There is Hope

HopeCheck out the podcast here.

Last week we learned that it’s better if our kids listened to us. Having good, compliant, respectful kids makes parenting look easy. We shouldn’t judge a book by its cover though because looks can be deceiving. Just because you’re wealthy by the world’s standards means nothing. Money has nothing to do with wealth in God’s economy, but it is better to work hard to obtain what you do have than it is to be handed it. This morning, we’ll see some principles you probably have heard of, but maybe didn’t know came from God.

I encourage you to read Pro. 13:12-19 so we understand where Solomon is coming from.

Solomon opens up with something you probably have experienced. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Everyone has hopes and dreams. Society often dictates these hopes and dreams. Get an education, get married, have kids, have a great job that fulfills you, build that dream home or what is now being called the forever home. Even in the church, we have fallen into the marks of success of defined by society. When those hopes and dreams go unrealized, sometimes we’re defined as failures or at the very least, we feel like failures. To put it into something we can readily understand, think about the promotion you feel was deserved that you didn’t get. Think about the test that you studied so hard for and came up short. Think about the mortgage you applied for that you didn’t get. Think about the ungodly decisions that have come at the hands of our elected leadership.

Solomon is talking about something far more important. The Bible goes beyond those ever changing marks of achievement where you were taught to work hard to achieve what you want. We’ve already learned that this is a good virtue to have, but there is something even more important that leads to this work ethic. As we move through this passage, we’ll see that it has to do with something Solomon has hammered on and that’s character. It’s far more important to develop virtuous character which is borne out of diligent examination of the Scriptures, seeking and listening to wise counsel, and engaging in a lifestyle of Christian community. The biblical outcome of that life long process is a maturing, growing, loving, kind, Christ like individual that lives each day passionately and zealously pursuing Christ in authenticity. Notice I said lifelong process. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. There are too many people in the church that give up or give in. Some folks are unwilling to stick it out. They’ve prayed for weeks and God hasn’t answered. They’ve been serving God for months and don’t see the fruit of their labor. Our fast paced society filled with “I want it now” people are unwilling to persevere for the long haul. Over the years here at C4, we’ve seen many people come and go. Folks have transferred or moved away, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people that are gifted or talented to serve in particular ways, but don’t want to get involved to build something for God. People want to get in on what’s exciting and happening and growing, but it seems like they don’t want to do the work necessary to make it so. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, real ministry is hard work. When our hopes are in things of the world, they can easily be crushed to smithereens. “But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.” We’ll see this conclusion is solidified later in v. 19. Think of those desires that are fulfilled and the feeling that you have. Joy, gratitude, peace, confidence, trust, and of course, hope. This comes from knowing who God is and His unchanging character.

In the next verse, Solomon says you don’t have to like it. “The one who despises the word will be in debt to it.” I think of people that ignore good, solid biblical guidance. This is not so much a perception issue as it is a defining issue. We are experiencing this in ways that are quite shocking. Anytime we quote the Bible in reference to almost any type of behavior we are labeled hate mongers, intolerant, judgmental, unloving, and unkind. Solomon is talking about a willingness to place yourself under the authority of the written Word of God. Just because someone doesn’t like the Bible, understand it, believe it, or follow it, doesn’t mean it’s not applicable. You can despise the law, but you still have to follow it. You can really hate stopping completely at a stop sign, but when you violate the law and get caught, you will be in debt to it. That’s the reality for lost people. People can disagree and hate the Bible, but it doesn’t make it less applicable to them. Even if they don’t know everything in it, they’re still accountable to it and so are we as believers. For us, “The one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.” This isn’t a terrified type of deal. This is reverence, respect, a willingness to trust that God knows what is going on, that He knows the best way for us to live, that He knows what’s what. Do you find it hard to do that?

Let me give you some perspective. You’re sick and go to the doctor and you trust that doctor to provide you with the medical care necessary to make you feel better. Your car breaks down and you go to the mechanic and trust him to correctly identify the problem and fix it. You trust the school teachers to adequately prepare your children to gain and understand the principles necessary to be productive members of society. You trust the bank to take care of the money you put there on deposit. So it’s not really a matter of trust because I just established that we are pretty free with our trust. Sure you might get a second opinion or you might send your child to a different school, but the bottom line is you’re still trusting. The one who may not understand the whys or the hows or the details of the Bible, but trusts in the unseen power of the One and only true God, well he will be rewarded. Don’t look for a check in the mail or anything you might actually put your hands on though. That may not be how God chooses to reward you. The for sure thing is eternity. What I’d recommend is that you put at least the same trust in the Creator of all things as you do your family practitioner, your kid’s teacher, or the bank that holds your money. Always default to God loves and cares more for you than any other living creature on this planet.

I encourage you to commit Jer. 29:11 to memory: “‘For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” Paul brings it home by saying, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

Back in Proverbs, “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life.” Fountain is also translated spring which gives us the idea of a never ending source and that’s what Solomon is saying here. You’ll never be able to reach the bottom of the wisdom found in God’s Word. The water continues to flow and never runs out. Through God’s Word, we know Him more intimately. We can better understand His character and His purposes for us. We understand how to deal with the obstacles and challenges of life. His Word provides the road map, “To turn aside from the snares of death.” When you are diligent to study God’s Word, when you are diligent to walk with Christ, when you are diligent to worship God in spirit and in truth, when you are diligent to engage in Christian community, when you are diligent in your walk with Christ, you’re able to recognize the traps being set for us by Satan. Some common traps we’re faced with. I’m too far gone for God to forgive me. God will not use me. Nobody likes me or cares about me. It’s my life and my body. What I do in private is no one’s business. No one will know. I’m as good as the next guy. Solomon says, “Good understanding produces favor.” All those traps are recognized when we are engaged in the fundamental principles of the faith. You may think you’re too far gone, but 1 Jo. 1:9 reminds that, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  You may think God won’t use you, but be like Isaiah when he said, “Here am I, send me.” We may conclude that people don’t care about us, but we go back to the truth in 1 Pet. 5:7 that tells us to cast, “All your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” The common thread in most of the traps Satan sets is he gets us to focus on ourselves. When we have the understanding that Solomon encourages, we can recognize and address the issues. Good understanding is built on the foundation of God’s Word and in the context with which it is written.

