Proverbs 31 – July 31

CC Image courtesy of Megan on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Megan on Flickr.

Proverbs 31
Author: Jana Anderson

If there were ever a series of scriptures that have caused me more guilt and despair and feelings of inadequacy as a wife and a mother, I can’t think of any. Welcome to Proverbs 31:10-31, and enter at your own risk.

That’s what I used to think, but over the years, including the rich teaching in a bible class just a month ago, spiritual mentors and teachers have pointed me to the beauty—and perhaps the true point—of this set of scriptures that describe a Godly and productive woman whose husband and children call her blessed and who can cook, sew, build a business, get up early, go to bed late, and even has a sense of humor. She sounds like a keeper, and it makes sense that she garnered the admiration and respect of so many, especially those at home.

Is the description of this woman, and the beauty of her life, the culmination of the wisdom of proverbs and a checklist for us to follow? Should I use her life as a template for my own? (What do I do with the fact that I can’t sew, which gets mentioned several times throughout these verses and makes my heart race?

These are the wrong questions.

When the writer of Proverbs began this record of wisdom all the way back in Chapter 1:7, he wrote that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Flash-forward to the end of Proverbs 31 and the culmination of the description of the Proverbs 31 woman: “Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (v. 30).

It seems to me that the whole point of Proverbs 31—and all of Proverbs—is this: if you want to be wise, if you want to start from the right place in all that you think and do, then do this one thing: fear the Lord. Love him. Reverence him. Understand your position in front of Him. If a position of godly fear is the starting point from which you launch your to-do list, from which you think and speak, and the position from which you serve and lead, then you will be wise and will “surpass them all” (v. 29).

A woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. Start there, and the rest will take care of itself, even if you can’t sew. You will be “more precious than jewels” (10) and your wisdom, not your sewing skills, will be worthy of praise.

Proverbs 30 – July 30

CC Image courtesy of ~Pawsitive~Candie_N on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of ~Pawsitive~Candie_N on Flickr.

Proverbs 30
Author: Rob Anderson

“Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
I have no understanding of a man.” (Proverbs 30.2, ESV)

Seems a little harsh, don’t you think.

Stupid.

The s-word we were never allowed to say growing up.

If you cannot say that about someone else, you sure shouldn’t say it about yourself. Yet, the writer of Proverbs does.

One might be tempted to say it is hyperbole, just a way to deflect the praises of others. You know how this works. You wear a fancy dress, one saved just for this particular event, but play it off with a coy: “Oh, this old thing?” The writer, however, seems very serious about his thoughts. In fact, he begins this chapter with the words: “I am weary, O God, and worn out.” (30.1)

It is hard work to try and always be on top of your game, especially when that game is creating and running the universe. Verses 3-4 sounds like the language of the Sovereign Lord when he addresses Job’s complaint that God was a “no show.” (Read Job 38, for instance.)

A no show? Job, you have no idea what you are talking about. Truth be known, Job, you are too stupid to be a man.

Well, that’s not what God says, but it is what the Proverb author says, because he knows that it is not his role to run life and the world as he knows it, it is his merely to trust in the goodness and power and mercy of a Sovereign Lord.

What about you? Are you smart enough to know how stupid you are?

Proverbs 29 – July 29

CC Image courtesy of Dustin McClure on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Dustin McClure on Flickr.

Proverbs 29
Author: Randy Sheets

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”- Lord Acton

Over two dozen of the proverbs address the conduct of the king (or rulers in general). This makes sense-Solomon was the author of most of the proverbs, Hezekiah copied many of them and some king named Lemuel came along and contributed some of the latter proverbs and we don’t even know who he is! Add to that the number of proverbs addressed to the conduct of sons and we see a picture of kings trying to impart wisdom to their offspring.

This is especially true in the 29th chapter of Proverbs. Five of the verses refer to a king or ruler and others suggest the same. With our recent study of the Old Testament we can see numerous examples of kings and rulers-from Pharaoh to Cyrus-who believed themselves to be essentially a god and therefore their decisions were not questioned. In the New Testament we have Herod and even Felix who wanted a bribe from Paul (Acts 24:26). Example after example of rulers who felt themselves to be accountable to no one-ruling unchecked in their power-until their thrones were taken away.

Israel also had more bad kings than good kings and even the good kings were prone to do sinful things. Even though they should have known they were ultimately accountable to God and in most instances God advised them through prophets, they still stiffened their necks and rebelled. Because they did not listen to the wise counsel of the prophets and the proverbs their thrones were also taken away from them by God.

Being the subjects of these kings proved to be difficult at best. But we now serve a Holy King whose throne is established by justice, equity, and righteousness (Psalms 99:4,5). That’s why His throne will endure forever. How truly blessed we are to be citizens of His kingdom-now and forever. He’s a king who doesn’t just think He is a god-He is God!

Isaiah 9:6-7

6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
7 Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this. (ESV)

Proverbs 28 – July 28

CC Image courtesy of epSos .de on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of epSos .de on Flickr.

Proverbs 28
Author: Keino McWhinney

“When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.” (Proverbs 28:12 ESV)

“When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase.” (Proverbs 28: 28 ESV)

Mankind’s delight in power and the powerful is well documented. Power, it seems, is desired both for its “inherent” positive designation and also for the associated benefits that come from its possession. To be sure, the presence or absence of power has very real consequences in life. By power we assert, appropriate, confiscate, delegate, subjugate, acquire, dissolve, declare…and the list goes on. The converse is also true that those without power are considered to be in a state of deficiency. Not surprising, the bible offers guidance for how to use power and in Proverbs 28 we see the contrasting reaction to the possession of power by those who are righteous versus the wicked. The message is clear, power can and often is abused in the hands of the wrong person.

