Proverbs 25:6-7

“Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence

    or stand in the place of the great,

for it is better to be told, ‘Come up here,’

    than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.”

Proverbs 25:6-7

This is a great reminder to be humble. Rather than elevate ourselves, only to be humbled by someone else, it is better to humble ourselves. Then, if others choose to do so, they may elevate us.

Jesus touched on this, too.

“Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place. 10 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. 11 For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

Luke 14:7-11 ESV

Note the punchline in verse 11: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

How are you doing in the humility department, today?

Proverbs 24:1

“Be not envious of evil men,

    nor desire to be with them,

for their hearts devise violence,

    and their lips talk of trouble”

Proverbs 24:1 ESV

This proverb aims directly for the heart. Envy is a sinful desire for something that another has. That something may be a status or a possession or an ability. But what is it that we are not to be envious of? The evil person. The reason? Because “their hearts devise violence and their lips talk of trouble.”

This seems pretty straight forward. Proverbs 22:5 warns us that “thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked.” Again, pretty straight forward. So, if the warnings (e.g., 24:1 and 22:5) about what await us on the evil path are so straight forward (i.e., clear or easy to understand) why would we be drawn to the evil person?

Throughout the book of Proverbs the choice is wisdom or folly, which is a matter of the heart. The prophet Jeremiah (17:9) warns us about our hearts, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Proverbs 3:5 directs us toward the Lord, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Trusting in ourselves is folly. Trusting in the Lord is wisdom.

Which path will you choose today?

Proverbs 23:10-11

“Do not move an ancient landmark

    or enter the fields of the fatherless,

11 for their Redeemer is strong;

    he will plead their cause against you.”

Proverbs 23:10-11 ESV

Verse 10 is a clear-cut prohibition about doing wrong to the fatherless. This echoes the many other places in Scripture where God reveals his heart toward the vulnerable. Here, the warning not to move a landmark speaks to the effort to cheat another out of his land. The prohibition doesn’t stop there, for it prohibits the very entry into an orphan’s field. The implication seems to be that by entering the fields of the vulnerable one is showing an indication of intent to harm.

Beware of breaking the prohibition in verse 10 because “God in his holy habitation” is “Father of the fatherless and protector of widows” (Psalm 68:5). This kinda reminds me of the playground threat, “My dad can beat up your dad.” Except, this warning may be closer to “My dad will beat up you.”

When I was about 6 years old, a 17 or 18 year-old from the next neighborhood thought he would try his hand at roughing me up. When my dad – who was neither a brawler nor a big man – caught wind of it, he took up my cause in a very serious way. I didn’t see it all, but I do have a clear memory of my dad lying on top of the tough guy with his shirt collar tightly wound in my dad’s hand to prevent escape. My dad quietly but convincingly warned him of the serious consequence of ever coming near me again. “Don’t even think about coming near my son!” dad warned as he released him. The bully scampered off to his own neighborhood.

Verse 11 warns the reader of how God will respond to those who seek to harm the orphan, “he will plead their cause against you.” Some may ask, what does it mean that the Redeemer will “plead their cause against you”? Psalm 149:6 answers that question, “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.”

The command in Exodus 22:22-24 is a bit more explicit: “You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child. 23 If you do mistreat them, and they cry out to me, I will surely hear their cry, 24 and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless.” In other words, if you mistreat orphans, I will make your kids orphans.

What is your heart toward the orphan?

Proverbs 22:5

“Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;

  whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.”

Proverbs 22:5 ESV

A quick read of this proverb in English may give the wrong impression, which is that thorns and snares stand against the crooked. In other words, the thorns and snares act as defense mechanisms, similar to barbed wire. However, the writer is actually saying that the path of the crooked is littered with thorns and snares. Thus, the one who is not crooked (i.e., the one who is wise) will guard his soul.

I often tell my students that we can learn something from anyone. And by anyone, I mean anyone. “What about the meth head?” some might cleverly offer as if to say, “You can’t learn anything from a person so far gone.” There are different kinds of lessons in life, those things we should do and those things we shouldn’t do. Sometimes we can learn what not to do by understanding why a person is surrounded by thorns and snares (or destruction and disaster). Once we figure out what set that person on that path, we can avoid that path by avoiding the entry ramps that lead to it.

But we have to be careful that this avoidance is not simply a mental exercise. The temptations of the soul are heart matters. “I could never be tempted by that” can be a really dangerous statement that doesn’t seem to take into account the wiles of the devil or the human proclivity to sin. I, too, have a list of things that I don’t think could actually tempt me. But how many people who have found themselves sitting under a pile of disaster have said, “I never could have imagined being in this situation.” I’m reminded of an old saying,

“There ain’t no horse that can’t be rode, and there ain’t no cowboy that can’t be throwed.”

Beware. Beware. Beware. Guard your soul, lest your way be littered with thorns and snares.

Three Reasons to Memorize Scripture

Over the last year or so, I have given much effort to Bible memorization. In this post, I want to give you three reasons that you should also memorize scripture.

“I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”

Psalm 119:11

A major benefit of memorizing scripture is to create resources and safeguards in the battle against sin. The psalmist writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart that I might not sin against you” (Psalm 119:11). Memorizing scripture is helpful to this end because it both informs and reminds. While many of us have a fairly clear understanding of what is sin and what is not sin (at least we think we do), that is likely the result of being raised in a culture that has been based on a Christian or biblical ethic. The reality is that those days are quickly fading as secularism strengthens culturally.

Having God’s word stored up in our hearts provides guidance in real time. How helpful would it be to have instant access to the list that Paul calls the “works of the flesh”? In other words, an immediate and fresh list of actions/activities in which the Christian should not engage. For example, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatian 5:19-21, ESV). Likewise, how valuable do you think it would be to have a list of the fruit of the Spirit as a reminder in any situation how godly people respond? Here’s that list: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Another reason to memorize scripture is to know God better. God has revealed himself through the Bible, thus it makes sense that if we want to know God better we should know his word better. Memorization is a great way to get to know God’s character and heart better. Following are some good options for memorization:

“Bless the Lord, O my soul,

 and forget not all his benefits,

who forgives all your iniquity,

 who heals all your diseases,

who redeems your life from the pit,

 who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

who satisfies you with good

 so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Psalm 103:2-5 ESV

The LORD is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him.

Nahum 1:7 ESV

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah 41:10 ESV

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27 ESV

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

Philippians 2:5-8 ESV

Finally, Paul mentions renewing the mind as one of the critical steps of sanctification for the Christian (Ephesians 4:23). In his letter to the Philippians, Paul provides some details of the things upon which we should give our thoughts: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8 ESV).

Memorizing scripture is a wonderful way to be “renewed in the spirit of our minds,” to know God better, and to guard our hearts against sin.

In a separate post, I will recommend a helpful tool for memorization.

%d bloggers like this: