Day 189: Proverbs 23-25; Thirty Sayings of the Wise

Today’s reading, though perhaps not marked in your Bible, covers over a section of Proverbs called “30 Wise Sayings.”  As I was doing a little research on this particular section, I came across a blog called “markcole.wordpress.com”  In March of 2008 the writer, whom I assume is named Mark, wrote an ‘annotated version’ of the thirty wise sayings.  I really enjoyed reading it so I am going to re-post it here.  I want to point out for the record that none of the follow is original to me and I assume no credit for any of it.  All credit for the following material goes to www.markcole.wordpress.com.  Enjoy!

30 wise sayings annotated

(the stuff in parenthesis are my comments which may not be as wise as the sayings themselves! They are there to promote thoughtful reflection on the wise saying. Comments are always welcome)

Proverbs 22:20-24:22 (Contemporary English Version)

20I have written thirty sayings

filled with sound advice.

21You can trust them completely

to give you the right words

for those in charge of you.

-1-

22 Don’t take advantage   of the poor

or cheat them in court.

23The LORD is their defender,

and what you do to them,

he will do to you.

(Walmart, homeless, Katrina)

-2-

24 Don’t make friends with anyone   who has a bad temper.

25You might turn out like them

and get caught in a trap.

(root of bitterness)

-3-

26 Don’t guarantee to pay   someone else’s debt.

27If you don’t have the money,

you might lose your bed.

(co-signing)

-4-

28 Don’t move a boundary marker [a] set up by your ancestors.

(respect for old standards and measurements, Jubilee principle)

-5-

29 If you do your job well,   you will work for a ruler

and never be a slave.

(work hard! work smart!)

PROVERBS 23

-6-

1 When you are invited   to eat with a king,

use your best manners.

2Don’t go and stuff yourself!

That would be just the same

as cutting your throat.

3Don’t be greedy for all

of that fancy food!

It may not be so tasty.

(good manners, others first, avoid gluttony)

-7-

4 Give up trying so hard   to get rich.

5Your money flies away

before you know it,

just like an eagle

suddenly taking off.

(You cannot serve both God and money)

-8-

6 Don’t accept an invitation   to eat a selfish person’s food,

no matter how good it is.

7People like that take note

of how much you eat. [b] They say, “Take all you want!”

But they don’t mean it.

8Each bite will come back up,

and all your kind words

will be wasted.

(no such thing as a free lunch)

-9-

9 Don’t talk to fools–   they will just make fun.

(foolish chatter)

-10-

10 Don’t move a boundary marker [c] or take the land   that belongs to orphans.

11God All-Powerful is there

to defend them against you.

(Jubilee principle again – God sides with the have-nots. The WSJ sides with the haves)

-11-

12 Listen to instruction   and do your best to learn.

(you never stop a learner – pay attention!)

-12-

13 Don’t fail to correct   your children.

You won’t kill them

by being firm,

14and it may even

save their lives.

(children are not hurt by firmness – and may be helped by it)

-13-

15 My children,   if you show good sense,

I will be happy,

16and if you are truthful,

I will really be glad.

(good sense is good – truthfulness is even better!)

-14-

17 Don’t be jealous of sinners,   but always honor the LORD.

18Then you will truly have hope

for the future.

(good life does not equal being a rich and famous sinner)

-15-

19 Listen to me, my children!   Be wise and have enough sense

to follow the right path.

20Don’t be a heavy drinker

or stuff yourself with food.

21It will make you feel drowsy,

and you will end up poor

with only rags to wear.

(don’t drink too much or eat too much!)

-16-

22 Pay attention to your father,   and don’t neglect your mother

when she grows old.

23Invest in truth and wisdom,

discipline and good sense,

and don’t part with them.

24Make your father truly happy

by living right

and showing

sound judgment.

25Make your parents proud,

especially your mother.

(mom’s are awesome!)

-17-

26 My son, pay close attention,   and gladly follow

my example.

27Bad women and unfaithful wives

are like a deep pit–

28they are waiting to attack you

like a gang of robbers

with victim after victim.

(avoid sexual temptations as well as falling into deep pits)

-18-

29 Who is always in trouble?   Who argues and fights?

Who has cuts and bruises?

Whose eyes are red?

30Everyone who stays up late,

having just one more drink.

31Don’t even look

at that colorful stuff

bubbling up in the glass!

It goes down so easily,

32but later it bites

like a poisonous snake.

33You will see weird things,

and your mind

will play tricks on you.

34You will feel tossed about

like someone trying to sleep

on a ship in a storm.

35You will be bruised all over,

without even remembering

how it all happened.

And you will lie awake asking,

”When will morning come,

so I can drink some more?”

(avoid alcoholism!)

PROVERBS 24

-19-

1 Don’t be jealous of crooks   or want to be their friends.

2All they think about

and talk about

is violence and cruelty.

(bad friends corrupt good morals)

-20-

3 Use wisdom and understanding   to establish your home;

4let good sense fill the rooms

with priceless treasures.

(Better Homes and Gardens)

-21-

5 Wisdom brings strength,   and knowledge gives power.

6Battles are won

by listening to advice

and making a lot of plans.

(strategize life. Make plans or plan to fail. Listen to advise)

-22-

7 Wisdom is too much for fools!   Their advice is no good.

(Ignore bad advise)

-23-

8 No one but troublemakers   think up trouble.

9Everyone hates senseless fools

who think up ways to sin.

