ABC Extra – Wising Up with Christ

July 4, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment

This past weekend in worship and ABC, we kicked off our summer message series called “Wise Up!  Lessons from Proverbs.”  The purpose of Proverbs is explicitly laid out for us in its prologue:  “To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight” (Proverbs 1:2).  The book of Proverbs was written so that we may read them, apply them, and so be wise.  Of course, we do not always apply the Proverbs as we should.  Even Solomon, the author of the bulk of this book, did not always follow his own advice.  Solomon sings:  “Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” (Proverbs 5:18-19).  Later in his kingship, however, we read about how “King Solomon loved many foreign women…from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, ‘You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.’ Solomon clung to these in love” (1 Kings 11:1-2).  Solomon did not remain satisfied with the wife of his youth.  And the result was apostasy:  “When Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (1 Kings 11:4).  Thus, Proverbs ought to call Solomon – and all of us – to repentance.  For none of us completely heeds its call to wise living.

Interestingly, at the same time Proverbs reveals to us our shortcomings, it also introduces us to one who is perfectly wise.  Indeed, this person seems to be the very personification of wisdom.   This person says:

I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion…The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His work, the first of His acts of old.  Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth…When He established the heavens, I was there; when He drew a circle on the face of the deep, when He made the firm skies above, when He established the fountains of the deep, when He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside Him, like a master workman. (Proverbs 8:12, 22-23, 27-30)

This person named Wisdom is as ancient as God Himself.  He was with God even as He laid the foundations of the earth.  Who is this perfect personification of wisdom?  The evangelist John gives us a clue:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1-2).  This incarnation of wisdom is none other than Jesus.  He is wisdom personified and exemplified.  The apostle Paul explains it this way:  “Christ Jesus became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30).

A famous theologian of the Lutheran Church, Horace Hummel, offers one of my favorite definitions of wisdom.  He describes wisdom as “the ability to cope.”  I like this definition a lot, partly because there is a whole genre of biblical literature known as “wisdom literature.”  This genre includes Proverbs, of course, but also books like Job and many of the Psalms.  Especially in the case of Job, Hummel’s definition of wisdom proves to be spot on.  For Job had to cope with tragedies and terrors on every side as his life fell apart around him.  And yet, through it all, he coped and hoped in God.  And at the end, He got to see God.  I finally appreciate this definition of wisdom because Jesus is its supreme embodiment.  For when we act in unwise ways – when we sin – Jesus, as wisdom personified – “copes” with our sin through His cross.  He takes us foolish sinners and saves us.  By His Spirit, He then gives us the capability to cope with the trials and tests we face with wisdom that comes from God and with wisdom that finally is God.  For we cope with this broken world with Christ by our side.  I thank God He is kind enough to share the wisdom who is His Son with a fool like me.

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