OWAAT February 4: Wisdom Personified in Proverbs

So now we’re into early February, just past Groundhog Day / Candlemas / St. Brigid’s Day / Imbolc, etc. Has anyone else just about had it with winter by now, or is it just me? It is at this time of year that I find it most helpful to have some sort of rhythm going to keep me going “just enough” – but to also be kind to myself if I’m having a hard time keeping up with the goals I’ve set for myself, remembering Mary Anne Radmacher’s modern wisdom, “courage doesn’t always roar. sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘i will try again tomorrow.'” (p. 4) Sometimes what it takes to face life as it is at this time of year requires that kind of courage. Wherever you are in this 5th week after the Epiphany, I wish you, if you need it, the kind of comfort that comes from knowing that sometimes it’s okay to rest and try again tomorrow.

Daily Bible readings:

February 4 – Proverbs 13
February 5  – Proverbs 14
February 6 – Proverbs 15
February 7 – Proverbs 16
February 8 – Proverbs 17
February 9 – Proverbs 18
February 10 – Proverbs 19

Think:

Though the book of Proverbs is structured as a father giving advice to his son in a very patriarchal society and therefore not all Bible readers believe he is necessarily speaking directly to them, there are still elements in the book that really capture my attention. For instance, I find the role of personified wisdom in Proverbs incredibly fascinating, as does Christine Roy Yoder in the Women’s Bible Commentary:

“Personified wisdom refuses to remain captive to female stereotypes. Her description in Proverbs in many ways defies them. And, unlike the ‘strange’ woman who for the most part exits the stage after Proverbs 1-9 (22:14; 23:26-28) and receives little attention in later Wisdom literature, wisdom strides with increasing boldness across time, texts, and testaments, capturing the imaginations of many and taking on a robust life of her own. She becomes identified in Judaism with Torah (Bar. 3:9-4:4; Sir. 24:23-24) and in Wisdom of Solomon she is the ‘spirit of Sophia’ – the breath of the power of God (Wisd. Sol. 7:7-10:18). Kabbalistic writings of medieval Judaism drew from depictions of her to portray the Shekinah, the female element in divinity, as did the Talmud and midrash to depict Knesseth Yisra’el, the personification of the community of Israel. Early Christians described the person and work of Jesus Christ using language and imagery associated with wisdom (e.g., John 1:1-18; Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-3). And some theologians evoke her to describe the Holy Spirit. In short, she is a remarkable female figure who has been neglected or downplayed far too long in the religious life of Jews and Christians – despite such persistent and compelling testimony to her significance.” (p. 235)

It’s always interesting to me how Christianity (as do most of the major world religions generally) lets peeks of its relationship with the Divine Feminine out – or at least, is unsuccessful at hiding them completely. (One of the things about breathing the air of patriarchy on a regular basis is that it’s difficult to tell just how intentional or not its obscuring of these things is.) One of these peeks is in Lady Wisdom. While some would make her into a Hebraic or Christian Goddess (and I do think it’s wonderful that this manifestation of the Divine Feminine is right there in a canonical biblical text), I’m not sure that she’s quite that – but I do feel better knowing that there is biblical and historical evidence that somebody somewhere in the wild “way back when” had the idea that some of God ought to be expressed in female form.

Pray: 

As we continue on in our February prayer practice of praying according to Martin Luther’s Four-Stranded Garland, we remember its four basic steps as laid out in “How One Should Pray, for Master Peter the Barber.” A reminder that this translation of his letter is available, or you may simply take the themes of instruction/learrning, thanksgiving/praise, confession, and prayer/listening for God and apply them to a particular biblical passage or theme.

Mary Jane Haemig at Luther Seminary ends her overview of Martin Luther’s attitudes about prayer with these thoughts: “Luther preached to congregations, published a prayerbook and catechisms, wrote to his friends, admonished his students, and even wrote to his barber offering advice on prayer. Are we as persistent in teaching prayer? Is this basic conversation of faith important to us? What shall we say to ourselves, our children, and the great numbers of unchurched, concerning prayer and the God who hears prayer?”

Well, what shall we say?

Act:

What do you want to change in your community in 2018, and with whom do you need to work to change it? What are the relationships you need to build to create that change? What other steps do you need to take to get there?

Check the Think! Pray! Act! calendar for ideas and things to do.

Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working to live out their dreams of a more just world!

What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

References:

Clifford, Richard J. “Wisdom Literature in the Ancient Near East.” Pages 731–48 in Introduction to Hebrew Poetry; Job; Psalms; Introduction to Wisdom Literature; Proverbs; Ecclesiastes; Song of Songs. Vol. III of The New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2015.

Haemig, Mary Jane. “Practical Advice on Prayer from Martin Luther.” Word & World 35.1 (2015): 22–30. https://wordandworld.luthersem.edu/content/pdfs/35-1_Prayer/35-1_Haemig.pdf.

Luther, Martin. “A Simple Way to Pray (…for Master Peter the Barber).” Pages 193–211 in Luther’s Works: Devotional Writings II. Vol. 43 of. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1535. http://www.lbdsoftware.com/A%20Simple%20Way%20to%20Pray%20-%20Martin%20Luther.pdf.

Radmacher, Mary Anne. Live Boldly: Cultivate the Qualities That Can Change Your Life. San Francisco, CA: Conari Press, 2008.

Roy Yoder, Christine. “Proverbs.” Pages 232–46 in Women’s Bible Commentary: Revised and Updated. 3rd ed. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012.

Comments

comments