Ancient Living Words
It has been a very long time since God first inscribed the Ten Commandments on two tablets of stone and gave them to Moses on Mount Sinai. And it has been a very long time since Solomon, Agur, Lemuel, and other teachers in Israel contemplated how the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and then wrote the hundreds of sayings that now comprise the book of Proverbs.
The human propensity to discard what is old and favor whatever is new means that we’re not inclined to listen to principles and directives from a distant age—let alone allow them to rule and shape our daily life and decisions. In order to find our way, we prefer to consult more contemporary sources of wisdom and to make use of information that appears to be far more up-to-date.
But already thousands of years ago, God told his people, “Do not move the ancient landmark” (Prov 22:28). This was said about the boundary stones that marked a person’s land within Israel, and it warned them not to encroach greedily on another’s God-given inheritance.
It is a command about property, but more profoundly it addresses the question of authority. Do we submit to God’s revealed will for our life? Do we remain within the safety of his limits and boundaries? Or do we step beyond his ancient landmarks and try to find our own way because we’re confident that this will be to our advantage and gain?
Throughout its thirty-one chapters Proverbs shows that it is foolish to “forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness” (Prov 2:13). Instead, it teaches that it’s wise to obey the LORD in all things, for “every word of God proves true” (Prov 30:5). Knowing that God’s words are trustworthy, we ought to listen and try to understand and endeavour to apply. The Ten Commandments and Proverbs might be ancient words, yet they are forever living words.
In his goodness and care for us, God the Father has given his children guidance in Scripture that is dependable and wise. Even if many things have changed in the millennia since Moses and Solomon, his wisdom has not. As we linger over and meditate on the Ten Commandments and Proverbs, God helps us to navigate the essential territory of living in communion with him and living in relationship with other people. In astonishingly practical and eminently memorable ways, these ancient words address a host of contemporary issues for a follower of Christ wanting to be faithful in the 21st century.
Life will continue to change, as will the values and standards of worldly wisdom. But as we set out to make holy decisions in ever-shifting circumstances, we can hold to the unchanging wisdom of God in his Word. This is wisdom that begins and continues with fearing his name (Prov 1:1–7), as we revere his glory, depend on his grace, trust his power, and live in humble gratitude for his mercy in Christ Jesus. Instead of accepting vain human wisdom, our life’s orientation and purpose can be shaped by the recognition that God our Maker, Savior, and Renewer is greater than us in every respect.
Let us acknowledge that his path is always better to take, that his ways are always perfect, and that his will is always wise.
As Solomon taught his son so long ago,
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Prov 3:5–6)
[from Wise: Living by the Ancient Words of the Commandments and Proverbs]