The Apocrypha, Lesson 17: The Wisdom of Solomon, Part 3

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear 2Intro

We earlier learned Jesus is Wisdom incarnate.  The Church understood the Apocrypha book of Wisdom to foretell Christ’s coming (“O Come, O Come, Emmanuel).  Today, we continue exploring what this book has for us to learn.

 

We Make Our False Idols so We Can Do What We Want

In Acts 15, the Church’s first council met in Jerusalem to decide how to incorporate Gentiles into an ethnically Jewish Church.  One of the decrees was to stay away from “sexual immorality.”  This wasn’t simply a general statement but involved the worship practices at pagan temples.

The Apocrypha book of Wisdom helps us better understand the connection between sex and idolatry: “The idea of making idols was the beginning of sexual immorality” (Wisdom 14:12).

  • In our culture today, how do we see the “idols” we make in our culture being used to redefine sexuality and our sexual mores?

 

Wisdom 14 then goes on to describe how badly how false idols feed our fallen nature, corrupting our lives even further.

14:22 Then was not enough to be wrong about the knowledge of God.  They lived in a state of evil strife due to ignorance, but they called such great evils “peace.”  23 They murdered children in their initiation rituals, celebrated secret mysteries, and held frenzied carousing with strange customs, 24 no longer keeping their lives or marriages pure.  Instead, they treacherously killed one another, or grieved one another by adultery.  25 Everything became a confused mix of blood and murder, theft and deceit, corruption, faithlessness, tumult, and perjury.  26 What was good was shouted down.  Favors were forgotten.  Souls were defiled, sex became perverted, marriages were in disorder, and adultery and immorality abounded.  [Wisdom 14:24-26]

  • Though the specifics may differ, do we see some of this in our culture?

 

Wisdom 14:13: “for false idols did not exist from the beginning, nor will they last forever.”

  • What is the end of what is false? When?

 

Knowing God

Wisdom 15:3: For to know you [God] is complete righteousness, and to know your power is the root of immortality.

  • If someone knows God, what does he have, which leads to what?

 

Wisdom 15:10-11:

15:10 His [the fallen person’s] heart is ashes, his hope is cheaper than dirt, and his life is of less worth than clay, 11 because he failed to know the One who formed him and inspired him with an active soul and breathed into him a living spirit.

  • Why is the fallen person’s life “worth less than clay”? What imagery is being played on here?

 

  • How does vs. 11 describe the makeup of the person?

 

  • If God created us body (formed), soul, and spirit, what then must our salvation consist of?

 

More Messianic Prophecy

Wisdom 16:10-12:

16:10 But your children were not conquered even by the fangs of venomous serpents, for your mercy came to their help and healed them.  11 To remind them of your oracles they were bitten, and then were quickly delivered, so that they would not fall into deep forgetfulness and become unresponsive to your kindness.  12 For neither herb nor poultice cured them, but it was your Word, O Lord, that heals all people.

John 1:14: And the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we gazed on his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth.

  • What does Wisdom understand the events in the Old Testament leading toward?

 

16:24 Creation, which serves you, the One who made it, exerts itself to punish the unrighteous, and then relaxes in kindness for those who trust in you.  25 And so it was that what was created was changed [after the fall into sin], serving your all-nourishing bounty according to the desire of those who had need.  26 In this way, your children, whom you loved, Lord, would learn that it is not the various kinds of crops that nourish, but that your Word sustains those who trust in you.

  • What happened to creation after the fall into sin?

 

  • What does the tempestuousness of creation and its ability to provide meant to do?

 

  • Ultimately, what is creation meant to point us toward?

 

Israel’s Manna was More than Met the Eye

Wisdom 16:20: Instead of judgment, you gave your people food of angels, and without their toil you supplied them from heaven with bread ready to eat.

  • What was manna called?

 

Exodus 16:4: “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘I am going to rain bread from heaven for you.’”  Here, heaven (Hebrew, shamayim, can mean heaven or sky) refers to the sky.  Yes, manna was a miracle caused by God, but was not from the location of “heaven” but the “sky,” the atmosphere.  For later, Exodus 16:13-15 reads:

13 In the morning there was a layer of dew [from the air] all around the camp.  14 When the layer of dew evaporated, on the desert surface a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost, appeared on the ground.  15 When the Israelites saw it, they asked one another, “What is it? [Manna?]” because they didn’t know what it was.

