Lecture 6: Proverbs 2
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Lecture: Safeguards against the Wicked
I. Review Summary – This is From the First Lesson of the Parents
A. Scared Hermeneutics and Lectio Diniva
We have already been through the Scared Hermeneutics and the Lectio Diniva which is made up of four parts: Lectio – reading the Bible; Meditatio – meditating on the Word; Oratio – praying or being in a state of prayer and Contemplatio – being in the presence of God. It is becoming porous so the Spirit of what was taught becomes part of our personality. This is where the spiritual life and exegesis kiss one another and need one another. We looked at the Superscript in Lecture 2 where it talked about the nature of Wisdom Literature and what it was. We looked at what were proverbs and also the author, Solomon and noted that there were a number of authors after the time of Solomon. There was a final author of which we don’t know. We don’t know the date in which these proverbs came together, most likely post exile. Then we looked at the Preamble in 1:3-6. The purpose of the book is to gain wisdom and the different between that and knowledge; even though wisdom can’t be separated from knowledge but without knowledge you don’t have expert skill. Proverbs is also concerned about social skills that relate to God and to people. We need the knowledge of the Book of Proverbs that gives us that skill. We have also commented on co-referential terms and how that is different from synonymous terms. The word wisdom is morally neutral. The devil uses wisdom toward evil, but you can also use skills toward good and so co-relative term that is inseparable from wisdom which is righteousness. And righteousness is serving the community according to the Word of God. This is all in the preamble.
B. Fear of the Lord
The key to the book is the Fear of the Lord and it is objective revelation and it was a colocation and studied as such. Wherever you have the Fear of the Lord, you have objective revelation. So he says, ‘my son, accept my words and you will find the fear of the Lord.’ And we saw this was a synonym for the law and statutes and commands of the Lord. We saw in Proverbs 22:4, he equates humility with the Fear of the Lord. So humility means to be broken, accepting and being humble and emptied of pride and therefore he can be filled with the objective revelation of God. And you do that because you believe in God seriously. You believe his promises are true and so you trust him. You believe that his threats are real and so you fear him; but the root of the Fear of the Lord is trust, because you believe he is and he says what he means and he means what he says. The ethics of Proverbs is justice defined as punishing the oppressive and delivering the oppressed, the weak and the poor. We defended that the church should be in this sort of activity in order to establish politically justice in our country against the tyranny and bribery and delivering the oppressed at the same time. Thus, this will lead to an enduring Kingdom. But all this has to be done with integrity.
C. The First Collection
We’ve looked at the first collection in 1:8-19 as having two parts. It is a contest between the traditional parents passing on to the next generation of the values of the covenant community as represented in the Book of Proverbs. He pleads with the son to adhere to it which would lead to the triumph over evil and security in death with a symbolism of a crown of victory over evil and a necklace which symbolized security into death. This is in contrast to the inherited tradition where you have freedom but within form, within structure. You have lovemaking within marriage and with responsibility. The development of character is working hard to provide for you and your family. Proverbs is a book that develops character and work with an income which develops character and endurance.
D. The First Interlude
Then we had the first interlude where woman wisdom is at the gate of the city addressing the simpleton, specifically the youth of marriageable age of which there are two groups: those who are open, never having made a commitment. They have made a decision to despise the wisdom of their parents. They are not mockers but not committed yet they are classed with the fools. She is appealing at the gate to the opened non-committed before they enter the city. Because once they enter the city, it is dangerous where they meet the wicked man who will offer easy money without hard work by taking it from other people, one way or another of which the world is all about. They will also meet easy sex within the city without the commitment and responsibility of marriage. She appeals to the youth to make that decision but in this particular case, in this sermon, it is assumed that this has been happening for an extended period of time, but cannot continue much longer. This is a moment of decision but is presented from the view point that they have rejected that wisdom and as a result evil will come upon them. This is a disaster that you cannot recover from, a final disaster with no second chance. Whereas when we sin (Proverbs 28:13), if we confess and renounce sin, we obtain mercy. But at this point there is no second chance. It is a final death. It gives significance to our choices in this life because the things that we choose impact all eternity. We have decided our eternal future now and that is awesome. This is the reality of life and it gives great dignity to life. And if there were a second chance, our present lives would be a trial run and it would lose it significance. The youth is almost like a pre-game and once you reach your adulthood, it is no longer a game.
