Biblical Wisdom

Choose Wisdom | Proverbs 9

We now conclude our study through Proverbs’ introduction. Our text brings to close the messages and themes of the first nine chapters, while also inviting us to dive into the collection of proverbs that follow. In many ways, this chapter is an expanded and illustrated explanation of Proverbs 1:7. Two paths in life are before us: the path of wisdom and the path of folly. Here Wisdom and Folly are personified as women throwing lavish feasts and extending to us an invitation to join them. Each of us will ultimately dine with one or the other, so which will you choose?

TWO INVITATIONS // VERSES 1-6 & 13-18

Notice that there are eighteen verses in this chapter, and as such, it divides very nicely into three sections of six verses each. The poetic symmetry is astounding, and I will attempt to highlight this structure as we walk through our study of it. Verses 1-6 and 13-18 are reflexive of each other. The former is Lady Wisdom’s invitation to join her feast, while the latter is Folly’s counter invitation. Thus, we will compare and contrast these two feasts first before diving into Lady Wisdom’s final teaching to us in verses 7-12.

Notice first that verses 1-2 and 13-14 describe the context of their respective feasts. Wisdom’s house has seven pillars[1]. The beasts have been slaughtered. The wine is mixed. The table is set. Woman Folly, however, is loud, seductive, and vapid. She knows nothing (meaning that she does not possess true wisdom and knowledge), yet she sits at the door of her house, beckoning everyone to dine with her.

The primary difference between these two sets of verses is that Folly’s character is described rather than her feast being offered. This is essential because Proverbs has yet to introduce us to this personification of folly. We’ve already been given two speeches from Lady Wisdom in chapter 1 and chapter 8, but we haven’t met Woman Folly until now. We have, however, seen glimpses of her through the lens of the Adulteress. Indeed, we could view the Adulteress as the exemplary disciple of Woman Folly in the same way that the Noble Wife in chapter 31 is model follower of Lady Wisdom.

Next, verses 3-6 and 15-18 are the invitations to the paralleling feasts. Indeed, verses 4 and 16 are nearly identical to one another. Both women are targeting the same audience of those who are simple and lack sense. As we discussed previously, the person who lacks sense is a fool. He is one who is not following God’s wisdom but is, instead, wise in his own eyes. Or, as the phrase could be translated literally, the fool lacks heart. Following our own wisdom always results in the loss of our heart, the core of who we are. The simple, on the other hand, are those who are staggering between wisdom and folly. They are not outright fools, but neither are they wise. This, of course, means that throughout this life we will perpetually be simple to some degree. Each day certainly presents us with a renewed opportunity to choose wisdom or folly. These duel invitations also point to this constant limbo of life. Lady Wisdom calls out the simple and fools to come join her feast, to leave their foolish ways and embrace her path of life. Yet Woman Folly is always constantly wooing them to stay with her. As long as we are still breathing, we must constantly reject folly and choose wisdom.

Yet in verse 15 we learn that Folly is also calling out to another group: those who are walking straight on their way. This could mean two things. First, it could mean those who are presently walking down the path of wisdom, showing that she is actively hunting the wise. Second, it could be describing those who are unsuspecting. Either way she is being portrayed as a predator, whereas Wisdom is painted as offering nourishment to the weary.

Notice also the difference in how these women are calling us to join their feasts. Folly stands at the door of her house and cries out herself. Lady Wisdom, however, sends out her young woman to summon us. Why is this difference significant? The young woman who carry the message of Lady Wisdom are her disciples. Folly, though, has no disciples. She killed them all. Her previous guests are now dead, stored “in the depths of Sheol” (v. 18). When we consider that sin is embodiment and essence of folly, this makes complete sense. Sin’s allure is a promise that is never fulfilled. Sin promises a banquet, but it only yields death. Still, it continues to deceive. It continues to ensnare.

We, however, are called to be Lady Wisdom’s young women. We are meant to be her disciples, calling others to join us in her feast. The feast of Lady Wisdom is an actual feast, with other people and everything. Our very invitation is intended to be proof of the reality of the banquet. God chooses to let us take part in the expansion of His kingdom, in the invitation to His wisdom.

