Wisdom Shouts Out (Proverbs 1:20-33)

We have been studying Proverbs 1 over the last few days, and today I hope to close out the chapter. There is a fair few verses left, but I will try to group them and talk through the sections.

20 Wisdom shouts in the streets.

    She cries out in the public square.

23 Come and listen to my counsel.

I’ll share my heart with you

    and make you wise.

Proverbs 1:20, 23 (NLT)

Wisdom Cries Out

Wisdom, the thing we have been seeking and the overall purpose of Proverbs, takes on a female persona now and begins to talk to us – the reader.

Wisdom cries out, shouting in the streets and urging us to come and find her. This firstly implies that wisdom will not simply fall in our lap, but rather we must seek after it ourselves. I reflected in an earlier post that it takes effort on our part, and we must engage with the Bible as a whole, and Proverbs in particular, if we want to become wise.

Why does she shout in the street and cry out in the public square? Simply because that is where the people are gathered. Wisdom is on offer to all of us, not just a select few. In fact, and in some of the verses we skipped over, wisdom calls out to “simpletons!” Not so politically correct of course, but again, the point is that no one is excluded. Proverbs aims to help the unwise become wise.

Come and listen to my counsel. I’ll share my heart with you and make you wise. Prov 1:23 #Bible #Wisdom

Don’t Ignore

24 “I called you so often, but you wouldn’t come.

    I reached out to you, but you paid no attention.

25 You ignored my advice

    and rejected the correction I offered.

27 when calamity overtakes you like a storm,

    when disaster engulfs you like a cyclone,

    and anguish and distress overwhelm you.

Proverbs 1:24-25, 27 (NLT)

The message of this section is clear – do not ignore the call to wisdom!

Wisdom is trying to get our attention, and so often we choose the foolish path. We make our choices based on our feelings, our gut or what others want us to do, and yet those are worldly ways. Our choices must be Bible-based and Spirit-led, for that is the only way to ensure success.

Look at what befalls those who ignore wisdom. They end up in calamity and disaster, with anguish overtaking them. When we go our own way, or follow the world, we will end up in a place we do not want to be. The world offers us no satisfaction, and we will only ever be truly fulfilled by our relationship with God. Remember that the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord, and nothing works without that.

Avoid calamity. Avoid distress. Stay well away from the path that leads to disaster. Embrace the wisdom of God, and submerge yourself in His teachings. The bible is the manual for life, and nothing works quite right if we do not follow the user’s guide!

Harsh Words

Wisdom becomes rather harsh in the latter part of our passage. Having offered her help time and time again, and being snubbed by those who think they know better, Wisdom now refuses to answer. The foolish begin to search for her, but it is too late and they can no longer find her.

28 “When they cry for help, I will not answer.

    Though they anxiously search for me, they will not find me.

29 For they hated knowledge

    and chose not to fear the Lord.

30 They rejected my advice

    and paid no attention when I corrected them.

31 Therefore, they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way,

   choking on their own schemes.

32 For simpletons turn away from me—to death.

    Fools are destroyed by their own complacency.

Proverbs 1:28-32 (NLT)

They have hated knowledge and wisdom’s free gift. They have refused her guiding hand and the correction she offers. Verse 29 tells us that they have refused to fear the Lord.

Harsh as it may seem, we only have so many chances to reject God and His ways. A time will come when it will be too late to turn to Him. I do not want that for you! If you have not turned to God, then now is the time. None of us know how long we have, or when it will be too late, so take that critical step right this second!

Fall on your knees before the Lord and cry out to Him for His forgiveness. Ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life, and to save you from your sin. He will not refuse you. While you are at it, ask Him to fill you with wisdom, so that you might live a successful life in service to God.

Live in Peace

33 But all who listen to me will live in peace,

    untroubled by fear of harm.”

Proverbs 1:33 (NLT)

The chapter closes with these words – those who listen will live in peace.

Peace is something we all crave. Like wisdom, peace will not just happen to you, but must be sought. We have the fruit of peace in our hearts (see Galatians 5:22-23), and Jesus left us His peace as part of our inheritance (see John 14:27). Yet, this fruit must be cultivated so that it grows in our lives.

If you seek wisdom, you will find peace also #Bible #Peace #Wisdom

There are many benefits to living wisely, but for me at least, finding peace is enough to convince me.

