Archive for February, 2019

Proverbs 18:5-8

In Proverbs 18:5-8 Solomon reminds us that wickedness never pays, nor does it pay to do anything even close to showing favor to the wicked. This is obvious to the person with a moral compass. Yet there are many reasons why someone might be tempted to show partiality to the wicked. They may do it out of misplaced compassion, out of a desire to please others, because of some kind of bribe, or many other reasons. “It is not good to be partial to the wicked or to deprive the righteous of justice.” When one shows partiality to the wicked, they overthrow the righteous in judgment whether they intend to or not. Each aspect of injustice is sin.

Again fools come up as the topic.  Their mouth certainly will create issues, and can lead them into conflict. It is in the nature of the fool to argue. They may have no logic in their argument, but that won’t stop the words from flowing from their mouth. Their words often bring them into contention with others and can lead to a fight. “A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.” The contentious words of the fool invite punishment, and sometimes this punishment will be physical correction, the blows of the rod of correction. Sometimes it will cause them to be put out and pushed aside because of their words.

Solomon’s wisdom on fools continue, and the focus remains the same – their mouth. Fools often run at the mouth rather than remain quiet. The words of the fool show his foolishness, and they also can lead to his destruction. Many a fool has been ruined because of their foolish words.  They don’t stop to consider the impact of what comes from their mouth. “A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” As in most places in Proverbs, snare here speaks of the life of being of the fool. It includes the inner spiritual self but is not restricted to it. The fool’s life is trapped – caught in a snare – by his foolish words.

But not only words of a fool are problematic.  Also Solomon warns about those who whisper or speak gossip or untruthfulness. The gossip and evil reports brought by the whisperer are almost impossible to resist. Those who should know better find it difficult to tell the whisperer to stop talking before they even hear what he has to say. The importance of this proverb is clear because of its repetition, as it is repeated in Proverbs 26:22. “The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” When we receive the words of a whisperer, they normally have an effect on us. The words go into us and often change the way we think and feel about people, even if what we are told isn’t true or isn’t confirmed. Scripture gives strong instruction regarding the needed confirmation of what people share.  We should not take the words of a whisperer without verification.

Proverbs 18:1-4

Solomon begins Proverbs 18:1-4 with a warning that being isolated is a very bad way to live.  To cut one’s self off from family, friends, and community is often to express a selfish desire. It shows an unwillingness to make the small (and sometimes large) sacrifices to get along with others. We were created to be part of community.  Life is not a solo event. So we need to be connected to others for many reasons. “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” God designed us after His own triune nature; He designed us to live in community. The instinct many have for isolation must not be over indulged; it is against all wise judgment.

Fools obviously resist all input and rely only on their own thoughts. The wise man or woman has great satisfaction in knowledge, understanding, and wisdom. This is not so with the fool; they find no delight in wisdom. “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” But fools love to hear themselves talk, and want the world around them to know their opinions. Fools are never satisfied with interactions with others. If they ask questions it is to show how clever they are rather than to learn. They focus on self instead of God, and their folly flows from this wrong priority and wrong place to find delight.

Wickedness has some characteristics that define it.  Solomon reminds us that the first of those is contempt. The wicked bring contempt with them, the proud, superior attitude that thinks itself better than others and looks at those thought to be lesser with scorn. Yet it can also be said that contempt follows the wicked, because God will scorn those who scorn others. “When wickedness comes, contempt comes also, and with dishonor comes disgrace.” The second characteristic that accompanies wickedness is dishonor and disgrace. The wicked bring insults (reproach) upon those they consider dishonorable.

Solomon yet again reminds us how important our words are. With those words we can build up and help others, or tear them down. The idea isn’t that everyone’s speech is deep and meaningful. Instead the idea is that we revealed the depths of our heart by the words of our mouth. What we say matters and reveals much about our own heart. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” When the wellspring of a man’s being is rooted in wisdom, it will then flow out from their words. Clarke wrote “That is, the wise sayings of a wise man are like deep waters; howsoever much you pump or draw off, you do not appear to lessen them.”

