Sunday, February 3, 2013

Wisdom is a Tree of Life!

Online Study of the book of {Proverbs}
By Karyn Wells, RockPoint Church

Week 3

Commands                Mercy & Truth              Trust                Possessions                  Chastening       Wisdom
         Understanding                      Knowledge         Good                            Just                        Humble 

When I was between the ages of 8 and 13, we lived in a house that had a huge tree in the front yard...the kind of tree with spacious branches that you could actually climb. I liked to hook a boat cushion on my back like a backpack and tuck a comic book in my back pocket, because it could fold and it was light, and then I’d swing myself up onto the first branch and climb to the perfect spot in the tree where the branches split---one going horizontal and the other going vertical at a nice slant. The boat cushion was placed on the horizontal branch and I’d sit on it and then lean my back against the vertical branch, and there I’d settle, reading contentedly in the cool, breezy branches while the locusts whirred their summer song and the birds eyed me curiously. There was no better place to hide out, be alone, relax, and just plain old enjoy life than in that tree on a sunny afternoon. Proverbs 3:18 says that wisdom is "a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her." If having wisdom feels anything like sitting high in a tree, at one with the sky and far above the earth, then that must be why the person who has wisdom is so happy. Wisdom is freeing. It elevates you from the mundane, earthly trials and temptations and gives you a broader perspective. It actually allows you to escape the greedy grip the world has on you and brings you to a place of rest and refreshing....or "peace and pleasantness," as verse 17 describes.

Read Chapter 3.

This chapter is broken up into bite-sized chunks of advice and admonition:

1. Keep My Commands (v. 1-2)

2. Hang on to mercy and truth (v. 3-4)

3. Trust in the Lord with all your heart (v. 5-8)

4. Honor the Lord with your possessions (v. 9-10)

5. Do not despise chastening (v. 11-12)

6. Find wisdom (v. 13-18)

7. Do not depart from wisdom, understanding and knowledge (v. 19-26)

8. Do not withhold good (v. 27-30)

9. Do not envy the oppressor (v. 31-35)

Each one of these themes is a mini-sermon in itself! We’ll look at the first 4 this week and we’ll cover 5 through 9 next week.

1. Keep My Commands (v.1-2)

Two things we are told to a negative and one a positive:

Do not ______________ my law

Let your heart _______________ my command

The law and the Lord’s commands are synonymous. Back in Bible days, people actually memorized the first 5 books of the Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy...called The Pentateuch (penta = 5, teuch = teaching/instruction). I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book of Leviticus through, but it is full of rules and regulations for the Israelites on everything from how to dress to how to tell if a person had leprosy, from how to clean your house to how to treat your neighbor, from what to eat to how to punish a’s all there...and they memorized it! Proverbs 3:1 tells us not to forget the law and to keep God’s commands. In order to be able to keep God’s commands, you must know what they are! Ignorance was never an excuse in God’s eyes., so it is our responsibility to learn His words and His ways. Here is a question for you! Are you reading your Bible as much as you should be? I’m glad you’re doing this study right now...that means you are actively putting the Word of God into your heart! As you continue to read the Word and meditate on it and memorize it, you will notice that life goes better. You’ll have less stress and more peace. And the Bible even goes as far as to say that you’ll live long! I believe you live longer because you’re not involved in ungodly activities that may hurt you, and you’re not living with bitterness, jealousy, anger and unforgiveness, which eats you up from the inside out! A long and peaceful life sounds like a pretty good reward for learning and remembering the principles in the Word of God and keeping them.

2. Hang on to Mercy and Truth (v. 3-4)

Mercy is the demonstration of the Word of God

Truth is the declaration of the Word of God

Do you demonstrate the Word of God by how you live? Is it evident to others that you love and serve God?
Do you speak words of faith, love and encouragement? Do people like talking to you because you are honest, open and kind?

"Out of the abundance of the heart, so the mouth speaks," and "they will know we are Christians by our love," the Bible says. So when the law of God is not in our hearts and we aren’t obeying God’s commands, then we certainly won’t be showing mercy or speaking truth. That displeases God and repels others. No one wants to be your friend. No one wants to hang around you!

But when you’ve got the Word of God in your heart, it will flow right out of you, both in actions and words. And then you’ll find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man!
This week make a concerted effort to
show mercy and speak truth! Write down how you felt, how others felt, and how God blessed you as you did it.

3. Trust in the Lord with all your heart
  (v. 5-8)

Just about everyone has memorized this scripture!
When we lean on something, we use it for support. We trust that it will hold us up. So when we lean on our own understanding, we are actually relying on our own finite thoughts, opinions, wisdom, and perspective to give us strength and support, which of course will crumble under weight or pressure that is too great.

What kinds of things do you lean on? What do you believe offers you support in times of pressure?

Compare those things to the Lord and his strength. Gather some promises from the Word of God and line them up against the list you just made of self-support. Now which would you rather trust to hold you when the pressure is on? Don’t think you’re so smart (wise in your own eyes!). Fear the in Him. It will be health and strength to you!

4. Honor the Lord with your possessions (v. 9-10)

I am living in a material world, and I am a material girl!!

Oh, it’s so hard sometimes to get out of the mindset that we need things! Right now, my "need" list is a toaster oven/toaster combo, new exercise shirt and pants, shelves for the garage, a 12" nonstick good quality frying pan, Sperry Topsiders, and a risotto/rice maker...and those are just the first things off the top of my head! But I have a houseful of nice things and a closet full of clothes. Do I really need more?

It’s not a matter of getting more, it’s a matter of giving more. Two things God asks of us:

- Honor Him with our possessions - Do we use what we have to honor Him and bless others? Or are we careful, selfish and stingy with our things?

- Honor Him with the firstfruits of your increase - Do we tithe 10% of our income? Do we give offerings that are over and above the required 10%? Do we give to the poor?

If the answer is "Yes" to those questions, then God says our barns will be filled with plenty and our vats will overflow with new wine. Somehow, when we try on our own to increase ourselves, we fall short and always struggle. But when we honor God, he in turn increases us. As the old saying goes, "You can’t out-give God!"

Make a list of things you really need, right now. Now tuck it in the back of your Bible. At the end of this study, we will pull those lists out again and check off what has been supplied. I think you’ll be surprised!

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