Our All-Seeing, All-Knowing God

1 A soft answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
    keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A gentle tongue is a tree of life,
    but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A fool despises his father’s instruction,
    but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
    but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.
The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
    not so the hearts of fools.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
    whoever hates reproof will die.
11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
    how much more the hearts of the children of man!
12 A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
    he will not go to the wise.
13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
    but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
    but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
    than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
– Proverbs 15:1-17 ESV

When you apply pressure to a tube of toothpaste, what’s contained inside suddenly gets revealed. The once-hidden contents become visible for all to see. And the same concept applies to human beings. When we find ourselves under pressure, facing the difficulties and trials that come with life on this planet, the inner contents of our life suddenly get revealed. Our once-hidden fears get put on public display. The anger we kept so carefully concealed becomes visible for all to see and experience.

Not all fools are readily apparent. Some hide their foolishness behind a guise of respectability and apparent success. They carry themselves well and display an aura of sophistication and intelligence. But just put them under pressure and the fool inside comes out to play.

The tongue of the wise makes knowledge appealing, but the mouth of a fool belches out foolishness. – Proverbs 15:2 NLT

Jesus once said, “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a person. For out of the heart come evil ideas, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are the things that defile a person; it is not eating with unwashed hands that defiles a person” (Matthew 15:18-20 NLT).

When you boil it all down, all this talk about wisdom in the book of Proverbs is really about the condition of the heart. Verse 33 says, “Fear of the Lord teaches wisdom, humility precedes honor.” Fear of the Lord is a matter of the heart, not the head. It’s not about a cognitive understanding of or knowledge about God. The fear of the Lord manifests itself in a heart that is changed by what it sees, hears, and learns about God. It produces humility because the heart is awakened to the magnitude and majesty of God.

Fear of the Lord produces love because the heart is amazed that this great God would stoop down to show interest in the insignificant and unrighteous. Coming to grips with the reality of God changes our hearts and produces a change in our behavior and our words. In the passage above, Jesus teaches us that one of the greatest indicators of the level of our fear of the Lord and of our wisdom is what comes out of our mouths. The Proverbs spend a great deal of time dealing with the role our words play in both our relationship with God and with others.

Proverbs 15 talks about a gentle answer, harsh words, gentle words, evil words, the tongue, the mouth, lips, a fitting reply, saying the right thing, pure words, good news, and thinking carefully before speaking. What comes out of the mouth is so revealing. It indicates what’s in the heart. It is a window into our soul. We can try to fake it, attempting to fool everyone into thinking we’re filled with wisdom and righteousness,. But unexpectedly, when the pressure is on or our guard is down, the wrong words can spew out before we can stop them. We can react in anger. We can curse unexpectedly. We can respond negatively. We can gossip, slander, shout, ridicule, and verbally respond in a variety of destructive ways. And when we do, it reveals the true condition of our hearts.

The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
    not so the hearts of fools. – Proverbs 15:7 ESV

It exposes that we are more foolish than we are wise. We can blame our words on the circumstances or the pressure of the moment, but James makes it clear that the condition of our hearts is responsible for the quality of our words.

Does a spring of water bubble out with both fresh water and bitter water? Does a fig tree produces olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring. – James 3:11-12 NLT

Our words flow from an internal source. They are generated from within and they are simply a reflection of what is going on inside our hearts. James goes on to say, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good words with the humility that comes from wisdom” (James 3:13 NLT). He differentiates between godly wisdom and earthly wisdom.

But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. – James 3:17-18 NLT

Our words are a byproduct of our wisdom. Our wisdom is a reflection of our hearts. Our hearts are radically changed by a healthy fear of God and a humble submission to Him. Watch carefully what comes out of your mouth when you get squeezed. It will provide a good indication of just how wise you really are. And, always remember that God is watching at all times.

The Lord is watching everywhere, keeping his eye on both the evil and the good. – Proverbs 15:3 NLT

It’s amazing what we will do when we think no one is watching. Anonymity can be anesthetizing. It can lull us into a sense of false security, making us believe we are free to do what we want to do just because nobody can see us. But as believers, the reality is that we’re always being watched. Even if no one else is around, we always have an audience of One. God is never unaware or disinterested in what we’re doing or how we are behaving. He never sleeps or takes a break. He is constantly watching us and assessing not only our actions but the motives behind them. He sees all and knows all. The Psalmist put it this way:

O Lord, you have examined my heart
    and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
    You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
    and when I rest at home.
    You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
    even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
    You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too great for me to understand!

I can never escape from your Spirit!
    I can never get away from your presence! – Psalms 139:1-7 NLT

That’s an amazing and somewhat intimidating thought, isn’t it? God knows our hearts, our thoughts, our actions, our attitudes – in short, He knows everything about us. He hears every word that comes out of our mouths and every thought that enters our minds. He knows our fears, hurts, heartaches, longings, disappointments, and dreams.

Even death and destruction hold no secrets from the Lord. How much more does he know the human heart. – Proverbs 15:11 NLT

There is nothing we can keep hidden or secret from God. So why do we try? Why do we mistakenly believe that just because we can fool our friends and family members, we can somehow fool God? There should be a certain comfort that comes from knowing that God knows. We don’t have to pretend. We don’t have to live in pretense, trying to trick God into believing we’re something we’re not. There is freedom that comes from knowing you are known. There is nothing to hide. Instead, there is only confession and an acceptance of God’s grace and forgiveness.

A big part of learning to fear God is understanding that He is all-knowing. It is an awareness that He is incapable of being deceived or hoodwinked. That awareness brings about an honest assessment of who we really are and an admission that we don’t measure up. It creates an increasing dependence on Him and ever-increasing transparency regarding our true spiritual condition. God sees our pride. He knows about the idols in our lives. He is fully aware of our fears and faults. He looks past our plastic facades and sees into our hearts. He is not impressed with our attempts at self-righteousness or swayed by our efforts at behavior modification.

He is watching, and He is waiting. He is waiting for us to give up the cover-up. Stop the pretense. Quit the pretending. Instead, He wants us to remember that all we do is for His glory. It is all to be done in His power. His strength is to be made evident in our weakness. God wants to produce in us what we cannot produce in ourselves. He is watching and He is waiting.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Wisdom: The Can’t-Miss Investment Strategy

24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,
    but the folly of fools brings folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
    but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
    and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
    but without people a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
    but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
    but envy makes the bones rot.
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
    but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
    but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
    but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
    but sin is a reproach to any people.
35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
    but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.
– Proverbs 14:24-35 ESV

Solomon strongly suggests that there is tangible fruit that accompanies the life of wisdom. But it isn’t necessarily what we would expect. While he states that “The crown of the wise is their wealth” (verse 24), the context would suggest that he is talking about something other than monetary or material abundance. Godly wisdom is not a guarantee of financial success. No, Solomon is once again juxtaposing the way of the wise with the way of the fool. The crown of the wise is their wisdom. It represents their greatest asset and their most significant achievement in life. But for the fool, folly is their crowning achievement. An abundance of godly wisdom is of more value than silver and gold. Solomon has already made this point perfectly clear.

Tune your ears to wisdom,
    and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight,
    and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver;
    seek them like hidden treasures. – Proverbs 2:2-4 NLT

Joyful is the person who finds wisdom,
    the one who gains understanding.
For wisdom is more profitable than silver,
    and her wages are better than gold.
Wisdom is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her. – Proverbs 3:13-15 NLT

Those who seek wisdom discover something of far greater value than precious metals or rare jewels. A personal treasury filled with godly wisdom is more profitable than a portfolio filled with high-yield stocks or a savings account filled with money.

And one of the things that makes wisdom so valuable is its ability to have a positive impact on others. Unlike material possessions and monetary treasures, wisdom is almost impossible to hoard. A wise person can’t help but have a beneficial influence on the lives of others. They speak the truth and save lives (verse 25). They exude confidence in God that provides a sense of security to others (verse 26). They show concern for the poor (verse 31) and display an understanding heart (verse 33). And a nation that is blessed with the presence of godly people will stand a far higher chance of achieving greatness (verse 34).

