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Sloths and Lions

Proverbs 26:13

“The slothful man saith, There is a lion in the way; a lion is in the streets.”

This verse is one of several in a row that deal with the “slothful man.” Each one gives us a different description of him and his ways.

Slothful

When I hear the word “slothful” all I can think about is that poor, slow, moss-covered critter. The sloth is an animal that barely moves, sleeps most of the time, and quite frankly, stinks. I mean, how nasty would you have to be for moss to grow on you?

three_toed_sloth_11What a disgrace, then, to be called slothful? One could be called slow, a little behind, or weak, but that might mean he was a turtle, a baby elephant, or a butterfly. Even the word “lazy” doesn’t carry the same, stinky punch as “slothful.” Yet, there are people in this world who could make a sloth look peppy by comparison.

Lions

What I find ironic is that there are lions in the streets. It’s not that lions are not dangerous, but they are go-getters, hunters, fighters, and fast; everything the sloth is not, nor wants to be. Yet, in life it’s the “lions” and “tigers” who are successful precisely because they are in the streets, not inside watching The Price is Right.

The lazy, slothful man will never be any more that what his as long as he never hits the streets. However, if he would only seek employment with tenacity, creativity, and the driving hunger of a lion, there would be nothing left to fear.

I pity those who make excuses for everything and depend on others to do all the work. The pleasure that comes from the satisfaction of a job well done is far more gratifying than having the best moss garden on my back.

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Grieving Parents

Proverbs 17:25 

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
Foolish children bring grief to their father and bitterness to the one who gave them birth. (NLT)

This is an easy one for me to write given the many times I brought grief to my parents. However, I could blame them. I could say that it was their fault for moving to England when I was eleven years old. Perhaps if we had remained in Guernsey I would have been a better student, and a more respectful son. The friends I left behind in the island all stayed on at school until they were eighteen, and then went to university. I don’t recall that any of them got into much trouble.

Surroundings and friends definitely played a part, but at the end of the day it was me who made the decisions. I chose to mix with the bad kids and mess around at school. I chose to start drinking alcohol at fifteen, and I chose to start smoking. I chose to bring grief to my parents. They must have been secretly relieved when I joined the Merchant Navy at sixteen. At least they could no longer see what I was getting up to. But that didn’t stop me from being a foolish son. What stopped me was the need to be responsible in a working environment that was dangerous at times.

Fast forward many years and I have four sons, one daughter, and one grandson. There may have been occasions when one or more them (but not the grandson) have caused grief, but fortunately not so many. That is something for which I am very grateful to my heavenly Father. We sometimes forget that we cause Him grief too when we act foolishly as sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. It is a huge relief to know that He made a way for fools to be forgiven, and foolish behavior forgotten.


Rejoicing Light

Proverbs 13:9

“The light of the righteous rejoiceth: but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out.” 

What a Storm!

Hurricane Sandy (AP Photo/Weather Underground)

“Superstorm” Sandy was a monster storm that stretched over the entire eastern coast of North America, bringing hurricane winds, torrential rain, 13 ft. storm surges, and even two feet of snow in some places. Over 60 million people suffered its effects, the worst being in the north where states suffered tens of billions of dollars worth of damage. Some people called it a “Frankenstorm.”

There for a while, from Florida to Maine, the sun was hidden by clouds. Rain fell by the gallon as coastal towns were drowned with swelling tides. But amazingly, no matter how hard it rained, no matter how high the waves, it didn’t put out the sun. Go figure.

Light Source

The difference between the righteous and the wicked is their source of light. As with the sun, the Light of the righteous is far beyond the reach of nature. No storm, no matter how big, can quench its flame. It may be hidden from view at times, but it is always there, and always will be.

The wicked, on the other hand, light their own lamp. In other words, the source of their “light” comes from within, below the storm, subject to both torrent and tempest. It will go out, eventually.

“Who among you fears the LORD? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness And has no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD And rely upon his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled–This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.” – Isaiah 50:10-11 NKJV

 Still There was Light

Years and years ago, back when I lived in Kentucky, God allowed a “Frankenstorm” to hit the coasts of my life. The storm was so big and lasted so long, literally nothing of my own making remained standing. FEMA couldn’t even help me.

