Monday 25th July
Proverbs 1:7 (NIV)
‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction.’
What does it mean to be wise? Culture and society will give us many answers: ‘be true to yourself’, ‘be authentic’, ‘fulfil your potential’, ‘because you’re worth it’, ‘you deserve it’, ‘be happy’, ‘love is love’…
Do these answers stand up to the reality of life and relationships? Are they worth building our lives upon? Are they true?
As we read the book of Proverbs this summer, we will be hearing God’s Word to us. God is telling us about true wisdom.
And true wisdom doesn’t begin with looking at ourselves. It begins with looking at the LORD.
‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge’.
To fear the LORD is not a cowering fear when faced with a bully. To fear the LORD is to be in right awe of the Creator of the universe – the one who is holy and good. The one who is ‘LORD’ – this is the special name for God which means the One who makes promises (covenants) to His beloved people. To fear the LORD is to be in a right relationship with Him. Without knowing the LORD, we cannot be wise. In fact, the opposite is true – we would be fools who despise the LORD and his wisdom and instruction.
As we look at our hearts though, we know we haven’t feared the LORD.
It is only Jesus who has lived the life of true wisdom, of true awe and reverence to His Father.
It is only as Jesus has died on the Cross to bear God’s judgement for our foolish sin, that we can be forgiven.
And it is only as Jesus gives us his righteousness – his right standing with God and his right living before God – that, as forgiven repentant sinners, we can pray that God would grow in our hearts a fear of Him.
As we read the Proverbs this summer may our prayers be firstly gospel prayers of repentance and thankfulness for our Saviour Jesus.
Jesus who ‘has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.’ 1 Corinthians 1:30.
And then, in the Spirit’s strength and by God’s grace, let’s pray that the Christlike wisdom of Proverbs may be seen in our daily lives.
tuesday 26th July
Proverbs 2:1-6 (NIV)
‘My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding –
indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
then you will understand the fear of the LORD
and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge
Have you ever had to search really hard for something precious or important? Lost car keys? A child’s favourite toy? An important piece of paperwork?
The more precious something is, the more you keep going. When I was a little girl, perhaps 5 years old, I was playing hide and seek with my siblings in a pub garden. But I couldn’t be found. My parents were very anxious and searched and searched. Eventually I was found hiding by the pub kitchen’s outside rubbish bin area – a good hiding spot I had thought!
Well in these Proverbs we are urged to search and search for wisdom – to look for it as looking for precious hidden treasure. And the searching is also described as accepting the commands and words of Proverbs. We search for wisdom not like searching for car keys – wondering where we last put them. We search for wisdom by storing up and accepting God’s Word.
And what is so amazing is that at the same time as our searching, we find that it is the LORD himself who gives wisdom – it is because he speaks to us in His Word that we can fear Him rightly and come into a relationship with Him. What a comfort, assurance and motivation to seek God in His Word, knowing that He alone is the one who gives wisdom and that He loves to give us it.
And as we read His Word we find that the greatest treasure of all is Jesus himself. In Matthew 13:44-46, Jesus is the treasure hidden in the field and Jesus is the fine pearl. Let’s keep turning our ears to Jesus, God’s precious wisdom.
Wednesday 27th July
Proverbs 3:11-12 (NIV)
‘My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline,
and do not resent his rebuke,
because the LORD disciplines those he loves,
as a father the son he delights in.’
How do we know that a father loves his son? By lovingly disciplining his son, guiding his son away from the wrong and harmful path, and setting his son upon the right path. This discipline is hard to bear. Many of us will remember times when a parent or older family member disciplined us sensitively and appropriately. We remember it often because it was painful at the time. But we know as we look back, that it was for our good, for our character. Such discipline was a sign of care and love.
And so it is with the LORD and His people – His children. ‘The LORD disciplines those he loves.’
As we seek to fear our LORD and grow in Christlikeness, the LORD will discipline us. He will use all our circumstances and situations for our good. And there will be particular circumstances where we may become aware of our Father reshaping our character, chipping away at sinful desires and habits, and growing in us the Spirit’s fruit. This is because he delights in us!
