The Curse of Laziness

September 23, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Creation, Meditations, Work

Proverbs 10:26 (NKJV)

26 As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy man to those who send him.

When God created the world, He spent six days laboring and one day in rest. This rhythm of work and rest He then gave as a pattern to men. This pattern is made explicit in the Fourth Commandment. While we typically focus upon the imperative of rest in the Fourth Commandment, we should note that it also contains the duty of work. Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work; but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God; in it thou shalt do no work… We are to imitate our God who worked hard by working hard ourselves. Work, in other words, is not among the curses of the fall. Work is one of the tasks that God gave to us in the garden.

In our sin, however, we often invert the rhythm that God has given to us. We either refuse to rest as we ought on the Lord’s Day or we refuse to work as we ought the remainder of the week. It is this latter sin, the sin of laziness, the refusal to work as we ought, that Solomon confronts in our Scripture today. As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, So is the lazy man to those who send him.

Solomon reminds us that we were not created to be lazy. You were made to work, to labor, to His glory. Ora et labora, the Latin phrase says. Pray and work. God has commissioned you to bring order where there is disorder, to bring beauty where there is ugliness, to bring joy where there is sorrow, to bring truth where there is error, to bring light where there is darkness. God has placed you here as His emissary, to work for His glory, and to advance His kingdom.

When we work thus diligently, we are a blessing to others. The lazy man, however, is a curse to his fellow man. He is, Solomon writes, like vinegar to the teeth, removing the enamel so that one’s teeth rot; he is like smoke to the eyes, causing pain and irritation from whose irritation the rational man flees.

So what of you? Are you lazy? God has placed you here to work not to fritter away your time binge watching Netflix or scrolling endlessly through social media. Men, are you devoting yourself to your work, diligently blessing your employer or your customers? Or are you making excuses for why the tasks entrusted to you just never seem to get done, why the service you perform is always slipshod? Parents, are you diligently training your children, bringing them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord? Or are you making excuses for why they are ill prepared and ungovernable? Children, are you working faithfully at your studies, striving to expand your knowledge and understanding? Or are you failing to complete your work and doing it poorly?

Reminded that we have been called to bless others and to expand God’s kingdom by working diligently to the glory of His Name, let us confess that we are often lazy instead. And as we confess our sins, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Crisis of Unbelief in the Church

September 16, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Judgment, Meditations, Postmillennialism, Sovereignty of God

Proverbs 10:23–25: To do evil is like sport to a fool, But a man of understanding has wisdom. 24 The fear of the wicked will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted. 25 When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

It is important to understand that increasingly we live amongst a people who act as though there is no God. We live amongst fools; for it is the fool who says in his heart, “There is no God.” He runs up debt with no intention to repay; he makes promises and does not fulfill them; he commits sexual immorality, performs lewd acts, divorces his spouse, violates his oaths. He does not believe there is anyone who will call him to account, “I am my own master.”

Consequently, in Solomon’s words, doing evil is like sport to a fool. Life is just a game where decisions are not a matter of life and death; not a matter of heaven and hell; everything will turn out fine. “It’s all good,” so the saying goes.

A man of understanding, however, has wisdom. He understands that his choices have consequences – not only in the next life but also in this life. God is the Lord, rewarding the just and judging the wicked. The wise man lives his life aware of this fact; lives his life in the fear of the Lord.

Though the fool may claim that there is no God who rules in the affairs of men, the wise man knows better. God does rule; God does see; and He shall reward the righteous and judge the wicked – both in this life and in the next. The fear of the wicked will come upon him, and the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by – when God’s judgment falls – the wicked is no more, but the righteous has an everlasting foundation. As Solomon reminds us in Proverbs 11:31,“If the righteous will be recompensed on earth, how much more the ungodly and the sinner.” God is just and His justice will manifest itself in the course of human history.

Today Christians are facing a crisis of unbelief: it’s not that we don’t believe in God, it is that we do not believe that God’s justice will triumph in human history; we do not believe God executes justice in space and time. As a result of pessimistic end-times teachings about the nature of history, we have become convinced that wickedness is going to triumph in history. “The world is going to hell in a hand basket and there’s nothing we can do about it.”

