May 31th Living Faith!


Reading Proverbs 31:1-31

The final chapter of Proverbs are written by King Lemuel, however, the words were spoken and taught to him by his mother. Both John Wesley in the eighteenth century and Eugene Peterson in the twenty-first century, tell us that the greatest preachers they ever knew were their mothers. Just like chapter 30, chapter 31 is an oracle: a divinely given utterance. So, although the words are recorded by King Lemuel and spoken by his mother, it is God speaking directly to us.

We started chapter 1 by looking at fearing the Lord, and we finish with the beautiful picture of a woman who does just that in the normal everyday things of life: buying food, repairing clothes and providing meals. We are told that a woman who loves and respects God deserves more praise than one who is merely physically beautiful. Caring for her family and caring for others—these characteristics are praised in this woman. In a world dominated by ‘OK’, ‘Hello’ and ‘Vogue’ it is really refreshing to hear that. We are told, ‘Charm is deceptive and beauty is vain but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.’ This belief she has in God is much more than a tacit, intellectual, affirmation of the existence of God; it is a belief that shapes the way she lives and all she does. Perhaps it would be good to pause for a few minutes and thank God for the Proverbs 31 women we know.

Whether female or male the message of the Book of Proverbs is faith in action: do we live what we believe? As the famous saying goes, “We are saved by faith alone, however, faith is never alone, it is alway accompanied by good works”. ‘Good works’ such as speaking up for those with no voice (8) and caring for those in bitter distress (6). Years ago a well respected Christian businessman and I were discussing a business decision that was having implications for some people in his church; he summarised the situation as “Church is church and business is business”. Reading through Proverbs tells us that nothing could be further from the truth. Our faith, if it is living and active, will shape our behaviour: the way we do business, the way we drive, the way we play and watch sport,  even the way we relax. All these things should be utterly transformed by our love and respect for God. The great pastoral theologian, Eugene Peterson writes in his autobiography ‘Pastor’,

We don’t grow and mature in our Christian life by sitting in a classroom and library, listening to lectures and reading books, or going to church and singing hymns and listening to sermons. We do it by taking the stuff of our ordinary lives, our parents and children, our spouses and friends, our workplaces and fellow workers, our dreams and fantasies, our attachments, our easily accessible gratifications, our depersonalising of intimate relations, our commodification of living truths into idolatries, taking all this and placing it on the altar of refining fire—our God is a consuming fire—and finding it all redeemed for a life of holiness. (‘Pastor’ by Eugene Peterson p.230)

Jesus says

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done. ( Matthew 16:24-27)

For memorisation

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised. (Proverbs 31:30 NIV)

Prayer

Father, thank you that you sent your son for me. When I was lost and far away, dead in my sin, he died for me, in my place removing all my sin and welcoming me into full relationship with you. Thank you that I was saved by faith, and, even that was a gift of grace from you. Thank you there is nothing I can do to improve my standing with you because Jesus has done it all. I ask that my faith and my belief in you may constantly and consistently transform all areas of my life. Please let there be nothing of me hidden from you or outside of your Lordship. In Jesus name. Amen.

Comments:

  • Douglas Prentice says:

    We haven’t put replies that often, but we have followed the readings and teachings. It has been very rewarding. We haven’t attempted to learn verses as at our age we would get confused as many of them we learnt from the King James version way back!
    Encourage each other and all the more as you see the Day of Jesus Christ drawing near

  • Rachel Prentice says:

    Thank you Lord for Proverbs (teaching, encouragement and humour) and thank you Andy for taking the time and energy to bring all these studies etc to us.

  • Anne says:

    My friend Sheila ran a care home for the elderly specialising in dementia care. I had the privelege of working for her for a number of years. One of her favourite verses was Proverbs 31.8: Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. She definitely put this into practice in her care for those suffering from dementia who could no longer speak up for themselves. I thank God for Sheila.

  • Anonymouse says:

    Thank you Lord for my Godly wife.

  • Harry Alston says:

    I am not sure that I agree with Eugene Peterson’s flowery language which seems to indicate that our lives are full of idolatries, and to grow as believer, they need to be thrown on the fire. The secret of growth is more down to earth in Peter’s more user friendly words – “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” 1 Peter 2:2. Idolatry is just one of our sins and simply hearing directly from God brings conviction of sin that leads to repentance and hence to maturity.
    There is a tendency to regard our physical lives as not that important but here in Chapter 31 is a good woman who is taking care of her families physical needs and well-being to a remarkable extent. God created the physical as well as the spiritual and loves both. There is a nice saying in chapter 18 – “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” Christine is the best thing I have ever found!
    This chapter is all about the security of the marriage relationship and it is interesting that the Marriage Foundation in just the last few days has published a report that the committed marriage relationship is the best for producing children with robust and thriving emotional well-being. This study involved 3,822 children and showed that single parenting or cohabiting couples come nowhere near the same level excellence.

  • Mary Dicker says:

    Last comment should say shown!

  • Mary Dicker says:

    Thank you Andy for leading us on this journey. It has taken me down paths, memories, thoughts, questions, and has been a real blessing. Thank you for being who you are, and for your input into my life. Just like Auntie Maggie, you have shin me so much.

  • Mary Dicker says:

    I thank God today for my Auntie Maggie. I lived with her until I was 11. She was never a wife or a mother, but was an amazing mother to me. She showed me God in the way she was. She had such humility, but was never one to be put down. She gave of herself to so many. She always wanted to die with her apron on! Meaning, she continued to work until she died. The day she died, she had her apron on, ready for the day ahead. She said she would sit down because she felt a little tired. She closed her eyes and died. Her favourite scripture was Revelation 21, which she often asked me to read to her. She would ask me to pause as I read these words ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’.
    I thank God for my Auntie Maggie.



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