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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Proverbs 24

Many of the verses in Proverbs 24 seem to be set in a time of danger when evil is strong and the outcome uncertain:

(1) “If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength!” (Prov. 24:10). That may be an uncomfortable thought, but it needs saying. Anyone can bulldoze ahead when the course is downhill. And of course, our strength often really is small. How often Christians discover, with Paul, that God’s strength is perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:1–10).

(2) As I write this a horrible case has come to light. A university student peeked over the wall in a public lavatory and saw his friend abusing and beating a very young girl, and he walked away and did nothing. Later the friend told him that he had killed the girl, who was found the next morning stuffed in the toilet. Still the university student did nothing. This is a microcosm of those who glimpsed something of the horrors of the holocaust and did nothing. So hear the word of the Lord: “Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, ‘But we knew nothing about this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done?” (Prov. 24:11–12).

(3) “Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future hope, and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out” (Prov. 24:19–20). The believer must take the long view. If we judge everything by who wins and who loses in the short span of our own lives, we will often be frustrated. But God the Judge has the last word.

(4) Suppose, then, that the wicked, or at least your enemy whom you take to be wicked, faces horrible reverses, even in this life. Here too there is a right way and a wrong way of proceeding. “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice” (Prov. 24:17). Why not? Because you have descended to his level, and “the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him” (Prov. 24:18)—and quite possibly toward you. As “the wise” put it, “Do not say, ‘I’ll do to him as he has done to me; I’ll pay that man back for what he did’ ” (Prov. 24:29). Christians cannot fail to hear in these words an anticipation of the “golden rule,” an utterance by the Lord Jesus himself: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matt. 7:12).

Devotional: Psalm 10

Psalm 10 continues the theme of the justice and judgment of God, now slanted away from the more immediate and personal issue of justice for David when he feels betrayed by his enemies and toward a more general treatment. Where is God when evil people triumph? “Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?” (10:1).

In Psalm 10:2–11, the wicked man is described in a composite picture. He arrogantly preys on weaker people (10:2). Far from showing any self-restraint, he boasts of his appetites “and reviles the Lord” (10:3). The sad fact of the matter is that “in all his thoughts there is no room for God” (10:4). Yet it is not difficult to find wicked people who are extraordinarily prosperous, even while they defy all the laws of God (10:5). The wicked man’s explosive arrogance seems to put him above lesser mortals, and he is touted in the papers as the one who gleefully pronounces to himself, “Nothing will shake me; I’ll always be happy and never have trouble” (10:6). Nevertheless he curses his opponents, and spreads lies and malice with his tongue (10:8). In the worst cases he stoops to murder, whether directly as in gang warfare, mob violence, and terrorist attack, or indirectly through ruthless schemes that crush the helpless (10:9–10). And what does he think of God? “God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees” (10:11).

The psalmist now addresses God directly (10:12–15): “Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless” (10:11). He reminds himself that God does see all the trouble and grief that befall this broken race; he does consider it; in his own time, he does take it in hand (10:14). That is why the victim and the orphan wisely commit themselves “to you” (10:14). So much evil is done in secret and will not be exposed by the ordinary judicial process. The psalmist therefore calls to God for justice: “Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out” (10:15, italics added).

The closing verses (10:16–18) find the psalmist reminding himself that God’s scale of timing is less urgent than ours: “The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land” (10:16). The scale that anticipates the dissolution of nations is not meant to dispel confidence that God also concerns himself with the minuscule scale of individual calamity. Rather, it is another way of saying that “the wheels of God’s justice grind exceeding slow, but they grind exceeding fine.”

Related Resources

How Do I Preach Expository Sermons from Proverbs?

Proverbs presents unique challenges. Taken individually, they seem to have only the slightest the connection to each other, making it easy to preach moralism with the gospel tacked on.

Leviticus 9

The Lord Accepts Aaron's Offering

9:1 On the eighth day Moses called Aaron and his sons and the elders of Israel, and he said to Aaron, “Take for yourself a bull calf for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering, both without blemish, and offer them before the LORD. And say to the people of Israel, ‘Take a male goat for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb, both a year old without blemish, for a burnt offering, and an ox and a ram for peace offerings, to sacrifice before the LORD, and a grain offering mixed with oil, for today the LORD will appear to you.’” And they brought what Moses commanded in front of the tent of meeting, and all the congregation drew near and stood before the LORD. And Moses said, “This is the thing that the LORD commanded you to do, that the glory of the LORD may appear to you.” Then Moses said to Aaron, “Draw near to the altar and offer your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and for the people, and bring the offering of the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.”

So Aaron drew near to the altar and killed the calf of the sin offering, which was for himself. And the sons of Aaron presented the blood to him, and he dipped his finger in the blood and put it on the horns of the altar and poured out the blood at the base of the altar. 10 But the fat and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver from the sin offering he burned on the altar, as the LORD commanded Moses. 11 The flesh and the skin he burned up with fire outside the camp.

12 Then he killed the burnt offering, and Aaron's sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 13 And they handed the burnt offering to him, piece by piece, and the head, and he burned them on the altar. 14 And he washed the entrails and the legs and burned them with the burnt offering on the altar.

