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A Continual Feast

This series of five interconnected proverbs (15:13-17) focuses on two ideas: first, in verses 13-14, we see the role that the heart plays in determining your attitude, and second, in verses 16-17, Solomon gives us several examples of how that information should guide our lives. Verse 15 is something like a hinge for these two sets of verses, where Solomon points out that all the days of the afflicted are evil, whether you are wise or foolish. But despite your circumstances, even in affliction, having a cheerful heart will make your life into a continual feast.

The Bible teaches that joy and sorrow come from the affections of the heart, rather than external circumstances. When a man of understanding pursues knowledge, he is on the path to joy, regardless of what is happening around him. When a man is in the grip of folly, he has nothing but soul-crushing sorrow to look forward to, even if his desk is buried by piles of gold, and his table is groaning under the weight of all his food.

Verse 13 begins by pointing out the connection between soul and body, between your heart and your face. Proverbs doesn’t say that great treasure or a fattened ox makes a cheerful face. It is the heart, and not the circumstances, determines what shows up on the face. What you set your heart on will determine whether you spend your life in a condition of gladness and good cheer, or in a condition of dejected sorrow.

In verse 14, we see the source of these heart conditions. If you fill your heart with knowledge and understanding, with love and the fear of the Lord, then you are storing up the raw materials for a cheerful heart. If you fill your heart up with foolish trifles, then you are planting the seeds of sadness for a harvest of sorrow. The wise man is driven to seek the fear of the Lord, while the lazy fool simply grazes on whatever happens to be in front on him.

Verse 15 presents the conclusion: if you seek wisdom and store up understanding in your heart, then, when affliction brings evil into your life, you still experience life as a joyful feast. Whatever affliction takes away from you, it cannot take away a wise, God-fearing heart, which is a deeper source of joy and gladness than money or possessions or filet mignon.

Since it is true that a glad heart comes from seeking wisdom, Solomon applies this insight in verses 16 and 17. It is more “cheering” to have little in the way of money or possessions along with this heart-gladdening fear of the Lord than it is to have great treasure along with all the sorrows of a foolish heart. It’s more “cheering” to sit down to a travel-size meal of greens with people you enjoy than it is to feast on rich food in an atmosphere of hatred. Living the good life may have nothing to do with food or money, but it has everything to do with the fear of the Lord.

Whatever your treasure is, the fear of the Lord is better. A lettuce wrap eaten with laughter and love is better than a steak seared with hatred, and consumed in stubborn silence. A loving relationship with God that overflows into loving relationships with those around you is better than all the good things this world can possibly offer. Jesus Himself turned this proverbial wisdom into a question: “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?”

Jesus believes that the fear of the Lord is better than life in heaven. He left heaven behind in order to become a man and enter into a world of affliction, but at the same time, His life was a continual feast. He lived every day under the scorn and rejection of men, and yet He cheerfully walked in the favor of His Father. In Jesus’ mind, taking our sin as His own and paying the penalty of death, even death on a cross, was better than life in glory with the angels, because what makes Jesus glad is the opportunity to invite us to His table of love and to share a simple meal of bread and wine with forgiven and redeemed people.

Posted on Wednesday, September 16, 2015 by CJ Bowen