Wisdom (part 2)

6836A1EE-F2E0-41BE-8139-70AA0C8B9220If you have ever tried to repair or fix anything over the last decade, you know the struggle.  Nothing today is made to be fixed or restored; its meant to be replaced.  Metal can be bent back, plastic is bent to break!  Anyone like me can go online and get replacement parts, but it takes a person of skill and understanding to restore.  Restoration is a process for a craftsman.

To recap last post, Wisdom was:

  • A person (Proverbs 8.12)
  • According to Proverbs 8.22-26, Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.
  • According to Proverbs 27-29, Wisdom was with God during creation.

Which brings this study to verse 30:

Then I was the craftsman at his side.  I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind. (Proverbs 8.30-31)

Wisdom was a craftsman.  As discussed prior, Wisdom is simply “ability”.  The first men in Scripture to have been given wisdom were not preachers or priests, they were: tailors (Exodus 28.3); workers in metal (Exodus 31.2-3); women who spun cloth (Exodus 35.26-27); stone cutters, wood workers, and embroiderers (Exodus 35.30-36.3).  One of Paul’s teachings, who himself had some ability and wisdom as a tent maker (Acts 18.3), from 1 Thessalonians 4 is quite applicable here: “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands…” (11)  That is a life of wisdom…that is a proverbial life.

I come from a family of craftsman.  My first job was framing houses for my uncle Jim.  He was a good first boss because he knew how limited my ability was .  We were putting on a porch one day at a house up off 90th street.  It was Friday afternoon and it was coming on quitting time.  The porch was a full wrap around with tongue and groove slats.  Right at the corner of the house, it came off at a 45-degree angle to meet with the adjacent run of porch.  As we set the decking, I found myself nearest the wall and reading measurements to the saw man. Very patiently and calmly, after 2-3 meaurements, my uncle Jim stood up, walked over and said, “Why don’t you switch me ends before you ruin your weekend?”  Craftsmanship done by a master craftsman is a thing to behold.  My uncle Joe and uncle Charlie can make any engine run.  My dad can read terrain and build maps with the best.  My uncle Chuck replaces windows and siding.  Uncle Mick can build websites.  I think I can still do Macaroni art.

Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation.  He is the hands that would do the building.

The last section of Proverbs 8 to consider is verse 32 and those that follow.  A lot is known about a person by what they come bearing.  I always tell first time conference presenters to bring a handout.  It may have taken you 2 minted to type and make 40 copies of, but your audience interprets it as hours more of prep work.  When I was in youth ministry, I would always show up to games with a Gatorade for the student.  It was a dollar and a minute out of the way, but it communicated to them that I  actually cared and prepared.

Th Wisdom character in Proverbs brings so much more than handouts and Gatorades.   Wisdom makes it clar that this point is to be known as he redirects his “sons”/our attention. “Now then, my sons, listen to me…” as if we are jr. high boys with ADD.  He gets to the main point in verse 34:

”For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8.34)

Wisdom comes bringing “life” and, in parallel, “favor” from God.  The Hebrew word for life, chay, is the amen word used in:

  • Genesis 2.4 when God breathed into Adam life creating his being
  • Genesis 2 where the tree of life sustaining their being
  • Too many times to count on Scripture when’s statements validity rests upon God’s being, “As surely as the Lord lives…”

Life is about doing the things God created you to do and being who he created to be.  This is only accomplished by finding and attaining wisdom.

As for “favor”, as discussed briefly in a previous post, Noah found “favor” [chen] or “grace” in the eyes of the Lord.  That would fit perfectly here. The problem is that it is not the same Hebrew word.  Same english translation but a different Hebrew word.  Instead, it is a word used of sacrifices to obtain acceptability with God.  The word is ratson and it is used throughout Leviticus to show show God’s acceptance of our offerings.

By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord.

So just to recap the five statements about the Wisdom Character in Proverbs:

  • A person (Proverbs 8.12)
  • According to Proverbs 8.22-26, Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.
    According to Proverbs 27-29, Wisdom was with God during creation.
  • Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation. He is the hands that would do the building.
  • By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord.

So who is this wisdom?  To be continued…

Advertisements

Wisdom (part 1)

11709442_593975946399_3035019246921557046_nPracticality is a word that is sacred among ranches.  The simplest way to do something is always valued.  When dealing with 1500 lbs animals, refurbished equipment, or hand me down tools, simple is always better.  Murphy’s law, “if it can go wrong, it will go wrong” is offset by Okham’s razor, “the simplest solution is usually the correct one.”  That is why a horse, a saddle, and a rope is still relevant amidst a world that is mechanized.

Proverbs is the horse, saddle, and rope book of the Bible.  Set among the backdrop of the elegant poetry and beautiful worship compositions of the Psalms, the creative angst and despair of Ecclesiastes, the romance of Song of Solomon, or the deep questions posed by Job, Proverbs is  just a down to earth, practical application of the best way to live life.  There isn’t a lot of hidden meaning or deep interpretation that needs to be done.  It is a book of simplicity that cuts out all the excess.  That’s the kind of life we need more of today.

