In this episode, we continue to explore the key to being rich: listening to God. There is nothing more important than a willingness to listen to God. It is the only thing that leads to a prosperous life and the true riches of The Kingdom of Heaven. Diving deeper into three ways to listen presented in previous episodes, we discover more about this fundamental practice. Proverbs is a major source for this reality, an Old Testament foundation for each of the ways to listen to God and participate in the riches of his kingdom.
The Four Ways to Listen Found in Proverbs
This morning we’re going to continue in our series on how to be rich.
The last couple of weeks, we’ve been covering Revelation 3 where God tells us through the Laodicean church that what we should do is recognize that to the extent we have worldly riches, and those riches cause us to rely on them and think, “I have need of nothing,” that that’s actually making us miserable, wretched, poor, blind, and naked. What God admonishes us to do is buy gold from him.
How does he tell us to buy that gold? What’s the key? Listening.
He says, “If you’ll hear my voice, hear my knock, and open the door, I’ll come in and have a meal with you. We can talk about how to live life effectively.
We looked at four different categories of things that the Bible tells us to do in order to listen.
One, of course, is to read the Bible.
Another one is to listen to godly wisdom from people who are living according to God’s way.
Another is to listen to nature. The heavens declare the glory of God, uttering speech day after day.
The fourth is to listen to the Spirit. The Spirit is actually talking; and Jesus said I’m sending the Spirit to tell you stuff that I can’t really tell you right now because you couldn’t bear it right now; but after I leave the Spirit’s going to tell you all these things, just as though he was there in person. The Spirit is speaking to us as well.
Instruction is more valuable than riches
I went back and looked at an Old Testament book wondering were these four things in it, and I looked at the book of Proverbs. And lo and behold, it’s there.
We could call this lesson today the same yesterday, today, and forever, perhaps, because there it is.
So let’s let’s look at Proverbs 8:10. We’re going to spend our day in Proverbs today. Proverbs 8:10.
Receive my instruction, and not silver,
And knowledge rather than choice gold;
For wisdom is better than rubies,
And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.
Doesn’t that sound a lot like “buy from me gold refined in the fire”? And how do you get it in Proverbs? In Revelation you get it by listening, opening the door, fellowshipping with. How do you get rubies and something better than rubies, greater riches than rubies and silver here in 8:10? Receive my instruction.
What do you have to do—if you sit in a class, like, if you’re going to get anything out of this that we’re doing right now, what are you going to have to do? You’re going to have to listen, right? You could get something even bigger out of it by tuning me out. That’s always a possibility. But if you’re going to get anything out of what I’m saying, you’re going to have to listen.
So we’re listening to God here. Receive my instruction, receive knowledge from me; and what does that turn into? Wisdom. That’s what wisdom is. Wisdom is just receiving knowledge from God.
The Old Testament principle that we looked at in Revelation 3 is just simply wisdom.
Let’s look at 8:19.
My fruit is better than gold, yes, than fine gold,
And my revenue than choice silver.
We know that if you have gold or silver, you can invest it and create an income stream. God’s saying I’ll give you a much better income stream. I’ll give you a much better yield on your crop if you’ll seek wisdom.
Go back to Proverbs 3:13.
Happy is the man who finds wisdom,
And the man who gains understanding;
Wisdom and understanding are basically synonyms in this book. They’re different words, but they’re used like a play on each other.
For her profits are better than the profits of silver,
And her gain than fine gold.
She is more precious than rubies,
And all the things you may desire cannot compare with her. That is wisdom.
Same basic idea.
Look at 16:16. You’ll see the same principle there in 16:16.
How much better to get wisdom than gold!
And to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
Wisdom is obviously of incredible value. Just look at go back to 3:19. You can start to get a hint as to why. Proverbs 3:19.
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
Have you ever heard anybody say they wanted all the money in the world?
By the way, if somebody had all the money in the world, what would that make everybody else? You’d end up by yourself pretty fast if you had all the money in the world. Or you’d have a lot of children to take care of, one or the other.
The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
By understanding He established the heavens;
By His knowledge the depths were broken up,
This wisdom is something that actually is the ability to do the most amazing thing you can think of.
The Jews personify wisdom because of Proverbs.
Personify wisdom, yeah.
…an aspect of God…
Proverbs does that. She is to be sought. Yeah.
And look at 3:1.
My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
For length of days and long life
And peace they will add to you.
Let not mercy and truth forsake you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
Peace. Long life. This is kind of what we’d like to have.
See here that you can see wisdom is basically just, once again, knowledge and understanding. It’s reality as reality is.
Look at 1:1-3. The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:
This is a thousand years before our Laodicean church letter.
To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity;
To give prudence to the simple,
Wisdom is instruction. Wisdom is perceiving the words of understanding. It’s not just listening. It’s listening with understanding. It brings about justice and prudence to the simple.
In the LXX, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, it has two words, justice and truth. And the justice word is our old friend dikaiosune. It’s the word that’s translated righteousness or righteous in the book of Romans. That word shows up over 50 times in the book of Romans. Justice or just.
