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The biblical course

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Lesson 9 – The 7 Books of Wisdom

The Book of Job

First read my explanations, then the book.

Formerly, and up to this day still some believers, believe that wealth, good health and children are due to God’s blessing, and that the contrary is a result of a curse from God on the sinner. Any misfortune was interpreted as divine punishment.

Now, Job is a righteous man and a good believer, rich, healthy, wealthy, and blessed with an abundant progeny. He is then exposed to an avalanche of misfortunes: in one go he loses his possessions and his children, but without revolting against God: “‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, naked I shall return. Yahweh gave, Yahweh has taken back. Blessed be the name of Yahweh!’ In all this misfortune Job committed no sin nor offered any insult to God” (Job 1,20-22).

These misfortunes are not due, as it was thought, to the sins of Job, but to the devil who wanted to strike him down, in order to push him to distance himself from God and curse Him. This is the great lesson from this book: God can permit the devil to put a righteous and faithful person to the test to confound demons who have not been able to persevere in the selfless love of God. It is like a man sure of the love and fidelity of his wife, who allows a schemer to court her to confuse him with her evident faithfulness to her husband.

In fact, the Bible says that the devil asks God’s authorization to test Job: “‘I warrant you, he will curse you to your face!’ ‘Very well!’ Yahweh said to Satan, ‘all he has is in your power. But keep your hands off his person.’” (Job 1,11-12) (The word “Satan” means “enemy”, the devil being the enemy of mankind).

Job, having shown himself admirably faithful after the test, God says to Satan: “‘Job is a sound and honest man who fears God and shuns evil. His life continues blameless as ever; in vain you provoked me to ruin him’ … Satan replied, ‘stretch out your hand and lay a finger on his bone and flesh; I warrant you, he will curse you to your face!’ ‘Very well!’ Yahweh said to Satan, ‘he is in your power. But spare his life.’” (Job 2,3-6)

The devil then “struck Job with malignant ulcers from the sole of his foot to the top of his head.” (Job 2,7) His wife pushed him to curse God but Job put her back in place: “‘That is how foolish woman talk, if we take happiness from God’s hand, must we not take sorrow too?’ And in all this misfortune Job uttered no sinful word.” (Job 2,9-10)

Therefore, Job triumphed in the trials as far as his flesh was concerned.

Three friends of Job visit him in his misfortune in order to speak to him and invite him to recognize that he sinned to deserve all these misfortunes. Their remarks are reported poetically and, each, in his turn, addresses Job to try to convince him of being a sinner. Their tone is often ironic, even sarcastic and malicious. That only increased Job’s pain, as you will notice reading the text. But Job too, did not lack finesse in his answers and knew how to put his interlocutors in place and affirm his innocence: “To one so weak, what a help you are, for the arm that is powerless, what a rescuer! What excellent advice you give the unlearned…”, Job replied ironically to one of the three, adding: “But who are they aimed at, these speeches of yours, and what spirit is this that comes out of you? (To imply that it is not the spirit of God) … Far from ever admitting you to be in the right (admitting to having sinned), I will maintain my innocence to my dying day.” This was Job’s constant attitude (Job 26,1 to 27,5).

To one of the three friends who came to confuse Job by claiming to know the secrets of God and his reasons for acting against him, God replied: “I burn with anger against you and your two friends, for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done.” (Job 42,7) “Yahweh restored Job’s fortunes… More than that, Yahweh gave him double what he had before…” (Job 42,10-17)

Read this book now, understanding that its morality is that God permits the righteous to be tested. This aims to upset the mentality of believers similar to that of Job’s three friends. And aims above all, to prepare believers to understand the sufferings of the Messiah to come, the Just Man par excellence, who suffered not for his sins, but because of the sins of others and their numerous crimes.

The Book of Psalms

At this stage, it is not necessary to read the whole book at once. I will talk to you of some psalms and you can refer to them as I present them to you.

This book is a collection of the most important psalms. A psalm is a biblical prayer sung with a musical instrument, which Christians call “canticles” or “hymns” and that they address to God, to Christ or the Blessed Virgin.

Most of the psalms were composed by David on different occasions. These are often mentioned: “Psalm 3: Psalm of David. When he was fleeing from his son Absalom”, etc… Some psalms are about Solomon (Psalm 72), of Asaph (Psalms 73-83), of the sons of Korah (Psalm 84), etc… The authors of some psalms are unknown.

There are, all in all, 150 psalms. The Greek Bible divides psalm 9 into two psalms, 9 and 10. This somewhat complicates the numeration starting from psalm 11 which becomes 11 (10), (10) being the numeration in the Hebrew Bible. On the contrary, Psalm 147 joins the two Psalms 146 and 147. Therefore, you will always find 150 psalms in all the Bibles.

A word now on the main psalms: the most important are the Messianic Psalms, ie those which speak of the Messiah to come. They are the main ones that I will present to you.