So we must be aware in those moments of not resenting the LORD. Of not complaining to Him or of doubting His goodness, or of harbouring resentment in our hearts towards God and towards others. Instead, we can pray for God’s strength to endure such discipline and seek to be trained by it (Hebrews 12:1-12).
How can we do this? By praying that God would help us to remind ourselves (and one another) that such discipline is the sign of our Father’s love. And that the perfect Son Jesus himself, though he was sinless, also ‘learned obedience from what he suffered’ Hebrews 5:8.
By God’s grace, let us be ever ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.’ Hebrews 12:2.
thursday 28th july
Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
‘Above all else, guard your heart,
for everything you do flows from it.’
Where do our thoughts, actions and words come from? What drives us?
In scripture, it is the heart that is at the root of who we are. Not the physical organ that pumps blood around our body. Not the heart as in romance and emotion. But the heart as the very core of who we are. The heart is the centre of our character – who we really are.
And just like the source of a spring that turns into a river, so everything we do flows from our heart.
Naturally, as sinners, our hearts spew out sewage. Jesus says in Mark 7:21 that ‘it is from within out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come…’
And so in Proverbs we see why it is so important to ‘guard your heart’.
How do we guard our hearts? In Proverbs, as a whole, the focus is on being alert to what is coming out of our hearts – to be aware of our sin, to be quick to repent and fear the LORD. And to also be alert to influences upon our hearts – what we see with our eyes, do with our hands, and who we keep company with. Most of all, the way to guard our hearts in Proverbs is to keep listening to God’s wisdom. As the few verses preceding say: ‘My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart.’ Proverbs 4:20-21.
What will it look like today for us, in God’s strength and grace, to guard our hearts?
Friday 29th July
Proverbs 5:21 (NIV)
‘For your ways are in full view of the LORD,
and he examines all your paths.’
Have you ever experienced a toddler trying to hide from you by covering their eyes? They think that if they can’t see you, then you can’t see them. It can be quite sweet and endearing. But it is also completely pointless. You can still see them, and all the chocolate sprinkles around their mouth and down their front which shows that they’ve been in the cupboard! In one sense, the covering of eyes is not only pointless but foolish. The toddler is in full view before you.
Oh that we could see and grasp that all our ways are in full view of the LORD! To comprehend this would surely cause us to stop, reflect and repent. And to grow us in fear of the LORD.
In Proverbs 5 such truth is a part of a plea to flee from adultery. And instead to be faithful to one’s spouse – delighting in them sexually.
Those of us who are married need to heed this loving warning.
But for all of us, we can be tempted to think that our sexual sin is hidden – it’s in our secret thought life, it’s in our bedrooms, it’s private and out of sight. When all along our ways are in full view of the LORD. Like a toddler covering her eyes.
Let us not despair. But be sobered. To remember that Christ has died on the cross for all ‘our ways’ – for all the sinful paths that we have taken, including that of sexual sin and covenant unfaithfulness.
And let us repent, trusting in forgiveness in Christ, asking for God’s help to walk along the paths of righteousness.
And when the moment of temptation comes – remember ‘your ways are in full view of the LORD,
and he examines all your paths.’
monday 1st august
Proverbs 6:20-21 (NIV)
‘My son, keep your father’s command
and do not forsake your mother’s teaching.
Bind them always on your heart;
fasten them round your neck.’
The book of Proverbs, particularly chapters 1-9, are written as a father’s word to his son. They are words of parents instructing their children to walk in fear of the LORD.
It is such a privilege to be a child growing up in a Christian family. To have parents who teach them about Jesus and open up scripture with them and pray for them. Let us give thanks for and pray for the children in our church and for their parents – for much grace and wisdom.
But for all of us, it is as though we continue to be the son/daughter needing to fasten these Proverbs ‘round our neck’, like a favourite necklace.
To be prepared to take the humble and lowly position of a child who is teachable and who holds onto their father’s words.
Such a picture reminds us of Jesus. Jesus is the Son who always kept hold of his Father’s words. Jesus found his Father’s words to be a light and lamp for his feet, protecting his path all the way to the cross for us.