As part of the wisdom literature (as is the aforementioned 4 books), Proverbs is all about attaining wisdom.  Wisdom is the application of knowledge.  It was Bezalel, who was given “wisdom” [chokmah] to build the Tabernacle in Exodus 31.  It was not just that he had the mental and theoretical understanding of what to build; his hands were able to accomplish the task.  I can give you all the theory on how to shoe a horse; but when it comes down to using a hoof knife, I’m worthless.  Wisdom is knowledge getting its hands dirty.  Wisdom is knowledge in action.  Proverbs is all about living life well, by putting knowledge into action: wisdom.  Just over 25% of the times this word, chokmah, “wisdom” is used in the Old Testament, it is used in the book of Proverbs.

But wisdom in middle of Proverbs seems take on person-hood:  “she” stands and calls out” (8.2-3); “I” raise my voice (8.4); “I, wisdom, dwell” (8.12); “I walk” (8.20) and so many more.  The classification of wisdom as the female gender, has nothing to do with with the person-hood of wisdom.  In the same way that the greek word for wisdom, sophia, is feminine in person, the Hebrew word, chokmah, is a feminine word as are many abstract words in the Hebrew language.

The real identity of Wisdom is hazy until verse 22 of Proverbs 8.  I want to focus on four aspects and identifiers of Wisdom throughout the remaining There Solomon writes:

“The Lord brought me forth as the first of his works before his deeds of old; I was formed long ages ago, at the very beginning, when the world came to be.” (Proverbs 8.22-23)

Three things about Wisdom in this first section.  First, when the Lord “brought him forth”, the initial thought was that Wisdom was a created entity.  The hebrew word qanah can be used of creation, however, much more common is the meaning “to aquire” or “to buy”.  Proverbs 4.5-7 uses the word 4 times in 3 verses and not once does it even hint at creation.  The word qanah (to acquire) and its homophone (to create) and the confusion between the two, would provide the interpretation that gave rise to the heretical movement of Arianism and its teaching that Jesus was a created being, not to be equated with God.  The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ would follow this teaching as well.

The second issue raised is the “formation” of Wisdom.  Theses verse fall into Hebrew poetry structure of parallelism.  There are three ways that Hebrew poetry is structured: 1) parallelism, where the second line repeats the idea of the previous; (2) antithetic, where the second line argues against the first; (3) synthetic, where the second line completes or builds upon the first.  Verse 23 is in parallel to verse 22.  It is conveying the same idea.  Wisdom was appointed, the most recent NIV translation says “formed”, from eternity.  The hebrew word, nasak, “appoint/formed” is also used in Psalm 2.6 speaking of a king being “installed” in his kingdom.

Finally, verses 24 and 25 says that Wisdom was “given birth” prior to the hills and  and the oceans.  Once again, was Wisdom a created being or eternal?  “To give birth” would argue a beginning of Wisdom; but this is a complex word.  The word is chil.  The most common use of the word is used to mean “tremble”, “wound”, or “writhe” (that would be the Qal stem in Hebrew).  This usage in 24 and 25 is the Pual stem.  It means an intensive action.  Simply put, the qal stem is intensified.  Instead of “he killed” the same word becomes “he slaughtered.”  As it pertains to our discussion, chil becomes “give birth”.  Speaking from ignorance, I hear that giving birth is way worse than a paper cut.  The word is used 7 times in this sense.  Twice it is used in abstract: “The Lord twists the oaks” (Ps. 29.9) and “north wind brings rain” (Proverbs 25.23).  It is doubtful that would be the intention here.  Elsewhere, God has brought forth the Israelite’s (Dt. 32.18) and the world (Psalm 90.2).  The metaphor is vital to our doctrine of God.  He does not literally give birth, but he can act as a father.  Which brings us to the final usage which means literally “to give birth” like the doe and fawn (Job 39.1) and Sarah giving birth. (Isaiah 51.2)  Abraham was the father, but Sarah gave birth.  God didn’t literally give birth to Wisdom, did not give rise to it, but he was connected to it.  The father-son relationship is the intention of the Hebrew verb here.  God relationship to Wisdom is fatherhood.

So according to Proverbs 8.22-26, Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.

The second section to look at, verses 27-29, describes Wisdom’s presence at creation.  Wisdom was there when God caused “the heavens to be set in place”. (8.27)  Wisdom was present when the waters of the ocean were laid out, when the clouds were established, and when the deeps were dug out.  Wisdom didn’t come about during creation; Wisdom was there in creation.  Wisdom wasn’t a by product of creation; Wisdom produced creation.  Wisdom had its working gloves on during the creation event.  The knowledge of God in action.

So Wisdom was with God during creation.

To be continued…

 

The Wife of Noble Character (part 3)

The book of Ruth begins like this: “In the days when the Judges ruled, there was a famine in the land.” (1.1)  There is a lot of information conveyed in that introduction.  If you look back to the end of the book of Judges, the key verse that describes the book and this period is Judges 21.25: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.”  That sounds like a recipe for disaster.  There was lawlessness and idolatry.  There was disobedience and disorder due to a leadership vacuum.   Then there was a famine in the land.  When there was a famine in the land, someone was not obeying the Lord.  To put it simply the Hebrew nation was in trouble and headed down a road that they didn’t want to be on.  They needed a hero.