The opposite way is just that. “The way of the treacherous is hard.” This is another understatement. He’s not talking about difficulty here as in hard to do or understand. He’s talking about overall pain and suffering involved in the way of the treacherous. Sin is slavery. Slavery is awful. And he does not necessarily mean right now. We need to think eternally rather than in the here and now. “Every prudent man acts with knowledge.” He’s cautious, not reckless. He does not get involved in things he does not know about or in things that are not his concern. “A fool displays folly.” Again, opposite of the person that acts with wisdom. The next verse is a reference to the olden days, but has a very modern application. “A wicked messenger falls into adversity, but a faithful envoy brings healing.”

We need to remind ourselves that we haven’t always had the conveniences we enjoy today. We have people alive today that have always had the internet, have always had instantaneous communication, have always had the ability to get information right now. You talk to someone that has lived four decades and they didn’t always have cable TV, cell phones, or computers. You talk to someone five decades old and they didn’t always have color TV and their telephone was attached to a wall and their number had letters in it. You talk to someone six decades old and they were only beginning to watch coast to coast live news. Messengers were sent on foot or horseback to hand carry the news back in Solomon’s day. So let’s bring this verse to 2015. If we only shared the judgment of God, or the bad news, we’re doing everyone a disservice. This also applies to half truths, scriptural misrepresentation, gossip, and just plain old lies. I saw this humorously depicted when one of my Facebook friends posted a quote. “The trouble with quotes on the internet is you never know if they are genuine.” (Abraham Lincoln) Solomon closes in vs. 18-19.

There is hope. If you receive instruction from Scripture, you will be better off. If you don’t pay attention to those people around you that are wiser, older, and more experienced, you’ll find yourself on the impoverished side of life. Solomon is not necessarily talking about poverty, but that may happen too. He’s more concerned with how we live our lives; with how we behave, with how we interact with others so that they may know the hope we have in Christ.

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Looks can be Deceiving

LooksYou can listen to the podcast here.

Last time in Proverbs we learned that we should use God’s Word as a compass for our lives. We should allow the perfect Word of God to guide us on the path of righteousness. We’re to work hard and not be lazy, something you’ll hear over and over again from Solomon. If you are anxious, your heart is weighed down. We combat these feelings of heaviness with the truths and comforts found in God’s Word. This morning, we have three very pointed topics Solomon wants us to understand.

Take the time to read Pro. 13:1-11 for yourself to understand the context.

Solomon’s first principle is that good listening leads to good parenting. For most of us, if our children listened to what we told them and followed that guidance, they would be far better off. As parents, if we followed the guidance of Scripture, we’d be better off too. It doesn’t matter if you consider yourself a good or bad person, if the kids would learn from our mistakes, missteps, and miscues, they’d at least know better. You can talk to career criminals and they will typically tell you they don’t want their kids to grow up to be like them. Solomon hits this on the head when he says, “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.” Parents who truly love their children discipline them. The word here means correction and we must assume that there was instruction at some point that the child did not adhere to and as a result, there must be consequences. There are children that are wonderfully compliant; there are children that are terribly rebellious. There are parents that are wonderfully godly and there are parents that are awful. I think it’s very likely that each of us fits into all the categories at various times and there are an almost infinite number of combinations too. Even kids can exercise the wisdom Solomon talks about if they would just listen to their parents. Early in their little lives, kids learn by being told no. The kid reaches for the glass on the table. The little one gets close to the stairs. As they get older and are able to understand more, actual instruction takes place, expectations are laid out, goals are established. Scoffers don’t listen, they want to do things on their own, they don’t want correction, they don’t want input. Remember way back in Pro. 1:22, “How long, O naïve ones, will you love being simple minded? And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing and fools hate knowledge?” This is not a good characteristic. There are some wonderful, godly parents that have children that rebel, that choose the wrong path, that stray from a life of faith. There are also horribly uninvolved parents that have children grow up to be wonderful, godly people. The grace of God is the great cycle breaker. Lay aside all those things the world says are marks of achievement and be the person God wants you to be. No matter your upbringing or where you came from, you can be the person God designed you to be. That is success in God’s eyes.

Not every kid in Scripture listened to his parents. Not every kid in Scripture had good parents. Some well intentioned people will tell you that when a kid messes up, it’s always the parent’s fault. There must be something in the family’s closets that led to the crime, the pregnancy, the rebellion, the bad grades, the drugs, etc. The truth is, sometimes kids make bad choices that lead to bad consequences. No matter how much love is demonstrated, no matter how much prayer and fasting is done, no matter how involved the parents are, sometimes kids exercise that free will in ways that are contrary to God’s principles. The wise son listens to the parents and the scoffer does not. Good things come out the mouths of the righteous Solomon says in v. 2, “but the desire of the treacherous is violence.” In keeping with the speaking theme from the last chapter, “The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” Remember, sometimes the wisest thing to do is to remain silent. How many lives are hurt because we don’t control our tongue? We cannot excuse hurtful words by declaring it’s the truth. Truth can be used as a weapon and we must guard against that. I am in no way saying do not tell the truth, but check your heart first and then be loving and kind as the truth is told.

