What’s red and furry and climbs trees? (avoiding the Sunday School answer)

red squirrel I like to “think out loud” sometimes prior to sermons by sharing some thoughts and questions around the subject. It helps me to think through some questions, gives others a chance to see something of my thinking process and also means that we learn more from each other. So here are some jottings in advance that will hopefully provoke some further thoughts back. Here’s an email I sent out to a few people this week. I thought I’d post it here too and maybe it’ll lead to a few comments back from further afield

This Sunday we get to Proverbs 8 in our Finding Wisdom series

The imagery in Proverbs 8:22-31 is often linked to Jesus -there are echoes of Colossians 1 and John 1 here.  I almost sense a sort of riddle type theme here -you could head this passage as “Who is wisdom?”

Now here’s the challenge.  Go straight into “This points to Jesus” and you fall into what Bob calls the Sunday School answer trap.  You know the one

Teacher: – “What’s red and furry, gathers nuts and climbs trees?”

Child: –  “Well that sounds like a squirrel but we’re in Sunday School so the correct answer is Jesus” It sounds a little simplistic.

 Now this is what historically the “Arians” did and you see that in some non-Trinitarian groups today -particularly the Jehovah’s Witnesses. They said “this is about Jesus” and then they saw it as talking about wisdom being “created” so they said “Jesus was created and isn’t the eternal God after all. Now actually when you look carefully at the language used, we’re not talking about wisdom being “created” the language includes acquisition and bringing forth -so it fits with the idea of being begotten. But also, I think that those who read Proverbs 8 like that missed how the poetry of OT wisdom literature functions.

 So …

 1. I don’t want to miss the fact that Proverbs 8 must and does point to Christ. This is important because Jesus himself and the Gospel writers see the whole OT pointing towards and being fulfilled in Jesus. We should be seeking to preach Christ from all Scripture.

2. BUT the other thing I don’t want to do at this stage is to leap straight to a “This is about Jesus” application -not because it isn’t but because I think that if we rush to that point then we end up being very clumsy with the beauty of the Old Testament. There’s a reason why we have 39 books in the OT and don’t just leap into the New Testament.  I think a walking analogy might help here. I want to get the sense of a planned journey. We are meant to get to the destination and we are not meant to get lost or delayed on the way. However, nor are we meant to rush or try and take short cuts. If we do, then we will miss the beauty of the  scenery and the benefits of the exercise along the way.

 So I think with Proverbs 8 that one of our aims should be to both work towards application of the Gospel (not just how you become a Christian but the benefit for our whole life) from this passage but I would want us to build up to that enjoying what the passage says about wisdom as a quality and its practical benefits for life.

Thoughts, comments, reflections welcome.