Sweetness in My Life

The tenth chapter of proverbs again offers a practical side to wisdom. It offers us wise advice about children, wealth, work, love, and our speech. Don't you just love these proverbs? The lessons are ageless.. they have brought such a sweetness to my life.

"A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother." (v1)

I think that many parents of teenagers might understand this verse in a different context than parents of younger children.. and yes.. I am smiling. Parenting is a mixed experience.. the truth is that sometimes our children make wise choices and sometimes they do not - just like us.. it is the way of life. Experience has taught me that as our children age they really only need one thing from us - our unconditional love.. they do not need our judgment or criticism.. and if we love them they will (eventually) come to us for our advice.

"Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit, but righteousness delivers from death. The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked." (v2-3)

There is something to be said about living a not-for-profit life. In my life greed and envy have produced nothing but misery.. but really trusting in God to meet my needs produces a sweetness in my life.

"He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame." (v5)

It is said that we should live like this is our last day but we should plan like we will never die. I find life to be a balancing act.. wisdom is not only about today.. it is about counting the costs of tomorrow as well.

"The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin" (v9)

A good reminder that wisdom is a quality of the heart.. it is not about intelligence.. I suspect that some of the wisest people do not have a really high IQ.

"Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses." (v12)

Many times when I am offended I will hear the Holy Spirit softly tell me to let love cover the offense. When He does I will generally respond like this: "I relinquish my right to be offended.. I renounce all ill feeling towards Joe.. Lord please fill me up with your love for Joe".

"The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense." (v21) "The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, but the perverse tongue will be cut off." (v31)

Everyone can feed the soul of a friend.. everyone can encourage and bless others with their words.. it is an awesome power that our words can have when we speak from our wise heart.

"Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the sluggard to those who send him." (v26)

What graphic imagery.. smoke in your eyes can really burn.. employing a lazy person can do the same.

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The Practicality of Wisdom

The ninth chapter of proverbs offers a practical side to wisdom. It speaks to us about how our future is established by following wisdom.. tells us of our need to be wise in the way that we relate to others.. and the indispensability of wisdom in resisting the tempting voice of foolishness.

"Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars." (v1) "Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.” (v6)

Jesus said that before we build a house we should count the costs involved. I have found that wisdom often costs me in the short haul.. sometimes it is harder to do the wise thing.. may times my flesh and ego takes a hit when I act wisely. Good to count the costs because rejecting wisdom always costs us more in the long haul.

"Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury." (v7)

We really need wisdom to know when, how and who to correct. Many people do not want to be told that they are wrong.. not that I have ever rejected correction :) I think that there is just something humbling about being corrected.. and so often our pride just can't handle it.

"If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it." (v12)

This verse simply seems wrong at first glance.. it is almost like Solomon is saying that there is a selfishness to wisdom.. but I do not think that is what he is talking about. He is saying that wisdom is out there.. we are responsible to apprehend it and follow its lead.. if we reject wisdom then we alone are responsible for the consequences.

"The woman Folly is loud ... calling to those who pass by ... “Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” But he does not know that the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of Sheol." (v13a, 15a, 17-18)

Interesting how Folly is depicted having a loud voice.. so often wisdom comes with a quiet subdued voice.. you can miss it if you are insensitive to the Spirit's voice. The voice of Folly is one of temptation.. it screams at us and presents sin as sweet and desirable.. and it often is for the moment.. but the end of Folly's path is death.. a sobering reminder.

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The Gift of Wisdom and Understanding

The eighth chapter of proverbs is rife with the imagery of wisdom. It speaks of wisdom standing and calling out.. and of understanding raising her voice. It speaks of knowledge, instruction and wisdom as being better than fine metals and gems.. as things that are priceless because they are given by God.

"Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (v10-11)

I find wisdom and understanding to be interesting commodities.. sometimes we seek them out and they seem to be nowhere to be found.. and often they present themselves at the oddest times. Like the Holy Spirit wisdom and understanding are things which we flow with as they are revealed to us.. as we navigate through life seeking the Lord these gifts are often simply manifested to us as we need them.. it is like the only way to get them is to not seek them but seek their source.. you know.. seek God.

