Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (98)

These devotionals were originally written by Hope PR Christian School (Walker, MI) teacher Brian D. Dykstra for his fellow teachers. They are posted here for their broader significance and for broader use by Christian parents and other Christian school teachers.

Blessing and Cursing

Blessing and Cursing

Brian D. Dykstra,  Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:33: “The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.”

Solomon wants us to consider the living accommodations of two men, the wicked and the just. This wicked man is one who does wrong. He is not blatantly evil. We would not find him keeping company with murderers and thieves. His name is not associated with some heinous crime. He is not infamous. The wrong which he commits will not result in his appearing before some judge awaiting a punishment to be declared against him. He simply does what is wrong, but not criminal. He knows how to make a business transaction turn more to his favour. He knows the little tricks of the trade which encourage a little extra money to find its way into his pocket rather than the one with whom he is doing business. These would be the little things of which it can be said, “Everybody does it. It’s no big deal. It’s all just part of doing business. In the end, it all just kind of balances out anyway.”

Solomon notes that this wicked man lives in a comfortable house. He is not living in a tent or some temporary shelter made of branches and palm fronds. Perhaps this house is a bit nicer than average since he seems to know how to make a dollar go just a little farther for him than most other people do. He is doing well for himself and is comfortable. From an earthly point of view, he has no complaints.

Despite these appearances, which might cause us to feel a touch of envy, God’s curse is there. Solomon writes that God’s curse is not just on the house of the wicked, this curse is in the house of the wicked. This curse is not just on this house as a thin film of oil which, once it is cleansed, leaves the interior just fine and none the worse for wear. God’s curse is in this house through and through. There is no little corner or closet where one could escape this curse. God’s curse permeates every room and possession there. God’s curse cannot be easily wiped away. This is just disgusting rottenness all the way through to the core.

Solomon contrasts this with the just. This man has not reached perfect obedience through a supreme effort of his own will. He would not be pointed out by others as a man who has never done any offence to another. He too has his faults. He is just in the eyes of God because God has cleansed him from his sin. The sins of which he is guilty have been taken away.

This just man, however, has only a habitation. It is a mere temporary shelter, more of a sheep-cote than a permanent house. He isn’t rich. What he does have and experience, however, is the blessing of his heavenly Father. He can live his life in spiritual joy, even when God brings him through times of hardship or sorrow. He knows the blessing of his Father is with him.

Think of Jezebel and Elijah during the days of dreadful famine in Israel. Jezebel does not strike us a one who would say, “My dear subjects are suffering and sliding into poverty. I should give up some of my luxuries to show my willingness to take up my part of this burden.” She would maintain her wealth and status if for no other purpose than to provide for Baal’s prophets and persecute God’s prophets. She was born a princess and is now a queen and would live her life as such. Her household, no matter how fine, was cursed by God through and through.

How was Elijah doing at this time? For a time he lived by the Brook Cherith. I don’t suppose he had what we would normally call a house. He certainly wasn’t living sumptuously. Yet, God blessed him for obediently doing His will and gave him his daily bread.

Then Elijah went to the widow of Zarephath. There was no fine living here either. Widows were not very often rich. When Elijah met her, she was down to her last handful of meal, a bit of oil and had a couple of sticks to prepare her last meal. Yet, the widow’s household knew the blessing of God. The barrel of meal did not fail. This barrel was not always full being refilled to the brim each time the widow took out the needed meal. She emptied it, only to find that when it was time to eat again, there was just enough at the bottom of the barrel once more. The same was true for the oil.

Yet, this poor widow and Elijah knew the blessing of the Lord. They shared the joy of knowing that some day God would send the Messiah to save His people from their sin. There is no middle ground. There is a curse and a blessing. God does not change either. Those who are under His curse, shall always be under God’s curse. Those whom God has justified, will always be blessed by Him.

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Envy Not the Oppressor

Envy Not the Oppressor

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:31-32: “Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways. For the froward is abomination of the Lord: but his secret is with the righteous.”

As we Christians go through our day to day lives, we are to have our eyes open. We are to be aware of what is happening in the world around us. News events have a deeper meaning for us than simply being interesting topics of conversation. We see evidence of Christ’s return as we see events unfold. He warned us about what the last days would be like.

There is a danger for us, however, as we go through life this way. If we do not view the world with the proper perspective, we fall into sin. Christians can become envious of the wicked. Scripture contains many warnings about this, so the danger is more common and is a greater threat than we might first think. Job spoke about the prosperity of the wicked with the friends who came to comfort him. David warns us about this in Psalm 37, as does Asaph in Psalm 73. Although verses 31-32 come near the end of only the third chapter in Proverbs, Solomon has instructed us before on nearly the same topic.

Solomon introduces us to an oppressor. This oppressor is a man of violence. He takes things away from people. There were robbers in biblical times. Bands of robbers hid in the hills near highways. They would wait for a caravan of merchants, small groups of tradesmen or the lone traveller. They ambushed their victim and shared the spoils.

