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Monday, July 7, 2014

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 15
A soft answer turns away wrath,
     but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise dispenses knowledge,
     but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
     keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
     but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A fool despises a parent’s instruction,
     but the one who heeds admonition is prudent.
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
     but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.
The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
     not so the minds of fools.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
     but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
     but he loves the one who pursues righteousness.
There is severe discipline for one who forsakes the way,
     but one who hates a rebuke will die.
Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord,
     how much more human hearts!
Scoffers do not like to be rebuked;
     they will not go to the wise.
A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance,
     but by sorrow of heart the spirit is broken.
The mind of one who has understanding seeks knowledge,
     but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
All the days of the poor are hard,
     but a cheerful heart has a continual feast.
Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
     than great treasure and trouble with it.
Better is a dinner of vegetables where love is
     than a fatted ox and hatred with it.
Those who are hot-tempered stir up strife,
     but those who are slow to anger calm contention.
The way of the lazy is overgrown with thorns,
     but the path of the upright is a level highway.
A wise child makes a glad father,
     but the foolish despise their mothers.
Folly is a joy to one who has no sense,
     but a person of understanding walks straight ahead.
Without counsel, plans go wrong,
     but with many advisers they succeed.
To make an apt answer is a joy to anyone,
     and a word in season, how good it is!
For the wise the path of life leads upward,
     in order to avoid Sheol below.
The Lord tears down the house of the proud,
     but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
Evil plans are an abomination to the Lord,
     but gracious words are pure.
Those who are greedy for unjust gain make trouble for their households,
     but those who hate bribes will live.
The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer,
     but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil.
The Lord is far from the wicked,
     but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
     and good news refreshes the body.
The ear that heeds wholesome admonition
     will lodge among the wise.
Those who ignore instruction despise themselves,
     but those who heed admonition gain understanding.
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
     and humility goes before honor. (NRSV)

The book of Proverbs states that its purpose is to teach wisdom and discipline. This book was foundational as a guide for the Jewish people. Children memorized and recited these words. Today we are in need of its wisdom more than ever.

“The fear of the Lord is wise instruction, and humility comes before respect.” Now fear of the Lord strikes many as an outdated idea. It conjures up images of a wrathful God, which many reject. It is hard for us to understand this phrase as it was intended—fear of the Lord might be better understood as a way to correctly view ourselves in relation to God.

We get in trouble in life when we become too focused on ourselves. It is easy to become consumed with our problems, our desires, our needs. We become the center of the universe and don’t even realize it. Then we lose an accurate perspective. This is where the humility part comes in. Fear of the Lord involves putting God in God’s rightful place, with God, not ourselves, at the center of all. God first and ourselves second, that is the right order; that produces humility. If we envision life as God’s garden, we are each a flower in it. We are each planted, nourished, and sustained by God. Our life is as the flower, not the garden; every flower in it is not something we choose and control. This indeed is wise instruction as we understand our lives as a part of the larger life of God.

Loving God, you have planted, nourished, and sustained me. Help me to focus on your love and service first and myself second. Even when times are tough, you let me feel your caring presence, and trust that you are always working for good. Help me to focus on doing your work in the world, rather than my own. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Written by Liz Nickerson, Family Ministry Coordinator

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