Proverb 10:20 – The Value of Words and Goals

Silver having been chosen the tongue of the righteous
The heart of wicked ones as little

The word used to describe the silver is a Hebrew participle in the Niphal stem (like the English passive mode), bachar (Strong’s H0977), meaning to choose. The participle modifies the noun, silver. The righteous is singular, and the wicked plural. The participle is the only verb and doesn’t function like one. The only preposition is “as” which, in Hebrew, is a prefix on the adjective “little”. In English the word count of the two lines is way off. In Hebrew it is nearly equal, with a prepositional prefix on little balancing the participle. Enough of the boring stuff. Wake up, take another sip of coffee, and keep going.

The challenge is to understand how the tongue relates to the heart, and what this relationship reveals about the righteous and the wicked.

  1. How does selection help us understand the value of the tongue of the righteous?
    • The silver was selected silver, not just the metal in coin. There was a form or quality that increased the value.
    • The tongue, here as in James, likely refers to what is said.
    • In that case the words of righteous people have a quality preferred by others.
    • It could also inspire people to righteousness so they will have something valued by others.
  2. How does the heart loose value and be of little value?
    • The heart is less emotional and more the ability to be intentional and show determination.
    • This is neither positive or negative and can refer to what we might focus on, or even obsess over.
    • Therefore, whatever a wicked one sets their intent on and strives for is as little.
    • Wicked people work toward things of little value, whether to themselves or others.

The lesson for me is that what I focus on will, eventually be heard in what I say. If my intent and focus is on things of little value (like resentment or bitterness, for instance), then I will have nothing of value to share with others.

My hope is that righteousness is partly defined as my heart set on the right things, like my Savior, His grace and mercy, and His death, burial, and resurrection as the foundation of my life. With that focus, my words will be valuable to others, and I will have something of value to contribute to others.

There are a lot of other ways to apply this to our lives. It’s wisdom, and wide enough to encompass several situations. Think through how it might apply to you? What will you focus on to increase the value of your words? How can you be intentional about your walk with our Savior?

I can tell you, don’t worry about the resulting increase in value. If your focus is right, the value will emerge. That much I know.


Proverb 10:17 – It’s About the Destination

A path to life one guarding correction (musar H4148),
  And one abandoning reprimand (tokachath H8433) one wandering

The word “path” above is the Hebrew word, aorah (H0734), which is a noun derived from the verb, to wander or journey. It can refer to the route of the journey or companions on the journey and is usually combined with some term for the destination, often “life” or “death”.

Rather than being in construct (using of), the preposition, to or toward, is used to show the eventual destination. In a sense, the signpost indicating the destination of life is the “guarding correction” reference. Ignoring or abandoning the signpost means the person is lost, and the signposts cease their regular cadence. Instead, they appear seemingly at random to offer a course correction to life.

So, one question you could be asking yourself is, “What’s that signpost up ahead? Have I entered the twilight zone?” There’s hope if you abandoned the previous signposts to Life. Consider this one of those random opportunities to correct your course.

The other question you might ask is, “How do I take inventory of my Master’s correction in my life? How do I guard them, ensuring I don’t forget the way?” This is the only way in which our walk before our Savior is “about the journey”, and even here it is ultimately about the destination.

Jesus tells us that this path of correction is a narrow path, and few find it. Let’s be those weirdos and oddities who find and follow that difficult and narrow path. That’s sort of my working definition of holy right now.

Recording The Glory

I have been struggling with astro photography for some time now. Last night was no different struggling to get my setup to “plate solve”.

Throughout the struggle, my motivation has been the same: To glorify my Creator. I have always been amazed by the heavens, and I wanted to capture some of that amazement. David captured it and summarized it this way:

The heavens recount the glory of El
The work of His hands is announced by the expanse

Psalm 19:1 (my own translation)

I finally gave up plate solving, and without further adjustment to my scope or camera, I caught the following shots of the Orian Nebula (M42), one of my very favorite things in the sky. They are 20-second, 30-second, and 40-second exposures at ISO 6400, and I took out a “green” hue in Adobe Photoshop Express.

I hope they bless you with the sense and scope of the One to Whom we pray. If this is His artwork, think of what He can do in your life. There’s more color in a 30-second picture than you see with your eye through a telescope. There’s a lesson in that too. Sometimes the “glory” and “work of His hands” are only visible later or over time.

Have a blessed day.

Proverbs 10:13 and 12:11

In lips of one being perceptive (bin) is found skill,
And a rod to the back of one who lacks heart.

 One serving his ground bread satisfies,
And one hunting empties lacks heart.

These two proverbs are only linked in the use of the phrase, “lacks heart”. It’s a phrase that occurs in Proverbs eight times in the Hebrew (chaser-leb), a combination of Strong’s H2638 and H3820. This phrase serves as part of the definition of “heart” in Proverbs. People who behave or think in certain ways don’t have heart.

Heart, in this sense, can’t be the seat of the emotions, as is commonly used in English. It is more consistent with Scripture to consider it the “core” of a person, or their ability to continue in the face of adversity. This is brought out through these two Proverbs.

In the first one, Proverbs 10:13, one lacking heart is contrasted with one who is very perceptive in what they say (lips). The perception might be one who understands how words affect others, and they use that as a “skill” (chokmah). This positive statement would imply a positive use of words, not for manipulation. So, this person understands the power of words, and uses them to “heal”, or at least for good moral purposes.

The second Proverb, 12:11 contrasts two people pursuing different goals. The first serves his ground. This is one who sees himself as the servant, not master, so there’s an attitude difference. It does not require the resentment that a person from our culture would naturally feel. It doesn’t exclude it either. This person serves his ground, which is different than serving another person. In this instance, the service directly benefits the servant (which is kind of the point).

The benefit is that this person is satisfied with bread, a common Hebrew euphemism for food in general. The work serving the ground reaps the benefit of being fed. The obvious direct correlation between work and provision is what is contrasted with the next line, one “hunting empties”.

