Thursday, April 30, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 27

 Proverbs 27 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Don't brag about tomorrow! Each day brings its own surprises.
  2. Don't brag about yourself-- let others praise you.
  3. Stones and sand are heavy, but trouble caused by a fool is a much heavier load.
  4. An angry person is dangerous, but a jealous person is even worse.
  5. A truly good friend will openly correct you.
  6. You can trust a friend who corrects you, but kisses from an enemy are nothing but lies.
  7. If you have had enough to eat, honey doesn't taste good, but if you are really hungry, you will eat anything.
  8. When you are far from home, you feel like a bird without a nest.
  9. The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still.
  10. Don't desert an old friend of your family or visit your relatives when you are in trouble. A friend nearby is better than relatives far away.
  11. My child, show good sense! Then I will be happy and able to answer anyone who criticizes me.
  12. Be cautious and hide when you see danger-- don't be stupid and walk right into trouble.
  13. Don't loan money to a stranger unless you are given something to guarantee payment.
  14. A loud greeting early in the morning is the same as a curse.
  15. The steady dripping of rain and the nagging of a wife are one and the same.
  16. It's easier to catch the wind or hold olive oil in your hand than to stop a nagging wife.
  17. Just as iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other.
  18. Take care of a tree, and you will eat its fruit; look after your master, and you will be praised.
  19. You see your face in a mirror and your thoughts in the minds of others.
  20. Death and the grave are never satisfied, and neither are we.
  21. Gold and silver are tested in a red-hot furnace, but we are tested by praise.
  22. No matter how hard you beat a fool, you can't pound out the foolishness.
  23. You should take good care of your sheep and goats,
  24. because wealth and honor don't last forever.
  25. After the hay is cut and the new growth appears and the harvest is over,
  26. you can sell lambs and goats to buy clothes and land.
  27. From the milk of the goats, you can make enough cheese to feed your family and all your servants.

With the exception of one, the proverbs in chapter 27 are not addressed to a son, but are more general in nature:

Boasting: Solomon counsels against boasting, either of what one has done or what they will do. Both are an indication of pride and of elevating one's self above even God. Only God control's the future, so how can one boast about what they will do. Instead, as pointed out in James, we should say, "If the Lord wills, we will . . ." (James 4:15) If we are to be praised, Solomon says, let it come from the lips of another and not your own mouth. Then our accomplishments will be noticed. Otherwise others will doubt the validity of our accomplishments if the praise comes from our own mouths, and we will be devaluing ourselves in their eyes because of our boasting.

The Foolish: Since these proverbs counsel wise living, living foolishly is mentioned with some frequency by contrast. Here, Solomon mentions the aggravation a fool is to those around him. It outweighs the lifting of a large stone or a load of sand. The fool is destined to be a fool, for he cannot be separated from his foolishness. He will not listen to wise counsel and will therefore remain in his foolish condition.

A Friend: We should not abandon a friend, for a true friend is trustworthy. Even if he wounds us we can consider it intended for our good. The friend's counsel is better than self-counsel. For, as iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another, and so a friend sharpens a friend.

The Heart: The heart is a reflection of a person as water reflects a person's face. An example is the giving of an open reprimand as opposed to withholding the reprimand even though it is needed. The heart of the person toward you is seen in their desire to do for you what is needed. By contrast, no love is shown toward you by the one who withholds the reprimand.

Diligence: Solomon speaks of diligence in providing for one's family. In affect he says, "Pay attention to your assets. Know them well." A farmer's assets may be his herds and flocks. If he will give them his attention and be sure they have grain and hay, they will provide for his household.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 26

 Proverbs 26 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Expecting snow in summer and rain in the dry season makes more sense than honoring a fool.
  2. A curse you don't deserve will take wings and fly away like a sparrow or a swallow.
  3. Horses and donkeys must be beaten and bridled-- and so must fools.
  4. Don't make a fool of yourself by answering a fool.
  5. But if you answer any fools, show how foolish they are, so they won't feel smart.
  6. Sending a message by a fool is like chopping off your foot and drinking poison.
  7. A fool with words of wisdom is like an athlete with legs that can't move.
  8. Are you going to honor a fool? Why not shoot a slingshot with the rock tied tight?
  9. A thornbush waved around in the hand of a drunkard is no worse than a proverb in the mouth of a fool.
  10. It's no smarter to shoot arrows at every passerby than it is to hire a bunch of worthless nobodies.
  11. Dogs return to eat their vomit, just as fools repeat their foolishness.
  12. There is more hope for a fool than for someone who says, "I'm really smart!"
  13. Don't be lazy and keep saying, "There's a lion outside!"
  14. A door turns on its hinges, but a lazy person just turns over in bed.
  15. Some of us are so lazy that we won't lift a hand to feed ourselves.
  16. A lazy person says, "I am smarter than everyone else."
  17. It's better to take hold of a mad dog by the ears than to take part in someone else's argument.
  18. It's no crazier to shoot sharp and flaming arrows
  19. than to cheat someone and say, "I was only fooling!"
  20. Where there is no fuel a fire goes out; where there is no gossip arguments come to an end.
  21. Troublemakers start trouble, just as sparks and fuel start a fire.
  22. There is nothing so delicious as the taste of gossip! It melts in your mouth.
  23. Hiding hateful thoughts behind smooth talk is like coating a clay pot with a cheap glaze.
  24. The pleasant talk of an enemy hides more evil plans
  25. than can be counted-- so don't believe a word!
  26. Everyone will see through those evil plans.
  27. If you dig a pit, you will fall in; if you start a stone rolling, it will roll back on you.
  28. Watch out for anyone who tells lies and flatters-- they are out to get you.

The proverbs of chapter 26 are directed to four primary topics with a couple of random proverbs. The first of these random proverbs tells us it is wise to stay out of someone else's quarrel. It is like grabbing a dog by the ear. One is bound to get bitten. A second random proverb advises us against deceiving a neighbor and then pretending it was a joke. This could be a deceit with devious intent or maybe a practical joke. Either way, it is compared to randomly shooting flaming darts. People are going to get hurt and it may include more than the two originally involved.

Here are the four primary topics of the chapter --

Fools: We are advised against honoring a fool. It is inappropriate and potentially damaging. Neither is it advisable to correct a fool with words. He only understands punishment. One may as well try to deliver a message without any feet as to send it by a fool. It is also as useless as lame legs to give a fool a proverb, and is potentially dangerous, "like a stick with thorns, brandished by the hand of a drunkard." Furthermore, it is dangerous to hire a fool. One may as well shoot arrows randomly wounding people wherever they fall.

The Lazy: Those who are lazy will use any excuse, however absurd, to get out of work, such as, "There's a lion in the road." Though a lazy person may toss and turn in bed, he still is unwilling to get out of bed and go to work. Though it seems absurd to think of a person with their hand in a bowl of food starving to death because they are too lazy to take their hand out of the bowl to feed themselves, this is the picture of the lazy person unwilling to work to provide food for himself and his family. What is even more absurd is that the lazy person views himself as wiser than others. No doubt wiser, especially, than those who are diligent in getting their work done.

