If…

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If...

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“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures…” ~Proverbs 2:1-4

There are five examples of “then…” that follow from thus seeking wisdom diligently: 1) finding the fear of the LORD; 2) understanding justice and righteousness; 3) deliverance from evil men; 4) deliverance from evil women; and 5) walking in the good ways and thus remaining in the land.

But these are consequent to the “ifs” that Solomon here lays forth. He utilize eight verbs, putting term on term, to describe how his son may attain unto the knowledge of the Lord and of his ways, in order that he might receive the blessings of the covenant. Each of these “ifs” are contingent upon the son’s will, desires, and applied labor.

The father cannot coerce his son into wisdom, nor does he attempt to do so. Immediately after warning of the death that comes to those who scorn wisdom until it is too late, he tells his son what he himself must do in order to avoid this end himself. I particularly noticed that he didn’t tack the warnings upon the conclusion of his book as an afterthought — no, he urgently makes his son aware of the life and death nature of these things of which he speaks. He loves him, so he will tell him about the most desirable thing of all and of how he can obtain it; for it is not something that he can gain for his son, but only model for him, explain to him, and urge him towards. Indeed, he loves his son so much that he first of all tells him of the harsh reality that falls upon those who fail to obtain this end. It is only after doing this in a couple of different ways that he begins to instruct in his son in what he must do if he would not die the death of a fool under the justly scornful sarcasm of rejected Wisdom. For, of all things, he should most of all esteem the counsel and instruction and rebukes of wisdom.

So, then, what must be done? How is this to be gone about?

First — even, perhaps, primarily — he must listen to his father, receiving, taking in, seizing the words given to him. This is most certainly a verbal education, requiring literacy of thought, a command of language, a mind able to reason and equipped to think. It seems obvious that this must be presupposed, or this instruction simply cannot be followed. According to Scripture, then, the use of language is vital to gaining wisdom.

The second imperative here is that the son “treasure up” or “hide” his father’s commandments in his own heart. They are to be protected, kept, held dear, and pondered upon as a most precious thing; the son himself must regard them as real and binding upon himself, as his own precepts. Notice also that this father commands his son. He is not suggesting nice things or a set of little sayings and observations that he maybe has found useful in his own life. No, he commands him as one under authority himself, for his son is a child of the covenant. If this father were to neglect thus leading his son in the ways of righteousness as defined by God, the Covenant-Maker, he himself would be sinning. If he neglected this duty, he would be acting as if there is another truth besides that which is and as if God does not destroy the one who breaks his covenant and preserves the one who keeps and does it. Thus it is that he commands his son to keep his words: he is confident that what he speaks is the truth of the God under whose life-encompassing covenant he stands.

Solomon follows the command to his son to treasure up his words with an admonition for him to make his ear attentive to wisdom. In other words, he is telling him to listen, not just to hear. There is a difference. He must wait to listen to wisdom, putting his attention upon it, for wisdom is not obtained through careless osmosis — the one who would gain wisdom must shut his mouth and open his ears and patiently apply his mind and reason.

The fourth imperative therefore follows closely: “incline your heart to understanding.” His very inner being must have a desire for wisdom that draws him to love it and seek it. This kind of heart the son must strive towards and cultivate — lest he die. Solomon adds increasingly inward and even emotional elements as he comes to the second half of his instructions in how to gain wisdom. He quickly proceeds to tell his son that he must love wisdom and understanding so much that he will call out, raise his voice, seeking and searching for insight as earnestly and as diligently as he would for a hidden wealth of treasure. Truly, it is only for the very deepest desires of one’s heart that a person will cry out and go a-searching. By implication, then, Solomon is telling his son that unless he loves wisdom this deeply and applies his efforts this entirely, he will assuredly fail to gain it.

