Keep the Wagons Hitched

It may seem surprising to some, but in this past Sunday’s sermon I did not “unhitch” the message from the Old Testament. As a matter of fact, I embraced an Old Testament text that has affected me for years but that I’ve never before preached. I’ve cited it in sermons, quoted it in counseling settings, but it has yet to stare me in the face as I prepare to open the Word for my congregation. To top it off, it’s from Proverbs, that amalgamation of sayings, imaginative expressions, exaggerations, word pictures, and moral maxims under the broad title of a wisdom book. Rather than unhitching it due to its Old Testament address, I found the passage hitched to the whole of Holy Scripture.

Here’s what I mean. The text that I chose for Mother’s Day came from Proverbs 24:3–4. It’s quaint, succinct, and has captured my attention since I was a newlywed. But I’ve never preached on it. Evidently, most other pastors haven’t either. Out of ten books plopped on my desk as I studied, most had only a few sentences on this text. A couple of older books expanded it with some helpful comments but no full exposition came in view. I couldn’t even find a good, old Puritan sermon on it! Ah, the Internet, I thought, will give me some sources to stir the gray matter as I prepared. But alas, few embers glowed on the hearth to blaze my mind and heart, not to mention the tips of my fingers on the keyboard.

So I resorted to what is best anyway. After comprehending the meaning of the text in its setting (the start of the fourth unit of “The Thirty Sayings of the Wise,” according to Bruce Waltke), I meditated on the text. Slowly, as I pondered, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches,” my mind stirred (Proverbs 24:3–4; NASB). The Wisdom writer had already introduced those terms by no less that ascribing the same wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to God at creation (Proverbs 3:19–20). Now he turns to us as we build, establish, and fill our homes. No doubt, the kind of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge that the Lord God possesses and exercises can’t be compared with the weak, struggling, and anemic sort that might be found in us. Yet Solomon uses God building the creation to spur our understanding as image-bearers (another one of those Old Testament ideas in Genesis 1:26–28 still hitched to the New Testament) in building our homes. God the Creator used the same materials that he has entrusted to his people for building their homes.

But wisdom, understanding, and knowledge seem so esoteric. Maybe a few unusual people possessing extraordinary minds and massive intellects can attain such God-like qualities for their homes. Or at least one might think. But Solomon parks that proverb in the midst of sayings for every follower of the Lord God. He gives wisdom, understanding, and knowledge to his people so that our creativity reflecting him as Creator might be displayed to his glory in the home.

Where, though, might we find such wisdom, understanding, and knowledge? Don’t unhitch the Old Testament from the New Testament! For the Apostle Paul harnesses this trio for the church. It’s precisely what he prays for the Colossian church, “. . . that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9). Such divinely wrought filling results in ample fruit affecting us vertically and horizontally—including our homes (Colossians 1:10–12). But does he hang out wisdom, understanding, and knowledge as abstract philosophical concepts to grasp. Certainly not! He tells us that they are found in Christ.

​As Paul describes his struggle for the various churches that he had not personally known to see them walking in unity, he explains how it happens. He labors in praying, teaching, and writing so that they might be knit together in love, and then attain “to all the wealth that comes from the full assurance of understanding, resulting in a true knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ Himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:1–3). The trio from Proverbs reappears, and this time, Paul shows us that they are found in Christ himself.

​Proverbs indicates the trio of wisdom, understanding, and knowledge suffices for God at creation and for believers in expressing creativity in building their homes. If we leave the wagons hitched, we see how the trio laid out in the Old Testament comes into real life experience. It’s not found in some kind of cookie-cutter approach to life and family doled out in one-size fits all principles. It’s not found in following someone’s list for what they think is the ideal family. It’s found in the beauty and glory of relationship to Christ. In union with him, we experience wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. And those gifts belong to the body to put into practice in all of life, including the home.

Keep the wagons hitched. Rich truth and good fruit fill our lives when we see Christ in all of Scripture.

Phil planted South Woods Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee in 1987 and continues to serve as senior pastor of that congregation. He previously pastored churches in Mississippi and Alabama. He received his education at the University of Mobile (B.A.), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Fuller Theological Seminary (D.Min.), and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (Ph.D.). Phil and his wife Karen married in 1975, and have five children and seven grandchildren.
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