Leslie M. Grant
At the beginning of Solomon's reign, God gave him wisdom and knowledge such as no one before or after was given (2 Chron. 1:7-12), and for this reason no doubt Solomon was chosen by God to write the major part of this book of Proverbs. Very likely this was written rather early in his history, and the book of Ecclesiastes later (Eccl. 1:12-18).
Of course, Solomon was a believer, but he was not reigning long before he shamefully compromised the truth that he knew, by his acquiring many wives and concubines. How forcefully this teaches us that the greatest wisdom and knowledge is not in itself the means of protecting us from evil. Only a consistent, dependent submission of heart to the Lord Himself will give such protection. To know the truth is one thing: to obey it is another. Which would we rather have, a mind of great intelligence that knows and discerns facts as they are, or a heart that is obedient to the truth God has made known to us?
In fact, Solomon gives wise instruction, particularly with young men in view (ch. 1:4), with strong advice, but he did not obey his own advice (see ch. 5:18-20). This, however, does not in the least excuse believers now for following his bad example, nor for ignoring the good instruction of his book. Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible was "faithful in all His (God's) house" (Heb. 3:2, and John, who wrote the last five books, was a devoted, faithful believer to the end of his life (of over 90 years). Jonah, however, who wrote the book named for him, was not so devoted and faithful a character; yet what he wrote and what Solomon wrote, have just as clear witness that they are inspired by God.
Introduction (vv. 1-7)
Solomon had a valuable heritage in being the son of David, though this itself did not give him his wisdom, for it was when he took the throne of Israel, God then gave him wisdom and knowledge. If we are to understand rightly the book of Proverbs, we might well act upon the advice of James in his epistle (ch. 1:5), "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him." But this does not mean we shall know everything immediately. for it takes time and energy of faith to learn by means of the Word of God, "to know wisdom and instruction" (v. 1), and "to perceive the words of understanding." Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge: understanding is the right perception of knowledge. When these requisites are present, then we are prepared to receive the instruction of wisdom (v. 3), which includes proper judgment, justice and equity. Equity is the virtue of being well balanced. Prudence is added to this in verse 4, a necessity for the simple, for this involves caution in our conduct. The young man is specially singled out here as needing knowledge and discretion. For knowledge alone without discretion may make us haughty and overbearing toward others, but discretion will keep us from being hasty in our treatment of them.
A wise man does not think he knows everything, but he needs to learn from others, especially from God, for he needs to increase in learning, and realizes this fact (v. 5). If he is a man of understanding, that is, who perceives the purport of what he learns, he will attain the honor of being able to give wise counsel. He will understand proverbs and enigmas and riddles that wise people may propose. This will not suddenly be the case, for one who is wise knows well he must have time to learn.
But this section ends with a most vital prescription for one to even have the beginning of knowledge: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge" (v. 7). True knowledge can never be found without this wholesome fear of the Lord. But only "fools despise wisdom and instruction."
Specific Admonition (vv. 8-19)
Solomon now addresses the young individual, "my son." In the normal course of events, one should certainly carefully listen to the instruction of his father, and keep from ignoring "the law of his mother." that is, the example and advice of her care for her son (v. 8).
This will prove to be an ornament of grace on one's head, that is, others will be attracted by the attitude of his head (his knowledge); and they will be chains about his neck (v. 9). The neck by nature may be stiff, but will be kept in control by whatever measure of truth is learned. But the young are commonly tempted by those who are here termed, "sinners" (v. 10), so that it requires serious warning similar to that of 1 John 2:14-16, where young men are told not to love the world. For the temptations appear strong and attractive, promising great gain, but actually horribly deceitful. Let every child of God be careful to avoid the least contact with such evil.
Many means of enticing are employed by those who do not know the Lord. Things they plot together may be at first foolish pranks, but intended to be of harm to someone, and may end in the shedding of blood. Their lurking secretly should be enough to decide the intended victim to keep far from their company (v. 11. If such people can get others out of their way (even by murder, v. 12), they expect to find the way clear to do their evil work. Greed is their motive, and it is not because they want another to prosper that they entice him into the same path as theirs. Of course, they promise him "precious possessions" and "spoil" because he can help them to acquire dishonest gain. Saying, "Let us all have one purse," they infer a partnership. But the Word of God is clear for a believer, "Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14).
"My son, do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path" (v. 15). Some think they may go at least some distance with such people, considering that they are strong enough to resist strong temptation. But this attitude itself is fatal. A person of that kind has already slipped, and will find himself utterly weak very soon. The feet of the tempter are determined to run to do evil, and any believer should discern this (v. 16).
"Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird" (v. 17). The believer should not be ignorant of the fact that evil people are spreading their nets. If his eyes are open, he will discern it and avoid the net. In avoiding the net, he will also avoid the people who spread it.
"But they lie in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives" (v. 18). Though they don't realize it, they are actually defeating their own ends, to find themselves suffering what they had designed for others! This is the result for all those who are greedy for gain: they are attacking their own life! (v. 19).
Wisdom Calling (vv. 20-33)
Wisdom is personified in these verses, and perhaps strangely, as "she." In fact, 1 Corinthians 1:24 speaks of "Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God”, and Christ is not female. But the answer to this is provided in 1 Corinthians 1:30, "Of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God." This is the truth of "Christ in you the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). Thus, "in Christ" believers have wisdom from God, but this is wisdom subjectively, which accounts for the female gender being used. Christ Himself is wisdom objectively, but He uses believers to declare His truth, For instance, in Proverbs 8 the first 11 verses are the female voice, that is, Christ in believers declaring the truth, but the rest of Chapter 8 (vv. 12-36) is very clearly the voice of the Lord Jesus himself as (objectively) the wisdom of God.
"Wisdom calls aloud outside" (v. 20). Does this not involve the fact that wisdom (or the Gospel) is declared everywhere, to awaken people to realize their deep need of the knowledge of the grace of God? Thus, the open squares, the chief concourses, the city gates are emphasized as areas of this great testimony. This reminds us of the words of Paul to King Agrippa, that "none of these things" escaped Agrippa's attention, "since this thing was not done in a corner" (Acts 26:26). Of course, Paul was referring to the facts of the sacrifice of Christ and His resurrection, for these facts were diligently declared by the apostles, who were so strongly opposed by the Pharisees. This was wisdom of which the princes of this world were ignorant, but which they ought to have at least considered.
Thus, verse 22 asks, "How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity?" This simplicity is spoken of in the sense of ignorance, which, sadly, the ungodly prefer to the wisdom of true faith in the Lord Jesus. They think that by showing scorn for the truth they can dismiss it, as though their foolish words were in some way authoritative. Because they hate knowledge, they delight in scorning.
Then the Lord directly advises them, "Turn at my rebuke" (v. 23). Turning involves some reality of repentance, for it means a radical change of mind. When this is genuinely wrought in the soul, then God promises to pour out His Spirit, to make His words known.
All the Old Testament bears witness to the truth of verse 24, "Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded" (v. 24). God has certainly pled with mankind for centuries. If we had been in God's place, would we have been so patient in continuing to plead with rebels? We may therefore well understand that, because men have disbelieved all His counsel and refused His rebukes, that he declares, "I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your terror comes" (v. 26). What else can we expect under such circumstances?
Because God has been so patient for so long, men mistake this for indifference, and think He will never bring His judgment against evil. But for this very reason, the judgment will be more dreadful and severe when it comes. They will even come to a point of saying, "Peace and safety," but "then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape" (2 Thess. 5:3).
Thus, terror will come like a storm, and destruction like a whirlwind, bringing such distress and anguish as has not before been known (v. 27). How foolish indeed is the pride of man that is determined to continue to brazen himself against the faithful entreaties of his Creator! On the other hand, what a mercy it is that God so works in the hearts of some that they are moved to bow to His Word and to receive the salvation He freely offers to all mankind!
The judgment will be so dreadful and arresting that people will then turn to call on the Lord (v. 28), but however diligently they seek, they will not find Him. Certainly, if their change was one of honest repentance, God would answer, but calling only because of fear of judgment is not repentance. People often want deliverance, but with no acknowledgement of guilt, and this is intimated in verse 29, "Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord." Those who form their character in this way will never reverse their attitude to judge themselves for their sinful folly. They totally refused all God's counsel and despised His every rebuke (v. 30).
The consequences must inevitably be suffered. "They shall eat the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own fancies." The very fact of their attitude and actions comes back on their own heads to slay them. Their own foolish complacency destroys them (v. 32).
Then the opposite is said to be true of those who simply listen to wisdom, that is, to the Lord Jesus. He dwells safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil, -evil in this case meaning harmful effects.
Preservation from the Proud Man and the Conniving Woman
Two particular dangers are in this chapter warned against, both from bad influences. But the chapter begins on a more positive note, though making the instruction conditional upon the willingness of the hearer to receive the words of wisdom and treasure the commands of the Lord (v. 1). If we rightly apprehend the truth, then we are furnished with a valuable protection against falsehood.
How vital it is to incline our ears to wisdom, rather than to decline to pay close attention to this virtue, and to apply our hearts to understanding, rather than to let the heart run wild with desires that are merely selfish (v. 2).
If one is born again, surely his heart cries out for discernment, so that he lifts up his voice in prayer for understanding. People will bend every effort to find silver that they have reason to know is available in a certain area, or hidden treasure that is waiting to be found. But what of the infinitely more valuable spiritual wisdom that is available in the Word of God, indeed waiting for us to use diligence in finding it? (vv. 3-4).
If thus we apply ourselves to seek and to search out of the Word of God that which is precious, sound wisdom and understanding, there is no doubt whatever that we shall "understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God" (v. 5). For it is the Lord Himself who gives wisdom; indeed, James 1:5 tells us He "gives to all liberally and without reproach." From His mouth come knowledge and understanding" (v. 6), and scripture certainly furnishes us with the words of His mouth. He has therein stored up sound wisdom which only the upright can appreciate, for those who are lost in their rebellious state consider God's wisdom to be foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). And He who stores up this sound wisdom for the upright is Himself a shield to them. They walk uprightly, in contrast to those who twist and turn like a slippery eel, to try every artifice to get their own way (v. 7).
The believer walks uprightly without worrying about how things will go for him, for he may fully trust God to guard the paths of justice and to preserve the way of His saints (v. 8). In this path he will understand righteousness and justice from God's point of view. Unbelievers talk glibly of justice, when they mean they want things to be decided "just as they feel best for themselves." But "equity" is no respecter of persons: it is rather the proper balance in every relationship (v. 9), and leads one "in every good path." Thus, when wisdom enters into the heart and knowledge in its genuine, solid character, being pleasant to the soul, the results are most valuable. "Discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you" (vv. 10-11), for these become most powerful influences, both for defense and for taking the offensive. They deliver from "the way of evil" (v. 12), the broad way by which many are deceived, and also from "the man who speaks perverse things."
The way of evil itself may have many attractions, but also there are individuals "who leave the paths of uprightness," to choose the ways of darkness, so that their influence is added to the attractions of the evil way (vv. 12-15). The believer is to stand firmly against both of these temptations, which is fully possible for him to do if he simply receives the wisdom God offers to all men liberally.
Verse 16 then warns against the seductions of an immoral woman. She is one who uses flattery to gain her own ends, in this case proving unfaithful to her first husband (v. 17), becoming willing to seduce any man who is willing to be seduced. But where does her house and her paths lead? The end of such things is death.
False religion is specially symbolized by such a woman, as Revelation 17:4-6 shows. The woman Babylon the great is "the mother of harlots and of the abominations of the earth." People are often deceived by their lust for pleasure; and religions such as Christian Science, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses and Roman Catholicism offer such enticements that carry people away into evil that can engulf them in eternal remorse.
The evil is so captivating that verse 19 tells us, "None who go to her return, nor do they regain the path of life." When we are so warned, we should certainly avoid the first inclination to yield to such temptation. How much better to "walk in the ways of goodness and keep to the paths of righteousness" (v. 20).
"For the upright will dwell in the land, and the blameless will remain in it" (v. 21). The positive character of uprightness should have for us an attraction that will lift us high above any tendency to waver. In the thousand years of peace (the millennium) the upright and blameless will remain in the land, while the wicked will be cut off from the earth, the unfaithful uprooted from it. Believers of the present dispensation of grace will have a far higher inheritance than the godly residents of the millennium on earth, for our inheritance is heavenly, and this furnishes an even greater incentive to our present exercise of faith and godliness.
Consistent and Persistent
How vital is the need for simple, faithful obedience to the Word of God! Thus, the path of consistency begins with the instruction not to forget God's laws, but rather to simply allow the heart to keep His commands. For the heart of the believer is disposed to obey God, so that it is simply proper to let the heart follow this proper bent. Normally, such obedience will result in a long and peaceful life (v. 2).
Mercy and truth (v. 3) are particularly important in our relationships with others, and if bound "about your neck," they will keep us from being "stiff-necked" or self-opinionated; and when written on the tables of our heart will preserve us from hard-heartedness. But though these are mainly important in our relationships with others, yet they gain favor and high esteem in God's sight as well as in men's sight, for God is concerned that believers represent Him rightly before the world (v. 4).
Verses 5 and 6 were deeply impressed on the writer at an early age, and have no doubt spoken seriously to many others before and since that time. There are many things in which our understanding is extremely faulty, and if we depend on it, we shall! be badly misled. the only safe alternative is to trust in the Lord with all our heart. that is, fully and without reserve. He will certainly not deceive us, nor is there any possibility of His making a mistake.
The whole heart certainly involves all of our ways. In every activity we should acknowledge Him, so that nothing is left simply to our own judgment. If this is so, we may have full confidence that He will direct our paths (v. 6). If we are tempted to think, because we have proven something of God's gracious guidance, that we are wise (v. 78), let us judge this immediately, but instead realize that it is only by God's wisdom that we are blessed. On our part, we are to "fear the Lord and depart from evil." If the Lord is given His place, then we recognize that evil can have no place. This response to the Lord will mean "health to your flesh and strength to your bones" (v. 8). Of course, this is not merely literal. The bones are the framework of the body, so that spiritual health and strength are implied in this, the body being the daily activity, the bones the strength by which the activity is carried out.
Verses 9 ant 10 now deal with the matter of our possessions. We should certainly not be like the rich man who thought within himself to replace his barns with greater ones, storing up so much that he could say to his soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years, take your ease, eat, drink, and be merry" (Lk. 12:16-19). God called that man a fool, which is the case with all who think only of their own well-being.
Whatever our possessions are, our first thought should be as to how to honor the Lord in the use of them. For all that we have comes from Him, and in regard to the first fruits of crops, our first thought is to be of Christ, the Giver. We do not need to wait for the proceeds of all our labor for the year, then give a tenth. Rather, though we are not commanded (as Israel was) to give one-tenth of our income to God, yet we are encouraged in 1 Corinthians 16:2, "on the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper." No exact amount is even suggested, but "as he may prosper" leaves this to the individual's faith. Yet, 2 Corinthians 9:6 tells us, "He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, but he who sows bountifully will also reap bountifully." This beautifully confirms the fact that believers are not under law, but under grace. This is individual too in Proverbs 3:10.
Faith such as we observe in such action will not despise the chastening of the Lord (v. 11), for faith recognizes that we need chastening. This is not punishment, but training, which oftentimes involves what hurts us, but is always for our good. We are not to despise this, that is, to think lightly of it, for it has serious reasons. Nor are we to detest such correction, for in either case we are not receiving the intended benefits of God's thus dealing with us (v. 12). How much better to realize that the Lord corrects us because He love us, just as a faithful father corrects any son whom he genuinely cares for.
We will certainly respond gladly to verse 13, "Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man that gains understanding" if we remember that wisdom is personified in Christ (1 Cor. 1:24), and also that "Christ Jesus....became for us wisdom from God" (1 Cor. 1:30). Of course, the proceeds from this "are better than the profits of silver, and her gain than fine gold" (v. 14). Wealth including rubies or anything of earthly value has no comparison to "her," for the feminine is used here to denote wisdom subjectively, that is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
"Length of days is in her right hand, in her left-hand riches and honor" (v. 16). How long are wisdom's days? The answer is "eternal life." And the riches and honor that accompany this are similarly without end. Meanwhile, even on earth, "her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (v. 17). This does not mean that this wisdom will preserve us from having trials of faith, but wisdom ("Christ in you") will give pleasantness and peace even in times of such trial. In fact, even passing through the valley of Baca (weeping), the believer makes it a spring (Ps. 84:6). Sorrows are thus turned into occasions of refreshment of soul and spirit.
"She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her, and happy are all who retain her" (v. 8). This is a living tree, continually bearing fruit. May we truly take hold of her, and retain her consistently.
"The Lord by wisdom founded the earth: by understanding He established the heavens" (v. 19). Since wisdom is personified in Christ, then His creatorial power is emphasized in this verse. Thus, the earth, the heavens, the waters in the depths and the waters above are all under His perfect control (v. 20).
The original creation is a firm basis for the admonishment of verse 21, "My son, let them not depart from your eyes — keep sound wisdom and discretion." This is only consistent with our origin, as well as being "life to your soul and grace to your neck" (v. 22). The soul is the center of our emotions, while the neck speaks of the outward response of the individual to a higher authority. It may be stiff-necked or rebellious, or it may value and submit to the grace of God. In the latter case, it may be "like an ivory tower" (Song of Songs 7:4), the grace of God making it beautiful.
This wise discretion in submitting to the grace of God will result in walking safely, our feet being kept from stumbling (v. 23). Lying down to sleep will present no reason to fear: rather sleep will be sweet (v. 24).
In the days of Solomon there was evidently the threat of "sudden terror," as there is today, but one who retains sound wisdom from God has no reason to be afraid, nor to be apprehensive of trouble from the wicked, for the Lord is the confidence of the child of wisdom and will keep our feet from the snares that are so often laid.
But we are not only to depend on the grace of the Lord for our own path; rather that grace is to be used for the blessing of others. Galatians 6:10 tells us, "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith." And verses 27 and 28 of our chapter are plain enough that they need no explanation. It may seem unnecessary for a believer to be told not to devise evil against his neighbor (v. 29), but even a believer, if he is not walking in obedience to God's Word, may be guilty of planning ways to harm his neighbor, especially if his neighbor has harmed him. If we do good to our neighbor, this will have good effect in promoting peaceful relationships.
It should be evident to us all that it is folly to quarrel with one who has done us no harm (v. 30). In fact, even if one has done us harm, there are better ways to face this than to fight with him. "Do not be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom. 12:21). No doubt the reason some may envy the oppressor (v. 31) is because of the gain he makes by his cruelty, but we are warned to "choose none of his ways." Why? Because his perversity is an abomination to the Lord (v. 32), and this is to be totally avoided, whether the evil itself or any identification with it. "But His secret counsel is with the upright." Being secret, it may not be recognized by the world, but it is deeply precious to those who know the Lord.
How dreadful it is to learn that "the curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked" (v. 33). In total contrast to this, "He blesses the house of the just." Consider the awful end of Herman and his household (Esther 7:9-10; 9:13-14), Herman, the oppressor, had planned the destruction of Mordecai and all the Jews, but his evil recoiled on his own head.
Verse 34 shows another clear contrast as regards God's dealings with the scornful and with the humble. How much more potent is God's scorn toward the scornful that is their scorn toward others! — specially toward believers, the humble who do not fight to protect themselves. They, being wise, shall inherit glory, but fools will inherit the shame of eternal remorse!
In this chapter children are first addressed (v. 1-9), then a son is admonished (vv. 10-19), and again in verse 20-27, How many of Solomon's children paid close attention to this may be a question, but the son who inherited the throne (Rehoboam) was far from wise in his first dealings with the people (1 Kings 12:1-15), which resulted in a break between the ten tribes and the two, which has never yet been healed.
Solomon speaks of giving good doctrine, urging his children not to forsake his law (v. 2). Then he refers to his own youth and the fact of his father and mother being evidently united in their care for him (vv. 2-3). David taught him to retain his father's words, to find true life in obedience (v. 4). It may be that David's words of verses 5 to 9 had such effect on Solomon that this was the reason for Solomon's prayer to God for wisdom and knowledge (2 Chron. 1:7-9).
Wisdom is no doubt the proper perception of knowledge, while understanding is he proper application of knowledge. Verse 8 shows that in giving wisdom her proper place, we shall find results in being honored even in our present life. It may be that we shall be despised by the world, but in spite of that, those who are wise will honor us.
