God Weighs Our Ways
BERNARD, the leader, always has a
method of getting all the participants involved in a Bible Study. He either requests each of them to read one
or more verses, or provides a dynamic exchange of biblical teachings by posing
an interesting and thought provoking question at a relevant time.
The group members were reading the
Bible reverently. The source of their
veneration was a verse just read with conviction by Sarah (Prov
16:2): "All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord
weighs the motives." It took them exceptionally longer than usual to
express what impressions they might have on a verse. They were lingering with the reality that
what was volitional in one's eyes, might be erroneous in God's.
Man, being prone to sinning, is
dictated by his own sinful nature. Even
the elect, being enslaved by sin, have been straying from the right way. From time immemorial, the preposterous acts
against God have been committed repeatedly.
Examples include the credulous beliefs of Israel which drove them into exile;
and the penance of the Colossians, which exposed the ever dividing gap between
God and man, without true knowledge on man's part.
"Perhaps, the key word here
is 'motives', isn't it?" He asked, breaking the prolonging
Pause. However, he did recognize that many members
found talking about this subject a real bugbear, some being virtually
repulsive. This may be a reasonable
excuse for keeping quiet about it for fear of misunderstanding. But, it is implausible within the religious
community: even the most sensitive issue has to be talked through with love,
using the Bible, for mutual edification.
Unlike many who make strenuous
efforts to keep their church image' intact, despite continual emergence of
weaknesses in their lives, Bernard has never been averse to revealing and
admitting his shortcomings before God and man whenever necessary. Consequently, in every Bible Study, apart
from being prayerful and being well prepared, he is able to generate truthful
and encouraging discussion.
He admitted humbly,
"Sometimes, I find myself serving the Lord or coming to church services
with distorted motives." He was indirectly saying that we might misguide,
misrepresent and even misapply our motives.
"I hope that God would search my heart and help me serve Him with
correct motives," he continued.
Quoting Matthew 16:22f with
eagerness, Boaz supplemented, "Even one of the most loved disciples of
Jesus was prompted by Satan to prevent Him from accomplishing the work of
Jonathan, the youngest of the
group, instantly knew that the supplement was organically inconsistent with the
Bible. He struggled. Nevertheless, he still proceeded with tact
and gentleness, "Oh you know, 'Satan' can be taken to mean not only the
devil, but also any force opposing God's will.
In this case, it refers more likely to the latter, the reason being the
devil desired to put Jesus to death. He
would not have made use of Peter to stop Jesus from being killed."
Yet such an unexpected correction
in the midst of so many people could well be very intimidating to Boaz and
altogether dampen the morale of the Bible Study.
Referring to what Proverbs 16:7
teaches: "When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his
enemies to be at peace with him, "such a near non-existing intimidation
could in no way be compared to that which Isaac suffered (Gen 26:22, 25). He was a person who fully trusted in
God. He made God's rectitude the
foundation of his actions, to enable him to be steadfast in His will, regardless of the circumstances 'n which he might find
himself. Even the most sensitive person must realize that of all the causes of
disagreement in the process of encouraging one another, embarrassment must in
no way be rated as the result of incorrect explanation and misconstruing the
word of God.
Sensibly Elaine related Acts
5:1-10, to avoid embarrassment on Boaz's part, as another example of a person's
motive, which was designed to deceive...
The participants seemed to have
agreed silently that having correct motives was the prime determinant in God's
acceptance of man s ways.
Bernard drew their attention to
another proverbial passage.
It was Dudi's
turn to read. He hurriedly flipped to
Proverbs 21:2. "Every man's way is
right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the hearts. To do righteousness and justice is desired by
the Lord rather than sacrifice,' he read with enthusiasm.
This time Jane, the showy
character, spoke, "We who desire to adopt God's
way, have to examine the intended meaning of this verse from God's perspective
with an equanimity of heart". Her
flamboyant style of speech enticed her to use a long sentence. Though she did not retain brevity in her
words, she was quick to react to the frowning faces of some. "The heart of man should submit to
God. For it is the seat of all reasonings and consciences." She was, sort of,
elaborating what she meant in much simpler and intelligible terms. "You know... equanimity means .
Feeling that it was necessary to
free from the entanglement of trite and tired words, Elaine intercepted:
"What is righteousness?" Every one paused, anticipating someone to
give a good
definition. The Bible Study leader, expecting no answers,
defined: in the Hebrew of the Old Testament, few words from the same family
denote the idea of righteousness or right.
Likewise, the Greek version of the
New Testament provides a family of words which, though more complex, denotes
the idea of right, just, righteous, justification and righteousness. The verb of righteousness in Greek is normally
translated 'justify' in English. The
word righteousness' is limited to God, for no one is righteous.
He further explained that justice
and righteousness could be used interchangeably in some contexts. They are the divine attributes. They are the bases for God to weigh the heart
of man. A good understanding of them is
requisite for doing what is right.
His continuous explanation was
necessary for the whole group to grasp the entire message of the passage. "The first step is to understand that
there is none who is righteous" (Rom 3:10; Ps 14:lff;
53:lff, Eccl 7:20). “Therefore all are
in need of divine grace,” he added, "which I think all of you know what
divine grace encompasses (Rom 3:21ff; 4:3ff; 10ff; 20f;, 5:lff; 10:6ff;' 2 Cor 5:21; Gal 2:21)."
The thrust of his above points
focused on maintaining righteousness. In
Christ Jesus, the Holy Spirit helps those who are faithful to His word remain
righteous, which is crucial for doing what is acceptable to God.
"I think," Boaz
hesitated, "another verse identical to maintaining righteousness is in
Proverbs 30:12: there is a generation that is pure in its own eyes, yet is not
washed from its filthiness". This
final proverbial saying in this Bible Study, being concrete and
straightforward, is more easily understood than the one before. This is precisely because the latter creates
in our mind, whereas the former concerns terms harder to explain and of which
the participants may have a less clearer perception.
Verses that have many connotations
in their words must be defined, be read in context and be interpreted by verses
with only denotations, to conjure up a clear biblical concept painted by them.
Every one was glad with this
obvious example. Boaz elaborated that
acknowledging we were all sinners and entrusting ourselves upon God's grace and
acting upon His word, made us righteous so that we could walk in the way God
desired. The reason for this is that the
righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel - His word (Rom 1:16f; cf 1 Pet 1:25).
"It's almost time and we should draw a conclusion now," said
Bernard. He summarized: pride is the one
recurring underlying reason in the proverbial passages that is marked out for
divine disapproval of man's way (Prov 16:5; 21:4;
30:13). "These passages further
disclose the inherent weaknesses of man exhibiting pride in spontaneity, not
necessarily in the sense of being boastful," he solidly reiterated.
The demonstration of pride is
characteristic of those who do not admit their wrongs, who are short-sighted
about divine matters (they do not ask for wisdom from God), who always perceive
themselves to be right; and who put no effort into discovering their
shortcomings or examining themselves.
Most typically, they are those who do not recognize that God weighs
The Bible Study ended with a long