(good sense)

-24-

10 Don’t give up and be helpless   in times of trouble.

(Never Give Up! Never Give Up! Never Give Up! – Winston Churchill)

-25-

11 Don’t fail to rescue those   who are doomed to die.

12Don’t say, “I didn’t know it!”

God can read your mind.

He watches each of us

and knows our thoughts.

And God will pay us back

for what we do.

(Burma, China, Katrina, abortion, Uganda, slavery and human trafficking)

-26-

13 Honey is good for you,   my children,

and it tastes sweet.

14Wisdom is like honey

for your life–

if you find it,

your future is bright.

(wisdom equals honey)

-27-

15 Don’t be a cruel person   who attacks good people

and hurts their families.

16Even if good people

fall seven times,

they will get back up.

But when trouble strikes

the wicked,

that’s the end of them.

(good people fail but they get right back up)

-28-

17 Don’t be happy   to see your enemies trip

and fall down.

18The LORD will find out

and be unhappy.

Then he will stop

being angry with them.

(Love your enemies)

-29-

19 Don’t let evil people   worry you

or make you jealous.

20They will soon be gone

like the flame of a lamp

that burns out.

(Don’t be overwhelmed by injustice.)

-30-

21 My children, you must respect   the LORD and the king,

and you must not make friends

with anyone

who rebels

against either of them.

22Who knows what sudden disaster

the LORD or a ruler

might bring?

(be careful of the temptation to side with the rebellious – it may backfire!)

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 22:28 marker: In ancient Israel boundary lines were sacred because all property was a gift from the Lord (see Deuteronomy 19.14).
  2. Proverbs 23:7 People. . . eat: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  3. Proverbs 23:10 marker: See the note at 22.28.


Day 188: Proverbs 20-22; More on Wisdom

I admit that the title of today’s blog is not overly inspiring, yet really that is what today is about… more wisdom.  As I was reading today I again asked the question of what in the world I am going to write about today.  I kind of felt like I was running out of things to say towards the end of the Psalms, and we’re a little over halfway through the Proverbs and I don’t feel like I have much more to contribute.  There are so many things that Solomon covers here, I don’t think that I could do any one of them real justice considering he was indeed the wisest person that ever lived.  So I guess today’s post will be a bit shorter than normal.

One thing that has struck me, that I mentioned a few days ago, is the nature of pursuing wisdom.  Solomon covers this time and again, which as we learned yesterday means that he is trying to emphasize it a great deal.  One of the major things that he repeats is the rewards of pursuing wisdom vs. the rewards of pursuing wealth.  This is clearly demonstrated in the Solomon’s life as well.  When the Lord comes to give Solomon whatever he asks for, Solomon could have chosen great wealth, power, strength, or even long life, yet instead he asked for wisdom and discernment.  God was pleased with this choice, the result of which actually brought to Solomon great wealth and power.  Ultimately though it wasn’t wealth or power that Solomon sought after; he didn’t choose wisdom so that he would get rich.  Solomon chose wisdom so that he would be a wise king.  His pursuit of wisdom though brought the rewards of great wealth and influence which Solomon used well… for a time.

This clarity of pursuit is covered time and again in the proverbs of Solomon and, as we’ll see in the coming days, in other’s proverbs as well.  The pursuit of riches will eventually bring one to ruin.  We see this time and again with people that spend so much time trying to get rich and then loose it all.  Just think of how many people have won the lottery and are filing for bankruptcy.  The numbers are staggering, and incredibly sad.  Yet there are many out there with extraordinary wealth that really haven’t made wealth their full pursuit.  Instead, they have slowly built their lives and laid them on the foundation of God, as Solomon has suggested.  These are wise people whose wealth is not found in money or things, though they surely have more than enough, but is found in relationships, giving, and glorifying God in their actions.  These are the people that we should look to.  They are happy and content with their lives, with all that God has given them, and are bringing honor and glory to Him with all that He has blessed them with.  They have taken the wisdom of Solomon to heart and recognized the true source of their blessings as we all should.



Day 187: Proverbs 17-19; The Wisdom in Repetition

As I was reading through today’s Proverbs I actually caught myself thinking that this reading was getting a bit monotonous.  I’m pretty sure that some of the things that we read today were things that we read yesterday, or multiple other days.  In fact, there are a great many of the proverbs in the three chapters that we read today that are somewhat repeated from yesterday and days past.  I started to think to myself “why would Solomon repeat things multiple times?”  I definitely had to catch myself here because I think that I was starting to get a bad attitude around them.  Suddenly though, I wast struck but the wisdom in repeating these wise sayings… it isn’t about the vast amount of different wise sayings as much as it is about the wisdom found in the sayings that are there.

