Archive for November, 2018

Proverbs 8:22-36

In Proverbs 8:22-36 Solomon reminds us of the power of wisdom. “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.” God used wisdom in making something out of nothing.  Wisdom was the tool for creation. “When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.” Solomon considered and lists many different aspects of creation and how God used wisdom to design and arrange them all.

When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman”.  The created world is so marked by God’s wise and good design and arrangement that wisdom rejoiced in it. Wisdom was particularly happy with God’s creation of man….“and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.”

It’s one thing to see the impact of God’s wisdom in creation, but Solomon is clear that it isn’t automatically ours. “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways.”  Wisdom has proven throughout history that it blesses those that follow it.  So we need to seek and listen, and not push it aside. “Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it.” The pursuit of wisdom is intentional, not accidental.  We need to pursue it continually, and be willing to work at it constantly.  It isn’t ever done.  It is an ongoing pursuit. “Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.”

But is it worth it?  Solomon makes a pretty strong case that it absolutely is. “For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.” Wisdom presents two incomparable gifts, life and favor from the LORD. Solomon makes it clear that it is worth seeking wisdom continually. To love true wisdom is to receive these two amazing outcomes but to reject wisdom is to hurt oneself and to love death.  There is a stark contrast between the two.  Of course, just gaining wisdom is not the end of wisdom, but the beginning. Living a life in obedience to the wisdom God gives us is what has to happen to receive His blessing and favor.  But we can’t live that way if we don’t seek and find wisdom first.

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Proverbs 8:13-21

In Proverbs 8:13-21 Solomon continues his education for us around wisdom.  “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.” Reverence for God and His wisdom is not neutral towards evil. Like God, wisdom hates evil, along with the pride and arrogance and perverted speech that often express evil.  Wisdom will cause us to hate evil in line with God’s feeling toward it.  Christ Followers not only hate sin like God does, but run from it and put their energy and focus on walking in obedience to God and away from sin and the evil that is part of it.

Solomon has wisdom and because of that has wise counsel, insight and strength. “I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.” There is no question that history shows just how important wisdom is for leaders.  “By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just; by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.” Many leaders and rulers gain power, stay in power, and exercise power through receiving and using wisdom.  And when they do, it causes them to lead well and govern justly.  Wisdom is the enabler for great leadership and governance.  It is the secret sauce!

Solomon makes it clear that those who love and pursue wisdom will find themselves rewarded. The will find wisdom and the blessings wisdom brings. “I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.” It boils down to our desire to seek wisdom.  If we do, we will be blessed by finding it.  Sometimes people want to equate wisdom to riches.  That’s not what is meant here. “Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.” When we seek wealth, it can corrupt us and lead us away from Jesus.  But when we seek wisdom, it makes us rich in understanding and walking with Christ in righteousness.  It is not the path to becoming rich.

The fruit of wisdom is far better than money.  It isn’t measured that way. “My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold, and my yield than choice silver.” Obedience leads to blessing.  If we walk with Christ and are obedient to God’s ways, we will find that not only our life, but that of our inheritors will be blessed. “I walk in the way of righteousness, in the paths of justice, granting an inheritance to those who love me, and filling their treasuries.” Wisdom passed on can be a mighty powerful tool to impact those in our patch.  It fills them up with God’s blessing and goodness.  It fulfills their souls.

Proverbs 8:1-12

In Proverbs 8:1-12 Solomon here writes once again of wisdom as if she were a person, filled with the secrets to a successful life.  “Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man”.  Wisdom cries out as widely and broadly as possible. It speaks to those beside the way and at the crossroads. Wisdom is not hidden – it cries out to all who will listen. God does not hide it from us, but makes it widely available to any and all who will listen.

Wisdom is for ordinary people—not confined to the academic classroom or to sacred areas of the church.  It is for you and me and everyone who will seek it and listen.  “O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense”. Wisdom doesn’t give up on the simple ones. The simple man described in Proverbs 7 seems like a lost cause, but he doesn’t have to be. We can learn the ways of wisdom and benefit from that learning.  Even a fool can learn if willing. “Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.”

But the first step to success in gaining wisdom is a willingness to listen.  It isn’t the wisdom or access to it that is a problem.  The issue is our willingness to seek and then listen.  There is clarity and a straightforward character to wisdom. “They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.” The fundamental truths of the Bible are plain to those who trust God and honor His word.  American author Mark Twain was reported to have said, ‘It’s not the parts of the Bible I can’t understand that bother me; it’s the parts that I do understand.’

Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” Wisdom’s value is above silver, gold, and jewels. Without wisdom, one may have the riches of this world and a miserable life. Early in his reign Solomon desired wisdom above all riches and was greatly blessed because of it.  There is nothing more powerful than wisdom.  And the good news is that we can have it if we pursue it.  “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.”  Prudence is self-control and good judgment and comes from having wisdom. A life given to impulse and extremes will not display wisdom.

Proverbs 7:16-27

In Proverbs 7:16-27 Solomon continues to warn about the woes of sexual immorality.  One thing to keep in mind here is that while Solomon describes this from his point of view, it happens in the real world in many ways.  Women are certainly not always the ones who cause sin to happen around the area of sex.  But Solomon makes the point through his eyes and experiences, and most importantly, no matter where the initiation or temptation comes from, it becomes a matter of personal sin when we make a choice to participate in immoral behavior that is against God’s will.  He has designed sex for a very important but specific place in His creation, and when we choose to take part in any other way we sin.

The woman has prepared and was tempting this simple young man to enjoy a delightful experience.  “I have spread my couch with coverings, colored linens from Egyptian linen; I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon. Come, let us take our fill of love till morning; let us delight ourselves with love”. She becomes more and more specific about what she wants.  And then she assures him that it will be in a safe environment. She doesn’t give any details that might wake up the simple man’s conscience – like her husband’s name or any details about him. “For my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey; he took a bag of money with him; at full moon he will come home”.

With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. Guzik describes the steps of seduction that the woman uses to lure in this simple man to a web of sinful behavior:

  • A well-chosen target (simple…a young man devoid of understanding, 7:7).
  • Available to meet (the path to her house…a woman met him, 7:8, 7:10).
  • Provocatively clothed (with the attire of a harlot, 7:10).
  • Of bad character (loud and rebellious, 7:11).
  • Looking to trap and seduces (she caught him, 7:13).
  • Free with physical affection (kissed him, 7:13).
  • Gave some recognition to religion (peace offerings…paid my vows, 7:14).
  • Pursuit to make one feel desired (I came out to meet you, diligently, 7:15).
  • Promise to please the senses (I have spread my bed…I have perfumed my bed, 7:16-17).
  • Invitation to her bed (I have spread my bed…I have perfumed my bed, 7:16-17).
  • Promises of love, delight, and sensual pleasure (let us take our fill of love until morning; let us delight ourselves with love, 7:18).

This wasn’t an accidental connection.  It was planned and well executed. And it works as designed.

The simple man falls. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life”. There is no question that resisting would be difficult.  That’s how all sin presents itself.  The enemy is adept at providing us opportunity to sin that seems almost irresistible.  But the price for sin is high, and we somehow forget the reality that sin will cost us our life.  It’s why we need a Savior.  Without Jesus, we’re all doomed for eternal separation from God.  Sin costs everything.

Solomon ends this chapter reminding us to pay attention to his words.  “And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth”.  Sin doesn’t have to have its way in our life.  It is always a choice.  It never happens to us.  Solomon reminds us that adultery and sexual immorality begins in the heart. It doesn’t begin in our hormones or natural wiring as men or women. It happens when we fail to guard our heart.  If our heart falls to sexual immorality, our feet will quickly follow.  We have to win the battle there, in our heart and mind, and avoid the situations that can cause us to fall prey. “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death”.  Guard your heart – it is the key to standing strong!

Proverbs 7:6-15

Proverbs 7:6-15 has Solomon recalling a story of a young lad he watched through his window.  The kid was simple – not stupid but inexperienced and gullible. He has all the passions, energy, and overconfidence of youth, and none of the wisdom the decades can bring. “For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness”.

All of us wrestle with the battle around sexual purity.  But as a young man, Solomon gives special attention to his struggle.  Young men struggle according to Guzik because of:

  • Youthful energy and a sense of carelessness.
  • The lack of life wisdom.
  • The desire for and gaining of independence.
  • Physical and sexual maturity that may run ahead of spiritual and moral maturity.
  • Money and the freedom that it brings.
  • Young women who may – knowingly or unknowingly – encourage moral impurity.
  • The spirit of the age that both expects and promotes moral uncleanness for young men.
  • The desire to be accepted by peers who face the same challenges.

The world tells us, “Have your good time when you are young; get it all out of your system. When you are older you can settle down and be religious and proper.” That’s not God’s way – which is to protect our sexual morality and save it for His ordained plan in a committed marriage.

This young lad makes a big mistake – the choice to take the road to her house.  It was under the cover of darkness, but God sees through all that.  We can’t ever hide our sin.  It will be placed in the light and we’ll have to account for it some day.  And as you might expect, his bad decision leads to a fateful meeting. “And behold, the woman meets him, dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart. She is loud and wayward; her feet do not stay at home; now in the street, now in the market, and at every corner she lies in wait”. She doesn’t wait for him to get there, she runs to meet him.  That’s how sin works.  It greets us early and often to help us fall. Quickly.

