Proverbs 22:6: Promise or Principle?

January 6, 2020 at 10:04 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments
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Question: I’m a parent and I would like to claim Proverbs 22:6 as a promise from God, that if I train my children to follow Christ and to do what’s right, then, as they get older, they will continue on that path and not depart from it. But I’ve heard at least a couple of preachers say that Proverbs 22:6 is a principle and not a promise. Is that true, and how can I tell?

Answer: First of all, I want to commend you for thinking Biblically, and therefore correctly, about your responsibilities as a parent, and for your desire to take hold of promises from the Word of God.

The Proverbs are part of the Biblical genre known as “wisdom literature.” They are often described as a collection of “wisdom sayings” gathered by King Solomon and other writers, that are intended as guidelines to help people live God-fearing and God-pleasing lives because they are generally true. Since the Bible must be read in context in order to apply it correctly, it helps to know that the Proverbs are expressions of wit and wisdom designed to be memorable and evocative, while still being inspired by the Holy Spirit, and therefore inerrant and infallible. This tension has caused problems of interpretation for many Bible scholars and commentators. Before I get to your specific question, let me give you a couple of examples.

Proverbs 21:19 says, “It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman.” Is this a promise or a principle? The promise is that living with a quarrelsome and browbeating woman will always be a miserable experience, and, while living in the wilderness can be rough, it is actually better than the alternative. However, it is not a “blanket promise” in the way that a verse like John 3:16 is. For instance, there might be a rabid grizzly bear roaming in a particular area of wilderness. THAT would not be preferable to sharing a house with even the orneriest, big bad mama we can imagine. So, for this reason, we are tempted to use verses like this to support the argument that the Proverbs are only situation-specific promises, and are really more like principles.

However, look at Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” Have you ever heard a preacher say, “That’s just a principle, and not a promise. Most of the time we should trust in the Lord and His direction for our lives, but not always?” I doubt it, and if you have, then I want to meet that preacher. No, we are quick to latch onto certain Proverbs as promises and to dismiss others are mere principles, when the Bible does not authorize us to be that cavalier with the Scriptures.

So, what does all this have to do with Proverbs 22:6? I’ll tell you what. The interpretation and application of Proverbs 22:6 is fraught with situational temptation.

Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it

Proverbs 22:6

Imagine you are a preacher preaching to a congregation where an older couple is present, and they have served faithfully in church for many years, having brought up their son from his birth to be faithful right alongside them. This couple was consistent with discipline. They attended services faithfully. They gave sacrificially. They weren’t hypocritical. They glorified God in church and out of church, and they did their dead level best to bring up their child in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord. However, once Junior moved out on his own, he stopped going to church, got into trouble with the law, took up drugs, alcohol, and fornication, and is now living like the devil’s disciple. What does the preacher say when he gets to Proverbs 22:6? He can’t say God was wrong. The more political spin is to say it’s a principle and not a promise, and that, even though Dad and Mom did a fine job raising Junior, they can’t really be responsible for his choice to deviate from the general principle of Proverbs 22:6.

So, I think the most common answer to your question is that, while it is admirable that you want to claim a promise from God, you had better not be too hasty. You’re just a young parent, and you should do your best, but don’t count on your little tyke growing up to do what’s right. In other words, hope he falls under the general principle, but don’t blame God (or yourself) for breaking a promise if he goes astray.

I am not going to give you that answer, because I really don’t think it’s the right way to read or apply that verse, for two reasons.

1. We have to be careful about importing our modern word-usages into Bible verses that were translated a long time ago. We have a tendency to read “Train up a child in the way he SHOULD go” and place a moral value judgment on the word “should.” If I say, “We SHOULD treat people with respect,” then it is clear that I mean we ought to treat people with respect because it is the morally right thing to do. Likewise, we read Proverbs 22:6 and we automatically think that it means that the way a child SHOULD go is God’s way, and to go another way is the morally wrong way to go. That is a true statement, but I do not think that is the way the Holy Spirit intended for us to use “should” in that verse.

