Posts Tagged ‘wisdom’

Ephesians 1:15-18

In Ephesians 1:15-18 Paul now shifts from talking about “In Him” where he shared the power of our walk with Christ to “For this reason”. He’s changing from schooling us on the facts of our walk as a believer to the impact the Ephesians were having on his ministry to them. When Paul hears of the faith and love of the church at Ephesus, it brought the only response it could – thanksgiving for them. “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you….” Faith and love do not earn us participation in this great work of God. They are evidence of our participation in God’s plan.

Paul gives thanks not only for their love of the Lord but also for their love for all the saints. The real evidence of walking with Christ is how we love people, especially those in the Body of Christ. But Paul doesn’t just give thanks, he prays for them. “.…remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation….” Paul prayed that God would grant the Ephesians the spirit of wisdom and that He would give them revelation. But these are not so they may see into the lives of others, have the ability to predict events, or do what we commonly think of as “prophet stuff.” He wanted them to have the spirit of wisdom and revelation simply so that they would have a better knowledge of God.

Our Christian life must be centered around the purpose of knowing God as He is the truth, as revealed by His Word. We also must correct our false, idolatrous ideas of who God is. “in the knowledge of him….” It is important for us to have an accurate knowledge and understanding of who we are. Yet it is far more important (and beneficial) for us to know and understand who God is. Spurgeon wrote “the proper study of God’s elect is God; the proper study of a Christian is the Godhead. The highest science, the loftiest speculation, the mightiest philosophy which can ever engage the attention of a child of God, is the name, the nature, the person, the work, the doings, and the existence of the great God whom he calls his Father.”

Paul then prays that they would understand everything God gave them in Jesus Christ. “….having the eyes of your hearts enlightened….” For the Ephesians to know all God has given them in Jesus, it will take a supernatural work of the Spirit. Guzik wrote “Too many Christian hearts have no eyes (places where they gain real knowledge and understanding), and too many Christian eyes have no heart — God wants both to be combined in us.” The word ‘heart’ means our very core and center of life. Alford explains that is “where the intelligence has its post of observation, where the stores of experience are laid up, and the thoughts have their fountain.” We need to both see and feel as God does!

1 Corinthians 7:37-40

In 1 Corinthians 7:37-40 Paul concludes his teaching to the church in Corinth around marriage. He’s addressing fathers who have daughters of the age they can marry. Paul says it is not wrong for a father to allow his young daughter to marry, even allowing for the desirability of singleness at the present time. “But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well.” He doesn’t have to force his position on marriage on that of his daughter who is of the age she can choose.

Paul basically says married or unmarried – both are fine. But since singleness does have its benefits, Paul will recommend it, not only to individuals, but also to fathers in regard to the marrying off of their daughters. It is his overall guidance to everyone who is not married. Consider the impact and cost of being in a covenant relationship with another. It can cause one to take their eye off the most important thing in life – our walk with God. “So then he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who refrains from marriage will do even better.” So while both choices are fine, if Paul’s helping guide us it will be toward singleness.

For Paul, the choice between married and single was not the choice between good and bad, but between better and best. And for Paul, in light of the present circumstances, he regarded singleness as best. He ends his teaching to the Corinthian church by talking about the covenant of marriage which is for a lifetime. “A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. But if her husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord.” Marriage is designed to be a forever thing. However, in the event a spouse dies, then there is freedom to get married again. Paul does caveat that remarriage should be to another believer.

But staying consistent with his instruction, Paul says the best choice is to remain single in the event that one loses a spouse. Paul wants the widow not to remarry without carefully considering that God might be calling her to celibacy. It’s not that sex is evil (like some in the Corinth church believed) but that sex should only happen inside the bonds of a covenant of marriage and that comes with responsibilities and relationship that can distract one from focusing on serving God. “Yet in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I too have the Spirit of God.” Paul is just making sure that the decision to marry is considered completely and his counsel is that being single has a lot less drama and distraction.

1 Corinthians 3:16-23

In 1 Corinthians 3:16-23 Paul reminds us that the church is God’s temple and the Holy Spirit dwells in it. The Greek points to the sanctuary or worship area as the place God dwells, and we need to recognize that He fills the church with His presence. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” God takes it seriously and His house of worship is holy. We need to treat it as such. God’s punishment if we don’t respect it is severe. “If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” The church is God’s temple.

