Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 13

 Proverbs 13 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Children with good sense accept correction from their parents, but stubborn children ignore it completely.
  2. You will be well rewarded for saying something kind, but all some people think about is how to be cruel and mean.
  3. Keep what you know to yourself, and you will be safe; talk too much, and you are done for.
  4. No matter how much you want, laziness won't help a bit, but hard work will reward you with more than enough.
  5. A good person hates deceit, but those who are evil cause shame and disgrace.
  6. Live right, and you are safe! But sin will destroy you.
  7. Some who have nothing may pretend to be rich, and some who have everything may pretend to be poor.
  8. The rich may have to pay a ransom, but the poor don't have that problem.
  9. The lamp of a good person keeps on shining; the lamp of an evil person soon goes out.
  10. Too much pride causes trouble. Be sensible and take advice.
  11. Money wrongly gotten will disappear bit by bit; money earned little by little will grow and grow.
  12. Not getting what you want can make you feel sick, but a wish that comes true is a life-giving tree.
  13. If you reject God's teaching, you will pay the price; if you obey his commands, you will be rewarded.
  14. Sensible instruction is a life-giving fountain that helps you escape all deadly traps.
  15. Sound judgment is praised, but people without good sense are on the way to disaster.
  16. If you have good sense, you will act sensibly, but fools act like fools.
  17. Whoever delivers your message can make things better or worse for you.
  18. All who refuse correction will be poor and disgraced; all who accept correction will be praised.
  19. It's a good feeling to get what you want, but only a stupid fool hates to turn from evil.
  20. Wise friends make you wise, but you hurt yourself by going around with fools.
  21. You are in for trouble if you sin, but you will be rewarded if you live right.
  22. If you obey God, you will have something to leave your grandchildren. If you don't obey God, those who live right will get what you leave.
  23. Even when the land of the poor produces good crops, they get cheated out of what they grow.
  24. If you love your children, you will correct them; if you don't love them, you won't correct them.
  25. If you live right, you will have plenty to eat; if you don't live right, you will go away empty.

Solomon continues in chapter 13 with his wise sayings, contrasting the wise and the foolish. As mentioned before, he uses the terms wise and righteous interchangeably, as well as foolish and evil or wicked. Again, if the beginning of wisdom is respect for God, it follows that wisdom leads to righteousness and lack of wisdom to wickedness.

Throughout these wise sayings, Solomon has some common themes which occur from chapter to chapter, though the emphases on these themes will vary chapter to chapter. In chapter 13 the greatest emphases is on the willingness to listen to instruction and on righteousness, or acting rightly. Lesser attention is given to wealth and to guarding the mouth.
  • Instruction - The one who spurns instruction and rebuke will pay the price of poverty and disgrace among other things. Such a one is arrogant, thinking they know better than the instruction of the wise. The heart that motivates one to refuse counsel along with the ignorance that results from lack of counsel leads the foolish person down a road of destruction.
  • Righteousness/Wisdom - Righteousness is a religious term, it refers to the desire to do what is right. Solomon uses the term interchangeably with the term wise. The wise person and the righteous person are one and the same. The righteous person, desiring to do right may not always succeed in doing what is right, but he does not like doing wrong. As Solomon says, for instance, "The righteous hate lying." Though an occasion may occur when he does lie, he doesn't like it. By contrast, though, the unrighteous, or wicked person, cannot turn from doing wrong. As Solomon says, "fools hate to turn from evil."
  • Wealth - Solomon had only three sayings in this chapter on wealth as related to wisdom. The wise man who has wealth, he says, does not act as though he is wealthy, though the fool will act as if he is wealthy even when he is not. Furthermore, only wealth obtained through honest labor will last. The fool who obtains riches will be held captive by it while the wise hold their wealth lightly.
  • The Mouth - A wise person will guard his mouth, but doing so involves more than saying what is right. Often it involves saying nothing at all. Speaking wisely, says Solomon, will lead to good things, while keeping one's mouth shut will avoid ruin.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 12

 Proverbs 12 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. To accept correction is wise, to reject it is stupid.
  2. The LORD likes everyone who lives right, but he punishes everyone who makes evil plans.
  3. Sin cannot offer security! But if you live right, you will be as secure as a tree with deep roots.
  4. A helpful wife is a jewel for her husband, but a shameless wife will make his bones rot.
  5. Good people have kind thoughts, but you should never trust the advice of someone evil.
  6. Bad advice is a deadly trap, but good advice is like a shield.
  7. Once the wicked are defeated, they are gone forever, but no one who obeys God will ever be thrown down.
  8. Good sense is worthy of praise, but stupidity is a curse.
  9. It's better to be ordinary and have only one servant than to think you are somebody and starve to death.
  10. Good people are kind to their animals, but a mean person is cruel.
  11. Hard working farmers have more than enough food; daydreamers are nothing more than stupid fools.
  12. An evil person tries to hide behind evil; good people are like trees with deep roots.
  13. We trap ourselves by telling lies, but we stay out of trouble by living right.
  14. We are rewarded or punished for what we say and do.
  15. Fools think they know what is best, but a sensible person listens to advice.
  16. Losing your temper is foolish; ignoring an insult is smart.
  17. An honest person tells the truth in court, but a dishonest person tells nothing but lies.
  18. Sharp words cut like a sword, but words of wisdom heal.
  19. Truth will last forever; lies are soon found out.
  20. An evil mind is deceitful, but gentle thoughts bring happiness.
  21. Good people never have trouble, but troublemakers have more than enough.
  22. The LORD hates every liar, but he is the friend of all who can be trusted.
  23. Be sensible and don't tell everything you know-- only fools spread foolishness everywhere.
  24. Work hard, and you will be a leader; be lazy, and you will end up a slave.
  25. Worry is a heavy burden, but a kind word always brings cheer.
  26. You are better off to do right, than to lose your way by doing wrong.
  27. Anyone too lazy to cook will starve, but a hard worker is a valuable treasure.
  28. Follow the road to life, and you won't be bothered by death.

Solomon continues with his one-verse sayings, contrasting the wise and the foolish in each saying. The themes are similar to those in the previous chapter. In general, he says that the foolish are deceitful, spiteful, troublesome, lazy, refuse correction or counsel, and engage in evil activity. In the end they are caught up in their own traps. The wise, on the other hand, are generally the opposite in all these ways.

Here is a condensed listing from this chapter comparing the wise and the foolish. In reading the chapter, though, you will not find the terms "wise" and "foolish" used in every instance. The words righteous, upright, blameless, man of understanding, trustworthy, along with others, are used to describe the wise. Any term used to contrast the wise will refer to the foolish.

