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Who is it that conquers the world, but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5.5, Mounce NT)

The word “conquer” is usually associated with words like “battle,” or “armies,” or “enemies,” or perhaps even “addiction,” rarely if ever is it associated with the word “believe.” It seems a fairly radical notion to say that belief in something results in conquering anything, and yet that is what we have from John here.

The word “believes” is the verb form of the noun “faith,” in Greek.  Believing that Jesus is the Son of God, results in conquering the world.  Now, John isn’t talking about physical conquering here, as if he were calling us to take over the world and form a one world government.  “The world” is the forces of sin and evil which are opposed to God and everything that he stands for.  “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” John has already told his readers (1 John 2.15).

Faith overcomes the forces of sin—the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2.16) —and allows us to obey God’s commandments.  Faith has power, writes John, power to overcome all forces that oppose God and the children of God.

 

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“The lips of the righteous feed many,
but fools die for lack of sense. ” (Prov 10.21, ESV)

To understand what Solomon is getting at (I think 😋) in this proverb, we have to remind ourselves what Solomon means by the righteous and fools.  To Solomon, the righteous are those who love God, who love and follow God’s law (see Ps. 119) and who encourage others to do likewise.  The fool, on the other hand, is the opposite of the righteous.  This person does not love God, does not love, nor follow God’s law, and encourages others not to love and follow God also.  The fool is diametrically opposed to God.

In this proverb, Solomon is speaking about words as a metaphor for spiritual food.  When those who love God and love his law speak, then those words will be spiritual food for everyone who listens and heeds their words. However, the words of the righteous will not be spiritual food for the fool.  Why not?  It’s because they do not listen to such words.  They don’t want to hear what God says, they have no interest in Him or in His laws, so they neglect it all.  This person will die for “lack of sense” (literally “lack of heart” in the Hebrew).  The fool will experience spiritual death rather than listen to the life-giving words of the righteous!

I like how the Passion Translation captures this verse:

The lovers of God feed many with their teachings,
But the foolish ones starve themselves
For lack of an understanding heart.

We would be wise, dear reader, you and I, to listen to the words of the righteous.

The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (Prov 10.20, ESV)

This is the second of three verses in which Solomon addresses the tongue and speech with the general theme of Words: Good and Bad (Tyndale Commentary), which could also be the theme of this particular verse.  Some questions arise from this little proverb.  Why is what the righteous speaks “choice silver?”  Is it the words they speak, or is it choice silver just because it is the righteous who speak them?  Why does Solomon contrast the “tongue” of the righteous with the “heart” of the wicked?

We have Jesus’ teaching from the New Testament which helps us understand what exactly Solomon was getting at in this little proverb.  Jesus says:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6.45, ESV)

The righteous speak “choice silver”/“good treasure” because that is what is in their heart because they are righteous. This is just something that is inside of them, which we know as we read the New Testament is due to the work of the Holy Spirit in them.

Solomon contrasts the heart of the wicked with the words of the righteous because out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

The takeaway for us; the thing that Solomon wants us to understand is that what we speak comes from our heart, and it is what is in our hearts that will determine whether what we say is choice silver or valueless, and our hearts are a work of God.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov 10.19, ESV)

This is the first of three consecutive proverbs in which Solomon discusses the use and power of words.  The Tyndale Commentary assigns the overall theme to these proverbs as: Words: Good and Bad. In this first proverb, we have an encouragement to be spare in our use of words.  Indeed, Solomon goes out of his way to draw a direct connection between many words and offending others.  “When words are many,” Solomon writes, then we can be sure that transgressions against others are many also. Solomon understood the human heart better than anyone before or since his day (with the exception of Jesus), so he fully understands the power of the tongue.  We see this same truth expressed by James in the New Testament:

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3.7-8, ESV)

The antidote to many words and corresponding many offenses against others is prudence, which is intimately connected with restraining one’s lips.  Prudence takes careful thought, analysis, and reflection; it requires care and concern and the ability to judge the actions and motivations of others correctly, and precisely none of these things can be done while we are talking.  Thus Solomon’s direction to keep our words few and our prudence sharp.

