Day 328

Your Example

Wisdom Proverbs 28:18–28
New Testament 1 Peter 3:1–22
Old Testament Ezekiel 45:1–46:24

Introduction

Pope Francis paused for a moment after one of his general audiences to pray, embrace and lay hands on a man with neurofibromatosis, a severely disfiguring disease. The man’s face was covered in tumours. The image of the Pope’s embrace in St Peter’s Square went viral on social media, inspiring millions by his poignant example of the love of Christ.

There is great power in example. It is hard to improve if we have no other model than ourselves to follow. A good example is not only inspirational, it also gives us a pattern to copy and learn from.

Not only do you benefit most from following the example of others, but your example is vital if you are to have any influence on other people. Albert Schweitzer, the French theologian, philosopher and physician said, ‘Example is not the main thing in influencing others – it is the only thing.’ More depends on your walk than on your talk, what you practice than what you preach, what you do than what you say.

What people see is far more important than what they hear. People do what people see. As John Maxwell writes, ‘Eighty-nine per cent of what people learn comes through visual stimulation; ten per cent through audible stimulation and one per cent through other senses... What they hear they understand. What they see they believe!’

As we read yesterday, you are called to follow Jesus’ example in your life (1 Peter 2:21). Today we see some of the implications of this.

Wisdom

Proverbs 28:18–28

    18 The one whose walk is blameless is kept safe,
        but the one whose ways are perverse will fall into the pit.

    19 Those who work their land will have abundant food,
        but those who chase fantasies will have their fill of poverty.

    20 A faithful person will be richly blessed,
        but one eager to get rich will not go unpunished.

    21 To show partiality is not good —
        yet a person will do wrong for a piece of bread.

    22 The stingy are eager to get rich
        and are unaware that poverty awaits them.

    23 Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor
        rather than one who has a flattering tongue.

    24 Whoever robs their father or mother
        and says, “It’s not wrong,”
        is partner to one who destroys.

    25 The greedy stir up conflict,
        but those who trust in the Lord will prosper.

    26 Those who trust in themselves are fools,
        but those who walk in wisdom are kept safe.

    27 Those who give to the poor will lack nothing,
        but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses.

    28 When the wicked rise to power, people go into hiding;
        but when the wicked perish, the righteous thrive.

Commentary

Walk in wisdom

Knowledge is horizontal. Wisdom is vertical – it comes down from above. To follow the example of Jesus means to walk in wisdom. Jesus walked in wisdom from his earliest days: ‘He was filled with wisdom’ (Luke 2:40). ‘People remarked, ‘What’s this wisdom that has been given him...?’ (Mark 6:2).

What does it mean to walk in wisdom? The writer of Proverbs says, ‘Walk straight – live well and be saved; a devious life is a doomed life’ (Proverbs 28:18, MSG). He goes on to say, ‘If you think you know it all, you’re a fool for sure; real survivors learn wisdom from others’ (v.26, MSG).

It is wise to work hard rather than to ‘chase fantasies’ (v.19): ‘Work your garden – you’ll end up with plenty of food; play and party – you’ll end up with an empty plate’ (v.19, MSG).

Faithfulness is better than the ‘get rich quick’ attitude (v.20). It is wise to be generous: ‘The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them… Those who give to the poor will lack nothing, but those who close their eyes to them receive many curses’ (vv.22,27).

Sometimes confrontation is necessary. ‘Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain more favour than one who has a flattering tongue’ (v.23). Jesus was never afraid of confrontation. ‘In the end, serious reprimand is appreciated far more than bootlicking flattery’ (v.23, MSG).

Keep trusting in the Lord. The person who trusts in the Lord will prosper (v.25b) and ‘those who walk in wisdom are kept safe’ (v.26b).

Prayer

Lord, help me to walk in wisdom, trusting in you.

New Testament

1 Peter 3:1–22

3Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. 4 Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.

