Thursday, August 06, 2009

The School of Wisdom (Proverbs 1:1-7)

We're preaching Proverbs at Frontiers Church Exeter from September til Mid-February. I'm opening the series, these are my initial notes.

Proverbs is a chewy book, it’s not always straight forward – mostly it’s written in pithy phrases that tend to come in pairs that parallel one another as in v2: to know wisdom… to understand words… saying the same thing twice in different words. At times its even contradictory – in chapter 26 we hear that it’s wise to answer a fool and in the next verse it’s wise not to. Is Solomon an idiot? No he knows, wisdom isn’t tick-boxes, it’s about an approach to life and situations. It’s a 3000 year old book but as its writer says elsewhere, there is nothing new under the sun. Solomon writes to a world where people are born and learn, work and marry, sleep and buy, eat and and die – much like today.

Moses has five books, The Law. David has five books of Psalms, and here are Solomon’s five books of Proverbs. We’ll follow the ancient pattern of introducing a letter, which has been adopted by email today. If you want some scaffolding it’s FROM, TO, SUBJECT.

FROM Solomon, about Jesus.
He is the third king of Israel, the last king of the whole nation. Moreover, “son of David” is a title that recalls God’s promise in 2 Samuel 7that King David’s son would be God’s son and king forever. A title given to Jesus in Matthew 1:1. The True Son of David is Jesus, and Solomon shows him to us. We’ll see Jesus all over this book. Four key angles:
1. He’s the true son of the king. He is disciplined by his father. See chapter 3.
2. He’s the son advised by his father about work. The true son who will always do the work of his father, chiefly in going to the cross to save and bring us to God. This theme repeats on a number of occasions. See chapter 6 and repeatedly between chapters 10-30.
3. He’s the son being taught by his father who to marry. A choice between two women, the adulteress Lady Folly and the life-giving Lady Wisdom. And we’ll see him in the final chapter gaining his bride. He is not like Adam who with his wife was a fool – pursuing God’s wisdom by man’s ways. By contrast, he’s the son who marries a spotless and beautiful wife. The wife cleansed by his blood, the fruitful church. See this in chapters 5-7 and also 31.
4. He is personified by Lady Wisdom. In the romance of Proverbs we’ll see Jesus through the son and through his bride. Don’t be freaked out by seeing him portrayed as a woman, he’s not – but we see him in her, especially in chapter 8 where he is with his father at creation, as portrayed by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
TO three kinds of people:
1. The simple (v4) – those who know that they don’t know and want to know will grow from this book.
2. The wise (v5) – those who have wisdom already will increase from this book. Those who love the gospel of Jesus can never get enough of his company and will be able to delve deeper into the riches of his the one who is wisdom.
3. The fool (v7) – those who hate wisdom will hate this book. They are those who want to gain wisdom by their own way like Adam and Eve in Eden. Being a fool is a moral issue. It’s not intellect that enables someone to become wise, it’s about the heart.

Chapters 1-9 are built around a father teaching his son who to marry and how to work – we’ll be there until December. In December and January we’ll be in chapters 10-29 gathering wise sayings that unpack more of the character of wisdom. And then we’ll conclude in February in chapters 30-31 draw us back together to behold the one who comes from heaven and gives himself for his bride.

SUBJECT 1v7: The LORD
This is a book about the LORD, who is revealed by the Father through the Son in the power of the Holy Spirit.. Of all books in the Bible it would be easiest to read Proverbs as a human book, full as it is of gritty earthly day to day practicalities. We must take that application along the way but above all, in the drama of this book we are to see the LORD. Adam and Eve grasped for wisdom in their own strength but it comes as a gift from God – a gift given to those who seeing the LORD respond in fear. Those who are wise already have a taste for the LORD and should eat voraciously from him. Those who are simple, seeing the LORD have a hunger to grow. These are humble and wise responses to the LORD. These are to fear the LORD – to be in right awe of him. This is what the book is for. It’s goal is wisdom. Do not find yourself cut down by it – being a fool and despising its content, despising the LORD. Wisdom does not come from school or from Wikipedia, it comes from a profound, sustained encounter with the LORD, developing a life-long posture of awe towards him.

17 comments:

  1. That sounds very interesting. Looking forward to reading more of that here on your blog, Dave.
    Is there any way to listen to these sermons? Do you have a podcast which I can subscribe?

    In Christ,
    Thorsten

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  2. Hey Dave,

    There seem to be a few different options to choose from when it comes to 'from' and 'to'. I'm not entirely settled myself, but what do you reckon?

    Is Proverbs from the Father to the Son telling Him to do all things by Wisdom (the Spirit)? (a la Reeves)

    Is Proverbs from the Father to His people telling them to get Wisdom (Christ)?

