Proverbs 17:1

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

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[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 17 ESV”]
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she- bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
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Solomon: Don’t lament the days of small things

 

Proverbs 17:1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.

As we saw Sunday, there is a word here for all of us in not “despising” – in terms of either hating, or treating as of no importance – the beginning and struggling days of anything. This is especially true of our spiritual lives. It is so easy to get caught up in the world’s mindset of more is better, bigger is better, and nothing ought to take time to grow and mature. Not our careers, not our families, not the home we live in, the car we drive, the entertainments we indulge in, and certainly not our souls. But this is not God’s way.
Having little is not shameful to Him. Nor ought to be to those who are His. This was part of the scandal of Jesus’ opening words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit” – or in Luke’s account – simply “the poor”. How can anyone who is “poor” by any human standard, also be “blessed”? To the world, even (or perhaps especially) to the Judaistic world of Jesus’ contemporaries, this was an unthinkable contradiction. But it surely is not a contradiction, to the one sets their eyes on inheriting the Kingdom – and sees this life but the bare budding stage of what is to come in Christ.
Think for a moment Christian – where do you locate your own poverty? What makes you think of yourself as poor because you lack it? What is that gnawing ache in your soul? And to what lengths has it driven you to try and either obtain it, or erase the pain? It can be virtually anything. We are so individual in the specifics, even as the reality of the experience is universal. Relationship? Spouse? Children? Career? Position? Recognition? Some physical attribute? Raw mental acuity? A possession? An achievement? The love of someone who never seems to requite your own, romantically or in the familial sense? Approbation or respect from a parent or someone else? Money? What?
It is to this, these opening 7 verses especially speak. And it is this that the whole of God’s Word addresses in pointing us to Christ and Christ alone. As Romans 11:36 reminds us, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” We came from Him – as do all things. We were created BY Him, thought the personal agency of the second member of the Trinity. And we were made FOR Him. For His pleasure. For His purposes. Thus it is apart from finding our wholeness and our purpose and fulfillment in Him, we always be driven and tormented by the “lack” we place such importance upon, and in the end, become slaves to. Only in Christ is there freedom from this bondage. Only in finding our contentment in that “morsel” the World considers so “dry” – but who is in truth the very Bread of Life – can the soul be truly quiet and at peace. No matter how much “feasting” we imagine would satisfy us, it will only come with the strife that resides in the creature at war with the Creator.
Now there is also a pointed application in all of this for those who venture upon ministry of any kind.
Ministers, don’t lament the days of small things, hoping for your “big break” and throngs of crowds hanging upon your every word. It is a lie. Enjoy the hour. Break your bread in peace in a quiet household. Yes, a full house is more exciting. Yes, it has its pleasures and advantages. But so does this present place. Each in their season. Remember that the time of growth will also bring with it strife. It will bring another set of challenges and difficulties. Enjoy God’s grace in every season and in every place. And never, NEVER see any place of service as some mere stepping stone to something greater. The greatness of our service resides in the greatness of the One we represent, not in ourselves nor our ministries. Seeking “success” in ministry beyond being a faithful herald of God’s Word, and a loving shepherd of the portion of His flock He has providentially place you among, is the way of the World. But it is not the way of Christ.
How are we ministers to be regarded? Paul summed it up in the Spirit most perfectly in 1 Corinthians 4:1 “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.” Nothing more. Nothing less. Christ as all.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 16:21-33

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 16 ESV”]
The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.
3 Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
7 When a man’s ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.
9 The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
10 An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.
11 A just balance and scales are the Lord’s;
all the weights in the bag are his work.
12 It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
for the throne is established by righteousness.
13 Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
and he loves him who speaks what is right.
14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
and a wise man will appease it.
15 In the light of a king’s face there is life,
and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.
16 How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
17 The highway of the upright turns aside from evil;
whoever guards his way preserves his life.
18 Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
25 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
26 A worker’s appetite works for him;
his mouth urges him on.
27 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28 A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
29 A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.
30 Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things;
he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.
31 Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life.
32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
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Solomon: More Wisdom for the Young & Old

 

Proverbs 16:21 The wise of heart is called discerning, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.

Sweetness of speech is not flattery, lying or failing to deal in complete truthfulness. It is rather the attitude in which our communication is carried out. Would we persuade, or simply hammer our view home? Would we win or keep a friend, or are we simply after stating the case? Jesus never shrunk back from delivering the whole truth – but He was no man’s enemy, even though they were His.
In one of Jesus’ most protracted rebukes (Matt. 23) Jesus’ utters 7 “woes” to the Pharisees and “hypocrites” followed immediately by His weeping and lamenting over Jerusalem.
“Woes” are warning, not last-word judgments. He shows them their sin, but weeps over it at the same time. This is not raw denouncement, but urgent pleading without soft-selling the realities.
What a glorious demonstration of genuine discipline coupled with compassion and loving constraint.
Father, teach me this holy skill. How I would rather thunder out my way, than persuade by a heart set on blessing the other. How I want to be right, more than righteous. Deliver me.
 

Proverbs 16:24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.

If your Gospel has no grace, no sweetness, do not be surprised if it gains no souls. If the Gospel contains no “good news” and only exposure of sin – it isn’t Gospel, it is law. And we are called to preach Christ and Him crucified, not Moses – and him thundering. Mount Calvary, not Mount Sinai.
 

Proverbs 16:31 Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.

Experience is valuable. This is why church leadership is supposed to be comprised of “elders”, and not “youngsters.” Those who have walked with the Lord through trials, temptations and the ups and downs of life’s varied circumstances are of great value to us. Never forsake them for trends, fashions, and the newest thing to come along. For there is no other way to Heaven, than to walk the road that all who love Christ have travelled before us. Read of their lives and their struggles AND their triumphs. And walk too.
 

Proverbs 16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

There is a form of randomness on our level, but not on His.
2 Chronicles 18 contains the account of Ahab’s death in battle. Ahab had asked Jehoshaphat, king of Judah to join him in fighting the Aramaeans at Ramoth-Gilead. When all Ahab’s false prophets had finished telling the 2 kings they would have a victorious battle, the lone prophet of the Lord in Israel, Micaiah, told them they would not prevail, and that Ahab would not return from the battle.
Vs. 33 records: “But a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate.” “At random” for the archer, but not so from the Lord’s perspective. It was just as He had foretold through Micaiah.
Nor is their randomness in your life or mine from our Heavenly Father’s vantage point. And so we rest in His providences, though from the human point of view – they remain inscrutable.
What a glorious God we serve!

