Drinking Deeply

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 at 12:07 AM

Proverbs 1:Wisdom's Call(1)

The whole "manhood" stuff has kind of inspired me to think "where else can I find insight into how to be a man of God?" While it has been fruitful to think about and meditate upon the passages that have come to mind, I must freely confess that through this process I will not grow as much as I ought. After all, I only know so much about Scripture, and what I'm doing is more recall than learning.

Take that as an encouragement for expository preaching if you will.

Proverbs 1
1The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

2To know wisdom and instruction,
to understand words of insight,
3to receive instruction in wise dealing,
in righteousness, justice, and equity;
4to give prudence to the simple,
knowledge and discretion to the youth--
5Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
and the one who understands obtain guidance,
6to understand a proverb and a saying,
the words of the wise and their riddles.

7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Here we have it, the introduction to the whole book of Proverbs. What is the book for?

It's proverbs: sayings and thoughts written down and passed on for the encouragement of Solomon's (and presumably, future) sons. This is what they would learn from their parents as they were growing up. This is a type of the training that they would be given.

One thing to remember as we read Proverbs though. The genre is that of collections of wisdom and not necessarily divine cause-effect commands. While general trends are remarked upon, the book of proverbs in no way says that things happen that exact way every time.

It is also specifically directed towards boys to become men (though much of what it says is applicable to girls to become women), so some of what it says is very gender specific (and I think some of what it says can be taken in a gender specific way though we may not assume it... I'm thinking of the child discipline, the warnings against putting up security for a neighbor and so on).

What is it for? It's to teach. Teach wisdom. Teach instruction. Teach discernment in their dealings with others. To teach righteousness, justice, equity. Take it as a handbook of life if you will.

And it begins with v. 7)

7The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.

This is pretty much the first of the "wisdom" sayings. The rest has been an introduction. And indeed it starts it off. Where does this biblical manhood training begin? It begins (as has been pointed out before) with our relationship with God. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge. What is this fear? It's the same fear that knows that God is a consuming fire. That knows God's eyes are too pure to look upon evil. That knows that God has commanded everyone everywhere to repent. It's the fear that drops Isaiah to his knees. It drops Peter to Jesus' knees. It's a holiness of God. A righteousness of God. A revelation of these things to us, when we were so blind we did not even know, that is the beginning of knowledge.

And it is this thing that is the beginning of knowledge. Know this. You cannot start anywhere else. If you think you can start on the basis of your own accomplishments. On the basis of your own intellect and apart from the fear of God, you have nothing. This fear of God is the beginning of knowledge, the firstfruit. Luther loved the contrast between the law and gospel, stating repeatedly that the Law must come first, so that we might recognize our sins and come to fear the holy and righteous God, before the Gospel is able to rescue us from those sins.

Without this relationship with God, this beginning with fear, you are merely a fool, casting wisdom and discernment to the winds. Maybe you've never felt that fear. Never felt that terror that's brought you to your knees before God in repentance. What about the picture of God as our loving and compassionate father? Doesn't it say that God is love? Yes, of course it says that God is love. And for those that God loves, He is a loving and compassionate father. Does that mean God is some teddy bear now? Do we forget how he inspires awe and fear in all those around him? That he wouldn't allow Moses, one of his people, to look him in the face because Moses would die? Yes, God is a loving father, but don't make that one attribute swallow up the rest of who God is. There is a very real danger of twisting your picture of God so much that you will stunt your spiritual life. Maybe even make a shipwreck of your faith.

So if you're at that place where you don't even know if you actually fear God, here's a suggestion. Meditate upon God's attributes. Think about how God punishes sin and sinners. How people were struck down for some of the simplest things like touching the Ark, for not giving God all the money they promised, for making a simple calf out of gold. His righteousness and holiness and perfections. Think about these things and pray and beg that God would give you that fear, because without it all things are lost.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Men - this is where you must start. This is the entrance to all of the book of Proverbs, which is the training manual for manhood. This is where training starts, where wisdom begins. Where you will grow from boy to man.

But where must this go back to? The source of all our blessings: Christ and His death upon the cross. Upon that cross, our sins, our blindness, our hardheartedness, our foolishness, our lack of wisdom, are paid for. The wrath of God was satisfied and poured out. And by His life, that perfect and righteous life, the floodgates of God's blessings are poured out. It is in Him through which this insight, this fear, this discernment, this wisdom flows. And it is only by His free gift, not something that we can earn, will we ever grow to be men of God.

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