Judge Righteously (a daily proverb)

This is the last post in our January 2017 series looking at a verse or two from a different chapter of Proverbs each day.

Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. ~Proverbs 31:9

Often when we hear “Proverbs 31,” we think of the profile of an excellent wife / godly woman. And rightly we should, as that poem to end Proverbs takes up two-thirds of the chapter. However, before we read about the excellent woman, we find nine verses of advice from a king named Lemuel that he learned from his mother.

Her wisdom comes in the form of moral and ethical commands to encourage her son to rule well. These commands include sexual faithfulness, sobriety, and caring for the needy.

Verses 8 and 9, especially, speak to a king using his power to help the needy in the world. In most circumstances, people in need lack a voice. They need help—someone to come alongside them and to stand up for them. Whose voice is more powerful in the land than the king (or, whoever holds the greatest seat of political power)?

It is easy for any of us to fall to the temptation of favoring those who help or benefit us in some way. We are tempted to give preference to those who can give back and we overlook those who cannot. The old saying comes to bear: “What have you done for me lately?”

A king who “judges righteously” will not be persuaded by money, esteem, or power; just as God judges righteously and cannot be purchased, bribed, or influenced by another. He will genuinely care for the poor and needy in his land.

But we should not limit this advice only to those in power. We each have our own spheres of influence. We might not have a national voice like a king or president, but we have our towns, neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces. In these places, are we more interested in gaining favors and being served by others, or are we more willing to favor the needy and serve others like Jesus served us (John 13)? Our sphere may well be miniscule compared to a nation, but we are still able to “defend the rights of the poor and needy” around us.

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Wisdom and Power (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise: the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer; the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs; the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank; the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces. ~Proverbs 30:24-28

In this penultimate chapter of the Proverbs, we are introduced to the words of Agur, a man we know nothing about but who had wisdom fit to share in this collection. His sayings are typically longer, more paragraphs than sentences. In the proverb above, he speaks of how power and might doesn’t necessarily equate to wisdom.

Drawing from nature, Agur mentions four creatures: the ant, rock badger, locust, and lizard. Two things unite the members of this list. First, they are not large or powerful creatures. Yet second, they do things that we would be wise to imitate or that are difficult for us to do. The ants store plenty of food for cold winters. The rock badgers live where enemies would have a difficult time plundering. The locusts find strength in numbers and togetherness. The lizard is able to find its way into palaces.

This mixture of wisdom and a lack of strength that Agur describes should not surprise us. The main theme of Proverbs and one of the main themes of scripture is that wisdom comes from God, not our own abilities and efforts. Paul even went so far in 1 Corinthians 1 to say that God’s wisdom, which is far greater than man’s, is on display through the cross of Jesus.

On the cross, the Savior-King hung, bled, and died. On the surface, it would seem that strength defeated wisdom, until one sees what Jesus accomplished in our Salvation and then further sees that the grave could not long hold the Son of God.

Because God is the power behind true wisdom, physical strength is unnecessary to do wise things. So, even if we choose to seek strength and power, let us do so by keeping it in proper perspective. Let us hold the things of wisdom higher and seek them first.

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A Righteous Rule (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan. ~Proverbs 29:2

Character matters.

Whenever the Bible speaks to good leadership, whether in the home, at the church, or over the nation, the number one thing it points to is character. People with good character breed positive influences, good directions, and beneficial policies. People with corrupt character tend to yield corrupt influence and act more in line of self-betterment than the betterment of those around them.

Righteous character ultimately flows from Christ. There are none righteous, in themselves, as Paul wrote in Romans 3:10. But if we belong to Jesus by faith, then his righteousness becomes ours (2 Corinthians 5:21). Trusting in Jesus, we gain the Holy Spirit, and the Spirit influences us for the better as we yield ourselves to his work in our lives.

Paul wrote in Galatians 5 that the deeds of the flesh, or the fruit of the sin within us, are things like sexual immorality, idolatry, anger and strife, backbiting, and similar other attitudes and activities. But the fruit of the Spirit in our lives is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

At home and in the church, these are the defining traits that we should seek in our leaders and as leaders. More so than looking for vision and business acumen. In our nation, such traits are the ones we should seek for in leaders we support with our votes, not men and women who epitomize corruption at home and in politics.

After all, righteous leaders bring joy in the land, but wicked leaders cause the people to groan.

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The Abominable Prayer (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

If one turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination. ~Proverbs 28:9

Prayer is part of the lifeblood of the Christian life. Prayer is an act of faith in which we worship and praise God and in which we entrust him with our needs. But there are some prayers that God will not give time, some that he will flat out reject.

To go with prayer, we also must be devoted to God through his word. When Solomon warned against turning away one’s ear from the law, this could be taken in part as civil law, but it more involves God’s commands as he has given them in Scripture (one of which is to obey the civil law, unless it conflicts with God’s commands as supreme).

