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First Quarter 2015 (January–March)
COMMENTARY ON PROVERBS
Week 1: December 27–January 2
COMMENTARY ON THE CALL OF WISDOM
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Day One, Sabbath Afternoon, Dec. 27: Introduction
This quote from the introduction sets the intended theme for this week and perhaps the overall goal for the quarter:
“The book of Proverbs is all about helping us to make right choices, to choose the way of God and not that of the deceiver.”
The premise of this commentary is to show that Scripture is the only inspired source for understanding the mind of God on this of any other theological topic.
The opening quote from the pen of Ellen White asserts that man became confused, simply made a wrong choice in the Garden of Eden and then sinned. The lesson then makes the claim that “the book of Proverbs is all about helping us to make right choices”.
The implication is that if we understand the wisdom to be found in the book of Proverbs well enough we will learn to make right choices and avoid what is evil. If this concept of how to avoid sin is to be considered foundational truth we must first address the question of why King Solomon, the author of this book and according to Scripture was the wisest person to ever have lived, fell into sins that we have no record of him having ever repented of?
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded.Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. (1 Kings 11:9-11)
Also, we need to consider the case of Adam and Eve who knew full well that God warned them that they would die on the very day they ate of the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:15-17) yet they made the choice to do so.
Day Two, Sunday, Dec. 28: The Beginning of Wisdom
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)
Here is more of what King Solomon had to say about the fear of the Lord that leads to wisdom:
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. (Prov. 9:10)
The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom, and humility comes before honor. (Prov. 15:33)
This is what Job said about fear of the Lord and wisdom:
And he said to man, ‘Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to turn away from evil is understanding.’” (Job 28:28)
What Job is saying is that a fear of the Lord where you humbly repent of your sins and turn away from evil is an understanding of wisdom. The question is; why was King Solomon able to record the words of wisdom found in the book of Proverbs yet did not apply this inspired wisdom to his own life?
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. Therefore the Lord said to Solomon, “Since this has been your practice and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes that I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant. (1 Kings 11:9-11)
The Apostle Peter points us towards the only possible solution:
This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:11-12)
Day Three, Monday, Dec. 29: True Education
The lesson for today poses this question:
“How can we learn to resist the temptations that culture, society, friends, or even family might throw our way?”
To resist temptation your sins must be cleansed by the blood of Jesus. The Apostle John puts it this way:
This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:5-10)
The Apostle Paul shares his own struggle with sin, doing “that which I hate”:
So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:17-20)
Apparently the Apostle Paul struggled with this for a significant amount of time. Then he learned:
Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:24-25)
What Paul is saying is that in this ‘life of the flesh’ our victory over sin is not our victory. Along with forgiveness of sins this too is a work of our Savior Jesus Christ. From there, we move onto Romans chapter eight and learn that nothing can separate us from the love of God.
On Thursday we will be repeating much of what has been covered today in the epistle of Romans by delving deeper into the theme that Jesus Christ is both our Savior and our Lord. For now, it would be good to mention that our sanctification includes fellowshipping and growing together within the body of Christ with other born-again Christians, where we build up each other via the gifts of the Holy Spirit:
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:7-13).
Day Four, Tuesday, Dec. 30: The Call of Wisdom
The lesson makes this statement concerning those who reject wisdom:
“The reason that people reject wisdom has nothing to do with wisdom itself and everything to do with the character of those who reject her.”
This lesson quote assumes the concept of 'character' and from the context we can assume it is referring to 'moral character'. A common understanding of moral character is a set of attributes that define a person's behavior or habits whether they be understood to be good or bad.
Since the lesson alleges that it is the character of a person that causes one to accept or reject wisdom let us follow that line of reasoning and see where it leads us by examining Solomon’s own failure, keeping in mind that this could be restated as; fools are fools because they act foolishly. The biblical equivalent to the character of a person would be where Scripture uses the word ‘heart’.
King Solomon wrote this which is the key passage for today’s lesson:
For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” (Prov. 1:32-33)
Here are passages that summarize the life and character of Solomon:
I the Preacher have been king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my heart to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven. It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind. (Ecc. 1:12-14)
King Solomon applied wisdom to all 'that is done under heaven', meaning he understood and gained 'worldly' success instead of making it a priority to seek after and knowing God personally as his father King David had done.
Thus King Solomon excelled all the kings of the earth in riches and in wisdom.And the whole earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. (1 Kings 10:23-25)
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lordhad said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. (1 Kings 11:1-2)
So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done. (1 Kings 11:6)
And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the Lord, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice·and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods. But he did not keep what the Lord commanded. (1 Kings 11:9-10)
Day Five, Wednesday, Dec. 31: The Benefit of Wisdom
The value of wisdom as outlined in Proverbs chapter two is the theme for today.
My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. (Prov. 2:1-5)
The opening lines of this chapter of Proverbs are as if they were spoken by King David to his son Solomon.
God said Solomon's father King David was "a man after my own heart" (Acts 13:22 & 1 Sam. 13:14) not because he lived perfectly without sin but because his heart condition repented when confronted and convicted of his sin (1 Chron. 21:7 & 8; 2 Sam. 24:10; 2 Sam. 12:13). The same faith in God that gave David victory over Goliath was a total faith in God in all things. He never 'went after other gods' nor did he ever attain a perfect moral character by living without sin in his life.
