Day 139: A woman of excellence

Proverbs 30-31; John 4:1-30

Key Verses

Proverbs 31:30
Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

John 4:13-14
Jesus said to [the Samaritan woman], “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The Proverbs 31 woman. Just the thought of her makes me feel stressed. She is kind to the needy, makes fine clothes, prepares nutritious meals, doesn’t get much sleep and has a real estate business on the side!

I have to remind myself every time I read this chapter, that she is the ideal embodiment of wisdom. This description is actually an acrostic poem – describing her entire life. It is NOT “a day in the life of the perfect woman!”

If I’m honest, I have more in common with the Samaritan woman found in John 4. I’m not referring to her promiscuity – but to her imperfections in general. Her life was scarred by a cruel world – yet she still had hope for the Messiah.

Little did she know she would meet her Messiah in the most mundane of ways. Here was the King of all creation, sitting beside a well, tired from traveling. I imagine he was dusty and thirsty. He used this ordinary moment to teach an ordinary woman that He is the living water. She listened because she was thirsty – and she needed some of that living water!

I’m thirsty… oh so thirsty. And that’s the first step to becoming the woman of excellence described in Proverbs 31. She is full – filled with the living water of the Spirit of God – which has overflowed into all areas of her life – bringing peace and joy to her and to others.

I need to go find myself some of that living water :)

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Day 132: Understanding

Proverbs 16-17; Luke 24:1-35

Key Verses

Luke 24:32
They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

Proverbs 16:16
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.

Understanding. Jesus’ followers needed it. They needed it during the darkness of the Crucifixion and during the darkness of His burial. They needed understanding during the hours that passed – with all hope lost – in utter despair.

Understanding. The women didn’t understand when they came to the tomb Sunday morning. The angel asked, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Could it be? They didn’t understand. Not yet…

And Jesus – walking with the men on the road to Emmaus. Luke tells us that He opened the Scriptures to them – revealing from the Law and the Prophets that the Christ had to suffer and die. And then – their eyes were opened. And they understood.

Understanding. True understanding of the Scriptures – how Jesus is the culmination of all redemptive history – is a gift from God. A gift that should be valued over all this world can offer!

Day 130: The Path of the Righteous

Proverbs 10-12; Luke 23:26-43

Key Verses

Luke 23:32, 40-43
Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. The [criminal said,] “…we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

Two convicts hung on either side of Jesus – one mocked and the other was accepted. Why? Proverbs gives us the answers…

The wise of heart will receive commandments,
but a babbling fool will come to ruin. 10:8

Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
but he who rejects reproof leads others astray. 10:17

What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
but the desire of the righteous will be granted. 10:24

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with the humble is wisdom. 11:2

With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
but by knowledge the righteous are delivered. 11:9

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
but he who hates reproof is stupid. 12:1

The thoughts of the righteous are just;
the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. 12:5

In the path of righteousness is life,
and in its pathway there is no death. 12:28

There were two men dying next to Jesus. But one took responsibility for his sins and accepted his punishment as just. He was humble and teachable of heart. This man was counted righteous – not because of his gleaming record (he was a criminal!) but because of the humble state of his heart and his trust in the person of Jesus. God declared him righteous by His GRACE. The righteous man would live with Jesus in Paradise.

The book of Proverbs consistently teaches that those who receive reproof with teachable hearts are considered righteous – but those who despise reproof are fools. And so it is with the gospel, you have to know you’re a sinner to recognize your need for a Savior. Those righteous in their own eyes will perish.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:8-9).

Day 129: Wisdom and Folly

Proverbs 8-9; Luke 23:1-25

Key Verses

Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is insight.”

Luke 23:20-22
Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death.”

Wisdom and Folly…they are on full display in both of today’s passages. The contrast between Wisdom and Folly is a main theme of Proverbs. Listen to Wisdom…

Hear, for I will speak noble things,
and from my lips will come what is right,
for my mouth will utter truth;
wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
there is nothing twisted or crooked in them (Proverbs 8:6-8).

Wisdom was with Jesus in the beginning as He created the world, and Wisdom was with Jesus as he endured Folly. This passage from Luke is filled with Folly. False accusations, gross injustice, cowardly leaders, and even “insurrection and murder.” Wisdom was found in only One person… His speech was noble and He only spoke the truth – and it was this Truth – that He was the Son of God, that incited the people to crucify Him. We see Him stand silently before his accusers, and we know that Wisdom was with Him.

