“It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the influence of a truly great character on all that surrounds it. (40.59 – 40.60)” — Alexander Dumas
D’Artagnan was a young man whose dream was to join the Kings body guards. When he goes to Paris, he is given the run around. When he runs into a few of the Musketeers, unbeknownst to him, by challenging them each to duels. They end up teaming up to defeat the Cardinals guards who had interrupted their duels.
D’Artagnan befriends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, the Three Musketeers. Athos is a calculated man. “Athos…never gave his advice before it was demanded and even then it must be demanded twice. ‘In general, people only ask for advice,’ he said ‘that they may not follow it or if they should follow it that they may have somebody to blame for having given it’” writes Dumas. The strong, reserved, soft spoken leader. He becomes a father-figure to D’Artagnan.
Unlike the Disney version, Dumas’ novel paints a more chaotic plot. It’s not the Cardinal vs. the Musketeers in the book. The Cardinal, near the end of the book offers D’Artagnan the commission and leadership he has been seeking from the beginning…all he had to do was sign on the line. He paused as he left the room, weighing the results of his decision and this was the thought that went through his mind: “It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the influence of a truly great character on all that surrounds it.”. The great character was Athos he was thinking of. The influence was the decision not to sign the commission. He knew that should he sign, Athos would renounce him. Truly great characters change the actions of everyone around them!
Mark 9.2 begins with the words “after 6 days”. What is the deal with waiting almost a week? As discussed previously, Mark is a fast paced book. And also discussed elsewhere, Mark is all about identifying Jesus as the Son of God. His book begins with the statement: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…”(Mark 1) and climaxes with the Roman Centurion at the base of the cross exclaiming “surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15). Right smack dab in the middle of the book, Peter makes the confession “You are the Messiah.” (8.29) So there is the confession.
Then Jesus begins to tell his disciples about his death. He would do so in chapters 8, 9, 10. Mark 8 serves as a tipping point in the Gospel. It is the fulcrum that balances the entirity of the book. The confession and the prediction are where the two purposes of Jesus come together. His action and identity. In Mark 1, Jesus declares: “I have come to preach.” (1.38) In Mark 10, Jesus says that he came “not to be serve but to serve and give his life up as a ransom for many.” (10.45) The middle of chapter 8 begins a section of the book that serves as central teaching to Jesus’ ministry.
Finally, on top of the confession of Peter and the prediction of Jesus, there is the teaching of Jesus at the end of chapter 8. The confession and prediction mean little if there isn’t anything that becomes of it. Jesus reiterates that this is not just a teaching or a lesson, it is a pattern of life. Jesus wants his disciples to know that it doesn’t end with his cross, but ends with ours. “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8.34)
The whole book has been racing along and now all the information about Jesus that is needed has been communicated…then he hits the brakes for 6 days. For an impatient man like Mark, I bet 6 days seemed like eternity. If you have ever taught 6th graders or trained a horse, you would understand what Mark is doing. Its called “think time”. Letting the message sit and rest for a period, preventing overload of information. If you have ever tried to teach someone how to play pitch, you know the look of overload. So he takes a break.
Then the story picks up with the Three Musketeers. They head up the mountain, alone, with Jesus. Think of how many great moments have happened on mountain tops.
- The Ark came to rest on Ararat (Gen 8.4)
- Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22)
- Moses was given the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20)
- The Blessings and Curses came from Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim (Deut. 11)
- David built his city, Jerusalem, on Mt. Zion (2 Samuel 5.7)
- Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18)
- Jesus gave his sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5)
Every ancient culture, the pyramids of Egypt, the Ziggurats of Sumer, the temples of the Mayans, the gods on Mt. Olympus for the Greeks, believed that Mountains were where man met with God. So there is some theology wrapped up in their trek up the mountain.
When the reached the summit, Jesus was transfigured before them. Essentially, he started radiating. There isn’t a whole lot more to this word than what comes to your mind at first. He became really shinny. That’s when two other men showed up: Moses and Elijah. Neither were unfamiliar with mountain top moments as seen above. The list above, however, left off two very important moments. The first being Moses’ Mt. Sinai experience in Exodus 34. The second was Elijah’s Mt. Sinai moment in 1 Kings 19. I will deal with each in turn.