Gossip: Two quick thoughts concerning gossip. As wood feeds a fire, so gossip feeds strife. And, as a fire dies out without wood, so a conflict will die out without gossip.

Deceit: Deceit is always disguised, which is the nature of deceit. A lie made to look like the truth. Like a worthless piece of earthenware glazed with a shiny finish, deceit is delivered with a smile and smooth words, covering the lie that is underneath. But don't be fooled, abomination is in the heart of the deceiver. He may say he has your best interest at heart, but hate is in his heart.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 25

 Proverbs 25 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Here are more of Solomon's proverbs. They were copied by the officials of King Hezekiah of Judah.
  2. God is praised for being mysterious; rulers are praised for explaining mysteries.
  3. Who can fully understand the thoughts of a ruler? They reach beyond the sky and go deep in the earth.
  4. Silver must be purified before it can be used to make something of value.
  5. Evil people must be removed before anyone can rule with justice.
  6. Don't try to seem important in the court of a ruler.
  7. It's better for the ruler to give you a high position than for you to be embarrassed in front of royal officials. Be sure you are right
  8. before you sue someone, or you might lose your case and be embarrassed.
  9. When you and someone else can't get along, don't gossip about it.
  10. Others will find out, and your reputation will then be ruined.
  11. The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver.
  12. Listening to good advice is worth much more than jewelry made of gold.
  13. A messenger you can trust is just as refreshing as cool water in summer.
  14. Broken promises are worse than rain clouds that don't bring rain.
  15. Patience and gentle talk can convince a ruler and overcome any problem.
  16. Eating too much honey can make you sick.
  17. Don't visit friends too often, or they will get tired of it and start hating you.
  18. Telling lies about friends is like attacking them with clubs and swords and sharp arrows.
  19. A friend you can't trust in times of trouble is like having a toothache or a sore foot.
  20. Singing to someone in deep sorrow is like pouring vinegar in an open cut.
  21. If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink.
  22. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads. And the LORD will reward you.
  23. As surely as rain blows in from the north, anger is caused by cruel words.
  24. It's better to stay outside on the roof of your house than to live inside with a nagging wife.
  25. Good news from far away refreshes like cold water when you are thirsty.
  26. When a good person gives in to the wicked, it's like dumping garbage in a stream of clear water.
  27. Don't eat too much honey or always want praise.
  28. Losing self-control leaves you as helpless as a city without a wall.

The proverbs of chapters 25-29 belong to Solomon but were not included in this compilation of his proverbs until about 250 years later when King Hezekiah had them added.

Kings: Regarding kings, Solomon advised that it was to a king's credit to investigate matters of God for understanding. But it was also a credit to kings that they do not reveal all they know. If a king is to establish a righteous reign, he must get rid of any wicked assistants or advisors. Doing so is like removing the impurities from silver to produce a metal of value for the silversmith. Further advise concerning kings is actually given for the benefit of those related to the king. One should not brag about himself to the king or try to position himself among the great in an attempt to promote himself. It is better to demonstrate one's abilities and have the king promote them than to be publicly demoted.

Court: One should not be in too big a rush to take a matter to court. First he should be sure he has a case and that his case can stand up in court. Otherwise he will be humiliated and in a worse situation than before. Furthermore, when making a case, be sure you can do so without revealing another's confidence. You may win your case but be disgraced anyway. And don't give false testimony against a neighbor. You may as well club him or stab him.

Words: Our words have great impact on others - much more than we may give them credit. Therefore, just as we wouldn't handle a weapon carelessly, neither should we use our words without thought of their impact. Solomon speaks of the impact of a gentle tongue. It has the power to "break a bone," he says. In other words, difficult situations can be traversed with gentle words. Rulers can also be persuaded through patience. Impatience, reflected in our words will not be persuasive. Nor will backbiting produce the results we wish. Rather than "put someone in their place," they may anger that person enough to put us in our place. A word spoken at the right time is like "golden apples on a silver tray," just as good news from afar is like "cold water to a parched throat."

Moderation: Solomon makes the point that even good things should be used in moderation. Otherwise they become unsavory. For instance, though honey is sweet and tasty, if too much is eaten it will make one sick. Moderation is also good with people. For instance, we should not visit our neighbor's house too often or we will make ourselves unwelcome.

Inappropriate Behavior: Solomon gives several examples of inappropriate behavior. For instance, one should not boast of giving a gift that does not exist. Though he may wish to impress people, the opposite will be true when the gift is not delivered. Another example is attempting to cheer one up who has a troubled heart. False cheerfulness, such as singing songs, is as helpful as "taking off clothing on a cold day." Nagging is another example. A husband is better off to isolate himself in small quarters than to live in a spacious house with a nagging wife. So says Solomon. Nor is it wise for a man to let his temper get out of control. It makes him vulnerable to trouble as "a city whose wall is broken down."

Unwise Choices: Solomon gives advise that we might consider as unwise choices. One is to trust an unreliable person in a time of trouble. It is not wise to trust an unreliable person even in a positive situation, but one is made especially vulnerable in a time of trouble. Another unwise choice is for a righteous person to yield to the wicked. It is like polluting a well. Rather than any good coming from it, what is already good will be spoiled.

A Wise Choice: Finally, Solomon gave advise that seems paradoxical. He said it is to our advantage to treat an enemy well. If he is hungry or thirsty, give him food and water. Paul quoted this proverb in Romans 12:20. No one is hurt by treating the enemy with kindness, and it is just possible that the enemy will be turned into a friend.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 24

 Proverbs 24 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Don't be jealous of crooks or want to be their friends.
  2. All they think about and talk about is violence and cruelty.
  3. Use wisdom and understanding to establish your home;
  4. let good sense fill the rooms with priceless treasures.
  5. Wisdom brings strength, and knowledge gives power.
  6. Battles are won by listening to advice and making a lot of plans.
  7. Wisdom is too much for fools! Their advice is no good.
  8. No one but troublemakers think up trouble.
  9. Everyone hates senseless fools who think up ways to sin.
  10. Don't give up and be helpless in times of trouble.
  11. Don't fail to rescue those who are doomed to die.
  12. Don't say, "I didn't know it!" God can read your mind. He watches each of us and knows our thoughts. And God will pay us back for what we do.
  13. Honey is good for you, my children, and it tastes sweet.
  14. Wisdom is like honey for your life-- if you find it, your future is bright.
  15. Don't be a cruel person who attacks good people and hurts their families.
  16. Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up. But when trouble strikes the wicked, that's the end of them.
  17. Don't be happy to see your enemies trip and fall down.
  18. The LORD will find out and be unhappy. Then he will stop being angry with them.
  19. Don't let evil people worry you or make you jealous.
  20. They will soon be gone like the flame of a lamp that burns out.
  21. My children, you must respect the LORD and the king, and you must not make friends with anyone who rebels against either of them.
  22. Who knows what sudden disaster the LORD or a ruler might bring?
  23. Here are some more sayings that make good sense: When you judge, you must be fair.
  24. If you let the guilty go free, people of all nations will hate and curse you.
  25. But if you punish the guilty, things will go well for you, and you will prosper.
  26. Giving an honest answer is a sign of true friendship.
  27. Get your fields ready and plant your crops before starting a home.
  28. Don't accuse anyone who isn't guilty. Don't ever tell a lie
  29. or say to someone, "I'll get even with you!"
  30. I once walked by the field and the vineyard of a lazy fool.
  31. Thorns and weeds were everywhere, and the stone wall had fallen down.
  32. When I saw this, it taught me a lesson:
  33. Sleep a little. Doze a little. Fold your hands and twiddle your thumbs.
  34. Suddenly poverty hits you and everything is gone!