It is understandable that unbelievers think this way. The unbelieving worldview is cynical by nature. This week Peter Hitches wrote a review of Game of Thrones, highlighting the way in which it basks in this unbelieving cynicism. He writes:

In [the author’s] imaginary country, virtue and trust are always punished… almost everyone associated with honesty, selfless courage, and justice is doomed…. Bravery and charity toward others are rewarded with death or betrayal. The simple poor are raped, robbed, enslaved, and burned out of their homes. Chivalry… is… a fraud. All kinds of cruelty and greed, typified by the House of Lannister, flourish like the green bay tree. Treachery and the most debauched cynicism are the only salvation, the only route to safety or advantage.

While this debauched cynicism is not surprising in unbelievers, believers should know better. The Scriptures assure us that God’s justice will triumph in history. Though the wicked may temporarily triumph, God shall cause their fears to come upon them.

So what of you? Have you become cynical, believing that God’s justice will sleep forever? Have you become discouraged, longing for God to reveal His justice on your schedule? Do not give way to this unbelief but be a man, a woman of wisdom. Trust in the Lord. Remember the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.”

Reminded that the wise man lives His life in the fear of God, knowing that God’s justice will triumph, let us confess that we have often been cynical, often been discouraged. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sins, let us kneel before the Lord as we are able.

The Blessing of Riches

September 10, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Law and Gospel, Meditations, Wealth

Proverbs 10:22 (NKJV)

22 The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, And He adds no sorrow with it.

Marcion was an early church heretic who pitted the god of the Old Testament against the god of the New. He claimed that the god of the OT, whom he called the Creator, was evil and dictatorial while the god of the NT, whom he called the Father, was good and merciful. While Marcion’s teaching was condemned as heresy, the temptation to pit the OT against the NT has persisted throughout church history. One of the areas this has been repeatedly done is in the area of wealth.

Many are tempted to say that while the OT presents a positive view of wealth , the NT gives us a negative view of wealth and urges us to forsake our wealth for the kingdom of God. Didn’t Jesus tell the rich young ruler to sell all that he had and give it to the poor and to come follow Him? Didn’t Paul say that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil? The answer to those two latter questions is, of course, yes. Jesus did tell the rich young ruler to sell his belongings and Paul did declare that the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. But they did so because the OT declared the same things.

Solomon reminds us today that wealth in itself is not a problem. The blessing of the Lord makes one rich, and He [i.e., the Lord] adds no sorrow to it. Abraham was a wealthy man and a model of faithfulness. David was a wealthy man and a man after God’s own heart. Barzillai the Gileadite was a very wealthy man and provided for David when he was fleeing from Absalom. Joseph of Arimethea was a wealthy man and prepared a tomb for our Lord’s body. Wealth in itself is not a problem; it is a gift from God.

But like all blessings, wealth is susceptible to misuse. Wealth is a tool; a tool that is to be used in the service of our Creator and Redeemer. As a tool, as a gift, it is something for which we are to give thanks to God and use to the glory of His Name. We are to give thanks for it and use it to the glory of His Name. We are to beware lest it ever come between us and Him – as it had with the rich young ruler. We are not to set our heart on our riches. We are to hold our wealth with an open hand – permitting God to give and to take as He sees fit. To have God and wealth is an incredible blessing; to have God and no wealth can be borne with contentment. But to have wealth and no God is hopeless misery.

So consider a couple ways that we can be tempted to sin in regard to wealth. First, we can permit others to make us feel guilty for our wealth. Social justice warriors will happily do so. Many in our political arena will flog you and make you feel guilty and try to use that false guilt to steal your freedom. “You shouldn’t have so much; think of all those poor people with so little; vote for higher taxes, more regulation.” But if wealth is such a bad thing, then why in the world would we want to distribute it to others? They might catch the infection! The reason that we want to share wealth freely through charity not through state enforced redistribution is because we know it is a blessing. It is a gift from God – so the righteous man shares it freely but never feels guilty for having it. So repent of your false guilt.

