Sunday, November 27, 2022

Advent: Looking forward to peace

Focus. Advent is about looking forward, calling us to focus on God's promises. So many things compete for our attention that it takes an effort to clear out the clamor and focus on what God has said. Life can have too much noise, too much distraction, for us to hear the words of God clearly unless we mute our worries for a time and listen. 

For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.

He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;

they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
   and their spears into pruning hooks;

nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

(From Isaiah 2)

I consider what these words would mean today: "They shall not learn war anymore." No more boot camps. No more recruiting and training soldiers. No more seething hostility and debate about who stole whose homeland. No more shockingly large military budgets. No more disturbing loss of life. The nations' disputes shall be settled by an arbiter who knows how to deliver justice: "He shall judge between the nations, arbitrate for many peoples." 

And all the resources that had been dedicated to destruction and hostility will become resources of growth and prosperity: even the weapons will be scrapped and turned to other uses. "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." In our days, the money channeled to war could bring food to the hungry and warmth to the cold. We are told that the threat of nuclear war is closer than it has been in many years -- yet even those weapons could be repurposed or dismantled one day. 

Before we lay down our weapons, the hearts of the world would have to change. I expect that nothing short of God's presence will do that. 

And so here at the beginning of advent, we look forward to God's presence. 

Sunday, November 20, 2022

Wisdom and Righteousness

One focus of the book of Proverbs is on righteousness. Righteousness is a word that is not currently in common use outside the church. It involves walking with God in the justice, mercy, and humility that are attributes of God himself. 

Here are twelve proverbs that speak of wisdom and righteousness: 

  • (Pro 2:9)  Then you shall understand righteousness, and judgment, and fairness; even every good path.
  • (Pro 8:18)  Riches and honor are with me; even durable riches and righteousness.
  • (Pro 11:4)  Riches profit nothing in the day of wrath: but righteousness delivers from death.
  • (Pro 11:10)  When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices: and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.
  • (Pro 11:23)  The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.
  • (Pro 14:34)  Righteousness exalts a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
  • (Pro 15:9)  The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loves the one who follows after righteousness.
  • (Pro 16:12)  It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.
  • (Pro 18:10)  The name of the LORD is a strong tower: the righteous runs into it, and is safe.
  • (Pro 23:24)  The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begets a wise child shall have joy of him.
  • (Pro 29:2)  When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked rule, the people mourn.
  • (Pro 29:7)  The righteous considers the case of the poor: but the wicked does not to know it.

Sunday, November 13, 2022

Ten Proverbs on Heart's Wisdom

So much Western discussion of knowledge and wisdom is guided (misguided?) by an assumption of hostility between heart and mind. As with the Shema, so with the Proverbs: the heart and mind are best when they work together with integrity. One without the other is easily led astray. 

Here are my ten favorite proverbs that speak of the role of heart in wisdom: 

  • (Pro 2:10)  When wisdom enters into your heart, and knowledge is pleasant to your soul;
  • (Pro 3:1)  My son, forget not my law; but let your heart keep my commandments
  • (Pro 3:3)  Let not mercy and truth forsake you: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
  • (Pro 4:21)  Let them not depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart.
  • (Pro 14:30)  A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
  • (Pro 14:33)  Wisdom rests in the heart of him who has understanding ... 
  • (Pro 15:28)  The heart of the righteous studies to answer: but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
  • (Pro 16:23)  The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips.
  • (Pro 22:11)  He who loves pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.
  • (Pro 27:9)  Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so does the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel.
In the book of Proverbs, wisdom is seen as beautiful, desirable -- and drawing on more than mind alone. Truth and mercy -- the first casualties of so many disputes -- are singled out to be valued and remembered. Wisdom's domain includes pureness of heart, rejoicing, friendship, and graceful speech. I could benefit from more wisdom!

Sunday, November 06, 2022

Ten Proverbs on Wisdom as a beautiful treasure

The book of Proverbs seeks to frame our view of wisdom not as a joyless duty, instead showing wisdom as something desirable. Time and again it speaks of wisdom as a treasure: a lost treasure, or gold, or silver, or jewels. They are prizes worth seeking, worth the effort, worth the search. These things are not merely valuable but beautiful in a way that lends beauty to their whole environment. 

Here are my ten favorite that portray wisdom as desirable, beautiful, and enriching in a way that matters: 

  • (Pro 2:4)  If you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures ...
  • (Pro 3:14)  For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.
  • (Pro 8:10)  Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
  • (Pro 8:19)  My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.
  • (Pro 10:20)  The tongue of the just is as choice silver ...
  • (Pro 16:16)  How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to gain understanding is preferable to silver!
  • (Pro 20:15)  There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
  • (Pro 22:1)  A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.
  • (Pro 25:11)  A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.
  • (Pro 25:12)  As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold, so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear.

The proverbs aim both to challenge our priorities and to inspire a better quest. The book of Proverbs portrays wisdom as one of the chief treasures of life.