The highlights of Proverbs 24 include:
  • Evildoers - Don't envy or worry about evildoers. They are troublemakers and have no future. There is nothing about them to envy. Instead, fear the Lord. In Him there is life and a future.
  • Wisdom - It is wisdom that builds the house and wisdom that wins the battle. Wisdom is better than strength. It is sweet like honey. With wisdom there is hope and a future. But wisdom is inaccessible to a fool.
  • Justice - Justice is not partial, acquitting the guilty or testifying against a neighbor without cause. It will go well with those who convict the guilty. It is not good for one to turn his head, ignoring the one who is being taken off to his death or helping out one who is stumbling. The One who weighs hearts will consider this.
  • Laziness vs Industriousness - The approach of poverty can be subtle for the lazy. Just a little more sleep than necessary or a little extra folding of the arms to rest and suddenly those things that needed to be done to get a crop out or to harvest it, or whatever it is are not done and it is too late to do them. Then there is no income to be had and poverty is at the door. It is best to put first things first. For instance, get out the crops and then build the house. If there are no crops there will be nothing to eat in the house.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 23

 Proverbs 23 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. When you are invited to eat with a king, use your best manners.
  2. Don't go and stuff yourself! That would be just the same as cutting your throat.
  3. Don't be greedy for all of that fancy food! It may not be so tasty.
  4. Give up trying so hard to get rich.
  5. Your money flies away before you know it, just like an eagle suddenly taking off.
  6. Don't accept an invitation to eat a selfish person's food, no matter how good it is.
  7. People like that take note of how much you eat. They say, "Take all you want!" But they don't mean it.
  8. Each bite will come back up, and all your kind words will be wasted.
  9. Don't talk to fools-- they will just make fun.
  10. Don't move a boundary marker or take the land that belongs to orphans.
  11. God All-Powerful is there to defend them against you.
  12. Listen to instruction and do your best to learn.
  13. Don't fail to correct your children. You won't kill them by being firm,
  14. and it may even save their lives.
  15. My children, if you show good sense, I will be happy,
  16. and if you are truthful, I will really be glad.
  17. Don't be jealous of sinners, but always honor the LORD.
  18. Then you will truly have hope for the future.
  19. Listen to me, my children! Be wise and have enough sense to follow the right path.
  20. Don't be a heavy drinker or stuff yourself with food.
  21. It will make you feel drowsy, and you will end up poor with only rags to wear.
  22. Pay attention to your father, and don't neglect your mother when she grows old.
  23. Invest in truth and wisdom, discipline and good sense, and don't part with them.
  24. Make your father truly happy by living right and showing sound judgment.
  25. Make your parents proud, especially your mother.
  26. My son, pay close attention, and gladly follow my example.
  27. Bad women and unfaithful wives are like a deep pit--
  28. they are waiting to attack you like a gang of robbers with victim after victim.
  29. Who is always in trouble? Who argues and fights? Who has cuts and bruises? Whose eyes are red?
  30. Everyone who stays up late, having just one more drink.
  31. Don't even look at that colorful stuff bubbling up in the glass! It goes down so easily,
  32. but later it bites like a poisonous snake.
  33. You will see weird things, and your mind will play tricks on you.
  34. You will feel tossed about like someone trying to sleep on a ship in a storm.
  35. You will be bruised all over, without even remembering how it all happened. And you will lie awake asking, "When will morning come, so I can drink some more?"

Following is a distillation of chapter 23:
  • Dining Invitations: Special care should be taken when dining with a ruler (a person of influence) or a stingy person. In the case of the ruler one should consider their setting and exercise decorum by not being gluttonous. Furthermore, be aware that there may be ulterior motives for wining and dining you. The concern for ulterior motives should also apply to dining at the invitation of a stingy person. His seemingly generous offer of food and drink is not genuine and his motives for offering them are suspect.
  • Pursuit of riches: Wearing oneself out in the pursuit of riches is not a worthy pursuit. Riches are uncertain and can take flight at any time like an eagle.
  • The allure of sin: Don't be fooled by the allure of sin. It is only an allusion. Whatever it seemingly offers will not last. For example, moving the boundary lines on someone's property to increase your own may seem a sure way to profit, but it will not pay. Those you take it from have an avenger who is the Lord and you cannot win against Him.
  • Instruction: One should not only pursue instruction, but should apply themselves to it. The ready source for instruction is one's parents. Hold dear their instruction, and give them joy by becoming wise, not to mention the benefit it will be to yourself. And parents, do not withhold correction from your children for fear of harming them. Rather than harming, it will rescue them. It will also bring you great joy when they become adults.
  • Drunkenness: Avoid drunkenness and gluttony. They are a sure road to poverty. Drunkenness in particular, will lead to woe, sorrow, conflicts, complaints, unexplained wounds, and red eyes.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 22

 Proverbs 22 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold.
  2. The rich and the poor are all created by the LORD.
  3. When you see trouble coming, don't be stupid and walk right into it-- be smart and hide.
  4. Respect and serve the LORD! Your reward will be wealth, a long life, and honor.
  5. Crooks walk down a road full of thorny traps. Stay away from there!
  6. Teach your children right from wrong, and when they are grown they will still do right.
  7. The poor are ruled by the rich, and those who borrow are slaves of moneylenders.
  8. Troublemakers get in trouble, and their terrible anger will get them nowhere.
  9. The LORD blesses everyone who freely gives food to the poor.
  10. Arguments and fights will come to an end, if you chase away those who insult others.
  11. The king is the friend of all who are sincere and speak with kindness.
  12. The LORD watches over everyone who shows good sense, but he frustrates the plans of deceitful liars.
  13. Don't be so lazy that you say, "If I go to work, a lion will eat me!"
  14. The words of a bad woman are like a deep pit; if you make the LORD angry, you will fall right in.
  15. All children are foolish, but firm correction will make them change.
  16. Cheat the poor to make profit or give gifts to the rich-- either way you lose.
  17. Here are some sayings of people with wisdom, so listen carefully as I teach.
  18. You will be glad that you know these sayings and can recite them.
  19. I am teaching them today, so that you may trust the LORD.
  20. I have written thirty sayings filled with sound advice.
  21. You can trust them completely to give you the right words for those in charge of you.
  22. Don't take advantage of the poor or cheat them in court.
  23. The LORD is their defender, and what you do to them, he will do to you.
  24. Don't make friends with anyone who has a bad temper.
  25. You might turn out like them and get caught in a trap.
  26. Don't guarantee to pay someone else's debt.
  27. If you don't have the money, you might lose your bed.
  28. Don't move a boundary marker set up by your ancestors.
  29. If you do your job well, you will work for a ruler and never be a slave.

