Review: FINDING FAVOR, pt 2 (response)

This is a GREAT book.  It’s very readable; Jones is a very good writer.  He handles the biblical text exceptionally well, reading the passages closely, mining theological gold from the details.  He has thought long and deeply about these issues, and the fruit of his reflection will bless anyone who reads with a desire to better understand how God is working in their lives.

Someone–I’m fairly certain it was the Baptist biblical scholar James Crenshaw, but I can’t find the quote–once defined Old Testament wisdom as “orthodox generalizations about how to have a good life.”  He was speaking of the conventional stream of wisdom, such as what is found in Proverbs and the wisdom Psalms (as opposed to the more speculative stream of wisdom found in Ecclesiastes, Job, and a handful of the near-nihilistic Psalms.)

The idea is that God created the world so that it operates according to a series of rules, almost like a game designer establishes the games that govern play.  For the OT Jews (as with the Egyptians who preceded and the Greeks who came after them), “wisdom” included principles from science and physics, as well as ethics and “common sense.”  It was all of a piece.

If you drop an object, it will fall until something interrupts its fall.

That’s one of the rules that the world operates by, right?  So also:

If your skin comes into contact with boiling water, you will be injured.

Things that die don’t come back to life.

You see the idea?  The world works according to certain principles; the game is played according to certain rules.  These principles are generalizations, what is USUALLY true; there may be exceptions, but 9 times out of 10 …

Wisdom is knowing the rules and aligning your life to them.

More rules:

Sex without limits is dangerous, and can be incredibly destructive.

People who work hard succeed more often than people who don’t work hard.

See?  Orthodox generalizations about how to have a good life.  Learn the principles, accept them, live your life in a harmony with them, and your life will (generally) be better, more prosperous, more satisfying, more beneficial to people around you, than if you life a life that contradicts those rules.

Learn the principles, accept them, live your life in a harmony with them, and your life will be better than if you life a life that contradicts those rules.

This brings us back to what Jones is doing in Finding Favor.  By focusing on how God works his favor in our lives, and the attitudes and convictions that align us with God’s preferred methods,  Jones is doing the same thing Proverbs does.  He may not explicitly focus on Old Testament wisdom, but he is aiming at the same questions:

  • What are the rules by which God normally operates?
  • How do we submit our lives to those rules and live in harmony with them?

This is opposite from the way our human wisdom works.  We want to figure God out, understand his plan, NOT so we can submit to it but so we can (try to) control it, and control him.  Because (deep in our heart of hearts) we just don’t trust him.

To paraphrase Proverbs 1.7: “The fear of the Lord–submitting to God, acknowledging in word and deed and conviction his supremacy and wisdom–is the beginning of knowledge.”

This is the path to God’s favor.

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