Author Archives: Grady Davidson

About Grady Davidson

Husband, father, and pastor of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, serving at Lookout Valley Presbyterian Church, Chattanooga TN, since 2002. Grady's life verse is Habakkuk 2:14, "For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea." Amen!

Wisdom’s Possession

Proverbs 8:22-23

“The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.”

For the next three days we will be considering Wisdom’s Possession (vv. 22 – 23); Wisdom’s Primacy (vv. 24 – 26); and Wisdom’s Presence (vv. 27 – 31).

WISDOM’S POSSESSION

This week I’ve been studying that wonderful Old Testament passage of Genesis 11:1 – 9, the story of the Tower of Babel. You recall that in that post-diluvian era, men settled on the Plain of Shinar and pooled their resources toward the building of a city and a tower to reach to the heavens, that they would make a name for themselves and not be scattered over the face of the earth. You might also recall the detail that “they had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar” (Genesis 11:3).

Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch in 1594

Tower of Babel by Lucas van Valckenborch in 1594 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One scholar suggested an interpretation about Genesis 11:3 that I have never come across before. He pointed out that Moses was writing to that generation of Israel which had been held in slavery in Egypt–forced labor in Pharaoh’s massive building projects. The great temples and pyramids of Egypt were built principally of granite and limestone, hardy building material which has indeed stood the test of time. This scholar was suggesting that Moses was in fact encouraging Israel to scoff and jeer at the builders on the Plain of Shinar.

The many masons of Israel certainly knew that brick and tar were a poor substitute for precision-cut limestone and granite! The proud architects of the Tower of Babel were entirely out of their depth from the outset of their project. They knew what they wanted to build, but had no realistic idea of how to accomplish their task.

THE LORD’S ETERNAL POSSESSION OF WISDOM

How gloriously different is the wisdom of the Living God! Before the LORD began his wonderful work of Creation, He possessed wisdom. He knew what He wanted to accomplish, and He knew how He would go about the task. Solomon is teaching us that wisdom is an eternal virtue, a quality written deeply into the character of God from before the dawn of time. The wisdom which He possesses, He freely shares with us when we ask for it (James 1:5).

Grant us wisdom, dear God, the wisdom which is from above—peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy (James 3:17). Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

 

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The Father In the Window

Proverbs 7:6-9 

“[6] For at the window of my house I looked through my casement, [7] And beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, [8] Passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house, [9] In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark night:”

The Science of Sin    

In the New Testament epistle of James, chapter 1, verses 14 & 15, the author outlines the process of someone falling into sin.  In that passage James the Just tells how it begins with an “evil desire” by which the individual is “dragged away and enticed”.  Once that desire is conceived, says James, “it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death”.

In a similar way, the Father (7:1) assumes the viewpoint of an intelligent observer of sin in today’s verses.  The Father watches from his window, not with voyeuristic delight, but as one who wants to see what lessons can be deduced from the sad spectacle in front of him.  Sin can be observed, studied, and understood.  There are definable, universal patterns at work in the fallen human nature leading to sin, and the wise son can and should learn from the costly mistakes of others.  If you skim on through the rest of the chapter, you see that ultimately the foolish youth being observed is “dragged away and enticed” by the adulteress (v. 21).  How did this tragic moral failure occur?  Proverbs 7:6-9 provides a case study in a young man taking three downward steps into the sin of adultery.

Step 1:  “I Know What’s Best for Me.”

            The young man is described as a “simple one” and “void of understanding”.  Here is a youth who feels no need for the blessings of moral instruction.   Were you to ask him if he thinks of himself as “void of understanding,” he would flatly deny it.  “No,” he would say, “I know how life works; I know what’s best for me; and I know how to achieve my goals.”  Were you to offer him counsel, he would scoff at the seriousness of your concerns.

Step 2:  “After All, I Can Come Close to the Sin Without Sinning.” 

Notice how the young man just happens to be walking in the neighborhood of the adulteress.  As he is “passing through the street near her corner” (v. 8).  He tells himself that he’s not walking anywhere in particular; no, he’s just out for an evening stroll.  Oh, how deceptive is the human heart!  Readers, how many times have we wandered into sin’s neighborhood, with one side of our mind rationalizing that we are fully under control and will not fall this time; all the while knowing deep inside exactly where we’re headed, and what we intend to do when we get there.

