Sabbath School Lesson for January 31-February 6, 2015
One is drawn to this title, because it sounds so much like a common saying: “What you see is what you get.” Even as I wrote the title for this blog, I mistakenly began to type “see”, where I should have written “get”. We just can’t get the other saying out of our minds.
“What you see is what you get” is thoroughly engrained in us, but we must re-think this advice because it may not be totally accurate. Perhaps the opposite idea of “What you get is not what you see” is more realistic and should replace the other version.
Paul warned us in I Corinthians 13:12 that we “see through a glass darkly” (or we see a poor reflection in a mirror). Not only does this reflection give us a narrow view of our situation, but it most likely gives us a distorted view as well. We are only human, after all.
This is why we need to live by faith and not by sight only. As we have discovered this quarter, the fool trusts in himself (his own poor reflection), but the wise man trusts God, who has a much clearer picture of our world.
Key Text: “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” Proverbs 14:12 NKJV
Our study of Proverbs 14, 15, and 16 this week will help us understand why we must trust God’s way and not our own. It’s not enough to do what SEEMS right, unless God has DECLARED it right. Our perceptions are faulty and unreliable, compared to our omniscient Father in heaven.
The end has only two possibilities: eternal life or eternal death. It’s up to us to choose God or ourselves. Not many people would admit to choosing Satan, but in essence, we may share his fate when we refuse to let God lead us through life and just go on our own “merry” way.
Sunday: The Assurance of the Fool
Proverbs 14, in keeping with the style of previous chapters, contrasts the fool and the wise person. We see them side by side, from many angles. Solomon wants to make sure we can identify what it takes to be a follower of God. We must gravitate, develop, and become more like the wise in our walk with Jesus.
Let’s see some characteristics of the fool first:
- He speaks proudly (Proverbs 14:3–“In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride…”).
- He mocks wisdom (Proverbs 14:6-9–“Fools mock at sin…”).
- He doesn’t think critically (Proverbs 14:15–he “…believes every word…”).
- He is impulsive (Proverbs 14:16, 29–“…a fool rages and is self-confident.”).
- He oppresses others (Proverbs 14:21, 31–he “…oppresses the poor…”).
It’s easy to see these traits in others. But we should bear in mind that we are all apt to fall into one of these categories at some point in our lives. Only through God’s grace can we overcome these unlovely practices and live less like a fool, and more like the wise.
Discussion Questions: Read Daniel 7:8. This little horn power is described as “speaking great things.” Other translations have rendered this as “pompous words,” “a mouth that spoke boastfully,” or “a bragging mouth.” Why is pride and humility such a prevalent theme in the Bible?
Why is pride hard to recognize, especially if we tend to have it ourselves?
Monday: The Fear of the Wise
Now we take a look at the wise. How do his attitudes, decisions, behavior, and speech differ from the foolish? We see him in Proverbs 14 as:
- speaking with humility (Proverbs 14:3)
- growing in knowledge (Proverbs 14:6, 18)
- careful in his actions (Proverbs 14:15)
- calm, rather than impulsive (Proverbs 14:29)
- showing compassion and care for others (Proverbs 14:21, 31)
In addition, this chapter leaves no question about where this wisdom comes from. In the heart of the chapter we find:
“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, And His children will have a place of refuge. The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, To turn one away from the snares of death.” Proverbs 14:26, 27 NKJV
Discussion Questions: Read the Key Text again, Proverbs 14:12, and compare it with Matthew 7:13, 14. What is Jesus telling us in these verses? Does God intentionally make it hard for us to choose the right path by making it narrow? Or is He merely warning us that outward appearance is not always a safe guide?
In what ways are people, who follow the broad path Jesus described, actually narrow-minded? In what ways should people following God have a broader viewpoint about life? Use the examples of Caleb and Joshua (Numbers 13:25-33) and Elisha (II Kings 6:11-18) for your answers.
Judges 21:25 describes a time when Israel had no king and everyone did “what was right in his own eyes.” Can we have a king (Jesus) and still fail to follow His road map through life? What is His road map? Why is it not safe to divert from its instructions when explicitly fitting our circumstances, even when our senses tell us otherwise?
Tuesday: “The Eyes of the Lord”
The Lord is mentioned more often in Proverbs 15 and 16. As a matter of fact, Solomon announces in the beginning of chapter 15 that the “eyes of the Lord are in every place.” v. 3 NKJV See also II Chronicles 16:9.
Truly God can even read our thoughts. Proverbs 15:26 says: “The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,…” NKJV
This consciousness of God’s presence is actually what the ancient Israelites called “the fear of the Lord.” Psalms 33:18 states that “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him.”