THE WISE . . .
  • Love instruction
  • Delight the Lord and obtain favor from God
  • Have just thoughts
  • Are rescued by their speech
  • Has praiseworthy insight
  • Have no pretense
  • Work their land diligently & care for their animals
  • Escape trouble
  • Listens to counsel
  • Ignores an insult
  • Speaks truth which brings healing
  • Promotes peace
  • Do not display their knowledge
  • Deal carefully with their neighbors  
  • Are schemers
  • Are made insecure by their wickedness
  • Give deceitful guidance setting deadly ambushes
  • Are overthrown & perish
  • Have twisted minds
  • Act as though they are important
  • Are cruel even in their merciful acts
  • Chase fantasies
  • Desire what evil men have
  • Are trapped by their rebellious speech
  • Consider their way right, needing no counsel or correction
  • Make their displeasure known at once
  • Gives false witness
  • Speak rashly
  • Are full of misery
  • Publicize their stupidity
  • Are lazy
  • Are led astray by their ways  

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 11

 Proverbs 11 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD hates anyone who cheats, but he likes everyone who is honest.
  2. Too much pride can put you to shame. It's wiser to be humble.
  3. If you do the right thing, honesty will be your guide. But if you are crooked, you will be trapped by your own dishonesty.
  4. When God is angry, money won't help you. Obeying God is the only way to be saved from death.
  5. If you are truly good, you will do right; if you are wicked, you will be destroyed by your own sin.
  6. Honesty can keep you safe, but if you can't be trusted, you trap yourself.
  7. When the wicked die, their hopes die with them.
  8. Trouble goes right past the LORD's people and strikes the wicked.
  9. Dishonest people use gossip to destroy their neighbors; good people are protected by their own good sense.
  10. When honest people prosper and the wicked disappear, the whole city celebrates.
  11. When God blesses his people, their city prospers, but deceitful liars can destroy a city.
  12. It's stupid to say bad things about your neighbors. If you are sensible, you will keep quiet.
  13. A gossip tells everything, but a true friend will keep a secret.
  14. A city without wise leaders will end up in ruin; a city with many wise leaders will be kept safe.
  15. It's a dangerous thing to guarantee payment for someone's debts. Don't do it!
  16. A gracious woman will be respected, but a man must work hard to get rich.
  17. Kindness is rewarded-- but if you are cruel, you hurt yourself.
  18. Meanness gets you nowhere, but goodness is rewarded.
  19. Always do the right thing, and you will live; keep on doing wrong, and you will die.
  20. The LORD hates sneaky people, but he likes everyone who lives right.
  21. You can be sure of this: All crooks will be punished, but God's people won't.
  22. A beautiful woman who acts foolishly is like a gold ring on the snout of a pig.
  23. Good people want what is best, but troublemakers hope to stir up trouble.
  24. Sometimes you can become rich by being generous or poor by being greedy.
  25. Generosity will be rewarded: Give a cup of water, and you will receive a cup of water in return.
  26. Charge too much for grain, and you will be cursed; sell it at a fair price, and you will be praised.
  27. Try hard to do right, and you will win friends; go looking for trouble, and you will find it.
  28. Trust in your wealth, and you will be a failure, but God's people will prosper like healthy plants.
  29. Fools who cause trouble in the family won't inherit a thing. They will end up as slaves of someone with good sense.
  30. Live right, and you will eat from the life-giving tree. And if you act wisely, others will follow.
  31. If good people are rewarded here on this earth, all who are cruel and mean will surely be punished.

Solomon seems to equate wisdom with righteousness and foolishness with wickedness. But this would seem logical since he also teaches that respect for God is the beginning of wisdom. It would also seem that in Solomon's thinking wisdom and understanding are of a similar nature and that neither require uncommon intelligence to acquire. Rather they are more a character trait than a mark of intelligence. They do, however, require some intentional pursuit to acquire. He frequently speaks of seeking wisdom and understanding. But this too is logical since it requires frequent reflection and thought on our choices and conduct to distill what is wise to do and what is not. Those who do not take the time to be reflective on life do not tend to garner wisdom and understanding.

There is a further dimension that needs to be included with reflection, though, if one is to acquire wisdom, and that is meditation on God's word in scripture and communion with Him through prayer. An unwise person can also be reflective in their evil and unwise activities and plans. Since wisdom begins with God, it stands to reason that it is only in reflecting and meditating on Him and His teaching that true wisdom will be acquired.

In chapter 11, Solomon continues to contrast wise choices and activities with unwise ones. He particularly focuses on the choices and activities of the wicked as contrasted with the righteous. Here we particularly see his equating of wisdom with righteousness. A comparison of unwise versus wise activities and outcomes from this chapter looks like this:

Those who are not wise engage in . . .
  • Dishonest business practices
  • Are prideful
  • Engage in violent activities
  • Their minds become twisted
  • Become trapped by their own desires
  • Show contempt for their neighbor
  • Engage in gossip
  • Lack guidance
  • Withhold help for the poor
  • Hoard
  • Look for trouble

Those who are wise . . .
  • Use honest business practices
  • Have humility
  • Have integrity
  • Are righteous
  • Keep silent
  • Keep a confidence
  • Use many counselors
  • Hate putting up security for a stranger
  • Are kind
  • Are gracious
  • Sow righteousness
  • Have blameless conduct
  • Are generous
  • Do not hoard
  • Look for what is good

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 10

 Proverbs 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Here are some proverbs of Solomon: Children with good sense make their parents happy, but foolish children make them sad.
  2. What you gain by doing evil won't help you at all, but being good can save you from death.
  3. If you obey the LORD, you won't go hungry; if you are wicked, God won't let you have what you want.
  4. Laziness leads to poverty; hard work makes you rich.
  5. At harvest season it's smart to work hard, but stupid to sleep.
  6. Everyone praises good people, but evil hides behind the words of the wicked.
  7. Good people are remembered long after they are gone, but the wicked are soon forgotten.
  8. If you have good sense, you will listen and obey; if all you do is talk, you will destroy yourself.
  9. You will be safe, if you always do right, but you will get caught, if you are dishonest.
  10. Deceit causes trouble, and foolish talk will bring you to ruin.
  11. The words of good people are a source of life, but evil hides behind the words of the wicked.
  12. Hatred stirs up trouble; love overlooks the wrongs that others do.
  13. If you have good sense, it will show when you speak. But if you are stupid, you will be beaten with a stick.
  14. If you have good sense, you will learn all you can, but foolish talk will soon destroy you.
  15. Great wealth can be a fortress, but poverty is no protection at all.
  16. If you live right, the reward is a good life; if you are evil, all you have is sin.
  17. Accept correction, and you will find life; reject correction, and you will miss the road.
  18. You can hide your hatred by telling lies, but you are a fool to spread lies.
  19. You will say the wrong thing if you talk too much-- so be sensible and watch what you say.
  20. The words of a good person are like pure silver, but the thoughts of an evil person are almost worthless.
  21. Many are helped by useful instruction, but fools are killed by their own stupidity.
  22. When the LORD blesses you with riches, you have nothing to regret.
  23. Fools enjoy doing wrong, but anyone with good sense enjoys acting wisely.
  24. What evil people dread most will happen to them, but good people will get what they want most.
  25. Those crooks will disappear when a storm strikes, but God will keep safe all who obey him.
  26. Having a lazy person on the job is like a mouth full of vinegar or smoke in your eyes.
  27. If you respect the LORD, you will live longer; if you keep doing wrong, your life will be cut short.
  28. If you obey the Lord, you will be happy, but there is no future for the wicked.
  29. The LORD protects everyone who lives right, but he destroys anyone who does wrong.
  30. Good people will stand firm, but the wicked will lose their land.
  31. Honest people speak sensibly, but deceitful liars will be silenced.
  32. If you obey the Lord, you will always know the right thing to say. But no one will trust you if you tell lies.

