In which Lady wisdom is an analogy for your spouse.

In a previous post I mentioned that to become wise, you must flirt with Lady Wisdom. Proverbs 8:32-36 notes that she’s interested in men who study at her gates. Similarly, I submit that in marriage a husband should study his wife.
Not in the sense of being a panderer or a sycophant (that ruins friendships, I imagine it ruins marriages too), but in the sense of figuring out what makes her happy, what her temptations and struggles are, what her goals are, what the Lord has done for her thus far, etc. Then obey Jesus and “do unto others…”

Biblically speaking, wives are obviously admonished to do the same (but there’s no analog for Flirting with the wise guy that sounds as cool). So, just like you have to flirt with Lady Wisdom to become wise. Use the strategies for gaining wisdom to be a good husband or wife. I think of various proverbs (which are not divine revelation in the same sense as Isaiah, the Pentateuch or the Gospels, but are rather an inspired compilation of observational wisdom):

Won’t those who continually plot evil go astray? But gracious love and truth are for those who plan what is good.
(Pro 14:22)

Being slow to get angry compares to great understanding as being quick-tempered compares to stupidity. (Pro 14:29)

A gentle response diverts anger, but a harsh statement incites fury. (Pro 15:1)

These are all fairly obvious, but careful reflection can often reveal to the reader that they (that I myself) routinely live out of step with behavior patterns that seem self-evident. For instance “gracious love and truth are with those who plan good.” That’s obvious in life and especially obvious in a marriage with two sane people. Planning to do legitimate good typically (not always because the world is fallen and ugly) leads to good things. But how often do we neglect spiritual disciplines (a plan to become good)? How often do we actually plan to accomplish specific good things for others? I hope often.

Listen to this next string of advice from chapter 15:

The mind of the righteous thinks before speaking, but the wicked person spews out evil. (Pro 15:28)

The LORD is far away from the wicked, but he hears the prayers of the righteous. (Pro 15:29)

Bright eyes encourage the heart; good news nourishes the body. (Pro 15:30)

Whoever listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise. (Pro 15:31)

Whoever ignores instruction hates himself, but anyone who heeds reproof gains understanding. (Pro 15:32)

The fear of the LORD teaches wisdom, and humility precedes honor. (Pro 15:33)

All of those proverbs make obvious sense but have we done the work? In any relationship are we humble or do we just demand respect? How do we respond to criticism? How about the simple pause to think before speaking? Do we complain so much that we’re a “boring Brenda,” “Troublesome Thomas,” or a “Darlene downer?”

Anyhow, the point is that the book of Proverbs has a lot to say to us about growing up, getting wise and hopefully maintaining the integrity of the relationships with which God has blessed us. May the Lord help us break various cycles of sin as his kingdom comes upon the earth.

On Greek, Lexicons, and the LXX

It should be a truism that knowing Greek (or at least being familiar with it) is useful for preachers. I would go further and say that it is necessary for a long term ministry because knowing the Scripture in the original gives allows the preacher to explain the Bible not only in terms of his or her experience of obeying Jesus, but by genuine descriptive knowledge of its contents. Both kinds of knowledge are important.

Case in point:

NAS 27 Romans 3:25 ὃν προέθετο ὁ θεὸς ἱλαστήριον διὰ [τῆς] πίστεως ἐν τῷ αὐτοῦ αἵματι εἰς ἔνδειξιν τῆς δικαιοσύνης αὐτοῦ διὰ τὴν πάρεσιν τῶν προγεγονότων ἁμαρτημάτων

NET Romans 3:25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed.