The other way to use “should” is to say, “A round ball placed at the top of a hill SHOULD roll down the hill.” This is not a moral judgment. It’s an expression of a natural tendency. I believe that this was the intention of the translators in Proverbs 22:6 (and the meaning that best matches the original Hebrew text). In other words, the verse is telling what happens if parents train their child in the way he has a natural tendency to go. I would never presume to correct the King James translators, but I think the modern wording (versus the 1611 wording) would sound more like, “Train up a child according to his way…”

This changes the whole dynamic of the principle vs. promise question. Because now we are talking about a couple of additional options for understanding the verse. For one, it could be telling parents to watch our children to see what sort of natural tendencies and talents they appear to have, and then to encourage them along those lines. Then, when they are “old” they won’t “depart” from doing what they love to do and have been naturally gifted to do. Or (and this is the option I really think is correct, although it is admittedly the minority view among Bible scholars), because children are naturally sinful, the way they “should” go (apart from our correction), or the way they have a natural tendency to go, unless they are changed by God, is toward evil and sin. Therefore, the verse would be both a promise and principle, but primarily a warning for parents of the consequences of reinforcing children in their own sinful ways, until they get to the (“old”) age when it would be too late for us to influence them to change.

Now, I will admit that, while I do not hold to the “moral value” interpretation of “should,” in Proverbs 22:6, nearly all other Bible teachers historically HAVE held to that view, and if you are inclined to agree with them, I would only caution you not to adopt a casual view of dismissing what seem to be God’s promises. If Proverbs 22:6 is TRUE (and it certainly is, regardless of whether it is a technical promise or a technical principle), then no parents of grown, and yet wayward, children can shake a fist at God, and accuse Him of not keeping His Word. God’s standards are always higher than ours, and even the best parents in the world have been far from perfect, and need God’s wonderful and amazing grace if they are to even have a hope of bringing up children that glorify Him.

Catechism Question 6

May 16, 2014 at 10:49 am | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 24 Comments
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Question 4: How was everything when God created it?
Answer: It was very good.
Prove it.
Genesis 1:31

Question 5: What went wrong with everything God created?
Answer: Sin brought the curse of death into the world.
Prove it.
Romans 5:12

Question 6: What is wrong with you?
Answer: I was born a sinner, and I have sinned against God.
Prove it.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psalm 51:5

You may remember a popular television commercial from several years ago. A dad finds marijuana in his son’s room, and confronts him about it. Finding the son less than forthcoming, the dad demands in an angry self-righteous voice, “Where did you learn to do this?”

https://i2.wp.com/i.ytimg.com/vi/KUXb7do9C-w/hqdefault.jpg

This prompts the son to respond indignantly, “I learned it by watching you!”

When you tell your child that he or she is a sinner you will be violating every self-help book, counseling guideline, and child psychology tactic known to man concerning building up a child’s self-esteem. But you will also be obeying the Bible, so it must done. And like the sullen boy who blamed his drug use on his dad’s own example, you, too, may get the same question thrown back in your face. “I’m a sinner, you say? Well, what about you, Dad? What about you, Mom?”

And the only right response is, “Yes, me too. Everyone is a sinner.” Which is a great lead-in to be able to explain that no one can stop sinning on his or her own. It is in our fallen nature, and fallen sinners need help from God.

Other verses to consider:

And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.

Genesis 8:21

Foolishness [is] bound in the heart of a child; [but] the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 22:15

Pass It On and Pour It On

December 23, 2013 at 3:37 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments
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Last time we examined two principles that exhort Christian men to work hard:

I. Put It On
II. Pack It On

Now we will think about the exhortation to:

III. Pass It On

If you are a Christian, then God is always teaching you a lesson – but the lessons have two purposes. The first purpose is that whatever you are supposed to learn is going to be for His glory and your sanctification. The second is so that you can pass it on to somebody else.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

The application of true Biblical doctrine that is passed on to us by our brothers and sisters in Christ is not to be kept to ourselves, pridefully “shown off,” or simply meditated upon. No, it is to be passed on to other faithful believers, who, in turn, will likewise share it again. Specifically, the Bible says we are to pass it on to other men. The Bible uses the word “teach” rather than “share” (which coincidentally sounds a little more “manly”). If you are a Christian man, when God teaches you a lesson, teach it to your son or another young man in your church family. Find a single mom who has a son that is being ignored by his selfish dad, and take the kid fishing and teach him what it means to be a man of God. Real men are not sophisticated monkeys, nor overgrown boys who can shave, nor girls with some different body parts. We are imago Dei – the image of God Himself – and we were not created to take up space, to play with toys, to be attractive to women, or to prove how tough we can be. We were made to serve the living God, the Maker of Heaven and Earth, the Great King – and we had better start acting like it and we had better be passing it on to the next generation, or the next generation will be emasculated and routed by the enemies of God.

IV. Pour It On

One of the worst things you could be called when I was a kid was a quitter. God has not called you to be a quitter.

He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand: but the hand of the diligent maketh rich.

Proverbs 10:4

The Bible condemns “slackers,” and contrasts them with hard workers.

The hand of the diligent shall bear rule: but the slothful shall be under tribute.

