Friday, March 27, 2015

The Virtuous Woman

The Virtuous Woman

There are three kinds of women featured in Proverbs.  The strange woman – which leads men astray, the contentious woman - which rots his bones, and the virtuous woman - which supports him.  The wise man warns against the first two, but encourages the man to find a virtuous woman.  The latter is apparently not easy to find.  After offering a clear description of this virtuous woman, the wise man contrasts her with the other two.  He says, "Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised" (Proverbs 31:30). 

Let us clarify what the fear of the Lord is. The translators of the NET version of the Bible included an accurate explanation of this concept.  They say the title,

'the Lord…' functions as the object of fear. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew term for fear is used commonly and has a three-fold meaning: (1) 'dread; terror' (Deut 1:29; Jonah 1:10), (2) 'to stand in awe' (1 Kings 3:28), (3) 'to revere; to respect' (Lev 19:3). Used with the Lord as the object of fear, it captures the polar opposites of shrinking back in fear and drawing close in awe and adoration. Both categories of the meaning appear in Exodus 20:20, where the Lord descended upon Sinai amidst geophysical tremors. Moses encouraged the Israelites not to be afraid of God arbitrarily striking them dead ('Do not fear!'). Furthermore, he also informed the people that the Lord revealed Himself in such a terrifying manner to scare them from sinning ('God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him in you so that you do not sin'). The fear of the Lord is the foundation for wisdom (9:10) and the discipline leading to wisdom (15:33).  Therefore it is expressed in reverential submission to his will which is the characteristic of 'true worship.'

One of my favorite author's also expounds eloquently on this subject.  Let us read what he says,

'The fear of the Lord is to hate evil.' Prov. viii.13. It is not to be afraid of Him and shun His presence, but to hate and shun that which is unlike Him. The love of God is that we keep His commandments. And as hating evil is identical with keeping His commandments, so the fear and the love of God are identical. God wants all men to love Him; and 'there is no fear in love' (E.J.W., The Present Truth [British] April 4, 1895).

It is clear in Proverbs that the wise fear the Lord.  Therefore they hate evil.  But, what happens when the wise realize there is evil in them?  This is not far fetched.  David cries out to God, "Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Ps 139:23-24).  The Lord answered David's prayer several times.  One such occasion was the Bathsheba and Uriah incident, where David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then murdered her husband Uriah afterward. In response, the Lord sent Nathan the prophet to reprove David, who admitted that he had sinned and cried out to God in Psalms 51:1-4,

'Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest.'

Solomon says that, "A reproof entereth more into a wise man than an hundred stripes into a fool" (Proverbs 17:10).  A person of virtue is not a person that has never erred, but someone who does not scorn reproof when it is given.  This person reverently submits to God's chastisement.

Taking the contrast of the virtuous and non-virtuous woman further, Ellen White says, "In Revelation 17, Babylon is represented as a woman, a figure which is used in the Bible as the symbol of a church, a virtuous woman representing a pure church, a vile woman an apostate church" (GC 380).  God is searching for His virtuous church (Luke 18:8).  In John 18:4, she is warned to, "…Come out of [Babylon], my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues."
Many feel safe from Babylon because they do not attend a Sunday keeping church.  Others feel safe because, they know or practice 'this' or 'that' other truth. But, what if the Lord finds them partaking of the sins of Babylon?  We ought to remember that the Third Angel's Message and the Message to Laodicea are for the last days; therefore they are for the same people.  We could even argue that they are the same message.  Regarding Laodicea, Ellen White states,

The people of God are represented in the message to the Laodiceans as in a position of carnal security. They are at ease, believing themselves to be in an exalted condition of spiritual attainments… What greater deception can come upon human minds than a confidence that they are right, when they are all wrong! The message of the True Witness finds the people of God in a sad deception, yet honest in that deception ... Those addressed are flattering themselves that they are in an exalted spiritual condition ... secure in their attainments ... rich in spiritual knowledge" (3T 252, 253). 

Laodicea is a fool – wise in her own eyes (Proverbs 12:15).  And, like all fools, she scorns and hates reproof (Proverbs 9:8).  Ellen White points to what was revealed in relation to reproof,

I have been shown that the greatest reason why the people of God are now found in this state of spiritual blindness is that they will not receive correction. Many have despised the reproofs and warnings given them [Ibid].  

Can Laodicea become virtuous?  The solution is in Revelation 3:18-20,

I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me."

Ellen White expounds further by saying,

The gold that Jesus would have us buy of him is gold tried in the fire; it is the gold of faith and love, that has no defiling substance mingled with it. The white raiment is the righteousness of Christ, the wedding garment which Christ alone can give. The eye-salve is the true spiritual discernment that is so wanting among us, for spiritual things must be spiritually discerned (RH, April 1, 1890).

We ought to pray David's prayer (Ps 139:23-24).  Let Him reproduce Himself in you.
-Raul Diaz


Friday, March 20, 2015

The Humility of the Wise

The Humility of the Wise

Matthew 5:3 [KJV]
Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 19:14 King James Version (KJV)
14 But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

Thursday, February 21, 2008
Spiritual Adults are as Little Children

When Christ explained the kingdom of Heaven to the disciples his explanations were is full of paradoxes. For example He said to them, "The first shall be last…," and "He who looses his life, shall live…"(Matthew 20:16; 16:25). Let us consider this week another paradox found in Matthew 18: 1 - 4. Let us read the passage,

Matthew 18: 1 At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?
Matthew 18: 2 And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,
Matthew 18: 3 And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 18:4 Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

The disciples' misunderstanding of the Gospel led them to argue who of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom to come. They wanted to settle their argument and went to ask Jesus. As we read in the above passage Jesus called a little child. The child came to Him and Jesus set him on the midst of the disciples and the child stood there. (The child modeled what Christ wanted from them.) Then Christ proceeded to tell them that He who answers when he is called, he who comes when he is summoned, he who stays put until told he can leave is the greatest. It is not the independent, self assertive, do it yourselfer that God commends. God commends those who totally humble themselves and totally depend and trust in God. They wait for God's words for instruction, when God speaks they listen, they stay when and where God says so, they do not move until God says so, and toward where God points them. There is in them an implicit trust in God, which comes out of knowing God's love and will and being thankful to Him.

What things do children have that we should emulate? Many people say children, in general, forgive easily. They fight with their playmates and a few moments later they play again as if nothing happened. They tend not to keep tabs nor hold grudges. In general, children also display an eagerness to learn and tend to be teachable. The old expression, "you cannot teach a new trick to an old dog" holds true for many adults. They are set in their ways, inflexible, stubborn and many times proud and arrogant about what they consider the right way. They reject anything that does not agree with whatever they hold true and dear. Children exhibit openness to new things and a willingness to try them.

There is something else about children that we must learn. Children, in general, always come back to their parents because they know they can always depend on them. They, perhaps subconsciously, know that without their parents they will not survive. Their parents know this, which is why their parents take care of them, and train them to survive without them in the future. Likewise, we cannot survive without God. God wants to train us to learn to trust Him and depend on Him at all times. Yes, it takes humility to accept this and live like this. Only the Holy Spirit can give us that humility. However, unlike children that grow to be independent adults, we can never grow to be independent of God. Spiritual adults are those who choose to give their will to God continually. Spiritual adults trust and depend on God continually.

We can be confused when we read what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13: 11 "When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things." Notice Paul refers to childish things: Whining, complaining, temper tantrums, self-centeredness, etc. As we submit to the indwelling Spirit of God, He takes away the negative ways of Children and replaces them with the positive. He replaces these negative traits with humility, and a willingness to listen and learn. Those who allow this are the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.