Deuteronomy 27, Jeremiah 19, Proverbs 15:18-33

Read Deuteronomy 27, Jeremiah 19, Proverbs 15:18-33 today. This devotional is about Proverbs 15:18-33.

“It’s for your own good” is a phrase that people say when they are about to say something you won’t like. Oftentimes, they’re not really saying for your good but as justification for the verbal punishment they are about to let you have.

Every one of us hates criticism. It hurts to receive and often feels unfair. Yet the Bible says that wisdom comes through hearing critical feedback and changing your life accordingly. Verse 31, which we read today says, “Whoever heeds life-giving correction will be at home among the wise.” If you receive criticism–even harsh, punishing criticism–and learn something from it, you will become a wiser person.

By contrast, verse 32 says, “Those who disregard discipline despise themselves….” We do ourselves no favors–and lots of harm, really–when we hit back at our critics and refuse to receive anything they say. The path of wisdom is found through correction; wise is the man who listens carefully to any criticism and tries to learn and get better from it.

Is that who you are? Ask God for the grace to grow through the negative encounters we have with others in our lives.

Numbers 34, Isaiah 57, Proverbs 13:15-25

Read Numbers 34, Isaiah 57, Proverbs 13:15-25 today. This devotional is about Proverbs 13, specifically:

“Good judgment wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful leads to their destruction. 16 All who are prudent act with knowledge, but fools expose their folly.”

– Proverbs 13:15-16

These two proverbs speak to how we make decisions.

The first proverb, 13:15, talks about the choices that we make in life. “Good judgment” in this proverb is contrasted with “the way of the unfaithful.” By calling it “the way of the unfaithful,” Solomon is indicating is a pattern of choices. The pattern of choices someone makes leads them down a path–“the way.” All of us use poor judgment at times in our lives and that leads us to make bad choices accordingly. But there is a difference between taking a wrong turn but correcting it and making one wrong turn after another. The “unfaithful” has a habit of making bad choices. He or she shows poor judgment over and over again. The “unfaithful” in verse 15 is a description of unfaithfulness to God’s word. That indicates a person who leaves behind a pattern of sinful choices. At the end of the road for that person is “destruction”–a destination nobody wants for his or her life.

The contrast to the destructive way of the unfaithful is the person who shows “good judgment” (v. 15a). Because it is contrasted with “the way of the unfaithful,” “good judgment” probably also refers to a pattern of decisions but in this case it is a pattern of good decisions, moral decisions, decisions that are informed by God’s word and obedient to his commands. And what happens to the person who shows “good judgment?” That person “wins favor.” God’s favor is certainly included in this but I think Solomon left the identity of the one who is favorable unspecified because both God and people look favorably on those who live morally good lives.

Have you ever been to a funeral where hardly anyone else showed up and those who did struggled to find something good to say about the deceased? Those who are disobedient to God’s commands may find prosperity. They may be fun to be around at times and may seem cool for being so carefree. But one by one, sinful decisions stack up and leave a lack of trust, hurt feelings, a bad reputation, and a lonely decline and end.

So how does one avoid the way of the unfaithful that leads to destruction? How do you become a person who wins favor by having good judgment?

Verse 16 supplies the answer:

All who are prudent act with knowledge,
    but fools expose their folly.

– Proverbs 13:16

You show “good judgment” (v. 15) by getting knowledge before you act. That knowledge causes “prudent” actions. Seek wisdom, get knowledge–from God’s word, from godly parents, from wiser, godly friends and mentors. Then you’ll have the knowledge to act prudently, show good judgment, and win favor in life.

Numbers 16, Isaiah 40, Acts 15

Read Numbers 16, Isaiah 40, and Acts 15 today. This devotional is about Isaiah 40.

The last verse in today’s reading from Isaiah, 40:31, is one of the best-known passages in the book of Isaiah for many people. It is a verse that gives encouragement to hope in the Lord when we are weak. Not surprisingly, then, many believers find it uplifting to read and recite when they are discouraged. That is an excellent use of the verse; even more so when you read the whole chapter.

  • The passage opens by offering comfort for God’s people who have suffered in judgment for their sins under foreign oppression (vv. 1-2).
  • Verses 3-11 tie this comfort to the coming of the Messiah:
    • Verses 3-4 were applied to John the Baptist as the forerunner of Christ
    • Verses 5-11 mostly describe the promises that Christ will fulfill when he establishes his earthly kingdom.
  • Verses 12-26 describe why the Lord will be able to bring such comfort to his people and fulfill these promises. He can do it because he is infinite. God eclipses everything we think is large on earth or the rest of the universe (v. 12).  God can also comfort his people because of his complete knowledge and wisdom (his omniscience, vv. 13-14). In the shadow of God’s infinity power, infinite wisdom,a dn infinite knowledge, other nations which seem so strong and imposing to us are insignificant (vv. 15-17).

