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Midweek Devotionals

Published weekly on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays.

Midweek Devotional 5/25/2016

Robert Chen

Dear Church:

PROVERBS 17:1-20

1 Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.

2 A slave who deals wisely will rule over a child who acts shamefully, and will share the inheritance as one of the family.

3 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, but the LORD tests the heart.

4 An evildoer listens to wicked lips; and a liar gives heed to a mischievous tongue.

5 Those who mock the poor insult their Maker; those who are glad at calamity will not go unpunished.

6 Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.

7 Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a ruler.

8 A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of those who give it; wherever they turn they prosper.

9 One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.

10 A rebuke strikes deeper into a discerning person than a hundred blows into a fool.

11 Evil people seek only rebellion, but a cruel messenger will be sent against them.

12 Better to meet a she-bear robbed of its cubs than to confront a fool immersed in folly.

13 Evil will not depart from the house of one who returns evil for good.

14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water; so stop before the quarrel breaks out.

15 One who justifies the wicked and one who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

16 Why should fools have a price in hand to buy wisdom, when they have no mind to learn?

17 A friend loves at all times, and kinsfolk are born to share adversity.

18 It is senseless to give a pledge, to become surety for a neighbor.

19 One who loves transgression loves strife; one who builds a high threshold invites broken bones.

20 The crooked of mind do not prosper, and the perverse of tongue fall into calamity.

A striking feature of the Old Testament is its down-to-earth emphasis on this worldly life. You can hardly find any OT passage about the afterlife. The interest of the OT writers is about what's happening here and now and what's promised by YHWH within the horizon of actual, lived history. The material life of covenant blessings, well-being, relationships, victories in battles, familial inheritance, and such are the topics of interest. In these areas you also find God's grace and work. The God of the OT is very much at home in the material world. Unlike the first-century Gnostics who operate from a dualistic mindset of physical vs. spiritual, the OT and the NT writers operate from a holistic mindset that affirms the material dimension as well as the spiritual. In fact, material dimensionality is the place of spiritual manifestation. Whether we're looking at healing, deliverance, or miracles, all these are seen in their material aspect. Wholeness, freedom, love, joy, and peace are experienced by embodied souls.


So it's not entirely out of place for the OT to include within its canon (scripture), teachings on practical, wise living. 


The Ancient Near East (like other places in the ancient world) was deeply interested in Wisdom. (You'll get another version of this interest in the form of Greek "philosophy" which means of course "love of wisdom".)


Why the interest in Wisdom/Sophia? As a young man, King Solomon knew the answer (I Kings 3): wisdom was the source for everything worthy and good. That interest in wisdom stayed with Solomon all his life and one of the things he did was to collect wise sayings wherever he found them, some of which are included in Proverbs. 


If you haven't done so already, read through Proverbs 17:1-20. Although Proverbs is a collection of ancient wisdom, the wisdom we find there is not too far off from our lives. Technology and information have changed significantly but human nature has not. Human relationships still require wisdom. The opposite of wisdom -- foolishness -- is still crouching at the door, ready to pounce on anyone who neglects wisdom. The price of foolishness is itself: becoming a fool. Folly might be funny; but it can also be deadly. Foolishness has the power to flush your life down the drain. Let's pray that we grow in godly wisdom, which we know starts with the fear of the Lord. 


Let's pray: O Lord God, we ask for wisdom for our relationships, our workplaces, our church community, and our families. Without wisdom, we end up in unnecessary headaches, causing strife instead of peace. Grant us the ability to discern what is the wise and edifying course of action, making us sensitive to your heart. May honor win; may manipulation and self-centered actions cease. Grant us wisdom as you say in your Word. In Jesus' name, amen.