To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
The Lord tells us in His preamble of Proverbs that one of the purposes of this great book is for us “to know wisdom and instruction” and “to perceive the words of understanding” (Prov. 1:2). And bam!— there it is again, right before our eyes— another troubling yet vital four-letter word.
But this time the word isn’t love, but know. What does it mean to know something, to know wisdom and instruction for example? What does it mean to be in the know, to have knowledge, or to acknowledge someone or something?
Our contemporary definition of know is “to be aware of something through careful observation, inquiry, or information; to develop a relationship with someone through meeting and spending time with them, to be familiar or friendly.”
“Oh, ask me, I know the answer to that question.”
“You don’t have to remind me, I know I have to pick them up at the airport at 5:00pm.”
“I know who you are, I recognized you from your Facebook profile.”
“I know all about Abraham Lincoln, I read about him in my textbook.”
But there are several different words that are translated know in the Scriptures: in the Greek, primarily edio (1492 in Strong’s) and ginosko (1097 in Strong’s) and in the Hebrew, yada (3045 in Strong’s). Plus, the Hebrew word yada is essentially the same as the Greek word ginosko. So let’s take a few minutes and dig a bit deeper into the difference between knowing something edio or knowing someone ginosko (or yada) and why that is even important.
To Know With Your Head or Your Heart
This is the question that defines these two words and describes the different aspects of what it means to know. Is it merely head knowledge, the accumulation of facts and raw data? Or can I know someone on a more personal level, with more intimacy and passion? Can I know them by my experience with them and not just know facts about them.
In the Greek, edio (1492) is defined as “to see, to perceive with the eyes or the senses, to observe, to get or gain knowledge of something, to understand.” It’s a mental, cognitive retention of some facts. It’s head knowledge, or book learning. It’s preparing for your final exam by memorizing all the answers and then forgetting them immediately after the test is over. It’s knowing, for example, that George Washington was the first President of the United States yet that fact having absolutely no impact on your daily life. “Yeah, I know all about George Washington. I saw his picture and watched the movie. But so what? Who cares?”
But there’s another word translated know that means something altogether different. The word ginosko (1097) means “to know in a completed sense, to know everything and to know in full, to learn to know; it means to know by intimate experience or expression; to choose, to approve, to love, to embrace, to desire, to place one’s favor upon.”
One can know something by studying the facts (edio) and one can know by choosing to live the experience (ginosko) and loving every minute of it. One is dry, academic and sterile (edio) and the other is complete, life- changing and exhilarating (ginosko).
Let me give you just a few examples.
Matthew 1:25 – “And (Joseph) did not know her (ginosko – or, to know by intimate experience or expression, to choose, to love, to desire, to place one’s favor upon) till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.” This word, in both the Old and New Testament, is used as a euphemism for sexual relations between two people. “Now Adam knew (yada) Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain” (Gen. 4:1). When Adam knew Eve it was obviously more than memorizing a few facts about her, wasn’t it?
Luke 8:46 – “But Jesus said, ‘Somebody touched Me, for I perceived (ginosko – or, to know by intimate experience or expression) power going out from Me’.” Jesus knew (ginosko), not by reading a book or sitting in a classroom (edio), that something had happened to Him— He personally experienced power going out from Him to the woman with the issue of blood. He knew (ginosko), without being told, power had gone out from Him because He experienced it Himself.
“I Know My Sheep”
And then there are the incredible passages that show the choice, desire, love, approval and favor associated with Jesus knowing (ginosko) those who belong to Him. This is not cognitive or head knowledge, this is something deeper, something much more intimate. This is Jesus knowing, choosing, loving, approving, and desiring those He places His favor upon, those called the elect in Him (Rom. 8:33).
John 10:14 – “I am the good shepherd; and I know (ginosko) My sheep, and am known (ginosko) by My own.” Jesus knows (ginosko) those that belong to Him. He knows (ginosko) them intimately, He has chosen them, approved of them, embraced them, and has placed His favor upon them. And the elect, those He has chosen for His own, also know (ginosko) Him in return. They don’t just know (edio) about Jesus, they know (ginosko) Jesus by intimate experience and expression. They also choose Him, desire Him, love Him and belong to Him.
