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I. “O Wisdom from on High”
In the beginning, God said, “Let us create man in our image, in our likeness.” And it was so, because the Word of God always does just what it says. But what does it mean that man was ‘created in the image and likeness of God?’
It means that the man was the reflection, the image, the likeness of God. Seeing the man was like seeing God. Hearing the man was like hearing God.
• God is almighty, and His power was ‘imaged’ in the man. The man must have been very mighty.
• God is kind, and His kindness was ‘imaged’ in the man. The man must have been very kind.
• God is all-wise, and His wisdom was ‘imaged’ in the man. The man must have been very wise.
In His wisdom, God brought order out of the chaos that was “without form and void” by His all-wise Word – “Let there be.” And everything worked together in perfect harmony – ‘tov meoth’ – “very good.” Because God’s Word always does what it says.
That in a nutshell is what it means that God made man in His image, in His likeness. God so loved the world that He made a man in His image, in His likeness to “work it and care for it.” Nothing but the best.
It was as though God and man were one, one in thought, one in word, one in deed. The man worked and cared for God’s creation with the wisdom of God, and everything worked in perfect harmony, “tov meoth,” “very good.”
But then we read, “Now the serpent was MORE CRAFTY than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.” (Gen.3:1). “CRAFTY” is not the same as “WISE.” “CRAFTY” is to “wise” as “wise” is to “wise-guy” or “wisenheimer.” It’s devious, not good.
The CRAFTY serpent said, “You can be LIKE God.” But THEY WERE ALREADY ‘LIKE’ GOD! God made them IN HIS IMAGE, IN HIS LIKENESS. How “crafty.”
But they were convinced that “craftiness” was better than “wisdom.” And they exchanged the ‘wisdom’ of God for the ‘craftiness’ of the serpent.
It’s important to understand what really happened in the Fall because there’s a lot of misunderstanding out there. There’s a reason it’s called “THE FALL” and not “THE STUMBLE,” or the “THE INNOCENT LITTLE MISTAKE.”
They lost the image and likeness of God. Not just, “lost” as in, ‘boy, I wish I get it back again.’ But ‘lost it,’ as in ‘good riddance, glad to be rid of it.’ From the ‘wisdom of God’ to ‘God is a fool.’ From God’s thoughts to my thoughts and God’s ways to my ways.
So, how’s that working for you? Isn’t this world the picture of perfect order where everything works together in perfect harmony – always just the right amount of rain, never a lack of food, healthy bodies and balanced minds. Social security, perfect peace among the nations, “tov meoth,” “very good”?
What world are you living in?
“O COME, THOU WISDOM FROM ON HIGH.” We have had enough of the wisdom from below.
• “The fool says in his heart, “there is no God.” (Ps.14:1). We confess that we have acted like fools.
• “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” (Ps. 111:10). We confess that we do fear the Lord as we should.
• “Claiming to be wise, we have become fools,” and have exchanged the wisdom of Your “tov meoth,” Your “very good” for lives that are formless and void.
“O COME, THOU WISDOM FROM ON HIGH. WHO ORDERS ALL THINGS MIGHTILY.” Speak Your mighty Word into the chaos once again and redeem it, renew it, restore it. Make all things new again. And begin with us, your foolish people. Make Your thoughts our thoughts and Your ways our ways again.
There is good news for fools. And only those who confess that they are fools will receive it. So to all you fools, listen up. God has entered into the chaos and turmoil of His creation to bring order out of the chaos again, MIGHTILY, by the power of His all-wise Word.
Jesus is the second Adam, who “is the image of the invisible God.” (Col.1:15). In Him, God and man are one and “In Him are hidden all of the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” (Col.2:2). He is the wisdom of God in the flesh and dwelling among us.
Do not be fooled by the craftiness of the serpent again. Seek the wisdom of God. The crafty serpent calls the cross of Christ and Him crucified foolishness. What fool in his right mind would strive to “have the mind of Christ, who made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, and humbled Himself by becoming obedient unto death even death on a cross?” (Phil.2:7-8)
Listen to the wisdom of God. For “God has made foolish the wisdom of this world. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men.” (1 Cor. 1:25). By Christ’s suffering and death and resurrection, God, in His great wisdom, has brought order out of the chaos and made all things new. And we eagerly await the day when He comes again and everything is “tov meoth,” “very good.”
In the meantime, we pray, “To us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go.” “Show us how wise and prudent it is for us to repent and turn from our foolishness to fear You, the only wise God. And don’t just show us, for we are stupid, like sheep who easily go astray. “Teach us.” “Teach us” with Your wise discipline. “Teach us” through the wise preaching of your preachers like John the Baptist. “Teach us” by the examples of those who do fear You and who, by their lives show us the way of true wisdom that is based on Your Word.