Wisdom is calling you today, so do not ignore her plea. God, likewise, is knocking at your door, and hoping you will answer. Set your mind and heart towards Him today, and learn of His wisdom. This first chapter of Proverbs is there to convince us of our need for wisdom, and it certainly has me! How about you?

Three… Two… One and Only

Last Sunday (9th January) was known in some church traditions as Epiphany Sunday. This tradition celebrates the arrival of the Three Kings in Bethlehem to worship the child Jesus. You can read the entire account in Matthew 2, and although I won’t post the entire text in this post, I may refer to particular verses of interest.

If you do read the entire chapter, then there are a few points you might notice…

When?

First of all, despite the traditional nativity scene, it is unlikely the Magi arrived at the same time as the Shepherds and while the baby Jesus was in the manger. Epiphany is celebrated slightly after Christmas to denote that actually it isn’t really known how long afterwards they arrived.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked by the wise men, was exceedingly angry, and sent out and killed all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all the surrounding countryside, from two years old and under, according to the exact time which he had learned from the wise men.

Matthew 2:16 (WEB)

Verse 16 suggests it could have been up to two years later that the men from the east arrived.

Who?

You are likely familiar with the Christmas carol entitled “Three Kings,” but is this biblically accurate?

For instance, does Matthew tell us that there were three of these so-called kings?

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is he who is born King of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” 3 When King Herod heard it, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

Matthew 2:1-3

Verse one does not say “three” at all, but rather “some.” It is not clear from this how many Magi came along. Tradition has grown up that there were three of them because of the three gifts that they brought. There were other suggestions too, and I do not think you can know for certain. It may be that there were three leaders, but I put it to you that the text alone implies far more than three simple men on camels!

Verse three tells us that King Herod was troubled by their arrival, and we will explore why in a moment, but he was not alone in feeling troubled. Verse three also states that he was troubled and “all Jerusalem with him.” While Jerusalem would have been somewhat different to how we know it today, even then it would not have been too concerned by the arrival of three men. It is likely, in my mind at least, that they came with a rather large caravan and something notable to set the wheels of gossip turning.

Were they kings?

Again, the text makes no mention of these travellers from the east being royal. Rather they are described as wise men or Magi. The word “Magi” is where we get our word “magician” from, and when we think of them, we should picture the wise men and scholars as depicted in the book of Daniel. In fact, I once read that Daniel may have begun the very group of Magi who were looking for the signs in the heavens that would tell them when Messiah was to be born… but I am not sure if such a claim can be verified.

So not three kings then, nor kings at all. If you look at the text carefully, then there are two people named as “kings.”

  1. King Herod – mentioned in verse one
  2. King of the Jews, i.e. Jesus – mentioned in verse two

There were not three kings, but only two in reality. Or were there?

Why was King Herod so bothered by the birth of a baby in the little town of Bethlehem? (Bethlehem meaning House of Bread, in case it ever comes up!)

Herod was deeply troubled by this news because he was no king at all. He was not part of the Davidic line, and so had no birth right to the throne. Instead, he had been placed there by the Roman rule to govern the nation. He did some good things for the people, but was known for being somewhat paranoid and even had his wife and children murdered because he thought they threatened his position.

We see the depths of his wickedness as he has all the baby boys in the area killed as a way of trying to rid himself of this Boy King. See verse 16 above.

We started with three kings, then reduced that to only two, and now only One remains. The baby in the manger. Arguably the least kingly of them all.

Others may claim kingship, but there is but One true King. And His name is Jesus. He is the Son, and Eternal Word of God. He came to live on this earth with us, and was born as a vulnerable baby in a cave (most likely). He lived a perfect, sinless life and was betrayed, tortured and executed having committed no crime. Jesus did this to pay the penalty for our sin. He was buried (in another cave) but death could not hold Him. On the third day, He rose again to new life, appearing to His friends and disciples. He later ascended into heaven where He is now seated at the right hand of the Father. One day, He will return.

All who put their trust in Jesus need not pay the penalty for their own sin. They can rest of His mercy and accept that He has done it all for us.

Do not delay, make a choice for Him today.

Don’t Go That Way (Proverbs 1:10-19)

The next part of Proverbs chapter one turns rather dark. The narrator, King Solomon himself, now appears to talk directly to his child/son, and warns them of danger.

 My son, if sinners entice you,

    don’t consent.

11 If they say, “Come with us.

    Let’s lie in wait for blood.

