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
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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.
Understanding the Context (Songs 5:2–8:14)
Last week we listened in between King Solomon and the Shulamite woman as they expressed their great love for each other with a language familiar to many in love but foreign and strange to those without that experience. Add to that level of discomfort the fact that we knew these words were being spoken back and forth between a couple who were not yet married. Now we tune in to the couple again shortly after their relationship is solemnized; that is, they are now married.
In theological terms, this Bible Book is seen as a figure in its entirety. The relationship is a striking figure of Christ’s relationship with the Church. Each description of Christ’s love is placed in intimate detail of the physical relationship between a man (King Solomon) and his wife (the Shulamite woman). Each detail of the physical relationship between them is a figure of the great depth of love between Christ and His Church. The love described in the premarital setting of last week’s study is intended to show that Christ loved us and gave His life for us while we were still in sin (Rom 5:8). He came after us and pursued us. The pursuit culminated in the marriage, the surrender of the independently minded sinner and the loving God who gave His life for them. Upon that surrender, the marriage or legitimacy of the relationship is established.
Most of us already know of the vast differences between the idealistic environment of two people in love and just starting their time of sharing their marital residence. The couple feels like everything else in the world is an unwelcomed interruption of the new experiences of their love and new level of sharing between them. In Songs 5:2 – 6:13, we witnessed the first challenges to “upset the orange cart” of the lovers trying to focus on their love and ignore the realities of life around them. We hear the fears of the Shulamite as she wakes and finds her husband is missing. We see any fear or insecurity whisked away by the sizable number of soldiers watching over the palace even if the King is withdrawn shortly. The long and the short of it is simple. The challenge was overcome. The lovers were reunited quickly and the victory was had. Just like unchallenged faith is not faith until challenged; unchallenged love is not love until it is tested. Here, unity prevailed, and the marriage strengthen.
The Cry for Companionship (Songs 5:6-8)
Early in chapter 5, King Solomon requested of the Shulamite woman that she open up her love for him as he awaited. Verse 6 opens with her responding by opening to her husband, but he was not there. He had gone elsewhere, and she had no knowledge of where that was. Her soul failed or skipped a beat because she felt alone. She knew the only reason she was there was because of the King, and now the King cannot present himself or protect her in need. Her feelings or imaginations seem to take over for her conscience as she believes she left the palace to find her beloved.
This is the tremendous loss and loneliness felt by those who have their established relationship with Christ but because of the unconfessed sin, guilt or barriers to their total surrender feel their new love has left them. Recall in those times that Jesus is the one who sticks closer than any brother (Prov 18:24). He is the One who will never leave us or forsake us (Heb 13:5). We are securely in God’s hand and no person or thing can remove us from that hand (John 10:27-30).
The evidence of her departure is in her being discovered by the watchmen who went about the city (5:7). In her insecurity, she believes she was caught in her unworthiness of being there on her own behalf; no longer protected by the presence of the king. She finds herself believing she is abused by the authorities there. Not only is she wounded physically, but striped of her vanity veil as well. She has no covering for her hidden sin. She feels she is caught without the trappings of the King’s wife nor does she have the protections of being a virtuous woman (with a veil). She appeals to the young women of Jerusalem to report this episode if they see her beloved before she does. All seems lost.
The Call for Remembering (Songs 5:9)
So, she is asked by the watchmen of the city where her benefactor is. Why is he not there with her? And what makes her beloved so special? How will they know him if they see him? They address her as the fairest of all women, but they want to know how they will recognize her unseen husband if they see him. She has told them and will tell them more of why he is so special to her. The problem is that she is using words of love to describe him and none these words will help them pick him out in a crowd.
I my PhD dissertation, I described the frustration and eventual attrition of many Christian evangelists. The frustration stems from descriptions of the most wonderful Savior in the universe to a group of people who have never experienced that level of love or sacrifice for them as told by those of us who HAVE that experience. The descriptions of our Savior among ourselves result in holy halleluiahs! We could speak for hours of our love for Him who died for us that we might live. We will break into tears and halting speech as we acknowledge the depth of love we feel for Him and we know He has for us. But those who have never experienced Him can only look at us with wide eyes and mouths opened at our love language. The watchmen attending the Shulamite’s description of her husband are caught in the same wonderland of words. How could she expect the loving description she has for her Savior to be understood by these who have never heard? Such is the frustration of the Christian evangelist and his or her greatest challenge.
The Crux for Celebrating (Songs 5:10-16)
And so, here it is. The Shulamite begins her description of her Husband. For you and I, the love language used to describe Him is fitting and proper. But to those who are outside the Kingdom, the words are nothing more than the rantings of a person so deeply in love that reason and wisdom have been long since been left behind. Consider while reading her words how they would look on the WANTED bulletin.
The New Living Translation says it this way:
10 My lover is dark and dazzling, better than ten thousand others!
11 His head is finest gold, his wavy hair is black as a raven.
12 His eyes sparkle like doves beside springs of water;
they are set like jewels washed in milk. (Song 5:10-12, NLT)
The best we might get is that her husband is a white man who has a dark tan. He has black hair that is wavy in appearance. The rest of Song 5:10-12, while extremely descriptive, has very little to do with the actual physical attributes of this man she wants the local watchmen to find for her. How can we understand it and how will it help others to find Him?
The Crux for Celebrating (Songs 5:10-16, Continued)
When the town’s watchmen started to inquire of this man, they called the Shulamite “Oh woman of rare beauty” (Songs 5:9, NLT). This is pertinent in that her personal appearance might give us clues as to something about the husband she seeks. First, we know the woman is dressed in only the finest linen that money can buy. Hence, we they find her husband, they will find a very wealthy man. He will be dressed in the findest clothes just as he clothed his wife. These are attributes while not stated can be inferred by looking at the wife of the man they seek.
But verses 13 – 16 continues her description of her husband:
13 His cheeks are like gardens of spices giving off fragrance. His lips are like lilies, perfumed with myrrh. 14 His arms are like rounded bars of gold, set with beryl. His body is like bright ivory, glowing with lapis lazuli. 15 His legs are like marble pillars set in sockets of finest gold. His posture is stately, like the noble cedars of Lebanon. 16 His mouth is sweetness itself; he is desirable in every way. Such, O women of Jerusalem, is my lover, my friend. (Song 5:13-16, NLT)
Oh, the love this woman must have for this man! I have been in Bible studies where some of the newest Christians give testimony of the Savior they just met and sounded a lot like this. Of course they would not speak in such sensual terms, but their language and the look in their eyes would be the look of love and appreciation for all He gave so that we might live. The Matthew Henry Commentary entitles this section of the woman’s testimony “The Excellencies of Christ.” For those of us who love Him, there are no words to describe Him. Many who try find themselves in tears just to think of the beauty of the man who carried a cross for them. Had there not been but one sinner to die for, He would still have carried the cross for me. O gracious Savior, thank you for buying our freedom from sin. “There is now, therefore, no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1)
Understanding the Context (Songs 1:1-5:1)
The Songs, Song of Solomon or Song of Songs was written by 1000 BC but the form we have was condensed from that in roughly 500 BC. Songs takes its place among Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther as Books to be read during Hebrew Feasts. Songs was read during Passover. The Songs contains only Solomon and 4 others in the text: the woman, the young woman, the narrator and the brothers. God uses the combined voices of these characters to provide His guidance on human relationships, love, marriage and romance.
Solomon opens in verse 1:1 introducing himself as the Book’s author. The text reveals that the woman was from Kedar and that she was forced into labor in the vineyards. Her skin was rough from the constant sun on it. The text also reveals that the forced labor was at the hands of her brothers. The selected passage allows the courtship, challenges & wedding to all be accomplished prior to Songs 5:1.
Preventative Care (Songs 2:15)
Several years ago, we bought a house in Northern Virginia. The house had not been lived in for over a year, so we knew that the coming Spring would require a large investment landscaping. We hired a couple professionals to give us advice and then hired a landscaper to implement our choices. The flowers, bushes and decorations we chose looked absolutely beautiful and perfect in every way. We enjoyed looking over the various shrubs, bushes and flowers as deer, rabbits, foxes and squirrels would walk through our front and back yards on their way to their favorite stream on the other side of the house. It was the perfect mix of living near the Washington DC area for work and near the Bon Air Baptist Church where I was the Senior Pastor.
But within 5 days, all the shrubs, flowers and vegetation we planted was gone. None of our high-priced advisors warned us that the favorite diet of all those beautiful animals that went across our property every day on the way to the stream was the very same flowers, plants and shrubs we planted there. Our investment was eaten and we had to start over.
Songs 2:15 in a more modern translation says, “Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming!” (Song 2:15, NLT). You see Solomon knew the freshly budding grapevines were the favorite food of the little foxes that visited his vineyard. In the context of the vineyard cared for by Solomon and the Shulamite woman, the little foxes would eat the beautiful buds that would grow into the grapes for wine and destroy their profit. The direction in the Scripture is to catch all those little foxes before they could do their damage to the vineyard.
But in the actual context of the Song of Solomon being a figure of Christ and His Church, the little foxes are the temptations and desires to turn the loving relationships of God’s people into something unholy or unrighteous. It could be unholy thoughts between members. It could be the temptations to think more about the church as a business where the driving force is not ministering to the needs of the saints, but making sure the bottom line on the profit and loss statement is always positive. It could be the little foxes of competition between sister churches in a city. Those little advertising schemes that hinder the reaching of souls for Jesus Christ regardless of which church they attend, knowing the real objective is to cheat Satan out of one more soul. The people of the church and the church itself must be holy as their Savior is Holy. They must be unblemished by any hint of sin. So, by all means, catch those little foxes and eliminate them.
