Job – Introduction

Book_of_Job
JOB – INTRODUCTION
The book of Job is a unique book in the Bible for many reasons. It is set in a land far away from Israel named Uz. The main character is not an Israelite and the anonymous author does not set the story in any clear period of history.

All of this appears to be intentional. It’s as though the author wants us to focus on the point and the message of the story, the questions raised as a result of Job’s suffering rather than the historical detail.

The book of Job has a very clear literary design. It opens and closes with a short narrative prologue and epilogue. The central body of the book is dense Hebrew poetry representing conversations between Job and four dialogue partners called “the friends.”

These conversations are then concluded by a series of poetic speeches given by God to Job.

Proverbs showed us that God is wise and just. God has ordered the world so that it is fair. The righteous are rewarded and the wicked are punished. That you get what you deserve.

Then we go into Ecclesiastes who observes that actually the world is not always fair. That life is unpredictable and hard to comprehend. It is like smoke, a vapour, a mist. So this makes you wonder, is God wise and just?

So this is the question that is being explored in the final book of wisdom.

Job begins with a strange story which takes place up in the heavens which is described like a heavenly command centre. God is there with Angelic beings called “the sons of God” all reporting for duty. God points out Job, his servant. He shows how righteous and good he is. Then one of these angelic beings approaches. He is referred to in Hebrew as “the Satan”, The word is actually a title rather than a name. The title means “the one who is opposed” or “The accuser” or the “prosecutor”

So out of this angelic assembly, he is the one questioning how God is running the world. He proposes that Job might not actually love God and that he is only a good person because God rewards him. That if he took everything away from him then we would see his true colours.

So he thinks that Job is working the system and only obeying God to get what he wants. God agrees to this apparent social experiment and allows the Satan to inflict suffering on him. Job loses everyone and everything he cares about.

This is not a punishment that he deserved, in fact quite the opposite. God himself said so.

It’s at this point in the book that we typically respond with a question. Why did God do that? and we assume that this book is going to answer that question and the broader question of why God allows good people to suffer. A question that has perplexed people through the ages.

The book however, does not answer that question. Nothing in the book answers that question. The prologue is setting up the real questions that the book is trying to get at: Is God Just? and whether he operates the universe according to the strict principle of justice. The response to those questions come as you read through to the end of the book. The ultimate reason for Job’s suffering is never revealed.

The remarkable thing is that in the midst of all the suffering Job still praises God.
—at least for the first two chapters!

Then in chapter three we discover an internal wrestling. He unleashes this poem that reveals his devastation. It’s a long and elaborate curse on the day that he was born.
After this, some of Job’s friends come to visit him and offer their help. All of them assert that Job must have done something horribly wrong to deserve this. After all we know that God is just and we know that the world is ordered by God’s justice and fairness so you must be getting what you deserve.

Having been rebuked by his wife to curse God and die, his friends Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Na’amathite represent the best of Ancient near East thinking about God and suffering and the human condition.

The next 34 chapters the friends and Job go back and forth in very dense Hebrew poetry.

First Job speaks followed by a response from one of his friends. Job responds to that response and then the second friend responds to Jobs response to the response of the first friend. This goes on for three cycles. Chapter 3-14, Chapter 15-21 & Chapter 22-28.

His friends start speculating about why God might have sent such suffering and they even start making up list of hypothetical sins that Job must have committed. After each accusation Job defends his innocence. Job is after all innocent. He is also on an emotional rollercoaster. There are moments that he is very confident that God is sovereign and just. Other moments he is doubting God’s goodness. He even comes to accuse God of being reckless, unfair and corrupt.

Some of the highlights include accusing God of being a bully (16:9) and orchestrating all of the injustice in the world (9:22-23). Job and friends are working from a huge assumption about what God’s justice ought to look like in the world. There is learning for us in that. We are after all made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) but most often the battle of the human condition is that we want to make God in our own image. We invent the God that pleases us and our view of the world. …but the problem is that it’s not our world. We did not create it and we do not understand it’s DNA and how it works.

Job is eventually worn down and arrives at a conclusion that God does not run the world according to principles of justice or even worse that God himself is unjust. He concludes by accusing God on these points.

His friends however, do not accept that God runs an unjust world or is unjust himself and their accusation lands squarely on Job.

Job is exasperated by his friends and gives up on them. He has only one place now to take up his case. He makes one last statement of his innocence (Chapters 29-31) and then Job demands that God come and explain himself in person. At this point (Chapters 32-37) we get a surprise appearance of another friend Elihu who is not an Israelite but has a Hebrew name.

Elihu has the same assumption of Job and his friends. His assumption is that God is just and runs the universe with justice but he draws a more sophisticated conclusion about why good people suffer.

He concludes that it may not be punishment for sin in the past. God might afflict suffering as a warning for people to avoid sin in the future, that he might use pain and suffering to build character and teach people valuable lessons.

Elihu doesn’t claim to know why Job is suffering but one thing he is certain of and that is that Job is wrong to accuse God of being unjust. Job doesn’t even respond to Elihu and the dialogues come to a close. It is as though the wisdom of the ancients has been spent and the mystery remains.

All of a sudden God comes in the form of a great storm cloud. God doesn’t give Job a direct answer but he does respond to him personally. He doesn’t tell Job about the conversation with the Satan. He is not privy to what is going on in the heavenly realms. He does something very different.

