"Prose On Proverbs"
In The Lord
Love of Learning
Dangers In The Adulteress' Lair
Which The Lord Hates
The Wisdom of God
And Foolish Sons
Blessings For The Diligent Hand
and Funny Money
who is wise Wins Souls
From The Lord
Ways of the Wise Wife
For The Heart
Strength of the Ox
It Often Seems Right To A Man
The Quicksand of a Quick Temper
Liar, Soul on Fire!
Eyes of the Lord
Things That Are Better
Power of Positive Words
Path of the Upright
Prayer of the Righteous
News From Heaven
"Your Plans Will Be Established"
and Respect the Aged
Cost of Quarrels
Country's Best Citizens
Developing Disciplined Children
Move The Boundary
on Men and Money
a Man Thinketh..."
The Temporal Judgments of God
on Wisdom and Folly
"Friend, Move Up Higher"
Gills of Jealousy
Use of Wealth
Present Evil Age
Danger of Stiff Necks
Troubler in Israel
Do Not Alter Gods Words
is a Kind of Man
for the Helpless
Heart Trusts Her
The Proverbs 31 Woman & The Church
One of the marks of a smug, decaying society is
that there is no fear of God. The individuals in such societies
generally have no goal but gratification, no pursuit but
pleasure. Worshiping at the twin golden calves of lust and
luxury, they, in the words of the apostle Paul, do "not
honor Him as God, or give thanks" (Romans 1:21). As a result they
are plunged into darkness and destruction; professing to be wise,
they are governed by groundless speculation and superstition,
and, as fools, are delivered over to a depraved mind.
In contrast to the swaying jungle of darkness
comes steady enlightenment from God. "From Your precepts, I
get understanding," noted the psalmist. "Therefore I
hate every false way" (Psalm 119:104). But as
enlightening and informative as the Old Testament is, it is but a
candle held to the sun in comparison to the New Testament. He who
spurned the Old and he who rejects the New have a common bond:
"There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18). The writer of
the psalm and the opener of Proverbs basically agree on the
solution. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
wisdom," says one, and "The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of knowledge," says the other (Psalm 111:10; Proverbs 1:7).
- The fear of the Lord - While there
is a certain element of terror connected with the fear of
the Lord, His character is such that the adherent is
compelled to come near. The result of this divinely
designed push-pull is that the one who begins to hear to
words of the Lord has a healthy respect for the Almighty
and His Son, and judiciously hustles to carry out His
- The beginning of knowledge - The
world is filled with books. While there is good
information on everything from how to tie a fly for
fishing to programming computers, the world has no
knowledge on pleasing God or how to live a truly
spiritual life. The proper reverence for God will drive
the seeker to the Bible for his source of information,
and he will now begin to learn how to walk in the way of
- Humility - The reader of the words,
brought to an awareness of the power and majesty of Him
who sits on the eternal throne, is now conscious of his
sin and shortcomings in the sight of the Omnipotent. Thus
humbled, he is now prepared to "receive instruction
in righteous behavior" (Proverbs 1:3).
- What those who fear the Lord receive -
When the man is humble enough to submit to the Lord's
counsel, quite a list of learning opportunities open for
him. He gets "to know wisdom and instruction,"
and "to discern the sayings of understanding."
Information on "righteousness, justice, and
equity" is sent his way. To the young, who are just
becoming aware of the stark reality about them, the
instruction from the Lord will "give prudence to the
naive," and "to the youth knowledge and
discretion." Even the experienced will benefit:
"A wise man will hear and increase in learning, and
a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel."
For those who in step-by-step fashion, beginning from the
fear of the Lord, increase in wisdom and knowledge, the
ability is given to understand a proverb and a figure,
the words of the wise and their riddles" (Proverbs 1:2-6).
- What is for fools -
"Fools," said the wise Solomon, "despise
wisdom and instruction." "When your dread comes
like a storm," cries Wisdom, to those who spurn her,
"and your calamity like a whirlwind... then they
will call on me, but I will not answer
hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the
Lord" (Proverbs 1:27-29).
Here, then, is the great promise for those who
fear the Lord and learn wisdom and knowledge from the mouth of
the Almighty and All Knowing: "But he who listens to me
shall live securely, and shall he at ease from the dread of
evil" (Proverbs 1:33).
Life on earth is so short and eternity is so
long. The wise considers those fundamental truths and keeps them
in the forefront of his mind, using them as the basis on which he
makes his life's decisions. The foolish live for this life only.
"They would not accept my counsel," said wisdom.
"They spurned all my reproof, so they shall eat the fruit of
their own way, and be satiated with their own devices. For the
waywardness of the naive shall kill them, and the complacency of
fools shall destroy them" (Proverbs 1:30-32). By contrast
the one who desires wisdom is not complacent. "If you cry
for discernment," says the sage of Proverbs, if you
"lift your voice for understanding, if you seek her as
silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will
discern the fear of the Lord, and discover the knowledge of
God" (Proverbs 2:3-5).
- Seeking as for silver - Silver and
gold have intrinsic value. A chunk of silver or a hunk of
gold have value based on weight, regardless of shape, as
contrasted to paper, which is not real money and has
value only because there is a number printed somewhere on
the bill. Many was the man who, looking for real
treasure, scoured the vast regions of the American West
or stomped through the creek beds of Alaska in search of
gold nuggets or silver outcroppings. The quest was not
easy; the wanderers were scorched by the western sun,
scourged with 100mph winds, pelted with rain and sleet
smothered by deep snows, and frozen by sudden winter
blasts. Then there were problems with hostile Indians,
road agents, bandits, claim jumpers, and sickness and
disease, to say nothing of the dangers and difficulties
of mining the claims themselves. The point of this is to
illustrate, in as graphic a form as possible, what drive
and desire must underlay those who searched for silver.
"If you seek her," said Solomon of wisdom,
" Those who have this yearning
for wisdom - to search for her through the wastelands of
confusion and the blazing heat of controversy - will find
her. Those who sit back and expect wisdom to come to them
will join the rest of a complacent,
- Positive motivation - A person has
to be motivated to search for wisdom. For those who
slogged the dusty trails in quest of silver, the
motivation was the potential of getting rich. Those who
lay it on the line for finding wisdom are motivated by
the positive things, which she provides. Those who
pin-point the wisdom of God come under the protection of
God; "He is a shield to those who walk in integrity
- guarding the paths of justice - and He preserves the
way of His godly ones (Proverbs 2:7,8).
"Discretion will guard you," says the writer,
and "understanding will watch over you" (Proverbs 2:11).
- The downward path - Those who
reject wisdom end upon a darkened path of misery,
heartache, and destruction. Without sufficient insight
into human nature, they are marks for men more evil and
cunning than they. Apart from the prudence of morality,
they are delivered over to "the strange woman, the
adulteress who flatters with her words." "Her
house sinks down to death," intones wisdom,
"and her tracks lead to the dead. None who go to her
return again, nor do they reach the paths of life" (Proverbs 2:16-19).
Those with a modicum of understanding are driven forward
in their pursuit of wisdom by the glimmer of knowledge
they have about "the tracks of the dead."
"How blessed is the man who finds wisdom,
and the man who gains understanding. For its profit is better
than the profit of silver and its gain than fine gold. She is
more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire compares with
her. Long life is in her right hand; and in her left are riches
and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are
peace" (Proverbs 3:13-17). Raise the
dust, boys, and get on the boom town trail. There's something
greater than gold in the water and better than silver in
"them thar hills."
In The Lord
Trust requires an up-front commitment. The one
to be trusted must have demonstrated his trustworthiness; the one
who trusts must first trust, and then wait for the results. One
of the major purposes of the written scriptures is to demonstrate
the faithfulness of God; the record of His up-front commitment to
the well-being and salvation of man is unbroken and unblemished.
Indeed all the ancients testify as to the goodness and greatness
of God, and James in the New Testament notes that there is no
variation or shifting shadowy effect from the Father of lights.
"It is a trustworthy statement," Paul informed Timothy.
"For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him; if we
endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He will
also deny us; if we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He
cannot deny Himself" (II Timothy 2:11-13). One of
the great attributes of the great God is that He is steady and
dependable even if mankind is not.
- Trust in God - God has already made
the up-front commitment. Jesus Christ was sent as the
Emissary from heaven and was offered as the great
sacrifice, that He might man redeem. "Trust in the
Lord with all your heart," is the invitation offered
from the realm of glory, followed with the corresponding
advice, "and do not lean on your own
understanding" (Proverbs 3:5).
Trusting God is synonymous with trusting His word. When
the exhortation is given from the Holy Writ, the test for
the Christian is whether he actually does what God has
said. It did not make any earthly sense for Abraham to
offer Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord, but rather than
lean on his own understanding, Abraham willingly strapped
his only begotten son down on the altar and proceeded to
cut his throat. Abraham, trusting in the command of God,
did as he was told, and in effect received Isaac back
from the dead. The Christian, instead of offering a son
on a physical altar, offers his own body as a living and
holy sacrifice, and views himself as already dead to sin
and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
- Give credit to the Father - The
child of the King is aware that he has nothing which he
did not receive, that his wisdom comes from God, and that
all his financial resources and physical accomplishments
are as a result of the backing of the Almighty. He heeds
the advice: "In all your ways acknowledge Him, and
He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your
own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will
be healing to your body and refreshment to your
bones" (Proverbs 3:6-8).
- Tithe from the top - One of the
areas where the talkers are separated from the doers,
where those who lean on their own understanding parted
from those who trust the Lord, is in giving. "Honor
the Lord from your wealth, and from the first of all your
produce," stated wisdom from God, "so your
barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will
overflow with new wine" (Proverbs 3:9,10).