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 16:2-4

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 16 ESV”]
The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.
3 Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.
4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.
5 Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.
6 By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
7 When a man’s ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
8 Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.
9 The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.
10 An oracle is on the lips of a king;
his mouth does not sin in judgment.
11 A just balance and scales are the Lord’s;
all the weights in the bag are his work.
12 It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
for the throne is established by righteousness.
13 Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
and he loves him who speaks what is right.
14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
and a wise man will appease it.
15 In the light of a king’s face there is life,
and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.
16 How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
17 The highway of the upright turns aside from evil;
whoever guards his way preserves his life.
18 Pride goes before destruction,
and a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20 Whoever gives thought to the word will discover good,
and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
25 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
26 A worker’s appetite works for him;
his mouth urges him on.
27 A worthless man plots evil,
and his speech is like a scorching fire.
28 A dishonest man spreads strife,
and a whisperer separates close friends.
29 A man of violence entices his neighbor
and leads him in a way that is not good.
30 Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things;
he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.
31 Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life.
32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
[/learn_more]

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Solomon: God’s Sovereignty

 

Proverbs 16:2 All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Such is our sinful self-deception, that our own motives are often hidden from us. Especially when we contemplate sin. Our capacity to justify it seems endlessly creative.
But we must not imagine our ignorance is God’s – He DOES know our motivations. And our ignorance will not excuse us in the end – for our true motivations are known – and they are, our own.
This is both jarring – in that our wickedness cannot be hidden, and comforting, in that even the slightest hint of righteous desires are known and noted by a gracious God.
 

Proverbs 16:4 The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Bad eyes? Constant struggle with weight? Abandoned? Hurt? Poor? Wealthy? Too short? Bald? Too attractive to be taken seriously? No pedigree? Wrong ethnicity? Birth defect? Challenged? Poor hearing? Diabetic? Lack ambition? Lonely? Only liked for your money or influence? Dumped at the altar? Bullied? Abused? Betrayed? Uneducated? Handicapped?
God has graciously & wisely given us each and every circumstance – from our physical strengths and weaknesses, to our positive and negative circumstantial environments – that we might be brought face to face with the conditions best suited to maximize the exposure of the sin within us that needs dealt with, as it hinders Christ’s likeness within us.
Does this mean we simply look at everything and declare it good? No! May it never be! Some of these things considered in and of themselves are in fact bad. Very bad. But their being bad is no hindrance to God’s gracious purposes toward His own through them. Evil exists. But God’s goodness redeems even the most heinous of all things that touch us on behalf of His loved ones – so that we need not live as perpetual victims, but rather as prized trophies of grace.
On one side, it takes very penetrating hurts to go deep enough to uncover and expose the most buried and protected sins. On the other side, it takes very great privileges and pleasures to expose other of the deepest sins buried in our hearts. These are means He uses in sanctification – no matter how the Enemy may have designed it, or the evil in any other perpetrator’s heart may have meant it.
How then, will we respond? Will we use His “gifts” to grow? Or will they serve as our chief excuses to remain as we are? Praise God for His great redeeming grace!
His redemptive glory transcends anything we’ve begun to uncover yet. Oh how eternity alone will be able to declare it to us! Though we cannot see it now, the day will come when we will. His righteousness will be fully vindicated; evil and sin will be fully revealed and judged – and we will stand in awe of how He blessed us through the worst machinations the Enemy of our souls was able to concoct and execute through the agency of his fallen minions and fallen men. What a great God we serve.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 15:24

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 15 ESV”] 1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
2 The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
3 The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
keeping watch on the evil and the good.
4 A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
5 A fool despises his father’s instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
6 In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.
7 The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
not so the hearts of fools.
8 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
9 The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
whoever hates reproof will die.
11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
how much more the hearts of the children of man!
12 A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
he will not go to the wise.
13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
18 A hot- tempered man stirs up strife,
but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
19 The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns,
but the path of the upright is a level highway.
20 A wise son makes a glad father,
but a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
22 Without counsel plans fail,
but with many advisers they succeed.
23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
and a word in season, how good it is!
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud
but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
but gracious words are pure.
27 Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household,
but he who hates bribes will live.
28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
and good news refreshes the bones.
31 The ear that listens to life- giving reproof
will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
and humility comes before honor.
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Solomon: Being Intentional

 

Proverbs 15:24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent, that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.

A concept revisited over and over in Proverbs is that of seeing life as going somewhere, not just being lived. The Bible never sees mere existence as legitimate for human beings. We are meant to be people of purpose.

The naturalistic worldview posits that all of human life – indeed all of life period is nothing more than a cosmic accident. That there is no rhyme or reason to anything existing, let alone human life as distinct not only from other organic life – but any other substance. We are simply an animated substance and that, by chance.

It was Henry David Thoreau (Civil Disobedience and Other Essays – 1849) who wrote: “Most men lead lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” And if the naturalistic worldview is correct, there is no other way to live life. It began without purpose, prattles along without purpose, and ends without purpose. Even Thoreau’s “song” has no purpose, other than meaningless self-expression. Little more than the belch from a well fed stomach.

How far from this is the Biblical worldview.

The “prudent” live a life that is leading “upward.” It is the picture of one on a journey with a deliberate termination point – and that, beyond “Sheol” or the grave. The one who has had their eyes opened to the reality of the living God and our relationship to Him first in creation and then redemption in Jesus Christ – has set their sights on arriving in His presence as their goal.

Nothing ought to be quietly desperate about us – but every moment infused with hope and the knowledge that having been created in God’s image, and for those in Christ, in the process of being re-created in that image – this is but one stage of the journey. Determinative certainly, but final – never.

There was an old poem later put into song which carried the refrain:

There’s a Heaven to gain, and a Hell to shun;
The way is still straight, there’s a race to be run.
You can live as you please, but you must pay the cost;
And the highway to Heaven still goes by the cross.

That’s true. And the Prudent live their lives knowing it.

Let me ask you, are you deliberately going to Heaven? Living your life on purpose, or just existing?

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 14:2-7

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 14 ESV”] The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.
2 Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
3 By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
5 A faithful witness does not lie,
but a false witness breathes out lies.
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
7 Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.
9 Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance.
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
15 The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless.
17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 The evil bow down before the good,
the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?
Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.
23 In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,
but the folly of fools brings folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
but without people a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully
[/learn_more]

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Solomon: The Building Church

 

Proverbs 14:2 Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord, but he who is devious in his ways despises him.

Here is another excellent contrast that deepens our understanding of the “fear of the Lord.” The language is most insightful. The contrast in this place is easy to see – to fear the Lord is to take Him seriously – and to despise Him or treat Him lightly is the opposite course. No one “fears the Lord” by simply carrying out religious rituals and practices. They fear the Lord when they acknowledge that what God says carries weight with them – it influences decisively how they feel and how they understand truth. To call oneself a Christian, and yet to consider God’s Word little more than good advice is in fact to despise Him. And for those who DO fear Him, it will show itself in uprightness of life.

Proverbs 14:5 A faithful witness does not lie, but a false witness breathes out lies.