He takes Job on a virtual tour of the universe. He shows Job how amazing the world is and he asks if Job is capable of running it or understanding it. He shows Job, how much detail there is in creation. Things that we might see every day but we really don’t understand at all. Job of course doesn’t have a clue but God does … he knows it all intimately.

He pays attention to the beauty and operations of the universe in ways that we haven’t imagined and in places that we will never see.

Then to conclude God shows Job two wondrous beasts and brags about how great they are. They are dangerous beasts that would take the life of a man without thinking about it. God says that they are not evil. They are a part of his “good” world and then that’s it. That’s God’s whole defence. It’s kind of weird. What was that all about?

From Job’s point of view it looks like God is not just but God’s view is infinitely bigger. He is dynamically interacting with the whole universe of complexity when he makes decisions. This virtual tour deconstructs the assumptions of Job and his friends about what the justice of God looks like in the world.

The point is made: All of the complexity of the universe versus Jobs’ limited view based on his own life experience.

So Job asking God to defend himself is absurd. He couldn’t comprehend for this kind of complexity even if he wanted to. This leaves Job in a place of humility. He never learned why he suffered and yet he is able to live in peace and in the fear of the Lord.

God has made the point that Jobs’ friends’ conclusions were too simplistic and black and white. They were wrong to arrive at such conclusions. He then says that Job has spoken rightly about him.

Now we know that not everything that Job spoke was accurate but God still approves of Jobs wrestling with all his emotion and pain, coming honestly before God and wanting to talk with God directly about these things is the right response.

But that’s not where the book ends because God restores to Job double everything he had lost and this again is surprising. Is it a reward? Is it an approval from God? Congratulations Job you passed the test?

No, the whole book just made the point that losing everything was not a punishment and getting it back by natural deduction is not a reward. Apparently God, in his wisdom decided to give Job a gift. But we know that through the whole story that Job is the kind of man that no matter what comes good or bad, he can trust God’s wisdom.

The book of Job doesn’t unlock the puzzle of why bad things happen to good people but it does invite us to trust God’s wisdom when we do encounter suffering rather than try and figure out reasons for it. When we search for reasons we tend to simplify things like the friends or accuse God with a limited perspective and information. The book is inviting us to honestly bring our pain and grief to God and to trust that God actually cares and he knows what he is doing.

At its beginning, Job seems to be a book about human suffering. By its conclusion, the true subject of the book emerges: God’s sovereignty. In a matter of probably hours, Job had lost everything that was important to him except his wife and his own life. But he held fast to his integrity, determined to unravel the mystery of why he, a man who had done his utmost to live an upright life, was being treated by God as the chief of sinners. If he was a sinner deserving divine punishment, he demanded his friends tell him what he had done – which they could not. He also asked the same of God – and received more silence in response.

The truth is, Job never received an answer as to why he suffered. But more importantly, he received a deeper understanding of who God is. The Bible is unique because the reader knows, at least in part, what the main character would have loved to know: Job suffered because Satan accused him of a self-serving devotion to God, claiming that Job was not really righteous but was simply manipulating God.

God used the accusation as an opportunity to prove Satan wrong, and all the hurtful events in Job’s life unfolded from there. In the Old Testament, sin and suffering were connected because of the nature of the covenant. It was believed that keeping God’s statutes resulted in blessing, and not keeping them resulted in a curse (Lev. 26:1-46); Deut. 28:1-68).

Even though Job lived in the patriarchal period (before the Law was given), such a natural law would have been understood. So Job’s friends could be excused from assuming Job guilty of a secret sin – secret and serious, given the level of calamity that befell him. But the Bible adds more ingredients to the recipe for suffering, all of which are found in this book.

To begin with, righteous people like Job do sometimes suffer. Righteous does not mean totally being without sin, but living upright in God’s sight or having the right heart and attitude. The book portrays Job as a faithful man who honestly tried to do right before God, and who acknowledged his errors and sought to correct things when he faltered (42:1-6). Still, he suffered, but not because of sin. So deeper questions must be asked and answered. Job asked, but he got an answer he was not expecting.

Second, a third party operates between God and man, with God’s permission. In Job, we see Satan’s primary method of spiritual warfare: attempting to discredit God in man’s sight. Satan cannot harm God, but he can attempt to influence how man perceives God, whether as unjust, unfair, or unloving. Satan causes Job to suffer unjustly in an attempt to get Job to attack God. He also accuses Job of being self-serving, trying to make God look unjust in the eyes of the heavenly hosts for not punishing a sinner like Job. But Satan’s plot was foiled by the third variable, that there can be godly purposes in suffering unrelated to sin or punishment.

Job suffered so he might have a deeper and more accurate knowledge of God. This happened without him even knowing about the precipitating conversation between Satan and God. This is poignant as I know that from my own limited experience of 53 years of life on this earth and from what I have observed in my closest friendships is that spiritual growth, a deeper understanding of God and self are always accompanied by suffering of some kind. It seems to be that way in the Biblical accounts no matter what period of Biblical history we are looking at. It seems to be that way in human history and church history and it is that way in my own life. I never had a spiritual revelation or broke new ground when things were going well for me in life or ministry. I don’t know anyone who had a spiritual revelation in time of tranquillity and peace in the soul. Growth comes from turmoil, suffering, being out of our depth, being naked and exposed being put into a situation where there is nothing for a man to hold onto except God.