What about other gods, though? Please; they are not worth mentioning in the same breath with the true God. Those idols were created by human beings who foolishly bow down and worship them (vv. 18-20).

But those who worship false gods should not act like they’ve never heard of him. God is everywhere—sitting “enthroned above the circle of the earth” (v. 22) and taking down powerful human rulers at will (v. 23).

There is no god like the true God. Nothing escapes his notice (v. 27) or is beyond his capabilities (v. 28). Faith in him, then, calls us to look to him for strength.

Are you trying to handle everything in your life on your own? No matter how capable you are, you can’t carry the weight of the world.

But God can and he calls to you to come to him and look to him for strength to live each day out for his glory (v. 31).

Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, Proverbs 9

Read Leviticus 1, Song of Songs 5, and Proverbs 9. This devotional is about Proverbs 9.

This chapter in Proverbs continues comparing wisdom to a woman and folly is also compared to a woman. You remember from high school, right, that this is a literary device called “personification.” Solomon has already “personified” wisdom as a woman; now folly is also personified as a woman. I will refer to them as “Wendy Wisdom” and “Polly Folly.”

Both of these women call out to people “from the highest point of the city” (v. 3b, 14b). This means that their invitations are broadcast and can be heard from far away.

They both invite people to come in to their homes and eat. Wendy Wisdom offers her own nourishment (vv. 4-5). It is the nourishment of a godly life (v. 10) which results in a disciplined life. Like healthy food, it isn’t always the most tasty, but it is healthy and will extend your life (vv. 6, 11).

By contrast, Polly Folly offers “stolen water… and food eaten in secret” (v. 17). This is a reference to sin. It is immediately enjoyable, even addictive, but like all addictions, it will kill you (v. 18).

In between the contrasts offered by these two women, Solomon talked about correction. There are two kinds of people: those who reject correction (vv. 7a, 8a) and those who accept correction (v. 8b). Those who reject correction will turn and attack the person who tries to give it to them. If you’ve ever tried to show someone a problem in their life and they turn and accuse you of being unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental or the bad guy, this is the kind of person you’re dealing with. Of course, there are people who are unloving, unkind, critical, judgmental, and bad guys. The difference is in the motivation and delivery of the person bringing correction. A loving person cares about you; they want to see you avoid sin or help you get unstuck from a sinful situation, habit, or temptation. They speak up because they want to help you not to hurt you. Those who are unloving, unkind, critical, etc. just want to hurt you. It is the difference between a surgeon who cuts you open with a scalpel and a solder who cuts you open with a sword. Both of them are cutting–which wounds you–but they have very different motivations and

The person who accepts correction is wise (v. 8b) and is on a pathway to greater wisdom (v. 9). On one level he may love the sin you are correcting him for, but as a believer, he will recognize his sin is wrong and that it will bring pain and destruction if he persists in it. So your correction will help him grow and he “will love you” as a result (v. 8b). All of this points again to the importance of humility. The reason that people resist correction is pride but those who are too proud to accept correction will eventually pay a much more painful price than wounded pride. If you want to be wise, you have to start by being humble. Humility calls us to fear the Lord (v. 10) which “is the beginning of wisdom” but we progress down that path by humbly accepting the truth. That truth may come from the correction of God’s word or the correction of another person but if it is true, we should receive it even though it hurts.

Did you receive any correction this week–any criticism from your boss or a complaint about your actions or character? Criticism delivered lovingly is easier to take, but even our harshest critic can still help us onward toward wisdom if we have the humility to accept the criticism and change accordingly.

Exodus 34, Ecclesiastes 10, Proverbs 8:22-36

Read Exodus 34, Ecclesiastes 10, and Proverbs 8:22-36. This devotional is about Proverbs 8:22-36.

In our culture, calling someone “old” is usually intended to insult or dismiss them. “Who cares if he tells you to get off his lawn? He’s just a cranky old man,” is one example of what I mean. Youth and beauty are prized in our times so old men and old women are coldly disregarded as being unimportant.

Sadly, this is especially true for women. Because a woman is judged by her appearance more than her character, intellect, personality, accomplishments, or the total of these and other traits, the older a woman gets, the more invisible she becomes to some people.

