Archive for October, 2018

Proverbs 3:15-19

In Proverbs 3:15-19 Solomon reminds us that wisdom and understanding are the most precious things we can ever have.  “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her”. Wisdom is greater than all kinds of riches – silver, fine gold, or rubies. To have the wisdom that comes from God’s loving correction is to have something better than material wealth. Solomon was one of the wealthiest men of that time through inheritance from his father, and his own business dealings.  So he knew wealth, but knew even more the blessing of a close relationship with God and the fact that a wise and godly character were worth far more than material things.

Wisdom brings many benefits. “Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace”. Wise people live longer, enjoy great prosperity (riches) and esteem (honor). They live lives marked by pleasantness, peace, and happiness.  Learning wisdom may come with some correction and discipline, but the outcome makes it worth it.  Solomon goes on to tell us “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed”.  Wisdom is life giving when we grab onto it.  And the outcome of our endurance in staying connected to wisdom is blessing.

Solomon refers to creation as a window into the wisdom of God.  “The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew”.  It was not some haphazard big bang.  In His work of creation, God showed great wisdom. This is remarkably seen in both the large features and small details of creation. The universe around us has the marks of a brilliant Designer whose design shows His wisdom.  God reveals Himself through His creation.  He created a world of harmony with His wisdom.

Poole talks about one aspect of God’s creation and the order that was required to make it happen:

  • The universe has a just-right gravitational force. If it were larger, the stars would be too hot and would burn up too quickly and too unevenly to support life. If it was smaller, the stars would remain so cool, nuclear fusion would never ignite, and there would be no heat and light.
  • The universe has a just-right speed of light. If it were larger, stars would send out too much light. If it were smaller, stars would not send out enough light.
  • The universe has a just-right average distance between the stars. If it were larger, the heavy element density would be too thin for rocky planets to form, and there would only be gaseous planets. If it were smaller, planetary orbits would become destabilized because of the gravitational pull from other stars.

Solomon also makes reference to Noah and the flood when he wrote about the deeps breaking open.  God knew a judgment was needed, and He knew exactly how to make it happen.  God does not only grant wisdom, and build wisdom, He is wisdom and His creation puts an exclamation point on that truth.

Proverbs 3:11-14

Proverbs 3:11-14 has Solomon teaching his son how to deal with God’s discipline. “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof”.  This is an important lesson for all of us to learn.  In giving advice to his son, Solomon taught him how to regard correction or discipline from God.  Clarke described God’s teaching us this way: ‘The word ‘musar’ [translated in this version as discipline] signifies correction, discipline, and instruction. Teaching is essentially necessary to show man the way in which he is to go; discipline is necessary to render that teaching effectual; and, often, correction is requisite in order to bring the mind into submission, without which it cannot acquire knowledge’.

So God is all about ‘spanking’ us when we need it in order to prevent sin from becoming a habit.  We should not run from God’s discipline, but learn from it and be encouraged that He loves us enough to deal with it.  Guzik wrote that God may discipline us to:

  • Expose a sin or evil not previously seen.
  • Show the nature of the problem and the need to address it.
  • Discourage previous sin or evil.
  • Guide us to the rejection of sin to embrace God’s best.

Solomon goes on to tell us why God disciplines us….”for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights”.

God’s correction of His people is a wonderful sign of His love.  If He didn’t love us, He wouldn’t go to the trouble of correcting us.  Because He does, he will deal with our sins, weaknesses and areas we fall short.  Correction is a true sign of love.  It’s no difference for a human father than for our heavenly Father.  Wiersbe explained it this way: “Sometimes He chastens because we have rebelled and need to repent; other times He chastens to keep us from sinning and to prepare us for His special blessing. No matter how much the experience hurts us, it will never harm us, because God always chastens in love

There is blessing that comes from God’s wisdom.  “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold”.  Solomon longed for his son to find wisdom and understanding.  These things sometimes come through receiving God’s discipline, but no matter the source, they are of high value.  Scripture tells us that wisdom and understanding are better than silver and gold.  Wisdom creates the kind of character and training that brings contentment and quality of life that money can’t provide.  It is of high value, and when we find it the outcome is amazing!