In August 2015, as a result of my thievery, relentless sexual immorality, dishonesty, cruelty in my relationships I found myself living in my car in a supermarket car park with no access to money, a mere £3 in my pocket. It was at that time that I began to walk with God again, it was at that time that wrestled with who I am and who God is and it was at that time, the greatest spiritual change in my life to date was formed. I began to live with authenticity rather than religiousness, I began to live with gratitude rather than resentment, I began to love people rather than use them, I began to live with courage rather than fear, I began to be ruled by desire to walk with God rather than be manipulated into religiousness by shame, I had nothing to prove and nothing to lose or gain. The pedestal on which my reputation was placed had crashed and smashed into so many little pieces that it no longer had any value to me or anyone else.

It was the Spring of 2016 that I was able to begin to repair a relationship with one of my daughters. My 18 year old daughter said to me “I never really had a relationship with you dad. My relationship was with your reputation… but it’s okay we can start now!”

It was painful and beautiful. Human authenticity comes from suffering. The trauma I put my family through was immense and I will forever be wounded by that as we all will but what emerged from this brokenness, this devastated mess is priceless and has taught us much about who God is and our place in relation to him.

“Authorship”: The book does not name its author. Job is an unlikely candidate because the book’s message rests on Job’s ignorance of the events that occurred in heaven as they were related to his ordeal.

One Talmudic tradition suggests Moses as author since the land of Uz (1:1) was adjacent to Midian where Moses lived for 40 years, and he could have obtained a record of the story there. Solomon is also a good possibility due to the similarity of content with parts of the book of Ecclesiastes, as well as the possibility that Solomon may have written the other Wisdom books.

The date of the book’s writing may be much later that the events recorded within. This conclusion is based on (1) Job’s age (42:16); (2) his life span of nearly 200 years (42:16) which fits the patriarchal period (Abraham lived 175 years; Gen. 25:7); (3) the social unit being the patriarchal family; (4) the Chaldeans who murdered Job’s servants (1:17) were nomads and had not yet become city dwellers; (5) Job’s wealth being measured in livestock rather than gold and silver (1:3; 42:12); (6) Job’ priestly functions within his family (1:4-5; and 7), a basic silence on matters such as the covenant of Abraham, Israel, the Exodus, and the Law of Moses. The events of Job’s odyssey appear to be patriarchal.

Job, on the other hand, seemed to know about Adam (31:33) and the Noahic flood (12:15). These cultural and historical features found in the book appear to place the events chronologically at a time probably after Babel (Gen. 11:1-9, but before or at least the same period as Abraham (Gen. 11:27).

Proverbs 22

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Proverbs 22:1-2

A good name is more desirable than great riches;
to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
2 Rich and poor have this in common:
The Lord is the Maker of them all.
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These two verses at the beginning of Chapter 22 put perspective on wealth, wisdom and relationships. We are using up air on this planet purely for the purpose of relationship and connection. First of all with our maker and secondly with our fellow man. There is no other purpose in life. We are wired for the sharing of life. There is an emptiness that goes with the pursuit of anything else. There has to be a sharing to make anything worthwhile. Of course our ego gets in the way and often we can get off track from truly sharing and more into comparing and using what we have or what we have achieved to make us feel good compared to someone else. That’s hollow and empty.There is sometimes a selfishness to our pursuits because it’s about propping up our esteem or ego or artificially creating the sense of belonging and acceptance because we don’t believe that we will be truly accepted and in some cases know we won’t be accepted because of other people’s stuff !

The point is really that I have lived with all of that. Today I feel blessed. I have no reputation to protect or to prop up my ego. I only have God. I have enough to live on without causing stress and not too much that I can get too indulgent. I feel very blessed.
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Proverbs 22:3-6
3 The prudent see danger and take refuge,
but the simple keep going and pay the penalty.
4 Humility is the fear of the Lord;
its wages are riches and honor and life.
5 In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls,
but those who would preserve their life stay far from them.
6 Start children off on the way they should go,
and even when they are old they will not turn from it.
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These verses are all about God’s wisdom. Verse 6 is about teaching and training our children. Sometimes in our church culture and interpretation of this verse we have preached it as though its an absolute guarantee that somewhere our children will have faith.

As with all the proverbs it’s a simplistic, idealistic general truth and does not take into account the grey areas, the imperfection of the human condition and the variables of external influences. The proverbs are designed to teach young people the values of life and God’s wisdom. They are not absolute. They are poems and memory slogans, short narratives and should be interpreted as such.

The truth we can deduct from this is that we should train our children and that spiritual training is an important part of a parents responsibility along with love.

Verse 3 warns of what may happen when someone has not been trained in having wisdom. Verse 4 demonstrates the value of humility and verse 5 shows who we shouldn’t be hanging around with.
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Proverbs 22:7
7 The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is slave to the lender.
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Solomon collected 3000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32). This section contains over 400 proverbs (Proverbs 10-22). Here, Solomon is almost at the end of his list. As he finishes his work, he repeats the main principles.

Wealthy people are powerful, because of their money. The ancient world and the modern world has always had the wealthy as the power brokers and influencers. This is a fact of life. The Proverbs and indeed all of scripture that with great wealth comes great responsibility. Power is to be exercised selflessly and with wisdom. Wealth is to be managed with generosity.

It is not good to owe a debt (Proverbs 6:1). We enter into slavery whenever we borrow money. That slavery is to our lender. We will always pay. The motto to never borrow money to pay for a depreciating asset is a good way to think about it.

