As mentioned in Monday’s blog, The Song of Songs is a Hebrew love poem, depicting a courtship and marriage between a young woman and a man. The Song also has a long tradition of being used as allegory of the love between Christ and the church.
In chapters 5 – 8, the couple appear to be chasing each other in the forest and meadow, like a hide-and-seek. Using richly evocative symbolism drawn from the created world, these songs portray the beauties of the physical body and the splendours of human love. The dialogue between the man and the woman is joyful and full of love, speaking to each other of their delight in each other.
Can we use this poetry book in the canon of the Bible to teach us something about romance and marriage that is blessed by God? I would answer “Perhaps” in the sense that this is a depiction of sexual love between one man and one woman, therefore a God-ordained marriage.
However, this book is not a teaching about marriage as such. That kind of teaching may be found in the account of creation in Genesis. A marriage relationship is also described by St. Paul in Ephesians 5. Moreover the chapter on love (I Cor.13) is a rich description of the love among members of the Christian church.
Some Christians still believe –or perhaps are just suspicious that the physical body is not as important as spiritual thoughts and feeling. The Song challenges that view, showing in vivid pictures and words that the physical body formed by God in the garden of Eden is beautiful, and that sexual expression of love between a man and a woman is a glory to God.
Our society accepts as normal a wide range of sexuality and gender definitions. From childhood to adult, individuals are encouraged and given permission to explore both hetero and same-sex attractions, and gender identity that may or may not be congruent with one’s biology.
I believe a question for all Christians and especially Christian parents and leaders is one of learning to know and understand what God desires in relationship, especially relationships between men and women.
Dear Lord God, teach us once more who we are as sexual beings created by you. Help us to set your guidelines for our children in all their social behaviours. For those who are struggling with body dysphoria and unhealthy sexual relationships, draw them back into your arms of love.
The Gift of Love
OBSERVE: From the book of Songs of Songs we learn about emotional intimacy and exclusivity of our relationship with the God of the universe. Throughout the first four chapters we hear the repeated theme of an intimate and loving relationship summarized best in the following verse:
My love is mine, and I am his. (2:16)
INTERPRET: Though the surface meaning of this book is clearly concerned with human sexuality, throughout all ages Christians have seen in it a metaphor of the intimate love relationship Christ has with his bride, the church. Jesus is not pictured here as King or Priest or Prophet, but as a Bridegroom and Lover of his bride. Though God is infinitely above us, he delights in us and in giving himself to us. He is not the fleeting love of a human suitor who may or may not love us tomorrow, but the secure love who has claimed us as his own for eternity and given us all that he owns.
APPLICATION: And certainly Jesus has the power to hold us tight to himself, to preserve us, so much that Jesus said of us, “No one can snatch them away from me” (John 10:28). God has come to us in Christ to draw us to himself so that he can love us:
All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God. We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love…….Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for the fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each other because he loved us first. (1 John 4: 15-16, 18-19).
Jesus demonstrated his love for us by making the first move toward us, calling us to himself. He has loved us best by taking our judgment upon himself so that we need not fear. And when we begin to grasp the goodness of his love for us, we find that we can “love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love” (Ephesians 6: 24).
REFLECTION: Do you feel secure in the loving arms of God Almighty?
PRAYER: JESUS, I love you because you first loved me and drew me to yourself. You hold me so securely in your love that nothing can come between us or ever snatch me away. I am yours and you are mine, forevermore. AMEN.
Observe: Ecclesiastes 7-12
The seventh chapter of Ecclesiastes is a contrast between wisdom and folly and indicates that wisdom is good with an inheritance and a protection. It acknowledges that God is in charge of both the day of prosperity and the day of adversity, and laments the fact that the wicked flourish while the righteous suffer.
Chapter eight gives a subtle allusion to Moses having had a face that shone after speaking with God, saying “A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the hardness of his face is changed.” There is an assurance here that those who fear God will ultimately do well, even though the evil person does well for a time yet has to one day stand before Him.
The author then goes on in the ninth chapter, encouraging the reader to eat bread and drink wine and enjoy a merry heart since there is none of this in Sheol: our destination if we live for ourselves and do not fear God or seek His wisdom. This is followed by the assertion that wisdom is better than might or power or riches or the strength of youth, that indeed wisdom once saved a besieged city which thought itself great.