Both Wisdom and Folly are also offering bread and drink, our two primary elements of daily sustenance. This is highly symbolic for how we need wisdom only a daily basis. Just as we need food and water to sustain us, so we also require God’s wisdom to keep us on His path. Furthermore, God’s wisdom is a feast indeed. It connects us to one another, uniting us around the LORD. Indeed, community is an essential aspect of God’s wisdom. Community is necessity for wisdom.

Folly, however, cannot offer a feast. Her guests are dead, so there is no fellowship. She has no community to present; therefore, she invites us to partake in stolen water and secret bread. Sin can never build community and fellowship. It can only divide, isolate, and destroy. Folly and sin, therefore, thrive in isolation. Separating oneself from other believers is an invitation to folly and sin.

The ultimate difference between these two invitations is, of course, that Wisdom is calling us to life while Folly is beckoning us to death. Once again, this is yet another various of the two paths that every person must choose between. Jesus called them the narrow and broad roads. Here in Proverbs they have been the paths of wisdom and folly. Now they are presented as invitations to two feasts, one of life and one of death.

The question then that we should be left with after reading these two invitations is: how do we accept Wisdom and reject Folly? Thankfully, Lady Wisdom answers this question in verses 7-12.

LADY WISDOM’S TEACHING // VERSES 7-12

I’ve placed these verses last because I believe the chiastic structure of chapter is pointing toward them as the central focus of our text. As noted in the introduction, these six verses seem to be a reflection upon the thesis verse of Proverbs: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction” (1:7).

Verses 7-9 are essentially an expanded view of the second half of Proverbs 1:7. These verses contrast the wise man with a scoffer, and the primary difference between them is teachability. A wise man loves reproof and instruction because they increase his wisdom. Correcting a scoffer, however, incurs their hatred and violence. Teachability is necessary for wisdom because wisdom comes through teaching. In fact, teachability could in many ways be used as a synonym for humility. Being teachable requires acknowledging the limits of one’s own understanding. Scoffers, however, are unteachable because they are proud. They are confident in their own knowledge and reject anything that challenges them.

What makes this difference between someone who is teachable, then, and someone who is a scoffer? Verse 10 gives us the answer: the fear of the LORD. Proverbs 3:5-6 is perhaps the great display of what fearing the LORD looks like: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Fearing God means seeing God as God. True humility and teachability begin here. If we will not be taught by the Creator of all things, how can we truly be taught anything? Indeed, wise teachability does not mean that we allow ourselves to be taught by anyone. Paul, after all, warned the Colossians to avoid being held captive by philosophies and empty deceits. We must be guarded against the lies that prevail throughout the world, yet when God speaks, we must listen. And we must obey. The very purpose of God’s inspired Word is to teach us, correct us, reprove us, and train us in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

The epitome of foolishness is thinking that our few decades of experience make us wiser than God the Creator. Yet that is the very essence of sin. Whenever we sin, we declare that we are more knowledgeable than He who is omniscient. Fearing God, however, turns us from this foolish path of sin. It makes us teachable to God’s perfect instruction.

Verse 11 reminds us of another benefit of wisdom. By wisdom, our days will be multiplied, and years added to one’s life. As we previously discussed, this is generally true in the physical sense. Wisdom often prolongs life if for no other reason than it teaches us to avoid the dangerous practices of folly. Ultimately, however, it is true eternally. Those who follow God’s wisdom will have their days multiplied without end as we dwell forever with God.

Finally, verse 12 concludes with a final warning that is a perfect note on which to conclude our study through these opening chapters of Proverbs. “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it.” This is reminder that the choice between wisdom and folly is given to the individual.

No one can choose wisdom for you. You alone must obtain it, and if you instead choose to scoff, you alone will bear that consequence. You cannot rely upon the pedigree of your family or of your church. You either embrace Christ and His wisdom or you do not. God has called you to love wisdom, to fear Him. Community is certainly crucial for helping us continue choosing wisdom, but ultimately the decision is ours alone to make.

Consider the sobering reality of this choose. One day we will each stand before God, naked, bare, and alone. Before His holiness, our greatest deeds of righteousness will be truly seen as nothing more than filthy rags in His presence. On that day, we will either hear, “Well done, my good and faithful servant” or “Depart from me, I never knew you”. The wise will enter into Wisdom itself, while the scoffs will bear away their scoffing.

