The book of Proverbs is one which introduces a new method of instruction in the Bible. In this book Solomon uses a short sentence, generally unrelated to its predecessor, which contains a complete idea. Proverbs contains observations and instruction in nearly every area of the life of the child of God. Many of these ideas are easily understood by the youngest of school children.
The author, Solomon, is a man who is intriguing to most of us. Our earliest Sunday School memories bring us back to Solomon and his wisdom. He was also important in secular history as a rich, powerful leader of an important nation. Solomon in all his splendor was also a humble child of God who could recall his own past sins. He could then warn others of his failings in the past and give advice for the future.
Chapter seven contains a number of these short proverbs, but it also contains a parable. Like other chapters. Solomon gives a warning to young men against the sin of adultery. Solomon, who was the possessor of one thousand wives and concubines is no mean authority on the subject. He does not speak as the hypocrite, however, but as the sinner who knows and can well warn.
Thus, to Solomon’s parable.
Solomon stood at his window in the evening to view the activities of the city. Below him he saw a group of young men, “simple ones” he called them. We may understand these young men to be representative of young men of most generations. They were not retarded, nor were they lacking in worldly knowledge. They were “street-wise”, but foolish in their knowledge of the ways and effects of sin.
One of these took leave of his fellows to look for something to do that evening. Idleness was his way of life in the evening and a search for excitement was his main activity.
At this same time, but some distance down the street, Solomon saw a woman also looking for excitement. She also was idle, but had a particular goal in mind for the evening. Although she was dressed “with the attire of an harlot”, she was from all outward appearances a well-respected woman. Her husband was a merchant, gone away on business, and would not be back for some time. Her attire might almost be excused as simply being flashy or quite in the style of the rest of the world.
Of course, the two met. She made certain of that. She threw herself upon the young man most immodestly upon seeing him, and declared that he was the very young man she had been waiting for. Really? Me? How flattering to our simple young man.
Yes, he was the very young man. Not because he was handsome or because of his pleasant personality, but because he was simple. Any one of his fellows could also have filled the bill.
She quickly explained to the young man that he had nothing to fear from her. She was, she said, sincere in her speech, having that day been to the temple to pay her vows and to worship. She could now cover any new evil with what she had paid that day.
Solomon saw the young man resist her initial advances. No, he didn’t want to go home with her. But, “with the glittering of her lips she forced him”. She described the beauties of her house and especially of her bed. She told him that surely they would not be found out. She promised him love and the adventure that he sought that evening.
The young man followed the woman to her house. Perhaps he had not looked for something as serious as adultery. He had wanted only a little fun, nothing of consequence, that evening. His conscience had been pricked, but certainly not enough to overcome his earthly desires. “He went after her straightway as an ox goeth to the slaughter.”
A parable with this plot could be made much fun of today. Imagine the delight of a modern audience seeing a play involving a reversal of roles, a somewhat timid young man being enticed by a subtle woman. The woman would certainly be the heroine with the young man being a near hero, somewhat befuddled, but altogether pleased with the night’s results. A mockery would be made of sin.
Solomon saw the consequence of that man’s activities, however. To Solomon, this young man had nothing to brag about the next evening to his friends. Rather, he had been led into a sin, in which Solomon saw the young man as gone, and the young man “knoweth not that it is for his life.”
Many of us find difficulty in praying aloud in a group. We may be at school, a church meeting, or at the dinner table when we are called upon to give thanks. Often, an immediate reaction is one of consternation. What should I say? What will others think of me because of my prayer? Will what I say be adequate? Couldn’t I just put together a few well-known phrases and have it over with?
Prayer, both silent and aloud is an integral part of our lives, and has been a part of the lives of all the saints since the beginning of time. When we call upon a person to pray we do not choose the most articulate or the person most at ease in a group. Rather, each of us takes his turn at leading others in prayer. God has given each of us his own particular needs, and also the need for others to pray with him and for him. No one needs to be ashamed of expressing his spiritual needs or weaknesses, but takes courage that others pray with him for strength.
It seems that in our modern time, the difficulties of the spoken prayer are emphasized. The world around us encourages us to be our own person, to go our own individual way, and not to be dependent upon others. This independent attitude also fits in well with our human nature, and is difficult to shake off. However, just the opposite must be expressed in our prayer. We are totally dependent upon God and are also dependent upon our fellows in the church.
It seems that there may be an alternative to praying aloud in a group. All could offer a silent prayer in unison. This way each person could express his own need to God without any consciousness of others hearing him. However, this misses an important part of prayer, that the hearts of all are united as one. The words of one person are the expression of the feelings of all involved.
