Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: Wisdom 6-8 and Jude

Wisdom 6 – This is addressed specifically to the kings of the world. Power is a gift from God and must not be abused.  We can see it as advice to all who have political power and ever all who have any kind of authority over other people:

“[P]ower is a gift to you from the Lord, sovereignty is from the Most High; he himself will probe your acts and scrutinize your intentions” (6:3).

 “Wisdom is bright and does not grow dim. By those who love her she is readily seen, and found by those who look for her”(6:12).  It begins with a desire for discipline.

“In the greatest number of wise men [and women] lies the world’s salvation, in a sagacious king [or leader] the stability of a people” (6:24).

Wisdom 7 – Here attention is drawn to Solomon specifically. He is like all kings born into life the same as anyone – “for all there is one way only into life, as out of it” (7:6).

He prayed for wisdom and valued “her” more than power or wealth. From her comes knowledge of “the structure of the world and the properties of the elements” (7:17), knowledge of “the times” [in 8:8 this will be called “the unfolding of the ages and the times.”] and of the natures of animals, varieties of plants and everything.  “All that is hidden, all that is plain, I have come to know, instructed by Wisdom who designed them all” (7:21).

In Wisdom there is a “spirit intelligent, holy, unique, manifold, subtle, active, incisive, unsullied, lucid, invulnerable, benevolent, sharp, irresistible, beneficent, loving to man, steadfast, dependable, unperturbed, almighty, all-surveying, penetrating all intelligent, pure and most subtle spirits; for Wisdom is quicker to move than any motion; she is so pure, she pervades and permeates all things” (7:22-24).

“She is a breath of the power of God, pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; hence nothing impure can find a way into her” (27:5). Evil can never triumph over Wisdom. She orders all things for good (8:1).

It seems a little puzzling to me that such a Being would be personified as a woman in the times from which this writing comes! This orderly, intelligent, all pervasive presence does not usually take the form of a female. Is this Greek influence? My theory is that it the closeness of Wisdom to God – a closeness that is like a marriage where the two are essentially one, that caused the writers to conceive of her as a female. I am glad they did.

Wisdom 8 – Also perhaps because it [Wisdom being personified as a woman] is something sought after like a lover by Solomon from his youth. “She it was I loved and searched for from my youth; I resolved to have her as my bride, I fell in love with her beauty. Her closeness to God lends luster to her noble birth, since the Lord of All has loved her” (8:2-3).

“I [Solomon] therefore determined to take her to share my life, knowing she would be my counselor in prosperity, my comfort in cares and sorrow” (8:9). And she will bring him fame and respect from others. “I shall leave an everlasting memory to my successors” (8:13).

She is also the teacher of the four Greek virtues – temperance, prudence, justice and fortitude. Because of all the things Wisdom bestows, Solomon knows he will leave a good legacy, govern well, and gain gladness and joy. He sought her from the Lord.

Introductory Information for the Epistle of Jude – Ray Brown notes that the name Jude is the same as Judas and was used to differentiate the writer from Judas Iscariot. The writer refers to himself in the letter as the brother of James and thus one of the four named brothers of Jesus (see Mark 6:3). This would give him a status that might lend greater authority to his observations. There is no certainty as to the date of authorship or the community it is concerned about.

Epistle of Jude - This letter from a writer who claims to be the brother of James, and thus by implication with Jesus as well is full of concern for the well-being of the faith community that is being undermined by people who “have infiltrated” and who deny “all religion, turning the grace of our God into immorality, and rejecting our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”

Among the faithful, as also among those rescued from Egypt and those angels who also were unfaithful, there are those who “defile their bodies and disregard authority.” I do not know who exactly Jude is concerned about, but they sound like men who claim to be part of the community but who actually do not accept all that seemed vital to Jude. “They are like clouds blown about by the winds and bring no rain, or like barren trees which are then uprooted in the winter and so are twice dead; like wild sea waves capped with shame as if with foam; or like shooting starts bound for an eternity of black darkness.”

They are people who “sneer at religion and follow nothing but their own desires for wickedness. These unspiritual and selfish people are nothing but mischief-makers.”

We must be patient, and help those who have doubts, and continue to hope for the eternal life promised to those who have faith in Christ.

It is pretty clear that this letter was written to warn the faithful that there were some among them who claimed to be believers, but who were doubters and vacillators – interpreting themselves around clear elements of faith, using reason to undermine the faith of others. I think people like this are always a challenge - certainly among Friends but also in other faith communities where people claim to be one with what is defined as "the faith" but who redefine, redraw the history and end up being a real obstacle to those who are drawn to the promises of Christ.

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