But note this: Jesus knows (edio) everything and everyone. After all, He is God and He is sovereign. But He only knows (ginosko) those who are His own, those who belong to Him, those He has chosen, His sheep.
But it gets even better.
John 10:15 – “As the Father knows (ginosko) Me, even so I know (ginosko) the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” As the Father completely and fully, with intimate experience and expression, knows (ginosko) the Son, so the Son, the third Person of the Trinity, also knows (ginosko) the Father in the same way.
“I Never Knew You”
One more before moving on.
Matthew 7:23 – “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew (ginosko) you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” This certainly doesn’t mean there was some body of knowledge in the universe or some group of people the Son of God was unaware of. It doesn’t mean there was something He had to learn, something that slipped His mind, some skill He had yet to master, or something He simply forgot. “Uh, I’m sorry. What was your name again?” No, Jesus knows (edio) all. He is God and, among other things, He is omniscient.
This use of ginosko means there are some whom He has not chosen. Some He doesn’t have an intimate, loving experience with. Some upon whom He has not placed His favor and some He does not desire or approve of. And who are these? Jesus said, “You who practice lawlessness! (Matt. 7:23). You who reject His love, mercy and sacrifice. You who are lost, unredeemed, and unrepentant of your sins.
To Know Wisdom and Instruction
So you see, when you come across the word know in the Scriptures, please understand it can have a far deeper meaning than simply being aware of something because you have carefully observed it or have memorized certain facts that pertain to it. The word you read can mean to know (edio) in a general, mental, cognitive way or it can mean something much deeper (ginosko) that involves experience, intimacy, volition, and love.
And also remember that ginosko in the Greek is essentially the same word as yada in the Hebrew. So when we read in the Proverbs: “To know (yada) wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding”— it means we are to know (yada) in a completed sense, to know everything and to know fully, to learn to know; it means to know by intimate experience or expression; to choose, to approve, to love, to embrace, to desire, to place one’s favor upon.
And what are we to know (yada) like that? Wisdom and instruction. And what do wisdom and instruction mean and how can we choose to have an intimate experience with both and to know (yada) them completely and fully as the Scriptures command?
Stay tuned. Because that’s exactly what we’ll be examining tomorrow.
- When you read the word know, do you mentally define it as edio or ginosko? Which one do you naturally default to?
- What resource do you use to discover the deeper meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words in our Bible?
- How long have you been using that resource? What do you like about it and what are its shortcomings?
- Is taking more time to study your Bible difficult for you? And, if so, do you know why? Do you put the same effort into studying God’s Word as you would, for example, a college History exam? And again, if not, do you know why?
- On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rate your desire for God’s Word at this point in your life? What was it three months ago? One year ago? Are you growing in your faith or standing still? And finally, what are you prepared to do about it?
Next Step Challenge
During your personal Bible reading time, commit to make it a practice of looking up each instance of the word know and mark in your Bible if it’s ginosko or edio or maybe another Greek word. You may even choose to write above them the Strong’s reference number: 1097 for ginosko and 1492 for edio.
Then look and see if you can find any other words that translate ginosko (such as comprehend, learn, realized, notice, understood, etc.) or edio (such as see, behold, perceive, etc.) to help your further understand the meaning of the Scripture you study.
To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
Our culture is fascinated with four-letter words.
And believe it or not, the same can be said of the Scriptures. The Word of God places an incredible amount of significance on some simple, four-letter words.
Let me give you a quick example.
Show Me the Love
There are some four-letter words that will transform your entire life once you understand their meaning. “Love” is one of these words. In our culture you can love your wife, love your children, love your job, love pizza and ice cream, you can love Fluffy your new pet cat, you can love the way you look in a pair of jeans, you can love the meal you’ve just eaten at Cheddars, you can love the Carolina Panthers, you can love Johnny Depp movies, you can even love the deal you got on your new car. And in the English, all we know is that you have a really strong and intense feeling of affection for whatever phrase comes after the word love— even if that phrase ranges from your love for your children to your love of ice cream.