The wisdom that this consciousness brings is the ability to discern good and evil (as Solomon understood when he prayed for wisdom, I Kings 3:9). See also Hebrews 5:14. (And we need this ability to know good and evil to survive this planet of sin and stay on the “narrow” way.)
New Testament writers also held to this idea of God seeing everything. Hebrews 4:13 says:
“And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” NKJV
Discussion Questions: Read Isaiah 5:20, 21 and discuss how the lines of morality become blurred and change with the passing of time.
How can we prevent this from happening in our own lives, households, and churches without becoming or appearing harsh and judgmental toward others? Are we indeed in danger of becoming judgmental in dealing with some ethical issues?
Is it possible to be resentful to God’s watching over us, as almost an invasion of privacy? Read Psalm 139 and talk about what our response to the omnipresence of God should be.
Wednesday: The Joy of the Lord
In Proverbs 15 we see the theme of joy jumping out in several places–both our joy and the Lord’s.
- Proverbs 15:8–“…the prayer of the upright is His delight.”
- Proverbs 15:13–“A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance,…”
- Proverbs 15:15–“…a merry heart has a continual feast.”
- Proverbs 15:20–“A wise son makes a father glad…”
- Proverbs 15:23–“A man has joy by the answer of his mouth…”
- Proverbs 15:30–“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,…”
What the chapter really portrays though is that despite affliction and heartache, we can experience a joyful relationship with God, and have the strength to endure that trial.
Two passages warn us that trials WILL come:
- Proverbs 15:15–“All the days of the afflicted are evil,…”
- Matthew 6:34–“…Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
But the good news Solomon brings is that we can still choose how to respond to these disasters in our life. God’s love can still shine through the darkest day.
Discussion Questions: Read Psalm 32:1-5. Instead of ignoring God, or even hiding from Him, what might be a better course of action?
Read Proverbs 15:23 (“a word spoken in due season, how good it is!”). Talk about how our words are important. Not just the content, but the timing of them. And who benefits, besides the listener?
Thursday: The Sovereignty of God
The first verse of Proverbs 16 sounds rather cryptic, causing us to scratch our heads:
“The preparations of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.” NKJV
The Living Bible, a paraphrased version, provides more understanding though:
“We can make our plans. but the final outcome is in God’s hands.” LB
We can see from several verses that follow that this rendering of the text is probably accurate. Here are some more insights on what Solomon is trying to convey to us:
- “Commit your works to the Lord, And your thoughts will be established.” v. 3 NKJV
- “The Lord has made all for Himself, Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom.” v. 4 NKJV
- “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” v. 7 NKJV
And perhaps the most revealing:
- “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” v. 9 NKJV
We must submit our plans to God, allowing Him to work with them. He will direct our plans, in accordance with His will, not ours. The key is surrendering our will to His. When this happens, we can be sure of His guidance and protection, even in the hardest times.
Later in the chapter, Solomon provides the means for this surrender to happen. He says:
“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall. Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.” Proverbs 16:18, 19 NKJV
And the final verse of this chapter indicates that we can’t take credit for our lives. After submitting to God, our lives are not left to chance. God is the deciding force in everything that happens to us.
“The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord.” v. 33 NKJV
Since this is the case, it’s vital for us to try to understand the great controversy between good and evil, between God and Satan. It will help us somewhat in knowing God’s will. He has a plan for winning the battle and we’ve been invited to be on the winning side.
Discussion Questions: Are the concepts of human free choice and the ultimate sovereignty of God in contradiction? Is our will hi-jacked by God and replaced with following His will? How does the theology of “once saved, always saved” fit in this picture?
Read Romans 8:28 (all things turn out for good…). Relate some times when God’s plans have turned out better than your own. How does this affect our ability to trust Him more?
Remember the Bible stories of Daniel and Esther. Can you see how God worked behind the scenes to accomplish His goals in their lives? How can their example help you still trust God, even when things are looking bleak and hopeless?
Proverbs 14-16 are powerful arguments for deciding to rely on God’s wisdom, rather than our own.
- Proverbs 14–The wise are humble, growing in knowledge, cautious, calm, and compassionate. (opposite of the foolish, who are proud, mocking, skeptical, impulsive, and oppressive)
- Proverbs 15–The “fear of the Lord” means a consciousness of God’s presence in every part of our life.
- Proverbs 16–We can trust God with every decision, knowing that He will remain in control as long as we desire His will to be done.
Read Psalm 23, contemplating deeply the meaning of the David’s song. Picture Jesus as the Shepherd, providing for YOUR needs. How has He accomplished these things in your life?
Be prepared to share your personal stories of God’s providence with others this week. How has He provided for you?
Next Week: Dealing With Fights
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