This is our second journey into the Scriptures as a regular devotional. Last quarter we were told that gathering together as a group might be a health hazard, so online study seemed a reasonable alternative. Now, it has become a habit. Enjoy with us as we enter two pieces of the Bible's wisdom literature as written
Proverbs along with the Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes form the section of Wisdom Literature within our cannon of Scriptures. Outside the cannon, Solomon contributed the apocryphal book the Wisdom of Solomon. King Solomon is not often disputed as the author of Proverbs although Agur, Son of Jakeh (30:1-33) & King Lemuel (31:1-9 & possibly 31:10-31) contributed.
We will recall Solomon was the second child of King David & Bathsheba. Their first child was taken as a part of the punishment for King David's sins of adultery and murder preceding his birth (2 Samuel 6).
The Lord loved Solomon and told His Prophet, Nathan, that his name would be Jedidiah (loved of the Lord).
Proverbs was written as early as 10th century BC but compiled as late as 700 BC. King Hezekiah compiled much of the text from 726 to 698 BC.
The purpose of the book was to learn & apply the fear of the Lord to life.
Introduction (Proverbs 4:1-27)
King David was called the man closest to God’s own heart (Acts 13:22). King Solomon learned much from his father and hoped to give his son the instruction to save his life and keep his heart focused on the Lord. When Solomon was older, he let his wives entice him away from God toward others gods. Solomon already understood how easy it was to lose focus and get sidetracked. He wanted none of that for his son. Just as David told Solomon to seek wisdom for protection against foolishness, now Solomon passed on that wisdom to his son. Wisdom would protect him from making the mistakes that would rob his life of respect and honor (Prov 4:1-10). Rather, Solomon cautioned his son that wickedness would lead to sorrow and despair. Life would be gloomy and smothered in darkness (Prov 4:11-19). Instead, Solomon wanted his son to know that a heart turned toward godly wisdom would result in God’s people making godly choices and living out God’s purpose for their lives (Prov 4:20-27).
The Path to Take (Prov 4:11-13)
King Solomon transitions the tense of his efforts to teach his son the way of wisdom into past tense. He adds that he has done his best to lead him in the right paths. The purpose was simple: he wanted his son to walk in wisdom when it came time for him to make choices in life. He wanted him to walk in the certainty that the steps he chose in his path would not be hindered by error or confusion. Whether he was walking purposefully or running to cover distances, his steps would be sure and he would not stumble or fall.
Solomon follows with a few words on the great value of instruction. The words “Take firm hold of instruction” mean that Solomon wants his son to get a hard grasp on the instruction that he provided. He adds two admonitions followed by a justification. The three admonitions are hold fast to instruction, do not let it go and keep it. The exhortation to hold fast lends some knowledge or experience on Solomon’s part that instruction is something that might slip away if not held on to with a firm grasp. If we view the word instruction as a synonym for knowledge or know how, as in the previous three studies, then holding fast means plant the instructions in the mind in a way as to keep it fresh and ready for new applications. The second imperative says not to let the instruction go. So, we have “hold on very tightly” and “never let it go.” Third, we are told to “keep it.” One of the definitions of the Hebrew word nāṣar is preserve. It sounds like Solomon is saying hold on tight, never let go and take care of instruction for immediate use at all times. The application or “why” phase is because instruction (knowledge) is life, itself. How important does Solomon believe this is to his son? It is life, itself – very strong statement.
The Path to Avoid (Prov 4:16-19)
The knowledge of which path to take is of equal importance with which path to avoid. Solomon remains consistent with the idea of staying far away from wicked or evil people. Here, he tells us to stay away from the path occupied by wicked or evil people. Do not enter their path and stay out of their way. Living a Godly life is full of opportunities to stumble. Solomon is well aware of this, so his advice is simply to stay away from these kinds of people. It is a lot easier to make absolute, clear-cut statements than it is to keep them. In day-to-day life, we are almost certain to end up doing business, meeting in the market, being comembers of an HOA or even running into evil people in the neighborhood. So, I think a better take away from this admonition might be to stay away for any option to be influenced by these people. Solomon strengthens his advice by saying to avoid them, pass not by them, turn away from them and pass away from them. The strength of his statements is hard to miss.
