Surveying the Text: Proverbs

Introduction:

The book of Proverbs contains more teaching about women than any other book of Scripture. The structure of the book means that it is all about women, and many of the individual proverbs which seem unrelated are actually not at all unrelated. Woman is the glory of man, the capstone of man. She is the best. Woman ruined is hell-bait. She is the worst.

The Text:

“Wisdom hath builded her house, She hath hewn out her seven pillars: She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; She hath also furnished her table. She hath sent forth her maidens: She crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: As for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him” (Prov. 9:1–4).

“A foolish woman is clamorous: She is simple, and knoweth nothing. For she sitteth at the door of her house, On a seat in the high places of the city, To call passengers Who go right on their ways: Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: And as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, And bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (Prov. 9:13–17).

Summary of the Text:

In the book of proverbs, two different kinds of women are giving invitations to come and taste, come and eat. One is Lady Wisdom, a noble lady presiding over a great table in a great banqueting hall. The other is Dame Folly, blouse unbuttoned, enticing the simpletons. The drastic difference in the nature of these invitations sets up the conflict that is pervasive throughout the entire book of Proverbs—the conflict between wisdom and folly as they relate to every imaginable detail of life. These two women are everywhere.

Unspeakable Joy and Fullness of Glory

We have not yet seen Jesus Christ in the body, and through the grace of God, this is a great blessing and glory for us. While that fact has led many into a ho-hum profession of the Christian faith, cruising along on autopilot, that is not how the Spirit intends to use the fact that we have not seen Jesus Christ. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory:” (1 Peter 1:8). God wants the fact that we have not seen Jesus with our eyes to be something that faith lifts up into unspeakable joy and fullness of glory.

Ineffable joy is therefore something that is part of normal Christian living. It should be part of the baseline. This is not an over-inflamed condition of uber-saints; these are words written to ordinary Christians such as yourselves. “Joy unspeakable and full of glory” is not a private reserve for mystics.

And this is what enables you, as you have gathered together in this way, coming to the Table of the Lord with that unspeakable joy, to then discern the body of the Lord Jesus in your brothers and sisters all around you. Just a few verses down, Peter says this: “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:22–23).

When there is an unfeigned love for the brethren, when we love one another from the heart fervently, this is the Spirit’s seal upon us. It means that our joy unspeakable is not a sham, not a front, not a super-spiritual substitute for actually loving other people.

You have not seen Jesus Christ—joy unspeakable, full of glory. You have seen Jesus Christ in your brothers and sisters—unfeigned love, fervent love.

So come, and welcome, to Jesus Christ.

Feasting With Strife

As we pay attention to our Christian lives, as we ought to do, we have a tendency to focus on the things we do or have done, as though the whole thing were a matter of bookkeeping in a ledger, instead of taking our actions as indicators or “tells” of what we are turning into. We are either growing up into the perfect man, the Lord Jesus, or we are growing in a slow spiral toward some tragic and very lonesome finality. But the mercy, or the justice, as the case may be, are examples of transformation, not examples of an arbitrary sentencing falling on very similar creatures.

When congregations build church buildings, this is either a testimony or a mask. It is either a declaration of what we are all becoming in Jesus Christ, or it is an attempt to substitute with blocks of stone what God will only receive from tender hearts.

If the latter is the case, it would be far better to forgo building altogether, and just concentrate of getting our hearts right. Neither do we want to be okay with God at the start but have the challenges of building become a point of stumbling. We know how it is possible for someone to be so frazzled by wedding prep that they are in no spiritual shape to enjoy the wedding. Or a woman preparing a celebratory meal to be so overwhelmed by the work that something quite distinct from celebration is being prepared in her heart.

Scripture says this: “Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices with strife” (Prov. 17:1). In the same way, it would be far better to worship in a gym forever than to build a glorious building that functioned as a wrecking ball for the actual spiritual building, the one made out of living stones.

Fortunately, it is not necessary to choose. But we should always know, if we had to choose, what that choice would be.

So let the stones cry out.

The Devil’s Substitute for Love

“Too often, in too many congregations, unity is purchased by the world’s means — suppression of information, deceitful flattery, niceness, and subterfuge — rather than through the Christ-appointed means of speaking the truth in love” (Willimon, Proclamation and Theology, p. 30).

Basic Principles in Financing the Kingdom

We all know what the uh oh point is in various situations. The person you thought might be a new good friend invites you over for a business opportunity presentation. Uh oh. The church gets in a financial jam and “stewardship Sunday” seems to come round more and more frequently. Uh oh. But the point of writing about finances is not so that we would be able to accomplish what we have undertaken, but rather so that we would do it right. “But [the Israelites] lusted exceedingly in the wilderness, and tested God in the desert. And He gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul” (Ps. 106:14-15).

“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (2 Chron. 16:9).

In the context, Asa the king had been rebuked for his “political realism.” He had relied on the king of Syria when the Lord had previously shown that He was able to save apart from such fleshly support. Because of this folly, the Lord promised Asa the trouble of wars. Asa then compounded his sin by refusing to accept the rebuke.

So God’s eyes run to and fro through the entire earth. God is omniscient. He knows everything, and as this figure of speech shows, He knows everything actively. He does not simply register the information—He seeks it out, He knows everything because He has sought out everything. He is our Father, not an impersonal computer with all knowledge passively resident in His memory. He knows. God’s omniscience does not simply mean that He could successfully answer any question put to Him— pass any test. Rather it means that He immediately knows all things regardless of whether we pose the question.

This is the God who intervenes in our lives. God delights to manifest His strength in the earth. His omnipotence is not a closely guarded heavenly secret. His interventions are on behalf of some people, and not others. Some churches are blessed, and others not, based upon God’s actions, which in turn are fully consistent with His infinite and inexhaustible knowledge.

He does what He does on the basis of heart loyalty. Why blessings in this place, and not in that place? His knowledge is perfect—there is no nook or cranny in the universe in which God and all His knowledge is not fully present. Because we have material bodies, extended in space, there are parts of us (i.e. our feet) which are quite ignorant. But God is not like this; He is omnipresent, and everywhere He is, all His knowledge resides. These doctrines do not mean you must always reckon with at least a part of God. No man ever reckoned with anything less than His full and triune majesty. This is the God who intervenes in our lives on the basis of heart loyalty.

So what does this have to do with financial basics?

By Saying “Boo!” For Example

“Jesus tells us to rejoice when we are slandered, because, He says, our reward is great in Heaven. But there is another reason to rejoice. There are many times, particularly with the issues that swirl around in our culture wars, when these slanders arise, not from our enemy’s malice, but from their fears. Instead of being indignant, we should think about how we can use that sort of thing” (Rules, p. 49).