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.


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 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.

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.

We’re In This One?

In Men in Black 3, the character, Griffin the Archanan, sees time as a “fifth dimensional being”, meaning he experiences all options of time simultaneously, but also as they coalesce into a single history. So, he’s constantly looking around and saying, “Oh no, we’re in this one?” as something random happens.

To an extent, we sort of do that as we experience our days, weeks, months, and years. Last year, we hoped the COVID-19 pandemic was ending. It didn’t. Instead we entered the variant stage with Delta and Omicron. Things improved, but remained unstable. 

Welcome to 2022. We’re in this one now. There is little rational support for approaching this year with a sense of peace. Little lends itself to a sense of hope. The circumstances of the humans on this planet seem kind of grim on all sorts of levels, from economic to health to social. What seems to be true is that rough times have come to all, regardless of social or economic standing. And, again, the virus has demonstrated the interconnectedness and interdependence of all humans on this planet.

So, while we’re in this one, here’s a suggestion: cling to Jesus. Wow, who would have thought, right? Forehead slap or slap on the back of the head? You probably want to slap the back of my head. Pretend you did.

I’ve been digging around in Proverbs lately, seeking to ponder riddles and difficult sayings. I ran across these two:

Came pride, and came humiliation; And with humble ones, wisdom. (Proverbs 11:2)

Righteousness of upright ones saves them; And in a desire of ones acting faithless they will be caught. (Proverbs 11:6)

Those are my translations, and I chose to do it that way because I’m looking for what an ancient Hebrew person would have read and what they would have thought. On that track, they break down this way (at least to me):

Pride comes, in the form of the attitude to the reader, or a prideful person they know coming to visit. With the arrival of the pride (or prideful person) comes humiliation. Whether it’s entertaining the prideful person or being prideful, humiliation still comes along for the ride. The lesson I learn is to neither entertain prideful people, nor to entertain pride in myself. But there’s more!

When humility (or humble visitors) come, then we don’t gain exaltation or praise, we gain wisdom. Perhaps the reverse can be said, that if we seek wisdom we discover humility. Either way, entertaining humility (and humble visitors) brings wisdom to you as well.

This is all well and good, but what about the bleak outlook of 2022? How does that lesson help us face the new year? I would be very careful to avoid being prideful in your outlook, or entertaining those who are. The difference between pride and hope/faith can be seen in why someone is hopeful and what they have faith in. Which leads us to the second proverb.

Notice that both upright ones and faithless ones need saving. That pretty much sums up the bleak outlook of 2022. Notice that no skill, ability, knowledge, or possession saves either one. Instead, it’s about priorities. In their desire faithless people are caught. Both are pursued, but there is a desire that causes the faithless one to be caught.

The righteousness of the upright one saves. Well, we, as disciples of Jesus, know that our only claim to righteousness is Jesus, and His death, burial, and resurrection. Nothing else imparts righteousness than Him, His actions on our behalf, and His loving grace. Therefore, the only thing which will save those considered upright (“meeting the standard of Yahweh set through Scriptures”), is Jesus.

So, we can stop working so diligently at pretending everything is good. It’s not. On the other hand, Jesus makes our standing before Jesus firm and secure. If that’s our priority, then the important things are good.

Conversely, when our priorities are not on our Savior, when we desire something less than a right standing before our Creator, then that desire will cause us to be caught in the deluge of the world’s problems.

Like driving, you keep an eye on your speed, the temp, the battery, fuel, while you focus on the road. When you focus on the gauges and keep an eye on the road you will eventually crash into something.

Focus on Jesus, and keep an eye on what’s going on around you. You will discover wisdom, humility, and be saved from common failures.

You may notice those focused on desires so much they compromise faith and honesty, and fail, wallowing in selfish self-pity. Watch them from afar, setting firm boundaries with them. Perhaps they will watch you and change their focus.

May you and yours have a very blessed 2022!

A Whirlwind Relationship

One of the interesting “appearances” of our Creator in the Hebrew Scriptures is as a “whirlwind”. There is a term that is commonly thought of in this way, the Hebrew word, “sa’arah”. It’s used when Elijah is taken up by Yahweh (2 Kings 2:11), and this is the word for the whirlwind out of which Yahweh speaks to Job (Job 38:1). It isn’t always the appearance of Yahweh, sometimes it is an actual storm.

Having said that, it is used in Ezekiel for the appearance of Yahweh to Ezekiel at the River Chebar:

As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.
Ezekiel 1:4 NASB

Ezekiel goes on to describe an inexplicable sight of the creatures about the throne of Yahweh. Still, all of that happens within this cloud or fiery whirlwind. Which reminded me of the appearance of Yahweh on  Mount Sinai in Exodus:

So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder. The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
Exodus 19:16-20

The same word, sa’arah, is not used in Exodus, but the imagery sure sounds similar. There are other visions of Yahweh which don’t involve the whirlwind, so why do some? I’m not sure, and conjecture at this point is probably not helpful. It most likely has to do with the particular people at that particular point in human history, and I don’t know enough detail about either.