Proverbs 17:25-28

In Proverbs 17:25-28 Solomon continues to discuss the importance of parenting and raising us kids that are not fools. How do we do that?  By exposing them to a continual dose of wisdom and truth from God’s Word. Parents may find great grief in the foolish character of their children. That’s why shaping it is so important.  We can’t lose sight that it will always be their choice, but we certainly can influence some of those decisions and should not give up trying. “A foolish son is a grief to his father and bitterness to her who bore him.” Because of the maternal instinct and bond, there is a special pain and bitterness that belongs to the mother of a foolish child.

There is a system of right and wrong in God’s creation and economy. God’s moral order insists that the righteous be rewarded and the wicked be punished. To upset this or reverse it is not good and violates God’s intent. Good should be rewarded, and wickedness punished. “To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.” The same kind of action applies to those who lead. If a leader is upright, he should never be punished – especially by striking. Uprightness should be rewarded and honored, not punished. The world certainly can turn things upside down, but that doesn’t change God’s plan or intent.

Solomon again reminds us that our words matter – they mean things – and we need to learn to control our tongue.  It is such a small part of our body but can create so much havoc and destruction. Both wisdom and folly are often revealed by one’s words. Yet, in the case of wisdom, it may be revealed by the knowledge of when to keep quiet. We should never think that the wise man or woman reveals their wisdom by talking a lot. “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.“ The peace and contentment that properly come to the wise is described here as a calm spirit. To be constantly agitated and upset is a mark of folly, not wisdom.

Silence is sometimes golden, and words left unspoken can often be the wisest response we can make. This continues the idea from the previous proverb. There is a wonderful way that even a fool can be considered wise – to not speak. “Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.“ This may be the shortest distance from being a fool to being wise – to keep one’s mouth shut. If the fool cared about being considered perceptive, this gives an easy way for it to happen. I am reminded of Abraham Lincoln’s witty saying: “It is better to keep your mouth shut and let them think you a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

Proverbs 17:21-24

In Proverbs 17:21-24 Solomon reminds us that how our kids turn out certainly impacts the parent’s lives. It can in fact cause a very unhappy home. To be the parent of a foolish scoffer (one who foolishly doubts and rejects the truth) is to have sorrow. Parents should do all they can to not raise scoffers, beginning with believing and living out the truth themselves. But in the end, it is important to remember that we cannot be responsible for our children’s choices.  Ultimately they will answer for what they do.  “He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow, and the father of a fool has no joy.” There is no pleasure in seeing that your child is a fool. There is both the pain of the consequences of the child’s foolishness and the regret of wondering if one parented effectively.

Alternately, raising kids with joyful hearts are completely opposite. It has been said – no doubt based on this proverb – that laughter is the best medicine. Truly, a cheerful and merry heart is good for more than the personality; it is good for the body. Laughter is an important part of healthy living. “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Those who are defeated and broken in spirit will see the effect in their health and experience of life. It will feel to them that their life has withered and dried up. Dry bones signify unhealthiness and lifelessness.  We must be careful to not crush the spirit, especially as we discipline and train up our kids.

Wicked people are willing to be bought. Their concern is only for their own gain, not living by God’s standards of honesty. It is wrong to receive a bribe, and illegal and unjust payment to get around normal laws and procedures and to buy favor from officials. This shows a fundamental corruption and lack of integrity. But it is what wicked people do. “The wicked accepts a bribe in secret to pervert the ways of justice.” Often the wicked think they can do it quietly and in secret, but that is never the case.  God always knows. When favor and a desired outcome depends on bribe money and not fairness and righteousness, justice is perverted. No one can or should have confidence in the system of laws and ways of justice when this is allowed to occur.

Solomon once again reminds us that wisdom is what we need to seek.  That’s where we get true direction for living God’s ways. He reminds us that the wise see things in the light of their wisdom. Their wisdom makes everything else clearer and able to be understood. But we have to pursue it, and seek after it. Wisdom doesn’t come slap us in the face.  We must chase it. “The discerning sets his face toward wisdom, but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.” The fool doesn’t see things with the eyes of wisdom. They have their eyes everywhere (the ends of the earth) except where they should be. Wisdom can be found, if we make the choice to seek it until we find it!

