Random Thoughts Concerning a Mystery…

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A Mystery

“This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” ~Ephesians 5:32

Having recently begun reading in Genesis again, I have had reason to pause and consider the subject of marriage and its purpose as God ordained it. The following are merely some random notes drawn from my musings upon what the Scriptures expressly say about marriage.

A. There is no escaping from the fact that Adam named his wife. In fact, he named her twice! On two separate occasions (Genesis 2:23; 3:20), he named the woman that God brought to him. This seems to infer that there is a hierarchy in the very fabric of marriage, as instituted by God in the beginning, especially since the sin of the fall was set to his account.

B. Part of the curse was a setting up a conflict between the woman’s desire for her husband and his rule over her (Genesis 3:16). Sin always disrupted, corrupts, and destroys the things that God created good.

C. “Woman” was her name before it was “Eve”, which means something along the lines of “life-giver” in Hebrew. She is woman, the helper to her man, before she is the “life-giver” of his seed.

D. Together, Adam and Eve, male and female, were made after the image and likeness of God to have dominion over the earth, multiplying, filling, and subduing it, according to all that the Lord taught them (Genesis 1:26-28; cf. Matthew 28:18-20).

E. Adam was not alone given this task, nor could he have fulfilled it without the spouse God provided for him through no effort of his own.

F. Adam was delighted with Eve before she had done anything for him. He loved her and was with her (Genesis 2:23; 3:6).

G. Marriage was ordained by God for godly offspring and for the rule of mankind over the earth, for so it pleased God to create the universe (Malachi 2:15; Genesis 1:27-28).

H. Marriage is a covenant bond between a man and a woman. The two are to grow together, united as one person, in the Spirit of God (Malachi 2:15). This is a spiritual reality as set forth in Genesis 2:24 and the breaking, misuse, neglect, and abuse of this is grievous before the Lord who ordained it (ex. Malachi 2:16).

I. Very often throughout Scripture, God likens his covenant with the elect to be God to them to a marriage covenant and sin on the part of his people as adultery. For sin is a transgression or failure to keep his law-word of the covenant.

J. A man safely trusts the wife of his bosom — the Lord Christ has set his Spirit in the church that she might obey and be faithful to him only (Philippians 2:13; John 14:26).

K. The Father provided a wife for his eternal Son, the Word of God (ex. Ephesians 1:22-23). He, the Creator and Upholder of all things, became the One who redeemed his adulterous bride because he loved her, named her, knew her, and was with her, even though she had not yet done any good for or towards him (ex. Romans 3:8).

L. A wife is to be subject to her husband’s authority, even as the church is subject to the Lord, the great King (ex. Ephesians 5:24).

M. In this, there is not necessarily anything burdensome (cf. 1 John 5:3). Even as Adam could not alone fulfill the purpose of mankind, so it is, by the will of God, that Christ said that his church would do greater works on earth than he had done. The reason is because he was with and in them by his Spirit and all power and authority was given him by the Father (John 14:12-14). Likewise, in such a manner, a wife is invested to live in the name of her husband — her deeds are accounted as his, because she bears his name. Cf. 1 Corinthians 11:11-12.

N. A man must love his wife as himself, for, in a way, she is him. This is after the image of God, is it not? The church is the body of Christ — as a wife is to her husband (Ephesians 5:28-32; 1 Corinthians 12:27).

O. A woman is under authority in this most personal way to her husband — and to him only, for she bears his name and is one with him only. She is not subject to every man. Other authorities overlap, but, under God, her husband is her only head (1 Corinthians 11:3).

P. Christ gave himself for the redemption and preservation of his adulterous bride on account of his covenant word, which he would keep, even though she had broken it to the uttermost. He redeemed her, cleansed her, beautified her, taught her, kept her, provided for her, washed her, making her fit and capable of being faithful to him (ex. Ezekiel 16; Ephesians 5:25-27). There is not a total likeness here in human marriage, for no man actually has the power to do for his woman as Christ has done for the church. However, it is with such a love and dedication to the covenant word that a man ought to be towards his wife, be she ill-behaved or trustworthy (cf. Hosea 3:1; Proverbs 5:15-21).

