August 8, 2015
Prov 6:1-19, Mt. 24:29-51
Prov. 6:20-35, Heb 12
The Bible often equates sin with slavery and salvation with freedom. Jesus himself said, “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” and, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (Jn. 8:34, 36). The Apostle Paul wrote, “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom. 8:2). The things we are warned about in Proverbs 6 are things that enslave us. Most of them are sins, but one, surety, may arise out of of good and pure intensions. Yet Solomon warns his son to avoid it. This is good advice for the young boy who will become king. Foolish treaties, especially those with ungodly nations, could force Israel into wars in which she should have no part. Financial agreements, in which Israel becomes surety for the debts of other nations, or even for individuals or businesses within Israel are also foolishness, which the king should avoid. The soundness of this advice, and its application to leaders and governments today is obvious, though generally unheeded, as governments routinely pledge the income, property, and the very lives of their people as surety for their foolish or greedy agreements. A king could expect people to approach him with schemes and plans, for which they want loans, or for which they want him to pledge himself or his people as surety. Kings of other nations did this routinely in Solomon’s time, resulting in debt, recession/depression, and war. A wise king will avoid such agreements.
The advice applies to the average citizen also. Pledging our hard earned income or savings as surety for a another's spending puts our income or savings at risk. Solomon calls this a snare. The Apostle Paul calls it slavery (1 Cor. 7:23). In a way this warning applies to all irresponsible financial actions, such as debt and wasteful spending. The Bible teaches us to work wisely and hard, live below our means, spend wisely, save much, and view ourselves as stewards of the Lord’s resources, which are all to be used to His glory.
Those trapped in financial snares must do all they can to escape. Their actions must be as intentional and concentrated as those of a roe seeking to escape the hunter and a bird seeking to escape the fowler.
There may, of course, be times when it is good or necessary to become surety for another person. Paul offered himself as surety for Onisimus (Philemon 19). Parents also may need to become surety for their children. Few of us could afford a house, or even a car, without debt. But usually it is best if we avoid such things.
Verses 6 through 11 deal with the sin of sloth, which is a love of ease and idleness. Becoming surety to for another’s debts may cause poverty and hardship to you and your family, But sloth will always cause poverty and hardship unless you are wealthy enough to be able to afford to live a life of idleness.
Rather than idleness, Solomon instructs us to learn from the ant. She needs no boss, she needs no urging. She works hard when it is time to work. For the ant, that time is summer. For us it is whenever our jobs require it. But when it is time to work, work. Because the ant works when she should, she reaps when the harvest comes. The Bible is not promising health and wealth. Droughts and natural disasters may destroy the fruits of our labours before the harvest comes. Our prosperity can be affected by everything from office politics to national and world economic conditions. Hard work does not always guarantee prosperity, but sloth does guarantee poverty.
There is also such a thing as spiritual sloth. Neglect of the things of God and the means of grace is sloth in spiritual things. Such people, if they have any faith at all, should not be surprised to see it dwindling weaker and weaker as it is neglected. Nor should they be surprised if a storm of life destroys it altogether. Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation with fear and trembling (Phil 2:12). He told Timothy to study to show himself approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15). Should we expect to be spiritually idle, and yet enjoy strength of faith and the fulness of God? Those who suffer under the sin of sloth are well advised to pray with F.B. Meyer, who authored the following prayer.
“O God, the God of all Goodness and all Grace, Who art worthy of a greater love than we can either give or understand; fill my heart with such love towards Thee as may cast out all sloth and fear, that nothing may seem too hard for me to do or to suffer in obedience to Thee. AMEN.”
The rest of the chapter deals with other things that cause spiritual poverty. Verses 12 through 15 describe the character of a wicked person. 16 through 19 describe things God hates, and, therefore, separate us from God. 20 through 23 encourage us to learn the word of God, the Bible. 24 through 35 deal with sexual purity and are particularly relevant to our sexually obsessed culture.
Prov. 7, Mt 25:1-30
Prov. 8, Heb. 13
In chapter 7, the particular dangers of sexual sin are continued and described in more detail. The woman in the chapter entices the man intentionally. Her words and invitation to “take our fill of love until the morning,” lure the man into her bed. She is symbolic of all sexual temptation.
Men who yield to her, are like oxen being led to slaughter, fools being led to the stocks, and birds flying into a snare (21-23). “Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths” (24). “Her house is the way to hell” (27).
There is another meaning in this passage. It does not come out as clearly, because the passage is written to men, but it is still there. It is a message is to women, and it is simply, don’t be this woman. Don’t be the alluring siren with the revealing clothes and flirtatious ways. Be known for Godliness, modesty, and chaste ways.
Instead of the harlot or strange woman (a woman who is not his wife), a man is to pursue Wisdom. Nor is Wisdom hard to find. “She standeth in the top of the high places” (2), and crieth at the gates at the entry of the city” (3). We might say she shouts from the housetops and in the places where people come and go. Our problem is not that God’s wisdom is unavailable to us. He is revealed in the creation (Ps. 19, Rom. 1:18-20), and the Bible (2 Tim 3:16), which is easy to find in large parts of the world. Our problem is that we reject His wisdom. We call the Bible myths and fairy tales. We call God’s commandments outdated, burdens, and, even immoral. We think we are wiser than the Bible, and professing ourselves to be wise, we show ourselves to be fools (Rom. 1:22).
The Wisdom of God is like the leaves of the tree of life in Revelation 22:2, it is for the healing of the nations. If the powerful and influential people of the world live and rule by it, they will decree justice (15,16). Again we see that the teaching of Scripture is not just about being saved and going to Heaven. It is also about how to live in this world. Throughout history philosophers have asked and debated the great questions of life. What is truth? What is the good life? How can we ensure the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people? What is the purpose of government, and how should government use its power? All of these questions are answered in Scripture. If we would fully apply the Wisdom of God to the laws and policies of government, we would see the end of wars and oppression. Justice and peace, not the silly impersonations of them invented by people, but real justice and real peace would heal lives and families and nations. It is the neglect and perversion of Biblical Wisdom, not the acceptance and adherence to it, that cause the problems of this world.
The picture of Wisdom given in verses 22-36 is clear, vivid, and personal. He is the wisdom of God, for “the Lord possessed me” (22). He is eternal, “the Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way (22), meaning, from all eternity. He is from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was (23). He is the Creator in verse 27, “When he prepared the heavens, I was there.” He is personal, or, a Person. “The Lord possessed me.” “I was set up from everlasting.” “I was there.” “I was by him.” “I was daily his delight.” The repeated use of the personal pronoun is clearly more than personification as seen in earlier chapters (though even they hint at the Person of Wisdom) It designates a real and living being who is somehow part of God, one with God, and yet a distinct person in Himself. This Wisdom can be none other than our Lord Jesus Christ, the Word of God, who was with God and who was God, and became flesh to reveal the glory of God to us (Jn. 1:1-14).
Prov. 9, Mt. 25:31-46
Prov. 10, James 1
Wisdom is set before us as a gracious hostess inviting us to a glorious banquet. She bears the expense of the banquet. She has bought and prepared the food. She has furnished the table. The table has bread, meat, and wine, and reminds us of the words of the Lord, “I am the bread of life.” My flesh is meat indeed” (see Jn. 6:32-58). “This is my body which is given for you.” “This… is my blood , which is shed for you” (Lk 22:20,21). “Come,” says the Hostess, eat of my bread and drink of my wine. There is no cost to the guest. The banquet is a free gift, as Christ is the free gift of God, along with all the benefits of His life, death, and resurrection.
The benefits of seeking Wisdom are impressed upon us. It is not the ideas of man that make us wise, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the Holy is understanding” (10). Only His Scriptures are able to make us wise unto salvation. But foolish women (the wisdom of the world) also shout from the high places and gathering places (13-18). We must beware that we heed not the foolish woman, thinking we are heeding the word of God. And, we must remember that the foolish woman is very adept at making herself sound like the voice of Wisdom.
The preceding chapters have been like an introduction to the Proverbs. We have been told what real Wisdom is, and we have been exhorted to apply our hearts to Wisdom, in a way that allows it to shape our being and character. In chapter 10 we enter into a series of wise sayings, which compare and contrast the ways of the wise and the foolish. The wise are those who hear and heed Wisdom. The foolish may hear, or refuse to hear, but in either case, they do not heed. They build their hope and trust for now and eternity on human ideas, rather than the word of God. They are hearers, but not doers of the Word.
The difference between them is expressed in short, but graphic and memorable phrases of contrast. “Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins” (12) is but one example. Read each one slowly, one-by-one. Pause after each one to let its meaning reach your thoughts and your soul. Read with the intention of learning and doing Wisdom.
Prov. 11, Mt. 26:1-35
Prov. 12, Jas. 2
The the contrast between the wise and the foolish continues in chapter 11 with a heavy emphasis on interpersonal relationships and actions. We are often tempted to think our relationship with God is purely personal and experiential. But the Bible continuously teaches that being a Christian includes being part of a community of faith. And much of “true religion” has to do with our relationship to, and treatment of others, especially those of the house of faith.