Paul warns us not to be prideful. This hit the Corinthian church right where they were. They felt they were wise in this age. That was one of their problems, their love of worldly wisdom. “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise.” Solomon teaches us that wisdom doesn’t come from within. It comes only from God. If we believe we can be wise based on our own effort we are definitely incorrect. God alone provides wisdom. Any other thought is foolish and will lead us to fall on our own efforts.

Paul asks them to renounce all worldly wisdom, all humanism (man centered philosophy), even if it means being called a fool. If one is not willing to be considered a fool by those who value only human wisdom, they will never be able to truly become wise. “For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.” God has evaluated the wisdom of this world, and He considers it foolishness, craftiness, and futile. Will we agree with God’s evaluation, or not? Whether we agree or not is not really important because wisdom is God’s alone.

Paul reminds us that we are quick to take credit and boast about what we do. We are more excited about being with the influential and famous of this world than about being with God. We value the gifts and honors of men more than the gifts and honors God gives. “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future – all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.” To say I am of Paul or I am of Apollos is to have a view that is too narrow, too constricted. The whole universe is yours in Christ. Our identity is in Jesus and ultimately in God. What a reality and promise!

1 Corinthians 2:1-6

In 1 Corinthians 2:1-6 Paul reminds the church that he didn’t come in his own power or might. He came as an instrument of God to proclaim truth. Paul’s arrival in Corinth is described in Acts 18. He ministered in Corinth for more than a year and a half, supporting himself by tent making. “And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom.” Paul didn’t come as a philosopher or a salesman; he came as a witness. He just delivered God’s truth. Paul was certainly a man who could reason and debate persuasively, but he didn’t use that approach in preaching the gospel. He just preached Jesus.

Paul could have taught on lots of topics. He was a Pharisee and teacher of the law. But he chose to focus on one truth – Jesus Christ. There was no other agenda or focus. It was Jesus. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” In taking this approach, Paul understood he didn’t cater to what his audience wanted. But he wasn’t there to win a popularity contest. He was there to spread the gospel and preach Jesus. So there was no other option. He was not going to water down his message by talking about anything else. Jesus or Jesus – those were the choices.

Paul may seem like a guy that has it all together, but he’s clear that there was some fear and trembling in his efforts to teach the church. He knew it would not be popular, but he also knew it was all that mattered. “And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” Without Jesus the rest of scripture is of no consequence. God’s plan is completely built upon the Cross and Jesus sacrifice on it.

Preaching strategies centered on the wisdom of men – around emotion, entertainment and human personality – may yield response, but not results for the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean the rest of scripture and God’s truth are ignored. Paul used them to drive home the message of the gospel. “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.” Just because Paul would not cater to the Corinthian love of human wisdom does not mean that his message had no wisdom. It just wasn’t the focus. There was only one focus – Christ crucified – and the goodness that comes with that!

Proverbs 31:26-31

In Proverbs 31:26-31 King Lemuel’s mother continues with her expose on the excellent wife. She begins by describing a woman filled with wisdom. She is a beautiful person on the inside. She has what is often described and valued in the Book of Proverbs—wise speech and words that show the law of kindness. Both her deliberate speech (she opens her mouth) and her spontaneous words (on her tongue) are marked by wisdom and kindness. “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” This is one of the most important characteristics of this woman who with all her eminence and excellence, was of a meek and quiet spirit.

She is observant of her family and what they are doing. The choice to watch so carefully means that she does not choose to sit idly by or being consumed by her own selfish ways. “She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.” Trapp wrote “She hath an oar in every boat, an eye in every business; she spies and pries into her children’s and servants’ carriages, and exacts of them strict conversation and growth in godliness: she overlooks the whole family no otherwise than if she were in a watch tower.”  She is paying attention to everyone and everything all the time.

A woman of such character and wisdom rightfully receives the blessings and praises of her family. Both her children and her husband not only see, but also speak of the blessedness of the woman who brings such blessing to their household. This is not only a description of the excellent wife, but also an exhortation to children and a husband to bless and praise the mother and wife of godly character. “Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Her husband praises his wife with words that encourage, reward, and nourish her. Every home can have a wife and mother that stands apart like this excellent wife; then every husband can legitimately feel “I’ve got the best wife” and children feel, “We have the best mom.”

King Lemuel’s mother noted the passing nature of outer beauty and the deceitful nature of manipulative charm. In contrast, a woman who fears the Lord has beauty that does not pass and charm that does not deceive. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates.” Proverbs begins with a strong connection between wisdom and the fear of the Lord (Proverbs 1:7). Here the collection ends describing the excellent wife as being filled with the wisdom, beauty, and charm that marks a woman who fears the Lord.

