Most of us say that we would like to have wisdom and good understanding. This seems pretty obvious but it is so easy to loose track of what brings these things. We search in books, on apps, listening to podcasts, and on websites. When we search in these and other places like these for wisdom and understanding we find that it all falls short if it is not based in faith. Thankfully we have a source of both wisdom and understanding. Psalm 111:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; All those who follow His commandments have a good understanding; His praise endures forever.”
When we search for wisdom we need to start with fear for the LORD. This does not mean we need to cower and hide when we think of God. He absolutely has the power that He could instill that type of fear but that is not who He is. Instead it means that we need to have a respectful awe or reverence for the LORD. Although He is mighty and powerful beyond our capabilities, He is also loving and compassionate beyond our understanding. He is the God who is powerful enough to speak and create life as we know it and loving enough to send His Son to overcome death that we may live. David said that wisdom begins with this reverent fear of the LORD. When we know who we serve and the love He has for us we can truly focus on what is important. That is leading as many as possible to a relationship with God as we serve Him with our life.
David does not stop there. He says that following the commandments of God shows “a good understanding.” We follow His commandments because we understand what has been done for us. We have a desire to serve the one that has blessed us so incredibly with hope, both now and in the life to come. We understand that we have been given a gift that we could not have possibly earned and as such we desire to show thanks in the best way we can. That is to follow His commandments. Jesus tells us that the two greatest commandments, upon which hang all the others, are to love God and love people!
David ends this verse by saying that “His (God’s) praise endures forever.” At first it may seem a simple statement of just four words. Upon further thought though we realize that this statement has long lasting reach. Also we find that His praise will endure forever. This means that even if I do not praise Him others will. It also means that His praise did not stop when David died, when Solomon died, when Job died, when the apostles died, and it will not stop when you and I die either. If His praise endures forever; this is an eternal statement with implications into the Kingdom of God! It is with great pleasure that I tell you that you can praise Him both now and FOREVER!
Those who have wisdom and have understanding will praise the LORD!
The two prominent subjects in James 3 are the tongue and wisdom. Though the tongue is a body part and wisdom is intangible Godly knowledge, James manages to successfully contrast their attributes for the reader. And as we have seen in the previous chapters, he does not “sugar-coat” his words!
James again uses word pictures to introduce us to this most necessary part of our body, “the tongue.”
“Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their whole body as well.” (verse 3)
The bit is an important part of a horse’s tack and controls the horse’s mouth. The bit, bridle and reins work together to control the horse’s head for its rider. The average bit size is 5 to 6 inches, quite small compared to a horse’s size.
James continues with another word picture to “set the stage” for his coming discourse on the tongue.
“Look at the ships too: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are nevertheless directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot determines.” (verse 4)
A rudder is a flat piece hinged vertically near the stern or rear of a boat and is used in the steering process. But as James points out, compared to the large ship it directs, its size is incredibly small.
Small bits control/direct—large horses
Small rudders control/direct—large ships
Small TONGUES control/direct large bodies—US!
“So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of unrighteousness; the tongue is set among our body’s parts as that which defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one among mankind can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” (verses 5-8)
Tell us how you really feel, James! Oh, he did!
Our tongues can get us into so much trouble! Remember, James told us in 1:19, let everyone be, “quick to hear, slow to speak.” Once we share that small bit of gossip, respond with rudeness, call out a mean-spirited comment, or answer in anger, the “fire” has started. It quickly gains ground and can no longer be easily extinguished.
Proverbs 12:27 says, “A worthless man digs up evil, While his words are like scorching fire.”
Think of the massive forest fires that have destroyed thousands of acres in the USA and Canada this past summer. Think of the devastation of homes and property and the loss of human and animal life. NOW, think of the lives wounded, ravaged, and ruined because of thoughtless words from tongues.
“With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, these things should not be this way.” (verses 9-10)
What a humbling reprimand!
James finishes this serious warning with another word picture. “Does a spring send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brothers andsisters, bear olives, or a vine bear figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.” (verses 11-12) James wants his readers to “see” the disparity of an uncontrolled tongue.
James’ discourse on the tongue, (“a world of unrighteousness”), contrasts with the wonderful wisdom from above, wisdom from our heavenly Father. Worldly versus Heavenly.
“Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (verse 13)
Notice that if we have Godly wisdom, it will be evidenced in our daily lives—what we do, who we help, how we serve. Don’t you love that James says our deeds should be done “in the GENTLENESS of wisdom?” Softly, thoughtfully, kindly.