Proverbs 3:7-10

Proverbs 3:7-10 begins with Solomon reminding us to “Be not wise in your own eyes”. He is reinforcing what he just said in previous verses – that we should not lean on our own understanding but rely on God’s wisdom which is better and greater than anything we will ever have on our own.  He reinforces a common theme from his teaching: “fear the Lord, and turn away from evil”. This should naturally happen as we walk with God.  As we trust Him we get to know Him better and develop a healthy fear or reverence of Him.  That should cause us to run from evil that we might not fall prey to sin and disappoint God who loves us deeply.

Solomon makes the case that walking with God is good for us.  “It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones”. A life of surrender and trust in God has real benefits to our health.  It gives us peace and strength and provides a solid foundation for us not just spiritually, but physically as well.  Then Solomon dives into an area that many wish to avoid – our money.  “Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce”.  The first truth we have to understand is that in all reality, everything we have is God’s already.  We truly don’t own anything, but are merely stewards of what he entrusts to us on this earth.

But that said, God does want us to intentionally return some of what He’s provided to Him. When we truly trust Him, we can honor Him with generosity that realizes He is the great provider and has inexhaustible resources. The word ‘honor’ really connects with the idea of sacrifice.  God wants us to demonstrate gratitude toward and confidence toward Him through our giving.  It is a recognition that God provided it to us in the first place, and we should gratefully return a portion of it to Him.  But Solomon goes further and tells us what we give should be our ‘firstfruits’.  It’s not the leftovers, should there be any, but rather the first and best of what God has provided.

The principle of firstfruits also means that we give to God in anticipation that He will provide more in return.  Solomon seems to indicate that God does bless our gifts when he penned “then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine”.  Our motive for giving should never be that of getting more in return.  But this principle is seen throughout scripture.  God is the master and distributor of unlimited resources. He knows how to prosper and take care of those who honor Him with the resources He has given to them.  God is good, all the time.  He blesses us beyond anything we deserve or can even understand.  Giving to Him sets things in motion for Him to bless us indeed!

Proverbs 3:1-6

Proverbs 3:1-6 begins with Solomon reminding his son never to forget his teachings, which were in fact God’s truth from the Word.  Solomon didn’t mean it was his in the sense of his own personal decrees and wisdom, but he was referring to God’s word that he had internalized and made personal. We all need to remind our families, and each other, not to forget what God’s Word says.  It never changes.  It is absolutely true.  It will determine what happens in the world around us. “My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.”

Deciding to not forget God’s word is more than a mental exercise of memory. It is also connected to a life of obedience.  We are only able to actually keep God’s commandments if we make them part of our heart.  Obedience is a matter of the heart. Our goal in obedience is not mere outward conformity to God’s will, but a heart that loves and obeys Him. There is a real benefit from this life of obedience and a heart that obeys God. In principle, life and heart obedience brings long life and peace. But as with many things in Proverbs, we should regard these as true principles, not absolute promises.

Solomon wisely told his son to keep God’s steadfast love and truth close. They should be so close that it would be as if they were a necklace around his neck at all times and written on the tablet of his heart. “Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart.”  We will see over and over in Proverbs the concept of having God’s truth readily available to us.  That can only happen if we have God’s Word memorized so it is constantly on our tongue or in our mind.  And through meditation, we can take that truth and make it the foundation of how we make decisions and live life.

What’s the power of having God’s Word right there to guide us? “So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man.” Obedience has a great outcome, not only in God’s eyes, but also with fellow man. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” Solomon advised his son to live a life of trust in God. Solomon had found that God was worthy to be trusted. If trust in God is to be true, it must be complete. To put half trust in God and half trust in self or something else is really failure to trust the LORD at all.