Build Trust (Songs 2:16-17)
In the marital relationship, the belonging of one another to the other is the beginning of the relational foundations. Paul centers in on this issue in his description of the Christian marriage in his letter to the church at Colosse at 3:18-19, “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them” (Col 3:18-19). The proper interpretation shows the mutual submission of each to the other. Ephesians 5:21-33 provides detailed application of this mutual love, respect and submission. The level of submission is such that permissions and other formalities have no place in the intimacies of this relationship. The close of verse 16 talks of Solomon feeding among the lilies of her body. Best to leave that description right there.
Verse 17 picks up on the intimacies from 16 to inform the reader that the celebration continued throughout the night, even unto the break of day. They watched together as the shadows of night began to flee away. The Shulamite woman continues to describe the intimate detail of what she has planned after the marriage.
There is a serious warning opportunity here. During the courting relationship, even after the marriage proposal has been accepted and the engagement period is entered, the time is not right for intimate suggestions or actions to begin. The holiness of the relationship deserves the respect of finishing well. Second, premature intimate discussions or actions can invite new problems in to the relationship. Why not simply finish the courtship strongly? Many engagements are broken with the intended marriage never taking place. Engagement is not the same as marriage.
Restraint Required (Songs 3:1-5)
Chapter 3 begins with the woman awaking in her chamber but finding herself appropriately alone. Regardless of the depths of desire she revealed in Chapter 2, she finds herself searching for the one she loves but not finding him there with her. The marriage of Solomon and his Shulamite woman will not take place until Chapter 4. So, all that we have looked at until that point is premarital. Hence, some of my concerns about the intimacy of the conversation between the two. Raising expectations before the time is right can set ideas into motion that are better left to sleep in the background for a while. The Shulamite woman seeks for her love, but does not find him there.
Verse 2 finds her getting out of her bed and going into the city to see if the one she loves is out there somewhere. One cannot miss the message of God’s love for us and His never-ending seeking of us to bring us to Him. We are the bride of Christ and if we are missing from the One who loves us, He will not rest until He gets us back in the place where we ought to be. The Scriptures tell us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. God says, “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deut 31:6). The Shulamite searched for the one she loved and could not find him, and God, Himself will search for us just as certainly as He missed Adam when he strayed from where he should have been with God. His words echo through eternity as He entered the Garden and said, “Adam, where art thou?” (Gen 3:9). And God discovered that while He would never leave or forsake the man, the man had let sin separate him for his Creator. Sin and separation had entered, but God refused to accept it as the final answer. He had committed to send Christ to pay for our sin from the very foundation of the world (Matt 25:35). While it seems to us that we are seeking God, it is God who is seeking us. Jesus summed His mission in this world by saying, “I have come to seek and to saved that which was lost” (Luke 19”10).
The Shulamite finds her love and takes him back to her mother’s chamber, i.e., back to where he belonged. And then Solomon closes the search and the finding with the words of great constraint. Verse 5 says to the daughters of Jerusalem and to us through them, “do not stir up, not awake my love, till he please.” Even with all the premarital discussion and promises, God’s message is to hold off until the time is right. After the wedding of Songs 4, the time will be right.
Introduction (Prov 30:1–31:31)
The references for this body of Scripture clearly places us at the last chapter in the Book of Proverbs. The overall context of the study includes chapters 30 and 31. Each of these chapters also gives us a new name to consider as its author. Chapter30 introduces the name Agur as its writer while chapter 31 uses King Lemuel.
Commentators suggest that Agur may well have been a pseudonym for Solomon or a worker under him. Agur admits to insufficient power to know or understand God on his own behalf. He wisely references God’s Word as the only true source for knowing God’s character. It is unfortunate that this piece of wisdom is hidden in this somewhat obscure place in the Bible. More people need to understand that the only why to know the character of God is to study His word. Paul comes very close to that revelation in 2 Timothy 2:15-16 saying, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness” (2 Tim 2:15-16, KJV). All people need to study God’s Word in order to have a reasonable discussion concerning any part of theology. I have spent countless hours in discussion about theological issues that are already settled in black and white in the Scriptures. Unfortunately, I have also spent countless hours trying to resolve misunderstandings about or a general unwillingness to agree on Bible verses already referenced. Paul is correctly concerned about rightly dividing the Word to prevent shame before the Lord.
But Agur goes another step farther in his wisdom praying that God would not allow him to be either rich or poor. He says he did not want wealth because it would decrease his dependence on and oft seeking of God when in need. He likewise asks not to be poor because he might think God has no affection or care for him. Agur certainly understood the character of man!
King Lemuel is referenced within the Text as writer of Chapter 31. While serving in the lofty assignment of a king, he gives credit to his mother for 3 very valuable instructions: avoid misuse of power, stay away from drinking and speak up for the powerless. Beginning at verse 31:10. The king writes of the most virtuous wife most of us have ever seen described. The study for this week begins with that verse.
Commitment to Her Husband (Prov 31:10-12)
Proverbs does not spend a lot of time introducing this virtuous woman. With no history of King Lemuel or whether Solomon was addressing these lauds to one of his 1,000 women, we do not know. But the description of this woman certainly set a high standard for other wives and women in general. I suppose it would be acceptable to remind ourselves that the roles of men and women were much more firmly defined in those days; that is, women seldom worked outside the home in and men seldom had responsibilities within the home other than protection, devotion and leadership. In that context, we see King Lemuel’s description of this perfect woman.
King Lemuel begins by saying that this woman is obviously a superior find. Not even the price of the finest rubies could be enough to buy this kind of a woman. It should be of no surprise that her first exceptional trait is that she has the unmitigated trust of her husband. Now, the fact that she has that trust is not to her account because that trust is a feeling of her husband. But consider what level of effort she must have rendered and for how many errorless years she had to do it to have that much trust by her husband. Notice also that Lemuel describes the husbands trust as being in his heart; that is, the depth of his being has trust in his wife. There is nothing the husband has need of that his wife does not supply.
Commitment to Her Husband (Prov 31:10-12, Continued)
Not only will she constantly seek his good but she will also prevent any evil from coming his way. Further, she has demonstrated her willingness to do these things for the length of her life. Today, we would probably say that she is constantly seeking the best for her husband. We would also say that the husband has proven worthy of such dedication by his equal dedication to his wife. It is easy to find evidence in such equal commitment by listening to any set of wedding vows. They don’t simply commit the woman to excellent in the art of being a wife, but the man in equal excellence of being a husband. No man or woman will continue in such heart-felt dedication without an appropriate response. Many marriages end in today’s culture because one mate has lofty expectations for his mate, but grossly unequal expectations for self. Changes in expectations due to increases in family size, new home, new employment, new class load for follow-on education, etc. must be discussed and jointly agreed to just as the original marriage was jointly agreed to.
Wise in Her Work (Prov 31:13-16)
King Lemuel was also impressed with the wisdom with which his wife focused on and achieved her work. While the woman would seldom work outside the home in those days, that did not mean the industrious lady was excluded from generating income for the family. A wife who was good at combining wool and flax to make tread and then create clothing for her family could also make extra clothing for sale in the market or to clients returning from previous orders.
Relative to her sewing and tailoring capabilities, her husband saw her in simile to a merchant ship. Just like the ships would bring food from various docks to the market, this wife took the various fruit of her labor in thread and materials to the market. The proceeds enhanced the family quality of life or, as stated in verse 16, she might consider a purchase in real estate to enhance the family’s community standing.
Like many overachievers, this wife does not count prolonged relaxing in bed as something to be sought after. She gets up before the sunrise to prepare breakfast for the family and her servants. This puts her in the position of being able to conduct business or work at making her clothing to sell while the family is free to do what is next for them. The idea of hiring a servant also multiplies her productivity. The wife would be freed up from whatever tasks she assigned to the employee.
Verse 15 says this wife might also have some real estate talents. She looked at some available pieces of property and chose the one that best fit the requirements of her family. She saw the field was suited for the planting of a vineyard. From this field she could plant and multiply grapes. She could harvest the grape, let them ferment and have wine for the family and to sell at the market. It is easy to see that this virtuous woman has little time for gossip or tea parties.
Sure in Her Reputation (Prov 31:23-27)
Because of this wife’s efforts at making and selling clothes, because she planted a vineyard and is producing wine from it, because she employees other members of that local society, her husband is well know in the market place and at the gates of the city where the leading politicians gather. Her reputation in the community has made her husband renowned. When he sits at the city gates, the leaders already know him. The elders know it is his wife who makes the fine linen clothing and makes the girdles that help the best merchants control their expanding waste lines.
Verse 25 reaffirms that it is the strength and honor of this woman that announce her presence. She is known very well for what she produces for the community. When she speaks the people recognize the wisdom in her words and the kindness of her attitude. She provides well for her household and receives the respect and honor due a person who makes her contributions to the welfare of others. She excels at providing for her family, she oversees her family as its members contribute in other ways. And, she has no time left over for idle chatter of gossip.
Honor Through Fearing God (Prov 31:28-31)
The virtuous woman has no need to proclaim her accomplishments to her family, her husband or her city. Her children see what their mother is doing and what she has achieved. They respect her and call her blessed. And her husband as well. He honors her and praises her because he sees how much labor she commits to accomplish all she does. And it is his praise that his wife seeks second only to the praise of God. King Lemuel says there are many daughters in the community who have fared well, but this lady is at the top of that list. She is renowned for her achievements and rightfully so.
