A “Grid” Passage for Wisdom in Determining God’s Will

JP: By Pastor John Hartog III. Used with permission. Read Part I. Read Part 2. Read Part 3.

A “Grid” Passage for Wisdom in Determining God’s Will

Studies in Proverbs 3:1-12 (PART FOUR)

This passage contains couplets of verses (a “grid”): 1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8, 9&10, and 11&12. A “grid” passage is an outline, framework, or list that might be used in order to understand and analyze a complex set of circumstances or a difficult decision. The “grid” provides a biblical way of thinking and can protect the believer from natural (old-man) ways of thinking. Another “grid” passage is 2 Peter 1:5-9.

(PROVERBS 3:7-8) FEAR GOD. “Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from [turn away from, shun] evil. It shall be health [healing] to thy navel, and marrow [refreshment, nourishment] to thy bones.”

Be not be wise in your own eyes. We should not be amazed at our own ways of thinking; we should not be impressed with our own wisdom. In fact, as we seek the Lord’s will, we should have a healthy distrust of our old ways of thinking. This requires faith to believe that the Lord is wiser than we are, and this requires submission to acknowledge that we are not as wise as we would like to think.

Fear as reverence. When we fear the Lord we reverence Him; we respect Him by holding Him in the highest regard. The equating of “fear” with profound respect appears in Proverbs 24:21 where “fear” is applied both to the Lord and to the king (“My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change”).

Fearing the Lord and making the right decisions. Fearing the Lord pushes us to make the right decisions regardless of the pressures put on us by others. Fearing God limits our options, pushes us in the right direction, constrains us to choose correctly.

Several Proverbs mention this correlation between fearing God and choosing correctly: (1) “Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long” (Proverbs 23:17). (2) “The fear of man bringeth a snare: but whoso putteth his trust in the LORD shall be safe” (Proverbs 29:25).

The Hebrew midwives displayed this connection between fearing the Lord and making correct choices: “But the midwives feared God, and did not as the king of Egypt commanded them, but saved the men children alive. . . . And it came to pass, because the midwives feared God, that he made them houses” (Exodus 1:17, 21).

Also, Abraham chose the path of faith and obedience instead of the path of unbelief and disobedience and this demonstrated that he was in fact a God-fearer. We know this because when Abraham was prepared to take the life of his son Isaac, in obedience to God’s command, the Angel of the Lord said to Abraham: “Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me” (Genesis 22:12).

Additional teachings concerning the fear of the Lord. The book of Proverbs teaches that fearing God brings desirable blessings. For example:

  • The fear of the Lord is linked to wisdom and knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; 2:5; 9:10; 15:33).
  • The fear of the Lord results in hating evil (here in Proverbs 3:7; and 8:13; 16:6).
  • The fear of the Lord prolongs life (here in Proverbs 3:7-8; and 10:27; 14:27; 19:23).
  • The fear of the Lord brings strong confidence (Proverbs 14:26).
  • Proverbially, not according to a promise, the reward for humility and the fear of the Lord is riches, honor and life (Proverbs 22:4). We know that this is proverbially the case and not a promise because fearing the Lord does not guarantee these things since better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and the turmoil that comes with it (Proverbs 15:16).

Depart from evil. Just like Job who “was perfect [complete, whole in his integrity] and upright [conscientious], and one that feared God, and eschewed [departed from, turned away from, shunned] evil,” we should turn our back on evil (Job 1:1).

Renewed health and vitality. Reverencing God brings a profound sense of wellbeing. The word “navel” literally means “umbilical cord” (as in Ezekiel 16:4). Some translations, including the Septuagint, understand the word “navel” here to refer metaphorically to the whole body. However, the word could simply and literally imply that fearing God brings strength directly to the core of one’s being. Just like the umbilical cord brought nourishment before one’s birth, so to reverencing God brings vitality. Elsewhere, the Proverbs reference the connection between a right perspective (15:30), good news (16:24), and a joyful countenance (17:22) and good health. Therefore, it should not surprise us that there would also be a connection between fearing God and a sense of wellbeing.

Some Questions to Consider While Determining God’s Will:

  • In our decision making, have we put God first? Or, are we afraid of what other people will do or think? Or, are we enslaved to our own passions?
  • Do we find ourselves fatigued and disillusioned? Could it be that we have been making decisions for self or for others instead of making decisions that come from a life of reverencing God?
  • Do we live life with an overwhelming awe of the Lord? Do our decisions evidence this kind of profound reverence? Are we willing to sacrifice? Are we ready to make the hard decisions?

