Archive for March, 2019

Proverbs 22:22-25

In Proverbs 22:22-25 we are warned by Solomon not to take advantage of the poor. Do not rob the poor because he is poor: The poor among us deserve more protection and compassion. Even if one is poor because of their moral failings or foolish behavior, they still should not be taken advantage of and robbed. “Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate,” People who are lacking financial resources to protect themselves and their legal rights are a tempting target for the sharp practices and blatant injustices of their rich and powerful neighbors. We need to come to their assistance.

How do we do that?  We become the feet and hands of God. He definitely cares and will take action.  But our willingness to walk in obedience to His direction would be a fantastic way to serve Him. God’s gonna step in, but we could be part of that solution “for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them.” Even if the rich rob the poor, they still have a defender. God Himself will plead their cause and will plunder the soul of those who plunder the poor. Understanding God’s concern for and protection of the poor, wisdom leads us to treat them honorably. And we need to be proactive in helping meet their needs.

Solomon warns us yet again to stay away from the angry person. A person who often can’t control their anger displays bad character and can be a dangerous companion. Wisdom chooses friends carefully, and should make no friendship with an angry man. “Make no friendship with a man given to anger, nor go with a wrathful man,” The warning is strong and direct – DON’T do it. This is one of the important reasons why it is foolish to make a friendship with an angry man. His habits will influence yours, and as you become more of an angry person you will set a snare for your soul. We are influenced by the habits of our friends, so choose friends carefully.

The bottom line is that who we hang out with matters.  We pick up things from those we rub shoulders with.  I vividly recall a semester when my two college roommates were given to swearing and cursing. When I went home for Thanksgiving that year, words came out of my mouth I’d never said out loud before, and certainly not in front of my parents. I may have been in college, but my mother washed my mouth out with soap and taught me well the concept of being around the people you want to be like. “lest you learn his ways and entangle yourself in a snare.” It happens, maybe not intentionally or on purpose, but we pick up habits and tendencies and other things from those we associate with.

Proverbs 22:17-21

In Proverbs 22:17-21 Solomon reminds us that we need to be continual learners, and particularly pursuers of wisdom. Unless one’s heart and mind are ready to receive wisdom, it does little good to present it. There should be a conscious readying of mind and heart to receive. “Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge.” The value of gaining and keeping wisdom is pleasant. Sometimes we feel the way of wisdom is a difficult path to walk, but it is much more pleasant than the way of the fool. “for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, if all of them are ready on your lips.” We have to use the wisdom and knowledge we accumulate, but if we do, it will certainly make life more pleasant.

What happens when we gain wisdom and knowledge?  True wisdom makes us more dependent on God, not less. We grow in our trust in the LORD, realizing that the pursuit of wisdom begins and continues with a proper view of God. When we are able to explain the things happening around us with wisdom and understanding it puts us deeper into our walk with God. “That your trust may be in the Lord, I have made them known to you today, even to you.” If we put our trust anywhere else, we’re going to be disappointed.  Every human on the planet will let us down at some point in life. We can only truly put our trust in God and Him alone.

Scholars seem to agree that Proverbs 22:17 begins a new section of the collection. We move from the long section (Proverbs 10:1 through 22:16) containing almost entirely two-phrase wisdom sayings with very little arrangement according to theme or context to a different type of sharing. Starting here, the structure of the wisdom sayings is often longer and they are more arranged according to some theme. It is likely that Solomon patterned this section after the Egyptian wisdom writing Amenemope, finding 30 wisdom sayings in the section. “Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge,” He is now focused on giving us more detailed wisdom from which we can learn!

But underlying it all is the power of wisdom in the life of one who seeks and finds it. The pursuit of wisdom makes us more confident in the truth, not less. Certainly, wisdom discovers that some things are more complicated and doubtful, but in general it sees God and his truth with more clarity and certainty. “to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?” Even the most brilliant, moral sayings are powerless without personal application. Wisdom is given to help us live life God’s way, but also to be shared with those in our patch.  We’re to learn it and then share it with the world around us.

