Job 17

grief


Job 17:1-2

17 1 My spirit is broken,
my days are cut short,
the grave awaits me.
2 Surely mockers surround me;
my eyes must dwell on their hostility.

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This was Job’s rock bottom moment and at this he took his anguish to God. He believed he was near death. His friends had become enemies, mockers and had failed to provide him with the emotional support that friends are supposed to provide. He had been abandoned in that sense.

Is this a kind of shadowing of Jesus? Job did not deserve death. Although he had not lived a perfect life, he had lived a faithful life and in his hour need his friends had deserted him. God of course would restore Job’s life to a life greater than his previous life. Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended to heaven.

Perhaps this is a shadowing of God’s greater plan. Perhaps it just gives a few clues about what is to come in the future.
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Job 17:3-5

3 “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand.
Who else will put up security for me?
4 You have closed their minds to understanding;
therefore you will not let them triumph.
5 If anyone denounces their friends for reward,
the eyes of their children will fail.
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Job had discovered at this point, that the only one he could trust was God. He was wanting a handshake from God. This would be a sign that an agreement had been struck. He prayed that God would declare him innocent.

He was accusing his friends of attacking him as they would a prey. In the past, they had flattered him when he was wealthy. Now they were accusing him of every type of sin. The saying “Kick a man when he is down” springs to mind.

I wonder if this is how my colleague feels after I fired him yesterday (March 2017). It’s tough. I want to contact him and let him know how I feel about what happened away from all the formality. I can’t until the appeal period is over should he choose to appeal.

I have fired people before. It’s never easy but I think that this was one of the hardest. There were some questions about his performance but I felt he just needed more time in the role. We had promoted him to a senior position only a month earlier. 

My bosses were under pressure to cut costs and needed a return on investment quicker than they had confidence and I had to admit that he could deliver. It was a moral dilemma. I wrestled with my conscience on the matter. I believed the company were most at fault in this situation and though I said so, I didn’t say it with the steeliness to match the strength of opinion from the other two members in the leadership team whose convictions were heading in the opposite direction. I was a coward and delivered the blow that caused my colleague to lose his job. 

Are there some parallels that relate to this passage? Were Jobs three friends the product of ancient “group think” causing negative momentum? Did my colleague feel a great betrayal on my part? 

I talked with him after the appeal period had passed. He was very gracious. I revisited the conversation with the leadership team and put a different marker in the sand. I would not be pressured into firing someone that I didn’t believe should be fired. 

Job’s suffering of course was far greater than being fired. He lost everything and everyone. He lost his health and well-being. I wonder if I had been one of Job’s friends how would I have been? I wonder if I had been one of Jesus’ disciples at his arrest how would I have been? 

…I believe I have my answer and its not pretty even at a time I am supposedly “doing well spiritually” (Whatever that means) 
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Job 17:6-7

6 “God has made me a byword to everyone,
a man in whose face people spit.
7 My eyes have grown dim with grief;
my whole frame is but a shadow.
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Job’s words remind us about Jesus’ death. See also Psalm 22 and Isaiah chapter 53. The similarities are really quite remarkable.

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Job 17:8-9

8 The upright are appalled at this;
the innocent are aroused against the ungodly.
9 Nevertheless, the righteous will hold to their ways,
and those with clean hands will grow stronger.

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Job asserted that wise and good men would consider his calamities, and not be as condemning as his friends but instead wonder at the depth and mysteriousness of God’s judgments, which can fall so heavily upon innocent men, while the worst of men prosper.

These verses describe the effect that the book of Job has on most of us who pursue to do what is right and pursue a walk with God. It is perhaps the intention of this piece of work and one of the key reasons that the book of Job is included in the canon. We are astonished at the amount of suffering that Job endured without being overcome. We are shocked by the attitude of his so-called friends. Yet we can hold up the mirror to our own hypocrisy and judgmental attitudes as we read through the book.

The righteous man does not stop being righteous because problems come his way. He will hold fast to his belief in the face of all sorts of trouble.

Actually he sometimes does stop being righteous… and I did for a season or two… but the point is that God puts us through what we need to facilitate spiritual growth and that he will form Christ in us (Romans 8:28-29).

Forming Christ is not some spiritual revelation that comes out of the blue but such is our pride and self sufficiency the forming of Godly character into our stubborn hearts and ways involves suffering. This can be suffering as a result of our sin or someone else’s sin. It can be suffering as a result of doing what is right in a broken world of sin or it can be suffering (as is the case of Job) for no apparent or immediately obvious reason.
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Job 17:10-16

10 “But come on, all of you, try again!
I will not find a wise man among you.
11 My days have passed, my plans are shattered.
Yet the desires of my heart
12 turn night into day;
in the face of the darkness light is near.
13 If the only home I hope for is the grave,
if I spread out my bed in the realm of darkness,
14 if I say to corruption, ‘You are my father,’
and to the worm, ‘My mother’ or ‘My sister,’
15 where then is my hope—
who can see any hope for me?
16 Will it go down to the gates of death?
Will we descend together into the dust?”————————————

Job was not unteachable, he seemed interested if they had any insight worth hearing and ready to reply. He was expecting to die soon and no longer felt the need to prove himself before men.

He was preparing to acquaint himself with death. He had no further hope for the future. He simply wanted to prove that he was innocent before God. His great frustration and despair was that he could not understand why all this had happened to him. It challenged his worldview about how God works and interacts with men. He knew that he was a sinner, the same as all men but he was also certain that he was not a hypocrite and that he had been authentic in his walk with God.

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Job 10

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Job 10:1-7

10 “I loathe my very life;
therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
and speak out in the bitterness of my soul.
2 I say to God: Do not declare me guilty,
but tell me what charges you have against me.
3 Does it please you to oppress me,
to spurn the work of your hands,
while you smile on the plans of the wicked?
4 Do you have eyes of flesh?
Do you see as a mortal sees?
5 Are your days like those of a mortal
or your years like those of a strong man,
6 that you must search out my faults
and probe after my sin—
7 though you know that I am not guilty
and that no one can rescue me from your hand?

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In this chapter, Job shifted his thinking from himself and started to focus on God and why God had done such a thing.