However, this violence does not have to be physical. Oppressors twist the law to take advantage of people. Christ was angry with those who did not honour their parents by supporting them if they needed help in their old age. These oppressors claimed the money they had was set aside for a gift. Therefore, they could not assist their parents and they could keep their money. Houses and property were stolen by deceit and corrupt judgment. Merchants used false balances or corrupt measures to cheat their customers by small degrees. Add together enough small thefts, and profits increased.

Why would we envy these people? They are dirty, rotten scoundrels! Does society really honour them? But, you see, they get away with it! They can live comfortably, perhaps even in luxury, but they haven’t really earned it. We can then become too earthly minded and envy what they have. We labour diligently, striving to treat the neighbour as we should, but what is there to show for it? We struggle, work hard and carefully manage what we have simply to try to make ends meet. Obedience does not profit! We may even begin to wonder how often we have been taken advantage of. How much of our hard-earned money goes into the velvet pockets of these crooks?

Solomon warns us not to choose any of his ways, not even one. Perhaps we thought we could try just a couple of the tricks which aren’t so dastardly. Such practices are fairly common, and could even be viewed as part of doing business. Do I have to be the only honest businessman here? Are these temptations greater given these challenging economic times? Wages decrease, are stagnant or rise at a snail’s pace. We begin to view the government’s taxation as legalized theft. Why not try one trick of the oppressor to even things out?

Solomon tells us God’s point of view and why we should not be envious or try any of their ways. We must have a long range view of what is happening. The oppressor, now called the froward, someone who is perverse and has twisted truth and right past recognition, is an abomination to the Lord.

What do we think about something that is an abomination us? Would we keep it close to us? Would we let it stay with us in the house? Would we hold it tenderly in our hands? Would we cherish it? Would we give everything we had to preserve it? The oppressors may prosper here but the day comes when they will fall into the hands of a God who is angry with them. Their end will not be prosperous. God drives them away and has no tender fellowship with them.

On the other hand, God will have His secret with the righteous. We share secrets with those who are dear to us and whom we trust, not strangers. A secret implies a level of friendship and fellowship. There is closeness as well. We don’t discuss secrets in crowded, noisy, public places. The righteous will have fellowship with God. He makes known to us His love for His church. He reveals the way of salvation and friendship with him in Jesus Christ.

These blessings are for the righteous. Our lives can be difficult. Obeying God means we will have to make sacrifices. We must keep in mind what God has in store for His people in the end.

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Devise Not Evil

Devise Not Evil

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:29-30: “Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.”

Solomon continues to instruct us about how we are to treat our neighbour, our Christian lives as related to the second table of the Law where we are told to love the neighbour as ourselves. Living in such a way serves as proof that the love of God is in our hearts and that we love our Creator. Although we could consider any commandment from the second table of the Law, the instruction not to do evil against the neighbour and not to strive with him deals more closely with the sixth commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” than with the others.

God commands us to do much more than merely avoid taking somebody’s life through violence or negligence. God further forbids “envy, hatred, anger, and desire of revenge.” We are “to love our neighbour as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness, towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good, even to our enemies.”

We know that Christ has instructed us, especially in the parable of the Good Samaritan, that all men are our neighbours. However, here we have a neighbour who dwells securely by us. This would seem to be more than just a passing stranger. These are the people with whom we come into contact in our daily living. These people have become familiar to us. Perhaps we work with them. Perhaps they live near our houses and we know their names and speak with them from time to time. He is confident that he will be treated well. He does not think there is any risk to him because he has us for a neighbour. He has not been losing any sleep because he is worried about what we might do to him next.

They may or may not be fellow saints. It doesn’t really matter, but although these people might not know much about us, they have noticed that there is something different about the family routine on Sunday. They might not know much about our church affiliation, but they would be able to put us in the category of being Christians. How we treat them will influence their attitude about the Church and God’s people. Will we claim to be members of the Kingdom of God, then treat the neighbour, believer or unbeliever, in a way which even the ungodly would condemn?

We are not to devise evil against our neighbour. Devise means that the evil is intentional. There are times when evil is done to a neighbour with no deliberate intent. In my younger days, I’ve broken windows and done some damage to flower beds while playing in the neighbourhood. Solomon speaks here of someone who thinks of a way to do deliberate harm. He comes up with some plot, a new idea to do damage in some way. This might be some way to cheat the neighbour out of some money. Years ago I worked on muck farms. Sometimes we were paid according to how many crates we could fill of a certain vegetable when the crops were harvested. Some kids would sneak filled crates from other’s rows of crops and place them in their own row with the result that they were paid for work they did not do, while someone else was not paid for the work they performed.

Other examples could be pulling pranks for the thrill of doing some damage or seeing if one can get away with something rather bold and daring. We might remember Tom Sawyer and his buddies “lifting” pies or sweet meats to supply their pirating adventures. We might take something a neighbour has carelessly left outside, take something from his garden or let the air out of tires. These are not innocent pranks, as some might claim. Neighbours of Christians have every reason to expect to be treated well, that their neighbours are not greedy opportunists.

