He…Hates His Son

What would you think of a parent who let their kid play in the middle of busy street? Would it change your opinion if, when asked, the parent responded, “He wanted to play in the street and I love him too much to tell him, ‘No.'”?

What if, as the child got older, he wanted to hang out with known murderers, rapists, and other criminals? But, what if the parent said, “It’s OK because I don’t want to interfere and be nosy.”?

The writer of Proverbs spoke frequently about about children and the need to correct them. Consider:

  • {12} For whom the LORD loves He corrects, Just as a father the son [in whom] he delights. – Proverbs 3:12 NKJV
  • {24} He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly. – Proverbs 13:24 NKJV
  • {18} Chasten your son while there is hope, And do not set your heart on his destruction. – Proverbs 19:18 NKJV
  • {15} Foolishness [is] bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of correction will drive it far from him. – Proverbs 22:15 NKJV
  • {13} Do not withhold correction from a child, For [if] you beat him with a rod, he will not die. {14} You shall beat him with a rod, And deliver his soul from hell. – Proverbs 23:13-14 NKJV
  • {15} The rod and rebuke give wisdom, But a child left [to himself] brings shame to his mother. – Proverbs 29:15 NKJV
  • {17} Correct your son, and he will give you rest; Yes, he will give delight to your soul. – Proverbs 29:17 NKJV

The motivation to discipline. Contrast these statement with those who say they “love” their children too much to discipline or correct them:

  • He delights in his child (3:12)
  • Not disciplining is to hate the child; to discipline is to love (13:24)

What is the goal of this discipline? This is not disciplining out of selfish anger or personal vengeance. This is discipline with the goal of spiritual and moral guidance:

  • Drive foolishness from their heart (22:15) – This is not meanness and cruelty trying to break a child’s spirit, but instruction and disciple to train their heart to avoid foolishness.
  • Deliver his soul from hell (22:13) – Just as allowing a child to play in busy street can lead to their physical death, allowing them to engage in dangerous spiritual attitudes can lead to a far more serious consequence of spiritual condemnation.
  • Avoid shameful behavior (19:15)
  • Bring joy to the parents (29:17) – Just as God is delighted when we serve Him, it should bring joy to parents to see their children engaging in good behavior.

When should we engage in this discipline?

  • “promptly” or “diligently” (NASB) (3:12) – One idea suggests quickly after the behavior occurs. The other suggests consistency. Both are true. Discipline can’t be a hap-hazard, only-when-it’s-convenient approach and still be effective.
  • Before it’s too late (“while there is hope”) (19:18) – So many parents wait until their kids are deeply ingrained in bad behavior before attempting to mold and correct them. Children learn and develop personalities at a very young age and their training should begin early in the formative years as well.

Is the rod a literal, physical rod? Some try to suggest the “rod” in these passages is figurative for “discipline.” How can you tell? Consider:

  • Compare other passages where this Hebrew word is translated “rod:” Click Here for search in Blue Letter Bible; With rare, if any exceptions, it translated in reference to physical “staff or branch.”
  • “He will not die” (23:13) – Whatever is under consideration will not bring about physical death. There is no justification for child abuse.
  • “rod AND rebuke” (29:15) – Clearly it seems that whatever is under discussion is more than just a “talking to (rebuke)”
  • Whatever conclusion  you draw, clearly the “rod” should have a significant impact on the attitude and behavior of the child. If the discipline used doesn’t have some impact, then something else needs to be done.

It is important to tell our children we love them. It is important to give our kids affection. But, just as important is to show our love for our children by disciplining and correcting them to help them develop the kind of character that God desires.

Do you love your children or hate them? Consider:

  • Do we let our children speak ugly to us and fail to show respect to us parents? If so, how will they learn respect for others in positions of authority, especially their heavenly Father?
  • Do we sometimes ignore disrespectful behavior because it is cute and funny or because we are too busy with our own activities to take the time to engage in the needed discipline?
  • Do we monitor their activities and their friends to be sure they are not falling in with wrong crowd that can have a negative influence on their spiritual maturity and growth?
  • Do we monitor their internet and texting activity to see that they are not engaging in activities that are morally and spiritually wrong?

Remember, while children are free to make their own decisions as adults and sometime choose the wrong path, the general principle is: “{6} Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it. – Proverbs 22:6 NKJV”

Dan Fontenot
(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

Advertisements

A Personal Reading Journey

This post will vary from my normal format of trying to spend as much time in the text of God’s word as possible. I simply wanted to share a few observations from a recent experience. Rest assured, future posts will return to my normal content.

I have loved to read for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, we lived near a library. In the summer I would make many trips and read many books. I could read for hours at a time.