But even with all these accomplishments, the virtuous woman realizes that the favor of others can be deceiving. Even her beauty can turn to vanity if she allows it, but she adds to all she has and has made her sincere respect for the Lord. The praise of her family is absolutely necessary, the praise and acceptance of her city and its elders is nice to have and can render support for her family, but the praise from her God has a volume far louder than the others. It exceeds the importance of all the others combined. To know one stands right with the Lord is the calling of all who worship Him.
Verse 31 says that all involved should give her her due. Let her know how well her labors are recognized. She owns her works and her works speech loudly of the kind of woman she is. Let the elders join in her praises, but let her rejoice in the knowledge that her Lord rejoices in her successes as well.
Introduction (Prov 24:23 - 29:27)
The references of the body of Scripture studied here are found in Proverbs 24:23 through 29:27. It breaks down into two parts which are further subdivided. The first of the two divisions relates to wisdom in court and at work (24:23-34). The second has to do with a set of proverbs that Solomon appears to have received from King Hezekiah and deal with practical applications of wisdom (Prov 25:1-29:27).
In speaking about behaviors in court and at work, Solomon teaches that the judge has the responsibility to steer clear of any activity or testimony that seems to be based on favoritism or bias. Meantime, the witnesses must be kept from using the proceedings to lie about or get revenge on someone. At work, on the other hand, all important issues must be addressed and resolved before those issues impact operational productivity.
The second view from the workers’ aspect is that they care for and maintain all property or tools assigned to or owned by workers to function in support the operational mission.
The material in Proverbs 25:1-29:27 is proverbs from King Hezekiah as mentioned above. The King starts by speaking highly of the wisdom of people to make great decisions. He adds that the wisest people seem to choose a righteous path instead of an evil one. In both cases, Hezekiah seems to be encouraging his workers as much as describing practical applications of wisdom. Maybe he has learned that satisfied workers are much more productive than dissatisfied workers and satisfied workers have reduced attrition and increased retention which reduce actual costs of doing business.
The Goal (Prov 29:1-3)
The Apostle Peter says it well in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” God’s insatiable pursuit of entire human race will never end and is totally without limit or constraint. The testimonies of many speak of the depths to which God reached to bring them to Jesus Christ. Peter says the Lord is not slack to deliver on his promises. But what happens when the Lord delivers and makes the offer to the lost person’s rescue from the penalty for sin, and the lost person refuses to accept it? Verse 29:1 provides the answer in saying that each time the Lord offers and the lost person refuses, it becomes easier for the lost person to reject God’s offer. This is called becoming stiff-necked. At the distant end of the offer/rejection cycle, is a point where the lost person simply cannot accept the offer, will be destroyed suddenly and will no longer have a remedy for reversing his or her decision. Said briefly, the Lord will terminate the offer and allow the lost person to face judgment without forgiveness.
Verse 2 seems to change topics abruptly. Solomon goes from what happens to a person who repetitively rejects God’s offer of salvation from sin to a comparison between the results of righteous or wicked leadership. The cause and affect equation here is set against the followers’ response to the quality of their management. When the leadership is righteous; i.e., considerate, consistent, fair, approachable, etc., the followers are glad. However, when leadership is absent these traits followers mourn. The mourning of the workers is demonstrated in dissatisfaction. Statistics show a direct correlation between dissatisfaction and attrition. In other words, when workers are not happy, they quit. This idea of quitting can appear in several forms; there is emotional resignation, physical resignation, performance resignation and more. But the long and short of it is simply that an unhappy worker is no longer engaged and productive. These attitudes lead directly to loss of revenue and reduction of profit.
Verse 29:3 addresses still another separate idea, but certainly no less important. There is a paradox that results from the relationship between the parents and their offspring. When the offspring desires to operate with wisdom, he rejoices in his parents or causes the parents to rejoice in him. To the contrary, if the offspring finds his joy in the hiring of harlots, or more generally rejecting the teachings of his parents, that person will waste the legacy his parents created for him. The parents will be humiliated, and the offspring will eventually realize he wasted all the parents did for him.
The Availability (Prov 29:12-14)
It has always been easy to find people who were willing to provide advice to a leader. The problem is determining the credibility of those advisors. Many advisors want to provide advice on every topic being discussed regardless of whether they have knowledge in that area. When subordinates know their leader is receiving false advice, they become disappointed, angry, agitated and disrespectful. Leaders must vet every person bringing them information or data. The rest of the team will certainly judge the leader by the quality of his or her advisors and the new hires that leader selects and trusts. As the team members informally talk with each other, they learn of the qualifications of the others. Team morale is dependent on each member feeling proud to be a member of such a team, not ashamed of the leaders appointed over them.
Verse 13 talks about the treatment of various kinds of people. The community’s poor and their oppressors both receive light from the Lord. An oppressor claiming to be unaware of their oppression of the poor is multiplying his sin. First, because he is oppressing the poor, and second because he is lying to himself, his leaders and the Lord about the sin he is committing. This person does much more harm to the team or community by remaining than he would by leaving, whether that termination is voluntarily or otherwise. This also goes back to the impact of leaders choosing advisors who provide bad advice. Most people want to feel good about the company, church or family they are a part of. When a group member feels otherwise, he or she will be less productive and may become a bad influence on many others in the group. Knowing the Lord is involved in every person’s life means that much of the excuse making we contend with is known to be false before the excuse is made. Even the Lord had a limit for how long He would tolerate bad behavior. He said in response to evil multiplying across the Earth, “My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years” (Gen 6:3). With that statement the Lord stopped allowing humans to live several centuries and started limiting their lives to 120 years. Leaders seldom have capital punishment as an option, as the Lord did, but certainly have the power to remove a person having a negative influence on the group. Of course, such termination should require counselling followed by removal if repentance is not evident.
And that provides a smooth transition into the next verse. The entire team, organization or country watches how the leader deals with its members. In verse 29:14, the Lord is saying that the king who treats the poor fairly will make his kingdom sure. Members of any organization see those at the lower ends of the organization as being vulnerable and without personal power to help themselves. So, how does the king treat the most vulnerable people? Does he have mercy, kindness, generosity and help for them, or does he exploit their low level and treat them disrespectfully or with obvious contempt? Most leaders, regardless of level of their leadership, have learned that people have respect for leaders who respect them. That extends to every level of the organization. Paul taught the members of the church at Ephesus that they should, “be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you” (Eph 4:32). I have learned over the years that a lot can be known about a senior or executive manager by how he or she treats the support staff. If they are treated as valuable members of the team, the leader will usually be successful. Alternatively, those who abuse or exploit their support staff will eventually fail. As the Lord says through Ezekiel, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye have made your iniquity to be remembered, in that your transgressions are discovered, so that in all your doings your sins do appear; because, I say, that ye are come to remembrance, ye shall be taken with the hand” out of this land (Ezek 21:24).
The Responsibility (Prov 29:15-17)
Many of us can recall the old adage “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” For years I thought that was a Bible verse, but not so. Proverbs 13:24 comes closest to the same intent with, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” The God’s Word translation uses modern English saying, “Whoever refuses to spank his son hates him, but whoever loves his son disciplines him from early on.” It is easy to see that God has the responsibility of the parent in mind in these verses. After raising five children who were less than 3 years apart, I can say without hesitation that “the rod and reproof give wisdom” (Prov 29:15). When it came time for my children to raise their children I advised that the choices of disciplining the child are only two: you can discipline your child and teach him respect for authority or the world will do it for you. Society is much more harsh and will show very little love or affection while teaching your grown child these lessons. The undisciplined will be banished.
But, let me start with some explanation because the abuse of this Bible verse, as with many others, can travel quickly from fine parenting to committing a crime. Yes, that is what I meant to say. A person who beats, tortures, ties up, denies food or water, or otherwise harms a child and calls it a disciplining may very well face criminal punishment, and rightfully so. The solution is easy to put in place. Parents must use the wisdom of adulthood when dealing with young children. I say young child because spanking should certainly taper off and become very rare before a child enters puberty. At that stage, a child can understand reasoning and denial of benefits as more appropriate than anything physical.
Any child (just like an immature student or employee) will try to take an authority figure to the distant end of his or her patience and then criticize the resulting anger. Anger is an enemy of proper parenting. While many of my parent friends and I dislike the “time out” idea, we agree that “time out” is not just for the child. An adult should never punish a child while burning in anger. Putting a child in a room for 5 or 10 minutes allows both the child and the parent to calm down and better deal with the severity and type of punishment. But the timing of punishment cannot be separated far from the punishable act or the child may lose the association between the two and the punishment becomes a wasted effort.
The Bible often speaks of “the rod” as an instrument of punishment, but in our language, a rod can be a stick or a club. Neither of these are appropriate to be used on a child. Even the adult hand can be dangerous for a small child. A folded news paper is something that makes more noise than impact better. I found a light squeeze on the thigh was sufficient to get results. (My children called it “the claw.”) When something happened that no one owned, each child had the same “I don’t know, Daddy” accompanied by a rigorous negative headshake. I would send all of them to discuss the issue and decide who was at fault. I learned on a camping trip when they were in their early teens, that the kids would always bribe the youngest one to admit guilt. In preparation for the spanking, they would dress him in 3 pairs of pants to make sure he would not feel the spanking. We roared in laughter as they told me the younger brother always seemed to agree to take the punishment for the money, but they never actually paid him. Nevertheless, when the next unexplainable event took place, the same process would repeat. I asked the little guy why he kept taking the punishment for his older sister and brothers even after they cheated him? He said, “Because I love them. Isn’t that what Jesus did?” Our laughing ended! That little boy later served 12 years in the United States Marine Corps with his older twin. At age 50, he still serves his country in the Department of State.