We are also told not to strive with someone if they have done us no harm. This “striving” refers to contending with them in a legal manner. If a neighbour has done us harm, justice must be served, but we must also forgive. We often hear of frivolous lawsuits in our court system. Lawyers and so called “victims” are looking for a rich payday so they take somebody to court and sue. Some want to profit at the expense of others or to get someone whom they regard as a nuisance out of their lives. Jezebel fabricated charges against Naboth to take property. Jeremiah was falsely accused of being on the side of the enemy, when the Babylonians held Jerusalem under siege, so God’s Word could be muted.

Students sometimes pull tricks on one another. Pencils are hidden. Sweets from lunches mysteriously disappear. It is fun to watch the owners try to locate their missing property. False accusations about others are brought to the teacher to get someone into trouble. False reports are spread from student to student to damage someone’s standing in the class. Children have their own style of courtroom trials and justice for their peers. It is part of the social dynamic, and we could give more examples.

God certainly is an example for us. He does not devise evil against us, but He is gracious. We may dwell securely not only by His house, but even in His house. God could strive with us before His throne of judgment for we have certainly done Him harm. Yet, because of the perfect obedience of Christ, which obedience has become ours through faith, we are treated as though we have never done any harm to our Lord.

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Withhold Not Good

 

Withhold Not Good

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:27-28: “Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.”

God commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves. Part of this is the command, “Thou shalt not steal.” As our catechism explains, this means more for us than not being thieves and robbers or dealing fraudulently in business. We are to promote the advantage of our neighbour in every instance we can or may. Solomon now gives us instruction in this.

In this instance, we have something in our possession to which our neighbour has a legitimate claim. It is “due” them. Perhaps we owe them money for some service which they have rendered to us or we have made some purchase on credit. We may not keep back from paying them. “Withhold not.” Not to pay what we owe—and here we are told that we do have the ability to pay—is to steal from our neighbour.

Solomon is not dealing exclusively with our monetary dealings with each other. We are not to keep back “good,” as he says. He is not speaking merely of gold, silver or some form of currency but “good.” This is the same word used to describe God’s judgment upon His handiwork throughout the creation week. We are dealing here with something that is favourable, attractive, suitable for a purpose and commendable. This is something that has benefit. We may not withhold something which is right, that has a positive quality from our neighbour who has a right to it.

Each of us has troubles and challenges in life. Some of our neighbours’ struggles we know and perhaps there are even more which we do not know. Economic times are tough and we might wish our government printed its currency on rubber or latex rather than on paper so that we could make each dollar stretch farther. However, the problems we have which can be solved just by spending some money are not the worst of our problems. There are plenty of problems which money cannot solve.

We each struggle with sin and our fallen natures. Because we love the city of God, we all work hard to make sure this is a Christian school more than just because the word is on the sign by the street. We see sin in ourselves and in the students. When a colleague comes seeking advice or just needs a listening ear, we are not to send them away, telling them to go live on their own little island. If we have the ability to help, we may not withhold that help but we must give what good we can. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we have a claim on one another. The closer that friendship or relationship is as given by God, the greater the extent of the neighbour’s claim to what good we can give.

Solomon also tells us about when to give good to the neighbour. When we have that good right now, we do not tell the neighbour to come back tomorrow and we will give then. God has placed that neighbour with that need on our path at that time. If God commands us to help and do good, even to our neighbours who are our spiritual enemies, how much more should we be willing to help those who live with us in the city of God. Good given when it is needed is much better and more valuable than good given when perhaps the storm has let up somewhat or has already passed.

There are times, however, when we cannot give to the neighbour. Solomon recognizes this as well. Sometimes it is not in our power to help. We do not have what the neighbour needs or we do not know what advice to give. The neighbour’s need can be greater than what we can supply or our wisdom may not be sufficient for the trouble he faces. We do what we can.

God deals with us this way. He does not keep back the good that is due to us. We do have a claim to His good. Our claim is not based upon our works, what we are of ourselves or the choices we have made in life. Having been raised in the Reformed faith, we all know this. Thus, we can confidently knock on the door of God’s house and ask for help because Christ has merited all blessings for His elect. Just as our sins have been taken from us and placed on Him, so His perfect obedience has been placed on us. It is also certainly in God’s power to do good for us as well. As the Almighty Father, He is both willing and able to give His children every good thing.

However, from our point of view, it does often appear that God makes us wait for good. It seems God does wait, sometimes many days, to give us good. We bring our needs to Him in prayer, and the granting of our petitions does not seem to come as swiftly as we would desire. God makes us wait and He is under no compulsion to tell us why. Then we must humbly remember that His wisdom is vastly superior to ours. As the Creator, He may do whatever He wishes. His delays are based on his wisdom and love for His elect. He will give us His good as soon as He pleases.

