Friday, November 11, 2011

Proverbs 27:13 commentary; why are Christians so untrustworthy?

13 ¶ Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.

(See Proverbs 20:16 for the earlier placement of this verse.) Remember that the Law not only was to govern the ancient Hebrew’s spiritual life and obligations but his civil life as well, unlike the modern Christian, whose life should be managed by the doctrines of grace given in the New Testament letters from Paul to the churches with the indwelling Holy Spirit guiding him or her.

Here, a person is to give his garment as a pledge to guarantee the debt of a foreigner to an Israelite and the Hebrew was told to be sure to get a pledge from him if he was trying to guarantee the debt of a foreign woman (there would probably be all kinds of problems with that debt if the relationship changed course, as they often do) and as was stated previously promising to guarantee someone else’s debt is not a wise thing to do.

Proverbs 6:1 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast stricken thy hand with a stranger, 2 Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. 3 Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend.

Proverbs 11:15 He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and he that hateth suretiship is sure.

Proverbs 17:18 A man void of understanding striketh hands, and becometh surety in the presence of his friend.

These are warnings, not only about suretyship but the people who were not of Israel, who didn’t worship Israel’s God, the Creator of all things, the God of the Bible. Foreign people and foreign worship, customs, and standards of behavior were constant thorns of irritation for Israel and even helped bring about their downfall.

I could go off on an application to Christians that many commentators would about how you should only offer to co-sign or back up a note for a Christian and not an unbeliever. But, that’s simply wrong. The principle here is not to be surety for anyone. Sadly, there are many Christians who are as dishonest or unreliable as any pagan person and many atheists who are more honorable and honest than Christians. Don’t promise another’s debts. If you have the money they need and you think the cause is worthwhile then give the money to the Lord by giving it to them. If they can pay it back ask them to pay it forward and help someone else.

But, most debts we incur are not of necessity or out of wisdom. Most of the debts people ask you to guarantee are poorly thought out and come out of irresponsibility on their part. If you are not in a position to help that person with the money they need, and only for essential things, then I would certainly not go against the Biblical principle and promise to guarantee their debts. But, this is my own opinion. If someone wants to start a business let them save their own money or seek out investors, not come to you to ask you to put your good credit and name on the line as a guarantee of their debt to a bank. Once again, my own opinion. In my youth I would have been one of those guys you would not have wanted to lend money to or to not get a pledge from when I was vouching for someone. I had terrible judgment and bad character.

Why are people who call themselves Christians as unreliable today as others? It’s probably for the same reason that Christians have similar rates or worse of drug addiction, divorce, and immoral or amoral living as others. Why is it that for all the preaching and hammering on personal moral behavior in pulpits that so much of it seems to go in one ear and out the other? Repeatedly, throughout history, Christian leaders have pointed out the Bible’s role in setting the believer apart to be of some use to God.

The Waldensians had a saying, “The Holy Scriptures alone are sufficient to sanctify the believer”, I have read. They would attempt to memorize, to be able to recite by heart, the entire New Testament.

Bishop Becke, an Anglican priest of the Reformation, promised that reading the Bible a half hour a day would relieve the Christian of blasphemy, gambling, and other sins. John Burgon, the Anglican champion of the Received Text in the late 1800’s who opposed the revision of Westcott and Hort (see his books The Last Twelve Verses of Mark and The Revision Revised) gave a lecture I’ve read to his Anglican priest students in which he also recommended daily half hour Bible reading never to be interrupted or put aside for the young preacher of his day. Thomas Cranmer, the archbishop of Canterbury under Henry VIII, wrote in the preface to “The Great Bible”, that the Christian must read the Bible every day, implying that if you don’t you certainly aren’t in a position to receive a sermon on Sunday. Daniel Walker Howe in his book What Hath God Wrought, part of the Oxford History of the United States series, talks about how, even up until the early 1800’s that Bible reading was important to the common American, that is before the so called Second Great Awakening took off, followed by emotional fixes in place of a daily letting God speak to them through His word and replacing God with government action.

Paul admonishes the young Pastor, Timothy, in 1 Timothy 4:13 , to “give attendance to reading” also tells the Corinthians, the Ephesians, and the Thessalonians to read his letters, making sure the congregations hear and see them. The early church leader, Tertullian, writing about 200AD states that the originals or authentic copies of the letters from the Apostles were still available in the churches which they started and nourished, implying that you could read them.

God commanded through Moses, in expectation of the Israelites eventually demanding a king, in Deuteronomy 17, that their king should read the Bible they had, which was the Law given to Moses, every day of his life so that he would learn to fear the Lord, keep all the words of the Law and do them, and so he wouldn’t get arrogant and think himself above the Law.

Joshua commanded the Israelites to constantly have the Book of the Law on their tongues and in their minds.

Joshua 1:8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

In the Bible, the Holy Spirit, speaking through a Psalmist, says this about how God views his word, small “w”.

