Pay attention to wisdom

My son, pay attention to my wisdom, turn your ear to my words of insight, that you may maintain discretion and your lips may preserve knowledge. For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. ~Proverbs 5:1-6 NIV

WomanWhether or not you accept wisdom from God could save your life. Not only does this passage imply that, it also serves as an introduction to the rest of chapter five.

You are urged to pay attention to God’s wisdom. “Attention” means:

  • the act or power of carefully thinking about, listening to, or watching someone or something,
  • notice, interest, or awareness, or
  • special care or treatment.

You’re expected to know this, and to do something about it. As you incline your ears toward the Lord, he has special words of insight on this. Why? So that you can make intelligent decisions, while your lips repeat God’s word quietly to yourself.

By contrast, the lips of an “immoral woman” drip with honey. They look good, and sound good. But in the end, you’ll find they are meaningless. Such an immoral woman doesn’t even know the course her life is on.

This chapter of Proverbs ends with verses 22-23, which say, “The evil deeds of the wicked ensnare them; the cords of their sins hold them fast. For lack of discipline they will die, led astray by their own great folly.”

God knows you’ll be tempted. But through prayer, rather than your own great foolishness, you can be forgiven.

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Take the long view

Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out. ~Proverbs 24:19-20 ESV

Prayer SilouhetteHave you ever wondered why immoral, greedy, self-centered, egotistical, law-breaking people who do truly bad things sometimes experience great worldly success? This passage encourages you to stop concerning yourself with what wicked people do and have.

In 2 Timothy 4:7-9 the apostle Paul explains the hope of every Jesus follower:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

A Christian has God’s promise of eternal life. Evildoers have no such hope. There is nothing — nothing — for a believer to envy about wicked people. While they may appear to prosper for a time, in the long run, they will not.

So when this passage assures you that the wicked have no future, that should be all you need to know. Not only is there nothing for them in the future, God himself promises to extinguish the lamps of those who fail to repent of their rebellion against Jesus Christ.

Rather than waste your time today musing about why some bad people have a good life, think about a person you know who does not believe Jesus Christ is God. Pray for their salvation. Ask the Lord to reveal himself in his great mercy to that person. Jesus would do no less.

Pray for the President

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. ~Proverbs 21:1 KJV

Intercessory PrayerPresident Barack Obama isn’t a king, but he is the highest-level elected political leader of the United States of America. He begins his second four-year term as President today. This verse serves as a reminder that even a king’s heart is subject to the direction of the One True Living God.

In Daniel 2:20-21, the Bible explains that God himself is the one who establishes earthly authorities. Consider this statement, spoken as Daniel praised the Lord for answering his prayers about an interpretation of the king’s dream:

Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them.

Just as Daniel did, Christians believe that God listens to and answers prayers:

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation. ~Psalm 5:3

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. ~Psalm 40:1

A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. ~Matthew 8:2-3

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

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—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 men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

Many politicians have changed their views on key issues while in office. In the 19th century, some leaders who favored slavery later denounced it. In the 1950s some who opposed racial integration later became champions of it. President Obama was elected, in part, because of his radical support for abortion. But the Lord could soften and change his heart at any time.

Determine today to do your part as one subject to various elected and appointed authorities. Pray for them regularly. Plead with the Lord to direct the President’s heart – and the hearts of other leaders – in the way God sees best.

You’ll be burned

Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet? So it is with the man who sleeps with another man’s wife. He who embraces her will not go unpunished. Excuses might be found for a thief who steals because he is starving. But if he is caught, he must pay back seven times what he stole, even if he has to sell everything in his house. But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys himself. He will be wounded and disgraced. His shame will never be erased. ~Proverbs 6:27-33 NLT

Wedding Cake DividedTwo of the Ten Commandments warn against adultery. In Exodus 20:14 the word says, “You shall not commit adultery.” In verse 17 the scripture further states, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…”

In recent days, our thoughts have turned to several pastors we know personally who have fallen into the sin of adultery. We’ll spare you the sordid details. But each of them was married, with children. Each of them was a committed Christian, and well-respected by many. And each of them was certain he would not be found out.

What were the immediate consequences?

  • Their church leadership ministries ended abruptly. Just as the scripture says, they destroyed themselves, in terms of their ministry careers.
  • They were disgraced – again, as the word predicts – both professionally and personally.
  • And of course, they were each wounded when they realized the tremendous impact of their behavior. 

There is no “undo” button for adultery. You can be genuinely sorry for it and you can repent of it, but you cannot pretend it did not happen. Adultery and divorce also bring longer-term consequences. None of them are pleasant:

  • Far beyond the destruction of their careers, each of these men found they had also destroyed their families. Only one of these situations ended in divorce. But even for the families that remained together, adultery caused terrible relational violence between the husband and wife, as well as between the husband and children.
  • Imagine the personal disgrace you might suffer when members of your family learn that you have been unfaithful to your spouse. These men all broke a solemn vow before God that they would be faithful to their wives. Now, at every family gathering, they are looked upon differently.
  • In addition to their own wounds, their wives and children have suffered unspeakably. There are few sins that cause more damage to a family than adultery. It will take a long time – perhaps a lifetime – to rebuild trust between the husband and wife when their intimacy has been broken. And rebuilding a relationship with children who feel betrayed isn’t much easier.

