The Vanity of Righteousness & Wisdom Under the Sun | Ecclesiastes 7:15-24

Listen to the sermon here.

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Ecclesiastes 7:15 | In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.

Ecclesiastes 7:23 | All this I have tested by wisdom. I said, “I will be wise,” but it was far from me.

OPENING THOUGHT

Very few books can even attempt to rival the brutal honesty of Ecclesiastes. Its author, the Preacher, claims to have witnessed the very best that life has to offer, but at the end of it all, all is vanity under the sun. Much of his reasoning comes from understanding the brevity of life. Our time in this life is short and fleeting, especially when compared to the seemingly unchanging mountains and seas.

Yet in the midst of all this vanity, the Preacher continues to extend to us the brighter side of things: enjoyment is possible. Life is certainly full of toil, suffering, and sorrow, but these things do not exclude the ability to enjoy each day that we live. Unfortunately, enjoyment is a possibility, not a guarantee. Many people wander through life chasing after enjoyment without achieving it. The Preacher’s paradoxical answer is that enjoyment is not an achievement to be gained but a gift to be received. Enjoyment comes not through getting more but from simply realizing the beauty of what you already have.

As we continue our study through Ecclesiastes’ seventh chapter, the Preacher takes his understanding that prosperity and adversity are outside of our control and he dives into how that impacts our understanding of righteousness and wisdom. Too often, our pursuit of righteousness and wisdom are rooted a desire for self-improvement or self-exaltation. Only by realizing that no one is righteous or truly wise can we turn to the One who is altogether righteous and wise.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Ecclesiastes 7:15-24 and discuss the following.

  1. Which verses stood out most to you as you read Ecclesiastes 7:15-24 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  2. What is Solomon’s message in verses 15-18? How do these verses relate to verses 13-14? What might application of these verses look like?
  3. If no one is truly righteous or wise, how then are we meant to live wise and righteous lives?

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?
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The Path of Wisdom | Proverbs 4:10-19

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day. The way of the wicked is like the deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.  (Proverbs 4:18-19 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is a book of ancient Hebrew wisdom that is still infinitely applicable for us today. Because wisdom is the skill of living life well, Proverbs repeatedly pleads for us to seek after wisdom. Living wisely means that we understand how God has designed the world to function. Of course, we must also be careful to remember that in this life the blessings of wisdom are generalities. Sometimes a wise person dies young or suffers poverty simply because the world is broken by sin. Fortunately, for God’s people, every blessing of wisdom will ultimately be fulfilled in eternity.

But there is one more thing to remember before diving into our present text. Proverbs tells us that wisdom begins with the fear of the LORD. Fearing God means honoring and respecting God as God, and in order to do that we must understand also that we are not God. He is infinite, while we are finite. Therefore, fearing God means trusting that God knows better than we do. True wisdom cannot begin without this understanding.

Everyone in life is walking down one of two paths: the path of wisdom or the path of folly (or foolishness). The path of wisdom leads to life and being blessed by God, while the path of folly leads to sin and death. Within these verses, Solomon will present for us again the two roads set before us. Although we can continue to discuss the benefits of wisdom, ultimately we must choose to begin obeying God, to begin walking down His path.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 4:10-19 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 4:10-19 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is? What do they teach you about Jesus?
  • Why does Solomon speak in past tense in verse 11? How does this encourage us to obey God’s Word? How have you practiced obedience lately?
  • Why does Solomon say that our steps will not be hampered when we follow the path of wisdom? How does obedience to God’s commands lead to true freedom? How is sin’s promise of freedom a lie?
  • What is the significance of using light and darkness in verses 18-19 to describe the two paths? Why is the path of foolishness shrouded in darkness? How does the metaphor of dawn’s light describe the Christian’s sanctification?

