Acknowledgement: I used Tremper Longman’s commentary on Proverbs for much of the background study for this message.
Parents…there is a “button” on the website with a growing list of “breaky not bouncy” resources, including a “Breaky not bouncy challenge”.
Even if you are not a child…you might consider doing the challenge yourself…check it out.
The bible is composed of many books but it is in fact…a single book.
It has many authors but ultimately has a single author.
It has many subplots…but one storyline.
The entire Bible points to Jesus…from the first chapters in Genesis to the long history of Israel and its prophets, kings and people…the coming of Jesus is foreshadowed and foretold.
Proverbs, the book of wisdom, where we are spending this year…ultimately points to Jesus, who is the wisdom of God.
This month we will look at Jesus and wisdom…to understand what it means to “be wise” we must understand that Jesus the Messiah is the wisdom of God.
First look at one of the very few events related to Jesus’ youth that we have in the Bible…this one from when he was 12 years old.
Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers…Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.
Luke 2:41-47, 51
Like good Jewish parents, Mary and Joseph took Jesus every year to Jerusalem for Passover.
When Jesus was 12 they had finished the time in Jerusalem and were headed back to Nazareth and panicked when after a day of travel (it was about a 4 day trip) they realized Jesus was not with them.
How could this happen?
I can tell you how…they assumed he was traveling with other family members or friends in what was a larger caravan.
Christy and I left Crystal at church when she was little…we both assumed the other had her…it’s likely most parents have done what Mary and Joseph, and Christy and I have done.
They rushed back to Jerusalem and spent three days looking for him…can you imagine…their stress?
They finally found him in the temple chatting with some older adults…how cute?
No…how amazing…Jesus was 12 and he was having a discussion with the leading theologians of his day…men who would have had memorized the Bible…who were experts on Jewish history and law.
And they were paying careful attention to what he was saying…and this had been going on for about 3 days.
This child reflected the wisdom of God.
Now remember…wisdom is not just information.
He was not just some prodigy, a child savant.
You hear of children who can play instruments at advanced levels, know advanced math…graduate from University while a child…but they are not “wise”…as in biblical wisdom.
They are intelligent…they have good mental processors…but they have not lived long enough to have become wise.
Jesus was wise as a child…the older leaders recognized this.
Later, like 18 years later…when Jesus began his public ministry other people recognized him for his wisdom…that unlike the teachers of the law(like the ones he had chatted with at age 12)…he taught with “real authority”. (Mark 1:21-22)
He had something…that others, the wisest of others…didn’t have…this was a whole new level of wisdom than what others had ever seen.
Later in his hometown of Nazareth those who knew him when he was growing up were amazed at his wisdom…and bothered by it. (Mark 6:2).
“What a minute…this is Jesus, we know his family, he’s just a carpenter…we saw him grow up…what’s up with this supposed wisdom and power?”
They were, strangely I think, offended by him…because of his wisdom and power…probably jealous.
Great people can’t be people we know…the expert is always from out of town…how dare he be more than we are!
Jesus’ preferred form of teaching was a parable…in fact the Hebrew word for Proverb was translated into the Greek word for parable…Jesus was a wisdom teacher…like Solomon.
But much more so than Solomon.
Jesus himself recognized his own wisdom and condemned those who rejected it…Matthew 12
“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”
This Queen of the South was from “Sheba” a name which could have referred to either modern Ethiopia or Yemen (south Arabia).
She came on a trade mission to meet with Solomon…she came in person because she had heard of his great wisdom and wanted to see for herself.
When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.
1 Kings 10:1
Solomon, the compiler and writer of Proverbs…the greatest mind of his time…did not compare to Jesus in terms of wisdom.
If Jesus showed up today in person…he would prove to be smarter, wiser…than any politician, doctor, general, business leader…the world could (probably wouldn’t) but could…follow his lead in this crisis…he would be the smartest person in any room.
*He is wise enough, smart enough…to be in charge of your life.
Paul doesn’t merely say that Jesus has wisdom but that he is the incarnation of God’s wisdom.
Look at 1 Cor. 1:30 (NLT) “God made Christ to be wisdom itself.”
Col. 2:3 in Christ “lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”
The NT clearly connects Jesus with Wisdom in Proverbs
So wisdom, poetically personified as the woman as we discussed last week
…turns out to be manifest in real life in Jesus.
Look at Matthew 11, Jesus is talking to some opponents who argue that John the Baptist was too austere in his lifestyle
*John was not a guy you would have wanted at your party…he would have been a downer
…while Jesus was said to be too upbeat…he would have been a great person to have at your party, especially a children’s party…kids loved him.
Jesus rebuked them for trying to put him in a lose/lose situation…”John was a downer; you are too upbeat…and you also hang out with ‘sinners’ of all kinds.”
Jesus responded with “Wisdom is proved right by her actions.”
Jesus is claiming…my life represents the behavior of Lady Wisdom herself…I am Prov 8,9 in real life…want to know how to live the wise life… “look at what I do” “do what I do.”
Now…Remember that part of Lady Wisdom’s biography was that she was there at the beginning of the cosmos?
Well…Listen to Col. 1
Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth.