Proverbs 12:24

The non-quitter is going to have authority. He’s going to lead. The quitter is going to have to pay an unpleasant price, and he will not be the one making the important decisions.

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

Proverbs 22:29

The non-quitter is going to have a good, respectable employer. The quitter is going to wind up working for a petty jerk.

If you are a man, pour it on: Work hard and don’t quit.

Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;

Romans 12:11

Work hard at your secular job, then work hard for Jesus; don’t be a secular quitter, and don’t be a spiritual quitter. When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Did Jesus ever give up? Of course not!

Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For every man shall bear his own burden.

Galatians 6:2-5

If you are a man, here is what you are called to do: Be like Jesus and bear your burdens, yes, but do not be a “Stoic.” Stay involved with difficult people. Christian men bear their own burdens and they bear other people’s burdens. Your wife doesn’t respect you like she should? Tough – you’re a man – pick up that burden and carry it. Be respectable whether you earn her respect or not. Trouble with your finances? Pick it up and carry that burden, working hard and trusting God! Health problems (physical or mental)? Pick it up! No help with the kids? Pick it up! Difficulties with your nieces, nephews, single moms you know, neighborhood kids? Pick up those burdens and carry them the way Jesus did! You are a man. That’s what Christian men do – they carry other people’s burdens, and they do it in love, fulfilling the law of Christ.

Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.

II Corinthians 5:9 (emphasis added)

Trying to win Christ’s approval (while still knowing the security of our justification and sonship) will often require us to forsake the approval of the world. We are not to care what they think if we are pleasing Him. Let them jeer, taunt, boo, scoff – we are seeking to please our Master! When we are light in this world, burning with candles lit from Christ’s torch, the darkness will push back. We might lose friends, the love of family members, or jobs. We might get passed over for promotions, and the cool people won’t invite us to their tailgate parties or Christmas parties. But we worship Someone who let Himself be tortured, abused, and ridiculed by vile sinners! He took it all for us; the least we can do is take a little for Him!

Be a Friend to Your S.P.O.U.S.E.

September 13, 2013 at 9:58 am | Posted in Biblical friendship, Biblical Marriage | 6 Comments
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The very first human friendship in the history of the world also happens to have been the very first marriage.

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

Genesis 2:18

We tend to think of “friendship” and “love” as being in two different, although overlapping, spheres, but friendship is one of the most important ingredients in “love.”

Listen to how the wife in Song of Solomon talks about her husband:

My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand.

Song of Solomon 5:10

She says, “My husband is awesome – I would not want anybody else.”

His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven.

Song of Solomon 5:11

My wife has a slight variation on this when she talks about me: “He is very handsome – his bald spot shines like a diamond.”

His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set.

Song of Solomon 5:12

“He doesn’t have beady eyes.” (Always a plus!)

His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh.

Song of Solomon 5:13

“I like his aftershave and even his breath smells good!”

His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires.

Song of Solomon 5:14

“He has strong hands and six-pack abs.”

His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars.

Song of Solomon 5:15

“He has nice legs and his profile is stunning.”

His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Song of Solomon 5:16

She is really carried away with this dude’s looks, and she’s telling this to the other women, but she is referring to him as her beloved and her friend.

I have devised an acrostic from the word S.P.O.U.S.E. to remind us of the importance of friendship between husbands and wives.

S.olace

A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

Be a friend to your spouse by loving her or him at all times – especially in adversity. That’s what solace is: comfort in times of distress.

P.roximity

Thine own friend, and thy father’s friend, forsake not; neither go into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity: for better is a neighbour that is near than a brother far off.

Proverbs 27:10

Friendship means staying close by – being there to help when a need arises. The relationship of marriage is less meaningful without the proximity of friendship.

O.penness

Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart: so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel.

Proverbs 27:9

Be a friend to your spouse by communicating openly, honestly, and frankly. Your spouse needs to be the friend you confide in – and the one whose confidences you keep.

U.sefulness

Many will intreat the favour of the prince: and every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts.

Proverbs 19:6

Friends give each other gifts. It might just be time and attention or it might be material gifts, but being at your spouse’s disposal is the gift of usefulness. There are few things more discouraging than having a useless spouse.

S.upport and S.anctification

He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips the king shall be his friend.

Proverbs 22:11

Kind words are supportive and helpful words are the marks of true friendship, but true love is always love in truth.

Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.

Proverbs 27:17

Friends sometimes fight, but they fight to the glory of God, and they fight with a purpose. They fight in love, and God puts them together to make each other stronger – like iron.

