Battling Voices

Wendy Widder

Proverbs opens on a battlefield of a young man’s life, where competing voices are vying for his heart. His father recognizes the power of words and their influence on his son. Wanting to combat these dangers, he adopts the voices of those who present the greatest threat to the young man—a malicious gang and a seductive woman. The father is accompanied in the pursuit of his son’s heart by both Lady Wisdom and Dame Folly, who speak truth and ignorance. Their speeches present the son with a choice:

Who Will You Listen to?

The Father

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The father is a wise man, and his words are based on experience and verifiable facts. He does not distort or twist his words to persuade. He always has his son’s best interests in mind. Everything he says is spoken with honesty and exemplified in his own life.

The father distills his son’s greatest temptations into the spoken invitations of a gang (“men of perverted speech”) and a seductress (“the adulteress with her smooth words”; 2:12–16). By describing scenarios involving each, the father brings to life the destructive nature of speech as he seeks to help his son see what lies behind temptation.

The Gang

The gang invites the son to join them in violence against an innocent man: “Come … let us lie in wait for blood; let us ambush the innocent without reason” (1:11). A real gang is unlikely to describe their behavior in such terms, but since the father is the one speaking on behalf of the gang, he can expose the truth behind their words. The gang urges the son to throw in his lot with them: “We shall fill our houses with plunder; throw in your lot among us; we will all have one purse” (1:13–14). The destructive power of their speech lies in its promise of easy gain through violence.

The Seductress

The sweet-talking woman and her “smooth” words drip honey (2:16, 5:3, 6:24). When she speaks in chapter seven, she vividly portrays the dangers lurking behind her words (7:12–20). There is little description of her appearance when she enters the scene with the “young man.” It is her speech—not her beauty—that seduces. She describes the extravagance of her bed, spread with fine linens and spices, and boldly invites him to have sex. She even provides a safety net—her husband is far away, and they will not be caught.

When her speech ends, the father tells his son the rest of the story. She persuades the man, but her house leads to destruction (see 2:18–19; 6:26–35). The young man pays for his pleasure with his life (7:22–27).

Lady Wisdom

The voice of Lady Wisdom is interspersed among the father’s lectures. On the heels of the gang’s enticement, she speaks to whomever will listen, and she warns of dire consequences should they ignore her voice (1:22–33). Later, she praises her own words and the effect they will have on those who embrace them (8:4–36). Unlike the seductress and the gang, she speaks candidly, uprightly and truthfully. Her words can be trusted—and when they are, the benefits exceed silver and fine gold (8:19).

Dame Folly

Alongside Lady Wisdom is Dame Folly. Her description is reminiscent of the seductress in chapter seven, but Dame Folly’s words are not smooth and sweet; they are loud and ignorant (9:13). She summons listeners with the same words as Lady Wisdom—“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!” (9:16; compare 9:4). But the rest of her speech reveals her true character. while Lady Wisdom invites the simple one to eat her bread and drink her wine and walk in the way of insight, Dame Folly extols the sweetness of stolen bread and water (9:17). Dame Folly is a cheap imitation of Lady Wisdom, and her invitation is one that leads to death.

Whether the son of Proverbs 1–9 matures into a wise man or lapses into an idiot will be determined by his ability to sort out the voices, evaluate their words and choose the right path. The interplay of speech highlights the need to truly listen. The one who chooses thoughtfully can turn the page to chapters 10–31, where wisdom for all of life can be learned.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 4

Freedom and Response

Rebecca Van Noord

Micah 4:1–6:16; Acts 14:8–15:21; Job 23:1–17

Freedom from sin gives us the power to love. But freedom from poverty or oppression or guilt sometimes makes us complacent. We forget our inclination to wander away from God’s will and pursue our own, and we overlook that God will eventually call us to account. Although Micah prophesied during a time of prosperity in Israel, it was also a time of spiritual deficiency. The powerful were oppressing the weak (Mic 2:1–2; 3:2–3) politically and economically.

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Micah holds Israel to account in this passage. The prophet paints a courtroom scene with God judging His people for their unfaithfulness: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good, and what does Yahweh ask from you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Mic 6:8).

The mountains and the hills listen as Yahweh accuses Israel, and the evidence He presents is startling. God has been active and present in His people’s lives, turning what was meant for evil into good. He brought Israel out of slavery in Egypt. When Balaam tried to curse Israel on behalf of Balak, the Moabite king, God turned that curse into blessing.

