Monday, April 18, 2016

Getting to know Jesus in the Proverbs

Luke 24:44 “Now He said to them, “These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled”.

At my boyhood home there is a creek that runs through the middle of the property. Many summers were spent playing by that creek and watching little minnows and frogs jumping and swimming through the rocky creek bed flowing with crystal clear water. As a boy, I would often take rocks or stones and toss them in the water to watch minnows come out of their hiding spots and swim in their little schools. They remained hidden until I tossed in a pebble or a big stone. Whenever we consider the Old Testament scriptures, we can liken each book to the surface of that creek.

The Holy Spirit laid down a creek bed of redemption and filled it with the clear water of history and His revelatory words. Many clues and clusters of insights laid hidden in the bottom depths of the Old Testament. To look at its surface would result in concluding a sense of incompleteness and perhaps unresolved tensions. However, the very God that designed the creek bed and created history itself to flow within it chose to, in the Person of the Son, to plunge Himself into it. 

The Son’s arrival as Jesus of Nazareth sent major ripples that revealed insights into Old Testament books. The Son of God’s entry into our world fulfilled and tied together unresolved strands of Old Testament truth. The Book of Proverbs is an example of how we see Jesus Christ’s Christ arrival anticipated and foreshadowed. Today’s post wants to briefly explore how we can know Jesus through the Proverbs.

New Testament clues pointing to finding Jesus in the Proverbs.

Luke 11:49 records Jesus speaking to his audience concerning their response to Him and to prophets of old. As He speak, Jesus refers to Himself as “Wisdom” in the text of Luke 11:49. We know from Proverbs 8 that wisdom is personified in a poetic way as a woman making her appeal for people to abandon folly and to embrace God’s way of wisdom. 

The reason for the feminine depiction is because of the Hebrew word for wisdom (chachma) itself being grammatically feminine. Nonetheless, Proverbs already broaches the category of viewing “wisdom” not merely as a concept, but also on a very personal level. Luke 24:44, quoted above, alludes to the book of Proverbs. Even though Jesus states the word “Psalms”, in the Hebrew Bible, the book of Psalms heads the third major collection of the Hebrew Bible books called “the writings” or by the Jews “Kituviim”, of which Proverbs is a part.

As one journeys into the New Testament, the linkage between Jesus and wisdom becomes even clearer. The Apostle Paul writes about Jesus coming as God’s wisdom, power, holiness and redemption (1 Corinthians 1:24,30). Moreover, we are reminded in Colossians 2:3 that Jesus Christ is the source of all wisdom and true riches of knowledge. 

Other places, such as James 3:13-14, speak of God’s “wisdom from above” as certainly God’s illumination from the Holy Spirit but also pointing ultimately to Jesus Christ. In so far as the New Testament connects Jesus to the Old Testament concept of wisdom, and in several cases portrays Him as the embodiment of Divine wisdom, we can infer the validity of knowing Him through the Proverbs.

Key events and truths of Jesus’ life and ministry foreshadowed in the Proverbs 

So, with Proverbs and the life of the Lord Jesus Christ linked together by the New Testament’s exposition of Him, what do we see in Proverbs itself that lends us to know Jesus Christ in a better way?

Proverbs previews Jesus in His….
Pre-existence. Proverbs 8:22 speaks of wisdom pre-existing with Yahweh from before the beginning of creation. The verb translated in some English translations includes the rendering “possessed” (NASB, KJV). The NIV handles this otherwise difficult to translate verb in the best way, namely “brought me forth”. In Proverbs 30:4 we are introduced to the idea of God having a Son. Both passages presuppose some type of pre-existence of the Son, personified as Wisdom.

Cross & Resurrection. As we already mentioned earlier, the Apostle Paul refers to Jesus Christ as our “wisdom” (1 Corinthians 1:24,30). Such a revelation could only be realized in what Jesus achieved in the cross and His resurrection from the dead.

2nd Coming. Proverbs 24:12 Matthew 16:27 point to actions that only God can perform – namely final, absolute judgment. The Proverbs passage reveals God as the final Arbiter of all people, judging and rendering to each one their due. In Matthew 16:27, we see such activity attributed to the Son. One of the ways we tie together similar statements and themes in both testaments is by way of the life and mission of Jesus Christ. 

Such a reading of Jesus back into the Old Testament is not importing Jesus, but rather bring to light what He came to reveal. Proverbs urges us to consider the fact that God is a just judge. Jesus Himself states all power to judge was commended into His hands (John 5:24-25). Henceforth it follows that in knowing the Just One, we are knowing Jesus.

Closing thoughts
As we close out this post today, let me commend readers to journey through Proverbs. In doing so, one can get to know Jesus Christ better, since He is referred to as the Personification of Wisdom. As 2 Peter 3:18 urges: “but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.”

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