Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Wise Words

Tennis is my sport of choice, although my RA has put me on the spectator side of it, rather than the participant side where of course I would prefer to be.
I have never been an athletic person but from the time I watched my first tennis game I knew that tennis was one sport I would enjoy playing and believed I would be able to attain some level of skill. I took up the game and did enjoy it, even becoming somewhat proficient.
Then one summer, I developed tennis elbow – from over use of my right arm, - more from typing a manuscript on an old typewriter (maybe some of you still know what I am talking about?!) than from tennis .
It was extremely painful , and I should have waited for it to heal, but my impatience drove me to keep playing in spite of the pain.
Well, I discovered something. If I swung my racquet correctly using my shoulder to pull through, then there was very little strain on my elbow , but if I reverted back to swinging at the ball incorrectly using only my forearm, I was repremanded by a sharp pain shooting through my elbow radiating down my arm.
Wow… talk about a built-in coach !! I now had great incentive to perfect my style and my game actually improved !!
My tennis elbow was my ‘goad’.

There is a verse I love in Ecclesiastes 12:11 that says, ”The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given by one shepherd.”

A goad as defined by the dictionary as “something that pains by pricking” or “something that urges or stimulates into action”.
While a ‘goad’ is painful , it exhorts toward a desirable goal, just as in my tennis game, the pain served as a ‘goad’ motivating me toward playing better.

This is the analogy presented in this verse about the words of the wise being like goads.
I think we have all been in the position where someone gives us advice or counsel we do not want to hear…it is not pleasant and it pricks and pains us. Our natural tendency is to reject what does not make us feel good , and so wise words often trigger an initial reaction of anger or wounded feelings. Hopefully , in thinking about it later, we recognize that the words were true and consider them in a more accepting light.
Good advice is often like medicine , bitter in the mouth but it benefits our health.
Foolish advice, if the converse is true, soothes the soul, is easy to swallow and sweet to suck on like candy, but having no health benefit whatsoever and can actually do us harm.

The next part of the verse is an interesting word picture. “as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies”.
Masters of assemblies -- ‘masters’ denotes experts in a field, those who have perfected their trade or excelled in their position. Assemblies is a word that collectively refers to scholars. So together – masters of assemblies- would be the learned masters who have studied well and are able to pass on what they have learned. But here is the interesting part – their words are “as nails fastened”-- I know there are at least two craftsmen/carpenters (my brothers) reading this post and they could tell you about nails ! A well fastened nail is secure and secures whatever it was intended to hold so it will not move. A well fastened nail goes in straight and true and sinks into something solid.
So the picture presented here is that of a craftsman who is a master at his trade who works with words instead of nails, words that are straight and true and are fastened into something solid.

The last part of the verse describes this ‘something solid’ - the One Shepherd.
It is the fact that the words of the wise , no matter where they are spoken, no matter how many wise men/women speak them , though they come from a chorus (assemblies) - they speak in unison, echoing the same voice, the Voice of the One Shepherd from whom all wisdom comes. It is only in truth that everyone will speak the same thing and all “ truth is in Jesus” (Eph 4:21)
Wise words are only wise if their source is in God. Daniel celebrated this truth in Dan. 2:20, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever for wisdom and might are His”.
No matter how wise worldly wisdom may appear “ ..the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God, for it is written, ’He catches the wise in their own craftiness.. and again, ‘the Lord knows the thoughts of the wise that they are futile’.” (I Cor. 3:19,20)

In our world today we are surrounded by so many voices …all competing and contradicting each other …. is it not comforting that through all the noise we can train our ears to listen for those who speak the words of the One Shepherd?
Though their words be as goads , may we allow them to spur us on to good works.
And may the words we speak also be as well fastened nails that will cause others to recognize His Voice through us and be exhorted and edified to follow Him.


Lovella ♥ said...

I just can't figure out why it is so much easier to give advice than to receive it.

I have a long way to go. Human nature is just so complex isn't it?

Demara said...

tennis elbow...I just read about heel spurs and it said that it's similiar to tennis elbow...so I have tennis elbow of the feet I guess...and yes Lovella is right, receiving advice is so hard sometimes...