Articles

Christian Education Devotionals (101)

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.

Hearing a Father's Instruction

Hearing a Father's Instruction

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

Proverbs 4:1: “Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding.”

In Proverbs 4, Solomon begins a discourse on the supreme importance of true wisdom in the life of God’s children. Solomon begins by commanding his audience to “hear.” For the children to “attend to know understanding,” they must listen to the instruction Solomon gives. The children must sit quietly, not let their minds wander and grasp the meaning of Solomon’s spoken words according to the level of their ability. Listening can be difficult intellectual work.

We already have a problem, don’t we. Observation of our society brings one to the realization that we are no longer a people given to hearing. Solomon will influence the spirits of these children by making his instruction enter the portal of the ear. In our modern society, much instruction enters the spirit of men through the portal of the eye. We no longer listen. We watch.

To illustrate, allow me to point out some observations of today’s music entertainment. I thought about this after the events of August 2011, when a portable stage collapsed before a concert was to be given by the country duo Sugarland at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis. Sudden high gusts of wind brought down the stage, resulting in the deaths of five concertgoers.

Don’t take this as an endorsement from me to go to these concerts. I couldn’t name one of Sugarland’s songs for you or tell you the names of the people in the group. I feel safe in assuming this duo does not use their musical ability to extol the blessedness of a godly life or even the “positive virtues” of a bye-gone era. The pictures I saw printed in news articles simply caused me to reflect on today’s world.

The duo Sugarland are supposed to be musicians. They are supposed to appeal to their audience’s ears. Why did they need such a large stage for that? A couple of microphones, large speakers, a guitar or two and possibly a couple of stools should be all these musicians need. That’s not what I saw in the photographs. Large steel supports held scores of lights. There were large screens on which images could be projected. Evidently it is not enough to play instruments, sing and make music pleasant for the ear to hear. For musicians to entertain, they must also dazzle their patrons’ eyes.

God’s instruction, however, often enters our hearts through our ears. As we read the Bible, we hear an internal voice. We hear the gospel preached to us. We hear the prayers of fellow saints. We hear the truth of Scripture when we sing the Psalms. The sacraments appeal to senses other than hearing but much of the instruction we receive during the sacraments enters through our ears when the forms for administering the sacraments are read.

Satan so often uses the eyes. In the very first temptation, the serpent pointed out to Eve the physical attractiveness, the appearance, of the forbidden fruit to her eyes. Eve, at that moment, disregarded the instruction she had been given through her ears and looked carefully at the fruit. The forbidden fruit did not look any different than the other fruit growing on the other trees in the garden in the sense of its quality or texture. It didn’t look rotten or gross. That was Satan’s point. Ignore what God has told you about something, what you have heard Him forbid to you, then that which Jehovah prohibits looks desirable to the eye. What we have heard God say with our ears is too often overridden by what we see with our eyes. What God forbids looks to be something which would make one happy and better off. God very often commands us to listen. Satan desires us to look.

Solomon also tells us to “attend” that we might “know understanding.” We have to apply ourselves to the instruction we are given. We must recognize what Solomon is telling us is very important and is for our spiritual well-being. He cares about us. After all, he has called us his children. We all understand the importance to us of those whom we call children, whether our own children or the children in our classroom. Solomon has also referred to himself as “father.” Solomon doesn’t refer to himself as king or address his audience as his subjects or servants. He indicates the deep, personal relationship he feels toward those to whom he gives instruction. Keep in mind as well, that this instruction in Scripture ultimately comes from God, our heavenly Father. God certainly cares about His children or He wouldn’t have sent His only-begotten Son to pay for our sins.

Solomon wants us to “know understanding.” We must have an intimate knowledge of the understanding which Solomon desires us to have. This understanding is true, spiritual intelligence, the wisdom about which Solomon will write in the rest of this chapter. It’s the knowledge of God’s Word. Godly wisdom will be likened to a beautiful woman whom we would hold and never let get away because our very life depends on her company. Solomon’s understanding realizes the ultimate end of the wicked: death and terrible destruction. He will warn his children not even to enter the same path as the wicked, no matter how enjoyable or prosperous that path may appear to be. The appeal of the way of the wicked is just as devious as the appeal of the fruit which hung on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the end of that way is just as bitter as the effects of eating that fruit.

