Monthly Archives: February 2020

Proverbs 31 thoughts

Here’s a thought I’ve been having.

The first 9 chapters of Proverbs are a sermon (all connected) about the value of gaining wisdom. If you have wisdom, you are blessed of God and are delivered from the snares and traps of foolishness (wickedness of every kind). I preached on that theme here.

Because of the curse on the world, our default state is wickedness. We are ensnared by sin of every kind, our nature is attracted to its allure – the allure to be as God knowing good and evil. This results in the works of death – rage, reviling, fornication, adultery, covetousness of every kind, and so on…Until we find ourselves caught and unable to get free. “Not knowing that it is for our life”.

The concept of wisdom is personified as a wise woman calling from street to street – come to me and live.

The concept of folly is personified as the harlot, also seeking to ensnare and enslave humankind.

It isn’t about men versus women; it is about wisdom versus folly. Which one will you hear? Where will you turn in? Whose call will you answer?

If one has wisdom, one is protected from the woman “folly”.

(Proverbs 7:4-5) 4 Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” And call understanding your nearest kin,

5 That they may keep you from the immoral woman, From the seductress who flatters with her words.

This has far deeper application that simply keeping one from the allure of fornication.

As you read through these nine chapters, you see that Lady Wisdom actually delivers you from Lady Folly. One is the path of life and the other is the path of death.

Get wisdom.

And the wisdom of God was made flesh and dwelt among us. The wisdom of God is a person, our Lord Jesus, who call us to himself, fills us with his spirit so that the fruit of the spirit may be seen in us.

This is what Proverbs is about. Get wisdom, and your life will look different than if you remain in folly. One path ends in death and ruin. The other in life and prosperity.

So, all of that to say this: How does Proverbs end?

10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.

(Pro 31:10-11)

Perhaps Proverbs 31 isn’t about Lori Alexander at all. Maybe it isn’t even talking about the ideal Victorian “Proverbs 31 woman”.

I think that the compiler of the proverbs ended the book with this poem on purpose and that it isn’t random. Since the book opens with that sermon on the value of gaining wisdom, personified as “Lady Wisdom”; the book ends the same way. “Get wisdom. Her price is above rubies.”

As a brilliant poem, a metaphor of wisdom, with depth and beauty, the whole book is summed up. “Do you wish to be wise and understanding? Get wisdom.”

The book begins here:

13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;
14 For her proceeds are better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her.
16 Length of days is in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness, And all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy are all who retain her.
(Pro 3:13-18)

And ends here:

10 Who can find a virtuous wife? For her worth is far above rubies.

11 The heart of her husband safely trusts her; So he will have no lack of gain.

(Pro 31:10-11)

So the application is here – Nabal married a wise woman, but it did him no good, for he was a fool. He never married “wisdom”.

In order for you to prosper and no longer be a fool, you must marry wisdom. Wisdom will guard you from the Woman “Folly”.

So marry wisdom. Her price is above rubies.

Or, in New Testament terms – “Come unto me, and I will give you rest”.

Again, it is about Christ.

The Proverbs 31 woman is Christ. And you – whether man or woman or child – are called to marry her. The advantages are incalculable.

Of course, when you marry Christ, you begin to look like Christ. So the hard-working, kind, loving, honored, blessed, prosperous “woman” becomes your model to follow – but this isn’t just for women, for it isn’t just women who are called to follow Christ. This is for all who profess his name.

Most of the time, we need to lift our eyes a little higher. The gospel sets us free.

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Filed under Gospel, Men and women, Wisdom

Modest Attire

…in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, (1Tim 2:9).

The subject keeps coming up. Previously, I wrote about the source of sin, and encouraged men to examine their own hearts (see here). Sin never comes from what another person is wearing. You cannot blame women for your lust, period. As Jesus said,

For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, 22 deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. (Mar 7:21)

But then the question arises, are women responsible for how they dress? Did not Paul command women to dress modestly?

One of the reasons that I am writing about this is that I truly hate the multiplication of laws. God gave us ten, and added no more. It is the spirit of the Pharisee that seeks to hedge the law about with the traditions of men and it always leads to bondage and further sin.

The scripture commands us to flee and hate all adultery and fornication and everything that entices towards that. I teach and preach that without hesitation. Where things bog down is when we start prescribing what sort of clothing or body parts lead to adultery…

And this is where it gets more complicated. First of all, a man is alone responsible for his own heart, as I have said.

But a woman is responsible for her own heart as well. If a woman is dressing for the specific reason of arousing lust she must answer for herself to God, just as a man must answer to God. But, to be fair, I have never known a woman to say to herself, “Hey, I bet if I wore a sleeveless dress the horny old preacher will get turned on. I should do that….”

Much of the motive attributed to women comes from the unquenchable pride of the heart of man, I believe. Men, do we really believe that teenage girls dress the way that they do in order to cause you to lust? Deal with your own heart, you adulterer!

“But what about 1 Timothy 2:9???”

Paul is addressing a pastor and teaching him how to instruct his congregation. Many converts of the early church were slaves and had no opinion or choice in what they wore at all. A slave generally wore a toga if the master was generous. Some slaves wore nothing at all, which is why Jesus spoke so often of clothing the naked.

The attire of a prostitute had nothing to do with how much skin was showing. In some places, a prostitute wore shoes that stamped “follow me” in the sand as they walked. The attire of a prostitute, then as now, was a sign advertising what was for sale.

It has nothing to do with Paul’s instructions to Timothy. We must be careful not to read OUR cultural battles into the text of scripture. We have to read the scripture in the context of the day.