The problem with the person described in the second line is in what they pursue or hunt. The focus of their effort is “empties”, a plural Hebrew word (H2638) referring to empty holes or lives, literally or figuratively. What they are actively trying to achieve is without value. Perhaps this can be seen in one who collects things no one else wants and are therefore without value. They end their lives with junk. The “evil” in this has more to do with the opportunity-costs involved. In this contrast, they didn’t choose to pursue service to their ground. There can be other options which would better serve their Creator. Whatever they chose ended up being without value.

The result of this pursuit is an empty heart, in a sense. More accurately, they lacked heart altogether. If the sense of heart here is the ability to persevere, then the pursuit of empties robbed them of the desire to continue. They didn’t do anything because they couldn’t gain satisfaction with what they had pursued. They truly failed to realize that the problem was their choice of what to pursue. The result of such an end is a rod for their back. They are prodded, violently, into action, which they don’t “feel” like doing. Their heart isn’t in it. They don’t “feel it”. Which, in biblical perspective, gains them beatings.

So, the difference between the person of discerning speech and those lacking heart is the choice of goals. Once chooses to pursue work resulting in bread, and the other chooses effort resulting in…well, nothing. Perhaps the rod will inspire a different choice of goal. More likely it will result in resentment of activity. They will do the least in bitterness, receive the least in bitterness, and justify their bitterness without regard to the attitude difference.

These two proverbs serve as a challenge to me, because, left to my own desires and devices, I will tend toward the pursuit of things that do not result in food on the table. I want to fill my time with things that no one would pay me for or to do. They’re “hobbies”. But hobbies are not supposed to be the focus of a life. Whatever their importance, the focus of a life is for the One having given that life to begin with. What purpose our Creator has given us includes our “occupation”.

What empties have you pursued? How are you “serving your ground” these days? How can we encourage each other to greater pursuits?

Proverbs 10:8, 10; A Story

Skilled of heart takes/receives commands,

  And a fool of lips is ruined

One winking an eye gives pain,

  And a fool of lips is ruined

Here, again, the last line is the link between these two proverbs. In each, the top line is very different, in fact, the first is positive, and the second top line is negative. So, the first proverb contrast two antithetical lines, and the second set two lines parallel. Because they are spaced in the proverb list, the second does not extend the meaning of the final line of the first. Proverbs 10:9 is about a different aspect of wisdom, and only obliquely related to the other two between which it is sandwiched.

Since the relationship between these two proverbs is the final line, let’s look at that first. The term, fool, is a common translation of the Hebrew word, aiwil, and is always translated as “fool”. In the NASB, it occurs 4 times in poetic prophetic writings, once in historical prophets, once in Psalms, twice in Job, and the remaining 19 occurrences in Proverbs. The aiwil is not as bad as a nabal (H5036), but worse than kesil (H3684), so it’s a “middle-fool” characterized by his speech (Prov 10:14, 12:16, 17:28, 20:3 as additional examples). This fool shows no balance in his relationships and demonstrates moral perversion.

Parallel to this babbling unbalanced moral pervert, is one winking an eye. This is likely something tied to a historical cultural setting. Winking in modern western cultures does not always refer to the same sort of person up to the same sort of no good. Although, it can. Winks serve various purposes, but most are surreptitious communication, for whatever reason. And communication which is not open to all is a place to hide sinful, hurtful intentions. It isn’t a given, but a possibility. I’m not sure how common or commonly understood winking is these days. It may be a more universal form of communication, somewhat like a smile. That such deceptive communication can lead to pain should be obvious.

In contrast, the “skilled of heart” (chokam) receives commands. The person so described has that wisdom characterized in craft and ability. Yet such skill is clearly derived from their Creator. In this specific instance, the skill is of heart. It would be a mistake to define heart in this use as the seat of the emotions. It is more the constitution and perseverance of a person, in this use. One demonstrating ability and skill in their constitution and perseverance is able to get requests, commands, or think in terms of the craftsman who has no shortage of business. They work tirelessly and their work is prized greatly.

Oscar made final touches to the image on his computer screen, clicked the “Finalize” button with the mouse point, and rolled back to look at the stone laser etcher start humming across the room. He stood and stretched and leaned forward to touch the ground at his feet. Adjusting his wire-frame glasses, he went to the wall with the plan for his lithograph. It would be nearly fifty layers, acid-washed, each adding to the limited-edition image. His plan was for a shorter run of a hundred prints, all with the lasered image centered. As he washed the various layers, the edges of the image should become less laser-cut-harsh.

He looked over at the laser etcher, and decided he had time for a nap. Rubbing his eyes, he headed for his cot on the opposite wall. He was excited to be this close to the actual creating instead of planning, although he would try to sleep. The etching machine would sound an alarm when it was done anyway.

Oscar let out a long breath as he relaxed, laying on his side, head on a firm pillow. The door to his studio opened suddenly, and Oscar sat up with a jolt. Stanley strode through the doorway already in mid-sentence.

“…and if he thinks I’m going to take that sort of crap from him, he’s going to learn.” Stanley began to pace from the door to Oscar’s etcher, and back, talking and waving his arms.

“He better pay me what we agreed on, or so help me…”

Oscar sat on the edge of his cot and rubbed his eyes. He peered at the agitated figure pacing across his studio and blinked a few times.

“Stan, seriously? No knock, just burst right in?” Oscar asked softly.

Stanley stopped abruptly and stared at Oscar silently for a moment.

“What were you doing? Sleeping?” Stanley asked. Oscar only nodded. “Well, then I didn’t interrupt anything important.” Stanley resumed pacing. “I got to get this off my chest, or I’m going to kill someone.”

Oscar sighed, got up, and went and sat in his rolling desk chair. He ran his hand through this thick curly hair and stared at Stanley.

“Okay, Stan, you have my attention. What happened?”

“Right. So, this guy commissions a portrait, and provides me photos and stuff so I have the perspectives, views, lighting and whatnot.” He waved at Oscar. “You know, the usual stuff if they don’t want to sit for it.” Oscar nodded and yawned.

“We agree on a price, and what the portrait’s going to have in the background, all this stuff.” Stanley cleared his throat. “And I do him this beautiful en plein air painting…”

“Wait, why did you do a portrait outside? Was that what he wanted?” Oscar asked in the midst of a yawn.