God had been raising up Judges to deliver his people from subjugation.  There was Gideon and Ehud, Shamgar and Samson and many others.  They each relieved Israel out of the hands of their rulers.  But it wasn’t a permanent fix.  It was always a temporary solution.  They cycle would repeat itself and Israel would find themselves under foreign rule again.  This is the world that Ruth lived and Israel needed a hero.

The story begins with the fleeing of a famine.  Naomi, her husband, and two sons, fled the famine to Moab.  While there, her two boys met women and married.  Then all the men in Naomi’s life, died.  Her husband and two son’s passed, leaving her and her daughter-in-laws alone in a male dominated society.  Noami decided to head back to Israel.  She told her daughter-in-laws to stay in their homeland.  Orpah did so, Ruth on the other hand, refused to leave Naomi’s side.  Her classic response:

“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” (Ruth 1.16-17)

Ruth refuses to abandon her mother-in-law.  In that society and at that time it would have been nearly impossible for Naomi to support and fend for herself.  Ruth though still a tough draw would fare better in taking care of her and Naomi.  When Naomi is nin need, Ruth is there.

“She opens her arms to the poor
    and extends her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31.20)

Ruth travels back to Bethlehem with Naomi.  They arrived during the barley harvest.  Ruth took it upon herself to provide for her and Naomi.  She went to the fields to pick up the leftover grain. (Ruth 2.2)

She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. (Proverbs 31.16)

The owner of the field comes to check on the harvest.  His name is Boaz.  He inquires about this woman picking up the grain behind the workers.  Their description of her is very honorable: “She is the Moabite who came back from Moab with Naomi. She said, ‘Please let me glean and gather among the sheaves behind the harvesters.’ She came into the field and has remained here from morning till now, except for a short rest in the shelter.” (Ruth 2.6-7)

She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servant…

She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks. (Proverbs 31.15,  17)

Ruth works her tail off and she meets Boaz the owner of the field.  Come to find out, he is their closest relative.  He is the one who is supposed to be taking care of them in their time of need (Leviticus 25.47-55), called a Kinsmen-Redeemer.  He had given her grain and water and food for home.  But still there was more.  So Ruth went to him at night and said: ““I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a guardian-redeemer of our family.”  She is challenging him to step up and be all that he is meant to be.

Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life. (Proverbs 31.11-12)

Abigale challenged David to step up and be the man.  Deborah did the same with Barak.  Eve was sent as a reinforcing army as was the wife of noble character.  Ruth is challenging Boaz to step up and fulfill his God ordained role in this world.  By sleeping with him, that is the meaning of the idiom ‘spread the corner of your garment over me’, she he asking him to step up and live out who God had called him to be.

Boaz was a ‘man of standing’. (Ruth 2.1)  He went to the city gates and redeemed Ruth and Naomi from another closer in line. (Ruth 4)

Her husband is respected at the city gate,
    where he takes his seat among the elders of the land. (Proverbs 31.23)

He took her as his wife for this very reason.  Their first night together, after she had asked him to cover her with the corner of his garment, Boaz had this to say to her:

“The Lord bless you, my daughter,” he replied. “This kindness is greater than that which you showed earlier: You have not run after the younger men, whether rich or poor. 11 And now, my daughter, don’t be afraid. I will do for you all you ask. All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.” (Ruth 3.10-11)

She was a woman of “noble character” [‘asha-chayil], the same word and title given to the woman in Proverbs 31.10.  Her title and her activity show that she was a woman to be distinguished from others.  She was the embodiment of Proverbs 31.

She bore Boaz a son and named him Obed (Ruth 4.13, 17) and if you skip to the end of the book, Obed is the grandfather of the someday King David.

There are those of us who are here today because of women of noble character.   Women like Ruth and Abigail and Deborah and Priscilla. Mothers, Grandmothers, Daughters, sisters, and wives are the reasons that some of us have survived this long.  Proverbs 31 makes it very clear that they are to Ben doted upon and celebrated.  They are to be held in the highest regard.  There should be no greater protector or celebrator of feminine nobility that the men of the church.

Jesus is the man downstream from David many generations and Ruth, the woman of noble character, was vital to the current.

The Wife of Noble Character (part 2)

She was whisked away as fast as she entered in chapter 12.  She was a blip on Solomon’s radar; but King Lemuel, he took some time to dwell on her.  The structure of the end of Proverbs is unique in its formation.  Two things make it stand out from the rest of the book.

First, it is a unit.  For much of Proverbs, aside from pieces here and there, the author makes statements that stand on their own.  The prologue to the book (1.1-9) and Wisdom’s Poem (8-9) being the obvious exemptions.  For much of the book it is stuff like you find in chapter 10.  Its a couple verses about obtaining wealth (10.2-5ish); the way to walk (6-9); thoughts on the tongue (10-14); then back to the wealth (15-16); verse 17 is an outlier; then back to the tongue (18-21); the wicked and the righteous (22-30); and finishes with the tongue again (31-32).  If you have ever tried to outline the book of James or even the Sermon on the Mount by Jesus, you would know the frustration of trying to put an outline to the book of Proverbs.  The themes bounce around, into and off of each other like particles at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.  But not in this chapter and not for King Lemuel.

