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Devotional Advice for Gaining Wisdom & Living Purposefully in 2016

Categories Old Testament

devotions on the hebrew bibleThis time of year there is no shortage of advice for making 2016 your best year yet. May I make a suggestion for yet another source—and an unusual one at that?

The Hebrew language.

Yes, you read that right. Not the Hebrew Scriptures, though ultimately that’s where the advice is found. The Hebrew language. A brilliant new devotional book offers advice for living using insights from biblical Hebrew. It’s called Devotions on the Hebrew Bible, by Milton Eng’s and Lee Fields’s book.

Their book demonstrates “that a knowledge of the original languages can and should be a spiritually rewarding exercise.” (13) Each of the 54 devotionals is designed to bring out some grammatical or lexical insight from the original Hebrew which are lost in English translations alone. They also draw some point of spiritual application by connecting the original Hebrew to modern life.

It’s an ideal resource for gaining wisdom and insights into purposeful living in 2016, which two particular entries demonstrate. Brief insights from Temper Longman’s devotional on Proverbs and Karen Jobes’ entry on Esther will demonstrate the depth and breadth of this resource, and encourage you as you enter a new year.

Advice for Gaining Wisdom • Proverbs 1:1–7

Do you want success at work and a vibrant life with a happy family and good friends this coming year? Do you want to stay away from the behaviors and attitudes that might lead to failure in 2016?

“Proverbs will point the way,” promises Tremper Longman III in his devotional on Proverbs 1:1–7. But how? Longman draws our attention to a “striking syntactical feature” of the opening verses in Proverbs: the extensive use of the infinitive construct with a prefixed lamed (ל) at the beginning of most of the five two-part parallel lines.

“This form indicates purpose,” Longman explains, “so if we want to discover what Proverbs is about, we must pay attention to these phrases.” (132) When we do, we discover that the proverbs are for “gaining wisdom and instruction;” (1:2a) “understanding words of insight,” (1:2b) “receiving instruction in prudent behavior;” (1:3) “giving prudence to those who are simple;” (1:4) and “understanding proverbs and parables.” (1:6)

This preface prepares us for this book by telling us that its purpose is for us to gain wisdom and the ability to understand wise sayings and to apply them to our lives. Wisdom is not only practical; it is also ethical. According to the final verse of the preface, the foundation of wisdom is theological. One cannot even start being wise unless one has the proper relationship with God, a relationship characterized by “fear.” (133)

Want to gain wisdom in 2016? Sit with Proverbs all year long!

Advice for Purposeful Living • Esther 4:14b

Looking back across the tapestry of the year, with all of its successes and disappointments, it may be difficult to tease a thread of meaning and purpose. Yet the question Mordecai posed to Esther is instructive for living purposefully: “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

This question “echoes profound insights into life’s circumstances.” That’s what Karen Jobes concludes in her devotional on Esther 4:14b and in light of a particular word embedded in Mordecai’s insight: the Hebrew verb הִגַּ֖עַתְּ. As she explains, “[the verb] means ‘to arrive’ in time (not at a location), invoking the image of the passage of time that led up to this moment.” (155)

A number of circumstances had caused Esther to “arrive” at that particular moment in the march of time. Jobes notes that much was beyond Esther’s control, except the moment when she had to decide if she would identify with God’s covenant people, or keep her identity a secret. “Esther arrived at this decisive moment through the will of others, but after her decision, she herself becomes a powerful agent.” (155)

The same is true of us when we identify with God’s people through faith in Jesus Christ:

Despite circumstances and our own behavior, God works providentially to bring us to that moment of decision for Christ. Each of us then becomes part of a story that is much greater than our own lives, a story of God’s redemptive purposes being worked out in human history. (155)

And that, she suggests, is how we ultimately live purposefully and find meaning in 2016: finding our story in God’s Story—every day.

***

Eng and Fields hope and pray “that readers would be drawn to a deeper love for, understanding of, and adherence to the Scriptures and the God who gave them, and that God himself might be glorified thereby.” (14)

Discover in Devotions on the Hebrew Bible insights into gaining deeper wisdom and purposeful living for the coming year.

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