Those who are wise shall shine Like the brightness of the firmament, And those who turn many to righteousness Like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3) Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct. (Hebrews 13:7)
In various cultures you have different priorities. Wisdom is held high amongst most of them. Even if traditionally wisdom was held in higher esteem in Athens than in Sparta, who prioritised actual war craft over and above the philosophical rhetorics of its sophisticated neighbour. Old president Mbeki for all his Shakespeare was ousted by the political tactics of the boss of South African Intelligence – our present president from Zululand, who is better known for his capacity to put through his will than for his wise leadership and insight.
In the Old Testament one of the three main sections is the one called “Writings” (Ketubim) besides the “Law/History” and “Prophets”. In these writings the wisdom literature takes up a wide part of it. Proverbs and Lamentations are part of this genre – and king Salomon is the epitome of the wise ruler in Israel (1.Kings 5:11). His wisdom was legendary throughout the Middle East and the Queen of Sheba sang his praises with no small admiration. It takes one to recognise the other. Yet the Bible does not hold back on this either. It lauds those countries and nations, who are led by wise leaders and pities those, that are led by children or fools.
The beginning of all wisdom is the fear of God (Psalm 111:10) and therefore it holds true: “How much better to get wisdom than gold, to get insight rather than silver!” (Proverbs 16:16) Yet, those who deem to be wise in their own ways and neglect the truth of the Lord are just fools. Even children can be wiser than those, who ignore God’s laws, rulings and institutions. In all human wisdom you are lost if you don’t know and follow the living God and source of all knowledge and truth. Part of this respect for God’s truth and wisdom is to regard your teachers highly too – those that have taught and instructed you. It’s a sign of ignorance and foolishness if people disregard, bad mouth and even just forget their teachers.
Daniel here sings the praises of those, who teach godly wisdom and divine truth. Those, who instruct others in God’s ways and teachings are like bright shining stars on the firmament. This holds true even in our time. Just think how high we esteem the wise prophet Moses, St. John and St. Paul, St. Athanasius and St. Augustine, Martin Luther and Philip Melanchthon, Martin Chemnitz and Johann Gerhard, C.F.W. Walther, Wilhelm Loehe, Louis Harms, fearless teachers like Bonhoeffer, Sasse and Hopf. Even during the calamity of the sacking of Rome by the barbarians, the overrunning of ancient civilisation by the germanic tribes from the north Boethius is consoled by the love for wisdom – the consolation of philosophy – which found a sanctuary in the monasteries of old, these harbours of wisdom, truth and insight, these schools of countless pastors, missionaries, bishops and teachers of the Christian Church – not only in the Egyptian desert, but also in places like Syria, Greece, Italy, Gaul – right up to Ireland.
In the letter to the Hebrews we are encouraged to remember those, who taught us the wisdom and truth of the Lord, who led us in all righteousness and godly ways, who preached the faith into our hearts. For me the list of these good teachers is endless. Not even counting those, whose books formed my thought, the list of those, who physically spoke to me about the Christian doctrine, faith and teaching, who preached on many a pulpit under which I was sitting and instructed me in this and that classroom is long. Pastor Willy Reusch, who came to Enhlanhleni to preach and instruct us living there on the borders of old Zululand or Pastor Ernst-August Albers, who confirmed and later ordained me or Tante Kaethe Niebuhr, who instructed me in the Lutheran Catechism and Hymnal in my early school days in Uelzen. They died later in good old age – preaching, teaching and leading many to faith even in their last weeks in this life. It’s their faith that I still share today, being nurtured and sustained by those teachings received long, long ago. Grateful for my good old teachers and thankful that God kept them faithful in their calling as his messengers and witnesses for the benefit of many.
Lord heavenly Father: I thank you for your precious truth and wisdom, which you have revealed to us through your apostles and prophets of old. Thank you for teachers of the Church throughout the Ages, who have shared the light of your good word with countless learners across the globe. They are more than the stars in the sky and the sand on the coastline. They shine brightly and comfortingly to us here in darkness and shadow of death – reflecting your saving light and wholesome brightness in the gospel of truth and salvation. Grant that your wisdom will lead and guide us even today to live in your light and truth and stay on your godly way as we struggle against our own sloth and laziness, are tempted by the foolish vanities of this world and misled by evil sinfulness too. Grant your Church and all of Christendom wise and faithful leaders and teachers and preachers, who will share the wholesome truth and insight of your most precious law and saving gospel – and let us support and promote this sharing of the truth and your true wisdom in our time and space. Lord – in your mercy – hear our prayer + Amen.
“Come, Thou Bright and Morning Star”
by Christian K. von Rosenroth, 1636-1689
Translated by Richard Massie, 1800-1887
1. Come, Thou Bright and Morning Star,
Light of light, without beginning!
Shine upon us from afar
That we may be kept from sinning.
Drive away by Thy clear light
Our dark night.
2. Let Thy grace, like morning dew
Falling soft on barren places,
Comfort, quicken, and renew
Our dry souls and dying graces;
Bless Thy flock from Thy rich store
3. May Thy fervent love destroy
Our cold works, in us awaking
Ardent zeal and holy joy
At the purple morn’s first breaking.
Let us truly rise ere yet
Life has set.
4. Ah! thou Dayspring from on high,
Grant that at Thy next appearing
We who in the graves do lie
May arise, Thy summons hearing,
And rejoice in our new life,
Far from strife.
5. Light us to those heavenly spheres,
Sun of grace, in glory shrouded;
Lead us through this vale of tears
To the land where days unclouded,
Purest joy, and perfect peace
The Lutheran Hymnal
Text: Ps. 88: 13
Author: Christian K. von Rosenroth, 1684, cento
Translated by: Richard Massie, 1857
Titled: “Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit”
Tune: “Morgenglanz der Ewigkeit”
1st Published in: Geistreiches Gesangbuch
Town: Halle, 1704