The Wisdom to Live By
Based on Proverbs 9:1-6, the invitation we hear today “come eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed” is a metaphor from the mouth of wisdom. “The Wisdom to Live By.” August 19, 2018.
Food tastes better when someone else makes it. =) An invitation to dinner - if it fits your schedule - is perhaps one of the easiest no-brainers we can make. It’s even more of a slam dunk “yes” with appreciation when you get such a back story like we do in Proverbs 9. The labor-intensive work of this party planner is traced all the way back to building her house - what a story this is really telling. And it’s not just any two-pillar frame, but a seven-pillar palace with room for plenty. Then we hear about the food prep from slaughterhouse to grill, beverage shopping and recipes, setting the tables, chairs, linens and dinnerware. Now all that’s left is to get the word out - or get the words in.
The invitation we hear today “come eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed” is a metaphor from the mouth of wisdom. Her invite to this meal is not for the stomach, but for the soul. What you see on your plate and in your cup when served at this table, are words. But once it’s all ready and time to eat, Wisdom seems to make a huge advertising no-no. She sounds offensive.
She not only says “come to eat”, but also says “leave your simple ways to live.” “Abandon the road you are on, forsake your current way, and walk over here instead, walk in the way of insight.” This is a built-in message to the invitation. Who jumps at that? This generous dinner gesture might soon become something of a food fight, if you even make it through the front door.
Not a surprise for her to have such a controversial approach. In fact, it’s a staple to the whole menu, as surely as her meal is heavenly wisdom compared to earthly wisdom. We’re talking about a completely foreign food, like putting ketchup on top of pineapples, where the distance between the two palates is as high as heaven is from earth.
- Which story will you stick to when it comes to human sexuality and gender identity?
- Is it pro-choice or pro-life?
- Does the historical record of the Bible line up with your version of history?
- Do you go with the testimony of creation Genesis 1 or the evidence presented to you time and again in the biology or geology classroom?
- Why do you say that good people are going to hell?
- Why aren’t all churches better at being one big happy family?
- How about the roles of men and women?
There are plenty of opportunities here for some rather awkward dinner conversation. We could always invite Hulk Hogan back to the ring for a royal rumble with a living legend and talk over questions like “are babies sinful?” “what’s the nature of free will?” “what is baptism or the Lord’s Supper?” The line “but that’s just your interpretation” goes back hundreds of years.
One of my best friends in college - I could walk into his room one year to hear classical music in the background as he recited and spoke Hebrew from the Psalms out loud. He’s a PK, which is short for pastor’s kid, and was in the pastor track. We sat by each at graduation, eager for the next chapter at the seminary. But he never arrived, as he left the faith saying, “Everything is always about going to heaven as if this life were a bad thing, and I don’t like that.”
But I’ve also seen and heard almost unbelievable stories of faith where you wouldn’t expect to find it. Believers living in the heart of nations where their faith is forbidden. Believers who hold to Scripture on homosexuality in as loving a way as possible to the dismay and anger of their own siblings. Or the lady with two children who suffered years ago the passing away of the young love of her life, and the children don’t believe or take up her invitations to church, and now she wrestles with a couple complicating illnesses with relatives and family that often pay little attention. The kind of story where the more you listen, the more you say, “how do you smile? Let alone worship?”
I suppose you’d suggest we just tone down the menu and offer something more palatable and people-pleasing. But the entire context of this invitation and meal doesn’t simplify any of it, but only complicates it more.
Lady Wisdom’s invite is sandwiched between two things. The first is chapter 8 where Wisdom has already been chatting it up for some time, and deepens your involvement when she talks about who she is. Listen as this suggests this is God’s Son speaking, the Wisdom God “brought forth as the first of all his works”, the One who says, “before God ‘made the world or anything from the dust of the earth, I was there, when he set the heavens in place...constantly at his side, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world, and delighting in mankind.” To hear the voice of Wisdom calling you to the table then, is like hearing Jesus, “I am the bread of life, whoever eats my food will never be hungry or drinks from my cup will never be thirsty.” This really complicates things, because to be ashamed of this Wisdom, I don’t like your food, is to be ashamed of him. Now what?
