Wisdom Book of Proverbs

Day 147 (May 27): Proverbs prelude, Wisdom is valuable, Wisdom calls you, Benefits of wisdom, Trust the Lord, Absorb your father’s wisdom

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Proverbs 1-4
(~950 BC) Click here for a timeline of the entire Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 1:1-4): I had never thought about this question, but this passage addresses it: Did the authors of the various books know their writings — and their very lives, for that fact — were for the benefit of others and it would be compiled into one book, the Bible?

A. I would say it is unlikely that the authors of the books we have been studying wrote them for compilation into a single volume, but I suspect that God was at work via the Spirit to make it happen.  As the verses tell us, Solomon and the others who compiled the volume lay out its purpose here: to proclaim universal wisdom for the benefit of future generations.  Later Jews saw great value in that, and incorporated it into what was call the OT.  They saw Proverbs, along with numerous other works, as inspired by God, which is what led them to “keep” the work as part of their collection.

Q. (1:19): This verse cuts to the core.  If we spend our time worrying about money or trying to accumulate more and more of it, then we miss out on the joys of everyday life.

A. Nice summary.

Q. (1:20-33): This talks about you reap what you sew.  But, I always thought that if someone who hasn’t been a follower reaches out to God in desperation would get some help because he’s acknowledging that God is able to save him.

A. I wouldn’t read theological significance into the passage. The author is making a point about the advantages of seeking Wisdom — personified as a woman.  Besides, as we have discussed, sin carries its own consequences, and the sin being discussed at this point is ignoring what Wisdom is trying to teach you (be wise, not sinful, etc.).  Ignoring Wisdom is not a death sentence — we can clearly state that God is merciful — but it can prove costly.

Q. (2:1-22): I can think of two ways to get wisdom: pray for it like Solomon did and read and absorb the lessons of the Bible.  I do feel I’m getting wiser from reading God’s Word.  I just feel that I have a better understanding of what He wants me to be and that it heavily influences my thoughts and actions to where they are not mine anymore, but God’s.  I have a long ways to go, but I definitely see how I can be more fulfilled through God.  Rob, are there any other ways to get wisdom?

A. Sure.  One of them would be read the works of those who have written on the Bible and studied it over the centuries, from Justin Martyr, to Augustine, to Jerome, Basil and Benedict, Luther and Calvin, Wesley (my personal favorite), and even great modern souls like C. S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonheoffer, Thomas Merton, Dallas Willard, or Martin Luther King Jr.  Exploring the writings of these followers of Jesus can impart incredible wisdom to us.

O. (3:1-4): I have also been more aware of others lately and how my actions can or cannot influence them.  By engaging with someone on a positive note should brighten their day a little bit. (I don’t know why caring human interaction has a positive effect on people.  I suppose we may learn about this later?)  I know it does mine on both ends – when people engage me and when I engage with them.  Reaching out to people and vice versa makes me feel good.

O. (3:5-6): My daughter learned this verse in Kindergarten, thus I did too.  It sums up this whole intro to Proverbs.

Q. (3:9-10): As I have said previously, if I won the lottery, I would give quite a bit of the money away.  I don’t even bother buying a lottery ticket unless God tells me the winning numbers.  But, if I did play and won, getting large amounts of money, I would feel guilty holding on to it because I feel God would want me to help others.  Yet, here it says that if we follow his path, he will “fill our barns.”  So, should we give away our wealth or just listen for God’s direction?

A. First of all, it doesn’t say how He will fill them.  I can tell you it most likely will NOT be via the lottery, which tends to have a horribly detrimental effect on the people who win it — google lottery curse if you want to see.  But generally, I feel that if God chooses to bless you with wealth in whatever way, He will be clear about what He desires for you to do with it, if you are willing to listen.

Q. (3:33-35): This is a hard question to ask, but … well, are the wickeds’ fates doomed?  Can God work in their lives without any requests from his followers?  Or, are His followers solely responsible for bringing the wicked to Him?