We must bear honest witness about Christ. Have we been saved by Him? Is He our redeemer? Have we truly been bought by Him and have become partakers of His salvation? To claim to be a Christian and yet to be unregenerate – to have never been born again – is to bear false witness. It is to say “Christ has saved me” – when He has done nothing of the sort. Do you believe Him? Have you trusted Him as your substitute on the Cross, owning that God’s wrath is what YOU were due, and that He bore it in your place?
A second aspect of this is that must bear honest witness about what Christ has done in other things beyond salvation. He does not need us to make up things about Him. To exaggerate about His goodness or to claim works for Him He has not done – nor to fail to make known His goodness to us. Many think they need to puff Him up in the eyes of others; and then some fail to make Him known at all. Both must repent and bear honest and true witness about Him.
And thirdly, we must bear honest witness about ourselves. We are so unwilling to be seen and thought of as sinners, failures, etc. Christ came to save the lost, not the righteous. If we will not own the truth about ourselves TO ourselves first, and then to others – we seek to be saved by some other means, and we have no true salvation. To need to look a certain way in the eyes of others (irrespective of how we truly are before God) is the height of hypocrisy.

Proverbs 14:6 A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain, but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.

The “scoffer” is one who is scornful of others, and never attains to the insight he or she believes they have into the souls of others. Scornfulness is an attempt to elevate self at the expense of the de-elevation of others. So it is the scoffer’s perspective must always be skewed, for their measure of self is all rooted in comparison to others – and others are not the standard – Christ is! As a result, they feel better about themselves as they look down on others, and all the while lose more and more of reality by not looking intently at Christ. Holy Spirit – keep our eyes fixed upon Christ that we might walk in the truth.

Proverbs 14:7 Leave the presence of a fool, for there you do not meet words of knowledge.

Do not spend time taking up the thinking of people who speak, live and perpetuate nonsense. Fools are practical atheists. They may claim to be deists or even Christians, but in their thinking and attitudes – for all intents and purposes, they reason and live as though there is no God. Leave them. They cannot impart knowledge of a Christ they do not know or worship. Fools say in their hearts (even though they may profess the contrary) that there really is no God. At least not the God of the Bible. Not a God who created all things by the Word of His power; or who rules His creation actively; or who is holy and must judge sin; or who gave His Son as a ransom for human sin, so that all who put their trust in Him might be forgiven and have everlasting life; or who will at last vanquish all of His enemies and consign them to an eternal Hell. For to deny such truths, is to deny God. And fools, deny God.
But as the old Puritan John Flavel once noted: “the most eagle-eyed philosophers [are] but children in knowledge, compared with the most illiterate Christians.” Why? Because to know the truth about who we are in the universe, and the salvation of our eternal souls in Christ – is knowledge that will give us all the glories of God in Christ Jesus for eternity. What a glorious God we serve, who saves the weak, the broken, the deficient – all by His wonderful grace. And bestows His lavish riches upon the meanest of all – simply by grace through faith. Else, none of us would be saved.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 14:1

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 14 ESV”] The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.
2 Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
3 By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
5 A faithful witness does not lie,
but a false witness breathes out lies.
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
7 Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.
9 Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance.
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
15 The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless.
17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 The evil bow down before the good,
the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?
Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.
23 In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,
but the folly of fools brings folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
but without people a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully
[/learn_more]

..

Solomon: The Building Church

 

Proverbs 14:1 The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down.

Is the Church as the wise woman about the business of building the Church – laboring WITH Christ in His goal? Or are we guilty of sometimes breaking it down with our own hands? If we would be a part of His purpose and plan in building His Church – here are some of the things we’ll need to keep in mind:

(2) It will take an upright walk.

(3) It will take imbibing God’s Wisdom.

(4) It will be messy.

(5) It must be built upon the Truth.

(6) It increases in the knowledge of Christ.

(7) It require we reject foolishness.

(8) It will take a Bible-saturated vision for the future.

(9) It require placing much weight upon the reality of sin and God’s sacrifice for in Christ Jesus.

(10) It takes knowing not everyone will share in our joy or sorrow in its increase and stumbling.

(11) It takes faith to believe it will succeed.

(12) It rejects worldly means for spiritual ones.

(13) It knows sorrow will attend its progress.

(14) It recognizes that some will pull back from joining the labor.

(15) It takes knowing that some things are true, and others are not.

(16) It is built by those who are cautious about falling into evil.

(17) It knows that rashness and fits of anger are counter to its aim.

(18) It understands this is a wisdom the world does not understand.

(19) It thrives on trusting in Christ’s final victory.

(20) It understands the real wealth is has to give to the world in the Gospel.

(21) It rejects a mindset that fails to value those made in God’s image.

(22) It trusts Christ will attend them in their faithfulness.

(23) It must conspire to bless mankind in Christ.

(24) It knows its wealth is in the King of Glory.

(25) It avoids deceit.

(26) It fears the Lord, and so fear little else like culture or politics.

(27) It thrives on knowing it King’s true power and position is not to be triffled with.

(28) It seeks to glorify its King in bringing more to Him.

(29) It walks in holy, divine patience.

(30) It thrive on the tranquility of being secure in the Savior.

(31) It remains generous with its bestowments.

(32) It abides when all else passes away.

(33) It informs the whole of the one who knows Christ as God’s wisdom.

(34) It seeks a Kingdom built upon God’s own righteousness in Christ.

(35) It trusts that that in following Christ, it walks in the favor of the Living God.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 14:8-23

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 14 ESV”]
The wisest of women builds her house,
but folly with her own hands tears it down.
2 Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
3 By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
5 A faithful witness does not lie,
but a false witness breathes out lies.
6 A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
7 Leave the presence of a fool,
for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
but the folly of fools is deceiving.
9 Fools mock at the guilt offering,
but the upright enjoy acceptance.
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
and no stranger shares its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
and the end of joy may be grief.
14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
15 The simple believes everything,
but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil,
but a fool is reckless and careless.
17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
and a man of evil devices is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 The evil bow down before the good,
the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
but the rich has many friends.
21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?
Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.
23 In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk tends only to poverty.
24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,
but the folly of fools brings folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
but without people a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
but envy makes the bones rot.
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
but sin is a reproach to any people.
35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully
[/learn_more]

..

Solomon: Talk is cheap

 

Proverbs 14:8 The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving.

The wise man is forever asking the question: Where will this take me? The fool doesn’t ask, because he doesn’t want to know. He wants to deceive himself into justifying falling into sin. But this is also the very place where the Christian finds great rejoicing. The Puritan Richard Baxter once said: “Once you have a God, a Christ, a heaven to rejoice in, you may rationally indulge a constant joy.” The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, and if that way is following Christ; if that way is the road to Heaven through the Gospel; if that way will result in being in the unveiled presence of our glorious Christ and Savior – our Savior and Lord, for ever – it is time to begin to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory! The only right word is – hallelujah!

Proverbs 14:9 Fools mock at the guilt offering, but the upright enjoy acceptance.

Every young person knows the sting of being thought of as silly, for paying attention to spiritual truths. So be it. Better to be accepted by God, than by millions of adoring fans. Let others mock at the “guilt offering”. They will mock us for feeling guilt at all, or for thinking that the sacrifice of Christ can remove that guilt. Either way – the Scripture says they are the fools. Let fools say what they will about your dependence upon Christ’s blood to meet your need in satisfying God for your guilt, you have The Father’s full acceptance. Their rejection is worth it. Better to have His acceptance than theirs. And if you are accepted in the Beloved – you are accepted indeed.