With this last proverbial statement, Solomon provides a timeless truth that applies in every generation and across all cultural bounds. It isn’t a particular candidate, party, or platform that makes a nation great; it is godliness. Politics is never a reliable savior. There is no candidate who will ever be able to make a nation great because he or she lacks the ability to change the human heart. They can set agendas, enact policies, and attempt to direct a nation on to a particular path, but without a change of heart, their efforts will prove futile in the end. It is godliness that will make a nation great. A powerful military and a thriving economy are no match for a nation that destroys itself from within because of moral decay and uncontrolled unrighteousness. And the proof can be seen all throughout history. Rome was great but fell. Its mighty army and vast empire were insufficient to deal with its own moral inadequacies. Nazi Germany was powerful but ultimately collapsed under the staggering weight of its own decadence and godlessness. Nation after nation has experienced an ignominious end due to their rejection of God and a growing love affair with sin.

There is no doubt that a godly leader would be the better choice for a nation, but without a godly people to lead, his efforts would prove futile in the end. The people of Israel provide ample proof of this truth. No, what any nation needs s godly people who desire the will of God more than they do the temptations of sin. They turn to God for salvation and security rather than to the government, the economy, or the military. Their hope and trust are in God. They view sin as something to be avoided, not applauded and entertained by. They practice personal and corporate confession, calling on God to forgive their sins and cleanse their unrighteousness.

The godly are not religious people, they are God-dependent people. He is their ultimate authority and determiner of all things. The presence of the godly in a nation can have a tremendous impact. They can act as a preserving agent. Even in small numbers, they can have a positive and listing influence. A relatively small remnant can make a big difference in the direction of a nation. God sees them and preserves them. God has spared nations due to the presence of a handful of the faithful and godly. But those few must recognize that the hope of their nation lies in the hands of God, not men. They must call out to and depend upon God for renewal and revival, not a party or a particular candidate. They must understand that God is their hope, help, and ultimate healer. He alone can save a nation from destruction. He alone can bring about individual and corporate restoration.

Godliness is simply a recognition of these facts. It is a life lived in complete dependence upon and trust in God. That is what will make any nation great. While a nation that rebels against God will soon end in disgrace.

The way of the wise has far-reaching benefits that can extend to a family, a community, and even a nation. It is a fountain of life (verse 27). It brings peace to the heart and health to the body (verse 30). It honors God (verse 31). It exalts a nation (verse 34). And it incurs the favor of the powerful (verse 34).

The pursuit of wisdom is far from a personal and purely selfish endeavor. It is God-focused and other-oriented. Those who desire and passionately pursue the wisdom of God will find their heart’s treasury overflowing with an abundance of gifts with which to bless others. They will become a conduit of God’s mercy, grace, and love; leaving a lasting impact on all those around them, for generations to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Life Lived On God’s Terms

13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
    and the end of joy may be grief.
14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
    and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
15 The simple believes everything,
    but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
16 wise One is cautious and turns away from evil,
    but a fool is reckless and careless.
17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
    and a man of evil devices is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
    but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 The evil bow down before the good,
    the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
    but the rich has many friends.
21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
    but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?
    Those who devise good meet steadfast love and faithfulness.
23 In all toil there is profit,
    but mere talk tends only to poverty.
– Proverbs 14:13-23 ESV

Life can be tumultuous and uncertain. It is filled with peaks and valleys, highs and lows, and a wide range of disparate experiences that can make your head spin. And without godly wisdom, it will be difficult to make sense of it all. The diversity and seeming inequality of our life experiences can create an inner dissonance that is difficult to resolve. But wisdom can bring clarity and a sense of meaning to it all.

For instance, the wise person understands that laughter, while beneficial, can never fully alleviate pain and suffering. It is a temporary fix that can lift one’s spirits for a time but will never fully assuage the hurt and heartache that can accompany life in a fallen world. That’s why Solomon points out, “Laughter can conceal a heavy heart, but when the laughter ends, the grief remains.

Laughter can make difficult times more bearable but it can’t change circumstances. As the proverb says, it can conceal a heavy heart, but it can’t heal one. Laughter may make you forget your troubles, but it can’t make them go away. There is nothing wrong with laughter. It is a gift from God. I think God has a sense of humor but laughter was never meant to serve as a replacement for guilt, a narcotic to deaden our pain, or an entertaining diversion to replace the joy and peace that can only come from God.

Think about how many times you’ve found yourself down in the dumps and turned on the TV in an attempt to find something that might make you laugh. Or you’ve gone to a movie to forget about your cares, if just for an hour or so. For a few brief moments, you were able to forget about your problems and laugh. But when the TV show ends or the movie is over, you find yourself right back where you started. Nothing has changed. “When the laughter ends, the grief remains.”

Wisdom recognizes that God is the ultimate answer to our sorrow, weariness, lack of fulfillment, and longing for purpose in life. The person who makes God his highest priority will be rewarded for seeking to live according to His will (verse 14. The godly will know how to live prudently, conducting his life with discernment that is based on the wisdom of God (verse 15). The wise know the value of turning away from (verse 16) and have the God-given capacity to refrain from anger that produces foolish and sometimes fatal outcomes (verses 17-18).

In the end, the godly will come out on top. The wise will live to see righteousness win. It may not happen in this life but, eventually, the way of the wise will prove to be the victorious way.

Evil people will bow before good people;
    the wicked will bow at the gates of the godly. – Proverbs 14:19 NLT

When God’s grand plan of redemption is complete and His Son returns to establish His earthly Kingdom, the wicked will find themselves bowing down before Christ and having to confess that He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power forever and ever!” – Revelation 5:13 BSB

Wisdom wins. The way of the righteous will culminate with the will of the Father bringing about the worship of His Son by all mankind. Even those destined for an eternity separated from God will be forced to acknowledge the sovereignty of His Son, Jesus Christ. And as the children of God, we will find ourselves enjoying our undeserved yet privileged position as fellow heirs of Christ in the coming Kingdom.

In this life, we have to witness the gross injustices that are part and parcel of a fallen world. The poor find themselves despised because of their poverty. Not only do they lack worldly goods but they find friends to be in short supply. But the wealthy seem to have no shortage of treasures or admirers. But it will not always be that way. One day, justice will be served and all the wrongs will be righted. The injustices will be dealt with once and for all.

But in the meantime, Solomon calls us to practice justice to the best of our ability. Rather than despise our impoverished neighbors, we are to love and care for them (verse 21). While the wicked makes plan to do evil, the wise come up with ways to do good. They use their God-given capacity to seek the well-being of others to display steadfast love and faithfulness to all (verse 22). They practice selflessness. They demonsrate compassion. They model the character of God to both the godly and the godless. And because they are doing the will of God, their efforts pay off (verse 23). Their reward is the blessing of God. He extends His grace, mercy, and love to His children so that they might continue to serve as His conduits of divine blessing to all those around them.

The book of Proverbs is all about two paths or ways of life. One is committed to living life according to God’s terms, while the other is pictured as the self-made, self-reliant, self-directed individual who rejects God’s way as the best way. The Proverbs are not presenting two equally viable alternatives to living life. You can’t expect to choose either option and get the same results. In the end, it all goes back to the fear of God. “Those who follow the right path fear the Lord; those who take the wrong path despise him” (Proverbs 14:2 NLT). The fear of the Lord is all about humility in the face of God’s glory. It is an awareness of His majesty, holiness, and power and our own inadequacy. Only a fool would look at God and decide to run his own life because he knows better. Only a self-consumed egomaniac would reject God’s way for his own, arrogantly thumbing his nose in the face of God and stubbornly walking right into destruction. “The wise are cautious and avoid danger, fools plunge ahead with reckless confidence” (Proverbs 14:16 NLT).