For the next 5 – 8 years I will be in financial slavery because of stupid decisions I made. The slavery is good for me. It is not pleasant but it is a blessing as it trains me, teaches me  and shapes me. No discipline seems pleasant at the time.
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Proverbs 22:8
8 Whoever sows injustice reaps calamity,
and the rod they wield in fury will be broken.
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We are called to be just and thoughtful about our ways. We will reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7). The law of cause and effect is fused into the DNA of the universe. If we sow carrot seeds we will reap carrots, if we sow orange seeds we will reap oranges. If we sow seeds of injustice we will most likely reap injustice. Other people may suffer at our hands but we also will suffer. The common expression “What goes around comes around” fits.
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Proverbs 22:9
9 The generous will themselves be blessed,
for they share their food with the poor.
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God wants us to be generous. He wants us to share the wealth that he has given to us (Deuteronomy 8:17-18). He cares about the poor. We are called to look out for the poor, the vulnerable and the needy and extend God’s heart to them.
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Proverbs 22:10
10 Drive out the mocker, and out goes strife;
quarrels and insults are ended.
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We are to keep a tight reign on our tongue. Words are to be carefully chosen. Our tongues can do a lot of damage. We are warned not to engage with the person of careless speech. The trouble they cause will end when they leave.
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Proverbs 22:11
11 One who loves a pure heart and who speaks with grace
will have the king for a friend.
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Solomon needed honest friends who would speak the truth to him. He was the King. His decisions would effect a lot of people. He needed friends around him who would be honest but speak with love and respect. Angry, dishonest or dangerous people are not suitable influencers either as leaders or as friends of leaders. It’s not important if an influencer is rich or poor or of any particular social status.

Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, had the wrong friends. They were rich, and they loved luxuries. They were not kind. They were cruel. They gave bad advice. This bad advice was listened to and resulted in a revolution. Rehoboam lost most of his country (1 Kings 12:10-16).

We all need good friends. We need friends to encourage and to advise us. We need friends who are not afraid to tell us the truth and are willing to hear the truth. I am grateful for the spiritual brothers that have listened to the good, the bad and the ugly of my life and have given me honest counsel. I know that I can bring anything up with them too.

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Proverbs 22:12
12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
but he frustrates the words of the unfaithful.
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People will fail, but God’s word will never fail. God preserves his truth. Nobody can successfully oppose God.

‘Knowledge’ here means knowledge about God, his ways and his expectations.

In Jeremiah 36:27-28, an evil king tried to destroy the words that God gave to the prophet Jeremiah. The king threw Jeremiah’s book into the fire. The book burned, but God protected the knowledge about his truth.

God instructed Jeremiah to write the book again. So the king’s plan to destroy the prophet’s words failed.
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Proverbs 22:13
13 The sluggard says, “There’s a lion outside!
I’ll be killed in the public square!”
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When Solomon writes about the lazy man, he usually uses humour. This lazy man has an excuse for everything. Here we find that he cannot even leave his house.

His excuse is outrageous. The lazy man tells us that there is a lion outside. We look, but we cannot see any lion. He tells us that a murderer is outside. We cannot see any murderer, either.The truth is that the man just wants an excuse to stay indoors. It’s the ancient version of “I can’t come out tonight because I am washing my hair” !

Laziness almost sounds like it could sit with the fruits of the spirit …Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, laziness ….but actually it is not in that list. We are encouraged to be fruitful and productive
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Proverbs 22:14
14 The mouth of an adulterous woman is a deep pit;
a man who is under the Lord’s wrath falls into it.
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A deep well is dangerous. If you fall in, it will not be easy to get out. Potentially your cries will not be heard and you will die.

The lure of lust is perhaps t be most enticing of all deep pits. It’s a graphic illustration of where I was in the summer of 2015. I was in the deepest well I had ever been in. What’s more I dug the well with my own hands. One bad decision after another led me there. In my spiral downward into the well, I rarely thought of where it would lead or the fall out that would ensue. I was focused totally on the things that lust promised to deliver, the stroking of my ego by attractive women who had their own agenda of manipulation and the immediate pay off without thinking that I would be paying this particular debt back with crippling interest. I am not talking about a financial debt here although there were serious financial consequences to my actions but this was a moral debt and a relational debt.
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Proverbs 22:15
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
but the rod of discipline will drive it far away.
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Children will push boundaries, they will test authority, they will do anything that looks interesting without the foresight for consequences. The part of the human brain that assesses risk does not fully develop until our 20’s ..so yes, folly is bound up in the heart of a child and yes discipline is an appropriate way to teach and train.

Discipline should be measured and delivered with love. As soon as we disciine out of anger, frustration, embarrassment or despair we have overstepped the mark.

Sometimes a physical lesson is appropriate, sometimes (particularly as children get old enough to reason) a consequence may be a more appropriate discipline that involves taking responsibility and putting right whatever mess their offence has caused.
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Proverbs 22:16
16 One who oppresses the poor to increase his wealth
and one who gives gifts to the rich—both come to poverty.
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Solomon finishes this section of his book, with a puzzle.

Solomon describes two men. Each man has a plan. Each man thinks that his plan will make him wealthy. However, both plans will fail. Both men will become poor.

The first man wanted to be wealthy. So he took advantage of the poor.  Maybe he was an overbearing employer over working and underpaying his employees. Maybe he was a landlord running unsafe houses in disrepair at an inflated rent.  He could have been a thief or swindler taking from the poor. All these things occur in life. This was my story. It is ugly, shameful and the hand of God intervened.