This is the weight behind these two feasts, these two invitations. The choice between wisdom and folly is an eternal one. It has many consequences on this present life, but its ultimate consequence is our eternal joy or eternal suffering. Biblical wisdom, therefore, is not optional; it is how we know God!

In fact, Jesus Himself invites us to a feast in the same vein as Lady Wisdom. In John 7:37-38, we read: “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’”

Furthermore, John’s Revelation ends with this message from Jesus: “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to testify to you about these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (22:16-17).

The feast of wisdom, the feast of Jesus Christ, is free to whomever will humble himself to come. May we come to His banquet. May we be sustained by His body as our bread and His blood as our drink. May Jesus be our wisdom as we follow wherever He leads. Furthermore, may we be His Bride who calls out for others to come. May we be the young women whom Lady Wisdom sends to the highest places in town, calling for the simple and fools to leave their simple ways and live. May we proclaim the wisdom of gospel to those ensnared by folly around us.


[1] Many theologians offer differing interpretations concerning what exactly the seven pillars represent. Since their suggestions are all speculative, I would offer that, since seven is a number often associated with God, they indicate that her house is built and established upon the wisdom of God.

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Biblical Wisdom

The Call of Wisdom | Proverbs 1:20-33

Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
in the markets she raises her voice;
at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
“How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
and fools hate knowledge?
If you turn at my reproof, 
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
I will make my words known to you.
Because I have called and you refused to listen,
have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
because you have ignored all my counsel
and would have none of my reproof,
I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when terror strikes you,
when terror strikes you like a storm
and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
when distress and anguish come upon you.
Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Proverbs 1:20-33 ESV

 

Although most Proverbs’ first nine chapters is written from a father to a son, we now arrive at one of the sections were wisdom herself speaks to the reader. Like a street preacher, wisdom is personified as a woman crying out in the busy streets for people to love and embrace her. The significance is that wisdom beckons to everyone, but few answer her call. In fact, the choice between wisdom and folly is a choice between a narrow or broad gate. Just has few find the hard, narrow gate, few embrace wisdom.

WISDOM SPEAKS // VERSES 20-21

These two verses introduce and set the scene for the literary device used in the remainder of the section: the personification of wisdom. Although wisdom is an abstract concept, Solomon is poetically giving it a voice, and since the goal of Proverbs is to give us wisdom, we could easily say that these glimpses of wisdom personified are the heart and soul of the book.

The backdrop for Lady Wisdom’s speech is not a well-kept college classroom or a philosopher’s forum; rather, Solomon pictures wisdom scream in the middle of the markets and noisy streets. She is standing at the city gates crying out to anyone that will listen. Wisdom is the equivalent of an Old Testament prophet or a street preacher. She is desperate for anyone to hear her message.

Why?

Wisdom is intimately connected with godliness. We cannot have true wisdom without knowing God, and we cannot know God without growing in wisdom. Sin is the epitome of foolishness; therefore, as we walk with God, we will become wiser. Wisdom is an essential element of a Christian’s sanctification. This is why James urges to ask for wisdom when we lack it (James 1:5). Wisdom is necessary pursuit. We cannot know God without it.

Fortunately, wisdom is attainable. In fact, wisdom is guaranteed to those who are willing to ask for it. God is generous, and wisdom is one of His many gifts that He pours out without reproach (meaning that He will not turn us away). The imagery of wisdom street preaching is important because God openly invites humanity to embrace wisdom. He is not withholding this secret of life from anyone. He gives it freely to all who will humble themselves enough to admit that they need wisdom. Of course, such humility is reason why wisdom is short supply. Free gifts require open hands. We cannot ask for wisdom until we first realize that we are fools.

HOW LONG // VERSES 22-31

Lady Wisdom begins her proclamation by crying out “how long” twice. These two words set the tone for the remainder of the passage. Wisdom is being boldly and blatantly offered but continuously refused by the simple, scoffers, and fools.

We’ve already discussed the fools and the simple, but who are the scoffers? “They are cynical and defiant freethinkers who ridicule the righteous and all for which they stand (e.g., Ps 1:1)” (NET). Scoffers stand as a category of their own because of their aggression toward the ways of God. The simple at least have the potential of becoming wise, and the fools despise knowledge and wisdom. But scoffers do not merely hate wisdom, they mock it. They are revelers in their wicked path.

