Proverbs


Proverbs 5-6 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He watches over our steps, providing His wisdom to guide us

“Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones.  Learn from their ways and become wise!” (6:6)  Lazybones – what a great word!  I’m planning to use it in a sentence or two throughout the day, hopefully not describing me.  I can testify that the ants in my kitchen are not lazybones.

My kitchen has been invaded by grease ants, and please be assured, they are not lazy.  One missed potato chip on the kitchen floor caused a frenzy of activity that included the entire neighborhood ant community, forming perfect lines to and from the chip – until I removed the chip.  But while that chip was their focus, they were busy and productive with no foolishness or stray steps.  Hmmm…could this be a lesson?

Solomon’s direction over the next few chapters in Proverbs involves instruction regarding moral and wise living.  The purposed activity of the ants was illustrated to guard against poverty and lack, but isn’t it also protection from the dangers of infidelity and foolish living? The old saying from the writings of Chaucer comes to mind, “Idle hands are the devil’s tools or workshop.”  A purposed focus keeps us on track, “Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil.” (4:27)  When we are focused and productive, there’s little time for straying.

@ Proverbs 5
Much of Solomon’s writing focuses on fidelity and the sin of adultery, interesting coming from a man with so very many wives, but powerful nonetheless.  His heart’s desire was to spare his sons the pain that follows immoral living, and these are instructions we should take to heart.  Regarding the immoral woman (or man), he instructs:

1)  “Stay away from her!  Don’t go near the door of her house!” (8)  Don’t click on the website, don’t open the magazine, don’t watch the movie, don’t hang out at his/her desk, don’t think on vain imaginations…we know where the traps are set.

2)  Consider the consequences. “You will lose your honor…lose all you have achieved … someone else will enjoy the fruits of your labor…you will groan in anguish when disease consumes your body.” (9-11) Nothing saddens me more than when a man (or woman) loses the honor and respect of his children.  How could anything or anyone possibly be worth it!

3)  Live life without regrets. “If only I had not ignored all the warnings! Oh, why didn’t I listen to my teachers?” (12-13) A life filled with if only this and if only that saps us of the joy and peace God desires for us.

4)  Enjoy your spouse! “Let your wife be a fountain of blessing for you.  Rejoice in the wife of your youth…” (18)  Other pastures only appear to be greener.  They require the same amount of attention and care.

Solomon ended this chapter with, “For the Lord sees clearly what a man does, examining every path he takes.” (21) May He see us busy on our path of purpose, not sidetracked by the immoral man or woman or any evil that would take us off track. A life lived without regret! 

Moving Forward: No lazybones for me!  I’ll stay focused on the path that is set before me, looking neither to the left nor the right and rejoicing in the gift of my husband. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 7-12

Proverbs 4 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: His wisdom protects our hearts and determines our course in life

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” (7)  Deep.  We probably won’t spend a lot of time dissecting and examining this statement.  It says what it means, and it’s true. Solomon went on to advise that after we get wisdom, we should develop good judgment, not forget her, not forsake her, guard her with our lives, love her, embrace her and exalt her. (5-13)  It’s interesting to note that wisdom is personified as a woman. That’s all I’m saying…it’s just interesting.  That being said, following Solomon’s instructions will involve the commitment of our will, our emotions and our minds.  In other words, our hearts must be committed in the process of getting wisdom.

The care and protection of our physical hearts get a lot of attention in the media today.  As the list of what we should not eat to protect our hearts grows daily, the list of what we are permitted to eat is reduced to oatmeal, fish oil, fruits and vegetables – make a meal out of that, will you.  Billions of dollars have been dedicated to research regarding the human heart, but Solomon had something completely different in mind when he wrote, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”(23)

While billions of dollars have not been spent researching the spiritual heart, we know from scripture that the heart is viewed as the center of spiritual life, involving our intelligence, our emotions, our will and our morality.  Wherever these characteristics are focused, that is where our heart will be.  Jesus said, “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” (Matthew 6:21)  The Wisdom of Solomon and Jesus is really the only information we need in order to protect our spiritual hearts.