Lemuel wants to dwell on this topic of the Woman of Noble Character.  It is shown in the number of verses she has devoted to her.  Twenty-one verses are devoted to describing her character, her worth, her activity.  I guess it depends on how you divide it up and how you categorize and group them, but there aren’t many topics that warrant the amount of ink as the wife of noble character.  Wisdom, Righteousness, Discipline, Money are on the short list that get more press than her.

Its not only the number of verses he devotes to her, it’s the way he arranges them.  The end of Proverbs 31 is an acrostic poem.  Each subsequent verse begins with the next letter of the Hebrew alphabet.  He begins in verse 10 with the letter aleph: “‘isha-chayil“.  The translation is “a wife/woman of noble character”.  The use of ‘isha in scripture is a bit ambiguous.  Going back to a previous post of first text principle in Genesis 2.23-25.  The word is used 4 times in four verses; once in 22, 23, 24, and 25.  The first two times the NIV translates it as woman, and the last two wife.  To say that this only applies to a married woman, rendering ‘isha as wife, would, I think be hermeneutically arrogant.  I would feel safer applying this to all women.

The second word of that first verse chayil is an interesting word.  It is most commonly translated as “army” or “wealth”.  If you remember from the last post, the word for “helper” [‘ezer] has military implications. Those are the literal translations.  The meaning, the thought, behind the word is “strength”.  Kings are only as strong as their armies and their wealth.  Joel and Habakkuk knew the meaning of this word.  Habakkuk writes: “The Lord is my strength [chayil]…” (Hab. 3.19) and Joel adds: “The Lord thunders at the head of his armies [chayil]” (Joel 2.11).

Moving on the second verse (11) beings with batach…the hebrew letter bet, translated as “trust”.  The following verse begins with a gimel.  The hebrew word is “gemalathu” meaning “she will give”.  Hebrew (and greek for that matter) is not as confined to sentence structure as the English language is.  English sentences are usually constructed as “subject-verb”.  The components are generally determined by their location in the sentence.  Hebrew, on the other hand uses suffixes to words to denote their function in the sentence.  That being said, the order of the sentence is not nearly as important in the Hebrew.  King Lemuel utilizes this freedom.  He begins verse 10 with noun-adjective; verse 11 with verse-preposition-verb; verse 12 with a verb…and so on.

He continues throughout the Hebrew alphabet, all the way through too “tav”.  Twenty two letters (or 21 if you combine the letters sin and shin, which are used interchangeably as the Psalmist in 119 does as does King Lemuel) leading the verses about the woman/wife of noble character.  Psalm 119 is the perfect example of this.  Most NIV Bible’s even begin the sections with the Hebrew letter that will lead the sentence in the subsequent sections.

When’s the last time you composed a poem?  Haiku’s not included.  Have you ever tried to sit down and write one?  Forget a poem.   Just try a word.  On the left side of a piece of paper, write the alphabet vertically with one line per letter.  See if you can come up with something that starts with that letter using a theme.  Pick one: animal, college, chemical element, or food.  See how long it takes.

I wrote one about Taco Bell (An Ode to Taco Bell).  It took me a while during last summer.  To get the right words, in the correct order, to convey the meaning, to clarify thought, was a stressful and intellectually challenging endeavor…and it was about Taco Bell, something so insignificant.  Can you imagine, King Lemuel agonizing over the proper words to get his point across?  Can you picture, King Lemuel, being poured into by the Holy Spirit, and the words flowing from his pen as he describes the heroine of the story?

The woman of noble character was worth all of the effort.  All of the time spent describing her was worth spending.

Just like a Knight who has earned the scars from battle and now gets to bask in the affection of the Damsel, he would say: “it was worth the effort.”

Just like Jacob, who worked 7 years for Rachel’s hand in marriage but they only seemed like a few days because of his love for her. (Gen. 29.20)  Ask him if it was worth it?

King Lemuel would answer the affirmative.  Most certainly yes! She is worth it.  That is why he composes this poem to her honor.

 

 

 

 

The Wife of Noble Character (part 1)

Her worth is in her and in the text.  Proverbs 31 makes it very clear: “she is worth far more than rubies”. (Proverbs 31.10)

Another character that comes to the forefront of the text of Proverbs is “The Wife of the Nobel Man”.  She is mentioned throughout the book, referenced again and again, but is dwelt upon at the end of the book in chapter 31.

She bursts on the scene in chapter 12 where we find that she is the” crown of her husband!” (Proverbs 12.4)  The Jews had a principle of interpretation called “First Text Principle”.  Essentially, it means that when a topic comes up in a text, the interpreter must go back to where the concept is spoken of first in Scripture.  For example, when we read from the pen of Paul: “For it is by grace we are saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves but the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2.8-9)  For a Jewish interpreter their mind would immediately be taken to Genesis 6 and the flood narrative where Noah “found favor [chen] in the eyes of the Lord”. (Genesis 6.8)  The Hebrew word for “favor” can also be translated as “grace”.  And you know the rest of the story.  Noah and his family were saved from the flood waters because of God’s warning and Noah’s belief in that warning.