Man is so prideful that he would rather suffer the consequences that come with self-rule than give up his precious autonomy. It reminds me of the lyrics to the song made famous by Frank Sinatra, “I Did It My Way.” That song could be the official anthem of the human race. We stand before God and shout, “I did what I had to do and saw it through without exemption. I planned each charted course, each careful step along the byway. And more, much more than this, I did it my way.” Doing it our way is more important to most of us than doing it the right way. We will stubbornly cling to our right to be wrong. We will painfully pound our heads against the wall of God’s righteousness rather than submit to His will and accept His way as the only right way to live. And in doing so, we miss out on His love, mercy, grace, and divine plan for a better life. Our obsession with self-rule ends up in our own self-destruction.

The closing lines of the song, “I Did It My Way” are sobering and provide a very insightful look at the stubbornness of sin.

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels and not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows and did it my way! Yes, it was my way

What a sad picture of the foolishness of man. Rather than kneel before God and admit His majesty and power, men would rather stand tall and take the blows – all so they could do it their way. They find God’s way restrictive and stifling. His offer of peace, rest, and salvation from sin appear unattractive and even unnecessary to them. They are deceived by the offers of this world and the lies of the enemy. They choose compromise over conviction every time. Jesus told us it would be this way. He warned us that few would choose the path God offers. “You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way. But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it” (Matthew 7:13-14 NLT). The way God provides IS restrictive, narrow, and demanding. It demands that you abandon your own way and go His. It requires that you trust God’s way as the right way. It unapologetically expects you to fear God and humbly, dependently follow Him, believing He knows what’s best for your life. You can do it your way or you can kneel before God and do it His way.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

The Audacity of Autonomy

The wisest of women builds her house,
    but folly with her own hands tears it down.
Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
    but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,
    but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
A faithful witness does not lie,
    but a false witness breathes out lies.
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
    but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
Leave the presence of a fool,
    for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
    but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Fools mock at the guilt offering,
    but the upright enjoy acceptance.
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no stranger shares its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
    but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death.
– Proverbs 14:1-12 ESV

Solomon continues his differentiation between wisdom and folly. Yet, with this particular collection of proverbial sayings, it’s more difficult to find a consistent theme or singular heading with which to summarize them. It’s clear that Solomon is still juxtaposing the life of righteousness with the life of wickedness but he seems less intent on categorizing or arranging the content in a systemized manner. Nonetheless, the reader has no trouble assessing which lifestyle Solomon is recommending. He blatantly promotes the way of the wise because it leads to a constructive rather than a destructive life (verse 1).

Out of reverence for God, the wise person lives a “straight” life, while the one who despises God ends up living a “crooked” or perverse life (verse 2). For Solomon, a healthy relationship with God was vital to living a productive and satisfying life. There was no hope for the godless.

Strangely enough, the fool, who lacks wisdom, tends to have an overabundance of pride (verse 3). And his excessive and unwarranted hubris expresses itself in insufferable boasting that eventually turns everyone against him. Unlike the wise person, whose words are filled with grace and humility, the fool displays a pretentiousness and pride that comes back to haunt him.

A wise person would rather deal with the inconvenience of a dirty barn that comes from owning a hard-working ox (verse 4). But, in a sense, the fool would cut off his nose to spite his face. Out of laziness, he would sell off his ox just to keep from having to clean up its stall and, in doing so, he would forfeit his means of survival.

The fool ends up lying for a living (verse 5). His words can’t be trusted. Lying becomes as natural and necessary to a fool as breathing. Deceit is like oxygen to a fool; he can’t exist without it. The context seems to be that of a trial. Solomon describes two kinds of witnesses; one who is a pathological liar bent on self-preservation and the other is a trustworthy witness who refuses to lie, even in his own defense.

Solomon puts a high premium on wisdom but points out that the pursuit of wisdom for wisdom’s sake is useless. “A mocker seeks wisdom and never finds it” because he seeks it apart from a relationship with God (verse 6). Solomon uses the Hebrew word, lûṣ, which refers to someone with an overinflated sense of self-worth. As a result, they deride and dismiss others, even God Himself. And Solomon’s father warned him about people like this.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt; their acts are vile. There is no one who does good. – Psalm 14:1 BSB

True wisdom is impossible to find apart from a relationship with God. If you say there is no God, you will never know wisdom. It’s as simple as that. And, according to Solomon, that is all the reason you need to avoid the fool.

Stay away from fools,
    for you won’t find knowledge on their lips. – Proverbs 14:7 NLT

He is not suggesting that fools are stupid or devoid of intelligence. It is just that they lack the kind of knowledge that only God can provide. Their wisdom is man-made and of this world. It lacks divine depth and an eternal perspective. Human wisdom tends to be myopic and focused on the here-and-now. Without God, it is devoid of vision and divine insight. This leads fools to deceive themselves (verse 8). Believing themselves to be wise, they end up becoming increasingly more foolish (Romans 1:22). Their dismissal of God leads to an ever-increasing sense of superior intelligence that fuels an ever-diminishing capacity for true wisdom. But because the wise know God, they can always know where they’re going because He directs their path (Proverbs 16:9).

One of the characteristics of a fool is that they never seem to feel guilt or shame for their godless behavior (verse 9). They view their way as the right way. They see no need to confess sin or seek atonement because they have become like God, knowing right from wrong. While “Fools make fun of guilt,” deeming it to be an unnecessary burden, “the godly acknowledge it and seek reconciliation” (Proverbs 14:9 NLT). It was Jesus who told the arrogant and self-righteous Pharisees of His day, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:31-32 NLT). Fools see no need for repentance because they refuse to acknowledge their actions as sinful and reject their need for God’s forgiveness. But the godly respond like the tax collector in a parable that Jesus told His disciples.

“But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” – Like 18:13-14 NLT

The beauty of forgiveness is that it relieves the heart of sorrow and despair. While the fool may try to dismiss the reality of sin, its presence and consequences are inescapable. Man is hardwired to feel shame and guilt for living in violation of God’s commands. That is why Solomon states, “The heart knows its own bitterness, and no stranger shares its joy” (verse 10). Guilt and conviction settle in the heart, creating an overwhelming sense of culpability that must be dealt with either by confession or denial. A fool refuses to assuage his guilt and release his burden through repentance. This leaves him no other choice than to seek escape through further disobedience. In desperate search of release from the weight of sin’s condemnation, the sinner sinks deeper into a lifestyle of rebellion against God. And the result is bitterness rather than joy.

But this futile path leads to destruction, not release from the inescapable guilt and shame.

The house of the wicked will be destroyed – Proverbs 14:11 ESV

The fool is building a house of cards, a flimsy structure that cannot withstand the rigors of this life and the reality of eternity. Jesus described the sad plight of the individual who refuses to heed the Wisdom of God.

“But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.” – Matthew 7:26-27 NLT

The fool believes his house to be well-constructed and built on a solid foundation but, in time, the shaky state of his life will be exposed for what it is: A rickety bundle of sticks and stones built on an unsteady foundation of lies. Yet, as Solomon points out, the wise and righteous man dwells in his temporary tent with utter confidence knowing that it rests on the unwavering foundation of God’s unfailing Word.

The author of Hebrews reminded his readers of the faith of Abraham, the patriarch of the nation of Israel. He describes Abraham’s sojourn in Canaan, the land God had promised to give to him as an inheritance for his descendants. But Abraham never had the pleasure of building a house in Canaan. Instead, he lived in tents and waited for something greater that God had in store for him.

…even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God. – Hebrews 11:9-10 NLT

Abraham could have acted the fool and built for himself a beautiful house in the land of promise. He could have easily justified his actions by claiming that God had given him the land. But that is not what God had called him to do. His “house” would come later. His dwelling place would be made by the hands of God, not man. And he was willing to wait for God’s best rather than settle for a home built on sand.