    Let’s lurk secretly for the innocent without cause.

12 Let’s swallow them up alive like Sheol,

    and whole, like those who go down into the pit.

13 We’ll find all valuable wealth.

    We’ll fill our houses with plunder.

14 You shall cast your lot among us.

    We’ll all have one purse.”

15 My son, don’t walk on the path with them.

    Keep your foot from their path,

16 for their feet run to evil.

    They hurry to shed blood.

17 For the net is spread in vain in the sight of any bird;

18 but these lay in wait for their own blood.

    They lurk secretly for their own lives.

19 So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain.

    It takes away the life of its owners.

Proverbs 1:10-19 (WEB)

We will not go through each verse in turn, as they come together to paint a vivid picture. Verse 10 probably summarises this whole section, and I cannot really add to its wisdom with my own words.

My son, if sinners entice you, don’t consent. Proverbs 1:10 #Bible #Wisdom #Christianity

The thrust of this section is simply this: when you are tempted by sinners, don’t go that way!

Verse 11 and 12 go into some particulars about the kind of words or enticements they may use to trap you. On the face of them, they do not seem that appealing to anyone. Why lie in wait purely for the purposes of “blood”? You might associate this kind of talk with demonic sources, but not your everyday “sinner” right?

While such direct words may not be used, any temptation to lie in wait for an innocent victim boils down to such language. These are robbers who care little for life. The thrill of sin is addictive to them, and we must stay well clear of any such evil.

Verses 13 and 14 tell us the real purpose for their trap – money. They would kill the innocent for the sake of a few coins. They have not, so they take from others, not caring the harm they do in the process. Robbers of the time would prey on the unwary, exacting violence in the process. Are they all that different from modern day burglars? Such thieves break in, ransack people’s homes for financial gain, and do immeasurable harm to those on the receiving end. Heaven forbid the homeowner should run into such a burglar, who is likely to strike out in violence to get away with their crime.

Don’t go that way! Verse 15 echoes this cry. Do not walk on their path, nor even put your foot upon it. They run to evil, instead of away from it. Let us be known for our flight from wickedness, and not towards it.

Verse 17 is a little proverb in the midst of our narrative. Put simply, if the bird can see the net, it won’t fly into it. We might learn to look out for things that might entrap us, and steer well clear.

The end of our passage points out that the trap these evil ones set for the innocent will in fact close upon their own selves. They lay in wait for their own lives – how so? Because we serve a God of justice. While some believe they can escape justice in this life, they can never escape the justice of God. We will all stand before Him one day and give an account for our lives. Such evil people will not be able to justify their actions before our Righteous God.

If you have been mistreated, or were the victim of some wickedness in the past, it will be put right. Even if those who hurt you got away with it, they will never escape God’s judgement. When we stand before Him, we will know that all and every sin will be accounted for – either at the cross of Christ, or as the penalty for the wicked. God has not forgotten what happened to you.

To us all I say again, do not follow the evil path. If you are being enticed into iniquity, or spending time with the wrong crowd, it is time to make a change. It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into sin.

It is better to be alone, than to be with those who would lead you into #sin. #Bible #Jesus #Christianity

I leave you where we began with verse 10. Spend some time today just meditating on its truth. It may save your life!

My child, if sinners entice you,

    turn your back on them!

Proverbs 1:10 (NLT)

Listen to your Parents’ Wisdom (Proverbs 1:8-9)

Yesterday, I wrote a brief Introduction to Proverbs, and so today continue on with chapter one. The author turns their attention to the wisdom offered by parents, but is really an exhortation to gain wisdom. This continues the theme of chapter one, pointing out the numerous benefits of living wisely.

My child, listen when your father corrects you.

    Don’t neglect your mother’s instruction.

9 What you learn from them will crown you with grace

    and be a chain of honor around your neck.

Proverbs 1:8-9 (NLT)

Verse 8 tells us to listen to our father’s correction, and not to neglect our mother’s instructions. This is fairly plain on the face of it, and good advice for the young (and not so young).

Correction

In my post last week – An Open Rebuke – we examined a particular proverb pointing out that being rebuked openly was preferable to hidden love. A rebuke is related to a correction, and put simply is a way for a superior to point out where we have gone wrong and set us straight.

We all need correction at times, and although it rarely feels like a blessing in that moment, it will do us good in the long run.

