July 3 — Helpless — Psalms 140-145. It seems “normal” to me that we should pray for God to do something for us that is rather outside our control, like “Keep me from the trap that they have laid for me and from the snares of evildoers!” (141:9). However, this same psalm begins with a prayer for things that seem to be within our control: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! Do not let my heart incline to do any evil …” (141:3-4). We must conclude from this that we need God’s help to do whatever He commands. We are more helpless than we might think!
July 4 — Hallelujah! — Psalms 146-150. All five of these last psalms begin and end with “Praise the LORD!” That expression is one word in Hebrew: “Hallelujah.” It is a word that has been transliterated into many languages around the world. In 1985 Leonard Cohan composed the song “Hallelujah,” which remains extremely popular even in our secular culture. But how many people who hear that song know that the word means “Praise Yahweh”? To some, it has become more like a Hindu mantra, a word that is repeated to somehow aid a person spiritually. We should remind ourselves about its meaning every time we use it. Ps. 148:3-11 declares that all creation praises God by their presence and function, being and doing what they were created to do. Mankind alone is given the opportunity and the choice to praise Him verbally and meaningfully. Praise Yahweh!
July 5 — Proverbs — Proverbs 1-3. The book of Proverbs was written primarily by Solomon. The first nine chapters present a father’s challenge to his son for the purpose of appreciating and gaining both knowledge and wisdom. The section begins with, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (1:7), and ends with, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (9:10). Knowledge in Proverbs is a “correct understanding of the world and oneself … while ‘wisdom’ is … applying that knowledge rightly” (ESV Study Bible). Understanding and application! The expression, “the fear of the LORD,” is also used many times in Proverbs, and it includes not only reverent awe but also a healthy fear of God’s displeasure and discipline (ESV Study Bible).
July 6 — Choose Your Partner — Prov. 4-7. These proverbs look negatively at the wayward woman, one who may be attractive but is promiscuous and devious. She also represents many people today who have a form of godliness (“I had to offer sacrifices, and today I have paid my vows”—7:14) but it doesn’t affect their way of life (“… so now I have come out to meet you, to seek you eagerly, and I have found you”—7:15). In contrast, is the faithful wife who is a refreshing and lasting source of satisfaction (“your own cistern … well … springs … streams”—5:15-16). Then, comes something I never noticed before: “Let your fountain be blessed …” (5:18). The fountain is the faithful wife. Satisfy her by drinking from her stream alone!
July 7 — Applying Wisdom — Prov. 8-11. Today we enter the second section of Proverbs. This primary section (Prov.10-26) presents proverbs of Solomon. He wrote others, however, since 1 Kings 4:32 says that he “spoke 3,000 proverbs, and his songs were 1,005.” A proverb is often a brief comparison of something physical that is applied in another sense, e.g., “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion” (11:22). It sometimes contains a humorous picture, like “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth” (19:24). Proverbs are usually understood to apply generally, therefore they are not laws or promises that apply in every situation. However, they do apply in most situations. Each of these proverbs is a part of God’s Word, so none of them may be dismissed as not being applicable. Be wise in applying them!
July 8 — Getting Lost — Prov. 12-15. I thought of the proverbial male who refuses to ask for directions when I read, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice” (12:15). Why do we tend to do that? Pride. Today’s proverbs focus on another evidence of pride: not accepting reproof. Both men and women hate being corrected because it challenges us to admit that we were wrong. There are negative consequences for refusing to acknowledge our mistakes. The one “who hates reproof is stupid” (12:1) and “will die” (15:10). But there are great benefits for those who are willing to humbly accept reproof, or correction, from someone. They are “honored” (13:18), “prudent” (15:5), “will dwell among the wise” (15:31), and “gains intelligence” (15:32). Let’s be willing to admit that we sometimes get lost and make mistakes.
July 9 — Overruled! — Prov. 16-19. I noticed four verses in our reading for today emphasizing that God has a plan for each of our lives that may veto some of our own desires and decisions. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD” (16:33). He will also work in our hearts and minds to bring us to the decisions that please Him and are good for us. “The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (16:9). “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (19:21). If following His will is our highest desire, He will make sure to get us to where we ought to go. “Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established” (16:3).