Truth Is Alive

Sunday 24 May 2015 Leave a comment

Western culture cannot bear the concept that Truth is a Person. It’s just another name for God; it remains anchored in His being. “For the Word of God is living and active…”

There will be no patriarch, pope or bishop in the religion of Radix Fidem. You’ll note how I intentionally decentralized things on the human level by how I characterized it. The idea can stand on its own feet. About the only way to maintain the distinction is by the cultural presumption of copyright. That is, when I publish the idea, the idea takes on a life of its own. And perhaps you noticed that I carefully avoid “defining” the thing, only characterizing it.

By the very nature of what it says, the characterization makes it all completely voluntary. If God doesn’t speak to you from these words, ignore it and move on. But you can’t volunteer to make your religion a clone of mine. Volunteering means you get involved in your own faith process.

We might well know that we see a world awash in propaganda about how power is used. The people involved seem invariably false about their motives, interested only in squelching resistance to their plans. Telling the truth destroys a political career, because lying is a part of “professional standards” in politics. And if you haven’t noticed that just about everything has been politicized, you aren’t paying attention.

But I don’t pontificate, debate or try to convince anyone of anything. I simply tell the story of my experience. You can use that story as you see fit, or ignore it, and I sincerely hope you write your own story either way. The nature of Radix Fidem is that we let God change the hearts and minds of people. We characterize it and let others decide.

This is the root of faith. It’s how I breathe life into something God calls me to do, and giving it a name makes it easier for others to make sense of it. So far as I can tell, it may well represent something universal in how God does things with us, but I don’t take myself that seriously — I don’t pretend that I can speak for God to all mankind or even one other person. If all you do is parrot my words, it’s not really your faith, is it? I suppose I might be useful in organizational terms on the human level, but there’s not much to that in the virtual sphere. This thing grew out of a desire to optimize our fellowship in Christ online. The old paradigms can’t survive into the nascent Network Age. We can’t cling to what belongs in a dying Western Civilization.

Breathe life into your own faith; make it as real as God Himself.

Psalm 51

Saturday 23 May 2015 3 comments

A psalm by David, this refers to events narrated in 2 Samuel 11-12. That story has it all: adultery, murder and scandal. We struggle to understand a biblical morality that is so foreign to Western instincts. Because of our longstanding cultural taint of legalism and hypocrisy, we don’t see how David escaped the just penalty for adultery and murder in Moses’ Law without at least some hint of divine corruption. How can God be holy and put up with such hideous crimes against the Laws written by His own fingers on stone? God does not play favorites with people who have mere wealth or power, but He plays favorites with people who are powerful in His service. Our sense of fairness recoils that God is more like an Eastern potentate with often inexplicable mercy.

Yet this psalm explains quite well how and why God relents from justified wrath. Not simply because we know that David was a man after His own heart, but because David was the essential and prototypical king of God’s Chosen Nation. At least part of His mercy here was mercy on Israel as a whole. And God chose David despite this known weakness, in part because such public mercy is itself a part of His divine revelation.

To doubt David’s sincerity here would be blasphemous, since God clearly accepted this very prayer of contrition. We are stunned and silent before this majestic writing. It would be almost mockery to offer a summary, so rich is the tapestry of contrition David weaves with masterful poetry. It’s a passion for expression born from a passion for God Himself. A genuine passion for God is how one becomes one of His favorites.

The proper grounds for this plea is God’s character and revelation, not David’s favored place. By no means does the king diminish the damage he has done. He goes to great lengths to confess that there is nothing good in him that God did not put there. He also notes correctly that the substance of the issue is not the loss in human terms, but the insult to God. Before the enemies of God’s truth, David held up the Lord for ridicule. It filled the hands of Satan with blasphemy against the Holy One of Israel. You can be sure the demons distributed to every one who despised Jehovah and His people a fat portion empowering mockery. God was pressing His claims through Israel, a people already notoriously shaky in their faith, and here David throws a huge wrench in the works.

