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“When you come to a ‘fork’ in the road, take it,” is an oft-quoted bit of advice from Yogi Berra. It has brought a smile to the face of many when they first hear it. But if you listen to what he is saying, it’s rather dangerous. Let me explain.
“Wherever you want to go, is OK. Just follow your own path and enjoy life,” is what I think Yogi Berra is suggesting. But, is following our own self-designed path the best thing we can do with the life God has given us?
God gave us His Proverbs for us to have His understanding to know right from wrong. In fact, if we go back to a conversation between God and Solomon, his first request of God was for the gift of insight: he wanted to be able to discern right from wrong. Solomon, at that time, wanted to honor God with his whole heart. He knew that honoring God would be difficult without God’s insight to guide him. What a wise request! “God,” he begged, “please guide me.”
Perhaps he saw his father, David, struggling with his humanity when he had to choose right from wrong. Perhaps he saw his father grieve over a poor decision that cost someone their life. Perhaps he saw David, his dad, deal with guilt when he did not follow God’s guidance. There was something deep within him that challenged him to “be insightful, or discerning.” So, he asked God for this gift of “discernment,” and when he understood and applied it in his life, he recognized its value. When he recognized it’s value to him, he wanted to pass it on for us to use in our lives. How thoughtful of him to want to share God’s Word with us to guide us and keep us from sin.
God has given us the only resource we need to be discerning: His Word. If we choose to honor Him we can find His directions in His Word. Life is safe and certain if we follow His Word!
Prayer: Heavenly Father, we know that You will guide us and guard us if we seek Your will and stay obedient to Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:4 For giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young.
There are very few pictures of “Attention!” that can rival a US Marine standing tall after hearing that word. As soon as that “word” is shouted by a “superior” heels come together, muscles tighten, and faces freeze as though they were carved in granite. Persons who have served in the military know the significance of that word. When “shouted to subordinates” it results in an external rigidity that is very visible to the onlooker and represents an internal attitude of concentration that is waiting for a command to be obeyed and followed with no hesitation.
Throughout His Word, God uses many different ways to get the “attention” of His children. There are times when He speaks directly to a person. There are times when He speaks to one person through another person. When God wants the attention of His children, He has many options.
We read in Job that one of God’s options to get our attention is through suffering: “For He wounds, but He also binds up; He injures, but His hand also heals,” wrote Job.
In Proverbs 1:2 we find a word that can be translated with several different meanings: instruction, discipline, training and chastened. But, in this instance, there is no doubt that it means “to teach by discipline” or “through punishment.”
We often hear stories about people who “have to hit bottom” before they are willing to do something about a problem that is destroying them. It may be God at work. He often uses suffering and hardship to get our attention by “raising the bottom” to “save” us because He loves us.
“The Lord disciplines those He loves,” wrote Solomon. God often uses discipline to get our “attention” when we abandon Him. Why? Because He refuses to let us destroy ourselves!”
Prayer: Lord, we know You love us. Do whatever is necessary to keep us in Your will – even if it means we must suffer for You to get our attention. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:2 For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight.
ALWAYS ROOM FOR MORE
Whenever I hear the word “gain,” I think it is related to “weight,” especially my weight. There are very few mornings that I do not step on the scale to get my “daily report” on what I ate yesterday. Most nutritionists do not recommend such a program. But, my hope to see the arrow pointing downward remains steadfast.
A gain or increase can be good or bad, exciting or depressing, encouraging or discouraging, depending on what the gain refers to. If we depend on the stock market, a gain can be a good thing. But, if we see a gain in our debt, it can be disturbing. Our gains or losses, for the most part, are usually in the physical or material realm.
Solomon speaks of a particular type of “gain” – of being able to achieve some “things” that will last as long as we live. These “gains,” these valuable lessons are available and offered to us in Proverbs. Our “attaining” more of God’s wisdom, or “life gains” is very important for all Christians because we are constantly challenged to “grow” throughout Scripture, and Proverbs provides this path for us if we want to grow.
The word used for “wisdom” in this verse also means skillfulness – applying knowledge that comes from God to our lives every day. If we do so, we will “do the right things the right way.”
When we go one step further, we come to the fact that it is possible to develop decision-making skills that are God-honoring and enable us to establish life-principals that will bring us success. God’s proverbs can guide us through life, help us in our relationships with others, lead to good practices in business, enrich our homes, and bless God and others.
Prayer: Lord, You’ve left us “no excuses” on how we are to live life if we are Christians. Thanks for the directions on how to live a successful life! Now, give us courage! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:2 For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight.
THE IMPORTANCE OF WORDS
“What’s a nanosecond, Keller?” I asked my ten-year-old grandson.
“Papa, everyone knows what a nanosecond is,” he replied with a wry smile across his lips as if teasing me.
