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BIBLE READ-THROUGH: DAY 21 REFLECTION (PSALM 120 – PROVERBS 25:28)

“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”

DAY 21: AUGUST 12

PSALM 120 – PROVERBS 25:28

Today we say good-bye to the psalms and hello to Solomon’s proverbs. I find the proverbs very rich and, unlike the psalms, quite difficult to do in read-through mode. They’re better ingested one at a time and chewed over slowly. That’s not what a read-through is about, however. I’m not sure how you’re dealing with this dilemma, but I confess that I skimmed over most of the proverbs section of the reading, though I did dig deeper into the passages on lady wisdom and her nemesis, the strange woman.

  • I think it’s difficult for us to grasp how unfathomably awful the children of Israel must have felt both individually and as a people when Jerusalem was destroyed. They essentially lost everything except their lives. Psalm 137, which was written during the 70 years of their exile in Babylon, has the feel of a vengeful funeral dirge. Lots of wailing and finger-pointing, but not much self-reflection (that would come later). The line about little ones being dashed against stones gives us an idea of what was done to the Israeli children during the slaughter. It also shows how seriously these people took “an eye for an eye”, even to the point of murdering each other’s children without blinking.
  • Thank God (and thank Jesus) we’ve moved beyond that barbarism to loving our enemies. I don’t think I could stomach watching someone dash my child against stones, any more than I could stomach doing the dashing myself with someone else’s child. Even so, a lot of songs have been written using parts of Psalm 137 (though not the kid-dashing part). Interestingly, in the musical Godspell, some lines from this psalm are in a song that’s sung just before Judas Iscariot betrays Jesus. The song is posted here below the BIBLE READ-THROUGH schedule.
  • The rest of the psalms were a bit of a mixed bag. We read some by David but also some that were written hundreds of years after David died. There was another retelling of the exodus story and the time in the wilderness, along with reminders to praise and thank God in every situation and to rely only on him. I’m glad the book of Psalms ended on a high note, praising God. That should always be our default response, no matter what happens to us. Stand up, look up, and praise the Lord!
  • As we know from an earlier reading, Solomon prayed to God to be granted wisdom above all else. God was so pleased that Solomon had asked for wisdom instead of the usual laundry list of riches and long life, that he gladly gave him his request. The book of Proverbs is the fruit of Solomon’s wisdom. Unfortunately, Solomon didn’t have the same flair for words as his father, which sometimes makes for hard reading.
  • As I mentioned, the sections that I spent the most time on in this read-through are those on lady wisdom and the strange woman. The rest of the reading, I must confess, I raced through, and the thought that came to me as I was doing the racing was “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, treat others as you want to be treated, and obey the Commandments”. Most of the proverbs seem to be saying that in different words.
  • But lady wisdom and her nemesis the strange woman were much more compelling to me. Solomon gives a good run-down of all the benefits of choosing and cherishing wisdom in comparison to choosing the strange woman. As alluring as the strange woman is initially, she’ll only to lead to your doom. There is no other outcome if you get involved with a strange woman.
  • Recall that anyone who was not a child of Israel was considered “strange”, as were prostitutes and women in adulterous relationships. Scripture often conflates the three metaphorically to describe how the children of Israel started worshiping the heathens’ demon gods. Solomon himself married several hundred strange women and ended up being led astray by them, as we read last week. There are many such cases of people who warn against a temptation, only to be snared by the very same temptation they cautioned against.
  • Maybe wisdom can only take you so far. Maybe, as Job found out, complete submission to God in recognition of his absolute greatness and your absolute not-greatness is the only thing worth striving for.

What was your impression of this reading? Did any of the psalms or proverbs speak to you in particular, whether in encouragement or correction? Many of the proverbs spoke to me, but I’m not saying which ones or why. That’s between me and God.  ;D

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Click on the links below for a schedule of the BIBLE READ-THROUGH.

WISE

opens himself up like a book

God is no mystery. Obviously, we’ll never know everything about him (any more than we’ll ever know everything about any person, ourselves included), but we can know everything we need to know. God is not trying to hide from us or trying to make us figure him out, like some elusive femme fatale. He’s just God. He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything, but he’s no mystery. Not if you love him.

 

God works on a ‘need to know’ basis. Like everything God does, his system is perfect. He explained it to us years ago already, back in the Garden of Eden. He lets us know what we need to know on any given day and at any given hour. More we don’t need to know; it will just get us into trouble.

 

Wanting to know what you don’t need to know or what won’t serve your or anyone else’s benefit is not an admirable trait. It’s not wise. God doesn’t hide anything from you that you’re not ready to know. If you’re not ready to know something (in other words, if you can’t handle it as it should be handled, so that your knowing it won’t hurt yourself or others), then it’s simply better for you (and for others) that you don’t know what you want to know, even if you want to know it really, really badly.

 

That is wisdom.

 

But we don’t live in a wise age; we live in an age where folly and gluttony are not only admired but pursued. The gluttony is an insatiable lust for knowledge at all costs, without bounds or limits. If the words sound familiar that’s because it’s the same story that was played out in the Garden of Eden years ago; the same story that’s been repeating itself over and over and over again since then.

 

People like to say “knowledge is power”, and then look at you as if they’ve said something profound. But knowledge is not power. Knowledge is just accumulated facts. And accumulated facts applied without wisdom can give results that range from banal to dangerous to destructive, but there is no wisdom in any of it, and therefore no real value, let alone power.

 

Wisdom is power. There is power in wisdom because wisdom comes from God. Wisdom is flashes of insight from God’s mind. Wisdom is God’s mind speaking directly to yours.

 

God is no mystery. He lays himself out like an open book for those who love him. And the more we love him, the more pages are added to that book.

 

Being skilled at accumulating facts might make you wealthy or admired or respected or even feared, but it will never make you wise. No amount of accumulated facts will ever bring you anything of any value, even if your knowledge gives you enough money to wallpaper your house with $1000 bills and pave your driveway with gold.

 

In the same way, just knowing about God – that is, accumulating facts about him – will not make you wise. Loving God will make you wise.

 

The more you love God, the wiser you become. Even a child can be wise, if he loves God, just as an old man can be profoundly unwise, though neck-deep in accumulated facts and wealth.

 

A wise person is happy; an unwise one, unhappy.

 

God is no mystery. He opens himself like a book to those who love him. To some, he’s like a picture book with just a few words; to others, he’s like an encyclopedia. God wrote the book just for you. It never ends, and once you start reading it, you never want to put it down.