Proverbs 10 is a collection of sayings given in contrasting statements joined with a "but." For instance, verse 1 says, "A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son, heartache to his mother." Each verse is a saying moving from one verse to the next without any particular connection between verses. While no evident pattern seems apparent throughout the chapter, there are two predominate topics: use of the tongue and righteous living. Minor topics are laziness and wisdom, though wisdom is an overarching theme in all of the sayings.

Select sayings concerning the righteous:
  • The remembrance of the righteous is a blessing, but the name of the wicked will rot.
  • The hope of the righteous is joy, but the expectation of the wicked comes to nothing.
  • The way of the LORD is a stronghold for the honorable, but destruction awaits the malicious.
Select sayings about use of the tongue:
  • The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
  • When there are many words, sin is unavoidable, but the one who controls his lips is wise.
  • The mouth of the righteous produces wisdom, but a perverse tongue will be cut out.
Sayings about laziness:
  • Idle hands make one poor, but diligent hands bring riches.
  • The son who gathers during summer is prudent; the son who sleeps during harvest is disgraceful.
  • Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so the slacker is to the one who sends him on an errand.
Sayings on wisdom:
  • Solomon's proverbs: A wise son brings joy to his father, but a foolish son, heartache to his mother.
  • As shameful conduct is pleasure for a fool, so wisdom is for a man of understanding.
  • The one who follows instruction is on the path to life, but the one who rejects correction goes astray.
Miscellaneous sayings:
  • Ill-gotten gains do not profit anyone, but righteousness rescues from death.
  • Hatred stirs up conflicts, but love covers all offenses.
  • A rich man's wealth is his fortified city; the poverty of the poor is their destruction.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 9

 Proverbs 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Wisdom has built her house with its seven columns.
  2. She has prepared the meat and set out the wine. Her feast is ready.
  3. She has sent her servant women to announce her invitation from the highest hills:
  4. "Everyone who is ignorant or foolish is invited!
  5. All of you are welcome to my meat and wine.
  6. If you want to live, give up your foolishness and let understanding guide your steps."
  7. Correct a worthless bragger, and all you will get are insults and injuries.
  8. Any bragger you correct will only hate you. But if you correct someone who has common sense, you will be loved.
  9. If you have good sense, instruction will help you to have even better sense. And if you live right, education will help you to know even more.
  10. Respect and obey the LORD! This is the beginning of wisdom. To have understanding, you must know the Holy God.
  11. I am Wisdom. If you follow me, you will live a long time.
  12. Good sense is good for you, but if you brag, you hurt yourself.
  13. Stupidity is reckless, senseless, and foolish.
  14. She sits in front of her house and on the highest hills in the town.
  15. She shouts to everyone who passes by,
  16. "If you are stupid, come on inside!" And to every fool she says,
  17. "Stolen water tastes best, and the food you eat in secret tastes best of all."
  18. None who listen to Stupidity understand that her guests are as good as dead.

Wisdom and folly are contrasted in this chapter as are those who seek both. Immediately we see the preparations made by lady wisdom for those she will invite to partake of her banquet to gain wisdom. She has prepared not only the meal which will be served up to the guests, but has also prepared an elaborate house in which to serve it. The seven pillars of her house are in question as to their meaning. A possbility is found in James 3:17 which says that the wisdom from above is, (1) pure, (2) peaceable, (3) gentle, (4) willing to yield, (5) full of mercy and good fruits, (6) without partiality and (7) without hypocrisy.

Once the banquet is prepared an invitation is sent to potential guests. It is a general invitation which is broadcast throughout the city inviting any who are inexperienced or lacks sense to come and "eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed." By accepting the invitation they will "leave inexperience behind" and "pursue the way of understanding." The outcome will be life - "you will live." This refers to true living as opposed to mere existence.

Verses 7-12 contrast those who hear the invitation and either accept it or not. Those who accept the invitation are open to instruction and even rebuke so they may become wiser and have understanding. They value both. But the mocker hates the one who gives instruction or a rebuke. He does not wish to be corrected nor value wisdom and understanding. Nor does he believe that wisdom will add years to his life or that there will be consequences if he persists in his life of mockery.

The woman Folly is then portrayed as she sits by her doorway calling to those who pass by. They are not looking for her or expecting her, but are headed along with other intentions. She diverts some, though, with her invitation to "Stolen water . . and bread eaten secretly . . !" She has made no preparations and has nothing to offer except for what she has taken from others and indiscreet activities. Those who are attracted to her invitation are drawn only to a good time. But the good time offered by woman Folly is not very good and has hidden outcomes, for she does not reveal that her former guests have departed and are in "the depths of Sheol." Rather than life which wisdom offers, folly offers death.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 8

 Proverbs 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. With great understanding, Wisdom is calling out
  2. as she stands at the crossroads and on every hill.
  3. She stands by the city gate where everyone enters the city, and she shouts:
  4. "I am calling out to each one of you!
  5. Good sense and sound judgment can be yours.
  6. Listen, because what I say is worthwhile and right.
  7. I always speak the truth and refuse to tell a lie.
  8. Every word I speak is honest, not one is misleading or deceptive.
  9. "If you have understanding, you will see that my words are just what you need.
  10. Let instruction and knowledge mean more to you than silver or the finest gold.
  11. Wisdom is worth much more than precious jewels or anything else you desire."
  12. If you respect the LORD, you will hate evil. I hate pride and conceit and deceitful lies.
  13. By my power kings govern, and rulers make laws that are fair.
  14. Every honest leader rules with help from me.
  15. What you receive from me is more valuable than even the finest gold or the purest silver.
  16. I always do what is right,
  17. and I give great riches to everyone who loves me.
  18. From the beginning, I was with the LORD. I was there before he began
  19. to create the earth. At the very first, the LORD gave life to me.
  20. When I was born, there were no oceans or springs of water.
  21. My birth was before mountains were formed or hills were put in place.
  22. It happened long before God had made the earth or any of its fields or even the dust.
  23. I was there when the LORD put the heavens in place and stretched the sky over the surface of the sea.
  24. I was with him when he placed the clouds in the sky and created the springs that fill the ocean.
  25. I was there when he set boundaries for the sea to make it obey him, and when he laid foundations to support the earth.
  26. I was right beside the LORD, helping him plan and build. I made him happy each day, and I was happy at his side.
  27. I was pleased with his world and pleased with its people.
  28. Pay attention, my children! Follow my advice, and you will be happy.
  29. Listen carefully to my instructions, and you will be wise.
  30. Come to my home each day and listen to me. You will find happiness.
  31. By finding me, you find life, and the LORD will be pleased with you.
  32. But if you don't find me, you hurt only yourself, and if you hate me, you are in love with death.