When asked what He considered to be the most important commandment of all time, Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37)  Well, that about covers it – all.  When we love the Lord with everything within us, there isn’t room to love those things  in opposition to Him. We’ll follow Solomon’s advice, “Don’t do as the wicked do, and don’t follow the path of evildoers.  Don’t even think about it; don’t go that way.  Turn away and keep moving.”(14-15) In the long run, it’s much easier, much wiser to resist sin at the very start than it is to fight its progress throughout our lives.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”  Solomon said we guard our hearts by protecting what we say, “Avoid all perverse talk,”(24) and Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”  We guard our hearts by protecting where we look, “Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.” (25) Eve’s downfall escalated when she looked where the enemy was tempting.  And we guard our hearts by protecting where we go, “Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path.  Don’t get sidetracked, keep your feet from following evil.” (26-27)  Solomon offered simple tools, full of wisdom, for protecting our spiritual hearts.

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!”  Deeper than we thought! 

Moving Forward: While eating my oatmeal, fish oil and veggies today, I’ll guard my words, my focus and my steps to protect my spiritual heart.  May I leave a legacy of wisdom to be passed on to my children and to my children’s children. 

Tomorrow @ Ezekiel 1-6

Proverbs 2-3 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires to give wisdom to all those who follow after Him

Everyone wants to be wise.  No one has ever said to me, “I can’t wait to be foolish today!”  Most of us have a natural curiosity about how things are made, where they come from and how they affect us.  When I was a teenager, I was asked what my favorite book was, and without hesitation, I replied, “The Encyclopedia.”  I know this sounds strange coming from a young person, and of course, my answer should have been the Bible, but I’ve always loved moments of random learning.

We couldn’t afford the coveted set of World Book Encyclopedia, and the internet was not available back in the dark ages; but every chance I got, I paged through the volume of knowledge held between the pages of the encyclopedia at the library. However, possessing all this knowledge does not a wise person make.  Wisdom is the ability to apply the knowledge we have, and this is what Solomon was addressing in our reading today. 

@ Proverbs 2
Proverbs 2 is a tutorial on how to find wisdom, where to find it, who it is for and what we receive once we obtain it.  All this in 22 little verses!  Only a very wise man could accomplish this in so few words. 

How:  Listen for wisdom, concentrate on it, ask for it with fervor and search for it like one who is digging deep in a mine for silver.  This proves to the Lord that we respect Him and what He has to say. (2-5)

Where:  Wisdom comes from the Lord. “For the Lord grants wisdom!” (6) 

Who:  God responds with wisdom (knowledge, understanding, common sense, protection) to those who are honest, walk with integrity, are just and faithful. (6-8) 

What:  We will understand what is right, just and fair; we find the right path to walk; we are filled with joy; we are kept safe; we are protected from evil people, including immoral woman and men; and we make right choices. (9-16)

The process is like a chain reaction.  We ask for wisdom and diligently search for it > through His Word we learn how to live a life of integrity and righteousness > He grants wisdom in response to our life of integrity > we are blessed with understanding, guidance, joy and protection.  What a deal!  All of this is ours today for the low, low start-up cost of asking. 

@ Proverbs 3
The mark of a truly wise person is one who follows this advice from Solomon: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.  Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.”(5-7) It’s difficult to trust with all my heart in someone I don’t know very well, risky at best.  Trust develops through relationship and time spent together – enough said.

We may say that we have faith in God, but it is trust that applies the action to our faith.  Faith is the noun, and trust is the verb that demonstrates our faith.  Faith without trust is like knowledge without wisdom – great to possess but not always useful.  When I depend on my own understanding, there’s really only one person to trust in, and that’s me – not very wise when the wisdom of heaven is mine for the asking.

Moving Forward: “Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her.” (18)  Today I seek His wisdom in what I do and say.  And I trust His wisdom to guide and direct my steps. 

Tomorrow @ Lamentations

Proverbs 31 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: His love shines through women who reverence Him

Well, I knew the day would come when I would have to address Proverbs 31 and the perfect woman, I mean virtuous woman.  Reading her amazing attributes reminds me of the old perfume commercial with the gorgeous woman singing, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let him forget he’s…” and so on. In defense of all women, everywhere, let’s remember that this woman in Proverbs 31 had help!  She “planned the day’s work for her servant girls.” (15)  I dream of what I could accomplish in a day with help!

“Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?  She is more precious than rubies.” (10)  And that really is the question, isn’t it?  Who can find a woman like this?  Most scholars believe that Proverbs 31 is a composite of the ideal characteristics that a Godly woman may possess.  I’ve known many women in my lifetime who exhibit a great many of these attributes – industrious business women, great homemakers, crafty and generous, but nobody does it all by herself and lives to tell about it.  “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” (29)  She is our model to examine, to study and to emulate.  Bottom Line – Because of her great respect for the Lord, all that she does is selflessly done to bless and help others

We have no idea if the Proverbs 31 woman is always faultless and perfect in all that she does because, after all, everyone needs to rip out a seam or throw out the burnt toast on occasion.  But we understand that in her very busy life, she manages to plan well, give generously and treat others with kindness.  If we will try, we all can accomplish that!

“Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the Lord will be greatly praised.” (30)  With surgery and cosmetics, beauty seems to be lasting longer than it did in the past, but physical beauty isn’t really how we want to be remembered.  Beautiful women entertain us today and greatly influence the world with their style, but when their beauty fades, we hardly remember them.  One of the most beautiful women I’ve ever known worked in my church when I was very young. She had a birthmark that covered a third of her face, but when she smiled and taught me about Jesus, she lit up my world and I will never forget her.

“Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her.” (28)  I’ve carried in my Bible a Mother’s Day note I received from my husband several years ago.  On the days when I’m a little discouraged, when my day isn’t so faultless and perfect, I pull it out and read his kind words of admiration, respect and encouragement.  Let me tell you, it is like a shot of adrenaline to my spirit.  I also cherish the kind notes and words from my children that I’ve received through the years that let me know every effort I made was well worth it. Their words challenge me to live a life worthy of their praise.

May verse 28 encourage us to give our praises and blessings to the wonderful women who have enriched our lives through their respect for the Lord, their careful planning, generous hearts and kindness.   We should speak our accolades and write our notes of praise today because I would imagine that now is when they are most needed. 

Moving Forward:  I’m thankful today for my precious mom and all the women through the years who have shown to me the wonderful graces of the Proverbs 31 woman. 

Tomorrow @ Nahum

Proverbs 29-30 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He keeps safe those who trust in Him

One morning a couple of years ago I was sitting in my family room having devotions when the doorbell rang.  It was early, I wasn’t expecting anyone and wasn’t dressed for the day so I decided not to respond.  After repeated ringing, I looked out a security window in the door to see a young man.  Moments later I turned to see him peering in the family room window across the house right where I had been sitting, and when I heard glass shatter, it didn’t take long for me to realize that he was up to no good.

I grabbed the house phone, my cell phone and ran out the front door, robe and all, and started phoning 911 and my husband as well as yelling to my neighbors.  The police arrived in four, I repeat, four minutes and caught the man as he circled around to get his car left in my driveway.  Now, a little advice to any would-be felons out there, it’s not terribly smart to park your car in the victim’s driveway and, of course, even less smart to be a felon.  Although the police said my response was textbook, it was a terrifying experience.  When the doorbell rings, I sometimes feel the chill of fear for a brief moment, but then fear of man comes in a variety of ways. 

@ Proverbs 29
“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” (25)  People who experience a frightening situation like I did often become too afraid to live a normal life.  Others are so afraid of people that they won’t leave their homes.  These individuals are afraid of what man may do to them.  Abraham, the great man of faith, was so afraid of the Egyptian men that he told them that his wife, Sarah, was his sister.  I’ve always wondered how this made her feel – fear makes us do unnatural things.  Peter denied knowing Jesus three times out of fear for his life, and I think we know how his behavior made the Lord feel.  Fear will turn us into something we don’t want to be.

Sometimes we fear what people think of us, and that is every bit as debilitating as fear for our lives.  Moses almost missed his mission in life of delivering the Israelites out of Egypt because he was afraid they wouldn’t accept him, afraid that they would question his authority.  Many of the Old Testament prophets feared that their messages would be rejected and mocked by the people. “Fearing people is a dangerous trap” and may keep us from fulfilling our calling.

Fear may keep us from sharing the gospel with others because we are afraid they will reject our message or laugh at us.  Fear may stop us from using our gifts and talents for the Lord because we are afraid of making a mistake in front of others.  Fear is a tool the devil uses to stop us cold, and that is why it is so dangerous.