Much of the Bible emphasises justice and integrity in business. The false balance of verse 1 refers to a scale that is rigged to register more then the weight placed upon it. This causes a buyer to get less than he pays for. A false balance may indicate that a quantity of flour weighs 16 ounces, when it actually weighs only 15 ounces. This cheats the buyer out of 1 ounce of flour in every purchase. So, in 16 purchases, he pays for 16 pounds, but receives only 15.
We are so accustomed to deception in the marketplace today, we hardly notice it anymore. Cereal boxes and liquid containers are made larger than necessary, to make them appear to hold more than they actually contain. What is this, if not a false balance?
The false balance is symbolic of all forms of corruption and cheating in commerce. All such cheating is abomination to the Lord, “but a just weight is his delight.”
Notice the words that describe the Godly: integrity and upright (3), righteous (10), understanding (12), faithful (13), gracious (16), and merciful. Notice the words that describe the ungodly: transgressors (3), wicked (5), void of wisdom (12), cruel (17), death (19), froward (20). Froward is not a common word anymore, but it should be. It means to be distorted from the right and obstinate, or, proud, in error.
Perhaps no verse encapsulates and communicates the intent of Proverbs, and the entire revelation of God as well as verse 15; “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes.” These words remind me of the words in Judges 17:6; “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” The people of Israel, during the time of the Judges, followed their own rules and made their own gods. The result was disastrous for them, and always will be for those who persist in their own ways instead of God’s. The fool is always right in his own eyes, but “he that harkeneth unto counsel is wise.” The “counsel” is the advice of wise friends and elders who have been where we are going. Look for people who are wise, and become imitators of them as they are imitators of God. We can learn much about business, family, and life from those who have more experience in it than we. We can even learn from their mistakes. This is especially true in spiritual things. Let us seek older and more experienced Christians as our models and counsellors. Let us look for pastors and teachers who are wise in the Word, and in being doers of the Word.
Ultimately, the wisest counsellor is God, and His counsel is given to us in the Bible. He that harkeneth unto it is wise indeed.
Prov. 13, Mt. 26:36-75
Prov. 14: 1-15, Jas. 3
Since the wise sayings in the following chapters are not always gathered in order by subject, it would take many volumes, and many years to write worthwhile comments on each one. Therefore, we will look at the best known verses, or look more deeply into some of the topics presented.
Verse 24 may be the most widely known and most controversial in the thirteenth chapter. Most people, reading it, focus on the word, “rod.” Many immediately picture innocent children mercilessly flogged by cruel religious bigots. But, “rod” is not the operative word in verse 24. “Hateth” is the operative word. The question is do we love our children, or do we hate them? If we hate them, we will allow them to fall into actions, habits, and attitudes that will harm others and them. If we love them we will guide them into the things that benefit them and others.
This verse is based on the assumption that children need to be taught even the most basic rules of interpersonal interaction. They need to be taught good manners, respect for the rights and needs of others, and how to conduct themselves in ways that put that respect into action. The parent who loves his children will teach these things. The parent who hates his children will not teach them.
There's another aspect to this; our actions have consequences. This is one of the constant themes of the book of Proverbs, of which Proverbs 13:4 is an example: “The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing.” In other words, the person who does not apply himself to gaining employable skills, and diligently using them, may dream of riches and luxury, but will probably live in poverty and want. His actions of laziness and being a sluggard, have very real consequences in life. A loving parent wants his children to understand this, and begins teaching it at home.
Correction, involves letting the child reap the consequences of his actions. He needs to know that hurting others is not acceptable, and may result in being hurt in return. It need not always require the rod. There is a place for time outs, corners, loss of privileges, grounding, and taking away electronics for specified periods of time. Certainly the schools will use such things to control and teach the children.
It may on occasion require the prudent use of the rod. Such action truly hurts the parent more than it hurts the child, but it is better than letting the child fall into drugs, sexual promiscuity, and self-destructive habits.
The state certainly believes in using the rod, even where it forbids parents to use it. The state has police and courts, prisons and jails, and even the death penalty, and it uses such things regularly on those who do not learn that their actions have consequences.
Today, a permissive view of parenting demands that we let children do what ever they want in all things, and shield them from all consequences. But we cannot shield them from all consequences. We may be able to end a pregnancy (life) by abortion, but we cannot erase the physical and emotional scars caused by the experience. Even if we could shield children from all earthly consequences, their Creator sees all, and we cannot deliver them out of His hand.
