Happy Father's Day!
When we are able to meet in person, we typically take some time to share joys and concerns with each other. This can still be the case. Take a few minutes to consider the past week. What joys and concerns from that time do you have? If you would like, you can share these below in a comment. Now, take another couple of minutes to pray for and about these things.
Our Sunday School lessons come from our usual adult book. All of the scriptures have been linked to an online text. These are bold and underlined. Just click on the link, and the text will open in a new window for you to read.
The scripture for this week's lesson is Proverbs 8:8-14, 17-21.
The book also gives a devotional reading of Job 28:12-28.
Introduction: Dispersal of Wealth
My father passed away several years ago, my mother in December of 2015, and my older sister in the summer of 2017. My sister's passing left me to serve as executor of my parents' estate. My wife and I handled the sale of Dad and Mom's house, which closed title in May of 2018. About a month later, we closed the estate by distributing to the designated family members the money that remained in Mom's account.
While I appreciate what Dad and Mom were able to do to provide for their children financially, that is not the most valuable legacy that they left us. Both of them were faithful Christians who regularly took us to Sunday school and church. They taught us the wisdom that the book of Proverbs calls its readers to obtain and cherish; they were conscientious of the importance of laying up treasures in Heaven.
My parents stewarded both physical and spiritual wealth well. However, others are not so wise. Many are extraordinarily rich in the things that will not last and exceedingly poor in eternal wealth. How do we invest in the richest that come only through the pursuit of godly wisdom?
Wisdom was highly valued in the ancient Near East. Most nations had wise men who held high rank in government because of their skill (examples: Exodus 7:11; 1 Kings 4:30-34; Jeremiah 18:18; Daniel 1:19-20). The Old Testament mentions wise women as well (examples: 2 Samuel 14:2; 20:16). The people who filled these positions in government and society were considered exceptional in wisdom.
Wisdom such as that found within the book of Proverbs is not limited to a specialized class of people. It is intended for everyone to live by and practice, regardless of their social status. Proverbs describes four animals that are said to be "extremely wise," (Proverbs 30:24-28, animals shown in the pictures below). These are not exceedingly brainy creatures, but they do have skills in practical areas of living that help them survive and thrive. The wisdom God has provided in Scripture helps us do the same. Thus, wisdom is far more than intellectual prowess. This practical knowledge guides as we navigate through life in this broken, sinful world -- by instructing us how to act, speak, and respond in a wide variety of situations.
Today's lesson from Proverbs continues the appeal to follow the path of wisdom that is grounded in the fear of the Lord. The principles are found in the introductory nine chapters of the book (see the lesson context of this lesson). In these chapters, Wisdom is personified thrice as a woman and pictured as making her own appeal (see Proverbs 1:20-22; 8:4-36; 9:4-6). Wisdom's foil is the seductive woman called Folly, whose tempting words lead to disaster.
Wisdom is described again as calling out and raising her voice (Proverbs 8:1; see 1:22-33). And as was the case in Proverbs 1:21, Wisdom is positioned at prominent, public locations so that her cry cannot be missed (Proverbs 8:2-3).
When we meet together in person, we usually discuss the scripture, ask and answer questions, and share connections to our real lives. The questions below are from our Sunday school book. Sometimes these questions are hard! But take some time to think about each of them. If you are working through the lesson with someone else, discuss your thoughts and answers together.
Some may ask, "Isn't it possible to be wealthy and wise?" True, the biblical record includes individuals who were both (examples: Genesis 41:41-44; 1 Kings 3:10-14; Job 1:1-5; Job 42:12-17). But the Bible clearly warns us about the spiritual dangers that material wealth and possessions can pose. The primary issue is the impact that this has on one's heart and thus on one's relationship with God (compare Psalm 52:5-7; Mark 10:17-23).
In his parable of the sower, Jesus warns of the "deceitfulness of wealth" that results in an individual's becoming unfruitful after receiving the gospel (Matthew 13:22). Similarly, Jesus asked, "What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?" (Matthew 16:26). Of course, the implied answer is, "Nothing." To gain all the world has to offer at the loss of wisdom results in tragedy. That is true despite all the abundance that the whole world can offer.
All these teachings are consistent with Wisdom's plea to choose her above any form of material wealth. No matter how many priceless artifacts we amass -- or how useful the new gadgets, inventions, and technological devices are -- all the things that we may desire cannot compare with the value of wisdom.
I've been trying to look for familiar hymns to go with the lesson, and O Come, O Come Emmanuel is always the first hymn listed. This video will start with the second verse, which is the obviously applicable one.
Father, thank you for the abundance of gifts that you provide to those who choose to heed the call of Wisdom. Thank you for examples of that wisdom who have shaped us over the years. Help us to be such examples to those in our spheres of influence. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
This translation of our benediction comes from the New International Version.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.