WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 25, 2011
WISDOM AND DISCERNMENT
(A humble attitude is always good)
Because the book of Proverbs is a collection of divine wisdom adages based on many different subjects, it is not possible to outline it, or, approach it in study, as we would a typical book of scripture. It has to be taken in intellectually by its various individual collections, (In praise of wisdom - Chaps. 1-9, Solomon’s Proverbs I – Chaps. 10-22:16, Collected Sayings – Chaps. 22:17-24:34, Solomon’s Proverbs II – Chaps. 25-29, Other Sayings – Chaps. 30-31), rather than by its overall contents.
It is always helpful to understand that the book of Proverbs consists of an extensive menu of beneficial traits such as wisdom, honesty, and truth, and, a contrasting menu of negative traits such as foolishness, cheating, and lying. The writers hope to impart wisdom and understanding to the readers so that we might be able to develop a disciplined life, doing what is right, and abstaining from that which is wrong. In other words, this book carefully lays out and defines, both, the right path to go, and, the wrong path, which should be avoided at all times.
In the Hebrew, the word used for “proverb” is “paroimia” (par-oy-mee-ah), and it is “an enigmatic and fictitious illustration of a real life scenario”. Proverbs 25 contains a wonderful collection of divine wisdom adages, that were written by King Solomon, and collected and preserved by the advisers of King Hezekiah many years later (Prov. 25:1). Hezekiah had these proverbs copied, read, studied, and applied to every task that he undertook in service to GOD, both in and outside the temple.
Hezekiah’s story is told in the books of 2 Kings (chapters 18-20), 2 Chronicles (chapters 29-32), and Isaiah (chapters 36-39). He was one the few GODly kings in the Davidic Line, and he restored the temple at Jerusalem after his father, King Ahaz, had actually nailed its doors shut (2 Chronicle 28:24b).
We can see clearly in Hezekiah’s story how he took heed to the advice of Solomon in verses 4-5, for instance, where Solomon says, “If you take the dross from silver, the sterling will be ready for the silversmith. Remove the wicked from the kings court, and his reign will be made secure by justice” (NLT).
Hezekiah aggressively exterminated the evil of idol worship and other ungodly practices from Judah during his 29-year reign. King Ahaz, on the other hand, did not seek wisdom and discernment from the GOD of Israel during his reign, but instead, chose to take a deep plunge into the sinful idol worship practices of the surrounding nations (2 Kings 16 & 2 Chronicles 28). Hezekiah, by contrast, sought GOD’s wisdom and discernment with an earnest heart, and as a result, he prospered mightily.
Idol worship is actually a by-product of “self worship” because self worship occurs whenever we ignore what GOD wants us to do, and instead, do what we want to do, and “pride”, has to come before that. Before we can worship idols, we have to first, ignore GOD’s will, which tells us not to do so. It takes a lot of pride to make us feel big enough to ignore, or omit GOD in the first place. And since it is a fact that, with every ounce of success, comes, an equal measure of pride, we have to make a strong conscience effort to resist our prideful urges more and more, as we become more and more successful. We have to diligently seek humility through the Word of GOD, because, unlike pride, it doesn’t come to us naturally.
One of the great proverbs contained in this passage can be found in verses 6 and 7. In the Gospel of Luke (Luke 14:7-11) these verses are actually made into a parable by JESUS as HE taught on the subject of “humility”. There we see JESUS taking note of how, many of the invited quests at a dinner were pridefully trying to seat themselves near the head of the table. On that occasion JESUS gave this advice, “If you are invited to a wedding feast, don’t always head for the best seat. What if someone more respected than you has also been invited? The host will say, “Let this person sit here instead”. Then you will be embarrassed and will have to take whatever seat is left at the foot of the table. “Do this instead”, JESUS suggests, “Sit at the foot of the table, then, when your host sees you, he will come and say, “Friend, we have a better place than this for you!” Then you will be honored in front of all the other guests. For the proud will be humbled, but the humble will be honored”.
JESUS saw that occasion as a “teachable Moment” on how we should not let “pride” set us up to be knocked down. We should seek to be humble, focusing on character, rather than reputation. The proud person sets himself up to be humbled, while the humble person sets himself up to be honored.
And finally, in verses 8-10, Solomon advises us against being too hasty to sue our neighbor in court. Remember, plaintiffs have also been known to lose. Being human, we are often mistaken about, or, we misinterpret, even what we see with our own eyes. Oftentimes there can be a completely innocent explanation for what may have seemed wrong to us from a distance, or sometimes, even up close.
So when we argue our case with our neighbor, we must do it with a degree of humility, seeking to hear and understand their explanation, in private, before we jump to conclusions, in public. And we should never argue our case by betraying the confidence of another person in order to win our argument. By doing so, we can run the risk of damaging our relationship with that confidante, sometimes permanently. The Apostle Paul lends us this advice, “we don’t want to do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but rather, in humility, consider others better than ourselves. We should not just look to our own interests, but we should also, consider the interests of others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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