Emotions make correction hard to accept, but ultimately we must trust that one bringing correction to us has our best interest at heart. In this verse, the correction is being brought by a father, and it urges us to listen to what he is telling us.

Is it your experience that the father brings correction, while the mother instructs? I guess it is a bit of both. A turn of phrase from a few decades ago was the well-known – “Wait ‘til your father gets home!” So perhaps historically the father figure has brought the discipline.

How do we accept correction? Firstly, we must trust that the person wants what is best for us. Secondly, we should prayerfully consider what they say. Not all correction is trustworthy, and not all of it is accurate, so we should be a little discerning. Right or wrong however, if the person feels we need to address something in our lives, then we would be wise to reflect on that.

If the correction is justified, then we need to take steps to put it right. That may require an apology, or some other restitution depending on what has happened. It may simply mean adapting our behaviour going forwards. My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.

My view of correction is not to bash someone about what happened in the past, but rather to steer them towards better choices in the future.

Instruction

Verse 8 tells us not to neglect our mother’s instruction. Instruction is simply to tell someone else what to do. This might be helping them do something new for the first time, or it might be to show them a better way to do things.

If we choose to ignore instructions, then chances are we will make mistakes.

Take a recipe. If you do not follow the steps or the method, you likely will not get the results promised. If you do not weigh out your ingredients, but instead just throw random amounts into the pan, it will not turn out as expected.

We tend to think of parental instruction as only applying to the young. While this is primarily the case, our parents help and advice can be invaluable throughout our lives. Many older people whose parents are no longer with them admit to missing their parents’ support in times of need.

I am acutely aware, when writing of parents, that not everyone reading this will have had a good relationship with theirs. Perhaps you never knew your parents, or perhaps they did not treat you all that well. Whatever the case, there are still lessons for us here.

Firstly, if you did not get on with your parents, or worse if they mistreated you, then there are still lessons you can learn. Try not to repeat their mistakes, and do not pass on what they gave to you. This can be hard to do, especially if you picked up on their bad habits when young. As an adult though, you can examine their lives and their interactions with you, and hopefully you can see some things you do not wish to repeat on your own children.

Secondly, not every parent has to be a blood relative. While this verse says “father” and “mother,” I do not think it a stretch to apply it to other older people who may hold a pseudo-parental role in our lives.

When I think back over my years in church, I can recall a number of elders who looked out for me, instructed me at times, and corrected me too. They were not “parents” but they were spiritual foster-parents of a sort. I am eternally grateful for those who have spoken into my life.

A Crown of Grace

To conclude this post, I just want to reflect for a moment on verse 9. It points out that for those who accept the instruction and correction of our parents (actual or otherwise), wisdom will become a crown of grace or a chain of honour.

In my mind’s eye, I picture a mayor wearing gold chains, or royalty with a golden crown atop their head.

When we accept the teaching of those who have gone before us, we can learn great wisdom, and such wisdom will be evident for all to see.

If there are people in your life right now who love you enough to instruct or correct you, tell them how much you appreciate them. It only takes a second to reach out today and share your gratitude.

Introduction to Proverbs

The wonderful book of Proverbs begins with its own introduction. The text sets out the purpose and goal of the book, and gives us a flavour of the benefits of reading and studying it.

Proverbs begins as follows:

These are the proverbs of Solomon, David’s son, king of Israel.

2 Their purpose is to teach people wisdom and discipline,

    to help them understand the insights of the wise.

3 Their purpose is to teach people to live disciplined and successful lives,

    to help them do what is right, just, and fair.

4 These proverbs will give insight to the simple,

    knowledge and discernment to the young.

5 Let the wise listen to these proverbs and become even wiser.

    Let those with understanding receive guidance

6 by exploring the meaning in these proverbs and parables,

    the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 1:1-7 (NLT)

The Author

Verse one tells us that the proverbs are primarily written by King Solomon, son of David. King David is the most famous king of Israel’s history, and his son Solomon is not far behind.

King Solomon was known for his great wisdom, and he acquired it from no worldly source.

Give me an understanding heart so that I can govern your people well and know the difference between right and wrong. For who by himself is able to govern this great people of yours?”

10 The Lord was pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom.

1 Kings 3:9-10 (NLT)

Rather than ask for gold or silver, or fame and power, Solomon asks for understanding. He does this so that he might rule over God’s people well. God was pleased with this request, and granted it to him.

