Wisdom—A Spouse, A Path, A Healer

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 4.5-7
5 Get wisdom, get understanding; 
do not forget my words or turn away from them. 
6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; 
love her, and she will watch over you. 
7 The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. 
Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

Reflection: Wisdom—A Spouse, A Path, A Healer
By John Tillman

The father, instructing his child, compares wisdom to many things. 

Wisdom is like a spouse. (Proverbs 4.6-9) The one who embraces wisdom and is faithful, loving, and devoted will be protected, watched over, exalted, and honored. The greater attention, deference, submission, love, and priority we give to wisdom, the greater protection and blessing she grants to us.

Abandoning wisdom means turning to the arms of other partners who make lofty promises of love but have no desire or ability to follow through. In their arms we will find abuse instead of protection, neglect instead of attention, subjugation instead of exaltation, and shame instead of honor.

Wisdom is like a path. (Proverbs 4.11-19) The path of wisdom is bright and grows brighter as it is traveled. What we learn of God’s wisdom today, leads us to learn greater wisdom tomorrow. Ever brighter, the path leads on and on. It is a straight path, not turning to the right or the left. It is a smooth path, safe to walk and safe to run, with no obstacles or dangers.

The only hazards on the path of wisdom are the many opportunities to wander onto paths leading away from wisdom’s light. These paths stay within wisdom’s sight briefly. Long enough to seem like shortcuts or detours. But soon, downward into darkness they turn, lined with false steps, dark corners, and opportunities for ambush and injury. These paths have twists and switchbacks, always promising better things around the corner, but only delivering more of the same.

Wisdom is like a healer. (Proverbs 4.20-27) Wisdom gives our bodies nourishment for what needs to grow and medicine for what is sick. Through our ears and eyes wisdom brings health to our hearts, our inner being. This inner mental and spiritual health flows to the rest of our life. Our words and our actions are healed and purified. Our sight is sharpened.

Forsaking wisdom is slowly poisoning ourselves. It brings diseased actions, feelings, and thoughts. We sicken from the inside out, unable to scratch what itches or staunch what is bleeding.

Be wisdom’s dutiful patient and experience healing and nourishment of spirit, mind, and body.

Place one foot after another on the penitent pilgrimage of wisdom’s path and find destinations beyond your imagining.

Vow to love wisdom for life as a faithful partner and be filled and satisfied.

Wisdom is calling. Will you answer? Will you be her patient? Her pilgrim? Her spouse?

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty, God reveals himself in glory.
Let the heavens declare the rightness of his cause; for God himself is judge. — Psalm 50.2, 6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 4 (Listen 2:37)
Psalm 34 (Listen 2:14)

Read more about Wisdom Versus Obedience
Wisdom is mined from a deep relationship with God. It is refined in the crucible of life.

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The Logic of Proverbs

Scripture Focus: Proverbs 3.7-12, 19-20
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; 
fear the Lord and shun evil. 
8 This will bring health to your body 
and nourishment to your bones. 
9 Honor the Lord with your wealth, 
with the firstfruits of all your crops; 
10 then your barns will be filled to overflowing, 
and your vats will brim over with new wine. 
11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, 
and do not resent his rebuke, 
12 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, 
as a father the son he delights in.

19 By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, 
by understanding he set the heavens in place; 
20 by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, 
and the clouds let drop the dew.

Reflection: The Logic of Proverbs
By John Tillman

Predictable, logical outcomes of mathematics support the idea of a creator. Otherwise, why is there order instead of chaos? Amy has three apples and Billy has two. When they put them together, they have five. Why is it always five and not eight or four?

Proverbs begins with a father building a logical case that his son should pursue wisdom rather than foolishness and violence. The father tells his son that wisdom is the logic behind all existence—that wisdom is what God used to create the world. He presents the universe as ordered and predictable…to a point.

Proverbs in scripture are logical, but they aren’t arithmetic. They do not always add up to a predictable sum. For example, the father says that honoring God leads to wealth and other examples of a good life. Anyone recently reading Job knows that good deeds do not predictably add up to a good life.

Some statements in mathematics are also commutative. They are equally true in whatever order you want to write or read them. Whether Amy’s three apples or Billy’s two apples get added to the pile first, there are always five. 2 + 3 = 5, and so does 3 + 2.

Proverbs in scripture are often not commutative. If you reverse the statements, the wisdom within them can turn to foolishness. For example, people with “overflowing barns” often fill them, not by “honoring God” but by cheating their workers or other forms of theft.

