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Proverbs by Stephen Thompson

Daily Bible thoughts 666: Wednesday 23rd July 2014:

 Proverbs 22:12 – 16

Yesterday we saw the importance of good talk (11): ”God loves the pure-hearted and well-spoken; good leaders also delight in their friendship.” The Message. The next proverb (12) deals with its opposite: ”God guards knowledge with a passion, but he’ll have nothing to do with deception.” The Message. What this proverb seems to mean is that the Lord will ensure that the truth will prevail over the words of the false. He will vindicate the truth. That is good to know. Come to think of it, that is exactly what God did in the resurrection of Jesus. In raising Jesus (”the truth” Jn.14:6) He was vindicating Him in the face of the irregular human verdict based on lies. The truth will out. It will prevail. It is self-evident that lying is a mug’s game. Liars get caught out. They have to tell more and more lies to cover their earlier lies, but they always get exposed in the end. So stay with God on the side of truth. Indeed determine, with God’s almighty enabling, to be scrupulously honest.

The lazy person always has an excuse for not working; for staying in bed (13). These are often hollow and ridiculous excuses. ”The loafer says, ”There’s a lion on the loose! If I go out I’ll be eaten alive!” ” The Message. As someone observed, they talk about the lion outside, but forget about the ‘lion’ within (1 Peter 5:8) who will surely ”devour” them if they don’t change their ways. In church life we need to ensure that we are not making empty excuses for failing to do pressing work that we really ought to be getting on with.

Proverbs has a lot to say about the danger of adultery. If we heed it, we will do our utmost to stay far away from even the possibility of temptation. Here is another aspect (14). It is one way God’s judgment on a life is worked out. As Paul shows in Romans 1: 18-32, when men give God up, God gives men up; He gives them up to things like adultery. He allows them to reject Him and choose their own way down an ever more slippery path. He takes off the ‘handbrake’ and allows them to start rolling downhill.

Children, left to their own devices, will incline towards folly because of their inherent sinful nature (15). Only by the power of the Holy Spirit can this be properly subdued, but parents also have a role, under the influence of God’s Spirit, to correct and train their children in God’s ways. ”Young people are prone to foolishness and fads; the cure comes through tough-minded discipline.” The Message. It is a sad thing to read that the old priest, Eli, did not discipline his boys as he should have done, with disastrous consequences (1 Sam.3:13). May God help us as parents, for we surely need all the aid we can draw from him. To raise children well is probably the greatest, and hardest, calling in the world.

The people who extort money from the poor, or who try to bribe the rich will ”both come to poverty”. God will punish the oppressor. Sooner or later he will lose his ill-gotten gains (Jas.5:4, 5). On the other hand, the briber will end up squandering his wealth for nothing. We have been warned!

Prayer: Lord, I can see that your way is best. Sometimes the way of the world is appealing, but I know that it is wrong. Help me to always walk in the road of heavenly wisdom rather than being diverted down the pathway of human folly.

Daily Bible thoughts 665: Tuesday 22nd April 2014:

 Proverbs 22:7-11

We continue to finger the precious ‘pearls’ of wisdom hanging on this Biblical ‘string’.

Verse 7: In our indebted society, surely this is motivation to go without rather than live on ‘tick’. The ability to have now and pay later has done a lot of harm, where used irresponsibly. It is a fact of life that power and wealth go together, and all too often the powerful do not use their resources for the benefit of the needy. In Bible times the poor often sold themselves to their lenders in order to pay off their debts. ”The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power.” The Message. (See also verses 9 and 16).

Verse 8: As we are regularly disturbed and unsettled by the news headlines we need to remember this proverb. The Bible is a realistic Book. It faces the fact that we live in a world in which there are those who sow ”wickedness”, but it is also insistent that we will reap what we sow. It is a much repeated principle in Scripture. Evil is boomerang – like and will rebound on people with great velocity. ”Whoever sows sin reaps weeds, and bullying anger sputters into nothing.” The Message.

Verse 9: ”A generous man…” has much to teach the ”rich” (7) who dominate the poor. You don’t have to have a lot to be generous. Here is another repeated Biblical principle which I would express like this: you can’t out give God! ”Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor.” The Message. I believe that serving the poor in some form is a non-negotiable part of Christian discipleship. And for those who are blessed with much there is an even heavier responsibility. Consider also Prov. 11:24, 25: ”The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” The Message.

Verse 10: ”Kick out the troublemakers and things will quiet down; you need a break from bickering and griping.” The Message. This is more easily said than done, but there comes a point in church life where, after all due process, with time and patience for people to change their ways, this has to be done. It is a sad day when such surgical removal has to take place (and, hopefully, a rarity), but sometimes it just becomes inevitable for the health of the body. The ‘cancer’ will spread if not removed.

Verse 11: Kind words that flow from a pure heart will open all kinds of doors. We are not thinking here of manipulative and deliberately flattering words. This is about genuine people operating out of a true heart. Whoever you are, it’s nice to know that there are those around you who are for you; who love you and have your back. They are not being sycophantic and pursuing their own agendas. They are just good people and their words bless you. Who does not need such friends?