He justifies his stance by saying in verse 16 that these kinds of people do not even sleep until they have done some form of mischief. Further, he says, they cannot stay asleep until cause someone to fall or fail. They need the experience of causing evil so badly that their nourishment comes from wickedness and violence. That is, their bread is wickedness and their wine is violence. (Sounds like he must have lived in a time much like ours with all the recent riots and ungodliness.)
In verse 18, Solomon abruptly comes off the discussion of wicked and evil people to discuss just or the righteous. The signal in the writing is the first word, “but.” Sounds like “as opposed to these” are the just or righteous. Their path is as a shining light; i.e., bright and shining instead of the dark and gloomy of the wicked. The influence of the light of the just shining on you is that your day is brighter, your favor in God’s eyes is sharper and your personal peace is enhanced by being around people who are positive and supportive. The light pur out by the just shines more and more into our lives until we find ourselves living a perfect day for the Lord.
The Choice to Make (Prov 4:20-23)
Now for the crux of the matter of making choices. The content of verse 20 has been articulated earlier; that is, Solomon’s exhortation for his son to pay close attention to what he is saying. Some would ask why Solomon must exhort his son to listen closely so many times. I think it is because his son must have been an adolescent at this time. At the onset of this stage of life, our young ones seem to wonder why we have so much to say about things that just do not seem that important to them. I think I was well into my thirties before I first quoted the teachings of my father. Somehow my father’s wisdom increased significantly as I grew in age. Amen?
So, Solomon wants not only his son’s presence at these sessions, he wants his attention, his ear and his concentration (a tall expectation if the son was an adolescent). Further, as verse 21 states, Solomon wants his son to store these teachings in his heart and not to let them escape. They are, after all, life to all those who know and apply these truths and a source of mental and psychological health for all who live in them (verse 22). Verse 23 hits the true wisdom of Solomon. He says here “out of it (the heart) are the issues of life.” Proverbs 23:7 says “For as he thinkest in his heart, so is he.” Two very strong and important statements, but how do they fit into daily living?
Regardless of your level of education or personal wisdom, people will determine who you are by what you wear, how you are groomed and how you present yourself verbally. Try an experiment sometime: dress in your workout clothes and walk into a Lincoln or Cadillac dealership. Most often a salesperson will look up and remain seated while you walk around the luxury cars on display. Go home, groom yourself and dress in attractive (not exotic) clothes. You will be noticed and someone will get away from his or her desk to greet you and offer to help you. In short, if you do not look like you belong in a luxury car, a luxury car dealer will not try to place you there. Most who are reading these words are representatives of the Lord, Jesus Christ. As we work to draw people to Jesus Christ, we need to start by being approachable by others. What you believe about yourself, the feelings of your core – your heart, will come out from you whether you intend it or not.
The Choice to Make (Prov 4:24-27)
In verses 20-23, Solomon introduced verses 24-27 by saying these are the things that come out of your heart for others to see. First, clean up your personal diction. One of the pastors who mentored me early in my journey for the Lord asked me to meet him in his office to discuss a few theological issues I had asked of him. While alone in his office, he let a few expletives slip into his conversation. I lost some of my respect for him; not because I wanted to be judgmental, but because that is not holy speech regardless of to whom you are speaking or the circumstances.
Solomon says put away from yourself a forward mouth and perverse lips. He is telling his son that how he choses his diction will impact how others receive him. Those who use foul or colorful language are not signaling that they want to help people advance in their dedication to putting the old self away and putting on the new self. The same must be said about those whose company we typically seek. After cleaning up our diction (verse 24), we are to concentrate on looking others in the eyes when we speak to them (verse 25). He says let your eyes look right on; that is, look directly into the eyes of the person with whom you are speaking. A person cannot trust a person who cannot look directly into their eyes. Is not that how we could tell our children were not being honest with us? That does not mean you should be trying to “stare everyone down,” but it does mean that eye contact is extremely important.
Next (verse 26), Solomon exhorts his son to watch out for where he is going and go there purposely. People get a clue for what kind of a person we are by how we look, how we speak, where we go and the company we keep. Verse 27 says we must not look to the right or to the left for uncleanliness or perversion. We must keep our eyes fixed on the prize of bringing glory to God in all situations. Solomon says simply, “remove your foot from evil.”