Second, have you permitted your wealth to intrude between you and your God? The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Augustine spoke about disordered affections. Our affections are disordered when we love God’s gifts more than God Himself. This is idolatry. It is to make God a means to an end rather than treating God as our great end. What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. So repent of making wealth more important than God.

Reminded that we often view wealth and use wealth in a sinful manner, let us confess our sins to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. And as you are able, let us kneel together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

The Lips of the Wise

September 2, 2018 in Bible - NT - Ephesians, Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue

Proverbs 10:18–21 (NKJV)

18 Whoever hides hatred has lying lips, And whoever spreads slander is a fool. 19 In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, But he who restrains his lips is wise. 20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; The heart of the wicked is worth little. 21 The lips of the righteous feed many, But fools die for lack of wisdom.

Throughout Proverbs and the rest of Scripture we are frequently exhorted to keep watch over our tongues. Though the tongue is small, it has immense importance and tremendous impact. So we must learn, as God’s people, to control our tongues.

So take note of the contrasts in our text today. On the one hand we have the tongues of the wicked and the fool. Not all fools are wicked; but all wicked men are fools. We are told two things about the tongue of the wicked. His tongue speaks lies and it speaks lies because what comes out of his mouth emerges from his heart. And, Solomon tells us, the heart of the wicked is worth little. The heart of the wicked is corrupt and so their lips speak corruption. For their part, fools spread this slander. They pick it up from the wicked and then spread it abroad rather than locking it away. Rather than restrain their lips, they repeat whatever they hear. They are fools.

On the other hand, we have the tongue of the wise. The wise man restrains his lips. He exercises self-control over his tongue. He is aware that just because he knows something, or feels something, or thinks something, that doesn’t mean that those things need to be shared. Before speaking, the wise man weighs matters in his heart and so he speaks with discretion. Consequently, his tongue is as choice silver. His words have value because he chooses carefully when and what to speak.

Notice, therefore, that while the tongue of the wise feeds others, the tongue of the foolish can’t even sustain the fool himself. The lips of the righteous feed many – the lips of the righteous bring blessing, encouragement, and edification to those they meet – but fools die for lack of wisdom ­– the lips of fools bring discouragement and destruction, blight and famine in their wake so that fools no longer have relationships, food to sustain themselves.

So what of you? How have you used your tongue this week? Have you wickedly slandered others? Have you foolishly repeated the slanders of the wicked, listened to their lies and shared them with your neighbors? Have you multiplied words without knowledge? Or have you restrained your lips and considered carefully in your heart each time you speak? This is the mandate Paul gives us, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers” (4:29).

Reminded that we are called to exercise self-control over our tongues that we may give life to others, let us acknowledge that we often speak when we should be silent and that, even when we should speak, we often tear down what is good rather than build up others in the truth. We often behave like fools and so sin in the multitude of words. Reminded of this, let us confess our sin to the Lord and seek His forgiveness. We will have a time of silent confession, followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. As we confess our sin to the Lord, let us kneel as we are able.

What the Lord Hates

June 17, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Sanctification, Tongue

Proverbs 6:16-19 (NKJV)
16 These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.

While many speak of the importance of love, we often fail to realize that he who loves much must also hate much. He who loves his wife must hate him who would steal her away or injure her. He who loves his children must hate him who would lead them astray or hurt them. He who loves the Church must hate him who would disrupt her peace or divide her. As Jesus tells us, “One cannot love God and mammon. He who loves the one must hate the other.” Similarly, the Lord who loves and cherishes righteousness necessarily hates and despises wickedness.

Consequently, in the course of his instruction to his son, Solomon takes a moment to remind him that there are certain things which the Lord despises, which He hates. Solomon arranges these sins in couplets. The first and last go together; the second and second to last, and so on. Let us consider each in turn.

The first and last items have to do with arrogance and pride – a proud look and one who sows discord among brothers. These exhortations describe the one who fancies that his way is always right; the one who cannot appreciate the wisdom and insight of others; the one who is haughty and domineering, crushing others. Haughty people inevitably cause discord because they have to prove that they know best – and the only way they can prove they know best is if they eliminate the competition. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware pride.”