So the source of Solomon’s wisdom is from God, and therefore we would do well to heed the words we find in the book of Proverbs. Some of it may seem repetitive at times, but that is usually a way of helping us remember the truths contained there.

The Purpose

The purpose of the Proverbs is clearly set out in verse 2. The point of them is to teach wisdom, to help give understanding, and also to improve discipline.

Wisdom and knowledge differ. Knowing something can be helpful, but knowing how to apply it is called wisdom.

Wisdom and knowledge differ. Knowing something can be helpful, but knowing how to apply it is called wisdom.

Do you find yourself making many mistakes in life, or regretting choices you have made? Then there is a chance you lacked wisdom. I once heard it said that wisdom is making choices now, that you will be satisfied with later on.

Verse 3 is interesting to me, and begins by saying a further purpose of the proverbs is to help people live disciplined and successful lives. It then goes on to say that they aim to help one live a just, right and fair life. In the world’s eyes, these two parts of this one verse may seem contradictory. To the world, success means getting what you want, no matter the cost. The world’s way gives little care to what is right or fair, only the goal is important, and not how you get there.

Not so in God’s kingdom. In God’s eyes, success means we do indeed live a just, fair and right life. Even if the results are not fame or fortune, or whatever else the world deems successful, to God, living righteously is the way of wisdom.

Verse 4 gives two categories of people who might benefit from studying the proverbs. These are the “simple” and the “young.” Describing someone as “simple” is not exactly politically correct these days, but the point here is that you do not need to be a genius to succeed. Likewise, you do not need years of experience and be full of years to gain wisdom. If you are young, or have little academic prowess, then you are welcome here!

Verse 5 expands the potential audience from not just the young or simple, but to the wise and the understanding also. Let the wise become even wiser, and those who possess understanding add to it. Whether you consider yourself wise, or not so much, there is great benefit in studying these words.

This is done, as verse 6 tells us, by exploring the meaning of the proverbs. This suggests some effort on our part. We cannot just read the words and expect wisdom to just grow inside of us. Rather, we must apply our minds and stretch our mental muscles.

Many of the proverbs are short, bite-sized chunks which you can mull over throughout the day. Take one or two of these, write them out and ponder them whenever you have the chance. They cover a multitude of subjects, ranging from anger, to finances, to temptation and much more. Verse 6 uses the word riddle, and although it does not mean quite the same as what we might think of as a riddle, there is certainly much to test our brains with.

The final verse in our passage today is perhaps the perfect summation of all you hope to find in the book of Proverbs. Learning this one truth is perhaps the first step in acquiring true wisdom.

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Proverbs 1:7 (NLT)

Wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. This does not mean to be afraid of Him in the sense of terror, but rather to revere and respect Him. To not do so will only ever lead you away from wisdom, and not just because He is the source of all wisdom, but because without the Lord, you are on a path to destruction.

The first step for all of us in gaining wisdom is to give God His rightful place in our lives. He is the Master and Creator of the Universe, and we are mere created beings. The universe works and holds together because of God’s power and insight, and we cannot hope to tap that wisdom without first making sure God is first and foremost in our lives.

Can you say right now that He has that rightful place in your life and heart? If not, now is the time to act. Surrender to the Lord, give Him your life and ask Him to be in charge. He will not only direct your steps, but will save you from all of your sin. God does this through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. By placing your trust in Him and what He did at that cross all those years ago, you are setting yourself on the path to wisdom.

Verse 7 also gives us a glimpse of what will become a familiar format in the Proverbs. The writer contrasts one with another. Here, we see the comparison of the wise and the fool One seeks and fears the Lord, while the other despises understanding. Which will you choose to be?

If you wish to grow in wisdom, then you can ask of the giving God, as James instructs us to:

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.

James 1:5 (NLT)

As we dig into the depths of the wisdom in these pages, pray this prayer along with me.

Dear Lord and Father,

We thank You for the wisdom of Your Word. We pray that as we study the Scriptures, You will grant us wisdom, and help us to grow in understanding. May we use that newly gained insight to live fully for You, and to serve You and Your Kingdom on this  Earth.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen!

Preparing for Proverbs – Andy Brown

Just a reminder that from tomorrow we will start to look at the book of Proverbs. I look forward to studying it with you!

