Proverbs 6

Greetings!  We’ll cover Proverbs for a couple days, then start Genesis.

The first section reminds me of what I often tell my kids: “The first thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is to stop digging.”  The Proverbs are actually after something more in depth, though – to make restitution once you have committed to something or erred. 

Proverbs 6

Warnings Against Folly

 1 My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
       if you have struck hands in pledge for another,

 2 if you have been trapped by what you said,
       ensnared by the words of your mouth,

 3 then do this, my son, to free yourself,
       since you have fallen into your neighbor’s hands:
       Go and humble yourself;
       press your plea with your neighbor!

 4 Allow no sleep to your eyes,
       no slumber to your eyelids.

 5 Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,
       like a bird from the snare of the fowler.

While we were relaxing on the coach one morning while visiting in-laws, my wife was looking over my shoulder as I read this next section.  I assured her that it didn’t apply to vacations. 

 6 Go to the ant, you sluggard;
       consider its ways and be wise!

 7 It has no commander,
       no overseer or ruler,

 8 yet it stores its provisions in summer
       and gathers its food at harvest.

 9 How long will you lie there, you sluggard?
       When will you get up from your sleep?

 10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
       a little folding of the hands to rest-

 11 and poverty will come on you like a bandit
       and scarcity like an armed man.

 12 A scoundrel and villain,
       who goes about with a corrupt mouth,

 13 who winks with his eye,
       signals with his feet
       and motions with his fingers,

 14 who plots evil with deceit in his heart—
       he always stirs up dissension.

 15 Therefore disaster will overtake him in an instant;
       he will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.

The six things / seven language is a figure of speech.  The author wasn’t really saying, “Oops, I meant seven.”  Read them closely.  It is easier to fall into these behaviors than you might think. 

 16 There are six things the LORD hates,
       seven that are detestable to him:

 17 haughty eyes,
       a lying tongue,
       hands that shed innocent blood,

 18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
       feet that are quick to rush into evil,

 19 a false witness who pours out lies
       and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

If more people obeyed the following commands against adultery the world would be a phenomenally better place and human misery would be drastically reduced.  Think of the tens of millions of people harmed by sexual sins, including the adulterers themselves, and especially the children involved.   These are written to a son but obviously apply to women as well. 

Note the imagery: Sexual sins reduce you to a loaf of bread – something to be sliced up and consumed.  It is like setting your lap on fire or walking on hot coals.  It carries a huge cost.  It can destroy you.  Why would we want to do that?  There is forgiveness in Jesus Christ, of course, but why not educate people better on the costs of these sins?

I’m not in favor of vigilantism, but I’m surprised that there aren’t more murder and assaults related to adultery. 

There is a better way.  God’s Word has the best plan for sexual behaviors.  The world has the worst plan. 

Warning Against Adultery

 20 My son, keep your father’s commands
       and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.

 21 Bind them upon your heart forever;
       fasten them around your neck.

 22 When you walk, they will guide you;
       when you sleep, they will watch over you;
       when you awake, they will speak to you.

 23 For these commands are a lamp,
       this teaching is a light,
       and the corrections of discipline
       are the way to life,

 24 keeping you from the immoral woman,
       from the smooth tongue of the wayward wife.

 25 Do not lust in your heart after her beauty
       or let her captivate you with her eyes,

 26 for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread,
       and the adulteress preys upon your very life.

 27 Can a man scoop fire into his lap
       without his clothes being burned?

 28 Can a man walk on hot coals
       without his feet being scorched?

 29 So is he who sleeps with another man’s wife;
       no one who touches her will go unpunished.

 30 Men do not despise a thief if he steals
       to satisfy his hunger when he is starving.

 31 Yet if he is caught, he must pay sevenfold,
       though it costs him all the wealth of his house.

 32 But a man who commits adultery lacks judgment;
       whoever does so destroys himself.

 33 Blows and disgrace are his lot,
       and his shame will never be wiped away;

 34 for jealousy arouses a husband’s fury,
       and he will show no mercy when he takes revenge.

