Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Proverbs - August 2016

Paths lead places. When we persistently reject wisdom's call and instruction, we are eventually given our desire to be foolish. Wisdom will not be there when it is too late.
Proverbs 1.24-26
Because I have called and you refused,
I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, 
Because you disdained all my counsel,
And would have none of my rebuke.
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes,
Lord, help me be a hearer and doer of Your Word and receive all the blessings of faithfully following your wise path.
A changed heart will change choices.
Proverbs 2.10-11
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
Lord, help me to love You, take pleasure in knowledge, and be preserved and kept in the way.
A changed heart will change choices.
Proverbs 2.10-11
When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul, 
Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,
Lord, help me to love You, take pleasure in knowledge, and be preserved and kept in the way.
Proverbs 4.5-7
5 Get wisdom! Get understanding!
Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. 

6 Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you;
Love her, and she will keep you. 

7 Wisdom is the principal (first, chief, choice part, best) thing; Therefore get wisdom.
And in all your getting, get understanding.
1. Wisdom is communicated verbally, but is more than a group of sayings or lectures.
2. Wisdom, is not some kind of theoretical "mumbo-jumbo." Having and following it impacts our lives.
3. It is wisdom itself (for many reasons) not the benefits that are the principal thing. It reminds me of Matthew 6.33.
Lord, help me seek your wisdom first.
Proverbs spends a lot of ink warning the son (with applications for the daughter) about the danger of sexual activity outside of marriage. Here it is pictured as something precious and exclusive that should not be allowed to flow beyond his own house and garden.
Proverbs 5.15-17
Drink water from your own cistern,
And running water from your own well. 
Should your fountains be dispersed abroad,
Streams of water in the streets?
Let them be only your own,
And not for strangers with you.
Lord, help me be loyal to Your wisdom and the wife You have graciously given me.
These verses are an example of how God can use nature as a memorable illustration of how we should act. These verses on diligence and planning ahead are part of a fifteen verse section on "finances."
Proverbs 6.6-8
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain, Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
Lord, help me be more like the ant.
Wisdom is personified as calling out like in chapter one. It is described as calling out to the simple and the fools, but not the scornful whose pride apparently makes it unlikely that they would be receptive to excellent/noble and right things.
Proverbs 8.4-6
"To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
O you simple ones, understand prudence,
And you fools, be of an understanding heart.
Listen, for I will speak of excellent (noble) things,
And from the opening of my lips will come right things;
Lord help me have the humble heart of a hearer (and doer) of Your wise words.
In the transition between the descriptions of Wisdom and Folly calling out to those who pass by we find this reminder. It is a good one to pound into our thinking since we are often not in the best frame of mind to receive correction when we need it. 
Proverbs 9.8-9
Do not correct a scoffer, lest he hate you;
Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. 
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
Teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
Lord, keep me humble and fearing You so that I will welcome the instruction and rebukes that make me wiser.
Proverbs 10.24-25
The fear of the wicked will come upon him,
And the desire of the righteous will be granted.
When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more,
But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.
Lord, help me build my life on the Rock, that will never be blown or washed away.
The greedy businessman who seeks only to enrich himself is contrasted with a generous soul who seeks to bless others even with his (her) business and is enriched in the process.
Proverbs 11.24-26
There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
And there is one who withholds more than is right, 
But it leads to poverty.
The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.
The people will curse him who withholds grain,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
Lord, help me be an extension of your generosity.
Proverbs 12.8-9A man will be commended according to his wisdom,
But he who is of a perverse heart will be despised.
Better is the one who is slighted but has a servant,
Than he who honors himself but lacks bread.
Normally the wise are commended, but if not, substance is better than show.
Lord, make me a man of substance.
Proverbs 13.10-11
By pride comes nothing but strife, 
But with the well-advised is wisdom.
Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished, 
But he who gathers by labor will increase.
The pairing of antonyms provides some good food for thought. Here we have the proud contrasted with the "well advised," and the resulting strife contrasted with wisdom. Why do the proud have strife instead of wisdom? What does the contrast between dishonesty and labor teach us?
At first glance these sayings don't seem to share much in common, but after you reflect for a while...
Proverbs 14:5-6
A faithful witness does not lie,
But a false witness will utter lies.
A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it,
But knowledge is easy to him who understands.
While wisdom and truth are not the same things, it Is the same faithful and wise person who will travel with relative ease in the spheres of wisdom and knowledge. Lord, I want to be that man.
Proverbs 15.28-29
The heart of the righteous studies how to answer,
But the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.
The LORD is far from the wicked,
But He hears the prayer of the righteous.
Sometimes we get the idea that we should just gush whatever comes to mind to God in an effort to be real, etc. If we should be thoughtful in how we talk to others, how much more when we humbly approach our Maker.
Lord, help me be righteous and wise in my thoughts, conversations with others, and in my thoughts and prayers toward You.
A total lack of moral discernment and aptitude is described in these two sayings.
Proverbs 17.15-16
He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just,
Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD. 
Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom,
Since he has no heart for it?
Lord, give me a wise discerning heart that sees things the way you do.
There is the idea of "Dress for success," and here the idea is similar and less superficial. Am I clothed in humility, or is my "know it all" attitude preparing me for destruction?
Proverbs 18.12-13
Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty,
And before honor is humility. 
He who answers a matter before he hears it,
It is folly and shame to him.
Lord, grant me the humble spirit of a learner.
Proverbs 19.5, 9
5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies will not escape.

