Proverbs 24:23-34 (ESV)
23 These also are sayings of the wise.
Partiality in judging is not good.
24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations,
25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
and a good blessing will come upon them.
26 Whoever gives an honest answer
kisses the lips.
27 Prepare your work outside;
get everything ready for yourself in the field,
and after that build your house.
28 Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause,
and do not deceive with your lips.
29 Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;
I will pay the man back for what he has done.”
30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
the ground was covered with nettles,
and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it;
I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
and want like an armed man.
Day 1: Loving God
Verses 23-25 teach us that “… Partiality in judging is not good. Whoever says to the wicked, ‘You are in the right,’ will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.” By this standard, we, sinners all, should have been condemned, but God “justifies the ungodly” (Rom. 4:5). God is able to do this, because He satisfied His justice and proved His righteousness in the death of His Son, Jesus Christ, in our place (Rom. 3:21-26). Do you live with pretensions of self-righteous, thinking that you deserve God’s favor? Or do you humbly receive God’s justification by grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus?
Verse 27 wisely counsels, “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” Before building a house, which implies the starting of a household, we must first establish a productive field, which can sustain the household. Life requires planning and preparation, and it is foolish to jump headlong into projects before counting the cost. Jesus uses a similar metaphor in Luke 14:27-33 to speak of the cost of following Him, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ … So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Have you truly counted the cost of following Jesus? Is there anything you’re not willing to lose for the sake of following Jesus? Your wealth? Your health? Your reputation? Your friends? Your family? Your life? Have you been diligent in your pursuit of Jesus? Is your life rightly ordered? Or have you left your vineyard to be “overgrown with thorns” and “covered with nettles” (v. 31)?
- Confess all the ways in which you have been self-righteous, and thank God for declaring you righteous in Jesus Christ.
- Name and renounce anything that is holding you back from following Jesus wholeheartedly. Ask for the Spirit’s power to believe and obey.
- Pray that God would grant you the wisdom and discernment to know God’s will and ways and live in accordance with them.
Day 2: Loving One Another
Verses 30-34 vividly describe the vineyard of a sluggard that is “overgrown with thorns” and “covered with nettles,” with its “stone wall … broken down.” In the Old Testament, the vine, or the vineyard, is a frequent symbol for Israel, the covenant people of God (Ps. 80:8-16; Is. 5:1-7; 27:2ff.; Je. 2:21; 12:10ff.; Ezk. 15:1-8; 17:1-21; 19:10-14; Hos. 10:1-2). Significantly, whenever Israel is figuratively referred to as a vine throughout the Old Testament, it’s almost always its failure to produce good fruit that is emphasized, along with the corresponding threat of God’s judgment. Paul also uses the agricultural imagery to refer to the church in 1 Corinthians 3:8-9, “He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” God’s people are God’s field, and, as God’s fellow workers, we are all responsible to “exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13). We need each other’s daily exhortation, lest we be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. How is God calling you to exhort another brother or sister in the church this week? Are you letting God’s church get overgrown with thorns and covered with nettles?
Verse 29 tells us not to say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” Are there brothers and sisters in the church you are holding a grudge against?
- Pray for members whom you have not seen, or spoken with, in a while. Pray that they would experience the love of God and the love of brothers and sisters in the church.
- Repent of any unforgiveness or resentment that you are harboring against a brother or sister in the church, and ask God for a deeper understanding of His forgiveness, so that you, too, might forgive.
- Pray that God would prune our church and help us to grow, as we abide in Jesus, the True Vine (John 15:1-17).
- Pray for favor with Starlight Square, and for a long-term, suitable, affordable meeting space for our church.
Day 3: Loving Our Neighbors
The folly of partiality and injustice abounds in our world. In our topsy-turvy world, the righteous are sometimes denounced as wrong, and the wicked are affirmed as right (vv. 23-25). In what ways have you assimilated the folly of man rather than the wisdom of God? Have you harmed a neighbor of yours with your words, through gossip, slander, and/or lies (vv. 26-29)?
- Pray that God would increase your trust in Him so that you might be a fearless and winsome witness even in a world that rejects God and His Word.
- Pray that God would illuminate the eyes of our unbelieving neighbors’ hearts so that they leave their way turn to Christ, the Wisdom of God.
- Pray that our society would be characterized by God’s justice, rather than man’s injustice.
- Pray that the judges of our land would be impartial, bringing equal justice under law. Pray specifically for the MA Supreme Court justices, Ralph Gants, Barbara Lenk, Frank Gaziano, David Lowy, Kimberly Budd, Elspeth Cypher, and Scott Kafker, and for the U.S. Supreme Court justices, John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Barrett.
- Pray for revival in Cambridge/Boston and New England, that the Spirit of God would move powerfully in our region.