the Lord

Things and People Who Are Never Satisfied

The bloodsucking leech has two daughters—“Give!” and “Give!”

Three things are never satisfied. Four never say, “Enough!”:

the grave, a barren womb,

a land that never gets enough water,

a fire that does not say, “Enough!” (Proverbs 30:15-16 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 30:1-16 GW)


Have you ever wanted something so much you’d do most anything to get it? And when you got whatever it was you wanted, you realized it wasn’t enough? It didn’t satisfy the want inside you.

This is the reality of greed and lust—not just sexual lust—but a deep longing that never seems to be satisfied. It’s the unrestrained self—like a bottomless pit of want.

This sense of dissatisfaction is not because of a lack of something but abundance. This abundance is the entrance to the bottomless pit of want. It sets a person up to want more but it never brings satisfaction.

As mentioned in a previous devotional, the use of numbers and lists in the book of Proverbs provides helpful ways to remember various truths. In these two verses, our list moves in a progression from two to four but with one theme—never satisfied.

2 daughters—Give and Give more

It begins with the descriptive picture of a bloodsucking leech. Those worm-like, slimy creatures whose flat undersides attach to a person’s skin with their other side rounded which grows more round as blood is sucked from their host victim.

Not a flattering description of someone who attaches themselves to another for provision and sustenance! But it makes the point in a graphic way.

Not everyone who begs is a leech. But some people only seem to know how to take and never give. The more given to them, the more they want and take. One Bible version says this—

A leech has twin daughters named “Gimme” and “Gimme more.” (Prov 30:15 MSG)

When a person develops a dependency on another or others, it becomes more and more difficult for them to let go of their dependency. It doesn’t matter what form the dependency takes—they will always want more. In some ways it’s like an addiction.

Isn’t it interesting how lottery winners are sought after by friends and family, and others who have all sorts of advice on how to handle the winnings. Some are more subtle than others but a lot of hands are extended in expectation of the lottery winner sharing their wealth.

Wealthy people always seem to have at least one if not a few family members who feel entitled to the family wealth. This is a universal reality down through the ages.

Government assistance is essential for many people to survive. No question. But it can be taken advantage of and milked in many ways. This type of dependency becomes a way of life and livelihood and the system often discourages efforts to be weaned from this dependency.

Never enough

It’s not all about leeches though. Four other examples are given of this unsatisfied state.

The grave

The grave is a reminder of the universal reality of death. As many have said before—no one gets out of this life alive. None of us escapes the grasp of death. Even cryogenics happens after death, well…unless someone volunteers to be frozen alive.

Although the grave—death—isn’t just for the old. I’ve presided over too many funerals and memorials of people who died too soon. But as we age, the finality and reality of death claiming life presses into our psyche more and more.

A barren womb

A woman who longs for a child of her own bears a heavy weight. There are no easy answers. Only well-meaning platitudes that fall flat and increase the harsh longing of a mother-to-be.

There are stories in the Bible that illustrate this, such as Sarah—Abraham’s wife who was to bear the son of a man called the father of many nations (Gen 17:1-8; 15-20). Hannah’s story, the mother of Samuel the prophet, illustrates the heaviness of a barren womb even more so (1 Sam 1:1-18).

Land and water

Farmers, gardeners, even firefighters know how thirsty the ground is for water. Water either soaks in too fast or not at all, or runs off before it can soak in and satisfy the needs of plant and tree growth.

Keep in mind this is a picture. It illustrates something of life from nature. Think of the different situations it might represent—flooding or drought, the cycle of seasons in relation to farming. Now, consider how this relates to your own life. Need a start? How about—you don’t miss the water till the well runs dry.

Fire

Fire brings us full circle. A close friend and firefighter told me this about fire years ago—as long as there is fuel and oxygen, the fire stays alive and consumes whatever is in its path. It’s never satisfied. It never says enough!

Anyone who has experienced a powerful fire firsthand—whether in a building or a forest—can attest to the fierce consuming power of fire. My wife and I have. It is hard to put the experience into words except to say—it’s fierce and powerful and indiscriminate in its destructive power.

The sense of not being satisfied only stops when we surrender it to God and ask for Him to rescue us. We may be able to dull it or try to avoid or ignore it but it doesn’t just go away because it’s embedded in us.

King Solomon understood this personally, as seen in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes.

This is why Jesus made so many personal invitations to come to Him. And He showed us the way of surrender in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42) so we could be set free of this unsatisfied sense and be fulfilled in Him.

Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” (John 7:37-38 NIV)

Reflection—

Whatever dissatisfaction we might have will only be quelled when we surrender it to God and ask Him to rescue us. For the Lord desires to rescue and free us, and to fill us with contentment and life.

Prayer Focus—

Are there ways you find yourself longing for something or someone that hasn’t been satisfied and leaves you wanting? Bring these desires, longings, and wants to the Lord and surrender them in prayer. Give them to Him in your heart and ask for His help.

©Word-Strong_2019


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A Simple Prayer—Just 2 Things

I’ve asked you for two things.

Don’t keep them from me before I die:

Keep vanity and lies far away from me.

Don’t give me either poverty or riches.

Feed me ⌊only⌋ the food I need,

or I may feel satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

or I may become poor and steal

and give the name of my God a bad reputation. (Proverbs 30:7-9 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 30:1-9 GW)


A futile pursuit

We want everything. But we can’t have it all. It’s not humanly possible. It also leads to self-destruction and emptiness.

Scores and scores of people in every generation find this out the hard way. Either they lose everyone of real value in their life or lose what they pursued, or both.

This is the primary message of King Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes. He literally had it all—wealth, women (way too many), wisdom, and worldwide fame. But the theme throughout Ecclesiastes is—

Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. (Eccl 1:2)

Other Bible versions use a different word for vanitymeaningless, futile, absolutely pointless—to describe the pursuit of everything this world has to offer.

The book of Proverbs, as with other books in the Bible, is written in a memorable way—so people can memorize and retain general truths. This was vital for people who didn’t have the privilege to read and write. They were oral learners.

This is why numbering and lists are prominent along with repetitive phrases. Contrasts and comparisons are used to make helpful distinctions. And, of course, lots of figurative language is used to describe conceptual and spiritual truths in more familiar images and pictures.

[For more insight on this, download my free Study Guide for Proverbs]

Just 2 things

These three verses are expressed as a prayer requesting two things—the first request is related to character and the second concerns day to day life.

Integrity of character is at the heart of the first request–the removal of what’s not true.

When the writer says keep vanity…far away from me, it speaks of self-deception—the fertile soil where arrogance and foolishness grow.

The request isn’t restricted to the lies we believe or tell ourselves, it’s an appeal for protection from the lies and deception of others. If we want integrity of character, we need to guard our hearts from what is not true—whatever its source.

The second request of this prayer focuses on contentment in daily life—something most everyone longs for but is so often elusive.

The author asks for God’s provision somewhere between two extremes—poverty or riches—then explains why.

The concern is that having too much in the way of riches may lead to ignoring the Lord—I may feel satisfied and deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’

Another way to put it is, “I’ve got all I need and more. Who needs the Lord?”

Keep in mind—the intended audience for these proverbs were people whose identity was tied to their relationship with God.

The concern with being poor and not having enough is it may lead to stealing, which would dishonor God.

The author realizes how our life example—how we act and what we do in daily life—reflects on the Lord, too.

It’s a simple prayer, just two things are requested. The question is—Is it your and my prayer?

Reflection—

Integrity of character—inside our heart and mind, as well as how we live in the real world—will always honor the Lord.

Prayer Focus—

If you believe the world needs more truth and less lying, and a sense of contentment that honors God—make this your daily prayer.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Too Much and Too Little

Eating too much honey is not good,

and searching for honor is not honorable.Hebrew meaning of this line uncertain.

⌊Like⌋ a city broken into ⌊and⌋ left without a wall,

⌊so⌋ is a person who lacks self-control. (Proverbs 25:27-28 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 25:16-28 GW)


We live in a binary world. Consider how pervasive computers are—huge main frames, desktops, laptops, and handhelds. They all work off a sequence of zeros and ones.

Ok, it’s not quite that simple. A programmer may use different ways to configure things—different programing language or code—but it boils down to manipulating a sequence of zeros and ones to execute some action.

Think of the countless decisions you make in a day. Most decisions are yes–no, either–or. Others weigh the pros and cons of a decision. Still binary. And there’s the classic—Are you a glass half-full or half-empty person?

Why is life in this world so binary? I track it back to the decision in the garden to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Even that decision was a choice between—Do we continue to trust God or believe this clever talking serpent?

They chose the second option. They chose the lie.