Proverbs 14:14 (ESV) — 14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways, and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

Throw off God’s yoke, and you will be full all right – full of filth and grime and all manner of sin and its effects.

Yield to His yoke, and in due time, an entire harvest of good things will be yours in the Spirit. Sin always begins with the neglect of what is ours in Christ, shrinking back (backsliding) from those holy habits that bring us repeatedly into His presence and into contact with the Gospel truths that transform our lives by the power of the Spirit. The heart desires to be filled. This is as we were designed. But what we pursue to fill it, makes the difference between Heaven and Hell.

Proverbs 14:15 The simple believes everything, but the prudent gives thought to his steps.

What do you believe, and why? These are questions that the Foolish never seem to put together. Many a man knows his “opinions.” He is acquainted with at least some of what he believes. But does he examine the reasons behind why he believes them to be true? The Wise are always about this business. They know that ideas have consequences. They examine and re-examine their own thoughts and views and take them back to the Word of God over and over for refinement and scrutiny. Even the Christian who never questions what he believes and why proves to be “simple.” And that is not a complimentary term. It comes from a word which implies someone who will believe anything – in other words – gullible. Christians are not to be gullible but discerning. Contrary to the World’s definition of faith – we don’t just “believe” as though believing anything makes it true or useful. Faith is the reasoned response of the one whose eyes have been opened to know that God has spoken to us in His Word and in His Son, and believing what God has said is true, orders their life accordingly. Be a thinking man or woman of God.

Proverbs 14:23 In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.

Here is the bankruptcy of mere “talk therapy”. One needs to act, not talk only. One needs even less to endlessly rehearse their woes in the ears of others. If you are not doing something about your problems, but merely discussing them with your friends and complaining – do not expect any progress. DO something if you can. Otherwise, you do nothing else but aggravate your own soul, and drag others into it. You will foster doubt, unbelief and bitterness in your own heart, and run the risk of infecting others with the same. Even prayer by itself is only talk, where action is called for. We must never do less than pray, but often must do much more. One needs not to just pray for a job, they need to go look for work. Don’t just pray that your marriage improve, learn to love and bless your spouse. Don’t get together and talk with others or even just pray about your Church, dig in and help build up others in Christ.

In every conquest of Canaan in the Old Testament, though God had promised the land to His people and told them He would fight for them and drive out the inhabitants, they STILL needed to raise the sword and actually go into battle.

So it is with our sins too. We cannot just pray them away – we must take all Scripture informed means to prosecute a war against them and prevent them from holding sway over us. This, by the power of the Spirit, believing that He will give us the victory if we will pursue in obedience to His Word, will see us bring them one by one under His hand. Fight on Christ. Do not do less than pray – pray always. But don’t stop there – fight! God has promised victory to those who cross over and pursue.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 13:11-12

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 13 ESV”] 1 A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
2 From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good,
but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
3 Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
4 The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
5 The righteous hates falsehood,
but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.
6 Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
but sin overthrows the wicked.
7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
8 The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth,
but a poor man hears no threat.
9 The light of the righteous rejoices,
but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
10 By insolence comes nothing but strife,
but with those who take advice is wisdom.
11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
that one may turn away from the snares of death.
15 Good sense wins favor,
but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
16 In everything the prudent acts with knowledge,
but a fool flaunts his folly.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
but a faithful envoy brings healing.
18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
21 Disaster pursues sinners,
but the righteous are rewarded with good.
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
but it is swept away through injustice.
24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
but the belly of the wicked suffers want.
[/learn_more]

..

Solomon: Maturity

 

Proverbs 13:11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.

Once again we have this parallel between the spiritual and the natural. So good is our God, that He surrounds us in the created order with multitudes of practical illustrations to reinforce spiritual realities. In this case, the topic is growth. And just as virtually nothing in the natural order grows in uncontrolled fits or miraculous jumps, neither do we grow spiritually in sudden spurts and jumps. Sure, there are seasons of accelerated growth, but not huge, unaccounted for leaps. No overnight nor miraculous transformations into spiritual maturity. Maturity comes with time and experience.

We do not synthesize Biblical truth in blocks as much as assembling bit by bit in solid, well cemented units of tested reality. Every child yearning for the privileges of age, still needs to mature to where those privileges are matched with willing responsibility. And this is true spiritually as well. It is why elders are called elders and not youngsters. Leaders are those who rise to that place not by random appointment, but by living the Christian life – with all of its joys, sorrows, hardships, struggles and battles consistently over time. It is why Paul warns Timothy to not “be hasty in the laying on of hands” (1 Tim. 5:22) – most likely referring to ordaining someone to an office in the Church. Time is a great revealer of hidden things. And those who look ready, may well not be.

So too Believer, do not look to sudden spiritual experiences, to movements, conferences, retreats, books or prayers as means to short circuit the kind of growth that only comes with time and experience. Those perceived “gains” usually dwindle before too long. Mountain top experiences fade so rapidly. But if you will give yourself to gather, little by little, you will be shocked at how solid and well-rounded and lasting such growth will be. Do not be afraid of giving God the time He needs to shift and shape and mold you afresh. One expert noted that when straightening teeth with braces, the average course runs about 4 years: two with braces, two with a retainer. Some shorter, some longer. How much more when dealing with bent characteristics of our fallen souls. Saved in an instant, but shaped in a lifetime. And perfected only at Christ’s return.

Do not be over anxious Christian – anxious yes, over-anxious, no. Take the time to saturate yourself in God’s Word as a habit of life. Learn to turn the heart to Him in prayer by instinct, and not just in set times to get your praying done or agenda accomplished. Cultivate the habit of gathering often with the saints in worship, filling the soul with nourishing things for the heart and mind that lead you back over and over to contemplate and glory in Christ. Do not worry about holding positions or filling roles in the Church, strive to grow in the character of Christ. Opportunities to serve will come most naturally to those who are seeking Christ more than the opportunities.

Grow. Steadily. Naturally. Trustingly. And what you gain, will never be lost. The Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.

Proverbs 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

If hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life – then change your hope to those things which will be fulfilled. Seek after those desires God delights to fill – and you will know true life. Continue to hope after what may never be yours, and you will sink in a bottomless abyss of disappointment and aching unfulfillment. Set your desire on the good things in Christ, and you will be satisfied beyond your desires.

I knew a man once who had suffered the loss of a limb. But he never accepted it. Deep inside he simply wanted to will his situation away, and to be whole like he was before. I would want that too. He never relented and grew more and more often resentful and despairing. He knew that his limb would not be replaced. He knew this was to be his lot. But oh how he resisted it. And the pain he suffered from his inward resistance against the unchangeable circumstance, was far greater than the loss of the limb itself. And far more lasting.

