Congratulations! You have reached the half-way point of this Bible-in-a-year marathon. I ran a marathon once. I remember those people in the crowd shouting, “Keep going, you’re half way, you’re looking great.” I won’t tell you what I wanted to shout back at them. But for this blogs half-way point, my brain is jumping for happiness and I want to push on and learn more! I hope you all are enjoying it too. What a perfect way to commemorate than with some wisdom from Solomon.
This is BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
Q. (Proverbs 25:6-7): Trusting in God requires that you are patient. There are so many things that I would like to fast-track, but I am learning to know that if I wait for God to act that something more wonderful will happen than what I had planned for myself.
A. Patience is rarely considered a virtue these days, but it truly is, and through patience is the only way God works.
O. (25:7b-8, 18): I know it’s because of doing this blog that I’ve changed my old way of thinking. This verse comes into play when I think for myself “by saying something, what gain will it do? Will it hurt anyone?” I normally put my “God filter” on my mouth and remain quiet. I had a situation at work the other day where expectations were wrongly placed because of miscommunication. I asked God to give me words to speak. He did and instead of joining bashing someone, God’s words lifted them up. That felt so great. Now my “God filter” is coming to me more naturally. But, I still just usually pause and give myself a little time to process the situation, ask God for His words, then respond. It’s so hard to give God control, to give up our own control, but when you do, it’s fascinating! Same with verse 18. Don’t say things that bring people down. Lift them up! Besides, if you ever want to see someone who is not perfect, just look in the mirror.
O. (25:14): This one speaks to me. I tell my kids that if they do a certain chore, then they’ll get a reward. Then, sometimes I tack on another one. That brings distrust from them.
Q. (25:20): Does this mean that if someone is sad, let them be sad?
A. Not necessarily. I would say its more about being insensitive to those who are sad, and either trying too hard to cheer them up, or not realizing their state of sadness and wrongly assuming everything is alright.
Q. (26:4-5): These verses are contradicting.
A. The apparently contradicting content of these verses is one of the most commonly “pounced on” examples used by non-believers who are eager to show the Bible as full of contradictions and therefore worthy of ridicule. I think that this position takes much too low a view of what Solomon is getting at. It is quite clear that the writer, or editor, is putting them together for a reason (if you’re trying to prevent people from noticing this “contradiction,” then you don’t put these verses next to each other!). What is that reason? I would say that Solomon is giving two sets of advice to you as a reader/hearer, and it is up to you to decide how to use it. There are times when we must discern whether it is worth the fight with a foolish person. Do we stand our ground, and potentially waste a great deal of time in a pointless argument? If so, it’s probably better not to argue in the first place (that would be verse 4). But if you are convinced that by not engaging, you will leave the person proud in their own eyes, and thinking they have defeated you, then its probably worth the trouble (verse 5). Sometimes the wisdom that Solomon is imparting to us requires us to use a bit of wisdom of our own.
Q. (26:8,13,25): These proverbs talk a lot about the foolish, the lazy and hatred. Maybe three characteristics of ungodly people?
A. Would that it were so. I know far too many “godly” people who I would say fit into these categories. These are simply part of human nature, and Christian and non-Christian — or Jewish and non-Jewish as it were — alike can be susceptible to them. Part of what Solomon desired, I suspect, was to offer people wisdom in the hopes that they would use it to better themselves, and not fall into the traps that are often the unforeseen consequence of being hateful, lazy, or foolish.
O. (26:26): Helped by gossipers then, I guess. Today, we have the media.
O. (27:4): Jealousy is such a quiet emotion, but I think a lot of people, including myself — although I have learned to shrug it off — struggle with it. My daughter is amazing. If she hears of someone else having a play date or arguing about whom is going to sit by whom, she is not bothered at all. She’s my role model for that. But, here it says that jealousy is more dangerous than anger. That’s a good visual of how damaging it can be to one’s character.
Q. (27:8): What does this mean? My grandma told me this verse when I decided to go to Hawaii for a college exchange program. I have been one to go far from my nest.
A. I guess he’s saying there is much more potential danger away from home. Think of what happened to the Prodigal Son when he got away from home (Luke 15).
Q. (27:14): I say, “Amen” as I am definitely not a morning person. But, I always thought it was better to be “early to bed, early to rise” and be chipper in the morning. So, is this just one of Solomon’s pet peeves?
A. I don’t think he’s talking about morning people verses those who sleep in, but I honestly don’t know what he’s talking about here.