Stanley stopped midway across the room and glared at Oscar in silence for a moment.

“Don’t interrupt, Oscar, and no, but I was evicted from my studio last month,” Stanley said. He put his hands on his hips as he continued his angry stare at Oscar. “This commission was supposed to fix that and get me back into a studio, you pinhead!”

Oscar looked Stanley with raised eyebrows but didn’t reply. Oscar continued his pacing rant.

“Anyway, I did it, and it was absolutely beautiful, one of my best,” Stanley said.

“You did your best work outside?”

“Stop interrupting, seriously,” Stanley said. “And yes, one of my best. Maybe not the best, but definitely one of my best.” Stanley paced in silence for a moment, stopped and looked at Oscar. “I know what you’re thinking, Oscar.”

“Why get a studio if you do your best work outside?”

“Yeah, well, it was one of my best, and I still need a place to finish stuff.”

“Right, that makes sense,” Oscar said and nodded. He glanced around the studio for where he had left his coffee mug.

“Right,” said Stanley and continued his pacing. “Anyway, this guy sees the painting and refuses to pay. He’s changed his mind and doesn’t want it.” Stanley became animated as he paced, his arms gesturing wildly as paced.

“Did he say why?”

“Oh, he said it wasn’t what he asked for,” Stanley said, angrily. “Like he knows.”

“I’m sorry, like he would know what he wanted?” Oscar asked.

“No, people don’t know what they want! That’s what the artist is for,” Stanley said. “I know what they want, regardless of what they say. I know what makes a piece good, they have no clue!”

“Um, Stan, didn’t you say you had this specific contract and everything?”

Stanley came to an abrupt halt and glared at Oscar again.

“So, you’re on his side?” Stanley asked, trying to stare holes into Oscar.

“I’m trying to follow your story.”

“I spent hours on that painting, it was beautiful, and he paid me nothing for it.”

“Where is it now?” Oscar asked. He spotted his mug and returned his attention to Stanley as he tried to remember what was in the mug.

“Where’s what?” Stanley asked.

“The painting, Stan, where is it now?”

Stanley’s bottom lip quivered slightly as he paused before answering. He looked at Oscar’s feet instead of his eyes.

“I threw it away.”

They were both silent for a moment. Oscar blinked a few times, got up and crossed the room to his coffee mug. He picked it up and saw that it was half full. Looking up at Stanley he took a sip.

Still warm!

The laser etching machine quieted down and let out a couple of beeps. Oscar and Stanley glanced at it.

“Hey Stan, I really need to get back to work,” Oscar said and shrugged. “Can we pick this up later?”

“Oh fine, Oscar, Mr. successful-artist has to get back to his pandering art!” Stanley turned and strode to the door. “Fine, whatever!”

Oscar looked at Stanley’s retreating back, went over and shut the door Stanley had left open when he left. He sipped his coffee again and locked the door.

Proverbs 10:6, 11 A Longer Story

Blessings to a righteous head,
  And a mouth of guilty ones covers violence.

Fountain of life mouth of righteous,
  And mouth of guilty ones covers violence.

These two proverbs are only linked in that their last line is exactly the same. So, they provide an opportunity to examine the similarities of the first line, and a deeper examination of the second.

How are “blessings to a righteous head” like (or dislike) “A fountain of life mouth of righteous”? So, first, they are very different assertions. The first is one that blessings are “to” a righteous head, whatever that means, however precisely. The second is that the mouth of a righteous person = a fountain of life, which likely refers to what is spoken by a righteous person gives life to others, perhaps. The first assertion is toward the righteous (what they gain by it), and the second is away from the righteous person (what they give by it). The first is about what righteousness profits the person, and the second is about what it profits others around the person. Essentially, righteousness profits both the person and those around the person, perhaps due to harmony created by such a life, or perhaps because Yahweh wills it so.

The second line in each is the same, exactly the same. A mouth, singular, of guilty ones, plural, covers, singular again (so mouth is the antecedent), violence. This appears deceptively simple. For instance, in English, we require the various pieces to agree in number. The typical assumption here is that Hebrew is not being as precise. But what if it was, and what if the number in English were different? What would that mean? Or what could that mean? Does someone who speaks for guilty people cover violence? Does that person “conceal” the violence or merely cover it over? In our century we may mean to pay the charge on someone else’s behalf. And “guilty” is plural, there is no “ones” in Hebrew. How does it change the meaning if “guilties” is a reference to one person’s many sins? What violence is covered in that case? Is anyone else thinking of a “defense attorney”?

Arthur Inser, esquire, sat back in his dark, overstuffed leather desk chair and rubbed his stubbly chin. His tie hung on an ornate oaken coat rack with his suit coat and hat. He looked tired, his dress shirt with sleeves rolled up, top button undone, and previously coiffed hair slightly mussed. The papers spread across his desk detailed his next case, another murder. The DA had a tight case, witnesses, physical evidence, solid investigation. But there was always a weakness. Always.

Reaching into the bottom drawer of his desk, Arthur drew out a tall bottle half full of brown liquid. He poured a scant amount in a low highball on his desk and returned the bottle to the bottom drawer. Picking up his pen, he leaned forward over the papers.

Where is it? Where’s the chink in the armor?

He continued working for some time, when his desk phone rang softly. He glanced over to see it was his secretary, so he picked it up.

“Yeah, Bea, what is it?” He listened for a few seconds.

“Okay, send him in.”

Arthur gathered up the papers, slid them neatly, and in order, into a folder, and put the folder in the file drawer of his desk, all before the office door opened. He looked up to see a strange person walk through the door.

Gangsters weren’t what they used to be. In many ways they were less sophisticated now, in some ways, more. This person was without a shred of sophistication anywhere about him. His suit was plain brown, plaid, of loosely knit wool. His shoes were brown leather ankle-length and lacked the shine of the prepared. Arthur smiled.

This should be easy.

“What can I do for you…” Arthur said, rising to shake the man’s hand over the desk.

