Saturday, October 22, 2016

Proverbs 10:27 --- Married to Wisdom


Proverbs 10:27
The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
    but the years of the wicked will be short.

Our last proverb dealt with the royal Son who was sent by the Father.  Is it any surprise that that the Spirit of God would next bring to our attention the eternal life which the Son earned for us?  John 3:16: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

One of the things biblical scholars in recent years have tried to discern is the arrangement of the Proverbs.  No longer do scholars think the book of Proverbs is a completely random collection of individual sayings.  They are discovering interesting connections between the Proverbs, especially in terms of vocabulary, syntax, alliteration and assonance, as well as thought.  But one of the things that may be impeding their search is a reluctance to see Christ in the individual Proverbs.  Could it be that the Spirit of God arranged the individual Proverbs with Christ's work in mind?

Discerning the order of the individual proverbs may require us to interpret the Proverbs Christologically, using the method of interpretation Jesus commanded when he said, "These are the Scriptures that speak of me" (John 5:39-40).  But scholars are often so wedded to the literal meaning of the text that they are reluctant to move from the literal meaning to the Christological and ecclesiastical meaning of the text.  In saying this, I don't mean to be ungrateful for the excellent work of Hebrew scholars who have unlocked many wonderful truths about Proverbs.  But I do think Jesus, who is Lord, should be Lord of how we interpret his Word.

Proverbs 10:27 is an example of how we need to go beyond the literal meaning of a proverb.  So many scholars reject any idea of eternal life in this particular proverb (there are a few happy exceptions!).  But there are good reasons to think that the phrase "prolongs life", which literally says, adds days, should be seen symbolically as a pointer to eternal life:

First, the context points in this direction.  Verses 25 and 30 clearly speak of eternal life.  Verses 25 and 30 speak of the Lord's judgment, and contrasts the destinies of the righteous and the wicked.  The wicked will not dwell in the eschatological new heaven and earth, but the righteous will never be moved.

Second, long life is often a symbol of eternal life in Scripture.  A good example of this is the fifth commandment:

            "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, that your     days may be long, and that it may go well with you in the land that the Lord your God is           giving you" (Deuteronomy 5:16).

Typologically, the land is an eschatological picture of the new heaven and earth, and parents point to the archetypal Father of the human race.  Thus, the promise of a long life in the fifth commandment functions as a type of eternal life in the land that will be our eternal home.  Just as honoring father and mother generally brings a person a long life on earth, so honoring the heavenly Father and his Son will, without exception, bring eternal life in the new heaven and earth the Lord will make for his children.

Third, "the fear of the Lord" in line one gives us wisdom.  Proverbs 1:7 and 9:10:

           
            The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
                fools despise wisdom and instruction.

            The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
                and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

But Proverbs 1-9 personifies wisdom, picturing Wisdom as a woman, whom young men must marry to avoid folly.  Proverbs 1-9 culminates in two wedding feasts.  One must either marry Woman Folly, who stands for idolatry, and whose house sinks down into hell: 

            But he does not know that the dead are there,
                that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. (Proverbs 9:18)

Or one must marry Woman Wisdom, who stands for the Lord and who brings her people eternal life:

            For by me your days will be multiplied,
                and years will be added to your life. (Proverbs 9:11)

But the New Testament reveals that Jesus is true wisdom, embodying it perfectly as the wise Son of God.  We must marry him, becoming bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh.  213 times in Paul's letters he uses the phrase, or some form of it, in Christ.  By faith we are united to Jesus Christ, who is the bridegroom of his people.  We are united to him, and each week as we take his Supper we look forward to the marriage feast that is coming.  To be united to Wisdom incarnate is to have eternal life:

            "And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom     you have sent" (John 17:3).

Therefore, as we have been betrothed to one Husband, may we not be led astray from our sincere and pure devotion to Christ our Lord (2 Corinthians 11:2-3).  May we live in union and communion with him each day, who in his grace paid the bridal price with his shed blood to give his people eternal life.  Amen.
                                                                                               
                                           
                    

                                               

                            





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