Paul’s God

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 7 & 8

Poetry: Proverbs 20

New Testament: Acts 14

As we look at chapter 14 of Acts, we are going to go back to the idea that one way we can learn is by studying what isn’t said. This chapter becomes even more unique and interesting when you look at it from this perspective. In context with the surrounding chapters, Paul and Barnabas are traveling to Jewish synagogues in order to convince the Jews that Jesus is the Messiah. This chapter is no different; the Jews are still stubborn and are stirring up the crowd and even trying to kill them. But when Paul saw a lame man who had the faith to be healed, he immediately healed him through the power of God. Their message is interrupted by the people claiming that Paul and Barnabas are gods who have come down to earth. This was common Greek mythology of the time.  At the sound of this accusation, Paul and Barnabas immediately reject its legitimacy and instead give the one true living God the glory.

Paul describes the power of God and all the things that He has done for His creation. Paul takes a little intermission from the message of Jesus in order to stand up for the name of Yahweh. From a Trinitarian perspective, Paul’s approach should raise some red flags because he failed to mention how God “came to earth”. If Paul held trinitarian beliefs, then he would have used this as a preaching opportunity to connect the name of Jesus to the pagan beliefs of gods visiting earth. If I were Paul, and for the sake of the argument, I was theoretically a Trinitarian, then I would have told the crowd, “Hey, I’m only a human but the real God did come down to Earth, but you rejected him!” This would have been a Trinitarians’ dream opportunity to take the crowds’ presuppositions about gods coming to earth and use it to present Jesus as God in human form. Logically, this would allow Paul to connect with their understanding of gods and use it to preach the true God. Instead, he didn’t mention a human form of God, neither does he even mention Jesus at all. But instead, the issue at hand in the mind of Paul is solely on rejecting the crowds claims and giving all the glory to God. Jesus did not even cross his mind, instead he was focused on defending the authority and power of God. But it is not as if Paul said the wrong thing or missed an incredible opportunity to share the gospel. In fact, Paul even urges the crowd to turn from “these worthless things to the living God”. The only possible ‘worthless things’ that the crowd was discussing in this chapter was that the “gods have come down to us in human form”. Therefore, it seems that Paul is urging the crowd to disregard their pagan and Greek mythological beliefs about God and believe in the God who created the heavens and earth. 

And when you combine this argument with the argument that Paul did not correct the Jews on their understanding of the Messiah, along with the fact that Paul never explains the Trinity, then I would consider it to be enough evidence to suggest that Paul did not hold Trinitarian beliefs. If we believe that the Bible is God’s inspired word to reveal himself to His creation, then it seems like we should be able to see God being accurately revealed.

Acts is the perfect book to study how Paul and the other apostles preach and reveal God and the Messiah to the crowds. We can learn so much from the theological lessons found in the book of Acts, hopefully you can keep an eye out for more theological truths as you continue through the book. 

-Makayla Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. In Acts 14 Paul is stoned and left for dead – and then continues on with his missionary journey – sharing the good news. What is so important about the message he is preaching? Is it that important to you?
  2. What can you learn about Paul’s God from his preaching (and what he didn’t preach) and from his life? Do you worship the same God?

New Testament in Context

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 5 & 6

Poetry: Proverbs 19

New Testament: Acts 13

The entire Bible can be traced back to Genesis 3 where we see the fall of man from the paradise that God had desired for His creation. From this foundation we can then add Genesis 12 where God calls Abraham and gives his descendants the promise of a future land and nation. And in chapter 49 of Genesis, we see God promise a leader through the line of Judah. Throughout the Bible we see common themes continually come back and connect to these three promises. Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy focus on the establishment of the people into a nation with a complete constitution. The book of Joshua tells the tales of battles fought to conquer the land. And the books of Ezra and Nehemiah record the restoration of the nation of Israel to the land after the exile. And the other books follow a story of attempts to find a leader who is good enough to sit on the throne forever. 

In chapter 13 of Acts, Paul uses a very similar tactic of preaching the gospel to the Jews. The Jews would have understood the promises of a land, nation, and a leader, and they also knew that they were ultimately waiting for the leader — the Messiah. Therefore, Paul presents the history of the Israelites starting with when God led the people out of Egypt and going through the period of the Judges and then Kings. 

