Saturday, May 31, 2014

This Week in Proverbs #2 (18-31)

The second half of Proverbs continues the wise advice about how to live successfully in this world in a way that pleases God and maintains the best relationships possible with both good and evil people (and the mixture of the two that is in all of us). Again, I was impressed this time through with the high degree of organization within the book and the need to think about the reason why certain Proverbs were placed together in the collection. Sometimes the author wants us to meditate on observations that seem to contradict and other times he points out commonalities to all our situations that we need to acknowledge to be successful.

The book closes with an epilogue about the “the good wife” which really epitomizes the “wisdom woman” which we are all to pursue. Remember the book was originally written to guide and motivate young men (probably princes) to live and rule wisely, rather than selfishly. Proverbs urges all of us to pursue wisdom with the same fervor that young men and women pursue each other. It pictures life as two paths: two women (prostitute and good wife); one of which promises pleasure but produces trouble and death, the other which advocates hard work and responsibility but produces real pleasure, peace and success. As Garrett sums up the book, “In Proverbs wisdom is not merely or even primarily intellectual; it is first of all relational. The young person finds wisdom through three specific relationships. A man must fear Yahweh, heed parents, and find the good wife. Moreover, one will gain the fear of Yahweh and the good wife in the same way: both are gifts from God.” Garrett, Proverbs, (New American Commentary), 252.

The purpose of these verses is to warn against being too much in love with one’s own words. One should recognize the power of words and use them with restraint. Voicing one’s own views, here ironically described as eating the fruit of the tongue, can be an addictive habit with dangerous results. Proverbs 18.20-21

I have experienced many times the foolishness of saying the “right thing” at the “wrong time.” Wisdom learns from experience when is the time to speak up and when is the right time to “keep your mouth shut.”

Happiness is impossible without domestic tranquility, and the wife is the anchor of that tranquility... She is “from the Lord” in that even the wisest of men can choose a particular woman for the wrong reasons. It is only by divine providence that one’s choice will turn out to have been a good one... the antithesis to the quarrelsome wife is not strictly the submissive wife but the “prudent” wife, implying someone who is adept in all kinds of circumstances and knows how to deal with people.  Proverbs 18,22, 19.13-14, 170.

Celebrating my anniversary this week and then officiating Jesse and Jonie’s wedding has made me very thankful for the “good wife” that God provided for me and the importance for each of our students to find a spouse that is “one” with them in following the way of Jesus and will be their partner in being what God has called them to be.

The main point is transparent: rich and poor have equal standing before Yahweh...the central idea is that those who are well off must never forget that they, no less than the impoverished, are contingent beings who wholly depend on God for life and livelihood. In short, one must live with humility before God. Proverbs 22.2-5, 186.

The Bible is consistent, cover to cover, that one of the key indicators of a church or person that is a real follower of Christ is that they use their resources to meet the material needs of the people around them.

Wealth is a mirage...wealth itself can fly like the eagle and thus can outstrip all attempts to capture it... Cultivating the friendship of the wealthy is a waste of effort...These proverbs contradict the common notion that Proverbs regards the rich as righteous and thus favored by God. To the contrary, wealthy people often are viewed with a marked suspicion, and their company is not always valued. Proverbs 23.1-8, 195–196.

Proverbs is very balanced in its view of wealth as both a blessing and a temptation. Wealth as a goal is idolatry. Wealth as a tool for the kingdom of God is a blessing to everyone.

“Do not get yourself infuriated over evildoers” is more accurate. Those who love the truth are naturally enraged by the effrontery of those who promote or practice godless behavior—anyone who has ever watched the evening news broadcasts has surely experienced something of this. Impotent raging is pointless and unnecessary. Faith in a just God is the only remedy for such misapplied righteous indignation. Proverbs 24.19-20, 199–200.

Our “anger at sin” should motivate us to do something about the things that God has placed in our control and our faith in God should encourage us not to worry about the things outside our control.

Verses 8, 10 describe how unprincipled people try to turn society upside down. They inflame others (v. 8a) and are not averse to resorting to violence (v. 10a). The wise, however, restore order to the streets and the justice system (vv. 8b, 10b)...The point here, as in v. 8b, is that the just set things right.  Proverbs 29.8-11, 230.

Where Jesus goes, through the Spirit, order, peace and reconciliation follow. This is how we really know God is working.

He first challenges the reader to admit that no one has achieved direct understanding of the world and the truth behind the world... Then, with three questions that allude to the creative power of God (and human lack of that power), he implies that no one can explain the metaphysical powers behind the visible creation... Also, since “God” is the only possible answer to the questions here, it is striking that the text speaks of his “son.” Proverbs 30.4, 236–237.

None of us know as much about God or how He works as we think we know. We need to be a lot more humble about our theologies.

The good wife described here has every virtue wisdom can offer. She is diligent, has a keen sense for business matters, is compassionate, is prepared for the future, is a good teacher, is dedicated to her family, and above all else possesses the primary characteristic of biblical wisdom, the fear of the Lord (looking back to Prov 1:7, the theme of the book). She is no less than Woman Wisdom made real. Proverbs 31.10-31, 252.

I thank God that I have wife-partner that can think for herself and possesses these characteristics. I would not want it any other way.

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