NRS Romans 3:25 whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed;

ASV Romans 3:25 whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of the sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God;

Note the bold text. These are related, but nevertheless different notions expressed by three English words. All of them translate one Greek word (ιλαστηριον). It certainly is true that Jesus’ death was a sacrifice (Ephesians 5:1) and it is true that Jesus’ death propitiates/atones for/expiates God’s wrath in some way related to priestly sacrifices (Hebrews 9).
But, these are not the direct import of Romans 3:25. The referent for the Greek word there is pretty clearly the mercy seat. For instance Daniel Bailey looks to Philo, Jewish Apocalyptic Literature and to the LXX (Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and IV Maccabees) to find help:

Applying the biblical sense of ἱλαστήριον to Jesus in this theologically pregnant way would not have been entirely unprecedented for Paul, since Philo thought of the mercy seat as σύμβολον τῆς ἵλεω τοῦ θεοῦ δυνάμεως, ‘a symbol of the gracious power of God’ (Mos. 2.96; cf. Fug. 100). Perhaps this shows that Philo traced the term ἱλαστήριον etymologically not to ἱλάσκεσθαι (‘to propitiate or expiate’) but to ἵλεως, ‘gracious’ or ‘merciful’. This would then support the translation by ‘mercy seat’, though the vaguer expression ‘place of atonement’ is also in common use (NRSV mg. at Rom. 3:25 and Heb. 9:5). The old objection that Paul cannot have alluded to ‘the’ well-known ἱλαστήριον of the Pentateuch without using the Greek definite article is baseless, since Philo clearly uses anarthrous ἱλαστήριον to refer to the mercy seat (Mos. 2.95, 97; Fug. 100).
158 TYNDALE BULLETIN 51.1 (2000)

In other words, at this juncture Paul is making the point, not that Jesus is the atonement, but rather that he is the place of atonement and revelation. The mercy seat in Exodus was both a place of where sacrificial offerings were made, but it stood as a symbol for God’s kindness revealed to the Israelites. This is very important because Paul is arguing that Jews and Gentiles who come to Jesus are justified in the same way (because they are both sinful) and need not judge or places extra strictures upon one another (even ones from the OT law). Jesus is the place where they are both made right with God. Not simply a sacrifice that different kinds of people have access to, but a metaphorical sacrificial site. To him must different kinds of people come together to be declared righteous by God. But they must come together to him or they have not yet come. Not only so, but his cross represents and reveals God’s mercy to us in that it is God’s mercy to us.

This is in keeping with Romans 1:16-18: the gospel reveals God’s righteousness. In the story of Jesus, crucified, buried, risen, and reigning, the hopes of the ancient Israelites were fulfilled, including the promise to be a blessing to the whole world. 


Entitlement Culture and Forgiveness

In a study published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2004 it was concluded that:

Forgiveness, though widely admired as a virtue, sometimes brings costs for self-interest. In the wake of deep hurt, those who forgive must humbly set aside hateful thoughts and vengeful
fantasies that seem perfectly justified. To forgive means to cancel a debt, a debt for which one may fully deserve repayment. This debt metaphor suggests a profile of a person who should be especially prone to unforgiveness. An unforgiving person should be someone who is easily offended, highly invested in collecting on debts owed to the self, and determined to assert his or her rights in a principled effort to maintain self-respect. As suggested in the six studies presented here, individuals high in narcissistic entitlement fit this unforgiving profile in ways not fully captured by situational factors (e.g., offense severity, apology, and relationship closeness) or broad-based individual-difference constructs (e.g.,agreeableness, neuroticism, religiosity, social desirability). These findings suggest that narcissistic entitlement is a robust, conceptually meaningful predictor of unforgiveness.

Exline, Julie Juola, Roy F. Baumeister, Brad J. Bushman, W. Keith Campbell, and Eli J. Finkel. “Too proud to let go: narcissistic entitlement as a barrier to forgiveness.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 87, no. 6 (2004): 894.

The conclusion here reminds me of certain teachings of Jesus and the book of Proverbs:

In Luke 17:7-10 Jesus gives a seemingly out of place saying:

“Now, who among you, having a servant plowing or tending lambs, who comes in from the field will say to him, “Go rest, now!” Will he not rather say, ‘Prepare something to eat and get dressed to serve me until I eat and drink, and after these you will eat and drink?’ He will not thank the servant for doing what he was told, will he?” So also you, when you have done everything which has been commanded to you, you should say, “We are unworthy servants, we have only done what we must do.””