The second man was perhaps someone who wanted to control and manipulate by bribes or collusion with the wealthy to beat the system through corrupt dishonest means. Perhaps he gave gifts to impress other people. He wanted people to think that he was wealthy or important. In the end, he wasted all his money. I did this to impress, control and manipulate women. The hand of God intervened…I lost my job, my family, a safe place to live, I lost my friends, I lived with a few pounds in my pocket, homeless, alone and in despair. It was an act of grace ultimately and the very thing that needed to happen for me to be rebuilt.

“I understood myself only after I had destroyed myself. Only in the process of being rebuilt did I find out who I truly was” – John Wetton (musician)

People make many plans to become wealthy or even secure. In the end, we die, we shall lose all our money. We don’t get to keep a penny. (Ecclesiastes 2:18; 1 Timothy 6:7). .

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30 Wise Lessons
(Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:34)

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Thirty Sayings of the Wise

Proverbs 22:17-21

Saying 1

17 Pay attention and turn your ear to the sayings of the wise;
apply your heart to what I teach,
18 for it is pleasing when you keep them in your heart
and have all of them ready on your lips.
19 So that your trust may be in the Lord,
I teach you today, even you.
20 Have I not written thirty sayings for you,
sayings of counsel and knowledge,
21 teaching you to be honest and to speak the truth,
so that you bring back truthful reports
to those you serve?
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The last major section of the Book of Proverbs begins here. It is headed as Thirty wise sayings. The section includes several different parts. There are:
·    short proverbs;
·    longer lessons;
·    puzzles;
·    and a poem.

There are 30 wise lessons in Proverbs 22:17 to Proverbs 24:22. The 30 wise lessons format may have been influenced by writings in ancient Egypt. There are some remarkable similarities. Check out these links for more info: Instruction of Amenemope / A reflection on Proverbs and Amenemope.  It makes perfect sense that Egyptian culture pervaded into Jewish writing. It’s amazing how God’s synchronicity works through human history.

The first saying reinforces the value of wisdom, integrity, honesty and humility.
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Proverbs 22:22-23

Saying 2
22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
and do not crush the needy in court,
23 for the Lord will take up their case
and will exact life for life.
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God’s heart for the poor is very evident here. It’s a warning that if we take advantage of the poor then he will take up their case for them. Not only will he see that they are treated fairly he will come down hard on anyone who acts in such a heartless way.

I stole money from funds that were set aside to help the poor. A lot of money. In real up to date terms a lot more money than Judas received for “selling Jesus down the river.”
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Proverbs 22:24-25
Saying 3
24 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
do not associate with one easily angered,
25 or you may learn their ways
and get yourself ensnared.
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Hanging around with angry people will not be helpful. Especially those with unbridled anger. It will be destructive.

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with”
– Jim Rohn
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Proverbs 22:26-27
Saying 4
26 Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge
or puts up security for debts;
27 if you lack the means to pay,
your very bed will be snatched from under you.
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The proverbs assert in many places that money is to be respected. Jesus talks about money a lot more than we might imagine. There is something about money that is connected to our hearts as we assert the illusion of our ownership of “what is ours”.

Verse 26 seems to describe a common problem at Solomon’s time. See Proverbs 6:1-5; Proverbs 11:15 and Proverbs 17:18. Jesus also mentioned that we should be careful to calculate the cost of our plans (Luke 14:28-30).

In the judgment passages of Matthew 25, one of the questions that is asked is “What did I do with what I gave you?” It’s a fair question. What did we do with the resources we were entrusted with?

Stewardship and integrity are key points in these verses.
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Proverbs 22:28
Saying 5
28 Do not move an ancient boundary stone
set up by your ancestors.
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Agreements should be honoured and not treated with a cavalier attitude.

See 1 Kings 21. In ancient Israel, the land had a special meaning. God owned the land (Leviticus 25:23). Proverbs 22:28 repeats God’s command in Deuteronomy 19:14. So these ancient boundaries were not merely agreements between neighbours but were an agreement between the people and God. And anyone who moved a boundary was rejecting what was established by God.
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Proverbs 22:29
Saying 6
29 Do you see someone skilled in their work?
They will serve before kings;
they will not serve before officials of low rank.
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Solomon built many incredible buildings including palaces and the magnificent Temple  in Jerusalem. Solomon respected a skilled workman. He knew that a skilled workman deserves honour. He selected the best workmen to work for him.

Hard work and applying ourselves to our work so that we become skilled in what we do not only brings our own sense of satisfaction it serves those around us and honours God. It shows respect for the one who made us and gave us unique talents and gifts.

Paul, when writing to Christians who were slaves wrote this:
‘In every kind of work, work hard! You are working for God. You are not really working for men. And you will receive God’s reward, because you are serving Christ.’ (Colossians 3:23-24).

Proverbs 19

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Proverbs 19:1-7

Better the poor whose walk is blameless
than a fool whose lips are perverse.
2 Desire without knowledge is not good—
how much more will hasty feet miss the way!
3 A person’s own folly leads to their ruin,
yet their heart rages against the Lord.
4 Wealth attracts many friends,
but even the closest friend of the poor person deserts them.
5 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will not go free.
6 Many curry favour with a ruler,
and everyone is the friend of one who gives gifts.
7 The poor are shunned by all their relatives—
how much more do their friends avoid them!
Though the poor pursue them with pleading,
they are nowhere to be found.
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In Verses 1-7 of chapter 19 we find Solomon making observations about things that are wrong with the world and the way that life is lived.

