January 17

“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 deep darkness; they do not know over what they stumble.” (Proverbs 4:18-19)

Solomon gives us an analogy of the luminosity and brilliance of God’s light. Like the sun as it rises in the sky after dawn, the light of truth grows increasingly intense until it reaches its “full day.” Believers are sanctified to reflect God’s character. Our lives, values, priorities, and morals become more and more righteous, living for and with Christ. By contrast, those who reject God, actively opposing Him are considered wicked, walking a path of deep darkness.

You have experienced total blackness if you have ever visited an underground cavern. No matter how long you are there, it is impossible to see your hand in front of your face. It is an eerie experience. Without a light source, it is impossible to see the uneven ground, over which we would all fall. An electric or flame-generated light might seem adequate, but produces only a fraction of the light or warmth of the sun. Even a fire of wood or coal can’t compare to the brilliance of the sun. Stumbling is guaranteed when we leave the path of righteousness, but the reason for it is hidden to those on this path.

Given the choice, why would believers, who have the light of Christ, ever choose to walk in darkness? It would be like living in a house with all the curtains drawn and the lights off. We wander into the darkness because we are still grappling with our sin nature, and sin loves the darkness. The only way to eliminate sin is to dispel the darkness with light, to open the curtains. As the light of gospel shines on the hidden recesses of our hearts, the issues causing us to stumble come into view. Jesus instructs us on what to do next: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

Trying to live a life saturated in the gospel with a besetting sin is a bit like living in hell, because if continually pulls us back into the darkness. What will you do about your sinful desires, habits, and temptations? Will you confess, repent, and get back on the path of righteousness with Christ?

January 16

“For the lips of a forbidden woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil, but in the end she is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps follow the path to Sheol; she does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it.” Proverbs 5:3-6

“Does not wisdom call out? On the heights beside the way…O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense. Hear, for I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right, for my mouth will utter truth; wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are righteous; there is nothing twisted or crooked in them. They are all straight to him who understands, and right to those who find knowledge.” (Proverbs 8:1-9)

The forbidden, adulterous, foolish woman whispers sweet nothings to her prey. She symbolizes all that is evil in the world, in our flesh, and especially Satan; her speech, claims to issue truth, but is actually all wickedness and godlessness. Her lips whisper and shout, schemes and traps are in everything that comes from them. Her goal is to ensnare us, hinder our walk with God, and tempt us to doubt Him.

 

By contrast, Lady wisdom speaks only the “real” truth; evil is poison to her lips. She is sincere, innocent, and dependable. She has built her house, set her table, and ready to serve. Folly, however, sits at her front door and calls for sinners to follow her to the lowest point, even to death, far from the “path of life.”

Every person must make a choice; no one is exempt. Either we follow the adulterous woman of sin, becoming a friend to the world, enslaved to our flesh, worshipping all that is opposed to God, or we follow Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). But lest we think this a one-time event, many choices and decisions call for our commitment to stay on the narrow road, exiting the wide highway of the world, to walk the path of life. The alternative is to wander off the path of wisdom in Christ, leading away from God.

Which way will you choose today, when you are out and about, or alone in your home?

January 15

“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom…Long life is in her right hand…She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her.” (Proverbs 3:13-18)

“He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” (Psalms 1:3)

Wisdom is the woman calling out to fools. Wisdom is the house, built by the Lord, with a meal of bread and wine, promising life to those who feast. Wisdom is also a tree of long, blessed life. In Genesis, in the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Life might represent the covenant promise of eternal life through grace, while the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil may represent the covenant of works—the Law—demanding obedience.1 In Proverbs, wisdom is compared to a tree of life, but it may not be the same tree as that in the garden. In Solomon’s time, a bountiful, productive tree represented the godly life, characterized by a close relationship with the Lord. Those who possess God’s wisdom are compared, in Psalm 1, to a tree drawing nutrients from a stream, as if drawing prudence and discretion from the stream of God’s wisdom, and bearing the fruit of wisdom.2

The stream provides the tree with nourishment for its leaves, that don’t wither. There were many days in Africa when I felt I might wither physically, or dry up and be crushed, like a leaf. But it never happened! I give God all the credit, praise, and glory for the endurance He worked in me. Not only does Christ impute His righteousness to us when we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit, but He also sustains us in all kinds of work, trials, and difficulties. Of course, if either you or I think we should be stronger and less fearful, ready to do anything at any time, we are trying to make ourselves into a tree that is root-less and unable to sustain the challenges of life. We can only more forward with God’s stream of strength and wisdom.

What makes us so timid, and sometimes fearful about stepping out in faith, into the unknown? Might it be from unbiblical, legalistic thinking—that “we can do it”—as if we can live by faith without the help of Christ? What might you be avoiding as a result of trying to live independently of God, in spite of knowing that this is utterly impossible for a spiritually blessed life?

  1. Beeke, Joel R. and Jones, Mark, “A Puritan Theology,” Reformation Heritage Books, Grand Rapids, MI, 2012, pp. 223-224.
  2. Sproul, R. C., General Editor, “The Reformation Study Bible,” Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Florida, 2015

January 14

“Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors.” (Proverbs 8:34)

“Wisdom has built her house; she has hewn her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine; she has also set her table. She has sent out her young women to call from the highest places in the town, ‘Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!’ To him who lacks sense she says, ‘Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave your simple ways, and live, and walk in the way of insight.’” (Proverbs 9:1-6)

In Proverbs, divine wisdom is pictured as a woman calling to those who are walking by, and here it is also described as a house. Wisdom has prepared a meal, set the table, and sent out “her women” to invite guests. What will we do? We will eat bread and drink wine that wisdom herself has mixed, to learn to “walk in the way of insight.”

