Archives for posts with tag: Proverbs

We saw yesterday that the book of Proverbs is concerned with certain truths that Solomon had discovered about life through wisdom, certain ways of living that would ensure in general that if one followed those wise ways one could be sure of a successful life. If one uses money wisely, then in general, one does not have money problems.

Having said that, we all know of individuals who handle money wisely and yet calamity after calamity seems to strike them.  One can hardly call this successful living.  Solomon knows this better than any of us, because God gifted him especially with living.  This conundrum baffles him, which gives us the book of Ecclesiastes.  

Ecclesiastes is about the exceptions to general rules.  Solomon is coming to us as a cynical critic, if we can be so bold to say, and asking the question, “what about all of the exceptions to the rules?  Why isn’t it true that everyone who lives wisely has a successful life?”

We have a good snapshot of Solomon’s thinking in this passage:

This, too, I carefully explored: Even though the actions of godly and wise people are in God’s hands, no one knows whether God will show them favor. The same destiny ultimately awaits everyone, whether righteous or wicked, good or bad, ceremonially clean or unclean, religious or irreligious. Good people receive the same treatment as sinners, and people who make promises to God are treated like people who don’t.” (Ecclesiastes 9:1–2, NLT)


Why is it that the righteous and wicked are sometimes treated the same?  What is God up to here? Short answer: Solomon has no clue, and neither do we.  God does not allow himself to be put into a box and we just have to live with this uncertainty. This is the message of Ecclesiastes.  

Solomon does manage to come up with the correct answer in light of this fact.  He concludes the book with this statement:

That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13, NLT)


This conclusion, you might recall, is exactly the premise that he started with in the book of Proverbs.



Part of yesterday and today, I’ve been reading listening through Proverbs in the NLT Chronological Bible.  I love the book of Proverbs.

When God gave the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) to the Jews, which contained the Mosaic Law, he didn’t give them exhaustive instructions on every possible thing that might confront the Israelites.  Instead, he gave them wisdom so that as they walked with the Lord, they could gradually gain an understanding of what things were wise to do in this life–things that would lead to a successful life–and what things were foolish to do–things that would not bring success in life. This is what the book of Proverbs is about, it’s Solomon saying to the reader: “As I’ve studied and experienced life extensively, here is what I have discovered is the pathway to a life that is successful.

We have to remember that Solomon is speaking in generalities here.  Let me give you an example.  Here is one of his proverbs: “Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.” (Proverbs 21:5, NLT). Is this true in every case in which it has ever happened?  No, we all know numbskulls who took a shortcut and somehow managed to get rich.  It is true in general.  If you take shortcuts on your way to gaining wealth, you will most often be sorry because that shortcut will prevent you from attaining your goal.

Solomon tells us what the key to wisdom is from the very beginning of the book: the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1.7).  If we do not have the fear of the Lord, than whatever else we do, however much knowledge we might have, we will not have this godly wisdom of which Solomon is writing.

What about the exceptions to the rules?  What about when the numbskull takes shortcuts and gets rich?  Good question.  Solomon will handle that question when we get to Ecclesiastes.  Meanwhile, if you have 15 minutes, this video from the Bible Project is the best overview of the wisdom books (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job) that I’ve seen:


The tongue of the righteous is choice silver; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (Prov 10.20, ESV)

This is the second of three verses in which Solomon addresses the tongue and speech with the general theme of Words: Good and Bad (Tyndale Commentary), which could also be the theme of this particular verse.  Some questions arise from this little proverb.  Why is what the righteous speaks “choice silver?”  Is it the words they speak, or is it choice silver just because it is the righteous who speak them?  Why does Solomon contrast the “tongue” of the righteous with the “heart” of the wicked?

We have Jesus’ teaching from the New Testament which helps us understand what exactly Solomon was getting at in this little proverb.  Jesus says:

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6.45, ESV)

The righteous speak “choice silver”/“good treasure” because that is what is in their heart because they are righteous. This is just something that is inside of them, which we know as we read the New Testament is due to the work of the Holy Spirit in them.

Solomon contrasts the heart of the wicked with the words of the righteous because out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

The takeaway for us; the thing that Solomon wants us to understand is that what we speak comes from our heart, and it is what is in our hearts that will determine whether what we say is choice silver or valueless, and our hearts are a work of God.

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. (Prov 10.19, ESV)

This is the first of three consecutive proverbs in which Solomon discusses the use and power of words.  The Tyndale Commentary assigns the overall theme to these proverbs as: Words: Good and Bad. In this first proverb, we have an encouragement to be spare in our use of words.  Indeed, Solomon goes out of his way to draw a direct connection between many words and offending others.  “When words are many,” Solomon writes, then we can be sure that transgressions against others are many also. Solomon understood the human heart better than anyone before or since his day (with the exception of Jesus), so he fully understands the power of the tongue.  We see this same truth expressed by James in the New Testament:

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. (James 3.7-8, ESV)

The antidote to many words and corresponding many offenses against others is prudence, which is intimately connected with restraining one’s lips.  Prudence takes careful thought, analysis, and reflection; it requires care and concern and the ability to judge the actions and motivations of others correctly, and precisely none of these things can be done while we are talking.  Thus Solomon’s direction to keep our words few and our prudence sharp.

We are always better off listening before speaking.  Why is this so difficult for us to grasp as humans?

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.