Students can learn to give good to each other. Some are more sensitive than others to their neighbour’s needs and situation. This godliness needs to be encouraged and prayed for. Helping one another is one of the beauties of our schools where covenant children are learning to be part of the life of the church.

 

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Wisdom and Safety

 

Wisdom and Safety

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:23-26: “Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.”

Solomon continues to instruct his son about the benefits of sound wisdom and discretion. Sound wisdom is the wisdom which comes from God’s Word, a standard of morality which does not change, but is firmly established by the Creator. God’s wisdom alerts us the temptations we meet each day so we can tell the difference between the way that leads to fellowship with God in Jesus Christ, and the way which leads away from Him.

We can walk in our way safely. A way is a well travelled path. It refers to our day -to-day living. Straying from the path leads to danger. David left the path marked by God’s law in his sin with Bathsheba and the murder of Uriah. Peter was ashamed of the Lord and denied Him three times. We all face temptations too. Some of these temptations are common to us. We become frustrated with students’ behaviour or work. We struggle to be patient and control our tongues so we do not give vent to what is on our minds. Other temptations are more unique to us either because of our situation in life or our personalities. We are busy and have plenty of things to do. There is not the time we would like for ourselves or our family members. Yet, that lousy car needs our attention or that miserable water heater leaks. We become irked and annoyed with what is our Father’s will for us at the present. We are assured we shall not stumble when we remember the promises of God that all things work for our good and that we can trust in Him in our small frustrations as well as the large issues in our lives.

God’s wisdom will keep us in safety during the hours of the night. Perhaps today we feel safer at night than people of long ago. There was a time when it was foolish to travel alone from one city to another even during the daylight. Bands of robbers waited by the roadside. The night was the domain of thieves, drunkenness with its associated evils and a wide variety of sexual perversions. Yet, wisdom allows us not to be afraid because we will struggle to keep ourselves from such sins. Our sleep will be sweet because we will not have to listen to the accusations of a violated conscience. Though we sin and are burdened with a corrupt nature, we are assured that God’s way of salvation for His elect takes away all our shame and guilt. We can sleep, not because we rest on our own righteousness, but because Christ’s righteousness is credited to our account. Peter had to be roused from deep sleep the night before his expected execution. Jacob, fleeing from his brother and facing an uncertain future, slept soundly though he had a rock for his pillow.

Next, we are told not to be afraid of sudden fear or of the desolation of the wicked. We are no longer dealing with our day-to-day routine. Life has changed. There is sudden fear and the desolation of the wicked. Here the commentaries I have read disagree. Charles Bridges thinks this refers to God’s judgment against the wicked. When God’s judgment comes against the wicked, the elect will not be unaffected. God’s people also lose their lives and property in the floods, earthquakes and famines He sends because He is just. We need the reassurance of our heavenly Father’s love for the Church during these times. Matthew Henry says the sudden fear and desolation of the wicked refer to the persecution the wicked bring against the elect in their hatred for God’s Truth and rebellion against the rule of Christ. Persecution will not be easy to face. Will our suffering be so great we will wonder about our Father’s love for us? Will we fear we have served Him in vain? Will we lose our confidence in His promises because our suffering is so great? We enjoy our freedom and liberty in this nation. It will be hard to suffer such horrible treatment at the hands of the government which will be over us. Why should we, who only seek to do our sovereign Lord’s will, be punished more harshly than rapists, murderers and violent thieves? Why should we be viewed as a greater threat to society than the evil-doers?

Verse twenty-six tells us why we should not fear. God shall be our confidence. Jehovah is firm and stout. The word “shall” is used to express a guarantee from God. He is a sure confidence. This confidence does not mean we will preserved from all physical hurt or suffering. God is not promising a primrose path of dappled sunlight and comfortable temperatures as we merrily hike along our paths. It is not a life of ease where all of His people have the Midas touch and our success glitters for all the world to see. There will be no Christianizing of the world where we can live in peace and prosperity under the banner of God’s Truth.

When the world experiences the just judgment of God and fills its cup of iniquity by persecuting the church, God will be firm and unmovable for us. Our feet will not be taken by the evil one. He will assure us that His promises always stand and will be kept. He delivers us. Salvation is sure. We might be weak and bend, but God’s strength is stout, strong.

May God use the efforts of covenant parents through the means of our Christian schools to write His Word on our children’s hearts so they have wisdom and discretion. Then they will be safe throughout all their lives.

 

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The Value of Wisdom

 

The Value of Wisdom

Brian D. Dykstra, Teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI

Proverbs 3:22: “So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.”

Solomon continues to instruct his son concerning the value of wisdom. In verse thirteen of this chapter, Solomon writes that the man who finds wisdom and understanding will be happy.

In verse twenty-one, Solomon told his son to “keep sound wisdom and discretion.” Wisdom and discretion were to be regarded as being so valuable that they were to be locked in a safe place so the son would always have them in his possession. He should never give them away to anyone, nor should he grow careless in maintaining ownership of them. He must not have the attitude that he would be not missing anything of any value or importance to him should the wisdom and understanding his father had passed on to him turn up missing. As valuable crown jewels are safely kept to retain their possession, so must this son value wisdom and understanding.

