Dec 242017
 

On Friday I was watching a news update from a traffic centre monitoring the state of the roads as people “got away” for Christmas. Everything seemed to be flowing smoothly and, on a number of occasions, as the presenter referred to this she stressed that she was not trying to “tempt fate”. The implication was that her saying everything was ok could cause some form of traffic disruption.

We see something similar when sports commentators refer to the “commentators curse” – normally after saying something about how well an athlete / sportsperson is performing and them then falling over or scoring an own goal!

I don’t know about you but it strikes me as incredibly arrogant to think that the words we say can have an impact in these types of situations when we are remote from what is going on and not involved at all. And it can give us a sense of importance and self-centredness that is disturbing and unhelpful. It may simply be a figure of speech but I hear it enough to think people believe that there is something to it, there is some mystical power in the words they are saying.

On the other hand we see many instances where people use words in a derogatory or defamatory way that have the real potential to cause harm and it is seen to be ok. Probably the major context in which this takes place is on social media or comment areas on websites where people seem to feel free to say whatever they like – and often things that if they were said face-to-face would cause real offence. Listening to a radio interview a few weeks ago I heard a lady admitting she had said something about someone else on Twitter that she should not have done but defending herself by saying that “everyone does it”. And we are continually hearing apologies from senior figures in government and elsewhere for posting something that they now realise they should not have done.

We seem to have things back-to-front: when the words we say are not going to have any impact we guard them; when the words we say have the potential to have a real impact we lose all restraint. Not that this is true for everyone but it does seem to be a growing trend.

The apostle Paul – one of the early church leaders – encouraged Christian believers at Colossae to engage in speech characterised by grace and that is appealing to others:

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:6)

And as such we are called to follow the example of Jesus of whom it was said.

Everyone spoke well of him and was amazed by the gracious words that came from his lips. (Luke 4:22a)

But it isn’t just that the words Jesus spoke were gracious, were helpful, were full of wisdom. He was also referred to as “the Word”.

In the powerful opening to his Gospel, John speaks about this Word as someone who has always been there, has always been with God, was indeed God Himself, was the creator of all things, the one who brings life, the one who brings light (John 1:1-5).

And the amazing truth that John goes on to declare is that this Word chose to come into this world to become one of us, to become human, to walk and work among us, to share our lives with us, to be God-made-flesh. John sums it up in this way:

So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14)

And this is the reality we celebrate at this time of Christmas – that the baby who was born at Bethlehem was God’s Son coming into the world to bring life and hope and peace and light.

The words we speak are important but even more important is how we respond to “The Word” who came into the world for us and was willing to die for us on a cross to bring us life.

How will you use choose to use words? How will you respond to this Word?

Dec 232017
 

Our journey through Proverbs comes to an end on Tuesday 26th December and we’re going to follow that by picking up on Paul’s letters – where we have come to the letter he wrote to the church in Rome.

Recognised by many as the most complete statement of Paul’s understanding of the gospel of God,

the letter contains many different themes – with ongoing discussions as to which, if any, should be seen as the main focus:

  • justification by faith
  • union with Christ
  • how Gentiles were to be included among God’s people
  • the ongoing place of the Jews in God’s plan
  • how Jewish and Gentile followers of Jesus could live and worship together

We aren’t going to resolve these questions in our short daily posts but it will be an opportunity to look again at this wonderful letter and remind ourselves of what it says about God, about Jesus, about the Spirit, about new life, about a certain hope for the future, about a call for whole-hearted service and much more besides.

 

 

After working through Romans we will return to the story of God’s people in the Old Testament and look again at how their history unfolded. We have already looked at the account in 1 & 2 Kings and we’re going to look at many of the same events again but through the books of 1 & 2 Chronicles. These books tell the story with a particular focus on what happened to the Judaean kingdom with less emphasis on what happened in the northern kingdom. Written after the return from exile, to inform and encourage the returning people, they have a very different purpose:

The purpose of 1 and 2 Chronicles is to show God’s elective and preserving grace in His covenant people through David, the messianic king and priest. The purposes of 1 and 2 Kings are different. These books explain the fall and destruction of Samaria and Jerusalem as evidence of divine judgment of God’s people who had forsaken His covenant requirements

Eugene H. Merrill, “1 Chronicles,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 591.

