Sabbath School Lesson for February 28-March 6, 2015
This week Solomon cautions us about the deceitfulness of people. We are warned not to be taken in by the masks that people hide behind, and also not to mask our own intentions or true character. He illustrates this by providing insight into some common human predicaments in chapters 25 through 27 of Proverbs.
We can sum up his advice by looking at a statement by Jesus. He said to His disciples, “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 NKJV …Oh, and did I mention that these wolves may be dressed in sheep’s clothing? See Matthew 7:15.
The devil has many ways to disguise his temptations. It began when he spoke to Eve through the dazzling, mesmerizing serpent. Although we wouldn’t be fooled by a serpent any more (indeed most of us are rather timid around the creatures), we’ve been told that Satan can even disguise himself as “an angel of light” (II Corinthians 11:14). Now who wouldn’t be attracted to that?
But there are many subtle ways to be deceived, especially involving our language. There are flattering words, lying words, smooth words that may harbor not so pretty intentions and thoughts. We must guard ourselves from these deceptions, no matter how small.
In the end, Satan will no doubt have trained his followers to believe small lies all along before they are introduced to the grandaddy one just before the Second Coming. We must become expert at perceiving deception, even in our closest friend or neighbor.
Key Text: “Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great” Proverbs 25:6 NKJV
The next verse reads: “For it is better that he say to you, ‘Come up here,’ Than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, Whom your eyes have seen.” v. 7 NKJV
This self-exaltation is one way to hide behind a mask. But you put yourself in the position of being taken down a notch or two, so it’s better just to stay humble.
Sunday: The Mystery of God
Looking at Proverbs 25:2, 3 may cause most of us to scratch our heads. Just what is Solomon saying here? “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.” v. 2
It sounds rather cryptic. What really IS the difference between the “glory” of God and the “glory” of kings? Is God concealing or hiding information from us? Or does it perhaps have something to do with the mystery of God, as Sunday’s title suggests?
The Living Bible comes to our rescue: “It is God’s privilege to conceal things, and the king’s privilege to discover and invent. You cannot understand the height of heaven, the size of the earth, or all that goes on in the king’s mind!” Proverbs 25:2, 3 LB
Compare this to a parent, explaining something to a child. The parent obviously has more knowledge than the child, who is full of questions about everything. The parent can only reveal what the child can absorb and appreciate. As humans, we are not equipped to handle all the mysteries of even our own small planet, let alone the mysteries of God.
These verses are setting the tone for our study of deception. God alone has the privilege of knowing much more than we do. It may appear He is concealing these mysteries from us, but in actuality this “mask” is a necessity, because we aren’t capable of understanding things on His level.
Discussion Questions: Read Isaiah 45:15. In what way does God hide Himself from us? The Living Bible says that “…you work in strange, mysterious ways.” What are some of the mysteries of God that we humans have a difficult time grasping?
It’s been said that “If God were small enough to be understood, He wouldn’t be big enough to worship.” ~Evelyn Underhill In what ways is this statement true? How does knowing this affect our worship of God?
Discuss the benefits and drawback of “questioning” God. When are we most likely to do this?
Monday: The Fool as Wise
Although we might think that relativism is a new phenomenon, there is evidence of this line of thought in the Bible. The tendency to think that truth and morality are dependent on the culture and environment of individual people was noticed even in the Old Testament.
The last verse in Judges, chapter 21:25, says, “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This describes what morality has been reduced to in current times as well. Today people without a King, or God, are left at the mercy of devising their own morality and truth about the universe.
But Solomon wants us to know that there are universal truths; there is a wisdom that far outshines the wisdom of the world, and reduces it to mere foolishness by comparison. Take a look at these statements by Paul:
“Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?” I Corinthians 1:20 NKJV
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God…that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God…But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing.” I Corinthians 2:1-6 NKJV
“For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you.” II Corinthians 1:12 NKJV
It seems perfectly safe to say that declaring ourselves wise is not a very wise thing to do. None of us can claim to know everything. As a matter of fact, it’s impossible to FULLY understand ANYTHING with our limited human minds.
We should always remember that we don’t have all the answers. Only God the Creator knows and understands all the intricacies, or inner workings, of the universe.
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 26:12. When does a man become wise in his own eyes?
Read Proverbs 25:28. Is this man who doesn’t rule over his own spirit similar to the man who is wise in his own eyes? What trait do they both have?
Why would “folly”, human philosophies and religious systems, that is labeled “wisdom” be more dangerous to its followers?
