I recently listened to two excellent talks by two wonderful Bible teachers about engaging well with God’s Word. The combination of the two has made much more excited to make the most of God’s Word, and relish the form it arrives in.
You should have a listen to them!
Your Quiet Time Should Change You (by Jen Wilkin)
Literary Beauty and Gospel Truth (by Kathleen Nielson)
Anyway, as a consequence of that renewed excitement, I have decided to dwell on one Biblical proverb per week, for a while. To give myself the opportunity to really enjoy a form of Biblical literature that I haven’t spent much time in over the years, and to hopefully grow in the process!
Proverbs are exciting
Proverbs are an unusual Biblical genre: each verse is a pocket full of wisdom. The writer of the book of Proverbs uses vivid and arresting imagery and scenarios, and he paints in rich colours. He distils wisdom in ways designed to light up your imagination, and lodge deep inside you. They are meant to simultaneously be easy to digest, and require proper chewing.
So as a result, wisdom doesn’t come from speed-reading a proverb, but from enjoying the imagery, and meditating on its truths.
In my case chewing anything over usually involves blogging. In fact, I have lots of unpublished posts that have served their purpose simply being a place where I can bring together my thoughts, and mull them through. So I don’t think I’ll end up blogging about every proverb, but I suspect I’ll be tempted to post about a few.
Week 1 – Proverbs 18:1
This week’s proverb is from Proverbs 18:1. There is no logic to why I started here. I’m a big believer of reading Bible books all the way through from start to finish. However, this one took my eye, and since proverbs are a such unusual genre, I decide to simply dive in and dig into this one.
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgement.”
So I’ve been reading it a few times a day, and asking myself questions about it. I’ve also been allowing my imagination to create a picture of the person the proverb talks about. And today I got out the coloured pencils, the dictionary (well iPhone app!), lots of translations via Bible Hub, and had some fun with it!
So where did my chewing over get me?
I don’t pretend to be an expert on the proverb, but here are my thoughts…
Essentially it boils down to this. If I am tempted to isolate myself from other people – their company, their needs and their wisdom – it may be because I’m trying to guard an unhealthy desire; one which has gained the upper hand in my life. This unhealthy desire has become so important in my life that living wisely and the people in my life have been relegated beneath seeing that desire gratified. The desire has become the master, and as such it demands that I cut off the joys of relationships to keep it safe.
It’s not a happy picture.
In fact the visual picture I found myself returning to was the person who has multiple locks on their doors, and who avoids contact with the outside world if at all possible. Someone who is scared and jumpy, because he is worried that he might come across someone who will dare to tell him that the way that he is living is not OK; that it’s not wise, sensible, healthy or best for other people.
This proverb, like all Biblical proverbs, is not meant to be a yardstick to measure others against, but a means for gaining wisdom for our own lives. If not for now, then for later…
There may be no physical doors with lots of locks, but we can isolate ourselves from the wisdom of others simply by not letting them into certain parts of our lives. This proverb serves as a warning when we start to separate ourselves off from other people’s wisdom – it may be because a selfish desire has the upper hand in our lives.
Of course, sometimes we need time away from people to be refreshed and recharged (I’m an introvert, I know!), but this is different to intentionally shutting people out of our lives (or parts of our lives). Isolation is different to introversion.
So when we see ourselves isolating ourselves, this proverb should jump to mind. However, sometimes we are blind, so here are some questions to prayerfully ask our own hearts today! –
- When are you tempted to pull away from people, or not let them in? What desire are you protecting?
- In which parts of your life do you refuse to allow other people’s thoughts and perspectives to become part of the conversation?
- Which parts of your inner life do you not share with anyone? Why?
God wants us to be people who flourish – who know life in its abundance. This proverb would exhort us to throw ourselves into the world, to listen to people’s perspectives, to enjoy our relationships, and resist the desire to isolate ourselves! But to do that we might need God to cut off an unhealthy desire off at the root, and replace it with a desire for him. That is the healthiest and best of desires, and it will always make us outward looking and a lover of other people!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this proverb, or about how to do the genre justice and enjoy the flavour of them. I’m always keen to learn from other people!