Day 184 (July 3): Agur’s proverbs, sayings of King Lemuel, characteristics of a noble wife

Welcome to 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.

Proverbs 30-31

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 30:1): Any info on Agur?

A. Not really.  The information we are given indicates he is most likely not an Israelite, but rather possibly a wise man or sage such as Job and his friends.

Q. (30:4): Here, Agur mentions that God has a son.  Isn’t this the first mention of that so far?   I am surprised that the fact is told here.

A. Agur doesn’t have in mind the person of Jesus.  We don’t know exactly what he is referring to here, but my suspicion is that he is asking about a king or ruler.  In those days, kings often declared themselves to be the “sons of gods,” so that would make the “son” in question to be a ruler who leads with God’s blessing.

O. (30:6): I was going to ask what happens to those who add to God’s words or twist them to fit their understanding.  But then, I thought, I don’t think it matters.  Just, don’t do it.  That’s all I need to know.

Q. (30:11): I used to know of a guy who blamed his “non-career” on his parents for not pushing him.  I agree that parents should guide you, but how long can you hold them accountable for your life? And, as far as blaming parents for how a person turns out, I do feel deep remorse for those people who were verbally and physically abused.  How can they save themselves if no one ever directs them to God?  Is their fate dependent upon other Christians?  Or, will God have mercy on their souls.  Deep thought here: We put wicked people down — drug users, thieves, bullies, and other bad apples — but should we be to blame for not dragging them out of their dark hole?

A. There’s no simple answer to that question.  Our responsibility is to faithfully carry out whatever we believe that God is leading us to do.  That’s it — though I realize the profound nature of the statement.  But part of that leading is often how we are to live and raise and care for other people.  If we are a parent, then we are responsible for teaching that child the right way to live, and doing so in a wholesome way (i.e. not being abusive as we teach).

When it comes to other people and the way that life has treated them, I think of a scene from a book called The Shack, by William Young.  The main character in the story, Mac, has an opportunity to interact with God after a man has done a great personal harm to his family.  Mac speaks with God about confronting this man, and seeing him punished for what he has done to his family.  God expresses sympathy to Mac for his situation, but asks him, “what about the abusive father who turned an innocent child into the monster who harmed your family?  Should he be punished as well?  What about the father who did it to him?  How far back do you want to go with the brokenness and punishment?  Should we go all the way back to the Garden?”  I was struck by the power of these thoughts: we can never know what a person has been through to make them the person that we see at any given moment.  Our job, even among the most unlovable, is to love them the best that we can, and seek God’s guidance in helping with their healing.  Being the hands and feet of Christ is sometimes a very difficult calling.  God very likely will ask us to do some things that will be uncomfortable, including interacting with the “bad” people in life.  But those individuals, while broken, are just as loved by God as you or I as “good” people.  It is up to us to choose to love those whom society has declared not worthy of it.  I freely confess that is much easier to write than to do, but it is the calling of the One who spent His lifetime in service to the poor and outcast.  Our job is to follow where He leads.

Q. (30:15b, 18, 21, 29): Is this repetitive phrase a style of writing for those times?

A. Its most likely a rhetorical style, yes.

Q. (31:9): I agree with this, but in our world, it’s so hard to speak up for someone in our bureaucratic social structure.  If we want to help someone, how can we figure out whom to talk to help them?  I know this is for Israel, but I would think it would apply to us today.  I feel it’s more like, if the opportunity arises to standup for someone, then we do it.

A. I would certainly agree that the “entry” into caring for someone might be tricky, but I suspect if you looked around a little and did some service for the poor, you would find opportunities to do the things that Lemuel is talking about.  Most of us don’t even KNOW a person who is that poor or in need (sometimes that’s because people hide it well, but I think oftentimes its because we really don’t pay attention to such things.  But, part of the way we can live this out is to interact with people who are in great need, and determine ways to help them on a daily basis, including going to “bat” for them when the opportunity presents itself.  The opportunities are there, we just have to be willing to get our hands a little dirty and dig in.