The second couplet addresses lying and deceit. The Lord despises the lying tongue and a false witness who utters lies. He hates the tongue that pours forth honey but under which is found poison; the tongue that plots the destruction of others while securing its own advantage. So, Solomon warns, “Beware lying and deceit.”

The third couplet exhorts those “whose hands shed innocent blood…whose feet are swift to do evil.” The Lord despises murder, violence, evil plotting, and destruction. Our hands have been given to protect the innocent, but the wicked man uses his hands to slay them; our feet have been given to walk in the path of life, but the wicked man walks in the path of death. So, Solomon warns, “Beware violence.”

At the heart of these couplets is the heart. That which the Lord hates is a “heart that devises wicked plans.” Earlier Solomon had warned his son – “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the issues of life.” So here, in his arrangement of sins the Lord despises, he returns to the heart. It is our heart that makes us proud, that treasures lying and deceit, and that leads us to scheme and plot and destroy others. So, Solomon warns us, “Beware an evil heart.”

Reminded that our whole being – our looks, our speech, our actions, and our hearts – are open and laid bare before the face of Him to whom we must give an account, let us confess our sins to Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin. And as you are able, let us kneel together as we confess.

Keeping Instruction or Despising Correction?

June 3, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wisdom

Proverbs 10:17 (NKJV)
17 He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, But he who refuses correction goes astray.

Once upon a time there were two men traveling to the city of Zoe. It was an ancient city, the inhabitants of which lived in happiness, abundance, and peace. The Lord of the city openly welcomed visitors to the city and even invited them to stay and become citizens. Indeed, so generous was the Lord of the city that he sent envoys into the world to explain the way to the city.

The first traveler was named Sophos. He had met one of the Lord’s envoys and received directions to the city with great joy. “Always pass through the narrow gate and stay on the narrow path,” he was told. “For wide is the gate and broad is the path that leads to destruction.” He set out on the road to the city. Though there were many paths that led off the main road, wide paths that seemed to lead to pleasant pastures, he made sure to stay on the narrow path that led to the city of Zoe. In due time he arrived at the city where he was warmly welcomed.

The second traveler was named Moros. He too had met one of the Lord’s envoys and received instruction. But as he set out on the road to the city, the narrow lane began a steep climb and the going became difficult. It was then that he noticed the wide gate that gave access to a broad path leading down to a plain that was well watered everywhere like the garden of the Lord, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar (Gen 13:10). So he went through the gate and headed down the path.

The Lord of the city knew that the country toward which Moros was heading was filled with vagabonds and cutthroats, so he had placed his envoys near the gate to warn travelers lest they go that way. One of the envoys warned Moros, “Beware! You are heading to the land of Sodom and Gomorrah, which the Lord of the city shall soon destroy.” But Moros would not listen. He had no desire to admit he had been wrong to wander off the narrow path and no desire to resume the arduous climb. So he continued along the path to the plain, admiring the pillar of salt that the inhabitants of the plain had built to point the correct way.

He who keeps instruction is in the way of life, but he who refuses correction goes astray. Reminded that God has pointed out the way to the Heavenly City and given us instruction to guide us on our way, let us confess that we often wander off the path and have need of the Lord’s correction. And let us pray that the Lord would preserve us from folly and from refusing to listen to those who would summon us back to the way. As you are able, let us kneel as we confess our sins together. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Created for Work

May 6, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Creation, Meditations, Wealth, Work

Proverbs 10:16 (NKJV)
16 The labor of the righteous leads to life, The wages of the wicked to sin.

When God fashioned us in the beginning and placed us in the Garden of Eden, He immediately commissioned us. He gave us a duty to fulfill, a task to perform. Our role in the Garden was not to sit back and luxuriate; it was not to be in a perpetual state of leisure. God gave us a mission to accomplish, a work to complete. Six days we were to labor and do all our work; on one we were to rest and worship. So what was that labor? God placed us in the garden, we are told in Genesis 2:15, to tend and to keep it.

