God’s Little Instruction Book is taking us back to Proverbs today, but unlike the past two forays into the Nation of Proverbia, this verse isn’t a stand-alone saying with no necessary connection to its neighbors. It’s part of a larger admonition from Solomon to a person he calls “my son,” encouraging him to pursue wisdom and eschew evil. That’s right: it’s context time.
This is a momentous occasion, fam. No, not Valentine’s Day: today we are breaking new ground. For the first time on Chocolate Book, we are cracking open the book of Ecclesiastes.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve chucked the intro for today’s post. What’s worth saying? What words are going to be of actual benefit to you, the reader, and what words are just vacuous self-indulgence? Why even bother? I don’t know. Due to logistical necessities, we are back in the God’s Little Deconstruction Book series, and there’s nothing to do but move forward.
So, what verse does God’s Little Instruction Book have for us today? It’s none other than Proverbs 16:32, “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.” And this is one verse where taking a bird’s-eye view of its context will not lend us any particular insight into its meaning. There do exist passages in Proverbs which are not simply successions of maxims and wise sayings, but chapter 16 is not one of them.
Habakkuk concludes his book with his own words. He identifies them as a “Shigionoth,” which my NASB’s margin notes tell me is a highly emotional poetic form, thereby saving me the trouble of googling “Shigionoth.” Habakkuk’s prayer here actually reminds me of the first chapter of Nahum, insofar as it displays God’s power and greatness through his actions. It would seem Habakkuk has received some form of satisfactory answer to his questions: if not the information that he asked for, then at least a response that addresses his concerns. Let’s take a closer look at the character of his final words and see what’s changed.
That said, let’s dig into Paul’s closing words to the Thessalonian church. I’ve found that how I react to different passages in the Bible tells me things about myself, both in general and where I am in my life at that particular reading. What resonates with me, what comforts me? What makes me uncomfortable, what makes me put up my fists inside? What do I have questions about? For me, reading the Bible is often an experience in being forced to get honest with myself before God.
Welcome to a new letter from Paul. He wrote this one to the church at Philippi while he was imprisoned at Rome. As I read through the first chapter, I found myself asking: how am I gonna talk about this one? Paul’s all over the place! One moment he’s expressing his gratitude for the Philippian church, then he’s talking about preaching the gospel to his captors while he’s imprisoned, then he’s talking about how some people are preaching the gospel out of selfish motives but he doesn’t care because people are still hearing the truth about Jesus Christ. And that’s not the half of it–he’s got more to say about suffering and sacrificing and how faith manifests itself in action, to the point where I ask myself, what’s the theme here? Is there a theme? What ties it all together? Then it hits me: the theme is Jesus Christ himself.
I’ve never been in a fistfight. One time I got into a tussle with my brother and shoved him into a pine bush (which I almost immediately regretted), but I’ve never thrown a real, honest-to-goodness, let’s-hurt-someone punch. David, on the other hand, has been in battles. He’s used a sling to kill lions and bears and a huge Philistine warrior; he’s picked up a sword and fought people who want to kill him. Dude wasn’t just a king and a musician, he was also a soldier. So, you know, psalms like Psalm 140 are a little foreign to me.
Once upon a time, a psalmist made a bet to see how many different ways he could say “Praise the name of the Lord.” He lost the bet, though, because he gave up halfway through, and that’s how we got Psalm 113. No, not really, but I have to write an introduction somehow.
Sometimes the psalm summarizes itself for you. Consider the opening lines of today’s psalm: “How blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in His commandments!” (112:1). The rest of the psalm is basically a litany of blessings for the man who fears the Lord. He receives a well-established family tree, material wealth, a good legacy, victory over his adversaries, and more. But let’s zero in on a verse in the middle of the psalm, characterizing this man of many blessings. The man is merciful–and a creditor.