"She will place on your head an ornament of grace." The head, speaking of intelligence, will be adorned with grace, so that it may be seen by others. Also, a crown of glory will be evident, rather than that of shame. In the normal course of things, the receiving of wisdom will result in many years of life (v. 10. Of course, varying circumstances may in some cases make a difference, but wisdom's results will always be good.
A true father teaches wisdom to his children and leads them in right paths (v. 11), and this will prove most helpful in influencing the walk of his children, and for their running the race of faith (v. 12). But it is insisted, "Take firm hold of instruction, do nt let her go; keep her, for she is your life" (v. 13). The children are also warned not to enter into the path of the wicked. Some people tell us that as long as we do not indulge in wickedness ourselves, there is no harm in being friends with wicked people. But this is bad reasoning. Making friends with the ungodly will not result in the ungodly being changed, but will have bad effects on the believer, for he will almost always be dragged down by his contact with the ungodly. Let the believer totally avoid their path (vv. 14-15).
How sad it is that the wicked are so accustomed to doing evil that they do not sleep if they have not engaged in evil during the day! The hatred of their hearts against others is such that their sleep is taken away unless they cause someone to fall. Of course, this is totally and designedly in contrast to the attitude begotten by the knowledge of Christ, for we should be unhappy if we have not done some good during the day. So that verse 17 is a painful comment indeed concerning the wicked, "They eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence."
Wonderful is the contrast of verse 18, "The path of the just is like the shining light, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day." Such progress in light-bearing is normal for those who are born again, for the prospect of heavenly glory with Christ is a constant incentive for being a light for Him. Precious is such encouragement!
In contrast to "the path of the just" (v. 18), "the way of the wicked is like darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." How they can be content with such darkness that actually leads them farther and farther into sad oblivion, is a condition the believer has difficulty to understand. But such is the state of all who despise wisdom and chose ignorance!
Verse 20 again addresses a "son" as in verse 10, and the instruction begins similarly, "Give attention to my words, incline your ear to my sayings." How vital if we are to avoid the path of the wicked and the darkness they have chosen. While the ear is mentioned in verse 20, the eyes and the heart are added in verse 21. The eyes are given as light receivers, an amazing creation of God by which we can discern things that differ. In fact, scientists have claimed the eye is capable of distinguishing over one million different shades of color! if the eye is responsive to the wisdom of God's Word, how many and varied are the blessings it brings! he heart, which sends the blood to all the body, is the center of all motives and activities. How we need to have the wisdom of God implanted in our hearts!
Then, instead of being like some who are described as dead while they live (1 Tim. 5:6), we shall find it a great joy to "Lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called" (1 Tim. 6:12). Such life is accompanied by good health (v. 22), which will certainly be physically true for all who enter the millennium, but is spiritually true for all believers now.
As we have noted, the heart is the center of all motives and activities. Little wonder then that we are admonished, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life." Keeping the heart certainly involves carefully controlling the heart's desires, that it is not allowed to lead in devious ways. It produces "the issues of life" (v. 23), whether good or bad. But the person is given the responsibility of governing his heart. We all know this, though we may pay little attention to it.
"Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks" (Matt. 12:34). Is there deceit in the heart? If so, it will come out through the mouth (v. 24). Again, we are responsible to watch our words, therefore to put away a deceitful mouth and perverse lips. Our eyes too we are to keep subject to proper control, looking straight ahead, not attracted by the temptations on either side (v. 25). Also, pondering the path of our feet is to wisely consider the way in which to walk (v. 26). Only thus will our ways be established in subjection to the Lord. Let there be no turning to the right hand or to the left, to involve ourselves in anything that compromises our devotion to the Lord Jesus (v. 27). Our feet should be removed far from evil on either side.
The Snare of the Foolish Woman
The previous instruction has certainly been sufficient to guard a believer from any inclination to yield to the seductions of the foolish woman spoken of in this chapter. But her ways are here exposed clearly, that no-one who reads these words should be in the least deceived by her. Again, the chapter begins by addressing a son, admonishing him to pay attention to wisdom given by his father. The solid stability of such wisdom is seen to be in contrast to the words from the lips of a foolish woman (vv. 2-3). She speaks nice, persuasive words, sweet and smooth, but words as false as is her heart, for they lead to an end bitter as wormwood, and as a two-edged sword, they come back on the head of one who wields it (v. 4).
Her feet and her steps go downward, with death as their quick result, and hell their more lasting and dreadful end (v. 5). if one is inclined to ponder or investigate her pathway on earth, he will find her ways are so unstable that they insult one's intelligence. That is, they are stupid.
Verse 7 is now addressed to children rather than to one son. They are told to hear now. We may well hear God speaking in this way, "do not depart from the words of My mouth." Only what seems a small departure can be most dangerous. If in the least detail one trifles with harmful evil, it has a way of dragging that heart farther down. A wealthy man on one occasion wanted to hire a driver to drive him along a very narrow road bordered by a steep drop-off. Each applicant was asked how close he could come to the edge of the road without going over. After various drivers had told how close they thought they could come, one answered that he would keep as far as he could from the edge. He was hired. We too, who know the Lord, should have sense enough to remove our foot far from the temptation of evil (v. 8), not even to go near to the door of a foolish woman. The least giving in to temptation will practically always lead to further yielding.
In yielding to the temptations of a foolish woman, we shall lose whatever honor we have, and others will take advantage of the experience of our years (v. 9); aliens will appropriate what wealth we have, and what we have worked for will be torn from us (v. 10). then rather than rejoicing in the Lord, as all believers ought to, we shall be reduced to mourning in contemplating our flesh and our body wasted away (v. 11). How sad if it takes this long for one to come to his senses! Then he will fully realize that he has only himself to blame for hating instruction and despising correction (v. 12). While his teachers have been faithful in warning him of the dangers of disobedience, it was his own folly that moved him to ignore this instruction. Though he was surrounded by the assembly and congregation, yet his yielding to evil brought him to the verge of total ruin (vv. 13-14).
Well might we be admonished, "Drink water from your own cistern, and running water from your own well." (v. 15). How important to make the truth of God our own! — and not to borrow from others what may be contaminated and harmful. "Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Proverbs 23::23). If we buy it, it becomes our own, not merely borrowed. It may cost us our own pride or our own fleshly comfort. Our fountains must certainly be for our own benefit to refresh our own souls in communion with the Lord (v. 16). Only when the truth becomes in reality our own shall we be fitted to use it also for the true benefit of others. "Streams of water in the streets" is a misuse of that with which God entrusts us, similar to casting our pearls before swine. For "strangers." that is, unbelievers (v. 17) are in no condition to enjoy the precious truth of God as are those redeemed by the blood of Christ. This is like Hezekiah showing all the treasures of his kingdom to the visitors from Babylon (2 Kings 20:12-18).
But the fountain of the individual believer is to be blessed. Marriage is "honorable among all" (Heb. 13:4), a normal blessing that God has provided in creation, though some may be greatly blessed by remaining single for the glory of God. However, it is a wonderful blessing from God that believers may rejoice with the wife of your youth" (v. 18). And the wife is likened to "a loving deer and a graceful doe," gentle, sensitive animals that are lovely to observe.
How gracious is God to give to a believer a wife whose breasts satisfy him at all times, whose love gives him rapturous joy (v. 19), so that no other would attract him at all; and certainly not one who is destitute of moral worth (v. 20). Above all, one is to realize that his ways are before the eyes of the Lord, who considers all his paths. In contrast to this, the wicked man is entrapped by his own iniquities, and caught with the cords of his sin (v. 22). If he would properly consider that the Lord weighs all his actions, he would be preserved from being so trapped; but if not, "he shall die for lack of instruction," that is, lacking the instruction that is fully available to him, he will reap the fruit of his willing ignorance. In the greatness of his folly he goes astray (v. 23).
How necessary is this warning for believers, against becoming surety for one considered to be a friend. If I commit myself to be a surety for one's debts, I must be prepared to pay all those debts. I may think it is only a matter of time before I am repaid, but things do not always (or even often) turn out that way. Making pledges too is not a wise thing for a believer, for he shall be held to them even when realizing they are not at all appropriate (vv. 1-2). How much better it is never to make any pledges, but to be free to willingly give without conditions when the occasion for this arises.
if we have made a mistake that threatens to cause friction and hard feelings with another, then verses 3 to 5 provide wise advice for us. It may not be the easiest thing for us to humble ourselves before the friend we have offended, for we may think that he may be partly to blame, but if I have been to blame in anything, it is my own failure I should judge, If in true humility I apologize to him immediately after I have failed (not waiting for a later date), the results will always be for good. I shall deliver myself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, and like a bird from the snare of the fowler (v. 5). At least, this will take away the bad feelings between friends that might otherwise be only increased.
Laziness Reproved (vv. 6-11).
The sluggard is one given up to laziness. He might well consider the object lesson of the ant. a creature so small, yet a willing worker. Without captain, overseer or ruler, she diligently uses the summer to provide sustenance, gathering food in the harvest to meet her needs for the winter. Certainly, God has so created her to be an object lesson for anyone who wants to live in idleness. The sluggard is asked how long will he slumber, for only a little slumber, that is, the hands desisting from work, will in the end bring poverty, like a prowler who steals one's living, or like an armed man who comes to deprive one of all defense (vv. 10-11). Let us be workers, not drones!
Beware of the Wicked Man (vv. 12-15)
There are some, sad to say, who are given up to wickedness, therefore are worthless. Not one redeeming feature is to be found in such (v. 12). They walk, but with a perverse mouth, their words twisted and corrupt. Winking with the eyes indicates the intention of deceiving (v. 13), and shuffling his feet reveals a walk that is impelled by mere selfish greed. His fingers are used to point accusingly at others while entertaining perversity in his own heart.
Since he despises what is good, he employs himself continually with devising evil schemes particularly with the object of making the righteous suffer. He sows discord, for he hates to see people living in peace. Of course, it is by lies that he sows discord, then finds pleasure in the painful results of his bad work. But the end result of his evil he has not considered, for "his calamity shall come suddenly, when he will be broken without remedy" (v. 15). How dreadful his end!
Things the Lord Hates (vv. 16-19)
Though this is not a complete list of all those things the Lord hates, yet it is evident that many other evils stem from these, and if so, then of course the Lord hates them too. Six things are first mentioned, but added, "Yes, seven," as though the seventh is an afterthought, or intended to have special attention drawn to it. People may think of a proud look as of little importance, but even this is abomination to the Lord (v. 17). "A lying tongue" practically always indicates hypocrisy, a desire to misrepresent facts as they are, usually for some personal advantage. This is so common that people think lightly of it, but not God!
Closely following this is the censure of "hands that shed innocent blood". Everyone's conscience speaks strongly against this, but some totally ignore their consciences, as did Cain in killing his brother Abel (Gen. 4:8). There was no law in existence then, such as "Thou shalt not kill," but Cain knew he was a guilty man, as is proven by his lying when God asked him, "Where is Abel your brother?" (Gen. 4:9). Another object of the Lord's hatred is "a heart that devises wicked plans." This was certainly true of Haman (Esther 3:8-10), who in subtle hatred planned to have all Jews killed. God showed His own hatred of such evil by the conviction and death of Haman and by judging those who joined with him in this wicked conspiracy. In fact, they were all bent on being swift to shed blood, their feet swift in running to evil (v. 18).
"A false witness who speaks lies" can only expect God's hatred (v. 19). It is not that God singles out the individual to hate him, but since God absolutely hates falsehood, then one who chooses falsehood is placing himself on the side of falsehood, thereby coming under the same dreadful hatred.
Finally, "one who sows discord among brethren”, if he does not judge and desist from such wickedness, also falls under the same hatred as his evil does. There are various ways by which sowing discord can be done, and it often begins by talebearing, which is far worse than people generally think, for this can easily be exaggerated so badly as to cause results that are likely never to be reversed. Let us be careful not to be guilty of putting anyone in a bad light unnecessarily. Of course, if one is manifestly an enemy of God, it may be necessary that we warn others of his evil character, but this is different than sowing discord among brethren.
Avoid Adultery (vv. 20-35)
Again, a son is admonished to keep his father's command, and have full regard for the law of his mother (v. 20). To be bound continually upon the heart (v. 20) would speak of our inmost being welcoming those commands, while tying them around our neck involves submission to the yoke of Christ, the neck not stiff and stubborn, but yielding to the Lord's authority. When going out we shall have the comfort of knowing we are led by the truth of God. In sleeping we can lie down in peace, being perfectly kept through obedience to God's Word. Waking in the morning, we shall be in a condition to hear that Word speaking to us.
"For the commandment is a lamp, and the law a light" (v. 23). Psalm 119:105 confirms this precious reminder, "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path." Only by this Word can one have thorough confidence, for the way before him is clearly lighted, while unbelievers walk in darkness. At times we need the last phrase here, "Reproofs of instruction are the way of life," for the light necessarily exposes all that is inconsistent with truth, and in receiving the light we welcome the reproofs that it brings with it. How vital this is as a power to keep us from the evil woman who knows how to seduce by flattery those who are not protected by the light of God (v. 24). "Do not lust after her beauty in your heart, nor let her allure you with her eyelids. For by means of a harlot a man is reduced to a crust of bread; and an adulteress will prey upon his precious life" (vv. 25-26). Such warnings are deeply necessary for even the saints of God are not exempt from such temptation, as seen in the history of David, and sadly, in cases we ourselves have been aware of. We are dependent continually on God's preserving grace.
Two similes are now used to illustrate the extreme folly of giving in to adultery. First, it is like taking fire into one's bosom. Who would literally do this? Likely no one, but it would be just as foolish to do this as to commit adultery. Similarly, people are not generally so foolish as to walk on hot coals, but they are willing to do what is just as foolish, that is, commit adultery (vv. 27-28), Such is the foolish wickedness of one who is seduced by his neighbor's wife. He shall not be innocent (v. 29). If one steals food when he is starving, people do not despise him for this, yet he must restore sevenfold when found out. In other words, only for a small infraction such as this, justice demands punishment. therefore, what of the deeply serious gilt of adultery? One who falls into this is destitute of understanding: he destroys his own soul. Such sin is primarily against his Maker, but others are harmed by it too. He will receive wounds and dishonor, with contempt and reproach (vv. 32-33).
What of the husband, with whose wife a man commits adultery? His rightful jealousy may make him furious. It is only to be expected that he will do everything in his power to exact some kind of satisfaction for this wickedness. Certainly, a thing like this is not easily forgiven, and no offered recompense will generally be accepted. Many gifts will not make up for this offense (v. 35).
Positive Character Emphasized
Though this chapter continues the warning against adultery, it pauses to again press home the most vital fact that a positive character of obedience to God should be constantly cultivated, for this will preserve us from the repulsive negatives of unholy temptation. Again, it is addressed to "My son," for the heart of a faithful father desires the very best for his son, and thus he kindly admonishes him to keep his words and recognize his commands as treasure (v. 1), for obedience is truly the essence of living the life that honors God. The apple of the eye is likely the most sensitive part of the body, to be kept closely from any harmful thing (v. 2).
Binding God's commands on the fingers speaks of applying them to every detail of work done by the hands, while entering them on the tablet of the heart implies their being recorded permanently as motives for all our actions or words (v. 3). Thus, wisdom and understanding should be our closest relatives (v. 4), by which we are kept from the seductions of harlots, whether literal harlots or false religions that assume a beautiful appearance and flattering words to deceive their victims (v. 5).
Tempted by Cruel Deception (vv. 6-23)
These verses speak so plainly that it is unnecessary to comment on them; but let every reader soberly consider that evil can be so attractive that great numbers are deceived by it, thereby taking the way to the chambers of death and hell. How dreadful an end for the sake of a few moments of lustful pleasure!
Therefore Listen! (vv. 24-27)
The chapter ends with more admonishment, which is deeply needed by many. To both listen and to pay attention to the words of the Lord are of greatest importance. Then also, how vital to be in control of our own heart, not allowing it to waver or to stray in the paths of disobedience. And the warning is pressed upon us, "She has cast down many wounded, and all who were slain by her were strong men" (v. 26). Even their strength becomes a subtle snare, for strong men think they are strong enough to remain unharmed by excursions into evil communications. How dreadfully deceiving! For "her house is the way to hell, descending to the chambers of death" (v. 27). This is just as true of false religions as it is literally, for by flattery and promises beautifully adorned, these evil imitations of Christianity seduce great numbers, leading them down to hell.
In the first 11 verses of this chapter wisdom is seen as a woman, though from verse 12 on the words "she" and her" are no longer used, but rather the first personal pronoun, "I." This is most instructive, for verses 1 to 11 deal with wisdom as dwelling in the believer, subjectively, that is, "Christ in you, the hope of glory;" while verses 12 to 36 regard Christ objectively, altogether apart from our feelings or experiences, but the Object to draw out our hearts in adoration to Him.
Wisdom as "She" (vv. 1-11)
God has seen fit to implant wisdom in the hearts of believers by faith, as we read in 1 Corinthians 1:30, "But of Him (God) are you in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God." Thus, believers become messengers to carry the message of wisdom to the world, whether from the top of the high hills or by the gates of entry into the city, where of course there are crowds of people.
Though the message of wisdom is declared even where crowds gather, yet it is not addressed to the crowds in general, but to individuals, "To you, 0 man, I call”, and to the sons of men, pressing home the message in a way that fastens itself on each individual, as being personally responsible, even though simple or foolish (vv. 4-5). Is it not possible for them to be of an understanding heart? Yes, they will need only to honestly listen (v. 6), for thus they will hear excellent things and right things. When speaking for God, as directed by God, our mouths will certainly speak truth: wickedness will be utterly refused by our lips (v. 7). The Gospel of grace in our mouths will be with pure righteousness, nothing in our words crooked or perverse (v. 8).
More than that, they will be plain to anyone who has understanding, and of course right to those who find knowledge (v. 9). Instruction in the truth of God, with its resulting knowledge, is seen to be superior to the possession of silver and gold, for these latter are transitory and fleeting, the former of value for eternity (v. 10). Rubies may be highly prized by those who possess them, but wisdom is infinitely better (v. 11), and therefore nothing of all temporal blessings can be compared to this. Every believer would certainly agree with this when he knows that Christ is Himself "made unto used wisdom."
Wisdom As "I" (vv. 12-36).
Now the word "she" is exchanged for "I." for we no longer are considering wisdom's activity in the believer, that is, subjectively, but objectively in Christ personally, apart from people's experiences or feelings.
However, it is first said, "I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge and discretion" (v. 12). Prudence is that virtue that distinguishes things that differ, which is a vital matter if wisdom is to be entertained. In dwelling with prudence, wisdom finds out knowledge and discretion. Of course, it is Christ who finds these out in perfection. In Christ too is seen perfectly "the fear of the Lord" (v. 13). He hates "evil, pride and arrogance and the evil way." Such is His character as "Wisdom." He hates the perverse mouth, for the words of His mouth are pure and good.
"Counsel is Mind, and sound wisdom, " for He is Himself wisdom, as also He says, "I am understanding." this belong true, He certainly has strength (v. 14). "By Me kings reign, and rulers decree justice" (v. 15). By whatever means men may appoint or elect rulers, such men are only pawns in the hand of the Lord Jesus, for He who is Wisdom is perfectly in control of all this.
"I love those who love Me. and those who seek me diligently shall find Me" (v. 17). Though the love of God is so great "that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16), yet the Lord Jesus shows a special character of love toward those who respond to His love. On the other hand, since His very nature is to hate wickedness, then those who foolishly choose wickedness place themselves under the same hatred as their choice.
But those who choose Christ are blessed with "riches and honor" (v. 18), not merely temporal riches, which take to themselves wings and fly away, but enduring riches, because they are connected with righteousness, for God has chosen "the poor of this world, rich in faith" (Jas. 2:5). The fruit of wisdom is better than the finest gold or choice silver, things in which people generally put their confidence (v. 19). Thus wisdom, personified in Christ, walks in the way of righteousness (v. 20), as was certainly witnessed in all His life on earth. He could say, "Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24), because He Himself did this perfectly, always keeping to the paths of justice. In doing so, He caused those who love Him to inherit wealth, spiritual wealth, to fill their treasuries (v. 21).
