We Need the LORD!
O Lord, my precious God and Savior, I come before You imploring Your blessing. I need wisdom from on high. I need to understand Your ways and will. As I listen to Your word this day give me such insight, so that I might fully examine my life, repent of my sins, offer You my praise, and lay before You my petitions. Be with my fellow believers as well, so that we might live together in peace as we seek to honor Your name. Amen.
In this text the apostle Paul seeks to mediate between a run-a-way slave and his master. Paul needed the wisdom of God in order to accomplish his goal of a peaceful and purposeful reunion. We, too, need the wisdom of God in order to live together in peace and fulfill our divine purposes.
The Jewish religious leaders criticized Jesus for associating with known sinners. Jesus revealed God’s passionate love and plans for all who are lost in His parables of the Lost Sheep and Lost Coin.
Text: Proverbs 9:8-12
“Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you; rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you will bear it alone.”
In Christ Jesus, who is the Word of God and wisdom from God, dear fellow redeemed:
Finish this sentence: “I need…!” How you finish that sentence will depend upon who you are and the circumstances in which you find yourself. A child at bedtime might tell a parent, “I need my blankie!” A fashion-conscience teen at the mall might tell her friends, “I need those shoes!” A man finishing a weekend roofing project might tell his buddies, “I need a cold beer!” Often the things that we think we need are really only things that we want. Distinguishing between things that we truly need and those things we simply want is a skill we must all develop as we mature in life, for meeting our needs is absolutely vital, while satisfying our wants is not only at times unnecessary, but can prove detrimental to our lives and our futures.
Of everything we truly need, there is one thing that stands above all of them—a relationship with our God! When we know the LORD…when we are right with Him, then everything will ultimately fall into place. Solomon, to whom God gave great wisdom, recognized that fact. While he did not always apply that wisdom within his life, for there was a time when Solomon strayed from the LORD, he was ultimately led by the Spirit back to his God, and the Holy Spirit used him to reveal to us much wisdom. Let us consider several of Solomon’s proverbs keeping this thought in mind—WE NEED THE LORD! Why is that the case? Because Solomon assures us that the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, while the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding!
The very theme of Proverbs is contained in our text: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” What do we mean by the word “fear”? It can be understood in various ways. We are not talking about being frightened of God or living in terror of Him. Rather, we are talking about developing and maintaining a godly reverence—an awe of God’s grace and power. Listen to these words of Solomon’s father, David, which contrast those two ideas: “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked to Him and were radiant, and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried out, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles. The angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, and delivers them. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the Lord, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him.” (Ps. 34:4-9) Notice how David speaks of the LORD delivering him from his fear—his terror, while at the same time filling the lives of all those who fear Him, that is, who live in reverent awe of Him, with blessings.
The LORD is the God who has created us, bestowing upon us all of our gifts and abilities. Once again, the Psalmist David informs us: “The LORD looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. From the place of His dwelling He looks on all the inhabitants of the earth; He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.” (33:13-15) It is wise to recognize the LORD God as our Creator. Unfortunately, by nature we rebel against Him, often run away from Him, and as immature children think ill of Him, as if He were an unreasonable and vengeful celestial parent. Still, the LORD knows us intimately and cares about us individually. This has led Him to deliver us eternally from the folly of our own sins. Ultimately, the greatest wisdom we can possess is to acknowledge our sins, come to know the LORD as our loving heavenly Father, and embrace Jesus Christ as our Savior from sin and our Lord. Such wisdom bestows the gift of eternal life (cf. Jn. 17:3).
Sadly, this is a wisdom that is often rejected by this world. Jesus observed near the end of His ministry in spite of His best efforts: “Many are called, but few are chosen” (Mt. 22:14). Still we have been called to be Christ’s ambassadors, proclaiming His truths with our words and living those truths through our actions (cf. 2 Cor. 5:20). We are to let our lights shine (cf. Mt. 5:16). We can do so with confidence, for we are proclaiming not our own thoughts, but God’s truth. Remember Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe” (1 Thes. 2:13).
To uphold God’s word in this world will not always be easy. Solomon recognized that and so advised: “Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you.” Consider our current debate in Minnesota over the definition of marriage. The newspaper has been filled with letters to the editor in support of redefining the nature of marriage. Some of those letters have been written by people who openly scoff at religion in general and Christianity in particular, blaming Christianity unfairly for many of this world’s woes. Other letters reveal people truly confused about what God has said in His Bible about marriage and matters of human sexuality. We must carefully and calmly share with others the wisdom of God’s created order for marriage and society as well as His moral instruction, as revealed in the Bible.