In verse 23, Lady Wisdom explains how wisdom can be attained: by responding to her rebuke. This notion of wisdom’s rebuke is crucial to the passage since it also appears in verses 25 and 30. A rebuke is never fun because it means being convicted of sin or having our faults revealed, but it is a critical aspect of biblical wisdom. Upon reaching a fork in the road, we must choose which way to follow. Likewise, being shown the path of wisdom necessitates having the path of foolishness condemned. Embracing wisdom means we must repent at her reproof.

Wisdom then responds to her rejection with laughter at their calamity. She mocks the mockers when trouble befalls them. She claims that whenever they seek her in the midst of their trials, she will refuse to answer them. This may sound harsh, but verse 31 clearly establishes that when the foolish suffer, they are merely eating “the fruit of their way.” They are being left to their own devices. Their destruction is well-earned because they had plenty of opportunities to repent at wisdom’s reproof.

But what about verse 28? Is that verse teaching that God will refuse those who repent in the midst of trials and hardship? In a way, yes. The repentance being described in verse 28 is not true repentance. It is the half-hearted prayer that many people make to God while in the middle of a storm of life. They do not love and serve God, desiring for His will to be done above all else. They simply want God to bail them out of their problems. It is against this kind of superficial “Christianity” that Hebrews 3:12-14 speaks:

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

SECURITY OR DISASTER // VERSES 32-33

These final verses of the chapter summarize Lady Wisdom’s message. Those who listen to wisdom will dwell in security, while fools will be destroyed.

Verse 32 describes the path to destruction in two ways. First, the simple are killed by their turning away. Though the simple are given the choice between wisdom or folly, life or death, many choose folly and death. Instead of turning in repentance, they turn a follow after fools. They die for their lack of knowledge (Hosea 4:6).

Second, the fools are destroyed by their complacency. This is a terrifying image. While the simple were killed because they turned toward sin, fools are destroyed by doing nothing. The NET translates this as “the careless ease of fools will destroy them.” This is a great warning against “Christians” who refuse to take sin and the things of God seriously. Twice Jeremiah warns the people of Judah against prophets and priests who heal “the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace” (6:14, 8:11). These religious leaders refused to take the sin of Judah seriously. They spoke of peace while God was crying out for His people to repent. We must take care that we do not allow a similar complacency to sweep us away. The path to damnation is open wide for those who refuse to let God’s word call them to action.

Those who listen to wisdom, who embrace the fear of the LORD, find a much different outcome. Instead of meeting destruction and death, they find security and ease. They find the true peace that fools only attempt to imitate with their complacency. Because they listened to wisdom’s call, they live without fear of disaster.

Wait. So then what happened to Job? He was blameless man before the LORD, right? Why did the very definition of disaster fall upon him if he was a wise man who feared God? And what about the apostles, most of whom died violent deaths because they preached Christ?

Verse 33 does not promise or guarantee that God’s people will not see disaster; rather, they would not dread the disasters that may befall them. They will dwell secure regardless of what life throws their way. They are a people who possess a Treasure that cannot be stolen by thieves, eaten by moths, or corroded by time. They are a people who, when destitute, afflicted, and mistreated, consider “the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures” of all the world (Hebrews 11:26). The wise are not exempt from suffering; they simply know Him who is their comfort in the midst of the storm.

Vanity Under the Sun

The Vanity of Folly Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 10

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 10:1 | Dead flies make the perfumer’s ointment give off a stench; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor.

Ecclesiastes 10:3 | Even when a fool walks on the road, he lacks sense, and he says to everyone that he is a fool.

OPENING THOUGHT

At its heart, Ecclesiastes is an investigation of life under the sun. Written by the Preacher (most likely King Solomon), Ecclesiastes gives the author’s reflections after attempting to discover what is good for mankind to do during our short days here on earth. He throws himself head first at pleasure but finds that it is only a temporary distraction from death’s looming shadow. He observes the necessity of living in community but laments the many ways that we sabotage such relationships. He knows all too well the allure of wealth and power, yet he also witnessed those who couldn’t seem to enjoy the money and blessings that they possessed. At the end of the day, time runs out and death comes for all people, man or woman, young or old, rich or poor, wise or foolish. Therefore, the Preacher repeatedly urges us to enjoy life as being the gift of God, finding contentment with the lot that He has given us.

