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Tom's top ten or so Proverbs

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Read Proverbs 1-31

Not too many people get excited about reading the Proverbs. Some come away scratching their heads thinking they read the same thing in seven or eight or nine different chapters.

That’s probably because they did read the same thing in several chapters. Sometimes it is worded almost exactly the same. In other instances, the words are changed just a little.

But whether we like it or not, we like quips of wisdom.

Let go and let God.

It’s not that happy people are thankful; it’s that thankful people are happy.

The world says seeing is believing. God says that believing is seeing.

Our Wednesday night gatherings have a theme of I have decided to follow Jesus and we explore what exactly that means. In 2014 we are looking a everyone carrying his own load and that we all carry each other’s burdens.

The modern quip of wisdom that goes with carrying each other’s burdens is that many hands make light work.

Not all of our modern quips are actually wisdom. He who dies with the most toys wins might be the common thinking but not wisdom. Still, we like to banter about these quips of wisdom or pseudo wisdom as part of our daily routines.

We like these little sayings that convey nuggets of wisdom. That’s what we find in the proverbs—31 chapters of these little quips of wisdom. They have been around longer than those we banter about these days, but they are wisdom for the ages.

Soon and very soon, we will have completed all 31 chapters in the course of about a year. I challenged our congregation to select three proverbs to share. One that challenged you. One that confirmed what you were doing. One that caused you to look at something differently. Once we have completed the last chapter, we will see what wisdom struck home with the congregation.

Having asked this of the congregation, I decided to compile Tom’s top ten or so Proverbs.

Having traversed the Bible’s primary wisdom book in the course of a year, a few favorites were inevitable. We must begin in the beginning.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 1:7 sets the tone for the entire collection. It is the paradigm by which the book is defined. There is no going forward without understanding this premise.

Absolute reverence for God—the creator of heaven and earth and all things beyond what we can comprehend—is not only essential for grasping the fabric of our universe but our motivation as well.

A capricious god might just throw his creatures into the fray and be amused at the outcome.

A holy and righteous God—the one true God—does not create without purpose. To stand in awe of holy God opens the door of wisdom. We cannot see the door without reverence—overwhelming reverence—for our Creator.

Fools despise both wisdom and instruction.

Very early in the Proverbs we are introduced to a term that we just don’t use much anymore—fools. It has a harsh, condemning sound to it. Someday soon it will likely not only be politically incorrect but banished from our legalistic lexicon.

In an anything goes society there are no such things as fools. To proclaim someone a fool defies the wisdom of the world.

Solomon defies the wisdom of our world. He is insistent on the wisdom of God. Those who reject God’s wisdom want to live in a world of ignorance for truth can cause pain.

The one who rejects God and his wisdom and his teaching is a fool. Get used to the term for it is a recurring theme, but understand three things about fools and the proverbs that go with them.

1. They are not written to foolish people. A proverb in the hand of a fool is worthless.

2. They are admonishments to our children—the children of God’s wise people. We are to bring up our children in God’s way. The proverbs about fools and folly are to be taught as the road not taken.

3. They are provided so we may be better equipped to deal with such people.

In this proverb we also see a model for many of the other proverbs. In this pairing of phrases, we see a concept or mindset defined by what it is and what it is not, by those who seek wisdom and those who run from it, by one thing and then something that may not always be the opposite but is often contrary.

Our paradigm is one of fearing, revering, and living in awe of holy God and it enables us to acquire, use, and multiply wisdom, knowledge, and understanding as we navigate and negotiate our world and our lives.

It is truly our starting point as God’s wise people. It is the beginning of our knowledge, wisdom, and understanding.

It is what gives us a teachable spirit ready to receive the wisdom that God so generously offers us.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Proverbs 3:5-6 is among one of the most pervasive proverbs in the Bible. These thoughts are woven into so much of God’s word.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

How much of who we are is about trusting God.

· With how we live

· With the decisions we make that are contrary to the world

· With our money

· With our time

· Patiently waiting on God

· In our prayers

· And most of all when our own understanding of things would tell us to do one thing when God directs another.

We revere God when we acknowledge him and he keeps us on that narrow path that leads to life and off of the broad one that leads to destruction.

A couple years ago I wrote a short book titled Heaven and Hell: Why some people can’t get off the subject and get on with living. It took most of the heaven and hell verses that people use to justify their position on these topics and subjugated them to three directives.

· Trust God

· Obey God

· Love God and in keeping with this command, one another as well

The sine qua non here is that God has this life and death and eternity and judgment and salvation business under control. Let’s just trust him and do things his way and not worry about how it all comes out. He’s got this. The time we spend worrying could be spent loving God and loving each other.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

Proverbs 3:27-28 go a longs ways in explaining what it is to love your neighbor.

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
when it is in your power to act.
Do not say to your neighbor,
“Come back tomorrow and I’ll give it to you”—
when you already have it with you.

When it comes to loving our neighbor, we should have a Just Do It mindset.

