Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Sword Drill: Proverbs 4-7

The first of my Sword Drill blogs! hoorah! I've actually restarted some decent Bible study!

Passage is: Proverbs 4-7
SAYsoaps Day 237

OBSERVATION:

I have to say, it's really fascinating how Solomon tries to drum it home to the reader/listener. You can imagine an older man saying "listen to what I say, avoid other peoples mistakes, live a life of wisdom". Wisdom, according to Solomon, springs from the father - if this logic was followed we'd be extremely wise by now, but unfortunately children sometimes need to or want to make their own mistakes, or perhaps this is a human flaw. Still, we can learn much from someone older and wiser than ourselves and this book is no different.

We learn a little about what it is to be wise and where wisdom comes from:
"Lay hold of my words with all your heart; keep my commands and you will live. Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or swerve from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding" (4:4-7, all quotes NIV unless stated)
Question: should we pursue wisdom at all costs, or are there objects of higher value? (c.f. Matt 13:44-46)

An important nugget is dropped early on:
"Hold on to instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life. Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way" (4:13-15)

Wisdom, knowledge, teaching and experience - they're all useful! I feel that this sentiment is echoed in Pauls later teaching, avoid sin, "run away from the evil desires of youth. Try hard to live right and to have faith, love, and peace, together with those who trust in the Lord from pure hearts" (2 Timothy 2:22, NCV) No doubt Paul was aware of Solomon's teaching on wisdom as he wrote this passage.

Again Solomon makes his point with "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life" (4:23) Here is wisdom indeed, as true today as it was in Solomon's day. We have so many things pulling us this way and that, we must be careful to guard our hearts and the best way to do that is by living a life of righteousness (which can be made easier with a little wisdom).

Solomon uses a very specific example to explain what happens if we do not guard our heart, if we do not live lives of wisdom and righteousness. He spends most of the next 3 chapters (5-7) talking about adultery and prostitution, but I think he is also using the "adulteress" as a symbol of the ungodly. Heed his warning: "Can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned? Can a man walk on hot coals without his feet being scorched?" (6:27-28) Jesus, when he talks about adultery, puts it this way "You have heard that it was said, 'Do not commit adultery.' But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell." (Matt 5:27-29)

One thing, though. If you do stray, if you do something unwise or unrighteous, there is forgiveness, there is a second chance - but it may come at a cost!

APPLICATION:

I think there are two things that ought to be applied from this passage:

Firstly, "listen closely to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart" (4:20b-21)
What a great place to start with my first decent reading for ages... read it and keep it with you. Take it in and make it a part of you. I always like the phrase "hide them in your heart" although I can't remember where in the bible (or what translation) that comes from.

Secondly, beware distractions - particularly but not exclusively the sexual kind. Or as Solomon puts it: "Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you. Make level paths for your feet and take only ways that are firm. Do not swerve to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil" (4:25-27) Make life easy on yourself, avoid the questionable! A help in this respect? "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path" (Psalm 119:105)

PRAYER:

Father God, may I keep my mind fixed on you your word in my heart. May I live a life which pleases you and honours you. Lead me away from temptation and keep me on your path of righteousness. In Jesus' name I ask these things. Amen
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