Is there forgiveness? Can restoration take place? Yes, Jesus can and will forgive anyone who commits adultery, and repents sincerely of his disobedience. The wounds caused by adultery, however, are severe. Even when they do eventually heal, scars will remain that remind one of the original wounds. And according to Proverbs 6:33, “his shame will never be erased.” A man may seek and receive forgiveness, but even that may not erase the serious damage that has been done to so many people.

Are you praying regularly for your Christian leaders? The enemy seeks to steal, kill and destroy. Pastors, their ministries, and their families are prime targets. Intercede for your pastor(s) today, asking the Lord to help them be men of integrity. Pray for transparency and accountability in their lives. Pray for them to avoid the hot coals and open flames of adultery.

What are you asking?

Two things I asked of You, Do not refuse me before I die: Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, “Who is the Lord?” Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God. ~Proverbs 30:7-9

PrayingThis passage is attributed in Proverbs 30:1 to Agur, the son of Jakeh. The writer declares that he has asked God for two specific things. But interestingly, he then asks for four:

  1. that God will not refuse his requests
  2. that the Lord would keep deception and lies out of his daily life
  3. enough financial resources to be comfortable, without being wealthy, and
  4. enough food to be satisfied, without going hungry

Was Agur right to ask God for these things?

Others in the scriptures have been invited to petition God, with the assurance that their prayers will be answered. In 1 Kings 3:5, for example, the Lord told Solomon to ask boldly for whatever he wanted:

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

And in Mark 11:23-24, Jesus explains to his disciples that when they approach prayer properly, they can ask God for anything:

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Agur’s second request also aligns with the Lord’s will. In Psalm 34:12-13, the word teaches that lies have no place in the life of one who would serve and please God:

Whoever of you loves life and desires to see many good days, keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies.

For his third and fourth requests, Agur focuses on two very practical matters: Food and finances. His prayer might be paraphrased, “Lord, please supply me with enough – not too much, and not too little.” In Ecclesiastes 5:18-20, Solomon muses about both topics, concluding that God does, indeed, supply people with their daily needs:

Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Jesus, too, addressed the daily needs of people. In Matthew 6:11, as he taught his disciples how to pray, he encouraged them to ask for provision:

Give us today our daily bread.

And in Luke 12:22-31, Jesus explains that your heavenly Father already knows all your needs – and is prepared to meet them:

Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

“Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

What is it that you are asking God for today? If your requests are similar to Agur’s, it would seem you have good reason to expect that your prayers will be answered in the affirmative.

Does God hear your prayers?

The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous. ~Proverbs 15:29 HCSB

Does God hear your prayers? Does he really listen when you implore him to act?

According to this verse, the Lord is not interested in responding to entreaties from certain people – “the wicked.” But who are those people?

In Ezekiel 8, God makes a case against Israel, showing the prophet Ezekiel various forms of idolatry in which the people and elders of Israel were involved. “Although they shout in my ears, I will not listen to them,” the Lord declared in Ezekiel 8:18. Clearly their worship of idols – even in the temple – was infuriating to a jealous God. He wasn’t about to listen to their prayers.

“The wicked,” for the purposes of this teaching, appear to be those who have distanced themselves from the One True Living God.

John chapter 9 tells the story of a man born blind, whose sight was restored by Jesus. In verses 24-34, John records the reaction of the Pharisees to one of Jesus’ miracles:

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!” Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?” He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”

Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”

The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”

To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.

The proud, indignant Pharisees completely missed the fact that this supposedly ignorant beggar understood the scriptures better than they did. In saying, “We know that God does not listen to sinners,” the man was correctly interpreting and applying the meaning of Proverbs 15:29.

Does the Lord hear your prayers? If your relationship with God isn’t good, straighten that out. Confess your sin. Ask him for restoration. Psalm 51:17 promises that God will not turn away from your contrite heart.

Who is the real king?

The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. ~Proverbs 21:1 KJV

Twenty-first century Americans have no first-hand experience living under the rule of royalty. Having rejected the English monarchy in 1776, the former British colonists, as well as waves of immigrants since that time, have always held a much more egalitarian view of the world.

So this verse perplexes American Christians. They understand on the surface, of course, that God directs the hearts of all people. But to really fathom the meaning of this verse, one must pause to consider the absolute authority wielded by any true king – or queen, for that matter. (And no, we’re not talking about Elvis or Michael Jackson here.) Proverbs 16:14-15 helps us grasp the power of a real king:

A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, but the wise will appease it. When a king’s face brightens, it means life; his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.

With a few exceptions, most monarchies in the world today are figurehead rulers. Various legislative bodies and elected officials actually run their respective countries. But when this verse was penned, a king was sovereign. His word was law. And to disrespect or disobey in the slightest was to invite a death sentence.

So along comes King Solomon, who ruled with as much authority as any king ever did, to explain that God himself is the true ruler – even of the mightiest kings. Remember that the name given to Jesus in 1 Timothy 6:15 is “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” Psalm 47:2 sums up this thought for us:

For the LORD Most High is awesome, the great King over all the earth.

And in 1 Peter 2:13-17, the apostle Paul instructs us how we are to behave toward contemporary rulers:

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.

Have you prayed for those in authority over you today? Though it may seem impossible, the fact is that their hearts are in the hands of God himself. And God answers prayer.