Discerning Truth

Reading the Word

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.(Proverbs 18:17, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Parents with multiple children will understand this proverb. Have you ever had a time when your kids became engaged in a conflict? This is a regular occurrence in our home with five little ones. When it happens, I always ask how the situation started. It never fails that when the first child shares their version of the events, I am ready to assign blame to the other child. After all, the first story is always believable. However, I also know that I need to hear the other side. What does child number two say happened? Without fail, the second version always points blame in the other direction and that story too is believable.

It is easy to run with the first thing we hear that sounds believable, but this is not usually wise. Today’s proverb tells us that the first thing we hear seems right until we hear another perspective or argument. In the case of disagreements, we need to hear both sides of the story. But this proverb applies to more than just interpersonal conflicts. This proverb is about critical thinking. We always need to be able to hear the different arguments and opinions on different topics and matters and then discern the truth. This is true whether it be settling disagreements with your children, evaluating political views, or Bible study. Critical thinking and discernment can be difficult tasks, but we must put forth the effort if we are to arrive at the truth.


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Healing from a Crushed Spirit

Reading the Word

A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?(Proverbs 18:14, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

When I was young, we learned a saying. We would say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” The idea of this saying was to teach us not to let the mean words of others hurt us. This saying also implies that physical pain is all that is real. I have learned that this saying is completely backwards.

As our proverb tells us, it is physical pain that we can endure. Those sticks and stones can break bones and sickness does cause pain, but we know that they are only temporary and we make it through. However, it is the mean words, the mocking names, and the crushed spirit that truly destroy us. These things cause emotional pain and suffering and we can feel helpless. There is no surgery or medicine to repair a crushed spirit. We must feel every bit of the pain and trust that we will heal over time. We must remember that we are children of God and that he cares about every detail of our lives. And we must remember that God loved us so much that he gave his only Son to die in our place. God loves us and he will bring us through.


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Security

Reading the Word

A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.(Proverbs 18:11, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

What makes you feel secure? In the days the Old Testament was written, kings would set up a heavily fortified city as their capital. This would protect against invaders or those who sought to harm the king. The more heavily fortified the city, the more the king and his people would feel secure.

In a similar way, Proverbs tells us that the rich often find their security in their wealth. They feel that whatever it is that they need, they can obtain it, whether it might be health, protection against physical harm, or any other danger that may arise. However, Proverbs tells us that this security is only in the imagination. It is not true security. In the end, no matter how much money or possessions we have, it cannot protect us. There is only one true place where we can find the security we desire. That place is mentioned in the previous verse:

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.(Proverbs 18:10, ESV)


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Maybe It’s Better To Say Nothing

Reading the Word

Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.(Proverbs 17:28, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

People are quick to speak. We love to voice our thoughts and opinions on just about everything, even if we really do not know much about what we are talking about. We need to weigh every word we say because they will be heard and evaluated by others. And when we are wrong or it is obvious we do not know what we are talking about, we will seem foolish to others. We are often best served by keeping our thoughts and opinions to ourselves. We will seem much wiser by not proving to be fools.

We live in an age where a quick Google search can turn up tons of information on just about every topic. The problem is, you can find misinformation on just about every topic as well. Before we go spreading our “research” and opinions, we would do well to pause, take some time, and listen. Doing so can spare us from jumping to wrong conclusions and decisions that only make us look foolish in hindsight.


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We Need Others

Reading the Word

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.(Proverbs 17:17, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

An important observation to make in interpreting this proverb is that the first half and second half are using synonymous parallelism. This means that “friend” and “brother” are not being used to contrast against each other, but the two are being used to stress deep, intimate relationships. The proverb is saying that those we are in close relationship with, like a true friend or a family member, love us and support us in all situations, including times of adversity.

Going through difficult times is hard. Having someone close to you in those times can make all the difference. This is what true friendship and family support is designed to be like. It is also what our church relationships should provide. Do you have the close relationships that help you through times of adversity? Give thanks to God for those bonds. If you do not, pray that God would bring those people into your life and look to be that person for others.


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Stop the Fight before It Starts

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Shaped by the Word is a daily, Bible-reading devotional. I do not publish supplemental material on Sundays, but I do include a Scripture reading for the day. Please be sure to subscribe to this page so you can follow along every day. Thanks for reading!