E. Woman Wisdom
We have also discussed who woman wisdom was. There is some debate on this, with some saying that it is a fixed order where it is a concept of cause and consequence. It involves a search for a nexus, this order that has been established between what you do and how its effects your life. Certainly there is a fixed order, but is not our search for it but rather an acceptance of the revelation of what it really is? It is God’s revelation; it is the Fear of the Lord that you accept by faith because you believe that he has revealed it. But without faith, it is impossible to please God. Note that wisdom has a beginning from chapter 8, it is not eternal. Wisdom was brought forth before any of us were. But it is assumed that it is something that came into being in primordial time, in the way it is represented. So this is a problem with identifying wisdom with Jesus Christ because Wisdom is not represented as eternal, it was begotten but not eternally begotten. Jesus was eternally begotten of God; it also shows that Wisdom had a beginning whereas Christ has no beginning. This is a literary fiction where wisdom finds expression within the Proverbs. She is in the home, in the market place and is willing to be humbled. This is represented with a political order and activity to make fools aware of the trues within this book. And she in her humility stoops down to that and she is trampled underfoot. This is why we don’t do this; we don’t like to get dirty in the market place or like being rejected and humbled. We would rather be accepted by people, liked by people than to be rejected by people. Yet Woman Wisdom and Christ were willing to be humbled and rejected with Christ rejected to death. So Wisdom is a representation of Solomon’s teaching and it existed before anything else. God had wisdom and the design of the universe ahead of time and he brought it all into existence into an order that he had in mind of how it would work; a spiritual order.
II. The Second Lesson of the Parents Continued
- My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you--
- by making your ear attentive to wisdom you will apply your heart to understanding--
- indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding,
- and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure,
- then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God.
- For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
- He holds success in store for the upright; he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
- for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
- Then you will understand what is right and just and fair--every good path.
- For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
- Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.
- Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men, from men whose words are perverse,
- who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways?
- who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
- whose paths are crooked and who are devious in their ways.
- Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman, from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
- who has left the partner of her youth and ignored the covenant she made before God.
- Surely her house leads down to death and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
- None who go to her return or attain the paths of life.
- Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.
- For the upright will live in the land, and the blameless will remain in it;
- but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the unfaithful will be torn from it.
A. Hebraic Alphabetic Poem
This was in chapter 2, a Hebraic alphabetic poem, being twenty two letters in the Hebrew alphabet and the lesson had twenty two verses. Each verse begins with the correct letter to the Hebrew alphabet with the sounds. These you cannot translate. The first letter is an Aleph with what is called a stop between the ‘a’ and the l in aleph. This is done in a way that helps a Hebrew person to memorize the material. There are a number of poems in the Bible having these characteristics and structure. It is not an acrostic (a composition usually in verse in which sets of letters as in the initial or final letters of the lines are taken in order to form a word or phrase or a regular sequence of letters of the alphabet). In 2:5b the result of looking for knowledge, you will find it. It’s not knowledge about but knowing it. So you don’t know until you experience it. It’s like riding a bike; you can know about it and read about it but you need to experience to fully understand how the bike works. The key to the Book is the Fear of the Lord and how do you get this. You see in 2:5, and then you will understand the fear of the Lord. Not only does it promise that you will know God but you will understand and enter into the Fear of the Lord, but you will also achieve the objective of the book where it talks about prudence in doing what is right and just and fair. This is the objective. You see this in 2:9 that you will understand what is right and just and fair. The poem is picking up the preamble, the key to the book, the Fear of the Lord; the purpose of the book is to know what is right, just and fair. This chapter is telling us how to achieve the fundamentals of the preamble.
