A Garland for Your Head
January 14, 2018
The book of Proverbs is about a wisdom for the king of Israel. It was written so that the king of Israel would rule with righteousness. It was written so that the king of Israel would fear the Lord. It was written so that the king of Israel would be a good king. This was the original purpose of Proverbs.
In the book of Proverbs, our attention is drawn toward the story of the first king, Adam. Because if Proverbs is about a wisdom for the king of Israel, then we are brought back to the terrible fall of Adam and the foolishness of sin against God and his law. Proverbs makes clear that there is no ordinary king who could be perfect in wisdom and in the fear of the Lord.
But in the book of Proverbs, our attention is not just drawn toward the story of the first king. Our attention is also drawn toward the story of the ultimate king, Jesus Christ. Because if Proverbs is about a wisdom for the ultimate king of the true Israel, then we are catapuled to the amazing righteousness of Christ and the wisdom of obedience to God and his law. Proverbs sets us up for an extraordinary king who could be perfect in wisdom and in the fear of the Lord.
Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He is the king that Adam was unable to be. He is the king that David and Solomon was unable to be. He is the king that you could never ever be. And so while the book of Proverbs was very much authored by Solomon, it was very much achieved by Jesus. Jesus is the true and final king.
And we bow down to him. This is why we strive to be wise today. We do not seek to be wise for our own benefit. And we do not seek to be wise in order to earn a place in heaven. We seek to be wise because we are united with the Lord. We seek to be wise because we are already going to heaven. We hate foolishness and sin and we love wisdom and obedience. But why? It’s simple. Because Jeus is our king. This is what it means to be a Christian.
Brothers and sisters, as we receive God’s word today from Proverbs 1:8-19, let us read it as people who are united with Christ. Let us be in awe of the fact that Christ himself read these same words that we just read today. Let us be thankful that his sinless life saves us. And let us be motivated to be like him as we pattern after him right now in humiliation and pilgrim suffering in this world, knowing that we shall soon and very soon pattern after him at the end in exaltation and sabbath rest in the world that is to come.
Right after the prologue of the first seven verses of the book of Proverbs, we are given the words of a father to a son. And immediately our minds are brought to the realm of the family, where so much of a child’s life is formed and fashioned. The son is commanded to hear his father’s instruction and not forsake his mother’s teaching. And thus the entire tone of the book of Proverbs is set. We are not in the realm of the classroom or the library or an employer-employee relationship. We are in the realm of the home, the covenant family, and a royal lineage.
The wisdom that comes from the father and the mother of Proverbs is beautiful and honorable. It is described as a graceful garland for the son’s head and pendants for his neck. A garland is a crown-like wreath of flowers and leaves. And a pendant is a necklace made of precious materials. In the realm of the throne room of Israel, such things were dignified and royal items. And the wisdom that comes from the father and the mother is described as such. This is a wonderful metaphor for the son. Because if the son were to put on such things, he would shine. And because when it comes to the Bible and matters of salvation, you are what you wear.
Brothers and sisters, when Jesus Christ fulfilled the law for us with his perfect obedience and righteousness, he possessed the garland of Proverbs 1. And then he gave it to us. And in exchange he took our sins. And he was crowned with the crown of Matthew 27 - which was a crown of thorns. That crown, that crown that belonged to us, is the opposite of beautiful and honorable. In the realm of the throne room of heaven, such things were cursed and condemned. But the eschatological Son of God, the ultimate king of the true Israel, put on such a thing and died with it. Because when it comes to the Bible and matters of salvation, you are what you wear.
Brothers and sisters, there is a garland, there is a crown waiting for you. And one day, God our Father will set upon your head a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to you on that day, and not only to you but also to all who have loved his appearing (2 Timothy 4:8). Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him (James 1:12). When the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory (1 Peter 5:4). Jesus Christ said, “I am coming soon. Hold fast what you have, so that no one may seize your crown” (Revelation 3:11).
Brothers and sisters, because there is a garland, a crown, waiting for you, hear the instruction of the father and the teaching of the mother in the book of Proverbs.