Solomon reminds us that “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death” (verse 12). Every human being faces the temptation to deem their way to be the right way. Ever since the fall, we have been plagued with an insatiable desire to be like God, with the sole power to decide what is right and wrong. We are obsessed with the need to pursue a life of autonomy, acting as the sole arbiters of our fate. But, as Solomon warns, that way leads to death and not life. And God would have us remember:

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord.
    “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.
For just as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so my ways are higher than your ways
    and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

I Pity the Fool

A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
    but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good,
    but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
    he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
    while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
The righteous hates falsehood,
    but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
    but sin overthrows the wicked.
One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
    another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth.
The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth,
    but a poor man hears no threat.
The light of the righteous rejoices,
    but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
10 By insolence comes nothing but strife,
    but with those who take advice is wisdom.
11 Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
    but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
13 Whoever despises the word brings destruction on himself,
    but he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded.
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.
15 Good sense wins favor,
    but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.
16 Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
    but a fool flaunts his folly.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
    but a faithful envoy brings healing.
18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
    but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
    but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
    but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
21 Disaster pursues sinners,
    but the righteous are rewarded with good.
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
    but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
    but it is swept away through injustice.
24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
    but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.
25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
    but the belly of the wicked suffers want.
– Proverbs 13:1-25 ESV

It is sometimes difficult to discover a consistent theme in these Proverbs because they appear to jump from topic to topic. But upon closer examination, it becomes clear that these seemingly independent couplets are arranged in a somewhat topical fashion. Of course, the overarching theme has to do with wisdom and its antithesis, folly.

Solomon continues to contrast the way of the righteous with the way of the wicked, using simple-sounding statements to convey profound truths. His goal is to illustrate the fruit that accompanies each path. One way leads to life.

Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life… – Proverbs 13:3 ESV

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life – Proverbs 13:14 ESV

The way of the righteous results in rich rewards.

…the soul of the diligent is richly supplied… – Proverbs 13:4 ESV

One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing;
    another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. – Proverbs 13:7 ESV

he who reveres the commandment will be rewarded. – Proverbs 13:13 ESV

…the righteous are rewarded with good – Proverbs 13:21 ESV

A wise person is characterized by a teachable spirit.

A wise son hears his father’s instruction… Proverbs 13:1 ESV

…with those who take advice is wisdom. – Proverbs 13:10 ESV

whoever heeds reproof is honored. – Proverbs 13:18 ESV

The one who chooses the path of righteousness will find their desires fulfilled because they have sought the will and the way of God. By listening to and obeying His commandments, they will ultimately find themselves enjoying the fruit of their labors in the form of the blessings of God.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
– Proverbs 13:12 ESV

A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
    but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
– Proverbs 13:19 ESV

As we saw in Proverbs 12, godliness is the byproduct of a vibrant and intimate relationship with God. The more time we spend with Him, the more often we obey Him; and the more dependent we become on Him, the more like Him we will become. Because of what Christ accomplished on the cross, and due to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, we have the capacity to live godly lives – lives that are pleasing to and honoring of God. And the godly life not only has evidence that others can see, but it also comes with rewards. Godliness acts like a guard on our lives, providing us with wisdom for making good decisions, giving us the right words to say at the right time, and the insight on when to say nothing at all. Godliness gives us a hatred for lies and deception, a love for justice and truth, and a life filled with light and joy. Godliness gives us the insight to know that we are nothing without God, making us less prone to pride and more willing to seek advice and accept correction. The godly have a strong work ethic, not living with some sense of entitlement, expecting everything to be handed to them on a silver platter. And their hard work not only satisfies their hunger, but it also fulfills their dreams. The godly have the innate ability to think before they act, protecting them from foolish acts, harmful words, and dangerous decisions. And while their life will not be free from trouble and strife, those things will be less likely the result of their own stupidity, rashness, and foolhardiness. Godliness brings wisdom and wisdom is both protective and attractive. The wise live lives according to God’s ways and, as a result, they attract the attention of others who long to have what they have.

Godliness isn’t some kind of unrealistic objective designed to make our lives miserable because it is unachievable. Godliness is attainable, enjoyable, laudable, and highly possible, not because of anything we do, but because of what Christ has already done. His death on the cross makes the life of godliness possible for all who place their faith in Him and Him alone. And not only do we get eternal life in return, complete with an irrevocable guarantee of a place in heaven someday; we get the promise of the rewards that come with a life of godliness lived out here on this earth.

And while we live our lives on this planet, we must constantly deal with counsel, criticism, and correction. The Proverbs talk about all three and remind us that those who are wise willingly and gladly accept each equally. But the reality for most of us is that, at best, we tolerate one of them and despise the other two. We will listen to counsel if we think it will benefit us or if it doesn’t vary too much from our preconceived plans. But criticism and correction are two separate matters. Nobody likes to be criticized. And few of us truly enjoy correction. But again, the wise are those who have learned the value of all three. Even a child can come to a place where they understand that their parents’ discipline is beneficial.

A wise child accepts a parent’s discipline, a mocker refuses to listen to correction. –  Proverbs 13:1 NLT

In the book of Colossians, Paul tells us that, as believers, we have a responsibility to admonish or warn one another as part of our corporate experience as believers.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom. – Colossians 3:16 NIV

We all have blind spots, those areas of our lives that we’re unable to see, and it takes a loving brother or sister in Christ to point them out so we can confess them and be cleansed from them. Those who are wise embrace counsel and correction equally. They see the benefit of both.

People who despise advice are asking for trouble. – Proverbs 13:13 NLT

If you ignore criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace. – Proverbs 13:18 NLT

Pretty serious stuff. Yet think about how often we reject the counsel, correction, and criticism of others. We may accept it with a smile, but inside we can be angry and resentful. We may even avoid that person in the future, refusing to allow them to speak into our lives. When we do, we are the losers. We miss out on the benefits God has intended. Even when someone criticizes us unfairly or wrongly, we should learn to accept it patiently and lovingly, understanding that God knows our hearts.

At the end of the day, our unwillingness to accept counsel, correction, or criticism is all about pride. Admitting our flaws, acknowledging our ignorance, or accepting our need for correction is hard on our egos. But the wise would rather increase in wisdom than worry about their pride. They would prefer to become more godly than simply pamper their egos with false flattery and pride-producing praise. Wise people know that it takes a true friend to tell you what you need to hear while everyone else avoids the subject like the plague. Wise people know that ignorance is NOT bliss, and what you don’t know CAN hurt you. Wise people know that criticism may hurt, but not as much as hypocrisy or lies disguised as praise. Wise people don’t just tolerate counsel, they seek it. They depend upon it. Counsel, criticism, and correction. Three invaluable resources in the toolbox of the wise. You can’t live well without them.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

Well-Rounded Wisdom

1  Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid.
A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
    but a man of evil devices he condemns.
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
    but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
The thoughts of the righteous are just;
    the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
    but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
    but the house of the righteous will stand.
A man is commended according to his good sense,
    but one of twisted mind is despised.
Better to be lowly and have a servant
    than to play the great man and lack bread.
10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
    but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
12 Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
    but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,
    but the righteous escapes from trouble.
14 From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
    and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice.
16 The vexation of a fool is known at once,
    but the prudent ignores an insult.
17 Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
    but a false witness utters deceit.
18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
    but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
    but those who plan peace have joy.
21 No ill befalls the righteous,
    but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
    but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
24 The hand of the diligent will rule,
    while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
    but a good word makes him glad.
26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
    but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
27 Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
    but the diligent man will get precious wealth.
28 In the path of righteousness is life,
    and in its pathway there is no death.
– Proverbs 12:1-28 ESV

Wisdom isn’t just an intellectual asset that comes in handy when having to make difficult decisions. It is a way of life – the godly life. And it encompasses everything from our inner thoughts and cognitive capabilities to our spoken words and the way we conduct ourselves in daily life. In other words, wisdom influences our thoughts, words, and deeds. And this Proverb makes that point quite clear.

It all begins on the inside, in the heart and mind of the one who desires the wisdom that God offers. Wise living can only come from one who has gained the capacity for wise thinking. It’s interesting to note that when God made the fateful decision to destroy mankind through a devastating flood, it was based on the following assessment:

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. – Genesis 6:5 ESV

Yes, their behavior had become abhorrent to God, but it had all begun in their hearts. Ever since the fall, mankind had been on a trajectory away from God. After disobeying God and eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve had been ejected from the Garden. They eventually settled to the east of Eden. And their future descendants would continue to move increasingly further from God’s presence, both physically and spiritually. Their migration away from Eden left them increasingly alienated from and ignorant of God. In fact, in one of his psalms, Solomon’s father, David describes the plight of all those who lose touch with God and find themselves displaying the characteristics of the fool.