He begins this by saying that he really did not want to live in the pain and suffering. His worst pain was that of his heart feeling that he might have displeased God. He was sick in his soul with bitterness toward his hopeless life.

He could not explain God’s attitudes. God carefully designed Job’s body. But now God seemed to be punishing him without any reason. He was struggling to find meaning and purpose in his suffering.

He did not know what to say to God (Job 9:14). He was afraid of God’s great power (Job 9:17). But he was not afraid that God might kill him. is suffering was so great that he wanted to die.

Why was God opposing Job and why were those who had no regard for God doing okay? It just didn’t make sense.

Job wanted to know what God had condemned him for that he might repent. He loved God and wanted to be back in fellowship with him. 

In verses 4-7 it is very evident that he believed he was innocent. He now quite facetiously, and somewhat sarcastically, asked if God was as limited in His ability to discern Job’s spiritual condition as were Job’s friends. He concluded by affirming that God did know he was innocent and that there was no higher court of appeal (verse 7).

He tried to wrestle with another explanation. Perhaps God had a plan that people could not see. He knew that God could see beyond the physical and into a man’s heart and soul. The judgment of men is always on the outward.

He asserts that the conduct of man in strictly marking faults, and in being unwilling to forgive.  He wrestles with the idea of whether it is possible that God could be governed by such feelings as these.

He wrestled with the idea that God’s judgment was as harsh and flawed as man’s judgment. I think this is something we all wrestle with from time to time when things don’t go the way we want them to go or expect them to go.

“God is punishing me” we might say when actually every act of God is an act of love. Even a so called punishment is an act of discipline rather than an act of condemnation.

Yesterday, as I walked to the corner shop and back early in the morning after having my quiet time I thought about how free and at peace I feel. I thanked God for it and thought about how much pressure I have put upon myself since my early 20’s. 

Pressure of being a certain way or in a certain mold, trying to prove myself at work, in music, to family, in the church … trying to be somebody and through all that time I never really felt that I was anybody but today I do. I actually do feel fully alive and fully authentic. Far from perfect, far from even good. I am a dark minded, melancholic, fearful, self focused man with a huge ego and an obsession for sex that if I allow it to run loose can take me into very dark places.

I don’t feel guilty about that, I don’t feel any condemnation or shame. It’s just who I am and what I have to contend with in my life. Other people have to contend with different things but these are the things that I have to contend with. I’m okay with that. It’s not a case of “I used to be this and now I am better” … no, I will always be this but at the same time “I am clothed with Christ” because these things are no longer my identity. They have a place in my story and I don’t wish to live in those spaces anymore but they are still present and I am always just a decision away from allowing them to reign in me again. 

Today, however it is Christ that reigns. Peace and freedom are in this space that was once occupied by turmoil and condemnation. There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1)
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Job 10:8-12

8 “Your hands shaped me and made me.
Will you now turn and destroy me?
9 Remember that you moulded me like clay.
Will you now turn me to dust again?
10 Did you not pour me out like milk
and curdle me like cheese,
11 clothe me with skin and flesh
and knit me together with bones and sinews?
12 You gave me life and showed me kindness,
and in your providence watched over my spirit.

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Job knew that his being was a complex creation. He was fearfully and wonderfully made. He knew that his body was a miraculous wonder as was all life. He knew that God did not cause Job to live by accident. He knew that God had blessed his existence but could not fathom why God had given him life, cared for his well being only to destroy him in what seemed to be very cruel. He compared it to the idea of a cheese maker pouring out milk only to allow it to curdle and having to discard it as useless.

These facts made Job’s problem seem even stranger. Surely, God would not cruelly destroy the person that he made so carefully. Job was wrestling with this but could not find meaning in it.
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Job 10:13-17

13 “But this is what you concealed in your heart,
and I know that this was in your mind:
14 If I sinned, you would be watching me
and would not let my offense go unpunished.
15 If I am guilty—woe to me!
Even if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head,
for I am full of shame
and drowned in my affliction.
16 If I hold my head high, you stalk me like a lion
and again display your awesome power against me.
17 You bring new witnesses against me
and increase your anger toward me;
your forces come against me wave upon wave.

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Job continued to wrestle with the meaning of what had happened and was happening to him.

Perhaps God had a secret plan. Perhaps God was using him to prove that all people were evil. So God made Job. He was much better than other people; but everybody does wrong. So God punished Job in public to warn everyone about their evil deeds.

Is this a foreshadowing of the need for a messiah?

In verse 16 we read that God is compared to a lion who savagely pursues his prey. In the NT the devil is given the same comparison by Peter as he writes to the churches in Asia Minor (1 Peter 5:8)

It seemed to Job that everything was happening to him at once. His animals and servants were lost in a war of sorts. His own friends had spoken against him. The indignation of God seemed to be upon him, things just seemed to be escalating from bad to worse.

He was struggling to make sense of this and all the time God was silent!
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Job 10:18-22

18 “Why then did you bring me out of the womb?
I wish I had died before any eye saw me.
19 If only I had never come into being,
or had been carried straight from the womb to the grave!
20 Are not my few days almost over?
Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy
21 before I go to the place of no return,
to the land of gloom and utter darkness,
22 to the land of deepest night,
of utter darkness and disorder,
where even the light is like darkness.”
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Job returned to the question of why God allowed him to be born. This time he was not just lamenting the day of his birth, but he was asking God for the reason He allowed it to occur.

Job realised that he could not explain his troubles. His pain was intense. He wanted to die.

A short existence would have been the next thing to no existence at all, and would have equally satisfied his wishes.
Job’s big question to God was “Why was I ever born”?

I remember saying the same thing to,my mum as a teenager in a rage about something. I don’t remember the subject of the rage except that I am sure it was something about the fairness of life. I do remember mum being very offended at the question and tearing a strip off me for it.

Job knew that all life comes from God. Without God, Job would die. So Job prayed that God would leave him. Then, Job’s troubles would end at least for a brief moment. And so Job would die.

Job had some erroneous ideas about death. He thought only about the death of the body. He saw how dead bodies slowly disappear into the earth. Nobody can disturb a person who has died.

He may not have grasped the full eternal implications of what happens to our spirit at death but his talk of darkness and chaos was one of despair and his words to God were words of “why delay it? Just let me go on and get this over with.”