E.ncouragment and E.xhortation

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

Proverbs 27:6

A good spouse has to batter the other spouse occasionally (figuratively, not literally!), but then we have a duty to bandage the wound in love.

Fathers and Daughters

July 20, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Biblical Parenting | 11 Comments
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I have three [edit: now four] daughters. My experience with boys is very limited, but from what I can tell there are some big differences between boys and girls. If you are reading this as a father of more than one daughter, you may be able to understand when I say that girls talk a LOT. Counting my wife, I live in a house with four girls and it is a place of NON-STOP talking. During one supper at my house there are probably more words said than I’ve said by myself in the last 25 years.

Another big difference is that girls seem to be a little more emotional than boys. It’s not that boys never cry. I mean, a typical boy might cry a little – if it’s something serious like a broken leg – but only after looking around to make sure no one is watching. But a girl can cry for an hour over losing a button off her dress. And if her big sister sticks her tongue out at her – look out. Your stock in Kleenex just went up thirty points.

Another difference is that girls tend to be more insecure than boys. Chances are, when you had a daughter, you had to learn to spend a lot of time saying things like, “It’s okay, there’s nothing bad in the attic,” or, “don’t worry if they laugh at your hair, I’ll sue everybody in that school.” It’s just a fact of life: Daughters need to be comforted by their fathers.

The Bible has some guidance for how fathers are supposed to love their daughters, and I’m glad Proverbs 22:6 doesn’t say, “Train up a son in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” It says, “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 20:7 doesn’t say, “The just man walketh in his integrity: his sons are blessed after him.” It says, “his children are blessed after him.”

God has given us a great gift in our daughters, and they are fun, but they are not just for our enjoyment. We have a responsibility to do what Proverbs says and train them properly.

Let me encourage you to make regular church attendance an important part of your daughter’s life. If your daughter sees that you make church a priority, she will do the same as she grows older, and the church is a great place for your daughter to experiment with different ways of serving the Lord, and find out which ways suit her best.

Training has to be more than just bringing our daughters to church, though. If we’re spending all our time serving at church ourselves, and just using the church to babysit for us while we do it, we’re making a big mistake. It is important for our daughters to know Bible stories, and the people in the Bible, and Bible verses, and it’s our responsibility as fathers to teach them those things. It’s not enough just to discuss these things at church. Train your daughters at home, too.

It’s hard to find time to spend with our family, period. We may as well admit it. Just earning money to pay for a home and food and clothes takes most of our time. But we have to somehow make the time, to make it a priority, or we’ll miss out on the best times of all. I’ve learned that – with daughters – the talking, the emotions, the insecurity, that’s where you’ll do most of your real training. If you can take the time to listen to all those “and I was like…and she was like… and then I was like…” in all that talking there is valuable information about what your daughter is really thinking. In all that crying and sighing and melodrama over “why do I have to get off the phone and clean my room,” there is something inside that big production that is a signal that will tell you what’s really on your daughter’s heart. Even in her insecurity there is a sign that she might be insecure because of something you’ve done to let her down.

But if we don’t have the patience or make the time to sit through all that and pay close attention, we’re not going to know what’s really on her mind, and in her heart, and what she needs you to do to help her. If we miss out on those things, we’re missing out on the best parts of having a daughter.

Before you can address anybody else’s insecurity, you’ve got to make sure that you are secure in your own heart. I would think that every decent father would want his daughter to be secure in the knowledge that she has a relationship with Jesus and that her place in Heaven is 100% guaranteed.

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

II Timothy 3:15 (emphasis added)

There’s no way to have real security without faith in Jesus.

Don’t Get Too Attached to Your Coat

November 1, 2010 at 10:30 am | Posted in Genesis | 8 Comments
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What was so special about Joseph?

And the LORD was with Joseph, and he was a prosperous man; and he was in the house of his master the Egyptian.

Genesis 39:2, emphasis added

It’s not just that the Lord was all Joseph wanted. It’s not even that the Lord was all Joseph needed. The Lord was all Joseph had. We would all be better off if we realized the same truth. Joseph was a success and hero, but the real cause of it was that he trusted the Lord and wanted to honor the Lord.

It may have looked from a worldly point of view like Joseph was blessed to have Egypt, but from a Heavenly point of view Egypt was blessed to have Joseph. Remember the promise of God’s covenant. He would bless those that blessed Israel.

And it came to pass from the time that he had made him overseer in his house, and over all that he had, that the LORD blessed the Egyptian’s house for Joseph’s sake; and the blessing of the LORD was upon all that he had in the house, and in the field.

