“The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” Psalm 19
I sometimes wince at the work of the Gideons. I must admit—rightly or wrongly—that I’ve never been particularly thrilled at evangelism that seeks simply to place the Word of God in the hands of those who have never heard the gospel. I’m not sure that telling people simply to read the Bible is the key to changing their lives or saving their souls. Not that I think it hasn’t been done or that I question the sheer power of Almighty to do anything outrageous—I simply believe the Bible is a very strange book.
What if they turn to, say, Ezekiel? What if they begin with some Old Testament take-no-prisoners blood bath? What if, without as much as a whiff of the gospel, they land, slack-jawed, in St. John’s Revelations?
The Bible is a mixed bag of wisdom, love, war, and worship. Like life itself, it really has a chunk of everything. And, in some places, it’s not pretty. David got what he wanted by slicing off a hundred foreskins? Did I really want to know that? A friend of mine used to say that, in most Christian bookstores, the only book not written by a Christian is the Bible, besides being most scandalous.
And yet, I know exactly what David means in Psalm 19:8: “The statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple.” I know because it’s true in me. I’m not sure I’d ever dare use the word “wise” to describe myself because I am prone to all kinds of whacky reactions and more than my share of acidic cynicism. But I know, from experience, that simply reading the Word—I take that back, not “simply” reading the Word, but thinking deeply about the Word, what I’m doing now—reading, then typing out the words that appear on the screen in front of me—in other words, the act of doing what I’m doing right now (and this is sentence is now completely out of control) makes me wise.
Within reason. I’m not going on to become a brain surgeon or win a Nobel Prize in nuclear physics. The statutes of the Lord—by which David means, I believe, “the way of the righteous”—make the unwise wise. I buy that. I do, even though the words I’ve spent on this page are a madcap scramble and make no sense whatsoever.
Just a few days ago, in the middle of an unending Great Plains landscape, with a sometimes boring meeting going on around me, I couldn’t stop thinking about Psalm 19 and the relationship between the book and the sky, between the Word and speech of the heavens. In the heart of that meeting’s most boring moments, I sat there trying to understand the seams between earth and sky and the God who put them there.
Here’s David’s claim in a nutshell: deep consideration of the way of the Lord is going to make you wise. It won’t make you any more knowledgeable about what happens inside a computer, and you’re still going to struggle with the whys of global warming; but the way of the righteous will make you wise, or so saith the poet/king.
Want proof? This mess of a meditation, even if it isn’t great literature and seems something of a huge mess, should bear witness; the truth is self-evident. (Pressure’s on.)
Honestly, I’m not willing to say I am wise, but I’m sure—I really am—that because of ideas like the ones David is spinning and singing in Psalm 19, I’m getting there.
Well, at least aimed in the right direction.