Wisdom actually leads to justice and truth. Or justice and truth are the essence of wisdom.
In Romans, what is righteousness? What is it? It is when we live a life consistent with the way God made the world. Its living reality as reality actually is.
One of the big problems we have as people is trying to bring about harmony of all things by doing, what? What is our tendency to do?
Make it about me
Well, how do we make it about me? How do I make everything harmonious—yes, I control it to my desires, right?
If I’m controlling everything to meet my desires, if I were doing that, what would all of you do? Wait on me. You’d wait on me, do what I asked you to do. And would you be then enjoying life? You’d be wishing you were in my shoes probably. Would I be happy? What I would be is alone in short order.
We see this in our friends in Africa. Poor things. Every time they find a new diamond mine or a new oil strike, there’s always a war. Because one group of people wants that stuff so they have power to conform things to their desires.
The earth fills with violence because of this.
Communism or Marxism, which is a dominant view around the earth, one of the contrasting views to Christianity, promises worldwide harmony. It asks people to give their life for worldwide harmony. We just need to kill a bunch of people first. And people buy into this thing.
It’s what our heart longs for, for harmony.
We can actually get it. And we get it by listening to God and living life his way. We’re going to see a lot in Proverbs about what that looks like.
Does Proverbs have these four categories? It most certainly does. We read 3:1-3.
Reading, memorizing, and applying God’s word
My son, do not forget my law,
But let your heart keep my commands;
That’s nothing more than memorize the scripture, and most certainly memorize the scripture is one of our four categories that we have.
Write them on the tablet of your heart,
That’s more than just memorizing. What is that? Applying and having those lessons really be a part of your life. It’s more than just memorizing the verse. It’s taking it into your life and making it a part of it, the scripture.
Let’s look at 3:11-12.
My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor detest His correction;
When we come to the scripture, what should our main motivation be?
It’s talking to me.
Talking to me. Listening. What do you mainly want to get out of the scripture, though, when you come to it? What should our attitudes be? Correction. How can I change? How can I change from my way to God’s way?
It’s more typical for us to come to the scripture for justification.
For what can I throw in someone else’s face.
What can I use to hit somebody over the head with here? How can I validate whatever I already think?
But the scripture is here to correct us. What are we correcting from? From a destructive way into a profitable way, a way that brings us great riches because it’s bringing us harmony.
Look, let’s just think about it rationally for a minute. Everybody wants to be rich so that they can conform circumstances to the way they want it to be, right? I want to create a perfect environment for myself. I want to have other people treat me the way I want them to treat me. You can pay people to be nice to you.
As a matter of fact, if you’re wealthy enough or powerful enough, the people that hate you will even be nice to you. In fact, probably most of the people that are nice to you actually hate you, if you want to get it all the way down there.
Is that in Proverbs?
Probably! It’s probably in there. Actually it is. It is in there. It’s something along the lines of if a deceiving person’s a flatterer, don’t listen to them, something like that.
What God’s telling us here is how to actually not try to conform circumstances to what you want. What you find out is if you have enough power to cause all your desires to happen, usually what you do is destroy yourself a lot faster. Most of us are in a self-destructive mode of some kind; but we’re pacing ourselves because of a lack of resources. Then suddenly, you get all this money, you don’t have to pace yourself anymore.
Do you remember Anna Nicole Smith? Do you remember that lady that married the 85-year-old billionaire and was really famous for a while? What did she last? Three years before she was dead, something like that? She didn’t have to pace herself anymore.
I heard some people interviewed after that because it was really tragic. I heard some people interviewed after that, and they said, “Well, you know, she went out in a flame of glory. She got what she wanted. It was a great life.” I guess some people you just can’t convince through any amount of experience.
What God’s telling us here is instead of trying to conform everything to us, which brings about violence, war, misery, self-destruction, what I’m going to do is help you understand how to fit into life as it is, like I made it.
By the way, I have enough wisdom, God says, since I actually made all this, I have the owner’s manual, I can tell you how this works; and this is how to get this harmony that you’re seeking. You don’t have to get money to do it.
If you do this wisdom thing, money will flow your way likely; but that’s not going to be what makes you rich. What’s going to make you rich is living this kind of life.
Listening to the Spirit
Reading the Bible certainly is in here. That’s one of our four categories. What about listening to the Spirit? I was wondering if that would be in Proverbs. It’s not there a lot. But it’s there. Look at 1:23.
Turn at my rebuke;
Surely I will pour out my spirit on you;
I will make my words known to you.
Isn’t that interesting? This is before the Holy Spirit came to dwell in us, which was the new mystery thing that happened after the day of Pentecost. But it was not a new thing for God’s Spirit to talk to people.
He says here, look, if you’ll listen to me, I’ll come in with my Spirit and make sure you understand what I’m saying. A thousand years before, Old Testament.
