Christianity 201

May 23, 2022

We’re to Pursue Understanding, but Not Depend on It?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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We’re back for a second time with Bruce Green writes at A Taste of Grace. Clicking the header which follows will link you to his site where this first appeared.


Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.
(Proverbs 3:5-6)

This is one of those texts that is both comforting and if we’ll admit to it—challenging. The fact of the matter is disciples are all for trusting in the Lord in the abstract, it’s just those real-life moments that prove to be difficult. We’ll come back to this in a bit, but first let’s think about the command to trust in the Lord.

It’s “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” so that’s there’s no wiggle room there. God wants us to learn to trust in Him and His purposes in a complete, unqualified way. As I said, this isn’t tough to do in the abstract. When you’re sitting in a comfortable church building among fellow believers, thinking about this over a cup of coffee in your favorite room of the house, or talking about it in a small group. Everyone is unreservedly for it.

The difficulty comes in the second part of verse 5—“and lean not on your own understanding.” That’s what makes this passage challenging to translate into life. That’s because the truth is, we’re used to leaning on our understanding quite a bit! And, we’re encouraged in a book like Proverbs to pursue understanding (1:2, 6, 2:2, 3, 6, 11, etc.)—so it’s easy to feel conflicted by this text!

Part of this tension can be resolved by noting that the “understanding” we’re not to lean upon is our limited, fallible human understanding—while the “understanding” we’re to pursue is God’s understanding. In 9:10 we’re told that, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” Just as there’s a difference between worldly wisdom and God’s wisdom (James 3:13-18), there is a difference between worldly understanding and the understanding of God. We’re to grow out of one and into the other.

And returning to our passage, that’s helpful to a degree. Still, it’s our default setting to lean on our own human understanding and that isn’t easily overcome—it’s one of those lifetime achievement kind of things. I’m guessing no one understood this better than Abraham.

You know, the man who packed everything up and hit the road because the Lord told him to —even though he didn’t have a clue where he was going. I’m sure that made for some interesting conversation with Sarah. But this is also the same man who not once, but twice, played fast and loose with a pharaoh and a king about Sarah being his sister (Genesis 12, 20). And then in one crowning moment of glory, he took his son Isaac on a three-day trip to Mt. Moriah to sacrifice him to God. A three-day trip—he had l-o-t-s of time to think about it. (If I was him, I would have been thinking God was going to send us back home at any second—but He didn’t do that, did He? So much for leaning on your own understanding!).

What God told Abraham to do went against love, law, and logic. Abraham had to suspend his understanding in all those areas. A father putting his son to death. A person killing another. Taking the life of his promised son through whom his descendants would be named and numbered.

When the Christ stooped down and wrote something in the sand, John tells us that all of the woman’s accusers dropped their stones and headed home. Whatever it was Jesus wrote, they knew they were overmatched so off they marched. When I read about what Abraham almost did on Mt. Moriah and what God did on Mt Calvary, I just have to drop my stones and head on home because I too am overmatched.

I want to understand a God like that. I want to trust a God like that.

I think that’s a good place to start.


Related scriptures at (I think their default is the Berean Study Bible):

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in Him, and He will do it. – Psalm 37:5

This is what the LORD says: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, nor the strong man in his strength, nor the wealthy man in his riches. – Jeremiah 9:23

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. – James 1:5

February 19, 2022

Daniel Interprets the King’s Dream

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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This is our third time with Alisa whose blog is On the Housetops. Although she has not been as active online lately, there is a post from last summer I felt was worth sharing with our readers today. Click the header which follows to read this where we located it.

Daniel 2: Trust in the God Who Knows

Daniel arose to an urgent knock at his door. Opening it, he was shocked to see the king’s captain standing there with a dozen soldiers ready to arrest him. Some of them held torches; all were armed with swords. Looking past the entourage, Daniel noticed smoke rising in multiple places around the city. What was going on?

Captain Arioch informed Daniel that King Nebuchadnezzar had ordered for all the wise men of Babylon to be executed, and their homes burned to the ground. He said it matter-of-factly, but Daniel detected a hint of hesitation: Arioch was not in favor of the decision. But when you’re the king’s captain, your personal opinions don’t matter. You do what you’re told… or else.

For a few moments, did fear grip Daniel’s heart? If it did, we don’t know.

“Why is the decree from the king so urgent?” Daniel asked.

Arioch explained what had triggered the king’s rage: that night, Nebuchadnezzar’s sleep had been disturbed by a dream – and not just any dream, but one that seemed to hold significance and meaning. So he had called together his top magicians and astrologers to interpret the dream for him (which wasn’t highly unusual). What was highly unusual, though, was that Nebuchadnezzar had either forgotten the dream that was supposedly so significant, or else refused to tell them what the dream was. It was an unprecedented demand, but he wanted his wise men to prove their ability to interpret the dream by also recounting to him what the dream even was!

