Archive for February, 2019

Proverbs 19:21-25

In Proverbs 19:21-25 Solomon addresses the foundation of planning.  He makes it clear that we can plan all we want, but in the end, God determines the outcome.  That said, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan. It is in the nature of men, at least some men, to plan and prepare for the future. Some of the plans may be wise and some may be foolish, but there are many plans in a man’s heart. Those should be written down, communicated and worked toward but readily adaptable to God’s direction. “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.” Man makes his plans, and he should. Yet every plan should be made with an appreciation of God’s overall wisdom, work, and will.

Solomon reminds us that one of the most desirable qualities we can have is steadfast love.  Two very important words that define an ongoing and never ending love. It is not that love is the highest or only virtue to be sought. Yet, in many ways, it is the one most desired by others, especially in a modern world where love is fleeting and doesn’t last. “ What is desired in a man is steadfast love, and a poor man is better than a liar.” To be a man of truth—to not be a liar—is also of great value. This proverb reminds that though we should pursue and value steadfast love, we should not treat it as the only valued virtue among God’s people.  Certainly it is not the only virtue God cares about.

Once again Solomon reminds us that having a fear of God is a good thing.  It leads to life!  Since the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, it leads to life. If we want life, we should begin with this honor, reverent awe and submission to God. “The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.” When we have and walk in the fear of the Lord, it leads to a life of satisfaction. The world, the flesh, and the devil want to convince us that a life founded on fear of the Lord leads to misery, but the opposite is true. It brings satisfaction and keeps us from a future of evil.

He next discusses the sluggard and the scoffer – two qualities that are not something for us to seek. He’s talked about both before. Solomon pictured a lazy man sitting at his food, with his hand buried in his bowl of food. “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish and will not even bring it back to his mouth.” In this humorous, exaggerated picture, the lazy man has so little energy and initiative that he won’t even bring his hand from the bowl to his mouth. This exaggerated picture establishes a principle made elsewhere in proverbs: the lazy man will go hungry. The scoffer will be disciplined or corrected. “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.” When someone who values wisdom (one who has understanding) is corrected, he learns. He grows in his ability to discern knowledge.

Proverbs 19:17-20

In Proverbs 19:17-20 Solomon talks about generosity.  He focuses on those who help the poor.  When we give to the poor (expressing our love and pity towards them), we aren’t wasting our money. It is like lending money to the Lord Himself. It’s hard to know who truly deserves that generosity at times.  Some take advantage of those who are willing to give. “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” God will never be in debt to any man. He will never be in a position where He owes anything as a matter of debt. Therefore, to lend to the Lord is to ensure blessing in return. God will certainly pay back what we give in compassion to the poor. God promises that we will never be the loser for generous and compassionate giving.

Solomon again reminds us of our duty as parents – we need to help our kids do the right things. There is not an endless window of opportunity to train and discipline our children. Age and circumstances limit the opportunity for effective training, so it must be done while there is time to shape their lives. There may come the time when you wish you had done much more to train up your son. “Discipline your son, for there is hope; do not set your heart on putting him to death.” To fail to discipline your son while he can be molded is to actually work for his destruction. Many parents bring destruction to their children through neglect, not outright abuse. They fail to fulfill God’s plan for them as parents.

Anger can lead to things that will cause damage and carry a severe penalty. Out of control anger brings many problems and costs. Among the fruit of the spirit is self-control – the opposite of anger and wrath, and wisdom does not lead a person to be of great wrath. “A man of great wrath will pay the penalty, for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.” The person who can’t control their anger will run into trouble again and again. To rescue them once isn’t enough, because the problem is more in them than in the circumstances that they blame for their anger. It is better for them to face the consequences of their action and hope they learn something form it.

God placed us in our patch so we can live in community.  And to really leverage that, we need to listen and learn.  God put us among others so we can learn from each other. One of the first marks of wisdom is the readiness to receive more wisdom. A teachable person, one who will listen to counsel and receive instruction, has already made much progress on the path of wisdom. “Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.” The bad effects of the foolish rejection of wisdom may not be seen for many years. Yet in the latter days of a man or life, it will be clear whether or not they learned wisdom’s lessons and if they did listen to counsel. If you want to be wise later in life, start now. The greatest mistakes I ever made came when I refused to listen to the wisdom around me.