Q. (31:10-31): This description sounds like Wonder Woman.  I hope they are giving lots of examples of how a wife can be perfect, not that one woman does all of these things.  She would not sleep!

A. The chapter makes no claim that it is an easy task, which, I suppose, is what makes the wife so priceless to her husband.  I suspect it was meant as a standard to seek after, not a description of an actual woman, but you never know.

Day 183 (July 2): More of Solomon’s proverbs — they are good ones and some are amusing, but true

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.

Proverbs 25-29:27

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.

A. Indeed.

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.

Day 152 (June 1): Fools have no hope, the wises’ lives are certain

Welcome to 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.

Proverbs 17-19

Questions & Observations

O. (17:9): I find that “dwelling on a fault” is so easy to do.  And, one of the hardest things to do in life, is go talk to that person that you find fault with.  But the quicker you talk it out or shrug it off that it deflates.  And, as they say, many times more than one person is at fault, usually me!  My best friend and I had a rift that happened a couple summers ago.  I felt she was boasting and I was just tired, worn out and irritable.  So, we both were at fault.  But, when we talked about it, it was so scary.  We could have ended our 20-year friendship.  But, we worked it out because, as she said, we had so much invested in one another.  It was almost like a marriage.  It was one of those tiffs where you think that there is no way to recover from it.  But, we did.  And, we learned that both of our actions simply stemmed from the way we were raised.  It pays to talk it out!

O. (17:17): I love this verse because I am always hesitant to ask for help.  And, many times, when I have asked for help, I’ve been turned down.  That makes me more hesitant to ask.  But, then there are the friends who have “been there, done that” and they understand why I am asking and are more likely to help us.

Q. (17:21): This is so true.  But, is there a failsafe in teaching them the Lord?  There is a verse that talks about those who raise their children knowing Christ will always come back to those teachings when they stray?

A. There are no fail-safes when it comes to teaching our children about God.  Everyone must walk their own path.  There is a proverb that tells us that if we train up a child in the way that they should go, when they are old they will not turn from it (its in chapter 22, watch for it), but as with all of these Proverbs, it is general wisdom and no guarantee of success.  Sorry!

O. (17:22): So many times I can be a Debbie downer.  I can tell that it saps the mood of those around me.  And, likewise, when I’m around someone like that, I get irritated and want to escape that bad attitude.

Q. (17:23): I think there is a saying “Money = Power.”  This verse is something our politicians really struggle with.  Is there a verse than helps keep them away from being tempted by money?

A. 1 Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Note what it does not say: Love of money is the root of ALL evil, which is a common refrain that is actually a misquotation of the verse!

Q. (18:9): It’s so easy to judge people, but we shouldn’t since we don’t know their full story.  However, what is some motivation that the Bible can offer for those couch potatoes to get off their booties and work and do God’s work — meaning to have a cheerful heart that mimics Christ?

A. Hum, I think we’ve read several of them since we got started with Proverbs.  The Bible condemns laziness (sometimes called sloth, one of those “deadly sins”), and it is clear why: God has commanded us to work (Exodus 20: six days you shall work, and then rest on the Sabbath).  Hard work would have been such a key to survival in that era — we can get by a bit more easily today — that it is no wonder sloth is condemned!

Q. (18:10): This means the godly find safety in God’s teachings?

A. Not just in His teachings, but in His very name.

O. (18:11): I have seen this recently where someone just takes their wealth for granted.  But, now that the wealth is gone, so is some comfort.  Luckily, they are believers and know God will provide.

O. (18:12): This is a hot proverb for me.  I am very quick to react on some things and need to learn to be calm, process, consider the facts and other’s actions and feelings, think WWJD and then react.

O. (18:14): Our parents have a friend that is on his last leg.  He is not a believer and is ready to go.  They said he gave up a long time ago.  They have another friend who is a believer and has a great attitude about his condition.  Attitude goes a long way!

