Friday, March 27, 2015

“Wine and Women-- The Power of Lifestyle Choices

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March 28, 2010

SS Teacher:  Larry R Evans

Introduction

The study for this week is built on Proverbs 31.  The quarterly’s title suggests that the subject is about wine and women.  We’d like to suggest that while wine and women are certainly discussed in this chapter, Proverbs 31 is an amplification and a conclusion to Proverbs 1:7—“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The setting is about a king’s calling and vocation.  Any glamor associated with lose living is removed.  The king must keep his role clearly in focus.  He is to be the protector and advocate of his people (vss 8,9).  With his responsibility clearly set before him, it becomes obvious that he must not anaesthetize himself with those things that would minimize or impair his judgment.  He must not compromise his God-given principles.  In the context of Proverbs, the king must not separate himself from the Source of true wisdom.

The German philosopher, Johann Herder once wrote, “We cannot know ourselves without a reference point outside ourselves.”  Proverbs offers this reference point as being the personification of “Wisdom” and from this we are given an opportunity to examine our lives.  In Proverbs 31 this personification comes in the form of a woman.  Proverbs 1:7 introduces us to this “Wisdom” as being grounded in “the LORD”.  LORD is in all caps because it is a reference to Yahweh, the covenant God, the God who oversees, fulfills and sustains.  It is this personal God that supplies us with the wisdom, the insights, the strength to make choices that lead to a more full and complete life.  The kind of knowledge of which Proverbs speaks is a relationship with God that is inseparable from the character that He is developing within each of us if we but give Him an opportunity.  Distractions from this relationship are what sin and “foolishness” (1:7) is all about.  Lifestyle choices play a vital role with the kind of person we are and are becoming.  The choices made every day are a revelation of the kind of wisdom that has captured our heart’s desires.  Against this background we will take a look at “Wine and Women.”

Proverbs 31:1-9

Discussion Starters

1.            Medical benefits out weigh spiritual liabilities.  (Prov.31:4,5,8,9)  True or False?


2.            For the dying person wine is permissible.  (Prov. 31:6,7) True or False?

3.            Proverbs provides a “checklist” for men looking for a wife and a “to do list” for every woman. (Prov. 31:10-31)  True or False?

4.            Work comes as a result of sin. (Prov. 31:12, 15, 18; Gen. 1:27-29, 31)  True or False?

5.            Outward beauty is as deep and lasting as is the character.  (Prov. 31:30)  True or False?


1.   Medical benefits out weigh spiritual liabilities.  (Prov.31:4,5,8,9) False

       “It is not for kings, Lemuel—
                  it is not for kings to drink wine,
                  not for rulers to crave beer,
         lest they drink and forget what has been decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of their rights.” – Proverbs 31:4,5

AND . . .

“I am the LORD your God,
                  who teaches you what is best for you,
                  who directs you in the way you should go.
         If only you had paid attention to my commands,
                  your peace would have been like a river,
                  your well-being like the waves of the sea.”
                                             Isa. 48:17-18

There are many blessings that come with an increase of knowledge.  Science, for example, has enabled us to communicate faster, travel faster and even diagnose our ailments faster.  Scientific discoveries have saved lives and so has the Bible.  

In recent years, the benefits of drinking wine, for example, has been highlighted and promoted in the news.  What hasn’t received much attention is that the same benefits can be found in grape juice without the alcohol that can easily impair judgment.  Such findings aren’t as popular.

The queen mother depicted in Proverbs is giving advice to her son.  In so doing she explains that the drunkenness of a king brings with it a tendency to have a clouded memory and judgment resulting in injustice to the oppressed (31:8).  Such was the case that led to the death of John the Baptist. (Mk 6)

The Bible, however, adds another important dimension  to one’s health that science does not address.  The  Bible speaks directly to the issue of one’s eternal welfare. Having a clear mind that is capable of discerning spiritual principles is vital! Ephesians 6:11 says, “Put on  the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.”   An impaired judgment is not only a problem when driving home from a party; it is also about being able to have keen spiritual discernment. The issue at stake is about keeping our minds alert so we will not compromise our ability to make decisions affecting our own spiritual welfare and the welfare of those within the realm of our influence.

