Dealing with Heavenly and Earthly Relationships

relationshipsCheck out the podcast here.

Last week, we began by asking the rhetorical question, who is without sin? The cleansing we enjoy is not because of anything we have done, but because of what Jesus did. Youngsters say what comes to mind because they haven’t developed the ability to hide their motives. We looked at a number of principles for daily, principled living for the home, the job, and at church. This morning, we’ll finish up this chapter by looking at some important relationships.

Our passage for today is found in Pro. 20:20-30 and I hope you take the time to read it.

We start with a relationship that everyone has. Not everyone may have children, but everyone has parents. “He who curses his father or his mother, his lamp will go out in time of darkness.” Ex. 20:12 says, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” Under the Law, cursing your parents was a capital offense; it was punishable by death. That seems pretty harsh by today’s standards. Rebellious kids can be extraordinarily draining on parents. When this occurs, the lamp will go out. We’re not talking literally, we’re talking metaphorically. In Survivor, when you’re voted out, they snuff your torch signifying your death in the game. This is the illusion Solomon is giving us. When it’s dark out, you need a lamp to see. If you’re rebellious to your parents, you are metaphorically put in the dark.

“An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end.” If your mind is drawn to the prodigal son, you’re on the right track. This verse is connected to the previous verse about parents. Inheritances typically come from the parents and sometimes the worst thing you can do for your kids is give them money or possessions they don’t have to earn. There’s nothing wrong with providing for your children in the future, but the kids shouldn’t expect it. And most certainly, they shouldn’t demand it early. That’s what the prodigal did in Luke 15. In Lu. 15:12, the son says, “Father, give me the share of the estate that falls to me.” The son leaves and, “squandered his estate on loose living.” (Lu. 15:13) Easy money does not guarantee financial stability.

Our next relationship involves the Lord. “Do not say, “I will repay evil”; wait for the Lord, and He will save you.” Paul repeated this in Rom. 12:17-19, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.” Paul quotes Deut. 32:35. The Lord will take care of you and will fight your battles on your behalf, but don’t assume that your enemies will be struck down. We’ve got to keep Paul’s command in the forefront of our mind when dealing with people that provide us with challenges. As much at it is up to you, be at peace with all men. Do what you can to foster peace: do what you can to be kind and loving, patient and compassionate. If people don’t respond the way you think they ought to, so what? It’s not on you. Don’t think you’ve always got to be the one looking out for yourself. Many times, He puts someone in the path that will fight on your behalf, but it’s still God working.

“Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good.” We saw this exact principle in 20:10 and way back in 11:1.Don’t be dishonest in your business dealings.

“Man’s steps are ordained by the Lord, how then can man understand his way?” I’d like to spend a bit of time here to talk about some important principles that many people discount. Keep in mind that Solomon said in 19:21, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.” And back in Pro. 16:9 when Solomon said, “The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” In everything we do, we have a necessary dependence on God. That is not a bad thing. Our understanding of what goes on around us is severely limited. We can only see so far and we rarely understand or consider the impact our actions have on others. When you talk about God’s sovereignty, there is a tendency to become fatalistic. Whatever happens, happens, and that’s the way God wants it. We become like little puppets controlled by God. I think that’s the wrong way to look at life. Of course, we should have a desire to follow God’s will and I believe He has a purpose for us to fulfill. I don’t think it’s necessarily to have a global impact or somehow accomplish incredible things for Christ. I think for most of us, a simple life of passionate, zealous, and complete obedience will accomplish much for the Kingdom of God.

We often cannot comprehend what God is accomplishing behind the scenes of life and we would be foolish to think that it doesn’t matter. Humanity has free will, but God is the One that connects the ties that bind us together to accomplish His will. While I can assuredly say that not everyone follows God, everyone does play a part in fulfilling God’s will. God knows all the variables; He knows everything that can and or will change; He knows how the weather affects us, how people affect us; He knows all that and He is still the One that controls the universe. The fatalist says that nothing I do will change what will happen. Not true. Follow God and watch Him work in you and through you. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if my parents had not divorced; I wonder if my dad had not changed companies that led us to SC; I wonder what would have been if I went to Carolina instead of Winthrop. I wonder if I had not joined the Navy or only served for six years; I wonder if Kari and I had not married. I could go on and on, but God knew the decisions I would make that affected not just my life, but the lives of all the people in the last 53 years that I affected and those lives that affected me; good or bad, positive or negative. Don’t underestimate the impact you can have through God.

“It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry.” This is a strangely worded verse has been interpreted several different ways. When taken in light of Eccl. 5:4-6 and Pro. 18:7, it seems the best interpretation is don’t make promises you cannot keep. It doesn’t matter if it’s a promise to God, although that one is really bad, or promises to a person that you either cannot keep or do not intend to keep. A common occurrence these days is saying you’re going to do something and in the back of your mind it’s true unless anything else comes up. One of the troubling things to me is how quick people are to let go of commitments they have made. It can be as simple as a child agreeing to clean their room and then doesn’t or being a member of a church committing to participate and support the body and then allowing that commitment to be superseded by other things. There truly are few people that can be relied upon.

