Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Proverbs 12:11 --- A New Way of Seeing

Proverbs 12:11
Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
Have you ever noticed in the Gospels how literal and dense Jesus' disciples are, particularly when it comes to bread?  Our Lord's mind moves quickly from the symbol of bread to spiritual and heavenly things:

From bread to the Word of God: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).
From bread to teaching: "'How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (Matthew 16:11-12).

From bread to the will of God: "Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, 'Rabbi, eat.' But he said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.' So the disciples said to one another, 'Has anyone brought him something to eat?' Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work'" (John 4:31-34).           

From bread to himself: "Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' Jesus then said to them, 'Truly,    truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my      Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world'" (John 6:31-33).

What's remarkable is that the disciples' eyes, and our eyes, are finally opened at a meal that is all about the breaking of bread.  It is this meal that opens our eyes to the sacramental nature of the world the triune God has made, a world designed for men's eyes to move from earth to his glorious Son in heaven, and back again.  The breaking of bread is the breaking of our enslavement to the literal and to this present evil age.  Note the repetition of broke/breaking:

"When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. . . . Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread" (Luke 24:30-31, 35).

I suppose we could look at today's proverb and just look at how to make literal bread and lots of it!  But what worries me is that in so doing, we would just be perpetuating the literalism and denseness Jesus came to cure.  But even our proverb itself is trying to move us from earth to heaven and from the literal to the spiritual, especially in the second comparison. 

The first comparison is between "works his land" and "follows worthless pursuits."  On a literal level, "works his land" means that the farmer must do the hard work of ploughing, planting and harvesting if he wants a good harvest.  Hard work will pay off in "plenty of bread."  But if a person gets distracted with empty things, probably easy money and get-rich-quick schemes, the result will be, not a lack of bread, which is what we would expect, but a lack of sense, or more literally, a lack of heart! 

Do you see what the proverb is doing?  By making the second contrast between "plenty of bread" and "lack of sense/heart" the proverb is trying to help us see beyond the literal to the spiritual!  This proverb is not just advice to the farmer, or even to all of us about working hard at our vocations.  It includes that counsel, but it includes so much more, which Christ's coming ought to help us see.

In the New Testament, the land has been Christified.  The Old Testament concept of living in the land has been transformed to living in Christ.  We are to live in Christ, and we are to "follow" him, not empty and "worthless pursuits."  And our pursuit of our Lord ought to be intense.  It is Christ we are to seek above all things: "If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God" (Colossians 3:1).

What we will find if we pursue Christ, living in him and following him?  We will find Jesus gives us a new way of seeing, a way of seeing that truly satisfies us, a way of seeing that enables us to see his glory and eventuates in the beatific vision.  Jesus will be more than enough for us.  He will be our daily Bread.  He will be the Bread that is enough for us in the wilderness of this world.

Do you remember the invariable issue before Jesus' miraculous meals in the wilderness?  The question always revolved around the word or concept of enough (Matthew 14:15-17; 15:33; Mark 6:37, 8:4; Luke 9:13, John 6:7; cf. John 14:8).  The seven and twelve baskets left over gave us the answer to that question.  Jesus is enough for his people in the wilderness of this world!  He's enough for us individually (seven baskets), and for his church (twelve baskets).  He will meet and satisfy every need we have in his wisdom, goodness, and power. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Proverbs 12:9-10 --- Responding to His Condescending Compassion

Proverbs 12:9 --- Images of Pride, Humility, and Grace
Better to be lowly and have a servant
    than to play the great man and lack bread.

One commentator complains of this proverb that it "is almost unintelligible."[1]  There are two comparisons made in our proverb.  The difficulty is with the second.  The first comparison is between "be lowly" and "play the great man."  This comparison is the key to understanding the proverb.  If we can figure out the meaning of this main comparison, then the more difficult comparison between "have a servant" and "lack bread," which must be related to the main comparison, may fall into place.

The first image, "be lowly," pictures a person who has no exalted status or social standing in the community.  He is held in low esteem by others, and may even be despised.  This is very much in line with what we saw in the previous proverb.  In a world that has rejected God's Son, the Son's people cannot expect to be held in high esteem.