Ecclesiastes 8

SKA-enjoy-life

Ecclesiastes 8:1-9

8 Who is like the wise?
Who knows the explanation of things?
A person’s wisdom brightens their face
and changes its hard appearance.

Obey the King
2 Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God. 3 Do not be in a hurry to leave the king’s presence. Do not stand up for a bad cause, for he will do whatever he pleases. 4 Since a king’s word is supreme, who can say to him, “What are you doing?”
5 Whoever obeys his command will come to no harm,
and the wise heart will know the proper time and procedure.
6 For there is a proper time and procedure for every matter,
though a person may be weighed down by misery.
7 Since no one knows the future,
who can tell someone else what is to come?
8 As no one has power over the wind to contain it,
so no one has power over the time of their death.
As no one is discharged in time of war,
so wickedness will not release those who practice it.
9 All this I saw, as I applied my mind to everything done under the sun. There is a time when a man lords it over others to his own hurt. 10 Then too, I saw the wicked buried—those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless.
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Verse 1 begins with a lesson in body language. There is something about a kind face, an engaging warmth. With wisdom comes peace and a reduction in our stress and anxiety levels. This radiates outwardly. It’s visible. Someone recently suggested to me that they couldn’t believe how calm I was in a pressurised situation at work. It’s not something that can be faked but when we choose to align ourselves with spiritual wisdom it is hard to be shaken no matter what is going on around us. 

Verse 2, refers to the oath in 1 Chronicles 29:4. The People made a serious promise to obey their king. All King David’s important officials and David’s other sons promised to be loyal to his son, Solomon. They asked God to be a witness to their promise.

Verses 3 & 4 are a reminder that the king is the ruler of the land. He is the authority God has put in power. This is saying, do not try to get away from the rule of the king. Do not shirk your duty.

To act against the king would be foolish. The king had absolute authority. So it was better to remain loyal to him. The king could punish people in whatever way that he chose. Nobody should ask him to explain his actions. Before the Israelites had a king, Samuel, warned them. If they have a king, then they will have problems and difficulties (1 Samuel 8:10-18).

A wise man knows when to apply the proper course of action for the best outcome, whether in an earthly sense before the king, 8:2, or an eternal sense before God, verses 12-13.

When you keep the commandments of the king, you will not be punished. The wise man sees beyond the immediate and certain that there is a God in heaven who will judge the whole earth, including the king. Approaching the king needs to be done in a thoughtful and wise manner. 

This is true of all governing authority! In the big scheme of things a leader, a king a governing authority do not stay in power for long. Let it be and allow it to run its course. God is present. He is king.

God has appointed a time for everything but man knows neither the time nor the outcome.

We are sorely limited in our dominion over life. How much more significant this makes the virtue of wisdom!

Death is as precarious and uncontrollable as the wind.

There is a limit to people’s authority. Nobody can control the ‘wind’. This is the Hebrew word ‘ruach’, which also means ‘spirit’. So this ‘wind’ includes people’s spirits. The same word also means ‘breath’. Death happens when a person no longer breathes.

Jesus dismissed His own spirit from His body, and told it to go to the Father, when He said:
Luke 23:46 “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.

We do not have control over our spirit to tell it such. Our spirit leaves our body at the command of God. We do not know what hour, or day, we will die on this earth.

Verse 9 reminds the readers that people cannot choose how long they will live. But they do have the power to affect other people’s lives. They can cause trouble and pain for other people. And sometimes they can control other people. The Hebrew words do not make it clear which person has the pain. It may refer to the person who is causing the pain. Or it may refer to the person who is receiving the pain. Both meanings are true. Those people who cause pain to other people damage their own character and their own heart. This was and is true in my story

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Ecclesiastes 8:10-14

10 Then too, I saw the wicked buried—those who used to come and go from the holy place and receive praise in the city where they did this. This too is meaningless.
11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, people’s hearts are filled with schemes to do wrong. 12 Although a wicked person who commits a hundred crimes may live a long time, I know that it will go better with those who fear God, who are reverent before him. 13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.
14 There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: the righteous who get what the wicked deserve, and the wicked who get what the righteous deserve. This too, I say, is meaningless. 15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.
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In this section we read that the teacher is puzzled by the injustices in the world.

He has observed that the wicked received an honorable burial and praise after their death. This observation is reinforced by the fact that the fortunes of the righteous and the wicked are often reversed: The righteous sometimes get what the wicked deserve and the wicked often get what the righteous deserve as we’ll see in verse 14.

In this particular case, the wicked were given a place of burial with the righteous. It, also, appears they had pretended to be righteous, because they came and went from the temple in Jerusalem.

He further observes that It is not good to delay the punishment that people get for their crimes. It sends the wrong message and makes people think that nothing has been done.

Those living sinful lives, who are not punished immediately, cause others to go the way of sin, too. They make it look like there are no consequences.

Of course human judgment is flawed and God’s judgment is not.

There is no real advantage for the wicked, although at times it might seem so. God’s temporal patience does not eliminate final judgment.

The teacher never counsels his readers to forget God and cast their lot with the wicked; because he knows by faith that it will go well with the righteous who fear God, and ultimately it will not go well for the wicked.

It is really of no concern to us how God deals with someone’s sin. It’s not our business. The only thing that is our business, is how we respond to God’s invitation to a walk with him and to engage in life his way.

The teacher knew that God had not promised long life to the wicked. It troubled him that he saw apparent contradictions to this.

In verse 14 the Teacher repeats the problem that is a puzzle to him. People who deserve rewards receive punishment. But wicked people seem to receive rewards.

This is a vapour, a mist, it’s temporary and transient. Eat, drink, enjoy life. Take what comes to you and embrace it with God as blessing or learning. Do not be too concerned about what may be happening or not happening to others. Embrace the gift of life that you have been given. Walk with God and love people.
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Ecclesiastes 8:15

15 So I commend the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a person under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany them in their toil all the days of the life God has given them under the sun.

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Many things are not fair in the world. But there does not seem to be any immediate answer to this puzzle.

So the Teacher encourages people to enjoy their life. He has already given this advice 3 times (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25; 3:13; 5:18). 

