Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Proverbs 21

Read Proverbs 21:1 – 8. In this section, we hear several verses about the heart. The king’s heart is directed by the Lord (v. 1), who weighs his heart to determine his motives (v. 2). A proud heart is sinful (v. 4) and its accompanying behaviors lead to a person’s eventual downfall (v. 5 – 8). The “heart” in Hebrew Scripture refers to the innermost being, that center of motivation and understanding which drives each person. God looks at our hearts to determine who we really are and why we do what we do. Take a few moments to think honestly about why you have done the things you’ve done this week. What were your motives? How would God weigh your heart?

Read Proverbs 21:9 – 19. These verses focus on the most likely outcomes of certain actions and behaviors. Although no individual is promised the exact outcome which is shown in any one proverb, any individual can recognize the natural consequences that are likely to occur and can reorient himself or herself toward godly wisdom. The modern expression, “What goes around, comes around,” echoes in the back of our minds as we read about those who refuse to help the poor (v. 13), who subvert justice (v. 14), who refuses to work (v. 17), or who simply lives wickedly (v. 18). Although Solomon doesn’t advise unethical behavior, like giving bribes, he does point out the natural softening that occurs between two angry parties, when one gives gifts to the other. One critical aspect of living wisely is the ability to recognize how human nature works and the foresight to act before a bad situation becomes worse. Consider the most recent argument you’ve had with another person. Did you do something you knew would likely lead to conflict? What might a person of godly wisdom have done to prevent the disagreement?

Read Proverbs 21:20 – 23. This section communicates a theme of planning ahead. Wise people save for the future (v. 20). They pursue righteousness and love and find rewards (v. 21). They knock down barriers that might someday prevent them from moving forward (v. 22). They guard their tongues, to avoid causing future trouble. Is there a goal in your life which you would like to achieve, for which you have done no intentional planning? What keeps you from taking steps to solidify that future?

Read Proverbs 21:24 – 31. These verses speak several times about sins of pride and power. In the end, however, success or failure rests with God. No plans against Him will succeed (v. 30). No victory occurs that He doesn’t allow (v. 31). Have you made any plans that you are fairly certain God would not desire for you? Are you counting on the opportunity to make things right with Him later, after you get what you want?

Choose one proverb from this chapter, which fits your life today. Memorize it. Read it aloud several times, emphasizing a different word each time. Close your eyes and recite it. Repeat this process several times until you are confident you know it. Pray and ask God to bring it to mind several times today. Recite it mentally each time it occurs to you. At the end of the day, take a moment to consider how it has applied to your life.

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