Opposite of this first image is the person who is said "to play the great man."  Fox describes this second man as "the smug self-glorifier."[2]  This second image pictures a man who lives for the applause of others to the point that he pretends to be what he is not in order to gain their esteem and approval.  If there is an element of wealth involved, the picture is also of a person who pretends to be wealthier than he really is.  The basic idea is play acting.
One is reminded here of the play acting of the Pharisee and the lowly esteemed publican in the temple.  Interestingly, this story of the Pharisee and the tax collector comes on the heels of Jesus' teaching that his elect people will have a difficult time in this world (Luke 18:1-7).  Here is Jesus' teaching of the Pharisee and publican in the temple:
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10 “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.11 The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’13 But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Pride is essentially play acting, pretending to be what we are not.  Human beings have no reason to boast before the Lord or others.  First of all, we are dependent creatures.  Like all of creation, it is the power of God that gives us life and maintains that life.  Dependent creatures ought not to pretend they are great!  As a cabinet member to the president might say, I serve at the behest of the president.  Second, whatever gifts or abilities we have are given to us by the Lord.  The Lord rightly brings us back to sanity when he teaches, "What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7).

But, finally, playing the great man is particularly offensive in view of our sin.  The truth is that contra the Pharisee above (v. 11), we are all like all other men.  We are all cut from the same sinful cloth.  We are all Adam's seed.  And even believers, who have a new, regenerate nature, still have this old sinful nature that must be put off daily like Lazarus' grave clothes.  In short, pride is play acting and pretending to be great.  Humility is coming to grips with the reality of who we are before God.

Now, we are in a better position to consider the difficult comparison between "have a servant" and "lack bread."  For the sake of space, this must be brief.  My view is that essentially the point being made spiritually in this second comparison is that God gives grace to the humble, but he resists the proud (Proverbs 3:34; James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5).  To the proud, who pretend to be great, they receive not the Bread of life, the Bread of heaven, Jesus Christ.  Their reward for their play acting, the applause of men, is the only reward they will receive.
But for the humble who belong to him, Christ himself serves them in the sense that he, as he did at the Supper (John 13:3-5), rises from the table, takes off his garments, and serves his people by washing their feet.  In his astounding grace, our Lord took off the glory of his divinity, wrapped himself in the clothes of our humanity, and in that humanity he went to the cross to cleanse us of our sin.  And he continues to cleanse us with his blood and give himself as the Bread of life even to this moment, so that we might have strength and life to live in the midst of a world that lightly esteems his people. 

Truly it is better to be lowly and have a Lord like this, who humbles himself to serve us!  All praise be to Him.

[1] Ellen F, Davis, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs, 84.
[2] Michael V. Fox, Proverbs 10-31, 550.

Proverbs 12:10 
Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
    but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.

The previous proverb in the light of the Mystery now revealed (Colossians 1:25-28), showed us our Lord Jesus Christ as the bread that came down from heaven, and our servant, who continues to serve us in our weakness and sin.  Christ is the Bread and the Servant, and how astounding is his condescension!  The eternal Son of God came to earth through the womb of the virgin, becoming man, without relinquishing his deity.  The Son of God came to earth, not to be served, but to serve those who will receive him as their Lord and Savior.  He serves his people by accomplishing their salvation, and he continues to serve us as our daily Bread, and our Immanuel, who is always present with us.

Think of how great this condescension is!  The gap between the self-existent, eternal, almighty, sovereign Creator and Sustainer of all things and us is far greater than the gap that exists between us and domesticated animals.  The word "beast" in our proverb refers to domesticated animals like, horses, sheep, oxen, or donkeys.  If the eternal Son of God has displayed such kind regard for our life and welfare, bridging the great gap between heaven and earth, then should we not bridge the much smaller gap, and be compassionate toward domesticated animals, who help us?  This is the logic of the first line of the verse.

This logic is the theme of imitation.  As God's image bearers, we are to imitate his compassion and kindness, and we do so when we show that compassion to domesticated animals, who especially in former times did so much to serve us.  And, if we are to be compassionate to animals, who are not his image bearers, how much more should we show compassion to men and women who are?!