We know where we stand in the courtroom drama. Our sins condemn us, but God has provided new evidence that changes our fates. What prosecuting attorney becomes a defender of the accused—a mediator claiming their cause? Through His Son, God frees us from our sin. Indeed, we should say with awe and humility, “Who is a God like you?”

Our story should be a response of humility and love for God. What story will your life tell?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.

Shelf Life Book Review: Revelation for Everyone

Clifford B. Kvidahl

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Revelation for Everyone
Westminster John Knox Press, 2011

In the final installment of his For Everyone series, N.T. Wright offers his comments on the last book of the New Testament. Wright seeks to make the book of Revelation accessible to readers. He successfully explains passages without trivializing the text—something that makes this series valuable.

Wright includes his own translation of the original Greek. The commentary includes both exposition and application of the text, which reflects Wright’s role as a pastor more than his role as a scholar.

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 5

Where Credit is Due

Johannah Reardon

I was once promised a job that was terminated before I could begin. The company unexpectedly closed my division. I felt humiliated and disappointed as I told my family and friends that the great opportunity I’d snagged was gone.

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When I finally secured a new position, I believed all my hard work and tenacity had paid off. I felt worthy of the recognition I received. That’s why Solomon’s prayer in 1 Kings 8:23–24 astounds me. On the day he dedicated Israel’s new temple, he prayed, “Lord, the God of Israel, there is no God like you in heaven above or on earth below—you who keep your covenant of love with your servants who continue wholeheartedly in your way. You have kept your promise to your servant David my father; with your mouth you have promised and with your hand you have fulfilled it—as it is today.”

King David wanted to build a temple for Yahweh but was denied the honor because he was a man of war. The Lord wanted Solomon, a man of peace, to build it instead. It was an honor Solomon didn’t take for granted. As he prayed that day, he didn’t focus on his own accomplishments—something most rulers would do. Instead, he focused on God. He realized that Israel would not even exist without God fulfilling His promises. He also knew that he needed to rely on God’s continued mercy and grace.

Shortly after being hired for my new position, I realized I was surrounded by extremely talented people. I was intimidated by my intellectual superiors. But Solomon’s gratefulness to God and his acknowledgment of God’s work in his life convicted me that my goals and ambitions needed to change. I began shifting my focus at work. I thanked God for a meaningful job and the honor of being challenged by my brilliant colleagues. As a result, I began listening for what God wanted to do in and through me. Since then, I’ve been able to help others in ways that do not necessarily advance my career but have honored God and built relationships.

Solomon gave God all the credit, and we need to do the same. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” For Solomon it was a temple (1 Kgs 8:29). For you, it may be mentoring someone, visiting a nursing home or saying yes to a mission trip. Whatever task God gives you, thank Him for keeping His covenant of love with you.

Biblical references are taken from the New International Version (NIV).

Article courtesy of Bible Study Magazine published by Faithlife Corporation. Originally published in print, Vol. 4 No. 3

Diversity in the Church

Rebecca Van Noord

Amos 8:1–9:15; Acts 10:34–11:18; Job 21:1–16

In our comfortable and familiar church homes, we sometimes fail to see the Church as a community of ethnic and cultural diversity. When I returned from a year in South Korea, I was surprised when my family and friends made thoughtless generalizations about people I had come to know and love—some of them fellow believers in Christ. Most of these comments contradicted the multicultural picture of Christianity presented in the book of Acts.

Peter and the Jewish Christians in the early church underwent a shift in cultural perspective. When Peter came to Jerusalem after meeting with Gentiles, the Jews were shocked that he would eat with “men who were uncircumcised” (Acts 11:3). For so long, they had associated their religion with their identity as a nation and as a people group. Although they knew that God was extending this hope to the Gentiles, they needed to be reminded that Jesus was the Lord of all. Peter tells them, “if God gave them the same gift as also to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” (Acts 11:17).

The hope they expected had been fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Now Gentiles were being added to their number. Peter testifies, “In truth I understand that God is not one who shows partiality, but in every nation the one who fears him and who does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34).

Strangely, Peter’s speech still needs to be heard today. We tend to confine our faith within comfortable borders—cultural, regional, or racial. We need to be challenged to see people from other ethnicities and cultural backgrounds as fellow followers of Christ. If God does not show partiality, then neither should we. The reign of Jesus extends over all people; God will draw His children from all corners of the earth, and there will be no “foreigners” in His kingdom.

How does your view of the Church need to be challenged?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.