Another way this gets dicey fast, is the other bookend to the sandwich that follows Wisdom’s invitation to come and eat. And that’s where Lady Folly sits at her house, copy-catting the call of Wisdom from the highest points in the city, but a chilling secret is leaked about people who enter her home: “little do they know that … her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.” Put this all together and if you tone down Wisdom’s food or seek to please man’s palate, then Jesus is no longer Jesus and the consequence is a world with no Savior, no life, just a ghastly home for the dead.
So, what was once an easy dinner invite, is now the very crossroads of life and death, heaven’s spiritual answers and hell’s spiritual emptiness. But at the place of such an all-out, all-or-nothing confrontation between human opinion and God’s Word can we see that clearly the power of Wisdom’s invitation. No one enters her without the Father drawing, Jesus says. No one comes to her, except by the Spirit, Paul says.
What do we gain by relying on Jesus? Faith itself already proves the gain of God himself, whose power alone worked the miracle that faith is. By the power of his own words, God moves tongues to confess. Only he moves feet to shuffle undeservingly into Wisdom’s home, surrender yourself and your shoes at the door of this holy ground. And by him alone do heads bow to start the meal. Lord, bless these Words on our hearts - we give thanks to you through Jesus, your Son.
Yes, there is no wisdom in the world without him. How is it said in this chapter? The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom - wisdom’s first bite at this meal begins with the fear of God and all of his words. At the center of his meal of course is his Christ and the oh-so-different food of his cross.
If “The Lord has grabbed firm hold of all your sins and its punishment, and gobbled it up in the person of his only Son, swallowing up death in victory.” If any of it is to carry any weight or force, God must be able to mean what he says and to say what he means. If Eternity is even a legit thing, if Jesus can say the absurd - my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink...and all those my Father gives me I will raise up on the Last Day” ….every single bite of that spiritual food blind to natural eyes, deaf to human ears and beyond all our thoughts - for no eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
If wisdom is a skill at putting all you know to use - and Jesus is wisdom - how is Jesus make me wiser than any other in the world? Only here at this table can any controversial side to life or doctrine leave the wisdom of the world and eat only on God’s Word. That’s huge. Think of an issue and see what wisdom God gives. It’s often like taking a fork and plunging it into some unbuttered noodles, where this whole wad of pasta comes out. When we talk about something in God’s Word you end up talking about a lot of it - the noodles of truth are all connected. I can’t talk about the roles of men and women without first talking about our sin and need and a loving servant that gave everything up just to save me, just so the body would be blessed forever - what a headship!
- instead of swimming in a deep pool of endless and conflicting priorities - he gives me wisdom to know what comes first.
- He gives me words to say when it comes to enduring anything that threatens my security or future in this world, - nothing can separate me from his love!
- With the ongoing struggle for stable, consistent character - the controversy within yourself - how can I be such a sinner and still be a Christian? His food makes me wise - not grabbing for the fool’s gold of “I’ll do better next time, I can still beat this”, but for the immediate healing from his food that teaches me to say, “Lord, have mercy on me a sinner,” and to rejoice that he has been merciful.
This is not some one-and-done feast. Like, “pastor, you’re preaching to the choir - you’re feeding those already fed at this table.” We dare not see here some one-time invitation and simply brush it aside from our hearts as the table we’re already at, the sermon we don’t need to hear. Daily, we need to hear the call to leave the space we’ve given to worldly wisdom and bad advice; to abandon the small world only seen with our eyes. Daily return to this banquet for his food. No matter what dear Wisdom says, God teach us to chew with faith and lift our heads to compliment such a Chef, “This is different, but it’s delicious and especially because you made it.” Amen.
Preached at Grace Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, WI on August 19, 2018