Our Struggle

What does all this have to do with these two verses? Each of us struggle to find the somewhat neutral ground of contentment between too much or too little.

Why is this so difficult? Because our self—our ego—our basic nature—never seems to be satisfied. This leaves us open to making poor decisions, pursuing empty promises, or drifting along through life.

Both proverbs are explained with simple illustrations of comparison.

Too much

We know what it’s like to have too much of a good thing. It’s not good. In an earlier verse (Prov 25:16), we’re told eating too much honey makes a person nauseous.

You know the feeling of eating more than you should because it tastes so good—a 2nd or 3rd helping or a rich dessert after a big meal. This applies to more than eating. It’s great to get some sun but too much will make you sick or sunburned or both.

We all want and need honor and respect. The opposite would be shame or contempt. No one enjoys shame or contempt.

When others honor and respect us, it’s a good thing. But when we pursue our own honor or glory, it’s despised by others and tends to bring embarrassment, shame, and disrespect on us.

Too little

It’s not hard to imagine an ancient walled city with broken walls. You’ve either seen it in photos, movies, or digital games. If not, recall the story of ancient Jericho’s walls tumbling down after Israel’s army marched around it for seven days (Josh 6:20).

It would also be similar to the destruction a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake brings. Imagine being in a house where the walls and roof are blown away or broken down leaving you vulnerable to the elements, wild animals, or scavengers and looters.

This is the picture of someone who lacks self-control. We’ve seen what this brings in the life of others and perhaps in our own life.

A lack of discipline leads to many problems—over-eating, over-spending, little to no exercise, too little sleep, and so on. A lack of self-control can lead to things like addictions, broken relationships, excessive worries, poor health, and on and on.

How can we escape the back and forth struggle between too much or too little? Contentment comes with trusting the Lord. Trusting Him instead of our self. We need help with who we are and how we’re wired internally.

Later, in the New Testament book of Galatians, the apostle Paul speaks of this struggle (Gal 5:16-18). He goes on to say the evidence of relying on our self is obvious (Gal 5:19-20) but when we rely on the Lord—His Spirit in us—we gain self-control and a lot more (Gal 5:22-23).

The book of Proverbs is intended to help someone gain wisdom and develop self-discipline. This isn’t about self-improvement or self-reliance but entrusting our self, our decisions, and our deepest needs to the Lord.

Reflection—

Contentment comes with trusting the Lord rather than our self. We don’t need to improve nor rely on ourselves but entrust our decisions, deepest needs, and life to the Lord daily.

Prayer Focus—

When you find yourself caught in the tension between too much and too little, call out to God in prayer. Ask His help with decisions before you make them. He knows your deepest needs, so look to Him as your source of honor and respect—He knows you better than any person on earth.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Do the Right Thing

A person thinks everything he does is right,

but the Lord weighs hearts.

Doing what is right and fair

is more acceptable to the Lord than offering a sacrifice. (Proverbs 21:2-3 GW)

(Context—Proverbs 21:1-8 GW)


The time is always right to do what’s right. Martin Luther King Jr

Every year, as our nation observes the birthday of Dr Martin Luther King Jr, a flurry of his quotes fill social media posts, news media, and speeches. As with many statements these days, these quotes are expressed outside of their original context.

Oberlin College Archives

Oberlin College Archives

The quote above is a statement Dr King made at Oberlin College in October of 1964. The thought of this statement permeates much of what he spoke and wrote about integration and civil rights.

The context of these words are the life and calling of Dr King—a Baptist preacher and the son of a Baptist preacher. The 50’s and 60’s were a tumultuous time in America. It was not empty rhetoric but truth grounded in the reality of his time.

Doing the right thing is a common theme throughout the Proverbs. It’s a common tenet of good business ethics and basic morality. However, what the right thing is depends on a person’s belief system, values, and cultural influences.

Each of us can be convinced of our own rightness but our words and actions in life need to be consistent within our daily lives. Otherwise, it’s a matter of saying one thing but living out something different. Then, what we claim as rightness is out of context with who we are.

A sense of our own rightness soon becomes self-righteousness—our own narrow view of right and wrong. This extends beyond religious self-righteousness and permeates every aspect of our life. It becomes an attitude of the heart.

Self-righteousness sets us up to be judgmental and prejudiced toward others

This narrow view of rightness produces a judgmental view of others and a sense of superiority towards those who don’t measure up to our sense of righteousness—our view of what’s true, right, and fair.

