Moving the Goalposts

Proverbs 22:28 

Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set.
Don’t cheat your neighbor by moving the ancient boundary markers set up by previous generations. (NLT)

My house is one of a cul-de-sac of eleven homes that were built in the late 1980s on land that was previously an apple orchard. Owners of bungalows behind the new cul-de-sac believed that bungalows would be built in the orchard. Instead the developer built two-story homes that overlooked the bungalows. To placate the mainly elderly bungalow dwellers the developer erected a six-foot high fence between the new houses and the bungalows.

All was well until my rear fence blew down in a storm. The neighbor in the bungalow behind my house soon asked me when I would carry out repairs. I told him that according to my deeds the fence was his responsibility, and showed him the deeds. He then admitted that the fence had been built eighteen inches on my side of the original boundary and that he had removed the previous fence and gained eighteen inches of garden. Eighteen inches of my garden to be precise. Although hardly an ancient landmark, the boundary had been moved.

I do not believe that my neighbor intended to cheat me. He just did what seemed logical, never expecting to be rumbled one day. Am I bothered? Not really. I never had that eighteen-inch strip of land, and my neighbor is a good man, who on viewing my deeds immediately agreed to pay for the fence repair. Others may have taken a different view and demanded that the fence be moved.

moving-the-goal-posts_dilbert_9498While the removal of ancient landmarks was a serious offence when this proverb was written, the issue remains relevant today, but not only where property is concerned. The modern day equivalent in the UK is ‘moving the goalposts.’ This metaphor may have its origins in sport, but is increasingly used to describe an agreement or business deal where one party changes the conditions to the detriment of the other. The word cheat, as used in the NLT translation of this verse, is an apt description of a person who moves a boundary, the goalposts, or acts in a generally devious manner that harms another person to the benefit of the cheat.

There are goalposts or boundaries set for us by God that we should never try to move. In Acts 17:26 Paul states:  ‘From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.’ That is a mind-blowing statement. God who knows no boundaries is so involved in every aspect of our daily lives that He marked out boundaries for when and where we should live. This means that you are where you are now because God placed you there, and God wants you there. It is futile to try to move God’s goalposts. Instead we should rejoice in His intimate involvement in our lives.


Trouble’s Not My Friend

Proverbs 22:24-25

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.

Just Mad

At first glance it might seem like “angry” would be self-explanatory. We’ve all seen someone throw a tantrum. We’ve all gotten furious over something. There’s nothing unusual about losing one’s temper once in a while. But when Solomon advises us to stay away from an angry or furious man, he is not referring to a man who throws his popcorn when his favorite team loses the championship in the last second of the game. We’ve all done that…right?

No, this proverb is talking about people who are always angry, always furious, always upset over something. It’s a warning to stay away from people like that, unless, of course, you want to start acting just like them.

Contagious Anger

  • Women-haters. Hang around these guys very long and you’ll never find love. However, you could start a club.
  • Disgruntled employees. Talk about angry! They make the water in the water cooler boil. Unfortunately, those who listen to them too long tend to overlook the blessing of being employed and end up out of work.
  • Bitter wives and jilted lovers. Talk about furious! Hide all sharp objects and weapons of any kind when you’re in their presence unless you want to get hurt. Better yet, don’t listen to them for too long or you might end up being  recruited to exact their revenge.
  • Political conspiracy theorists. They mean well, but they’re not well. They see grander schemes than actually exist and draw others into their paranoia.
  • Church gossips. They’re typically angry because things aren’t going their way. They look for ways to tear down others while they sap the joy and faith out of you. Before long you become one of them.

Why be like the angry and furious man? Is not God in control? Prolonged anger signifies a heart problem fueled by selfish demands, so is it worth a snare to the soul?

Avoid Trouble

The next time Mr. Trouble comes around looking for a companion, politely excuse yourself; he’s not your friend.

Rather, make Jesus your friend; He is gentle and lowly of heart. Instead of a snare, He will give rest to your soul (Matthew 11:29).


Oppressing the Poor

Proverbs 22: 22-23 

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: For the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them.
Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
 and do not crush the needy in court, for the Lord will take up their case and will exact life for life. (NIV)

Once again the writer challenges our attitudes to the poor. How we treat those who are poorer than us, or even weaker than us is important. Most of us would probably read this proverb and think that it doesn’t apply to us personally because we haven’t robbed or oppressed anybody. Perhaps we haven’t, but are we sure? What about times we have failed to stand up for someone? Take it right back to the school playground where it was easier to walk away than stand up for a fellow pupil facing ridicule or even physical violence. I can remember thinking ‘rather him than me’ on more than one occasion.

Then there is the work place. When I joined the Merchant Navy as a sixteen-year-old cadet it was made perfectly clear to me that I was at the bottom of the pecking order. The chief officer on my first ship used to shout at me regularly, perhaps because he had been treated the same way when he was starting his career. I remember the captain sticking up for me one day and the treatment I received improved a little after that. A few years later when I was an officer I found myself speaking up for a young Rastafarian able seaman who was assigned to my watch. In this case the bosun and another seaman were making this young man’s life a misery, with the knowledge of the chief officer! He had nobody to plead his case until I stepped in. I did not make myself popular in the process, but I could not ignore what was going on.

Oppression takes many forms. Read through these verses again – there is a significant warning in verse 22. Is God challenging you about your attitude to others, or is He calling you to take a stand in someone’s defense today?