But in the New Testament we find several different Greek words used to describe different kinds of love. For example, you have the word agape which describes the highest form of love, the kind of love the Father has for the Son and the Son for the Father (John 5:20). It’s the altruistic, self-sacrificing, accepting, benevolent, gracious, all-encompassing and all-giving love that is used in Scripture to communicate the love God has for His creation and for His children.
Next you have phileo which is defined as “brotherly love” or the love between friends. It means to have affection for someone, or to befriend someone. As a side note, God calls us to agape our enemies, to love them like Christ loves us in order to win them to Him. But He never encourages us to phileo our enemies, to befriend them. Why? Because “bad company corrupts good character” every time (1 Cor. 15:33). Remember?
Then you have eros, the intimate, physical, sexual love a man has for his wife. This is the root of our word, erotic. It expresses feelings of arousal shared between people who are physically attracted to each other.
We have three different Greek words used to describe in great detail the meaning of a simple, four-letter word. We enjoy and rejoice in, for example, the agape of God yet we would never agape pizza. We phileo our best friend, our college roommate, but would never use eros to describe that relationship. See the difference? Can you see how important it is to define and understand even our simple, overused, familiar four-letter words?
Let me show you how this plays out in real time.
Do You Love Me?
In the last chapter of John we find Jesus restoring His disciples, specifically Peter, and we have recorded a conversation where Jesus asks Peter, three times, “Do you love Me?” The conversation goes like this:
Jesus: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me more than these?”
Peter: “Yes Lord; You know that I love You.” (John 21:15).
Jesus: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
Peter: “Yes Lord; You know that I love You.” (John 21:16).
Jesus: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?”
Peter: “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” (John 21:17).
The third time Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him the Scriptures say: Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” (John 21:17). Why? Why was Peter grieved? Was it because Peter didn’t think Jesus was paying attention to what he was saying? Or was it because Peter didn’t like getting grilled in front of his friends? Or maybe Peter wasn’t grieved, maybe he was just annoyed Jesus kept asking him the same question over and over again and didn’t seem to accept his answer?
Maybe. But maybe not.
Unless we understand the meaning of one, simple, four-letter word, we can come up with all sorts of reasons for Peter being grieved that are not true. But once we take the time to see what Greek words for love are used in this conversation, everything changes. Everything becomes crystal clear. There’s no longer any reason to guess or to assume, now we know. Here is their conversation in the Greek:
Jesus: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me more than these?”
Peter: “Yes Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” (John 21:15).
Jesus: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (agape) Me?”
Peter: “Yes Lord; You know that I love (phileo) You.” (John 21:16).
Jesus: “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love (phileo) Me?”
Peter: “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You.” (John 21:17).
Or, to put it in our language:
Jesus: “Peter, do you love (agape) Me like I love (agape) you? Do you love (agape) me with an unselfish and self-sacrificing love (agape) like I love (agape) you?”
Peter: “Uh, Lord. I love (phileo) you like a friend.”
Jesus: “Peter, do you love (agape) Me like I love (agape) You? Do you love (agape) Me with the highest form of love (agape)?”
Peter: “Lord, like I said, I love (phileo) you like a friend, like my best friend.”
Jesus: “Peter, do you really just love (phileo) Me like a friend?”
Peter: “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love (phileo) You like my best bud, like my pal, my buddy, my homeboy, my BFF.”
Can you see now why Peter was grieved the third time Jesus spoke? The true meaning of some small, four-letter words can change our entire understanding of what the Scriptures truly say. And this is just the beginning.
Yada and Ginosko
Which brings us to another vital, four-letter word. And this word is know. To know how. To know what. To know something. To be in the know. To have knowledge. To acknowledge someone.
Again, there are several Greek and Hebrew words used to describe and define a clear and concise picture of what our single word know actually means. And until we unpack these words we’ll never understand the glorious depth of what the Lord is revealing to us in His Word. We’ll get lazy and let our English definition of what we think the word means cloud what truth He may be telling us today. And that would be a great shame.