Let’s shift over to royalty. Back when kings ruled the land, part of their responsibility was to mete out justice. This is handled by judges today and this is the angle I’m coming from. “A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them.” Winnows means scatter. Wisdom dictates that you separate criminals so they cannot devise evil schemes against people. It’s a great idea, but we put criminals together. One of the best places to learn how to commit crime is in jail or prison. We don’t do a great job of rehabilitating criminals that are incarcerated. Here’s a good question: is that what prisons are for? I submit to you that jail and prison are a place to go to pay the debt owed to society for the crime that has been committed. “Driving the threshing wheel” over someone gives further evidence to support a separation. The threshing wheel was used to separate grain from the chaff. A common form of the threshing wheel consisted of a couple of wooden planks that had several rollers attached underneath that were fitted with iron teeth. The thresher sat on the planks that were pulled by a team of oxen. As the threshing wheel rolled, the iron teeth would separate the grain. If you picture the threshing wheel rolling over a man, you can imagine the damage that might occur – even death. Our constitution protects people from cruel or unusual punishment so this method of punishment would obviously not be used here. Solomon is telling us that it takes a wise judge to mete out the proper punishment. I’ve got to remind you that biblical wisdom comes from God. The wise ruler must distinguish between the godless and the good and also has to use discernment in determining the punishment required.

The next verse is a really beautiful depiction of Christ’s love. “The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost parts of his being.” When you look at God’s design for humanity, this makes perfect sense. Each of us has life breathed into our soul by God. Every human conceived, whether that life was actually born or not, was created by the power of God. Rom. 1:20 tells us that God put in us a desire to know Him. Humans are the only segment of God’s creation created in the image of God. We are created in God’s image with the ability to think and understand. In 1 Cor. 2:11, Paul said, “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.” The spirit of man is an illusion to our conscience which has been designed in us by our Creator.

Solomon mentions two virtues of a good king. “Loyalty and truth preserve the king, and he upholds his throne by righteousness.” Loyalty and righteousness come from the same Hebrew word which means covenant loyalty. Loyalty means a strong feeling of support or allegiance. In context, Solomon is talking about a mutual loyalty between the king and his kingdom. By application, you can see the far reaching implications of loyalty. I’ll ask the question, what are you loyal to? Certainly, family comes to mind. There are people loyal to their jobs, sometimes at the expense of loyalty to their families. Given that we’ve just finished the college football season, we saw a lot of people very loyal to their teams. When it comes to your loyalty to God, how is that demonstrated? If we keep the meaning of loyalty in mind, can you demonstrate a strong feeling of support or allegiance to God if you don’t pray, read or study your Bible? What about not participating in the things of the church? I often wonder how someone can say they pray and read their Bible faithfully yet don’t participate in church. Coming to church every week is included in that, but I’m talking about a daily loyalty to God because He is worthy of our loyalty.

“The glory of young men is their strength, and the honor of old men is their gray hair.” Young men tend to rely on strength while older men tend to rely on wisdom. I’m not as strong as I used to be, but I’m a whole lot wiser than I used to be, and that’s not to say that I have my wisdom tank filled.

Finally, “Stripes that wound scour away evil, and strokes reach the innermost parts.” This is still talking about kings and punishment. Stripes refer to actual punishment inflicted as a result of a wrongdoing. “Strokes reach the innermost being” refers back to verse 27.

I know we’ve covered a lot of ground today. We started by looking at the parental relationship and the implications of being a bad child. Solomon spoke of being a virtuous king and the responsibility that comes with punishment. We saw some important aspects of our relationship with the Lord. I encourage you to conduct a critical self-evaluation of your faith. Ask someone you love and trust to provide you with some feedback.

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Royal Rules


CrownCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon spoke of financial issues again and said it’s better to have a little and be righteous than to have a lot because you were engaged in injustice. It can be pretty scary to place blind trust in someone, but we do it all the time with our doctors, lawyers, and teachers. Be sensitive to the Lord’s leading and align your goals and ambitions with God’s first. This morning, we dig into the responsibility of kings.

Pro. 16:10-13 tells us, “A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment. A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; All the weights of the bag are His concern. It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved.”

We don’t have a king. You’ve probably figured that out. I know the temptation exists to ignore this first verse because we don’t operate with a king in the U.S. I need to remind you who is writing these inspired words of God. He is the king of Israel so he knows what he’s talking about and understands the importance of the words he’s writing. “A divine decision is in the lips of the king.” While this has some significant application for today, I’m going to tell you the decision that Solomon refers to. When we began our study in Proverbs, we went to 1 Kings 3 and checked out Solomon’s early life. In 1 Ki. 3:5, God told Solomon, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” We learned that Solomon asked God for, “An understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.” God rewarded Solomon by giving him wisdom to discern and also gave him a pile of cash. Later in 1 Ki. 3, we come to Solomon’s first dilemma. Two harlots come to Solomon about a dead baby. They each say the dead baby belongs to the other. It’s a pretty complicated dilemma, but Solomon quickly dispenses judgment and all of Israel was floored by his wisdom. That decision is brilliant because it reflects the wisdom of God. That’s what Solomon is saying. When you are in tune with God, you’ll render decisions that come from a biblical worldview.

