Archive for April, 2019

Proverbs 27:12-16

In Proverbs 27:12-16 Solomon continues to share his wisdom.  He begins by addressing the ability to see danger and avoid it rather than plowing blindly into it. Wisdom will lead a man or woman to anticipate danger and to take action, such as to hide from the coming evil. Scripture tells us to flee the temptation of sin. “The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.” It is wise to avoid situations that we know could lead us to fall.  Those who are naïve and untrained in wisdom are blind to the potential danger around them. They will eventually bear the bad consequence of their blindness and be punished. Life is far less painful if we will avoid the evil we see coming at us.

Scripture warns against providing a guarantee for another person’s debt. Yet we do it for any number of poor reasons. If someone is a bad credit risk (foolish enough to be surety for a stranger), then we should hold a deposit as security against anything they owe to us (take the garment). “Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.” The man is as immoral and foolish to be surety for an adulteress, then we should especially regard them as a credit risk. He probably was seduced to do so through bad judgment created by her enticements and flattery.

Solomon talks next about how we should greet those around us.  His message isn’t that we should ignore those in our patch, but rather we need to be considerate and sincere in how we engage. The sense here is of an over-the-top greeting and blessing, meant to flatter and manipulate. It is loud and it starts early in the morning. Something is amiss in such excessive praise. “Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, will be counted as cursing.” Normally a friendly greeting is a blessing. Yet if that blessing is flattery or meant to manipulate it can be counted a curse. People can often see right through those manipulative interactions and do not like them.

Solomon returns to again remind us that marriage is a two way street and we need to learn to live harmoniously together. The scene is in a house with a bad roof, where a rainy day means continual dripping. That dripping shows there is a problem, it brings damage, and it greatly annoys. That is the same effect as a contentious woman or man in the house. “A continual dripping on a rainy day and a quarrelsome wife are alike; to restrain her is to restrain the wind or to grasp oil in one’s right hand.” To correct a contentious relationship can be a challenging and daunting task. Our spouse can be as difficult to restrain as the wind or as hard to get a hold of as oil in the hand. Instead of trying to change them, a wise and godly spouse loves them as Jesus Christ loves His church and leaves the changing up to God.

Proverbs 27:7-11

In Proverbs 27:7-11 Solomon begins by reminding us that when we are full, we aren’t nearly as interested in achieving more. When our life is satisfied – either materially or physically – then we find it easy to hate and reject things that would otherwise be greatly desired, such as the honey.  It can apply to possessions, experiences, education, etc. “One who is full loathes honey, but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.” He then contrasts it to the other extreme. When a life is truly hungry, they will eat almost everything and consider it sweet. This is true in the physical world, seen in those deprived of food for long periods. It is also seen in the spiritual world, when those who are awakened as truly hungry souls are ravenous for spiritual food.

With just a few words, Solomon painted a heart-touching picture of a bird away from its place of safety and security – the nest where it belongs. Spurgeon compared it to the way many of us treat the church. “Too many in our churches are a sort of flying camp, always flying from one place to another — a set of gipsy-Christians, who have no settled abode, and no ‘local habitation,’ and are about as respectable as the gipsies with whom I have compared them.” “Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home.” We have a place appointed by God, and we can be as out of place as a bird without a nest if we wander from it. We need to take care that we perceive our place not as the one that culture or community may assign to us, but truly the place God has assigned us.

Solomon next compares the sweet scent of perfume with that of giving wise counsel to a friend. Strong, hearty counsel from a friend is sweet and can bring delight – just as it is natural for ointment and perfume to delight the heart. This proverb should make us ask, Is there someone in my life who can give hearty counsel? Can I give hearty counsel to someone else? “Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away.” We should hold the bonds of friendship as dear and obligating, even beyond generations. Friends should not be forsaken.

He then reminds kids that they have the ability to truly impact their parents by how they live. Solomon gave a simple encouragement to his son to be wise and therefor bring gladness to his father. “Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him who reproaches me.” A foolish son is a cause of insult and reproach to the parents. In some way, the son who rejects wisdom makes the parents look bad. The bottom line is that a child will either publicly disgrace the parents or enable them to stand proudly before even their enemies. It’s why the transfer of wisdom and discipline is so important.