In Proverbs 1:2 we read that one of the purposes of this great book is: To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding.
But what does the word, know (yada in the Hebrew and ginosko in the Greek) really mean? And does it matter?
Hang on, my friend. For tomorrow we’ll look at this powerful four-letter word and see exactly how the Lord uses it to give us a lasting understanding of what it means to “know wisdom and instruction” (Prov. 1:2) and also what it means when Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own” (John 10:14).
- What does the word love mean to you?
- Can you use agape, phileo and eros to describe the different kinds of love in your life? Do you see the difference?
- Will you, from now on, circle the word love each time you read a passage and indicate for yourself what Greek word is used?
- What do you think it means to “know wisdom”? And how would you define wisdom?
- Can you describe a time when you felt God had given you His wisdom? What was that like? And if you have never had that experience, why not? Can you think of a reason God hasn’t given you His wisdom in a particular situation? And do you want that to change?
Next Step Challenge
Go grab a Word Study, like Vines or Zodhiates, or go to www.blueletterbible.com and do a simple, online word search for “know” in both the Old and New Testament. Notice the different ways the word is translated in the English. What does that say to you?
Then go to John 21:17 (see below) and notice the two different words translated “know” in this passage. What is the Lord trying to tell us?
He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of Jonah, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know (eido) all things; You know (ginosko) that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.”
Finally, look up the meaning of eido (1492 in Strong’s) and ginosko (1097 in Strong’s) and write this verse again using the proper meaning of the Greek words for love and for know.
Does this statement by the Lord seem clearer to you? Good.
Why is the Church in the Situation it is Today?
Another great question. But the answer is also quite simple.
We have allowed the church to become what it is, or isn’t, today. The fault and blame for the carnality of the church belongs to each of us. We, as those who make up the Church, His Body, of which He is the Head, the Preeminent (Col. 1:18), have allowed it to be hijacked by those seeking entertainment and the glorification of the flesh and not the moving of the Spirit.
We have enjoyed church services that seem like family-friendly rock concerts and not worship times designed to bring us closer to the Lord we love. We have supported and promoted pastors and sermons that feed our feelings of self-importance rather than exalting and glorifying Christ. We want to have our egos stroked, our selfish wants fulfilled, and our lives uninterrupted by a God we claim to know— but truly don’t.
And we’ve done this to ourselves. The blood is on our own hands.
We smugly cherry pick the Scriptures we like, those we agree with, the non-convicting ones, and reject the others as the words of mere men and not the very words of God. We turn Jesus in to our personal Savior, our personal God, with our personal understanding of who He is and what He requires of each of us based on our own personal feelings or agenda.
We pepper our conversations with phrases like this:
“My Jesus would never want me to do anything I don’t want to do.”
Or, “My Jesus only wants me to be happy and I’m not happy with my wife right now. I’m going to call my lawyer tomorrow. It’s what my Jesus would want me to do.”
Or, “My Jesus doesn’t expect me to follow or obey Him it makes me feel uncomfortable around my friends. My Jesus loves me and is all about me.”
No doubt. I bet your Jesus is all about you. But that’s not Jesus. There is no “My Jesus”— there’s only Jesus as revealed in His Word. “My Jesus” is just an image of Jesus you have created yourself, one created in your own image, one you feel comfortable to worship, someone who thinks just like you. In reality, your “my Jesus” is an idol that looks and feels and thinks just like you do. So when you come to church and worship “my Jesus“— you’re worshipping yourself.
Let me give you one last example before we call it a day.
Let’s look at what some in the church, maybe even you, call salvation.
Same Great Taste, But Less Filling
Without a doubt, the church languishes as it does today because many, if not most, of professing believers in America are not even saved. Does that sound harsh? Well, consider this: many today have bought into a mindset that claims to allow them to live anyway they want and still claim to “belong to Jesus.” But John said:
“If we claim to have fellowship with the light (to be a believer, a follower of Jesus, a Christian), and yet walk in darkness (to live like the world), we lie (in claiming to have fellowship with the light) and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:6).
