June 8 – July 7 (30 days); due April 20:
Jun 8—What’s Your Motive?
Read Proverbs 21
Proverbs 21:1 teaches that the hearts of the rulers of this world are under the sovereign control of our God. What comfort! Not only are the hearts of kings open to him, however: “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the Lord pondereth the hearts” (v. 2). What does he see when he searches our hearts?
What is God’s evaluation of a proud heart? “An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin” (v.4). Other translations render verse 4 much differently. The ESV, for example, reads, “Haughty eyes and a proud heart, the lamp of the wicked, are sin.” Ultimately, the verse means the same thing. If haughty eyes and a proud heart are the lamps that guides the wicked, even his plowing is sinful, for “two things are required to make an action right. One is that it be lawful in itself. The other is that it be done with a right motive. If the thing done is itself wrong, no motives can make it right. On the other hand, the thing done may be right in itself, but the motive which governs us may be wrong, and so the act may be sinful because the motive is sinful” (William Plumer). Sing or pray Psalter #384.
Jun 9—Train Up a Child
Read Proverbs 22
Proverbs 22:6 reminds parents that the calling to train their children in Jehovah’s ways is their highest privilege and greatest responsibility. How often we parents neglect that duty because of misplaced priorities and busy schedules!
[Children] must be trained to understand and interpret their behavior in terms of heart motivation… The goal of correction is not simply to modify behavior, but to bring the child to sweet, harmonious, and humble heart submission to God’s will that he obey Mom and Dad…The child trained in biblical obedience [and the parent, who knows how difficult that godly training is!] is better able to understand the gospel. The power and grace of the gospel is most deeply understood, not by those who never face their biblical duties, but by those who do (Ted Tripp).
Proverbs 22:15 warns against refusing to discipline our children. Left to themselves, they will pursue the way of the fool. The duties of Christian parenting are not that complicated. In fact, they’re very straightforward. What’s difficult is the consistency that’s required of us for those means to be effective! Let’s pray for the grace we need to be diligent. Sing or pray Psalter #359.
Jun 10—The Glutton and the Drunkard
Read Proverbs 23
According to Merriam Webster’s Dictionary, a “foodie” is “a person who enjoys and cares about food very much.” One won’t find the word “foodie” in Proverbs 23, but a term that is perhaps more accurate: “glutton.” How serious is gluttony? So serious that Solomon commands, “Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite” (v. 2). Philippians 3:19 describes “enemies of the cross of Christ” this way: “Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.” A glutton worships his stomach. Proverbs 23 also contains many warnings to the drunkard. Like the glutton, “the drunkard…will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags” (v. 22). For all alcohol promises to deliver, in the end “it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder” (v. 32).
We need grace not to make idols out of food and drink. Rather, those pleasures should point us to far more wonderful spiritual realities like partaking of Jesus Christ by faith, the communion of the saints, and the heavenly bliss that awaits all who are in Christ Jesus. Sing or pray Psalter #288.
Jun 11—Be Diligent
Read Proverbs 24
Proverbs 24:1 warns against envying or joining evil men. In contrast to evil, which produces destruction, wisdom establishes one’s house (v.2). And it’s not earthly riches that make that home a pleasant place to be; it is knowledge (v. 3). As Job taught, that knowledge can’t be mined like gold or silver. “The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding” (Job 28:28).
My neighbor’s yard looks like the field of the slothful man in Proverbs 24:30–32. Where it’s not overgrown with thistles and waist-high weeds, it’s heaped with piles of junk. In contrast to the slothful, a diligent man tends his fields well, for his substance is precious (Prov. 12:27b). How well are we tending our gardens? Do we water our marriages with thoughtfulness and godly communication? Do we pull out the weeds of sin that threaten to choke the communion we’re called to have with our parents or our children? Our other relationships require constant nurture as well, and so do our spiritual lives. Do we feed our daily walk with the word of God, water it with prayer, and weed it by living in fellowship with the other members of Christ’s body? Sing or pray Psalter #40.
