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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Garland crowns and festooned days!

Above all and before all, do this: Get Wisdom!
   Write this at the top of your list: Get Understanding!
Throw your arms around her—believe me, you won't regret it;
   never let her go—she'll make your life glorious.
She'll garland your life with grace,
   she'll festoon your days with beauty.
(Proverbs 4:7-9)

Above all and before all - I think the point here is that we need to sit up, pay deliberate attention to what we are doing, and give this a priority in our lives.  There are a whole lot of things we do in life simply by rote - driving, washing the dishes, and even walking from one point to the other.  We don't have to really "think" about it - it just happens.  The more I observe people, the more I am convinced that people do a whole lot of things without thinking - they are doing them because they have become habit, not because they are deliberately "present" in the activity.

As a father sits with his son, giving fatherly advice, God pleads with us in these verses - Get Wisdom!  Get Understanding!  And do it above all else!  I used to think that wisdom was something that came with the passage of time, like something we get simply because we grow older.  Now, I am convinced that even the very young can be graced with wisdom and understanding - simply because they have applied themselves to the learning processes God affords in their lives.

I have said it before, but it bears saying again - wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge we have and understanding is the gaining of such knowledge.  Without wisdom, knowledge is simply "learned stuff".  We need to put into application what we fill our brains with - otherwise, it is useless trivia.  Sometimes we treat God's Word this way - we take it in, but do nothing with it.  It is simply there in our subconscious - we are not really deliberately attentive to it and we really did not put much effort into understanding it.  

I have had many friends over the years tell me that the Bible is just too hard to understand - so they select the books from it that "make sense" to them, and leave the rest alone.  I grant you, the book of Numbers has very little in it that "pops" off the page and says, "This is great stuff for your life!"  Yet, taken in context with the other four books of the Books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy), the book of Numbers lends itself to me understanding that God was "accounting" for the people he was preparing as his possession.  Taken alone, it just looks like the census workers of the day were recording the family trees of folks.

The wisdom that comes from the Word is made immensely better by the investment of our hearts, minds, and emotions into the "taking in" of that Word.  Where there is an investment that costs us something - there is usually a sense of "value" in what is obtained in the investment.  The writer of this Proverb proclaims that it will garland your life with grace and festoon your days with beauty.  

In Old Testament days, the wearing of garland usually occurred on the head, much like a crown.  What better place to have grace applied than as a covering over our minds!!!  Mercy is another word for grace.  God is telling us that we have the ability to "crown" our thoughts with mercy - mercy when our thoughts are not as they should be and mercy when our thoughts will become actions.  

The "festooning" of something was actually a process of "draping" from one point to another some item such as gently flowing materials or garlands of flowers.  God is giving us a picture here of being "joined" together with him in such a way that the connection brings an elegance to our lives.  That is exactly what the obtaining of wisdom and understanding does - it connects us with the source of both and presents within our lives elements of gracefulness that were not previously there.

There is much to be said about wisdom and understanding - but the crux of the matter is in how much of ourselves we are willing to invest in the obtaining of both.  One without the other is senseless.  Garland serves no purpose until it adorns something with its beauty!