Here in Proverbs 8:22-36, wisdom speaks as if she is a woman. Instead of hiding her age, the key fact that she stresses about herself is that she’s really old. Verse 23as says, “I was formed long ages ago….” She was the first thing God created (v. 22) so she is older than any material thing that exists. With great eloquence, reverence, and no negative judgment at all, Solomon painted a picture of how old wisdom is. Like gravity or the laws of physics or matter, wisdom is a foundational idea, an ancient principle that makes everything else possible. It is true that we humans have only recently discovered things like the laws of physics, but though the ideas are new to us, the principles are ancient because they are foundational.

So it is with wisdom except that wisdom isn’t prized as a great discovery, it is despised as being old and out of date. That’s how our culture treats true wisdom–God’s wisdom–because people in our culture want to lead an immoral life and wisdom directs you to fear God and lead a moral life according to his commands. At the end of our passage today, however, verses 35-36 promise great benefits for wisdom and penalties for folly–wisdom’s opposite.

Wisdom is old but it is not obsolete; it is foundational to a successful life. Remember that wisdom begins with fearing God, so building your life on a foundation of wisdom starts with welcoming God’s revelation and living obediently to what it says. As sinners we can’t do this naturally but the saving grace of Christ enables us to learn how to obey.

Are you resisting some command of God? Are you questioning some principle of his word or some tenet of the Christian faith? Do you wonder if the Bible isn’t obsolete because it is so old? Wisdom brags about being old because it is a foundational principle to all of life. So seek wisdom in  your life by learning God’s word and–most importantly–obeying what you learn in God’s word. Wisdom won’t let you down, so build your life on it. It is a dependable foundation, the only one worth founding your life on.

Exodus 28, Ecclesiastes 4, Psalms 33-35

Today read Exodus 28, Ecclesiastes 4, and Psalms 33-35. This devotional is about Ecclesiastes 4.

This chapter of scripture is not encouraging.

That is an understatement.

This chapter of scripture is bleak. It states in verse 1 that powerful people in this world used their power to oppress the weak and vulnerable. These victims “have no comforter.” Their lives are a miserable stretch of existence. From birth to grave, each day and night, they do what more powerful people want them to do and live in fear. What kind of fear?

  • fear of displeasing those powerful people
  • fear of more invasive abuse from the powerful
  • fear of starving, unable to provide a living for themselves because their abusers take so much from them

Although Solomon did not tell us how many were oppressed and how many were oppressors, the chapter may suggest that the vast majority were oppressed by a small minority. The way the chapter suggests this is in the words of verses 2-3. Those verses rank the happiest people from least happiest to most happy. The categories of people Solomon discussed were broad–the dead, the living, and the unborn. Those three broad groups include a whole lot of people. So who is the happiest?

  • The living are the least happy because they are oppressed (v. 1, 2c-d).
  • The dead are the next most happy because they are no longer oppressed (v. 2 a-b).
  • But the happiest people of all are people who never lived at all (v. 3). Why? Because they have “not seen the evil that is done under the sun.”

Bleak, right? You’re better off dead but best off if you never made it out of the womb alive in the first place because then no one could use and abuse you.

Of course, not everyone is enslaved by others. Some people go out and achieve, making all their dreams come true. They must be happy, right?

No, Solomon argued, because “all toil and all achievement spring from one person’s envy of another” (v. 4). Envy is a desire to have what someone else has. That can make you work hard but you won’t enjoy it because your envy will move on to someone higher on the achievement ladder. If you could just enjoy the living you make, modest though it is (v. 6a), you’d be better off than a wealthier person who is does nothing but work, driven by envy.

Even a person who had no wife, no siblings, and no children isn’t happy (v. 8). Solomon thought that a single, solitary man should be happy because he only has to provide for himself. He can work hard enough to get what he wants and then spend it all on himself with no guilt. A single man who makes $30,000 per year can buy more pleasure than a man who makes $90,000 but supports a wife, five kids, a dog, and a deadbeat brother.

Seems logical; but it doesn’t work out that way. The single guy with no dependents still works really hard. “There was no end to his toil” (v. 8c) says but “his eyes were not content with his wealth” (v. 8d). He, too, was sucked into envy, unable to enjoy his life because he needed to prove to someone that he matters.

I told you this was bleak.

But all is not lost. The solution to this partnership. Verses 9-12 commends a partnership of two (v. 9) or even three (v. 12c). Partners who work together instead of envying one another can:

  • produce more as a unit and they could on their own (v. 9b)
  • give each other some time off when they are injured or sick or just tired (v. 10)
  • keep each other company (v. 11)
  • protect each other (v. 12).

