When we meet in person, we share our joys and concerns. Thinking over your past week, what caused you worry or sorrow? What caused you to feel joy or contentment? These are things for you to pray about. If you would like, you can share them in the comments for others to pray over as well.
This week's lesson scripture is Proverbs 2:1-11.
Swimmer Michael Phelps electrified the world when he won a record eight gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. But he had made a different kind of impact in the 2004 games in Athens, Greece. There Phelps, who had earned a spot in the 4x100-meter medley relay, decided to give up his spot to Ian Crocker. Crocker was swimming in what he thought was his final Olympics, and he had yet to earn gold thus far in Athens.
The American team won the relay, and Crocker received the gold medal that had eluded him. Phelps' gesture of withdrawing from a race for the sake of a teammate identified him as a gold medalist in more than swimming. It made him a champion of a different kind in the eyes of many.
Olympic athletes are known for their highly disciplined training in pursuit of world-class excellence and of winning the gold medal that distinguishes them as the best. In today's scripture, Solomon encouraged his son (and all readers of his words) to pursue something far more valuable than any precious medal.
Proverbs often uses a form of Hebrew poetry called parallelism. This is where two or more lines of text make the same point by using synonyms or near synonyms. For example, Solomon says of wisdom in Proverbs 3:17:
Her ways are pleasant ways,
In other words, all of wisdom's ways are the same as her paths, and they are both pleasant and peaceful. The effect of this literary technique is to emphasize the point being made. Parallelism occurs frequently in today's lesson.
Today's lesson continues the appeal from the father to the son (Proverbs 1:8, 10, 15; see last week's lesson). Though the son could find many other enticing treasures to seek, the father impresses on the young man the superiority of finding wisdom.
When we meet in person, we discuss the scripture lesson together. This may include our thoughts on the scripture, asking questions of each other, and answering questions. If you would like to share any of these, you can comment below this post.
The challenge in today's text to find wisdom is expressed in terms of an intense search, not just a casual or passing interest. One must cry out for knowledge and lift up his or her voice for understanding, not whisper. One must be as passionate for wisdom as many are for material wealth. An individual must seek for the Almighty himself, not the almighty dollar.
For some, however, the seeking spirit -- the passion for wisdom and for the God who is its source -- diminishes with time. In the Western world especially, we settle into routines and expectations at church and in our faith. We become comfortable with where we are spiritually. We lose the hunger and thirst for righteousness (Matthew 5:6). We may not guilty of any blatant wrongdoing against God or against others, but neither do we maintain our sense of seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Our cry for wisdom is reduced to a whimper.
Ultimately, addressing this matter requires that we undergo a serious self-examination. This is particularly so with regard to our relationship with God. Since, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge," (Proverbs 1:7), then maintaining a strong bond with the Lord and a reverence for him is pivotal to sustaining passion and growth. The spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and meaningful fellowship with other Christians dare not be neglected (Hebrews 10:24-25, etc).
Our lesson text also highlights the necessity for a human teacher to convey to students the value of wisdom and thus of the knowledge of the Lord. True, reading insightful works can be of great benefit; but nothing teaches wisdom better than a consistent personal example.
The best personal example is the one that a person sees daily in the home setting. Both mothers and fathers are to urge their children to receive their words and take to heart their commandments (Proverbs 1:8) so that wisdom and understanding can be theirs.
The responsibility then falls on the children to continue to cultivate their own desire for wisdom. They must cry out for it with raised voices. They must look for it as though seeking hidden treasure. Parents can model wisdom as they encourage their children to seek it, but each individual must do the seeking personally. The parents can put wisdom into a child's head. But the journey those few inches from head to heart is the task of the growing child.
Heavenly Father, in a world where so many mock and scorn you and your Word, you are still the only wise God. May we keep our thoughts, words, and deeds in tune with your wisdom and not allow the many distractions around us to quell our seeking spirit. May we pant and thirst for you even as the psalmist did. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
This week's translation comes from the Common English Bible.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.