By the time one has read through Proverbs to this 22nd chapter, much of Solomon's advise to his son repeats itself and certain themes return over and over. With this repetition, though, the advise begins to be self revealing. In other words, the advise becomes obvious rather than revealing new thought. This may well be the intent. By reading it, wise choices become ingrained in one's mind, changing the thought processes. After a while, rather than toying with foolish thoughts in one's mind, a person begins to wonder why anyone would even consider such ideas.

Wise choices that Solomon recommends in the first 16 verses of this chapter include:
  • Pursuing a good name
  • Being sensible enough to recognize danger
  • Humility
  • Guarding oneself against snares
  • Caution about becoming a borrower
  • Being generous
  • Be industrious rather than make excuses
  • Discipline and instruct your children
The wisdom in these recommendations is obvious if one has been reading Proverbs to this point. Why would anyone make the opposite choices to these?

Verse 17 of the chapter begins a new section in Proverbs. The style is different, using mostly 2-verse sayings rather than 1, but the topics are similar, and the foundation of wisdom remains placing our confidence in the Lord.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 21

 Proverbs 21 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD controls rulers, just as he determines the course of rivers.
  2. We may think we are doing the right thing, but the LORD always knows what is in our hearts.
  3. Doing what is right and fair pleases the LORD more than an offering.
  4. Evil people are proud and arrogant, but sin is the only crop they produce.
  5. If you plan and work hard, you will have plenty; if you get in a hurry, you will end up poor.
  6. Cheating to get rich is a foolish dream and no less than suicide.
  7. You destroy yourself by being cruel and violent and refusing to live right.
  8. All crooks are liars, but anyone who is innocent will do right.
  9. It's better to stay outside on the roof of your house than to live inside with a nagging wife.
  10. Evil people want to do wrong, even to their friends.
  11. An ignorant fool learns by seeing others punished; a sensible person learns by being instructed.
  12. God is always fair! He knows what the wicked do and will punish them.
  13. If you won't help the poor, don't expect to be heard when you cry out for help.
  14. A secret bribe will save you from someone's fierce anger.
  15. When justice is done, good citizens are glad and crooks are terrified.
  16. If you stop using good sense, you will find yourself in the grave.
  17. Heavy drinkers and others who live only for pleasure will lose all they have.
  18. God's people will escape, but all who are wicked will pay the price.
  19. It's better out in the desert than at home with a nagging, complaining wife.
  20. Be sensible and store up precious treasures-- don't waste them like a fool.
  21. If you try to be kind and good, you will be blessed with life and goodness and honor.
  22. One wise person can defeat a city full of soldiers and capture their fortress.
  23. Watching what you say can save you a lot of trouble.
  24. If you are proud and conceited, everyone will say, "You're a snob!"
  25. If you want too much and are too lazy to work, it could be fatal.
  26. But people who obey God are always generous.
  27. The Lord despises the offerings of wicked people with evil motives.
  28. If you tell lies in court, you are done for; only a reliable witness can do the job.
  29. Wicked people bluff their way, but God's people think before they take a step.
  30. No matter how much you know or what plans you make, you can't defeat the LORD.
  31. Even if your army has horses ready for battle, the LORD will always win.

Following are themes that emerge in Proverbs 21:
  • The Righteous - It is the righteous who desire justice, though justice is a terror to the wicked since they are the target of justice. The wicked do want justice when they have been wronged, but will tend to seek it in their own means and it will not look much like justice. It will be the righteous, though, who pursue and administer justice. Does one wish to find life and honor and to be acceptable to the Lord? Then they will pursue righteousness. Righteousness is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Religion that does not translate into right actions is useless.
  • The Wicked - In contrast to the righteous who are guided by the Lord, the wicked are guided by "haughty eyes and an arrogant heart." In other words, the wicked are guided by pride and arrogance. It follows, then, that the wicked person has no consideration for his neighbor. It is himself with whom he is concerned. Even if he should bring a sacrifice before the Lord, it will come with ulterior motives. Anything he does is aimed at profit for himself. But in the end, the wicked person is swept away.
  • The Lord's Hand - The Lord's hand is upon all man's ways. Even those in charge of man's affairs, such as kings, are directed in their ways by the Lord. The king's heart, says Solomon, "is a water channel in the Lord's hand. He directs it wherever He chooses." Man is naive when he thinks he controls his own destiny or that of anyone else. It is all in the Lord's hands. While man may be concerned mostly with achievements, the Lord is concerned mostly with motives. It is the condition of the heart that concerns the Lord. In the end, "No wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel will prevail against the LORD."
  • A Wife - Solomon refers to a wife several times throughout Proverbs, often negatively, as with the nagging wife. Before thinking he picks on women in general or wives in particular, we should remember that Solomon is teaching his son, and he wants him to have a good wife. His statements about a nagging wife would certainly cause a son to think twice about his choice of a wife. There are two statements in this chapter about the nagging wife. Both are rather strong: "Better to live on the corner of a roof than to share a house with a nagging wife." (21:9) and "Better to live in a wilderness than with a nagging and hot-tempered wife." (21:19) Furthermore, in 27:15, he says, "An endless dripping on a rainy day and a nagging wife are alike." Life in a house with a nagging wife is not pleasant.
But he also has very positive things to say about a wife. For instance, he said, "Let your fountain be blessed, and take pleasure in the wife of your youth." (5:18) Also, in 18:22, "A man who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD." In 19:14, he says, "A house and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a sensible wife is from the LORD."

Other topics in chapter 21 include: Lying, Mockers, and the Poor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 20

 Proverbs 20 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. It isn't smart to get drunk! Drinking makes a fool of you and leads to fights.
  2. An angry ruler is like a roaring lion-- make either one angry, and you are dead.
  3. It makes you look good when you avoid a fight-- only fools love to quarrel.
  4. If you are too lazy to plow, don't expect a harvest.
  5. Someone's thoughts may be as deep as the ocean, but if you are smart, you will discover them.
  6. There are many who say, "You can trust me!" But can they be trusted?
  7. Good people live right, and God blesses the children who follow their example.
  8. When rulers decide cases, they weigh the evidence.
  9. Can any of us really say, "My thoughts are pure, and my sins are gone"?
  10. Two things the LORD hates are dishonest scales and dishonest measures.
  11. The good or bad that children do shows what they are like.
  12. Hearing and seeing are gifts from the LORD.
  13. If you sleep all the time, you will starve; if you get up and work, you will have enough food.
  14. Everyone likes to brag about getting a bargain.
  15. Sensible words are better than gold or jewels.
  16. You deserve to lose your coat if you loan it to someone to guarantee payment for the debt of a stranger.
  17. The food you get by cheating may taste delicious, but it turns to gravel.
  18. Be sure you have sound advice before making plans or starting a war.
  19. Stay away from gossips-- they tell everything.
  20. Children who curse their parents will go to the land of darkness long before their time.
  21. Getting rich quick may turn out to be a curse.
  22. Don't try to get even. Trust the LORD, and he will help you.
  23. The LORD hates dishonest scales and dishonest weights. So don't cheat!
  24. How can we know what will happen to us when the LORD alone decides?
  25. Don't fall into the trap of making promises to God before you think!
  26. A wise ruler severely punishes every criminal.
  27. Our inner thoughts are a lamp from the LORD, and they search our hearts.
  28. Rulers are protected by God's mercy and loyalty, but they must be merciful for their kingdoms to last.
  29. Young people take pride in their strength, but the gray hairs of wisdom are even more beautiful.
  30. A severe beating can knock all of the evil out of you!