Proverbs 22:13-16

In Proverbs 22:13-16 Solomon again warns against the ways of the sluggard. This is the cry of the lazy man. In his imagination, the outside world and the work required to function in it are so frightening that it is best avoided. His excuse is crazy and absurd, but such is the refuge of the lazy man. “The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside! I shall be killed in the streets!”” The lazy man exaggerates the dangers and troubles outside his door, especially those connected with work. The lazy man or woman should look to the Lord for victory over their sin. Hallucinating on what might be is a sure way to stay out of the workforce.

Solomon warns against being with immoral folks. The immoral woman often sets her seductive trap by the words she speaks. Therefore, her mouth is trap leading to death. Solomon knew something of this danger because he saw his father David fall into the deep pit of immorality. Solomon didn’t have to be seduced to fall into sexual sin.  He dove in head first with all he was.  “The mouth of forbidden women is a deep pit; he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.” God’s wisdom helps us be discerning enough to stay clear of this deep pit. But the fool – he who the LORD is angry with – is likely to fall there.

There is much debate about how to raise kids, particularly around correction. Physical punishment, aka spanking, has certainly come under fire in recent years. Children are not born as morally neutral beings. There is a moral problem (described here as folly) that is bound up in the heart of a child, evidenced by the fact that our children will naturally sin without be taught how to do it. This is our nature inherited from our ancient ancestors, Adam and Eve. “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” Physical discipline is one important way that a child can be morally trained. When wisely and properly applied, physical correction can help drive away a child’s inborn foolishness and rebellious spirit.

Solomon again speaks of a topic familiar to him – wealth. Those that have it never feel like they have enough. There are always those who prey upon their unfortunate fellow man and will oppress the poor to increase his riches. Greed often seems to accompany wealth unfortunately.  “Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth, or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.” The one who gives to the rich is like the one who oppresses the poor – he has no compassion for those in need. To such, this principle applies: he will surely come to poverty. God’s blessing will not be on the life and wealth of such a man lacking in compassion.

Proverbs 22:9-12

In Proverbs 22:9-12 Solomon reminds us that giving is something that God rewards.  When we share, we’ll be blessed.  According to this principle God will bless the one who is generous to others. When people are generous to God and His work, God will not allow them to be more generous than He is. On the other hand, the greedy loses his property and his power, and while the giver participates in a cycle of endless blessing.  “Whoever has a bountiful eye will be blessed, for he shares his bread with the poor.” One important way to express our generosity is to give to the poor and needy. Generosity is simple sharing as it can be the source of a poor person’s bread.

The scoffer is again covered by Solomon’s thoughts. The scoffer who spreads their cynicism and discord causes chaos and conflict. When the scoffer is removed, then the contention they created also leaves. You must remove the source of the problem, not ignore it and hope it will go away because it likely will not. “Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out, and quarreling and abuse will cease.” The atmosphere of strife and shameful insults stops when the divisive scoffer is gone. This reminds us that an atmosphere of contention, strife, and reproach is cause by people. When it is happening, the causation has to be removed to end it.

Our words flow from our heart.  And they definitely impact the relationships and response of the people we interact with. Inner purity often shows itself through grace filled words. These two are marks of godly and wise person. Words matter, so we need to guard them and use them wisely.  When we do we can earn the right to connect even with those in power. “He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.” This true godliness and wisdom – both on the inside and in spoken words – will make friends in high places. It will certainly contribute to ongoing fellowship with God, for such a person walks in the light as God is in the light.

Solomon tells us that God is paying attention.  He isn’t just sitting up in the clouds checked out and letting the world run on autopilot. God sees, takes note of, and guards those with wisdom and knowledge. In this sense it can be said that His eyes…preserve knowledge.  “The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge, but he overthrows the words of the traitor.” In a similar way, he deals with those who are betrayers of truth. For the faithless fool (traitor), they can expect that God will turn over their words. He will not stand with or support their faithless words. And He won’t miss them either, so don’t plan on sneaking them past Him!

