Day 284

More

Wisdom Proverbs 24:23-34
New Testament 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18
Old Testament Jeremiah 23:9-25:14

Introduction

More Please is the title of the autobiography of comedian and actor Barry Humphries (best known for playing his alter ego Dame Edna Everage). He writes that these two words, ‘More please’, were his first coherent utterance.

He went on to say, ‘I have always wanted more. I never had enough milk or money or socks or sex or holidays or first editions or solitude or gramophone records or free meals or real friends or guiltless pleasure or neckties or applause or unquestioning love or persimmons. Of course, I have always had more than my share of most of these commodities but it always left me with a vague feeling of unfulfillment: where was the rest?

Seeking pleasure for ourselves will always leave us with ‘a vague feeling of unfulfillment’. In the passages for today, you can see what really will satisfy your spiritual hunger and thirst, and the things that you should seek more and more. Paul highlights two things in particular: living to ‘please God more and more’ (1 Thessalonians 4:1), and ‘loving each other… more and more’ (vv.9–10).

Wisdom

Proverbs 24:23-34

Further Sayings of the Wise

23 These also are sayings of the wise:

    To show partiality in judging is not good:
24 Whoever says to the guilty, “You are innocent,”
    will be cursed by peoples and denounced by nations.
25 But it will go well with those who convict the guilty,
    and rich blessing will come on them.

26 An honest answer
    is like a kiss on the lips.

27 Put your outdoor work in order
    and get your fields ready;
    after that, build your house.

28 Do not testify against your neighbor without cause —
    would you use your lips to mislead?
29 Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me;
    I’ll pay them back for what they did.”

30 I went past the field of a sluggard,
    past the vineyard of someone who has no sense;
31 thorns had come up everywhere,
    the ground was covered with weeds,
    and the stone wall was in ruins.
32 I applied my heart to what I observed
    and learned a lesson from what I saw:
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest —
34 and poverty will come on you like a thief
    and scarcity like an armed man.

Commentary

More wisdom from God

‘Wisdom’ comes from God and is very practical. The ‘Sayings of the Wise’ (v.23) cover many different aspects of our lives. Here we see some examples:

1. Judge impartially

‘To show partiality in judging is not good’ (v.23b). For those who judge justly, ‘rich blessing will come upon them’ (v.25).

2. Speak honestly

‘An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips’ (v.26). Sometimes it is hard to speak the truth in love, but we need to be honest with one another. The best answer you can give to any question asked (for example, by a guest on Alpha) is an honest one!

3. Stay loyal

‘Don’t talk about your neighbours behind their backs – no slander or gossip, please’ (v.28, MSG). Anyone can stay true to your face but it is the people who stay true behind your back that really count.

4. Show restraint

The temptation to pay back those who have done us harm is very great. However, the writer of Proverbs warns against taking revenge: ‘Do not say, “I’ll do to them as they have done to me; I’ll pay them back for what they did”’ (v.29).

5. Work hard

The book of Proverbs often warns against laziness. ‘A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a bandit and scarcity like an armed man’ (vv.33–34).

Prayer

Lord, help me to grow in wisdom – in impartiality, honesty, faithfulness, restraint and industry – so that more and more I may live a life that pleases you.

New Testament

1 Thessalonians 4:1-18

Living to Please God

4As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

3 It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

9 Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. 10 And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Believers Who Have Died

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Commentary

More pleasing to God

Instead of just ‘looking out for number one’, we are called to live lives that please God more and more (v.1). Rather than ‘more, please’ we should live lives that are ‘more pleasing’ to God. You are called to love God ‘more and more’ and to love others ‘more and more’ (v.10). How do you do this?

1. Give dignity to your body

God is concerned about your body as well as your soul: ‘Learn to appreciate and give dignity to your body’ (v.4, MSG). Paul writes, ‘You should avoid sexual immorality: each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God’ (vv.3–5).

2. Live a beautiful life

‘God did not call us to be impure but to live a holy life’ (v.7) – ‘holy and beautiful – as beautiful on the inside as the outside’ (v.7, MSG). True beauty has nothing to do with looks. It is about how you are on the inside. The process of being made holy takes place through the work of the ‘Holy’ Spirit. God ‘gives you his Holy Spirit’ (v.8) for this purpose.

3. Love each other

Paul writes, ‘About your mutual love we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other’ (v.9). ‘Get better and better at it’ (v.10, MSG).

4. Mind your own business

Paul writes that we are not just to be ambitious – but we are to be ambitious to live a quiet life and to be industrious. This is surprising to read, particularly given the great things Paul did for God, but it seems there is a deep significance in the apparently small things of life. Paul specifically writes ‘mind your own business’ (v.11). Gossip is when you are sharing information and you are neither part of the problem, nor part of the solution. Of course, there is a time when we need to get involved and help other people, but we are not to go around interfering in other people’s business.