 35 He will not accept any compensation;
       he will refuse the bribe, however great it is.

Share your reflections and questions if you like.

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Psalm 15

Greetings!  This is a very brief Psalm.  My understanding is that this isn’t what God requires to be fully reconciled to him – i.e., to enter Heaven – because none of us are truly blameless.  It is what God wants of those who come to worship him. 

Lending money “without usery” doesn’t mean one can never charge interest.  It means we shouldn’t take advantage of the poor.   God loves justice, so He hates it when people take offer bribes to pervert justice.   

Psalm 15

A psalm of David.

 1 LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary?
       Who may live on your holy hill?

 2 He whose walk is blameless
       and who does what is righteous,
       who speaks the truth from his heart

 3 and has no slander on his tongue,
       who does his neighbor no wrong
       and casts no slur on his fellowman,

 4 who despises a vile man
       but honors those who fear the LORD,
       who keeps his oath
       even when it hurts,

 5 who lends his money without usury
       and does not accept a bribe against the innocent.
       He who does these things
       will never be shaken.

Share your reflections and questions if you like.

Next up: Proverbs 6 & 7, then Genesis.

Psalm 14

Greetings!

I love verse 1.  Ironically, many times it is the most intelligent people who work overtime denying God’s existence or creating him in their own image.  Unitarians have the highest average IQ of any religious organization, but they hold some of the most intellectually bankrupt notions about God and religion (namely that Christianity and other religions can be true at the same time). 

Verse 1 reminds me of Romans 1, which, among other things, states that, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (verse 20) .

And verse 3 reminds me of Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

But I shouldn’t be too hard on the Unitarians and the like.  Christians are saved through God’s grace, not by any works or righteousness of our own. 

Psalm 14

For the director of music. Of David.

 1 The fool [a] says in his heart,
       “There is no God.”
       They are corrupt, their deeds are vile;
       there is no one who does good.

 2 The LORD looks down from heaven
       on the sons of men
       to see if there are any who understand,
       any who seek God.

 3 All have turned aside,
       they have together become corrupt;
       there is no one who does good,
       not even one.

 4 Will evildoers never learn—
       those who devour my people as men eat bread
       and who do not call on the LORD ?

 5 There they are, overwhelmed with dread,
       for God is present in the company of the righteous.

 6 You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
       but the LORD is their refuge.

 7 Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!
       When the LORD restores the fortunes of his people,
       let Jacob rejoice and Israel be glad!

Footnotes:

  1. Psalm 14:1 The Hebrew words rendered fool in Psalms denote one who is morally deficient.  

Share your comments and reflections if you like. 

Psalm 13

Greetings!

This short Psalm may seem a little dreary for Christmas eve.  But think about how many people on the planet may have circumstances that leave them thinking God has forgotten them.  As Acts 17:26-27 says, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” 

God has not forgotten anyone.  He wants us to seek him and put our faith in Jesus.  My we share that message, trust in his unfailing love and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

 1 How long, O LORD ? Will you forget me forever?
       How long will you hide your face from me?

 2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
       and every day have sorrow in my heart?
       How long will my enemy triumph over me?

 3 Look on me and answer, O LORD my God.
       Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death;

 4 my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
       and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

 5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
       my heart rejoices in your salvation.

 6 I will sing to the LORD,
       for he has been good to me.

Share your comments and reflections if you like. 

Dalmatian Theology

dalmatian-puppy.jpgThey don’t refer to it as such, but many Christians teach a message of Dalmatian theology, whereby the Bible is only inspired in spots and they are inspired to spot the spots.   (Hat tip to the Baptist pastor who coined this phrase. )

Saying the Bible isn’t fully inspired by God may seem like a humble premise, but it actually makes several strong (and unfounded) claims. 

It implies that God couldn’t, or wouldn’t deliver His word to us in a reliable way, and that despite God’s alleged failings, flawed humans are able to discern which parts were inspired and which parts were not.  Are we to believe that humans are to correct for God’s alleged errors?   