When self-righteousness goes unchecked it isolates a person from those deemed inferior in their religion, thinking politics, behavior, associations with others, and so on.

The only counter to self-rightness is humility—a sense of who we are in comparison to God rather than others.

God knows our heart. He knows our motives. He alone is able to judge in a true and just way and He is by nature merciful (Exo 34:6; Luke 6:36).

When we see our own sense of rightness in light of God’s mercy, we can be freed from a judgmental and prejudiced heart.

True humility can set us free from a self-righteous heart

Instead of the narrow view of self-righteousness—that no one can measure up to including us—humility sets us free to do what is right and fair. This is what is acceptable to God rather than any self-righteous attitude or effort on our part.

How we see and treat others is a good indicator of what standard of rightness we hold. Is it our own or God’s? Do we measure our own sense of rightness in comparison to others or God?

Reflection—

No one can measure up to the narrow and judgmental perspective of self-righteousness. This include our self no matter how right we think we are. How we see and treat others is a good indicator of what standard of rightness we hold—our own or God’s—and He alone is just and merciful.

Prayer Focus—

If you find yourself looking down at others as inferior and wrong, ask God to give you His perspective on others—how He sees them and us. When you find a self-righteous attitude welling up in your mind and heart, humble yourself and ask God to forgive you.

©Word-Strong_2019


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Joy!

Joy!

Watching the faces of young people singing praise and worshipping the Lord with hands extended, I felt unbridled joy.

Joy often overflows from my heart when I see genuine, heart-felt worship reflected in the faces of a new generation of worshippers—fresh followers of Jesus—led by young leaders and mentored by those who were once fresh faces in a crowd of worshippers themselves.

Why? Because their worship exalts Jesus whose birth we celebrate at Christmas. Also, authentic worship fills those who exalt Jesus as they worship with a deep and humble joy.

True authentic worship exalts Jesus and fills worshippers with joy

Although it would have been without any liturgy or our modern instruments and settings, I imagine similar expressions on the faces of the shepherds in the field and the wise men who traveled far to witness the divine intervention of the Lord Jesus’ birth.

Jesus first

If you're a Christian believer, you've probably heard the expression, J-o-yJesus first, others second, and yourself last—that's what corporate worship is like for me.

Photo credit: LIghtstock.com

Photo credit: LIghtstock.com

Corporate Christian worship is focused first on Jesus, the One who is worthy of all worship. As we worship together in one accord, each of us forgets about ourself in the midst of worshipping the Lord.

This is the picture given of the shepherds outside Bethlehem when the Lord's birth was announced by angels (Luke 2:8-20).

When the shepherds saw the Savior of the world in the manger—just as the angels had told them—they went out with great joy and told others about this event and their experience.

New generations

During a worship service overseas, I looked around at the many young faces engaged in worship and was blessed to see the young worship leaders. Most of them I’d known when quite young. Now I saw them leading other followers of Jesus—a newer and younger generation.

This is what the church was designed to do—generation after generation—mentor and lead those who are younger to become leaders. It is the responsibility of older generations to train up younger ones, then step back so they may lead others, as I wrote recently.

My wife and I were surrounded by others younger than we, just as it was decades ago when we were the young faces in the crowd. We also saw this in the young women we cared for at Rainbow Village who now have their own families.

Worship Him!

After Jesus was born, some Magi (wise and learned men) came from a distant country seeking the One whose star announced His birth. They sought the King of the Jews and had "come to worship him." (Matt. 2:2)

Worship is more than singing songs of worship in a congregation, it is an expression of the heart and a way of life. True worship isn’t restricted by our setting or situation, it ought to overflow into everyday life.

Genuine worship that overflows with joy can take place whenever or wherever we are. It is the overflow of a heart and life in awe of Jesus who came as a newborn but who proved He is the Lord of Lords by His resurrection from the dead.

Worship is an expression of the heart and a way of life

When we give ourselves to Jesus and in service and leadership of others, we experience the great gift of God—his favor—His grace and kindness. Experiencing and receiving this favor is part of what overflows our heart in worship and is expressed in how we live our lives.

When we truly experience God’s grace in our life, it results in a humble joy that changes us internally and causes our heart to overflow as we worship the Lord. As the popular Christmas carol expresses— Joy to the World!

May you have a blessed Christmas as you worship the Savior of the world, Jesus—the King of the Jews, the Prince of Peace, the Lord of Lords.