Guest blog: My good friend, Huw Williams, has offered this series on preaching wisdom literature. Huw is the pastor of the International Church in Torino, Italy, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Here is his personal blog. Thanks Huw!
2. Know why it is important to preach wisdom
With the exception of the Psalms, wisdom literature is very often neglected by Bible teachers and readers alike. Why is this, and what do we miss out on when we neglect wisdom literature?
Firstly, we miss out on the necessity of reflection. Now of course, all scripture requires us to reflect on it, and to meditate on it. But think about it for a moment, I was preaching recently on Luke 14 and an incident of Jesus healing a man on the Sabbath. It was a narrative passage, and so none of us in the room had much of a problem with what the passage was saying in the immediate sense – a sick man came to Jesus on the Sabbath, and Jesus healed him. I suspect that sadly, not everyone hearing that sermon believed that the miracle actually happened, and sadly, not everyone understood the significance of what Luke was saying about who Jesus is, but do I think that at the very least, everyone present understood the passage in it’s immediate sense – that Luke says a sick man came to Jesus and that he got healed by Jesus.
But imagine now that I am preaching this Sunday on Proverbs 30:18-19:-
18 “There are three things that are too amazing for me,
four that I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
the way of a snake on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
and the way of a man with a young woman.
What is the immediate meaning of this passage? What is it saying, in order for us to reflect on it? That’s a bit harder, isn’t it? And I suspect that many of us stop reading at this point, and flick over to Philippians to find something with a clearer immediate meaning. But this is the point – wisdom literature underlines to us the necessity of reflection. This proverb is inviting me to stop what I’m doing, to reflect, to take time to think about what this could possibly mean, what the connection is between these four “ways” and in doing so, to get a little wiser.
Many of us don’t like reflection. We live in the internet age of social media and immediate information, preferably in 160 characters or less. But wisdom literature defies that approach to life and demands that we slow down, maybe even that we stop what we are doing, and that we consider. Sadly one of the reasons why we neglect wisdom literature, is that we have lost the art of reflection.
Think of the book of Job – it’s a long book. Who of us hasn’t struggled through some of those passages and wondered if it will ever end? Again it’s tempting to turn forward a few hundred pages in order to find something a little easier to understand – but that is kind of the point – and it’s all wrapped up in the genre itself. We might be looking for an easy answer to the problem of suffering, something we can post on Twitter or Facebook, but God refuses to give us that kind of answer, He gives us a proper answer, He gives us the book of Job. And it is a cosmically-proportioned book, to discuss a cosmic struggle.
So let’s know why it’s important to preach wisdom. Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the specific challenges.