Step 3:  “I Can Manage This Sin and its Consequences.” 

            By the second half of verse 8, the foolish youth is no longer kidding himself.  Tonight, he’s going to the adulteress’s house.  He’s crossed the line of no return.  Does he recognize sin for what it is?  Of course he does.  He’s bears the Creator’s image, and his conscience screams for him to turn around.  But now, he is no longer merely entertaining the notion of sin; rather, he’s determined that he’s going into the situation full steam ahead, because, he believes, he can manage the sin and its consequences.  The lady’s husband?  He’s out of town (v. 19).  Witnesses to the immorality?  There’s no one watching, thinks the youth.

Ah, but here he’s wrong.  There is one watching – the Father in the window!

The Watcher in the Window

Is there a sense in which the narrator of the passage (the Father in the window) is a type of Jesus Christ?  If we take the narrator to be Solomon (and we have every reason to do so), and Solomon is a son of David, could Solomon here in a particular way be pointing us to David’s Greater Son, Jesus Christ?

I tend to think so.  King Jesus allows us to make our own choices.  It’s difficult for us to get our puny minds around, but the Bible teaches both that Jesus is our Sovereign King with all authority at his disposal (Matthew 28:18), and yet we make our choices and we act freely, without coercion from God.  Dear reader, perhaps you are an adulterer or adulteress; then again, perhaps your sin of choice is of a different variety—gossip, slander, hatred, greed, and the like.  Whatever your sin is, Jesus knows exactly what’s going on.  He doesn’t coerce you into sin (James 1:13); no, you have chosen to walk those downward steps all on your own.  But neither does he typically leap in and interfere with the situation.  For many years Proverbs 7 troubled me:  Why doesn’t the observer in the window stop the foolish youth from rushing to destruction?  It has only been as I’ve come to recognize how many thousands of times Christ has watched me taking those downward steps – 1, 2, 3 – all the while gazing at me with love and sadness, that I’ve begun to understand.

The Good News

The good news is that the Watcher in the Window DID come down, not heroically to stop a foolish youth from his own stupidity, but to bear the guilt and shame of that youth for his sin and stupidity.  On Calvary’s Cross, Jesus died for all of our sin, guilt, and shame.  Yes, even for that sin that has just come to your mind, the one that you think nobody knows about, the one that makes you blush or break out in a cold sweat.  He did not come down to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved (John 3:17).  When you place faith in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him alone for salvation and turning away from sin, the most curious thing then begins to happen.  You begin to change from the inside out.  You find that you are still free to do what you want, but your “wants” begin to change.  You no longer “want” to sneak down the dark alley and knock on sin’s door.  You no longer “want” to eat another bite of the forbidden fruit.  What you want, is to be in fellowship with Jesus, the one who came down from heaven, and lived and died for you.

In tomorrow’s posting, we return to the sad saga of the foolish young man and the adulteress.  Hope to see you then!

Father God, forgive this writer the many times he has walked those familiar steps outlined above.  Be merciful and gracious to us, Father, for the sake of your dear Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.  Transform us deep within, that we might truly hate sin and love righteousness.  And may we never forget that it is not our righteousness, but the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ, by which we have this relationship with you.  In Jesus’ name, Amen. 


Get Drunk On Love!

Proverbs 5:18-20

“Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love. And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger?”

A Sweet Spring

It’s the sweetest spring in the world, that spring seeping from the foot of Wolf Creek Mountain in the South Gap region of Bland County, Virginia.  The water of that spring is so delightful that my ancestors built their two-story log home next to that spring some 200 years ago.  At that time or shortly thereafter, they dug down around five feet, and encased the pool in stone. Later still, they built a log “spring house” to enclose and protect the spring itself, and to create a safe haven for the jugs of milk and tubs of butter which they kept chilled in the pool.  My father grew up fetching buckets of water from that spring every morning, and when he became a man and built a house of his own nearby, he tapped into that same ever-flowing source of sweet spring water to supply his new home.

