Psalm 65:9b–14; Proverbs 8:1–9:6; 1 Corinthians 14:36–15:2

 Originally published 5/16/2017. Revised and updated 5/15/2019.

Psalm 65:9b–14: Our psalmist turns his attention to how God’s creative power provides water, which in turn provides natural abundance to the benefit of humankind:
The portals of morning and evening You gladden.
You pay mind to the earth and soak it.
You greatly enrich it.
God’s stream filled with water.
You ready their grain, for so You ready it. (9b-10)

The importance of water, which was the most precious resource of all in semi-arid Israel, intensifies as our poet describes its beneficial effects on the landscape, including farms. We can almost feel the rain and mist over the land in a rich poetic cascade:
Quench the thirst of the furrows, smooth out its hillocks,
melt it with showers, its growth You will bless.
You crown Your bountiful year,
Your pathways drip with ripeness.
The wilderness meadows do drip,
and with joy the hills are girded. (11-13)

The concluding verse describes a pastoral scene that truly brings joy to the mind’s eye as we fully comprehend the almost startling idea of pastures and valleys themselves breaking out in song:
The pastures are clothed with flocks
and the valleys clothed with grain.
they shout for joy, they even sing. (14)

This psalm is a marvelous evocation of God’s beneficence in the creation he has given to us and that he sustains for us. The water image is a reminder of our own baptism. Truly, water is the source of all life and we squander its riches by pollution and waste at our peril.

Proverbs 8:1–9:6: In what I think is a stroke of creative genius, our author moves from describing the benefits of wisdom to writing in wisdom’s own voice. We may be inclined to ignore fatherly advice about wisdom, but we cannot ignore the words of wisdom itself. This is a chapter that every leader in Washington DC could benefit by reading and then applying its many virtues:
To you, O people, I call,
    and my cry is to all that live.
O simple ones, learn prudence;
    acquire intelligence, you who lack it. (8:4,5)

Would that these “simple ones” learn prudence and acquire intelligence—both qualities in awfully short supply these days in America—at least in the America of media and politicians. There is little question that in our culture of acquisitiveness and power-seeking the fundamental truth is that “wisdom is better than jewels,/ and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (8:11)

Wisdom is much more than knowledge. As our author reminds us, prudence and discretion are its essential hallmarks:
I, wisdom, live with prudence,
    and I attain knowledge and discretion. (8:12)

Contrast those qualities with what wisdom is not—and is on far greater public display in this era of Facebook and especially, Twitter:
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
    and perverted speech I hate. (8:13)

Unsurprisingly, our author asserts that the people who would benefit most from following a path of wisdom are our leaders. One supposes that he wrote in a time of poor leadership in Israel, but the lines wisdom speaks here in the first person seem even more germane today in its complete absence from those who claim to lead us:
By me kings reign,
    and rulers decree what is just;
by me rulers rule,
    and nobles, all who govern rightly.
I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me diligently find me. (8:15-17)

And we must never forget that wisdom is at the foundation of justice:
I walk in the way of righteousness,
    along the paths of justice. (8:20)

I agree with our author. Wisdom is no evolutionary accident that humans stumbled upon. Rather, it is a God-created gift:
The Lord created me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of long ago.
Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth. (8:22-23)

In fact wisdom—God’s wisdom—existed before Creation itself:
When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth—

When he established the heavens, I was there. (8:24-27)

Moreover, Wisdom exists at the foundation of God’s own joy at what he has created, especially us humans:
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the human race. (8:30, 31)

This chapter concludes with a bold promise:
For whoever finds me finds life
    and obtains favor from the Lord; (8:35)

If one were curious about the source of the title of T.E. Lawrence’s autobiography, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom, it is right here:
Wisdom has built her house,
    she has hewn her seven pillars. (9:1)

But the more crucial statement in this passage applies to all human behavior. Wisdom is a gift to be unwrapped. Would that more of us do what wisdom asks of us as her speech concludes:
Lay aside immaturity,  and live,
    and walk in the way of insight. (9:6)

So, the question hangs in the air: Where have all the wise and mature people in our political infrastructure gone? Or even in our own churches?

1 Corinthians 14:36–15:2: Paul writes that whether the spiritual gift is glossolalia or prophecy, or we presume, other spiritual gifts, it must be grounded in God—and given the Proverbs passage above, I would dare say, wisdom—not in our own ego: “Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord.” (14:37) Above all, Paul insists, “all things should be done decently and in order.” (14:40) Untrammeled , disorganized, unserious worship is anathema to Paul—and I’m happy to say, at least to most Lutherans.

We now arrive at one of the most complicated and controversial chapters in this letter—and perhaps in the entire New Testament. It’s easy to see why Paul writes about this as the last subject in 1 Corinthians. He opens this essay with a reminder that whatever is to come at the end of time, it’s essential that we who have faith “hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.” (15:2) For what Paul is about to talk about can be understood only in a framework grounded in faith.

…And the Moravians will reveal what this is all about over the next few days’ readings.

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