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From the Preacher’s Pen…

We’ve all done foolish things in our lives. But one of the most important lessons we have to learn is the difference between making a foolish mistake or error and being a fool. To be a great fool you can’t learn from the mistake, you can’t do better or try harder next time.

Of course, the Bible is full of reminders for us to learn. And Solomon even begins a lesson for us on how to build and sustain real wisdom:

 Seven Pillars of Wisdom

Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars (Proverbs 9:1).

Solomon naturally had a lot of good advice about wisdom. As his life demonstrated, all the wisdom and knowledge in the world doesn’t do much good without obedience. God would remind us of both great truths frequently in the New Testament. Without knowledge, we can never accidentally be right, and yet without wisdom in using that knowledge, we can easily be legalistically wrong.

Obviously, like so much else of God’s word, striking the right balance is key. Since we, God’s people, are the temple of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17), how are we to appreciate the wise way of building that temple?

Two of Solomon’s words form the key to his lesson. First, house is a unique word in Hebrew in that it seems to have such a broad meaning that there are many other words said to be nearly synonymous.

For example, a house may be a dwelling or building, a castle, a palace, a temple, a settled abode, a settlement or village, a dwelling, a refuge, a sacred place or sanctuary. Second, pillars may rarely be used for the foundations of a building, but usually, the term is reserved for the large load-bearing columns of temples or similar buildings.

One could then reasonably imply that wisdom’s house is not just a lower class, common building but rather an impressive permanent structure.

The word hewn is a somewhat technical reference to the work involved in the preparation of either a wooden or stone load bearing column of large size. The NIV misses the point in using set up for the total work that both fabrication and assembly involved.

Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10), the proper starting place is the Lord! Without proper honoring of our God and Savior and knowledge of Him and His will, we have nothing to build on.

Since we are next going to look at a comment by James, one of the elders of the church at Jerusalem, let’s first remember a bit about who he was. Growing up as part of Jesus’ earthly family he at first failed to believe (John 7:5). He would be a witness of the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:7) and eventually a faithful elder of the church (Acts 15:6, 13 and Acts 21:18). As such he took a strong stand for the Gentile Christians and also wrote a New Testament letter to Jewish Christians.

In that letter, he reminds us all of the great value of wisdom and reminds us that if any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God (James 1:5). Next, he challenges us: Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. (James 3:13) And finally, he shows us: But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3:17-18)

Did you notice the link to Solomon’s lesson? James suggests the seven pillars begin with the great pillar of purity. Purer in heart, oh God, help me to be the song reminds us. Purity is the foundation, the strength and, in many ways, the hardest thing of all for us to keep. Go back and look at the many Old Testament laws related to purity. There are countless ways to fail and it’s always a challenge to keep pure and holy before our God!
Only when we begin with purity do we ever start to accomplish the other goals.

Peaceable, gentle and reasonable are not to be confused, as many do, with weakness or acceptance of wrong. Jesus exhibited all three qualities, even when he whipped men out of the Temple or was rebuking those proud of their sinful accomplishments!

Full of mercy and good fruits involves both the mental attitudes as well as the outward works. Mercy shown to others allows God to show mercy to us and the actions of doing good shows that we really mean it.

Unwavering and without hypocrisy make wisdom beyond the abilities of fraudsters. God has no need of quitters or lousy actors that do not actually live the life and walk the walk of His family.

Like Jesus taught in another lesson, a house ~ indeed a life ~ built on the sand is doomed. One must build on the firm foundation to endure. The obvious challenge and question for us is a simple one. On what are you building your life, your house for eternity?

— Lester P. Bagley