Proverbs 27:1-5

In Proverbs 27:1-5 Solomon begins by reminding us that we don’t have control of the future. He doesn’t say we shouldn’t plan and be prepared, but specifically that we should not boast about it thinking that we control what happens and can manage it. It is human nature to be overly confident in what future days hold. It is easy to boast about tomorrow, especially with our modern arrogance of continual progress. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” Plainly put, we don’t know what tomorrow may hold, so we should have a humble attitude towards the future and let God be God. Ross wrote ” The verse is not ruling out wise planning for the future, only one’s overconfident sense of ability to control the future—and no one can presume on God’s future.”

We need to not spend our time bragging on ourselves, but rather earn the praise of others. It really doesn’t mean much when we write our own press story. We should stay away from self-promotion in its many forms. Modern technology gives us many more methods and opportunities to praise ourselves, but we should avoid such self-praise. Social media makes it easy to focus on self and paint your own larger than life story. “Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips.” Honor means much more when it comes from an outside source, even a stranger than being the product of self-praise and self-promotion.

Solomon returns to warning about a fool and his efforts to draw us into conflict. They see it as a game and something to win. Solomon appealed to self-evident truths. It is in the nature of a stone to be heavy and in the nature of sand to be weighty. When a fool – someone who rejects God’s wisdom – expresses their anger and wrath, it is a weighty, dangerous thing. The wrath of any person may have great consequence but that is even more true for a fool? “A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both. Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming, but who can stand before jealousy?”

He ends this section with a hard truth – that we need to be open and honest with one another even if it means that we must rebuke one another. No one likes conflict, but sometimes it is important. Many are hesitant to rebuke others, especially others in God’s family. But there is a time and place where rebuke is not only good but it is better than the alternative. “Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” Love does little good when it is concealed. The honest love of an open rebuke can be much better than the carefully concealed love. And true friends will always call attention to things that need change in the life of those they love.

Proverbs 26:24-28

As Solomon wraps up Proverbs 26:24-28, he speaks to a couple of other character traits that cause damage to the world around us. His first focus is on those who hate. No one wants to be known as a hater. We have laws against hate crimes which are certainly not acceptable behavior by any human. But hate taken to an extreme will turn into violently lashing out at someone or something. And no matter how hard we might try to cover it up or hide it, eventually it will spill out and cause damage. We can try and deceive ourselves with lies and wrong thinking, but make no mistake, hate is misguided and filled with lies. “Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips and harbors deceit in his heart;”

Solomon goes further to warn us that someone who hates and then suddenly attempts to become tolerant or less hateful is likely just putting on an act. The secret hater deceives others, but he also deceives himself. He imagines himself to be a better person than he really is. “when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with deception, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.” Hatred comes from a wicked heart.  Even if he speaks kindly, his words do not reflect the true thoughts of his heart—his hatred is covered by deceit. You can’t put lipstick on the heart of a person filled with hatred.

Solomon then reminds us that when we do things with evil intent, it will come back to impact us. In His judgments God often responds that people reap what they sow; that He will treat them the same way they have treated others. They will fall into the pit they dug for others; the stone they rolled against someone else will roll back on them. We can’t act against others with wicked intention without expecting to be punished for those actions.  God’s not dead and is certainly paying attention. We do reap what we sow, maybe not in the moment, but certainly over time. “Whoever digs a pit will fall into it, and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.

Solomon ends this chapter by magnifying the truth about telling lies. Lying words are never innocent nor harmless. The liar does his destruction without sympathy for others. He does not feel sorry for the ones he crushes; he actively hates them.  Garrett wrote: “Lying is an act of hatred. In one way or another, lies destroy those whom they deceive. Therefore the liar despises not only the truth but his victims as well.” “A lying tongue hates its victims, and a flattering mouth works ruin.” Flattery is another way the lying tongue brings ruin. Their flattering mouth builds pride and manipulates others for deceptive goals. We must speak honest and true words.  Our words do matter. And God does pay attention!