In these eight imperatives, Solomon is returning to the theme with which he opened his book of instruction, just now beginning to tell his reader the “how” he should approach all that follows. He lays it forth as a mission, a duty, a quest, comparing wisdom to precious riches once again. He sets out the obtaining of understanding and insight as a difficult thing, but immensely valuable, giving the task meaning, value, and worth. People tend to value what they have labored for — and to labor for that which they value. Solomon does not ignore this as he impresses upon his son what is the most valuable thing of all. Yet, in this, there is an urgency and an implicit warning, as well, for if the son does not take up this challenge, if he leaves the gauntlet lying there, so to speak, he shall not find what his father is directing him towards in the rest of his instruction — and he shall assuredly not gain Wisdom. Then, if he did not value the fear of the Lord, he shall surely die under the mockery of that truth he disdained.

Many years later, another wise man of God wrote on the same subject: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him 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

In Which I am a Field Nurse

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Sometimes memories merge with reality....

Sometimes memories merge with reality….

“You need to send my number to the VA…. I have it on me…you know where it is?”

His intelligent blue eyes were bright and testing me, an impish smile behind the tears.

“You don’t have your dog tags on.” I smiled and flicked the blanket on his chest gently.

“Phooey! Must a-got shot off.” He turned his head in disgust. “But I can tell you my number. Wait…. What is my number? I can’t remember….”

I wiped the tears off his face some more, tears that came partly from a fear of losing his identity. He had asked me earlier to keep them from running down his nose, because they tickled.

“They have to have my number at the Army hospital.” There was an urgency in his voice.

“We’ll take care of you here, anyways.” I smiled again.

“Yes. Yes, they will.” Then, after a puzzled pause, he suddenly began rattling off a number quickly, with relief in his voice. He wanted me to repeat the last four. I did, holding his hand.

“You’ll get that to them?”

I repeated it again and assured him that I would.

——

“The field doctor came around earlier, and I told him I was fine. But I don’t know, now. Maybe it was that bomb blast…. Sometimes they don’t tell you how bad you are hurt.” He looked up at me trepidatiously.

“But they will tell us. We’ll tell you.”

He didn’t quite look sure. I leaned a little closer, wiping the tears off his nose some more, “I’ll tell you.” He relaxed, but started to cry a little harder. So I brushed back his thin hair again and told him, “I think you’ll be alright. And here’s what I know — I’ll tell you….” He listened, heard me, and stopped crying.

——

“Did you know Harold?”

“No, I didn’t have that privilege.”

“Harold was my uncle. He was five years older than I and we were close. He was right here when he was killed. He and Delmer. You know cousin Delmer? He’s the field chaplain that goes around these parts….”

“Yes, I think I’ve met him, though I can’t remember for sure.”

“Delmer was with him.”

——

As they were getting ready to move him from triage to a hospital room, he asked, rather anxiously, “Will they let my sweetheart be with me there? In the Army hospital?”

“Yes, of course, she’s right here. She won’t leave you.”

——

This is a true story. The wounded soldier is my 92-year-old Grandpa, not suffering from shell shock or bomb blast injuries, but from dehydration brought on by infection somewhere in his aging body. His sweetheart, my Grandma, was there the whole time; but, for whatever reason, I ended up being the field nurse standing by his bedside sometime shortly after the Battle of the Bulge, where Harold was killed. My Grandpa actually never saw overseas combat action…but for a couple of entire days, in his own mind he was somewhere in Europe many years ago…. In fact, he rode to the local hospital in a “Navy Field Ambulance” — as I couldn’t think up anything else that would satisfy him why the blue wheelchair van didn’t have a big red cross on it…………

Wisdom’s Warnings

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Warnings...

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“Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: ‘How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.'” ~Proverbs 2:20-33

A few more thoughts from my recent contemplations upon Proverbs 1….

Wisdom speaks openly and publicly — so publicly that four examples are given of the open places in which she stands and cries out loudly and clearly. These are places of business, places of socializing, places of leadership; in all these quarters, she speaks freely.

