Most of us want to live the good life, but we’re not always sure what this means. In particular, we hear words like “wisdom”, but don’t understand how what we read in the Bible leads us to wise living.
The Book of Proverbs has long been considered one of the greatest collections of wisdom literature. But how are Christians supposed to read it? Does applying it to our lives lead to moralism? Is such an old book irrelevant in our modern day and age?
In this episode of the podcast, Chase Kuhn speaks with Old Testament lecturer and colleague Dan Wu about how the Book of Proverbs helps us grow in wisdom as Christians. This is Part 1 of their conversation.
Links referred to:
- Our 2021 event program—including information about our March event, “Can Christianity community be good for you, me and everyone else?”
Runtime: 33:05 min.
Chase Kuhn: The Bible tells us that wisdom is something to be pursued. In fact, if you neglect it, the Bible calls you a fool. But I wonder how much we actively seek wisdom in our lives. Many of us have a vibe for what wisdom is or may be, but we don’t necessarily see how what the Bible teaches leads to wise living.
For a long time, the Book of Proverbs has been considered the source for wisdom. But it’s hard to work out how what we read there affects us. How are we to apply it to our current circumstances? Today on the podcast, we try to get clear on wisdom, how to pursue it, and the ways that Proverbs can help us as Christians.
CK: Hello and welcome to the Centre for Christian Living podcast. My name is Chase Kuhn. I’m coming to you from Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia. Today, my guest on the podcast is Dan Wu. He’s a colleague of mine here at Moore College, teaching Old Testament. He’s also a dear friend of mine. Dan, welcome.
DW: Thanks, Chase! Great to be with you.
CK: Great to see you! Dan, this is a personal note: I just was realising: we’re almost at our 11-year friendship anniversary!
DW: Oh, isn’t that wonderful!
CK: Isn’t that g—
DW: We should do something to celebrate.
CK: We should celebrate!
CK: Steaks on the barbie.
DW: Ah, that sounds good!
CK: That would be good! Dan’s on the program today to talk to us about the Proverbs. Proverbs are a rich part of God’s word and yet something that I know have mixed reception: some people love them; other people don’t know what to do with them—maybe most people don’t know what to do with them exactly—but a lot of people use them because they hear, “Oh, there’s 31 chapters. I could roughly do a chapter of Proverbs a day”. So quite a few people are on that kind of routine. What do you think, Dan? I mean, how do you find the reception of Proverbs among students when you teach them?
DW: Yeah, well, unfortunately in my perspective, I find that amongst our church circles and just in general, that Proverbs is a little bit of a neglected gem. People don’t really seem to know what to do with this book on the whole. There might be some, you know, purple passage chapters that they might know—some of the poems about wisdom at the beginning of the book—or maybe at the end of the book. But the main bulk of it—the Proverbs—sometimes a bit challenging to know what to do with. And as I said, I think that’s really unfortunate, because, actually, this is a book that God has give us. It’s his word and it’s given to us for our blessing and our good.
CK: Yeah. Do you think most people find them a gem that stays buried because they’re irrelevant—they’re hard work—because they’re bitsy—what do you think people find so hard about it?
DW: Yeah, I think it’s a bit of a mix of each. It’s a little bit hard to know exactly how we’re meant to approach this book that seems to be just random sentences. Some of them are obviously about God and relationship to him. But some of them sound very kind of earthly and irrelevant to faith. And so, you have that sense of reading it and going, “Why is this here in the Bible that’s supposed to be telling me about God and Jesus—my relationship with him? Why am I being told about pigs with rings in their snouts and that sort of stuff?”
CK: Yeah. Or honey: tell me the one you just told me about honey a minute ago.
DW: [Laughter]Yeah, so there’s a proverb in there, which is one of my favourite—I have many favourite proverbs in the book, but one of them is—I can’t remember where it comes from, but it basically goes, “If you find honey, eat just enough. Too much and you vomit” (Prov 25:16).
CK: [Laughter]And we wonder!
