The fear of Yahweh is a fountain of life,
turning people away from the snares of death.
(Proverbs 14:27, Christian Standard Bible)
For those of us desirous to live a good life, we’ve known since the very beginning of this book that it begins with a healthy awe, reverence, and trembling before the God of the universe whose name is Yahweh (Proverbs 1:7). And here we are again reminded that this humble posture before the Holy One is a fountain overflowing with life.
The second line of this individual saying enforces the first. The reason that trembling respect before Yahweh brings life is because it shapes our living. It’s the beginning of wisdom, which is applied skill and competence. And that kind of behavior, a turn towards Yahweh, bringing newfound skills and competence, by design turns us away from those things that bring death. We sidestep the snares laid down by the evil one. We struggle. We fight. We advance against the one who wages war against our souls.
Which means we evade the immediate effects that sin bring (a kind of dying), and more importantly, fearing Yahweh means we don’t have to fear the ultimate consequence of sin, our physical death. And that kind of perspective transforms Satan’s greatest potential weapon against us—death, our end—into something that actually works to our advantage.
Here’s how N.D. Wilson says speaks of death by living:
Cliches are true. Time flies. You can’t take it with you. You don’t know what you got till it’s gone. Dust to Dust.
In the ground, we all have empty hands.
Enjoy life now. And now. And now. Before the nows are gone. See the gifts. Savor the food, knowing that you will have to swallow…..
Time flies. Time, the ever-expiring resource. Time, the thief. Time, the motivator. Time, the finish.
Imagine being your flawed self without time. Stop shielding your inadequacies from observation, take a full beat, and dedicate a few of your precious seconds to giving the worst of your sinful impulses a two-eyed, unblinking stare. (I don’t encourage people to do this often.) Think about your temper. Your resentfulness. Your lust. Your lies. Your selfishness. Your despair. Think about all the trouble you have on the inside. [The giving in to all the snares of death Solomon warns of. (Proverbs 14:27)] Think about the weight of that burden. I hope that it’s a burden you fight, not a burden that has already conquered you. I hope it is a war, an advance, a struggle.
There is no end to this race. There is no finish line. There is no final round to this brawl. There is no clock counting down. You must struggle with that temper always. Forever. You will be seven hundred years old, still a lusting lecher weeping with guilt. A thousand-year-old woman who can’t stop her poisonous tongue…..
Mortality is a consequence of sin. But it is also a gift. A mercy. A kindness. Death is grace.
A fallen and corrupt human race with no end? Dark burdens with no finish?
Because of death, we can run the good race. We can fight the good fight. Completion exists.
We made ourselves filthy and corrupt, and God “cursed” us with death like a mother cursing her mud-caked children with a scalding shower. His curse swallows up our own. Time marches us to Death, and together they strip our hands. But there is a Man there, beside the grave, collecting all our grime, stripping more than hands—stripping hearts (and minds and souls). He assembles a burden like no other. He ran His own race. And though He is the Son of God, He moved through time. For three decades He ran toward death. And when He reached it, He could say what all mortals needed said.
It is finished.
And he went, along with that burden, into a hole.
All of us die. Walk through the torn curtain and be scraped bone clean. Empty your hands and hearts. Die. Be made new.
Taste every one of time’s moments. Swallow. Taste the next. Drink the water. Drink the wine. It is not good left in the glass. Sweat and struggle. Run. Fight. Receive. Give. [Fear Yahweh. Live!] Be grateful even for death, for the ticking clock counting down on you.
Seventy years. Eighty if you’re strong. Less if you’re like the Messiah. Look to Him and receive more grace. Stagger on. You can do it. Only a decade more. Or two. Or four. But there is a finish line. There will be an end to the weight on your back and the ache in your skull. This place is no Tartarus, and our God is no Scrooge. He gives without ceasing. Even when we fell, when our first parents defied Him, the first thing He gave them was an end, mortality, a path to resurrection, and the promise of a Guide.
And then he clothed them.
