Good in the End

“… that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end” (Deuteronomy 8:16)

Moses told Israel that God’s purpose in Israel’s wilderness wanderings was twofold: to maintain a humble mind and to test their hearts with specific regard to obedience.

The way in which God maintained a humble heart in Israel was through making their dependence upon Him very obvious. When they hungered and cried out to Him He supplied manna (v 3) and when they thirsted He provided water. Miraculously their garments did not wear out and their footwear was always just the right size (v 4). In addition He maintained humility through chastisement (v 5). This is a model for all parents, especially fathers, to follow. We have the evidence of unrestrained and undisciplined youth all around us. Many are not so youthful age-wise any more but they carry the marks of a lack of training and discipline in their youth. They fit the description Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:1-5). With each generation humility is not only less evident but being seen as an undesirable trait. We should not be surprised that bullying has become more prevalent among children and that it remains with them into adulthood.

The tests that God presented to Israel were to reveal what was really in their heart. Did they really trust God or just give Him lip service? Obedience to His commands would reveal their heart and ours. If we believe someone who cares about us to be trustworthy we will do as they ask.

Recently a doctor prescribed a medication for me but I have not taken it. He was unable to convince me that he understood or believed what I was saying and I did not understand his words due to his accent. There was a period of a minute or two when he spoke that I did not recognise any English word. I have not obeyed his instructions because I do not believe they were necessarily in my best interest.

When we choose not to obey the word of the Lord we are saying that we do not understand His instruction, don’t trust His wisdom or we do not believe that He has our best interest at heart. He tested Israel and He will test us regularly. At Ai, under Joshua’s leadership, Israel failed this test (Joshua 7) but they learned from it (Joshua 8) and that is the purpose of chastisement.

God is at work to maintain humility in His people and to test us as to our trust in Him and obedience. He states that it is to do you good in the end. If we believe this then we will accept His hand that may sometimes withhold that which seems good to us, and His chastisement, with all grace and joy.

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves, He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11, 12)

Compassion of a Mother

“We were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children.” 1 Thessalonians 2:7

There are a number of comparisons in relationships to that of a mother to her child in the Bible. The Lord Himself compares His compassion for Israel with that of a mother for her nursing child, “Can a woman forget her nursing child, and not have compassion on the son of her womb? Surely they may forget, yet I will never forget you” (Isaiah 49:15). It is most unlikely that a mother would ever cease to have compassion for the child she has nursed. The Lord states that He will never cease to have that kind of compassion for Israel. The Lord used a mother’s love and compassion for her child because it is the nearest earthly evidence available that compares to His own kind of love and compassion for Israel. Had there been a better illustration available he would have used it.

The other side of the coin is that the love and compassion a mother has for her child is evidence that she is created in the image of God. That a mother might forget is a consequence of the fall which has corrupted the image of God in mankind but that was never a part of the original creation.

Paul also uses a mother’s love and compassion for her nursing child for comparison (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 8). In an attempt to remind the Christians in Thessalonica of his own love and compassion for them he speaks of the great affection that a nursing mother has for her child and the pain she suffers upon separation or rejection. He, too, could find no greater example of tender compassion than that of a mother for her nursing child. Clearly, the context reveals that he would be broken hearted if they turned away from him and the teaching he had given them.

The greater the love one has for another, the greater the pain when the object of love suffers. A woman suffers pain in child-birth but it doesn’t end there. “A foolish man despises his mother” (Proverbs 15:20), “a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Proverbs 10:1) and, “a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Proverbs 29:15).

Not all pain for a mother comes from the foolish behaviour of her child. Mothers feel more acutely than others the suffering of the child they have given birth to and nursed when they suffer injury, are ill or suffer abuse at the hands of others. Mary knew this kind of suffering. Simeon told her before it happened that “a sword will pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). The context is Simeon’s prophecy of the opposition and persecution that Jesus would endure. Mary’s pain no doubt was at its worst when Jesus was on the cross and the spear pierced His body. It would be as though a sword had pierced her own soul. Her pain turned to joy when she saw Jesus risen from the dead (Acts 1:14).

“God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Without the witness of mothers our comprehension of our God and His Divine Nature would be the poorer.

A Foolish Man

“Fools hate knowledge” Proverbs 1:22

Knowledge exposes error and a person who does not want to have his understanding corrected by reality and truth is foolish and that makes him a fool. The Psalmist tells us that what makes one a fool is, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God'” (Psalm 14:1). All that the book of Proverbs reveals regarding a fool comes out of this one self-deception; the lie that Satan has been deceiving men with throughout time but arguably more successfully in these days. Please look up the verses in Proverbs as you read this article.

The evidence that reveals that a person is a fool or foolish is seen in their actions and heard from their mouth. The tongue of a fool is unbridled (10:10; 29:11, 20) slanderous (10:18), quarrelsome (18:6-7; 20:3), unthinking (18:13), deceitful (14:8), boasting great things (15:2) which are contrary to truth and reality (12:23; 15:7, 14). His error is so great that he would appear wiser if he kept his mouth shut and said nothing (17:28).