God decides how much time each person can live on this earth. So, people should enjoy all the days that God gives to them. Then we can even enjoy our toil. Present moment living is a very freeing thing. Most days I live it.

This is not a commendation of pleasure seeking or unbridled rampant selfish indulgence.

This is clearly a faith position on the teachers part, since what he observes in life seems to contradict it. This is a letting go of needing to be in control and trusting the providence and sovereignty of God. It’s quite the opposite of grabbing what we can but rather accepting what we have and don’t have …the good and the difficult to accept. That this is all from the hand of God and looking for the blessing in all of the hand we have been dealt.
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Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

16 When I applied my mind to know wisdom and to observe the labour that is done on earth—people getting no sleep day or night— 17 then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.
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The Teacher was eager. He wanted to discover the purpose of our lives. So he invested a lot of time and energy in attempting to figure it all out. In the end he concluded that there is a limit. The minds of men cannot understand everything about God’s ways. Even wise people cannot do that, whatever they might say. They will never understand everything about the purpose of life. Because we are merely human, we are to trust God.

God’s work is amazing, but at times incomprehensible. That’s why it is amazing. It’s good to be fascinated but there comes a point where trust God or trust self is our only choice.

Ecclesiastes 2

chasing the wind


Ecclesiastes 2:1-11
Pleasures Are Meaningless

2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.
4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.
10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labor,
and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.
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The Teacher introduces us to finding meaning and purpose in pleasure but even the laughter stops and leaves us empty.

Verse 3 reveals a pursuit of wine and folly …that also leads to a dead end.

In verses 4-11 The words ‘for myself’ show that he was thinking only about himself. 

Great projects is something common to every man. We all want to do something that inspires us and inspires others. I think about writing a book or creating a music project. These in the end are meaningless and though we may enjoy them for a while they ultimately leave us “thirsty”. 

Houses, palaces, vineyards. The teacher lived in a wealthy and comfortable way. The ‘houses’ in verse 4 are like Solomon’s buildings. (See 2 Chronicles 8:1-6.) These verses lead many to believe that these are the words of Solomon.

The description continues to give us an attractive picture of a very comfortable life.

In verse 9 the teacher says that he was the most powerful person in Jerusalem. He was the most powerful person who had ever lived there.

In effect the teacher had everything that many of us aspire to have. Wealth, fame, influence, luxury, anything he wanted. He would be the billionaire of his day.
However, when he took stock he described it as “hevel“. A chasing after the wind.

Enjoy the momentary pleasures but the pursuit of them are meaningless. They are simply blessings on the greater journey of seeking and pursuing God.

The peace that we thirst for can only be met by spiritual pursuit. External things, situations and circumstances are not designed to fulfil us in that way.

I need to remember this. It’s okay to make music because I love it but the moment I invest my heart in it I am serving two masters and that’s only going to lead to disappointment, sadness and loss.
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Ecclesiastes 2:12-17

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless

12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
that the same fate overtakes them both.
15 Then I said to myself,
“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
“This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!
Toil Is Meaningless
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
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In verse 12 The Teacher thinks about whether future kings would examine the same problems. They should examine the problems as carefully as the Teacher had examined them.

The teacher concludes that in the end wisdom has some value. It is better to be wise. He compares it to the contrast of light and darkness. But in the end, the same thing happens both to wise people and to foolish people. They all die. “hevel“.

Verses 15-17 The teacher thought about whether wise people have any advantage. A wise person dies and a fool dies. It was a puzzle. Everyone soon forgets both wise people and foolish people. In the end that there is no answer to these puzzles. It is like chasing after the wind. Even wisdom ultimately is not fulfilling and leaves us thirsty.
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Ecclesiastes 2:18-23

18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labor under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

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We work hard and then we die so says the bumper slogan. Other people benefit from our work. People do not always appreciate something that they have not worked for. King Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, showed that, when he became king. He destroyed the unity in Solomon’s kingdom (1 Kings 12:1-19). 

The teacher questions the fairness of this. His results were down to his toil, his worry, the endurance he had put his body through, the mental strain, the solving of complex and difficult problems, the anxiety. At the end he would die and someone else would gain from his legacy which they would either build on or destroy and start again. In the end hard work was also “hevel“.

Hard work is valuable but it is not our raison d’etre. It is just another case of “hevel“.
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Ecclesiastes 2:24-26

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

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The Teacher  has expressed that pleasure has not satisfied him completely. It is momentary and unsustainable. Hard work has disappointed him because he must die. Ultimately he will gain nothing from all that he has achieved.

In these verses, the Teacher begins to change his attitude. Now he shows that our life is a gift from God. So he can enjoy his life. We can be content with the simple moments of eating and drinking or whatever else we engage in because all that is good is a gift from God.

In verse 26 we are informed that spiritual people will recognise God’s gifts. They recognise that everything comes from God. It is easier for them to be grateful because they know that they are not the ultimate source of whatever it is that pleases them but the source is God.

The unspiritual person cannot think too much outside of himself. This person gets no satisfaction from his work. And he gets no satisfaction from all the things that he gains. He is searching for fulfilment with external things that cannot quench his thirst and without the focus on God he turns on himself. 

This is a constant chasing after the wind. Pursuing an elusive satisfaction, sense of purpose and content. “Hevel” to the spiritual person means something positive but to the unspiritual person is something meaningless or empty.

Proverbs 29

proverbs_29_25_by_lizzay

Proverbs 29:1-4
Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes
will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.
2 When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice;
when the wicked rule, the people groan.
3 A man who loves wisdom brings joy to his father,
but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
4 By justice a king gives a country stability,
but those who are greedy for bribes tear it down.
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Verse 1 informs us that if we refuse to learn the outcome of our life will not be good. We must learn as our knowledge of God grows, we must learn by listening to wise counsel of others, we must learn from our own mistakes. (See also Proverbs 1:24-33).

Verse 2 I am sure was an instruction to Solomon’s son. The King designate. To win the hearts of the people the ruler needs to be absent of self service and corruption. The people will thrive under a God fearing fair ruler.