(N.D. Wilson, Death by Living)
In the midst of this sin-stained, fallen, and groaning world you have given us the remarkable gift of making death a grace. Only you could pull off something like that. So help us, Father. Fill us with your Spirit. Infuse us with awe and wonder at who You are. Help us to taste and see that you are good, and to fight the good fight, to struggle, advance, and never give up. To thus taste and swallow down every one of time’s moments. To come to our death by living, clothed all the while in the righteousness of Christ.
Yes, and very amen, in Jesus’ name.
Pursuing the wise and good life with you,
Proverbs Thirty-One Day Reading Plan
August 14: Proverbs ch. 1
Aug. 15: ch. 2
Aug. 16: ch. 3
Aug. 17: ch. 4
Aug. 18: ch. 5
Aug. 19: Grace Day
Aug. 20: ch. 6
Aug. 21: ch. 7
Aug. 22: ch. 8
Aug. 23: ch. 9
Aug. 24: ch. 10
Aug. 25: ch. 11
Aug. 26: Grace Day
Aug. 27: ch. 12
Aug. 28: ch. 13
Aug. 29: ch. 14
Aug. 30: ch. 15
Aug. 31: ch. 16
Sept. 1: ch. 17
Sept. 2: Grace Day
Sept. 3: ch. 18
Sept. 4: ch. 19
Sept. 5: ch. 20
Sept. 6: ch. 21
Sept. 7: ch. 22
Sept. 8: ch. 23
Sept. 9: Grace Day
Sept. 10: ch. 24
Sept. 11: ch. 25
Sept. 12: ch. 26
Sept. 13: ch. 27
Sept. 14: ch. 28
Sept. 15: ch. 29
Sept. 16: Grace Day
Sept. 17: ch. 30
Sept. 18: ch. 31
Day Twenty-Six: A Morning Conversation With King Solomon
A conversation that happened this morning as I came upon a visitor in our fireplace room….
Day Nineteen: God Chose Her, Not You
The doctrine of God’s rule and reign in and over all things comes crashing into the human conception of the self-made man. We are tempted to think we have so much to do with our happinesses. But the wisdom found from James speaks a wakefulness into the pondering of our circumstances—the good gifts we have come not from our own hands, but by the grace and providence of our heavenly Father. And the wisdom of Solomon makes clear—one of man’s greatest gifts is something only God can give, an understanding wife.
Day Seventeen: The Great Gain Of Godly Contentment
We live in a world where the temptation is constant to believe the amount of our wealth and possessions directly translates to our joy and happiness. The Bible, once again, confronts our culture and holds out another possibility. Namely, “better” does not imply “more,” “bigger,” or “expensive.” It suggests that the reason you still haven’t found what you are looking for is because you’ve been searching in all the wrong places. Wisdom opens our eyes and hearts to deeper wells of contentment.
Day Fifteen: I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me
I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy. Woh, I always feel like somebody's watching me. Tell me is it just a dream? So sang Rockwell in the dawning of my high school years back in 1984. All the cool kids were singing it at the time, and its the tune that sprang to mind when I read this similar sentiment this morning: Yahweh is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. (Proverbs 15:3, New Living Translation)
Day Thirteen: You Can’t Always Get What You Want
One of the key assumptions we’ve been working with as we make our way through the wisdom literature is that God has hardwired wisdom into the way creation (and the creatures within it…us) operates. It was there at the beginning. It’s the inner logic of everything, and the secret code for how it works. (see Proverbs 8:22-31)
Day Eleven: A Pig Is Still A Pig
Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion. (Proverbs 11:22, English Standard Version) “Well…I never!” she replied to the King. Reading this proverb, it seems highly probable to me, given the stories of King Solomon and all the women in his life (1 Kings 11:3), that this was probably a proverb born from experience. He comes along a beautiful woman, of high social standing, of influence and power; but in his interactions with her, he begins to see her true self shining through all her external adornments. She has no discretion—she is a woman of loose and dissolute conversation, her mind and conscience are defiled. There’s a beauty for the eye, but the corruption of her character slowly transforms how Solomon sees her, and no amount of jewelry will cover that up.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.