For our purposes and the wife of noble character, the study must begin in Genesis 2 with the first woman and the first wife.  Man was alone on the earth and for the first time in the story of God and Man, “it was not good”. (Genesis 2.18)  So God made for/from Adam a “helper” [‘ezer] for him.  This word carries the idea of reinforcements in battle (Psalm 20.2; 121.11-12; Isiah 30.5)  Eve was given to Adam in order to come alongside him in ministry and in life.  She was to rally to support him.  But Eve would be the one to be deceived and handing the fruit to Adam.  I’m not absolving Adam, he was right there with her, and as the man should have intervened; however, his “helper” would become his…whatever his anti-helper is.

But not this woman: “she brings him good and not harm all the days of her life” (12); “she provides food for her family…” (15); “she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (20); “her children arise and call her blessed, her husband also praises her” (28).  There isn’t a person that comes into contact with her life, who isn’t affected for the better.  Eve was created to help Adam be the man, but the wife of noble character did it and that was prized by her husband in verse 29:

“Many women do noble things,
    but you surpass them all.”

That is the crown that he bears in Proverbs 12.4!  The wife of noble character is the crowning achievement of creation and the heroine of the book of Proverbs.

 

 

The Man of Understanding

Batman_'66_-_Adam_West_as_Batman_2Like a revolving door, Solomon introduces characters and whisks them away just as fast.

If its been a while since you picked up the book of Proverbs, Solomon  introduces characters and whisks them away just as fast.  There is a Wisdom character who calls from the rooftops.   There is a perverse man, who’s dishonest scales favor his gain.  There is the wife, who’s identity is made known through her qualities.  The fool is on who shuns knowledge and is the antithesis of what a man is supposed to be.  Then there is the man of understanding.

Understanding is really the point of the book.  He begins the book: “The proverbs of Solomon, the Son of David: for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight…” (Proverbs 1.1-2)  The stage is set for the hero of the book, but he doesn’t arrive until chapter 10.  First the stage is set then the idea is primed.

Then he rolls out his dominant thought for preachers; his lead for journalists; his “I can” statement for teachers.  Every statement made in the book, every saying, can be explained in the short phrase: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (9.10)

So he makes his purpose clear and then he makes his clarifying statement, but that’s not enough for Solomon.  He needs a figure to encapsulate them.  He needs a character to display what “knowledge of the Holy One” looks like.  He needs…he needs…he needs a hero.

Hero’s don’t just fly in and save the day.  They don’t just fight the bad guy and save the princess.  They don’t just burst on the scene and make everything right.  They do these things of course, but they do so much more.  They stand for something.  They stand for principles.  They represent justice and integrity.  They embody courage and honor.  Hero’s are living/breathing examples of all the qualities that society teaches its youth to embrace.  Solomon’s book needs a hero and one arrives in chapter 10.

He was hinted at near the beginning of the book.  In his preface Solomon wrote: “let the wise listen and add to their learning and let the discerning (literally “the man of understanding”) get guidance.”(Proverbs 1.5)  The man of understanding (hb. ish tebuna) seeks understanding from the parables and riddles of the wise and add to his understanding.  Batman’s (or should I say Bruce Wayne’s) parents were killed in the streets of Gotham.  It was his raison d’etre, his most important thing, that motivated him to become the “Caped Crusader” and fight crime.  The man of understanding too was on a mission, but his wouldn’t begin until chapter 10 when he would reappear and there are a few qualities that he would embody.

The Man of Understanding has a steady thought.  Solomon writes: “A fool finds pleasure in wicked schemes, but a man of understanding delights in wisdom.” (Proverbs 10.23)  The Man of Understanding is not swayed by theory or new discovery, but provides an unwavering thought process to the situations that he encounters.  My favorite hero of all time is Indiana Jones.  With minimal resources, a satchel, a revolver, and his trusty bullwhip; Indiana can navigate any situation.  Partially it is because of his ability to out think his adversaries.  He always has a plan.  And if the first plan falls through, then he makes another one.  His steady thought enables him to be the hero.  And its not just theory.  The first use of the word tebuna is found in Exodus 31: “Then the Lord said to Moses, 2 ‘See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills—'”  It was not just that Bezalel understood what needed to be done, but he was able to apply it and do it.  I can give you all the theory and science behind a diesel engine, but put a wrench in my hand and it all goes south pretty quick.  I have knowledge of the engine, but I don’t understand it.

The Man of Understanding is a steady presence.  The second reason my favorite hero is Indiana Jones, is his steady presence.  If they hadn’t been filming in the desert, he probably never would have broken a sweat.  There was no situation that he couldn’t handle and no issue too big for him.  He never even lost his hat (except for that moment in Last Crusade where the tank went over the cliff)!  Tin Cup says: “When a defining moment comes along, either you define the moment or the moment defines you.”  My life has been defined by moments not the other way around.  There have been multiple times when the situation overwhelmed me.  In three areas, the Man of Understanding, overcomes situations.

