A hymn for you tonight. This one is by Philip Doddridge with alterations by Thomas Cotterill and others. You can find it in the Trinity Hymnal, #322. If you didn't know, this is a great Trinity Hymnal resource from the OPC - lyrics, music, etc. It's where I grabbed the lyrics for this hymn.
Lord of the Sabbath, hear us pray,
How do you read the book of Proverbs? Or do you read it at all? I hope you do; this book is overflowing with God's wisdom which we need in so many different areas of life. With the overarching theme of wisdom versus folly, there is truth to be found about: parenting, heeding parents' wisdom, pride, humility, the tongue (our speech), deceit, truth, temper, patience, quarrels, sex, lust, diligence, laziness, generosity to the poor, justice, prosperity of the righteous, doom of the wicked, and more. And it is neatly divided up into 31 chapters which mirrors the # of days in many of our months which makes for a nice Bible reading plan.
But as you read the Proverbs and encourage or challenge others with them, hear this caution. Proverbs should be read as principles to be wisely applied in various situations of life. They should not be read as promises that are always true, regardless of the circumstances. Gasp! Am I undermining the truth and authority of Scripture by saying that? Not at all. (And I'm certainly not the first person to say it. See below.) Notice several truths that lead us to this conclusion.
The Proverbs themselves warn against the danger of misusing them. 26:7,9 "Like a lame man's legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools...Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools." Proverbs can be misused and cause hurt!
Also, to interpret the Proverbs straightforwardly, we have to see that they are situation dependent. For example:
Prov. 26:4 "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself."
Prov. 26:5 "Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."
So which is it? Some English translations try to soften this blatant "contradiction," but you can't get around it. Do we answer a fool according to his folly, or do we not? Well, it must depend on the situation because both of these cannot be universally true in every circumstance at the same time. We have to exercise wisdom in knowing when to apply each truth.
Or consider Prov. 17:15 "He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD." If this is universally true in every situation, then God himself does that which is detestable in his own eyes. At the cross, he condemned the righteous Jesus and every sinner saved is a wicked person justified by God himself. Now in our courts, it is detestable when the wicked get off and the righteous are condemned. But in God's court it is a thing of beauty.
Why bring this up? Misused Proverbs can be dangerous and hurtful. You know what Job is? It is an example of misapplied proverbs run amok. "Hey Job, the righteous prosper and the wicked suffer. (Prov. 12:21 "No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble.") Since you're suffering you must be wicked." True principles, but horribly misapplied in the wrong circumstances. Treating Proverbs like absolute truth instead of principles can crush a person like Job or create undue guilt or despair. Don't misapply the Proverbs! They are not absolutely true in every circumstance. And that doesn't undermine God's Word, it helps us rightly apply it.
As Tremper Longman says, "In a word, proverbs are principles that are generally true, not immutable laws...Proverbs are situation-sensitive. We must not apply them mechanically or absolutely. Experience, observation, instruction, learning from mistakes and, most importantly, revelation--all these lay the groundwork for reading the text, reading people, and reading the situation." (How to Read Proverbs, p. 56-57.) He more fully explains this understanding of the Proverbs, including showing how Job's friends misapply truth to Job. I'm indebted to Longman for the thoughts in this post.
So read the Proverbs! Challenge and encourage others with them. But remember they are principles, not absolute promises for every situation.
Here's another prayer from Matthew Henry. This one is a portion of his Family Prayer for the Lord's Day Morning. I hope you have a blessed Lord's Day tomorrow!
Now we bid this sabbath welcome: Hosanna to the Son of David, blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest. O that we may be in the Spirit on this Lord’s Day; that this may be the sabbath of the Lord in our dwelling; in our hearts, a sabbath of rest from sin, and a sabbath of rest in God. Enable us, we pray thee, so to sanctify this sabbath, as that it may be sanctified to us and be a means of our sanctification; that by resting today from our worldly employments, our hearts may be more and more taken off from present things and prepared to leave them; and that by our employing our time today in the worship of God, we may be led into a more experimental acquaintance with the work of heaven, and be made more meet for that blessed world.
Hope your Friday is a good one!
A few thoughts from Thomas Watson's The Ten Commandments. This is part of his answer to the question, "Why has God appointed a Sabbath?"
"The Sabbath-day is for our interest; it promotes holiness in us. The business of week-days makes us forgetful of God and our souls: the Sabbath brings him back to our remembrance. When the falling dust of the world has clogged the wheels of our affections, that they can scarce move towards God, the Sabbath comes, and oils the wheels of our affections, and they move swiftly on. God has appointed the Sabbath for this end. On this day the thoughts rise to heaven, the tongue speaks of God, and is as the pen of a ready writer, the eyes drop tears, and the soul burns in love.The heart, which all the week was frozen, on the Sabbath melts with the word. The Sabbath is a friend to religion; it files off the rust of our graces; it is a spiritual jubilee, wherein the soul is set to converse with its Maker." (94-95)
Are your affections clogged; heart frozen; graces rusty? Come converse with your Maker on the day he has given us for his glory and our good!