This coming Monday, I will be starting a new series on the book of Proverbs. it is an amazing book, with much to wrestle with. Throughout next week I will be sharing my thoughts on the first chapter, and felt I should give you a bit of a heads up in advance! If you have…
— Read on andy-brown.org/2022/01/06/preparing-for-proverbs/

Parable Surprises – Parable – Two Sons

Some helpful thoughts on this passage here. Hope you enjoy reading it this Sunday afternoon.

I got kids. This parable rings true. None of my kids were consistently like the second one, but occasionally… Let’s read the passage and think on …

Parable Surprises – Parable – Two Sons

Pray for your Pastor – Sunday Suggestion

Today’s Sunday Suggestion may seem an obvious one, but your pastor/minister/vicar needs your prayer support! I am not a pastor, but have been in church leadership for many years, and let me tell you it is no easy task! You know the phrase, “You can’t please everyone all of the time…”? Well that is sadly apt for church leaders!

If you have a faithful pastor or group of leaders over your church, then you ought to be eternally grateful. I know so many church leaders who have worked themselves sick for the sake of their flock, and now more than ever, pastors and leaders need our help and support.

The Bible encourages us to pray for those in authority over us. Scriptures such as Romans 13 and 1 Timothy 2 direct us to pray for kings and ruling governments, and I do not think it a stretch to include those in church leadership over us also.

A passage I return to when thinking of my own leaders is found in Exodus:

So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. 11 As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning. 12 When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it. Aaron and Hur held his hands up—one on one side, one on the other—so that his hands remained steady till sunset. 13 So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword.

Exodus 17:10-13 (NIV)

Now your pastor may not be facing a physical battle as the Israelites were (although I bet it feels like that sometimes!) but they need just as much support. Can you be an Aaron or a Hur for them, come alongside and hold up their hands for a time?

How can you pray for them right now? If you are not sure, why not ask them, or send them an email?

Most leaders or pastors would probably like the following to be prayed over them:

  • Prayers for strength, energy and good sleeping patterns
  • Prayers for protection for them and their family; physically, mentally and spiritually
  • Prayers for wisdom and discernment
  • Prayers to help them manage their workload and prioritise
  • Prayers for their own relationship with Jesus
  • Prayers for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in their life and ministry

The list could go on and on. If you have other good ideas of how to pray for church leaders, do share them below.

One final suggestion – you might like to set aside a specific day or time to pray for them each week. If your life is like mine, then it can get rather hectic at times. Set a reminder or put a weekly appointment in your diary or calendar so it does not get missed.

Your pastor will be ever thankful for your prayers and support!

The Lord is at Hand

I was reading Philippians 4 the other morning, and this particular verse caught my attention.

Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

Philippians 4:5 (WEB)

I was struck by the idea that our gentleness as Christians was somehow connected to the Lord being “at hand,” that is, that His coming was near. Setting aside what it means for the Lord’s return to be “near,” why would our gentleness be a factor?

Looking up verse 5 in other translations revealed something interesting. The word translated as “gentleness” in the World English Bible (above) is rendered in a number of different ways.

For example, it is:

  • “Reasonableness” in the ESV
  • “patient mind” in the Geneva Bible
  • “Gentle attitude” in the Good News translation
  • “Gracious attitude” in the ISV
  • “Moderation” in the KJV
  • “Considerate in all you do” in the NLT
  • “forbearance” in the RSV

So you see there is something of a range here. It likely means that this word is rather difficult to translate, and the translators had a few different ideas of how it could be rendered in the context of Philippians 4.

Gentle or gentleness comes up fairly frequently, but that is somewhat distinct from reasonable, moderate, considerate or gracious.

What are the lessons for us then, and what is it we think Paul is getting at?

Well, firstly, it shows the value in having different translations to hand or decent Bible software. While we may have a favourite translation for reading or studying, there is clear benefit in looking at other versions to get a fuller picture of what the original text was saying.

Crucially though, Paul is making a point we must not ignore. I think we can sum it up by saying that we are to be very aware of Christ’s return sooner or later, and so, we must live in a way that encourages others to seek and to find Him.

Gentleness

Why would gentleness be important for our witness? We might think of the word gentle to mean delicate, soft or to treat carefully. While it may not be much of a compliment to say that a Christian is “soft” in our modern vernacular, think of it more as the opposite of being hard, harsh or sharp. If in your normal, everyday setting, you are known for giving sharp answers or harsh words, then that could certainly damage your witness for Christ.