David admits he cannot fix his weakness. He begs, not merely for mercy and forgiveness, but for correction and renewal. He pleads for that sort of wrath that kills the sinful attachments in the soul. This line resounds across the ages: “Create in me a pure heart, O God!” There is no other way a man can have one. David knows that all he possesses or could scrape together would not be sufficient to purchase this mighty gift. It comes only to those who want it on any terms, because those are the terms. David humbled himself publicly.

In the end, he subtly shifts the discussion to the one reason he lives as king: Someone has to rule Israel in such a way as to give God honor. If he fails his mission as king, that alone earns him death. At whatever price, may the Lord save His honor and save the people.

New Page: Radix Fidem

Saturday 23 May 2015 2 comments

God’s sense of timing is nothing like ours. In Scripture, we find ourselves confronted with a sense of “when it’s ready” or ripeness. I’ve avoided coming up with a name for the religion I teach here, content for many years to simply refer to our individual virtual parish as “Kiln of the Soul.” However, using such language is already too close to traditional mainstream organized Christian religion. We are most certainly not that.

I toyed with modifiers like “quantum” but that’s too trendy and most people aren’t aware of the non-technological meaning of the word. If I stick with terms that portray an Ancient Near Eastern bent, it comes off as dishonest. We do honor the ancient Hebrew intellectual background, but we cannot ever go back to the Hebrew culture. Besides, Judaism has hijacked such terminology as a false cover over their Hellenized perversion of what they once had. I’m trying to avoid the trendy Christian brand of “Hebraic roots” stuff, too.

I suppose by using Latin and not even calling it Christianity, I might turn off some folks. Then again, all the labels pasted in beside the word “Christian” are also diluted by Western intellectual assumptions and I’m trying to avoid that. Yes, Eastern or Orthodox Christianity is also too Hellenized and cerebral for what I’m doing.

But the time is ripe to distinguish what we do with some kind of label. It seems okay to me if the label raises more questions; wouldn’t that be the point in most cases? It’s a chance to distance ourselves from baggage we don’t carry. What follows is posted to a permanent page on this blog…

Radix Fidem (Latin for “root of faith”). This is the name for our religion, while “Kiln of the Soul” is the name for this particular online parish.

The basic idea is this: We consciously strip away everything above ground, as it were. We want nothing to do with the old growth that is even now wilting and dying. We might be willing to use some of the residue for fertilizer — we don’t have to be utterly alien and inexplicable, but we aren’t really eclectic, either. You have to let the Spirit of God lead through your heart how you answer the questions this label will raise. But while we might be willing to use commonly accepted terminology of the existing organized religions, the content is wholly different.

We can’t pretend to go back to the historical New Testament churches in any way except in terms of essence. We seek what is organic to human nature as God revealed it. Taking seriously Paul’s admonition to “rightly divide” the Bible, we seek to transplant that ancient root to a new context. What would Jesus be like if He were born in your place? We don’t get that answer by dragging in a mountain of cultural garbage from Western Civilization. But we aren’t trying to resurrect any other civilization, either. We reference the Ancient Near East simply because that’s how we know what the Bible says to us today.

This is a living document. Elements would be characterized thus far:

1. Consciously and emphatically non-Western. This means we exclude the fundamental materialism and rationalism that makes man the measure of all things. We go out of our way to understand what distinguishes Western Civilization so that we can discern how it’s mythology has ruined historic Christian religion.

2. Fundamentally super-rational, not cerebral. This correlates to the previous point. We reject the notion that reason and intellect are the pinnacle of human capabilities. While we recognize that most people abuse the word “mysticism” as something useless and irrational, we contend that God will scarcely bother with addressing Himself to human intellect, but calls to us from far higher faculties. Revelation is inherently mystical. We assert that He gave us other forms of “knowing” that are hard-wired into human nature. We reject the Western dismissive attitude about anything not rational. Faith is above reason, not below it.

3. The Spirit Realm is real and beyond comprehension. There is a distinct realm of existence totally alien and separate from ours. It is in every way superior, and our plane of existence is merely a temporary bubble within that greater realm. The human mind is totally unequipped to handle the Spirit Realm, and it is best understood with other faculties.

