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  • 1. Proverbs – FNG Nov 1, 2013 Scripture reading: Proverbs 2:1-11 Tonight we face a similar challenge as we did last month. Last month in the Psalms we were trying to discern a common thread, a picture of God using something as diverse and disjointed as a hymnal. But at least every poem, every song had a thread of its own. With this collection of proverbs, apparently arranged at random, every single verse can be a thought all of its own, although unlike the Psalms, very few are statements about God. Solomon was a prolific writer and the next three books will be his works. In first kings we find his resume and bibliography. “God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore. Solomon’s wisdom was greater than the wisdom of all the people of the East, and greater than all the wisdom of Egypt. He was wiser than anyone else, including Ethan the Ezrahite—wiser than Heman, Kalkol and Darda, the sons of Mahol. And his fame spread to all the surrounding nations. He spoke three thousand proverbs and his songs numbered a thousand and five. He spoke about plant life, from the cedar of Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of walls. He also spoke about animals and birds, reptiles and fish. From all nations people came to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, sent by all the kings of the world, who had heard of his wisdom.” (1 Kings 4:29-34) Ecclesiastes 12 tells us that Solomon also collected proverbs, as evidenced by the included collection of the thirty sayings of the wise, sayings of Agur and sayings of King Lemuel, which were taught him by his mother, so they weren’t really his. I’d like you to meet another gentleman who traveled around the country collecting poetry and proverbs. His name is Vuk Karadzic. You likely have never heard of him, but he is the father of modern Serbian language, the language of heaven. He came up with the concept of one letter for a sound, making the language completely phonetic, so you never have to wonder how something is spelled. You spell it the way it sounds. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? You will, of course, need the whole of eternity to figure out the grammar. Mr. Karadzic was also the first one to translate and make widely available the New Testament in colloquial Serbian. But what he was primarily known for was for traveling around Serbia in the first half of 19th century and collecting poetry, folk songs, fairy tales and proverbs. It was interesting to study a lot of this in literature classes, but these works never made it into the religious realm. So how come we have the proverbs of Solomon and others that he collected included in the Bible? Truth be told, a lot of Solomon’s proverbs sound very similar to the ones Mr. Karadzic collected traveling around Serbia. Was it because Solomon’s wisdom was given him by God and Mr. Karadzic collected his proverbs from the common folk who learned the lessons of what is commonly referred to as: real life? But so many of them sound so similar!
  • 2. Have you ever considered the possibility that God is into common sense applicable to real life? You have probably heard the expression “you are so heavenly minded you are no earthly good.” It seems we often perceive the things of God as belonging in a different, heavenly world, with little to no application to every day life. If you get deeper into theology you will likely lose yourself in grand terminology such as the theodicy of God, eschatology, exegesis, apologetics… to name just a few. If you have ever read the Three Musketeers you may remember the thesis that Aramis was mulling over: 'The two hands are indispensable for priests of the inferior orders, when they bestow the benediction.' The clergy thought it was a simply magnificent topic. d’Artagnan, being the regular guy that he was, was bored to tears and did not hide it. What the regular guy wants to know is – how should I conduct my business? What should I be thinking about and considering when I am looking for love? How do I conduct myself in company? And so here, smack dab in the middle of the Bible we find the book of Proverbs that deals with everyday life issues like that. Dave Ramsey says that if you read through the Proverbs enough times, you can get a degree in business of all things. Just like that. When you consider the advice found in Proverbs, he may not be far off. Try these few Proverbs: The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender. (Proverbs 22:7) Dishonest money dwindles away, but whoever gathers money little by little makes it grow. (Proverbs 13:11) Do not be one who shakes hands in pledge or puts up security for debts; if you lack the means to pay, your very bed will be snatched from under you. (Proverbs 22:26,27) And my personal favorite: “One who has no sense shakes hands in pledge and puts up security for a neighbor.” (Proverbs 17:18 NIV) or if you want really plain English, you can read it in the Contemporary English Version where it says: “It’s stupid to guarantee someone else’s loan.” (Proverbs 17:18 CEV). With the recent financial upheavals in our country, many are waking up to the wisdom of these words. When Forbes surveyed the 400 richest people and asked them what they considered the most important principles in building wealth, the number one principle was: stay away from debt. As for that last one, anyone here watch Judge Judy or any of the other small claims court judges on TV? How many cases have you seen where someone, usually a family member, cosigned a loan for a car or something else and now they were stuck with the payments for it? Next time you see one of those cases, think to yourself: Proverbs 17:18 – it’s stupid to guarantee someone else’s loan. How about some advice on romantic relationships? Here’s just a few selections: “For the lips of the adulterous woman drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths wander aimlessly, but she does not know it. Drink water from your own
  • 3. cistern, running water from your own well. 16 Should your springs overflow in the streets, your streams of water in the public squares? 17 Let them be yours alone, never to be shared with strangers. 18 May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth. 19 A loving doe, a graceful deer— may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated with her love. 20 Why, my son, be intoxicated with another man’s wife? Why embrace the bosom of a wayward woman? (Proverbs 5:3-6, 15-20) A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. 26 She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue. 27 She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. 28 Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: 29 “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. 31 Honor her for all that her hands have done, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate. (Proverbs 31:10-12, 25-31) Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife. (Proverbs 21:19) Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman who shows no discretion. (Proverbs 11:22) There is no doubt that choice of a life partner has a huge impact on your life. Y’all have to thank Kelley for the fact that I’m even here! I had already moved country once, I had no intention of moving continents. Yet here I am. Had I married someone else, life would look very different for me right now. Fact is that in today’s world we too often get to see the painful consequences of rash or poor choices of partners. The emotional toll on those involved is substantial. The social