Too often we as Christians see a person who needs help and say to ourselves, “I’ll pray about that.”

Sometimes we need to pray about that and at other times we know exactly what we are supposed to do and we just need to act.

Once upon a time several years ago when I worked for the Oklahoma Publishing Company, I had spent much of the day in Chickasha, Oklahoma. I was tired and wanted to head west on that 2 hour journey that I had made too many times in the last couple months

I pulled into the Arby’s and got their 5 for 5 special figuring that I could eat it on the way home and start putting some miles behind me.

I walked out of the restaurant and drove around the building so I could get back on the highway and get out of there. As I passed the dumpster there was a man going through it obviously looking for food.

I headed about a block towards home and turned around. How could I drive home with a bag full of food when this guy was dumpster diving. This wasn’t a panhandler on a busy corner. The guy was digging through that nasty dumpster.

I was back in the parking lot in under a minute, but he was gone. I searched the surrounding area, but he was gone.

I drove home. Those were the worst tasting sandwiches that I had ever eaten.

When you know that you are supposed to help someone, just do it. That’s not the jalapeno peppers that you ate last night nudging you. It is God’s own Spirit.

Proverbs 12:1 reminds me of the sign that reads: I Can’t Fix Stupid.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but whoever hates correction is stupid.

The corollary of this quip of wisdom resides in Proverbs 15:32.

Those who disregard discipline despise themselves,
but the one who heeds correction gains understanding.

We are told that God disciplines those that he loves, but some folks just won’t take to correction. Some will shoot themselves in the foot and then reload and shoot some more.

The Proverbs don’t tell us what to do here but if we read the full context of this book of God’s wisdom we find that we are not obligated to influence those things and people that stubbornly resist God, his wisdom, and his right way of living.

We next come to Proverbs 13:22.

A good person leaves an inheritance for their children’s children,
but a sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.

We are to live within our means, enjoy the abundance of this life, and leave something not only to our children but to our grandchildren.

Now for some the accumulation of wealth is all consuming and sometimes money and wealth can become our gods. The wisdom of this proverb, however, is about abiding in God’s wisdom and having the patience and endurance to stay the course of living by his wisdom.

If we do that, we will have something to leave behind to our children and their children.

Sometimes we sidestep this proverb and just say that we are leaving our children a legacy of good character. That’s something worth passing on generation to generation; however, when we say that because we have just not lived by God’s wisdom and we don’t have anything in this world to pass on, maybe we are really not passing on good character either.

If you are thinking, “Well, I will never get ahead in this world,” then you are dismissing the wisdom that God wants to give you so generously.

God designed the universe. If you do things his way, you will prosper.

No plan of ours that is contrary to the way that God designed this creation will prevail.

In fact, those who try to trick the system don’t get to hold on to their ill gotten gains for long.

The wealth of the wicked is stored up for the righteous.

Proverbs 16:3 might just be a corollary of Colossians 3:23-24 or maybe the other way around. The proverb reads:

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.

The excerpt from Paul’s epistle reads:

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Set out to do what pleases the Lord, dedicate your work to him, and work as if you are working directly for him, and you will be blessed with the outcome. Somewhere along the way you might just hear a “Well done good and faithful servant” from the One that really matters the most to us.

Proverbs 22:6 is one of the most quoted and least utilized quips of wisdom in the Bible.

Train up a child in the way he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it.

This is more than teaching. It is more than correcting. It is more than applying discipline. This is more than setting a good example. It is more than being a good parent.

It is all of these and more.

To train up a child in the way he should go is to disciple the child. The child must desire to walk as you walk.

Sometimes that is the problem. We say the right words about walking the narrow path but our hearts really want to venture out into “off limits” territory.

The desire to train up a child in the way he should go should precede and supersede the desire to have a child.

The first step is for the would-be parent to get to right standing with God before he or she considers parenthood.

If both parents are not following Christ and learning what it is to be his disciple, what chance does the kid have to know which way to go?

Proverbs 22:7 follows nicely though the connection between these two successive quips of wisdom is not always readily apparent.

The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.

The borrower is slave to the lender. Ouch! I really mean it. Ouch!

In our post modern world, we think that slavery is repugnant. It is cruel. It is just wrong. Anyone who would permit, tolerate, or even turn a blind eye to slavery is a hypocrite.

That’s not too over the top in summing up the sentiments of today’s thinking; yet, without giving a second thought to the matter, over 90% of the people who might hold that sentiment as genuine have also sold themselves into slavery.

What?

They sold themselves into the slavery of debt.

The borrower is slave to the lender. Anyone who has significant debt understands this statement.

As Christians, we are to be the master when it comes to our money as well as other treasures, but when we go into debt; we have abdicated our role as master.

In our relationship with God through Christ, Christ is the Master. He entrusts us with money and resources. We are to produce a return for him.

In our relationship with money, we are the master. Our money should produce a return for us.

Debt robs us of the vitality of these two relationships.

Now consider these two proverbs together.

Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.

What are we teaching our children when we sing Jesus Loves Me and at the same time our lives say, I love money so much that I will sell myself into the slavery of debt.

If our words and actions do not agree, which do you think our children will learn?

One of the biggest gifts that we can give our children is to live within our means so that they may witness us trusting God fully and giving thanks for what we have.

To go into debt is to say to God, what you have given me is not enough. Is that what we want to teach our children?

Proverbs 26:6-11 is about our relationship with fools.

Sending a message by the hands of a fool
is like cutting off one’s feet or drinking poison.
Like the useless legs of one who is lame
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Like tying a stone in a sling
is the giving of honor to a fool.
Like a thorn bush in a drunkard’s hand
is a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
Like an archer who wounds at random
is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.
As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.

Ok, but what am I supposed to do about my dealings with those who reject God’s wisdom. Don’t waste your time trying to teach them wisdom. Don’t trust them with something that is important. Don’t pay them in advance for any sort of work. They are going to make the same mistakes over and over again until they repent of their ungodly ways.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t share the good news with them, but we share it and leave the ball squarely in their court.

A fool does not value your time and would love to engage you in senseless conversation. Give them the good news and disengage from them.

If they choose to seek the Lord, well, that’s a whole new ball game.

Proverbs 27:6 is about true friendship, something that is entirely too rare these days.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.

A true friend is concerned about you enough to hurt your feelings every once in a while. He or she won’t say things designed to hurt you. They will say things designed to help you but the truth contained in their message may be what hurts.

The friend that won’t do this for you may not be the friend that you thought they were.

Do you recall story of the rich young man who came to see Jesus telling him that he had obeyed all of the commandments and he asked Jesus what else he needed to do?

Jesus told him to sell all that he had and give the money to the poor. But before Jesus told him this, we are told that Jesus looked at him and loved him.

Sometimes we need to hear things that we don’t want to hear. That takes a good friend. That takes love.

Someone who sees something that is harming you and only says, “It will be OK” is the exact opposite of a true friend.

Proverbs 28:9 was written for the modern day Christian if any of them were.

If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction,
even their prayers are detestable.

Do you remember Proverbs 1:7?

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

You can’t go down a path that God has told you to steer clear of and ask for his help to make it to the end. Well, you can ask, but don’t expect him to honor your request. It lacks reverence and sincerity.

It also may sound familiar to so many Christians. “Lord, I know that is not what I should be doing, but will you help me just this once so this all comes out right for me.”

I am not doing what you want me to do.

I am not repenting of my current ways.

I know you told me to plant tomatoes and I planted broccoli but would you please give me a bumper crop of broccoli?

God, I sure could use your help. Don’t want to live the way you told me to live, but I sure could use your help.

God, I have turned a deaf ear to your instruction but I sure could use your help.

How does God answer such a prayer?

He sends someone like John the Baptist to precede the Savior of the world. What did John say?

Repent!

We are spitting in the wind if we are asking God to bless something that he told us not to do. Turn around, listen to and follow God’s instructions, and then pray for help.

Proverbs 29:18 is one of those that is often misconstrued but very essential for anyone or any organization to prosper.

Where there is no prophecy, the people cast off restraint,
but happy are those who keep the law.

You may know this better in the King James Version.

Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

This is not a command for every church to write a mission statement. There is nothing wrong with a mission statement. Having been a Marine officer for much of my adult life, mission statements were a way of life.

The proverb, however, is about receiving a divine revelation from God.

We might think, well, my church is out of luck. The only voice we hear is from the preacher.

We must not discount the revelations that we receive from our pastors, worship leaders, hymns, and most of all the Spirit—God’s own Spirit—that is working inside of us.

Sometimes, we just need to be still and give God’s Spirit the floor.

The vision that the people need must come from God. As we discussed at the beginning, anything set in motion contrary to God’s purpose is not going to prosper.

My last selection is the last in the Proverbs and is Proverbs 31:10-31. This pericope has been given many titles.

· The Wife of Noble Character

· The Virtuous wife

· The Good Wife

· The Capable Wife

· Hymn to a Good Wife

· Ode to a Capable Wife

Consider the qualities and aspects of this remarkable woman.

A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.
She selects wool and flax
and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still night;
she provides food for her family
and portions for her female servants.
She considers a field and buys it;
out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.
She sees that her trading is profitable,
and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff
and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor
and extends her hands to the needy.
When it snows, she has no fear for her household;
for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed;
she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
Her husband is respected at the city gate,
where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them,
and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
“Many women do noble things,
but you surpass them all.”
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Honor her for all that her hands have done,
and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.

This acrostic poem that concludes the Proverbs is a study unto itself.

These are my top 10 or so selection from the Proverbs. On any given day, I might choose two or three others, but for the moment these are the ones that garnered my attention over the past year.

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In the comments sections please share what proverbs—

--Challenged you.

--Confirmed something that you were already doing.

--Caused you to look at something differently.

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