Does not wisdom call out?
Does not understanding raise her voice?
At the highest point along the way,
where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
beside the gate leading into the city,
at the entrance, she cries aloud:
“To you, O people, I call out;
I raise my voice to all mankind.
You who are simple, gain prudence;
you who are foolish, set your hearts on it.
Listen, for I have trustworthy things to say…
She walked among the crowd in the temple that week. Her voice carried throughout the court, but few turned their ear toward her. Accustomed to rejection, she was undeterred in her quest to be heard. Her mission was to speak, and she was not held responsible for the response of those to whom she directed her message. The past few days had been intense, and she knew that the atmosphere would only grow more charged in the ones to come.
Her attention was drawn to a cluster of men, and she quickly positioned herself in the midst of them. She knew these men and their mindset well. Although they claimed to hold her in high esteem, they neither heard her voice nor acknowledged her presence. In truth, it was not she whom they pursued and embraced – but one who often assumed her identity, one who drew people to herself by offering meaningless titles, empty pleasures, and fleeting rewards. This impostor delighted in distracting her enamored captives with endless frivolity as their lives ebbed away. History was filled with examples of the tragic demise of the deceived.
Now was not the time to occupy herself with unproductive thoughts of her venomous rival. She had a divine mission from the Almighty. Wherever scriptures were read or taught, wherever men or women turned their hearts toward the heavens with a longing for answers, she could be found, calling out to those who would hear her voice.
“ I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him.”
The men surrounding her had a mission of their own, and her voice was an unwelcome intrusion. While they covered their ears, she delivered her message:
“How can you curse the one whom God has not cursed? How can you denounce the one whom the Lord has not denounced?”
Disregarding her charge and standing tall with the power apportioned to them by mere titles, the group approached their target. Jesus turned to them with an equally confident posture, refusing to be intimidated by the schemes of men. He stood, waiting for them to speak. The men seemed momentarily unprepared for the confrontation they had so carefully planned only moments ago. Finally, the leader of the group spoke.
“Tell us by what authority you are doing these things! Who gave you this authority?” he demanded.
His accusers expected to trap him with a charge of overstepping his bounds. It was widely known that no one taught the Scriptures as he did – and this fact alone merited stern rebuke. With very few exceptions, teachers were not permitted to present new interpretations of the Scriptures but limited to teaching only previously accepted explanations. And the unsanctioned teacher had committed far greater sins than this – several since his recent arrival in Jerusalem! He defied the authority of the High Priesthood when he brought the business in the temple to a violent halt. By receiving honor reserved for God alone, he was encouraging blasphemy amount the uneducated masses. If they did not do something, judgment would fall on the entire nation; at least, that was how they perceived things.
How sadly mistaken they were! The source of Jesus’ authority far exceeded that of the High Priesthood, the Sanhedrin, or the Roman empire, and she proclaimed it for loudly for all who would hear. The answer was found in the Torah itself.
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.”
Jesus allowed a moment for the power of the Father’s covenantal words to resound against the ears of unwilling recipients. Then he faced his accusers.
“I will also ask you a question. Tell me – John’s baptism – was it from heaven, or from men?”
Caught by surprise, the men separated themselves from Jesus to discuss their response. She accompanied them, still unsought and unrecognized.
“I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name.”
She reminded them of words that each had committed to memory long ago. The scriptures contained the answer, if only they were willing to listen. Her words fell on deaf ears as they debated.
“If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Why didn’t you believe him?’”
“But if we say ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us because they are persuaded that John was a prophet.”
One by one, they considered the consequences of various responses to the simple question. Truth and honesty were cast aside as they sought to claim a victor’s crown in this battle of wits. The reasoning of the men was disappointing, although not unexpected. However, there was hope! She saw one silent man within the group, one whose resolve was wavering. He had heard her, even if he wasn’t outwardly revealing that fact!
“Do not defile yourselves with them. I am the Lord your God!”
“We don’t know where it was from,” the leader of the group offered the non-committal response they had determined to be the most favorable to their position.
She was grieved by the foolishness of men, but she was no longer focused on the tragedy unfolding before her. Instead, her attention was on the one who had heard her. Had he been alone with Jesus, his response would have been no different from his colleagues, but it would have been genuine. He did not know what to think about John, his baptism, or Jesus of Nazareth. It was clear that the truth mattered to this one, and she continued to speak it.
“The word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.”
His mind was racing. One by one, he vividly recalled teachings from the Torah, each causing him to question if it was wise to dismiss Jesus of Nazareth without honest consideration of his words or works. Didn’t God demonstrate his power and approval through miracles like those now taking place in Judea? Was it possible that this man did come from God? What if they were wrong about him? But could so many among the leaders of Israel be wrong, and so few be right? If he dared to even voice his doubts at this point, the consequences would be swift and merciless.
“Do not be afraid. God has come to test you, so that the fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.”
“Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.” Jesus addressed the group, deftly avoiding the trap his opponents had once thought so clever.
At Jesus’ words, a shadow of disappointment briefly crossed the conflicted man’s face before he chose to follow his companions from the presence of the one who could provide all the answers. She watched him walk away, knowing that the words of life would continue to resonate in his mind. His walls would soon fall, and he would acknowledge the truth. Knowing he would need the courage to act upon this revelation, she reminded him of God’s charge to Abraham.
I am God Almighty! Walk before me, and be blameless!
There were more encounters like this one in the days that followed. Many would come to examine Jesus, some openly hostile, others hiding behind humble words and false flattery; few seeking truth above personal interests. As men stood arrogantly in opposition to the Word and Will of God, she continued her speech. Aware that she would be dismissed by the majority, she sought those with open hearts and minds – those who heard her voice and found her worthy of pursuit. She diligently directed them to Jesus, for that was her purpose. From the very beginning, she was sent forth by the Almighty himself to nurture the mind of man in the ways of the Lord. She was present after the great flood when the Creator of the world and everything in it paused to savor the aroma of a single sacrifice offered by a faithful heart and solemnly vowed:
“As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.”
And through it all, she would be there calling:
“Now then, my children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction and be wise;
do not disregard it.
Blessed are those who listen to me,
watching daily at my doors,
waiting at my doorway.
For those who find me find life
and receive favor from the Lord.”
Scriptural Inspiration: Luke 20:1-8, Proverbs 1:20-23; 8:22 – 9:18
Other references: Proverbs 8:1-6, Deuteronomy 30:19-20, Numbers 23:8, Deuteronomy 18:18-19, Leviticus 18:30, Deuteronomy 30:14, Exodus 20:20, Genesis 17:1, Genesis 8:21-22
Featured image by Kelly Repreza