Faithlife Sermons

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There is a quippy statement that I found attributed to 2 different authors, so I’ll just share it as anonymous, “You are not what you think you are; but… what you think, you are”
This is a poetic way of saying a verse that was quoted often by my mother.
Proverbs 23:7 (KJV) — For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…
My experience has been that people’s countenance often reflects the ideas they entertain.
I believe I’ve told the story about the optimist and pessimist boys who were sent to clean the barn.
One focused on the manure while the other figured that manure proved that a pony was nearby.
There is a section of books in the middle of our Bibles that is called “Books of Poetry” or “Wisdom Literature”.
These books do not advance the plot from Genesis where we read about the Fall to Christ, our Redeemer, to Revelation where we read about the Kingdom being fulfilled in a new heaven and new earth.
If these books do not advance the plot, why did God include them in the inspired Scriptures?
These books are a collection over many years of the thoughts that God gave to humans about who He is.
As we speak about wisdom, the Bible uses a different definition than our common understanding.
We tend to think of wisdom as choices that lead to success or desired outcomes and foolishness as choices that create problems.
In the Bible we find clear definitions of wisdom and foolishness.
This morning we are going to look in detail at one of these poems/songs and briefly glimpse at several others to capture snapshots of God’s revelation of Himself to man.
Song of Wisdom (Psalm 1)
The Righteous (Ps 1:1-3)
What the Righteous are not (v.1)
a. “walk in” is to be “as they are”
This pictures a growing comfort – walk, stand, sit
2. What the Righteous are (v.2)
This is the idea of a thought that you just can’t escape.
I have friends and family across the political spectrum and some of them get really focused on one issue.
I have one family member who seems to see every single news story as an attempt to take away his guns.
I have another family member who sees greedy capitalism as lurking behind every social ill.
I continue to discuss and love both of these family members even though they seem to have blinders on and see every situation through their tinted lenses.
This is what v. 2 is saying – the righteous person filters every option through the screen of God’s law; and they delight in doing so.
3. A Righteous metaphor (v.3)
I’ve learned a lot about the grass of the Tallgrass prairie in the last year.
I’ve learned that the root system for prairie grass can actually go down 7 – 10 feet so that when drought’s like we had a year ago come around, the plants continue to life so that after the burn they can produce lush, protein-rich foliage for the Spring herds.
This is the picture of v.3 that describes the plants that survive from moisture that may not be seen on the surface.
The Wicked (Ps 1:4-5)
1. “not so”
2. They are like Chaff
I’ve been intrigued by the harvest process.
Jeff Harshman was describing to me his younger years that involved a lot of shoveling to get the corn from the field to the silo.
Today modern machines seem to almost automatically separate the grain from the cobs and the stalks and scatters the worthless parts out the back of the combine to be disked into the ground
What used to happen was the plant was beaten to separate the grain from the plant, then all of that was tossed into the air which would allow the dense grain to fall while the lighter parts of the crop would be blown away by the wind.
This is the picture the psalmist paints.
The wicked are discarded and separated from that which has value.
The Wisdom Contrast (Ps 1:6)
The path/way of the righteous is established
2. The path/way of the wicked is erased.
As a response to the heat and humidity we’ve had recently, let me share 2 pictures from the part of Wisconsin where Ann and I were a week ago.
Now, in full disclosure, these pictures were not taken last week!
Each February Lake Geneva hosts the National Snow Sculpting Championship.
Here are pictures of the last 2 champions.
But after the weeks of planning, and days of labor, the whole thing disappears in less than a month and today there is no evidence that these sculptures ever stood.
1. Psalm 1 is called a Wisdom Psalm because it contrasts between two paths, with no third option.
2. Who do you think is the greatest Wisdom preacher of the New Testament?
When we looked at the Sermon on the Mount we looked at many of Jesus’ contrasts.
[wide or narrow path, building on rock or sand, sheep or goats, etc.]
3. Wisdom genre divides between 2 options.
This runs contrary to the popular idea that “he’s basically a good person, he just made some poor choices.”
4. Wisdom literature forces us to polarize at the black or white rather than live in the grey.
Transition: Let’s quickly look at some other example of the Wisdom idea.
Songs of Wonder
Foolishness Exposed (PS 14:1)
I briefly mentioned this psalm when defining wisdom and foolishness.
Many of our holidays have a religious origin.
Did you realize that we even have an annual commemoration for Atheists?
It happens on April 1 of each year.
2. Our scientifically enlightened culture tries to paint the person who believes in God as the simpleton who uses faith as a crutch or believes a fairy-tale.
3. How many of you are familiar with Pascal’s Wager?
Pascal reasoned that there are only 4 possible combinations of the questions “is there a God?” and “Do I believe in Him?”
If there is a God and I do believe in Him then I have purpose in this life and hope in the afterlife.
If there is a God and I don’t believe in Him then I miss His purpose for me in this life, and have no hope in eternity.
If there is not a God and I do believe in Him then I may be delusional in this life, but have lost nothing in eternity.
If there is not a God and I do not believe in Him then I may have fun in this life but neither lose nor gain anything in eternity.
· With these 4 options, clearly the best outcome is if there is a God and we believe in Him, and the worst possible outcome is if there is a God and we do not believe in Him, for we suffer double loss.
This is why the psalmist concludes it is the fool who says there is no God.
Creation points to a Creator (PS 19:1-6)
There is a purpose to the grandeur of the heavenly bodies
2. The 2nd part of this Psalm teaches that God not only speaks through creation, but He speaks through Scripture.
A Song of Experience (PS 40:1-3; 11-13; 15-16)
1. God was gracious when I was in a slimy pit.
2. God offers hope in current struggles (vv.11-13)
3. God delivers when others mock (vv.15-16)
Transition: God’s greatness and goodness cause His people to sing.
This is no perfunctory “now I lay me down to sleep” or “God is Great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food”.
The God who is there is a God who creates, shows mercy, cuts covenant, rules and reigns as King and touches us at the deepest parts of our soul.
The other 4 books of Wisdom literature also reveal this great Wisdom that comes from knowing and obeying this God.
Words of Wisdom
Proverbs (Prov 1:7)
Throughout the book 2 paths are offered.
Often portrayed as 2 women—Wisdom or Folly.
2. Earlier I shared Pr. 1:7 which is repeated in Pr 9:10.
The fear mentioned here is not the terror that a young child manifests when a large dog growls or barks.
It is not the animosity that we find between many in the African-American community and Law Enforcement nor the never-ending caution of those who are here illegally when they see Immigration officials raid their factory.
3. “This is the fear of God that recognizes that he is matchlessly holy, righteous, and just—and we are not.
God is our judge as well as our only hope.
There lies the beginning of wisdom.”[i]
4. The fool says “there is no God”.
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