Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Proverbs 22 - Are You a Slave to Your Lender?

LINK: Proverbs 22

BACKGROUND

This chapter continues with more proverbs about:
  • A good reputation (22:1)
  • Money: attitude and actions toward the poor (22:2, 7, 9. 16, 22). Did you know that a generous man is literally "A good eye" while a stingy man is "an evil eye"?
  • Contrast between the prudent ("shrewd in a good sense") and naive (22:3, 27:12, 14:16)
  • Fear of the LORD (22:4)
  • Wickedness (22:5, 8)
  • Child Training (22:6, 15)
  • Mocking and strife (22:10)
  • Speech (22:11, 12)
  • Laziness (22:13)
  • Adultery (22:14)
Enjoy the wisdom of Proverbs today!

REFLECTION on Proverbs 22:7 (written in 2008)
A rich person rules poor people, and a borrower is a slave to a lender.
We live in tenuous financial times. We have seen a slew of foreclosures and bankruptcies with this latest economic downturn. My state, Oregon, is ranked number 9 of all the states in foreclosures. People are losing their jobs, and they cannot make their house payments. Times are very hard. See where you state ranks HERE.

Regarding debt:
In 2007, the average balance for those carrying a balance rose 30.4 percent, to
$7,300. Meanwhile, the median balance -- meaning half owe more and half owe less -- for those carrying a balance rose 25.0 percent, to $3,000. These increases followed slower changes over the preceding three years, when the median increased 9.1 percent and the average climbed 16.7 percent. (Source: Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finances, February 2009)


The average American with a credit file is responsible for $16,635 in debt, excluding mortgages, according to Experian. 
(Source: U.S. News and World Report, "The End of Credit Card Consumerism," August 2008)
It used to be a Christian principle to stay out of debt (with the exception of a mortgage), but we, as believers, have gone far from this Biblical principle. Many of us have become the lender's slave.

(Before I go on though, let me preface my remarks by saying that medical problems can send ANYONE into a sea of unavoidable debt. I worked in hospital admitting for several years, and I saw families wiped out because of a single accident or illness. My father spent 61 days in intensive care in 1985 and racked up a $350,000 bill. My parents had insurance that covered 100% of it, but many do not have insurance by no fault of their own. I did learn a valuable lesson: always carry insurance if you can!)

What I am talking about here is buying things you cannot afford and putting them on credit. The following skit illustrates this. It is funny but sadly true of many people: 

"Don't Buy Stuff"

While this skit speaks about consumer debt, we can also be enslaved to our mortgage when we buy a house that is outside of our price range. The bank often qualifies people far beyond what they can REALLY afford.

When we are in debt, we are enslaved and are not living in freedom.

Thankfully, I have seen many friends come out of this kind of bondage into financial freedom. Most have used Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover. Others have gone to non-profit foundations that helped them get out of debt. This is something I always cover with women I disciple. He has free online software to help you track "Every Dollar." 

I cannot begin to describe how much less stressed and FREE they feel after taking this brave step.

Do you need to take a step out of bondage into freedom?

APPLICATION

If you have become a lender's slave, check out the Total Money Makeover.

If you want to teach your kids how to manage their money before you release them into the world. Go to the above link and click on the "Kids, Teens, and Money" link on the left side. I did Dave Ramsey's high school curriculum in my home with a group of middle and high school students, and it was excellent! 

PRAYER

Lord, teach us to walk wisely with our money. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Interesting notes on Child Training: Proverbs 22:6

While not part of my main reflection this morning, I thought this commentary on child training might be interesting for some of you:
This is perhaps the best-known verse in Proverbs on child training. The other
verses on child-rearing (13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:17) are all on
discipline. The Hebrew word for train (ḥānaḵ) means to dedicate. It is used of
dedicating a house (Deut. 20:5), the temple (1 Kings 8:63; 2 Chron. 7:5), and an image (Dan. 3:2). The noun ḥănukkâh speaks of the dedication of an altar (Num.7:10; 2 Chron. 7:9) and of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. 12:27). Only in Proverbs 22:6 is the verb translated “train.” Ḥānaḵ seems to include the idea of setting aside, narrowing, or hedging in. The word is sometimes used in the sense of “start.” Child-training involves “narrowing” a child’s conduct away from evil and toward godliness and starting him in the right direction. Gleason L. Archer points out that this Hebrew verb is similar to the Egyptian ḥ-n-k, which means “to give to the gods” or “to set up something for divine service.” He suggests that in verse 6 this gives “the following range of possible meanings: ‘Dedicate the child to God, ’ ‘Prepare the child for his future responsibilities, ’ ‘Exercise or train the child for adulthood.’” 
(Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982, p. 252)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Proverbs 21 - What's Your Hurry?