The last chapter comes to a rough conclusion in an aside to the reader, saying “The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
Plato once famously wrote “The unexamined life is not worth living,” to which Kurt Vonnegut wittily replied “Plato says that the unexamined life is not worth living. But what if the examined life turns out to be a clunker as well?”
Ecclesiastes does exactly that: beginning with an exhaustive search and examination of all of life’s qualities and trials, it threatens to conclude that all of man’s toiling and struggle and pursuit of wealth and fame is “vapour,” a mist that vanishes. This book portrays the very real frustration facing those who try and find meaning in the work of their hands or their riches and power, as Dave pointed out the other day.
There are some key developments in the author’s thinking around chapters seven to twelve as he slowly start to drive home the truth that to seek and fear God is the duty of mankind, the only worthwhile pursuit under the sun. The final chapter begins with an exhortation to “remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them,” … and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who have it.”
There is a sense of acceptance in the last two verses which I quoted in the above section – a bowing of the head and bending of the knee to the truth that, after all has been said and done, we must all “fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
Take a moment to picture Solomon, whose words this book is based around. He was the wisest of the wise, the richest of the rich, had one thousand wives, and was the king of Israel, God’s chosen people, yet he was in a major crisis. It was clear that he was granted the fulfilment of every human earthly desire, however it was not enough to satisfy his very soul. Nor could it. If we approach this problem from a logical perspective, it is clear our immaterial souls can never be satisfied by material goods. C.S. Lewis puts it more succinctly (obviously): “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Ecclesiastes, therefore, shines a light on the foolishness of those who would try to replace God Almighty with anything under the sun. Jesus Christ summed it all up when, in the Gospel of Matthew, He was asked what the most important commandment was – so let us go forth with these words written on our hearts and minds: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
If I might add a personal note here, if you have heard my testimony, you’ll know I came to a very similar place as this Teacher in Ecclesiastes. I found that nothing really mattered. I was at the end of myself, the end of my abilities, and was shown the fruit of my life being lived selfishly. In the face of such futility, and to cut a long story short, the only, and I mean the only way for my life to have any meaning whatsoever is to give it to God for Him to do with it as He pleases.
If we could apply Ecclesiastes in any way, and if my former dire situation could serve as any help at all, let us not come to a breaking point before we decide to put Jesus first and foremost in our hearts and minds. Let us not put Him on a shelf as we pursue other things. Let us not ignore Him as a task or a burden but let us run to Him as the giver of life and love and light and meaning! Do not wait! Take time each day in prayer before Him and allow His loving presence to guide you on – for nothing done for Him is ever meaningless!
Lord Jesus, thank you for bringing us out of darkness and into your marvelous light. Thank you for putting your Holy Spirit in us so that we might please you and grow as your sons and daughters. Thank you especially for making a way when there was no way and for running to us while we were still a long way off! We pray that you might convict and guide us if we have put anything above you in our lives and hearts. Teach us to put you first and to live that out, so that others may see that we live and work not in futility or darkness, but for our Good and Loving Father whose return we anxiously await. Amen!
Song: Pat Barrett - Build My Life (feat. Chris Tomlin)
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”
Ecclesiastes 3: 11
Ecclesiastes 1-6 (Psalm 6)
The ‘Teacher’ or ‘Preacher,’ the author of this book, is traditionally thought to be Solomon. However, further theories exist that point to a possibility of three authors or a single one. Given the uncertainty, it is probably best, to simply see the author as anonymous.
The Teacher asks the questions that are on human hearts; basically, what is the meaning of life? His answer is the key theme of the book; all is meaningless except for the fear of God. Humans need to keep God’s commands for one day all will give an account to Him.
Eternity, the desire for meaning in this life and life beyond, has been placed in the human heart by God. Yet humankind cannot really change anything meaningfully, time is in God’s hands and He is sovereign. Human’s lives are short and full of tribulation but God blesses humankind with meaningful employ. Death is inevitable and renders much that is achieved in life…meaningless. Real wisdom belongs to God (3: 14-15) yet there is benefit in humans pursuing wisdom which is better than folly (2: 13-14).