Sing with me stanza two:
“O Come, thou Wisdom from on high;
Who ord’rest all things mightily,
To us the path of knowledge show,
And teach us in her ways to go.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”
II. “Thou Lord of Might”
While the people of Israel lived in Egypt, they lived under Egyptian law. Egyptian law was laid down by the king of Egypt who, in those days was called Pharaoh.
Pharaoh was Egypt’s lord, and as long as Israel lived in Egypt, he was Israel’s lord. Depending on the Pharaoh, Israel sometimes had a ‘benevolent lord,’ and sometimes a ‘malevolent lord.’
The word “Lord” in the Old Testament is “Adonai.” In the New Testament the word is “Kyrios.” It’s the word that is used for the owner of servants. To be “Lord” is to be “master.”
This morning we have prayed the prayer that servants and slaves have prayed for centuries, “Kyrie, Eleison.” “Lord have mercy. Be a benevolent Lord.”
Israel had originally moved to Egypt while Joseph was second only to Pharaoh in Egypt. And as long as Joseph was alive, everything went just fine because Joseph was one of them and he made sure that Pharaoh lorded over Israel benevolently.
But all that changed after Joseph died. The book of Exodus begins with these fateful words, “there arose in Egypt a Pharaoh who did not remember Joseph.” (Ex.1:8). The new Pharaoh was a ‘malevolent lord’ towards Israel. His law required that the Israelites must produce a certain number of bricks per day if they wanted to live. And then the law changed and he required them to produce more bricks with less straw. Hopefully they would be too tired to make Israelite babies. When that didn’t work, he instituted a new law that required that all Israelite baby boys be aborted.
And Israel cried out to the Lord. Not to lord Pharaoh of Egypt, but to the Lord God of Israel. And the Lord God heard their cries and saw to it that one Israelite baby boy named Moses was not aborted. And Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt, through the Red Sea. And from the far side of the sea, the Israelites saw that the Lord God had destroyed the entire Egyptian army in the same water that He had just led them through safely. And they all said, “The Lord God of Israel is mightier than the lord Pharaoh of Egypt.” “The Lord God of Israel is benevolent and we will willingly and gladly live under His Lordship and His Law.
In the beginning, God wrote His law onto Adam’s heart. And Adam not only knew the Law of God but loved it, and delighted in keeping it. He was ‘free’ in the best sense of the word. He was ‘free’ to live according to the Law of God.
But after Adam’s fall into sin and by the time we get to Israel and Moses, the Law that God had written on the heart of man was so faded that no one knew it anymore. So, God led the Israelites to a mountain called Sinai where He gave Moses the two tablets of stone with the Law of God – the 10 Commandments written on them.
And the Law of the Lord God is good. And you should write it on your heart and mind by memorizing it (which is still your assignment for next week Catechumens.) “You shall have no other gods besides the Lord your God. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. You shall honor the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” In summary, “You shall love the Lord your God with all of your heart and soul and mind.”
“You shall honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet.” In summary, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
Can you imagine what life would be like if we lived by this Law? What would this world be like if this were the law of the land in every land and everyone loved this Law and delighted in keeping it?
And it is good for us to live under God’s Law. And it would be a better world and a better life in this world if we did. But we should strive to live under the Law of the Lord God, not simply because it is good for us and practically speaking leads to a better world and better life, which is most certainly does. We should strive to live under the Law of the Lord God because it is the way we willingly and gladly live under His Lordship and prove our love for Him. “If you love me you will keep my commandments” says our Lord.
Do you know that within weeks after being set free from Egypt, the Israelites begged Moses to take them back to Egypt to live under lord Pharaoh and his law again?
And haven’t we all done the same? How many false gods do we call ‘lord’ and serve as though they were our masters, malevolent as they are? Who keeps the Sabbath day holy as we should? Who honors the authorities, in the home and the government as the servants of the Lord God that they are? Lord Pharaoh doesn’t need to impose his law of abortion on us, we have imposed it on ourselves. Adultery is fun. Bearing false witness is just how the game is played and to want what everyone else has is good for business.
Who loves God? Who loves his neighbor? Who delights in living under the Lordship the Lord God by keeping His Law?
Actually, there is One, and only One. And He is Jesus Christ, the one we call, ‘our Lord.’ He has kept the Law of God, both according to the letter and the spirit, because He is the One who wrote it on those two stone tablets. It is His Law. And He kept it for us, in our place, on our behalf.
And this is love, not that we have loved our Lord but that our Lord and Master has loved His servants.
Today, we heard the prophet Malachi remind us of what we already know. “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (Mal.3:7)
Even as we prepare to celebrate the Lord’s coming to us in the manger to keep the law of the Lord for us, so that we may not be judged by our keeping of the Law, which would be tragic for all of us, but by faith in Him who has kept it perfectly for us, even so, we long for the day when the same Lord returns to us and writes His Law over His new creation, and we all delight in living under His Lordship.
Sing with me stanza 3:
“O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to thy tribes on Sinai’s height
In ancient times did give the Law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.