How's your weekend shaping up?
There are several prayers in Matthew Henry's Method for Prayer (available online here) that fit our category for this weekly post. I plan to use some of them (or portions of them) tonight and in weeks to come. Below is the first offering.
Evening before the Lord's Day (portion)
Now give us to remember that tomorrow is the sabbath of the Lord and that it is a high day, holy of the Lord and honourable, and give us grace so to sanctify ourselves, that tomorrow the Lord may do wonders among us; and to mind the work of our preparation, now the sabbath draws on....Now give us to rest from all our own works and to leave all our worldly cares at the bottom of the hill, while we go up to the mount to worship God and return again to them.
The tweet on the left was from Tuesday. Were you preparing for Sunday then?
Good morning. Hope you have a great weekend!
Parenting has taught (or maybe better, is teaching) me many things. I've seen the ugliness of my impatience, the beauty of a child's unbridled joy. I've felt the pressure of providing for my family and the satisfaction of seeing a child master a learned skill. I've learned the necessity of self-denial and the importance of giving my children a grid through which to view everything that happens. I've come to appreciate more my wife who is one of the strongest people I know. I have experienced joy because of my children's joy and sorrow because of their sorrow. Sometimes I summarize it this way: our children challenge us every day and they bring us joy every day. And along the way, by God's grace, we're learning to handle many of those challenges (though we know many more lie ahead).
The last week, however, parenting has taken me into uncharted waters [but see update below]: complete helplessness. Of course, apart from the power of the God who dwells in my by his Spirit I am helpless in every aspect of parenting. But I've not felt helplessness like this before. For the last week, my oldest son has endured painful, and in some ways incapacitating symptoms that so far remain undiagnosed; not for lack of trying. There are several possibilities on the table, but nothing definitive. And so for the last week the treatment has been largely managing symptoms and guesswork.
The result has been a feeling of helplessness. To have your son look at you with misery in his face and not know what to do or how to help him hurts. Even when years ago another of our sons was in the PICU for 9 days, we had a diagnosis. I couldn't make him better, but we knew what was wrong and that the treatment he was receiving was right thing to do. Now we don't know. Don't let me oversell our plight - it is serious, but others have suffered far more and of course for far longer.
But we feel helpless nonetheless. Which brings me to the point of telling you all of this. God has never felt like I feel now. There are many things we can learn about God by considering earthly fatherhood. God calls himself Father for a reason. But of course the comparison isn't exact. In this case, God has never felt or been helpless. My heavenly Father is never stumped at a trial in my life. He is never at a loss to diagnose or treat my maladies. He never looks into my face and wants to help but can't. The God who made and saved me has every resource and power to shape me into the man he's called me to be and will complete the good work he's begun in me. I'm glad that he's not like me.
And, he's not at a loss as to what's going on with my son either. So while we head back to the doctor tomorrow, uncertain of what we'll hear; what the lab work will reveal (we have some guesses and hope that we may be getting close to a diagnosis, but don't know). God knows exactly what we'll hear tomorrow. He knows whether we'll walk away with answers or more unknowns. And he will see us through either way. I may be helpless, but certainly not hopeless because my God is anything but helpless. Will you pray with us for wisdom for the doctor, healing for our son, and grace for his mom and dad to rest in the mighty power of this God?
UPDATE: We've seen the doctor, and still no definitive answers; still waiting for some test results to come back. And I was thinking, I shouldn't have called the feeling of complete helplessness "uncharted waters." I was just remembering having to spend a long time chasing down another medical diagnosis for another son when we didn't know the source of the problem some years ago. I'm sure we felt helpless then as well. Apparently I have more to learn about depending on our good God!
Joseph Pipa, in his book The Lord's Day, has collected some prayers from other sources. The one below is from James W. Weir, Home Worship: A Series of Topical Prayers for Use in the Family. The portion of it quoted here is a prayer for those who minister (a bit self serving); and for the congregation.
Lord, bless those who shall minister in holy things this day. Give them the unction of the Holy One. Let the love of God and of truth and of souls animate them in all the duties of the sanctuary. Give them wisdom to understand and zeal to declare the whole counsel of God. Oh, may they, as they stand between the living and the dead, encourage thy people in the narrow way of righteousness and salvation and warn the ungodly to flee from the broad way of sin and death...
When I quote Scripture In this blog, unless otherwise indicated, the quotations are usually from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission.
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