Exodus 34 recounts a 40 day stay atop Mt. Sinai by Moses. The purpose of this ascent was two-fold. Primarily it was to make good on God’s promise to Moses in the previous chapter to show him His glory. Second, it was to renew the 10 commandments and the stones Moses had broken in anger the first time he was up on Sinai. God meets Moses and “passes by” him making a statement about his identity.
“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (34.6-8)
This meeting has been discussed more elsewhere, but for the purpose of this piec it can be said that Moses met God in Sinai.
On the same mountain, many years later, Elijah stands after a 40 day journey (1 Kings 19.8). He too meets with God. He is exhausted standing and speaking for God against a corrupt royalty and a stubborn nation. He had wished for death before coming to the mountain (19.4) but now he has a hearing with God where he offers his complaint. He says that he is the only faithful one in Israel and that won’t last long if Ahab gets his way. So God responds:
“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (19.11)
And God did so in the following verses. He wasn’t in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the subsequent whisper. There it is again; the idea of God “passing by” which brings us to Mark 9.
Peter and the guys are frightened by the dazzling sight before them. Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are talking in front of them. So Peter speaks up while scared. He wants to build shelters for them.
God ends up speaking in verse 7, putting a halt to Peter’s idea, with His statement: “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.”
The two men on the mountain with Jesus are no strangers to mountain top moments. And with each of their encounters there was the presence of the Lord and the voice of the Lord. Mark 9 has God speaking and God presence, through and in the person of Jesus.
The Three Musketeers were shown Jesus identity as the Son of God and his relationship with God.
And once again they were told to keep it quiet (Mark 9.8).
The previous post mentioned 4 exceptions to the public healings of Jesus and the proceeded to list only 3. This was by design. As the prior post mentioned: “to understand what Jesus did, follow the crowds.” That statement is on only a partial thought. It’s compliment is: “to understand who Jesus is, follow the three.”
The three: Peter, James, and John. They were three of Jesus’ first followers. They were fishermen by trade and pastors in training. They would someday be authors and speakers, but for the time being, they were working through some issues. James and John had anger and pride. Peter was foolish and loose with his tongue. They failed at discipleship a lot. So much in fact, that it is a dominant theme in the book of Mark. Still, Jesus saved his most revelatory moments for the Three.
Instead of a public healing, the Three were pulled aside by Jesus for a revelation. A girls father had caught up with Jesus as had many others. Jesus is met after his return from the Decapolis by a crowd of people. A synagogue ruler gets his ear and tells him of his daughters illness. He knew that if he could get Jesus to her, he could heal her. Jesus grants his request and goes along with crowd in tow.
One in the crowd, a woman, was sick herself. The similarities between the two sick ones are inescapable:
- both female
- One was sick 12 years and the other is 12 years old
- Faith/belief led to healing
- It was Jesus touch that instituted healing
- The thoughts that led to their healing were similar. The bleeding woman thought: “If I can just get to him…”. Jairus’ thought: “If I can just get him to her…”
The main difference between the two was where it happened and who it was in front of. The bleeding woman was healed right in front of the parade. Jesus even brought attention to it. “Who touched me?”, he asked as he felt the power leave him. He made sure the crowd knew what was happening and how the healing happened.
When he arrived at the scene of the dead girl, he was not only a leading a procession, he interrupted a procession. The corresponding verses in Matthew, those recounting the same story, tells us that the funeral has began: “When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes…” (Matthew 5.23) Mark adds that there was crying and wailing. It was a fiasco. The first thing Jesus did was send everyone out. Taking the Three Musketeers with him, he visits the girls bedside, where she lies dead.
Jesus touched her. This time, unlike the bleeding woman, the power left him by his own ambition. He told her to get up and, again just like the bleeding woman, “immediately” she was healed. “Immediately” is one of Mark’s favorite words. Mark is a fast paced narrative, that scurries the reader along. When two or more gospel writers tell the same story, as is the case here with Mark 5 and Matthew 9, Mark is usually the longer more in depth version, but still his gospel is quite shorter than the others. He doesn’t tell as many stories, but when he does, he does it thoroughly.
