Get your partying in now. Today is Mardi Gras!
Today is also a good time to reflect on our Proverbs passage. Proverbs sits as a part of the Wisdom Literature, which I have referenced in the last couple sermons, but not a usual topic for Presbyterians.
The Wisdom Literature of Israel is complex and rich. Its main goal, in my estimation, is to give a cross-section of sayings for the plethora of human experiences. If you have been reading Proverbs slowly and deliberately, you may have realized that some contradict one other. The wise person knows which to apply at each certain time. Thus is the dilemma for the reader of Wisdom Literature. You gotta know it all for it to be any use!
Today we near the end of Proverbs. It provides comforting words to those of us who feel we have just begun our journey into wisdom.
Today’s reading also helps frame Mardi Gras—that despite our foolishness and foibles, we are merely God’s creatures. And it frames our celebration as part of the human journey. We may not know all the secrets of life, but we are merely human, and celebrating our journey with God along the way to perfection.
“I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the holy ones.” The writer is saying, “That’s OK… it’s OK to fall short and not have grasped the breadth of all of these sayings.”
Verse 4: “Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of the hand…? What is the person’s name? And what is the name of the person’s child? Surely you know!”
This may perhaps be in the form of a riddle, a riddle that perhaps no one can answer. At least I can feel smart knowing that no one knows it! This verse brings me comfort! Others have argued that the answer to this riddle is “God.”
I personally believe this may also be a way to put the know-it-alls in their place. Provide me with his name, and his children’s name, knowing full well there is no such person. Of course then God comes to earth, his child who is literally the know-it-all Messiah. Perhaps there is something along these lines too.
It is important to treat the Israel Wisdom Literature in the context in which they were written. This passage is not meant to befuddle, but to put us in our place, coming to know the source of all wisdom, the Lord, our God.
So today let us celebrate our journey with God, and rest in the one who holds all the secrets to life.