© Pastor John Hartog III, Th.D

Comment: Image from the Koinonia Retreat Center

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A “Grid” Passage for Wisdom in Determining God’s Will

JP: By Pastor John Hartog III. Used with permission. Read Part I. Read Part 2.


Studies in Proverbs 3:1-12 (PART THREE)

This passage contains couplets of verses (a “grid”): 1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8, 9&10, and 11&12. A “grid” passage is an outline, framework, or list that might be used in order to understand and analyze a complex set of circumstances or a difficult decision. The “grid” provides a biblical way of thinking and can protect the believer from natural (old-man) ways of thinking. Another “grid” passage is 2 Peter 1:5-9.

(PROVERBS 3:5-6) TRUST GOD. “Trust [put confidence] in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding [discernment]. In all thy ways acknowledge him [know Him], and he shall direct [make straight, smooth] thy paths.”

Trust in = to “find confidence in.” Psalm 37:5 “Commit [roll] thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass [i.e., He will do it].”

Like Israel’s forefathers who placed their confidence in God, so that He delivered them; we ought to put our confidence in God, too. Psalm 22:4-5 “Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.”

All your heart. We should serve God with a completely willing and faithful heart. This reminds us of David’s instruction to his son, Solomon. 1 Chronicles 28:9 “And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve [work for] him with a perfect [complete, at rest] heart and with a willing [desirous, finding pleasure in] mind [soul]: for the LORD searcheth [enquires, pursues] all hearts, and understandeth [discerns] all the imaginations [purposes] of the thoughts: if thou seek [enquire, pursue] him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off [reject] for ever.”

Do not lean upon your own discernment. Proverbs 23:4 “Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom [discernment].”

Be ever mindful of the Lord. Think about Him and His way. As we know God, really know Him, He makes His will known to us. Proverbs 16:3 “Commit [roll] thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Jeremiah 10:23 “O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct [establish] his steps.” Philippians 4:6-7 “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” James 1:5 “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

God will direct [make straight, smooth] your paths.

  1. This can mean: God will remove the moral dilemmas. Proverbs 11:5 “The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.”
  2. Or, it can mean: God will make your path free from all obstacles that would otherwise hinder His purposes from being successfully accomplished in your life. Isaiah 45:13 “I have raised him [King Cyrus of Persia] in righteousness [to accomplish God’s righteous purpose], and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.”
  • In our decision making, have we placed our confidence entirely upon God? Or, are we placing confidence in our own understanding/discernment?
  • “Common sense” is helpful for life, but mere human thinking, even at its best, is insufficient for ascertaining the Lord’s will. Prudence will not push us as far as faith.
  • Are we ready to go against our own natural, unregenerate way of thinking in order to have the mind of Christ?
  • Are we thinking about God and His agenda in all of our deliberations and life-plans so that His perfecting will might be accomplished?

© Pastor John Hartog III, Th.D

Strange Women … Strange Men

JP: Not in the sense of above (although some are pretty strange (and not even human!))

JP: Below are three articles that have the theme of “strange ….”:

Diane Heeney: Strange Men

Excerpt:

Proverbs deals with the “strange woman”…but there are plenty of “strange men” out there too. And I don’t mean strange in the sense of wearing plaid polyester and orange high tops. I am not talking about the guy who brings marching band tapes along to listen to on your first date (yep, been there–oh, the stories I could tell…). I mean strange in the biblical sense, in that context of Proverbs 2. Here is what he looks like:

Biblical Horizons Newsletter: The Strange Woman

Excerpt:

Proverbs 7:6-23 is one of several passages early in the Proverbs in which Solomon warns his son about the wiles and dangers of the “strange woman.” It is certainly quite proper to take these as straightforward warnings against sexual sins, and these are certainly warnings that need to be impressed upon the teenagers or young adults that are the primary target of Proverbs, not to mention older men and women subject to the same temptations.

At the same time, looking at these passages from the perspective of the whole Bible raises the suspicion that something more is going on here. Two biblical themes are in the background: First, the symbolic connection of adultery with idolatry (Jer. 2:20; 3:1-20; Ezk. 16; 23), and, second, the fact that the specific danger posed by “strange women” throughout the Bible is that they will entice one away from the Lord (Dt. 17:17; 1 Ki. 11:1-8; Ezra 9-10; Neh. 13:23-28). Moreover, the “wise woman” of Proverbs, ideal wife of the king, has a wider meaning than a mere female human being, so we can expect the “strange woman” to have a larger meaning also.