Jun 12—Temple Builders
Read 1 Kings 5
Solomon reigns, and, as Jehovah promised, he gives David’s son rest. Solomon begins the work of building the temple by making a league with Hiram, King of Tyre. In exchange for the cedar and fir wood that grew abundantly in that coastal nation, Israel would trade them food. Solomon raises a levy of 30,000 men. This levy isn’t a tax but a draft of forced laborers. Samuel had foretold this in 1 Samuel 8:11–16. In addition, 150,000 strangers served the house of God (see 2 Chron. 2:17 and Josh. 9:21–27). Were the men who built the temple “filled with the Spirit of God,” “wise-hearted” men, “in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, even everyone whose heart stirred him up to come unto the work to do it” (Ex. 31:3 and Ex. 36:2)? That’s the way the tabernacle builders were described.
Our Lord Jesus Christ has won the victory and now rules from his heavenly throne. Though he has entered his rest, he is not inactive. Rather, “He is using His wisdom to enlist people from the nations to build His living temple, the church” (Reformation Heritage Study KJV Bible). Do we devote ourselves to that cause as willing, Spirit-filled laborers? Sing or pray Psalter #368.
Jun 13—The Temple of God
Read 1 Kings 6
The temple was built in reverent silence. Similarly, Christ builds his church without “Ostentatious display or fanfare” (Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible). “Clamor and violence…never further [the work of God]” (Matthew Henry). The Hebrew suggests that the temple’s windows were broad on the inside but narrow on the outside (v. 4). Henry explains, “Such should the eyes of our mind be, reflecting nearer on ourselves than on other people, looking much within to judge ourselves, but little without to censure our brethren.” The temple was twice the size of the tabernacle and included chambers on its sides, which were built three stories high and used for storage, and two large cherubim that guarded the ark of the covenant. “Solomon made everything new, except the ark…the token of God’s presence…is always the same with His people whether they meet in tent or temple…” (Ibid).
Glorious as it was, God’s presence in the temple depended on king’s obedience (v. 12). Our King, Jesus Christ, is greater than the temple (Matt. 12:6). On the basis of his perfect righteousness, we are assured of God’s presence forever. Sing or pray Psalter #243.
Jun 14—Great is our God
Read 2 Chronicles 2
What 1 Kings 6 describes in one chapter, 2 Chronicles details in several chapters, for the temple is central to the chronicler’s plot. Remember, 1 and 2 Chronicles were written around the end of the Old Testament, during the days of Ezra and Nehemiah. In his recounting of Israel’s history, the author emphasized heartfelt worship of Jehovah and God’s presence with his people. He intended to encourage true worship of Jehovah among the exiles who had returned to Canaan and point them to the Son of David in whom God’s promises would be finally and fully fulfilled. These people faced much opposition in re-building God’s temple and were tempted by the same sins that had led Solomon astray (Neh. 13:26). They needed the reminder of 2 Chronicles 2:5: “Great is our God above all gods…the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain him.” Though even Solomon’s beautiful temple could not contain so great a God, the temple was necessary for Jehovah’s people, for there they would enter his presence through sacrifice (v. 6c).
Through the one sacrifice of our savior, we have access by faith into God’s gracious presence. Do we daily resort there through his word and prayer? Sing or pray Psalter #132.
Jun 15—God’s Tabernacle with Men
Read 2 Chronicles 3
Many years before Solomon ruled, God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah, and there he provided a ram in Isaac’s place (Gen. 22:2). On that mountain also David built an altar to turn away God’s wrath by sacrifice following his sin of numbering the people (1 Chron. 21:18). Now Solomon built the temple there. There Jehovah would dwell among his people: “those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice” (Ps. 50.5).
Many things about the temple pointed back to the Garden of Eden: the palm trees and pomegranates, the cherubim guarding the entrance to the most holy place, and the gold. Those things also point forward to the new heavens and earth, for the book of Revelation describes heaven using many of the same images.
