Bible reading for March 17 -- 18
Mar 17 -- Proverbs 4 and Galatians 3
Mar 18 -- Proverbs 5 and Galatians 4
"When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me and said to me, 'Let your heart hold fast my words; keep my commandments, and live.'" (Proverbs 4:3-4)
GET WISDOM (ch 4). Four sections follow, each introduced directly to "my son" or "sons" (4:1, 10, 20; 5:1). Some scholars suggest Proverbs was written as a training manual for Solomon's sons, as future princes needing to learn about righteous leadership. Be that as it may, Proverbs is applicable for all the sons and daughters of the eternal King, our Lord Jesus. One thing highlighted in these chapters is the inter-generational, mentoring relationship between parents and children (cf Deut 6:4-9; Eph 6:4). God created the family, along with the church, to be the primary conduit of passing truth on to succeeding generations (Mal 2:14-16). As you read this chapter make note of the many different imperatives used to describe our relationship to the wisdom and knowledge of God: "Hear... be attentive... guard... keep... prize...", and so on. Time and growth are involved, since wisdom advances like the dawn into the full day (v 18). There are the positive commands, such as, to hear, attend, and prize wisdom. But also the negative, namely, to turn away from evil. Above all else we must guard our hearts, that is, we must protect and nurture what we think about and come to love, for this will direct the course of our lives (v 23).
FLEE IMMORALITY (ch 5). The first big pitfall that Solomon addresses is that of sexual immorality. He describes the cost of unfaithfulness (vv 1-14), and then follows with a call to enjoy marital love as God created it (vv 15-23). The Lord is not against the enjoyment of sex, since he himself created that dimension of relationship. But like a fire needs to be contained in the fireplace (rather than just anywhere), so sexual relationships need to be in the context of covenanted love. Marriage is for one man and one women, for as long as they both shall live. This is now a culturally radical statement. We can see how foolish our postmodern culture is, in seeking to promote complete sexual freedom, and seeking to destroy the bonds of biblical marriage, fidelity, intimacy, and family worship. One's preferred gender identity, and unhindered freedom of sexual expression, are core values of our world today. Sadly, our state-supported educational institutions are eager to promote this, as well. But we cannot cut across the grain of God's universe without getting splinters. There is no true wisdom to be acquired apart from the pursuit of moral purity (cf Rom 1:21-32; 2 Pet 1:3-10).
"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)
THE LAW LEADS TO CHRIST (ch 3). The purpose of the law was to reveal and restrain human wickedness. The law was not intended to be a way of salvation but rather, a tutor (or guardian) to lead us to the grace of our Lord Jesus. One of the hardest things for Christians to get a right grasp upon is the relationship between law and grace. Here's a brief introduction to this topic by Don Carson. For a scholarly treatment of Paul's view of justification in Galatians I recommend this article by Douglas Moo.
CHILDREN OF PROMISE (ch 4). Our way of approaching and relating to God is not based upon the law, nor upon our works. Christ himself has fulfilled all of our legal obligations before God, and in him we are brought into a relationship with God as children, as family members with all the joy, freedom, and security that comes with a covenant of grace. Paul gives an allegory, or an extended parable, showing how this was foreshadowed even in the Old Testament (vv 21-31). We usually begin the Christian life with a strong awareness of being adopted by God (v 6; cf Rom 8:15), but afterwards, even like the Galatians, we may lapse into an unbelieving, fearful, insecure, works-oriented arrangement, and so we lose the joy of being God's children!
REFLECT. One theme in common between our OT and NT readings today is that of sonship. More specifically, it's about the relationship between fathers and sons, and by extension, between parents and children. This also may apply to the relationship between older teachers and younger learners. At the heart of the biblical story of redemption is a Father and a Son. Especially, as recorded in the gospel of John, we see the Father in heaven sending forth his son, Jesus, and taking great delight in him. And we read how the Son takes delight in accomplishing the Father's will (John 5:19; 15:15; 17:4). We may think a central verse in the Bible is, "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son..." (John 3:16). But perhaps more prominent is that God so loved his Son that he gave him the world (John 3:35; 13:3; 16:15). And by God's unfathomable grace we have been adopted and brought into God's family as his children! We are secure, beloved children of God, adopted and his forever. This shapes how we learn wisdom (Proverbs) and how we relate to him without fear (Galatians).
Image credit: "The Banjo Lesson" by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1893). About this newsletter: I post three times a week on my Bible reading, following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson. Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Another resource I recommend is the NET Bible with its excellent notes at netbible.org.