Not only is the mouth of a fool out of control but there is no restraint in behaviour. The fool is easily seduced (7:22), disobedient to authority (10:8), uncontrolled (12:16), undisciplined (26:3), lazy (1:32), destructive (14:1) and wasteful (21:20).

Foolishness is innate in a child so he needs to be corrected (22:15). Unless correction is effective he will be a grievous burden on society (27:3) and bring great sorrow to his:her parents (15:20; 17:21, 25; 19:13). Sadly we are now seeing the effects of a couple of generations where children have not been taught self-discipline. They neither obey parents nor authorities in our society.

A fool is also revealed as such by pride (14:3), arrogance (12:15; 14:16; 15:21; 18:2; 26:12) and ignorance of truth (10:14, 21; 13:16; 14:7; 15:14; 28:26). He believes he knows all there is to know on the subject in hand and that his own reasoning is the only logical one. Hence he exalts himself (30:32) and bullies others (30:33).

This makes him unteachable to parents (10:1; 15:5), to correction by others (16:22; 17:10; 27:22) and to the Lord (19:3). The fool has no heart for wisdom and truth because it is contrary to his own understanding and he is “wise in his own eyes (17:16; 23:9; 24:7; 26:7, 11; 29:9).

Though he does not think what he does is evil, he loves to do evil things (10:23; 13:19; 14:9). He will go on in false confidence believing he has it all (26:12) when in fact he will lose everything he thought he had in the most horrendous disappointment when he realises he has staked all on a lie (3:35). The earthly judgments (19:29) will appear as nothing compared to eternal damnation (Hebrews 9:27) that awaits the fool.

A Wise Man

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction” Proverbs 1:7

The book of Proverbs can give us some wise instruction if we will receive it. Following is a summary and notation of many of the Proverbs with regard to a wise person. Please look them up as you read this article.

It should not surprise us that the book begins by saying that a wise person is one who is teachable and actively seeking understanding of that which is true (1:5, 6). “To hear” means not just audible hearing but to take it to heart and live it out.

In a similar vein as this, one who is wise in his own eyes is not teachable (3:7; 26:12) and will not reverence the Lord as the One from whom he/she will seek knowledge (10:14; 18:15; 19:20; 22:17-21) and understanding (8:33). Being teachable and being humble are conjoined twins; they cannot be separated.

The activities of a wise person come from within. He need not be driven like a reluctant mule but is industrious and thrives on work (6:6-11; 14:1; 30:24-28). He /she will have nothing to do with evil (14:16) and will be able to pour “cold water” on “flames” of anger dampening the violence of the unwise (29:8).

The natural man hates rebuke and correction but a characteristic of the wise is that they gladly receive both (9:8, 9; 15:31; 17:10; 21:11; 25:12). They will love the one who rebukes them in love and truth, and learn from the one who corrects their error (12:15; 13:20).

Any parent rejoices when their child acts wisely and so say the Proverbs (10:1, 5; 13:1; 15:20; 23:15, 19-21; 23:24; 27:11; 28:11). A part of this is training a child to have respect to authority and demonstrate that by obeying those in authority (10:8; 22:6).

“The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity” writes James (3:6) so we are not surprised that the proverbs tell us that a wise man knows when to keep quiet and is able to do so (10:19; 12:18; 15:2, 7). His renewed heart controls what he says (16:23) and does. The wise person will not indulge in any thing mind altering such as alcohol (20:1; 23:19-21). The wise person has control of their words and actions (29:11). James reminds us that this is not possible in our fallen state but only by the Holy Spirit (James 3:8).

The wise in the context of Proverbs have a destiny and an inheritance beyond value; the glory of God (3:35; 15:24) and his desire is that others also enter that glory (11:30). Of course the Bible elaborates much more on this subject but this a good basic start.

All Our Ways

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)

Like many proverbs this is another that has been committed to memory and given some measure of acceptance and application in the lives of Christians. Anyone who meditates on it and considers the ramifications of such a proverb will of necessity be greatly shaken.

The very nature of the proverb informs us that we will not believe the proverb. After all, our human logic and reason always appears right to us so we will act in accordance with what seems right. “All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes” (Proverbs 16:2) and “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes” (21:2). This may be why most people, if asked if they are a good or bad person, will respond by saying they are good. It is because they generally live according to their own conscience of what they believe is right and wrong. These proverbs affirm that they are not deliberately lying. This was evident in the history of Israel and is revealed in the book of Judges (17:6; 21:25).

Those of us who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ probably think these proverbs don’t have as much application to us but that would be a huge error. How often do we go ahead and do what seems right to us without ever checking with the Lord or His word? We do this far more often than we realise or are willing to admit. We are inclined to go to Him only when we are unsure or we consider it a “big” matter instead of in all our ways (3:6)

“The way of death” is not bodily death but death to our intimate fellowship with our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. In view of the magnitude of the two opposing ways, death or life, we would profit greatly by honest reflection on what is the prime influence in our lives with regard to the things we say and do.