In heaven, the tabernacle of God will be with his people. “God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Rev. 21:3–4). Sing or pray Psalter #350.
Jun 16—Abundant Offerings
Read 2 Chronicles 4
1 Chronicles 4 begins with a description of the brazen altar of burnt offering, which is omitted from the parallel account in 1 Kings 6. The temple’s altar is very large, approximately 30’ by 30’ by 15’ high. In contrast, the altar constructed for the tabernacle was about 7 ½’ by 7 ½’ by 4 ½’ high. Why the difference in size? First, the tabernacle and its furnishings had to be transportable. Second, “Now that Israel had become both numerous and more rich…it was expected that there would be a greater abundance of offerings brought to God’s altar than had been. It was therefore made such a capacious scaffold…God had greatly enlarged their borders; it was therefore fit that they should enlarge his altars” (Matthew Henry). Already at the dedication of the temple Solomon and all the congregation of Israel sacrificed sheep and oxen “which could not be told nor numbered for multitude” (1 Chron. 5:6).
God has given us spiritual and material abundance. Do our returns “bear some proportion to our receivings?” (Ibid). Sing or pray Psalter #311.
Jun 17—As One
Read 2 Chronicles 5
The glorious temple was complete. The tabernacle and its furnishings were replaced with things larger and more lavish, except for the ark, which symbolized God’s presence in Christ. “For the presence and the grace of God are the same in little assemblies that they are in large ones, in the poor condition of the church that they are in its prosperous estate” (Matthew Henry). It, along with the tabernacle and its furnishings, the elders and Levites solemnly bring to Jerusalem. Solomon and the congregation greet the ark with innumerable sacrifices. It is placed in the most holy place, and as the singers and trumpeters lift praise and thanks as with one voice, Jehovah’s glory fills the tabernacle.
I thought of this passage during the combined PR high school choir concert this past April 12, as nearly 300 young voices, accompanied by instruments, sang, “One in Christ, we lift our voice.” What a glorious testimony to the truth that the song of praise and thanksgiving delights our heavenly Father more than sacrifice (Ps. 69:30–31). And it is when his people praise him in unity that he commands his blessing (Ps. 133). Sing or pray Psalter #186.
Jun 18—His Mercy Endures Forever!
Read Psalm 136
Psalm 136 begins with three commands to thank Jehovah, the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the God of wonders. The psalmist first lists Jehovah’s wonders in creation (vv. 4–9). He then recounts Jehovah’s wonderful redemption of his people, his providential care for them, and the bountiful, undeserved inheritance he has given them (vv.10–24). The psalm comes full circle when the psalmist acknowledges Jehovah’s sustenance of all his creatures (v. 25) before once more enjoining his people to thank him (v. 26).
Psalm 136 is unique and memorable because of its refrain, the same refrain with which the trumpeters and singers praised Jehovah at the dedication of the temple (2 Chron. 5:13). Perhaps that refrain strikes us as unduly repetitive, especially when we hear the psalm read aloud. But that repetition is not without purpose. The psalmist would have us consider the greatest wonder of all: the God of wonders loves sinners like you and me. What a wonder that his mercy—his steadfast, committed love for his covenant people—is the reason for all things! And his love for us endures forever. Sing or pray Psalter #378.
Jun 19—Jehovah’s Dwelling Place
Read 1 Kings 8
1 Kings 8 also records the bringing of the ark to the temple. Then follows Solomon’s prayer of dedication. Solomon had built a house for God, yet he realized, “The heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee” (v. 27). Repeatedly he prays that when Jehovah’s people prayed toward the temple, Jehovah would hear—not from the temple, but from heaven, his dwelling place.
