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Proverbs 4:10-23

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Aug 28, 2016 

“Hear my son, and accept my words, that the years of your life may be many. … Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.”

So says King Solomon, son of David, a man made wise by God’s gift.

Through wisdom is long life.  This promise from God’s Word does not always seem to be true to our experience.  Sometimes those who are foolish follow a path that leads to death, perhaps with drugs or violence or other self-destructive behavior.  Sometimes the wise avoid such pitfalls and preserve their lives.  But sometimes the innocent die young.  Sometimes Christians pass away too early.  On the other hand, sometimes the wicked appear to live very long and prosperous lives.

But we must see beyond what our fleshly eyes see.  The true wisdom of God is not simply to know how to live in a knowledgeable or prudent fashion.  More than that, His wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord, which includes repentance and faith.  The Wisdom of God is Christ and Him crucified.  His wisdom includes His wise plan for humanity, which is redemption in the Blood of His Son.  His wisdom preserves our lives beyond this mortal timeframe to an eternity in the new heaven and the new earth.  Does wisdom preserve your life?  Yes, infinitely, by the grace of God.

So forget what your eyes see, and cling instead to the wisdom of God, whether it seems to help you or not.  Trust God’s promise instead of your feelings.

His wisdom comes in His Word.  His wise instruction is not given in visions or dreams, but in His Word of Scripture.  So when Solomon says, “Hold onto instruction!” he means that we should be constantly learning from God’s Word.  Submit to instruction.  Be found where the Scriptures are taught.  Home study is good, but cannot be the only way to be fed.  So do not avoid the wisdom of God, which is His Word.

This is the path of wisdom – to be found where the Word is, learning at the feet of the Man who is God’s Wisdom in human flesh.

There is another path, the path of the wicked.  You cannot follow both the path of wisdom and the path of evil.  If you try to follow both, you will end up losing wisdom and finding only foolishness and evil.  As Christ said, you cannot serve two masters.  You must follow one and avoid the other.

But we sometimes like to try to keep our feet on both paths.  Sure, we want to be Christians, but we do not want to be TOO obsessed.  We need to live a little, right?  Or at least, that is what our sinful flesh likes to think.  It is not really living or enjoying life to dabble in the path of wickedness.  But it may feel that way to us sometimes.

So Solomon warns, “Do not walk on the path of evil!  Avoid it!  Do not even pass by it!” That is to say, do not even go near it to catch a glimpse.  When we look and stare and imagine what it would be like to do this or that, soon enough we will be doing it.  If you watch your friends indulge in the ways of the flesh, they may seem to enjoy themselves very much.  You may wish you could enjoy yourself that way.  But wisdom says that such enjoyment is fleeting and shallow – moments of pleasure followed by years of regret, or even an eternity of suffering.

This is not to say that enjoyment itself is wrong.  Wisdom sees the value in enjoying the blessings of God in this life.  But wisdom also sees that God has set in place instruction to tell you which pleasures are against His design for life.  He identifies things that may seem good at the moment but lead to destruction.

So follow that path, as governed by the Word and Commandments of the only-wise God.  He created life, and He knows best how to live it.

But do not think that foolish people always go moping around in sadness.  They often feel happy and fulfilled, while you may sometimes feel sadness and experience difficult struggles. 

Of course, wisdom tells us that feelings are not a good barometer of truth.  Instead, trust the truth of God’s Word.  Although you may have to feel the weight of a difficult cross in this life, it is only a light and momentary suffering compared to the eternity that awaits you.  Meanwhile, whatever enjoyments the wicked may find are only a temporary taste of pleasure before endless pain and sorrow.

Yet the foolish may not seem foolish at first glance.  They may have their own kind of wisdom.  They may have their own kind of spiritual fulfillment.

The foolish have their own kinds of sacraments – what Solomon calls the bread of wickedness and the wine of violence.  They seek people to lure into their way of life, as if they must convert others to their religion.  They must trick others, as if to show how much smarter they are.  Or they must feel the thrill of getting away with something, or the pleasure of corrupting the innocent.  They must bring others down so that they need not feel less righteous.  These are the spiritual sacraments for which they hunger.

But you should seek only the sacraments of God.  He has bread that removes all wickedness because it is the Body of His Son.  He has wine that forgives all violence, because the atoning sacrifice for the world shed precious Blood for your forgiveness.

Do not seek to be more righteous than others.  Instead receive righteousness from Christ Jesus through the Word of His Gospel.  This is the wise exchange of God, the holy for the unholy, the innocent for the guilty.  By this exchange, you live eternally.

So you need not seek out all the pleasures you can grasp in this life.  God has planned an eternity of joy and blessing for you, including but not limited to the innumerable gifts He showers upon you in this life.

By seeing this Gospel and this Christ who is your salvation, you see clearly.  You have discernment because you see the meaning of all life in the Man from Nazareth, the greater Son of David.  While the foolish stumble about in darkness without knowing what they do or what is truly going on, you see life in all its fullness because you have Christ, who is the Life of all the living. 

He is life and healing that cannot come from any earthly healthcare.  He has given healing to your body that shall defy death, so that even if you die, you will rise again.  He has given you life in His Word that never ends.

So guard your heart in this wisdom.  Be attentive to the words of wisdom that come from God.  Do not listen to the so-called wisdom of the world that may tickle your ears for a while.  Instead, give heed to the eternal Word of the Lord.  Philosophies and wise men come and go.  Gurus last for a time.  Pop psychology may persuade many.  Fads of lifestyle and culture pass quicker than the seasons.  But the Word of God remains forever.

Diligently make sure that you are found here, where the Word is taught in its purity.  Here the wisdom of God shines out in all its glory because the Gospel is allowed to speak out with clarity and power.  Do not exchange this purity for a feeling.  Do not exchange this power of God for the persuasion of men.  Instead hold onto it and guard it with all vigilance.

And the Lord God will guard you to life everlasting in His Son.  In His Name and to His glory.  Amen.

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