After summarizing most of the book’s themes in chapter nine, chapter ten is the beginning march toward the conclusion. The proverbial nature of this chapter can seem rather eclectic, but the overall goal is give us a fuller picture those who walk in foolishness. Even though the Preacher has emphasized that the wise and foolish will both face death, he is now emphasizing that there are still clear benefits to be wise and avoiding folly.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 10 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 10 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. How would to describe biblical wisdom and folly? How are they different from general ideas about wisdom and folly?
  3. Of the various forms of folly described in this chapter, which one(s) do you most identify with? What is the godly and wise alternate to that kind of foolishness?
  4. How can we practically pursue wisdom and flee from folly?

PERSONAL REFLECTION

Because all Scripture profits us through teaching, reproving, correcting, and training us, reflect upon the studied text, and ask yourself the following questions about the present text.

  • What has God taught you about Himself?
  • What sin is God convicting or reproving you of?
  • How is God correcting you?
  • How is God training and equipping you for righteousness?

My Dog Never Catches Squirrels (and neither do I)

She tries every single morning without fail to get the squirrels chattering happily in the trees above the backyard. She’s out there each day but hasn’t even come close to catching one (and wouldn’t know what to do with it even if she did). It’s a worthless exercise, but one that she will urgently awaken me to pursue.

Unfortunately, I do the same thing.

Not with actual squirrels, obviously. Instead, I tend to always pursue things that are outside my reach.

Like most things, I think the problem started in Genesis.

In that book, we are told that God created a really good world full of good things and made two good human beings to live in it. He made the humans in His likeness, in His image, and established them as the stewards of the planet. He gave them everything to enjoy with only one, single prohibition: don’t eat the fruit of knowledge of good and evil.

Not content with being made in God’s image, Adam and Eve ate the fruit. They bought the lie that God was withholding something good from them, that they could become gods themselves. Ignoring the multitude of blessings, they sought after what they could not have. They thought that they were wiser than God.

But I’m in no position to judge. I do the same thing, and most of the time it’s not “big sins.” Just the little, nagging ones that are equally as damning.

For example, I know what the Bible teaches about rest. In Christ, we might no longer be required to observe a sabbath day, but the pattern is still a really good idea. God created us to function best when we rest one day and work six. That weekly rest helps us refocus and reenergize.

But I often opt for vacations instead. I refuse to take a true rest week after week, focusing on a getaway that will recharge my spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical batteries. Vacations never live up to the hype, never meet the expectations. I simply can’t go nonstop for 6 months to a year and expect my body to recover in one week. I wasn’t designed for that kind of living, but I often pursue it anyway.

Likewise, I know where God tells me to look for rest: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)” But my eyes always look to Netflix or YouTube by default. He has never failed to give me rest when I come to Him for it, but I still chase after worldly things that never satisfy.

Sin is an empty promise, offering what it cannot give, causing us to dedicate our time and energy on things worthless pursuits. It is a vanity of vanities, a chasing after the wind.

Wrestling with God

Dinah & Shechem | Genesis 34

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, “You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites. My numbers are few, and if they gather themselves against me and attack me, I shall be destroyed, both I and my household.” But they said, “Should he treat our sister like a prostitute?” (Genesis 34:30-31)

Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:17-21)

OPENING THOUGHT

After a life of wandering and conflict, Jacob has now settled down. Stealing the firstborn blessing and birthright from his brother created quite a tension within Jacob’s family, forcing him to flee for his life from Esau. But Jacob only ran into more conflict by marrying two sisters, blatantly loving one of them more, and having an incredibly selfish father-in-law. After twenty years, Jacob escaped back to his homeland, terrified of reuniting with Esau. But God was with Jacob. Esau’s anger at Jacob was gone, and since peace was made between the two of them, Jacob finally stopped wandering.

But given the events of this chapter, Jacob might have chosen a better town to settle within. While Jacob is camping beside the city of Shechem, his daughter, Dinah, begins to socialize with the women of the city. Soon we are told that Shechem, the prince of the land, rapes her and then goes to her father and brothers for her hand in marriage. Dinah’s brothers in particular are furious, but they agree to allow Shechem to marry Dinah if every man in the city is circumcised. Three days after the men circumcise themselves, Levi and Simeon raid the city, slaughtering all the men and plundering the city.