Integrity - "One who lives with integrity is righteous," says Solomon. "His children who come after him will be happy." (20:7) What is integrity? Solomon has defined it as being righteous. It entails one's whole moral character. What more does Solomon have to say about integrity? The person with integrity does not make boast about his integrity saying things like, "I have kept my heart pure; I am cleansed from my sin." No one can make such a claim and the person of integrity refrains from it. A person of integrity seeks counsel for his plans. He would not finalize plans without counsel. A further wisdom in seeking counsel is the need to help a person understand what lies deep within themselves. A person of discernment can help him bring his inner thoughts and motives to the surface. A further word regarding a person of integrity is that he avoids conflict, finding it honorable to resolve a dispute before it escalates. Solomon says, "any fool can get himself into a quarrel." (20:3) The fool often thinks it honorable to quarrel in defense of his pride. But a fool's pride is easily bruised frequently drawing him into quarrels.

The Lord's Hand - Solomon also addresses the wisdom of regarding the Lord's hand in whatever we encounter. For example, he says, "Don't say, "I will avenge this evil!" Wait on the LORD, and He will rescue you." (20:22) Waiting on the Lord may stretch our patience seemingly beyond its capacity, but that, too, will be good for us. Allowing the Lord to avenge any evil we suffer will not only provide the best solution but will avoid compounding the circumstances.

It is further wisdom to recognize the Lord's hand in the carrying out of one's plans. To make and execute plans without considering the Lord's guidance is folly, for it is the Lord who determines a man's steps, not man himself. Even the best-laid plans can be derailed through unforeseen circumstances. Only God knows what lies ahead and we do well to seek His guidance and counsel. Sometimes it is we who derail our own plans, failing to understand or anticipate our own motives and the obstacles they may throw up to block our plans. It is the Lord who searches our "innermost parts" and knows what lies within, and it is the Lord to whom we should go to allow His light to shine on our thoughts and motives.

Ill-gotten Gain - Solomon also addresses ill-gotten gain. He touches on it from various angles, mentioning practices that may seem normal and acceptable but under scrutiny are actually dishonest. One he mentions is a common practice in bartering. The buyer claims an article being sold to be worthless in an effort to get the price down, even though he knows the article to be of some value. If he succeeds in getting the item at a lower price, he then gloats at the expense of the seller who who he took advantage of. Is it truly honest to pay less when one knows the value to be more? Is it not stealing just because the seller agreed to the terms, but was not aware of its full value? Solomon suggests this is ill-gotten gain.

More obvious in its dishonesty is the use of differing weights and measures when measuring out the quantity of an item being sold. Selling a pound of something when using a scales that is not accurate and therefore giving the buyer less than a pound is "detestable to the Lord," Solomon says. He also says that food gained by fraud will leave a bad taste in one's mouth and that an inheritance gained prematurely, "will not be blessed ultimately." Seeking an inheritance prematurely suggests trying to get it before the parent is dead. Doing so values the inheritance more than the parent. Such covetousness also suggests the inheritance will not be used wisely and, like the prodigal son, it will be wasted, further devaluing the parent who worked to provide it.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 19

 Proverbs 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. It's better to be poor and live right than to be a stupid liar.
  2. Willingness and stupidity don't go well together. If you are too eager, you will miss the road.
  3. We are ruined by our own stupidity, though we blame the LORD.
  4. The rich have many friends; the poor have none.
  5. Dishonest witnesses and liars won't escape punishment.
  6. Everyone tries to be friends of those who can help them.
  7. If you are poor, your own relatives reject you, and your friends are worse. When you really need them, they are not there.
  8. Do yourself a favor by having good sense-- you will be glad you did.
  9. Dishonest witnesses and liars will be destroyed.
  10. It isn't right for a fool to live in luxury or for a slave to rule in place of a king.
  11. It's wise to be patient and show what you are like by forgiving others.
  12. An angry king roars like a lion, but when a king is pleased, it's like dew on the crops.
  13. A foolish son brings disgrace to his father. A nagging wife goes on and on like the drip, drip, drip of the rain.
  14. You may inherit all you own from your parents, but a sensible wife is a gift from the LORD.
  15. If you are lazy and sleep your time away, you will starve.
  16. Obey the Lord's teachings and you will live-- disobey and you will die.
  17. Caring for the poor is lending to the LORD, and you will be well repaid.
  18. Correct your children before it's too late; if you don't punish them, you are destroying them.
  19. People with bad tempers are always in trouble, and they need help over and over again.
  20. Pay attention to advice and accept correction, so you can live sensibly.
  21. We may make a lot of plans, but the LORD will do what he has decided.
  22. What matters most is loyalty. It's better to be poor than to be a liar.
  23. Showing respect to the LORD brings true life-- if you do it, you can relax without fear of danger.
  24. Some people are too lazy to lift a hand to feed themselves.
  25. Stupid fools learn good sense by seeing others punished; a sensible person learns by being corrected.
  26. Children who bring disgrace rob their father and chase their mother away.
  27. If you stop learning, you will forget what you already know.
  28. A lying witness makes fun of the court system, and criminals think crime is really delicious.
  29. Every stupid fool is just waiting to be punished.

Solomon touches on many of the same topics in this chapter, knowledge, foolishness, false witness, laziness, etc. But I will reflect primarily on knowledge and undertanding. One who gains understanding is not in need of instruction about the consequences of foolish behavior. He observes it for himself.

Concerning knowledge and understanding:
  • Zeal - Solomon begins by pointing out that zeal is not a substitute for knowledge. One may be inclined to lead with zeal realizing many will follow one who inspires through zeal. Or, one may be tempted to follow one who leads with zeal. But unless there is knowledge behind the zeal it is not wise to pursue those who are zealous. Solomon completes this statement by saying, "the one who acts hastily sins." Zeal tends to prompt hasty action to follow without thinking through the situation. This can, and often does, lead to sin.
  • Rebuking - Rebuking one who errs can lead to gaining knowledge for the discerning. They learn from the rebuke and their knowledge is increased. But there is also benefit in striking a mocker. The mocker may not learn from it but the inexperienced who observe it may learn a lesson. Why does Solomon mention rebuking the discerning and striking the mocker? Possibly because striking is the only way to get the attention of the mocker. This striking seems to refer to public flogging. While the flogging may not help the mocker, it does help the inexperienced who observe it.
  • Good sense - One who acquires good sense, Solomon says, loves himself. Not that he is self-centered or thinks too highly of himself, but he values his life enough to acquire good sense and avoid the consequence of living foolishly. But good sense and understanding do more than help one avoid foolishness. They help one find success.
  • Listening to instruction - Solomon counseled his son not to stop listening to instruction. Why is this? Does one lose instruction and knowledge once they acquire them? They don't lose them, they are still in their mind, but they lose focus and without continual instruction one strays from "words of knowledge." Many who know better don't do better. They have to keep exposing themselves to the instruction if they are to continually heed it.
  • Patience - Patience is a virtue that comes from insight or wisdom. And we should remind ourselves that wisdom comes from respect for God. It is God-given, not a virtue we are capable of acquiring on our own. Through patience one overlooks an offense. It is not wise to always retaliate when offended.
  • A sensible wife - Solomon states that there is no particular virtue in gaining a house and wealth. These come to a son simply by virtue of being the son. But a sensible wife is something else, a benefit that comes only from the Lord. He makes this statement after saying that a nagging wife "is an endless dripping." It is best to let the Lord provide a wife who is sensible than to use one's own judgment, which may be driven mainly by physical attractiveness, and gain a wife who is a continual nag.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 18

