Proverbs 17-18

A Word to the Wise and the Not-So-Wise.

“The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. The rich think of their wealth as an impregnable defense; they imagine it is a high wall of safety. ­– Proverbs 18:10-11 NLT

These two chapters address the fool, those who take bribes, evildoers, gossips, mockers, parents, children, the unfriendly, quarrelers, the wicked, the wealthy, the discerning, the lazy, the eloquent, the talkative, the prudent, and, of course, the wise. It is a gallery hung with the portraits of a wide range of characters. Some are flattering. Some are not. But all are extremely life-like. In fact, as you read these two chapters, images of someone you know probably come into your mind. You may even see a reflection of your own face. Or that of a child or loved one. These are realistic portrayals of real life. But even as Solomon paints the portraits of the wise and the foolish, the righteous and the unrighteous, he is contrasting two ways of life. This has little to do with wealth and poverty, power and weakness, intelligence and stupidity. It has to do with godliness and a fear of the Lord. This is all about living a God-centered, God-focused life where His will and His way are primary. What makes someone wise is not their position in life or the number of degrees on their wall. It is their relationship with the living God. It is whether they are willing to live in submission to and dependence on the God of the universe.

Wisdom is not related to the well-educated or wealthy. It is just as easily accessible to the poor. God’s wisdom is non-discriminatory – available to all who will seek it from the hand of the one who offers it – God Himself. But so much of what Solomon has to say is in regards to what happens when we refuse to turn to God for wisdom, help, direction, provision, protection, insight and, ultimately, salvation. We turn to our wealth. We rely on our own resources. And we end up becoming gossips, quarrelers, revengeful, mockers, spiritually lazy, and moral paupers. We act like fools and we find ourselves raising fools. We end up surrounded by fools. All because we refuse to submit ourselves to God. Rather than turn to God, we seek for comfort, wisdom, help, and happiness elsewhere. We live as if there is no God or we attempt to make our own gods. We find substitutes for God. And we end up as fools. Solomon puts it so simply, yet profoundly is verses 10-11 of chapter 18: “The name of the LORD is a strong fortress; the godly run to him and are safe. The rich think of their wealth as an impregnable defense; they imagine it is a high wall of safety.” The godly learn to trust in God and in Him only. They discover that He alone is reliable. He alone delivers what He promises. The wealthy, just like the poor and the middle class, turn to something else. The rich just happen to have more to turn to. They have more resources and so are more tempted to lean on their abundance for sustenance. But the poor can end up finding substitutes for God just as easily. Whether it’s the comfort and security of a welfare state, the tantalizing hope of a lottery prize, or the mind-numbing pleasure of a television set, those who have little have a lot of choices for stand-ins for God. It’s not that any of these things are inherently evil or wrong, it’s just that they were never to act as replacements for God. They can’t measure up. They can’t deliver. They always disappoint. But because mankind can’t seem to keep from turning to anything and everything but God, we see a growing gallery of portraits featuring foolish, angry, argumentative, self-focused, addictive, lazy, quarrelsome, naive, and unhappy individuals. Yet, there is a room filled with those who have learned to turn to God. Their portraits feature faces filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, and a surprising sense of calmness and contentment, in spite of all that is going on around them.

Where do you run in times of trouble? Where do you turn when times are tough? What are the God-substitutes in your life? The godly run to one place and one place only for safety and security – God Himself. Is He your strong fortress today?

Father, forgive me for all the God-substitutes I have had in my life over the years. They never deliver, but I keep turning to them. They always disappoint, but they continue to sucker me into believing it will be different this time. You have never let me down. You have never failed to deliver on a single one of Your promises. May I grow increasingly more dependent on You. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men