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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Introduction to Pastor Chris' Paraphrase of Proverbs Devotion

Introduction
There was once a man who was made the king of all Israel while he was still very young.  How was he to lead when he had no experience?  God appeared to him in a dream and asked, “What do you want me to give you?”  The young man said, “O Lord my God, I am like a little child who doesn’t know what to do.  And here I am trying to lead a kingdom.  They’re too many of them to count! Give me wisdom so I can govern them well and know the difference between right and wrong. That’s the only way I’ll be able to govern Your people.”  

God was pleased and said, “Since you asked for wisdom to govern the right way and didn’t ask for a long life or wealth or revenge against your enemies, I will grant your wish! I will give you wisdom the likes of which the world has never seen! And I will also give you something you didn’t ask for—riches and fame!  No other king in all the world will even hold a candle to you!  And you will live a long, full life!” (Adapted from 1 Kings 3:5-14)

The young man was Solomon.  He is known as the wisest man who ever lived.  His wisdom lead Israel to a period of great peace, power, and prosperity.  Word of Solomon’s wisdom spread all over the world and people came from near and far to learn from him.  Solomon accumulated vast treasures of the finest quality.  His palace was luxuriously adorned.  He built a glorious Temple to honor God--the first Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.  

Solomon lived nearly 3,000 years ago.  His palace, his temple, and all his treasures are gone--faded into history.  However, Solomon’s most important contribution--the most valuable treasure he possesed--is still available to us today.  The Book of Proverbs is a collection sayings and advice that offer practical wisdom for life.  Many of the sayings were from Solomon himself; some were from others who were inspired by him.  Solomon’s love for wisdom and focused attention to it during his reign ensured the collection and preservation of Proverbs down through the ages.  Now, the wisdom that enabled a young, inexperienced man to become the greatest king Israel had ever known is available to guide our lives.

Wisdom.  It is more precious than silver and gold.  It is a faithful guard against trouble, injury, and death.  It is a fortress of protection and a treasure of immense value.  Wisdom leads to prosperity, honor, and success.  Those who have it want even more.  Those who scorn it suffer greatly for their folly.  To have great wisdom is better than any super power you could possess.

And yet wisdom of this magnitude is not something for casual amusement.  It is not something in which to merely dabble .  To find real wisdom, one must commit their whole heart to the journey.  Proverbs says we should search for wisdom as a man searches for hidden treasure.  He knows it is there and its worth is immeasurable and its value will alter the course of his life.  He doesn’t casually search for the treasure when he has a little extra time to spare here and there.  He doesn’t think about it one moment and forget about it for most of his day.  No, he thinks about that treasure all the time and he searches for it with his whole heart as often as he can, giving it everything he has, almost consumed by the search, because he knows finding the treasure will change his life forever.  That is how one searches for wisdom in the Book of Proverbs.  In fact, Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase of Proverbs 2:1-8 says, “If you listen to what I say, child, and hold on to these truths in your heart, if you pay attention to my wisdom and really want to understand, if you beg for more insight and really try to get it, if it’s as important to you as silver, like going on a treasure hunt, then you'll get to know God and be awestruck by the Lord.  The Lord makes us wise; He gives truth and understanding.  He fills good people with dependable wisdom.  He protects the innocent and maintains the road to justice, keeping his dedicated, godly people safe.”

Are you ready to search for God’s wisdom treasure passed down through the ages by the great king, Solomon?  I hope you are and I hope you will make it a lifelong quest.  It will change your life forever.

General Themes
You are about to make a start on your lifelong treasure hunt.  It begins with this thirty-one day devotion to the search of God’s wisdom.  Our goal together will be to grow closer to God as we grow in His wisdom.  There are several general themes I have discovered in my treasure hunt through Proverbs thus far.  I summarize them for you here.

First of all, true wisdom begins with a deep reverence for the Lord.  Even the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisest wisdom of man.  The wisdom we can attain by our own means is nothing compared to what God can give.  Therefore, if we want to be truly wise, we must humble ourselves before God and honor Him as our Lord, the Lord of all.  This in itself is wisdom.  It is to recognize the true state of affairs--that He is Lord and we are His.

Second, wisdom is a willingness to listen and learn.  Those who gain true wisdom are not necessarily the smartest, most skillful, or capable people.  It is not those who have the most natural ability or highest education who gain the most wisdom.  Sometimes these things even hinder the growth of wisdom because wisdom comes to those who are patient and humbly listen and learn.  Wisdom is not something you already have within you, it is something you receive from God when you listen and learn.

Third, a huge part of wisdom is controlling yourself and your impulses.  Again and again, Proverbs teaches people to control their tongue, their anger, their appetites, and desires.  Proverbs encourages self-disciple, hard work, persistence, and long-term growth.  One must be committed to the journey and willing to put off short term gratifications and gains for the sake of something more lasting.  This is wisdom.  Those who are ruled by their desires will miss out on wisdom.

Instructions 
This thirty-one day devotional is a great way to search for the treasures of wisdom in Proverbs.  It may be used as you embark on your treasure hunt for the first time or as an aid for those who have been lifelong students of wisdom.  Let me suggest some directions as you begin this thirty-one day journey.  

There is a short devotion for each day followed by a chapter from Proverbs.  Since there are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs, it makes a great month long devotion--reading one chapter of Proverbs per day.  Begin with a short prayer to the Lord.  Wisdom all starts with a deep reverence for God.  So, pray to God.  You don’t have to use the flowery language you might have heard a preacher or some deeply spiritual person use.  Simply talk to God as you would talk to someone you truly respect.  Ask God to teach you wisdom as you read the day’s devotion and chapter.  This is how King Solomon found wisdom.  He asked God for it.

Next, read the devotion at the beginning of each section.  These are short reflections that highlight insights I gained in my reading of Proverbs each day.  They will feature a short paraphrase that caught my attention.  Perhaps they will speak to you as well.

At the end of the devotion is my prayer for the day.  You may read it as my prayer for you or you may adopt the words as your personal prayer to God.

Finally, read the daily chapter of Proverbs.  I have compiled two versions side by side in parallel.  The version in the left column is the New American Standard Bible (NASB) and is one of the most accurate word for word translations of the Bible available in modern English.  It is a very reliable translation, but it is not always the easiest to understand.  Therefore, in the right column is Pastor Chris’ Paraphrase (PCP) where I have put the chapter in my own words, which I hope are as simple and straight as possible.  I suggest you read both versions--the NASB first and then the PCP.  After reading the chapter, close with a short prayer to thank God for being with you during your devotion and/or ask Him to continue to speak to you throughout your day about any particular insight that caught your attention.

Thank You!
Thank you for deciding to read my daily devotion.  I am proud of your commitment to spend time with God each day as you search for wisdom in Proverbs.  I am grateful you chose this devotional to be your guide.  I pray God will lead you to find more of this priceless treasure.  God bless!