    Or, if you're playing up Solomon as Son of David, is it Christ telling His people to get Wisdom (in which case, who is she?)?

    Or something else?

    Glen

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  3. I know the qu is for Bish but I've had a thought.

    If it's written by Solomon (typological of Christ) but intended for Israel as a whole, then could we say Proverbs is -

    From Christ to his people telling them how his Father instructed him in wisdom, so that they'll

    a. look to him as the embodiment of wisdom

    and (in fact, thereby)

    b. get wisdom themselves.

    This, I think, allows us to see the sense in which proverbs is there to tell us what the perfect son of David is like, as well as (in fact, thereby) be like him in wise-living too. I think it can incorporate all the elements of the three options from Glen.

    The only bit I'm uncomfortable with is the idea that David or Solomon are typological of God the Father. Don't know why, but I'm just not totally happy.

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  4. Maybe I'm trying to be a bit too one-for-one here. But that is the benefit of Mike's proposal, you can straightforwardly say 'this is that'. On that understanding Wisdom is the Spirit. My biggest stumbling block to that is 1:23 - Wisdom says 'I will pour out my Spirit.' But on balance I think Mike's proposal seems to offer the least amount of shape-shifting.

    Pete,
    Are you happy that Abraham is typological of the Father in Gen 22?

    Glen

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  5. Good point about Abraham Glen. I'm very happy with that typology so why not elsewhere. Quite.

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  7. Hi all,

    Stimulating discussion. A couple of things off the top of my head:

    1. I was speaking to a friend just this afternoon. He reads the whole of proverbs once a week. He knows the words better than anyone I know. However, for him most of it can be summarised along the lines of:
    > good people do X and get life
    > bad people don't do X and get death

    He finds it condemns him over and over. I don't think it gives him any joy.

    My first response when speaking to him about Proverbs (which often happens) is actually to disbelieve God's word. The wicked prosper and the righteous suffer. Job disproves it all. But I was thinking today how wrong I was. Like all 'law' Jesus takes does X for us and takes our death on his shoulders. So yes it does condemn us because we are always failing to do X, but at the same time all the life that it talks about the wise person receiving we do get, in Christ!

    That is slightly out of the flow of discussion but I share them because they are fresh to me, and because I mix with people who embrace the introspective conscience of the west. Their question is not 'who is wisdom?' or 'who is Solomon?' but 'who am I?'

    2. Slightly more on track. This is a genuine question because I can certainly see how all you allegorisers ;) get to where you are, and I think there is an important role for allegory. But... why are we having this 'who is who?' discussion in relation to Proverbs and not any other book? Why do we not ask 'is Paul the Father, Son or Holy Spirit when addressing the Romans?', 'is Theophilus God's people or Jesus?', or 'is "love" in 1 John the Holy Spirit?'

    I can also see the arguments for doing that, and actually they are exactly the same as the arguments for what we are all engaged in Proverbs. What should we do? And how do we stop it becoming a big mush (technical term)?

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  9. These are "sayings of Solomon" (and others), possibly compiled by someone else, so the usual Solomon/Christ typology does not hold. I think it's important to see, first of all, Christ as the son of the father. This way, we stay clear of legalism and see Christ as the obedient son, who is eternally wise and submits to the father perfectly on our behalf, thus earning righteousness and life for us (and that's grace). That is the way Luke sees it, after all (Luke 2:52).

    Because Christ chooses the way of wisdom, He is eternally wise and can also be seen as lady wisdom personified. "For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD" (Proverbs 8:35).

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  10. (You might want to compare Luke 2:52 with Proverbs 3:4)

    As the "New Dictionary of Biblical Theology" puts it:

    "In Israel wisdom was limited; in the new Israel it is esyablished fully by the one who is greater than Solomon... He is not only the truly wise man, but he is the wisdom of God itself."

    Chris

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  11. Hey Dave,

    When we read 1 Corinthians (for instance) we encourage the interpreter to 'go to Corinth' don't we? An important part of interpretation is hearing what it said to its original hearers. And we are not those original hearers. And the way we receive the words of Scripture are different according to genre.

    We read epistles differently to Acts, differently to instructions to Noah, differently to instructions to Abraham (e.g. Gen 22!), differently to wisdom literature. Genre is vital!

    So I'd ask how you'd interpret the Psalms of Solomon. Take Psalm 72 - is it over-allegorizing to ask 'who is the royal son?' No - however you get there, we'd all agree that it's crucial to identify this universal King. And it's a fatal mistake to see either a) ourselves as that king or b) some mortal ruler as that king. So it is with Psalms, so it is with Proverbs. It's a genre thing.

    But it's also an old covenant thing.

