Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Man in the Mirror

 Read Proverbs 20

Do you remember those dogs with the heads that bobbed up and down or side to side?  You put them in the back of the car, at least back when most cars were sedans and not some crossover or SUV. I am thinking that many of you read your chapter this week with your heads bobbing up and down in agreement.

Don’t get drunk.  It doesn’t say don’t consume any alcohol.  Jesus had wine with dinner.  Jesus made the best wine ever, but don’t get drunk.  Don’t surrender your faculties to alcohol. 

Surrender your faculties to wine or beer and make a fool of yourself.  Give in to the hard stuff, you might do something that lands you in jail.

Don’t tick off the king.  It’s the grown-up version of don’t put you finger in the fire. Decisions have consequences.

Don’t argue every point in every discussion.  You have better—purposeful things to do.  Who has time to argue every point?  The fool.  The one who lives without purpose.  The one who declares in his heart that there is no God.  This is not the first time that Solomon has warned the wise about the actions of fools.

The sluggard, aka the slothful and lazy and indolent and other derogatory terms, doesn't work in season and is surprised there is nothing to harvest.  Lazy is as lazy does.  One definition of insanity is to do the same things over and over and expect different results.

The sluggard doesn’t do any work in season and yet is surprised anew each time he has nothing to harvest.  Here is the proverb in the affirmation.  Work is good.  We are meant to work and produce fruit.  The harvest does come for the one who puts in the work.

What is the meaning of life?  It’s hardwired within us, but we have to purposefully search for it.  Seek God and you will find not only him but the purpose that he has for you.

The Lord detests differing weights.  Don’t put your thumb on the scale when you are measuring out someone’s purchase.

Don’t con someone into thinking what they are selling is worthless and then go brag about the good deal you got on the thing you told the seller was worthless.

In similar vein, food that you cheated to get tastes sweet at first, but in the end, it goes down like gravel.  No matter how much tabasco sauce you put on it, it’s still gravel.

If you want to win the war, you need good counselors.  Telling the king what he wants to hear doesn’t win battles or wars.  The truth—even in raw form—serves the decision maker better than flattery or falsehood.  If you want to be successful, seek only trusted counsel.

Don’t listen to a gossip.  Don’t have anything to do with a gossip.  They will talk about you when you are not around.  Don’t give them your ear to talk about others. 

Most of these are dog in the back of the car bobbing his head in the affirmative. 

A wise king eliminates the wicked from his presence.  They get no measure of influence in his court.

Don’t make vows rashly.  You may regret them.  Make sound decisions not hasty commitments.  Don’t let your emotions rule over your sound mind. Don’t let your human bravado supersede the path that God has set for you.

Do you remember, Vengeance is mine says the Lord?  There is a dose of that here as well.

If you are putting up security for a stranger, it is wise to get some collateral from him or her.  Don’t cosign for a loan for someone you don’t know without some collateral. 

Is this heartless?  No, it is wise.  Tell the person who needs a loan to find someone who knows them well enough to vouch for them and to cosign with them.  If they don’t have someone they know who will vouch for them, why should you?

Feed them, clothe them, and be kind to them but don’t cosign their loan. This is just more dog in the back of the car stuff.

For all of Solomon’s wisdom and guidance and counsel, it is a question that prompts us to deep thought and introspection.  His interrogative causes us to investigate ourselves.

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;

    I am clean and without sin”?

Do this not that.  This is better than that.  The consequences of this is that.  There has been a whole bunch of counsel that fits into the God’s way and Everything else model.

Now Solomon is saying take a look at the man in the mirror. Who can say, I have always done it God’s way?  Who can say, I have no sin? Who can say I have never ventured into the everything else?

We know these questions to be rhetorical as every heart has been stained by sin.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 

Not one of us can say that we have kept our hearts pure, but that is not the end of the story.  Like his father, David, Solomon surely knew how to get a clean heart.  It could only come through God himself.

Create in me a pure heart, O God,

    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Those were his dad’s words but they still ring true in every generation.  We can’t purify ourselves. There were purification rituals that the people observed through the time of Jesus. We know that it is the blood of Jesus that purifies us from sin.

So much has been revealed to us in our age.  We are without excuse as to seeking God and being known as disciples of Jesus by our love.  We are without excuse.

For the moment, let’s just concentrate on Solomon’s interrogative.

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;

    I am clean and without sin”?

Who among us can say that I have kept my heart pure?  Who among us can say that I am without sin?

When we focus on the questions in the middle of a lesson on wisdom, it should remind us that we all view God’s wisdom from the perspective of one who has sinned and who has fallen short.

We know what God is telling us through Solomon.  We have to scratch our heads every once in a while, to figure some of his quips out, but mostly they are dog in the back of the car, nodding in agreement pieces of wise counsel.

We can see how others disregard these pieces of counsel.  The lazy and the fool and the wicked are easy to spot, but we are now challenged to look at the man in the mirror.

When we do that, we disarm our tendencies to weaponize the proverbs.  We have to put away our pointing fingers.  We examine ourselves.

We use the word of God to judge the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. When we do that, we see that we still fall short again and again.  God is faithful and just to forgive, but we still fall short.

How can we as God’s people respond to his forgiveness?  We can give thanks.  We must give thanks.  If we have eyes to see how great God’s love for us is, we will give thanks.  It will seem like an involuntary action.

Our new creature that God has made us to be, will give thanks by our new nature.  We are a thankful people.

Knowing how great God’s love for us is, even when we fall short time and again, what should we do?  Let’s try a short piece of counsel from Paul.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Give thanks in all circumstances.  We have eyes to see and ears to ear that tell us we have all fallen short of the glory of God, but those same eyes and ears now see that God loves us in spite of ourselves and has called us to confess our sins and live for him.

We get another chance to live for God, again.

Knowing this, I say there is no circumstance that we will ever experience where we can not give thanks to God.  We may go through some stuff, but God’s love for us is so great that in that knowledge alone, we can give thanks in all circumstances.

Let’s learn the proverbs set before us but let us see them from the eyes of a new creature that lives to bring glory to God.  Leave the judging to the word of God that divides soul and spirit, joints and marrow.  It is the more qualified to judge.

Let us return to Solomon’s question.

Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;

    I am clean and without sin”?

We know the answer.  All have fallen short of the glory of God, but God himself purified us from all unrighteousness in the blood of Christ Jesus. He did what we could never do.  Our response to his great love is to love him and each other with all we have, and…

To give thanks in all circumstances.


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