A. One of the great mercies that Scripture makes clear is that we are not responsible for the lives of other people.  We are only responsible for ourselves.  That may sound cold, but ultimately, we are not capable of “saving” other people, whether they are “wicked” in our eyes or not.  God is in the business of saving souls, so leave that part to Him.  You’ll sleep better at night if you are not carrying another person’s salvation on your shoulders — I promise you!

The wicked are not necessarily doomed: in His mercy God may reach out to them in a non-fatal way to get their attention, but of course, He is not required to.  One of the coolest thoughts I ever heard a pastor share was the idea of awakening in Heaven and exclaiming “you’re here?”  Never underestimate the power of God’s grace at work.  Without it, wicked or not, we are all lost.

Q. (4:16): This verse doesn’t seem possible to me.  I thought most people had a “reality-check” conscious — if someone does something wrong, although they may enjoy it, most people would know it’s wrong in their heart and feel guilty for it.  Verses like this help me feel that I’m in check and doing the right things.  I would be just the opposite: If I wronged someone, I would not be able to sleep.

A. If you have spent years ignoring that little voice inside you that says “you are wrong and you need to seek forgiveness (or forgive, or repent, etc.),” eventually it stops talking or we can no longer hear it.  I suspect that’s the idea that the writer has in mind: that of a criminal so hardened that they can’t sleep at night unless they do something bad.  This is another verse to not read very literally.  It is hyperbole.  Proverbs is full of it, so hang on!

For further information: How to read the book of Proverbs, https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/the-best-discoveries-begin-as-problems

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Tomorrow’s reading: Proverbs 5-7

Moses preaches and reminds Israel of God's faith and the need to obey Him.

Day 73 (March 14): Moses calls Israel to fully commit to God, God’s blessings, God to drive out the wicked, Golden calf reviewed again

Wong Chim Yuen

Welcome to Livin’ Light’s Bible-In-A-Year challenge of discovering God’s love for us and His purpose for our lives. Here is the format for this great adventure: The daily reading assignment is posted at 5 a.m. After each day’s reading, Leigh An Coplin, the blog host, shares observations and poses questions about difficult passages to Rob Fields, who studied Christian Education at Asbury Seminary and currently teaches Biology in the Orlando area. To start from the beginning, click on 365 Bible Readings and scroll down to Day 1. The reading schedule is taken from The One Year Chronological Bible NLT. 

Today’s Reading
Deuteronomy 6-9
(1406 BC) Click here for a timeline of the whole Bible.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Deuteronomy 6:2): What is God referring to here when he says “you will enjoy a long life?”  Is he referring to eternal life or just that they will live a long, healthy life on earth?

A. There is not much discussion of eternal life in the first five books of the Bible.  It is a concept that is introduced later, notably in the New Testament.  Moses is speaking only of a prosperous, healthy temporal life on earth.

O. (6:4): What a simple, great verse, but so hard to wholeheartedly get my mind and heart around.  I find it extremely hard to forget about “myself” and replace it with God — God’s will.  I often wonder when I will get to this point in my life and how I can let myself go and let God take over.  I have definitely taken baby steps in this endeavor and it feels great when I do, but then I need to take even bigger steps to get that same feeling.  I am looking forward to a complete turnover.  That’s the major reason I am reading the Bible in a Year.  Not to do it fast like a race, but to commit myself to studying all of it so I can know God better and what he wants me to do with my life that will help others and help Him.  And, I hope to find the time when I can fully give up my own wishes for God’s.  It’s just so hard to fathom!

O. (6:6-9): This sounds like what our schools want us to do.  We put posters up and try hard to teach our kids everything the standardized tests want them to learn, but how many people post God’s rules all over their house and recite them regularly to their children? Where do our world’s priorities lay?

Q.  (7:7): It is pretty amazing that God chose Abraham, who had no children, to be the father of all nations.  Then, he finally gave him one child Isaac.  These were both good men who followed God, thus God’s love for them and promises to them.  But, there is nothing special about this nation, other than the fathers of it were loyal to God.  So, it is interesting that God chose the Israelites.  Rob, can we talk about this a little?  Like, why God chose anyone?  What is the purpose of God having his own people?  I assume it’s for God to have a model nation to show his power through them, that he is the one, true God.  Are there any other reasons for choosing them?