- Accept God's discipline - "We
had earthly fathers to discipline us
as seemed best
to them," the author of Hebrews pointed out, but the
heavenly Father "disciplines us for our good, that
we may share His holiness" (Hebrews 12:9,10).
"My son," intones Solomon, "do not reject
the discipline of the Lord, or loathe His reproof for
whom the Lord loves He reproves, even as a father, the
son in whom he delights" (Proverbs 3:11,12).
Shall we accept the blessings of the Lord and reject His
Brethren can trust God. "He who did not
spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He
not also with Him freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). The saints,
then, need to move ahead, in accordance with what is written, and
trust God. Trust God in acknowledging His contributions. Trust
God in giving the top 10%. And continue to trust God in the midst
of His discipline and reproof.
Not one of us lives for himself, said the great
apostle Paul, not one of us dies for himself. The point of the
apostle's statement is that no man is an island, and that each
person on earth has duties and responsibilities to those with
whom he has contact. And those with whom man has contact, even
very casually, are called neighbors.
Wherever people interact, there are problems.
Sometimes people react wrongly to the challenge life in general
offers and take their frustrations out on others around them.
Sometimes individuals are just plain hard to get along with; they
are often selfish, self-centered, and like to cause problems
among others in their circle of acquaintances. So the second
greatest commandment - to love your neighbor as yourself - is not
necessarily easy to keep. Wisdom dictates that the believer in
God will conduct himself intelligently in regard to his dealings
with his fellow man.
- Doing good to all men - The Lord
God expects His children to be somewhat aggressive in
looking for opportunities to go the extra mile in helping
their fellow men. Doing good opens the door for
conversation about the Lord Jesus, and is gratifying to
God the Father. "And do not neglect doing good and
sharing," noted the writer of Hebrews, "for
with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). Wisdom
from Proverbs set the stage: "Do not withhold good
from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to
do it" (Proverbs 3:27).
- Do not make extra work - There are
among us those of a contrary and fickle nature, who do
not seem to mind causing extra and unnecessary work and
hassle for others. The Almighty is aware, because of the
strictures He imposed upon creation, that the real energy
crisis has nothing to do with fossilized fuels, but is
centered about the bounce, efficiency, and effectiveness
of His people. Extra work and extra hassle are major
energy drains as well as costing time and money. "Do
not say to your neighbor, 'Go, and come back, and
tomorrow I will give it,' when you have it with you"
- Do not be a troublemaker - "We
hear that some among you. Paul informed the
Thessalonians, "are leading an undisciplined life,
doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies" (II Thessalonians 3:11).
Undisciplined lives are intimately connected with
undisciplined mouths and undisciplined passions. The
wisdom of Proverbs records: "Do not devise harm
against your neighbor while he lives in security beside
you. Do not contend with a man without cause if he has
done you no harm" (Proverbs 3:29.30).
- Follow the example of the upright -
People around us pressure us. We may or may not yield to
the pressure, but the coercion is there nonetheless. In a
time of frustration or caught in a weak moment, a brother
may lose heart in doing good and take a step down the
wrong road. Solomon sets forth the curse on those who
step into the rough and the blessing upon those who
follow God's upward call. "Do not envy a man of
violence and do not choose any of his ways. For the
crooked man is an abomination to the Lord, but He is
intimate with the upright. The curse of the Lord is upon
the house of the wicked, but He blesses the dwelling of
the righteous" (Proverbs 3:31-33).
The Christian is to let his light shine among
men, that they might see his good works and glorify the Father in
heaven. That light is going to shine through the little ways in
which the disciple of Christ conducts himself among his
neighbors. If he is "cussed and contrary," then his
Christianity is nothing more than dry leaves rattling in the
wind. But the one who uses wisdom in personal interactions is
blessed of God and a light to the world.
Love of Learning
Some people die at thirty but are not buried
until they are seventy. They decided that learning was too much
work for their brains, and shifted off into semi-retirement mode.
Died at thirty, buried at seventy.
The sages of the ages are unanimous on at least
this one thing: Keep learning! The members of the human race who
are "veg'n out" are "edging' out" of
responsibility and duty, and abdicating their trust to the forces
of tyranny and darkness. The inspired writer of Proverbs is
likewise adamant in his exhortation for the sons of God:
"Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!" says he.
"The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom, and with all
your acquiring, get understanding" (Proverbs 4:5,7). The men and
women who follow God's upward beckonings have always been
exhorted to listen, read, and learn. "Listen to me, all of
you," said the Lord Jesus Himself, "and
understand" (Mark 7:14).
- Discipleship - The essential thrust
of Christianity is to take the ignorant and apathetic
from the world and transform them into those who eagerly
thirst for spiritual knowledge and understanding.
"Make disciples of all the nations," emphasized
our Lord in what is styled The Great Commission. And
once those disciples are immersed, they are to continue
to learn all that Jesus has commanded. Only disciples of
Jesus are going to be saved.
- Teaching to learn - A basic
practical point is that, unless the saint can teach a
lesson to others, he has not really learned it himself.
The teacher has to have the concepts crystallized in his
mind so that he can ask cogent questions, begin at the
true beginning point, or put points in clear logical
sequence. The instructor often must go over the material
several times to be sure he himself has mastered the
concepts and understood the scriptures. He is often
driven to do more research to develop "reserve fire
power" so that he can better anticipate and answer
the queries of those being taught. Once the fires of
teaching are stoked, the teacher is stirred to
"acquire wisdom." The teacher is the most
motivated among learners.
- Setting a good example - People
learn fastest by imitation. "Be imitators of
me," encouraged Paul, "just as I also am of
Christ" (I Corinthians 11:1).
"Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved
children," he exhorted in another place (Ephesians 5:1). The
teacher, knowing that he will be imitated, desires to be
like Christ, the perfect example, and knows he needs
wisdom to execute as Jesus would. "Prize her,"
were the words of Solomon about wisdom, "and she
will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace
her" (Proverbs 4:8).
"Watch over your heart with all diligence,"
notes Proverbs' author, knowing that all outward actions
and examples are derived from within, "for from it
flow the springs of life" (Proverbs 4:23).
- Focus - The basic game of Satan is distraction.
His purpose in so doing is to misdirect the holy one of
God and in short order have him so far off the
"straight and narrow" that he is in thick
darkness. Wisdom directs: "Let your eyes look
directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in
front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your
ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to
the left; turn your foot from evil" (Proverbs 4:25-27).
Committed Christians are conscious that they
are the salt of the earth and lights to the world. Wanting to be
good examples to the lost and teachers of the blind, they strive
to learn the principles of the oracles of God. They are not so
much interested in gold and silver as they are in pursuing the
wisdom of God and the understanding of His ways. While the rest
of the world is "vege'n out" Christians are
Dangers In The Adulteress' Lair
Human sexuality is hard to handle. The fires of
passion are necessary for the procreation of the race, but, like
steam for the engine, are explosively dangerous outside the
confines of the design. So the word of God - the instructions
from the maker of the machine - has red warning labels dispersed
all through it. "Let marriage be held in honor among all,
and let the marriage bed be undefiled," are among the words
of the kind and loving new covenant, "for fornicators and
adulterers God will judge" (Hebrews 13:4). It is fitting,
then, that the wisdom of Proverbs should have some poignant
points to thrust at the reader's mind on this issue.
- Dangerous and beautiful women - The
scripture is generally expressed to the male of the
species. Apparently the Almighty feels He has to talk
directly to men, while women are smart enough to draw the
appropriate conclusions. So men are warned about
dangerous and beautiful women: women need to draw the
appropriate conclusions about handsome, sensitive, and
witty men. "For the lips of the adulteress drip
honey," says wisdom, and "smoother than oil is
her speech; but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death,
her steps lay hold of Sheol" (Proverbs 5:3-5).
"Do not desire her beauty in your heart, nor let her
catch you with her eyelids. For on account of a harlot
one is reduced to a loaf of bread, and an adulteress
hunts for precious life" (Proverbs 6:25,26).
"With her many persuasions," she entices the
man who is open to her temptations. "With her
flattering lips she seduces him. Suddenly he follows her,
as an ox goes to slaughter, or as one in fetters to the
discipline of a fool, until an arrow pierces his liver;
as a bird hastens to its snare, so he does not know it
will cost him his life" (Proverbs 7:21-23).
- The discipline of the Lord - The
Mighty God is not asleep and unaware of the proclivities
of predatory men and sultry women. Even nations as a
whole come under His righteous scrutiny, and are dumped
in the discard bin over sexual immorality. "'When I
had fed them to the full,' stated Jehovah God to Judah,
'they committed adultery and trooped to the harlot's
house. They were well-fed lusty horses, each one neighing
after his neighbor's wife. Shall I not punish these
people,' declares the Lord, 'and on a nation such
as this shall I not avenge Myself'" (Jeremiah 5:7-9). Nor
can the individual hide behind the wall of the masses.
"For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the
Lord, and He watches all their paths" (Proverbs 5:21). The
Lord notes, and then the Lord brings the discipline. The
sexually foolish man will give his vigor to others and
his "years to the cruel one." Strangers will be
filled with his strength, his hard-earned goods will go
to the house of the alien, and at the end he will groan
in his condition - when his flesh and body are consumed -
and he will then say, "How I have hated instruction!
And my heart spurned reproof!" (Proverbs 5:9-12).
Venereal diseases, AIDS, and who knows what else are
brought on members of the human race because of their
refusal to learn the discipline of God.
- The solution - "Drink water
from your own cistern," notes wisdom, "and
fresh water from your own well," (Proverbs 5:15). God
made man male and female at the beginning, and knew what
He was doing when He joined them together as man and
wife. He also knew what He was doing when He warned
against violating the marriage. "Should your springs
he dispersed abroad?" He asked. "Streams of
water in the streets?" (Proverbs 5:16).
"Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the
wife of your youth" (Proverbs 5:17).