This afternoon I was watching a sports show about what is known as adventure racing.  In this sport, teams of people are in a race of hundreds of miles across extreme terrains.  This particular show was about the 2014 world championship that was 430 miles across Ecuador.  Early in the race, a dog began to follow the team from Sweden.  At first the team ignored the dog, but the dog was determined to follow them swimming across rivers and following them up and down mountainous terrains, almost all of this taking place with little or no sleep.  The leader of the team felt sorry for the dog who had an injury and had no way to feed himself.  So he started sharing his own sparse supply of food.  The team ended up finishing twelfth, even though they were the favored team, because they had compassion on this dog who would've never been able to fend for himself in a jungle.

What moved me about the story was this quote from the leader, who adopted the dog, brought him back to Sweden, and treated his injuries which were extensive and serious.  He said with tears in his eyes, "This was the best thing I ever did."  I believe he might be right in that statement, because the best thing we do in life is to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ in his condescension and service.

The second line of our proverb, "but the mercy of the wicked is cruel," presents us with an oxymoron.  What could be meant by this oxymoron of cruel mercy?

We referenced the wicked judge in Luke 18 in the previous proverb.  Here is how he is described: "In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man" (Luke 18:2).  This is an accurate assessment of wicked people, and all of us unless we repent.  They do not fear God, with the result that they do not respect men made in his image.  All of us by nature are, as Luther put it, incurvatus in se, i.e., curved in upon ourselves.  Such selfishness precludes mercy. 

But when the wicked do seek to be compassionate and merciful, the attempt often results in a cruel mercy.  As one person put it, "Better to be the righteous person's horse than the wicked person's neighbor."[1]  I think the classic case of cruel mercy is the case made for abortion by abortion advocates.  The case for abortion is sold as compassion for women.  But what a cruel compassion, a cruel mercy!  This sort of mercy takes the life of another person, and leaves the woman with a lifetime of unresolved guilt, until the woman finds Christ and his shed blood, which alone can cleanse the guilty conscience.

May we learn to put on compassion each day, in accordance with the great compassion we have received from our Lord, and continue to receive from him.  Each day may we respond to the mercy we have received, and live by keeping the command of our Lord through his apostle:
"Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has    forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Colossians 3:12-14). 


[1] Koptak, Proverbs, 340.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Proverbs 12:5 --- Whose Counsel Will You Follow?

Proverbs 12:5
The thoughts of the righteous are just;
    the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.

The next three proverbs are connected by the Hebrew catchword, resha'im, which means wicked people.  "These three sayings progress from the nature of the words of righteous and wicked people to the effect of their words and then to their final state, either in everlasting paradise or perdition."[1]

The first comparison in today's proverb is between "thoughts" and "counsels".  The words are similar.  But the word thoughts points to the truth that our words originate in the heart or inward being.  If you listen carefully to a person's words, you can learn what that person's heart is like.  Van Leeuwen puts it like this, "The righteous and the wicked are here characterized by the thoughts and advice that preoccupy each."[2]
The important question here is what advice or counsel governs the heart?  The wicked are sadly the great majority, whose hearts are governed by the counsel of their own understanding, not the counsel of God's Word.  Followers of Jesus must follow their Lord, who was always governed by the counsel of the Word of God, saying, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

Jesus also taught us that God's Word is truth (John 17:17).  Thus, the second comparison is between the words "just" and "deceitful".  The righteous are honest and straight forward.  Their thoughts and counsel are right and just, and reflect the truth of God's Word.  But the thoughts and counsel of the wicked are deceitful, because the fallen human heart is deceitful.  Jeremiah's famous description of man's heart after the fall comes to mind:

            The heart is deceitful above all things,
                and desperately sick;
                who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

Proverbs ought to teach us how desperately we need an inward transformation.  Because our hearts are desperately sick, we desperately need the medicine of the Great Physician, who promises to breathe the breath of his Spirit into our hearts.  Only that clean wind can reform and refresh these polluted hearts of ours. 

Jay Adams writes, "The need is for the inner goals, aspirations, loyalties and intentions to be changed."[3]  Basic to a change in heart is the fear of the Lord, which Psalm 19:9 teaches "is clean, enduring forever."  Without this foundational reverence or fear of the Lord in our hearts, we simply cannot be wise.  Proverbs 9:10 says:

            The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
                and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.

Our hearts are changed by knowing the triune God.  We learn to fear and know him from his Word.  Thus, the counsel our hearts listen to is vital.  Who is catechizing your heart, the world or the Word?

