Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Proverbs in July 2016

Proverbs 1.456
4 To give prudence to the simple,
To the young man knowledge and discretion—
5 A wise man will hear and increase learning,
And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, 
6 To understand a proverb and an enigma,
The words of the wise and their riddles.
A few things to note
1. There is an emphasis on one's "wisdom quotient" (how to think rightly) more than one's "wisdom repretoire" (fact memorization).
2. It is designed to benefit both the wise and morally naive which makes its study perfect for parents and children (regular or grand).
3. Verse seven grounds all this in one's relationship with the Lord.
Lord, help me grow in the understanding and application of Your ways.
These first five verses of Proverbs two seem to lay a foundation for or expand on Jesus' words in Matthew 7.7 / Luke 11:9.
Proverbs 2.1-5
My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you, 
So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.
These verses point to an initial attainment and ever deepening process of seeking, knocking, and asking that can result in a commitment to and comprehension of the Lord. May we never grow weary of this process.
In Philippians 1.6 Paul expresses confidence "that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;" and Proverbs 3.11-12 reminds us to appreciate our Father's loving correction to help accomplish that at times.
Proverbs 3.11-12
My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD,
Nor detest His correction;
For whom the LORD loves He corrects,
Just as a father the son in whom he delights.
God, help me to desire to be confirmed to the image of your Son so much that I will value Your correction if I should need it.
Proverbs 4.26-27 (net)
Make the path for your feet level,
so that all your ways may be established.
Do not turn to the right or to the left;
turn yourself away from evil.
The first Hebrew word in 26, palac, is also translated "ponder" and "watch." We may limit our view of walking in God's way of wisdom to relatively thoughtless following of a set of commands. these proverbs seem to indicate a more proactive and comprehensive approach that includes, but goes beyond just following rules.
Lord, help me thoughtfully walk Your straight path.
Regrets. One of the themes of Proverbs is the connection between actions and eventual consequences. These verses are part of a series of potential consequences of being involved with an immoral woman.
Proverbs 5.12-14
12 And say: "How I have hated instruction,
And my heart despised correction!
13 I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers,
Nor inclined my ear to those who instructed me!

14 I was on the verge of total ruin,
In the midst of the assembly and congregation."
Lord, help me pay close attention to wisdom and understanding.
Proverbs 6.27-28
Can a man take fire to his bosom,
And his clothes not be burned?
Can one walk on hot coals,
And his feet not be seared? 
So is he who goes into his neighbor's wife;
Whoever touches her shall not be innocent.
What makes us think that we are so clever or "bulletproof" that normal consequences will never effect us?
2 Corinthians 5.10 "... whether good or bad." 
Good is "agathos" useful, pleasant, honorable, etc...
Bad is "phaulos" common, worthless, of no account.
These are helpful constructs for us to evaluate our thoughts, words, and actions. We should go beyond (not away from) simple do's and don'ts to the idea of considering what has eternal value versus the temporal rubbish that just takes up space. Maybe think of it as editing out unnecessary, vague words in a paper or article. Think of it as throwing out the clutter or avoiding substandard building materials for high-quality ones that will stand up to normal wear and tear.
As I read chapter seven I am struck by how the elaborate preparations that the immoral seductress made compared to how totally how unprepared the naive simpleton was for this test of his character.
Lord, help me make preparations and be prepared to make choices follow You on the way of righteousness.
Proverbs 7.13-18
So she caught him and kissed him;
With an impudent face she said to him:

"I have peace offerings with me; 

Today I have paid my vows.
So I came out to meet you,
Diligently to seek your face,
And I have found you.

I have spread my bed with tapestry,
Colored coverings of Egyptian linen.

I have perfumed my bed
With myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.

Come, let us take our fill of love until morning;
Let us delight ourselves with love.
Proverbs 8.32-33
So now, children, listen to me;
blessed are those who keep my ways.
Listen to my instruction so that you may be wise,
and do not neglect it.
After regaling the creation credentials and antiquities of Wisdom, this is the application. It's not enough to know and appreciate wisdom and then neglect to follow through with its prescriptions.
Lord, make me a doer of your wise Word.
As Wisdom prepares her banquet, three types of people come into view. Two have hope.
Proverbs 9.4-9
4 "Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!" 
As for him who lacks understanding, she says to him,

5 "Come, eat of my bread
And drink of the wine I have mixed.

7 "He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself,
And he who rebukes a wicked man only harms himself.

8 Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you;
Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you.
9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
Lord, I want a teachable (God fearing) spirit that benefits from Wisdom's banquet.
These four parallels contrast the way and end of the righteous and the eternal ends of the righteous and the wicked.
Proverbs 10.27-30
27 The fear of the LORD prolongs days,
But the years of the wicked will be shortened. 
28 The hope of the righteous will be gladness,
But the expectation of the wicked will perish.

29 The way of the LORD is strength for the upright,
But destruction will come to the workers of iniquity.

30 The righteous will never be removed,
But the wicked will not inhabit the earth.
Lord, I want to walk in the fear of You, in hope of the end you have for me, and in your strength.
This pair of sayings seems to support the "principles not promises" view of Proverbs. When your ways please the Lord there are inherent blessing, but when in a fallen world you find poverty, righteousness is better than riches.
Proverbs 16.7-8
7 When a man's ways please the LORD,
He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness,
Than vast revenues without justice.
Lord, help me treasure You and Your ways above all.
Proverbs 17.19-21 (NET)
19 The one who loves a quarrel loves transgression;
whoever builds his gate high seeks destruction.
20 The one who has a perverse heart does not find good,
and the one who is deceitful in speech falls into trouble.
21 Whoever brings a fool into the world does so to his grief,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
In this section of Proverbs that highlights a fool, we see heartbreaking traits of strife and proud ambition that bring trouble and shame.
Lord, help me pursue the peace and humility of Your way that will bring joy to my parents.
A fool's mouth is busy getting him in trouble and his sloth reinforces with actions or inactions the trouble his mouth starts.
Proverbs 18.6-9
6 A fool's lips enter into contention,
And his mouth calls for blows. 
7 A fool's mouth is his destruction,
And his lips are the snare of his soul.