Human sexuality within the confines of marriage
is a good thing; outside the bonds it is one of the most
destructive forces unleashed in the race. "Can a man take
fire into his bosom, and his clothes not be burned?" (Proverbs 6:27). But the
blessings of God are on the man who will keep to his wife and
"be exhilarated always with her love" (Proverbs 5:19).
Things Which The Lord Hates
God is love, but there are some things He
hates. It is right for the Holy God to hate the destructive works
of the devil and effects of sin in fallen man. It is right for
Him who is light to abhor darkness. Certainly there are offensive
acts and attitudes which ascend as a putrid stench to the
nostrils of the righteous Judge. "There are six things which
the Lord hates," is the introductory statement of Solomon,
gently getting into his rhythm. "Yes, seven which are an
abomination to Him" (Proverbs 6:16). Wisdom
dictates a serious examination of these seven.
- Haughty eyes - The eyes are the
source of much non-verbal communication. Consequently we
speak of downcast eyes for one expressing shyness or
reserve, flashing eyes for someone angry, hooded eyes for
someone veiling their thoughts, and shining eyes for
someone in love. The lamp of the body truly is the eye,
the means by which the inner man shines into the outer
world. So the Lord adds an abomination to our list:
haughty eyes. Haughty eyes reveal a proud, proud, proud
inner person who is selfish "to the max,"
constantly communicating that it is far above the vermin
surrounding it, and always looking to put the other
person down. Christians need to have eyes that say,
"I am here to help you."
- A lying tongue - Jesus said that
the devil is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). All
interpersonal relationships are built on trust, and a
lying tongue destroys trust above all else. A lying
tongue is used to cover all deceptions; and one who lies
is a broken reed which pierces the hand of one who leans
on it. The saint, by contrast tells the truth.
- Hands that shed innocent blood -
Capital crimes such as murder and rape require capital
punishment. When Noah climbed down from the ark, God
instituted capital punishment with these words:
"Whoever sheds man's blood, by man shall his blood
be shed" (Genesis 9:6). When a
murderer is put to death, that is the shedding of guilty
blood. Hands that shed innocent blood are those which put
to death innocent people (like unborn babies), and God is
rightly angry about such violence.
- A heart that devises wicked plans -
There are connivers out there in the world. Some hatch
plans to manipulate others so that they can get their own
way in their small circles of acquaintances; others plan
massive schemes of deception, fraud, and tyranny on a
scale that would make "The Godfather" gasp. A
small scale heart that devises wicked plans is just as
much an abomination to the Lord as a large scale schemer.
- Fret that run rapidly to evil - In
the fleshly side of man runs something that might be
called "lust for blood." There are those who
like fights in the parking lot or blood flowing in the
gladiators' rings. There are those who are there to
encourage rebellion, who enjoy the push toward anarchy,
who delight in sexual license, and to who like to see the
distribution or pornography. God hates those whose feet
run, and run rapidly to evil.
- A false witness who utters lies - A
nation can only have some measure of freedom as long as
the justice system hold together. When the basic
assumption is that every witness who takes the stand is
lying, then the destruction of that society is imminent.
God hates lying witnesses.
- One who spreads strife among brothers
- When brethren (and their sisters) work as a team, great
things are accomplished. Satan's greatest glee is to have
someone spreading strife in the midst of Jesus' brethren
and thus impeding progress they make in the war against
the forces of darkness. And God hates those who set
spiritual brother against spiritual brother.
God has a legitimate reason to hate these
abominations. The one making a claim to godliness will look these
over very carefully, and repent where necessary.
Christ, The Wisdom of God
The wisdom of the Old Testament is pictured as
a woman begging mankind to pause in the rush of daily activity
and consider her wares. Wherever the traffic is going to be heavy
and wherever she can have high visibility, she stations herself,
seeking to find even one who will listen. "On the top of the
heights beside the way, where the paths meet, she takes her
stand," says Solomon. "Beside the gates, at the opening
to the city, at the entrance of the doors, she cries out" (Proverbs 8:2,3). Rather than
turning aside to the harlot's house, the man would do well to
spend time in the tent of wisdom. "Wisdom has built her
house, she has hewn out her seven pillars...She calls from the
tops of the heights in the city: 'Whoever is naive, let him turn
in here!"(Proverbs 9:1-4). "Forsake
your folly and live," she says, "and proceed in the way
of understanding" (Proverbs 9:6).
- Advantage of wisdom - Wisdom offers
many earthly advantages. "Riches and honor are with
me," says she, "enduring wealth and
righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure
gold, and my yield than the choicest silver" (Proverbs 8:18,19).
"Counsel is mine," she claims, and sound
wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine. By me kings
reign and rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, and
nobles, all who judge rightly" (Proverbs 8:14-16). But
far above the earthly accomplishments that wisdom can
bring are the eternal blessings. Wisdom began her
soliloquy by emphasizing that the fear of the Lord is the
beginning of knowledge, and approaches the close by
noting, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of
wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is
understanding" (Proverbs 9:10).
- Passing on wisdom - Those who
possess wisdom have a recognition that the days of man's
sojourn are fleeting,, and therefore have an earnest and
sensible desire to pass the wisdom onto those who should
follow. But the perverse nature of man is such that not
all are interested in wisdom. "He who corrects a
scoffer gets dishonor for himself, and he who reproves a
wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a
scoffer, lest he hate you" (Proverbs 9:7,8). That
is why the truly wise speak in proverbs, figures, and
riddles. But there are those who will learn.
"Reprove a wise man, and he will love you. Give
instruction to a wise man and he will still be wiser;
teach a righteous man, and he will increase his
learning" (Proverbs 9:8,9).
- Wisdom at creation - God has a
plan, and that plan is to bring redemption and fellowship
to the very soul of man who has a heart to be obedient to
the gospel. One of the things the All Wise does is to set
up patterns in the Old Testament which clearly point to
Jesus and the New Covenant. All the sacrifices under the
law of Moses, for example, showed the way to the day when
the sprinkled blood of Jesus should cleanse the true
tabernacle and be available to cleanse the conscience of
the obedient believer. Thus the wisdom at creation points
to the wisdom called Christ. "When He established
the heaven," says wisdom, "I was there. When He
inscribed a circle on the face of the deep...when He
marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was
beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His
delight rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in the
world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of
men" (Proverbs 8:27-31).
- Christ the wisdom of God - A search
for truth in any area will ultimately lead to God. A
search for wisdom will ultimately lead to Christ, in whom
are all the treasures of God. "For indeed,"
said Paul, "Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for
wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a
stumbling block, and to the Gentiles foolishness, but to
those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ
the power of God and the wisdom of God" (I Corinthians 1:22-24).
Christ was there at the creation, and He is
certainly the refuge the fear of the Lord will cause the wise to
seek. "But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became
to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and
redemption" (I Corinthians 1:30). The real
And Foolish Sons
In writing his proverbs Solomon often
introduced them with the expression, "My son." "My
son," said he, "keep my words, and treasure my
commandments within you" (Proverbs 7:1). "Hear, O
sons," he appealed in another place, "the instruction
of a father, and give attention that you may gain
understanding" (Proverbs 4:1). The older
generations have some wisdom they have picked up along the way
and they desire that this wisdom be passed on to the upcoming
generation so that members of the up-coming generation can be
smarter, more productive, and more happy than their forebears.
But not all listen. "A foolish son is a
grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him" (Proverbs 17:25). Every action
or inaction has its consequences, and foolishness results in a
lot of nasty messes. The apostle Paul, for example, noted the
effects of someone's being sucked into the craving to be wealthy:
"But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a
snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into
ruin and destruction" (I Timothy 6:9). The wise pays
close attention to such precepts; the foolish ignores them,
charges into foolishness, and pays the price extracted by folly
(often eternal damnation in the lake of fire). A wise son makes a
father glad," emphasized Solomon, "but a foolish son is
a grief to his mother" (Proverbs 10:1).
- A wise son accepts discipline -
"All discipline," commented Hebrews' author
"for the moment seems not to be joyful, but
sorrowful" (Hebrews 12:11). The
physical side of man has to be brought into subjection to
the spiritual, and the physical basically learns through
pain. "The pain of the doing the job over must
exceed the pain of doing it right the first time."
Hence it is that fatherly discipline comes with that
which is "sorrowful"; the pain produces the
change. The pain may be physical, coming in the
form of a rod to the backside or the Biblical scourge to
the back; or the pain may be more mental, coming as a
rebuke or expression of disappointment. A wise son
accepts his father's discipline, but a scoffer does not
listen to rebuke" (Proverbs 13:1). The
scoffer avoids accountability; the wise son is willingly
accountable to his dad.
- A wise son has a heart for spiritual
things - To those who have been trained by
discipline, appended the author of Hebrews,
"afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of
righteousness" (Hebrews 12:11). A
father's discipline results in self-control and a
disciplined individual is confident and therefore
peaceful. A son who has sought for knowledge and prayed
for wisdom in Christ experiences the blessing of God; the
foolish son has charged headlong and has found himself
embroiled in senseless convolutions due to his folly.
"My son, if your heart is wise, my heart also will
be glad" (Proverbs 23:15).
"Listen, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart
in the way" (Proverbs 23:19).
"The wise of heart will receive commands, but a
babbling fool will be thrown down" (Proverbs 10:8).
- A wise son is diligent - Those who
lack discipline often have good intentions, but when it
comes time to execute, they "bail out" because
the pain imposed on their bodies during performance is
too much for them to bear so they choose the easy way
rather than the right way. A wise son has listened to his
father and mother (and otherwise people in the church)
and has accepted the discipline when it has been meted
out. Thus he has "what it takes" to carry out
his good intentions. "He who gathers in the summer
is a son who acts wisely but a son who sleeps in harvest
is a son who acts shamefully" (Proverbs 10:5). The
wise son swings into motion when it is critical and
important to act, even if he does not feel like it right
at that moment; the undisciplined and foolish individual
couldn't bring himself to get the harvest in during the
summer, and would therefore starve in the winter.
