This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on June 24, 2012. To listen to the audio, just click on this link – Prov 30C.
GOD MADE THE WORLD GOOD …
“There are three things that are too amazing for me, four that I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a snake on a rock, the way of a ship on the high seas, and the way of a man with a young woman.”
Why is it so fascinating to watch an eagle fly, or a snake move along a rock? It isn’t that we don’t understand how they do it – that isn’t what the writer is saying. Rather, there is something about watching a snake move or an eagle fly that is mesmerizing and beautiful and interesting – inspiring. When we watch an eagle fly, we want to be able to fly. There is a difference between watching an eagle fly and watching a pigeon. God made the creation to be fascinating, enjoyable, interesting
God has also made the creation to inspire us to create ourselves. Human beings can build ships – and well built ships on the ocean are beautiful, interesting to watch. They inspire poetry and dreaming about travel.
Not only this, but God has made certain things about our lives inspiring. Romantic love is inspiring. We love stories about romance and conflict and resolution and faithfulness. These stories move us to write music about love – dream about romance and pursue it.
God has made these things to inspire and motivate us to enjoy life and create – to worship. Indeed, our creative response to what God has created is a form of worship – our enjoyment is a form of worship. This is part of what makes us human – it is part of the enjoyment that God had in creation. This is part of God’s image. Without inspiration life becomes flat, boring, stale. And we are all inspired by very different things – an endless variety.
… AND YET, THE WORLD IS DISTORTED BY SIN: “This is the way of an adulterous woman: She eats and wipes her mouth and says, ‘I’ve done nothing wrong.’
The adulterous woman in vs.20 is anti-inspirational. She is meant to be a disgusting and disgraceful picture – gluttonous, dirty. She has lost any sense of what is beautiful, inspirational or even proper in regard to love. She is a dehumanized picture. She introduces a set of proverbs about how life can be distorted by sin and evil.
These Proverbs are introduced as things, “Which cause the earth to tremble, under which the earth cannot bear up” . They are very real examples of a fallen world…
~ What is Noble is Betrayed by What is Ignoble: “a servant who becomes king”
~ Evil is Often Rewarded: “ a godless fool who gets plenty to eat”
~ Destructive People Get Power: “a contemptible woman who gets married”
~ Unfaithfulness Wins Out Over Faithfulness: “and a servant who displaces her mistress.”
So what does it mean to say that these things make the earth tremble? They are a threat to what God made the earth/ life, to be. The fact that such evil things happen in our world give evidence that the world is broken. These things are distortions and corruptions of life.
The distortion of sin threatens our enjoyment. Threatens to bring harm into and ruin to what is good. Threatens to rob us of joy and contentment and life. And so we live in a world that is distorted – (like a Picasso painting). People who were made to be noble and joyful are often corrupted and foolish and unhappy – in fact, we are often corrupted and foolish and unhappy. We are affected by sin and we ourselves contribute to the distortion of life through our own sin.
WISDOM OFFERS US PROTECTION FROM OURSELVES …
“Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise: Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; hyraxes are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.
Unlike the inspiring images of the eagle and the ship – the images of wisdom, used here, are not impressive or inspiring. Instead, wisdom is seen in things that look weak… Ants that store up food – mountain badgers which create secure homes in the rocks – locusts that cooperate – and lizards which hide from danger.
Why do these proverbs use such unimpressive examples of wisdom? Because they are making a statement about wisdom. Wisdom doesn’t always protect us from evil in the world… the noble king is turned on by trusted servants – we live in a world where destructive people gain power over us and others. But wisdom does protect us from distorting our own lives. Wisdom keeps us from folly. Wisdom keeps us from being unfaithful – from ruling destructively over others, from living worthless, evil lives.
Wisdom is a protection that allows us to live meaningful, lives and to find enjoyment – but it doesn’t completely insulate us from a fallen world
… IN A WORLD WHERE WE ARE TEMPTED TO CORRUPT OUR LIVES THROUGH THE USE OF FORCE.
“There are three things that are stately in their stride, four that move with stately bearing: a lion, mighty among beasts, who retreats before nothing; a strutting rooster, a he-goat, and a king secure against revolt.” These images look powerful, but they are a contrast to the images of wisdom. They are images of things that “strut” pridefully. They are images of creatures who are depending on force and their own strength.
Like these creatures, what we want is to ensure our own happiness – and the happiness of those we love. In order to ensure that happiness – to get enjoyment from life – we use force. We get angry and yell and scream – or we get resentful and silent – in order to control people by force. We lie to get what we want. We take what doesn’t belong to us. We act selfishly and ignore the needs of other people in order to have life work out the way we want it. We act immorally and use people to get what we want.
Some of us are like the lion and actually have the ability to force our way and get what we want – some of us are more like the goat that butts his head against other people, always in conflict – or the rooster, angry, attacking, violent. Some of us, like the king, feel that we have everything in place to for our lives – we have ordered our troops so that life will work just as we have planned.
Force deceives and corrupts our lives. Force looks powerful and effective, but causes us to betray those around us – to be unfaithful – to misuse our position with others.
IF YOU HAVE PLAYED THE FOOL…
Old Testament Answer… Be Ashamed: “If you play the fool and exalt yourself, or if you plan evil, clap your hand over your mouth! For as churning cream produces butter, and as twisting the nose produces blood, so stirring up anger produces strife.” This is where the sayings of Agur end. We have the choice to live wisely and to turn from the corrupting power of the use of force, or we can use force to get what we want and be corrupted. Augur ends by telling us that the use of force – self exaltation and evil doing – is shameful and that it will lead to strife and hostility and painful consequences. In essence, he tells us to cut it out and behave ourselves.
Gospel’s Answer – Christ Offers Forgiveness and the Power to Change: If you have played the fool and caused harm in your family, workplace, church – Christ offers forgiveness and restoration – freedom from the shame of sin. Christ took on our shame, publicly on the cross – was shamed for us and has exchanged his nobility for our shame.
If you are playing the fool because you don’t know how to trust God and live wisely… If force is the only way you know how to manage your life – Jesus can give you the power to change. Bring your fear and distrust to the cross – confess it – and ask God for the grace to turn from force and to live wisely. “Do not be afraid to throw yourself on the Lord! he will not draw back and let you fall! Put your worries aside and throw yourself on him; he will welcome and heal you” — Augustine