17 júla, 2009

Proverbs 16:1-9

Few days ago I got into a situation when I was confronted by a sin. It was about 1 am and I've decided to pray and ask the LORD to lead me through His word to find out what to do now. Among other places He led me to Proverbs 10, especially verses 1-9:

The plans of the heart belong to man,
but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.

All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the spirit.

Commit your work to the Lord,
and your plans will be established.

The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble.

Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
be assured, he will not go unpunished.

By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.

When a man's ways please the Lord,
he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

Better is a little with righteousness
than great revenues with injustice.

The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps.

And just as I reflect on them now - few days later - I see what amazing verses God led me into. Solomon starts here by stating that And just as I reflect on them now - few days later - I am able to see what amazing verses God led me into.

Solomon starts here by making clear that God is sovereign over everything - even the very words that come out of our mouth. When we talk to people about what they think we should do in this or that and they say something that we don’t really like we tend to say: Meh, they don’t know what they’re saying. Like when parents say to their daughter that she can’t date a guy yet because she’s too young. The girl and boy might think the parents have no idea what they’re saying – but truth is: God knows what He’s saying and He’s speaking through the parents. That’s the fact we need to grab in our hearts. God does speak. Primarily through His word but as well through other people. The close ones especially.

Then Solomon makes a clear distinction between the way we look at other people (and ourselves too) and the way God does. We like to justify everything we do. Want to break a rule or two? You know really well you should not. But then you start making arguments, making a case why it’s not that bad after all to break that rule. We try to make our ways look pure in our own eyes but we forget that God is not looking at us through our pair of eyes but that He’s got His own. And by those eyes He sees way more then we ever will be able to. He doesn’t just see our ways (that everybody can see) but He does something that only He can do. He weighs the spirit. God doesn’t just look at the outcome (as the contemporary society suggests…only what you make counts…do the most and the best). God cares about way more important things then that. He cares about our heart – the spirit. What were our motives, where was our heart. And because of that God’s judgment is going to be just. Just the same way when David prays to the LORD. He says: For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:16-17). He’s saying that God doesn’t care about the outcome as much as He does about the change in people’s hearts. That what matters to God the most – our hearts!

We like to do things our own way. Even though to do it the way somebody else says would save us half the time we need – we would do it our own way anyway. Why? Because it’s our way. But Solomon confronts us here with an idea to give (literally put into the hands) our work to the LORD. Why? Because when you give something to somebody (your plans, dreams, hopes, even your future) you must trust that person. The reason why we’re to commit everything we do to God is to show in whom we trust. If we are to ask the question that the psalmist asked: From where does my help come? (Psalm 121:1) what would our answer be? Would be the same as is his? My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:2) He is able to say that only because he trusts Him completely. And the best way how we can show our trust is by trusting completely with everything.

When times are hard and things don’t seem to go the way they should we start thinking that something must have gone wrong. That either we have failed or God has failed in His promises. How can a not nice think to be from God if He’s that good as the Word describes Him? Well, seems that Solomon did not see this as a problem in his life. I’m sure that he had endured some suffering. For example when he was suppose to take over the kingdom – his brother Adonijah wanted to be the king of Israel. And so he had to kind of „fight for“ his throne. I’m sure that just one of many (after all, it was probably very easy for others to be jealous of his wisdom and wealth). So it’s kind of weird to hear Solomon saying that the LORD made the wicked ones as well as all the rest. He is aware that all of us (humans) just as the rest of the creation were created by God and for God. Including the „bad ones” – even though all of us are bad. Because the LORD has made everything for its purpose and I can tell you for sure that what He has created in the end will fill the purpose it was created for. When things go wrong and it seems everything that could have gone wrong has gone wrong – friends, it does not mean that God is not in control. He is always in control. Even when it seems to us that He’s not.

In order for the judgment to be just, the Judge must be just. That’s what Solomon is trying to tell us in the next verse where he says that those, that are arrogant in heart will not go unpunished. Solomon is pointing here to the nature and character of God. God hates evil. Just the same way Paul says what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? (2 Corinthians 6:14-16). I know that he speaks here about relationships between believers and unbelievers but I believe this is the same case for God. It is God who represents the righteousness, light, Christ and believer that Paul mentions. So Paul and Solomon say together that God hates evil. It’s His nature – something that has never changed and never will. But Solomon is not saying here that God merely hates evil and doesn’t do anything about it. He says that evil will not go unpunished – that God will repay and we can be assured about it! That gives us lots of peace when we are wronged and nobody cares. Because you know what? God cares. And if God does, does it matter so much then that some other people don’t? Because God said that vengeance is mine; I will repay (Hebrews 10:30). Even when we are wronged we can be satisfied because we have the assurance that God is just and His judgment is just as well.

