Saturday, July 2, 2016

What We Trust Is Our God --- Proverbs 21:22

Proverbs 21:22
A wise man scales the city of the mighty
    and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.

The key to unlocking the meaning of this proverb is the last word,
trust.  On a literal level, no doubt wise tactics have often been the key to military victory.  In the Bible, David's capture of Jerusalem, and Cyrus' capture of Babylon, both thought to be impregnable, are helpful pictures of the imagery of this proverb.  But in the broader context of this section of the book, we are dealing with spiritual warfare.  We are dealing with the pursuit of righteousness and love --- a life pleasing to our heavenly Father.  What we trust in is vital in this spiritual battle.
What we trust and hope in is truly our god.  Martin Luther famously said, "The trust and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol.  If your faith and trust are right, then your God is the true God.  On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you have not the true God.  For these two belong together, faith and God.  That to which your heart clings and entrusts itself is, I say, really your God."[1]

Recently I was in Madison, Wisconsin and visited its capitol building.
  It is the largest dome in the United States, and only three feet shorter than the United States capitol building.  It is a beautiful building, but I was struck by its temple-like feel.  It was a reminder of how easily the human heart makes the state and power its god.  Our proverb is teaching us that trust in anything other than the Lord is foolish.  Wisdom is superior to power, because its foundation is in the fear of, and trust in, the Lord, to whom alone belongs "the kingdom and the glory and the power forever," as the last line of the Lord's Prayer teaches us.

Making an idol of the state and power is very tempting when you live in the most powerful nation in the world.  Our obsession with politics and power can betray the fact that we believe the real issues of life are located in Washington D. C., or in the latest headlines of the newspaper.  But the truth is, the real issues of life are always fought in the human heart.  What we trust and hope in is our god/God, and Proverbs teaches us that it is foolish to put one's trust in anything other than the living God.  The sage is teaching us that wisdom is better than might, because wisdom's foundation is in trusting the Lord.  The beloved apostle John put it like this:

" For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.
  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?" (1 John 5:4-5).  

[1] From Luther's Large Catechism, in The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Translated and edited by Theodore G. Tappert.  Fortress Press, 1959, p. 365.

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