Hoping that the ideas of a short article are not too elementary, let’s examine a few basic concepts of prayer.
The attitude of our prayer must be one of holy reverence. The knowledge that we pray to the all-powerful Father in Heaven creates a feeling of profound respect and awe in us before we even begin our prayer. This attitude also destroys any notion of criticism on the part of any child of God who hears that prayer. Our God is a majestic god before whom all of us humble ourselves, especially in prayer.
Our God is also one who has revealed Himself to His people, and therefore has inspired in them the confidence that their prayer is heard. Without this assurance our prayer would be mere words; or at best, a hope that a wish would be fulfilled. This trust in God in our prayer means that our whole being is dominated by our words of thankfulness to Him.
Our knowledge is God guides us in selecting the content of our prayer. The Heidelberg Catechism explains that prayer “is the chief part of thankfulness which God requires of us.” Our thankfulness to God is in no way a payment to Him like it might be to another person. Rather, in our thankfulness we recognize that God is the source of all good which come to us. In this way prayer is a good work.
In our prayer we ask God for all that we need for our spiritual and material existence. We recognize that His Will is done in what He provides us with. Because of this, the unregenerate cannot pray, for they ask for only what seems good for them.
God has instilled in His people a need and a desire for prayer. Although God knows our needs, He still requires of us to verbalize them. God gives His grace to them who come to Him in prayer.
Prayer requires patience, practice, and experience, as well as thought and meditation. Our old nature constantly works to interfere with our communication with God. However, God has given His people grace and faith to pray to Him, so that they might receive His further blessing.
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” James 5:16
Recently, Time magazine in its Behavior section featured an article on the declining birth rate among Americans. On six full pages there was a description of the attempts by many in this country to reach zero population growth in approximately fifty years. There were stories of a non-fertility rite “which honored the nonparents of the year,” and also of a family of eight children who were harassed by obscene phone calls because of the size of their family.
This article gave five reasons for the declining birth rate. First, America is a modern society in which people feel no need for having children. Second, there are few people left who have any moral objection to birth control or abortion. In 1973 the lives of 800,000 children were taken by abortion. Third, women have become “liberated” and seek careers away from home, not wanting the responsibilities of children. Fourth, there are some who are concerned the world will become overpopulated and that food and energy resources will become exhausted. Finally, others feel that children are too great a financial burden, wishing to use their money for themselves alone.
Let us hope that none of these ideas work their way into the sphere of the church. They reveal an altitude of selfishness and lack of concern for God’s Kingdom. They also show a lack of confidence in God, who has promised to guide His people in any circumstance on this earth.
This is not to say that the world will not continue to produce children. This will never be so. The world always passes on its heritage to the next generation and it will continue to do so until the end of the world.
The world has its reasons for wanting children, be they for personal satisfaction, perpetuating a family name or tradition, or whatever.
God does not give children to parents to be used for their own selfish purposes. Nor does He, ultimately, allow parents to determine the number or the time of their children’s births. Children belong to God who entrusts their care to a husband and wife for a short number of years.
“Children are a heritage of the Lord.” (Psalm 127:3a). Now the world also has a heritage, something passed down to and received from one’s ancestors. Its heritage is one of rebellion, of attempting to determine its own fate, and of flying in the face of God. The church’s heritage also comes from its ancestors. It comes in the form of the covenant, the same covenant which God made to Abraham and his seed. God promised to take Himself children unto which He would be a God and Father always.
The whole church rejoices at the birth of a new child. Each new member brings us that much closer to the fulfillment of God’s covenant and to the end of time. That new child is not merely a cute little baby to be played with, but is a child of Christ and a member of the church.
In that heritage that child is baptized, signed and sealed as a member of Christ’s body. The parents and church members continue to joy in that child and the responsibilities of raising it in God’s faith. That child is not looked upon as a financial burden or as a liability to the world.
We cannot, as children of God, share in any of the values of the world. Our children of the church are one of our most precious possessions.
“Lo, children are in heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them” (Psalm 127:3, 4, and 5a).
The voice of God was heard last night. Millions heard Him. He spoke powerfully and emphatically. Some who heard Him acknowledged that He was speaking and that He was God. Most ignored Him even though they were momentarily terror stricken.
“The voice of the thunder was in the heavens, the lightening lightened the world: the earth trembled and shook.” Psalm 77:18 “The voice of the Lord is upon the waters: the God of glory thundereth: the Lord is upon many waters. The voice of the Lord is powerful: the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.” Psalm 29:3&4.
