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9th June

Proverbs 28-31; Psalm 5

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
9th June

Proverbs 28-31; Psalm 5

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Proverbs, we’ve read through the introductory speeches from a father to his son and started the wisdom one liners. We learnt that wisdom is to be practised and that these aren't promises or laws. They are principles for living out righteousness and justice. The father started out by warning his son to avoid following those who are wicked. Instead, he should chase after Lady Wisdom, the embodiment of wisdom. Lady Wisdom calls out to all to listen to her, but the foolish ignore.

The father explained the value of wisdom and how it only comes from God. It comes when we put our trust in God and not ourselves. And it also comes as part of righteousness. They’re a package deal. If you’re not living righteously, you’re not listening to wisdom. Wisdom should be a lifelong journey. It doesn’t happen overnight.

The father then brought a second character, the adulteress. While pursuing Lady Wisdom leads to righteousness and life, pursuing the adulteress will destroy your life. This wasn’t meant to serve on a commentary on women. It’s a father using the idea of a good woman and a bad woman to teach his son wise principles. The ways of the adulteress seem attractive to begin with, but they soon lead to destruction. Instead, the son should hold to integrity and right living. The father also offered some practical advice. From handling debt, to working hard, to keeping your talk honest.

Again the father warned about the temptings of the adulteress, the life that looks good but quickly destroys. He explained that she uses all sorts of tricks to distract you from thinking so she can lure you in. In order to protect yourself from this, you need to guard your thoughts from being clouded, not stray too close to temptation, and look beyond the immediate promises of pleasure to the consequences of these actions. In contrast, Lady Wisdom is an open feast where all are invited and should be encouraged to join. As long as you fear God and put your trust in him and his wisdom, then you will be blessed. All of this then becomes the lens through which the wisdom sayings are looking through.

Proverbs 28-31

The book ends with two poems, one by a man called Agur, and the other by a man called Lemuel. These two poems will be our focus for today. 

Agur's poem starts with a recognition of his own weaknesses when it comes to wisdom. He understands that in his own understanding, he has very little wisdom. But then he turns to God's word saying, "Every word of God proves true;" (Proverbs 30:5). He sets himself up as the ideal reader of the book of Proverbs. He comes with humility, recognising his own shortcomings, and allows God's word to speak into his life and challenge him. Then, just like we have been doing, Agur summarises some of the gems of wisdom that he's gleamed from reading through proverbs such as these.

He starts of telling the reader to be fair to those that are underprivileged, such as some servants. He then lists four kinds of people who are arrogant and are likely to oppress those they see as less than them. Do not be like these people. Next, he challenges those that are greedy. Again, he uses four examples of things that are never satisfied, all of them bad; the grave, a womb that can't have children, a dry land that needs water, and fire.

Agur then lists four things that happen effortlessly; the way an eagle glides through the sky, or a serpent stretches out on a rock, or a ship cuts through the sea, or how a man and woman come together for the first time, untrained but still with an instinctual knowledge of what to do. Each of these things is to be admired in how efficiently they were designed to do what they do. Then, in contrast, we have a sinful woman. She is also effortless in her sin, finding no problems doing what she does. We should not be like that. We should never get to the point where sin is effortless or smooth. Our sin should grieve us.

Agur also takes some time to point out the foolishness of our striving. He lists four creatures who do not strive but still do what needs to be done. Ants work together to get food provided for themselves. Rock badgers are able to create safe homes for themselves. Locusts are organised even though they have no leader, and lizards are able to rest in the presence of the king. These creatures aren't busy doing. They're busy being what they were designed to be. Likewise, we can get so caught up doing things, when God just wants us to be who we were designed to be.

Then we have the poem from Lemuel. Just like Proverbs opened with a father giving wise words to his son, here Lemuel recalls the wise words his mother passed down to him. The first part is about how to be a good leader. This can be summarised to; don't chase after women or drink, instead make sure you stand up for the oppressed and judge rightly.

But the largest piece of wisdom Lemuel's mother gave him was about how to find a good wife. I have heard it said that a good marriage is the best thing this side of heaven, while a bad marriage is the worst thing this side of hell. Therefore, finding the right person and not compromising on these standards seems important if each person is going to have a good marriage.

Lemuel lists out multiple different characteristics of a great wife, and I imagine many of these would also apply to a great husband. In the original Hebrew, this section is laid out like an acrostic, where each line starts with a letter of the alphabet. This means that this poem reads as an A-Z on what makes a great wife. This woman works hard, she manages herself well, she provides for the family, serves the poor, stands confidently, and speaks wisdom.

The problem with the perfect woman is she doesn't exist, nor does the perfect man. But wisdom like this gives a good framework of both what to look for in a spouse, and what to develop in ourselves so we can bring them to our relationships, too.

As highlighted near the start of the book, wisdom doesn’t happen overnight. It has to be pursued and worked at. It has to be practised. Proverbs is a book that has to be read regularly and reflected on.

Psalm 5

This psalm is attributed to king David, and falls into the category of lament psalm, but only loosely. There is much less of a focus on a specific complaint and more of a general call to God to bless the righteous and oppose the wicked. 

The structure of the psalm mirrors itself, as we can see below. This is known as a chiasm and is very common in Hebrew literature, particularly poetry. As Hebrew poetry doesn’t use rhyming, it relies much more on repeated themes and very intentional structures.

(a) Psalm 5:1-3 - Asking God to hear their prayers

(b) Psalm 5:4-6 - God opposes the wicked

(c) Psalm 5:7-8 - But the psalmist may enter God’s presence

(b) Psalm 5:9-10 - May the wicked get what is coming to them

(a) Psalm 5:11-12 - Asking God for his protection

As all good prayers start, the psalmist turns to God and asks him to hear. To pay attention and listen. The psalmist identifies God as king. When we come to God in everything we do, we must acknowledge that he is king over our lives.

As they get ready to enter God’s presence, the psalmist also recognises all the things that would keep someone out of God’s presence. Anyone who is wicked, who boasts, who does evil or tells lies. Anyone who is bloodthirsty or deceitful, these are all things that God hates.

God’s house is a place of abundance and of faithful love. The thing that allows someone to enter God’s presence? The fear of God (Psalm 5:7). This fear leads to righteousness, and so the psalmist asks God to help them be righteous, particularly because right now they are surrounded by enemies and just want to retaliate.

Then the psalmist turns back to their enemies and asks why they wants to retaliate against them so badly. They are liars. Inwardly, all they want to do is kill and destroy, but outwardly they flatter and pretend. So the psalmist asks God to make the consequences of their actions fall back on them. 

Finally, the psalmist asks for God’s protection. While those who are wicked should be rejected, may those who trust in God rejoice and be protected. God blesses the righteous, protecting them with his righteousness.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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