Remember the proverb:

A gentle answer turns away wrath,

    but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1 (WEB)

I wonder how many arguments (in the world and my own life) that could have been avoided if answers were given gently, and not harshly. What damage have harsh words, spoken in anger, done that can never be reversed? What relationships might have been restored had gentleness been displayed by one side or the other?

Gentleness is not weakness. Gentleness shows restraint and care for others. Lord, make me a gentle man!

Gentleness is not weakness. Gentleness shows restraint and care for others. Lord, make me a gentle man!

Patience

How about patience? How might that strengthen our case for Christ?

If it is not obvious, then look at the opposite once again. Being impatient with people is no way to win them over.

I recall a recent incident where we dropped off an item at a business and arranged for them to call when they had completed the work they were doing. They sent a message when they were ready, but we did not see it until a little while later. They were quickly on the phone demanding to know where we were and why we had not picked up said item. The business had other appointments arranged, and were impatient despite it not really being our fault at all. The opportunity did not arise, but had it done, I might have reminded them who the customer was in this scenario! Needless to say, I would be reluctant to spend my money with them again!

Impatience does not make a good impression. It does not value the person on the other end, and instead shows that you care far more about your own situation or schedule. Patience on the other hand shows that you value the effort of the person, and that although it may be taking longer than you would like, you are trying to see the best in that person and recognising their own circumstances.

I have said it before, but patience is not just waiting, but waiting well. Showing a good attitude while you are having to wait is a Fruit of the Spirit, and often can only be achieved with the Spirit’s help. When all others are erupting in impatient fury, you can be steadfast and stable, drawing on Christ’s strength, and others will ask what is different about you.

Considerate

Consideration is, as you might expect, not dissimilar to patience or gentleness. That is why it is connected and translated in those other Bible versions we looked at above.

To be considerate of someone, is to think of them first. Rather than thinking only of ourselves and what we want, we try to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

Christ said:

He sat down, and called the twelve; and he said to them, “If any man wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.”

Mark 9:35 (WEB)

Putting ourselves last is not the world’s way of doing things. The world says that if you put yourself last, you’ll never get ahead! It encourages us to go for what we want, beat everyone else to the punch, and don’t worry about who you trample on along the way.

That is not Jesus’ way.

We are to put others ahead of ourselves. We must prefer others’ needs to our own, and by doing so, we are being considerate. Considerate does not mean we can never have things we want, or go for goals, but it does mean there are certain lines we won’t cross. Being considerate of others means we don’t just take, we look around first and think what others might need.

Practically, we might:

  • Not take the last cake at the buffet if it means someone else misses out,
  • Allow someone else to go ahead of us in the queue
  • Offer our seat to someone standing on the train or bus
  • Offer to pick someone up, even if it’s out of your way, when their car is out of action.

These are a few minor examples. If you can think of more, do share them below in the comments.

Conclusion

In the verse prior to the one we have focussed on today, Paul encourages us to rejoice always. Similarly, in the following verse (verse 6), he tells us to be anxious for nothing, but by prayer and petition to make our wants known to the Lord. Both verses 4 and 6 are very familiar, and I’m in no doubt you’ve read blog posts or heard sermons based on them.

It is much less likely, I would wager, you’ve heard teaching on verse 5.

In conclusion, the way we act has a tremendous impact on our witness. If we act badly, few will want to know this Jesus we claim to follow. But if we act well, with gentleness, patience and consideration, they will certainly want to know more about Him.

How will you act today? Remember, the Lord is at hand!

Preparing for Proverbs

This coming Monday, I will be starting a new series on the book of Proverbs. it is an amazing book, with much to wrestle with.

Throughout next week I will be sharing my thoughts on the first chapter, and felt I should give you a bit of a heads up in advance!

If you have the time, do take a read through chapter 1 and note down any thoughts that you have about it. One of the points I will be making is that wisdom is not automatic.

#Wisdom is not automatic! It takes effort on our part. #Bible #Christianity

Pray about what you read, and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. Pray also for me as I write about this challenging set of Scriptures.

I do hope you enjoy reading the new series, and that it challenges you to seek after wisdom.

If the worlds way has not been working for you, try gods way of doing things… That is true wisdom!

God bless you!

Confession Time

Reading another blog recently, I was struck by the openness and honesty of the author. They were describing their own struggles with sin over the past year, and I actually found it quite refreshing to hear. Not that sin should be celebrated you understand, but rather we all struggle and yet few of us talk about it.

