Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Proverbs 3: 3 & 4

A quick note: I wanted to let those of you who are following this Bible Study know that I will be trying to post at least every two or three days unless an emergency comes up. At least that is my plan at this time. We will see how the Lord leads. Trying to post everyday just didn’t seem to work out, but I don’t plan to quit at this time by any means… just cut back a bit.

Ok… Now, lets read today’s verses, and then we will take a closer look at them:

Proverbs 3: 3 & 4

3 Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,

4 And so find favor and high esteem
In the sight of God and man.

There are so many verses in the Bible that talk about having "mercy." The online dictionary gives these definitions: mercy – 1. leniency and compassion shown toward offenders by a person or agency charged with administering justice; 2. a disposition to be kind and forgiving; 3. the feeling that motivates compassion 4. alleviation of distress; showing great kindness toward the distressed.

The Bible tells us that God has mercy on us, and that we should have mercy toward those around us. If we are Christians (trying to be Christ-like) then being merciful should be becoming a way of life for us. If we are in authority over others at work or at home, we should show leniency and compassion whenever it is not detrimental to the growth of the other person.

Sometimes, we are more merciful by disciplining than by “letting it go…” and not letting the person learn from their mistake. This is where weighing the truth and using wisdom (say from looking at the surrounding circumstances very carefully) is so often needed. Snap judgments to often lead to the need for us to apologize to God and to those that were hurt by them.

Our overall mindset should be one of kindness and forgiveness, remembering how much we have been forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice for us. By always keeping this in mind, we will have “the feeling that motivates compassion” toward others that we come into contact with as we travel through this life. Being “compassionate” means that we will “show kindness toward the distressed” and try to help them out of their problems.

True mercy DOES hinge on truth. They go together. Verse 3 says that these two should be “bound around our neck.” To me, I picture them as being hung like a necklace… a piece of adornment and beauty in a person’s life that shows what is written “on the tablet of your heart.” Mercy and truth should be what MOTIVATES us to do the good “works” that are a witness to the fact that God’s love is IN and A PART of our hearts.

We should also remember that Jesus said “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” I would really want God to show those attributes of mercy to me in my life.

Verse 4 tells us that both men AND GOD will see us with “favor and high esteem,” when we live a life that demonstrates mercy that is based on truth. The dictionary gives these definitions for esteem - 1. the condition of being honored; 2. an attitude of admiration; 3. a feeling of delighted approval and liking.
Wouldn’t you want other people, and MOST importantly, God, to look on you with a “feeling of delighted approval and liking…” for what you are doing? I know I would!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Proverbs 3: 1 & 2 – Add to Your Life…

Today, we are starting to study Chapter 3 of Proverbs. Many of the verses in this chapter are very well known and I am sure you will probably recognize them as we read along. There are many principles that, if followed will allow God to bless a person’s life mightily!

Proverbs 3 (NKJV)

1 My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
2 For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.

Verse one starts out as Chapter 2 did with the allegory of a parent (Wisdom) admonishing their child not to forget their “law,” in this case, God’s laws. It goes on to say “let your heart keep my commands.” We are not to just “know” the commands or commandments with our minds, but to “take them to heart” or make them a part of our very beings.

Verse 2 tells us that if we DO put His law or commandments into the depths of our being, then they will add days to our lives, and peace as well. These are such rich and mighty promises, for we don’t know how many days we are “allotted” as one verse says, but those days can be “added to” by planting God’s laws deep into our lives.

One king, Hezekiah, had 15 years “added” to his life it tells us in 2 Kings 20: 1 – 6 which is a direct example of this principle. This king says that he had walked with God in truth, with a loyal heart, and had followed God’s laws… he had made them a part of him, and because of this, God “added to” his life.

2 Kings 20: 1 – 6:
Hezekiah’s Life Extended

1 In those days Hezekiah was sick and near death. And Isaiah the prophet, the son of Amoz, went to him and said to him, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’”2 Then he turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the LORD, saying, 3 “Remember now, O LORD, I pray, how I have walked before You in truth and with a loyal heart, and have done what was good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

4 And it happened, before Isaiah had gone out into the middle court, that the word of the LORD came to him, saying, 5 “Return and tell Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of David your father: “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; surely I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD. 6 And I will add to your days fifteen years. I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake, and for the sake of My servant David.”