  1. His tongue.  “Whoever derides their neighbor has no sense, but the one who has understanding (ish tebuna) holds their tongue.”(Proverbs 11.12)  Words slip, gossip takes place, lying happens, half-truths are spread, and exaggeration is common; these are all excuses that we make in order to downplay the fact that we cant control our tongue.  The Man of Understanding, our hero, controls what comes out of his mouth no matter the situation.  A disobedient dog, a stuck bolt in an engine, a hard headed horse, or a rebellious child, the words that come out are seasoned with Understanding.
  2. His heart.  The words we use and the words we say, flow from our heart as Luke reminds us (Luke 6.45).  Our words are usually directly tied to our temper.  The Man of Understanding is even-tempered.  “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.” (Proverbs 17.27)  The connection is made about our here…temper drives words.  How often does our temper control us instead of the other way around.
  3. His surroundings.  The temperature of the room.  When you enter the room does it rise or fall?  Indiana is always the coolest guy in the room.  When you enter a room, does the tension rise or fall?  “When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers, but a ruler with discernment (ish tebuna) and knowledge maintains order.” (Proverbs 28.2)  Order comes with the Man of Understanding.

The Man of Understanding walks a steady path.  The Man of Understanding walks with consistency.  Hero’s stay the course.  Despite what they are facing, he continues to walk.  “Folly brings joy to one who has no sense, but whoever has understanding (ish tebuna) keeps a straight course.” (Proverbs 15.21)  Are there some people who you avoid because you never know what kind of mood they are in? or how they are going to react to a situation? or what they are going to do?  Are you one of those people?  I really don’t want that kind of reputation and I certainly don’t want to develop that kind of character.  Hero’s have a consistency to their image and their character.  People know what to expect.  Chi Mcbride once says: “A hero is anyone who runs toward something that everyone else is running away from.”  The reason they run forward, is because there is no other option.  Bullfighters have to make the decision, before they ever enter the arena, that their safety comes last.  Firefighters don’t have a decision to make when they see a fire, they have already made it.  The World Trade Center fell 16 years ago.  Without hesitation the Emergency Responders, ran through the doors and up flights of stairs.  They knew their job and never strayed off course. The Man of Understanding is cut from the same cloth. He walks a straight and steady path.  Our hero understands that this way of living brings wisdom and life.  His steadiness is directly related to his purposes.  The deepest beliefs he has.  I have written elsewhere about Proverbs 20.5: “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight (ish tebuna) draws them out.” Needless to say, what we believe in our core will show up in our course.

The Hero of the book of Proverbs, the Man of Understanding, is the character rolled out as an example of who we as men are to become.  Growing into the Man of Understanding, begins with a check of the heart and a life of discipline.  I want to be a hero, but hero’s carry with them scars.  In these area’s, I’ve got some surgery to do.

 

 

Citizens of the Kingdom

img-thing“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household…” (Philippians 2.19)

It sucks being the outsider.  When I was in 3rd grade, a buddy of mine invited me to this thing called Church Camp.

We drove down to the K-mart in North Topeka and purchased a $3 KJV Bible.   We didn’t own any Bibles and we figured one was just as good as any other.

The first thing we did every morning was raise the flags, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, recite the Christian Pledge, and the Bible Pledge.  I was good on the first one.  The other two were completely foreign.

During the day, we had devotions and teachings; but, the other kids Bibles had different words than mine.  Not totally different, but different enough.

That night it rained.  We were shuttled into the Chapel where we watched a pickle singing about a hairbrush.  No Lie!

I remember thinking that night: “If this is what Christianity is all about, count me out!”

I was the outsider.  In language, culture, thinking, and everything.  VeggieTales just revealed it.

Now its exactly opposite…trying to navigate the shop, the pens, or Walmart, there is a vernacular, culture, thinking, and language that I am unaccustomed too.

When a culture begins to feel home, you have left one and became a citizen of the other.

“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but citizens…” Paul says.

They were called out of one culture, the culture of Ephesus, and into a new one.  They were learning a new way of living, a new vocab, a new thinking.  Ephesians is rich with all the basics and foundational teachings on this new culture.

Ephesians 1: “In him we have redemption through his blood…”

Ephesians 2: “Dead in transgressions…alive in Christ…saved by grace”

Ephesians 3: “…through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God is made known…”

Ephesians 4: People are equipped “…for works of service to build up the body”

Ephesians 5: “Be imitators of God…just as Christ gave himself…”

Ephesians 6: “Finally be strong in the Lord…”

The basics are a fantastic place to start!

 

 

When Cultures Collide: Committed to Scripture

(This is a summary of a chapter from a book I’m finishing up)

Culture is constantly in flux.  It changes by the second; an avalanche of ideas and information.  We are overtaken by changes every breath we take on this earth.

As mentioned before, Daniel is in a centerfuge of change.  His world is spinning around and he is trying to keep up.  Prayer has sustained him thus far and given him stability in his time of service in Babylon, but now a new ruler is in town.  Daniel 9 begins like this: “In the first year of Darius…in the first year of his reign…”. Daniel has a new boss.  This is right around the same time as the den of lions event where Daniel was/will be persecuted for his prayer life.