Solomon speaks of wisdom in chapter 8 as if it were a woman, giving a contrast to the forbidden woman just described in the previous chapter. The opening verses of this chapter describe wisdom calling out to all to receive wisdom and learn to be shrewd and develop common sense. Whereas the forbidden woman accosted young men, wisdom merely invites. Those who accept her invitation must come to her. The forbidden woman represents evil in general, showing how it sets a trap to ensnare its victims. But wisdom forces no one. The invitation is given to all and then the choice and initiative is up to each person.

Having conveyed that wisdom invites all and is available to all, Solomon now describes wisdom's appeal. Those who acquire wisdom speak only truth and detest wickedness. No deception is found among the wise. The words of wisdom are clear to all who are perceptive, suggesting that they are not clear to the foolish. Wisdom's value is greater than silver or gold. One is better wise than wealthy.

It is important to recognize that wisdom is built on the foundation of truth. Nothing that is deceptive, though claiming to be wise, is truly wise. So building on this foundation, Solomon goes on to offer more of wisdom's appeal. She offers shrewdness, knowledge, and discretion. With these attributes we can understand that wisdom is never naive. While it is clever and knowledgeable, it is not offensive or gossipy. Wise advice is good and can be trusted for it is competent. It walks in the way of righteousness and along the path of justice. Any counsel one might receive that is not upright or just can be discarded as unwise.

Verses 22-31 speak of wisdom's existence with God prior to creation. We can understand from this that wisdom is unchanging as is truth. It was established prior to man's existence and has not changed though generation by generation mankind prides himself on becoming more progressive, presuming also to become wiser. With this changing nature of man, one generation may reject wisdom thinking it to be outdated and that a new "wisdom" has been established. But man just fools himself, rejecting wisdom for foolishness.

Our pursuit of happiness will be elusive until we pursue wisdom. True wisdom. God's wisdom. Happiness will then be the byproduct. Really living is not living dangerously but living wisely.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 7

 Proverbs 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. My son, pay close attention and don't forget what I tell you to do.
  2. Obey me, and you will live! Let my instructions be your greatest treasure.
  3. Keep them at your fingertips and write them in your mind.
  4. Let wisdom be your sister and make common sense your closest friend.
  5. They will protect you from the flattering words of someone else's wife.
  6. From the window of my house, I once happened to see
  7. some foolish young men.
  8. It was late in the evening, sometime after dark.
  9. One of these young men turned the corner and was walking by the house of an unfaithful wife.
  10. She was dressed fancy like a woman of the street with only one thing in mind.
  11. She was one of those women who are loud and restless and never stay at home,
  12. who walk street after street, waiting to trap a man.
  13. She grabbed him and kissed him, and with no sense of shame, she said:
  14. "I had to offer a sacrifice, and there is enough meat left over for a feast.
  15. So I came looking for you, and here you are!
  16. The sheets on my bed are bright-colored cloth from Egypt.
  17. And I have covered it with perfume made of myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon.
  18. "Let's go there and make love all night.
  19. My husband is traveling, and he's far away.
  20. He took a lot of money along, and he won't be back home before the middle of the month."
  21. And so, she tricked him with all of her sweet talk and her flattery.
  22. Right away he followed her like an ox on the way to be slaughtered, or like a fool on the way to be punished
  23. and killed with arrows. He was no more than a bird rushing into a trap, without knowing it would cost him his life.
  24. My son, pay close attention to what I have said.
  25. Don't even think about that kind of woman or let yourself be misled by someone like her.
  26. Such a woman has caused the downfall and destruction of a lot of men.
  27. Her house is a one-way street leading straight down to the world of the dead.

Solomon followed the same pattern as before in his instructions to his son. Hold my teaching near to your heart, he said, and treat wisdom as you would your sister. By so doing, the son could avoid the treachery of the forbidden woman and the deadly results.

The father's instructions are accompanied this time by a story. It may have been a fictitious story used to illustrate or it may have been a real one. Both serve the same purpose. One evening Solomon was watching the young people from the window of his house as they gathered idly in the street. Among these inexperienced youth he notice a particular young man who was obviously "lacking sense." How did Solomon know he lacked sense? By what resulted if by no other signs.

The young man wandered down the street without purpose and "crossing the street near her corner, he strolled down the road to her house." Did he realize where he was headed and what might transpire or was it just aimless wandering? Again, the outcome was the same. What were the signs Solomon was wanting to convey to his son? Wandering aimlessly? Doing so alone? Wandering into a known area of town for such women? As the young man approached the woman's house she grabbed him and kissed him immediately throwing him off guard.

What seductive wiles did she use with the young man? She grabbed him and kissed him immediately communicating her intent. Then she quickly lowered his defenses by telling him she had just that day made her fellowship offerings. She was a religious woman with only good intent. Next she told him she had been looking for him and had now found him making him feel special. Supposedly she had not just grabbed anyone, but had looked just for him. He was special. Then she described the preparation of her bed for what was to come, further giving him the impression that she had prepared something special just for him. Then she drew the net, inviting him to a night of lovemaking. Before he could raise any concerns, she assured him it was okay, for her husband was away on a trip and would not be home until the full moon. The trap was set.

This was how it works, Solomon was saying to his son. But then he described the sobering reality of this story and all those like it. This young man was drawn into the woman's trap as a deer bounds unsuspectingly toward a trap and is then stopped by an arrow that pierces its liver. His inattentiveness to what was happening cost him his life. And then the father said to his son, "Don't let your heart turn aside to her ways; don't stray onto her paths." The road to her house is the road to the grave. Solomon's instruction was not just to be aware of the wiles of the forbidden woman. It was to avoid altogether any encounter with the woman. Don't go near her house.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 6