Yet, I learn something of my Savior from these appearances. I learn things like these:

  1. He is willing to come to His people and be seen by them
  2. He is powerful, frighteningly so, possibly terrifyingly (yet, see Judges 13:21-23)
  3. He reveals Himself to His people in ways that communicate a message we need, at that point in time.

I could go on, but you probably get the idea. The vision of Elisha of the chariots of fire and horses of fire as Elijah is taken by the whirlwind, combined with the vision of Ezekiel of the creatures within the storming whirlwind makes me wonder. What would it be like to see that? What would such an appearance of my Creator be like to experience? Would I, like Ezekiel, be silenced for a week? Would I, like Isaiah, have the presence of mind to volunteer for my Savior’s purpose? Or would I blather on like Peter on the Mount of Transfiguration? I suspect I’d blather.

My Creator has not shown up to speak with me like that. I haven’t seen Him enthroned with the four creatures around Him. I haven’t heard the loud thundering trumpet of His voice. I believe Hollywood cannot reproduce, or even come close, to what Elisha or Ezekiel saw, nor adequately depict the glory of my Creator showing up on Mount Sinai. I want to see it. I want to be so awed I collapse in a quivering heap on the ground, babbling in a fetal position for a week. Bring it on! Sigh, alas, it is not to be. And that’s okay, honestly.

The thing is, I can get so caught up in the physical sight that I miss the fact that I have Him with me all the time. It would be cool to see the whirlwind, don’t get me wrong. And I would be ecstatic to experience that (and, yes, terrified). Yet, my Savior dwells within me at every moment.

Therefore, when I am behaving, He is with me. And when I am misbehaving, He is with me. He is with me when I travel, when I am at home, and when I am somewhere else. If I would live that way all the time, I would be different. I would treat others differently, I would see this world differently, I would think differently. And, perhaps, living that way might make it more likely that I will see such a sight. Yet, even if it doesn’t, and I don’t, I will in heaven. Eventually, we will all of us see Him, in all His glory, and every knee will bow, and every will tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

It will happen, eventually. So, in the meantime, how will I live today?

Wrath, Grace, and Justice

I get why a lot of people referring to themselves as “Christ-followers” don’t particularly like the Hebrew Scriptures. I have changed my term to disciple of Jesus. Not that I am particularly disciplined, or not as much as I should be. I choose it because it is more subordinate in my mind. I need something more intentional and committed, because I don’t particularly like what I find in the Hebrew Scriptures either. Yet it’s still true about my Creator and Savior.

For instance, when David sins by counting the people, Yahweh is very displeased. After David repents (at least in the order things are recorded), Yahweh gives David a choice of three punishments: 1) Three years of famine, 2) Three months of battle loss, or 3) Three days of pestilence. Pestilence doesn’t sound so bad, but here’s how Yahweh describes it to Gad, David’s seer:

So Gad came to David and said to him, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Take for yourself either three years of famine, or three months to be swept away before your foes, while the sword of your enemies overtakes you, or else three days of the sword of the LORD, even pestilence in the land, and the angel of the LORD destroying throughout all the territory of Israel.’ Now, therefore, consider what answer I shall return to Him who sent me.”
(1 Chronicles 21:11-12 NASB)

David’s response is that he would rather fall into the hands of Yahweh than the hands of men, so he chooses three days. The angel of Yahweh goes through the land and 70,000 die from north to south in the land. And then there’s this dramatic scene:

And God sent an angel to Jerusalem to destroy it; but as he was about to destroy it, the LORD saw and was sorry over the calamity, and said to the destroying angel, “It is enough; now relax your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was standing by the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite. Then David lifted up his eyes and saw the angel of the LORD standing between earth and heaven, with his drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem. Then David and the elders, covered with sackcloth, fell on their faces. David said to God, “Is it not I who commanded to count the people? Indeed, I am the one who has sinned and done very wickedly, but these sheep, what have they done? O LORD my God, please let Your hand be against me and my father’s household, but not against Your people that they should be plagued.”

(1 Chronicles 21:15-17 NASB)

This is a difficult account of our Savior punishing sin among His people. It’s a window into His relationship with David, with Israel, with His human creatures, and, potentially, with us. We don’t like it when our Savior get’s angry, we’re uncomfortable, and squirm in our seats. This is how He dealt with His people, not gentiles, not pagans worshipping other gods, His chosen ones. How, then, will we escape when our Father in Heaven seems so severe?

Our hope is in His grace. Our Savior is just. And, because of His just nature, there is wrath. Yet, there is also grace. Yahweh saw what His angel was about to do to Jerusalem, and “relented” or “was sorry”. Our Creator changed His mind. Isn’t that what we want from a just God? Do we really want justice? Wouldn’t that wipe us out, utterly destroy us? Isn’t that a global flood, thorough destruction, maybe with only a single family left?