The Dead Sea Scrolls Photo Credit: www.faclan.org

The Dead Sea Scrolls
Photo Credit: www.faclan.org

I also realized that there are many examples of repetition in the Bible as well.  There are also many reasons for the repetition we find in Scripture!  Part of it, probably the main reason actually, comes from the Hebrew culture and their writing.  Hebrew writing has no punctuation.  If you read it in the original writing, or look at the dead sea scrolls, there really is very little break in the lines of writing at all.  This means that there are no symbols for adding emphasis like the exclamation point… and certainly no little smiley/frown faces to communicate emotions.  What this means for us, is that when things are repeated, especially when they are repeated in succession, there is a great deal of emphasis that is meant to be heard in it.  Think in Isaiah 6 or Revelation 4 when the Angels are singing “Holy Holy Holy” about the Lord.  This isn’t because they are stuttering or something, neither is it because of some sort of a lack of creativity on the part of the writer.  It is the repetition of the words that makes them powerful in the Hebrew language!  If you were to put it in today’s texting language, God is HOLY! =)

We’ve actually encountered the this type of repetition in Scripture many times in the past.  Think all the way back to Genesis, with the 2 creation narratives that we read.  One was most specific towards the details while the other was more focused on the human aspect, yet both were very geared towards the point that it was indeed God that created all things.  If you think ahead towards Abraham and the many times that the covenant was reaffirmed, we see the emphasis on the covenantal relationship that defines Israel, all which begins with God as well.  We see this with Jacob, Joseph, Moses and the giving of the Law, Joshua, and many many more throughout the history of Israel.  I have written more about this in another blog that I occasionally write in  as well.  It is an article called ‘Pete and Repeat.’  Feel free to check it out!

So today, and in the coming days, as you are reading these proverbs and one sounds familiar, take a moment to think about where you heard it before.  Maybe go back and look for it in the previous days’ readings.  Solomon is repeating these for a reason, not simply because he can’t think of anything else to say.  Perhaps these repeated sections will touch you in a special way today… perhaps they are things that we all need to hear again and again that we may better live our lives bringing honor and glory to God.



Day 186: Proverbs 14-16; Wisdom in Work, Speech, and Planning

While today’s proverbs do indeed cover a wide range of different topics in life, there are three, I think, that come through as being rather prominent.  Perhaps its because I know these verses better than the others, or maybe because they stand out to me at this stage in my life.  Whatever the reason, I think that this is what we’ll be talking about today.

Proverbs 14 is, in many ways, a chapters about being wise in the way that we work.  I think that this is something that we are sorely lacking in today’s culture.  Everything that we hear from culture is about fighting our way to the top doing whatever it takes and stepping on anyone that gets in our way.  While I don’t think that there is anything against advancement in one’s vocation, or even having vocational goals, Solomon is encouraging wisdom in these things.  They way this comes through is via a good work ethic.  Again, this is something sorely lacking in our culture today.  I can recall an abundance of times in some of the jobs that I’ve worked where people just did what they were told to do and made it take as long as possible.  People do this so they don’t have to do as much work and can just get through the day.  This is quite the opposite of what Solomon is suggesting here.

Proverbs 15 talks a great deal about being wise in how we speak.  We live in a culture full of words.  From commercials and advertising to school, work, and family, we are always and forever surrounded by words.  We listen to them, read them, and in many ways are defined by them.  We tend to be quick to speak, hasty to tear down others, and rapidly pass judgment on anyone and everyone.  Yet Solomon is once again encouraging a different worldview when it comes to speaking.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly.

This reminds me a great deal of the words of James, in chapter 3, when he talks about the taming of the tongue.  He is not coming up with anything new here as we can see. James is drawing on the wisdom found in proverbs and bringing Christ into it as well!  Ultimately, James says, the taming of the tongue is the most difficult and equally the most beneficial thing that a person can do, something that we all have to work on our whole lives.

Proverbs 16 speaks more towards the plans of humans.  We are a culture of planning people aren’t we?  It doesn’t take too long to listen to the radio or watch TV before we hear some sort of an advertisement for retirement or investing and all that comes along with it.  Ultimately though, all of these plans, things about the future that we try to control are in God’s hands.  While I don’t think that Solomon would be opposed to prudent planning and being smart with money and investments for the future, I think that the crux of the issue for him is that all of this is done before the Lord.  Many times I think that we do all that we can to try and protect  ourselves, as if we rule our own little world and can control it with all the things that we do and the plans that we make.  However, Solomon is very clear when he says that in all things we need to make sure that our trust is in the Lord.  Again, James, in chapter 4, picks up this line of thinking, a Scripture that we will end with today.  Remember, as we said yesterday, that all of these things fall clearly under Solomon’s “thesis statement:” The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”  As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.



Day 185: Proverbs 11-13; The Proverbs of Solomon

The end of yesterday’s reading began the section of Proverbs known as “Solomon’s Proverbs.”  This is a section marked by a train of wise statements, one or two verses long, that talk about the difference between wise living and foolish living.  Many people find this section to be kind of repetitive and dry.  Others would deem it as being the manual for moral living.  In some ways, this section displays very clearly the difference between making good choices and the results of repeated poor decisions.