First, we were to tend the garden. We were to cultivate the ground and to make it even more fruitful than it already was. We were to extend the order of the Garden to the rest of the world and offer the fruit of that labor up to our Creator as our service of worship and adoration. Second, we were to keep the garden. We were to guard it and protect it from destruction – whether destruction from our own hands or from those of an intruder.

What this means is that work was part of the paradise of God. We were designed to tend and keep the earth to the glory of God. Work is a gift from God. Tragically, we rejected our twofold calling. We failed to protect the Garden from the serpent-intruder. We permitted him to lead us astray and we rebelled against God. Consequently, the blessing of work became twisted and tainted by the curse of toil. Thorns and thistles, death and destruction, came in the wake of our sin. Work and toil became intertwined.

But God did not abandon us to toil. He sent His Son Jesus to rescue us from our rebellion and to restore us to fellowship with Him. By faith in Jesus’ Name, He forgives our sin and gives us His Spirit so that we can once again tend and keep the earth to the glory of His Name. Solomon reminds us, “The labor of the righteous leads to life…” Those who fear God work to the glory of God and so bring life to the world. While still troubled by the effects of sin and required to wrestle against thorns and thistles, we do so as those who have been reconciled to God and restored to the glory of work. Because Christ has risen from the dead, Paul reminds us, “Our labor is not in vain in the Lord.” Teaching children, changing diapers, balancing accounts, building homes – every dimension of earthly labor can bring glory and honor to our Redeemer.

Nevertheless, there are those who still refuse to work for the glory of God. They violate the first and greatest commandment which is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Consequently, all their labor remains intertwined with toil and is dishonoring to God. From digging ditches, to cleaning toilets, to painting landscapes, to healing the sick – the wages of the wicked lead to sin.” Those who do not fear God sin even in the littlest things and, since sin leads to death, their toil leads to meaninglessness and death.

So here’s what Solomon would have you remember: God the Creator has put you in the world to labor for His glory. He has sent His Son to redeem the world that you might be reconciled to Him and do all your work motivated by a desire to glorify His Name. So do you? First, do you love work or do you love leisure? Do you value the tasks that God has given you to perform or are you constantly endeavoring to avoid them? Second, what motivates your labor? Are you working just to make money? Working just to make your payments? Or are you working for the glory and honor of the Lord?

Solomon reminds us to labor faithfully to the glory of God – this is the pathway to life. But often we shirk our responsibilities, often we fail to offer our work up as worship to the Lord, often we fail to protect our workplaces from those who would destroy them; we have need to confess our sins to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

Storing up wealth or living hand to mouth?

April 30, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Wealth

Proverbs 10:15 (NKJV)
15 The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.

In the text before us today, Solomon highlights the blessing of wealth and the danger of poverty. On the one hand is the blessing of wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… In the ancient world, a strong city was a place of refuge and protection from the ravages of warfare. Walled cities, or strong cities as Solomon calls them, were havens of security in an insecure world. Like the walls of these strong cities is the wealth of the rich man. His wealth enables him to hide himself, his family, and his friends in times of hardship or difficulty. His wealth is a source of security and protection. It is a blessing from God.

On the other hand is the danger of poverty. The destruction of the poor is their poverty. Whereas marauders, thieves, and foreign armies often left strong cities alone, they frequently laid waste small villages and unwalled cities, plundering property, slaying the populace, and sometimes devastating the surrounding countryside. These unwalled cities were constantly exposed to danger and oppression. Likewise, the poor man. When hardship arrives, the poor man has no resources upon which to draw to sustain himself or his family. His poverty is his destruction.

Solomon’s words remind us, first, of the blessing of wealth and the value of saving. Living hand to mouth is sometimes necessary but never wise. Always better to save for a rainy day, to build one’s wealth, so that in times of hardship you have a strong city to which you can flee. In Scripture, it is not sinful to acquire wealth; it is sinful to have a lust for wealth, it is sinful to use your wealth to promote wickedness, it is sinful to steal from others in order to gain wealth; but it is not sinful to acquire wealth. The rich man’s wealth is his strong city… and is, therefore, a blessing from God.

