Thursday, July 14, 2016

"Evil is never wisdom ... but righteousness is its own reward!"

Day #197

Scripture Reading:  Proverbs 29 - 30 ...

Isn't it sad that so many people think it is "wise" to get away with something, to get by with injustice, to put yourself first and to do wrong to someone else before they do wrong to you?!  But God says, "When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan" (29:2).  People may not even recognize that this is true, but it is.  God blesses the people who have a righteous ruler, but the wicked bring God's judgment on a nation.  The evidence is all around us.  "By justice a king gives a country stability, but one who is greedy for bribes tears it down" (29:4).  We have been told that a person's faith, or lack thereof, should not be a consideration when voting, but that's not what God says!  "If a ruler lies, all his officials become wicked" (29:12).  How often have we seen the truth of that proverb?!  God knows the nature of man and tells us what we should look for.  We would do well to listen and to examine not only the policies, but the heart of those who would rule over us.

A former president liked to quote Proverbs 29:18, but he actually misquoted it.  He declared, "Where there is no vision, the people perish."  Of course, he claimed to have a vision and laid out his idea of the direction our nation should go.  What God actually says here and in other places is, "Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law."  People who do not accept the Bible as the revelation of God's wisdom and glory do not listen to or obey His commands.  They are like the people in the days of the Judges in Israel, "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit" (Judges 21:25).  They did what was right in their own eyes, and because their hearts were evil, they turned away from God and disobeyed His commands.  God's judgment followed.

Lack of self-control is the plague of the sinful nature that affects every person who has ever been born, except Jesus Himself.  That's why "the rod of correction imparts wisdom, but a child left to himself disgraces his mother" (29:15).  Wisdom and self-control go together.  "Mockers stir up a city, but wise men turn away anger" (29:8).  "A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control" (29:11).  "An angry man stirs up dissension, and a hot-tempered one commits many sins" (29:22).  When the Spirit of God is within you and your mind is on serving the Lord, the Spirit produces self-control.  Those who constantly lose control and who express their anger continually do not have the wisdom of the Lord, but are under the control of the sinful nature.  They are in bondage to sin!  Those who are in Christ have died to sin and it is no longer their master.  There is freedom in Jesus!!

The wicked continually try to control and oppress other people, but God says we should not fear those who come against us and who scorn righteousness.  "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe" (29:25).  God is with those who trust in Him and while "many seek an audience with a ruler, it is from the LORD that man gets justice" (29:26).  It may not always look like it, but in the end, God will uphold the cause of the righteous and WE who are righteous in Christ by faith will inherit the earth.  Praise God for His marvelous grace!!

Proverbs 30 was apparently not written by Solomon, but was included in his Proverbs.  Written by a man named, Agur, or at least dictated by him, these sayings begin with an interesting list of questions.  He claims, "I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One" (30:3).  Then come his questions, beginning with, "Who ... ?"  Then he asks, "What is His name, and the name of His son?  Tell me if you know!" (30:4).  He desires the knowledge of God ... AND His SON!!!  I find that amazing; that this man who claims to have no wisdom receives this desire for knowledge and in his questions points to Jesus!!  

And speaking of wisdom, the truth revealed in verses 8-10 is priceless:  " ... give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, 'Who is the LORD?'  Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God."  This is surely wisdom from God for all who trust in Him!

The rest of the sayings in Chapter 30 point to things that so many people stumble over ... or are confused about.  In verses 24-28, he speaks of the wisdom in the creatures God has made, as if to say some of them are wiser than mankind, to whom God gave dominion over His creation.  Sin is like that - it causes mankind to be foolish, for without the wisdom of God, we are no different than the animals.  Yes, "if you have played the fool and exalted yourself ... or if you have planned evil ... clap your hand over your mouth!" (30:32).  You may THINK you are wise, but you would be wiser to be quiet.  As an old saying goes, "Better to shut your mouth and be thought a fool, than to open it and remove all doubt!"

There is never any wisdom in doing evil.  It is not only displeasing to the Lord, but in the end will result in His judgment.  Meanwhile, righteousness is its own reward.  People who know God and who have received his forgiveness in Christ understand the power of sin, but have experienced the life-giving power of the Holy Spirit, who gives to us the desire to pursue righteousness as we thank God for Jesus!  Jesus said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you as well" (Matthew 6:33).  THAT's wisdom, and it is God's gift to those who hear His Word, who turn from evil to righteousness, and who trust in His Son, Jesus Christ for forgiveness and life.  Pursuing righteousness brings peace and joy to God’s children!

"My heavenly Father, I thank You for the gift of Your Spirit, through whom I have gained the wisdom to know You and Your Son Jesus Christ, my Savior and my Lord.  I thank You for freeing me from the bondage of the old nature and for working in me to make me more like Jesus.  I confess that I have not yet reached the goal of perfection that You have in store for me, but I press on toward that goal, with the help of Your Spirit and the wisdom found in the truth of Your Word.  May I not give in to evil, but overcome evil with good.  In Jesus' name, Amen" 

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