Jan 7 2018 - 2018 The Year of Growing in Wisdom!
7th January 2018
Epiphany is a celebration of the Christmas story being revealed to the Gentiles – with the Wise Men. Moving into this series on how to live wisely in our world. Luke puts a bridge between the Christmas story and Jesus’ adult ministry. It happens when Jesus is 12.
40 The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.
Mary and Joseph were in Jerusalem for Passover, and when it is over, the caravan is heading back with all their relatives and they start looking around – and No Jesus. Panic sets in and they rush back to Jerusalem…
46 Then, after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers.
And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
This is a stunning statement… - 47 And all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers. And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Even as Jesus had to grow in wisdom – our focus this year is on growing in Wisdom – so we have to grow in wisdom.
All those in the temple – the teachers of Israel, the most learned folks of his time – were amazed at His understanding and His answer.
Many 12 year old boys in Israel would have had much of the Torah memorized. Many would have memorized Deuteronomy, Leviticus, Proverbs, etc. But Jesus had more than just the information – He had a deep understanding – and was growing in Wisdom.
As we look at wisdom, it is not IQ and intellect and information.
This leads us into the remainder of this year – we will focus on this topic – how to grow in Wisdom – and this involves 3 areas:
1. We will learn how to live well in every arena in our lives – relationships/work/political
2. We will learn how to make good decisions when faced with multiple options.
3. We will learn to address the issues of our day with grace and clarity.
Today will be a little more academic – but with some practical stuff. I want to give us some foundation.
Wisdom – the Hebrew word hokmah (chokmah, hokma, hokhmah) -
Originally denoted some kind of technical skill, aptitude, or ability. This word was used for the craftsmen who built and decorated the temple. (Craftsmen, architect, artist, athlete, etc.)
Biblical Wisdom - from a Christian perspective – defined:
The practical art of being prudent, sensible, and skillfully insightful so that one might prosper and have good success in life. (Skill in Living)
Developing Skill in Living.
The judicious or skilled application of the powers of reason to the issues of life. (Hill & Walton)
Being able to skillfully respond to whatever life throws at us.
Some more definitions:
Knowing how to live life skillfully.
Discerning how to say and do the right thing at the right time.
Knowing how to express emotions appropriate for a given situation
Knowing how to navigate life's problems.
Discerning how to choose between multiple options.
Here are some words we use to explain wisdom:
Common Sense/“Street Smarts”
There are three levels of biblical wisdom – Theological, Ethical, Practical – and each requires relationship – Theological requires relationship with God – Ethical with people, and Practical with our world.
For a person to possess Biblical wisdom, they must have all three of these working together.
It is easy to have one or two – but it is challenging to have all 3.
For example – Money – we may all know people who are good with money – yet they may not do it ethically. They have the practical wisdom, but lack ethical wisdom.
There are plenty of business people out there who have ethical and practical wisdom – but they may lack theological wisdom – and yep, they’re good business people – you come to them and know you will be treated fairly – but money may have a role in their lives God does not intend – they may live for it. It becomes more important than God. For God, money is a very small thing. But for too many, money is a large thing. Biblical wisdom puts money in its proper place.
Jesus refers to it as a very small thing – and if you can’t be faithful in a very small thing, who will entrust the true riches to you. So we need all three to be wise – we won’t just focus on the practical – but on the ethical and theological. We live in a country where PRACTICAL is everything. But Biblical Wisdom requires the theological and ethical as well.
God is involved in the structures of our world and we must be theologically wise.
Probably the main book when we think of wisdom is the Book of Proverbs. It covers every area of life. For years I read a Proverb a day – it has 31 of them – one for each day of the month.
Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: 2 For learning about wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, 3 for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity; 4 to teach shrewdness to the simple, knowledge and prudence to the young-- 5 Let the wise also hear and gain in learning, and the discerning acquire skill, 6 to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.
All the words. All these things that are important to live life in a way that is excellent. The problem with Proverbs – with all it offers us – it is easy to misunderstand it. One reason is because it is so simple. It is clear-cut – and think – well, that is what it means.
If used inappropriately, they can be harmful to ourselves and others.
Prov 26:9 Like a thornbush in a drunkard's hand is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Going out and trimming the roses when you are drunk – not a good idea! Practical wisdom from the book of Proverbs.
When a proverb is used inappropriately – it is like swinging a rosebush when you are drunk. It stabs – and it often stabs others.
Wisdom literature – Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiastes, and some would throw in Song of Solomon/ Song of Songs – and there is wisdom literature in the Psalms as well.
What is important – we are to read Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes together.
Wisdom for when a proverb doesn’t work.
There are people who might ‘live the proverb’ – but it doesn’t work for them.
The hand of the diligent makes rich… so they work hard – but it doesn’t work for them – so they need Job and Ecclesiastes to even out their thinking.
We will have people in our congregation sharing – practical wisdom – and if you have an area of wisdom – I invite you to share.