Also, many today flat out refuse conformity to the image of Christ. They desire to model their life after the world and all its lusts and have a “form” of godliness but not power (2 Tim. 3:5). Why? Simply because they have been told that salvation consists of nothing more than coming to church on Sunday, praying the “sinner’s prayer” years ago in VBS, or being baptized, and have no clue as to the radical change that takes place when regeneration occurs in a person.
To illustrate this point, the following is from Rick Warren’s book, the Purpose Driven Life (arguably one of the most popular Christian books in the last 40 years). After spending two paragraphs condensing the Gospel into a simple “Believe and Receive” formula, the Purpose Driven Gospel Presentation moves to the closing prayer of repentance and faith.
From the pen of Rick Warren:
“Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: ‘Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.’ Go ahead.
If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God! You are now ready to discover and start living God’s purpose in your life.”
From there, the reader is instructed to email Rick and receive a free booklet from his ministry.
No repentance. No recognition of the Lordship of Christ. Nothing. For me, it’s Gospel Lite. “Same great taste, but less filling.”
Can you see the difference? Do you see why not all professing Believers will suffer persecution but only those who “desire to live Godly in Christ” (2 Tim. 3:12), those who enter the narrow gate by the standards, the completed work of Christ (Matt. 7:13) and not by any other way? (John 10:1)
Some will suffer for refusing to compromise their faith or the integrity of the Lord and His Word while others, maybe you, will pretend everything is OK. “Hey, everything’s fine. No problems here. Me and my Jesus, we’re doing all right.”
But are you really? It’s time for some self-examination to see if we are truly in the faith, don’t you think?
Then join with me, will you?
For Part 1: Not Every Christian Will Suffer Persecution. Will You?
Not Every Christian Will Suffer Persecution. Will You?
If you’re alarmed and concerned about how bad the persecution of Christians and the church will get in America in the very near future, you’re showing yourself to be far more astute in understanding the “signs of the time” than most of the professing church today (Matt. 6:33). Why? Because it seems, at least in America, that we have adopted a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” mindset regarding current events and how they may interrupt what we hold most dear: our vacations, our retirement, our free-time, our video games, and our false sense of security in our immature relationship with Christ.
Oh, I’m sorry. Did that last phrase sting a bit? Did it seem somewhat unloving, maybe a little unkind? Good. It shows you’re not completely anesthetized to what is happening all around us. And that’s a good thing. A real good thing.
But to your question: How bad will the persecution really get? Well, that all depends on what kind of Christian you are and what kind of church you attend.
Let me explain.
We Will Not All Be Treated Equally
Not everyone will suffer the same under the coming persecution, just like they didn’t all suffer the same under Nero’s reign of terror during the first century of the church. Nor did all Christians suffer the same under the persecution of the Third Reich. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, for example, was martyred for his faith on Monday, April 9, 1945. But just six days later churches all throughout Germany met in their own church buildings unmolested by the Nazis who murdered Bonhoeffer earlier that week.
How could that be? How could one group of professing Believers suffer persecution at the hands of the Nazis yet another group freely worship with the permission and approval of the persecuting State? How is that possible?
More recently, in September 2015, twelve Christian missionaries, including the 12 year old son of a ministry team leader, were crucified and beheaded near Aleppo, Syria for not renouncing their faith and converting to Islam. If they caved into their fears, as some did, and renounced the Jesus they loved, they would be alive today. But since they “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41), they died a horrific death. For those twelve, it was more important to obey God and not man (Acts 5:29) and, in doing so, proved the “world was not worthy” of them (Heb. 11:38).
Again, two groups of Believers. One group renounced Jesus and lived and the other remained faithful to Him and died. Both groups were not treated equally. The severity of their persecution, and ours, is always contingent on one’s commitment to Christ. Throughout the history of the church it has always been that way, and it always will.