Jesus will use this passage from Wisdom (not so much Exodus), taking the Septuagint’s ouranos (heaven) to segue to His incarnation—not from the sky, but heaven—and being the Bread of Life for His people to consume for spiritual nourishment.

John 6:31-56:

31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, just as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat….  51 I AM the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread he will live forever.  The bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

52 At that, the Jews began to argue among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”

53 So Jesus said to them, “I assure you: unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you.  54 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the Last Day, 55 because my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  56 The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.

  • Does God supply us “food from heaven with bread ready to eat”?

 

  • With the eyes of faith, how can this testify to the doctrine of real presence in the Lord’s Supper?

 

Lutheran History, the Demon-Possessed, and the Book of Wisdom

Wisdom 17:14, 17:

17:14 Throughout the night, which itself was powerless, came upon them from the recesses of powerless Hades … 17 whether they were farmers, shepherds, or workers who toiled in the wilderness, they were seized, and endured an inescapable fate, and they were all bound in the darkness as by a single chain.

From the Church Ritual of Denmark and Norway [1761], Article III, “On the Possessed and Those Who Are Plagued by the Devil or His Evil Instruments in Some Other Way.”

Then the Superintendent [leading Bishop] shall summon any such pastors around, who together with the parish pastor the in the place, should be called upon to wait on the afflicted with prayer and reading.  These shall gather around the afflicted.  First, with some [medical] doctors, consider together whether the infirmity can be natural or not.  If not, then whether it may be a mockery and trick of Satan (Wisdom 17:17), by which he sometimes blinds men, and thus alters their mind and senses….

Christ himself says that such devils do not go out except by prayer and fasting (Matthew 17:21).  This Paul also experienced for himself when Satan’s angel buffeted him, and he prayed to the Lord three times to remove the plague from him (2 Corinthians 12:8).  So will the servant of God deal with such afflicted persons [by prayer and fasting] …

In such cases, the bishop will add a special prayer for the gracious deliverance of the afflicted, according to God’s good will.  The pastor, with the other believers present, will then pray on their knees with the afflicted at least twice a week with earnest zeal and piety, and always close with the Lord’s Prayer, and Benediction over the one who is suffering.

 

Jesus is the Angel of Death … and Life

Here, Wisdom remembers God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt.

Wisdom 18:14-16:

18:14 For while gentle silence enveloped everything, and the night was half-spent, 15 your all-powerful Word leaped from heaven’s royal throne, into a doomed land.  16 He came bearing the sharp sword of your unchanging command, and stood and filled everything with death, touching heaven while standing on the earth.

  • Whom does the book of Wisdom credit for delivering the Israelites from Egypt?

 

Jude 1:5: The Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt.

Hebrews 4 builds on Wisdom to describe what we are to learn from God’s judgment of the Egyptians Israelites who didn’t remain faithful.

Hebrews 4:11-13:

4:11 Let us then make every effort to enter that [eternal] rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of [ancient Israel’s] disobedience.

12 For the Word of God is living and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, piercing to the divide of soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judging the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  13 No creature is hidden from him, but everything is naked and exposed before the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.

Yet, the Church also saw parallels with God rescuing His people from Egypt’s slavery as a picture of God rescuing us from our spiritual bondage.

1 Corinthians 10:1-4:

10:1 Now I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, all passed through the sea.  2 They were all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.  3 They all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink.  For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ.

Thus, God’s rescue of His people in Egypt, including this passage in Wisdom, takes on a messianic character.  For this reason, those who awaited the Messiah in faith, saw him being born when “the night was half-spent” (Wisdom 18:14).

This is why the Introit in the Lutheran liturgy for the Christmas service is from Wisdom 18:14-15: “When all was still and it was midnight, Your almighty Word descended from the royal throne.”

Also, this thinking shaped our Christmas hymns, most specifically: “It Came upon the Midnight” and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

 

 

Wisdom’s Conclusion

Wisdom 19:22: For in everything, O Lord, you have exalted and glorified your people, and you have not neglected to help them at all times and in all places.

  • To Whom does wisdom direct us to look? Why?

 

Link to the next Lesson.

 

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