Yet, there is more to today’s reading, and the next couple of days’ reading as well, because these chapters of wisdom, like all Scripture, cannot be read in a void.  We cannot look at the words of today, tomorrow, or even the rest of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes without remember the introduction section of Proverbs that we read the past couple of days.  Like I mentioned on July 1, some people think that this book is largely devoid of a focus on God and actually talks more about moral living.  However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.  All of everything that we are reading today and will continue to read in Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon fall under the opening verses of Proverbs 1, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

So everything today, all that we are reading today, may not speak directly to God or living for God, but it obviously speaks to the need for wisdom which finds its foundation in God alone.  Proverbs and all of wisdom literature, really all of Scripture isn’t about living the right way for its own sake.  Solomon would say that it is the fool that lives rightly for his own sake or seeks wisdom for his own gain, but it all falls under the fact that we live our lives before God.  The point of these proverbs is not simply to live in a moral way, the point is to honor God with our lives, with our choices, in our relationships, and in everything that we do, think, say, and influence.  Again, we can hear the  Biblical echoes of Deuteronomy 6, the well known Shema of Israel, loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength.  It is clear here and will continue to be clear in our continuing readings of proverbs, that Solomon is echoing and in many ways continuing this command, laying out clearly the many ways that we are to live our whole life in a way that is pleasing to God, keeping His way before us at all times.



Day 184: Proverbs 8-10; The Foundation of Wisdom

Our reading today covers the end of the introduction section of Proverbs.  You may have noticed that there was very little in the way of actual proverbs in the first nine chapters of Proverbs.  Instead, we have seen Solomon lay out very clearly the necessity of wisdom, the foundation of wisdom, the need for wisdom, and how to attain wisdom in our own lives.  We have seen how he has set up the metaphor of wisdom and folly calling out to a young man, trying to ‘allure’ or ‘seduce’ him into bringing them into his life.  Solomon has shown how lady wisdom and lady folly sound so similar at times and how it can be difficult to discern between them.  Yet it is clear, or rather it becomes clear very quickly which one is actually life giving and which one is life stealing, life sucking, and ultimately life destroying.  Today, we read Solomon wrap up this metaphor in the introduction, going so far as to lay out the nature of the life of those who turn to wisdom and those who turn to folly.  Chapter nine lays this out clearly, showing those who have turned to wisdom as being like those who have gone to a feast.  Interestingly, those who turn to folly are also described as those who are going to a feast, yet instead of eating food that gives life, they are eating and drinking their own death.  Wisdom is life and life giving… Folly is the way to death and will always be life stealing… even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

God's Wisdom is displayed in creation Photo Credit: www.wisdom-ink.com

God’s Wisdom is displayed in creation
Photo Credit: www.wisdom-ink.com

The other very notable thing about today’s reading comes in chapter 8.  Solomon writes very extensively about the history and nature of wisdom.  I like how he talks about wisdom “dwelling with prudence,” and “finding knowledge and discretion.”  This demonstrates the relationship between these four virtues and how close they all come together.  He also clearly displays the antonyms of wisdom as well: pride, arrogance, and perverted speech.

God's Wisdom in Creation Photo Credit: www.datinggod.org

God’s Wisdom in Creation
Photo Credit: www.datinggod.org

What is more interesting, I think, is the presence of wisdom in the creation narrative.  If you remember back to Genesis 1 & 2, the words of Proverbs 8 will have a familiar cadence to them.  Yet Solomon’s point here is not to reiterate the creation narrative, but to make the connection between Creator God and Wisdom.  In some ways, the description of wisdom here as being so intricately involved in creation that it cannot be separated from the action of God as creator.  Some people have even identified this as some “proof” that the Holy Spirit, or better stated, all three persons of the Trinity were involved in creation.  Solomon is laying out the clear foundation of wisdom on which this world is built.  It is the clear that wisdom can be seen in every facet of creation’s design.  One can hear the canonical foreshadowing of Paul’s words in Romans 1:20, when he talks about all of creation being without excuse.  Both Paul and Solomon are laying out the argument that creation displays wisdom and, as we have said, wisdom and the Lord are intricately linked.  God’s glory and His wisdom are clearly displayed in all of creation, and if we are willing to look, we will be able to see it and give glory to God because of it.



Day 183: Proverbs 4-7; A Father's Wise Warnings

Did you ever have parents that told you or warned you about something and you thought that they didn’t know what they were talking about?  I dare say that we all have experienced this at one point in time.  Kids always think they know better than their parents… especially teenagers.  I remember being a senior in high school and thinking that my parents didn’t know anything and that I had it all together.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Of course there is an amount of growing up that all children have to do on their own.  We grow and learn through our experiences, shaped by the people around us and our interactions with them.  However, when it comes to those that have helped us to grow the most, there are none that compare to our parents.

Proverbs Wordle Photo Credit: www.fbcmb.wordpress.com

Proverbs Wordle
Photo Credit: www.fbcmb.wordpress.com

The words of today’s Scripture readings are works just like that, wise and loving words of instruction and warnings from a father to his son.  This is not your average after school lecture about getting good grades or doing the chores though, the words of the one speaking here are  those of a loving father trying to instruct and warn his son of what is to come in the world.  The purpose?  To gain wisdom and insight.  Why?  Because keeping wisdom before you is one of the best ways to say away from folly.

Again today we see the analogy that Solomon started to make yesterday between lady Wisdom and lady Folly.  Solomon is telling his son to get wisdom at all costs, and insight as well, and to cherish her above all else.  I don’t know about you but I can almost here the echos of wedding vows in these statements.  He says to “cherish her above all else, prize her, and not to forsake her.”  It is almost as if he is telling his son that once he has wisdom, he should never let her go for it is wisdom that will help make straight the paths of life and lead to a good life.  Not only that though, having wisdom and understanding is also the way to guard against going astray, falling into the trap of folly who is seductive and tricky.