“Well, not quite everyone. If I knew, I wouldn’t ask.” I felt like I needed to go back to school. Immediately!
“It means one, one billionth of a second. It’s used to measure the speed of light and other stuff,” he replied casually. Not having any need to measure the speed of light, I thought it was a good time to end the conversation. I realized how little I knew about some things.
But there is one thing I do know without any doubt: God took great care to choose the exact words He needed to explain His message of redemption. No second guessing about what He wanted us to understand. No hidden meanings for a special class of people. Nothing is left to the imagination that could cause us to make an error in knowing God’s message or direction for our lives.
This is very obvious in Proverbs 1:2-4. God, through Solomon, let us know that there is a right way and a wrong way to “live life.” Each of us has choices to make about the way we will live: either a life of righteousness with God’s power that will honor and glorify Him or a life that is sinful, self-centered and leads to our death and damages others.
Ten of the approximately forty words in Proverbs 1:2-4 provide different aspects on ways to understand, see and apply God’s wisdom for daily, God-centered, living. Check them out!
God leaves nothing to “chance.” He wants us to succeed!
Prayer: Thank You, Father, for the “God is My Helper” successful living guide-book – the Book of Proverbs. May we follow it carefully. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:2-4 For gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young.
A KING’S RESUME
Recently I was asked to write a resume. Since I had not written one in nearly 30 years, it presented a real challenge. As I thought about the many things I had done, some well and some not so well, I was grateful for the fact that the choice of what I would include was up to me.
Solomon did not write his resume. God did. Nor was he the last one to make a statement about who he was and what he had accomplished. God did that as well. (And, by the way, God will do the same for you and me.)
Even a casual review of Solomon’s resume is impressive.
-Early Childhood Education:
Exposed to sages, philosophers, wise men
Observed troops preparing for battle
Studied large building construction
Accompanied his father in foreign affairs
Sang Psalms written by his father
Involved in worship, prayer, and praise
-Major Life Achievements:
The third king of Israel
Built God’s Temple in Jerusalem
Diplomat, trader, patron of the arts
Recognized as “wisest man who ever lived”
Author, sage, and philosopher
Leadership accomplishments destroyed
Married pagan women, compromised his God
Enslaved God’s children
What could have been, never was. Sadly, sin defeated Solomon, and he lost everything.
Prayer: One day, Father, we will all stand before You to be judged for the lives we lived.. May You bless us and say, Well done, Faithful Servant! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Nehemiah 13:26 Was it not because of marriages like these that Solomon king of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel, but even he was led into sin by foreign women.
Advice only has value if it achieves its goals. Often, we follow the advice we get if it agrees with what we want to hear or if it comes from a trusted friend. When we need sound, reliable, and timely advice, we need assurance that our source is wise. Certainly, advice coming from David, a “man after God’s own heart,” would be worth following. So, when he gave advice to his son, it was a tipping point in his career as a king, husband, father, teacher, and warrior.
And, his advice was simple, and can be summed up in a few words: “Be strong and obedient to God.” But, what does this mean?
First and foremost, Solomon, if he chose to succeed, needed a deep, personal relationship with God. As he grew up in David’s household, he saw his father reading the law and prophets, worshipping and praying, writing the psalms and following God faithfully. David proved what obedience was. And, when he failed, he repented, and returned to obeying God’s teachings!
However, he had to know God’s laws to obey them. To know them, he had to study them before he could apply them. This would take time from other things – but would be time well invested and keep him from failing in life by being disobedient to God.
He also was given advice to worship God wholeheartedly, surrender to Him completely and serve Him willingly and faithfully. Sadly, history shows us that he refused to do that.
As the story of Solomon unfolds in the Bible, we read of “what might have been” if he had surrendered to God completely. His lack of surrender destroyed the plan God had for him.
The same is true for us. We must study God’s Word and, surrender to Him, or fail.
Prayer: Father, may we willingly study and obey Your Word, and then surrender our lives to You and bring honor to Your Name and peace to our lives. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: 1 Kings 2:1-3 When the time drew near for David to die, he gave a charge to Solomon his son. “I am about to go the way of all the earth,” he said. “So be strong, act like a man and observe what the Lord your God requires: Walk in obedience to him, and keep his decrees and commands, his laws and regulations, as written in the Law of Moses. Do this so that you may prosper in all you do and wherever you go.”
There is no shortage of advice in today’s world. We can discover endless resources in the exploding number of self-help books and magazines, radio and TV shows. No matter where we look or what we listen to, someone has some formula to solve our problems, enrich our lives, make us more attractive, add years to our lives, and make us wealthy.
Solomon, apart from his Proverbs, also offered insight on how to live life well in some of his other writings. And, at the end of his life he wrote, “Of making many books there is no end…all has been heard, and here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep His commandments.” In these few words, he went back to the beginning of his reign when his father, David, gave him some “fatherly advice” – “Solomon, be strong, act like a man, and observe what the Lord your God requires.”
