Saturday, June 3, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 10, Wisdom Is Like Sunshine For The Soul

As followers of the Lord, everything we do matters. The world is watching how we live. It's important to live like people who are fully committed to honoring God so that unbelievers can see that our conversion is real. They need to see the hope that the wisdom of the Lord has given us, for His wisdom is like sunshine for the soul. Today Solomon talks about the ability of godly wisdom to help us lead honorable lives. Our conduct may not always persuade others to convert, but at least they won't be able to dishonor the name of our Lord by criticizing the way His followers live.

"Listen, my son, accept what I say, and the years of your life will be many. I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths." (Proverbs 4:10-11) In the Bible the straight path is the godly path. The ungodly path takes many twists and turns. The ungodly path will take us through the dry and barren wilderness or get us lost in the deep dark woods. But the Lord's path provides green pastures to rest in and still waters to drink from. The Lord, like a good shepherd, knows how to protect His flock from enemies. Solomon's father David knew this when he wrote Psalm 27. At that time he was under constant threat of death at the hands of the wicked King Saul. A staunch supporter of Saul, a man known as Doeg the Edomite, had spotted David at the house of Ahimelek, the priest at Nob to whom David had gone for help. David recognized Doeg and wisely fled the town, knowing Doeg was going to report his location back to Saul. It's no wonder David had to learn to rely on the Lord every second of every day, for his life depended on it. I'm sure that as Solomon grew up he enjoyed hearing the exciting stories of all David's narrow escapes, so now he passes along the advice he learned from his father. We will have enemies in this world, plus we have an enemy of the soul. The wise person will say what David said in Psalm 27, "Teach me Your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors." (v 11)

"Hold onto instruction, do not let it go; guard it well, for it is your life." (Proverbs 4:13) David's testimony of faith is now bearing fruit in the life of his son. Solomon went astray from the Lord during his youth and middle age, but the lessons he learned as a child are coming back to him. Take heart if you have wayward children or grandchildren. Your testimony of faith may yet bear fruit in their lives. The godly upbringing you provided for them was not in vain. Solomon speaks from experience when he says later in the book of Proverbs, "Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6) David started Solomon off on the straight path, the right path. And even though Solomon left the path and struck out on his own and wandered in a spiritual wilderness for a time, in his later years the instructions of his father kept preying on his mind. The word of God began to trouble him, so that he could no longer find enjoyment in sin. The Holy Spirit prevented him from sleeping at night because he knew he was living far from the Lord. Oh, what mercy and grace this is! I remember those long sleepless nights in my twenties when I tossed and turned in fear and regret. My godly mother started me out on the straight path in the same way David started Solomon on the right path. Her testimony of faith and the lessons I learned in the church of my childhood kept coming back to me, troubling me because I knew I was living far from the Lord. My road to repentance wasn't easy, but it was the goodness of God who led me to it, as the Apostle Paul affirms by saying, "God's kindness is intended to lead you to repentance." (Romans 2:4b)

"Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers. Avoid it, do not travel on it; turn from it and go on your way. For they cannot rest until they do evil; they are robbed of sleep till they make someone stumble. They eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence." (Proverbs 4:14-17) Solomon counsels, "Don't even think about putting so much as your little toe on the path of the wicked! There are people who are never going to have any heart for the Lord or for His commandments; don't get mixed up with them. They won't be satisfied until they have made you as wicked as they are. They live to do wrong. Sin is like food and drink for them because they don't know how to live without it. These "friends" will take you down a dead end road and leave you there. Where will they be when your trouble comes? Far away, laughing at you."

In contrast to the dark and ugly path of the wicked, the straight path of righteousness is beautiful. It leads us out into wide open meadows filled with sunshine and fresh air. "The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day. But the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." (Proverbs 4:18-19) Isn't it a spirit-lifting feeling when we awake in the morning and open the curtains to see the sun coming up? Right now I can look out my living room window and see a beautiful blue sky without a cloud in it. The sun is shining onto my front porch, giving light and life to my blooming flowers. There's just something so refreshing and life-affirming about a sunrise, about knowing we can expect a sunny day. The lives of the godly are not always free of trouble, but they can be free of the dark torment of the soul that comes along with living far from the Lord. For the Christian, even the darkest weather can't dampen the sunshine in our hearts. We have a hope no one can take away. We have the promise of eternal life and of a beautiful day that will never end.

Solomon concludes Chapter Four with this advice, "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; for they are life to those who find them and health to one's whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips. Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil." (Proverbs 4:20-27) We are wise to keep our hearts right with God. This is why the king says, "Guard your heart. Your actions will follow whatever is in your heart. If you harbor wickedness in your heart, your deeds will be wicked. If you remain faithful to the Lord in your heart, your deeds will honor His name. Be alert at all times so you don't wander off the straight path. Keep your eyes straight in front of you, where the Lord is, and walk in His footsteps. This is life for the body and life for the soul."

At one time a large number of Jesus' followers turned away from Him, offended by certain points in His righteous teaching. When He asked the twelve disciples if they too intended to leave him, Simon Peter said, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (John 6:68) Solomon, though he lived about nine centuries before Christ, is saying the same thing. He spent most of his life seeking the answers in all the wrong places, when all along the only answer could be found in God's holy word. Only the Lord has the words of eternal life. We can waste our time on this planet living in sin and seeking satisfaction in worldly things, but we will end up as empty and disappointed as Solomon was when he reached the latter years of his reign. There's no need for us to live in emptiness and despair, trying to dig ourselves out from under one mistake after another. The Lord offers us something so much better. He wants to lead us on a sunny path, a godly path, an honorable path. No one else can offer us this; a fulfilling life can only be found in Jesus.

Below is our worship song link for today. It speaks about the One who has the words of eternal life, the One who is the Word of God.
What A Beautiful Name It Is

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