Proverbs 23:17, 18 and Psalm 73 go together nicely. Asaph vividly portrays the perspective of a believer who is envious of sinners: their seeming prosperity, their strength, their pride, their increasing riches. “They have more than heart could wish.” (Psalm 73:7) Asaph’s envy brought him to bemoan his own efforts at piety: “Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning.” (Psalm 73:13, 14)
Yet there is the injunction from God:
Proverbs 23:17, 18
Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.
For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
This perspective was turned around for Asaph when he “went into the sanctuary of God.” For then he says, “I understood their end. Surely Thou didst set them in slippery places! Thou castedst them down into destruction!” (Psalm 73:17, 18)
SURELY there is an end! Lord, all I desire is You. Please walk with me and guide me today. What a fearful and amazing thing: that You, the Living God, who is a consuming fire, should love me and want to dwell with me in the person of Your Son Jesus Christ! Even so, come, Lord Jesus! MAY TODAY BE THE END. Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done – in me today, Lord. Amen.
There are many times when I read my daily Bible chapters and later find other authors referring to something I read the same day. It seems to happen so frequently that I started to keep track of the occurrences. Here is one example.
Charles Bridges connected Proverbs 3:17 with Acts 5:41, 42.
Daily Bible reading chapter: Acts 5 Other reading: Charles Bridges’ commentary on Proverbs 3:17
Prov. 3:17 – “Her [wisdom’s] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.”
Acts 5:41, 42 – “And they [the Apostles] departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
Bridges – “It is saying far too little, that the trials of these ways are not inconsistent with their pleasantness. They are the very principles of the most elevated pleasure. ‘The verdict of Christ,’ says Dr. South, ‘makes the discipline of self-denial and the cross – those terrible blows to flesh and blood – the indispensable requisite to the being His disciples.’ And yet, paradoxical as it may appear, in this deep gloom is the sunshine of joy. For if our natural will be ‘enmity to God’ (Rom. 8:7), it must be the enemy of our own happiness. Our pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites, that only ‘bring forth fruit unto death.’ (Rom. 7:5) Even what may be called the austerities of godliness are more joyous than ‘the pleasures of sin.’ Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience. The very chains of Christ are glorious. (Acts 5:41, 42; 16:24, 25) Moses endured not ‘his reproach’ as a trial. He ‘esteemed it as a treasure – greater riches than the treasures of Egypt.’ (Heb. 11:26) Our principles are never more consoling that when we are making a sacrifice for them. Hannah yielded up her dearest earthly joy. But did she sink under the trial? Did she grudge the sacrifice? ‘Hannah prayed and say, My heart rejoiceth in the Lord’ (1 Sam. 1:26; 2:1); while to show that none serve Him for naught – for one child that was resigned, five were added. (1 Sam. 2:20, 21)’
This morning I am truly struggling with “Far better to cross the will, than to wound the conscience,” finding it hard to go against my “natural will,” even though it is “enmity to God.” I know that my “pleasure, therefore, must be to deny, not to indulge it; to mortify sinful appetites.” My sinful will has been winning for the past 24 hours. I am forcing myself to read the Word, to pray, to read theology. But mixed in is the desire to indulge sinful thoughts. It’s at these time that I pray that the Holy Spirit will help me in spite of my own will – praying against myself.
Romans 8:12 – 14 – “Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”
It seems to me that the act of mortifying my flesh, going against my own natural will, can only be done through the Spirit of God. And the only way I can see for that to happen is for me to pray for it. Luke 11:13 – “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?”
Even as I write this I feel the strong pull of my flesh. “Oh wretched man that I am.” Better would it be for me to be beaten for speaking for Christ as the Apostles in Acts 5; or to be in chains for Christ and singing at midnight in a prison like Paul and Silas in Acts 16, as referred to by Bridges. How thankful I am that the same apostle wrote Romans 7 to show us all how he also struggled against the flesh, praising Jesus Christ for the ultimate victory and trusting the Spirit of God for strength through the battle.
Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
Yesterday, while waking through a busy Walmart parking lot with my family, I witnessed something that reminded me of Proverbs 15:1. Cars were pulling in and out. People were walking in various directions. It was a bit chaotic.
A family was walking in the opposite direction to us as a car was turning into the lane. There wasn’t much room for cars and pedestrians. The car stopped. The passenger window lowered. I heard an angry voice. The father of the family coming toward us was surprised and stopped for a moment. A person in the vehicle was angrily talking to him.
The situation made me nervous. You never know what someone might impulsively do when they are angry, especially behind the wheel of a vehicle. Something tragic could easily happen given how many people were walking and how close the cars were to us.
To my great relief, the man walking kindly said to the person to the angry person in the car, “I am very sorry. I did not know. It wasn’t intentional.” He then continued to walk with his family. The driver slowly continued and calmly parked in the next open spot.
I have no idea why the driver was angry. Even the man he yelled at didn’t seem to know. I admired that man for softly answering, thereby turning away the other man’s wrath. Where some people would be ready for a fight and would have let some grievous words fly in reply, this man humbly apologized and moved along. It all happened in a matter of seconds. But it was refreshing to witness.
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