Why is this a serious problem?  It is hard enough to follow the teachings of the Bible without having “Christians” pick and choose what they want to believe in.  Worse yet, they ignore some parts of scripture so they can teach that the opposite is not only acceptable but desirable. 

If someone claims the Bible is only partially inspired, ask a few questions:

  • How did they come to this conclusion?
  • Do they think their favorite verses are inspired?  If so,  how do they know?  How about John 3:16?  How about “love your neighbor?”  Whenever “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is quoted, I never hear the liberal theologians insist that Jesus didn’t really say that.
  • If the Bible is only partly inspired, how can they be sure that their preferred verses aren’t the ones that are uninspired and the ones they don’t like are the “real” verses?

Here’s one I made up: Advanced Dalmatian Theology.  It is just like Dalmatian theology, except God is also changing spots and adding/removing spots, and, oddly enough, He is only telling theological liberals and progressives .   They use phrases such as “God is still speaking,” but they don’t mean He still speaks through his Word (that would be a true statement).  They think He is still revealing new truths to the church and changing doctrines taught in the Bible.  They may also say foolish things like, “The Holy Spirit is moving in a new direction.”  Indeed.

But the orthodox can fall prey to this in a more subtle way by claiming full inspiration but conveniently ignoring passages we don’t like.  Consider this passage on church leadership, where some exaggerate “not given to drunkenness” to mean no alcohol whatsoever but ignore the “must manage his own family well . . .” part.

1 Timothy 3:2-4 Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect.

Another example is correctly teaching about the sin of homosexual behavior while neglecting to give proper emphasis to Biblical admonitions against divorce and adultery.  We need to teach all of scripture with balance.  Grandstanding on sins that aren’t temptations to us and soft-pedaling those that are is not an attractive or Christian thing to do.   

There are plenty of reasons and resources to defend the accuracy and integrity of all of the original scriptures.  We don’t need to get sloppy and just follow the parts we like. 

I’ll close with some friendly advice: Don’t mess with God’s Word.

Deuteronomy 4:2 Do not add to what I command you and do not subtract from it, but keep the commands of the Lord your God that I give you.

Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is flawless; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Revelation 22:18-19 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book. And if anyone takes words away from this book of prophecy, God will take away from him his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

Galatians 6

Greetings!

Galatians 6 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

It is so easy to compare ourselves with others.  This leads to the bad kind of pride, where we compare our strengths to the weaknesses of others, or the bad kind of humility, where we compare our weaknesses to the strengths of others. 

If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor.

The next passage should be a warning to those who mock God and his Word.  Yes, forgiveness is possible (thank God!) but that doesn’t mean we won’t still have to live with the consequences of our sins. 

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

It is tiring to do good, but Paul exhorts us to stay the course because we’ll be glad we did later.  We can trust that it will all be worthwhile. 

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Paul had some kind of problem with his eyes. 

See what large letters I use as I write to you with my own hand!

Those who want to make a good impression outwardly are trying to compel you to be circumcised. The only reason they do this is to avoid being persecuted for the cross of Christ. Not even those who are circumcised obey the law, yet they want you to be circumcised that they may boast about your flesh. May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.

Make no mistake: Paul suffered greatly for the Gospel.  Read 2 Corinthians 11:22-33.  He was beaten, whipped, jailed and more many times. 

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Reflect on today’s readings and share your comments and questions if you like. 

Next up: We’ll cover Psalms 13-15, then Proverbs 6-7, then start Genesis at the beginning of the year. 

Bible software

If you spend much time studying the Bible or doing lessons, you’ll want to get a good Bible software.  The best one I’ve found is from Logos.  They have a whole series you can choose from, depending on how many resources you want to have available. 

The main benefit for me is the user interface.  They make it so simple to search, copy and paste verses, learn the meaning of words, etc.  The “copy verses” feature lets you type in a series of passages then paste them all at once.  This saves a lot of time when putting lessons together.  It includes many translations so you can do side by side comparisons.  It also includes many commentaries and resources.

Warning: It isn’t cheap.

BibleGateway is a great, free site for basic searches.

Is anyone using another version that you would recommend?