There will be times in our lives where we all echo the questions and sentiments of the ‘Teacher.’ Whilst he may only partially answer his own questions, wonderfully, the bible answers them more completely and the full answer is found in Christ. On Sunday (6th June) we considered how Jesus is the ‘Wisdom of God’ for us. He provides the answers to life and death; He is our redemption, righteousness and holiness (1 Corinthians 1: 30). He gives meaning and purpose to our lives. Whatever the season is, that we are experiencing, good will come out of it; He will make all things beautiful in His time, including us (Romans 8: 28; Ecclesiastes 3: 11; & Colossians 1: 22). Whatever our hands find to do in work, family and leisure, can find meaning in Christ. Even death has lost its sting and meaninglessness for life, for it becomes the door to eternity, opened by Christ for us if we but believe; our hearts will be satisfied in eternity (1 Corinthians 15: 54-57). None of us have fathomed or imagined the wonders that God has prepared for us who love Him (1 Corinthians 2: 9). What we do in this life will influence what is to come in eternity; a sobering and exciting thought.
The Question of Application
The Teacher is sometimes seen as a pessimist or sceptic because of his views and outlook. How we view life and circumstances impacts our hearts, attitudes, views and behaviour. How do you view life; through the lens of the Gospel or the wisdom of the world? The latter leads to meaninglessness the former to the gift of life itself.
Almighty God you have made everything beautiful in its time. You have set eternity in our hearts; yet we cannot fathom what You have done from beginning to end. Help us to be happy and to do good while we live, may we find satisfaction in all our toil and see this as a gift from you. Everything You do endures for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. May we therefore give ourselves to you Holy Father in submission and awe inspired fear of you. Amen
From Ecclesiastes 3: 11-14
You make everything beautiful by Rebecca St. James
Red Sea Road by Ellie Holcomb (for difficult seasons)
Text Prov 27-31 (Ps 5)
Observe We’ll concentrate on two passages in these chapters: 30 (Agur) and 31 (Lemuel). That’s enough to chew on for now.
Chapter 30:1-3 is Agur’s humble self-assessment of his knowledge and spirituality, recalling Job 38-39. He recognizes human limitation in the face of God’s work.
Then, a Hebrew-Bible ‘…give us this day…forgive our trespasses…’: he prays for only two things: to speak the truth, and for just enough (6), to avoid the too-much of wealth and its self-sufficiency, where forgetting God is all too possible; or the too-little of poverty which could bring on theft, dishonouring God. (7-9)
The ‘Three then four’ stanzas, interspersed with other proverbs recall chapter 6. Agur ponders greed (15-16); concealment and deception (18-20); personal and social unrest (21-23); the amazing wisdom of God in small creatures, and the ‘wisdom’ they possess (24-28); dignity (29-31) reflected in noble bearing and behaviour.
The final stanza is like a bookend. Agur spoke humbly of himself at the beginning of the chapter; he says in this stanza that exalting oneself is foolish. And a final warning: if evil plans are afoot, stop involvement and keep quiet, avoiding strife.
Lemuel’s poem (chapter 31) differs entirely from the Proverbs template. Yes, there are warnings about the effects of wine on a king (4,5) and reminders to defence the rights of the poor (8,9). But the lengthy final stanza (10-32) praises a woman who does things well. With no hurry or pressure, she simply carries out her work, bringing honour to her husband and family in her calm orderliness. Lemuel attributes wisdom to this woman as she does her work, faithfully and fully.
Interpret In Jewish culture, men, not women, read Proverbs 31 -- as a song of praise to the women in their lives. The intended male audience is instructed to Praise her for all her hands have done (28b)., to see her as precious, not for what she does but who she is.
It takes the heat off our mums when they again find this chapter copied into a Mother’s Day card, or in a well-meaning Mum’s Day sermon! Sensing for another year running their utter inadequacy in the face of Perfection, let’s insist Chapter 31 is NOT: a job description, a To Do list, a supermom bio, a model for slavish imitation, nor does it Strongly Suggest Single Ladies Get Married, raise kids and learn to weave! We first met Lady Wisdom in Chapter 8; she is also the woman in 31:10-32. Think Lady Wisdom, not Martha Stewart.
