An Open Heart and Mind - Part 4 - Proverbs 1:33

An Open Heart and Mind – Part 4

Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them; but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.” – Proverbs 1:29-33 ESV

Yesterday, we talked about ignoring God’s counsel, and the day before that we talked about not choosing the fear of the Lord. The first day we talked about hating knowledge. Today, we continue on through Proverbs 1:30

Despised My Reproof

All of the topics that Proverbs 1:29-30 covers are important, but this one hits a little closer to home. While I can desire knowledge and keep the fear of the Lord in my heart and celebrate the salvation of Jesus, it is much harder for me not to despise reproof. Correction in all forms is hard to take as pride is constantly at war in my heart and mind. Even when it’s the Lord, it’s difficult to take it until I remember His love and embrace humility.

The warning in this verse is stronger than just struggling to accept reproof. The word used is despised. The idea is that it is disrespectful of the things that the Lord is bringing up. Synonyms for this word include: detest, hate, loathe, abhor, deplore. Every one of these words is a strong description of dislike. It’s beyond just a preference; it’s a passion to avoid correction.

The root of this is in all of us and it can be summed up in one word: pride. Pride makes us feel that we are good enough and that we are the ones who have achieved things to this point. When the foolish people that Proverbs 1 is talking about face the ugly truth that they aren’t as good as they thought and that what they do have is gifted and powered by God, they hate it and run away and despise it.

Humility is the idea of knowing who you are. It’s not about being less than what you are or more than that. We think that by putting ourselves down we’re being humble, but it’s not true. Humility means acknowledging everything about who we are and giving credit to the source. Humility means being open to seeing ourselves as God sees us and being able to accept who God made us to be.

Pride, while being the biggest block, isn’t the only thing holding us back. The second biggest block that keeps us from operating in humility is shame. Pride blocks it because it blinds us to seeing ourselves as God see us. Shame blocks it because we don’t feel we can accept or are good enough to accept who God made us to be.

Foolish people sit in their pride and shame and try to cover themselves with it. They justify their shame and they tout their pride. They have pulled both close as if it’s a protecting blanket. Then, they fight passionately to keep shame and pride covering them as much as possible.

We need to be aware of these tendencies and acknowledge when we’re letting pride shout at others or shame hide us. Letting ourselves be seen as we are, even if it’s just by us and God is a terrifying experience. Most of us have a negative talk track in our mind that reminds us of how we aren’t good enough or where we’ve failed. Stepping out against the negative talk takes a great deal of courage and a high level of trust in the person who sees you.

Trusting God is the best way to build up humility in our lives. It must be the deep kind of trust that comes from living life together, each day growing more and more. Shallow trust may make us feel like we can go to church and sing worship songs. Shallow trust makes us feel like we can pray over our food, when we remember. Shallow trust won’t get us free of the burdens of shame and pride that keep us from humility.

Humility is what we need, though, to be able to accept correction from the Lord. Humility lets us see ourselves and still believe that God can use us.

Proverbs 1:31 tells us the end of the foolish ones who hate knowledge, refuse to fear the Lord, reject His counsel, and despise His correction. It’s the worst possible outcome. Those who live this way are left to live out the consequences of their choices. The very traits that are developed by these selfish perspectives are their undoing. The end of all sin is death. The only question is how much damage can be done as we crash and burn, to ourselves and to others around us.

Instead, choose the way of life that leads to peace and life in the Lord. Choose obedience by loving knowledge, fearing the Lord, accepting and believing His counsel and respecting His correction. We can live powerfully when we live humbly and obediently.

Salvation to All Generations - Isaiah 51:7-8

Comforted by God’s Perspective

“Listen to me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is my law; fear not the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool; but my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” – Isaiah 51:7-8 ESV

Sometimes the scriptures are so comforting and uplifting. Sometimes, however, that comforting and uplifting is wrapped up in a warning that is unsettling. Several verses in Isaiah 50 and 51 are full of this blended warning and comforting. Having these given at the same time gives us a huge advantage in dealing with troubles when they come.

Isaiah 50:5-7 is Isaiah speaking and he says, “The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.”

There’s as a seeming contradiction here around shame. First, Isaiah says not only was he beaten, but his beard was plucked, he was disgraced and spit on. The beating, disgracing and spitting would be bad enough, but the beard plucking out is also culturally significant as men in Judaism wore beards. In other words, he was shamed. Or, more specifically, others tried to shame him. Yet here is Isaiah’s response, “The Lord God helps me, therefore I have not been disgraced.” Others have done everything in their power to bring him down, but he chooses to not be dragged down. In fact, he says, “… I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.” He is absolutely determined not to be ashamed.

I don’t know about you, but I think that if I were in his place, it would be very hard to choose not to be ashamed. Someone spitting on me and beating me would bring a whole pile of temptation to hide my face and give up. In order to stand with Isaiah in this same way, we need to redefine our definition of shame to line up with God’s definition.

Shame is a deep emotion that can affect both immediate actions and long-term ones. Brene Brown, author and researcher on shame and vulnerability, defines shame as the sense of being unworthy. Immediate shame can turn into long-term shame where, for the rest of our lives, we never truly accept that we’re worthy. It can be worthy of respect or love or gifts, or many other things. Whatever it is, our beliefs keep us from accepting what’s being given to us. We feel unworthy because of who we think we are.

The comfort in this passage is that God is reassuring us that we will always be worthy in His eyes, no matter what any person on this earth can do to us. God will never push us away. Chapter 51 verses 8 and 9 reassure us of this. It is to the people who know righteousness and who have God’s law in their heart. We are told that we don’t need to worry about other’s telling us we’re not good enough. Here’s why: God’s salvation, His willingness to extend grace and mercy and love to his children is for all people for all time. The wicked and their views and their definitions of who’s in the cool club, all that will fade away, but God never will.

Verse 8 in chapter 50 goes on to say, “He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.” It’s like Isaiah is saying, “You aren’t the boss of me! Only God is!” Isaiah knows whose opinion matters and he isn’t swayed by others even when they beat and embarrass him.

Isaiah also knows that God is with him, “He who vindicates me is near.” Isaiah understands that God is a loving Father who helps His children, even though Isaiah was physically hurt and mentally abused. Nothing swayed his belief in God or his understanding of his worth in God’s eyes.

I pray that we can begin to understand God on this level as well. When we have built up our confidence in who we are in God’s view, strength and confidence will pour out of us and we will be able to step up, and, like Isaiah, proclaim God with all our hearts.