The Living Word for Sunday, September 12, 2021, is a non-denominational Bible study which relies on the Bible explaining the Bible, uninfluenced by any church’s traditions or preferences, and following the Bible’s sequence of progressive revelation. Read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. The week’s readings are as set by the Revised Common Lectionary, a resource shared by many different churches and chapels. The version, widely used in contemporary churches, is the NIV © Biblica. Ref TLW36B
OT: Proverbs 1: 20-33 — Fools and mockers insist their way is best and suffer the consequences, rather than listening for God’s wisdom
NT gospel: Mark 8:27-38 — How do we talk about Jesus, representing Him as His disciples?
NT letter: James 3:1-12 — Does God have our speech? We are responsible for using our words to bless others, not harm them
And also read: Psalm 19
Theme: Listening to the Lord and speaking as those who are His
• See also this week’s article, Blessing others with God’s wisdom, not our opinions
and this week’s short introductory video Speaking Words that Bless
Proverbs 1:20-33 — God’s wisdom offers the answers if we will listen
Fools and mockers suffer the consequences of insisting that their way is best
20-21 Out in the open wisdom calls aloud, she raises her voice in the public square; on top of the wall she cries out, at the city gate she makes her speech:
“Wisdom calls aloud” – feminine in Hebrew and thus a woman who cries out for all to hear, in the places of business and debate.
22 “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?
“Simple… mockers… fools” – three sets of people, progressively less receptive, who need God’s wisdom. Those who are simple or inexperienced, pethim, are the most open to God’s truth, Prov. 1:4. Fools, kesilim, have heard God’s wisdom but resist it. Mockers, latsonim, ridicule wisdom and are too arrogant to learn.
• For further study on kesiyl, kesilim see Proverbs 17:10, 12, 16, 21, 24-25 and a related word in Prov. 17:7.
23 “Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings.
“Repent… then…” – heeding the warning is a blessing, where wisdom is like a fountain of “I will make known” revelation.
24-25 “But since you refuse to listen when I call and no one pays attention when I stretch out my hand, since you disregard all my advice and do not accept my rebuke…
“Stretch out my hand” – in appeal, like Isaiah 65:2 where God holds out His hands all day to “an obstinate people”.
26-27 ” …I in turn will laugh when disaster strikes you; I will mock when calamity overtakes you – when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you.
“Laugh” – at the predictability of those who find themselves in difficulty as a consequence.
28-29 “Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me, since they hated knowledge and did not choose to fear the Lord.
“Call to me” – wisdom is a personification, not God. The sense is that mockers and scoffers will frantically seek wisdom when they get into trouble, but ‘too little, too late’.
30-31 “Since they would not accept my advice and spurned my rebuke, they will eat the fruit of their ways and be filled with the fruit of their schemes.
“Eat the fruit… be filled with the fruit” – like the NT phrase “A man reaps what he sows”, Gal. 6:7. Evil people suffer the consequences of their own actions, and will find coming to them the calamity, fear and destruction they gave to others.
32-33 “For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”
“Waywardness” – a play on the Hebrew word for turning which can mean positively “repent” or negatively “turn wayward”.
“Whoever listens to me” – listening to wisdom’s voice is to experience security.
SUMMARY Here we meet those who come across as uninstructed, resistant or stubbornly foolish and wrong-intentioned. Trying to get their attention is the voice of wisdom, not the same as the voice of God, but closely aligned. Wisdom is more the sense of how we put into practice what we hear as the voice and truth of God.
APPLICATION Wisdom is either evident, or lacking, in all our attitudes of heart — and our heart determines what we say. Worst of all is the arrogant mocker, the opinionated “I know best” person who is proud that they have no need to listen and learn. This is the root of dissension, and derogatory slander, that is the devil’s strategy to impede the kingdom of God. To the extent that we allow it.
QUESTION How proactive are you in seeking God’s wisdom to live by, day by day?
Mark 8:27-38 — Listening to the Lord and speaking as His disciples
How do we talk about Jesus to others, representing Him as His disciples?
27 Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
“Caesarea Philippi” – a town named after Philip the Tetrarch, north of Galilee under Mount Hermon.
“He asked them” – the first time Jesus has raised the question of His identity. He must make clear that the Messiah is God’s servant who will suffer and be shamed for His people, contrary to the popular idea of a military deliverer.
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“Some say” – the disciples list some of the popular opinions.
29 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
“But what about you?” – emphatic, Jesus compels a deeper response.
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
“The Messiah” – or Christ, ‘anointed one’, a high point and the first time in Mark’s story after the introductory verse. Peter speaks out what all the disciples have concluded.
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him.