Q. This is the root and ground of that jealousy of love in marriage — a reflection of the flame of the Lord, a product of real love, which hates everything contrary to it (Song of Solomon 8:6; Psalms 97:10).

R. Even though Christ came to redeem to himself a faithless bride, a Christian man should be looking for a prudent, wise, and faithful Christian woman fit to be a helper to him in particular. This is because the purpose of marriage as God ordained it in the beginning was for their union in seeking first the kingdom of God.

The Way I Cook: Seed Fudge

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Seed Fudge

Seed Fudge

It’s been a while since I’ve done a “The Way I Cook” post…but this time I actually made up a “real” recipe! It is chocolate again today, though I do know how to cook other things — for instance, there is a Indian-style way I occasionally make green beans which usually wins the favor of my family — and I recently made a butternut soup that my sister seemed to really like — but this post is about chocolate…something I’m calling fudge, to be precise. It is rich and tasty, textured and full of flavor, as a variety of seeds, coconut, and cocoa power are melded together in this special treat. As usual, when I got an idea the other day and decided I’d try it, I simply started pulling things out of the cabinet and dumping them into the food processor, a little of this, some of that, and a hint of that other thing…etc. My sister and I liked it so much, I’ve worked at perfecting the recipe so I can share it with you all just in time for Valentine’s Day….

I’ve used a mix of sunflower, chia, and flax seeds, but you could use some other nuts and seeds as well, as long as you retain the chia seeds. They are important for achieving the fudge-like texture. Again, I’ve used tahini, which is just already-ground sesame seeds, but you could use almond butter, peanut butter, cashew butter, even coconut cream….

Here ’tis, then:

Seed Fudge

1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1/4 cup sunflower seed meats

1/8 cup chia seeds

1/8 cup brown flax seeds

Grind these ingredients a while on high, until it gets a little soft and the sunflower seeds are pretty well chipped up. The coconut will start the “going to cream” process, which is important for the fudge to stick together in the end. Next, add in…

1/2 cup tahini

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp stevia power OR 1/4 cup honey OR sweeten to taste with whatever sweetener you prefer

pinch salt

pinch ground cardamon (just ’cause)

Grind it all up some more. Pack the paste down tightly in a dish, cover, and put it in the refrigerator overnight. It is best made at least a whole day in advance, not only to let the flavors all meld together, but also to allow the chia seeds and coconut some time to get all sticky and hold it into a fudge-like substance that can be cut up as a finger-food dessert. This makes less than two cups, so for a family-sized amount you might want to quadruple (or at least double) the recipe.

I hope y’all enjoy my flight of fancy…do let me know if you try it and how it turned out for you!

The Working of the Lord

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The Working of the Lord

“Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom he has redeemed from trouble and gathered in from the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes, finding no way to a city to dwell in; hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted within them. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and burst their bonds apart. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! For he shatters the doors of bronze and cuts in two the bars of iron.

Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water. And there he lets the hungry dwell, and they establish a city to live in; they sow fields and plant vineyards and get a fruitful yield. By his blessing they multiply greatly, and he does not let their livestock diminish. When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all wickedness shuts its mouth. Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.” ~Psalm 107

The way of the Lord in dealing with his people…this is Psalm 107. I have particularly loved this song for a while now, ever since I actually understood it — it is so rich and deep and full! So, come with me and consider the steadfast love of the Lord!

The “supernatural” working of the Lord in the lives of each of his people is here on grand display. Of course, it isn’t really “supernatural” or somehow “unnatural” that God works so immediately in the lives of each child of his. That is just a way of thinking we have acquired, by osmosis, if you will, from the culture in which we have been raised. Scripture, on the other hand, teaches us that it is perfectly natural, normal, and usual, that the hand of the Lord is at work immediately in and throughout our lives. I think that perhaps that is one reason why Psalm 107 so catches my heart — for it is, as it were, a record of my own experiences being a child of God.