The first words of this section, following on the heels of the surreptitious and conniving words of evil men to gain wealth by making a compact with death, are words of a rebuke. She is not said to be directly addressing the greedy tempters, but it is clear that such are among those to whom she is speaking. Verses 24-25 and 29-30 make it abundantly evident that her counsel has already been heard and rejected by the simple and the scoffer whom she directly addresses in her opening words. Yet, she offers another warning to them — though it is quite evident that these rebukes are not indefinite and will assuredly come to an end. At some point, the time for reproof will be past and she will refuse to answer if they turn and call to her, seeking her help once they are in the midst of the consequences of their actions (26-28). Because they despised her counsel, they will indeed be made to eat the fruit of their works (29-31). And this is, ultimately, death (32).

It is abundantly clear that it is sinful to reject the counsels of wisdom — and this is why it leads to death. Verses 29-30 are the key to this understanding: “Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof,” therefore they shall abide in the consequences. Even though the words are so strident and even harsh, it is actually a kindness for wisdom to rebuke so sharply in accord with justice — it is life itself which is at stake. The chiefest of our duties as creatures of God Most High is to fear him; thus, it is the height of rebellion to despise the reproofs of wisdom that comes from him.

I also noticed in verse 23 that the one who turns in humility upon receiving the just rebuke, acquiescing to its truth and righteousness, to this one will be given the spirit of wisdom to open her words to his understanding. The words of wisdom and the spirit of wisdom are not separate, but always must go together — and both are given. Neither is gained by human endeavor alone, but must be granted by the Lord and giver of wisdom. It is quite clear and evident in Solomon’s teaching that true wisdom is from God and that the understanding of his words is something that is given and not innate to human nature.

Because human power cannot obtain wisdom, it can be stated so confidently that the one who hears wisdom will be preserved from death and the dread of disaster (33). Now, it is not said here that the wise person shall dwell in the ease of riches — it does indeed say that the wise person shall dwell secure, at ease, and without dread of disaster — but it does not say that no disaster shall ever befall him. Rather, it says that he shall be free from the dread of disaster, implying that he stands secure and at ease in his heart. Why? How? Because by his heeding of wisdom, he shows that he fears God. Fearing God, he wholly entrusts himself to his Maker. He does not have to depend upon his own self, his own power, his own limited perceptions — he is God’s and God shall guide him through every way. Thus, the fear of calamity cannot and will not override his life or his heart — because he fears the Lord, the provident Creator, and seeks the paths of righteousness, justice, and life, and does not walk the paths of autonomy, self-reliance, and covenanting with death. Following the law of God may lead a man to material prosperity, it may be, but it is not this wealth, but his fear of God, that secures him from the dread of disaster, for the same Lord who gave it can also take it away.

As this is yet the opening of Solomon’s book of instruction, I noted that he begins with warnings against those who have heard already and have rejected the things he is about to declare to his son. He shows that wisdom offers life to those who turn and heed, but that her mockery and scorn will hold forth no lawless pity on the unrepentant one who despises her words — for her words are spirit and they are life — they are the very words that teach one what it is to fear the Lord. Since to reject her is sin because it is a rejection of the Creator’s law, I understand from this that warnings indeed have a very real place in godly education. “Lest…” is an important concept in training a Christian mind — for the Lord is indeed Lord of justice and he is not mocked; all his word and all his will shall surely be accomplished. This is also in accord with the example throughout Scripture of the way the Lord deals with his people. He does not let us be ignorant of the consequences which he shall indeed cause to fall on those who ignore him and despise his lordship by rejecting his words. He is loving and honest towards us — and so ought we be towards others, even as Solomon is here towards his son by so early in his discourse laying forth these grave rebukes.

Another thing I noticed in this passage is the use of the word “simple.” In our day, “simple” is glorified as the essence of beauty, goodness, and rightness. But it is clearly not with such an opinion that Solomon uses the term. Rather, Wisdom teaches that “simpleness” is not in accord with godliness because it is ignorance — and ignorance leads to folly. Since wisdom is not innate to human nature, neither is it native to the simple and ignorant. This is why it is so necessary to search after wisdom, seeking to leave ignorance behind and to become instructed according to our Creator’s will. And is this not the very aim of Solomon’s instruction — the fear of the Lord? This implies therefore that the Lord must be known, and, as he is our Lord, our duty towards him must be learned. This the “simple ones” do not know, nor understand, nor seek after. However, they can learn. Simpleness is not a crime, per se, though the love of being so clearly is (22). It is a hatred of wisdom and knowledge, wittingly, and thus it is sin. And the Lord does execute justice upon those who despise him.

