International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday September 18, 2011
Purpose: To consider the kind of abundance wisdom offers
Scripture Text: Proverbs 15:21-33
Proverbs 15:21-33 (NRSV)
(21)Folly is a joy to one who has no sense,
but a person of understanding walks straight ahead.
(22)Without counsel, plans go wrong,
but with many advisers they succeed.
(23)To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone,
and a word in season, how good it is!
(24)For the wise the path of life leads upward,
in order to avoid Sheol below.
(25)The LORD tears down the house of the proud,
but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
(26)Evil plans are an abomination to the LORD,
but gracious words are pure.
(27)Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households,
but those who hate bribes will live.
(28)The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.
(29)The LORD is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
(30)The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the body.
(31)The ear that heeds wholesome admonition
will lodge among the wise.
(32)Those who ignore instruction despise themselves,
but those who heed admonition gain understanding.
(33)The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom,
and humility goes before honor.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
For the past two weeks our lessons could be defined as a parent/child format. The writings seem to reflect that of a parent teaching a child. This week's lesson uses a different format. Our text is taken from a portion of what is called the “Antithetical Collection.” That simply means each verse uses antithesis, or an extreme contrast between the first part of the verse and the last.
This type of writing is often used to get a point across, by showing the extremes. Unfortunately it does not leave much room for middle ground. It is an effective way of getting us to understand but also question the contrast, is there any room for thoughts less extreme. One way to teach this or to reflect on some of the contrast is to list on one side of a paper “Folly” then drawing a line to the other side and write “straight ahead” and then you or the class can mark where they individually would fall on that line, more to the left of center or to the right of center. The writer puts everything in a black and white relationship, but we know through our own wisdom that some things are not so easily defined. We can see that in verse 22 where is says, “Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.” Is that always true? Sometimes the counsel is just wrong to start with, or if all of the advisers are followers instead of leaders, you may get a consensus that lacks wisdom; in the Book of Daniel chapter 2 one wise adviser was far better than several unwise ones.
Never-the-less each verse needs to be read and discussed with an open mind. Note the instruction in verse 28 “The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.” Or you could look at verse 29 “The LORD is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Our wisdom tells us that God is a simple “I am sorry God,” from being near to the vilest of sinners. Of course one could then say they were part of the righteous.
I hope you are able to go through each verse and compare the contrast and that you are not guilty of “Ignoring Instruction” as it speaks about in verse 32. Using an antithesis often helps us to define the problem and address a solution to that problem.
Always remember the warning in verse 33 “The fear of the LORD is instruction in wisdom, and humility goes before honor.” There are so many good verses in this passage and it is fun to show the contrast and to seek good instruction. Consider “Those who heed admonition gain understanding.” There are many examples, of greedy, evil, trouble makers in our society today that we can point to as an antithesis of God's wisdom. But don't just concentrate on them; think of those that are bringing joy and wise counsel as the antithesis of those bent on doing evil in our community.