Paul highlighted a couple leaders in his overview, but they all turned out to be sinful. Even seemingly good men who sat on the throne made mistakes that did not reflect the leader the world needed. Another problem with these leaders is that they all ended up dead. Paul brings up this point in verse 36-37 when he says, “Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed. But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay.” He does this to clearly contrast Jesus from the other leaders that the Jewish people adored like David. His purpose was to convince them that the Jesus they killed was the Messiah because God raised Him from the dead so that he would not see decay. Paul knew that the best way to prove this to the Jews was to use scriptures like Isaiah 55:3 and Psalm 16:10 to make his point. He also mentions that Jesus was seen by many witnesses after God raised him from the dead. 

Throughout his sermon to the Jews, he makes a clear distinction between God and Jesus. For example, he states that God was the source of the power that raised Jesus from the dead. He also uses the titles of Father and Son to describe the relationship between God and Jesus. 

The result of this sermon is that many Jews and Gentiles received Jesus as the Messiah. They asked Paul to return and preach again the following Sabbath. But the message also faced opposition by the Jews who were jealous of Paul’s preaching and his popularity among the crowds. In response, Paul goes back to Isaiah and quotes 49:6 in order to prove to the Jews the prophecy of the Gentiles being included into the promises of God. This sermon caused even more persecution for the early church but nonetheless the truth was spread throughout the entire region and both Jews and Gentiles came to believe in Jesus. 

-Makayla Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. What does this tell us about the importance of the Old Testament as the context for the New Testament?
  2. Would you say that you have a good understanding of the Old Testament? Or is this something that you could spend more time studying?
  3. Why do you think some of the Jews accepted the truth of Paul’s sermon while others became jealous?

Herod’s Plans vs. God’s Plans

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 3 & 4

Poetry: Proverbs 18

*New Testament: Acts 12

The Bible was written for the purpose of revealing theological lessons. Throughout the whole Bible we can see cross references and common themes that unite every book into God’s complete and perfect word that he wrote for His creation. There are times when the Bible seems to be more historical or moralistic, but overall, everything can be tied back to a theological lesson on who God is and how we can have a relationship with Him. We can learn so much about the character of God. We can also see how a passage of scripture fits into the big picture of God’s plan of restoring the world to what it was in the garden of Eden. 

Acts chapter 12 records Peter’s miraculous escape from prison. This comes in the middle of the apostles and the early church being under persecution by the Jews, and right after the apostle James became a martyr for the sake of proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah. Verse 3 says that King Herod arrested Peter once he saw how much the Jews supported the execution of James. The Jews did everything they could to resist the early church from growing. But here we see God step in and provide protection to Peter because of all the work that God had chosen in advance for him to complete. We just learned in the previous chapters that Peter was the disciple that God specifically assigned to proclaim Jesus to the Gentiles and extend salvation to them. 

This shows how important the message of the Messiah Jesus is to God. God was prepared to intervene and open and close doors in order for Jesus to continue to be proclaimed. No tactics of man, neither from the Jews nor royalty could thwart the plans of God. God’s will will come to pass. God provided a way for Peter to escape prison – and all without him even understanding what was happening. This happens all too often because God is all-knowing, and we are limited in our knowledge as humans. 

When you first look at the account of Herod’s death, it simply looks like a historical record of a king. But is there a theological lesson that is beneath the surface? What was the point of including this story in this chapter of Acts? Well first of all, in this case, there is significance from a historical perspective because we can see a very similar account written by the Jewish historian Josephus. The historian recorded that Herod was compared to a god and did not reject the claim and therefore died. This can be used as proof of the accuracy of the Bible and the information recorded in it. The Bible is real and can be accepted as truth. But when it comes to a theological message, we can see that God is a jealous God who does not put up with idol worship. It’s sad how the Jewish people refused to accept Jesus as the Messiah, yet they were so quick to exalt Herod Agrippa to the status of a god. Men cannot come close to being worthy of the glory of God, God deserves it all. Herod Agrippa was the grandson of King Herod the Great, who ordered the killing of the baby boys at the time of Jesus’ birth. Herod Agrippa was also the nephew of the Herod who beheaded John the Baptist. Therefore Herod grew up surrounded by influences that persecuted those who followed God, yet God consistently found a way around the plans of these men so that the name of Jesus could be proclaimed. 

