pursuing, being attentive to, and following the wisdom of Proverbs

The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

for gaining wisdom and instruction;
    for understanding words of insight;
for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
    doing what is right and just and fair;
for giving prudence to those who are simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the young—
let the wise listen and add to their learning,
    and let the discerning get guidance—
for understanding proverbs and parables,
    the sayings and riddles of the wise.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1

I am going through the book of Proverbs right now in my slow ponderings. And I am reminded of a number of things. But I begin with the fact that when we read the Bible, we have to read it first of all in its original context as best we can. That may be limited, though we can get some good helps. But we have to remember it was written at a specific time in a specific cultural context. But if we read it no other way at all, then we have to read it from the context of all of scripture, and especially of Jesus, considering his fulfillment of it all. In Christ we are told are hidden all the treasures of wisdom (Colossians).

But back to the book of Proverbs itself, if we need to err in any way, we need to really seek to take to heart all it has to say. We don’t do everything literally, but the essence or point of every saying, or thought, what it’s getting at, the underlying principle one might say, we do want to understand, and seek to hold on to it for dear life. It is a matter of life and death, but too often we drift away from that, since we either think we know better, or we don’t take it seriously enough.

Proverbs helps us both explicitly and implicitly in giving us direct specific instruction and in helping us have discernment in areas in which it doesn’t directly speak. Proverbs helps inculcate in us a capacity for learning and implementing wisdom for life.

And of course this wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. We don’t trifle with God. God is love, and God is God. That sense of fear has to do with respect which becomes awe for pursuers of God, and dread for those who fail to pursue him. And that is all by grace in and through our Lord Jesus.

Read Proverbs slowly. The best reading is slow reading, I think. We need to let it soak into our bones, into our heart, and out from that, into our very lives day after day. An essential part of our growth in and through our Lord Jesus.

flashes of insight

There are times when some needed light of truth flashes into our consciousness to help us see something we either didn’t see well before, or see at all. And such insight occurs in the context of life to help us live well in the way of Jesus.

Surely God grants such to all of humankind, but especially so to those who have the indwelling Holy Spirit through faith in Christ. And it’s a reminder of not only the light we can receive, but the darkness in which we can dwell. Although for the believer, the follower of Jesus, there’s is not complete darkness, unless one is referring to “the dark night of the soul,” there are often needed insights we have yet to receive by hearing and understanding, or simply seeing. We certainly can receive them by word of mouth from others in witness and teaching, and especially from scripture reading and prayer. And some insight may seem to dawn on us simply out of the blue. If from God it will be supported by scripture, in fact it will be a staple of scripture in some way, either in precept, or as part of scripture’s theme.

When we do receive such, we need to hold on to it, and really meditate on it, prayerfully thinking it through, and hopefully letting its truth sink into our bones, into our very lives to change us. And we need to test such insights by running them past others, and especially by thinking of them in the context of scripture. It is the Spirit who gives insight. Therefore it’s an insight from God and a gift, something we need to hold on to and cultivate and make our very own. In the truth as it is in Jesus.

for Epiphany season: Jesus giving sight to us who are blind

As Jesus and his disciples were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. Two blind men were sitting by the roadside, and when they heard that Jesus was going by, they shouted, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

The crowd rebuked them and told them to be quiet, but they shouted all the louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Jesus stopped and called them. “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.

“Lord,” they answered, “we want our sight.”

Jesus had compassion on them and touched their eyes. Immediately they received their sight and followed him.

Matthew 20:29-34

According to scripture, we are all blind as far as the light of God and of God’s will is concerned. We can’t not only see straight; we can’t see at all, blinded by our sin, as well as limited in our creaturely perspective. By God’s grace, we can receive glimpses of this light, by which we are to live even beginning now, the eternal life of the new creation in Jesus.

The above account in scripture is one instance of many when Jesus opened the eyes of the blind. Such are signs of what God wants to do, which while certainly including the physical side, gives us, as it gave them, a new awareness and insight spiritually. And through that light, like the previously blind men of old, we seek to follow.

the Spirit’s insight

The Spirit of God knows and reveals the depths of God. And the Spirit gives us insight into others, so that we might better minister to their true need.

Of course this is all in line with scripture, God’s written word. None of this excludes our need to work hard at doing our best to handle accurately the word of truth, which is a big topic by itself. The Spirit will help us in that as well, but such help does not exclude serious attention on our part given to the work we must do to understand the word. In the end, the Spirit gives us the insight from the word to apply to our own lives first of all, as well as to the lives of those we seek to serve in the ministry of God’s word.

While the Spirit gives us insight to help people, similar to what has been said about the word, this does not exclude our need to get to know the people. That we spend time with them, and are committed to them. We need to understand something of the nature of their particular situation, to get a sense of where they live. As we make that effort, the Spirit can help us.

In all of this, we need to consciously and consistently seek the help of the Spirit of God. Sometimes that help comes in ways that we can hardly tell until perhaps afterward. But we will sense the help of the Spirit at times as well. Helping us to better apply God’s word to the people’s situation. We need to keep our contact with them going, along with our contact with the word, and with the Spirit of God.

Together in Jesus we do our part in this for each other and ultimately for the world.

imagination

Imagination seems controversial in some circles among evangelical Christians. Granted that Jesus nowhere tells his disciples to sit down and close their eyes, and use their imagination. We don’t read that elsewhere, though I think some of the gifts of the Spirit involve one being open to hear a word, or see a picture from God, looking to God for its interpretation, or meaning.

If we’re thinking of our own imaginations, then yes, that spells trouble. Scripture warns in the Old Testament of prophets who spoke out of their own imaginations, rather than from the Lord. But if God awakens our imagination through his word, and by the Spirit, to think of how something might be, I think that is entirely different.

The vision we have should be something of shalom, and according to God’s revelation given to us in scripture and realized in Jesus. What we imagine for a given situation may not work out that way, but it might surely have an impact on it. In ways we can’t see or imagine.

Of course we should never pretend to have the full picture, or even the right one. What we do have may come in part from our own imaginations. Enter the problem of those who are learning to prophesy, to really hear from God by the Spirit, to speak words into a given situation. There was even a school of the prophets in the Old Testament, I think during Elisha’s time, at least. People surely learning to hear from God so as to be able to speak God’s word. Prophecy in the New Testament is related though a bit different. But enough on that.

Actually I don’t think our human imagination is necessarily evil in and of itself if we submit it to God and to his word. Our own imagination since we are sinners can indeed be evil or skewed, but in Jesus, it would seem that imagination as part of our redeemed humanity can be a tool to help us see another possibility of how life could be in God’s will in Jesus, in a difficult situation.

When we read God’s promises in scripture, we need to be in prayer, asking God for insight as to what their application might be. And we need vision as to how this could bring change. And at least quite often some of the significant change will be in us, in own hearts, and out from that in our lives and actions.

Yes, an imagination in regard to a given situation, but also in regard to the bigger picture in some scenario. We seek to imagine from God God’s will for the here and now. A will we’re to live out together in Jesus in and for the world.