Defend the needy

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. ~Proverbs 31:8-9 ESV

These two verses close a passage attributed to the mother of King Lemuel, who recalls that she taught him these principles. She exhorted Lemuel to live and act like the king should.

In Psalm 82:3, God declares:

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.

In Jeremiah 5:28, the Lord condemns the people of Israel for forgetting about justice:

Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor.

And in Jeremiah 22:16, God has these words of praise for Josiah, who served faithfully as King of Judah:

He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?

The cause of the poor, according to this verse, is a just cause. The Lord even says that defending the needy is a living definition of having a good relationship with your creator.

As a Christian, you are a child of the king, and part of a royal priesthood. Like Lemuel’s mother, God expects you to act the part. What will you do today to speak up for people who have no voice? How will you defend those who cannot defend themselves?

Advertisements

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

These words, attributed in an earlier verse to “Agur, son of Jakeh,” seem to pose a series of rhetorical questions. Without the benefit of knowing the New Testament, would you be able to answer correctly?

Consider these answers, each found in the New Testament:

  • No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. ~John 6:46
  • I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence… ~John 8:38
  • That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 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. ~Mark 4:35-39
  • The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 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. ~Colossians 1:15-16
  • “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” ~Matthew 16:15-16

Curiously, no Biblical scholars seem to have any idea who Agur or Jakeh were. Outside of the Bible, there just isn’t any known historical evidence about either of them.

However, there is ample evidence in the scriptures and elsewhere the Jesus Christ was a real historical figure. Are you able to call upon him by name today?

Learn to accept criticism

Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. ~Proverbs 29:1 NLT

“Criticism may not be agreeable,” said Sir Winston Churchill. “But it is necessary.”

No one really enjoys being criticized. When you do receive criticism, though, doesn’t the attitude of the one providing advice matter?

There is such a thing as “constructive criticism” – sometimes referred to in the business world as “feedback.” It’s intended to help you improve, not tear you down. Sincere criticism really can be constructive, if you’re listening and learning from it. That’s God’s intention when he corrects you.

Proverbs 29:1 speaks of a person who consistently denies any shortcoming on their part. Stubborn refusal implies a committed, wilful ignoring of problems. 

If you’re a Christian, by Biblical definition, you’re a saint who sometimes sins.1 John 1:8 reminds you that, although you are redeemed and forgiven, you are not yet perfect:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.

The question is, what is your attitude when you realize that you’ve thought or said or done something that displeases God? If you stubbornly refuse to admit you’re in the wrong, you have a problem. And this verse tells you that eventually, much bigger problems will be yours.

Psalm 51:16-17, on the other hand, promises you that God will not reject anyone who sincerely seeks restoration:

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

If you’ve been disobedient, don’t stay there. Accept the Lord’s discipline and criticism. Agree with God, and call sin what he calls sin. Then ask for and experience his forgiveness today.

Don’t shut your eyes

He who gives to the poor will never want, But he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. ~Proverbs 28:27 NASB

Stewardship pastor Larry Jones, who blogs at Rich Christian, Poor Christian, offers Seven practical ways to give to the poor, which is helpful in applying the truth of Proverbs 28:27. In this post, Jones describes seven practical ways you can plan help those less fortunate:

  1. Designate your offerings.
  2. Give of yourself to a church ministry or para-church organization.
  3. Donate major assets.
  4. Donate clothing or other household goods.
  5. Purchase clothing or household goods from charities.
  6. On the spot giving to charities who are fundraising out in the community.
  7. On the spot giving to the poor in your community.

Jones’ point is that you should be intentional about giving to the poor. And nowhere in scripture are you instructed to ignore, neglect or forget about the needs of the poor. Quite the contrary, Christ-followers are expected to give to those in need. Consider this exchange in Matthew 19:16-26 between Jesus and a wealthy young man:

Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.” “Which ones?” he inquired. Jesus replied, “‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’” “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?” Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

How are you doing on this? Have you shut your eyes? Or are you seeking God’s direction about how you can encourage those who are less fortunate than you, financially speaking?

How’s your vision?

Sheol (the place of the dead) and Abaddon (the place of destruction) are never satisfied; so [the lust of] the eyes of man is never satisfied. ~Proverbs 27:20 AMP

Jesus spoke very little about heaven and hell. But in Mark 9:43-48, he addresses the topic of eternal separation from God:

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where ‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’

Jesus is speaking in spiritual terms here; he is not commanding you to literally remove your eyes, hands or feet. Rather, he is emphasizing the principle found in Proverbs 27:20, which is that the eyes of sinful people are never satisfied. They continually desire to see more and more that is displeasing to God.

How’s your vision today? Are your eyes looking for things that please the old nature, or things that are pleasing to the Holy Spirit?

Stay out of trouble

He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears. ~Proverbs 26:17 NKJV

If you’re a dog owner, you know one of the best ways to irritate your pet is to grab them by the ears. Gentle rubbing behind the ears is usually welcome, but most dogs truly hate having their ears roughed up.

Solomon’s recommendation in Proverbs 26:17 is that you choose to stay out of trouble whenever you can avoid it. You may be tempted to intervene in someone else’s quarrel. And once in a while, it may be necessary. But be smart: Deciding to grab a dog by the ears often means your fingers will be bitten.

Every person faces life situations that are stressful, challenging, difficult – even dangerous. The Lord promises Christians grace and wisdom in great measure to navigate these troubles.

But do your best to avoid intentionally entangling yourself in difficulties by deliberately taking a dog by the ears. Or hoisting a bear cub by the scruff of the neck.

Wickedness pollutes purity

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked. ~Proverbs 25:26 NIV

Have you ever tried to drink water that is foul with impurities? Whether it’s mud from the stream or spring, or the brackish, stale taste of well water that is no longer fresh, it is unpleasant in your mouth, and maybe worse in your stomach.

There are several Old Testament references to “living water,” including:

My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water. ~Jeremiah 2:13

LORD, you are the hope of Israel; all who forsake you will be put to shame. Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the LORD, the spring of living water. ~Jeremiah 17:13

In John 4:4-13, Jesus explains what “living water” really is:

Now he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as he was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about noon.

When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, “Will you give me a drink?” (His disciples had gone into the town to buy food.)

The Samaritan woman said to him, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?” (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

“Sir,” the woman said, “you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?”

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Aren’t you glad that Jesus never gave in to the temptation to sin? He remained pure and righteous throughout his earthly life. The well of water Jesus represents – living water – remains unpolluted to this day. Because he was without sin, our heavenly Father saw Jesus’ death as an acceptable sacrifice.

Is there someone in your life who needs a drink of living water?