At first, there may not seem to he much
difference between a wise and foolish son. But the fruit of the
wise or foolish decisions piles up, and the gap widens
considerably. "Wise men store up knowledge, but with the
mouth of the foolish ruin is at hand" (Proverbs 10:14). "Be
wise, my son and make my heart glad, that I may reply to him who
reproaches me" (Proverbs 27:11).
Blessings For The Diligent Hand
The body naturally resists movement and work.
The body has to be pushed to perform; it would rather coast along
or do nothing. Even the people of the world recognize the
problem, stating it in terms such as "Mind over
matter." The flesh may be compared to a balky mule.
"For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit,"
remarked the apostle Paul, "and the Spirit against the
flesh, for these are in opposition to one another, so that you
may not do the things that you please" (Galatians 5:17). When the body
does what it good-and-well-pleases, then it does not work or come
under discipline but lapses into the destructive deeds of the
Even Christians, indwelt by the Holy Spirit
have to fight this battle. Because the body is a part of the
physical creation, it is subject to the law of gravity and the
law of death and decay. "For we know," stated the
apostle, "that the whole creation groans and suffers the
pains of childbirth together until now" (Romans 8:22). After noting the
groaning and the continual pain, comparable to the travail of
childbirth, that the creation is subject to because of the
strictures imposed by God, Paul asserts that the bodies of
Christians are not exempt from this creaking and groaning as the
physical side of man goes through its challenges. "And not
only this," he declared, regarding the material creation,
"but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the
Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly
our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23). Thus the wisdom
of God from the beginning promised blessings for the diligent
hand, and curses for the slackard.
- Poverty for him who is slack - For
anyone to accumulate financial resources honestly, he is
going to have to work. The Lord has set up human
economics so that on a long-term basis, "Ill-gotten
gains do not profit, but righteousness delivers from
death" (Proverbs 10:2). So the
shameful son "who sleeps in harvest" is driven
into poverty or crime because of his lack of discipline;
when he was to take up the winnowing fork, he chose the
fishing pole instead. The man who is a poor workman or
sloppy performer is also destined for the bottom of the
economic heap: "Poor is he who works with a
negligent hand" (Proverbs 10:4).
Likewise the man who loves the pleasures of recreation or
the delights of the table: "He who loves pleasure
will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will
not become rich" (Proverbs 21:17).
"Do not love sleep," asseverated the sage,
"lest you become poor" (Proverbs 20:13).
- The evil of slackness - When an
individual continually falls prey to the body's desire to
be sluggish, a deep pall of despair, excuse-making, and
inactivity lays like a dark cloud over the man and all
his surroundings. "Laziness casts into a deep
sleep," recorded Solomon, "and an idle man will
suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15).
"The sluggard buries his hand in the dish," he
also stated, "and will not even bring it back to his
mouth" (Proverbs 19:24).
"As a door turns on its hinges, so does the sluggard
on his bed" (Proverbs 26:14). Then
the excuses begin: "The sluggard says, 'There is a
lion outside; I shall be slain in the streets'" (Proverbs 22:13). Yeah,
right! And when the slackard doesn't do his job correctly
("Close is good enough."), then airplanes come
apart, things break loose, and people are injured or
killed. "He also who is slack in his work is a
brother to him who destroys" (Proverbs 18:9).
- Slackness destroys civilizations -
When the general tenor of society becomes lax, then that
country or civilization is headed for oblivion and
slavery to a stronger people. "If you are slack in
the day of distress," says the Word, "your
strength is limited" (Proverbs 24:10). A
sluggish nation that will not rise to handle crises is in
deep trouble: "The hand of the diligent will rule,
but the slack hand will be put to forced labor" (Proverbs 12:24).
Will America as a whole listen to the teaching
of God's word on diligence and sluggishness? More importantly at
this juncture. will Christians heed the teaching and begin to
practice discipline in their own lives and impose accountability
and diligent follow-through in their own families? The body must
be overcome by the Spirit. "Poor is he who works with a
negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich" (Proverbs 10:4). Apply
diligence to reap true riches!
The taming of the tongue is a life or death
matter, eternally. The One who was wiser than Solomon said,
"For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words
you shall be condemned" (Matthew 12:37). And His
bondservant James observed that the tongue "sets on fine the
course of our lives" (James 3:6). In fact, a major
characteristic of the perfect man is that he "does not
stumble in what he says," and is therefore "able to
bridle the whole body as well" (James 3:2). He who is
interested in making spiritual progress is therefore interested
in all the insight that the word of God provides on the tongue,
the mouth, and the lips. He also listens carefully that he might
become increasingly aware of the wiles of those who work on
Satan's side and how they use the tongue.
- From the overflow of the head the mouth
speaks - Sooner or later what is in the heart of a
man is going to be evidenced in what comes out of his
mouth. The discerning will pay close attention - first to
his own speech, and then that of others. "The tongue
of the righteous is as choice silver," was one of
the writer of Proverbs' comments, but "the heart of
the wicked is worth little" (Proverbs 10:20).
"The lips of the righteous," he added,
"bring forth what is acceptable, but the mouth of
the wicked what is perverted" (Proverbs 10:32).
"The heart of the wise teaches his mouth and adds
persuasiveness to his lips" (Proverbs 16:23). A
Christian who wants to improve his mouth is going to
first have to improve his heart by making sure that only
"good stuff" is going in.
- The mouth can destroy and be used to
conceal a destroyer - "How great a forest"
emphasized James, elder in the church at Jerusalem,
concerning the tongue, "is set aflame by such a
small fire" (James 3:5). Those who
work against the plan of God do much of their damage by
the rumors they spread and their misrepresentation of the
truth. "The mouth of the wicked conceals
violence," Solomon says (Proverbs 10:6).
"He who conceals hatred has lying lips," he
also noted, "and he who spreads slander is a
fool" (Proverbs 10:18). This
wickedness can work to destroy a whole society, as
Solomon also brings forth: "A rascally witness makes
a mockery of justice, and the mouth of the wicked spreads
iniquity" (Proverbs 19:28). And
in a long (for Proverbs) section is a warning for those
in the church: "For lack of wood the fire goes out
and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.
Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a
contentious man to strife. The words of a whisperer are
like dainty morsels, and they go down into the innermost
parts of the body. Like an earthen vessel overlaid with
silver dross are burning lips and a wicked heart. He who
hates disguises it with his lips, but he lays up deceit
in his heart. When he speaks graciously do not believe
him, for there are seven abominations in his heart.
Though his hatred covers itself with guile, his
wickedness will be revealed before the assembly" (Proverbs 26:20-26).
- The mouth can edify, and thus exhibit a
follower of Christ - "The mouth of the righteous
flows with wisdom," is the judgment of the Holy
Spirit (Proverbs 10:31).
"The lips of the wise spread knowledge," the
writer says, "but the hearts of fools are not
so" (Proverbs 15:7). Thus
there are words of encouragement, words
that edify, and words that give direction.
"Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word
spoken in right circumstances" (Proverbs 25:11). Young
men were therefore encouraged to be "sound in speech
which is beyond reproach" (Titus 2:8). And
Timothy was exhorted to show himself as an example of
those who believe by his speech (I Timothy 4:12).
The channels of our lives have been grooved by
the myriads of chisel thrusts of our own tongues. Let us then
work on our hearts so that the direction of our speech is upward.
"The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord, but
the blameless in their walk are His delight" (Proverbs 11:20).
There is a God in heaven. There is a God who
raises up, and a God who casts down. There is a God who feeds the
hungry and sends the rich away empty handed. But this God often
moves slowly from the perspective of man-the-vapor, and oft it
seems that His justice is not done. He progresses on His own time
schedule, and most of His reward or punishment is meted out in
the realm of the unseen. "He who mocks the poor reproaches
his Maker; He who rejoices in calamity will not go
unpunished" (Proverbs 17:5), so while the
rich may gain his wealth and position unjustly, at his death his
is as he was at his birth. "As he came naked from His
mother's womb, so he will return as he came. He will take nothing
from the fruit of his labor in his hand" (Ecclesiastes 5:15). God allows
some of the wicked to be rich; He makes some of the righteous
rich; all this goes on so that man might put value on "the
riches of His glory," and so that God's people might have
the resources to execute His will on earth.
- All wealth comes from God - The
Almighty is emphatic: "'The silver is Mine, and the
gold is Mine,' declares the Lord of hosts," (Haggai 2:8). He Is the
One who causes the sun to shine on both the good and evil
and sends His rain on the just and the unjust. He gives
fruitful harvests, satisfying the peoples' hearts with
food and gladness. Inside the walls of the Father's
framework men play the silly game of rich and poor, and
God has some things to say about it.
- God is the righteous Judge -
"The rich and the poor have a common bond,"
stated the wisdom of Solomon. "The Lord is the Maker
of them all" (Proverbs 22:2). The
Lord, the righteous Judge, makes a number of statements
to let rich and poor alike to know that they are
accountable to the Creator. "The righteous,"
says He, "is concerned about the rights of the poor;
the wicked does not understand such concern" (Proverbs 29:7). The
rich man tends to trust in his wealth, thinking it can be
used to buy him "justice" on earth, and
therefore is more likely to forget about his own judgment
at the eternal throne. "The rich man's wealth is his
fortress"; whereas for the down-trodden, "the
ruin of the poor is their poverty" (Proverbs 10:15).
"A rich man's wealth is his strong city, and like a
high wall in his imagination" (Proverbs 18:11). By
contrast, "what is desirable in a man is his
kindness, and it is better to be a poor man than a
liar" (Proverbs 19:22).