The chapter ends with a common theme of the whole book of Acts. It says, “But the word of God continued to spread and flourish.” Herod did not have enough power to overcome his fate nor the spread of the name of Jesus. Instead, we see the minuteness of Herod compared to God. By the end of this single chapter, we are reminded that God is playing a game of chess while all His enemies are stuck playing checkers. He has all his moves planned out and he can see how the game ends when it will all come to fruition. 

-Makayla Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. Where have you seen God’s plan trump man’s plans? Is everything that happens part of God’s plan?
  2. How can we work at being a part of God’s plan rather than going against it?
  3. What else can we learn about God in our Bible reading today?

Jew vs. Gentile

Old Testament: 2 Samuel 1 & 2

Poetry: Proverbs 17

New Testament: Acts 11

We pick it back up in Acts with chapters 10 and 11 that tell a story and then the retelling of the same story. These chapters play an integral part in the big picture of God’s plan.  It’s the beginning of the fulfillment of the part of the New Covenant that extends God’s promises to the Gentiles. It was a turning point for the early church because it recorded the moment that Gentiles were officially accepted as children of God. Peter was given a vision that all food was clean because it was made by God. This represents the changes from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Therefore, the Jewish Christians are no longer under the same laws that was presented to the Israelites in the Old Covenant. Now, the church could include the uncircumcised and non-Mosaic law followers. Additionally, we see the Gentiles receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit and the different gifts that come with God’s power. Now, God-fearing Gentiles no longer have to be excluded on the basis of not being circumcised or under the law. This message from God was aimed to unite those who followed God and believed in Jesus. This allowed the Jewish Christians and the Gentiles who feared God and professed Jesus as their Messiah to be united together under the New Covenant.

This was such an important message because the Jews prided themselves on being an exclusive group that looked down on those who were uncircumcised and not under the Mosaic law. Romans 3 addresses this issue that the Jews struggled with. Paul comes to the conclusion that both Jews and Gentiles are sinful and equally in need of a Savior. This concept should have greatly humbled the Jews because of how they perceived their status as God’s chosen people. They elevated themselves and compared their ‘righteousness’ to the wickedness of the world. What they didn’t fully comprehend was that God holds those who know more about Him to higher standards. God presented his people with the Mosaic law and a contract in Deuteronomy 28 that is full of blessings and curses that God would distribute depending on how the Israelites obeyed God. The final and worst curse was being exiled to a foreign nation. And from this side of history, we know that the Israelites were in fact sent into exile because of the faithlessness of Israel, and worse even, the unfaithfulness of Judah. The ten northern tribes of Israel were exiled in 722 B.C. by Assyria and the southern two tribes of Judah were exiled in 586 B.C. by Babylon.

Even during the exile though, God was still working for the good of Israel. His prophet Jeremiah prophesied about the future hope of a New Covenant. Jeremiah 31:31 says, “ ‘The days are coming’, declares the LORD, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them’, declares the LORD. ‘This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,’ declares the LORD. ‘I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” This clearly shows that the New Covenant was intended for the Jewish people first. God desires hearts that are devoted to Him. The Jews broke the first covenant with their disobedience and worship of idols. So, God created the plan of sending Jesus to establish a New Covenant by dying on the cross. But the Jews rejected this Messiah that God sent. As a result, this New Covenant focused more on the heart of the recipient. It was based on loving God and accepting Jesus as Christ instead of following the Mosaic law. Therefore, the Gentiles who loved God and accepted Jesus as the Messiah automatically became equals to the Jewish Christians. God cares much more about the heart than he does about statuses.

The complete unification of God’s people will ultimately be fulfilled in the Kingdom when all nations, tongues, and tribes will be represented. Revelation 5:9 says, “And they sang a new song, saying, ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God.’ ”

Peter was chosen for the task of preaching to the Gentiles and convincing the Jews that God had included the Gentiles in his promises. He sums it up in chapter 10:34 by saying, “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

The big theological lesson from these chapters is that God desires all people to be in His Kingdom, so He extends his love and grace to the Gentiles. His desire all along was that Israel would be witnesses of God to the world and would bring the nations to Him. But the Israelites found out early on that it was very difficult to bring others to God when you are not following God wholeheartedly yourselves. This did not keep them from repeating the same mistakes. This does not mean that the church or the Gentiles replaced Israel. Instead, these two chapters present the extension of the New Covenant to the Gentiles even though it is still offered to any Jew who would accept Jesus.

