Posts Tagged 'Proverbs'



Shut My Mouth!

Shocked Senior Man on Telephone

The Power of the Tongue

The Bible has a lot to say about the power of the tongue.  The Hebrew word for “word” (dabar) means both “word” and “deed.”  Words are connected to deeds; in Hebrew thought, the two are inseparable; words cannot exist without corresponding deeds.  We see this in the very first book of the Bible:

Then God said, “Let there be light.” And light appeared. (Genesis 1:3 TLB)

The power of the tongue!  God spoke everything, even light, into being.  How about this in John’s Gospel:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  (John 1:1—3  NIV)

When you think about it, words can do great good or irreparable harm.  Solomon understood this, and his book of Proverbs is full of observations and good advice on the subject.

Use words properly, Proverbs 18:21; 20:25; 27:1, 2, 5, 21

In addition to words, Solomon was keenly interested in propriety.  That’s an old fashioned notion that means “appropriate behavior.”  Remember, “there is a time for…” all kinds of behavior.  Sometimes it’s appropriate to laugh, other times it’s better to cry.  And so it is with words.  There is the right time to use certain words, and a wrong time.

The power of words, 18:21

Those who love to talk will suffer the consequences. Men have died for saying the wrong thing!  (TLB)

Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.  (AV)

Words are serious things!  What people say can lead to life or death.  Think about that; if you are a Christian, you are able to speak life to the lost by speaking salvation to them.  Careless words, though, can lead someone down a destructive path.  If you aren’t careful in choosing your words wisely, you can actually hurt a person so much as to turn them from their faith!  Some might say that the tongue is the most powerful weapon on earth.  The idea Solomon is putting across in this verse is that for people who love to talk, they must bear its fruit, whether that fruit is good or bad.

Outside of the Bible, Jewish teachers had this to say about the tongue:

The evil tongue slays thee, the slanderer, the slandered, and the listener.

Soren Kierkegaard, a fairly smart man, made this observation (in the 19th century!) worth noting:

If I could prescribe just one remedy for all the ills of the modern world, I would prescribe silence.  For even if the Word of God were proclaimed in the modern world, no one would hear it; there is too much noise.

Vow?  What vow?  20:25

It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting the cost.  (TLB)

In other words, be careful what you promise another person!  Never make a rash vow.  Don’t make a promise until you are sure you can keep it.  Sometimes we get trapped by our words and find ourselves in deep trouble.  This is incredibly practical advice to be sure, but there is a spiritual dimension to it.  Don’t—DO NOT—publicly dedicate your life to God until you have counted the cost.  God doesn’t want an emotional decision; He wants you to carefully consider what it means to follow Him before you make the decision. These days, people seem to make decisions based on how they feel instead of using their reasoning minds.  Yes, there’s a lot feeling but not a lot of thinking going on today, and we can see the mess that way of doing things has left!

Flattery, 27:2, 21

Don’t praise yourself; let others do it!  (verse 2  TLB)

The purity of silver and gold can be tested in a crucible, but a man is tested by his reaction to men’s praise.  (verse 21  TLB)

Verse 2 may bring a smile to your face, but it actually makes complete sense, and when you grasp what Solomon was trying to teach, it will revolutionize how you live.  What he is saying is this:  live your life so that others will praise you.  Now, that’s actually good advice; something your grandmother might have told you.  But, there is a warning that comes along with that advice, and that’s verse 21.  Living a good life is all well and good, but you should never believe your own press!   Be wary of the praise of others; don’t let it go to your head and keep their opinions in perspective. Dr. Ironside’s comments are priceless:

There is no hotter crucible to test a man than when he is put through a fire of praise and adulation.  To go on through evil report, cleaving to the Lord and counting on Him to clear one’s name is comparatively easy; but to humbly pursue the even tenor of his way, undisturbed and unlifted up by applause and flattery, marks a man as being truly with God.

Rebukes and boasts, 27:5, 1

Open rebuke is better than hidden love!  (verse 5  TLB)

Don’t brag about your plans for tomorrow—wait and see what happens.  (verse 1  TLB)

Now here’s some good advice. A “rebuke” seems painful at the time, but a good rebuke can make the world of difference in your life.  For example, Paul publicly rebuked Peter when he refused to eat with some Gentiles.  Peter was wrong in his actions and he needed that rebuke.  The fact that there were no bad feelings after the rebuke proved Paul was right and Peter’s heart was right.

Getting a rebuke is hard, but issuing a rebuke is even harder!  However, if we would honor our friends in the Lord, we’d “speak the truth” in the His name when appropriate.  In this, measuring our words is vital.

