Archive for April, 2019

Proverbs 25:15-19

In Proverbs 25:15-19 Solomon begins by talking about how to persuade those in power. Bottom line, it is through patience and consistency. History is rich with examples. Our self-control and patience can persuade great men to our cause, even a ruler. William Wilberforce persuaded the leaders of the British Empire to outlaw slavery through long forbearance and dedication to his righteous cause. “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” The patient, gentle words of a wise man or can have a great impact over a long period of time. Such words can have bone-breaking power. We need to be persistent in how we share and make our requests, not with force or threats, but with patience and gentleness.

Good things come to us regularly. In this case, Solomon talks about finding honey, something sweet and desirable to consume. But if someone has found honey—something good and wonderful to find—the honey should be enjoyed, but you should eat only as much as you need. Gluttony is not the proper response to finding blessing from God. “If you have found honey, eat only enough for you, lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.” If something good (honey) is eaten beyond what one needs, if we fill ourselves with it beyond reason, then it may cause an unpleasant reaction (vomit) and we will lose the good thing we thought we gained. Overindulgence in good things is harmful and counter productive. Moderation is the key to receiving every good and perfect gift.

Solomon reminds us not to wear out our welcome with friends that open their doors to us. It is normal for neighbors to visit one another, but such hospitality should not be abused. Hospitality is a gift God wants us to extend, but it needs to come with some semblance of control. “Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house, lest he have his fill of you and hate you.” If we abuse hospitality, it may quickly vanish. The wise man will be sensitive to the likelihood that a neighbor may become weary of their presence. Since good neighborly relationships make life much better, this is an important principle of wisdom. Don’t go overboard without communicating and understanding the welcome you have been given.

Solomon next reminds us that integrity and truthfulness are important character qualities.  Many proverbs speak against the man who bears false witness. This liar, whether in the court of law or common conversation, does great damage. He is like a club, a sword, and a sharp arrow. It is not a small sin to bear false witness against a neighbor. “A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow. Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.” The man who bears false witness is often also the unfaithful man in time of trouble. In one aspect he brings pain, in the other aspect he is a pain. The unfaithful man is useless and like a persistent, debilitating pain.

 

Proverbs 25:8-14

In Proverbs 25:8-14 Solomon reminds us not to quarrel with our neighbors but find ways to work things out. Sometimes the court of law is necessary, but we should never go hastily to court. If it is possible to resolve a dispute any other way, we should do it that other way. This was Paul’s later teaching to the Corinthian church. “What your eyes have seen do not hastily bring into court, for what will you do in the end, when your neighbor puts you to shame? Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end.” Solomon’s wise advice is to settle it out of court. If you can debate your case outside the court, do it there. The debate may expose a secret that would be to your shame in open court and from that your reputation might be ruined.

Words matter, and we can use them to uplift and encourage those in our patch. There is something special and powerful about a word fitly spoken. The right word at the right time has power to heal and strengthen, to guide and rescue. It is like an apple made of gold set on a beautiful sliver platter. “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver. Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold is a wise reprover to a listening ear.” The word fitly spoken may also be a rebuke. When the one who is a wise rebuker meets an obedient ear, it is like beautiful jewelry. The secret is to use words the right way with the right intent.  It can be wisdom in every way.

Being faithful is not only a great character trait, it impacts those around that person as well. Solomon is speaking of a cold drink, cooled by the cold of snow, given to a hardworking man in time of harvest. The refreshing, invigorating nature of that cold drink illustrates the blessing of a faithful messenger to those who send him. The faithful messenger is beloved by the one who sends the message. God wants His people to be faithful messengers of His gospel and work. “Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters.” The sender of the message is refreshed and comforted knowing that the message is being faithfully delivered. So God is also pleased with His faithful messengers today.

Solomon contrasts this with someone who is not faithful but is trying to portray an image that is far from true. There are some who give nothing but want to be known as people who gave; others give small gifts and want to be known as those who gave great gifts (such as Ananias and Sapphira in Acts). They want the reputation of generosity without actually being generous. “Like clouds and wind without rain is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.” When the clouds and wind of a storm come, we expect life-giving rain. When the clouds and wind are without rain, it is a disappointment – just like he who falsely boasts of giving. God is not amused by this as we can recall from the fate of Ananias and Saphira.

