September 4

Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible

Reading schedule

Luke 20:1-8; Hebrews 2:9-18; Proverbs 18:14-24; Isaiah 29

The title of this series is Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: Living Ethically in the Light of the Bible. The Bible claims that to provide guidance to live rightly (2 Timothy 3:16-17). At the same time, how we approach the Bible is very important. Proverbs 18:15 reminds us that the pursuit of knowledge is more than an intellectual activity: it involves the heart also. This proverb notes that wise people have ears that are open to learning. If our heart attitude is that we already know enough, or if we think that more knowledge automatically helps us make better decisions, we will be disappointed. These ideas are expanded upon in Isaiah 29.

This chapter is one of a series of ‘Woes’ addressed to the Israelites. Isaiah warns them of the destruction they will face if they continue to live in dependence on various peoples and things instead of God. This chapter is addressed to Ariel, a poorly understood term whose meaning includes reference to an altar. Since Jerusalem was the city where David settled, the focus appears to be on the listeners approach to religion and God. Their failures will lead to judgement through military defeat (vv. 2-4), but God reminds them that he will ultimately defeat their enemies (vv. 5-8).

The next section gets at the root of their problems (v. 13). Although they approach God, they give him only lip-service. They come to him with the right words, but their hearts are a million miles away. We can likewise go to a church service or say the right things, but our minds are thinking about something else or our hearts are festering with bitterness or anger. They obeyed man-made rules, like we might, but with no personal commitment to gladly follow God.

If we think we can dream up better answers than God, or hide our failings from him (v. 15), we will start to become blind to what Scripture actually teaches (vv. 10-12). There is a complex mixture of God’s role and our role in this. If our hearts are not humbly seeking God, he will not answer us. We may be reading or listening to his Word, but if we are asleep spiritually, we will not hear a thing. The eyes of the prophets were blinded by God – we too may be unable to read Scripture. Part of the problem may be that, like the prophets, our hearts are not pursuing God. Our primary motivation in reading the Bible should be to get to know God better and follow him more fully. If we just want intellectual answers, or to find some rules to follow that will make our lives happier, we will be disappointed. But if we want to know the Creator of the Universe better, we will find much wisdom and knowledge that will bring joy to our hearts.

If we pursue God first, our eyes will be opened (v. 18). The blind will see and the deaf will hear. God is about reversing the injustices of this world. The problem with a religious approach is the arrogance underlying it. If we think we can manipulate God by doing things to appease him, or read his Word with our minds already made up, we are like the clay telling the potter “You don’t have a clue” (v. 16). Human pride wants to tell God that we know better than him how to run our lives. Instead, the humble realise that we need God’s help and gladly seek his guidance. Part of this involves learning how to study the Bible. We have to learn how to interpret the various genres in the Bible, and understand the backgrounds of the original authors and audience. But there is also a spiritual component where the eyes of our hearts are opened by dependence on God.

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