Verse 1 is what happens when we put off timely actions.  It’s foolish and potentially dangerous to be presumptuous about the future.  Why?  Because nobody can predict the future with any kind of accuracy.  Solomon isn’t talking about not planning for the future; we should all be doing that!  He is talking about not bragging about those plans.  Nobody should be overconfident about tomorrow.  Humility is essential.

Avoid destructive words, Proverbs 26:17—28

We’ve already put forth the idea that words are powerful and words mean things.  There is no such thing as a “casual word.”  Behind every word is a thought and after every word there is some kind of action.  But there is another reason why the book of Proverbs spends so much time the topic of words. Solomon’s culture was word-based.  It was not a culture of the written word, but of the spoken word.  Much of the Old Testament was not written to be read but to be heard and memorized.  It is estimated that only 5% of the Hebrew population was literate at this time.  So the spoken word carried a lot of weight.

Stop quarreling, verses 17, 21

Yanking a dog’s ears is no more foolish than interfering in an argument that isn’t any of your business. (verse 17  TLB)

A quarrelsome man starts fights as easily as a match sets fire to paper.  (verse 21  TLB)

Some people just love to argue; they’ll argue about anything and everything.  Solomon gives some expert advice here.  Sometimes it can be dangerous to interfere in a verbal fight between two other people.  It may be dangerous, but it also qualifies as “meddling.”  It makes no sense to willfully step into another’s argument.  It makes as much as much sense as yanking a dog’s ears.

Along the same lines, verse 21 suggests that quarrelsome people—those people who love to argue—start fights.  It’s easy for them, and more often than not, they are unaware just how flammable their words are.

There are people who just cause strife wherever they go.  They’re the ones who flit from church-to-church, apparently unaware of the trouble left in their wake.  These people aren’t really interested in anything other than causing problems.  Evangelical Anglican clergyman Richard Cecil wrote—

If a man has a quarrelsome temper, let him alone…He will soon meet with someone stronger than himself, who will repay him better than you can.

Doublespeak

Pretty words may hide a wicked heart, just as a pretty glaze covers a common clay pot. A man with hate in his heart may sound pleasant enough, but don’t believe him; for he is cursing you in his heart. Though he pretends to be so kind, his hatred will finally come to light for all to see. The man who sets a trap for others will get caught in it himself. Roll a boulder down on someone, and it will roll back and crush you.  Flattery is a form of hatred and wounds cruelly.  (Proverbs 26:23—28  TLB)

This paragraph is an arraignment of hypocritical speech and character.  Speech descends from character, and you have to watch out for “honey coated” words.  By definition, “doublespeak” means:

…language that deliberately disguises, distorts, or reverses the meaning of words. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doublespeak)

Basically, any time a politician opens his mouth, you may witness a fine example of what Solomon is talking about here.  People who engage in doublespeak say one thing but mean another.  In other words, their words are hypocritical, if not the person themselves.

Hypocrites are all around the Christian; they pretend to be believers but in reality, they are not.  Their words flatter, but hate fills their hearts.  A perfect example of this kind of person is Haman.  He was a flatterer extraordinaire!  He plotted to take down an entire empire even while he flattered the king, pretending to be the most loyal subject.

When dealing with flattering words, we should all take heed of Thomas Watson’s words:

God has given us two ears but one tongue, to show that we should be swift to hear but slow to speak.

Listen carefully to what a person says about you.  You aren’t as good or as bad as they say you are.  And avoid practicing doublespeak. Just be honest.

Avoid gossip, verses 20, 22

Fire goes out for lack of fuel, and tensions disappear when gossip stops.  (verse 20  TLB)

Gossip is a dainty morsel eaten with great relish.  (verse 22  TLB)

Speaking of argumentative people, nothing fuels strife like gossip!  Gossip is a huge problem in society, especially in the church, and yet as destructive as it is, it is very simple to stamp out…stop fueling it and it will burn out.  But, as the Teacher noticed, people love gossip like they love a “dainty morsel.”  Not matter how it tastes, though, gossip is anything but a “dainty morsel”; it’s poison.

Choose life-giving words, Proverbs 15:1, 2, 4, 7, 23, 28; 16:23, 24

According to Hebrew thought, words create life.  We see this in the six days of creation and we also see it the healing ministry of Jesus.  Words bring life.

Gentle words, 15:1, 2, 4

A gentle answer turns away wrath, but harsh words cause quarrels.  A wise teacher makes learning a joy; a rebellious teacher spouts foolishness. (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Gentle words cause life and health; griping brings discouragement.  (verse 4  TLB)

It’s just Common Sense 101:  the way you answer somebody will determine their response.  This is a proverb that we should all remember.  Choose your words carefully and be careful how you speak them.  The idea behind verses 1 and 2 is that the wise person ought to assume an almost conciliatory attitude in answering some people.  Instead of using words that “beat the chest,” sometimes it’s better to be humble and choose gentle words.  The story of Nabal and Abigail from 1 Samuel 25 is a classic illustration of this.  Foolish Nabal should have chosen better words!