Q. (18:18): So, there are times when we should just flip a coin to make a decision instead of talking it out?  Sometimes, there is no right or wrong answer, but a decision needs to be made.

A. Sure, it happens.  Part of the wisdom that these verses require is in how to apply them.

Q. (18:19): Then what does the Bible say on how to get those friends back?

A. Not much.  It has bigger “fish to fry.”

Q. (18:22): It’s hard to remember this when we don’t always feel like a treasure.  I feel this way most of the time.  I don’t think I reciprocate very well.  We all have our times when we don’t treat our spouse like a treasure.  I would like to think it’s something that couples can work out.  I find that money can be a big factor in spouse’s attitude toward one another.  But, also, it can bring you closer together.  Nevertheless, the money factor is there.

A. Having a genuine appreciation for a spouse — no one is perfect in this — goes such a long way toward keeping a marriage alive.

O. (19:3): Like you said earlier, these proverbs are not certain.  So, some who are not foolish can land on bad times too.  When shuffling through the Bible notes in my head, bad things can happen to Christians, but God is always there for us and He is not done with us yet.  He won’t give us more stress than we can handle.  And, we can humbly unload that stress on God and let Him handle it.

Q. (19:8): So, if you love yourself, you love knowledge?  Knowledge helps you live a fulfilled life.  I often give examples of people who fit the situation of the proverb.  I don’t know if that is OK to do or not, because I don’t know their whole story.  Only God does.  A story for this proverb is that you see those people who are always seeking new experiences and full of life.  Then, you see others who stay close to home, almost in an enclosed habitat and are very irritable. I think ienjoying God’s creations gives light to personalities.

A. You have the proverb correct.

Q. (19:12): Can you explain this one?

A. As we have seen with Solomon and David, you don’t mess with the king.  To anger him is to risk the “lion’s” wrath.

O. (19:16): This is a great verse to keep in your head to remember the result of your actions.  Plus, I think those who follow God’s Word are happier, more focused, more fulfilled and have direction.

O. (19:17): Another verse saying that your charity will be repaid.

Q. (19:21): In other words, don’t sweat the big stuff too much because God may turn you in another direction.  Around Christmas, our pastor preached about this subject using Joseph.  He was getting married, but then his betrothed wife became pregnant with a child that was not his.  And that’s just the beginning.  He looked forward to moving on, but God redirected him several times.  It was all part of the plan.  So, how far should we push ourselves?  I guess we are supposed to go in the direction that we think unless God redirects us.  But, some push through it to seek their goals and are rewarded.

A. Our main job is to trust in God, even when others do us harm, and attempt to seek His council.  To me, God is not interested in “redirecting” us every moment- much of what He desires about our hearts is perfectly clear, and it is our job to obey.

Q. (19:24): Does this mean that some people are given blessings, but then they let those blessings go to waste?

A. I would read this verse as a mocking ridicule of the lazy.  They are so lazy they don’t even eat the food they are given.

Day 151 (May 31): The wise prevail, fools end in devastation

Welcome to 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.

Proverbs 14-16

Questions & Observations

O. The recurring theme in theses proverbs is godly/wisdom vs. wickedness/foolishness.  I also notice a lot of repetition.  Like other repetition in the Bible, it does a great job of pounding it in.

O. (14:4): I like this verse saying that you have to deal with a mess if you want to be successful.  That’s my motto … and excuse!  So, the success should be coming, right?!  J

Q. (14:12): This must mean eternal life for the godly vs. death for the wicked?

A. No.  What is it talking about is the deceitful path, which can capture both the good and the evil.  It is the seductive path that seems right, but is deadly to those who take it.

O. (14:13): I have known several people with hard childhoods who use laughter and comedy to cope or bring lightness to their lives.  They avoid conflict at all costs.

Q. (14:18): Prudent means to look into the future, but there is that old hymn “One Day at a Time, Sweet Jesus.”  What’s the right answer?