2              For the dying person wine is permissible.  (Prov. 31:6,7)  Understand first who the “dying person” is in Proverbs

“Alcohol is for the dying,
               and wine for those in bitter distress.
      Let them drink to forget their poverty
and remember their troubles no more.”—Proverbs 31:6,7

In Proverbs the “perishing” is a reference to those who are not “righteous.” 

“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices;
when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy.”—Proverbs 11:10  [See also 19:9]

“It was Christ who in the Old Testament gave the warning to Israel, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” Proverbs 20:1. And He Himself provided no such beverage. Satan tempts men to indulgence that will becloud reason and benumb the spiritual perceptions, but Christ teaches us to bring the lower nature into subjection. His whole life was an example of self-denial. In order to break the power of appetite, He suffered in our behalf the severest test that humanity could endure. It was Christ who directed that John the Baptist should drink neither wine nor strong drink. It was He who enjoined similar abstinence upon the wife of Manoah. And He pronounced a curse upon the man who should put the bottle to his neighbor’s lips. Christ did not contradict His own teaching. The unfermented wine which He provided for the wedding guests was a wholesome and refreshing drink. Its effect was to bring the taste into harmony with a healthful appetite.” --Ellen White in The Desire of Ages, p.149


3              Proverbs provides a “checklist” for men looking for a wife and a “to do list” for every woman. (Prov. 31:10-31) False but with True implications

We live in an age of checklists.  When I used to fly as a pilot we carefully went through a checklist before takeoff and then again before landing.  There are checklists for just about anything and if there isn’t one we’ll make one. I work from my own checklists at work. It is easy, unfortunately, to turn Christianity into a checklist – things to do and things I must not do.  The problem in this case is that no sooner is our list of “do’s and don’ts” made than we discover something we left off!  In Proverbs 31 we have a list of duties that a “wife of noble character” is able to accomplish.  It is a rather daunting list to put it mildly:
·      Selects wool and flax
·      Works with eager hands
·      Brings food from afar
·      Gets up when it is still night
·      Provides food for the family
·      Buys property
·      Plants a vineyard
·      Works vigorously and is in good shape with strong arms.
·      Profitable with her trading
·      Opens her arms to the poor
·      Dresses well
·      Is dignified
·      Able to laugh at what the future might bring
·      Speaks with wisdom
·      Is not idle
[An acrostic poem – each of the 22 verses begins with a consecutive letter of the Hebrew alphabet.]

It’s no wonder that her husband and children “call her blessed!!” (v.2)  But we must ask, “Who is this capable woman of verse 10?”  She has tremendous abilities and has high social standing.  It is interesting that her personal appearance is not mentioned once. Who is she?  This woman, so it appears, carries the theme of the entire book of Proverbs to a grand application.  This woman parallels Ms Wisdom of the opening chapters (3:13-18; 9:1-6).  How can anyone become the perfect wife or the perfect husband for that matter.  Proverbs holds the key!  As seen in Genesis 1 & 2 man and woman together find their fulfillment by bearing the image of God (1:26). Proverbs simply says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7).  Such qualities bear the image of Wisdom and can be obtained only by being re-molded into God’s image.


4              Work comes as a result of sin. (Prov. 31:12, 15, 18; Gen. 1:27-29, 31) False
She opens her arms to the poor
     and extends her hands to the needy. . .

She watches over the affairs of her household
     and does not eat the bread of idleness.
                       Proverbs 31:20,27

A common complaint in nursing homes is the regret of not having something to do.  Some actually complain of having too much leisure and not enough work!  It becomes clear that work is one of the ways we make ourselves useful to others, rather than just living a life for ourselves.  Tim Keller, author of Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work wrote, “According to the Bible, we don’t merely need the money from work to survive; we need the work itself to survive and live fully human lives.” (p.38)  Keller goes on to explain, that “it is through work that we discover who we are, because it is through work that we come to understand our distinct abilities and gifts, a major component in our identities.”