“Sound wisdom and discretion” are the antecedents of “they” which is near the beginning of verse twenty-two. Solomon is not interested in giving to his son the wisdom of the business world. The goal is not to help his son heap up treasures of gold for himself. In other passages of Scripture, Solomon speaks of the vanity of earthly riches. He also is not interested in political power or his son’s ascension of the social ladder. He knows the vanity of these things too. Sound wisdom is the wisdom of God, knowing about our heavenly Father’s virtues and the goodness of obeying the Lord our Master. Sound wisdom is free from the errors of the mind of fallen man. Sound wisdom does not have within it a kernel of fallacy which corrupts. It is a firm wisdom because its foundation is God’s Word.

Discretion is the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong. This is right and wrong as determined by the righteous God, not the changing standards of men. Christians of every era have faced a world filled with temptations. There is not a Christian who is not in need of being able to discern between good and evil. Adam faced choices of good and evil, and so do we. How many of us would be able to tell of the devastating effects of choosing evil, either of ourselves or those whom we have known?

Solomon is about to make a guarantee to his son about wisdom and discretion. That is the importance of the word “shall.” In our Authorized Version of the Bible there is an important difference between will and shall. “Will” is something which one would like to do. It is a desire. Not knowing what the future holds, and not being able to control all possible factors, we often speak of what we would will, or desire, to do. “Shall” is a certainty. We are certain the sun shall rise in the east and set in the west. There is nothing which will stop it. Solomon wants his son to know that there is something certain about sound wisdom and discretion. His son can count on it.

Wisdom and discretion are life unto the soul. We see again Solomon’s interest in his son’s spiritual life. Solomon is not speaking about the life of the flesh, nor is he passing along hints regarding health and nutrition. The soul is what stands us in relation to God as our Creator. God also gave souls to the animals when He formed them from the dust of the Earth. Solomon is not writing about the spirit which is our ethical standing before God. This is the fundamental aspect of living which animates and moves us. The foolishness of sin brings death and judgment. Wisdom and discretion give life and the experience of our Father’s favour.

Wisdom and discretion also are grace to the neck. This reference is not to the back of the neck. Scripture speaks of the back of the neck being hard and stiff. Such a picture is used to refer to people who oppose God and refuse to bend their will to His good law. It is the stubborn, obstinate way of wilful sin.

Here is a reference to the front of the neck. This is where the ornament of a beautiful necklace is hung. A necklace has value. The value might arise from the precious metals used to make the necklace, or the necklace might be adorned with precious, beautiful stones and gems. Even an inexpensive necklace can be greatly valued when it is a gift from a dear friend.

Solomon speaks of an ornament of grace, God’s favour. Necklaces are worn for beauty, decoration or display, but they are always easy to see. People will see that Solomon’s son experiences the favour and loving-kindness of God. The condemned criminal and the shamed captive wore a ring around the neck by which they were led against their will. It was a symbol of their shame, but wisdom and discretion result in an ornament which gives glory. The son would be joyful of such a symbol of God’s love and favour.

As teachers, we desire our students to have God’s wisdom and discretion in their hearts. Yes, they need to have an education so they can make their way in a changing economic world, but discretion will show them how to use their talents and abilities in the service of God, no matter what work He has for them. No matter where our students go, we hope God’s grace in Jesus Christ will be clearly evident in their lives.

 

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Wisdom and Discretion

 Wisdom and Discretion

Brian D. Dykstra is teacher at Hope PR Christian School in Walker, MI.

Proverbs 3:21: “My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion.”

In this verse, Solomon teaches his son the need for sound wisdom and discretion. Sound wisdom has some substance to it. It is wisdom which is not subject to passing trends and fashion. It is not the wisdom of the job market, the investment market or the business world. It is not the wisdom of the athletic competition or the social mill. Solomon is concerned about something greater than his son’s obtaining and maintaining a place in the world. Wisdom which is based on God’s truth is the only wisdom which will endure and is timeless. The wisdom of God and His Word is spiritual and gives direction to His people in every age. With the wisdom of God’s Word, there is lasting guidance for the soul.

Discretion is the ability to recognize the difference between good and evil. This is a spiritual ability. It is far more important than the ability to tell a good deal from a bad deal or a good labour contract from a bad one. A godly walk of gratitude depends on the ability to recognize good and evil. When God’s people walk with discretion, the wicked will not have an occasion to speak evilly of God or His Christ or His church.

It is this kind of wisdom and discretion which Solomon tells his son, “let not them depart from thine eyes.” Our souls are connected to physical reality through our senses. Our eyes are an important bridge to the world. We have heard of the lust of the eyes. Satan knows what an influence our eyes can have on our souls. The Devil pointed out to Eve that the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil had a pleasant appearance and looked desirable. Satan knew he was well on his way to achieving his goal when he realized that Eve saw that the forbidden fruit was pleasing to the eye. Jealousy can arise when we see that others have more or better than we have. Our eyes can lead our hearts to covet the possessions of the neighbour.

