Zealous for the Fear of the Lord

Proverbs 23:1-35

Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3, lines 75-80, Polonius (Lord Chamberlain to the King of Denmark, Claudius, who had murdered his brother, Hamlet’s father) instructs his son Laertes just before he leaves for the “big city” of Paris:

Neither a borrower nor a lender be; (Prov. 22:7)
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all –
to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Is that possible? What about Jeremiah 17:9“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?”Being zealous for the fear of the Lord is the only effective antidote to self-indulgence. That means we must choose to not pursue some things and to pursue others while being true to God, not self. This principle was given Gospel clothing when Jesus said,“If anyone wants to be My follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)

A. don’t pursue the transient (lasting a very short time)

food v.1-3

given for enjoyment and use

necessary for life

accompanying pleasure is blessing from God – food could provide no pleasure and still nourish

not given to excessive indulgence

either in quantity or quality

once the meal is a memory – how much eternal value to the experience?

must be kept within proper bounds given resources/opportunities God has entrusted to us

riches v.4-5

it’s the difference between riches as a god and a servant

does life revolve around acquisition of riches?

Do not wear yourself out to become rich; be wise enough to restrain yourself.” NET

or around wise investment of wealth in things/people with eye to spiritual/eternal return

trusting in God and not in riches

riches cannot be trusted with respect to the future – see NYSE performance charts, real estate stats, etc.

trust must be in what is dependable – God who is eternal, self-existent, immutable, benevolent

persuading the stubbornly impenitent v.6-9

it’s a heart issue v.7

only God can change it

until God does, it’s a waste of time and of God’s treasure (wisdom)

Bigger principle: we are to invest ALL of resources wisely to have maximum impact in God’s work. Side note: we may not observe or be aware of extent of impact; our responsibility is to act wisely, not base actions on perceived results.

pleasure v.29-35

comes up short on two counts:

fails to satisfy because it is transient, empty (lacks the positive)

has negative side “benefits” v.29, 33-35

does not mean pleasure is wrong/sinful

it is a blessing given by God for which to be thankful

it is not an end in itself or something to be pursued as a goal

Zeal (great emotional warmth and intensity) for the fear of God requires right attitude (wisdom) toward things that are a normal part of life. Everyone has to deal with issues of food, wealth, impenitent friends/family, and pleasure. One with godly wisdom seeks to maintain biblical perspective in all areas.

B. don’t contribute to injustice

be good to neighbors v.10a

second command – love neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Matt. 22:39)

also consistent with 8th & 10th commands – stealing, coveting

positive side of injunction – protect neighbor and his interests

to orphans (helpless) v.10b

a mark of pure religion – visit orphans and widows (James 1:27)

injustice against orphans specifically forbidden (Deut. 27:19)

character of God to be Father to orphans, defender of widows (Psa. 68:5)

C. do pursue

instruction & knowledge

for yourself v.12, 23

4148-instruction 1847-knowledge 571-truth 2451-wisdom 998-understanding

pursue, buy, acquire these things – in other words, develop a thoroughly biblical worldview

requires knowledge of God, his word, his ways, and wisdom to properly apply knowledge

for your children v.13-16, 24

we’re not simply coaches, keeping kids between the ditches as they pursue what they want

we are their trainers; proper correction and instruction is essential

perhaps in regard to verse 13: remembering family history

Adonijah – After the death of his three brothers, Amnon, Chileab and Absalom, he became the eldest son; “his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, “Why have you done so?” (1 Kings 1:6); ordered killed by Solomon (1 Kings 2:25) because of request to marry Abishag.

the right road v.19

“keep your mind on the right course” HCSB

“way of life” is direct result of “way of thinking” – belief governs behavior

think this way: Phil. 2:5 – let this mind be in you

requires effort, zeal, to think the right (read biblical) way in a fallen world

not every road leads to favor with God – must be careful to follow path of his direction

the right people v.20-22

choice of those with whom develop close relationships – ones who will encourage us in right thinking and living

not to live as hermits (convent/monastery); cannot be salt and light that way

must be sure the influence balance is tipped the right way

choice of those to whom we turn for guidance – should be those who possess biblical understanding and will counsel accordingly

Verse 17-18: zealous for the fear of the Lord BECAUSE there is a future; what we do in this life has impact on the next life, not by necessity but by God’s design. Yes, we live in the present, confined by God’s design to earthly existence. BUT, we cannot confine our thoughts and actions to the present, temporal living; must think and live with the Kingdom in view. We pray for God’s kingdom to come, Jesus told us to seek the Kingdom of God above all else; God’s kingdom will be realized in its fullness but we must be doing our part as we follow Christ and choose those pursuits that please him.

See Valley of Vision, Faith and the World, p.196


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