Solomon once again shows folly as being like a prostitute, beautiful on the outside but crafty and false through and through.  Like the fast diets or get rich quick schemes of the world, things look really great at first glance, but when you really see into it, all your doing is just giving your money away to someone else.  Solomon warns too that folly will take you when you aren’t looking, which is why having wisdom, understanding, and insight is so important.  Temptations lurk around every corner, looking and sounding like something very nice, and turning out to be crooked and evil.

In all of this, we need to remember that ultimately Solomon is not encouraging wisdom for the sake of being wise, but wisdom that finds its root and beginning of God alone.  It is not at all a coincidence that Solomon is using adultery as a metaphor here.  Time and time again God has used this metaphor as a way to describe the children of Israel as their are enticed away from Him and towards other gods.  The Scripture that we read today would not have been simply thought of and received as Solomon talking to his son, but as God Himself, the Father of the nation of Israel, speaking and instructing His children and warning them against the allure of other gods.  Remember how God instructed His people to remove all the people from the land of Canaan lest they be lured away by their gods?  Our reading today is no different.  It is instruction to a son, a people, to us a couple thousand years later saying we indeed need to have wisdom that is rooted in the fear of the Lord… understanding and insight that we too may walk the straight and narrow path and not be led astray by the many tempting gods and adultresses of our time.



Day 182: Proverbs 1-3; Introduction to Proverbs

Welcome to July and welcome to the book of Proverbs.  This books is attributed mostly to King Solomon, the son of David.  Remember that Solomon was visited by God who offered to grant him anything that he asked for.  Solomon asked for wisdom and the Lord granted him wisdom in abundance so that Solomon was the wisest man that ever lived.  These Proverbs, as well as the books of Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon as attributed to Solomon.

The writings of proverbs are wisdom for living.  You’ve likely heard some of them in your life already; short sayings that seem like quick quips but are actually quite helpful. Some of the sayings that we’ll read are a bit more complex and may require some additional reflection to uncover their deeper meaning.  However, all are meant to help the reader in living a life of wisdom.

Some have said that the book of Proverbs is somewhat devoid of God.  These people would point out that most of what Solomon is saying here is not really about God but about correct moral living.  While in some ways that could be true, God doesn’t show up as much in this book as He did in most of the other books, the idea that God is not in this book couldn’t be further from the truth.  God indeed is here and is the basis for all that is written.  Solomon says it in Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom... Photo Credit: www.words2wall.blogspot.com

The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom…
Photo Credit: www.words2wall.blogspot.com

The Hebrew word for ‘knowledge’ used there is actually a rather broad ranging term that encompasses the ideas of knowledge, perception, skill, discernment, understanding, and wisdom.  Solomon is saying that all of what is about to happen here finds its true origin in God alone.  This is not just moralistic teaching, and none of it can be divorced from God.  Knowing God, fearing the Lord (fear being the idea of reverence, awe, worship, wonder) is the basis for all that is to come in this book.  We must recognize that before we move on.

I think that another important thing to mention here is the use of the female pronouns in the book of proverbs when referring to wisdom.  While we have talked about using gender inclusive language when we read the Bible, this is a place where changing the ‘her’ to an ‘it’ would be an injustice to Solomon’s writing.  In these first chapters, Solomon is setting up a very specific contrast between the path of Wisdom and the path of Folly.  He does so by creating something like a scene from a drama: Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly are both trying to win the heart of a young man.  Lady Wisdom calls from the street corner.  She is out there in plain sight for all to see and listen to.  Lady folly though, is like the adulteress woman who sneaks around and creeps into the hearts of those unaware only to disappear as soon as she is done with you.  This is, perhaps, an over dramatized idea of the inward battle between Wisdom and Folly, but as we will see… it is not too far off base.

Wisdom words of James 3 Photo Credit: www.thedisciplestongue.com

Wisdom words of James 3
Photo Credit: www.thedisciplestongue.com

Ultimately the attraction of the way of Folly is that of riches and wealth in quick progression.  Folly offers everything now as long as you are willing to ignore the rules or social convention.  Interestingly though, wisdom offers greater riches over time but on a safe path of understanding, perception, and knowledge that is rooted in the Lord.  In this, Solomon says, we find the true way in which God will also be our protector.  Ultimately the wise person will be blessed in greater ways than that of the foolish, but it takes more work, more patience, and more trust in the Lord.  In chapter 3 Solomon even makes an allusion to the Shema from Deuteronomy 6, keeping things like love and faithfulness bound around the neck and written on the heart.

Ultimately the path of wisdom is going to lead to right living and a blessed life.  The difference, though, between that and the world’s teaching of ‘wisdom’ is that living morally is not an end in itself, it is only a byproduct of keeping our eyes on God.  We don’t live morally for personal gain, we do it because of our love for God and our desire to live for Him as a way of gratitude for all that He has given us.  All of this, all of us should be grounded in the fear of the Lord.  It is the beginning of everything, something we will continue to hold in front of us throughout this book.



Day 181: Psalms 145-150; The Great Doxology

A Doxology is a song of praise to God for His blessings.  Think of the familiar Doxology that you may have sung in Church before:

Praise God from whom all blessings flow
Praise Him all creatures here below
Praise Him above ye heavenly hosts
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Worship Photo Credit: www.worshipunashamed.org/

Worship
Photo Credit: www.worshipunashamed.org

Today’s psalms are just that, a doxology.  In one church that I worked in, after we gave our offerings and tithes we all stood and sung the doxology, thanking God for the blessings that He has given us and committing them to the Lord.  It was always a moving experience and did a great job keeping in focus the truth of our giving: We do not give what is ours, we give back to God what was already His and was only entrusted to us.