DW: And you read that and you go, “Okay. And …?” [Laughter]
CK: “I could have told you that!” [Laughter] I tell my kids that all the time! That’s right.
CK: Yeah, okay. Well, we think about Proverbs as a wisdom book. That’s what we’ve always talked about Proverbs being—a collection of wise sayings. Most of us, I think, have an idea of what we think wisdom is—
CK: —but I’ve really loved your definition of wisdom in the past. Can you tell us how you describe wisdom?
DW: Yeah, sure. So as you read the Bible—as you put together how it uses the word “wisdom”, and particularly how it uses it in a sort of an ultimate sense to do with relationship to God and how God has made the world, I think it—the simplest definition of wisdom that I’ve kind of tried to come up with is something like “wisdom is understanding how your world works and understanding how to live in it for your joy and success”. And so, it’s actually quite a—a generic concept: you can apply it to different contexts and areas and “worlds” in inverted commas—that you can think of. Each of those areas of life that kind of have a logic and a way of putting themselves together—that if you can understand that and tap into it, it just makes that area work. And you kind of know what you’re meant to do in that area.
So I was trying to think of an illustration and I’ve just gotten back into playing basketball, and it’s been a curious experience of coming back as a middle-ager and just feeling out the difference between being a, you know, teenager—20-year-old—and jumping all over everyone and having energy to do everything—and now being the crusty old veteran who kind of comes off the bench and just barks orders at everybody else. But I remember when I was learning to play basketball in my teens and there was a particular coach that I had, and to that point, I’d just been learning the basics of just, you know, dribbling and shooting and that sort of stuff, but I didn’t really get the game. But he was really good at just showing us the different positions—he showed us some videos of really good teams at work—and just explained how the game was meant to function and, particularly, how each of us were meant to play our positions. So obviously being the not-so-tall Asian, there is a particular position in basketball which involves, you know, staying outside and dribbling the ball around, looking to distribute the ball and working that way. And then we had our bigger guys who would work inside, and there was a real clarity of his explanation of how we’re meant to work together to make the best as a team.
And over that particular season, you just noticed the whole team was transformed from five guys running around doing something separately, just chucking up shots everywhere to actually becoming a really well-oiled machine that could do something on the court. And for me personally, once I understood how the game is meant to work and how I’m meant to inhabit the game successfully, it actually meant I knew I do these things, I may not do those things, but if I operate in that way, the whole thing just becomes smooth and just makes sense.
And I think wisdom in general is—that’s what it is: it’s understanding that world and its dynamics—how you’re meant to operate in it—and understanding, “Okay: here’s my niche, here’s how I impact everything else, and this is what I’m meant to do”. And that sort of click-into-gear and that sort of clarity is what wisdom is in the Bible.
CK: That’s excellent. I really love that. We’re going to talk about this a bit more right now—about how it applies to us personally and then in our second part, we’re going to talk about how it applies to a community and, really, that team dynamic—I love it, though. I guess people, then, need to understand why wisdom’s good for them. So I think you’ve just sold it in a great way—[Laughter]—but I think, I mean, “Is wisdom something we’re actually pursuing?” is a question—
CK: —I want to put to our listeners, really. You know, are we actually actively seeking to understand how the world works?
CK: And what that means for us as Christians? That is, how God has ordered the world for it to work. So do you think we care about wisdom enough today, or where do you think we’re typically seeking it if we are caring about it?
DW: Yeah, well, I think wisdom seems like a remote thing, I think, to our experience. And it may be for the, you know, privileged few who have deep thoughts or something like that. But it’s not something that we generally tend to think, “Well, I need to live wisely today”. And so, in some ways, it’s not really in our direct consciousness, and as a result, we don’t intentionally put effort into thinking, “How can I develop wisdom? How can I live more wisely with each day?”
On the other hand, I think we do it naturally. And so, if you think about just life, all the different things you experience—so, going from your family to, say, school, university, work, your social circles—again, they’re all different worlds, and the longer you live in them, there’s a sense in which, intuitively, you just figure out how they work and how you’re meant to operate in them—at least, to a limited degree. That’s wisdom. And so, in a sense, you are developing wisdom as you go, because you’re learning how to operate in different spheres of life—in different worlds.