 Proverbs 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. My child, suppose you agree to pay the debt of someone, who cannot repay a loan.
  2. Then you are trapped by your own words,
  3. and you are now in the power of someone else. Here is what you should do: Go and beg for permission to call off the agreement.
  4. Do this before you fall asleep or even get sleepy.
  5. Save yourself, just as a deer or a bird tries to escape from a hunter.
  6. You lazy people can learn by watching an anthill.
  7. Ants don't have leaders,
  8. but they store up food during harvest season.
  9. How long will you lie there doing nothing at all? When are you going to get up and stop sleeping?
  10. Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs.
  11. Suddenly, everything is gone, as though it had been taken by an armed robber.
  12. Worthless liars go around
  13. winking and giving signals to deceive others.
  14. They are always thinking up something cruel and evil, and they stir up trouble.
  15. But they will be struck by sudden disaster and left without a hope.
  16. There are six or seven kinds of people the LORD doesn't like:
  17. Those who are too proud or tell lies or murder,
  18. those who make evil plans or are quick to do wrong,
  19. those who tell lies in court or stir up trouble in a family.
  20. Obey the teaching of your parents--
  21. always keep it in mind and never forget it.
  22. Their teaching will guide you when you walk, protect you when you sleep, and talk to you when you are awake.
  23. The Law of the Lord is a lamp, and its teachings shine brightly. Correction and self-control will lead you through life.
  24. They will protect you from the flattering words of someone else's wife.
  25. Don't let yourself be attracted by the charm and lovely eyes of someone like that.
  26. If you carry burning coals, you burn your clothes;
  27. if you step on hot coals, you burn your feet.
  28. And if you go to bed with another man's wife, you pay the price.
  29. We don't put up with thieves, not even with one who steals for something to eat.
  30. And thieves who get caught must pay back seven times what was stolen and lose everything.
  31. But if you go to bed with another man's wife, you will destroy yourself by your own stupidity.
  32. You will be beaten and forever disgraced,
  33. because a jealous husband can be furious and merciless when he takes revenge.
  34. He won't let you pay him off, no matter what you offer.

Solomon instructed his son concerning cosigning on a loan, laziness, worthlessness, and sexual immorality.
Cosigning: Solomon warned against putting up security for the loan of another. There is some question as to whether this included family members, but at least it included all others outside of family. Using rather strong language, Solomon called such an agreement a trap from which the son should extricate himself immediately. He should not sleep another night before clearing himself of such an agreement. Making such an agreement places one in the power of the one with whom you made it. If they default on their loan, the loan becomes your's. This is not good.

Laziness: Solomon turned next to laziness. The lazy person may be responsible enough to work, but is not diligent in it. He sleeps a little late now and then and takes a rest during the day and suddenly poverty has slipped upon him like a bandit. One may think, "I can do this another day, or later today," but weather conditions or unexpected circumstances may prevent it. We are never sure of the opportunities we have to get a job done except for the time that lies immediately before us, and even it can be interrupted unexpectedly. Then one day we find that no more opportunities are available to us to get the job done and we are now without the income the job promised. More importantly we are left without food or shelter, and it was all because we did not use the opportunities to work when we had them.

worthlessness: Solomon equates worthlessness and wickedness and describes the activities of one who takes advantage of others. Through dishonesty and plotting perverse activities, the worthless person is constantly stirring up trouble. His activities include seven things God detests: arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, bloodshed, wicked schemes, evil activity, false testimony, and stirring up trouble among brothers. From this we get a good picture of the worthless person of whom Solomon instructs his son against becoming. The irony is that though such a person is always stirring up trouble for others, it is he who is eventually struck down by calamity. But the one foolish enough to engage in such behavior is too foolish to make the connection between his behavior and his calamity.

Sexual immorality: Next come the warnings against sexual immorality. It is introduced with instructions to the son to not turn away from the teachings of his parents. Evidently prominent in their teaching is caution against sexual immorality. Heeding his parent's teaching, says Solomon, will protect him from the "evil woman." She comes in two forms: as a prostitute and as an adulteress. The prostitute will take his bread from his table, but the adulteress will take his life, whether by ruining it or by death.

The son would not walk on live coals for he is smart enough to know he would get burned. And he should use the same understanding with the evil woman. As with walking on the live coals, he is just as sure to get burned. A thief is punished by having to pay back seven times what he took, but the adulterer destroys himself. He faces dishonor and disgrace as well as the rage of a jealous husband who will show no mercy.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 5

 Proverbs 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. My son, if you listen closely to my wisdom and good sense,
  2. you will have sound judgment, and you will always know the right thing to say.
  3. The words of an immoral woman may be as sweet as honey and as smooth as olive oil.
  4. But all that you really get from being with her is bitter poison and pain.
  5. If you follow her, she will lead you down to the world of the dead.
  6. She has missed the path that leads to life and doesn't even know it.
  7. My son, listen to me and do everything I say.
  8. Stay away from a bad woman! Don't even go near the door of her house.
  9. You will lose your self-respect and end up in debt to some cruel person for the rest of your life.
  10. Strangers will get your money and everything else you have worked for.
  11. When it's all over, your body will waste away, as you groan
  12. and shout, "I hated advice and correction!
  13. I paid no attention to my teachers,
  14. and now I am disgraced in front of everyone."
  15. You should be faithful to your wife, just as you take water from your own well.
  16. And don't be like a stream from which just any woman may take a drink.
  17. Save yourself for your wife and don't have sex with other women.
  18. Be happy with the wife you married when you were young.
  19. She is beautiful and graceful, just like a deer; you should be attracted to her and stay deeply in love.
  20. Don't go crazy over a woman who is unfaithful to her own husband!
  21. The LORD sees everything, and he watches us closely.
  22. Sinners are trapped and caught by their own evil deeds.
  23. They get lost and die because of their foolishness and lack of self-control.

In this proverb the father warns his son about the hazards of finding sexual pleasure outside of marriage. The prostitute knows how to entice and her words are "smoother than oil," and he can easily be drawn to her. But in the end the son's experience with her will be bitter, for she will drag him down to death along with herself. So the father was anxious to direct his son away from this temptation which is common among young men. And the father's counsel was simple: "Keep your way far from her. Don't go near the door of her house." Avoidance is the best policy, he says.

Then the father tells his son what is at risk. Becoming enticed by the prostitute or even another woman who is not his wife is not just a simple pleasure for an evening like some other form of entertainment. Involving himself with a forbidden woman ties himself to her in a way that he cannot simply walk away from. Not completely. She will take from him his vitality and drain his resources and at the end of his life he will regret that he didn't listen to his father or other teachers.

