Defend Their Rights

Reading the Word

Proverbs 31:8–9 (ESV)
8 Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute.
9 Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Understanding and Applying the Word

This passage comes at the end of a section that is ascribed to King Lemuel. These words are things his mother taught him (cf. Proverbs 31:1). After Lemuel’s mother told him not to allow himself to be distracted by women or strong drink, he was told to stand up for those who could not stand up for themselves. He was to be a king who concerned himself with justice and protecting the rights of all, especially the rights of those who are often deprived of such things.

We live in a world where justice and rights are often trampled on, not just in foreign lands, but right here in our own country. This has been true throughout human history and will continue into the future. It is a symptom of mankind’s core problem: sin. The rich and powerful seek to take advantage of the poor and vulnerable. As followers of Christ, we must heed the words of Lemuel’s mother and stand up for the rights of the oppressed. And as we do so, we can look to the future, when Christ will reign over all and will do so with perfect justice and righteousness. Consider the words from the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 11:1–5 (ESV)
1 There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
2 And the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.
3 And his delight shall be in the fear of the LORD. He shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
4 but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
5 Righteousness shall be the belt of his waist, and faithfulness the belt of his loins.


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Put Your Hand on Your Mouth

Reading the Word

Proverbs 30:32–33 (ESV)
32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself, or if you have been devising evil, put your hand on your mouth.
33 For pressing milk produces curds, pressing the nose produces blood, and pressing anger produces strife.

Understanding and Applying the Word

We need to be wise in our actions and consider their consequences. It is foolish to exalt ourselves rather than act in humility towards others. It is also wrong for us to “devise evil” or scheme evil plans in our actions. We often do these without even thinking about them as we say and do things that we know will hurt others or get back at them for hurting us. We often justify our actions by assuring ourselves that we know better than others and that the outcome we are seeking is the correct one. Therefore, any means to obtain it is good.

The second line warns us that actions have consequences. We are given three examples of this truth each using the word “pressing.” The first speaks of pressing milk, which is a picture of churning. The second speaks of pressing the nose,which produces blood. This pictures a fight in which someone strikes another person on the nose and gives them a bloody nose. And the last speaks of pressing anger and producing strife. This last picture is of one who stirs up the anger of another until there is a response of conflict.

Learning to walk wisely involves learning to “put your hand on your mouth.” We need to learn when to keep quiet. To scheme evil through our words and actions, or use them to stir up conflict, is the way of the fool. Of course, the fool does not mind the conflict and may even enjoy it, but the wise understands that such is not to be desired. Even the New Testament warns the church against those who like to stir up division, calling such people “warped and sinful” (cf. Titus 3:10). Let’s learn to walk in wisdom and humility, not looking for conflict and strife.


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Small, but Wise

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

Reading the Word

Proverbs 30:24–28 (ESV)
24 Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise:
25 the ants are a people not strong, yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 the rock badgers are a people not mighty, yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
27 the locusts have no king, yet all of them march in rank;
28 the lizard you can take in your hands, yet it is in kings’ palaces.

I Have Done No Wrong

Reading the Word

This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong.”(Proverbs 30:20, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

We read of the adulterous woman who eats and wipes her mouth. The picture is of one who eats her meal, cleans up, and goes on. The adulteress treats her sin in the same way as eating a meal. It is just the normal, daily activity and no thought is given to the wrong. In fact, she says, “I have done no wrong.”

It is a dangerous place to be when we no longer even consider our sin. When our conscience is so seared that our sin becomes routine and we begin to lose sight of right and wrong, we can be sure that we have gone far from God. The sinful heart can lead all of us away from God’s will and can cause us to reject correction and even justify our sinfulness. We need God’s word, God’s Spirit, and the people of God to help us along. It is through these three means that we learn how to live as the people of God as we are both encouraged and corrected in our daily lives. Be sure to read the word, pray, and be a part of a loving church.


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Never Enough

Reading the Word

Proverbs 30:15–16 (ESV)
15 The leech has two daughters: Give and Give. Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”:
16 Sheol, the barren womb, the land never satisfied with water, and the fire that never says, “Enough.”

Understanding and Applying the Word

How much is enough? Today’s passage speaks of two leeches that are named Give and Give, as in “Give me more. Give me more.” They are never satisfied. We then read of four things that never say, “Enough.” The four things are the grave, the barren womb, the desert wanting more water, and fire as it consumes its fuel.