And so, that’s no different, however, when it comes to our relationship with God. That is, if I can just return the basketball analogy—not that I’m obsessed or anything—but even once I understood the principles behind it—what I was meant to do—that wasn’t the end point there; that was the beginning of the journey. So because I loved it, I wanted to improve, I wanted to understand things more, I wanted to test things out, and actually see them come to fruition. And so, for me, just a satisfying process of understanding more, becoming more competent, learning my limitations, learning to try and transcend those limitations, find boundaries, etcetera, and that was so satisfying. And similarly with our relationship with God, you know, relationship with God doesn’t just finish once you’re converted—once you’ve put your trust in Jesus; it begins a journey of discovery, which the Bible would frame as wisdom. That is, once you’ve gone from a world without God to a world where God is everywhere, you just start to explore what does that mean for more and more areas of life until it’s everything. How do I live for God in absolutely everything? So that’s really the journey of wisdom.
So even though we don’t necessarily do it explicitly, I think, in one sense, we do it implicitly, but I think we can actually maximise that and catalyse that if we’re more intentional and understand that, actually, I’m meant to grow in this understanding of my new world and in my understanding of how to live in it for my joy, and successfully.
CK: That’s great. I think that you’ve said quite a few things there that are helpful, and I’d like to just pick it apart a little bit to tease out some of these implications. I mean, for one, you’ve just said effectively that anybody can be wise to some degree. So, I mean, a basketball player can be wise if they understand the game and work within their understanding of how the game works—
CK: —and—and grow in that understanding. So we can say that there are people in the world that aren’t necessarily Christians who possess a deep level of wisdom, to some degree. What, then, sets apart the Christian? I think you’ve talked about this a bit about when God enters the world. But how does Christian wisdom, then, differ from worldly wisdom?
DW: Sure. Sure. Well, they are related. And I think it’s really important to understand exactly how they are related, and this is why Proverbs actually does include very earthly instances of wisdom or foolishness, because they actually tie into the ultimate wisdom that the entire world is governed by and, really, is stitched into the whole world, and that is our relationship with God. And so, what it is built around, I think—Proverbs, as well as the Bible—is you’ve got to understand what is the relationship between creation and the creator? ’Cause that’s really the critical thing to wisdom.
So the key truth in the Bible is that God is the creator of the world, and he has created the world—in a sense, stitching in his very own character into the way the world is made up. And so, you have to start with, well, what is the character of God and how has he stitched that into the world? And so, one of the magnificent things about the Bible is it actually tells us a lot about God. You know, in fact, fundamentally, the Bible is a book about God in the first instance. And so, what we find with God is that he reveals his character to us and he does so at particular points in the Bible—in his journey with people, and particularly his relationship with Israel.
So there’s a key episode in Exodus 33 and 34, where Moses actually asks to see God’s glory—asks to see, in a sense, the essence of God—of who he is—as an assurance of his love, etcetera, for his people. And so, this is the famous incident where God sticks Moses into the cleft in the rock and passes by and proclaims his name, and then explains what his name means for his character. And the words are, he says, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger”—and then the key characteristic—“and abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exod 34:6). And what you see as you track the rest of the Bible is that those two terms in particular—love and faithfulness—really go on to be the core characteristics that express in the most distilled pure form who God is at his heart: he is loving and faithful.
And so, that, then, has massive implications for what wisdom is, because it also says that God has made the world, therefore, to resonate with his love and faithfulness. And so, if you want to understand your world—if you want to tune into how it works and get its dynamics, etcetera—then you have to build them off those two characteristics. The world is actually meant to work by love and faithfulness. What sort of love and faithfulness? Well, the love and faithfulness that you see in God the creator.