"The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate."(v13)

In this verse we see a definition of what it means to fear the Lord. I want this verse to mean that I am to hate the evil in you.. but I suspect it means that if I fear the Lord I will hate and subsequently refuse the lure of evil in my life. I think that humility is the key to this kind of fear.

"I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me." (v17)

I am glad that this speaks about wisdom and not about God.. i.e. God's love is not conditional on us loving Him. This verse does seem to contradict what I just wrote about wisdom and how we are not being able to find it when we seek it.. I don't think that is the case.. let me explain. In chapter 12 of 1Corinthians wisdom and knowledge are spoken of as a gifts of the Holy Spirit.. as such it is foolish to chase after these gifts because we are to pursue the Giver and not the gifts.

"And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways." (v32) "For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord" (v35)

I think that it is always good to remember that there is a blessing to seeking the Lord.. and often one of those blessings is the gift of wisdom.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

The Wisdom of Ants

In the sixth chapter of proverbs we read some dire warnings and admonitions about co-signing loans, laziness, inner sins and sexual immorality. We are instructed to be wise in our dealings with others.. to prepare for our futures.. to deal with the inner defects in our lives.. and to flee sexual temptations. We would do well to take these to heart.

"My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger, if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber; save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler." (v1-5)

What a graphic image of a bird caught in a trap. I have often heard that partnerships are very difficult because of the level of trust that is required to be successful in them. We so need wisdom when we enter into an alliance with another. Our words can ensnare us and cause us a lot of grief. My advice is to always get it in writing.. even when you are doing business with Christian friends.

"Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise.” (v6) “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man." (v11)

Hard work will bring you to places that nothing else will.. and laziness will do the same. In my late 30s I started to save for retirement through my companies 401k program.. each month I put a little bit away for my "golden years".. little did I understand that I would be retiring at age 49. That little habit of saving enabled me to take advantage of a great pension package by my company. It is good to remember that even the ant thinks ahead.

"There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:
  1. haughty eyes,
  2. a lying tongue,
  3. and hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. a heart that devises wicked plans,
  5. feet that make haste to run to evil,
  6. a false witness who breathes out lies,and
  7. one who sows discord among brothers." (v16-19)
This list amazes me.. lying is directly mentioned twice (#2 & 6) and indirectly once (#7). The inner workings of the heart (#4) are on the same list as the shedding of innocent blood. The list leads me to believe that pride (#1) and other inner qualities are so important to defeat to lead lives that please the Lord.

"He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself."(v32)

The last half of this chapter again addresses instructions about sexual promiscuity. It reinforces the idea that sexual sin has terrible consequences. I think that a person does lose their senses when they commit adultery.. they destroy their reputation and bring calamity to their family.. their delusion and deception is great.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

Solomon on Sexual Temptation

In the fifth chapter of proverbs Solomon gives instruction to his son about sexual temptation and marital fidelity. Reading between the lines it seems that he is speaking a bit from both his good and bad experiences in this area. This should be required reading for all young men and women.

For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. (v3-6)

The text is very direct about sexual temptation. It speaks of the progression of temptation evolving from "innocent" flattery to death. Interesting that he seems to indicate that the woman is somewhat unaware of what she is doing.

“How I hated discipline, and my heart despised reproof! I did not listen to the voice of my teachers or incline my ear to my instructors. I am at the brink of utter ruin in the assembled congregation.” (v12b-14)

Being humble means that we are teachable. For so much of my life I was not.. I was spiritually arrogant and believed that all I needed was the Holy Spirit to teach me. Thank God for His mercy that opened up my eyes.

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. (v15) Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, (v18)

The divorce statistics for church folks are shockingly similar to those outside the church. It is a sad fact that many do not find blessing in marital intimacy and for one reason or another engage in adulterous relationships. I think the operative word here is "rejoice".