7 Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

Suffering for Doing Good

8 Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. 9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For,

    “Whoever would love life
        and see good days
    must keep their tongue from evil
        and their lips from deceitful speech.
    11 They must turn from evil and do good;
        they must seek peace and pursue it.
    12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous
        and his ears are attentive to their prayer,
    but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

13 Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? 14 But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16 keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17 For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. 18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. 19 After being made alive, he went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits — 20 to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, 21 and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand —with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

Commentary

Win over, with or without words

Living out the Christian life is the most appropriate way of passing on the good news to those who live in very close proximity to you. This certainly applies to your family, school friends, work colleagues and those you live with. Often you can preach a better sermon with your life than with your lips.

This is of great importance if your husband or wife is not a Christian. Peter encourages Christian wives that if any of them have husbands who do not believe the word, they may be won over without words, when they see the purity and reverence of their lives (v.2).

They may be indifferent to any words about God but they will be ‘captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance… but your inner disposition’ (vv.3–4, MSG). There is a beauty greater than outer beauty, ‘that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight’ (v.4).

The teaching of Jesus, and of the apostles, about the way in which husbands should behave is revolutionary. In a society where only wives had duties and only husbands had rights, Peter says here that both have duties towards each other.

Just as he tells the wives to be ‘good wives’ (v.1, MSG), he tells the husbands to be ‘good husbands’ (v.7, MSG). ‘Honour them, delight in them… treat your wives, then, as equals so your prayers don’t run aground’ (v.7, MSG). He says husbands should be considerate and show respect. Unless you get this relationship right your prayers will not be effective (v.7).

What is the lifestyle that will win people over without words? It is one of living in harmony with one another, of sympathetic love, compassion and humility; where evil is not repaid with evil, nor insult with insult, but with blessing (vv.8–9): ‘No retaliation. No sharp-tongued sarcasm. Instead, bless – that’s your job, to bless. You’ll be a blessing and also get a blessing’ (v.9, MSG).

This involves controlling your tongue, ‘Say nothing evil or hurtful’ (v.10, MSG). Train yourself always to speak positively and truthfully. You are to ‘snub evil and cultivate good; run after peace for all you’re worth’ (v.11, MSG). This will lead to a life without fear (v.14), where Jesus is set apart in your heart as Lord (v.15).

‘Without words’ may be the best initial way to win over those in close proximity to you. However, words are also very important. Do not be ashamed to speak: ‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect’ (v.15).

Arrogance and rudeness will seldom win people over. As well as a verbal defence, you need a moral defence – a clear conscience, so that people can say what they like about you and it does not matter because God knows the truth: ‘Keep a clear conscience before God so that when people throw mud at you, none of it will stick’ (v.16, MSG).

As Rick Warren says, ‘You cannot control the lies that people may speak about you, but you can control the truth... Live so that people have to make up stuff in order to accuse you.’ It is the cross and resurrection that makes a clear conscience possible. Jesus died for sins, once for all… to bring you to God (v.18).

This is what baptism symbolises: ‘not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience towards God.’ (v.21).

Prayer

Lord, help me to live with a clear conscience.

Old Testament

Ezekiel 45:1–46:24

Israel Fully Restored

45“‘When you allot the land as an inheritance, you are to present to the Lord a portion of the land as a sacred district, 25,000 cubits long and 20,000 cubits wide; the entire area will be holy. 2 Of this, a section 500 cubits square is to be for the sanctuary, with 50 cubits around it for open land. 3 In the sacred district, measure off a section 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide. In it will be the sanctuary, the Most Holy Place. 4 It will be the sacred portion of the land for the priests, who minister in the sanctuary and who draw near to minister before the Lord. It will be a place for their houses as well as a holy place for the sanctuary. 5 An area 25,000 cubits long and 10,000 cubits wide will belong to the Levites, who serve in the temple, as their possession for towns to live in.

6 “‘You are to give the city as its property an area 5,000 cubits wide and 25,000 cubits long, adjoining the sacred portion; it will belong to all Israel.