LINK: Proverbs 21

BACKGROUND

Proverbs 21 begins and ends with references to the Lord. The king's life (and, by extension, our lives) is in His hands (21:1-2), and it is useless to fight against Him (21:30). In between, the wicked are referred to eight times (21:4, 7, 10, 12 [twice], 18, 27, 29) and described as arrogant, prideful, desiring evil, unjust, hypocritical, violent, lying, and devious. Also, diligence associated with wealth is contrasted with laziness associated with poverty (21:5, 25-26). There are also two "better . . . than" references to a quarrelsome wife who makes a home unpleasant in 21:9 and 19. It is full of wonderful verses to ponder and apply. I hope you can linger long and slowly over them today.

REFLECTION on Proverbs 21:5


The plans of a hard-working person lead to prosperity, 
but everyone who is [always] in a hurry ends up in poverty.

Just yesterday, I wrote on a card:
God's Word for today: SLOW
I felt like He was telling me to do everything more slowly and deliberately. So, I forced myself to slow down. At the end of it, I felt rested and very connected with Him. It has carried over into today. I think I want to make this my word for life!

Today's verse and yesterday's word reminded me of a Contemplative Advent Retreat I attended in early December 2005 called "Making Room for the Beloved." In the introductory session, our leader, Esther Elizabeth, spoke of her addiction to running. She went for some time making us think she was the "shoe to pavement" kind of runner, but we quickly learned she was a "runner whose mind never stops thinking; whose body seldom stops moving . . . the kind who multitasks throughout the day . . . a rat on a wheel kind of runner." 

She then went on to discuss how running is an epidemic in our culture. This retreat was a Pre-Christmas protest against that kind of running and said NO to the craziness of the Season as we stopped and reflected upon our Beloved in order to make room for Him much like Mary made room in her womb for the coming of the Christ child.

During our three days, we were even encouraged to walk slowly, and this was hard! Before this, I never realized how much I hurried when I walked. 

In the midst of this realization, God led me to Proverbs 19:2a which is very similar to Proverbs 21:5:
It is not good for a person to be without knowledge, 
And he who hurries with his footsteps sins.
GOD'S WORD translates it this way: 
A person without knowledge is no good. A person in a hurry makes mistakes.
And I was making so many mistakes as the stress in my life got out of control. I was suffering, and my family was suffering. My life had become too hurried in the previous six months. Prior to that, I had a pretty balanced life, but outside pressures had made me slip out of that balance. I had been pushed into impossible deadlines for a leadership curriculum I was writing. Instead of saying no to the insane pace, I caved (because my other sin of choice is people-pleasing) and worked fifteen hour days to get it done and almost that many in implementing the leadership class. It was crazy. It was running. I was dying. It was not the SLOW and easy pace of hearing God's voice and responding to it. I was reacting to everything.

During that retreat, God revealed to me that it was sin and foolishness to live this kind of hurried life, and it was leaving me in poverty, not materially, but spiritually. So, a few months later, after my obligations were concluded, I left the hurried ministry behind, and I have not looked back! Now, I do not have the outside pressure of impossible deadlines and more work than I can handle. It is much less hurried these days.

APPLICATION

Are you always in a hurry? Most of us are trying to squeeze more out of our day by doing things just a little bit faster. Try to be more deliberate in your day today by slowing down and hearing God's "still, small voice" whisper to You as you go along with your daily tasks.

Here is also an article that I love called TYRANNY OF THE URGENT

This post could not be more perfectly timed as we prepare this Advent season to "Make Room for the Beloved" Christ Child. Let's make it one where we stop long enough to hear God's voice!

PRAYER

Lord, teach us not to hurry but to follow the example of Jesus who lived deliberately throughout all His days here on earth. It is in His name we pray. Amen.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Proverbs 20 - More Wise Sayings

LINK: Proverbs 20  

BACKGROUND 

Remember that 16:1 - 22:16 are comparisons (synonymous parallelism) or completions (synthetic parallelism) with only a few contrasts (antithetic parallelism characterized by the word but) on a variety of subjects. 

