“Happy are those who find wisdom,
and those who get understanding”
Rodin: “The Thinker”
Several times during the last few weeks I’ve heard a comment similar to the one in the title of this post. As a congregation we have been reading parts of the book of Revelation, which, I admit, is a difficult piece of literature. We also have been reading parts of the book of Ezekiel, another difficult and strange part of the Bible. So I understand the frustration and don’t profess to understand what these books all mean. The last two days, on the other hand, we have had it easy. The readings from Psalm 8, from Proverbs and the letter to the Ephesians are not difficult. They talk about creation, making good choices, hope, and unity. Proverbs are wise sayings. And wisdom is something we all understand. It’s the opposite of stupidity. Whoever has experience in the latter, can appreciate the need of the former. Understanding the world, how it works, the interplay of the elements, the role of humans in creation, the need for humility, self control and for giving God the glory. It all kind of makes sense.
But what about the stuff that doesn’t make sense? The undeserved misfortunes, the fires that swallow the homes of humans and animals, towns and forests? What about the violence and cruelty in human society and in creation? What about disease and suffering that can not be attributed to foolish life choices? What about an ALS patient’s dying dragged out over years of agony? What about the still-born child, the teen driven to suicide? Who is wise enough to understand these things?
Conventional “proverb wisdom” doesn’t always cut it. Sometimes we can only sit in silence, like Job’s friends, for seven days. Maybe the only thing we can say after seven days is “Jesus!”
In Ephesians Paul prays that God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, “may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him”. In first Corinthians 2, Paul talks about the crucified Christ as “the wisdom of God and the power of God”, and he contrasts it with the wisdom and power of this world. The wisdom that is Jesus is not a proverb wisdom. We can’t reduce Christian faith to John 3:16 or some other neat package. The revelation that is Jesus is not a clear-as-midday kind of revelation. We can’t read biblical prophecy like a weather forecast. I suggest we need to read the Bible as wisdom hidden in the “foolishness” of the cross, and revelation hidden in the “weakness” of the cross.
Jesus, the real, complete, suffering, dying, and risen Jesus of the gospels, is a key to the other parts of scripture. Focusing on his love, we may even end up saying: “I love Revelation!”