Understand the Context (Proverbs 3:13-35)
King Solomon continues to document the teaching of his son. He knows that as long as the child will listen, he must use that open door to shape a part of the next generation for Jesus Christ. Now, Solomon had wide experience in trying things that did not work. In Ecclesiastes he summarized what he learned after trying everything else, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13). While there are countless things we wish we could have lived in the places of our children, if we could have lived them, the children would still have chosen to live those things again for themselves.
It comes down to the basics of knowledge versus wisdom. Solomon knew a lot about living life. He gained an abundance of that knowledge from watching his father, King David. But wisdom is knowledge applied. Education provides much of the knowledge we need and experience provides more, but learning how to best apply that knowledge is the true making of a wise person. I watched my children grow and live the lives they chose for themselves. I remembered many of the experiences we lived together, and I taught them certain ways to apply that knowledge. But faced with the many problems of life, my children did not make decisions that way I would have. Sometimes I thought they did things differently simply to express their independence. Only living life gives us the tools we need to succeed. Solomon, like many of us, hoped to save his children from some of life’s most hurtful lessons, but life itself remains the best teacher for applying knowledge and becoming wise.
Solomon, like most of us, wanted his son to experience joy in life. He sets the context of teaching his son by saying, “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding” (Prov 3:13). So, Solomon sets about to help his son experience joy and happiness in life. It is important for all people to understand that setting an environment of happiness and pleasantness in all kinds of interactions create responses consistent with that environment. Showing concern for how others feel about doing business with us can make even the most difficult tasks easier to conduct and more pleasant to follow-up. Solomon also wanted his son to know that not everyone wants to know our personal opinions or preferences regarding a subject. But approaching interactions in a spirit of happiness and concern for the feelings of others will make conducting the business more pleasurable for both parties, it will make executing the follow-on business much smoother.
With that said, the context of this Scripture passage takes the next obvious step. That is, if having this wisdom is so important to conducting business and personal affairs, where can I get some of it for myself. First, look for it in the person and character of God. He reveals himself to us throughout the Scripture for the purpose of allowing us to know Him and to be like Him as we go about conducting even the most routine business. Wisdom produces a life of pure conscience. People interacting with us can see our intent is pure and we can be trusted to keep our part of the contract and help them when invited.
Understand the Context (Proverbs 3:13-35, Cont.)
Solomon wanted his son to be known for his correct and fair treatment of those with whom he did business. When countless people asked for advice on how to approach the king’s son, he wanted the word to report that his son was an easy, fair and joyful person to deal with. As for his son, if he would yield his life to God, He would support and reward all forms of good behaviors while making sure that unfair, harsh or antisocial conduct in business goes unrewarded.
Confidence Gained (Prov 3:21-26)
Solomon established the basics of his advice in this teaching by telling his son to keep wisdom and discretion in front of him at all time. Once we learn the most successful way to apply our knowledge, we must keep those lessons in the front part of the mind. When faced with choices of how to do things, do them to the benefit of all involved. There are dozens of acceptable ways to do any task, but which of those choices will accomplish the task while leaving everyone involved content with the results.
Solomon says the results of such wisdom and discernment will be life for the soul and grace for the neck. Peace for one’s soul is a reward well worth gaining. Some of the teachings of our age say we should always look for “win-win solutions.” That is, when two people sit down at the negotiating table, both can leave the table believing they won. Two unacceptable alternatives are the “win-lose” or “win-don’t care” solutions. The former enters negotiations with a goal of winning and forcing the opponent to lose. This is the “getting victory” negotiation. The latter is the idea of winning no matter what happens to the opponent. The “win-win” solution is the only one that allows the negotiator to leave the table with peace in his soul. And the result of establishing the reputation as a “win-win” negotiator is that people will enter negotiations believing you will seek a solution with benefits for both sides. It will adorn or grace your neck.
Verse 23 suggests that conducting all aspects of life this way will keep you safe and keep you from stumbling. When we take advantage of or harm a person in our dealings, it produces anger, and in some cases, that anger results in aggressive forms of getting revenge. A person never wins when the opponent in negotiations walks away feeling abused. Verse 24 says it impacts one’s rest at night. It’s often said that frequently looking over one’s shoulder produces a sore neck. It can also result in tripping and falling down because of watching the past rather than the present.