  • 4. problems and tensions arising from dysfunctional family situations are felt throughout our nation. Even the financial toll is crippling. Here are just a few stats for you to ponder on. In his book “The Millionaire Next Door” Thomas Stanley shows that the majority of millionaires in the US are married and stay married to the same person. A married person on average will accumulate twice as much wealth as a single or divorced person. An Ohio State University study found that divorcees may lose as much as three quarters of their personal net-worth. So if nothing else gets your attention let me wave some dollar signs in front of you. The next statistic may really surprise you. According to the book “What Americans Really Want… Really” 61% of religious people report being satisfied with their sex life, compared to 45% of non-religious people. “For all our national experience with the Sexual Revolution and freeing ourselves from moral conventions, it is a fact that the people who adhere to those conventions are more satisfied.” comments the author, Dr Frank I Luntz. So why am I dragging you through all these texts and statistics? What I wanted to show you through these two examples is simply this: God is not aloof, dealing with things only on a global or even universal scale, leaving us to figure out every day life by ourselves. Right here in the book of Proverbs He has left us a treasure chest of good advice for everyday life. Advice on how to handle everyday situations. Guidance on important decisions that we need to make in real life. What the statistics show us is that the advice is good, the advice is sound. Even though Solomon lived and wrote these things down back in the 10th century BC, the Proverbs are very much relevant and true in 21st century AD. You can point to quantifiable data to support the principles laid out in the Bible. Paul spoke of this in his letter to the church in Corinth when he said: “As a Christian I may do anything, but that does not mean that everything is good for me. I may do everything, but I must not be a slave of anything.” (1. Cor. 6:12 Phillips) A while back we talked about intrinsic and imposed consequences of our actions. It is a fact of life that our actions have intrinsic, that is to say, natural consequences, and that while God gives us freedom to do whatever we choose, not everything will be good for us. And so rather than let us try and grapple with this ourselves and attempt to figure it out, He has left us some good common sense advice in the book of Proverbs. God makes sense. That might be a new thought for some of us, but God really does make good sense. The fact that so many of the proverbs collected by Mr. Karadzic from illiterate peasants in 19th century AD sound so similar to the wisdom God imparted to king Solomon in 10th century BC, shows that the principles have been tried and tested and found to be true in real life. Today, in 21st century we do research and statistics and it’s all very scientific. And guess what? God is still relevant, God’s common sense advice for everyday life still works, it still makes sense.
  • 5. “A gossip can never keep a secret. Stay away from people who talk too much.” (Proverbs 20:19 GNT) “Those who are sure of themselves do not talk all the time. People who stay calm have real insight. After all, even fools may be thought wise and intelligent if they stay quiet and keep their mouths shut.” (Proverbs 17:27,28 GNT) These statements are as true today as they were 30 centuries ago. So when Richard Dawkins and other detractors wail loudly how God is a tyrant obsessed with our sexual behavior, you don’t need to run for cover. It turns out God is a lot smarter than we are. He has common sense and understands the intrinsic nature of life, and more to the point, has from the beginning understood the intrinsic consequences of our actions that we are only now starting to catch on to. I’d like to encourage you tonight to seriously consider God’s advice. It makes good sense. Listening to God is not old-fashioned and set in your ways drudgery, performed in order to appease an overly intrusive deity. It is common sense, tried and tested advice for your own good. And frankly, there is no better place to get advice than from someone as smart as God. And yes, there is a proverb for that too. (on screen only) “Being wise is better than being strong; yes, knowledge is more important than strength. After all, you must make careful plans before you fight a battle, and the more good advice you get, the more likely you are to win.” (Proverbs 24:5, 6 GNT)
  • 6. “A gossip can never keep a secret. Stay away from people who talk too much.” (Proverbs 20:19 GNT) “Those who are sure of themselves do not talk all the time. People who stay calm have real insight. After all, even fools may be thought wise and intelligent if they stay quiet and keep their mouths shut.” (Proverbs 17:27,28 GNT) These statements are as true today as they were 30 centuries ago. So when Richard Dawkins and other detractors wail loudly how God is a tyrant obsessed with our sexual behavior, you don’t need to run for cover. It turns out God is a lot smarter than we are. He has common sense and understands the intrinsic nature of life, and more to the point, has from the beginning understood the intrinsic consequences of our actions that we are only now starting to catch on to. I’d like to encourage you tonight to seriously consider God’s advice. It makes good sense. Listening to God is not old-fashioned and set in your ways drudgery, performed in order to appease an overly intrusive deity. It is common sense, tried and tested advice for your own good. And frankly, there is no better place to get advice than from someone as smart as God. And yes, there is a proverb for that too. (on screen only) “Being wise is better than being strong; yes, knowledge is more important than strength. After all, you must make careful plans before you fight a battle, and the more good advice you get, the more likely you are to win.” (Proverbs 24:5, 6 GNT)