This seems to mean that we Christians should take our good deeds with a grain of salt. In other words, though God does want to bless us (which Jesus teaches elsewhere) it does not behoove the Christian to have high expectations about the nature of his or her own deeds. In the timeline of eternity they may or may not mean much, so hope in God to give them significance (which he promises to do). And then, as Paul says, “Your work in the Lord will not be in vain.” But an entitled attitude will probably cause significant anger when trials come either from like circumstances or others who mistreat you despite your hard work. Do note that this is a Proverb and not a universal principle. Jesus gives instructions about dealing with abusive authority and speaking truth to power elsewhere. So this is to be applied to those of use facing disappointment, not blanketly applied all who face injustice from legitimately un-thankful superiors.

Also, Proverbs 12:11 (ISV):

Whoever tills his soil will have a lot to eat, but anyone who pursues fantasies lacks sense.

If you pursue the fantasy of being owed something or the fantasy that crops grow without work, then you’ll find yourself going without. But it won’t only be that, but it will apparently be with a chip on your shoulder and an unforgiving heart.

Flirting with Lady Wisdom

“So listen to me, children!
Blessed are those who obey me.
Listen to instruction and be wise.
Don’t ignore it.
Blessed is the person who listens to me,
watching daily at my gates,
waiting at my doorways—because those who find me find life
and gain favor from the LORD.
But whoever sins against me destroys himself; everyone who hates me loves death.”
(Pro 8:32-36 ISV)

The book of Proverbs seems to be intended to help young Israelite men become wise. This does not mean it does not apply to women, it clearly does, but its main intention was apparently to instruct young men. The didactic methods are geared toward young men. Wisdom is portrayed in three ways: a wise mother, a beautiful woman (perhaps even a prophet), and as a wife.
Anyhow, the above passage talks about gaining wisdom as a means of gaining favor with God. This is interesting because many today talk about gaining favor with God as some luck of the draw thing. The Proverbs prologue indicates that favor with God is a term for those who work hard to be successful and ethical. But how can one get this wisdom which leads to favor with God? Lady wisdom says, “Blessed is the person who listens to me, watching daily at my gates”. In other words, attend to wisdom daily. Get the attention of wisdom. Treat wisdom as single man would an attractive woman (not as a conquest) but as an object of affection or as a pearl of great price. Sell your possessions to get wisdom and you will be blessed.
The point is obvious. To get the lady you must show her attention and figure her out. To get wisdom you must take time to figure it out, this will change you. You have to study daily. It works this way in God’s kingdom too; you sell your possessions to buy a field with a pearl of great price. You sell your sloppy thinking, bad habits, and laziness and study wisdom daily. This looks different for everybody in terms of calling and circumstances (are you a doctor, a grocery clerk, a mechanic, married single, etc). But it also looks the same: become humble, become generous, become frugal, spend time daily improving the skills you need to be a wise [fill in the blank here]. For Christians it also means daily attending to the teachings of Jesus Christ who claims that those who do so “are like a wise man, who built his house upon a rock.”

All of us would do well to flirt with Lady Wisdom.

Ancient Sexual Ethics

“For traditional societies, social justice, and not sexual conduct, is the basis for morality. Consequently, teaching dealing with virginity, marriage, divorce, infidelity, adultery, promiscuity, and rape are concerned not only with the sexual relationships of individuals or couples, but also with the social and economic relationships between the households in the village as a whole.”
Victor Mattews. 
The Social World of Ancient Israel 1250-587 BCE (Henrickson), 31.

Ancient forms of ethics/law were concerned with the integrity of the whole group rather than the rights of individuals. It is not that individuals did not have rights, it is just that individual desires (the desire to sleep with whomever you wish) were to be regulated on the basis of the impact those desires would have if fulfilled. 

The modern ethic of authenticity (the idea that what I want is uniquely best for me if I seek it in the way that I know best because I am me) leads to a vision of virtue that I predict cannot be sustained in the long term. If everybody gets what they want then only some people can get what they need. And if everybody’s sexual impulses are equally good, then nobody’s are particularly bad or dastardly. This is playing out in a big confusing way in the entertainment and political realms right now.