Are you listening?

The wise in heart accept commands, but a chattering fool comes to ruin. ~Proverbs 10:8 NIV

Listen CarefullyA story about a young boy in 1 Samuel 3 personifies the first half of this verse:

The boy Samuel ministered before the Lord under Eli. In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions. One night Eli, whose eyes were becoming so weak that he could barely see, was lying down in his usual place. The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the house of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel. Samuel answered, “Here I am.” And he ran to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” But Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” So he went and lay down. Again the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” “My son,” Eli said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord: The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. A third time the Lord called, “Samuel!” And Samuel got up and went to Eli and said, “Here I am; you called me.” Then Eli realized that the Lord was calling the boy. So Eli told Samuel, “Go and lie down, and if he calls you, say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place. The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

Note first that Samuel answers the Lord the very first time he is called. But he isn’t sure who is calling him. Samuel runs to Eli, the priest who was mentoring the boy. After this happens three times, Eli deduces that it is God who is calling Samuel. Being a man of wisdom himself, Eli instructs Samuel to respond with “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

As Samuel hears God call him once more, he responds exactly as Eli told him to reply. So Samuel can be commended for listening — both to God and to his human authority. Even better, Samuel obeyed Eli’s instructions. And he was rewarded with a stunning personal encounter with the living God, Creator of the universe.

The second half of Proverbs 10:8 is supported by the truth of Ecclesiastes 5:1-2:

Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.

Who is the “chattering fool?” The one who is quick with his mouth and hasty in heart. The person who speaks repeatedly without thinking is sure to come to ruin. James 1:19 is also a strong reminder of this principle: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak…”

Are you listening? Or are you too busy verbalizing your own thoughts and opinions to really hear when God speaks?

Offering advice?

He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself, And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you, Reprove a wise man and he will love you. Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning. ~Proverbs 9:7-9 NASB

counseling 2Have you ever tried to correct an arrogant or wicked person? Chances are your advice was rejected on the spot, according to these verses — perhaps even accompanied by a few choice words indicating a low opinion of your comments.

This passage teaches the foolishness of interacting with a “scoffer,” defined as one who jeers or mocks or treats something with contempt, or calls out in derision. A person with this kind of attitude isn’t interested in anyone’s advice.

Jesus offered a relevant comment in Matthew 7:6, saying, “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” Offering precious Biblical advice to a wicked person can bring you dishonor and insults.

By contrast, the scriptures teach here that giving guidance to a wise person will make them even wiser. Who are the wise and the righteous? They are people who have acquired godly wisdom by studying the scriptures. They are characterized by uprightness, integrity or morality. According to this passage, offering insights to such a person will only help them become more learned.

In Jude 1:17-19, there is an accurate description of present-day scoffers:

But, dear friends, remember what the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ foretold. They said to you, “In the last times there will be scoffers who will follow their own ungodly desires.” These are the people who divide you, who follow mere natural instincts and do not have the Spirit.

As you begin to offer correction or advice, remember to pray for the Holy Spirit’s discernment: Is this person a scoffer, or one who possesses Biblical wisdom? If you are confident they are not the kind of person who will cause you dishonor, hurl insults at you, or bring division to the body of Christ, offer your counsel. If not, it may be better just to keep your thoughts to yourself.

Wait and watch

“Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.” ~Proverbs 8:34-36 NASB

Wisdom StoneWisdom herself speaks in these verses, as she does throughout this chapter. These three verses offer several key insights:

Listening to wisdom brings blessing. Because wisdom is contained in the living, active word of God, this means you will receive blessings as you read and meditate on scripture.

Watching daily at wisdom’s gates and waiting by the doorposts both speak to expectation and eagerness. Do you come to the scriptures expecting to see Jesus? When you read the Bible, do you expect to encounter Truth that will change you? As you practice memorizing Bible verses, do you expect that your actions will be changed by the words you internalize? Are you eager to live out what you read, study and memorize?

Finding wisdom carries with it the promise of finding life, and obtaining God’s favor. Eternal life is to be found in the words of the Bible. The Lord’s favor rests upon you as you pursue his living and eternal word.

Did you know that you can sin against wisdom? This passage warns of injury when doing so. Hatred of wisdom is equated here with a love of death.

Have you made a commitment to wait eagerly and expectantly for the Lord each day? You can, and many blessings will be yours as you invest yourself in the word of God. May he abundantly bless your quiet time today!

A matter of life and death

My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. ~Proverbs 7:1-3 ESV

Godly wisdom is found in the Bible.Taken out of context, these first three verses from Proverbs 7 may appear to be reminding you merely that God’s word should be very important in your life. “Treasuring” God’s commandments implies placing tremendous value on the instructions for life offered in the scriptures.

But in context, this passage simply sets the stage for the wisdom that follows.The rest of the chapter tells the sad story of a naive youth who wanders into an encounter with an adulterous woman. By the time you read verses 21-23, the phrase “keep my commandments and live” takes on a whole new meaning:

With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.