Chris Anderson: Help for Fighting Lust: Recognizing Flattery

Excerpt:

It is often noted that men are aroused by visible stimuli and women by emotional—that men want the act of intimacy, while women want, well, intimacy. I think both concepts are so simplistic as to be unhelpful. First, statistics indicate that women partake of visual stimuli like pornography at a much higher rate than is normally assumed. Also, it should be obvious that women have desires that are physical, not just emotional. Second, and more essential to this study, the idea that men have a caveman-like desire to merely obtain the woman they see in order to satisfy a purely physical appetite is naïve. Certainly there are men who are visually and physically enticed and “dive in.” (Samson comes to mind.) But most men—and women—are tempted by something far more complex: flattery. What tempts us to immoral fantasies and actions is often more psychological than physical. Proverbs says so.

A “Grid” Passage for Wisdom in Determining God’s Will

JP: By Pastor John Hartog III. Used with permission. Read Part I.


Studies in Proverbs 3:1-12 (PART TWO)

This passage contains couplets of verses (a “grid”): 1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8, 9&10, and 11&12. A “grid” passage is an outline, framework, or list that might be used in order to understand and analyze a complex set of circumstances or a difficult decision. The “grid” provides a biblical way of thinking and can protect the believer from natural (old-man) ways of thinking. Another “grid” passage is 2 Peter 1:5-9.

(PROVERBS 3:3-4) PLEASE GOD. “Let not mercy [faithful love] and truth [truthfulness, faithfulness] forsake [leave] thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: So shalt thou find favour [grace, pleasing charm] and good understanding [i.e., reputation] in the sight of God and man.”

Wisdom as Jewelry. Proverbs 3:22 “So shall they [God’s wisdom and understanding] be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.” Proverbs 1:9 “For they [father’s instruction and mother’s teaching] shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck.” Proverbs 6:21 “Bind them [father’s commandment and mother’s teaching] continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck.” Keep wisdom always near as a most valued of possessions.

Synonyms for Favor. Proverbs 8:35 “For whoso findeth me [Wisdom] findeth life, and shall obtain favour [pleasure, delight] of the LORD.” Genesis 6:8 “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.”

Some New Testament Verses on Being Favorable to the Lord and People. Luke 2:52 “And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour [grace] with God and man.” 2 Corinthians 8:21 “Providing for honest things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men.

  • So, by wisdom we live a life that pleases God. We delight in Him, and He delights in us. We “find grace” in His sight in that we find favor before Him.
  • We must make sure that the decision we make evidences the virtue of faithfulness (both of love and truth). Will the decision I am about to make result in faithful love and truthfulness being “at home” in my heart?
  • We ought not to sacrifice integrity for advancement, or for ease, or for some other gain.
  • Do we have prior obligations or commitments that we would neglect if we chose a certain path? If so, wouldn’t that go against the virtue of “faithful love”? Remember, a man may be measured by the steadfastness of his loyalties and by the reliability of his commitments. First things first.
  • Would we need to deceive someone or would we need to hide some of the truth in order to choose a certain path? If so, wouldn’t that go against the virtue of “truth”?
  • When determining the Lord’s will in any matter, we must make sure that the decision would please God first and foremost and then others, if they are in tune with the Scriptures. The decision should not be one that merely seeks to please one’s self. If the godly people around us are warning us not to take a certain path, then prudence would dictate that we have a very careful approach toward our plans.
  • The human heart is deceitful, and we should ask God to search our hearts and try our ways to see if there is any wicked motive that may be pushing us in the wrong direction. If “self” looms large, then the direction it is pointing is probably wrong. Finding favor with God and people is a blessed thing. Life is not about “self.”
  • Sometimes when we are searching for God’s will, we are actually struggling to justify our own selfish decision even though our Spirit-directed heart is being grieved. In this way, we are like Balaam (Numbers 22:1-35) who pushed and pushed to get his own way and expected God to approve it.

© Pastor John Hartog III, Th.D

A “Grid” Passage for Wisdom in Determining God’s Will

Worn Bible

JP: By Pastor John Hartog III. Used with permission.


Studies in Proverbs 3:1-12 (PART ONE)

This passage contains couplets of verses (a “grid”): 1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8, 9&10, and 11&12. A “grid” passage is an outline, framework, or list that might be used in order to understand and analyze a complex set of circumstances or a difficult decision. The “grid” provides a biblical way of thinking and can protect the believer from natural (old-man) ways of thinking. Another “grid” passage is 2 Peter 1:5-9.