4. We follow Christ. Jesus Christ as a historical figure was the final revelation of God’s moral character. Everything that departs from His teaching is inherently wrong. No living human — past, present or future — could claim to be Christ’s proxy on this earth. No organization or institution existing today can justly claim to speak for Him. Rather, we insist that we each must follow Him as best we can discern His calling. His founding of the “church” was not for purposes of control, but fellowship. We fellowship with each other to the degree and for the duration of how well we can tolerate each other with a clear conscience.

5. The Law Covenants symbolize the nature of reality itself. We are fallen creatures and unable to natively discern how to live. We are beholden to His Law Covenants in the sense that they manifest how He intends we should live within our existential context. His Law Covenants explain the fundamental nature of reality itself. Living by His revelation means living consistently with how God created things, and such living elicits a positive and supportive response from Creation. It is our duty to abstract our best obedience from the context in which those Law Covenants were revealed. However, the specifics of the Law are not binding outside of its context.

6. All Creation is alive. That is, in the sense of how we conceptualize and act in God’s Creation, we cannot get it right if we don’t see it as living and active in its own right. It is not passive and neutral, but has a distinct will and interest consistent with God’s revelation. It longs to see us living in faith. Down to the smallest individual subatomic particles and energy flows, the world around us celebrates with us when we desire holiness. Creation is not fallen; we are, so the burden is on us to discover God’s provision. Only by embracing God’s moral character can we discern His intention in Creation.

7. All truth is God’s truth. If it works and your conscience is clear, the beliefs and practices you hold are between you and God. We recognize that certain expressions of genuine faith will limit who can fellowship with us, and take no offense at what God prospers outside His work in our lives. We have more than enough to occupy ourselves with what He has for us. Taking yourself too seriously is a moral failure.

Proverbs 12

Saturday 23 May 2015 Leave a comment

We start to see a number of proverbs that appear little more than statements of obvious fact. These are most likely figures of speech meant to apply quite broadly as parables of something deeper.

1. Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge; but he who hates correction is like a brute animal. The first form of instruction implies correction, while the second implies something more forceful and severe. An ancient proverb suggests that learning and pain are common companions, so if you make them your ally, you understand how reality works — knowledge here is more like cunning or sharpness. If you act as if such things are your enemy, then you are more like a stupid cow.

2. The good gets grace from the LORD, but He will condemn a man of wicked thoughts. The image is how a sheikh handles his servants. Someone who actually serves the Lord’s interest will be provided with everything he needs for the mission, including the favor of God. This is favor as a badge of ensign that others can see. The servant who is constantly looking for his own advantage is the definition of corrupt, and can expect Jehovah to denounce him, the make an example of him.

3. A man shall not be established by wickedness, but the root of the righteous shall not be moved. This repeats the previous proverb in different terms. You can’t become a valued and important member of the divine court if you don’t embrace the divine moral character. However, the one who clings to justice is strongly rooted in reality.

4. A woman of virtue is a crown to her husband, but she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones. Again, carrying forward the same thoughts as the previous two verses, the standard image of a family household is that of the Ancient Near Eastern feudal clan. As a man’s senior manager, his wife is his greatest asset, rather like a ruler’s elite bodyguard troops. There is nothing wrong with a woman who knows where to aim her feisty side, making outsiders hesitant to mess with his property. But a woman who turns her nasty side to her husband, and shames him in social situations, is like cancer that withers away his life.

5. The thoughts of the righteous are right; the counsels of the wicked are deceit. This appears rather obvious in English, but the flavor doesn’t come across well from the Hebrew. The point is that God judges intentions, not so much the ability to act nor the outcomes. That was the reason for the sacrificial system, to demonstrate moral intent, a proper sorrow that things don’t always come out right. The “thoughts” of the righteous indicates more than mere intellectual activity, but a sense of commitment to God’s revelation. The intentions of others are fraudulent by nature.

6. The words of the wicked are to lie in wait for blood; but the mouth of the upright shall deliver them. This presents words and mouth as symbols of what’s in the heart, rather like the phrase, “the Word of the Lord.” It indicates an expressed intent as if one were issuing covenant law to a vassal. The law by which the wicked live is predatory, lurking to harm. The conduct of the righteous, reflecting their decree to themselves, will keep them out of trouble.