Psalm 2

This psalm presents the Messiah as the sacred king by God and as his son: “Kings on earth rising in revolt, princes plotting against Yahweh and His Anointed (the Messiah, ‘Anointed’ with divine perfume by God, as the kings of the earth were anointed with perfumed oil during their coronation) … The One whose throne is in heaven sits laughing, Yahweh derides them. Then angrily he addresses them, in a rage he strikes them with panic, ‘This is my king, installed by me on Zion, my holy mountain.’ Let me proclaim Yahweh’s decree (it is the Messiah who speaks in anticipation); he has told me, ‘You are my son, today I have become your father. Ask and I will give you the nations for your heritage’”.

The author of this Messianic psalm is unknown. The Messiah is announced therein as king of all nations, God giving them to him “as heritage”. The devil tempted Jesus, promising to give him political empire over the world (Matthew 4,8-10). Jesus refused because his Kingdom “is not of this world” (John 18,36). In this psalm, the power promised to the Messiah must be understood spiritually, not politically as the devil presents it to Jesus.

The Jews too, wanted (and still) to understand the royalty of the Messiah politically. This is why they resisted (and still) Jesus; they persecuted him, him and his Apostles. St Peter applies this psalm to Jesus and denounces “Herod and Pontius Pilate with the pagan nations and the peoples of Israel” to be this conspiracy fomented by “the kings of the earth” of which this psalm speaks, “making an alliance against the Lord and against his Anointed” (Acts 4,25-28).

The Messiah’s royalty cannot be political since God says: “I Myself have anointed my King on my Holy Mountain”. Now, the royalty in Israel, as we saw in 1 Samuel 8, was not wanted by God: it was even condemned by Him. This is indeed the spiritual kingdom in this psalm, that which was established by Jesus, the Christ-King chosen by God to be the spiritual Sovereign of the whole world despite all those who resist him.

Psalm 22

The Messiah is described therein as suffering, dying, but resurrected after the ordeal. Jesus, on the cross, pronounced the beginning of this Messianic psalm to attribute it to Himself and to confuse the Jews who saw in his crucifixion a sign of a malediction from God. The psalm begins with the expected Messiah saying: “Eli (My God)! Eli (My God)! Lema sabachthani (Why have you forsaken me)?” (Matthew 27,46). Some do not understand the underlying reasons why Jesus pronounced these words; they misinterpret believing that Jesus feels abandoned by God. The enemies of Jesus go so far to say that Jesus understood, on the cross, that God was cursing him. The Jews who crucified him believed that he was calling the prophet Elijah for help (Matthew 27,49). The truth is that this last cry of Jesus is prophetic; these last words are a light for those who want to see in it a prophetic accomplishment. For these are the words of Psalm 22 to which Jesus, even dying, refers us to confirm our faith in him. David, in this psalm, foresaw the Messiah dying surrounded by enemies. The psalm begins with the very words that Jesus, while dying, pronounced:

My God! My God! Why have you deserted me? … A pack of dogs surrounds me, a gang of villains closes me in, they pierce me hand and foot and leave me lying down in the dust of death… They divide my garments among them and cast lots for my clothes… (Psalm 22,1-19) … The whole earth, from end to end, will remember and come back to Yahweh (Psalm 22,27) … And my soul will live for Him (these words indicate the resurrection of Jesus), my children will serve Him… All this He has done.” (Psalm 22,30-31).

This psalm cannot be applied to David, its author. He did not die surrounded by enemies, hands and feet pierced.

This prophetic psalm is similar to chapter 53 of Isaiah which also predicts the sufferings, death and resurrection of the Messiah.

Psalm 110

This psalm introduces the Messiah to come as king and priest at the same time:

“Yahweh will force all your enemies under the sway of your sceptre in Zion (Psalm 110,2) … Yahweh has sworn an oath which he will never retract, ‘You are a priest of the order of Melchizedek, for ever.’” (Psalm 110,4).

Neither the Messiah’s royalty, nor his priesthood revealed themselves as the Israelites imagined and practiced them. The Messianic royalty is not according to the political dynasty of David (which, moreover, was abolished with Nebuchadnezzar), and the messianic priesthood has nothing to do with that of Levi, since it was prophesied “according to the order of Melchizedek”, not according to the order of Levi. This signifies a radical change in Jewish worship, as Paul explains in chapters 5 to 7 of his letter to the Hebrews. Jesus, through his sacrifice, ended the Jewish sacrifices, priesthood and kingdom.

With the Apocalypse, a new era opens where all the true faithful of Jesus Christ will be “made a Kingdom of priests” (Revelation 1,6) as God intended from the start (Exodus 19,6), but without being understood. The sacerdotal heart is the one who is capable of compassion, of suffering with the innocent persecuted by the unjust, who comes to the defense of the poor unjustly accused and a witness for justice and truth by denouncing the identity of the Antichrist, the Beast of Revelation (Revelation 13,18), even at the price of his life. This is the sacerdotal sacrifice accepted by God.