At the beginning of this year I decided I wanted to return to taking some time for reading. So, I went to the nearby library and checked out some books. But, before I got started a thought dawned on me. I had never read the Bible. Now, obviously I have read parts of it and probably at one point or another have read all of it. But, I had never sat down with the goal in mind of reading through the Bible like I read through a novel. When I get into a novel, I read it every chance I get. I may not put it down for hours. I may read late into the night. But, I had never attempted to read through the Bible with that kind of passion and intensity.

So, I decided to set aside the books I had checked out of the library and read only my Bible. I then decided to take all but one of the games off my phone. I was trying to remove as many distractions as possible. I also determined that all those times that I would normally just surf the net or play games I would turn into opportunities to read the Bible.

I surprised myself with what I accomplished. I finished reading the New Testament in 19 days. Then, I completed the Old Testament in the next 70 days. So, all total, I completed reading the entire Bible in about 90 days. This was an amazing experience for me. I want to share a few personal observations.

  • The Bible is an amazing and powerful story to read

This may seem like a simple observation, but reading the Bible in such  a short period of time was a totally unique experience for me. Reading the four gospels one right after another helped to unify the stories told in several of the gospels. Hearing the teachings of Jesus over and over through the gospels reinforced the messages Jesus taught to his disciples and others of His day. These are messages and life lessons that we still need to learn and apply today. Picturing the events of Him as He was betrayed and crucified in each of the four gospels was powerful. To think that God in human form submitted Himself to die for our sins is an amazing story.  Then to read the book Acts and see the faith of the apostles after the events of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and ascension put an interesting perspective on the events of the early church. Reading the letters to churches immediately after hearing the stories of the early church made it easier to think about the new faith of the Christians to whom the letters were written. The images of Paul’s persecution in his preaching journeys was fresh in mind as I listened to the letters he wrote to these Christians whose faith was being challenged both from within and without.

The story of the Old Testament and God’s people prior to the time of Christ was also quite interesting. People often describe God as a God of wrath and vengeance in the Old Testament. But when I read through the whole story what stood out to me is that God has always been a patient and gracious God. He has always wanted people to have time, opportunity, and the will to change. Only when He had exhausted every attempt to change their hearts did He finally bring devastating judgement on those who simply refused to serve and honor Him.

  • Our prayers should be better

I was impressed with frequency with which prayers are recorded in the Bible When we think about prayers in the Bible we often think primarily about the book of Psalms, but there are prayers recorded in many books of the Bible: prayers of kings, prayers of prophets, prayers of priests, prayers of ordinary people, prayers of men, prayers of women.

I was also impressed with the nature of the prayers. So many times our prayers are treated more like an interference in our lives and we just want to rush through them and get back to our lives. The prayers in the Bible are expressive of praise, honor, and glory to God. Many of the prayers are lengthy. Jesus was said to have spent all night in prayer. Many of the them do nothing but praise God. Often prayers are prayers of repentance, but not merely generic (“forgive me if I sinned”) prayers of forgiveness, but expressions of specific guilt and deep regret. And the prayers of thanksgiving are often lengthy and descriptive in thanking God for the riches of his grace.

  • Reading is not studying

While we certainly need to read, there were many places where I want to go back and dig deeper. The Bible is so full of information that one simple read through will not begin to scratch the surface of the rich treasures of knowledge stored in its pages. This experience has rekindled my desire to get back into God’s Book, study further, and have a better understanding of what He is trying to tell us. There is a reason He recorded and preserved these messages.

  • Just reading caused me to think about some behaviors

As I read the story of God’s people and His desire for them to be righteous, I could not help but think about some of my own actions that might not be in line with that. How can I read God’s word and then turn around and watch and support TV and movies that clearly undermine the principles of God’s word and His righteousness? How can I try to fill my mind with the messages of His Word and then listen to music that glorifies lifestyles and attitudes that are so contrary to what He is telling me through these stories?

  • I could read more and do better

While I am thrilled about having the opportunity to read God’s word in such a short period of time, I also know I fell short at times and didn’t always use time wisely during this stretch. I pray that this experience will only spur me to read more, study more, and learn more because there is no more important task in our lives than to understand and apply God’s word in every aspect of our life.

Dan Fontenot

How Much Better To Get Wisdom Than Gold!