7 “‘The prince will have the land bordering each side of the area formed by the sacred district and the property of the city. It will extend westward from the west side and eastward from the east side, running lengthwise from the western to the eastern border parallel to one of the tribal portions. 8 This land will be his possession in Israel. And my princes will no longer oppress my people but will allow the people of Israel to possess the land according to their tribes.

9 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have gone far enough, princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 10 You are to use accurate scales, an accurate ephah and an accurate bath. 11 The ephah and the bath are to be the same size, the bath containing a tenth of a homer and the ephah a tenth of a homer; the homer is to be the standard measure for both. 12 The shekel is to consist of twenty gerahs. Twenty shekels plus twenty-five shekels plus fifteen shekels equal one mina.

13 “‘This is the special gift you are to offer: a sixth of an ephah from each homer of wheat and a sixth of an ephah from each homer of barley. 14 The prescribed portion of olive oil, measured by the bath, is a tenth of a bath from each cor (which consists of ten baths or one homer, for ten baths are equivalent to a homer). 15 Also one sheep is to be taken from every flock of two hundred from the well-watered pastures of Israel. These will be used for the grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 16 All the people of the land will be required to give this special offering to the prince in Israel. 17 It will be the duty of the prince to provide the burnt offerings, grain offerings and drink offerings at the festivals, the New Moons and the Sabbaths —at all the appointed festivals of Israel. He will provide the sin offerings, grain offerings, burnt offerings and fellowship offerings to make atonement for the Israelites.

18 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: In the first month on the first day you are to take a young bull without defect and purify the sanctuary. 19 The priest is to take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, on the four corners of the upper ledge of the altar and on the gateposts of the inner court. 20 You are to do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who sins unintentionally or through ignorance; so you are to make atonement for the temple.

21 “‘In the first month on the fourteenth day you are to observe the Passover, a festival lasting seven days, during which you shall eat bread made without yeast. 22 On that day the prince is to provide a bull as a sin offering for himself and for all the people of the land. 23 Every day during the seven days of the festival he is to provide seven bulls and seven rams without defect as a burnt offering to the Lord, and a male goat for a sin offering. 24 He is to provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull and an ephah for each ram, along with a hin of olive oil for each ephah.

25 “‘During the seven days of the festival, which begins in the seventh month on the fifteenth day, he is to make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, grain offerings and oil.

46“‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: The gate of the inner court facing east is to be shut on the six working days, but on the Sabbath day and on the day of the New Moon it is to be opened. 2 The prince is to enter from the outside through the portico of the gateway and stand by the gatepost. The priests are to sacrifice his burnt offering and his fellowship offerings. He is to bow down in worship at the threshold of the gateway and then go out, but the gate will not be shut until evening. 3 On the Sabbaths and New Moons the people of the land are to worship in the presence of the Lord at the entrance of that gateway. 4 The burnt offering the prince brings to the Lord on the Sabbath day is to be six male lambs and a ram, all without defect. 5 The grain offering given with the ram is to be an ephah, and the grain offering with the lambs is to be as much as he pleases, along with a hin of olive oil for each ephah. 6 On the day of the New Moon he is to offer a young bull, six lambs and a ram, all without defect. 7 He is to provide as a grain offering one ephah with the bull, one ephah with the ram, and with the lambs as much as he wants to give, along with a hin of oil for each ephah. 8 When the prince enters, he is to go in through the portico of the gateway, and he is to come out the same way.

9 “‘When the people of the land come before the Lord at the appointed festivals, whoever enters by the north gate to worship is to go out the south gate; and whoever enters by the south gate is to go out the north gate. No one is to return through the gate by which they entered, but each is to go out the opposite gate. 10 The prince is to be among them, going in when they go in and going out when they go out. 11 At the feasts and the appointed festivals, the grain offering is to be an ephah with a bull, an ephah with a ram, and with the lambs as much as he pleases, along with a hin of oil for each ephah.