Proverbs 22:5-8

In Proverbs 22:5-8 Solomon contrasts good and evil again, this time as he compares how one guards his soul. Thorns and snares symbolically describe the hard way of the perverse. Waltke wrote ‘The metaphor refers to temptations such as easy sex and easy money that tempt youth. The morally degenerate tread a dangerous road infested with them.’  “Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked; whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.” The wise man, keeping watch over their life and paying attention (guards his soul), will stay far from the way of the perverse and the thorns and snares associated with walking that way.

Then Solomon gives us one of the greatest principles for parents in all of scripture. Children need training.  There is much more to it than brining them into the world. The job of the parent is not to simply let them grow up in any particular way, but to train them, and that in the way he should go. “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” This is a wonderful principle that the Holy Spirit may quicken to a promise for parents troubled over their adult children. When a child is trained in the proper way, though they may depart for a season (and a long season), in principle they will return and not depart from it. Solomon’s own life displayed that this is a principle and not an absolute promise.

Money does make a difference, at least in how the world works. This proverb reminds us of how those with money compared to those without are very different. Rich people have more authority and voice in the community than the poor do. “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.” Debt can be debilitating and demoralizing. Those who borrow money are in a less powerful place than those who lend money. The obvious application of this proverb is that the wise people will do all they can to walk in the path of godly prosperity; to be a lender and not a borrower.  Scripture is clear that being a lender is not always a good idea either, but is definitely a better place than being a borrower or slave to someone else.

Solomon is clear that there is a price to pay for creating havoc. A person’s sins (injustice) are like seeds that are sown. In time they will bring a harvest and the sinner will reap sorrow. As I often write, how we live matters.  There are consequences for the choices we make. “Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity, and the rod of his fury will fail.” This mixing of metaphors (from the harvest to the shepherd’s rod) probably carries the idea that in the season when the sinner reaps his harvest from the seeds of injustice, he will have no defense to stand on. He will reap calamity and experience correction for what he has done.

Proverbs 22:1-4

In Proverbs 22:1-4 Solomon reminds us how important our character is.  Wealth comes in many forms. The wealth of respect and recognized excellence in character – a good name – is valuable beyond great riches. But Bridges reminds us “While it is true that reputation and the affection of others are more desirable than great riches, we must not forget that they may be in themselves vanity and a snare…The only honor that is safe is that which comes from God.”  “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.” The man who appreciates the value of a good name, of favor with God and man, recognizes that it is worth more than silver and gold.

Solomon next reminds us that we’re all people, whether rich or poor, or whatever describes us. God created each of us uniquely and according to His desire, and He is Lord of all. The differences between rich and poor appear to be large in the present world. But in God’s economy, each of us will stand before Him and give account for what we have done. “The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.” Those who are rich and those who are poor share the same Creator. Yahweh has made them all. Both rich and poor tend to see each other through stereotypes and should remember we all come from the same Lord and Master.

He tells us we need to wake up and pay attention, watching for those things which scream danger. Wisdom does not always engage in a fight; it knows there are times when the best response to evil is to hide and let the danger go past. Wisdom sees things before they happen and uses preventive ways to stop things before they start. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” The foolish and simple man doesn’t have the ability to perceive danger and respond correctly. They must endure more evil because of this, and it is something of a punishment. Wisdom helps prevent many of the things that can go awry.

Solomon returns to a common theme in his book – the fear of the Lord. Here he marries it with humility, which is required if we’re to put Him on the throne of our lives and step to the side. These two qualities are connected. Humility is a proper view of self; fear of the LORD is a proper view of God. The person who has these two qualities is well on their way on the path the wisdom. “The reward for humility and fear of the Lord is riches and honor and life.” Blessing will come to the wise person who has humility and the fear of the LORD. The can certainly expect spiritual riches and honor and life, and often those same things materially in this world.

