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.

Advertisements

A Positive Light

LightCheck out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us there is no instance where a life of crime is an option for authentic followers. If you profit illicitly, your household is in danger, and I would encourage you to seek the Lord to turn from your wicked ways. Think carefully and cautiously before engaging in any form of communication. Ponder answers before speaking your mind. Remember that bitter and sweet water cannot come out of the same well. If you have a real relationship with Christ, be sure that He hears your prayers. This morning, we’ll finish up chapter 15 as Solomon gives us some very timely and uplifting advice.

Solomon closes the chapter in Pro. 15:30-33 by saying, “Bright eyes gladden the heart; good news puts fat on the bones. He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise. He who neglects discipline despises himself, but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding. The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.”

Things are always easier to see in the daylight. Solomon starts off by saying, “Bright eyes gladden the heart.” If you’re a movie buff, you’ll remember the character Bright Eyes in the Planet of the Apes movies. Bright Eyes was the nickname given to astronaut George Taylor played by Charlton Heston. The nickname was given because of his blue eyes. The bright eyes Solomon is talking about is because of the sun. There is something regenerative about the sun. Eccl. 11:7 says, “The light is pleasant, and it is good for the eyes to see the sun.” You can always tell when our submariners come home from patrol, particularly when they return in the summer. They are pasty white and look pretty sickly. The sun is a vital source of vitamin D and provides a whole list of benefits. There is an entire science behind the sun called heliotherapy. This is what Solomon is talking about. By seeing the sun and all its benefits, it points to God’s wonderful creation. Without the sun, it wouldn’t take long for life on earth to die out. I checked out Popular Science’s website and discovered people have actually spent some time researching what to do in the event the sun died. I don’t believe that’s going to happen since God is the One that sustains it. The sun is great to be in and reflects the incredibleness of God.

In what looks like a different principle, Solomon then says, “Good news puts fat on the bones.” I know that there are people still working to take off those holiday pounds and you might be thinking, “Don’t tell me any good news!” This is a metaphor as Solomon is so prone to giving us. Hearing good news is satisfying. Good news is like a wonderful meal eaten with family and friends. It’s refreshing. It’s fulfilling. It’s enjoyable. Think about that time when you were told you got the job, or your vacation was approved, or you got the house, or that you’re expecting a child. Think about the times when you heard your kids were doing awesome in school or when someone told you what a joy it is to have them around. Think about when your friends tell you how the words you gave them helped. I don’t think there’s a person alive in their right mind that doesn’t enjoy hearing good news.

Have you ever seen those, “Look up and live” signs? The idea of that safety campaign is that there is danger from things that are overhead like power lines. If you look up before putting up that ladder, you minimize the chance of being electrocuted. Solomon says, “He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof will dwell among the wise.” Listen up and live. You need to listen carefully to what is being said to you or to those around you. Just because you hear things on the TV from famous people doesn’t make it so. Just because you hear something from me, don’t blindly trust me. Check out what I say to make sure I’m telling you the truth. I’m not going to purposefully mislead you, but I’m just a guy.  You will not offend me by checking out what I say against the Bible. Now if you want to challenge me on something, please make sure you’ve done your research. Don’t quote a childhood pastor or Sunday School teacher, don’t quote your parents, don’t quote a book you read, quote the Bible and not what someone else says the Bible says.

Solomon is talking about, “life-giving reproof.” Reproof means correction. One of the characteristics of wise people is that they are willing to be corrected. They’re willing to learn from their mistakes and take responsibility for their actions. They’re surrounded by people whose actions and words demonstrate a life devoted to Christ and His Word. There is a willingness to be accountable, a desire to grow, an intentional path to be like Christ. If that describes you, then Solomon says you’ll dwell among the wise. As is typically the case, Solomon offers the contrast by saying, “He who neglects discipline despises himself.” These can be people in or out of the church and they’re from all walks of life. They’re people that will not listen to sound biblical principles. They’re people that don’t want to hear it. There can be a whole list of reasons why. Not applicable to them. God doesn’t care what they do, He’s irrelevant, etc., etc. It’s a whole lot easier for me to let those type of comments slide when those people do not profess to be followers of Christ. It’s a whole different thing when someone professes a relationship with Christ that doesn’t want to hear biblical truth, that doesn’t want correction, doesn’t want accountability, doesn’t want knowledge of Christ, doesn’t want to have anything to do with the church or Christ followers. I have a problem with people that profess they are Christians and really are not. Maybe you’re thinking, wow, that’s really judgmental. I’ll let you in on a little secret. We have changed the definition of Christian. In the old days, being a Christian meant you were a follower of Christ. Follower is defined as an adherent or devotee of a particular person, cause, or activity. So if you profess to be a follower of Christ – a Christian, that means you would be devoted to Him. That means you would follow His teachings, His principles, His example. I know this is a simple and probably dumb example, but if you say you love Georgia football (or insert any favorite sports team), but hate going to or watching the games, don’t know anything about the coaching staff or players, don’t know where the university is, and don’t know what the mascot is, anybody with half a brain would conclude that Georgia is not your team. Making a decision to become a follower of Christ is voluntary. No one made you decide. If you have decided to follow Jesus and there is no marginalization of being a follower – you either are or you’re not – there are no fair weather Christians. What’s stopping you from being who God wants to be in Christ? Is it because you despise instruction? Don’t you see how contrary that is to a life devoted to Christ? Matthew Henry says, “The fundamental error of sinners is undervaluing their souls, therefore they neglect to provide for them, expose them, prefer the body before the soul, and wrong the soul to please the body.”