This chapter ranks with the Flood and Sodom narratives as being one of the most uncomfortable displays of sin within Genesis. There is no innocent party here. Shechem is a rapist. Hamor only wants to make a profit. Jacob refuses to defend his daughter. Dinah placed herself in a foolish situation. And Simeon and Levi go well beyond a justifying retaliation. However, even in the midst of the darkest sins, God is still gracious and in sovereign control.

Read verses 1-7 and discuss the following.

  1. Dinah goes out to see the women of the land of Shechem. This seems to have a negative connotation that her interaction with them was foolish. In what ways do you live foolishly? How are we to live in wisdom?
  2. In these verses, Shechem is guided purely by his own desires. First, he sees Dinah, forcing her to lie with him. Next, he is captivated by, loves, and speaks tenderly to her. What are the dangers of allowing our want of pleasures to guide our lives? What must guide us instead?

Read verses 8-31 and discuss the following. 

  1. The intermarriage agreement between Jacob’s camp and the city of Shechem goes completely against God’s command throughout the Old Testament for Israel to refrain from marrying wives from other tribes and nations. Why did God prohibit Israelites from marrying non-Israelites?
  2. Since they convinced the men of Shechem to circumcise themselves, Simeon and Levi take advantage of their vulnerability by slaughtering all the men of the city, which is far too great of a retaliation against Shechem. Why did God command an eye for an eye in the Old Testament? What is the New Testament thought on vengeance and retaliation?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Learning from Dinah and Shechem, consider areas of your life where you are foolish or are guided by your own pleasures and desires. How does the Bible teach you to live differently?
  • Pray. In their zeal for justice, Simeon and Levi committed a grievous sin themselves by slaughtering all the men in the city of Shechem. Pray then that the Lord would give us a biblical view of evil, justice, and retaliation.
Wrestling with God

Isaac Blesses Jacob | Genesis 27:1-28:9

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him and said, See, the smell of my son is as the smell of a field that the LORD has blessed! May God give you of the dew of heaven and of the fatness of the earth and plenty of grain and wine. Let peoples serve you, and nations bow down to you. Be lord over your brothers, and may your mother’s sons bow down to you. Cursed be everyone who curses you, and blessed be everyone who blesses you! (Genesis 27:27-29)

God Almighty bless you and make you fruitful and multiply you, that you may become a company of peoples. May he give the blessing of Abraham to you and to your offspring with you, that you may take possession of the land of your sojournings that God gave to Abraham! (Genesis 28:3-4)

OPENING THOUGHT

Looking into the third major section of Genesis, we have seen how the covenantal blessing of God passed down from Abraham to his son, Isaac. Abraham then died, and Isaac faced his own journey of walking in faith with God. In many ways, Isaac followed after Abraham, in both good and bad. God commanded Isaac to trust him by staying put during a famine, and like his father, he trusted God. Unfortunately, like Abraham, Isaac also tended to take matters into his own hands by lying about his wife to protect himself. Ultimately, though, Isaac walked in faith after God just like his father.

Isaac’s faithfulness, however, does not bleed over into our present text. Here we read the account of Jacob taking Isaac’s blessing from Esau. We see that Isaac intended to bless Esau, the firstborn, but Jacob and Rebekah, his mother, trick Isaac into thinking that Jacob is really Esau. Because Isaac is blind, he falls for the trick and gives Jacob the blessing. Esau comes back from hunting to discover his lost blessing. Though Esau begs to be blessed, Isaac gives him a curse instead. We are then told that Esau hated Jacob and sought a chance to kill him. Thus, Jacob fled, at his mother’s request, to find a wife in her homeland.

Many people have tried through various arguments to prove if Isaac, Esau, Jacob, or Rebekah were sinning or not. It is my belief that there is not innocent party within this text. Isaac knew that God promised the blessing to Jacob, but he still chose to try blessing Esau. If Esau were honorable, he would have surrendered his blessing to Jacob, facing the consequences of his foolish selling of the birthright for soup. Rebekah and Jacob both knew God promise, but they do not trust God to fulfill it, taking matters into their own hands. Through it all, we will see God’s faithfulness in spite of sin; however, the sins of everyone involved have far reaching consequences for this family.

Read verses 1-29 and discuss the following.