So, the Lord says in verse 29:15 that the rod and reproof give wisdom. Notice that the Lord had Solomon document the combination of the spanking accompanied by verbal correction. A young child must always know why they are being punished. In the second part of the verse, the alternative to the wisdom learned through the rod and reproof is the shame of the mother resulting from leaving the child to his own devices. Discipline is not an optional part of character. If parents do not teach it to their children, society will teach it when they grow up. It is much better for the child and parent if it is taught at home.
The Responsibility (Prov 29:15-17, Cont.)
Following immediately after the child bringing shame to its mother, are the words “When the wicked are multiplied” (Prov 29:16). In context, the author is saying when many of these children who were left to their own devices are in society as adults, transgression or sin increases. The author goes on to say that the righteous in society will see the wicked fall. Another reason to “Train up a child in the way he should go…” (Prov 22:8).
We can almost see the word “So” as the beginning of Verse 17. Solomon says the rod and the reproof instills wisdom in the child, but left to his own ways, he will bring shame to his mother. When the resulting wicked, undisciplined children multiply as they reach adulthood, sin increases, but the righteous will see the wicked fall. So, “Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul” (Prov 29:17). Sounds to me like all the justification needed to make a parent believe they need to instill discipline in their children when they are young.
The Source (Prov 29:18-20)
This lesson completes with Proverbs 29:18-20. After looking at the goal for our offspring (29:1-3), the availability (29:12-14), and the responsibility (29:15-17), it is time to examine the source. The first element of finding the source is to understand the necessity of vision. Vision is the focusing the eyes on the distant horizon, the future, if you will, rather than living for existence or survival in the current time. The parents that allow their children to learn about surviving in society through their own devices rather than the nurture and admonition of the Lord are living for today instead of having a vision for the future of that child. Solomon says in verse 29:18 that those without vision would certainly parish. Living for today without goals for the future (vision) will result in life without living. Solomon goes on to say, “but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” Keeping the law means that the person lives a life of discipline. He is submitted to God’s law or God’s way of doing things. Living the disciplined life learned in youth yields the happiness promised in this verse. People die without vision, but living within the law brings order and peace.
Verse 19 reminds us that the servant (child, employee, soldier) will not be corrected by words alone. Even though he might well understand the words and their meaning, he is too stiff necked to respond. He has spent a life being left to his own devices and survived, why should he change now that he is on his own? So, the person without vision, the person who lives for today with no real goals for life or eye for the future hears the words of his boss or leader or God and performs that which is necessary to get by. He has no answer for leadership, just compliance.
How does Solomon finish this set of Scripture? It is with this question, “Do you see this man?” (Prov 29:20). “He is the one who is hasty in his words.” Hasty in his words because the thought process to think about the meaning of the words, or the impact they have for the here and now, or the impact they might have for the goals and visions for the future. No, the words are not thought through for any of these. The goal of the answer is to acquiesce, to get along, to have peace. Solomon asks, “Do you see this man?” He responds to his own question saying, “he is the one in whom there is more hope of a fool.” As a child, this man’s parents were more concerned about their survival than preparing him for a quality life of establishing goals and having a vision for the future. He grew up to be one of those did what was right in his own eyes. No one ever taught him there were standards of God for a high-quality life. A succession of establishing and achieving goals. A life of looking toward the Master in heaven for His wisdom and guidance for “Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive us sins as we forgive others their sins against us.”
But here’s another couple verses “Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness. For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning” (Psalms 30:4-5). When the end of frustration and “getting along to get along” are done, there is One waiting who can give you peace that goes beyond anything we can understand. When we look toward Him and see the vision of tomorrow and next week and the next decade, we can find the joy that comes in the morning when that darkness is left behind. “Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning. The weeping only lasts for a night.”
Understand the Context (Proverbs 22:17-24:22)
In Proverbs 22:17 – 24:22, Solomon provides his “30 Pearls of Wisdom” for leading the people of his domain, or better, the people of God. He felt that giving attention to these elements would cause the people to trust God and follow His leadership in a way specifically presented to please Him (22:17-21). The first 10 Pearls offer advice in applying Gods wisdom on how to handle issues associated with wealth and personal power (Prov 22:22-23:11). The Lord was concerned that some people caught up in the drive to gain great wealth might take short cuts by exploiting the poor and powerless common people. This was not going to be tolerated.
The second set of “Pearls” consisted of 7 statements and were delivered in Proverbs 23:12-28. This set of Pearls deals with help for parents in raising their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Parents still need help with raising godly children today.
The remaining 13 Pearls are provided in Proverbs 23:29 – 24:22. A large part of this set of Pearls deals with the abuse of alcohol or drugs. They paint a thoroughly ugly picture of the person enslaved by alcohol as having a gruesome life ending in poverty and shame. God speaks through Solomon that this should not be the case within Israel. He says that God’s people ought to walk circumspectly regarding the temptation to abuse these vices. Paul passes on God’s inspiration of him with harsh words in Ephesians 5:3-4 saying, ”But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.” So, the Lord tells Solomon that these things and others are not only forbidden for Israel, but the Lord does not even want any of them once named among them. In other words, stay so far away from these things that an enemy could not even suggest the one of us would do such things.
The Promise (Prov 23:17-18)
Solomon continues in the same vein by saying that his son needs to know that we do not allow ourselves to look at the lifestyles of the sinners in envy, or desire in anyway, how they live. Rather, we must consistently show our honor, respect and fear of the Lord all day long. Leave no room for positive thoughts of evil performance. Such inconsistency can be seen today if we spend Sunday morning condemning the decaying morals of our land but tune the television to a channel celebrating the same things we condemned in church. The things we teach others to deny in their lives cannot be the same things we do for ourselves on Monday night. What is evil on one day is certainly evil on next day. And that goes to Paul’s comment referenced above. God would not want immorality even named once among us. In other words, there should be no enforceable claim that one of our number did any immorality. Paul tells the Thessalonian church that we should “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess 5:22).
So, instead of occupying our lives imitating what the world does, verse 17b says we ought to maintain a constant focus on God. Quoting Paul again, he says, “8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. 9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil 4:8-9). Our world is short on positive examples now days.
Verse 23:18 recalls for us that there is an end of this world in sight, and with that end, comes the judgment. Hebrews 9:27 tells us, it is appointed unto all men once to die, and then the judgment.” I have a feeling that the great number of people rioting, stealing, raping, burning and assaulting police these days have lost track of the fact that we will all face our maker someday to give account of all the things we have done. I can see the charge sheets being read out before all of us. And the final word from the Master, “Depart from me, I never knew you” (Matt 7:23). Yes, there are promises given for the judgment and for salvation. Can’t think of a better time to make sure we are on the right side of that equation.
The Petition (Prov 23:19-21)
Solomon reemphasizes the need for his son to pay particular attention to his words. He wishes his son’s wisdom and heart-felt attention to this exceptionally important message to guide his heart along the right way to follow. Solomon tells his son (and all of us through extension) do not be counted among the wine bibbers and gluttons. Actually, there are two messages here. The first has to do with, with whom the son choses to congregate. There has always been a very grey area concerning the company we keep and the need for spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On the one hand, those most in need of the Gospel will not come to church or a bible study to hear the message. If they are to be reached, the messenger must be willing to go to where they gather. This was a clear mandate by Jesus saying, “And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled” (Luke 14:23).
Recall that Jesus was frequently criticized for congregating with people of questionable character. His response was that He did not come to heal the well, but to heal the sick (Matt 9:10-13). Of course, sound judgment must be exercised on where the line is properly drawn. The list is too obvious to mention here, but there are many places where the open sin taking place makes it impossible for a representative of our Savior to go. But not on that list would be places like sports arenas, public meetings and homes of the lost. If we wait to witness only to those who come to church or connect groups, we will miss multitudes of the lost and reinforce their charges that we really do not care for them.
But second, Solomon is saying that there must never be a charge that his son is one of these wine bibbers or gluttons. The witness for Christ has to be careful to maintain his or her credibility for the Gospel. I recall that I was in southern California at a restaurant sitting at a table of a little more than a dozen people. One of the people at the table asked me a question about the Second Coming of Christ, and I found myself speaking the message to all at the table. While I was speaking, I did not notice the waiter had refilled the wine glasses of those at the table and placed a glass at my position. But sure enough, one of the next questions from the table was why that glass of wine was in front of me. In the mind of at least that one person, the glass of wine was a stumbling block. I have always been aware of that, so I do not drink at all. It is a very small sacrifice for me compared to all the Lord sacrificed for me. The same is true for making sure I have no profanity in my mouth nor tobacco products in my pockets. This is not an attempt at self-righteousness, but rather, a literal interpretation of John’s admonition, “If you call yourself a Christian, you ought to walk like Christ walked” (1 John 2:6).
