We are so glad you decided to join us today!
On Sunday mornings, we usually share our joys and concerns with each other. You can still take some time to reflect on your week, and pray for both the positives and negatives. If you would like to share any prayer requests, you can do so in the comments.
During Lent, we shared both on our website and on our Facebook page devotionals written by church members in past years. This served as a nice way to connect, even after we stopped meeting in person. Because it will still be some time before we are physically together, we thought that continuing some devotions would be a great way to continue reaching out.
Pick out a few verses or a passage of scripture that mean something to you. Write a paragraph or two (or more, if you need to!) about your reflections on that passage, and a small prayer. Email that to the church's email: email@example.com. We plan to share these on both the church website and Facebook page.
The Sunday School lesson below is from our books. Scriptures that are in bold and underlined have been linked to an online text. Just click on the link to read the text.
Many Faces of Wisdom
This week, we are starting a new quarter, entitled Many Faces of Wisdom. Our June lessons are on the topic of The Roots of Wisdom. The teacher’s book gives a short introduction to the quarter and the first month’s lessons:
We admire wisdom, but struggle to define the term. In 2016, a team of psychologists attempted to understand how people perceived the concept of wisdom. The team presented historical figures who were generally esteemed as being wise, then asked what specific qualities made them wise. Three templates emerged: practical wisdom, philosophical wisdom, and benevolent wisdom.
Scripture confirms that wisdom manifests itself in many ways. Bezalel was filled with wisdom for his work constructing the tabernacle (Exodus 31:2-3). Joshua was filled with wisdom to lead Israel into the promised land (Deuteronomy 34:9). A wise woman persuaded her city to slay David’s enemy and save themselves (2 Samuel 20:16-22). Even in biblical times, it was apparent that wisdom has diverse blossoms.
The Roots of Wisdom
True wisdom is rooted in a single source: God himself. We open the first month with a survey of wisdom in the book of Proverbs. King Solomon, the primary contributor to the anthology, taught young men that, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” (Proverbs 1:7). The word fear is best interpreted as a worshipful awe and respect of God, not an unhealthy terror of the divine.
Solomon’s belief that wisdom was accessible to anyone is evident through his anthropomorphizing (giving human characteristics to) wisdom as being a woman. She stands at the gates of the city and invites anyone who would come to partake in her lavish feast. But Solomon also recognized that wisdom wasn’t the only voice calling out to his rising leaders.
The scripture for this week’s lesson is a selection of verses from Proverbs 1. The following link will give you just the selected verses: Proverbs 1:1-4, 7-8, 10, 20-22, 32-33.
Introduction: Commencement Season
June concludes the usual season for graduations from high school and college in the USA. Hearing a commencement speaker address the graduating body of students is a standard part of almost any graduation ceremony. Yet how much of what is said reflects genuine wisdom, and how much merely sounds good at the time?
Let’s imagine for a moment a person getting up at any state university and presenting the graduation speech. The speaker being, “I want you graduates to strive to be wise and prudent in your behavior. Do what is right and just and fair. Teach others the right way to live; pass along the knowledge that you have.” Some polite applause would perhaps follow these statements. Then the speaker says, “And remember, graduates, the fear of the Lord is he beginning of wisdom.”
In this secular setting, no doubt some in the audience would object to the use of religious language. Even more likely is that people would question the truth of the assertion that wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. Yet, a biblical understanding of wisdom must begin with the fear of the Lord. Like a college graduate starting the next chapter of life, we are invited in his lesson to choose what our lives will look like.
The book of Proverbs is the third of the five books in the Old Testament that are often called “wisdom literature.” (The group also includes Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Son of Songs). When most people think of proverbs in general (not just the biblical ones), they probably call to mind pithy statement of truth that are good, general advice for navigating life. “Haste makes waste,” and, “He who hesitates is lost,” are generally true statements, but one can see how these statements might contradict each other.
The wisdom of each saying is situational. Biblical proverbs are as well, though they are more than just good advice. They are godly advice, based on the crucial premise that, “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,” (Proverbs 9:10). Keeping that premise in mind helps the wise person discern when a certain course of conventional wisdom might not be best for obeying God’s laws. Knowing God yields the wisdom to decide well.
The book of Proverbs divides itself into three major sections:
(1) a long introduction to the collections of proverbs (Proverbs chapters 1-9)
(2) the collections of the proverbs themselves (Proverbs 10:1-31:9)
(3) an acrostic conclusion (Proverbs 31:10-31)
There are six collections:
(a) Proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 10:1-22:16)
(b) words of the wise (Proverbs 22:17-24:22)
(c) more words of the wise (Proverbs 24:23-34)
(d) more Proverbs of Solomon (Proverbs 25:1-29:27)
(e) words of Agur (Proverbs chapter 30)
(f) words of King Lemuel (Proverbs 31:1-9)
The four lessons this month are drawn from the nine opening chapters of Proverbs (1-9) that exhort the audience to choose to live by God’s wisdom. In these chapters, we find more association between individual proverbs than the more randomized sayings that appear from chapter 10 forward. Most scholars see ten fatherly appeals or lectures in chapters 1-9. Our text today includes part of the first appeal.
In class, we discuss the scripture, and questions raised either by the teacher's book or members of the class. Sometimes these are hard questions! Take some time to think about your answers to each of these questions from our teacher's book. If you are working through the lesson with someone else, discuss your answers together. If you have questions, answers, or thoughts you would like to share with the class, you can post them in the comments.
What happened to Solomon? Why didn’t he follow his own advice? Thinking of Jesus’ statement, “Physician heal thyself,” (Luke 4:23), we may wish we could advise Solomon by saying, “Wise man, heed your wisdom.”
Can what happened to Solomon happen to use? Certainly! We will not be tempted, as Solomon was, by the beliefs and lifestyles of 700 spouses. But the need to guard our hearts and our ways is as urgent now as ever.
We should view Solomon with compassion, not criticism. Anyone’s spiritual failures, whether we read about them in the Bible or see them reported in the media, should humble us. Paul’s warning to the Corinthians contains its own words of wisdom: “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Father, help us to heed your call to wisdom. As we do, may we lead others to heed your voice as well. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.
This version of Psalm 19:14 comes from The Message translation.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.