In Verse 1 Solomon informs us that it is better to be honest and poor than to have much and give a false impression. I have lived in both camps (relatively speaking) and I know that a clear conscience is the greatest gift of all.

In verse 2, Solomon describes a man who is in a hurry. But the man acts without sufficient knowledge. This is going to bring a lot of trouble and mess as wrong decisions are made. It contributed to my downfall. It is one of the primary ills of this world that we live in. We want to grab as much as we can before it’s too late.

Verse 3 describes the human condition. The rejection of God and wisdom. Living by our own definition of wisdom which leads to a mess and then we blame God for that mess.

Verses 4, 6 & 7 are an illustration of how selfish we are that we even choose our friends on the basis of what we perceive that we get back from them. We miss the blessing of sitting with the poor. I know the part of the work I loved when I was running the addiction recovery programme was being with the guys. I hated the politics, the regulations and business side of the operation but I could be with the guys all day long.

Verse 5 is a straight talking lies deserve to be and will be punished. If not by the system they will be punished by life.
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Proverbs 19:8-12
8 The one who gets wisdom loves life;
the one who cherishes understanding will soon prosper.
9 A false witness will not go unpunished,
and whoever pours out lies will perish.
10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury—
how much worse for a slave to rule over princes!
11 A person’s wisdom yields patience;
it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.
12 A king’s rage is like the roar of a lion,
but his favour is like dew on the grass.
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Wisdom is a precious gift with more value than worldly riches or position or anything that we tend to chase after in life. There is something deeply impressive about spiritually minded people. They stand out. Peace in my heart is more valuable than an easy life.
Verse 9 in contrast to verse 8 gives the air of pressure, stress and anxiety are the rewards for dishonesty.

In the second line of verse 10, a prince rules a country. However, the prince is unhappy. The prince is afraid of his slave. The slave controls the prince. Solomon says that this is even worse than a fool living in luxury. A prince manipulated by a slave.
Solomon was a king. Perhaps he knew this prince and his slave. We do not know who they were. Solomon seems to write about them again in Ecclesiastes 6:1-3 and Ecclesiastes 10:5-7.

Verse 11 shows that forgiveness is rooted in wisdom. The ability to forgive is to show that you will not allow someone else’s actions control you or influence you. It also shows that you are aware that you are also deeply flawed.

Verse 12 tells us not to mess with a King. It’s healthy to respect authority. Authority is established by God. If we are in the king’s favour then that will be an incredible blessing.
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Proverbs 19:13-17

13 A foolish child is a father’s ruin,
and a quarrelsome wife is like
the constant dripping of a leaky roof.
14 Houses and wealth are inherited from parents,
but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
15 Laziness brings on deep sleep,
and the shiftless go hungry.
16 Whoever keeps commandments keeps their life,
but whoever shows contempt for their ways will die.
17 Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
and he will reward them for what they have done.
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Verse 13 reminds us of the importance of managing our family and ensuring they are loved and taken of as well as trained in right thinking. This takes love and example. Neither have been traits that I have portrayed in recent years. It’s amazing to me that my family are in good shape. It is testimony to the power of God and the hearts of my wife and children. It’s definitely not much to do with my leadership.

In verse 14 we read about inheritance. Some people may gain an inheritance that provides a lot of security but a wise wife is a gift from God.

In verse 15 we read more words about laziness. It is clear that God has designed us to work and be productive in some manner.

Verse 16 briefly explains Deuteronomy 28. Obedience will result in our lives being blessed and disobedience will result in punishment. It’s very simplistic and though is true in principle, God uses the discipline through our erroneous judgment and wilful sin to help us grow and give us the opportunity to change.

Verse 17 reminds us that the poor and those without a voice are important to God. Whatever we do will be remembered. It is echoed in the judgment passage of Matthew 25.
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Proverbs 19:18-19
18 Discipline your children, for in that there is hope;
do not be a willing party to their death.
19 A hot-tempered person must pay the penalty;
rescue them, and you will have to do it again.
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Two verses that focus on discipline. The first about disciplining children. Training them in right and wrong could save their life. It could save them from a lot of trouble in life.

The second is about anger management and not rescuing someone’s anger but allowing them to feel the consequences because without this they will not learn and you will end up rescuing them all over again. It will be a negative and destructive cycle. Rescuing people never works in any situation. It only enables them further in their sin.

Even at work we recognise that. My boss (the CEO in my work place) does not get angry when mistakes are made he just ensures that the person who made the mistake cleans the whole thing and all it’s consequences up. There is no assistance from higher up apart from some questions about what happened, how it happened and why it happened and then what do you need to do to sort it out with the emphasis on you. People grow quickly in our business.
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Proverbs 19:20-26

Listen to advice and accept discipline,
and at the end you will be counted among the wise.
21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.
22 What a person desires is unfailing love
better to be poor than a liar.
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life;
then one rests content, untouched by trouble.
24 A sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
he will not even bring it back to his mouth!
25 Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence;
rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.
26 Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother
is a child who brings shame and disgrace.
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Verse 20 is a great reminder that everyone needs to learn to be wise. Nobody is born wise. Advice is good and the discipline that life gives us when we make mistakes or are unwise needs to be listened to. The counsel of other believers and the circumstances of life along with the word of God are the things that make us wise.

Verse 21 raises the question … our plans or God’s plans? It’s God’s plans that always win and better to surrender to those rather than carve out our own. It won’t end well…as I discovered !!! See Acts 16:6-10. Paul had many plans, but these were not God’s plans.
In verse 22 we read about the importance of sincerity in friendship
Verse 23 reminds us that we must respect God – see Proverbs 1:7. If we respect God, then God will help us. When troubles come, he will protect us. See Psalm 46:1.