This mixture of fear and knowing/loving our God, which we see in Proverbs 9:10, is also not absent from the New Testament.  Some would relegate the fear of the Lord to the Old Testament, but such is not the case:
"So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being   built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied" (Acts 9:31).
Notice, that the Word is implied in the passage above by the words, "built up," for again and again in the New Testament, believers are built up by the Scriptures (for example, Acts 20:32).

This devotion has focused mainly on the issue of counsel.  Whose thoughts, whose counsel, whose advice will preoccupy and guide our lives?  Will this world, this present evil age, as the New Testament describes the world, form and shape us?  Or, will we be formed and transformed by the thoughts, counsel, and truth of God's Word?

We live in a rebellious world.  In our present culture, our rebellion has gone so far as to deconstruct words, marriage, and even gender.  Such is man's distrust and hatred of God's truth, that English professors spend their time arguing with words (ironically!) that words have no meaning.  Such is our enmity of the triune God, that we now redefine the institution of marriage that he so graciously gave us at the beginning.  And, now, our rebellion has reached the absurdity of not accepting the gift he has given us of gender, which so gloriously teaches our very purpose, for those with eyes to see it.

It seems to me that the time for decision has arrived.  Whose counsel will you follow?  You can try to live in the meaningless, normless, absurdity of this present evil age in its utter lostness as it spins out of control.  Or, you can return to your Creator, whose Word gives you meaning, truth, and abundant life in fearing, knowing and loving the Father and his Son, by the Spirit, who works powerfully within you to change your heart.

[1] Steinmann, Proverbs, 305.
[2] Van Leeuwen, Proverbs, 125.
[3] Adams, Proverbs, 90.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

New Hymn based on the Lord's Prayer

This is a hymn I wrote based on the Lord's Prayer.

Heav'nly Father, We Are Blessed
Suggested tune: MEINEM JESUM LASS' ICH NICHT (http://www.lutheran-hymnal.com/online/aTLH_Hymns2.htm scroll down to Come, Thou precious Ransom come 55).  Based on Matthew 6:9-13.  Words: William Weber, 2017.

v. 1
Heav'nly Father, we are blessed,
blessed in Christ to be Your children.
Nothing good can we confess,
but our Lord has opened heaven.
So we pray as Jesus taught,
as Your children You have wrought.

v. 2
All things find in You their birth,
so we honor You with rev'rence.
You sustain the universe,
Maker, made, how vast the diff'rence!
Great our priv'lege then to call,
You our Father, over all.

v. 3
Father, hallowed be Your name,
for Your name is good and holy.
Give us hearts by love inflamed,
and a heart that loves You wholly.
For we want to see Your name,
on the earth by men acclaimed.

v. 4
Give to us our daily bread,
Jesus is the Food of heaven.
Christ to whom our souls are wed,
clothes us with abundant blessings.
Father, would You meet our needs,
as we serve with words and deeds.

v. 5
O forgive us of our debts;
we forgive all of our debtors.
May Your grace to us beget,
grace and love to one another.
Father, thanks to You we give,
in Your Gift of Christ we live.

v. 6
Father, O how weak we are,
lead us not into temptation.
Keep us, may we not depart,
from our Lord and His salvation.
For the devil would devour,
keep us, Father, by Your power.


Christ in the Proverbs --- Proverbs 12:3

Proverbs 12:3
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.

Paul Koptak writes, "The presence of Yahweh [the Lord] named in Proverbs 12:2 lingers in this saying."[1]  Christ the Lord, hidden in the Old Testament, is once again revealed, for he is "the root of the righteous."   The apostle teaches this truth hidden in the Old Testament but now revealed:
"Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (Colossians 2:6-7).

He is the vine and we are the branches.  His life-giving sap flows to his people united to him by faith.  We are eternally thankful because God the Father has given us the gift of all gifts, his Son.

The wicked cannot be established, for their thoughts and ways are always set on this world that has rejected Christ, i.e., this present evil age, which is passing away (1 John 2:17).  As Steinman says, "The sinful human nature always focuses on the world and temporal human existence and is always anxious about the loss of worldly possessions and honor."[2]  A. W. Tozer wrote, "There is no lasting life apart from the root."[3]  Bruce Waltke writes, "That which is not firmly grounded in the Holy One will not endure."[4]

We are given Christ as a gift, which causes us to abound in thanksgiving.  Nevertheless, just as the wicked seek to establish themselves in this passing world, obsessively seeking in it pleasure, power, and permanence, so we should seek to be established in Christ.  Part of this means learning "the faith," as Paul puts it above.  Learning the faith means learning the worldview of God's kingdom, as opposed to the false worldviews of this passing age.  Therefore, the apostle writes:
"See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ" (Colossians 2:8).