Is that awesome, or WHAT !!! (If you continue reading in the next verses of that story, you will also find another of the wonders of God where He “turned back time…” We have a MIGHTY, all powerful God, and EVERYTHING is in HIS hands!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Proverbs 2:16- 22 (NKJV)

Last time, we looked at verses 10 – 15 of this second chapter of Proverbs, and today, we will finish this chapter by studying verses 16 through 22. I am putting verses 10 & 11 here as a reminder of what the Lord says will help keep us from the things spoken of in the verses we are going to study today.

Proverbs 2: 10 & 11 (NKJV)

10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,…

Proverbs 2:16- 19 (NKJV)

16 To deliver you from the immoral woman,
From the seductress who flatters with her words,
17 Who forsakes the companion of her youth,
And forgets the covenant of her God.

18 For her house leads down to death,
And her paths to the dead;
19 None who go to her return,
Nor do they regain the paths of life—

The beginning of the chapter shows that the whole chapter is an allegory (story with a moral) and it started out with a parent speaking to a son. To continue the allegory, the figure of an “immoral woman” that is trying to seduce the young man is used and the parent is warning against this.

Throughout the Bible, an “immoral woman,” “adulterous woman.” or “harlot” is used to portray other gods or things that would “seduce” us away from God in some form or another. Many of the prophets used this symbol and the book of Hosea shows this clearly. God’s plan for marriage was for “two to become one,” heart, soul and mind. Marriage is the form He chose to use as an example or symbol of what He wants us to become with Him… His word speaks of “the Bride of Christ” being the church (those that follow Him).

He wants us to become “one with him”… A PART of Him… to know Him intimately, as He knows us. Living in the world today often makes it hard for people to understand the “perfect-ness” that a truly good marriage can be after years of intimacy… sharing the good times AND the hard times, and learning from them… learning to TRUST a partner that will never leave you nor forsake you.

Humans can never live up to ALL of these standards. There are some, that WITH GOD’s HELP, may attain a place near to that goal, but having CHRIST as our partner, through life, CAN be that way. Trust requires a person to give of themselves, and if they receive back a trustworthy response, that trust will grow to the next point of giving.

THIS is why adultery is so horrendous in God’s sight. The breaking of a “trust” of this nature, is a cut to the very soul and heart of a person. It is like thrusting a sword into the heart to cut it and separate it back out from one, into two! God understands, because He keeps putting Himself out there for His people (both Old and New Testament followers and believers) and they have so often turned away from Him. Many times, they turn, based on what other people have said and done, believing the lies of this world instead of the truth of God… believing those that speak “perverse” words and follow “devious” paths (see the last study).

He showed just what love and forgiveness (because humans mess up so much) can do to help reestablish trust in a relationship through the example of giving His son.

In old Jewish tradition, a child was “betrothed” (engaged… promised) at a very young age. A pact, legal promise, or “covenant” was made. The couple would grow to know each other as they grew up, and while the “groom” was building their house. When the father of the groom proclaimed the house ready, the young man would go and call to his bride (often at a time she didn’t know) and then they would have the marriage ceremony. (This also reminds us of Jesus promise and his return for his bride…)

Verses 17 through 19 speaks of this “adulterous” young woman who decides to go her own way instead of continuing on the path to marriage. She “forsakes the companion of her youth” that she was betrothed to, and “forgets the covenant of her God.” Not only does she do that, but she lures others in to her immoralities, and following an immoral path leads a path of no return and, eventually, to death. “Lust of the flesh” will take control of us if we don’t take control of it! God is there to HELP us fight these “lusts of the flesh,” IF we follow Him and His paths.

The last three verses of this chapter simply summarize the rest of the chapter.

Proverbs 2:20- 22 (NKJV)
20 So, you may walk in the way of goodness,
And keep to the paths of righteousness.
21 For the upright will dwell in the land,
And the blameless will remain in it;
22 But the wicked will be cut off from the earth,
And the unfaithful will be uprooted from it.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Proverbs 2: 10 - 15

Searching for wisdom, as we have seen in verses 1-6, helps us to get closer to God… to really get to KNOW Him as a person; His ways, and His character. It helps us learn the truths that He wants us to know. Now, lets read today's verses.

Proverbs 2: 10 - 15 (NKJV)

10 When wisdom enters your heart,
And knowledge is pleasant to your soul,
11 Discretion will preserve you;
Understanding will keep you,

12 To deliver you from the way of evil,
From the man who speaks perverse things,
13 From those who leave the paths of uprightness
To walk in the ways of darkness;

14 Who rejoice in doing evil,
And delight in the perversity of the wicked;
15 Whose ways are crooked,
And who are devious in their paths;

Inside of each person that He has created, is a “God sized hole.” People are, instinctually, always trying to fill that “hole” with something that will bring peace and joy into their heart. When God is there, “entering your heart” then your soul is fulfilled, and you’ll find pleasure there.