Solomon’s humour comes to the surface again in verse 24. This man is too lazy, even to eat. This means the same as verse 15. A lazy man refuses to work, so he will earn nothing. Because he earns nothing, he will be hungry. Solomon’s story in verse 24 explains this as a joke.

Verse 25 presents us with an interesting scenario
The man who insults other people might not learn from his punishment. Some people are just closed minded and will not listen to others. But other people can learn when they see his punishment or the consequences of his actions. Some people perhaps more simple in nature rather than rebellious. Simple people are easily led. They will potentially be put off from doing wrong when they see others suffer from their actions.

A wise man will learn from punishment, correction and life’s discipline because he wants to do what is right and what is in tune with God’s will.

Verse 26 talks about the rebellious son. Sometimes children are out of control despite their parents best efforts. This is not necessarily the parent’s fault or because of bad parenting. By the time children are approaching adulthood they are no longer viewing their parents as their role model and are now asserting their own way in the world according to other influences that they are attracted to. There is a point where it’s appropriate to try and understand their influences and connect with them at a deeper level but by the time they are out of control the only thing to do is to avoid them, separate and pray for them. God will use the sons’ life to discipline him and hopefully this will cause the boy to have a change of heart.

I really respect the way that my wife handled me when I was in my own pit. Every decision she made was right and helpful. I will forever be grateful for the space and time of reflection last summer. It was painful, it was difficult and very uncertain but it was the point I found God again and found my way out of a pit of self pity. I know it would not have been easy but the amount of trouble I brought upon my family deserved nothing less.
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Proverbs 19:27
27 Stop listening to instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
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I just wanted to camp on this verse this morning and contemplate it. This is the only verse in Proverbs 10:1 to Proverbs 22:16 where Solomon speaks to his own son. Perhaps this was a long lecture and his son was getting tired of listening to his dad’s voice, perhaps it is more generic instruction that says if you stop listening to advice, if you think you have arrived then you will stray away from learning and miss many opportunities to grow.

At 53 years old I think about this and my place in this story. I have been at the place where I listened to advice and accepted it as instruction only to be wrongly advised or advised on issues of opinion as though it were law. These occasions have sometimes hurt me and sometimes caused resentment to grow in me. The resentment has been nurtured because I didn’t trust people enough to go back and have the conversation out of fear of being closed down further which has been most often my experience.

I have also been in the situation where I decided that I wouldn’t listen to advice and pressed the proverbial “F<@# it” button. I want to do what I want to do. These people don’t care about me anyway. They only care about preserving the system.

Neither of these extremes are healthy ways of processing advice. I have landed on my current square of listening and considering it at my own pace and then coming to a conclusion of my own current understanding and acting accordingly.

I trust that God will do what he needs to do with the situation and growth for myself and others will be the outcome. I am more aware of my triggers and my selfishness. I am aware of my limitations and I am aware that I will never get into religious “groupthink” behaviour again.

I will make mistakes, I will make errors of judgment but God will do what he needs to do. In our Christian culture we are more obsessed with doing what’s right than walking with God. The emphasis is humanistic and religious to my mind as though we are giving ourselves all the credit. It is the beginning thread of a thought that I am developing. I  am not justifying wilful sin I am just trying to grasp the place of sin in the redemption story.
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Proverbs 19:28-29
28 A corrupt witness mocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.
29 Penalties are prepared for mockers,
and beatings for the backs of fools.
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Verse 28 & 29 talks about giving false evidence in court. It is equally applicable to the reporting of any events, situations or incidents. Inaccurate reporting can feed biases and prejudices and fuel wrong judgments that cause the innocent to suffer. Verse 29 assures us that God will sort everything out. Everyone will be treated with a fair hand in the end of all things. The ground is level at the foot of the cross. It’s not my business to bring about justice. This is God’s job. It is my business to bring about faith, truth and love. Judgment is for God and not for me.

Proverbs 2

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Proverbs 2

Moral Benefits of Wisdom

2 My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
12 Wisdom will save you from the ways of wicked men,
from men whose words are perverse,
13 who have left the straight paths
to walk in dark ways,
14 who delight in doing wrong
and rejoice in the perverseness of evil,
15 whose paths are crooked
and who are devious in their ways.
16 Wisdom will save you also from the adulterous woman,
from the wayward woman with her seductive words,
17 who has left the partner of her youth
and ignored the covenant she made before God.
18 Surely her house leads down to death
and her paths to the spirits of the dead.
19 None who go to her return
or attain the paths of life.
20 Thus you will walk in the ways of the good
and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will live in the land,
and the blameless will remain in it;
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
and the unfaithful will be torn from it.
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Verses 1-4
The search for wisdom
The writer describes the pursuit of wisdom as something we must search for intently with a thirst similar to the thirst of the deer in Psalm 42:1 . The animal searches for water. It needs water for its survival. It’s thirst drives it until it is found. To search for wisdom is to search for the heart of God. It is an unquenchable thirst wired inside us and embedded into the fabric of the universe. There is evidence of the presence of God everywhere in design, in nature and in the whole cause and effect universal laws. To seek it out, to know it and to live it is to walk in a relational connection with our God.