Thoughtful words, 15:3, 28; 16:24

The Lord is watching everywhere and keeps his eye on both the evil and the good.  (Proverbs 15:3  TLB)

A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil words without a thought.  (Proverbs 15:28  TLB)

Kind words are like honey—enjoyable and healthful. (Proverbs 16:24  TLB)

As Christians, we must understand the truthfulness of 15:3.  God sees everything you do and He hears everything you say.  So, with that in mind, 15:28 and 16:24 become much more than mere proverbs; they are imperatives!  Not only will choosing our words carefully keep us in good standing with God, which is always important, it will benefit other people in the long run.  The words we use demonstrate the state of our souls and they can go along way in lifting up and soothing others.

Smart words, Proverbs 15:7; 16:23

Only the good can give good advice. Rebels can’t.  (Proverbs 15:7  TLB)

From a wise mind comes careful and persuasive speech.  (Proverbs 16:23  TLB)

Finally, we come to one last truth:  nobody knows it all.  If you are a Christian and if you are looking for advice, be careful where you seek it out and whom you listen to.  Words are life-giving, and advice from believers should lead you to life.  Conversely, the world is full of “rebels,” and their advice may not be helpful.

Steve Camp wrote these lyrics about the tongue:

The tongue is a fire,
It’s an evil that no man can tame.

In the natural, this is true.  But for the believer, the tongue doesn’t have to be evil at all.  If our hearts are right, our speech will be, also.  Theodore Epp once remarked,

Remember that the tongue only speaks what is in the heart.

Financial Wisdom

FinancialPlanning

 A lot of people are surprised to discover that the Bible has more to say about finances than the afterlife.  Actually, this makes complete sense because financial issues touch almost every part of our lives.  Depending on the state of our bank account, we’ll either feel on top of the world or buried under it with no hope.

It also surprises a lot of people that obedience to God is linked to financial blessing:

If you fully obey all of these commandments of the Lord your God, the laws I am declaring to you today, God will transform you into the greatest nation in the world.

The Lord will bless you with good crops and healthy cattle, and prosper everything you do when you arrive in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  (Deuteronomy 28:1, 8  TLB)

Part of financial wisdom involves how those who have treat those who do not.  It also involves keeping the right perspective—keeping your focus on God, the One who blesses, not on His blessings.  Scottish Reformed preacher Sinclair Ferguson wrote:

Work is not the result of the Fall.   Man was made to work because the God who made him was a “working God.”  Man was made to be creative with his mind and his hands.  Work is part of the dignity of his existence.

In this Proverbs 6, King Solomon gives some advice on this very subject.

A Biblical work ethic, Proverbs 6:6—11; 26:13—16; 28:19, 22

Here’s another surprising factoid:  work is a blessing from God!  God gave Adam, the first man, the blessed duty of working in Paradise, thereby ruling over it.

And God blessed them and told them, “Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it; you are masters of the fish and birds and all the animals.”  (Genesis 1:28  TLB)

One of the results of the Protestant Reformation was the development of what has become known as the “Protestant work ethic.”  It’s not an exaggeration to say that before Luther ignited the Reformation with his revolutionary ideas, “work” was a dirty word.   This negative idea surrounding work came from several sources; the Hebrews, for example, came to regard work as a curse from God and the Greeks looked upon work with disdain.  It wasn’t until the 1500’s and the Reformation that man’s attitude toward work changed—it was brought back to its Biblical basics.

Check out the ant, 6:6—11

And as you sleep, poverty creeps upon you like a robber and destroys you; want attacks you in full armor.  (Proverbs 6:11  TLB)

Aesop wasn’t the first person to see how industrious the ant is.  Solomon beat Aesop by a few centuries.  The advice is directed to a “lazy fellow,” or “sluggard.”  The Hebrew word means, literally,  “a sluggard, slow, lazy person.”  The idea is that the “lazy fellow” is an unambitious person.  When you think about it, comparing this person to the teeny, tiny lowly ant, it’s really degrading.  Still, even a lazy bum can learn something from an ant.

Warnings about laziness are all over the book of Proverbs, proving something many of us have long suspected:  there are a whole lot of lazy people in the world!

