July 10 — Vengeance — Prov. 20-23. It would have been helpful if there were a chapter break at the end of the long section of Solomon’s proverbs at 22:16 because “the thirty sayings” (22:20) of “the words of the wise” (22:17) begin a new section that extends through chapter 24. Each saying normally begins with a command and follows with a reason or result. Another group of Solomon’s proverbs will follow in chapter 25. I took a vocational aptitude test in high school that proposed what kind of work would best fit me. One of the three suggestions was to be a policeman. Often when I drive, I think of that test because I get a strong urge to want to ticket people who do things like rolling through a right-hand turn on a red signal. I was reminded today, however, that it is not my prerogative to punish wrongdoing. “Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the LORD, and he will deliver you” (20:22). Paul said something very similar: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). It is probably a good thing that I didn’t become a cop!
July 11 — Bragging — Prov. 24-27. The last section of Solomon’s proverbs (chapters 25-29) was discovered during King Hezekiah’s great reformation in Israel (2 Kings 18:1-6), about 300 years after they were written. I sometimes catch myself after making a comment that I realize was really intended to make someone think more highly of me. Hopefully, I will grow in catching myself before saying it. Our sinful nature is selfish and longs to bring favorable attention to ourselves. One of Solomon’s proverbs often comes to my mind when I am tempted to brag: “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips” (27:2). Others will notice good things about us and some will comment about it. That is enough.
July 12 — The ABCs of Womanhood — Prov. 28-31. We don’t know who King Lemuel was, but his mother taught him a well-constructed poem (31:10-31) describing the ideal wife and mother: “She is far more precious than jewels” (31:10). It is an acrostic poem with each verse starting with successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Her focus is at her home but she is also involved in wider aspects of work: “She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard” (31:16). We can sing her praises even if it isn’t Mother’s Day!
July 13 — Ecclesiastes — Ecclesiastes 1-4. The Latin word “Ecclesiastes” means “Preacher” (or “Teacher”—NIV). This book was written by Solomon, Israel’s wisest king (“surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me”—1:16). It is an unusual book in the OT collection of Wisdom Literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, and Song of Solomon). One could get depressed reading about its oft-repeated pessimistic view that “all is vanity” (1:2) but don’t let this book get you down! One of its main themes is that God rules over all people and things and that we are to fear God despite how confusing and incomplete life sometimes feels in our fallen world. God shows His purpose and ability to control by making “everything beautiful in its time.” His gifts to us are putting “eternity into man’s heart” and challenging us to “find out what God has done from the beginning to the end” (3:11). So, while experiencing the frustrations of life, don’t miss the blessings of God!
July 14 — Vows — Eccl. 5-8. When my younger daughter was 4 years old, she asked if I would help her memorize Scripture like her older sister had been doing. Knowing that the numbered references might be difficult for her to remember, I found ten special-combination verses for her to tackle, like Genesis 1:1. When we got to 5:5, I chose this important statement in Ecclesiastes: “It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay.” Not making empty promises is an important lesson to learn early in life. The context of this statement is about making vows to God (5:4), which gives even more weight to the statement. Have you promised God something in the past that you have not kept? This would be a good time to confess your lapse to Him and to get back to working on the good that you promised to do.
July 15 — Our Purpose — Eccl. 9-12. The final verses of this sometimes-confusing book are very clear regarding the purpose and direction of life: “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man” (12:13). This should be the life-verse for all of us. It ends by describing the negative consequences of living any other way: “For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (12:14). One of those secret things struck me earlier: “Even in your thoughts, do not curse the king, nor in your bedroom curse the rich” (10:20). Nothing is private for us when God is everywhere-present and all-knowing.
July 16 — Song of Solomon — Song 1-4. What is this book all about? That question has generated many widely different interpretations. Some have seen it as an allegory depicting love between God and His people (Israel or the Church). Most others see it more literally as a poetic drama emphasizing God’s intentions regarding love between a man and woman leading to monogamous marriage, from which Solomon certainly departed.