Thursday, October 21, 2021

Chapter 16 - Half Way There

 Read Proverbs 16

As you read through this chapter, were you thinking or singing what I was?  I know though you had to be thinking Bon Jovi.  Right?

Whoa, we're half-way there

Whoa, livin' on a prayer

Take my hand, we'll make it. I swear

Whoa, livin' on a prayer

We are halfway there!  Somewhere around verse 16 or 17 in this sixteenth chapter, this song had to come to you.  I know the Sixties and Seventies had the best music, but you can’t discount everything from the Eighties. I know that it hit you when you were reading:

How much better to get wisdom than gold,

    to get insight rather than silver!

The highway of the upright avoids evil;

    those who guard their ways preserve their lives.

What do I have to do, get a karaoke machine?

Whoa, we're half-way there

Whoa, livin' on a prayer                        

Take my hand, we'll make it. I swear

Whoa, livin' on a prayer

Many of you noticed a subtle shift in composition from here is something good and here is the negative contrast, to other parallels, sometimes offering a choice but more often an affirmation.

Let’s do a little verse by verse this morning.  Let’s go old school.

Verse 1.

To humans belong the plans of the heart,

    but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.

I have thought this through.  I have done my cost-benefit analysis. It’s a good plan but I am wise to get a sanity check.

From where?

From God’s word.  From his answers to my prayers.  From my Christian brothers and sisters, that’s where. We have been given this wonderful body of Christ that we live within to help us.

God’s Spirit lives within us and we live in the body of Christ.

So, before I commit with my mouth or my signature or by any other means, let me see if the answer that trusting in the Lord brings me to is the same as my own understanding.

If there is dissonance, I am not ready to commit to the plans of my own construction.  It’s back to prayer, study, and consultation with the Spirt that lives within me and my fellow believers in the body of Christ who will speak the truth in a spirit of love to me.

On to verse 2.

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,

    but motives are weighed by the Lord.

We have been here before.  You, of course, remember Proverbs 3:5-6.  Do you remember what I said about our own understanding?

It makes sense to us.  It is our own understanding.  Of course, it makes sense to us.  You might need a couple extra sermons and a team of psychiatrists if your own understanding doesn’t make sense to you.  It is your own.  You came up with it.

The Christian should have dissonance between his or her own understanding and what the Lord has to say if the two are not in one accord. 

Solomon tells us that God looks beyond our logic and rationale and sees our hearts.  God’s word judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Our motives are weighed by the Lord. 

Verse 3.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,

    and he will establish your plans.

Our prayers are mistaken in motive when we ask the Lord to bless our plans when our plans are not in accord with God’s.  We should petition him to bring our plans into accord with his.  Some translations say our thoughts instead of plans.  Thoughts are where our plans begin.

Do you remember taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ Jesus? Do you want your plans to succeed?  Commit them to the Lord.

Don’t argue with the Lord when he makes a few changes to your first, second, or twenty-second draft.

Once his plans and our plans are the same, they are established.  They are confirmed.  They are ready for execution.

When we studied James not too long ago, I gave you a modern paraphrase of what this book full of New Testament wisdom had to say.  We will call it a Spenceaphrase.

Don’t get married to your plan.

Planning is good.  It is mind-developing, but anchoring yourself to your plan gets in the way of getting on board with the best plan—the plan that God desires to establish in your hearts and minds.

Commit to the Lord whatever you do,

    and he will establish your plans.

On to verse 4.

The Lord works out everything to its proper end—

    even the wicked for a day of disaster.

Is anyone catching a theme here?  The Lord has it all worked out.  He is saying, “I’ve got this.”

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight. Sound familiar?

God says, I’ve got this!  Even for those who are anchored in the everything else. I’ve got this!   Ok, that’s another Spenceaphrase, but you have grown accustomed to those by now.

So, we trust that God will direct our steps.  Let’s also trust him to take care of those who continue to rebel against him—the wicked.  Sometimes the latter part here is tougher than the former, but what happens to the wicked is not our burden to bear.

Verse 5.

The Lord detests all the proud of heart.

    Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.

Here is the follow-up to I’ve got this. The Lord knows our heart and despite directions to the contrary knows that we drift away into wondering if the wicked really get what they deserve.  Our own understanding thinks that our rewards will be lessened if the wicked don’t get condemned in accordance with our plans—with our own understanding.

Solomon tells us not to worry about that part.  Be sure of this.  They will not go unpunished.

Verse 6.

Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;

    through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.

Now just hold your holy horses right there!  I thought it was the blood of bulls and goats and sacrifices and that the law required the shedding of blood that atoned for sin back then.

There were required sacrifices.  There was a Day of Atonement.  A lot of blood flowed to atone for sins, but the actual atonement for our sins came in love.  We call him Jesus.  We call him Lord.  John the Baptist called him the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

God loved us first.  Whether it’s in sacrifice, confession, profession, baptism or other acts, we must realize that these are in response to the great love of God.

We hit the trifecta on this verse.  Love, faith, and fear of the Lord keep us in God’s ways and out of the everything else.

Since we are talking faith and faithfulness, let’s review Hebrews 11:1.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Of course, I can’t pass up the connection to Proverbs 1:7

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,

    but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

This verse gave us the fear of the Lord, faith, and reminded us that the forgiveness of sins is rooted in love.

We will wrap up with verse 7.

When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,

    he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

Sometimes, we can think of God’s way as walking to school—uphill, in the snow, both ways—just like our parents did.  But it’s not always like that.  Sometimes, God removes obstacles from our path.  Sometimes God fights our battles for us and our enemies have no choice but to make peace with us.

Remember that God’s way is for our own good.  Sometimes the Lord lets us grow in our battles.  Sometimes he causes our enemies to make peace with us.  Consider this in the context of for our own good.

How can the Lord take pleasure in our ways?  Our ways have grown to be as his ways.  It’s the whole on earth as it is in heaven concept.  The whole earth isn’t there yet, but we can be.

Our ways can please God because we have taken on his ways.  It just so happens that this is for our own good.

Some of you are thinking that the next couple of verses would enhance the context.  Some are thinking it’s time for lunch.  The next two verses do make for excellent discussion and it is time for lunch.  You are blessed to have a lunchtime topic for conversation.

Better a little with righteousness

    than much gain with injustice.

In their hearts humans plan their course,

    but the Lord establishes their steps.

Don’t let these opportunities for further discussion pass. This model of reading the same chapter every day and having the wisdom of God on our hearts should bring it to the forefront of our conversation.

There is God’s way and it’s for your own good.

There is everything else.  That’s where the mines are.

Today we spent a little more time with Solomon on God’s way and its blessings and getting our thoughts and plans into accord with his.  We spent more time on things that are for our own good.


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