Proverbs 16:16 states: “How much better to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” (NKJV)

Over the last few days, I have been thinking about this very concept so it was interesting that it came up in my Bible study today. I have been examining the value placed on different things in our life based on the amount of time spent in each activity. With this on my mind it has been interesting to begin reading and studying Proverbs for some upcoming classes I am scheduled to teach. This is not the only reference to this concept in the book. Consider another:

“My son, if you receive my words, And treasure my commands within you, So that you incline your ear to wisdom, [And] apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, [And] lift up your voice for understanding, If you seek her as silver, And search for her as [for] hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the LORD, And find the knowledge of God.” [Proverbs 2:1-5 NKJV]

People say they “treasure” the word of God, but consider…

  • Receive my words…Incline your ear to wisdom”: How can we receive the words of God’s wisdom if we rarely, if ever, open our Bibles to hear what God has to say. Inclining suggests putting forth effort to hear, not just hearing when it might be convenient or easy.
  • Apply your heart to understanding”: How many times have we heard someone say about a person, “Oh what they could be if they would just apply themselves?” Are we really working to understand God’s word and try to know what He wants us to know? Or are we satisfied just skimming by?
  • Cry out for discernment…lift up your voice for understanding”: Are we so eager to know the wisdom of God that we will cry out for help and lift up our voice to ask for guidance and counsel? Proverbs is filled with admonitions to heed the wisdom of the wise, but do we ask for help gaining that wisdom and knowledge?
  • Seek her as silversearch for her as for hidden treasures“: People go to seminars all the time or buy books to find out how to become wealthy or great leaders or successful in business. They will spend hours reading and listening because of the perceived value of the knowledge being imparted. How much do we value the wisdom of God. How much effort and time are we willing to put forth to gain God’s wisdom that he freely imparts!
  • Note that only when these attitudes are applied will wisdom come: “Then you will understand … and find …”. Sadly, some think that time alone will make them wise. But, it won’t. Only a diligent, determined effort to come to know the will of God will lead us to this wisdom.
  • Also, it is not just any wisdom we should seek: “…understand the fear of the Lord … find the knowledge of God”. Reading secular books and gaining secular wisdom is OK, but it is not the wisdom that provides eternal life and rewards.

But, what do we really treasure? Where is our time spent that shows our real desire?

  • I recently applied this concept to my own spare time. I found that when I had few spare minutes I would immediately turn to social media or the internet or to games on my phone. But, how often did I turn to the word of God? How often did I use that precious time to seek more understanding of God’s will?
  • Our society has unprecedented access to God’s word through the internet, mobile devices, etc. But, are we using that to seek God’s wisdom?
  • There is nothing inherently sinful about social media, games, or the internet. But, what are we seeking, crying out for?

Other verses in Proverbs challenge us to think about the value of wisdom over the things of this world:

  • “Happy [is] the man [who] finds wisdom, And the man [who] gains understanding; For her proceeds [are] better than the profits of silver, And her gain than fine gold. She [is] more precious than rubies, And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. Length of days [is] in her right hand, In her left hand riches and honor. Her ways [are] ways of pleasantness, And all her paths [are] peace. She [is] a tree of life to those who take hold of her, And happy [are all] who retain her.” [Proverbs 3:13-18 NKJV]
  • “Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom [is] the principal thing; [Therefore] get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you. Hear, my son, and receive my sayings, And the years of your life will be many. I have taught you in the way of wisdom; I have led you in right paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hindered, And when you run, you will not stumble. Take firm hold of instruction, do not let go; Keep her, for she [is] your life.” [Proverbs 4:5-13 NKJV]
  • “Receive my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choice gold; For wisdom [is] better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her. … My fruit [is] better than gold, yes, than fine gold, And my revenue than choice silver.” [Proverbs 8:10-11, 19 NKJV]

So, ask yourself, do spend hours everyday in the things of the world only to “squeeze in” a few minutes for God’s word each day (if at all)? What does that suggest that we really treasure?

Dan Fontenot

(Note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

The Lord's Hand Is Not Shortened

Sometime after I finished the last post, I went to my daily Bible reading schedule to do some catching up. It just so happened that the reading for the day was Isaiah 59-61. Immediately, the first three verses of Isaiah 59 jumped out at me:

1 Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, That it cannot save; Nor His ear heavy, That it cannot hear. 2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; And your sins have hidden [His] face from you, So that He will not hear. 3 For your hands are defiled with blood, And your fingers with iniquity; Your lips have spoken lies, Your tongue has muttered perversity. [Isaiah 59:1-3 NKJV]

In a previous post we looked at the fact that since the beginning of time, God has desired for mankind to follow Him and make Him the focus of their lives. What jumped out of this passage as I read it is another principle that has existed just as long: God gives man the ability to make that choice! And, with the wrong choices come consequences. Let’s start in the Garden of Eden:

  • God said: “16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. ‘” [Genesis 2:16-17 NKJV]
  • Adam and Eve chose: “6 So when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make [one] wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” [Genesis 3:6 NKJV]
  • God rendered judgment and they suffered consequences for not following God’s command. These included leaving the garden, death, working for food, pain in childbearing, and the serpent was condemned to crawling on his belly (Gen. 3:13-20).

