Posts Tagged ‘Obedience’

Proverbs 17:17-20

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

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

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

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

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Proverbs 17:5-8

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 17:1-4

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 16:29-33

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

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

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

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

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

Proverbs 16:24-28

In Proverbs 16:24-28 Solomon continues to teach us the importance of what we say. There is wonderful power in our words to bring blessing and pleasantness to others. In ancient Biblical culture, nothing was as sweet as honey from the honeycomb, and pleasant words can be just as sweet and wonderful. But we have to be careful to speak graciously. “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.” Encouraging and pleasant words bring enjoyment to the whole person (the soul) and health to the body. We underestimate the power of our words.

Here is one of the greatest truths in scripture – we don’t really know what God’s plans are. It is not wise to make decisions based on our own gut feelings alone.  We need to leverage God’s truth, the counsel of many, and His Spirit to guide us in decisions. Some people walk a path of life that they know is wrong, and many proverbs speak to that person. Others walk a path of life that seems right to them, and they are mistaken. It isn’t enough to feel good about our path, or to follow our heart on life’s way. God’s revelation and word is always truer and safer than what seems right to a man. “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” The problem is what happens when we are wrong. Taking the wrong way – even if it seems right to a man – isn’t an innocent mistake. This is because the wrong path ends in death. The end of the wrong path isn’t temporary trouble or inconvenience; its end is the way of death.

The Bible recognizes the principle of personal property and that the reward of work properly belongs to the one doing it.  But we also must keep in mind that our ownership of stuff is really stewardship.  It all belongs to God.  We’re given the opportunity to care for and use many things that result from our hard work, but we need to do so with an open hand. “A worker’s appetite works for him; his mouth urges him on.” There are many drivers that cause us to work, not the least of which is what scripture tells us is required.  But a hungry belly certainly can drive one to put his shoulder to the plow to fulfill that basic need.

The sense is that for the ungodly man, the evil he casually finds isn’t enough to satisfy his desire. So he digs up more evil, finding the effort to pursue evil fulfilling in his twisted ways. “A worthless man plots evil, and his speech is like a scorching fire.” When an ungodly man digs up evil, he can’t keep it to himself. He has to spread it to others, so he casts it from his lips as if it were a burning fire.”A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” This is one way that the perverse man sows strife – by whispering gossipy words. The strife they sow is so powerful it can separate best friends. Often, such people show they are evil because they count it a victory and an accomplishment to sow such strife and to separate even the best of friends.

Proverbs 16:16-19

In Proverbs 16:16-19 Solomon begins by telling us that wisdom is one of the most valuable things we can ever receive. The money of this world has its use, but it is better to have wisdom than gold. Wisdom is much more helpful and useful in this life, and it is far more profitable for the life to come. “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.” One should make the main pursuit of their life to gain wisdom and understanding in the fear of the Lord. This has value far more than gold or silver, but it also often leads to material prosperity as it did for Solomon. Wisdom and wealth are not incompatible; but this comparison is between wealth without wisdom and wisdom without wealth.

He guides us to be careful to turn away from sin.  God cares how we live, and what we do when presented with a temptation. The upright knows that the path of their life – their highway – should move away from evil, not towards it or with it. We need to flee from all evil. “The highway of the upright turns aside from evil; whoever guards his way preserves his life.” This is a matter of eternal life and death. The one who walks in the right way will find his life preserved. He will stay away from evil that may cost him his life and more importantly his soul.

Solomon again addresses pride, which turned out to be one of the things that brought himself down.  He realized the power of pride toward evil, yet it still caught him. Scripture is clear that God opposes the proud. With God so set against the proud, no wonder that pride goes before destruction. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” One of the many ways that pride is evident is in a haughty spirit – an attitude that communicates superiority over other people. Those who think themselves higher than others are set for destruction and ready to fall under the judgment of God.

Because pride is an abomination to God and leads to destruction, Solomon tells us that it isn’t so bad to live among the lowly and to have a humble spirit. The opposite of pride is humility which is another way to describe a lowly spirit.  It’s not a feeling of being worthless or becoming a doormat for others to trample, but rather a healthy understanding of who God is and where we fit in relationship to Him.  “It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud.” A humble life among the lowly is better than having reward among the proud. This is because proud people are not pleasant company, and because it is never good to join those whom God is set to destroy.

Proverbs 16:12-15

In Proverbs 16:12-15 Solomon talks about the importance of how leaders lead.  Solomon admitted that it was possible for kings to commit wickedness. Some think that because someone is a king or leader all they do is justified. Sadly, Solomon became a king who committed wickedness and his house came crumbling down. “It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness.” The righteous life of a king can bring God’s blessing upon his life and for those whom he leads. Because of this great potential and influence, it is an even greater sin for kings and leaders to commit wickedness.

Truth is the best thing a leader can hear.  They need to be surrounded by truth tellers who will give them the real truth. In their positions of authority, it is important for kings and leaders to hear from those who speak honestly and wisely. Therefore, they find delight in righteous lips as it gives them the information and perspective they need to lead well. “Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right.” It is always important for kings and leaders to hear the truth from others and not mere flattery. The words of those who flatter have no value to leadership. ven when a man speaks what may be difficult for the king or leader to hear, the one who speaks what is right will gain the love and respect of those who are in authority.

Solomon reminds us that when a king or man of authority is angry, his reaction can bring death or a death-like fear to others. This is true of earthly kings and leaders; but it is much truer of the King of Kings. To be the target of His wrath is to receive a verdict of death without an Intercessor – namely Jesus. “A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it.” Wisdom can help us have the right reaction even in the difficult moments when a king or leader is angry and shows their wrath. The wise man will especially know how to appease the wrath of the King of Kings – not by their own works and merits, but by receiving what God has provided through Jesus.

The approval and favor of an earthly king or leader could mean success or failure for anyone under their rule. To have his approving countenance meant you were safe in their favor and had life. “In the light of a king’s face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.” There is benefit to having a leader who is pleased. The welcome and approval of a king is like life-giving rain, especially the spring rain which ensured a good harvest. This proverb is especially true regarding the King of Kings. The favor of His countenance is a blessing and to receive it gives light and eternal life.

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