Category: Bible

Sirach offers words of Wisdom

We live in a day full of information but often bereft of wisdom.

This morning I read something I had never read before. I went to the Catholic Bible and read from the book of Sirach. Chapter 24 speaks of Wisdom, she who comes forth from the “Creator of all things.”

The Creator, the ancient text says, gave Wisdom a place in which to dwell. The people of Jacob, of Israel became that dwelling.

The passage personifies Wisdom as a woman come to dwell among a people. This paints a beautiful image of what we know from the Old Testament. The writer of Sirach recognized that Israel had been specially blessed as a place for the Creator’s Wisdom to be gradually revealed.

Wisdom speaks of the Creator and Israel:

“Before the ages, in the beginning, he created me,
and for all the ages I shall not cease to be.
In the holy tent I ministered before him,
and so I was established in Zion.
Thus in the beloved city he gave me a resting place,
and in Jerusalem was my domain.
I took root in an honored people,
in the portion of the Lord, his heritage” (vv. 9-12, NRSV, Catholic Edition).

Can’t we see this as we read both the Hebrew Scriptures and then the new Christian testament? Wisdom established. Wisdom taking root.

Wisdom “grew tall” like a tree, Sirach says. She could be seen in her majesty, but she was not only seen. Wisdom “gave forth perfume. She was to be inhaled and enjoyed.

“Like cassia and camel’s thorn I gave forth perfume,
and like choice myrrh I spread my fragrance,
like galbanum, onycha, and stacte,
and like the odor of incense in the tent ” (v. 15).

And, in the imperfect but fertile Hebrew soil Wisdom spread and gave glorious delights and abundant fruit. And Wisdom issued an invitation for all who desire her to “eat your fill of my fruits.” She also gave a promise, that possession of her would be “sweeter than the honeycomb.”

“Like a terebinth I spread out my branches,
and my branches are glorious and graceful.
Like the vine I bud forth delights,
and my blossoms become glorious and abundant fruit. [148]
Come to me, you who desire me,
and eat your fill of my fruits.
For the memory of me is sweeter than honey,
and the possession of me sweeter than the honeycomb” (vv. 16-20).

And once we taste Wisdom, we want more, because we will never have all of her. And as we obey Wisdom we rise above the sin that so easily ensnares us.

“Those who eat of me will hunger for more,
and those who drink of me will thirst for more.
Whoever obeys me will not be put to shame,
and those who work with me will not sin” (vv. 21-22).

Wisdom is found in the law of Moses, the early chapters of our Bible today, Sirach said. This grand woman, Wisdom, is specially revealed in God’s law.

The law of Moses “overflows . . .  with wisdom” like the Pishon and Tigris rivers in the spring (v. 25).

The law of Moses “runs over . . . with understanding” like the Euphrates and the Jordan at harvest time (v. 26).

The law of Moses “pours forth instruction” like the Nile and the Gihon in vintage (v. 27).

The first humans dd not know Wisdom fully, nor will the last (v. 28). This should humble us. We have a tendency to speak with such certainty about the things of God. Will we every learn that there always is more to learn of the Infinite and of Wisdom?

For her thoughts are more abundant than the sea,
and her counsel deeper than the great abyss (v. 29).

But Wisdom makes a promise.

“I will again make instruction shine forth like the dawn,
and I will make it clear from far away.
I will again pour out teaching like prophecy,
and leave it to all future generations.
Observe that I have not labored for myself alone,
but for all who seek wisdom” (vv. 32-34).

Such a beautiful thought. The Wisdom of Scripture will again shine forth like a beautiful dawn, and her teachings will be poured out to all future generations. And it is not just for the sake of Wisdom herself, but for everyone who seeks her.

 

Excerpts From: Thomas Nelson. “NRSV, Catholic Edition Bible, eBook.” Apple Books. https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/nrsv-catholic-edition-bible-ebook/id386605154?mt=11

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It’s best to approach Scripture with humility

I received a call Tuesday afternoon. One Christian woman called on behalf of herself and another Christian woman — one in her 20s, one not in her 20s. Speaker phone engaged.

They had a theological question in preparation for a women’s Bible study. The Bible study materials being used including an interpretation my callers found odd.

They conveyed the details. I gave my perspective.

The long and short of my view was that I did not agree with everything the study writer said, but I could see how she (the writer) came to such a view based on Scripture. The Bible doesn’t say the same thing the writer said, but she may be correct in what it means, even though I don’t think so.

We do this all the time. We read Scripture and seek to interpret it. Whenever we move from quoting Scripture to “explaining” it, we have moved into interpretation. This is the stock and trade of every pastor and Bible study leader. A problem arises when we confuse interpretation with what Scripture actually says.

Lots of us take the Bible’s words seriously, but we should be a lot more humble about our interpretations of what it means.

Christians were once convinced the sun circled the earth because of what they read in the Bible. Mind you, the Bible never said such a thing; people interpreted what it said as meaning that. They interpreted wrongly. Just like the folks in the Bible, when I say the sun is going to rise in the east and set in the west, I don’t mean the sun is circling the earth, but someone who did not know better might misunderstand me and misinterpret my words.

Let’s face it, we are not God. There are lots of things we do not know. And since that is the case, it seems a heavy dose of humility might be in order regarding our interpretations.

When the Bible study writer cited above (a woman) and I get to Heaven someday, assuming God lets us both in and we still care about such details, one of us will find out he/she was wrong and one will discover she/he was right. I hope the one who was right will not gloat; there should be no gloating in Heaven.

A little bit of Heaven is needed for our redeemed relationships now. As we try to understand Scripture and apply it, it’s good to also leave room in our theology to know we might be mistaken.

Again, none of us are God. The one Holy Spirit is working to help us know truth, but it’s pretty obvious we are not “listening” very well because we Christ followers come up with lots of different interpretations of the same Bible verses.

Humility! We need more humility regarding our interpretations of Scriptures.

Therefore, as God’s chosen ones, holy and dearly loved, put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive. Above all, put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of Christ, to which you were also called in one body, rule your hearts. And be thankful (Colossians 3:12-15, CSB).