Archive for December, 2018

Proverbs 13:18-24

Solomon wraps up Proverbs 13:18-24 talking about those who ignore instruction and truth – it just doesn’t go well when you insist on doing things your own way. “Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored”. We all make mistakes, but the sure way to see those ongoing mistakes continue is to be unwilling to listen and change.  This kind of behavior can lead to poverty and disgrace, rather than the blessing that comes to the one who is willing to listen to and act upon correction.  This leads to honor in this life and the life to come.

When our desires are fulfilled – especially when they are accomplished through hard work, discipline, and sacrifice – this is sweet to the soul and brings great life satisfaction. “A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul, but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools”. The fool is so in love with their evil that they regard it as a terrible thing (an abomination) to depart from that evil. They simply can’t let go of it. This shows that evil and folly are not surface problems; they are deeply rooted within a person’s being. In the same way, wisdom is something we choose to walk in. “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm”. Who we hang out with matters.  Our choice of companions will impact how we will walk into destiny.

Sin always carries a stiff price. “Disaster pursues sinners, but the righteous are rewarded with good”. The “reward” of sinners is for evil to chase after them. It never gives up trying to catch and destroy. God’s righteous followers have a much better destiny. Good shall be granted to them as they reap what they have sowed.  And that reward is not merely gained for self. “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous”. The sinner may have wealth, and this may be a discouragement to the righteous. But we can be confident in the judgments of God and know that all things are theirs and God can, if He wishes, transfer the wealth of the sinner to the righteous. God makes that decision.

Adam Clarke understood this as a rebuke of the lazy poor: “O, how much of the poverty of the poor arises from their own want of management! They have little or no economy, and no foresight. When they get anything, they speedily spend it; and a feast and a famine make the chief varieties of their life.” “The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food, but it is swept away through injustice”. Whatever the land is used for will come up short because justice will prevail.

Solomon then turns his attention to discipline of a child. “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him”. The rod is a figure of correction including but not limited to the appropriate physical discipline of children. The one who refuses to discipline his child may feel they avoid it out of compassion for the child, but they are mistaken. The harm is potentially so great that it infers that a parent hates his child by failing to discipline them. Proper discipline comes from both wisdom and love.  It’s not beating them.  It is correcting bad or sinful behavior to teach. And when someone learns to live in righteousness, God’s blessing flows to them. “The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite, but the belly of the wicked suffers want”. The wicked and foolish create scarcity in their lives and come up way short.

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Proverbs 13:13-17

In Proverbs 13:13-17 Solomon gives some strong words about the importance of God’s Word.  “Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself, but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded”. This principle may be fulfilled through the direct judgment of God upon those who commit the terrible sin of despising His Word, or by the natural consequences of such a poor choice. The person who not only understands and obeys but also properly respects and reverences God’s Word (reveres the commandment) will be rewarded both in this life and the life to come.  How we respond and treat God’s Word is so important and impactful in our life.

He continues by telling us that God’s word (the teaching of the wise) is a continual source of life for all who will receive it. “The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death”. This is one way that God’s Word brings life. Understanding and obeying God’s Word will keep us away from many things that trap and destroy, both spiritual and physical.  There are many snares the enemy sets to trap us.  It is only God’s Word that can lead us to the one and only fountain of life.  Many snares, one fountain – and the only source of finding that fountain of life is to understand and follow the teaching of God’s Word.

Good sense wins favor, but the way of the treacherous is their ruin”. This happens both from the blessing of God and simply from the way people relate and get along with each other. Men and women of good understanding are more welcome among others in the way they deal with people. Those who reject wisdom and live lives unfaithful to God and man will find life hard. They find many more obstacles and difficulties in their path, and receive less help from others along the way.  How we live makes a significant difference in how life happens.  God’s Word is the guide that can keep us on His path and save us from a lot of grief.

The wise and prudent man not only has knowledge, but they take action with what they know. Wisdom is more than in their mind, it is in their life. “In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly”. It doesn’t impact a little part of what they do – it is what they do and how they live. The folly of the fool is plain for the world to see. It is open before God and man for all to observe and laugh at.  Wickedness never pays. “A wicked messenger falls into trouble, but a faithful envoy brings healing”. This is even more important for the messenger, who has the responsibility to relay the message. This is a warning to those who are or wish to be messengers of God’s truth. Those who are faithful in that duty bring goodness to others and to themselves.

Proverbs 13:7-12

In Proverbs 13:7-12 Solomon tackles the topic of being rich. Material riches and wealth may be of little account for happiness in this world and especially in the world to come. One may work hard to make himself rich yet find at the end of it all that his wealth is as nothing. “One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth”. There are those who willingly make themselves poor on a material level, and do so out of generosity to others or out of fixed spiritual priorities. Such ones have great riches in this life and in the life to come. Happiness is never about money.  Happiness is a choice, and while riches could possibly influence our attitudes and actions – it does not control our choice to be happy.