Of course, the wise men had declared this to be impossible. And so, in a rage, Nebuchadnezzar had ordered for all the wise men of Babylon to be destroyed. Immediately!

Let’s pause for a second here. It’s easy to put ourselves in the shoes of Daniel when we’re reading this story: to compare ourselves to the hero. But there are lessons to be learned from these other characters as well.

Look at Nebuchadnezzar. He wanted something so badly, he was willing to throw away all reason in his quest for it. He put unreasonable demands on those around him, and then lashed out when they couldn’t come through. Are there times when we lash out in anger simply because we can’t get what we want?

Or we can look at the fact that Nebuchadnezzar was turning to people to solve a problem only God can solve. Granted, he didn’t know the LORD and was only doing what he knew to do. But for those of us who are believers – how often do we forget who to turn to for answers? How often do we turn to people and books and blogs for help that we can only receive through God Himself?

Or what if we were in Arioch’s shoes? Would we have obeyed the king’s command and started killing the wise men of Babylon, even though we knew their deaths were unjust? Or would we have stood against it in some way? That’s a hard situation…

How would we have felt as the wise men themselves? Stuck in a lose-lose situation, with no way out? And no belief in God to give them hope? For all their magic and witchcraft and earthly (or demonic) wisdom, they had no way of answering the king or saving their own lives.

But circling back to Daniel – he had hope. The situation looked impossible, but Daniel didn’t say that. With courage and boldness, he went to Nebuchadnezzar and asked for time, so that he might give the king the interpretation. And apparently the king granted his request.

So Daniel gathered his friends together – the ones who shared his faith in God – and they prayed. And prayed. And prayed. Begging God to show them mercy, to reveal the secrets that only He knew, so that they might not perish alongside the other wise men.

And the LORD heard their prayers. Daniel awoke from a vision in the night and praised the God of wisdom and might, the God who knows all things – who had now granted Daniel wisdom and might and knowledge.

He brought the good news to Arioch, who quickly brought him to the king, much relieved that someone could appease the king, but probably nervous about whether Daniel actually would.

He probably became even more nervous when Daniel started off, “The secret which the king has demanded, the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, and the soothsayers cannot declare to the king” (Dan. 2:27).

But Daniel continued, “But there is a God in heaven who reveals secrets, and He has made known to King Nebuchadnezzar what will be in the latter days.” Without hesitation, he described the dream that the king had experienced, of a great multi-layered statue that was mysteriously destroyed by a stone, so that no trace of it was left, but the stone grew into a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Everyone in the throne room must have been deathly quiet, hanging on to his every word. Arioch watched the king’s face: Nebuchadnezzar was nodding – this was indeed what he had dreamed.

But now what was the interpretation?

The statue represented Nebuchadnezzar’s kingdom (the Babylonian empire), which would be followed by three more empires (which we know today to be the Median-Persian empire, the Greek empire, and the Roman empire). But these earthly kingdoms would be followed by a different one, for “the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Dan. 2:44).

At this, Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and declared, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the LORD of kings, and a revealer of secrets…” (Dan. 2:47).

Truly indeed.

God knows the timeline of history, even before it has happened yet. He knows what tomorrow holds. He knows the secrets of men’s hearts: even the secrets they themselves don’t know.

And He promises that someday, His kingdom will fill this entire earth and never be destroyed. What a wonderful promise that is!

So trust Him… trust the God who knows.

Bonus content:

God does bring wisdom when we ask, and light to various situations. Here is an NIV scripture medley from based on the Daily Light on the Daily Path book by Samuel Bagster.

Pr.2.6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.

Pr.3.5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;

Jas.1.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

l.Cor.1.25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength… 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong… 29 so that no one may boast before him. 

Ps.119.11 I have hidden your word in my heart
    that I might not sin against you.

130 The unfolding of your words gives light;
    it gives understanding to the simple.

Lk.4.22a All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.

Jn.7.46 “No one ever spoke the way this man does…”

1Cor.1.30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

August 12, 2017

Get Wisdom; Get Understanding

Today we’re paying a return visit to the blog with the unusual name: Warning! Sleep Talking Zone. You really need to click through on this one because Christy, who posted this has a lot of passion which comes through in different rich text elements (bold face, larger font, etc.) which you don’t get to see here. (But you’ll feel at home, she puts the scriptures in green!) So for a better rendering of today’s devotional study, click the title which follows:

Let the Wise Listen

I just wanted to share something that stood out to me from my Bible study so far this week. This week’s Torah portion is Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11; Deuteronomy 4:6 is what I mainly want to focus on, but I will include verses 1-9 for context:

“And now, O Yisra’ĕl, listen to the laws and the right-rulings which I am teaching you to do, so that you live, and shall go in and possess the land which Yahweh Elohim of your fathers is giving you.