Verse 4 seems out of place in this passage, but it really goes hand in hand with v. 2. The fruit of a man’s mouth in v. 2 are his words and because of that, “The soul of the diligent is made fat.” We saw the importance of diligence in chapter 12 as it relates to a work ethic and now as it relates to the soul. When you exercise diligence in your spiritual walk, your soul gets fat. This is a good thing. Your soul is fed and properly nourished. On the other hand, “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing” is a parallel to, “The desire of the treacherous is violence.” Even the longing of the sluggard is unfulfilled.

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like it when people lie to me. People lie for many reasons: to protect themselves or others, they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, etc. “A righteous man hates falsehood.” And “Righteousness guards the one whose way is blameless.” These are two principles to live by. Two principles that will keep the wise person from trouble. Part of following God is hating what God hates and loving what God loves. And you’ve heard that sometimes Christians are better known for what we are against than what we are for. Sometimes the love of God in our lives is not as evident when we focus on what we hate. The truth is that God hates all sin not just the ones that are in the news. It’s okay to take a stand and I encourage you to stand when it’s appropriate to stand and fight when it’s appropriate to fight. The righteousness of Christ is what we need to use to filter our thoughts and actions. Falsehood isn’t just lying. It’s deception, it’s cover up, it’s bad business practice, it’s everything that is contrary to what is good, and right, and pure. It should be a common thing for righteous people to hate lying, but anyone is susceptible to falsehood. Pastors have been fired for plagiarizing sermons, ministry leaders have embezzled funds from their organizations, church leaders have done unspeakable things.

The, “wicked man acts disgustingly and shamefully.” And “wickedness subverts the sinner.” Now these are some pretty harsh descriptions. We know what wicked is. Solomon has gone to great lengths to describe and characterize wickedness. “Acts disgustingly” literally means cause a stench or stir up a foul odor. Solomon continues to go to new depths to describe the overall awfulness of the wicked. Wicked people prefer falsehood, it is who they are. The best way to understand, “Wickedness subverts the sinner” is that the wicked will bring shame to other people and to themselves. They will cause disgrace to come to people that were foolish enough to trust or associate with them. If you hang out with thieves, you’ll probably be considered a thief. If you hang out with druggies, you’ll likely be considered a druggie. If you hang out with people who are wicked, others will conclude you are wicked. There in lies the great dilemma for Christians.

To help us understand what Solomon is saying, let me remind you of what Jude says. Jude 23 says, “And on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” These folks are in the most danger of eternal punishment. Jude says have mercy on them even though they are engaged in sin. No matter what, we demonstrate the mercies of God that are renewed each and every day in our lives. We exercise mercy to those that are deeply entrenched in sin, but we do it with fear knowing that there by the grace of God go I. We tread carefully, “hating even the garment polluted by the flesh.” Some think this is an illusion to Zech. 3:3 referring to Joshua, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.” The word “filthy” here refers to excrement. Joshua was not actually wearing dirty clothes. Jude is referring to the ceremonial cleanliness requirements of the high priest. The idea is that if you are ceremonially clean and you touch something unclean, you then become unclean. You cannot transfer cleanliness. Jude is saying when you show mercy to that person in sin, be careful that they do not contaminate you. The flesh Jude mentions refers to sin. Be careful that the mercy you demonstrate is not twisted into acceptance of sin. You can see how easily it is to be drawn to compromise, especially if you don’t know the standard of truth.

Solomon talks about the illusion of wealth next. Take a look at vs. 7-11. This passage is broken into three points. In vs. 7-8, we are told don’t judge a book by its cover. People do a lot to appear to be something they are not. What motivates them, I can only imagine. Perhaps pride, perhaps something else. Earthly riches do not equate to God’s riches and vice versa. There was the rich man in Luke 12:21 that was not rich toward God. We’re also reminded of the one in 2 Cor. 6:10 that had nothing yet possessed all things. Wealth is relative. In 9-10 we are reminded that the light of Christ should shine brightly in our lives regardless of the circumstances. Insolence means disrespectful. This verse is also translated, pride only breeds quarrels. You know this is true. This is the person that refuses to listen to the insight, wisdom, or counsel of another. Wise people know they don’t know everything and are not afraid to get some outside assistance. Verse 11 presents us with an idea we have seen before. If you work hard, you can get stuff and keep it. If you get stuff by deceitful, unethical, or illegal means, it will be taken from you. This also conveys the idea of easy wealth – wealth that was obtained without working. Think inheritance or the lottery. Wealth not earned is often quickly lost.

When you consider all that Solomon has said in these 11 verses, it can seem pretty overwhelming. If you have parents, listen to them. Learn from them so you don’t make the same mistakes they did. Even if you have made terrible decisions in the past, there is no where you can go where the grace of God cannot reach you. Allow Jesus Christ to cleanse you from all unrighteousness and make you new. When that grace covers you, it changes your life, your attitudes, your desires and your outlook on life. That’s just four things that demonstrate you are new in Christ.

Wisdom Speaks

speakYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week Solomon reminded his son of the importance of remembering the instructions and commands of God. Then he told us the incredible story of watching that senseless young man walk to his certain death by getting involved with a married woman. She had one thing on her mind as she led him like a dumb animal to the slaughterhouse. It wasn’t Solomon’s son that he was watching, but he is relating the story so that he will not fall into the same trap. We would be wise to heed the same warnings. This morning, we leave the adulteress in Sheol and we hear from wisdom herself.