Soon, in our own country, we will find pastors and true Believers punished for preaching the whole Word of God, especially the Politically Incorrect passages from Romans 1:26-27 that deal with the sin of homosexuality. You heard right, the sin of homosexuality. Those who refuse to compromise on God’s Word regarding sin, even politically protected and government sanctioned sin, will suffer persecution. They will be fined for their faith in Him Who does not change (Mal. 3:6). Many will lose their positions, their life savings, and even their homes for their unwavering faith. They will be marginalized, vilified, mocked and ridiculed, they will be threatened and sued, they will be charged with a hate crime, arrested, and imprisoned for their faith.
And just like in Bonhoeffer’s day, while some are languishing in prison for preaching truth the culture rejects, others will be leading or attending churches deemed “acceptable” and “tolerant” by the very State that persecutes and imprisoned others in the Body of Christ.
What’s the difference? What separates these two groups of Believers?
Simply this: Desire. A desire to live Godly in Christ – no matter the costs.
Those Who Desire and Those Who Don’t
In 2 Timothy 3:12 the Scriptures state, “All who desire to live Godly in Christ will suffer persecution.” Note the condition and the promise. It’s one of the if/then conditions and promises found in Scripture. If you do this or meet this condition, then this will happen.
An if/then condition and promise means if we do our part, if we meet some sort of condition or requirement the Lord has established, then we have the confidence to know God will fulfill what He has promised to do. We see these all throughout the Scriptures. Remember the one from Romans we so often use when we share our faith with others?
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and (if) you believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, (then) you will be saved (Rom. 10:9).
Now, when it comes to persecution, the Lord gives us another if/then promise. He says, “All who (what) desire to live Godly in Christ will (what) suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). That’s a promise from the Lord. And that same promise is echoed by Jesus when He tells us not to be surprised, “If the world hates you, you know it hated Me before it hated you” and “If they persecute Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:18, 20).
Let’s look at the if/then condition and promise again:
“All who (if you) desire to live Godly in Christ (then you) will suffer persecution.”
The Condition: “All who (or, make it personal, if you) desire (or, will, wish, want, strive, make it your aim) to live (or, have your existence, your mode or manner of life) Godly (or, devoutly, reverently, obediently) in Christ…”
The Promise: “(again, make it personal, then you) will (or, shall, most certainly) suffer persecution (or, distress, trouble, peril).”
As you can see, not all will suffer the same. The defining characteristic of those who will be persecuted and of those who won’t, will be their innate “desire to live Godly in Christ.” This desire, this longing, this passion to live Godly in Christ no matter the costs, come what may, is the hallmark of a committed Christian’s life. They desire to know nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). To live as a committed Christian, as a real Christian, is to boldly acknowledge Him before “kings and governors” (Matt. 10:18) and to not count our life as worth anything other than following Him and being faithful to what He has called us to do (Acts 20:24). After all, isn’t that why He saved us in the first place?
When the darkness begins to fall and the persecution of the church becomes impossible to ignore, some Believers and churches will have that great desire to “walk as Jesus walked” (1 John 2:6) and renounce the deeds of darkness in obedience to Him (1 Cor. 4:2). And sadly some, in fact most, won’t. Some will suffer for the sake of their Lord knowing “this world is not their home” (Heb. 13:14) and they are simply blessed to be called ambassadors for Him, the One True King (2 Cor. 5:20). Others will love their life in this world: their status, financial security, their ease and comfort, and will renounce their love for Jesus, in either word or deed, and continue to hold on to the lie of “Your Best Life Now.” They will forsake their inheritance as a child of God (Rom. 8:16) for something far less and faithfully continue with the pageantry and charade of the life of a good Christian while the true Christians are rejoicing in the privilege of suffering for the truth, just like their Lord (Acts 5:41).
The stark difference between these two groups will be apparent to all. Actually, it’s apparent now. Can you tell the difference?
So you see, not all so-called Christians will suffer persecution at the hands of the State or by the hatred of our culture. Some will live in ease and comfort, proudly bringing their Bibles to the approved churches, the ones that proclaim the virtue of tolerance for sin and promote a god created in the image of man. But some will not compromise. They will bend their knee to no one but the Lord Jesus (Rom. 14:10). They will render to Caesar what is Caesar’s but they will not, under any circumstances, render unto Caesar what is God’s (Matt. 22:21).