B. Godly Character
There are eleven verses in the first half and eleven verses in the second half. One of the halves deals with a cause and effect and the other half deals with the Godly character. The second half deals with the defense of the Godly character against the wicked man and woman. It is giving you the character which you can stand up against in the city. So you have the production and the product and development and the definition along with the root and the fruit. Furthermore the eleven verses in each half fall into stanzas of four verses, four verses and three verses; and then four verses, four verses and three verses. The first four verses are the conditions and then the receipt of a religious education and then an ethical education. Those first four verses are conditions emphasized with the word ‘if’ in all four verses. The consequence comes in verse five or the religious education. This is the foundation of truth in theology of how to know God. After these eleven verses you will understand what is right, just and fair. The theological education is the basis to the ethical education because religion and ethics cannot be separated. Note that your world view determines your value system so naturally religious education comes before ethical education. They are inseparable. Interestingly within culture and more specifically the generation before me, my public school teachers held the Christian values and the Christian ethics was assumed but Christian theology was not assumed. We never learned about the resurrection or doctrine but instead we learned how to live the Christian life. So we had the ethics but not the foundation. My generation which had the shadow and ethics of Christianity, but we didn’t have the reality and substance of Christianity. It was a shadow generation but this shadow could not produce a shadow. It could not pass on the ethics because it had no substance. We had that great sexual revolution, a very traumatic time in American culture in the 1960s of the Beatles, great music changes and moral changes because there was no longer a foundation for the Christian ethic.
So you have the development of Christian character and the conditions and then you have education and the second half of the poem you have the same style reappear with four verses, four verses and three verses. You will be delivered from wicked men in verse 12, ‘wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men.’ Note that the word wisdom here is not in the Hebrew text and also that this poem is one long sentence with no breaks anywhere. It says all of this to deliver you, to save you. This is to save you; it is not wisdom that is doing the saving, but this is the result and purpose of it. That is then developed in four verses: ‘who have left the straight paths to walk in dark ways, those who delight in doing wrong and rejoice in the perverseness of evil, whose paths are cooked and who are devious in their ways.’ Then in verse 16, Wisdom is added in the NIV but it is to save you from the adulterous woman. If you are delivered, you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous for the upright will live in the land and the blameless will remain in it, but the wicked will be cut off from the land and the unfaithful will be torn from it. To accept these words has to do with being supernatural; it must be by faith, personally which requires a gift of God. It is something that God works in the hearts of those who are open to receive it. The acceptance is the whole realm between life and death; a decision has to be made. The simpleton doesn’t accept it. He is not rejecting it but neither does he accept it.
C. An inter-positional juxtaposition of thought
Note that the Proverbs do not begin until chapter 10 where you get the 375 proverbs. So a third of the book is in regards to collection one. If you accept my words which are of chapter 10:1 and following! That is where the teaching is and they are not just the expression of reality and the commands are not neutral; they demand a response. You either obey or you disobey. And storing up is metaphorical language. It is an inter-positional juxtaposition of thought; so store up is something physical whereas commands are not physical; they are words and they are spiritual. When you do something physical with something that is not physical, you know that you are dealing with a figure of speech. You are joining sematic realms that don’t belong together; for example, cause me to hear joy and gladness; how to do you hear joy; how do you hear emotions? So what he means is hearing the words of forgiveness that will bring me joy and gladness. Another example: in the Lord is my shepherd, you are dealing with God on the one hand and then animal husbandry on the other and they normally don’t go together; thus you know you are dealing with a metaphor. So how can you store up commands; to do something physical with something that is not physical? It isn’t enough to say that it is a metaphor; we have to translate it into action. So storing it up has to mean the act of memorizing it. And just think about how the apostles, especially Paul could pull out obscure verses from the Old Testament. The Rabbis were amazed at this but they could contend with them in regards to inter testament material. They could pick up the Old Testament just like the Rabbis even though they weren’t educated. This is part of the inspiration of God. This is example to us of storing it up and without experience we lose out. In storing them up, you have to do so spiritually and humbly in humility; something you treasure, something you value.