Proverbs guides individuals in how to do what is wise in their day-to-day lives. It teaches the attitudes and courses of action that are right, just, and pious, and the ways of strengthening relationships. (TANAKH TRANSLATION)
It is always relational. It guides individuals. This is important – we want God to give us a blueprint – and the Bible is not a blueprint – and Proverbs are not a blueprint – do you know why? We are people, not buildings. People are for relationships. God created us as people because He desires to have a relationship with us – and to learn and make wise decisions in relationship with Him.
We want these lines from God but God wants relationships.
In the garden – of all the trees you may eat – except one – He didn’t say start at tree one and then jump to tree 17 – but rather, what do you want to try today?
Rick was sharing – we want God’s will – and when looking for a car, some people think that there is this perfect car to buy – like Toyota, not Honda – er – I should do American – Ford not Chrysler… or vice-versa – but any one of them might be good for you or the right one for you. You take your child out for ice cream and tell them my will for you is chocolate.
We had a son – we had to give him 3 days warning before going to McDonald’s – because it would take him forever to decide. God is not dictating – yes, there is the ‘do not eat from this’ – that is dictating. There is a whole lot that we get to choose.
A proverb by definition is a generalization. A proverb is usually true. A proverb in scripture is not a guarantee or a promise. (Hill/Walton)
With proverbs, there are always exceptions. Why? Because they are proverbs! That is what it means to be a proverb – general – usually true – with exceptions.
A proverb is a poetic, terse, vivid, thought-provoking saying that conveys a world of truth in a few words. (Keller) – I’ve been reading Keller’s devotional (available at a discount of $10 at the back table!)
A proverb is a general saying designed to apply to many situations. Like any general rule or maxim, a proverb holds true for certain designated circumstances requisite to the situation in view. (Hill/Walton)
There are rules and parameters that must be followed – usually true, generally true – but not guaranteed, not a promise.
If proverbs were a guarantee or promise – the book would be called the book of Guarantees and Promises!
God gives us the book to learn wisdom and understanding – how to choose among many options – how to relate to people.
Proverbs 22:6 6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
This verse is the source of shame for many parents – or the source of pride and envy for others.
There is debate about what the verse means – some say – “in the way he should go” means – in the natural bent of the child – or it means to train up in God’s way.
If you do x, then y is the result. But that is a mistake; that is not what proverbs do. It is a genre issue. They do not give promises but encourage people to lead to a desired goal. It is more likely that a child will be wise if trained up in the Lord’s way.
This verse should give us confidence to raise our children in the ways of the Lord.
He who is diligent will get rich – it is not
Here is how we tend to view this verse.
6 Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.
We know they are humans – so they will sin…
(If you are good parents, your kids will follow Jesus and never commit any really bad sins. If they stop following Jesus, they will return to the faith when they are old.)
These statements are vastly different – and the simplest way to understand it – there is practical, ethical, and theological. This is about faith. What is the practical perspective?
I will use our family as an example. Trying to start into ministry – we had 5 years where money was tight. That is probably true for most young married couples. We made a commitment to never get in credit card debt. That was just something we decided to do – and we bombarded our children with it. And generally, that is the way they have gone. Is it possible that someday down the road that stuff will happen and one or two or all of them will get into credit card debt? Of course.
We are life-long learners and tried to impart that to our kids… And generally that is true – but is it possible that one will decide to never read a book again? Of course! In the same way – it is with faith.
And that is how it is with faith – generally, they will follow the Lord. But is it possible that they won’t? Of course. When we make it a guarantee and a promise – here is what is really dangerous – and we will see this in the Book of Job – which we will go through during Lent – which displays The Retribution Principle – if you follow God – are righteous and wise you will be blessed and will prosper. And if you are wicked, you will not be blessed. You will be judged.
And people take it the other way – if a person is not blessed – or if one was struggling or suffering, they must be wicked. And if they are doing well, they must be righteous.
Do we know this to be true? Of course not. There are other scriptures that ask, Why do the wicked prosper?
But the Book of Job says no. That is not the way to think.
And just to seal the deal – so you don’t leave thinking this is a promise or guarantee…
Let’s look at this again – if this is a guarantee – then if you do not train up your child in the way he should go – 100% - but if you miss it in the slightest, the second part is off!
But let me say – the first half is a general principle – if you generally raise you kids in the way they should go – then generally that is true.
The Better-than Proverbs
The one who is lazy becomes poor, but the one who works diligently becomes wealthy. (Pro 10:4 NET)
There is a reality that there are exceptions just like the last one.
The Better-than Proverbs
Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth and turmoil with it. (Pro 15:16 NET)
There are times where the wise thing to do is to choose NOT to be successful! All of us know people who lost out on promotions by choice because it might cause them to compromise their values or priorities.
Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice. (Pro 16:8 NAU)
Better is a dry crust of bread where there is quietness than a house full of feasting with strife. (Pro 17:1 NET)
Then there are the seemingly contradictory proverbs:
Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you yourself also be like him.5 Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own estimation. (Proverbs 26:4)
These are not biblical proverbs – but they are contradictory:
Too many cooks spoil the broth.
Two heads are better than one.
He who hesitates is lost.
Look before you leap.
Proverbs can be applied differently depending on the situation.
We’ll close with that and pray.