"The Lord possessed Me at the beginning of His way, before his works of old" (v. 22). It is not that Christ ever had a beginning: He was "in the beginning" (John 1:1), which is also verified in the following verse in Proverbs, "I have been established from everlasting, from the beginning, :before there was ever an earth" (v. 23). As Moses writes in Psalm 90:2, "From everlasting to everlasting Thou art God."
To insist on the marvel of this, various works of creation are introduced, to show them inferior to Him who is the wisdom of God and the power of God. Thus, the earth came after Him, as were "the depths" and "the fountains abounding with water," the mountains, the hills, the fields, the primal dust of the world (vv. 23-26). When God prepared the heavens, He was there, and "when he drew a circle on the face of the deep," evidently making the sea conform to the limits God prescribed (v. 27). Establishing the clouds, which may seem without prescribed limits, but are kept by God within such limits. He also "strengthened the fountains of the deep," though we may little understand what is involved in this (v. 28).
The Lord Jesus, as Wisdom, has assigned the sea certain limits, so that it does not overflow the land. What indeed might happen if the sea were not under such control? As to the foundations of the earth, there have been many traditions, such as an exceptionally strong men named Atlas, holding the earth on his shoulders! Now that scientists have found that the earth is a great ball, rotating and moving forward, with no visible outside support, then they are at a loss to know what are its foundations; but God knows (v. 29).
Creation's many amazing wonders were accomplished while Christ, the Wisdom of God, was with the Father, as a "Master Craftsman" engaged in bringing all things into being (v. 30). He was daily God's delight, rejoicing always before Him, just as is confirmed in God's words from heaven on two occasions, when the Lord Jesus was baptized by John the baptist and when He was transfigured on the holy mountain (Matt. 3:13-17; Matt. 17:1-5). Yet, though God was the first Object of the Lord's rejoicing, He adds, "and My delight was with the sons of men" (v. 31). Wonderful indeed is the grace of His heart! He who is Wisdom personified finds delight in mankind!
Therefore, Listen, My Children (vv. 32-36)
Before this, Solomon, speaking for God, had said, "Now therefore, listen to me, my children" (ch. 7:24). Now Wisdom, personified in Christ, speaks similarly (v. 25). Yet Solomon had added, attention to the words of my mouth," while Wisdom adds, "For blessed are those who keep My ways;" and in this we hear the Lord Jesus speaking to us. "Hear instruction and be wise, and do not disdain it" (v. 33). One who hears the Lord will become wise, and this will give blessedness, or true happiness, imparting that willing diligence to watch daily at Wisdom's gates in a spirit of patience — waiting at the posts of Wisdom's doors (v. 34). For finding wisdom in Christ is truly finding life and obtaining favor (or grace) from the Lord. On the other hand, one who sins against Christ as He is now fully revealed, sins against his own soul, for he exposes himself as hating Christ and loving death.
Again, The Woman Wisdom (vv. 1-12)
Having seen wisdom set before us in the person of Christ, once again this wisdom is seen evidenced subjectively in believers, as is indicated in the words "she" and "her." How good it is to see a response of faith in those redeemed by the blood of Christ. "Wisdom has built her house," that is, by faith she has established a permanent dwelling from which no-one can dispossess her (v. 1). Her seven pillars are named for us in James 3:17: "The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." If unbelievers see in us these vital characteristics, they will have no excuse for ignoring the truth for which we stand.
She has slaughtered her meat" (v. 2). Thus, she has a provision to make for others, as we can bear witness to the great provision of God for mankind in giving His own Son to die for us. But also, "She has mixed her wine." which is typical of the joy of the Lord, which is the portion pf everyone who receives Christ as Savior. Her table is fully furnished with many nourishing dishes, for instance, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, eternal life, and in fact every spiritual blessing in heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1:3). What great abundance indeed!
In verse 3 wisdom engages in evangelism, sending forth "her maidens." Maidens because they symbolize those who have received the Word of God into their own soul. Wisdom is not to be hidden in a corner, but declared from the highest places of the city. There is no discrimination against any, as we know is true concerning the gospel of the grace of God sent to all the world, for God desires that all should be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth.
The message is not merely for the intellectual; rather, "Whosoever is simple (that is, lacking in intelligence), let him turn in here" (v. 4). If one lacks understanding, that understanding is made available for him. At least, however ignorant one is, he still knows how to eat and drink. Eating what wisdom offers, he will find it not so difficult to assimilate what seems strange and unfamiliar to him. Eating such bread gives substantial nourishment, and drinking the wine of spiritual refreshment will give true comfort and joy. "Forsake the foolish and live." When the bread and wine of wisdom are received, it will not be difficult to give up the foolishness that is the portion of those who refuse Christ. How infinitely better it is to "go in the way of understanding." We remember that the Lord Jesus has said, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6).
In contrast, we read, "He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself," that is, shame from the scoffer. Similarly, if I rebuke a wicked man, I will reap more harm that he does (v. 7). How much better to offer him the gospel of God's grace!
In contrast to a scoffer hating one who corrects him, a wise man will not only accept reproof, but will love the one who reproves him (v. 8). Of course, the reproof should be administered in genuine love: if so, a wise man will discern this. Instruction given to a wise man will make him yet wiser, for such teaching will increase his education.
it is well for us to be constantly reminded that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (v. 10). When this genuine, reverential fear is present, it is indeed a basis for every aspect of wisdom. For this involves "the knowledge of the Holy One," reminding us that holiness is a most prominent characteristic of God, who loves good and hates evil. If we lack such character, we shall lack understanding. May we rather deeply appreciate the holiness of our God.
If this is so, then the normal result is that our days will be multiplied and years added (v. 11). Of course, there are exceptions, for a godly person may be taken away virtually in youth, as was John the baptist; and in fact, the Lord Jesus died at a comparatively young age.
If one is wise, he will himself bear the benefit of this, and if one is a scorner, he will bear the results alone: on one would think of being willing to share the bad effects of the foolish words of one who despises wisdom (v. 12).
The Foolish Woman (vv. 13-18)
Again, we are warned against the gross folly of the woman who gives herself up to the repulsive lusts of the flesh. She is clamorous, her words noisy and empty (v. 13). She is simple, in the sense of ignorant: true knowledge is foreign to her. She sits in lazy self-indulgence at the door of her house, or on a seat in some prominent place in the city, calling to those who pass by (vv. 14-15). She has no interest in maintaining a reputable household, but the opposite.
Whoever is simple (lacking in common sense) let him go in the way of evil (v. 16). It is his own folly that so leads him. Having no understanding, he listens to the foolish woman as she says to him, "Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant" (v. 17). Of course, this is an appeal merely to sinful flesh, and those who love folly accept it without realizing that "the dead are there, that her guests are in the depths of hell" (v. 18). How many there are who, sadly, wake up too late!
Various Proverbs of Solomon
Though the Hebrew title of this book is "Proverbs of Solomon," there are evidently some of these proverbs written by a different hand (See Chapter 30), which may be the reason that this chapter 10 specifically states that these proverbs are those of Solomon (v. 1).
How true it is that in normal conditions "a wise son makes a glad father (v. 1). Thus, David had reason to be glad as to his own son Solomon. But Solomon himself did not have a wise son. Rehoboam foolishly refused the wisdom of older men and chose the advice of young men who moved him to act in cruel arrogance against his own nation Israel, causing the rebellion of ten tribes (2 Chron. 10). A foolish son also has been the cause of grief to his own mother, and such cases are sadly multiplied.
"Treasures of wickedness profit nothing" (v. 2). People may amass great riches by sinful means, so that others will praise them for their wealth, but they are only heaping up riches to be a witness against them in the day of judgment. On the other hand, righteousness delivers from the shame of death and judgment. The Lord will not allow the righteous soul to ever want (v. 3), though He may allow him to be greatly reduced as to have to depend on God's mercy. But the wicked cannot even depend on this, for they have no desire to trust God.
It is evident that one who is slack, having no diligence in working, cannot expect anything but poverty. On the contrary, the tendency of diligence is to make one rich (v. 4). Also, one who gathers in summer, when conditions for labor are favorable, is wise. Of course, harvest time is time for diligent labor, and if one sleeps when he ought to work, he will cause shame in his own family (v. 5).
The righteous will find blessing showered on their heads, while "violence covers the mouth of the wicked" (v. 6). This seems a strange expression, but does it not infer that the very character of the wicked is such that his mouth gives vent to violent threats or accusations, just the opposite of blessing?
"The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot" (v. 7). Thus, Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Daniel, Paul, Peter, John and many others continue through the ages to be honored in the hearts of multitudes, while even the names of many ungodly opposers of the truth of God are forgotten as rotted refuse. Or if some names, such as Ahab, Jezebel, Athaliah are remembered, they only awaken utter disgust and abhorrence.
"The wise in heart will receive commands" (v. 8), not by any means refusing such commands as though they were offensive, but when they are God's commands, they will welcome them. "But a prating fool will fall." His words oppose what is right and wise, and become his own undoing. Then "he who walks with integrity walks securely" (v. 9): his actions do not trip him up, while one who is perverse in his ways will expose his own folly: practically everyone will see through him.
"He who winks with the eye causes trouble." People usually wink when they want to deceive, and of course this causes trouble. "But a prating fool will fall." This was written in verse 8, but in verse 10 it is connected with one who winks with the eye, showing that the prating fool is guilty of worse evil than one who winks. He who winks may more easily get away with his deception, but one who is a prating fool so manifests his folly by coarse words that he will fall in the estimation of practically everyone.
"The mouth of the righteous is a well of life" (v. 11), for from such a mouth flows living water, words of refreshing value, influenced by the truth of God's Word. But from the mouth of the wicked come words of violence. While hatred stirs up anger and strife, love in contrast serves to cover sins (v. 12). Of course, there are cases where sin needs to be exposed, but if it is not harmful to others, wisdom seeks to cover wrong doing.
"Wisdom is found on the lips of him who has understanding. but a rod is for the back of him who is void of understanding" (v. 13). Understanding is the right application of knowledge, and this requires wisdom, for wisdom is the right perception of knowledge. But if one has knowledge without understanding, he is culpable as being devoid of this virtue, and therefore deserves a rod of correction.
The wise store up knowledge for use whenever occasion may require (v. 14). "But the mouth of the foolish is near destruction." For a foolish man will speak his mind, though all he speaks manifests his ignorance, and he does not realize that this is leading to destruction. "The rich man's wealth is his strong city." This is naturally the case, though riches often take to themselves wings and fly away, so dependence on wealth is vain. Naturally speaking also, poverty may lead to destruction, but the grace of God often intervenes to bring wealth out of poverty, as is true of the Lord Jesus, whose grace brought Him down to virtual poverty in His life on earth, giving Him the place of greatest poverty when He went to the cross. But that poverty has resulted in the great enrichment of all who receive Him as Savior (2 Cor. 8:9).
"The labor of the righteous leads to life" (v. 16). How especially true this is of those who labor in the gospel of God's grace, with souls finding eternal life. But the wicked find the wages of their sin to be death. Of course, it is the righteous who keep instruction (v. 17), and this attitude sustains him in the way of life, while he who refuses instruction will always go astray. Those who hide hatred have lying lips (v. 18), that is, they like to hide the hatred that energizes them. This cannot continue long before it is evident to everyone. Such lips too will be guilty of spreading slander, thus bearing further witness to their own folly.
"In the multitude of words sin is not lacking." This should speak seriously to us if we are given to much talk, for if talking incessantly, we give ourselves no time to consider what we say before saying it. Let us remember that we do have control over our lips, and if we are wise, we will restrain them (v. 19). Then when we do speak, our words will be "as choice silver," while even the heart (not only talk) of the wicked is of little value (v. 20), and if so, then what comes from his lips will be the same. The righteous, in contrast, will use their lips to give true food to many. "But fools die for lack of wisdom" (v. 21).
When the Lord gives His blessing, it makes one rich, above all spiritually. While there may be sorrow at the time, yet the Lord does not add sorrow to this; in fact, it may be the means of easing sorrow (v. 22). A fool often engages in doing evil just for the sport of it, and in fact, if it causes suffering to others, this does not bother him. How different the attitude of one who has wisdom, therefore always knowing how to restrain himself (v. 23). The wicked are seldom without fear of some repercussions from their folly, and the thing they fear will likely come upon them (v. 24). But the righteous have no reason to be fearful, rather having a desire too for what will honor God, and this will certainly be granted them.
The wicked too will suffer the whirlwind of the judgment of God, which is inevitable, though it may seem delayed, but when it does come, it will be final and decisive, bringing total destruction. But the righteous have Christ as their eternal Foundation (v. 25). ."As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy man to those who send him" (v. 26). These things are annoying to say the least, and interfere with the functions of chewing and seeing. The lazy man therefore is certainly not a profitable employee.
In the usual course of events those who fear the Lord will have the days of their lives prolonged (v. 27), but the wicked will have their years shortened, Haman planned to shorten the life of Mordecai, but such wickedness shortened his own life, while Mordecai remained to live much longer (Esther 7 and 10). Also, the truth of verse 28 was proven by the experience of both Mordecai and Haman, "The hope of the righteous will be gladness, but the expectation of the wicked will perish."
In walking in the way of the Lord the upright find strength that seems actually miraculous (v. 29), for the Lord's way is far from popular, so that many shrink from taking that way, but if so, they do not find the strength sufficient for the need. Also, the wicked who walk in a way of self-will and iniquity will not only lack strength, but inherit destruction.
Verse 30 implies the future blessing of the millennium, from which the righteous will never be removed, while on the contrary, the wicked will not inherit the earth. In the meanwhile, "the mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom," but the result of one having a perverse tongue will be to have it cut out. This is a serious matter, whether it is literal or symbolic. The righteous however, know what words are acceptable, and control their lips, but the mouth of the wicked is conversant only with what is perverse (v. 32).
Good and Evil Contrasted
Even in Solomon's day men had learned to falsify their scales in spite of knowing that this is an abomination to the Lord, while He delights in weighing everything perfectly accurately (v. 1). Also, pride is compared with dishonest scales, for no one has the slightest right to be proud of himself. His pride may last for a while, but the folly of such pride will soon be exposed to his shame. The humble will at least not expose themselves to such shame, for their humility is wisdom by which they are preserved (v. 2).
The upright too will be guided rightly through their integrity (v. 3), while the perversity of the unfaithful will be the very means of their destruction, though they have been so foolish as to have no anticipation of such drastic results. Riches may be heaped up, their possessor thinking this is a trusted resource for security, but rather than being a profit to him in the day of wrath, they will only be a testimony to his folly, while simple righteousness will give calm certainty of blessing even if death may threaten (v. 4). That righteousness too will issue in properly directing the way of the blameless, while the wicked will find their wickedness to be like a boomerang that comes back in swift judgment on his proud head (v. 5). When righteousness is simply acted on, this too will have repercussions, but only for good (v. 6), while the unfaithful will fall on account of their own foolish lusts.
For a wicked man death has a final word: he perishes. But after death, what? Hebrews 9:27 gives the solemn answer, "after death the judgment." Thus, hope perishes too as regards the unjust, while believers have a "hope as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast" (Heb. 6:19). Thus, they are "delivered from trouble" (v. 8), though trouble comes to the wicked. "The hypocrite (one who deceitfully purports to be what he is not) uses his mouth with the object of destroying his neighbor, but the righteous through knowledge of facts will be delivered from such deceit.
If in a city, those who are righteous are blessed, the city itself will greatly benefit from this, and likewise, if the wicked perish, there is jubilation (v. 10), for this is a great relief to many. By virtue of blessing being given to the upright, any city will prosper, but opposite results come by the words of the wicked (v. 11).
If one despises his neighbor, this exposes him as being devoid of wisdom. For God has created his neighbor as well as himself, but a man of understanding knows how to control is tongue. If he cannot rightly speak well of his neighbor, at least he can keep quiet! (v. 2). A talebearer is foolish enough to blab anything that comes to his ears, though often matters of a personal kind (secrets) that he has no right to repeat. If there should be anything harmful to someone in what we may hear, how much better to conceal this, and thus evidence a faithful spirit (v. 13).
If there should be no one to provide sober, wise counsel to people generally, they will flounder, but in considering the counsel of a number who can be trusted, there is usually safety (v. 14). Rehoboam ought to have read this before he chose the counsel of young men and refused the counsel of older men of experience (2 Chron. 10:6-14).
If we should desire to become surety for a stranger, we should be prepared to suffer the consequences. When the Lord Jesus became surety for us, He was fully prepared to bear all the consequences of our innumerable sins, and He did this perfectly. He had both ability and willingness for this. Even if we should be willing to be surety for another, do we have ability for it? Generally, the answer is no! (v. 15).
How beautiful is the character of a gracious woman, who by grace retains virtuous honor, in contrast to that of a ruthless man, though he retains riches. For how long? Such material gain is gone very soon, while the honor of a gracious woman accompanies her into eternity (v. 16). A man also, who is merciful, will enjoy the same honor, doing good to his own soul (v. 17), while one who is cruel is not only harming others, but himself more than others.
Because a wicked man chooses to be a deceiver, he therefore does deceptive work (v. 18). For righteousness leads to life, while one who chooses evil will follow the evil to his own death. Dreadful result! (v. 19). If one's attitude of heart is perverse, that is, contrary to truth, he thereby chooses to be an abomination to the Lord. Just as idols are called in scripture by the term "abominations." so he is guilty of idolatry (v. 20). But the blameless give delight to the Lord's heart (v. 20). The wicked may form a coalition with the intention of carrying out their schemes by force of numbers, but will find this results in severe punishment, while the righteous need no such backing as the wicked seek, for the Lord is in control, and He will deliver them from every evil work (v. 21).
To place a gold ring in a swine's snout would be both amusing and stupid (v. 22), but it is just as obnoxious to observe a lovely looking woman who lacks discretion. Why does she not use the beauty God has given her in the interests of truth and goodness? If she were simply righteous, her desire would be only good (v. 23), and such desires will be fulfilled. But what of the desires of the wicked? They are rather spoken of here as "the expectation of the wicked," If he knows anything of the character of God, he can only expect wrath at the end of his course.
How true it is also that one who scatters, that is, uses his goods to benefit those in need, will increase. It is God who orders this. We should deeply realize that God has only put us in trust with the use of His own goods (for our possessions are not really our own), and God will reward faithfulness. On the other hand, one who stores up for himself, withholding from the poor what he might be able to use for their good, will very likely find himself reduced to a state of poverty (v. 24), if not on earth, then certainly in eternity.
Following the same line of thought, verse 25 encourages generosity, for it leads to wealth. If it does not mean material wealth, it certainly does mean spiritual wealth. We shall always reap the benefits of the good we practice. In fact, others will be affected by whether we withhold our wealth for ourselves or make it available for others. Selfishness in this will bring the harsh criticism of others on our heads, while liberality will bring favor instead (v. 26).
No doubt the emphasis on earnestly seeking good (v. 27) is on seeking the good of others. Certainly, this will find favor, while seeking evil will reap it’s just reward in trouble for the perpetrator. Just as the foolish man stores up riches for himself, so also, he trusts in those riches, but this will certainly bring a fall, as many have found to their great sorrow. But the righteous will flourish (v. 28). Does verse 29 not infer that the man who stores up wealth for himself is actually troubling his own house? He will inherit the wind, such as a hurricane that will carry away all his possessions. How futile is such ambition! It is often the case also that the fool is reduced to the place of serving the wise of heart.
"The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life" (v. 30). Thus, the fruit of the faith of a righteous man becomes a tree that bears more fruit abundantly. This is a reminder of Hebrews 11:11-12, where Sarah is seen as bearing one son from Abraham, with a resulting progeny of as many as the stars of the sky. "And he who wins souls is wise." Andrew brought his own brother Simon Peter to the Lord Jesus (John 1:40-42), and Peter became a remarkable soul-winner.
Thus, the apostles, being righteous, were recompensed on earth (v. 31), and it is added, "how much more the ungodly and the sinner." Yet how dreadfully in contrast to the recompense of believers!
We may be sure that Timothy greatly appreciated Paul's words to him, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16). Timothy was one who loved instruction (v.1). But instruction may likely have in it the element of correction, and some resent being corrected. Scripture terms them stupid (v. 1).
A good man and a man of wicked intentions are put in contrast in verse 2, the first obtaining favor with the Lord, the second only earning God's condemnation. Certainly, therefore such a man cannot be established, but flounders in his folly, while the righteous has allowed his roots to go deep, so that he cannot be moved (v. 3).