Verses 1-3 above are not just a gentle reminder to value God’s word. They are a stark warning: Obeying what the Lord tells you to do can actually save you from death. Because the young man hadn’t emphasized the importance of God’s word in his life, he easily fell prey to a seductive woman’s advances. Reading all of chapter 7 shows that it explains how familiarity with God’s word makes it easier for you to obey the Lord.

How do you esteem God’s word? Do you read it regularly? Do you study the scriptures deeply? Do you memorize verses from the Bible? Are you able to recall parts of God’s word that are applicable to the situation in which you find yourself?

You don’t need to literally write the words of scripture on your fingers, but those words should be at your fingertips — easily accessible and ready to use. You can’t literally write passages from the Bible on your heart, but Jesus says in Luke 6:45, “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” If your heart is full of scripture, it’s likely that your words will be full of godly wisdom, too.

Most importantly, Deuteronomy 30:14 reminds you:

No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. (emphasis added)

What should the wicked expect?

A worthless person, a wicked man, is he who goes about with a perverse (contrary, wayward) mouth. He winks with his eyes, he speaks by shuffling or tapping with his feet, he makes signs [to mislead and deceive] and teaches with his fingers. Willful and contrary in his heart, he devises trouble, vexation, and evil continually; he lets loose discord and sows it. Therefore upon him shall the crushing weight of calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken, and that without remedy. ~Proverbs 6:12-15 AMP

PrayerDo you know a person who seems to be continually surrounded by strife and dissension? This passage describes someone who continually and purposefully undermines others, spreading false rumors, staying up late at night to plot chaos. They are the definition of trouble to others.

Such a person is worthless and wicked, according to these verses. Severe punishment awaits such a man or woman. It will come suddenly; unexpectedly. There will be no escape from the Lord’s justice when it arrives.

In contrast, consider the fruits of the Spirit, as listed in Galatians 5:22-23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Are you a person in whom others see the fruit of the Spirit? Or are you more like the one described in Proverbs 6? As a Christian, it would seem wise to consider your thoughts, words, and actions in light of these passages.

Without repentence, wicked people face destruction, without remedy. But in Christ, they, too, can enjoy forgivess and eternal life.

As you seek the Lord in your quiet time today, ask him to let others see in you the fruit of the Spirit — evidence of your redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ. And if you do know someone who fits the description in Proverbs 6, pray for them. God loves them, too, despite their wicked heart and bad behavior.

Your ways are in full view of the Lord

Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? For your ways are in full view of the Lord, and he examines all your paths. The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly. ~Proverbs 5:20-23 NIV

adultery2Proverbs 5 is a warning against getting involved in adultery, as is the following chapter. What is “adultery?” It’s typically defined as sexual relations between people who are not married.

The first Biblical prohibition of sexual activity outside of marriage is found in Exodus 20:14, which says clearly, “You shall not commit adultery.” That command is repeated in Deuteronomy 5:18.

Leviticus 20:10 lists adultery as a sin with serious consequences. Note here that both the man and the woman involved were to be punished equally for their disobedience to God’s law:

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife — with the wife of his neighbor — both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

Throughout the book of Jeremiah, the Lord accuses the Israelites of adultery. In Jeremiah 5:7-8, God contrasts his faithfulness with the unfaithfulness of his people:

Why should I forgive you? Your children have forsaken me and sworn by gods that are not gods. I supplied all their needs, yet they committed adultery and thronged to the houses of prostitutes. They are well-fed, lusty stallions, each neighing for another man’s wife.

When Jesus speaks to this issue in Matthew 5:27-28, he raises the bar significantly:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

So according to Jesus, adultery isn’t just a behavior. It’s actually a condition of the heart that leads to the behavior. Jesus makes this clear in Matthew 15:19 when he says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts — murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”

Whether you have adulterous thoughts or behavior, God can and will forgive you when you turn to him in humility. Ask him to remove such thoughts from you. Pray that he will give you the self-discipline to refrain from acting on such thoughts. 1 Corinthians 10:13 promises that God is faithful in this, and every other regard:

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Give me just enough

O God, I beg two favors from you; let me have them before I die. First, help me never to tell a lie. Second, give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?” And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name. ~Proverbs 30:7-9 NLT

Man PrayingThis chapter in the book of Proverbs begins by explaining that Agur, son of Jakeh, is the author of these sayings. He is also known as Agur ben Jakeh. Many Bible scholars conclude that because his name, Agur, actually means “gatherer” or “collector,” he may only have compiled these verses from other sources.

Agur’s prayer asks the Lord to help him strike a delicate balance in life: He wants integrity. And he wants just enough: Not too little, and not too much. Interestingly, he worries that having too much could lead him to deny God’s true role in his life.

Agur isn’t so concerned that having too little would put him in a bad position. Having too little might lead him to steal, which could have a negative effect on how others see the Lord.

Reflect on the lesson of Agur’s example today. It may cause you to re-examine your priorities. As you spend time in the word today and pray, what are you asking the Lord to do in your life? Are you asking for too much? Too little? Let the Holy Spirit reveal to you the life balance he desires for you.