In Genesis 1:31 we not only find that God works but He finds delight in it.  But there is also another danger and that is that we see work as the end objective and that we rest in order to recharge our batteries so we can work more.  The Sabbath brings a halt to the endless cycle!  Both work and rest are meant to direct us to our Creator and Redeemer and Sustainer.  Work is not the meaning of life regardless of how important our work might be.  God worked and rested yet in the context of Genesis 2 God’s work and our work, His rest and our rest is for the purpose that we might find a relationship with one another.

John Calvin, the great Protestant reformer, asked, “Did God create food only to provide for necessity [nutrition] and not also for delight and good cheer?” 

“In short, work —and lots of it— is an indispensable component in a meaningful human life. It is a supreme gift from God and one of the main things that gives our lives purpose. But it must play its proper role, subservient to God. It must regularly give way not just to work stoppage for bodily repair but also to joyful reception of the world and of ordinary life.”  Keller, Timothy (2012-11-13). Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God's Work (p. 42). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.

5              Outward beauty is as deep and lasting as is the character.  (Prov. 31:30)   False

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. – Proverbs 31:30

The woman described in this chapter is an excellent wife and mother.  Her range of skills is really amazing.  In this verse, however, we are reminded that her strength and dignity do not come from her amazing achievements!  They come as a result of her reverence for God.

“As Proverbs has stated repeatedly, these are qualities that lead to honor, praise, success, personal dignity and worth, and enjoyment of life. In the face of the adulteress’ temptations mentioned often in Proverbs, it is fitting that the book concludes by extolling a virtuous wife. Young men and others can learn from this noble woman. By fearing God, they can live wisely and righteously. That is the message of Proverbs.”—Bible Knowledge Commentary

Concluding Remarks

Proverbs 31 is a powerful conclusion to what has been said previously. Throughout the book the queen mother is counseling her son about the qualities of being a true king and gives two warnings—warnings that could jeopardize his success:  women and wine. She is “concerned with protecting her son against the influence of folly and the effect of iniquity, all of which may blur the king’s judgment and duties as a king (31:3). . . . The reason the queen mother is so adamant against wine and the woman-folly is that they both affect the king’s access to wisdom, his capacity to judge and to distinguish between good and evil.” (Jacques Doukhan in Proverbs, pp. 126, 127)

“Wisdom is compared to the ideal wife because wisdom is not just an intellectual acquisition.  We reach wisdom through the process of a relationship with the divine person.  The book of Proverbs concludes then, with this parable, the last mashal; it is an appeal to the reader to go and search for Wisdom and engage in a dynamic conjugal relationship with her, to make our life meaningful and full of the divine Presence.” (Ibid., p.127)



Monday, March 16, 2015

"Living by Faith" OR "I'll Tell You Later!"

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[I apologize for this being posted late.  Technical problems made it impossible. -- Larry Evans]
March 14, 2015
Sabbath School Class Notes

Larry R Evans, Teacher

Introduction: “I’ll Tell You Later”

It seems to be human nature for us to have questions and to want them answered right away.  We get impatient if the answers aren’t found “now.”  At times we allow our questions and our circumstances to master us.  This was not the case with Abram.  Genesis 12-15 presents 4 crises faced by Abram and with each one Abram asked God questions and each time God essentially said, “I’ll tell you later.” 

1.   God told Abram to leave his country, his people and his family.  God said He would make of him a great nation. Implied with the command was the assurance that he would have a child and a land.  So Abram essentially asked, “Why? Why do I need to leave? And God said.  “I’ll tell you later – just go!”
2.   Abram asked, “Where” should I go?” and God said “I’ll tell you later but for now just wander.”
3.   And when it came to a child Abram reminded God that he was 99 and Sarah was 90. They were childless and Abram essentially said, “How! And God said, “So . . .?”  “I’ll tell you later.”
4.   Later, after the child came, God said, “Kill your child.”  And Abram asked “Why” and God said, “I’ll tell you later!”