During this regime transition, Daniel is studying the Scriptures, specifically Jeremiah.  Seventy-five or so years prior to Daniel studying this passage, Jeremiah first delivered it.  Daniel, a man familiar with God’s words, attributes the passage not just to Jeremiah, but to the Lord as well.  The passage he was studying was from Jeremiah 25; a prophecy about the seventy years of captivity that the nation of Judah would endure because of their unfaithfulness and sin.

In the midst of his Bible study, Daniel is confronted with the same question we are when we open up the scriptures: “What now?”

What happens when we read and study Scripture?  What happens when we approach God’s Word seeking understanding?  What happens when we look to apply it in our lives?

Confession

When committed to reading God’s word, I realize how far short I fall of what God desires, has commanded, has loved.

“So I (Daniel) turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and position, in fasting, and in sack cloth and ashes.” (Dan. 9.4)

Daniel assumes a posture of mourning and begins to pray.  In this prayer, Daniel confesses:

  • “…we have sinned” (5, 8)
  • “…we have been wicked and rebelled” (5, 9)
  • “…we have turned away” (5)
  • “…we have not listened” (6)
  • “…we are covered in shame…because of our unfaithfulness” (7)
  • “…we have not obeyed” (10)
  • “…all Israel has transgressed your law and turned away.” (11)

Scripture acts as a mirror showing a reflection of the life before it.  Only when it is read and studied is sin revealed.  When sin is revealed, the only acceptable response is confession.  Daniel shows this in his transition to his next thought in the book when he says: “While I was speaking and praying, confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel…” (9.29)

Daniel’s reading of scripture led him to confession.

Worship

When reading and studying Scripture becomes a priority, worship ensues.  Notice how Daniel’s prayer begins: “Lord, the great and awesome God…” (Dan 6.4). There is no question about who He is addressing.

Daniel isn’t the only one who began his prayer in worship.  Jesus did it in Matthew 6: “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed (or holy) is your name…” (Matt 6.9)  Habakkuk begins his prayer in chapter 3: “Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord.” (Hab. 3.2).

Daniel doesnt just stop there.  Sprinkled throughout the prayer are acclamations of God’s character, His activity, and His presence.  Isn’t that what worship is?  A person acknowledging who God is and honoring Him?

According to Daniel, based on his study of Scripture, God is, as attested to by his prayer, merciful (9, 18), righteous (7, 14), forgiving (9), and the one who brought them out of Egypt with his mighty hand (15).  Daniel voices his adoration and worship throughout this prayer and it all began with the study of Scripture.  As the Psalmist writes: “I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws.” (Psalm 119.7)

The connection between study and worship is as real today as it was for the Psalmist and Daniel.

Identity

A commitment to understanding scripture brings with it an reminder of the readers identity.  It’s easy to lose ourselves in the surrounding culture. (See chapter 2)  In the pace of life, amongst the media, the expectations, and the rituals of the world, the things that make believers unique can get left behind and forgotten.

Daniel has been in Babylon for a long time…and the people have been there a long time.  They wrote about this experience: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion…How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?  If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill.” (Psalm 137.1,4-5)

But they had forgotten.  Here they were God’s people, their temple destroyed, their walls crushed, their pride gone.  When they did return home to the land, when Ezra read the law to them in Nehemiah 8, it had to be translated because they had forgotten the Hebrew language.  The people of God, had forgotten the name they carried.

Daniel ends his prayer: “Lord, listen! Lord, forgive! Lord, hear and act! For your sake, my God, do not delay, because your city and your people bear your Name.” (19)

For Seventy years the identity, their name, had been last; but Daniel, in his study, remembered who they were as a people.

In this prayer three things are tied together: 1) who we are: confession; 2) who God is: worship; 3) what God has made us into: identity.

These themes, as a result of the study of Scripture occur elsewhere.  Two examplesstand out in Scripture.

Josiah, as an 18 year old King, gets handed the Book of the Law found in the Temple. (2 Kings 22.10) It is read to him and upon hearing, he immediately fears his clothes and confesses the sins of his people (10-13).  Then he reads it to the people and they celebrate Passover for the first time since the era of the Judges (21-23).  The central event of Hebrew history hadn’t been done in their memory. They worshipped and recovered their identity.

Nehemiah 8 tells of a time just years after Daniels prayer.  After the Jews had returned to the land, rebuilt the walls and resettled their towns, they assembled and Ezra the priest read the law to them.  The priests translated and explained to the people what it meant (8.2-3,8).  The people wept as they listened to the words being read (9-10).  Thy stopped weeping and celebrated God and His works that they now understood (12).  When they heard Ezra read about the festival of booths, they realized  that God had commanded them to live in shelters every year, just as they did when God had brought them out of Egypt (Lev. 23.37-40; Neh. 8.13-15).  A central tenant of the Jewish faith, it hadn’t been done for years, since “the time of Joshua” (17).

When a commitment to study and understanding of Scripture is made, revival happens.

 

Lord of the Flies

download

From The Simposons “Das Bus” season 9 spoof of the Lord of the Flies. Ralph Wiggum’s war paint!

In the middle of Paul’s letter to the Romans he writes:

We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[c] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

In Golding’s novel The Lord of the Flies Simon was the prophet of the group.  He managed to be the one who recused himself from the barbarism and the killing.  He was the innocent one.