Think eshet chayil, a “woman of valour”, (rather than ‘virtue’), not because of bravery, though that might enter in too, but because how she carries out daily tasks in faithfulness is more important that what she does. Recall Boaz. He calls Ruth an eshet chayil because of her noble character.1 (Ruth 3:11)
Apply For a man (gibor) or woman (eschet) valour may be an unnamed gift of the Holy Spirit. One can be a teacher of valour, a mum of valour, a pastor of valour, a barista of valour, a singer of valour a labourer of valour, a midwife of valour, a Giant Tiger cashier of valour – a retiree of valour! We do what we are privileged to do with all courage and heart, by God’s grace and guidance. And in observing our determination to live out His life fully and faithfully, those around us just might ask, ”What makes you tick?” And we tell them!
Ask What do I pray for? What for me is ‘enough’ so I don’t forget God has given me my life and everything with it, or resort to other means of having because I think I need more? Do I take time to marvel at God’s creation, at how little I know? Who are the women and men of valour in my life? Why? How can I praise them, and , more importantly, praise God for them?
Pray Lord God, thank You for Proverbs, for the pithy verses that still apply, for the reminders of what our life could look like to You and to others. Thank You for those who wrote and collected; what a remarkable part of Your canon this is! Praise to You, our great Lord of all that is wise and good!
Song Psalm 5: Maranatha Singers
1 I owe these ideas to Rachel Held Evans (1982-2019
Chapters 22-26 are, as indicated at the beginning of proverbs, a collection of wise sayings in no particular order. Some themes are revisited:
22:2—The rich and the poor have this in common: The Lord made them both.
23:4,5—Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich…in the blink of an eye wealth disappears, for it will sprout wings and fly away like an eagle.
24:3,4—A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables.
25:11—Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket.
26:23,24—Smooth words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a clay pot. People may cover their hatred with pleasant words, but they’re deceiving you. They pretend to be kind, but don’t believe them. Their hearts are full of many evils.
Let’s unpack the verses I’ve listed above:
22:2—There is one Creator God and God will determine what is just regardless of a person’s wealth and power.
23:4.5—Our only reference point – our goal and ground in life is the Holy Triune God, Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. If we start focusing on getting rich, we will lose sight of what has true meaning.
24:3,4—This reminds me of Jesus’ parable about building one’s house on the rock rather than on the sand. It also reminds me of the story about storing up treasures in heaven rather than here on earth. Look for what has eternal value—see Philippian 4:2 whatever is true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good report—think on these things.
25:11—Listen to good advice—but also be prepared to sift through the advice you’ve been given so you will recognize the good advice versus poor advice.
26:23ff –Be discerning of people. Don’t be taken in by a charming manner or pretty words. Don’t accept what people tell you without weighing it –where does it come from? What is the person’s motivation in telling you the news? Be aware of evil in peoples’ lives: see I Peter 5:8--Stay alert, your adversary as a roaring lion seeks—to devour.
Wisdom sayings are easy to read and easy to memorize. I encourage you to take the plans or issues you are working on or thinking about, and go through the book of Proverbs to find some “pearls of wisdom” that pertain to your situation. You will find that it is a book of wisdom for today and for us as well as for the ancient peoples.
What plans and decisions am I working on today? Does God say anything to me about my work? My family? My relationships? Holy Spirit – guide us in the way of the true Gospel and live your life through me.
Dear Lord God, you have told us to ask You when we lack wisdom. So we ask you to remind us of your words of wisdom as we make our day-to-day plans and decisions. Keep us mindful that you are the only One who is ever faithful and ever sure. You are the ground of our being. You are the One who keeps us always in your care.
Ever faithful, ever sure. – D. Bruce Moore
Observe These chapters range from behaviour of sons to a king’s mind and heart, from making plans to living uprightly, in no particular arrangement. Let’s look at speech, one among many topics but always relevant.
Our plans vs God’s ways: Addressed in 16:1-4, God has graciously given us minds to choose, to consider, to think through. We can’t rely on these, though. Planning in God’s will puts Him first. We pray for wisdom and He assures us that as we do so, He knows the details. While these verses do not directly address speech, we often talk out our plans!
Pleasant vs abusive speech: 16:21-24; 27-30 contrast the effects of words: loving words, springing from a pure heart, bless the hearer and the speaker; harsh words only bring trouble and heartache. 17:14 addresses the problem of angry words that increase strife; best to leave off before both of these increase, bringing only destruction.