“Isaac. Isaac McMurtry,” Isaac said, reaching across and shaking Arthur’s hand.

Arthur drew his hand back quickly as if the touch caused him pain and looked at Isaac in some alarm and confusion.

“Sorry,” Isaac said, with a shrug. “I run hot.”

“I’ll say,” Arthur said as he took his seat. He motioned Isaac to a leather chair in front of his desk. Isaac sat, crossed his legs, and folded his hands on his knees.

“So, what is it I can do for you, Mr. McMurtry?”

“Actually, I’m here to help you. I represent the family of Alisa Salizar.”

Arthur looked at Isaac with wide eyes for a brief second, then his face settled back into a sly smile and narrowed eyes.

“And what do you imagine you can do for me?”

“Talk you out of taking the case.”

“Because I’m going to lose anyway?”

“We both know that’s not true.” Isaac shrugged. “Not necessarily, anyway.”

“Then what? What is it that you believe you can help me with, which I cannot accomplish on my own?” Arthur shifted in his chair, leaning forward, he put his elbows on his desktop, and rested his face in his hands, staring at Isaac. “Do tell.”

Isaac smirked and looked down at his hands for a second. His head lilted to one side then the other, and he finally straightened up and stared directly into Arthur’s eyes.

“I can help you discover the error of your ways, Mr. Inser,” Isaac said, and leaned forward as well. “I can help you discover that the path you are on will only lead to your own disaster.”

Arthur remained silent. He blinked a couple of times, and his smile deepened to a full grin. He raised his eyebrows, and blinked again.

“That’s it? You will help me see further down my path to where it ends in my own disaster?”

“Isn’t that enough?” Isaac sat back and fidgeted with his fingernails, still holding Arthur’s gaze.

Arthur sat back and shook his head, crossing his arms, he gave Isaac his best lopsided sneer of incredulity combined with his half-lidded look of contempt. It was a killer combination in court with juries, men and women.

“It’s nothing. It would require that I trust you to know something you could not possibly know.” The sneer turned to a grin again. “And you know that.” He shrugged and sat up putting his hands back on the desk. “So, why do it? You had to know I would know you couldn’t make good on your claim. So, why come here and try to deceive me anyway?”

Isaac chuckled and shook his head. He looked back at Arthur with a big grin.

“Does that actually work in court?” He laughed. “You just assert something, about which you know nothing, as unknowable, and everyone just goes along?” Isaac shook his head. “Didn’t you learn anything in law school?”

Arthur’s face clouded, his eyebrows became a pronounced “V”, and his eyes narrowed to slit. His mouth was a thin, tight line.

“Sorry, that was uncalled for,” Isaac said. “Your response just caught me off guard. I’m sorry to have been so insulting, and that last question was thoughtless and disrespectful.” He held up both hands, palms out. His face was no longer smiling but it didn’t show fear either, just plain honesty, if that were possible.

Arthur’s face softened. He looked in confusion at the frumpy person in his office. This was not how his interviews normally went.

“I believe you are here to deceive me into dropping the Gronski Murder Case,” Arthur said at last. “Say what you will, I do not believe you can tell anything about my future.”

“Thank you, that is more the approach I expected from an attorney of your experience and wisdom,” Isaac said. “And I agree, there’s no reason you should.” He shrugged. “So, now allow me to demonstrate.”

“This should be good,” Arthur said, looking at his visitor. He sat back and folded his arms.

“You have had doubts about those you represent, and they scare you. You know things, dark things, they know it, and you know that, once they perceive your usefulness has waned, they will dispose of you.” Isaac’s face became hard. “Permanently, perhaps ambiguously, where your body may never be found.”

Arthur’s face drained as Isaac spoke. He unfolded his arms, and his eyes widened. He stared for a moment, his face flushed again, and he smirked.

“I’m sorry, is this how you usually persuade your clients to follow your suggestions? Point out how, if they do, they will probably die?”

Isaac smiled again and sat back.

“I’m not a lawyer, Arthur. I said I represent the family of Alisa Salizar, but not in what capacity.” He shrugged. “It isn’t as their lawyer.”

“A shame,” Arthur said. “I was hoping you would end up suing me.” He shrugged. “It would be an easy day in court for me.”

“Definitely.” Isaac sighed. “Instead, I’m here to persuade you drop a case. Not ‘lawyer-to-lawyer’, but in another capacity.”

Arthur looked suddenly at Isaac in some alarm.

“Surely you’re not going to threaten me?”


“Because I assure you, that will have no effect, or possibly the opposite effect.”

“No, no threats.” Isaac frowned at Arthur. “There’s no point.”

“Good,” Arthur said, and leaned forward to stand up.

“Others will do to you far more than I ever could.” Isaac looked at Arthur frozen in mid-rise. “You know that already.”

Arthur sat back down and frowned at Isaac in turn.

“So you said.”

“What I have for you is an exit strategy,” Isaac said. “I have a way you can leave this practice. And live.”

“You have a way for me to stop representing dangerous clients, and live to tell about it?” Arthur shook his head. “This is the sort of thing that undermines your credibility with me.”

Isaac held up a hand as he opened his mouth, but Arthur cut him off.

“Besides, I have my own exit strategy,” Arthur said.

Isaac sat back and looked at Arthur with doubt clear in his eyes and crossed arms.

“Arthur, betting on the next gang that takes down your current client isn’t what I’d call an ‘exit strategy’.”

Arthur sat up in alarm.

“That’s more of a ‘continuation strategy’, or at most, a ‘survival strategy’. Either way it keeps you trapped representing the guilty.”

“Not until proven so in a court of law.”

“That’s not true, and you and I both know it. So you can drop the legal platitudes.” Isaac pointed at Arthur. “No one hires you if they’re innocent.”

Arthur furrowed his brow and frowned at Isaac with crossed arms.

“Doesn’t that bother you, Arthur?”

“Now who’s making assertions he expects everyone to believe?”

“Good point,” Isaac said and nodded. “Okay, name one client you believe, really believe, was innocent of all charges.”

“You know I can’t name clients.”

