Posts Tagged ‘old testament’

Proverbs 30:1-6

Proverbs 30 is a collection of wisdom from a man known only to this chapter of the Bible. We’ll look at the first few verses of his work. When the men of Hezekiah gathered additional material for Proverbs they added these words of Agur. We have no other mention of Agur the son of Jakeh. It appears evident that Solomon was not the author of this chapter; and that it was designed to be distinguished from his work. Agur is defined as an oracle. Agur understood that his words here came from God. His words are filled with observations on life and the natural world. “The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.”

It appears that Agur is weary and comes to God worn out. “The man declares, I am weary, O God; I am weary, O God, and worn out.“ He knows that when it comes to being compared to God, he appears stupid, like all of us do. “Surely I am too stupid to be a man. I have not the understanding of a man. I have not learned wisdom, nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.” Many previous proverbs teach that humility is an essential aspect of wisdom. Here, with poetic exaggeration, Agur declared his own limitations when it comes to understanding and wisdom. Agur was also careful not to boast of his spiritual knowledge. He brings his lesson to us with great humility, not from a position of superiority.

Agur knows his place before God. “Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his son’s name? Surely you know!” He asks questions to help us understand our limitations in understanding God and His creation. The wise and humble answer to each of these questions is, God, and not man. After challenging his readers regarding the natural world, Agur finished with a challenge regarding man’s limitations in spiritual knowledge. One can only know what is His name (God’s nature, character) and His Son’s name by God’s own revelation. In all these things, we humbly depend on God’s revelation for our knowledge. We know nothing in and of ourselves.

Agur valued and explained the purity of God’s word. It is all good and all helpful, being completely pure. Because it is pure it can and should be trusted. “Every word of God proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.” Agur explained that God is a shield. The sense is that God gives His pure word to protect His people if they will use the wisdom and encouragement of His word to put their trust in Him. God’s word needs no addition or improvement from us. We don’t need to take away from His words or add to His words. If we do, we are targets of God’s rebuke and will be exposed as liars.

Proverbs 29:25-27

In Proverbs 29:25-27 Solomon reminds us that fear is real bondage. It brings a snare that traps us. Many people are of good heart but not enough courage so they live in bondage to the fear of man. They worry far too much about what people think, instead of first being concerned about what God and wisdom say, and what integrity would lead them to do. This is a snare that traps many people. Rather than living for an audience of One, they are focused on what the world around them thinks and says. We can’t live being anxious about not offending another person. Living in the fear of man can even lead us to deny God in extreme situations.

Just think about Saul, Aaron and Peter who are examples of men who were stained by the fear of man. “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”  The contrast to the fear of man is he who trusts in the LORD. That person will be in the safest place imaginable – safe in the care of a loving, powerful God. Spurgeon wrote “The man who is trusting in the blood and righteousness of Jesus may not always be happy, but he is safe; he may not always be singing, but he is safe; he may not always have the joy of full assurance, but he is safe. He may sometimes be distressed, but, he is always safe; he may sometimes question his interest in Christ, but he is always safe.”

Solomon then reminds us that people try to leverage position, possession and power for their own gain. This is presented as a simple fact. There are many who long for the benefit that a ruler may give them. This relates to the fear of man mentioned in the previous verse; those who depend on the ruler’s favor for their security and prosperity must fear and seek the ruler’s favor. “Many seek the face of a ruler, but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.” But any security they find will not last.  It is only through God that such justice can come. Even the mightiest ruler does not hold a candle compared to God.

How we choose to live does matter.  God is paying attention. An unjust man does not please those among God’s righteous. They share God’s regard of the wicked, seeing them as an abomination for their sins against God and man. “An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous, but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.” It works both ways. The upright man or woman is seen as an abomination to the wicked. Their righteous life is an unwelcome rebuke to the wicked. Good and evil cannot co-exist. They are mutually exclusive and you must choose which you will follow.

Proverbs 29:21-24

In Proverbs 29:21-24 Solomon begins by addressing the potential of what happens if we aren’t careful about how we treat those who work with or for us. He talks about pampering a servant from childhood which today can be related to treating someone in a soft and generous way from the start making their work life easy and pleasant without accountability. That will come back to haunt later. “Whoever pampers his servant from childhood will in the end find him his heir.” Pampering isn’t always a good approach.  It can make the person so attached that the master ends up with another obligation and the servant feels entitled and expects an inheritance or special treatment in every situation.

