Tuesday, 2 September 2014

(246) September 3: Proverbs 3-4 & 1 Corinthians 13

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­
As you read consider why wisdom matters so much.

To ponder:
Chapters 3 and 4 develop 1 and 2. The son is urged not only to receive instruction and commands, but not forget them, as they will give prolonged life and prosperity (3v1-2). This no doubt refers to the covenant blessings God promised the righteous (Deut 30). However, in a general sense it is true that those who live by his ways are less likely to bring themselves to harm or destitution. What follows outlines the teaching (or wisdom) to be held to, and the benefits that follow it: It is to be adorned externally and internally with love and faithfulness, so gaining favour with God and man. It is to trust God in all things, even when we don’t understand, and so find him direct our paths in righteousness. It is not to think ourselves clever enough to decide to do as we want, but instead repent of sin and so gain good health. It is to give generously to the Lord’s work, and find him supply us abundantly in return. It is to not resent God’s discipline, probably referring to times of hardship, as these show God’s love and delight in us, and like discipline, help us learn how to honour him (3v5-12, see also Heb 12v4-11).
            In the light of all these benefits, the writer can declare how “blessed” the one who finds wisdom is, and how incomparably precious we must therefore see wisdom to be, because it (she) gives life, wealth, honour and peace (3v3-18). Likening her to the tree of life suggests the benefits of wisdom are a taste of the blessings enjoyed in Eden and the new creation. And the reason these blessings follow wisdom is because wisdom is attuned to the right order of the universe, for God created by wisdom (3v19-20). We cannot therefore underestimate how important Christian discernment is. Sound judgement must always be before our eyes, as it brings life and safety, keeping us from stumbling (perhaps into trouble, sin or unbelief). It means we can sleep without fear of the disasters that overtake the wicked, such as the justice they deserve from society, or that directly administered as punishment from God. Instead, God will be our confidence, keeping us from being entrapped by the world (3v21-26).
            So, once again, wisdom is commended: We are not to withhold or stall on doing good to our neighbours when able to. We are not to plot against or falsely accuse them. We are not to envy or choose to act as the violent do (3v27-32). No, the LORD hates, curses, mocks and shames such people, who are described as perverse, wicked, proud and foolish. And he befriends, blesses, and grants grace and honour to those who are upright, righteous, humble and wise (3v32-35). We are therefore reminded again and again why we should pay such attention to the proverbs to come.
            4v1 speaks to a number of sons, calling them also not to forsake their father’s teaching, but hold it in their heart and keep it so that they will live, experiencing wisdom protecting, loving, watching over, and even exalting them like kings (4v2-9). Here, of course, wisdom is almost identical with the LORD, as his words are part of him. And it is as we treasure and hold to them through faith, that we experience these things, eventually being raised to rule forever with Christ. The logic is striking: “Though it cost all you have, get understanding.” This is how important receiving Christ and his teaching is. As Jesus put it, we are to be ready to lose our lives for him, recognizing we then gain the life to come. We must be prepared to sell everything so that we have the great pearl of the kingdom. Do we see our passing on the word of God to our children as this important?
            The father of the proverbs pleads with his son to accept what he says so his years will be many and his paths “straight” (4v10-12). This implies one’s path being righteous (rather than the crooked path of the wicked, see 4v14), but also the best (because it keeps us from stumbling as the wicked do, into sin and trouble, see 4v19). So we are urged to not even set foot on the path of the wicked, challenging us to not even toy with sin, otherwise we will end up with such longing for evil that we are kept from sleep and feast on it like on bread and wine (4v13-17). The contrast is stark: The path of the righteous brings warmth, hope and the joy of a new day, that will culminate in the full light of the kingdom to come. But the way of the wicked brings the confusion, loneliness and fear of deep darkness, which culminates in the darkness of hell itself (4v18-19).
            Chapter 4 therefore ends with another plea to never lose focus on the father’s instructions, but keep them within one’s heart – the place of desire and decision (4v20-22). And summing all else up we are told: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life” (4v23). If we keep our hearts fixed on wisdom in this way, our lives will flourish. But if we let down our guard and allow our desires and decisions to be drawn to wickedness, such life will be forfeited. So we should put away all bad speech, keep our eyes fixed on the goal we are living for, walk only in the good road, and never turn off it into evil (4v24-27).
Praying it home:       
Praise God for his wisdom in scripture and supremely in Christ. Pray that you would give passing it on to the next generation the importance that it warrants.

Thinking further:                             
None today.

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