At one point it was so bad; it was so dark, that I literally raised my fist to heaven, cursed my God, and begged Him to do what I was too afraid to do. I told Him I hated Him and wanted nothing more to do with Him. It was a bad, bad storm.

Yet….(isn’t that a great word?)…Yet, even in the middle of the darkness, there was a Flame that could not be quenched. Even as I cursed my Heavenly Father, inside I could hear a still, small Voice whispering, “I understand…I know…It’s OK…I’m here…Let it out…I still love you…I’m not going anywhere.”

If you could see me crying right now…it’s hard to see the computer screen.

The light of the righteous rejoiceth…


You Think You’re Better than Me?

Proverbs 12:26

“The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour: but the way of the wicked seduceth them.”

I’m No Better

How many times have you been told that you should never think of yourself as better than anyone else? I have to remind myself of that every time I get behind the wheel of a car. You may have to be reminded every time you go through the checkout isle at the grocery store.

So, if we are to believe that we are all human and no better than our neighbor, why does today’s proverb say that “the righteous is more excellent than his neighbor?” Maybe it would help to look at some other ways this could be translated.

Three Versions

The English Standard Version reads, “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Now, let’s read what the Holman Christian Standard says: “A righteous man is careful in dealing with his neighbor, but the ways of the wicked lead them astray.”

Finally, the Revised Standard Version says, “A righteous man turns away from evil, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

Even though the last part of the verse remains consistent, the first part does not. What’s the deal?

Translating

I am no Hebrew scholar by any definition of the term. However, if you were to look at the Hebrew text for this proverb you would find that there are only 6 words. What is interesting is that it takes anywhere from 15 to 19 words to say the equivalent in English.  The key is “equivalent.”

Interpreters of Scripture sometimes have to translate meaning, not just word for word definitions. And when this happens, the idea of what the original is saying may take more than just a few words to express. That is possibly why there are so many different versions of this one verse.

What’d the Idea?

Well, the idea of this verse is not that we as believers should think of ourselves as better than anyone else, but that the righteous should care about where the unrighteous are heading.

The contrast between the two parallel parts of verse 26 is meant to highlight who cares more for his friends – the righteous man. To put the KJV in a way that compares more with the other versions, it is saying that the heart of the righteous and the way he cares for his friends is much different than the wicked man who only wants to deceive and lead astray.

The righteous man is not “better” than his neighbor; he only cares about where he is going.

A Prayer: Lord, help us to be good neighbors. Help us to care about others and guide them to You. Don’t let us lead others astray.


A Lie With No Legs

Proverbs 12:19

“The lip of truth shall be established for ever: but a lying tongue is but for a moment.”

No Legs

There is evidently a saying that has been around for a while – a saying that I have never, ever used – “A lie has no legs.

I don’t usually talk about legs. I have two, but I rarely think about them. As a matter of fact, the only time I even consider my legs is when they don’t work. My left knee hurts, now that I’m thinking about it.

But this saying, “A lie has no legs,” is one that is worth thinking about. What exactly does it mean? Some say it means, “you can’t get away with a lie, because the truth will always come out.” Could that be what this verse is saying?

No Foundation

If we look at the first part of 12:19, what we see is truth being “established for ever.” The idea here is that truth is a firm, solid foundation; something that is stable. Truth is something on which other things can be built, because it’s not going anywhere.

On the other hand, a lying tongue is like a puff of air, or a cloud. It is there for a moment, but then vanishes. There’s nothing solid about it.

Floating Table

If anything, a lying tongue is a table suspended in mid-air. It is a table on which many people place their finest china and their prettiest flowers. It is where many invite guests for wonderfully elegant meals and social functions. It is where futures are planned and deals are made.

But it has no legs. It’s going to fall. And along with this floating table of lies will come crashing down all that was built upon it.

It may seem like time is standing still, but it isn’t. It may seem like those floating tables will never fall, but they will.

Build on the truth – it has legs.


The Word that Makes a Difference

The following is a brand new post. This proverb was missed the first time through.

Proverbs 12:12

“The wicked desireth the net of evil men: but the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit.”

Which Word?