Proverbs 26:17-23

In Proverbs 26:17-23 Solomon moves from the sluggard to those who sin by the words that come from their mouth. Some find it irresistible to get involved in the disputes of other people. The quarrel doesn’t really belong to them, but they makes it their own. The Hebrew verb literally means ‘become excited’…someone who gets angry over the fight of another. Jesus knew when to not get involved in another’s dispute and taught about it to His disciples. “Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.” It is a foolish and dangerous thing to take a dog by the ears. Once one does, it’s hard to let go without getting bit, and the dog never appreciates it.

Solomon next paints the picture of a wild warrior who leaves a trail of destruction and is a madman. It may be physical, or emotional, or even spiritual destruction, but this person creates fear and havoc among those around him. “Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death is the man who deceives his neighbor and says, “I am only joking!” But the man who plays tricks on others, deceiving them, and covering it by saying, “I was only joking!” is also a danger to others—and a very unwelcome companion. Making threats and causing fear is not a laughing matter.

He next talks about the wisdom of keeping quiet when there is potential for a quarrel. It is not possible for one person to quarrel by themselves, at least not a normal person. It takes two to tango, or to quarrel. Just as wood fuels a fire, so the quarreler or gossiper fuels strife. The fire won’t continue to burn without the wood, and the strife won’t continue when the words stop. “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body.” We can become consumed with getting the latest gossip which will penetrate deeply and cause conflict in our soul and with those around us.

Solomon next moves on to talk about a person who uses their charisma to cover their evil heart. He is really talking about someone with a bad mouth and a worse heart. There are people who are able to speak with power and persuasion, but they have a wicked heart. The effect of their wicked heart is made much more effective because of their smooth and controlling words. “Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel are fervent lips with an evil heart.” This is an example of something that looks good on the outside; but is worthless on the inside. So the man Solomon talked about may attract people with his words, but inside he is filled with evil.

Proverbs 26:13-16

In Proverbs 26:13-16 Solomon begins a series of statements around sluggards. In scripture, the word for sluggard is often translated as lazy too. The lazy man will create any excuse to avoid work. A lion in the road was a virtual impossibility in Biblical times. The lazy man shows creative talent (imagining not only a lion, but a fierce lion) and a form of work, but it is dedicated to the effort of avoiding work. “The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road! There is a lion in the streets!” Often in life, it takes more effort to get out of doing what is needed than to simply get after it and get it done.

Solomon moves from creative storytelling to escape work, to the reality that a sluggard doesn’t get up and get to work. The only way a door can turn is on its hinges. The only turning the lazy man does is on his bed. Ross wrote “The humor in this verse is based on the analogy with a door—it moves but goes nowhere. Likewise the sluggard is hinged to his bed.” “As a door turns on its hinges, so does a sluggard on his bed.” In order to live life, we have to get up and move. Lying in bed is not a way to accomplish things. The sluggard may twist and turn, but he finds a way to stay put so he doesn’t have to lift a finger.

But Solomon goes further in explaining the fact that a real sluggard won’t even do the things needed to take care of himself. Even simple things like eating and taking care of his house are too much for a sluggard to do. The lack of energy and initiative in the lazy man is so profound that he can’t or won’t properly care for his personal needs. “The sluggard buries his hand in the dish; it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.” Unfortunately, the lazy person doesn’t even see their own situation.  They are unaware that they are in fact living at a level far below what God intended or created.

Solomon continues by making it clear that while the sluggard may not truly understand their situation, they do wrongly believe that they are wise, and sometimes believe they are smarter than everyone else because they attempt to function without really ever doing much, just avoiding work and the rest of the world around them. The lazy man may lack energy and initiative, but he doesn’t lack a high opinion of himself. He considers himself smarter than seven men who can answer sensibly. The lazy man has great confidence in his own abilities, but never seems to accomplish much. “The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly.” The lazy man makes it very clear he thinks he is genius – as seven is the perfect number and the lazy man believes he is wiser than all!