 Proverbs 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. It's selfish and stupid to think only of yourself and to sneer at people who have sense.
  2. Fools have no desire to learn; they would much rather give their own opinion.
  3. Wrongdoing leads to shame and disgrace.
  4. Words of wisdom are a stream that flows from a deep fountain.
  5. It's wrong to favor the guilty and keep the innocent from getting justice.
  6. Foolish talk will get you into a lot of trouble.
  7. Saying foolish things is like setting a trap to destroy yourself.
  8. There's nothing so delicious as the taste of gossip! It melts in your mouth.
  9. Being lazy is no different from being a troublemaker.
  10. The LORD is a mighty tower where his people can run for safety--
  11. the rich think their money is a wall of protection.
  12. Pride leads to destruction; humility leads to honor.
  13. It's stupid and embarrassing to give an answer before you listen.
  14. Being cheerful helps when we are sick, but nothing helps when we give up.
  15. Everyone with good sense wants to learn.
  16. A gift will get you in to see anyone.
  17. You may think you have won your case in court, until your opponent speaks.
  18. Drawing straws is one way to settle a difficult case.
  19. Making up with a friend you have offended is harder than breaking through a city wall.
  20. Make your words good-- you will be glad you did.
  21. Words can bring death or life! Talk too much, and you will eat everything you say.
  22. A man's greatest treasure is his wife-- she is a gift from the LORD.
  23. The poor must beg for help, but the rich can give a harsh reply.
  24. Some friends don't help, but a true friend is closer than your own family.

Solomon gives considerable attention once again, in chapter 18, to the power of the tongue. Through our words, he says, we have the ability to give life and impart a fountain of wisdom. But through our words we can also bring death and provoke strife. To give an answer before listening is foolishness and disgraceful for the one speaking. The one who does not use his words wisely will find his mouth to bring devastation and his lips to be a trap for his life. But when words are used wisely, a man's mouth can be a fountain of wisdom.

We might say that wise or foolish use of the mouth begins with acceptance or rejection of wise counsel and knowledge. Seeking after knowledge and counsel is another topic Solomon addresses in this chapter. If one isolates himself, he says, removing himself from contact with others from whom he can receive counsel, he rebels against sound judgment. There are also those, he says, who rebel against sound judgment and reject understanding, but do so, not by isolating themselves, but by listening only to themselves, showing off their own opinions. But if one is discerning, he will acquire knowledge, and wisely seek after it.

Another topic Solomon addresses is justice and conflict. On this subject, he counsels us not to accept a person's story regarding a conflict without cross-examing him. Then the story may not seem so convincing. Neither should we listen to only one side of a conflict. Neither is justice served when partiality is shown to the guilty party. Better than seeking to make right a conflict, Solomon says, is to avoid conflict in the first place. Once a brother is offended a fortress is thrown up between him and the one who offended him which makes the conflict very hard to resolve. Interestingly, Solomon suggests, as a good solution to quarrels, the casting of lots. It is unclear whether he was referring to the Old Testament practice of casting lots by those who worshipped God as a means of seeking God's guidance in the matter, or simply referred to it as a practical means of resolving a conflict. Either way, while the practice may be useful in resolving a conflict it may not be particularly helpful in restoring a broken relationship due to the conflict.

These are the predominate topics in the chapter. Several others are given only a passing mention.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 17

 Proverbs 17 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. A dry crust of bread eaten in peace and quiet is better than a feast eaten where everyone argues.
  2. A hard-working slave will be placed in charge of a no-good child, and that slave will be given the same inheritance that each child receives.
  3. Silver and gold are tested by flames of fire; our thoughts are tested by the LORD.
  4. Troublemakers listen to troublemakers, and liars listen to liars.
  5. By insulting the poor, you insult your Creator. You will be punished if you make fun of someone in trouble.
  6. Grandparents are proud of their grandchildren, and children should be proud of their parents.
  7. It sounds strange for a fool to talk sensibly, but it's even worse for a ruler to tell lies.
  8. A bribe works miracles like a magic charm that brings good luck.
  9. You will keep your friends if you forgive them, but you will lose your friends if you keep talking about what they did wrong.
  10. A sensible person accepts correction, but you can't beat sense into a fool.
  11. Cruel people want to rebel, and so vicious attackers will be sent against them.
  12. A bear robbed of her cubs is far less dangerous than a stubborn fool.
  13. You will always have trouble if you are mean to those who are good to you.
  14. The start of an argument is like a water leak-- so stop it before real trouble breaks out.
  15. The LORD doesn't like those who defend the guilty or condemn the innocent.
  16. Why should fools have money for an education when they refuse to learn?
  17. A friend is always a friend, and relatives are born to share our troubles.
  18. It's stupid to guarantee someone else's loan.
  19. The wicked and the proud love trouble and keep begging to be hurt.
  20. Dishonesty does you no good, and telling lies will get you in trouble.
  21. It's never pleasant to be the parent of a fool and have nothing but pain.
  22. If you are cheerful, you feel good; if you are sad, you hurt all over.
  23. Crooks accept secret bribes to keep justice from being done.
  24. Anyone with wisdom knows what makes good sense, but fools can never make up their minds.
  25. Foolish children bring sorrow to their father and pain to their mother.
  26. It isn't fair to punish the innocent and those who do right.
  27. It makes a lot of sense to be a person of few words and to stay calm.
  28. Even fools seem smart when they are quiet.

Themes common to Proverbs continue to appear in chapter 17 with new perspectives. Topics in this chapter gravitate toward strife, the foolish, the tongue, evil, and injustice. Though the foolish is a separate topic listing, it should be kept in mind that it is the foolish who are behind strife and misguided tongues and injustice.

Strife: Strife is avoided by the wise and intelligent. They recognize that it is better to have a household in which there is little but where there is peace than a household with much where strife is present. To avoid strife they will ignore an offense, neither retaliating it nor talking about it. It requires a restraint of words and a cool head.