Proverbs 31 is a lovely commentary on verse 4, "An excellent wife is the crown of her husband." In the New Testament, Priscilla is clearly a lovely example (Acts 18:26). In fact, though in cases of public importance, Apollos is mentioned first, yet otherwise Priscilla has the first place, evidently because being outstanding spiritually. On the contrary, a wife who causes shame "is like rottenness in his bones." This was sadly true of Jezebel, wife of Ahab (1 Kings 21:25).
"The thoughts of the righteous are right" (v. 5). It is their thoughts here mentioned because the thoughts are basic to all their actions. "But the counsels of the wicked are deceitful." They take counsel without seriously thinking of the consequences of what they devise. Their minds are so corrupt they cannot think straight, but would often rather choose to tell a lie than to tell the truth, their consciences practically seared as with a hot iron. Words are contrasted in verse 6, those of the wicked not hesitating to plot bloodshed, but those of the upright favoring deliverance from the snares of evil. The result is seen in verse 7, the wicked being overthrown and the house of the righteous standing firm.
Whether other men will commend a man's wisdom, certainly God will, and believers will also (v. 8). But practically everyone will despise one who manifests the fact that he has a perverse heart. Also, if one who is slighted has a servant, he will be more honored than one who honors himself but lacks food. This is of course what is seen in people's relationships, for it is possible that one who has a servant treats him badly, in which case the master is not worthy of any honor.
A man of righteous character is properly concerned as to the welfare of his animals, while even the comparative kindness of wicked men is cruelty (v. 10). Balaam proved this when he lost his temper with his donkey when the donkey submitted to the angel of the Lord. The Lord reproved Balaam for the cruelty of lashing his donkey (Numbers 22:24-33).
One who labors in tilling his land will find good results, but one who follows frivolity (or vain things), that is, things empty of any value, even though they may not be grossly wicked, has no proper understanding (v. 11). The wicked covet those things that evil men are able to secure by evil means. Of course, such evil is revolting to a believer, whose roots are deep in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, so that the result is good fruit. Also, simply the lips (the words) of a wicked man become a snare to his own soul, and he is caught before he realizes it, while the character of the righteous will enable him to come through trouble without fear of being snared (v. 13).
"A man will be satisfied with good by the fruit of his mouth" (v. 14). Again, this refers to his words: since they are good and fruitful, they will be satisfying to his own soul. And of course, whether one uses his hands for good or for evil, he will be recompensed properly in either case. It is God who orders this recompense.
A fool's sense of right and wrong is badly corrupted, so that though his way is grossly bad, it is right to him. But for how long? He needs no counsel from anyone, while one who is wise is glad to receive good counsel (v. 15). Also, the bad temper of a fool makes itself evident very quickly (v. 16), for he is ignorant of how to control himself. "But a prudent man covers shame." He controls his anger, so that even the shame of what others do is not uncovered by him. This does not mean that he hides the criminal activity of others, for there are limits.
How perfectly true it was of the Lord Jesus, that He always spoke truth and thus plainly declared the righteousness of God (v. 17), in, great contrast to those who sought to trap Him in His words by their contemptible deceit. Such people knew how to speak like the piercings of a sword, with the object of harming others (v. 18). The Lord knew how to turn such attacks against the attacker, and by his own words to promote health for all who would receive them.
His truthful lip (v. 19) has been therefore established forever, working wonderful benefits to the millions who have believed Him, and for eternity. On the other hand, those who have been so foolish as to accept the evil of a lying tongue may find a moment's pleasure turned into eternal torment! those who devise evil are always moved to do this by gross deceit, while those whose counsel is that of genuine peace will have genuine joy: also, the righteous will never be overtaken by serious trouble. Of course, they have trouble, but will not be overcome by it. On the contrary, the wicked will be filled with evil: having chosen this, they will find it completely captivating them. The truth of verse 22 has been proven over and over again, so that one who is inclined to the evil of lying lips ought to discern quickly that he is taking a downward course to judgment. Yet not only the fear of judgment should animate him, but the fact of lies being an abomination to the Lord. Of course, a wicked man has no regard for this, but a believer deals in truth, not because he fears judgment, but because he honors the Lord.
"A prudent man conceals Knowledge" (v. 23), that is, he stores it up without advertising it. When this is so, his knowledge will be evident in his ways. "But the heart of fools proclaims foolishness." This resembles the case a man who scornfully told another, "There is no God." The other answered, "Why, you are worse than a fool. The Bible tells me, "the fool has said in his heart, there is no God," but you have blabbed it right out!"
"The hand of the diligent will rule" (v. 24). Of course, it is only those who are willing to work who are qualified to rule over others, while one who is lazy can expect to be reduced to the state of a forced laborer. Joseph is an example of diligence even when in prison, and was soon exalted to the position of ruling in Egypt (Gen. 41:38-44).
"Anxiety in the heart of one causes depression." Is there ever a good reason for anxiety? No! For the Word of God tells us, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let you requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:6-7). Thus, in place of depression, believers are entitled to the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding. Precious alternative! This will certainly produce "a good word" to make the heart glad (v. 25).
Every believer should know enough to choose his friends carefully in order to be preserved from being led astray, for there are always people presenting themselves in a good Bight who are actually wicked and soon lead others in wrong ways (v. 26).
A lazy man may enjoy hunting just for the sake of the challenge of hunting down and killing animals, with no intention of using his victims for food (v. 27). Of course, this is reprehensible, while one who is diligent is possessed with valuable ability and energy. Thus, the righteous way in which he walks is in contrast to the way of death, for it is life that is life indeed. In that pathway there is no death; though one may die a natural death, yet he retains spiritual life without end (v. 28).
Instruction for a Wise Son
We may wonder if Rehoboam, the eldest son of Solomon, was in the least inclined to heed his father's instruction, and if he took time to read the book of Proverbs, for Rehoboam did not seem to be a wise man. He may not have been a scoffer, who despises wisdom (v. 1), but his lack of wisdom is especially pathetic, since he had a wise father. It may have been that Solomon had reason to rebuke his son and his son failed to respond.
"A man shall eat well the fruit of his mouth" (v. 2). This verse indicates two distinct uses of the mouth, for the fruit of the mouth refers to fruitful, healthy words spoken. If he has a habit of speaking good words, he will benefit by this greatly, so that he will find himself supplied with good food to eat. Closely connected with this is the virtue of guarding one's mouth (v. 3), which is a significant preservative of life. Rehoboam, sadly, did not guard his mouth when responding to the request of the Israelites to lighten the load of taxes Solomon had imposed. He answered them, "My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges" (1 Kings 12:13-14). This was "opening his lips wide," and ended in the destruction of the kingdom."
A lazy man has a soul, as does everyone else, and is inclined to want something. but since he will not work for it, he is left empty. The diligent man too has a soul, and its desires will be satisfied through diligence in his labor (v. 4). It is only normal for a righteous man (a believer) to hate lying, for such is the character of the new life he has received from God; while a wicked man shows himself loathsome, and reduces himself to a shameful condition (v. 5). If one is blameless in his character, the very principle of righteousness is a guard for him against evil encroachments, while the wickedness of the sinner overthrows him (v. 6).
Verse 7 is an interesting commentary on the characteristics of certain people. One may pretend to be rich while he has nothing, and another may pretend to be poor in spite of much wealth. In either case, deception is involved, but what is the object of either one? In the first case it seems one wants to make a false impression to bolster his pride. In the second case, is the person seeking by this means to excuse himself from using his goods for the help of the poor, and perhaps also with the object of acquiring more than he has? But in both cases, it is selfishness that moves the heart. May the Lord give His own saints to be perfectly transparent and honest.
"The ransom of a man's life is his riches" (v. 8). If it is necessary that one be ransomed from a state of bondage, it is well if he has enough wealth to provide a ransom, but the ransom Christ has provided cost Him the agony of being forsaken by God in suffering for our sins, and he alone has "riches in glory" that can meet every need of every individual if only they will trust him. "But the poor does not hear rebuke." This does not mean the poor literally, but spiritually, that is, those who are devoid of the faith that is necessary for any true relationship with God.
"The light of the righteous rejoices" (v. 9), for it is the light of true life, while what appears for a time to be the lamp of the wicked will quickly be put out. He may be proud of his meager appearance of light (or understanding), but such pride occasions only strife, for others do not recognize any virtue in his empty pride.
It may be that a man greatly increases in wealth by dishonest means (v. 11), but that wealth will be eventually diminished, if not in this life, but at least when he dies. He will find himself destitute, for God takes full account of such matters. One who honestly labors, however, will find increase, and if he labors for the Lord, the increase will be far more than even he can expect.
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick" (v. 12). How many believers have entertained the hope that the Lord would come before now! If their hearts are sick, they need only to confide in the perfect wisdom of God, to have their hopes conformed to His will. "But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life." This will indeed be true of the Lord's coming, though it cannot be counted on if our desires are for vain things.
"He who despises the Word will be destroyed." Of course, it is the Word of God here spoken of, and the peril of taking it lightly is no trivial matter. But ne who fears God's commandment will be rewarded (v. 13). This is often true in resent life, but how much more so in the future!
"The law of the wise is a fountain of life" (v. 14). The law here speaks of a guiding principle of action which is as a fountain, constantly flowing in the fight direction with fresh, living activity. Such positive action will indeed turn one way from the snares that lead to death. "Good understanding gains favor" (v. 15). Certainly, all those who are in the least sensible will be favorable toward one who as good understanding, but God's favor also is gained by such a character. The unfaithful cannot expect any favor such as this, but will find their entire way one of hard experience. Knowledge will be evident in the actions of prudent men (v.16), and the folly of a fool is so evident he cannot conceal it.
If one is so lax as to employ a wicked messenger, the result will be serious trouble, not only for the messenger, but reflecting on his employer also (v. 17). In contrast, a faithful ambassador brings profit to him who sends him. "Poverty and shame will come to him who disdains correction" (v. 18). What else can such a deluded simpleton expect? One who is sensible enough to receive a rebuke will be thereby honored instead of shamed. He will have his desires accomplished (v. 19), for his desires will be consistent with the will of God, and will be sweet to his soul. On the other hand, fools are so stupid that they consider it it totally objectionable to separate from evil, so that their desires are evil, and they cannot expect them to be accomplished.
How important also is the question of association! If one makes a habit of associating with wise men, he will also be wise. This is so evident that we may wonder why anyone would prefer the company of fools, which leads to destruction (v. 20). For those who choose a path of sin will find that evil follows hard on their heels (v. 21), while the righteous, loving and choosing truth and obedience to God, will find a recompense of pure good.
"A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children." If it may not be a monetary inheritance, it is certainly a spiritual one, which is much more valuable. Interesting also is the observation, "the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous" (v. 22). For it is God who orders such things for His own glory and the blessing of those who honor Him.
Verse 23 shows that though the ground of a poor man lies fallow, God will see to it that the eventual result will be much food, for He cares for the poor. On man's part there is lack of justice, the poor are not cared for, and there is waste. In a world where this is true, there is also need of the disciplining of children. If the father neglects using a rod to correct his son, he is actually guilty of hating his son. There are some, even Christians, who strongly object to administering punishment that physically hurts, but this is false kindness. In fact, God often has to hurt us physically, so that we may learn to obey, and He does so because he loves us (Heb. 12:6). In fact, this verse (24) presses the need for prompt punishment.
"The righteous eats to the satisfying of his soul" (v. 25). Notice, it is not to the satisfying of his stomach. The soul is the more important matter, for the soul requires more than natural food. Spiritual health is much more important than natural. But even the stomach of the wicked shall be in want.
Wisdom, Uprightness, Faithfulness
"A wise woman builds her house" (v. 1). Of course, this is not literal building, but the building up of her family in the ways of the Lord, so that in the end her children rise up and bless her. But a foolish woman has hands that do evil work, with the result that her house (her family life) sadly falls apart. Witness the results of Jezebel's conduct: her daughter Athaliah murdered her own grandchildren (2 Kings 11:1), in gross wickedness destroying her own house. See in contrast the virtuous woman of Proverbs 31:10-31).
Again, one who honestly fears the Lord maintains a walk of consistent uprightness, such as was clearly true of Joseph (v. 2). But one who despises the Lord will always be perverse in his ways, just as was true of Pharaoh when the Lord sought to reach is conscience (Ex. 5:5-9). It was true of Pharaoh also that in his mouth was a rod of pride, the pride that ordered that Israel was to be treated with greater and greater cruelty (Ex. 5:5-9). Thus, scripture shows that Pharaoh was a fool. "But the lips of the wise will preserve them." Moses answered Pharaoh wisely and he was preserved when Pharaoh was drowned in the Red Sea.
"Where no oxen are, the trough is clean, but much increase comes by the strength of the ox" (v. 4). The ox is a worker, and while his work is profitable, it is only to be expected that there will be waste as well as profit. Thus too, we cannot be surprised that one who labors for the Lord must get rid of that which is only excess from his work. Every servant of the Lord must thus have exercise to separate the good from the useless.
"A faithful witness does not lie" (v. 5). Because courts of law have problems with witnesses lying, they require every witness to swear to tell "the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth." Yet in spite of this, many witnesses will so swear, then testify falsely. How refreshing it is therefore, to recognize and listen to a true witness. In fact, the Pharisees, at the time of the trial of the Lord Jesus, actually sought for false witnesses who would lie in order to satisfy their determination to condemn the Lord (Matt. 26:59).
"A scoffer seeks wisdom and does not find it" (v. 6). Why not? Well, can you expect to find gold in a garbage can? A man who scoffs at God the source of all wisdom, will not seek wisdom from that perfect Source: rather, he chooses to seek wisdom from fools. But to one who understands, that is, one who gives God His true place, the gaining of knowledge is easy, for God "gives to all liberally and without reproach" (James 1:5).
If a man is manifestly foolish, he will not accept wise counsel, and it is therefore right to leave him (v. 7), of course after giving him opportunity to change his attitude. Certainly, arguing with such a man is worse than useless. How different is the case of one who is prudent! (v. 8), for in sober wisdom he understands the way of truth, while fools, though acting deceitfully, will not deceive a prudent man, for he knows they are bent on deceiving.
The seriousness of the guilt of sin is lost on fools: they make sin only an occasion for mockery, yet in spite of mocking at it, they indulge in it with apparently no qualms of conscience (v. 9). The upright, however, live above this low level, not only hating sin, but finding joy in the positive pursuit of good. "The heart knows its own bitterness, and a stranger does not share its joy" (v. 10). if one passes through bitter experiences, that bitterness is not likely to be shared by another, for the Lord deals personally with individuals. We must learn to accept personally such difficulties. Also, if we have occasions of deep joy, we cannot expect a stranger to share such joy. A friend may do so, but not a stranger.
The house of the wicked, though it may be great and wide, backed by great riches, will be overthrown (v. 11), while the upright, though he has only a tent, will find himself flourishing, for God is faithful. Men are usually adept at devising a way that seems right to them (v. 12), not realizing that the end of such a way is death, for it lacks the simplicity of faith in the living God, Verse 13 certainly shows that laughter is not always an expression of happiness, for people can laugh even when torn with sorrow. The result of such laughter is then bound to be grief. We can never trust appearances.
The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways" (v. 14). A true believer may become a backslider in his actions in some measure, but not a backslider in heart, for the latter proves himself to be not a believer at all. He may have professed to believe in the Lord Jesus, but his heart has not been truly reached, and his profession proves to be false. A believer may backslide in his ways in some measure, but God will bring him back and restore his soul. A good man will receive satisfaction, however, not from his own goodness, but "from above." God will recompense him for his goodness.
"The simple (that is, the simpleton) believes every word, but the prudent considers well his steps" (v. 15). If we are prudent, we certainly cannot take the word of everyone as true, for we know that there are many who falsify the truth for their own advantage. Do we accept the word of all those who advertise with enticing arguments? Many are deceived by such con artists, but one who is prudent will not be influenced by these methods. When evil threatens, a wise man will fear and depart from the very realm of the temptation (v. 16). While thus the believer finds safety, the fool is self-confident, even raging to show himself such. Being quick-tempered, he manifests the fact that he is a fool by acting foolishly. His wicked intentions, however, will only incur the hatred of people generally (v. 17).
"The simple (again in the sense of being simpletons) inherit folly" (v. 18). they may not expect such an inheritance, but it will come perforce, for their attitude is that of being not sensible, the opposite of the attitude of the prudent, who "are crowned with knowledge." It may take time for verse 9 to be fulfilled, for those who are evil take every advantage over the good to humiliate them, of possible, but the eventual outcome will be that "the evil will bow before the good, and the wicked at the gates of the righteous." How dreadfully humiliating will this eventual outcome be for those who are determined to oppress the righteous!
Verse 20 is a sad commentary on the proud, selfish attitude of people generally! Why do people hate a poor man? Because they cannot expect to gain anything from him, while many are glad to be friendly with the rich for evident reason! There may be various reasons for one's despising his neighbor, but none of them are valid. God made his neighbor, and if we despise him, we despise the work of God (v. 24), and of course this is sin. But one who has mercy on the poor is truly happy in doing so.
Those who devise evil have already gone astray, and this ailment will grow worse with time, for evil does not stand still. In lovely contrast to this, those who devise good are the favored possessors of mercy and truth. They are in fact laborers, ever gaining profit by their actions (v. 23). The opposite of this is "idle chatter." Engaged in such useless activity, people do not know what is profitable labor. It is true our tongues may be used for blessing to others, if properly controlled, but mere talk without proper consideration is vanity that leads to poverty.
"The crown of the wise is their riches" (v. 24) Such riches are not necessarily material, and if spiritual, how much more valuable! — a crown that God places on their head. "But the foolishness of fools is folly." What else can they expect? "A true witness delivers souls" (v. 25). This is certainly important in the plain witness for Christ and the gospel of His grace, which every believer may bear to a perishing world. There are far too many who lead souls into bondage and unbelief. They may pretend to be Christians, but are false witnesses. Whatever confidence they may seem to have will soon evaporate into abject terror, which will be shared by all who trust in them!
But "in the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence," a confidence that will survive all the testings of time, and issue in eternal blessing! (v. 26). "His children will have a place of refuge" — refuge from all the subtle attacks of the enemy and from every evil influence. But not only refuge from adversity, for "the fear of the Lord is a fountain of life" (v. 27), a consistently flowing fountain that gives "living water," to refresh and comfort every believer, for it brings the water of life, eternal life. This is the positive blessing given to every child of God, thereby turning him fully away from the negative snares of death.
"In a multitude of people is a king's honor" (v. 28). This will indeed be true of the millennial reign of the Lord Jesus, though at the present time, while the King is rejected by mankind, He is actually honored more on earth by the faith of only small numbers who give Him the place of dignity and honor at the very time He is despised and rejected by great numbers. It is well also that we do not in any way desire to be "a prince," who for lack of followers will suffer a "downfall." All the children of God should be content to be in simple subjection to the Lord rather than aspiring to a place of dignity above others.
One who has understanding will be careful to control his temper, that is, to be "slow to wrath" (v. 29). For we must remember that circumstances may seem more serious than they actually are, and we should allow time to consider well whether we should be angry or not. If we act impulsively, we are thereby giving folly a place of exaltation. Wisdom given by God will certainly preserve us from such blunders.
"A sound heart is life to the body" (v. 30). We know this to be true physically, and spiritually it is much more true, for the inmost being is of most vital importance in supplying support to our very existence and control over our actions. Envy is seen here in opposition to soundness of heart, for envy fights against the simple, wholesome principle, "Godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6).
How dreadfully evil it is for anyone to oppress the poor, for in so doing he reproaches his Maker (v. 31). Will his Maker think nothing of this wicked insult against himself? If however, one wants to honor the Lord, he will gladly show mercy to those who are in need. "The wicked is banished in his wickedness" (v. 32). How dreadful for them to hear from the lips of the King, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels!" (Matt. 25:41). Yet they would not choose to be in the presence of the One whose grace is so greatly treasured by the godly, and there is only one alternative. But the righteous, even when death comes, has a secure refuge in his Lord.
For wisdom provides a secure rest in the heart of one who has understanding, a rest that no circumstance can remove (v. 33). How refreshing it is to observe this restful spirit in those who enjoy the comfort of the Lord's presence! But what is in the heart of fools is quickly exposed as totally contrary to rest, for there is no rest for the wicked.