Once you’ve tasted the best, no other water in the world is going to satisfy!

A Blessed Fountain

I think that’s what Solomon has in mind in Proverbs 5:18.  The precious union between a husband the wife of his youth is a satisfying, life-strengthening fountain to be enjoyed deeply and guarded faithfully.  As I type these words, my mind goes back to the many summer mornings I spent doing farm work in the environs of the spring house, and I recall the immense joy of plunging my sun-burned, sweat-streaked face deep into the pool and gulping down that sweet water.  Twenty-one years into marriage with the wife of my youth, I can affirm that the fountain of union with my precious wife is just as blessed and precious today, as it was on June 15, 1991, when we exchanged our vows of marriage.

Drinking to Intoxication

Did that heading get your attention?  Perhaps a closer examination of the verses above will make you think about the marriage relationship in an exciting and intriguing way.  In verse 18, the sexual union of husband and wife is described as a delightful fountain from which the couple is urged to drink deeply.  In verse 19, that union is depicted in even more intimate terms, with the metaphorical image of drinking from her breasts.  In verse 20, the “drinking” image is re-visited by a rhetorical question which the father asks the son, “Why would you want to be intoxicated in the embrace of a woman who is a stranger?”  (The ESV and the “new” NIV both pick up on the translation of the Hebrew “tis-geh” as “intoxication”, which I believe is preferable to the KJV “ravished”, in light of the author’s chosen metaphor of ‘drinking’.)

What’s the overall message? 

What’s the overall message? Within the context of marriage, to drink and get drunk on love!  Of course, Solomon develops this theme much more deeply in the Song of Solomon, in which the husband describes his union with his wife in similarly poetic language,

I am come into my garden, my sister, my spouse: I have gathered my myrrh with my spice; I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey; I have drunk my wine with my milk

And the community urges the couple to indulge in the joy of marital union,

Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved. (Song of Solomon 5:1)

Can Marriage Really Be that Great?

Can marriage really be that great? Absolutely!  But first, re-visit the implicit warning.  If you’re not happy at home, then you’re most certainly not going to become happy through an affair.  An affair is a sure path to personal destruction.  (Many entries in this blog teach as much.)  If you and your spouse find yourselves struggling to make your marriage work, please know that there is hope and healing in Jesus Christ.  Locate a solid Christian marriage counselor.  If your spouse won’t go with you, then go alone.  You can work on “your stuff” even if he or she refuses to work on “his or her stuff”.  Attend a marriage conference together.  Family Life Today’s “Weekend to Remember” marriage conferences are phenomenal places to re-connect and start over.    http://www.familylife.com/weekend

Father God, I pray for those readers who have taken the time to read this entry.  I ask that by your Spirit, that their marriages would be strong, and that they would drink deeply from the spring of marital love.  Bless them I pray through Christ our Lord, Amen. 


No Shortcuts

Proverbs 3:7-8

“Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.”

An advertisement on the side of my web browser promises that if I “click here” I can learn a “weird old trick” to eliminate stubborn belly fat. Each weekday afternoon, Dr. Oz hosts a show advocating the addition of blueberries, seaweed and other “super foods” to fight off cancer and heart disease. A billboard overlooking I-24 in my city displays a lean and tightly-muscled torso, suggesting that a few quick visits to the fitness center are all it takes to achieve such enviable results.

THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS!

The achievement of health: Everybody’s looking for a shortcut! And yet, we know that it is the slow, plodding discipline of a balanced diet, regular exercise, adequate sleep, and the elimination of detrimental bad habits (smoking comes to mind) which yield the healthiest bodies over the long haul.

The achievement of wise living is no different! There are no shortcuts (“Be not wise in your own eyes”). Rather, wise living is the fruit of good old basic faith (“fear the LORD”) and repentance (“turn away from evil”). This, says the wise father to the son (3:1) is the only sure path to spiritual health (3:8).

NEED HEALING?

By the way, these verses suggest that by following the way of wisdom, it is in fact possible to extricate yourself from a situation of moral and spiritual “disease”, and gain spiritual health in Christ. Those who are spiritually sick can find healing and refreshment, or as some translations put it, nourishment. One thinks of Subway’s marketing front man “Jarrod”, who lost a couple of hundred pounds simply by “eating fresh”. Praise the Lord, it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Mark 2:17).