Conducting a business style of wisdom and discernment also promotes sweet and restful sleep. Whether the business is personal, professional or ecclesiastical, seeking the best solution for all involve brings peace when we reflect on the happenings of that completed day. The Bible says that “when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Note there is no mention of any penalty for trying to be like Him now. In fact, John also says, “Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6, NLT). Then one can say, the Lord is my confidence.
Kindness Expressed (Prov 3:27-30)
Verse 27 continues the idea of living in peace. It says we should not hold back good from all those who deserve it if the power is within our hands to do it. The positive end of this verse is that the good we can do should be the good we give to all those with whom we are associated. The negative end is that we do not always have the power to set the mood of negotiations nor the goals. So, we should do good to all when we can, or as long as we have the power to do it. We are not guilty for solution that are forced upon us by those who do have the power.
I recall being sent to a government organization with the directed goal to refuse a renewal of a contract on which my company was losing money. The company forbade me to negotiate higher rates or fix the contract. The Chief Executive simply did not want to do that kind of business any longer. The customer knew that it would take months to replace us, so his goal was to renew us and take time to replace us. It was a bad situation because we had over 200 people scattered over four states representing that government agency and they had no way to keep them on the job. My instructions were to advise the customer we were not interested in renewing the contract under any circumstances. This was certainly a case where doing good for the customer was not within my power. I did, however, remind the customer that they were permitted to do contract awards to small, disadvantaged companies without using a competitive award process. They could bring on such a contractor for short period of performance with instructions to hire my entire staff and work until a routine contract award process could be done. The customer took my advice, I was able to keep all commitments to my employer and my employees were able to continue their work without my company’s involvement.
Verses 28 and 29 talk about dealing with one’s neighbor. Now, keep in mind Jesus’ response when the lawyer asked Him “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:25-37). It was not the priest or the Levite who passed by the beaten man without helping him although one might expect those two Godly men to help. It was the Samaritan who helped the wounded Jewish man. In those days, the relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans was such that there would be absolutely no expectation that the Samaritan would help, but he did. When Jesus asked which of the three men was a neighbor to the wounded man, they all agreed it was the Samaritan. Come to verses 28 and 29 with that though in mind. Verse 28 says simply do not delay doing good to people. If it is within your power to give to the person what he asks, give then and not tomorrow or some other day. Do not delay or put off the neighbor’s request.
Verse 29 goes more general and says not to treat your neighbor badly. Solomon says this makes sense because the neighbor lives near to you and could make life less comfortable if provoked by your treatment of him. Verse 30 goes even more general by saying that we should not strive (struggle or oppose) against any person unless provoked by that person. Of course, if one considers Jesus’ teachings on forgiveness, we know we should forgive that provocation quickly. Paul says we should not even let the sun go down on that anger (Eph 4:26). So, kindness expressed means being kind to all people; even those who might not be kind in return.
Blessing Secured (Prov 3:31-35)
Verses 31 through 35 return to the Hebrew writing style called parallelism. Each verse begins with a statement of fact followed by a limiting clause, separated by the negative conjunction ‘but.’ In verse 31, the initial statement is Solomon admonishing his son not to envy or look up to a person with an oppressive or violent behavior. Instead, Solomon suggests his son not copy any traits of such a person. The impact of the parallelism is to highlight the negativity of the violent person and emphasize these are not behaviors to emulate.
Verse 32’s focus is on the froward person. This person is contrary and hard to deal with. Note that the word ‘for’ introduces this verse. It implies that verse 32 relates directly to verse 31. So, when Solomon address the forward person, he is continuing his discussion of the oppressive person. Solomon says this kind of person is an abomination to the Lord; an embarrassment to his Creator. Solomon warns that this kind of person might become a threat because he likes to make friends with Godly people.
The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked is the beginning of verse 33. Being consistent with the opening verses, the Lord maintains that He is not in the camp of the oppressor, the forward nor the wicked. Doing the right things and treating others fairly and evenly are the behaviors the Lord endorses every bit as strongly as He stands against these negative behaviors. He says here He blesses the home of the just or the righteous. In 34, He scorns the scorners but give grace to the humble. Those who look down upon the righteous will be looked down upon by the Lord. Going to the next level, He promises an inheritance of glory for the wise but nothing but shame; for those who do anything to assist the foolish.