5. Get a job, if you can

Paul writes, ‘… work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody’ (vv.11–12). For some, such as stay-at-home parents, their work is in the home. Others work outside the home earning money to support their family. The general rule is that we should try to get a job if we can and not be dependent on others for our support. Some may be dependent on the body of Christ for support – such as those in certain types of unpaid full-time ministry. But this is the exception rather than the rule.

6. Enjoy an endless hope

No one can live well until they can die well. Death is another subject on which you are called to have a different attitude. Of course, we grieve when someone dies. But Paul says we should not ‘grieve like the rest, who have no hope’ (v.13) because ‘since Jesus died and broke loose from the grave, God will most certainly bring back to life those who died in Jesus’ (v.14, MSG).

Death is not the end. Paul is saying that just as Jesus died and rose again, in the same way we believe that in the resurrection God will bring with him all those who have fallen asleep. Paul uses a different word here – whereas Jesus died for you, you will never die, you only ‘fall asleep’ (vv.13,15).

You will be reunited with Jesus ‘to meet the Lord’ (v.17a) and we will be reunited with each other: ‘caught up together with them’ (v.17a) – ‘one huge family reunion’ (MSG). Not only will you be with the Lord for ever (v.17b), but you will also be with all those ‘who have fallen asleep in him’ (v.14). Many people see only a hopeless end, but you have an endless hope. Remind and ‘encourage each other with these words’ (v.18).

Prayer

Lord, thank you for your Holy Spirit who is at work within me, and who helps me to live a life that pleases you more and more. Help me in my weakness to live a holy life: of love, sexual purity, right ambition, hope and encouragement.

Old Testament

Jeremiah 23:9-25:14

Lying Prophets

9 Concerning the prophets:

My heart is broken within me;
    all my bones tremble.
I am like a drunken man,
    like a strong man overcome by wine,
because of the Lord
    and his holy words.
10 The land is full of adulterers;
    because of the curse the land lies parched
    and the pastures in the wilderness are withered.
The prophets follow an evil course
    and use their power unjustly.

11 “Both prophet and priest are godless;
    even in my temple I find their wickedness,”
        declares the Lord.
12 “Therefore their path will become slippery;
    they will be banished to darkness
    and there they will fall.
I will bring disaster on them
    in the year they are punished, ”
        declares the Lord.

13 “Among the prophets of Samaria
    I saw this repulsive thing:
They prophesied by Baal
    and led my people Israel astray.
14 And among the prophets of Jerusalem
    I have seen something horrible:
    They commit adultery and live a lie.
They strengthen the hands of evildoers,
    so that not one of them turns from their wickedness.
They are all like Sodom to me;
    the people of Jerusalem are like Gomorrah.”

15 Therefore this is what the Lord Almighty says concerning the prophets:

“I will make them eat bitter food
    and drink poisoned water,
because from the prophets of Jerusalem
    ungodliness has spread throughout the land.”

16 This is what the Lord Almighty says:

“Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you;
    they fill you with false hopes.
They speak visions from their own minds,
    not from the mouth of the Lord.
17 They keep saying to those who despise me,
    ‘The Lord says: You will have peace.’
And to all who follow the stubbornness of their hearts
    they say, ‘No harm will come to you.’
18 But which of them has stood in the council of the Lord
    to see or to hear his word?
    Who has listened and heard his word?
19 See, the storm of the Lord
    will burst out in wrath,
a whirlwind swirling down
    on the heads of the wicked.
20 The anger of the Lord will not turn back
    until he fully accomplishes
    the purposes of his heart.
In days to come
    you will understand it clearly.
21 I did not send these prophets,
    yet they have run with their message;
I did not speak to them,
    yet they have prophesied.
22 But if they had stood in my council,
    they would have proclaimed my words to my people
and would have turned them from their evil ways
    and from their evil deeds.

23 “Am I only a God nearby, ”
        declares the Lord,
    “and not a God far away?
24 Who can hide in secret places
    so that I cannot see them?”
        declares the Lord.
“Do not I fill heaven and earth?”
        declares the Lord.

25 “I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ 26 How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds? 27 They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their ancestors forgot my name through Baal worship. 28 Let the prophet who has a dream recount the dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?” declares the Lord. 29 “Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

30 “Therefore,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. 31 Yes,” declares the Lord, “I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’ 32 Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams, ” declares the Lord. “They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,” declares the Lord.