It’s Healthy To Be Happy

Proverbs 17:22 

“A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.”

Happy Health

Her name is Kay, and she’s my mother-in-law, and without a doubt she’s the happiest person I’ve ever had the privilege to know.  Kay’s happiness is contagious.  There would have to be ice flowing in your veins not to break into a grin when Kay enters the room.  Over the years as my mother-in-law has been deeply transformed by the grace of Jesus Christ, a sincere and powerful love for people has grown inside her, a cheerful love that embraces all and disarms all.  Whether Kay’s changing a baby’s diaper or greeting one of the great potentates of industry (and she does both regularly), the same hearty chuckle wells up from within.  And you can’t help but smile along.

The first half of today’s proverb is one of the most quoted of all the Proverbs, and its verity is universally recognized.  Cheerfulness is good for the body.   It’s healthy to be happy.  The second half of the proverb, though not as well known, nonetheless does contain an equally recognized psychological principal.  A crushed spirit or melancholy disposition will tend to manifest itself in physical infirmity.  However, please remember that the proverbs are to be interpreted as principles, and not as promises.  Cheerful people do become ill, and depressed people can be (otherwise) physically healthy.  But those exceptions merely serve to prove the general rule that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine.”

Pharmacists of Cheerfulness

Granted, we come into this world with variations in temperament.  Some people tend toward cheerfulness, while others tend toward melancholy.  I count myself in that latter group!  That’s why I need people like Kay in my life.  We need those pharmacists of the merry heart to dispense the good medicine of cheerfulness for its psychological as well as physical benefits. To the reader who would describe herself or himself as a melancholy, I urge you to prayerfully and intentionally seek out friendships with Christian brothers and sisters who have the merry heart.  We need them!

Christ’s Joy and Our Responsibility

Jesus said in John 15:11, “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.”  This verse is found in the context of Jesus telling the disciples that He is the True Vine, and we are the branches.  In a vital, dynamic relationship of faith with the Son of God, His joy overflows to us.

However, to return to the metaphor of the pharmacy, it’s our responsibility to drop off the Rx and pick up the meds.  Is the marrow drying from your bones? Take some time alone with Jesus.  Remember, re-claim, and re-apply the promises of the gospel to your life.  Make a list of the things that are good in your life, for which you are grateful to God.  Pray for a fresh anointing of His joy.

Recommended Reading

For further study, order yourself a copy of Dr. David Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ Spiritual Depression:  Its Causes and Cure.

Father God:  I pray for the reader whose spirit is broken, and the marrow of joy has dried within.  Touch the reader with the unconditional love of the Lord Jesus, and renew his or her joy this day.  May cheerful, Godly laughter overflow.  Through Christ our Lord, Amen.    


In One Ear and Out the Other

Proverbs 15:31

“The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.”

And then there’s the one about the lawyer, the physician, and the pastor who went deer hunting together.  The three outdoor enthusiasts positioned themselves around the ridge tops looking down into a valley where a large buck deer had been sighted a few times.  Around dusk, the monster buck strolled into the valley and was immediately spotted by all three hunters.  It just wasn’t the deer’s lucky day:  All three took aim and simultaneously fired upon the unfortunate fellow, who promptly fell over dead.

The three hunters ran down the slopes to inspect the kill, only to discover there was but one bullet wound.  Which marksman had bagged the deer, anyway?

The lawyer stuck his chest out and pleaded his case.  He had prosecuted criminals in numerous capital murder trials.  He had experience sifting through evidence.  He had watched coroners at their gruesome work in the morgue.  He knew the face of death.  And this deer was most certainly his kill!

Oh no, said the physician.  He had worked in the ER many shifts when terribly injured people were hauled in on the gurneys.  He had split open the human breastbone and performed heart bypass surgery.  He was an expert in life, and in death.  The deer was his.

Finally the pastor stepped up.   “Friends,” said he, “this fine buck is my kill, and I can prove it conclusively.”    He pointed to the single bullet wound and traced its path with his finger.  “See?” he asked.  “It went in one ear and out the other.  This buck is most definitely mine!”

