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Spring Semester (2022-23)

Thirty-One Days and Thirty-One Chapters

One morning at breakfast, when my brother and I were still in high school, Mom cheerfully announced that it was the beginning of a new month, and this month has thirty-one days, and the book of Proverbs has thirty-one chapters, so she was going to read a chapter from Proverbs each morning to her sons. As you know, high school boys are sometimes barely human in the mornings. So our initial response was less than cheerful, and along the way through our month long pilgrimage through Proverbs we proved to be a very unreceptive audience. On many days, the mood expressed in our countenance was: “This is torturous.” “How much longer is it going to go on?” Little did we know at the time, but our cold response just proved the accuracy of Mom’s diagnosis. Her sons were definitely not little saints, and they needed to hear Proverbs read to them each morning.

As a father, with sons and daughters of my own, I have often wondered: “Why didn’t Mom give up?” “Why did she keep reading to her uninterested sons?” The short answer is that she loved us, another answer is that she is a born teacher, and the more full answer is that she believed. She believed that God’s Word is true. There is a wise created order interwoven into this world, and the book of Proverbs would show her sons how to live in harmony with that created order. She didn’t want her sons to grow up to be complacent fools because she knew that “The complacency of fools will destroy them, but the one who listens to wisdom will dwell secure” (Prov. 1:32). Living in accord with God’s wise created order, as it is revealed in Proverbs, would give health to her sons’ bones and place them on the path that leads to a good life.

The seeds of faith and wisdom that my Mom planted bore fruit. As I grew older and eventually left home, I became less complacent towards the things of God and believed and embraced the truth of Proverbs for myself. I saw the truth of Proverbs manifested in the lives of those around me. The wise Christian people that I met tended to do better in life than the foolish people. Things normally worked out well for those who wisely sought to live in harmony with God’s created order.

In time, however, I began to notice something else. Everything in life didn’t always work the way that I thought it should work. Sometimes horrible things happened to really wise people, and sometimes foolish people were rewarded. It was then that God brought a second teacher into my life, Qoheleth, the teacher from the book of Ecclesiastes.

Ecclesiastes resonated with me even as a young college student, but it wasn’t until eight years ago, when I read the Omnibus introduction for the book of Ecclesiastes by Jeffery Myers and Knowing God by J.I. Packer, that I was able to understand why. The teachings of Proverbs are true, living in accord with God’s wise created order will give health to your bones and place you on the path that leads to the good life. But the teachings of Ecclesiastes are also true, namely, God’s universe is incredibly complex and beyond human understanding. Furthermore, this complex world is made up of humans who are not piano keys or organ stops that operate in a direct cause and effect way. We have souls and wills of our own. So as Jeffery Myers notes, “What the author [of Ecclesiastes] intends to teach us is that real biblical wisdom is founded on the honest acknowledgement that “under the sun” [from our limited and finite human perspective] this world’s course is enigmatic; much of what happens is quite inexplicable, quite incomprehensible to us, and quite out of our control” (Myers, 12).

And as J.I. Packer notes in Knowing God, “God in his wisdom, to make and keep us humble and to teach us to walk by faith, has hidden from us almost everything that we should like to know about the providential purposes which he is working out in the churches and in our own lives” (Packer, 106). “As thou knowest not what is the way of the wind, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the work of God who doeth all” (Ecclesiastes 11:5).

Myers recognizes that the enigmatic, vaporous nature of our “under the sun” perspective of God’s world could lead us to feel anxious, so he goes on to say, yes, life is full of wind and vapor, but “Jesus rules over all of it. Even the wind and waves obey him. And this means that while certain mysteries and disappointments and hardships will always remain, we can enjoy the goodness of life and creation in the midst of the storm of life and rejoice in the care of the one who shepherds the wind” (Myers, 13). And as Packer notes, “The inscrutable God of providence is the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption. We can be sure that the God who made this marvelously complex world order, and who compassed the great redemption from Egypt, and who later compassed the even greater redemption from sin and Satan, knows what he is doing, and ‘doeth all things well,’ even if for the moment he hides his hand” (Packer, 107).

So as you enjoy the goodness of life and creation this summer, remember: July still has thirty-one days, Proverbs still has thirty-one chapters, “the complacency of fools will destroy them,” “the one who listens to wisdom will dwell secure,” and “the inscrutable God of providence is [still] the wise and gracious God of creation and redemption who knows what he is doing and doeth all things well.”

Knowledge and Wisdom in Submission to God,

Chris M. Blackwell

- Myers, Jeffery, “Introduction to Ecclesiastes,” Omnibus VI - The Modern World, Veritas.

- Packer, J.I. Knowing God. InterVarsity Press.

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