  1. Whether he forgot God’s promise to bless Jacob over Esau or whether he simply ignored it, Isaac chose to bless Esau over Jacob because he loved him more. In what ways can favoritism destroy a family?
  2. Isaac’s love for Esau entirely centered upon Esau’s barbeque skills. He loved what Esau could do for him, rather than actually loving his son. Can our love for others likewise come from a selfish heart? Why is that not truly love?
  3. Jacob and Rebekah resolved to snatch away Esau’s blessings by deceiving Isaac. Though they were acting based on God’s promise to bless Jacob, they used sinful means to do so. Have you ever used sinful means to accomplish an otherwise godly goal?

Read verses 27:30-28:9 and discuss the following.

  1. After learning that Jacob stole his blessing, Esau had such a hatred for his brother that he began to plan murder. His originally foolish behavior has now snowballed into grievous sin. Are foolishness and sin connected? How do they lead into one another?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Consider the sins and failures of each person discussed in these verses. Learn from Isaac by remembering and valuing the Word of God though he didn’t. Seek biblical wisdom to avoid the sin and foolishness of Esau. Avoid the self-reliance of Jacob and Rebekah, trusting God instead.
  • Give thanks to God for His mercy and grace toward us, knowing that we sin just like Isaac, Esau, Rebekah, and Jacob, but Christ has saved us from our sin.
COPYRIGHT© B.C. NEWTON 2016
Good Works | Sound Doctrine

Church Discipline | Titus 3:9-15

But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. (Titus 3:9)

As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)

When I send Artemas or Tychicus to you, do your best to come to me at Nicopolis, for I have decided to spend the winter there. Do your best to speed Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way; see that they lack nothing. And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. (Titus 3:12-15)           

OPENING THOUGHT

Titus is a letter by the apostle Paul written to his disciple, Titus, to help him organize the churches of the island of Crete. To begin the letter, Paul addressed leadership within the church. He established that each church would ideally have multiple pastors, and he then listed the qualifications for such leadership (as well as what false leaders would look like). Paul then covered the role of church members, encouraging them to share the gospel to all people (a.k.a. discipleship and evangelism). Finally, in the third chapter, the apostle discusses how the church should function as a whole and in general.

After discussing the gospel and our lifestyle as Christians in verses 1-8, Paul now closes the letter with two topics that are less than simple to hear: church discipline and sacrificial giving. In contrast the profitable nature of the gospel, the apostle lists things that worthless and unprofitable for us, like foolish controversies and quarrels about the law. Because we have been saved by the great grace of God, we should be united around the gospel in order to better take its message to the ends of the earth. These controversies and dissensions are unprofitable ultimately because they distract us from the eternally profitable good news.

The letter then closes with Paul giving more personal instructions to Titus. In the midst of his urging of Titus to visit him, he encourages Titus to prepare the churches of Crete for receiving Zenas and Apollos, making sure that they would send them away from Crete in need of nothing. Using this as an example, Paul encourages the churches of Crete to be ready for every good work, so they can help cases of urgent need. This is a great reminder of how the church should display the love of Christ, sacrificial meeting the needs of other brothers and sisters in the faith.

Read verse 9 and discuss the following.

  1. In contrast to the profitable nature of the gospel, Paul lists four items for us to avoid: foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law. What are some examples of each? Why are they unprofitable and worthless?

Read verses 10-11 and discuss the following.

  1. Here Paul warns that after warning a division-causing person twice have nothing more to do with them. What are some characteristics of someone who stirs up divisions?
  2. How do these verses relate to Matthew 18:15-17 in describing the procedures for church discipline?

Read verse 12-15 and discuss the following.

  1. Paul urges Titus to make certain that Zenas and Apollos lack nothing when they pass through Crete, which the apostle uses as an example for urging him to help urgent needs. In what ways is the love of Christ proclaimed through our helping others needs?

ACTIONS TO CONSIDER

  • Obey. Reflecting upon the subject of church discipline, let it remind us to be quick to repent, to forgive, and to resolve conflict, and in considering Paul’s final call to good works, let us be prepared in all circumstances to help cases of urgent need.
  • Pray. Continuously pray that for the church to focus upon the profitable gospel rather than worthless diversions and conflicts, and pray for brothers and sisters around the world to continue spreading the good news.