Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Sunday, 13 August 2022:
Judges 12:1 — “Why did you cross over to fight against the Ammonites and did not call us to go with you?”
People will hate you simply because God has blessed you. People will also hate you when you receive the reward for doing what was right when they didn’t choose to do what was right. Gideon previously faced the same envy that Jephthah does in this chapter, but Gideon handled it better. The 42,000 Ephraimites who are about to die are a reminder of how destructive envy is and why one should avoid a quarrel before it gets out of hand.
Judges 12:6 — “Then say Shibboleth.”
This may be the first recorded example of racial profiling. Ephraimites could not pronounce “Shibboleth” but rather said, “Sibboleth.” Anyone trying to escape the battle by crossing the river who was an Ephraimite died that day. This was a real tragedy. Discrimination is not always a bad thing. The word “discrimination” has two definitions: one simply means to distinguish one thing from another by identifying exposed differences, such as distinguishing men from women, tall people from short people, adults from children. This form of discrimination is used by everyone every day, including law enforcement. For example, if a man commits a crime, it would likely be a waste of time and resources to question women too, simply out of some self-induced “fairness” rule. However, men should not be presumed guilty or treated differently simply because they are men. The other definition for discrimination is to make a difference in treatment or favor based upon anything other than individual merit. The Bible strictly forbids favoring or treating people differently by virtue of their natural physical attributes or cultural attributes. However, it is foolish to act as if physical attributes and cultural attributes aren’t used to distinguish one person from another. Observe how many times the Bible mentions that someone was known for a physical or cultural attribute. God made us able to see the difference. The main issue is how you treat people who are different.
Psalm 91:11, 12 — For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.
Satan quoted Psalm 91 when he sought to tempt Jesus in the desert – “Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” (Matthew 4:5, 6) Jesus responded to Satan by quoting from Deuteronomy (the book most quoted by Jesus) — “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.” Jesus’ quote came from Deuteronomy 6:16, a verse which refers to Exodus 17 where the thirsty Israelites on the verge of stoning Moses asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?” For further context, Deuteronomy 6 is also the “Greatest Commandment” chapter which commands, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might…. It is the Lord your God you shall fear. Him you shall serve and by his name you shall swear.”
Satan quoted from God’s word verbatim but out of context and with evil intent. He wanted Jesus to fall into the common traps of approaching God and His word from a self-centered perspective, placing personal interest over the will of God, expecting God to prove Himself, placing God in the position of being man’s servant rather than the other way around, and transferring glory from God to man. Of course, Jesus would not fall into Satan’s trap, and in one simple quote, proclaims that God is LORD, “Him you shall serve.” We must be VERY careful not to approach God and His word in a self-centered way – “What will God do for me? How does what He is saying benefit me, my life and what I want?” — as opposed to “How do I obey God’s word with a heart of genuine love for God’s glory and in accordance with His will.” With a self-centered perspective, we can quote from God’s word inappropriately; drift away from God, His love and His will; mistreat others, and lead others astray.
Similarly, we must be careful not to wield God’s word while arrogantly placing ourselves in the seat of God (The Judge) towards others. This is what Job’s friends did. Job’s friends quoted great spiritual truths inappropriately, in a judgmental way – “You deserve worse” – true words, but neither loving nor helpful. What makes us judgmental is not when we reveal sin to others out of love but when we reveal sin to others without love. We are judgmental when we claim some sort of personal moral authority as if we are not sinners wholly dependent upon God’s mercy and grace too, as if we were the Righteous One, the deliverer of the sentence. Placing ourselves in this position is a presumptuous affront to God, a denial of the Gospel, and when we ‘play god’ in this way, we render ourselves worse than the one we are confronting. Our mission is reconciliation not condemnation. True love speaks the truth only in love. If your goal isn’t honestly to demonstrate the love of Christ to the one you are confronting, hoping only for their unity with Jesus, best to remain silent.
Proverbs 13:7 — One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
You will never fix what you aren’t willing to be honest about. Don’t pretend to be something you are not; be honest with yourself and with others about your strengths and weaknesses. Your humble honesty will help you and others and is another opportunity to proclaim the sufficiency of God’s grace as you strive to grow in Christlike character, which is your God-given purpose (Romans 8:29)
Proverbs 13:8 — The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat.
When your trust is in the Lord, you have nothing to worry about. When your trust is in something else, it is always in doubt.
Proverbs 13:10 — With those who take advice is wisdom.
Are you truly wise? Where do you get your advice? The Holy Spirit should be your primary Counsellor, but you must humbly seek and receive His advice.
