Day 191: Proverbs 29-31; Wisdom and Authority

Today I had planned on highlighting the wise sayings of other people, particularly that of Agur and King Lemuel, the two other major contributors to the book of Proverbs.  I made this decision, admittedly, before I read through today’s reading and now I am hear to tell you that we are going to change plans a little bit.  After reading through these chapters though, I noticed a specific theme that really came through as we end our journey through the book of Proverbs, the theme of having wisdom in places of authority (which also includes wisdom in dealing with those in authority over us.)

Now… this could easily turn into a governmental rant with political convictions spouting off political jargon and dogma towards one side or another, something I intend not to allow happen in my writing here.  These verses in Proverbs are not about whether we should be a democrat or a republican.  They also weren’t written for us to use as little darts to throw at a particular political philosophy, agenda, or bill as a way of proving oneself to be in the right while they are in the wrong.  While it is true that many of these and other proverbs speak of the foolish things that wicked and foolish rulers do, I would contend that one of the main thrusts of the Proverbs is to make sure that you are wise in your dealings with them.

In fact, if you really look at these proverbs, it isn’t at all about proving someone else is in the wrong, but more about making sure that you yourself are acting and being wise in the things that you do.  Solomon says again and again that foolish people will be caught in their own folly.  I think we can see this clearly as a great many governmental scandals continue to come into the light.  Whether or not these are pinned on President Obama is besides the point, it is abundantly clear that those in charge of these different sections were quite foolish in their actions and now have to operate within the brokenness of their credibility.

One particular verse that caught my attention, while we are on this subject, was Proverbs 29:4.  After the last presidential election there were a whole lot of accusations that the democratic party gave out gifts to people to get them to vote democrat.  Republicans, some of them at least, even went so far as to say that this was the reason that President Obama won again.  Whether or not this is true is not the point I am trying to make here at all.  But this verse does speak to that: “By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down.”  In this same light I think of so many of the things that have happened during past presidencies: Obama Care, more entitlements, No Child Left Behind, the Patriot Act, etc. etc.  The list could go on and on… but perhaps we should be asking whether our government, whether local, state, or national is governing with justice in mind…  some would say “yes, it is unjust for people to suffer without some of these things.”  Others would say, “No, people need to work hard for what they have.”  Both sides, I think, would have Biblical support for their argument.

The question then is, are we being wise in what we do?  Are we being wise in how we govern?  Are we being wise in how we are governed?  Even this falls under Solomon’s Thesis statement: “The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Are we honoring God in what we do?  What we say?  How we lead?  How we follow?

The end of the book of Proverbs is very telling.  All throughout the book Solomon has been making the comparison between Lady Wisdom and lady folly.  He ends the book by telling the end of the story, the Son he spoke to chose wisdom and the result are as follows.  While  this too can be the ideal of a wife to live up to, it is just as much the description of one lives their life in the ways of wisdom, in the way of fearing and honor the Lord.  May it be so for us in all that we do.



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 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.