On all sides the negative seems to surround us. We swim in the sea of “No.” And we don’t like it. You don’t have to teach a toddler to say this short word. He learns it immediately and repeats it countless times a day—maybe because he hears it from his parents so very often. No wonder, through the years our attitude to “no” becomes . . . well, negative.
But the negative has a tremendous power in our lives and in our language. Many writers tapped into the rhetorical use of negation in their work. Statesmen employed it in their speeches to emphasize their point. It’s enough to remember Kennedy’s famous “Ask not . . . .”
The release of Steven Spielberg’s latest film, Lincoln, triggered an increased interest in Abraham Lincoln and sparked the publication of many books and articles about him. Some of them mention Lincoln’s use of negation to persuade and to call to action. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal points out that Lincoln’s “rhetorical efforts were in the service of resisting both the expansion of slavery and the destruction of the Union,” and this resistance gave his negative constructions a “moral focus.” Nobody can deny a moral dimension of his striking quote: “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”
In Scripture, the negative shapes our sense of morality. Many books of the Bible use negation as a rhetorical device: eight out of the Ten Commandments use negative constructions. And of course, the book of Proverbs—our study this month—is full of “no’s,” “don’ts,” and
As we read the pages of Proverbs, let us set aside a toddler mentality and see the positive in the negative. As Christians, we have the power and the ability to obey the Word of God. With His Spirit in our hearts, the life of wisdom is possible for us. As followers of Christ, we can say “Yes!” to all the “don’ts” in the book of Proverbs. In his letter to the Corinthian church Paul wrote, “For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ. And so through him the ‘Amen’ is spoken by us to the glory of God” (2 Cor. 1:20).
Dear readers, we hope you have already said “Yes” to Christ in your life and have allowed Him to work in your heart. Our prayer is that in our study of the Bible this month, you’ll say “Amen” to all the things God will show you in the book of Proverbs. And all of us at Today in the Word want to thank you for saying “Yes” to supporting this ministry.