This story, told by all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, put the identity of Jesus on display. John, tells the very public resurrection of Lazarus and the public response. Luke precedes this account with the raising of the widows son at Nain (Luke 7) and the crowds awe and wonder concerning the event. But only the Three Musketeers are privy to this event. They are even given orders “not to tell anyone” (Mark 5.43) a cry that would be echoed throughout the book.
But lets end with this question. Why the three? Was the room too small for everyone else? Was Jesus just wanting some more quite and three people are always quieter than 40 or 100? Perhaps there is according to some more liberal interpreters a “messianic secret” contained in Mark, where Jesus is desperately trying to keep his identity unkown? These can all be answered in the negative!
The reason for the Three is simple, this is the only resurrection in Mark outside of Jesus’. This is a key event revealing the identity of Jesus to his closest followers. Two more times these three men would be specifically chosen to witness a deep truth of the identity of Jesus. Jesus has the power to raise the dead; he has power to give life. This lesson was on display before their very eyes.
“Turkeys flock, but Eagles soar.”
”In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson
”If everyone else jumped off a bridge…”
Ancient proverbs, founding fathers, your Mother; all have their advice about succumbing to peer pressure and following the crowd. Nature understands the safety in numbers: the adjectival crash of rhino’s or murder of crows (nod to Poe); the aptly named tower of giraffes or bloat of hippos; or the alliterated leap of leopards or prickle of porcupines. If you have ever watched one of those nature documentaries on Nat. Geo or the Discovery channel, before reality mechanic shows and survival shows took over, of the wildebeests crossing the river in front of the crocodiles, the principle is fully on display. But success, especially in America and contrary to all of history, is all about standing out and swimming upstream. Mike Rowe put it best in this video (if you watch until the end). That American ideal is also contrarian to understanding Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. To understand what Jesus did in the book of Mark, follow the crowd.
Much of Jesus ministry was done in view of the crowds.
- He led them
- He fed them
- He taught them
- He performed miracles before them
- He was praised, arrested, sentenced and mocked by them (all in a week)
His public ministry was just that: it was public. Despite some of his best efforts, he was with people most of the time. He was forced “to get up while it was still dark, very early in the morning” in order to pray (Mark 1.35). The only times that Jesus is recorded to be alone in Mark, he is either praying (1.35; 6.42; 14.35) or healing (7.53).
One of the biggest things he did in front of them was healed. On 8 different occasions Jesus healed before the crowds. Sixty-six percent of the time he healed someone, it was before the people. Only 4 times did he not follow this pattern.
- He healed a deaf and mute man privately (7.53)
- He raised a girl from the dead in front of Peter, James, and John (Mark 5)
- He healed Peter’s mother-in-law with Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 1.31)
- He drove the Evil Spirits out of the Gadarenes Demoniac with the Twelve watching on (Mark 5) because the crowds couldn’t get around the lake fast enough.
The pattern had been set as healing was meant to be seen publicly. All the times it wasn’t on display, the connecting ties are few and far between. The number of people who were either healed, witnessed his healing power, or saw the result of his healing power would have stretched exponentially both in geography and in time.
- Every marriage that is saved through repentance and submission has been touched with his healing.
- Every man who finds recovery from a porn addiction has felt it.
- Every middle school student who has felt the sting of depression and loneliness, who finds grace and compassion in Jesus arms, knows his healing.
- Every parent who has lost a child, but finally is able to pen a letter to them, knows the power of his healing.
- Every victim of disaster who has ever received a warm meal and a warm blanket as they begin to piece back together their life, has felt his touch of healing.
Healing was communal. It is communal. It was public and it was celebrated. Jesus lived this out.
Indications point to a population of 500,000 in Palestine during the Second Temple Period. I think this easily puts a 100 grand within 2 degrees of seperation of Jesus and his healing ministry.
While Jesus was alone, he prayed. While he was with the Twelve, he explained, corrected, and taught. With the crowds, the 100 grand, Jesus was the compassionate healer, who’s arms were open to all who came.