Tuesday: The Sluggard
Humor is evident in Scripture. It’s a way to get people’s attention, but also to help us remember the lesson portrayed. Imagery, or word pictures, have a way of staying with us longer than the words themselves. Jesus used humorous exaggeration when He said, “And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?” Matthew 7:3 NKJV
Similarly, we can’t help but smile when reading Proverbs 26:14-15, a passage that describes a sluggard, or lazy man.
“As a door turns on its hinges, So does the lazy man on his bed. The lazy man buries his hand in the bowl; It wearies him to bring it back to his mouth.” NKJV
Solomon suggests that laziness goes beyond physical inactivity though:
“The lazy man is wiser in his own eyes Than seven men who can answer sensibly.” Proverbs 26:16 NKJV
The man is not wiser here, except in his own eyes. We’ve all known a “know-it-all”–someone who thinks he has an answer for everything, when he actually knows very little about anything.
This attitude refers to an intellectual laziness, a tendency to be narrow-minded and closed-minded. It’s a very dangerous mindset, and one we should shun as much as being any kind of physical sluggard, loafer, dawdler, lazybones, or slouch.
Discussion Questions: Read Proverbs 26:13. What is this verse saying about a lazy man, one who cries out about a lion in the road? What other excuses have you heard from people trying to get out of work?
Is intellectual laziness more dangerous than physical laziness? Why, or why not?
If people have a responsibility to search for truth and not be intellectually lazy, then what is our role and responsibility in helping people find the truth?
Wednesday: The Friend as Enemy
We all need a true friend to “put us in our place” and call us out for our misplaced behavior or attitudes at times. It may appear that this kind of friend is really our enemy for awhile. But rebuke, kindly and lovingly delivered, is actually the sign of a really good friend, and we should not dismiss its value.
Here’s how Solomon sees this “mask” of rebuke:
“Open rebuke is better Than love carefully concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs 26:5, 6 NKJV
The New International Version seems to be clearer on verse 6:
“The kisses of an enemy may be profuse, but faithful are the wounds of a friend.” NIV
Open rebuke, the wounds of a friend, may not be easy to deliver, but the result will not only be a better, and maybe even closer relationship, but personalities may also be molded for the better.
“As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17 NKJV
Through confrontation, no matter how unpleasant at the time, our relationship and characters may be improved. Just as iron is forged by hard force, we can be changed by the firm, truthful rebuke of a friend.
Discussion Questions: Think of a time when you were chastised by a friend. How did it make you feel and was the final result a positive one?
What are some ways to make our criticism more palatable and redemptive? How do we avoid sounding critical and judgmental?
Thursday: The Enemy as Friend
Solomon goes on in chapter 26 to describe other types of communication that may not be so positive. We see in Proverbs 26:17-23 several things to avoid. He says, do not:
- quarrel or meddle(v. 17)–“He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own…”
- deceive by joking around (v. 19)–“…who deceives his neighbor, And says, ‘I was only joking!’ “
- gossip (22)–“The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles…”
These masks seem relatively easy to recognize, but most of are taken in by an eloquent speech, which is described as “fervent lips” (other translations call them “pretty words” or “smooth lips”).
“Fervent lips with a wicked heart Are like earthenware covered with silver dross.” Proverbs 26:23 NKJV
It’s easy for someone to say one thing, but feel or think something totally different. How easy it is to be “taken in” by such characters as:
- passionate politicians on television
- professional salesmen in the store
- the flirtatious man or woman anywhere
Discussion Questions: Read Matthew 10:26, 27. What does this tell us about our speech? What is one topic we are safe to be passionate or “fervent” about?
It’s been said that smart people keep their friends close and their enemies closer. What do you suppose this means?
Read Matthew 10:16 again and tell how this verse covers the theme of this week’s study.
Some ways we hide behind masks are described. We looked at:
- How God masks, or conceals, His mysteries until we can understand them
- How we hide behind masks of self-exaltation
- How the truth is masked when we are intellectually lazy
- Friendship can be masked if we don’t allow true confrontation when needed
- True intentions are often masked by our negative, or eloquent, language
Read carefully Daniel 1. Notice the language Daniel used with his friends, the chief eunuch, the steward, and the king himself. How would you describe his dealings with these people? Write down words that describe his communication with each one. For example: sincere, transparent, etc.
“Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children.” ~Steps to Christ, p. 100
Determine to have this kind of honest communication with God this week.
Next week: Living by Faith
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