"Righteousness exalts a nation" (v. 34). This has proven true in past history. When Britain manifested a state of comparative righteousness in the 19th century, with many capable evangelists welcomed by the people, that nation was exalted above many other nations, though her decline has since then degraded her to a low level. Of course, this was true of Israel at the end of David's reign and the beginning of the reign of Solomon, that she was greatly exalted, but very soon degenerated, so as to be reduced to the status of one of the weakest of nations. Her sin became a reproach indeed!
Clearly connected with a nation's blessing is that of an individual who is wise, for the favor of the king is toward him (v. 35). This will be fully manifest at the time of the millennium, when Israel will have learned wisdom by receiving the Lord Jesus. Those who refuse to learn, however, will solemnly incur the wrath of the King, for they have chosen the way of shame.
Wisdom Expressed in Various Ways
Much that is written in the Book of Proverbs is a reiteration of what is written before, which surely indicates a very real need on our part to be reminded again and again of what is wise and becoming. We may think it faithfulness to strongly, even harshly, reprove the words of an unwise person but God tells us, "A soft answer turns away wrath" (v. 1). For gentle words can still be faithful and true, and it is wise to cultivate a habit of calm, sober wisdom in answering unwise words. For "a hash word stirs up strife." And the servant of the Lord must not strive, and should be gentle to all, able to teach, and patient (2 Tim. 2:24).
"The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly" (v. 2). We may recognize in this that wisdom is the proper use of knowledge, for one may have great knowledge, yet greatly lack wisdom, as may be true of a fool, whose mouth pours out foolishness. "The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good" (v. 3). This verse is one that should be drilled into every child, and which is essential for adults also, for we too easily forget that God is the constant Observer of every detail of our lives.
Verse 4 now speaks of "a wholesome tongue" as being "a tree of life". This is a tongue kept in proper control, and used for good purposes. It has elements in it that resemble a living, growing tree, producing fruitful results that are lasting. On the contrary side, perverseness, being a misuse of the tongue, tends to break the spirit, destroying what may otherwise be useful.
"A fool despises his father's instruction" (v. 5). How much more foolish is one who despises the instruction of God the Father! Absalom, a son of David, whose instruction was certainly of true value, despised that instruction, choosing to be a fool, and suffering the dreadful death of a fool! (2 Sam. 18:9-18). If he had been prudent, he would have before received correction, for we may be sure he had been given correcting instruction.
"The lips of the wise disperse knowledge" (v. 7). Then those who receive the knowledge are responsible to use it rightly, for though we can communicate knowledge to others, we cannot communicate wisdom. This must be received from God (Jas. 1:5). But the fool does not even disperse knowledge: all he knows is foolishness.
The wicked may think he is sacrificing something for God, as did Can, but it is an abomination to the Lord (v. 8). Cain's sacrifice was itself contrary to what could please God, and even if a sacrifice in itself may be good, if given with a proud, self-satisfied attitude, it is abomination to God. Wicked, greedy men may be willing to offer to God $100 out of $10,000 which they have gained fraudulently, thinking this will make up for their crime!
Just as the sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, the same is true of the way of the wicked (v. 9). They choose this downward way in spite of their own conscience, yet more seriously still, in spite of God's disapproval. But those who follow righteousness are walking in the sphere of God's love. Are we not reminded of Jude 21, "Keep yourselves in the love of God.?" This does not mean to keep God loving us, but to keep ourselves in the enjoyment of His love by willing obedience to His Word.
"Harsh discipline" is sometimes necessary, as verse 10 declares, but it is not for believers, but for those who willfully turn away from the Lord, forsaking the way of truth. "And he who hates correction will die." His earthly hopes will be extinguished, but more dreadfully still, he will "die without mercy." Therefore, we are reminded, "hell and destruction are before the Lord": (v. 11). He is more fully aware of the dreadfulness of these than any men are. And He is just as fully aware of the very thoughts of the hearts of the sons of men. If they choose hell and destruction, they little realize the horror of what they are choosing, but they have rejected the Lord, and the alternative is truly righteous judgment. Such souls might be corrected, but usually are so set on their own self-will that they scoff at simple wisdom. They will not seek counsel from those who are wise (v. 12).
"A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance" (v. 13). Of course, this is literally true, though only if there is good cause for happiness will that attitude continue. If the soul is set on the knowledge of the Lord Jesus, the happiness will not fade as it will otherwise. If there should be continued sorrow of heart, this will deeply affect the spirit, and the only remedy is in the grace of God. If one has understanding, his heart will seek knowledge (v. 14). Learning will be attractive to him, that is, learning of a profitable character: it will be virtually good food, while fools prefer to feed on foolishness, which of course has no lasting value, leading them rather to destruction.
"All the days of the afflicted are evil" (v.15). It is indeed pathetic to see anyone being afflicted all his life. He himself may not be to blame for it, and if so, the Lord's compassion toward him is "according to the multitude of His mercies" (Lam. 3:32). Only in Christ will such an one find relief. But there is a great contrast in one who is "of a merry heart," for he "has a continual feast." Thus, there is a great difference in the present activities of these two. If the merry heart is the result of genuine faith in the Lord Jesus, then the joy goes into eternity. Thus it is possible that he may be greatly blessed in this life and in eternity also. Another may have constant affliction here, then the contrast of eternal joy. Thus, while we are on earth, things seem unbalanced. Only in glory will such things be brought into perfect balance.
How often has it proven true that one is far better off to have little in the way of temporal possessions, together with the fear of the Lord than to have great wealth with its attendant headaches and troubles (v. 16). And though only herbs are available for a dinner, if love is present, this is much better than having the very best meal together with hatred! (v. 17). One aged man bore witness that when he and his wife had only a turnip for a meal, he never thanked the Lord more heartily for their food than at that time!
There are some men, sad to say, seem never to be able to control their temper, though it is evident that they are stirring up strife (v. 18). Perhaps they just like quarreling! How much better to be slow to anger, and thus at least keep contention from rising. "The way of a lazy man is like a hedge of thorns" (v. 19). He is not only indifferent, but is harmful to others. it is well observed that if we are not a help, we shall be a hindrance, and often such a hindrance that causes harm to others. On the contrary, "the way of the upright is like a highway," leading on to a certain destination with no impediments.
It has been implied before in this Book of Proverbs that "a wise son makes a glad father" (v. 20), but this bears repeating. How especially true it is of those who are sons of God. Certainly, God finds delight in them. But it is a foolish man indeed who dares to despise his mother. If she is not a faithful, gracious mother, he should be concerned for her rather than despising her, and if she is faithful, then his despising her is utterly reprehensible. "Folly is Joy to him who is destitute of discernment" (v. 21). Of course, it is totally unreasonable that anyone should take pleasure in foolishness, but there are those so devoid of discernment that they will not take time to think straight, and their walk is therefore crooked, while "a man of understanding walks uprightly."
"Without counsel, plans go awry" (v. 22), that is, they will never work out properly. If we want to make plans, let us be sure to seek the counsel of the Lord, who alone can keep us from blundering. Even Solomon, wise as he was, considered it necessary to have "a multitude of counselors." Thus, we should take others into our confidence as long as they are wise counselors; though we deeply need the word of God from which to seek the best counsel.
"A man has joy by the answer of his mouth." Of course, this supposes that his answer is good, and therefore of value to the questions addressed, which is confirmed by the additional words, "A word spoken in due season, how good it is!" (v. 23). Does this not encourage us to be always careful with our words, to speak even briefly at the proper time and in an appropriate way?
"The way of life winds upward for the wise, that he may turn away from hell below" (v. 24). This is wonderfully true, for one who is wise has set his sights on the glory of God, and all his pathway becomes more and more characterized by his desire to be with Christ. That upward way will inherently lead him to that heavenly destination.
How often does Proverbs remind us of the eventual sad end of those who are proud! Verse 25 tells us the Lord will destroy their house, however well they have provided for the long endurance of their house! That wealthy provision will perish with the house. But the widow, poor and dependent only on God's mercy, will find her borders established. How well it is for us to look on to the eventual end of our earthly journey!
Not only is the way of the wicked evil, but his thoughts are an abomination to the Lord. Because such a man knows that the people cannot read his mind, he confidently thinks that the Lord has not that ability! But before he carries his thoughts into execution, the Lord has judged them to be an abomination, that is, virtually idol worship. But the words of the pure (the expression of their thoughts) are pleasant.
"He who is greedy of gain," though he thinks his own house will profit by ill-gotten gains, is defeating his own ends, for he is inviting trouble to his own house. It is evident, in reading the last part of this verse (27) that the greedy man will foolishly accept bribes, but one who hates bribes will live: he will survive the temptation that leads to death.
"The heart of the righteous" is not hasty to answer questions that may be addressed to him, but takes time to carefully consider how to answer (v. 28). But the mouth of the wicked is always ready to pour forth multiplied words that only expose his ignorant folly. Consider the way in which the Lord Jesus answered the question of the scribes and Pharisees when they brought to Him a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:3-9). He first stooped down and wrote on the ground. The only One who would be humbled in considering a sinful occasion was the Lord Himself. Taking time, finally His only words were, "He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first" (John 8:7). His answer struck the consciences of the scribes and Pharisees, and the evil that first poured forth from their lips was totally stopped: they dismissed themselves! May we too have grace to consider our answers well.
Though the wicked may even use the Lord's name in their evil designs, the Lord is far from them (v. 29), but the righteous may have thorough confidence that the Lord hears their prayers. Indeed, this has been proven times without number, for the Lord not only hears, but answers.
"The light of the eyes rejoices the heart." This can be said only of a believer, for the unbeliever is blind and sees no light even in Him who was on earth "the light shining in darkness." We are exhorted to let our eye be single, for though we have two eyes, the right eye is no doubt the eye of faith, the left the eye of reason. But the most important is faith, though both, when in a healthy condition, receive the light from the Lord Jesus that rejoices the heart. Also, if we are given a good report, as was true of Demetrius (3 John 12), the bones (the very framework of the body) will be healthy, which will impart health to the whole body.
We all need rebukes, even if we are wise. In fact, in being wise we shall listen to rebukes and be thus corrected, and abide in the company of those who are wise (v. 31). But one who despises instruction despises his own soul, for even our own soul advises us to be careful and to think soberly. By taking rebuke to heart one also obtains understanding (v. 32), and this understanding will encourage his fear of the Lord, which is indeed the instruction of wisdom (v. 33). as well as "the beginning of wisdom." By taking the place of humble dependence on the Lord (which is the place of true humility), only then can we expect to find honor. May we seek and find grace from God to consistently humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. The results of this will be better than we ever anticipate.
The Need of Dependence on the Lord
"The preparations of the heart belong to man," that is, a man's heart devises what he wants, "but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord" (v. 1). The eventual outcome depends on what the Lord decrees by His Word. One may believe that his ways and actions are pure, but this is merely a personal opinion, which is often far from the truth, for the Lord weighs the spirits (v. 2). We may find some people "lighter than vanity," having a spirit that takes no time to consider the actual value of their ways. Therefore, before acting, how wise to commit our works to the Lord (v. 3), so that our thoughts may be properly established.
"The Lord has made all for Himself' (v. 4). We may assume that He has created the universe for the welfare and blessing of mankind, but this is not the primary reason. It is a for His own pleasure He has made everything. True enough, He does fully consider the welfare of His creatures, but this is a secondary consideration. We too should consider that it is our responsibility to give Him pleasure. If so, we shall be greatly blessed. But it is added here, "Yes, even the wicked for the day of doom." Though one may not fully understand this, yet we must credit Him with having perfect knowledge and wisdom in all that He does.
There are many who refuse to give consideration to such facts, being proud in heart as though they were self-made, independent creatures (v. 5). No wonder they are an abomination to the Lord. They may join others also of the same character in defiance of God's sovereignty, but only to receive their just punishment in the end.
Verse 6 anticipates the truth of the New Testament: "In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity." For in the many offerings of animals as sacrifices in the Old Testament, there was actually only a remembrance of sins, a reminder that sin had not been atoned for (Hebrews 10:3-4). The atonement has been provided only in the offering of the Lord Jesus on Calvary, a provision wonderful indeed in mercy and in truth, and which moves the heart of every honest person to truly fear the Lord and to depart from evil.
Verse 7 declares that which is a general rule, "When a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him." There are of course exceptions to this rule, for one may be persecuted when he is doing what is well pleasing to the Lord, as for instance, Stephen in Acts 6 and 7. But there are no exceptions to the principle stated in verse 8: "Better is a little with righteousness, than vast revenues without justice." The rich man in Luke 16 fared sumptuously every day, while Lazarus had nothing; but who would envy the rich man in his eventual end? (Lk. 16:19-31). That of Lazarus was certainly infinitely better!
"A man's heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps" (v. 9). A man may spend hours in planning what he will do, but the believer might well spare himself such hours of planning, and rather depend on the Lord to direct him in the way that is good. Of course we should not act without considering the way we go, but it is vital that a believer should take the Lord into his plans., leaving those plans flexible enough to allow the Lord occasion to change them if He will, and with the full confidence that the Lord will direct us rightly.
"Divination is on the lips of the king" (v. 10). This is preeminently true of the Lord Jesus, and in measure true of a king who acts rightly in maintaining authority. This involves discernment of spiritual matters, and if believers are acting consistently with the fact that they are "a royal priesthood" (1 Pet. 2:9), they will at least have some measure of "divination." For it is imperative that one in place of authority must not allow his mouth to transgress in judgment.
"Honest weights and scales are the Lord's, and the weights in the bag are his work" (v. 11). How good it is that the Lord weighs and measures everything in perfect truth, and if we are able to do this, the ability for it come from Him. For some kings, even kings of Israel, were utterly dishonest (such as Ahab), making themselves an abomination to the Lord (v. 12), and rather than their thrones being established, they were demolished.
Let us value the truth of 1 Peter 2:9 (mentioned above), that believers are given the dignity of kings, and we shall find true delight in "righteous lips" (v. 13). This is far from being enforced righteousness, for it is the glad response of faith to the great goodness of God. In practicing such kingly character, we shall love those who speak what is right.
Conversely, the king's wrath is as "messengers of death," which is certainly true as regards the anger of the Lord Jesus raised by the evil of ungodly men, and coming to a climax at the time of the Great Tribulation, when His judgment will be poured out and great numbers will be cut off in death. In the meanwhile, as regards such wrath, we are told "a wise man will appease it." Moses was such a wise man, interceding often for Israel, so that his faith was rewarded by God's amazing grace in sparing His people.
How appropriate it is to read, "In the light of the King's face is life, and His favor is like a cloud of the latter rain" (v, 15). When once the King's wrath is appeased (v. 14), He not only takes away suffering, but expresses His truth and love toward us by the pure light of His countenance, and bestows favor like a cloud of the latter rain, that is, refreshing blessing as the history of our failure and following restoration comes to its end. How full of goodness is our Lord!
Natural wealth, such as gold and silver (v. 16) is considered by men to be of supreme importance, so that they strive to make themselves more wealthy than others, and wisdom is forgotten. Yet wisdom is how much better than riches, as is understanding. Of course, wisdom is personified in Christ, who is infinitely better than the wealth of all the world.
"The highway of the upright is to depart from evil" (v. 17). The highway is a direct route to a desired destination. Psalm 84:5 speaks of the blessedness of the man "in whose heart are the highways." Byways may go to the right or to the left, and the highways are more conspicuous, but the believer should nevertheless go straight on toward the goal of being with Christ in glory. In this way too we "depart from evil." To keep in this way preserves our souls.
Yet we must not dare to be proud of the fact that we are on the highway (v. 18), for it is only God's pure grace that keeps us there, and pride is virtually turning into a dangerous byway. If we distrust ourselves, we shall be more likely to keep to the highway of dependence on the Lord. It is certainly a solemn warning that pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Let us abhor that unseemly confidence in the flesh!
If we have a truly humble spirit, we shall be thankful to enjoy the fellowship of the lowly (v. 19). In fact, this would include the fellowship of the Lord Jesus, who said, "I am meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. 11:29). How much better is such company than that of "the strong.," those who pride themselves on their ability to overcome others, to gain much "spoil." Do we want to share this kind of thing?
"He who heeds the Word wisely will find good" (v. 20). It is evident this refers to the Word of God, which is indeed the source of all good. The one who heeds it is wise indeed, for it involves his trusting in the Lord, which is true happiness. Being wise in heart (v. 21), he will earn the honor of being called prudent. He will know how to speak sweetly, in fellowship with others of lowly mind, and will increase in learning.
"Understanding is a wellspring of life to him who has it" (v. 22), for such character promotes the activity of life that is life indeed. But the correction of fools will not make them wise, rather it will confirm their folly, for they despise correction. Verse 23 is an interesting comment on the importance of the heart being stored with wisdom. When it is so, the heart teaches the mouth, adding learning to the lips. Then indeed, pleasant words will be the result, words like a honeycomb, stored with sweetness (v. 24). Others will recognize this as sweetness to their souls, tending to health in their bones, the framework of the body. Of course, this implies that the words are pleasant because of their spiritual value.
However, there is a warning given immediately, for pleasant words may be interpreted as giving approval to the way in which a person is acting. That way may seem right and yet the end of that way may be the way of death (v. 25). For instance, how many think it is right to occupy themselves with what they consider "good works" to earn a place for themselves in heaven! But the end of that way is not heaven, but death!
It is generally the sad rule that people labor for themselves (v. 26) being driven to do so often by the cravings of hunger. But the Lord Jesus told the people who were seeking Him because He had multiplied the loaves and fishes for them, "Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you" (John 6:27). Thus, this food is not a wage for labor, but a gift freely given by the Lord Jesus.
"An ungodly man digs up evil" (v. 27). He may pretend to be righteous in exposing evil, but his intention is to gloat over the wrongs of others, like a burning fire, with no desire for the recovery of those he accuses. If God should expose evil, it is with the desire that that offender might be brought to repentance and restoration; and if it is necessary for us to expose evil for what it is, we should certainly be honestly concerned for the restoration of the guilty. But the ungodly will continue to be perverse (v. 28), his actions and his words sowing strife, wherever he has any influence. The "whisperer" in this verse is one who underhandedly speaks to others about the failures or imagined failures of a certain person, thereby seeking to undermine confidence, and of course this leads to separations between friends. What contemptible work!
A violent man (v. 29), one who does not hesitate to use violence against others, will not be content to be alone in his cruel activity, but will entice others to join him in his evil actions. How vital it is that one should beware of such characters! Does he wink with his eye? Then we may be sure that deception is involved (v. 30). Pursing his lips may be a sign also to warn us to avoid him: he is not to be trusted.
"The silver-haired head is a crown of glory" (v. 3), but only on condition that it is found in the way of righteousness. Otherwise it is only a sign of approaching death and decay. How tragic is the case if this i so! The years of experience evidenced by silver hair should certainly make one slow to anger (v. 32), though some unsaved men never learn to control their temper in spite of the assurance that in doing so, they are "better than the mighty." One who rules his spirit is wiser than a warrior who captures a city. For the latter seeks to control others when he has not learned to control himself.
"The lot is cast into the lap," that is, like a dice being thrown, with people depending on "luck" to favor them. But the believer depends on God. Even if the above methods are used, it is not luck that disposes the result, but the Lord, who intervenes in men's activities (v. 33).
How Do We Use Our Knowledge?
Every believer should certainly agree that it is preferable to have very little food, with quietness than to have a house full of feasting, along with quarreling (v. 1). How contrary this is to the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. There Christ is in the midst, and in His presence how could strife and arguing find the least place?
Christ too is the wise Servant who knows how to rule over, not only an obedient son, but over one whose character is unruly (v. 2). How many there are who are so frustrated by a son of this kind that they lose ability to keep him in any measure of control! But proper government will have eventual good results, so that the unruly son will share in the inheritance divided with his brothers.
The refining pot for silver and the furnace for gold are used here as symbols of the way in which the Lord tries the hearts of mankind (v. 3). We all need the heat of adverse circumstances to test us, and the Lord uses this wisely, not overheating, but supplying sufficient heat to be so felt as to have a serious influence over our lives. Silver and gold are valuable, so that these are used to represent believers, who are of great value to God, therefore worth the time and labor He expends in dealing with them.