If we look at the ant, we see that it spends its days doing what’s important:  gathering food.  Now, we can learn a couple of lessons here.  First, the ant is not lazy and neither should we be.  It’s smart enough to know what’s good for it and it doesn’t depend on anybody else to do the work it should be doing.  Second, what’s important to the ant is survival—it needs food to survive and it won’t rest until it has all that it needs to get through.

Here’s a principle that has many applications for the believer.  The obvious one is the financial one:  make hay in the sunshine.  In other words, work while you can and while you are able to.  We need to be farsighted enough to make plans for the future.  But there is another principle that may not be so obvious and the answer to this question will determine whether you get it or not:  What’s really important in your life?  What you spend most of your time doing will reveal it.  If you’re a Christian, then like the ant, you should be doing things that relate to your faith.

Laziness might well be among the top 5 sins infesting the church right now.  We should all take the time to examine ourselves to see how are spending our time; especially our free time.  Are we reading our Bibles?  Are we spending time with God in prayer?

Thomas Miller was right on when he observed:

He lives long that lives well; and time misspent is not lived, but lost.

The lazy bum’s excuses. 26:13—16

The lazy man won’t go out and work. “There might be a lion outside!” he says.  He sticks to his bed like a door to its hinges!  He is too tired even to lift his food from his dish to his mouth!  Yet in his own opinion he is smarter than seven wise men. (TLB)

The lazy person uses the craziest excuses to get out of doing work.  What’s really strange about the “the sluggard” is that he has no idea how lazy he really is!  He has deluded himself into thinking he’s OK and everybody else is in the wrong.  In fact, a character trait of the lazy bum is that he is full of self-conceit and thinks he has wisdom nobody else has.  He thinks he has life—his and everybody else’s—all figured out.  But, he’s really just a lazy bum.

The lazy person would rather stay in bed.  The humor is priceless:  the lazy man is like a door on a hinge; it moves but goes nowhere.

The prosperous way, 28:19, 22

Hard work brings prosperity; playing around brings poverty. (TLB)

Trying to get rich quick is evil and leads to poverty. (TLB)

The stingy are eager to get rich and are unaware that poverty awaits them. (NIV)

Prosperity doesn’t just happen.  It all depends on diligence and hard work.  The way to prosperity isn’t a mystery.

The two different translations of verse 22 give us good sense of what the Teacher is trying to say.  “Get rich quick” schemes attract a certain kind of person—the kind of person who has no discernment and is usually not too generous to begin with.

On lending and borrowing, Proverbs 6:1—5; 22:7; 15:16, 17

In Israel during Biblical times, there were no banks or credit unions.  Lending money was a private matter between two people.  Loans were personal exchanges, usually with great risk.  It was not uncommon for two strangers to engage in these personal exchanges, hence the Teachers advice here.

Pitfalls of borrowing and lending, 6:1—5; 22:7

Son, if you endorse a note for someone you hardly know, guaranteeing his debt, you are in serious trouble.  You may have trapped yourself by your agreement.  (verses 1, 2  TLB)

Since it was so common for one to underwrite another’s debts, entering into such an arrangement could be disastrous if the debtor turned out to be a “misfit.”  It all boils down, once again, to the ability (or inability) to exercise judgment or discernment.  The KJV’s translation of verse 2 may give us an additional insight:

Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

It seems that, at least in the case, the one lending was behaving in a boastful manner.  He had resources and wasn’t afraid to “show off” to others; to play the big shot.  The advice is to avoid this attitude in financial matters.

Quick! Get out of it if you possibly can! Swallow your pride; don’t let embarrassment stand in the way. Go and beg to have your name erased.  Don’t put it off. Do it now. Don’t rest until you do.  (verses 3, 4  TLB)

Here’s the remedy to your financial problem:  swallow your pride and make things right.  Don’t be afraid to straighten things out.

Contentment, 15:16, 17

Better a little with reverence for God than great treasure and trouble with it. It is better to eat soup with someone you love than steak with someone you hate.

Verse 16 stresses reverence or fear of God as being superior to wealth.  A great big feast is just not satisfying when love is absent.  Cold soup, even, is better than a sumptuous steak when love is present.  In other words, believers need to be content.  If we are content, we won’t rush out and take out unwise loans.

Contentment is one of the most distinguishing traits of a godly person because a godly person has his heart focused on God rather than on possessions or position or power.  (Jerry Bridges)

Build a good reputation, Proverbs 22:1, 2, 9; 11:16, 22—26

In the Bible, there is a real high premium placed on a good reputation.

If you must choose, take a good name rather than great riches; for to be held in loving esteem is better than silver and gold. The rich and the poor are alike before the Lord who made them all.

In the original, the word “good” does not appear; it’s always supplied by the translators.  What the Teacher is saying here is that it’s up you to earn your name by the kind of person you are.  There is equality of all men before God, but down here, we earn our reputations by how we live.