Isn’t it beyond comprehension that God offers this same wisdom to us?

I, wisdom, love those who love me,
and those who seek me diligently find me.
For whoever finds me finds life
and obtains favor from the Lord. (Proverbs 8:12,17 ,35)

We must seek diligently to find Wisdom. Where do we seek? We look to God’s Word and to Jesus. He is the embodiment of Wisdom, and it is Him we must seek.

Day 126: Solomon’s Wisdom

Proverbs 1-3

Key Verses

Proverbs 2:1-5
My son, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.

Yesterday’s reading from 1 Kings ended with an extraordinary description of Solomon’s wisdom…

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men…and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. He also spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005. He spoke of trees…and also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34).

This is the context for the book of Proverbs, a book of wisdom literature penned by Solomon. In the first chapter, we find the mantra for the entire book… “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” We will find as we read through Proverbs** that it is the unteachable heart that receives the most ire. The wise person is humble and teachable, i.e. “listens to instruction,” whereas the fool is “wise in his own eyes.”

The beauty of studying wisdom literature alongside the gospels is that we get to see Wisdom personified in Jesus. And when we are tempted to despair because of our many shortcomings concerning wisdom… the story of the cross helps us look away from our sin and toward the one who has paid our ransom.

**For the next two weeks, we will be reading through the book of Proverbs, (alongside the New Testament) and then we will come back to 1 Kings. I have re-ordered the Old Testament books in the Bible Reading Plan to give better context for certain books and also to break up the Wisdom and Prophecy genres. You can view the order of Old Testament books at this link.**

Day 296: Ending Remarks

Ecclesiastes 10-121 Thessalonians 5

Wow! I think this might be the first time in 296 posts that we come to the end of both an Old and New Testament book on the same day! So yes, we end both Job and 1 Thessalonians today :)

After Paul reassures the young Thessalonian church of their salvation and exhorts them to continue working (as opposed to being idle) until the day of the Lord comes, like a thief in the night…Paul ends his book with a plethora of miscellaneous commands.

Similarly, after Solomon makes his case that wisdom is better than folly, he spends the last few chapters of Ecclesiastes giving a plethora of wisdom sayings.

With so much miscellaneous information, it’s hard to find a common thread! But each man makes a focused summary at the end of his book.

Solomon ends Ecclesiastes with the decisive statement:

Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

And Paul ends his letter to the Thessalonian church with profound encouragement:

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

I can’t think of better ending sentiments… A command to fear God, a prayer for God’s sanctification, and the assurance of God’s faithfulness to complete the work he’s started in us. That sounds like the gospel. That sounds like good news!

Day 293: Vanity, Vanity

Ecclesiastes 1-31 Thessalonians 1-2

I think Ecclesiastes is an apt counterpoint to Job in that both the afflicted Job and the prosperous author of Ecclesiastes conclude that the fear of God is the only satisfying pursuit of man.

Even though the author of Ecclesiastes is anonymous, many scholars believe the author to be Solomon because no other king in the line of David possessed such wisdom and possessions as described in the book of Ecclesiastes. If the author is indeed Solomon, it makes the book all the more meaningful because Solomon had every worldly possession and privilege known to man – yet he still concluded it was all “vanity” apart from God.

Wisdom, Possessions, Pleasure, even hard work – Solomon argued that they were all meaningless “under the sun.” When Solomon used the phrase, “under the sun,” he was referring to all things in this fallen world.

Without God placing eternal value on our lives, everything “under the sun” is fleeting and meaningless – leading to death.

Solomon writes about the vanity of “work”…

So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun, because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil. (Ecclesiastes 2:20-21).

In contrast, Paul, writing to the Thessalonians, speaks about the eternal significance of his work. Paul says that coming to Thessalonica was “not in vain” (1 Thess. 2:1). And Paul also speaks of “toil” but his “toil” has purpose…

For you remember, brothers, our labor and toil: we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God (1 Thessalonians 2:9).

Paul finds value in his work because of the gospel. His work supports, enables, and is motivated by the gospel. The gospel is eternal, so Paul’s work has eternal significance. In fact, Paul even calls the church at Thessalonica his “glory and joy” (1 Thess. 2:20) because they signify his eternal work in this fallen world.

As Solomon considers the temporary nature of work in this fallen world, he turns to look at God’s eternal nature…

I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him (Ecclesiastes 3:13).

Without the fear of the Lord, Solomon concluded that life was vanity.
Without the fear of the Lord, Job’s suffering was hopeless.
Without the fear of the Lord, Paul’s work was purposeless.