These WORKS contrast greatly from the “LIP service faith” of the tongue. As James said in 2:17, “Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.”
Verses 14-16 tell us jealousy and selfish ambition have no place in our “works.” If they live in our hearts, we don’t have true wisdom, but instead, “disorder and every evil thing.”
What constitutes the wisdom from above? “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” (verse 17)
When we have this wisdom described in detail by its eight desirable characteristics, the end result is peace—peace within ourselves, peace in our relationship with others.
“Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” (verse 18)
Be wise and grow a Godly garden of goodness, living out your FAITH through your peaceful words and WORKS.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 49-50 and James 3
We begin a new book of the Bible today—James. James is one of my favorite Bible books. I participated in Bible quizzing on James as a teenager in IL, and coached Bible quizzers on James in IN and MN. More than half of the verses of this first chapter of James are underlined in my Bible.
James’ writing style differs from the author of Hebrews. He is blunt and forthright in his writing.
The author of James was most likely the son of Joseph and Mary, which made him the half-brother of Jesus. Interestingly, James and other family members did not initially accept the teaching of Jesus.
In Mark’s account of Jesus, we find these verses.
“He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. And when His own people heard about this, they came out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost His senses.’” Mark 3:20-21
The book of John tells us “For not even His brothers believed in Him.” John 7:5
However, after Jesus had risen from the dead, (“then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles” I Cor 15:7), James’ life was transformed. He became an important leader of the church in Jerusalem and the surrounding early churches.
The first verse of James ties in with his widespread influence to the churches. He addresses his letter “to the twelve tribes which are dispersed abroad.” This audience was actually Jewish Christians, many of whom had been forced to leave their homeland due to persecution. They were new in their faith and needed instruction and encouragement that was straight forward and easily understood.
Think about the opportunities and choices available today for people who want to be a “do-it-yourselfer.” Whether it is home building or remodeling, cooking, gardening, crafting, “you name it,” there is a book, a manual, a TV program, a YouTube video, or a website that can help you out. (DIY network, HGTV, Craftsy, are a few that come to mind.) Paul A. Cedar calls the letter of James a “how -to-do-it manual for the Christian life.” James offers solid, practical instruction for Jesus’ followers.
“Consider it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you encounter various trials,knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Verse 2 tells us to be joyful when we face trials. It seems like a difficult thing to do, but remember, the Christians who first received this letter had experienced extreme trials to the point they had fled their homes to survive.
Paul writes in I Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except something common to mankind; and God is faithful, so He will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”
This is the joy we should have when trials confront us. And, as verse 3 says, “the testing of your faith produces endurance.” When we experience trials, our faith grows in the Lord, as we work towards our “perfect self” in God’s Kingdom. (verse 4)
James’ brother Jesus, our Savior, often told parables, or simple stories to help his audience understand his teaching. I find it interesting that James, like his brother, uses several illustrations in his letter to further explain his instructions to his readers.
If you lack wisdom, ask God for it, but don’t doubt you will receive it. One who doubts “is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. Let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (verses 5-8)
Blunt and to the point! No commentary by me needed!
Story/illustration #2–Verses 9-12
“Now the brother or sister of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; but the rich person is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so also the rich person, in the midst of his pursuits, will die out. Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.”
A Christian with limited means for livelihood “glories” in his coming inheritance in God’s Kingdom. A rich man/Christian should glory in the fact that his wealth is temporary, only of this world. Verse 11 gives us a visualization of the fleetingness of this life—hot sun, scorching wind, dead grass and flowers. (This picture reminds me of the drought areas around the US this past summer.) Both men are equal in their future reward, a “crown of life,” IF they “persevere under trial.”
James continues with straightforward, sensible instruction.
“No one is to say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it has run its course, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.”
God, the Father of Lights, loves us, and is a generous giver. His greatest gift was His Son Jesus and the plan of salvation, but He has also given us the beautiful natural world to delight in and discover its wonders each day. God has given us our families, friends, jobs, food, homes. How blessed we are. And His care, His protection, His love never changes—“with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” This phrase reminds me of one of my favorite verses, Malachi 3:6a. “For I, the Lord, do not change.”
James continues with his direct approach in verse 19. He tells his readers to be “quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Why? Verse 20 says, “For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.” (Insert drum rimshot here!) Obviously!
Quick, Slow, Slow. In other words, 30 seconds to think and respond during a contentious conversation. Even Thomas Jefferson had this sage advice. “When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, a hundred.”