This is also a reason why Solomon’s book is so clearly written to his son, a covenant child. The warnings are so severe because this son is one who knows, even if he is yet ignorant in many ways. He is shown the ways of the Lord in his upbringing — but if he rejects it, he is justly to receive wrath at the hand of his God. If he, though yet young and simple, searches for wisdom, understanding, and knowledge, he will find the fear of the Lord and be blessed, abiding in him. The son cannot be passive, but himself must either heed or despise these prominent warnings of his father. For his sin will be his own. By warning him, his father is demonstrating his love of him by showing him the death the Lord will bring on him if he does not humble his heart before his father’s instruction. And the father is also showing his son that he will have no lawless pity on him if he rejects his teaching, but rather that he will always agree with the law that it is good and just. If necessary, he will side with the law of his God instead of with a rebellious son. For truly, in this case most particularly, the father’s instruction is the very words of God. To reject this is to reject God himself. What a responsibility rests on Christian parents! To know the words of God and thus to command their children!

An Hour in a Life of Lyme…

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An Hour in Lyme

The following is an attempt to describe the state that I have previously been in, on and off, more or less constantly, during the course of the preceding two years of my life. To the praise of the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, this year I am doing much better than this weak depiction of a single hour reveals. The complete, entire, sad, utter, dark, warm, fevery, pervasive weariness has lifted, by the grace of God. Even when I am exhausted now, it is not to the same depths. And I know not how to describe those depths any better than by this narration of about an hour in the life of one afflicted with neuroborreliosis. Please read this and praise the Lord with me for all that he has done in my life! Many other people are very familiar with a similar state. Many have been healed. Many have not. Many do not know the source of their illness.

We have just gotten done eating lunch. So it’s time that I go and put the leftovers away before my sister washes the dishes.

But that means I have to get up.

Hmmmm…..

First, let me try to straighten my back (again) and sit up straight. I feel so utterly weary from the inside out…at least, perhaps, I can practice that self-discipline. I can’t seem to think in a straight line…I can hardly finish a thought…then there’s that vertigo…there is such a warm, fevery feeling in my brain! It feels all warm and full and dark….

Oh…yes….

Toes? Toes? Hey, are you there? Toes?

Oh. Okay — you moved. Thank you. Just checking.

Okay. Feet? Can you move a little, too, just so I know you can?

Thank the Lord! Yes, my right foot moved! Now…left foot, you too….

Okay. They will respond, after all…….now I need to twist around in the chair so I can actually get up…I just am not quite sure I can make it all in one motion….

Knees? Please…….thank you…..

Uh-oh. I’m slouching again…straighten up, you!

Now I need to stand up.

Really?

Okay.

Hmmmmm………I really feel old………so why am I laughing? Here goes!

Okay. I’m up now. Thankfully.

To the kitchen I go!

Oh! That’s right, I’m supposed to be putting the food away! So….wait a moment……

Well…..today I think I’ll just carry one dish at a time…my right wrist is bothering me…..besides….it feels like I’d drop anything if I had to hold it one hand. I’ve dropped enough stuff already today….I just don’t have any strength in my hands! It just doesn’t work, no matter how hard I squeeze…it just doesn’t work……

Now, then…it is taking me such a long time to gauge whether this amount of green beans will fit in this small dish. Do I need that one? Or this one? Should I try that one? I don’t want to underestimate and make more dirty dishes…..

My back hurts. I wonder why it tingles like that? It sure feels like there’s a fever in there…. Here I go, limping again, across the kitchen…can you hear that? Klu-klunk-klu-klunk-klu-klunk….etc. I want to go back to the chiropractor soon…that does help so much….

I grab for the bank of cabinet doors. There went my knees again, falling out from under me.

I really need to sit down….

Not yet! I have to get this food put away and in the refrigerator first!