Solomon goes on to tell us a man’s life can be measured in many ways. One of those measurements – though by no means the best measurement – is his riches. In a time of crisis, a man’s riches may create a conflict in his soul. “The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat”. The poor will never find himself in the same trouble as the rich man who must make choices in his life in conflict with his riches. On the other hand, it seems Solomon may have considered that poverty comes from their moral failings. Certainly not everyone who is poor is in that condition because of their unwillingness to hear rebuke, but some are.

Righteousness – godliness as expressed in real life – is associated with light and with rejoicing. There is something wrong with the person who claims to be righteous but rarely has evidence of light and rejoicing. “The light of the righteous rejoices, but the lamp of the wicked will be put out”. Righteousness is associated with light, but the wicked with darkness. The darkness conceived of here is imposed by the judgment of a righteous God who will put it out. Solomon then moves on to talk about insolence (or pride) – excessive self-focus and self-regard – which constantly generates strife. When people are focused on themselves they will always attempt to advance at the expense of others. “By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom”. Those who listen to and receive the counsel of others walk in wisdom.

Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it”. This may be because God’s blessing is not upon wealth gained by dishonesty, or because such wealth was not gained by the habits of life that earn and retain wealth. God’s blessing will be on honest labor and in the practice of habits that normally earn, retain, and increase wealth. There are few things more powerful than hope. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life”. The strength of hope sustains the heart; when hope’s fulfillment is long delayed (deferred), it can make the heart sick but when it is finally fulfilled it brings long-sustained life.

Proverbs 13:1-6

In Proverbs 13:1-6 Solomon begins by reminding young people to listen to their parents. The fact that Solomon delivered this proverb to his own son does not make it any less true. Children are wise to listen to the instruction from their parents. It’s a hard thing for most to really do, but there is obviously some good things that can happen when a younger person listens to one with more experience and understanding. “A wise son hears his father’s instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke”. The scoffer is fool enough to reject all guidance and therefore never learns.  He rejects what he is told and determines to make all the mistakes in life on his own.

Solomon reminds us again, after many previous reminders, that what we speak matters. Wise and good speech brings blessings of many different kinds, including the blessing of prosperity. “From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good, but the desire of the treacherous is for violence”. Those who are unfaithful to God and His wisdom may find themselves supported by or through violence. Failing to listen to and follow God takes one down a path of learning the hard way. A big part of that wisdom is controlling what we say. “Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin”. To speak too much is usually to find trouble, leading to destruction. Wisdom will guard the mouth and the words it speaks.  What we say definitely does matter – Solomon has told us that many times in Proverbs.

Clarke wrote “It has often been remarked that God has, given us two EYES, that we may SEE much; two EARS, that we may HEAR much; but has given us but ONE tongue, and that fenced in with teeth, to indicate that though we hear and see much, we should speak little.” Then Solomon again takes on the problem of laziness. “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied”. One of the principles of scripture is that diligence in spiritual things leads to spiritual riches and blessing. There is a connection between obedience to God’s Word and direction and how God responds to us.

Truth is one of those core truths that God demands. “The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace”. The righteous man doesn’t just love truth and avoid telling lies; they actually hate lying. Being godly, they have the love of truth and hatred of the lie that God Himself has. The wicked love to lie and this makes them loathsome and disgraceful in God’s sight. This will surely bring them to shame. A blameless life – certainly not free of sin, but a life of general righteousness and integrity – is honored and blessed by God. “Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless, but sin overthrows the wicked”. The sin of the sinner overthrows them. Deeds will definitely impact our destiny.

Proverbs 12:21-28

In Proverbs 12:21-28 Solomon continues his comparison between the righteous and wicked.  He makes a strong case that the right choice is righteousness. God’s righteous people will certainly experience trouble. Yet God promised to manage the degree of trouble, the duration of trouble, and the depth of the trouble. Especially seen in light of eternity, no grave trouble will overtake the righteous. “No ill befalls the righteous, but the wicked are filled with trouble”. Life won’t be perfect, but it will be manageable.  For the wicked, that is certainly not the promise. The wicked will receive the result of their wickedness. They will not be rescued from their trouble; and because they pursued evil, they will be filled with evil.

God cares about things we tend to excuse or ignore – like lying. “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who act faithfully are his delight”. The God of truth loves the truth, and regards the lips that spread lies as offensive, an abomination. But the same God delights in those who value and tell the truth. Wisdom’s lesson is plain: stop lying and start telling the truth. That doesn’t mean we tell everyone everything we know. It is, in fact, a mark of wisdom and prudence to not reveal all that we know, especially if it may harm or disgrace others. “A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly”. Fools of course, have no filter and share everything they think they know without regard to impact or value.