Of the authentic follower of Christ Solomon says, “But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.” Notice he uses the word listen which means to give attention with the ear; attend closely for the purpose of hearing. You’re not just hearing what’s being said. It gets in your brain and you evaluate the words, the tone, the vocal inflection, the eye contact, and the body language. It’s called communication people! When that process is used, there’s understanding. Understanding means to perceive the meaning of; grasp the idea of something. It means to know the meaning of something, such as the words that someone is saying. I’m hammering this because we say we understand Scripture, but then don’t do what it says so we either don’t get it or we don’t care. One is significantly worse than the other.

We’ve heard this before. Solomon closes out the chapter by saying, “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes wisdom.” This is the idea that God knows best, His ways are way above our ways, His ways are best and He doesn’t need our advice on how best to handle things. Taking it all the way back to the beginning of the book, remember Pro. 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” When we follow biblical principles and acknowledge who God is, we continue to walk on the path of sanctification – day by day growing more and more like Jesus. Knowing and acknowledging that Jesus is the reason for all the change. Jesus is the reason for our ability to love, to forgive, to be patient and empathetic, to be courageous. Jesus is the reason for who we are becoming. “And before honor comes humility.” Honor is a difficult term to define. The word is used in many mottos and vision statements. Members of the Navy serves with honor, courage and commitment. Officers of the St. Marys Police Department serve with honor, integrity, respect, and courage. Cadets at West Point have duty, honor, and country in the front of their minds. It even crosses to sports. The Chicago Fire soccer club plays with tradition, honor, and passion. It means great respect or esteem. Solomon is saying that you’ll never achieve honor without acknowledging how you came to be who you are.

Acknowledge the Creator and grow fat on the good news that is available because of Jesus Christ. All of us need to listen up and learn. Listen to those wonderful, godly, authentic people God has put in you path. Acknowledge who God is and what He has done in your life and watch what He will do in you and through you. That’s how we become a positive light in our homes, our neighborhoods, and our communities.

Community Disorganizers

You can check out the podcast for this message here.

Last week Solomon laid out some principles that will help us sail smoothly through life. Righteous people are delivered from death where the wicked take their place. A very important principle Solomon introduced is the value and wisdom of godly counsel. Smooth sailing does not mean there won’t be issues or trouble in this life, but the righteousness of the godly provide the tools necessary to glorify God and remain steadfast in His will. This morning, Solomon provides us some principles that apply as we engage in activities typically associated with the community.

Grab your Bible and read Pro. 11:15-21.

The first principle we’ll look at today  has been said before and the question remains, who would do this? Back in 6:1 Solomon used the conditional clause, “If you have become surety for your neighbor.” That verse was generally directed at debt and it was conditional. The principle comes full circle when Solomon says, “He who is a guarantor for a stranger will surely suffer for it.” The answer does not have to do with sin, but with wisdom. There is no prohibition against cosigning a loan for someone. Insert the word someone for stranger and you get the application for us. Since we’re talking about wisdom and not sin, you need to evaluate the circumstances. Solomon is saying when you act as surety for someone, as a guarantor for someone, you “will surely suffer for it.” Not everyone that has served in that capacity has suffered for it. He’s speaking in general terms. And what kind of suffering are we talking about? The word used here for suffering means to be affected by something. Even if that person you act as a guarantor for pays back the loan, you still had that responsibility hanging over your head. You take on the responsibility for the loan because you know the person, you know his circumstances, you know their habits, and their values. You believe it’s safe. When you get involved in the financial affairs of others, it’s generally painful. That’s what Solomon is saying. “But he who hates being a guarantor is secure.” If you don’t cosign this loan, I won’t be able to buy that car, house, boat, etc. There is no scriptural mandate to take on the responsibility of someone else’s debt. When you have a general aversion to this, Solomon says you are secure. There’s nothing in the back of your mind, you don’t think about it, nothing hanging over your head. You free up brain cells because it’s one less thing to think about.

