I love milk. I drink a lot of it, and the refrigerator on the hospital floor where I work is always stocked with the little 1/2 pint cartons like you get at school. Unfortunately, the fridge is often over stocked and the expiration dates are past due. I go through and throw out the old milk when I have time. But one night there were several cartons that were just a “little bit” expired (like at midnight) so I took them to have with my lunch. My coworkers warned me! “Don’t drink it!” they said. But I’ve done this before and the milk was fine (I think you know where this is going). The first little carton was good. So I took a big chug from the second…. and couldn’t run to the sink fast enough… the milk was sour, bitter, slightly chunky…. disgusting!!! Even after brushing my teeth, it took awhile to get that taste out of my mouth.
And so it is with our words. In Psalms 15, we read over and over about our words, lips, and mouth. Verses 1, 2, 4, 7, 23, and 28 speak to how we use these things either for righteousness or destruction. We know those parts of us are not acting on their own. In Matthew 12:34, Christ states that “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
According to Proverbs 15, the person who spurns discipline, correction, and mentorship has a heart and mind full of anger, jealousy, and malice. The words from that person will be destructive, bitter, foolish, and wounding. What is pouring from the heart and out of the mouth is as stinky as sour milk.
Conversely, the person who heeds discipline, wise counsel, and knowledge will bring forth words that are constructive, calming, healing, and wise. What is pouring from the heart and out of the mouth is as refreshing as someone chewing Orbit Sweet Mint gum.
So I’m going to avoid drinking expired milk from now on. I will also avoid behaviors that will turn my words sour. I will seek out behaviors that turn my words sweet; Scriptural study, prayer, and fellowship with the family of God. And I’m also going to keep gum in my purse at all times.
Today is another comparison between the righteous and the wicked. This time most of the comparisons are about outcomes. Although it may already be clear, there is a relationship between wisdom and righteousness. There is also a relationship between fools and the wicked. Because of temptation always trying to lead us astray, fools turn towards wickedness, but it takes seeking wisdom to be righteous.
Verse 3 through 6 say:
3 The integrity of the upright will guide them,
But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.
4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
But righteousness delivers from death.
5 The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way,
But the wicked will fall by his own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them,
But the treacherous will be caught by their own greed
We see that the upright or righteous person will be delivered from death. The fool or wicked person will be destroyed. The money, possessions or whatever else they have gained from their crooked ways cannot save them. We see people who have gained wealth and power from all kinds of things that are not pleasing to God. We see people that appear to have it made who are not seeking God’s wisdom. We see righteous people who are seeking God’s wisdom go through struggles. However, It is made very clear that no matter what people gain from their wicked ways, in the end it will catch up with them and they will be destroyed. In the end, the righteous ones will be delivered.
Another example from this chapter is verses 24-26
24 There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want.
25 The generous man will be prosperous,
And he who waters will himself be watered.
26 He who withholds grain, the people will curse him,
But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.
There are people who teach that this is specifically talking about wealth in the current time. They say that if you give away $10.00, you will get $100.00 in return. I don’t think that is accurate, and I don’t think it is even a great blessing compared to all the blessings that God does give us. However, the generous man is the one who is doing what God wants, which makes it a wise decision. The generous will be blessed. The miser who withholds everything for himself will be cursed. I think some of this comes in everyday life. If someone who is generous and helpful has a problem, often people will help that person. However, when someone who is greedy and never helps anyone else has a problem, people are unlikely to help that person.
Verses 29 and 30 say:
He who troubles his own house will inherit wind,
And the foolish will be servant to the wisehearted.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
And he who is wise wins souls.
The outcome of seeking Godly wisdom and following in God’s righteousness is life for themselves and for the souls they win. We have to choose daily to seek after wisdom. If we make no choice, foolishness and ultimately destruction are the default choice.
This chapter contrasts the righteous person versus the wicked person. There are so many things that could be written about, and I started to pick and choose a few to write about. As I read the chapter a few times, I was struck by how many times the mouth, or what we say was mentioned.
6 Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence
8 The wise of heart will receive commands,
But a babbling fool will be ruined.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
13 On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.
14 Wise men store up knowledge,
But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.
18 He who conceals hatred has lying lips,
And he who spreads slander is a fool.
19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
But he who restrains his lips is wise.
20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
The heart of the wicked is worth little.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
But fools die for lack of understanding.
31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,
But the perverted tongue will be cut out.
32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,
But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.