Proverbs 25:1-7

In Proverbs 25:1-7 Solomon continues sharing his wisdom through proverbs. This collection of proverbs is from 25:1 through 29:27, making up five chapters of the book of Proverbs. These also were written by Solomon yet collected under the supervision of Hezekiah king of Judah – some 270 years after Solomon’s death. “These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.  King Hezekiah of Judah reigned over a time of national spiritual revival. He added these chapters to the previous collection of proverbs, having found these yet-to-be published proverbs of Solomon.

He reminds us that God is in charge, and He can choose to hide or reveal things according to His will. There are many mysteries in the universe, both material and spiritual mysteries. There are many things God has concealed, and this is one expression of His glory. It is one of God’s ways to say, “You are amazed by what you see; yet what you don’t see, what I have concealed, is even greater.” It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out. As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth, so the heart of kings is unsearchable.” This speaks to our pursuit of God’s mysteries in the spiritual world, but perhaps even more so to God’s mysteries in the material world. When men and women seek out scientific knowledge, trying to understand the mystery and brilliance of what God has concealed in His creation, they express an aspect of the glory of humanity, even the glory of kings.

Solomon warns that bad actors need to be removed from any access to leadership. Like dross should be removed from silver, so wicked counselors and associates should be removed from the presence of kings and rulers. Then their leadership (throne) will be established in righteousness. “Take away the dross from the silver, and the smith has material for a vessel; take away the wicked from the presence of the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness.” No nation, organization, church or any other entity can have righteous leadership if it is filled with wicked and bad counselors and advisers.

We should always avoid self-exaltation. Even as we should humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord we should also humble ourselves before others. “Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence or stand in the place of the great, for it is better to be told, “Come up here,” than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.” When you properly humble yourself before God and kings, you may be invited to a higher place. This is much better than arrogantly setting ourselves high and then being put lower in the presence of the prince. Humility is a key characteristic in a right relationship with God.

Proverbs 24:26-34

In Proverbs 24:26-34 Solomon reminds us that honesty is a key part of how we should communicate. The proper response to a question or a difficult problem is always welcome to the wise. We think of the many occasions when Jesus Christ was presented with difficult questions yet always gave a right answer. “Whoever gives an honest answer kisses the lips.” We sometimes forget how important our communication is. What comes out of our mouth matters, and creates impact on those who hear our words. In Solomon’s teaching here, the metaphor of ‘kissing the lips’ signifies that friendship is characterized by truth.

Solomon then reminds us of the importance or planning and preparing.  That needs to happen before we begin to put energy and effort into our actions. The idea is that before a house is built, proper preparations must be made. The field and the ground must be readied. Wisdom tells us that work should be done with proper planning and in the proper order. Before using our time, talent or treasure, we need to spend the time preparing. “Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.” Some want to skip right away to the building without preparing the field. This foolishness will not be blessed. Do the preparation work first, and then afterward build your house.

Integrity is again called out as a very important characteristic we should have. It is tied to our words and what we say here by Solomon. We should only speak against someone if there is good and righteous cause to do so. We often speak ill of others to entertain others, and ourselves – this is sin. “Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your lips. Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me; I will pay the man back for what he has done.” When we speak against others without cause, we usually exaggerate or color the truth, making it a deception. Wisdom and grace tells us not to retaliate or tell lies no matter what someone else has said or done.

Solomon wraps up this chapter again referring to the cost of laziness and failing to work hard. The wise man saw the outcome of laziness in the field and the vineyard of the lazy man. The lazy man did not plant the thorns or nettles, and he did not deliberately break down the stone wall. Yet his laziness made these things happen just as much as if he had deliberately done them. “I passed by the field of a sluggard, by the vineyard of a man lacking sense, and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns; the ground was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.

There is a lesson that comes from this observation. The wise man learned from the tragedy of the lazy man. He didn’t have to suffer the same things the lazy man did to learn the lesson. This is one of the marks of wisdom. Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction. A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man.”  This is the destiny of the lazy man. Because of their sinful neglect, poverty will come upon them as suddenly, as strongly, and as unwelcomed as a robber. In this case the lazy man thinks he is innocent because he did not deliberately, actively sow the thorns or break the wall, but his neglect of duty did them – and he is without excuse.