After the conversion Emperor Constantine with Eusebius writing on the life of Constantine; he tells us that many of the early Christians were slaves and they met on Saturday night. They didn’t have manuscripts as such but spent two hours of the service simply reading what they had and by listening and would stand during this time. Constantine said one time that it was wickedness to give negative ears when the Word of God was being read. He had the phycology of a King. If the King gives you a command and you are gathering wool, it’s a form of rebellion and disrespect. It is dangerous to go to church and not pay attention because you will not be able to carry out the Word of God. You are not taking it seriously. Murdock says that moral change comes from an attention to the world whose natural resolve is a decrease in egoism through an increased sense of reality of someone or something. That change of being is not brought about by straining and will power but by long slow process of a lack of selfishness. Most of us are focused on ourselves, yet if we pay attention to the Word of God, we become defocused from ourselves and refocused on something else and thus being changed. By making yourself attentive to Wisdom, you will apply your heart and thus change can take place. There is interplay here between the ear and the heart and the will. The Egyptians said that the hearing heart comes first so it puts the ear before the heart. But this is a theological dynamic relationship that must go on and the disposition of the heart is primary. This also presents a difference between Calvinist and Armenian theology. Armenian theology will put the ear first while the Calvinist theology will put the heart first.
D. The Conditions
So the first condition is that you accept; the second condition requires you to store the Word of God up. The Third condition requires that you pay attention to what is being said and the fourth and final condition requires you to cry out. So, like woman wisdom of calling out, if you call out for insight, it will be in response. Both of you will be calling to each other. I think that it has to be in a state of prayer that one calls out here. In James 1:5, it says, ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding faults, and it will be given to you.’ Wisdom here doesn’t mean guidance; it is far more profound than just guidance. We need to pray for wisdom. In James 3:13-16, it talks about two kinds of wisdom, ‘Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.’
The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peace loving, considerate, full of mercy, good fruit, impartial and sincere. It isn’t a how to, it is being. It should be characteristic of you of peace loving and showing submissiveness. Wisdom is more character based. The prayer is more for God to change our character rather than a direct answer to something we want to do or not do. James is talking about wisdom as defined in the Book of Proverbs. Note a student from the class asks a question; what does the word Peti mean again? It means open and thus not committed, being a simpleton. Prayer is focused attention and unmixed desire and this relates with paying attention. It is absolute attention given to an object where you ae clearly focused. Note that any study without relationship could lead you away from God, but the study of God, crying out for him to talk to you and change you will bring you closer to God. Prayer is required in crying out to God; it prepares your heart to receive the things of God. The condition to seek in verse 4; if you look for it and search for it, but how do you search for a word? This is metaphorical language; so what does that mean? To me, it means to do exegesis, to study. The searching is done because there is value in it. This is similar to Jesus in regards to the merchant who found a pearl of great price, but of course today, they are not that expensive since now they produce them artificially. In the day of Jesus, Pearls were extremely expensive. A comment from Erasmus, ‘I could speak it by experience says a wise man that there is little good to be gotten by reading the Bible, personally. But do it daily and diligently with attention and affection and you shall find such efficacy which cannot be found in any other book that could be named.
The consequences in verse 5; then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. Now you get this substantiation, the summary statement is that you will understand and the substantiation is that the LORD gives wisdom and from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. So here the parent becomes the mouth of God. Its authorship is God and therefore you will know God and fear God because it is revelation from God. And then comes the safeguard in verse 8; and he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones. He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless and protects the way of his faithful ones. So substantiation is because the wisdom is coming from God’s mouth and therefore he stands behind it. He will guard you and protect you. My faith comes from God, not from Proverbs, yet God gave us proverbs. This is neither bibiology. I don’t worship the Bible but the God who gave me the Bible. Note the ending parallelism in verse 9, then you will understand what is right and just and fair – every good path. Wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul and discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you. So you have a summary statement on religious education in verse 6, then an ethical education. After this you will understand what is right. You see that you understand, understand and that carries through. There is substantiation in verses 6 and 10; for the Lord gives wisdom, from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding. Now what happens? That wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. So the Lord who gave wisdom and knowledge and now it is in your heart and so you now know God.