Seeker: “A holy people and blameless race wisdom delivered from a nation of oppressors, She entered the soul of a servant of the Lord, and withstood dread kings with wonders and signs.” (Wisdom of Solomon 10:15 – 16)
Preacher: You are reading the alternate Psalm passage, Seeker.
Seeker: Yes, Preacher. A little of punctuation would be helpful in understanding what is said. The translators have seen fit to capitalize “She” denoting a proper name but leave “wisdom” with a small letter. And, I had to read it several times grouping and re-grouping a meaning and message that seems to make the most sense.
Preacher: And what meaning do you take from the first two verses?
Seeker: That Israel, or the Jews more broadly understood, were not culpable for what happened to them. They were saved by a man, a servant of the Lord, designated for the role. But it was wisdom that allowed him to complete the task. It might be Jesus that is being referred to. But Preacher, wisdom is not the same thing as Divinity.
Preacher: Very astute, Seeker. The writer goes on to say, “She gave to holy people the reward of their labors; she guided them along a marvelous way, and became a shelter to them by day, and a starry flame through the night. She brought them over the Red Sea, and led them through deep waters; but she drowned their enemies, and cast them up from the depth of the sea.” (Verses 17 – 19)
Seeker: Sounds like a female you do NOT want to get on the wrong side of! So the writer of the Wisdom of Solomon places the vindication of the Jews in the hands of Wisdom, as opposed to Yahweh?
Preacher: Remember, Seeker, that Wisdom was supposed to have dwelt with the Divine from the beginning or even before the beginning of time. Wisdom cared out the will of the Divine, according to this philosophy. The Messiah, however, seems to present the character of wisdom in a different way. And the Divine, for that matter.
Seeker: “Therefore the righteous plundered the ungodly; they sang hymns, O Lord, to your holy name, and praised with one accord your defending hand; for wisdom opened the mouths of those who were mute, and made the tongues of infants speak clearly.” (Verses 20 – 21)
Preacher: It is no wonder, Seeker, that many of the Jews of Jesus’ time did not like the way Jesus fulfilled the role of “Messiah.” They wanted vengeance, and Jesus preached forgiveness and mercy.
Seeker: Other writers, the psalmist for example, have the same sharp edge to their writings.
Preacher: “Praise the LORD, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he strengthens the bars of your gates; he blesses your children within you.” (Psalm 147:12-13)
Seeker: “He grants peace within your borders; he fills you with the finest of wheat.” (Verse 14)
Preacher: You have to remember, Seeker, the history of the Jews is filled with promises and covenants made with Yahweh, but each time the promise that the ancient called and chosen came to depend on was taken away from them. Disappointment can lead to the hardening of one’s heart.
Seeker: “He sends out his command to the earth; his word runs swiftly. He gives snow like wool; he scatters frost like ashes. He hurls down hail like crumbs– who can stand before his cold?” (Verses 15 – 17)
Preacher: And yet some of them hoped. Some of them kept alive in their hearts faith that survived. Not the religious leaders of Jesus’ time who took for themselves the comforts that made a fleshly life easy. No, it was those who through hard work survived. Men like Peter, James, and John. Matthew, who knew that earthly rewards did not fill and mend his spirit. Luke who knew the limits of the body but also knew the spirit could soar. The disciple saw Jesus offered a way out of the hurting lives to a life that had a future beyond this world. They remembered the scriptures that were based on hope and faith in a God that would enable them to out last anything this world put them through.
Seeker: “He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow. He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and ordinances to Israel. He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his ordinances. Praise the LORD!” (Verses 18 – 20)
Preacher: We have no idea what this new year will bring us. This last year has ravaged humanity in ways we did not think were possible. And many did not think humanity would survive. That may have been the way the Jews felt – they would not survive. What they did not see was that the Divine was weaving a path that found fulfillment through the linage of a man who “was after God’s own heart.” It was the heart, though, of a young boy who tended his sheep with strength and courage. And tried to rule his people in the same way. Yes, King David had his failings, and his doubts I am sure. We, humanity, have our failings and our doubts. But those doubts can be turned to hope and rejoicing when we place our faith in the Divine. Let 2021 sweep away doubts and crushed dreams. Let us dream new dreams and use the wisdom that steers us to the Lord God.
Seeker: Shalom & Selah, Preacher, Shalom & Selah!