A much better alternative is to have his sexual thirst quenched from the cistern of his own wife. "Drink water from your own cistern," the father says. The pleasures of his wife are for him alone. Why, then, would he become infatuated with a forbidden woman. Following such a path will not be hidden from the Lord, and he will examine such behavior. Furthermore, the son will find himself entrapped by his own iniquities and "entangled in the ropes of his own sin." In the end he will be lost due to his own stupidity.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 4

 Proverbs 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. My child, listen closely to my teachings and learn common sense.
  2. My advice is useful, so don't turn away.
  3. When I was still very young and my mother's favorite child, my father
  4. said to me: "If you follow my teachings and keep them in mind, you will live.
  5. Be wise and learn good sense; remember my teachings and do what I say.
  6. If you love Wisdom and don't reject her, she will watch over you.
  7. The best thing about Wisdom is Wisdom herself; good sense is more important than anything else.
  8. If you value Wisdom and hold tightly to her, great honors will be yours.
  9. It will be like wearing a glorious crown of beautiful flowers.
  10. My child, if you listen and obey my teachings, you will live a long time.
  11. I have shown you the way that makes sense; I have guided you along the right path.
  12. Your road won't be blocked, and you won't stumble when you run.
  13. Hold firmly to my teaching and never let go. It will mean life for you.
  14. Don't follow the bad example of cruel and evil people.
  15. Turn aside and keep going. Stay away from them.
  16. They can't sleep or rest until they do wrong or harm some innocent victim.
  17. Their food and drink are violence and cruelty.
  18. The lifestyle of good people is like sunlight at dawn that keeps getting brighter until broad daylight.
  19. The lifestyle of the wicked is like total darkness, and they will never know what makes them stumble.
  20. My child, listen carefully to everything I say.
  21. Don't forget a single word, but think about it all.
  22. Knowing these teachings will mean true life and good health for you.
  23. Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.
  24. Never tell lies or be deceitful in what you say.
  25. Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside.
  26. Know where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground.
  27. Don't make a mistake by turning to the right or the left.

Solomon began chapter 4 as he did chapter 3 by telling his son to pay attention to his instruction. He reinforced it this time by invoking the instruction he received from his father, David. David said to him, "Keep my commands and live." (4:4) He also told him to get wisdom and don't abandon it, for wisdom is supreme. Above all else the son should pursue wisdom and understanding. Nothing else will have the return of investment in terms of the quality of life. If he cherishes wisdom, she will exalt and honor him. The beginning of this pursuit of wisdom for the son is to pay attention to the instruction of his father, for Solomon said, "I am teaching you the way of wisdom." (4:11)

If one does not pursue wisdom, what would be the alternative? Solomon seems to say the alternative is wickedness. He goes directly from instruction to not let go of instruction and wisdom to a caution not to "set foot on the path of the wicked," as if this would be the result of letting go of instruction and wisdom. In his caution against wickedness, Solomon told his son not to even examine it. Don't even set foot on the path of the wicked as if to explore its possibilities. The only concern of the wicked is to hurt other people. It is their bread and wine. They can't sleep until they have caused violence. By comparison, the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, while the way of the wicked is like the darkest gloom.

The key to avoiding the ways of the wicked is to guard one's heart, for "it is the source of life." (4:23) The heart is not only the source of life physically, but in every other way as well. From the heart proceeds thought process and intent. If one is to guard against wickedness and all ill pursuits, the effort must begin with the heart. It is the heart, the seat of our desires and passions, that will set us on a path of wisdom, and having done so then it must guard against wandering eyes and feet. We must keep our eyes focused on the path of wisdom and not straying to the right or left to consider anything else. Once the eyes have strayed, the feet will follow, leaving the path of wisdom. It may seem like just a slight detour, no harm, no fowl. But there are no slight detours. Once off the path we are on the slippery slope that makes return to the path difficult.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 3

 Proverbs 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. My child, remember my teachings and instructions and obey them completely.
  2. They will help you live a long and prosperous life.
  3. Let love and loyalty always show like a necklace, and write them in your mind.
  4. God and people will like you and consider you a success.
  5. With all your heart you must trust the LORD and not your own judgment.
  6. Always let him lead you, and he will clear the road for you to follow.
  7. Don't ever think that you are wise enough, but respect the LORD and stay away from evil.
  8. This will make you healthy, and you will feel strong.
  9. Honor the LORD by giving him your money and the first part of all your crops.
  10. Then you will have more grain and grapes than you will ever need.
  11. My child, don't turn away or become bitter when the LORD corrects you.
  12. The LORD corrects everyone he loves, just as parents correct their favorite child.
  13. God blesses everyone who has wisdom and common sense.
  14. Wisdom is worth more than silver; it makes you much richer than gold.
  15. Wisdom is more valuable than precious jewels; nothing you want compares with her.
  16. In her right hand Wisdom holds a long life, and in her left hand are wealth and honor.
  17. Wisdom makes life pleasant and leads us safely along.
  18. Wisdom is a life-giving tree, the source of happiness for all who hold on to her.
  19. By his wisdom and knowledge the LORD created heaven and earth.
  20. By his understanding he let the ocean break loose and clouds release the rain.
  21. My child, use common sense and sound judgment! Always keep them in mind.
  22. They will help you to live a long and beautiful life.
  23. You will walk safely and never stumble;
  24. you will rest without a worry and sleep soundly.
  25. So don't be afraid of sudden disasters or storms that strike those who are evil.
  26. You can be sure that the LORD will protect you from harm.
  27. Do all you can for everyone who deserves your help.
  28. Don't tell your neighbor to come back tomorrow, if you can help today.
  29. Don't try to be mean to neighbors who trust you.
  30. Don't argue just to be arguing, when you haven't been hurt.
  31. Don't be jealous of cruel people or follow their example.
  32. The LORD doesn't like anyone who is dishonest, but he lets good people be his friends.
  33. He places a curse on the home of everyone who is evil, but he blesses the home of every good person.
  34. The LORD sneers at those who sneer at him, but he is kind to everyone who is humble.
  35. You will be praised if you are wise, but you will be disgraced if you are a stubborn fool.

This proverb begins with instruction to "let your heart keep (the father's) commands," followed by instruction to "Trust in the Lord with all your heart." No doubt there is intent in this order. It is no secret that a son's relationship with his father, and godly instruction by the father are key in the son's relationship with God. As with anything, there are exceptions. There are the sons who have good relationships with their father and receive godly teaching from that father but who nevertheless turn away from God, and there are those sons who don't have a good father figure nor godly instruction who turn to God. But this father is telling his son not to forget his teaching, and his teaching includes instruction to trust in the Lord with all his heart.

Though it would seem obvious that to trust in the Lord with all one's heart would require one to not rely on their own understanding, we do not always make this connection. We want to do both - trust in God and also rely on our own understanding. Too often, though, our trust in God is more a mental concept than reality, so we hold to the concept of trusting God while actually placing our reliance on our own understanding. If we will truly trust in the Lord, though, we are told that "He will guide you on the right paths." (3:6) Regardless of our understanding, we do not know the future. Only God foresees what is to come and knows the best path on which to guide us, and He will do so if we will "think about Him in all your ways." As we place our trust in the Lord we need to realize He will at times discipline us and we should not despise His discipline. Instead, we should recognize that the Lord's discipline is reserved for "the one He loves, just as a father, the son he delights in." (3:12)

Verse 13 is not a shift in direction when it moves attention from trusting and honoring the Lord to finding wisdom and acquiring understanding. Placing our trust in the Lord puts us on the pathway of finding wisdom and acquiring understanding. They are the same pursuit, for this is not about acquiring our own wisdom and understanding. As Solomon, the writer, tells us in the first chapter, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge." (1:7) Solomon defends his instruction to find wisdom and acquire knowledge from the Lord by pointing out that it was the Lord's wisdom and understanding that "founded the earth."