Gossip and strife: In 18:5-8, misuse of words has its own consequences. In the courts, v 8 implies a malfunctioning legal system full of innuendo, gossip, lying. Death-dealing gossip is a spreading virus.
Oddly, 18:18 says The lot puts an end to strife and separates those locked in dispute. (Recall Acts 1:26 when the apostles chose Judas’ replacement by lot.) Ultimately, God makes the choice; strife ends in a final decision.
Fools: always examples of what not to do or say. 18:2, 6-8 tell us they only want to listen to themselves, have no sense of right speaking, delight in gossip that damages another. The ‘fruit of the lips’ praise God or destroy a reputation. Fools are oblivious to this.
False witness: Bookends, 19:5,9 are direct repetitions, implying the need for honesty; lies will come into the open; unfit words may exploit the poor, though the poor are not immune to uttering falsehoods.
Scoffing/mocking: 19:25-20:1 and 21:16 recall Psalm 1:1c. Condemnation is appropriate for scoffers, a good beating for fools -- then will they understand?
Counsel: 20:18-19 show that major decisions need counsel but take care in choosing counselors. Can they keep shared confidences? Slander and babblers are close relatives.
Justice: When practiced by those who love good, justice is sheer joy. (21:15). The pursuit of righteousness and kindness return these lovely virtues to those who seek good, who seek God.
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel/can avail against the Lord. (21:30) The sovereign will of the Lord prevails in all our planning. His goodness, kindness always win out over wealth and power, certainly over evil and its adherents. This is especially true in speech.
Interpret In Proverbs, we encounter a different mindset; our linear minds find these couplets hard to grasp. Verses repeat, maybe word for word, in different chapters; parallels and contrasts abound; an idea repeats in different ways; a topic lasts five verses then abruptly switches gears. Repetition indicates the significance of the teaching. Proverbs stretches our brains as we accommodate this circular way of thought!
Apply Our Bible in a Year introduces us to Hebrew thought; Proverbs are meant to give life and we see God’s wisdom in them, requiring careful rereading. Maybe in the next year or two we could revisit small blocks of Wisdom literature, looking more deeply into how it still applies. It’s all part of the Word!
Ask Out of the heart, the mouth speaks (Mt 12:34). Did Jesus have Proverbs in mind when he urged me to keep a clean heart, so my words honour and glorify Him, bringing His life and love to others?
Pray: Lord, let what travels from ear to heart to mouth reflect Your kindness, goodness, righteousness, and light. Thank You for these little gems of Your practical wisdom.
Song Psalm 3: Not Afraid Jason Silver
Psalm 3: You are My Shield My Soul among Lions
Proverbs chapters 13 & 14 both begin describing wise people: “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke,” and “the wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down,” respectively. Chapter 15 begins with a famous one – “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”
Each chapter is packed with wisdom and guidance, however I wanted to focus on chapter 13:12 for today, as it has special significance. It reads “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”
Let me start with a question: if you lost all you had except for Jesus Christ, would He be enough?
Hope deferred. We’ve all been through a lot of that in the last year. Plans, people, and possibilities pushed back and pushed back and lost in the uncertainty of the past year and a half. This proverb accurately captures the feeling – it makes the heart feel sick. My wife and I have personally felt this in the area of house hunting; a major milestone in any couple’s life and, apparently, an impossibility. We have felt the anguish of isolation, of loved ones only visited on screens, of massive shifts in our jobs. This takes a toll on anyone, and it has made our hearts feel sick, especially as hope for a summer of normality seems to be deferred yet again.
This has been a real struggle for virtually everyone, though it may look different person to person. We are not meant to bear these burdens without flinching, nor are we to cover our feelings up and keep them separate from our time with the Lord. The Psalms continually remind us to pour out our hearts before the Lord, and that is going to be an ever-changing mix of thanksgiving, complaint, joy, tears, and everything else under the sun. We are not robots - our emotions are an important part of our lives, and we all yearn for a desire fulfilled which is called a tree of life in verse 12.