REFLECTION

Random thoughts on a few verses:

 Wine makes you mean, beer makes you quarrelsome -- 
a staggering drunk is not much fun.
(Proverbs 20:1, The Message)

And tequila must make you downright scary! I was in Mexico last week, on our way back from dinner one night, we passed a woman who was so drunk she threatened others with murder! They were so scared that they made sure they locked the door when they got back to their room!  This woman was funny when she was sober. She was mean when she was drunk. So sad. :(  Thankfully the women she threatened were wise enough to not get in a quarrel with her (20:3).  For more about drunkenness, see 23:20-21, 29-35; 31:4-5. 


Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart, 
I am pure from my sin"?
 (Proverbs 20:9, NASB95) 

There is nothing that separates me from the woman I am describing above and myself. That is why I can have compassion and love for her and can keep myself from feeling superior to her or prideful. We are all in the same boat when it comes to sin. Hers may be drunkenness, and mine are a host of other things!  This is never far from my mind when encountering other people (Romans 3:9-12, 23; 1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20).


A wise king winnows out the wicked [from among the good]
 and brings the threshing wheel over them [to separate the chaff from the grain].
(Proverbs 20:26, The Amplified Bible)

After careful scrutiny, a wise leader 
   makes a clean sweep of rebels and dolts.
(Proverbs 20:26, The Message)

The Message says "leader" in place of king. That makes it more relatable since we do not have kings or queens in America.  We are all called to be leaders at some point in our lives. I have been in leadership for quite a while, but it was only in the last ten years that I have learned that I can be selective in who I lead! I can set standards (but not legalistic ones) to challenge the group; and if they do not want to have that kind of challenge (and some people are not in a place for it, and that is not a bad thing), they can find another group that is more fitting to what they are looking for. I am done trying to conform to others when God has given me a clear calling (again not being rigid or legalistic with it though). I used to be too flexible of a leader. I would bend myself like a pretzel to make everyone happy resulting in no one being happy and me being stressed out. 

A few years ago, I had a woman who did not like that I had a study where people prepared beforehand. The other women in the study had been with me for three years at that point, and that is why they were there. So, I was not going to change it so this other woman could feel better. I told her that she could find another study then, and she was shocked. She ended up staying and ended up loving the rich discussion that resulted from  everyone coming prepared. 

Recently, we knew that a person we were leading was not ready to be led in the direction we were going. Instead of getting frustrated, we were proactive and loving and let the person go. They were not necessarily a "wicked" person like the ones described in Proverb 20:26, just not ready to go where we were going. That person needed some personal care and healing, and that is what is happening for them now.  No sense in asking a person with a major injury to run a marathon, right?  It was a win-win to deal with this situation before we were too far in, and the group we are leading noticed an immediate difference without their presence. 

APPLICATION 

Journal about the proverbs that are hitting your heart today! I had fun doing that in this post. 

PRAYER

Thank You for teaching us through Proverbs. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Proverbs 16-19: Walking Wisely

LINKS: Proverbs 16Proverbs 17. Proverbs 18 Proverbs 19 
(read over the next four days)

BACKGROUND

Solomon wrote 3,000 verses (1 Kings 4:32). The book of Proverbs is only a small number of them.

Note that the word "LORD" (Yahweh) is used eleven times in Proverbs 16. In fact, this word is used more than 75 times in the entire book, as opposed to the word translated as "God" that appears only seven times. Yahweh is the Hebrew word for God when referring to his dealings with His chosen people whereas "God" is used more in His dealings with mankind in general. Yahweh is more intimate. Proverbs was written primarily for the family of God. Proverbs 16:1-22:16 contain counsel for God's people to live godly and righteous lives in an ungodly world. Intimacy with Yahweh is the key to all righteous living.

Most of the verses in this section are either

Comparisons in synonymous parallelism meaning a line strengthens, develops, reinforces or repeats the line before it

OR

Completions in synthetic parallelism meaning a line goes further than just repeating or reinforcing but by providing more information on the line before it

As opposed to the more common lines found in other parts of Proverbs known as
Contrasts in antithetic parallelism meaning a line contrasts the message or the point of the line before it. (See Proverbs 10:1)
REFLECTION and APPLICATION

In these proverbs Solomon gives us God's perspective on a variety of subjects such as our heart, home, speech, conduct, money, relationships, etc. Meditate deeply on them over the next few days and ask God to help you to walk in wisdom especially as you head into the holidays! We all could use more wisdom during this time of year!