Verses 5-8
The reward of wisdom
The reward of such a pursuit is that we gain a wisdom that is lacking even in the most educated of people. We have perspective, we know and understand what love is, we see life differently.
You can even see this in non Christians who may tap into spiritual principles and the impact that it has. I think about anthropologists who give and serve, people who grasp spiritual concepts and try to live them. We see evidence of this goodness from God in many lives not just in the lives of Christians. Of course as Christians we have the opportunity to grasp it fully, to take hold of it and we have something even greater but the point I make is that we see glimpses everywhere.

Verses 9-15
The journey of life
The Bible often compares life to a journey. Abraham’s whole life was a journey. He travelled from Ur to Haran, and then to Canaan. ‘He searched for the city that God built.’ (Hebrews 11:10) He did not find this place on earth. ‘These people wanted a better place, in heaven. God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them.’ (Hebrews 11:16)

Jesus compared life to a journey. ‘Enter by the narrow gate! Do not choose the wide gate or the easy road! Many go by that road but it leads to death. Look for the small gate and the narrow road. Only a few people find it, but it leads to life.’ (Matthew 7:13-14)

The Book of Proverbs also tells us about two ways. In verse 13 – 18. Straight paths and crooked paths, light and darkness!

If we follow God’s wisdom, then our paths are good (verse 9). We are like travellers who choose the right way. We know where we are going. We act fairly. Our decisions are good. (verse 19).

Verses 16-19
The snare

In these verses, a woman tries to tempt a man. Proverbs presents her as a dangerous woman. The lure may be strong but it will end in disaster and destruction. She promises to quench your thirst but will leave you more thirsty than ever.

Verses 20-22
The land
God gave land to the nation of Israel. He warned them to follow his commands. If the nation turned away from God, then they would lose their land (Deuteronomy 28). Solomon knew that God had warned them. In a very physical sense this became a reality. After Solomon, the people served false gods. Some kings were good, but most were not and led Israel on a journey away from God. This began a process that in the end caused them to lose their land.

As Christians, our land is not this world. We are only visitors, our citizenship is in heaven (Hebrews 11:13-16). The way we journey and the our pursuit of wisdom is an inherent part of the same land promise but in the spiritual realms and eternity.

Eternal Fingerprints

Introduction

 

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This blog is intended to be a shared journey through scripture, spiritual ideas and a wrestling with God and man.

It is a battle of vulnerability with all my flaws and weakness but with a hope in a God who is perfect and without flaw.

This God seems to accept a humility and brokenness in lieu of perfection. A God who desires heart rather than piousness and religiousness.

My commentary on scripture to the best of my knowledge and understanding is theologically accurate and written in contemporary language. It’s not perfect. I have never met anyone with perfect theology. So much of our worldview is anchored in our own experience even when viewed through a reasonably sound exegetical lense. We all have our subtle and not so subtle angles on interpretation.

It is written in a style that is meaningful and connected with my own experience of life and spirituality. I hope any readers will also find meaning and connection in this journey. More than anything I hope I can communicate the heart of God rather than any emphasis on doctrine or law.

I am a Christian. I am not your average religious person though. I struggle with religiousness and religious groups. I make no judgment about church culture because I see many people find meaning, purpose and some kind of security within that framework.

I understand this. I worked full time in the ministry for a large group of churches for 16 years. I spoke in many Cities around the world. It worked for me. …at least I thought it did.

In the latter years I disengaged, allowed bitterness to rule my heart and pressed the self destruct button on my life on a scale of greater magnitude than even in the days and years before I found God.

I had a complete moral failure and meltdown that saw me head for oblivion in a dark pit of self pity, deceit, manipulation, adultery, cruelty and thievery. These events were dealt with very publicly and quite rightly usurped me from my seat of influence. I should be in jail but I am not.

The way I see it is that it was an intervention from God. It’s as if he said “Human judgment is flawed. I am not going to put you under human judgment. Instead I am going to put myself under human judgment”. This he did at the cross. I wake up each day with gratitude and a clear conscience. This is not because I am innocent but it is because I am free.

I must add that I am free not because anything was swept under the carpet. Far from it. Everything was exposed in broad daylight and put under Crystal clear scrutiny. It was the most challenging thing I have ever had to deal with. To face people I had betrayed, hurt and let down. To experience the full gravity of guilt and shame and yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way. This was the key to a great healing and reconciliation. This is God’s way. I am forever changed as a result of what happened. This is good.

I know that faith is not simply an intellectual exercise but is to be lived with intentional activity and that walking with God demands that we live in community with other believers and share our message of hope to those who are suffering in this broken world without hope. I want to unpack these ideas or tenets in this blog. I want to explore them in the light of scripture.

When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he effectively answered his enquirer that it is to “love God and love people” (Matthew 22:36-40). This is not something that can be practiced in isolation. Neither is it something that can be measured by law.

My big question is this. What does it really look like to walk with God? What does it mean? Religious answers do not satisfy me. I want an answer that I connect with and can share with others.

I have titled the blog “Eternal Fingerprints” because it is a piece of work that I hope will leave eternal fingerprints on your heart as I seek the same transformation of my own. They are not my fingerprints but rather they are the fingerprints of God from his word.

This is one reason that I choose to write with anonymity. I want my readers to focus on the message rather than the messenger. Some of my readers will know who I am if you move in the same congregational circles that I have moved in. I hope that if you feel any sense of hurt or betrayal as a result of my actions and we have not yet had the opportunity to meet face to face then you will draw something helpful and healing from these words.

This is my journey. I am happy to share it with you.

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