She excels them all

Her children rise up and call her blessed (happy, fortunate, and to be envied); and her husband boasts of and praises her, [saying], Many daughters have done virtuously, nobly, and well [with the strength of character that is steadfast in goodness], but you excel them all. ~Proverbs 31:28-29 AMP

Although some verses definitely address other topics, Proverbs chapter 31 primarily extols the virtues of a godly wife. Verse 29 stipulates that this woman excels all women. This is a fascinating statement, considering the myriad achievements by women listed elsewhere in scripture:

  • Miriam, who led a nation’s women in praise to God (Exodus 15:20, 21)
  • Deborah, the patriotic military advisor (Judges 4:4-10)
  • Ruth, the woman of constancy (Ruth 1:16)
  • Hannah, the ideal mother (I Sam. 1:20; 2:19)
  • The Shunammite, the hospitable woman (II Kings 4:8-10)
  • Huldah, the woman who revealed God’s secret message to national leaders (II Kings 22:14)
  • Queen Esther, the woman who risked sacrificing her life for her people (Esth. 4:16).

In what way did she “excel them all”? In 2 Peter 1:5-7 we read of a number of desirable character traits, and the woman of Proverbs 31 seems to possess them all:

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love

Regardless of gender, the Lord urges us to  “make every effort” to mature and cultivate these traits in our lives. How will you do this today?

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Angry?

A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man holds it in check. ~Proverbs 29:11 HCSB

What causes you to become angry? Is it a habit displayed by a friend or family member? Or maybe your anger stems from being unjustly treated by life circumstances. Perhaps it’s a relationship issue.

Whatever the reason for your emotional state, this verse makes it clear: A person who cannot control his or her temper is “a fool.”

In Ephesians 4:26-27, the apostle Paul writes:

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. 

Paul was thoroughly schooled in the scriptures, and this is a direct reference to Psalm 4:4:

 Don’t sin by letting anger control you. Think about it overnight and remain silent.

Psalm 4:4 teaches that we do not have to allow anger to control us. Instead, we should give careful consideration to our thoughts and words before reacting angrily. And what is the alternative to sinning when we lash out without thinking?

In Galatians 5:22-23 we read:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Regardless of the root cause of your anger, how will you allow the fruit of the Spirit to flourish in your life today, instead of rage?

Tell me, if you know

Who has gone up to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in His hands? Who has bound up the waters in a cloak? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is the name of His Son – if you know? ~Proverbs 30:4 HCSB

Interestingly, the Bible offers clear answers to every one of the questions posed in Proverbs 30:4.

1. Jesus Christ is the one who has both come down to earth and ascended into heaven.

Consider how the birth of Jesus was predicted by an angel, as recorded in Luke 1:26-35:

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Acts 1:9 tells us that a number of people saw Jesus physically ascend into heaven following his resurrection:

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

And the writer of Hebrews emphasizes that Acts 1:9 is true:

Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. ~Hebrews 4:14

2. Jesus Christ demonstrated control over the wind.

In Mark 4:37-41 we read an account of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee in a small boat:

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

3. Jesus Christ has held control of the oceans since he created them.

In Job 38:8-11, the Lord asks Job to tell him who set the oceans in place and determined their boundaries. It’s a rhetorical question, of course. The obvious answer is that God is the one who controls the seas:  

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, ‘This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt’?

4. Jesus Christ is God the Creator.

Colossians 1:16-17 assures us that Jesus is God the Creator:

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

What will you do today to help someone else learn God’s name, and the name of his son?

Wisdom brings stability

When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily. But wise and knowledgeable leaders bring stability. ~Proverbs 28:2 NLT

Time after time in the Old Testament, we read of leaders whose wisdom and knowledge were used by God to provide stability – and even prosperity – to the nation of Israel. While King Solomon was far from perfect, he is said to be one of the wisest people ever to live. Israel grew wealthier, more influential, and safer under his reign.

As the U.S. election cycle begins to heat up, both the Republican and Democrat political parties are holding conventions to solidify their positions on issues and nominate their respective candidates for President and Vice President. Isn’t it interesting that this verse speaks to our present-day circumstances?