Trusting God with all our heart means to decide to put away our own understanding and instead to choose to trust God and His understanding, especially as declared in His word.  Trusting God with all our heart means to honor and acknowledge Him in all that we do. It is the choice to “invite” God into our everyday life and the choices we make. It is to practice the presence of God in the mundane things of life that happen every day. The outcome of trust, and following Him will be paths that are straight and aligned with His will. This is the principle of God’s response towards those who trust Him in the way described here – trust, do not lean on self, acknowledge Him – and our path will be straight!

Proverbs 2:9-15

In Proverbs 2:9-15 Solomon tells us the outcome of what happens if we hear God’s word and obey it.  He uses a very long sentence to capture the impact, because it is broad and deep and wide and matters.  Check out what he says: “Then you will understand righteousness and justice and equity, every good path”….Wisdom explains a number of different things:

  • Righteousness
  • Justice
  • Equity
  • Every good path

But he continues and defines more about wisdom and understanding….“for wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul”.  Solomon mentioned the idea of protection relevant to wisdom. Wisdom gives both pleasure and surefootedness in life. The more wisdom one learns, the more one desires and enjoys it. The protection wisdom gives is that it keeps its follower from making decisions that will later bring only regret. We need God’s protection to gain wisdom, but wisdom also protects us. Understanding will keep you from many foolish and harmful consequences in life.

Solomon goes on to tell us more about this protection….“discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you, delivering you from the way of evil, from men of perverted speech…” Our fallen nature may be attracted to perverse things, but wisdom will guard us from that path”.  God’s ways watch over us, guard us, and will deliver us if we only listen and obey.  Sin doesn’t have to have it’s way with us.  We can walk victoriously in Jesus. But our fallen nature is not only attracted to what is evil and perverse, it rejoices and delights in it. Sin is such an attractive thing that draws us away from God.

Evil has a way of drawing us in.  “….who forsake the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness, who rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil, men whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways.”  Sin causes shame to be cast away and what is wrong and twisted is celebrated.  The world downplays sin and even makes it appear to be something to be pursued. This celebration of sin is not unique to our world today, but it certainly is a mark of our present age. Wisdom protects us from those who would lead us astray. If we are not protected by wisdom, their sinful ways will come to harm us, and we will suffer from following their sinful character.

Proverbs 2:1-8

In Proverbs 2:1-8 Solomon writes about the importance of listening and learning. “My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”  He gives a couple of if / then statements that are worth paying close attention to:

  • If we receive, treasure, be attentive….
  • If we call out for insight, raise our voice for understanding…..
  • If we seek for wisdom like silver and a hidden treasure……

Three distinct “if” statements all together in a very long and run on sentence.

But then comes the “then” statement.  If we do the things listed, then we will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. If we seek wisdom, we’ll find it.  But it isn’t merely saying the words, or wishing we had it.  We’re told here to listen, call out, and pursue it.  Solomon teaches us that without our personal effort to seek out wisdom, we will lack in our fear of the LORD and knowledge of God. We need to get after it and find it.  The ‘knowledge of God’ refers to personal intimacy with God through obedience to His word.  This isn’t a passive outcome.  It leads to action – obedience – and living a life based on God’s truth.

So what’s the point?  There are many benefits to God’s wisdom.  “For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints.” God alone gives wisdom.  We don’t have any on our own.  True wisdom is found in Him, and He gives it. How?  Through the words of His mouth.  His word reveals knowledge and understanding.  That’s where God has recorded the things we need to know.  Wisdom is available.  We merely need to seek it, and heed it!

But there is more. God not only gives wisdom in His word; He actively works to defend, guard and preserve those who walk in His ways. The sense is that we need defense from God to gain proper understanding of His truth and wisdom. There are so many wrong ideas all over our world that we will never hold on to what is wise and true without being defended against the false and foolish. We are creatures of habit as humans. We will make tracks, ruts, paths for our life – wisdom helps us to make good and useful “ruts” or habits. That should be the outcome of wisdom.  We learn which way we are to go and we create a discipline that creates a habit leading us to walk in obedience to God’s truth every day!