While principles of wisdom operate in the world, there are also principalities and powers that add radical variables to the equations of life. The father is not ignorant or overly idealistic. He recognizes these factors in the equation. He tells his son not to “envy the violent.” Why? The father knows that foolishness, folly, and violence will be attractive because they seem effective. The violent will inevitably prosper. How will we respond?

Like the son, we may envy the outcomes of violence or grift. We may be tempted, for reasons of practicality, to use questionable means justified by good ends. But there is another unseen variable—God’s judgment. God’s equation subtracts salt that loses its savor and deletes whatever profit folly or violence accrues.

Wicked means taint righteous intentions. Light cannot partner with darkness. Their ways that seem right to us lead to destruction. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.”

Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence
I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. — Psalm 119.174

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 3 (Listen 3:05)
Psalm 33 (Listen 2:08)

Read more about Temptation Has No Gender
Power, wealth, indulgence, sexuality…nothing escapes the corruption of sin and no gender is exempt from responsibility.

Read more about Pause To Read
Did you catch this weekend’s podcast episode, “Lady Wisdom”? Share this episode with a friend who needs wisdom.

Job’s Christlikeness

Scripture Focus: Job 42.7-12a
7 After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. 8 So now take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and sacrifice a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite did what the Lord told them; and the Lord accepted Job’s prayer. 

10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring. 
12 The Lord blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part.

Reflection: Job’s Christlikeness
By John Tillman

Job is a “type” or example of Jesus. He demonstrates or proves God’s righteousness through suffering and death. Like Jesus, God calls Job his servant, saying he is pleased with him and Job’s friends are told to listen to him because Job tells “the truth” about God.

Job is Christlike in righteousness, in suffering, in enduring scorn and insults, and in his eucatastrophic return to wealth and blessing. 

Job is Christlike in righteousness. Job is not completely righteous and sinless in the same way as Jesus. (In all of these categories, Job is only like Christ, not equal to him.) God never called Job an evildoer, as his friends did, but challenged him to work justice and crush evil. When Job describes righteousness, he refers to actions to set free captives and help the poor and downtrodden, as Jesus did.

Job is Christlike in suffering. Job lost the power and comforts his wealth and position gave him. Jesus chose suffering over heavenly power and poverty over riches, making himself nothing, in our likeness, obedient to death. Job did not choose this suffering. Jesus did.

Job is Christlike in enduring of scorn and insults. Reading Job sometimes feels like scrolling through the worst insults and scorn from social media. And these are Job’s friends! Jesus endured scorn on Good Friday from voices that sang “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” just a few days earlier. Jesus is the despised and rejected one.

Job is Christlike in his eucatastrophic return. God’s command prevented Satan from killing Job but everything else in Job’s life died or was lost. Then, unexpectedly, everything was restored. The second half of Job’s life was better than before. God’s command would not allow Jesus to “see corruption in the grave.” The resurrection is the ultimate eucatastrophe.

If we follow Jesus, we cannot be surprised to step into the same situations. We must step forward to enact justice and righteousness. We must step into suffering and endure scorn. We step through the valley of death, knowing that resurrection and miraculous recoveries are often just around the corner.

May pits of suffering not make us ashamed. May piles of blessings not make us complacent. Job used both for God’s glory. May we not waste opportunities to make ourselves like Christ. Like Job, may we be a type or model of Christ for our community.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Cry of the Church
Even so, come Lord Jesus.

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 42 (Listen 2:41)
Psalm 30 (Listen 1:32)

​This Weekend’s Readings
Proverbs 1 (Listen 3:12), Psalm 31 (Listen 3:11)
Proverbs 2 (Listen 3:03), Psalm 32 (Listen 1:34)

Read more about Unexpected Victory
There is no one whose sufficient victory is more surprising than the eucatastrophe of the cross.

Read more about Pause To Read
Today’s episode is “Lady Wisdom,” last week was “Lady Folly” and next week, “RSVP to Wisdom or Folly.” Share this series with a friend who needs wisdom.

Unobligated God

Scripture Focus: Job 41.11
11 Who has a claim against me that I must pay? 
Everything under heaven belongs to me. 

Job 42.10-11
10 After Job had prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before. 11 All his brothers and sisters and everyone who had known him before came and ate with him in his house. They comforted and consoled him over all the trouble the Lord had brought on him, and each one gave him a piece of silver and a gold ring.

From John: We return to this devotional from 2020, remembering that growing in godliness means growing in our willingness to help those we have no obligation to help. Just as God helps us.

Reflection: Unobligated God
By John Tillman

“Who can stand against me?” God says to Job. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay?”

In the beginning of the book of Job, the adversary, Satan questions God’s justice. He says, in effect, “You are just bribing Job, God. He doesn’t really love you.”