PRAYER

LORD, help us to be careful how we walk, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of our time, because the days are evil. LORD, teach us not to be foolish, but to understand what Your will is for us (Ephesians 5:15-17). In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Proverbs 15 - Cause and Effect

LINK: Proverbs 15

BACKGROUND (written in 2008)

I was listening in on my kids' co-op class today while I was meditating on Proverbs 15. The instructor was teaching cause and effect, and I looked down at this chapter, and it was practically all about cause and effect!!! I made a list of good causes/effects versus bad causes/effects. It was interesting to look at it this way.

CAUSE...........................................................................................EFFECT

Gentle answer......................................................................Turns away wrath
but
Harsh word..............................................................................Stirs up anger


Foolish mouth.............................................................................Gushes folly
but
Wise tongue...................................................................Commends knowledge


Deceitful tongue...................................................................Crushes the spirit
but
Healing tongue...........................................................................Tree of life

Prudent...............................................................................Heeds correction
but
Fool..........................................................................Spurns father's discipline

Righteous house.......................................................................Great treasure
but
Wicked house..................................................................Income brings trouble

Wise lips...........................................................................Spreads knowledge
but
Fools heart..............................................................Does not spread knowledge

You get the idea. You see the pattern. Which pattern do you choose?

APPLICATION

Make a list for the rest of the chapter (15:8 - 33). Pray about any patterns of behavior that are not pleasing to God.

PRAYER

Lord, please make us be wise and prudent in the path we take. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Proverbs 14 - Are You FAT?

LINK: Proverbs 14


BACKGROUND

These proverbs of Solomon are in the section (Proverbs 10-22) comprised mainly of "authentic" proverbs -- proverbs where there is a contrast introduced by the word but. They are written in short couplets and give wisdom for living on a wide variety of topics.

I did a study on the word "scoffer" this morning (In fact, I got carried away.):

A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none,
But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding. 
Proverbs 14:6

Here is an excellent summary of this word:
Fools scorn and mock at sin (Prov 14:9) and judgment (Prov 19:28). The scorner (Qal participial form) himself may be described as proud and haughty (Prov 21:24), incorrigible (Prov 9:7), resistant to all reproof (Prov 9:8; 15:12), and hating any rebuke (Prov 13:1). Wisdom and knowledge easily elude him (Prov 14:6).

So despicable is the scorner that he may be labelled as odious to all men (Prov 24:9). Therefore he must be avoided (Ps 1:1) by all who would live godly lives. . . One good way to remove contention from a group is to eject the scorner, and then “strife and reproach will cease” (Prov 22:10). A prepared judgment awaits all such scorners (Prov 19:29), for their trademark of life has been “to delight” in their scorning (Prov 1:22). They shall be brought to nothing and consumed (Isa 29:20).

That the particular type of wickedness of the scorner is pride is suggested by Prov 3:34. Here the scorner is contrasted with the humble. In this verse the LXX (This is an abbreviation for the Septuagint which is Greek version of the Old Testament.) renders “scorner” by “proud” which is followed in the NT Jas 4:6 and I Pet 5:5. Cf. Prov 21:24. Dahood points out a parallel of this word with “evil” in the Karatepe I inscription (Psalms, I, in Anchor Bible, p. 2).

Among the various mockers and scorners are wine (Prov 20:1), the proud (Ps 119:51), the king of Samaria’s henchmen (Hos 7:5), and Job’s friends (16:20).

(From the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) [479])
.
Isn't it interesting that Job calls his friends scoffers?

REFLECTION
.
We read quite a bit about scoffers in Proverbs. A scoffer is one who refuses to listen to and profit from a rebuke (13:1). They may seek it, but it may be in the wrong place or once they seek it, they do not listen to it. Contrasted with this, we have a person who has understanding (discerning). This person acquires knowledge easily because he or she is teachable and open to rebuke. They seek out the wise in order to grow in wisdom and understanding.
.
One thing I look for when discipling is a F.A.T. woman:
.
Faithful
Available
Teachable
.
The teachability component is what we are getting at in this scoffer verse. Many women say they want to grow, but I find some who are not really willing to be open to changing and growing in an "iron sharpening iron" sort of way (Proverbs 27:17). I am not necessarily talking about open rebuke or confrontation either! I am also talking about me being challenged the other way too (my concept of discipleship is a "walking alongside" not an "over and above" sort of approach).
.
I found a gem in a dear friend I have been meeting with since 2001. She is so teachable! Very early on in our discipling relationship, she called me up and said, "You know, I called up a woman and made peace with her because of what you said." 