These are some of the verses, but maybe not all. We can often see a lot about ourselves (and others) by what is said or not said. Listen to what comes out of your mouth. Are you listening, or receiving commands, or are you babbling and therefore unable to hear the instruction? Are you choosing when to talk and when to refrain? Are you speaking righteousness? It is often hard to control what we say but doing this is a sign of wisdom and righteousness.
This topic is something that shows up several other places in proverbs, as well as other places in the Bible. I think of James 1:19.
This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;
We often speak without thinking or think about what we should say instead of listening to the other person. Then, what comes out of our mouth is either not appropriate or not helpful. We often don’t like silence, so we say something just to have noise, even if it is not useful.
I encourage you to pay attention to what you are saying, and when you are talking. Take time to listen. Take time to gain from what others are saying. Take time to allow silence to occur. Our words are a good indicator of whether we are seeing wisdom or being fools.
This chapter is very poetic and filled with a personification of wisdom. It is used to draw people in and make the writing more personal, and to have greater impact. I think this is a way of showing how important Godly wisdom is, and how important it should be to each of us. The idea that wisdom is calling out at the entrance of the city so that we can each hear “her” is an interesting idea. Obviously, wisdom is a virtue that we should aspire to, not a being. However, it is so important, and so beneficial to each of us, something that God desires each of us to have, it is as if wisdom is crying out to us, and we need to listen.
If wisdom is something that we aspire to, why do we need this chapter showing all the strengths of wisdom? Why do we need to hear wisdom calling out to us? Why do we need to be told again to heed instruction? This has already been stated multiple times in the first 7 chapters of proverbs.
Verses 4 and 5 say:
To you, O men, I call,
And my voice is to the sons of men.
5 “O naive ones, understand prudence;
And, O fools, understand wisdom.
Maybe this isn’t for all of us. We are all “men” (or people) and sons (or children) of men, but verse 5 specifically talks to naïve ones and fools? So, maybe this is just for people who aren’t getting it yet. But, maybe if we are thinking it is just for the naïve or fools, we are being naïve and foolish.
Verses 7 and 8 say:
“For my mouth will utter truth;
And wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
8 “All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness;
There is nothing crooked or perverted in them.
When I look at this, I have to admit that not everything I say is done in righteousness. I say things out of anger at times. I say things at times when I should jut keep my mouth shut. So, I still need help with wisdom.
I can read through this chapter and point out things in nearly every verse that shows how important wisdom is. We obviously need to be reminded of this often, based on how often it is written about. I encourage you to read through this and pick out each of these items. The end of the chapter summarizes why we should do this:
“Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
For blessed are they who keep my ways.
33 “Heed instruction and be wise,
And do not neglect it.
34 “Blessed is the man who listens to me,
Watching daily at my gates,
Waiting at my doorposts.
35 “For he who finds me finds life
And obtains favor from the Lord.
36 “But he who sins against me injures himself;
All those who hate me love death.”
Wisdom comes from God and will only be gained when following God. This will lead to eternal life. If we turn away from wisdom, we are turning away from God, and that leads to death.
October 2 – Proverbs 2 (& surrounding chapters)
Let’s continue to look at Proverbs 1-4. Today we are going to focus in on the sections dealing with avoiding sin and living a righteous life.
Proverbs 1:10-19 issues a warning about hanging out with the wrong crowd. “My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent.” (Proverbs 1:10) It is critical to quickly and firmly resist even the smallest temptation. Immoral people are often not satisfied with just doing bad things on their own, but they will instead often try to persuade others to join in their wrongdoing. But Proverbs warns, “My son, do not walk in the way with them (sinners). Keep your feet from their path, For their feet run to evil, And they hasten to shed blood.” (Proverbs 1:15-16) The wise will not give into negative peer pressure, but they will quickly flee from temptation and those doing wrong. It is dangerous thinking to believe that you can associate with habitual sinners, but not be affected yourself. Verses 18 and 19 then explain that those that set out to do evil will ultimately harm themselves. “But they lie in wait for their own blood; They ambush their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence; It takes away the life of its possessors.”
In chapter two Solomon continues to stress that a wise person will resist evil.
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
However, it is not enough to just avoid sin, but it is important to go beyond that, and treat others with goodness and generosity.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
28 Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you. (Proverbs 3:27-28)
In chapter four a stark comparison is given between the righteous and the wicked.
18 The path of the righteous is like the morning sun,
shining ever brighter till the full light of day.
19 But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know what makes them stumble. (Proverbs 4:18-19)
How important to realize that with every choice we make, we are choosing to either live in the light or the darkness.
Then Solomon ends chapter four with some straightforward advice about how to keep choosing to live in the light.
20 My son, pay attention to what I say;
turn your ear to my words.