Through studying the relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles in regard to the New Covenant, we can see that both are still offered the blessings and promises of the New Covenant. The Jews were not pushed out of the New Covenant at the inclusion of the Gentiles. Thankfully, God has enough blessings to give to all those who love and follow Him wholeheartedly and believe in His Son.

-Makayla Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. How would this vision from God change the whole structure of the early church?
  2. How do these chapters help us put the rest of the Bible in perspective?

Trusting in the Guidance of the Lord

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 29-31

Poetry: Proverbs 16

New Testament: Acts 10

In the book of Proverbs, we find a treasure trove of wisdom that has the power to transform our lives. Chapter 16 is no exception, offering profound insights that speak directly to our hearts and the way we navigate this world. Today, let us take a closer look at verse 3, which encourages us to commit our work to the Lord, knowing that He is the one who establishes our plans.

In a society driven by achievement and self-reliance, it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that success is solely dependent on our own abilities and strategies. We may spend countless hours meticulously crafting our plans and pursuing our goals, forgetting that we are called to acknowledge God’s sovereignty and seek His guidance in all that we do. However, Proverbs reminds us that true success comes from surrendering our efforts to the Lord.

Committing our work to the Lord involves recognizing that He is the ultimate authority and the source of all wisdom and understanding. It requires us to approach our tasks, aspirations, and dreams with an attitude of humility, acknowledging that apart from Him, we can do nothing of lasting significance. We are called to submit our plans to His will, seeking His guidance and trusting that He will align our desires with His purposes.

By entrusting our work to God, we are liberated from the burden of self-reliance and the anxiety that often accompanies it. We can rest in the assurance that the Lord, in His infinite wisdom and love, will establish our plans. This does not mean that we will be exempt from challenges or difficulties along the way, but it does mean that God will faithfully guide us, direct our steps, and use our efforts for His glory.

When we commit our work to the Lord, we invite Him to be an active participant in every aspect of our lives. We open ourselves up to His guidance and leading, allowing Him to shape our plans according to His perfect will. Our work becomes an opportunity to partner with God, to be instruments through which His purposes are fulfilled in this world.

As we reflect on Proverbs chapter 16, may we be encouraged to surrender our ambitions, our dreams, and our work to the Lord. Let us seek His wisdom, trust in His guidance, and find peace in knowing that He is the one who establishes our plans. By entrusting ourselves to Him, we embark on a journey of purpose and fulfillment, where our lives become a testament to His grace and faithfulness.

-Austin Kizer

Reflection Questions

  1. In what areas of your life would it be wise to surrender your plans to the Lord? What does that look like? What thoughts and feelings does it create? Pray for help in doing so.
  2. What does true success look like? Is it possible apart from God and His plans?
  3. What will God reveal to you about Himself in your Bible reading today?

Who’s the Messiah?

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 27 & 28

Poetry: Proverbs 15

New Testament: Acts 9

We will continue to look at some theological themes from the book of Acts by studying the story of Saul’s conversion. When you look at the big picture, we can see Jesus chasing Saul and transforming his life into one that aligned with God’s will for his life. Saul truly believed that he was doing God’s will by persecuting Christians and the early church. From a Jewish perspective, we can understand why Saul thought this. Jesus came claiming to be the Messiah, but the Jews did not accept Jesus as the Son of God, just as it was prophesied. But in chapter nine of Acts, we see Jesus appear to Saul on the road to Damascus as he reveals to him his identity as the Messiah. Jesus chose Saul to preach the name of Jesus as the Messiah to both the Gentiles and Jews. I love this because it shows how much God and Jesus can use us for their Kingdom work when we let them. They have the power to transform lives. The power to turn persecuting Saul into preaching Paul.