Wealth is not disparaged in these verses; they are just saying that a good reputation is more valuable.  In fact, in Jewish teaching, a good name excels all other blessings in life.

Grace versus greed, 11:16

Honor goes to kind and gracious women, mere money to cruel men.

Two contrasts here:  “kind and gracious women” versus “cruel men.”  No, the teacher is not stating something definite about the sexes.  Women can be cruel, too.  The sense of this verse is a little obscure, but what it seems to be teaching is this:  you can seize wealth by any means, but honor is a reward for the kind and gracious person only.

Generosity, 22:9; 11:24—26

Happy is the generous man, the one who feeds the poor.  (22:9  TLB)

It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be rich! By watering others, he waters himself. People curse the man who holds his grain for higher prices, but they bless the man who sells it to them in their time of need. (11:24—26  TLB)

The Bible is full of paradoxes, and here is one:  if you want  to get richer, you have to give what you have away.  In God’s economy, generosity very often determines one’s prosperity.  You must give to gain.

He gives generously to those in need. His deeds will never be forgotten. He shall have influence and honor.  (Psalm 112:9  TLB)

But remember this—if you give little, you will get little. A farmer who plants just a few seeds will get only a small crop, but if he plants much, he will reap much.  Everyone must make up his own mind as to how much he should give. Don’t force anyone to give more than he really wants to, for cheerful givers are the ones God prizes.  God is able to make it up to you by giving you everything you need and more so that there will not only be enough for your own needs but plenty left over to give joyfully to others.  It is as the Scriptures say: “The godly man gives generously to the poor. His good deeds will be an honor to him forever.”  (2 Corinthians 9:6—9  TLB)

A paradox indeed.  Dr. Ironside’s comments—

Bunyan’s quaint rhyme, propounded as a riddle by Old Honest, and explained by Gaius, is in itself a suited commentary on these verses:
A man there was, though some did count him mad,
The more he cast away, the more he had.
He that bestows his goods upon the poor,
Shall have as much again, and ten times more.

Solomon’s financial wisdom comes from experience.  He had learned by doing.  He knew the value of a strong work ethic and he knew the importance of generosity.  When you give, you can’t help but get.  It’s a law of the universe.

Wisdom, and how to use it

wisdom

You don’t have to read too far into the Bible before you realize something is very wrong with the human race. A problem exists that affects not only every single human being, but all of creation. This problem was not part of God’s original plan for man. It came from the outside and there is no way to escape it. The problem is sin. This problem is all around us; no matter where a believer may travel, he will always find sin. Or sin will find him.

Modern man doesn’t talk much about sin, preferring to call it dysfunction, addiction, disorder, alternate lifestyle, or whatever the current mot du jour may be. Those things are real problems, but there is a real danger in using new words to describe something the Bible calls “sin.”

In the Old Testament book of Proverbs, Solomon and others collected the “wisdom of the ancients.” There is truth in the saying, “the truth is the truth no matter where you find it.” Under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, then, the 31 chapters of the book of Proverbs provide truth for living. If a man could live according to the teaching of Proverbs, it has been said, his life would be completely glorifying to God.

As far as the “sin” problem is concerned, Proverbs gives the reader all kinds of excellent advice on how to avoid it.

Reject the world’s call, Proverbs 1:10—19

The reason for the book of Proverbs is a simple one:

These are the proverbs of King Solomon of Israel, David’s son: He wrote them to teach his people how to live—how to act in every circumstance… (Proverbs 1:1, 2 TLB)

The “people” included his son, as evidenced throughout the book with phrases like this one:

Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. (Proverbs 1:8 NIV)

Part of the sin problem that plagues all men is inescapable. Many an unsuspecting young man, like Solomon’s son, first encounter it when he leaves home for the first time.

If young toughs tell you, “Come and join us”—turn your back on them! (Proverbs 1:10 TLB)

Very good advice! Be careful who you hang around with and whom you listen to. These “young toughs” are sinners; people who cause mischief and trouble. The funny thing about the allure of sin is that it is so enticing.

We’ll hide and rob and kill,” they say. “Good or bad, we’ll treat them all alike. And the loot we’ll get! All kinds of stuff! Come on, throw in your lot with us; we’ll split with you in equal shares.” (Proverbs 1:11—14 TLB)

There is a segment of the population to whom this kind of proposition sounds good. They want to be part of “the group.” They want their “fair share.” But it’s sin, plain and simple. Thomas Watson, the non-conformist, Puritan preacher, once remarked:

Associate with sanctified persons. They may by their counsel, prayer, and holy example be a means to make you holy.