There are thousands of deceitful and false philosophies in this world, but only one true one, the one given us by our Lord Jesus Christ.  There are thousands of false religions (there is little difference between philosophy and religion for both answer basic worldview questions) in the world, but only one true one, the apostolic faith we find in the New Testament.  As believers, we are called to learn "the faith" so well, that we are able to spot the counterfeit faiths that abound in the darkness of this world.  If we know the genuine faith, we will be able to spot the many idolatrous philosophies and religions that surround us.

Knowledge of the faith is vital to being established in Christ.  But true knowledge is not only knowledge, but a relationship.  We must come to love Christ, filled with gratitude for who he is and what he has done for us.  His life and love must fill us as we draw strength from him.  The goal is stated by Paul in Ephesians 3:
"so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God" (Ephesians 3:17-19).

The world we see around us will mislead us apart from the eyes of faith.  We see the wicked prosper and we think they are secure.  And we see the Lord's people, insulted and silenced because of their faith, unwanted in the academy, the media, and the influential places in our culture.  Christ's people seem to be small minority whose situation looks far from established.

But if we have eyes of faith, we see that the situation is just as Proverbs 12:3 says.  In reality, in the light of Christ's death and resurrection, it is the righteous who are eternally secure, and the unbeliever who will never be established. 

I close with the example of Caiaphas and Jesus.  Caiaphas, you remember was the wicked high priest, who condemned Jesus to death to establish the nation of Israel:  "It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish" (John 11:50).  By his wickedness in putting the Son of God to death, Caiaphas sought to establish Israel on a firm footing before the Romans. 

From the standpoint of sight, but not faith, it appeared that Caiaphas and the nation were secure, but Jesus and his small band of disciples, far from secure as their leader hung on the cross.  But how did it end?  Caiaphas and his nation were soon to be no more.  In 66 A. D. the Romans invaded and Israel as a nation was destroyed.  The wickedness of rejecting God's Son did not establish the nation.  On the other hand, Jesus was raised from the tomb on the third day and lifted to the highest place at the right hand of the Father.  By faith we see the reality that it is Christ's people, and his people only, who are secure and established. 

Rejecting God's Son can never make a man secure.  Receiving God's Son will make a man secure, no matter how insecure his place looks on earth.  Such has always been the case, and always will be the case.  Do you see it?



[1] Kotak, Proverbs, 338.
[2] Steinmann, Proverbs, 305.
[3] A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous, 8.
[4] Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, 521.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Proverbs 12:2 --- Honesty or Dishonesty? Favor or Condemnation?

Proverbs 12:2 
A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
    but a man of evil devices he condemns.

We have two contrasts in this proverb.  First, "a good man" is contrasted to "a man of evil devices."  Second, "favor from the Lord" is contrasted to the Lord's condemnation.

The first contrast teaches us that maybe the most important thing about a man is his honesty in relation to the triune God.  The good man is not a person of evil devices.  The good man is not crafty.  The good man is not a dishonest schemer.  Rather, the good man is honest and straight forward.

We see this connection between good and honest in Jesus' parable of the sower.  In Luke 8 Jesus teaches us that the person who receives the Word of God or the gospel, is the person with "an honest and good heart" (Luke 8:15).  A truly honest heart does not reject God's Word or God's Son.

Receiving God's Word and receiving God's Son go together.  It is impossible to reject the Word of God but receive God's Son.  Nor is it possible to receive the Word of God but reject the Son of God.  God's written Word is intimately connected to God's incarnate Word, his Son, Jesus Christ.

One of the reasons there has been such a decline in Christianity in the western world is that mainline churches rejected the Word of God as infallible and inerrant.  I suppose these churches and denominations may have thought they could keep their confidence in Jesus even if they lost their confidence in the written Word of God.  But that is not how it works.  The incarnate Word and the written Word are intimately linked together.  To reject one is to reject the other, and to love one is to love the other.