In which group of persecuted do you find yourself? Are you one of those who will be persecuted for the sake of Christ by desiring, above all else, to live for Him? Or are you one of those who will persecute Jesus and His Church by feigning your loyalty to Him with false spirituality and loving your life in this fallen, perverted world more than you love the Lord? Are you the righteous or the hypocrite? Are you one who cries out, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matt. 21:19). Or will you, surrounded by an angry, Christ-hating mob, shout through your own apathy and indifference, “Give us Barabbas! We have no king but Caesar!”? (John 18:40, 19:15).
Which will it be? You can’t have it both ways, you know. Persecution has a tendency of forcing those it confronts on either one side or the other. Which side will you be on?
Remember, not everyone will be treated the same because of the name of Christ. Only those who truly are His will be willing to endure suffering and persecution. In fact, true Believers will embrace the honor to show the unbelieving world Who they belong to.
Do you belong to Him? And, if so, how do you know?
That’s the very question we’ll look at tomorrow.
For Part 2: Why is the Church in the Situation it is Today?
The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
Today, we look at the word proverb to discover what it means and why Solomon used this form of teaching to communicate God’s wisdom to us.
As we learned yesterday, Solomon wrote over 3,000 proverbs during his lifetime but the Holy Spirit decided to only use the ones found in this book to reveal His unchanging truth to us. It doesn’t mean the other sayings of Solomon aren’t important. It just means they aren’t inspired. They’re not “God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). They’re simply the sayings of a wise man and not the infallible, inerrant words of our sovereign God.¹
And the wise sayings of Solomon aren’t the only ones the Lord considered inspired. In the Proverbs we find sayings from “Agur the son of Jakeh” and someone known as “King Lemuel” (Prov. 30:1; 31:1), although many feel King Lemuel was another name for King Solomon. That may, or may not be the case, but we’ll look into that matter in more detail at another time.
Suffice it to say, the Book of Proverbs is a collection of… well, proverbs. God-inspired proverbs. And since most of them are from the lips and pen of Solomon, the book is rightly known as the Proverbs of Solomon. But for me, a better title would be: The Proverbs of God Given to Solomon to Give to Us. But that’s just my opinion.
What’s a Proverb?
Which begs the question, “What’s a proverb?” A proverb is defined as a “short, pithy saying in general use stating a truth or piece of advice.”² Biblically speaking, a proverb can be defined as “a short saying that expresses a general truth about God for practical, Godly living.” For us, the Proverbs of Solomon contain the wisdom of God that shows how to live above the sin and degradation of our society and how to understand and fully embrace the “mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16). The Proverbs give clear, practical examples on how to “walk in the Spirit” and not “fulfill the lusts of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). They teach us how to live everyday as an “overcomer” (1 John 5:5) and reveal to us that the “abundant life” Jesus promised is truly obtainable and not just beyond our grasp (John 10:10). And they present us with a vivid, in-your-face contrast between the painful consequences of choosing the path of the foolish or the wondrous blessings that come with walking in the way of the wise.
But there’s so much more.
Not all the God-inspired proverbs are found in the Book of Proverbs. Other proverbs can be found spread throughout the Old Testament and many are quoted in the New Testament.³
Plus, proverbs or proverbial sayings are not exclusive to the Scriptures. Every culture has their own set of proverbs, their own collection of “homespun wisdom” or “short statements of truth.” See if you recognize any of these sayings from American folklore:
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
A fool and his money are soon parted.
A friend in need is a friend indeed.
A penny saved is a penny earned.
Better safe than sorry.
Great minds think alike.
And in our culture, a common-sense saying like these, often repeated, is considered true.
But this is where the two part company. The difference between a man-made proverb, which may be true, and a God-inspired proverb, which is always true, is that often the man-made proverb contradicts itself. But that’s never the case with the Proverbs of Solomon.
Let me give you a couple of examples of this type of inherent contradiction:
“Opposites attract” and “Birds of a feather flock together.” How can they both be true?
“The early bird gets the worm” and “Haste makes waste.” Again, seems like a contradiction to me.