The steadfast love of the Lord is on display throughout this song — and is even explicitly the purpose of its composition, according to the last verse: “Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.”

There are roughly about six sections here, four of them opening with “Some”: “Some wandered in desert wastes. etc.”; “Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, etc.”; “Some were fools through their sinful ways, etc.”; “Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the the great waters, etc.” Surely, every one of us has been in at least one, if not all, of these same circumstances (or ones very like them) and have been delivered by the mighty working of our God, as described by the Psalmist here.

It is the common experience of the saints to know what it is to be hungry and thirsty for righteousness, is it not? For us to know what it is to sit in the sorrow of afflictions? To learn that the paths of the transgressor are hard? To be overcome by events? And, in all of these situations, to be saved out of them by the working of the Lord in his providence and his kind application of his Word to us by the Spirit?

Here is the hand of the Lord revealed, here is his steadfast love demonstrated, here is the root and ground of all our praises!

“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and blessing!”  ~Revelation 5:12

The Fear of the Lord

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The Fear of the Lord

A few notes I’ve been compiling regarding Proverbs 1:7….

First, I wanted to look at how the fear of the Lord is described and defined in the book of Proverbs in particular:

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” ~Proverbs 1:7

“If you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright.” ~Proverbs 2:4-7a

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and turn away from evil.” ~Proverbs 3:5-7

“The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate…. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.” ~Proverbs 8:13; 35-36

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.” ~Proverbs 9:10

“In the fear of the LORD one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.” ~Proverbs 14:26

“The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” ~Proverbs 14:27

“By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD one turns away from evil.” ~Proverbs 16:6

“Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” ~Proverbs 23:17-18

Next, I wanted to see how the fear of the Lord is described and defined elsewhere in Scripture…so here are just a few out of many passages discussing the fear of the Lord:

“Come, O children, listen to me; I will teach you the fear of the LORD…. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” ~Psalm 34:11, 14

“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” Psalm 86:11

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” ~Psalm 111:10

“And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.'” ~Job 28:28

“And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God require of you, but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statutes of the LORD, which I am commanding you today for your good?…. You shall fear the LORD your God. You shall serve him and hold fast to him, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise. He is your God, who has done for you these great and terrifying things that your eyes have seen…. You shall therefore love the LORD your God and keep his charge, his rules, and his commandments always.” ~Deuteronomy 10:12-13; 20-21; 11:1

These verses in particular brought it sharply to my attention once again how the fear of the Lord, the love of the Lord, and obedience to him are so intertwined that they cannot be disconnected without the destruction of them. It seems to me that a biblical definition — by which I mean a definition of these terms drawn from Scripture itself — sets the love of God and the fear of God together in such a way that they must both be present, lest neither is complete. A number of New Testament passages explicitly build on this concept, also describing its result in godly obedience:

“Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him…. If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.” ~John 14:21, 23-24

“And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” ~1 John 2:3-6

Throughout all of these passages, I also couldn’t help but notice how the fear of the Lord directly leads to a departure from evil, from separating one’s self from sin — which reminded me of this beautiful passage, penned by the apostle Paul:

“But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.'” ~2 Timothy 2:19

But there were a few more things that I noticed from these passages, as well….

