Thursday, July 6, 2017

Christ in the Proverbs: Proverbs 14:33

Proverbs 14:33 
Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
    but makes itself known in the midst of fools.[1]

This is a tricky proverb to interpret.  The second line has given commentators fits, because it says that wisdom is revealed or made known in the midst of fools, which is difficult to understand.  For Proverbs tells us again and again that fools do not possess the wisdom offered in Proverbs, for it requires the fear of the Lord, something fools are without.

But the problem begins to clear if we see that the wisdom in view in this proverb is personified wisdom.  Personified wisdom appears throughout the prologue (chapters 1-9) as Woman Wisdom.  And, what does Woman Wisdom do?  She calls out to everyone to come to her and receive her message.  But what is the response to Woman Wisdom?  Do all flock to her?  Do all heed her call?  No, actually the majority prefer a marriage to Woman Folly.  Most prefer to be married to their idols, rather than to be married to the Lord.  The sad history of the Lord's own people proves that not all of Israel was Israel, and in most of its history only a remnant of the nation ever faithfully followed the Lord.

So, then, line one is teaching us about "the man of understanding" who has received Wisdom, and line two is telling us that Wisdom has been revealed or made known to fools, but for the most part, Wisdom's call has been rejected. 

When we remember that Lady Wisdom foreshadowed Christ, the proverb takes on added meaning for us as new covenant believers.  We are married to our Lord Jesus Christ.  We have received and welcomed him into our hearts.  But just as most rejected Wisdom's call, so most rejected Jesus when he came into the world:  "He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him" (John 1:11).  Nevertheless, some did receive God's Son, for the next verse says, "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

The discerning person, "the man of understanding," in line one of today's proverb, is the person who has welcomed and received Jesus into his or her heart.  The idea of this word "rests" in line one is that Wisdom "feels free to abide and remain.  Wisdom is at home . . . . and makes its influence felt there."[2]  Waltke says the word rests"means to be settled peacefully in a particular place, with overtones of finality, and/or victory, salvation."[3]  It is a heart that is conquered and ruled.[4] 

Surely, then, we must ask the question, Is Christ welcome in our hearts?  Has he conquered our hearts?  Is he ruling our lives?  Waltke contrasts lines one and two when he writes, "To come to rest and to rule in someone's heart [line one] are quite different from simply to 'make oneself manifest' to a group of people [line two].[5] 

Which group describes you?  Many who go to church are still described by line two.  Christ has been revealed to you.  Week after week Jesus reveals himself to you in Word and sacrament.  But has he conquered your heart?  Is he ruling your heart?  Are you resting and abiding in him by faith continually?

These are not easy questions to answer, even for genuine believers.  For believers fall short of God's glory.  We want to abide in him continually, but we have times when sin flares up in our lives.  That besetting sin besets us again.  We want to be ruled by Christ's Word, but we somehow stray from it.  We love the Word, but yet we get away from it.  "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it.  Prone to leave the God I love."[6]

Two things will help us.  First, don't give up.  Christians, you and I, are real sinners, not fake ones.  This is why we keep sinning.  But don't give up.  Keep repenting when you fall.  We live by the cross.  Keep pleading for a greater measure of the Spirit.  If you leave the Word, return to it, and learn to live in it.  Meditate on it.  Don't give up, but keep pursuing a closer walk with Christ.  Mourn over your sin, but remember: "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Our struggle with sin ought to teach us humility, so that we give up boasting.

Second, be zealous to bless others.  Be zealous to do good.  Set your heart to follow Christ each evening before you enter your bed, and set your heart to follow Him each morning before you leave your bed.  But also ask the Lord to lead you in the good works he has prepared for you in advance.  And, maybe some of those good works will be what our proverb implies, that the man of understanding will imitate his Lord in calling people to come to Christ.  Maybe some of those good works will be to people whom the Lord has prepared their hearts to hear a word about Christ.  For if our good works are prepared in advance by our Father, why should we not believe that some foolish hearts have also been prepared by him in advance!  "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).



[1] I have followed the ESV's alternative translation of line two, which removes the word even.
[2] Kitchen, Proverbs, 321.
[3] Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, 611.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] From the hymn, Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

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