Proverbs 31:21-25

In Proverbs 31:21-25 King Lemuel’s mother continues to define the excellent wife. She has the wisdom, diligence, and preparation to ready her household for all kinds of challenges and adversity. Her fear of the Lord and the wisdom that flows from it invites God’s blessing, even being able to clothe all her household in prestigious scarlet. “She is not afraid of snow for her household, for all her household are clothed in scarlet.” Some wonder why scarlet clothing would be connected to the fact that she is not afraid of snow for her household. It has been suggested that the scarlet color of the clothing makes her children easy to find but that is not likely since it doesn’t snow much in this area.

She is a talented seamstress and can make what is needed for her family. With God’s blessing on her wisdom and diligence, the excellent wife makes good things for herself, and enjoys personal marks of God’s material blessing on her family since her coverings are of fine linen and the royal color purple. “She makes bed coverings for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple.” Purple dye was costly because it comes from a seashell off the Phoenician coast and is connected with those who have wealth and luxury.

She is a loving and supportive wife who lives with respect and honor for her husband, who is known by those around them. She sees such a blessing on her family and household as her husband is esteemed and honored among the elders of the land. All this is the blessing of God that often comes to the wife who walks in virtue, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord. “Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land.” He is married to a woman who is held in high esteem. And her complete management of household affairs gives him time to devote himself to the interests of the community.

Besides caring for her family, she also is able to make more than they need and sell the excess. She cares deeply for her family, but her mind and vision goes beyond them to the outside world where she does good for herself and her family. “She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchant.” Her willingness to sell some for the sake of her family shows that her first priority isn’t in what is in her closet or what she wears. “Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” When it comes to character, she is one of the best dressed, clothed with strength and honor, so that she shall rejoice not only in the present day, but also in time to come.

Proverbs 31:13-20

In Proverbs 31:13-20 King Lemuel’s mother continues to educate him on an excellent wife. Using wonderful poetic images, she described not the resume of a godly woman, but life-like examples of the busy, hard working, and creative character of the virtuous wife. A woman who attempted to complete each of these tasks would be exhausted and potentially discouraged. Yet her character can be evident in a wise and godly woman’s life in its own way. “She seeks wool and flax, and works with willing hands.” She knows how to seek and find things that are necessary resources for her family and home.

Next an excellent wife is compared to a merchant ship. An excellent wife provides food for her family and home after the pattern of a merchant ship, which operates on time and with hard work. If required, she even rises while it is yet night to either get or prepare food for her household. “She is like the ships of the merchant; she brings her food from afar. She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household and portions for her maidens.” It wasn’t uncommon for many families in Biblical times to have servants or hired workers. The excellent wife wisely manages and cares for those who work for her too, showing her compassion and care even beyond her immediate family.

The next area that is called out is that of making a business decision – to buy some land and plant it. The excellent wife is forward thinking, combining her creativity with hard work. She thoughtfully (considers) invests and uses the profits to better her family and their future, in this case by planting a vineyard. “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.” What is described here is a lot of hard work. But she is willing to go beyond the bare necessities and do things that may be challenging, but will produce a good return.

The excellent wife is noted for her strength. “She dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” She is wise and experienced enough to get good materials and merchandise for her home. Her wisdom teaches her to buy oil for her lamp, of such quality that it burns through the night and does not go out. “She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night.” She knows how to use the tools and technology available to manage the home well. “She puts her hands to the distaff, and her hands hold the spindle.” And she is a woman of compassion who helps those around her. “She opens her hand to the poor and reaches out her hands to the needy.”

Proverbs 31:10-12

In Proverbs 31:10-12 Lemuel’s mother speaks to him about the qualities of a virtuous wife. This passage is traditionally understood as being addressed to women but is more accurately spoken by a woman to a man so he could know the character and potential character of a good wife before marriage, and value and praise his wife for her virtuous character once married. It is primarily a search-list for a man, and only secondarily a check-list for a woman. It describes the kind of wife the Christian man should pray for and seek after. It also gives a guide, a goal for the Christian woman, showing the kind of character she can have as she fears and follows the Lord.

The passage also reminds the Christian man that he must walk in the fear and wisdom of God so that he will be worthy of and compatible with such a virtuous woman. “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels.” She is called an excellent wife, not because only married women can have these qualities, but because this is marriage guidance from a mother to a son. The virtuous woman can be single or married, but each will have particular ways their excellence is expressed, either in their singleness or as family. Coming at the end of the collection of proverbs, one might say that this is a strong woman – and her greatest strength is her wisdom, rooted in the fear of the Lord.