7. The wicked are overthrown, and are gone; but the house of the righteous shall stand. This continues the theme of each of us living by our own chosen law in the little kingdoms, the limited dominion granted by God in each of our lives. There is a delicious ambiguity in the word “overthrown,” as it means both perverted and destroyed. But God long remembers the testimony of those whose exercise of dominion served His honor.

8. A man shall be praised according to his wisdom, but he who is of a perverse heart shall be despised. The first line is actually ambiguous, referring to how one’s public honor from God matches the quality of his wisdom. However, there comes a point when it’s not a question of quality but fundamental orientation. Thus, the perverse will curry God’s despite.

9. Better is a despised one, and having a servant, than he honoring himself and lacks bread. This is another figure of speech about how we run our personal domains. If God prospers our actions (wealth enough to own slaves), it won’t matter what other people think of us. But fame means nothing if God beggars your existence.

10. A righteous one understands the soul of his animal; but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. There are better translations for this one. God created all things and made us managers. In our fallen state, we exercise that authority quite poorly, but it remains in our hands to some degree (according to the Covenant of Noah). So someone who seeks God’s moral character will acknowledge his domestic animals as creatures from God’s hand and take due care and responsibility for their lives. The contrast found its way into English long ago with the same sarcasm reflected here.

11. He who tills his land shall be satisfied with bread; but he who follows vanities lacks heart. Here we have more of the contrast between good and evil in terms of exercising dominion. This is mostly figure of speech: Stick with what God has called you to do. Whatever the brings you will fill your soul. Stop chasing stuff that appeals to your ego, because it only proves your heart is empty of any meaningful commitment.

12. The wicked desires the net of evils; but the root of the righteous yields fruit. A parallel to the previous proverb, this is related to another ancient proverb that says you don’t go hunting or fishing when it’s time to plant or harvest. The wicked “desire” here is the image of obsession over some ethereal vision of joy, in this case a preference for wasting time with predatory schemes. Stay home and take care of things in their season and you’ll never lack.

13. The wicked is snared by the transgression of his lips, but the just shall come out of trouble. Another parallel, this proverb builds on the image of hooking or snaring. It also carries some humor — the phrase “transgression of his lips” could also be read “trespassing boundaries.” Thus, the wicked keep intruding where they’ll be trapped, but the righteous keep escaping the tight spots in life. Not just as an individual, this is the image of someone trying to move their entire household of people, herds and wagons.

14. A man shall be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth, and the reward of a man’s hands shall be given to him. This proverb rests on seeing the dramatic imagery. As before, speech is more at expressing one’s personal moral code of law. We see the humor of what comes out of your mouth is the fruit you can eat to your full, and what you give with your hands is the payment returned to your hands. The Lord fills our lives in the same measure as our obedience to Him.

15. The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, hut he who listens to advice is wise. Here we have contrasted the image of someone who listens only to the demands of their flesh, versus someone who learns from others. The ultimate aim of revelation is to build a cooperative and civilized community, not a bunch of wildly competitive idiots seeking some advantage over others. Israel had encountered several societies that made constant competition a virtue. It’s hard to explain the fundamental difference in the concept of wisdom here with the Ancient Near Eastern concept of virtue and civility against the false assumptions of Western societies.

16. A fool’s vexation is known in a day, but the astute one covers shame. Related to the previous proverb, this one emphasizes the hasty overreaction of fools versus the patient consideration of the wise.

17. He who breathes truth shows forth righteousness, but a false witness deceit. A mark of righteousness is honesty, someone who speaks according to reality. Don’t trust someone who is willing to deceive for any reason.

18. There are those who speak like the thrusts of a sword, but the tongue of the wise heals. More of the previous verse, the imagery in this one has found its way into English figures of speech. It’s not a question of anyone’s feelings, but of how we respond to the troubles of others and the net result of how we talk.

19. The lips of truth shall be established forever, but only while I wink is a lying tongue. This is far more subtle than is apparent in English. If the edge of your mouth is consistent with reality as God declares it, if your personal law conforms to God’s personal justice, then you have been captured by Eternity. Deception is quite ephemeral, and will be wiped away when God redeems His Creation.

