Monday, March 25, 2013

Proverbs 12: Same Conclusions, Different Assumptions

Prov 12:1-2 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is stupid. A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but the Lord condemns a crafty man.
Prov 12:22 The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful.

There is much similarity between biblical Proverbs and other ancient proverbs that extol human virtues like wisdom, diligence, discipline, knowledge, humility, honesty, right speech, etc. especially those that are gleaned from observations of life and nature. That implies a certain overlap in wisdom that comes from revelation (scripture) and that comes from reason (common-sense). One implication is in the area of what is considered "science" - the objective study of cause and effect in nature (physical, biological, earth and space sciences) and in human behaviour (psychology, sociology, leadership, management, etc). These disciplines try to establish general "laws" that are derived from careful observations and therefore part of truth-principles derived from reason alone. And whether we are believers in God or not, we have better obey them: e.g. the law of gravity - if we slip, we will fall and injure ourselves; law of biology - if we have poor diet, we will have poor health; law of psychology - if we engage our mind, emotion and will fully, we learn faster and better; law of sociology - if we grow up in a particular culture, we are socialized into its value and belief system; law of earth/space sciences - if there is a full or new moon, we will have very high tides; law of leadership - if we have a challenging vision, committed people will follow us; law of management - if there is an empowering culture in an organization, the morale and commitment of the staff to their responsibilities will be high. Therefore, as it has been said, "all truths are God's truths". We can learn from nature and life--that is what Proverbs is saying.

However, the motivation and presupposition for applying these maxims may be different. Like tools, how we use them depends on our motivation. For biblical authors, these truths reveal God's wisdom and the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. It's is God-centred, not man-centred nor nature-centred. So the starting point of Proverbs is not man or nature but the LORD (Yahweh):
  • Prov 1:7 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge"
  • Prov 2:6 "For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding." 
  • Prov 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."
  • Prov 3:19-20 "By wisdom the Lord laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the deeps were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew."
  • Prov 3:26 "for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared."
  • Prov 8:35 "For whoever finds me finds life and receives favor from the Lord." 
  • Prov 9:10 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." 
  • Prov 10:22 "The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, and he adds no trouble to it." 
  • Prov 12:2 "A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but the Lord condemns a crafty man."
  • Prov 12:22 "The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in men who are truthful. 
God's truths are found in His Creation. Though all ancients can agree to many of the conclusions found in Proverbs, nevertheless, their starting points are different. Biblical wisdom's starting point is the LORD (Yahweh). If we want to want to be truly wise, we must acknowledge that all these laws discovered in life and nature are indeed God's laws and reveal His wisdom, not men's.

Father, indeed this is Your world and every truth discovered by man in nature is Yours. For it is by Your wisdom that You have laid the earth's foundation, set the heavens in place and determine the laws of nature. Thank You that through the laws,we can discover Your wisdom. Amen.

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