“Okay, count them on one hand.” Isaac stared at Arthur for a second. “One finger.”

“So, there’s no law that says I cannot defend those I believe may not be innocent.”

“Wow, Arthur. That was well worded.” Isaac waved a dismissive hand at him. “Just like a lawyer.”

Arthur glared silently at Isaac.

“Doesn’t that bother you? Arthur, think about what you’re doing when you defend those who commit murder and get them acquitted.”

Arthur didn’t answer and he and Isaac glared back and forth in silence.

“Aren’t you even a little curious about my exit strategy?” Isaac asked.

“Fine, what’s your brilliant idea, Isaac?”

“Leave your practice, this city, all your friends, detach yourself from all the poisonous relationships, people, and lifestyle.”

Arthur laughed out loud.

“Leave it all, go to a nice small town, and be the general counsel for small businesses, help people with trusts, and wills.” Isaac stared at Arthur with a slight smile.

“Just walk? That’s your idea?”

Isaac nodded.

“Brilliant, Isaac, you’re a genius! Why didn’t I think of it before, just leave!” Arthur had stood and was waving his hands above his head. He stopped and rounded on Isaac. “Why? Why would I leave all this success? All the money, and influence, and the money?”

“You already said money.”

“Because there’s a lot of it, Isaac!”

“You’d still have the money, Arthur. You’d just be spending it a lot slower.”

Arthur put his hands on his hips and looked at Isaac with his head slanted, confused.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Isaac…”

“No, I mean who are you? Who is Isaac McMurtry anyway?” Arthur waved a dismissive hand at Isaac. “I mean, who are you to come in here and tell me to leave town, start over. Why would I do that, Isaac? What possible reason could I have to do that?”

“Because you would find another reason for living, a reason apart from the money, the success, the influence, and the money.”

“You’re not funny.”

“I am sort of funny,” Isaac said. “More importantly, I’m right. Do this and you will live.”

“Really?” Arthur asked, dripping with sarcasm.

“Really, really,” Isaac said evenly. “The key is the other reason for living.”

“Oh, I did notice you slid that in there,” Arthur said. “So, what is it? This new meaning for living?” He made air quotes around ‘new meaning’.

“You’d finally know your Creator as your Savior.”

Arthur’s face traveled through several expressions as he processed Isaac’s words. Finally, he shook his head, walked around his desk and sat down. Picking up his pen he glanced up at Isaac.

“We’re done here.”


“This was about religion? Seriously? That’s why you’re here? To convert me, make me see the error of my ways, and get me to drop the case?”

“No, you…

“You hypocrite!” Arthur yelled. “Don’t you get it? Salizar is using you to get revenge on Gronski for murdering his daughter. I drop the case, and Gronski goes to prison or the chair.” Arthur pulled out the folder but didn’t open it. He stared at it in silence. “You religious people don’t even see how deluded you are, helping evil people of your choice.”

“Arthur, Salizar is not looking for revenge.”

Arthur looked up with narrowed eyes.

“Arthur, if you didn’t represent Gronski, someone else would. And that someone would probably get him off as well.” Isaac shrugged. “Mr. Salizar told me that himself.”

Arthur dropped his pen and leaned back.

“You see, Mr. Salizar knows you.”

Arthur stared at his desk and his face went blank.

“He remembers you getting him off some pretty serious charges.”

Arthur looked back up at Isaac who looked back at him with a concerned expression.

“Arthur, Mr. Salizar believes his daughter’s death is his fault, that Gronski was taking revenge for Salizar’s days doing the same thing.”

“He told you this?”

“He did. And he told me more.” Isaac put a hand on Arthur’s desk. “He told me he is concerned for you. That you are headed into the hell he was destined for.”

Arthur crossed his arms and stared at the folder on his desk with a frown.

“Arthur, Mr. Salizar discovered this new reason for living, and wants it for you as well.”

Arthur looked up sharply at Isaac.

“Oh he did? And you believe him?”

“I do.”

Arthur opened his mouth, but Isaac jumped in before him.

“I have seen the change in him, in his family, his wife, his kids.” Isaac shrugged. “Arthur, he lives without fear now. He walks differently, talks differently, and treats people with respect and concern.”

Arthur sat silent for a moment, arms still crossed, still glaring at Isaac. His face became thoughtful for a moment.

“So, Salizar would set me up in another town, pay for me to get out of here, and start somewhere new?”

Isaac shook his head with a slight smile.

“No, Arthur. Mr. Salizar isn’t paying you off, he isn’t buying your services or bribing you to drop the case.”

“Well, thank you, no,” Arthur said, and looked down at his desk then at Isaac. “I’m happy for Mr. Salizar, but I am not changing my mind or dropping this case.”

Isaac stood up and paused.

“Well, perhaps after the case is over.”

Isaac took out a business card and laid it on Arthur’s desk. Arthur glanced at it but didn’t take it. He looked up at Isaac and stood, offering his hand. Isaac took it and they shook.

“Thank you, Mr. McMurtry, and I bid you good day.”

“And you, Mr. Inser.” Isaac turned and headed for the door. He opened it and went out without a backward glance.

Arthur reached over and picked up the card.

Cattle of a Thousand Hills Savings Bank, Isaac McMurtry, Investment Banker

Arthur turned it over, and a phone number was written there in blue ink.

Who would trust a banker in a cheap suit with their money?

Arthur flipped the card to the edge of his desk, but no further. He opened the file and picked up his pen.

Proverbs 11:6 – A Story

Righteousness of upright ones saves them; And in a desire of ones acting faithless they will be caught.

The picture that comes to mind is the “monkey trap”. A gourd tied to a tree with fruit inside has a single hole big enough for a monkey hand, but not the fruit. A monkey is caught when they stick their hand through the hole for the fruit but refuse to let the fruit go.

Difficulties happen to both the righteous and the ones acting faithless, but the outcome of those difficulties is determined by their life before their Creator.

Brian never liked tornado season, but it was still a reality of life. The summer storms were amazing to watch, but terrifying as well. The TV blared the weather with the red cones of terror showing hot storms, and their predicted direction. His house was right under the center of one of them. He didn’t have much time.