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
    there is none who does good. – Psalm 14:1 ESV

Solomon states, “The thoughts of the righteous are just…” (Proverbs 12:5 ESV). It all begins in the heart and mind. And this idea is consistent with Solomon’s earlier admonition:

Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. – Proverbs 4:23 NLT

And Jesus Himself warned that the heart was the repository of all man’s thoughts and actions.

“But the words you speak come from the heart—that’s what defiles you. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander. These are what defile you.” – Matthew 15:18-20 NLT

Notice how many times Solomon refers to the importance of our inner thoughts.

A man is commended according to his good sense,
    but one of twisted mind is despised. – Proverbs 12:8 ESV

Fools think their own way is right,
    but the wise listen to others. – Proverbs 12:15 NLT

Deceit fills hearts that are plotting evil;
    joy fills hearts that are planning peace! – Proverbs 12:20 NLT

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down – Proverbs 12:25 ESV

God’s brand of wisdom is meant to influence man’s heart because a heart devoid of God will result in a life devoid of godliness. The individual who has lost touch with God will display a lifestyle that is out of step with His will and in violation of His commands.

Near the end of the book of Judges, God provides an assessment of the spiritual state of His chosen people, the nation of Israel.

In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes. – Judges 25:21 ESV

Throughout the book of Judges, the Israelites are shown to have a stubborn propensity for turning their backs on God. Their real problem was not that they lacked a human king, but that they refused to honor God as their sovereign Lord. In Judges 2, we are given a synopsis of the problem that plagued the Israelites.

And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done for Israel.

And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals. And they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods, from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the Lord to anger. – Judges 2:10-12 ESV

And before long, the Israelites began to act like fools, displaying behavior that was out of character for God’s chosen people and out of touch with His revealed will for them. So, God was forced to discipline them for their sinful behavior. They were destined to suffer the consequences of their unwise choices and learn the painful lessons that disobedience brings. And Solomon points out man’s need to love the discipline of God.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid. – Proverbs 12:1 ESV

When we step out of line with God, He lovingly reproves and corrects us. His discipline is never arbitrary or unwarranted, but it is always lovingly and justly administered. Solomon pointed out in an earlier proverb, “My son, do not despise the Lord‘s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights” (Proverbs 3:11-12 ESV).

Ultimately, God’s discipline is intended to produce godly behavior. And that seems to be the point of Solomon’s proverb. God wants to pour out His favor upon His people. He longs to bless them by rewarding their obedience to His will.

A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
    but a man of evil devices he condemns. – Proverbs 12:2 ESV

And as God redeems and restores an individual’s heart, that inner transformation begins to show up in their words.

The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
    but the mouth of the upright delivers them. – Proverbs 12:6 ESV

The wicked are trapped by their own words,
    but the godly escape such trouble. – Proverbs 12:13 NLT

Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence,
    but a false witness utters deceit. – Proverbs 12:17 ESV

Truthful words stand the test of time,
    but lies are soon exposed. – Proverbs 12:19 NLT

But God’s reformation of the heart also produces transformed actions.

Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. – Proverbs 12:11 ESV

the work of a man’s hand comes back to him. – Proverbs 12:14 ESV

Work hard and become a leader;
    be lazy and become a slave. – Proverbs 12:24 NLT

Lazy people don’t even cook the game they catch,
    but the diligent make use of everything they find. – Proverbs 12:27 NLT

The godly tend to be well-rounded people whose lives display an inner strength that flows out in both words and deeds. Their hearts and minds produce attitudes and actions that convey their reverence for God. They are not duplicitous or hypocritical. God does not say of them what He said about the people of Israel.

“These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” – Isaiah 29:13 NLT

But instead, God recognizes their desire to obey His will and rewards them accordingly.

The way of the godly leads to life;
    that path does not lead to death. – Proverbs 12:28 NLT

It is interesting to note than when Jesus was asked by the Jewish religious leaders which was the greatest of all of God’s commandments, He stated:

“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ – Mark 12:29-30 NLT

Heart, soul, mind, and strength. God’s intention is to transform man from the inside out, and it is His desire that every area of a man’s life is renewed and radically altered to reflect his identity as a child of God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

The Choice is Obvious

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
    but a just weight is his delight.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with the humble is wisdom.
The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
    but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
    but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
    but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
    and the expectation of wealth perishes too.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
    and the wicked walks into it instead.
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
    but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
    and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
    but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
    but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
16 A gracious woman gets honor,
    and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself,
    but a cruel man hurts himself.
18 The wicked earns deceptive wages,
    but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
    but he who pursues evil will die.
20 Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those of blameless ways are his delight.
21 Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
    but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
    is a beautiful woman without discretion.
23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
    the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered.
26 The people curse him who holds back grain,
    but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
27 Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,
    but evil comes to him who searches for it.
28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
    but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
29 Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
    and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
    and whoever captures souls is wise.
31 If the righteous is repaid on earth,
    how much more the wicked and the sinner! – Proverbs 11:1-31 ESV

This Proverb, like the one that precedes it and many of those that come after it, provides a series of one-liners that provide timeless lessons contrasting the way of the wise and the far-less-productive way of the fool. Solomon is simply trying to illustrate the vast difference between the two and provide his readers with a clear and compelling incentive to choose the right way – God’s way.

He compares pride and humility, honesty and dishonesty, as well as wickedness and godliness. He contrasts the fool with the sensible person and the lover of money with the one who loves God. The entire Proverb is a series of couplets contrasting one way of life with another. And any conclusion reached from this exercise is intended to be a no-brainer. The life of godliness or righteousness is meant to be the obvious winner, and verse 5 sums it up well.

The righteousness of the good man will make his way straight, but the sin of the evil-doer will be the cause of his fall. – Proverbs 11:5 BBE

As New Testament believers, we know that our righteousness is a gift provided to us by God through the death of His Son Jesus Christ. With His sacrificial and substitutionary death on the cross, Christ paid the penalty for our sin. The apostle Paul put it this way:

For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. – 2 Corinthians 5:21 NLT

On the cross, Jesus took on our sin, and, in exchange, He made available His righteousness to all those who would receive it through faith or belief in His atoning death on their behalf. And it is that righteousness that allows us to live a life that pleases God. In his letter to the Roman, Paul further clarifies the life-altering implications of this “great exchange.”

For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood.…God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. – Romans 3:25, 26 BKT

This Proverb is not about human effort and our ability to keep a set of rules or standards. It portrays the life of the individual who has made God his highest priority and is willing to allow Him to transform them from the inside out. The result is a life marked by honesty, integrity, knowledge, joy, wisdom, trustworthiness, generosity, discretion, and the love of God.

To be godly is to be God-dependent. It is an awareness that our righteousness comes from Him, not ourselves. It is an understanding that left to ourselves, we are nothing more than fools, displaying a penchant for pride, arrogance, a love of money, cruelty, ruthlessness, stinginess, a lack of discretion, and a complete inability to truly change our behavior or our hearts.

This Proverb is not just a list of lifestyle choices. It is a description of two diametrically opposite ways of life. One is our natural tendency, the inevitable and inescapable outcome of the fall. The other is the life of an individual who has discovered God and fallen in love with His grace, mercy, goodness, faithfulness, and holiness. Righteousness is not a goal we strive towards. It is a gift made available to us through a relationship with God. Because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, we can have a right relationship with God, and the fruit of that is a life of righteousness. God changes our hearts and, as a result, our behavior. Our godly lives are proof of our restored relationship with Him.

Wisdom, generosity, discretion, honesty, and integrity are not the result of our own effort, but the fruit of a loving relationship with God. He shows us the kind of life that honors Him, then gives us the capacity to live it through the power of His Spirit. He produces in us what we could never pull off on our own. So, why would we ever choose any other way to live our lives? There’s no comparison.