Verses 21-25 bring us another story/illustration to make James’ point, if we still don’t get it! The guidance is repeated with action words this time to begin the illustration.
“Put aside filthiness and the remains of wickedness.”
“Receive the word”
“Proveyourselves doers, (not merely hearers, who delude themselves.)”
Don’t hold back, James!
Here comes the explanation/story. “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was. But one who has looked intently at the perfect law, the law of freedom, and has continued in it, not having become a forgetful hearer but an active doer, this person will be blessed in what he does.” (verses 23-25)
A man looks at himself in a mirror, walks away, and immediately forgets what he looks like. This man is like a person that listens to God’s Word, hears what “the preacher says,” and then leaves church on Sunday and lives his life the rest of the week not connected to God.
However, one who not only looks into God’s Word, (the perfect law of liberty) abides in it, and follows through with appropriate actions, is truly blessed in his life. Paul said it this way, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” Galatians 5:4. Where do you start?
James gives us an example in the last verse of James 1, verse 27. “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.”
Simple love in action. The Bible is our guidebook/how-to manual. We can’t just read it and not follow through. James 1 is direct instruction for the do-it-yourself generation.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway.com here – Jeremiah 45-46 and James 1
Often I think that mowing the lawn is pointless. Why do we mow lawns? Who decided for all of us that it is just something we have to do? Wouldn’t the grass and weeds exist happily without being cut down every week during the warmer months? How does it really benefit me or anyone to mow the lawn? Also, it’s time consuming, and costs money for gas and to maintain the mower.
Yet, I cave to societal expectations and take reasonable care of my lawn. It isn’t so bad. Often it is enjoyable, and can be therapeutic or meditative. It’s a chance to sort out my thoughts. But still, there are so many things on the list of things I’d rather be doing.
We could all come up with lists of what we think is pointless. It would be an easy project. The harder project would be to see what is left over. What actually matters? What has true significance?
This is the question brought to the table by the book of Ecclesiastes. Our Qoheleth (Hebrew for teacher) is beginning to let us know about all the things he thinks are pointless, and there are a lot of them. All the work we do is pointless, because you can’t take the results with you when you die. Someone else gets all of it (2:18). The pursuit of wisdom is pointless because “in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow” (1:18). The pursuit of pleasures is pointless too, like chasing after the wind. He tried all of them, and gained nothing from it.
Are these things bad? The teacher doesn’t say that. Surely working is something we have to do, otherwise we can’t provide for ourselves or our families. Wisdom and knowledge are positive things. Isn’t it beneficial to understand things? Pleasure is a good thing given a few healthy boundaries. We all need opportunities to appreciate and enjoy the good things in life.
The teacher does mention a few things that might be worthwhile: eating, drinking, and enjoying your work. They are from the hand of God, he says. Also on the list of not-so-pointless things is pleasing God. This is a good start. If we think about it long enough, maybe we can figure out what the essence of something meaningful is. Could we decide what is meaningful or not based on a set of criteria? I currently don’t have a good method of deciding this, but I’d like to get better at recognizing what is meaningful and what is not.
What if we spent more time thinking about and pursuing things that are truly meaningful? Doesn’t that allow us to focus our efforts on things that will actually benefit us and others? If only it was easy to know what those things are. We constantly have to prioritize the many options for how we could spend our time, whether we consciously think about it or not. The teacher is not giving us a complete guide for what should take priority, but he is challenging us to think about it.
Looking at Galatians 1, we might be able to pick out a few things the apostle Paul thinks are pointless. Perverting the gospel, being a people-pleaser, persecuting the church, and climbing up the ladder of Judaism all could make his list. What does Paul think is worthwhile? Serving and proclaiming Christ! As we continue on through Ecclesiastes and Galatians, maybe we will get more insights into what these authors think is important, and by doing so, improve our understanding of what God thinks is important.
I’m intrigued by tardigrades. They are eight-legged microscopic animals that look almost like bears when they move, earning them the alternate name water bears. They can be found anywhere on earth, surviving the most extreme temperatures and pressures. Apparently it is no big deal for them to have no air, water, or food for a while. They can dehydrate in a water shortage and sit dormant for decades until more water comes along, and then rehydrate and continue their life as if nothing happened. They can even survive exposure to outer space unshielded from dangerous radiation. They have a resilience of almost mythical proportions.
