Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Thanksgiving, and Then Some

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, we heard good teaching from Psalm 107 on God’s deliverance of sinners. The psalmist presents four main characteristics of sinners:
  • Wandering (4-9)
  • Rebellious (10-16)
  • Self-destructive (17-22)
  • Self-confident (23-32)
While each person reflects aspects of all these, we are shown how the Lord applies pressure in the neediest area so that the individual would come to an end of himself, cry out, and relish in divine goodness and mercy. It is the third group to which I draw your attention using the Septuagint.*
He helped them out of their lawless ways,
For they were humbled because of their transgressions.
Their soul abhorred all manner of food,
And they drew near the gates of death.
Then they cried to the Lord in their afflictions,
And He saved them from their distresses.
Those described here willingly continued in their sin to their detriment knowing full well that they were hastening their demise. Some embraced their ignorance (Prov 1:22) while others were professing to be wise, yet became fools (Ro 1:22). Like a continual descent into a maelstrom, the sinner continues in a foolhardy, self-destructive life bound by their own passions, not comprehending the consequence of their choices nor seeking escape. Some foolish people will realize their complete inability to rescue themselves, and at this point, they will cry out for rescue.
He sent His Word and healed them,
And delivered them from their corruptions.
Let them give thanks to the Lord for His mercies
And His wonders to the sons of men,
And let them offer a sacrifice of praise;
And let them proclaim His works with exceeding joy.
Notice here that the Lord heals by the sending of His Word. Foolishness and simple-mindedness are met with prudence and wisdom. And it is not as if there is just knowledge being passed from one to another as if receiving a lecture of wise or proverbial sayings, rather, the word shared has an active role.
You, O men, I exhort,
And I utter my voice to the sons of men;
Understand astuteness, O simple ones,
And put it in your hearts, O uninstructed ones.
Obey me, for I speak sacred things,
And from my lips I will bring forth things that are true. (Pr 8:6–8)
Wisdom is personified in this chapter, not just for rhetorical effect, but because the basis of wisdom is a person—one who was a witness to the very beginning of creation and took an active part in all that was made, even rejoicing in what was made (Pr 8:22–31). No individual fits this description save for Christ Himself who has been for all eternity both God and the Word (Jn 1:1–5) as explained by Tertullian:
In Him, at any rate, and with Him, did [Wisdom] construct the universe, He not being ignorant of what she was making. “Except Wisdom,” however, is a phrase of the same sense exactly as “except the Son,” who is Christ, “the Wisdom and Power of God,” according to the apostle, who only knows the mind of the Father.… And if I am not mistaken, there is also another passage in which it is written: “By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the hosts of them by His Spirit.” Now this Word, the Power of God and the Wisdom of God, must be the very Son of God. So that, if [He did] all things by the Son, He must have stretched out the heavens by the Son, and so not have stretched them out alone, except in the sense in which He is “alone” from all other gods.… By thus attaching the Son to Himself, He becomes His own interpreter in what sense He stretched out the heavens alone, meaning alone with His Son, even as He is one with His Son. The utterance, therefore, will be in like manner the Son’s, “I have stretched out the heavens alone,” because by the Word were the heavens established. Inasmuch, then, as the heaven was prepared when Wisdom was present in the Word, and since all things were made by the Word, it is quite correct to say that even the Son stretched out the heaven alone, because He alone ministered to the Father’s work.

Against Praxeas 19
and Eusebius of Caesarea:
The divine and perfect essence existing before things begotten, the rational and firstborn image of the unbegotten nature, the true and only-begotten Son of the God of the universe, being one with many names, and one called God by many titles, is honored in this passage under the style and name of wisdom, and we have learned to call him Word of God, light, life, truth, and, to crown all, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Now, therefore, in the passage before us, he passes through the words of the wise Solomon, speaking of himself as the living wisdom of God and self-existent, saying, “I, wisdom, have dwelt with counsel and knowledge, and I have called upon understanding,” and that which follows. He also adds, as one who has undertaken the government and providence of the universe: “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes become great.” Then saying that he will record the things of ages past, he goes on to say, “The Lord created me as the beginning of his ways for his works, he established me before time was.” By which he teaches both that he himself is begotten, and not the same as the unbegotten, one called into being before all ages, set forth as a kind of foundation for all begotten things. And it is probable that the divine apostle started from this when he said of him: “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature, for all things were created in him, of things in heaven and things in earth.” For he is called “firstborn of every creature,” in accordance with the words “The Lord created me as the beginning of his road to his works.” And he would naturally be considered the image of God, as being that which was begotten of the nature of the unbegotten. And, therefore, the passage before us agrees when it says, “Before the mountains were established, and before all the hills, he begets me.” Hence we call him only-begotten Son, and the firstborn Word of God, who is the same as this wisdom.

Proof of the Gospel 5.1
This same Word and Wisdom comes to the sinner with the promise of succor and rest of sins forgiven. Under the Mosaic covenant, the believer lived by faith under the promise that Messiah would suffer and die for His people; we now look back at Jesus giving His life on the cross. From neither end of the timeline does mortal understand the breadth and depth of God’s wondrous works to the children of men. It is ours but to praise and thank Him for those works and worship so great a God and Savior.

* For comparison, the first two lines in NKJV read: Fools, because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, were afflicted. This section, otherwise, is basically the same.

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