A PROBLEM FOR MOST OF US

The truth be told, it’s a problem for most of us, and it’s not just a problem on Sunday mornings as we struggle through the pastor’s hastily thrown together message.  So many of the life-giving words we need to hear go in one ear and out the other!  As we have studied the Book of Proverbs in this blog, we have noted that “wisdom cries out in the streets.”  There’s no shortage of wisdom.  There’s a shortage of hearing and heeding the words of wisdom!

Dear reader, I must ask you, have you truly heard the gospel of Jesus Christ?  Not only with your ears, but with your heart, so that you perceive the profound, life-changing excellence of the gospel message so that all human philosophy and wisdom crumble at the foot of the cross?  Have you heard the gospel in such a way that it has broken your heart and brought life to your soul?  So that the beauty of Jesus Christ has shone in your heart, and now nothing delights or satisfies you more than Jesus?  Or are you numbered with those who hear the word, but the hearing is of no eternal value, because your hearing is not combined with faith (Hebrews 4:2)?

The gospel message is the “reproof of life.”  As a reproof, the gospel illuminates the sinfulness of our sin and the awesome holiness and justice of Almighty God.  But as our hearts are convicted of sin, the gospel points us to put our trust in the sin-bearer whom God has provided, the Lord Jesus Christ, and to receive life in his name.

The proverb promises that those who hear the reproof of life will abide among the wise.   No, not among those who claim to be wise by the standards of this bent and broken world, but among those who have embraced the wisdom of God – God’s wisdom which is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved, the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:18).

Father God, forgive us for our stubborn refusal to listen to You.  Soften our hearts.  Grant us teachable spirits.  We want to know Jesus, and Him only.  As you have promised, grant us life in Jesus’ name.  Through Christ our Lord we pray:  Amen. 


Clean Troughs

Proverbs 14:4

Where no oxen are, the trough is clean;
But much increase comes by the strength of an ox.

A long line of tightwads

      I have a disclaimer, everybody:  I come from a long line of tightwads.  When my parents became engaged, a mutual friend quipped that their engagement was an excellent match:  “Jim & Maryanne gettin’ married?  That’s good. They can pinch pennies together.”

In 1982, my parents took me and my two older brothers to visit the World’s Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.  If you visited the Fair in mid-July of that year, you probably remember us.  We were the teenage boys carrying wilted cheese sandwiches in satchels dangling from our belts (in 92 degree heat and 98% humidity) to avoid the high cost of fairground fare for lunch.

That is to say, I “get it honest”.

I was 20 years old before I bought my first car, a 1973 Plymouth Scamp for which I paid $850. It came complete with a shredded and flapping vinyl top and fenders so rusted out from the salt on the winter highways of Southwest Virginia that I dared not drive the car through a car wash for fear of leaving too many parts behind.  When driving in the rain, water would pour in under the dashboard, soaking shoes, socks, and pants legs. I’m not exaggerating!

Early in our marriage, I can remember having discussions with my new wife concerning the threshold of excessive toilet paper usage.  (Just use your imagination.)  As I type these words, I examine my current attire:  a striped, button-down, long-sleeve shirt which came to me second hand from America’s Thrift Store, a worn pair of khaki pants purchased on sale in a discount clothing store three years ago for around $20, and socks and underwear that are, let’s just say, of mature age.  Only my shoes are of a brand name which you might possibly recognize, a brand and style I am medically required to purchase to give support to my very flat feet.

So today’s proverb is really for me and for others of the dying breed of folk who are allergic to the spending of money.

Expensive critters

Let’s face it:  Oxen are expensive critters to keep around.  It has been scientifically proven that they have to be fed a certain amount to survive.  Oxen require a ready supply of drinking water.  Oxen need routine preventative and maintenance veterinary care.  They need strong fences to contain them.  They need barns for shelter in severe weather.

Thus if you have no oxen in the stall, the trough is “clean”, or perhaps a better rendering would be, “the granary is empty”.  You don’t have to fill the barn with hay, or purchase corn for the crib, if you have no oxen to feed.  It’s much cheaper to own no oxen.