Solomon goes on to refer to the man who stirs up strife, or anger as it is called today. It is in the nature of the angry man to spread his strife to others. With peace lacking in his own soul, it’s easy to put his inner strife upon others. His inner emotions of anger boil and his resentment for others explodes outward to those around him. “A man of wrath stirs up strife, and one given to anger causes much transgression.” A furious man abounds in transgression: When the angry or furious man spreads his strife, it makes transgression abound. Sin that abounds in this atmosphere is marked by a lack of self-control. Anger often takes people to extremes.

Solomon again reminds us of the danger of pride. Because God resists the proud, pride will naturally bring a man low. Like Satan, the one who hopes to rise higher through his pride will fall. Pride comes from a root meaning ‘to be high’ and often leads us to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, even to the point of elevating ourselves to no need to listen to or follow God’s laws. “One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” The opposite of pride is humility. And just like God opposes the proud, He gives grace to the humble. God’s gracious blessing to the humble in spirit means they will gain and retain honor.

Solomon talks about the misguided loyalty around being connected to a thief. To partner with a thief is to reject wisdom and embrace folly. The one who steals from others will steal from you, and perhaps with violence threatening your own life. The law makes no distinction between the thief and the accomplice. Consenting to sin, receiving the stolen goods, involves us in the guilt and punishment. “The partner of a thief hates his own life; he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.” The partner to the thief is the kind of man who will repeatedly vow to tell the truth, but reveals nothing about his partner’s criminal activity. He places loyalty to his friend above his loyalty to God. This won’t end well as the partner will be guilty by association.

Proverbs 29:17-20

In Proverbs 29:17-20 Solomon again tackles the area of child rearing. We have to step up as parents and help our kids learn to obey God’s laws and those of the world we live in. Many proverbs speak of the importance of correcting and training our children. If we leave them to themselves, to their peers, or to the culture around them and fail to correct them, they will be an ongoing source of trouble and strife, giving us no rest. “Discipline your son, and he will give you rest; he will give delight to your heart.” Discipline alone won’t guarantee delight, but every parent wants this delight of soul. There is a sense in which God appeals to our own self-interest. If you won’t correct your son because it is good for him, then do it because it is good for you!

Solomon then reminds us of the power of vision or seeing things through God’s lens. Waltke wrote “Other translations (such as the King James Version) express this in these words: where there is no vision, the people perish. This has often been taken to say, “Where there is no visionary leadership, people and enterprises fail.” That is often a true principle, but not what Solomon wrote here. There is little doubt that the Hebrew word hazon means “God’s revelation,” and not “visionary leadership.” “In sum, hazon refers here to the sage’s inspired revelation of wisdom.” “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law.” There is happiness and contentment for the one who keeps the law. In this sense, the Bible is something like a guide given to us by our owner and creator, telling us how to live a wise and blessed life. It is within restraint, but not in an oppressive sense. Only a fool thinks that all restraint is oppressive.

Next he reminds us that learning is difficult and sometimes requires hard lessons. The idea is not of someone who has an honorable, servant like heart. The idea is of someone of menial service who has slave-like mentality that can’t be lifted above his or her present misery. That person is unlikely to be corrected by mere words. Tough life experience and discipline will be more likely to teach them. “By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not respond.” This shows that the problem with such a one is not mental or intellectual. He understands well enough; the problem is that he will not respond. It will take more than words to get him or her to respond and learn wisdom.

Solomon reminds us that words matter and how we use them matter even more. Proverbs often teaches us that a mark of a fool is that they don’t have control over what they say. They are hasty in their words. “Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” To Solomon, the man hasty in his words was a special kind of a fool, a super-fool. Lacking wisdom, his impulsive speech sets him beyond the hope of even the normal fool. We have to learn how to manage and control our tongue. It can be used for so much good, or cause so much destruction. The difference is merely how it is used. We need to use it God’s way!

