The twenty-first chapter of proverbs speaks to us about how our ways are not like the Lord's ways. In this chapter we discover that God's ways are patient ones bearing with us as travel life. It speaks to us of His heart for the poor and His desire for us to be kind, work hard, speak positively and not complain.
"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will. Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs te heart. To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin." (v1-4)
I love the way that these verses blends the ways of the Lords with the ways of a person. I think that it is so wonderful how God is portrayed as more of an influencer than a controller. He is interested in working with us to refine our attitudes, strengthen our innermost being and bring us to a place of humility.
"The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance, but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death." (v5-6)
I have often thought of how the ways of kingdom living have no shortcuts. We can not get to where God wants us to be when we use sinful shortcuts. I think that even prayers can be an attempt at shortcutting God's purposes when we offer them for selfish purposes.
"It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife. ... It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman."(v9, 19)
I think that child or husband could be substituted for wife.. living with a complainer can be hard. That said I have to say that I live with a non-complainer - Ann could spend her days bemoaning the wheelchair she spends so much time in or the physical difficulties that she daily wrestles with but has chosen a path of being positive. Is so appreciate my wife's inner (and outer) beauty.. her discipline and attitude often puts this complainer to shame.
"Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” (v13)
I have had a lot of dialog with my friends about whose responsibility it is to care for the poor. I consistently say that it is "our" responsibility. I hope that one day we believers will put the government out of a job - even if it is just a little bit.
"Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich. ... The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back." (v17, 25-26)
I have been concerned for some time at the growing fixation on pleasure in our society. It seems that the days of people working hard and supporting their families have given way to video games and online social networking. I pray that America will one day regain the prominence we once had in research, development and industry.
"Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor." (v21)
I love how righteousness and kindness are linked together in this verse. Possibly kindness is an evidence of real righteousness.
"A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust. Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride." (v22-24)
I think these three verses all involve our speech. I can often tell when I am most proud when I pay attention to what I say.
"No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord." (v30-31)
I sometimes think that I am a pretty smart person.. I have lived so much of my life from my brain.. but so often life reminds me that I am not very wise about the most important things in life.. it is why I so desperately need to seek the Lord. Our ways are not His.. our love is not like His.. His ways do not fail.
Please click here to catch some of my other ponderings on the book of Proverbs.