Words of Truth

Stephen Terry


Commentary for the February 28, 2015 Sabbath School Lesson


“When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’”

“‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’”

“So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.” Matthew 27:3-5, NIV

Perhaps the most prominent theme in the book of Proverbs is the idea of personal responsibility. As such, this book ties in with the thread of the Bible’s narrative from its earliest chapters. At creation, mankind was given responsibility for the Earth. Adam and Eve became rulers of all earthly creation.[i] The story does not tell us exactly how long this was the case, but eventually they chose to transfer their fealty from God to that rebel cast down from heaven, Satan.[ii] Once they did so, they immediately began to shirk responsibility. Instead of humbly admitting his choice was erroneous and accepting the consequences, Adam blamed Eve and God, who created her.[iii] Eve for her part behaved similarly, placing the blame on the serpent, rather than accepting the blame for her own choice.[iv] Perhaps this was out of fear,[v] or perhaps it was simply a natural outgrowth of their relationship to their new overlord. Whatever the reason, the blame game on Earth seems to have begun here.

Throughout the history of the human race we have continued this tendency to blame others for the consequences of our choices. Maybe this is the essence of sin, trying to excuse or lift up ourselves by pointing out the faults of others. If indeed all have sinned,[vi] then all have participated in this blaming. I know I have. I have also discovered that in spite of any hope that I may have of escaping the consequences of my bad choices by blaming others, like Adam and Eve may have hoped, the consequences still come. Then I not only have those consequences to face, but also the shame of having judged my partner in crime, even though I am not better off in the end for doing so.

Some might say at this point that the other in their particular case was no real partner so no great loss there. However, we all are indeed partners in the brotherhood of sin, because we all have chosen at some point to enroll in that fellowship. While God provided a way out of that syndicate through Jesus, that door is not opened by blaming others. It is opened only by accepting our responsibility for whom and what we are and choosing to leave that path. It is a process the Bible calls repentance.[vii] It means instead of walking away from God and toward Satan, we choose to begin walking the other direction, back toward God. For most this would be a complete about face.

Proverbs seems to be series of signposts along that new pathway. There are aphorisms related to social and sexual relationships, marriage, work ethics and even regarding one’s relationship to God. But all of these sayings can challenge our understanding of inspiration. Some may wish to think of inspiration as God dictating to his faithful servants a message for them to relay word for word to those reading it both now and in the future. This seems clean and simple, just like some maybe would like God to be. They may not have an understanding of what it means when God is described as ineffable. These may even encapsulate this view of inspiration in sayings like “God said it. I believe it, and that’s good enough for me.”

But what happens when what is inspired tells us conflicting things? What happens when the proverbial signposts on the celestial road to paradise give us opposing directions for how to get there? For example, when Proverbs tells us not to answer a fool according to his folly and in the very next verse tells us to answer a fool according to his folly,[viii] how do we sort out the inspiration in that situation? If we believe in literal, verbal inspiration, we are faced with an inspirational paradox. Both contradictory statements cannot be inspired by a God who is always consistent, yet both contradictory statements are inspired. Therefore either God is not consistent, or perhaps our view of inspiration is flawed.

There are several passages in the Bible that can possibly support the idea that God is inconsistent. There is the case of the Canaanite city of Jericho, where God instructed the Israelites to slay everyone. Yet some of those same Israelites promised to spare Rahab and her family,[ix] even though God had commanded otherwise regarding the Canaanites.[x] Then to complicate things even further, Rahab marries Salmon and becomes a progenitor of King David and thereby the Messiah. Some may question this introduction of blood from outside the covenant into the messianic line. It seems inconsistent with God’s repeated admonitions to purity throughout the Old Testament such as Ezra’s prayer.[xi] It could be interpreted that God set forth the rules and then decided instead to make things up as He went along.