We all want to put on our best face to other people, and so rarely share anything that might make us look bad. Social media can amplify this, giving us glimpses of only the best bits of life. It was once said that social media is life through a very fine filter.

As a result of this lack of openness, we sometimes find ourselves feeling like the only one in the world struggling with one issue or another. Or am I alone in that? I hope not!

The devil loves to make us think we are alone in our battles. If he can fool us into thinking no one else is facing such things, then he can trick us into thinking we are worse than everyone else around us.

If you are in any form of ministry, be it pastoring a church or writing a blog, this problem can be all the worse. Those in ministry should stretch for higher standards. I often wrestle with the following verses from James’ letter:

Let not many of you be teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive heavier judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many things. Anyone who doesn’t stumble in word is a perfect person, able to bridle the whole body also.

James 3:1-2 (WEB)

Heavier judgement, as rendered in this translation, does not sound all that fun! Why make the test harder than it needs to be right? Why bother to teach at all?

For those called to do so, it is an occupational hazard! Once you have discovered your call, you can no more ignore it than you can stop your own heart beating.

Jeremiah said:

If I say, I will not make mention of him,

    or speak any more in his name,

then there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones.

    I am weary with holding it in.

    I can’t.

Jeremiah 20:9 (WEB)

Not to speak of the Lord was not an option for Jeremiah. For those called to share the Gospel, they cannot cease to proclaim the truth either.

So, teachers are teachers, and subject to “heavier judgement.” The issue is that this can lead to an almost false persona. We want the people we are teaching to think well of us. We incorrectly believe that if they really knew us, then they would cease to listen to what we have to say.

As a teacher, you need to be able to demonstrate some measure of success in your subject. I do not go around teaching the finer points of plumbing because I know not the difference between a U-bend and a stopcock! If I cannot demonstrate that I know the Bible and can put its teaching into practice, then my instruction will have little power behind it.

Does this mean we can never be open? No, of course not! No one is perfect, least of all me, and we cannot and should not expect perfection from our teachers. I actually think more highly of someone who is open about their struggles than those who claim to have none at all.

John says in his first letter:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us the sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9 (WEB)

We know that when confessing our sins to God, He will forgive us and cleanse us of all unrighteousness. It goes on to say that if we claim to be without sin, we are deceiving ourselves and making God out to be a liar.

So, do you need a time of confession? Not everyone should write a blog and tell the world of their shortcomings, but tell a trusted friend.

For me, I am constantly wrestling with pride. I confess to you, trusted reader, that I have myself on my mind far too often! When I get scared, it is because I am thinking of myself. When I get angry, it is because someone or something has interrupted my plan. When I get tired, I forget my priorities and end up living to please myself and not the Lord. All of these issues stem from pride. It is part of why I believe God is steering me towards studying the subjects of meekness and humility at the moment.

I am far from perfect, and make mistake after mistake at times. What I find really frustrating is the cycle of sin I find it hard to escape from. I fight against one temptation, beat it for a while, then slip back. Can you relate?

I could write a thousand more words about my faults, but not sure how interesting a read it would be! The point is, I confess to you that I live in the world, I have a flesh to grapple with, and there is a real-life enemy to contend with. It is the same for you.

Do you need to set aside some time for a “spiritual bath?” Need you sit down with Jesus and talk through some of your own struggles and sins? Is there a trusted person in your life you can speak to and confess your sins to?

I praise and thank God for the cleansing work of His Son! Jesus’ shed blood on the cross means that every sin is covered. As long as we live on this Earth, we will wrestle with sin. But we must keep fighting! Only when we give up and give in, are we truly defeated.

Let me finish by reminding you that you are not alone. No matter what sins you wrestle with, there is someone else going through the exact same thing. You are not alone! Only by each of us being honest about our failings can we reassure one another and offer each other support.

Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other. And let each of us rejoice in Christ’s finished work that we may go free! Praise His Holy Name!

Death By a Thousand Paper Cuts

I highly recommend Bruces blog and find his writing both challenging and stimulating.

I have not read this particular book referred to in this post, but have now added it to my reading list for the future. Do check out this post and a book if you have time, and let me know what you think!

J. Warner Wallace has stated that he became convinced of the truth of who Jesus was and in Christianity, over an extended period of time, wherein his…

Death By a Thousand Paper Cuts