A. I think that the relationship between God and Abraham is special, as Genesis indicates, and the Bible writers go out of their way to point out that when God makes a promise, He is faithful to it — unlike us.  So, part of the reason that God is so faithful to this particular nation, that there is nothing else especially interesting about, is that He is keeping His word to Abraham.

In the Old Testament, God is painting an image of a nation that will be a shining light to the rest of the world: a symbol of what right relationship between God and man looks like.  At this stage, it looks like this: God sets the terms of the relationship in exchange for the great provisions that He will pour out on His people, as long as they are faithful to the covenant.  We will see Israel’s unfaithfulness explored a lot more in the coming texts, but we will also see the way that the Prophets of God (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, among others) will powerfully describe the way that God has remained faithful not only to His promises, but also His vision for the nation of Israel — as unfaithful as she is — to be a light to the Gentile world.

O. (7:9-11): “Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands. 10 But he does not hesitate to punish and destroy those who reject him. 11 Therefore, you must obey all these commands, decrees, and regulations I am giving you today.”

These verses are a wonderful summary of the awards and consequences of following God’s rules.  Loving God is for the Israelite’s benefit.  These are verses that you can take either with a “half-empty” or “half-full” approach.  Half empty, you can either read it that if the Israelites don’t obey God, they will be punished.  Or, half full, read it if they love God, they will give them his unfailing love.

Q. (7:12-14): These verses suggest that if the Israelites obey God they will be fruitful — I would think that would translate into “rich” — but the Bible also says that it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to get to the Kingdom of Heaven.  Is this contradicting?

A. I don’t see a contradiction, and I think that part of the passage we just read helps us understand the distinction.  The camel/needle idea comes from Matthew 19:24, in which Jesus is warning against the way that wealth tends to blind us to our own need for God.  A rich person is not necessarily dependent upon God in order to prosper or succeed.  But that is the danger: it is not the money in and of itself, but what the money does to our spiritual priorities.  In this passage (6:12), we see Moses give a careful warning: you are about to enter a realm, he says, where you and your families will prosper.  Be careful, therefore, that when you have all this stuff, that you DON’T FORGET GOD!  That, I think, is the real danger of wealth and riches in that it insulates us to our own need for God.  Such insulation can truly make it easier for the camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to properly understand their own need for God who has greatly blessed them.  I hope that makes it clear.

Q. (7:15): To me this also has a contradiction in it to the NT.  Here God says He will protect His followers from sickness, but doesn’t the NT say that sickness can come to Christians?  We have seen it come to Job in the OT.  That was a different circumstance.  And, it doesn’t seem that this necessarily applies to today, right.  This “sickness-free” decree was meant for the Israelites?

A. I’m not even sure if I would say that Moses is doing anything but making a rhetorical argument about how good the Israelites will have it in the Promised Land if they are faithful to God.  I would say that much of what he is promising here is hyperbole: you will NEVER get sick, your animals will ALWAYS have offspring, etc.  I would not take such promises completely literally: Moses is saying that you will have it good in this country.  And honestly, part of the problem with the entire scenario is that we never get to find out how much of it was what God truly promised: the people will be unfaithful to the covenant, so they lose out on the promises anyway.

In general, it is a good idea to consider that any promise, rhetorical or not, made in Scripture is only applicable for the people that it is written to, unless the promise specifically says it can be applied to different circumstances.  It’s a good rule of thumb for such sections of Scripture.  We will see more examples of this, and I will try to highlight instances where either scenario is appropriate.

O. (7:16-20): The Israelites are reminded again and again about God bringing them out of Egypt.  After they failed God, I can understand the constant reminders.  I, too, need constant reminders of everything God has done for me and that nothing is impossible and everything is possible.

O. (8:5): I never thought of this analogy before, that we are to God what our children are to us.  That puts some perspective on our relationship to God: that we are devoid of power and not comparable to Him.