Wise capital investment

However, seen as a capital investment, oxen can bring the wise farmer great financial reward.  Of course the proverb harkens from a pre-industrial age, but the point is obvious.  Oxen drag the plow to cut the sod so that crops can be sown.  Oxen pull the carts and wagons when bringing in the harvest from the fields, and then they haul the harvest to market.  Indeed, “much increase comes by the strength of an ox.”

Investment is risky business.  By its very definition, invested money may be totally lost.  Otherwise healthy-looking oxen drop dead of heart attacks on occasion, I suppose.  But wise, intentional investments create the possibility for wonderful profits.  To interpret the biblical proverb with a proverb from our popular culture, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

Two gospel passages

In light of Proverbs 14:4, two New Testament texts come to mind.  The first is the Lord’s parable of the sower (Mark 4:1-20).  Without recounting the parable’s details, I conclude that the Lord’s primary point is to emphasize the miraculous increase of the seed that fell on good ground (verses 8 & 20).  When it comes to our stewardship of the gospel, invest heavily!  Throw caution to the wind!  Proclaim the gospel of the Kingdom everywhere, and although three-fourths of the time it won’t amount to much, we can count on an astonishing, miraculous, God-given increase when the seed of God’s Word does hit the “pay dirt”.  There are so many Christian congregations which have the clean troughs of playing it safe in the ministry.  Our proverb would say, “Go big for the gospel of Jesus Christ!”

The second text is found in Matthew 25:14-30, the parable of the talents.  Space does not permit me to retell the passage, but the connection with our proverb is clear enough:  Invest for the master!  Don’t be a scrooge and hide heaven’s riches in a hole in the ground.  Take a chance!  Do something big and bold and risky for the Master!

Father God, make us to be wise and bold investors of all which you have entrusted to us, blessings both temporal and spiritual.  Forgive us when we fail, not for our sake, but for the sake of your own dear Son.  Through Christ our Lord: Amen. 


Just Zip It

Proverbs 12:23

“A prudent man concealeth knowledge: but the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.”

My wife has an expression for the person whose mouth opens and gushes forth streams of idiocy which should have remained locked away in the reservoir of the heart.  She calls it, “a case of diarrhea of the mouth.”   Mark Twain must have had the same idea in mind when he famously quipped, “It is better to have people to think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

WHAT IS IT ABOUT US? 

What is it about us, that we think we have to speak even when we have nothing of value to say?  Is it that hearing the sound of our own voice makes us feel important?  Is it that we want to be perceived as intelligent, wise and knowledgeable, able to speak authoritatively concerning any and every subject?  Or is it that we are threatened by silence, as if we must fill the space between us and the others around us with words, lest a moment’s silence should become an awkward void?

A PERSONAL ISSUE FOR PREACHER-TYPES

I submit that the issue of Proverbs 12:23 is of tremendous significance for myself and my fellow “preacher-types.”  We are absolutely the worst when it comes to feeling obligated to fill the air with words.  I have just come away from a Sunday afternoon, pastoral visit with a senior citizen, a widow in my congregation.  She, like many women of her age and station in life, is lonely and doesn’t have company in her home very often.  Therefore when I visit, she enjoys the chance simply to chat away about loved ones, some of whom I know, most of whom I do not.  As she reminisced this afternoon, there was a moment in which I could hear my own voice, rising above hers, commenting on something she had just said.  Maybe I was simply trying to let her know that I was listening, that I was engaged in what she had to say.  But probably not.  It’s more likely that I just couldn’t stand being out-talked for even a few minutes.  I thought to myself, “If I were listening in on this conversation, I would conclude that guy (me!) is quite a jerk.”

IN THE PULPIT

Oh, and how about in the pulpit?!  I once had a seminary professor who warned my class that the greatest danger for preachers in the pulpit is that we’ll be tempted to say things that simply aren’t true—treating biblical principles as promises, projecting guaranteed outcomes, and so forth.  Is that anything other than “proclaiming foolishness”?  I had another seminary prof who often remarked, “Anyone who makes his living from his religion will eventually lose one or the other.”  How many “hireling” preachers have absolutely prostituted their faith in the pulpit, proclaiming foolishness, just to earn a paycheck?