As Solomon writes and teaches his son regarding the characteristics he wishes for him to embody as he grows into manhood, he also reveals more and more of the character of the Lord. The things the Lord blesses are things He wants for each of His subjects. He blesses these things because each behavior blessed causes joy and fellowship amongst His people. Also, revealing how He feels about these issues reveals how we will see Him when we see him face-to-face. If Solomon’s son takes each of these instructions to heart, there will be no surprises when he arrives in Heaven.
Introduction (Proverbs 2:1-3:12)
The Scripture continues to show King Solomon directly addressing his son to influence his thinking along the right path. The king’s goals were the same as every family at every level in society. Fathers and mothers want the best for their families. Their combined role from the Lord from the instant of conception for as long as the adult child will hear, is to “train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Prov 22:6). The wisdom of the parent already knows that the child will reach an age in the natural preparation for leaving their mother and father to establish their own home. At that point, they will question every precept of life and why the parents made the choices they made. We will suffer as the child lets us know that we have chosen the wrong way at nearly every juncture.
Unfortunately, in our present culture, that age comes during the years the children are still under the family roof. For most families, living under the family roof means living under the family’s authority. Try explaining that to a twenty-year-old college student! So, the number of years when a father or mother can have a conversation with an open-minded child is severely limited. Solomon knew he had just a few precious years to make the cultural difference in his son or the opportunity would be gone.
In this portion of Solomon’s instructions to his son, he wanted to offer the direction he had learned from the Lord. Solomon had come to know that God provided wisdom to His people, and if they chose to live in it, they would experience success, safety and security (2:1-11). God’s wisdom was particularly important for young people to keep them from yielding to temptations offered by two groups of people. The first were evil men who were inconsistent in every way. Their advice could not be trusted because they were still confused for themselves. The second source was evil women who were totally immoral. They would think nothing of violating their marital vows to cause a young person to tarnish his reputation (2:16-19). Those who followed God’s wisdom were rewarded with the joys of life while those rejecting it would be never have peace (2:20-22).
Today’s material shows how God offers direction for those who will accept it. He allows us to walk humbly in the knowledge that we are walking in His ways. We can measure His presence by our willingness to trust His wisdom, honor Him with our resources and accept His discipline (3:1-12).
Remember (Prov 3:1-4)
As advertised in the previous paragraph, our starting point finds Solomon exhorting his son to follow his law and commandments (3:1). Note in both cases, Solomon uses the pronoun “my” to specify exactly which law and what commandments he wanted his son to remember and keep. In each case, Solomon exhorted his son to personalize the teaching he received from his father (3:2). And because it is coming from the father to the son, the commandment to honor thy father and mother adds weight and promise: weight because it is also Moses Law and promise because the commandment offers life, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Ex 20:12).
Verses 3:3-4 show the same kind of doublet shown in 3:1-2. The first verse provides the directive while the second verse presents the results of following that directive. Verse 3:3 exhorts the son to keep mercy and truth tightly around his neck and in his heart. “Around his neck” to be visible for all to see and “in his heart” to be the driver of his behavior from within. Solomon offers the additional blessing of peace. This can be realized as peace with God and peace with those around us. “Keeping God’s Word” brings peace to much of life, but this cannot be a superficial performance. Much is said about the depth of people’s feelings or the sincerity of one’s walk. People can easily see when a person is “acting out” and when a person is “bringing the performance from the depth of their being;” i.e., the heart. Solomon is exhorting his son to be a deep and sincere person rather than shallow or superficial actor simply delivering a performance. The former will last while the latter will be a flash in the pan.
Trust (Prov 3:5-8)
Proverbs 3:5 is one of the most oft quoted references in Scripture, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” There are many situations where decisions must be made which have far-reaching consequences. In the deliberation process, it is normal for a believer to speak with the Lord to see if He has a preference in the decision. Here Solomon makes sure that his son will see God as the sure anchor of the ship of life. While our judgment is often corrupted by one influence or another, the Lord sees through all the distractions and delivers unbiased advice. So, trust in Him and stop depending on your own understanding of things. We seldom have or even can get all the facts needed to make perfect decisions. The Lord, on the other hand, already has all the facts. And. If we will simply acknowledge our trust in Him, he will provide direction to our paths which is flawless.
