Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wisdom, Understanding, and Discretion

Wisdom, Understanding, and Discretion

Proverbs 2
1 My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you,
2 making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding;
3 yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding,
4 if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures,

5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
8 guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.

9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.

16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words,
17 who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God;
18 for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the departed;
19 none who go to her come back, nor do they regain the paths of life.

20 So you will walk in the way of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it,
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Reading through this, I noticed a pattern I’d not noticed before. Buried within this proverb pertaining to the increase of wisdom was an, “if, then, so” statement.
If (the condition)
Then (the result)
So (the reason; the “so what”)

If
Reading through this section (v. 1-4), meditating on what these statements are really saying, I realize how: 1) how intentional my pursuit must be, and 2) how difficult the pursuit is. Intentional, because of how I must search for it as a hidden treasure. It is not easily found, and not accidentally stumbled upon. Wisdom, insight, and understanding are gifts of the Lord’s grace, and He chooses to impart these riches of His grace through man’s relentless pursuit of them, and through persistent crying out for them in prayer (James 1:5). I say this pursuit is difficult, not because they are difficult to obtain, for the Lord freely gives to those who ask in faith (James 1:6), but rather because it is difficult for me to ask in faith, without doubting. My pride prevents me from petitioning the Lord with a sincere heart. You see, most days I believe I am already wise, making it impossible for me to pray for something I am convinced I already have (Proverbs 3:7; Proverbs 12:15; Proverbs 26:12; Isaiah 5:21). My only recourse is to cry out to God continually to overcome my pride (as only He is able) and impart to me true wisdom; a wisdom vastly different from what the world calls wisdom. Indeed, it must be different than what this world calls wisdom (James 3:13-18)!

Then
In v.5-15, I see the direct result of an increase in my wisdom. The foundation for all of this is a proper fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). This fear is a reverent fear, not a cowering fear (concerned with punishment). It is a profoundly respectful fear. With this fear comes an increase in all of the things pertaining to right living, according to the Lord. The Lord is faithful to increase my understanding, righteousness, equity, and knowledge of the right path (which few find, by the way – Matthew 7:14). The rest that I find in the rich promises of God are only obtainable through the “if” portion of Proverbs 2, and this “if” condition is only met by God’s grace through faith. It may seem, on the surface, that I am espousing a view of works that merit grace, but read deeper and understand that I am not! Understanding that I am unable to perform any of these works, I cry out to God, knowing that it is only Him who works through me for His pleasure…it is His doing, not mine, not mine, not mine (Philippians 2:13,14)!

So
Who cares? So what? The nature of these things requires that I intentionally pursue them, and through great difficulty. Although I know God’s grace empowers me to obey in this pursuit, why would I be interested in that? God commands these things for my own good (Deuteronomy 10:13)! The “so what” is because He cares for me, and desires that I enter the rest only He provides! The Lord imputes righteousness to me, but He also commands me to conduct myself in obedience, in holiness, so I may join Him on His holy hill (Psalm 15). There is most certainly a command, a responsibility to obey; to believe otherwise is to believe in something other than the Gospel that Jesus taught.

How wonderful are the graces of the Lord! Thanks be to God that He chooses to pour them out on one such as myself. Knowing I am unable to will or to work for good apart from Him (John15:5), I cry out to Him for the accomplishment of the things that please Him. How incredible is the salvation He has designed? So simple and so effortless, yet paradoxically requiring my total surrender, my very life – His yoke being called “easy,” and His burden, “light,” and at the same time calling me to struggle, to persevere, to bear with burdens, to lay down my life.


True Christianity
Lord of Heaven,
Thy goodness is inexpressible and inconceivable.
In thy works of creation thou art almighty,
In the dispensations of providence all-wise,
In the gospel of grace all love,
And in thy Son thou hast provided for
our deliverance from the effects of sin,
the justification of our persons,
the sanctification of our natures,
the perseverance of our souls in the path of life.
Though exposed to the terrors of thy law,
we have a refuge from the storm;
Though compelled to cry, ‘Unclean’,
we have a fountain for sin;
Though creature-cells of emptiness
we have a fullness accessible to all,
and incapable of reduction.
Grant us always to know that to walk with Jesus
makes other interests a shadow and a dream.
Keep us from intermittent attention
to eternal things;
Save us from the delusion of those
who fail to go far in religion,
who are concerned but not converted,
who have another heart but not a new one,
who have light, zeal, confidence, but not Christ.
Let us judge our Christianity;
not only by our dependence upon Jesus,
but by our love to him,
our conformity to him,
our knowledge of him.
Give us a religion that is both real and progressive,
that holds on its way and grows stronger,
that lives and works in the Spirit,
that profits by every correction,
and is injured by no carnal indulgence.

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