Our second principle tells us, “A gracious woman attains honor.” I love that word gracious. I think of the ladies of Downton Abby with their proper manners, their decorum, their sophistication, their elegance. Of course, it’s easy to do all that when you have someone else that gets you dressed and feeds you and takes care of all the chores. Gracious here means courteous, kind, and pleasant. You do not have to be wealthy to be gracious. He’s talking about the beautiful character of a gracious woman. Families and communities honor such women. I think of women like Barbara and Laura Bush, Margaret Thatcher, Condoleezza Rice, Jacqueline Kennedy, and Princess Diana. Of course those are all famous women. I also think of my wife whom I absolutely adore. It’s not just because she’s gorgeous, she is a true woman of God. In the context of Proverbs, I think graciousness and godliness go hand in hand. We’re not talking about perfection, but a passionate pursuit of Christ.

What’s very curious is the contrast Solomon uses next. “A gracious woman attains honor, and ruthless men attain riches.” It’s good to be ruthless in business, right? We have shows like the Shark Tank and the Apprentice that demonstrate the ruthlessness needed to get ahead in business. Being ruthless is how you get rich in business. It means showing no compassion. Cut throat, eliminate the competition, work harder and smarter than the other guy. We even have corporate espionage. This is the only place in Proverbs where Solomon makes a comparison of this type between a man and a woman. He compares a kindhearted or gracious woman and a ruthless man. That ruthless man wants to get ahead and he’ll get ahead by any means necessary. They seek respect and honor by what they do, but the gracious woman gains honor by being nice. It seems that grace is better than strength and honor is better than wealth. If you let that verse stand alone, it can easily be misunderstood. When you take v. 16 with v. 17, the whole picture becomes clearer. “The merciful man does himself good, but the cruel man does himself harm.” Look at the pattern of the people in these two verses: kind woman; ruthless man; merciful man; cruel man. It seems mercy has a medicinal quality to it – someone that practices mercy makes himself good. When you are cruel, you end up hurting yourself so don’t be cruel.

Here’s a familiar principle. Vs. 19-20 says, “He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” We see a pattern here as in the previous two verses. Solomon talks about wickedness, righteousness, righteousness, and wickedness. Those exact words may not be used, but they convey the same idea. Solomon is driving home the point of the results of wicked behavior. “The wicked earn deceptive wages.” Those wages are deceptive because they are fleeting. Those riches are left behind and all are made equal at death. The wealth of a person is not taken into consideration at judgment. Paul said it this way, “The wages of sin is death.” (Rom. 6:23) If you’re thinking that’s not the same thing, Solomon goes on to say, “But he who sows righteousness will attain to life.” That life will be long, healthy, and prosperous. The opposite is true, when you pursue evil, you will die. You can’t blame God when your evil ways, your evil behavior, and your evil manner of life leads to your death. Paul’s next thought was, “But the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Righteousness and wickedness are incompatible. Goodness and evil are incompatible. Those qualities may have been part of your character, but God changes you through Christ. That’s where true freedom lies. The wicked earn deceptive wages, but the righteous are paid in wages that are eternal. That’s what verse 19 is saying. When you are consistent and persistent in righteousness, you attain life. Steadfast means dutifully firm and unwavering. If you are truly a child of the King, this quality is supernaturally infused into your DNA. That’s why I get so weary with people profess to be Christians and the only evidence to support that is occasional church attendance and some don’t even do that. Pursuers of evil bring about their own death. To close out this section, Solomon gives us another contrast and it has to do with judgment.

Verse 20 says, “The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord.” Perverse means an obstinate desire to behave unacceptably and in context, it’s from God’s perspective. Perverse is translated “froward” in other versions which means hypocrisy and double dealings. Justice is pretended, but wrongdoing is what’s in store. Notice that it’s the heart – the seat of the soul. What’s in the heart comes out. You can pretend with other people, you might even fool yourself, but you can’t hide it from God. “. . . .but the blameless in their walk are His delight.” I’m sure you know why this is. It’s a no brainer really. Walk refers to manner of life. It refers to who a person is . . . . really. I think people spend a lot of effort pretending to be something they are not. People pretend they have a relationship with God, but without a corresponding lifestyle of godliness. Its often veiled in false spirituality where the words lead, led, feel, moving, etc. are used to put people into an incontestable position to do what they want to do. I always find it amusing that this leading rarely is to a place of deeper commitment, devotion, or duty, but rather to places of limited accountability and lower expectations. God takes great pleasure in His children that are willing to follow Him in directions they were not expecting.