Prayer: Lord, I am again aware of just how much I need your wisdom and not my own. I thank you for the beauty of the wisdom that shines in just a few verses of this wonderful book. It causes me to crave more and more of your perspective.

Daily Bible thoughts 665: Tuesday 22nd April 2014:

Proverbs 22:7-11

We continue to finger the precious ‘pearls’ of wisdom hanging on this Biblical ‘string’.  Verse 7: In our indebted society, surely this is motivation to go without rather than live on ‘tick’. The ability to have now and pay later has done a lot of harm, where used irresponsibly. It is a fact of life that power and wealth go together, and all too often the powerful do not use their resources for the benefit of the needy. In Bible times the poor often sold themselves to their lenders in order to pay off their debts. ”The poor are always ruled over by the rich, so don’t borrow and put yourself under their power.” The Message. (See also verses 9 and 16).

Verse 8: As we are regularly disturbed and unsettled by the news headlines we need to remember this proverb. The Bible is a realistic Book. It faces the fact that we live in a world in which there are those who sow ”wickedness”, but it is also insistent that we will reap what we sow. It is a much repeated principle in Scripture. Evil is boomerang – like and will rebound on people with great velocity. ”Whoever sows sin reaps weeds, and bullying anger sputters into nothing.” The Message.

Verse 9: ”A generous man…” has much to teach the ”rich” (7) who dominate the poor. You don’t have to have a lot to be generous. Here is another repeated Biblical principle which I would express like this: you can’t out give God! ”Generous hands are blessed hands because they give bread to the poor.” The Message. I believe that serving the poor in some form is a non-negotiable part of Christian discipleship. And for those who are blessed with much there is an even heavier responsibility. Consider also Prov. 11:24, 25: ”The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller. The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed; those who help others are helped.” The Message.

Verse 10: ”Kick out the troublemakers and things will quiet down; you need a break from bickering and griping.” The Message. This is more easily said than done, but there comes a point in church life where, after all due process, with time and patience for people to change their ways, this has to be done. It is a sad day when such surgical removal has to take place (and, hopefully, a rarity), but sometimes it just becomes inevitable for the health of the body. The ‘cancer’ will spread if not removed.

Verse 11: Kind words that flow from a pure heart will open all kinds of doors. We are not thinking here of manipulative and deliberately flattering words. This is about genuine people operating out of a true heart. Whoever you are, it’s nice to know that there are those around you who are for you; who love you and have your back. They are not being sycophantic and pursuing their own agendas. They are just good people and their words bless you. Who does not need such friends?

Prayer: Lord, I am again aware of just how much I need your wisdom and not my own. I thank you for the beauty of the wisdom that shines in just a few verses of this wonderful book. It causes me to crave more and more of your perspective.

 

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 633: Friday 6th June 2014:

 Proverbs 22:1-6

It seems nearly everyone wants to win the lottery. Some of those people even do the lottery!! But there are things that matter more than money (1; see 2 Corinthians 8:18). Our culture prizes cash too highly. ”A sterling reputation is better than striking it rich; a gracious spirit is better than money in the bank.” The Message.  (2) A couple of days ago we were thinking about how Paul wanted there to be a level playing field in the church (2 Corinthians 8: 13-15). Here Proverbs makes the point that ”The rich and the poor shake hands as equals – GOD made them both!” There are practical implications for us in that very point and they should have a bearing on our giving and sharing. Let’s treat everyone with dignity and charity, knowing that they are made in the image of God.

”A prudent person sees trouble coming and ducks; a simpleton walks in blindly and is clobbered.” The Message. With wisdom there comes foresight (3). You have radar that picks up the planes flying towards you before they open fire and drop their bombs. But there are those who remain blissfully unaware of what is coming their way until they hear the roar of aircraft overhead and the sounds of explosions all around them.

The best and most rewarding life anyone can live is one of humbly walking before God and worshipping Him and honouring Him in all things (4; see 1:7; 3:1-4; 15:33; 21:21).

(5) is similar to (3). To live in the humble fear of God will mean avoiding dangers to your soul. You will keep your distance from whatever looks like sin or is likely to lead to it. ”The perverse travel a dangerous road, potholed and mud-slick; if you know what’s good for you, stay clear of it.” The Message.

(6; see Deut.6:7; Eph.6:4) It has often been said that parents have six years to help form a child’s character, and after that it may be too late. Of course, as someone rightly pointed out, with God it is never ”too late”. He can break into any person’s life at any age. But it is the duty of parents to do all they can, with God’s help, to launch their children into life well. This often quoted statement in Proverbs should not be regarded as an absolute promise, but rather as an expectation. Our children are not robots. It is possible for them to turn away or backslide. Most promises in the Bible are contingent on our faith and obedience, and this applies to children as well.

Prayer: I pray for all Christian parents to be given the wisdom and courage to train their children in the ways that please God.