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.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Blessing of Wisdom

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. (Proverbs 3:13-14 ESV)

The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew. (Proverbs 3:17-18 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is generally divided into two main sections. Chapters 1-9 are the introduction, and chapters 10-31 are the actual collection of proverbs. These nine chapters continue to teach us that wisdom does not come from the proverbs themselves. Wisdom comes from God. The proverbs teach us what wisdom looks like and to turn to God. But wisdom itself only comes from the hand of God.

Let us also remember that wisdom is applied knowledge, the skill of living life well. When we talk about wisdom, it has its root in knowledge and understanding, but wisdom is primarily about living well. When you make good decisions and life goes well for you, you are living in wisdom. And true biblical wisdom is only found in knowing God.

Today we will view the blessings that wisdom has for those who find her. In these verses, wisdom is described as being better than gold, jewels, or anything else we could ever desire. This is because God built wisdom into the foundations of the earth, so that when we find wisdom, we walk away from sin and towards the LORD.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read Proverbs 3:13-35 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 3:13-35 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • Verses 13-18 describe the riches of finding wisdom. How does someone find wisdom? Why does Solomon consider wisdom to be of greater worth than gold or jewels? Do you agree? How have you been blessed by wisdom in life?
  • In verses 19-20, Solomon claims that God founded the world by wisdom. What does this mean?
  • Solomon urges us to do good to our neighbors when we are able. What does this look like practically? How does this relate to what Jesus claims are the two greatest commandments?

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.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Value of Wisdom | Proverbs 2

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call our for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the LORD and find the knowledge of God. (Proverbs 2:1-5 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Primarily written by King David’s son, Solomon, the book of Proverbs is a unique one in the Bible. Most known for his wisdom, Solomon became wise through a supernatural blessing from the LORD. It should be no surprise then that Solomon is the primary author of this book of wisdom.

Thus far, we have studied the first chapter, which very nicely sets the stage for the remainder of the book. There are two big thoughts that we need to keep in mind going forward. First, we should also keep in mind the thesis of the book: the fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom. Second, remember to pay attention for the main literary devices of these first nine chapter: paternal speeches (where Solomon speak to us like a father teaching his son) and Lady Wisdom’s poems (in which wisdom is personified as a woman speaking to us).

After hearing the first cry of Lady Wisdom, we arrive now at the second paternal speech in Proverbs. In many ways, Solomon repeats here Lady Wisdom’s plea for us to embrace her and become wise. The primary structure of this chapter involves if-then statements, wherein Solomon lists the blessings that will befall us if we seek after wisdom with our whole heart.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 2 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 2 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • The first four verses encourage us to listen to, ask for, and seek after wisdom. Do you do that? Where should we listen to and seek after wisdom? How often do you ask for wisdom?
  • God uses wisdom to guard us against the consequences of sin. How does wisdom help us to defeat our sin? Why does Solomon mention the sin of adultery specifically?
  • This chapter promises many blessings for those who follow wisdom. How can these promises be true when many Christians suffer greatly?

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.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

Sin’s Enticement | Proverbs 1:8-19

SUGGESTED VERSES FOR MEMORIZATION & MEDITATION

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck. (Proverbs 1:8-9 ESV)

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. (Proverbs 1:10 ESV)

OPENING THOUGHT

Proverbs is the Bible’s handbook of wisdom, which is essentially the skill of navigating through life’s complexities well. The book’s primary author, King Solomon, was one of the wisest men to ever live because he received his wisdom as a direct gift from God. Solomon, therefore, is the ideal candidate to teach us about biblical wisdom.

The first seven verses of Proverbs explicitly tell us the goals and main thesis of the book. The goals include helping us to know wisdom, enabling us to understand words of insight, and learning how to behave wisely. The thesis of the book regards the necessity of fearing the LORD. Verse 7 gave us our first taste of Proverbs’ two paths. One path means walking in the fear of God, and it leads to wisdom and life. The other path rejects the LORD, despising wisdom and instruction. Its end is death and foolishness.

