in our brother’s eye.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matt. 7:3-5)

Consider how much this parable of Christ has to say about the book of Proverbs, the pursuit of wisdom. We can help no one without first gaining wisdom ourselves, and wisdom tells us not only about what is right, but how to understand what is right, how to apply what is right, and how to achieve what is right.

In heaven we shall “know perfectly just as we are perfectly known” (1 Cor. 13:12). The wisdom of Proverbs shall be implanted in our hearts. But until that day we must learn and grow and commit ourselves to being wise people.

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A Sober Look at Life

August 18th, 2015

So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12

In today’s religious world, the current thinking among evangelicals is to emphasize the joy and peace we have in Christ. Amen to that! We certainly do have these, plus love , family, fellowship, purpose, meaning, and hope. God’s encouragement to us is for us to know that He loves us, and to live daily in the reality of His love.

Yet Psalm 90, a Psalm of Moses, gives a message that we also need to hear today. The psalm ends with hope, but it first demands us to look at the reality of our lives. To preach assurance and hope, without mentioning sin and difficulty, can seem like mere avoidance of serious things, the skirting around the very real issues of guilt, punishment, righteous anger, and sin. What does the Bible say about those matters?

Psalm 90 looks at them squarely. The psalm begins with a proclamation of the eternity of God:

LORD, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever You had formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.

There is deep faith in these words – not a resignation of spirit, but a realization of heart and mind. God and God alone is the eternal One. We are sustained by Him, and not by ourselves. Any view of life that does not begin and end with God is an inadequate one, one caught up in worldly deceptions and in the exaltation of human life.

Then he turns to human life, and brings into the picture our obsession with time. God returns us to “destruction” or to physical death. Even a millennium to God is like a “watch,” or a few hours, in the night. We are so temporary on earth that we are like something washed away in a flood, or new grass that flourishes but a single day, and by afternoon it is already cut down and withered.

Why is this so? Why do we humans, with such bright minds and strong ambitions, live so temporary, mean, and brief lives? It is because of our sin.

For we are consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance.

Here lies the problem – the secret sins of our hearts. These things do terrify us, and they ought to alarm us. There is something within each of us that is terrifyingly evil. Classic Freudian psychology envisioned the human soul as possessing three parts: ego, superego, and id. The id was understood as the monster in the basement that the ego and superego work to keep chained up – not a completely wrong depiction of the human soul.

In Jeremiah 17:9-10, God spoke:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings.

So God in judgment and in mercy limits our lives, cuts them short, sets the matter of decay at work within our physical beings, and it is as a sign of judgment and of protection. There is only so much evil that we may do in this life. It is limited somewhat by God. Of course, influences of our lives, like ripples on a lake, continue after we are dead, but even then, the day comes when we are forgotten and it is the influences of others that carry on beyond ours.

The Conclusion of the Matter:

Moses ends the psalm with a matter of fact statement of our need of God’s mercy. He asks for specific things that only God can give – and the knowledge to ask for these is also a gift from God.

Wisdom: we need wisdom to see our earthly lives properly, their brevity, their opportunities, their seasons, and their end. It is 100% certain that we will all die, unless the Lord returns before that time. But otherwise, death comes to us all, and the wise acknowledge this – not in fear but in wisdom.

Compassion and Mercy: He begs God, “Return, O LORD!” He knows that the human soul is contrary to the Lord’s holy and righteous nature, but he knows we need God. We cannot earn His presence, rather God’s willingness to be with us must be based upon His compassion and mercy.

Satisfy us early with Your mercy, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

“Early” means “early in the day,” or “morning,” and it carries with it the idea of God coming to us in mercy as soon as possible. Only the renewed relationship with God through His mercy can satisfy our hearts and make us glad.

Gladness: There is something audacious in this request:

Make us glad according to the days in which You have afflicted us.

Here is a request for daily joy and gladness, not merely mercy but the assurance of mercy that erupts into joy and celebration. Here is the root of praise and thanksgiving – knowledge of the mercy and compassion of God. God has not left us alone. He has not abandoned us completely, rather in His mercy and grace He reaches out to us to forgive, to cleanse, and to make glad. The hearts burdened by life in this fallen world, the days that we have been afflicted to endure, can be a life of rejoicing in the mercy and love of God.

Knowledge: But Moses is not finished with his requests. Gladness alone is not enough, but he asks boldly for knowledge also, that we may see the works of God and grasp His glory and see the beauty of God. Only God can reveal His glory and beauty to our hearts. Christ prayed in John 17:24:

Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which you have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.

Mission: He does not ask for a purpose to be given to them, rather he assumes already that God has a purpose and a mission for His people, upon whom His mercy, favor, and compassion rest. Rather he asks God: “establish the works of our hands!” What a tremendous way to end the psalm, right back at the same thought planted in the beginning words. God’s mercy and grace result not in a man receiving them and then continuing in his own way as before, rather they result in that man being brought into the eternal purposes of the eternal God.

God’s mercy includes forgiveness, but it also includes a calling for us to join Him in His mission, and this is the only way in which the labor of our hands, and our mouths and everything else about us, can be established for eternity. Whatever else we give ourselves to – the accumulation of wealth and power, the indulgence of our lusts, the boasting of our pride – these are made of dust. Only God is eternal, and as He shows this truth to our hearts, He also calls us to a higher purpose. It is with joy that the believer responds, “Here am I, Lord! Send me!”

In the Christian Faith:

We can see in the requests of Moses the pattern found in the New Testament of conviction of sin and awareness of our need and of God’s answer to our need in Jesus Christ (request for wisdom). And we can also see the work of conversion of our hearts and receiving the grace and mercy of God through Christ (request for compassion and mercy).

Then the next three are the results of our salvation in Christ: gladness in Him and great joy in the Holy Spirit; knowledge of His Word as His anointing leads us into His truth (1 John 2:27); and mission with Christ as He calls us to become witnesses for Him and gifts us spiritually to serve Him (Acts 1:8).

The deep theological and experiential streams that run through this psalm bring knowledge and assurance to our souls. God has taken into account our sin and has acted in Christ Jesus to forgive and redeem and bless us. Ask God for His wisdom, His mercy, His joy, His knowledge, and a renewed sense of mission for Him. I believe He will answer this prayer if it is prayed sincerely.

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