Be warned, however, for we are also not meant to found our hope in worldly things or give in to complaining and self-pity. My plans to buy a house and travel are not a tree of life – they can never satisfy me the way the human soul is supposed to be satisfied. My dreams and desires and their fulfillment are not a foundation for hope either, for I cannot control anything in this life. In fact, my real hope is not supposed to be in anything I can see our touch or make or do. Rather, my hope is to be found in the goodness, love, and sovereignty of Jesus Christ, the One and only thing we can truly rely upon!
He is to be our greatest desire and hope, who was hung on a tree for your life.
Romans 12:12 tells us “Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.” Romans 5:5 says “And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Psalm 39:7 sums it up perfectly: “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” Again and again we are reminded to hope only in God Almighty, who knows all things and is sovereign in all ways. The beauty of living with our hope being in Him and Him alone is that our hope is never deferred, never put off for another day. We can and must carry around the hope of Jesus at all times, in all places, and through any storm.
Yes, we will continue to face upset and hurt, especially this year, however let our hopes not rest on what we can or can’t do, but on what He has already done for us!
Now is a time to take stock of our priorities. If this past year and a half during the pandemic were winter, let us treat this time of vaccinations and cautious reopening like spring, where we till the land and decide what we want to grow this coming season. In my last blog, I summarized the Psalms, referring especially to chapter 1:3 “He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither.”
Consider the ways in which the Lord has challenged you over this past year and reflect on the ways in which He may have been calling you to shift your focus from yourself or the world to Him. We are meant to be planted in the presence of the shining Son, so with prayer and consideration, let us all commit our hope to be in Christ alone.
Application question –
What have you been hoping in lately that may have let you down? How can you train your heart and mind to establish Christ as first in your heart?
Lord God, we thank you that we can always come to you as our loving Father and steadfast hope. Thank you for leading us in these weary days, and for giving us hope at all times and in all places. Please teach us to live in your hope and grace, that we might commit all our actions and plans to you, and give you glory in everything we do. Amen!
Song – In Christ Alone: Shane & Shane
Text: Proverbs 10, 11, 12
Since there are so many topics covered in these three chapters, I have decided to narrow the text down by pulling out a single theme. You too can do this in your personal study of Proverbs. For example, you can use the method below to examine what Proverbs says about topics like: money/wealth, relationships, the theme of mouth/lips/speech, the theme of paths/ways, contrasts between the wise and foolish, everything said specifically about the “fear of the Lord”, etc.
Together today, using questions and the inductive method, we will study the theme of “the righteous”.
What is said in Proverbs 10-12 about “the righteous”?
-righteousness delivers them from death and trouble (10:2; 11:4,6,8)
-the righteous are fed by the Lord’s provision (10:3)
-they are crowned with blessings (10:6)
-they are remembered well after they die (10:7)
-they have life-giving words (10:11)
-their wages bring life (10:16)
-their tongue is choice silver (10:20)
-their lips nourish many (10:21)
-what they desire is granted (10:24)
-they stand firm forever (regardless of storms) (10:25)
-their prospect is joy (10:28)
-they take refuge in the way of the Lord (10:29)
-they keep hold of their territory and are not uprooted (10:30, 12:3)
-their mouth brings forth wisdom (10:31)
-their lips know what is fitting (10:32)
-their integrity guides them (11:3)
-their righteousness makes a straight way for them (11:5)
-through their knowledge, the righteous escape the destruction of the godless (11:9)
-the city is exalted and rejoices when they prosper (11:10,11)
-the harvest of sowing righteousness is a sure reward (11:18)
-the righteous attain life (11:19)
-they go free (11:21)
-their desires end only in good (11:23)
-they thrive like a green leaf (11:28)
-their fruit is a tree of life (11:30)
-their plans are just (12:5)
-their speech rescues them (12:6,13)
-their house stands firm (12:7)
-they care for the needs of their animals (12:10)
-their root flourishes (12:12)
-no harm befalls them (12:21)
-they are cautious in friendship (12:26)
From these verses, what are the benefits of being righteous?
Generally speaking, these verses show us that the benefits of being righteous are safety, provision, blessings, wealth and prosperity, a lasting legacy, fulfillment, steadiness and strength, clarity, freedom, and flourishing of life.
It stands to reason, if the above list is appealing to us, we ought to ask this next question:
What are the characteristics of righteous people?