God, the Creator, speaks to us in all of Nature about us. God demands of all men of the earth that honor be paid to Him. Even the mightiest of this earth must realize their insignificance in the face of God’s majesty. The most powerful of man’s inventions, even to the most powerful atomic devices, stand as nothing compared to a thunderstorm or tornado.
God’s people recognize the Shepherd when they hear His voice. They are comforted when they hear Him, even when He comes in the dynamic manner of a close-striking bolt of lightning. They have nothing to fear when He speaks; they are always content with God’s revelation of Himself in Creation.
When His own see the sun rise in the morning they hear Him speak to them of His over-consistent love and of His infinity and unchangeableness. They hear God say that He will ever give them life, even after that sun has been destroyed. When they hear God speak in the storm they know He tells of His strength and might, so great that nothing can compare to it. His people know they are safe in His hands.
God also speaks in the whispering wind and murmuring brook, telling of His gentle love and kindly disposition toward His people. God’s voice is always one of reassurance, no matter how He speaks.
The wicked also hear God’s voice. They hear Him speak to them of their sure condemnation. They hate God’s voice and wish to ignore it, but cannot. “Thou didst cause judgement to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still.” Psalm 76:8.
The wicked also hear God speak of His power and majesty in the tornado or storm. They, however, react with fear and curse Him. It is not their desire to hear of their judgement or to know that they are not the ultimate masters of their fate.
They also hear God’s voice in the falling rain. They are not blessed by the rain even though they may seem to be. They are again ready to curse at hearing God speak; the rain may have been untimely or of insufficient amounts.
The rising sun is also a reminder to the wicked. Each morning anew God speaks to them of His unchangeableness. To the wicked, however, this is no sound of reassurance. They rather hear God speak of His never-changing hatred of sin and the workers of iniquity.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handy- work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.” Psalm 19:1-3.
The Lord speaks. All hear Him.
Picture with me for a few minutes the Apostle Paul in his prison cell in Rome. He had been in this condition for some time, years perhaps, his future in doubt. Would this continue indefinitely? Would he be allowed his just freedom? Or would he, perhaps, be subjected to one of the infamous tortures of Rome?
It is in these circumstances that Paul writes to his beloved congregation at Philippi, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things in Christ which strengthened me.”
For Paul these are no idle words. He has experienced the abounding heights of joy, and has been abased in the depths of sorrow and despair. He must have felt all of these keenly, just as we would have. These feelings are still with him in Rome.
Paul’s thoughts went back to that greatest experience of his life, Christ calling to him on his way to Damascus. What confusion he had felt. Love those whom he had been attempting to kill? Proclaim the gospel of Him whom he had hated? It appeared that his whole life’s work until this point had been more than wasted.
Imagine Paul’s despair at the times of physical torture. He was looked upon with contempt by the unconverted Jews. He was thrown into prison and beaten over and again. He was stoned so badly that his body was thrown out of the city, he being taken for a dead man.
Deeply felt were his problems with brethren in the church. It was many years before Paul was accepted by earlier Christians. He was suspect because of his activities as a young man. Later on in his missionary journeys he had difficulties with His companions, so bad that they were even forced to split up.
Now in prison he heard reports of problems in the churches he had founded. Jews and Gentiles were bickering over problems involving their backgrounds. There were problems of church’s following the practices of the heathen about them. False prophets had entered the church. Discipline had become lax.
Did these tribulations break him down? No. Paul writes in Romans that he rejoiced in his tribulation. In all things Paul could say, “I am content.’’ Christ strengthened him. Being abased worked in him just the opposite way that it would have in an unbeliever.
Paul also knew how to abound and to be full. He was a very important man, the leader of his missionary journeys and the founder of many churches. He was loved and respected by thousands. His name had gone through much of the world. There were even those who wanted to become ministers themselves, like Paul, hoping to draw attention.
This would at first seem to be no problem. But it could have been. Paul did not become headstrong. Paul knew of God’s warning to Israel in Deuteronomy that they be careful lest “They say in their hearts, my power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth.” He gave all the glory to God. He wrote to the Ephesians (also from prison) that he “gave thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The world is never content. It must continue its pleasure-madness, always searching, never finding. Its suicides, divorces, and immorality will grow. At best the unbeliever may become complacent.
The child of God will always welcome the situation which God has placed him in. He will be patient and rejoice in tribulation. He will be thankful in abundance. He will be content.
The basic premise of Christian stewardship is that God is the Creator, Possessor, and Upholder of all. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fulness thereof,” confesses David in Psalm 24. “For He hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.” Stewardship presupposes God’s absolute ownership of all. Existence of anything apart from God is impossible. If God were to but forget a tiny portion of His Creation, the very idea of that thing would cease to exist. God may use His Creation as He alone sees fit, holding Himself accountable to no one.