Proverbs 24:17-25

In Proverbs 24:17-25 Solomon warns us not to be glad when someone we don’t like has an issue. Knowing this, we should not rejoice when one falls. It should not make our heart be glad. David did not rejoice when Saul died in battle. “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and turn away his anger from him.” If God sees our rejoicing over the fall of the wicked, He may turn away His wrath from the wicked man just to rebuke our proud, unloving heart against the wicked man.  We best not gloat over another man’s issues.

While God doesn’t want us to be glad when someone evil falls, he also tells us not to fear them. Garrett wrote “The translation ‘Do not fret’ is too mild. ‘Do not get yourself infuriated over evildoers’ is more accurate. Those who love the truth are naturally enraged by the effrontery of those who promote or practice godless behavior.” “Fret not yourself because of evildoers, and be not envious of the wicked, for the evil man has no future; the lamp of the wicked will be put out.” Death is waiting for the evil man both in this life and the next. Any good or pleasure they experience in this life is the best they will ever have or experience. The wicked man has no prospect for the future.

But Solomon does want us to fear God and avoid running with those who do not. Wisdom tells us to fear the LORD, but it is also wisdom to fear…the king. Earthly rulers deserve our respect and honor but we are to give heed to kings only in subordination to God, and not in those things which are contrary to the will and command of God “My son, fear the Lord and the king, and do not join with those who do otherwise, for disaster from them will rise suddenly, and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?” Those who want to overthrow or change the present system must take great care. The revolutionary often finds that their calamity will rise suddenly, and they can bring great ruin in their revolution.

Solomon continues to teach us the ways of the wise. Whether it is in the formal court of law or in daily interactions, we should never make judgment simply on the basis of partiality. Those like us can be wrong, and those different from us can be right. “These also are sayings of the wise. Partiality in judging is not good. Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,” will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations, but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight, and a good blessing will come upon them.” Evil should be addressed and rebuked. We should not romanticize or excuse the wicked.

Proverbs 24:10-16

In Proverbs 24:10-16 Solomon warns us that we need to stand strong when under adversity. The day of adversity comes to everyone. The godliest and the most evil will experience their own adversity, and that is a test to see whether or not they will faint. “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small”. The day of adversity did not make your strength small; it revealed your strength to be small. There is a sense in which we should welcome the day of adversity as a revelation of our strength or weakness. Bridges wrote “Commit yourself daily to him, for his supply of grace is sufficient for you. So go forward, weak and strong at the same time—weak in order to be strong, strong in your weakness.”

Solomon next addresses our need to be protectors of those who are on the path toward death. The idea is of those who are on their way towards destruction, those stumbling to the slaughter. If we have the opportunity, we should deliver them, to hold back their progress to slaughter. “Rescue those who are being taken away to death; hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?” We shouldn’t be indifferent towards those headed toward death. Since they often reject God’s wisdom and are hostile, it is easy to give up on them or ignore them. Yet God, who weighs the heart, does know and consider this.

He then reminds us that wisdom is about as sweet as it gets.  He compares it to the drippings of the honeycomb. The gaining of wisdom rewards the life the way the sweetness of taste is the reward of honey. We should learn to discern and appreciate the sweetness of wisdom. Once we appreciate the reward of wisdom, our hope will not be cut off. “My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” There may be difficulty and challenge in the pursuit of wisdom, but finding it will make it all worthwhile.

Solomon again reminds us of the outcome of life for the wicked. They may appear to get away with things, and seem to have a positive outcome, but that is not in fact what is happening. The reason why the wicked man should not rob the righteous is that in the end, the righteous man will not be defeated. Even when he may fall – even seven times! – he shall rise again. “Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous; do no violence to his home; for the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.” The wicked have a different destiny than the righteous. God will protect and preserve His righteous ones, but the wicked shall fall and stay fallen.