It is intriguing to me how fear and knowledge are linked in Proverbs 1:7; “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The latter part of the verse clearly implies that the fool had at least some knowledge, even though the first part explicitly states that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. So, when I compare Scripture with Scripture, I find that indeed the fool knew something, but refused whatever knowledge he had. “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.” Rom. 1:28

Thus, the fear of the Lord is indeed the beginning of knowledge; for from apart from this fear of God, the knowledge of the truth that one might have (even without the further instruction in wisdom that Solomon is preparing to give to his son) is refused. Moreover, I find that this fear — and the resulting knowledge and wisdom — comes only by faith (Hebrews 11:1-3). Scripture is very clear that true knowledge of God, belief in the truth, and fear and love of God is only by faith; for it is explicitly stated that those who prove themselves fools “did not see fit to acknowledge God.” This, again, implies that something was made known to them apart from faith, though they refused to retain it as knowledge, in order to believe a lie, calling darkness, light and light, darkness. And this is sin and there is no fear of the Lord in it. “For whatever is not from faith is sin.” ~Romans 14:23

What ultimately undermines the retention of this knowledge in faith, and its resultant growth into wisdom and the hatred of evil, is the rejection of the revelation of God. The question of Genesis 3:1 is the root of this, as it is a rejection of the knowledge that God has revealed. “Has God said?” How many different ways that this can branch out, watered by the thirst of sinful pride!

When the context of the commandment is questioned — or subtly redefined — when ulterior motives and false or slanted context is proposed (as in Genesis 3:1), then what is happening is that the Word of God is being questioned upon a different basis than from what is true and real. And hence it is that men, counting themselves wiser than God, refuse the knowledge that he gives — they do not like to have God, as he defines himself, in their paradigm. As they question his command — his revelation — they redefine the context and thus redefine the meaning and intention of his law-word. This is the manner of a fool — and this is sin. And thus it is that no one has excuse before God (Romans 1:20).

This reminds me of a tangentially-related subject: we do learn via our senses — there are numerous passages of Scripture commanding to listen, hear, see, and then to remember what has been perceived through the use of the eyes and ears and hands — but the way that we come to gain and retain knowledge is not entirely of our senses, for we are spiritual creatures. We, as made in the image of God, have innate categories of thought, a capacity for language, and a logical framework for thought itself. The old idea of tabula rasa is not taught in the Word of God and is actually antithetical to it.

In summary, then, knowledge and wisdom are not inaccessible — knowledge and wisdom and the fear of the Lord may be sought out and found, as we, on the other side of the coin, repent, seeking to replace our definitions and our own wills with the will of the Father.

“Who can utter the might deeds of the LORD, or declare all his praise? Blessed are they who observe justice, who do righteousness at all times!” ~Psalm 106:2-3

When May I Write?

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When May I Write?

I just stumbled across this poem I wrote a couple of years ago as I was really beginning to loose the ability to think. I thought I’d share it here….

When May I Write?

My fingers are twitching,

My mind — it is itching,

Oh! When may I write?

My thoughts — they are reeling,

My head — it is spinning,

Oh! When may I write?

Things wish to be said,

Words want to be read,

Oh! When may I write?

The days — how they fly!

The hours pass by,

Oh! When may I write?

A Poem

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A Prayer

Warrior Child

Belonging everywhere and nowhere,
In this, my Father’s world,
My feet to wander feel the call.

Draw me, O draw me, to you, O Lord,
Let my heart cease its roaming,
Finding all peace and rest in you.

Lord of the nations, Giver of strength,
Shaper of hope, my only delight,
Be my home, O Lord Most High!

In the torrent and the fog,
Beneath the darkness and the pain, 
You are there, you, my only home.

As the arrow shaft flies swift and far,
My prayer for your glory rises,
O Lord, hear my quiet call.

Looking forth on a broken world,
To which I belong, yet am unknown,
Where shall you call me and send my feet?

My Lord, King of the whole earth,
Give me warrior feet, a tongue of praise,
A song of power, and words of peace.

So send me forth into your earth,
Armed and strong, fit for the fight,
A humble child, always, only, at home in you.

Of Pencils and Music and Lyme

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Pencils, Music, and Lyme

An anonymous gentleman from the 1850’s. Not my best portraiture ever, by any means, and rather incomplete, but my most recent attempt…two years ago….