As we look at 1 & 2 Chronicles we will see how God calls and continues to protect and provide for his people

 

Dec 052017
 

The BCaD post for 5th December 2017 quoted from Proverbs 10:1 which speaks about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

A fascinating question was asked – “any idea why the different parents are mentioned on the opposing sides?”

Here are some thoughts.

It’s first of all worth noting the context in which these words were written where there was much more emphasis on the male child – there are no comparable references to daughters in the book of Proverbs at all.

There is a recognition that both parents are involved in the teaching and instruction of a son – so we have:

  1. Proverbs 1:8 where a son is enjoined to listen to his father’s instruction and to not forsake his mother’s teaching
  2. Proverbs 6:20, similarly, calls on the son to keep his father’s commands and – again – to not forsake his mother’s teaching

There are three relevant references to the way in which sons behave and the impact on their parents:

  1. Proverbs 10:1 which – as noted above – speaks about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish son brings grief to his mother
  2. Proverbs 15:20 which speaks again about a wise son bringing joy to his father while a foolish man despises his mother (so less about the impact on his mother but more about how he feels towards her)
  3. Proverbs 17:25 which speaks about a foolish son bringing grief to his father and bitterness to his mother – so here the resulting grief is felt by his father as opposed to his mother

(There are other references to fathers and mothers which add additional insight to this such as Proverbs 20:20, 23:22, 23:25, 28:24, 30:11, 30:17).

The contrast between Proverbs 10:1 and Proverbs 17:25 suggests that the actual distinction in terms of negative responses are not great but it is interesting that, overall, we see positive attributes (wisdom) being appreciated by his father while negative attributes (foolishness) affecting both parents.

Waltke suggests that we should not make too much of the distinction with the “father and mother” reference simply being a way of speaking about parents:

Word pairs may also involve common contrasts and/or broken, stereotyped phrases that may or may not include merisms such as “heaven” and “earth” in 3:16 [cited above]). In 10:1

bēn ḥākām yeśammaḥ-ʾāb
A wise son makes a father glad,
ûbēn kesîl tûgat ʾimmô
but a foolish son brings grief to his mother.

ḥākām “wise” and kesîl “fool” are common antithetic word pairs, and the phrase “father and mother” is a common broken, stereotyped phrase designating “parents” (1:8; 4:3; passim).

Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs, Chapters 1–15, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004), 42–43.

Kitchen makes a similar argument:

The effect of the ‘wise son’ is that he makes his father ‘glad.’ The word describes a joy that affects the whole of a person: heart (Exod. 4:14; Ps. 19:8; 104:15), soul (Ps. 86:4), and eyes (Prov. 15:30).3 The effect of the ‘foolish son’ is that he brings his mother ‘grief.’ Such a son brings much hardship upon his parents (Prov. 17:21, 25; 19:13). Indeed, he not only hurts them; he personally ‘despises’ them (Prov. 15:20)!
The father and mother are mentioned separately, not because one is more susceptible to hurt and the other more prone toward joy, but as a literary device to indicate that the whole of the family shares in the follies and triumphs of other family members. No child can avoid bringing either joy or pain to his parent’s lives (Prov. 17:21, 25; 23:24–25; 28:7; 29:3). While an age of greater independence is desired by all, one never outgrows one’s responsibility to, or effect upon, one’s family. What capacity for pain we take on when we hold our first child in our arms! But, oh, how our opportunities for joys untold are expanded at the same time!

John A. Kitchen, Proverbs: A Mentor Commentary, Mentor Commentaries (Fearn, Ross-shire, Great Britain: Mentor, 2006), 214.

And these observations are consistent with what we see in the other references to the impact sons have on their parents.

So – on balance – I don’t think we should read too much into the distinctions but see them as speaking about different ways the behaviour of a son (and we can legitimately extend this to daughter) have on their parents. In a world where the long-term well being of parents was dependent on their children to care for them in later life – and with this responsibility primarily going to the eldest son – this was really important. As parents saw their son develop and grow so they would get an indication of how he would be able to take on the family business, how well he would care for them in later life.

With the many variations in family structures and social care provision we have in our culture today some of the ways in which this is worked out will vary – but it does encourage us to think about how our behaviour and attitudes are seen by our parents and what this says about how they will receive the care they need in later life.

Primarily it’s speaking about children and parents but it is good to recognise that how we are and how we behave can have positive and negative impacts on all those with whom we come into contact and, particularly, for those for whom we have some level of responsibility.