A. They’re not mutually exclusive.  You can keep an eye on the future will taking things one day at a time.  In fact, finding some way to do both would appear to be quite wise to me.

Q. (14:20): I don’t understand this verse.

A. I think it’s pretty simple.  Everyone wants to be “friends” with the rich person, even if you don’t like them.  But there is no financial incentive to be friends with poor people, so such people are often cast aside.  I would say there is great insight into human character in this verse.

Q. (14:23): I think fear of failure is the hardest thing to overcome when trying to start something new, especially a business.  For me, it’s also the fear of the unknown.  I know what I want to do, but I don’t know how to get there.  My husband and I want to start a coffee shop one of these days, but figuring out all the details seems daunting!

A. This verse is, I think, assigning value to actually working, not merely talking about working.  I don’t think it has much to say about planning to start a business.  That’s one of our big themes from this book: those who work are rewarded, those who do not lose.

Q. (14:24): Does this mean financial wealth?  All wise people are not rich unless it’s talking about wealth of fulfillment.

A. No, this is not about financial wealth.  Wisdom brings its own rewards, which do not necessarily have anything to do with finances.

Q. (14:26): So, those who fear the Lord, but don’t get everything right, are still promised a place in heaven and protection for future generations?

A. As a general rule.  Don’t forget, this is general wisdom here, not etched in stone principles.  We are saved by our faith, not our deeds, so being in right relationship with God and trusting Him is the most important thing.  Beyond that, anything God chooses to bless us with is up to Him.

Q. (14:28): I was trying to apply this to the leaders of countries.  But there are some out there that grow in population but aren’t glorious nations.  We could apply it to businesses?  Usually if a business does everything right and produces a good product or service, they grow?

A. I would be very cautious with either application.  There are just too many variables out there.

O. (14:29): Amen.

Q. (14:31): I never thought about oppressing the poor as insulting God, but I knew it was bad.  This seems obvious.  I always thought not helping was ungodly.  When a cashier asks if we want to donate to their company’s chosen charity, should we give with a happy heart?  Honestly, I am always a little annoyed by the question.  I usually say “no.” But then, there is that stubbornness.  Here is a business trying to help others and I’m scrutinizing the practice.  But, then again, are they doing it for a tax write-off or out of love?  Should it matter?

A. Helping the poor is one of the crucial things to understand from the Law: If we are all created in God’s image, then we have a responsibility to care for those who cannot support themselves.  Beyond that, however, we all must choose our own ways of going about it.  If it involves donations to companies that you know do good work in this area, then by all means do it.  If you support people you know directly, that is certainly something that honors God as long as your donations are not “holding them back” if that makes sense.  I struggle with the idea that if you make the donation to charities, then you are “done” with your service.  I think it is a very reasonable expectation of Christians that they find a particular area where they can donate their time, talent, treasure, etc. to personally make life better for others.  God surely blesses such efforts.

Q. (14:32): So, this is saying that the godly may go through disaster with the wicked, but at least the godly will have heaven?

A. I would say that’s about right.

Q. (15:1): I may be repeating myself, but this story applies here anyway.  In a past Bible study, the leader said that in most arguments attitude — pride, stubbornness — is half of the problem.  So true, right?

A. Yes.  In fact, I would say it’s more than half.  Pastor Charles Swindoll is quoted as saying that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.  I think that puts it nicely.

Q. (15:23): It’s hard to wait for wisdom.  With so many of my encounters with people, I am trying to think before I speak, mostly, what would God want me to say or what would the loving Jesus do?  But, what happens when I don’t know what they would say and God is not providing me with the words?

A. Sometimes you have to guess, and if you are wrong, ask for forgiveness later.  If we know that we have — intentionally or not — wronged another person, we should in humility make the first step towards reconciliation and apologize.  Forgiveness covers a multitude of sins.

