Issues of "Poverty"
Israel and Poverty in Respect To the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament
Review: In our first session, we set Galatians 6:10 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23 up as the "umbrellas" that would guide us in our thinking about "poverty". Then we defined "poverty" as "a lack that imposes a downward spiral upon the one possessing the lack". From there we went to the "arenas" of 1 Thessalonians 5:23 where any "lack" would show up. The categories of "lack" are all "relational" as an outworking of God's "relational universe". "Spiritual poverty" exists when there is a "lack" of a "believing" relationship with God ( Revelation 3:17 is a classic text on this form of "poverty"). "Soul-poverty" exists when there is a "lack" of "harmony" in relationships with others so that the "soul" is stressed and distressed by conflict ( 2 Corinthians 7:5-7 is a classic text on this form of "poverty" even though the words "poor" or "poverty" are not used in it). "Physical poverty" exists when there is a "lack" of a healthy relationship to the physical world. When we are attacked by a germ, a virus, an accident, a glitch in our genetic makeup, or when we engage in behaviors that subject our bodies to a downward spiral, we are "poor". The bottom line is this: when "poverty" is defined in terms of how much money a person does not have, "poverty" is being pushed into a "mechanistic" definition as though "money" could improve the relationships we sustain in the three areas of our poverty. Money is a factor to a limited degree, but it never moves above the "mechanism" stage of the problem.
In our second session we made the claim that the Abrahamic Covenant is the Controlling Issue of God's dealings with humanity and the lesser covenants of the Palestinian, Davidic, and New show how God is working in history. Our major claim is that God has forsaken the primary focus of the Palestinian covenant for the present because it was set in place to reveal the fact that man's problems are not addressed by providing benefit for the outer man. We did not get to argue that the Davidic Covenant is historically being worked out in terms of the "Seed" promise to Abraham, but it seems that God's focus in the present age is upon the "soul" wherein the issue is man "in relationship", primarily with the Seed but then, by extension, with those who believe in that Seed. Nor did we get to argue that the New Covenant is ultimately a prophetic issue for the present because it is only in the Future Kingdom of Messiah that our identity in Him will be both recognized and act as the basis for all of our participation with Him.
This Current Session:
Class Session Three
- I. Poverty in the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament
- A. In overview, the wisdom literature of the Old Testament is the early form of Paul's "categories" in 1 Corinthians 13:13.
- a. There are three most fundamental issues involved in living the Life God desires to give us.
- 1. The first is the driving reason behind the thinking, choosing, and doing that constitutes the skeleton of Life: the New Testament word for this "reason" is Love.
- a) The basic issue of "Love" is the determination of what is valuable.
- b) The plethora of details involved in the 24/7 experiences of men make this determination highly complex.
- c) But, just as all colors can be reduced to their "primary" constituents, so all of the issues of Life can be reduced to its "three".
- d) "Love" is the greatest of the "three" because it defines that ultimate objective.
- 2. The second is the stabilizing force that enables a person to maintain a clear-eyed focus upon the ultimate objective in the face of extreme contradiction.
- a) The Scriptures are as clear as they can be that the Life that God desires to give us has one most potent adversary: the difficulties that we run into when we are living with and for God.
- b) The magnitude of these difficulties is, like the complexity of the issues of value, a complex that can run the gamut from the least discomfort to the most massive disaster.
- c) But, like "Love", "Hope" can be reduced to its most basic issue: what is the answer to the question of whether the "Love" objective will actually be finally realized?
- 1) If the answer is "yes", "hope" is alive and vibrant.
- 2) If the answer is "no", "hope" has died.
- 3) And in the company of "he that has the bride is the bridegroom" is "he that has no hope is hopeless".
- 4) The major problem for "hope" is the necessary process of "piece-meal" revelation that often leaves men without a comprehensive grasp of the overall picture; thus leading to the destructive "whys" of the painful events of living.
- d) "Hope" is the intermediately critical element of the "three", for without it "faith" is reduced to unbelief, and "love" is revealed to be selfishness.
- 3. The third is the initiating commitment that puts a person on the proper road to living with and for God.
- a) The issue that stands between God and man, once the objective is in place, is whether or not man has the "wisdom" to walk with God.
- b) The answer to this question of "wisdom" is an unequivocal "No".
- c) Thus, God must reveal what is true and dependable, and man must make a commitment to His integrity and take His words of instruction as "truth".
- d) The problems are significant for two reasons: "faith" is often challenged by the "obvious" realities of the physical universe when it is exalted over God's relational universe; and "faith" often demands the death of the lesser "loves" in favor of the Ultimate Love.
- e) Biblically, "faith" is more than simply "believing a thing is true"; it is most critically "believing promises from God are true".
- 1) At issue in "faith" is not any of the issues where man can take a specific action and have a good result.
- 2) At issue in "faith" is one issue: the promise, and therefore the personal commitment, of God to address all of the issues of Life in the form of His active involvement in the plethora of details to bring about the Final Goal.
- B. Under this thesis of "Three" stand Job, Ecclesiastes, and Proverbs.
- 1. Job asks and answers the question of "Love": What is the most critical relationship in the Relational Universe of the God?
- 2. Ecclesiastes asks and answers the question of "Hope": Is there any real sense in holding on the Promised expectation when "all is vanity"?
- 3. Proverbs asks and answers the questions of "Faith": What are the particulars of the Life that will enable me to live "wisely" (that is, with and for God)?
- C. Thus "poverty" in the wisdom literature is identified and "positioned" for its function under the Life Promise of God.
- 1. The identity issues.
- a. The man/woman is truly poor who has a greater "value" than his/her harmonious relationship with God.
- b. The man/woman is truly poor who has no firm expectation of the ultimate outcomes of the present living experiences.
- c. The man/woman is truly poor who will not commit to the truthfulness of the promised outcomes of life in this world.
- 2. The function issues.
- a. The "Love" issue required Job to be reduced to material poverty.
- b. The "Hope" issue was only finalized in a context of the vanity of the abilities of enormous material prosperity.
- c. The "Faith" issue was produced by a man to whom God gave wisdom beyond any other human's experience on the earth.