Ancient Wisdom: The Book of Proverbs With Devotions for Today
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Ancient Wisdom : The Book of Proverbs with Devotions for Today by James MacDonald (2007, Hardcover)
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Read Aloud. Flag as inappropriate. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are. The peace of mind, the cheerfulness of temper, the transfer of all anxiety from the human spirit to the strong Spirit of God, are very favourable to longevity. Insurance societies have made this discovery, and actuaries will tell you that in a very literal way the children of God possess the earth, while the wicked are cut off. Yet no one thinks of measuring life only by days and years. To live long with the constant feeling that life is not worth living, or to live long with the constant apprehension of death, must be counted as a small and empty life.
Now, it is the chief blessedness in the lot of the children of light that each day is a full, rich day, unmarred by recollections, unshadowed by apprehensions. Each day is distinctly worth living; it has its own exquisite lessons of cloud or sunshine, its own beautiful revelations of love, and pity, and hope.
Time does not hang heavily on the hands, nor yet is its hurried flight a cause of vain regret; for it has accomplished that for which it was sent, and by staying longer could not accomplish more. And if, after all, God has appointed but a few years for His child's earthly life, that is not to be regretted; the only ground for sorrow would [Pg 41] be to live longer than His wise love had decreed. Genest says to Adrien in Rotrou's tragedy, "life has been long enow. The life in God is undoubtedly a healthy life, nor is it the less healthy because the outward man has to decay, and mortality has to be swallowed up of life.
From the standpoint of the Proverbs this wider application of the truth was not as yet visible. The problem which emerges in the book of Job was not yet solved. But already, as I think we shall see, it was understood that the actual and tangible rewards of righteousness were of incomparable price, and made the prosperity of the wicked look poor and delusive. Wisdom is very uncompromising in her requirement of fair dealing between man and man.
She cannot away with those commercial practices which can only be described as devising "evil against thy neighbour," who "dwelleth securely by thee. Wisdom is quite aware that by these ways of the devil wealth may be accumulated; she is not blind to the fact that the overreaching spirit of greed has its rich and splendid reward; but she maintains none the less that "the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked; but He blesseth the habitation of the righteous.
It is a very impressive experience to enter the house of a great magnate whose wealth has been obtained by questionable means. The rooms are beautiful; works by the great masters shed their radiance of eternal truth from the walls; the library gleams with the well-bound books of moralists and religious teachers. The sons and daughters of the house are fair and elegant; the smile of prosperity is in every curtained and carpeted room, and seems to beam out of every illuminated window; and yet the sensitive spirit cannot be rid of the idea that "the curse of the Lord is in the house.
On the other hand, the honourable man whose paths have been directed by the Lord, no matter whether he be wealthy or merely in receipt, as the result of a life's labour, of his "daily bread," has a blessing in his house. Men trust him and honour him. In proportion as the fierce struggle of competition has made the path of fair dealing more difficult, they who walk in it are the more honoured and loved. Nowhere does Wisdom smile more graciously or open her hand to bless more abundantly, than in the later years of a life which has in its earlier days been exposed, and has offered a successful resistance, to the strong temptations of unrighteous gain.
She requires her children to yield the first-fruits of all their possessions to the Lord, and to [Pg 43] look tenderly upon His poor. Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to-morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee. The main value of the Mammon of unrighteousness is, as our Lord says, to make to ourselves friends with it, friends who shall receive us into the everlasting habitations.
The money we spend upon our own pleasures, and to promote our own interests, is spent and gone; but the money given with an open hand to those poor children of God, to whom it is strictly due, is not spent at all, but laid up in the most secure of banks. There is no source of joy in this present world to be compared with the loving gratitude of the poor whom you have lovingly helped. Strangely enough, men will spend much to obtain a title which carries no honour with it, forgetting that the same money given to the needy and the suffering purchases the true honour, which gives the noblest title.
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For we are none of us so stupid as to think that the empty admiration of the crowd is so rich in blessing as the heartfelt love of the few. But in enumerating these external results of right living we have only touched incidentally upon the deeper truths which lie at the root of it. It is time to look at these. God is necessarily so much to men, men are necessarily so completely bereft without Him, that clear vision and strong action are utterly impossible apart from a humble dependence upon Him.
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The beginning [Pg 44] of all wisdom is, as we have seen, in the recognition of God, in personal submission to Him, in diligent obedience to all His directions. This appears, before we reflect, to be a mere truism; when we have reflected, it proves to be a great revelation. We do not at first see what is meant by trusting in the Lord with all our heart; we confuse it with that tepid, conventional relation to God which too frequently passes current for faith.
We do not readily apprehend what is implied in acknowledging God in all our ways; we suppose that it only means a general professing and calling ourselves Christians. Consequently, many of us who believe that we trust in the Lord, yet lean habitually and confidently upon our own understanding, and are even proud of doing so; we are wise in our own eyes long after our folly has become apparent to every one else; we resent with a vehemence of righteous indignation any imputation upon the soundness of our judgment.