Let us seriously consider too that one who gives heed to false lips is an evildoer (v. 4). How careful we should be to check closely on the reliability of anything that is told us, especially if there is any question of the veracity of the informer. Similarly, "a liar listens eagerly to a spiteful tongue." Actually, anyone should be able to discern spitefulness in the way another talks of other people, and refuse to accept what he says. those who listen to such filth must themselves be liars.
"He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker" (v. 5). This is preeminently true in the case of the Lord Jesus, who, though rich in glory, became poor that we through His poverty might be rich (2 Cor. 8:9). Men dare to mock at Him, and in so doing reproach the God who made them. But this is not the end of the story! In the same verse we are told that "he who is glad at calamities shall not go unpunished." Only a grossly perverse person could take any pleasure in others suffering from calamities. If the calamity affected him, he would not have the same foolish attitude! Verse 6 speaks of grandchildren being the crown of old men. How pleasant a crown this is when both are believers! Similarly, when the grandfather knows the Lord, the children have real occasion to "glory" (v. 6).
"Excellent speech is not becoming to a fool" (v. 7). If he speaks with good words and fair speeches, it is always because he has an ulterior motive, and we should not be deceived by him. On the other hand, a prince, one in the place of dignity and honor, is grossly out of order if he stoops to voicing falsehood.
If we think of a present (v. 8) as being the gift of eternal life though Jesus Christ our Lord, we can well understand its being likened to a precious, valuable stone when we possess it. In every direction this will prosper, for we shall be glad to share it with others.
"He who covers a transgression seeks love' (v. 9). This does not refer to one's covering his own transgression, which we ought to confess honestly to the Lord, but we should not expose another's transgression unless is a matter that affects others. But there are matters of lesser importance that we may hear, but ought not to repeat, for such indiscretion may lead to separating friends.
A wise man will take a rebuke to heart (v.10), while a fool will not be corrected by 100 blows, for the blows will likely serve rather to increase his resentment than to help him. Such rebellion is found always in an evil man (v. 11). For this reason, even civil government will send a cruel messenger to deal with him, and he should expect no less cruel a messenger to be sent by God.
Verse 12 may seem rather startling, for a bear robbed of her cubs would be a fearful enemy indeed! Yet it is better for such a bear to meet a man than for fool in his folly to meet him!
The most exaggerated case in history of rewarding evil for good is that of the scribes and Pharisees condemning to death the Son of God, who had consistently done nothing but good toward them at all times. No wonder evil has not departed from the habitation of such men and their successors, who have the same attitude. That nation Israel has suffered evil of the most dreadful kind for centuries since then.
"The beginning of strife is like releasing water" (v. 14). It may be that a dam has kept the water in control, but if the dam is breached to allow water to flow, that water can cause terrible damage. Therefore, let us not allow the water to breach the dam, that is, stop contention before it erupts in a bitter quarrel.
It is very likely that one who justifies the wicked will also condemn the just, in which case the offender brings upon himself the double judgment as an abomination to the Lord (v. 15). Such a man qualifies as a fool, and though he would offer money as a purchase price of wisdom, he has no heart for wisdom at all (v. 16). In fact, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and one who lacks the beginning cannot expect to go farther.
"A friend loves at all times" (v. 17). How true this is of the Lord: whether we may be fully obedient or disobedient, His love remains the same. That love may call for Him to discipline us, "for who a father loves he chastises," and we should thank God for His gracious concern in correcting us. Also, "a brother is born for adversity," that is, the Lord gives us brothers to help when times of adversity try us.
"A man devoid of understanding shakes hands in a pledge, and becomes surety for his friend" (v. 18). By doing this, we do not know how badly we shall suffer through this indiscretion, for this involves making promises that we may find ourselves unable to keep. There is no reason for a believer to ever make such a pledge, though there are numerous organizations that use the method of urging people to make a pledge of a certain amount of money. If one wants to give to any project, let him do it without any pledge whatever.
Verse 19 shows that willing transgression leads to strife, and he who indulges in this is the type of person who seeks the exaltation of his own gate, that is, of what he possesses. He little realizes that in such activity he is seeking his own destruction. His deceitful heart does not only deceive others, but deceives himself, and he finds no good. A perverse tongue will follow a deceitful heart, and plunge the person into evil (v. 20).
The father and mother of a scoffer cannot but reap sorrow. In this case it may be a question as to how they have trained him, for if a child is trained in the way he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it. But it is certainly no joy for parents to have a fool for a child.
"A merry heart does good like a medicine" (v. 22). Of course, the only who is entitled to have a merry heart is a believer, though some are more happy than others. If so, they do good in encouraging others. A broken spirit will have the opposite effect, and if this malady affects a believer, he should immediately seek the grace of God to overcome it.
One who secretly accepts a bribe to pervert the ways of justice is very clearly a wicked man (v. 23). In contrast to this, one who has understanding will consistently act wisely, while "the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth," that is, with no clear object in mind, but wandering in every direction in the futile hope of finding some satisfaction.
It has been observed before in Proverbs that "a foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him." How vitally important it is, therefore, that children should be carefully guarded by their parents from evil influences and taught diligently the truth of the Word of God, for it is that Word alone that can be trusted to gain good results.
Verse 26 is certainly true, and in fact an understatement. Joseph was punished by imprisonment for acting righteously (Gen. 39:11-20), but God rewarded him for his faith and honesty. Daniel was a prince (Dan. 6:12), yet thrown into a den of lions. But God preserved him.
One who has true knowledge does not try to blab out all he knows, but rather spare his words, for he knows the multitude of words always involves sin in some way. So that, in a true sense of understanding, he has a calm spirit (v. 27). Others observe this, so that even though one is a fool, he will be counted wise if he keeps quiet (v. 28). At least in that instance he is not acting as a fool.
Warnings Against Folly
Many people are naturally withdrawn and retiring, and this can sometimes have its advantages, but if it leads one to isolationism, this is mere selfishness: he is seeking his own desire (v. 1), and becomes practically a law unto himself. Therefore, he rages against all wise judgment. For he thinks he is right, and that all others are wrong. This is a danger even when saints are reduced to a small number with whom to fellowship. Faith in God may keep them small, but this is no reason to have feelings of pride or of belittling others. In fact, at all times we should have honest care and concern for the welfare of all the saints of God everywhere.
This is true understanding, in which a fool has no delight (v. 2). Rather than concern for others, he takes delight in expressing the vanities of his own heart, which is of no help to anyone. He may come to the company of others only to expose his wickedness (v. 3), and his contempt for all that is honorable. Such dishonor will certainly earn reproach from those who recognize its actual character.
"The words of a man's mouth are deep waters" (v. 4). They may be deep with wise discernment, or they may be deep with subtlety and deceit. How careful should we be to have good control over our words! If so, they become practically a "wellspring of wisdom," like a flowing brook, attracting and refreshing.
Everyone should certainly know that "it is not good to show partiality to the wicked," yet this disease is a very common one. Also, it is common for men to do their utmost to "overthrow the righteous in judgment" (v. 5). Simple honesty would lead us to abhor such practices, and to lead to what is good and profitable.
"A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calls for blows" (v. 6). How contrary to the character of peacemakers! Believers are told, "If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men" (Ro. 12:18). Sad to say, a fool will not be content to live peaceably. When he opens his mouth, he practically invites blows from others, for his mouth is his destruction (v. 7).
Connected with all such words are the words of a talebearer, which are like wounds that penetrate into the inmost body, that is, they deeply affect the feelings (v. 8). For if one is given to tale bearing, he is almost certain to exaggerate, for he desires to put his victim in the worst light possible. This is bad work.
"He who is slothful in his work is a brother to him who is a great destroyer" (v. 9). For his laziness necessarily causes loss, not only in wasted time, but in work being so sloppily done that it is worse than useless. He might as well destroy his employer's property, for he is virtually being the same as a destroyer. From all of this kind of thing, how marvelous is the refuge of the name of the Lord! It is a strong tower into which the righteous gladly run to find perfect safety (v. 10). When we find such a tower of strength, we are well protected from laziness and from destroying influences.
"The rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a high wall in his own esteem" (v. 11). But how often a rich man finds that, in spite of his feeling secure, his riches give him no true satisfaction. Jay Gould, an American millionaire, is reported to have said not long before he died, "I suppose I am the most miserable devil on earth." For a short time, a rich man's wealth may seem to him like a high wall of protection. This is merely his own estimation, which can rapidly change!
When a man is brought to destruction, there is no doubt that he has before had a haughty heart (v. 12). Even King Uzziah, a believer, because of his prospering greatly, "when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction" (2 Chron. 26:16). In his case, this was not the destruction of eternal judgment, but the destruction of his testimony, for he became a leper till the day of his death. But one who is characterized by true humility will find eventually honor that is commendable and real.
Are we inclined to answer a case before we have heard it fully? this is folly and shame! (v. 13). Even David did this once, when Ziba lied to him about Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 16:1-4), and when later David was corrected, he acted unfairly, to save his own reputation (2 Sam. 19:24-30). Even he therefore was guilty of folly and shame!
"The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness" (v. 14). This is especially true of one has rule over his own spirit, for the spirit is the strongest entity in man, given by God to have precedence over soul and body. But if the spirit is broken, the whole person is broken down, and who can bear this? "The heart (the inmost being) of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge" (v. 15). If the ear seeks, then certainly the heart will acquire. It is evident that knowledge is not just intuitive: it is acquired, and in fact it generally enters by the ear. May we have listening ears!
If one is gifted with knowledge, that gift will make room for him. He will have no need to advertise himself or to press himself forward: it will be evident that God has gifted him, so that people will respond to this (v. 16). It will bring him before great men. This does not mean before men who gain greatest prominence in the world, but those who are great in reality, not in outward show, but in spiritual truth.
One who is able to present his own case in a plausible, persuasive way may seem to be right, but we had better be careful about receiving this testimony, for his neighbor may come and question him in such a way that a completely different result is brought to light (v. 17). For the tendency of every person is to put himself in the most favorable light.
"Casting lots causes contentions to cease, and keeps the mighty apart (v. 18). This is one good way of settling arguments, for Proverbs 16:33 tells us, "The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord." it is not merely chance, but the Lord disposes the matter as He sees fit.
A brother offended is harder go be won than a strong city, and contentions are like the bars of a castle" (v. 19). The close relationship does not help in a case like this, but usually is cause for more aggravation. Yet, if we are concerned enough about winning a brother, the grace of God working in our hearts can accomplish this if we judge our own motives in lowliness before the Lord. The meaning of verse 20 does not seem so clear to the writer as to give confidence in making any comments on it.
"Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (v. 21). For this reason, how careful we should be in the way we use our tongue! The apostles, being ministers of the new covenant, used their tongues to communicate the Word of God to others, with serious results, first, to "those who are perishing," to whom they were "an aroma of death leading to death," but to believers "the aroma of life leading to life' (2 Cor. 2:15-16). The latter are "those who love it."
"He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor of the Lord" (v. 22). This is normally true, for as the Lord said in Genesis 2:18, "It is not good that man should be alone." There are exceptions, as we well know, for sometimes wives become virtual snares to their husbands, as for instance Jezebel, who stirred up her husband Ahab to do evil (1 Kings 21:25). But Proverbs 31:10-31 gives a lovely contrast to this example of evil, showing the great blessing of finding a virtuous woman. But it is not a man's good character that deserves a virtuous wife, but rather the favor (or grace) of the Lord that brings her to him.
In desiring to be heard a poor man will use entreaties (v. 23), which is wise, but very commonly a rich man may be harsh in answering, just as was the case with Rehoboam, when the ten tribes of Israel requested that he should ease the yoke of taxes that his father had imposed. Though taking time to consider this, he harshly told them, "My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!" Because he was rich, he thought he could get away with such cruelty, but the scourge came back to his own head.
Interestingly, verse 24 is translated in J.N.D.'s version, "A man of many friends will come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." To have one faithful friend is far better than having many friends, for there will be no unity among others as regards what they may approve. The one Friend in this verse who remains closer than a brother is of course the Lord Jesus. He will not flatter us, nor will He betray us, but is faithful and true in everything. He is always a Friend of believers, and He assures us, "You are My friends if you do whatever I command you" (John 14:15). Of course, if we are disobedient, we are not acting as His friends at all. May we be truly His friends, just as He is our Friend.
"Better is the poor who walks in his integrity than one who is perverse in his lips, and is a fool" (v. 1). This should be so evident as to need little comment, for who would rather be a wealthy fool than a poor wise man? Certainly, only one already a fool would desire this. In this case the person is without knowledge (v. 2). it is interesting that it is added here, "and he sins who hastens with his feet." This seems to imply that one who is without knowledge is liable to rush into action for which he is not prepared. May we be preserved from such sin!
Verse 3 shows that a man's foolishness will cause his entire way to be twisted out of any recognizable shape. Nor will he blame himself for this, but instead will fret against the Lord, as though the Lord was to blame for his foolishness!
"Wealth makes many friends" (v. 4). Of course, the selfishness of men is the reason for this, but if the wealthy man accepts these many friends, we have seen in chapter 18:24 that this will cause his ruin. On the other hand, "the poor is separated from his friend," which is often the case because the friend is not of a faithful character.
Verse 5: "A false witness will certainly be punished," however long it may take. How many thousands of these will stand before the Great White Throne, and be consigned to the punishment of the lake of fire! Indeed, all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Rev. 21:8).
"Many entreat the favor of the nobility, and every man is a friend to one who gives gifts" (v. 6). This is generally the case in a corrupt world, though men contrarily are the enemies of the greatest Giver of all good, who offers eternal life as a gift to all mankind, and men dare to treat Him with scorn and contempt!
How pathetic is the very general condition that "all the brothers of the poor hate him" (v. 7). Thankfully, this is not the case if the brothers have been born again. If so, they will do what they can for his welfare. Similarly, if one becomes poor, he is apt to lose his friends unless they know the Lord. If they are without faith in the Lord, it is useless for him to try to bring them back to be friendly. In fact, he is better off to be deprived of that kind of friendship. But a verse like this should impress us with the decision to be friendly to the poor.
Verse 8 shows that it is true love to one's own soul to obtain wisdom, for in this his soul will truly prosper. Then having obtained it, that same wisdom will move him to keep understanding, and thus find good. Verse 9 is a repetition of verse 5, which is intended to show its importance. Only the last phrase is slightly changed to read, ""shall perish" instead of "shall not escape."
Luxury is not fitting for a fool" (v. 10). Evidently Ehud believed this, for while Eglon, king of Moab, was sitting in his private cool chamber, Ehud very quickly deprived him of this luxury by killing this extremely fat man (Judges 3:18-22). He had evidently taken advantage of his luxury to allow his appetite its fullest indulgence! As to a servant ruling over princes, Zimri was a servant of Elah, king of Israel, and killed his master in order to take the throne (1 Kings 16:9), but he reigned only seven days, then committed suicide (1 Kings 16:8-18).
Discretion is certainly a virtue of great value, making a man slow to anger (v. 11), and if so, he will not be harsh in judging what may be a minor transgression. We all know that we are guilty of transgression at times, and if we are harsh in our judgments, we shall likely find harsh judgment coming back to us.
"The king's wrath is like the roaring of a lion" (v. 12). It is true that though the King of kings, the Lord Jesus, is most patient in bearing with evil, yet when His wrath is awakened by the stubborn evil of men, it is certainly like the roaring of a lion. Conversely, "His favor is like dew on the grass," sustaining the pure freshness of life.
Solomon had sad reason to write that "a foolish son is the ruin of his father (v. 13), for his son Rehoboam certainly acted foolishly after taking the throne. Perhaps Solomon felt himself to be a ruined man before he died. In fact, it is most likely that he wrote from experience when adding, "the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping." For it seems certain that in his having 700 wives, at least some of them were contentious. Does it not seem that a home would hardly be a home if a man had both a contentious wife and a foolish son?
"Houses and riches are an inheritance from fathers" (v. 14). This is often the case, as 2 Corinthians 12:14 confirms, "For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children." This is not only true naturally, but specially so spiritually. And added to this is the good reminder, "a prudent wife is from the Lord." The parents of a young man cannot provide this, so how important it is that he should fully depend on the Lord for finding the wife that will do him good all his life.
"He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord" (v. 17). the Lord takes full account of such matters, and will always recompense the liberality that considers those who are in need. All one has to do in order to prove this is to fully practice such kindness. But it is just as definite kindness to exercise discipline in training our children (v. 18). This will result also in producing good results. "Do not set your heart on his destruction," that is, let us not decide to be so lenient in caring for them that it will lead to their destruction.
"A man of great wrath will suffer punishment" (v. 19). By the time he comes of age, he should have learned to control his temper. But when he by his temper gets himself into trouble, and you rescue him from the ensuing consequences, this will not change him. You can expect the same thing to happen again.
"Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days" (v. 20). If, when we are young, we are rightly disposed, we shall keenly feel our lack of wisdom, and to have a listening ear is of vital importance. If so, the result will be wisdom in our latter days. Then verse 21 tells us "there are many plans in a man's heart." But a Scottish poet has written, "The best laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley." We all know by experience that our plans are too often brought to nothing; but the counsel of the Lord will always stand. How important then that we acquaint ourselves with His reliable Word, to have our plans conformable to His will.
"What is desired in a man is kindness" (v. 22). Certainly, we always appreciate this in others, therefore we ought to do as we desire others to do to us. But tied in with this is the reminder, "a poor man is better than a liar." Often poor men are more kind than the wealthy, and certainly more appreciated than are liars.
"The fear of the Lord leads to life" (v. 23). Of course, this fear is not a slavish fear, but reverential, simply giving the Lord His rightful place in authority over us. His authority is always kind and gracious, so that one who has this godly fear will remain fully content, without evil intruding into his pathway.
Verse 24 again reproves laziness, which is shown to be actual stupidity. Such a person will very likely become a scoffer (v. 25), that is, scoffing at what is sensible, in order to defend his own laziness. If he gets repaid for this by harsh treatment, others who may be inclined to scoff will also become wary. Of course, we should not take the law into our own hands to physically attack another, but we can use words effectively that will strike into a man's conscience. This is certainly the case when a rebuke is necessary, and a wise man will discern and profit by it.
The law of Moses had said, "Honor your father and your mother." and if one will dare to mistreat his father and chase away his mother, the results will eventually be even worse than bringing shame and reproach (v. 26), for shame and reproach may be the immediate result of such evil, before the eyes of others, but the guilty perpetrator of this evil will also have to answer to God for it.
Verse 27 is a necessary warning for many, those who get tired of listening to sound instruction. Joash evidently listened to instruction as long as Jehoidah the priest lived, but he ceased to so listen (2 Chronicles 24:17-22), choosing rather to serve idols, so that soon his own servants conspired against him and stoned him to death. He did indeed stray from the words of knowledge.
"A disreputable witness scorns justice" (v. 25), for he has given himself up to falsehood and does not care if others suffer from his wicked testimony, it is a most striking comment, "the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity." They may well expect the severe punishment of verse 29: "Judgments are prepared for scoffers, and beatings for the back of fools" (v. 29).
Warnings and Encouragement
If one will pay serious attention to warnings, then he is ready to receive encouragement. Verse 1 is a plain warning. While "a little wine" may be beneficial for one's stomach (1 Tim. 5:23), yet when it is indulged in simply because a person likes it, it becomes "a mocker" (v. 1). turning the drinker into a brawler. His lack of wisdom in this may lead him badly astray, as great number have learned by experience.
"The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion" (v. 2). If this is true of any earthly king, how much more true of the King of kings, the Lord Jesus. Only a very foolish man will dare to provoke Him to anger, for this is to his own detriment: he sins against his own life. Matthew 22:1-14 illustrates this graphically. In this case, the King had arranged a marriage for His Son, and sent His servants to call the invited guests at the proper time. But the guests made light of it and refused to come, even going to the extreme of murdering His servants. Such an insult moved the King to send His armies to destroy those murderers and to burn up their city (v. 7). Then, when other guests were invited, one came with no wedding garment. Since such garments were provided with each invitation, it was an insult to the King to appear without that garment. This moved the King to order the guest to be bound hand and foot and consigned to "outer darkness." Of course, no earthly king could order such punishment, but the King of kings is perfectly justified in doing this. Let all mankind be therefore careful not to in any way incur the wrath of the eternal God. It is clear from verse 3 that an honorable man will desist from quarreling, "since any fool can start a quarrel." Sheba (2 Sam. 20:1) proved this true in taking advantage of a disagreement in Israel between the men of Israel and the men of Judah, but he suffered terrible consequences within a short time, having his head cut off (2 Sam. 20:22).