The Foolish: Though various terms may be used to designate a foolish person, a fool is considered to be one who lacks spiritual perception and sensitivity. Solomon considers a fool to be more dangerous than a bear defending its cub. He is to be avoided. A foolish son is a disgrace to his parents, bringing grief and bitterness to them. Nothing good comes to the fool but he never understands why.

The Tongue: Concerning the fool and the tongue, his speech is excessive and inappropriate. His talk is destructive and mocking and deceitful. In an age of social media in which everyone is publicizing their thoughts and often indicting themselves in the process, verse 28 is especially appropriate: "Even a fool is considered wise when he keeps silent, discerning, when he seals his lips." There is much to be said in favor of silence over speaking.

Injustice: Injustice is not a practice of the wise and spiritually discerning. A wise person does not participate in bribes, nor does he favor acquiting the guilty or condemning the innocent. Such practices are harmful to society and eventually bring down the one who promotes them.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 16

 Proverbs 16 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. We humans make plans, but the LORD has the final word.
  2. We may think we know what is right, but the LORD is the judge of our motives.
  3. Share your plans with the LORD, and you will succeed.
  4. The LORD has a reason for everything he does, and he lets evil people live only to be punished.
  5. The LORD doesn't like anyone who is conceited-- you can be sure they will be punished.
  6. If we truly love God, our sins will be forgiven; if we show him respect, we will keep away from sin.
  7. When we please the LORD, even our enemies make friends with us.
  8. It's better to be honest and poor than to be dishonest and rich.
  9. We make our own plans, but the LORD decides where we will go.
  10. Rulers speak with authority and are never wrong.
  11. The LORD doesn't like it when we cheat in business.
  12. Justice makes rulers powerful. They should hate evil
  13. and like honesty and truth.
  14. An angry ruler can put you to death. So be wise! Don't make one angry.
  15. When a ruler is happy and pleased with you, it's like refreshing rain, and you will live.
  16. It's much better to be wise and sensible than to be rich.
  17. God's people avoid evil ways, and they protect themselves by watching where they go.
  18. Too much pride will destroy you.
  19. You are better off to be humble and poor than to get rich from what you take by force.
  20. If you know what you're doing, you will prosper. God blesses everyone who trusts him.
  21. Good judgment proves that you are wise, and if you speak kindly, you can teach others.
  22. Good sense is a fountain that gives life, but fools are punished by their foolishness.
  23. You can persuade others if you are wise and speak sensibly.
  24. Kind words are like honey-- they cheer you up and make you feel strong.
  25. Sometimes what seems right is really a road to death.
  26. The hungrier you are, the harder you work.
  27. Worthless people plan trouble. Even their words burn like a flaming fire.
  28. Gossip is no good! It causes hard feelings and comes between friends.
  29. Don't trust violent people. They will mislead you to do the wrong thing.
  30. When someone winks or grins behind your back, trouble is on the way.
  31. Gray hair is a glorious crown worn by those who have lived right.
  32. Controlling your temper is better than being a hero who captures a city.
  33. We make our own decisions, but the LORD alone determines what happens.

Solomon continued in chapter 16 with one-verse sayings, but the format and theme changed. Rather than each saying being a contrast between the wise and the foolish or the upright and the wicked, the two-part sayings are a completion of a thought. Verse 3 is a good example. The first part of the verse says, "Commit your activities to the LORD." Then the second part completes the thought, "and your plans will be achieved."

Also, as mentioned, the themes are different. For instance, several verses are about the king. One verse counsels the king not to err in judgment. Therefore, his judgments should come from God. The other verses concerning the king counsel his subjects. One verse warns of the king's fury, calling it "a messenger of death." And a wise man, says the verse, appeases the king's fury. On the flip side, the king's favor is "like a cloud with spring rain." It gives life. Given the impact of the king's countenance, his subjects are counseled not to raise his fury through dishonest business practices or wicked behavior or dishonest speech.

A man's ways are another topic of the chapter. It is important to realize concerning man's ways that motive is of greater significance than actions. A person may do what appears to be right in his own eyes and maybe in the eyes of others, but "the Lord weighs the motives." Why we do what we do is, in some instances, more important than what we do. It is also important to recognize that we have no control over events. A person may plan his way, but the Lord will determine the outcome. The wise person will recognize that their plans should therefore begin with the Lord's counsel. In fact, another verse says, "Commit your activities to the LORD and your plans will be achieved." And then there is the verse which states the negative outcome. A person may plan his way without the Lord's guidance but according to what seems right to himself. But in the end, these plans may be the "way of death."

Solomon has advise for the Proud. This is not a new topic, but appears with frequency throughout the Proverbs. Solomon makes it clear that pride is detestable to the Lord and that it leads to destruction. Why is pride denounced so? The answer goes back to the saying, "All a man's ways seem right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the motives." Since pride is a condition of the heart rather than an outward action we may overlook its significance. As a condition of the heart it becomes the motive behind a person's actions. A motive that drives actions aimed at personal gain. Though the prideful person may do some things that appear to be for the good of another, the motive of his prideful heart is to make himself look good. This, the Lord does not like. There will come a time when the actions of the prideful person will bring him down.

A third topic of the chapter concerns the Upright. Solomon considers an upright person to be wealthier than one with a lot of possessions, as reflected in verse 8, "Better a little with righteousness than great income with injustice." The upright person will guard his way and will exercise patience in a matter. He will seek understanding concerning a matter before jumping into it. Therefore, the upright person will avoid evil, will find success, and will have happiness.

Other topics of the chapter concern: the wise, the wicked, and the Lord's ways.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 15

 Proverbs 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. A kind answer soothes angry feelings, but harsh words stir them up.
  2. Words of wisdom come from the wise, but fools speak foolishness.
  3. The LORD sees everything, whether good or bad.
  4. Kind words are good medicine, but deceitful words can really hurt.
  5. Don't be a fool and disobey your parents. Be smart! Accept correction.
  6. Good people become wealthy, but those who are evil will lose what they have.
  7. Words of wisdom make good sense; the thoughts of a fool make no sense at all.
  8. The LORD is disgusted by gifts from the wicked, but it makes him happy when his people pray.
  9. The LORD is disgusted with all who do wrong, but he loves everyone who does right.
  10. If you turn from the right way, you will be punished; if you refuse correction, you will die.
  11. If the LORD can see everything in the world of the dead, he can see in our hearts.
  12. Those who sneer at others don't like to be corrected, and they won't ask help from someone with sense.
  13. Happiness makes you smile; sorrow can crush you.
  14. Anyone with good sense is eager to learn more, but fools are hungry for foolishness.
  15. The poor have a hard life, but being content is as good as an endless feast.
  16. It's better to obey the LORD and have only a little, than to be very rich and terribly confused.
  17. A simple meal with love is better than a feast where there is hatred.
  18. Losing your temper causes a lot of trouble, but staying calm settles arguments.
  19. Being lazy is like walking in a thorn patch, but everyone who does right walks on a smooth road.
  20. Children with good sense make their parents happy, but foolish children are hateful to them.
  21. Stupidity brings happiness to senseless fools, but everyone with good sense follows the straight path.
  22. Without good advice everything goes wrong-- it takes careful planning for things to go right.
  23. Giving the right answer at the right time makes everyone happy.
  24. All who are wise follow a road that leads upward to life and away from death.
  25. The LORD destroys the homes of those who are proud, but he protects the property of widows.
  26. The LORD hates evil thoughts, but kind words please him.
  27. Being greedy causes trouble for your family, but you protect yourself by refusing bribes.
  28. Good people think before they answer, but the wicked speak evil without ever thinking.
  29. The LORD never even hears the prayers of the wicked, but he answers the prayers of all who obey him.
  30. A friendly smile makes you happy, and good news makes you feel strong.
  31. Healthy correction is good, and if you accept it, you will be wise.
  32. You hurt only yourself by rejecting instruction, but it makes good sense to accept it.
  33. Showing respect to the LORD will make you wise, and being humble will bring honor to you.