For the believer, it’s best to ensure your friends are other believers. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be friendly to or associate with the unsaved. We can take lesson from Jesus. He closest friends were hand-picked people that held similar beliefs, but at the same time, our Lord had no problem associating with sinners.  His purpose in doing so was the winning their hearts.

Avoiding close associations with sinners is of the utmost importance:

Don’t do it, son! Stay far from men like that, for crime is their way of life, and murder is their specialty. When a bird sees a trap being set, it stays away, but not these men; they trap themselves! They lay a booby trap for their own lives. Such is the fate of all who live by violence and murder. They will die a violent death. (Proverbs 15—19 TLB)

This paragraph paints a pathetic picture of the hapless sinner. He just can’t help getting into trouble. The wise believer avoids people like this, lest they be dragged down along with them. The Bible does teach a kind of separation that Christians would do well to remember and practice, for the sake of their souls:

That is why the Lord has said, “Leave them; separate yourselves from them; don’t touch their filthy things, and I will welcome you and be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters.” (2 Corinthians 6:17, 18 TLB)

Listen to wisdom, Proverbs 1:20—33

Wisdom is personified for the first time in this paragraph. This is a very common technique in Proverbs. “Wisdom” is portrayed as God’s prophet carrying a vital message to the people, who are described as “simpletons.” Why are they described that way? It’s because they continually reject Wisdom’s call. Only a foolish simpleton would do that.

For you turned away from me—to death; your own complacency will kill you. Fools! (Proverbs 1:32 TLB)

That’s the height of folly! It’s crazy to turn away from what you know to be true to pursue sin, which is “death.” This person is so foolish, they are described as “complacent.”  Chasing sin, all the while they are dying. One like that is a fool.

Punishment awaits fools who are indifferent to Wisdom’s call. But for those who take heed to Wisdom’s teachings, life and security awaits.

But all who listen to me shall live in peace and safety, unafraid. (Proverbs 1:33 TLB)

Avoid immorality, Proverbs 7:1—5, 21—27

All sin is not created equal and without a doubt, from the Bible’s perspective, blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the the absolute worst sin of all.

Even blasphemy against me or any other sin can be forgiven—all except one: speaking against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come. (Matthew 12:31, 32 TLB)

Running a close second would be sexual sin:

That is why I say to run from sex sin. No other sin affects the body as this one does. When you sin this sin it is against your own body. Haven’t you yet learned that your body is the home of the Holy Spirit God gave you, and that he lives within you? Your own body does not belong to you. For God has bought you with a great price. So use every part of your body to give glory back to God because he owns it. (1 Corinthians 6:18—20 TLB)

Specifically, the sin of adultery is singled out and given special mention throughout Proverbs. The sin of adultery is so insidious because it wreaks havoc not only on the one who commits it, but also on the one against whom it was committed, and also on other relationships. Adultery destroys all kinds of relationships. So, it’s not at all surprising that Solomon warns his son against its dangers.

The foundation of one father’s advice about adultery is built on wisdom, and wisdom is always the way of the Lord.

My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; And my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman: That they may keep thee from the strange woman, from the stranger which flattereth with her words. (Proverbs 7:1—5 KJV)

More than just good advice is needed to avoid temptation. It takes an active faith in God and the regular application of that faith in resisting the relentless onslaught of temptation. Only by taking God’s way of wisdom can you hope to stay on top of the sin all around you.

God’s wisdom is special; so special, in fact, it should be treated and cared for as you would the pupil of your eye. That phrase, “the apple of thine eye,” is a proverbial saying for something of inestimable value deserving of the utmost care or protection. This is how we ought to cherish God’s Word to us. Truth be told, we often don’t, which is why so often temptation gains the upper hand.

We ought to do more than just listen to the words wisdom; we need to “bind them” and “write them.” Those phrases were important to the Jews, and they took them literally. Recall Deuteronomy 6:6—9:

And you must think constantly about these commandments I am giving you today. You must teach them to your children and talk about them when you are at home or out for a walk; at bedtime and the first thing in the morning. Tie them on your finger, wear them on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house!

This is really describing an inward awareness of God’s Word. The Jews took this literally, but the idea is that the Word of God needs to be foremost on our minds all the time. Every aspect of our lives should be governed by the Word and the wisdom it contains.

The thing about the “wisdom of the Word” is that when it is properly applied, it acts like a barrier against sin. Remember the old saw,

Knowing God’s Word will keep you from sin…or sin will keep you from knowing His Word.