Solomon tells his son that he must always have sound wisdom and discretion before his eyes. What would happen if the son were to look at the world without the optical filters of wisdom and discretion? The sinful things of the world would have a great appeal for him. Satan has learned what tempts God’s children. It is when we put aside wisdom and discretion that we begin to fall into the ways of sin. If we keep before our eyes God’s standard of right and wrong, and the beauty of His kingdom, the temptations of the world lose their allure. What is the value of the passing passion of the pleasure of sin compared to the lasting value of the beauty of God and a place in His eternal kingdom, through the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ?

We know of the lives of some who live without sound wisdom and discretion. I did some work last summer in downtown Grand Rapids near the Mel Trotter mission. There one can see displayed on the sidewalks lives ruined and lost to drugs and alcohol. Ragged, rumpled, baggy-eyed individuals have a hand out while the other hand holds a brown paper bag filled with empty promises and the inability to forget one’s woes. Is there much of a difference between the wrinkled, worn brown paper bag and the skin of the man who will try to fill the void in his soul with the contents of the bottle? Families are decayed and family fellowship made bitter because of adultery, abuse and the downward spiral of lives which continue in sin.

Such misery is not limited to the downtrodden or poor. There are prosperous fools who lack sound wisdom and discretion. They live in luxury and ease and have more than heart could wish. Yet, their lives contain nothing of lasting value. How many of the much beloved celebrities whose lives glitter with fame and fortune have checked into substance abuse rehabilitation centres? It’s become fashionable. Is one’s life regarded as being fast enough and hard enough without the required stint or two in rehab? An arrest now and then is also beneficial to maintain a place for one’s name on the supermarket tabloid’s cover. Beauty, social standing, public adulation and limited talent do not fill the soul. The celebrated life in the fast lane is devoid of sound wisdom and discretion.

What about us? Solomon tells us to keep sound wisdom and discretion before our eyes. We do not need to be told to do something which we would do if left to ourselves. Take away the enlivening power of God’s Spirit from our hearts and what would we do? Oh, we might not physically be on the bum’s sidewalk or in the celebrity’s penthouse, but, spiritually, where would we be? Would we be begging for the fruit of the tree of life or would we eagerly be making our selection from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Do we sometimes wish we could participate in the pleasures of sin if only we could get away with it? Doesn’t our flesh view God’s law as a list of prohibitions preventing us from having a good time? We all have our own desire of the flesh which we would satisfy.

Pray that our faithful Father will place His wisdom and discretion in our hearts. May we point His children to Him as the only source of wisdom which will guide us and them along their path.

 

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God's Wisdom in Creation

God’s Wisdom in Creation

Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)

*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.

Proverbs 3:19–20: “The Lord by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.”

In this section of Proverbs, Solomon has been instructing us about the value of wisdom. Wisdom gives men happiness. With wisdom there are length of days, riches and honour. Because of the benefits of wisdom to man, she is to be regarded as being more valuable than silver and gold, and more precious than rubies.

By telling us that the Lord founded the earth by wisdom, Solomon lets us know that wisdom existed before the beginning of time. Wisdom is not the product of man’s accumulation of knowledge over the years. We can claim no part in wisdom’s existence or development. Wisdom predates us. Nor is it the case that God has grown wiser over the years. He is perfectly wise and founded the earth in His wisdom to suit His own purpose and will.

To do something with wisdom means that it was done with skill. Usually we are able to determine whether or not something was made by someone who knew what he was doing. For example, I am not an artist and have never tried to paint a picture. I do not know how to use oil paints, paint brushes, an easel or canvas. If I were to take the tools of the artist’s trade to Rocky Mountain National Park, set up the equipment by some beautiful lake with a striking view of the spectacular mountains and begin to paint what I saw, I doubt that anyone would be willing to pay to have my painting adorning their family room wall. I don’t know how to blend colours to achieve just the tints and hues I would need to capture the subtleties of the lighting. The perspective and proportion of my painting would likely be flawed as well.

However, if you had need of a drawing of your house and property for a mortgage survey, that would be a different matter, and people have paid for those drawings. I have been trained for and have experience in that. You would be able to determine which of the pieces of work had been done with skill, or wisdom, and which had not.

What can be said of God’s founding of the earth? Is any skill evident there? We can consider His works at any scale. What of the beauty of the earth as seen in the photographs taken by astronauts? I have in mind especially the picture taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts of the blue and brown Earth with its swirling clouds as it rose over the battered and desolate moon. Is there evidence of the Creator’s skill there? Upon his return to earth, one of the Apollo 8 astronauts remarked about that famous “Earthrise” picture, “Here we went all that way on this fantastic voyage to the moon, and what we really discovered was the Earth.”

