Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bumper Sticker Moment

I love the Book of Proverbs.  This is the bumper-sticker section of the Bible.  When I regularly preached I developed a quarterly ‘bumper sticker Sunday’ whereby I would choose a Proverb speak extemporaneously on that verse.  Typically I would select the verse about thirty minutes before the service and without much preparation and no notes; I would deliver the morning message on that verse. Surprisingly, they were often the best received messages!

The Book of Proverbs (in Hebrew: מִשְלֵי Mish'ley)  derives its name from the 4th Century Latin translation of Scripture, the Vulgate, as Proverbia.  They are generally considered the writings of Solomon, who was consider to be a wise man (remember the words of If I Were a Rich Man from Fiddler on the Roof?  “…they would ask me to advise them, like Solomon the Wise’).  There is also reference to Agur and Lemuel but it is generally accepted that those are other names for Solomon.  The book is included in what many scholars refer to as Wisdom Literature which includes Psalms, Job, and the Song of Solomon.

I find myself visiting often as it has a large variety of translations and study guides.  Especially helpful to those of us who like to pick apart scripture down to each word, the translation history, and origin of the words (I’ve always wanted to go back to school and study Etymology in-depth!  I suppose a true sign of a word-geek!).

Gill’s Exposition on the Entire Bible shares Proverbs 15:22 as such:  

Without counsel purposes are disappointed,.... If a man determines and resolves upon a matter, and at once hastily and precipitately goes about it, without mature deliberation, without consulting with himself, and taking the advice of others in forming a scheme to bring about his designs, it generally comes to nothing.

In other words:  it is the wise man who seeks many counsels before acting.

I strongly believe in asking for counsel from people I trust when I have a decision to make.  I make many decisions on my own but when there is one that is particularly tough, or the consequences could be grand, I prefer to ask around and see what others have to say about it. The answers are as varied as the human race.  Some of it I discard but I do chew on all of it, taking in to account my own personal believes and values. 

My mother was a wise counselor.  That’s not to say she was never wrong.  None of us are right all the time but what was helpful was the way we talked about things.  We would both approach a situation from our already pre-conceived set of assumptions and then share them with each other.  We would try to see it from other perspectives and work it out to try and come to a conclusion that we agreed upon.  However, we recognized that the goal of seeking the opinions of others was not to persuade us or to make up our minds.  It was the process and time spent on mentally chewing upon each different thought and perspective that gave us the satisfaction.  Many times it can actually make the decision process harder but in the end I am always thankful that I had the counsel.  Sometimes I would go back to the counselors and let them know they were right and I chose wrong.  I would always share my final decision and the outcome so we could all add that experience to our collective mind and thereby call upon the experience should we encounter similar situations in the future.In that process of seeking counsel and coming to a decision, we encounter disappointment. 

G. Hutchinson Smyth reminds us that “there is one thing that can make all disappointments into blessings.  It is said that Croesus had some magic power about him by which he turned everything he touched to gold.  There is more than a magic power which the believer wields over the trying dispensations of life; there is a Divine power.  All things – disappointments included – work together for good to them that love God.”