O. (15:24): Comforting thought.

O. (16:1): This is humbling!  And also, rewarding to know that God has a life plan for each one of us.

Q. (16:2): This is also comforting in the way that sometimes I feel like people try to show each other up, even with good things they do.  If the heart is not engaged or they boast about their charity work, then who is it for?  Not God or those you helped.

A. Remember what God told Samuel when he anointed David: we humans look at outside appearance, but God looks at the heart.

Q. (16:4): Can you explain this one?

A. This verse is touching upon a complex theology of predestination, which basically states that all humans were created to fulfill their purposes that God made them for.  So in this case, the verse is saying that the wicked could be raised up and destroyed in order to be an example, or perhaps I should say a non-example, to others.  I have mixed feelings about such ideas, but they are clearly a part of scripture, and one of the things that God desires to teach us is that even in verses that we may not agree with, we must trust that He is sovereign and we are not.

Q. (16:7): No enemies?  Another reason to be godly!  We all have run across people like this who are super sweet, never have a bad thing to say and never seem to have enemies.

A.  Be careful here.  This is another example of general wisdom that may not work itself out in the way you think.  Jesus clearly pleased His Father more than any other human being who has ever lived, but that did not stop Him from having many enemies, who eventually got Him killed.

Q. (16:22): Can you explain this one?

A. It actually fits with all these questions you’ve had about speaking verses not speaking.  If you are discrete, and know when to talk and when to be silent, it will be a fountain of life to you.

Q. (16:26): And, what does this mean?

A. I guess generally it means we tend to work harder with some sort of incentive.  Food is one of the best incentives.

Q. (16:31): Ditto.

A. Though it is difficult for us to understand in a society where only things which are young are valued, this verse is saying that growing old and getting the gray hair that comes with it are something to be respected and admired, like a crown.

Q. (16:33): Love it.  Great saying.  I wonder when dice were invented though.  Is it likely “cast lots” like the footnote says?

A. The lots were like dice, and served the same purpose.

Day 150 (May 30): The righteous will be rewarded, the wise accept correction, fools fail

Welcome to 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.

Proverbs 11-13

Questions & Observations

These proverbs are all so amazing.  I can apply most of them to my own life.  You?  We will highlight some, but many are self-explanatory or subjects we have covered in previous readings.

Q. (11:2): We have heard several times where it is great to be humble.  But, it seems that if you feel the need to get your — rather God’s — message to someone, that you should speak out, a time when you may not be so humble.  How can we proclaim Christ and still remain humble?

A. I think you might be confusing some concepts.  If as Christians we believe the truth of our message, and others ask us about it or we feel compelled to share (appropriately), then I think it is quite appropriate to speak about the gospel.  That doesn’t mean you aren’t humble in the process.  The best gospel messages I’ve ever heard have a simple focus: what God has done for us in Christ.  If you are bragging about all the things you are doing for God (not humble!) you are on the wrong track.  The truth is that a clear understanding of the gospel message should make us humble: it all comes down to God acting on our behalf and accepting what Christ has done in faith.  It surely takes great humility to share that message well.

Q. (11:12): Keeping this one little proverb could prevent so many rifts among neighborhoods and towns.  However, you have those who definitely fall out of favor with the rest by what color they paint their house, how many cars are left out in their driveway with flat tires, etc.  So, you could not talk about them, and let the HOA handle it.  Or, if there is abuse going on, let the authorities handle it instead of chatting about it amongst one another.  Is this the point of this proverb?

A. I would question what type of motivation is driving your desire to “share.”  Are you truly motivated by a desire to make your community look better, or is it to feel better about putting another person down.  The key word in the proverb is “belittle.”  It is good and appropriate to share the truth (in love!), because rarely when you are truly motivated by love will you end up intentionally belittling someone.  If you can’t speak to someone without knocking them down a few pegs in the process, then perhaps the HOA should do it.