Of course some will say that Jesus was a wine consumer, made the best wine for the first miracle and even based the Lord’s Supper on alcoholic wine. I will leave the detailed research to the skeptic, but God forbade the priest from drinking wine or strong drink when he was to serve in the Tabernacle (Lev 10:8-11). He forbade those taking the oath of the Nazarite from drinking wine, strong drink or the vinegars of either. Remember that Jesus was a Nazarene, not a Nazarite. John the Baptist was a Nazarite. Jesus refused the vinegar of wine on the cross. In short, those in holy service for God should have no smell or other evidence of alcoholic beverage or tobacco on their breath.
My hope is that no one will feel that this way of thinking is legalistic or “going off the deep end.” Its just that in my decades of experience sharing the Gospel at the drop of a hat, there are some things that help make the message more credible than other things. The importance of the Gospel drives a dedication to eliminating stumbling blocks for the potential Christian convert. The Holy Spirit always does His part by sending us to those needing the Gospel; it seems fairly easy to do the small things to help that message get delivered.
The Portrait (Prov 23:29-32)
Solomon decides to present a detailed picture for his son to recognize those caught up in the vices of alcohol and/or drugs. Verse 29 says they have sadness and sorrows (depression), they get involved in contentions or arguments, they continue telling their stories, but do not recognize that their speech is becoming slurred and the stories are repetitive, the same ones they told the night before. They get hurt but cannot remember what caused the injuries, and their eyes are continually blood shot. Verse 30 continues painting the picture, these people are staying far too long at the wine table. When the good wine is gone, they visit the homes of people to try to get more. It no longer matters what the quality of wine is as long as they can get more.
Verse 31 describes some of the things the wine connoisseur does as he or she receive a glass of quality wine. The measure the color of the wine to see if it is full-bodied and ready to drink. As they swirl the wine in the glass, they look to see that some of the deep red of the wine decorates the glass. The swirling of the wine also shows its smoothness and consistency of color. Notice the verse starts with the words “Look not.” That means the drunkard does none of these things as described. They just want to consume it. In that eagerness, they will frequently spill some on their cloths to make their appearance and odor consistent with one who has lost his or her dignity and control. They will drink until they pass out at night and awake with an insatiable drive to find another bottle.
The portrait is ugly and only gets worse. The consumption of alcohol or drugs makes it impossible for the addict to control their time clock. They cannot wake up to go to work and frequently lose their jobs. They forget or purposely refuse to pay their debts. Their homes and cars get repossessed. They eventually lose their jobs and cannot muster sufficient discipline to find another. As verse 32 aptly testifies, in the end, the addict feels the bite of the snake of addiction. Home, family, friends, possessions are all gone. Respect in the church, community and profession are gone. The bite of the serpent and the sting of the adder of addiction has robbed the addict of everything worth having.
For my father, the end was in the bottom of a dingy jail cell serving 24 months for failure to discharge debts and nonsupport of his family. The proud German American who was respected by all and loved by many, lost everything he had to a bottle.
The Portrait (Prov 23:29-32, Continued)
Upon the death of a brother-in-law several years later, I travelled over a thousand miles to sit in a car with my father and said, “Dad, I know you might not understand what I am going to ask you, but I really must know. Where do you stand with Jesus Christ?” My father, who had been sober and working to help others get away from the disease, said as he began to weep, “Son, I felt an urge a couple weeks ago to ask my priest what it meant to be borne again. He led me to Jesus Christ, and I can tell you that I stand at the foot of His cross as He is my Savior and Lord.”
Fifteen years later I was called by a relative who told me my father only had a few days to live. As I sat with him for a few of those days, he shared with me how he had spent the years since he was saved. He used to search for those who had fallen to where he was. He would pick them up out of the city’s gutters and take them to his home, sober them up, clean them up, introduce them to Jesus Christ and send them on their ways. One such person knocked on the door of that small apartment where my father was dying while I was there. He confessed to being one of those men my father picked up out of the gutter nearly two decades before. He said, “David, I have gone from that gutter where your dad found me to become the Governor of the State. I owe my existence to your dad and the Savior he introduced me to.”
The portrait was ugly but God can bring beauty and great joy to every situation. Oh, what a great God we serve!
The Problem (Prov 23:33-35)
The eyes of the person who lives in the stupor of addiction to drugs or alcohol has lost most of their reasoning power and become ease targets for those who would exploit what remains on their way down. Facing the continued rejection of those who loved and trusted them, they try to find acceptance in other ways. The find solace in the bars where they donated their thousands of dollars to purchase alcohol. Generally, there will be a woman or man who will sit and help you drink up what remains of your wealth. For free drinks, she will listen to stories of how things used to be. And because of the influence of alcohol, the voice will begin to slur and the stories will become more and more incoherent. As the time passes by and the money is spent, the addict will pass out and be left wherever he falls. Unless of course, the helpful woman at the bar takes you someplace where the rest of the money can be stolen.
Verse 34 likens the passing out to falling asleep on the sea or the top of a mast. The alcohol will cause the room to rock and roll and spin. Frequently, nausea will result from the apparent movement of everything. When you try to get up, the drunkenness forces you to lose your balance, and down you go again. Those who want to exploit your obvious weakness will beat you to get whatever money is left, but the deadening influence of the alcohol allow you to take the beating without knowing or feeling the pain of it. Nevertheless, the addict will eventually wake up. The desire to do it again overcomes the sorrow, shame and wisdom the addict once had.
The order of the Scripture presentation beginning with Proverbs 14 is not what we are used to. The style of presentation places the main point in the center with couplets of supporting verses distributed before and after the main point. Watch for this style beginning in chapter 14.
Understand the Context (Proverbs 15:1-22:16)
The last verse in Proverbs 15 and all of Proverbs 16 document Solomon’s comparison between those people who will openly live to please the Lord and those who refuse to do so. He begins his argument by making a statement regarding the intelligence of those making a choice to seek knowledge and those who do not. The background knowledge of Solomon’s reputation of being the wisest of all men and certainly the wisest monarch provides instant credibility for what might otherwise seem to be a pompous statement. But with Solomon, one presupposes he is referencing his own drive to gather more knowledge. That is, “I have learned that seeking more knowledge is the wisest of choices one could make.” Nor only is the statement credible, but it appeals to common sense that when one makes statements or decisions, it would be wise to learn as much of the basis for such decisions as possible. The contrast Solomon uses is the indiscretion of the foolish. No one wants to have a judge’s opinion or leader’s direction based on some arbitrary or indiscrete belief having no sound basis in fact. The word foolish seems appropriate to that case.
Then Proverbs includes a lengthy segment on the proven value of living a life pleasing to God. It is this segment that becomes the focus of this week’s study in Proverbs (15:33 – 16:11). Next, Solomon answers the question, “Well, if we are to walk in the wisdom of the Lord, exactly what does that look like?” (16:12-18:24).
The next segment speaks to the power of the tongue. Solomon’s comments may have influenced James’ comments in the New Testament: “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain” (James 1:26, 3:5-8). I cannot recall a person in my decades of Bible training or teaching who has argued with James or Solomon on the dangers of not engaging the brain before engaging the tongue. Further, it seems people have a far greater memory of things they wish they had not said, than any attempts at clarification of what they meant to say.
The slide on the ancient Hebrew poetic presentation style speaks for itself and it was included in last week’s study as well. This slide is included above in a separate section.
Wisdom Demonstrated (Prov 15:33, 16:8)
The relationship between wisdom and the fear of or respect for the Lord is well documented in the Old and the New Testaments (Job 28:28, Psa 111:10, Prov 1:7, 9:10, 15:33, Isa 11:2, 33:6, Acts 9:31, Acts 19:17, 1 Cor 16:10, Phil 1:14, Heb 13:6 & 1 Pet 3:15). While some would attempt working projects or even living life, in general, without consulting and following the Lord, it always proves foolish. The power of the Lord to help or even lead our work and achieve our objectives far exceeds any power we have to help ourselves. Verse 15:33 shows the order of wisdom and fear of the Lord along with honor to humility. Wisdom is demonstrated by one’s relationship with God just as a person’s honor is demonstrated in humility.
Verse 16:8 anticipates the questions from the businesspeople in the study group. The King James Version uses the word revenue in the second half of the verse and that triggers the business mind. Everything important to most businesspeople has to do with the bottom line of that balance sheet. After the revenues are counted and reduced by the costs of doing business, the profits (bottom line) can be realized. Maximizing profit can be done by increasing revenue and/or decreasing costs. This verse is saying simply, it is better to conduct business righteously while making lower profits than making greater profits unrighteously. Thankfully, business can be conducted righteously and still make good profits. Better, when an executive manager decides to manage the business in accordance with God’s way of doing business, God will bless the business and its managers in ways which defy imagination.
Accountability Established (Prov 16:1, 4-5, 9)
Many people see the world myopically. That is, they remain unaware of the fact that the events of this world and the events of God’s Kingdom are fully engaged at the same time. Thinking that one can make this life’s decisions in a vacuum, somehow excluding God’s plans and desires is pure folly. God will get His way; His plans will be achieved and His will will be executed regardless of whether He is invited to the planning session or not. The human heart that has not been enlightened by the Holy Spirit is sorely handicapped in understanding these truths. The power of the entire universe comes with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil 4:13). When mankind attempts to leave God out of planning daily activities, including the running of their businesses, they are inviting divine correction. So, “the preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue,” are truly from the Lord. They are His during the planning or they are His in His corrections to the plan, but they are certainly the Lord’s.
Verses 16:4-5 adds to the truth of the Lord’s control and ultimate power. It begins with a short statement that puts some of the most powerful leaders in the world on their heels, “The Lord hath made all things for Himself” (Prov 16:4a). The statement challenges powerful leaders because they want to believe that THEY are the ones who created what they have. Those who do not give God the proper honor for what He has done, only keeps what they have because of God’s mercy. Those who give God the proper credit up front keep what they have through God’s power.