I encourage you to read our passage in Pro. 8:1-11.

This is not wisdom’s first call. Remember back in Pro. 1:20-33 we heard wisdom shouting for all to hear, but three types of people did not listen. The naïve ones loved being simple minded. The scoffers delighted in their scoffing. The fools hate knowledge. So Solomon asks a rhetorical question in v. 1. He answers his own question by telling us exactly where to find wisdom. Vs. 2-3 says, “On top of the heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand; Beside the gates, at the opening to the city, at the entrance to the doors she cries out.” Another way to put this is wisdom can be found where the people are gathering. Cities typically were founded at the intersection of two roads, “where the paths meet” which we would call an intersection or crossroads. There’s only a few ways to get into St. Marys. As a result, our economy suffers because you can’t really pass through – St. Marys must be the destination. In the old days when people travelled by boat, cities on the water were vitally important. Port cities were and continue to be important to moving goods across the globe.

So if wisdom is right in the middle of people, it tells us that the common man, the regular guy can gain wisdom and understanding. Wisdom is not just for the educated and not just for the religious elite. Wisdom is accessible to the young and to the old if we’ll just listen. No need to climb the mountain to reach the wise old sage to glean from his vast storehouses of knowledge and experience. All you have to do is listen. Who’s she calling to? “To you O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O naïve ones, understand prudence; and, O fools, understand wisdom.” Notice that naive ones and fools are called out. Everyone can benefit from wisdom, but these people in particular can greatly benefit by listening to what wisdom says.

So what does wisdom say? She says a lot that’s contained in vs. 6-10. Let’s talk about them individually to get the full effect. “Listen, for I speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will reveal right things.” Noble means having fine personal qualities of high moral principles. Do you know anyone that as soon as they begin speaking, a hush fall over the room? They’re like E.F. Hutton. When this person begins speaking, it’s obvious they speak the truth and really know what they’re talking about. These people really are few and far between. Wisdom is like that person only way better. Whenever wisdom speaks, people ought to listen. “For my mouth will utter truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.” Every word of wisdom is true. 1 Cor. 1:24 says, “But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Our wonderfully loving and just God is the source of truth. Since, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Heb. 13:8) His Word is unchanging. There are no revisions or alterations. No addendums. It is complete, accurate, timely, and applicable for every situation we face in life. People everywhere have continuously tried to pass off the Bible as irrelevant, archaic, hard to understand, full of contradictions, and sometimes barbaric. Some of these criticisms come from professing believers. Side note, can someone be an authentic believer in Jesus Christ and deny the inerrancy of the Bible? 2 Tim. 3:16-17 seem to tie that one up neatly. Paul told Timothy, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Wisdom says that, “Wickedness is an abomination to my lips.”

Verse 8 says, “All utterances of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing crooked or perverted in them.” Nothing dishonest or unacceptable are contained within its pages. Ps. 12:6 says, “The words of the Lord are pure words.” There are no hidden motives and no secret agenda. Why do some people find it difficult to understand the Bible? There are numerous factors that contribute to difficulty in understanding God’s Word. It could be that people read it for the wrong reasons. It could be due to misinterpretation or taking things of context. It could be due a lack of understanding of the culture and times in which it was written. It could be that people don’t have the necessary scriptural foundation. Instead of trying to figure it out ourselves, let’s let Scripture interpret Scripture to provide us the clarity needed. 1 Cor. 2:14 reminds us, “But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.”  The Apostle Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:3-4, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.” So there you have it. From my understanding of Scripture, a lack of understanding of God’s Word could be because the person reading it is not saved.

Your next obvious question is, “I’m saved and I don’t understand everything I read.” Don’t freak out! You’re not alone. No where does it say you’ll know and understand everything in Scripture. The most common thing I see is people aren’t willing to take the time and really read and study Scripture. They’re not willing to work diligently to understand. It’s easier to Google it or ask a friend. 2 Tim. 2:15 is a verse you hear me quote often and I love the King James Version translation of it, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” NAS translates it like this, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” The onus is on the individual. No one can relieve you of the responsibility to study God’s Word. Remember what Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:4, “The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”

Here’s the true test. When we set this study up, we looked at 1 Kings 3:5 where God appeared to Solomon in a dream and said, “Ask what you wish Me to give you.” We know that Solomon asked for wisdom and God granted him that and so much more. Solomon acknowledged that he was young and didn’t know anything – he was humble, yet walked faithfully in the statutes of God. See, that’s what sets up Solomon, it wasn’t because he was King David’s son. He was already doing what he was supposed to do in God’s eyes and that’s why God granted the incredible gift of wisdom. That’s why wisdom says, “Take my instruction and not silver, and knowledge rather than choicest gold.” There will come a day that silver and gold will be useless. We must think with an eternal mindset rather than a mindset focused on the here and now. We push off the things that matter for eternity in favor of what we can see right now. That’s not how it works in God’s economy. Remember Jesus’ words as recorded by the tax collector in Matt 6:19-21, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The instructions, commands, and principles of Scripture are eternal.

One day, you may end up poor by earthly standards; you may be there right now. You can have everything you consider valuable taken away, stolen, repossessed, or destroyed. All that you hold near and dear, whether it’s your children, spouse, job, friends, or family can be ripped away from you. I can tell you from studying God’s Word myself that when that time comes and all you have is God and His Word, it will be enough. Don’t wait until that happens to learn the value of God’s Word. Never take it for granted. “For wisdom is better than jewels; and all desirable things cannot compare with her.”