In the version of Scripture written above (KJV), the Hebrew word מָצוֹד (mä·tsōde’) is translated net. In other versions it is rendered as stronghold, booty, catch, loot, and “what evil men have” (HCSB). So which is the correct word? Simple! The correct word is מָצוֹד; the rest are translations.

Seriously, there are still many in Christendom who would argue over this, but I’m not going to. You see, the idea is the same: the wicked desire what evil men have, along with whatever it takes to get and keep it.

Sometimes it’s just not that easy to put all that into one English word.

The Contrast

There is a stark contrast between the “wicked” and the “righteous.” Can you distinguish it? One wants what another has, while the other wants nothing more than to produce for others.

We see in this proverb the difference between one man who envies the successful criminal, and another man who cares not for what others have; he just wants to be a productive citizen.

The wicked, however resourceful, however brilliant, is selfish. In his heart he longs to be more like his more evil counterparts, his heroes who live in bigger houses, drive nicer cars, and exert more influence and power. He cares nothing about who he has to walk on to get there, even his heroes.

The righteous is content with where he is planted and only wants to do the best with what he has been given. He doesn’t necessarily aspire for a greater station in life, only to be useful, helpful, and an encouragement to future generations. He is known for giving of himself.

The Hard Truth

But do you want to know something really sad? Do you want to hear something horrible? So many of us have allowed ourselves to be the “wicked” man in this proverb and don’t even realize it!

James chapter four deals a lot with the envious nature of man and his tendency to fight and war when he doesn’t get what he wants. We war with each other because we want what the other has. We lust; we envy; we even consider killing.

You cry out in defense of your character, “Oh, but that’s not me!” Really? I’d bet you a dollar to a movie ticket you’ve had thoughts like the “wicked” man in Proverbs 12:12. Ever wished you could be the bad guy in a movie? Ever wished you could have the power that came with being a vampire? Ever wished you could strike fear into a person’s heart like a mob boss can?

See, the hard truth is that none of us are righteous, “no not one.” Our wicked flesh is more desperate and sneaky than we give it credit. But how do we change? As the Apostle Paul once asked (Rom. 7:24), “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Jesus, that’s who…the Word that really makes a difference.

 


What Are Your Expectations?

Proverbs 11:23

“The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.”

Righteous People

When we think of the term “righteous,” think of someone who is fair and just, for that is what the word entails. We’re not necessarily talking about a pious saint, or something, but a decent, God-fearing man or woman.

What are the characteristics of this type of person? The proverb says they “desire…only good.”

Now, some interpret this verse in such a way as to say, “The godly can look forward to a reward,” as in the New Living Translation. The ESV says that the desire of the righteous “ends only in good.” But I think it is better to interpret this verse as saying, “The object of the desire of the righteous is good.”

Righteous people are good people; they want good things to happen. And usually, because of their desires, good is the result.

Wicked People

Wicked people, on the other hand, want no such thing; all they want is trouble. What is good for the wicked is bad for everyone else. Wrath is what they hope for.

Again, some interpreters want to convey the idea that what the wicked will receive in the end is wrath. In other words, wrath is what they should expect in the end. That may be so, but there is something here in this verse worth noting.

Hope and Desire

The word translated “expectation” is also the Hebrew word for “cord,” as in a “line” of scarlet thread. Yes, it can mean “hope,” but interestingly it was the same word used in Joshua 2:18 that is translated “line,” as in the scarlet thread that Rehab hung from her window.

The word translated “desire” has more to do with a strong passion for something. Literally, it is the good version of lust. Lust is the wanting of something bad. In this case, desire is the longing of one’s heart for good.

It may not be a huge difference, but this is what I see; these are my “thoughts.” The only hope that a wicked, sinful heart has is the hope of selfish gain, even at the expense of every one else.

The desire of the righteous is for good, and that selfless desire is a result of the Hope they have within.

Practically Speaking

Do you see all those people burning cars and beating people in the name of religion? Do you see them calling for the destruction of others in order to bring about their desires? As they rejoice over the death of innocents, they prove they are wicked.

Do you see those who walk into the fire to rescue the perishing? Do you see those who pray for peace? As others seek their destruction, they pray for the salvation of their souls. They are the righteous.

So the question is: what are your expectations?