Proverbs 26:6-12

has Solomon continuing to define a fool. He chooses to do it by comparing the fool to things the reader can relate to. He uses a series of “like the” statements, to colorfully explain the nature of the fool:

  • Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
  • Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
  • Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool.
  • Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools.”

These are absurd illustrations, but they contrast a fool with things that make a point. Most readers can relate to just how much a fool is a real problem.

Solomon continues his comparison by comparing a fool to an archer who can’t control where his arrows fly. There is no indication that the archer is blindfolded or anything more than just careless and foolish. The problem is that those kinds of actions are not harmless but rather can cause wounds or death.  We have to resist having fools around as they can create significant damage. “Like an archer who wounds everyone is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.” God’s guidance and governing over all things extends to the fool and the transgressor. He will make sure they get what is due, as both their hire and their wages. God is in control, even over those who are not necessarily following Him.

Solomon next compares a fool to something that is somewhat repulsive to us – a dog returning to his vomit. A fool will not change their ways apart from a dramatic transformation. Just as it is in the dog’s nature to return to his own vomit, it is the fool’s nature to repeat his folly. Peter illustrates the repulsive nature of a sinner returning to their sin in his writing. “Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly.”  Bridges wrote “We naturally turn away from this sight. Would that we had the same disgust at the sin that it so graphically portrays.” We need to be sure we aren’t foolish when it comes to sin.  We have to be sure not to make the same mistake a fool does.

But Solomon then gives us perspective on pride versus foolishness. He’s railed on just how bad it is to be a fool.  But here he makes it even more of a distinction against anyone who thinks they are wise. Despite the severe treatment of the fool, Solomon thought of a man in even worse danger—the proud man, the one wise in his own eyes. This is a special type of folly, one that will never learn the ways of wisdom. “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” The peril is a very subtle one. We are prone to be wise in our own mind, without knowing that we are doing it. A simple question can help detect it. Do we fail to seek divine guidance in any undertaking because we do not feel a need for it; In other words, we are wise in our own little world and don’t feel like we need God’s input or direction. That is a sign of pride.

Proverbs 26:1-5

In Proverbs 26:1-5 Solomon gives us some contrast between honor and those who are a fool. These things are out of place and in an economic disaster for a field full of grain being grown in the field. We’ve experienced it on the farm multiple times, and they are always disasters of bad timing leading to a significant financial disaster. “Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.” The culture today tends to highlight a fool, almost as a good thing.  But Solomon is clear, fools have no place in being honored as the outcome of their actions, and ultimately their life, will not end well.

Solomon tackles the topic of a curse.  He uses a couple birds that flitter around and don’t typically stop to rest on a branch of a tree but just flitter from here to there. In that day, people attempted to put curses on others with the intent of causing harm.  And some just went around attempting to do it to many in their patch. “Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.” But no human has the ability to put a curse on another.  God alone controls outcomes. In the same way that a bird will fly without landing, so a curse that someone makes without God’s power will do nothing. If someone pronounces a curse it does not have magical properties; there must be cause before God for it have any power.

Solomon again tackles the way to deal with fools.  Many just want to ignore, or try to ignore the continual effort of a fool to disrupt society or individual lives. This proverb, with its two different examples, is written for us in two capacities: as people dealing with fools, and as potential fools ourselves. “A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey, and a rod for the back of fools.” The response for a fool in both cases, either someone else or ourself, is something that causes attention. There is an instrument appropriate for these animals. There are instruments that fit the fool: a whip to try and guide, a bridle to try and steer, and a rod for the fool’s back if nothing else works. What they will not learn from the words of wisdom they must learn through the infliction of pain.

And reasoning with a fool just isn’t going to work. When a fool pours forth his foolishness, it is often right to not answer them. Sometimes contending with a fool can make one just like the fool. You typically can’t reason with them or correct their thinking. “Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him yourself. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” But sometimes you need to make a response. In those times the right thing is to answer a fool. Sometimes a wise answer to a fool will expose his folly and prevent him from becoming wise in his own eyes. We have to exercise discernment to know when to remain quiet versus when to speak up.