The Scarlet Letter

Scarlet LetterYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we walked down memory lane as Solomon reminded his son of some great principles. Remember the commandments and instructions that he taught. Those instructions will provide the path of righteousness to keep you from people that do not have your best interests in mind. Specifically, stay away from another man’s wife; stay away from another woman’s husband. When it comes to the adulteress’s husband, there will be no satisfying his rage. This morning, as is his custom to this point, Solomon reminds his son about the instructions he has been given and then gives some more warnings about the adulteress.

You really need your Bible for this one. Take a look at Pro. 7:1-5 as we begin with a general reminder. Solomon opens up the chapter with some general reminder principles. He uses some great phrases like, “Keep my words.” “Treasure  . . . keep my commandments.” He opened up this book by saying, Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.” (Pro. 1:8) Take care of God’s commandments; hold on to them because they are valuable. It’s a theme given throughout Scripture. 1 John 2:3, “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.”

“Keep my teaching as the apple of your eye.” This is a really great phrase and it doesn’t mean what you might think. Being the apple of one’s eye typically means you cherish something. The word translated apple literally means pupil. It is the center of the eye that allows light to enter. That light falls on the retina where it is translated to the image you see just like a projector displays images on a screen. It’s an incredible process that we take for granted. If the light no longer is allowed to enter our eye, we trip, we fall, we stumble, we can’t find our way, and we wander. Without the eye, we are rendered blind. Consider what Solomon is saying to his son and to us. Keep the instructions I have given you. While the eye is essential to keep one from stumbling on a literal path, Solomon’s instructions are essential for keeping us on God’s holy path. “Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart.” This seems to refer to the Jewish custom of binding the phylacteries on the hand and forehead. Phylacteries were little boxes that would be tied to the hands and forehead that contained four Scripture passages: Ex. 13:1-10, 11-16, Deut. 6:4-9, 11:13-21. Each passage refers to the binding of God’s Word to your hands and foreheads. At the very least, it means remember what the Word says.

And now Solomon tells his son to speak to wisdom. “Say to wisdom, you are my sister, and call understanding your intimate friend.” Wisdom is again personified as a person. In Matt. 12:50 Jesus said, “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” So we’re not talking a literal relationship, but a type of relationship that would be very close, personal, and intimate. That person can and should be trusted. Solomon’s rationale for these reminders is found in v. 5. The idea is that when love fills your heart and you are guided by the fundamental principles of Scripture, you won’t do things that are unwise or ungodly. If you think that is overly simplified, well it kind of is. People who routinely make poor choices rarely consult Scripture or biblical principles prior to making that decision. Others may consult Scripture then choose to ignore its teaching. It goes back to all those great reminders about keeping and treasuring God’s Word. You cannot say you hold God’s Word dearly when you choose to ignore it.

Solomon says, “Picture this.” He has personified wisdom in previous passages, but now he provides an actual example of something he has seen. Read through vs. 6-23 to get the word picture in your mind of what’s happening. I want to highlight some of the key things in this passage. Solomon says he spots, “A young man lacking sense.” We don’t know the age of the young man, but it seems like he’s not out looking to get himself into trouble. He’s out and about and passes by what Solomon says is “her” corner. Look at the time phrases, “In the twilight, in the evening, in the middle of the night and in the darkness.” So this young man is really walking back and forth, waiting until she happens to come by. The great guidance from Pro. 5:8 that says, “Keep your way far from her and do not go near the door of her house” is totally blown off. His wait is rewarded as she comes out to meet him and get the picture of what she looks like. “Dressed as a harlot.” Harlot is defined as someone that engages in extramarital sexual relations for commercial purposes. Women dressed enticingly with the hope of luring their prey back to their houses of ill repute.

She was, “cunning of heart.” Cunning means skilled at achieving a goal by deceit  or evasion. “She is boisterous and rebellious, her feet do not stay at home.” Other translations say, “Loud and wayward,” “Loud and defiant,” and “loud and stubborn.” Consider Tit. 2:5 where Paul instructs wives, “to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.” This isn’t some chauvinistic, Neanderthal thinking, but so the Word of God will not be dishonored. This woman is the opposite of godliness. She’s out and about in the in the city square when she should be at home. She tells the young man that she has given her peace offerings and has paid her vows and now she comes out to meet this young man lacking sense. It seems like she is using the offerings and vows as license. Vs. 16-17 describe her luxurious accommodations with the fine linens and spices. Verse 19 presents us with the shocking detail that she is married. Her husband is away on business and won’t return for at least a month. Don’t worry she says, we won’t be interrupted. Remember from Pro. 6:34 that, “Jealousy enrages a man.” He’ll never know, don’t sweat it. And now her plan is laid out because she is, “cunning of heart.” She is persuasive, she uses flattery, she is enticing. And the unwitting young man follows her to his death. He’s like the dumb animal that walks right up to the slaughterhouse not realizing that death awaits him. How can someone be so unwitting? How can someone be so blind to reality? How can one be led astray so quickly? Think about the crises you have gotten yourself into when you ignore clear, biblical principles and you ask yourself, “How did I get here?” When you ignore the biblical counsel of a friend, the guidance of a parent, or the wise advice of your pastor, why are you surprised when you end up in a place you don’t want to be?

Solomon provides the sobering conclusion of certainty in vs. 24-27. Once again Solomon says, “Listen to me and pay attention to my words!” Don’t be fooled, don’t get hoodwinked, don’t get taken, be wary, be careful, exercise caution, don’t wander near her! This is not her first rodeo, “For many are the victims she has cast down, and numerous are all her slain.”

If you follow the path of this adulterous woman and women like her, the road always leads to the same place. The destination is certain. “Her house is the way to Sheol, descending to the chambers of death.” If you’re on the path, get off before it’s too late. Avoid the trap Satan sets for you. If you ignore these principles, death will result.

