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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 tonight’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.    

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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.


Justice Understood

Proverbs 28:5

“Evil men understand not judgment: but they that seek the LORD understand all things.”
“Evil people don’t understand justice, but those who follow the LORD understand completely.” – NLT
Media Courtrooms

One of the greatest hindrances to the legal system is the media. Don’t get me wrong, I am glad that the public can find out what goes on our courtrooms. However, when the public relies solely on the media (especially social media) to keep them abreast of all the details of a trial, nothing but confusion, misinformation, and bad judgment can come from it.Conscience and law

Depending on who is reporting the news, one arrested for a crime might either be portrayed as a monster, or the second coming of Ghandi. Then, when one adds the prejudices of certain segments of society, it wouldn’t matter who did what, just as long as justice is seen to favor the group prejudiced against. In the meantime, as Rome burns, the media fuels the fire for the sake of ratings.

Perspectives

No matter the case, this proverb tells us that from an evil person’s perspective, compared to one who “follows the Lord,” he cannot, under any circumstance, be made to understand justice. No matter the reason for the verdict, if one is convicted for a crime, the evil will always cry, “Foul!

On the other hand, even good people can unwittingly align themselves with evil men. Without knowing all the details, only being fed what the media wants to dish out, they can resort to aberrant behavior. I have seen this happen many times, and have even been on the receiving end of unwarranted righteous indignation. Whatever happened to hearing both sides? Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” Whatever happened to mercy?

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” – Micah 6:8 KJV

Whom Do We Seek?

When we seek our own, selfish desires – the ones that cause us to have the verdicts turn our way – our understanding can be darkened. It is only when we seek the Lord and let Him handle the situation that our eyes and hearts are open to better recognize true justice.

However, crazy as it may sound, for the believer and follower of God, the most outrageous verdicts handed down by the most insane judges are only lower court rulings yet to be tried by the Judge of the Ages. His judgment will be true, righteous, and clear enough for the vilest to understand.

In the meantime, the wise man will never forget these words: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19).


The Sluggard Life

Proverbs 26:16 

“The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason.”
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” – NKJV
Self Perception

The idea here is that the sluggard….wait just a moment…what kind of mental image do you have this very second?

slugSluggard. Think about that word, sluggard. Not just lazy or slothful, but slimy, covered with mucous, moving slowly about the ground leaving shiny trails behind. Sluggard. A slug. A snail-like critter, but too poor for a shell.

The idea, here, is that the sluggard has a self perception problem. He is wiser in his own eyes than seven men, simply because he is the sluggard, not the ones working. The great Matthew Henry comments:

“His slothfulness is the cause of his good opinion of himself. If he would but take pains to examine himself, and compare himself with the laws of wisdom, he would have other thoughts of himself… So wretchedly besotted is he that he takes his slothfulness to be his wisdom; he thinks it is his wisdom to make much of himself, and take all the ease he can get… Of such sluggards, who are proud of that which is their shame, their is little hope.”*

Beyond Reason

So, is there hope for someone who sees laziness and living off of others as a virtue? Verse 12 says that there is more hope for a fool than one that is wise in his own eyes. How much worse, then, one wise in his own eyes that is also a bum? A sluggard?

The Fox News Channel did a story on how some people are scamming the American food stamp system (EBT). They attempted to show how assistance originally meant to aid those in real need was being taken advantage of by people refusing work. Fox News found a perfect example in a young surfer named Jason.

Jason, an unemployed surfer who mooched off of relatives and friends, determined that work was something he did not want to do. He admitted to being perfectly happy taking tax payers’ dollars each month to buy food. All he cared about was playing in a band, meeting cute girls, drinking, and most of all, surfing every day.

There was no reasoning with him. He had everything figured out.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE STORY AND WATCH THE VIDEO

Beyond Argument

But what does the Bible have to say?

“The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.” – Proverbs 21:25

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.”” – 2 Thessalonians 3:10 NIV

*Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 1014.


Cancer of Conceit

Proverbs 26:12

“Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him.”

Snobs

One of the problems with the modern atheist movement is attitude. Arrogance, snobbery, and conceit may have been present all along, but having a condescending attitude is now the new trademark of Darwinists, or should I say, “Dawkins-ists”? They love to belittle creationists; berating them, making fun of them, even to the point of tears. Richard Dawkins even said of Christians: “Mock them…ridicule them in public…with contempt.”

There are always those who believe they know everything (like teenagers). They will look down their noses at others with different opinions, never giving any credence to their proposals. Solomon would say there is little hope for a person like that.

But are atheists the only ones with attitude problems? What about the Calvinist who believes any disbelief in his theory is due to a lack of education and willful ignorance? What about the denomination that insists to be a member of any other is a sin? What about the man who takes what a woman says with a grain of salt?

Arrogance is a cancer covered by many different skins.

Dangerous Doctoring

Most of us have no idea where cancer comes from; it can appear without any warning. The healthiest people can get lung cancer, even when they don’t smoke. Skin cancer can appear overnight, even on a person who never gets a sunburn. But the key to survival is early detection, not denial.

