Bible reading for March 22 -- 23
Mar 22 -- Proverbs 9 and Ephesians 2
Mar 23 -- Proverbs 10 and Ephesians 3
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight." (Proverbs 9:10)
TWO INVITATIONS (ch 9). The invitations from Lady Wisdom (ch 8) and the Woman Folly (ch 7) are again proclaimed. We hear these voices almost every day, and we must make, and keep making, the right choice. The two invitations are similar regarding what is promised, but the final results are so different. One is true, the other is a lie. One leads to life, the other to death. Those seeking wisdom from God must be humble, willing to receive correction. Someone once said, "There are two types of pain in this life; that of discipline, which lasts a short while, and that of regret, which can last a lifetime." To know God -- to bow before his will and his ways -- this is the fear of the Lord which leads to wisdom. This chapter concludes the introduction portion of Proverbs.
THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON (ch 10). The proverbial sayings collected by King Solomon now begin. They are written in poetic form, usually as couplets, with the first statement being followed by a second in parallel, but with one single point being made. The two parts may be synonymous statements (A=B) or antithetical (A contrasted by B), or synthetic (A+B). Remember, a proverb is not a promise from God, it is a God-inspired statement about how life generally works. There are almost always exceptions to any given proverb. They invite further thought, that we might sharpen our powers of discernment. Many topics will be included and they may seem randomly collected, but take time to observe the connections. There may be larger themes that tie the individual proverbs together.
FOLLY AND FACEBOOK. Social media has become an outlet where people can express themselves quickly, loudly, and widely. Note some of the proverbs in chapter 10... "a babbling fool comes to ruin" (vv 8, 10), "hatred stirs up strife" (v 12), "the wise lay up knowledge" (v 14), and, "when words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent" (v 19). When we rush to judgment about why something has happened or who is to blame -- without humble, careful, and patient deliberation -- we are being foolish. I believe that social media has become the national arena for much foolishness today, and so aggravates divisiveness within our society.
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)
SAVED BY GRACE (ch 2). This epistle was written by Paul to the church at Ephesus, where he ministered for two years (Acts 19). Chapter one tells us of the spiritual blessings we have in Christ. Paul's first prayer in this letter is asking that believers would realize what God has done for them in Christ (1:17-21). Though dead in trespasses and sin, they (and we) have been made alive together with Christ and seated above with him (2:1-10). We are not saved by our good works, but we are saved for good works, which have been prepared for us by God. We ourselves, being in Christ, are the workmanship of God. And we are part of a new humanity (vv 11-22). Speaking of the separation between Jews and Gentiles, Paul says, "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ" (v 13). By faith in Christ, no matter our ethnicity, we are now one household, being a temple of the Holy Spirit (vv 19-22; cf Rev 5:9-10; 7:9).
A MYSTERY, AND MANIFOLD WISDOM (ch 3). Paul writes of his calling from God to reveal truths that were concealed in OT times. "To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (v 8). God's eternal purpose and manifold wisdom are being displayed in Christ. Heavenly beings also are learning about God's wisdom through the church (v 10). Paul closes this section of his epistle with a prayer and doxology (vv 14-21). The request, "that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith," is asking that Christ's presence will be experienced (or manifested) as we walk by faith (cf John 14:21). This entire passage is a wonderful prayer to make your own, and to pray for others.
ONE NEW PEOPLE. These chapters have application to current debates about racism. All races, if we should even call them races (there's only one human race), come from one Creator and Father: "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (3:15). Christ has created us to be one new people, and through one Spirit we are already that new people. We should never minimize the painful history of many peoples down through history. We should be quick to listen, and should support public righteousness and just laws. But we cannot make personal pain the measure of our willingness to forgive. This would make past social injustices to be the standard of reconciliation rather than the death of Christ. There are painful periods of history, of injustice and wrong-doing, which should be known and renounced. But we cannot deal with people merely as categories of race or history. This only serves to perpetuate hatred and injustice. Our sense of justice must be shaped by the Bible rather than by modern theories of race and power. Increasingly, every event today is viewed through the lens of race and power. When we reject overtures of reconciliation because it does not satisfy our racial theories, that is, if we are not quick to receive others and forgive individuals for Christ's sake, then we are in fact denying the gospel. When we are too demanding that they understand us the way we want, or to hold them at a distance until they see things the way we do, then we are in fact denying the gospel. When we judge people in categories, whether by race or gender or age, we are denying God's justice. When we accept uncritically a morally-relativistic view of justice, then we are denying the Lord and his word.
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.