15 Then he presented the people's offering and took the goat of the sin offering that was for the people and killed it and offered it as a sin offering, like the first one. 16 And he presented the burnt offering and offered it according to the rule. 17 And he presented the grain offering, took a handful of it, and burned it on the altar, besides the burnt offering of the morning.

18 Then he killed the ox and the ram, the sacrifice of peace offerings for the people. And Aaron's sons handed him the blood, and he threw it against the sides of the altar. 19 But the fat pieces of the ox and of the ram, the fat tail and that which covers the entrails and the kidneys and the long lobe of the liver—20 they put the fat pieces on the breasts, and he burned the fat pieces on the altar, 21 but the breasts and the right thigh Aaron waved for a wave offering before the LORD, as Moses commanded.

22 Then Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people and blessed them, and he came down from offering the sin offering and the burnt offering and the peace offerings. 23 And Moses and Aaron went into the tent of meeting, and when they came out they blessed the people, and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people. 24 And fire came out from before the LORD and consumed the burnt offering and the pieces of fat on the altar, and when all the people saw it, they shouted and fell on their faces.

(ESV)

Psalm 10

Why Do You Hide Yourself?

10:1   Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
    Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
  In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor;
    let them be caught in the schemes that they have devised.
  For the wicked boasts of the desires of his soul,
    and the one greedy for gain curses1 and renounces the LORD.
  In the pride of his face2 the wicked does not seek him;3
    all his thoughts are, “There is no God.”
  His ways prosper at all times;
    your judgments are on high, out of his sight;
    as for all his foes, he puffs at them.
  He says in his heart, “I shall not be moved;
    throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.”
  His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
    under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
  He sits in ambush in the villages;
    in hiding places he murders the innocent.
  His eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
    he lurks in ambush like a lion in his thicket;
  he lurks that he may seize the poor;
    he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net.
10   The helpless are crushed, sink down,
    and fall by his might.
11   He says in his heart, “God has forgotten,
    he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
12   Arise, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
    forget not the afflicted.
13   Why does the wicked renounce God
    and say in his heart, “You will not call to account”?
14   But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
    that you may take it into your hands;
  to you the helpless commits himself;
    you have been the helper of the fatherless.
15   Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
    call his wickedness to account till you find none.
16   The LORD is king forever and ever;
    the nations perish from his land.
17   O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
    you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
18   to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
    so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Footnotes

[1] 10:3 Or and he blesses the one greedy for gain
[2] 10:4 Or of his anger
[3] 10:4 Or the wicked says, “He will not call to account”

(ESV)

Resources

How Do I Preach Expository Sermons from Proverbs?

Proverbs presents unique challenges. Taken individually, they seem to have only the slightest the connection to each other, making it easy to preach moralism with the gospel tacked on.

Proverbs 24

24:1   Be not envious of evil men,
    nor desire to be with them,
  for their hearts devise violence,
    and their lips talk of trouble.
  By wisdom a house is built,
    and by understanding it is established;
  by knowledge the rooms are filled
    with all precious and pleasant riches.
  A wise man is full of strength,
    and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
  for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
    and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
  Wisdom is too high for a fool;
    in the gate he does not open his mouth.
  Whoever plans to do evil
    will be called a schemer.
  The devising1 of folly is sin,
    and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.
10   If you faint in the day of adversity,
    your strength is small.
11   Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
    hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12   If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
  Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
    and will he not repay man according to his work?
13   My son, eat honey, for it is good,
    and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14   Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
    if you find it, there will be a future,
    and your hope will not be cut off.
15   Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous;
    do no violence to his home;
16   for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
    but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.
17   Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
    and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
18   lest the LORD see it and be displeased,
    and turn away his anger from him.
19   Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
    and be not envious of the wicked,
20   for the evil man has no future;
    the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
21   My son, fear the LORD and the king,
    and do not join with those who do otherwise,
22   for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
    and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?

More Sayings of the Wise

23 These also are sayings of the wise.

  Partiality in judging is not good.
24   Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
    will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations,
25   but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
    and a good blessing will come upon them.
26   Whoever gives an honest answer
    kisses the lips.
27   Prepare your work outside;
    get everything ready for yourself in the field,
    and after that build your house.
28   Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause,
    and do not deceive with your lips.
29   Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;
    I will pay the man back for what he has done.”
30   I passed by the field of a sluggard,
    by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31   and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
    the ground was covered with nettles,
    and its stone wall was broken down.
32   Then I saw and considered it;
    I looked and received instruction.
33   A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
34   and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

Footnotes

[1] 24:9 Or scheming

(ESV)

1 Thessalonians 3

3:1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's coworker1 in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith, that no one be moved by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. For when we were with you, we kept telling you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction, just as it has come to pass, and just as you know. For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent to learn about your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and our labor would be in vain.

Timothy's Encouraging Report

But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you—for this reason, brothers,2 in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith. For now we live, if you are standing fast in the Lord. For what thanksgiving can we return to God for you, for all the joy that we feel for your sake before our God, 10 as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith?

11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Footnotes

[1] 3:2 Some manuscripts servant
[2] 3:7 Or brothers and sisters

(ESV)