No wonder then the Scripture reminds us to “hope in God.” This is the state of the Psalmist when he pens: 

Psalm 42:1–6
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God. 
2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? 
3 My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” 
4 These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. 
5 Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation 
6 and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

The picture of a deer panting for water is of one nearing death – panicking lest none be found. Crying out and tormented, shut out form the congregation the Psalmist then turns from all of this and comes back to himself saying “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?” Why indeed, when he can turn and then say “Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation.” My outward circumstance may not change, but my soul can praise again – and THAT is where real hope is.

Hope in the Lord Beloved, and you are sure never to be disappointed.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Understanding Ethics and Morality in the New Covenant

1 Timothy 1:1-11
Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope, 2 To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. 3 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, 4 nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. 5 The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, 7 desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. 8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted.

Assignment

Ferguson - ethics and moralityA. Understanding biblical law & God’s ethical standard or rule for believers.
B. The aspect of the law of God which is universally binding (absolute or unchanging).
C. That aspect of the law of God not universally binding (i.E. As covenant law taught in the ot & nt).
D. How does God’s law individually and personally bind all mankind?

“There is perhaps no part of divinity attended with so much intricacy, and wherein orthodox divines do so much differ as stating the precise agreement and difference between the two dispensations of Moses and Christ.” − Jonathan Edwards 

Part of the problem is that we have not well understood TWO governing thoughts.

a. For the Believer, there is a shift from PRECEPT to PRINCIPLE

For this study – we are only going to look at how you and I still have the whole of the OT PRECEPTS in our Bibles, and how we are to relate to THAT aspect of the Law.

We’ll come back and deal with the LAW AS PRINCIPLE in our next time together.

b. For the Believer, We must understand what it means to use the Law “lawfully” 1 Tim. 1:8

To begin – A reminder of the structure of Paul’s letter to the Galatians is useful here.

This subject had to be addressed over and over to the NC Believers.

a. Ch. 1-3: Summed in Gal. 2:15-16 / The Law cannot JUSTIFY

b. Ch. 4-6: Summed in Gal. 5:1 & 16 / The Law cannot SANCTIFY

SO – if The Law was never meant to, neither has it any power to: Justify / “by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified”

AND IF The was never meant to, neither has it any power to: Sanctify / Heb. 8:7  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. 8  For finding fault with them, He says,  / Gal. 3:21

Yet a very great question remains then – how DO Believers look at the precepts of the Law?

If we can’t use it to JUSTIFY OR SANCTIFY ourselves – how in the world CAN we use it “lawfully”?

I want you to remind at this point – we are only speaking of the Law in terms of PRECEPT still – NOT PRINCIPLE.

We are talking about the “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” commands.

What is to be the Christians’ understanding of the Law and its demands upon his or her life?

What is the nature of the Believer’s RELATIONSHIP to the Law of God?

1 Tim 1:8-10 – Three Observations

1. The Law must be used LAWFULLY

It must be used for what it was intended.

2. [The] law is not made for a righteous person

The primary use of the Law is NOT for the man who has been made righteous with the righteousness of Christ

BUT: [It IS made] for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching,

3. The Believer is NOT “lawless”

Since the Law is NOT made for the righteousness man but for the lawless  man – The Believer is NOT lawless, even though he is not “under” the Law.

Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

1 Peter 4:3 For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry.

Rom. 6:14  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

The restoration of God’s OWN holiness to the HEART of the Believer – as it is re-inscribed there by the Holy Spirit in regeneration and energized by the indwelling presence of the Spirit is now the PRINCIPLE under which the Believer lives.

He is not constrained by externals as much as he is now motivated by new internals – He has a new inclination.

He is to use Paul’s words in 2 Cor. 5:14 – Constrained by love

1 John 5:1 “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him. 2  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.”

The man who has been born again, loves the righteous and holy God he once rebelled against and ran from. He now sees God’s righteousness as lovely, not distasteful. He love righteousness BECAUSE he loves the righteous God who loved him.

This we will attempt to unpack more fully in our following sessions.

But this still doesn’t fully answer our question – Sure, I may now LOVE righteousness, but what exactly is my relationship to God’s Law?

And that IS the key word, RELATIONSHIP

The point is, that being born again and justified by His grace and indwelt by His Spirit – we now stand in a totally different relationship to the Law than we once did.

The Law didn’t change – WE DID!

The issue is one of a change of relationship.

THE LAW IS STILL EXACTLY THE SAME FOR THE LAWLESS – 1 Tim. 1:8

THE SHIFT / Gal. 4:1-5 / 

Illustration: Trespassing vs. Being a co-owner (or joint-heir) If I become an heir, what did not belong to me now does – what attempting access to would once bring the charge of trespass, is now turned on its head. My relationship to it changed. I now have an entrance to the throne room of God which was once not mine to enter.

Illustration: NYS Driving age. Once I turned 16, the law that said I could not drive at 15, became the law that said I COULD drive. The law didn’t change, I did.

The Law is good IF it is used “lawfully”.

Classically – 3-Fold Purpose of the Law (Louis Berkhof) —

a. CIVIL: “The law serves the purpose of restraining sin and promoting righteousness. Considered from this point of view, the law presupposes sin and is necessary on account of sin. It serves the purpose of God’s common grace in the world at large.”

b. PEDAGOGICAL:In this capacity the law serves the purpose of bringing man under conviction of sin, and of making him conscious of his inability to meet the demands of the law. In that way the law becomes his tutor to lead him unto Christ, and thus becomes subservient to God’s gracious purpose of redemption.”

c. DIDACTIC (or Normative):The law is a rule of life for believers, reminding them of their duties and leading them in the way of life and salvation.” (Lutheran controversy)

Actually, while this is generally accepted, and nice and neat – it is nowhere near how the Bible speaks.

The 7-Fold Purpose of the Law

The Bible itself gives us 7 reasons for the Law.

a. EXPOSES SIN / Rom. 3:20b: “since through the law comes knowledge of sin.”

Rom. 5:20: “Now the law came in to increase the trespass”

Rom. 7:7 “Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”’”

PURELY DIAGNOSTIC – Like an X-Ray machine. It can show you the broken bone, but has no power to MEND the broken bone.

b. INSTRUCTS / Ex. 24:12 “The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”

To know what God thinks about things – what He likes & dislikes, proscribes and warns against.

I’ll unpack this in a message of its own – looking at the 10 Words as ten revelations of our God Himself.

c. HUMBLES / Lev. 16:31 “It is to be a Sabbath of solemn rest for you, that you may humble your souls; it is a permanent statute.” (NAS95)

It reminds us that we are under His authority – not autocrats.

d. DECLARATIVE / Deut. 4:6-8 Keep them and do them, for that will be your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is to us, whenever we call upon him? And what great nation is there, that has statutes and rules so righteous as all this law that I set before you today?

e. IDENTIFICATION / Same as Above    It shows we’re God’s people. We listen to Him, cherish His words, and live by His precepts.

f. PROPHETIC / Col. 2:16-17 “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”

g. PROTECTIVE / Gal. 3:19 “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.”

Mainly protective against two things: The Wrath of God / Natural Consequences of our sins

Also – Ga 3:24  So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.