Here’s what Jesus had to say on the subject:

Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (Matthew 8:31, 32 NKJV)

God’s Word is wisdom and it contains the truth. Ultimately, knowing God’s Word is important because it keeps us going in the right direction on the straight and narrow. And anything or anybody that keeps us from God’s Word needs to be dealt with sternly. A.W. Pink, great Calvinist evangelist and theologian, wrote this:

If any occupation or association is found to hinder our communion with God or our enjoyment of spiritual things, it must be abandoned.

So, with that in mind, then, we read about the adulteress. Like wisdom, in Proverbs the adulteress is a personification of evil temptation. Sin, like an adulteress, looks good and is full of flattery. If a young man (a believer) is not careful, he will succumb to her allurements.

He followed her as an ox going to the butcher or as a stag that is trapped, waiting to be killed with an arrow through its heart. He was as a bird flying into a snare, not knowing the fate awaiting it there. (Proverbs 7:22, 23 TLB)

With gleeful ignorance, the witless believer can be chewed up spat out by sin. Sin promises so much, but delivers only death. It’s no exaggeration to say that sin will cost you your life.

For she has been the ruin of multitudes—a vast host of men have been her victims. If you want to find the road to hell, look for her house. (Proverbs 7:26, 27 TLB)

This warning is meant to be taken seriously. Of course, most of us aren’t out trolling the streets and back alleys in the dark of night looking for the adulteress’ house. What Solomon is talking about here is sin in its rawest form. Sin—any sin you care to name—will drag you away from God, straight to Hell. Sin looks so good and promises so much, but in the end it’s not your friend and will do you no good.

If you are a believer, make sure God’s words of wisdom are foremost on your mind. Live wisely. Practice discernment. Don’t get close to the adulteress.

ABOUT A KING

Proverbs 25:1—5

The first group of verses in Proverbs 25 deals with the difference between God and earthly kings.  Verse 1 gives us brief background information—

These are more proverbs of Solomon, compiled by the men of Hezekiah king of Judah.

Bible scholars have a name for chapters 25—29:  “The Hezekiah Collection,” because they were collected and preserved by godly King Hezekiah, king of Judah.  Who was this man?

Hezekiah was known as one of the southern kingdoms greatest leaders.  He was a not only a great and capable king, but he was also a religious reformer.  Thanks to his efforts, a great revival broke out in Judah such as hadn’t been experienced in the land for a long time.  Among Hezekiah’s contemporaries was a prophet of some renown by the name of Isaiah.

What is interesting about verse 1 is the picture it gives us of “the men of Hezekiah.”  They are seen “compiling” various proverbs of Solomon.  The word suggests careful copying and learning.  A revival in the land accompanied this renewed interest in the Word of God.   Adeney had correctly observed:  “A revival of religion should lead to a revival of learning.” Each time a revival broke out in the Old Testament, it involved vigorous preaching and studying of the Scriptures.

Another interesting thing about Hezekiah and his men is that they were not above learning from other wise men, in this case, Solomon.  Even though he was king of the land, and even though Solomon was long gone, Hezekiah gained knowledge from what Solomon had written that led to what was arguably the greatest revival in Judah’s history.

1.  God and kings contrasted, verse 2

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.

This verse tells us how God and how kings acquire glory.  What stands out is that they are more or less opposite.

First, God is glorified by “concealing a matter.”  In other words, things are purposely hidden from the understanding of human beings by God.  Why would God do this?  Deuteronomy 29:29 tells us—

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.

It is in the nature of human beings to look for answers to every question in life.  Where did he come from?  What does his future hold?  Man is always striving to know things, and when answers are elusive, he makes them up.  God stifles man’s quest for knowledge so that in his frustration man will come to realize his limitations and insufficiency.  There are many things known only to God and indiscernible to human beings  There are many things about God the beyond human the human capacity to understand.  McKane put it succinctly—

When it is supposed that everything is known about God, it is no longer possible to worship him.

Faith becomes routine and ordinary when God becomes just like us; when there is no boundary between Him and His creation.

In contrast to what brings glory to God, the glory of a king is for him to know what is going on in his kingdom.  The phrase, “to search out a matter” means “to expose problematic issues and people.”  The truly wise and righteous king should never clothe himself in a veil of secrecy or surround his administration with an impenetrable wall; that alone is God’s glory.  A king’s charge is to secure the welfare of his subjects, but he must not do it God’s way.  God and kings promote the well-being of their subjects in very different ways, and wise the king that understands that.

God heaps mystery upon mystery upon human beings, limiting their knowledge and understanding so that they may seek out answers in Him.  The king, on the other hand, by careful research, exposes the truth of a matter for all his subjects to see, thereby preserving the integrity of his office.  Any political leader loses the confidence of his people when they perceive him to be clueless.