Through many of their arguments, Job and his friends question God’s justice. They suppose that Job must be sinning in some way, otherwise, God is unjust.

We often question God’s justice today, asking many of Job’s same questions. Why do the wicked thrive? Why do the innocent suffer? Why is the world not just, if God is just?

When we question whether God is just, we question the author of justice.
We think God owes us something because we live in an unjust world.
But we are the ones who have made this world unjust, wrestling it from God’s will along the way.

We have sinned against God. Not the other way around. God is not a debtor. We are. Our sinful condition means that we are not the victims but the perpetrators. Sin makes us into God’s enemies.

God does not owe us salvation and forgiveness. 

Thank God that he pays debts that he does not owe. He is a God who gives when he has no obligation. He is a God who comes to us, as we suffer in the highways and the byways, and compels us to come into his lavish banquet.

In the last chapter of Job (tomorrow’s reading) we see that God restored Job’s fortunes. I suppose we picture God handing Job a reimbursement check. 

But there is an important detail that we should not skip over. God restored Job’s fortunes, yes. But God used the means of Job’s friends to carry it out. Scripture says Everyone Job knew came to give him a financial gift. 

Part of God’s restoration of Job was carried out in the community and by the community. When God sets out to redeem someone and rebuild their lives, he typically uses people to do it. 

May we cry to God for his justice, his righteousness, to be done on earth among us.
May we be a part of communities that line up to help the suffering as people helped Job.
May our actions be empowered by the Holy Spirit to demonstrate God’s justice in the world.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “ So when you give alms, do not have it trumpeted before you; this is what the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets to win human admiration. In truth I tell you, they have their reward. But when you give alms, your left hand must not know what your right is doing; your almsgiving must be secret, and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.” — Psalm 33.8

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 41 (Listen 3:03)
Psalm 28-29 (Listen 2:41)

Read more about God is Faithful, not Indebted
Job and his friends believed in an indebted God who owed good to the righteous, owed suffering to the wicked, and never made late payments.

Read more about Pause To Read
Tomorrow, we release “Lady Wisdom,” the 2nd of a three-part series of related podcast episodes. Last week was “Lady Folly” and next week, “RSVP to Wisdom or Folly.” Don’t miss them.

Waiting on the Lord, Loudly

Scripture Focus: Job 40.3-5
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
     I put my hand over my mouth.
 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
     twice, but I will say no more.”

Psalm 27.13-14
13 I remain confident of this:
     I will see the goodness of the Lord
     in the land of the living.
 14 Wait for the Lord;
     be strong and take heart
     and wait for the Lord.

Reflection: Waiting on the Lord, Loudly
By Erin Newton

Waiting on the Lord is one of those phrases we use all the time, but what does it even mean?

We pray for someone to spend our lives with and wait on the Lord in singleness. We pray for the healing of our loved ones and wait on the Lord throughout treatments. We hope for a few quiet days after a difficult year and wait on the Lord while we pour a cup of coffee.

We assume that waiting on the Lord requires some sort of quiet compliance. After all, we ask children to “wait over there.” Customer service says, “Wait one moment” while they connect us. The crosswalk signs chant sternly, “Wait! Wait! Wait!” All of these are expected to happen without complaint, without a fuss, without questioning the person who told us.

Job has not been so quiet. In his suffering, he has made all his frustrations known. No words or feelings have been spared. When God answers him, he admits he has spoken freely but comes up short to finding an adequate answer.

He covers his mouth and resolves to say no more. Is this finally his attempt at waiting on the Lord?

We are tempted to say, “Aha! See, he finally repents and submits.” We have just read chapter after chapter of theological discussion between Job and his friends. Job has begged God to come and answer him. Does God delay because Job wasn’t waiting quietly? Surely not, for we know that even the persistent woman was granted justice against her adversaries (Luke 18).

But we are left with the question we started with: What does waiting on the Lord even mean?

Is waiting on the Lord some sort of spiritual quiet game? Is there no room for questions, complaints, and pleading?

Job has been waiting on the Lord since the first tragedy. Job has waited in the silence of grief. Job has waited in the disagreements with his wife. Job has waited in the heated debates with his friends. Job has waited while scraping the sores on his body. Job has waited even in his harsh words. And Job waits as God speaks in the end.

We are all waiting on the Lord for something. Its various expressions are rooted in this: We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living because God always speaks in the end.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 40 (Listen 2:09)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen 3:13)

Read more about God’s Sufficient Justice
Humans are capable of a certain level of justice and we are responsible before God to bring about justice.

Read more about Sitting with Sinners
The Christian life means we follow the narrow path of obedience, but we must also follow the way of love. It is possible to do both.