After the father put forth to his son a wonderful metaphor for wisdom, he warns him of the way of the sinner and specifically the danger of other people who will try to tempt him away from wisdom and into folly. He simply says in verse 10, “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Do not consent. Do not agree with them. Do not accept them. Do not approve of them. Do not authorize them. Do not ascend with them. Do not consent.
This is a clear command from the father to the son. But the father goes further. He reveals what sinners may say to him. He exposes the discourse of evil men. This is profound. The father uses four whole verses to show what fools might say to his son - because words matter. Because when it comes to the Bible and matters of salvation, you do what you hear.
What might the son hear? Sinners may tempt the son to get easy money and unjust gain. Apparently, the discourse involves a scheme to ambush people, kill them, and take their stuff. Let’s ambush the innocent. Let’s swallow them alive. Let’s plunder their houses. Come with us.
Now, you have to understand something profound here. This talk is actually another wisdom. It is a wisdom of the world. It is a wisdom that the world thinks is best. But it is a counterfeit wisdom. And that is the danger of it all. The father shows his son what that counterfeit wisdom looks like. He shows his son that there are two conflicting wisdoms - the wisdom of a holy God and the wisdom of sinful man. And he shows his son that the stakes are high - it is a matter of life or death.
And there is a grand twist that the father wants the son to truly understand. The terrible things that the easy money gangsters plan to unleash on others will ultimately be unleashed on them. It is written in verse 18, “…but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives.” Wow. The very thing that they are trying to do to others will be done to them. This does not happen because of karma. This happens because God is sovereign and just, and because at the end of the day, sinners must answer to God. What a jaw-dropping twist. These sinners think that they will lie in wait for blood and ambush the innocent. But in reality, these sinners lie in wait for their own blood. They set an ambush for their own lives. Oh the irony! It is about as ridiculous as setting a net to trap a bird, only to later get caught up in it yourself.
Thus the father warns the son. Do not consent. Do not be tempted.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ was tempted. In every respect, he was tempted as we are, but he was without sin (Hebrews 4:15). In Matthew 4, Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.
Praise the Lord for his salvation!
The Devil was not exactly asking Christ to join him for some easy money. But he was definitely asking Christ to fill his house and throw in his lot and run to evil and seek unjust gain. The Devil sought Jesus’ consent and asked Jesus to walk with him. The Devil enticed the Son to rebel against the Father. The Devil used words and offered a counterfeit wisdom. The Devil hoped that the promised serpent crusher would become just like all the other kings that lived and died and failed before him. The Devil wanted the ultimate king of Israel to forfeit and lose the graceful garland on his head.
But Christ did not consent. Christ did not walk in the way of sin. He held back his foot from the Devil’s path. And though he would later give away his crown of obedience and righteousness to his beloved church and bride, he was not going to take it off in front of the Devil just for some bread or glory. The temptation was powerful and real. But our Good Shepherd loved us so much in Matthew 4. At that moment of testing, he made sure that his garland would go to us. And now we are credited with his righteousness. Now we have his wisdom and we are wise unto salvation. And it is all because Jesus fulfilled Proverbs 1 in Matthew 4.
Praise the Lord!
Brothers and sisters, since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Brothers and sisters, let us look at the righteousness of Christ that covers us, the armor of God that protects us, and let us understand what Jesus did for us. He did not consent to sin. He battled against temptation and won. If we wear the righteousness of Christ and the armor of God, then let us walk in a manner worthy of this gospel and let us also not consent to sin. Remember, you are what you wear.
Brothers and sisters, let us listen to the law of Christ declared to us, the wisdom of God that guides us, and let us hear what Jesus says to us. He warns us about sin. He calls us to resist the Devil and endure temptation. If we hear the law of Christ and the wisdom of God, then let us be doers of the word and not just hearers of the word. Remember, you do what you hear.
Brothers and sisters, let us worship Christ our king. He is the king that Adam was unable to be. He is the king that David and Solomon was unable to be. He is the king that you could never ever be. And he loves us. He has given to us the garland of his perfect righteousness - a garland for your head. Let us therefore grow in wisdom and fear the Lord our God.