Proverbs 19:13-16

In Proverbs 19:13-16 Solomon continues to describe the importance of character and how people choose to live.  He begins with some thoughts on the family – first with a foolish son.  It is grieving to any parent to have a foolish son or daughter. This may run from grief to ruin as the grief destroys the father’s health and life, or as the father ruins himself to rescue the foolish son. We must remember that as parents, we cannot take responsibility for the choices and decisions our kids make.  We can only support and encourage them. “A foolish son is ruin to his father, and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.” Solomon continues to talk family and transitions from a man’s problems as a father to the potential problem as a husband. A wife who often contends (fights, argues) with her husband is like a continual dripping in at least three ways:

  • It is an always-present annoyance and trouble
  • It wastes and destroys, eroding good and valuable things
  • It points to some underlying, more basic problem

He balances his comments on family with words around the goodness parents can provide in the way of shelter and inheritance for their kids. There are many good things that kids may receive as an inheritance, including material things such as houses and riches. They are blessed to have such things. “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the Lord.” But far beyond money and stuff, is a fantastic spouse to share life with. A gift beyond the inheritance one may receive from fathers is this gift from God—a prudent wife. A wife of wisdom, self-control, and appropriate living is a greater gift than money or property. A wife who is not prudent may waste whatever wealth a man has. Every man with a prudent, wise wife should give thanks to the Lord. Certainly I’m in that camp of grateful husbands.

Next Solomon addresses those who are not hard workers. There are many problems with laziness, and one of them is that it leads to more laziness, sending the lazy man into a deep sleep. There is no work to be done from a deep sleep. The outcome of a slothful life is not desired. “Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep, and an idle person will suffer hunger.” There is a great price to be paid for laziness, one of those prices is the hunger one suffers as their needs are not met through hard work. The lazy man puts themselves in a trap of sleep and hunger. There must be balance though.  It is equally problematic to be a work-a-holic who spends all their time working and no time on God, family or self.

How then shall we live?  It’s really not rocket science.  Scripture is clear, and Solomon says it straight and clearly – we need to do things God’s way. Obedience to the Word in obedience to the commandments of God is of real, practical benefit. Obedience guards and keeps the life and the soul well of the wise man who lives according to God’s word. “Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life; he who despises his ways will die.” There is an alternate choice – disobedience. If we choose that, we die. To abandon wisdom and live carelessly in our ways is to invite death. God gave His commandment to give us life and to keep us from death. We have to choose to walk in obedience though.

Proverbs 19:9-12

In Proverbs 19:9-12 Solomon goes after some characteristics that need to be managed. He begins by taking on those who give false witness and lie.  That’s not something that God tolerates. It’s the second time in this very chapter that Solomon has addressed it. The repetition reminds us that this is an important principle. In the law court and in daily life, God wants us to be people of the truth and so He promised that a false witness will not go unpunished. “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will perish.” God’s serious about it – it won’t sneak past and go unnoticed. There is certainty of God’s dealing with those who lie.

Next he addresses the fool again. The sense is that there are some wisdom-rejecting fools who enjoy luxury, but it doesn’t seem right. It isn’t fitting for a fool to live in luxury. So while it can happen, it is somewhat of a contrast to the norm. “It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury, much less for a slave to rule over princes.” In his time, Solomon spoke according to the wisdom of natural man, which places great trust in nobility and family lineage. This is one of the proverbs that the gospel and the new covenant turn on its head, where those who would be great should be as servants and not as princes. The greatest of all is the servant of all.

If we have good sense, we consider all things before reacting or even acting.  There are no quick responses and certainly not any filled with immediate anger or rage. It isn’t necessarily weakness of lack of courage that makes a man slow to anger. It may be wisdom, here described as discretion. “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” But that good sense is taken further when he tells us that sometimes it is best to overlook an offense – something done wrongly to you. A wise man knows that they have been forgiven much, and this shapes how they deal with and respond to others. They don’t act as if they must hold everyone accountable for every transgression, but know when to turn the other cheek.

