Thursday, July 30, 2009

Proverbs 20: 20-30

20He who curses his father or his mother,
His lamp will go out in time of darkness.
21An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning
Will not be blessed in the end.
22Do not say, "I will repay evil";
Wait for the LORD, and He will save you.
23Differing weights are an abomination to the LORD,
And a false scale is not good.
24Man's steps are ordained by the LORD,
How then can man understand his way?
25It is a trap for a man to say rashly, "It is holy!"
And after the vows to make inquiry.
26A wise king winnows the wicked,
And drives the threshing wheel over them.
27The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD,
Searching all the innermost parts of his being.
28Loyalty and truth preserve the king,
And he upholds his throne by righteousness.
29The glory of young men is their strength,
And the honor of old men is their gray hair.
30Stripes that wound scour away evil,
And strokes reach the innermost parts.

Today's Thought Question:
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

Verse 25: "It is a trap for a man to say rashly, 'It is holy!' and after the vows to make inquiry."

It's easy to blow off this verse. I mean, who says, "It is holy!" about anything any more? (sigh!)

OK, let's break it down....

"It is a trap"--that catches my attention every time. No one likes to be trapped. We don't like to be teased, made fools of or ensnared. What causes us to take a step into a trap? Speaking rashly--which is bad anyway--and specifically, speaking the words, "It is holy!"

Solomon has enlightened us through many a chapter about rash speaking. "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise." (10:19) We get so wrapped up in our own thoughts and ideas that we can't stop ourselves from saying everything, whether it should be said or not. The Hebrew explains it as "to blurt or utter inconsiderately; devour" [Strong's]. Time is devoured, one's spirit--upon hearing ill-considered words--is devoured. Our hearts are devoured by the evil of our speech. Talk about stepping into a trap; one we've set for ourselves, no less!

As to proclaiming something holy, it refers to making a vow or a promise to God. Offering something to Him! O, woe!! Who offers something to God without really thinking about it?

"When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay."

--Ecclesiastes 5: 4 & 5
We know that God does not need anything from us. We are not living in the times of the tent of meeting or the temple, and bringing our sacrifices. Still, are there not times, perhaps in prayer, when a vow has been lifted up? A vow of service, perhaps? What about offering up "a sacrifice of thanksgiving" (Psalm 50:14)? Are there times when we promise God that we'll do something? Have we ever uttered promises--rashly--that we would do something for God in exchange for His working something in us?

This verse, and the Bible in general, tells us that not fulfilling a vow made to God comes with consequences. "He takes no delight in fools" becomes branded on our hearts. Wisely, Solomon adds that we can avoid this trap by not making vows in the first place. Truly, God does not require them!

As if making the vow in the first place isn't trying enough, that we "make inquiry" over it surely brings Him grief. We blurt first and then use wisdom as an afterthought. Maybe we can fulfill the vow, but, maybe we can't. And if we can't, knowing the consequences, we might start to think about how to elude the fulfillment process. Backpedaling, stalling, begging, pleading, conniving, and resorting to other tactics of evasion only dig us deeper into the trap.

"The evasions men often use with their own consciences show how false and deceitful man is."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Do not leave this post thinking that one cannot successfully make a vow unto the Lord. Solomon encourages us to make such a choice through wisdom, not through "rash-ionalization." Look at Hannah, who wanted a child so much that she endured years of painful responses from those around her, even as she stayed constantly prayerful.

"She made a vow and said, "O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head."
--I Samuel 1:11 (emphasis mine)

And when Samuel was born, he was given over to the Lord's work, just as Hannah had promised. Closing with a lesson review from Proverbs 5:

My son, give attention to my wisdom,
Incline your ear to my understanding;
That you may observe discretion
And your lips may reserve knowledge.
--Proverbs 5: 1 & 2


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Tomorrow's Scripture Focus and Thought Question:

Proverbs 21: 1-9
  1. What proverb in today's passage spoke to you and why?

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Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation, specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB). I will quote other sources if used in a post.
I also use Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (with notes from the King James Version).


Carmen said...

This was so good! These verses also made me think about being quick to support or dismiss something as from God (it is holy).

I've heard it said that when things fall into place quickly, it must be of God. Well...not necessarily. I've also heard it said that if something takes too much effort, it's either not of God, or the devil is trying so hard to keep you from it that it must be of God.

Which brings me to the other verse that stood out to me today, "Man's steps are ordained by the Lord, How then can man understand his way?" Along with that verse, also Proverbs 16:33. So I guess we keep in touch with God and allow Him to direct us...and on the way...try not to analyze every little thing but trust that He turns all things to good to them that love God and are called according to His purpose.

Great post today!

Carmen said...

PS: I have limited internet access at the moment but check in when I can...

Sue J. said...

Been missing you here, Carmen, but I totally understand about Internet access issues!!

Hard for us not to analyze, isn't it? If I could just explain why God did this, in this timeframe, with these parameters, with these side effects, etc., etc. And it's all stuff we can't fathom and shouldn't be dwelling on because WE CAN'T CONTROL IT ANYWAY!

Yes, I enjoyed verse 24. I'm glad Solomon has included so many passages of the like, as I need a few reminders of this!

Chatty Kelly said...

Sonya read v. 23 to me at She Speaks last year as we sat in the room, and then it came up again during the actual She Speaks program. I don't remember why...but now I'm wondering if I should ask Sonya about it, as here it is again right before I go to another conference. It's about cheating others. I haven't cheated anyone (!) but I wonder if I should be on the lookout. The timing is interesting!

Sue J. said...

I'm not sure this is only about cheating others (like cheating them out of money; I see The Message uses "cheating in the marketplace."). It may also refer to giving preference (weighting some characteristics over others), which could be cheating others out of opportunity.

When I posted on 11:1, I talked about showing Christians more preference than non-Christians, just because they're Christians. We may have something else in our lives that is out of balance--giving weight to things not of the Lord's will, perhaps.

I'm not sure what this means for you. But, as Carmen just said here, we need to be careful not to analyze things too much. Ask God if this is something you need to be concerned about, or is Satan messing with your head?