The prophet Jeremiah foretold the new dispensation in which the temple wouldn’t be needed; indeed, even the ark of the covenant would not be remembered nor come into mind (Jer. 3:16). We are privileged to live in that new dispensation: “But ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven…and to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel” (Heb. 12:22–24). Our God now dwells within the members of Christ’s body by his Holy Spirit. Do you experience his powerful, sanctifying presence today? Sing or pray Psalter #141.
Jun 20—Solomon’s Prayer
Read 2 Chronicles 6
Throughout Solomon’s dedicatory prayer, he assumed that Jehovah’s people would pray to him from inside or facing toward the temple. The temple “was a shadow: the substance is Christ; whatever we ask in his name, it shall be given us” (Matthew Henry). Also, Solomon prayed for forgiveness with the understanding that true confession of sin includes turning from that sin, followed by walking in Jehovah’s ways (vv. 26–27). Are our lives characterized by such true repentance? Solomon expressed the desire that all people might fear God along with Israel, and he assumed that this would happen, for they would hear of Jehovah’s great name. “Thus early…were the indications of favor towards…the Gentiles: as there was then one law for the native and for the stranger (Ex. 12:49), so there was one gospel for both. Herein he aimed at the glory of God and the propagating of the knowledge of him” (Ibid). Is that our desire and aim, too? Finally, Solomon mentioned those who would pray in battle. We’re exhorted to “put on the whole armor of God,” “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (Eph. 6:11 and 18). Is that the way in which we confront the enemies that tempt us? Sing or pray Psalter #350.
Jun 21—A Better Land
Read 2 Chronicles 7
On the wall of my high school history classroom hung a framed photograph of the United States flag. Below the picture was printed 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” Since then, I’ve heard the same text quoted by prominent evangelicals and conservative politicians, often in the context of discussions regarding abortion or homosexuality. Though they may be well-intentioned, my former teacher and those other men and women misapply this verse. Old Testament Israel was God’s chosen, covenant people. They were the church. No one nation represents God’s people now. Nor will the fervent prayers of American Christians turn the tidal wave of wickedness that rushes over our nation. Israel experienced prosperity through repentance and obedience. Likewise, the members of the new testament church, men, and women from all nations, tribes, and tongues, enjoy spiritual prosperity. They, who are joined to Christ by a Spirit-worked faith, “will enjoy God’s presence forever in a better land than Canaan” (Reformation Heritage KJV Study Bible). Sing or pray Psalter #230.
Jun 22—A Shadow of Heavenly Things
Read 1 Kings 7
1 Kings 7 first summarizes Solomon’s other building projects: his palace, the hall of judgment, where his throne was situated, a palace for Pharaoh’s daughter, his wife, and the large Palace of the Forest of Lebanon, which probably served as a reception/banquet hall. All these buildings were, with the temple, located within a “great court” (v. 9 and 12). Then follows detailed descriptions of Hiram of Tyre’s brass work, which included the large ornamental pillars that framed the entrance to the holy place, named Jachin and Boaz. Hiram also fashioned the enormous molten sea, which had a capacity of about 10,000 gallons. This sea replaced the tabernacle laver and held the water in which the priests washed. And he made ten moveable lavers, each of which held about 240 gallons and in which the steady stream of sacrifices was washed.
Again, the temple and its furnishings served as a shadow of heavenly things, things revealed to us in the New Testament. We have a high priest, “Who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man” (Heb. 8:1–2). Sing or pray Psalter #302.
Jun 23—An Imperfect Type (1)
Read 1 Kings 9
When Solomon had completed building, God again appeared to him. Once more Jehovah reiterated his promise: “If you walk in my ways, then I will establish your throne.” Furthermore, the Lord impressed upon Solomon that the welfare of the entire nation is contingent on his obedience. If Solomon leads them into idolatry, Jehovah will cut Israel off. There is a hint of ominous foreshadowing in this second, solemn warning, isn’t there? We know the sad sequel to Solomon’s glorious debut. All the terrible things of which he spoke in his dedicatory prayer—defeat, famine, captivity—will soon come to pass. And he will lead the way. And yet, we also know that Solomon would fail: he must fail. For the people of Israel could not put their trust in a mere man, though they enjoyed unsurpassed peace and prosperity under his rule. They must still look for the Messiah.
