Saturday, May 24, 2014

This Week in Proverbs #1–Chapters 1-17

As many of you make know I have been posting quotes and thoughts from morning Bible readings on my Facebook page. You can go here to find them. The last couple years I have also been working my way through the New American Commentary. The last few weeks I have been posting some thoughts on Psalms. This week I began working through Proverbs. This post will be kind of a “best of” quotes from the ones I posted on Facebook with some comments about why they are meaningful to me. Bear with me. I am one of those people who process information by discussing and meditating on the discussion. If you want to join the discussion please comment on my Facebook page.

SAMSUNG            As I read through Proverbs this time, the thing that really “sticks out” to me is the inter-connectedness of people. No one lives in a vacuum and wisdom is gained in a group. God mediates his wisdom through parents, society, the writings of the wise from many cultures and, of course, from the Torah – his instructions in His Word. The purpose of wisdom always has a corporate aspect as well. We become wise to be better in relationships – the vertical with God and the horizontal relationship with everyone around us. You are not wise if you cannot live well with God or the people, including enemies, God has placed in your life.

All quotes are from Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, The New American Commentary.

The Book of Proverbs does not simply attach the caboose of Yahwism to the train of secular, international wisdom. Murphy rightly comments that there is no “Yahwehizing” of wisdom in the Bible. On the contrary, the Lord and the precepts of Israelite faith dominate biblical wisdom as the explicit fount of true understanding and the rule by which all is judged. 54.

God has to be the center of a wise life. This does not mean that all secular wisdom is rejected (all people have God’s image skewed as it may be) but all must be filtered through the revelation of God which reveals its ultimate message in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Wisdom is the fruit of a life rooted in relationship with God.

Perhaps the easiest and most common excuse for doing wrong and falling into trouble is ignorance, that one just did not know any better. That excuse is implicitly rejected here. Proverbs 1.20, 72. 

We all have the capacity, responsibility and mission to learn about God and his creation. Proverbs is full of commands to work hard to search out wisdom.

Laziness leads to inescapable poverty and ruin. Instead of poverty coming “like a bandit” and an “armed man,” it is better to translate v. 11 to say that poverty will come like a “vagabond” and a “beggar.” The point is not that it will attack suddenly, like armed robbers in ambush. Rather, poverty and indebtedness cling to the slothful like incorrigible beggars who always linger about the house and always want more. Laziness will siphon off resources until the indolent have nothing left. Proverbs 6.6-11, 96–97.

Laziness, like many other foolish characteristics, is a bad habit developed by bad practices. The results of these bad habits “creep up” and trap the fool until there is no escape. I am convicted to look at my own bad habits and work to change them even as I am leading an institution that has a goal to instill good work and life habits in young people.

The important point is that wisdom is for ordinary people—she is not confined to the academic classroom or to sacred precincts of the temple. Nor is she high atop some mountain where only the hardiest and most determined will find her. To the contrary, she wants to attract all and be accessible to all. The attainment of Wisdom is not a quest but a response. Proverbs 8.1-3, 106.

This is one reason I love working at PIU. The main thing we do here is allow God to work through our teachers and staff to provide access to God and his wisdom to our students. Real wisdom is taught in relationships and I learn so much through relationship with our faculty, staff and students. We learn hard lessons sometimes, but it is always a blessing to be in this community.

What the hoarder fails to realize, however, is that in the economy of God the greedy ultimately lose even the material things they try so hard to keep while the benevolent only prosper more and more... Those who hoard by refusal either to give (v. 24) or to sell (v. 26) finally face not only widespread hatred (v. 26) but the poverty they dread as well (v. 24). The generous only have greater and greater prosperity (v. 25). 11.23-27, 127–128.

The older I get the more I realize that generosity, hospitality and an openness to help with the needs of others (especially in a context of real relationship with the needy) are probably the most clear indication of a healthy relationship with God. Jesus identified love and unity as the marks of his real church.

Proverbs takes a balanced position; it neither dehumanizes the poor on the grounds that they are to blame for all their troubles nor absolves the individual of personal responsibility. 13.22-25, 140.

This balance can only be achieved in ministry if you actually know and are in close relationship with the people you minister to. Jesus’ mission is not “short-term ministry.”

Religious zeal is no substitute for integrity...Righteousness is here defined primarily as the fear of the Lord and humility (15:33); it is more a matter of motives than deeds and thus excludes self-justification (16:2). Biblical righteousness is fundamentally an attitude of trust in God, an attitude implicitly and explicitly demanded in 16:1,3. 15.8-11, 16.1-7, 152–153.

We need to be just as zealous about “orthopraxy” as we are about “orthodoxy.” This verse speaks strongly against the “celebrity Christian” obsession in the current church world. Why would we listen and contribute to the ministries, even if we agree with their doctrine, of “pastors” without accountability, ridden by scandal after scandal and who live in luxury (paid for by the donations of their gullible followers), and place themselves at the center instead of Christ? Where is their “fear of the Lord” and humility? We will be held accountable for supporting them!

“Better” does not imply “more,” “bigger,” or “richer”; rather “better” simply means “spiritual integrity” (16:19), “temperance” (16:32), and “a life of peace” (17:1). This is part of the message of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5:3–12). 17.1, 158.

To reduce “blessings” to only material things is heresy. It misses the real blessings of God’s presence in our lives.

Profundity, not verbosity, is the mark of wisdom. Proverbs 17.27-18.4, 163.

And this is my signal to stop. Smile Many blessings to you!

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