9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
And he who speaks lies shall perish.
Two practically identical sayings in close proximity gets me to thinking.
Lord, help me to be a model of Your truthfulness/faithfulness.
These proverbs are part of a short section on speech and commerce. They acknowledge the Lord as the one who enables perception with a couple examples.
Proverbs 20.12-15
12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
The LORD has made them both.

13 Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty;
Open your eyes, and you will be satisfied with bread. 

14 "It is good for nothing," cries the buyer;
But when he has gone his way, then he boasts.

15 There is gold and a multitude of rubies,
But the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Lord, give me hearing hears, seeing eyes and the wise words that are more precious than gold. Then help me use them for Your glory.
The first and last two verses in this chapter seem to form a frame around the chapter. These two sayings remind us that we (and even powerful rulers) are not as free and independent to think and do as we please as we might think.
Proverbs 21.1-2
1 The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD,
Like the rivers of water; 

He turns it wherever He wishes. 

2 Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the LORD weighs the hearts.
Lord, I want to think thoughts that please You and welcome your direction in my life.
provide an insightful contrast to the love for moral purity and compassionate words that attract the friendship of godly rulers.
Proverbs 22.10-12
10 Cast out the scoffer, and contention will leave;
Yes, strife and reproach will cease.

11 He who loves purity of heart
And has grace on his lips,
The king will be his friend. 

12 The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge,
But He overthrows the words of the faithless.
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, o Lord.
# 7 of the Thirty Sayings of the Wise reminds us that just because we can doesn't mean we should. A little wisdom and self-control can go a long way in many situations.
Proverbs 23.1-3
When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
Consider carefully what is before you; 
And put a knife to your throat If you are a man given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
For they are deceptive food.
Lord, give me a humble fear of You and desire for You and for Your ways that will eclipse all others.
Proverbs 24.28-29
Do not be a witness against your neighbor without cause,
For would you deceive with your lips?
Do not say, "I will do to him just as he has done to me;
I will render to the man according to his work."
It would be easy to only read these two sayings from the perspective of our own self-interest until we remember the second great commandment and Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan.
Lord, help my love for You to overflow to my neighbors.
Few things are as frustrating as the person who cannot be relied on and has no sense of what is socially appropriate for different situations.
Proverbs 25.19-20
Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble
Is like a bad tooth and a foot out of joint.
Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather,
And like vinegar on soda,
Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
Lord, give me the faithfulness and wisdom to be a blessing to others.
These sayings describe the hateful enemy who hides their evil intentions. They serve as a warning about others and give a caution about our own hearts.
Proverbs 26.23-26
23 Fervent lips with a wicked heart
Are like earthenware covered with silver dross.

24 He who hates, disguises it with his lips,
And lays up deceit within himself; 

25 When he speaks kindly, do not believe him,
For there are seven abominations in his heart.

26 Though his hatred is covered by deceit,
His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly.
Lord, help me to be wise and discerning and full of Christ's love for all.
In the middle of sayings about friends and relationships, we find this caution to be wise and prudent when money is involved.
Proverbs 27.11-13
11 My son, be wise, and make my heart glad,
That I may answer him who reproaches me.

12 A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself;
The simple pass on and are punished. 

13 Take the garment of him who is surety for a stranger,
And hold it in pledge when he is surety for a seductress.
Lord give me the prudence to anticipate and the wisdom to make appropriate provisions.
One of the reoccurring themes in the OT is the condemnation of those (esp. in power) who oppress the helpless.
Proverbs 28.15-17
15 Like a roaring lion and a charging bear Is a wicked ruler over poor people.
16 A ruler who lacks understanding is a great oppressor, 
But he who hates covetousness will prolong his days.

17 A man burdened with bloodshed will flee into a pit;
Let no one help him.
Lord, give me a generous and compassionate spirit that does good for others.
These sayings contrast the greedy predators of Proverbs 1.10ff with thoughtful protectors of the poor.
Proverbs 29.5-7
5 A man who flatters his neighbor
Spreads a net for his feet.

6 By transgression an evil man is snared,
But the righteous sings and rejoices.

7 The righteous considers the cause of the poor,
But the wicked does not understand such knowledge.
Lord, give me a heart and perspective that considers the cause of the poor.
expected. We live in an imperfect and fallen world waiting on and looking for the One who will set things right.
Proverbs 30.21-23
For three things the earth is perturbed,
Yes, for four it cannot bear up:
For a servant when he reigns,
A fool when he is filled with food,
A hateful woman when she is married,
And a maidservant who succeeds her mistress.
Lord, thank you for your mercy when I don't get what I deserve. Help me believe and hope in You.
Proverbs 31.1
The words of King Lemuel,
the utterance which his mother taught him:
This reminds me of the iconic quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln. "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother."
Lord, thank you for my excellent mother and my children's excellent mother.
Matthew 15.25 seems to indicate that asking God for something with a humble faith is indeed an act of worship.
"Then she [the woman of Cannan with the demon possessed son] came and worshiped Him, saying, Lord, help me". 
Maybe if we resist the urge to explain things to God and come with faith and a sense of humble need, we are worshipping Him well during the request portion of our prayer time.

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,