Devotions on Proverbs 1:1-7, 3:1-8
July 6 – 12, 2015
Monday, July 6, 2015
“For gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice and equity” (Proverbs 1:3).
One of the most precious gifts that God has given us is the ability to learn. We are all blessed with an innate curiosity. We use this ability to gain knowledge and understanding about what we consider to be important for life. Our basic education consists of the three “R’s”–Reading, wRiting and aRithmetic. We branch off from our educational foundations and pursue further education in our special interests and specialties.
For many of us, education is a life long process. We continue to seek to learn what is important to us. Educational institutions, publishing houses and a host of other companies cater to our desires. Many of the offerings are distant descendants of Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, or Norman Vincent Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking. There are also courses on how to be successful, how to get rich, how to raise good kids and what to do when you travel abroad. There aren’t many educational opportunities, though, on righteousness, justice and equity.
The writers of the book of Proverbs didn’t include advice on how to succeed, how to be rich, or even how to be all that we can be. They focused on righteousness, justice and equity. Could it be that we do not have our educational priorities in order? Perhaps what we think is important for us to learn isn’t what the Lord considers vital in order for us to be faithfully obedient to God. If this is the case, then we might need to change our “majors”. The building racial tension and the recent events in South Carolina underscore this need.
Lord of all, Thank you for the gift of learning. Teach us so that we are righteous people who strive for justice and equity. Amen.
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
“Let the wise also hear and gain in learning” (Proverbs 1:5).
Tillie was a “know-it-all.” She was an expert at “Trivial Pursuit” having never lost a game. Along with knowing it all Tillie was an authority of everything–at least she thought she was. She’d weigh in on whatever topic was under discussion. Tillie really didn’t listen to what others were saying, but she did make sure that she was heard.
All of us have probably had a “Tillie” in our lives. We shake our head at the memory glad that we don’t have to spend much time with Tillie, or play against her in “Trivial Pursuit.” Yet when we stop and reflect on Tillie and on ourselves, we are a lot like her. We catch a few news snippets on television or the internet and we suddenly become authorities on complex topics. In conversations we talk a lot and listen only a very little.
The Psalmist reminds us that though we are wise (or [mistakenly] consider ourselves to be wise) there is always more to be learned. He calls us to journey through life with open hearts and minds. There still is so much of God’s creation, love, grace and forgiveness that we have not yet experienced. As disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to be life long learners.
Oh Wise God, open our hearts and minds to the teaching of your Holy Spirit. In our dealings with others enable us to treat them with respect, listen to what they have to say and learn what they can teach us. Amen.
Wednesday, July 7, 2015
“To understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles” (Proverbs 1:6).
The Mississippi River is 2,340 miles long. That is the length of the river and not the distance between Lake Itasca in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is much longer because it follows the path of least resistance and meanders all over the countryside. There are many things in God’s creation that follow the path of least resistance, but humankind is not to be like that–as tempting as it may be.
The Lord has given us the gift of learning and a natural curiosity so that we can explore and discover. We have used these gifts to grow in our knowledge and understand of the vast universe and the intricate workings of the brain. The worlds that we explore do not need to be limited to the physical, though.
There is so much to learn, explore, experience and discover about God. We can wrestle with the meaning of a proverb and plumb the depths of one of Jesus’ parables. We can struggle to understand a difficult passage of scripture. Do we know all there is to know about forgiveness, grace or love? There are times when it may be necessary for us to confess our tendency to follow the path of least resistance through life. Having made our confession we grab ahold of God’s hand and journey through life with God in wide-eyed child wonderment.
Gracious God, forbid that we should take the path of least resistance. Enable us to flex our muscles, expand our mind, strengthen our faith and deepen our love. Let us grow! Amen.
Thursday, July 9, 2015
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (Proverbs 1:7).
Knowledge and understanding has increased one thousand fold through scientific inquiry and technological advancement. We know a lot! We might not have made the best use of our knowledge, however. We’ve used our knowledge of marketing to sell bottled water to people with clean tap water. We’ve used our knowledge of geology and physics to pump more oil and natural gas out of the earth not know how it will affect the aquifers a other geological formations. Medical advancements have added to the length of our lives but not necessarily to the quality of our lives. There is a certain hubris–a dangerous pride–that is closely associated with increased knowledge. We tend to use knowledge selfishly.