20. Deceit is in the heart of those who imagine evil, but to counselors of peace there is joy. More subtlety, we have a contrast between those who pursue excitement, drama and personal amusement versus those who seek shalom — social stability and the blessings of God’s revelation.

21. No evil shall happen to the just, but the wicked shall be filled with mischief. This paints the picture of someone who seeks wholeheartedly God’s divine justice, such that vanity or loss can’t stand to be around them. Such things keep their distance. By contrast, those who can’t be bothered to worry about justice will not only see calamity approach, but this fool will swallow it all down like a feast.

22. Lying lips are hateful to the LORD, but those who deal truly are His delight. While we have problem understanding the words here, we miss the full impact in our Western culture. Those who trust God have no use for deception even against their own enemies. The miraculous hand of God will not accompany those who use deception for any reason. All the more so is this true within a covenant community.

23. A wise man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools cries out foolishness. This fills out the picture with the previous verse. Honesty is not a question of blabbering about every thought that crosses your mind. It’s not deception to keep private matters private. We might not see it quite the same terms as the ancient Hebrews, but minding your own business was roughly equivalent to contemplating in prayer instead of acting hastily.

24. The hand of the hard worker shall bear rule, but the lazy shall be under service. The Hebrew translated “hard worker” here carries the image of both diligent and decisive. That is, if you persistent, you’ll eventually know what you are doing. If you can’t be bothered with it, you’ll end up working for someone else just to pay off your debts — it’s the image of tribute owed to one who conquers your domain.

25. Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop, but a good word makes it glad. Most Westerners miss this one. It’s not at all a matter of how someone feels emotionally, but it’s a matter of having a confused or fearful conviction in the heart. Commitment from anxiety is burdensome, but a word of mercy that delivers from such confusion can really set someone free.

26. The righteous is more excellent than his neighbor, but the way of the wicked seduces them. Another case of subtle imagery that is hard to translate, the words here picture the difference in the kind of guidance folks offer. It’s the contrast between exploring and gaining a firm contextual understanding of your local terrain so that you can guide others versus the confused wandering of some fool who keeps trying to cut a new path and forgets to mark it. The latter makes everyone stumble. Which of these will be more helpful to his kin folks?

27. The lazy one does not start after his game, but the wealth of a hard worker is precious. We have no cultural equivalent for the figure of speech here. It’s not really a matter of mere food, but how one handles life in general. It’s the difference between someone who is too lazy to make up his mind what really matters and someone who is determined to find the moral treasures of this life.

28. In the way of righteousness is life, and in that pathway there is no death. This one is actually rather majestic in simplicity. We have two different terms for a well-established route, something that has been in use since before human memory. If you walk in holiness, the divine justice God revealed, then you will experience a vivid life as He intended, sweet and rich. Even if your expiration comes early, you won’t consider it death.

Heart: Awake and Clear

Friday 22 May 2015 Leave a comment

We have two concerns when we study how the Hebrew and other ANE cultures took seriously the heart as a superior intelligence.

First, we have a massive barrier in the form of Western Civilization. It’s not enough that the West has denied the existence of the heart as indicated in the Scripture, but the West also substitutes something else entirely in its place. So we have a serious problem with the word “heart” being saddled with a whole lot of bogus baggage. While Westerners might have some sense that the heart is not exactly intellect, they deny that it can be defined in any meaningful way. Instead, it’s just some kind of spooky magic that might turn out well. It’s just enough falsehood and truth mixed together to make the most powerful form of lie.

Second, we then have to struggle to keep the heart clearly committed to the Creator. While there aren’t too many folks in Western history who found, and then wrote about, the leadership of the heart, way too many of those who did were committed to various false understandings of the Creator. You can have a very active heart-led existence, but have a heart committed to a lie. Scripture mentions this problem all the time.

It’s funny how folks miss that Scripture does talk about concrete logic, and does provide examples of how you can speak in concrete terms on things that have no great moral significance. However, the Hebrew language presumes the most important things we can discuss are those that cannot be defined in concrete terms. So we discuss the Spirit Realm in parables and symbols, far too complex to be subject to concrete logic. Hebrew language presumed a different use of language itself. Words seldom mean things; words indicate paths to explore with a moral consciousness.