Saul is instructed to preach that Jesus is the Son of God (8:20). He was instructed to teach the Jews in the synagogues that the Jesus they rejected was the Savior whom they were waiting for. At no point is Saul told to preach that Jesus was God in human form. The Jews knew their prophecies and understood that the Messiah would save the world as a representative of God, not as God himself. So when it says that Saul preached Jesus as the Christ, the Jews should have understood this to mean that Jesus was the chosen human savior to complete God’s work on earth. Additionally, Jesus had the perfect opportunity to explain to Saul who he was. Saul asked who was speaking to him, and Jesus simply replied with, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” If Jesus were trying to get Saul—a practicing Jew with power and authority among the Jewish community—to understand that he was God, then he would have said something that clarified and explained how he was a god in flesh. Sometimes we can learn a lot from what is not said in the Bible. Verse 22 says, “Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah.” If Saul proved to the Jews in Damascus that Jesus was the Messiah, then they simply would have understood it from a Jewish theological perspective. Saul did not even attempt to change or ‘correct’ their understanding of the Messiah, he simply revealed who the Messiah was. Current Jews today are still waiting for their Messiah to return because they missed it the first time. Therefore, they believe that God is one, and not a triune God. This idea of three entities would be considered idolatry from a Jewish perspective, because from the very beginning, God has revealed himself to his chosen people as the one true God. This means that the early church and apostles would have had to correct thousands of years of ‘incorrect’ theology if they wanted to preach that Jesus was God. Instead, the book of Acts stays consistent with the rest of the Bible, and preaches that Jesus was the Messiah.

Although looking at a chapter and studying what it leaves out does not necessarily prove anything, we can see that the Bible is consistent in the fact that there is no explanation of who Jesus is other than a human that God sent to be the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God. Therefore, from a Trinitarian perspective, Acts would be a book full of missed opportunities to preach true theology to the Jews. But since God does not make mistakes, Acts is a beautiful book of theological truths that align with the rest of Scripture and paint a picture of Jesus as the Messiah that the Jews should have known and loved.

-Makayla Railton

Reflection Questions

  1. How does one let Jesus transform their life?
  2. How has the definition of Messiah changed over the years from the Jewish understanding to modern mainstream Christianity?

Running to Do God’s Work

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 25 & 26

Poetry: Proverbs 14

*New Testament: Acts 8

Acts is quite possibly my favorite book of the Bible because of its emphasis on theological truths. Acts also shows us the amazing effects that occur when we are following God wholeheartedly and preaching to others sound theology. The book allows us to get an insider look on what the early church looked like and the rapid growth that occurred as the apostles preached the name of Jesus to the Jews in hopes of convincing them to accept him as the Messiah.

The story of Philip and the Ethiopian shows a beautiful example of how God places people in the right place at the right time. In this case, quite literally. God used Philip to come alongside the Ethiopian at the exact moment that his heart was ready to receive the truth.  We see a clear contrast from Simon the sorcerer whose heart was “not right before God”. Simon desired a profit for himself over the truth that God could give. On the other hand, the Ethiopian was reading the Scriptures and seeking to understand it.

The Ethiopian devoted his life to serve the king of Ethiopia by becoming a eunuch so that the king’s throne and family would not be threatened. He was a very high-ranking Ethiopian who was an important official in charge of all the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians. This is an important piece of information since this high-ranking man, from a different country, made the decision to travel to Jerusalem to visit the temple and worship God. Therefore, he desired and even went out of his way to worship the true God, even though it was a different god than his people worshiped. This may indicate that he had even converted to Judaism. And somewhere along the way he got his hands on a precious copy of the book of Isaiah, which would have been much harder to acquire back then. And as many of us can relate to, he was having a hard time understanding what he was reading. He wanted to know more about the passage and who it was referring to because he could have related to it personally as a eunuch. At this point in the story, Philip listened to God and literally RAN to go do what God wanted him to do. This shows Philip’s heart in doing God’s will wherever God places him.

When it comes to theology, we can see how God took a gentile who feared God and gave him the opportunity to accept Jesus as the Messiah. I love what this says about God. The Ethiopian was not one of God’s chosen people in the definition of nationality. But God saw one of His children struggling to understand His word, so He sent Philip to help reveal the Messianic text of Isaiah the prophet to the Ethiopian so that he could accept the truth of the Messiah. Here we see the beginning of the Gentiles being grafted into the family of God when the Ethiopian accepts the message of Jesus and becomes baptized. This also shows how important the message of Jesus as the Messiah is to God.