So the man who makes $90k and has to split it up with others is happier than the single guy who makes $30k and can do whatever he wants with it. In fact, if the single guy made $90k or even $900k, the man with partners is happier because of the benefits that partners bring.

When God created Adam, he made the most capable man who ever lived–apart from Jesus Christ, of course. Adam, while he was still an unfallen person, had a greater mind and better body than any of us because he wasn’t afflicted by the curse of sin.

Yet God said it wasn’t good for him to be alone. He gave him a partner–even knowing that his partner’s (aka, Eve’s) weakness would lead him into sin. Having a life partner in your spouse or a business partner in your vocation can help you escape the hopeless life that the oppressed live. Even if you are oppressed, at least you have someone to keep you warm at night (v. 11).

Solomon was a powerful man who oppressed others. He taxed the nation so thoroughly for his own projects, pleasures, and luxuries that the people begged his son to lay off and then they revolted against him when he wouldn’t.

But Solomon seems to have been a lonely man, despite his wealth and power over others. If you have 1000 women in your life, can any one of them truly be your partner?

People can be the source of your greatest problems in life. They can make promises that they fail to keep or even intentionally break. They can see you as a rival when they should see you as an ally. If you have enough people-problems, you may be tempted to decide that isolation is better.

This chapter advises us to partner up. Share life generously with your partner–your spouse, your children, your business partner(s), your teammates. The benefits of companionship will outweigh the “freedom” that being alone promises. God created us to be teammates and the life he gave us is best enjoyed when it is shared.

If you have a partnership–a marriage and family, a business partnership, a ministry partnership, etc.–are you a good partner? Are you thankful for the benefits that partnership brings you or do you selfishly wish you had all the control and all the benefits to yourself?

If your partnership is broken, the answer isn’t to go off on your own; it is to become and build a true partnership rather than a rivalry based on envy.

Exodus 10, Job 28, James 1

Today read Exodus 10, Job 28, James 1. This devotional is about Job 28.

Despite how difficult and dangerous it is, men will mine silver, gold, iron, and precious gems out of the earth because these things have immense value. The value of owning and selling these natural resources far outweigh the expense and trouble it takes to extract them from the earth.

But what about wisdom? It is more valuable than anything, so “where can wisdom be found?” (v. 12a). You can’t mine it from the earth (vv. 13-19) and it is invisible to anyone but God (vv. 20-27). Fortunately, God has revealed it to humanity. Verse 28 says, “And he said to the human race, ‘The fear of the Lord—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’”

We live in a society that is increasingly secular and becoming hostile to our faith. Those who denounce Christianity will try to tell you how the increase in human knowledge makes faith unnecessary and, in fact, shows how useless faith truly is. It is true that we enjoy many human inventions and innovations and most of those were not discovered or created by Christians. Yet, we also see in our society that, despite how educated and confident we are about our learning and scientific discoveries, people are becoming more and more foolish.

  • They believe that gender is not biological, that sexual promiscuity of all kinds is acceptable and harmless to a person and society.
  • They believe that free speech is oppressive and that human governments have the answers to all human problems–if we only gave them more power and money.
    Meanwhile, people are prosperous and unhappy; they have access to healthy food and excellent health care but live in despair. They form families, then tear them apart through divorce. Then they wonder why their kids are closed off emotionally and turn to destructive behaviors like drunkenness and substance abuse.

These are the consequences of not fearing the Lord. God will let you make sinful choices and live your own way. You may become very well educated, too, but you will lose all access to wisdom if you don’t fear the Lord. The poor choices people make morally and the pain they experience are symptoms of the folly of rejecting God and his word.

You and I know better to some extent if we know the Lord. But we can still be deceived by the ways of this world. This passage calls us to stop and reflect. Are we living in the fear of God and growing in wisdom? Or does the wisdom of this world seem to make better sense to us because we’ve departed from the Lord’s ways?

Wisdom is the most valuable resource humanity can have. And, it isn’t rare or hard to find like gold, silver, and iron. The Bible says wisdom calls out in the streets and beckons to the foolish. The rarity of wisdom isn’t that it is hard to mine; it is rare because it can only be found in God. To find wisdom, we must humble ourselves in repentance and faith and trust that God’s ways are higher than ours. We must learn to obey his word even when the world seems to have a better explanation. When we fear God and keep his commands, then we find wisdom. There is no other way to get it.