I replied, "Did I confront you on that? Did I say something to you about it? I do not remember saying anything." 

She said, "Oh no, I just felt convicted as you spoke about a situation you were going through, and I needed to do something about it, and I did. Thank you."
.
WOW! I had no idea she was even having a problem, but "knowledge comes easily to the discerning" (Proverbs 14:6 NIV), and she was open to the Holy Spirit's prompting and acted upon that prompting to make things right with another woman.
.
This friend is a FAT woman!!!!!
.
Sadly though, I think most of us (me included) have a bit of the scoffer inside of us. Pride is a nasty disease!
.
But don't you want to be FAT???????
.
I sure do! I want to be open to wisdom and not scoff at it. I want to surround myself with wise people who love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength rather than those who "play the Christian game" and are not authentic seekers of truth (Proverbs would call them "fools."). I have that in my dear friends and mentors, Ginny and Lorraine, both at 80+ years young, they are a wealth of wisdom to me, and I want to be open to what they say and grow by spending time with them! (Ginny passed away in 2013 at 90 years of age.)
.
What about you?
.
APPLICATION
.
Evaluate yourself on the scoffer to teachable continuum. Please talk to God about it. Surround yourself with wise people and respond to the "iron sharpening iron" effect they have on your life! Be teachable. Pray against the stronghold of pride.
.
PRAYER
.
Lord, make us wise and discerning. Give us godly, truth-seeking friends and mentors. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Proverbs 13 - On Wisdom and Longing

LINK: Proverbs 13

BACKGROUND

These proverbs of Solomon are in the section (Proverbs 10-22) comprised mainly of "authentic" proverbs -- proverbs where there is a contrast introduced by the word but. They are written in short couplets and give wisdom for living on a wide variety of topics.

REFLECTION (written in 2008)

I have been chewing on Proverbs 13 all week. My dear, soulmate friend, Kim, and I got together today, and I found myself drawn to praying through these verses as we prayed over a wide variety of topics.


Here are the verses that stuck out to me as I was praying:

A mocker does not listen to rebuke. (13:1) 

I really want to be open to correction. A sure sign of a fool is someone who does not admit that she needs to listen to those wiser than herself. I do not want to be that kind of fool! 

From the fruit of his lips a man enjoys good things. (13:2)

I want "fruitful lips" that speak positively, help others, and build them up (see also 12:14, 18)! 

He who guards his lips guards his life, 
but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin. (13:3)

Last night in my exercise class, I didn't guard my lips, and a person shot me a dirty look. I felt pretty silly. Then, I felt convicted this morning as I meditated on this verse. Got it God! 

The desires of the diligent are fully satisfied. (13:4)

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. (13:12)
 

A longing fulfilled is sweet to the soul. (13: 19)

I grouped these together because they deal with longings and desires. Don't we all have them? As I prayed through them, my heart went to considering my biggest longing: developing a network of "women investors" who are making intentional investments in other women. I believe there is a gold mine of women with so much to share who just need a "gentle elbow" and a little encouragement in helping other women grow. I have had the joy of discipling women since 1980, and I have a deep longing to spread the joy!

My hope has been deferred on a few occasions, but things are looking very positive that something will be happening in January regarding this. I have been trying to carve out time to be diligent in putting together a four week training for disciplemakers called "Discipleship Discussions." I am continuing to pray that that longing would be fulfilled very soon!

(2011 Update: The "Discipleship Discussions" went OK, but my hope was deferred in many ways, and my heart was pretty sick and disappointed. It just was not the right time.  Yet, God continued to keep it in the heart of many people at my church. Last spring, we had a group that defined core values at our elder and staff retreat, and this was a rousing topic of discussion!  I am happy to say that the women's ministry Sunday Study is going to go through 
Discipleship Essentials in twos and threes. That is so sweet to my soul!)

(2105 Update: I was also not the person to bring discipleship to my church. “Discipleship Discussions” was in January 2009. By August of 2009, He open wide a door that we walked through. (I say “we” because the ministry with my church did not include a partnership with my husband, and the new door He opened in August was with him. I like it so much better that way!) God has made it very clear to me that I am to establish and equip those who are intentionally reaching out to others outside the walls of the church. The "Discipleship Discussion" class was a closed door so that God could open a window more suitable for my gifts and calling.) 