There can be no question that God has placed man in the position of steward over Creation. Most men, of course, do not admit to that stewardship. They will never understand that God has called them and all Creation into being for the sole purpose of the glorification of His name. Only the Christian will confess that God owns all, and that man must use all for that purpose.
I would ask you to spend a few minutes with me on the subject of a parable which is familiar to all of us, the parable of the talents found in Matthew 25. A man took a journey and left his possessions in the hands of three stewards, who were to have charge over them until his return. The man knew his servants well, giving each care over his estate to the extent that he knew their abilities. The two with the greater abilities and responsibilities did well, gaining more for their master. He with the least ability didn’t even use it, gaining nothing. When the master returned, each servant was rewarded accordingly, not for his ability but for his faithfulness.
Notice that the master in giving charge of his possessions to his three servants said nothing about reward or recompense. He merely gave charge to them over these things and left. So also is the relationship of Cod, the Master, and man, the steward. God has no agreement with man allowing him to use His Creation in order for man to earn a certain reward. God has said, “Take all I have given you. Honor and glorify my Name therewith.”
What, then, are these talents which God has given us as stewards? We often think of a talent as the ability to sing or perform a task well. A talent might be material possessions. If they are but these, we may readily conclude that God has given us the position of the steward with one talent.
One can hardly make an all-inclusive list of all our talents. The reader can add many more to this list. To most of us God has given Christian homes and schools. We have our church and its doctrine. We have God-fearing friends and mates. God has blessed us materially far more than in other nations of the world. He has given us strong bodies and keen minds. To all has been given that much under-rated gift of time. We have the abilities to love and worship God. We have our salvation.
The point of the parable is not how much money the two stewards earned by the return of the master, but the fact that they were faithful in what the master had set them over. They used the master’s possessions for his welfare and not for their own. Note the disproportion between the work and the reward. Each earned little more for the master, but were made rulers over many things. So also God rewards His faithful stewards on this earth. Those who are faithful in what God has given, however little it may be, are rewarded in the end with eternal life.
Our human hearts, ready to make excuses, sympathize with the last servant. His reasoning seemed not so bad, “I knew you were a hard man, but see, I took good care to hide your talent, and I now return it unharmed.” We see him taken aback when accused of being wicked and slothful. There is no middle point between faithful and unfaithful. He was unfaithful in his omission. His position was taken from him; he was cast into outer darkness. He used the master’s talent to fulfill his own laziness.
Mankind is the slothful servant. He evidences this today in his selfish use of the God-given Creation. He destroys and pollutes a world that is not his own and is not to be used for his end. Already he begins to reap his reward in environmental problems and international conflicts over natural resources. He will continue in the way of the slothful servant until he receives his final reward at the end of time.
Only God’s children are those good and faithful servants. As covenant young people, count your talents. Whether you have five, two, or one is no matter; be faithful in the use of them.
How often have you conceived of your everyday, possibly hum-drum life, as a calling from God? Possibly never. For most of us the work-a-day week is routine. It seems not to be directly associated with God’s work on this earth. Every day we get up at a particular time, grab a lunch, and books or tools, and are off to a day like many others. Is this a calling? Are we in this way fulfilling God’s work on this earth?
Often the word calling is associated with a position in the church, such as minister, missionary, elder, or deacon; or possibly even extended to the work of a Christian school teacher. Generally it is not carried so far as to include the work of a laborer, clerk, farmer, mechanic, or student. This should never be so.
All God’s children are called to the office of all-believers. Everyday life is included in this office. God’s children have the calling to function in this world, and in eternity, as God’s friend-servants. This then is calling of all the elect: the summons to be God’s servants in the offices of prophet, priest, and king. No matter what our occupation might be, we fulfill these offices in our everyday work.
When the undersigned was a student in a Christian high school there was an organization called The Future Kingdom Workers. This name suggested that persons do not work in God’s kingdom until they have chosen a particular occupation, and that even then only certain occupations could be considered “Kingdom Work.” This could never be true. All God’s children have the calling to work in His Kingdom in whatever capacity God has called them to.
In order to see how this is realized, we might look at the Heidelberg Catechism question and answer 32: “Why art thou called a Christian?” The answer tells us: 1) that I may confess His Name, 2) that I may present myself a living sacrifice to Him, and 3) that I may fight against Satan and sin in this life.