If a lazy man decides not to plow because the weather is cold, of course he will have no crop, and when others are harvesting, he will beg from them (v. 4). If he had been wise, he might have sought the counsel of one who was wise enough to store counsel in his heart like deep waters (v. 5). But a lazy man is too lazy to seek such counsel, while a man of understanding will draw out the counsel he needs.
"Most men will proclaim each his own goodness" (v. 6). This is just as true today as when it was written. The Pharisee of Luke 18:11-12 would tell God how much better he was than other men, but the Lord said of him, "Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled" (v. 14). "But who can find a faithful man?" Thus, faithfulness is put in contrast to pride, for one who is faithful can be depended on just to tell the truth, and the truth will never favor our pride.
The walk of the righteous man will be that of integrity, and the normal result of this will be the true blessing of his children (v. 7). Abraham is an example of this integrity, and the Lord said of Him, "I have known him, in order that he may command his children after him, that they keep the way of the Lord, to do righteousness and justice" (Gen. 18:19).
Verse 8 is particularly applicable to Him who is the King of kings. When He takes His rightful place of sitting on the throne of judgment, His very eyes will discern and judge the evil of mankind. How can men think of meeting those eyes of penetrating discernment without being totally subdued?
"Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" If one dared to say that, he would only be adding to his sin the guilt of gross falsehood. Only God can cleanse people's hearts, and that by virtue of the sacrifice of His beloved Son.
"Diverse weights and diverse measures, they are both alike an abomination to the Lord" (v. 10). A merchant may have one scale to weigh products that come to him, and another to weigh what he sells to customers. If so, he will certainly not do this in order that he may suffer loss from either! — and he is guilty of what is an abomination to the Lord.
If "even a child is known by his deeds, whether what he does is pure and right" (v. 11), then how can his elders expect to get away with impure and unrighteous actions? But there are many who are as stupid as this. Do they forget that others have been given by God a hearing ear and a seeing eye"? (v. 12).
"Do not love sleep, lest you come to poverty" (v. 13). Sleep is necessary within certain limits, but when over-indulged, it becomes mere laziness, which is certainly no means of prospering. It is only when we have opened eyes that we shall be able to earn a living.
Verse 14 shows that what men often consider business acumen is actual dishonesty. When buying, one will greatly belittle the value of a product, then when he secures it. he will boast about how great a bargain he was able to make. It seems that men at that time were no different than they are now!
In comparison to "gold and a multitude of rubies" (v.15), the lips of knowledge are a much more precious jewel, far more to be desired than great riches, and never to be acquired by means of those riches. Rather, they require consistent energy of faith in learning from God.
As to verse 16 I make no comment, for I am sorry not to fully understand it, but verse 17 is surely easily understood. There are many who actually pride themselves in using deceit to swindle others for their own gain, and at first the results seem sweet to him, but not for too long! Eating such bread of deceit will cause his mouth to be filled with gravel, rather than being nourishing.
"Plans are established by counsel" (v. 18). If we depend simply on the counsel of the Lord, our plans will be well established. There are times, however, - that we do not have clear direction from scripture as to what we plan, and if so, it is often wise to consult with godly friends, who may be able to direct us to scriptural principles that will help in such matters. When it is a matter of waging war with the enemy of our souls, it is a true benefit to have wise counsel from those who ' seek the honor of the Lord.
Verse 19 very clearly infers that one who has a character of tale bearing is the very one who also flatters others, and it is only wise to keep clear of such a person. He may tell you the secrets of someone else, and add his own opinions to put that person in a bad light, and in doing so may flatter one who listens to him, so that he may find out his secrets also. We can certainly do without such friends!
The dreadful evil of cursing (or speaking badly of) one's father or mother will lead to a dreadful end. "His lamp (any testimony whatever he may have) will — be put out in deep darkness." If this is not repented of, the end is certainly "the blackness of darkness forever."
"An inheritance gained hastily at the beginning will not be blessed at the end' (v. 21). There are many who fall for "get rich quick" schemes, but all of these will require dishonesty in some way, and God will see to it that this will end in worse than disappointment.
It is always a temptation to think of returning evil if we are treated badly. But if I say, "Look what so and so did to me: he is an evil man," then if I do the same to him, I make myself an evil man. How much better it is to commend the matter to the Lord, and wait for His intervention. He will take care of the matter far better than I can (v. 22).
We have been told before about diverse weights and dishonest scales, but evidently such things are so common as to need repetition (v. 23) as to God's view of them.
It is an unusual person who realizes that his steps are "of the Lord," for very few would stop to think that they are not at all in control of the way that they walk (v. 24). And if one looks back to consider all his past, will he understand it? No: he cannot. How important then that we commit our way to the Lord, and in doing so, to trust Him for the results (Psalm 37:5).
Verse 25. Jephthah fell into the snare of making a vow without due consideration of what the result might be. He vowed to the Lord that if He would give him victory over the Ammonites, then when he returned, whatever first came from his house to meet him he would offer as a burnt offering to the Lord (Judges 11:30-31). This was certainly a rash vow. Did he expect his wife or daughter to meet him? No. But why not? When his daughter came out, he was shocked and blamed her for bringing him very low (v. 35), instead of blaming his own foolishness. Then, though he delayed offering her for a time, yet he kept his foolish vow, sacrificing his only child. How vital therefore is the instruction of the Lord Jesus in Matthew 5:34, "But I say to you, do not swear at all." We may be asked to make a pledge or a promise, but how much better to do good than to promise to do so!
A wise king sifts out the wicked" ((v. 26). When the Lord Jesus takes His throne, He will "gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and those who practice lawlessness, and will cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matt. 13:41-42). Bringing "the threshing wheel over them" reminds us that the chaff will be excluded in the harvest.
"The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord" (v. 27). It is the Lord who gives man a spirit by which he ought to be enlightened, and will be if he considers what his spirit seeks to teach him, for his spirit is characterized by knowledge (1 Cor. 3:11), understanding and conscience, which should certainly take the lead over natural desire and feelings, which are the characteristics of the soul. Thus, the Lord has given us in our spirits the ability to search the inner depths of our hearts, though we too often ignore this and do as our soul’s desire.
"Mercy and truth preserve the king" (v. 28). If a king shows mercy and truth in his dealings, his own honor and dignity will be preserved, though the kings of Judah and Israel were generally faulty in this matter, and failed to represent the Lord Jesus, the King of God's choice. When He reigns, the perfection of His mercy and truth and of His lovingkindness will be always beautifully displayed.
"The glory of young men is their strength" (v. 29). This is particularly true spiritually, as 1 John 2:14 confirms, "I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the Word of God abides in you." These young men are those who have developed by faith in taking in the Word of God, showing the vigor of youth in standing for that Word. The grey head of older men ideally indicates splendor in maturity, though not all old men show evidence of natural wisdom, for not all know the Lord.
"Blows that hurt cleanse away evil, as do stripes the inner depths of the heart" (v. 30). It is often necessary for the Lord to hurt us to make us listen to His voice. "Whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives" (Heb. 12:6). Sadly, unbelievers generally only rebel against discipline, so that this verse is fully true only of believers. People today foolishly object to having even children corrected by painful treatment, but if they love their children, they will not spare the rod. It was most interesting to hear of the case of a young boy in a home for orphans, who said to the supervisor of this home, "You love your own boy more than you love me." The supervisor was shocked to hear this, for he had tried to be fair to all the boys. He asked the boy why he said this, and was told, "You spank your own boy and you don't spank me." Thus, even young children are often more discerning than many who are older.
Further Wise Counsel
It is true, not only of believing kings, but of all kings, that their hearts are in the hand of the Lord (v. 1). They may think they are independently sovereign, but the Lord knows how to dispose their hearts to do His will. Even Cyrus the king of Persia was influenced by God to write a proclamation to be circulated in his kingdom, "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the Lord God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. Who is among you of all the people? May the Lord his God be with him, and let him go up!" (2 Chron. 36:23). God had so spoken to Cyrus that this made him willing to do what present-day neighbors of Israel would refuse utterly, to build anything for Israel's benefit.
"Every way of a man is right in his own eyes" (v.2). Even though in many things a man's conscience will trouble him, he is adept enough to silence this irritation by subtle reasoning, to make evil appear to be good. How much wiser he would be to use the Lord's scales, and thereby to be brought to repentance. For "the Lord weighs the hearts."
"A haughty look, a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked is sin" (v. 4). No doubt a haughty look is the result of a proud heart, and both are sin. Pride will lead a man to offer a sacrifice to make another overlook his guilty actions, as in verse 3, but what he wants is recognition of his (pretended) generosity. It appears to be work, as plowing is, but such things are works of the flesh, therefore sinful.
"The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty" (v. 5). One reason for this is that such a person will not be planning simply for his own welfare, and the result of this will be that he will have plenty to share with others. Interestingly, however, those who make plans hastily are in danger of suffering want, for this lacks the diligence of sober, discerning wisdom in making plans. It is well said that "haste makes waste."
Haste also may lead to dishonesty, and especially so when one sees an opportunity of gaining wealth by manipulating the truth (v. 6). It may seem a simple matter to get away with lying, but this is "the fleeting fantasy of those who seek death." Truth will very soon catch up to them, to make them realize that their actions have actually been those of seeking death, though they had not discerned this.
There are those also who are violent, with temper rising to the point of explosion, but the explosion will destroy them, just as is seen in terrorists who resort to suicide attacks. They do not even consider justice, but act out of foolish rage.
"The way of a guilty man is perverse; but as for the pure, his work is right" (v. 8). When once a man has become guilty of whatever evil, he will try every perverse way to cover it, rather than to confess it to the Lord to find forgiveness. The pure in heart will be known by their right works, however.
It may be that Solomon learned the truth of verse 9 by experience, for he had too many wives, but we do not read of him dwelling in the corner of a housetop! Of course, he was wealthy enough to give his wives their own houses, so that he might see them only when he pleased!
"The soul of the wicked desires evil" (v. 10). His spirit would protest against this, but his lust overcomes his better judgment. Certainly, it would be sensible to show kindness, or favor, to his neighbor, but his good sense succumbs to his bad temper.
"When the scoffer is punished, the simple is made wise" (v. 11). Who would want to follow the example of the scoffer after seeing him punished for his folly? At least the simple would not, though wicked men will refuse to be corrected, no matter how severely others suffer for this evil. The wise, on the other hand, will not even need such measures to preserve them. They will receive knowledge in being instructed. How much better to learn by hearing the Word of God than to require painful experience by which to learn!
"The righteous God wisely considers the house of the wicked, overthrowing the wicked for their wickedness" (v. 12). We see this to be true of various wicked kings of Israel, some who were used by God to overthrow others, then they in turn being overthrown by someone else.
"Whoever shuts his ears at the cry of the poor will also cry himself and not be heard" (v. 23). it may be a long time before such recompense falls, for in the case of Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19-31), Lazarus even desired to be fed with the crumbs that fell from the rich man's table, without having that desire fulfilled. But when the rich man died and was tormented in hades, he cried out for Lazarus to dip his finger in water to cool his tongue, but this was denied him. Terrible retribution! But his whole life on earth had been one of mere self-seeking.
While verse 14 is true of men's dealings with one another, and bribes are commonly used to secure the favor or silence of another, this does not at all mean that God approves of such bribes, He does not.
It is a joy for the just to do justice" (v. 15). How fully true this will be proven to be so when the Lord Jesus takes His place of reigning eventually. It will be a joy to Him to justly deal with all mankind, and it will be a joy to them also. In contrast, the workers of iniquity will be brought down to destruction.
"A man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the assembly of the dead" (v. 16). Such a man has not found rest in the Lord, so that the way of understanding has no attraction for him. But what can he find in any other way? The only rest he can find is in the fellowship of those who are spiritually dead. But it is a false rest, empty as death.
"He who loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich" (v. 17). In fact, concerning the woman of this kind we are told, "She who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives" (1 Tim. 5:6). How much better to be a follower of the Lord Jesus who was "a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53:3). For His sorrow and grief was only temporary, with results of eternal joy. Indeed, in suffering with Him, we inherit eternal riches.
"The wicked will be a ransom for the righteous, and the unfaithful for the upright" (v. 18). This certainly does not mean that the wicked could take the place of the Lord Jesus as a ransom to take away sins, but rather that the wicked will be made to bear suffering while the righteous go free. Not that the wicked choose this willingly, as the Lord Jesus chose willingly to be a ransom for our sins, but the wicked will be made to feel the effects of sin while the righteous are delivered from this.
"Better to dwell in the wilderness than with a contentious and angry woman" (v. 19). It is sad if a woman has not learned to control herself, and a man must be greatly lacking in discernment if he marries such a woman.
"There is desirable treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise" (v. 20). This is certainly true spiritually, for the believer is blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ, an infinitely wonderful treasure; and he has the oil of the Holy Spirit by which to enjoy all this. But a foolish man has no true appreciation of the riches of God in Christ Jesus, and would squander all true blessing on the lusts of the flesh.
Only a true believer will follow righteousness and mercy; righteousness involving truth and honesty, and mercy the compassion of kind consideration (v. 21). But in doing so we shall be rewarded with righteousness and honor.
"A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the trusted stronghold" (v. 2). The walls of Jericho were no problem for Joshua and his army. But it was not Joshua's skill that accomplished the destruction of Jericho. He was wise, however, in depending on God to bring about such results, while the trusted stronghold of the enemy. was brought to nothing.
"Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles" (v.23). Hezekiah knew this to be true when he ordered his people not to answer the defiant words of Rabshakeh, servant of Sennacharib, when he came to surround Jerusalem with the intention of destroying the city (2 Kings 18:36). The Lord answered the faith of their silence, and preserved them from the threatened harm.
The man who is proud and haughty is given the name of "scoffer," for he dares to scoff at all that is good and honest, but above all at God and everything connected with God (v. 24). He acts with such arrogant pride that even God Himself is degraded in his eyes. Of course, this will be true of the antichrist, who will dare to take the place of God in Jerusalem in the last days.
It is evident in verse 25 that a lazy man has desire, but what is desire without the energy to accomplish such desire? But that coveting desire will kill him, for he refuses to labor. He continues to covet "all day long," whereas, if he worked, he would have no need to covet. In fact, the righteous have no reason to covet, for they will have enough to not only satisfy them, but to give to those in need without sparing (v. 26).
Though the wicked may think they should be approved by making sacrifices, these are only an abomination to God (v. 27), for they are given with the object of making up for their otherwise wicked actions. Only the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary can avail to cover their sins, but they have no heart for this at all. But it is worse still when one brings a sacrifice with a wicked intent, that is, with the object of getting something more in return! But there are those who engage in such stupidity.
How seriously should a false witness consider the truth of verse 28: "A false witness shall perish." He should know perfectly well that he deserves this. Yet one who accepts the false witness as though it were true "will speak endlessly," that is, he will not cease to argue the case with others. In such a case, he is just as guilty as the false witness.
"A wicked man hardens his face" (v. 29). Being not willing to listen to reason, he hardens himself against what is upright and sensible. On the contrary, one who is upright will have his way established, without fear of being exposed as the wicked are.
Wisdom, counsel and understanding are, it may be observed, the stock-in-trade of many ungodly men, but they make the mistake of trying to use these against the Lord, and of course find only miserable failure (v. 30).
In all men's activities, they need some means of help or support, and in battle they find horses of great benefit. Of course now they require motorized equipment; but whether horses or tanks, these are no guarantee of success. Deliverance is only by the Lord (v. 31). We are slow indeed to learn this elementary lesson.
"A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favor rather than silver and gold" (v. 8). Solomon possessed great riches, but as he became older he sadly neglected to preserve a good name. Who could do this who wanted 1000 wives and 300 concubines? We should think he would deeply miss the sweetness of God's loving favor!
"The rich and the poor have this in common, the Lord is the maker of them all" (v. 2). The poor are more likely to remember this than the rich will, and the rich especially tend to act toward the poor as though they are not as truly creatures of God as are the rich. But the Maker of them all is not partial.
Verse 3 indicates that a prudent man is watchful. He will foresee trouble coming and seek refuge from it. But one who lacks wisdom will easily fall into the snare of the enemy, for he is too self-confident, and will not qualify for the riches and honor and life that is the portion of those who are characterized "by humility and the fear of the Lord" (v. 4). Rather, he will find "thorns and snares" attending his way, while the watchful believer will be guarded from such evils.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (v. 6). Such training requires decided discipline, including inflicting physical pain, from which we shall not shrink if we love our child. The supervisor of a home for children was shocked when a boy told him, "You love your own boy more than you love me." He felt he had treated all the boys fairly, so asked this boy why he said this, and received an answer that surprised him: "You spank your own boy, and you don't spank me." Children are often very discerning of such things. The good results of training may not be seen very early in the child's life, but "when he is old, he will not depart from it."
It may be easily observed that "the rich rules over the poor" (v. 7), though if a poor man puts his confidence in the Lord, he does not need to be subservient to the rich. The Lord will sustain him. But if we borrow from others, we shall find ourselves subservient to the lender. How much better to "Owe no one anything except to love one another" (Rom. 13:8). Sometimes it is easy to borrow, but hard to repay. it is wise to be on the safe side by not borrowing at all.
"He who sows iniquity will reap sorrow" (v. 8). We shall have plenty of sorrow without adding greatly to it by sinful actions. In fact, "the rod of his anger will fail." He may be angry that the sorrow comes, but his anger will fail to give any relief.
We need to be reminded often that honest generosity will result in blessing for ourselves (v. 9), for God is always cognizant of the need of the poor, and rewards those who share His concern for them.
A scoffer always takes pleasure in debasing others, therefore whenever he is present there is contention. Get rid of him and the contention will cease (v. 10). This will leave at peace the one "who loves purity of heart" (v. 11), who also will speak with grace. In such circumstances, "the king will be his friend: for the Lord Jesus, the King of kings, loves the fellowship of those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Tim. 2:22).
"The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge" (v. 12). May we therefore have grace to look simply into His eyes of faithful love and grace. We shall certainly find clear direction from those eyes, as He assures the believer, "I will guide you with My eye" (Ps. 32:8). His eyes, being discerning and penetrating, speak of the power of the Holy Spirit. The "faithless" however, ignore the work of the Spirit and suffer the humiliation of being overthrown.
The lazy man can imagine any kind of trouble in his way if his conscience tells him he ought to work, even thinking a lion may be outside (v. 13). thus, he can always find an excuse for his laziness. Does he not stop to think that he may be listening to the voice of the serpent inside?
Proverbs 5:3-5 confirms graphically the truth of verse 14, "The mouth of an immoral woman is a deep pit." Her words can be nice and flattering, but with the object of drowning souls in destruction and perdition. The one whose character is such as to draw the abhorrence of the Lord is practically sure to be trapped and fall into such a pit.
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child" (v. 15). He has inherited this from his parents who are children of Adam. Therefore, he needs the rod of correction." The rod is clearly that which will cause pain, or it could not be effective in so serious a case. The writer is thankful that his parents used the rod on him, and his children all express their appreciation of having had such discipline.
He who oppresses the poor to increase his riches, and he who gives to the rich will surely come to poverty" (v. 16). In both cases, the root of the matter is personal greed, with the inevitable result of poverty, the opposite of what the person sought. If it is not poverty in this life, yet in eternity it will be abject, total poverty!
From verse 17 to 21 wise counsel of a positive nature is given. If this were properly taken to heart, then the negative warnings would hardly be necessary, but sad to say, these things are too often ignored or forgotten. "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge" (v. 17). A few will respond to this, but many will not, no matter how pleasant may be the result of doing so (v. 18). When the ear hears (v. 17), the lips will soon be affected too.
With the object of encouraging trust in the Lord, the writer gives good instruction (v. 19), and one who has the least wisdom will realize that such instruction is excellent in its wisdom and knowledge (v. 20). By this to know the certainty of the words of truth is a most marvelous benefit indeed (v. 21). Uncertainty and doubt is totally vanquished by the pure truth of God. If we are furnished with this, certainly we shall be prepared to answer any question others may ask, as 1 Peter 3:15 intimates, "Be ready to give a defense to any who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
There are some who are despicable enough to rob the poor because they are poor, that is, taking advantage of their inability to redress any wrong (v. 22). If you rob the rich, they are in a position to retaliate, But the Lord will plead the cause of the poor (v. 23), so that their oppressors will find their evil to come back on their own heads: though they aim to plunder others, they will be plundered themselves.