The very tone of mock humility in which we say, "I may be wrong, but——" shows that we are putting a case which seems to us practically impossible. Consequently, while we think that we are acknowledging God in all our ways, He does not direct our paths; indeed, we never gave Him an opportunity. From first to last we directed them ourselves. Let us frankly acknowledge that we do not really believe in God's detailed concern with the affairs of the individual life; that we do not, therefore, commit our way with an absolute surrender into His hand; that we do not think of submitting to His disposal the choice of our profession, the choice of our partner in life, the choice of our place of residence, the choice of our style of living, the choice of our field of public service, the choice of our [Pg 45] scale of giving.
Let us confess that we settled all these things in implicit and unquestioning reliance upon our own understanding. I speak only in wide and fully admitted generalities. If Christians as a whole had really submitted their lives in every detail to God, do you suppose that there would be something like fifty thousand Christian ministers and ten times that number of Christian workers at home, while scarcely a twentieth of that number have gone out from us to labour abroad?
Devotionals from Proverbs | Tenth Presbyterian Church
If Christians had really submitted their lives to God, would there have been these innumerable wretched marriages—man and wife joined together by no spiritual tie, but by the caprice of fancy or the exigencies of social caste? If Christians had really asked God to guide them, meaning what they said, would all the rich be found in districts together, while all the poor are left to perish in other districts apart?
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If Christians had really accepted God's direction, would they be living in princely luxury while the heathen world is crying for the bread of life? We may answer very confidently that the life actually being lived by the majority of Christian people is not the result of God directing their paths, but simply comes from leaning on their own understanding.
31 Proverbs to Light Your Path (Hardcover)
And what a sorrowful result! But in face of this apostasy of life and practice, we can still joyfully point to the fact that they who do entirely renounce their own judgment, who are small [Pg 46] in their own eyes, and who, with their whole heart trusting Him, acknowledge Him in all their ways, find their lives running over with blessing, and become the means of incalculable good to the world and to themselves.
It would not be easy to make plain or even credible, to those who have never trusted in God, how this guidance and direction are given. Not by miraculous signs or visible interpositions, not by voices speaking from heaven, nor even by messages from human lips, but by ways no less distinct and infinitely more authoritative, God guides men with His eye upon them, tells them, "This is the way; walk ye in it," and whispers to them quite intelligibly when they turn to the right hand or the left.
With a noble universality of language, this text says nothing of Urim or Thummim, of oracle or seer, of prophet or book: "He shall direct thy paths. There is something even misleading in saying much about the methods; to set limits to God's revelations, as Gideon did, is unworthy of the faith which has become aware of God as the actual and living Reality, compared with whom all other realities are but shadows.
Our Lord did not follow the guidance of His Father by a mechanical method of signs, but by a more intimate and immediate perception of His will. When Jesus promised us the Spirit as an indwelling and abiding presence He clearly intimated that the Christian life should be maintained by the direct action of God upon the several faculties of the mind, stimulating the memory, quickening the perception of truth, as well as working on the conscience and opening the channels of prayer.
When [Pg 47] we wait for signs we show a defect of faith. True trust in our Heavenly Father rests in the absolute assurance that He will make the path plain, and leave us in no uncertainty about His will. To doubt that He speaks inwardly and controls us, even when we are unconscious of His control, is to doubt Him altogether. When a few years have been passed in humble dependence on God, it is then possible to look back and see with astonishing clearness how real and decisive the leadings of the Spirit have been.
There were moments when two alternatives were present, and we were tempted to decide on the strength of our own understanding; but thanks be to His name, we committed it to Him. We stepped forward then in the darkness; we deserted the way which seemed most attractive, and entered the narrow path which was shrouded in mist. We knew He was leading us, but we could not see. Now we see, and we cannot speak our praise. Our life, we find, is all a plan of God, and He conceals it from us, as if on purpose to evoke our trust, and to secure that close and personal communion which the uncertainty renders necessary.
Are you suspicious of the Inward Light, as it is called? Does it seem to open up endless possibilities of self-delusion? Are you disgusted with those who follow their own wilful way, and seek a sanction for it by calling it the leading of God? You will find that the error has arisen from not trusting the Lord "with the whole heart," or from not acknowledging Him "in all ways. Wisdom calls for a certain absoluteness in all our relations to God, a fearless, unreserved, and constantly renewed submission of heart to Him.
Wisdom teaches that in His will is our peace, and that His will is learnt by practical surrender to His ways and commandments. Now, is it not obvious that while the external results of wisdom are great and marked, this inward result, which is the spring of them all, is more blessed than any? The laws which govern the universe are the laws of God.
source url The Stoic philosophy demanded a life according to Nature. That is not enough, for by Nature is meant God's will for the inanimate or non-moral creation.
Where there is freedom of the will, existence must not be "according to Nature," but according to God; that is to say, life must be lived in obedience to God's laws for human life. The inorganic world moves in ordered response to God's will. We, as men, have to choose; we have to discover; we have to interpret. Woe to us if we choose amiss, for then we are undone. Woe to us if we do not understand, but in a brutish way follow the ordinances of death instead of the way of life!