The primary literary device of the first nine chapters of Proverbs is a father giving wise teachings to his son. After reading the purpose and thesis of the book in the first seven verses, we now move into the first fatherly speech. Here the father pleads for his son to refrain from becoming associated with sinners. Sin is the ultimate foolishness because it is rebellion against God, and godly wisdom flees from sin at all costs.

GROUP DISCUSSION

Read chapter 1:8-19 and discuss the following.

  • Which verses stood out most to you as you read Proverbs 1:8-19 this week? Why? What do these verses teach you about who God is?
  • What is the Shema? How do verses 8-9 relate to the Shema? Would you say that the Scriptures saturate every aspect of your life? What are some practical ways to integrate God’s word into your life?
  • What is the ultimate end of sin? Why is sin still so alluring? How can we kill the sin in our lives?

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.

  • What has God taught you through this text (about Himself, sin, humanity, etc.)?
  • What sin has God convicted or reproved you of through this text?
  • How has God corrected you (i.e. your theology, thinking, lifestyle, etc.) through this text?
  • Pray through the text, asking God to train you toward righteousness by conforming you to His Word.

The Wisdom & Worship Reading Plan

This Bible reading plan came about because of a few ideas.

First, I wanted to have a daily reading from the Psalms. The past two years I went through two different reading plans: blended and chronological. I enjoyed both of them and certainly recommend them to anyone who might use them to systematically read through the entire Bible. However, I did not like that both plans required a reading of the Psalms that in no way differed from the other books of the Bible. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so, I do not think that the Psalms should be treated that way. Psalms is a collection of God-inspired, Holy Spirit-breathed poems and songs. Many of the Psalms are deeply-emotional prayers to God, either in praise or lament. This prayerful emotionality makes the Psalms completely unlike any other book of the Bible. They are designed specifically for worship, both corporate and personal.

Therefore, I do not want to read the Psalms as I would Genesis or Matthew or Romans; instead, I long to use the Psalms to foster a prayerful intimacy with God. With this in mind, I have established a reading plan that has a daily Psalm reading. Over the course of a year, the Psalms will be read twice with Psalm 119 being read three times. I divided Psalm 119 into multiple readings because it is essentially twenty-two psalms that together form the longest poem in the Bible. Also, because of Psalm 119’s passionate love for the Scriptures of God, I believe that it is the perfect psalm to begin our year of reading God’s Word.

The book of Proverbs follows a similar thought process. Like the Psalms, Proverbs is a collection from throughout the history of Israel. It contains many wise sayings and ponderings upon wisdom from King Solomon and others. If the Psalms are meant to be springboards for prayer and worship, Proverbs give us practical and applicable advice for daily life. Most of the individual proverbs are not exact promises from God, but they are divinely written guides for how to live life. Therefore, I hope that small and daily readings from Proverbs bring about more Godly wisdom in our hearts.

The Old Testament is laid out the traditional order. The average reading length is two chapters, with some days being more or less. Personally, I have a great love for the poetic literature and the prophets, so I have chosen to read through books like Ecclesiastes and Habakkuk more slowly. As this is my first year to use this plan, I will be closely examining the layout to learn if this approach feels natural or not.

As for the New Testament, the plan will take us through its entirety twice. I have decided to organize the books around the four Gospels. Because Luke was a companion of Paul and wrote Acts as well, the book of Acts and the letters of Paul follow Luke’s Gospel. Mark was a disciple of Peter, so Peter’s letters are read after Mark. Jude bears much similarity to 2 Peter, making it included in this grouping. Matthew is the most Jewish of the four gospels, so Hebrews and James are read after it. John’s Gospel is then grouped with his three letters and the book of Revelation (also written by John). I pray that this will be an effective way of organizing and focusing upon each of the four Gospels and how their themes are traced throughout the New Testament.

May this be a year of growth in the wisdom, knowledge, and grace of God through prayer and the Word of God.

Dinah & Shechem | Genesis 34

Week 10 | Study Guide & Sermon

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.