There are, as mentioned earlier, many sources and resources on how to live life. But the advice we find here is different. After reflecting on his life and reviewing his successes and failures, he summed up the essence of life: “Life, apart from God, is meaningless.”
David, “a man after God’s own heart,” offered his son, Solomon, a man who would one day be recognized as “the wisest man who ever lived” the formula for success.
God’s wisdom, however, only has value if followed. As long as Solomon followed the advice of his father, David, God honored and blessed him. And, nothing since then has changed.
If we follow the advice of our Heavenly Father as He presents it in His Word, He will honor and bless us, guide us and guard us, too!
Prayer: To accept and live by Your requirements, Father, is easier said than done. But, with Your power, it is possible if we trust in Your strength, not ours.. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Ecclesiastes 12:12-13 Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them. Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.
WHERE DID THE PROVERBS COME FROM?
No one has ever asked me to answer a question that had no limits. Sometimes, I have been asked questions that have encouraged me to “think big” or to “go beyond what I have thought of in the past,” or to “think into the future for what could be.” Those questions have been very challenging. However, no one has ever approached me and said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you, and I will!” At least, no one who had the power to give me a “whatever.”
But that happened to Solomon. And, the one who asked him that question was not his father who he would replace as king. It was One who was much more powerful than his father, and One who, indeed, could grant Solomon the “whatever” he wished for. It was God Himself!
He realized and admitted to God that he was not qualified to be a king. He saw himself as “a little child.” So, he asked God to “give Your child a discerning heart” – (not mind) – “to govern Your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of Yours?” Then, the very next verse begins with, “The Lord was pleased that Solomon asked for this!” And, God responded: “I will give you what you asked for and what you have not asked for: wealth and honor, and in your lifetime you will have no equal!”
What an interesting question: “Ask for whatever you want” – and what a humble answer: “Nothing for myself. My only desire is to have a discerning heart.”
God granted his request and through him gave us His inspired, infallible, inerrant Proverbs as “life guides.”
Prayer: Father, in Your wisdom, You gave Your servant wisdom to offer to Your children so they could “live well!” In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: 1 Kings 3:9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?
WHY THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON?
Wisdom was a very important matter to those living during the time of Solomon. The Bible gives special recognition to the wise men of Israel’s neighbor, especially those in Egypt, as well as Babylon and Phoenicia, Arabia, and Edom. The Old Testament also refers to Gentile “sages” with a certain degree of respect – but does not mention the Gentile priests and prophets.
It’s important for us to remember that there were many in that period of history who were very intelligent even though they did not speak as one having a “special revelation” from God. Individuals throughout the ages, even today can think, speak and write wisely within many different fields of knowledge, and yet not speak on behalf of God. It is this simple, significant fact that makes The Proverbs of Solomon different. Solomon spoke on behalf of God, the truth of God, to guide the people of God into “paths of righteousness for His sake.” Then, as now, following the teachings and instructions of Solomon, God’s children have God’s “filter” to see God’s world through God’s eyes.
We often talk about “hindsight” and “foresight,” but God’s Word gives us insight into the way we are to live. We may have wisdom from other sources, but the wisdom that comes from God enables us to live victoriously and successfully, and let the world see and understand the value of submitting to His teachings. We are, of all people, most blest to have His wisdom!
One more fact: We, as the children of God, also have access to the power of God, to live lives that are pleasing to God, through the strength and power of God.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may we know, understand, accept and live in the light of Your wisdom every day! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.
WHAT’S A PROVERB?
Little Ruby was saying her bedtime prayers. “Dear God,” she prayed, “please help bad people to be good and good people to be nice.” Whether Ruby knew it or not, she provided a simple way of describing what the book of Proverbs is: “a guidebook for living a life that pleases God.”
Over the years, various cultures and societies have established different criteria to describe whether or not one is “successful.” Many have put “wealth” at the top of the list. And, money, to some degree, is important and necessary if one is to have the necessities of life. Others would speak of power, prestige, and one’s position in society as being critical. Those words express the core values of individuals who want to be recognized for what they have accomplished on the world’s stage in politics, the military, banking, or finance. No doubt some want to be remembered for doing some “thing” that no one else has done – like discovering a medicine that extends life or setting a record in a particular sport, inventing a product or procedure that makes life better or is useful, valuable or delightful.
But, those whose lives are guided by the lessons that we find in The Proverbs are those who fear God and allow Him to guide them, guard them and give them His gifts.
We often talk about hindsight, sometimes we wish we had foresight, but Solomon’s Proverbs gives us the insight to make decisions based on God’s laws. Proverbs provide us with God’s wisdom that is underwritten by God to give us His power to live good, godly lives.
Prayer: Grant us willful hearts, Lord, to obey Your laws. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Scripture For Today: Proverbs 1:1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.