Consider Behemoth (Job 40:15-24). He seems pretty solid. He makes me think of an elephant, hippo, or in the Harry Potter universe, an erumpent. Who knows what he is anyway? All I know is that I’d rather not cross paths with one. The most a tardigrade could do to me is crawl on me, and I wouldn’t notice it. Encountering a black bear could be scary, but they’d likely run away, especially if we are in a group. They don’t want to run into you any more than you want to run into them. But Behemoth doesn’t care. He’d trample you.
“Even if the river is turbulent, it is not frightened; it is confident though Jordan rushes against its mouth. Can one take it with hooks or pierce its nose with a snare?” (Job 40: 23-24)
Like the tardigrade, Behemoth is resilient. You or I would be swept away by the current, but not Behemoth. He makes his way through the turbulent Jordan and doesn’t lose his confidence. He knows the struggle is real, and the waters may even slow him down, but this is not the end of Behemoth. Not even close.
We’re of “small account” just like Job (40:4). We all have our struggles, our raging Jordans, that we are trying to make our way through. During the process, it’s fair to want to know why we have to struggle and suffer, and where all of it comes from. Is it from a broken world paying forward the hurt? Is it the natural consequence of our poor decisions? Does it come from God, like the author of Psalm 88 might suggest? Is it from evil forces trying to discourage us? Is it just general suffering we’re guaranteed to experience? Is it some combination of all of them?
But do you think Behemoth or the tardigrade worry about why they suffer? Probably not. They just try to get through it. Maybe while you are suffering, the “why” questions aren’t going to be the most important thing. You may only have the energy or capacity to react to the crisis and pick up the pieces later. Figuring out the deeper questions might be something you only worry about on the other side of suffering.
The ability to think about suffering is both a blessing and curse. If you think about your situation and realize that you are at least partly responsible for your suffering or the suffering of others, you have the ability to learn from your mistakes and avoid making them again. In that way, being able to avoid unnecessary suffering is a blessing. But it can seem like a curse to keep thinking about the purpose of your suffering when it comes from something completely beyond your control. This is the carousel of painful thoughts Job was on.
In that situation, it is fair to want to challenge God, like Job did. Where is his supposed justice? Go ahead and challenge God and have the wrestling match (Gen 32). He can handle it. Just be prepared to be challenged back. Be prepared for the possibility of injury. Be prepared to grow and receive a new name. Be prepared to be more resilient, more Behemoth or tardigrade-like.
To quote someone who voluntarily took on suffering for our benefit and was resilient through death itself: “I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!” (John 16:33)
There is an idea called the “retribution principle” that you can find woven into much of scripture. If you think that being good and righteous means that you will be rewarded, and that being wicked means you will be punished, you think that the retribution principle is true on some level. It seems to make sense as a general rule. What goes around comes around; you reap what you sow.
For most of the book of Job, we’ve been immersed in a debate between Job and his friends about whether this principle holds up. Job’s friends insist that Job must have done something wrong to bring on this suffering. Job insists he’s righteous and that his suffering makes no sense, bringing God’s justice into question. Elihu shows up, defending God’s majesty and justice, and condemning Job for being too self-righteous.
Sometimes Job’s friends seem like they have a grasp on the truth, but other times what they say seems misguided, and in the times left over, we just aren’t sure what to think. They all have worthwhile things to say, but at the core are still flawed humans. When reading anything in Job, we have to use some discernment to decide if what is being said is really true. After all, in the last chapter of the book, Job’s friends are criticized by God for not speaking of him what is right.
At this point we have read a large chunk of Job, yet we are not sure who to believe or how to make sense of all the things that are being said. Suddenly in chapter 38, God rejoins the conversation from a whirlwind, signaling that this should be the dramatic moment when all our questions are answered.
We get no answers. In fact, God says he is going to ask the questions now.
If Job is man enough to challenge God, then he’d better be man enough to be challenged back. He’d better brace himself like a warrior. Job, were you there when I put down the foundation of the earth and gave the chaotic waters their boundaries? Do you have intimate knowledge of how all of creation works? Have you explored the highest highs and the deepest and darkest chasms? Do you have control over light, rain, snow, lightning, stars, or animals? Where does wisdom come from?
What would you say back? Really, what could you say back?
Does this frustrate you? It frustrates me. We call out to God in our deepest despair and questions but then feel like we just have more questions. It is not any fun to be humbled and put in our place. It’s disheartening to follow God and still go through hard times; we think it isn’t supposed to work that way. It’s natural to ask why we even bother serving God when we can’t seem to find the benefits, and yet the troubles have no trouble finding us. This all hurls us back to the question posed in Job chapter 1: If all the benefits were stripped away, would Job still serve God? Would you?