This proverb isn’t the only place that we see this. In Joshua 7, the army of Israel is defeated in a battle they should have won. The people were in disarray after their defeat because God had promised them victory. So, Joshua prays for the people and God tells him to stop and to go deal with the sin in the camp. A man named Achan had disobeyed God’s command to destroy all the plunder of the city and take none with them. This unfaithfulness caused God to withdraw victory and refuse the prayer.

Then, in Isaiah 1:15, God says to the people that through they make many prayers, he will not listen because of the injustice and sin they had done. And in 1 Peter 3:7, Peter warns husbands that if they mistreat their wives then it will hinder their prayers.

Jesus spoke to this issue from the positive side in John 15:7: “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” Jesus said that answered prayers come from our relationship with him and our investment into his words.

If we neglect God’s word and refuse his commands, then our prayers are not pleasing to him. When we seek to follow God’s word and obey his commands, then he will happily receive our prayers.

So, let our prayers be prayed from a righteous heart—a heart that trusts in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and that seeks to follow him in obedience to his will.

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The Worth of Friends (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. ~Proverbs 27:17

In Proverbs 27, Solomon has a lot to say about the need for friendship. These aren’t mere surface level, go grab a bite and a movie, acquaintances with whom you share some common interests. No, these are friendships that run deep to the core.

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. ~Proverbs 27:6

We need friends not yes-men and yes-women. We need people who are willing to speak truth lovingly into our lives, people who are able to help us see our flaws. Such friends love us anyway, despite our flaws, but this love desires to help us be better people, more focused on Jesus. So they will speak honestly to us and rebuke us when we need it, even if they know their words will not sit well in the moment.

Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. ~Proverbs 27:9

This is basically the positive side of 27:6. Not only will friends rebuke us when necessary, but they’ll offer sage advice when we need it. The best of friends have our best interests at heart, meaning they have our Christ-likeness at heart. So, they will help guide us on the way as we seek to help guide them on the way.

Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend… ~Proverbs 27:10

Relationships take cultivation. Deep friendships are no different. If you want friends who will be with you through the ups and the downs, through the joys and the days of trouble, then it will take effort today.

As iron sharpens iron…

The proverb to open this post reminds us again of the truth of accountability. The way we become sharper—more spiritually mature, more able to navigate life, and more useful to the disciplemaking call of Jesus—is through friends who will hold us accountable, help us grow, and help us become sharper. This means that sparks will fly, but since “faithful are the wounds of a friend”, this is a good thing.

Great friends are priceless. So, deepen those relationships and work on developing friendships that will sharpen you.

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Answer a Fool, Answer Not a Fool (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes. ~Proverbs 26:4-5

In these back-to-back proverbs we seem to find contradictory advice. One says to respond to a fool’s folly and the other says to not. Some might be willing to throw a charge of contradiction at the Bible at this point, but that fails to understand a few key items. First, those who ordered the proverbs together were not so foolish themselves to not recognize a basic contradiction. Second, in general, proverbs are meant to be taken in general.

Many proverbs do not command absolute truths but speak wisdom to various situations, though the underlying principles may be true at all times. The truth these two proverbs seek to communicate is this: One must reasonably examine a situation to know how to answer a person who is acting foolish.

The application of this truth is that sometimes responding to a person’s folly will draw you into the folly with them, while other times it will offer a needed rebuke that can help set back on the right track the foolish acting person.

Thus, we have some things to consider about each situation: What is the folly? What is my propensity to be trapped in this folly as well? Will I be able to let the situation go and walk away if necessary? What do I know about the person and how they typically respond to rebuke? Is Jesus more honored by me speaking to or not speaking to this situation? There may be more questions to ask and answer of each situation, but these at least are a basic few.

Weighing and praying over what was said or done and your response goes a long way to help you understand whether or not you should answer a fool according to his folly.

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Eat Only Enough for You (a daily proverb)

This devotional series examines a verse or two from a chapter of Proverbs each day of January 2017.

If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it. ~Proverbs 25:16

We can have too much of a good thing. That’s what Solomon tells us with this proverb. Many people enjoy honey, its sweetness and its flavor, but what happens when you eat too much? A Pooh Bear with his hand constantly in whatever honeypot he can find might make for humor in cartoons, but in real life if we eat and eat and eat honey, then it will churn the stomach and make its way back up.

Honey vomited is no pleasure at all.

Ultimately, this is a lesson in self-control. Not exercising control over how much you eat leads to bad consequences. In the very next verse, Solomon warns that not exercising self-control over how often you visit your neighbor can result in strife. The last proverb in this chapter says: “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.”

A lack of self-control can result in hardships for us and the people around us. When we can’t control our words, actions, and appetites, then we’ll stop at nothing to get what we want. We won’t care who it hurts as long as we possess the things we are after.

But if we belong to Jesus and we have the Holy Spirit within us, then we have the power for true self-control. Lacking self-control we’ll harm ourselves or our neighbors. Having self-control and we’ll show love to ourselves and to our neighbors. Jesus placed a lot of emphasis on loving one’s neighbor, and the Spirit within us helps us live in a way that is honoring to Christ and others.

So, enjoy your honey, but do so with self-control. Then will come the enjoyment without unneeded pain.

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