The next area he covers is the wrath of one who is in charge. The roar of a lion can be terrifying, not only for the sound itself but also for the understanding that it means destruction may swiftly follow. The same is true for the wrath of a king or any other influential person. It is much more true regarding the wrath of God than any other, but wrathful leadership comes across as harsh and severe. “A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion, but his favor is like dew on the grass.” Contrast that with having favor which is refreshing and life giving; it also means that it is fleeting, as the dew on the grass. The favor of God is certainly refreshing and life giving, but it is not fleeting, as if God were an impossible to please tyrant.

Proverbs 19:5-8

In Proverbs 19:5-8 Solomon reminds us that truth is the standard and deviating from it will lead to bad outcomes. The idea is that of the law court, and in the court it is essential that the false witness be punished. Justice depends upon it. This principle extends beyond the court of law into our daily life. God loves the truth and wants us to speak the truth. “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.” Among our fellow man, sometimes the false witness and liars escape the discovery and penalty of their sin. With God, he who speaks lies will not escape. Jesus said our every word would be held to account.  Truth is the only acceptable response.

We again see that money draws people, but this time Solomon frames it through a generous person.  When someone is generous with what they have, many people seek their favor. There are advantages in having the favor of influential people. The key to seeking it is the motive for why you do it.  If for your own personal gain, it likely won’t go well. “Many seek the favor of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.”  Many people who offer friendship do so out of selfish motives. They want the benefit of the favor of the nobility and the gifts that others may offer. As we learned before, these sorts of friendship only last as long as those seeking you for selfish reasons get what they want.

Money definitely impacts how people relate to one another.  Being poor often leads to rejection by men, even by brothers and friends. What a contrast to Jesus, who Himself became poor to draw near to us in our poverty and need. “All a poor man’s brothers hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him! He pursues them with words, but does not have them.” People who are poor often pursue those who have means, and doing so can drive them away. By nature, people run from the poor person, even when he tries to persuade and pursue them with words. In contrast, God pursues the poor and needy.

Solomon reminds us that loving ourselves is healthy and important.  Wisdom causes us to do that. The possession and pursuit of wisdom is so good and helpful to us that we can and should get wisdom simply out of self-interest. In so doing we love our own soul, our own life. “Whoever gets sense loves his own soul; he who keeps understanding will discover good.” Wisdom isn’t just something to get; it is also something to keep. We find goodness when keep understanding.  Seeking and finding wisdom then gives us the opportunity to hang on to it and use it to guide how we live.  That translates into good things when we walk in the way of wisdom!

Proverbs 19:1-4

In Proverbs 19:1-4, Solomon begins this section by focusing on the importance of integrity.  God  cares about the heart of a man, not how much money he may have. Previous proverbs have been seemingly critical of the poor, but here Solomon recognized that not all poverty is caused by moral failure or weakness. There are definitely poor people who walk in integrity. “Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.” The Book of Proverbs is honest about the disadvantages of poverty. Yet it also recognizes that being poor is in no way the worst thing a person can be. It is far worse to be a fool who speaks twisted, perverse things.

One of the other things that isn’t good is when we are driven but don’t have knowledge.  When a person with desire has no wisdom (is without knowledge), it is never good. It may be very common, but it is not good. Action does not mean good if it is not driven by knowledge and wisdom. “Desire without knowledge is not good, and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.” Solomon listed a second thing that was also not good—the one who rushes toward sin (hastens with his feet). Speed when it is applied toward the wrong thing makes it worse. On this side of eternity we will struggle with sin, but we don’t have to run towards it. We should be people who battle against sin, not run towards it.

We are able to fully destroy things on our own.  We don’t need others to pull us toward ruin, we manage to find our way all by ourselves.  It is possible that hanging with the wrong people can cause us to move toward it more quickly or easily, but at the end of the day, it is our choices that cause us to sin.  It is our own poor choices (folly) that causes the wrong outcomes. “When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.” God intended us to live in peace with Him, but because of rebellion (both inherited and chosen), we are in many ways at odds with the Lord. The foolish man has no peace with God; their heart actually turns against the Lord. They are angry and perhaps bitter against God for their own bad choices.

Scripture tells us that money is the root of all evil. In relation to friendship, that can also be true. When a person is wealthy, it draws many people to them in apparent friendship. Yet these friendships may not be sincere or meaningful. They are likely based on what the person with money might do for them, and if they don’t get their expectation met, they move quickly to someone else. “Wealth brings many new friends, but a poor man is deserted by his friend.” Unfortunately many of these ‘friendships’ are based on what someone can gain, not for what they can give. Money will never be the foundation of a strong lasting friendship.

