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February 2, (Day # 33) – On Discretion and Discernment

In recent days, we have mentioned several times that we have God’s Word in written form today, but it’s important for us to recognize that, when Job lived, he never enjoyed the blessing of possessing a copy of the written text of Scripture. How important is it that we have access to God’s Word in written form? This is clearly a resource that we take for granted – millions of homes have a copy of the Bible that sits on some shelf but is never read! In light of this truth, we should be impressed by Job’s knowledge of God, his spiritual insight, his godly wisdom, and his sanctified understanding of the world in which he lived. For a man who didn’t have the Bible, Job had an amazing knowledge of God’s Word. How did he acquire that knowledge? How was he able to live a “blameless and upright life?” (cf., Job 1:1 and 1:8). Clearly, Job knew what it meant to walk moment by moment with God, but how? Today, in the face of our own troubles – which in all likelihood, are nothing like Job’s troubles were - how many of us freely avail ourselves of God’s two main Witnesses in the world - the Word of God and the Holy Spirit? Do we actually seek to lay hold of Him and the resources He has provided to enable us to live for Him? In light of these realities, Job’s confession (cf., Job 23:3-13) is astounding: “If only I knew where to find Him … if I go to the east … I catch no glimpse of Him … but He knows the way that I take … He stands alone … who can oppose Him? He does whatever He pleases.” Lacking the written Scriptures and the indwelling Person of the Holy Spirit, how does Job otherwise know these things? What an incredible contrast between Job’s theology and that of his three “miserable” friends! Somehow, by God’s grace, Job has retained innately within his heart a pure understanding of his Creator’s image. This is how God could proclaim him “blameless” (Job 1:1 and 1:8).

Again, in Proverbs 3:21-35, we are instructed to “preserve sound judgment and discernment – do not let them out of your sight” (verse 21). This is consistent with the key verse of this chapter, which admonishes us to “fear the LORD and shun evil” (verse 7). Unfortunately today, many people are lacking in discretion and have no capacity for discernment. Both discretion and discernment are the products of a thoughtful mind. God gave us minds for the purpose of exercising them (i.e., thinking), but like physical exercise, intellectual exercise is work, and people don’t want to work today. The writer says that there is a correlation between fearing the Lord, shunning evil, thinking, preserving sound judgment and discernment, and showing discretion on the one hand, and health, nourishment, wealth, and all of life on the other hand. Part of the reason why we are living in a declining, degenerating culture is because the people of our culture have abandoned our work ethic in favor of laziness and an easy life of foolishness. Verse 35 sums it all up: “The wise inherit honor, but fools He holds up to shame.”

Matthew 21:18-32 contains three mini-sections of resistant truth. First, we see Jesus cursing the resistant fig tree which had leaves but no figs. The fig tree is symbolic of Israel and a picture of its hypocrisy. In Israel, ordinarily, fig trees produce leaves and fruit about the same time, but this tree only displayed leaves – no fruit. The tree should have borne some fruit, which is the purpose of a fruit tree – to bear fruit – not just leaves. Leaves may make the tree outwardly beautiful, but they are of no essential value. Israel’s spiritual condition at the time of Christ’s visitation was a display of outward but ineffective religion. Second, we see the resistant priests and elders who question Jesus’ authority. It is interesting how the priests are always trying to catch our Lord in some questionable dilemma, but here, He catches them in a humiliating dilemma – the priests and elders were supposed to be in the know, but “they answered Jesus, ‘We don’t know’” (verse 27). Third, we see the parable of the two resistant sons. The first son who arrogantly refused to go work for the father, and then later went, is representative of the publicans of Israel. The second son who agreed to go, but didn’t, is similar to the Pharisees. Both sons were out of order. From this parable, Jesus points out that the tax collectors and prostitutes believed John’s report about the Messiah, but to their discredit, the chief priests and elders did not. Resisting God is not a good idea.

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