The remaining psalms are hymns of praise to God, of recourse to his Omnipotence against an unjust enemy, or also recognition and thanksgiving for being saved. We get to know the psalms by praying them with the Holy Spirit who is in Jesus, and not according to a mentality of material or Zionist interest.

The Book of Proverbs

It entails proverbs of high morality which should be read from time to time to deepen one’s spiritual life and to be enthusiastic in search of wisdom: “Wisdom calls aloud in the streets… (Proverbs 1,20) … ‘You ignorant people, how much longer will you cling to your ignorance? How much longer will mockers revel in their mocking and fools hold knowledge contemptible?’ (Proverbs 1,22) … My son, if you take my words to heart… you will discover the knowledge of God.” (Proverbs 2,1-5)

Skim through it quickly the first time to get acquainted with it. Then keep coming back it to know it in depth and gain wisdom.

The Book of Ecclesiastes

It is the collection of the “Qoheleth”, which in Hebrew means “the reader” in the assembly. Ecclesiastes comes from the Greek “ecclesia” which means “assembly”. So they are words of wisdom said by a preacher in religious assemblies. The substance of its teaching is that everything repeats itself on earth. Whoever lives for this earth will only find monotony in it. We must conclude from this that Eternal life must be sought. It alone can satisfy man: “Vanity of vanities, Qoheleth says. Vanity of vanities. All is vanity! For all his toil, his toil under the sun, what does man gain by it?” (Ecclesiastes 1,2) All that we make materially has no other interest than for the time of our life “under the sun”, it is really not worth the trouble that we give ourselves: “If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people”, says Paul (1 Corinthians 15,19).

The Song of Songs

It is a dialogue of love between the Bridegroom (God) and his bride (the elect).

A striking point: the bride does not come from Israel, but from Lebanon: “Come from Lebanon, my promised bride, come from Lebanon, come on your way.” (Song of Songs 4,8) Lebanon is often seen as the place from which Gods’ chosen will arise. Ezekiel announces the triumph of the Cedar (symbol of Lebanon) on Mount Zion: “I”, says God, “From the top of the Cedar, from the highest branch I will take a shoot and plant it myself on a very high mountain. I will plant it myself on the high mountain of Israel. It will sprout branches and bear fruit… I, Yahweh, have spoken, and I will do it.” (Ezekiel 17,22-24) It is, indeed, from Lebanon that God opened St John’s Revelation to explain it to the whole world and to bear much fruit.

The theme of the Bridegroom and the Bride is taken up again by the Book of Revelation. The Bride calls the Bridegroom: “Come! … Amen, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22,17-20). You will understand all this later with the study of the Book of Revelation.

The Book of Wisdom

It is a book that urges us to the research and knowledge of God whose Wisdom is not like that of men: “‘If the virtuous man is God’s son, God will take his part and rescue him… Let us test him with cruelty and with torture… Let us condemn him to a shameful death since he will be looked after—we have his word for it.’ This is the way they reason, but they are misled, their malice makes them blind. They do not know the hidden things of God” (Wisdom 2,18-22). These words were said by the Jews regarding Christ on the cross (Matthew 27,41-43). This is not wisdom, but madness to speak so!

This book invites us to understand God’s Wisdom and not be modeled after the false wisdom of men.

The Book of Ecclesiasticus

It was written by Ben Sira. It is the book of the Assembly (ecclesia in Greek), and not of the reader who reads or speaks in the assembly, as is the case with Ecclesiastes. So it is a book which is read as is in the assemblies, in the synagogue for example. It was not included in the Hebrew Bible, but was read in the synagogues in the past because of its high morality. Like the other Books of Wisdom, it invites us to get closer to God, to seek to know Him, to understand Him, despite all the difficulties, arming oneself with patience during tribulations, because this knowledge is worth all the pain that we go through to reach it:

“All wisdom is from the Lord (Ecclesiasticus 1,1) … If you desire Wisdom, keep the commandments, and the Lord will convey her to you (Ecclesiasticus 1,26) … My son, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal (Ecclesiasticus 2,1) … Whatever happens to you, accept it, and in the uncertainties of your humble state, be patient, since gold is tested in the fire, and chosen men in the furnace of humiliation.” (Ecclesiasticus 2,4-5).

You have now contacted all the Books of Wisdom. They are worthy of being read and read again several times and you could read extracts from them every day of your life to nourish your soul by elevating it. I did nothing but point out to you the general guidelines, now it is your personal effort which will able you to reap the spiritual fruits of mature Wisdom in measure of where you apply it for the rest of your life to get to know God and his Messiah: “And eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent,” said Jesus (John 17,3).

For the moment, be content with this first reading that you have accomplished of the Books of Wisdom, and pursue the study of the Biblical Course with the Books of the Prophets.

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