Solomon keeps on laying it on: "Riches do not profit
in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from
death" (Proverbs 11:4).
- The Lord often blesses materially those
who walk in His ways - The Lord God does not let the
outer form be the substance. Riches in and of themselves
do not bless. "Bread obtained by falsehood is sweet
to a man," posits Solomon, "but afterward his
mouth will be filled with gravel" (Proverbs 20:17). In
contrast, for the righteous, the sage states, "It is
the blessing of the Lord that makes rich, and He adds no
sorrow to it" (Proverbs 10:22). And
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ will make sure that
the resources of the proud economic scions will
eventually be used for His glory and kingdom: "He
who increases his wealth by interest and usury gathers it
for him who is gracious to the poor" (Proverbs 28:8).
- The Lord honors diligence,
intelligence, and persistence - "Know well the
condition of your flocks," says the writer of the
proverb, "and pay attention to your herds; for
riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all
generations. When the grass disappears, the new growth is
seen and the herbs of the mountains are gathered in. The
lambs will be for your clothing, and the goats will bring
the price of a field, and there will be goats' milk
enough for your food, for the food of your household, and
sustenance for your maidens" (Proverbs 27:23-27).
The man who pays attention to these details will be able
to ride out the ups and downs, and the Lord will bless
"But let the brother of humble
circumstances glory in his high position; and let the rich man
glory in his humiliation, because like the flowering grass he
will pass away" (James 1:9,10). Rich and poor,
great and small; the Lord Almighty, He made them all.
Righteousness and Wickedness
In decaying Western civilization, the term
wicked is no longer in vogue. To be certain, when Oceania and
Eastasia have combined against Eurasia, then the visible leader
of Eurasia is a power-hungry madman and is wicked; but
that is purely a propaganda term and has nothing to do with the
Biblical concept of wickedness. A man is wicked in the sight of
God when he rebels against God's standards of righteousness; a
man who lies while on trial, a man who commits adultery without
remorse, and a man who leaves a string of murdered corpses in his
wake is a wicked man, regardless of how "compassionate"
the lap-dogs in the media may portray him to be. God and His
preachers have always condemned the wicked and extolled the
virtues of the righteous, those willing to walk in the ways of
- The head of the wicked - A wicked
man is a selfish, selfish individual who has no regard
for the feelings and rights of other people; they are
merely objects to be used and discarded or obstacles to
be trampled down. "The righteous is concerned for
the rights of the poor," says the inspired record,
but "the wicked does not understand such
concern" (Proverbs 29:7).
"The soul of the wicked desires evil," states
the writer (Proverbs 21:10). In
his grasping to please himself, the man has sold his soul
to the devil, and thus begins to take on Satan's
characteristics. "You are of your father the
devil," Jesus told some Jews trapped in their own
wicked lusts, "and you want to do the desires of
your father" (John 8:44). "The
heart of the wicked," therefore, "is worth
little" (Proverbs 10:20).
"The compassion of the wicked is cruel" (Proverbs 12:10).
- The head of the righteous - Those
whom the great God calls righteous are, not surprisingly,
those who have a deep desire to please Him, who delight
in His delights. "The desire of the righteous is
only good," observes Solomon (Proverbs 11:23).
"The thoughts of the righteous are just" (Proverbs 12:5).
"A righteous man hates falsehood," he adds,
"but a wicked man acts disgustingly and
shamefully" (Proverbs 13:5).
"The righteous live by faith," is the eternal
decree (Romans 1:17). They are
the ones who by doing the good will of the Father seek
for glory, honor, and immortality (Romans 2:5-9).
- No joy for the wicked - While the
wicked puts on a show of happiness and good times (like
the beer commercials), he experiences misery; the
righteous overflows with joy even in the midst of
oppression. "A wicked man shows a bold face,"
notes the writer, "but as for the upright, he makes
his way sure" (Proverbs 21:29).
"The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a
fleeting vapor, the pursuit of death. The violence of the
wicked will drag them away, because they refuse to act
with justice" (Proverbs 21:6,7).
Sooner of later, the wickedness of the wicked comes upon
them. "The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of evil" (Proverbs 16:4).
"When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more,
but the righteous has an everlasting foundation" (Proverbs 10:25).
The righteous scepter is the scepter of
the Lord Jesus' kingdom. "You have loved righteousness and
hated lawlessness," it is said of the Christ.
"Therefore God, Your God has anointed You with the oil of
joy above Your companions" (Hebrews 1:8,9). Christian,
take warning. Jesus hates lawlessness and loves righteousness so
much that this is what He 's going to do inside the church at
the end: He will have the angels "gather out of His kingdom
all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness; and will
cast them into the furnace of fire...Then the righteous will
shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He has
ears, let him hear"(Matthew 13:41-43).
Abominations and Funny Money
It's only a stupid thief who will try to rob a
bank or mug someone in a supermarket parking lot. The smart
thieves are chairmen of the board of the big banks and collect
interest on the money loaned to build new prisons for the dumb
thieves. Preachers know they are supposed to preach against dumb
thievery, but are often unaware of a banking scam so intelligent
that, in the words of Lord Maynard Keynes (father of
"Keynesian economics"), "not one man in a
thousand" knows what is going on. God knows, and He has long
since classed it with other high crimes as an abomination. But to
understand the application of the Proverbs to modern economic
times requires a little background.
- A primitive economy - A barter
economy is very simple. Object is traded for object;
chickens are traded for yams, for example. The farmers
are conscious of the work which went into the production
of the chickens and the harvesting of the yams, and are
essentially haggling over how much labor each is willing
to trade for the other's product. A barter economy,
because the trade is goods for goods, is of necessity a
primitive economy because it is an exchange of bulk for
bulk. But it is also a comparatively honest economy; each
of those engaged in the trade has been able to second
handle what he is trading for. "'Bad, bad,' says the
buyer; but when he goes his way, then he boasts" (Proverbs 20.14).
- Metals as media of exchange - The
barter system is unwieldy; it is difficult to trade
27,000 chickens for a piece of property. So most
economies gravitated to a system where gold and/or silver
became the media of exchange, wherein a shekel of silver,
for instance, would actually represent a certain number
of days worth of labor. Because the economy is no longer
a barter economy, the possibility for dishonesty in trade
increases; one individual is trading actual goods and
services for a measure of labor, and if there is
something wrong with the gold or silver, the seller of
goods and services is cheated. When Abraham purchased the
burial ground for his deceased wife, Sarah, "Abraham
weighed out for Ephron the silver which he had named in
the hearing of the sons of Heth, four hundred shekels of
silver, commercial standard" (Genesis 23:16). If the
weights in Abraham's bag had been crooked or the balance
beam off, then Ephron the Hittite (who put up the
tangible property in the exchange) would have been
"ripped off."' God had numerous warnings about
such thievery: "A false balance is an abomination to
the Lord, but a just weight is His delight" (Proverbs 11:1).
Another proverb adds, "Differing weights are an
abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not
good" (Proverbs 20:23).
- Coins of standard weight - The
weighing out of metals was also unwieldy, so the ancients
developed metal coins of standard weight. This system
worked well as long as the government which minted the
coins was honest; the possibility of deception shifts
from the buyer or seller to the government which mints
the coins. The coin can be impure or weigh slightly less
than claimed; Caesar would be skimming off the
- Paper "money", electronic
commerce, and inflation - With the invention of paper
as a substitute for real money (specie) and the
development of computer entries instead of gold in the
banking system, the framework for massive fraud is now in
place. In the U.S.A. the Federal Reserve System creates
the "money" out of thin air, using essentially
the word of the U.S. government as a sort of collateral.
This "money"' gets its value by stealing some
of the value from currency already in circulation; this
is what inflation truly is, and we note the loss in the
value of the currency by saying that prices rose.
Modern bankers in conjunction with the national
governments (and global entities such as the United Nations and
the International Monetary Fund) are stealing the labor of
productive men and women through inflation. This is a modern form
of having "differing weights in the bag," and is a
great abomination to the God of justice and righteousness.
Pride is one of the big three, but it is
sometimes hard to pin down. "For all that is in the world,
the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful
pride of life," wrote the inspired apostle John, "is
not from the Father but is of the world" (I John 2:16). The various
lusts of the flesh and the eyes are generally obvious, but this
thing called "the boastful pride of life" can be hard
to identify in self or to prove to others that they have this
problem. But because "all that is in the world" fits
into one of the three listed categories, it is critical that the
saint of God first examine himself to see if pride is resident
within himself, and then, when necessary to recognize it in
- The nature of pride - There is a
good kind of pride, which involves such things as
"taking pride in your work," as contrasted to a
false or evil pride. "We are not again commending
ourselves to you," wrote Paul to the beloved
brethren in Corinth, "but are giving you an occasion
to be proud of us, that you may have an answer for
those who take pride in appearance, and not in
heart" (II Corinthians 5:12).
Both types of pride are here illustrated: the brethren
could rightly be proud of Paul and those who labored with
him because of their manifest love and suffering on
behalf of the Corinthian Christians, whereas the evil
pride of the false apostles was simply an attempt to look
good rather than to be good. The boastful pride of man is
his attempt to elevate himself on false pretenses by
"putting down" others and his stubborn refusal
to deal with the facts of his own case. Ultimately this
translates into man's unwillingness to yield to the will
of the Lord and his stubborn refusal to acknowledge the
truth of God's word as it applies to himself. "The
fear of the Lord is to hate evil," sagely stated
Solomon on behalf of the Almighty. "Pride and
arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I
hate" (Proverbs 8:13).
- Rooting out pride - Suffering is
God's way of exposing and eliminating pride. Because of
the excessive greatness of the vision Paul had seen of
Paradise, he had to suffer what he called "a thorn
in the flesh" (II Corinthians 12:7).