They are deeply rooted people, guided by their integrity. They have a positive outlook, “prospecting joy”. When they are in trouble, they take refuge in the Lord. They have knowledge and desire good things; they uphold and plan with justice. They steward well their belongings, taking care of their animals. And also, they enter into friendship cautiously, choosing their friends intentionally.
A lot is also said in these verses to describe the way righteous people speak: they have life-giving words; they speak with refined words that are pure (choice silver is very pure and reflects the image of the one refining it); what they say is nourishing to many people, they speak wisdom and know what words are fitting, and their speech saves them from dangerous situations.
The Proverbs are not unclear about the benefits of living a righteous life. However, if we want the perks righteousness brings, we ought to be regularly striving to develop our character according to the wisdom laid out in these chapters. The pages of Proverbs are rich with application thoughts and today’s passage is no exception:
What characteristics stand out to me as needing growth or refining in my life?
How can I improve the wholesomeness of my speech?
How can I build up my integrity?
Am I taking refuge in the Lord with the struggles I am going through right now?
Are the desires of my heart good things?
Do my actions uphold God’s value of justice?
Am I stewarding well my belongings?
Have I been intentional in my friendships lately?
Why not choose one characteristic and meditate further on it today?
Prayer: Lord, thank you for the many blessings you pour out on the righteous. Thank you that because of what Jesus has done for us, we are privileged to walk in His righteousness. Help us to conform our lives to the principles of wisdom that you have laid out for us here in the book of Proverbs. Help me to intentionally consider how, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I can better live according to the characteristics of righteousness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Song: Take My Life (Guy Penrod)
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
Proverbs 9: 10
Proverbs 7-9 (Psalm 149)
The book of Proverbs is written entirely in the form of Hebrew poetry; probably to aid learning by rote. The Hebrew word that we translate as ‘proverb’ is ‘mashal.’ It could mean a ‘powerful word’ or a ‘comparison.’ These proverbs come mainly in the form of instruction or wisdom sentences. In today’s chapters we see both as essentially, the call to heed wisdom and dismiss folly is made. Folly is found mainly in the form of sexual seduction and arrogance. The former identifies the alluring nature of such seduction but identifies how a night’s pleasure leads to ruin and death (7:24-27). The latter describes an attitude that says, ‘I know best, I do not need to heed advice,’ (9: 7-8); again such a path culminates in death (9: 18).
The path to life is found in God’s wisdom and in following His commands. This journey and understanding begins in an awe-filled fear of the Lord and in knowing Him. Wisdom was present with God in creation and can be seen in such. She (Wisdom) provides a perfect home and ample provision (9: 1-6). The seven pillars (9: 1), probably describes the fact that wisdom produces a perfect world (seven being the number of completeness within a sacred context). Why, oh why, is folly so often heeded and wisdom dismissed when the results of both are so clear and obvious?
The lessons for application are clear; just what we would hope for, even expect with proverbs! Worldly wisdom may appear alluring, seductive and astute, but following such a path leads to our eternal separation from God. In this life, entertaining such pleasures, literally wars against our souls (1 Peter 2: 11). Knowing and fearing God introduces wisdom and life to our being. Two strategies exist to keep us in His path and away from the wide road to destruction. Firstly, knowing and obeying His commands (7: 1-4). This means more than reading and knowing Scripture, we are to love His Word and put it into practice. Secondly, we are to ‘choose’ God’s wisdom, not the worlds (8: 1-3, 10). There is a conscious act of our will, prompted and empowered by the Holy Spirit, which is needed.
For Christians today, it is difficult to read these Scriptures, and not substitute the word wisdom with Jesus. We can also see in these passages, His and the Holy Spirit’s presence at, and contribution to creation. There is a wonderful symmetry in Scripture and after all, it is through faith in Jesus that new life is given and true life lived.
The Question of Application
What voice do you listen to most in life, the wisdom of God or the folly of the world? How might God’s Word help you to discern the answer to this question and empower you to follow the Lord’s path?
O Lord, from whom all good things come: grant to us your humble servants, that by holy inspiration we may think those things that are good and by merciful guiding perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
The Perfect Wisdom of our God by Keith & Kristyn Getty
Bible Blog 2022
This year the blogs are focused on the Psalms and are posted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.