Paul, who wrote this text, and who knew Proverbs very well…was clearly saying that Jesus is wisdom in human form…he was there at the start of the cosmos…he created the cosmos.
Seeing this connection between Jesus and wisdom has important implications for how we read and apply the book of Proverbs…and how we live our lives.
Remember the importance of the location of Lady Wisdom and Women Folly’s houses?
They both lived at the high points of the city…the place of worship.
The choice between wisdom and folly, then, is the choice between who or what will we worship…the true God or the false gods, idols.
So, the invitation to enter into exclusive relationship with Lady wisdom in Proverbs…we now know from the fuller picture…is really a gospel invitation.
A decision to enter into relationship with wisdom is a decision to enter into relationship with Christ.
Idols today are often more subtle than in ancient times…people don’t normally have a statue in their home or yard that they bow down to…yet the heart behind the worship of idols is unchanged.
People worshipped idols of pleasure and power because of their desire to have control over their lives and the world around them.
They wanted to appease or to manipulate the god’s so that they could experience pleasure and avoid pain…who doesn’t want that?
The objects they worshipped…poles and statues and the like…they were not the point…they were merely conduits to what they really wanted…
…they wanted the same things people today want…pleasure and the avoidance of pain…the ability to control all of the outcomes of our own lives.
I said last week…this crisis has been a massive revelation of the impotence of idols.
Our control of our lives, in many ways, has proven to be illusion.
The confidence in experts…science, military, government…has likewise proven to be illusion.
There is balance in this:
-We do have control over many things in our lives…who we will worship, how we will respond to God and others, which path we will take…who we will become.
-We should be grateful for people with skill and power who use them for the common good…doctors, government officials and others.
But the fact the fact that do have limited control and ability…often leads us to be tricked into thinking we have more control than we actually do over our lives and the world around us.
Thus we make idols of our power, people, our desire for control.
This is idolatry’s bait and switch trick.
“Bait and Switch” is when someone makes an offer that is very appealing (like a picture online of a product with a fantastic price)…then the actual product looks nothing like the picture or there are hidden costs involved.
I ordered a dress for my daughter online last Christmas…when it arrived it was a different size, shape, and color than the picture…otherwise it was the same dress…
Idols make promises of control…that has always been their attraction…you can have what you want, when you want it…but then they do not produce what they promise.
The actual life experience of idol worship…pleasure, power, pain avoidance…never looks like the “picture” on the advertisement.
And there is that terrible hidden cost that was not advertised up front.
The pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain…the strong human desire to have control over our lives and the lives of others…is to a degree understandable…and to a very limited degree…possible.
But when this pursuit of control…becomes our highest good…then when we lose balance…worship things other than God…we are not going to thrive as humans.
We simply do not have that much power…the power to control all outcomes…we are not made to live with idols sitting in the command posts of our hearts.
Many right now…are experiencing the outcomes of the realization that we are not in control…that idols have failed them.
Some of those outcomes include: anger, anxiety, increased complaining and demanding, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse…desperate attempts to control smaller things…because of a loss of control of larger things in our lives.
How do we balance the fact that we are to choose to “control” what we can control…like our ability and necessity to make the choice to worship Christ…with the fact that we are prone to turn into idolaters?
To become people who believe we can completely control our lives?
Larry Crabb has a model that I have found helpful for understanding this balance.
He describes the balance or imbalance using the terms “goals” and “desires”
Goals are things that we believe we need to live, function, thrive or even survive…things of ultimate importance.
Desires are things we may very much want and will suffer without…but we can survive if we don’t obtain them.
He proposes that when goals and desires are “switched” in our hearts (command posts) then many personal and relational problems follow.
When what should properly be a “desire” becomes a “goal” then it has become an idol and will fail us.
For example, I know someone whose spouse left them many years ago.
They desperately wanted their spouse to return(of course)…in fact they became so desperate…that the return of their spouse became the thing that controlled them.
This is understandable, and normal…but…
It (controlling the outcome of the spouse) became “The goal”…the one thing they must have in order to live, survive…it became their idol.
The problem…this goal was outside their ability to control it (no choice they made, could control their spouses choice)…so the idol of control failed them.
They could not choose for their spouse to return…and their spouse blocked this goal…they were powerless to get what they needed for life.
The result was…anger, frustration, desperation, anxiety, depression, health issues, and ultimately despair.
When this person, over time, reenthroned Christ…made faithful worship of him the controlling goal….they were able to learn how to grow, thrive even, when their spouse choose not to return.
It was painful…terrible…many tears…but they were not undone.
Because the goal was now…be faithful to Christ…and no one can block that goal…except for you…this is the one legitimate controlling life goal…
…to be found faithful…and the one goal that is unblockable by things outside your control.
When idols…desire to control outcomes that we cannot control…are exposed…we see things like we are seeing now in our culture.
Are you seeing idols…the desire to control outcomes…exposed in your life?
If you are…this may God’s severe mercy to you.
New York is hard hit by the virus right now…here in Kansas we have had a head start.
We have been given time to become better prepared…perhaps even prevent some of what they are experiencing.