Just to be sure you know exactly where Solomon is coming from, “Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished, but the descendents of the righteous will be delivered.” I think we all know that evil will be dealt with, but the second part is not so clear. Do not read that to say if you are a child of God, your children have a place reserved for them because of who you are. Don’t equate deliverance with eternity. Deliverance does not mean salvation.  The idea is that your behavior affects not just you, but your children and your grandchildren too. Sometimes God sees fit to deliver because of their godly ancestors. The Old Testament is filled with examples of this.

In these verses, Solomon speaks of the affect of our lifestyle on our community. That lifestyle, whether godly or wicked impacts people. As the behavior and thinking of the people move away from godliness, the morality of the society declines. I think we would agree that we can see this happening all around us. The answer is not for us to shrink away from godliness, but to boldly live our lives as an example of Christ’s transforming power in our lives.

The Bait and Switch

Bait

You can listen to the podcast here.

Last week Solomon told us to honor God with our wealth as the topic of money never seems to be too far away in Scripture. He also said that we shouldn’t despise the correction of the Lord. It is for our training and is a sign that God does love us. This morning, we’ll see why.

Proverbs 3:13-18 says, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. For her profit is better than the profit of silver and her gain better than fine gold. She is more precious than jewels; and nothing you desire compares with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.”

Is Proverbs a bait and switch? This is the method sometimes used by advertisers to get you in a store. Promises of reduced prices or incredible deals lure you in. Think about Black Friday where you can get a ginormous flat screen TV for a couple hundred bucks. Of course you stand in line for hours and hours often sacrificing your Thanksgiving to get that good deal. Once you get in, you find the store has one TV and that it’s already gone.

Is Proverbs the same way? The short answer is no! We all know Christians that have endured physical pain, have some dreaded disease, have died at a far too young age, or endure poverty. I’ve mentioned formulaic patterns in Proverbs that generally bring about the things we’ve talked about. That’s how it generally works, but not always and not for everyone all of the time. Keep in mind the time at which Solomon wrote these instructions. It was the time of the old covenant where blessings and curses were tied to the faithfulness of Israel. We’re under a different system now. We fall under the age of grace. We look forward to all of God’s promises being fulfilled at some point, but that point may not come until we die. Until that times comes we, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Pro. 3:5)

So what’s the Proverbs format? It’s the same as we’ve seen before, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding.”    There are certain points in life that are defining moments. There are the typical happy moments in life. Births, graduations, new jobs, promotions, and marriages. There are also the painful moments in life that can define us. Job loss, death, disease, divorce, sorrow, suffering. Faith does not normally grow as much in those joyful, happy times, but rather God refines us when we’re in the fire of adversity and sorrow. Nothing happens in our life without purpose. Although we may not see it while we’re in it, God is working His plan for our good. He will allow in our lives whatever He needs in order to accomplish what He has in mind for us.

A truly defining moment comes when a person realizes who Christ is and what He accomplished. Hopefully, when that moment occurs and the light bulb blinks on, salvation follows so God can accomplish what He wills. In this verse, we have that moment. In God’s eyes, wisdom and understanding rank above riches. Wisdom and understanding are above jewels. Solomon is so bold as to say, “Nothing you desire compares with her.” Now that’s a fantastic statement. The profit of wisdom exceeds that of riches.

We move right into Solomon personifying wisdom once again. In her right hand is long life. In her left hand are riches and honor. These are the things most people in the world would say they really wanted. People sacrifice so much in the pursuit of these three things yet the correct answer is staring us in the face. Wisdom provides these things, but they may not come in the form the world thinks. Perhaps they don’t come in the form we want either. We must align ourselves with God and the Bible rather than expecting God to change or otherwise alter His character. “Her ways are pleasant ways and all her paths are peace.” This is quite a word picture here. Pleasant means a sense of happy satisfaction or enjoyment. Wisdom is like a perfect day in the mountains or at the beach. She is like the aroma of freshly mowed grass, brewing coffee, or frying bacon. She is totally satisfying. No matter which path of wisdom you go down, “All her paths are peace.” As long as you follow wisdom, the paths end up at peace. In Phil. 4:7 Paul said it this way:“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” All of this comes through the loving hands of our Father.