"He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from
sin," was the annotation of Peter, from which the
brethren recognize that pride is removed through the
anguish each of the faithful experiences while standing
firm for Christ. The record of the scripture is that
God's temporal judgments are for the purpose of helping
sincere disciples to recognize and overcome sin. "A
man's pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in
spirit will obtain honor" (Proverbs 29:23).
"Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit
before stumbling" (Proverbs 16:18).
- Recognizing pride in those who
wrongfully aspire to leadership - There are certain
prideful individuals who aspire to positions of
prominence without experiencing the legitimate servitude
God requires of those who would be leaders. There are
still those who desire "the chief seats in the
synagogues," the "respectful greetings in the
market place," and the significance granted by such
titles as "Reverend" and "Doctor."
The apostle Paul appealed to his track record to expose
those who "measured themselves by themselves,"
the proud who had position ambition.
- The judgment of God -Ultimately the
temporal judgments of God against the pride of man will
be replaced by the final judgment. "For the Lord of
hosts will have a day of reckoning," prophesied
Isaiah, "against everyone who is proud and lofty,
and against everyone who is lifted up" (Isaiah 2:12).
"The Lord alone will be exalted in that day" (Isaiah 2:17).
Pride is somewhat difficult to identify, but
each Christian must joyfully welcome the fiery trials of the day
to refine his character and to remove the dross of pride. Each
son of God must learn to recognize pride when it comes in others,
when it approaches as the skeleton of ambition covered with the
skin of flattery and false concern. "When pride comes, then
comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2). Let the Lord
alone be exalted now, as He shall be on the final and great day.
The opposite of pride is humility. Pride to
a large degree sums up the character of Satan; humility similarly
sums up the character of Jesus Christ, Pride is justly condemned,
whereas humility is rightly commended. Our Lord Jesus humbled
Himself by taking the form of man, and so demonstrated the right
spirit that He submitted to death on the cross.
"Therefore," explained the apostle Paul, "also God
highly exalted Him" (Philippians 2:9). All who
would follow in the footsteps of Jesus must humble themselves in
this life with calm assurance that they will he exalted in the
age to come. "If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me,"
our Lord exhorted, "and where I am there shall My servant
also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him" (John 12:26).
It is a false humility that says, "I can't
do anything very well." True humility is a willingness to
lay aside selfishness and do well whatever God needs done,
whether it is speaking to the multitudes in the Temple or washing
the feet of the disciples.
- There is wisdom in humility -
"When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the
humble is wisdom" (Proverbs 11:2). God is
infinitely wiser than man, and those who in humility will
submit to the will and wisdom of the Father are greatly
blessed. "That which proceeds out of man, that is
what defiles the man," said Jesus, describing man in
his unregenerated state. "For from within, out of
the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, fornications,
thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and
wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander,
pride and foolishness" (Mark 7:20-22). The
prideful man rushes headlong into foolishness; the humble
seeks the wisdom of God, and walks in the ways of the
wise. "The fear of the Lord is the instruction for
wisdom, and before honor comes humility" (Proverbs 15:33).
- The humble associates with all men
- Prideful man is focused on the position he can attain
on earth. He therefore associates with those whom he
finds useful to his ambition; once he has gained leverage
to the next "upper level," he tosses his old
associates aside as dried up husks along the roadside of
his experience. In contrast, Jesus recognized the eternal
intrinsic value of each son of man, and intermingled with
the lowly harlots and ate with the tax-gatherers and
sinners. "It is better to be of a humble spirit with
the lowly," Solomon observed, "than to divide
the spoil with the proud" (Proverbs 16:9).
"Be of the same mind toward one another,"
prompted Paul. "Do not he haughty in mind, but
associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own
estimation" (Romans 12:16).
- God honors and rewards humility -
The underlying principle of any man's fellowship with God
is faith. Faith requires that each saint must act
before God grants His blessing; first the cross, then the
crown. God requires an up-front investment called
humility, then grants honor from the right sources both
in this age and also in the one to come. "A man's
pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will
retain honor" (Proverbs 29:23).
"The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are
riches, honor, and life" (Proverbs 22:4).
"Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, but
humility goes before honor" (Proverbs 18:12). The
picture is clear.
Humble pie is the best dessert. It has its
bitter moments when it has its first taste on the tongue, but
from then on its fruit exhibits its increasing sweetness.
"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God,
that He may exalt you at the proper time" (I Peter 5:6).
Someone has asked, "Why is youth wasted on
the young?" There is a certain exuberance and a sense of
good feeling associated with young bodies, but this is often
accompanied by poor judgment due to lack of experience. Hence
there is a need for wise counsel; rare indeed is the young man
who can "keep his own counsel" and succeed. The world
is full of pitfalls and traps, and there are certain experiences
of life which give wisdom to those who have piloted their way to
levels of success following their youth. They "because of
practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil"
- Get some advice when making big plans
- The more information an individual has before he makes
a decision, the more likely he is to make the right
decision. One of the advantages of involving other
brethren in planning is that they often have valuable
experiences, which enable them to point out potential
problem areas and the smoother surface of clear sailing.
"Without consultation, plans are frustrated,"
commented Solomon, "but with many counselors they
succeed" (Proverbs 15:22). And
the Holy Spirit through Solomon also recommended,
"Prepare plans by consultation, and make war by wise
guidance" (Proverbs 20:18). It is
good to bounce ideas off someone of experience before
charging into a major disaster.
- Nations need guidance - Not only do
individuals need advice and counsel, but nations must
have wise guidance or they will end up down the tubes of
history. "A wise man is strong," says the
proverb, "and a man of knowledge increases power.
For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance
of counselors there is victory" (Proverbs 24:6). When a
nation has gone into sin so that God has to destroy her
("on a nation such as this, shall I not avenge
Myself?" - Jeremiah 9:9), He
smears over the eyes of her counselors so that they
cannot give good direction. The life of David and the
future of Israel hinged on whose counsel David's
rebellious son Absalom followed; by the mercies of God
Absalom listened to the false counsel of Hushai the
Archite, David's friend, rather than to the shrewd
counsel of Ahitophel.
- The truly wise gets help from God -
While there have been many wise advisors over the
centuries, no one is in the same ball park as the All
Wise and All Knowing God. The individual who looks to
God's word will find great wisdom and understanding in
its precepts. "Your commandments," praised the
psalmist, "make me wiser than my enemies" (Psalm 119:98).
"But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of
God," encourages James, "who gives to all men
generously and without reproach, and it will be given to
him" (James 1:5).
- Nations must look to God for counsel
- God's ways are higher than man's ways and His thoughts
are far above man's thoughts. So the nation which turns
its back on the God of the Bible is cursed, but
"blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord" (Psalm 33:12).
[Spiritual Israel is the prophetic nation ultimately
looked to here, but there is a general principle, which
applies.] "Where there is no guidance, the people
fall" (Proverbs 11:14).
"Where there is no vision [revelation from God, in
our time the Bible], the people are unrestrained" (Proverbs 29:18).
Guidance into eternal life and true
enlightenment come only From God through the written word, and
the prayers of the saints for wisdom. "For who has known the
mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?
For from Him
and through Him and for Him are all things. To Him be the glory
Forever. Amen" (Romans 11:34,36).
Slavery in Western Civilization did not die
with the War Between The States. To be sure, the direct outward
ownership of individuals has perished for more than a century,
but indirect ownership has never ceased. The proverb is true:
"The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower becomes the
lender's slave" (Proverbs 22:7). In matters of
men, if you want to know what is happening, follow the money
trail. And the money trail leads to the house of slavery.
- The lure of easy credit - The lust
of the flesh and the lust of the eyes make mankind as a
whole open to the seductive siren song of easy money.
"Have your pleasure now," is the subtle or
often not-so-subtle message, "and figure out how to
pay for it later." Thus the salivating man joyfully
gives up his noble birthright for a mess of pottage,
bought on credit. When a member of the human race goes
into debt to purchase consumer goods, he is like the
proverbial dumb ox obediently plodding to his own
slaughter. "The borrower becomes the lender's
slave," and the smart lender is patient enough to
the let this slavery develop slowly, so that the borrower
is unaware of the disaster that is about to befall him.
Easy credit is the bait, and the trap is eventual
- Dangers of co-signing - Every
lending institution has some means recovering debt. The
pawn shop, the poor man's bank, puts the collateral on
the shelf and sells it if the money loaned and interest
are not repaid on time. The ruthless among loan sharks
have tended to take advantage of the poor, and extract
the necessities of survival from them. God therefore told
those who had money in Israel, "If you lend money to
My people, to the poor among you, you are not to act as a
creditor to him; you shall not charge him interest. If
you ever take your neighbor's cloak as a pledge, you are
to return it to him before the sunsets, for that is his
only covering; it is his cloak for his body. What else
shall he sleep in?" (Exodus 22:25-27). The
dignity of each man was to be preserved in Israel; God
did not want His people to go back into slavery through
debt. But people do, and when they run out of collateral
themselves, then they need a co-signer, someone to
"'go surety" for them. "Do not be among
those who give pledges," instructs the wisdom of
Proverbs, and do not be "among those who become
sureties for debts" (Proverbs 22:26). If an
individual does not have the collateral to finance his
own foolishness, it is a major fool who will back
continuing folly with his own substance. "He who is
surety for a stranger will surely suffer for it, but he
who hates going surety is safe" (Proverbs 11:15). The
scripture gives no quarter for mercy in this matter:
"A man lacking in sense pledges, and becomes surety
in the presence of his neighbor" (Proverbs 17:18).