Solomon’s list of comparative or contrasting life choices is anything but subtle. He tells it like it really is and, like the rest of the Scriptures, his message is rather blunt. Sometimes just reading through God’s Word can cause us to cringe at what appears to be the politically incorrect nature of some of the statements that flow from its pages. The Word of God pulls no punches. It takes no prisoners. It isn’t afraid to get up in your face and tell you what you need to hear, whether you want to hear it or not. It’s painfully honest at times. But honesty is exactly what fallen men and women need to hear.

It is the word of God and it speaks the truth – refusing to sugarcoat the hard facts or soften the impact of its message on the souls of men. Verse seven of Proverbs 11 is one of those “I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that” kind of statements.

When the wicked die, their hopes die with them, for they rely on their own feeble strength. – Proverbs 11:7 NLT

The Message puts it this way, “When the wicked die, that’s it — the story’s over, end of hope.” There is nothing more. Their petty efforts at achieving success in life are proved to be what they have always been – futile and pointless. Any happiness they have enjoyed is short-lived and temporal, rather than eternal. Instead of trusting God for their eternal well-being, they relied on their own “feeble strength” and learned that no amount of money, success, achievements, accolades, or toys will help them when this life is over.

Evil people get rich for the moment… – Proverbs 11:18 NLT

They live for this life. Their actions and attitudes are self-focused and temporally-based. They may enjoy all that this life has to offer, but this life is not all that there is. Yet, Solomon provides a stark counterpoint that is meant to encourage a different choice of lifestyles and life outcomes.

The reward of the godly will last… – Proverbs 11:18 NLT

Those who choose to live their life according to God’s standards and in His strength, not their own, will discover that their reward is long-lasting.

Godly people find life; evil people find death… – Proverbs 11:19 NLT

The godly can look forward to a reward, while the wicked can expect only judgment… – Proverbs 11:23 NLT

Wow! That’s blunt, cold, and seemingly heartless. But it’s the truth. It’s a matter-of-fact wake-up call designed to remind us that we are eternal creatures, not temporal ones. Our focus needs to be on eternity, not the fleeting promises of this life. When we have an eternal perspective, we can give freely because we aren’t looking to the things of this world to satisfy us or keep us safe. We don’t look to money to bring us happiness or fulfillment. Solomon points out the painfully obvious: “Trust in your money and down you go!” (Proverbs 11:28 NLT).

No, those who have their eyes focused on God see life differently. Generosity comes naturally. Holding loosely to the things of this world is easy. They inherently know that “riches won’t help on the day of judgment, but right living can save you from death” (Proverbs 11:4 NLT).

These truths are hard to hear and even harder to accept. We hear a steady stream of propaganda telling us that this life is all that matters. We’re told to grab all we can while we can because this life is all there is. Our own present happiness becomes all that matters. We’re number one. It’s every man for himself. But God has a different perspective. And the godly recognize that there is more to life than pleasure, possessions, popularity, and prosperity. There’s eternal life. This world is not our home, we’re just passing through. The best is yet to come.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

A Study in Contrasts

The proverbs of Solomon.

A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
    but righteousness delivers from death.
The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
    but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty,
    but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
    but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
    but the name of the wicked will rot.
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
    but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
10 Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
    and a babbling fool will come to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up strife,
    but love covers all offenses.
13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
    but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
14 The wise lay up knowledge,
    but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
15 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
    the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
16 The wage of the righteous leads to life,
    the gain of the wicked to sin.
17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
    but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
    and whoever utters slander is a fool.
19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
    but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
    the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
    but fools die for lack of sense.
22 The blessing of the Lord makes rich,
    and he adds no sorrow with it.
23 Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,
    but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
24 What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
    but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
25 When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
    but the righteous is established forever.
26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
    so is the sluggard to those who send him.
27 The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
    but the years of the wicked will be short.
28 The hope of the righteous brings joy,
    but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
29 The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless,
    but destruction to evildoers.
30 The righteous will never be removed,
    but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
    but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
    but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse. – Proverbs 10:1-32 ESV

In this chapter, Solomon introduces the writing style that we most commonly associate with the book of Proverbs. In it, he utilizes a series of contrasting couplets that juxtapose the righteous and the wicked. For nine chapters, Solomon has emphasized the need for wisdom and the preferred lifestyle that the way of wisdom provides to all who avail themselves of it.

Now, he begins to differentiate between God’s way and that of the world. He refers to the righteous 13 times and he mentions the wicked 11 times, and he goes out of his way to differentiate between the two. To Solomon, wisdom was far more than an intellectual commodity that one acquired over time. It was a way of life. And it stood in stark contrast to the more prevalent and popular way of the godless and worldly.

“Most of the proverbs in this section are one verse long and contain two lines each; they are couplets. The second line contrasts, compares, or completes the idea expressed in the first line. This is Hebrew parallelism.” – Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Proverbs

Solomon starts off this Proverb by declaring his desire for his son to choose the way of wisdom. That would be the preference of any loving father. No parent wants to raise a fool. No father or mother finds joy in discovering that their son or daughter has chosen the path of wickedness and unrighteousness. But unless those parents make the determination to promote and model a lifestyle of wisdom, they may very well end up experiencing the sorrow of raising a wayward and foolish adult child.

A wise child brings joy to a father;
    a foolish child brings grief to a mother. – Proverbs 10:1 NLT

Parenting is hard work. It is not for the faint of heart or the weak-willed. It requires incredible energy and fortitude, limitless endurance, boundless courage, and a certain degree of blind faith. Raising children is a huge responsibility that can intimidate the bravest of souls. It can make the strong weak in the knees and turn the most confident of men into sniveling, teary-eyed basketcases.

But all the same, there is nothing more gratifying than to watch your children grow and mature, making the most of the gifts and abilities God has given them. It is a blessing to pour into their lives and see God use you in His grand scheme to mold them into the likeness of His Son. It does not always go well or even quite like you had imagined or expected. There are setbacks and heartaches along the way. Children have a mind and a will of their own, and their not afraid to use either one. They can be loving and frustrating. They can warm our hearts and try our patience. They can bring a smile to our faces and a tear to our eye – all within just a few minutes’ time span.

It seems that Solomon knew well the joys and sorrows of parenting. He talked about it a lot. And he dealt regularly with the topic of the foolish child. Here in verse one of Proverbs 10, he describes two different children. One is wise and the other is foolish. He says the wise child brings joy to his father. He makes him proud. But a foolish child makes his mother sad. He brings her to her knees in prayer and despair. The specific Hebrew word Solomon uses for fool is kecîyl and it means “fool, stupid fellow or dullard.”

This is a very specific kind of fool. He is not talking about the simple fool, that child-like fool who, because of his young age, doesn’t know how to make good choices and lacks good judgment. No, Solomon is describing an individual who is stubborn, arrogant, and set in his or her ways. They reject the discipline of their parents and all authorities in their lives. They seem determined to make wrong choices. They are sensual fools, driven by their passions and obsessed with immediate gratification. They refuse to deny themselves anything and lack the common sense to know better. These kinds of children don’t just happen; they get this way over time. They are that innocent, young boy who one day turns out to be that insolent, rebellious teenager whose parents barely recognize him. He is lazy, unreliable, unteachable, and will ultimately be destroyed for his lack of common sense.

The words of the godly encourage many,
    but fools are destroyed by their lack of common sense. – Proverbs 10:21 NLT

They actually enjoy doing wrong.

Doing wrong is fun for a fool,
    but living wisely brings pleasure to the sensible. – Proverbs 10:23 NLT

And they made a habit of making light of sin.

People who wink at wrong cause trouble,
    but a bold reproof promotes peace. – Proverbs 10:10 NLT

What mother wouldn’t cry over a child like that?

So, how do we keep our children from becoming sensual fools? The easy answer is that we expose them to the wisdom of God. We teach them the truth of God’s Word. We model what it means to fear God and honor Him with our actions. But in the end, there is no guarantee that our children will turn out either wise or godly. Proverb 22:6 says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.”

But that’s not a promise. Solomon is stating a proverb or maxim that contains a time-tested truth. It’s not a guarantee from God that our children will turn out well if we do our part. There are far too many examples that prove otherwise. Too many children raised by well-meaning parents have ended up turning their backs on wisdom and taking the way that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13).