A box of pictures, some documents, and his daughter’s old stuffed dog were thrown into a duffle. He looked at a picture of he and his wife from years ago and blinked back a tear.

Better times, but still, time to go.

Brian slung the duffle of stuff and clothes on his shoulder and made his way to the basement door. There was a knock on the front door. He looked over in some surprise, but he still had time, a little. Dropping the duffle by the basement door, he went to the front door.

“Who is it?” Brian asked without opening.

“It’s Jeremy, open up, man,” said Jeremy, a young man from down the street.

Brian opened the door, and Jeremy let himself inside.

“Sorry, everyone at my house is hunkering down, so I thought I’d hang with you.”

“Jeremy, I’m headed for the basement.”

“Can I watch your TV while you’re down there?”

Brian blinked at Jeremy without asking for a second. He cocked his head to one side.

“What’s going on, Jeremy? There’s a tornado coming this way. Why aren’t you hunkering down?”

“What for? What difference would it make? If that thing comes through here, no matter where you are, you’ll be dead.” He flopped on the couch and picked up the remote.

“So, your family, hunkering down in their house, they took the TV with them?”

Jeremy looked over at Brian quizzically.

“No, of course not.”

“Then why aren’t you watching TV at your house, Jeremy?”

Jeremy looked at the TV. The announcer was motioning over the storm tracking radar image. The road pattern was familiar to anyone living in that section of Watkins, Oklahoma. The storm was close, hot, and rotation had been spotted.

“They keep whining at me to come down in the basement with them,” Jeremy said without looking at Brian.

“So, you left.”

“Yeah, I couldn’t listen to it any more.”

Brian came around the couch and sat next to Jeremy, looking intently at his face.

“Jeremy.” Jeremy looked away from the TV at Brian. “Are your mom and dad okay?”

Jeremy stared at Brian, and the corners of his eyes moistened as water pooled slowly.

“I don’t think so.” He sniffed and looked at the TV.

“Jeremy, where are your parents?”

“In the basement, like I said,” Jeremy said without looking over.

“Jeremy, look at me.” Jeremy looked at Brian. “Where are your parents?”

There was a pause as Jeremy’s face went through a series of expressions, his eyebrows arching and furrowing, his mouth curving down on one or both sides.

“They’re in Fort Worth,” Jeremy said finally.

Brian relaxed and sat back.

“Why didn’t you go?”

“I didn’t want to.”

“I get that, but why didn’t you want to?”

Jeremy kept looking at the TV. The sound of wind could be heard outside, and the intensity was rising.

“Jeremy, we need to go.” Brian stood up and looked down at the young man on his couch. “You can hunker down with me.”

“I’m not going.”

“Well, I am, so help yourself to whatever in the fridge. I’ll be in the basement.”

Brian turned, and went to his duffle. Picking it up, he opened the basement door, and took one last look at Jeremy, still sitting staring at the TV. He shook his head, and descended the stairs, shutting the door behind him.

The stairwell was a narrow concrete corridor ending in a sturdy metal-banded wood-plank door. He had joked with his wife it was his dungeon. He opened the door and went into the small rectangular room. The sides were cinderblock with a poured concrete ceiling. It had taken him a while to figure out how to do that under the house, but he felt it was well worth it. A vent in the ceiling allowed the sound of the raging wind outside to be heard, but no draft came through. A wide bench ran along one wall, a rack with a few wines and canned supplies lined the back wall, and a couple of outlets and single bare bulb were all the electricity visible. A metal toilet and sink were fixed to the wall at the end of the bench. He had gotten the fixtures from an old prison. Brian liked their look, although his wife had sworn she would never use them. She had been right.

He spread out some blankets and a sleeping bag on the bench and sat down. He looked at the door for a moment and frowned. Jeremy still didn’t come through. The door didn’t even have a lock, just a latch. He looked back at the TV. He looked back at the door and stood up. The wind outside deepened in pitch, and suddenly there was a gut-wrenching sound, of wood creaking and snapping, metal groaning and crashing, and the small room shook. The light suddenly went out, and the small room was plunged into darkness.

Brian stood in the bleary overcast daylight. A gentle breeze blew tatters of debris that made up the whole of the landscape around him. His house was a shredded debris field eight times the size of his yard, just like every other house on the street. A tear traced a path down his cheek.

All those people in bathrooms, hiding in tubs…

The neighborhood was now all debris surrounding bare concrete foundations. Old trees were pulled, roots and all, and dropped in the street, in yards, even on an otherwise bare foundation or two. No car was left upright, and few were even in the street.

He looked down at his own bare foundation. Even some of the tile was missing. Most of the carpet was gone, and there were no walls.

Jeremy, why didn’t you come downstairs with me? Whatever you were after wasn’t worth it.

Brian pulled out his phone and looked at the signal strength. Surprisingly, he had a few bars. He searched through his contacts and hit dial. It took a few seconds to pick-up.

“Hi Jack, it’s Brian.”

“No.” Brian’s face contorted as he choked back a sob. “He never came downstairs with me.” His sob escaped and he breathed in deep and thready.

Brian sat on the edge of the foundation of his house. He rested his elbow on his thigh, and his face in his palm, the phone to his ear. The faint sound of a voice was audible from his phone. The breeze rose gently and tousled Brian’s hair.

Proverbs 1:7 – A Story

Fear of Yahweh // Top of knowledge (daat H1847)
Wisdom (chokmah H2451) and discipline (musar H4148) // Fools despise

The parallel concepts are synonymous rather than antithetical. On the other hand, the first is positive, and the second is negative. In a chiastic structure, knowledge is compared synonymously with wisdom and discipline, where fools are antithetical to fear of Yahweh. That’s one way to see it anyway.

Greg leaned back, pulled his glasses off and rubbed his eyes. His face, lit by the light of his laptop, was covered in stubble in the patches left by his unruly beard. He sighed deeply and let his hands fall to his sides, one still holding his glasses. He stared at the ceiling.