Just a sidenote here to emphasize how key it is that we accept God as Creator of all that exists. If we do not accept God as the Creator our theology is weakened as is our trust and understanding of God. We don't have to be able to explain God's existence to accept that He is the source of all that is. Many scientists claim to reject creationism because there is no scientific explanation for God, but that doesn't keep them from proposing theories to explain the source of everything that are more far-fetched than the acceptance of God and they still have not identified a true source of everything.

To continue, having found wisdom and understanding, Solomon tells us not to lose sight of the sound judgment and discernment they provide us. For with sound judgment and discernment we are able to "go safely on your way; your foot will not stumble." Furthermore, "When you lie down, you will not be afraid; you will lie down, and your sleep will be pleasant." (3:23, 24) The contrast to this is to have our sleep disturbed by the fear of sudden danger or ruin that might be lurking just around the corner. These are lingering fears we have when we rely on our own wisdom and understanding. But they need not disturb us when we rely on the Lord who knows what is around the corner and guides our paths accordingly.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 2

 Proverbs 02(Contemporary English Version)
  1. My child, you must follow and treasure my teachings and my instructions.
  2. Keep in tune with wisdom and think what it means to have common sense.
  3. Beg as loud as you can for good common sense.
  4. Search for wisdom as you would search for silver or hidden treasure.
  5. Then you will understand what it means to respect and to know the LORD God.
  6. All wisdom comes from the LORD, and so do common sense and understanding.
  7. God gives helpful advice to everyone who obeys him and protects all of those who live as they should.
  8. God sees that justice is done, and he watches over everyone who is faithful to him.
  9. With wisdom you will learn what is right and honest and fair.
  10. Wisdom will control your mind, and you will be pleased with knowledge.
  11. Sound judgment and good sense will watch over you.
  12. Wisdom will protect you from evil schemes and from those liars
  13. who turned from doing good to live in the darkness.
  14. Most of all they enjoy being mean and deceitful.
  15. They are dishonest themselves, and all they do is crooked.
  16. Wisdom will protect you from the smooth talk of a sinful woman,
  17. who breaks her wedding vows and leaves the man she married when she was young.
  18. The road to her house leads down to the dark world of the dead.
  19. Visit her, and you will never find the road to life again.
  20. Follow the example of good people and live an honest life.
  21. If you are honest and innocent, you will keep your land;
  22. if you do wrong and can never be trusted, you will be rooted out.

Wisdom, like other qualities such as joy and happiness, is not attained through direct pursuit. As with joy, it is a byproduct. Wisdom is a byproduct of pursuing God, seeking insight, and directing our hearts to understanding. Wisdom, then, comes as a gift from God in these pursuits.

There is a circular nature to this whole process. We were told in chapter one that fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Now we are told that if we listen to wisdom, direct our hearts to understanding, and call out to insight, we will come to understand the fear of the Lord. Fear of the Lord leads to wisdom and understanding which leads to greater understanding of the fear of the Lord which brings greater wisdom and understanding. But the whole process begins with fear of the Lord.

Along the way, in our pursuit of understanding and insight, we come to understand righteousness and justice and integrity. As we do, wisdom enters our mind. Again, a byproduct, not of intellectual pursuits, but of character pursuits. Along with wisdom will come discretion which will guard us from the way of evil and rescue us from forbidden women which leads to a downward spiral leading to death. It is a path of no return.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 1

 Proverbs 01(Contemporary English Version)
  1. These are the proverbs of King Solomon of Israel, the son of David.
  2. Proverbs will teach you wisdom and self-control and how to understand sayings with deep meanings.
  3. You will learn what is right and honest and fair.
  4. From these, an ordinary person can learn to be smart, and young people can gain knowledge and good sense.
  5. If you are already wise, you will become even wiser. And if you are smart, you will learn to understand
  6. proverbs and sayings, as well as words of wisdom and all kinds of riddles.
  7. Respect and obey the LORD! This is the beginning of knowledge. Only a fool rejects wisdom and good advice.
  8. My child, obey the teachings of your parents,
  9. and wear their teachings as you would a lovely hat or a pretty necklace.
  10. Don't be tempted by sinners or listen
  11. when they say, "Come on! Let's gang up and kill somebody, just for the fun of it!
  12. They're well and healthy now, but we'll finish them off once and for all.
  13. We'll take their valuables and fill our homes with stolen goods.
  14. If you join our gang, you'll get your share."
  15. Don't follow anyone like that or do what they do.
  16. They are in a big hurry to commit some crime, perhaps even murder.
  17. They are like a bird that sees the bait, but ignores the trap.
  18. They gang up to murder someone, but they are the victims.
  19. The wealth you get from crime robs you of your life.
  20. Wisdom shouts in the streets wherever crowds gather.
  21. She shouts in the marketplaces and near the city gates as she says to the people,
  22. "How much longer will you enjoy being stupid fools? Won't you ever stop sneering and laughing at knowledge?
  23. Listen as I correct you and tell you what I think.
  24. You completely ignored me and refused to listen;
  25. you rejected my advice and paid no attention when I warned you.
  26. "So when you are struck by some terrible disaster,
  27. or when trouble and distress surround you like a whirlwind, I will laugh and make fun.
  28. You will ask for my help, but I won't listen; you will search, but you won't find me.
  29. No, you would not learn, and you refused to respect the LORD.
  30. You rejected my advice and paid no attention when I warned you.
  31. "Now you will eat the fruit of what you have done, until you are stuffed full with your own schemes.
  32. Sin and self-satisfaction bring destruction and death to stupid fools.
  33. But if you listen to me, you will be safe and secure without fear of disaster."

A person reaches a point in life in which they have seen enough and learned enough of life that they want to pass along to those still in the earlier stages of life what they have learned. This would seem to be Solomon's thoughts in writing Proverbs. He wants young men to learn from him and go on to a life that enjoys the benefits of wisdom rather than the destruction of folly. So he wrote Proverbs so others might gain wisdom, receive instruction in righteousness, justice, and integrity, and to teach shrewdness.

To begin this journey of instruction, Solomon establishes the foundation for attaining wisdom and knowledge: fear of the Lord. One who recognizes the wisdom of having respect for the Lord and His instructions has the proper frame of mind to attain wisdom. One who does not recognize the wisdom of having respect for the Lord will reject instruction in wisdom. They are not a wise investment of one's effort in giving instruction. A further piece for the foundation of wisdom is to listen to the instruction of parents. One who both respects God and parents is fertile ground for instruction in wisdom.

The young and innocent are not likely to start down the path of foolishness by plotting their own foolish endeavors. Rather, their journey down that path will most likely begin with an enticement from those already on that path. Solomon assumes that enticement will come to any young man at some time and tells them, "don't be persuaded." What is the enticement of ambushing someone, killing them, and taking their property? It will be fun and they will gain valuable property. But Solomon warns the young men not to set foot on that path. "The paths of all who pursue gain dishonestly," he warns, "takes the lives of those who profit from it." (1:19) It is a path to self-destruction.