2.  State of the king’s heart, verse 3

As the heavens are high and the earth is deep, so the hearts of kings are unsearchable.

At first blush, this verse seems to exalt a king’s wisdom.  In fact, many older commentaries view this verse as very positive, that is, the wisdom of kings is beyond the understanding of us ordinary folk.  However, this proverb is actually complex and two-pronged.

First, it serves as a warning against being taken in and deluded by the favor of the king.  His motives are not easily discerned but his mind is.   The person who is favored by the king one day may become his enemy the next.  The heart of the king is as unfathomable as the heights of heaven and the depths of the earth.  Or, to put it another way, no king should be trusted or his words taken at face value.

Second, on a more positive note, there is an admonition here for the king.  A righteous and wise king ought to have wisdom greater than that of his subjects.  The leader of a nation must be resourceful, inscrutable, able to see into the heart of a matter and make sound judgments.  Everything a king does ought to enhance his standing before the people.

3.  Stability through righteousness, verses 4, 5

Remove the dross from the silver, and a silversmith can produce a vessel; remove wicked officials from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness.

These two verses form what is known as an “emblematic parallelism,” and serve to illustrate something important in regards to the king and his administration:  as only the best vessels are made from refined silver, so only the most worthy of individuals should make up the royal cabinet.

Since a man is known by the company he keeps, how important is it for a king to have officials who mirror his own integrity and honor?

Verse 4 is difficult to translate, but its sense seems to be that if the king removes the wicked officials from his service, his throne will become righteous.  Greenstone’s observation is instructive:

The king may have perfect ideals and his conduct may be irreproachable, but he may be misled by unscrupulous courtiers.

One thing we learn from Hebrew history is that when the king’s court is pure and stocked with godly men, it is able to exert considerable force for good on the population.  Jesus Christ, as King of Kings, similarly speaks of His coming kingdom at the Day of Judgment when all sinners and rebels and workers of iniquity will be purged from the land.  As they say, it only takes one bad apple to ruin a barrel of good ones.

Finally, verse 5 indicates that a strong throne is established through pure moral authority, not by force and certainly not by deception.  How many thrones and administrations throughout history have been done in or rendered impotent because of a collapse of moral authority?  Clarkson has wisely pointed out:

Justice is imprinted upon the nature of a man.

While all people are indeed sinners, deep down in their heart of hearts they yearn for justice and they recognize when it is present and when it is not.  Citizens of any kingdom in every age will forgive their political leaders many faults, but definitely not this one.  Why must the king surround himself with morally pure servants?  It is because they shape the nature and character of the kingdom.  A nation rises or falls to the moral level of those leading it.  Some verses in Isaiah serve to illustrate this—

See how the faithful city has become a prostitute! She once was full of justice; righteousness used to dwell in her—but now murderers!  Your silver has become dross, your choice wine is diluted with water.  Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts. They do not defend the cause of the fatherless; the widow’s case does not come before them.   (Isaiah 1:21—23)

Isaiah has used very poet language to describe the political and moral situation of his day.  Because the rulers were despicable men, the city itself, taking on their sense of morality, had become (like)  “a prostitute.”  That is not to say every single citizen had corrupted themselves, just that the overall nature of the city had become corrupted.  The prophet goes on to describe in some detail what will happen to such a population—

I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities.  (Isaiah 1:25)

Without elaborating on the eschatological significance of what Isaiah wrote, there is a principle here:  God will, in His own way and in His own time, take matters into His own hands when a  nation turns its back on Him and on its people.  Taking our cues from Hebrew history once again, we notice how time and again the Lord brought a series of natural disasters and man-made calamities upon His people when they wandered from His Law; locusts, drought, earthquakes, hail storms, and even foreign invaders were all used by God to get the people’s attention—starting with the king—with the purpose of bringing them back to Him.   God is absolutely sovereign and will use anything at His disposal to restore moral righteousness and justice in the land for the benefit of His people.

While there are no theocracies today, the principle is clear.  God desires leaders of nations, be they kings or prime ministers or presidents, to practice sound morality and ethics and to provide for the well-being of their people.  That well-being starts with the freedom of God’s people to do the work to which we have been called: win the lost.   When political leaders exercise their authority in way contrary to God’s will and to the detriment of their people, they unwittingly open themselves and their nation up to a supernatural backlash that is often disguised as “freak accidents” or “once in a generation” catastrophes.

There is a certain comfort in another Proverb–

The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.

Make no mistake about it and don’t be taken in by circumstances that appear to be contrary:  God is in control of every political leader and He will have His way with them, eventually.  Every king who rules against God’s wishes will rue the day he ever presumed to take matters into his own hands.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd

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