Insights #10 March 7, 2015
First Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Behind the Mask"
For the week of March 7, 2015
Our study this week covers Proverbs 25-27. Let us attempt, by the Holy Spirit's help, to trace through these sayings what Jesus may have done in Luke 24:27, 44, 45. Can we see here the "things concerning" Jesus, the embodiment of the law and the gospel together, "the express image" of the Father (Heb. 1:3)? My prayer is that we indeed may see that "a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver" (25:11). (References are from Proverbs unless otherwise noted.)
We start with the simple statement, "It is the glory of God to conceal a thing" (25:2). Paul wrote the Corinthians that his commitment was to "preach Christ crucified" (1 Cor. 1:23). In describing this mission he said, "We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory." He described this also to the Colossians, in saying that he was "made a minister" to unfold "the mystery which hath been hid from ages and from generations, but now is made manifest to his saints: to whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:25-27). Do we understand this glory?
It is the glory that Jesus manifested as He entered into the reality of being "surety for a stranger" (27:13) when the soldiers "took His garments" (John 19:23). This human race which had become the "strange woman" had Someone who long before became "a pledge" for us. At the cross the pledge came due. As He hung there in His nakedness, in order to cover ours, we must see Him in His glory. He is "the author and finisher of faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb. 12:2). I sense that one verse that carried Him all the way down to the "death of the cross" (Phil. 2:5-8) is the one that says, "My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproacheth me" (27:11). The accusing reproaches of diabolos now had an answer! This was "good news from a far country" bringing "cold waters to a thirsty soul" (25:25)!
God covers things for a purpose, to be revealed in the proper time. The mysterious plan of salvation, called the everlasting covenant (Heb. 13:20), was revealed and ratified in Jesus Christ. Part of this plan is to cover sins in such a way, that when they are revealed in the judgment (1 Tim. 5:23, 24), those guilty of those sins are shown to have accepted the atonement in Jesus, His death for all men (1 John 2:2). The books of record will then reveal "Christ in" them. Before that final time of judgment, every action of true agape addresses the hidden sin (27:5, 6) in a way that it is seen to be part of the curse that was the cause of Jesus' death (26:2), enabling the sinner to truly experience sending that sin "before to judgment."
In contrast, the fool (26:3-11; 28:3), the mad man (26:18, 19), the talebearer (26:22), and the hater (26:24-26) all manifest a perversity that inverts the covering and revealing. They try to expose the sins of others in order to exalt themselves, to appear better than others. This is a hypocritical "transparency" that feigns rightness and goodness. When the time comes for God's revealing, we find them hiding from His presence (Rev. 6:15-17). Lacking "perfect agape," they will lack boldness in that day (1 John 4:17, 18). Behind their mask there is no "Christ in" them.
We see how God deals with fools (26:3) with the "rod of His mouth" (Isa. 11:4) in the way Jesus addressed the two on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:25, 26), bringing to their self-centered foolishness the bright light of a suffering Messiah. It brought repentance to these witnesses of His sufferings, as well as to the other eleven fools later that evening (Luke 24:33, 44-47). Might it also bring repentance to the Laodicean fools who think they need nothing? Jesus' "open rebuke" (27:5) as a "wise reprover" (25:12) to the "angel" of that church has also the promise of repentance, remission of sin, unity, and a final outpouring of the Spirit (Luke 24 to Acts 2).
If we refuse such a Friend (27:6, 9, 10, 17), the only thing left for us is the nature we inherited from Adam, and have developed ourselves. Not only is it described with the word "fool" but also with "slothful" (26:13-15) and "sluggard" (26:16). There is no healthy energy in the unregenerate nature. The strife, agitation, and contention are but the death struggle. Regarding anything good and eternal, there is only abject laziness, even paralysis.
Only the agape of Christ, revealed pre-eminently on the cross, has the ability to constrain us to relentless, positive activity (2 Cor. 5:14). Selfishness will always see such intense unselfishness as mad (2 Cor. 5:13; John 10:20; Acts 26:24), but it is the passion of wisdom in an all-out struggle to save as many as possible from oblivion.
If we refuse agape, we have refused "a love of the truth" and will "believe the lie" (2 Thes. 2:10, 11). We are "willingly ... ignorant" of all the word of God tries to teach us (2 Pet. 3:5). We are left with deception (26:24, 26; 27:6), clinging to the "strange woman" who has no future (Rev. 18).
The only hope for any of us humans, caught in the foolishness of sin, is to have "an obedient ear" (25:12) for the good news of Jesus the "faithful messenger" (25:13), bringing not only hope to fools, but pleasure to His Father (Matt. 3:17). While we were His enemies (Rom. 5:10), He died for us, giving us bread and water, heaping "coals of fire upon" our heads (25:21, 22), opening the way for us to be cleansed as the coal cleansed Isaiah's lips (Isa. 6:7).
As we enter into the refining process (25:4) of such a Friend, we will in the end, when our "time of trouble" comes, find that our "confidence is [not] in an unfaithful man" (25:19), but in One whose faith not only makes Him the "true witness" but also "faithful" (Rev. 3:14). This faith of Jesus alone will secure us through the storm ahead.
Before then we will respond to the final call, the Loud Cry to come out of Babylon, and will recognize how "contentious" she is (27:15), and avoid her "brawling ... in a wide house" (25:24). We will foresee "the evil" and hide ourselves in the Rock of Ages (27:12).
And in the end, we will see "the wicked [taken away] from before the king, and his throne ... established in righteousness" (25:5).
May that day hasten!