Solomon closes with one final though of wisdom and says, “She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who hold her fast.” Perhaps your mind was immediately drawn back to Genesis and the tree that was in the middle of the garden. That may not be what Solomon was referring to, but you cannot deny the parallel. In the garden the tree of life was provided by God and gave Adam and Eve what was needed to sustain life. In Solomon’s view, wisdom does the same thing. She provides life and happiness results in the lives of those that are willing to grasp her.

Verse 13 states, “How blessed is the man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding.” Verses 14-18 are the arguments that prove that. True wisdom can only comes as a result of knowing God. Knowing God can only come as a result of knowing Christ. Proverbs is not a bait and switch. Knowing Jesus brings all of this and so much more.

The Eyewitness

WitnessYou can catch the podcast here.

Last week we learned that Peter felt a deep responsibility to remind his readers of the truth they knew. As long as he was breathing, he’s going to continue on the course that God had established for him. Even though his readers knew these truths, Peter wanted to stir them up, to rekindle the fire of God so that after he was gone, they would still remember. This morning Peter shoots straight, no fairy tales, no embellishment, just the facts.

2 Peter 1:16-18 says, For we did not follow cleverly devised tales when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, “This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased” and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.”

This is a great transition to what he just finished saying. In vs. 12-15, Peter reminds his readers about the truth of Jesus Christ before he leaves his earthly body. He challenged us to live lives of godliness because Jesus has granted us everything we need to do so. He says, “We did not follow cleverly devised tales.” Tales comes from the Greek word where we get our word myth. Peter doesn’t tell his readers any fairy tales. There’s no need to make things up or try to make it better than it is.

  • 1 Tim. 1:4, “Nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith.”
  • 2 Tim. 4:4, “And will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”
  • Titus 1:14, “Not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.”

The truth is that our finite minds will find it difficult to understand an infinite God with infinite love, infinite grace, infinite mercy, infinite power; infinite qualities. Peter didn’t tell people about how turning to Jesus will make all your problems go away. Making the decision to follow Christ is free, but it does come with a cost. Living a life practicing the qualities of vs. 5-7 will get you noticed. It will set you apart from the crowd.

Peter simply tells the truth, “When we made known to you the power and coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The truth is always best and in this case, there is nothing better. Power and coming should be taken together. He’s talking about the future return of Christ. Matt. 24:27 says, “For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” Rev. 1:7 tells us, “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” They didn’t need to make up cleverly devised schemes because they were eyewitnesses of the majesty of Christ. Peter hints at the theology of the false teachers that he’ll address shortly.

Peter says, “We were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” Majesty means impressive beauty, scale, and dignity. It means royal power. John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” While it is encouraging and exciting to hear what Christ has done and is doing for you, I know what He has done for me. I don’t need to live vicariously through your faith because I have my faith. You can discount the power and majesty of Jesus all you want, but I know what He’s done in my life. Eyewitness testimony is always held in higher regard than hearsay. In essence, Peter is telling them, “Say what you want, but I saw His power and majesty.”

God provides His stamp of approval of Jesus. “When He received honor and glory from God the Father.” Honor and glory are two words we hear a lot and we say a lot, but do we really understand what they mean? Honor means the worth or value assigned to a person. Elected officials are addressed as honorable. Glory means splendid or remarkable appearance. Jesus’ honor and glory come from God. The name of Christ is full of honor and one day, just mentioning the name of Christ will drive all people to their knees in recognition of His honor. (Is. 45:32, Rom. 14:11, Phil. 2:10) We’re able to see and experience His glory in our lives and the lives of others.

The last half of v. 17 may sound familiar to you. “An utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, this is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” When Jesus began His public ministry by being baptized in the Jordan, God said, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:17) God commissioned Jesus, appointed Jesus, approved Jesus. Remember Peter is still talking about the second coming and he’s relating what he saw and heard on that mountain. He says in v. 18, “And we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” Peter’s talking about the transfiguration. He was there and he is recounting this incredible scene. He heard the voice of God giving His stamp of approval on Jesus. God’s words are screaming, “Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights.  I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations.” (Is. 42:1)

If you’re a child of God, you are an eyewitness of His glory and honor. You have experienced it in your life and have seen it in the lives of others. Are you telling people what you see?

Honoring our Veterans

On this Veteran’s Day, take some time to remember the men and women who gave their lives defending freedom and democracy. Their families deserve recognition for keeping the home fires burning. Serving in the military is a unique and demanding job – and they do it voluntarily. There are many reasons people join the military, but the end result is a desire to serve the people of this great nation. Do not forget what they have accomplished and endured for the sake of freedom.