Q. (27:15): I wrote “Jezebel” next to this. But, I think this applies to everyone. I think it is much harder to be around complainers, gossipers and pessimists.
Q. (27:19): To me, the face reflected is maybe the person people want to be, but a heart can secretly struggle with evil thoughts.
A. It can indeed, which is why God told Samuel not to be impressed with David’s handsome brothers back in 1 Samuel 16. You look at outward appearances and can be fooled, but I look at the heart to see the true character of a person.
Q. (27:21): What does this mean?
A. As gold and silver are “tested” by the refining process — i.e. the more pure the gold, the better it holds up — a person is “tested” by how they react to receiving praise. I see great wisdom in this verse.
Q. (28:7): Reflecting on my years as a teen, or even as young adults, I recall me and my sister’s choices of friends. Some were great, some were good and some were really bad influences. I don’t recall my parents ever trying to guide us on who we hung out with — sometimes it was who chose us. But, even if they did, I think we would view their advice as meddling. So, if parents are unable to influence their kids’ choice of friends, then it’s up to the kids. I think that is the message here. But how many kids will read this verse?
A. There’s no way to answer that. The question you can answer is, “will YOUR kids read it.” I feel that part of my responsibility as a parent is teach my daughters how to be smart about who to be friends with and who to trust. But ultimately, as you say, it will be up to them. I can only hope to show them the value of choosing friends wisely.
Q. (28:8): Can you explain this one?
A. If you exploit the poor to get rich, God will ensure you don’t get to enjoy the benefits of your labor. Your money will end up in the hands of a person who treats the poor fairly.
O. (28:11): I bet this drives the rich nuts when they face someone is wiser than them.
Q. (28:19): This isn’t supposed to put down the entrepreneurial spirit, right? We are supposed to use the talents God gave us. This is saying that those who try for years to be something like an actor, but never succeed should quit and find something they are good at and work hard?
A. As with the verses we talked about above, there must be a level of discernment in our decision making, especially in something as important as our career. We must be very careful that our entrepreneurial desires are not, as Solomon says, ultimately a fantasy. If they are, we are in trouble.
Q. (28:23): I worked with two wonderful ladies in a preschool. One would tell parents if their child had some issues, the other was bubbly and said the child had a great day — not always, but she dodged criticism of the child. As a parent, I would want to know if my child was acting up — maybe he/she is bored, maybe they need more parent interaction at home, maybe it’s the terrible 2s or 3s — and I need to investigate to see what’s going on. The bubbly teacher said she didn’t want to bring shame or embarrassment to the parents. It seems as if Solomon is saying that the honest teacher made the best choice when talking to parents?
A. I believe that most parents would want to be told about problems their children have, so I can see the value in being honest. But I would hesitate to call what the other woman was doing “flattery.” Flattery involves telling a person what they want to hear for your own gain, and it is intellectually dishonest. It is barely above lying in my mind.
O. (28:26): I felt something change in me this week. From the last question, you can see that I worked in a preschool last year. Not my thing. A little over a week ago, my husband met a muralist on the job. (I painted my girls rooms with full-room murals. It took forever, but I enjoyed it.) They talked and she said she was interested in talking to me. So, I gave her a buzz. I sent her some pictures. I thought she could just give me advice on how to start up in a business. After talking to me once, we were going to meet on a Monday. Not a minute went by, and she called again and told me to wear my paint clothes — I had a little job without even meeting her. It was glorious! I loved it. She’s a Christian and her incredible story of how she got started was an act of God. So, I have really been fulfilled this week. We had a pool party after my daughter’s last day of camp. Of course, there were several moms from Geneva there. All Christians. We were talking about our hearts, how if we are thinking something bad, we don’t speak it, but we still feel it in our hearts. We were talking about how we need to turn that off and see people for how they are and not criticize. Good conversations! Then, after the night had slowed down, I took a nice quiet walk with my dog. But, lo and behold, we were not alone. I haven’t felt God walk with me like that before. I felt filled with glory. I hope exploring the Bible like this has been a wonderful experience too! If you have any testimonials, please share in a comment!
Q. (29:5): Could you explain this verse?
A. Flattery is a “trap” of words: we tell people something (which we probably don’t actually believe) in order to profit from it somehow. Solomon is merely pointing out the similarity of setting a real trap for the person. It is verbal manipulation.
Congrats on reaching the half-way point. And, it’s only going to get better. We hit the New Testament September 24.