 

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 632: Thursday 5th June 2014:

Proverbs 21: 27-31

If someone brought a sacrifice To God, but there was no repentance in their heart; no sorrow for sin, God would not be pleased with that offering (27 cf. Prov.15:8). In the same way, God hates religious observance today that goes through outward motions but leaves the life unchanged. When people go to church services for ceremonial or showy (or for other unworthy) reasons, but have no real consideration for God, this is surely detestable to Him.

The next proverb in (28; see Isaiah 9:15 31) shows how much God prizes honesty and hates deceit and lies. Christians should be scrupulously honest. A liar destroys both himself and the one who believes his lie. We remember that our Lord was crucified because there were people who lied about Him and there were others who wanted to hear and believe their lies. (We should also take heart from the fact that God the Father vindicated Him in the resurrection and exposed those lies for what they were.)                                  A wicked man ”puts up a bold front” (29). He refuses to admit he is wrong and pursues his evil plans. But a godly person doesn’t bluster through. He is prepared to listen to others, admit his mistakes and alter his course. He ”gives thought” to his life and doesn’t rush headlong towards destruction. It is stupid to continue down a route that is obviously wrong.                                                       We should take great encouragement from (30). Plans are still made ”against the LORD” in as much as they are made against His body the church. Man’s (and ultimately the devil’s) hatred of Jesus is vented against the Lord’s people. It is still true to say that ”the nations conspire and the peoples plot” (Ps.2:1), but they do so ”in vain”. It is still true to say that men rebel against God’s/Christ’s rule (Ps. 2:2,3). They do not want Him to reign over them. But it is also still true to say that ”The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them.” (Ps.2:4). God knows they will not succeed. No coup will topple His government, and the Kingdom of His Son will triumph in the earth. As someone said, going against God is like playing chess against a Grand Master. Even the moves you make against Him He uses to defeat you. Nowhere do we see this more clearly than on Calvary’s hill.

Whatever we do, we need to know that victory comes from the Lord (31). There definitely are things for us to do and we must not seek to evade our responsibilities. We have to get the ”horses” ready. We must fulfill our obvious responsibilities. But we look to God for the winning of the war (Ex.17:10-13; Esther 4:12-14).

Prayer: Help me Lord to get on with my responsibilities, but always looking to you for your triumphant work in and through mine.

 

 

 

Daily Bible thoughts 598: Friday 18th April 2014:

Proverbs 21:17- 26

We continue to work our way through these wonderful wise sayings recorded in the Bible.

Verse 17 reads like this in The Message: ”You’re addicted to thrills? What an empty life! The pursuit of pleasure is never satisfied.” Many a person can testify that following after ‘Hedonism’, the belief that pleasure is the highest good, is a dead – end Street. Solomon knew this from experience. (See Ecc.2:1-11; 1 Tim.6:10; 1 John 2:15-17). We can enjoy life’s good pleasures as gifts from God, but if we go after them as ends in themselves, and look for meaning in them we will be bitterly disappointed.

”What a bad person plots against the good, boomerangs; the plotter gets it in the end.” (18) The Message. The righteous will be delivered from trouble. The trouble will come upon the wicked person instead. The wicked will serve as a ‘‘ransom’’ to free the righteous (see Prov.11:8). Remember that ‘Proverbs’ is dealing in general principles. It is not stating what unfailingly happens, but what regularly happens. (Although in eternal terms it always comes to pass. What the wicked have done will bounce back on them, if they do not repent.)

There is undisguised humour in the self-evident truth of (19). It is a terrible thing to have an unhappy home life; to try to live amidst perpetual conflict. You are better off single than in a marriage like that. It would be better to live alone than have to try to share life with a continually angry partner. The cloud they live under will also cover you and make your world dark and grey.

There is wisdom in saving and not squandering (20). Foolish people can’t keep their money. They have to blow it today, and then they are in need tomorrow. They live now and pay later.

If you seek to be right with God and live right, many other good things will come to you unsought (21; see also Prov. 3:1-4; Matt.5:6; 6:33). ”Whoever goes hunting for what is right and kind finds life itself –glorious life! The Message. Put first things first and everything else will follow in rightful order.

”One sage entered a whole city of armed soldiers -their trusted defenses fell to pieces.” (22) The Message. The point here is that wisdom is more effective than strength. The ”weapons” of the wise (godly) man are spiritual, not physical, and they have ”divine power to demolish strongholds.” (2 Cor.10:4).

Here are some final thoughts in today’s passage

You can save yourself a lot of trouble by keeping your mouth shut! (23).

You don’t want to be like this person (24). He is a negative example to avoid.

You certainly don’t want to be like the ‘sluggard’ (25, 26), that is a lazy individual. ”Lazy people finally die of hunger because they won’t get up and go to work. Sinners are always wanting what they don’t have; the God-loyal are always giving what they do have.” The Message. It is one of the marks of a righteous life that you are generous. Such a life is not ”empty” (17) but one of fulfillment and joy.

Prayer: Lord God, please continue to renew my mind and transform my life. Thank you for your peerless wisdom.

 

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