Archives for posts with tag: Proverbs

Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from my hand: you shall lie down in torment.” (Isaiah 50:11, ESV)

The Lord [through the pen of Isaiah] lays out two options at the end of Isaiah 50 for us to walk by.  We can trust in the name of the Lord (vs. 10) or we can do what our verse says and light our own lamp and walk by our own light.  The sure outcome if we light our own way is that we will lie down in torment. We will get exactly what we deserve.

We know from Proverbs that God calls us to move forward by trusting in him even when it doesn’t make sense to us:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, ESV)

Trusting in the Lord leads to the comfort of straight paths, walking by our own light leads only to sorrow. You would think that this would be an easy decision for us, by our inclination is to lean to our own understanding and not trust in the Lord.

 

Incline thine ear and hear the words of wise men, Then thy heart wilt thou apply to my teaching…That in Yahweh may be thy trust I have made them known to thee to-day even to thee.” (Proverbs 22:17, 19, EMPH)

Solomon writes that his teaching and the words of men who are wise have a fundamental purpose and aim: That in Yahweh may be thy trust.

The pursuit of wisdom, or perhaps it would be more accurate to say, the pursuit of wisdom grounded in the fear of the Lord [which is true wisdom] has as its aim trust in the Lord himself.  As we grow in wisdom, as we understand the world around us and how to live in it rightly, then our trust in the Lord grows.

True wisdom then is intimately connected with trust in the Lord. We cannot have one without the other.  If we have trust in the Lord, then we are on the path to true and right wisdom, if we have true wisdom then by definition it will lead us to trust in the inventor of wisdom.

Here then, is why we pursue true wisdom, because it always leads us to God himself.

 

Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.” (Proverbs 21:13, ESV)

If there is one thing that we absolutely know from the Scriptures it is that we should have compassion for the poor and needy.  This is God’s heart and we see it in both the Old and New Testaments.

Here in Proverbs, Solomon writes that there is a truism about helping the poor with which we need to be aware.  The one who hears the cry of the poor and understands their need and ignores it, that one will call out and not be answered.  The Tyndale Commentary summarizes this truth as: “His turn will come.” And so it will.

Being compassionate with the poor does not mean that we throw discernment out the door–I rarely if ever will give cash to someone who is begging, understanding that more often than not they will head to the nearest liquor store with it.  If someone tells me that they need money for food, as has happened before in the major cities of the United States, then I offer to buy them food rather than give them cash.

However we decide to handle the difficult question of someone begging, the direction from the Scriptures is clear and repeated: Pay attention to the needs of the poor. In doing so we honor our Father in heaven.

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
and his children will have a refuge (Prov 14.26, ESV)

Not only is wisdom grounded in the fear of the Lord, but we discover here that strong confidence [or strong trust] is grounded in the fear of the Lord also. As we yield our lives more and more to God and to his character, we find out that we can trust in God in all places, for all things, despite every barrier. This seems like a good way to gain strong confidence in God. Some of the people who understand this the best are those who have been through difficult and sustained trials. Those who go deepest understand the best that God is true and good and present always!

The parallel truth is that God’s children will have a place of refuge when the storms do strike and blow in such a way that things seem hopeless.

The God in whom we can have strong and solid trust is also the God who provides refuge when things look bleakest.

The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” (Proverbs 12:24, ESV)

I recall very clearly one day when I was growing up and my diminutive but tough grandma was watching all ten of us!?!  She had bought some groceries and told us to carry them into the house.  I grabbed several bags of them and staggered up the steps into the kitchen where she was putting them away.

“Check this out, grandma,” I boasted as I set all the bags down.  “Look how many bags I brought in.”

My grandma turned her head towards me and nodded, “Oh yeah, that’s a lazy man’s load,” she responded.

What the?!? A lazy man’s load?  She didn’t bother to explain what she meant and of course it didn’t take me long to figure it out.  A lazy man would grab as many bags as possible because he wanted to make as few trips out to the car and back as possible.  My grandma was of course, exactly correct, that was my plan.  I was the lazy man!

All of which came to mind when I read this little gem from Proverbs:

The hand of the diligent will rule, while the slothful will be put to forced labor.” (Proverbs 12:24, ESV)

The word that we translate “slothful” means: “shiftlessness, i.e., a state or condition of habitually refusing to work or be diligent in life” [Dictionary of Biblical Languages Hebrew]. A slothful person doesn’t want to work and schemes to get out of work because he is lazy.  The irony here, as Solomon notes, is that “the slothful will be put to forced labor.”

What the lazy man can expect is to be forced to do what he does not want to do: work. The Tyndale Commentary puts this succinctly: “Laziness has its price.”

And so it does.

Proverbs is about Jesus coming to us as our counselor and advising us on the best way to flourish in this life [and thereby glorify God].  Laziness will not allow us to flourish as God intended, we ought to avoid it.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18, ESV)

When I was in the Marines we had to learn to do night land navigation.  To pass the final exam they took us out on a moonless night and dropped us off at the edge of some thick woods.  Our objective was to navigate a line through those woods to one box, then navigate a different direction to another box, and finally navigate a third direction to our final point.  Off we stumbled in the darkness, not knowing what lay ahead, whether it be a clear path or a rough thicket.  We stumbled and tripped over tree roots, banged into tree branches and were scraped by thorns.  One of our guys even stumbled and hit his head and got knocked out!  At the end of the night, they sent us all back into the woods to find our one missing man.  He was discovered when someone tripped over his body in the dark!  We discovered that night that it is impossible to follow a direct line in the darkness.

Solomon has just been describing the life of the wicked, of those who reject wisdom and go about life according to their own desires, who do not walk before the Lord in righteousness, but in wickedness and evil.  “They cannot sleep unless they have done wrong” and they “eat the bread of wickedness.”  In short, they are doing night land navigation and it doesn’t work very well.

Then this beautiful contrast:“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18, ESV)

The path that those who follow God are on is one that may begin in darkness, we may stumble around at first, but as we go the promise of God is that it will become more and more clear as the dawn arises until we are walking in full daylight, easily following the path which lays ahead of us.

I am thankful that God doesn’t have us doing night land navigation.  The path of righteousness is difficult enough for us when we can see the way that we are to go in the bright light of day.  God knows this.  Indeed, it’s exactly why he gave us light to follow.

Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.” (Proverbs 29:25, NLT)

Solomon contrasts two things here:  Men and God.

The fact of the matter–and the reason that Solomon wrote this particular proverb–is that men often do fear men, and even those who follow the Lord often fear men.  Solomon rightly understands that the fear of man is nothing but a snare, or as the NLT puts it: “a dangerous trap.”  A snare is something that grabs you when you step into it and once in its grasp, you cannot extricate yourself.  Such is the fear of man.

The antidote to fearing man is to trust the Lord.  This brings safety, peace, and security, the opposite of what happens when one steps into a snare.

Trusting the Lord does not come naturally; fearing man does come naturally.  We have to reject our sinful instincts and trust the Lord, even when our natural fear begins to rise up and attempt to overwhelm and draw us in with its power.

What we can know with complete certainty is that God is as good as His word.  If we put our trust in him, we will be safe, whatever storms rage in the hearts and minds of men around us.