May God work in the hearts of our students so they understand the true nature of the instruction which their parents are making available to them in our schools. May God also comfort us as teachers by reminding us that weakest means fulfil His will.

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The Wise and the Fools

The Wise and the Fools

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

Proverbs 3:35: “The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.”

Solomon presents us with another contrast. The contrast is stark. In this verse, we do not face a broad spectrum of possibilities. We face an either/or situation. There cannot be anything in between. Glory and shame are the only possibilities, and there is no transferring from one to the other. The wise inherit glory. Fools ascend no higher than shame.

The wise who inherit glory are not the men and women of renown in society. Although God has given some of His people great talent and ability, and although some have even risen to positions of prominence and wealth, such is not the general condition of God’s people. Being wise has nothing to do with one’s standardized test scores or IQ. Wisdom is not the intellect so valued in the world of how to ascend to the higher rungs of the social ladder through the dedicated use of one’s wits and cunning. Wisdom is the fear of God which leads to faithful, diligent study of His Word which the wise recognize as the standard of all truth.

Solomon tells us about who these wise people are in the preceding verses where Solomon has given us instruction by means of other contrasts. The wise are the righteous of verse 32. When God’s people confidently affirm their righteousness, there are spiritual confessions to make. Our righteousness is Christ’s. Just as our sins have all been laid upon Him, His perfect obedience is laid upon us through faith. Because of Christ, we can stand before our heavenly Father as those who have kept His law perfectly.

The wise are the just of verse 33. The just strive to deal with their neighbours as Christ instructs them. The just try to keep God’s law throughout all the interactions of their day-to-day personal relationships. They will not take advantage of people or figure that as long as their behaviour is legal in the eyes of men, everything is fair game. The just live by the higher standard of God’s perfect law.

The wise are the lowly of the verse 34. The lowly know what they are of themselves. They cannot be proud when they examine their innermost hearts in the light of God’s perfect law. There is no boasting from those who know what it means to be the corrupt fruit of a fallen Adam.

The wise know to live according the great reality which is denied, often vehemently, by the wicked. The great reality is that there is a God in heaven who is just and who will not be mocked. There is a God who when He speaks of the consequences of sin, He means it. The wise also confess the reality about themselves, their need of a Saviour and their obligation to live thankfully before their merciful heavenly Father.

The wise inherit glory. Nobody inherits the fruit of their own labour. Someone else has done the work, and in their love for those dear to them, gave others the benefits of what they have earned. That is true regarding the glory we inherit as the children of God.

The wise inherit glory. This glory is not a perishable good. This glory is not subject to the ravages of time. Moths cannot damage it and make it useless. Rust cannot take away its lustre. This is the glory of being with God and experiencing His fellowship without the fear of it ever being lost again because of sin. This is the glory of being a living member of the perfect church of Christ. This is the glory of being perfectly suited for the work which God will give to each of His redeemed children in His everlasting heavenly kingdom.

Fools will not have it so good. The fool says that there is no God. A fool lives life as though there is no sovereign Judge who knows all that the fool does and thinks. This denial of God is made despite the fact of the clear testimony of all of creation, as well as of Scripture and the true church.

The greatest height which can be attained by fools, is shame. That is their promotion, the highest rank they can achieve: shame. This is what they have earned, unlike an inheritance. A promotion is something you have worked for long and hard. You exerted yourself and made sacrifices to earn your promotion. Fools worked hard to achieve shame. Shame makes us want to hide our faces and not be seen by anyone again. You just want to creep away and disappear because now people have come to realize what you really are. There will be no more proud lifting up of the head. Fools will know the shame pronounced upon them by God is the sad condition which they have so richly earned. It takes a fool to work so hard and long for the ultimate rank of shame.

That is quite a contrast. The fool has earned his terrible destiny. The fool’s everlasting shame has been won through hard work. It takes much hard work to convince one’s self that there is no God. Many smart people have earned high-powered engineering degrees to design and build very expensive equipment to try to learn the basic principles of the observable universe, when all the while they deny the most fundamental truth of matter, the fact that God made everything.

The truly wise, those who take God and His Word as truth, receive glory, a glory they inherited because of the hard, sacrificial work of their Saviour on the cross.