God's gift of wisdom to Solomon was in honor of his father King David before Solomon had ever done anything whether good or bad. In retrospect, when we review the life of Solomon, we see that his 'heart condition' was never the same as that of his father. Solomon went after other gods. The one sin that sets a person apart from those who place their faith totally upon the promises of God is when 'out of the hardness of your heart' you willfully desire and 'go after other gods'.
Day Six, Thursday, Jan. 1: Do Not Forget
The admonition to trust the Lord ‘with all your heart’ and the blessedness of the one who finds wisdom as outlined in Proverbs chapter three are the themes for today.
My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck; write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man. (Prov. 3:1-4)
The lesson says much that is good about the benefits of treasuring up the wisdom of God in our heart but fails to address the issue of; how does a person respond to the wisdom of God when trapped by 'the law of sin' and heed the title of today's lesson....'Do Not Forget'? Remember, we are talking about our 'heart condition', not our minds where we are to store up the knowledge of God's wisdom.
We will begin by reviewing the biblical gospel message:
On the night Jesus was betrayed which led to his death on Calvary he spoke of the New Covenant which would replace the old Mosaic Covenant, Jeremiah 31:33; Heb. 10:16; Matt. 5:17 & Luke 22:20. The Apostle Paul refers to this gospel message as the foundation of the Christian faith (1 Cor. 3:10 & 11) which he clearly defines as the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ in 1 Cor. 15:1-5. Anything added to this gospel message is not the gospel of Jesus Christ, Gal.1:9.
Today, we are returning and reexamining Romans chapter seven to make the same point as covered on Monday but to do so in greater depth to further stress the impossibility of forgiven sinners still living in 'this flesh' to choose to not sin via their own self-will.
In Romans 7:1 we learn that he is speaking directly to Jewish Christians who know the Old Covenant law. He declares the Old Covenant and all the written laws it contained now obsolete because of the death of
Christ at Calvary which fulfilled the requirements of this covenant. Paul does this through the illustration of a wife being free from 'the law of her husband' at his death.
While the Jews in particular, or anyone else for that matter, are no longer under the law contained in the Old Covenant it did and still does serve to reveal what sin is, Romans 7:7. The point Paul is making is that the Mosaic Law of the Old Covenant had both a beginning point which was made 430 years after the unconditional Abrahamic Covenant and ended when fulfilled at Calvary by Jesus Christ, Gal. 3:19-25. One detail often overlooked is that the covenant and the law it contained established until long after Abraham's time could not possibly have been binding upon anyone prior the existence of such law.
In Romans 7:8-12 Paul shows how the Old Covenant law functioned within the life of Jewish sinners who were bound by the provisions of the Old Covenant. Although now obsolete he describes the Mosaic Law as "holy and righteous and good". In verse 13 he clarifies that it is not this law but sin that produces death. In-other-words, even though the law is now obsolete sinners cannot escape death because it is sin that produces death, not the law that reveals what sin is.
Now, to tie Romans chapter seven in with today's lesson:
For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. (Romans 7:14-20)
Remember, while intended for edification of all Christians Paul is writing specifically to New Covenant Jewish believers and he is sharing his own experience of growing in sanctification as a born-again Christian. Those sold into the kingdom of darkness do not have this struggle. Sinners may hate the consequences of sin but not hate the sin. Paul is saying he now hates sin itself but personally had found no escape from sinning. As a New Covenant believer 'do not forget' is not an issue. Paul not only knows the wisdom of God and even has the desire to not do that what is evil yet finds no power within himself to avoid sinning.
Knowing, even as it is important to know the wisdom of God, is not enough. Having the desire to do what is right is also important but even that is not enough.
The question is; are you just like Solomon who knew the wisdom of God but ended up chasing after other gods or are you like King David whose heart was patterned after the likeness of God?
So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (Romans 7:21-25)
All Christians who have an ongoing healthy experience of spiritual growth have surrendered to Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord. Our Savior's blood which was shed at Calvary forever pays the debt of all our sins, brings each of our dead human spirits to life and ushers each of us into the kingdom of God. Yet, the works of Jesus Christ don't end there. As Lord our Savior now leads us into growing sanctification and victory over sin. As the Apostle Paul shares, even in this we have no power or possible victory through the works of self.
Day Seven, Friday, Jan. 2: Further Study
For our commentary we will respond to the one discussion question that focuses on Scripture:
'Dwell more on the idea of “the fear of the Lord.” If “there is no fear in love”(1 John 4:18),how can we fear the Lord and still love Him? How do we reconcile the tension between justice and love in “the fear of the Lord”?'
The question appears to be comparing what it says in Prov. 1:7 to that of 1 John 4:18 since it is part of this week's study material.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Prov. 1:7)
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. (1 John 4:18)
In Prov. 1:7 those who fear God in a way that leads to repentance have a heart condition that leads to wisdom. Whereas fools, in the hardness of their hearts, are unable to understand and therefore reject the wisdom of God.
What it is saying in 1 John 4:18 is that the fear of God that leads to repentance culminates in the casting out of all fear because fear cannot coexist with the perfect love we experience from within the embrace of our Savior Jesus Christ.