Sunday, July 23, 2017

Counseled By The King: The Proverbs Of Solomon. Day 60, It Is Well With My Soul

Solomon emphasizes the importance of fearing the Lord so we can have the peace that comes from being on the same side as our Maker. As long as we live in a fallen world, we will have troubles. But Solomon tells us how we can still say, "It is well with my soul".

"What a person desires is unfailing love; better to be poor than a liar." (Proverbs 19:22) The two halves of this proverb don't seem to be related to each other, at least not in the English translation. Some versions render the first half as, "Greed is a person's shame," so there is some difficulty with the original language of this verse. Whatever its meaning, Solomon has spoken against liars before. He's likely seen so many of them in his courtroom that he can spot a liar from a mile away. He's also used to people telling him what they think he wants to hear, such as false friends who want to hang around with him and enjoy his wealth.

"The fear of the Lord leads to life; then one rests content, untouched by trouble." (Proverbs 19:23) It was an Old Testament belief that you could tell who was obeying the Lord by the way He blessed them. Old Testament characters expected the faithful person's life to be filled with material blessings and peace of mind. We learned when we studied the book of Job that this isn't always the case. We live in a fallen world where trouble comes into the lives of both the godly and the ungodly. We have an enemy who hates those of us who love the Lord, and he is constantly on the hunt, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8) The Lord Jesus didn't promise us an easy life, saying instead in John 16:33, "In this world you will have trouble."

A better way to interpret Solomon's words in verse 23 might be something like this, "The fear of the Lord leads to eternal life. The one who has eternal life can have peace in his heart, even when it looks like the world is falling down around him. No matter what comes, he can say, 'It is well with my soul.'" We don't know what we might have to face in this life, but we don't have to face it alone. With Christ on our side, we can have peace in our hearts no matter what kind of battle rages around us. We can say to our souls the same thing Jahaziel said to King Jehoshaphat when a coalition of enemies came to fight against Judah, "This is what the Lord says to you: 'Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's.'" (2 Chronicles 20:15b) The battle is God's! He doesn't expect us to charge into the fray alone. Sometimes we don't even have to charge in at all. As in Jehoshaphat's case, sometimes God tells us to step back and watch what He will do, saying, "You will not have to fight this battle." (2 Chronicles 20:17a)

"A sluggard buries his hand in the dish; he will not even bring it back to his mouth!" (Proverbs 19:24) Solomon detests laziness. If asked which quality of character I find most deplorable, I would probably put laziness in the number one spot. Laziness itself is bad enough, but it often leads to covetousness and greed, and to dishonesty and thievery. Solomon says, "I've seen some men so lazy that after they put their hand in the bowl of candy they find it's too much trouble to even lift their hand to their mouth to eat!"

"Flog a mocker, and the simple will learn prudence; rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge." (Proverbs 19:25) In Solomon's day it was common to punish criminals publicly in order to show the populace what happens to the one who breaks the law. It was thought to be a deterrent to crime. In our day we still carry out public executions, for a select group of people are allowed to witness them. The family of the condemned person is allowed to be present, along with the family of the person who was killed by the condemned individual. Lawyers for both sides are also invited to witness the event. Solomon is telling us that in his experience it helps the public not to be so quick to commit crimes if they can witness the punishment for the crimes. He also points out that the wise person will learn from rebukes. The wise person won't stub up and go away mad, but instead will take the words to heart and learn from them.

"Whoever robs their father and drives out their mother is a child who brings shame and disgrace." (Proverbs 19:26) One of the ten commandments states, "Honor your father and mother." There are parents who brought their children up right but still suffer shame and disgrace over the way their grown children are living. Some children are so wayward that they think nothing of stealing things from their parents. Some children keep getting in so much trouble with the law that their parents lose their homes and all their money trying to pay the legal costs. Solomon says, "What a shame this is! The Lord commands the child to respect and honor his parents. How dare anyone steal from the father who raised him? How can anyone even think of causing his mother to be homeless because she put up her house as security for him? This is a disgrace! The person who behaves this way ought to repent in dust and ashes."

The king takes this opportunity to remind his own son never to forget the godly instruction he's been given. "Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge." (Proverbs 19:27) What would happen to us if we stopped listening to the word of God? If we stopped reading the word of God? If we stopped communing with the Lord in prayer? If we stopped obeying the guidance of the Holy Spirit? We would soon stray from the right path. We would find it easier and easier to fall into behavior that contradicts the word of God. Let's keep our minds and our hearts open to God's holy word. Studying it and putting it into practice will keep us out of a great deal of trouble. Remaining close to the Lord will give us that peace in our hearts that allows us to say, no matter what, "It is well with my soul."

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