ZIP IT UP

The proverb above tells us quite bluntly:  zip it up!  You don’t have to say everything you think. You don’t have to teach everything you know.  You don’t have to win every argument.  You don’t have to express every opinion.  You don’t have to weigh in on every debate.  If someone asks you for the time, you don’t have to lecture them in the craft of building a grandfather clock. It is far more prudent to keep a reservoir, a storehouse, of wisdom inside, from which you pull out treasures only when necessary (Matthew 13:52).  Knowing our propensity for gabbing when wisdom calls for silence, the great Peter Marshall prayed, “Great questions stand unanswered before us, and defy our best wisdom.  Though our ignorance is great, at least we know we do not know.  When we don’t know what to say, keep us quiet.”

WHAT A WISE MAN!

Twenty years ago I recall an elderly Presbyterian gentleman giving some tidbits of wisdom to me and several other young aspiring pastors.  He said, “Men, for your first year in ministry, at each meeting of Presbytery simply sit and do not say a word.  No matter how important the issue, no matter how heated the debate, no matter how much insight you might have about the subject, for your first year you are to say absolutely nothing on the floor of Presbytery.  After you have completed one year of silence, then you may make your first motion on the floor.  Your first motion should be, ‘I move that we break for coffee and doughnuts.’  Then the entire Presbytery will think of you, ‘What a wise man!’”

 

A wise old owl sat in an oak

The more he saw, the less he spoke

The less he spoke, the more he heard

Why aren’t we like that wise old bird?

 

  Father God:  Give us the grace of silence.  Through Christ our Lord:  Amen. 


Just Say “NO!”

Proverbs 11:15

“He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.”

Proverbs 11:15, 16, & 17 are connected in that each involves someone who acts with kindness, but with varied results.  In today’s verse, we consider a kindness that brings injury; in tomorrow’s, a kindness that brings honor; and in the third instance, a kindness that brings benefit.

A KINDNESS THAT BRINGS INJURY

In the first half of verse 15, we read, “He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it,” or as the ESV reads, “Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm.”  Solomon returns here to a theme he has already elaborated upon at length in Proverbs 6:1-5.  The idea is fairly straightforward in both texts.  So, somebody asks you to lend him a hand by cosigning on a loan… what is the “Christian” thing to do?  The problem is that you like to be liked. You want to come across as a decent and generous person.  You want to be helpful.  So you cosign on the automobile, or mortgage, or student loan, or credit card offer.  And now, my friend, you have obligated yourself in regard to the other’s ability to earn, budget, and spend income.  Unless you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in.  No, I take that back.  Even if you are that individual’s mother, that’s an awkward spot to be in.  You have absolutely no leverage in the situation.

NOW GUESS WHAT?

You’re on the hook if and when the person defaults on repayment.  If your name is signed on the bottom line, the creditor can and will come after you.  The FTC tells us that in as many as 3 out of 4 loans that go into default, the cosigners are asked to repay the loans.  Think about it.  When you cosign a loan, you are taking a risk which the professional lenders have refused to take.  If the borrower could meet the lender’s criteria, there would be no need for a cosigner in the first place.  http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre06.shtm

NEWSFLASH

Jesus didn’t die to make you “nice.” No, he died to make you His!  Sometimes the “Christian” thing to do is to ask, “Have you totally lost your mind?  You can’t afford that car, or house, or new TV!  Save some money for it and pay cash!”

A FIRM, WISE “NO”

In the second half of the verse we read, “And he that hateth suretiship is sure.”  Oh, the security and peace of mind enjoyed by the one who has not entered hastily into business agreements!  Years ago, First Lady Nancy Reagan, as she spearheaded a campaign against drug abuse, popularized the slogan, “Just Say No.”  The same firm “No!” might well be in order the next time someone approaches you about helping him with a loan.

Father God, thank you that when you see us, you see the righteousness of your own dear Son.  Thank you that our security and identity are in Christ.  Free us, Father, from the need to be people-pleasers to our own harm. Through Christ our Lord: Amen.    