“Warned… not to tell” – the mission of Jesus the Messiah could not be understood apart from the Cross, and the disciples were not yet prepared for that. To announce Jesus as Messiah would risk the Jewish people, desperate to escape Gentile Roman dominion, trying to make Jesus king by force, John 6:15 and see John 12:12-19.
31-32 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.
“Peter… began to rebuke Him” – to Peter, what Jesus was teaching was unthinkable, and wrong. In this section, Mark 8:31-10:52, Jesus prepares the disciples for His divinely-ordained death, on the way to Jerusalem.
“Suffer… be rejected… be killed and…rise again”. The Messiah had to suffer, as predicted, Isaiah 52:13-53:12 and see Luke 24:44, and be rejected, which echoes Psalm 118:22, and die before being raised to life again, promised in Hosea 6:2. The Jews knew these scriptures but misunderstood them. Following the Suffering Servant passage, Isaiah sets out how God’s ways are higher than our ways, Isaiah 55:8-9.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter. “Get behind Me, Satan!” He said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
“He rebuked Peter” – recognising how Peter was coming under the same deception attempted on Him, Matthew 4:8-10.
34 Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me.
“Take up their cross” – not medieval religious self-abasement which misses the point made in the sentences around this phrase. Being a disciple is to die to determining one’s own life path and success; like being born anew, letting go of the old life opens the door to new life in Jesus — at the cost of shame and pain at times.
35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me and for the gospel will save it.
36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
“Save their life” – self-preservation and holding on to what we think represents security is a human instinct. To lose life in the flesh, is to gain the spiritual life of the soul.
37-38 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“Ashamed of Me” — standing up for Jesus’ values and wordscourageously is a non-negotiable position for those who choose to walk the Way of Jesus.
SUMMARY Jesus is a problem for some — an outsider, a disrupter, someone bringing change. As a servant of incomparable kindness, He doesn’t look like a figurehead.
APPLICATION In a post-modern inclusive world, some want every spiritual insight to be a path to the truth. The question for us, as well as Peter, is who do WE say Jesus is? And that draws out from us where we really stand in relation to His Lordship of us.
QUESTION How ready are we to speak up for Jesus and His values in our sceptical world?
James 3:1-12 — Does God have our tongue before we speak?
We are responsible for using our words to bless others, not harm them
1 Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
“Become teachers” – the rabbi or teacher was honoured in both Jewish and Christian society, Acts 2:42, Romans 12:7, 1 Cor 12:28, while Christians generally were regarded as social outsiders, James 2:6-7. A role that can influence for good or harm carries greater penalties in accountability, Matt. 5:19, Acts 20:26-27.
2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.
“Fault in what they say” – from the specific role of those called to teach, there is also the general responsibility we have for the words we utter, to bless and encourage or the opposite. Dissension and slander has no place in the church, James 4:1, 3:9, 4:11.
3-5 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.
Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.
Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.
“Bits…rudder… spark” – three images of small things that cause big effects. The tongue’s power to influence is way out of proportion to its small size.
6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.
“A world of evil” – like a little microcosm of the fallen world within us. “Set on fire by hell” – inappropriate words from the devil’s destructive influence are the cause of so many sins. The tongue reveals the worldliness lurking in our hearts, Matt. 15:18.
7-8 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
“All kinds of animals” – probably referring to Genesis 1:26. “No human being” – emphatic: when we are empty of God’s power, the tongue takes on a life of its own and can be like a deadly snake, Psalm 58:3-6, Psalm 14:3.
9-12 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
“We praise…and… we curse” – words have power, either to bless (bringing life and encouragement) or to curse (bringing harm and what is life-sapping).
“Can both… flow from the same…” – a born-again Christian uttering demeaning words, is like a tree producing the wrong fruit, or a spring that runs brackish.
SUMMARY Spoken words have emotional or suggestive power and may carry a spiritual charge as well, for good or bad. What comes from a resentful heart harms us as much as the target. What comes from a pure heart submitted to Jesus can bring much benefit – perhaps, with faith, even move a mountain.
APPLICATION Words like the criticism of an authority figure for whom we were never good enough act as a curse that endures until it is prayerfully broken. On the other hand, the encouragement of the person who believed in us at a not-very-successful time is not easily forgotten.
QUESTION What words have stayed with me as an enduring encouragement? What critical words do I need to be free of?
PRAYER As the psalmist wrote, “Search me, God, and know my heart…see if there is any offensive way in me…”
And help me to speak with the tone, and truth, and compassion of Jesus, whatever is going on around me. Help me to forgive those who have caused me hurt by speaking from the flesh nature with the voice of the enemy of our souls. In Christ Jesus, Amen.
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