In the second half of this verse (16:4b) Solomon goes on to say that God even created the wicked person for the day of evil. When people refuse God’s control over and over, they begin to think they are their own; that somehow while God created all things, they were a separate creation, and somehow do not fit under the heading of ALL things. This is the wicked person who God allows to be part of the destruction plan (the day of evil) rather than being a part of the glorious homecoming of all the Lord has created. This person is “the one that is proud in heart” (16:5a). “He is an abomination to the Lord” (16:5b). That is, God sees him as a disaster and shame to Him. And while he may enjoy the handshake of fellowship with other people like himself, he will not escape the punishment of denying God His honor.
R. G. Lee preached a sermon titled, “Payday Someday.” It told the riveting story of how many people think they are not accountable for decisions they have made or words they have spoken in this life, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Matthew documents Jesus’ words, “But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Matt 12:36-37). Revelation 20:11-15 tells the story of the Great White Throne of Judgment where all the lost from all generations will face their final judgment by God. The Bible says there will be two books opened to support that judgment: the first book is the book of works. It contains everything a person has done in the time they lived on Earth, both good and bad. This will give every person who refused to accept Jesus Christ as Savior an opportunity to say why their great and wonderful achievements in life were equal to or greater than the work Jesus did for them on the cross. That is, how did their achievements overcome the guilt of their many sins and the just payment due? The answer is given by opening of the second book, the Book of Life. This book contains the names of every person who accepted Jesus Christ for all He said He was. Verse 15 says, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire” (Rev 20:15). You see, the words and deeds of those who refuse Christ are documented forever.
The Lord has Solomon finish this set of Scriptures by documenting one more detail of how much God is in control even when people think they are. In verse 16:9, he says that while the heart of man (whether evil or regenerated) plans the way he will take, the Lord is master over every step he takes. The long and the short of this is that while we may think we have complete control over all we do, the Lord is the Master of the universe, and he controls everything that takes place here.
Motives Matter (Prov 16:2, 10-11)
In this passage, Solomon reports that everything a man decides to do seems right in his own eyes. It is no surprise that man’s judgment regarding his own efforts is somewhat biased. Even societal rules and laws become somewhat blurred when applying them to one’s self. The resources we have at our disposal when making judgments on issues of personal application are our personal ethic and the power of the Holy Spirit. The latter, of course, is only available to those who are born again. Verse 16:2 says that God looks closer at the intent of man than the actual event. We have evidence of that behavior in the details of the Law beginning with His delivery of the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20. Verse 13 of that chapter says “Thou shalt not kill.” Exodus 22:12, restates the capital punishment for a man taking the life of another man. The verses immediately following begin to lay out situations where the loss of the life of another man might not result in a death sentence. These are crimes we have come to call manslaughter or accidental death. So, as suggested in verse 2 of our current text, God looks at the intent of man’s heart and not just the consequences of his actions. Jesus dealt with the commandment not to kill by looking at the motives that might precede the actual acts. Jesus said, “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment “ (Matt 5:21-22). So, the intent of man’s mind can take the commandment not to kill to several levels based on intent.
Intent often shows up in the planning stage of an event or while meditating on God’s will for the specific plan. It is entertaining to look at a well-thought-out plan after it is carried out. The humor comes from how big the idea seemed to the personal imagination but how small it looked upon subsequent review. The worldly remedy for the differences between intent and execution is called precedence. In other words, what are the historic results of various applications of these acts or laws? Proverbs 16:10 tells us that even a king will be held accountable for judgments he makes. A person will never be excused from righteous applications of his or her authority.
Verse 16:11 goes directly to the businessperson. Solomon says the Lord’s will for doing business is that only a just set of weights are used to measure quantities sold. Further, if there are any spare weights in the vender’s bag, those weights must be just as well. In other words, we must all be honest and true in our business and personal transactions. Simply speaking the words or echoing a statement is not enough. Personal integrity of the messenger is absolutely necessary God’s message to be delivered and believed.
Blessing Assured (Prov 16:3, 6-7)
Consistent with the ancient Hebrew poetic presentation (Chiasmus), the focal couplet verses are in the middle of the presentation and supported by couplets on each side of the presentation. Proverbs 15:3 assures us of God’s blessings when we commit our labor, works and plans to the Lord. The earlier sections (supporting couplets) talked about Wisdom Demonstrated, Accountability Established and Motives Matter. The material examines the works of man supporting the Lord. It explained godly wisdom versus earthly wisdom and the advantages of the former in addressing the many problems facing today’s servants of the Lord. They fixed the accountability on the messenger for living the kind of life that would enable the reception of the message by those for whom it was intended.
Blessing Assured (Prov 16:3, 6-7, Continued)
The crux of the answer is to submit your works unto the Lord rather than the addressee or yourself. Focus the message on exactly what the Lord has laid upon your heart to deliver. If this is done, than God will see to it that our plans will succeed. It is the same message throughout, i.e., the focus of our hearts and minds must be the calling of God and the needs of those He called us to serve. Focusing on one’s self always results in a message for one’s self and not solutions for those in need. Focusing on God (the One who called us) results in a dedication to pleasing the Savior and bring glory to the Father as supported by the indwelling Holy Spirit. It would be hard for any critic to suggest three better foci for the mind.
Proverbs 16:6-7 finishes out the focal couplet for this study. Verse 6 speaks of God’s purging of the sins of the messenger by His mercy and truth. Of course, we are the messengers. As we live life and walk among God’s people, we deliver the Gospel just by being present. Put another way, we are the walking word. Think about it this way, everyone in this world has some kind of problem they are struggling to solve. As they look for solutions, or a person who might lead them to a solution, they are not looking for another way to feel guilty or sad or unworthy. They are looking for a messenger who might tell them about how to beat guilt, overcome sadness and become worthy. The way I can tell that God is allowing me to be that kind of person is when people in the midst of struggle stop me and ask, “What makes you different?” They are asking why the pressure of living in the same pressure pot they are living in does not affect me the same way. For me, that answer is simple: I know the answer to the three most significant questions plaguing all mankind. According to Billy Graham, they are Where did I come from? What am I doing here? and Where am I going? I came from God. He has a mission for me to accomplish, so He caused me to go from where I was to where I am. What I am doing here is representing the God of the universe to this people, at this time, in this place. I do not have to worry about what to do or how to act. I simply follow God’s lead and serve those He sends into my path. And here's the hardest part, I need to listen to those people as they reveal their pain in order to help them over it. And last, when I am finished doing what God sent me to do here, I will go where He tells me to go next. The final place He will send me is Heaven. Not a lot of stress in living those three questions, is there?
So, my sin is washed away by the cleaning blood of Jesus Christ. It was through God’s personal love and mercy that Jesus paid the full price for my sin and I am no longer guilty, nor do I await further condemnation for my sin. “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin had left the crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.” Because of my gratitude, love and respect for Him, I flee from temptation and evil (verse 6).
Verse 7 simply speaks the truth of the walk with the Lord. When a person lives a life to please the Lord, his entire existence pleases those around him. The peace that passes all understanding (Phil 4:7) surrounds me and draws people to Him (not me). The draw of the person who pleases the Lord is so strong that it even causes his enemies to experience peace through him. People cannot understand it and neither do I. All I know is that God uses people to reach people. When we can live in the peace of pleasing God, we can reach bunches of others.
Understand the Context (Proverbs 10:1-14:35)
Proverbs 10 introduces a series of short sayings to his son intended to compare wisdom with foolishness and wickedness with righteousness. He begins the comparison with a focus on a wise son and a foolish son and moves quickly to the differences between the financial development of a righteous person versus a wicked person (10:1-12:28). Solomon then switches to show how the way a wicked man and a righteous man make their livings reveal their characters (13:1-25), After covering the differences in the wicked and the righteous up to this point, Solomon switches to the outcomes of the lives lived in these circumstances. And last, Solomon moves to how the various lifestyles would impact the kings and kingdoms of the time.
Proverbs 14:8-15, while presented in numerical order, does not develop its thought that way. Rather, Solomon uses the ancient Hebrew manner of poetic formation called chiasmus. We will see the primary thought or idea presented to the middle of the text surrounded by couplets of verses moving out from the center like rippling water in response to a stone dropped in the middle. Hence, in this presentation, verses 8 & 15, 9 & 14 and 10 & 13 provide the supporting thoughts while verses 11-12 contain the primary thought.
In contrast, the two primary methods used by English writers or speakers is to take three points to make a primary conclusion based on those points (deductive reasoning) or a primary statement with three supporting bullets, thoughts or inferences to follow (inductive reasoning). In our world, the Pastor would typically preach with three points and a poem. He would be using inductive reasoning if he started with a primary thought and supported that thought with the following inferences (three points and a poem). Or, he would be using deductive reasoning if he presented the three points and a poem, and then deduced the primary thought based on based on those elements.
Prudent (Prov 14:8, 15)
So, if verses 14:11-12 form the primary thought, verses 8 and 15 would be the two verses (couplet) most distant or first building block of that thought. The word “prudent” means acting with or giving care for the future. Verse 8 says the wisdom o
f the prudent is to understand his way. In other words, the wise person showing prudence would be one who plans for the future through having a grasp for his way of doing business. It is reasonable, in fact, for a person to understand himself before trying to help others understand. So, the wisdom of the prudent person is demonstrated through sound analysis of the facts and potential variables of a situation before rushing in. The foolish person would rush headlong into the task without due consideration of the facts not already known. He would deceive others into thinking he knows all the facts bearing on the problem, while he is simply learning as he goes along. The old saying enters my mind, “There is never enough time to do a job right, but there is always enough time to do it over!” The person who fails to properly prepare for the project is a person who is planning to do it again.