Let us pray, giving thanks for Jesus the faithful Son, and asking for God to work in us teachable, humble hearts that are ready to keep our Father’s commands.
tuesday 2nd august
Proverbs 8:35-36 (NIV)
‘For those who find me find life
and receive favour from the LORD.
But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
all who hate me love death.’
In Chapter 8 Wisdom is calling out to all humanity to hear her. Her wisdom is the wisdom of God’s Word. Her wisdom is a call to fear the LORD.
But does it really matter? What is at stake?
In today’s proverbs we see that it is a matter of life and death – of eternal life and eternal death.
There is a great promise that those who listen to wisdom will find life – a life which is from the LORD. This isn’t a promise of an easy and comfortable life in the present. It’s a promise of true life in relationship with God, knowing His wisdom for us even through the hardest of times now.
But those who fail to listen to wisdom are harming themselves. It is strong language – to not listen to wisdom is to ‘hate’ wisdom.
Our response to God’s wisdom, God’s word is not neutral. It is one of love or hate. And so it is one of loving or hating God.
And so, in hating God’s wisdom, a person instead ‘love[s] death.’ This is shocking but rightly revealing. God is the author and sustainer of life. To turn from God’s wisdom is to turn from life to death. And as life with God is eternal, death without God is eternal.
Such are the high stakes when it comes to listening to God’s wisdom.
And we see these two ways fulfilled in the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7:24-27. The wise man is the one who listened to Jesus’s words and built his life upon Jesus. The foolish man who heard Jesus’ words but did not build his life on Jesus. When the storm of judgment comes, the wise man does not fall, but the foolish man’s house falls with a great crash.
O Lord have mercy on us for not listening to your wisdom. Please forgive us because of Jesus. Thank you so much that Jesus speaks your wisdom. By your Spirit, help us to build our lives upon Jesus’ words. Thank you so much for your gracious promise of life because of Jesus. Please help us to share your gospel wisdom with others, sobered by what is at stake. In Jesus name, Amen.
wednesday 3rd august
Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)
‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’
What do you listen to in a typical day? The alarm clock. The kettle boiling. The kids getting ready (or not getting ready!) for school. The radio in the car. The Whatsapp messages. The emails. A colleague. A spouse. A friend. The Netflix box set. The news. Our own thoughts. The Bible…
Every day is a day for listening. And every day is a day for fearing the LORD.
How do we discern whether what we listen to will help us fear the LORD or will lead us away from fear of the LORD?
In Proverbs 9 there are two ‘women’ – Wisdom and Folly. Both ‘women’ are calling out in remarkable similar ways. Both set up a table for a meal. Both call out ‘Let all who are simple come to my house!’
What is the difference?
Wisdom calls us to repent and turn to God in right awe and fear: ‘Leave your simple ways and you will life; walk in the way of insight.’ Verse 6. To listen to wisdom is to hear God’s rebuke, to be prepared to learn from God’s Word and walk His Way.
Whereas Folly calls us to what appears attractive. To a life without accountability or repentance: ‘Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious’ verse 17. But accountability before the LORD will come: ‘But little do they know that the dead are there, that her guests are deep in the realm of the dead.’ Verse 18.
And whenever the gospel is proclaimed, there are two calls happening: a call by God to repent. And a call by ‘Folly’ to continue on in what seems attractive but is actually death.
Will we hear and keeping hearing Jesus’ words in Mark 1:15 – ‘The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news.’
So as we go through our day today, let’s prayerfully ask for God’s help to listen well – to listen to those who would encourage us to turn from our ‘simple ways’ to God in repentance and faith in Jesus. And for discernment when listening to voices that would encourage us in sin.
For: ‘The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom,
and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.’
thursday 4th august
Proverbs 10:19 (NIV)
‘Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
but the prudent hold their tongues.’
How many words do we speak in a day? Thousands.
Words of greeting and parting. Words of joy and of sorrow. Words spoken quickly and rashly. Words spoken to encourage. Words spoken to tear down. Words spoken in the very ordinariness of daily life. How can our words be wise? How can we speak words that fear the LORD and bring him honour?
Answer: By not speaking! (well, by speaking less!)
