Committing to any endeavor that takes time always carries with it the challenge of making it to the end. Refinishing that dresser. Repainting the downstairs. Reading all of War and Peace (or finishing any long-ish book for that matter). Completing the class you decided to take at the community college. Running a marathon. Taking up a new hobby. Learning a new sport. Trying to introduce a new habit into your life and routine. You often hit this pain-point, where you consider giving up. At such times, it can help to remind yourself why you started in the first place.
If you decided to join me about three weeks ago, we entered into 31 days working our way through Proverbs. Maybe it’s rare in your experience to spend 31 days at something. Maybe you’ve felt like quitting. Maybe you already have.
It seems to me that maybe Solomon planned for this when he sat down and put together Proverbs. I mean, hey, he was the wisest man who ever lived, so it stands to reason that he knew a thing or two about human nature. So he built in a little jolt to the senses to remind us why we are listening to him in the first place.
One of the helpful things in keeping a good thing going is to mix it up a bit. For example, I’m a runner. I generally enjoy my weekly running routine. But over the weeks, I can find myself not as motivated to keep at it. And one of my strategies to keep at it is to find a new running route.
But a fresh way of running.
So after hundreds of two-sentence, individual sayings of wisdom that have been hitting our eyes the last three weeks, lest they start to glaze over and we tap out, we get hit with this:
Yeah, you there. Hey you! Lock in. Pay attention. Listen to what I’m saying. This is important. Don’t give up now, keep alert….
LISTEN to the words of the wise;
apply your heart to my instruction.
For it is good to keep these sayings in your heart
and always ready on your lips.
I am teaching you today—yes, you!—
so you will trust in the Lord.
I have written thirty sayings for you,
filled with advice and knowledge.
In this way, you may know the truth…
(Proverbs 22:17-21, New Living Translation)
I love this.
But a fresh way of getting Proverbs.
Do you see it? It may just be Solomon knew we were thinking of tapping out on pursuing wisdom, by reading his complete works here. So he grabs our attention, and speaks very directly.
“Listen friend, here’s what I’ve done for you now, after all I’ve already told you. Let’s mix it up a bit. I’ve put together thirty sayings for you, and I’ve packed them full of advice and knowledge. And I’ve done this so that you may know the truth.
Listen to the words of wisdom, and apply everything you are—your heart—to my instruction. Because it is going to be a really good thing for you to have these things branded on your heart and on the tip of your tongue, always ready for when you need them. That kind of readiness in life will lead to a good life.”
And it’s not just that he’s mixing up the delivery of wisdom. At the same time he gets our attention by shifting the writing, he also introduces this idea of why we started in the first place. Why we have committed to this exercise of reading through all these bits of instruction. You remember why, right?
There are a few options here for the answer to that question.
Because it is good to have these sayings on our heart (22:18).
Because who doesn’t want good advice and knowledge (22:20).
Because we want to live a wise and good life.
So that we may know the truth (22:21).
But are any of these really the reason we started 31 Proverbs? Is that really why we’ve been at this? It’s close, but that only counts in, well, you know.
No, Solomon gives us the reason not to quit on Proverbs. Here’s why we started—
“I am teaching you today—yes, you!—
so you will trust in Yahweh.”
There it is. The reason why we are doing this and the foundation for all wisdom are one and the same thing—trust Yahweh. Trust in the One who hardwired wisdom into all the world, and made it the inner logic of everything (Proverbs 8). Our steadfast and faithful God is the headwater from which all the streams of wisdom flow, watering the garden of a good life.
So let’s keep pursuing wisdom together, friend. Let’s not quit on him.
Thank you for making wisdom the inner logic of everything. And what grace that you then gave us the code to understanding that, and how it all works, through the wisdom literature you placed in your Scriptures. Such a gift proves what Solomon reminds us—you are worth trusting. With our whole lives. With everything. So fill us with your Spirit today, Father, that we may gain a heart of wisdom that pulsates with an energy to endure and remain steadfast. We want to be like your Son, who had no quit in him when it came to pursuing and trusting you. Make it so.
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.