She first pours on the visual approach, holding nothing back but rather doing all she can to make herself appealing.  She gets his attention further with her loud voice and aggressive coming upon him, meeting him as soon as she sees him.  She then makes the connection physical, drawing him into her web. “She seizes him and kisses him, and with bold face she says to him, “I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows; so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you”. The sexually immoral person shows a sense of defiance and self righteousness.  They want instant gratification and insist on their own way.

Proverbs 7:1-5

In Proverbs 7:1-5 Solomon continues to exhort his son to walk in obedience. “My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart”.  His words begin with an emphasis on keeping and understanding God’s word and a father’s wisdom. The implication is not that Bible reading provides a magical protection against sexual immorality. But if a person does keep God’s written commands, they will not carry out this sin – and the keeping of the commands begins with knowing them, treasuring them, meditating on them.  God’s Word needs to be in our heart to avoid sin!

Solomon counseled his son to have a living, breathing relationship with the word of God. They should not be only on our mind but also in our heart. Head knowledge won’t cut it.  We have to make sure it is front and center of how we think.  Solomon counsels his son to find strength against the seductions of evil, by cultivating defensive focus on God’s truth and wisdom. “Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend, to keep you from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words”. He should love the Word as his sister and nearest kin.

The wisdom and power of God’s word helps to keep us from sexual immorality. From God’s word we learn the deception and strategy of sin and temptation. We learn the ways of the enemy and how the world will try and pull us away from the truth. We learn the end result of sin and the wonderful benefits of obedience. God’s word imparts the spiritual light and strength we need to obey Him in this difficult area.  Without the instruction of God’s Word and the wisdom of our parents, we’re left with the negative influence of the world around us.  The people around us can cause us to drift away from God’s ways and soon wind up in the ditch.

Guzik writes: The task of keeping men and women from sexual immorality sometimes seems impossible. This is due to many factors, including:

  • A secular, sexually saturated and permissive culture.
  • The widespread availability of pornography.
  • The disconnection of sex from pregnancy and reproduction.
  • Laws making divorce easy and impossible to contest.
  • Social media technology making anonymous meetings easier.
  • Widespread prosperity that lessens the financial impact of family breakups.
  • The large and growing gap between the time of puberty and the average time people get married.

These factors are not all unique to the present day; Christianity was founded in a very sexually permissive culture. Yet they highlight the great need for Christian men and women to rely on the power and wisdom of God’s word to remain pure. It also means that such purity, even in the sense of re dedication to purity, is a great sacrifice and gift to the honor and glory of God”.

Proverbs 6:25-31

In Proverbs 6:25-31 Solomon addresses again the topic of adultery which he has seen up close and personal, first with his dad, and then in his own life.  King David was a brilliant strategist on the battlefield and a wise ruler on the throne, but he lost his common sense when he gazed at his neighbor’s wife and lusted for her. “He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself.”  The blame for sin can only be placed on the one who chooses to sin.  While there may be another involved in the sinful activity, there is no way to pass the blame to them, as sin only happens when we choose to disobey God and His commands.

Note that the blame is upon the adulterer. He may blame the tempting woman, his wife, his lusts, his desires, his circumstances, God, or the devil himself. Yet at the end of it all, he destroys his own soul.  The guilty one destroys his own life.  It can’t be blamed on anyone else – responsibility for self-destruction falls on the one who makes the sinful choice.  And it doesn’t go away quickly.  “Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.”  In addition to the ways that sexual immorality brings harm it will also bring disgrace when it is discovered.  The pain is not short and easy – it is deep and destructive.

It also impacts others, not just those who are involved in the sexual sin.  As such, it can cause them to react severely.  “For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge.” It can be forgiven by God, but the impact and the hurt related to sexual sin does not stop quickly.  It can cause people to take revenge and attempt to get even or correct the act of sin.  This is an injury that is beyond any form of compensation. No gifts can satisfy the pain and suffering that results from the choice of sexual sin.  It wounds the body and soul, and dishonors the family, congregation, and community.  Pain flows everywhere.

Sexual immorality offers pleasure and excitement and often romance. It may or may not deliver those things, but even if it does it carries a price beyond any that can be paid.  “He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.” Once sexual sin occurs, there is often no way to restore relationships and compensate the hurt.  Even when effort is made to seek forgiveness and repentance follows, the pain of sexual sin is often more than many can endure, and they are unable to forgive.  Unfortunately, the lack of forgiveness makes those hurt captive of their own bitterness and pain.  It is far better to walk in God’s ways and avoid any type of sexual immorality as it carries a terrible and long lasting penalty.

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