Uhhhh……okay….now what was I looking for over here?

My neck is really grinding today, isn’t it? Every time I turn my head, it grinds and crunches…it sounds like it is right up inside my brain! I really don’t like the way it sounds……but I know that is where it is…….’cause it is that top vertebrae that isn’t quite right……I think?

Anyways……..yes….the green beans……

I wish I didn’t feel like sobbing for no reason right now. I’ve done enough of that already this week….my poor family……

Well…..I’ll try this one. Maybe while I’m here I’ll get the lid, too…..maybe I can sit down sooner if I remember that…..

I go to put the dish down on the counter top, but somehow I miss, and other things go flying. Whoops! My judgement and muscle memory really isn’t working with me here today, is it? What is it they call that? Dis-…dis-….displ-…no…..dispa-….no…disp-…I know it is dis-p-something……oh well…..I’ll probably remember later. Or not.

Now I have to bend over and pick up the spoon off the floor that I just knocked off…..I think I’ll just sort of sit here for a bit and rest a moment…….no….not too long…..I need to get these green beans put away……

Okay! I got up! Yay!

Green beans…green beans…….

Whoops!

Oh! My hands are so weak today! Now there are green beans all over the counter!

Somebody’s calling me to come look at something…..okay….I’m coming……

I can’t see that…..I really just can’t see that…….too blurry……where are my glasses? Where did I leave them this time? I used to always remember where I set them down at….now I just can’t remember!

Wait….have I even had them on today?

Hmmmmmmmm……

Well, they’re not here……nor there……did I leave them on the piano again?

No.

Okay.

Well…they must be upstairs in my bedroom…..do I really want to see across the yard that much? Well, not really…..

I was doing something, wasn’t I?

I really need to sit down.

My mind feels all a-fever.

I was doing something!

Oh! Yes!

I had a mess…I need to go clean it up……

So….I clean up the mess and eventually get the rest of the leftovers safely ensconced in the refrigerator. Now I can go sit down!

Oh….but wasn’t there something else I needed to do?

Hmmmmmmmm…my glasses!

Where, O where, can they be?

Wow! I sort of had a tune come to mind! That’s the first time all day! That makes me happy!

“O where, O where can they be?”

I think I’ll look upstairs in my room!

Oh.

Fifteen stairs.

Steps.

Wood thingys that well people run up and don’t think anything about.

I feel old. Really old. I guess my bloodwork from last year said I was about ninety-four — or was it ninety-eight — was it even ninety-something at all? Anyways….isn’t that about how old cousin Virginia is? Oh, I don’t know. I can’t remember numbers…. I want to be a lovely lady like cousin Virginia when I’m old, praying for the next generation…..my mind is so fuzzy I can’t even hardly pray right now….I always forget what I was saying……

Fifteen…..

Okay.

Toes?

Feet?

Knees?

Thank you…..only one step at a time……only one step at a time.

I’m so glad this thingy is here to hang on to….metal…pipe? Tube? Ummm….what’s the name…..oh, it doesn’t matter…..

My knee is really bothering me today. I don’t know what I did to it. Maybe I didn’t do anything to it. Maybe it is those nasty little bugs eating my joints. Maybe that’s all its from….I hope it isn’t permanent…..

I wish my shoulders would release a little tension…..perhaps that would help my headache…..I just ache all over…..

Just a few more steps…..

Really, is this headache from the babesia? I can’t tell……all I know is it just won’t stop…..

Seems like I was coming up here for something, wasn’t I? I know one thing, I’m going to lay down for a while…..I just can’t move today……let alone think…..everything sounds so loud….and the light is hurting my eyes now, too…….

I think I’ll shut the curtains. Wow. Even that hurts my wrist today.

My stomach is aching, too……I wish my hair would stop falling out……why? It doesn’t really matter that much….it’s just hair…..oh….and those prickles are back….those raw nerve endings….or whatever……are there bugs there, too? Or are they all up in my brain? I don’t want to think about it at the moment….’cause it’s probably mostly the toxins making so much sludge in my body…..but they say the bugs—

My backbone is cold…..I think I’ll use a blanket, even though I know it doesn’t help all that much…….