Throughout this Proverb, Solomon paints a stark, black-and-white picture that clearly distinguishes the way of the wise from the far-less-flattering way of the fool. And the descriptions he uses to differentiate the fool from the wise person are intended to make that lifestyle unappealing and unacceptable.

Lazy people are soon poor… – Proverbs 10:4 NLT

one who sleeps during harvest is a disgrace. – Proverbs 10:5 NLT

the words of the wicked conceal violent intentions. – Proverbs 10:6 NLT

the name of a wicked person rots away. – Proverbs 10:7 NLT

babbling fools fall flat on their faces. – Proverbs 10:8 NLT

those who follow crooked paths will be exposed. – Proverbs 10:9 NLT

People who wink at wrong cause trouble – Proverbs 10:10 NLT

And on and on it goes. Those who refuse the wisdom God offers and godly parents promote will likely end up with train-wrecked lives.

But God still calls on parents to do their part.  They have a God-given responsibility to teach their children well, to point them to Christ, and model Christlikeness in front of them. But when all said and done, every child has a will of their own. They each have to develop a faith of their own. They may make wrong choices. They may prefer to take a different path. They may become sensual fools and bring tears to the eyes of their mothers.

We can’t make godly children. Only God can do that. So, with all our effort at parenting, we must never forget that we need God’s help and our children will need His abundant mercy and grace. He alone can make our children wise. He alone can keep them on the right path. It is their relationship with God through Jesus Christ that will make them wise, not us. We have a part to play, but it is ultimately up to Him. So, we must turn them over to Him early in their lives. We must place them in His hands for safe keeping. We can do our job. We can love them, teach them, discipline them, and entrust them to God for their future well-being. We can point them to wisdom and provide them with godly counsel.

The mouth of the godly person gives wise advice – Proverbs 10:31 NLT

The lips of the godly speak helpful words – Proverbs 10:32 NLT

 But, ultimately, our children belong to the Lord and we must trust Him to do what needs to be done so that they might fear Him live in the wisdom that He alone provides.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

The Choice is Ours

1 Wisdom has built her house;
    she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
    she has also set her table.
She has sent out her young women to call
    from the highest places in the town,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    To him who lacks sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
    and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways, and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
    and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
    reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
    teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11 For by me your days will be multiplied,
    and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;
    if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

13 The woman Folly is loud;
    she is seductive and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house;
    she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by,
    who are going straight on their way,
16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    And to him who lacks sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
18 But he does not know that the dead are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol. – Proverbs 9:1-18 ESV

In this Proverbs, Solomon portrays wisdom and folly as two women. One is industrious, a planner, and highly hospitable. She offers those who are “simple” the chance to dine at her table and gain good judgment and wisdom. She extends to them an opportunity to leave their simple ways behind and experience true life. Wisdom offers long life and the capacity to fear God and know Him intimately and deeply. The other woman, Folly, also calls out and offers her own invitation, but one with a completely different outcome. Folly is portrayed as a prostitute. She is brash and ignorant, yet doesn’t even know it. She too calls out to the simple and those lacking in judgment.

“‘Come in with me,’ she urges the simple. To those who lack good judgment, she says, ‘Stolen water is refreshing; food eaten in secret tastes the best!’” – Proverbs 9:16-17 NL

Two women. Two invitations. But depending on which invitation you accept, two diametrically opposed outcomes. One ends in life, the other in death. One offers wisdom and good judgment in place of foolishness and simplicity. The other can only offer sensual pleasures and immediate gratification of the senses, but really delivers disappointment and, ultimately, death.

The picture Solomon paints portrays life on this planet for each and every man and woman. Every day we are faced with two basic options: the way of wisdom as offered by God, or the way of folly or foolishness, that the world so tantalizingly and temptingly offers us. And every day, we are faced with the choice of one or the other.

The things of this world are so appealing. The ways of this world seem so logical and sensible. They appeal to our sin nature and focus on our physical senses. They have little to do with wisdom, understanding, common sense, or good judgment. And we’re not talking about intelligence, because even those with high IQs can be guilty of foolishness and live the life of the simpleminded. The Hebrew word used by Solomon for the “simple” person refers to one who is easily persuaded and enticed. They are naive. Satan and this world thrive on these kinds of people. And every person who walks on this planet IS that kind of person if they don’t have a relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. They may be smart, successful, well-to-do, and even powerful, but they are ultimately simple-minded. They are dominated by their flesh and driven by their desires. They are susceptible to temptation and prone to live like fools. Why? Because they lack good judgment, common sense, wisdom, understanding, and the fear of God.

The key seems to be found in Wisdom’s invitation. “Leave your simple ways behind.” There has to be a point in time when you decide to acknowledge your propensity to be easily persuaded and enticed. Then you have to be willing to abandon that lifestyle for a better one. We have to choose to accept God’s invitation to sit at His table and feast on His wisdom. We must trade in our desire to satisfy our senses and choose God’s offer of understanding. We need to understand the times in which we live, the dangers that surround us, and our own tendency to live like fools. We need to understand and comprehend our incapacity to survive in this world without God. Without Him, we are easy targets for the enemy. God offers us wisdom. The world offers us folly. And every day we have a choice to make.

“But correct the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will be even wiser. Teach the righteous and they will learn even more.” – Proverbs 9:8-9 NLT

Nobody likes to be corrected, right? Who in their right mind likes to be rebuked, called out, or even judged by someone else? Just the thought of it can raise our blood pressure. It causes us to stiffen up and start defending our rights, protecting our territory and justifying our actions as just and right. But according to the book of Proverbs, there is a group of individuals, albeit a small group, who actually enjoy being corrected. In fact, if you do correct them, they will love you for it! Imagine that. Someone who actually loves being corrected.

Their response to correction is LOVE. The Hebrew word is ahab, and it is a verb that refers to human love for another. It is also translated as “friend” in the Old Testament. It is the word used to describe Abraham as the friend of God. When you correct a wise person, he actually views you as a friend, not an enemy. He takes your correction as a good thing, not a bad thing. He is grateful because he understands that correction is the key to change and maturity. Sometimes we can’t see our own faults. We are oblivious to our blind spots and we need the input of others to help us recognize areas of our lives that need work. The wise man knows he has faults, whether he sees them or not, and does not become defensive or angry when they are exposed. Instead, he loves the one who corrects him. He is grateful.

The wise person also accepts instruction willingly and gratefully. He is wise because he loves to learn. He has an appetite for knowledge, so he gladly accepts instruction from others. In the Hebrew text, the word “instruction” is not actually there. It simply says, “give to the wise.” It carries the idea of exchange or interaction. If you interact with a wise person, they will grow in wisdom. They love the exchange of ideas. They are not afraid to debate, discuss, or expose themselves to other viewpoints. They are not one-dimensional or closed to hearing the other side of an argument. They will gladly dialogue and grow wiser through the exchange. If their viewpoint is right, they will remain firm in their conviction. If they discover they are wrong, they will grow wiser from having had the discussion.

You can teach the wise. They are not so sure of themselves or set in their ways that they refuse to learn from others. The wise are constant learners. They learn from their mistakes. They learn vicariously, voraciously, and constantly. When we refuse to learn, we reveal that we are fools. Fools hate correction and instruction because they refuse to admit their own ignorance. They are content to remain foolish. Fools have a false view of life, seeing themselves as wise and everyone else as fools. The wise have a healthy view of life, seeing themselves as perpetual students with life as their schoolroom. Their perspective is based on a fear of God that results in humility and a growing dependence on Him. Their love of learning and acceptance of correction is based on their understanding that God is their teacher. He is the all-wise, all-knowing God who is constantly imparting His wisdom to them in a variety of ways through a myriad of sources. They see wisdom as a gift from God and learning as an opportunity, not a burden.