At the other end of the scale, we can mention the intricate details and beauty of the single-celled creatures He has formed. Even the crystalline shapes of the exoskeletons of the diatoms impress us with their exquisite design. Though creation is also affected by Adam’s fall, it still speaks of the power, glory and judgment of its Creator. How much clearer was creation’s testimony to Adam in his original state? There is evidence of God’s wisdom in the founding of the earth.

Not only must we pay attention to what the Bible says, we must also think about what it does not say. This is important as the creation verses evolution debate continues. There are Christian scientists who do not hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2. The view that God used the tool of evolution to bring about all we see is increasingly popular. There are many who find this synthesis of the two positions attractive. Yet, Proverbs 3:19 speaks of God’s wisdom founding the earth, not His patience over billions of years as He directed slow change in the works of His hands.

God’s understanding has also prepared the heavens. What we see in the sky above us is not the random result of a Big Bang. God formed the sun, moon, planets and stars, and directs them for His own purpose. These lights are given to us to tell time and distinguish the seasons. They are signs to us of an orderly God. However, can we discern why the stars had to be placed in their positions? Would other patterns of stars be suitable? There are some who claim the story of salvation can be read in the constellations. How much credibility should be given to that thought? Clearly, the heavens speak of a great, powerful Creator who is to be feared. This Creator is certainly able to do whatever He pleases to do.

Proverbs 3:20 speaks of God’s knowledge breaking up the deep and causing clouds to drop down the dew. Is there evidence in this verse of an ancient grasp of the water cycle? We have an understanding today of how God uses ocean currents, the movements and breaking up of the deep, to drive weather patterns. As a result of this knowledge of God, the face of the earth is watered and we are provided with our daily bread.

Our science and art classes give our covenant students an opportunity to see the wisdom, understanding and knowledge of God. Our sins are not few, nor are they minor offences to a perfectly holy God. Only a mighty and wise God can give salvation to His Church through the cross of Jesus Christ. The earth and the heavens give evidence that we serve such a God.

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Wisdom's Ways

Wisdom’s Ways

Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)

*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.

Proverbs 3:16–18: “Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.”

The preceding verses told us of the happiness of the man who finds wisdom and understanding. The joy of possessing wisdom is because of its great value. It is more profitable than gold, more precious than rubies and, of all things which can be desired, nothing can be compared to wisdom. In these verses we learn why wisdom gives happiness and why it is so valuable.

When we meet wisdom, she has something in each of her hands. There are times when this can be bad news. When Ehud greeted Eglon, he too had both hands full. He had a gift for the king in one hand, while in the other he held a dagger. We are suspicious sometimes of those who have a gift in one hand. Perhaps we are concerned that this person just wants to flatter us to get something they want in return. Those with gifts do not always have our best interests in mind.

Wisdom has our benefit in mind. In her right hand, she holds length of days. When we follow the ways of wisdom, it can lead to long life. Foolishness leads to the excesses of the sinful things which this world has to offer. How often don’t the ways of indulgence, in its various forms, lead to sickness and an untimely death? Walking in wisdom preserves us from the physically damaging ways of sin. We understand, of course, that living a godly life does not guarantee a long life. Solomon witnessed this himself and wrote in Ecclesiastes 7:15, “All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness.”

The real keeping of the promise of the length of days is the everlasting life God’s elect will enjoy in heaven. Wisdom shows the way to God’s heavenly kingdom. It is the way of obedience to God’s good law. Wisdom shows we are not able to save ourselves. We do not earn our way into heaven by good works. We do not help God deliver us by accepting His kind offer of salvation. By the wisdom of God’s Word, we realize we will have length of days only because of the cross of Christ.

In her left hand, wisdom holds riches and honour. The believer’s goal in life is not to acquire as much of the world’s goods as possible. We do not seek wisdom because of some future payoff. We do, however, look to God to provide us with what we need for daily living. Using the direction of the wisdom of God’s Word, we will be careful stewards of what God puts in our hands and we will not waste what we have in an attempt to get more.

Wisdom does not hold in her hand the honour which the world has for its celebrities. Nor is this the honour given to the rich or political elite. This is the honour which has some weight or heaviness to it. This is not the honour of the world which can be so vain and empty. Great attention is given to the beautiful and handsome of Hollywood. What happens when such beauty fades and the plastic surgery doesn’t quite meet expectations? This is the honour which is given to those who have spiritual substance. Godly wisdom is not limited to the grey-headed. We all have people in our lives whom we honour because of the wise counsel they give.

In verse seventeen, we read of wisdom’s ways and paths. These paths, which are well worn, are not ways which appeal to our carnal nature. We find God’s ways too restrictive. The old man of sin feels hemmed in and denied of what would make life exciting. To our flesh, religion seems to prevent the enjoyment of life. Religion results in long faces and no hours of pleasure. God is nothing more than the speaker of loud “Thou shalt nots!”