Today we encounter a Doxology, or what I have deemed “the Great Doxology” in Scripture here at the end of our journey through the psalms.  We’ve spent nearly 1 full month on this book of the Bible combing through its great variety of emotions, teachings, prayers, songs, laments, praises, and so much more.  As we come to the end though, we have the opportunity to look back and see how great the whole of the book of Psalms is and what it indeed has taught us and modeled for us.  And now we have the opportunity to say thank you and to lift up praises to God.

Today (well tomorrow night actually), also marks the half way point in the year!  We’ve come a long ways and have seen the amazing story of God’s work in creation, in the nation of Israel, and in the teachings of His Word.  We have so much to celebrate today!  It is fitting that these psalms also fall on a Sunday (at least they did in 2013), and we have to opportunity to gather with God’s people to worship Him.  The words of the Psalms today fit the worship bill to the letter:

I will extol you, my God and King, and bless your name forever and ever.
Every day I will bless you and praise your name forever and ever.
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Praise the Lord!
For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
praise him, all his hosts!

There are so many songs out there that draw their words from today’s 5 psalms.  One that comes to mind right now is “All Creatures of our God and King”  Take a moment to listen it.  We will close our section on the Psalms with the words of that song today.  I would encourage you to continue reading the psalms too.  I know its a lot of reading with all the other readings that we are doing and the reading of this blog as well.  But, remember as we started out the Psalms I talked about how N.T. Wright said that he reads 5 Psalms a day every day and just keeps repeating them?  He does this because he said that it has helped him learn how to pray, praise, lament, thank, trust, hope and worship the Lord through the words of Scripture.  This, he said, was an invaluable experience.  Maybe you can’t read 5 psalms a day… maybe you can only read 1 or 2… that’s ok!  I encourage you to continue doing that as often as you can!  Let the Word of God flow over you.  Let the Word of God read you… that you may find yourself and your story in it!

All creatures of our God and King
Lift up your voice and with us sing
O praise Him alleluia
Thou burning sun with golden beam
Thou silver moon with softer gleam
O praise Him O praise Him
Alleluia alleluia alleluia

Thou rushing wind that art so strong
Ye clouds that sail in Heav’n along
O praise Him alleluia
Thou rising moon in praise rejoice
Ye lights of evening find a voice
O praise Him O praise Him
Alleluia alleluia alleluia

Let all things their Creator bless
And worship Him in humbleness
O praise Him alleluia
Praise praise the Father praise the Son
And praise the Spirit three in One
O praise Him O praise Him
Alleluia alleluia alleluia



Day 180: Psalms 139-144; Search My Heart

Today’s reading is a return to the laments of King David.  Though only one of them (Psalm 142) has a specific situation attached to it, they all exhibit the crying out of a person in distress.  One of my favorite Psalms of today is Psalm 139.  This Psalm is considered to be a Psalm of lament, but I see it as more than just lamenting in that as David cries out to the Lord he is also confessing his trust and belief in a God that is vastly more powerful and wise than the situation that he finds himself in now.  I invite you to re-read the words of this Psalm:

Psalm 139

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
    Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
    and the light about me be night,”
even the darkness is not dark to you;
    the night is bright as the day,
    for darkness is as light with you.

For you formed my inward parts;
    you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
    my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
    the days that were formed for me,
    when as yet there was none of them.

How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
    I awake, and I am still with you.

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
    O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
    your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
    And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
    I count them my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
    Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting!

Check out the song Search My Heart from Hillsongs, based on this psalm.

We often find ourselves in situations that we cannot handle and do not see any way out of.  Sometimes we sin for reasons that we don’t understand at all.  This leads us deeper into a pit of despair and self-doubt.  Take comfort in knowing that God is greater than any situation that you will encounter.  Take comfort in knowing that God knows you heart.  He formed and created you.  He knew you before you even existed.  And, as Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Indeed He has provided a way for us in Jesus Christ, the true way out of sin and temptation.  That isn’t to say that life will be perfect here and now, but we can live in the assurance that our sins have been bought and paid for in Christ’s blood.  We know that we are not enduring anything that Christ hasn’t, and that His Spirit is with us each and every day strengthening and guiding us along the way.  And He will indeed lead us in the way everlasting!



Day 179: Psalms 132-138; The Great Hallel

Psalm 136 - The Great Hallel Photo Credit: hilldaleworship.blogspot.com

Psalm 136 – The Great Hallel
Photo Credit: hilldaleworship.blogspot.com

Today’s reading wraps up the Songs of Ascent and goes on to other psalms including Psalm 136 which is known as “The Great Hallel.”  This is a Psalm that would have been recited before the Passover meal in Hebrew culture.  I believe in many places they still do this today.  While I know that some of the names of the kings don’t necessarily mean anything to us in our current context, this psalm nonetheless tells the magnificent story of God’s action and how His love indeed endures forever.  Most of today’s post will be this Psalm, but I would encourage you to once again read it… and find your place in it.  There are surly things that don’t necessarily fit your life, but perhaps instead of striking down Og, king of Bashan, perhaps the Lord has helps you in your struggle with depression… or instead of bringing Israel out from Egypt, God has lead you through and out of a battle with addiction…  Maybe this psalm simply reminds you that God’s love and faithfulness are with us each and every day, even in the mundane details and seemingly endless amount of chores, laundry, and child rearing that you do faithfully day in and day out.