Proverbs 21:25-31

In Proverbs 21:25-31 Solomon returns to a common theme – the sluggard. The lazy man has desire; he just doesn’t have the initiative or the energy to fulfill it. His life of unfulfilled desire is unsatisfying and feels as if it kills him.  He has cravings, but no motivation to actually execute and do things to achieve what he desires. “The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor. All day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.” Having a desire for good and blessing and prosperity, but not the desire or willingness to work, the lazy man lives a life of constant frustration and disappointment. He does not know the satisfaction of achievement.

How we live matters.  And no amount of ritual or ceremony will ever cover for our sin and evil ways. God said in his Word that to obey is better than sacrifice. Religious ceremonies do not cover a wicked life, and God may regard those religious ceremonies as an abomination. “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent.” The religious ceremonies of the wicked are bad enough; they are even worse when made with evil intent. When a sacrifice is offered, the priest or observers may not be able to see the intent, but God certainly can. He cares about the heart.

Truth is one of the things God cares about.  He does not tolerate falsehood. God is against all liars, but a false witness is a special type of liar. The primary idea is of one who lies in court, such as those who gave false witness at the trial of Jesus. “A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure. A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.” One characteristic of the wicked is that they may be unsympathetic to others. Their face is hard and unfriendly to others, especially towards those in need. The upright man does not face the same obstacles the wicked man faces. His way is established and made sure by God.

God’s gonna win. That’s a fact and the victory is already complete. To fight against God is to fight a losing battle. One can never succeed against the sovereign God of the universe. God’s will and ultimately all His purposes will be accomplished. God is the God of all wisdom and understanding and counsel, so those things are always for Him and never against the LORD. “No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord. The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” Though it is wise to make the best preparations for battle, ultimately one should not trust in horses or preparation, but in God Himself. Victory comes from the LORD, not only from horses and preparation.

Proverbs 21:21-24

In Proverbs 21:21-24 Solomon tackles once again the importance of how we live.  All of us are living a life that is on a path, either to righteousness and kindness, which is the path of wisdom and what God desires, or we take a path toward evil and are separated from God.  God has a path for those who will listen and surrender to Him, and it is the path of life His way. “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life, righteousness, and honor.” The path of righteousness and kindness isn’t easy and is often opposed and mocked. Yet it is rewarded, and rewarded richly with life, righteousness and honor. The wise path is worth it.  That is God’s way.

Solomon addresses the power of wisdom even when facing difficult challenges. The walls of a city are difficult obstacles to overcome, especially the city of the mighty. Yet with wisdom one can conquer such obstacles. The wise man can accomplish things impossible for others. “A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” Because the wise man enjoys the blessing and guidance of God, he can defeat obstacles as difficult as a city behind walls. This is true in military and practical life; wisdom and ingenuity have won many battles and destroyed many strongholds. It is also true in spiritual life. Cities and strongholds that stand against the progress of the believer can be broken down with the wisdom and power of God.

The tongue has been discussed many times by Solomon in his book of Proverbs.  It is a mighty and powerful thing, that needs to be managed and contained. What we say is important, which means we must be careful and intentional when using the instruments of speech – our mouth and tongue. It is good to guard what we say and not to speak everything that comes to mind. “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.” Unguarded words can bring a lot of trouble. Having the wisdom to guard the mouth and tongue will keep us from conflict, damage and trouble.

Solomon returns to discuss the scoffer yet again. Of the many types of fools, the scoffer is one of the worst. He is known to be proud and haughty, thinking himself better than others and even better than God. “Scoffer is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride.” The proud and haughty man will be known by his actions. His life will be marked with great pride, arrogant pride. This is driven by an exaggerated opinion of oneself – believing that you are more important than you are – particularly in relationship to God and His almighty power.  Scoffers are self focused and excuse their own thinking which will lead them to disaster.