    The whole old covenant is one of shadows / types ("Allegories" isn't the best, but it wouldn't be the worst description). The king of Israel is never just the king of Israel (as Bish's reference to 2 Sam 7 emphasizes). Even as understood and articulated in OT times, the "King" is bigger than the king, "David" is bigger than David, "Aaron" is bigger than Aaron, "Sea to Sea" is bigger than Dead Sea to Med, etc, etc.

    When dealing with such explicit shadows, it's literalizing that's really dangerous!

    More than this - your answer to your friend in 1. surely points the way to an answer to 2.

    Who is this righteous son full of wisdom and acting accordingly? Your friend knows it, you know it, you've even said it. It's not us! Not by nature. Folly is bound up in the heart of a child (Prov 22:15) And both Wisdom and Folly assume that people are simple and lack judgement (Prov 9:4,16). We need to come as simple fools to Wisdom, eat with her, listen to her and increasingly we'll become wise (Prov 1-9 - esp ch8-9). But even as we fail at chs 10-30, we're re-presented with this ideal covenant partner (ch31) who'll be so awesome we can just sit in the gates and enjoy the fruits of her labours!

    Or in other words, Praise God that Christ has become for us wisdom from God (1 Cor 1:30).

    That's why it's so key to see that Proverbs is not about us. In other words, your answer in 1. is key for our answer to 2.

    Sounds to me like your friend has one thing right and one thing wrong. He's right that he isn't the righteous son of Proverbs. He's wrong that Proverbs is telling him to become it by doing wise things.

    The whole structure of Proverbs is not telling you to do wise things to become wise. Rather, a wise person does wise things. e.g. Prov 10:1 "A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother." It's being => act, NOT act => being.

    We need to be wise. But we aren't. How do we get there? Well the beginning (ch1), middle (ch8-9) and end (ch31) are about getting this Person 'Wisdom' who is entirely beyond you.

    Those are the sorts of things I'd say to your mate.

    I preached on it here in a pretty evangelistic setting (sorry can't find notes, only mp3)

    http://www.christthetruth.org.uk/prov.mp3

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  12. Hi Glen,

    All really helpful stuff. And that sermon is full of truly brilliant wisdom! Thank you for that. I may well share that with my friend, and will certainly reflect more on how it effects my personal choices.

    As for 'allegory'...I suppose I want to change the language from 'is' to 'is a type of' or 'points to'. But I think I'm beginning to see that this is my problem to some degree, because I'm too literalist in my understanding of 'is'. But even then I do want to be able to say that the Son of God 'is' and 'is not' the servant of Isaiah; that he 'is' and 'is not' David; and that he 'is' and 'is not' Lady Wisdom in Proverbs. I don't want to say that of the unique revelation of him as the historical Jesus. There I just want to say that he 'is'. Does that sound ok?

    I am still interested though why we limit types to the OT. I'm not sure that I fully understand the logical reason why.

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  13. Hopefully we can find a way through that will draw out the different riches of wisdom in each chapter in the series - something of a symphonic typology...

    Thorsten - in theory the mp3s will go up at Frontiers Church Exeter from September through to February though the feed is currently 2 months behind...

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  14. Dave K,
    1 Cor 4:14-19 intrigued me the other day. Paul is their father and he sends his son to them to reveal himself and as a portent of his own coming in judgement.

    Question: For the original audience of Proverbs, is Wisdom something/someone less than a divine Person? I don't see how the language of chapter 8 (for instance) could fit anyone who is less than Christ (or the Spirit - still undecided!)

    I could multiply questions re Psalm 72 etc but I'll leave it with Wisdom for now.

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  15. I suppose I had in my mind 8:22 as something I would not want to attribute to Christ. In my memory it said 'created' but a quick flick through bible translations suggests translators find it quite difficult to pin down exactly, and it might well mean something you could say of Christ.

    I've thought about it a bit more today and although my pride does not want me to admit this, you may well all have pursuaded me.

    BTW I expect you would really like this particular review of Bruce Waltke on Proverbs:
    http://www.ctsfw.edu/library/files/pb/1983

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  16. I'm just loving Bish's new biblico-theological term: "symphonic typology". Really rolls off the tongue. Make sure you copyright Dave.

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  17. Typology keeps on rolling in the NT. It's not so much a means of getting from OT to NT as a philsophy (a biblical one) of history itself - past events/ institutions/ people are patterns of future events/ insitutions/ people and vice versa, such that one informs our understanding of the other.

    What's different come the NT is that Christ is the antitype, on which all the others are based, and he's come, been incarnate, died, risen, ascended and begun reigning. Now types expressly look back to him rather than forwards, generally speaking.

    The christian life is, after all, typologically patterned on the suffering-dying-rising of Jesus Christ. Hence why we're all called CHRISTians I guess - little (types of) Christ.

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