On this blog, I try to offer an image of life in three layers. The first is the obvious concrete material universe. Western logic (AKA Aristotelian logic) generally applies well on that level. The second is the Spirit Realm, which the West denies exists (because Aristotle denied it). It cannot be understood with the mind, nor even the heart precisely, but with the spirit raised from death by the Spirit of God. The third level is the intersection between the material and the spiritual: the moral realm. This is where the heart operates. If your connection to the Spirit Realm is wrong in any way, your morals will turn out wrong and your heart committed to something false.

Ask questions, because much of this is of necessity parable, not clinical discussion.

Online Privacy Site

Thursday 21 May 2015 Leave a comment

Recently stumbled across this very aggressive online user privacy and security site: Better Web Browsing. It’s part of the RiseUp thing rooted in Seattle, generally leftist. While I’ve not done any detailed research on them, I’m sure you can find lots of ugly gossip and rumors about them from their political opponents. My initial assessment is that they are akin to the Occupy folks but better organized. There’s room for libertarians, I’m sure.

The point here is their recommendations for online privacy and security. I see several examples of misguided zeal and radical “scorched earth” policy. I suppose it works well enough for the stuff they do, but if you have a blog on any of the major free providers, you’ll run into trouble. For example, you simply must allow third-party cookies for all of the services I know about. Also, RiseUp still supports use of Tor, but I’ve found that to be a trap and easily compromised.

Still, there is good stuff, too. They warn you about the four most popular browsers. Then they forget to point out there are alternatives. Off the top of my head, there’s Opera (old line and new line, quite different), Pale Moon, Lynx, Links2, SlimJet, and dozens of others still in development, each with their own privacy and security advantages.

I’m especially pleased with the recommendation that you replace the various version of AdBlock and Ghostery with uBlock. Even AdBlock Edge has endorsed uBlock as a better replacement. I wish I had known about that before I released my most recent books on Debian.

At any rate, it’s typical of the half-way savvy new Networked Generation of folks. Very aggressive in certain things, but lacking a full range of experience us older security folks could share with them. There’s a lack of nuance in their work. For example, we agree Flash is bad, but there are Open Source versions in development that might solve some of the problems. Meanwhile, Flash is not fully retired from the scene, so if you don’t install some way of playing Flash, you’ll miss out on some of the stuff offered by those who haven’t seen any reason to change their practices. There’s not really wrong with their recommendations, but it seems they didn’t perform due diligence.

Overall, not too bad. It’s a decent quick reference to make you think about what you might do to improve security online.

Proverbs 11 (Part 2)

Thursday 21 May 2015 Leave a comment

16. A gracious woman keeps honor, and the strong keep riches. This one is a little ambiguous and often mistranslated. The image is not a contrast between men and women, but a woman who either acts like a lady or tries to compete with men. A woman who lives consistently with God’s revelation about gender roles will “feed what should be fat” — she’ll make life worth living. If she tries to act more like a plundering soldier, she might have money, but who wants to go home to her?

17. The merciful man does good to his own soul, but he who is cruel troubles his own flesh. This flips the previous proverb over to the man’s role. This builds on the image of conforming to holiness as pulling yourself up into the higher realm of moral consideration, and being able to see what God intended in Creation. Your life is consistent with reality itself in the most subtle ways, as well as the more obvious pieties. Such a man is merciful, mindful of human frailty because he sees his own failures with full clarity. Harsh and demanding men destroy themselves, pushing far away from how reality actually works. It’s a very unhealthy existence.

18. The wicked makes a deceitful wage; but one sowing righteousness has a sure reward. Fundamental to the definition of good morals is living with your heart supervising your mind. The heart in Hebrew culture was the place where God speaks. To live by human talents alone is calling God a liar; it is wickedness defined. God is the ultimate master of wages, and pays according to how your heart belongs to Him.