Solomon, being the presumed writer of Proverbs 8-9 also wrote in Psalm 127, “Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (v. 1) Who builds the house for wisdom, where righteous discernment and judgment live? It would appear that we do, on the foundation of Scriptural truth. “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.” (Proverbs 24:3)

Luke provides a New Testament directive for us that we often take for granted, but if we read Luke 7:47-49 carefully, we are reminded that our “house of wisdom” is built on Jesus’s words. “Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.”

Will you go to God’s house this Lord’s day, a house that is built on the gospel of Jesus Christ, celebrating Him with His family? Is the table set with bread and wine for communion? Will you partake of it?

January 13

“Does not wisdom call? Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud: ‘To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man.” (Proverbs 8:1-4)

Proverbs gives us a picture of godly wisdom in anthropomorphic language. Wisdom raises her voice, takes her stand at crossroads, cries aloud to men, speaking noble things—only what is right (1:20; 8:2, 3, 6). She proclaims truth and righteousness (8:7).  She offers instruction better than silver, knowledge better than gold, and wisdom that is better than jewels (8:7, 20; 3:14). She was possessed by God in the beginning of his work, at the beginning of the earth, in the deep, before creation, and was beside God, his delight daily, always rejoicing, rejoicing in men.” (8:22-24)

In Proverbs 8 “Wisdom is personified as a great lady, which helps illustrate the central message of Proverbs: the origin, existence, and purpose of true wisdom are properly framed in relationship with the covenant Lord, who is also the Maker of heaven and earth. As a result, the realm of wisdom encompasses every aspect of life in every corner of creation.” 1 We are not to take this personification of wisdom as a picture of God, since God always describes Himself with male terminology. In addition, wisdom is described as being “beside him, like a master workman…daily his delight” (8:30). Wisdom was possessed by God, being the first work of God (8:22). “She” was brought forth before there were springs or mountains, or fields (8:22-26). Proverbs 8 continues,

“When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (8:27-31).

 This characterization of wisdom reminds us that Jesus, the Word made flesh, “was in the beginning with God.” Do you seek Jesus, the giver of wisdom, the “who” of wisdom, or only what he can do for you to make your life easier? Do you seek help only to make your life more effective? Or are you seeking the deep truths of God in the Bible, to transform your heart, and your life?

  1. ESV Study Bible, Introduction to Proverbs, The ESV Study Bible, 2008, Crossway Bibles

 

January 12

“Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool, but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.” (Proverbs 10:23)

Although God created everything to be good, God’s magnificent creation is corrupted by sin as a consequence of the fall. Everything on this earth is temporal, fleeting, and without eternal value. Satan is the ruler of this world, and he opposes God at every turn. (See 1 Chron. 21:1; Mark 4:15; 2 Thess. 2:8-12; Rev. 12:9.) True, biblical wisdom cannot be found in the world. The world will contrive to imitate wisdom by manipulation, scheming, intrigue, mystery, and strategy. Only by knowing biblical, godly wisdom can we identify false “wisdom” in others and ourselves.

God has always been counter-cultural theologically and practically. Personal knowledge of God and obedience to His instructions are the basis for practical wisdom. It is not enough to know God’s identity or His attributes. Knowledge of God that leads to wisdom is intimate, personal, friendly, confessional, and sanctifying. This unique, particular knowledge of God comes only through faith in Christ and regeneration by the Holy Spirit.

In what ways are you counter-cultural, refusing to conform for the approval of men? Can you list the habits, traditions, or choices you and your family makes to replace the temporary foolishness of your society with God’s eternal presence and blessings? In what areas do you yield to worldly values, because of the pressure to “fit in?”

January 11

Keep hold of instruction; do not let go; guard her, for she is your life.” (Proverbs 4:13) “Take my instruction instead of silver, and knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is better than jewels, and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.” (Proverbs 8:10-11)

 The Enlightenment Period of history exalted scientific and intellectual knowledge to the extent that it was and is worshipped. Great awards are given in the name of scientific achievements such as the Nobel Prize, the Copley Medal, and the Kyoto Prize, to name a few. These achievements are based on new information and understanding that have led to great discoveries. New podcasts keep popping up that focus on information you never had before; if you do an internet search you may find “13 podcasts that will expand your brain.” Having listened to a few, I have found that the producers strive to make the material understandable to the listener, because knowledge without understanding, for the sake of knowledge alone, is not very useful (unless you are trying to win a trivia contest). Knowledge and understanding are only the stepping stones to wisdom, which is practical knowledge and understanding applied to life and the issues of life.

What is the world’s definition of wisdom? An article in a popular Christian magazine defined wisdom as that which “involves an integration of knowledge, experience, and deep understanding that incorporates tolerance for the uncertainties of life as well as its ups and downs. There’s an awareness of how things play out over time, and it confers a sense of balance. It can be acquired only through experience, but by itself, experience does not automatically confer wisdom.” The last sentence helps us to see the limitations of human wisdom, at least in this definition, since experience is necessary, but will not guarantee wisdom.  Biblical wisdom is not based on experience, but is founded on the truth that God gives us, available in Scripture. Proverbs 2:6 declares, “for the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come knowledge and understanding…”

When you instruct your teens, or offer godly counsel to others, which do you find yourself saying, “In my experience…” or “In the Bible…”? Do you base your decisions and choices on yours or others’ experience, or on wisdom that comes from prayer and walking with God?