The woman described in the rest of the chapter is rare and valuable, but her value (worth) is greater than what she does. Her value or worth should not be reduced to performance of these qualities; she is excellent before she acts in that way. The excellent wife not only has the trust of her husband, but it is safely given to her. Her character is trustworthy, filled with integrity. She will speak, act, and live with wisdom – and therefore God’s blessing will be on their home. “The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.” A foolish woman who can’t be trusted, takes some measure of blessing away from the home, and this is often seen financially or materially.

In God’s plan, husband and wife bring each other gain. It is not a burden to be married, but brings blessing in great measure. We gave seen in previous Proverbs that a bad wife creates chaos and harm. But not a good one… “She does him good, and not harm, all the days of her life.”  The opposite is also true; an excellent wife does her husband good and not evil, and she continues to be a blessing all the days of her life. The sense is that her goodness and faithful character becomes deeper and greater through the passing years while her commitment to her husband’s well-being is constant.

Proverbs 31:4-9

In Proverbs 31:4-9 King Lemuel is warned about the potential impact of alcohol. “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.”  Kings and those who lead should avoid alcohol (intoxicating drink). This idea is repeated three times for emphasis. Though the Bible does see a potential blessing in wine it is a dangerous blessing that must be carefully managed and for many (such as kings and leaders), voluntarily set aside. The guidance then moves to the ‘why’.

The responsibilities of leaders are so great that it is essential that they not be impaired in judgment or abilities in any way. This principle is true not only for kings, but for leaders of any type, including and especially those who consider themselves leaders among God’s people today. Poole wrote “drunkenness deprives a man of the use of reason; by which alone men can distinguish between right and wrong.” If we are going to lead, we have to act responsibly and certainly how we address alcohol or other things that can be addictive and impair our judgment must be controlled and managed.

King Lemeul’s mother did share a couple appropriate places for alcohol to be provided freely. “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more.” First, she thought of the condemned criminal who needs to be numbed by strong drink on his way to execution. Second, she thought of those who are bitter of heart, who could drink and forget his poverty and remember his misery no more. King Lemuel’s mother understood that strong drink, wine, and other intoxicants take away from a person’s performance and excellence which is why leaders need to avoid being impacted by it.

She then goes on to remind King Lemeul that one of his roles as a leader is to protect the defenseless. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” The idea is that there are those who can’t speak for themselves, to defend themselves in a court of law or in less formal circumstances. The wise and godly man or woman will speak for the speechless, and take up the cause of the defenseless. We should plead the cause of the poor and needy who have trouble properly defending themselves.

Proverbs 31:1-3

In Proverbs 31:1-3 the pen is passed to King Lemuel and his mother. As with Agur in Proverbs 30, we don’t know anything about King Lemuel. He is not in any recorded list of the kings of Judah or Israel, so he was probably a pagan king who put his trust in Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, and through the fear of the LORD learned wisdom. “The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him.” The name Lemuel means, belonging to God. There was no king of Israel (or Judah) with this name, so either he was a foreign king, or it is a pen name for the author.

King Lemuel seemed to understand like Solomon and Agur that his words were an utterance, a prophecy or revelation, from God. And perhaps like Timothy, he was raised by a godly mother who taught him to fear the Lord which is the beginning of wisdom.  He recalls the words that his mother had asked him. “What are you doing, my son? What are you doing, son of my womb? What are you doing, son of my vows?”  She obviously has a deep connection to her son. There is a progression of her connection from son to womb to vows – reverse order from the past to the present.

In her words, she addresses him in three distinct ways:

  1. My son – her current relationship with him
  2. Son of my womb – having given birth to him
  3. Son of my vows – regarding her promises and commitments to God about him

While we don’t know for sure, her vow likely is related to a vow she made to God that if He gave her a son, she would dedicate him and bring him up in a way that he would live according to God’s laws and point him to God’s wisdom.

She then warns him about protecting his strength. “Do not give your strength to women, your ways to those who destroy kings.” The practice of sexual immorality and sex obsession gives away a man’s strength, in the sense of his spiritual strength, his self-respect, his self-control, his example and standing in the community. Solomon certainly learned this the hard way, as did his father David, along with Sampson and others in scripture. Lemuel’s mother also warned him that sexual and romantic obsession could also destroy kings. David’s lust for Bathsheba made him callous toward justice and cost Uriah his life, and Solomon’s many sexual partners made him callous toward pure and undefiled religion and incapable of real love.

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