Genesis 39:5

Joseph believed the covenant promise. To an Egyptian culture with 2000 gods that seemed to be fixated with death in its worship, Joseph must have seemed like a breath of fresh air as he emphasized life.

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kings; he shall not stand before mean men.

Proverbs 22:29

Joseph was diligent and hardworking, so God allowed him to work for the top men in Egypt. There is a principle for today in this lesson: If I am a lazy worker, I will probably wind up working for a bad boss. Both Jacob and Joseph had inherited their blessings from rich fathers, but God worked it out so they had to work hard and depend on Him.

And he left all that he had in Joseph’s hand; and he knew not ought he had, save the bread which he did eat. And Joseph was a goodly person, and well favoured.

Genesis 39:6

It appears that God made Joseph physically attractive, and, while this is often an advantage in life, it was a cause of trouble for Joseph. Potiphar’s wife lusted after him. Joseph glorified God by rejecting her advances.

There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Genesis 39:9

Joseph could envision the consequences of sin, but the only thing that kept him from falling into sin was that he knew Who sin was against.

And she caught him by his garment, saying, Lie with me: and he left his garment in her hand, and fled, and got him out.

Genesis 39:12, emphasis added

Flee also youthful lusts: but follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

II Timothy 2:22, emphasis added

This was the second time in Joseph’s life he had lost his coat, but he was clothed in Christ.

And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. And Pharaoh was wroth against two of his officers, against the chief of the butlers, and against the chief of the bakers. And he put them in ward in the house of the captain of the guard, into the prison, the place where Joseph was bound. And the captain of the guard charged Joseph with them, and he served them: and they continued a season in ward. And they dreamed a dream both of them, each man his dream in one night, each man according to the interpretation of his dream, the butler and the baker of the king of Egypt, which were bound in the prison. And Joseph came in unto them in the morning, and looked upon them, and, behold, they were sad. And he asked Pharaoh’s officers that were with him in the ward of his lord’s house, saying, Wherefore look ye so sadly to day? And they said unto him, We have dreamed a dream, and there is no interpreter of it. And Joseph said unto them, Do not interpretations belong to God? tell me them, I pray you.

Genesis 40:1-8

Joseph focused on others – and gave the glory to God.

Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh’s cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler.

Genesis 40:13

Yet did not the chief butler remember Joseph, but forgat him.

Genesis 40:23

Should we be surprised the butler forgot Joseph?

Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God: Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:

Psalm 146:3-6

When Pharaoh had his dreams, then the butler remembered Joseph.

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him hastily out of the dungeon: and he shaved himself, and changed his raiment, and came in unto Pharaoh.

Genesis 41:14

Joseph dressed up for his appointment with Pharaoh. It is important to take care about our appearance, because that is how we are often judged by others.

Joseph lost his coat for the third time. He had been given a coat by his earthly father, and now his Heavenly Father gives him a coat through Pharaoh.

And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph’s hand, and arrayed him in vestures of fine linen, and put a gold chain about his neck;

Genesis 41:42

Joseph was given an Egyptian name.

And Pharaoh called Joseph’s name Zaphnathpaaneah; and he gave him to wife Asenath the daughter of Potipherah priest of On. And Joseph went out over all the land of Egypt.

Genesis 41:45

Joseph’s Egyptian name spoke of the abundance of life and the Sustainer of life. It pointed to the type of person who enjoys life and lives it with a purpose – who brings life to others. Joseph got a gentile wife, which is a kind of picture of Christ marrying a gentile bride after His rejection by the Jews.

Here is another similarity between Joseph and Jesus:

And when all the land of Egypt was famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for bread: and Pharaoh said unto all the Egyptians, Go unto Joseph; what he saith to you, do.

Genesis 41:55, emphasis added

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.

John 2:3-5, emphasis added

When your provision runs out, look to Jesus, and whatever HE says: DO IT.

And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

Genesis 42:6

Joseph provided bread to the nations; Jesus Christ provided the Bread of Life.

For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

John 6:33

Jacob’s family had multiplied – often in immorality. Now God showed that He was still in control. It’s great to have a big family – except in a famine!

But Benjamin, Joseph’s brother, Jacob sent not with his brethren; for he said, Lest peradventure mischief befall him. And the sons of Israel came to buy corn among those that came: for the famine was in the land of Canaan. And Joseph was the governor over the land, and he it was that sold to all the people of the land: and Joseph’s brethren came, and bowed down themselves before him with their faces to the earth.

Genesis 42:4-6

This incident almost fulfilled the prophecy of Joseph’s dream, but one brother was missing. That fact may explain much of Joseph’s thinking in how he dealt with his brothers from that point forward. He knew that all the brothers – and Jacob – needed to bow before him. He also knew that the brothers needed to repent because, for all he knew, they could still hate him.