This pattern, started in the Garden of Eden, has continued in every generation and dispensation since then. God gives man a choice and man must decide whether to “walk with God” or suffer consequences of his failure to do so. We must also recognize something else from the Garden of Eden. Sometimes sin has physical consequences that reach beyond the person who actually committed the sin. Every woman who bears a child suffers pain because of the sin of Eve. Every one that has faced “thorns and thistles” in toiling for their food does so because of the sin of Adam. And every person on the face of the earth faces certain death because of the sin committed at beginning of mankind. Know this: all pain, all suffering, all death is ultimately not the consequence of an incapable or unwilling God, but of sin. As long as there is sin in the world, pain, suffering, and death will continue. In many cases we have no choice or control over the physical consequences of sin, especially that which results from the sin of others. But, this must not be confused with the spiritual consequences of sin and our ability to choose right or wrong . Many in the “Christian” world would argue that Adam and Eve were the only ones who really had a choice. But the scriptures do not support that concept. The verses below could be multiplied many times over, but these should provide a sampling of the evidence that God did not make beings forced to do His bidding (compare the instinct of animals), but rather beings that must choose to love and follow Him, and in so doing avoid the spiritual consequences of sin. (I have added emphasis in red, bold letters)

  • “And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that [were] on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” [Joshua 24:15 NKJV]
  • “And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD [is] God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word.” [1 Kings 18:21 NKJV]
  • The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” [Ezekiel 18:20 NKJV]
  • “3 For this [is] good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” [1 Timothy 2:3-4 NKJV]
  • “The Lord is not slack concerning [His] promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” [2 Peter 3:9 NKJV]

However, as noted in the opening passage, our failures do not reduce God’s power to save. A little later in Isa. 59, there is hope in this statement, “‘The Redeemer will come to Zion, And to those who turn from transgression in Jacob,’ Says the LORD.” [Isaiah 59:20 NKJV] Jesus, the Redeemer, has indeed come and salvation is available to all as noted in the verses above. In future discussions we will look at what God expects for people to restore the relationship that they have broken by their sin.

Dan Fontenot

(editor’s note: Verse references are clickable links that will open the verses in context in BlueLetterBible.org)

In The Beginning, God…

As I was thinking about where to start with my blogs, I had several ideas about a best “first” Bible Essay. Then, I thought about where the Bible starts … with God (Genesis 1:1). My intent is not to start in Genesis and go through the Bible book by book, but I couldn’t help but think of the importance of starting off in the right place. As I thought about this passage, other passages that emphasize the importance of this foundation came to mind:

  • Proverbs 1:7 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
  • Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”
  • Psalms 111:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.”

Clearly, these verses could be multiplied. But then, I thought about how God emphasizes the importance of making Him the foundation of our lives through the stories of people in the Bible.

  • Enoch avoided death because he “walked with God” – Genesis 5:24.
  • Noah avoided destruction in the flood because he “walked with God” and therefore “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” – Genesis 6:7-9ff.
  • Abraham’s willingness to understand this principle is demonstrated throughout his life. Two great examples of this are when God told him to leave his homeland (Genesis 12:1-4) and when God told him to offer Isaac (Genesis 22:1-3). Abraham didn’t question because he understood that all things begin with God and, therefore, following His commands.

With this in mind, is it any wonder that the first thing God tried to instill in minds of the nation of Israel when He brought them out of Egypt was who He is and the importance of making Him the foundation and center of their lives?

  • One of the purposes of the plagues was to teach the people of Israel about the Lord. Exodus 6:6-7:

6 “Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I [am] the LORD; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 ‘I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I [am] the LORD your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.

  • The first three commandments given to the people emphasized that they must honor Him only and recognize that He is not some image created by man. Exodus 20:2-7:

2 “I [am] the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. 3 “You shall have no other gods before Me. 4 “You shall not make for yourself a carved image–any likeness [of anything] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth; 5 you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth [generations] of those who hate Me, 6 but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments. 7 “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold [him] guiltless who takes His name in vain.

Other examples from the Old Testament could be observed, but once we see this emphasis, is it any wonder that when people tried to trap Jesus’ by asking what the greatest commandment was, that Jesus responded that loving God is the “first and great” commandment?

35 Then one of them, a lawyer, asked [Him a question], testing Him, and saying, 36 “Teacher, which [is] the great commandment in the law?” 37 Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 “This is [the] first and great commandment. [Matthew 22:35-38]

In every generation and dispensation since the foundation of the world, what has set people apart is whether they are willing to acknowledge God. Additional study will further demonstrate that just like the examples in this post this is more than just lip service (Saying, “I believe in God.”) but rather is reflected in a life of honoring God’s will. In another post we will examine together what the Bible says about what happens to those who fail to honor this principle in their lives. But, for now, I simply wish to consider this… Can it be said of the way that we live our lives and the focus of our lives that we represent the concept, “In the beginning, God…”

Dan Fontenot

(All passages quoted from New King James Version unless otherwise noted. Text copied from www.BlueLetterBible.org)