Learning that there is a God that is intimately concerned with your every thought and deed, should help foster “discretion” in a person. The online dictionary says that discretion is - 1. the trait of judging wisely and objectively; AND 2. Ability or power to decide responsibly.” This ability will “preserve” us (keep us out of trouble). The second line of verse 11 restates the first line as following one of the rules of Hebrew poetry.

Restatement is done a lot in these chapters we’ve been studying, because seeing the value of wisdom and the folly of “indiscretion,” or NOT being discrete, is so important in God’s eyes. He wants us to have His peace and joy in our hearts and a soul full of pleasure because He loves us so much.

Verse 12 thru 15 refer back to verses 10 and 11. If we let wisdom enter our hearts, then we are delivered from the “way of evil” and will choose our friends wisely, staying away from people who “speak perverse things.” (perverse – 1. marked by a disposition to oppose and contradict; 2. resistant to guidance or discipline; 3. deviating from what is considered moral or right or proper or good; 4. Obstinately persisting in an error or fault; wrongly self-willed or stubborn)

God calls people with this nature, EVIL. We are warned that they will lead us AWAY from “right paths” and INTO “the ways of darkness.” Their words will make the evil, wicked things seem “delightful.” God calls them “crooked” and “devious” (devious – 1. Not straightforward; shifty 2. characterized by insincerity or deceit; evasive

These verses warn us, strongly, not to associate with people who display a “perverse” way of speaking, and who are “devious.” Reading the meanings of these two words says a lot about the type of people we should stay away from. We all know people with a tendency toward these natures, and we must be on guard when we are in their presence, so that our thoughts are not brought down to their level, and away from the things God would have us think on:

Philippians 4:8 (NIV)

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Proverbs 2: 6 - 9

Today, we will look at the next four verses of Chapter 2:
Proverbs 2: 6 - 9 (NKJV): The Value of Wisdom Continued

6 For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding;
7 He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk uprightly;

8 He guards the paths of justice,
And preserves the way of His saints.
9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.

Verse 6 starts out by saying that it is the Lord that gives wisdom, and it is from HIS Word (mouth) that we gain knowledge and understanding. This is why it is so important that we read ALL of His word. HE is the creator and God that made the “rules” that this universe works on. Satan, from the time he lied to the woman, Eve, in the garden of Eden, has tried to twist knowledge and push “humanist” understanding of things. God says that His ways AREN’T our ways.

Verse 7 talks about the “upright.” The online dictionary gives this definition: upright - of moral excellence; "a genuinely good person"; "a just cause"; "an upright and respectable man." It says that God “stores up sound wisdom” and “is a shield” for those that live up to these standards.
Verse 8 continues to talk about God’s care for his people. It describes how He guards or “watches over” the “paths of justice.” If we are following those paths, than we would be under His eyes, and our ways will be preserved. (
Saint: 2. An extremely virtuous person.)

The last verse we will look at today is verse 9.

9 Then you will understand righteousness and justice,
Equity and every good path.

It continues with the thoughts of the previous verses. If we are “listening” to God’s word, and following it by being “upright” then we will see that he is guarding us and we will begin to “understand” God’s ways of righteousness, justice, equity, and all the good paths that God has in store for us.

LB NOTE: I want to share a piece of wisdom that I found while looking for some clip art for this blog post. It is a wonderful post that is written by a woman who is raising boys, and it is about raising "Godly, manly but GENTLEMANLY men." Please, if you are raising boys, or know of someone who is, share this post of hers with them!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Proverbs 2:1- 5

Today we will start on the second chapter of Proverbs. The first chapter told where the book came from and gave a very brief verses of the reasons why searching for wisdom was good. Most of the chapter really stressed the problems that turning away from Godly wisdom would cause.