MUCH MORE  Suggestion: Due to our change in relationship to the Law, the Law may be used “lawfully” (in respect to him or herself) by the Believer in the following three ways.

I want to suggest to you that due to our change in relationship to the Law, the Law may be used “lawfully” (in respect to him or herself) by the Believer in the following three ways.

The Law as PRECEPT – serves as a reminder of:

1. The Canceled Debt /  Col. 2:8-14

Col. 2 – Due to the fact that the decrees against us have been removed out of the way (i.e. Nailed to His cross) THEREFORE we are no longer to be judged concerning Sabbath days etc. – BECAUSE – they were shadows of that which was to come (i.e. Christ) and now that the substance is here – we no longer occupy ourselves with the shadows.

When the Believer is confronted with the Law of God, his first response ought to be to look at it as “having received double” – for his sins against God.  An infinite debt  PAID IN FULL!

2. Christ’s Imputed Righteousness / Rom. 3:21-26

Not only has my infinite debt been canceled – this is what has been deposited into my account!

I am righteous with the righteousness of Christ Himself!

2 Cor. 5:21  He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Rom. 5:19  For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. What Christ has done which is imputed to me.

He deals with me as though Christ’s own righteousness were mine!

What an unspeakable comfort!

3. The Glorious Promise / 1 John 3:1-3

We will wake in His likeness

Those words: Thou shalt & Thou shalt not are promises!

This is my promise, when I am done with you dear child you will

love me with all your heart mind soul and strength and never have some other god before me.

I will preserve you from falling prey to any idols

You will not bear my name vainly – it will not be an empty thing to

say you are God’s

You will rest in the perfect rest of Christ’s completed work for ever

You will honor your mother and father

You will not murder any more

You’ll never commit adultery again

You will never steal

You will never bear false witness against your brother or covert your neighbor’s wife or anything else he has

CONCLUSION:

Unbeliever, the Law represents the opposite of these three things to you.

For you, the Law shows you exactly how much obedience you owe God.

It reveals to you that you have failed in every one of the things He demands

And it guarantees that you will spend eternity suffering the torments of God’s just wrath.

But if you turn to Him today and confess your sin and cry out for mercy –

That very same Law can become for you what it is for every one who is putting their trust in the substitutionary death of Christ at Calvary –

The record of The Canceled Debt

The testimony of Christ’s Righteousness Imputed to you

and The Glorious Promise  of what He will work in you – Christ’s own image.

~ Reid

Visit Reid’s Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 19:1-3

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 19 ESV”]
Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
2 Desire without knowledge is not good,
and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
3 When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin,
his heart rages against the Lord.
4 Wealth brings many new friends,
but a poor man is deserted by his friend.
5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
6 Many seek the favor of a generous man,
and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
7 All a poor man’s brothers hate him;
how much more do his friends go far from him!
He pursues them with words, but does not have them.
8 Whoever gets sense loves his own soul;
he who keeps understanding will discover good.
9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and he who breathes out lies will perish.
10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury,
much less for a slave to rule over princes.
11 Good sense makes one slow to anger,
and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
12 A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion,
but his favor is like dew on the grass.
13 A foolish son is ruin to his father,
and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
15 Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep,
and an idle person will suffer hunger.
16 Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life;
he who despises his ways will die.
17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will repay him for his deed.
18 Discipline your son, for there is hope;
do not set your heart on putting him to death.
19 A man of great wrath will pay the penalty,
for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.
20 Listen to advice and accept instruction,
that you may gain wisdom in the future.
21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
22 What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
and a poor man is better than a liar.
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm.
24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish
and will not even bring it back to his mouth.
25 Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
26 He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother
is a son who brings shame and reproach.
27 Cease to hear instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
28 A worthless witness mocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.
29 Condemnation is ready for scoffers,
and beating for the backs of fools.
[/learn_more]

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Solomon: Man’s folly

 

Proverbs 19:1–3 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool. 2 Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way. 3 When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.’

Taken as a whole, Proverbs 19 functions as an extraordinary exposition of the nature of the Believer’s inward dialog when tempted by sin. Verses 1-8 demonstrate a vigorous back and forth within the heart and mind, while verses 9-29 list the way the righteous man argues back against the temptation of his own sinfulness until he “shouts it down”, for lack of a better term. The remnant of indwelling sin argues for ascendency and to re-establish the rulership the in the Believer it lost when Christ became Lord. And our need to recognize this form of inward argumentation, to grow in our skill in arguing for righteousness and against sin, and the need to arm ourselves with the Word of God richly so as to have a ready supply of counter-arguments to win the day – cannot be overemphasized. The renewing of the Spirit of the mind is central to our growth in grace, and to overthrowing the seemingly endless creativity with which our own souls seek to justify sin.

That said, we do not want to overlook some of the more independent concepts which also emerge from this rich portion of God’s Word.

The thought in verse 1 is simple – but so very often overlooked. In a society in which everything seems geared to encourage us that we can every wish or desire fulfilled some way, and that it is only right that it be so – indeed that it is our ‘right’ to have everything we desire – God’s Word counters with a resounding – NO! That’s not true!

When we believe we ‘deserve” everything we want, we cannot help but soon talk ourselves into every kind of vice, compromise and blatant sin we are capable of imagining. Thus verse 1 challenges the prevailing Western worldview – It is Better to be lacking whatever it is that makes me feel deprived – and do so trusting in the Lord – than to be scheming and manipulating both God and man to bring my desires about. And to be perfectly honest, how much of our prayer life reflects this very undercurrent of manipulating God into giving in to our schemes.

As a Pastor, many a person has come through the door of this Church with a great tale of how they had strayed from God, but now they are on fire, and oh, by the way, I’ve lost my job and my wife and pray with me for restoration. All of which is legitimate on the surface. But more often than I care to confess, when the job isn’t restored, the diagnosis not reversed, the spouse remains unreconciled – then it is not long before they are back out the door and serving self like before.

The entire matter had been little more than thinking ‘if I just get my religious life in order – God will have to notice and fix everything.’ In other words – sorcery. Trying to manipulate God through vows, commitments and temporary lifestyle changes all tied to getting what they want. It is a sad and tragic reality. Thomas Aquinas wrote: “It is clear that he does not pray, who, far from uplifting himself to God, requires that God shall lower Himself to him, and who resorts to prayer not to stir the man in us to will what God wills, but only to persuade God to will what the man in us wills.”

So it is verse 2 builds on that issue and directs us to gain insight into the true nature of our desires. For if we do not identify the true longings within as in fact a need for Christ and NOT the externals – we cannot help but miss the way, and live in dissolution.

Aimlessly seeking to fill up inward desires we have not even properly identified will lead us into all kinds of wickedness. The lost person does not realize their deepest need is Christ. And often, even the Believer fails to recognize that deep, still unmet desires, must be brought to Him. He, wants to satisfy us fully. We, do not want to be satisfied in Him. We do not see that our desires unmet in Him, are desires for Him that are mis-labled, mis-understood or perverted from their rightful object. Heavenly Father – open our eyes!