There are many ways that we too can find ourselves within the context of God’s story… what miraculous, or maybe not so miraculous yet still faithful things has God done in your life today?

Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who alone does great wonders,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who by understanding made the Heavens,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who spread out the earth above the waters,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who made the great lights,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
the sun to rule over the day,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
the moon and stars to rule over the night,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and brought Israel out from among them,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who divided the Red Sea in two,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
but overthrew Pharaoh and His host in the Red Sea,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
to Him who led His people through the wilderness,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;

to Him who struck down great kings,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
Sihon, king of the Amorites,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and gave their land as a Heritage,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
a Heritage to Israel His servant,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.

It is He who remembered us in our low estate,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
    for His steadfast love endures forever;
He who gives food to all flesh,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of Heaven,
    for His steadfast love endures forever.



Day 178: Psalms 120-131; The Songs of Ascent

Ascending to the Temple of God in Jerusalem Photo Credit: www.praisechoir.com

Ascending to the Temple of God in Jerusalem
Photo Credit: www.praisechoir.com

Today’s psalms are part of a collection of psalms known as the “Pilgrim Psalms,” or as the they say in their titles, “song of ascents.”  They are also sometimes called Gradual Psalms or Songs of Degrees.  Many scholars believe these psalms were sung by the worshipers as they ascended up the road to Jerusalem to attend the three pilgrim festivals which are recorded in Deuteronomy 16:16.   They may have also been sung by the kohanim (aka. the Korahites), who were the Temple priests, as they ascended the fifteen steps to minister at the Temple in Jerusalem.  Its also possible that these songs were sung by the captives as they returned from Babylon to Israel!

While information like that is nice to know, I think it pales in comparison to what we get from these psalms today.  These songs were indeed used for preparing the people and their leaders for worship.  If you think back to Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, the whole purpose of worship was to come before God and be made new and clean once again.  This happened through sacrifice and, if it never happened at any other times in a year, it did happen on these three dates: The Passover (aka. The Feast of Unleavened Bread), The Feast of Weeks, and The Feast of Tabernacles.  Each of these feasts come with their own appropriate code of conduct, but all of them have one thing in common, a corporate re-orientation of the lives of those in the Israelite community; a remembrance of who they are and where they came from.  We can see this very clearly in the lines of these psalms:

“In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me…”

“I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

“To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!”

“Those who trust in the Lord are like Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.”

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.”

The Psalms of Ascent: A Call to Prayer Photo credit: www.cccooperagency.wordpress.com

The Psalms of Ascent:
A Call to Prayer
Photo credit: www.cccooperagency.wordpress.com

These psalms, as is true with many of the other psalms, make me think a lot about my own orientation and that of the Church as well.  Do we come into church on any given Sunday expecting to encounter God?  Do we take time to prepare ourselves for worship?  Do we recognize who God is and who we are?  Do we feel like we even need God’s help?  Is this really the first time we have thought about God since last Sunday?  These are difficult questions to ask not because the answers are difficult to find, but because the truth of the answers is difficult to swallow.

Today’s psalms are short and quick to read.  They run the gambit of praise, thanksgiving, lament, hope, trust, and just about any emotion you can think of.  The page(s) that they are on are good to keep bookmarked or dogeared in your Bible and the psalms contained therein are good reminders of the right orientation for our lives.  Like a compass always pointing north, these Psalms (and the whole Bible really) point us directly in the direction of God… a reminder that I’m sure we need on a daily basis.



Day 177: Psalm 119; The "Great" Psalm

Today we come to the longest chapter of the Bible, the greatest psalm of the psalms, and what could arguably be called the best acrostic of all time: Psalm 119.  This psalm is considered a wisdom psalm, mostly because the wisdom psalms are really all encompassing.  There are elements of teaching, praise, thanksgiving, lament, petition, and history in this psalm, all wound together in an acrostic poem.  Sadly, this psalm is written anonymously so there is on one that we can credit it too… which I think might be the point really in that the focus is truly and completely on God in all of this.

Psalm 119:34

Psalm 119:34

As I read through this psalm I kind of envision the psalmist sitting out under a tree on a nice warm summer day thinking about all the ways that he/she has been blessed.  The writer was jotting down a bunch of things and started putting them in an acrostic poem and before you know it, psalm 119 was born.  Of course I cannot independently verify this but the acrostic style kind of reminds me of a child’s thanksgiving day project or something.  When I was young I could always remember the thanksgiving day children’s sermon; it was always the same.  We wrote the word ‘thanksgiving’ on a whiteboard and then we wrote down things that we were thankful for.  Other times I remember writing an acrostic poem that used all the letters of my name or something.  It is something that I remember doing occasionally as a child.

I wonder though how often I would do… or actually do in my early adult life though.  Do I take the time to thank God for all the things that He has given me?  Am I conscious of the many blessings that God has given me and do I praise Him for them?  Have I actually taken the time to do that in my life lately?  Sadly… I have to answer ‘no.’  I could blame time, busyness, work, school, or a myriad of other things as the reasons why I don’t spend time thinking and thanking about how abundantly blessed I am, but the fact of the matter is that it doesn’t happen on a regular basis if at all.