(PROVERBS 3:1-2) OBEY GOD. “My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep [guard, keep close] my commandments: For length of days, and long life, and peace [wholeness, harmony], shall they [God’s Torah commandments] add to thee.”

Obedience and Length of Days. Proverbs 9:10-11 “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.” Proverbs 10:27 “The fear of the LORD prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.” Proverbs 19:23 “The fear of the LORD tendeth to life: and he that hath it shall abide satisfied; he shall not be visited with evil.”

Example of Solomon. God told Solomon: 1 Kings 3:13-14 “And I have also given thee that which thou hast not asked, both riches, and honour: so that there shall not be any among the kings like unto thee all thy days. And if thou wilt walk in my ways, to keep my statutes and my commandments, as thy father David did walk, then I will lengthen thy days.”

Example of Children. The Apostle Paul quoted from Deuteronomy 5:16 and slightly modified the quotation for a direct application in this church-age: Ephesians 6:1-3 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.”

A Life of Peace, That Is a Wholesome Life. Proverbs 12:21 “There shall no evil [grave trouble] happen to [overtake, encounter] the just: but the wicked shall be filled with mischief [evil].” By the way, this is a proverb, not a promise; in other words: “All things being equal, those who live godly lives tend to live long, wholesome lives; on the other hand, those who live evil lives tend not to live long, wholesome lives.”

  • When determining the Lord’s will in any matter, we must make sure that the decision does not contradict His revealed will (i.e., the Bible) because God will never lead us to go against His Word.
  • Sometimes when we are searching for God’s will, we are actually struggling to find ways to justify our own stubborn will in spite of the fact that our decision would violate the teachings of Scripture.
  • Obedience to God’s Word proverbially results in a long and wholesome life (remember, this is not a promise but a proverb).
  • We must study God’s Word, so that we know it, so that it can show us God’s will. If we do not know the Scriptures, we do not know God’s will.

© Pastor John Hartog III, Th.D

Pleasant words are like a honeycomb

He who heeds the word wisely will find good,
And whoever trusts in the LORD, happy is he.
21 The wise in heart will be called prudent,
And sweetness of the lips increases learning.
22 Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it.
But the correction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise teaches his mouth,
And adds learning to his lips.
24 Pleasant words are like a honeycomb,
Sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.

Proverbs 16:20-24

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver

Proverbs 25:11

JP: Good read by Pastor Chris Anderson:

“Sweetness of Speech Increases Persuasiveness”

Excerpt:

[All] would do well to note that “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.” We’re prone to think that the best way to get a point across is to “unload” on people. According to this passage, that’s not the case. Younts notes that parental instruction should be received—and given!—like a beautiful piece of jewelry (Prov 1:8-9). Too often we give pastoral or parental counsel like a two-by-four to the side of the head instead.

Are there times when a stern rebuke is in order? Sure. I’m not calling for cowardice or Pollyanna sweetness. However, the old adage that “You can catch more bees with honey than vinegar” seems to have biblical backing from the book of Proverbs.

Pondering the Paths

Ponder the path of your feet, And let all your ways be established (Proverbs 4:26)

JP: Good blog post by Diane Heeney.

Pondering the Paths

Excerpt:

… today, on the brink of a New Year, I am taking time to ponder the paths I have walked down in the last 350-some-odd days. Where did I choose to walk? With whom (am I walking with the wise)? Did I invite my Lord to come along on all my jaunts? In a fast-paced world, I am challenged to stop… and think. What I think will determine what I say, what I do. Simply put, “A life of integrity requires attention to heart, speech, eyes, and conduct.” (Jamieson, Faucette & Brown commentary)

The word “ponder” in Prov. 4:26 below can mean either to “prepare the way…make smooth” or “weigh in the balances”. Either meaning works for me. To look down the path and see that there are rocks, roots–dangerous obstacles to remove–if I am running, and not considering where I am going, I will trip and fall for sure. Sometimes a path is worth clearing…sometimes it is simply more prudent to turn around and choose another way (as seen below).

To “weigh” my path holds much the same meaning for me, but goes a little deeper: where is this path going…where will I end up if I continue down it? That is a crucial question…to look not only where your feet are planted currently (which may seem safe enough)…but to look to the end of the journey. Is it the “upward way” or increasingly more downhill? You know what happens, once you gain momentum…especially if you are heedless and leaning upon your own understanding. On those questionable paths, that “lamp unto my feet…light unto my path” is invaluable. The Word of God can reveal all the dips, curves, and menacing obstacles. Mental note: Better take it along.