My heart became hot within me. As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue: "O Lord, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!"

26 October 2006

Lessons in Proverbs - 2

#2 - Proverbs is here because I'm not wise

Why did God see fit to put this book in the Bible? On the surface, so much seems so plain, pedestrian, ordinary. Even commonsensical. Well, that's kind of the point. This is ordinary and common-sense stuff - but it's here because I'm not so full of common sense or wisdom as I'd like to think. God put Proverbs in the Bible and He jammed it full of ordinary wisdom because I need it. Especially me. And especially others included in the Biblical category of young men. This is our book, but don't cheer and pat yourselves on the back. It's ours because of the inherent, automatic foolishness born and bred into us.

Sometimes, because we forget what Christ told us about the law of God, we tend to think we're doing all right. "I haven't killed anyone today and my Sabbath-keeping is above par." And here comes Proverbs, slowly and methodically revealing how the law of God can be, indeed must be, applied, pressed into every corner of life. The mere presence of this book in Scripture is humiliating. Humiliating in a good way. It gets our heads out of the theological clouds and forces us to reconcile Christ's life in us with things like sleeping and eating and speaking. We who would much rather discuss theology and culture and philosophy, Proverbs grounds us in Christ in the most practical of ways.

Other times, like the Hawkeyes looking over the helmets of the Hoosiers, we neglect to take the enemy seriously. We keep our eyes on the big temptations, we memorize the ten commandments and know answers to the false cults of our day. And foolishness slips in the door unnoticed. Proverbs is in the Bible because I need help against the temptation of foolishness. I need Jesus all the time. Proverbs tells me that.

But Proverbs, by its lonesome, isn't enough. John Bunyan said "
It is possible to learn all about the mysteries of the Bible and never be affected by it in one’s soul. Great knowledge is not enough." Proverbs is part of how the Spirit masters foolishness in my mind and life. But apart from the Spirit, regardless of how many Proverbs I have in my mental rolodex, I will achieve nothing but superficial smarminess. This is why James calls real wisdom "the wisdom from above" (Jas. 3:17); it has to come from God, it has to be given because it can never be merely earned or procured by hard work.

So the presence of the book of Proverbs is humiliating. But how sweet it is to be humiliated unto Christ, to be reminded that I need Him and His Spirit to speak the right way, to vacuum a carpet the right way. And to be driven to prayer, pleading with the Father to grant the wisdom that sin has driven so far from me.

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