Such driving desire, not knowing why God may have withheld what I want, will lead me to mistrust Him: It will kill faith. I will miss His path.

But then – in verse 3, when we see how empty our pursuits have been, amazingly, we blame God. He, who all the while waits to be our satisfaction, who loves us immeasurably and fully, who desires our best, gets blamed because WE did not stop to recognize it was Him we were meant to be satisfied in all the while, and not the externals of this life in this world.

How often it is when we at last find the bankruptcy of following after the misnamed, misidentified longings – we will blame the disaster on God rather than ourselves.

Wicked man that I am – I am ALWAYS looking for someone to blame for my miseries beyond myself.

What a glorious Savior then is Christ – who leads out of this consuming vortex, to seek our all in Him and Him alone. Where there is never a loss of what is true joy, true contentment, true glory. Oh that our souls might recognize and long only for ‘the unsearchable riches of Christ’ – and NOT, this world’s riches we vainly think He will bring us apart from Himself. That we might never love any of Christ’s gifts, above the Giver Himself.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 17:19-21

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 17 ESV”]
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she- bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
[/learn_more]

..

Solomon: Guard our lips

 

Proverbs 17:9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.

Heavenly Father, guard my lips in this matter. Make me compassionate over the sins and failings of others, rather than indulging my flesh in repeating their errors to others. Let me love them better. Let me learn to cover their sin. Let me obtain your heart – you, who keeps our confessions in the deepest of confidences, and though you witness my sins a thousand times a day, do not run off to tell others, but cover it in love. Make me more like Jesus.

Proverbs 17:10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.

1. This is a good test for us to find out whether or not we are men of “understanding” –  i.e. not fools. Do rebukes hit us hard? Or do we ignore them? We are fools if they do not take their toll on us. This does not mean we crumble under every criticism. It DOES mean we listen to criticism and weigh it. If there is something of truth in it, we had better listen and learn. If it is a false accusation, we can toss it aside. But wise men are not impervious.

2. It is good for leadership to be careful not to be excessive in rebuking those who otherwise show themselves to be “understanding.” The danger here is that we can wound the tender heart and mind needlessly. Some who are very sound and good can be dealt severe and scarring blows when our criticisms make them wither and shrink back. Bear in mind how these things often pierce others very deeply.

3. How difficult it is to make any worthwhile impact on a true fool. He does not respond even to a hundred blows. In comparison, how easy it is to impact those who are men of understanding. Do not waste your time with fools. Those who will not listen, will not even if accosted by the truth in drastic measure. “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” Titus 3:10

Proverbs 17:12 Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.

Remember, the fool is the one who has said in his heart “there is no God.” The one who thinks and lives like this, is the most dangerous man in the world. Let history testify to the wicked debacles of religious men gone mad and perverting Christ to seek earthly riches. It is a grotesque picture. But let history also testify to the unspeakable savagery of “fools” in their “folly. Nothing compares to the bloodshed of the godless. The Mao Tse-tungs, Stalins, etc. exterminated multiplied millions. The view of man as without true value in a godless mindset is frightful indeed. Rather to meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs. At least there is no conscious disdain for human life in general, and no extension of rage beyond the immediate perceived danger of her young.

Proverbs 17:22  A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Sorrows, trials, woes and difficulties come to all in life. None are exempt. The foolish, fix upon their woes, setting their eyes upon their cares and constantly mulling over their disappointments. Rehearsing their griefs and never letting go of their heartaches. And soon enough there is nothing but dryness to the core. The wise suffer the same, but set their hearts and minds on the good hand of their God. Seeing His wise providence in all, they trust their sometimes dark and painful course to the hand of their loving Master. So their joy, refreshed at the fountain of Calvary’s cross is like medicine to the whole man. Giving strength to endure, patience to wait, and hope for the expected end of their faith.

What a glorious Savior we serve!

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 17:8

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 17 ESV”]
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she- bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
[/learn_more]

..

Solomon: A magic stone

 

Proverbs 17:8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.

Proverbs contains many sayings like this one which need to be thought about carefully. The idea here is not that bribes are being extolled or recommended, but how using such forms of dishonesty end up actually deceiving the one using them. Repeated sinfulness ruins our ability to think rightly. Again in this case – this observation is not to be construed as an endorsement. Bribers think their bribes move mountains – that they are virtual magic. But of course there is no “magic”- no neutral “force” one can access to bring themselves the good or gain they seek so madly. They imagine it makes them to prosper whether they are walking in righteousness or not. It is a lie. One day, they will find out that not only did they not achieve the goal they hoped, but in fact did damage to their own souls, ruining their ability to discern right from wrong.

Now those who have not yet understood the Gospel that salvation is all of grace and the free gift of God to those who believe His message of forgiveness and trust the substitutionary atonement Christ made on the cross – in essence believe that their salvation is the product of bribes. They think to bribe God with their good works. To imagine that their guilt can somehow be magically removed by offsetting the balances by going to Church, being a good neighbor, perhaps helping the poor or working for social justice. All things which are laudable and good in and of themselves, but are of absolutely no value in removing the guilt and stain of Adam’s sin imputed to us, nor the sins we’ve actually committed ourselves. And the longer they persist in this mindset, the more deluded they become by it. They constructed this imaginary means of salvation, and thus fool themselves into denying the true Gospel for this Gospel of bribery.

But there is a message for Believers here too.

Christians cannot interact with God on the basis of bribes either. Yet we do it. We do it sometimes in the aftermath of falling into certain sins, and then make self-constructed deals with God hoping to bribe Him into dealing softly with us. Maybe we ramp up our Bible reading time, or make vows to give more in the offering plate, or attend more services etc. All in essence being attempts to bribe God. And it will not work. In truth, He is far more patient and kind and forgiving than any of us dare to imagine. We could never bribe Him to be any more sweet, for He is already sweeter than we can imagine. When we simply acknowledge our sin and ask for His forgiveness and strength to resist in times to come – trusting fully in Christ’s blood already poured out on our behalf – we know full and free forgiveness in unimaginable proportion.

Nor can we bribe God to move His hand in prayer. Some have treated fasting as a form of spiritual bribery to get what we want. Or, as above, we make vows to consecrate our time or efforts in particular ways in order to get Him to answer a prayer request or meet a particular desire we have. But He will not be bribed by any such thing. It is an insult to His Fatherhood. He delights far more in our simple trust than anything we could ever bring to the table in some effort to move Him.

As Believers we need to banish from our minds once and for all any sort of bribery in dealing with our Loving Father.

He is not moved that way. He delights to simply be trusted above all other things. He needs no conceivable incentive to bless us. He has already conspired to bless us beyond our comprehension. So Paul can write:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”. (Ephesians 1:3–5) 

What we really need is to grasp:

“Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

We never need to coax blessing from a freely blessing God. That doesn’t mean we do not make our desires and petitions known – but rather that in making them known, we come with hearts fully assured of His love toward us, and His delight in us, and His willingness to bless us above all that we ask or think – because we are already in Christ!