Proverbs 29:9-12

In Proverbs 29:9-12 Solomon begins by contrasting the difference between wisdom and being a fool. Solomon considered some kind of argument or dispute between the wise and the foolish, likely set in a court of law. Since the two have different foundations and principles for living, it isn’t a surprise that they would contend with each other. “If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.” One major difference is the amount of noise generated. When two such different people are at odds with one another, there will be no peace. The fool will respond with either anger or mocking, but neither will lead to peace. This should teach the wise man to be cautious about arguing with a fool.

Next he contrasts the bloodthirsty man with one who is blameless. Another ‘opposite ends of the spectrum’ kind of comparison. There is a fundamental opposition between the bloodthirsty and the blameless. Those given to violence and brutality (the bloodthirsty) simply hate the blameless, both because the life and message of the blameless convicts the bloodthirsty and because the bloodthirsty hate all the blameless stand for. “Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless and seek the life of the upright.” The bloodthirsty enjoy seeing the pillage of destruction in the lives of others.  They always want to do damage and cause pain.

Back to the discussion of a fool, Solomon reminds us that a fool lets out all their feelings for the world to see. It is the nature of a fool to think that everyone is interested in all his feelings and that he has some obligation to share all his feelings with everyone around him. This is a foolish offense to self-respect, self-restraint, and courtesy towards others.” A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” The wise man knows that there is a time and place to vent one’s feelings. It is not wise to act like the fool and expose all his feelings. There may be a time and place to do that, but wisdom means understanding that who and when one shares is equally as important as what one shares.

Solomon then tackles the integrity of truth telling, particularly as it relates to those who are in power. Anyone in authority will have many who want to use his or her power and position for their own advancement. Some of those may use lies to influence, frighten, manipulate, or simply deceive that ruler. The wise ruler pays no attention to lies. They surround themselves with perceptive people that can spot those who are trying to manipulate. “If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked.” When the servants see that the ruler can be influenced by lies, it encourages them to lie. Deception is rewarded and telling the truth is discouraged. The atmosphere around that ruler and his servants becomes poisonous and incompetent. Deceit becomes the norm and integrity and character go out the window.

Proverbs 29:5-8

In Proverbs 29:5-8 Solomon begins by calling out the words we speak about those around us with a motive to gain something for ourselves. To flatter is to excessively praise or give attention to someone with the hope of gaining influence or status. It is attempting to manipulate their response. “A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.” What we fail to realize is that it doesn’t have a good outcome. Flattery is a trap. It is a trap that the wise man knows how to avoid, and that catches the fool.  It is merely deception with a focus on creating a way to profit personally and is a cruel way to interact with those around you.

Solomon then goes on to remind us that sin destroys us. A man may be evil in his character, yet it is his actual acts of transgression that ruin him. Most evil men think they are celebrating life and freedom through their transgression, but it will be a trap and a snare to them. All of us will someday stand before a righteous and holy God and give account for what we have done. “An evil man is ensnared in his transgression, but a righteous man sings and rejoices.”  If transgression belongs to the evil man, then singing and rejoicing belong to the righteous. The singing and rejoicing is an expression of what is inside them, just as much as the transgression is an expression of what is inside the evil man. How much better it is to be filled with joy because of walking in obedience to God.

How we deal with those less fortunate is one characteristic of walking rightly with God. One mark of the righteous man or woman is that they care for the poor. It is more than the response of feelings of pity; he considers the cause of the poor. It is thoughtful compassion in action. It is actually doing something to help improve their condition and enhance their life. “A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.” To help those less fortunate we have to be willing to open our hands and share what we have. Those who are wicked and rebellious against God and His wisdom can’t even understand such compassion. Since it doesn’t directly serve their self-interest, they can’t understand it and refuse to help those in need.

Solomon returns to remind us of the impact of a scoffer. In the family of fools, the scoffers are some of the worst offenders. They are so settled in their combative, cynical rejection of God and His wisdom that they may bring the judgment of God and fury of man against their own city. They don’t even realize how negatively their attitudes and words can be. “Scoffers set a city aflame, but the wise turn away wrath.” We need to focus our time on those who are wise. The opposite of the scoffer is the wise man. Collectively, wise men have the understanding, character, and righteousness that may turn away God’s wrath. They will positively impact the world they live in while the scoffer destroys it.