CK: That’s really helpful. So this is why I think the Proverbs, then, begin with that admonition. I’m looking at verse 7 of the first chapter of Proverbs: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” So, in one sense, what the Proverbs are saying there is that we begin to understand and really truly know the world in its good order. We understand more of love and what faithfulness looks like as we know God. And therefore, you are a fool if you despise this kind of wisdom and instruction. So what I’m offering to you—this window into the way that God has ordered the world and structured it for our own flourishing, to use that kind of buzzword now, is actually a good thing—
CK: —and you’re a fool to actually not pay attention to it.
DW: Yeah. Absolutely. And returning to something I think you mentioned earlier, that’s why as soon as you become a Christian, you are wise, because fundamentally, you’ve oriented yourself to the way the world works—that is, you’ve come under the lordship of the God who rules. But then, you can also see that it’s not just a point-in-time thing; it actually is also a journey for your whole life. That is, you fill out, you grow, you mature in the truth that you started in. And so, you can be wise now, but you can also grow and flourish and mature in wisdom.
CK: As we take a break from our program, I’d like to encourage you to plan to be part of our live events program for 2021. The major theme for all of our events this year is “community”. Under this umbrella theme, we’ll be thinking about how community can be good for so many different people, how we can deal with sin together, what it means to forgive and how we can raise the next generation. These events are designed to be engaged in community. Our hope is that you’ll be part of the conversations that we’re facilitating and that you’ll consider these events with others from your church, and that the topics will benefit the communities that you’re a part of.
Our first event is coming up soon: it’s entitled “Can Christian community be good for you, me and everyone else?” It will be held on March 3rd and I will be speaking at this event, along with my colleague, Paul Grimmond. We’re planning to address how the Bible’s teaching on community impacts the way that we live together practically. I hope that you’ll go online and register for these events, and I hope even better that you might consider doing this with your church. All the information that you need can be found at ccl.moore.edu.au/events.
Now let’s get back to our program.
CK: The wisdom that we achieve as we become a Christian, I think, seems to be summed in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2: the word of the cross is the power of God’s salvation—
CK: —but it’s folly to the world. It seems foolish to the world, but it’s God’s wisdom.
CK: A weak message, but God’s strength (1 Cor 1:18-25).
CK: And it—it’s that kind of opposite of what the world would otherwise think. And that is something that is bestowed upon us—even chapter 2 tells us that because we have God’s Spirit, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).
CK: We—we actually have that in us. So we become wise. But it seems to me that, for many Christians, the pursuit of something afterwards is a point of tension for them. They feel obliged to keep growing, and yet they feel as though if they try too hard, they’re not really trusting the salvation they have. So we’re very very very scared of being moralistic in any way.
DW: Yes. [Laughter]
CK: So how do we actually embrace the pursuit of wisdom—
CK: —as something that is necessary and good, and not in competition to gospel truth?
DW: Yeah, yeah. That’s a great question. And very very important to clarify and get very very clear. And I’m just going to go back to something that you just said, and hopefully we’ll circle back ’round. If we don’t, you can bring me back there.
CK: Totally fine.
DW: [Laughter]But you mention 1 Corinthians 1 and 2: I think that’s such a beautiful passage in terms of seeing Christ as the fulfilment of God’s wisdom. There’s another passage that I actually think helps you link explicitly 1 Corinthians 1 and 2—that Christ is the wisdom of God and the wisdom that we see, say, in Proverbs, where you have the character of God as love and faithfulness, which he wants to stitch into the world. And that’s actually the prologue of John’s Gospel. And so, at the end of the prologue of John’s Gospel, you read, verse 14, where “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” and then John says, “We have seen his glory—glory as of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth”. And they’re biblical synonyms for “love and faithfulness”.
And so what that’s saying is that Jesus, when he came into the world, was the very expression—both of God’s love and faithfulness and the response that the world is meant to make to God’s love and faithfulness. And you see this particularly in his death on the cross. That is, what is the greatest expression of love ever seen in the world—that is, true, pure, godly love? It is the giving of Jesus’ life for sinners.
CK: Yeah. 1 John 3:16, I think, says that. Yep.