16:1. The preparations of the heart belong to man,
But the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
It’s good for us to prepare, but when the moment comes, God will tell you what that you prepared you need to say. Isn’t that exactly what he told the apostles in Acts? Be ready, but I’ll give you the words to speak when the time comes. The Spirit’s talking. The Spirit’s leading, even in the Old Testament.
In 17:3, The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,
But the Lord tests the hearts.
Here he is. He’s still dealing with the heart and still talking to people, even in the Old Testament.
God doesn’t change. What he does is he uses circumstances and cultures and individuals. He meets us where we are. If it’s a Greek world, he speaks to people in Greek. If it’s a Hebrew world, he speaks to people in Hebrew.
We talked about four things, four different ways we can listen. Listening brings wisdom. Wisdom brings true riches. Read the Bible; it’s here. Listen to the Spirit; it’s here.
Listening to God in nature
What about nature? The most clear nature one here in Proverbs is in 6:6.
Go to the ant—
If you want to understand wisdom, if you want to understand true riches, something that’s better than silver, better than gold, better than rubies, go watch some ants.
I remember one time, David, who’s not the most introverted, studious person that we have. He’s much more of a shiny-object person. We had him in Boy Scouts. He was doing some merit badge. I think it was environmental science. You had to spend an hour or two hours observing nature. He really enjoyed that for about three minutes, then he was ready to do something else. I just exhorted him: you just have to do it.
I came back and he was totally into what was going on in front of him, and he had lost his sense of time, really, because he got interested in ants.
These ants were scurrying all around. All of a sudden, they all dived into their hole because a cloud had come over. When the cloud shadow hit, they dove into their hole.
It just totally captured his imagination. How do they know? They don’t have AccuWeather on their iPhones! How do they know this is happening?
Then he started looking at their trails, and all the trails they’re doing and the big stuff they’ve got on their backs, hauling around. They’re really fascinating creatures!
When I was a teenager I had a beehive in Big Spring. Man, I tell you what, I spent hours with that thing. It was so much fun! I would catch the drones—the drones can’t sting—and I’d tie a piece of thread on them and walk them like a dog. I had all kinds of great games.
You just sit and watch these things, and they’re amazing! They had little guards that would—every bee that came into the hive, they’d sniff them to make sure the right people are coming in. They had scouts. They’d do these little dances to tell everybody where to go get the flowers. Amazing!
Go to the ant, you sluggard!
Consider her ways and be wise,
Which, having no captain,
Overseer or ruler,
Provides her supplies in the summer,
And gathers her food in the harvest.
How long will you slumber, O sluggard?
What there isn’t in a beehive or an ant farm, either one, are any taskmasters. There’s no bee out there, “Get out there and get those flowers!” They just go work.
What Proverbs is saying here is you can learn something from watching these guys. When everybody does what they do best for the hive, it prospers.
Remember Romans? How does righteousness exhibit itself? If you want to live by faith and produce righteousness, which is 1-11, what does it look like in 12? When you get to 12 and you have your reasonable service of worship, and you’re going to now take these principles and live them with an inside out life, live them from the heart, which is the righteousness of faith, what does it look like? What’s the very first thing he tells you to do in Romans 12?
You be a living sacrifice. What does a living sacrifice look like in 12?
Use your gifts.
Use your gifts for the body. The hive. Do what you do best. If you’re a guard, then be a guard. If you’re a scout, be a scout. If you’re good at packing pollen back and forth, go pack pollen back and forth. Do what you do best. Take your gift and serve other people. That’s how you make righteousness happen. Harmony takes place when everybody does what they do best.
We can read that in Romans 12, or we can go look at an ant bed.
Now there are some things you can do with ant beds that aren’t good. When I was like two or three, I hung around the neighborhood, back when people went outside. The older boys would always dare me to sit in the ant beds. And I did. They were older boys. No, not just once. I’m persistent.
I would come home crying, and my mom and say, “Did you sit in the ant bed again?”
There’s ways to not learn. You can also study.
Look at 1:20. When we’re talking about looking at the world and understanding nature, we’re talking about looking at cause-effect. God made things in a cause-effect relationship.
Proverbs 1:20. Wisdom calls aloud outside;
She raises her voice in the open squares.
You just go into the street. Look at the markets. Watch the way people interact with one another. You can learn a lot from that if you’ll just pay attention. In fact, you can also, if you go to 8:3, it’s got basically the same thing except, this time, instead of in the streets, it says,
She cries out by the gates, at the entry of the city—
The gates of entry were where the politics happened. That’s the courts. That’s the political sphere.
You can kind of get sick of politics if you want to. It’s easy to do. Why do people hate politics? Yeah, everybody’s making it all about themselves. You can learn a lot from watching that. Does it create harmony? Are people there trying to serve the body with their gifts? That’s why you hate it. It’s an example of what not to do.
When you get inside, there are some people that are really awesome. Probably the only reason that the host is still alive. You get a certain number of parasites, and pretty soon the host dies. We’re headed down that direction, but there’s some great people keeping it alive.