Solomon’s words also remind us, second, of the blessings of spiritual wealth. It is the man or woman who knows the character and promises of his God who will be able to endure times of hardship and suffering. And this type of wealth, spiritual wealth, is a wealth that any child of God can acquire whether he be rich or poor. On the one hand, Paul writes of the rich: “Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they may be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life” (1 Tim 6:17-19). On the other hand, James writes of the poor, “Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (2:5) Spiritual wealth is a strong city which any child of God may acquire by the grace of God.

So what of you? Are you endeavoring to store up wealth in order that you may have a strong city in times of trouble? Are you avoiding debt and endeavoring to save or are you just living hand to mouth? Are you growing in your knowledge of God’s character and promises so that you may be able to weather the tribulations that will come your way in this life or are you spiritually poor? Remember the words of Solomon: The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; The destruction of the poor is their poverty.

Reminded of our calling to think of tomorrow and to store up wealth for times of trouble, let us acknowledge that we often fail to do so. And as we confess, let us kneel before the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.

A Word Fitly Spoken

April 8, 2018 in Bible - OT - Proverbs, Meditations, Tongue, Truth

Proverbs 25:11–12 (NKJV)
11 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. 12 Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

Last week we celebrated Easter. But lest we think we can exhaust the glory of Easter with one day of worship, the Church has historically celebrated this period of time as Eastertide – today is the 2nd Sunday of Easter. Jesus’ resurrection is far too significant an event to be celebrated only one day – it inaugurates a season for rejoicing! Jesus has risen from the dead! And this means that all those who believe in Him shall likewise rise from the dead and that even now, by the power of the Spirit, we can walk in newness of life, empowered by Christ to live in such a way that we please our Heavenly Father.

Two areas where we are most in need of Christ’s resurrection power are our tongue and our ears. James exhorts us, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (1:19). Our ears are to be open and our tongues are to be circumspect. We are to listen attentively and speak carefully.

In our study of John’s Gospel two weeks ago, Jesus condemned the Jewish leaders for their failure to listen to what He was saying. “If I speak the truth,” He had said to them, “why do you not listen to what I say? He who is of God hears the words of God; therefore, you do not listen, because you are not of God.” Jesus’ words remind us that the child of God cultivates an ear for the truth. He wants to hear the truth even if it is uncomfortable and even if it comes in an inglorious package. As I said at the time, better to receive a diamond wrapped in cow dung than cubic zirconia on a shiny band.

When we consider our calling as listeners, therefore, it is to cultivate a willingness to listen even when others are speaking unclearly or unkindly. We want the truth. Solomon urges us, “Buy the truth and do not sell it” (Prov 23:23).

Corresponding to this duty as listeners is our duty as speakers. While the godly listener does his best to overlook style and to grasp the substance of what another has said, the godly speaker is to do his best to communicate clearly. Better to present the diamond on a shiny band than wrapped in cow dung. And it is this calling that Solomon highlights in our text today:

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold In settings of silver. Like an earring of gold and an ornament of fine gold Is a wise rebuker to an obedient ear.

While the duty of the listener is, in our text, to have “an obedient ear,” the duty of the speaker is to be a “wise rebuker” and to utter “a word fitly spoken.” The calling of the speaker, in other words, is to display the truth in all its glory – to make it like an apple of gold, an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold such that it is easy for a listening ear to accept it, that it is displayed in settings of silver.

Solomon’s words remind us that effective communication takes hard work. It takes skill to craft golden apples, earrings and ornaments – and learning to speak clearly requires no less skill. It takes years for silversmiths to learn their craft – and developing a listening ear takes no less time. So what of you? Are you learning to communicate more clearly and to listen more carefully? Husbands, are you studying your wife so that you can live with her according to knowledge? Wives, are you studying to communicate clearly and listen obediently to your husbands? Parents and children, do you regularly evaluate your tongues and your ears to make sure that you are communicating well? Singles, do you place a higher value on others than on yourself and study to understand them well and communicate to them lucidly?

Reminded that Christ rose from the dead to empower us to be faithful speakers and listeners, let us confess that we are often lazy and sin regularly with our tongues and our ears. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able. We will have a time of private confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.