Proverbs 21:17-20

In Proverbs 21:17-20 Solomon reminds us that spending all our time seeking and enjoying pleasure won’t end well. To find success and prosperity, there must be a measure of discipline and self-denial. The person who loves pleasure lacks this discipline and self-denial and often ends up a poor man. Success requires doing what needs to be done, not what is fun or wanting to be done. “Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.” In this proverb wine and oil represent the luxuries of life. There is an appropriate way to enjoy wine and oil without setting one’s heart on them; but if these are loved too much, it is a pathway to poverty.

We live in a world filled with good and evil.  They are constantly at odds with each other. In the end, we know that good will triumph over evil. This verse is a way of saying that the righteous will ultimately succeed and will triumph over the wicked. “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous, and the traitor for the upright.” God promises that in the end, all His righteous and upright will be lifted above the wicked and the unfaithful.  We know how the story ends, and the good guys win.  It doesn’t mean that every victory happens for the righteous and upright, but when the dust settles and the scoreboard is final, they will win.

Solomon again reminds us of the pain in an unhappy relationship. You may recall that in a previous proverb he said it was better to live in the corner of a rooftop than with a contentious woman. This proverb removes the man from the house entirely and sets his better place in the wilderness. This shows the great value of peace and happiness in the home. “It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.” This knife cuts both ways. It isn’t merely focused on wives or women, but is the responsibility of both to focus not on areas of disagreement and contention, but to always be working toward creating a peaceful home.

Money becomes the topic in this next verse. Solomon reminds us that the wise man lives a life blessed by God, and sometimes that blessing is shown in material things. They may have desirable treasure and good oil in their home.  All blessing comes from God, and we need to act as good stewards to everything He entrusts to our care. “Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling, but a foolish man devours it.” The foolish man would have trouble gaining what the wise man has. He doesn’t have the character of life or blessing of God that leads to prosperity. Yet even if he were to gain it, it would not last. His foolish nature dominates as he squanders and consumes it.

Proverbs 21:13-16

In Proverbs 21:13-16 Solomon begins by reminding us that we don’t live in a bubble by ourselves.  We need to pay attention to those in our patch and be sensitive to their needs. Though many proverbs tell of poverty caused by bad conduct, other proverbs express God’s compassion towards the poor. God cares about the poor and He commands us to have a compassionate heart towards them. “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”  We will reap what we have sown. It will be measured to us as we have measured to others. If we are silent to those in need, God may arrange it so we will not be heard in our time of need.

Solomon next talks about the effectiveness of a gift or bribe. The secret nature of this gift shows that it isn’t entirely proper, yet it may work to calm anger in an official or leader. He doesn’t condemn it, but in his day, it was used to pave the way to reconciliation or relationship. These often opened doors of communication so nations could speak, often in secret, and work to resolve issues at hand. “A gift in secret averts anger, and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.” This verse doesn’t condemn or condone the practice, but we know that in today’s society it is usually frowned upon and can be illegal.

Solomon reminds us that being just is a characteristic that brings a different response from people depending where they are in their own lives. When a person is just (righteous, godly) in the inner man or woman, it gives them joy to do justice. Their good works flow out of who they are. For us to really walk in the way God wants us to walk, we need to be transformed on the inside and live justly on the outside. “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Those who live in evil also show what is in their heart, and it should make them tremble under the judgment of God. Instead of the joy of the just, they will experience destruction.

God gives us the freedom to choose how we will live. He doesn’t dictate the road we follow. There are two paths or ways a man or woman can walk. It is dangerous to begin on the way of understanding but not to continue on it. To some extent this became tragically true of Solomon. The departure from the way of understanding doesn’t have to be calculated and deliberate; it may feel like wandering. We may in fact be lost or without direction. “One who wanders from the way of good sense will rest in the assembly of the dead.” If one wanders from the way of understanding, they may well end up in the assembly of the dead. The path we walk on – and remain on – matters.  As I often say and write – how we live matters each and every moment!

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