Monday, June 27, 2016

Christ in the Proverbs: Icons of Discipleship

Proverbs 21:19
It is better to live in a desert land
    than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.

This section of Proverbs has been dealing with the anti-social aspects of wickedness.  The biggest problem of the wicked is their "quarrelsome and fretful" nature.  The wicked are fighting against the Lord and his revealed Word, refusing to trust him.  The wicked are quarreling with their Creator.  The wicked refuse to submit to the Lord, and thus, they become rebels, causing social disorder.  Having rejected the Lord and his Word, they make this world a hellish place of fighting, quarreling, and even violence, the opposite of the triune love.

The woman, more so than the man, is a better physical icon of discipleship.  Besides her beauty, her body is more receptive, which is the appropriate attitude toward the Lord and his Word.  While Proverbs' main image of God is Father, we should not forget the Lord is also the Husband of his people.  We are betrothed to our Lord.  The proper attitude to the Lord is one of trust, love and reception.  We are to receive the words he implants in our souls.  In this way, we bear fruit, and Christ is formed within us (see Galatians 4:19).  The imagery of Scripture is in some ways sexual, and is so meant to be.  Women beautifully picture what discipleship is supposed to be, and this discipleship is seen throughout the Gospels in women like Mary, who humbly receives the word of the Lord, and so Christ is physically formed in her; in the woman in Luke 7:36-50 who gives Jesus the lavish reception he deserves, when the male host so grievously does not; and in Mary who sits at Jesus' feet to humbly learn from him.

Maybe the best icon of discipleship in the Old Testament is Ruth.  After repeated urging from Naomi to depart and "find rest . . . in the house" of a husband from Moab (Ruth 1:9), Ruth refuses and instead she
clings to Naomi (Ruth 1:14), a covenant word often used for how we ought to cling to the Lord.  One gets the feeling that the One Ruth is really clinging to is, not Naomi, but the Lord, who has become her true Husband.  Her words to Naomi express trust and receptive discipleship, and seem at times to be more directed to the Lord, her Husband, than Naomi.  They are beautifully receptive words that speak of dwelling and lodging in the Lord, the opposite of the disorder and chaos created when the wicked quarrel and depart from him:

"Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God" (Ruth 1:16).

Therefore, once again, these humorous transitional verses about the quarrelsome wife teach us deep lessons about both the wicked and the righteous, and tell us what makes a place either heavenly or hellish here on earth.

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