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The Scorners and the Scorned

The Scorners and the Scorned

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

Proverbs 3:34: “Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.”

We are all too familiar with scorners. Our society is full of those who scorn God, His Word and His true church. Look at the area of science and medicine. Those who believe the creation account of Genesis 1 are ridiculed as backward, throwback hicks. Anyone who stands for the truth of creation outside of our circles, and a precious few other groups, will be met with open ridicule and contempt. How could you possibly be serious! A creation week! The world is a mere six thousand years old! Don’t you have any sense? Are you totally blind or ignorant of all of the scientific discoveries of the last century? You really believe that Bible stuff! Standing up for creation in public universities, and, sadly, even in Christian colleges, is to make oneself open to sarcastic comments.

If some Christian dares to write to the local newspaper and express the thought that some human activity currently in the news is sin and brings the punishment of God, we can all anticipate the response. It will not take long for an atheist to take a shot. Often the agnostic will point out that the Bible also commands people not to wear clothing of mixed fabric, to stone those who violate the Sabbath day and that those who dash the small children of the enemy against rocks will do so with joy. Who in their right mind would take seriously a book which contains commands and attitudes such as that?

How does the world view a godly lifestyle? What do they think of our striving to be faithful in marriage? You mean you didn’t live together first before you were married? There was no sex in your relationship until you were married? You’ve been faithful to your spouse ever since? Who are you people? We all know someone who has gone through the harsh pain and deep scars of divorce. You mean to tell me that you are still faithful to your spouse even though they left you and remarried? You now live your life alone and still regard that person who cheated on you as your God-given spouse?

Think of how our family lives and the relationships in our homes are viewed by the world. Male headship? Submissive wives? Children are spanked? Parents supervise their children and judge their behaviours and attitudes by the standard of God’s law? Do you know that recent studies have shown that less than half of American families have two parents who are married to each other under the same roof? Any outsider who happens to be a social worker or anthropologist would not believe their findings if they were to do a study of the family structures found in our denomination’s families.

Unfortunately, we can see some examples of scorn in our own Christian classrooms. Some students will put others down either because of their own insecurities or from haughty pride. Sometimes you can even see the pride in their faces as they look with disdain at those of lower social status. The godly advice we give our classes is not always met with universal approval either.

The root of scorn is pride. Man thinks he has developed enough over the years not to need the antiquated fable of creation. If God were to inspire the Bible today, He would realize that we could handle the concept of the universe developing over the course of billions of years. Society has matured to such and extent that we no longer need the structures of old-fashioned marriage. The world is no longer as dangerous as it once was, so you should let your children experiment more with their own lifestyle and modern attitudes. Your children will be outcasts if you don’t.

God scorns these scorners. He righteously hates them. Who do they think they are? Can they really do anything to God? They can ridicule and dismiss God as much as they wish, He still reigns supreme in heaven. The world can persecute His church and torment us in life and seek to be rid of us. He will still comfort us, raise us from the dead and cause us to rule with Christ over all the new creation.

God hates pride because He knows what we have made ourselves in Adam. We are nothing more than totally depraved sinners. We are incapable of any good apart from Him. We cannot save ourselves. He holds our every breath in His hand. Knowing how weak and sinful we are, we had better not be proud.

God’s scorn will also have a terrible effect, unlike the scorn of the proud. He is powerful enough to bring a terrible judgment upon sinners. When Christ returns, even the wicked will bend the knee and acknowledge that God is just and righteous in all His ways.

Here is God’s just antithesis. We have seen God’s attitude toward the proud, but God gives grace to the lowly. God’s grace is given—given, not earned. Grace is not given to everybody. God gives grace to the lowly, the humble: the centurion with the dying servant, the publican with lowered eyes, Mary Magdalene with her former disreputable life.

In his commentary on this verse, Charles Bridges quotes Leighton’s commentary on I Peter 5:5 which is a quotation of this verse: “He pours (grace) out plentifully upon humble hearts. His sweet dews and showers of grace slide off the mountains of pride, and fall on the low valleys of humble hearts, and make them pleasant and fertile.”

May we and our students be blessed with the grace which our heavenly Father gives to the lowly.

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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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