-Makayla Railton

Application Points:

The spiritual health of our heart matters. (Be like the Ethiopian, not Simon the sorcerer!)

God desires us to be in His Kingdom and He desires us to help others get there. (Be like Philip!)

Who You Walk With

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 23 & 24

*Poetry: Proverbs 13

New Testament: Acts 7

Proverbs 13:20 says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but the one who associates with fools will suffer harm.”

Out of all the proverbs in this chapter, let’s ruminate on this one for a few minutes. The meaning of the proverb is simple enough on the surface: you become wise if you hang out with people who are “wise,” but you will suffer harm or get in trouble if you hang out with “fools.” Nevertheless, the depth of the meaning comes in understanding why the proverb is true, and also the difficulty it poses for actually applying it in our lives. What do I mean? I am saying that the proverb is simple in what it is stating, but the concept behind why what it says is true is very deep and rich.

This proverb touches on a reality of our lives that is so often overlooked or minimized, and that is, how other people can influence and change our behavior. One of the most powerful forces in the formation of human psychology and sociology is peers. The people our age that we spend the most time with are some of the most influential people in our lives. We tend to subconsciously adjust our ways of speaking, acting, and even preferences to align with what others around us are doing and think is “cool.”

The phrase “the one who walks with the wise” is an idiom that describes spending significant time with and to be in close association with a wise person. “Walking” together is a way of saying doing life together. And friends are definitely people that you “do” life with. But it is not just friends that the proverb has in mind, it is specifically a person who is “wise.” Wisdom comes with age, and so if you are relatively young, then a “wise” person is probably much older than you. And while older people might not rank high on the “cool” factor in the eyes of young people, they possess a vast amount of wisdom to young people in comparison.

If your friends exhibit godly speech and conduct in their lives, then that is part of wisdom, and they are exerting a positive influence on you, whether you consciously realize it or not. But if your friends talk behind peoples backs, rebel against authority, use vicious words to tear others down, steal, lie, or any other number of wicked patterns of behavior, then they are a “fool,” and they will likely either rub off on you or pressure you to be more like them (because they will ridicule you if you don’t or just stop hanging out with you because they think you are “lame”).

The apostle Paul mentions this principle in 1 Corinthians 15:33 when he writes, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” His warning expresses the same wisdom as the second line of the proverb. If you associate yourself with “fools” you are bound to get corrupted and become like them. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the whole bunch.

Take a moment to think about if you are spending time with a “bad apple,” and if so, whether you notice how that relationship is negatively affecting you. Because one way or another, it is. If you find yourself thinking that you need more positive influences in your life, then maybe it is time to start walking with someone who is “wise” so that you too can become “wise.”

-Jerry Wierwille

Reflection Questions

  1. How would you honestly describe the people you spend the most time with? Take a moment to think about if you are spending time with someone who is negatively affecting you. What are your options? Which is the best one?
  2. Who do you know who is wiser than yourself? What can you do this week/month to spend more time with that person? Set it up.
  3. How can you be a wise friend to others rather than being a bad influence that leads them (and yourself) to harm?

A Hot Head

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 21 & 22

* Poetry: Proverbs 12

New Testament: Acts 6

Proverbs chapter 12 has some very interesting proverbs that can walk us deeper into understanding the wisdom and knowledge that begins with the fear of Yahweh (cf. 1:7; 9:10). One of those proverbs is 12:16, which says, “The anger of a fool is known at once, but a prudent person conceals dishonor.”

Picking up on the conjunction “but” that connects the two lines together, this suggests that the parallelism in this proverb is likely antithetic, meaning the two lines are expressing opposing ideas. In the first line, the main idea is that the “anger of a fool” is readily apparent (i.e., “known at once”). The question we always need to ask ourselves when reading wisdom literature, especially Proverbs, is, “How is this proverb true?” In other words, “What circumstance could this proverb be accurately describing?”

Have you ever known someone who had a short temper? And what was the characteristic behavior of this individual that earned them this reputation? Probably they got angry easily, right? The first line is identifying that a fool is someone who has no control over their temper and quickly erupts at the smallest provocation. They are a “hot head” just waiting to blow. Given the wrong remark or facial expression from others, their attitude can turn sour in an instant and their anger flares up like a barrel fire.

