Saturday, July 15, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 52, We Don't Have To Live In The Past

Solomon has much to say today about foolishness, which is a condition he wants us to avoid at all costs. It's a shame the word "fool" has come to mean something different in our day. We might call someone a fool who is just silly and goofs off all the time, or who seems to always make dumb decisions. In Solomon's day a fool was someone who wasn't spiritual, who was morally corrupt, and who enjoyed living contrary to the laws of man and God.

Solomon also wants us to know that just because we've been foolish in the past doesn't mean we have to be foolish for the rest of our lives.

He begins by warning us not to promise to be a surety for another person's debt. "One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor." (Proverbs 17:18) I would have to be very close to a person and know their character extremely well before I would co-sign a loan for them. There are times you might need to co-sign for one of your children or grandchildren when they are young adults and don't have a credit history yet, but Solomon says to be careful about co-signing for a neighbor. (And a neighbor can be any of our fellow human beings, not necessarily the person who lives right beside us, as the Lord pointed out in the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37) We might not know whether an acquaintance will be responsible enough to pay the loan back, and then we will be responsible for it ourselves, so it pays to know who we are dealing with. There are people I know well enough that I'd trust them with pretty much anything, and there are people I know well enough that I wouldn't trust them with anything, and there are people I don't know well enough to say whether they are trustworthy or not. We have to use common sense in such situations, as Solomon warns us.

"Whoever loves a quarrel loves sin; whoever builds a high gate invites destruction." (Proverbs 17:19) What makes anyone want to fuss and fight all the time? That would make me so exhausted! I love a peaceful atmosphere, don't you? Peace is good for both mind and body. We have enough stress to deal with in the world without adding to it by constantly being in conflict with those around us. I was puzzled by the second half of this verse, but in consulting some commentaries I found that it means something like, "The one who builds a high wall for security and a lofty and impressive entrance gate is letting others know he has many valuables inside his palace." So it seems that Solomon is saying we shouldn't brag about our possessions either by words or by actions. If we go around behaving like we are really something, we might just come home to find our palace has been broken into. The wrong person might decide we have a lot of valuables inside. It's best not to be too flashy and show-offy.

Sadly, many a parent in the centuries since Solomon has probably been able to relate to this next verse. "To have a fool for a child brings grief; there is no joy for the parent of a godless fool." (Proverbs 17:21) There are moms and dads who had to go to bed last night without even knowing where their wayward son or daughter even was. Their grown child is living far from God, caught up in sin or addictions, unable to live a responsible and honorable life. There are mothers who cry every day because of a child who was brought up in the church and in the fear of the Lord but who wants nothing to do with Him. Fathers are walking the floor in worry over a child who keeps going to jail for DUI or who can't stay clean from drugs. No wonder Solomon says the parents of these children are grieving and that they have no joy. There's no peace of mind for these moms and dads. They don't know from one day to the next what trouble their child will get into or whether the police will come knocking on the door with news of an overdose. I don't have children of my own, but I know several families who deal with these types of circumstances on a daily basis, and my heart breaks for them.

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22) Feeling cheerful in heart makes us feel better all over, doesn't it? When we get good news or we're feeling happy in the Lord, even our usual aches and pains don't bother us as much. We can endure a lot of things when we have joy in our hearts. But a broken spirit makes us feel bad all over. Stress causes a surprising number of physical side effects. When I'm stressed I tend to feel lightheaded, my neck muscles tighten up and I get a tension headache, my stomach feels like it's full of butterflies, and I become nauseated. I've been so stressed at times that I hurt all over, so no wonder Solomon says a crushed spirit dries up the bones, because we hold so much tension in all our muscles that it starts to feel like every bone in our bodies is sore.

"The wicked accept bribes in secret to pervert the course of justice." (Proverbs 17:23) Isn't that the truth? We hear about all sorts of scandals, especially in politics, so just imagine all the things that happen that we don't even know about. Bribes are accepted in secret all the time.

"A discerning person keeps wisdom in view, but a fool's eyes wander to the ends of the earth." (Proverbs 17:24) Solomon's father David was a man who kept godly wisdom in view. He had a continual awareness of the presence of the Lord, so he said, "I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:7-8) As long as we live in these mortal bodies, we will never be perfect. Neither was David. But keeping our eyes always on the Lord will save us from many of the terrible mistakes the ungodly person makes. If we love the Lord we will be grieved in our spirits when we sin against Him. We will want to make things right with Him as quickly as possible. We will want to get back on the right path and move forward.

I've made some bad mistakes. You probably have, too. We've all taken some unwise detours. But we don't have to stay on that dead end road. We can never mess up so badly that we can't let Jesus take our hand and lead us on into a better tomorrow. I've never killed anyone and you probably haven't either, but several men in the Bible had blood on their hands, like Moses and David and the Apostle Paul. We wouldn't be reading about them in our Bibles if any of them had said, "Well, I've really messed my life up. God can't use me now. I might as well sit here on the curb of this dead end road until I die." No, they reached up for the hand that was reaching down for them and they allowed the Lord to restore them. They refused to give up. They said, "I won't allow my past to ruin my future. The Lord can do amazing things with my life if I let Him. Why should I sit here in shame and despair when He's offering me something better?"

No comments:

Post a Comment