I was reading in Proverbs this morning. I don’t really like the book of Proverbs. Yes, it has a lot of good things to say, common sense things, righteous things, wise things. It’s the delivery I don’t like. I’m a novelist. I like to go into the Old Testament books and read chapter after chapter in the historical stories. I like to pick out themes, judge cause and effect, study characters, ponder creative word pictures, and read up on the cultures in which the stories take place. Proverbs, on the other hand, delivers punch after punch in a short number of verses. It’s too much for me to take in and chew on at once. Too many themes, too many individual thoughts. Too much information. I have to limit the amount I read at one time or I’m completely overwhelmed. So I just read one chapter today.
I must have read chapter 8 twenty times in my life, but I don’t ever recall absorbing verses 22-36. This is Wisdom speaking. The author uses personification to help us get across his point. Wisdom is portrayed as a woman calling out to men from the top of a high hill. Here are some of the points she makes:
The LORD possessed me at the begining of His way,
Before His works of old.
I have been established from everlasting.
From the beginning, before there was ever an earth…
When He prepared the heavens, I was there,
When He drew a circle on the face of the deep,
When He established the clouds above,
When He strengthened the fountains of the deep,
When He assigned to the sea its limit…
When He marked out the foundations of the earth,
Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman,
And I was daily His delight…
Did you catch what the author is saying here? God created wisdom before he created the heavens and earth. It’s been established from everlasting. And he used this wisdom in the construction of his cosmos. Wow! I mean, I already know from basic science classes that the universe is ordered according to natural laws. The planets orbit in a certain way, allowing us to measure time with accuracy. Elements behave in predictable ways. Everything is structured according to unchanging laws that provide us with a sure, stable reference in which to live. We take many of these laws for granted. The sun will rise. Certain things will float; others will sink. We will not float away into space.
But God also established moral laws. Laws that come with blessing if they are followed and judgement if they are not. The proverbs are filled with warnings about good and evil, of what will happen if we choose one over the other. At the same time, our natural rebellion screams out, “I have my own mind. I want my own way. I’ll make my own choices.” That is happening today. America is full of these objectors. They reject God based on their own reason, their own faulty understanding, their own disbelief. God does give us the freedom to choose as we will, but these are laws. They have sure consequences just like natural laws. If you leap from a cliff, you will hit the ground. If you put a plastic bag over your head, you will die of oxygen deprivation. If you reject God, there will be judgement.
Lots of people today are also crying out, “What kind of God would dictate our behavior? How can he bring judgement on his creation and still be righteous? That sounds pretty hateful and bigotted to me. Who is God to demand our obedience?” But we forget he has a pretty massive claim to authority. He is the creator of all things. He organized the laws. He knows the natural consequences of them. And he must judge disobedience (sin), because to not do so would undermine his own authority.
The proverb ends with Wisdom saying:
Now therefore, listen to me, my children,
For blessed are those who keep my ways…
Blessed is the man who listens to me…
For whoever finds me finds life,
And obtains favor from the LORD;
But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul:
All those who hate me love death.