- The super-rich own the house of slavery
- The scions of the moneyed houses have always been
trained to manipulate the common man so that he
"owes his soul to the company store.." Skilled
in the art of bait and trap, credit and enslavement, they
add house to house, and land to land. To prevent that
from happening in Israel, God owned the land, and every
50 years the property reverted back to the original
family of caretakers. But in the rest of the world, and
in Israel gone rebellious, it was and is the rich who are
the oppressors and enemies of God and Christianity (James 2:6).
The message of the scriptures on this matter is
simple. Don' buy on credit. And don't co-sign for someone who
He who is wise Wins Souls
"There is precious treasure and oil in the
dwelling of the wise," says the proverb, "but a foolish
man swallows it up" (Proverbs 21:26). The wise man
and the prudent wife are smart enough and disciplined enough to
make provision for earthly needs and to anticipate the occasional
unexpected expense and economic down turn. They have the sense to
set priorities for what must come first; the crops must be sown
and harvested in their season, and the other necessities of life
must come in their order, "Prepare your work outside, and
make it ready for yourself in the field," is some basic
counsel, "Afterwards, then, build your house" (Proverbs 24:27).
But there is a step up from making sure
survival and earthly living priorities are in order, and that has
to do with righteousness. It is wise for people to leave
their financial houses in order, but that will only last for the
years of a man's earthly sojourn. The righteous not only have the
blessings of a better life on earth but also the blessings of
eternity. "The righteousness of the blameless will smooth
his way," opined Solomon, "but the wicked will fall by
his own wickedness" (Proverbs 11:5). He adds,
"The righteous is delivered from trouble, but the wicked
takes his place" (Proverbs 11:8). And, looking
to eternity, Solomon writes, "Riches do not profit in the
day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death" (Proverbs 11:4). Underlying all
is the great statement from both the Old and New Testaments:
"The righteous shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17). Because they
follow the Biblically defined faith in the glorified Lord,
brethren live for all eternity. "He who trusts in his riches
will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green
leaf" (Proverbs 11:28).
But there is even another step up from personal
righteousness and a yearning to go to heaven. Those who desire to
live by faith desire to walk in the very footsteps of Jesus, and
thus end up greatly concerned for the souls of others. "The
fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who is wise wins
souls" (Proverbs 11:30). The righteous
have a Biblical lifestyle that shows others how to set their
lives in order, how develop love, joy, peace, and patience, and
how to win souls for Jesus.
- Systematically meet new people -
Not everyone is interested in eternity and following
Jesus. Before long many brethren have essentially worked
over their circle of acquaintances and there are no
immediate prospects. The wise who wins souls
systematically finds ways of meeting new people and
expanding his list of contacts for the gospel.
- Systematically make disciples of
contacts - There is only one Bible, only one set of
truth, and only one way of salvation. The wise who wins
souls has a systematic way of establishing the authority
of the scripture for people, and bringing them to an
understanding of repentance and immersion into Christ.
- Systematically show disciples how to
make disciples - The wise who wins souls recognizes
that his time, energy, and resources are limited. So a
portion of his effort goes to showing others how to get
the job done.
- Systematically trains others who can
show disciples how to make disciples - Our Lord
Jesus, who through the training literature called His
Word, is the One who has won all the souls to ever be
won. Those who share His vision and wisdom learn from Him
how to train trainees.
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life.
The teaching of the word of God and the winning of souls is not
carried out in the sterile air of the classroom, but where the
righteous contact the farmer in the field or the man on the
street. Be wise.
From The Lord
God so arranged the foundations of the material
realm, the realm of earthly existence, so that it teaches man
many eternal lessons. Were it not for earthly kings, mankind
would not understand the desirability of favor or grace from the
Lord. King Solomon himself paints the picture: "The king's
wrath," says he, "is like the roaring of a lion. but
his favor is like dew on the grass" (Proverbs 19:12). "The
wrath of a king is as messengers of death," he noted
elsewhere, "but a wise man will appease it. In the light of
the king's face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with
spring rain" (Proverbs 16:14,15). The
worldly wise know how to secure the favor of a king or dictator;
the spiritually wise know how to secure the favor of the Absolute
Monarch of the universe.
- The word of God discerns who is good
- The word of God is so perfectly designed that it
separates those who desire good from those who prefer
evil; it winnows the chaff from the wheat. "The word
of God," stated Hebrews' author, "is able to
judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart" (Hebrews 4:12). Unlike
earthly kings, whose wrath and favor tend to be somewhat
arbitrary, the Great King is righteous and fair, and has
given His word as the standard of justice and favor. In
His infinite wisdom, His word is brought, in preached and
printed form, to the lost and dying race of man.
- The good come to the light - God,
says He in His written word, "will render to every
man according to his deeds." The Holy Spirit assures
every honest soul of man that those "who by
perseverance in doing good seek for glory and
honor and immortality" will indeed inherit eternal
life. There will be "glory and honor and peace to
every man who does good" (Romans 2:6-10). And
Jesus, in His divine and unerring analysis, put it this
way: "For everyone who does evil hates the light and
does not come to the light lest his deeds should be
exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the
light, that his deeds may be manifested as having
been wrought in God" (John 3:20,21).
- The struggle of the honest man in his
lost state - The promises of glory' and immortality
are to those who seek them by "doing good." The
problem that the honest man faces is that he is trapped
in a form of slavery, as the apostle Paul comments on his
own condition before he was immersed into Christ:
"For we know that the Law is spiritual; but I am of
flesh, sold into bondage to sin" (Romans 7:14). The
truthful man in this lost condition desires to do good,
but finds himself up against a barrier he personally
cannot conquer because he is in slavery to sin. "The
wishing is present in me," the apostle writes,
"but the doing of good is not. For the good that I
wish, I do not do; but I practice the very evil that I do
not wish" (Romans 7:18,19). In
that sense, then, there is no one good but One.
- Walking in the light - The man who
really wants to do right asks, "Who will set me free
from the body of this death?" The answer comes
"through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24,25). In
immersion the body of sin is crucified with Christ, and a
new creation is raised to walk in newness of life. This
is how the one who perseveres in doing good comes to the
light; he finds the scriptural means by which he might
find favor with the Great King.
This was all previously spoken of in the wisdom
of Solomon. "A good man will obtain favor from the
Lord," he asseverated, "but He will condemn a man who
does evil" (Proverbs 12:2). Again,
"He who diligently seeks good seeks favor, but he who
searches after evil, it will come to him" (Proverbs 11:27). "For we
are His workmanship," says Paul of Christians, "created
in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand,
that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).
The Ways of the Wise Wife
Women are either wise or foolish, according to
their own choice. The wise woman will be greatly honored; the
foolish will continue to hold only the shards of disaster in her
hands. The wisdom of God has something to say to women, and the
Designer and Maker of all assuredly knows whereof He speaks. So,
be still and listen!
The writings of the new covenant are consistent
with the foundation set forth in the scriptures of the old, that
there is a distinct gender difference between man and woman.
While each is on an equal spiritual plane, there are roles to be
executed, in order that the relationship between Christ and the
church might be more clearly understood and that the name of God
might not be blasphemed among the Gentiles. "Wives,"
reads one of the sacred new covenant passages, be subject to your
husbands, as to the Lord" (Ephesians 5:22). "But I
do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a
man," states another, "but to remain quiet" (I Timothy 2:12). The divine
distinctions are there, and the wife who tries to ignore them is
just as she who tries to ignore gravity. But she who honors the
Lord by observing the truthfulness of His instruction will be a
happy homemaker and helper.
- Control the tongue - Women, by
nature, are more vocal than men. While men in general
need to be encouraged to talk about and listen to
important spiritual and familial matters, a woman's very
volubility requires restraint and control. "A
constant dripping on a day of steady rain," was
Solomon's avouched position, "and a contentious
woman are alike; he who would restrain her restrains the
wind, and grasps oil in his right hand" (Proverbs 27:15,16).
"The contentions of a wife are a constant
dripping," is another such statement (Proverbs 19:13). The
wise wife will have a gentle and quiet spirit and address
her husband as lord. "It is better to live in a
comer of the roof than in a house with a contentious
woman" (Proverbs 25:24).
- Walk in grace and dignity - The wise
wife learns how to conduct herself in a manner befitting
queens of the kingdom; she carries herself with dignity
and aplomb, and dispenses her grace and courtesy. The
poor bride who has never learned from her sensible
sisters may fall into this category: "As a ring of
gold in a swine's snout, so is a beautiful woman who
lacks discretion" (Proverbs 11:22). By
contrast, "A gracious woman attains honor" (Proverbs 11:16).
"An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but
she who shames him is as rottenness in his bones" (Proverbs 12:4).
- Priority on prudence - The sensible
wife is, first of all, a spiritual woman. She recognizes
the truthfulness of the adoring words from a grateful
husband: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain;
but, a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be
praised" (Proverbs 3l:30). But
she is also practical. She saves for a rainy day, she
keeps the home fires warm; as such she is a gift from God
to her man. "House and wealth are an inheritance
from the fathers, but a prudent wife is from the
Lord" (Proverbs 19:14).
The Father's intention is that His children
love life and see good days. The Christian marriage is designed
as a place of continual joy, where the man rejoices with the wife
of his youth. "He who finds a wife finds a good thing,"
states wisdom, "and obtains favor from the Lord" (Proverbs 18:22). But great
power lies on the female side for the success of the marriage and
the happiness of the home. "The wise woman builds her house,
but the foolish tears it down with her own hands" (Proverbs 14:1).
"Anxiety in the heart of man weighs it
down, but a good word makes it glad" (Proverbs 12:25). Who among the
sons of man has not been anxious? Who has not been worried about
a loved one traveling over difficult roads, or a house deal that
has not yet come through? Who has not fretted over the outcome of
a doctor's exam, or had "butterflies in his stomach"
over an upcoming speech or confrontation? And who has not needed
encouragement and prayer support from a brother or sister at such
a time? Even the great apostle Paul, having difficulty in making
contact with Titus, said, "I had no rest in my spirit"
(II Corinthians 2:13).