The foolish are prone to mock those who are too "good" to engage in their dishonest activities, but they will find that they are the ones who will be mocked by wisdom. Solomon personifies wisdom saying that wisdom will laugh at the calamity of those who neglect wisdom's counsel. "Because they hated knowledge, didn't choose to fear the LORD," says wisdom, "they will eat the fruit of their way and be glutted with their own schemes." (1:31) By contrast, wisdom says, "whoever listens to me will live securely and be free from the fear of danger." (1:33)

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reflections on Job 42

 Job 42 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Job said:
  2. No one can oppose you, because you have the power to do what you want.
  3. You asked why I talk so much when I know so little. I have talked about things that are far beyond my understanding.
  4. You told me to listen and answer your questions.
  5. I heard about you from others; now I have seen you with my own eyes.
  6. That's why I hate myself and sit here in dust and ashes to show my sorrow.
  7. The LORD said to Eliphaz: What my servant Job has said about me is true, but I am angry at you and your two friends for not telling the truth.
  8. So I want you to go over to Job and offer seven bulls and seven goats on an altar as a sacrifice to please me. After this, Job will pray, and I will agree not to punish you for your foolishness.
  9. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar obeyed the LORD, and he answered Job's prayer.
  10. After Job had prayed for his three friends, the LORD made Job twice as rich as he had been before.
  11. Then Job gave a feast for his brothers and sisters and for his old friends. They expressed their sorrow for the suffering the LORD had brought on him, and they each gave Job some silver and a gold ring.
  12. The LORD now blessed Job more than ever; he gave him fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand pair of oxen, and a thousand donkeys.
  13. In addition to seven sons, Job had three daughters,
  14. whose names were Jemimah, Keziah, and Keren Happuch.
  15. They were the most beautiful women in that part of the world, and Job gave them shares of his property, along with their brothers.
  16. Job lived for another one hundred forty years--long enough to see his great-grandchildren have children of their own--
  17. and when he finally died, he was very old.

When God finished reminding Job of His own greatness and Job's insignificance by comparison, Job repented. He first acknowledged God's greatness and then confessed of his ignorance in speaking of things he didn't understand. He spoke of things about which he had only heard. But now, in his confrontation with God, he knew of God firsthand. Now he knew for certain of God's greatness. He now took back his words spoken in ignorance and repented of them.

God also had words for the three friends, and they were not words of commendation. He was angry with them for failing to speak the truth about God. They had misrepresented Him. But He did commend Job because he did speak truthfully about God. God does not relate to man in a contractual way as the friends inferred. According to them God blessed those who were good and punished those who were not - without fail. Love between God and man was not a factor. Nor does God want people to relate to Him only for what they can receive from Him. He wants us to trust Him and worship Him regardless of circumstances trusting that He is worthy of our trust and worship at all times.

The friends had taken a position of piety and superiority with Job, but in the end, God gave them their comeuppance. Besides telling them of His anger with them, he required from them a burnt offering and that Job serve as a mediator on their behalf to pray for them. After Job prayed for them God did not deal with them "as your folly deserves."

The chapter and book conclude with an accounting of Job's restoration. His health and wealth were restored with a doubling of his wealth. His family was restored in that he had 10 additional children born to him with seven sons and three daughters. And, his friends were restored to him. But that was not all. He was also given longevity of life. Jewish tradition says he was 70 years old at the time of his losses. Following his losses, God gave him 140 more years of life to enjoy his regained wealth and family. He lived long enough to see his grandchildren to the fourth generation.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Reflections on Job 41

 Job 41 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Can you catch a sea monster by using a fishhook? Can you tie its mouth shut with a rope?
  2. Can it be led around by a ring in its nose or a hook in its jaw?
  3. Will it beg for mercy?
  4. Will it surrender as a slave for life?
  5. Can it be tied by the leg like a pet bird for little girls?
  6. Is it ever chopped up and its pieces bargained for in the fish-market?
  7. Can it be killed with harpoons or spears?
  8. Wrestle it just once-- that will be the end.
  9. Merely a glimpse of this monster makes all courage melt.
  10. And if it is too fierce for anyone to attack, who would dare oppose me?
  11. I am in command of the world and in debt to no one.
  12. What powerful legs, what a stout body this monster possesses!
  13. Who could strip off its armor or bring it under control with a harness?
  14. Who would try to open its jaws, full of fearsome teeth?
  15. Its back is covered with shield after shield,
  16. firmly bound and closer together
  17. than breath to breath.
  18. When this monster sneezes, lightning flashes, and its eyes glow like the dawn.
  19. Sparks and fiery flames explode from its mouth.
  20. And smoke spews from its nose like steam from a boiling pot,
  21. while its blazing breath scorches everything in sight.
  22. Its neck is so tremendous that everyone trembles,
  23. the weakest parts of its body are harder than iron,
  24. and its heart is stone.
  25. When this noisy monster appears, even the most powerful turn and run in fear.
  26. No sword or spear can harm it,
  27. and weapons of bronze or iron are as useless as straw or rotten wood.
  28. Rocks thrown from a sling cause it no more harm than husks of grain. This monster fears no arrows,
  29. it simply smiles at spears, and striking it with a stick is like slapping it with straw.
  30. As it crawls through the mud, its sharp and spiny hide tears the ground apart.
  31. And when it swims down deep, the sea starts churning like boiling oil,
  32. and it leaves behind a trail of shining white foam.
  33. No other creature on earth is so fearless.
  34. It is king of all proud creatures, and it looks upon the others as nothing.

God continued to speak to Job. In His speeches He did not attempt to answer any of Job's questions or defend His sense of justice. They are all aimed at one point: "Who then can stand against Me? Who confronted Me, that I should repay him? Everything under heaven belongs to Me." (41:10-11)
God began in earlier passages with creation of the physical elements of the universe. Then He brought up smaller creatures of the animal realm. Finally, He described the behemoth and the Leviathan, the two largest, most fearsome, beasts of creation. Job would not have even considered confronting these animals. If Job feared these creatures, how, then, could he consider confronting the One who made them?

The question of Job's challenge of God is about more than his fear of God, though. What about his trust of God? Could he not trust One who is so great and wise and powerful to have made such awesome creatures? And what about God's love? Should he doubt the love of One who not only made all creatures, including man, but also sustains them and nurtures them? It seems that man has a very narrow lens through which he judges God and others and that is his feelings. One is blinded to all rationale or logic based on how he feels. Job was suffering, someone must be to blame, and that someone must be God. Therefore thoughts of an unjust God override all other thoughts of God's greatness.

There is none of us who has not suffered to some degree. We sympathize and identify with Job and understand his inclination to strike out at God. But now that God speaks and reminds Job, and us, of His greatness we realize there is a better way, and it is trust. What comfort is there in anger and blame compared to trust and submission?