We don’t have a king, but we have leaders in nearly every facet of life. Our leaders should make decisions based on a fear and reverence for God because He is the standard of right and wrong, of morality and faith, of wisdom and justice. Our reality is most likely far from that ideal. So we should sincerely pray for our leaders to employ godly wisdom in their decisions. Remember, “The king’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord; He turns it wherever He wishes.” (Pro. 21:1) I wonder what would happen if the church collectively and individually prayed for the world’s leaders to govern biblically.

Solomon shifts gears a bit and talks about the wheels of justice. Solomon declares, “A just balance and scales belong to the Lord, all the weights of the bag are His concern” The balance was used in the market place to weigh out a product against a standard. We do the same thing today. You go to the grocery store and you pay a price per pound for many items purchased like vegetables, meat, and sugar. Sometimes crooked merchants would use a faulty balance or weights that were rigged to deprive customers of getting what they paid for. Weights were standardized back in the day as they are today. You’d be pretty ticked off if you paid for five pounds of coffee and received only four pounds. There was a huge scandal in our area back in 2005-2006. The owners and operators of three gas station/travel plazas were indicted on charges of conspiracy and fraud. They had rigged the gas pumps to dispense 19 gallons for every 20 purchased. That’s 5% difference. Not much, but in just two years, the FBI estimated that amounted to about 7 million dollars. This is exactly what Solomon is talking about. God is concerned when people fall victim to unjust business practices. Why? Because God knows that you need to buy things to live and He takes a really dim view on people that engage in fraudulent business practices.

There are certain expectations we have for people. We have expectations for teachers to teach our kids what they need to know to live a productive life. We expect our employers to pay us for the jobs we do. We expect firefighters to show up if our house catches on fire. We expect our military to defend and protect us against all enemies near and far. When we talk about royalty, we have a disconnect because don’t have an earthly king or queen. You might have heard of Queen Elizabeth II. She’s the longest reigning queen in history. Of the 44 countries or territories with a monarch, Queen Elizabeth rules over 11 of those. What’s interesting is that the Queen doesn’t rule with absolute authority. She has limits to what she can do. Of the 44, only 6 monarchs rule with absolute authority and one of those is the Pope.

“It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness.” What if I made a word substitution and said, “It is an abomination for leaders to commit wicked acts, for the office is established on righteousness.” If we apply this to our leaders, we get the understanding Solomon is going for. Paul said in Rom. 13:1-2, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” Our leaders should act responsibly and appropriately and if they don’t, they should be held accountable. Leaders ought not to lead with an iron fist, but with compassion, consideration, integrity, and honor. Dictators like Hitler, Stalin, and Qadaffi made people follow them out of fear. Those that opposed or stood up to them were killed. That’s not the way God wants it to be. Isaiah said it like this: “A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, and a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; moreover, he will seek justice and be prompt in righteousness.” (Is. 16:5) Solomon is setting up whoever might succeed him as king. Good kings mete out justice. Good kings have high moral character. A good and righteous king hates wickedness in others and won’t even consider wickedness in his own life even though he might be in a position and have the power to act wickedly and get away with it. Good kings rule with lovingkindness.

Here’s another royal quality that goes with what he just said. “Righteous lips are the delight of kings and he who speaks right is loved.” This is not how the king speaks, but for those that speak to them. Have you heard the term yes man? This type of person tells their leaders what they think they want to hear instead of the truth. They use empty flattery. Real leaders want honest feedback even if it might be displeasing to them. In an ideal world, your supervisor, work leader, manager, or whoever you report to wants you to speak truthfully. Real leaders take on board what is said. Undercover Boss uses this technique in a mildly deceptive way. The boss goes undercover in his or her organization to find out what is really going on in the company because it can be challenging to find people that will tell the truth to their leader. When you do speak right, you will be loved by your boss – at least you should be. It’s an entirely different scenario when leaders ignore or dismiss what they’re told. If you stay in the work force any length of time, you’ll likely work for someone that doesn’t care what you think, doesn’t want to hear new or innovative ideas, that’s totally satisfied with the status quo, or doesn’t think you’re competent enough to have a good idea. That makes for a tough work environment. The best leaders to work for or have are the leaders that love Jesus because the righteousness that is present in them compels them to be like Jesus. What does that look like? They love Jesus so they want to lead like Christ. They love Jesus so they want to lead righteously. They love Jesus so they want to lead courageously, respectfully, full of grace and truth. They love Jesus so they want to please Him. That’s a great leader to work for.

We want leaders who are sensitive to the Lord’s leading and will listen to God. Nobody wants to be taken advantage of in business and God really doesn’t like it at all. Being in leadership comes with expectations. Whether it’s in government, the church, school, or the fast food restaurant, we want leaders who exemplify the righteousness of Christ. We don’t want our leaders to act wickedly or unrighteously. There are royal rules that need to be followed if leaders are to act in a godly manner.