Proverbs 28:2 says that a government is much more susceptible to failure – and even collapse – when there is moral rot within the population. Yes, there are many people in the United States who seek after God with all their hearts. But too many of our fellow citizens reject God outright, including many of those counted among our “leaders.”

In scripture we are reminded that when godless leaders rule, the followers often end up in a bad situation. Judges 17:6 tells us, starkly:

In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit.

We are commanded in 1 Timothy 2:1-4 to pray for our leaders:

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Godly wisdom brings stability, but present-day America doesn’t seem terribly interested in being godly, or pursuing wisdom. Consider this statement by President Thomas Jefferson:

Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.

Does it seem like “everyone does as they see fit” in 2012 America? Will you pray for our nation today, and for our leaders?

What is your life?

Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring. ~Proverbs 27:1 ESV

What is “boasting?” The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as, “to glorify oneself in speech; talk in a self-admiring way, or to speak of with excessive pride.”

Home run-hitting legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth was once criticized for bragging about his prolific athletic ability on the baseball diamond. “It ain’t braggin’ if you can do it,” he famously responded.

Still, Proverbs 27:1 cautions us against bragging, especially about ourselves. What we will do or be tomorrow is yet to be seen. For us to declare what that will look like – before it comes to pass – smacks of excessive pride and arrogance.

We have no idea what the next hour holds, much less the next day. Only God is omniscient (able to know all things, including the future). In Romans 12:2-3 we read:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world,but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.

Paul reminds us that God’s kingdom doesn’t work like the world works. The American success-driven world of materialism has different expectations for us than Jesus has.

More specifically to the point, in James 4:13-17 we read a very direct explanation of the principle:

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogant schemes. All such boasting is evil. If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

“You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Humbling, isn’t it? That’s what God’s word does for us.

How can you change your thoughts and speech today to remain humble and avoid boasting?

Did I say that?

Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down. ~Proverbs 26:20 NIV

Have you ever been involved in an uncomfortable situation that was caused, at least in part, by gossip? Things whispered in secret seem so often to end up being devisive or hurtful.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines “gossip” as:

  1. Rumor or talk of a personal, sensational, or intimate nature.
  2. A person who habitually spreads intimate or private rumors or facts.
  3. Trivial, chatty talk or writing.

Interestingly, the word “gossip” has its roots in the Old English term “godsibb,” which meant “godparent.” This came from from “god” + “sib” (from which we get our present-use term “sibling”). The term came to be applied to familiar friends, especially a woman’s female friends at the birth of a child, hence a person – especially a woman – fond of light talk.

Gossip is certainly not engaged in exclusively by women. But it is condemned many times in scripture, regardless of what gender the gossip may be. Consider these references, just from Proverbs:

  • Proverbs 11:13 – A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy person keeps a secret.
  • Proverbs 16:28 – A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.
  • Proverbs 18:8 and 26:22 – The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.
  • Proverbs 20:19 – A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid anyone who talks too much.

Most people don’t think ahead to the consequences of their actions and words. How will you invite the Lord to help you control what you say today?

Is this seat taken?

Don’t demand an audience with the king or push for a place among the great. It’s better to wait for an invitation to the head table than to be sent away in public disgrace. ~Proverbs 25:6-7 NLT

In Luke 14:7-11, Jesus tells a parable that seems to underscore the lesson of Proverbs 25:6-7:

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this person your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all the other guests. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

In both cases, we are cautioned against assuming we belong in a seat of honor.

In James 4:10 we read, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” And in 1 Peter 5:6, we are reminded, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” And Romans 12:3 reads, in part, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment…”

Leave it up to the event host, Jesus says. And since Jesus will host the most important banquet of all time, we’ll want to mind our manners on that day and quietly take a seat without status or acclaim. If Jesus invites us to a better spot, so be it.

Authentic humility does not come naturally to human beings. Ask the Lord today to help you be filled with less of you, and more of him.