Proverbs 17:17-20

In Proverbs 17:17-20 Solomon begins with some thoughts on friendship. Having real friends is a gift. Scripture reminds us that true friendship doesn’t always last.  One large failure we remember is when Judas sold out his Lord. History has shown us that the greatest of kings have been abandoned and even attacted by those who claimed to be friends while in power. A true friend will not only love when it is easy, but at all times. What is sometimes called fair weather friends – those who are friends only when the weather is pleasant and fair – are not true friends at all. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” A true brother (used here to show something beyond the literal blood relation) will always show up in a time of trouble.

Solomon warns us against putting up collateral for another. Wisdom guards us against creating or being a part of foolish partnerships. They are much easier to enter and always difficult to end. “One who lacks sense gives a pledge and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.” It is responsibility enough to honor our own debts. Wisdom warns us against taking responsibility for the debts of others. That’s exactly what happens when we co-sign a note or become part of a partnership. We are literally taking on liability on behalf of another, and often don’t have clarity on exactly what that means.

There are those who love both transgression and strife. They love it when God’s laws are sinfully transgressed and when there is conflict. There is a sense of evil in their heart.  Sin should always be accompanied by strife or conflict – as it is in direct violation of God’s laws.  When sin becomes accepted we are living in a dangerous place, which is certainly where the world is today. We have to protect God’s way as the standard and truth. “Whoever loves transgression loves strife; he who makes his door high seeks destruction.” Those who exalt the leadership of anyone who loves transgression and strife are promoting destruction. Such people should never sit in a place of respect, leadership, and authority.

Solomon reminds us that we choose how we look at those around us. If our heart is not right with God and filled with deceit we will only find corruption and deceit in others. It is so important that we walk closely with God and follow His ways.  If not, we’ll be surrounded with people whom we can’t trust and always find fault with. “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.” Wicked and foolish words not only display the evil of someone’s heart, they also lead them into greater peril.  What we say and how we live matters.  We need to make sure our heart is aligned with God’s plan for our life and His ways.

Proverbs 17:13-16

In Proverbs 17:13-16 Solomon continues to differentiate good from evil.  It is plainly wrong to give evil to those who deserve good. It discourages those who do good and encourages those who do not. It upsets God’s moral order to have good punished. Trapp said “To render good for evil is divine, good for good is human, evil for evil is brutish, evil for good is devilish.”  “If anyone returns evil for good, evil will not depart from his house.” God sees when His moral order is offended and will answer it. The one who gives evil to the good can expect their own home to be troubled by evil. God is watching and will even the score.

We need to be aware of the power of creating strife. The nature of liquid water makes it difficult to restrain. Once it is released it will go in unexpected and uncontrolled ways. This is like the beginning of strife. Once an argument or battle has begun, it is difficult to control its course, and like uncontrolled water, it can cause great damage.  “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” The only time to have true control over strife is before it begins.  Because strife and contention are difficult to control and cause great damage, wisdom sees that it is much better to stop contention before it ever starts.

It isn’t just the wicked that God will deal with, but also those who assist and justify them.  This is the same kind of upset of God’s moral order as mentioned a few verses earlier. Justice requires the opposite outcome – that the wicked are condemned and that the just are justified. It’s how things happen in God’s kingdom.  “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the Lord.” It isn’t just deal with the wicked that God cares about, but also how the righteous are treated.  God sees the violation of justice on both sides. God never thinks that all should be equally condemned or justified; but that the appropriate answer be given to both the wicked and the just.

In God’s economy, fools really should have money as they don’t have wisdom to know how to use it well.  Wisdom has a price, and Solomon imagined a fool who was ready to pay that price. We might say that the price of wisdom begins with the fear of the Lord. The price of wisdom also involves humility and willingness to receive correction. “Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom when he has no sense?” Fools struggle with that and aren’t really ready to be shaped and molded. The nature of the fool requires that they have no heart to pay the price of wisdom. It just isn’t going to happen that a fool will figure out the value of seeking after wisdom.