One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor,
  yet has great wealth. (13:7)

This verse hit me in light of a recent conversation with a financial agent who has been talking to many of the people in our town who are losing their six figure salary jobs but have little in the way of assets because they have taken out lines of credit on their homes. He said, "They drive really nice cars, but they don't own them." I am praying this economic crisis helps us to be more fiscally wise with our resources in the future!

He who walks with the wise grows wise. (13:20)
                                                                                            

This made me grateful for wise mentors who have given me the privilege of walking with them! I especially give thanks for my mentors, Ginny and Lorraine! (Ginny passed away in 2013.)  I am also thankful for wise friends!

APPLICATION

What is your biggest longing right now?

Pray through the proverbs in this chapter that have ministered to you today. Better yet, find a friend and pray through them together!


"The opposite of ignorance in the spiritual realm is not knowledge but obedience"

PRAYER

Lord, teach us to be wise as You are all-wise. We love You. In Jesus' name, Amen.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Proverbs 10-12: Wisdom versus Folly

LINKS: Proverbs 10Proverbs 11, and Proverbs 12
(Read over the next three days)

BACKGROUND

We are starting a new section. Proverbs 10:1 - 22:16 are 375 short couplets by Solomon. The sayings in Proverbs 10-15 are recognized as authentic proverbs -- proverbs in which a contrast is usually introduced by the word but.  This contrast between wisdom/faithfulness and folly/wickedness is called antithetic parallelism. They are an expansion of what was covered in Proverbs 1-9. 

Although some of the verses in Proverbs 16:1-22:16 are contrasts, most of them are either comparisons (synonymous parallelism) or completions (synthetic parallelism) that are characterized by the word and.

REFLECTION and APPLICATION

So many of the verses spoke to me this morning, and I am responding in prayer. Some of them are too personal to share here and are meant to be processed with the Lord alone.  I hope you can set aside the time to process with the Lord too. Some of them have brought tears to my eyes. My heart is aching. 

On a happier note, it is my youngest son's birthday today, and I see him growing into a wise man! YAY!  "A wise son heeds his father's instruction" (13:1). Thankfully, his father is one of the wisest men I know. :)

PRAYER

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom” (Psalm 51:6 NASB).  Make us to know wisdom, God. We pray this in the name of Wisdom personified, Jesus. Amen. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Proverbs 9 - Lady Wisdom's Feast

LINK: Proverbs 9


"Wisdom opens the eyes both
 to the glories of heaven and 
to the hollowness of earth."  
J. Alec Motyer
British Biblical Scholar


"Live wisely and wisdom will permeate your life; 

   mock life and life will mock you." 
(9:12, The Message)


BACKGROUND

In the first part of this proverb, "Lady Wisdom" invites all to her dinner party. In this case, the feminine noun for wisdom is in a plural form. Some commentators believe this suggests Wisdom's fullness. We do not know what the seven pillars mean (although there has been much speculation) other than the house was large. The meal is extravagantly set, and we can come and partake. Those who accept Wisdom's invitation will have life, understanding, and learn from rebuke (For more on rebuke, see 15:31; 17:10, 19:25; 25:12; 27:5-6). 

A mocker (scorner, derider, the Hebrew word, liyliyth, comes from the name of a female goddess known as a night demon who haunts the desolate places of Edom) does not accept Wisdom's call and mocks any attempts at correction. So, this proverb exhorts us not to waste our time on a mocker. 

Wisdom's call is contrasted with the naive, empty-headed Madame Folly's invitation. Folly offers stolen water and food eaten in secret. She appeals to the senses.

When you compare the two, Lady Wisdom's banquet is so superior; but we all chose Folly at times. It is just the easier route when peer pressure tries to convince you that your wise behavior is naive and simple and foolish. Peer pressure even happens in your 50's, and sometimes it is very lonely!!! 

Thankfully I have many friends who desire to go to Wisdom's banquet. So, I do not find I am alone too often. :) Just this week, I had to call my wise friend, Kim, to validate some feelings! The road to spiritual maturity and wisdom is in the car pool lane! We need each other. 

REFLECTION 

Lady Wisdom cries out:


 "Leave your impoverished confusion and live! 
Walk up the street to a life with meaning." 
(9:6, The Message)

The prayer of Moses, man of God, was that God would “teach us to number our days that we may present to Him a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Is that your prayer to God also? There is no other route to wisdom than via the road of intentional, prayerful, protracted internalization of God’s Word through hearing,reading, studying, memorizing, and meditating; followed by prayerfully living this out in your everyday life through the Holy Spirit’s direction and by His power; and through the whole process, being in relationship with others who are going to Wisdom's banquet.
Many intend to go to Wisdom’s banquet, but they never make it because they get sidetracked by other activities that seem more important at the time. Don’t let anything become more important than your search for God’s wisdom in all of life.  
The Life Application Bible, p. 1086
Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9 is one we can pray for ourselves and pray for each other. He prayed that they would be “filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." Let’s pray for one another in the Bible Book Club, that we would become people of wisdom. 