We do not want wicked rulers. I pray that our rulers will be good rulers. Everyone will benefit if our rulers are good.I know that God uses good, bad and really bad rulers to bring about his purposes but I pray that our rulers can gain spiritual wisdom. 

Verse 3 is sad because we know the outcome of this instruction from Solomon to his son. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, sadly was a foolish king. He loved pleasure. His selfish attitudes caused his country to split in two. His people suffered greatly because of his actions.

I don’t write this with any sense of judgment. I did the same thing with my household and hurt many people that trusted me. The damage is irreparable even with my own good hearted efforts. 

God can repair what I cannot and this world is in a state of disrepair as are all of our lives. None of this get’s fixed completely until eternity.

Solomon was a king. And he was also a judge. He believed that a ruler must be fair. He taught his officials to refuse bribes. Verse 4 echoes this attitude. Later Hezekiah became king. His officials found this good advice and they copied it (Proverbs 25:1).
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Proverbs 29:5-6

Those who flatter their neighbors
are spreading nets for their feet.
6 Evildoers are snared by their own sin,
but the righteous shout for joy and are glad.
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The first man has an evil scheme. He uses words that are not sincere to praise his neighbour. So this evil man pretends that his neighbour is a great man. The evil man wants the neighbour to trust him. This will benefit him in some way

It looks as though the evil man is creating a net for his own feet or perhaps the neighbour’s feet. Either and both could be the outcome. Whatever it is, the bottom line is that we should beware of flattery from others and at the same time be sincere with our own words. 

Sometimes flattery serves as a mild manipulation and sometimes it can be more sinister. Anything less than sincerity is a net. I am committed to being sincere today. Verse 6 tells us that the evil man brings on his own problems.
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Proverbs 29:7-11

7 The righteous care about justice for the poor,
but the wicked have no such concern.
8 Mockers stir up a city,
but the wise turn away anger.
9 If a wise person goes to court with a fool,
the fool rages and scoffs, and there is no peace.
10 The bloodthirsty hate a person of integrity
and seek to kill the upright.
11 Fools give full vent to their rage,
but the wise bring calm in the end.
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Verse 7 reminds us that to love is to put down our self interest and to care for those who are poor or have no voice. I want to do something proactive that meets the need of someone that cannot help themselves. I think about it often. Occasionally I might do some good deed that helps improve another person’s day in some small way but I pray for God to put something special on my heart in this area.

In verse 8 we read about the wise diffusing anger. A hot topic needs to be considered carefully. When we are angry, we cannot always make sensible decisions. I love the way myself and my wife are tackling our hot topics.

The fool in verse 9 does not like the wise man’s calm and sensible words. They incite his anger and the situation becomes charged. It will be hard to take him seriously even if he has a point to make. Too much noise and not enough substance.

In verse 10 we read about people who are bent on doing wrong and how they war against honest people because they know that their dishonesty will be exposed.

Verse 11 shows us the unbridled and provocative anger of a fool. A wise man on The other hand knows that nothing good can be achieved unless negotiations are carried out in a calm manner !
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Proverbs 29:12-14

12 If a ruler listens to lies,
all his officials become wicked.
13 The poor and the oppressor have this in common:
The Lord gives sight to the eyes of both.
14 If a king judges the poor with fairness,
his throne will be established forever.
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Verse 12 informs us that leaders need honest advisors. Some leaders surround themselves with “yes men” and people who tell them what they want to hear. This is not good practice and sooner or later it will erode whatever the leader is supposed to be leading whether it is a country, an organization, a business or a church.

Verses 13 & 14 is about being fair and taking care of the poor. In many societies the poor are neglected and not cared for. God wants us to care for those who cannot care for themselves. His heart is that the poor and needy are looked after, helped and empowered rather than oppressed and deprived of opportunity to change their situation.
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Proverbs 29:15-21

15 A rod and a reprimand impart wisdom,
but a child left undisciplined disgraces its mother.
16 When the wicked thrive, so does sin,
but the righteous will see their downfall.
17 Discipline your children, and they will give you peace;
they will bring you the delights you desire.
18 Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint;
but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.
19 Servants cannot be corrected by mere words;
though they understand, they will not respond.
20 Do you see someone who speaks in haste?
There is more hope for a fool than for them.
21 A servant pampered from youth
will turn out to be insolent.
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These few verses all deal with the issue of training and discipline and the dilemma of seeing people without morality succeed. The reminder is that discipline is good, we should train our children with discipline so that they learn and God himself will discipline in an appropriate manner with the right measure at the right time. His goal is not to punish in order to satisfy his anger but rather to discipline for the best opportunity to learn, grow and change hence his timing is sometimes beyond our comprehension. The main message of the verses though is the wisdom of discipline and to carefully measure and exercise that discipline.
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Proverbs 29:22-27

22 An angry person stirs up conflict,
and a hot-tempered person commits many sins.
23 Pride brings a person low,
but the lowly in spirit gain honor.
24 The accomplices of thieves are their own enemies;
they are put under oath and dare not testify.
25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare,
but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
26 Many seek an audience with a ruler,
but it is from the Lord that one gets justice.
27 The righteous detest the dishonest;
the wicked detest the upright.
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These verses play good versus evil in a collection of sayings that are underpinned by the fact that to trust in the Lord is the only security we have and the justice of the Lord is the only true justice. Light and darkness do not mix.  You may or may not get justice from a ruler but you can be assured that if you do it is because God has woven it into the fabric of the universe and the ruler has somehow been able to tap into it. All good things come from God.

To fear or worry about what other people think, what they might do is a snare that will steal our authenticity and perhaps our life.

Pride and anger are destructive and to accomplice with thieves will lead us to a dark place. In contrast peace and humility in the fear of the Lord are the way forward.

Humility is not to have a low opinion of self but to have no opinion of self. It’s to live outside of self. That’s a remarkable place to get to. I don’t think any of us could truly arrive but I can strive. 

