Thursday, April 9, 2009

Know and Respond or is it Respond and Know?

Proverbs 9:8 "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding".

Parallelism is a literary devise frequently used in the book of Proverbs. The writer uses words that are similar or parallel in meaning to emphasize a certain truth. The "fear of the Lord" is mentioned six times to this point. Four out of the six times it is used in conjunction with "knowledge". The other two times it is mentioned with "hating evil". What does the "fear of the Lord" and "knowledge" have to do with each other?

Here is my attempt to begin to understand how these concepts interplay. The fear of the Lord is an appropriate response to the knowledge of God and his ways. Or is it? Proverbs 1:7 tells us "the fear of the Lord is the BEGINNING of knowledge" (also wisdom, 9:10). But how can we fear someone we don't know? What comes first, knowledge or fear? Perhaps the answer is that they happen simultaneously, like two elements, when joined together create something all together different (i.e. wisdom). When you start with the fear of the Lord and add knowledge, you get wisdom. Or maybe they are essentially the same concept, like two sides to a single coin.

I think it is helpful to examine these two concepts separately to help us understand more fully how they work simultaneously. Fear is another word for reverence or worship, suggesting that knowledge (and wisdom) begins when we properly acknowledge who God is and offer him the worship he deserves. Here are some words that came to my mind when I thought of reverence: to respect, think highly of, think about often, to look up to, submit to, to exalt, obey, pay attention to. These are all responding words. As we respond to God we get to know him, and as we get to know him we respond to him.

Knowledge requires time, meditation, study, testing, experiencing, applying, discipline, control, honesty, searching, listening, understanding, repetition, correction, explanation and more. Proverbs is replete with words that describe the proper pursuit of knowledge and ultimately wisdom. All this seems to come out of a heart that responds appropriately to all that God is and is doing. A wise man fears God and knows God. With knowledge comes intimacy with the God of the universe. With intimacy comes knowledge of the God of the universe.

Two words I am taking with me today from this study -- pursuit and responsiveness. I want to pursue God so I can know Him, and I want to respond appropriately to God as I get to know Him. This is the way of the wise man.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Keep Her Close

Proverbs 7

If we want to keep her (Adulteress, i.e. sexual sin) far away, we must keep her (wisdom; i.e. the Lord and His Word) close. Solomon repeatedly urges his son to value, lay hold of and apply wisdom in life. Wisdom is be close to you, ready for immediate use. "Bind them upon your heart forever; fasten them around your neck" (6:21). "Keep my words and store up my commands within you" (7:1). "Guard my teachings as the apple of your eye" (7:2). Apple is a metaphor for the center or pupil of the eye. We closely protect our eyes with a blink of the eyelids and a quick reflex system. Without wisdom, we live in darkness, spiritually blind. Wisdom should be ever before us, guiding us, directing our steps, at our finger tips, on our heart (7:3). The instruction of wisdom should be near and dear to us, like a close relative (7:4).

Remember, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. To lay hold of wisdom is to lay hold of the Lord. So, I ask myself, "What is the state of my relationship with God? Do I hold him and his Word near to my heart? Is he bound to me like a near relative? Are his words piling up in my heart, ready to flow out as needed? Do I guard my time and pursuit of him with the same vigilance that I give to protecting my eyes? Is Christ and his Word my most valued treasure? Or, am I pursuing other things with greater zeal? Is my walk with Christ up and down, far and near, cold then hot? Is my relationship with him bound tight to my heart and fastened around my neck? Or, do I put him on only when it's convenient? When I'm not busy? When I'm not involved in my favorite sport, recreation, hobby or other interests? When the season is right? Or only when I'm doing my small group?"

Am I close to her (wisdom)? I can't be close to her unless I'm close to Him.

Monday, April 6, 2009

She wants your life...Don't give it to her

Proverbs 5-6
"Pay attention", "listen well" are strong urgings to perk up and be focused (5:1,7). The wisdom and insight you are about to receive could save your life. Men, sexual sin will lead us "straight to the grave" and "down to death". It preys upon our very lives (6:26). Solomon writes passionately, as one who knows oh, so well (he had 700 wives & 300 concubines), the seductive power of sexual sin. Here are some of the principles I gained that are helpful in winning this battle.
  1. Be well aware of the destructive nature of sexual sins (5:4-6, 9-11, 14; 6:25-35). It will, without a doubt, eat away at every aspect of your life and eventually destroy you.
  2. Stay away from anything or any one that would tempt you (5:7-9). Run for your life!
  3. Find satisfaction in your wife (5:15-20). Be thankful for what you have. Work on having a strong relationship with your wife. This means giving more time and attention to your wife than you do to your own interests (i.e. sports, golf, TV, work around the house, even your kids).
  4. Realize that God sees everything and examines your path (5:21). You are not getting away with anything.
  5. Have truth principles embedded in your heart and mind, ready to use at any moment and in any circumstance (6:20-24). Are you walking daily with The Source of Truth?

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Heart of a Champion

Proverbs 3 & 4

Who comes to mind when you think of a Champion? You're probably thinking of great historical figures, presidents, inventors, military generals, successful business men, professional athletes, or Bible characters. In reality, any of us can be a champion. Not because we are exceptionally gifted, intelligent, insightful, creative, strong, inventive, wealthy or brave, but because of The Champion who lives within us and wants to live through us. There is no one like our God. But how does this work? How does God make champions out of ordinary men like us?

Proverbs gives us the way of a true champion, the way of wisdom. Our Champion God beckons us to a way of living that is marked by wisdom and rooted in the fear of the Lord. The benefits to a man who pursues God with this kind of heart are almost beyond belief. Solomon outlines the mered of benefits in these early chapters.

  • Gives victory (2:7)
  • God is his shield (2:7)
  • God guides (2:8, 11)
  • God protects (2:8, 11)
  • Saves you from ways of wicked & adulteress (2:12, 16)
  • You will live in the land (2:20)
  • Have long life (3:2, 16; 4:22)
  • Prosperity (3:2)
  • Have favor and good name with God and man (3:4)
  • Have guidance (3:6; 4:11)
  • Health (3:8; 4:22)
  • Wealth (3:10, 14, 16)
  • Honor (3:16, 35; 4:8-9)
  • Pleasant way (3:17)
  • Peace (3:17)
  • Blessed (3:18, 33)
  • Life (3:18, 22; 4:13, 22)
  • Grace (3:22, 34; 4:9)
  • Safety (3:23-24; 4:12)
  • No fear (3:24)
  • Confidence (3:26)
  • Intimacy with God (3:32)
  • Protection (4:6)

Chew on that for a while! Better yet, eat the breakfast of champions. Eat, sleep and drink wisdom that fears God. Listen, pay attention, lay hold, keep, get, do not forsake, esteem, embrace, guard, find, trust, honor, fix your gaze on wisdom, then you will be a true champion...God's champion!