APPLICATION 

Feast on the banquet in Proverbs 9:1-6 then contrast these verses with 9:13-18. What things are distracting you from Wisdom banquet? It could be television, music, books, preoccupation with your looks, or "folly" friends. It does not mean you throw those away, but it may mean evaluating things. I had some evaluation last night about how I spend some of my free time after being away from my regular routine while on vacation last week.  Being away helped me to see the foolishness of some of my discretionary time.  So, I am making changes. How about you?

PRAYER

Lord, Your wisdom brings life. Fill us with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding. We ask this in Jesus' name. Amen. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Proverbs 8 - Wisdom's Call

LINK: Proverbs 8

BACKGROUND 

Wisdom, the woman, calls to all. This is a beautiful chapter. 

Note how wisdom is described:
Available to all (8:1-6, 32-35) 
Righteous and aligned with truth (8:8-9) 
Divine (8:22-31) 
Life-giving (8:35-36)
REFLECTION

The Scarlet Thread of Redemption

The description of wisdom is a description of Jesus who is wisdom incarnate:


In whom are hidden all the treasures 
of wisdom and knowledge.
(Colossians 2:3)

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption.
(1 Corinthians 1:30)

He is available to all, righteous, aligned with truth, divine, and life-giving! Substitute Jesus' name for wisdom and read this proverb again!

APPLICATION 

Make a list of all the blessings of wisdom and thank God today. Wisdom (Jesus) is calling You to fellowship with Him today. I pray You have a blessed day listening to His voice. 

PRAYER

Thank You that You sent wisdom in the form of a person, Jesus. Help us to live like Him. We pray this in His name. Amen. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Proverbs 7 - Don't Play with Matches

LINK: Proverbs 7

BACKGROUND 

The Hebrew word for wisdom is a feminine noun. So, it is appropriate that Solomon personifies her as a virtuous woman that we should keep as the center of everything (apple), cling to like a sister and intimate friend or kinsman (Ruth 3:2). When one is so closely tied to wisdom and following the words, commands, and teachings of God, the adulteress of folly will have no appeal. 

REFLECTION and APPLICATION

I like what The Daily Walk (July 2008) has to say about Proverbs 6-7:
Few people plan to ruin their lives. Yet many a life ends in ruin. Why? Because someone else planned to ruin it for them.  
Satan is crafty and cunning in his attempts to destroy the moral fiber of God's children. His alternate route to God's ordained pattern for love, sex, marriage, and family seems both attractive and inviting (7:10-21). The naive will play with fire and get burned (6:28-29). The foolish will fall for his deception and suffer painful consequences. 
The path leading to adultery is broad and attractive. Tragically, it is a path many find irresistible. But though the trail is well worn, no one needs to follow its deadly course. Whether young or old, married or single, Solomon's message is aimed at the heart: "Don't play with matches -- especially if the match belongs to someone else!" Keep that warning fresh in your mind and heart.
PRAYER

Lord, draw us to Yourself where true satisfaction exists and is free for the taking. Help us to understand the cost of playing with matches. Amen. 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Proverbs 6 - Foolish Finances, Laziness, and Scoundrels

LINK: Proverbs 6

BACKGROUND

Solomon is keying in on four things:

1) Things that Lead to Poverty (6:1-11)
  • Foolish financial entanglements (6:1-5) - Among fellow Israelites, there was to be no interest charged when giving a loan because money lending was meant to be a way of helping other Israelites and not for money making purposes. Interest could be applied to non-Israelites, but interest at high rates (usury) was illegal. Striking hands in a pledge was like shaking hands on a deal or "signing on the dotted line." These verses are not discouraging generosity but are encouraging a good balance between generosity and good stewardship of finances.
  • Laziness (6:6-11) - The Hebrew word for sluggard (asel) happens 14 times in the book of Proverbs and nowhere else in the Old Testament. It refers to a lazy, irresponsible, shiftless person. The ant has nobody directing over it, but it is industrious; storing up for the future. It is a call for industriousness, purposefulness, and prudence in looking toward the future. To not possess these character traits is to be unwise.
2) Characteristics of a Scoundrel, Villain, Worthless, or Wicked Person (6:12-15)
  • Uses false and deceptive words - "perverse mouth" 
  • Makes insinuations - "Winks with eye, signals with feet, motions with fingers"
  • Continually devises evil
  • Spreads strife
  • Brings disaster on himself
3) Six Things the Lord Hates and the Final One That is Sum (6:16-19)
  • Eyes that are haughty - reflecting a proud heart
  • Tongue that lies
  • Hands that shed innocent blood
  • Heart that plots and devises wicked plans
  • Feet that move quickly into sin
  • One who lies in court
All these do one thing: Spreads strife among brothers 

