August 28, 2020
I’m a book lover and an avid reader. And like most book lovers, I have a stack of books that I haven’t gotten to despite the number that I do read. But I certainly can’t keep up with the number of books published each year. The US publishes over 300,000 books a year, and that is not counting self-published books which could make the count go up to a million. Of course, a vast amount of those books wouldn’t interest me, but even among the books that do interest me, I have to choose. I can’t read them all. So I relate to the words of Ecclesiastes:
My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
(Ecclesiastes 12:12 ESV)
The quote is a reminder that there is no end to the making of books, but it also is a warning about priority: “beware of anything beyond these.” The passage is putting “the many books” on one side and “the words of the wise” put down in “the collected sayings” in verse 11 on the other side. The priority is because the words of the wise “are given by one Shepherd” (Ecclesiastes 12:11). Priority in the midst of many books must be given to inspired Scripture.
I’ve learned this lesson. I’ve prioritized Bible reading in my life. It has been the habit of my life. I’ve learned that reading religious books doesn’t give you knowledge of the Bible. That must be gained firsthand. And without the knowledge of the Bible, you can’t test the truth of merely human religious books. So if all you are doing is reading religious books, you have your priorities wrong. The Bible must come first.
This is especially true for church leaders who teach: elders, teachers, and evangelists. I’ve actually heard sermons that came from popular religious books that contained the same errors that were in those books. Discernment can only come from knowing your Bible thoroughly. Paul as he departs from the Ephesian elders for the last time, having preached “the whole counsel of God,” says, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified”(Acts 20:32 ESV). It’s God’s word that builds up. It’s God’s word that will give you the eternal inheritance.
The weariness that comes from many books is still with us. Some of those books are worth reading, but we need our priorities straight. Priority in the midst of many books must be given to the book of books — the Bible.
— Russ Holden
August 14, 2020
With what are God’s requirements to be compared? Is God like a cosmic-Simon-says who is attempting to trip us up? Or is God more like a parent setting limits for the protection of his children? Listen to the instruction of Moses in Deuteronomy.
And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as we are this day. (Deuteronomy 6:24 ESV)
God is not a killjoy. His commandments are for our good, for our benefit. I’ve witnessed too many times people who rebelliously go their own way making a train wreck of their lives. Even my own experience tells me that the instructions of scripture are good for me (even when temptations want to lead me another direction). Blessings come from the path of righteousness.
Moses had warned Israel of this, but despite this warning, Israel paid for their stubbornness with the Babylonian captivity. Judgment came against them. In the midst of prophesying judgment, Isaiah pictured God’s lament that it could have been very different if they had listened.
This is what the LORD says–your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea” (Isaiah 48:17-18, NIV).
They could have had peace like a river. The land of Israel does not have many rivers. The land is semiarid with only marginal rainfall in many places. The land does have numerous wadis or dry riverbeds that flow with the runoff from the rains, but those are not constant. The image of a river is a picture of abundance. They could have had peace that was abundant and constant — peace like a river.
Righteousness could have characterized their lives so that it was like waves on the shore. Waves are rhythmical and repetitious. There is always a new wave coming to shore. Again, we see a picture of abundance. What is it like to live in a community where righteousness is the norm — a place where you expect it just like you do the next wave?
What about us? Do we stubbornly go our own way only to reap the consequences of our sinful decisions, or do we have peace like a river? Let us discover the blessings of a humble walk with God.
— Russ Holden
August 7, 2020
People have difficulty with the idea that their actions have consequences, and that they are responsible for their actions. We often want to blame what has been done to us as an excuse for bad behavior. No doubt some people must overcome greater difficulties than others. Yet, we each choose the attitude with which we approach life and the actions we take. We are not programmed like a computer. We are not helpless marionettes of a malicious puppeteer.
Part of our problem with actions, consequences, and responsibility occurs with the difference between moral choices and the law of physics. If I fall from a 30-story building, I can expect fairly consistent results. But one act of fornication may lead in one case to an “unwanted pregnancy,” in another–a sexually transmitted disease, and in still another–just a bad memory. The consequences may vary from the same act, but consequences come with both good and bad moral choices, and we must accept responsibility for the choice.
Proverbs looks at the general trend of certain choices. It’s not that we might not find some exceptions, but that learning the lessons from human experience and God’s revelation teach us that certain things are bad choices and others are good choices. Listen to a sampling.
Laziness vs. Industriousness. “Lazy hands make a man poor, but diligent hands bring wealth” (Proverbs 10:4-5, NIV).
Violence. “The violence of the wicked will drag them away, for they refuse to do what is right” (Proverbs 21:7, NIV)
Lying. “A man of perverse heart does not prosper; he whose tongue is deceitful falls into trouble” (Proverbs 17:20, NIV).
The above are simply examples, Proverbs covers many more categories. The assumption in Proverbs is simple. Given that actions have consequences, I don’t have to do every possible action to know something of the possible consequences. I can learn from the experience of others and the revelation of God. Be responsible. Choose wisely.