Oh…………………………

It feels so good to lay down……………

My brain feels like it is drifting away from me…………oh…..I suppose it is okay now………I’m laying down and everybody is fine with me resting for a while now………..

Wait!

Wasn’t I supposed to be doing something?

Oh, well….I’ll probably remember later. Or somebody will tell me. Or something……….something…..what an interesting-sounding word that is….I wonder where it came from….Latin….Anglo-Saxon…..Greek………..my head hurts……what was that about the Indian languages being related to the Greek and Latin and….uh…..I forgot. I want to learn more about languages someday…….my eyes hurt……..

Maybe someday the Lord will bless me with sleep.

Sleep……………oh, precious sleep………………..zoning out…..is that what they call this?………….it’s just not sleep……………..I. Just. Can’t. Move.

No……… I won’t even try right now.

What would it be like to be not able to move…..what’s it called? Something has to do with four……

My eyes hurt. Maybe I shouldn’t have worn my glasses so long yesterday. I wonder if that would have helped………….. Besides, I can’t see much with my eyes shut right now, anyways…….

Sleep…………..oh, sleep would be lovely…………but I won’t sleep right now……….

If I could just lay on the warm beach down there in Florida and go to sleep….all that sun…..warm……peaceful…..I love the beach……………..the sound of the waves…………If I could just sleep for three weeks straight, maybe I could wake up feeling at least somewhat refreshed……………….

Uh…….

I can’t move. This really feels strange…….how can I tell someone how they’ll believe me?

Wait? Can I move?

Toes? Fingers?

Praise the Lord!

Oh…..has it really been that long I’ve been lying here? Well, I think I remember the time when I came up…..I think? Well, maybe not precisely. But forty minutes! Wow…….

What was going on before I came up here, anyways?

Hmmmmmm…..

There was something I was supposed to remember….what was it?

I suppose I’ll remem—yes! My glasses……

But that means I have to move………………………………

The Ambush of the Greedy

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Ambush of the Greedy

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“My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we shall all have one purse” — my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.” ~Proverbs 1:10-19

In the rest of the first chapter of Proverbs, the voices of fools (as defined by Proverbs 1:7) are set opposite the voice of wisdom and shown as contrary to it. Those who are described as greedy men are said to entice by their words, connoting secretive subversiveness, while wisdom is represented as openly and freely speaking in all public places. Even as sinners actively plot bloodshed and transgression of the law of God, wisdom calls out, reproving, warning them from their folly, and even threatening them with death — a sentence carrying with it no opportunity to repent, for the guilty were not ignorant of the laws they were breaking.

What laws were these, that they were breaking and planning to break? The commands of God against murder, against theft, against covetousness — these in particular stand out to me. In the remainder of the chapter, Wisdom gives them no quarter, charging them with ignoring her counsels and hating knowledge. In all this, there is an unspoken assumption of real guilt and of sin as defined by the law of God.

But in verses 10-19, in particular, I noticed that this is an example of the life-consuming nature of greed and lust. Not only would these sin, committing murder and robbery due to their covetousness, but they, uncontent with their own sin, would have Solomon’s son join with them in their transgressions. Hence, the king carefully warns his son, telling him of the end result of such a way of living — that these men are only lying in wait for their own lives. And it is never good to be a companion of those who take delight in the things that God hates. The greedy man is not a strong man, nor unafraid. Such people bind themselves together in their iniquities by having one purse — thus necessarily sharing the responsibility as well as the sin, even though this does nothing to mitigate their guilt before the Lord. No confederation of sinners is any stronger against the Lord God than a single individual.

