I wonder if you remember those pictures a few years ago which had other images embedded in them? If you looked closely and let your eyes glaze a little, suddenly a new, ‘hidden’ image would miraculously appear. Apparently 92% of the population could do them – I was one of the 8% who couldn’t. Make of that what you will!
The book of Proverbs sometimes seems to me a bit like those pictures. The sequence of proverbs seems random: they flit from subject to subject – always incisive, always arresting, but hard to collate into a coherent whole, hard to find the hidden pattern.
And yet, look a little more closely and there are patterns. Much of the teaching coalesces around two simple contrasts: the foolish and the wise, and the unrighteous and the righteous. The two are largely synonymous – the righteous are wise and vice versa. Ultimately living in God’s light leads to both wisdom and righteousness: life works, essentially. Doing the alternative fails the ultimate test.
There are also certain verses which seem to guide the teaching around it. Take today’s passage for example: verse 9 tells us that ‘the light of righteous shines brightly’, which is a lovely image in itself, and one picked up by Jesus a thousand years later in his famous teaching. However, it also functions as a helpful summary of much of what comes around it. What does bright living look like? It looks like: the capacity to take advice and instruction (v1, v10); careful attention to our words (v2,v3); the ability to moderate our appetites (v4); to love truth (v5). Ultimately this kind of wise or righteous living guards us in the situations we face (v6).
So often we can feel pushed down by negative stereotypes attached to faith or church – so, today, let’s soak in this lovely image of the light shining brightly. A life which takes advice, blesses with our lips, enjoys good things in moderation and loves truth and goodness is a beautiful thing, and one which also shines to those around us.
Where would you like your light to shine today? Which of today’s proverbs touches your heart? May God grant us grace to heed this timeless wisdom, and so to shine the light of his glorious love and truth into our lives, and out from our lives to those around us.