Proverbs 17:9-12

In Proverbs 17:9-12 Solomon begins by addressing the way friends deal with shortcomings in each other’s lives.  We are all sinners – that’s a given. There is a time and a place for the exposure of sin, but often the sins of others should be tactfully and lovingly covered. Exposing where others fall short belongs to God, not man.  Before we throw stones, we need to look in the mirror and realize that we all live in glass houses. “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” To uncover someone’s sin by repeated it to others will ruin relationships and divide friendships. We need to remember that friendship means protecting those in our patch.

But friendship doesn’t mean we don’t speak truth.  In fact, it is a very important part of a real relationship.  We need each other to be sure we stay on track. Because a wise man or woman will respond to rebuke and learn from it, it can be truly effective for them to stop and evaluate what’s going on and what needs to change.  It seems risky to stick your nose into someone else’s life, but we need each other. “A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool.” Correction may be administered deeply and repeatedly to the fool, yet they will not receive it. The problem is not in the correction itself (though the fool will likely blame it); the problem is the fool.

Rebelling is never the right response.  If we don’t agree with something, we need to work to understand and then work to change things rather than just rebel. The instinctive response of rebellion belongs to the evil, not to the wise. Those who seek only rebellion can offer nothing wise and good to replace that which they rebel against. The goal needs to be change, not rebellion. “An evil man seeks only rebellion, and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.” Repeated rebellion invites cruel retaliation. The evil man should not be surprised when it comes. Rebellion doesn’t lead to the right result.

Mothers share one unique feeling – they will protect their children first and foremost.  A mother bear is notoriously angry and dangerous when she is robbed of her cubs. No sensible person would want to meet a mother bear under such conditions. “Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.” Believe it or not, a foolish man in the midst of his foolish actions can be more dangerous than a mother bear who has lost her cubs. The wise man or woman will stay away from such a fool in his folly. We need to be mindful of who we hang around and the impact they can have on us.

Proverbs 17:5-8

In Proverbs 17:5-8 Solomon reminds us that God cares for those who are unable to care for themselves.  This time, he is referring to those who are poor, but we’ve seen him address widows and children and the disabled and more.  The basic message is that if we mess with the poor, we’ll have to deal with God. He isn’t going to tolerate mocking those in need. “Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker; he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.” God also isn’t open to those who take joy in the hardships of others.  He wants us to have empathy and sympathy and come to their assistance.

Solomon makes clear the magnificent joy of grandkids in verse six. “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their fathers.” It’s too bad that we can’t have the experience and wisdom with our own kids, but the things we learned through raising them certainly equips us to do a better job with the grandkids.  They truly are a crown of joy.  They may turn our hair silver or white, but the joy they provide is far better than that of their parents or our kids.  I often say the purpose of kids is to get grandkids, and while children are definitely a blessing, we often don’t appreciate that part of the journey because we’re trying to figure it out and are consumed with learning parenting skills.  Grandkids provide a second change to use what we learned the first time around.

How we talk is important.  Fools don’t speak well, and some resort to falsehood and lies.  Our words matter, and how we say things matters as well. It isn’t that excellent speech is not desired from the fool, but that it is such an unexpected surprise. Since people usually express their wisdom or folly by what they say, it seems strange and almost inappropriate if a fool should say something wise and eloquent. “Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince.” Any leader (a prince) should be so known for truthfulness that it is regarded as a strange surprise that they would lie. This is a lofty and rarely reached standard among leaders, especially political leaders.

Solomon tells us that it is human nature to regard a present as something precious, even if it may be a bribe. The same Hebrew word is used for both. This proverb is simply stating the fact that a bribe usually works. Even when people recognize the intent behind it, they struggle to say no. “A bribe is like a magic stone in the eyes of the one who gives it; wherever he turns he prospers.” The gain one receives from a gift (or bribe) delights them and it usually accomplishes the purpose of the gift.  This isn’t indicating that bribery is acceptable or the right thing to do, but acknowledging that it normally will work and we need to guard against the motive when we are given things.