What is your attitude to the Bible?  Your attitude to the Bible determines your attitude to Jesus.  If we love Jesus, we will love the Word which reveals him to us. 

The second contrast in our proverb points to the most important question of our lives:  Do we have God's favor?  Nothing is more important than this question.  If you don't have the triune God's favor, everything else in your life is ultimately worthless.  You can be a billionaire, but if you don't have God's favor, you are wretchedly poor.  You can be loved by your family and friends, but if you don't have God's favor and know the love of the Father in Christ, you are to be pitied.  You can have great career success, but if you don't have God's favor, your life will prove to be a miserable failure in the end.

We get the heavenly Father's favor when we receive and welcome his Son into our lives.  In Proverbs 8, wisdom is personified and speaks to humanity.  At one point Wisdom cries out, saying:

            For whoever finds me finds life
                and obtains favor from the Lord,
            but he who fails to find me injures himself;
                all who hate me love death.  (Proverbs 8:35-36)

Jesus is the wisdom of God.  Everything depends on our relation to Him, whom the Father sent into the world for our salvation.  When we find him, we find life.  When we find him, we obtain favor from the Father.  But when we reject him, we injure ourselves eternally.  When we reject him we choose eternal death over eternal life, and dishonesty over honesty with God.

You and I can know the favor of God in our lives right now.  You and I can know the hope of eternal life and favor forever.  Won't you receive and welcome Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior into your heart and life?  If you do, then ultimately your life will be a success.  You might not have money, but you have eternal riches in Christ and the favor of God.  Your family might be a mess and far from ideal, but you belong to your Father in heaven, and you have the favor of Christ.  You might not have great career success, but you have the success that truly matters, favor and intimacy with the Father and the Son forever.





Saturday, January 7, 2017

Proverbs 11:29 --- What Will Be Your Inheritance?

Proverbs 11:29
Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
    and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.

The previous proverb, 11:28, used two images: a building falling to its destruction, and a leaf or branch flourishing with life.  Our verse today will elaborate on the building's fall and tomorrow's verse will elaborate on the branch's flourishing.[1] 

Solomon's second collection (10:1-22:16) is not a random collection.  It is remarkable how many of these individual proverbs, although they can stand alone, are often connected to the verses that surround them.  Noticing this connection will often clarify their meaning.

The first line of our proverb in the Hebrew literally says, "He who troubles his house will inherit the wind."[2]  In Scripture the word house is used figuratively to picture our own bodies or lives, our families, our churches, or even the nation or kingdom to which we belong. 

The person who troubles his own house by doing evil is compared to a stubborn fool.  This particular Hebrew word occurs nineteen times in Proverbs.  This kind of fool is the person who "rejects good and chooses evil."[3]  Steinman writes of this word that our verse translates as fool:
"This 'stubborn fool' despises wisdom (1:7), rejoices in sin and rejects repentance (14:9), cannot control his emotions (12:16; 20:3), and considers himself clever because of his folly (12:15).  He is so caught up in his foolishness that his way of life is called . . . 'stupidity,' by the sages (13:16; 14:8, 17; 26:11).  This fool is so stubborn that he is nearly    irredeemable (24:7; 27:22).  Yet by God's grace and with the discipline of wisdom, stupidity can be driven out of a person (22:15)."

Such a person will "inherit the wind."  What does this phrase mean?  The word inherit and the connection to the catastrophic "fall" in verse 28, leads me to believe that the eschaton is once again in view.  The stubborn fool will not fare well when Christ comes to judge all people.  By sowing evil, he brings trouble to himself, and sometimes to his own body.  By sowing evil he sometimes brings trouble to others in his family, church, organization, and nation as well.  Therefore, such a man will reap judgment.  He will not stand in the stormy wind of God's judgment.

The connection between lines one and two is not easy to figure out.  Robert Alden, for example, says, "The two halves of verse 29 seem unrelated; the connection between them not obvious at all."  If our proverb is referring to the final judgment, what could it possibly mean that the stubborn "fool will be servant to the wise?"

