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The Protection, The Prize, & The Presentation

September 22nd, 2008

Focus Text: Proverbs 4: 6-9 (NLT)

6 Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you.
      Love her, and she will guard you.
 7 Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!
      And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.
 8 If you prize wisdom, she will make you great.
      Embrace her, and she will honor you.
 9 She will place a lovely wreath on your head;
      she will present you with a beautiful crown.”

 

Stop Here and Reflect Before Reading Ahead

Yesterday was one of those moments in life that I will cherish forever.  Standing on a stage in front of several hundred guests, friends, and family, I had the honor of leading two of my dearest youth leaders through their wedding vows.  As weddings go, everything went wonderfully well with very few hiccups. The bride and groom both looked exquisite and no one in the bridal party fainted.  No one publicly objected to the union and it didn’t rain at the outside reception.  It was almost perfect.

One thing I always tell stressed out couples who are planning the millions of details of their wedding days is that no matter what happens . . . no matter what catches on fire . . . no matter what family member makes a fool of themselves . . . no matter what detail is overlooked . . . when the ceremony is over, you’ll be married.  Truth be told, the vast ordeal of the large church wedding isn’t necessary for a marriage to begin . . . although I prefer it.  The foundation of a marriage is not the tuxedos, the dresses, the cakes, the candles, or any other miniscule detail of the day.  All that’s technically needed are vows and witnesses.

The vows that are exchanged between husband and wife in the presence of their families and friends are the most sacred details.  Even yesterday, as I was leading the couple in their vows, I was fighting back tears and trying desperately not to get choked up.  There’s something so pure and unfettered about a young man looking his sweetheart in the eyes and blatantly telling her that she is and will always be his only love.  That he will gladly lay down his life for her.  That he will remain faithful to her in intimacy and will always see the beauty of who she is as an individual.  Then to hear the young lady speak her heart and lifelong devotion to her soulmate makes even the hardest-hearted skeptic brush away a tear or two. 

When the dress has faded and the cake has long spoiled.  When the guests have gone home and the families have ceased to relive the positive and negative aspects of the day.  When the honeymoon is over and the candles are no longer flickering.  When the groomsmen and bridesmaids go back to their own lives and the romantic music is no longer gently playing in the background.  When the minty breath spray gives way to morning breath.  What will remain are the vows.

To turn one’s back on those vows is the rip apart the intricately woven permanence of marriage.  The words promised to one another in the presence of, and in the power of, a loving God are the cornerstone pieces to the life that a couple builds together.  When all else fails, marriage is built upon God’s strength sustaining these promises through every season of life.

This passage continues our discourse on wisdom, referring to it as another aspect of life that one should not “turn your back on.”  Wisdom is a lot like a wedding vow.  Some aspects of it will be easier to follow in certain seasons than others.  Everyone feels happy on the wedding day, but as years go by and life erodes away one’s strength, it can be more difficult.  Godly wisdom makes sense when you first encounter the emotion and reality of God’s love, but then there are days that the butterflies seem to have flown away and one becomes weary still trying to follow the path of wisdom. That’s when many “turn their back” on what they know is true.  God knows this about us, that’s why He is giving us fair warning through this passage.

The rewards of staying true to our vows are invaluable.  There is a certain stability and trust that can only be forged during difficult times.  In other words, stay on the path of wisdom no matter what you feel or what you encounter.  The direction that God has pointed you in will always be correct, no matter what storm slams into you as you go.  Don’t turn away just because the winds seem to be blowing you in different directions.  Maintaining one’s vows requires a love and a stubborn refusal to quit.  

But God is not counting on our personal stubbornness to sustain us; He will meet us the storm and “renew” our vows.  When we delight in the wisdom of God’s path, He returns to us the greatness of His love and friendship.  “If you prize wisdom, she will make you great.”   Notice that the prize is not just what we are reaching for, it’s what we decide to make important.  How often do we keep trying to do what’s right because we hope to gain something beneficial from it?  There’s nothing wrong with this.  However, this passage reveals that instead of just doing what’s wise to get the prize, we should realize that wisdom is the prize.  Making a vow to “her” produces a relationship in which greatness naturally results from long-term interaction.  

In other words, a lifestyle of wisdom is only found in a lifetime of wisdom.

Finally, wisdom leads us to the presentation.  “She will place a lovely wreath on your head; she will present you with a beautiful crown.”  Is there a tangible reward for seeking God’s wisdom?  Indeed, but it’s presented in two parts.  The first is the wreath.  To me, this can represent earthly blessings that are temporary.  Hey, don’t underestimate them!  Blessing, honor, health, and prosperity on earth are no small matters– those who pursue Godly wisdom will walk this these “wreaths” on their heads.

However, the presentation’s second part is permanent and eternal.  That’s the “beautiful crown” of heaven’s rewards as we will live in perfect union with God for all time and eternity.  

So, know today that God has vowed to always love you and that wisdom is something that you can carry with you each day.  Make it your prize and it will present you with crowns on earth and in heaven.

 

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