He closed his eyes and rolled his head around, stretching his neck, pausing at one point to pull tight muscles. Facing the screen again, he replaced his glasses, and his long slender fingers went to the keyboard once more.

The sound of feet sliding along carpet behind him announced the arrival of his sleepy roommate, Frank. Greg didn’t look up as Frank shuffled by in a stupor.

“I can’t believe you’re still up working on that stupid paper,” Frank said as he opened the fridge.

“I’m almost done.”

Glass bottles clinked in the fridge as Frank shut the door. He reached into the sink and pulled out a glass tumbler. After a bleary inspection, he poured the milk into it.

“Well, you missed a great party last night.”

“Oh, I’m sure.” Greg glanced over at Frank. “You hung over?”

“Duh, I said it was a fun party.”

“So, is your paper done?”


“When are you planning on doing it?”

The silence was broken only by Frank slurping and gulping his milk. He wiped his mouth, and looked at Greg, blinking.

“When’s it due?”

Greg looked at Frank with wide eyes.

“Seriously? It’s due today, bone head.”

“I’ll do it,” Frank said rubbing his eyes. “After breakfast.” He looked at Greg and smiled. “In the library, with the candlestick.”

Greg sighed and looked back at his screen.

“Yeah, you do that.”

“What’s it supposed to be on again?”

Greg was silent for moment as his shoulders tightened in a shrug, and he frowned deeply.

“It’s on a parable of Jesus that does not refer to the Kingdom of God.”

“Easy peasy.” Frank flopped on the couch behind Greg. “I’ll do it on the one about the Sower.”

“That’s about the kingdom of God, you dope.”

“Oh, right.” Frank scratched his head. “How about the one about the pearl of something or another?”

“Still the Kingdom of God.”


“Have you even taken notes in class?”

Frank was silent. He sat up and sniffed. His hair stuck up in several, incoherent directions. He frowned.

“Does that help?”

Greg shook his head.

“You’re doomed.”

“Nah, I’ll be fine.” Frank shrugged. “I mean, what can they do to me?”

“Flunk you?”

“Nope, I paid good money for this course.”

Greg twisted around in his chair and stared at his disheveled roommate.

“Wow. I mean, first, you didn’t pay anything, your parents did.” Greg held up a finger. “And second, that only pays for access to the learning, not to pass.” He held up his second finger. “It’s up to you to actually learn anything.”

Greg turned back to his laptop and continued typing. He shook his head and sighed.

“You sound like my dad,” Frank said. “He says he’s not paying for another semester if I don’t pass this one.”

“I wouldn’t either.”

“Yeah, that’s what I mean,” Frank mumbled as he rubbed his face. “You sound like my dad.”

There was silence as Greg typed and Frank pondered the carpet between his slippers.

“What parable are you doing?” Frank asked finally.

“The parable of the unjust judge.”

“How is that not about the Kingdom of God?” Frank asked staring at the back of Greg’s head.

“It’s about prayer.”

“Like nobody prays in the kingdom of God.”

Greg twisted around to stare at Frank in silence. Frank continued to stare at the floor.

“You really didn’t pay attention, did you?”

Frank didn’t respond.

“We’re supposed to write about a parable that does not begin with, ‘The Kingdom of God is like…’,” Greg said, slowly.

“What do you think of Emily?” Frank asked suddenly. He looked up at Greg.

Greg blinked silently.

“I met her at the party you skipped last night.” Frank ran his fingers through his hair. “I don’t think she goes here, I think Brian picked her up at a bar.”

Greg blinked again, chewed his bottom lip for a second, and turned back around. He continued typing.

“I think I’m going to ask her to marry me.” Frank stood up. “She’s cool.” He stretched his hands toward the ceiling. “My mom would hate her.” He chuckled as he bent over and tried to reach the floor, but barely reached above his ankles.

Greg cringed in his seat and continued to type.

“Well, you have fun,” Frank said. “I’m going back to bed.”

Greg looked at Franks back as he shuffled back to his room.

“And I’ve decided to go into real estate!”

Greg rolled his eyes and turned back to his laptop screen.

Proverbs 10:2 – A Story

They do not benefit, storehouses of wickedness;
And righteousness saves from death.

The Hebrew word for “wickedness”, resa (H7562), is the normal contrast to righteous/righteousness, tsedeq (H6664), in Hebrew wisdom literature.

The word for “benefit”, yaal (H3276), is almost always negative. It basically refers to any sort of benefit, legal or mercantile. It is typically translated as “profit”, but “benefit” lends itself to both types.

He had lied. He had lied a lot. In fact, he could no longer remember when the last time he had told the whole truth. The weight was heavy on him, and he took some comfort in that, but not much.

Eric rubbed his temples, elbows on his desk, eyes squeezed shut. A tear seeped out from the corner of his eye and traced a faint line down his cheek. It ran to the tip of his nose pausing just before dropping to the glass covering the walnut desktop.

On a black terry-cloth towel just to his right lay his .45 automatic pistol. It was cleaned and oiled, loaded and charged, ready. Watermarked cotton-fiber paper lay before him, a Mont Blanc pen laying askew where the writing had stopped. It hadn’t ended, he wasn’t done writing, he just wasn’t sure he could go on.

Eric sighed deeply, sat up, and picked up the pen. He blinked at the page briefly, and once more put the tip to the paper. The meaningless wealth, the empty luxury, the hollow relationships, all flowed through him and on to the paper. His pain erupted from him, and the page filled with words.

He flipped the page over and continued. Shifting his position at the desk, he bore down on the page, the pen making deep marks with each stroke of a letter. His face drew up into a scowl, and his brow furrowed deeply. Then, with a light sigh, the scowl softened to a frown, and his brow relaxed. The page continued to fill with words.

Eric sat back, looking at the page, flipping it back and forth, twiddling the pen between the fingers of his right hand. He re-read the words, the sentences, the paragraphs, and the pages. He wiped the tears with the back of his hand, and set down the page, staring across his desk at the ornate office door.

The time of decision he had been avoiding had arrived. The page was supposed to help him decide, or at least help him follow through on his decision. He read the first paragraph again. It made sense to proceed. He continued to the second page. It started to make more sense not to proceed.

