Monday, November 17, 2014

Reading Proverbs

For the past several years I have added a chapter of Proverbs to my Bible reading every day. Since there are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs, I usually read the chapter corresponding to the day of the month we are on, and double up at the end of those months that don’t have 31 days. It’s been very helpful. I wish I could say I apply and follow all the wisdom perfectly after all this reading, but that would be very far from the truth. It is becoming more and more part of my thinking, though. 

One thing that has often struck me is how very often the Proverbs I read speak directly into my life in the exact situations I’m walking along in each day. It says something very ugly about me that sometimes in my flesh I find that I have to fight the temptation not to think about other people to whom I want to apply them sometimes, and when that temptation is strong, I’m learning to turn it around and ask myself, where do I need to apply this to myself? Stop looking outward and look at my own deceitful heart. Trust God to deal with everyone else. And when I’m hurting and confused, run to my Heavenly Father and tell Him, and pray for wisdom, understanding, peace, and grace. His grace is sufficient in every situation. I must learn to rest in Jesus.

One verse that I’ve done a lot of thinking about over the years is Proverbs 18:17, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” With that I also think about Proverbs 18:13, “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” The gravity of these thoughts came home to me in a striking way some years ago when I was serving on our county Grand Jury for a couple of months. We had a very complicated case come before us that took the greater part of one day just to listen to the testimony, and no small amount of debating among us about what to do with the testimony we’d heard afterward. The general consensus of the group was to send down an indictment on two people, though it was a confusing and very complicated case, and some of us disagreed about whether both people might be guilty of the indictable offense.  All of us were quite confident about one of them, but not all of us were sure about the second one, though in this case it only required a majority to carry the case forward. Well, when the story of the indictment hit the newspapers, there was much about the case that couldn’t be reported due to some strict confidentiality restrictions on it, so the story in the newspapers, while factual, did not present a very true overall picture of the whole case. I happened to read some of the comments people left under the story on the internet version, and it was amazing how differently things looked to the readers and what that led them to believe and say from what I knew to be true about the case, that it wasn’t nearly as cut and dried as people assumed from the short news article. 

I learned something after that experience, and it was to be more careful about my assumptions. I wish I followed this better more of the time, but I am at least aware of it in a more real way now. I may think I absolutely understand a situation, but I need to realize I may not know all there is to know and it’s quite possible that if I knew more it might change entirely how I viewed the story. This is easy in theory, but very hard in practice. Turned the other way, when someone unjustly misunderstands me or misreads my intentions in a really big way, it’s hard for me to remember that they may not know everything I wish they did, and I also try, hard as it may be, to realize that if someone can so greatly misunderstand me, is it possible I’m misunderstanding them just as much, that probably there are things about them and their situation I don’t know that might change how I see things? These are things I try to think about, though imperfectly, I’ll admit, especially when my emotions are running high. I think this is part of the wisdom in 1 Corinthians 13 that tells us that love doesn’t keep a record of wrongs and is not easily offended. Learning to put the best construction on things and let go of my right to be offended when it’s really hard, especially when I’m feeling hurt, and to let go of my need to try to justify myself when someone is unwilling or unable to listen or understand where I’m coming from, is a hard thing, but it is the loving thing. 

Bringing this home to today, this morning I read Proverbs 17:28, “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.” As I’m thinking on those, I’ve decided to turn off my Facebook for a few days. When you post and then delete several status updates in a row, it’s probably time to just sit out for a while and not be the fool you know you can be at times. Wish I followed that advice more often, too.

So, I am thankful for the wisdom in Proverbs, I’m thankful God gave us this book which has become so precious to me. The more I read it, the more I’m learning to think through the wisdom and learn to apply it. It is one source God is using to grow me in sanctification, a life long, and sometimes slow process I’m finding. I’m thankful that God’s kindness includes His gift of the book of Proverbs to us. 

**If you are interested in taking up the challenge of reading Proverbs daily, and you want a great resource to help in understanding how to read and apply Proverbs, I can recommend Dan Phillips’s book, God’s Wisdom in Proverbs.** 

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