Verse 3:7 is a favorite for many believers. Humankind seems bent on learning things once and then believing they have it down. They might think it wise to consult with the Lord on this decision or that, but in general, they would rather say, “I’ve got this one. I’ve learned the wisdom of God on yesterday’s decision, so I can do today’s deciding all alone.” This is what “leaning on your own understanding” is all about. It almost looks like we wish to repeat adolescence again. Mom and Dad told us how to handle things when we were younger, but we think we have transcended that level of existence. That is what “being wise in your own eyes” looks like. How silly it is to think we have outgrown our need for the Lord. When those kinds of thoughts enter my mind, I am quick to remember that God has the capability and full authority to knock me down a notch or two whenever He feels it necessary. Sometimes God’s adjustments can be very painful.
So, get a head start: “Fear the Lord, and depart from evil.” Keep the Lord in His appropriately elevated position in your life, and He will provide direction and the peace of knowing you made the correct decision because you consulted with the Master, first. The end of verse 3:7 says, “depart from evil.” Evil is all around us. The devil can get no greater pleasure than to get those little victories over one of God’s people. C. S. Lewis did an excellent job of showing this battle in his infamous book, The Screwtape Letters. When the Patient (assigned client) of the young demon, Wormwood, gives his life to the Lord, Wormwood laments to Uncle Screwtape, the senior demon. The uncle assures Wormwood the battle is far from over; in fact, he says, the fun is just beginning.
The second part of the book deals with Uncle Screwtape instructing young Wormwood on how to destroy the effectiveness of the new Christian’s walk with the Lord. One of the most successful tricks from the pit is to tempt the new or weak Christian to “sample evil” rather than jumping all the way in. Millions have responded to the “sample evil” believing it was not fully sin. Later, they find themselves trapped in a sin habit with no simple way out.
Solomon warns his son that shunning all forms of evil is the best practice. Shunning evil does away with any attempt to determine how much evil is okay. The answer is none of it. Rather, depart for all forms of evil and get ready for the blessings that result. Solomon says it will be health to thy naval and marrow to thy bones. Most people can feel and recall the abdominal discomfort that comes from disobedience to God. No amounts of Tums or Pepto-Bismol can cool the burn or relax the tension of rejecting God’s will. Instead, agree with God without a fight. It will prevent the tummy anxiety and replenish that strength from inside the bones.
Honor (Prov 3:9-10)
Here, the Scripture speaks to how we should honor the Lord (Prov 3:9-10). Verse 3:9 presents the premise and how we might honor the Lord as we approach His throne. King Solomon declares in short terms that we must honor the Lord with our substance and with the first fruits of all our increase. The first phrase could be interpreted to mean that “we must honor the Lord with whatever have.” It implies that we must honor Him with all our wealth. So, there is no question we are to honor the Lord. The only question can be to honor Him with what. The Hebrew word is hon. It means rich, wealth or substance. In other words, honor the Lord with whatever you have.
In addition to that, as indicated by the conjunction “and,” we must honor Him with the first fruits of all our increase. Exodus 23:16 specifies the Feast of the Harvest where the first fruits of the harvest are given to the Lord. In Leviticus 23, Moses goes on to document how we are to determine the first fruits of grain, livestock and land. Malachi 3 admonishes those who rob God by not providing the tithes and offerings to the Lord’s House. The first fruits are associated with both terms. The tithe is the 10 percent required of all we have. The tithe is to be taken to the “storehouse.” Most would agree the New Testament storehouse is the church. Some people have argued with me about whether the tithe should be based on the net income or the gross. I cannot imagine standing at the judgment seat of Christ explaining why I based my 10 percent payment on post-tax income rather than pretax income. Nevertheless, Malachi says, “10 Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. 11 And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the Lord of hosts. 12 And all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land, saith the Lord of hosts” (Mal 3:10-12). Here is an authorized test of the Lord.
I recall many years ago I decided I would test the Lord beyond the 10 percent just to see what He would do. At the end of the year when I totaled everything up for taxes, I learned that God had given me pay raises during the year that exactly equaled the increased tithe I gave. I was angry at myself. Had I increased my tithe to 50 or 60 percent, I could have been rich!!! Seriously, there is no way a person can out give the Lord.