Another example is the case of Ruth, the Moabitess, who married Boaz. A Moabite was not allowed to participate in the congregation of Israel for ten generations.[xii] Yet, we find that in far fewer generations than ten, her descendant, David, is not only worshipping with the Israelites, he is also king over Israel. Again it seems as though God may be making up His own rules, in spite of the instructions He gave Israel. David even committed adultery with Bathsheba the daughter of Ahithophel, and murdered her husband Uriah.[xiii]

Both of these were capital offenses according to God’s instruction to the Israelites.[xiv] Yet, not only was David not put to death, but the woman whom he committed adultery with bore him Solomon, his successor to the throne, and we should not forget through this troubled line, the Messiah was born.[xv] It is as though God gave extensive commandments to the people regarding how they were to deal with sin and then said “Never mind.”

It could not have been easy for those who may have lost family members who were put to death because of the same transgressions, yet witness these who did the same and were not executed for their actions. Perhaps this or similar situations gave rise to the doctrine regarding the “divine right of kings,” a doctrine epitomized in James I of England and Louis XIV of France. That doctrine posited that kings were not subject to the same moral restraints as their subjects because they received their office and authority directly from God, to whom alone they gave answer. We might question whether this was the reason for David’s exemption if we have trouble understanding this otherwise.

If we cannot admit to these inconsistencies then we will be “hoist by our own petard,” as thinking individuals will likely not be duped by contrived and convoluted apologetics. Apologetics, by its very nature, assumes that truth is already self-evident and must only be explained to the uninitiated. It asserts that religion is too obscure to be understood by the common man and therefore must be explained. It is the refutation of a “simple” gospel, replacing it with a hidden gnosis known only by the elect who are guardians of this intricate knowledge. This begs the question then as to how anyone may be saved who does not comprehend such knowledge. If the answer is that they may be saved in spite of their lack of understanding, then perhaps the justification for these explanations evaporates. In other words, the apologetics become irrelevant.

This may be the key to understanding inspiration in general and Proverbs in particular: relevance. When faced with conflicting aphorisms, a determination of which is inspired counsel may be whether or not it is relevant to a given situation. For instance, there may be times when joining into an argument with obviously foolish persons is futile and even detrimental to one’s reputation as those looking on might simply feel yet another fool has joined the debate. At other times, it might be advisable to jump into the argument to bring an otherwise out-of-control war of words to a conclusion. In that case, the role of peacemaker may be justifiable. Purpose and circumstances will determine relevance, and relevance then may determine God’s will in the matter.

In making these determinations, it may be helpful to understand that God’s will seems to far oftener land on the side of compassion and mercy as opposed to judgment and censure. Even when judgment is the result, it, too, is often tempered with mercy. When David numbered Israel and the resulting judgment was a plague released upon the land, David interceded with the Lord, and the destroying angel spared Jerusalem.[xvi] God is loving and merciful and any understanding of inspiration that distorts that picture may find a conflict between a literalistic application of God’s commands to the sinner in comparison to God’s loving compassion toward that sinner as demonstrated in the life of Christ. The former only brings condemnation and death. The latter is the same breath of life that flowed through the Messianic line and eventually brought life to each of us.

[i] Genesis 1:27-28

[ii] Revelation 12:7-9

[iii] Genesis 3:12

[iv] Genesis 3:13

[v] Genesis 3:!0

[vi] Romans 3:10, 23

[vii] Acts 2:38

[viii] Proverbs 26:4-5

[ix] Joshua 2, 6

[x] Deuteronomy 20:17

[xi] Ezra 9

[xii] Deuteronomy 23:3

[xiii] 2 Samuel 11

[xiv] Leviticus 20:10, Numbers 35:31

[xv] Matthew 1:1-17

[xvi] 1 Chronicles 21



This Commentary is a Service of Still Waters Ministry



If you wish to receive these weekly commentaries direct to your e-mail inbox for free, simply send an e-mail to:


Scripture marked (NIV) taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission. NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® and NIV® are registered trademarks of Biblica, Inc. Use of either trademark for the offering of goods or services requires the prior written consent of Biblica US, Inc.




If you want a paperback copy of the current Sabbath School Bible Study Quarterly, you may purchase one by clicking here and typing the word "quarterly" into the search box.