19. So righteousness tends to life; but one pursuing evil, it is to his own death. English translators often spoil things by adding words they imagine are implied; forget the “tends” here. Good moral character simply lives; it is life defined. There’s nothing to chase after because the truth is right there in front of you. Rest in God and trust Him to show you. If you feel like you have to work all that hard and chase the truth down, you won’t find it. You’ll find death in the broadest meaning.

20. They who are of a perverse heart are hateful to the LORD, but the upright in the way are His delight. To whatever your heart is committed, that will you do. If by your mind you interfere with the proper functioning of the moral intelligence in your heart, you will pervert your commitments. Those who build commitments consistent with God’s revealed purpose will let you stand firmly in His favor.

21. Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be innocent; but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered. More subtlety that escapes translation, we see the image of worldly men who ignore revelation joining hands like an army intending to stand against the truth. As with the Tower of Babel, they expect to build their own version of truth by their human abilities. But when the wrath of God comes, their fruit will be picked clean. They’ll have nothing to show for it. For those who embrace revelation, their fruit — as the source of seeds — will be saved in God’s pantry.

22. Like a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman who turns aside discretion. Keep in mind that pigs were ritually unclean, detestable animals driven out into the wilderness. They had to hide out along the banks of wet places to survive in Israel. Who can bear the thought if getting close enough to one to fit it with any kind of animal control device, much less one made of gold? This shocking waste is just about what we might think when we encounter a woman who looks ravishing and has no sense of moral beauty to match.

23. The desire of the righteous is only good; the hope of the wicked is wrath. In Hebrew, the words for “desire” and “hope” here are conceptually very close. Both indicate a form of attachment. However, in the odd manner of terse Hebrew, it’s not meant to suggest that wicked people actually hope for wrath, but that the object of their affection guarantees wrath.

24. There is one who scatters and yet increases; but one who withholds just due comes only to poverty. This is a typical paradox. Within a covenant community, those who freely distribute whatever God has given them only make room for Him to give more. There’s nothing wrong with holding back things God says are reserved for some other purpose, but to be a tightwad guarantees God cannot give you more. Mercy and grace are like muscles that grow with use.

25. The soul who gives freely shall be made fat; and he who waters shall also be watered himself. Almost a repetition of the previous verse.

26. He who withholds grain, the people shall curse him; but blessing is on the head of him who sells. This extends the idea in the previous two verses. God gives material wealth so that you can experience the joy of sharing. Again, the context is a covenant community where everyone is family.

27. He who carefully seeks good gets favor; but he who seeks mischief, it shall come to him. The image here is someone who gets up early to pursue what’s just and right in God’s Creation. This is not a contradiction to verse 19 above, but another way of looking at the same thing. If you seriously God’s command to seek social stability (“good”), you should expect favor in general. This is contrasted with someone whose habits lead away from social stability; God will make sure their lives are unstable.

28. He who trusts in his riches shall fall; but the righteous shall blossom like a branch. It’s the contrast between spring and fall seasons. If material wealth is your god, then your life is autumnal in the worst sense of cold and dry, brown and drab. Those who place a high value in diving justice, even at the cost of material wealth, are living in eternal spring, always renewing and rejoicing.

29. He who troubles his own house shall inherit the wind; and the fool shall be servant to the wise in heart. What will you inherit? This is all about family loyalty, a prime virtue in Scripture. In this case, making trouble means creating a moral disturbance. Wait until you are in charge to demand changes or you won’t have anything to inherit. You’ll end up a poor starving wretch, serving someone who did wait their turn.

30. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he who wins souls is wise. The subtle Hebrew context here has nothing to do with the sales-pitch evangelism of modern Western church growth tactics. That can be faked entirely. The fundamental image here is more the focus of your life as a whole, the sense of what drives you in all things. We are building Life with a capital “L” — seeking to tie our existence here with Eternity. If your ambition is the souls of people, then your harvest is rich, indeed.

31. Behold, the righteous shall be rewarded in the earth; much more the wicked and the sinner. There is a forceful assertion here in the first line. We all know that a proper moral focus is otherworldly, but it is also the most practical approach because it is consistent with how the universe operates. However much good you can have in this life is found on that path. How much more so the bad that comes to the wicked, because whatever they gain in this life is all they have.

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