Q. (9:1-6): I am struggling with the question of why God tries so hard to make the Israelites realize that He is all powerful?  Why does He care so much?  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are long gone.  If He were human, he would have likely given up on them, after all of their failings, a long time ago.

A. I would actually answer this the same way I answered our question from 7:7: God has made a covenant with Abraham, and He is faithful to keep it, even in light of the failings of each generation.  One other thing to remember: the nation of Israel will give birth to the Messiah, Jesus.  Jesus is the one who will set not just Israel, but the entire world to rights with God.  So certainly part of God’s plan is to use this nation, in spite of its failings, to bring about a restored relationship for all humanity — past, present, and future.  Why God chose these people is beyond our full comprehension, but as Christians, we can see the way that God is laying the foundations so that one day, God Himself will walk the earth as one of us to save us from our sins and teach us the right way to be in relationship with Himself and one another.

One other reaction I had to the way you phrased your question: be careful about assuming that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are “long gone” as you put it.  When Jesus was confronted about the afterlife, He clearly pointed to the idea that these men were still alive with God.  He quotes God’s conversation with Moses in Exodus 3 when God says, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.  God, Jesus tells us, is not a God of the dead, but a God of the living!  (Matthew 22:32)  What an amazing verse!  So, perhaps we would be careful about assuming that God is any less faithful in the afterlife to these men, and those who faithfully follow Him, as He was when they were living.

For further study: What does it mean to fall from grace? https://escapetoreality.org/2014/03/27/fallen-from-grace/

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Tomorrow’s reading: Deuteronomy 10-12

The Holy Spirit speaks to you

Giving in to the Holy Spirit

As your faith grows, you develop a closer connection to the Holy Spirit to where you can’t help but do what He tells you to do.  In my case, the Spirit has implanted in my brain: the ability to pick up on keen sayings, highlight verses that I think could benefit others, and the creativity to put it all together.

Lately, I have been trying harder to obey the Spirit when He prods me.  When I do nothing, I feel weak and ashamed, like I let God down.  James 4:17 (ESV) says that “whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”  I have doubted myself for so long that it feels wonderful to follow the Spirit and follow-through with His urgings.

Livin' Light T-shirt with words "Live for the Lord". 2 stars. Hebrews 12:14 Comfort Colors Berry. front displayed on wood plank background.
When going through your daily life, always remember who you should be living for — the Kingdom of God — not your earthly desires. When something can set off a big emotional outburst, just think of Hebrews 12:14: Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 

Opportunities are around you

For a year or more — yes, I’m a stubborn human — the Spirit has told me to talk to panhandlers in our area.  Conveniently, I am always in a rush and don’t have time.  And my negativity says that there are so many businesses looking for workers, that these beggars should just get a job.  Also, word is that they make plenty of money and their begging is just a ruse.  All those voices telling me that panhandlers don’t matter are WRONG!  They do!  Everyone matters.  Remember the parable about Lazarus who was begging at the gate?  Well, he ended up in heaven and a rich man who went to hell was begging Lazarus for help!

The other day, I finally acted on the Spirit’s nudging.  With a Bible in hand, I made friendly conversation with a woman who was begging.  She had recently moved from Italy to find work.  Her sign said “Jesus loves you.”  So right there I was given a segue to talk about the Lord.  

God will do the work, we just deliver the Message

It doesn’t matter if I had any influence on her beliefs.  I just handed her a Bible and told her that she could read it to help her with her English.  I love how the Holy Spirit pushes us and we remain unsettled until we act on His urgings.  That’s all that God instructs us to do — be bold and listen to the Spirit.  What is the Spirit prodding you to do?

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Leigh An Coplin has been a Christian since she can remember and continues to grow in her love for God every day.  With God as her guide, she started Livin’ Light, a Christian apparel business and online resource.  She has a B.A. in Journalism from Texas Tech University and has worked at the Lee’s Summit Journal, Pacific Business News and The Honolulu Advertiser.  Leigh An lives in the greater Orlando area.