But he who utters lies is treacherous
But the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.
Today brings our weeks study of Proverbs 6-12 to a close. Chapter 12 is a continuation of the antithetical Proverbs and there are some real beauties in here and they range through quite a spectrum of wise and unwise behaviors.
It leads off with a really good set of contrasts: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but whoever hates correction is stupid.” It doesn’t get much plainer than this: A wise person willingly accepts discipline, but if you hate to be corrected by another you are stupid.
Everybody makes mistakes. I’m a big baseball fan. I’ve always enjoyed playing and watching baseball. The amazing thing about baseball is that the BEST baseball players fail between 60 and 70% of the time. That’s right! The best hitters usually have batting averages around .300, sometimes .350 and very rarely (like Ted Williams was the last one who did it and that was more than 70 years ago) someone will bat .400. But even if you’re the greatest hitter of all time, you still FAIL to hit the ball 6 out of 10 times. What is it that sets great hitters apart from the rest of us? They learn from their mistakes. They study film of their mistakes. And they listen to their coaches who help them to correct what would appear to us to be very minor mistakes. You get to be a great hitter by accepting correction, from learning from your mistakes. That requires a lot of humility.
The same is true in the rest of our lives. We all make mistakes. Often we catch our own mistakes and take steps to correct them. But sometimes we don’t even see our own mistakes. Sometimes someone else sees our mistake and offers a word of correction. A wise person willingly listens to correction and attempts to change their behavior… a foolish person refuses to receive or learn from the correction of others and so they fail to improve their actions.
The whole foundation of the gospel message in the Bible is a openness to correction and a willingness to change. Jesus himself began his ministry by calling people to “repent, and believe the good news.” To repent means to change your direction.
As you read through the Bible, God will use His word to bring to your mind and heart his corrective word. You will see areas where you need to change. You’ll see a passage like “Diligent hands will rule but laziness ends in forced labor.” You might read that passage and realize, deep down, that this is an issue in your life. You might blame other people for some of your problems, you might make excuses for why you do or don’t do certain things, but the fact is, you might actually be lazy. I’m not saying you are lazy because, well, I don’t even know you. You might be a diligent, hard working person and that’s great. But then again, you might be lazy. Your laziness may cause you to procrastinate and put off doing things that you need to do but don’t enjoy. Your laziness may be costing you good grades in school, or a promotion at work. Your laziness may because causing conflict in your marriage as your spouse resents that they have to work harder to make up for your laziness. Your laziness might be keeping you from going to Church on Sundays or serving in a ministry at your Church where you might be very gifted and very helpful. I don’t know if you’re lazy or not, but you need to at least take a hard look and ask yourself “does this Proverb apply to me?” If you’re not sure, ask someone important in your life who really knows you and isn’t afraid to speak truth into your life and ask them “Do you every observe laziness in me?” And if they say, yes, then you might want to consider that you may be lazy and you might want to become more aware of ways that laziness manifests itself in your daily life. And you might begin asking God to help you change, understanding that it won’t happen overnight.
But know this, no positive change can happen in any area of your life until you are ready to receive correction. God’s Word, the Bible is powerful. In one place the Bible refers to itself as a double-edged sword. It’s able to dig deep inside of you. It is able to help you change if you allow it to do it’s work in your life. II Timothy 3:16 says it very well: “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” (New Living Translation).
Almost exactly a year ago I had surgery to remove cancer from my body. I let a surgeon cut through my skin and muscle to get to where the cancer was and very carefully cut it out. Why? Because I don’t want to die from cancer any sooner than necessary. As I think about it today, I gave that surgeon an awesome responsibility. And to be honest, before the surgery I was afraid. Who is this man with a knife that I’m entrusting with my body, my life? I’m glad I did it, because here I am a year later and I’m still alive and I have a whole lot less cancer in my body then I did then and I’ve got a whole lot better chance of living longer now because I trusted him to perform surgery on my life.
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of Wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”. (Proverbs 9:10). I trust my awesome God to use His word to go to work removing all the bad stuff in my life and bringing me to wholeness and salvation. God does this through his word and through Jesus Christ, who was pierced for our transgressions. It takes some cutting and some bleeding to bring us life, and to bring us eternal life. I trust God my awesome God, do you?
~ Jeff Fletcher
The final book of the Bible is known as the Book of Revelation. It is also known as the Apocalypse. Apocalypse mean “unveiling”. It has the idea of that which was hidden has now been unveiled or brought out into the open to be seen. There are other passages in the Bible that contain apocalyptic material (parts of the book of Daniel and Ezekiel are two) but this is the only book of the Bible that is fully apocalyptic.
Revelation can be a little confusing (ok, a lot confusing). A big part of this confusion comes from the challenge of pinning down the proper timeline. It contains material that was past, present and future to the writer, John, who wrote toward the end of the first century. The angel who gave this revelation to John said: “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later.”(Rev. 1:19). There are different “schools of interpretation” that see Revelation as mostly focusing on John’s time period (end of first century in the Roman empire), others see it as being fulfilled progressively over the past 2000 years of the Church, and others see it as still to be fulfilled in the future. This is compounded by the use of symbol and imagery that fill the visions of Revelation. A lot of time can be spent trying to discuss and debate these issues, but for our purposes I’d like to focus on basic principles found in Revelation that can be of value to our lives as followers of Jesus today.