If you are unfamiliar with the plot, Lord of the Flies begins with a undisclosed number of English boys stranded via plane crash on a tropical island.  In effort to assemble some kind of order to which they were akin too, the boys vote Ralph, the oldest, as their leader.  Jack, the head choir boy and one of the oldest, challenged this vote but ultimately assented to it.

The boys are bent on survival and rescue.  With the help of piggys glasses, they start a fire and vow to keep it going at all times.  A vow they would fail at throughout the entirety of the book.

The stroy changes when Jack is unable to kill a piglet on their first hunt.  He hesitates to spill the blood of the pig.  He slams the knife into the trunk of a tree, vowing “next time will be different.”  A glint in his eye as he does it, aknowledges to the reader that something has change in him.

When a beast is spotted on the island, by one of the little ones (they remain unnamed in the book and really serve as a backdrop in the story), the group is gripped with fear and speculation.  Simon, ever the prophet, argued that there was no beast.  “Perhaps there is no beast,” he reasoned, “maybe its just us?”  Simon sees that the beast, the barbarianism, the fighting, the killing, was all taking place by their hand.  But the boys put flesh and blood to their beast, thinking it to be a real creature.  They cut the head off their next kill and left it on a stick to assuage the beast.

Sometime later, Simon stumbles into the woods.  He comes upon one of the heads on a pike.  It is covered in flies.  Simon hallucinates that the pig head is talking to him.  It gives itself the title “the Lord of the Flies”, which is a literal translation of the name “Beelezebub”, the Devil.  The Pig head addresses Simon:

“There isn’t anyone to help you. Only me. And I’m the Beast. . . . Fancy thinking the Beast was something you could hunt and kill! . . . You knew, didn’t you? I’m part of you? Close, close, close! I’m the reason why it’s no go? Why things are the way they are?”

Simon goes bak to the tribe that Jack has started, Piggy and Ralph are on their own at this point in the story, and tries to inform them of the beasts true identity.  The tribe kills him…an act one thought of as impossible for this group of civilized English young men.  The savagery was part of them.  It was not a physical being to overcome, but an innate part of themselves.

Simon had been reading Paul’s mail.

All to often our issues are blamed on outside sources.  The stress, the environment, the expectations, the culture have all been used as objects to which we can ssign our sin.  But the sin problem that we face is an inwardly one. Paul makes it clear that we sin because its what is inside of us.  Jesus would argue the same thing.  Thankfully we have a Savior who makes certain that the inside is cleaned just like the outside.  Not only does he do that, but he renews us everyday and fills us with his Spirit so that our misdeeds can be left in the past.

 

Animal Farm: A Fair-ey Story

My rules for literature consumption:

1. No reading The Shinning before vacation.

2.  The Hunger Games should be read every year before school starts just to remind us how shaky the house of cards really is.

3.  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is read every Christmas. No exceptions.

After following these rules faithfully for the last couple years, in the wake of last nights Jackson Co. Fair visit, I have added a fourth literary rule:

4. Never read Animal Farm before going to a fair.

The basic plot of the Orwell classic is this: Farm animals feel exploited.  A rebellion, began by the old pig Major, is executed by Napoleon and Snowball, two pigs and his juniors.  The animals take over the farm, throwing off their human masters with the sheep chanting the mantra, “Four legs good, two legs bad.”  Snowball is the thoughtful and calculated leader, but Napoleon is the brash and charismatic leader.  He also has two advantages over Snowball as he grabs sole control over the Farm: 1) he has Squealer, a pig who is gifted at controlling, spinning, and disseminating information to the other animals; 2) he has the dogs.  When a litter of puppies is born, Napoleon puts them in the loft, cut off from the other animals, and put himself in charge of their education, turning them into his own henchmen posse.  Napoleon expelled snowball (labeling him a Traitor), works the animals to death, and controls all the decisions on Animal Farm.  He is a paranoid dictator, exploiting the labor of even the most loyal of animals, Buck the draft horse.  The novel ends with the animals realizing their new animal overlords, the pigs, are not an improvement over the humans.  Things are worse than ever.

Walking into the beige barn that rises up in the middle of the Jackson Co Fair grounds, I was ready to watch the steer weigh in.  Then I saw it.  Some pigs were being driven in the show pen.  Every other animal gets a halter and a lead rope…but not the pigs.  The are untethered.  Their handler, if you can really call them that since they are not attached, has a little stick to direct their pigs with taps on the side.  Some pigs are pretty tame…some are fairly insane.  Then I looked to the pens where they are being fed fine grain, lounging under fans, and getting baths.  Wilbur from Charlottes Web never hadn’t it so good.  That’s when I began to look at every pig in the barn with a healthy suspicion.

On the west end of the barn were the sheep.  The dim witted animals of the novel that represented the masses.  They blindly followed orders, never thinking for themselves.  I had no fear in the west end of the barn.  But the east end left me with an uneasy feeling, as though we were in.ching ever closer by the second to an uprising.  There was a plot a-ungulate-foot.  No wonder the Hebrews were forbidden pigs.

I felt like they knew that I had had bacon that morning.

Read the classics, but don’t do it during fair season.