Proverbs 24:1-9

In Proverbs 24:1-9 Solomon again warns us to be careful of who we hang out with. This is a common and sometimes difficult temptation for the righteous person to avoid. There are times when evil men seem to prosper and we may become envious of them, and then desire to be with them. But Solomon warns us to stay clear. “Be not envious of evil men, nor desire to be with them, for their hearts devise violence, and their lips talk of trouble.” The kind of evil this proverb has in mind is the kind associated with violence and trouble-making. The seemingly quick and easy money and status gained through violence and trouble-making is a temptation to be resisted by all of us who are Christ Followers.

Solomon again reminds us that wisdom is the foundation for building a solid house. We think of the actual material building of a house, and how wisdom, proper engineering and construction are necessary. The same is true of the moral and spiritual values of a home. Values must be built upon wisdom and established through understanding. “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” The blessing of building a home with God’s wisdom, God’s understanding, and God’s knowledge will bring precious and pleasant riches in the spiritual sense and often in the material sense. God’s blessing is on the home that seeks and honors His wisdom.

Not only is wisdom and understanding a great foundation for a home, it also brings great benefit to the individual who pursues and receives it. Solomon understood the strength of wisdom, and how a man of knowledge increases strength. Folly makes a person weak and vulnerable. “A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory.” The strength of wisdom isn’t solitary; it understands and relies upon the wisdom of others. It knows how to use the wise counsel of others and the safety of a multitude of counselors.

Is it in reach?  Well, Solomon recognizes and warns that it is a lofty goal to seek wisdom. Often, the fool will be denied influence and a platform of leadership. At the place where the elders gather and decision are made (the gate), the fool will not open his mouth and be heard. “Wisdom is too high for a fool; in the gate he does not open his mouth. Whoever plans to do evil will be called a schemer. The devising of folly is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.” The evil man who plots his evil will be recognized for the schemer he is – even though, the devising of foolishness is sin, and that evil person will be regarded as an abomination to men.

Proverbs 23:23-35

In Proverbs 23:23-35 Solomon tackles a number of issues around parenting and the heart. But he begins with the reality that wisdom is one of the most valuable things we can ever gain. We should have the focus of pursuing truth and wisdom to gain it at all cost rather than being willing to exchange it for profit. “Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” Proverbs often uses the terms of truth, instruction, and understanding as ways of describing wisdom. Spurgeon said “Buy the truth; that is, be willing at all risks to hold to the truth. Buy it as the martyrs did when they gave their bodies to be burned for it. Buy it as many have done when they have gone to prison for it.”

Solomon again reminds us as parents how important it is to raise good kids. It is a great blessing for parents to have righteous and wise children. “The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.” One reason for a son or daughter to pursue and gain wisdom is that it will make their parents glad. It will be an appropriate blessing and reward to those who gave the son or daughter life and an upbringing. Training up a child in God’s way will have benefit and blessing for their parents.

He warns his sons to avoid sin. He understood that wisdom must be received with the heart. It can’t only be a matter of facts or principles learned in the mind or even memorized. Wisdom must be received into a willing, given, heart. “My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe my ways. For a prostitute is a deep pit; an adulteress is a narrow well. She lies in wait like a robber and increases the traitors among mankind.” At least at the time of writing this, Solomon could point to his own life as an example of wisdom when it came to the dangers of an immoral woman. He knew teaching is most effective when it comes from a life that knows and lives wisdom. Our example is the most powerful teacher we can provide.  Solomon loses this later in life, but for now, he warns against sexual sin with his own example.

Solomon deals with a long list of issues that come with drinking too much. He reminds us of many of the ill effects of alcohol and intoxicating drugs. They bring woe and sorrow. They bring strife and complaints. They bring wounds and redness of eyes. Unrestrained, immoderate use of alcohol and abuse of drugs will bring these sorrows to one’s life, and countless tragedies prove it. “Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine. Do not look at wine when it is red, when it sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. In the end it bites like a serpent and stings like an adder. Your eyes will see strange things, and your heart utter perverse things.”

Drinking too much doesn’t turn out well. “You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea, like one who lies on the top of a mast. “They struck me,” you will say, “but I was not hurt; they beat me, but I did not feel it. When shall I awake? I must have another drink.” The person who abuses alcohol or drugs will drown in their sin and misery. They will be like a person on a sinking ship who denies their danger. Living in denial, unable or unwilling to see their danger (they struck me, but I was not hurt), their only thought is when they “may seek another drink.”