In chapters 1-3 a focus is on letters written to seven Churches throughout Asia. John is writing to them as a pastor who at the time was living in isolation on an island in the Mediterranean sea. He can’t be physically present with his churches, but he is with them in spirit and wants to encourage and instruct them, to help them stay strong during a time when many believers were suffering persecution by the Roman empire. Imagine what it would be like to try to encourage Christians today living in places like Pakistan, or Egypt, or Sudan or Syria, where Christians were being killed because of their allegiance of Jesus Christ rather than to Mohammed. What kinds of encouragement would Christians whose family members, friends and fellow believers were dying for their faith need to help them not lose faith?
In the Roman Empire during John’s time of writing it was required by law for citizens to declare allegiance to Caesar by publicly declaring Caesar to be Lord. Jewish people were largely exempt from making such declarations (but not always). Often Christians came under the umbrella of the Jewish exemption, but now always. Thousands of Christians died as a result of religious persecution during the early Roman empire. John writes to offer encouragement to keep faithful to their commitment to God and to Jesus Christ in the midst of such persecution. The challenges we face today may not be the same type that first century Christians faced, yet we still have challenges, struggles and temptations.
Chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation contain words of exhortation and correction to the various Churches to which John is writing. Each Church had many good things happening for which they were praised, but several also had not so good things going on for which they needed to be corrected. One of the common themes of each letter to each Church was a call to repentance. To repent means to turn around or change direction. To the Church at Ephesus, John said that you have “lost your first love.” They were just going through the motions of their faith, without the passion. Perhaps you can relate to that. Anyone who has been a Christian for a while has to be aware the danger of “just going through the motions” and losing their passion for God. John is trying to get them fired up again. John says: “repent” and do the things you did at first. Most Christians, start out enthusiastic… they read the Bible a lot, they pray a lot, they tell their friends about God and their faith a lot, and they consciously seek to get closer to God and do things to please God. But over time, they lose the passion, lose the drive… become complacent. John says- get back to the love and passion you first had for Jesus.
Maybe this is you. If it is… let it be a wake up call. If this isn’t you, then keep reading through Revelation 2 and 3. Look at what is said to each of the seven churches. Is there anything that rings a bell? Is there anything there that applies to you? I’m guessing there is. Read it… and then repent.
How have you used your “fountain of life” today (Proverbs 10:11)? Did you know when to keep it shut? Can you think of a time when you used it (your mouth) to nourish others? In today’s readings there are several more excellent verses reminding us again of the power of our words. And of course we know that “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility”. Some verses worthy of being great refrigerator verses are:
11:12 – A man who lacks judgment derides his neighbor, but a man of understanding holds his tongue.
12:18 – Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
12:28 – An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
13:3 – He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.
My guess is we can all quickly think of a time when someone’s words pierced us, and also a time when someone’s words healed us. Can you also think of a recent time when your own words pierced another? What about brought healing or cheered up someone? How can we make a better plan for our mouth so we don’t just say the first thing that comes to mind, which can lead to ruin?
How about experimenting with ranking your mouth at the end of each day for the next week or two. A big fat score of 0 would be for a day filled with piercing words spoken rashly: accusations, angry outbursts, rudeness, gossip, lies or twisted truths, put-downs (even in jest? It’s not really funny), boasting, manipulating, cursing and foul language, I’m sure you can think of more. And of course our goal would be a shining 10 score for a day full of polite speech, genuine compliments, thankfulness, apologies, forgiveness extended, words of encouragement and sometimes sympathy, morsels of truth at just the right moment, Godly wisdom and Bible verses shared – and none of that nastiness that automatically pull your score down. From day to day be looking for ways to grow your own score. Be more mindful of how you use your words – and sometimes more appropriately, your gift of silence – and the impact it has on those around you. Hold yourself accountable for the proper use of your fountain of life. For only then will you be called righteous. (10:11)
There is so much more wisdom and lessons for the one seeking to live a righteous life! Come to think of it – Proverbs also has great advice if you are aiming to be a stupid fool. Solomon could have titled Proverbs, “How to Be STUPID”. Proverbs 12:1 is a great start: “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates correction is STUPID.” And, since reading it once isn’t always enough . . .
13:1 – He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored
13:10 – Pride only breeds quarrels, but wisdom is found in those who take advice
12:15 – The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice
Raise your hand if you think you are right most of the time. My hand goes up. Guilty as charged. No doubt it is my pride that makes me think I am right and they are wrong. Sometimes, I AM right. But, when I am WISE I will realize and accept that I am also sometimes wrong. I have been, am and will be wrong, in need of correction and discipline and sorely in need of advice. Why should I even LOVE discipline (12:1) – because I want more and more to be as Godly as possible (Be holy, because I am holy – I Peter 1:16)– and right now there is still a pretty huge gap between God’s holiness and mine. Dear God, help me grow a more humble spirit that accepts correction well.
So many great proverbs, so little time. We sadly won’t go into detail about the sluggard, pig snout, chasing fantasies or husband’s crown or so many others. But just one last nugget for those who want to be wise. “He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm” (13:20). If you desire to avoid harm (and I sure hope you do) – choose your companions carefully. Don’t waste your time searching for perfect people to be friends with – that can be a real disappointment. But choose to spend your time side by side with those who are seeking to grow closer and closer to the Father.