But what about the Three Musketeers?
To be continued…
I have a routine and it really goes in month long cycles.
September is Football and Franks. I love to tailgate and grill. I also love brats and hotdogs. So I are mostly hot dogs and brats throughout the month.
November is turkey/poultry and Thanksgiving. I will alter my crock pot taco soup recipe by substituting shredded chicken for beef, load up on the tobasco, Fritos, and shredded cheddar cheese and eat a crock pot full every week.
December is all about the three C’s: Christmas, cinnamon rolls, and chilie. Chilie is served seven nights a week, cleaning out the crock pot only to repeat the process. Fun fact: apparently this is a Kansas thing because if you mention it anywhere else people look at you like you are crazy.
But that leaves out October. Taco Soup (with beef) will get me through the month, but it really is all about candy. Walmart keeps dentists employed in November. I saw a sign the other day where a store is offering to buy back Halloween Candy to keep kids healthy. Meanwhile, I spoke with a Dad who refused to buy candy this years so he is taking his kids Trick-or-Treating an hour early so they can circle back by their house to refill their own candy bowl. That is #NextLevelParenting.
I have recently been studying the life of Jesus. I have also been trying to organize some thoughts on leadership and methodology. Here I bring the two together. One of my favorite get-to-know-you/team building games is what I call “synthesis”. Each group gets one note card. They have to write down 5 topics or thoughts on the left hand side. Then the team trades with another team. The new team has one minute to write down a word that corresponds with the first teams thoughts. The catch is that there is a theme. It might have to be an animal, or a celebrity, or a song, or anything else. They have one minute. Then each group has to explain to the whole group why they chose that thing to describe the first teams topic.
Since October really is all about the candy, how would Jesus ministry be communicated through candy bars?
One of the first things that draws me to Jesus ministry is how contagious it was. People were drawn to him. They brought the sick, they brought friends, they traveled miles, and they fought through crowds. They climbed trees, dug through roofs, watched from gates, crawled between legs, and snuck into dinners, just to be near him. But what drw them? Certainly it was his ability, some of it was probably his teaching, but I want to focus on something that not many other’s have touched: his Joy! Mostly because I struggle with it.
Joy is really a Paul word. First, I want to introduce you to three greek words. This will be painless.
- Chara is the greek word for “joy”
- Charidzomai is the greek word for “forgiveness”
- Charis is the greek word for “grace”
Notice that all three of theses words have the same root. From that the connection is easily made. When we understand that we are forgiven and have been shown grace, the only appropriate response is joy. Paul was joyful because he understood the great lengths to which he was shown grace and the the great depths that he had been forgiven. The reason I say this is a Paul word is quite simple. Half the uses of these words in Scripture come from Paul’s pen. He loved to talk about “joy” and “grace” and “forgiveness”.
Fir James and Peter, the source of joy is found elsewhere. James begins his book like this:
”Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1.2)
James knew that the growth received through the testing of faith would bring about joy. Peter echos this sentiment in his letter:
“These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, 9 for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1.7-9)
Peter and James found their source of joy in the trials they suffered. These two knew about suffering. Both would die a martyrs death. Both would face beatings and persecutions. Both would counsel people through the same things. They knew that if you wanted the prize you were going to bear the scars. This was joy. Dostoyevsky once said: “One thing I fear is not to be worthy of my sufferings.” Their joy came in the suffering in the same manner as Jesus.
But what about Jesus? He didn’t need the grace that Paul was given and his sufferings were unlike any other. It was his pattern that the other’s followed. So where was Jesus’ joy found? The Gospels don’t reveal it. None of the epistles of Paul reveal it. The only verse that touches upon it is found in Hebrews 12:2, in context it reads:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12.1-3)
The author of Hebrews encourages the Church to continue its run, not only because of those that have gone on before us and are cheering us on, but because that’s what Jesus did. Still the question remains, what gave Jesus his joy? Verse 2 tells us it was his death, resurrection, and ascension. The process is called redemption. Paul was joyful for the grace showed him, James for the sharing of suffering patterned for him, but Jesus was brought joy in the redemption he brought others. Despite the coconut!