To answer this question, I would turn to 1 Corinthians 6:2, which says, "Do you not know that the saints will judge the world?"  Verses that also teach that believers, in some sense, will judge the unbelieving world, are Matthew 19:28, Jude 14-15, and 1 Thessalonians 3:13.  But what could this possibly mean to say that the Lord's people will judge the world?  Matthew Henry gives an explanation:
"They [believers] themselves are indeed to be judged, but they may first be acquitted, and then advanced to the bench, to approve and applaud the righteous judgment of Christ both on men and angels. In no other sense can they be judges. They are not partners in their Lord’s commission, but they have the honor to sit by, and see his proceeding against the wicked world, and approve it."[4]

In this sense, then, on that final day, fools will be servants to those who are wise in heart. While believers will be acquitted and clothed in glory as they stand with Christ the judge, unbelievers will stand in the subservient position in shame, awaiting sentence.  While believers in this world are considered by the world to be foolish because of their faith in Christ Jesus, one day the tables will be turned.  One day those who are despised in the world because they trust in Christ, will be exalted in blessing, while the world that rejected Christ in indifference or hostility will be in humiliated in eternal judgment.  Lazarus will be exalted, while the rich man in hell who still views Lazarus as a servant ("send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame" Luke 16:24) will be brought low.

If you belong to Christ Jesus, dear believer, you will not inherit the wind.  Instead, you will receive a wonderful inheritance that the Lord tells us about through his apostle Peter:
"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of     Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:3-4).

[1] Waltke, Proverbs, vol. 1, 511.  This insight comes from Bruce Waltke, who has masterfully notes a number of the connections between the individual proverbs.
[2] Van Leeuwen, Proverbs, 120.
[3] Steinmann, Proverbs, 31.
[4] Quote is from the BibleGateway website: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Proverbs 11:27 --- Seeking Good or Seeking Evil

Proverbs 11:27 --- Seeking Good or Seeking Evil
Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
    but evil comes to him who searches for it.
All people seek something.  All people expend lots of energy on whatever it is they seek.  Proverbs 11:27 teaches us that all people seek either good or evil.

This is difficult for us to understand, because we tend to make that class or group we call "evil," quite small.  We like to shrink the category of those who could be called "evil" to a tiny group of criminals that only includes tyrants like Hitler and Stalin and those guilty of murder.  We tend to group everyone else into the nice or good category, unless they have done something to us we really don't like!

But this is not a biblical worldview.  Consider how wide the category of those called "evil" is for our Lord Jesus.  On one occasion, Jesus' disciples asked him to teach them how to pray.  At one point in his answer, Jesus said this:
"What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know  how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" (Luke 11:11-13).

Jesus is talking to his disciples, and he calls his own disciples, "evil!"  It is an underlying assumption Jesus holds about the entire human race.  No father is excluded, no mother, no child.  The human race is infected with a nature that is evil.  And, even if we, like the disciples, have come to Jesus for salvation, our evil and sinful nature will still cling to us like a filthy garment we must put off in Christ Jesus each and every day, if not hour and moment.

If we seek anything less than our Lord's kingdom and righteousness, as the priority of our lives, then we seek that which is evil (Matthew 6:33).  To diligently seek good in Proverbs is to seek wisdom and the favor of the Lord with all of our heart and striving.  But Jesus is the Lord, and he is wisdom incarnate, and he is the One in whom we have God's favor.  He is the mystery that was present but hidden in the Old Testament, whom has now been revealed to us in the New.  As Paul says in Colossians 1:25-27:
"I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for  you, to make the word of God fully known,  the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of  glory." 

Paul makes known the word of God, i.e., the Old Testament.  Even more, the apostle Paul makes the Old Testament fully known, because he reveals the mystery that was hidden in it!  He reveals this mystery to be Christ, who now is in us through the Spirit who indwells in us.  Because Christ indwells us, we have the hope of glory, namely, the hope of being in his glorious presence one day, blameless and without fault, because Christ has died for all our sins and justified us with his perfect righteousness.  And so, Jude looks to this glorious hope which is given to all who are in Christ, and says:
"Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through   Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen." (Jude 24-25)

This is the reward of seeking good!  And as we have seen, to seek good means to seek to glorify the Father and the Son by living righteous lives.  We seek Christ's kingdom and righteousness, not to earn his favor, but because we have his favor.  And just as good children want to please their fathers, so we want to please our Father.  And just as faithful wives want to please their husbands, so we want to please our Lord and Husband Jesus Christ.  To seek anything less, is to seek evil, and, sadly, to find evil now and in a Christ-less future.

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