Proverbs 28

confession

Proverbs 28:1-5
The wicked flee though no one pursues,
but the righteous are as bold as a lion.
2 When a country is rebellious, it has many rulers,
but a ruler with discernment and knowledge maintains order.
3 A ruler who oppresses the poor
is like a driving rain that leaves no crops.
4 Those who forsake instruction praise the wicked,
but those who heed it resist them.
5 Evildoers do not understand what is right,
but those who seek the Lord understand it fully.
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Verse 1 reminds us that to live trusting God is to live without fear. It’s not that fear does not come up. We all experience fearful moments when we lose sight of God and the spiritual realities of life but our lives are underpinned by a deep trust that God will take care of this. Even in the midst of all my darkness and chaos and my own wilful sin I knew that the presence of God was there and although it didn’t prevent me from sinning my way to oblivion it did anchor me in the thought that this going to turn out okay in the end and that God would work with whatever the outcomes might be.

Verses 2 & 3 remind us that good leadership is hard to find and it’s extremely problematic in the governance of nations. There are many power struggles and sometimes too many people trying to be leader. A successful leader is one that wants to do what is right for the people and is trusted by those around him and the people at large. Corrupt leaders produce more corrupt “would be” leaders! It’s true also on a smaller scale of communities, organizations and families.  Power corrupts.

Verses 4 & 5 remind us that the only real integrity of heart can be found in seeking God. We are basically selfish people with selfish motives but to seek the heart of God is to pursue something outside of ourselves and greater than ourselves. True righteousness can only be found in attempting to die to self and live for the purposes and the heart of God. Our God has a heart of reconciliation. His work is one of reconciling his people to him and to each other.
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Proverbs 28:6-12

6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than the rich whose ways are perverse.
7 A discerning son heeds instruction,
but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.
8 Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor
amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.
9 If anyone turns a deaf ear to my instruction,
even their prayers are detestable.
10 Whoever leads the upright along an evil path
will fall into their own trap,
but the blameless will receive a good inheritance.
11 The rich are wise in their own eyes;
one who is poor and discerning sees how deluded they are.
12 When the righteous triumph, there is great elation;
but when the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding.
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These verses are about greed and the abuse of power and authority. They inform us that if we have power and influence then we also have responsibility. It is a responsibility first and foremost to walk with God, to live under his instruction, to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves, to deal with judgment issues and make decisions for the benefit of the people that you serve. 

In other words …to love people. It’s a big responsibility to lead. Wealth and power corrupt the human heart so easily and with that corruption spiritual blindness also comes.
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Proverbs 28:13-14
13 Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper,
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy.
14 Blessed is the one who always trembles before God,
but whoever hardens their heart falls into trouble.
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To pretend to be someone you are not is perhaps the greatest sin of all. More than all the other sins compounded together. God will accept our authenticity, our honesty in lieu of our perfection.

The freedom and peace I feel now compared to 18 months ago when I looked good on the outside but inside was in complete turmoil is incredible. The scary thing is that it doesn’t take too many bad decisions to get on the path to oblivion. The worst decision is to try and fake being righteous when you are living differently. It does more damage to yourself and others than to be honest and accept where you are at.

The question of confession and vulnerability is a difficult one. It’s especially difficult if you live in the public arena. I have come to know that for whatever reason I am a private person and my vulnerability is precious gift that does not belong to everyone. Therefore I can assume that I do not belong in the public arena because if you put yourself out there then you have to be willing to share the good, the bad, the ugly and the really ugly of who you are. If you place yourself in public then they are your stakeholders. It is right to be vulnerable. These are just my ramblings. I am not making a law out of them but I do think there is something useful in that.

We are all called to be real and honest. Unfortunately confession is tainted by ritual in that it is an event. In Catholic tradition you go to a priest to confess. In our tradition it is an event created in a devotional time or a one on one discipling meeting… but how about we live in close proximity to a few people and just live with authenticity? 

A staged confession is a religious event and does not hold real value. I have known people who have made up confessions because of peer pressure because they were not in tune with their sinful nature enough to see their sins. I myself would confess a lesser sin to have the air of authenticity and conceal the greater sin. The irony of both these situations is that all liars will be thrown into the fiery lake of sulphur (Revelation 21:8). A religious confession can make liars of the best of us.

That said, authenticity is an important part of fellowship and intimacy which leads me to believe in house church being key in this. Big meetings have little value in my opinion. Occasional big meetings yes, they have a place but how can you build intimacy and share your heart with a group of 100? Even a group of 30?
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1 John 1

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

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I am happy with my friendships. I can live with authenticity. I do not throw my pearls to pigs (vulnerability is a pearl for sure). I choose carefully who I share life with. I feel safe and I feel free and for the first time I am comfortable telling someone that “I don’t want to talk about it” without a feeling of guilt that I should.

These kinds of passages raise more questions than give answers in my mind. Religious groups tend to organise times of confession as an event. There is a place for that in the Old Testament but that’s more corporate repentance which is different. The answer is not as simplistic as organised confession. It is to live in a place where there is no judgment, no condemnation, where there is acceptance and its safe to share your heart. I want to create that place around me both for myself and others. 

God does not need us to confess. He already knows everything. Confession is for our benefit so that we can enjoy the gift of a clear conscience. This tells me something about the way the hearers of our confession should respond to such sharing if that gift is to be fully propelled into our hearts. Confession requires a safe place and complete acceptance. God needs to be present.
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Proverbs 28:15-17

15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a helpless people.
16 A tyrannical ruler practices extortion,
but one who hates ill-gotten gain will enjoy a long reign.
17 Anyone tormented by the guilt of murder
will seek refuge in the grave;
let no one hold them back.
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Verse 15 makes the comparison that a tyrannical or overbearing leader is like a bear or lion. It’s instinct is its own survival. It is no respecter of anything that stands in its way.

A ruler or leader without loyal followers is heading for a crash. It is a time bomb. Resentment will grow and ultimately the leader will lose the goodwill of the people and will be powerless. Tyrants exist for a while but their leadership will not endure.