Some people experience the symptoms of disease, but refuse to go to the hospital. The worst offenders are people with some medical education, because for some reason they think they know as much as the doctors do. They refuse to seek medical attention and say, “I can handle this myself.”

Some people believe that aliens gave them cancer, but at least they have enough humility to seek help. Of the humble crazy person and the proud medical student, which has more hope of survival?

Humility

Have you ever met people who know just enough to be dangerous? Their self-confidence becomes a substitute for true wisdom, thereby making them “wise in their own conceit.” But at least a fool, if he admits he doesn’t know everything, can find help before his world falls apart.

“For thus saith the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” – Isaiah 57:15

Lord, help us to recognize our faults and weaknesses. Help us to “seek you first,” rather than relying on our own wisdom, for You are our only Hope.


A Difficult Thought

Proverbs 26:10

“The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors.”
“Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” – ESV

This proverb is a challenging one because of how many different ways it could be translated. As a matter of fact, practically every scholarly commentary admits the Hebrew in this proverb is difficult to interpret. That is why I am going to quote several of them before I leave my final thought for you.

Spence-Jones (The Pulpit Commentary)

Few passages have given greater difficulty than this verse; almost every word has been differently explained. The Authorized Version is, The great God that formed all things both rewardeth the fool, and rewardeth transgressors; Revised Version, As an archer (Job 16:13) that woundeth all, so is he that hireth the fool and he that hireth them that pass by. At first sight one would hardly suppose that these could be versions of the same passage. [1]

Garrett (The New American Commentary)

The Hebrew of v. 10 is almost unintelligible and thus subject to numerous interpretations, all of which are hypothetical. As the NIV has it, the verse reaffirms that one should not commit important tasks to fools (as in v. 6). Notwithstanding all the difficulties of the text, that does seem to be the main point.[2]

Friedrich and Delitzsch (Commentary on the Old Testament)

All that we have hitherto read is surpassed in obscurity by this proverb, which is here connected because of the resemblance of ושכר to שכור. We translate it thus, vocalizing differently only one word:

            Much bringeth forth from itself all; But the reward and the hirer of the fool pass away.[3]

Matthew Henry

Matthew Henry

Our translation [KJV] gives this verse a different reading in the text and in the margin; and accordingly it expresses either, 1. The equity of a good God. The Master, or Lord (so Rab signifies), or, as we read it, The great God that formed all things at first, and still governs them in infinite wisdom, renders to every man according to his work. … Or, 2. The iniquity of a bad prince (so the margin reads it): A great man grieves all, and he hires the fool; he hires also the transgressors. When a wicked man gets power in his hand, by himself, and by the fools and knaves whom he employs under him, whom he hires and chooses to make use of, he grieves all who are under him and is vexatious to them. We should therefore pray for kings and all in authority, that, under them, our lives may be quiet and peaceable.[4]

Anthony Baker (Proverbial Thought)

So, here is what I think. Feel free to quote me 200 years from now.

A man is a fool when he employs a fool to complete a task. However, the biggest fool is one who thinks God, the Almighty Archer, will miss the target when He holds the wicked accountable.

We are always under His watchful eye, but the fool is never out of His “sights.”


[1] H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., Proverbs, The Pulpit Commentary (London; New York: Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1909), 500.

[2] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 213.

[3] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 6 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 387.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994).


Foaming Angry

Proverbs 25:23

“The north wind driveth away rain: so doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.”

Which Is It?

This is one of those verses in the Bible that cause interpreters and writers of commentaries to scratch their heads. One puts it this way: “This little proverb is extraordinarily beset with problems.”* According to the scholars and biblical language experts, it is hard to determine what Solomon means, exactly.

You see, there are issues with the “north wind”: does the verb “driveth” really mean to “drive away” or to “bring?” The verb actually means to “bring forth, as with labor pains.” Either way makes the second part hard to interpret: does an angry look come because of a “backbiting tongue,” or does the indignant tongue make the “angry countenance” go away?

If the north wind drives a cold rain away, then the parallel is that an angry look should hush up a slandering tongue. However, if the north wind brings the rain, then a slandering, backbiting tongue causes angry looks. Which one is it?

My Interpretation

One day, a long time ago, I tried to help someone. With a humble, servant-like attitude I bent over backwards to accommodate this individual, even though I knew it was going to be difficult for me. Then, that very evening, I was informed of slander being spread about me – stories that I had done the complete opposite and actually refused to help the person in need.

The word in this verse translated “angry” means “to foam at the mouth, speaking of a camel…”** Dear reader, I am not super spiritual – I am still human – so when I heard of what was being said of me, well…let’s just say I’m glad the walls of my house are made of brick. You could say I was foaming-at-the-mouth angry.

However you choose to interpret Proverbs 25:23, backbiting and slander can cause serious problems. Talking about people behind their backs simultaneously drives away showers of blessing and brings in cold rains of sorrow.

Watch your tongue and the weather will be fine.

“Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit. Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” – Psalms 34:13-14 ESV

Sources:

*Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 209.

**Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003), 250.