For a man's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.(v23)

I do not know about you but that phrase "eyes of the Lord" is a bit unsettling. True enough that God sees us through eyes of love and compassion.. but.. just thinking of how nothing is hidden from Him, and He is constantly there, makes me want to bring a smile to eyes :)

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

Keeping Your Heart

The fourth chapter of proverbs continues Solomon's instructions about the importance of wisdom and of the relationship of the heart, or the inner being, to wisdom and to life in general. This chapter also speaks to the merits of following God's lighted path.

When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live. (v3-4)

I love the imagery as this proverb begins.. the picture of a father teaching his son.. impressing on him the value of inner heart learning and how spiritual life comes from obedience.

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight. (v7)

I love the straightforwardness of this verse.. if you want wisdom then do everything you can do to get it. This captures the heart of the seventh verse of Proverbs 1 that teaches that wisdom begins when we fear the Lord.. it is an issue of priorities.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble. (v18-19)

These verses follow several other verses listing the perils of following wickedness and evil. Walking in the light is sometimes painful but I find it to be a benefit when I lay my head on the pillow at night with a clear conscience.

Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. (v23)

Oh my.. what a verse.. maybe the most important thing we can do is to nurture and strengthen our heart. I think we err greatly when we violate the instructions of our heart because each time we do we allow our flesh to overrule our heart and suppress those rivers of living waters that Jesus told us about (John 7:38).

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil. (v25-27)

Jesus spoke of our eyes as the lamp of our body.. I heard it said once that we become what we look at.. important lesson.. if you want stay out of one of those nasty ditches :)

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

With All of Your Heart

The third chapter of proverbs is one of my favorites in the bible.It is replete with words about favor.. with admonitions about wisdom (which I have earlier addressed).. with instruction concerning heart faith and a few words about discipline and giving.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. (v3-4)

Love and faithfulness are the hallmarks of healthy relationships.. it is really hard to have one without the other. Interesting how favor and success are related.. both on a human and divine level.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (v5)

One of the most important verses about faith and trust in the scriptures. I lived most of my Christian life leaning on my own understanding and really deceived about what faith looked like. Faith and trust are heart issues - our head usually just gets in the way because it wants to lead our heart.

In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (v6)

Interesting use of "all".. we error when we acknowledge him in "some" of our ways.. and wind up with crooked paths.

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. (v7-8)

There does seems to be a therapeutic effect to humility.

Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine. (v9-10)

I love the word "honor" in this verse.. it is a challenging one isn't it? So easy to tithe a tenth and not really honor God with the rest.. wonder if sometimes we do not honer Him with the tithe?

My son, do not despise the Lord's discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. (v11-12)

A lot of bad theology out there about this verse. Suffice to say that evil and sickness are not instruments of his discipline. Sometimes the hardest thing a parent can do is to let their child learn from their mistakes.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it. (v27)

If one ever needed wisdom it would be around the performance of this verse. I think that the key to that wisdom is the word "due". Many times we are not discerning about our giving and fritter it away to those who are "due" it.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.

The Wisdom of Seeking

The second chapter of proverbs is rich with instruction about wisdom. It is good to remember when we read about seeking wisdom that seeking wisdom is really about seeking God.. wisdom personified. When we ask God for wisdom we are really asking God to reveal Himself.

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; (v1-2)

When I read words like "receive", "attentive" and "inclining" the word humility come to mind. God has called us to be life-long learners.. but not all are humble enough to learn. In some sense it is impossible to learn or even seek God if we are not a little humble.

yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (v3-5)

There seems to be this tension in how God reveals himself to us.. sometimes we seek and do not find.. yet sometimes He reveals Himself to us when we do not think we are seeking. My most meaningful times of revelation have come during worship. Maybe it is more about seeking the person of God rather than the wisdom of God.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding; (v6)

So often my head wants knowledge and understanding when what I really need is wisdom of the heart.. interesting that they all come from the same source.

Following are some of the blessings of seeking the Lord:
  • guarding the paths of justice and watching over the way of his saints (v8)
  • discretion will watch over you, understanding will guard you delivering you from the way of evil (v11-12)
  • For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it (v21)
It is good to be reminded that blessings often come when we seek the Lord with good motives.

If you liked this post then please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.