It is instructive to observe the many ways in which our society has sought to mitigate the abuse of power. For example, there are corporate policies on ethics, political checks and balances, audits, constitutions, and so on. However, power is not reserved solely for those who rule. Each of us should examine our lives to see the consequences of the powers we possess, be they limited or vast. If we want for an example of how to use our power, we need look no further than Jesus Christ who though possessing ultimate power nonetheless subjected himself to his father’s will.

So, who are we in the narrative of our daily lives? Are we good stewards of our power? I pray that through our imitation of Jesus’ example, our use of power will be counted as that of the righteous and not the wicked.

Proverbs 26 – July 26

CC Image courtesy of Rachel Monroe on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Rachel Monroe on Flickr.

Proverbs 26
Author: Daniel Wheeler

So, do I or don’t I “answer a fool according to his folly?” This is the question in light of Proverbs 26:4-5. One verse cautions that if we do we will become fools ourselves, the second cautions that if we don’t the fool will become “wise in his own eyes.” Frustrating.

We so desperately want things to be simple. Life is complicated and navigating it equally so. Proverbs, at first glance, appeals to that desire for simple, clear instruction.

However, when we look carefully at Proverbs, we discover that living wisely is not so simple. We discover that it is not enough to know what to do, we must also know when to do it, “There is a time for everything…” says the Teacher.

So, how can we know the proper time to “answer the fool?” The text itself may provide some clues. To begin, we should note that all fools are not created equal. Some are simply naïve and don’t know any better and may yet respond to instruction. But some are fools because they are proud – these fools are “wise in their own eyes” and have rejected wise instruction because they “know better.”

Interestingly, verses 4-16 all have something to do with fools. First, in verses 6-11 we are given two examples of persons who are made fools because they trusted a fool to perform work. (26:6 and 10) Were they somehow “answering the fool according to his folly?”

Next, the phrase, “wise in his own eyes” appears in some form in verses 5, 12, and 16 – first in reference to the fool, next in contrast with the fool, and last in reference to the sluggard. Thus, linking the proud fool of verses 4 and 5 to the proud sluggard.

Finally, verses 12-16 concern the sluggard with verses 12 and 16 indicating there is more hope for a fool than a sluggard who is proud. Is this fool is beyond instruction?

So, how does this help us answer the question? Perhaps, the text is telling us what to do – answer the fool according to his folly – and when to do it – before he becomes proud – because then it will be too late. The example then is the one who will not work. Teach him to work before he becomes proud. If you try to teach him once he is proud, he will only make a fool out of you.

So, do I or don’t I? It depends and only God can provide the answer. Frustrating. The good news is that he is faithful to do it, if we will ask and listen.

May God give us wisdom to know how and when to act – that our knowledge may be used effectively, in ways that bless and lead to righteousness.

Proverbs 24 – July 24

CC Image courtesy of slgckgc on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of slgckgc on Flickr.

Proverbs 24
Author: Rob Anderson

I used to coach t-ball. For the most part, it was an enjoyable experience. Most of the coaches tried to help the players learn to play more than they tried to “win” the league. The league had a very tight policy against arguing—one could be tossed for even the slightest hint of disagreement with an umpire—and as a result, most of the games went off without a hitch. There was, however, as there always is, THAT coach. In fact, THAT coach was so despised, I overheard the umpire telling the scorekeeper before the game something to the effect of “I cannot stand THAT coach.”

Our team was up to bat first. Our lead off hitter lay down an incredible bunt. That is, if you could bunt in t-ball. He had actually swung with all his might and managed to barely move the ball off the tee. The thing he did have going for him was that although he was small, he was slow. Their pitcher picked up the ball and easily threw it to first, beating the runner by a step or two. THAT coach, who was at first immediately began high-fiving his player, only to hear the umpire yell:

Safe!

THAT coach whipped around to look at the umpire.

THAT coach opened his mouth to argue.

And that umpire looked at him, arched her eyebrow ever so slightly, and although it was not audible, I would swear I heard her comment: Say something. PLEASE, say something!

Here’s what I did and did not learn that day. I did not learn that that umpire calls a fair ballgame. I did not learn there is no such thing as partiality in baseball. I did not learn to trust that umpire.

No, I learned that if you will be nice to the umpire, she will be nice to you.

I learned that the writer of proverbs was right:

To show partiality in judging is not good:
Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
Will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations. (Proverbs 24.23-24, NIV)

Although I tried to be nice to that umpire for the rest of my time in the league, I knew her judgment rested not on the performance of my players, but on my respect. And to be honest, it was hard to have any.

Proverbs 23 – July 23

CC Image courtesy of Henti Smith on Flickr.

CC Image courtesy of Henti Smith on Flickr.

Proverbs 23
Author: Matthew Killough

Proverbs 23 is in the middle of a section labeled, “Thirty Sayings of the Wise”. Over the thirteen sayings in chapter 23 we find wide variety: from gluttony to discipline to the dangers of drunkenness, the author has many warnings. Of course all of these are good advice but the one that has caught my attention is saying number eight:

“Do not wear yourself out to get rich; do not trust in your own cleverness. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for the they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.”

There is perhaps no better advice for the overworked American than this admonition to not “wear yourself out”. The pursuit of wealth has crushed too many men, women, families and churches in our world. As your work week winds down consider thinking about what matters in eternity. Will your wealth place you in favor with God? Read Luke 12:13 – 21 to get Jesus’ take on the matter.