One more comment, some reference Paul’s comment on the cheerful giver in 2 Corinthians 9:7 as a model for New Testament giving. Paul says, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.” Recall that Paul was collecting OFFERINGS for the saints in Jerusalem in those collections from the early churches. Those gifts had nothing to do with the tithe. The tithe still goes to the storehouse, first. Offerings are above and beyond tithing. So, let’s put an end to the comments like, “I’m gonna give $100 to Annie Armstrong this year, so I’ll decrease my tithe by $100.” Check what Jesus said in Matthew 23:23 regarding the tithe, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” In other words, they were right in paying their tithes, but they should have given to Annie Armstrong in addition to those tithes.
Accept (Prov 3:11-12)
It seems that almost all discussion about the greatness of God and how merciful and kind He is to us leave out how He also has to correct us when we refuse obedience. Experiencing the process of being made holy (sanctification) is a daily walk with the Lord as He enhances our good points and fixes our bad points. When we are born again in Jesus Christ (justified) all our sins are moved under the blood of Christ and we are no longer headed to condemnation for them (Rom 8:1). In sanctification, we go beyond escaping the penalty of sin to learning our power over sin through the newly acquired, indwelling Holy Spirit. As each temptation comes our way, we learn we can beat that temptation through God’s power He deposited in us.
First, we serve a Master who was tempted in the same ways we are but did not sin (Heb 4:15). Immediately after Jesus was baptized, He went into the wilderness and was tempted by Satan (Luke 4:2). The devil tempted Him with the same three methods he uses for each of us. John calls the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). The devil knew Jesus was hungry, so he tempted him to turn stones into bread (lust of the flesh). The devil took Jesus to the top of the Temple where He could see all the kingdoms of the Earth and offered them to Jesus (lust of the eyes). Then the devil challenged Jesus to throw Himself down to prove He was the Son of God (the pride of life). Jesus refused each of these temptation by quoting Scripture. We are frequently challenged with the same three temptations. When we learn the power of the Holy Spirit within us, and apply it to total defeat of the devil at every juncture, our sanctification is completed, we are finished being made holy and we are ready for Heaven.
So, what does all this have to do the chastening of the Lord? Chastening is a tool the Lord uses to bring us into line with His goal for us. Every time we succeed in a battle against satanic temptation, or simply defeating our own self-will, God will give us one of His “Well Done” feelings. When we fail, He will correct us and allow other temptations to allow us more opportunities for success. Solomon tells his son not to hate the Lord’s chastisements nor should he allow himself to grow tired of them. He continues that the Lord loves the ones He chastises. Just as we can know our earthly fathers loves us when they correct us for making mistake as children. If our fathers and mothers never corrected us for errors, we would never have grown up with those lessons learned. So, we are to love the Lord while we are being made holy, and show patience with Him just as He demonstrates infinite patience with us. The Lord loves us infinitely more than any earthly father or mother is able. He is preparing us for life with Him in Heaven. Very few of us would deny that we are not quite ready.
Introduction (Proverbs 1:1-32)
King Solomon was the author of the wisdom books of the Bible including Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon. He also authored an apocalyptic piece entitled the Wisdom of Solomon. His zeal to find wisdom, understand it and apply it to living life seems insatiable. He describes wisdom as a female in his texts (Prov 1:20). She is one calling out in the public street; inviting all who will hear to come in and hear God’s wisdom.
Much of proverbs is couched in advice from father to son. He begins his advice with a simple exhortation for his son to live wisely (vs. 1:8-19). The father advises that there are plenty of evil people out there who will call him to violence, murder and theft. He predicts that those who lead in this direction will not only fail in their endeavors but will lose their personal lives as well.
The most oft quoted verse in Proverbs is, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline (Prov 1:7). In short, wise people hear God’s call and live within His boundaries.
Starting Point (Prov 1:7)
As advertised in the opening paragraph, our starting point is the same as the most oft quoted verse: Proverbs 1:7. Like much of Solomon’s writing, Proverbs is written using the Hebrew literary style called Parallelism, that is, each verse is comprised of two statements made together but used to enhance the impact of either taken alone.