In each of these four crisis moments, Abram believed  and acted on what God had said and God did “provide.”  In each case Abram lived by faith.  Abram mastered each circumstance.  They did not master him.  We are also bound to have many questions, important questions, and they almost always begin with “Why”, “When” or “How” and almost always God will say, on the strength of His character, “Just do it – I’ll explain later.”  Whether it be Moses, Isaiah, Jonah or the disciples of Jesus, reasons for doubt and disbelief were always present. Each time the way through the maize came from trusting not in seeing or finding all the answers to the intellectual “why.” Rather, real and lasting answers came from knowing God first.

Sometimes we come down hard on ourselves.  We want to give up. Our circumstances are overwhelming.  At that point God says, “Come now, let us settle the matter.”  “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.; though they are read as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isa 1:18)  And we ask:  “How?”  And God says, “I’ll tell you later.”  And He did!  It was beyond the comprehension of Isaiah that God would Himself come and through His death our sins would be wiped away and we would become “white as snow.”  How?  The answer came later in Jesus. Time has shown generation after generation that: The greater the revelation of God, the greater the trust placed in Him, the greater the transformation that will seen in those who follow Him.  So it is today.

Our study this quarter has been in the book of Proverbs and central to our study is the idea of finding “wisdom.” In this book of the Bible, to know wisdom is to know God and to trust Him and His word. Here wisdom is defined as the ability “to discern or distinguish between good and evil.” (1 Kings 3:9) The closer our relationship with God is the more clear the distinction between good and evil becomes to us.  Trying circumstances will always confront us and each time, in some way, we have to decide to whom or to what we will appeal for wisdom to meet this or that challenge.  In each circumstance it isn’t enough to understand what is before us.  We may understand but we may not want to comply.  We’d rather do it our way and then ask God for forgiveness or understanding of the decisions we thought we had to make later.  With Abram it worked just the other way.  He obeyed and found his answers later.  The “I’ll tell you later” responses from God turned out to be the character building blocks on which Abram became Abraham – the father of many nations – a name given before it every happened.  Once again, I can hear God saying, “I’ll tell you later.”  

Discussion Starters

1.            Without God’s law we would be the same as those who do not know God. (Prov. 28:4,7,9)  True or False?

2.            The law of God is first a statement about God and secondly about His instruction for us to follow. (Gal. 3:24; Prov. 28:5) True or False?

3.            It’s alright for God to love the world (Jn 3:16) but not for us to. (1Jn 2:15)  True or False?

4.            Wealth is not wrong but gaining it at the expense of others is. (Prov. 28:8)  True or False?

5.            The same rules of fairness apply to both the rich and the poor. (Prov. 28:6; Matt.5:44,45) True or False?

Reflections

1.            Without God’s law we would be the same as those who do not know God. (Prov. 28:4,7,9)  True but it is important to understand the nature and purpose of the law.

What does this question have to do with “living by faith?”  Doesn’t the question suggest that we put faith aside and live by determination to be faithful?  What is the law about?  What is it attempting to do? Why a law?

Do you think that one of the purposes of the law is to show how impossible it is to live up to and reflect the character of God in our lives . . . on our own?  Is it possible to live more than just having a moral life without recognizing our helplessness?  [by living moral lives I am suggesting only an external conformity to the law]  Do you see a connection between that and what Jesus said in His sermon on the mount (Matt 5-7)?

Note: Prov. 28:7
“A discerning son heeds instruction,
but a companion of gluttons disgraces his father.”

What does a “discerning” (or understanding) son understand about the instruction given to him by his father that someone whose companion is with the gluttons doesn’t seem to get? Are they both companions with the father?

2.            The law of God is first a statement about God and secondly about His instruction for us to follow. (Gal. 3:24; Prov. 28:5) True

Does this question give us any insight into the first question?

