Proverbs 16:20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
A slight difference in translation makes a major difference between the Japanese and the NIV here. (The ASV is close to the Japanese.) Where the NIV says “instruction,” the Japanese says, “the Word.” Sometimes we get bad instructions, and paying attention to them doesn’t bring good results. However, fixing the Word in our heart (the exact Japanese phrase) will certainly bring blessing. The second half of the verse is also important, because if we don’t trust what we have heard from the Lord, we won’t do it consistently. I keep coming back to James 1:22. “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” In my marriage counseling I tell couples that God is the engineer who designed and produces human beings, and the Bible is our instruction manual. As the saying goes, when all else fails, read the manual! If you had a piece of equipment and refused to read, much less follow, the manual, you wouldn’t get very good use out of it. Our lives are the same way. It is when we take in God’s Word and apply it that we discover all the good things for which we were created.
Since I was raised in a home that was steeped in the Bible, and read it through myself by the time I was 10, awareness of the Word has never been an issue. Paying attention to it and following it, however, has been a different matter! I became quite an expert at ignoring what I didn’t care for at the moment, and the results of that were never good. One of my daughters, in a period of rebellion, said that she had discarded all of the Bible except 1 Corinthians 6:12 “ ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible for me’—but I will not be mastered by anything.” I never articulated it that clearly, but that was pretty much my attitude as well. Thankfully, that daughter has come back to wholehearted devotion to the Lord, as have I, but I am painfully aware that knowing the Word and obeying/living by the Word are quite different things. Paul even spoke of Gentiles who did not know the Bible obeying what God had written on their hearts. (Romans 2:14-15) As a pastor I am to encourage people to read and know the Word, but my focus must be on helping them do what it says. Early Christians had no more than the Old Testament, if that, and before the invention of the printing press it was rare for people to have personal copies of any part of the Bible beyond what they had written out themselves by hand. “Familiarity breeds contempt” is all too applicable when it comes to the Bible. I need to treasure the Word myself and teach others to do the same, so that it may have its full work in and through us. (Isaiah 55:10-11)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for the passion for Your Word that You have given me, and for the privilege of sharing Your Word with others. May I be increasingly effective in that, raising up a generation of true disciples, so that the world may see what Your kingdom looks like and repent and believe for themselves, for their salvation and Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!