Proverbs 29:1-4

In Proverbs 29:1-4 Solomon tackles the topic of how we respond to discipline. We all make mistakes and will be subject to correction. The question is not if it will happen, but how we will respond. In many places in the Bible, the hard neck is used as a figure of speech to speak of the stubborn attitude that resists and disobeys God. This proverb speaks about the man who is often rebuked but doesn’t listen to the rebuke; instead he hardens his neck.” He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing.” This stubborn, rebellious man continues in his disobedience for a long time, until he is suddenly… destroyed – and there will be no hope for him (broken beyond healing). This describes the kind of person who thinks little of God’s merciful patience and assumes judgment will never come for his continual rejection of wisdom and stubborn heart against God.

Solomon then reminds us that people fair much better when the righteous are in charge. It is to everyone’s benefit in the community or nation when the righteous are in authority. This shows that when the righteous governs, it should be for the benefit of the entire community, not only their own interests. “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice, but when the wicked rule, the people groan.” It’s in complete contrast to what happens when the wicked are in charge. The community or the nation suffers when the wicked rule. Lawlessness increases, and freedoms diminish. The rule of the wicked is bad for both the righteous and the wicked. No one wins if righteous people are not leading.

Wisdom brings about a good outcome and makes mom and dad happy. Children of any age bring happiness to their parents when they love and live wisdom. It gives the parents a justified pride in their children and gives peace about their children’s future. It doesn’t happen accidentally, but requires strong parenting which is well worth the effort. “He who loves wisdom makes his father glad, but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.” In contrast, living as a fool leads to destruction. This is one example of a foolish life, someone who chooses prostitutes and others of low character as their companions. This fool wastes his wealth on these and other similar interests, showing they are the opposite of the one who loves wisdom.

Solomon finishes by reminding us that justice is the way to achieve success. A nation can only expect strength and progress when it is ruled with justice. When a community or nation sees evildoers punished and restrained, fairness in the legal system, and agreements honored, there will be justice and a foundation for growth and blessing. “By justice a king builds up the land, but he who exacts gifts tears it down.” There are many ways that justice can be abused, but receiving bribes is one of the worst ways. Bribes destroy the foundations of fairness and equality before the law. It means that the rich and devious prosper. A nation built on that will not stand.

Proverbs 28:24-28

In Proverbs 28:24-28 Solomon begins by making it clear that taking advantage of one’s parents is not an acceptable form of behavior. There are some who have little conscience about stealing from their parents. Out of some sense of entitlement, they rob them and then say, “It is no transgression.” Some may rationalize that they are eventually going to get it anyway, but that doesn’t change God’s perspective on honoring our parents. “Whoever robs his father or his mother and says, “That is no transgression,” is a companion to a man who destroys.”  Despite whatever sense of entitlement the thief may have, they are right next to a destroyer, someone who spreads and even loves destruction.

Staying on the money trail, Solomon brings up the impact of greed. Waltke wrote “The greedy person’s insatiable appetite brings him into conflict with others, for he transgresses social boundaries. Not content with his portion, he becomes disruptive and destructive, and whose person and property he violates fight back.” “A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.” In contrast, when we put our trust in the Lord money is not nearly as important. That’s because God owns it all anyway. To trust in the Lord is presented as a contrast to the greedy heart. That person should expect to prosper, as they humbly trust God and give up their focus on accumulating more.

Next he reminds us that we just can’t trust what we know if we want to walk in wisdom. There is a strong urge—promoted to us by the world, the flesh, and the devil—to trust our own heart and to “follow our heart” instead of receiving our values, morals, and wisdom from God’s word. This trusting in our own heart leads one to be a fool. For answers, values, and guidance we should not look within, but look to the Lord. “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” In contrast to trusting our own heart, we should walk wisely in God’s ways. Instead of operating on the basis of how we feel, we should direct ourselves to wise living in what we do following His direction.

Giving is one way to turn on God’s blessing. When we share with those less fortunate, God notices and responds. God promises to bless the generous heart, and one way that generosity should be expressed is to give to the poor. “Whoever gives to the poor will not want, but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.”  Pretending not to notice is not an excuse that will work. God will not bless the one who ignores the troubles of the poor and needy. In a similar but different way, wickedness needs to be addressed. They may cause good to hide and protect themselves. When wicked men come to places of prominence and rule, it is bad for the community.  But God doesn’t run. “When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase.” When the wicked and their influence pass, the righteous increase, along with their influence. This is a blessing for a community or a nation.

Proverbs 28:19-23

Solomon tackles the topic of work and the outcome that comes with it in Proverbs 28:19-23.  The reward of work is a harvest. The one who tills his land will enjoy the harvest that comes, and therefore have plenty of bread. Without the hard work, there won’t be any production and thus no harvest. “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.” When are aren’t willing to do the work to produce an outcome, there is no harvest. The one who ignores his work to have a good time (following worthless pursuits) will not enjoy the fruit of the harvest the way the hard-working man will. Instead of plenty of bread the lazy, frivolous man will have plenty of poverty. The Prodigal Son is a great example of this.

A somewhat similar proverb has Solomon reminding us that blessing comes to those who are faithful in their walk with God. This is true as a general principle; faithfulness and obedience to God’s law brings blessings. It was especially true under the old covenant, where God promised blessings on the obedient and curses on the disobedient. “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.” God is not generous with those who simply chase money. The one who hastens to be rich is almost always willing to cheat or compromise to gain wealth. God promises that this one will be punished, either in this life or the next.

Solomon also reminds us that we are to treat all fairly and with honor. In the court of law and in our daily dealings with people, we should not show partiality. We should be those who do not favor or condemn others based on their race, class, nationality, or influence. “To show partiality is not good, but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.” There are plenty who will attempt to cause us to be partial or do wrong. Because justice and the opinion of others can be easily bought, we should determine that we will not be bribed for partiality and we should be aware that others may be easily bought.

He next addresses giving and how important it is to hold on to our money loosely when it comes to giving. The stingy, ungenerous man will run after riches with the same energy that he will use to selfishly hold on to what he has. “A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him.” Because God’s blessing does not rest on the stingy, ungenerous man, poverty will come upon him—and he will not consider or expect it. Along with how we handle what God has entrusted is how we address each other when there is wrongdoing. It may be necessary to rebuke a man, but it will likely bring on displeasure. Still, it should be done in confidence that when done well, the one who rebukes will find more favor afterward. “Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor than he who flatters with his tongue.”  When we rebuke another, they will respect us more than if we just flatter and allow them to self-destruct on their own.

Proverbs 28:14-18

In Proverbs 28:14-18 Solomon begins with reminding us of the power of fearing the Lord and putting Him in His rightful place in our life. Fearing the Lord is about showing reverence and acknowledging that He is indeed in control of all things. Reverence and happiness are not commonly associated together. The reverent man is often thought to be sour and unpleasant. Nevertheless, to the degree that one can be always reverent, he can genuinely happy. “Blessed is the one who fears the Lord always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” When one hardens his heart he can no longer feel, respond, and opt for a new direction. The hardened heart is fixed on unbelief and unbending defiance to God

A wicked ruler runs over people. He does not show any empathy for the people. With these vivid images, Solomon described the effect of a wicked ruler over poor people. The wicked ruler treats those of low standing (poor people) with unpredictable, uncontrollable ferocity. He is dangerous toward them. “Like a roaring lion or a charging bear is a wicked ruler over a poor people.” The foolish ruler (the one who lacks understanding) will oppress his people. His reign will be unhappy and insecure because of the foolish way he leads his people. He goes on to talk about a ruler who does not have understanding.

A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.” If a man is wise enough to hate covetousness, he will likely be wise in other responsibilities as a ruler. It is likely that his days as a ruler will be prolonged. On the other hand, if someone has killed someone, he will be marked as long as he lives. “If one is burdened with the blood of another, he will be a fugitive until death; let no one help him” As the man guilty of bloodshed falls into the consequences of his own actions, let no one help him. Often it is best to let people suffer the consequences of their sins.

Integrity is the next area that Solomon addresses. He speaks of one who walks in it – that is living intentionally in integrity day after day. This proverb probably does not have eternal salvation in mind; instead, the idea is being saved or rescued from the calamities and troubles of life. Especially under the old covenant, God’s blessing and protection was upon those who walk blamelessly and in integrity. “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” The one who is twisted and crooked in his dealings can’t expect God’s blessing and protection. That crooked, twisted person should expect to suddenly fall one day.

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