We are not quite two weeks into the New Year, and perhaps things that started with great enthusiasm a few weeks ago are already beginning to unravel. It might seem Wisdom is calling us out in this passage from Proverbs. Her offer, which she is shouting in the streets, is this:
"Come and listen to my counsel.
I'll share my heart with you
and make you wise."
And yet, Wisdom has little expectation that her generous offer of wisdom will be accepted.
"I called you so often, but you wouldn't come.
I reached out to you, but you paid no attention.
You ignored my advice
and rejected the correction I offered."
We have two stories in the readings for today that turn out in ways that seem at odds with how they begin. We met Abraham back in Genesis 12 with God's call for him to move, and have followed him through the ups and downs of that journey. Our reading today brings us to the end of Abraham's story, and the ongoing account of the covenant through his descendants. Things are not simple. There are issues with Ismael and Isaac. Rebecca's twins, Jacob and Esau, began their rivalry in the womb and continued through their lives. Isaac is in constant conflict with his neighbours. Chapter 26 ends with domestic tension: "Esau's wives made life miserable for Isaac and Rebekah."
In Matthew 10, Jesus sends out his disciples, empowering them "to cast out evil spirits and to heal every kind of disease and illness." The commission was to "announce that the Kingdom of Heaven is near." What an exciting mission to be on. And yet Jesus was clear that to witness the coming kingdom would come at great cost. "Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves ... beware!"
The Bible continually resists the idea that answering the call of God will result in a comfortable life. In these texts, God's offer of Wisdom is resisted, the promise of God's blessing to the nation runs through deceit and family conflict, and the proclamation of the kingdom that Jesus brings near will offer healing to the world, but opposition to those who obey. I find comfort that the Bible is not a book of abstract spiritual ideals, but the story of how God is faithful in the lives of real people in all of the mess we find in this world. May you know his power and grace in the realities of life he has called you to live. And as the motivation for New Year's resolutions begins to fade, God's Spirit (Wisdom) continues to call, indeed, to shout, "Come and listen to my counsel. I'll share my heart with you and make you wise."
Professor at Ambrose University