Riddle Me This - Walking Wisely Week 7

Pro 1:5-9 NKJV A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, (6) To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. (7) The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction. (8) My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; (9) For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.

There is a mystery here in Atlanta. It may not have run across your mind but there are some who have pondered it through the years. It surrounds manager Bobby Cox, his success in winning but also the impact of breaking the record of being tossed out more than any manager in Major League History. Sports Illustrated did a feature on the Bobby as he approaches retirement. Chipper Jones has certainly fueled a great deal of speculation. The article reveals some of the mysteries surrounding Bobby. I'll admit, I've never been a fan of Bobby Cox but I believe that I have come in part to understand the real mystery. You see, it isn't the impact on games one or lost that is the issue. No, if you want to know the real mystery of why it is this incredible manager has been thrown out so many it is the loyalty it has bred in the players who have played for him through these many years.

I'm fairly certain we each carry with us a list of mysteries that dwell in the back of our minds. For instance the one that has most troubled me, why do we park on driveways and drive on parkways? Yours I'm certain are deeper than mine – I just tend to the simple.

Yet at the beginning of Proverbs, Solomon notes that one of the pieces of concern, one of the central things that the book intends to address is helping those who desire wisdom to understand the riddles of life. Nowhere in Proverbs are riddles more pronounced than in the words of Agur son of Jakeh. His riddles are found in chapter 30 and reflect a totally different style of writing and wisdom than in the previous work.

The word riddle in the Hebrew, reflects the idea of satire. In a sense it is making a mockery – sarcasm possibly. Not surprisingly I think, the writer opens his lists with a work of mockery towards those who do evil.

The Riddle Of Evil Doers: Proverbs 30:11-14
Pro 30:11-14 NKJV There is a generation that curses its father, And does not bless its mother. (12) There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, Yet is not washed from its filthiness. (13) There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes! And their eyelids are lifted up. (14) There is a generation whose teeth are like swords, And whose fangs are like knives, To devour the poor from off the earth, And the needy from among men.

As we read those words, I imagine we begin to form pictures of people and situations we've been in ourselves. But we'd me at fault ourselves if we did not ask, “What is the wise the thing to do?” You see the danger in a riddle or an enigma is how quickly it mocks not someone else but the reader. Regarding verse 12 a Rabbi once noted "If there are only two righteous men in the world, I and my son are the two. If only one, I am he."

It is not far from the scenario which played out before Jesus where the Pharisees attempted to carry out the death sentence on a woman caught in adultery. Jesus played in the dirt while they waited. When he spoke, his riddle was this, “He who doesn't have sin, you cast the first stone.” He went back to his drawing and all of the accusers went away. May I ask, what answers do you to these riddles of Agur in your life? (Pause)

The other point that comes through is the role of parables in Proverbs. These tend to often come out in the form of analogy and story. Of all the section which seems most applicable in my mind is Agur's 'Riddle of the Little.' In our world, so focused on big and shiny, Agur contrasts the wisdom of small things...

The Riddle Of Little: Proverbs 30:24-28
Pro 30:24-28 NKJV There are four things which are little on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: (25) The ants are a people not strong, Yet they prepare their food in the summer; (26) The rock badgers are a feeble folk, Yet they make their homes in the crags; (27) The locusts have no king, Yet they all advance in ranks; (28) The spider skillfully grasps with its hands, And it is in kings' palaces.

The use of grouping ideas in threes and fours is found in literature throughout the Ancient Near East. It seems to have been beneficial in sharing thoughts and ideas with their students. But it tells of something more, namely, the evidence of God's design in the world around us. In this way, we come back around to Job and the examination of Job by God.

While such knowledge is good and has it's purpose, for us again, we must ask of ourselves, “What is the wise thing to do with these words?” To that I would look at the writer's intent – what wisdom is here for us? When you look at the ants or feel that bite on your foot, remember to be planning ahead. The timid rock badger makes a wise choice to hide where enemies do not find them. The locust, like a massive army, work in unison. And what about the spider who does it's skillful work – do you take note of it?

I have to wonder, as a young man, did Jesus not find this wisdom literature fascinating? The wise thing to note too, is how Jesus brought parables to the forefront of his teaching – alerting and pointing us to reality of God's Kingdom surrounding us, just as Proverbs did. What do I mean?
Mat 13:31-32 NASB He [Jesus] presented another parable to them, saying, "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; (32) and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that THE BIRDS OF THE AIR come and NEST IN ITS BRANCHES."

“Proverbs is the scrapbook of common grace.” from Charles G. Martin. This is the way of God. Not in the grandiose. Not in vulgar displays. Not in extravagance. Just as the way of wisdom is found in the little, so to the Kingdom of God.Jesus – God of the Common. He was found NOT in palaces & with kings BUT with the poor & kicked around. He didn't speak to his disciples about being leaders BUT being loving. He didn't encourage followers to live a lavish lifestyle BUT to be looking at the Little. Jesus known not for doing BIG things but for doing the HARD things. The riddle is what has Christianity become known for and what is it that Jesus said we should be known for?


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