Q. (11:14): I think Congress helps prevent our president, leader, from making foolish mistakes.  Also, the leaders of our church, after suffering a fall after the pastor who delivers sermons made a foolish mistake and resigned, are planning to build a teaching team, where several pastors rotate to deliver the message.  That way, they can work with one another, give each other a break from the stress of leading a huge congregation, and if one leaves for whatever reason, the fact that there are more to cover his spot can minimize the blow.

A. I think this verse is talking more about a President’s cabinet of advisors rather than Congress, though there is certain value in the checks and balances our government has built in.  But generally, the cabinet is the people who are advising the President.

Q. (11:15): When does God say it’s OK to help people out financially?

A.  God says it’s always OK, as long as you are being financially responsible for your own affairs as well, which should be your top priority.  If you can’t keep your own house in order, you won’t be able to help other people anyway.

O. (11:17): We have read about good and evil pretty much based on those traits being in two different types of people.  But, when I read this verse and think of both of them within myself, it has a different application.  If I let the goodness in me take over, I will be saved.  If I let the evil take over, I will be destroyed and have nothing to show for my life.

O. (11:18): I guess this is why God hasn’t given me the winning numbers to the lottery.

Q. (11:23): I thought we were all going to be judged.  Does this mean the godly don’t have to fear judgment? They can just look forward to the rewards?

A. Hebrews 9:27 makes it clear that everyone will die and face judgment, but if we are in Christ, we do not have to worry about being condemned for our sins (Romans 8:1).

Q. (11:24-25): My friend was taking the Dave Ramsey course to learn how to budget.  She said one of the lessons was on tithing.  He told his students to give freely, it will come back to you.  This is a hard concept to understand, but if you believe God will take care of you and by tithing, we help others and that pleases God, then it becomes a wonderful habit to get into.  I hope the “be stingy” part doesn’t include coupon clipping and bargaining to get a better price on things.  My father-in-law has told us that all prices are negotiable — he’s talking mostly of cars, houses, furniture and other big home purchases like carpeting, cabinets, etc.  Is bargaining not a godly practice?  I always find it a delight to see what I can save, but sometimes when I’m doing it, it does seem a bit like I’m hurting the person on the other side of the counter.

A. The only action forbidden in the market place is deceit (God desires honest scales as we saw in 11:1).  You don’t have to worry about bargaining or clipping coupons, unless you are doing so in order to rip someone off, including a company.

Q. (12:1): Several verses have addressed this “taking wisdom” topic.  I was always talking about others taking advice and didn’t apply it to myself.  I take some advice well, but other times, I consider the person giving the advice and roll my eyes.  I applied for an assistant editor position.  After I didn’t get it, I was told that I was going to get it until the lazy (he was a talented design editor, but was lost when he was promoted to a manager) managing editor called one of his buddies who was looking for a job.  I was told I did much better on the editing test than he did.  Anyway, as you can guess I didn’t get the job.  But, I had to work with him.  He made mistake after mistake.  And, I was not being bitter at all.  He was just not capable of doing the job.  He really got under my skin because we caught so many mistakes that he made.  Now, after I understand more of what I am as a Christian, I have a hard time thinking it would change my actions with this matter if it were to happen again today.  So, what I’m asking is how do you work with someone (he technically was not my boss, but I had to work a lot with him) if they are not fit for the work?

A. I’m not sure I would have good blanket advice for this situation.  Personally, I would do my best to be honest and helpful, but would be very concerned that working with such a person would make me bitter.  And if the people who supervised “us” couldn’t see this person’s incompetence, then I would say its not a good company to work for and find another job as soon as I could.

Q. (12:10): I grew up on a farm.  We were very good to our animals, except for the branding and the horn “trimming.”  In my second year of college, a very liberal professor showed us a film about the meat industry.  The next time I tried to eat a Hawaiian pizza, I couldn’t eat it.  Subconsciously, the film changed my diet to be a vegan.  Doesn’t this verse speak out to cruelty to animals that are raised for consumption? Another animal cruelty subject has come up at my daughter’s school.  In second grade, she dissected a snake.  This is our first year there and I have heard that they do that in the first grade too.  Anyway, she felt she HAD to do it, but it really grossed her out and she couldn’t eat dinner that night.  Most kids in the class were fine, but I heard that a couple others had to return to the classroom.  I went online and saw where something like 12 million animals a year are killed to use for dissection in school.  That doesn’t seem godly.  To me, a model does the same thing without the killing and the traumatization of the students.  Many would say I’m just a tree-hugger.  But, I feel it to the bone that animals lives should not be trivialized.