Like Solomon, though we know the consequences of sin, too often we don’t do the good that we would (Rom. 7:14). We cannot look for assurance of our salvation in ourselves. We look to Christ. He “is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). Sing or pray Psalter #198.
Jun 24—An Imperfect Type (2)
Read 2 Chronicles 8
2 Chronicles 8 lists some the cities that marked Solomon’s northernmost borders (vv.3–4). Under Solomon’s rule, the borders of Israel reached their greatest extent. But in this, too, Solomon failed as a type. Solomon desired, “that all people of the earth may know thy name, and fear thee, as doth thy people Israel,” but never did he rule over all nations (2 Chron. 6:33). For that reality to be fulfilled, Jehovah’s people were also to look for the Messiah. Revelation 11:15 tells of the day when, “The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.”
Already now, Jesus Christ reigns in the hearts of his people, whom he gathers from the four corners of the earth. Yet still, there are more who must be gathered. Do you pray the Lord of the harvest, “that he will send forth laborers into his harvest”? (Matt. 9:38). Is he calling you to be one of those laborers? Sing or pray Psalter #199.
Jun 25—Come, Bless Jehovah
Read Psalm 134
Psalm 134 is the last of the Psalms of Degrees (or Ascent), which begin with Psalm 120. These are pilgrim psalms, songs that God’s people would sing as they traveled to Jerusalem to worship. The pilgrims who speak in Psalm 134 have arrived at God’s house. It is late in the day; perhaps they have been traveling since sunrise. Though weary, they are filled with joy as they arrive at their destination. Once there, they enjoin the Levites serving there to bless Jehovah from their hearts as they perform their outward duties. Perhaps these Levites are night watchmen. Maybe they belonged to the singers, who “were employed in that work day and night” (1 Chron. 9:33). Or perhaps it is the time of Passover, for Passover was a night festival.
These servants of Jehovah respond in verse 3 by pronouncing a blessing upon the pilgrims. They bless them in the name of Jehovah, the all-powerful Creator of heaven and earth. Yet they remind the pilgrims that the Almighty Creator is also their covenant God, who dwells among them: he blesses them out of Zion. Do we bless him at all times? Are his praises continually in our mouths? (Ps. 34:1). Sing or pray Psalter #372.
Jun 26—A Grand Finale
Read Psalm 146
Each of the books of Psalms ends with a doxology. Psalms 146–150 comprise the doxology that concludes not only book 5, but the entire book of Psalms. There are no laments here. No cries for help. Just a sustained “Hallelujah! Praise Jehovah!” The praise to which we’re called in Ps. 146 is both corporate—“ye” in the KJV denotes a plural “you”—and personal: “Praise the Lord, O my soul” (v. 1b). Vv. 3–4 warn us of the folly of placing our trust in men. Included among those in whom there is no help are our own selves. There is no salvation in our knowledge, strength, frugality, punctuality or perseverance. But “happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help” (v. 5a).
The psalmist then describes Jacob’s God. He is the Creator of all things, executes judgment for the oppressed, loves the righteous, turns the way of the wicked upside down, and reigns forever. Can you think of anyone else to whom that description belongs? Jesus Christ, the Messiah. In him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). And the preaching of his gospel still turns the world upside down (Acts 17:6).
Sing or pray Psalter #40.
Jun 27—Jehovah’s Transforming Word
Read Psalm 147
Psalm 147 contains three calls to praise Jehovah. These appeals, which are found in verses 1, 7, and 12, divide the psalm into three sections. After each call to praise, the psalmist focuses on one or more of God’s attributes as they come to expression in the creation and in his people.