God’s Hatred for Sin

HateYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we learned about the scoundrel. We saw that wickedness and worthlessness are evident by a number of characteristics that should not be present in the life of an authentic believer. The scoundrel is always devising evil. This morning, we hit a passage of Scripture that might be familiar to you and is contrary to the message some “religious” people tout that God is only love.

Pro. 6:16-19 says, “There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.”

God is a hater. Okay, let’s qualify that. Can a loving and all powerful God hate something? Before we get into specifics, people who make the claim that God is only love have not studied the Bible. God has a nearly infinite list of awesome characteristics that we should strive to emulate. He is patient, kind, compassionate, empathetic, creative, understanding, decisive, dependable, generous, gentle, humble, strong, loyal, meek, just, balanced, truthful, wise, and totally awesome. We could go on and on.

So we come to this passage of seven things that God hates. This list is not all inclusive as we have other Scriptures listing additional things that God hates. Before we get to the list, let’s see how Solomon sets it up. “There are six things the Lord hates, yes, seven are an abomination to Him.” Hate means an intense dislike for or a strong aversion towards something or someone. Abomination is more difficult to define and the best I can come up with is it means detestable or loathsome. Just because there is a list, do not assume that some sins are okay or not as bad as others. You may have heard sin broken up into mortal and venial sin. Venial sin is a lesser sin that is forgivable while mortal sin ruptures a person’s link with God’s saving grace. Don’t confuse this list of seven with the seven deadly sins. The seven deadly sins may lead to mortal sin. 1 Jo. 5:16-17 tells us, “If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask and God will for him give life to those who commit sin not leading to death. There is a sin leading to death; I do not say that he should make request for this. All unrighteousness is sin, and there is a sin not leading to death.” One denomination uses this passage in their statement of faith to justify the concept that some sins are more severe than others. I quote, “The gravity of sins is more or less great: murder is graver than theft. One must also take into account who is wronged: violence against parents is in itself graver than violence against a stranger.”

So let’s clear this up. Sin is sin in God’s eyes. Rom. 6:23a tells us that, “The wages of sin is death.” Sin leads to death. “If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us.” (1 Jo. 1:8) God does not want us to sin, and He knows that we still have a sin nature and a natural desire to sin. That’s why He gives us the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to overcome that nature. No sin is too great for God to forgive. Yes, the wages of sin is death – both spiritual and physical, BUT, “the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” (Rom. 6:23b)

So let’s check out the list. Remember biblical lists often are ordered in severity or importance. Sometimes the lists go from bad to worse and this is the case here. As we go through the list, look for the body parts mentioned that generally flow from the top of the head to the feet. Notice also that the first five refer to general moral characteristics such as pride, deceit, violence, etc. “Haughty eyes.” This phrase is also translated a proud look. Haughty means arrogantly superior or disdainful. It is a self importance and a putting oneself ahead of everyone and everything else. It is the exact opposite of the primary virtue we should have that Paul mentions in Eph. 4:2 when he says, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love.” Remember that, “God is opposed to the proud” according to Ja. 4:6. Solomon mentions pride numerous times throughout this book.

“A lying tongue.” All lies are sin. I would say this includes exaggeration, but not hyperbole. Saying you caught a 30 pound bass is when you caught nothing is a lie. Saying you’re so tired you could sleep for a year is hyperbole – an exaggeration used for effect and is not to be taken literally. Don’t lie – ever. Solomon is talking about a person that has no regard for truth, they consistently lie; they are habitual liars.

“And hands that shed innocent blood.” Innocent does not mean perfect in this passage, it means not guilty of a crime or offense. Solomon is describing a person who is prone to violence. Someone that would commit murder if the circumstances presented themselves. This describes someone that has little or no value for human life. They would engage in violence over a presumed wrong, someone always looking for a fight.

“A heart that devises wicked plans.”Always scheming or devising ways in which to gain an advantage over another person. Following the rules or laws is done when it’s convenient or serves a specific purpose. If the rules don’t meet those criteria, they’re ignored.

“Feet that run rapidly to evil.” This is an excitement or eagerness to sin. This is someone that evaluates the opportunity to sin. It’s someone that receives extra change and considers is good luck that he got away with something. The benefit is secondary. It’s like the speeder that gets a warning and not a citation. It’s not that no fine has to be paid although that’s good. The real joy comes from getting away with breaking the law. If you do some casual research into these characteristics, you’ll find they are consistent with sociopathic behavior. That’s not consistent with the godliness that is expected of authentic believers. All of us likely have committed one or more of these things that God hates, but before you get all antsy about this, Solomon is talking about consistent, habitual behavior.

Here’s the break out in the last two on the list. While each of the seven in the list are moral character flaws, the last two represent something a bit different. “A false witness who utters lies.”  Solomon already said in v. 17 that God hates, “a lying tongue.” This one is different. Literally, this is someone that lies under oath or in direct examination. Think about a courtroom. Lying under oath is called perjury which is punishable as a felony under the criminal code. Lying when you promise to tell the truth undermines the fabric of society. Finally, “And one who spreads strife among brothers.” Strife means angry or bitter disagreement or conflict. This can happen in the workplace, in the school, in your neighborhood, and in the church. This is an attempt to drive people apart. Some people aren’t happy unless they’re making other people unhappy. Some folks don’t know they’re unhappy until they’re told. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion in the church and even here at C4. The common thread is there is no desire for resolution or reconciliation. Someone gets upset and tries to get others upset too. If and when I hear of it, my practice is to make contact and see what I can do to resolve whatever perceived or real issue there is. I’m often told everything is fine, yet they separate themselves from the body. It’s rarely an individual thing. It affects the spouse, the kids, the person’s friends, others that know him; it affects relationships.