On the contrary to this foolish behavior, the “prudent person,” who exercises self-control and discipline and has a “cool head” about them, “conceals dishonor.” Thus, unlike the fool that vents their anger immediately, unable to rule their emotions but makes an open show of their contempt, the “prudent person” covers over, overlooks, or does not give attention to the dishonorable actions of others. They do not respond in a like manner with unrestrained, emotionally charged reactions.

Thus, the point of the proverb is that a wise person recognizes the best way to handle criticisms or insults and does not react impulsively or irrationally by stooping to meet the fool at their level.

Have you ever just wanted to let someone have a “piece of your mind”? I sure have, and I bet you have too. But the self-restraint required to not vent one’s frustration or anger is part of living with wisdom. Did you know that learning how to rule over your emotions was exercising godly wisdom? It may not “feel” as good in the moment as it would if you yelled at the other person, but wisdom is not about what “feels” good—it is about what is good and right to do that glorifies Yahweh and aligns with his intention for how life is best lived. Therefore, the wise person must deny the temptation to give in to destructive emotions, like uncontrolled anger, that would inflict harm on others. Wisdom teaches how to build strong, healthy relationships and ways of interacting that promote peace and godliness. And that entails being able to keep one’s emotions in check.

-Jerry Wierwille

Reflection Questions:

  1. Give some examples of how temper can interfere with living a life that glorifies Yahweh. Any come to mind when you were the one with the hot head? How could it have played out differently with more self-control?
  2. How can you work on more self-control and discipline? Ask Yahweh, too.
  3. What does Yahweh value?

How to Fall Less Often

Old Testament: 1 Samuel 19 & 20

* Poetry: Proverbs 11

New Testament: Acts 5

From the assortment of proverbs that we find in chapter 11, I want to select one proverb for us to deliberate on in more detail. Let’s consider Proverbs 11:14, “Without wise guidance, people will fall, but with a multitude of advisors, there is deliverance.” Part of the context that must be inferred is who is the one needing “wise guidance” or else they will fall? Presumably this would be a king or governmental official of a city or nation who is in need of counsel in order to make good choices.

The metaphor “fall” can refer to any number of detrimental circumstances such as the decline in the local economy, the failure to enforcement of civil policies, or worse, being conquered and destroyed by an invading enemy army. Most likely the last circumstance probably forms the best background with which to interpret the proverb since the terminology of “deliverance” often refers to being saved from the threat of defeat in battle.

The parallelism structure of the proverb is antithetic where the two lines express opposing ideas. The first line says that if you don’t listen to “wise guidance” then you will experience a “fall,” but if you listen to a “multitude of advisors,” then you will have “deliverance.” The first line offers a negative outcome, while the second a positive one. These outcomes are intended to motivate the reader to understand that in order to not “fall” and in order to
have “deliverance” one must listen to counsel and instruction from trusted individuals. To ignore “wise guidance” will result in failure (i.e., defeat), but with the wisdom that comes from many advisors, there will be victory/safety. Thus, the proverb is exhorting the reader to listen to and learn to follow sound advice in order to make better decisions.

We may not be fighting battles where the quality of our military strategies can result in either being conquered or successfully defending a territory, but we are faced with difficult decisions every day about situations that can result in potentially negative outcomes. Think about a time when you made a decision, only to find out later that it wasn’t a very good decision because you realized something that you didn’t know beforehand, and then you thought to yourself, “If I only knew this at that time, I would have decided to….”

We probably have all had that thought—and perhaps some of us (like myself) have it quite often. If we ask for advice from others, oftentimes they can see things in a situation that we are blind to, or their experience from a similar situation can help steer you away from making a foolish decision. Whatever the case may be, we are better suited to make a smart choice if we gather “wise guidance” from others. Remember, “None of us is as smart as all of us!” So, don’t resist listening to the counsel of others, because to think that we know better is to prepare ourselves for a “fall.” And believe me, falling hurts!

-Jerry Wierwille

Reflection Questions

  1. When was a time that you “fell” because you tried to figure it out without hearing the wisdom of others?
  2. Who is currently in your list of people you turn to when you need advice? Do they provide wisdom and guidance?
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