September 8, 2013: 16th Sunday After Pentecost

Let us pray: Dear Savior, you have told us in your word to be: “Wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” Today, as we explore what true wisdom really is, cause each of us to keep those words in mind. Even more, as we go out this week and are confronted by those who mock and scorn your truth, keep those words foremost in our hearts. Amen

GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE WISDOM AND POWER OF GOD!

TEXT: Proverbs 9: 8-12

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

The original Greek word for wisdom is: sophos. We get the English word: sophomore from it. Supposedly when a student is a sophomore they start to embrace wisdom—ah that it were true! Of course, worldly “wisdom” isn’t the same as the Godly kind. In his epistle, James identifies the worldly kind as full of: bitter envy and selfish ambition” which combine to “deny the truth” and are “of the devil.” Then he goes on to say this: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” Quite a contrast, isn’t it?

Picking up on that, St. Paul identifies such true wisdom as made flesh in Jesus Christ. In 1 Corinthians 1 Paul says this: “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'”

I

King Solomon, who we’re told was the wisest man who ever lived, wrote the book of Proverbs. He was inspired by the Holy Spirit with the words and thoughts. The same Spirit Who is identified in Isaiah 11 as the: “Spirit of wisdom and understanding.” With those thoughts in mind, Solomon writes his opening words: “Do not rebuke a mocker or he will hate you; rebuke a wise man and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning.”

All of us have had experience with mockers. The atheist scoffs at the notion of God as real, yet in their lives they embrace some semblance of morality. Where do they think the human moral compass comes from? If our ancestors were micro-organisms (evolution), how did human morality come to be? Then we have the agnostic who says: “We can know nothing of “God.”” If that is true, why are human beings able to conceptualize honor and even practice altruistic love? Animals do not practice either one, nor do they conceptualize them. My dogs have all loved me because I loved and cared for them. I fed them and walked them and tucked them in at night. If I had been a mean, nasty master, they would not be able to still love me and forgive me. So, where do such noble ideals come from?—God! The agnostic simply closes his or her mind to that reality. No, mockers scoff at God because His truths make them feel inferior and uncomfortable. They mock because they know they don’t measure up to Him in any way and they want to reduce Him down to their small size. But those whom God has touched with His love, those that He has comforted with His Spirit, those who despair of their pride and “Me-ism” and instead embrace God’s forgiving love in Christ—ah, they don’t mind being told when they are wrong or on a pathway to folly. As Solomon says: “A righteous man will add to his learning.”

II

Now our amazingly blest writer adds this: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Fear used here does not mean cringing terror. It means respect and honor. Knowledge is understanding and the willingness to bow one’s intellect to God’s word of truth. And the heart and center of God’s truth is Christ, the Holy One of God. It is the truth of the Gospel, that: “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am the worst one.” It is that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son on a cross to freely and lovingly pay for the sins of the world.” So, true wisdom comes to the Christian via the gift of saving faith.

But, it doesn’t end there. No, once a person embraces Christ through faith his or her life is changed, their world-view is turned upside down. Humility becomes a positive instead of a negative. Self-sacrifice becomes something to embrace rather than something to be avoided. Forgiveness becomes the golden standard of behavior whereas grudge-bearing is now viewed as emotional suicide.

And what are the positive results of this new wise world-view? God says: “For through me your days will be many, and years will be added to your life. If you are wise, wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker, you alone will suffer.”

Folks, right here we have a wonderful promise of God. Years of blessing, not years of curses, flow from embracing God’s wisdom in Jesus Christ. The rewards for such a life are the living, breathing fruits of the Spirit—active each day and making life more livable: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” God doesn’t promise that we’ll all be millionaires. He doesn’t promise us spacious homes, luxurious vacations, or earthly power. But He does promise us inner fulfillment, contentment, never having to go without His love, and friendships that will last literally forever! The mocker has none of that. They all live for themselves, alone; and all die by themselves, alone. But we have the umbrella, the force field of Christ’s love surrounding us and gently whisking us off to heaven when our days here end. With Christ at our side we’re never alone.

Now, with all those thoughts in mind, what is more attractive?–The cruel, self-centered scorn of the mocker, or the kind openness, born of forgiveness, from our wise God? In the end all of you will have to decide that for yourselves. That’s the nature of Christian faith. But at least now you have the Godly facts to make that decision. Amen