First, the psalmist observes Jehovah’s great power and infinite understanding. He calls the stars by their names. How can we doubt that he is powerful enough to gather together the outcasts of the church, heal the broken-hearted, lift up the meek, and cast down the wicked? After the second call to praise, the psalmist describes Jehovah’s gracious and sustaining provision for his creation. Do not doubt that he will provide you with all things necessary for body and soul also, but remember, it is not your physical strength that delights him. He takes pleasure in them that fear him. In the third section, the psalmist focuses on the efficacious word of God. God’s word sends the snow and hail, and it is also the transforming power that melts them. That powerful word he entrusted to Israel, the church. What kind of transformation has (and does) his word work in you? Sing or pray Psalter #402.
Jun 28—The All and the Alone
Read Psalm 148
Psalm 148 is a systematic, all-encompassing call to creation to praise Jehovah. The psalmist begins with the angels and then works his way down to the sun, moon, and stars, earth’s atmosphere, and the clouds. Then he descends to the lowest parts of the earth and works his way up. He addresses the mythical creatures that dwell in the depths of the sea, the so-called “elements of nature,” the mountains and hills along with the plants, animals, and birds that populate them, and, finally, he enjoins the king of God’s creation: man. No age, sex, or social status escapes his attention; all are called to praise Jehovah. Why? Because “his name alone is excellent.”
Although all created things belong to Jehovah, the psalmist reserves the possessive pronoun “his” for only two groups. He refers to “his angels” and “his hosts” (v. 2), and he writes of “his saints” (v. 14). These two groups belong to Jehovah in a special way. They are moral, rational beings. The angels “do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word” (Ps. 103:20), and his saints are those in whom he works “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Sing or pray Psalter #405.
Jun 29—A Bed and a Sword
Read Psalm 149
Psalm 149 begins again with “Hallelujah!” The Psalmist enjoins Israel to rejoice in their Maker and King. Why? He takes pleasure in them and has saved them (v. 4). Their salvation gives Jehovah’s saints cause to celebrate, even when they are lying on their beds (v. 5). They are resting, but they’re not asleep: they’re singing at the top of their lungs. Similarly, the glorious salvation rest that we’ve been given doesn’t mean we’re inactive: it compels us to praise. And not only are the saints singing as they rest, but they also hold a sword in their hands! This deadly sword is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17), “the word of God” (Heb. 4:12). It is to be used to execute vengeance and to bind kings.
Who has the honor of wielding this sword? “All his saints.” The gospel is brandished by the church, leaving Jehovah’s enemies without excuse, conquering his people from every tribe and tongue, taking them captive to Christ, and making them citizens of Israel. We also must turn that blade on our own hearts day-by-day. “With this two-edged sword believers fight against their own corruptions…sin…is crucified…[and] self…is…brought into subjection to the yoke of Christ” (Matthew Henry). Sing or pray Psalter #407.
Jun 30—A Hallelujah Chorus
Read Psalm 150
If you’ve ever attended a performance of Handel’s Messiah, perhaps you were startled when, three-fourths of the way through the concert, the audience suddenly stood for the “Hallelujah” chorus. Legend has it that at the oratorio’s London premiere, King George II became so excited during the “Hallelujah” chorus that he leaped to his feet. Out of respect, the audience followed suit, and from that time on, it became a tradition to stand during that climatic piece.
The grand finale of Psalms climaxes in Psalm 150. Thirteen times in six verses the psalmist sounds this note: “Hallelujah!” He calls on “all his works in all places of his dominion” to praise Jehovah (Ps. 103:22). Nor is it enough that a solo instrument is employed in this endeavor: the psalmist conducts an entire orchestra in a symphony of praise to God, and he calls on all that breath to join the chorus. Indeed, it’s hard to read (or sing) this psalm without leaping to one’s feet. And yet, at its conclusion lingers the recognition that all do not praise Jehovah and yearning for the day when the Messiah will return and that prayer will become a reality (see Rev. 5:11–14). Sing or pray Psalter #409.