What does Solomon mean, when he says: By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for… does he mean that if we love and are faithful that God will forgive us our sins? Or that He would not take them that seriously? Or what is Solomon trying to say here? In 2 Kings 20 we read that the king „Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death“ and the LORD sent prophet Isaiah to tell the king: „This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.“. Then an interesting thing happens. We read: „Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, "Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes." And Hezekiah wept bitterly.“. And what was God’s respond to that? „Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him: "Go back and tell Hezekiah, the leader of my people, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the LORD. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.‘“ I was overwhelmed when I first read this. God made a plan – Hezekiah was going to die. But Hezekiah prayed and God answered his prayer. That doesn’t surprise me that much since James states clearly that you do not have, because you do not ask (James 4:2). But what surprises me the most is the case Hezekiah makes for God why He should grant Him life. He says: Remember, O LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes. Basically the reason why God should let him live is because Hezekiah was faithful and wholehearted to the LORD. And God grants him his request. So, when Solomon said that By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for… he didn't say that by doing good we’re going to be forgiven. He actually says the same thing that the writer of Hebrews says: For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints (Hebrews 6:10). All that Solomon and author of Hebrews are saying is that God is not just only in His judgment but as well in His rewards.

...by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. What does is really mean to fear the LORD? That's a question I asked myself so many times. Are we supposed to be scared of Him? If so, isn’t it then impossible to see Him as loving Father? How can you fear the one that loves you and you should love too? It is possible to fear the LORD and love the LORD at the same time! Because what I believe that to fear the LORD means is that we’re suppose to respect Him. Just the same way when an employee is called to see his boss. He knows that the boss is not going to kill him or hurt him (he might fire him though but the employee is not threatened in any other way). The way he fears him is a different way that we fear a murderer. It’s the respect kind of fear. When we respect and honor somebody we have this kind of „fear”. And I believe that’s the way we should treat God. Yes, He is our loving Father BUT we must respect Him, honor Him and in that way – fear Him. And does Solomon mean by saying that this fear turns one away from evil? Imagine it this way. Suppose you’re about to commit a sin. You are aware of the fact that you’re about to do is against God’s law. You ignore this and you’re on your way to sin. But then, out of blue, this thought of God comes to your mind. The thought of Him, His greatness and love. All those thoughts of His love being expressed on the cross for you. You realize that what you’re doing is disrespectful and dishonoring toward God. And THAT makes you to turn away from your sinful way. The fact of who God is and what He has done for you.

Paul tells us in 1 Thessalonians 4:1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. So one of our main tasks is to please God. And here, in Proverbs, we see that when our ways are pleasing to God, He is so faithful that even our enemies are no longer our enemies. But how do we know whether what we do is pleasing to Him? Well, we please Him when we work in accordance with His will. And for that we need to seek His will through His Word and prayer. We need to ask Him to reveal us His will and to lead us in our lives. Paul says in Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Then the Bible clearly says that the will of God is that we would give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18) – that is to be always satisfied in God – even when we go through suffering and hardships. We are to be satisfied in Him in all times!

Imagine this; you work on some important project really hard and in the end it will work out really well. You get paid well for your work, maybe you even get promoted, and people respect you for that. It would be all awesome and great unless you were not cheating. The truth is that you’re just another copycat that stole the ideas from others and proclaim them to be yours. But don’t worry…nobody knows and there’s almost no chance of anybody ever finding out. You’re safe. Nobody knows, not even your spouse. Just you and you alone. But are you happy? Cause no matter how well you try to cover your „little secret“ it bites you alive from the inside. And you may wish you’ve never done so. And you can actually think: Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. There are good reasons why to be righteous even when nobody’s looking. You know, God is always looking and He’s not going to pardon you just because you were not satisfied with little. And what I can say from my experience is when God gives you little and you take more than you ought to He’s going to cut it back to the point where you were suppose to be. And that is going to be hard. It’s always harder to go down, then to go up. So I tell you my friends, be satisfied in little and He will give you in great.

And toward the end of this passage Solomon goes back to the point where he came from. That our God is sovereign, mighty and powerful God. Into such depths that God is in control even of our hearts. Yes, we may plan to do such and such, but it’s the Lord who establishes the steps. We are totally dependent on Him. We can’t even make our plans to come true unless He permits them!

It’s God – the LORD who runs this universe and it’s the best time for us to realize it. To honor Him as He demands. To worship Him and admit that it’s all about Him and not us. We even sing in worship songs: It’s all about…it's not about me. or Not to us but to your name be the glory… Do we really mean the words we sing? I hope that this article helped you to understand and see the greatness of our God a little bit more.


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