Everything is “vanity” apart from the fear of the Lord!

Day 265: Leadership (Biblical-style), pt. 2

Nehemiah 1-2; 2 Corinthians 8

Today we move on to Nehemiah, the sequel to Ezra. If Ezra was Israel’s spiritual leader, then Nehemiah was very much their political leader. In fact, Nehemiah’s godly example of leadership is one of the primary themes that runs throughout his book.

Nehemiah was cupbearer to the king of Persia and learned about Jerusalem’s great trouble and the ruined state of her walls. Nehemiah’s first course of action was to pray (Neh. 1:4) and then he waited for months (Neh. 1:1, 2:1) for an opportunity to ask the king for help.

This is the first of many instances where Nehemiah shows wisdom and patience in dealing with his fellow-man. Nehemiah is not impulsive – but uses careful observation and humble persuasion to lead effectively. After he wisely gains the kings help and favor, he arrives in Jerusalem. Again he exercises patience and wisdom as he waits for the appropriate time to inspect the walls alone. He does this to be better prepared to lead and organize the people (Neh. 2:11-16).

We see the positive results of his preparations in Chapter 3 as the author systematically lists each section of the wall and what group of people were responsible for rebuilding. Nehemiah not only persuaded the people to commit to a great work but organized and equipped them to complete the task.

Meanwhile. Paul exercises his own leadership skills in today’s reading from 2 Corinthians 8. He is working to persuade the church to give generously to the needy in Jerusalem. Again, Paul uses patience and wisdom in how he asks.. He doesn’t ask at the beginning of the letter, but rather waits until after he lays a foundation of truth for the Corinthians church. He first defends his apostolic ministry. then teaches the truths of eternal perspective and finally, commends the church for their repentance. Only after he has created a clear context does he ask the church to complete their work of giving to the needy in Jerusalem.

Neither Paul nor Nehemiah was manipulative – but used patience, insight and wisdom to influence people to do what was right and glorifying to God. They were effective leaders – bringing much glory to God!

Day 238: Secret Wisdom of God

Isaiah 24-25; 1 Corinthians 2

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”

Chapter 24 of Isaiah begins a four-chapter-section where Isaiah looks forward in time to the end of the world. We learn that God will destroy the earth (24:1-12), but will preserve a remnant (24:13). This remnant then emerges from every corner of the earth “singing for joy” (24:14-16)!

Chapter 25 describes the final salvation of God’s people when they will feast together on Mount Zion and the Lord will “swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces” (Isaiah 25:8).

What a wonderful promise – a promise that we anticipate with great longing!

We know this promise of salvation is only made possible by Christ’s once and for all sacrifice on the cross. This is the “secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory” (1 Corinthians 2:7).

Paul makes it clear that the revelation of God’s wisdom – the implications of Christ’s death and resurrection – can only be attained through the Spirit.

…no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God (1 Corinthians 2:11b-12).

If you understand the gospel, do not think yourself wise – but consider yourself loved by God. Your understanding is a gift – just as your salvation is a gift!

And because of the grace of God, we can look forward to the fulfillment of all God’s promises – to when death will be swallowed up forever and there will be no more tears and no more pain!!

Day 139: A woman of excellence

Proverbs 30-31; John 4:1-30

The Proverbs 31 woman. Just the thought of her makes me feel stressed. She is kind to the needy, makes fine clothes, prepares nutritious meals, doesn’t get much sleep and has a real estate business on the side!

I have to remind myself every time I read this chapter, that she is the ideal embodiment of wisdom. This description is actually an acrostic poem – describing her entire life. It is NOT “a day in the life of the perfect woman”!

If I’m honest, I have more in common with the Samaritan woman found in John 4. I’m not referring to her promiscuity – but to her imperfections in general. Her life was scarred by a cruel world – yet she still had hope for the Messiah.

Little did she know she would meet her Messiah in the most mundane of ways. Here was the King of all creation, sitting beside a well, tired from traveling. I imagine he was dusty and thirsty. He used this ordinary moment to teach an ordinary woman that He is the living water. She listened because she was thirsty – and she needed some of that living water!

I’m thirsty… oh so thirsty. And that’s the first step to becoming the woman of excellence described in Proverbs 31. She is full – filled with the living water of the Spirit of God – which has overflowed into all areas of her life – bringing peace and joy to her and to others.

I need to go find myself some of that living water :)