Last evening, my sister gave me a music recording as a gift, which I decided to listen to this afternoon. But what I had been planning on doing in the meanwhile rapidly evaded me…instead, I reached up and grabbed the only pencil within reach and found myself scribbling on the paper in which she had wrapped the CD. This time it wasn’t flowers or dresses, though, as my doodles often emerge; it turned out to be a knight clad in thirteenth-century armor. It’s been quite a while since I’ve drawn anything, knights in particular, but that little drawing seemed to just flow out of Gabriel Hudelson’s music….

In the past, I have drawn portraits in colored pencil and even painted a few with oils. People have always been my favorite subjects for my artwork, though architecture and flowers are close behind. But as Lyme disease closed in on me, that bubbling creativity that I had called “mine” escaped from me. Yes, it fled quickly, with myself in hot pursuit — a pursuit that proved less than vain at the end. Then, as that happened and I continued to grow sicker, the very enjoyment of beautiful and creative things — whether music, art, poetry — simply left me. My favorite things slipped away. And my imagination wasn’t even left to me as I dropped the tools of the arts from my hands — my pencils and papers and paints, the inked up composition paper and my violin bow, and the flowing, rhythmic words….

I mourned these things for a while, but then I came to realize that this was where God has brought me for his own purposes and somehow, someday, for my own good, as well as for others. I also came to realize that it hadn’t ever been “my” creativity, per se, anyways — it was a gift from God which he had given to me to use. So I determined in myself that I would be grateful for whatever I had left and that I wouldn’t feel sorry for myself about it, nor would I be envious of others who possess and wield the creativity, the gifts, skills, talents, and enjoyments that I had once had and had aspired to further. Sometimes such sorts of resolutions are more difficult to keep than we would like them to be — but I have found the Scriptures always prove themselves true…and these are just a few passages of the many that I myself have relied on in recent times, as I have more and more come to understand that my own life, as small and Lyme-affected as it is, is part of something much bigger than myself, for I belong to Christ….

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:4-7

“For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you,” ~Psalm 86:5

“Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is stupid.” ~Proverbs 12:1

“Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established.” ~Proverbs 16:3

“Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil. For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” ~Psalm 37:8-9

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declared the LORD; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge, new, sharp, and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, and you shall make the hills like chaff; you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the tempest shall scatter them. And you shall rejoice in the LORD; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory. When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them…..” ~Isaiah 41:13-17

For, indeed, the Lord does not forsake his own, for we are his, part of his kingdom, and are named his own children under the banner of the Christ, the Promised Son of David. Thus it is that I praise the Lord for his blessings on me and for his having given to me this day a tiny inkling of a return of a little creativity and slight measure of imagination…. As abilities are slowly, slowly seeming to once again become available for my use, it is also becoming apparent that they require re-training, re-disciplining, and even re-evaluation…. The tiny Lyme spirochetes are mighty in their destructive power — but their Creator is even mightier!

“To you it was shown, that you might know that the LORD is God; there is none besides him…And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them, and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power, driving out before you nations greater and mightier than yourselves, to bring you in, to give you their land for an inheritance, as it is this day, know therefore today, and lay it to your heart, that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Therefore you shall keep his statutes and his commandments, which I command you today, that it may go well with you and with your children after you, and that you may prolong your days in the land that the LORD your God is giving you for all time.” ~Deuteronomy 4:35, 37-40

Wisdom an Ornament

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image via wikiart.org

image via wikiart.org

“Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” ~Proverbs 1:8-9

I noticed here that by bidding his son to hear him, Solomon is employing verbal teaching; but the specific connotation in this case is not only a command for his son to hear his voice, but also for him to pay heed to what he is saying, for “hear” is put together with “forsake not.” This is definitely heart instruction and an appeal, as well as a command, with a long-term goal that the young one will cling fast to it and retain it forever. This instruction and teaching is a gift that the parents are giving and they want their children to keep it and not let it go.