Jul 1—Bridle Your Tongue
Read Proverbs 25
Proverbs 25 instructs us regarding our speech. God’s word in this chapter commands us not to pass along others’ secrets (v. 9) and warns against boasting about ourselves, exaggerating our abilities (vv. 14 and 6). Verse 18 equates one that bears false witness to a maul, a sword, and a sharp arrow. Confiding in such a person is like eating with a bad tooth or walking on a crippled foot (v. 19). Verse 20 teaches that one who sings merrily to another whose heart is heavy (rather than sympathizing with them) is like a person who snatches another’s jacket off his back on a cold day. But there is also positive instruction regarding our speech. Verse 11 reads, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures [or baskets] of silver.” Verse 12 praises a wise reprover. Verses 13 and 25 liken one who brings good news to one who refreshes another with a glass of ice water on a hot day. Would you like to persuade another of something? That will require patience and “a soft tongue” (v. 15).
Sanctified speech requires much temperance, self-control. Do we pray earnestly for that fruit of the Spirit? Sing or pray Psalter #26.
Jul 2—Wise Words
Read Proverbs 26
Proverbs 26:4–5 seem to contradict: “Answer not a fool according to his folly…Answer a fool according to his folly…” The implication is this: when a fool boasts, rails, lies, slanders, or banters, the wise man will not answer in kind. But when given the opportunity, the wise man will use his wisdom to convict a fool. He is not wise in his own conceit, however (v. 12); the wisdom he applies is the wisdom of God’s word. That great God will justly reward all fools (v. 10).
We heated our former home with a wood-burning stove. It was then that our young children memorized Proverbs 26:20–21. Since then they’ve learned verses 18–19 too. Those verses teach that the person who deceives his neighbor and then says, “I was only joking!” is as destructive as a madman throwing flaming darts and deadly arrows. The words of a talebearer, declares verse 22, are like wounds in the stomach. Such a man might attempt to cover his hatred with gracious or flattering speech, but eventually, his wickedness will be publicly exposed (v. 26). Do our words minister grace or feed strife? Where no wood is, the fire will go out. Sing or pray Psalter #89.
Jul 3—Contentious Tongues and Faithful Wounds
Read Proverbs 27
Proverbs 27:1 admonishes: “Boast not thyself of tomorrow…” Must we make no plans or provisions for the future? No. We must do so mindful that only if the Lord wills, “we shall live, and do this, or that” (James 4:15).
Verses 15-16 observe that attempting to restrain an argumentative woman is as futile as holding back the wind or clutching oil in one’s fingers. Such a woman is like a leaky roof on a rainy day. The roofs in Israel were flat: a little leak was a big problem. Similarly, the contentious woman is not only annoying; she’s destructive. Slowly and subtly she tears down the very home she’s called to maintain (Prov. 14:1). Sisters, we’re quick to employ the deadly weapon of the tongue. But we’ve been anointed with God’s Spirit: may soft, wise, healing words characterize our speech (Prov. 12:18, 15:1–2).
Verse 17 teaches that just as metal sharpens metal, so wicked men sharpen their companions to do evil (Prov. 5:4), while Christians sharpen fellow saints to godliness. Sometimes that sharpening comes in the form of a painful but necessary rebuke. In that case, “Open rebuke is better than secret love,” for “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (v. 6). Sing or pray Psalter #90.
Jul 4—The Froward and the Flatterer
Read Proverbs 28
Proverbs 28:2 notes the instability God visits on the governments of wicked nations. Verse 15 contrasts the oppressive ruler with one who hates covetousness. Do we pray for those who rule over us, the good and the froward? Not only covetous rulers will be judged for oppressing the poor, however. The poor even oppress one another (v. 3). Are we faithful to give to the poor, and do we seek provision for our earthly needs through the God-ordained means of hard work? Verses 2, 8, 19, 20, 22, and 27 all warn against making haste to be rich and turning our eyes from the poor.