Paul concern was NOT how much skin was showing. If that were the case, most slaves would have been shamed into staying home. They had nothing else to wear. Such, by the way, is the state of our witness to our culture. We must be careful not to shame people into staying home for want of “proper attire”.

Paul’s concern was something else entirely. In that day, status was everything. Where you were on the social ladder was a matter of great importance. When one achieved a status, it was mandatory in that culture to advertise your importance. The number of slaves you owned, how expensive your clothing was, how many jewels, how fancy the hair – all of it served to advertise your importance in the pecking order.

This whole way of thinking is a denial of the communion of the saints and the first principles of ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church). The doctrine of the church and the communion of the saints is here: In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, male or female, bond or free.

The apostle James warned of the same thing from a different perspective:

My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
  2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,
  3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,”
  4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
  5 Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
  6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?
  7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
  8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well;
  9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
  10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (Jam 2:1-10 NKJ)

When we fight for status and recognition, when we dress to highlight our own personal importance, when we seek to elevate ourselves above our neighbors, we have, in effect, denied the blood of Christ who bought us.

To be “immodest” in apparel, according to scripture, is to advertise our importance, wealth and social standing through our clothing, jewelry, hair, makeup, etc. THIS is what the apostles warned of.

3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward– arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel–
4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
(1Pet 3:3-4)

We are not given instructions on how much skin to cover, or what kinds of clothes are appropriate or inappropriate. That all is cultural. Sexual attraction is a complicated matter, and far more in depth that covered collarbones or shoulders or exposed knees. We are making fools of ourselves.

And yet, how often do we advertise our importance and wealth and standing through our clothes? Do we shame those who don’t own suits or Sunday best into staying home?

Do we shame those who are seeking refuge from the assaults of the world into fleeing from us because they don’t have the right clothes? This is Paul’s concern far more than how short a skirt is.

We should dress as beautifully as we can (appropriately and well-arranged), but with “shamefacedness” – an old fashioned word. It means, “Not so impressed with your own importance”.

This is the heart of what meekness is. And all Christians should be meek as Jesus was meek.

Remember, in that day, most people only had one garment.

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Filed under modesty

Sad

I am sad today.

Maybe it’s the fact that I didn’t sleep.

Maybe it’s the fact that I can’t speak what is on my mind. I know the fallout that will happen as soon as I post this. But I can’t be silent.

God gave us Ten Commandments. They define for mankind what is right and what is wrong. Moses said, “And he added no more”. He also wrote these commandments on the hearts of men and women whether they are God’s people or not. The conscience bears witness to that. When God’s people sinned, God sent prophets to them.

Isaiah begins his book like this:

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

2 Listen, O heavens, and hear, O earth; For the LORD speaks, “Sons I have reared and brought up, But they have revolted against Me. (Isa 1:1-2)

Here’s the rundown. Uzziah, not a bad king. He was on the right side politically.

Jotham was a good king. He was on the right side politically

Ahaz, wicked king. Liberal. Changed Judah’s worship. Made an alliance with Assyria and built an alternate altar on the temple grounds. Offered his children to Baal.

Hezekiah, a good king.

But when they sinned, Isaiah rebuked them in the name of the Lord, no matter who they were. Harshly. That is what he was called to do.

Today we only have one standard of right and wrong:

For half the country – if a Republican does it, it is right. If a Democrat does it, it is wrong. If I Republican says it, it is true. If a Democrat says it, it is a lie.

For the other half of the country, if a Democrat does it, it is right. If a Republican does it, it is wrong. If a Democrat says it, it is true. If a Republican says it, it is a lie.

And, as Bob Dylan famously put it, “we have God on our side”…no matter what party you are. You are right. They are wrong.

Ethics by political association. How did that happen?

Shouldn’t we, as God’s people, define right and wrong by what God has written in his word?

Please don’t comment. I don’t think I can stomach it.

I’m not concerned that corrupt people of both parties are in power. That is the way it has always been.

I am concerned that our lives and our ethics are driven by our politics. I am concerned that the “others” are ridiculed, mocked, insulted, and hated. We can’t even open a dialogue without starting an all-out war.

We are so terrified of the others we can’t even associate with them? Treat them as human beings? Listen to them?

I remember that I used to be like that. Then I realized that life is more complicated and people more complex than political sloganeering and slandering.

Then I realized that almost every single political statement on social media runs the risk of violating the 9th commandment in the eyes of God. Are we more afraid of the other party than the wrath of God?

Are we so sure that we our sources are so infallible and that our opinions so wise and holy that we can repeat the latest slogan and not be guilty of bearing false witness?

The only solid place to put our feet is the word of God, and political platforms are not that.

When was the last time someone in power voted their conscience rather than the way their party told them to? When was the last time you agreed with something that the other party did?

Do you really believe that the other half of the country has NO morals, no wisdom, no opinion worth hearing, nothing good whatsoever to offer, no scrap of humanity left?

Should we not, as the people of God, speak for what is right no matter what the political party is? And should we not speak out against the wrong, no matter what the political party is? Are we nothing more on this earth than yes-men to the rich and powerful?

Last night, I read “Night” by Elie Wiesel as a cheerier alternative than the current political spectacle.

Maybe this is why I am sad.

When we get to the point where half the country is, in our mind, idiots, brutes, fools, stupid, worthless, dangerous, enemies of the people, not really human, reprobate, scum, cockroaches –

When we get to that point, we are simply one tiny, tiny step away from watching the cattle cars hauling our neighbors away.

Comments are moderated. For the sake of my sanity, every comment for or against any political party will simply be deleted.

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Filed under ethics, politics