Through the story, the author of Job is asking us to question the retribution principle. Apparently, being good doesn’t mean you’ll expect only good things in your life. And being bad doesn’t mean getting a lump of coal. Reality is just more complex than that. It rains on the righteous as well as the wicked, and even in a desert land where nobody lives.
I’ll close with prayers of hope from the other part of our reading today:
“Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his faithful, to those who turn to him in their hearts. Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.” (Psalm 85:8-9)
“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” (Psalm 86:15)
Some of you may know Jay as the really tall bass player in the FUEL worship band. We welcome his deep thoughts on God’s Scriptures this week.
Today’s Bible reading passages can be read or listened to at BibleGateway here – Job 37-38 and Psalm 85-86
Job had certainly experienced his share, actually more than his share, of trouble. Add to that the counsel of his wife and friends and you can’t help but wonder how he managed to survive, and to actually thrive in his relationship with the LORD. None of it was fair, but why would we expect life to be fair? If life was fair, I suppose we’d be zapped with judgment upon our first sin. Job seemed to have wisdom and understanding beyond most. Psalm 111:10 comes to mind, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him (the LORD) belongs eternal praise!” Job did his best to follow the LORD’S precepts, and he was consequently blessed with understanding. He was certainly a man of faith, with determined loyalty to the LORD, no matter what came his way. What an example for us as we see evil in our world, as we experience trouble, disappointment, pain, sorrow, frustration. It’s easy to wonder, where is God? Why doesn’t he send Jesus back? Isn’t it time to put an end to this broken and disobedient age in which we live?
Asaph, author of Psalm 73 and 74, may have had similar thoughts. He seemed to envy the arrogant, even thought the wicked had it better than he. Everything seemed to go well for them. They were carefree, yet their wealth increased. This bothered him to no end, until he remembered the rest of the picture. All may have appeared bright and shiny, but he was reminded the wicked are doomed to judgment and destruction.
Still, it bothered Asaph that things continued as they did. Notice Psalm 74:11, “Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand? Take it from the folds of your garment and destroy them!” Asaph felt, as probably most of us today, that God should get his hands out of his pockets and fix things. Deal with the evil! Get rid of those who persecute God’s people! Smack those who call evil good, and good evil! Bring your salvation! Have regard for your covenant, your promises! Defend your cause!
Doesn’t that sound like our thoughts and wishes? Send Jesus back now! I suspect things are going to get a whole lot worse than they are now, than we can even imagine. It’s okay that we would wish God would take his hands out of his pockets and fix everything, because that in itself shows that we do know he who can and will eventually fix things. At the same time, may we be patient, may we persevere, as did Job, and may we wait upon the LORD to take action when and how he sees fit!
When I first started reading my Bible regularly as a teenager, my youth pastor suggested reading a Proverb each day because they were full of wisdom and you can read one for each day of the month. Years later, I heard my pastor at the time, John Railton, suggest the same to his church. I have implemented that strategy intermittently over the years, and while I don’t do it every month, I have come to learn that the book of Proverbs is a terrific source of reading for wisdom/comfort/practical teachings. I would definitely recommend reading words from “wise King Solomon” to anyone! And, no matter how many times I read them, I still find new lessons and comforts.
Just this week I was reading Proverbs 3, and found a few of them to be very relevant with what I had read a few minutes before in the current events of this world! In fact, if there is one thing that makes me realize how much I need to read the Bible more, it is reading the news these days. So, in case a few words of wisdom that brightened my day brightens yours, here goes. And there are lots more where these came from. Smack dab in the middle of your Bible. Or under “P” in your trusty Bible app.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.[a]
7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.
And a few more wise words of comfort, verses 21-26
21 My son, do not let wisdom and understanding out of your sight, preserve sound judgment and discretion; 22 they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. 23 Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble. 24 When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25 Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, 26 for the Lord will be at your side and will keep your foot from being snared.
Imagine the excitement as the very great caravan of the queen of Sheba arrived in Jerusalem. Envision the camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold and precious stones. The queen brought amazing treasures, but she was in search of a different kind of treasure from Solomon. She had questions and she wanted answers. Solomon was able to answer all her questions through the God-given wisdom he possessed. She experienced the blessings that God had given to this king and his people which made her feel overwhelmed. She offered praise to the LORD and understood that God loved Israel. She discovered that out of this love, God had provided the people with a king that could maintain justice and righteousness. Her encounter with Solomon, the people and her time of worship in the temple made a lasting change for this queen.
