Many a time has a husband sat across from me in my study describing a difficult patch on his walk with God. After I listen for awhile, one of my first questions is always, “How is your relationship with your wife?”
And most often that husband will say something like, “You know, it hasn’t been great lately. We’re really on each others nerves, I feel like she doesn’t listen to me…” and on, and on, and on. So, after I listen to that for a bit, I reply,
“Hmmm…please take this Bible, and turn to 1 Peter 3:7.”
“Ok, read it to me please.”
In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God’s gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered.
To which I follow up with something like this…..“You see, what God is saying, you knucklehead (I can call him that because I’m just one knucklehead speaking to another knucklehead), is that if you treat your wife poorly, if you do not give her honor, if you refuse to live with her in an understanding way, really aware of all the difficulties she may be facing, and burdens she is bearing— like cranky kids and grocery shopping and cleaning the house and walking the dog and getting the kids to school and going over homework and carting the children to their sports practices and making breakfast and lunch and dinner and doing laundry and putting up with a dolt of a husband—if you don’t look at her, and see her as your equal partner in God’s new gift of life, which means you see her not only as your wife but as your sister in Christ, who happens to be her big brother. See, if you don’t treat her as you should, then God is going to look at you, as you are trying to talk to him, and he is going to say, ‘Hey, knucklehead, when you start treating her like you should, I’ll be happy to pay close attention to your prayers.”
What God wants for us to understand is that there is a connection between our listening to him, and his listening to us. We are supposed to go to his Word, where he speaks, and find out what he says. We are to then take it into our hearts and minds, so that it effects our behavior and actions. He then finds it a joyful thing when we come to talk with him, to have a seat and listen for awhile, because we’ve been showing how much we listen to him when he speaks.
This is what I saw confirmed when I read Proverbs 28:9 this morning,
Anyone who turns his ear away from hearing my instruction—
even his prayer is detestable.
Did you catch that? Not only does he not want to listen, as in hear and respond, but the very sound of the prayer of an unlistening, disobedient child is detestable. It’s the same word God uses elsewhere when describing things he hates, that they are an abomination to him (Proverbs 6:16).
That is strong language. And I think he uses it because of the hypocrisy in asking a holy God to do something for us if we are flouting the things he tells us to do that will lead to a good life. To answer someone like that would be awfully counter-productive and a waste of mercy and grace.
So what is a sinful husband—or any sinner, since we are all sinners (Romans 3:10-11)—to do?
8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth. 9 But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. 2 He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.
(1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2; New Living Translation)
14 So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.
(Hebrews 4:14-16, New Living Translation)
God knows we’re all lawbreakers, so it’s not that he won’t listen, he just wants our contrition. All we need do is come in a state of humility to him, trusting in the sacrificial work and the powerful Name of his Son. We confess our sins, repent of our sins, and ask for forgiveness. And in this humbled, purified state, we now confidently make known our requests and spend time talking with our Father. And instead of being detestable, these prayers will rise like a sweet smelling fragrance to the One who loves us.
If we’re honest, sometimes your Word has an edge to it, and feels harsh. The idea of our prayers being detestable feels that way. But there is such mercy here. For had Solomon not written it, we wouldn’t know the connection between us listening to you, and you listening to us. This makes so much sense! Thank you for being clear about how to have and live a good life, where we hear your instruction, and you hear our prayers. Forgive us today, for the ways we have not listened to you, and have thus sinned against you. And fill us with your Spirit so that we may follow all you say.
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 Fourteen: Death By Living
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.
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.