BE WISE - SEEK GOD'S COUNSEL
Dear Christian friends,
The Bible is an amazing book. It is one book yet many books; it has one author and yet has many authors. It was written over a period of 1500 years by forty different people, all inspired by the Holy Spirit. The authors were so different from each other. Moses grew up in Pharaoh’s house complete with an education that was the best in the world 1500 BC. Peter was a fisherman. Amos was a shepherd. Nehemiah was a food taster. Daniel was a well-educated Jewish boy who was being trained to be a Babylonian leader. Luke was a doctor, Matthew a tax collector and Paul a Pharisee. As different as they were from each other, they spoke the same message – Jesus. He was coming or Jesus came to be the Savior of all.
Let’s throw in one more – Solomon. The Bible says that God made him the wisest man that ever lived. Yet he wasn’t perfect. Once he was told by the Lord he could have anything he wanted. He was humble enough to ask for wisdom to rule the people of God. Yet when he had the fame and fortune, he became the Hugh Hefner of his age.
Yet at a godly time in his life the Lord chose him to be the Holy Spirit’s instrument to write valuable books of the Bible. Much of Proverbs was written by him. We can capture what he wrote in Proverbs two with this theme “Be Smart – Seek God’s Counsel.”
The first point he makes is, “Seek the Lord.” In the first few chapters of Proverbs, Solomon speaks about wisdom, godly wisdom. Wisdom always includes the Lord. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Wisdom recognizes God is real and wants to know about his traits. Wisdom desires to do his will. In chapter one, Solomon warns against rejecting wisdom. “Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” Godly wisdom is often scorned. Don’t be a fool. Chapter two urges the need to pursue and acquire godly wisdom.
This is Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry is not about rhyme and meter. Hebrew poetry is about expressing parallel thoughts. The poet makes a statement and repeats it in different way. Listen to the first three verses and notice how he expresses a thought and then says the same thing in a different way. Verse 1 - “My son, if you accept my words /and store up my commands within you. (Verse 2) turning your ear to wisdom/ and applying your heart to understanding—(Verse 3) indeed, if you call out for insight/ and cry aloud for understanding…” This is Hebrew poetry.
Let’s analyze it, and we find more poetry. He uses different words to refer to the Word of God. In verse one he refers to “my words” and “my commands”; verse two he refers to “wisdom” and “understanding.” In verse three he says when we seek God’s Word we receive “insight” and “understanding.”
Each of those words, referring to the Scripture, has a special meaning behind each. He says, “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you…” Let’s start with “my words.” These are the words of a Holy Spirit inspired writer. Solomon, like all the Old Testament prophets, was used by God to record God’s Word.
An agnostic is someone who says there is no way to know there is a god. That’s not true. The world’s existence is evidence that God exists. It is hard to believe there are people who say that the world came about purely by chance. The Bible calls such a person a fool.
But God also says that he exists because he communicates with us. He doesn’t communicate by the position of the stars in the sky like astrologist do; he doesn’t communicate by what is found in the liver of a chicken like some voodoo man. God wrote a nice long letter to us using words. These words give us wisdom. They make us wise - God’s kind of wise.
He also refers to his word as “My commands.” His word tells us his will; he tells us what is right and wrong, good and bad, what we should desire and not desire. To know and do his commands is wisdom.
He simply refers to his word as wisdom. Wisdom is found here. He makes us wise unto salvation by faith in Christ Jesus. No greater wisdom than that.
His word is where we can “find understanding.” His word tells us what is real and not real. Sin is real. Because of sin the world is a mess. Death is real because the wages of sin is death. But we also get to understand there is a solution - the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
His word gives us “insight.” His word allows us to discern between what is good and what is bad, what is valuable and what is baggage! What needs to be done and what never needs to be done again.
All these words describe the Scriptures and what the Scripture contains that is so valuable. But he also tells us what we need to do with the Scripture.
“My son, if you accept my words…” The Hebrew word means “to take” or “to grasp.” The Word is intended for you. Take it. God wants you to have it.