But as we have seen before, the search for wisdom begins with a healthy reverence or fear of God. The fear of the Lord, while a biblical topic, is not a popular one among most Christians today. We find it uncomfortable to talk about it because it sounds distasteful and unappealing to our modern-day sensibilities. In our minds, fear is to be avoided at all costs. It’s why we light up our homes like Christmas trees, hook them up with security systems, and lock them down at night. We want to remove all fear by providing as much security as we possibly can. But what motivates our actions? What causes us to put the security system in, install extra locks on the doors, and turn on the lights at night? It’s all motivated by fear. You see, in reality, fear can have a positive influence in our lives. And the fear of the Lord is one of the most positive and influential attitudes we can have.

In Proverbs 28:14, we’re told,  “Happy is the man in whom is the fear of the Lord at all times; but he whose heart is hard will come into trouble.” There is a joy and contentment that comes with learning to fear God. It was the Puritan minister, John Bunyan, who referred to the fear of the Lord as a gift or grace from God. It is HIS fear that He places in OUR hearts. It is a recognition and realization of His holiness, righteousness, and power. It is an awareness of His singular role as the ruler over all the universe. Listen to John Bunyan’s description of the fear of the Lord:

Had God given thee all the world, yet cursed hadst thou been, if he had not given thee the fear of the Lord; for the fashion of this world is a fading thing, but he that feareth the Lord shall abide for ever and ever. This therefore is the first thing that I would propound for thy encouragement, thou man that fears the Lord. This grace will dwell in thy heart, for it is a new covenant grace, and will abide with thee for ever. It is sent to thee from God, not only to join thy heart unto him, but to keep thee from final apostasy—“I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me” (Jer 32:40). That thou mayest never forsake God, is his design, and therefore, to keep thee from that wicked thing, he hath put his fear in thy heart. Many are the temptations, difficulties, snares, traps, trials, and troubles that the people of God pass through in the world, but how shall they be kept, how shall they be delivered, and escape? Why, the answer is, The fear of God will keep them — “He that feareth God shall come forth of them all.”

The fear of the Lord is a grace. It is a gift from God that He places in our hearts and provides for us so that we might live for Him. It is not something to be avoided or feared. It is a motivating factor in our lives that produces wise behavior. It protects us, watches over us, guides us, motivates us, and keeps us centered on Him as our one true source for all that we need. The fear of the Lord keeps us from fearing man. Because I fear the Lord, I don’t need to fear financial loss or even physical death. My God is greater than both. It is when I learn to fear God for who He is that I will begin to grow in wisdom and understanding. Life will begin to make sense. I will see the world through a different set of lenses. I will gain a new perspective on reality. It is the foundation of wisdom. And as I grow to know God better and better, I will develop good judgment. He will give me the capacity to make wise choices and good decisions. I will instinctively know what to do and when to do it. But it all begins with the fear of the Lord. That’s a good thing.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

New English Translation (NET)NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2017 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://netbible.com All rights reserved.

 

Christ, the Wisdom of God

22 “The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his work,
    the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.

32 “And now, O sons, listen to me:
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise,
    and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
    watching daily at my gates,
    waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
    and obtains favor from the Lord,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself;
    all who hate me love death.” – Proverbs 8:22-36 ESV

Wisdom has an impressive pedigree, and it isn’t shy when it comes to talking about it. According to verse 22, Wisdom is literally older than dirt. It has been around since the beginning of time.

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before he made any thing from the beginning. – Proverbs 8:22 DRB

The Hebrew word, qānâ, can be translated as either “created” or “possessed,” and various Bible translations use one or the other to describe Wisdom’s relationship with God at the point of creation.

The LORD created me as His first course, before His works of old. – Berean Study Bible

“The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else.” – New Living Translation

“The LORD possessed me at the beginning of His way, Before His works of old. – New American Standard Version

“Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, Before his works of old.”  – American Standard Version

But if God created Wisdom, then that would suggest there was a point in time when it did not exist. Like the rest of creation, it was formed out of nothing. But that would infer that  Wisdom exists independently of God. Like the sun, moon, stars, plants, and animals, it owes its existence to God’s divine power. But that would seem to contradict the idea that Wisdom is an attribute of God Himself.  So, given the context established in Proverbs 8, it makes much more sense to translate the word qānâ as “possessed.”

“As Creator, God counted wisdom most important. Wisdom is older than the universe, and it was essential in its creation. Nothing came into existence without wisdom. Wisdom leads to joy because creation produces joy (vv. 30-31) both for the Creator and for the creature. God made and did nothing without wisdom. Therefore it is very important that we obtain it. That is the point.” – Thomas L. Constable, Notes on Genesis

Wisdom boldly claims to have been “set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth” (Proverbs 8:23 ESV). Again, understanding the meaning of this passage is dependent upon a proper translation of the Hebrew word, nāsaḵ. It carries the meaning “to pour out,” as in the pouring out of a libation or in the anointing of a king. God poured forth His Wisdom in the process of forming the universe, anointing all it contained with His unsurpassed intelligence, skill, and creative prowess. Nothing was left to chance. Everything God made reflects intelligent design and symmetry of order.

Before God made the oceans, seas, rivers, and streams, Wisdom was already in existence. Long before there were mountains and hills and the dirt and rocks from which they consist, Wisdom was there. The sun, moon, stars, heavens, clouds, and atmosphere surrounding the earth were all made according to God’s infinite and incomparable wisdom. And the apostle John explains how this Wisdom manifested itself.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. – John 1:1-3 ESV

In his first letter to the Corinthians church, the apostle Paul declares that Christ is “the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24 ESV). In other words, He is the wisdom of God personified. Just a few verses later, Paul asserts that Christ and Wisdom are synonymous and inseparable.

For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. – 1 Corinthians 1:30 NLT

And the prophet Isaiah, writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, predicted that the Messiah would be the greatest expression of God’s infinite wisdom.

And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. – Isaiah 11:2 NLT

Paul firmly believed that Jesus Christ was the wisdom of God in human flesh. And his greatest desire was for all believers to “have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself” (Colossians 2:2 NLT), because  “In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3 NLT).

So, when Wisdom boldly claims, “I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man” (Proverbs 8:30-31 ESV), you can hear the voice of Jesus speaking. Because of his knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures, Solomon would have had some idea of the promised Messiah of Israel. But much of the Messiah’s mission and role would have remained a mystery to even the all-wise King of Israel.

But after the incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, the apostles were able to put together all the pieces of the puzzle and form a more cohesive and cogent explanation of Jesus’ divine role as the wisdom of God made manifest.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together. – Colossians 1:15-17 NLT

Solomon may not have had a comprehensive grasp of Jesus as the embodied wisdom of God, but he fully understood that Wisdom was indispensable and vital to living a life that brought glory to God. That’s why he spent so much time pleading with his sons to make the pursuit of godly wisdom a high priority in their lives. He even portrayed Wisdom as a human being, calling to his young sons and begging them to avail themselves of her gift.

“And so, my children, listen to me,
    for all who follow my ways are joyful.
Listen to my instruction and be wise.
    Don’t ignore it.
Joyful are those who listen to me,
    watching for me daily at my gates,
    waiting for me outside my home!
For whoever finds me finds life
    and receives favor from the Lord. – Proverbs 8:32-35 NLT

The words of Wisdom are reminiscent of those spoken by Jesus centuries later.

“My Father has entrusted everything to me. No one truly knows the Son except the Father, and no one truly knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” – Matthew 11:27-30 NLT

Jesus offers all those who are worn out from trying to earn their way into God’s good graces, the gift of peace. Peace with God. He alone can provide sinful men and women restored access to God’s presence. Through faith in His sacrificial death on the cross, fools can receive “wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 NIV). By accepting Christ as our Savior, we receive all that He is, including His eternal wisdom and spotless righteousness, as our very own.

But Wisdom has one final word of warning that should leave us shaking in our boots.

“But those who miss me injure themselves.
    All who hate me love death.” – Proverbs 8:36 NLT

And the apostle Paul described a similar fate for all those who turn their back on God’s Wisdom. They suffer serious consequences for refusing to embrace the gift that God has made available.

…they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.

So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. – Romans 1:21-26 NLT

And all those who refuse to accept Jesus, “who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30 ESV), will suffer a similar fate.

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