Proverbs 18:21-24

In Proverbs 18:21-24 Solomon reminds us again about the power of the tongue. It is mighty indeed. The previous proverb said how what a man speaks could provide for his stomach. Here the idea goes further reminding us that the tongue not only has the power of provision, but also of death and life. He talks about the mouth, the tongue and our lips but all are shown as a very powerful force that needs to be managed and controlled. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.” Those who are wise enough to love and appreciate the power of what a man says will be blessed and will eat the pleasant fruit of wise and effective speech. We need to show the power of words with huge respect.

Next Solomon makes a statement that I certainly can validate – a good wife is an amazing gift from the Father.  In the beginning, God created a helpmeet for Adam to complete him.  That was a great thing, and God’s creation of woman continues to bless man each and every day. God gave marriage between a man and woman as a gift to humanity, both as a whole and a blessing on an individual level. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.” The gift of Eve to Adam was a demonstration of God’s favor, and He still gives that gift of favor. In the modern western world the cultural incentives for marriage seem to become weaker year by year, but God’s declaration of good and the giving of His favor doesn’t depend on cultural incentives.

Solomon reminds us that the world is not fair in how it treats people. It is sadly true that often, when a person is poor in money or influence, all they can do is beg for favor and justice. They are pushed aside and not treated with the same respect as one who has more. “The poor use entreaties, but the rich answer roughly.” The rich man or woman can speak boldly—even rudely—because they have resources of money and influence. Solomon here described the world as it is, not as it should be. We sense in this proverb a quiet plea to make a better world than what is described here.  That would be a world where people are respected as people and equals, not treated differently based on their economic situation.

We are reminded that friendship is a tough thing to gain. This is a basic but often ignored principle. If you want friends, you should be friendly to others. You gain a friend by being a friend. Simple yet powerful truth. “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Even when a man has many friends, there is something that will disappoint in human friendship. People will always let us down. The flesh and blood friends of this world are important and a blessing, but we need the Friend who sticks closer than a brother—Jesus Christ Himself, who called us no longer servants but friends.

Proverbs 18:17-20

In Proverbs 18:17-20 Solomon reminds us that we have to listen to both sides of the story before making up our minds. This is a strong and familiar principle. When we hear the first side of a dispute or a debate, we often think the first one to state his case seems right, and we are quick to take their side against the other. But that is not all we need to do. “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” The judgment is very different when the other side is heard from the other party. The second voice may confront the first one to plead his cause and give both sides of the story. Only then can we truly evaluate and discern truth.

We don’t always agree with those we interact with. When there is an argument or dispute, appealing to an outside authority to solve the matter can make contentions cease. In this case the outside authority is the casting of lots, which was common in that day, but the principle can be applied to other agreed-upon authorities. Sometimes we need to have outside perspective to get a solution. “The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders.” When an outside authority settles the dispute, it can keep an ongoing disagreement from escalating and getting out of control.

People can certainly be stubborn and unwilling to come to agreement. There is a price to pay in offending a brother, To win him back to friendship and cooperation is difficult, more than we often think. Therefore we should avoid offending our brother and should do so only if necessary and doing all we can to be blameless so that any offense that is taken is because of them and not us. “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” The conflict and disputes that come when a brother is offended can be as difficult to repair as the bars of a castle. They also may imprison those caught up in the disagreement and suffer from the emotional toil.

While Solomon often warns us to be careful of what comes out of our mouth, along with the power of the tongue, he now reminds us that our words can be a source of success and income. For some it is possible to make their living by what they say. They satisfy their needs as well as those of their family from the fruit of their mouth. “From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied; he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.” The mouth can be a source of success and provide for the future. What one says can potentially fill his stomach and fulfill his financial obligations. It requires discipline and skill to communicate that way, but it can be a gift for one who learns to use it well.