Verse 13 teaches that we must not attempt to cover our sins, but confess and forsake them. Verse 23 condemns flattery, the use of excessive—and often exaggerated—compliments to bring oneself into the favor of others. A flatterer will be trapped by his sin (Prov. 29:5). Instead, Proverbs 28:23 commends rebuke. We hesitate to rebuke for the same reason that we flatter: we fear what others will think of us. Psalm 141:5 declares, “Let the righteous smite me; it shall be a kindness: and let him reprove me; it shall be an excellent oil…” Is that the attitude with which we give and receive rebuke? Sing or pray Psalter #83.
Jul 5—Which Way?
Read Proverbs 29
Proverbs 29:1 cautions against disregarding reproof. Following that solemn statement are several familiar texts regarding child-rearing (vv. 15 and 17.) Verses 2, 4, and 14 contrast righteous and wicked rulers. Aren’t you thankful that “the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will”? (Dan. 4:32).
Do we need more admonitions to watch our tongues? To our shame, we do daily. Verse 5 warns against flattery, and verse 20 condemns hasty speech. According to verse 22, many of our sins are rooted in anger. If anger is not the root of a sin, you can be sure that pride is: “A man’s pride shall bring him low: but honor shall uphold the humble in spirit” (v. 23). This chapter’s frequent use of antithetical parallelism reminds us that throughout the entire book inspired Solomon presents us with two ways or paths: the way of the righteous and the way of the fool. They lead in opposite directions: they are antithetical to one another. Sometimes those paths are presented as two women: Dame Folly, the strange woman whose house is the way to hell, and Lady Wisdom, who bestows eternal riches upon those who love her. Which way do you walk? Which woman do you embrace? Sing or pray Psalter #325.
Jul 6—The Preacher and his Text
Read Ecclesiastes 1
Ecclesiastes is the wisdom of “the Preacher,” aged Solomon, whose great sins have brought him great bitterness. The word translated “Preacher” is a Hebrew feminine word that means “to gather.” Perhaps Solomon refers to himself this way because he would have all gather around to hear his final words. Perhaps he uses this feminine term to “upbraid himself with his effeminacy, which contributed more than anything to his apostasy; for it was to please his wives that he set up idols” (Matthew Henry). Or maybe, Henry also speculates, Solomon views himself from a spiritual perspective. He had gone astray like a lost sheep, but, now penitent, he has been gathered back to Jehovah’s fold.
Solomon is the Preacher; Ecclesiastes is his last sermon; this is his text: “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity” (v. 2). The word translated “vanity,” which appears nearly 40 times in this short book, means “breath” or “vapor.” Not only is Solomon face-to-face with life’s brevity; he finds that defining life’s meaning is like grasping a handful of smoke. “Time and chance” happen to all, whether rich or poor, weak or strong, fool or wise (Eccl. 9:11). Do we live in the consciousness that the ever-rolling stream of time is bearing us away? Sing or pray Psalter #246.
Jul 7—Pleasure, Wisdom, or Work?
Read Ecclesiastes 2
In Ecclesiastes 2 the preacher recounts his attempts to find meaning in life. Once he thought pleasure would give life meaning (vv. 1–11). But, to put it in today’s terminology, he found that even if he partied all weekend, Monday always came. Then he sought meaning in wisdom (vv. 12–17). But, though he recognized the superiority of living wisely, he was forced to admit that the wise man had no real advantage over the fool: both are subject to calamities, death, and oblivion. Perhaps work would give him the meaning he so desperately sought? (vv. 18–23). No. Not only did his hard toil bring him sorrow, he knew that the things at which he labored long and hard would be left to others who did not value them as he did.
Do you recognize the vanity of which the preacher speaks in your life? Do you wrestle with the emptiness of your pleasures, the fruitlessness of your wisdom, the futility of your work? There is hope at this chapter’s conclusion: though we don’t control our lots, they do not come to us at random. God gives them to us. Do you humbly confess that your lot in life is the gift of a good God? Sing or pray Psalter #27.