A. I think God would agree with you (Luke 12:6 is a great verse), and I think animal rights are worth pursuing.  My only concern is the need to weigh (greatly) the value of human life above animal life- there is no more clear teaching in the Law.  Yes the animals that were sacrificed (remember all those fun passages) were valued and the intent of the shedding of blood was clear, but it was clear that the animal died so that the people might live.  Now we no longer need to sacrifice animals to live (especially if we are vegan, which I am not), but I do have concerns about many would be animal advocates who seem to have little concern for the lives of people, especially the most vulnerable —the unborn, the abused, the ill, the elderly, and the imprisoned.  Given the simple math of a limited number of days and years here on earth, my understanding of the gospel compels me to value human life above animal life, because the loss of human life can have eternal consequences, and I am not convinced that the same is true of animals.  Be careful that a crusade to prevent some snake dissection does not keep you from focusing on the only being to be made in God’s image: humans.

Q. (12:11): Chasing fantasies?  Does Wisdom say that we should choose a practical profession?  The U.S. always boasts that it’s the place to take chances, myself included.  If everyone took the “safe” route, we wouldn’t have as many of the innovations that we enjoy today.

A. If you chased fantasies in ancient society rather than raising crops or working a trade, you starved.  It’s as simple as that.  We have reached the point where it is not required of us to do the same, so I feel that we can find more “creative” ways of honoring God’s calling on our lives.

O. (12:18): I struggle with this even with my own kids.  My girls are very sweet and thoughtful.  However, when they do something wrong, that almost outweighs their sweetness and I just want to blast the bad behavior away.  Some of the words and tone of voice — I know I’m not alone in this — are not the most gentle.  But, I feel that if you don’t show them my disapproval of their actions, they won’t take the matter seriously.

O. (12:23): I have seen this.  When something wise is said, it seems to be taken but not made a spectacle of.  Conversely, when someone — especially a leader — says something redonkulous (ha), it is broadcasted — or mocked in smaller circles —for days and days and days.

Q. (13:3): It’s sooooo hard to know when to speak out and when to hold it.  Is there some sort of mental check that the Bible can give us before we offer advice?

A. Nope.  You’ve got to be discerning and seek God’s wisdom on when to speak and when to be silent.  James 1:19 does tell us that we should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry, so that might be a good starting point.

O. (13:9): What a rewarding verse!  It conjures that wonderful light, joyous feeling we have as Christians.

Q. (13:20): OK.  But in the NT, Jesus says to hang out with the wicked rather than the righteous, because the righteous don’t need to be saved.  So, does the NT overrule this verse?

A. There is nothing about wicked or righteous in the verse in question.  It warns against keeping foolish company and seeking wise company.  Besides, I think you have it backwards: while Jesus did sometimes seek out people, the reality is that they usually sought out HIM!  If anything that proves the value of the verse: people were amazed at how wise Jesus was, and were drawn to Him.  If His words had been foolish, He likely would not have garnered that much attention.  Also, we should be very careful about misapplying the verse you are thinking of (from Luke 5) in all circumstances.  Jesus was not saying that righteous did not need Him, only that He had come to call those who knew they were spiritually “sick” and desired to get well.

Q. (13:24): This is a popular verse among those who speak out about disciplining children.  Many say the “rod” is spanking.  A wise friend says that the rod is supposed to show the way and has nothing to do with spanking.