Proverbs 1:20-33

In Proverbs 1:20-33 Solomon reminds us that wisdom is around and seeks someone to listen.  “Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?”  Wisdom is available, but often ignored.  Wisdom will help anyone who listens and gives attention to that voice.  We have to choose who and what we’ll listen to, but if we focus on the voice of wisdom, it will guide us to a fantastic outcome.  When we follow other voices, we end up say off track.

Wisdom, portrayed here by Solomon as a woman, first offers help to the ‘simple’ or those who are untrained and susceptible to wrong voices.  They are filled with foolish ignorance, but can quickly be moved to a great outcome if they listen and follow wisdom.  Scoffers have a different issue.  They boastfully reject wisdom wanting to do things their way as they believe they are smarter than everyone else. Yet wisdom offers hope for all if we are willing to turn and change our ways. “If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.”  Another word for this is repentance, where we admit our error and change direction, turning drastically from the course we are on to God’s path.

But the human condition often causes us to ignore reproof and wisdom.  “Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you, when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.”  Wisdom offers rebuke that must be listened to.  If it isn’t, there will be pain and suffering.  Right will win out, but as that happens there will likely be a price to pay for ignoring wisdom and the reproof that comes with it when we are not following it.

God isn’t about to be mocked.  When we reject wisdom, there is no plan B except to receive the outcome of that rejection which is reproof and correction.  “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.” How we respond to God’s wisdom is a choice.  We either choose to listen and accept it, or we choose to hear and reject.  The outcomes are very different.  We reap what we sow when it comes to wisdom in our life.  If we accept and follow it, we have a great outcome.  If we insist on our own ways, we will suffer those consequences.

If we listen and receive wisdom, we’ll be secure and without fear of evil.  Anxiety is gone because we are depending on God’s wisdom which is truth and always happens.  If we don’t, the picture is much less promising.  Destruction is an outcome that we have chosen to take.  We don’t have to live on the wrong side of wisdom.  We merely need to choose it.  “For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”  We then can experience the goodness of God’s plan and economy as we dwell in Him and His presence.

Proverbs 1:10-19

Proverbs 1:10-19 has Solomon speaking to his son and the danger of keeping bad company.  It’s a lesson we all need to be very aware of. “My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent.” Significantly, this first instruction and warning in the book of Proverbs speaks to the company we keep and the friendships we make. There are few more powerful forces and influences upon our life than the friends we choose. It has been said, show me your friends and I can see your future. It speaks to the great need for God’s people to be more careful and wise in their choice of friends. The mention of a son reminds us of another tragedy or irony regarding the life of Solomon. The man who had 700 wives and 300 concubines left record of only one son, Rehoboam – and he was a fool.

But friends or bad company cannot make us sin.  That only happens when we join in with them.  Sin is always a choice, our choice, and we can’t blame anyone else truly for our sin.  They may influence us, which is what Solomon is warning about here, but in the end we make our own decision to sin. “If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason; like Sheol let us swallow them alive, and whole, like those who go down to the pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse“.”

 Part of their enticement is simply the sense of belonging: ‘come with us’. All of us want to be part of the group. The words sound more like the recruitment of gang members as he talks about waiting for blood and taking people’s things.  We can easily get pulled in further than we intend.  Sin always takes us further than we want to go, costs us more than we want to pay, and keeps us longer than we want to stay.  We need to run from sin, which is what Solomon tells his son: my son, do not walk in the way with them; hold back your foot from their paths, for their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood.”

Solomon paints a picture of being trapped in a net because the birds only see the food that is used to lure them into the net. Tragically, Solomon’s company with sinners – in the form of his wives given to idolatry – became a trap he himself was caught in. “For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird, but these men lie in wait for their own blood; they set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain; it takes away the life of its possessors.”  Greed will take a person down.  The gain promised will never be realized and it will cost the life of those who pursue it.