A man spent years working in a factory as a mechanic. He was the best in the organization to ever turn a wrench. When he retired, they had a tough time replacing his years of experience. They found guys todo the job and managed to get by. One day, they came across a problem that they thought was unsolvable. They had to call up their retired mechanic for knowledge. After looking over the machine, he marked an “x” with chalk on the part needing repair.
The next day the machine was fixed and they received a bill from the old man. It was a $5,000 bill for 1 minute of work. The factory refused to pay until it was itemized. The next day they received an itemized bill that read:
—$1 chalk mark
—$4,999 knowing where to put it!
The old man had a practical knowledge of the machine which led him to success in his trade. In the study of Proverbs, practicality has been the driving force. Proverbs is all about living life well. The purpose of the book is for attaining wisdom (1.1-2). As noted in the previous 2 posts, Wisdom takes on personhood in chapter 8. The discussion has been about finding the identity of this Wisdom character. To recap, Wisdom:
- 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. (30)
- By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord. (35)
Standing at the decision point of the identity of Wisdom, the Gospel writer John is a key witness. He begins his book in this way:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.
John uses “Word” as a title for Jesus in this passage. With that being said, look through the list of attributes the John gives the Word:
- He was there in the beginning.
- He was with God.
- He was God.
- Through him all things were made.
- Life was in him.
If attention is turned back to Proverbs, the connection is easily made. The first statement, that of personhood, is implied by John attributing a name to Word, so consider the second statement: “Wisdom was acquired from God, installed from eternity, and in a intimate relationship with Him.” John 1 certainly affirms that statement. The Word “was” and “with” God “in the beginning”. (1.1) Genesis 1.1 would add that God “spoke” into existence the cosmos. He gave the directive for creation. Elsewhere, John would add that he doesn’t follow his own will, but differs to the will of the Father (John 5.30; 6.38; 8.28).
The third statement from Proverbs, “Wisdom was with God during creation” is clearly defended by John 1.1 so warrants no further discussion.
The fourth, “Wisdom is the master Craftsman of creation. He is the hands that would do the building” is attested too in verse 3 of John 1: “Through Him all things where made.” As discussed earlier Jesus was there at creation. I like to think of it this way. God the Father was the General Contractor. The Holy Spirit hovering over the waters was the creativity and designer, but Jesus the Son was responsible for putting the “x” down. He was the one hammering nails, pouring the concrete, building the univers with the night of his muscle and the sweat of his brow. He was the master craftsman. You think it was a coincidence that before his three year ministry that he spent 20 as a carpenter. It’s hard to find the same kind and amount of experience in a pile resumes. Jesus was not only the word being spoken to create, he was the ability and skill, the heavy lifting to do it.
Statement Five: “By seeking and finding Wisdom, we get life and acceptance to the Lord”. John tells the story of a paralyzed man at a pool. He had been there for 38 years wanting to get into the pool and be healed. Jesus heals him and then warns him of worse things to come should sin reign in his life. (John 5.14) Then Jesus changes the topic to “eternal life” in his next discussion about this ordea. Jesus says: “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life…” (John 5.24) Jesus makes it clear: just because you’re walking around doesn’t mean your living. For Matthew, Mark, and Luke, eternal life is living forever in Heaven; but for John eternal life happens now! Whoever hears and believes HAS eternal life. It is not a quantity of life but a quality of life. It’s not forever life but a for real life! Proverbs makes it clear: if you attain wisdom you will have life. Proverbs is about living the best kind of life as that life is only attained through Wisdom.
Jesus came into this world and got his hands dirty. Jesus was sent into our world because that is where God’s knowledge took action; that is Wisdom!
If Proverbs really is all about practicality and living the best life, then the Wisdom Character must be Jesus. Solomon the author of Proverbs makes it clear that we Cain attain every thing else, wealth , fame, fortune, but if we miss Jesus, if we fail to gain Jesus, then we miss the point! Jesus really is the only way to live the life that Proverbs lays out as wise and Godly. It is as if he was reading 1 Corinthians 1.30: “It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.”
If 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…
Practicality 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 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. 7 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.
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.
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.