8 The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles,
And they go down into the inmost body.

9 He who is slothful in his work Is a brother to him who is a great destroyer.
Lord, may my words and actions be faithful to create peace and benefits for myself AND others,
Most teachers can relate to the truth of these sayings. If I have taught your children, I probably know you better than you think.
Proverbs 20.6-7
Most men will proclaim each his own goodness,
But who can find a faithful man? 
The righteous man walks in his integrity;
His children are blessed after him.
Lord, make me the man whose faithfulness to You makes him an unassuming blessing to his children and others around him.
These sayings describe the downward spiral of the perverse man who abandons diligence for get rich quick schemes.
Proverbs 21.5-8
5 The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty,
But those of everyone who is hasty, surely to poverty.

6 Getting treasures by a lying tongue
Is the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death.

7 The violence of the wicked will destroy them,
Because they refuse to do justice.

8 The way of a guilty man is perverse;
But as for the pure, his work is right.

Lord, help my work to be pure and right.
Sometimes we are asked the hypothetical question, would you do this (usually some morally objectionable thing) for a million (or billion) dollars. Basically, we are being asked if we believe Prov. 22.1. And verse two seems to highlight the favor of God who is unimpressed by riches.
Proverbs 22.1-2
1 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
Loving (or good) favor rather than silver and gold.

2 The rich and the poor have this in common,
The LORD is the maker of them all.
Lord, help me value your esteem and favor more than unmeasurable material wealth.
This saying, number nine of the first decalogue of the Thirty Wise Sayings, continues the theme of wealth. Just because you can feast at someone's table doesn't mean that they want you to or that you should.
Proverbs 23.6-8
Do not eat the bread of a miser,
Nor desire his delicacies;
For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.
"Eat and drink!" he says to you,
But his heart is not with you.
The morsel you have eaten, you will vomit up,
And waste your pleasant words.
Lord, give me the discernment, contentment, and self-control to find my satisfaction and joy in You and Your way of righteousness and wisdom.
While these proverbs have obvious applications in the judicial and public realms, I am also thinking about how they point out the need for personal discernment and kind but frank honesty. Experience and clear examples in Scripture show that the "good blessing" is often not immediate.
Proverbs 24.23-25
These things also belong to the wise:
It is not good to show partiality in judgment. 
He who says to the wicked, "You are righteous,"
Him the people will curse; Nations will abhor him.
But those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
And a good blessing will come upon them
Lord, give me the discernment, courage, and grace to be wise in this area.
Proverbs 25.8-10
Do not go hastily to court;
For what will you do in the end,
When your neighbor has put you to shame?
Debate your case with your neighbor, 
And do not disclose the secret to another;
Lest he who hears it expose your shame,
And your reputation be ruined.
So, maybe the "I'll see you in court" attitude is not always such a good instinct.
Proverbs 26.18-20
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death,
Is the man who deceives his neighbor, And says, "I was only joking."
Where there is no wood, the fire goes out;
And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.
These verses are part of a set that describes people who like to stir up trouble. Their reckless tongues keep things stirred up and can do real damage.
Lord, help me be a thoughtful blessing with my tongue.
Bragging about prospects for what you are going to accomplish or even what you think you've done can be a mistake. Leave that to others
Proverbs 27.1-2
1 Do not boast about tomorrow,
For you do not know what a day may bring forth.

2 Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth;
A stranger, and not your own lips.
Lord, let all my praise be for You and my faith be in You alone.
These sayings contrast the faithful, hard-working person with the "get rich quick" schemer. We are each on a path that it going somewhere.
Proverbs 28.18-20
18 Whoever walks blamelessly will be saved,
But he who is perverse in his ways will suddenly fall.

19 He who tills his land will have plenty of bread,
But he who follows frivolity will have poverty enough.

20 A faithful man will abound with blessings,
But he who hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
Proverbs 29.8-11
8 Scoffers set a city aflame,
But wise men turn away wrath.

9 If a wise man contends with a foolish man,
Whether the fool rages or laughs, there is no peace. 

10 The bloodthirsty hate the blameless,
But the upright seek his well-being.

11 A fool vents all his feelings,
But a wise man holds them back.
These verses paint a picture of the self-controlled, peacemaking, wise person who is a thorn to the bloodthirsty and foolish much like Jesus was.
Lord, continue to confirm me to the image of your son.
This set of Agur's sayings traces a progression of a person with no conscience as a youth, no sensibility of sin, haughtiness, and finally an opportunistic viciousness towards the defenseless.
Proverbs 30:11-14
There is a generation that curses its father,
And does not bless its mother. 
There is a generation that is pure in its own eyes,
Yet is not washed from its filthiness.
There is a generation—oh, how lofty are their eyes!
And their eyelids are lifted up.
There is a generation whose teeth are like swords,
And whose fangs are like knives,
To devour the poor from off the earth,
And the needy from among men.
Lord, give a sensitive, humble heart and eyes of compassion that see the poor as Christ does.
This classic section on the virtuous (or talented, capable) wife highlights the classic contrast between "good looks and a charming personality" and a hard working, God fearing woman. It seems that is a description to which men should aspire also.
Proverbs 31:30-31
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands,
And let her own works praise her in the gates.
Lord, give me industries hands that serve you,

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