Confessing God’s Name in everyday life comes with difficulty. In some situations we often find ourselves to be the only Christian. So much easier it is to sit back unnoticed than to make our confession. Confessing that we are children of God need not be done in the pushy method of street-comer evangelists, but in a manner which can yet be seen by all. The Christian ought to be obvious at work or in school. He is recognized by the language he uses, the types of entertainment he condones, by his prayer at mealtimes, and possibly by his dress. He is honest when it comes to money matters and in all things never attempts to be anything less than straight-forward. It soon becomes apparent to all that this same person regards Sunday as the Sabbath and not simply as part of the weekend of worldly pleasure. He always stands prepared to explain these actions and to give confession of his salvation in Christ. These virtues are revealed as a reflection of the virtues of God who has called us from darkness into His Light.
In this instance we can take the example of Daniel, who being a young man in his teens, was called into a difficult position by God. All the pleasures of Babylon were offered to Daniel; however, “Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat nor with the wine which he drank.” Rather Daniel confessed God’s Name by eating pulse, rejecting that which had been dedicated to the Babylonian god. In Daniel’s confession he was not ashamed. Never do God’s children suffer shame in the confession of His Name.
We must be thankful to God for the calling which He has given. Our calling, be it laborer or highly regarded pastor, has come from God. It should be with joy that we awaken each morning and realize, that as we prepare for another day’s work, we are fulfilling God’s mandate for us and for His Kingdom on this earth.
Our thankfulness can never include the idea of repayment. This would be impossible. Rather gratitude can be this alone: that we show forth His glorious praises. This is done by putting on the new man, walking in His righteousness, and declaring that God has delivered us from the power of sin and has redeemed us in the blood of Christ. Here also is an antithesis: we cannot serve God and mammon. So also in our calling we reject sin and hate darkness.
This is the third area of our calling according to the catechism: “That with a free and good conscience I may fight against sin and Satan in this life, and afterwards reign with Him eternally over all creatures.” We have no difficulty in recognizing sin. It is all about us; it is that old man with which we constantly struggle. We have heard the Ten Commandments over and over; we are warned of sin in our daily Scripture reading; it is preached on Sunday.
With “a free and good conscience” leaves us with no doubt as to the outcome of the fight. We are certain of the victory. We are assured that in our calling we represent the cause of Christ in our fight on this earth. We shall “reign with Him eternally over all creatures.”
Be faithful and thankful to God for the calling which he has given on this earth.
In April of 1959, a school society was organized by the members of the Loveland Protestant Reformed Church. This was just ten months after the Loveland church had been accepted into the Protestant Reformed denomination. The five-member school board immediately began work, and worked diligently through the next two years. The board decided that two rooms in the basement of the church, which is an old school- house, could be used for a school. These two rooms were cleaned out and painted, and blackboards, a heater, and other necessities of a school were added.
In September of 1961, the school became a reality, and Miss Ruth Kuiper became the first teacher. Under her were seven students in grades one, two, three, and five, with one student unclassified according to grade. At the present time, the school has an enrollment of six, and Mr. Tom DeVries is the teacher. The third grade has two boys, the fourth, a girl and a boy, the sixth one girl, and one student, who is mentally retarded, is not classified in a specific grade. The students live in widely separated areas: one ten miles to the north, one ten miles to the south, one in Loveland, and three live on a nearby farm.
The school very much reminds one of the old country school which we ourselves or our fathers possibly attended. One room is used as a classroom, while the other room is used for reading and science experiments. Singing and Bible are the only classes which are incorporated into one. Most of the students’ work is done independently, since the teacher has little time to devote to one grade for a long period of time. The subject compliment is generally the same as that of our Protestant Reformed schools in the Grand Rapids area. The educational standards are equally as high as the other Protestant Reformed schools, and are higher than the local public schools.
Many interesting things can happen in a school of this type. When just three students are ill, half of the school is missing. At recess time the two girls have a hard time adjusting to the boys’ rough games, although they can generally hold their own. The water supply, which consists of a cistern and a hand pump, often freezes in the winter, so water is brought in bottles from home. The local farmers’ dogs, which are attracted to (or by) the children are quite numerous, and for about one-half year the school boasted three cats, which lived in a large shed in the school yard. In front of the school is a large irrigation canal which balls are mistakenly thrown into, and carried downstream. When this happens, the teacher is summoned, and the ball is retrieved, sometimes as far as a block away.
A person might think that a school of this size would be very impractical and almost out of the question. However, the very opposite is true. Christian education, specifically Protestant Reformed education, is a necessity, and it should be the calling of each of our churches to see that this education becomes a reality. The people of Loveland have shown that this calling should, and can be realized, even though a school may be very small and seemingly insignificant. A small school can be just as practical and efficient as a large one; this is clearly illustrated in the Loveland Protestant Reformed Christian School.
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