Series: Wisdom That Works
Message: A Storm Is Coming
Preacher: Mark Johnson
Reflection: Mark Witas
Live Wonder: Zan Long
Live Adventure: Jessyka Dooley
Live Beyond: J. Murdock
Live Purpose: Emily Ellis
Editor: Becky De Oliveira
Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Proverbs 1:20-33 in the English Standard Version (ESV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: “How long will you who are simple love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge?” (Proverbs 1:22).
The Children of Israel had been wandering in the wilderness for 80 years. They were just about ready to head over the Jordan River to take the land the Lord had promised them, but not before Moses took one more chance to speak with them.
His speech is found at the end of the book of Deuteronomy, in Chapter 28. It’s commonly referred to as the speech of Blessings and Curses. Here it is.
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all His commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. All these blessings will come upon you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed, and the crops of your land and the young of your livestock—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your kneading trough will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven. The Lord will send a blessing on your barns and on everything you put your hand to. The Lord your God will bless you in the land He is giving you.
If you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all His commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: You will be cursed in the city and cursed in the country. Your basket and your kneading trough will be cursed. The fruit of your womb will be cursed, and the crops of your land, and the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks. You will be cursed when you come in and cursed when you go out. The Lord will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him. The Lord will plague you with diseases until he has destroyed you from the land you are entering to possess. The Lord will strike you with wasting disease, with fever and inflammation, with scorching heat and drought, with blight and mildew, which will plague you until you perish. The sky over your head will be bronze, the ground beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your country into dust and powder; it will come down from the skies until you are destroyed.
Well that was uplifting wasn’t it? Shall we pray?
The basic teaching here is this: If you do this then these things will happen to you. If you do that then those things will happen to you.
Both the blessings and the curses that are pronounced in these verses are not as much of an act of God—positive or negative—as they are natural consequences of the decisions that the people of earth make on a day-to-day basis.
Our choices, our decisions, will eventually cause us to reap the consequences related to those decisions, for good or for bad.
If I choose to lie around and eat Twinkies and Doritos all day every day, I will get fat and out of shape. God didn’t curse me to be fat. I became fat because I didn’t pay attention to the food that He provided me instead of the food provided by the good people at Hostess and Frito Lay.
In other words, our choices carry with them consequences that are not the result of a curse or a blessing from God. They are simply the result of the choices we make.
The Wisdom Writer is begging us to listen to wisdom that will lead to choices that will bring blessings and not curses.
Recalibrate: When have you been blessed by a decision you made? When have you been cursed by one?
Respond: Pray these words: “Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil . . . by helping us to make good choices.”
Research: Read Making Good Choices by Timothy Carey, PhD.
Remember: “Whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm” (Proverbs 1:33, NIV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Sunnyside Adventist Church in Portland, Oregon.
Eat, sleep, change. This is the rhythm of the newborn. Do you remember? Maybe you are in the middle of it! We have our own rhythm: fill up, rest, and pour out. What are we filling up on? What are we resting in? What are we pouring out? Jesus has a rhythm for your life; it is the song of love. Fill up on love today. Rest in Jesus’ love and let that love pour out over you and your family.
Have you ever seen the movie Inside Out? In this movie, we get to see what’s happening inside a girl named Riley’s brain. How crazy! We meet these little people inside her mind who all have different jobs to do. All their names match up with how they work. There’s fear, anger, disgust, sadness, but most importantly joy! Can you think of a time when you’ve felt one or more of those emotions? When I read Proverbs 1:20-21, I can’t help but think of that movie! The Bible says, “Wisdom is like a good woman who shouts in the street. She raises her voice in the city. She cried out in the noisy street. She makes her speech at the city gates.” Doesn’t it sound like Wisdom should be one of the characters in the movie Inside Out? Wisdom is that voice inside your head that helps you make smart decisions. Wisdom pulls all the important information from your mind to remind you to put your full cup of juice in the middle of the table and not right on the edge. Wisdom also nudges you to do things that remind others that they are loved by God. Have you ever heard Wisdom tell you something in your mind lately?
I always hated long family trips in the car. It just seemed like everything fun to do was forever away from where we lived. Because of that, I always had one question on my mind: “How long until we get there?” When you feel uncomfortable in the seat you’re belted into, when the sun is beating down on your arms, when the air conditioner starts to hurt your skin because the little hairs on your arms have been vibrated to death, and then the scenery outside just looks so boring mile after mile, it’s hard not to think you’re stuck in a prison! If anything could make this trip better, it would be for it to end! After an eternity, I would finally let my thoughts out in anguish to everyone in the car. “Dad, how long until we get there?!” The answer never really mattered, even if he said, “We’re almost there.” I still wasn’t free from my backseat torture trap.
In Proverbs 1:20-22, we meet a character named Wisdom. And Wisdom, like me so many years ago, has one question: “How long?” Only Wisdom isn’t concerned with car trips and how long they last; she is instead worried about the people who don’t know who she is and what she represents. Unfortunately, Wisdom is not a friend whom everyone has in their close circle, and that makes Wisdom very uncomfortable. So uncomfortable she can’t keep it to herself! So she stands just outside the gates of the cities she visits and screams, “How long before we become friends, you fools?”
Wisdom is pretty intense with her friendships. And probably for good reason! Those without Wisdom as a friend seem to be really kind of dumb (or “simple” as she puts it). And she isn’t comfortable being stuck with simple fools. So she squirms around and lets her discomfort be known until everyone hears her complaints. While my dad probably would have disciplined me for doing the same thing, Wisdom gets away with it all the way down the road!
What do you think about Wisdom and her mission to inform the world of her desire to be friends? What kind of friend do you think Wisdom would be? Do you have any friends like Wisdom? Maybe you’re the Wisdom in your group! Why is it important to have Wisdom in your circle of friends?
This past summer, I had the opportunity to visit Israel. I had the best falafels, went to amazing museums, and saw the Bible some to life in a new way. One of the places we visited was Mount Carmel, which is the location of one of my favorite stories in the Bible. In the story of Elijah calling down fire from heaven and burning up the altar in the face of the Baal Priests, the emphasis is placed on the fire and brimstone being called down from heaven. But my favorite part of the story is when Elijah turns to the people of Israel and says, “How much longer will you waver, hobbling between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him! But if Baal is God, then follow him!” (1 Kings 18:21). In this short monologue, Elijah pleads with the people of Israel to own up to following whatever God they choose. For years they had been wavering between two Gods, and they needed to go all in for one or the other instead of claiming to be followers of God but still worshipping Baal. A similar plea is made in Proverbs 1:22, a yearning to call people to assess their ways and listen to God’s counsel. My challenge for you today, at the beginning of this week, is to take some time to journal or reflect on different ways you might be “hobbling” between two sides.
Zan Long is GRC director for faith development for ages 0-17. She lives in Sydney, Australia, and serves at her local church in nearby Kellyville.
Jessyka Dooley is assistant youth director for the Rocky Mountain Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Denver, Colorado.
J. Murdock is associate pastor at Boulder Adventist Church in Boulder, Colorado, where he focuses on youth and young adult ministry.
Emily Ellis is a senior studying theology at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington.