Proverbs 20 has Solomon talking about the importance of hard work. “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing”. We can’t expect a harvest if we don’t do the necessary work to put a crop in the ground to enable a harvest. It doesn’t happen accidentally. It requires work, and a plan. He goes on to say “Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread”. Our ability to provide and generate what we need to live is related to work. It isn’t a curse. It is truly a blessing.
This chapter has a number of comments regarding purpose and planning. It is a core principal of Proverbs. Solomon says this:
- “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.
- Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.
- A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?
- Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.
- A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?”
God directs the outcome, but we need to do the planning and work to align to His will. It matters, and we need to understand our purpose and then determine how to live it out.
Solomon again reminds us of the importance of integrity. “The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him”! Want to leave a legacy that your kids will love? Live a life of integrity. It’s the outcome that blesses people for generations. We are also reminded that we can’t claim to be pure from sin. It can’t be true – we are sinners in need of a Savior. We are guilty as Solomon says “Who can say, “I have made my heart pure; I am clean from my sin”? None of us can. We need Jesus.
We can live a righteous life. Sin is a choice, and although we will all make choices that will take us into sin, we can choose to live as godly and upright as possible. “Even a child makes himself known by his acts, by whether his conduct is pure and upright”. God will know us by how we live, and we’ll stand before Him facing judgment for those choices. But the blood of Jesus will cleanse us from all that sin. His blood will cover us and make us pure and upright even when we haven’t lived a perfect life. We need to learn from our mistakes and let wisdom help us walk in God’s ways. “The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair”. We may have less strength as an old man, but we can have more of God’s splendor!
Proverbs 10 contains a number of two liner proverbs that compare and contrast a number of things. The biggest contrast is between good and evil, or righteousness and wickedness. Solomon makes the contrast clear that there is a vast difference between two things and our choices matter much. It is fitting that he begins with an appeal to the father and mother: “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother”. It is a call to listen and obey parents, and the plain truth that choosing any other way will lead to sorrow.
Solomon addresses the topic of hard work head on. “A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame”. A wise son will use the seasons and grow a crop that will yield a harvest. The wicked son will be lazy and not focus on doing the things that cause success, and thus create poverty and a shortage of what is needed. A wise son has full barns and is the envy of all.
Solomon goes on to explain the difference between the wise and foolish – it is in their choices regarding God’s commandments and truth. “The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin. Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out”. Life is about choices. God has made His truth available to all of us – it’s written in His word – it is preached from the pulpits of many churches – it can be found all over the Internet with a little effort. There is no shortage of ways to take in God’s commandments. The question is – will you receive it and walk in integrity with that truth as your guide?
What we do with God’s truth determines much about our future. “Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray”. We have a choice to make. We can choose to go our own way and do our own things relying on self and what we feel or believe to be true. That will lead to death. Or we can choose to heed God’s instruction, often delivered through others beginning with our parents, that can lead us down the path to life. Rejecting the truth will not end well. Who will you choose to listen to? The truth of God that leads to life, or the lies we tell ourselves that are foolishness and lead to death. It’s clear which is the right course!
Solomon exhorts us to know the commandments and keep them close. “My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye; bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart”. He tells us to do it in three ways:
- Keep them as the apple of our eye – to not only obey but realize how key they are as the driver of life and success
- Bind them on your fingers – God’s commandments should be tied to our fingers and guiding how we use our hands
- Write them on your heart – we need to not only know God’s truth but have it memorized and part of who we are
This is such an important teaching. The commandments and laws of God are what determines how life will go.
Why is it so important to keep God’s commandments close? Because sin lurks just waiting for the opportunity to lure us away from God’s ways. “For at the window of my house I have looked out through my lattice, and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house in the twilight, in the evening, at the time of night and darkness”. The enemy wants to destroy us. Sin tries to pull us away from God’s ways to our own self-centered and sinful ways.
Here’s how it happens….”With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life”. Sin seems attractive. It pulls us toward its evil ways and causes us to move away from the commandments we know we are to follow. But the price of sin is extreme – it will cost us our spiritual life. Sin is not just a little stub of the toe. It is spiritually fatal.
The only response to temptation that will lead us from sin is to run from it. If we don’t, the outcome is death. “Let not your heart turn aside to her ways; do not stray into her paths, for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death”. Sin is a very effective destructive force. Not just many, but all of us fall prey to the truth of this last few verses in chapter 7. Sin will take us to spiritual death. That’s why Jesus came. His shed blood on the cross is our only answer to sin’s deathly toll on our life.
Psalm 116 is another psalm that speaks of God’s saving the author. He plead for mercy and God responded. And now the author promises to call on God for all his needs. God acted and saved him. He’ll do the same for you and me. “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live”. We need to learn to call on God for all our needs, small and large. He is faithful, He hears us, and He acts on our behalf when we are in relationship and following Him. The writer was on the verge of death but God came through.
Things were desperate. Evil was closing in. Death was coming if God doesn’t show up. “Then I called on the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I pray, deliver my soul”! The prayer was simple. It was desperate and direct. The psalmist needs God’s hand upon his situation and God responds. God is faithful and delivers him. It’s a beautiful thing. The Lord loves to care for His people. The writer is trusting God, seeking refuge in God, and waiting for God. God never fails.
What should be the result of God’s faithfulness to us? Our faithfulness to Him. “I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living”. Our relationship is a walk with God through life. He walks with us if we’ll only walk with Him. The problem is that too often we want to run off and do our own thing our own way and not just walk hand in hand with Him. We want to run ahead or run off the path and not stay connected with God, that is until we’re in trouble and need to cry out again. How much better life would go if we’d just faithfully walk with Him as He does us.
The writer asks an important question. “What shall I render to the Lord for all his benefits to me”? How do we repay God for His faithfulness? How can we even the score? What can we give back to God in return for God’s goodness and salvation? The author gives us a glimpse:
- “I will lift up the cup of salvation
- I will pay my vows
- I am your servant
- I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving
- I will pay my vows to the Lord in the presence of all his people”
We need to walk openly and loudly with the Lord. His goodness and blessing needs to be shouted loudly in front of all!
Psalm 114 gives more perspective on the history of God and His people and provides reason for us to praise Him. It should be an encouragement to us as we see God at work in mighty ways to save those He loves. As the writer recalls history, we get to see first hand the presence of God in the lives of His children. It was personal and complete. God fulfilled His covenant promise and cared for His people. God led them from the hands of their enemy with mighty power and in absolute triumph over all.
“When Israel went out from Egypt….the sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs”. The victory over the Egyptians was impressive in itself, but consider what God really did as He set His people free. He parted the Red Sea, He stopped the Jordan from flowing, and He controlled the mountain and hills as the people stood at the foot of the mountain as Moses received the Ten Commandments and met with God. There is power in the hands of God.
This psalm is about God’s sovereignty and power at work in His people. God did it then, and He is still equally at work around us today. Today, the Christian community is both God’s sanctuary and His kingdom. We are like the psalmist writes in verse two: “Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion”. We are now a “chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation” that Peter writes about in 1 Peter 2:9. God is at work among us in the same way He was when Moses led God’s people from captivity. All powerful, all knowing, and able to do whatever was needed to set His people free.
The psalmist paints a picture of God’s power. “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water”. The psalmist paints a picture of the earth as trembling at the presence of the Lord. This psalm calls attention to the seas, the rivers, and the mountains moving only in the presence of the Lord. God is in absolute control. He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is worthy to be praised. We are called to worship and adore Him based on this history!
Psalm 113 continues a very familiar theme – we need to praise the Lord. Three times in the first verse the psalmist exhorts us to praise the Lord. “Praise the Lord! Praise, O servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord”! The repetition here is not a mistake. The writer is reminding us that praising God is not something we should grow cold or callous toward. It is our call and we must not disregard God’s glory. God is great and worthy of our praise. We need to be focused and fervent in our praise.
As Christ Followers, we need to be sure we spend time truly focused on praise and adoration of our Creator. We can often get caught up in the daily grind of life and take God for granted. We don’t stop and realize just how awesome God is because we are consumed by the activity and challenges of the day. Chaos controls our perspective, not God’s amazing love. Praise is a response to thinking about who God is and what He has done, as revealed in His Word and in our life.
So we need to make sure we don’t lose sight of God and who He is and where He sits in our life. “From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the Lord is to be praised”! Our praise should not be a few minutes here or there. It is the awareness of God all around us from sun up to sun down. It is recognizing His beauty in the world we live in. It is seeing His hand at work in the lives of people around us, and in our own life as He moves and directs the details of life.
We should always praise God because He is great and He is gracious to anyone that calls on Him. The psalmist makes it clear that God is not only sitting on the throne high above the nations, but He is taking action to help those in need. He raises people up and protects them from evil. He lifts people from the depths and sits them with princes. God is a gracious and giving God that changes lives. Nothing too great for Him, no one too small. God is able, and willing, to love and care for any and all who will simply call on His name.
Psalm 112 picks up right where the previous psalm ended – focused on the true source of blessing. “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments”! The secret to true happiness and success is knowing who God is and having a healthy and reverential fear of Him. It’s knowing God as God and not making Him our BFF or a genie at the end of an SOS line. God is the creator and ruler of all. He is worthy of our praise. And the result of that fear or reverent admiration is obedience.
Lots of people don’t like the idea of obedience. That indicates there is a set of rules or guidelines that we have to follow. Many prefer the concept of doing whatever seems right or feels right at the time. But that doesn’t align with God’s standards and the very reality of sin. Sin literally means ‘missing the mark’ which means there has to be an absolute wrong and right, there has to be an absolute standard that we’re accountable to. Obedience to God’s commandments and will create that standard. If we walk in obedience, blessing flows. If not, well…..
This chapter talks about mankind and what happens with we live a God honoring life. The words that describe a successful walk with God are pretty amazing.
- “His offspring will be mighty in the land
- the upright will be blessed
- Wealth and riches are in his house
- his righteousness endures forever
- Light dawns in the darkness for the upright
- he is gracious, merciful, and righteous
- It is well with the man who deals generously….conducts his affairs with justice
- he will be remembered forever
- He is not afraid of bad news
- his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord
- His heart is steady
- he will not be afraid
- he looks in triumph on his adversaries
- He has distributed freely
- he has given to the poor
- his righteousness endures forever
- his horn is exalted in honor”
That is quite a list that results when we get our fear of God and our obedience to Him right.
Psalm 111 gave us a clear picture of God and his mercy, love and grace. This chapter shows us the result of walking with Him in fear and obedience. The outcome is overwhelming – the blessing beyond our imagination or hopes. God is waiting for the opportunity to truly bless us indeed. He wants to pour His goodness all over us. It impacts not only us, but those around us and generations to come. It is an amazing picture of His bounty and love. But equally clear as the author closes is the flip side – that of wickedness. “The wicked man sees it and is angry; he gnashes his teeth and melts away; the desire of the wicked will perish”! They won’t like seeing others enjoy God’s blessing. They will eventually perish.