Hence, see how they make it attractive and desirable by comparing it with ornaments of rejoicing and beautification — wreaths and necklaces. Now, I stopped to ponder on this once I realized that these things are mere outward ornaments and quite disposable, not at all bound up in the essential nature of a person, but this is what Solomon first compares wisdom with in commending it to his son. Why these things, so easily laid aside and so easily parted from one’s self? Doesn’t he want this instruction and wisdom to, as it were, become a very part of his child? Now, I do suppose that some would say that the wisest man who ever lived used this comparison simply because youth is more easily attracted by outward beauties — but perhaps, as well as this, it is that that these things are for beautification of the person, even as wisdom, the desired result of the teaching, is an ornament to the possessor, while not essential to his nature as a human being. A person may be beautiful in natural figure, but when ornamented tastefully, that beauty increases significantly. Even so, wisdom is an adornment for the beautification of a person, making a person of a lovely appearance and personality even more lovely.

So, I think that we see here that it is deemed both natural and good to seek further beauty of person, both in body and spirit. It seems that in making the comparison to wreaths and necklaces, Solomon is also commending their use for beautification, simply by assuming their value. Why would he compare his precious instruction for his child with something worthless? And this is by far not the only time that he does this. The comparison of wisdom and insight, righteousness and discernment, with physically attractive and beautiful things is common throughout Proverbs. Solomon remains pretty consistent in this use of the figure of ornaments for beautification of the body for wisdom, while he notably does not so much compare it with comeliness of figure or anything native to one’s self or body; instead, it is to lovely things which can be put on or taken off, outside of the essential being of a person — treasure, length of days, jewelry, friends, perfumes. By these figures, this father always is showing his son that it is something outside of one’s own self and that wisdom is not innate. Who can question that true wisdom and the fear of the Lord is not native to the sinful heart? Surely, though, it may be learned, by the grace of God, with diligent application to one’s own heart by heeding the voice of the wise one speaking the things of God. Even as these good and lovely things with which wisdom is compared require use and application if one is to have any benefit at all from them, even so is wisdom only acquired through diligent heeding of the word of God.

“Yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.” ~Proverbs 2:3-6

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” ~James 1:5-8

To Know Wisdom

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To Know Wisdom

image via wikiart.org

“To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth — let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” ~Proverbs 1:2-7

Today, here are a few more notes from the first chapter of Proverbs….

Solomon here, in the first few sentences of his book, makes known those to whom he is writing, lays forth the subjects of his teaching, addresses his purpose, and establishes both the premise of the foundation of wisdom itself alongside its implications, distinguishing the one who possesses wisdom from he who does not.

First, those to whom he is writing: he speaks first of all to the simple one, the youth, though he clearly is also addressing the wise man, in order that he might increase in understanding. From here, perhaps we can see that it is not a moral crime to be ignorant — rather, this lack of knowledge demonstrates a need for instruction. I think that we can also see that folly is not identical with ignorance, for in verse 7 we see that the fool who despises wisdom is not ignorant. If he did not know the instruction, how could he despise it? And Solomon, loving his son, wanting him to gain wisdom and not to remain simple and ignorant, is setting forth to instruct him in the ways of wisdom and righteousness.

Second, the subjects of his doctrine are expressly described as wisdom, instruction, understanding, insight, wise dealing, discretion, justice, equity, prudence. Each of these could be considered in depth in order to gain a fuller understanding of Solomon’s purpose and goals for his son, but this is beyond the scope of these brief notes here….

Third, Solomon is very clear that his purpose is to impart these things for the improvement and maturing of those who hear in two primary areas: 1) the knowledge of what is true; and 2) how to act according to the law of God in this world. When he says he is writing in order that the reader might “receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity,” this is where the rubber meets the road as knowledge of the truth is applied in wisdom and insight into life and its varying situations. Furthermore, by referring to “righteousness and justice,” he is harking back to the voice of the Law, where the way of righteousness is laid forth. In this way, Solomon’s teaching is nothing new, but builds on the previous revelation of God, interpreting for and teaching his children how he wants them to understand what God had said.