Another proverb says, “A fool rages and is self-confident” (v 16) showing the folly of one who ignores his fallen state and corrupt logic and reason. There are many who brandish this attitude in our world today and reject the verdict of the only One who is able to search the hearts of people and He Himself is the measure.

Without a source of understanding and wisdom we have no measure. We are not left without resource. There is another proverb that includes these words, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:6). God and His word are the only resource that will reveal the right way. Anything that comes from man without confidence and dependence in God and His word will lead to death and not life.

Correction in Love

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall direct your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5, 6)

It isn’t long in the life of a Christian before they hear and commit to memory these verses. They are well worth the effort because the application of them in every aspect and every moment of life is beneficial. This directive is in the Bible because we are inclined to do the exact opposite. The fallen corrupt nature that we inherited compels us to trust in our own abilities.

Solomon gives us four applications relating to faith and trust in the Lord.

The first application is as stated above: will I trust my wisdom or the Lord’s? What we do with all four applications is based on who we think we are and who we think the Lord is. Solomon tells us that the Lord is the One who created and sustains all that exists (vv 19, 20). He is the Potter and we are the clay so who has the greater wisdom?

As stewards of the life the Lord has given us we should take care of our bodies and not abuse them. God has graciously allowed people to understand the human body so as to bring healing to many problems but people are fallible and knowledge incomplete. Ultimately we will do well to trust the Lord for our health and healing (vv 7, 8).

The next application of our trust in the Lord is with regard to material possessions and money (vv 9, 10). When we are doing well we think that the Lord is blessing us for our faithfulness and when material wealth is withdrawn we think we must have gone astray or been disobedient. This notion does not conform to biblical revelation. Even Jesus had no more than His clothing and there are many examples of other godly men being like this in the Bible. Whether we trust the Lord or material wealth is revealed not when we have plenty but when material wealth is withdrawn. If we can’t trust the Lord in lean times then we certainly do not trust Him in the plentiful times.

The last of the applications of trusting the Lord that Solomon gives us here is that of chastening and correction (vv 11, 12). A father who loves his children will chasten and correct his children. Such activity is an act of love when done correctly. Only a humble and teachable person will accept chastening and correction, one who knows he is bent on wrong ways. Out of love the Lord chastens and corrects our wayward ways as a shepherd does his sheep.

The much loved Psalm 23 is written by Solomon’s father, King David, in a similar vein when he wrote, “Your rod and your staff they comfort me” (v4). The rod of correction and chastisement and the staff to shepherd and direct bring comfort to the one who knows his own sinful disposition.

Another Gift

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.” Proverbs 27:1

The changing of the year seems to be a big event unti1 it actually happens. At the end of December 31st, January 1st is just the next day. People try to make it appear spectacular by burning a lot of money in the form of fireworks and drinking a lot of alcohol. Both distract the mind from the reality that we all have one less year on this earth. Any distraction from difficult times and especially our mortality seems welcome.

The change of year is a good reminder that we should take stock and evaluate our lives regularly. The Bible tells us that for those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord He has taken care of our past and He has a unique life in Himself for us to live now and forever.

Many people make great plans and promises for the year ahead but no one has any certainty of seeing out even the first day of the New Year let alone the whole year. Jesus warns that the world will go on as though all is well and remain oblivious to the fact that the cancer of sin is destroying it from within the hearts of people. If we look to men for salvation we will be greatly disappointed.

Jesus exhorts us to stop worrying about earthly things that will surely pass, including our bodies and material possessions, and trust all our tomorrows into His care – let Him do the worrying.

The year 2011 is God’s gift to us should He tarry and we bodily remain on the earth. Let us choose to be good stewards of this precious gift of time in which we can live by faith in Jesus Christ. We will never have it again.

As Joshua proclaimed near the end of his earthly life, As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.Let this be our resolve with God’s gift of life into 2011 and be daily thankful for every day He gives to serve Him and live by faith.

Mothers’ Day

“Her children rise up and call her blessed, her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well but you excel them all’” (Proverbs 31:28, 29)

To my dear Mum on Mother’s Day who in my youth:

  • milked the cows and the goats
  • plucked chooks, turkeys, ducks and geese
  • collected the eggs of same
  • peeled potatoes
  • podded peas
  • scraped carrots
  • cooked meals including rabbits I trapped
  • sowed seed in the vegie garden
  • skimmed, scalded and separated cream
  • cared for sick cows, goats, poultry, dogs and cats
  • nursed me when sick
  • tended my many wounds and injuries
  • washed, ironed and mended my clothes
  • taught me to sew, knit, darn, cook, milk a cow and grow seeds in the garden to mention a few
  • was transport coordinator and driver
  • set an example in Christian service in the church
  • and above all has always prayed that I might know Jesus Christ

I was ungrateful most of the time then but now I am a little wiser and am thankful every day.

Thank you from your son!