A man who easily loses his temper is certainly not fit to be one's friend (v. 24). Even if he is with such a man when the man's rage causes injury or death to another, he will find himself under the same accusation as the furious man. Or, he may find that he becomes the victim of the angry man's rage. Or he may learn the angry man's ways, and his soul be snared in such evil (v. 25).
Verse 26 warns us, as Proverbs has done before, that we should not copy the example of those who shake hands, making a pledge to be surely for another's debts. If we want to help someone, we can give to them, if we have the wherewithal, without pledging anything. if one has uncertainly of being able to pay when his pledge becomes due, it is folly to make a pledge, and the creditor may not hesitate to take even your bed away! (v. 27).
"Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set" (v. 28). Landmarks may be set to distinguish one person's property from another, and this must not be ignored. To remove such a landmark may cause undue confusion.
We can well understand why a man who excels in his work is brought to stand before kings (v. 29), for the general run of people is such that they are not diligent, and no employer is impressed by such laxity. This is true in the realm of natural relationships. But how much more important it is in regard to those who know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we should be whole hearted and diligent in doing the work of the Lord! For His work is worthy of the deepest concern, and as well as earning the commendation of the Lord Jesus, the faith that serves Him will be rewarded with eternal results. May we, every believer, be stirred to put our whole heart into diligent labor for Him!
Instruction for Discerning Ears
It may be very seldom that we are invited to sit down to eat with a ruler, but the instruction in this case can have a bearing on eating with anyone who is in a place of honor (v. 1). This is certainly not the place to indulge one's appetite! Rather, we should consider carefully what food we should take, and put a knife to our throat (v. 2), that is, curb our appetite. The ruler may likely have a gourmet menu, and we are advised not to desire such fare, "for they are deceptive food" (v. 3). They do not, in the long run, provide the nourishment we may credit them with, for simple, healthy meals are not expensive.
While work, in its place, is generally commendable, yet there are those who overwork themselves in order to be materially wealthy (v. 4). This may be very dangerous, and one should have personal understanding sufficient to lead him to cease from selfish aspirations. Setting our eyes on greater things than we have will in the end issue in disappointment (v. 5). "For riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." On the other hand, it is possible that riches will increase without overwork. In such a case, "If riches increase, do not set your heart on them." (Ps. 62:10).
If one is a miser, he may invite you to eat with him, but hopes you will not eat much (v.6). Far better in this case to decline his invitation. How much better to eat with one who has a bountiful spirit and is glad for our company! For the miser is concerned only for his own welfare, and after eating with him, you will likely feel like vomiting, whether you actually do or not! (vv. 7-8).
"Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the wisdom of your words" (v. 9). It is well that we understand who it is whom God calls a fool. Psalm 14:1 tells us, "The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’" Also, one who questions the truth of resurrection is called a fool (1 Cor. 15:35-36). More than this, the rich man who amassed such wealth as to consider he could live luxuriously for many years (Luke 12:16-21) was called a fool by God. In each case, the one who leaves God out of his life deserves that unsavory title, "fool."! Such a man will always despise true wisdom, so that it is hopeless to expect any proper response from him.
We have been told before not to remove the ancient landmark (v. 10). Truth is as ancient as creation, and if we remove truth from its place of proper dignity, how can others discern their way? Entering the fields of the fatherless, in this verse evidently refers to one taking possession of an orphan's property. This kind of oppression will certainly incur the displeasure of the mighty Redeemer, who, in pleading the cause of the fatherless, will not spare in punishing the oppressor.
Verse 12 again emphasizes what has been told us before, to apply our heart to hearing instruction by listening carefully to the word of knowledge. If so, we shall not withhold correction from our children, which correction might involve using a rod to cause pain (v. 13) Of course the suffering would not be so severe as to cause death. Sometimes parents have been so cruel in their punishments that a child has died, but the parents would surely not be Christians in tis case. But when punishment is deserved and meted out properly, this may be the means of delivering a child's soul from sheol (v. 14).
If a child is properly disciplined also, his heart will likely be made wise (v. 15), thus rejoicing the heart of the parent, his inmost being deeply affected by the profitable speech of his child (v. 16). Thus, the father encourages his son. "Do not let your heart envy sinners, but be zealous for the fear of the Lord all the day long" (v. 17). Sinners may seem to be prospering for a time, but it is only transitory and empty. Yet it may seem attractive to young people, and they need to be warned against this. If their concern is for the honor of the Lord, such temptations will not tempt them. For "there is a hereafter" (v. 18), which should have far more influence over us than any present attraction. For the hope of the godly will not be cut off, as that of the unbeliever.
"Hear, my son, and be wise; and guide your heart in the way" (v. 19). Do we need to be told this often? Yes, for we forget too easily. Social drinking may have its attraction, but this is not for the believer (v. 20). It is necessary to eat and drink in order to live, but to live to eat and drink is folly, such as is seen in the rich man of Luke 12:16-21, who confidently said, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry." That very night God told him, "Fool, this night your soul will be required of your." Verse 21 says that the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty; though it may not be in this life, but how much worse is eternal poverty!
The importance of listening to parents is insisted on again in verse 22. Of course, Satan will tell young people that their parents are old and out of date, and many young people have not found out the truth until it is too late.
"Buy the truth and do not sell it" (v. 23). It may cost a little diligence, but whatever the cost, it will certainly be worth it. To sell the truth, on the other hand, is folly, of which Esau was guilty when he sold his birthright to Jacob for a little food (Gen. 25:29-34). Wisdom, instruction and understanding are here added, as properties to be bought and not sold.
Verses 24 and 25 once again repeat the pleasure of a father in having a wise child. He will greatly rejoice in this, and the mother no less. The child may well be encouraged in giving such joy to his parents.
"My son, give me your heart, and let your eyes observe My ways" (v. 26). This is not intended for the ears of unbelievers, for what the unbeliever needs is to receive from God, not to give to Him, the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ Jesus. But if one has received God's salvation, it is only reasonable that he shall gladly give God his heart, for only God can dispose his heart in following the ways of the Lord.
Giving God the heart is certainly a protection against the seductions of a harlot, or of evil in any form (v. 27), for the enemy of souls is constantly employed in seeking to deceive the believer by means of what attracts the flesh, whether literal fornication or spiritual deceptions such as false religions, things that are "a deep pit" when once allowed to influence souls. Such things are virtually lying in wait in order to snare victims (v. 28), and by their means the unfaithful among men are increased.
Six questions are asked in verse 29, as to who has woe, sorrow, contentions, complaints, wounds without cause, and redness of eyes. If these symptoms are present, it is certain that the sufferer has only himself to blame. He has given himself up to indulging in intoxicating liquor (v. 30). It seems very attractive and enticing (v. 31), not only by its taste, but by its look. However, at the last it bites like a serpent and stings like a viper (v. 32). For it will badly affect the mind and heart, with one's imagination running wild, and perverse words issuing from the mouth, for he has lost control of his senses (v. 33).
He will be as one who lies down on a turbulent sea or on the top of a mast, tossed back and forth, given up to the scourge of the elements, yet hardly feeling the pain of such things because of his drunken stupor (vv. 34-35). Nor does he learn anything valuable from his experience, for he prefers to repeat the folly of his ways, though it brings him down lower and lower.
The End in View
God's principles lead to a good end, and evil principles to an evil. end. Well might we be told not to be envious of evil men (v. 1), for their company will drag anyone down. But their heart and their lips are so corrupted that the corruption will spread (v. 2).
Verses 3 to 6 stand in beautiful contrast to such folly as is seen in verse 1 and 2, in which we see nothing whatever built. But verse 3 speaks of wisdom being the principle by which a house is built, and its being established by understanding. Of course, this does not speak of a material building, but the building up of family life, as seen, for instance, in "the house of David." The rooms being "filled with all precious and pleasant riches" (v. 4) reminds us of believers being "blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ" (Eph. 1:3)."
This wisdom also involves strength (v. 5), which is increased as wisdom increases, so that whatever adversities (or warfare) may come, there is strength given of God to withstand and defeat the enemy. A wise man will also cultivate the fellowship of others who are wise, for a number of wise counselors will ensure safety (v. 6). How vitally important is this fellowship of saints!
But 1 Corinthians 2:15 tells us, "He who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one." This speaks of discerning judgment, which the fool (of Proverbs 24:7) totally lacks. "In the gate." the place of judgment, he is unable even to open his mouth. He is well able in secret to plot to do evil, for his folly makes him "a schemer" (v.8), paying no attention to the fact that the devising of foolishness is sin, for which he must give account to God (v. 9). But the scoffer is not only an abomination to God, but even to men.
However, if the scorner brings adversity, this is no excuse for us to become discouraged: if so, our strength is small (v. 10). Of course, if trusting to our own strength we will find it small indeed, but if we have found our strength in the Lord, we shall have no lack, for, as Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13). But that strength is not to be used selfishly. Rather, there are those who, in weakness are "drawn toward death" (v.11), and if we have the strength of the Lord, we ought to use it for such victims.
If we ignore the needs of those in trouble, perhaps using the excuse that we did not know their condition (v. 12), let us consider that God knows precisely whether this is true, and mere excuses will have no weight with Him. We cannot expect to avoid the consequences of lack of care for the needs of others: God will render to each according to his deeds.
The exhortation to eat honey because it is good reminds us that Canaan was a land of milk and honey. Milk speaks of the elementary truths of the Word of God, while honey symbolizes the ministry of the Word by believers. His Word it itself "sweeter than honey and the honeycomb," just as it is sweeter than the sweetest ministry of the Word by any believer; but we should gladly receive this also, (Prov. 25:16), though not to excess, as Proverbs 25:16 advises, "Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need." It is easily possible to have too much of someone's ministry, though we can never have too much of the Word of God itself. Verse 14 indicates however that good ministry may help to give the knowledge of wisdom, which, when found, furnishes a bright prospect, with no fear of one's hope being cut off.
The wicked man is now warned against the folly of lying in wait against the dwelling of the righteous (v. 15), with the object of gaining plunder from him. "For a righteous man may fall seven times and rise again" (v. 16). The wicked may think at first that his evil designs have succeeded, but in the end will find himself defeated, often by sudden calamity.
Yet the believer is told not to rejoice when his enemy falls, though this might relieve the believer of much harm (v. 17). Indeed, when anyone falls, we ought to be sorry for him, and pray that his fall might result in turning him to the Lord. But the Lord takes full account of our attitude (v. 18), and if out hearts are disposed to think or act selfishly, we can expect to suffer the consequences.
"He who gives a right answer kisses the lips" (v. 26), that is, his transparent honesty is an expression of close friendship.
Verse 27 shows that it is wise to make full preparations for building a house before beginning, working outside in order to have experience that will be most useful when building. A young man should certainly learn to work first before building a house for himself.
It is also wise to be very careful in judging any matter concerning others without knowing all the facts. Appearances may lead us to even witness against him when there is not proper cause (v. 28), and because we may be deceived, we may be guilty of deceiving others. Linked with this in verse 29 is the danger of deciding to do to another what I think he may have done to me. Whether or not he has done wrong, this does not justify me in doing wrong also. It is not for me to render to anyone according to his works: he is to be left in the hand of God, who will never judge unfairly, as I may be tempted to do.
Now this large section of Proverbs ends with a graphic description of the results of a lazy man's work. Indeed, it indicates the results of the work of mankind generally, all being ruin and decay. The field and the vineyard were all overgrown with thorns, the sign of the curse. The stone wall was broken down, that is, the wall of separation from the ravages of the enemy. In fact, this state of ruin very soon developed in Israel after Solomon himself took the throne. His marrying many strange wives began the breaking down of the wall, allowing evil religions to enter, even so brazenly that Solomon was carried into the dreadful practice of worshiping idols! Though he warned against this in this chapter, he failed to follow his own instruction, just as mankind generally does.
Verse 33 indicates that Solomon understood this well, but apparently not well enough. At least now may we receive the instruction we need in this matter. Only "a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest" (v. 33) may have dire results. Of course, we need sleep and rest, but if this characterizes our lives, it is a different matter, and especially so when we sleep in regard to spiritual matters, thus insensible to grave dangers. It was "while men slept" that the enemy sowed tares among the wheat (Matt. 13:25).
But just as Israel's condition was reduced to deep spiritual poverty by lazy negligence, so the condition of the church publicly has so deteriorated because of our own laxity that it bears no resemblance to what was true of the church in the time of the Acts. Poverty has come "like a prowler." one who comes as secretly as he can to rob us of the wealth that God initially gave us; or, "like an armed man," who violently steals all that he is able to.
Is there any possibility of recovery? The following closing chapters will deal with this subject.
Wisdom's Closing Message
Chapter 24 of this book has dealt with the pathetic failure of the testimony of Israel beginning with Solomon himself. Now these last chapters, from 25 to 31, declare the principles that are necessary if there is to be any recovery in any degree from such a condition, and therefore remind us of 2 Timothy. That book is not intended to bring about full recovery, but the recovery of such individuals as are subject to the Leading of the Word of God.
Verse 1 tells us, "These are also proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out." Thus they were not new in Hezekiah's time. Just so, the truth of God, "the faith of God's elect" has been once for al delivered to the saints. God's revelation was completed with the introduction of Christianity into the world: in Christ Himself, revealed in grace, God has seen fit to completely reveal His will, so that provision for the entire history of the church was provided at her very beginning. But it has been neglected and ignored, and we are sorely broken and in reproach. yet that same Word has already made provision for recovery, and is to be applied when our hearts are concerned for recovery. Let us then have energy of faith, not to devise new methods or expedients for such a day, but to "copy out" what is already written, and apply ourselves to obey it. This is to "have knowledge of the times." and to have true fellowship with God in that which is His special work in a day of evil.
At this time only Judah recognized God's center, Jerusalem, so that only in this limited sphere could any measure of recovery take place. Hezekiah's faith, however, embraced all Israel also, for in 2 Chronicles 30 we read of his inviting all Israel to come to Jerusalem to keep the Passover. Some responded, others only mocked. How similar to any day in which God begins revival among His people!
"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing, but the honor of kings is to search out a matter." When "difficult times" are present, it is imperative that we look beneath the surface of things. Answers to problems will not be found without real exercise of soul. God intends faith to be exercised and developed; therefore, in infinite wisdom He so presents the truth in His Word that mere natural wisdom will not discern it: these things are hidden from the wise and prudent. Nor will an easy-going complacent attitude find the precious hidden treasures of the counsel and guidance of God. But it is a work of kingly dignity to search out the truth of God and to ascertain His mind, — especially so then truth has been trodden in the streets and treated as of no account. How deeply urgent is the responsibility of every child of God to find out the truth for himself. It is fully revealed; and only lack of faith fails to search it out. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine (John 7:17). Kings were anointed with oil, and we have been anointed with the Spirit of God, by whom understanding "all things" is possible: let us therefore practice this kingly privilege. "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth' (2 Tim. 2:15).
"The heaven for height, and the earth for depth, and the heart of kings is unsearchable." Things higher than natural wisdom become the normal food and delight of him who is led by the Spirit of God. And "the deep things of God." unintelligible to the natural man, are no problem where the Spirit of God is the Interpreter (1 Cor. 2:8-10). Indeed, whether heavenly things or earthly things, "he that is spiritual discerneth all things." His perception of natural things as well as spiritual, is more accurate than that of any natural man. "Yet he himself is discerned of no man" (1 Cor. 2:15). The spiritual man is a strange enigma to the world. His wisdom and understanding are evident, but his attitude is a cause of wonder and bewilderment to those who have not the Spirit: the heart of kings is unsearchable." "The world knoweth us not because it knew Him not" (1 John 3:1).
"Take away the dross from the silver, and there shall come forth a vessel for the finer. A true searching of the Word of God by the Spirit will both give a positive knowledge of what is good and pure; and separate from it all that is false and dross. If this is negative, yet it is necessary. Let us notice this in 2 Timothy 2:15 and 16. If verse 15 insists on our rightly dividing the Word of truth," then verse 16 as strongly commands, "But shun profane and vain babblings, for they will increase unto more ungodliness." Two men are then referred to as "saying that the resurrection is past already; and overthrow the faith of some." This evil doctrine must be refused: it is dross that must be separated from the silver; and teachers who persist in such falsehood must not be tolerated, "The Finer" is certainly God Himself, Who seeks vessels to honor, sanctified, and meet for the Master's use, prepared unto every good work" (2 Tim. 2:21).
"Do not exalt yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of great men, for it is better that he say to you, Come up here, than that you should be put lower in the presence of the prince, whom you eyes have seen" (vv. 6-7). How matchlessly precious becomes 'the presence of the King" when we take to heart the truth that evil has no place in His presence. How subduing to the soul, how awesome and holy; and how marvelous the privilege of being allowed, in fact welcomed in that presence. But if so, then certainly all selfish seeking of position and honor there is unbecoming. Only One is be exalted there, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Center and Object of all adoration and praise. May we learn the sweetness of such a gathering of the Church of God, with no one having any position of authority and prominence, but each and all exercised to see that He himself receives every honor.
Yet, where godliness, lowliness and a true spiritual growth are found, the Lord will so order things that such characters will take the lead in the assembly in matters of order and government, and of course in the exercise of various gifts. This is normal, proper growth. Such men will not seek in any way to assume the lead, but by virtue of lowly devotion and knowledge of the Word of God, will have this eventually placed on their shoulders by the Lord Himself. How good to remember that in all assembly activity and in the exercise of every spiritual gift, we are "in the presence of the Prince whom our eyes have seen." What sanctifying power this realization would have over our entire service for Him!
"Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof, when thy neighbor has put thee to shame." If the presence of the King is most blessed indeed, yet we shall be faced with many things contrary to the purity of this, — things that will deeply try the spirit of one who loves the truth. These things are only multiplied in a day of decline. How are we to meet them? "The servant of the Lord must not strive, but be gentle unto all, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those who oppose; themselves" (2 Tim. 2:24-25). We must remember we are but servants, responsible ourselves to obey the truth, and to present it to others as from God. But the messenger is not called upon to enforce his message. Striving is unbecoming: mere argument will not produce results for God. The truth itself, which we seek to defend, will suffer by our contentious attitude, for our neighbor will attribute our 'hasty striving" to our doctrine: we shall be put to shame, and be embarrassed as to how to free ourselves from such a predicament. Peter is a striking example here: his taking a sword to cut off the ear of the High priest's servant may have appeared to be bravery, but it led only to Peter's humiliation. "If a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. 2:5). How important not only to stand on the side of truth, but to act rightly in so standing.
"Debate thy cause with thy neighbor himself; and discover not a secret to another; lest he that heareth it put thee to shame, and thine infamy turn not away." How guarded must be the doors of our lips! Now that disagreement, discord, ill-feeling has come between neighbors, is it to be settled by spreading it elsewhere? Let us have grace and honest courage of heart to face our neighbor in a spirit of meekness and true concern, that a proper understanding may be obtained. How painful the innumerable cases of offense that have never been settled, but only aggravated, by selfish, thoughtless gossip, when a word of simple apology might have dismissed it forever!
But if I carry it to another, how many things might happen! It may lead to the other's so repeating it, as from me that I myself am shown in the most shameful light. This area of things is extremely delicate and requires real energy of communion with God to have wisdom to act rightly; for in certain cases, there may be facts that others should know, and where to draw the line is a matter for serious exercise; but I must be careful not to be guilty of putting my neighbor in a wrong or bad light, and always before speaking, to judge in myself any feeling of personal grievance.
But on the other hand, our lips may be used in a most refreshing and profitable way. The succeeding verses of this chapter seem to dwell greatly upon the principles of ministry among the people of God. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver." In marked contrast to a "multitude of words," this is but "a word," yet spoken in the proper time and place to meet a particular need. Apples are well known for their health-imparting qualities, and gold is a lovely symbol of the glory of God manifested in the Person of Christ, as the light from the sun reveals the glory of that orb. Is it not precious to see this type immediately the subject of ministry is introduced? Also, it is seen in a setting of silver, a type of the work of the Lord Jesus in redemption. How wonderful a basis is this for the ministry of the Spirit of God among His saints! How fruitful and sweet it is to speak of the glory of the Person of the Lord Jesus and the perfection of His work!