Sunday, July 20, 2014

Deadly Disease

“The waywardness of the naïve will kill them, & the complacency of fools will destroy them.”
(Proverbs 1:32)

The verse above is part of a troubling passage.  In Proverbs 1:20-33 (pasted at the bottom of this article), the writer personifies wisdom as a woman.  The wisest woman I’ve ever known was my dad’s mother, so I always picture this speech as being spoken by “Grandmother Wisdom.”  But it doesn’t really fit with things she might say, and it certainly doesn’t sound like something God would say, so it really bothers me. 

Grandmother Wisdom here says that she has shouted and cried out and desperately tried to get people to listen to her, but they refuse.  And of course when people don’t listen to Wisdom, they behave foolishly.  Foolish behavior means we live a fool’s life and reap a fool’s reward.  Disaster comes, and the fool cannot survive it.  The fool is destroyed by the storms of life, just as Jesus repeated at the end of the SOM (Matthew 7.24-27), when the foolish man’s house was crushed. 

But then G’ma Wisdom says something shocking: when your calamity comes, she’s going to laugh at you. 
When you beg for help, she will refuse. 
When you desperately seek her out, she’ll hide from you.
Why?  Because you didn’t listen to her in the first place.   

It doesn’t sound like something from the bible, even, does it?  When does God ever say that He will laugh at us when we fail, or make fun of us when we’re drowning in our own cesspool?   

The truth is, it’s exactly like the rest of scripture.  We just don’t listen to that much.  The bible is loaded with such warnings, but they don’t preach well.  They aren’t popular, so preachers and teachers don’t spend much time on this part. 

And even if you don’t recognize it from scripture, you must admit that it certainly sounds like the world in which we live.  Maybe God will rescue us for eternal salvation, but meanwhile we live in a world where we reap what we sow.  We reap the consequences of our own actions, whether wise or foolish. 

Consider these realities:
  • Fat people are fat because they eat too much. 
  • Weak people are weak because they don’t exercise.
  • Rich people are rich because they saved instead of spending or giving.
  • Materialistic people shop and have stuff & debt. 
  • People-pleasers grovel, players play and gullible people believe.

Of course there are exceptions.  Sometimes materialistic people are rich because they won the lottery or their parents were rich, and sometimes hard-working, frugal people are poor.  But generally speaking, we harvest the fruit of our own behavior in this life. 

The questions I asked last time were:
  1. Are you helping people to be better, stronger, and more loving - or do you add temptation to their lives, and so contribute to their downfall?  
  2. Are your “friends” helping you do the hard thing, or putting you on a pathway to reap a harvest of yuck? 

Much of my life my “friends,” family and church have been unhelpful.  Of course, I can’t blame them for my failures.  I’m not eating the fruit of their trees, but my own.  And that’s what this passage is about.  It’s a wake-up call to people like me.

Wisdom says that we should listen to her, and her alone.  If we listen to her, we may “live securely and be at ease from the dread of evil.”  And this is true of every story in scripture.  Samson, David, Peter, Saul, Joseph … they all knew the voice of Wisdom.  When they heeded her instructions, they were blessed.  When they refused her counsel, they ate some rotten fruit.

Homework & Sharing

Let’s try something different this week

Focus on the verse quoted at the top of this article (verse 32).  If we just take the line: “the waywardness of the naïve will kill them,” and think of it as a disease, what may be learn?  If you heard on the news that drinking city water will kill certain people, you’d pay attention, right?  So what is the killer here?  It’s “waywardness.” 

So … what is “waywardness”? 

Check out Yahweh’s word to Israel:
“Have you not done this to yourself by your forsaking Yahweh (your God) when He led you in the way?
“Your own wickedness will correct you, & your apostasies will reprove you….  See that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake Yahweh (your God) & the dread of Me is not in you,” declares Yahweh, Lord hosts.
(Jeremiah 2:17–19, excerpts)

In that passage, the Hebrew word translated “apostasies” is the same as our word “waywardness.”  In the context of Jeremiah, it’s God using the prophet to warn Judah that they are about to be destroyed and taken away to Babylon because they have drifted from Yahweh, the God who brought them out of Egypt and has loved them and cared for them.  And as you can see, it’s just like the proverb: they are reaping what they’ve sown. 

The same term seems also to be used in Jeremiah 3.6,8,11 & 14, and in Hosea 11.7. 

challenge to you:
A few of you reading this can do a little work on the Hebrew word and tell us more about it.  Please do this, and put it here in the comments.  If you’re studying Greek, then check out how the LXX handles it.  And use this to add to the blog this week.  Greek and Hebrew are fine tools, and can impress people, but here’s an opportunity to use those skills to help.  Words tell stories.  In this case, it’s the story of death – this “waywardness” is deadly.  Let’s figure out how to help ourselves and those who will listen to G’ma Wisdom to combat foolishness, and its vile fruit.

If you’re not a language scholar, then at least look up the other verses, and see if you can come to understand this idea so well that you can use it to make a difference in your own life – AND – to explain it to others by sharing here. 

For all of us: spend some time in prayer and thought on this.  How do we become “wayward”?  What happens in our real, everyday lives that lures us away from listening to God or G’ma Wisdom?  What (in plain language) should we DO or NOT DO to avoid this killer?  

Eternally Grateful

Lester Holt (a Christian anchorman for NBC) this morning reported an air disaster that had some survivors – people who were saved by the heroism of others.  He said the survivors would be “eternally grateful” to their rescuers.  It caught my attention because I suspect “eternal” gratitude is really reserved for those who save souls.  Saving a life, comforting a friend, curing a disease, feeding the hungry, etc. – these are good things.  But can they be compared to saving a soul from eternal death?  After all, if we save a physical life, we’re only delaying the inevitable.  I suppose the band on the Titanic made people feel good, too.  At least for a little while, before they sank into dark, freezing depths.

Spiritual death is real, and spiritual death is forever.  We all deserve this death.  Only grace will spare us.  But must we still live like fools, and refuse to listen to wisdom’s cry and warnings?  Don’t you want to survive the storms of life, and live securely and free from dread?

Learn to apply the teachings of Sister Wisdom.  Learn to make them real in your own life, and in the lives of anyone who will listen to you (or her), and you may very well receive “eternal” gratitude. 

Let’s not be wayward.  Let’s stay on the right pathway – the narrow way.  And let’s help bring others with us. 

Wisdom shouts in the street, she lifts her voice in the square;
At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:

“How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing & fools hate knowledge?  
Turn to my reproof!
Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you.  

Because I called and you refused,
I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; & you neglected all my counsel & did not want my reproof:
I will also laugh at your calamity;
I will mock    …when your dread comes,
…when your dread comes like a storm & your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
…when distress and anguish come upon you.

Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,

Because they hated knowledge & did not choose the fear of Yahweh.
They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof.

So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way & be satiated with their own devices. 

For the waywardness of the naive will kill them, & the complacency of fools will destroy them.

But he who listens to me shall live securely & will be at ease from the dread of evil.”
(Proverbs 1:20–33)

I pray that you all will live securely and be at ease from the dread of evil. 

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