OT Lectionary

For those who want a change from the Gospel

Trinity 11 – Proverbs 9:1-6 (Related)

Feasting on Wisdom

If ever a nation needed wisdom, ours does now. We have broken our ties with Europe on what the campaigners subsequently admitted were a pack of lies, with no idea at all of what the consequences would be, even among those who led the campaign. We have seen the gross mishandling of the Covid pandemic by buffoon politicians, which has led to thousands of deaths. And now we are facing increasing hostility from the anti-vac campaign who feel that it is a breach of human rights to expect people to have life-saving injections. I have been young, and now I am old, but never have I felt so ashamed to be English, and so deeply in the grip of such utter stupidity, which is so often driven by utter evil (other views of current politics are also available!).

So what is wisdom, and how might it help us? A recent facebook post which I enjoyed went like this:

Wisdom in the biblical sense is not so much about academic success or intelligence, but what the French call savoire-faire, or knowing what to do. The doctors, immunologists and all the rest are no doubt intelligent, but they are not as wise, in the OT sense, as whoever posted this gem. He can can see what’s going on and can see right through it.

Enough politics, though – let’s have a look at the text. The book of Proverbs is a polished but somewhat disorganised set of maxims and sayings which may have been collected under Solomon’s reign in the 900s BC, in order to describe and commend wisdom to Israel. It ranges from down-to-earth common sense like not being too enthusiastic too early in the morning (27:14) through to practical advice for avoiding adultery (5:7-8) and the value of wisdom for longevity (3:1-2). But wisdom is more than a set of good ideas: throughout the book Wisdom is personified as a woman who tries to get us to learn from her. In chapter 8 she is seen at God’s hand during the process of creation, and different people have understood this in different ways. Was she the very first thing created by God (8:22), or is she an aspect of God’s character, or even the Holy Spirit? Whatever, she is as old as the word itself, and her insight is built into the created order.

In this chapter, though, she invites humans to come and learn from her, using the metaphor of an invitation to a banquet. Wisdom has built a banqueting hall for the purpose, cooked the meal herself, and issued invitation to anyone who would like to come and enjoy her fare. Particularly welcome are those who know they lack wisdom, and who hunger for what she has to offer. Later on in the chapter we meet a similar woman called Folly, who is pictured as a roadside prostitute who calls out to men to come and taste what she has to offer, and which will ultimately place them among the dead. This stark choice faces all of us, both individually and as a society.

Knowing the right thing to do in any situation is, of course, something we are meant to learn from our parents, as the book repeatedly reminds us. But it is also something which we gain from God, who, according to the Bible, is only too willing to give it to those who ask. Often wisdom shows itself as perspective. Rick Warren, in his Purpose-driven Church (1995), lists what he regards as the steps to mature Christian discipleship, and step 2, after knowledge about God and our faith, is ‘perspective’, in other words the ability to see things from God’s point-of-view, rather than merely through human eyes. To take things deeper than face value, and to begin to think and feel about situations as God thinks and feels about them, is the mark of wisdom.

I wouldn’t claim to be super-wise, but I am old, and that helps. But I find it a useful prayer insight, particularly when interceding for our world. Whether or not you have any sympathy for my blatant political views as outlined above, we can all pray for wisdom for our leaders, if we define it as above. To see what’s going on in our nation from God’s perspective might just be a helpful thing for all of us. When I do what 1 Timothy 2 tells us all to do and pray for our rulers, I find this prayer for wisdom springing to my lips.

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