When analyzing a situation, it has often been said, “Follow the money.” Because power is the desire of lust and pride, money is a very tangible object pursued by the discontent and covetousness — whom the apostle Paul identifies as idolaters (Colossians 3:5). These men are predators, villainously taking the easiest prey unawares. In this, they are wittingly imitating death, desiring power from Sheol in order to gather riches for themselves. To them, sin and death is the way to beautifying their homes and persons — but, in truth, they are only committing suicide and planning their own demise. They thus prove themselves more foolish than the beasts, which will avoid a trap if they observe it being laid. The love of death so blinds a person as to make him his own ambusher, his own assassin, his own murderer — in the very face of the warnings of wisdom. A fool who despises the wisdom of God is under the wrath of God; and his own greed will kill him.

In the light of this, the voice of wisdom stridently warns the child of the covenant to consistently refuse to consent to their temptations. And if the Christian does find himself attracted to the voice of such foolish and subversive plotting, he is already wandering from the ways of wisdom and justice. Such wicked plans as are laid forth in Proverbs 1:11-14 are odious to the one who fears the Lord.

Such is the way of temptations. We are bid to be aware of them, seeking insight and understanding instead. In doing so, we will not be attracted to the many things that greedy men entice us towards, for we will be able to see beyond the moment, perceiving the end of those things. But unless we fear the Lord, we will not know to depart from evil, but rather will accompany it and oversee our own deaths, far from the Lord. Solomon is showing his son that the beauty laid before his eyes by the devious and twisted reasonings of greedy men is no true beauty at all — nor is it to be desired. Rather, we are called to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” ~Romans 13:14

The Aroma of the King

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image via wikiart.org

“Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.'” ~Luke 10:8-11

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” ~2 Corinthians 2:14-17

The scent of Christ surrounding his disciples is the aroma of the kingdom of God. Some do not receive it. It is a stench to them, as obedience to the word of God is both convicting and enlightening. They hate the light and do not come to it, choosing rather to flee into deeper darkness — and to death. Others, though, do receive it and are healed by it, drawn to the light by its odor of life, freedom, and love.

In everything that we do, as we are Christians, we are to do it in the name of Christ, our Lord and Head, based upon his satisfaction as the fragrant aroma of the propitiatory sacrifice before the Father. When we live in such a way, we bear the scent of the triumphant King wherever we go — and we will thus be as incense in the world, bearing witness to his presence — an aroma which some hate and others come to love.

Our very bodies demonstrate the truth of the vivid imagery of this word-picture describing the total life or death nature of the kingdom of God. For some people love the way one thing smells, while others detest the same. Not only that, people’s likings can and do change.

An example of this from my own life has to do with the cheap, “chemical fragrances” that Westerners live and breathe in unavoidable superabundance. Once upon a time, I loved the way these things smelled — until I wasn’t exposed to them for a while, instead breathing in primarily natural odors and essential oils. At first, these seemed rather flat and bland to me, until one day I realized that there was a beautiful complexity and loveliness to them that I had previously been simply unable to discern. And then I began to notice that the synthetic chemical fragrances all smelled alike to me — and that they caught at my throat rather unpleasantly. I wondered why I had ever taken such delight in them! I no longer could sense, with any detail, the variation between one and another, much less enjoy them — even while my ability to distinguish variations in smell in general has continued to improve the longer I have reduced my exposure to the man-made synthetic fragrances. It was as if my ability to smell had generally been altered and actually reduced by the constant presence of the chemical fragrances.

Such a transformation of our tastes and likings and desires takes place spiritually in our lives as we grow more and more sanctified. And the more sanctified we become, the more richly the perfume of Christ will surround us, so that, as we move through life, others will know that the kingdom of God has been near to them.

One exceedingly practical way in which this is seen is in the way we speak and in the attitudes with which we carry ourselves towards others:

“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” ~Ephesians 4:15-16

“For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled on one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” ~Galatians 5:13-15

Such a love results from the fact that, by the grace of God, we have come to know God and love his law:

“But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge…We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” ~1 John 2:20; 4:6

As obedient subjects of the Lord of Lords, as beloved children of the living God, we, as believers, give forth the aroma of the King because he has put his Spirit in us, healed us, and given us life — a life which is the smell of death to those twisted hearts who, loving only themselves, hate Him, for it is the foreboding of their own everlasting death.

[With indebtedness to Pastor Tim Price’s sermon of March 1, 2015]

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