I want grace. I want my Savior to change His mind about me. I want something to appease my Creator. Eventually, my Creator provided Himself as my Savior. He took away the wrath by taking it on Himself. He appeased Himself, His just nature was settled through Jesus on a cross. And so, grace reigned over my sin, my failure, as David experienced. David saw the angel of Yahweh standing over Jerusalem with sword drawn, ready to destroy there too. And David saw it all stop, in grace. Yahweh changed His mind, relented of the evil about to happen, was sorry for the people of Jerusalem, and stopped it. 

Read the Hebrew Scriptures and discover the grace of our Creator in fresh ways. The accounts of our Creator demonstrating grace among these accounts helps us better appreciate Jesus, and ourselves before His presence. On the threshing floor of Ornan (Arunah in 2 Samuel 24), David makes an altar, and offers an offering to Yahweh. According to tradition, eventually, on that site, David’s son, Solomon will build the temple. And, eventually, the Savior will teach in the courts there, teach of the grace of Yahweh.

Struggling With The Sins of Others

I am absolutely not a fan of “pride month” being June. It’s the month I was born. Now, instead of being able to do fun things to celebrate me, I find my plans blocked by parades and celebrations I find extremely “uncomfortable”. Okay, I don’t actually plan to go anywhere for my birthday that this will be a problem (except for this year, and we’re going anyway). Honestly, it’s this month-long celebration of a behavior that is so clearly a violation of my religious beliefs. It’s as if that’s the point, to offend.

Scripture isn’t “obscure” on the topic of gender-identity. It isn’t one of those “grey areas”. Paul begins his letter to Rome with these very clear statements:

For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
(Romans 1:26-27 NASB)

Now, to be clear, this is a translation of an ancient version of Greek, no longer in use. So, English translators do their best to render the original meaning into English. It’s tough, though, to really get the descriptors Paul uses here to work well in English. Most of the translations I’ve looked at (here it’s the New American Standard) agree on the gist of Paul’s point. It’s wrong, people know it, and our Creator has stopped trying to stop them from harming themselves.

So, am I right in being bothered by a month of “pride” in what my Savior calls “degrading passions”? Well, maybe. Although, the chapter of Romans doesn’t end there. 

And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
(Romans 1:28-32 NASB)

You see, the list isn’t restricted to LGBTQEtc-type sins. There’s actually a long list of behaviors that “miss the mark” of righteousness with our Creator. The key is how this paragraph begins, “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer,…”. It is this statement that forms the basis on our Creator’s “handing over” of these people. It’s not that they are LGBTQ-whatever. Look at the rest of the paragraph’s behavior list. How many of those are mine? Way too many, honestly.

I’m not going to go through the list with a “done that” “not done that” marker. You get the point, and you could do that yourself. The point is that Paul is making it clear the problem is actually wide-spread. The Jewish readers would have been horrified and appalled at the sexual sins listed, but then they would find themselves on the list at the end. The point isn’t whether you find yourself on the list, the point is “acknowledging God”.

Look at how Paul leads into this discussion:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.
(Romans 1:18-20 NASB)

Our Creator is known. He has revealed Himself through what He has created. So, people, also His creations, are without excuse regarding acknowledging their Creator. But it goes on:

For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
(Romans 1:21-25 NASB)

Did you notice the pointed accusation in verse 25, “…and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator…”? Do you catch the point? I know that I struggle with that. When I think of what people think of me more than what my Creator thinks of me, I fail precisely at this point. Then I gossip, I slander, am arrogant, boastful, insolent; am basically selfish, self-centered, and fear the creatures rather than the Creator.

So, yes, a month dedicated to celebrating any one of these failures of humanity is frustrating and confusing. But what should I expect from such a world as Paul describes? Isn’t every day some sort of celebration of these things? Don’t our entertainment choices celebrate the list of sins?

I still don’t like it, I feel uncomfortable with the topic, and I don’t want the topic of “gender identity” pushed in my face. And yet, I am right there with them with my own vices on this list. The sad reality is that I am not going to be pleased with the reading of the “books” in Revelation listing everything we’ve ever done, both good and bad. I’m going to have a lot more bad than good, that’s just the truth about me.

On the other hand, I believe my name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. At the end of the process, it’s not what’s written in the books, but rather my name being in the Book of Life that matters. What’s in the books may be embarrassing, but that will be overwhelmed by the joy of my name being in the Lamb’s book of life. 

My Creator is my Savior, and not because of something I’ve done. He is my Savior because of what He has done. He loves me. My actions on that list have not voided His love for me. So, I can only assume that this is true of anyone who’s behavior is on that list. The key is whether we acknowledge our Creator. 

So, at the end of my line of thinking, I’m still uncomfortable and frustrated. I am also more mindful of the wide arms of my Savior. If He accepts me, He will accept anyone who acknowledges Him, anyone who believes that He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him. Will the behavior change? Mine has. On the other hand, some hasn’t. But how I view my behavior has completely changed. I accept my Savior’s view of my behavior, His definition of good and evil, His desire for my actions toward others. Perhaps that’s the litmus test of acknowledging our Creator as our Savior.

What do you think? Or is that a dangerous question?