Solomon says it clearly – hard working people achieve and come to places of leadership. “The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor”. But because he is unfit to rule over others or even himself, the lazy man will be ruled over by others. If you aren’t willing to work hard, you’ll hardly be considered a valuable member of any organization. One thing that can cause us to be derailed in our efforts is worry. “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad”. Encouragement costs little from the one who gives it but can do enormous good for the one who receives it.

How we live not only impacts the outcome of our life, but influences those around us. “One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor, but the way of the wicked leads them astray”. We have the opportunity to impact people with good or evil.  It’s a choice based on how we engage.  Solomon returns to the discussion around working hard and being focused on doing things – those are the ones who will win. “Whoever is slothful will not roast his game, but the diligent man will get precious wealth“. And he ends this chapter with an overarching principle.  “In the path of righteousness is life, and in its pathway there is no death”. It is a common belief that the way of righteousness is boring or unpleasant. This is a deception and lie from the world, the flesh, and the devil. The truth is that the outcome of righteousness is abundant life.

Proverbs 12:13-20

In Proverbs 12:13-20 Solomon continues to discuss the difference between good and evil.  What an evil person says eventually get him into trouble. It will become a snare he his trapped in. “An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips, but the righteous escapes from trouble”. A righteous person, on the other hand, controls his tongue and avoids those issues.  A righteous man finds blessing comes to his life by what he says. His good, kind, and encouraging words will bring life to himself and others. “From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him”. A man will reap what he has wored for, whether it be for good or evil. God’s judgments are true and fitting.

Solomon gives us more wisdom around being a fool. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice”. The fool almost always thinks they are on the right path. It is difficult for them to think carefully and accurately about the path of their life. The wise man understands the value of counsel and does not look only to what is right in his own eyes. The wise person also understands that is helpful to get another set of “eyes” on one’s way. Wise folks also don’t react to what someone says. “The vexation of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult”. The fool does not have the self-control to wait and let the immediate anger pass before making a response. The fool does most things out of impulse without thought.

Solomon moves on to talk about honesty versus deceit.  The words of the wise are filled with truth and therefore reflect God’s righteousness. “Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit”. The false witness doesn’t speak the truth, and promotes deceit instead of righteousness. He goes on to talk about the power of the tongue.  Some people have the destructive ability to speak in a manner that stabs and slices others. Their words are like the slashing and piercings of a sword, bringing hurt instead of healing. “There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing”. Wise men are able to bring health and healing from the words they speak.

The truth always wins.  God looks after those who love the truth and speak the truth. Under His blessing, they will be established forever. “Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment”. Liars have quite a different fate. It often seems that the lying tongue wins the day and is stronger than the truthful lip. But the judgments of the God of truth will show how temporary the success of the lying tongue is. It will be much like deceit that will only have fleeing success. “Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy”. There is a happiness and contentment (joy) that comes to those who speak words of peace.

Proverbs 12:5-12

In Proverbs 12:5-12 Solomon begins by reminding us that the righteous man or woman is not only right in their actions, but even in their thoughts. They know something of what it means to be transformed by the renewing of the mind. “The thoughts of the righteous are just; the counsels of the wicked are deceitful”. Those who are not righteous are filled with deceit, deception and error.  The wicked wait to destroy for their own gain.  But the upright gives good and wise words that rescue them from evil. “The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood, but the mouth of the upright delivers them”.

Solomon is clear that the wicked will lose the battle.  In life, we may lose once in a while but we know who wins the war.  Having no root in righteousness, the wicked cannot and will not stand. They will one day be overthrown and simply perish. “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand”. In contrast, God will protect the righteous.  They will endure and stand against anything that comes at them. Wise men and women will be recognized and honored for their wisdom. “A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of twisted mind is despised”. The one who has a twisted or crooked mind will be despised.

Solomon calls out the power of being a servant.  It is servant leadership that will be rewarded.  It may not always be appreciated by those around a servant leader, but God certainly sees and knows. “Better to be lowly and have a servant than to play the great man and lack bread”.  The proud man who is focused on himself will never lead to happiness or prosperity.  Solomon then changes focus to how we treat animals.  It may see different, but it actually is very much connected.  A righteous man respects all life, and we should care and show compassion to all animals.  “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel”. Those who are wicked will be cruel to things lowly to themselves just like Satan is.

Hard work generates God’s bless and allows one to enjoy the fruits of their labor. “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense”. But the one who lives for worthless things and wastes his time and effort will be lacking.  Swinnock wrote “The proud person is Satan’s throne, and the idle man his pillow. He sits in the former and sleeps quietly on the latter.” The wicked will covet what others have and never be satisfied with their own. “Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers, but the root of the righteous bears fruit”. God’s righteous men and woman don’t need to covet that owned by evil men, because they are like fruit bearing trees. This comes from their very root, from who they are.

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