While my words here really wouldn’t do anything to improve this already great psalm, I think the challenge that has been uncovered is clear: We need to take time to be thankful and give God honor and praise for all the blessings that He has given us.  I challenge you, whoever and wherever you are to take time to do this and, in honor of Psalm 119, do it in an acrostic form.  Whether you use the letters of your name or the alphabet, take the time to name the blessings in your life and thank God for them.



Day 176: Psalms 116-118; The Egyptian Hallel

The three psalms that we are reading today are part of a 6 psalm unit known as “The Egyptian Hallel.”  A Hallel is considered to be a portion of a Jewish worship service that take place during their times of festivals.  It consists of psalms 113-118, which are spoken, prayed, or chanted aloud as a unit as part of the morning prayer service.  Typically, this would happen especially around the time of the Passover, when the people of God remember their time in bondage and the freedom that has been given to them by the power of God.  And this is really what these do, give honor and glory to God for His amazing work!

You really can’t just read the psalms from today without including psalms 113-115 as well.  They really are a unit, a single entity; they could be one long psalm.  In many ways, these psalms tell the story of God’s faithfulness, providence, and power when He remembered Israel and brought them out of the land of Egypt and freed them from the oppression that they had suffered for so many years.  I would encourage you to read through all 6 of these psalms together and take time to reflect on and remember the story of God’s amazing work in Exodus.

We know too that this story is not just something that happened in the past, but it is indeed the story of our lives as well.  You and I and every human on this earth have been born into the bondage of sin.  Yet God didn’t leave us there either just as He didn’t leave the Israelites in Egypt.  God sent His Son Jesus as a direct assault on sin, our abusive master, and freed us from it through His death on the cross.  We had been slaves… now we are free by the blood of Jesus!  This Egyptian Hallel is our song of praise as well!  Take time to read them… to reflect on them… and to find yourself in them.  Maybe they will give you the words to say to express your thanks and praise to God as well!

PSALM 116-118 are psalms of thanksgiving and praise to God for His work in the lives of His people.  These psalms were written anonymously, are clearly didactic in nature, and are actually part of a unit of psalms from 113-118.  Psalm 117 is the shortest chapter in the Bible and the shortest psalm.  Psalm 118 is also a messianic psalm with prophetic overtones.



Day 175: Psalms 109-115; Great Are the Lord's Works!

I’ll admit that as I’m writing this, the news is on in the background, and I’m hearing about all sorts of things that are going on in Grand Rapids, in West Michigan, in America, and around the world.  The thing about the news that is too often true, is that it is the bad things that make the most news.  Just as I’m listening this evening, the headlines are about a person that got hit by a car, the coming trial of George Zimmerman, the continuing scandals in the U.S. government, and more on the situation in Syria.  I guess I just don’t understand why this is the news that we want to hear.  If one was to simply watch the news all day, or even once a day, I can’t imagine how cynical and depressed they would be, if that was the picture of the world that was given.

But as I contrast this primarily negative view of the world with what we read today in the Psalms, we really get different and sometimes opposing views of the world.  The news media would have us believe that things are going crazy in the world, the everything is out of control and that no one is safe ever.  Obviously, they are decidedly secular in their views; hence the endless stream of bad news.  Yet the Psalms that we read today and have been reading for the past several days communicate to us a wholly different worldview, one in which God is in control and is working towards the restoration of the world.

It can be very depressing to listen to the news, to look out into the world, to see the brokenness that is around us.  Even Jesus knew this as He was talking to His disciples on the night before He was to be crucified.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

The next time you hear something from the news about all of the bad that is going on, remember that we believe that God has been working and will continue to work to bring restoration to the world.  And we can know this because of what we have seen Him do in the past… which is recounted for us in Psalm 111!

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who delight in them.
Full of splendor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures forever.
He has caused his wondrous works to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he remembers his covenant forever.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
    in giving them the inheritance of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy;
they are established forever and ever,
    to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
    he has commanded his covenant forever.
    Holy and awesome is his name!
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    all those who practice it have a good understanding.
    His praise endures forever!

PSALM 109 is a prayer of lament written by David.  This psalm has many imprecatory qualities, as David talks about evil men and his enemies, but there is a clear turn towards hope, praise, and thanksgiving about halfway through the psalm.

PSALM 110 is a royal psalm written by David that is both prophetic and Messianic in nature.  This Psalm is quoted in Hebrews 5-7 as the writer portrays Jesus as the “great high priest in the order of Melchizedek.”

PSALM 111 is a song of praise and thanksgiving that was written anonymously.  This psalm is also didactic in nature.

PSALM 112 is a wisdom psalm that was also written anonymously.  This psalm too is didactic and is also intercessional in nature.

PSALM 113 is a song of praise that was written anonymously.  This psalm is an Egyptian Hallel, a song sung during Passover season.

PSALM 114 is also a song of praise that was written anonymously.  This psalm is also an Egyptian Hallel, a song sung during Passover season.

PSALM 115 is a song of praise that also was written anonymously.  This psalm too is an Egyptian Hallel, a song sung during Passover season.