Verse 17 deals with a murderer. Someone who kills or commits any serious crime will constantly be living in fear of being found out. The grave will be an attractive prospect. This is where I was 18 months ago (May – July 2015). Deep in a hole. Sleep was my only comfort and moments in my escapes where I could live a fantasy momentarily. Yet constantly lurking in my mind was a fear and a disturbance of my soul. My heart was heavy, my motivation for anything was low and even my running off to foreign lands eventually became tiresome. I was relieved but afraid when I finally came home to face the music. The consequences and fall out was severe (though much less severe than they could or arguably should have been) but facing those consequences with the right heart and attitude made light work of something that actually was quite terrifying. 
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Proverbs 28:18-22

18 The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.
19 Those who work their land will have abundant food,
but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.
20 A faithful person will be richly blessed,
but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.
21 To show partiality is not good—
yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.
22 The stingy are eager to get rich
and are unaware that poverty awaits them.
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These verses present us with a way of thinking about life and work. The overriding values expressed are integrity, working hard, generosity, faithfulness to walking with God.
The perverse will come up against calamity, they won’t just fall into a pit the nature of perverseness has us digging our own pits and then falling into them. I did dig a rather deep pit for myself.

Those who chase fantasies will end up in poverty. Fantasies do not produce income. Hard work produces income. Chasing fantasies often comes with a financial cost which you cannot afford because you are chasing fantasies instead of working or investing in whatever your reality is. This is something that I also lived to my detriment. The greatest cost was to my own peace of heart.

The pursuit of being rich is full of dead ends and manipulated information. It has its own frustrations. The modern world has presented us with a celebrity culture of wanting to be rich and famous. Many who want this don’t know what they want to do only to be rich and famous! It lacks purpose. The only content celebrities that I see are those who have purpose and don’t care much about their fame or their money! They care mostly about living their purpose.

Fairness and impartiality are important to maintain a peace of heart. We can easily be dishonest about a situation to stay within popular opinion, group acceptance or some even small benefit from slightly skewing the picture which suits our ego or gives us a gain of some kind.

Generosity with our time and money is encouraged. How we spend our time, how we spend our money and whatever we talk about tells us a lot about our heart.

The illustration of attempting to grab water is a good one. The tighter we clench our fists the less water we have in our hand. We have to open our hand to be able to drink the water. Maybe that’s true of all our resources
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Proverbs 28:23-28

23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favour
rather than one who has a flattering tongue.
24 Whoever robs their father or mother
and says, “It’s not wrong,”
is partner to one who destroys.
25 The greedy stir up conflict,
but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.
26 Those who trust in themselves are fools,
but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.
27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.
28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.
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Verse 23 reminds us that flattery is unhelpful and usually has manipulation behind it. Someone flatters another person to gain something for themselves. Most commonly it is acceptance or to be liked or to avoid conflict. It can be something more specifically engineered to a particular outcome but I imagine it is to provide some feel good factor. The problem with that is that it’s false and erodes the soul of both people. The truth is what sets us free and that truth can be delivered with love, kindness and acceptance. We are all faced every day with the dilemma of a convenient lie or an inconvenient truth.

Verse 24 reminds me of the parable of the lost son. I wonder if Jesus had this proverb in mind when he told this story?
Verses 25 & 26 are about trusting God. It’s easy to put our trust in our circumstances, our position, our possessions. When we hold on to the wrong stuff it will inevitably cause conflict. Our tendency to love things and use people leads us into conflict. We are called to love people and things are just tools in that process. I have to remember that I am here to love. Sometimes love is inconvenient and sometimes it calls me to give up something that God has loaned to me as a steward.

Verse 27 continues this theme. God encourages us to imitate his generosity.  See Psalm 37:25-26 and Luke 6:38.

Verse 28 is similar to Proverbs 28:12. When the power brokers rise to power the righteous tend to lay low and not get involved but when they fall, when there is a crash we see good hearted people rising up to take care of the chaos and destruction left behind. The human spirit wins in times of disaster, pain and suffering. We are made in God’s image.

Proverbs 27

pr27-death-and-destruction

Proverbs 27:1-4
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
2 Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth;
an outsider, and not your own lips.
3 Stone is heavy and sand a burden,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
4 Anger is cruel and fury overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
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Verse 1 is echoed in the New Testament by James 4:13-17 and Luke 12:16-21. God is the one who handles our destiny. We do not know when we will meet him. As discussed in house church yesterday. The question is not about what shall I do today or tomorrow but more am I ready to meet God? (Amos 4:12).

Verse 2 addresses the issue of bigging ourselves up. Allow God to do any bigging up that is needed. It’s what he does for us. Our job is to big him up in a world that minimizes him or has forgotten him. He will take care of us. No problem. I may not be overtly boastful but I am clever with how I position myself. It’s a more subtle version of boasting. However, it doesn’t matter how we dress it up. Boastful and inflating ourselves to be more than we are is ugly and not really our job. 

In verse 3 we read about a fools provocation. There’s nothing wrong with provocation as such. Jesus was provocative. He challenged the status quo. A fool is provocative without a cause or purpose. His desire is to antagonize and bring about dissension or disruption. There is nowhere to go with it. The outcome will be unrest and burden.

Verse 4 tells us that the fury of anger though challenging to endure will be over like a storm and will end. It will become quiet again. It can be overcome and an equilibrium can be restored. 

Jealousy however is a contamination that continues to brood and will erode at any unity or harmony in a much more subtle way. Peace cannot be restored whilst there is jealousy even though on the surface things may look okay. There is a toxicity underneath that will destroy. Attitudes like resentment and jealousy are slow burners but they will destroy.

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Proverbs 27:5-6

5 Better is open rebuke
than hidden love.
6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,
but an enemy multiplies kisses.
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Love without the willingness to speak the truth is destructive and damaging. Even enemies will flatter us for their own gain. We can trust correction and honest counsel if we are secure in the love of that person. This is a great verse to reflect on.

I have no right to give someone counsel if I don’t truly love them. So many times in discipleship conversations I gave counsel to people because it was my leadership function or my role as a discipleship partner. It was expected of me to manage their religious behaviour. 

It sickens me to think of some of the counsel I gave and why I gave it in the old days. So much of what I did was to be seen as a good leader or impress them with my insight. I did not love those people enough to discover who they are and love them and help them see God.
Wounds from a friend can be trusted. Things are different today.
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Proverbs 27:7-11

7 One who is full loathes honey from the comb,
but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.
8 Like a bird that flees its nest
is anyone who flees from home.
9 Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
and the pleasantness of a friend
springs from their heartfelt advice.
10 Do not forsake your friend or a friend of your family,
and do not go to your relative’s house when disaster strikes you—
better a neighbor nearby than a relative far away.
11 Be wise, my son, and bring joy to my heart;
then I can answer anyone who treats me with contempt.
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Happiness and being content is dependent on our perspective. A wealthy man may take good food for granted and a poor man will really enjoy a good meal. I really like the discipline that we live under now rather than the unrestrained spending that I did in recent years. 