Chapter 2, is just the opposite, and stresses the VALUE of Wisdom and the blessings that seeking it will offer. First, lets go over the text:

Proverbs 2:1- 5 (NKJV): The Value of Wisdom
1 My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,

2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;

3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,

4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;

5 Then you will understand the fear of the LORD,
And find the knowledge of God.

“My son” shows that the allegory (allegory: a story, poem, or picture with an underlying meaning) of a parent speaking to their child continues through this chapter. These words apply both to a male or female child. Verses 1-4 continue to instruct the "child" (read "child of God") that listening “with your heart and not just your ears” and then APPLYING the words of wisdom, will help you to understand the “fear of the LORD.”
James 1:23-25 (NIV)

23Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

As we have studied before, this is speaking of the AWE or REVERENCE that a person gains of God when they truly SEEK His face… His character… His love, mercy, AND justice. A God that is fair, may be long-suffering (VERY patient) BUT there will come a time of justice. He paid the price of our sins, but if WE refuse to accept that gift, and turn from His ways of love, then justice is necessary. For some, that place of real fear, if they see the evil that comes from turning from Him, IS a place of mercy for they will turn to Him… Sort of the principle of “No atheists in a foxhole.”

God uses so many ways to turn people to Him, for He loves them all, and each is so different from the next. Some are saved through the whisper of love, others through the guidance of parents or mentors, others through “hitting the bottom” (drug, alcohol, sex, etc.). Some are saved through seeing the mighty, miracle power of God in their OR other’s lives. Some are saved through watching the faith of a saint who refuses to turn away from God though they are going through horrible suffering.

Those of you who have several children or have worked around many children know this very well. Each of those children are so different... a wise parent, teacher, or mentor will realize this and use the guidance, discipline and rewards that apply differently to each child/student. You may be the only "Jesus" they see...

This is what these verses are talking about in this section. Coming to the point of realization that there TRULY IS a Mighty, Awesome, ALL POWERFUL, LOVING God that created us and IS in ultimate charge of this world and of where we will spend eternity, IS the BEGINNING of wisdom. THIS is what will cause us to thirst, hunger, and seek after Him and His will. Godly wisdom to a person that understands this, IS like “silver” or “hidden treasure” for our lives.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Proverbs 1:28-32

Today we will finish the first chapter of this book. These last verses continue the message that this whole chapter has stressed. Those that seek wisdom will prosper, but those that have ignored and not sought wisdom in their lives will regret it. Let’s read them:

Proverbs 1:28-32 (NKJV)

28 “ Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me.

29 Because they hated knowledge
And did not choose the fear of the LORD,

30 They would have none of my counsel
And despised my every rebuke.
31 Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way,
And be filled to the full with their own fancies.

32 For the turning away of the simple will slay them,
And the complacency of fools will destroy them;
33 But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
And will be secure, without fear of evil.”

Verses 28 thru 32 seems to say that God’s patience can be exhausted when we turn from Him and ignore Him CONTINUALLY, and I believe that this is verified by other verses in several books of the Bible. Think about the people that He brought out of Egypt… Time after time, He gave them a chance to see the miracles that He was willing to perform for them… He parted a sea, He caused water to flow from a rock, He gave them food (manna, quail, etc.) and still they grumbled instead of praising Him and worshipping Him… even WORSE, they kept on following other gods in their hearts and sometimes, blatantly.

Moses, Joshua and Caleb all kept their eyes on God and followed Him, praising, worshipping and BELIEVING in Him… having FAITH in Him, and they were brought through the years of wandering. Moses had other issues between him and God, but Joshua and Caleb entered the promised land. (Read also: Jude 5 – 6 and much of the books of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the other prophets)

Verse 29 talks about these foolish people who do “NOT choose the fear of the LORD…” Remember, that “fear” is used with the meaning of awe, respect, wonder, admiration or astonishment… sometimes parts of ALL of these words. They refused to hold Him in the highest regard in their lives… make HIM their God.

Verse 30 says that they wouldn’t listen to His advice (counsel) and “despised” His rebukes. Often people “got ticked” (angry, mad) when God “spanks” them, though He says that He disciplines all those that He loves, just as a parent will discipline a child that they love so that the child will learn the right things to do in this life (ways of righteousness).

Hebrews 12:5-11 (NIV)
5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!

10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Verse 31, stated in another way, means that “what we reap, we will sow…” or “bad things in… bad things out.” The things in chapter one must be VERY IMPORTANT to God because it has said the same things over and over in several different ways to try to get the idea across to people that would know God’s wisdom.

Verse 32 warns again, that death and destruction lay in wait for those who shun God’s laws, teaching, discipline, etc. Those things that make us “simple” or “foolish” in His eyes, and Verse 33 finishes the chapter. We looked at this verse earlier, and you might want to go back and reread the notes on it. It pretty much boils down to the fact that God promises to take care of us when we put Him first in our lives.