Ultimately there will be some whom we must simply let go their way—they will not listen, but will rather reject us, and at times hate us. We need not fear such rejection. Jesus, too, was rejected, and as He observed: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master…. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household” (Mt. 10:24, 25b). There are others, however, concerning whom Solomon says: “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.” We must strive with patience in every matter to share the truths of God’s word with others—fellow believers and unbelievers alike, so that hearts might be won and minds shaped in ways that will lead to eternal life! Let us pray that when a brother or sister in Christ comes to us with a word of God’s wisdom, we receive it well and grow in wisdom and learning. Without a doubt WE NEED THE LORD, because the fear of the LORD truly is the beginning of wisdom!
As Solomon goes on to acknowledge, WE also NEED THE LORD, because the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding! The title “the Holy One” is an interesting name for God. It means that He is completely righteous and separate from sin. Given His entire nature including both His power and His grace, it also implies that He sits in judgment over sin. Even more importantly for you and for me, it implies that He can be trusted to keep His word and do what is right and good for us, especially in view of His love for us in connection with Jesus Christ!
Were it not for Jesus, God’s holiness would mean immediate condemnation of our sins, but in Jesus we find forgiveness of sins. Through Jesus, we are given righteousness. The holy, sinless God declares us holy for Jesus’ sake—sanctified through His blood! That means that we can stand before Him without fear and with absolute confidence, for He has promised that all will be well for us, and that our future is secure and waiting for us. Listen to the words of Peter in his 1st Epistle—words we considered in our Bible Class earlier this morning: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:3-5). Our knowledge of the Holy One assures us of God's power within our lives right now and the fulfillment of His promises in our futures.
Consequently, we can arise each morning and go to bed each evening, knowing that our lives rest securely in His hands. Solomon says: “For by me your days will be multiplied, and years of life will be added to you.” About six weeks ago, doctors here at Mayo Clinic Health Center—Mankato informed Dale Brenner that there was nothing more that they could do to help his condition. They suggested that the end of his life was near and that he should realistically prepare for death. For Dale the prospect of death was not alarming. He was ready to accept that decision of God, should that be God’s desire, but was it God’s desire? We prayed for wisdom and understanding, for a strong faith and a willing spirit in this matter. We also prayed for healing, if it were God’s will. During the last month God has granted Dale improved health. Dale transferred this past Friday to Regents Hospital in Golden Valley for long-term therapy and God-willing a renewal of his strength. How long will Dale live? How long will any of us live? That ultimately is in the hands of our good and gracious—our holy LORD God! He will do for us what is both right and good, both now during our earthly journey and throughout eternity in His presence.
Solomon ends our text with these words: “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you will bear it alone.” Upon first hearing these words, they may seem to be different, almost contrary to the rest of Solomon’s message. They appear to suggest almost a separation between God and man. This is not the case. Solomon is simply suggesting that the wisdom of God demands a response from man. Either I hear it and act upon it, or I hear it and reject it. When we hear, accept, process, and act upon God’s wisdom in our lives, there are tremendous blessings that will come our way. Think for instance of Solomon’s advice: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). If you and I wisely follow that advice, the blessing of peace and harmony will generally fill our lives, whereas if we are angry, harsh, and biting when we speak, we will experience tension and turmoil in our personal relationships. Or consider this proverb: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man” (Prov. 24:33-34). If you and I are lazy or lackadaisical about getting our work done, we will not prosper. On the other hand, if we make the most of the opportunities God gives us and with His blessing we will prosper.
The apostle Paul urges us: “Let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load” (Gal. 6:4-5). We are responsible for our own actions, and in this life we will bear the consequences of those actions, for good or for ill. Because of sin, every one of our lives will involve some hardship, but “thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Sin has been overcome, and the day will come when all of the effects of sin will be wiped away and replaced by eternal glory! Until that day and without a doubt we can say: WE NEED THE LORD! Thank God that He both knows that need and is prepared to meet that need with the result that He has come to us through His gospel word and brings great blessing into our lives! Amen.
Pastor Paul D. Nolting
Soli Gloria Deo!