Everything is a blessing. Things I took for granted before are now incredible blessings.

In verse 7 Solomon uses the example of honey from the comb. A rich man who may have it every day may be bored of it but to a poor man a taste of honey would be the most incredible nectar.

In verse 8 we read about a bird fleeing from its nest and makes the comparison of fleeing from home. A mother bird that abandoned her nest would leave her chicks vulnerable and a chick fleeing without the mother would put itself in a vulnerable position. A family home is a safe haven and a place that we can take care of each other’s needs. To leave it will bring about vulnerable exposure. I really appreciate the safe haven of family and the importance of it today.

Verse 9 tells us of pleasant aroma’s and compares it to helpfulness of supporting friends. There is a warmth that we feel when we know that our friends are on our side.

Verse 10 is a bit of a tough nut to crack. What does the term neighbour mean in this case? Is it a guy in the same street? A fellow Israelite (or for us …another Christian)? Does it mean non Israelite or non Christian? (Since brother in the OT could be applied to all Israelites and in the NT to all Christians)  or perhaps the principle of not being too selective about who we ask for help is what is meant by this Proverb. 

I think it’s this latter idea that resonates with me the most. Solomon seems to be saying that we should build good relationships with more than just blood relatives. The neighbor is related by friendship with the person’s father, and it makes a lot of sense to be on good terms with those who live close by.
It seems that the Proverb is saying that whilst we should select someone we trust we should consider the convenience of proximity and availability. That makes sense to me. Interestingly enough there is a parallel passage in the Assyrian Wisdom of Ahiqar.

In verse 11, we read of a father appealing to a son that he wishes him to be wise. If the son is making good decisions then he will be proud of him and can endure the most difficult criticism. I feel very proud of my children. For all my errors and flaws they are incredible. I can endure a lot because I am proud of my family.
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Proverbs 27:12-17

12 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
13 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.
14 If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning,
it will be taken as a curse.
15 A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping
of a leaky roof in a rainstorm;
16 restraining her is like restraining the wind
or grasping oil with the hand.
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so one person sharpens another.
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Verses 12 & 13 are repeats of Proverbs 22:3. & Proverbs 20:16. respectively. It’s a bit like the regurgitated greatest hits album that comes out every few years with duplicate tracks from the previous collection. This collection was perhaps used for a different purpose or audience but contained some of the same material.

Verse 14 is funny. A loud blessing on your neighbour whilst he is trying to sleep will not be received well. It’s important for us to be considerate with our timing. If we want to give a gift to our neighbour we should do it when he will be receptive and attentive. It’s not appropriate to disturb someone’s sleep or interrupt them in the middle of something important. Timing is everything!!!

Verses 15-16 deal with a topic that comes up a few times in the Proverbs. As Solomon had 300 wives I am sure that he had some experience of the quarrelsome wife. It is up to me as a husband to anticipate needs and feelings, to read her well to minimize the quarrels. That does not mean pander to whims but does mean listen and understand !

Verse 17 is a well used verse to support the idea of discipleship relationships. The real intent of this verse is broader than that of course. It’s about the purpose of friendship being not only to enjoy each other but to help each other grow, to support each other and encourage each other. It’s not legislative but a blessing of friendship.
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Proverbs 17:18-22

18 The one who guards a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and whoever protects their master will be honored.
19 As water reflects the face,
so one’s life reflects the heart.
20 Death and Destruction are never satisfied,
and neither are human eyes.
21 The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
but people are tested by their praise.
22 Though you grind a fool in a mortar,
grinding them like grain with a pestle,
you will not remove their folly from them.
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We read in verse 18 that the farmer who is attentive to his crop will benefit from a good harvest. In a similar way a servant who takes diligent care of his master’s business will also reap a good reward.
Verse 19 informs us that the evidence of our life reflects what is going on in our hearts. The big question in here is how do I spend my time? and How do I spend my money? That is perhaps our great revealer. My selfishness is glaringly obvious.

Verse 20 reminds us of the human unquenchable thirst for more. We operate from a point of lack. We focus so much on what we don’t have rather than what we do have and Jesus says we will always be thirsty. It’s the human condition. Only he can quench that thirst. (John 4:13-14). As Christians, we have the possibility of learning to be content. (Philippians 4:11-13). God told Abraham “I am your very great reward” …the presence of God in our lives is the greatest and only quencher! I must learn to keep my eyes fixed on Jesus and not worldly things. I won’t find meaning in those things.

Verse 21 compares the furnace that refines precious metals to praise.
You can find out whether gold is real in a furnace. Gold does not burn. And silver does not burn. All the impurities will melt. Praise is a furnace ….what comes out of our mouths reveals our heart and attitude but also when others praise us it can be very revealing of pride and humility.

Verse 22 uses the analogy of the beating of grain to a beating of a fool. Grinding and beating the grain will refine it to make bread but a fool will not be refined. Some people will remain rebellious no matter what punishment you put them under !!!
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Proverbs 27:23-27
23 Be sure you know the condition of your flocks,
give careful attention to your herds;
24 for riches do not endure forever,
and a crown is not secure for all generations.
25 When the hay is removed and new growth appears
and the grass from the hills is gathered in,
26 the lambs will provide you with clothing,
and the goats with the price of a field.
27 You will have plenty of goats’ milk to feed your family
and to nourish your female servants.

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Solomon is describing a farm. He warns the farmer to be responsible. He wants him to be diligent, work hard and this in turn will take care of the needs of his family. God has given the farmer some resources which can make a profitable business for him. He needs to be a good steward of those resources. He will even take care of his servants.

These verses teach us several lessons:
·    Life is not just about making money. There should be purpose to our work (verse 24).
·    God created the seasons of the year. So plan to do the right work at the right time (verse 25).
·    Be a good steward with the things that God has created and entrusted you with. Then God will supply the things that you need (verses 26-27).