We see in this Proverb that ‘sin is not ended by multiplying words.’ Instead, the more words we speak, the more our sinful heart is revealed! Whether that’s in a difficult conversation with someone, or whether we’re joking around with ‘banter’, or talking about someone when they aren’t there in person. We all know how easy it is to sin with our speech.
I once said to a friend that I find silence in conversation hard and so I just fill it. He graciously replied that maybe I shouldn’t fill it! I was struck by how much of my conversation filler is nonsense and the more I go on, the more the foolishness of my heart is revealed.
Instead, we read in this proverb that ‘the prudent hold their tongues.’ The prudent person is careful with their words – they show restraint. To hold their tongues means that they could speak but they don’t. They consider not only whether their words are true and kind, but whether their words are . And even under provocation, the wise person fears the LORD and holds their tongues.
As we read this Proverb we are shown the mirror to our heart – we are naturally the sinner who multiplies sin with their words. But praise God for Jesus. Jesus never spoke a false, unkind or unnecessary word. And when he was provoked, he held his tongue, even to death on a cross to bear all our sin:
‘When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.’ 1 Peter 2:23
Let us be quick to confess our sinful speech to our Father, trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sin. And as those with the Spirit of Christ, let us pray for His strength to consider our words and hold our tongues – to the praise of his name. Amen.
friday 5th august
Proverbs 11:22 (NIV)
‘Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.’
Imagine zooming in close up to look at a beautiful, precious gold ring. Dazzling when the light catches it. Immensely valuable.
Now zoom out, look at the bigger picture. There is a nose – a snout. There’s a lot of mud and it’s very smelly… the gold ring is in a pig’s snout!
What a strange picture! A pig with a gold ring. Any beauty that the ring has is overcome by the ugliness of the pig! The ring begins to look quite foolish on the pig – what had appeared beautiful doesn’t seem it anymore. And in Jewish thought, pigs are considered ‘unclean’. (sorry to any pig lovers out there!)
Why are we being given such a dramatic picture?
Because it is just like ‘a beautiful woman who shows no discretion.’
Proverbs really know how to ‘paint a picture’ to make a point!
Beauty (or our perception of ‘beauty’ and physical attractiveness) is something we desire as women. To hear someone say to us “I think you are beautiful!” would mean such a lot to us. Beauty can be something we strive for, or pine for, or feel inadequate for. Beauty can be the measure by which we compare, value and judge others and ourselves. It can be what men focus on too.
But in this proverb, physical beauty without godly character, is just like a gold ring in a pig’s snout!
Discretion in Proverbs means one who is careful, considered, and confidential with her words and behaviour. But a beautiful woman who speaks foolishly, with out considering how her speech will impact others, reveals a lack of inner beauty.
For true biblical beauty is found in a woman who fears the LORD.
Such a proverb humbles us before God. For all the times we focus on our outer beauty whilst neglect our inner character.
Such a proverbs causes us to give thanks for Jesus, whose character revealed ‘true beauty’ and discretion. Jesus, the man who values biblical beauty.
Such a proverb encourages us to turn to God for help. Biblical Christ-like beauty can be cultivated in us by the Spirit’s work – we can, by grace, learn to value and live out the true beauty of discretion.
‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hair styles and the wearing of gold jewellery or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.’ 1 Peter 3:3-4.
monday 8th august
Proverbs 12:15 (NIV)
‘The way of fools seems right to them,
but the wise listen to advice.’
How do we make decisions, whether ‘big’ or ‘small’? How do we know how to relate well to others? How do we choose the wisest course of action when there’s a range of options? Most of all, how to we make decisions and live and act in a way that fears the LORD?
We may be those who ‘go with our gut’, or those who try to think through every option and outcome. We tend to look on situations from our own perspective and do what we think is right. That can sound good.
But here we read that ‘the way of fools seems right to them’.
It is the fool who does what seems right to them!
We have already seen in Proverbs that the fool is the person who does not listen to God’s wisdom nor fear the LORD. The fool ‘despises wisdom and instruction’ (1:7).
And so, the fool is the person who views life through their ‘own eyes’ – using their own perspective on situations and relationships. And the fool is so focused on what they think is best, that they cannot see other views. How can other views count, when we’ve got it all figured out? We know what is right. And so others need to hear our opinion!