Bribes are evidence that we have not really believed in – and therefore do not really trust – the Gospel.

Beloved – He loves you! He cannot love you more, for He already loves you as He loves Christ Himself. Oh how He longs for each of His children to simply live and lavish trustingly in the grace which is already ours in our Lord Jesus.

Once we really digest that truth, no form of bribery will ever seem useful or magical to us again.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 17:3

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 17 ESV”]
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she- bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
[/learn_more]

..

Solomon: When God Refines

 

Proverbs 17:3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.

It is in the heat, only in the furnace, that our hearts will reveal the dross still in them. It is only under extreme pressure that some impurities will at last show themselves and rise to the surface that they may be removed. We do not enjoy the fire. No one does. It isn’t pleasant. But it is so wonderfully useful. The truth is we would rather remain un-assaulted by the trials. But then our sins remain hidden, and still dangerous to our own souls as well as to others.
But here is a time to remember what is really going on. For we can vainly imagine that the soul-work of sanctification that the Spirit is about in us is something which is done in an instant, and that without discomfort. How many times have we prayed with our Beloved Paul for God to just take some thorn in the flesh away? I have. But that is the exception, not the rule – even as it was for Paul too. It is in vain that we seek some single experience to jolt us into a higher stage of spiritual growth. We want someone to utter a single powerful prayer and lay the battle against the flesh to rest. A seminar, a book, a sermon, an experience of some sort to short circuit the process and bring about the maturity in Christ we long for. But that is not His way.
Over and over the Divine Refiner returns to His laborious work in us. Heating and reheating, stirring and filtering and searching out those hidden impurities that seem to defy detection one day, only to finally appear the next. All at once, whole chunks of putrid debris float to the surface to be skimmed off by His loving hand – searching always to make us into the finest vessels imaginable.
Creation was child’s play in contrast to the work of re-creation. Nothing in the material universe as created resisted the will of the Maker the way sin in us seeks to wrest control out of His hands at every turn. But He is not about a mere work of fashioning lifeless clay. He is about His crowning achievement. He is undoing infinite damage caused by the Fall and then bringing about new vessels even greater and higher than in our first estate. It is nothing short of the same power exercised to first speak light out of darkness, and then to raise Jesus Himself from the dead. No wonder it seems gargantuan in scope, and requires a breaking up of the deeps. But the promise is worth it.
I am reminded of those insightful words some attribute to J. Oswald Sanders and others say remains anonymous – but speak the truth of these spiritual matters well:

When God wants to drill a man,
And thrill a man,
And skill a man
When God wants to mold a man
To play the noblest part;

When He yearns with all His heart
To create so great and bold a man
That all the world shall be amazed,
Watch His methods, watch His ways!

How He ruthlessly perfects
Whom He royally elects!
How He hammers him and hurts him,
And with mighty blows converts him

Into trial shapes of clay which
Only God understands;
While his tortured heart is crying
And he lifts beseeching hands!

How He bends but never breaks
When his good He undertakes;
How He uses whom He chooses,
And which every purpose fuses him;

By every act induces him
To try His splendor out-
God knows what He’s about.

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.

Proverbs 17:2

 

Probers for Living

Series: Digging Deeper into Proverbs

..

[learn_more caption=”Proverbs 17 ESV”]
Better is a dry morsel with quiet
than a house full of feasting with strife.
2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
and the Lord tests hearts.
4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
5 Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
and the glory of children is their fathers.
7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
still less is false speech to a prince.
8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
wherever he turns he prospers.
9 Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she- bear robbed of her cubs
rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret
to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
[/learn_more]

..

Solomon: Redemption

 

Proverbs 17:2 A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.

The obvious first application to be noticed here is how this pictures redemption. Those who hear and believe the Gospel, are given the power to become Sons of God. Though we are but servants to the Creator, we become adopted sons and daughters through the Cross-work of Jesus: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11–13) The glory of this mystery is unfathomable. We are not just adherents, members, citizens, creatures or worshipers, we are children of the most high, in a relationship to God the Father as close to that of the second member of the Trinity as we can be, without actually being divine ourselves. And this, due to the fact that the Gentiles are grafted in to the promises of Abraham through faith in Christ Jesus. “Hear God, and inherit all He promises” is the call. Even if those to whom the promises were originally given failed to obtain it. “What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened” (Romans 11:7).
What an amazing salvation we have in Jesus – and to what heights of walking within those realities and privileges ought we to aspire.
But secondly, we have an historic record of how this principle plays itself out in the most tragic of ways.
Moses had two sons, Gershom and Eliezer. As Levites, they belonged to the priestly class. Yet it fell to neither one of them to take Moses’ place. That honor goes not to one of the sons – but to the servant, Joshua. Joshua who distinguished himself in his wise dealing and seeking after God in his service to Moses all his days. On a side note, this is a caution about building ministerial dynasties in the Church today. Being someone’s son or daughter gives no one some spiritual right to a ministerial position, any more than being a son or daughter automatically excludes them. But each must stand on their own record of seeking and following the Lord in fidelity.
What becomes of these two, Gershom and Eliezer? Little is told to us but what we read in Judges. Judges 18:30–31 “And the people of Dan set up the carved image for themselves, and Jonathan the son of Gershom, son of Moses, and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up Micah’s carved image that he made, as long as the house of God was at Shiloh.”
This is extremely important. From the time of Moses’ grandson, all the way until the Assyrian captivity of the northern tribes, idolatry had been tolerated among some of “God’s people”. As it appears, Moses’ own offspring at the very least had no counter influence to be noted against this idolatry, and at worst, they were complicit if not participants as the text would seem to imply. And all this happened while The Tabernacle was still present among them and in full use. It is positively mind-boggling.
But this too is not without an example of astounding grace and patience on behalf of our God. For The Lord will wait hundreds of years before sending the Assyrians to devastate them over this unrepentant use of idols along side of claiming to serve the Living God. They will still be part of Israel’s united kingdom under David’s leadership and halcyon era of Solomon’s. All the while, this corruption is never addressed by them, never abandoned. How tragically sin makes its appearance, indeed builds its own tent along side of God’s.
But how patient God is. How long He strives with them. How he sends prophet after prophet and chastening after chastening and blessing upon blessing upon blessing before He takes drastic action. And even then with the promise of abiding love and compassion, and a willingness to restore upon confession and repentance.
As Tim Keller is wont to say, we are far more wicked than any of us dares to believe, and God is far more loving and gracious than any of us dares to believe.
What a Savior!

~ Reid

Leave comments at Responsive Reiding
_______________
Reid Ferguson
Reid serves as the pastor for preaching and vision at Evangelical Church of Fairport in Fairport New York. A native of Rochester, N.Y., he has served in various ministry areas during his life, including: a founding member of the former Mark IV Quartet, Youth Pastor at ECF, former board member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.), and author of The Little Book of Things You Should Know About Ministry (Christian Focus Publications, 2002). Pastor Reid blogs regularly at Responsive Reiding.