Even Jesus states that the queen will rise at the judgment with his generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon was there. Of course, that something greater was our Lord Christ Jesus. It is great to imagine meeting and talking with this queen in the resurrection. It is incredible to think of the people that have the opportunity to experience this resurrection because of sharing our love and faith in our God. Just as the queen encountered the LORD through the Israelites, we have the opportunity to share how amazing God is with those in our world today. What a celebration that will be when all of us are together at the resurrection!
It was 10 o’clock. The air was heavy with humidity and filled with the familiar sound of girls giggling from the top bunks of the cabin. Crickets buzzed. Floorboards creaked. The busyness of the day was finally settling down. I slid into my freshly washed sheets and laid down on my lumpy plastic mattress with a smile. It was so good to be home. After a long two years, we were finally back at our beloved Family Camp.
“Hey, Casey?” One of my cabin daughters called.
“Can we borrow your AirPods? We want to watch a movie together.”
We’d barely arrived and I already felt my preachy-cabin-mom instincts kicking into gear. Here we go. “Girls, girls, girls! That would defeat the whole point and the beauty of family camp! This is meant to be a week of IMMERSION. A detox from all the outside junk of the world. I used to love the feeling when I was young, before we even had the capability of having technology in the cabin, that I was on an entirely different planet when I was at camp. No TV. No news. No music that wasn’t worship. When I’d get in the car after camp and finally hear a radio station playing secular music, it’d be like, ‘Whoa! Oh yeah! I forgot everyone else on the outside was still doing this!’ It was a great escape from everything that distracted me from focusing on my faith and my relationship with God. For a couple years after I first got a smart phone I thought, “Hey, this will be cool. I can fall asleep listening to TV at camp now.’ But then I realized I was robbing myself of that high I used to get. And its SUCH an amazing feeling that I don’t want you girls to miss out on it either. Cut all of that stuff out and give yourself a break. You’ll feel renewed!”
Fortunately, my cabin girls are super awesome and wise (or perhaps they just wanted me to stop preaching at them) and didn’t push back at all. We went on to have an amazing week, cut off from the world, and I was delighted to return home with that blissful Family Camp high.
Then… Saturday came. Life was returning to normal and we were back into the routine of things. The TV was on, my browser tabs were multiplying, and social media was overtaking my thoughts. I felt my fire simmering down to coals.
Suddenly it occurred to me that I needed Cabin-Mom-Casey to give Every-Day-Casey a loving lecture. “Your fire is burning out because you’re not fanning it! Why do you limit yourself by only cutting out worldly things and focusing on God that one week a year?! What can you limit and cut out right now today and everyday?”
The daily Bible readings for today are 2 Chronicles 1-2 (on the wisdom of Solomon) and Proverbs 31 (on the virtuous woman). As so often happens, I think God gives us the right passages when we need them most. So how do these verses apply to my current conundrum?
In 2 Chronicles, we see Solomon didn’t ask for wealth or riches, but for something much greater… wisdom. That wisdom in turn brought on all the desires of his heart. But he had to actually implement that wisdom. I feel God provided me with the teaching, knowledge and experience to know what I need to do in order to keep my fire burning, but I need the wisdom to actually make those right decisions.
In Proverbs 31 we read the long and daunting list of the ideal woman. It’s a popular and somewhat intimidating chapter. The virtuous woman makes her own clothes? And does all the cooking? And brings food from afar? And gets up when it’s still night time?! How does she have the time?? I occasionally ponder on this before getting distracted by the interesting part of my current Netflix show… and wait, someone just messaged me on Facebook… I’ll think more on it when I finish this oooone last round of Candy Crush. I may never know how she did all that, but there is one thing I do feel fairly confident about: I think the virtuous woman was focused. She didn’t allow silly worldly distractions to separate her from the godly tasks before her. Proverbs 31:26 says, “She opens her mouth with wisdom and in her tongue is the law of kindness.” She was wise in what she allowed to occupy her time and thoughts.
So what would Solomon advise me in his wisdom? What would the wise and virtuous woman instruct me to do to keep that fire burning? I’d imagine they’d encourage me to cut out or greatly limit my TV time. They’d probably advise me to stop wasting as much time on my phone and to use my time wisely. I think they’d love for me to make my home a holy oasis away from the world for my family.
My prayer today for my cabin girls, for myself, and for you reading this; is that our fire and faith would be lit anew as of today. I pray that we would eliminate some of the worldly winds threatening to snuff out those flames. Finally, I pray that God grants us the wisdom to actually do it.