Prudent (Prov 14:8, 15, Cont.)
The second element of the couplet for the prudent reverses the order of the earlier. Verse 8 begins with the wise person and closes with the fool. Verse 15 starts with the inexperienced person and finishes with the with the prudent. The simple-minds person will believe everything they hear about a problem rather than checking out all the beginning assumptions. Some of those pieces of given information might be wrong. The prudent person would do no such thing. He will examine all the information to make sure he is starting the job with a full understanding of the issues.
Content (Prov 14:9, 14)
The second set of couplets are found in verses 9 and 14. Notice that this couplet move one verse closer to the main thought from each side. The foolish person in this case mocks God’s Word regarding how we should behave toward people who are hurt by our sins. He takes a laissez faire approach to leadership. Everyone knows that a sinner is required to make restitution for any harm done through his sin (Ex 22, for example). The Bible discusses restoration because of sin in terms of restoring five or ten times the original loss. Exodus 22:1 says the thief or killer must restore five times the one he stole. The wise man, in this case would restore or make restitution for his sin quickly.
The second couplet goes to what the final outcome will be for each of these approaches to life. The word “backslider” drives the thought that person must have had a position from which to slide back. The statement in verse 14 says “he will be filled with his own ways.” Sounds like Solomon is saying this kind of person is filled with himself, conceited, not knowing that he is nothing without the Lord. It’s hard for a person who can imagine what Christ has done for us, to not live life with some of that same humility. A person who is “full of themselves” does not seem to be one of those folks. There may be a spiritual problem with him or her. The “good man” of verse 14 is the one who realizes how far God had to go to get him back. Most of us realize that we were not worth one drop of the blood of Christ, yet God gave enough blood for every person who ever lived or will live. The old hymn talks about the value of “that precious flow.”
Joyful (Prov 14:10, 13)
Joyful takes the next couplet from Proverbs 14:10 & 13. Each of us have lived enough of life and experienced enough of its pain to have personal knowledge of what Solomon is saying here. Even though we know we are totally forgiven, the pain of past experiences has stained us forever. Many of us are now cautious and hold back the full dedication to the needs of others because of that hurt. Some live in a shell of self-protectionism. The burn from the past experience makes us want to retreat into a “safe place.” We forget the Bible says, “Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance. Selah” (Psa 32:7). And “Thou art my hiding place and my shield: I hope in thy word” (Psa 119:114). From time to time all of us need to answer the question again, “When will Jesus and His sacrifice be enough for me?” There will never be a day that we live down here that life will be all peaches and cream. There will always be challenges and there will always be people who are hard to get along with, but anger and bitterness of heart are just not who we are. I have a picture of Jesus at the exit door of my bedroom. He has his head rolled back and is in a full laugh. After all He went through and all He paid, He still laughs in joy that the price has been paid. “It is finished, the battle is over.” Now we have before us a great number of people who need to see our joy is so much better than reliving the sorrows, disappointments and abuses of the past. We need to show them His joy!
Proverbs 14:10 says there is joy in sharing the hurts of the heart because others have lived the same hurts we have. But “the darkest hour means dawn is just in sight as the joy comes in the morning.” There is certainly good news in the fact that joy is waiting for us to stop living in the past. The world needs to see that peace and joy. The stranger or unbeliever can’t reach in to get that joy because if they have not had the rebirth in Christ, they do not have that place of hiding that bring joy. There is no alter for the lost to hide when their sins have not been hidden in the blood. The lost still have the guilt. They cannot claim the crimson flow. It is NOT finished for them. The verse we can give to our friends is found in Romans 8:1, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1, NLT).
Verse 14:13 continues that no amount of laughter can heal the sad heart; the one that does not have Jesus. When the forced joy is finished, the pain returns. Jesus provides the lasting mirth because He has already paid for everything we have done. His payment is sufficient for all levels of sin over all time. The great news is that healing is available. The bad news is that it is difficult to convince people that God will accept them if they will accept Him. The hymn goes, “
The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,
Why don’t you let Him come in?
There’s nothing in this world to keep you apart
What is your answer to Him?
Time after time He has waited before
And now He is waiting again
To see if you’re willing to open the door
Oh, how He wants to come in
The Savior is waiting to enter your heart,
Why won’t you let Him come in.
Thriving (Prov 14:11-12)
Finally, verses 11 – 12 carry the central message of this passage of scripture. First, “the house of the wicked shall be overthrown.” I suppose the reason for the often delay to move in the direction of Christ is that one does not believe there will be a day of accounting. That somehow this life is all there is. Here is the skinny, there are far too many stories and documented facts that life ends at the point of bodily death. The Bible is clear that there are two kinds of death, physical death and spiritual. We become physically alive at the instant of conception. Of course, some will argue with thatbut it really is not import for this discussion. We have physical life at that point. Because of the grace of God, our spiritual birth takes place at the same time. There will come a point of time when the physical life will end. It may be because of disease or automobile accident, but everyone will die someday. The Bible says “it is appointed to all mankind, once to die and then cpmes the judgement” (Hebrews 9:27). The fact that we will all die someday does not usually cause much of a problem. The issue is whether our spiritual life ends when our physical life ends.
The point of the first couplet in this study is about what will happen to the dwelling place of the wicked versus the dwelling place of the righteous. At death, the believer’s body and the unbeliever’s body go into the grave and what happens to them during the natural decay depends on the quality of the burial container. Nevertheless, all of those physical bodies will oxidize and decay into near nothingness. Cremation only serves to speed up that process. But what happens to the soul? Most of us have seen some people who have died and were brought back, but they did not come back with the capability to function at all. Many needed machines to breath for them. Nourishment had to be given through the veins. They were physically alive but lifeless. I believe this is what happens when the soul has already departed.
Jesus’ words tell us, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die” (John 11:25-26). Now Jesus was about to raise Lazarus from the dead but there is a more general application here. First, Jesus mentions a resurrection and life in general terms; i.e., not just for Lazarus. Second, He says those who believe in Him shall never die and those who are alive will never die. I think we could all agree that these words are impossible if even in the specific application of Lazarus if there was only physical death being discussed. After all, Lazarus was a believer yet he was dead. The truth is that the souls of those who believe in Christ will never experience spiritual death, or separation from God. At the Great White Throne of Judgement, all those who are not believers will face eternal separation from God or spiritual death (Rev 20:11-15). Believers’ sins were judged at the cross of Christ so they have no condemnation (Rom 8:1). And they will face the Judgement Seat of Christ in Heaven (Rom 14:10 & 2 Cor 5:10). This judgement has no losers just like the Great White Throne has no winners. So, those who believe in Christ will never experience spiritual death. Someday in the future (either Rapture or Second Coming) the bodies of all believers will be raised to have a restored, eternal body with Christ.
The second couplet of these verses say “there is a way that seems right to man.” Simply put, without power external of man’s self, his future is death and eternal condemnation. In the final analysis, it is only God’sopinion that matters. Is your life tuned to God’s opinion, or do you have a separate existence than all the rest of mankind. Would that not be the epitome of arrogance?
Understand the Context (Prov 8:1-9:18)
Proverbs 8 and 9 have Solomon’s appeal for people to seek, find and embrace God’s wisdom in their personal lives. Here, he uses a figurative technique called personification to represent the idea of wisdom with the more concrete image of a virtuous lady. The personification makes the understanding of the characteristics of wisdom more natural for his son. Of course, the lady would have to have elegance and great virtue for her to represent wisdom. Telling his son to seek after and embrace the gracious lady is easier for the son to understand than telling him to pursue the abstract concept of wisdom. When the son gains a firm understanding of the substitute trek, Solomon would adjust his focus to the more important idea of godly wisdom.
However, once a personification begins, it seems new ideas always have a better representation than the original. Solomon switches to a second personification in his view of two houses. The owners of both houses invite everyone to a party. The first house offers a banquet of godly wisdom. The foods which allow the consumption of godly wisdom are all the delicacies imaginable.
The second house offers the choice of folly in contrast to the godly wisdom of the first house. Here, one begins by rejecting God’s wisdom. Their banquet is comprised of only bread and water. Not only so, but the water used for the banquet was stolen. The robbery took place in the shadows of night and darkness. The stolen water is intended to personify sexual immorality. All that was done in this house was done in subversive secrecy. Let us look at the specific scriptures to see how Solomon handled the personification of godly wisdom for his son. The study is divided into three parts: value, powerful and obtainable.
Value (Prov 8:6-11)
Of course, Solomon routinely starts his presentations by insisting that his son listen very closely. He posits that what he is about to tell him will be excellent in every way and will contain only right things (verse 6). But godly wisdom is being represented to him as the truth. Any form of wickedness would be an abomination to Solomon’s lips, that is, he was not capable of leading his son astray. Verse 8 offers further assurances of only righteousness rather than any form of evil or perverse teachings. Instead, Solomon’s teachings are plain or simple to anyone who has the capability to understand the application of knowledge which is wisdom (vs 9).