Proverbs 17:1-4

In Proverbs 17:1-4 Solomon addresses the impact of a house filled with strife.  It definitely wears people down when there is not unity and harmony within the family.  “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife.” In fact, his point is that it is better to eat food that may not be the best with some quiet, than to feast and have plenty but live in the chaos and stress related to unhealthy relationships. We need to focus on creating and maintaining healthy interactions with those around us so we don’t live in strife, but in quiet, happy peacefulness.  That is a far better way to live.

There is no question that the relationship between a master and his servant is different than that of a son and his father.  But how the servant or son act certainly impacts the relationship.  The way we live, and lead, matters.  In the event that a son acts shamefully, a father may very well decide to put his servant in charge of watching over and ruling his son. “A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.” And when a servant protects that of his master, he is likely to become a part of the family and be treated like a son.  The impact of how we act responsibly will usually translate into some goodness for us.

God is interested in our heart.  Heat is how precious things are purified.  Depending on the metal, the amount of heat required may differ but in the end the impurity has to be removed by fires. “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.” God is interested in making sure we have clean hands and a pure heart.  Sin also has to be rooted out as the impurity in our life. And it takes heat to do that.  God’s going to test our hearts.  He wants us to be wholeheartedly His and be free from the worries of this world and the sin that so deeply can impact us.  His desire is to remove sin from our lives completely.

Solomon calls out the behavior of those who gossip and those who lie here.  One of the root causes is what and who they listen to.  Who we surround ourselves with certainly matters.  “An evildoer listens to wicked lips, and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.”  Those who spew untruth are listening to stories and statements from wicked lips which are often intentionally attempting to destroy. If we want to avoid gossip and stay in the truth, we need to listen to the right people.  Those who lie also listen to people who guide them astray. Both of these sins can be avoided by making sure what goes into our ears is not evil or mischievous but builds up and is honoring of God!

Proverbs 16:29-33

In Proverbs 16:29-33 Solomon warns us to watch out who we associate with. The wrong people can get us into trouble or lead us astray. Sometimes we don’t use good judgment in selecting who we’ll hang with.  That could take us to a wrong place. “A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good. Whoever winks his eyes plans dishonest things; he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.” Ross wrote “Often people who are planning wicked things betray themselves with malicious expressions. Two expressions are depicted here: winking the eye and pursing the lips. Facial expressions often reveal whether someone is plotting something evil.”

Age does have some benefits, although they don’t always feel that good. But Solomon equates some wisdom with hair. In the cultural setting of its time, there was nothing unusual about this statement. Ancient cultures were sensible enough to honor and value the wisdom and experience of old age. That’s not always the case in our modern ways today. They saw the white hair of the elderly as a crown of glory. “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.“ It isn’t age itself that brings a crown of glory to a person, but age in the way of righteousness. The sad truth is that age itself does not make all people better and certainly not godlier.

Controlling our anger is an important skill to have and demonstrates extreme strength and self control. There is someone better than the mighty man who can defeat many others on the field of combat. It is the man who has control over his own anger, who can (when it is wise and necessary) be slow to anger. “Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.“ Under God’s wisdom and strength, to rule one’s own spirit is a greater accomplishment than to conquer a city. Some who can conquer cities should first be concerned with conquering self. Matthew Poole thought of three reasons why he who rules his spirit was better than he who takes a city:

  • He conquers though he fights a stronger enemy.
  • He conquers by his own hands, and not through other people.
  • He conquers without the injury and ruin of others.

Solomon ends this chapter reminding us that God is ultimately in control.  There are many ways we may try to determine what decision to make.  In his day, they would cast lots. This was something similar to rolling dice. To cast the lot was to use some tool of chance to make a choice. They would follow the outcome and take action based on it. “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. But the reality is that God alone is in charge of all things and He alone controls the outcome. The idea is not that every single event in life is a message from God, nor is it that we should use games of chance to determine God’s will. To cast the lot was a way to commit the decision to God, and when we commit our decisions to Him, God guides us.  We merely need to seek His direction and follow His guidance to receive His blessing!

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