Oh how I see myself in this description of the fool! Oh how easy it is to judge situations on my own terms. Perhaps you feel this too? Oh how we all need God’s grace to us in Christ!
For there is another way – the way of the wise who fear the LORD. And we see that: ‘the wise listen to advice.’ The wise understand that their perspective is limited, and their heart is naturally sinful. The wise are teachable – they are prepared to listen to advice that they may well find hard to hear. The wise are prepared to change their course of action. The wise actively seek out such advice. And humbly listen to such advice in light of God’s Word.
Are there people in our lives that give us advice? How do we respond when they do? When did we last change our behaviour in light of loving feedback, that we may grow in Christ?
Let’s pray that our Father would help us to listen to advice and see other perspectives, that we may love people more and grow in fear of the LORD.
Tuesday 9th august
Proverbs 13:20 (NIV)
‘Walk with the wise and become wise,
for a companion of fools suffers harm.’
Friendship matters. Friends are our companions through life’s ups and downs, joys and sorrows. Friends are there. Friends listen. Friends give advice. Friends support. Friends laugh together. Friendships enrich life and their absence can be very painful.
And so being a good friend and having good friends is a very important theme in Proverbs.
God can work through friendships to grow us in wisdom, in fear of the LORD. If we have friends who fear the LORD, we will grow in fear of the Lord: ‘walk with the wise and become wise.’
We see this in some way in our children’s friendships – we want them to have friends who will be a good influence on them. And we hope that our children will be a good influence on their friends in return.
And so we too are impacted by our friendships, by our companions through life. And so today’s proverb warns us to be discerning in the company we keep – ‘for a companion of fools suffers harm’. If all our time is spent with those who do not know or fear the LORD, then we will suffer for it. If the advice we receive does not line up with fear of the LORD, we will suffer for it. The harm we will suffer is that, in walking with fools, we will become fools too. We will become those who do not fear the LORD in our daily lives.
Who then is the friend that will help us fear the LORD?
Most of all, our wise friend is Jesus. He is the friend the book of Proverbs urges us to walk with. He is the friendship we enjoy as Christians because Jesus is the friend who has laid down his life for us. Let us walk with Jesus in his Word, listening to what he loves and by grace obeying his commands. (John 15:12-15),
And as we look to grow god-fearing friendships with our Christian sisters, may we pray that God would help us to be a wise friend to others.
wednesday 10th august
Proverbs 14:30 (NIV)
‘A heart at peace gives life to the body,
but envy rots the bones.’
‘I wish I had her figure.’
‘Her children are so well behaved.’
‘Wow, what a stunning house!’
‘Why can’t my husband be like hers?’
‘If only I could talk confidently like she does.’
‘I don’t have gifts like her.’
‘I wish I was married like the married women at church.’
‘I wish I was single like the single women at church.’
Envy rots the bones.
Envy in the heart causes spiritual decay. Like rotting meat.
A prayer: Father God, please open my eyes to the ways I have envy in my heart. Help me see those moments and recognise those sinful desires and thoughts. Father, in your compassion and mercy, please forgive me the envy that is in my heart. Because of Jesus, please forgive my sin. Amen.
There is another way instead of envy:
‘A heart at peace gives life to the body.’
The inner person – the heart – at peace with God and with the circumstances God has placed her in. Even in the bitterest of circumstances, she fears the LORD and trusts His love and care for her.
Such contentment brings spiritual growth and sustaining – life to the body – physically, mentally, emotionally.
We long for this, don’t we? But only Jesus has lived a life free from envy of others; a life at peace with God and trusting the Father’s sovereignty over all his circumstances, even to death on a cross.
Praise God for Jesus our Saviour and our Righteousness!
A prayer: Father God, thank you for Jesus who always trusted you in every circumstance, and never envied others. Thank you for his death for our sin of envy. Thank you for his righteousness contentment given to us. Please, by your Holy Spirit, grow us in contentment and thankfulness. That we might give you the praise, and that we might point others to your goodness. In Jesus name, Amen.