Bible reading for weekend March 19 -- 21
Mar 19 -- Proverbs 6 and Galatians 5
Mar 20 -- Proverbs 7 and Galatians 6
Mar 21 -- Proverbs 8 and Ephesians 1
"Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death." (Proverbs 8:34-36)
BAD CHOICES (ch 6). Here's a question I have often faced: when should we rescue people from their foolish decisions? For example, when should we bail out our children, or our friends, from the consequences of their bad choices? This requires wisdom. Chapter six begins with a warning about being surety, or co-signing on a loan, for someone who will likely leave you with the burden of debt (6:1-5). This will result in personal loss, while releasing the other person from responsibility. Labor and laziness (vv 6-11) will be a recurring theme in Proverbs, too. Though indolence is a common source of poverty, this does not mean that all poverty is due to laziness (13:22; 14:31; 23:10). Some proverbs seem unrelated to the surrounding context, but the next two passages (vv 12-15, 16-19) both use parts of the body to describe what's worthless and what God hates: speech, eyes, heart, feet, hands, and so on. (Why do you think folly is described in this way?) Afterwards, in dealing with sexual immorality, Solomon again makes reference to the heart, the eyes, and the feet. This chapter closes with another repeated theme, and that is, folly leads to self-destruction (v 32).
TWO INVITATIONS (ch 7 & 8). Two women are personified, and described in detail: the Adulteress (ch 7) and Wisdom (ch 8). As you read, note the many images that relate to our senses. Note the use and abuse of speech (cf 6:12; 7:21; 8:6). The first woman paints a beautiful picture, but it results in pain and death. The other woman speaks plainly and uprightly (8:8), and the result is life. Sin is always built upon a lie believed. The devil promises a life with pleasure up front, but it ends in eternal pain. Christ tells us plainly of the cost and pain of following him, but it all ends in eternal joy and pleasure. Wisdom is embedded in the creation (8:22-33), and to go against God's moral design is not only to dishonor God but to destroy oneself in the process. So, is there a kind of karma to life? There's not, if we mean an impersonal law of payback and reward. But the Bible does teach that all of the universe belongs to God and his laws reign supreme. Wisdom is woven into the fabric of the universe, but it is put there by a personal God who is holy, righteous, and loving. The invitation to pursue wisdom is personal, and the decisions we make have personal ramifications. There is a principle of sowing and reaping, as we will see in our Galatians reading below.
"Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8)
FLESH VS SPIRIT (ch 5). The Christian life is a life of freedom rather than coercion. By grace through faith, we have received new life from God in his Son. The Holy Spirit pours God's love into our hearts and energizes us to walk in God's ways (vv 5-6). To return to justification by law-keeping is to turn away from God's free grace. Yet, for the believer a battle still remains. There is an indwelling principle of sin ("the flesh", cf Rom 7) that promotes desires contrary to the new desires the Holy Spirit is producing. We are called to walk by (be led by and keep in step with) the Holy Spirit who lives within us. In this way we will not carry out the desires of the flesh and God will manifest spiritual fruit in our lives.
BEARING BURDENS (ch 6). We can help bear one another's burdens (v 2), but we cannot carry the load for them, in the sense of taking responsibility (v 5). It takes wisdom to determine whether we have crossed that line or not in dealing with others. Going back to the question above -- when do we rescue others from the consequences of their sinful or foolish choices -- wisdom is needed. Am I truly helping that person (bearing a burden), or am I enabling that person to avoid responsibility? If the latter, we may be sparing our friends and children from the very pain (loss, discomfort, discipline) that will be needed in order to make good decisions in the future. Such discipline is a vital training tool for the child of God (Heb 12:6-13).
AT THE CROSS. There is a principle of reaping and sowing (vv 7-8), but this does not negate God's gracious purposes. This letter to the Galatians opens and closes with the cross (2:20; 6:14). Jesus "gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age" (1:4). God's law is inviolable, but neither is it impersonal. Christ bore upon himself God's judgment in our place, and we have died with him. Grace is God's disposition and generosity toward us in Christ. We have freedom now to sow to the Spirit rather than to the flesh. But God will not suspend the moral law for our comfort or convenience. He will use the very pain of discipline, even the consequences of sinful choices, to shape us into the image of his beloved Son. That's grace.
EVERY SPIRITUAL BLESSING (Eph 1). This weekend we begin a new letter, from the Apostle Paul to the Ephesians. It was written to the church at Ephesus, where he ministered for two years (Acts 19). He writes them this epistle while in his first imprisonment in Rome, around AD 60. As you read the first chapter make a list of all the blessings you have by being "in Christ". We are united with Christ by faith. He has taken all our debts and liabilities and given us his wealth and riches. What are those blessings?
Image credit. Entrance to Trinity College, Dublin, photo by Stephen Bergin on Unsplash. 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.