What is particularly troubling is that disagreement or conflict may occur in other facets of life like school, work, with coaches or players on a team, with neighbors, but rarely does that result in any change. A child can be bullied at school and the child continues to go. You can work for the worst boss in the world, but you continue to go to work. You can have a neighbor that complains about everything you do: they don’t like your kids, your pets, the way you park your car or your Christmas decorations, but you don’t move. Someone doesn’t speak to you at church and you quit. Someone doesn’t like your new profile picture and you quit. Yes, it does get that trivial in the church. We’ve become unwilling to be a people that work things out; that acknowledge people’s differences with understanding – we have unattainable expectations for everyone else and none for ourselves. This is a character flaw that God does not approve of.

God is indeed a God of love, but that doesn’t mean he loves everything. This list of Solomon’s is not all inclusive. God hates all sin, yet loves the one committing sin. We must learn to overcome the faults of others and love people regardless of what they do or do not do. We must love unconditionally and love people to lead them to an authentic and passionate relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.

Parental Guidance Suggested

PGYou can listen to the podcast here.

It’s been a while since we were in Proverbs, so let me remind of what we last talked about. Solomon reminded us of the all too familiar trap of illicit relationships with women. While Solomon was giving his son specific guidance about avoiding an adulterous woman, the principle applies to men and women. No matter how exciting it may seem to be in the moment, death and destruction always results from immorality. We may not see it here in this earth, but judgment will come. This morning, Solomon continues with the theme of marital purity, but he does it in metaphorical terms.

Grab your Bible and check out Pro. 5:15-23.

Are we really talking about water? Most of us do not store drinking water, but back in Solomon’s day, water was a precious commodity because the area was so dry. People would collect rainwater in underground reservoirs so they would have water available during the dry summer months. You can travel to Israel today and see many cisterns still standing. Wells were different than cisterns and were equally important. Gen. 26 and 29 shares stories about the value of wells. Wells often had stones placed over the top of it to prevent unauthorized use. Isaac’s son Jacob first saw his future wife at a well. Solomon is not talking about water. He’s continuing his warning about fidelity in relationships. He’s talking about purity prior to marriage and faithfulness after marriage.“Drink water from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well.” This is a continuation of the warnings from the previous passage. Don’t take what isn’t yours. You can apply this to numerous things, but he’s talking about marital relations. The cistern and the well are metaphors for a wife. A man should have sexual relations with his wife and only his wife. Intimacy is reserved for marriage. Everyone would be wise to follow this seemingly obvious instruction. Think of the world wide implications of abstaining from sex prior to marriage and then remaining monogamous after marriage. If she’s not meeting your needs, demonstrate sacrificial, unconditional love for her. If the man is not a follower of Christ, Peter says it this way ladies, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior.” (1 Pet. 3:1-2) The cistern and the well represent a source of water to quench thirst. The wife is designed to quench the desire for intimacy. That metaphor seems pretty clear, but then the water gets muddy.

Let’s try and clear up the muddy waters. So far, Solomon has been giving instructions to his son so that the son will, “receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity” that was stated way back in 1:3. The theme that began at the beginning of chapter 5 continues here, but I wish it were clearer. There is an exclusivity that is expected in marriage and that continues here with vs. 16-17. Some have made the argument that these verses are talking about prostitution, but we can’t be sure. What is certain is that a man’s sexual desire is reserved for his wife and only his wife. All energy must be directed within the boundaries of marriage. Fantasies are not healthy, helpful, or holy. It was Jesus that raised the standard of holiness from the physical act of adultery to the thought of it. Matt. 5:27-28 says, You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Lust is defined as an unhealthy craving or desire. Men, if this is how your life is characterized, it’s sin.

 Verse 18 contains a subtle principle I don’t want you to miss. Notice the phrase, “wife of your youth.” This gives us the idea that the one that married when you were young is still your wife now that you’re old. I love the fact that I’ve been married for over 28 years, but it’s by the grace of God that we have remained married. I can tell you the secret of our marriage is not that I’m a great guy, or Kari is a great girl. It is only because of God working in us and our desire to please Him that we have stuck it out. I can honestly say that we have a great marriage, but it is not without issues. We disagree; we can be short with one another. The only formula I can offer is to become the man or woman God expects you to be as He transforms you continually into the image of Christ. V. 19 contains some very graphic language and I want to focus on that last phrase. “Be exhilarated always with her love.” Exhilarated literally means intoxicated or make very happy. Men, be head over heels, crazy in love with your wife. Solomon is really a romantic guy. Listen to what he said in Song of Solomon 4:9, “You have made my heart beat faster, my sister, my bride; you have made my heart beat faster with a single glance of your eyes.” There is an excitement in marriage that cannot be sustained in any other relationship between two people. Notice that Solomon uses the word, “always” and since, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) we need to pay attention. Marital sexuality is a wonderful gift for mutual enjoyment between a husband and a wife.

Notice the rhetorical question in v. 20. Why would anyone choose to throw away the blessing of a wonderful marriage? Maybe you’re thinking, my marriage isn’t so great. Are you faithfully and sacrificially loving your wife or your husband? Consider Paul’s definition of love: “Love is patient, love is kind and not jealous; love does not brag, and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails!” (1 Cor. 13:4-8a) I’ve fallen out of love some would say. You have likely heard it said that love is a choice and not a feeling. Choose to love and allow the Lord to transform that cold, stony heart.

Here are some sobering thoughts. In v. 21 Solomon says, “For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord and He watches all his paths.” Solomon is still talking about marital fidelity. What happens between consenting adults is still visible to God. This isn’t some sort of biblical threat, it is a reality. David asked the rhetorical question, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence?” (Ps. 139:7) The answer is absolutely no where. And why would anyone want to flee from the Lord’s presence? That’s the better question. You can pretend it’s your little secret. You can convince yourself that no one knows what’s going on and that no one will get hurt. God is watching, but not in the way some in ministry have led you to believe. If you’re not a believer, God’s aim is not to punish you, but to draw you into an authentic, passionate relationship with Him. If you are a believer, God wants you to follow the straight path that demonstrates the power of God. The one that fails to heed these warnings finds himself in a terrible predicament. Check out the final thoughts in this passage in vs. 22-23.

Folly means foolishness and astray means wander. Wow. The immoral man has no one to blame but himself. Don’t ignore the instructions of Scripture. Following the instructions will save time, money, and energy and you’ll end up with the product that you’re supposed to have. Think of all the heartache you’ve experienced just because you didn’t follow instructions. Don’t do that in life.

Solomon’s Purpose

PurposeYou can check out the podcast here.

Last week we began our adventure into Proverbs. We found out how Solomon came to be king of Israel and we discovered how he came to be so wise. As I said last week, I encourage you to read one chapter of Proverbs each and every day of the month. This morning we’ll find out why Solomon, through the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, put these proverbs together.

Take the time to grab your Bible and read Pro. 1:2-6.

If you take even a quick glance, you’ll discover it doesn’t take long for Solomon to get to the point. He says we are, “To know wisdom and instruction.” As we established last week, Solomon was the wisest man to ever live. God gave Solomon the wisdom he asked for. Godly wisdom enables us to see the world through His eyes. That wisdom is increasingly unheard of today. What was common sense in the past no longer is today. I think there are a number of reasons that we could attribute that to, but I think the predominant one is that we have continued to deviate from the standard of Scripture. What was once taught in the home, is now outsourced to others. When I was growing up, kindergarten was optional. Now we have parents getting their kids in “school” while they’re still very young. Now don’t go getting all crazy on me, I know that moms may have to work to support themselves, but that’s a symptom of the real issue. We’ve deviated from the biblical standards of morality and ethics. Just because something is culturally acceptable does not make it biblical.

Freedictionary.com says wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting. This lines up with what Solomon asked God for. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil.” (1 Ki. 3:9) So if you’re going to determine what is right or wrong, good or evil, you must have a standard of determination. It must be unchanging; it must be divinely inspired, it must be accurate, it must be available. All of these are available in the copy of God’s Word you hold in your hand. Solomon says we can know wisdom. The word know is the same word that means grasp or ascertain that is used in the New Testament. This is the Hebrew form of the word while the N.T. uses the Greek. His use of the word, “know” indicates this wisdom should be common among people who follow Christ. We can, “Discern the sayings of understanding, to receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice, and equity.” This is what the Holy Spirit through Solomon’s words offer to us. Deut. 4:6 says, “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’”  The “them” in this verse refers to the statutes and judgments from the previous verse.

So who’s Solomon writing to? His target audience is found in vs. 4-5. There are four target groups Solomon is thinking about as he writes. First there are the naïve. In this passage, naïve means simple ones, it means gullible. They’ll believe anything they hear. When it comes to wisdom, this can be very dangerous particularly when someone tells you something contrary to Scripture.

Second and way more difficult is, “To the youth knowledge and discretion.” That is something seriously lacking in people today. In this context, the term youth identifies anyone between childhood and adulthood. That’s a fairly broad age gap. Have you heard the saying, 30 is the new 20? Basically, life for the typical 30 year old is like that of a 20 year old in yesteryear. Some of that is driven by our economic state. A survey conducted last year revealed 38% of parents had grown children living in the home. In the last half century, pollster Jeffrey Arnett says a new life stage has developed he calls emerging adults. These emerging adults may fall into this category, but Solomon is targeting young and inexperienced people because they typically have no plan. Discretion here refers to the ability to form a plan so that goals can be pursued and achieved. One of the difficulties in the naïve and the young is they often don’t recognize their need for wisdom.

Third is, “A wise man will hear and increase in learning.” Wise people recognize they don’t know everything and continue to learn – they’re teachable. As you mature and move through life, you gain new insight that goes along with experience.

Fourth is, “a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel.” That wise man seeks the counsel of other wiser, more experienced people. Pro. 14:12 says, “There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” The man of understanding doesn’t follow his own guidance, he asks! If you look carefully at the four groups, clearly anyone and everyone can benefit from the wisdom contained in this book.

Here’s the conclusion to Solomon’s introduction. He has given us the tools to be successful in life. After all that’s his goal. In Solomon’s mind, if we do one thing, we’ll be good. If we simply follow the wisdom of God, everything else will fall into place. The conclusion comes in v. 6, To understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles.” This sounds sort of like a riddle itself. We really love riddles. There are millions of riddle sites online. There are riddles contained in Scripture. Read about Samson, he loved riddles. Solomon is not talking about silly riddles that entertain or trick someone. He’s talking about the riddles or mysteries of life. Biblical wisdom seeks to eliminate the gray areas of life. But we’ll need the help of God to understand it. Paul told us that, “A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” (1 Cor. 2:14) We need the help of the Holy Spirit.

Solomon’s goal is to impart his wisdom, wisdom received from God, to us. All we have to do is follow it. It sounds simple enough, until we’re faced with our own will. The wise man lays aside what he thinks in favor of the truth found in God’s Word.