DW: Absolutely! But it’s also the expression of God’s faithfulness—that God is faithful in making sure sin and evil do not triumph. He has judged sin, defeated sin, overcome sin in the just death of Christ for sins. And so, you see in the cross, love and faithfulness meet perfectly, and that is why Christ is the wisdom of God and foolishness to the world. Because the world keeps on trying to justify itself—save itself—see in itself the way to salvation, and so, it’s foolishness to say, “I cannot save myself. I need a saviour who has already loved me and been faithful to me”. But it is the very wisdom of God, if you’ve been paying attention from Proverbs.
CK: Very helpful.
DW: So that has something to do with what you actually did ask, but I’ve forgotten! [Laughter]
CK: [Laughter] It’s all right. I asked about moralism. So—
CK: —it seems to me that as we try to capture wise living—
CK: —we happen to make efforts towards a goal. But some people, I think, really get nervous—
DW: Yes, yes.
CK: —as soon as they start working in the Christian life.
DW: Okay, yep, yep.
CK: Now, I think we really need to work hard. I think, that’s—we are called to work out our salvation (Phil 2:12). We’re called to—
CK: —you know, put on certain kinds of virtuous characteristics (e.g. Col 3:12-14). We’re called to live in the newness of life that’s been provided to us (Rom 6:4). So how do you actually encourage a Christian to not shy away from—
DW: Yeah, yeah.
CK: —the pursuit of wisdom, as if it were moralistic or something?
DW: Yeah. Well, I mean, again, this is such a critical area for us to think clearly through, and get right. This is—has a long history, of course, of discussion and confusion. I mean, you think about the Reformation, for example: very similar things were being taught about how do we understand the place of effort—works—good works—living—Christian living when we know we’re saved by grace alone, not by our works? How do those two fit together? And I think it’s pretty much the same question.
And I think there’s a few different ways we could tackle this. But one of the potential weaknesses that we have developed in our evangelicalism, I think, is because we want to rightly stress how critical and fundamental Christ’s work for us is—that is, the work Christ does outside of us, on our behalf, in our place—by stressing that and by stressing it as not by what we do that we’re saved, the danger of doing that in an unbalanced way is that you forget that Christ does not only work for us, he also works in us. That is, when he saves us by his death on the cross—by his alien righteousness given to us—he doesn’t just save us externally to himself; he brings us to himself: we are united to him and his Spirit now lives in us. And so, one of the things we’ve got to actually understand really well is the distinction, but the integration, of Christ’s work for us and then Christ’s work in us. And it’s that—Christ’s work in us—as we’re united to our saviour, our spirits are transformed so that we become like him in increasing measure. That’s 2 Corinthians 3-4.
So that Proverbs would say, we are turned from rushing headlong away from God in rejection of God to now starting to desire, by the work of his Spirit, to actually want to respond to God and live for him. And that’s really where I see the value of something like Proverbs is it helps us to see on the basis of God’s gracious love for us, there is actually a joy and a freedom in living for him, because that is what we have been made for.
CK: That’s great. So give me some tips, then. I mean, for those that are listening, they’re thinking, “All right. You’ve sold me”—I hope. [Laughter] I hope they—I hope Dan’s sold you on this. “Read the Proverbs”. Where do they go? What do they do? They want to get into Proverbs: how can they effectively begin to engage Proverbs as Christian men and women?
DW: Sure. Well, look, I think in some ways, the simplest way is to understand that there are different genres in the book. But basically, let me give you the fundamental approach: the fundamental approach is this book is trying to build in you a love of love and faithfulness. It’s trying to get you to live by being loving and faithful like God is loving and faithful.
And if you read it with that basic orientation, that actually helps you, then, to filter and interpret and understand that each Proverb is bouncing off that main truth in different ways. Sometimes it’s affirming it. Sometimes it shows you a counter example that shows that if you are rejecting God, there are certain consequences. Sometimes it’s trying to help you to understand that in a fallen world, things may not be completely clear. There may be ambiguity in your experience of this. But there is enough still that is detectable that you can see that there is truth, even through the darkly lit room, I guess.