And Joseph saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made himself strange unto them, and spake roughly unto them; and he said unto them, Whence come ye? And they said, From the land of Canaan to buy food.

Genesis 42:7, emphasis added

The incident reminds us of the two disciples who encountered the resurrected Jesus on the road to Emmaus.

And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

Luke 24:15-16

Even before Joseph’s brothers recognized him, they started to feel conviction.

And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Genesis 42:21-23

The “Ways” to Remember

May 19, 2010 at 9:51 am | Posted in Biblical Remembering, I Corinthians | 12 Comments
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And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.

I Corinthians 11:24, emphasis added

Previously, I noted that it is amazing that we have to be told to remember Christ. I also mentioned the importance of remembering His Person – Who He was and is – and Who He will be always. We must remember Who He is, what He does, what He did, and what He’s going to do.

We must not “forget to remember,” so we need to talk about the “ways” to remember. Not the “ways” meaning “means” or “methods” or “techniques.” Not really “how” to remember. But “ways” in the sense of “follow His ways.” Train up a child in the “way” he should go – not his route home – but the way he is to live.

For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord, who shall bring you into remembrance of my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church.

I Corinthians 4:17, emphasis added

Imagine a pastor saying to the congregation, “I’m leaving, but I’m sending you a new pastor. You’re going to like him. He’s a good fellow. He’s going to remind you of me, and he’s going to continue my ways.”

“How arrogant!” we might think. “What do you mean, ‘your ways’ – what about Jesus’s ways?”

But that is essentially what the Apostle Paul is saying in this verse: “Listen to Timothy. He’s going to remind you of my ways – which are in Christ.”

Is it wrong to want to be so much like Jesus that our ways remind people of His ways? We are often so afraid of responsibility that we are quick to try to deflect criticism by saying, “Give me a break – I’m not perfect!” Trust me, if you’ve been involved in very much Christian ministry, it’s unlikely that anyone really thinks you are perfect – especially in the sense of being sinless. However, we ought to be striving to be better than we were before we were saved. I ought to be a better Christian now than I was ten years ago. In fact, I ought to be better than I was last week. I ought to be blameless (Philippians 2:15). “Blameless” is not faultless. When my children write letters to missionaries, there are mistakes in the letters. The letters aren’t “faultless.” But they are “blameless.” Our “ways” should make it hard for people to know a great deal about our own personal likes and dislikes. Do you know certain mature, Spirit-filled Christians, who, when you think about them, you think about Jesus? We must decrease, so He can increase. If the thermostat isn’t set to my perfect satisfaction and I’m a little cold or hot in a room full of people, so what? Does everybody have to know I’m hot or cold? If someone is kind enough to serve me a hot dog, do I have to make it known that, in the future, I would like mustard instead of ketchup? What our opinion is on everything that’s not related to the Kingdom of God is really not that relevant most of the time. We need some folks whose ways have to remind us of Jesus – because they no longer have their own ways.

“… [A]s he is, so are we in this world.” Those are the nine words that end I John 4:17, and they make a wonderful outline: three words in each of three sections.

As He Is: There’s only one thing I can think of that Jesus ever was, but that He’s not anymore, and that’s “dead.” He is certainly alive today! We can remember Him and remember His ways by walking with Him right now.

As He is, So Are We: We can be like Him. In fact, with His imputed righteousness covering up our iniquity – with His blood buying us access into the Holy of Holies in Heaven – we are like Him, in a sense, right now. He is in us and we are in Him.

As He is, so are we, in this World: Even now, in this modern Sodom and Gomorrah, we should be able to say to our children and to new Christians, “Follow my ways – because I’m following His ways.

This do in remembrance of Him – and make your ways remind others of His ways.

The Know-It-Alls that Don’t Know Much

September 1, 2009 at 7:22 am | Posted in Biblical Parenting | 16 Comments
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The Book of Proverbs is a good place to find wisdom in all areas of life, including the area of child-rearing. When parents want to know what the Bible says children should grow up to be, they should start by finding out what the Bible says children already are.

Children are simple (Proverbs 7:7), in the sense of being unwise, and – not to put too fine a point on it – simply foolish (Proverbs 8:5). The simple, foolish, and unwise are marked by a list of very fundamental things about which they are ignorant, or, in other words, things about which they do not know.

Children do not know about danger.

A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished.

Proverbs 27:12

Children do not know about discernment.

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.

Proverbs 15:17

Children do not know what is truly to be desired.