21 Do not let them out of your sight,
keep them within your heart;
22 for they are life to those who find them
and health to one’s whole body.
23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.
24 Keep your mouth free of perversity;
keep corrupt talk far from your lips.
25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
keep your foot from evil.
We must read the word of God, not only looking on it, but keeping it in our heart, or following through and acting on it. We have to guard our heart and mind, always being vigilant of our thoughts, actions and priorities. We must be careful of what we say. We must keep our eyes focused on God and his plans for our lives. And finally, we must make sure that we are always moving in the right direction, drawing closer to God, and never turning away from him.
Today, we continue with our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)* of Psalm 37. Today we look at verses 12-17.
This section of the Psalm contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.
The word wicked is an English translation of the Hebrew word רָשָׁע râshâʻ, raw-shaw’ which means morally wrong, an (actively) bad person:— condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.
The word righteous is an English translation of the Hebrew word צַדִּיק tsaddîyq, tsad-deek’ meaning just:—just, lawful, righteous (man).
There are those who are actively bad, wicked, ungodly and those who are actively doing what is just or right in following God’s teachings found in the Bible. With this in mind take some time to Read, Meditate, Pray and Rest in God utilizing this section of Psalm 37.
1. Read: Read the following sections slowly, at least 3 times:
12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.
2. Meditate: Choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time meditating (thinking deeply about, chewing on it mentally, emotionally, spiritually).
The section that stood out to me today was verse 16: “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.” He seems to be linking the righteous to the poor and the wicked to having wealth. I wonder why he makes those associations? Are all wealthy people wicked, morally wrong, actively bad?
What about the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life? He apparently was a righteous man in that he kept all of the law/Torah that was required of a righteous Jewish person of his day. Yet still there was something that was preventing him from experiencing the fullness of the life of the Age to Come/Kingdom of God/Eternal Life that Jesus was offering. According to Jesus, it was his wealth. He was unwilling to let go of his wealth and follow Jesus and it resulted in sadness. (If you want to read about that story it’s found in Luke 18:18-23 as well as in other Gospels).
In 1 Timothy 6:10 it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” So clearly throughout the Bible there is some sort of correlation between wealth and evil. It would be a stretch to say that all wealthy people are evil, after all, Abraham was a man of God and he was righteous. But we counter that with Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because he was greedy. So there certainly is a strong potential for wealth to be associated with wickedness. Jesus said you can’t serve God and Mammon (Money). If you love money it will prevent you from loving God rightly.
To personalize this a bit for myself I must ask: am I wealthy? I live in a pretty nice house. I have enough money to buy groceries. I have access to excellent health benefits through my work. I have money to go on a vacation. I have access to good, clean drinking water. I have reliable transportation- my cars aren’t fancy but they get me where I need to go. If you compare me to actors in Hollywood or hedge fund managers on Wall street, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Sam Walton’s children, then I’m not wealthy. If you compare me to most of the people living in places like Malawi and Mozambique, South America or India, yes, I’m very wealthy. So in light of this Psalm I must ask, am I using my wealth in a just way, a right way, or am I using it in a wicked way, or have I used wicked means to obtain my wealth?
As you can see, meditating on one little verse can crack open a whole lot of questions and issues. That is what it did for me. Perhaps you spent time meditating on a different verse which cracked open a whole different set of questions or issues for you. Maybe you were wrestling with verse 13. What does it mean that the Lord “laughs at the wicked”? Is that a scornful laugh? Is He laughing at them because he knows how ridiculous they are and that, in the end the righteous, who appear to be the losers in this worlds system will actually emerge as the winners in God’s kingdom?
3. Pray: Whatever verse you choose to meditate on – take the issue to God in prayer. Talk it over with God. Bring him your questions. Bring him your complaints. Bring him your fears. Bring him your gratitude and joy. Bring whatever comes up during your time of reading and meditating. Do you have some sinful attitudes toward money that could potentially get you into trouble? Is there something you need to confess to God? Do not just speak, also take time to listen. Sometimes God speaks to you in various ways, so pay attention.
4. Rest in God: As you come to an end of your prayer, spend some time resting in God. Even if this produced unease, guilt, a need to repent, know that God’s grace is sufficient. Remember Zacchaeus, the wicked and greedy tax collector. He met Jesus and his grace and acceptance, it led Zacchaeus to repent and change his attitude toward money (he paid back those he had extorted and gave money to the poor), and then he went and had dinner with Jesus and I’m certain had a wonderful time visiting with our savior. Through Jesus’ grace, you can spend time with God, our Father and rest in him.
-Pastor Jeff Fletcher
*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.