False Prophecy

33 “When these people, or a prophet or a priest, ask you, ‘What is the message from the Lord?’ say to them, ‘What message? I will forsake you, declares the Lord.’ 34 If a prophet or a priest or anyone else claims, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ I will punish them and their household. 35 This is what each of you keeps saying to your friends and other Israelites: ‘What is the Lord’s answer?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 36 But you must not mention ‘a message from the Lord’ again, because each one’s word becomes their own message. So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God. 37 This is what you keep saying to a prophet: ‘What is the Lord’s answer to you?’ or ‘What has the Lord spoken?’ 38 Although you claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ this is what the Lord says: You used the words, ‘This is a message from the Lord,’ even though I told you that you must not claim, ‘This is a message from the Lord.’ 39 Therefore, I will surely forget you and cast you out of my presence along with the city I gave to you and your ancestors. 40 I will bring on you everlasting disgrace —everlasting shame that will not be forgotten.”

Two Baskets of Figs

24After Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the officials, the skilled workers and the artisans of Judah were carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, the Lord showed me two baskets of figs placed in front of the temple of the Lord. 2 One basket had very good figs, like those that ripen early; the other basket had very bad figs, so bad they could not be eaten.

3 Then the Lord asked me, “What do you see, Jeremiah?”

“Figs,” I answered. “The good ones are very good, but the bad ones are so bad they cannot be eaten.”

4 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 5 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. 6 My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. 7 I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.

8 “‘But like the bad figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the Lord, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. 9 I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, a curse and an object of ridicule, wherever I banish them. 10 I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their ancestors. ’”

Seventy Years of Captivity

25The word came to Jeremiah concerning all the people of Judah in the fourth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, which was the first year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon. 2 So Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people of Judah and to all those living in Jerusalem: 3 For twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah until this very day—the word of the Lord has come to me and I have spoken to you again and again, but you have not listened.

4 And though the Lord has sent all his servants the prophets to you again and again, you have not listened or paid any attention. 5 They said, “Turn now, each of you, from your evil ways and your evil practices, and you can stay in the land the Lord gave to you and your ancestors for ever and ever. 6 Do not follow other gods to serve and worship them; do not arouse my anger with what your hands have made. Then I will not harm you.”

7 “But you did not listen to me,” declares the Lord, “and you have aroused my anger with what your hands have made, and you have brought harm to yourselves.”

8 Therefore the Lord Almighty says this: “Because you have not listened to my words, 9 I will summon all the peoples of the north and my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon,” declares the Lord, “and I will bring them against this land and its inhabitants and against all the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy them and make them an object of horror and scorn, and an everlasting ruin. 10 I will banish from them the sounds of joy and gladness, the voices of bride and bridegroom, the sound of millstones and the light of the lamp. 11 This whole country will become a desolate wasteland, and these nations will serve the king of Babylon seventy years.

12 “But when the seventy years are fulfilled, I will punish the king of Babylon and his nation, the land of the Babylonians, for their guilt,” declares the Lord, “and will make it desolate forever. 13 I will bring on that land all the things I have spoken against it, all that are written in this book and prophesied by Jeremiah against all the nations. 14 They themselves will be enslaved by many nations and great kings; I will repay them according to their deeds and the work of their hands.”

Commentary

More listening to God

God speaks. You and I can listen to the words of God. This is what makes the Bible so powerful ‘“Is not my word like fire,” declares the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?”’ (23:29).

Jeremiah spoke ‘holy words’ (v.9) to the people of God and rebuked their leaders for a failure to lead holy lives: ‘The land is full of adulterers’ and leaders who ‘use their power unjustly’ (v.10). He accuses them of being sex-driven, living a lie (v.14, MSG). He calls them to repentance (25:5–6).

At the root of their problem is a failure to listen to God, ‘You refused to listen’ (v.7, MSG).

The Lord asks through Jeremiah, ‘But which of [the prophets] has stood in the council of the Lord to see or hear his word? Who has listened and heard his word?’ (23:18). ‘I never sent these prophets, but they ran away. I never spoke to them, but they preached away. If they’d have bothered to sit down and meet with me, they’d have preached my Message to my people…’ (vv.21–22, MSG).

If you hear the words of God and speak them out, they will have a very powerful impact: ‘But you prophets who have a message from me – tell it truly and faithfully... Isn’t my Message like fire? ... Isn’t it like a sledgehammer busting a rock?’ (vv.28–29, MSG) The words of the Bible are so powerful – like fire and like a hammer that breaks a rock to pieces. The more I study it, the more it breaks the rock of my heart, and the Holy Spirit works a process of transformation and sanctification.

Prayer

Lord, help me to spend more and more time listening to and hearing your words, and to live a life more and more loving, holy and pleasing to you.

Pippa adds

1 Thessalonians 4:11

‘Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands.’

It is rather a busy day for ‘a quiet life’, but I’ll do my best!

Verse of the Day

Proverbs 24:26

‘An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Barry Humphries, More Please: An Autobiography (Penguin Books, 1993).

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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