The Psalmist reminds us that our respect for God is an important element in the gathering of knowledge. As we go about exploring and discovering God’s creation it is important for us to acknowledge that there is a creator and it isn’t us. We are part of the creation. We are a gift to creation and creation is a gift to us. When we walk through life with the Lord as Creator/creation, we are able to ask the question, “How is this gift–this new knowledge–meant to be used?” This question applies to everything from knowledge of new galaxies, to understanding why we lost the war on poverty, to new exercise techniques and successful parenting skills.
All knowing Lord, thank you for the gift of knowledge. May we use what we learn to honor you and to serve others. Amen.
Friday, July 10, 2015
“My child do not forget my teaching” (Proverbs 3:1).
Hien burned the proverbial midnight oil studying for her sociology final. There was so much to remember. Hien read over all of the highlighted sections of the textbook and tried to memorize all of the professor’s comments she had written in her notebook that were important. Hien’s late night study helped her remember what she had been taught and prepared her for the exam.
There are a lot of teachings contained in the Bible. Which ones should we strive to remember? The Ten Commandments? The over three hundred additional commandments that are found in the Old Testament? Perhaps we should simply concentrate on the sayings contained in the book of Proverbs?
Remembering such a great number of teachings might not only be difficult but also confusing. It might be wise for us to simplify those teachings to a number that would be helpful for us to remember as we walk today as disciples of Jesus Christ. If you were to do this, what would your list include?
Important teachings might include: 1). God is love, 2). God invites us to walk in a close, dynamic and vital relationship with God, and 3). We are called to share that love. These truths have the ability to transform our days and our lives.
Divine Teacher, Help us remember what is important as we live our lives as your children, missionaries and servants. Amen.
Saturday, July 11, 2015
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own insight” (Proverbs 3:5).
Fifty years ago a group of Christian businessmen stood on a fifty acre plot of forest. They had a vision that those fifty acres would become a Bible camp. Their family and friends thought they were a little crazy and attempted to talk them out of it. The businessmen had a strong sense that the Holy Spirit was guiding them in this endeavor. Fifty years later the camp that those men (with the help of others) has touched thousands of lives with the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Linda had a wild and rebellious life as a teenager. Though Linda was smart and gifted, she got into more than her share of trouble. She started to straighten herself around in college and during her junior year she felt that the Holy Spirit was guiding her into the ordained ministry. Her parents and friends thought that Linda was kidding them when she first told them. They didn’t think Linda was holy enough to be a pastor. Her parents also thought she needed to choose a career at which she would be more financially successful. The doors to seminary opened for Linda and she is now using her talents and abilities to bless the people of her congregation.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit often leads us out of our comfort zone. Often our family, friends and brothers and sisters in Christ will confirm how we sense the Spirit is leading us. When we take the step of faith to follow where the Spirit is leading we find it necessary to rely on the Lord and not necessarily on our reason or intellect. The amazing thing that we discover is that God is always faithful.
Oh Holy Spirit, grant us the courage to follow where you lead us and do not allow our doubts and fears to prevent us from doing your will in our lives.
Sunday, July 12, 2015
“Do not be wise in your own eyes” (Proverbs 3:7)
Great people rarely see their own greatness. Mother Theresa didn’t go around telling people that she was a paragon of faith. No indeed! She quietly confronted her doubts and depression and didn’t let them keep her from ministering to the sick, poor and outcasts and touching them with God’s love and grace. Nelson Mandela accomplished great things and brought an end to apartheid in his native South Africa. Though a proud man, Nelson Mandela never called attention to himself. He simply worked hard at what he thought needed to be done.
When we call attention to ourselves–telling others how wise and intelligent we are, or all that we have accomplished–we usually do it to build ourselves up. (We may feel insecure, uncomfortable with our gifts or what we have accomplished.) Our efforts result in folly. People rarely give us the affirmation that we crave.
As disciples of Jesus Christ we don’t need to call attention to ourselves and be wise in our own eyes. We are people who God has called his own. God’s Spirit moves in us and through us to accomplish God’s will. Freed from the need to prove ourselves and be accepted by God and others, we can focus our attention and our strength on accomplishing what we have been called to do. Perhaps people will recognize our hard work and commitment. It’s okay if they don’t. There will come a time when we see God, receive a pat on the back and hear the words, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Precious Lord, Forgive us when we want to draw attention to ourselves. Strengthen those areas where we feel insecure and enable us to give you the glory. Amen.