The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.
Two random bits of information came at me this past weekend, each from a different source, and each having to do with the year 2007. Here is what I learned: (1) the first generation iPhone hit the market in 2007; (2) and teenage depression is up 63% since 2007.
Is there a cause and effect relationship between the two bits of information about 2007? I would not pretend to know, but those two random facts did get me to wondering if all our technological advances make us any wiser or happier? Asking that question I thought of a similar question raised by T. S. Eliot almost 90 years ago in his poem “The Rock”: “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?/Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”
I have just finished reading the recently published book The Broken Thread: Discovering the Wisdom of Traditions in An Age of Chaos. Its author is a 36-year-old, Iranian-born Sohrab Ahmari, formerly a secular Shiite Muslim, now a devout Christian living in America. In his book, Ahmari wrestles with how to raise his little son in the Christian faith. In the midst of a secular, paganized culture, how does he pass on the Christian faith to the next generation:
“Here, then, is the dilemma of a young father: How do I transmit to my son the value of permanent ideals against a culture that will tell him that whatever is newest is also best, that everything is negotiable and subject to contract and consent, that there is no purpose to our common life but to fulfill his desires….To a life anchored in stable unchangeable ideals?”
Today’s scripture is taken from Solomon, who in his three extant books of wisdom, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon, seeks to transmit Biblical faith and lifestyle to succeeding generations. Scripture tells us that Solomon is well equipped to take on such a momentous subject because:
“God gave Solomon very great wisdom, discernment, and breadth of understanding as vast as the sand of the seashore so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt…People came from all the nations to hear the wisdom of Solomon; they came from all the kings of the earth who had heard of his wisdom.”(1 Kings 4:29-30; 34)
In today’s scripture, Solomon comes downs to his last recorded words in which he sums up life’s wisdom, meaning, and purpose. In his final words, Solomon pleads with his children and their children to keep to “the collected sayings that are given by the one shepherd”, who is, for Solomon, the LORD, the Shepherd of Israel (Genesis 48:15; 39:24; Psalm 23:1; 80:1; John 10:8; 1 Peter 5:4). Solomon has learned that all life wisdom comes down to the one Shepherd and His inspired Word. He wants the Shepherd’s teachings, or words, to be like “goads” that rouse and prod action, and like “nails” driven in and firmly fixed in minds and memory. And “beyond these” Solomon warns, “my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end.” It will be wisdom lost in knowledge, and knowledge lost in information!
Solomon concludes, announcing his life-long quest for wisdom completed: “The end of the matter; all has been heard.” What is the end of the matter? What is the bottom line of life’s meaning and purpose? “Fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of everyone. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Here is true wisdom, far beyond the newest and fastest. When we stand before God, there will be no Do-overs!
Lord, please help us to train up our children in the way they should go, and go that way ourselves!