The ways of wisdom are pleasant, spiritually pleasant. We know the pleasure of God’s covenant fellowship. We have Him to comfort us and assure us that He will work all things for our good. In the time we spend alone, we are not plagued in conscience nor fearful of what will become of us. In the quiet of the night, we are assured of the forgiveness of sins and of God’s dealing with us as His children, even in our loneliness and affliction.

Wisdom is a tree of life. Now our thoughts go back to Paradise. The tree of life would sustain man and preserve his physical life and strength. However, because of our fall, the way to the tree of life is barred. The way to true everlasting life, as pictured in the tree of life, is once again opened in the way of the cross. We must lay hold on wisdom is a way which will not allow her to get away.

Those who retain wisdom are happy. We are to keep wisdom in our possession and not allow her to go elsewhere. There are companies which place lawyers on retainer so their services are available to them should some type of legal trouble arise. These companies want to make sure skilled lawyers are available to them, so they pay them a sum of money each year just in case they are needed. They don’t want these lawyers to be unavailable if an emergency arises. We should value wisdom in a similar way. The company hopes a legal situation does not arise. Would there be a time in our lives when we do not have a need for wisdom?

May God be pleased to give us this wisdom which will give us riches both in this life and as we look forward to the life to come.

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Happiness Is...

 Happiness Is ...

Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)

*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.

Proverbs 3:13-15: “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies: and the all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.”

People want to be happy. The possibility of being happy is a major determining factor in decision making. Young people consider whether or not to continue their education on their future happiness. Advertisements promote products by presenting the happiness they will bring to one’s life. The market of self-help books is popular because of the happiness they bring to the readers’ lives. We marry or seek employment based on the happiness we hope to find. We often do what we can to make those around us happy.

Solomon tells us that a man is happy in finding wisdom. Solomon was a man who lived in splendour. He was King of Israel during a time of peace and great prosperity. When we read the biblical account of the money he made through trade and business, and see the luxury in which he lived, we are amazed. What must it have been like to enjoy such a lifestyle? Solomon was a man who should know something about happiness! To many, riches and honour are key components in being happy. Who wouldn’t be happy, if he could live in the manner of Solomon?

The way to find wisdom is surprising. The preceding verses tell us about the finding of wisdom. There are times when the book of Proverbs seems to be a collection of thoughts which are somewhat haphazardly put together. Here, however, the context speaks of the Father’s chastening and correction. God’s chastening comes in the affliction of our souls when we walk in ways of sin. At times, God causes His people to suffer the consequences of their sins. God’s correction is given in His ten commandments.

The psalmist in Psalm 119:67 and 71 speaks of affliction being for his profit. Through affliction, he learned to walk according to his Father’s precepts. King Manasseh led Judah into some of the worst idolatry recorded in Scripture, even setting up an idol in God’s temple. Yet, when he was taken as a chained prisoner to Babylon and afflicted, suffering the results of his sin, he made his prayer to God. God heard him and Manasseh knew Jehovah was his God. In his affliction, Manasseh had found wisdom.

The gain, the profit, of wisdom is great. Businessmen are happy when their companies show a profit. A good profit is the reward of many hours of work and the application of ability. Yet, God says the profit of wisdom is better than the gains one could register through silver and gold. Silver and gold are very precious and valuable. Some people are able to make attractive sums of money in gold and silver markets. Yet, we are told wisdom is more profitable? We are tempted to question this and claim it’s easy for Solomon to say wisdom is better than silver and gold because he was fantastically rich! Give me such riches and I could extol the virtues of wisdom too! However, who would be in a better position to understand the relative values of wisdom and gold than Solomon? He knew the fleeting value of gold and the lasting value of the wisdom of God.

The happiness of the man who finds wisdom is great because he has something which is more precious than rubies. Rubies are precious because they are rare. The harder something is to find, the greater the cost of it will be. A merchant who possessed a ruby knew he had something of great value. He could keep possession of the ruby, waiting for its value to increase, or he could convert the ruby into a good amount of cash. Is wisdom really more precious than rubies? Wisdom’s value is that it draws us to God and makes us fear Him. Walking with God and experiencing covenant fellowship with Him are of greater value than rubies. Such an ornament of God’s favour is far greater than a precious stone which glitters upon a crown, necklace or ring.

Solomon, the man who had everything his heart could desire, states whatever we could possibly want cannot be compared to wisdom. Did he learn from experience that getting things did not really bring him happiness? Perhaps it takes an incredibly wealthy man to tell us that God’s wisdom is better than anything this earth has to offer.

Among all the things which we can desire, nothing compares with wisdom. That is easier to see with some of our desires than with others. Some desires are glorified toys which might help our recreation. We can just as easily live without them as with them. Some of the things we desire are basic needs. We desire food, clothing, shelter, health and work. These things do not merely make our lives easier. Still, we are to desire wisdom more.

May God grant us the happiness of finding His wisdom in Jesus Christ and His cross, so we are aware of His goodness to us and members of His church.

 

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