We are always better off listening before speaking.  Why is this so difficult for us to grasp as humans?

Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15:10, ESV)

This is the only place in the New Testament where I can find a reference to a reason for joy in heaven. Of course I am not saying that there is little joy in heaven, because that is not true, and I’m also not saying that this is the only reason for joy in heaven, that is an absurd notion. What I am saying is that it is very significant that this is the only reference to joy in heaven that we have. God is trying to tell us something here.

Two words in this statement strike me deeply: “one” and “repents.” The word “one” implies the importance of the individual to God. The joy comes when an individual sinner repents because God cares about, indeed he died for, the individual. This is the whole notion of Psalm 139, that we have a God who is vitally concerned about and dotes over (as it were) all of his people individually. God’s concern for the individual is our basis for concern about the worth and value of every individual human life, from unborn babies, to the disabled, to the elderly and infirm.

The joy in heaven comes at repentance. What is it about repentance that causes joy in heaven? Wouldn’t you have joy if your prodigal son showed up one day to return to the family? If you employed servants wouldn’t they be happy also? How much more so the angels in heaven when one sinner repents since their whole mission is to serve The One who makes the way for repentance possible.

May we rejoice with (and like) the angels when we see one sinner come to repentance.

I bow down before your divine presence
And bring you my deepest worship,
As I experience your tender love,
And your living truth.
For the promises of your Word
And the fame of your name
Have been magnified above all else! (Psalms 138:2, Passion Translation)

This verse is a good example of the working out of the truth of Heb 2.10: “For it was appropriate that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the champion of their salvation perfect through suffering.” (Mounce NT)

It’s fascinating how the writer of Hebrews and David both agree that we are here and alive, not for our own good or glory, but so that the promises of your Word and the fame of your name have been magnified above all else!

It would be nice if those who aren’t followers of Jesus could understand this fact, but apparently they think that God made the world mainly for and about and for the good of, human beings! Perhaps they need to understand God a little better before they weigh in with their cockamamie theories.

We who follow Jesus by faith, are not here for our own good, nor that God can make much of us–though we often act as if that were true–we are here to make much of God who is worth and worthy of being made much of.

Here’s the thing though.  When we make much of Jesus, when we live for the fame of His name, then we experience God’s tender love towards us.  We give adoration and worship, we receive tender love, not because we deserve it, but because God loves his people and wants the best for them, because God can’t help but pour out spiritual blessings on his own people.  This is his character.  This is his desire.

I pegged them immediately, the three girls in front of me in the line to board the plane.  They were well dressed, carrying loads of stuff, chatting together about their Uber rides to the airport and scurrying around doing various “necessary” errands while they waited for our already delayed flight.  They were obviously from well to do families, and headed for Phoenix for who knows what, no doubt posting every jot and tittle of their trip on Instagram for their friends to see and be jealous.

I’m good at pegging people into pigeon holes, Pharisees usually are, and I’m a good Pharisee.  When I catch myself thinking like this—which happens often (my besetting sin is judgmentalism)—I usually pray, “no, that’s not who they are, they are people whom God loves and who I need to love also.”

God reminded me of this fact in my bible reading highlight this morning.  Paul writes to Titus:

For once we ourselves also were foolish, disobedient, being led astray, being enslaved by desires and various pleasures, living a life of evil and envy, detestable, hating one another. But when the goodness and  loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, not because of works of righteousness that we did but according to  his mercy, he saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit (Titus 3.3-5, Mounce NT)

Did you get the lesson the Holy Spirit was teaching me in that first sentence?  It went something like this, “John, you used to be just like those girls, then God saved you, not because you deserved it, but because of his mercy.  If he saved you despite your judgmental, pharisaical character, do you suppose he could save them out of their own enslavement by desires and various pleasures?”

Ouch!  That hurt. Yes.  Yes, I suppose he could 😏