The image of that little boy is rooted deeply in my mind's eye. He came from a broken home and if I remember right every sibling had been fathered by a different man. We, a group of young bible
workers working in Seattle, had taken him under our wing, which is why he was with us that Sabbath afternoon in the park. Somehow he sensed that it was nearly time to go and not wanting to go he began to slowly drift away from us. By the time someone called out to him to come back so that we could leave he was running at full tilt, his hands over his ears. And as he ran he was yelling out to us, “I can't hear you.”
I have often wondered what it was like to be that little guy—so many people in and out of his life, so little his taste of a steady presence, so little his experience of faithful love. He was growing up in a very broken world, growing up between the two voices, the voice of Lady Wisdom and the voice of Dame Folly. And the irony is that the human heart in such a situation tends to become impatient of constraint, running from the constraints that will lead to life and right into a seeming liberty that leads to bondage.
The miracle that this little boy needed, the miracle that all of us need, is that our hearts should begin to long after that one voice in such a way that we begin to follow after it at all costs, knowing that it is this voice alone which provides for us a true identity and pattern for our lives. There are two things that I see in this Proverbs passage that should be an aid in the development of such a determined pursuit: the fact that it is both a holy voice and a rooted voice that calls us to itself.
The Holy Voice
At some point, if we are to follow on to the end of the great salvation that has been given us, we have to come to a deep conviction regarding the value of the holy and a corresponding revulsion at the suggestions of all other voices. It is typical in a fallen context to regard the holy as somehow limiting, a dour stern attribute that removes from life all of its fun and keeps us from getting what we need. We must not, however, allow the voice of Dame Folly to define the holy for us. Lady Wisdom herself tells us the nature of her speaking. It is noble as opposed to degrading. It is right as opposed to wrong. It is true as opposed to false. Her lips are not even capable of given expression to that which is wicked. Her words are as straight as an arrow, without a hint of perversion in them. In a word, her words are holy.
Once again, we are surrounded with so many voices. But until we come to recognize the vital necessity of that one holy voice, we cannot be free. Jesus is such a wonderful example in this respect. Over the last few months I have been deeply impressed by the way in which His Father's voice was everything to Him. I see in Him such a deeply rooted allegiance. “Man shall not live by bread alone” he quotes, while suffering in the desert, “but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God.” And later, “The ruler of the world is coming, (Dame Folly), and he has nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, (the holy voice speaking), even so I do.” Here in Jesus is seen the deep conviction regarding the value of the holy. “I know,” He says in another place, “that His commandment is eternal life.”
What about us? Do we see through the promises of the seductress? With corruption surrounding us, with corruption fighting for toehold within us, have our hearts come to see the noble, the right, the true, and the pure as a great refuge, the only refuge in a world gone mad by spiritual adultery. Have we learned the meaning of “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Do we hunger and long for the voice of the holy? May God so grace us, I pray.
The Rooted Voice
It was the early 80's. The postmodern ethos was alive in the world, but largely confined to the halls of academia. Even then the pressure to see all religions as equal and none as privileged had begun to build. And so as I stepped on to the campus of Stanford University to spend a year there in Christian outreach I began to wrestle deeply with the question why I should urge people to become Christians? Why was this voice any more important than other voices? Why should it be listened to instead of the Hindu or Buddhist or Muslim voices, or for that matter the secular humanist voice? I wish I had space here to recount how this question was resolved for me. Suffice it to say that when the answer came it was of deep significance for me. Beyond this I will also say that though this passage in Proverbs was not at that time a part of the insightful moment, it witnesses unequivocally to the same reality, that the voice which addresses us through the Judeo-Christian prophets is a voice that has its origins prior to Creation. Its roots reach back before the world was, and its utterances gave shape to and marked everything that was made. See Proverbs 8:22-31.
This is significant. Prophetic truth is transcendent. It speaks to men of all cultures and all times, challenging the perspectives of time and place, stubbornly refusing to bend itself to them. Times and places are all post fall. This voice speaks from outside that reality. But, someone will protest, these very prophetic messages came in time and place. How then can they have escaped the “taint” of their contexts, the limitations of parochial cultures? This question, however, shows a misunderstanding of the nature of that speaking. The prophetic voice always comes as a challenge and a corrective to human cultures, including the culture that was the original receiver of its utterance. It did not come “through” Hebrew culture, but to and against it where necessary. It is an alien voice in this sense, but in that it speaks to the very conception of man and the essential patterns of his living it is communicable to all cultures in all times and places. The lines in this respect are very clear. If the assumptions of postmodernism are true than the prophetic faith is decimated and dead. We have nothing left to us but a fabric of human speculation and a disassociated “feeling” regarding truth. The door is thrown wide open to an undifferentiated spiritual world. Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly now speak as one, the difference between them lost in a sea of subjectivism and cultural limitation. The philosopher leads and the prophet trails behind. But this need not be. We need not bow to philosophical assertion, for our reference point is not philosophical but prophetic.
I am so glad that Lady Wisdom yet calls. He who has ears to hear let him hear. That holy voice, rooted in the very will of the world's Creator, speaks to us still. Listen to her testament. “Blessed is the man who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life and obtains the favor of the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; all those who hate me love death.”
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6583