“Store up my commands within you.” Earlier this week I asked our son who lives in Myrtle Beach how he was preparing for Hurricane Matthew. In 1992 I saw the effects of Hurricane Andrew in South Florida. They literally didn’t have electricity for months. Almost all the homes in the area where I went were damaged beyond fixing. Ben said he prepared for a few days but not for a long time. The Lord says, “Store up my commands within you.” Don’t think minimum amount when it comes to God’s word. We can never have too much. The Sunday School lessons, the Bible studies and stories, the sermons, the catechism lessons and Bible passages are not to be learned and then forgotten. They need to be stored and be ready to apply. They need to be ready to apply when there are challenges and temptations. “Store up my commands within you.”
You need to “turn your ear to wisdom.” Some translations simply say “listen.”
“Bending your ear toward wisdom” is literally what it says.
Most of you know I can’t hear out of my right ear. Because of that I have invented a dance that I call the circle dance. I have danced with some of you and you haven’t even noticed. When I have a conversation I must stand at an angle so that you speak directly into my left ear. Many of you move to your left so you are speaking directly to me. I will again angle myself so you are speaking directly in my left ear. Many of you continue to move again so you are speaking squarely to my face. If we talk long enough we will make a complete circle. That’s the circle dance. We danced and you didn’t even notice.
But if I am going to hear what you are saying I need to angle my ear. If I don’t I hear all kinds of other noise. Solomon says we need to bend our ears to what the Lord has to say. Don’t get distracted. Hear everything he has to say.
He says “Apply your heart to understanding.” Don’t just listen to God and forget. Apply it to your heart. It needs to become the core of who we are and form the principles and beliefs by which we live.
We “call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding.” The insight and understanding that God’s Word provides is something we need desperately. We call out for it. We pray for it. God loves that we pray for it. That is a prayer he loves to answer.
“And you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure.” I read something about the California Gold Rush that took place back in 1848 – 1849. The news of gold brought 300,000 gold-seekers to California. Most were Americans, but the Gold Rush also attracted tens of thousands from Latin America, Europe, Australia, and Asia. It changed California. It changed San Francisco from a small settlement to a boomtown. The population grew so fast that in 1850 California gained statehood.
Look what people did to find gold. But there is greater treasure in the Word – we are redeemed, not with gold or silver but with the precious blood of Jesus. Mine this book. You won’t be disappointed. “Then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.”
I read something written by a man by the name of Max Mueller. He studied the Vedas, the Puranas, the Koran, the Zend Avesta and the Tripitaka. These are the sacred books and writings of the Hindus, Islam, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism. Mueller noted that each of those books has one continual refrain - salvation by works. “They all say that salvation must be purchased, must be bought with a price and that the sole price, the sole purchase money, must be our words and merit.” He went on to say, “Our own Bible, our sacred book of the East, is from beginning to end a protest against such teaching. Good works are, indeed, enjoined upon us in that sacred book of the East, but they are only the outcome of a grateful heart- they are only a thank offering, the fruits of our faith... The Bible is the sacred book which contains that faithful saying worthy to be received of all men, women and children, and not merely Christians – that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” That’s the bottom line message.
When his Word is believed and practiced, the Lord promises successful living. “He holds success in store for the upright, he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless. The wisdom God imparts acts like a shield to protect, for he guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.” The encouragement and teachings of Scripture promises to provide us with a shield. They promise to protect us.
In the woods at the back of Messiah’s property there used to be vines that wrapped themselves around trees and pulled smaller trees down and killed them. Some of our members, and some college students we were able to enlist for a good steak dinner pulled some of the vines off and they also cut the vines. While the vines hung around for a while they eventually died. They had no power over the trees any more.
It is easy for sin to grow from what seems to be something pretty small and insignificant and eventually put a strangling grip on our lives. And it brings all the guilt and despair with it. And yet, the truth of Christ's death and resurrection declares victory for all who believe. Don’t be pulled down in the depths when we have victory, Jesus’ victory.
Even more, knowing the final victory is ours and has been won by Jesus, the battles along the way are not lost as often anymore. We learn to say more and more what Joseph did, “How can I do this great sin and wickedness against God?” From God’s Scripture we learn what Paul learned how Christ was what compelled him in life. “For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” Knowing Christ is having smarts – yet that comes only from God’s counsel, his Word.