Proverbs 1:1-9

Proverbs 1:1-9 has the author, Solomon, beginning his 31 chapter sprint of wisdom and memorable statements.  Proverbs teach wisdom through short points and principles but should not be regarded as “laws” or even universal promises. Proverbs by design lays out pointed observations, meant to be memorized and pondered, not always intended to be applied ‘across the board’ to every situation without qualification. A proverb is not a magical formula. “The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel: To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the youth”.

Solomon does clearly lay out what his intent is in writing these verses:

  • Wisdom
  • Instruction
  • Understand insight
  • Deal well in righteousness, justice and equity
  • Give prudence
  • Knowledge
  • Direction

The opening the proverbs of Solomon should not be taken to mean that Solomon was the sole author of all these proverbs. There are a few other authors specifically mentioned. Yet, it may well be that Solomon collected all these other proverbs and set them in his book. Three of these authors are named (Solomon, Agur and Lemuel), others are mentioned collectively as ‘Wise Men’, and at least one section of the book (the last) is anonymous.

We may be living in the ‘information age,’ but we certainly aren’t living in the ‘age of wisdom.’ Many people who are wizards with their computers seem to be amateurs when it comes to making a success out of their lives.  Proverbs seems to be written exactly for us today. “Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance, to understand a proverb and a saying, the words of the wise and their riddles.” The Book of Proverbs is not only for the simple and inexperienced. Even a wise man will find much to help and guidance, if he will only listen and learn. Even a man of understanding can attain wise counsel from Proverbs.

Solomon points out the truth that it is the fear of the Lord that is behind all wisdom and knowledge. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.” Solomon calls out the importance of parenting and teaching kids.  Too much of today’s society wants to pass that responsibility to the school or church, rather than being accountable to train up our kids in the way they should go.  It is one of our duties as a parent, and done well, they become a blessing. The idea is that the instruction and law given from parent to child will adorn the life of their children, if they will only receive it.

3 John 7-15

In 3 John 7-15 the elder continues to remind us that we are all part of the ministry of the Good News.  “For they are traveling for the Lord and take neither food, clothing, shelter, nor money from those who are not Christians, even though they have preached to them.” We all have a part by going or have a part by helping, but everyone has a part and should do it well. “So we ourselves should take care of them in order that we may become partners with them in the Lord’s work.” Our role in the ministry is vitally important at those who give themselves to do the work, need to be supported and cared for by those of us who are not actively in the trenches day to day.

John goes on, after giving us the positive example of Gaius, to a much less positive role model. “I sent a brief letter to the church about this, but proud Diotrephes, who loves to push himself forward as the leader of the Christians there, does not admit my authority over him and refuses to listen to me.” John publicly rebuked Diotrephes by name. He calls him out as one who wants to be viewed as leader, but refuses to submit to authority.  Those two actions are in direct contradiction to each other. The problem for Diotrephes was pride. In his pride, he did not receive the apostles such as John.

Diotrephes not only used his influence to forbid others from showing hospitality to John or others; he even tried to excommunicate those who tried to show hospitality. “When I come I will tell you some of the things he is doing and what wicked things he is saying about me and what insulting language he is using. He not only refuses to welcome the missionary travelers himself but tells others not to, and when they do he tries to put them out of the church.” Diotrephes not only used his influence to forbid others from showing hospitality to John or his associates; he even tried to excommunicate those who tried to show such hospitality.

Dear friend, don’t let this bad example influence you. Follow only what is good. Remember that those who do what is right prove that they are God’s children; and those who continue in evil prove that they are far from God.” How we live and act matters. It shows our standing with God.  John shifts yet again to a good example. “But everyone, including Truth itself, speaks highly of Demetrius. I myself can say the same for him, and you know I speak the truth.” Demetrius was so faithful to the truth that even the truth was a witness on his behalf.  John wraps up his letter, indicating that he hopes to come see them soon. “I have much to say, but I don’t want to write it, for I hope to see you soon and then we will have much to talk about together. So good-bye for now. Friends here send their love, and please give each of the folks there a special greeting from me.”

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