If you have never surrendered your life to Jesus…and this time is exposing things in your heart, idols are failing you…God is giving you time to respond…what will you do?
Times like this expose idols…they also reveal the validity and the power of the gospel.
We can see how those who have enthroned Christ and continue to enthrone him as King of their hearts…are able to hurt, suffer, live with uncertainty…and yet not be undone…learn to adapt and even thrive during times like this.
Not perfectly…they still hit the ground at times, but they do bounce.
Christ does give the power for his people to bounce…but he does that by “taking control of our command posts”…by becoming Lord of our hearts and lives.
Here’s how Paul said it…
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Cor. 4:7-9
He was writing to people who were undergoing terrible life pressures…circumstances that pressed in on them from every side, but could not crush them…
Things that perplexed them (are you perplexed?) but did not cause despair…
*To be confused/perplexed, is very different than despair.
…they were being attacked by people (a virus?) but they were not abandoned…they were struck down…but bounced back.
They were bouncy not breaky…though they felt very breaky.
This is gospel wisdom…gospel living.
Not high IQ, but continually surrender…Christ is King
I’ve used the idea of being bouncy, not breaky…to communicate resiliency to our kids.
-Human resiliency is a real thing…it is in our design and we can do things to become more resilient.
But next week…we will talk about how even though we can be resilient…we can learn to “bounce” in our everyday life…we are all in fact, broken by sin.
No amount of human resiliency can make up for our brokenness.
We must surrender our lives to Christ…he was broken for us.
Now, with Christ enthroned as King…go control what he has given you to control, be faithful…
Then trust him with things outside your control.
This is balance, this is wisdom…this is the good path.
Let’s conclude with a favorite gospel story of mine that I have long found encouraging during times I feel pressed and stressed.
A man in a terrible, unthinkable situation brought his son to Jesus.
His son was demon possessed…the demons frequently tried to kill the boy…by drowning or fire.
When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.” “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. “You deaf and mute spirit,” he said, “I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” Mark 9:17-26
First some facts:
- This is terrible set of circumstances: The father was helpless to save his son.
-The son was likely scarred, from having been burned
-He was both deaf and mute
-He was considered unclean by the larger community…an outcaste
-The whole family would have been in constant turmoil.
- The father came to Jesus, desperate for help…struggling to believe.
- Jesus chose to drive out the demon
- We all face circumstances…now and at other times were things that are important to us are outside our complete control.
- We all come to Jesus with limited faith, we all struggle at times to “believe what we know”
- Jesus is going to do what is right to do in our lives…we can ask him for what we want, trust him for what he does.
Personal Application: Wisdom of the gospel applied to our lives in specific ways.
- Recognize the idols of wanting to control all outcomes…recognize where you have put “desires” where the one “goal” must be…to be found faithful.
-What has taken the place of Jesus as King in your heart…what has this time revealed?
- Admit your struggle to Jesus…yourself, and others.
“I do believe…help my unbelief.”
This is not a bi-polar faith, not a contradiction…this is human reality.
There are many ways in which we struggle to believe what we know to be true.
Do you know a family member or friend loves you? Truly know that?
But do you ever, at times, struggle to believe they love you?
We often struggle to “believe” what we “know”
What a great prayer for our lives… “Lord, I believe, help my unbelief.”
- Wisdom trusts Christ for outcomes…wisdom is not passive in what we can control, but wisdom chooses to trust Jesus for outcomes we cannot control.
*Email conversation with a young friend in a difficult situation
I could relate to him…I told him that there are times when our best is not good enough.
This is a disturbing and important realization for us to come to…we don’t have what it takes to make life happen…not really.
It’s never an excuse to not give our all…but a realization that we are finite, human…we do not control all outcomes.
Our hearts and our culture at large tell us…do your best, it will be enough.
Not always…at least not in terms of being able to bend outcomes in the ways we want them to go.
Sometimes…we do our best…and it just isn’t enough…we don’t have that much control.
*Again…this is not an excuse for passivity…but rather for faithful, confident activity.
“Lord, I believe…but I don’t believe fully…but that’s all I got for you right now.”
Gospel wisdom leans into the choices we can make…but ultimately our hope is in Christ…his best was good enough.
And when we are struggling…he is patient, kind, understanding…our “not good enough” is enough if we crown Christ Lord and keep enthroning him.
The prophet Isaiah spoke of the Messiah that would come and what it would look like for suffering, needy people…Jesus quoted Isaiah and applied it to himself.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.” Matthew 12:20
If your life feels like the broken stalk of a plant or the smoldering wick of a candle about to go out…Jesus does not ignore or despise you…he has compassion.
Where is this compassion? You ask…I’m still stuck in circumstances I don’t like.
Where is the rescue? When will he take this trouble from me?
His compassion, his grace does not mean he will give you complete control over outcomes…that would be him allowing idolatry into your life…he is in control…will you trust him in times of trouble?
He will give grace for us to trust him with outcomes…to put our confidence fully in him…and to go make the choices that are ours to make.
You might feel breaky not bouncy…you can do what faith does regardless of what you feel right now.
I think the struggling father’s prayer is a great place to start… “Lord I believe, help my unbelief.”