Proverbs 18:13-16

In Proverbs 18:13-16 Solomon reminds us again that our words matter, and that we need to listen before we speak. It is common to give quick, impulsive answers to questions and problems. We respond without thinking, or without hearing the full story, or without listening completely, sometimes more interested in what we hope to say than what the matter before us really is.  That kind of response can create issues. “If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.” To whatever extent we do this, it is foolish and shameful. It is folly because a wrong or misguided answer is likely; it is shame because we do not represent ourselves well in doing so. We need to slow down, listen and then thoughtfully respond.

God created us strong in spirit.  We can endure much. Many have wrestled long and hard under sickness but have felt themselves sustained—sometimes miraculously so—by the strength of their spirit. God put strength within us, and we can endure much. “A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?” But when the spirit is broken, instead of giving life it proves to be something few people can bear. We lose hope, and we cannot carry on. The definition of a ‘crushed’ spirit suggests a broken will, loss of vitality, despair, and emotional pain. Few things in the human experience are as difficult to cope with as this. It can bring anyone down.

We can never get enough knowledge, and the more we have, the more we know we need and want.  We pursue it. Wisdom desires more wisdom and knows how to get it. They show their intelligence by seeking and getting more knowledge. It is there for us to pursue and find. “An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Wise men and women seek after wisdom with all their being—their heart and their ear are given over to the pursuit of more wisdom. Ross wrote “the ear of the wise listens to instruction, and the heart of the wise discerns what is heard to acquire knowledge.”

Solomon then tells us that gifts can open doors.  This is different than the earlier verses about bribery which spoke of a gift in the sense of a bribe, but a different word is used here. This proverb is a simple recognition of fact: generosity and politeness open many doors. It can get us entry. “A man’s gift makes room for him and brings him before the great.” It is true that a gift can be effective in gaining an audience of even great men. We are grateful that nothing is required to come before the greatest Man, the Man Christ Jesus who offers His work as mediator without cost.  He has already chosen to love us as we are without cost except coming to Him seeking His forgiveness and love.

Proverbs 18:9-12

In Proverbs 18:9-12 Solomon begins by reminding us that hard work is an important characteristic we all need to exhibit. There are times of entertainment or leisure where perhaps laziness can be excused. There is never an excuse to be lazy or slacking off at work.  As an employee, we owe our best to those who pay for our time.  Work is an exchange of time for money, and as the seller of time, we owe complete focus and effort. “Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” We often think of laziness as a fairly innocent sin, but it is not. The lazy man is a close associate (brother) to the one who brings great destruction.

  • Laziness is theft – you live off the work of others.
  • Laziness is selfishness – you live for yourself and comfort.
  • Laziness is neglect of duty – you don’t do what you should.

The Lord is powerful, and we can access that through Jesus name.  God provides a wonderful and strong defense. This is not rooted in a magical saying of His name as if it were a charm or a spell, but in the name of the LORD as a declaration of His character, His person. In all that He is and all that He stands for, Yahweh (the LORD) is a strong tower. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Because the name of Yahweh represents His character in all its aspects, the believer can think about the aspects of God’s character and find a strong, safe refuge in them. It can be as simple as this:

  • Lord, You are a God of love – so I find refuge in your love.
  • Lord, You are a God of mercy – so I find refuge in your mercy.
  • Lord, You are a God of strength – so I find refuge in your strength.
  • Lord, You are a God of righteousness – so I find refuge in your righteousness.

In contrast to the righteous who find their strong tower in God and His character, the rich man (here used in the sense of the man who trusts in his riches, who is only rich and nothing else) finds refuge in his wealth. Money doesn’t make one happy.  It doesn’t solve the world’s problem, and scripture tells us that it actually is the root of evil sometimes. “A rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his imagination.” But that focus is misguided. The rich man sees his wealth as safe and sure as a high wall around a strong city. Yet this is only in his imagination; both the LORD and the wise know that wealth is not a truly strong city and not a high wall.

We can be our own worst enemy when we begin to think more highly of ourselves than we ought.  Pride comes before the fall. Since pride leads the way to destruction we should expect that the haughty heart will lead us to bad outcomes. “Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” Wise people know that humility leads the way to honor. If you want destruction, be haughty; if you want honor, show humility. Humility is to think of yourself, if you can, as God thinks of you. It is not to think more highly of ourselves as we ought, but keeps who we are in perspective with the Creator and Lord of the universe.  Pride destroys, plain and simple.

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