Bible reading for April 12 -- 13
Apr 12 -- Proverbs 30 and 1 Timothy 1
Apr 13 -- Proverbs 31 and 1 Timothy 2
"Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him." (Proverbs 30:5)
OBSERVING CREATION (ch 30). This chapter records the words of Agur son of Jakeh. Nothing is really known of his identity (see the NET Bible notes on this chapter). The first section (vv 1-6) highlights Agur's dependence upon God's revelation. Here is a wise man stating his ignorance. The first step to knowing is to know that we do not know, and the more we know, the more we should realize that we do not know (though it doesn't always work that way). A philosopher once said that at best we humans are afloat on a raft of our knowledge upon a sea of our ignorance. We are dependent upon God's revelation to us, both in nature and Scripture, to know what is true, right, and wise. Agur introduces some of his sayings with numbers, such as, "there are 'n' things, even 'n + 1' things..." It's a literary device, or style, of his proverbs. Agur is also observant of nature, which is part of God's general revelation. So much can be learned from observing the created world, and Scripture highlights many of these things (e.g., animals, plants, mountains, sky, seas) as objects (or images) that point us to God. Jonathan Edwards, a keen observer of creation, wrote, “I believe that the whole universe, heaven and earth, air and seas, and the divine constitution and history of the holy Scriptures, be full of images of divine things, as full as a language is of words.” (Works of Jonathan Edwards, Types, Vol. 11:152)
PLUCKED OUT BY RAVENS (30:17). Now here's a proverb to share with your children! But, if a proverb is an inspired observation about how life generally works, then in what way is this proverb true? Most disrespectful children don't finally (thankfully) end up this way. Perhaps we can say that a grown person who scorns or curses his parents deserves such an ending (Exod 21:17). But there's more, since such proverbs are given to make us think. One question might be, under what circumstances would a body be exposed and left to scavengers? Two occasions in the ancient world were possible: a) the death of a criminal who is denied an honorable burial, and b) the bodies of the slain, abandoned on a battlefield. In both cases it is a dishonorable end. The principle seems that, if we consistently fail to show honor where honor is due (Rom 13:7), that is, not yielding to and respecting God-ordained authority (beginning with parents), then we shall have a dishonorable end. Those who never learn to respect authority often end life as criminals. And the society that rejects God-ordained authority will eventually lie slain on the battlefield of history, without honor. Now, that you can share with your children!
COMMENDING A GODLY WIFE (ch 31). This section contains the words of King Lemuel. Like Agur, not much is known about him. Proverbs as a book opens with the call of Lady Wisdom to follow her ways. Repeatedly, men are told to turn away from sexual immorality, as well as from drunkenness and injustice (vv 1-9). The book of Proverbs ends with praises for the godly wife and mother. Being married and raising children is not all that women may be called to, but God's pattern for marriage, from Adam and Eve onward, endures, being valuable in God's sight and vital for human survival. This is also taught in today's NT reading, below.
"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way." (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
THE PASTORAL EPISTLES. In our vernacular we might call these the "shepherding letters". These were Paul's personal letters to Timothy and Titus, who served as his emmissaries in maintaining the spiritual health of the newly-planted churches. They weren't apostles like Paul, nor local church elders, but were sent out with Paul's authority to help cultivate these young congregations. There is an emphasis in these epistles on the nature of Christian ministry, on sound doctrine, and on the proper organization for the local churches.
FALSE TEACHING, A CHRONIC PROBLEM (ch 1). This letter was written to Timothy about AD 62, after Paul's first Roman imprisonment. Chapter one opens with a theme repeated in the NT about confronting false teaching in the church. There were teachers spreading confusion about the purpose of the OT law, and its many details, which resulted in fruitless speculation rather than spiritual growth. The goal of sound doctrine is to produce love which comes from a cleansed heart, a good conscience, and genuine faith. The law calls out sin that we might come to Christ for salvation. Salvation comes from God's abundant, overflowing grace to sinners (vv 14-16). Timothy is to fight the good fight, namely by contending for a true understanding of the gospel (v 18). Two false teachers are named, who were excommunicated from church fellowship (v 19-20). So, sometimes church leaders need to name names. Where a true and valuable thing exists you will usually find counterfeits being peddled, too. Reflect: where do you see false teaching today? How should you respond?
THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN (ch 2). Paul affirms that there is one God and one Mediator between God and man (v 5), as the rest of Scripture teaches (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). We are called to intercede on behalf of all people, including our political leaders. The quality of leadership affects the health and peace of a society. Many modern evangelicals chafe at Paul's teaching regarding the role of women (vv 9-15), but it should be remembered that he is basing his teaching not on changing cultural norms, nor on life after the fall of Adam, but on the design and order God gave humanity at creation (see post above). The Dutch theologian and statesman, Abraham Kuyper, once said, "Modernism, which denies and abolishes every difference, cannot rest until it has made woman man and man woman." Kuyper gave this remarkable statement in 1898 (over a hundred years ago!) in a series of lectures at Princeton, as he was considering the direction that western culture would take after abandoning a biblical worldview. Reflect: do you think we are there yet?
Image credit: photo of the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus), taken at Alpenzoo, Innsbruck, by Richard Bartz, via Wikimedia Commons. 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.