A. I could see either interpretation.  The problem with many parents today is that they move beyond “not spanking” into “not disciplining their children at all”!  The rod was (and is) used by shepherds to correct sheep; not merely to show the way, but also to CORRECT it when the sheep is wrong.  I am fine with the idea that you do not have to spank a child to correct them (and hitting in anger is wrong), but I reject the idea that this verse means we “show the way” and make the effort to ensure they follow it.  It is our job as parents to use whatever means necessary to ensure our kids are disciplined, responsible adults, but I fear that too many parents just “show” the path and never make sure the kids are on it!

Q. (13:25): Many of these verses, to me, have a literal meaning and a figurative meaning.  This one can be applied to food and being fulfilled with life.

A. Indeed.

Day 148 (May 28): Avoid immoral women, daily life lessons

Welcome to 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.

Proverbs 5-7

Questions & Observations

Q. (Proverbs 5): When I read this passage, I think of the ultimate temptress in Revelation that I have heard about in sermons.  I know temptation for sex is very strong, especially for men (I only know that because of all the self-help books I have seen).  We may have talked about this before in our readings, but I don’t recall.  Did we talk about if sexual temptation is one of God’s ways to test believers?  And, why is it stronger with men?

A. I do not personally fall into the camp that says God puts “tests” directly into our paths.  But in a fallen world, the temptations are there if you desire to see them.  For men (who are generally more wired to be “turned on” by the sight of women than women are for men), one of these temptations is to seek sexual conquest with women who are not their wives.  This can also include a man (whether married or not) sleeping with another man’s wife, which, as the writer points out, is extremely dangerous.  Note that the passage is talking about a particular temptation: a women who DESIRES to sleep with a married man for her own gain.  So in addition to being a warning about the temptations and dangers of adultery, it is also a warning TO AVOID such seductive women all together! A woman who does not honor a man’s wife and married relationship is dangerous and poisonous to that marriage.

As to why women are not tempted in this way, I think the answer is related to what I wrote above.  Women tend to be tempted, in relationships anyway, by power and wealth- which would go a long way in explaining why the woman who attempts to seduce a married man in the first place.  She would see the man’s influence, or great wealth, and desire to have it, by having HIM.  The seduction by power or wealth certainly explains the women’s side of many affairs (Summit’s included, I’m sad to say): where a man sees sexual fulfillment in the arms of another woman (especially if he is not fulfilled at home, though I don’t want to make that sound like it excuses the affair, it doesn’t!), a woman sees security in the arms of the man, and is willing to violate the sacred marriage to get it.

Q. (Proverbs 6): God certainly pounds in the virtue of staying loyal to your wife.  I guess it’s the whole trust issue.  Breaking wedding vows — trust — hurts so many people.  The damage is almost irreparable.  How hard is it to be saved after committing adultery?

A. God can redeem any sin, including adultery, but I would be very understanding of a man or woman who had no desire to continue the relationship after an affair.  The reason?  The trust is gone, and there is no simple way to get it back.  It must be rebuilt over a long period of time, and I can see why a person who had been wounded in such a way would have no desire to invest the time required to rebuild that trust.  So it really comes down to whether the participants in the marriage desire to rebuild the relationship, which would just be speculation on my part.

Now having said that, I feel that scripture is clear that God desires for marriages to honor Him, and God ALWAYS desires the path of reconciliation, even when it is difficult.  God is clear when He says that He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16): it destroys lives, especially the lives of children involved.  So as we tend to come back around too often, we find some real distance between human desire (to gain closure through divorce) and Godly desire (that the participants honor their vows by staying together).  If you want a great read on how to honor God in marriage (it also has the great reminder that marriage is about God—not you), check out Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  The chapter on divorce is worth the cost of the book just by itself.

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 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.

Proverbs 1-4

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 understanding is heavily influencing 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.  Let me know if I need to point you in some directions on good places to start!

Q. (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.

A. Very wise.  Perhaps the Proverbs are wearing off on you already.

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 wicked’s fate 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.  What I mean is 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!