DW: And so, if you just take that basic approach, that will give you a—I think, a simple guide to how you’re meant to approach these sometimes random-sounding things. But also, if you think about the different genres—so you’ve got the poems at the beginning and the end, mainly. I think they’re a little bit more familiar to us—how to interpret reading poetry: you just kind of read poetically and, one of my favourite terms, you kind of just “vibe” what’s going on poetically.
CK: Yeah. You wear a beret, usually? Is that right? [Laughter] Put a little jazz music on.
DW: That’s right—try to sit outside in a café or something like that.
CK: That’s it.
DW: But poems, I think, we’re a little bit more familiar with. And you sort of develop over time, and as you read the poem or as you reflect—I mean, poems are meant to evoke emotion: they’re very impressionistic. Sometimes they will use vivid metaphors and try and play with your thinking and your feelings—that sort of thing—in various ways through the words. And so, the beginning nine chapters and the last two chapters in particular, you sort of get into that gear as you read. So you don’t read everything necessarily as an absolute concrete “This is the Word: say this, therefore, it’s this.” You have to read it as a poem. And so, you know, if you say, “My love is a red red rose”, you don’t actually mean that you love a literal flower. You are making comparison and there’s nice things going on in the association. And as the poem unfolds, you realise what’s happening is you’re trying to build a picture in someone’s mind and in someone’s emotions about what love is and the sort of person that is an object of love—those sorts of things—similarly to the poems in Proverbs. And so, when it talks about wisdom as a woman sitting at the highest point of the city, etcetera, asking people to come and eat in her home, you’re not meant to think of a literal female figure of some sort and a literal house; it’s a metaphor for an invitation to eat and be satisfied—to be filled—to have a home—those sorts of things—and that is the promise of the wisdom that Proverbs is trying to build into you. So first nine chapters—last two chapters—mainly poems.
Then you have the proverbs in chapters 10 to 29, and they are the single sentence ones. And there’s—I mean, there’s a lot to say about Proverbs. But if you think about how proverb’s meant to work, you can take a very shallow approach to it, you can actually—there’s a way of looking at Proverbs that is deeper and more real. So one of the challenges that we have in reading Proverbs is sometimes it does seem so shallow. That is, you follow a few simple rules, you follow my instructions, and you’ll get good stuff. If you don’t, you won’t. And the problem is, that just doesn’t work in real life.
DW: You tried it—
CK: I tried it, I didn’t get it.
DW: That’s right. That’s right. But when you think about how proverbs work in general, that’s not how they’re meant to work. Proverbs are meant to work differently: they’re meant to be short, striking, vivid sayings that evoke reflection. They’re not meant to be sort of just straight binding truths or commands—that if you do this, this will happen. So for example, you know, you could think of “A stitch in time saves nine”, and the reason why this saying is well known and kind of has persisted is, number #1 because it’s a short and striking saying using rhyming and alliteration—“stitch in time saves nine”—and it’s meant to capture an image, obviously, of needlecraft and sewing. But the point is clear, isn’t it—that if you have a little rip in your shirt, if you do one stitch now, that will fix it. But if you leave it and the rip gets worse, then you going to actually have the hassle of having to stitch stacks—like, nine stitches instead of one.
And so, then you go, okay, that’s the proverb—that’s what’s on the surface. What am I meant to do? And for us in English, you know, it’s pretty easy to reflect—that is, it’s saying, “If you act now in something small, it will save it from becoming something big”. And so, that can apply to lots of different areas of life—like, in our world, Chase: study. So some of our students at the beginning of the year, we give them little little bits of work, because we’re trying to help them to contain it—manage themselves well. If they do their bits of work each week, then that’s the stitch in time. But if they don’t, then they leave it to the night before the exam—nine stitches, and it’s almost impossible to do nine stitches before the exam.
And so, there’s that. But you can also apply it to, say, a difficult relationship. So if there’s a person who kind of niggles you the wrong way, and you know that this is just going to annoy you and really, you know, fray the relationship—so there’s a nice little transfer of metaphoric language—then maybe what you want to do is think about why that is and actually address it while it’s small before there’s a huge relational breakdown.