Is there any relationship between the story of the elder brother and the prodigal son (Lk 15) with an understanding of God and His law?  What might that be? Does the following shed any light?

Mark 12:28-31    “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”
        “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.a  30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’a a 31 The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

3.            It’s alright for God to love the world (Jn 3:16) but not for us to. (1Jn 2:15)  True but what kind of love and for what reasons?

John 3:16    “For God loved [aÓgapa¿w]the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
1John 2:15          Do not love [aÓgapa¿w] the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Fathera is not in them. 16

When God loves the world as a “jealous” God – wooing the world back to His original plan—He becomes angry to see substitute gods demoralize His creations (Deut. 4:24).  When we “love the world” do we “covet” the ways of the world or are we jealous – seeing idolatry of the world maligning the character of God, representing Him in the wrong light.  Is there a danger while portraying love for the world that we end up loving the ways of the world rather than the ways of God?  How might a deeper understanding of God’s law help us love God, the world and His law more?

4.            Wealth is not wrong but gaining it at the expense of others is. (Prov. 28:8)  True

Prov. 28:8 Whoever increases wealth by taking interest or profit from the poor amasses it for another, who will be kind to the poor.

What’s going on here?  Do you think this is relevant for leaders of countries? For individuals?

5.            The same rules of fairness apply to both the rich and the poor. (Prov. 28:6; Matt.5:44,45) True
Prov. 28:6 Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.

Why wouldn’t they abide by the same rules?  Would the same apply to violence? If you are right but poor are you excused for being violent and for retaliating?  If you are powerful and rich does that mean you don’t have to obey the rules? The policies?  

Concluding Thoughts

We began our study by looking at how Abram met four different crises that confronted him.  There must have been a faith-struggle in each case. No doubt, questions must have flooded his mind—questions about God’s way of leading and about his own values and how seriously he needed to follow God’s peculiar expectations of him. Proverbs 28 and 29 amplifies this dilemma by contrasting the worldviews and perspectives of the just and the unjust, the wise leader and the self-centered leader. As we’ve pointed out earlier, wisdom as described in Proverbs is not about one’s IQ but about the ability to distinguish between good and evil.  This ability to discern the difference is directly related to one’s relationship with God—it is a gift from Him. Chapters 28 and 29 come to an unfortunate conclusion: the contrasting worldviews are not compatible. The righteous and the wicked detest the operating values of each other (Proverbs 29:27).  One attempts to control and to coerce.  The other attempts to take God’s Word seriously and live-out the values found there. The contrasting differences alienate each group from the other. Paul refers to the struggle as a wrestling match: “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).  There will be moments when “trust and obey” is not convenient, is not easy and may even mean serious sacrificing.  We may come to the point of asking “Why!”.  It is likely God’s response will be, “I’ll tell you later.”  And we will respond by . . .

Proverbs 3:5-7 (Message)

Trust GOD from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.

Listen for GOD’S voice in everything you do,
    everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to GOD! Run from evil!

In the end, does God want us to find the Bible to be an “answer book” for all our perplexing problems? You know the kind of questions and perplexities that ask, “Why”, “When” and “How.” Or does He want us to become the kind of person that is developed through reflection upon God’s Word-- through study, prayer, submission to Him so that in our hearts we might become more and more like God in our thinking and reasoning?  Perhaps it is then, we will find lasting answers to our questions?  Perhaps that is the approach He has advocated from the beginning of time. Perhapsthat is why He asked Adam and Eve, “Where are you?” and of Cain, “Where is your brother?”  The Western mind likes to work from lists – check lists.  While to some degree this approach feels like it is efficient, could this cultural tendency actually cause us to miss a deeper reality -- the kind of relationship with Him, with others and with ourselves that would be the most satisfying?  Maybe Jesus was onto to something when He said, “Abide in Me.”  Maybe that is the first real step in “problem-solving.”  Maybe then we could understand better what was behind God’s implied responses, “I’ll tell you later!”