It is interesting to note that this passage follows on the heels of a verse that speaks of those who devour the poor and needy for their own gain (cf. Proverbs 30:14). We certainly live in a world where wealth and possessions is the chief concern of most. Wisdom tells us that we must find satisfaction in what God has given us and also look out for those in need. We must be different than the world. We must find our satisfaction in knowing and being known by Jesus Christ and serving him.


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Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Reading the Word

Proverbs 30:7–9 (ESV)
7 Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
8 Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?” or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Understanding and Applying the Word

The author calls out to God for two things: that he would not be a liar and that God would not give him poverty or riches. The first is obvious enough, but why the second desire? Why not a desire for riches? It sure seems like that would be considered a blessing. Who does not want a blessing?

The last verse gives us the reasoning for why the writer asks to be fed “with the food that is needful for me.” He wants just enough. No more and no less than what is necessary for life. If there is an excess, there is a danger that one might forget God because there is no need for him. If there is a lack, there is the danger of resorting to stealing to obtain food. Such behavior would profane God. So, this is a prayer of one who desires to honor God and wants all obstacles to doing that removed. We should all desire the same thing in our lives. Lord, give us the things we need and withhold those things that would pull us away from you.


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Hasty with Words

Reading the Word

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.(Proverbs 29:20, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

This verse describes the one who is “hasty in his words.” This is a person who gives no thought about the good or evil done through what he says. He only is concerned with accomplishing a certain goal. It may be to win an argument or prove a point or put someone in their place. The hasty words may accomplish those goals, but it may also do far more damage than that. Hasty words destroy relationships, close ears to the message of the gospel, and drive people away from churches. The offender often hides behind the phrase “but what I said was the truth”, but such a mindset fails to understand that it is not just what is said, but how and when something is said.

The one who is hasty in speaking is worse than a fool. A fool is one who is mistaken about what he thinks he knows, but there is hope for him if he learns the truth. The hasty person, however, knows the truth. They use the truth to get what they want without regard for what is best for others. It is difficult to change the person who is quick to speak and slow to hear. It is no wonder that the Book of James warns us about the power of the tongue (James 3:6-9).


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The Need for God’s Word

Reading the Word

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.(Proverbs 29:18, ESV)

Understanding and Applying the Word

We need our Bibles and we need preachers and teachers of God’s word to help us understand them. The first line of this proverb tells us why. Where there is no prophetic vision, or revelation from God, the people cast off restraint. Another way this last phrase could be translated is “the people run wild” or “the people go out of control.” The contrast to this are those who obey God’s law, which is his revealed word. They are blessed.

Our Bibles are God’s word to us. The prophetic vision that this proverb speaks of is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. Our Bibles tell us about who God is, what he has done, what he plans to do in the future, and what he wants from us. We need God’s word so we can rightly order our lives and please him. It is easy to see the consequences of how people live when they do not have access to Scripture or when they reject it. They quickly fall into great sin and moral confusion. However, for those who make it their goal to understand the Bible and live by its teachings, there is great blessing. The word of God gives life to all who live by it.


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Equality

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

Reading the Word

The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.(Proverbs 29:13, ESV)

Unity

Today’s post is part of our Psalm Saturdays series from guest blogger Robert Chamberlain. You can read his archives at www.roberlain.wordpress.com .

Psalm 133:1–3 (ESV)
1 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!
2 It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes!
3 It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.


Unity is great, especially in families, which in an ideal world are united. But it’s not unity at any cost. There was no unity between brothers Aaron and Moses when the former made an idol in rebellion against the one true God.

But when Aaron repented and became the high priest of the old covenant, unity was restored. As fragrant oil ran down his head onto the collar of his robes, so unity infuses a beautiful fragrance upon those it blesses. It’s like when Jesus, the great high priest of the new covenant, was anointed by the woman at Bethany.

Another image of unity is of the dew of Hermon. Just as dew refreshes the ground, so God refreshes us when we dwell together in the unity of the good news of salvation in Christ Jesus. Jesus unites a diverse multitude in worship of Him.

It’s in the heavenly city that the blessing of unity is seen most clearly. There we see people of every tribe, language and nation united in worship of the Lord. When the saints go marching in, I want to be in that number!

“Heavenly Father, we praise You for the unity there is through faith in Christ. May Your Spirit unite us all in His praise, now and forever, amen.”


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