Here Solomon is speaking to one seeking wisdom and another one holding wisdom and discipline in contempt. The seeker is one who is starting on the journey. He wants knowledge and is advised that the very beginning of his search for knowledge must be in fear of the Lord. The Hebrew word for fear here is yirʾâ (Bible Explorer 4.0, 2006). It means to have moral reverence for something or someone. This usage is in the feminine form. So, Solomon is telling his son that he needs to have moral reverence for the Lord as the beginning of his quest for knowledge. Frequent synonyms for the Hebrew word for fear here are honor, respect, adoration and reverence. If his son will approach the Lord in these ways, he will be on the right path to gain true knowledge.
Starting Point (Prov 1:7, Continued)
The parallel phrase is in contrast to the legitimate seeker. It characterizes a foolish approach, that is, an approach displaying the lowest form of intellectual application. This person will hold knowledge and self-control in contempt. The fool is the one who professes himself to be wise but expresses his true naivete’ through his own words. If customers can’t find it, it doesn’t exist. Clearly list and describe the services you offer. Also, be sure to showcase a premium service.
Path of Obedience (Prov 1:8-9)
Solomon makes the father-to-son advice model obvious in verse 1:8. The parallelism is in the two phrases “Hear the instruction of thy father” and “Forsake not the law of thy mother.” This time the parallelism provides support for a common comment regarding the immense value of a son receiving the counsel of his parents. The Lord added to the seriousness of obeying one’s parents by assigning one of the Ten Commandments to address it. The Lord said, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee” (Ex 20:12). Paul says it is the first commandment with promise, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise) (Eph 6:1-2).
In verse 1:9, Solomon creates even more focus in honoring one’s parents by adding that one who listens to his parents in this manner will wear an ornament of grace upon his head and highly valued chains (think gold and silver) around his neck. This is the strongest model of a child’s obedience to his parents anywhere. It basically promises God’s visible rewards for everyone who follows this advice. And, it links together the ideas of seeking after wisdom with interpersonal family relationships. The culture of the family is passed on through learning from family leaders. The cultures passed on from generation to generation in America, makes America the success it has been.
Resist Sin (Prov 1:10-14)
The father reveals the wisdom gained by experiencing life through the decades. He can confidently tell the son to resist the enticing words of sinners because he has learned, either personally or through watching others, that listening to sinners results in sin. The natural sorrow of finding out that sin leads to more sin and the more one gives in the sinners the deeper the next invitation will go. One finds out how easily the cycle of sin can take over a life and can steal the pleasure of peace with God and replace it with the sorrow of guilt.
So, the father provides examples of things an enticing sinner might try to use on his son; probably because these things have been tried on him. First, recall the warnings from the Apostle Peter, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We can see real life examples of this in the news today. People are being bused into cities and towns all across the world to exploit the sorrow, grief and anger we feel over the taking of human life by those we pay to protect us. But those bused in tempt us to get even by destroying stores and businesses to provide jobs and services for the people living in those cities. The result is that when the smoke clears and those bused in are bused back out again, we have to live for months or years in the absence of the jobs and services that were once in our city but now are gone. We will have to pay higher prices for everything we purchase because insurance rates for those stores have doubled or tripled. Business owners who were once a part of our communities will go to places where they feel more safe from being burned down again. The enticing words of the sinners bused in have resulted in significant loss that may take an entire generation to overcome. And the cost of overcoming will be out of the pockets of those who were tempted to loot the stores and businesses and fill their houses with free merchandise that is not free at all. We are living the examples of Solomon’s warning from twenty-seven centuries ago. Uncanny!
Sin’s Results (Prov 1:15-19)
So, Solomon gives the advice to his sons which echo the warnings I would give to my sons, “My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood” (Prov 1:15-16). In our real life example, one man tried to protect his store and was murdered by one of the rioters. The young man’s face was on a video of him entering the store and he was arrested. Police later found that he fired the shots that killed the man in the store.
So, the store was destroyed, the man lost his life and the young rioter will likely never see life outside prison again. Other rioters were caught on the same film and are being charged with accomplices to the murder. They will likely spend the next decade in prison. So, what are sin’s results?
Solomon’s situation was the same. His son was approaching the age where he would be out on his own. Sinners will want to be near him because of his unlimited wealth. They will entice him to go with them as they get involved in sin that will cost others property, life and future. “For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood” (Prov 1:16). The shocking truth is that the gain really has very little value and exceedingly short period of time. They would all be arrested soon.