Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Work of the Wise, Part 1: Preparation (Ecclesiastes 12:9)

Some think of teaching as an activity only for those of a certain class or gifting. However, even as all believers in Messiah are to be followers of Messiah, all followers are to be, in some respect, teachers (Heb 5:12). Certainly those married with children are to be teachers in the family (Deuteronomy 6:7), however, even single men and women are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20). The Kohelet or "Preacher" of Ecclesiastes may be an exemplar, but all share this responsibility.

And what a heavy responsibility! Its a little heavier than blogging. Jacob even says “let not all of you be teachers, knowing that as such we will incur stricter judgment (Jacob 3:1)”! So then, we are called not to just any sort of teaching, but to sound teaching. I find in Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) a key passage on this point, so by request I share my notes with you (this is the basis for the OTTO Bible study classes). Though life under the sun is complete vanity, we nevertheless are called to bring the Creator’s redemption into this world, and the means Ecclesiastes presents is sound teaching. This passage gives us a methodology for doing so, in preparation (v. 9), presentation (10), appropriation (11), and finally limitation (12).
And besides that Kohelet was wise, he also taught the people knowledge; yea, he pondered, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.
Ecclesiastes 12:9 (w/ Hebrew)
A. Preparation is for people -

1. Kohelet was wise The word for "wise" is chacham. Wisdom is the application of God’s word to our lives; the wise are skillfully applying His truth as they live. Biblical wisdom was to live the word of God.

So we first must be wise ourselves. This is the beginning not the goal of growth. Having wisdom must precede good teaching, just as having money precedes benevolence. The author Solomon, in spite of personal failings, must have retained the gift of wisdom, which he had asked for and obtained for the benefit of his people (2:9; cf. 1 Kings 3:9-12; 4:29-34).

2. he also taught the people knowledge. But if we are only wise for ourselves, we are not truly wise at all. The activity of teaching is the highest work of service (1 Timothy 5:17).

Those taught are people as such, not kings, the wealthy, or celebrities. Yeshua died for people; we minister to the same. Prepare teaching, not merely for professors and scholars, but for am ha-aretz. The accomplishment is knowledge, or truth, God’s word and life (Hosea 4:6, Rom 10:3). It is possible to be a miser in accumulating knowledge instead of using it for the benefit of others, but this was not the way of this Teacher. He taught others with full regard for his responsibility as one authorized to do so.

Those taught should not be dependent on the teacher but on the Lord. Taught (limad) is from the same root as learned (lamad): it literally means “to cause to learn,” or facilitate learning. To bring about wisdom for living in others is greater than giving them the correct answers. You can give a man fish or teach him to fish.

Limad has the idea of training as well as educating. The training aspect can be seen in the derived term for “ox goad” (malmad), like in Hosea 10:11. To learn is to come to terms with the will and law of God. Knowledge, to know by experience (yadah). Thus he was giving them insight for living, not just information with no practical results.

B. Preparation is a pursuit. yea, he pondered, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs.

1. Ponder and observe the text carefully, Ps. 1:2-3; Josh 1:7-8. Think deeply and consider carefully. Deliberate about the meaning of the words. Grammar matters. Context matters. “pondered,” izen, comes from "ear," or hearing. Since the ear represents hearing and obedience, it is involved in important symbolic actions. If a slave chose to serve his master permanently, his ear was pierced with an awl (Ex 21:6; Deut 15:17; cf. Ps 40:6). By this legal act, the slave was bound to obedience for his entire life. At the ordination of Aaron and his sons to the priesthood, some blood from the sacrificial ram was placed on the lobes of their right ears, thumbs, and big toes (Lev 8:23-24; Ex 29:20). Your consideration of the Master’s words proves submission to the Master. We are not so submitted to the Spirit of God if we just take the words to mean whatever feels right in the moment!

2. Search out to find the insights and theme, 2 Tim 2:15. He delved deeply for insight on the text. Questions were his flashlight that looked into the depths of the truth. Searched out, chiker, search, investigate, examine. It can refer to initial phases of a search or the end result, but always connotes a diligent probing. The work is neither easy or breezy. It used concerning investigating legal cases (Pro 18:17) and the plight of the needy (Job 29:16), searching out a particular subject (Job 5:27; Job 8:8; Job 28:27).

3. He set in order (NKJV). The Hebrew tiken means to “make straight.” He arranged or outlined. One does not set limits on the truth of the text itself; there is always to be more than can be observed, let alone outlined. Rather through outlining what we’ve learned will be accessible, both for ourselves, and others. Organization is like making a map of what new territory of truth we’ve discovered so that we might find his way back again, and bringing others with us. One cannot teach everything. The insights have to be prioritized according to what the text as a whole is saying.

Proverbs (meshalim) are wise instructions that represented truth in an applicable form. Thus the Hebrew for proverb mashal is from the root to represent, be like or to compare. We study the word so that the truth might be proverbial in people’s lives.


Paul Cohen said...

Wonderful and insightful

Thanks for inspiring me (us) again.
Paul Cohen
Sydney Australia

Daniel Kenny said...

As a teacher who desires to be a still greater teacher, I'm truly thankful for the insights you bring here. How important it is for us to prepare thoroughly, thoughtfully and with awe, continually looking to share rather than hoard the wisdom God gives us.

Thanks so much for your timely message.