Other people were the problem. As long as he didn’t think of them, he could proceed. As soon as he considered them, it made less sense. He fidgeted with the paper, flicking the edge with his ring finger.

Proceeding was more like who he had become. It was consistent. Yet, he now saw he could become someone else.  There was an alternative he had not considered until he poured his pain out on to the page. He could feel his heart race at the thought of such a change.

Come clean, and live with the consequences. He shrugged. Or die from them, just not by his own hand.

It was a fight to get here. Eric drummed his fingers on the glass of his desk and chewed his lip. It will be a fight to get out. If it’s even possible, alive anyway.

Eric stood and pulled his suit jacket from the back of his leather desk chair. He slipped into the jacket and adjusted his tie. He opened the drawer with his holster, put the pistol in it, and slid it shut slowly, staring at the weapon as it disappeared. The decision had been made.

He came around from behind the desk, looked at his reflection in the glass of a framed black and white photo of the Yosemite Mountains. He flicked a hair back into place, sighed deeply, and walked to the door. Without a pause, Eric left the office, and went to tell his wife the whole truth. He would start there.

Proverb 11:2 A Story

Came pride and came humiliation;
And with humble ones, wisdom (chokmah H2451).

In Hebrew the verbs are both completed action and are missing in the second staph. So, from a reader’s perspective, do these proud ones come to them, or are they the proud ones? Does it matter? If not, then how do both options help us perceive the point?

For instance, if Bob is proud and shows up at Steve’s house, is Bob humiliating Steve? If Steve is proud, then as his pride grows, does his humiliation among his peers?

Conversely, if Bob is humble and shows up at Steve’s house, is Steve gaining wisdom by welcoming him? If Steve is humble, does his humility demonstrate his wisdom?

Steve looked at himself in the mirror, jutting his chin out to inspect his shaving job. He smoothed his hands over his cheeks and turned his head back and forth. His sideburns were short, hair neatly trimmed to a high-and-tight “rug”. It was a short rug.

He stepped back and checked his uniform. Pockets ironed flat, rank in place, no strings on patches, his eyes traveled down, checking every potentially dangerous gig. His boots were clean and pants bloused neatly above. Everything looked right.

This is it, today’s my day!

He turned to look at himself as well as he could, from behind. He glanced through the bathroom door into his quarters. His bed was still messed up, and his wife, Dana, still slept. She’d finally understand, after today. All these years will suddenly make sense.

Steve made another adjustment to his belt as he walked out of the bathroom, switching off the light. He stood at the foot of the bed and looked down at Dana’s sleeping form. She shifted and grunted, hugging her pillow tighter. He walked out softly and shut the door.

In the kitchen, Steve opened the fridge to get things out for his smoothie. Green spinach, frozen fruit, his protein, not hers, yuck, a little water, and he assembled the ingredients in the blender. A brief couple of pulses, and he let it run for a bit.

He leaned against the counter holding his cup. Steve caught his reflection in the oven door and toasted himself with a smile.

It all pays off today. Here’s to you, Sargent Robbins!

There was a loud knock on the door, and Steve jolted upright and rushed to get it before more sounded.

Bob, you dork!

“Hey, Dana’s still sleeping you idiot!” Steve said in a loud whisper as he opened the door.

Bob entered the living room with a flourish and a wave.

“Sargent Erickson has arrived! All bow before him!” Bob said loudly with an enormous grin.

“Dude! Shut up! I told you, Dana’s still…”

“Sleeping?” Dana said blearily from the bedroom doorway.

Steve looked at his wife and sighed. Bob looked at her with a wide grin.

“Now you get to be the first to congratulate me on my big day!” Bob said, arms up like he was about to hug her. He didn’t approach, though. Her face made it clear she was not to be approached.

“Sorry, honey. Oh, and Bob’s here.”

Dana didn’t smile.

“I thought it was your big day,” Dana said, looking at her husband.

“Well, it is. But Bob is involved in it too.”

“Involved?” Bob said, looking at Steve with hands on his hips. “It was my idea!”

“Oh sure, you thought up a way to change all the filters in Humvees in less than 5 minutes.”


“That was you,” Steve said, looking at Bob with a smirk.

“Yup, that’s what I told the Sargant Major.”

Dana smirked at Steve as Steve gaped at Bob. Bob did a dance in the living room, oblivious to both.

A cascade of expressions flowed across Sargant Steve Robbins face as emotions and thoughts collided, surged, crashed, and pinwheeled around in his head. Dana leaned against the door jamb, arms crossed, eyebrows raised, as she watched her husband grapple with news she had warned him about already.

Steve looked from his “friend” to his wife, and back, and forth, and back. He sighed, and looked at the floor.

Crap. I can’t believe he actually did it.

Steve looked at Bob for a second, still dancing, but now a horrible Irish jig. A smile crept across his face. He looked over at Dana who raised her eyebrows in question. He grinned wider, and pulled out his phone.

Sgt Major, I hate to do this, but something has come up with Dana.

Would it be okay with you if I took a PTO day today? I know it’s last minute.

Steve continued to look at his phone for a minute, tilting his head back and forth as he ticked off the seconds. The Sargant Major was always very prompt in replies. And today was no different.

Sure Sgt Robbins, Erickson is the one I need to meet with anyway.

“Perfect! I’m off the hook,” Steve said with a smile. He stood, arms folded, looking at Bob who had frozen, one leg up, in mid slap.

Bob looked over at Steve with wide eyes, still balanced on one foot, hand poised above his boot.

“So, you and I can go on that date to Old Town you have been asking for,” Steve said, looking at his wife with a wide grin. She smiled widely back at him.

“And you need to hurry if you’re going to make the motor pool on time to meet with Sargent Major Peters about your amazing new discovery,” Steve said looking at Bob.

Bob blinked, put his foot down slowly, still staring at Steve with wide eyes. Steve walked over and guided Bob by the arm out the door.

“Wait! What was the order again?” came Bob’s muffled voice as the door shut.

Steve and Dana had a wonderful day. Bob’s day was very different.