Proverbs 25:25-28

In Proverbs 25:25-28 Solomon reminds us how impactful the sharing of good news can be. When a person is weary, a gift of cold water is greatly refreshing. Soul in this proverb is used in same sense as most other proverbs, as a reference to the whole person and life, not only the inner spiritual aspect of a person. “Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country.” When we receive good news, especially from a far country, it brings great and life-giving refreshment. This applies to good news of many types, not the least of which is the gospel, that good news of what God has done in Jesus Christ to rescue all who put their trust in Him.

Solomon has talked about integrity and the need to stand strong in numerous parts of his book of wisdom. Sometimes it is true that a righteous man stumbles and falters. We are all imperfect sinners and prone to royally messing up. This is always sad, but even more so when it happens before the wicked, in the view of those who reject God and His wisdom. “Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.” Instead of the clarity and life-giving property of clean, clear water; a compromised life is like a dirty pool. It gives no life, no clarity, no refreshment, and no help. It only frustrates the purpose of water in that context.

He tells us that we need to moderate what and how we eat. We have to learn to practice control in every area of life, even when it comes to good things. Honey is an example of one of God’s great gifts. In the world of Solomon’s day sweets were rare and nothing was sweeter than honey. Yet, overindulgence in even a good gift like honey is not good. Self-control must be practiced even with good things. “It is not good to eat much honey, nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.” Glory can be a good thing, and it is part of God’s promise to the believer. Yet to seek one’s own glory is not good; it is not glory at all. We should seek God’s glory and not worry about our own glory.

Solomon ends this chapter with another thought on self-control. It is such an important character trait. There are many who have so little self-control that it can be said that they have no rule over their own spirit. The world, the flesh, or the devil rule over such people, and not the spirit of self-control that is part of the fruit of the Spirit. “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” A city broken down, a city without walls has no defense and is vulnerable to every attack. It has no security, stability, and can protect nothing valuable. This shows the terrible cost of having no rule over one’s own spirit.

Proverbs 25:20-24

In Proverbs 25:20-24 Solomon warns us that people can definitely impact us. Some people and their actions are especially troublesome and can drag us down. They bring discomfort (like leaving one without a garment in cold weather) and constant agitation (like vinegar on soda). We have to be careful who we hang out with. “Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda.” We also have to be sensitive to those in our patch. The one who treats the heavy heart without sensitivity brings discomfort and can cause pain. If songs are sung to a heavy heart, they should be sung quietly and with respect to how they will impact those who hear.

He reminds us to share with those less fortunate. That is true even for those who may be enemies. The Bible commands us to demonstrate love and care even to our enemy. Human nature would tell us to hate our enemy, but the Bible tells us to love our enemies and to do it practically. “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.” Why treat enemies well? Commentators debate if this is a good things or a harsh thing, if this is something good in the eyes of your enemy or not. Most likely it refers to a burning conviction that our kindness places on our enemy. Or, some think it refers to the practice of lending coals from a fire to help a neighbor start his or her own—an appreciated act of kindness. Either way, we can destroy our enemy by making him our friend, and the Lord will reward you.

Solomon takes an apparent detour to talk about the weather. But in reality, he mentioned this as an example of cause and effect. The north wind blows, and it brings forth rain. There are results to the decisions we make and the action swe take. “The north wind brings forth rain, and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.” That is particularly true around relationships. Those who speak ill of others with a backbiting tongue will provoke an angry response from others. This is a matter of cause and effect, just like the north wind bringing forth rain. When we do something, there will be some sort of returned action. How we treat those around us matters.

Solomon again reminds us how important harmony is in our homes. The corner of a housetop is not a great place to live. It is small, confined, and exposed to the elements because it is on the roof. Yet in some circumstances the corner of a housetop is a better place to live. “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.” Solomon repeats his wisdom about relationships at home. To have the whole house but live in constant conflict with a contentious woman or man is misery. The same principle would be true of your kids. One would be better off in a more humble living situation and have peace in the home. Sometimes this conflict is related to the stuff we accumulate. We have to work on building the right environment at home.

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