Do not add to the Word which I command you, and do not take away from it, so as to guard the commands of Yahweh your Elohim which I am commanding you. Your eyes have seen what Yahweh did at Ba‛al Pe‛or, for Yahweh your Elohim has destroyed from your midst all the men who followed Ba‛al Pe‛or. But you who are clinging to Yahweh your Elohim are alive today, every one of you.

See, I have taught you laws and right-rulings, as Yahweh my Elohim commanded me, to do thus in the land which you go to possess. And you shall guard and do them, for this is your wisdom and your understanding before the eyes of the peoples who hear all these laws, and they shall say, ‘Only a wise and understanding people is this great nation!’For what great nation is there which has Elohim so near to it, as Yahweh our Elohim is to us, whenever we call on Him? And what great nation is there that has such laws and righteous right-rulings like all this Torah which I set before you this day? Only, guard yourself, and guard your life diligently, lest you forget the Words your eyes have seen, and lest they turn aside from your heart all the days of your life. And you shall make them known to your children and your grandchildren.” (ISR)

There is SO much just in these few verses that really stand out to me, but I made it obvious where I am going in this post.  Verse 6 says that guarding the Torah (I have mentioned in other posts that Torah simply means “instructions”) of Yahweh is our wisdom and understanding. I couldn’t help but think of several verses in the Book of Proverbs where wisdom and understanding is mentioned.  I think it would be safe to say that wisdom and understanding is the theme of the Book of Proverbs.  Wisdom is personified and frequently referred to as “she” and “her”:

 Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the broad places.

Proverbs 1:20

 And now, listen to me [Wisdom], you children, For blessed are they who guard my ways.

Proverbs 8:32 

We see in Proverbs 8:32 the same exhortation to guard the ways of wisdom that we saw in Deuteronomy 4!

 1 Chronicles 22:12 we read David instructing his son, Solomon: “Only, let Yahweh give you wisdom and understanding, and command you concerning Yisra’ĕl, so that you guard the Torah of Yahweh your Elohim.”

 Job 28:28 says that the “fear of Yahweh is wisdom“, and “to turn from evil, that is understanding.

Going back to Proverbs, in the fourth chapter there is a sense of urgency concerning wisdom and understanding:

 Children, listen to the discipline of a father, And give attention to know understanding;

For I gave you good instruction: Do not forsake my Torah.

For I was my father’s son, Tender and the only one in the eyes of my mother, 

Then he taught me and said to me, “Let your heart hold fast my words;

Guard my commands, and live.

“Get wisdom! Get understanding!

Do not forget, and do not turn away From the words of my mouth. 

“Do not leave her, and let her guard you; Love her, and let her watch over you. 

“The beginning of wisdom is: Get wisdom!

And with all your getting, get understanding. 

“Exalt her, and let her uplift you; She brings you esteem when you embrace her.

“She gives your head a fair wreath, She shields you with an adorning crown.” 

Hear, my son, and accept my words, And let the years of your life be many. 

I have taught you in the way of wisdom, I have led you in straight paths. 

When you walk your steps shall not be hindered, And if you run you shall not stumble. 

Hold fast to discipline, do not let go; Watch over her,

for she is your life.   Proverbs 4:1-13

And in Proverbs 23:23 we read this advice: “Buy the truth and do not sell it – Wisdom and discipline and understanding.”  There are so many more verses that I could share from Proverbs alone, but I will stop there.

In the New Testament we read about Paul praying for Believers to be “filled with the knowledge of His desire in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, to walk worthily of the Master, pleasing all, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of Elohim.” (Colossians 1:9-10) And in Colossians 4:5 Paul exhorts Believers to “walk in wisdom“.

Paul is not the only New Testament writer who wrote about wisdom.  James instructs us to ask for wisdom:  “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of Elohim, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it shall be given to him.” (James 1:5) And then in James 3:17 we read:

“But the wisdom from above is first clean, then peaceable, gentle, ready to obey, filled with compassion and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.” I put in italics “ready to obey” because it is the same thing as “guard” that is used in the other verses.

Throughout the entirety of the Bible we see a consistent thread connecting wisdom and understanding to Yahweh’s Torah, and how His children must diligently guard the Torah.

The Torah of Yahweh IS wisdom and understanding. 

 Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance.
Proverbs 1:5 (ESV)