“Clothes make the man” and “You cannot judge a book by its cover.” If both are true as individual statements, they should also be true when combined. But they’re not.
“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” and “Out of sight, out of mind.” Ouch.
Do you get the point? Human proverbs or common, cultural truisms cannot be trusted to be true in all situations. They really can’t be trusted at all. But the proverbs from God, the proverbs found in the Book of Proverbs are, like all Scripture “given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). They are God’s Word and absolutely true regardless of man’s evolving mindset or changing moral compass.
But Why Short, Pithy Statements?
And that’s a great question. The simple answer is because each proverb summarized the core nugget of a much larger truth and it does it in a way that’s easy to memorize and later remember. For example, John MacArthur can preach an hour long, 10,000 plus word sermon on pride and we would be hard pressed to remember much of what he said Monday morning. But Solomon can summarize God’s teachings and warnings about pride in just a few, short, easy to remember statements like these:
The promise and warning: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18.
The warning and the contrast: “When pride comes, then comes shame, but with the humble is wisdom” – Proverbs 11:2.
Another warning and contrast: “By pride comes nothing but strife, but with the well-advised is wisdom” – Proverbs 13:10.
And finally, the promise and contrast: “A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor” – Proverbs 29:23.
See the difference?
This is why God so effectively employed, through His servant Solomon, the art of speaking proverbs so He could implant in our heart His power-packed, short statements of truth in such a way we could easily remember them and “not sin against Him” (Ps. 119:11). Ask yourself, which is easier to understand and remember? The 10,000 word sermon with all its examples and rabbit trails, or a concise, eleven word lesson on the consequences of pride?
“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” – Proverbs 16:18.
Yeah, I’m with you. Give me the eleven words, the catchy song lyric, the “short, pithy statement” anytime.
Nothing Left Unturned
So as we go through the Proverbs of Solomon, remember each of these proverbs contain a condensed summary, or a bullet-point type collection of God’s truth found elsewhere in the Scripture. They’re compact by design. But don’t be misled by their size. They’re incredibly powerful, like the power that comes from the splitting of a single atom.
God has chosen, for our benefit, to pack as much of Himself as possible into the few words that make up each proverb. And if He took the time to specifically choose each and every word, then we will need to spend some time unpacking those words to help us understand the meaning and implication of everything He said.
Why? Because God never wastes a word in the Book of Proverbs. He never wastes anything. After all, He chose the design of the book and the very words He would use, each consonant, vowel, and syllable to communicate His wisdom to us.
So don’t take this study lethargically. Don’t sleepwalk through the next 39 days? Why? Because God is about to rock our world by revealing to us His wisdom from the Proverbs of Solomon.
- Have you ever read the entire Book of Proverbs?
- What was your experience like?
- How long did it take you to complete all thirty-one chapters?
- Did you then, or are you now, reading more than one chapter a day?
- Have you ever considered reading just one chapter each day for a month?
Next Step Challenge
Would you commit, for the next 40 days, to read the first chapter of Proverbs at least five times each day? Would you also commit to reading it out loud?
And would you commit to praying the following each day before reading?
Dear Heavenly Father,
I deeply desire to know You more and to understand You. Would you speak to me today through Your Word and change my life with what You show me? I pray this in the name of Your Son, Jesus, my Lord. Amen.
1. Warren Wiersbe gives us the perfect interpretation of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 in his book Be Skillful by saying: “All Scripture is profitable in four ways: for doctrine— that’s what’s right; for reproof— that’s what’s not right; for correction— that’s how to get right; and for instruction in righteousness— that’s how to stay right.”
2. The word pithy means “something concise or forcefully expressive” and is a word brought back into popular use primarily by Bill O’Riley.
3. For example, Proverbs 3:11-12 is quoted in Hebrews 12:5-6; Proverbs 3:34 in James 4:6 and 1 Peter 5:5; Proverbs 25:21-11 in Romans 12:20; and Proverbs 26:11 in 2 Peter 2:22. See Wiersbe, W.W. (1996). Be Skillful. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.