Verses 10 and 11 leave the foundational guarantees and assurances for direct descriptions of the value of godly wisdom. First, he uses silver and gold as the standards against which to measure the value of his teachings and the associated knowledge gained. He moves from instruction which provides knowledge to wisdom which is knowledge applied. Not even rubies can be compared to its great value. As a matter of fact, there is nothing that could be imagined that compares to the value of wisdom according to Solomon.
Powerful (Prov 8:12-16)
As verse 12 starts out, it should be clear that Solomon is introducing someone to speak for him on the topic of wisdom. Matthew Henry’s commentary suggests it may be Jesus Christ speaking and introducing Himself as the epitome of wisdom. There is no question that Christ is the standard for wisdom and of sound judgement, and of One having perfect understanding of where to find knowledge and discernment, but it is difficult to see these earlier verses as Christ being the speaker.
It would be a mistake to eliminate Christ from consideration because we usually think of Him as a New Testament character. Recall that Genesis 1:1 describes a triune God as the Creator, Colossians 1:16 says all things were created by Jesus and for Him, and one of the three angel who spoke to Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was called “Lord” by Abraham (Hebrew Yhwh short for Yahweh or Jehovah). In the last example, two angels went to destroy the city while the one called Jehovah by Abraham stayed behind to renew His covenant with Abraham.
That it was Jesus speaking becomes more obvious as we get to verses 14-16. Now, if one wishes to tie godly wisdom and divinity’s perfect knowledge and understanding, it can be done at the hands of Jesus’ statement to His apostles in John 14:17. There Jesus states that it is the Spirit of God that the world does not know, and therefore, cannot receive that is the promised Comforter. He says while the world does not know Him, you (the apostles) know him because he was with you but shall be in you. This is the discriminator for believers in Christ during the Church Age. Throughout the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit has and will always dwell alongside the believer. In the Church Age however, and by Jesus’ personal guarantee, “He who was alongside shall be inside.” In other words, all of us who call Jesus our Savior have the presence of God’s Holy Spirit INSIDE our persons. Believing that He is there, much like believing that Jesus Christ is Savior and Lord, is the key to unleashing His mighty power and wisdom. When Paul makes the statement, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” he is speaking of the power of the resident deity who is in him. And he speaks the absolute truth; there is nothing that we cannot do through the power of God who is resident in every believer!
Solomon quotes Psalms 111:10 in his statement that “the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov 1:7 & 9:10). In verse 13, here, Solomon writes that “the fear of the Lord is to hate evil” in general but add the hate of pride, arrogance, the evil way and the forward mouth.
Powerful (Prov 8:12-16, Cont.)
In verses 14-16, Solomon speaks to the contrary of his statements describing what he is not. Instead, these are the things he is, and because of the indwelling Spirit, we are as well. In 14, Solomon declares humanly that counsel, sound wisdom, understanding and strength are his. But in 15 and 16, Solomon leaves the natural things for the supernatural saying because of Him, kings reign, princes decree justice and rule, and nobles and judges judge the earth. Now the features of power in these last two verses certainly transcend the power of almost all mortals, but they are just as certainly within the power of God; or He that dwells within us. The limiting factor for many of us is when we start acting like the power is ours instead of the Spirit within. True arrogance is claiming for yourself that which belongs to God. Just to put things in perspective, God is the One Who causes us to wake up in the morning. Without Him, we are no different than any other human, but with Him, we are completely different.
Obtainable (Prov 8:17-21)
Here, the Lord is clear in stating that He loves all those who love Him. The wisdom of God is obtainable not just for some but for everyone. Some try to limit God’s love of every man, woman and child in saying that only those who have been called from the beginning of time can love Him. God’s plan has always been to call His entire creation back to Him and this remains a foundational truth of scripture. Simply stated, God’s call is universal for all mankind. John says, God so loved the world…” (John 3:16). The Greek word used for “world” there is cosmos. In set theory, that is the universe of all existence that is human. There is no one left out of that set of people. God calls them all, but He does not determine what their response will be. The Bible says simply, “All who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom 10:13 et al). It is mankind’s response that determines whether a person will be saved. Most assuredly, there is room at the cross for YOU! And Jesus said “seek and ye shall find” (Matt 7:7 & Luke 11:9).
So, God loves all those who love Him, and He brings riches and honor with Him, and those riches are useable riches, that is, riches that can be used and part of those durable riches is the righteousness of God. The fruits that God brings with Him are more valuable than even the finest gold available. The revenue the Lord brings in is better than choice silver (vs 19). God leads or influences us in the direction of righteousness in the middle of judgement. He does these things so that He can cause those who love Him to inherit riches and substance that fill their treasuries (vs 21). So, the wisdom that God offers is obtainable for every one of us who call upon His name.
Understanding the Context (Prov 5:1-7:27)
An easy area of consistency between each of Solomon’s sessions with his son is the exhortation for the son to pay very close attention. If this was the teaching of Jesus under the New Testament, we might expect to see “verily, verily” preceding each element of the lessons. In the first of the three sections of this lessons (Proverbs 5:1-23), Solomon reemphasizes the importance of his son listening closely. This set of teachings will be the father’s warnings against sexual behaviors outside marriage. This will also be the focus of the teachings for this devotional and see that Solomon caused disastrous problems for Israel because of his marital practices as well.
The second division in the context of these teachings for Solomon’s sons was Proverbs 6:1-19. Here Solomon addresses the problems of finances, work ethics and choosing friends. He also covers the seven things God considers abominable in His land: a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren (Prov 6:17-19).
In the third section, Prov 6:20-7:27, Solomon relates some ideas about avoiding sexual sin and including the wife in the consequences thereof.
See the Reality (Prov 5:3-6)
Solomon begins by describing the temptations of the strange woman. On the surface she will have lips as sweet as the honeycomb and smoother than oil, but the end she is as bitter as wormwood and as sharp as a two-edged sword. Wormwood (artemisia absinthium) is a bitter, aromatic, woody shrub used as an ingredient of vermouth and absinthe in medicine. The comparison of the two-edged sword is used when discussing something or someone who cuts either way. So, the strange woman can seem sweet and tempting but ends up bitter and dangerous (verses 3-4). He continues his warning of her by saying where she leads will result in death and hell (verse 5). He concludes by suggesting that her goals and objectives are variable and impossible to understand or predict.
Solomon almost seems to prophesy his own future here. It is somewhat uncanny that he ran into serious problems with his many foreign wives. God had specifically warned Israel as they prepared to enter and take the Promised Land that they must annihilate the current inhabitants of Canaan and certainly not make treaties or intermarry with them (Deut 7:1-4). Jehovah says that the foreign wives would lead the hearts of their husbands away from Him to strange gods. Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines, many of which were from the same tribes of people God told Joshua to annihilate. 1 Kings 11:1-4 documents Solomon’s disobedience to God’s command and when he was old, his wives led him away from God to worship false gods who were not gods at all.
God’s punishment was to take the nation of Israel away from Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, in 930 BC and give it to Jeroboam (not a descendent of David) instead. God told Solomon that He would not take the nation away from him because of His love for King David, but He would take it from Solomon’s son. The ten northern tribes of Israel would be ruled by Jeroboam and called Israel while only Judah and Benjamin were ruled by Rehoboam and would be called Judah. In 722 BC, Israel would fall to Assyria because of prolonged disobedience followed by Judah falling to Babylonia in 565 BC for the same reason. So, Solomon’s frequent encounters with “the strange woman” resulted in total disobedience against the Lord and the loss of ruling the nation of Israel for his near-term descendants.
Think Long Term (Prov 5:7-11)
The admonishment here is to stop thinking about the near-term ego boost or attention from the tempting person and thinking more about the ramifications of such activity. The saying comes to mind that a true test of a person’s character is what they will do when they believe they will not get caught (variations accredited to Thomas Babington Macaulay, John Wooden, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, et al). The mind seems to be so swayed by the near-term gratification that the obvious penalties for the activity or the potential impact on family, friends, personal integrity, community standing or, in this case, future of the country are not considered. Solomon suggests to his son that the first thought should be to maintain integrity with the words of your father.
I would say it should be closer to self than the words of your father or the Father. The first consideration should be the questions, “Is this really me?” “Is this how I act?” “Is this consistent with the promises and commitments I have made?” “If I yield to this, can I live with myself afterwards?” The answers ought to be obvious. But if you know of you have weaknesses in these areas or have failed before, keep yourself away from the opportunities. Vice President Mike Pence openly states that he will not allow himself to meet with a woman unless his wife is with him.
Think Long Term (Prov 5:7-11, Cont.)
In verses 8 through 11, Solomon says stay far away from that person who tempts you. Don’t allow yourself to go near to where he or she is. That is unless you want surrender your honor, open yourself up to mean comments or gossip, give the wealth you have earned to people you don’t even know, or mourn as your physical and mental health is lost in your own sorrow. Just say no.
Enjoy God’s Provision (Prov 5:15-18)
Solomon offers another option in verses 15 through 19. Drink the standing water out of your own cistern and running water out of your own well. Whatever need you have, find the solution at home. Be faithful to what and whom God has given you. Verse 16 should come out more like a question than a statement. It should sound like, “Why share your fountain of love anywhere else?” “Why waste your fresh water by dumping it in the streets?”
Instead, keep it at home with those who love you (vs 17). You can celebrate friendliness and generosity with others by sharing good will, humor, conversation and many other things that you have not promised to someone else. Enjoy the sweet blessing God has provided through the wife or husband He has given you. Most people have to look in the mirror every morning to shave or put on makeup; can you live with the person you see there?
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.
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