12 “‘When the prince provides a freewill offering to the Lord—whether a burnt offering or fellowship offerings—the gate facing east is to be opened for him. He shall offer his burnt offering or his fellowship offerings as he does on the Sabbath day. Then he shall go out, and after he has gone out, the gate will be shut.

13 “‘Every day you are to provide a year-old lamb without defect for a burnt offering to the Lord; morning by morning you shall provide it. 14 You are also to provide with it morning by morning a grain offering, consisting of a sixth of an ephah with a third of a hin of oil to moisten the flour. The presenting of this grain offering to the Lord is a lasting ordinance. 15 So the lamb and the grain offering and the oil shall be provided morning by morning for a regular burnt offering.

16 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: If the prince makes a gift from his inheritance to one of his sons, it will also belong to his descendants; it is to be their property by inheritance. 17 If, however, he makes a gift from his inheritance to one of his servants, the servant may keep it until the year of freedom; then it will revert to the prince. His inheritance belongs to his sons only; it is theirs. 18 The prince must not take any of the inheritance of the people, driving them off their property. He is to give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that not one of my people will be separated from their property.’”

19 Then the man brought me through the entrance at the side of the gate to the sacred rooms facing north, which belonged to the priests, and showed me a place at the western end. 20 He said to me, “This is the place where the priests are to cook the guilt offering and the sin offering and bake the grain offering, to avoid bringing them into the outer court and consecrating the people.”

21 He then brought me to the outer court and led me around to its four corners, and I saw in each corner another court. 22 In the four corners of the outer court were enclosed courts, forty cubits long and thirty cubits wide; each of the courts in the four corners was the same size. 23 Around the inside of each of the four courts was a ledge of stone, with places for fire built all around under the ledge. 24 He said to me, “These are the kitchens where those who minister at the temple are to cook the sacrifices of the people.”

Commentary

Worship in the way of the Lord

In his vision, Ezekiel sees a ‘sacred space for God’ (45:1, MSG). The entire area was holy (v.1), and included a sanctuary where priests minister before the Lord (vv.2–4), and property for the Levites, princes and all the people. It is a vision of a people at peace with itself, in which all the different sections and levels of society live harmoniously and fairly with one another.

But it is not just about people living well together – it is a place for ‘the people of the land… to worship in the presence of the Lord’ (46:3). The harmony between people stems from God, and at the heart of everything is worship.

Two things are required to worship in the way of the Lord. The first is repentance. God’s message to the leaders (the ‘princes of Israel’) is, ‘Quit bullying and taking advantage of my people. Do what’s just and right for a change. Use honest scales – honest weights and honest measures’ (45:9–10, MSG).

The second is atonement (vv.15,17). The ‘Passover’ symbolises that God passes over your sin because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Blood had to be put on the doorposts prefiguring the blood of Christ.

The number seven is the perfect number: ‘The seventh day... A feast lasting seven days... during the seven days of the Feast he is to provide seven bulls and seven rams without defect... during the seven days... which begins in the seventh month...’ (vv.20,21,23,25).

It points to the one perfect and sufficient sacrifice and atonement made by Jesus for you, which enables you to come into the presence of the Lord and live a life of worship.

Walk in the way of the cross and resurrection of Jesus. Live a life that will win people over. Keep a clear conscience and live without fear. Follow Jesus’ perfect example and your life will be an example to others.

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you died, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring me to God. Help me to live a life of worship, following your perfect example.

Pippa adds

1 Peter 3:6 (RSV)

‘Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.’

I have, on a couple of occasions, called Nicky ‘lord’ – but only by mistake. I have also called him ‘Daddy’, possibly ‘Mummy’ and quite a few other things besides!

Verse of the Day

1 Peter 3:15

‘Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…’
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References

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

John C Maxwell, Developing the Leader Within You (Thomas Nelson Publishing, 2012), p.38.

Pope Francis photo licensed by and © 1985–2015 epa european pressphoto agency.

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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