Solomon continued, in chapter 15, to contrast the wise and the foolish. The themes of previous chapters continue. Following those themes Solomon says about the wise:
  • They are counted among the righteous: The wise person pursues righteousness out of a fear or respect for the Lord. As Solomon states repeatedly, this is where wisdom begins. Once one has chosen to fear the Lord and pursue righteousness, the other attributes listed here will follow right behind.
  • They use the tongue for good: This involves giving a gentle answer, give healing words, thinking before answering, and broadcasting knowledge. Choosing to use the tongue for good is a choice to consider the good of others ahead of our own. Indirectly we also benefit from this choice, for most often the way others treat us is a reflection of how we treat them.
  • They are open to receive instruction: Therefore, the wise heed correction, they listen to life-giving rebukes, and to correction. This is the choice of the person who is reflective and has a more serious thought than the next fun thing to do.
  • They are discerning: The wise are discerning and therefore seek knowledge, take advantage of advisers, and seek the upward path in whatever they pursue.
  • They have a cheerful heart: The sense here is that being cheerful is a choice. One either chooses to be cheerful or to be sad. Since our moods are normally affected by our perceptions of circumstances, it follows that the choice of being cheerful involves choosing to interpret circumstances in a positive light rather than a negative one.
Since Solomon uses contrasting statements about the wise and foolish such as, "A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath," the actions and choices of the foolish can be assumed by imagining the opposite attributes to those in this list. Such actions and choices make no sense to the person who seeks wisdom. They have no frame of reference to even wrap their mind around it. There is nothing reasonable or logical about it. Only the foolish person can understand it, but would be hard-pressed to explain it.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Reflections on Proverbs 14

 Proverbs 14 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. A woman's family is held together by her wisdom, but it can be destroyed by her foolishness.
  2. By living right, you show that you respect the LORD; by being deceitful, you show that you despise him.
  3. Proud fools are punished for their stupid talk, but sensible talk can save your life.
  4. Without the help of an ox there can be no crop, but with a strong ox a big crop is possible.
  5. An honest witness tells the truth; a dishonest witness tells nothing but lies.
  6. Make fun of wisdom, and you will never find it. But if you have understanding, knowledge comes easily.
  7. Stay away from fools, or you won't learn a thing.
  8. Wise people have enough sense to find their way, but stupid fools get lost.
  9. Fools don't care if they are wrong, but God is pleased when people do right.
  10. No one else can really know how sad or happy you are.
  11. The tent of a good person stands longer than the house of someone evil.
  12. You may think you are on the right road and still end up dead.
  13. Sorrow may hide behind laughter, and happiness may end in sorrow.
  14. You harvest what you plant, whether good or bad.
  15. Don't be stupid and believe all you hear; be smart and know where you are headed.
  16. Only a stupid fool is never cautious-- so be extra careful and stay out of trouble.
  17. Fools have quick tempers, and no one likes you if you can't be trusted.
  18. Stupidity leads to foolishness; be smart and learn.
  19. The wicked will come crawling to those who obey God.
  20. You have no friends if you are poor, but you have lots of friends if you are rich.
  21. It's wrong to hate others, but God blesses everyone who is kind to the poor.
  22. It's a mistake to make evil plans, but you will have loyal friends if you want to do right.
  23. Hard work is worthwhile, but empty talk will make you poor.
  24. Wisdom can make you rich, but foolishness leads to more foolishness.
  25. An honest witness can save your life, but liars can't be trusted.
  26. If you respect the LORD, you and your children have a strong fortress
  27. and a life-giving fountain that keeps you safe from deadly traps.
  28. Rulers of powerful nations are held in honor; rulers of weak nations are nothing at all.
  29. It's smart to be patient, but it's stupid to lose your temper.
  30. It's healthy to be content, but envy can eat you up.
  31. If you mistreat the poor, you insult your Creator; if you are kind to them, you show him respect.
  32. In times of trouble the wicked are destroyed, but even at death the innocent have faith.
  33. Wisdom is found in the minds of people with good sense, but fools don't know it.
  34. Doing right brings honor to a nation, but sin brings disgrace.
  35. Kings reward servants who act wisely, but they punish those who act foolishly.

Solomon's definition of wealth would be contrary to popular belief. He says, "The crown of the wise is their wealth." Thus, if one is wise they are wealthy. This comes from one who had both the wealth of material goods and wisdom. Might he have valued his wisdom over his wealth? From the wisdom sayings in this chapter we might conclude that everyone benefits from wisdom: both the wise who benefit directly and the unwise who benefit indirectly from those who are wise. It would seem that even the foolish recognize the indirect benefit they gain from the wise, for Solomon says, "The evil bow before those who are good, the wicked, at the gates of the righteous." The foolish (the evil & the wicked) know enough to pay homage to those who are good and righteous rather than to those who are not.

What more do we learn about the wise in these verses?
  • They obtain goodwill. A man who is wise is generally respected. Even a king favors a wise servant. But then, why would he favor a foolish servant?
  • They find loyalty and faithfulness. People are drawn to those who are wise and show kindness and good toward everyone. They want to be around them and will show loyalty to them.
  • They are diligent, putting forth hard work which brings a profit, and caring for those things that contribute to their prosperity, such as faithfully feeding their oxen so it helps in the production of an abundant harvest.
  • They are Honest, giving a truthful witness when called for with the result of rescuing lives.
  • They are sensible, watching their steps so they do not stumble and considering their ways so they do not choose unwisely. With this sensible approach to life they receive knowledge as a byproduct.
  • They are cautious, turning from evil.
As for the foolish, who might also be termed evil or wicked, one wonders what motivates their foolishness when the benefits are so great for exercising wisdom. What are the benefits of foolishness?
  • They speak pridefully bringing discipline on themselves.
  • They tear down rather than build up. What does this leave them with in the end?
  • They are quick-tempered, causing them to act foolishly.
  • They are thrown down by their own sin.
  • They are hated because of their schemes.
  • They proliferate foolishness. As Solomon says, "the foolishness of fools produces foolishness."
  • They are jealous, bringing "rottenness to the bones."
Having considered some of the benefits of foolishness, it begs the question again, "what motivates the foolish to be foolish?" The obvious answer is, their foolishness. The foolish promote contempt rather than respect and tearing down rather than building up. No thoughtful person would seek to be foolish.