Fourth, the premise of all that follows in the book of Proverbs is this: the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. Clearly, wisdom cannot be obtained without first fearing the Lord, for wisdom applies and builds on knowledge. Knowledge is repeatedly spoken of in the Old Testament, in particular, as being specifically given by God. This is seen here in the basic premise found in verse 7, where Solomon says that knowledge begins with the fear of the Lord God. He could have said that wisdom begins there — but, instead, he went a layer deeper and said that knowledge begins in the fear of the Lord. This is so significant because knowledge actually is even more basic than wisdom, for it is the content of wisdom, having its beginning and source in knowing God aright.

Fifth, King Solomon points out the character of those who do not heed his teaching, setting up a distinction that he will continue draw sharply throughout the remainder of his didactic — the fool is the one who does not fear God. Thus, as we may see it exampled in his life and character and desires, he despises wisdom and does not apply instruction. Not being ignorant, he who does not fear God rejects the law of the Lord with derision, for he is wise in his own eyes and does not wish his knowledge to be dependent upon his Maker.

Sixth, I think that much of the depth and breadth of verse 7 hinges on the meaning of “the fear of the Lord.” But I think I will consider that more in depth in a different post….

So there are a few notes for now, rather bare and stark, I think, but things that seem rather apparent to me from the passage….

Marriage and the Unmarried

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The Seamstress

The Seamstress — image via wikiart.com

It is an interesting phenomenon to be unmarried, yet desirous of marriage. The subject can indeed be a very painful one, especially when situations in life that are already difficult are complicated with false ideas, especially about the purpose of marriage, romance, and one’s self.

So that is what I’m rambling about today: marriage and the unmarried Christian. First of all, it is clear that our culture has a rabidly unbiblical view of marriage and romance — and that Western culture has been afflicted with one ungodly view or another for many years.

Before I go any further, I just want to say that godly romance is a beautiful thing — and that, yes, I do find the painting with which I have opened this post beautiful because of the happiness and quiet seriousness there portrayed. Romance in a godly setting is a blessing, indeed, but those of us who have not been given this are truly no better off (as a form of pietism would fancy it) nor worse off (as our feelings sometimes would have us believe) than those who have it, because this, too, is from the gracious hand of our Father.

Anyways, it seems to me that for many in the church, “old-fashioned” ideas of romance, and of what married life is supposed to be like, have been taken up in an effort to replace radical feminism — but this sort of romanticized mindset still fails us. It cannot and does not truly bring peace to the believer either before or after marriage because it is not from a thoroughly biblical perspective. For, while this rather superficial view of the purpose of marriage may be more appealing to our Christian sensibilities than the harsh, impersonal sexuality of contemporary society, this does not mean that it is actually godly. The popular culture of our WWII-generation grandparents was dripping with an autonomous, nearly magical, perception of romantic love, marriage, and the purpose of life that it would behoove us younger folk to learn from and return to the Scriptures as our standard for gauging our longings for marriage and romance.

For, according to the Scriptures, the ultimate purpose of marriage is essentially the same as the purpose of our existence in the first place — the glorification of God, the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, and the edification of the church. Obviously, this is in the context of being a Christian and thus existing in the covenantal outlook on life that we are called to stand in as children of God.

It was this purpose for the people of God — dominion of the earth under God — that was in place even before there was woman. It was for this overarching reason that woman was even created, since God said that it was not good for the man to be alone in the execution of this task. Therefore, God gave him a wife for a companion and yoke-fellow in his work as steward upon God’s earth. In its most basic fundamentals, this is the purpose of marriage: it is a reason outside of ourselves, focused upon God, maintained by the help of the Spirit of God. The woman is not to be, as various pagan interpretations of femininity would teach us, either the moral and civilizing element of humanity, nor some sort of matriarchal goddess type of life-giver and therefore primary power in the world; rather, by the Word of the Creator, she is to be the helper suitable for her man, neither man nor woman existing without the other. (Please see Genesis 2:15-24 and 1 Corinthians 11:7-12.)