Proverbs 13:11 — Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
A major and critical life principle in the Bible is that growth in any area requires consistent discipline, day-by-day over time. People always overestimate what they can do in a day and underestimate what they can do in a lifetime. There are no quick fixes to the things that really matter in life. What are you willing to do consistently every day to become who you want to be at the end of your days?
When you develop something through commitment and consistent daily disciplines (such as financial wealth, physical fitness, skills, a project, an organization, etc), you not only change whatever it is you are working on, you also change yourself. You grow with your project in your character and become the person who can rightly appreciate and sustain what you have created. Often people want the results without the work, and the result is almost always fleeting because the person can’t handle it – they didn’t earn the right to have it. Truly successful people learn to appreciate the process more than the outcome, the internal growth more than the external gain. Moses spent 40 years leading the Israelites through the desert lands to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, and he ultimately didn’t make it across with them. He failed to get the results He had hoped for, but through 40 years of striving, He grew closer to God every day. He eventually made it to the Promised Land, but in heavenly form, standing next to His Savior on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:3). How could he possibly have imagined these results? Accomplish all you can in God’s grace and for His glory, but enjoy the process of striving with the Lord as you abide in Him. In your struggle, if you lose your joy, you are doing it wrong. Eternal life is experienced in knowing Him (John 17:3) and abiding in Him (Isaiah 32:16; Isaiah 32:16-18; John 15:5-16; 1 John 2:6-28; 1 John 3:6-24; 1 John 4:12-16; 2 John 2:2-9). In His commands to abide in Him recorded in John 15, Jesus, who endured even the cross, “for the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2),” said, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” (John 15:11) Build your wealth, your fitness, your relationships, your knowledge, your whatever, but above all else, build your Christlike character and your joy in the Lord.
Proverbs 13:16 — Every prudent man acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.
Fools are always the loudest and most confident. They are proud, not humble. Also, fools make decisions emotionally rather than rationally; the wise do the opposite.
Proverbs 13:20 — Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
When the Bible repeats itself it is for the purpose of really making the point. Proverbs 13:20 is a repeated theme found throughout the rest of Proverbs for a reason. Pay attention! The Hebrew word here used for “companion” is “râ‛âh.” It is used 164 times in the Bible and can mean “to befriend” but usually means “to shepherd,” such as in Psalm 23:1: “The Lord is my Shephard;” or “to feed,” such as in Proverbs 10:21: “The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of sense.” So, the main warning is to guard your heart by being very careful about who or what you let influence you. Ensure your closest companion, your closest friend, your primary influence, your shepherd is the Lord, and feed daily upon His word — “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.” (John 8:31) Make sure your earthly companions are striving to do the same and are helping you grow closer to Jesus as you help them too. If your friends aren’t following Jesus, they will either naturally drift away from you or lead you astray.
Proverbs 13:22 — A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
Again, things that matter are built over time. The righteous work diligently today for a result that will last for generations to come.
Proverbs 13:23 — The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice.
God is a God of justice. God hates injustice. Injustice robs people and society of the good that could have been. Justice can only come from alignment with the will of God, and Christ’s Ambassadors fight for justice by proclaiming the truth of Jesus Christ. “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” (Deuteronomy 32:4) “Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.” (Proverbs 28:5)
Proverbs 13:24 — Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
Because God loves you, He is diligent to discipline you.
Proverbs 13:25 — “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want.”
This is a very interesting Proverb. The appetite of the righteous is satisfied, but why? Perhaps it is because the appetite of the righteous is content with “enough” rather than “just a little more.” The righteous have learned to be content with what God has provided while the wicked are never satisfied in their empty cravings. The choice of the word “enough” in this Proverb is significant – it doesn’t say “plenty,” or “an abundance.” Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” rather than “give us this day bread for a lifetime.” Learning to walk in daily dependence on and confidence in God is where we find peace, contentment, and joy. In this position, we are like the “poor man” who “hears no threat.” (Proverbs 13:8) Also, the wicked suffer want because they don’t maintain the disciplines required to gain and sustain what God has made available to them. God creates the harvest, but He has given us the responsibility to cultivate. This truth applies to everything. The first thing God gave Adam was work, and work was intended to be part of the blessing. Work only became a curse when it was done selfishly, apart from God’s will. Enjoy the work by working with gratitude and in constant communion with the Lord as an act of worship.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 13 August 22: Whatever you do today, do it with the fullness of joy of abiding in the Lord, and let your unusual love, joy, and peace be the conversation opener with others that gives you the opportunity to tell them about Jesus.