Proverbs has been provided to us by God so that we are able “to discern the sayings of understanding.”
We seek understanding so that we can distinguish right from wrong. We seek wisdom and instruction so that we can discern truth from counterfeit. Our lives are short. God tells us that they are like smoke that curls up and disappears. In that short amount of time we need to be able to distinguish and perceive the words of what is true knowledge.
The Gospel, God’s good news for us, exceeds the understanding of a natural man. It takes a man willing to seek the face of God and then the Holy Spirit reveals the meanings of knowing; we come to an understanding of the Bible under the guidance and direction of the Spirit of God.
When we discern the Bible, we are able to form right notions of people, relationships and events around us. We gain discernment in to how to speak and act wisely, as well as to help others. Paul told the believers who lived in the town of Philippi that they would want to discern correctly the Bible so that they “may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.”
F. B. Meyer I think said it best when he wrote about the benefits of studying Proverbs: “Certain it is that the [men] who ponder and practice these maxims can hardly fail of a successful career.”
Wisdom Personified: Understanding Words of Insight
Exactly three years to the day, before he succumbed to cancer on November 25, 1986, my Dad gave me a Bible with the following Scripture reference inscribed on the flyleaf:
Get Wisdom at Any Cost
4 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction;
pay attention and gain understanding.
2 I give you sound learning,
so do not forsake my teaching.
3 For I too was a son to my father,
still tender, and cherished by my mother.
4 Then he taught me, and he said to me,
“Take hold of my words with all your heart;
keep my commands, and you will live.
[Proverbs 4:1-4 NIV]
That was 30 years ago. I still ponder those words. Until a few years ago, I used to think that when one got white hair then one was wise. I supposed that it sort of happened magically. Then recently I was reading through the book of Job [I have lost count how many times that I have read his account but it is one of my favorites] and I read where the young man called Elihu’s brings rebuke to Job’s three older friends who were attempting to bring Job ‘counsel.’ Elihu said “It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right. But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.” [Job 32:9, 8 ESV]
Suddenly, the magic disappeared and it became clear. God our Father wants me to take a grip on His words, not in my cerebral spaces but with my heart. Here is a command with a distinct promise: “keep my commands, and you will live.” What have I learned in three score and twelve years? Just this, that there is nothing that will bring peace, insight and clarity to my existence than paying attention to my Father’s instruction. It has meant that I have had to learn to be obedient in the right direction over the long haul. I wish I could say that I was always a willing learner. But I have learned that by taking hold of His words and allowing the Holy Spirit to teach my heart, it has brought guidance, prudence, knowledge and discretion to my words and actions.
I would like to pass on what I have struggled to learn. So join me in a journey through Proverbs.
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
[Genesis 1:26 NIV]
We have to start somewhere. The big bang theory is too vague. What God says has substance. He gives us a reason for our existence. We exist to display our Creator’s glory. Both strategically and tragically we have failed in our task of representing God in us. But that is not the end of the story. While sin has shattered us like a mirror the image of God within us, God has provided a new mirror. Adam started the rebellion from under God’s loving rule by deciding that God was holding out on him and we continue the cycle today wanting “freedom.” We keep thinking that pursuing our own enjoyment and glory [being number 1] will bring us peace. What we have wrecked God has mercifully restored new under Jesus Christ
In 2006 playing for the Atlanta Falcons, Michael Vick became the first quarterback to rush for the illustrious 1,000 yards in a season. Though his team finished 7-9, his future looked bright. Along with his NFL salary, Vick earned money for being the face of Rawlings Sporting Goods, Nike, and other companies. In 2006 he earned an estimated $25.4 million.
One year later Michael Vick was broke and in prison for his contributions to an illegal dog-fighting ring. His estimated losses totaled $142 million, with some $50 million lost in endorsements. Rawlings and Nike did not like being represented by someone convicted of cruelty toward animals. They made the logical choice to terminate their relationship. To continue using Vick as a spokesperson would have been tantamount to promoting dog-fighting themselves.
Presidents are very careful to select Ambassadors who will correctly represent his agenda for the United States. When you represent the president, everything you do reflects on that person. God created you to represent Him and to declare His glory. The command to be fruitful and multiply (Genesis 1:26) was a command to you to spread God’s glory as His image-bearer to the ends of the earth. Sadly, all of us have abdicated this high calling, wrecking the image of God. Because God is the ultimate authority of all creation, our failure is not the end of the story. Through the work of His Son Jesus Christ, God is in the process of restoring what we ruined.
(NASB) 1 Corinthians 16:13-14
Paul is giving a series of quick commands much like a military officer. Although these commands may already be operative in the reader and hearer of his letter , his purpose is for the solider of Jesus Christ to continue to persevere.
Be on the alert,
Why? Two reasons.
FIRST: As much as we humans would love to know the date and time that Jesus plans to return, the Bible is very clear: only God the Father knows and He did not even tell Jesus His son and He certainly will not be telling us. The Lord Jesus can be expected to return at any moment and suddenly without warning.
SECOND: We must remain watchful and fully alert to the deceptions of spiritual forces in darkness and thuart them. A few sentences later Paul states strongly (verse 22) “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha.” Not all in the Corinthian Fellowship were loved Jesus. There are several places in his letter where he addresses those in the church who deliberately undermine the gospel.
stand firm in the faith,
Paul repeats in a solider-like command a previous exhortation: “(NASB) 1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” This could really be summary statement for why he is writing. Then, as now, we live in a pagan culture under a constant onslaught of a plurality of beliefs. He warns them to not waver. He warns them to be unmovable … The pagan culture around them will not loosen them from their moorings. This is not a call to the status quo! “Standing firm in the faith” means acting like a solider who defends his nation to the death; we as believers stand firm on the teachings of Jesus, not with subjective but objective faith.
act like men,
It is imperative that I conduct myself in a satisfactory manner especially under stressful conditions. No solider in the Army of Jesus Christ may be faint hearted; when He is present there is no reason pr place for cowards or weak-willed men.
God leads us through experiences to test and shape our trust in Him alone. This is how we are made strong and how we discover first-hand that we are more than conquers’…
Let all that you do be done in love.
God has not sent us into the world as an aggressive force like the Crusades. We are to battle sin but love the sinner.