There are so many wise sayings in this chapter it is hard to decide where to begin the commentary. Some of these sayings are well-known. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death” (12) is well-known to most students of the Bible, and it should be studied and pondered by all people. “The poor is hated even of his own neighbor: but the rich hath many friends” (20) is often quoted today, and its truth is demonstrated by the way people fawn over the rich and famous. Verse 34 is often invoked in prayers by people around the world: “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people.” How we wish our people and the people we have entrusted with government, would learn and live by these words. Each of these verses is worthy of meditation and comment, but today's comment will focus on verse seven: “Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceiveth not in him the lips of knowledge.”
What is a foolish man, and how can we perceive that he has not in him the lips of knowledge? If the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of God is life and peace, then a man whose words and life do not communicate the fear of the Lord and the knowledge of God, is the foolish man of verse seven. “If we find there is no relish or savour of piety in his discourse, that his communication is all corrupt and corrupting, and nothing in it good and to the use of edifying,” we may conclude him to be a foolish man” (Matthew Henry). He may be wise in the ways of the world. He may be skilled in business and in gaining wealth. He may be popular and prominent, yet he lacks that one essential foundation of wisdom, the fear of God.
Go from his presence. Do not receive his instruction. This does not mean we cannot learn from such people. They may teach us much in the fields of science and the humanities. They may teach us how to build bridges, learn new languages, and love art and music. They may even be more decent and compassionate then many we meet in the Church. But we cannot learn from them the wisdom of God, the way of salvation, or the hope of Heaven. Instead we may find ourselves being drawn to steadily away from the ways of God by their influence. We may not be able to escape associating with them in the various occupational and social circles, but we must not allow their ungodly ideas to supplant the clear teachings of Scripture in our hearts.
By contrast we must associate ourselves with the Godly. It is the habit of many to forsake the assembly of the Church, the fellowship of believers, and the instruction of Godly ministers (Heb. 10:25, Eph. 4:11-13). This is foolishness, and we are not to adopt the ways of the foolish man.
Prov. 14:16-35, Mt.27
Prov. 15:1-20, Jas. 4
“A soft answer turneth away wrath; but grievous words stir up anger” (vs. 1). Here again we read widely quoted words, though many who quote them are unaware of their source. We are all too well acquainted with the belligerent, offensive speech of some people. They are experts at giving offence. They are skilled at stirring up anger with their words. Often such people are simply bullies, but sometimes Christians adopt the same aggressive patterns of speech in the belief that they are simply speaking the truth and letting us deal with it. There are times when the truth of God must come forth from our lips as thunder from the Almighty. But, more often, hard things are best said in gentle words and humble ways, remembering that we, too are sinners whose only hope is the grace of God.
Our Lord knew when to thunder against the hypocrisy of the Pharisees. He also knew when to speak gently, as to the woman at the well. Since we are not the Lord, it may be best for us to err on the side of soft answers rather than grievous words.
Prov. 15:21-33, Mt. 28
Prov. 16, Jas. 5
Here begins a new section in the book of Proverbs. We move from the contrast between the wise and the foolish, to how the wise conduct themselves in the various aspects and circles of their lives. Sometimes the teaching is followed by a warning or a promise. A warning is found in verse 2. After teaching, “All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes,” it gives the warning that God sees us more clearly than we see ourselves, for He “weigheth the spirits.” A promise is found in verse 3. The teaching is, “Commit thy works unto the Lord.” The promise is, “and thy thoughts shall be established.”
Verse 25 repeats the phrase, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death. It would seem that our Lord wants us to take notice of these words, therefore He repeats them here.
Verses 10-15 are a collection of wise teachings about the king or those entrusted with the service of government. Some of the verses deal with the power of government, and warn us to be wary of transgressing the righteous laws of the king. Verse 12 warns the king to be righteous and just in all things. It reminds him that he is not above the law, and is certainly not above God. He, too, must conduct himself in the fear of the Lord. Wickedness refers first to lying, fornicating, and riotous living. High office is not a license for immorality. Second, it refers to the use of government power to increase personal wealth. This is an ever-present temptation to people in positions that give them power over others. They are tempted to give special treatment to the select few who become the elite of the country. Actually they are cronies, and they often manipulate the government through flattery and bribery of officials, with the intent of receiving favourable treatment. Perhaps they want to receive contracts for building roads or military equipment, which will divert billions of dollars to them from the tax payers’ pockets. Perhaps they want to profit by having a road, or airport built in a place that will be profitable for them. Airports, roads, and military equipment are necessary to the survival and well being of a nation, but special treatment for political cronies is wickedness in the eyes of the Lord. “It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness.”