Elsewhere in Scripture, it is explicitly stated that marriage had the covenant of promise in view, as well, for “what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15). Children are sent into a family as heirs of the covenant of the Lord (Psalm 78:1-8;1 Corinthians 7:14; Deuteronomy 28:1-6; Acts 2:39; etc.). Hence, the vital importance of the Scriptural emphasis upon passing from generation to generation the knowledge of the word of the Lord (ex. Deuteronomy 6:1-9).

And then there is this: the marriage covenant is used time and again in Scripture to illustrate the relationship of the Lord God with those he was calling out to be his people, that they might know him and that he might be their God. Our Lord clearly delights in ornamenting, beautifying, and blessing his people, even as Adam loved Eve and showered her with kind words before she had ever done anything for him; and even more so as Christ Jesus loves the church and continually provides for her abundantly in every way.

But this example of the love of God as an illustration of what human marriage is supposed to mirror certainly does not mean that the husband is to live for his wife. This is where many people’s thinking seems to get twisted under the influence of some sort of romanticized ideas of “love.” It seems that Hollywood has taught the American woman to think that they can only be truly loved if her man’s life is centered on her and what she wants. But this is not exactly so…. Jesus does not live for his church; he died for her redemption and purification and rose for her glorification — but he lives and rules for the glorifying of the Father and obedience to his holy law. This is what men and women are to likewise live for, whether married or not.

And here is where the romance part comes into the picture. It is a beautiful blessing, indeed, but it is actually not fundamental to what marriage is. Marriage is a covenant relationship, implying that it definitely involves a legal status. Thus, a man and a woman can be truly married, though not partakers of romantic affection towards one another. The absence of the latter does not mean that the former is void, regardless of how Hollywood or Victorian Romanticism might seem to portray it. For romantic affections are certainly not the bedrock of marriage — though, in a biblical schema, the word of promise and the covenant of marriage is certainly the foundational bedrock of a lasting, solid, romance to be fostered and rejoiced in. Need I even mention the Song of Solomon here? 

Yes, romance is a desirable thing, for it is to be developed in the context of the promise of marriage. And marriage with one of a kindred spirit and like mind before the Lord, one going towards the same place and delighting in the same purposes and goals of life before him, this is indeed a desirable and good thing and it is here that the most unity and harmony is found. But it is not and cannot be the reason for which we live. Feelings, be they ever so strong and powerful, are never sufficient to be our purpose in life.

Finally, for those of us who are unmarried and desirous of marriage, there is much that could be said. But the heart and core of it is this — “‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity'” ~2 Timothy 2:19. And then there is this: “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him” ~1 Corinthians 7:17

God gives us what is best for each one of us at the very best time possible. Until we learn to apply this to ourselves in our deepest being, we are living in unbelief and denial of the very clear teaching of Scripture: “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.” ~Romans 8:27-30

And prayer is vital to all of life, including in our own areas of need. We ought not to pray pietistically and self-destructively, but are to humbly seek great things from a great God. Are we, as unmarried Christians, in difficult situations with no one in sight as a potential spouse? We must remember the purpose of marriage and remember our own purpose in life, remembering that the Lord is working all things for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ Jesus and for the good of his church — and delight in this. For God knows what we need. We must love God and the things that he loves more than we love the idea of possessing that beautiful thing called godly romance.

“For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” ~Matthew 6:32-34 

This is the Word of the Lord; therefore, this is a promise. We are called to believe our Father; to kiss the Son; and to stand fast in the Spirit. This is spiritual warfare. We must fight according to the Lord’s terms, not according to the world’s definitions. Only then can we stand strong in the Lord and pray boldly with Moses before the throne of grace, “Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!” ~Psalm 90:16-17