The "six things plus one" above is a way of handling numbers in synonymous parallelism in Hebrew poetry (x and x + 1). The intention is not to give an exhaustive list, but to stress the final (x + 1) item as a culmination of the ones that came before it.

Caution Question: Have you ever met anyone that has characteristics like the above? 

I have, and I have one word for you: RUN!!!!!!

4) The Dangers of Adultery (6:20-35) 

This section includes a strong warning to heed parental teaching against it and stay away from the immoral woman!

REFLECTION

When my best friend, Debbie, and I were roommates in Eugene back in the early 80's, we shared a huge bedroom that was separated into two areas by huge movable closets that almost touched the ceiling. One Saturday morning, I was sleeping in only to be suddenly awakened by what seemed like the "voice of God" thundering over the closets:


"How long will you lie down, o sluggard?
When will you arise from your sleep?"
(Proverbs 6:9)

or another one of "God's" (Debbie's) favorites was:


"As the door turns on its hinges, 
So does the sluggard on his bed." 
(Proverbs 26:14)

It has been a running joke between us for years whenever we get together (from as near as Corvallis to as far as Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia). If you knew Debbie, you would know that she would read this verse followed by one of her hilariously funny, hysterical laughs. I guess you have to be there, and I guess you need to know Debbie and me. I would not say either of us are a sluggard. In fact, we both have the dubious distinction of working ourselves to emotional burnout! We are both what many would call "high functioning" individuals. We are anything but sluggards. In fact, we have learned the hard way that some time we need to slow down and rest.

In fact, these admonitions in Proverbs 6 do not mean that we should never rest. We have already seen how God has factored in a day of Sabbath rest of His people, and He wants us to rest and restore too; but sometimes, God wants us to be responsible and work. Even though I am "high functioning," often I will procrastinate and wait until the last minute to do things when I really should discipline my time!

(2014 Update: Wow! It is great to reread this and see I rarely, if ever, procrastinate now! Growth!)

APPLICATION (written in 2008)


If you struggle with laziness or irresponsibility, maybe you need some accountability in your life. Right now, one friend and I email our goals for the day every morning and give a follow up that night or the following morning. It helps us both stay on track.

My husband has two "accountability partners." They set goals over email and report back to each other at the end of the two weeks. We three wives have seen great growth as a result of these three being in this kind of relationship.

2011 update: Now George does it with the other elders in our church.

2014 update: My husband had to step down as an elder his work takes him out of town during the week. He missed the accountability and just recently went back to two or three close accountability partners again. I still have two other women that hold me accountable, and I call the group "FACEyourday."

Here is our group description:

Get ready to FACE your day with accountability and support from friends!

FACED is an accountability group that focuses on balance in the following areas:


F: Food - What are your goals for eating right?
A: Academic or Attitude - What are you feeding your mind?
C: Communion - How are you communing with God and others?
E: Exercise - What are you doing to tune your temple?
D: Daily Care - What are your goals for taking care of your loved ones and yourself?

Do you have an "accountability buddy" or two who helps you to grow in areas too? Accountability does not have to be a negative thing. In fact, it can be really fun! I do not recommend a large group. We used to have an open and large group for FACED, and it got to be too much. I suggest two to three other people. 

Maybe you do not struggle with laziness and irresponsibility. Maybe you have some "scoundrel" characteristics. Are you one to spread strife among brothers/sisters? I am sure we have all had times in our lives where we did not do all to preserve unity in our congregations and fellowships. How can you grow in this area?

PRAYER


LORD, we want to grow, grow, grow in characteristics that reflect YOU! Help us to evaluate our lives in view of the wisdom we see in the book of Proverbs. Thank You that You are not a lazy God, and that You are a God of truth and integrity. Thank You for being 100% safe! We love You. Amen.