Proverbs 23:17-22

In Proverbs 23:17-22 Solomon continues to share his wisdom about people. It is easy to see sinners appear to get away with all sorts of things with no apparent punishment. This is an easy trap to fall into. On this side of eternity and the ultimate judgments of God it may see that sin is unpunished and righteousness is unrewarded. “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.” Instead of being jealous of the wicked, determine to have an eternal perspective rooted in the fear of the LORD, and actively recognize the greatness and righteousness of God.

Proverbs is the wise instruction and guidance of a father to his children. Solomon wants his children to be wise.  That requires a parent that will invest the time to pour into their children and help direct the heart of their kids.  It isn’t a natural desire, and requires persistence and focus.  But if parents don’t execute in transferring wisdom, it is unlikely to happen at all. We have to encourage our kids to listen.  We have to be diligent to share wisdom when they do.  That means we must determine what things are truly worth fighting for to instruct our kids in the way they should go. “Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way.”

Who we hang out with matters. Solomon warns about this multiple times through his book of wisdom. The wise counsel to a son or daughter is that they should not mix with those who overindulge in alcohol or food. The drunk and the glutton have a bad future (poverty and rags), and the wise man or woman will not share it with them. “Be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat, for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags.” Those who indulge on themselves will not have a life that ends well.  We have to live with discipline to achieve God’s desired outcome.

Solomon takes another pass at the importance of gaining our kids attention and getting them to listen. Wisdom can never be learned until their attention is won. There must be a deliberate effort to listen.  We have to help our kids understand how important it is to hear what we have to share, and we also have to make sure that what we share is truly God’s wisdom.  That means we are in His Word and learning His ways.  Not only should we speak that truth, but our life must demonstrate it as well as actions always speak louder than words. “Listen to your father who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old.” When we do a great job instructing our kids, it will bring honor and care as we get older.

Proverbs 23:10-16

In Proverbs 23:10-16 Solomon reminds us that we need to live with integrity. Literally, the ancient landmark was normally a stone marker for a property line. Moving the landmark was a way to make your field bigger and to steal from your neighbor. Symbolically, the ancient landmark was a tradition or custom from ancestors. It was not to be messed with. “ Do not move an ancient landmark or enter the fields of the fatherless, for their Redeemer is strong; he will plead their cause against you.” The field of the orphan needed special care and protection. It was evil to enter the fields of the fatherless to take some of the harvest from those who had trouble protecting it. God is paying attention and will protect them from those who try and take advantage.

Solomon then tells us to pay attention and focus. Wisdom can be given out, but it must be received to be of any lasting good. The reception of wisdom isn’t passive; it is active, received with a heart that truly applies wisdom and instruction. “Apply your heart to instruction and your ear to words of knowledge.” We mostly receive wisdom by what we hear, especially in the guidance we receive from the wise. Our ears must be tuned to receive and apply God’s wisdom. When the heart and the ears work together to receive wisdom, much is gained.  It has the potential to be life changing and can move us to live God’s way.

He then addresses the age old question about disciplining a child. The concept here is not that correction is imposed on a child, but that it properly belongs to a child and to not bring needed correction is to withhold it. It is failing to do the job of a parent if a child needs discipline and a parent fails to correctly discipline. “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.”  The figure of the rod in Proverbs is sometimes used literally and sometimes figuratively. There is place for both literal, physical correction of a child (such as spanking), and the place of correction through the rod of an alternative punishment or word. But the price for not disciplining a child is severe. Solomon tells us that parents have the ability to save their soul – either in an earthly way by keeping them safe and alive, or in an eternal way by keeping them from falling away from the Savior.

Solomon talks about the joy of parenting when kids are wise. The general context of the Book of Proverbs is of a father teaching wisdom to his children. Here Solomon reflected on the great happiness he would have if his children actually received and lived in this wisdom. “My son, if your heart is wise, my heart too will be glad. My inmost being will exult when your lips speak what is right.” Wisdom (or the lack of wisdom) is often seen in the words we speak. When the father hears his child’s lips speak right things, he has reason to believe that the lessons of wisdom have been learned. It is important that parents do all they can to instruct their kids in wisdom.  Without that, they are unlikely to experience this joy.

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