The desire of the slothful killeth him; for his hands refuse to labour.

Proverbs 21:25

Children do not know what is truly to be despised.

A fool despiseth his father’s instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.

Proverbs 15:5

Children do not know what is truly to be denied.

Two things have I required of thee; deny me them not before I die: Remove far from me vanity and lies: give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with food convenient for me: Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the LORD? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Proverbs 30:7-9

Children do not know what is truly to be devised.

He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous person.

Proverbs 24:8

Children do not know what is truly to be destroyed.

For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.

Proverbs 1:32

Children do not know what truly brings disgrace.

He that wasteth his father, and chaseth away his mother, is a son that causeth shame, and bringeth reproach.

Proverbs 19:26

Children do not know what truly brings despair.

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.

Proverbs 17:25

Children do not know what causes true disrepair.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without walls.

Proverbs 25:28

Children do not know what is truly disgusting.

A righteous man hateth lying: but a wicked man is loathsome, and cometh to shame.

Proverbs 13:5

Children do not know what is truly deadly.

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.

Proverbs 15:10

Children do not know where to find direction.

In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

Proverbs 3:6

Children do not know from what to depart.

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.

Proverbs 3:7

Foolishness comes naturally to children. It is bound up in their hearts. Parents face a tough task in trying to extricate, from the hearts of the little ones they love so much, ignorance of all these things: danger, discernment, desire, despicability, denial, devices, destruction, disgrace, despair, disrepair, disgust, death, direction, and departing. Thankfully, the Lord has given us clear instruction on one other thing that children do not know, but that will drive the foolishness from their hearts: discipline.

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.

Proverbs 22:15

Character and Integrity Part 2

August 5, 2009 at 11:43 am | Posted in character and integrity | 5 Comments
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Let’s pretend that I offer you a sandwich, but you are not going to be able to eat it right now; you are going to have to save it for later. I offer you two options for preserving the quality of the sandwich before you stick it in the fridge. In one hand I have a beautifully ornate wrought-iron bird cage.

bird cage

It looks both sturdy and beautiful. In the other hand I have an ugly old Zip-lock bag.

https://img1.etsystatic.com/000/0/6867105/il_570xN.334496059.jpg

It looks flimsy and plain. Which are you going to choose?

Obviously, you are going to choose the Zip-lock. Why? Because it has both integrity and character. A properly sealed Zip-lock bag stops both air and water from getting inside. There is a “soundness” and a “wholeness” to a Zip-lock bag. It has integrity. Furthermore, you’ve had experience with bird cages (or a least containers made up of metal sections with gaps in between). You’ve also had experience with Zip-lock bags. Zip-locks have kept a many of your sandwiches fresh before. Zip-lock bags have character.

God wants His people to have both integrity and character. He wants us to be sound, and to be known for being sound.

Who does not want you to be be “sound?” Who wants you to look strong and sturdy at a glance, but to prove unfit upon further inspection? Who wants you to try to act like something you are not, to be a fake? Your enemies, that’s who: the devil, the world, and your flesh.

The Bible doesn’t have much good to say about “the world” once you get past the part where God made it and saw that it was good. It’s been pretty much negative since then (Romans 12:2; I Corinthians 2:12; II Corinthians 4:4).

The “world” is the Bible word for the point of view of those who don’t love God. They don’t necessarily admit that they hate God. They will claim that they would rather just stay on their side and let the Lord stay on His. But there’s one thing that really motivates the world to get proactive – to start campaigning against God: greed, the love of money (I Timothy 6:10).

Here’s a good example. After World War II (1945) there were lots of young people getting to do things they’d never done before. This engendered a certain fear – the fear of “juvenile delinquents.” This kind of fear is not good (II Timothy 1:7). Adults would see something broken or defaced in public, and would start defaulting to, “It must have been those kids…” meaning teenaged kids.

This kind of thinking led to polls. The polls led to an identifiable market. Manufacturers starting producing things like “teen” toys, “teen” dolls, “teen” magazines, “teen” movies, “teen” TV shows, and “teen” clothes. Most of these products were focused on the idea of making kids think ahead to when they would be “older,” and subtly sending the message that it was a good thing to strive to act like they were older than they really were. You can witness this phenomenon going on today with pre-teens (the media calls them “tweens”).

The suspicion of adults and the influence of marketing led to teenaged kids becoming experts at duplicity. Duplicity is the opposite of integrity (James 1:8).