Psalm 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

In earlier days in America, the Bible may have been the only book in a person’s house. Many of the early Americans learned to read by daily Bible reading within their families. Remember the country song about Bible reading called “The Family Bible”, written by Jim Ed Brown, I believe, and sung by both Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash?
“Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages cleft for me.

There's a fam'ly bible on the table
Each page is torn and hard to read
But the fam'ly bible on the table
Will ever be my key to memories.

At the end of day when work was over
And when the evening meal was done
Dad would read to us from the fam'ly bible
And we'd count our many blessings one by one.

I can see us sittin' 'round the table
When from the fam'ly bible dad would read
I can hear my mother softly singing
Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages cleft for me.

This old world of ours is full of troubles
This old world would oh, so better be
If we had more bibles on the table
And mothers singing Rock of Ages cleft for me.

I can see us sittin' 'round the table
When from the fam'ly bible dad would read
I can hear my mother softly singing
Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages cleft for me.

Rock of Ages, Rock of Ages cleft for me...”

There is also an old poem by Amos Wells that I’ve been inspired by about reading the Bible entitled “When You Read the Bible Through”.

“I supposed I knew my Bible
Reading piecemeal, hit and miss,
Now a bit of John or Matthew,
Now a snatch of Genesis,
Certain chapters of Isaiah
Certain Psalms (the twenty-third);
Twelfth of Romans, First of Proverbs
Yes, I thought I knew the Word;
But I found that thorough reading
Was a different thing to do,
And the way was unfamiliar
When I read the Bible through.
Oh, the massive, mighty volume!
Oh, the treasures manifold!
Oh, the beauty of the wisdom
And the grace it proved to hold!
As the story of the Hebrews
Swept in majesty along,
As it leaped in waves prophetic,
As it burst to sacred song,
As it gleamed with Christly omens,
The Old Testament was new,
Strong with cumulative power,
When I read the Bible through.
Ah, imperial Jeremiah,
With his keen, coruscant mind,
And the blunt old Nehemiah,
And Ezekiel refined!
Newly came the Minor Prophets,
Each with his distinctive robe;
Newly came the Song idyllic,
And the tragedy of Job,
Deuteronomy, the regal,
To a towering mountain grew,
With its comrade peaks around it,
When I read the Bible through.
What a radiant procession
As the pages rise and fall,
James the sturdy, John the tender
Oh, the myriad-minded Paul!
Vast apocalyptic glories
Wheel and thunder, flash and flame,
While the church triumphant raises
One incomparable name.
Ah, the story of the Savior
Never glows supremely true
Till you read it whole and swiftly,
Till you read the Bible through.
You who like to play at Bible,
Dip and dabble, here and there,
Just before you kneel, aweary,
And yawn thro’ a hurried prayer;
You who treat the Crown of Writings
As you treat no other book
Just a paragraph disjointed,
Just a crude, impatient look
Try a worthier procedure,
Try a broad and steady view;
You will kneel in very rapture
When you read the Bible through.”

Preachers, evangelists, and scholars like Dr. Samuel Gipp who wrote the wonderfully easy to read book An Understandable History of the Bible and people like Dr. Peter Ruckman, frail and human as they are, encourage Christians to read, read, and read the Bible. Dr. Ruckman tells a story that when he took over a Baptist church in the early 1960’s that the deacons smoked in the church. There were ashtrays in the pews in some churches back in those days. He chose not to preach on the ills of smoking but pounded on daily, personal Bible reading as something apart and distinct from Bible study. He claims that within two years, not only had smoking ceased in the church, but he only knew of one family that smoked at home. He claims, like the preachers of old, that daily Bible reading will change you.

Whether it be the God of the Bible through the Bible itself, theologians, preachers, persecuted Medieval Christians, poets, and songwriters there are people throughout history telling you to read that Bible you have gathering dust on the shelf or laying on your desk.

I am not much of an example. I’ve accomplished very little in life. I’m prone to sin and failure at every turn. Do not expect too much from me as judging by my track record I’ll let you down. But God has changed me and is changing me through His word. With the exceptions of a few short periods of complete and utter insanity over the last several years God has been molding me with His word. My wife sees it. Some of my family know it. Perhaps others do, as well. God has removed from my heart, several things that were not good and added a few that were. It’s been a slow process but I am certain that from what someone as carnal and degenerate as I’ve been all my life can see accomplished in his life by God with my only action being to read and believe and to trust and wait, that you, better person than I’ll ever be on this earth, can experience so much more.

What Christians are missing in their lives today is the joy, love, and peace that God wants to give them through His words in His Book, and not only that, but victory over sin and other foolishness. Why are Christians often no more trustworthy or moral than the world at large? Because the Bible is not center stage in their hearts. Because of that the God of the Bible, the Lord Jesus Christ, isn’t sitting on the throne of their hearts.

As Jesus Himself said;

John 17:17 Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

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