Know the Certainty

Proverbs 22:17-21

17 Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge.
18 For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips.
19 That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee.
20 Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge,
21 That I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

The Importance of Scripture

Over the course of the past 22 chapters of Proverbs, we have seen all of the commands to hold to wisdom and take heed of the words that have been shared.

The Psalms speak repeatedly of God’s Law and the words of Scripture being so important, that we should memorize and act on these words.

What is so important about these words of wisdom and instruction?

Pointing to Something

As has been mentioned before, Jesus is the Wisdom of God (Proverbs 8, John 1).

Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17, NIV)

He also said, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” (Luke 24:44, NIV)

And Paul also mentioned Jesus: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4, NIV).

Finally, because we know this, we find in Hebrews 10:19-25 (NIV):

19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Dear Lord, help us to hold fast to Your Truth in our hearts and minds, that we may be changed to impact our world for Your glory!


Rich or Poor

Proverbs 22:16  

He that oppresseth the poor to increase his riches, and he that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want.
One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth and one who gives gifts to the rich – both come to poverty. (NIV)

There is a school of thought that says that without poverty wealth could not exist; that one man’s poverty is another man’s riches. But I’m not rich you say! I work hard to pay my mortgage and my car loan, and to feed and clothe my family. However, if you have a mortgage on a property that boasts running water, heat and light, etc., then you are rich in comparison to many fellow citizens of planet earth.

Is it wrong then to own property? I don’t think so, but I do believe that it is necessary for all of us to examine ourselves, and the way that we live. Do we give, and are we generous in our giving? Or do we keep all that we have for ourselves justifying our actions by believing that we cannot afford to give? Is giving just about money? What about time? What about company? And at its most basic level what about a smile or a greeting for each person you meet? Just yesterday I said good morning to a man sweeping the floor at Dublin Airport. All the other passengers walked past without looking at him. It cost me nothing, but by his response I knew that my greeting was appreciated.

There is also a danger of pride in financial giving. Carefully setting aside that 10% tithe and feeling good about it is not what giving is all about. Jesus pointed out the poor widow who put all that she had in the offertory box. Tony Campolo once said that we should forget about the 10% we tithe and question what we do with the 90% we keep for ourselves. One thing for certain is that whatever we have in material terms it cannot leave the planet with us. So why then do we hoard? Could it be that this proverb is aimed at all of us, to encourage generosity in all aspects of our daily lives?


Sleeping In the Pit

Pro 22:14
“The mouth of strange women [is] a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein.”

Chinhoyi Caves

Not long ago I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. There I got to preach in several churches and see many come to know Jesus Christ as Savior! Hallelujah!

But I did a little sight-seeing, too!

Walking down to the Sleeping Pool

Walking down to the Sleeping Pool

Months before I went to Zimbabwe (Africa) I did a little research. What I found out was that there was a particular cave in Chinhoyi which was known for it’s beautiful, naturally-lit blue (318 feet deep) pool at the bottom – the “Sleeping Pool.”

The Sleeping Pool could be accessed by one of two ways; either walk down a bunch of steps through a tunnel in the ground, or be thrown to one’s death from the top, just like what happened to many people hundreds of years ago.

We chose to walk down the steps.

The Mouth

The mouth of the Chinhoyi cave is a huge opening in the ground. It was through this opening that the unfortunate enemies of some ancient warlords would be thrown … and “sleep” forever.

The “mouth” of a strange woman is a deadly pit, also. And as beautiful as it may seem, the fall to the bottom of this pit is just as deadly as the one in Zimbabwe. It is into this alluring pit that God will allow the fool – the one who despises wisdom – to be cast.

The Pit

Solomon describes the mouth of a strange woman as a deep pit. Why is that? Could it be because there is always this sense of intrigue and danger that draws men to take risks? They flirt with what they know could kill them as they peer over the edge, seeing just how far they can go. Men will flirt with sin, too.

image

The pits of adultery and illicit love are deep, dark, and deadly; few men survive the fall. But would a man listen to Wisdom, he would flee far from the edge. It’s to the fool that God says, “You chose your pit, now fall into it.”

Sorta gives new meaning to “sleeping around,” doesn’t it?

 

*For additional info on the caves, click HERE and HERE.


A Good Excuse?

Proverbs 22:13 

The slothful man saith, “There is a lion without, I shall be slain in the streets.”
The lazy person claims, “There’s a lion out there! If I go outside, I might be killed!” (NIV)

The chances of seeing a lion outside my house or anywhere in the vicinity, is extremely unlikely. I live in rural England, close to the border with Wales, where the largest creatures around are usually cows, which are not known to be carnivorous. There are occasional reports in the media that large cats of African origin have been seen, although this often appears to be an excuse made by farmers when they cannot locate all of their stock. But this proverb is not about lions, it is about laziness and the excuses human beings make to justify bad attitudes.

I wonder what would have happened if Jesus had been lazy? I guess that His ministry on earth would have been seriously curtailed. Fewer miracles, fewer people brought into the Kingdom, and demoralized disciples perhaps? And that is exactly what happens when modern day disciples are lazy. If more people in each church decided to get involved in the various ministry areas, spreading the load might just ensure that the word is spread more effectively.

If you want to know what Jesus thought about lazy people turn to Matthew 25:14-30 and read the parable of the talents. The key verse is the master’s response when he found one servant had buried what he had been given in the ground. Jesus told it like this:

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest. So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 25:24-30 NIV)