Remember Eddie Haskell from the old show, “Leave It To Beaver?”

https://i2.wp.com/www.litb.com/amazoneddie.jpg

Eddie was duplicitous, even though he never really fooled Mrs. Cleaver when he gushed over her “beautiful dress.” Today, teenaged kids are smarter than Eddie. Most parents would faint if they really knew what CDs their kids listen to, what movies they watch at sleepovers, what’s really posted, but set to private, on their social networking sites.

But God knows. He knows that their integrity is damaged. And other people know, even if the parents don’t – and that has damaged their character.

David (pre-Bathsheba) is a good example of character and integrity. I Samuel 16 is mainly about David being anointed king and playing his harp or lyre for Saul. Chapter 17 is mainly the account of David and Goliath. David was probably about 15 or 16 when he was anointed, and probably close to 20 when he killed Goliath. David was not slothful in business (Romans 12:11; I Samuel 16:10-11). He was keeping his father’s sheep. He was fervent in spirit (Romans 12:11; I Samuel 17:34-35). He risked his life to protect what God had given him. He was serving the Lord (Romans 12:11).

Then answered one of the servants, and said, Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, that is cunning in playing, and a mighty valiant man, and a man of war, and prudent in matters, and a comely person, and the LORD is with him.

I Samuel 16:8

Let’s look at David’s character in this verse. These are the things David, even as a teenaged child, was known for – what Proverbs 22:1 calls his “good name.” He was cunning at playing (musical talent). He was mighty and valiant (known for overcoming problems). He was a man of war (a good fighter, someone who stands up for what is right). He was prudent in matters (smart). He was a comely person (good-looking).

It’s really not that uncommon to find someone about whom we can say all or most of those things. But, with David, in addition to those things, they could say, “The LORD is with him.”

Is the Lord with you? (Integrity) Do other people recognize that the Lord is with you? (Character) Both are important to God.

Character and Integrity Part 1

July 20, 2009 at 9:40 am | Posted in character and integrity | 14 Comments
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Integrity is a quality of “soundness.” It comes from the idea that an “integer” is something that is “whole,” or “complete.” When something has integrity, nothing can get inside it and mess it up. Example: A real football has integrity. It can get wet on the outside, but not on the inside.

wet football

A Nerf football has no integrity.

https://swimthedeepend.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/nerfball.jpg?w=300

If it gets wet, the inside will get all soggy.

When it comes to people, integrity is determined by what we do when no one is watching.

[A Psalm of David.] Judge me, O LORD; for I have walked in mine integrity: I have trusted also in the LORD; therefore I shall not slide.

Psalm 26:1

It’s easy to have integrity when everyone’s watching. Pretend that we are in a room, and I show you a container, and tell you that inside is something very valuable, very exciting, very personal to me, and very secret.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/-Pr30NcolQz8/TW2pE_EFOnI/AAAAAAAAKPg/KXuodAX31TM/mystery.jpg

If I left the room, and told you not to look in the container, would you be tempted to take a peek? Probably not if other people were watching, but what if you were left completely alone with the container, and no one would know?

https://i2.wp.com/dianechamberlain.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/sneak-peek-at-gift.jpg

That’s a test of integrity. Integrity is between you and God.

“Character” is a little different. Character is the combination of qualities that make you the “type” of person you are. If you are honest, hardworking, always on time, you have a trustworthy character. If you are selfish, unfair, sneaky, you have a greedy character.

Integrity is between you and God. Character goes into how other people perceive you.

A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold.

Proverbs 22:1

We might say that your character is what kind of name you have – what you are known for.

Does God want us to have integrity? Yes.

The LORD shall judge the people: judge me, O LORD, according to my righteousness, and according to mine integrity that is in me.

Psalm 7:8

Now, let’s examine what kind of character God wants us to have.

But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

I Samuel 16:7

When God looks at us, He sees more than just our physical appearance; He sees us in light of the things we do, and our reason for doing those things, and our true attitude while we do them.

God does care about the appearance of the things we do.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

I Thessalonians 5:22

One reason why God is concerned about the outward appearance of our actions is because we have an influence on others. People in general often adopt the actions of others with whom we spend time. People who hang out together often wear the same clothes, use the same language, and listen to the same music.

One reason that I need to spend time with Jesus – praying, reading my Bible – is that, if I spend time with Him, I’ll start to act like Him.

Many times, we have a challenge when we have an opportunity to do something that might not necessarily be “wrong” in and of itself, but would appear questionable to others. Our challenge is to remember that Christians are being watched by others, and we are supposed to be the “salt of the earth.” Salt adds flavor, but it also has an astringent quality, a cleansing quality. And it has preserving quality.

Christians have a responsibility to God, to ourselves, and to others.

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

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