Reading the Word

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.(Proverbs 17:14, ESV)

Expectancy

Today’s post is part of our Psalm Saturdays series from guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can read more about Robert after the article below.

Psalm 123:1–4 (ESV)

1To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens!

2Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.

3Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us, for we have had more than enough of contempt.

4Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of those who are at ease, of the contempt of the proud.


The Psalmist has the right attitude to God. He looks up to Him, enthroned in the highest heaven. So many people like to think they can sit in judgement on God for their woes. But at the end of the final day, it’s God who will sit in judgement upon us.

The Psalmist has the opposite attitude to God to scornful, contemptuous and proud people. He looks to Him as a servant does to His master. An employee knows that it helps to get on with his boss if he wants to get paid. Similarly, if we want eternal life, we need God’s favour.

Just as an employee looks expectantly to their boss for their next pay packet, so we look to God to grant salvation to us. We need Him to be merciful to us. We need Him to not treat us as our sins deserve.

We need God’s mercy in the face of the scorn we have to endure from unbelievers. It can be unbearable when we face the scornful contempt of the proud. So we should cry out to God to help us to bear it.

“O Lord, enthroned in the heavens, may we look to You for salvation and vindication. Please help us to endure the mockery of the proud, in Christ’s name, amen.”


About the author: Robert is a child of God, the husband of Joy, and the father of Grace. He’s from “God’s own county” of Yorkshire in the United Kingdom. Writing in earnest began for Robert when a friend prophetically told him that he should write. Although he isn’t currently publishing himself on WordPress, you can read the archives at www.roberlain.wordpress.com and a few other blogs linked from there. You can also find his up-to-date notes on the YouVersion Bible App. Also, The Believer’s Post is a WhatsApp platform for Christian bloggers which you can request him to join.

Email Robert at bobjc88 @ gmail.com if you want to get in touch.

The Dangers of Folly

Reading the Word

Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.(Proverbs 17:12, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

We often laugh about foolishness, especially when the circumstances seem minor. However, there are times when ignorance and unwise actions can prove destructive. That destruction can extend not only to the fool, but to those around him. Think of a ship captain who dismisses forecasts of a strong storm or a driver who ignores traffic laws or a sick person who will not stay home and spreads her disease far and wide. It is better to meet a bear robbed of her cubs than a fool in his folly. At least you know the danger the bear presents. A fool is unpredictable and there is no way to be prepared.

The book of Proverbs says much about the fool and foolishness. None of it is good. It is never a virtue to be unwilling to listen and learn. It can be dangerous to the fool and to everyone around.


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Insulting God

Reading the Word

Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished. (Proverbs 17:5, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

Caring for the poor, the less fortunate, and the vulnerable is mentioned in many places throughout Scripture. Unfortunately, we can often develop a mentality where we look down on those who are struggling and believe ourselves to be better. We jump to blame others for their circumstances and take credit for our own successes, not admitting that circumstances can be outside of our control. A person may be poor, not due to laziness, but due to a long chain of poverty that is hard to break. A person may struggle due to a physical or mental illness. And we may have reached success, not because of our hard work and greater abilities, but simply because we were graced with opportunities others did not have.

When we look down on others with hard hearts and the mindset that they got what they deserved, we insult God. Why is this the case? Because all people are created in the image of their Creator, even the poor and vulnerable. We must not think of ourselves as better, but we must look for ways to care for others and help them thrive as our God intended.


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The Lord Tests Hearts

Reading the Word

The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.(Proverbs 17:3, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

To purify precious metals, they must be heated to high temperatures so the dross can be consumed by the fire. This can be done using a crucible or a furnace. As the purity of silver and gold can be measured using these testing methods, God also tests the heart. He examines our desires and motives to know who we truly are. Are our lives pure and holy or only a show?

When we stand before the Lord, we stand with our hearts revealed in all of their purity or in all of their ugliness. There is nothing that can be hidden from God. He is all-knowing. We may be able to fool those around us with our actions that hide our true thoughts and feelings, but God knows us. He knows us to the very core. Let us pray that he would work in us to produce the holiness he desires in us so that he is glorified in every thought, word, and deed.


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