However, “trusting the Lord means safety.” To overcome fear, we need to change our perspective and who better than God to help us do that, “I, yes I, am the one who comforts you.  So why are you afraid of mere humans, who wither like the grass and disappear?” (Isaiah 51:12)  God is the eternal One, not man, and He holds our eternal souls in the safety of His hand. He is the one who keeps us and protects us.  When we focus on the faithfulness of Almighty God instead of fearing mere humans, there’s nothing left to stop us from pursuing all that God has for us and those things with eternal value. 

Moving Forward: I can pursue all that God has for me today because I’m trusting in Him, not fearing any man. 

Tomorrow @ Micah

Proverbs 28 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He provides all that we need to follow Him with boldness

A man’s conscience can really play tricks on him when he has done wrong.  The imagined scenarios of being pursued and caught for his wrong doing can drive someone to the point of insanity.  Hollywood certainly has cashed in on that plot line through the years and often manipulates us into rooting for the criminals, even hoping they get away with their terrible deeds.  The terror of constantly looking over the shoulder and behind every door and cowering in dark corners is no way to live.  Of course, those who follow the Lord and live a righteous life are also being pursued by invisible forces, but they have nothing to fear.

“The wicked run away when no one is chasing them, but the godly are as bold as lions.” (1)  This verse makes me think of the sad life of King Saul who always feared that David and others were chasing him.  When the Spirit of the Lord left him, his sins tormented him as did the paranoia he had about his own well-being.  Jacob also knew some troublesome days fearing that Esau was coming after his birthright even though he wasn’t.  What a tragedy to live in fear that “your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23)

However, those who follow the Lord should know that they, too, are being pursued. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life…” (Psalm 23:6)  Well, in that case, I’ll just stand still and be caught!  And if that isn’t enough to build confidence, “Your godliness will lead you forward, and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.” (Isaiah 58:8)

No wonder Solomon declared that “the godly are as bold as lions!”  With the Shepherd in front of us leading the way, with goodness and unfailing love always pursuing us and with the glory of the Lord protecting us from behind, why should we fear? Sometimes we just forget who is in our entourage!  Unlike the cowardly sinner who is fearful of being caught, we who follow the Lord can boldly move forward and accomplish whatever God intends for us.  And the peace and calm that comes from godly living is extraordinary. 

Moving Forward: I won’t wonder today if I can do what God is asking me to do.  How can I fail with the Shepherd guiding me, His goodness and love chasing after me and His glory protecting me?  Really, how can I fail?

Tomorrow @ Jonah

Proverbs 26-27 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He tests our hearts to keep us pure

I once heard a great preacher say after a grand and glorious introduction and thunderous applause that his greatest troubles would begin if he started to believe the  introductions he received.  Let’s hear it for humility!

Through the years, many books have been written about humility, many of them with an edge of humor, books like, Humility and How I Achieved It, (C.Neale) and How to Stay Humble When You’re Smarter Than Everybody Else. (B.Goode)  Interesting concepts, to say the least!  The definition of humility is “humbleness, modesty, unassuming nature, meekness – a way of behaving that shows that you do not think that you are better or more important than other people.”  I guess most of us could take a dose of that.

@Proverbs 27
“Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but a person is tested by being praised.” (21)  The original process of testing the purity of gold involved lead, silver and gold heated together in a 2000° F oven until the gold and silver melted and their impurities adhered to the lead.  After cooling, the silver and gold were separated and the final gold product was pure 24 karat gold.  Needless to say, we won’t be trying this at home.  While the testing process of a person’s humility seems very benign in comparison, how we respond in our hearts under the heat of praise and adulation reveals how pure we really are.

Some may feel they are still waiting for the opportunity to be tested by great praise, but most of us have felt the heat. We’ve felt that glow of warm fuzzies reaching all the way to our toes resulting from words of honor, admiration or praise from others at one time or another.  If we survive without arrogance and pride rearing their ugly heads, we are the real deal, pure as gold.

True humility is not exhibited by a self-effacing attitude or by feelings of worthlessness.  True humility is accepting our positions in life as God-given and doing our best with them through His divine help.  With this attitude, should praise from others come our way, we know Who deserves all the glory and how preposterous it would be to assume it for ourselves.  Another great reality check for us from the Proverbs! 

Moving Forward: Once again, it’s all about you, Lord, it’s all about you!  And that fact removes any pressure of determining who gets the glory. 

Tomorrow @ Obadiah

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