And then as you think about more and more areas of life, you just think, “Oh yeah. There are lots of times where taking action early and sort of taking initiative in a small thing will actually save me from a huge hassle”. And so, you go from a very simple form of words and a very simple striking image, and you go, “Actually, there’s a lot of kind of profound application I can make to various areas of life, and that’s what the proverb’s meant to do.
You apply that to the biblical Proverbs and I think it’s the same thing: it’s not meant to be just a shallow statement of bald fact: you do this and you’ll get blessed. In fact, if you read all the Proverbs, you just can’t sustain that way of reading them. Some of them don’t even tell you to do anything. And so, another one of my favourite Proverbs is in Proverbs chapter 14, verse 10, and it says, “Each heart knows its own bitterness, and no one else can share its joy”. And that’s it! And you go, well, that’s not actually telling you to do anything; it’s making a statement about hearts. It’s saying there is a loneliness and a sort of a shrinking of your experience in grief. There is a sense in which no matter how much you tell other people, you will still bear that pain yourself. And there’s also a sense in which, when something great happens, you know, it’s great to share it, but there’s a sense in which it will never quite be the same for anybody else.
You go, “Why would you put a proverb in like that if you’re just interested in ‘Do this and good things will happen to you?’” And so you go, “Well, okay: I know times of grief and I know how much it hurts. And so does God.” I think that’s amazing. So this proverb says there is a God who actually understands the experiences that we face in the human heart. What does that do? That helps me to go, if you pass it back to that simple principle that I outlined before, that helps me to go, “Wow, that is just a small aspect of God communicating how deeply he cares about me”. And that just is life-changing, because once you are filled with that, then you can say, “And therefore, I can extend myself in a similar way when I see someone else hurting”.
CK: Yeah. That’s really lovely. And, again, going back to the central themes that you’ve talked about, then—about love and faithfulness—that really brings out love and faithfulness, doesn’t it—it communicates to us God’s understanding—or God’s communication of love and faithfulness to us, and our reception of that—
CK: —as he resonates with [inaudible]
DW: Yeah, yeah. So one of our shared favourite theologians is Jonathan Edwards.
DW: And, you know, he has that image that I’ve used in your presence many times, I believe, but I just find it so helpful—not only for Proverbs, but actually for understanding everything—but particularly for Proverbs where he says, if you think about a light source like the sun and a mirror, that’s like God and creation. And so, God is the sun: he is the source, and he creates us and the world—not because he has to, but because he desires to have an object to love and to pour forth his glory into.
And so, he creates the world and fills it with his joy—with his good gifts. But we are meant to receive the love of God—the faithfulness of God—and then reflect it around to everyone in our actions—in our sharing of his good gifts—so that the world is filled with that love and faithfulness, and then return it back to him as we live lives with thanks and praise. And so there’s meant to be a sort of a back and forth—growing relationship of love and faithfulness between God and us, us and God, and that is life. That’s the game of basketball, but to the world. So that is how we are meant to work—that is how the world is meant to work—that we first receive the love and faithfulness of God: that’s why we’re saved by grace alone. But then, we respond to that naturally because we are filled with love and faithfulness, the natural is to response is to want to, then, express that and return it. And so, again, I think that’s a helpful guide for when you read a proverb, what is that trying to foster in you? What is it trying to stimulate. It’s trying to stimulate reflection around that dynamic.
CK: That’s great. And so, we see God’s perfect love and care, even as we read the Proverbs and see the ways that he has ordered this world and for us to live under him.
CK: Dan, I’m going to say thank you to you now. In our second part, we’ll come back and we’ll discuss more about how we can be reading these as Christians, applying Proverbs to our lives, and especially some more of the community dynamic—of how we do that together to cultivate wisdom—
CK: —as a community. Thank you so much, Dan!
DW: Thanks, Chase!
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As always, I’d like to thank Moore College for making the ministry of the Centre for Christian Living possible, and to extend thanks to my assistant, Karen Beilharz, for audio editing and transcribing. Music provided by James West.