The Way of the LORD

Proverbs 10:29

“The way of the LORD is strength to the upright: but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity.”
The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless,
but destruction to evildoers.
(ESV)

A Bold Assertion About the Gospel

Many, if not most, of the proverbs are pithy statements making general observations about wise living. This one is a bit different. Proverbs 10:29 is less a general observation about wise living, and more a bold theological assertion about the gospel.

My interpretation follows the translation of the NASB, ESV, NIV and the study on the verse done by the German commentators Keil & Delitzsch, in preference to the KJV. The point of the proverb is to contrast the effect of “the way of the LORD” upon the lives of believers (the “blameless”) versus its effect upon unbelievers (“evildoers”).

The Way of the LORD

“The way of the LORD” in this proverb refers to the way of true religion, that way of faith and obedience which God has revealed to mankind. In New Testament terms, “the way of the LORD” refers to obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Many people want only enough of Jesus to make their lives easier, simpler, or more care-free. Will prayer help me get through my problems? Then I’ll pray. Is Jesus the Great Physician? Then I’ll seek Him whenever I’m sick. Is He the King with cattle on a thousand hills? Then I’ll call out to him when I’m broke. Many churches are filled with nominal Christians (that is, Christians in name only) who want the blessings of the way of the LORD, without being born again (John 3:3). That is to say, they have not undergone the fundamental, supernatural transformation of their being which God requires in the gospel. That inner transformation, without which there is no eternal life, happens only by truly embracing Jesus Christ as the most precious, desirable One in the universe – loved above all others, the wonder and marvel and joy of the heart.

What Effect Does “The Way of the LORD” Have On the Believer?

For the believer in Christ, life along that narrow way is said to have the certainty and security of a mountain stronghold. It is a life lived for Jesus and about Jesus and full of Jesus: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21), writes the Apostle Paul, and, “the life I live in the body,” he writes again, “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). It is a bold, strong, vigorous life! No matter what the world may throw at us, we are safe in Jesus. “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).

What Effect Does “The Way of the LORD” Have Upon the Unbeliever?

This is the point of contrast made in the proverb which the KJV translation misses, but which is conveyed in the more careful rendering of the ESV above. The same gospel which is life and strength and refuge for the Christian, spells “destruction,” death and misery for the unbeliever. Here we stumble upon the hard edge of the gospel, where few preachers these days tread. Here we trip upon Christ the stumbling block. Embrace Christ by faith, and He is your life. Reject Him through persistence in hardness of heart and unbelief, and He spells your death. The gospel, which is “a stronghold to the blameless,” is also “destruction to evildoers.” The same gospel which proclaims that Christ came to save sinners, declares that Christ will return in blazing, purging, glorious brightness, and that unbelievers will cry out for the mountains to fall upon them to shield them from His glory. The same gospel which declares that He is the Christian’s Rock, declares that the Rock will crush all who reject Him.

The Gospel Aroma

The Apostle Paul picks up on the theme of Proverbs 10:29 in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16. Basically, the idea there is that the gospel smells like a sweet fragrance—desirable and lovely—to those who are receiving new life in Jesus. But the same gospel smells like the stench of death to those who are rejecting Jesus. For them, the gospel has a terrible odor of decay, for it is the smell of death – their own death. They want nothing to do with Jesus Christ or his gospel.

How About You?

Do you love Jesus? Do you want Him more than anything else the world has to offer? Do you “savor the aroma” of Jesus? Are His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming all glorious truths which delight your soul? If so, be assured that He is and ever will be a stronghold for your soul, and that the yearnings in your heart will one day be fully satisfied in His glorious, loving presence. If not, then be warned: the narrow way to salvation will one day close, and Jesus will return with judgment blazing in His eyes.

Let us close with a prayer by A.W. Tozer (1897 – 1963).

“O God, I have tasted thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need for further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, ‘Rise up my love, my fair one, and come away.’ Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long.”

Sources

“A.W. Tozer Quotes.” A.W. Tozer Quotes (Author of The Pursuit of God). N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Aug. 2012. <http://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/1082290.A_W_Tozer&gt;.

Keil, Carl Friedrich, and Franz Delitzsch. “Commentary on Proverbs 10:29.” Commentary on the Old Testament. Vol. 6. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996. 164-65. Print.