Heavy hearts are a big burden. So what are some
ways to overcome anxiety?
- Fear of the Lord - One of the major
sources of anxiety is fear, in one form or another, of
men. Fear of the boss might cause the Christian to
compromise his principles, or fear of the loss of a
customer might cause a businessman not to take a stand
for righteousness. The writer of Proverbs points out the
solution: "The fear of man brings a snare, but he
who trusts in the Lord will be exalted" (Proverbs 29:25).
"And do not fear those who kill the body, but are
unable to kill the soul," said Jesus Himself.
"But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both
soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). The
secret to overcoming all earthly fear is to learn, on a
step-by-step basis, to fear and therefore trust God.
"The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What
shall man do to me?" (Hebrews 13:6).
- Power in prayer - "Be anxious
for nothing," stated Paul, "but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your
requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). By
prayer Christians can handle, through the strength which
God supplies, the anxieties which come their way. But
these prayers are not of the simple "God bless our
food. Amen!" variety, nor are they a mere string of
petitions to the Almighty. Prayers from the Biblical
models are larded with scripture and scriptural precepts,
and are heavily weighted toward praise and thanksgiving.
Before supplications are offered, often the mighty deeds
of God are recounted before Him. Praise indeed is the
protocol which swings open the portal of heaven. Then,
when the requests of the saint are presented before the
throne, "the peace of God, which surpasses all
comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in
Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).
- Peace in humble acceptance - Most
of the brethren tend to be "control freaks" in
one form or another; it is natural for an individual to
want to be in the driver's seat in directing his life.
The problem is that there are many events and
circumstances in life which are totally beyond the
control of the saint, and here is where the disciple of
Christ encounters his anxiety. Now he must humbly accept
the will of God. "Humble yourselves,
therefore," commanded Peter, "under the mighty
hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,
casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for
you (I Peter 5:6,7). Here
is where God tests the faith of the follower; does he
really believe that God cares for him? True trust in the
love of the Father calms the anxious heart.
"Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it
down, but a good word makes it glad." The encouraging word
can come from friend, family, or fellowship in Christ. But the
ultimate "good word" comes from the Friend "who
sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). Trust in Him,
and be glad!
For The Heart
These two words, when joined together, paint a
picture of the blackest hole: utter hopelessness. It is
the visage of an old woman whose entire family has been lost in
an earthquake; it is the countenance of an aged man contemplating
suicide rather than stare into another bleak day of totalitarian
repression. And such, really, is the end condition of the
Gentile, "having no hope and without God in the world"
(Ephesians 2:12). I have seen
hope in the faces of the young Russians - hope for a better life
and hope for love. But I have seen what the grinding wheel of
oppression does to those hopes, how they are shattered like
crystal glasses under the crunch of a rumbling wagon. "Hope
deferred makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12).
By contrast, one of the three great abiding
characteristics for the Christian is hope. So how does God
produce hope in those who are willing to walk in the footsteps of
- A new beginning - The string of
failures and stack of past sins crash the hopes of
millions. Mental asylums are filled with those who could
not face the reality of their shortcomings and the
difficulty of their situations. Normal society is
suffused with those who constantly put others down in a
false and futile attempt to build themselves up. In the
midst of this, here comes the great God with the great
solution, offering a fresh start for the former sinner.
"For we also once were foolish ourselves," was
Paul's appraisal, "disobedient, deceived, enslaved
to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in
malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But,"
the apostle counterpoints, "when the kindness of God
our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved
us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in
righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing
of "generation and renewing by the
Holy Spirit (Titus 3:3-5).
- Movement from the physical to the
spiritual - This earth and physical universe are
bound by the second law of thermodynamics - the law of
death and decay - and therefore subject to total
futility; the physical realm is ultimately hopeless. The
gospel is designed to alter the focus of man, to move him
from being fixed on buying, selling, marrying, etc. to
having his attention directed to the spiritual realm, the
realm of things above. Paul expresses the concept
succinctly in his second letter to the Corinthian
brethren: "Therefore we do not lose heart,
but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man
is being renewed day by day. For momentary, light
affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory
far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the
things which are seen but at the things which are unseen;
for the things which are seen are temporal, but the
things which are unseen are eternal" (II Corinthians 4:16-18).
- Lengthening hope - The heavenly
Father provides systematic discipline for each of His
children. He often offers lesser hopes in preparation for
the ultimate of all hopes, the resurrection from the
dead; and in those lesser hopes He generally requires
increasing persistence for each hope to be realized. This
"stretching out" of the Christian's faith and
hopeful trust eventually readies him for being able to
hope in his bodily resurrection. "Even we ourselves
groan within ourselves," observed the apostle,
"waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the
redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23)
"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but
desire fulfilled is a tree of life" (Proverbs 13:12). The saint of
God is excited because he has been spiritually disciplined and
uplifted by God, and, because he knows that he is guaranteed the
resurrection unto life at Jesus' return, He can joyfully endure
anything earth has to offer. "But if we hope for what we do
not see, with perseverance we eagerly wait for it" (Romans 8:25).
Strength of the Ox
Oxen are bulls "broke" to work. And
bulls, like all animals, are living machines which leave the
waste products of their combustion engines all over their
surroundings. So, oxen are polluters, they are often hard to
handle, and they are sometimes dangerous or deadly to work with.
When 2000 pounds of old bull gets to snortin' and stompin'... In
simple terms, oxen are a hassle. "Where no oxen are, the
manger is clean" (Proverbs 14:4).
Why, then, would anyone keep oxen around? For
pets? (If you think it costs a lot to feed a dog, try feeding an
ox!) The answer comes: "But much increase comes by the
strength of the ox" (Proverbs 14:4). An ox is a
tool, and without that tool, much work could not get done. In one
simple proverb, the only wise God injected much economic wisdom.
Let us learn, then, that we may instruct others.
- An ox requires capital investment -
Oxen are not stones to be picked up freely alongside the
road; an ox has to be purchased or raised from birth. In
either case, up-front capital is required before the ox
does a lick of productive work. An ox has to be fed while
it is growing into maturity, and it has to be fed while
it is being trained. For a small scale farmer in Israel,
this purchase or training of an ox would consume a
significant portion of the capital resources of the
Israelite who worked the land. If the ox died, was
crippled, or was the tenth to pass under the rod for the
Lord's tithe, much of the capital of the farmer
vaporized, and the loss of the animal was a great
hardship or a major sacrifice.
- Tools require capital investment -
The smart farmer would figure out all kinds of ways to
work that ox. Grinding mills and other simple machines
would be concocted to maximize the use of the ox
investment. As the ox and accessories were tools in a
primitive economy, so tools in a complex economy require
much up-front capital to develop and to find ways to use
them more effectively.
- Much increase comes through the ox -
The ox was the means by which grain was ground to flour;
hence the exhortation to Israel to take good care of the
work bull: "You shall not muzzle the ox while he's
threshing" (Deuteronomy 25:4). Any
time that tool needed fuel, he could dip his nose down
into the grain and "chew" on a mouthful. So
much increase came through the ox that a portion of the
grain would be willingly granted to the bull.
- Much increase comes through tools -
Tools are the only means by which an economy can become
more efficient. There is much hassle - trial and error -
and cost in the development and maintenance of tools, but
these implements multiply the effectiveness of the worker
thousands of times.
Because oxen and tools require capital,
taxation beyond the minimum exacted for the protection of life,
liberty, and property strikes a major blow at their acquisition
and development. When a small farmer cannot purchase an ox, he
and his family are going to have to grind their grain by hand,
and to be able to do only those tasks, which can be done by human
strength alone. The farm will suffer, the family will barely
survive (maybe!), and starvation and famine will lay near the
door of that whole society.
Make no mistake about it: The "Global
Warming and Greenhouse Gases" treaty at Kyoto, Japan, is
designed to destroy Western Civilization's ability to use the
tools which make for a productive economy. Implicit in the
proverb about oxen is that God favors the strength, which comes
through the ox; it is the devil which is in favor of the
reduction to slavery and starvation.
It Often Seems Right To A Man
Man has a glimmer of spiritual truths, but he
really needs guidance from God to know what goes on in the
spiritual realm. Because his eyes can only see those things,
which have material substance, and his other sense gates only
open to the physical universe, he is subject to deception from
evil spiritual entities. A man who had opportunity, by
revelation, to look into the realm of the unseen - the great
apostle Paul - brought forth this warning for even the church
from the Holy Spirit: "But the Spirit explicitly says that
in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying
attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means
of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with
a brandin8 iron" (I Timothy 4:1,2). Because of
those deceitful spirits, man has to find and rely on the
information which comes from God. "There is a way which
seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).
- The Ways of the East - There is
Western Civilization, based on the scripture and rational
thought, and the East. In the words of Rudyard Kipling,
"East is East, and West is West, and never the two
shall meet." Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism, from
the East all have common threads of vague mysticism and
no absolutes. The invasion of the West by Eastern Thought
carries the propaganda name "New Age," and the
convergence of this with the "diversity
movement" and American Indian paganism is being
orchestrated by Satanic cunning. Backed by the big
publishing houses such as Time-Warner, and promoted on
television by such programs as a Shirley MacLaine
mini-series, New Age deception is twisting the thinking
of millions in the West, altering their perceptions of
the nature of the earth and spiritual realities.
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its
end is the way of death."
- The pull of pleasure - There is a
"passing pleasure" connected with sin, When a
man wants to engage in sinful pleasure, he has to conjure
up some way to justify himself and salve his guilty
conscience. Hence, when man has most cogently expressed
his rationalizations along this bent, he becomes a
"humanist"; he worships himself, "But
realize this," Paul informed Timothy and us,
"that in the last days difficult times will come.
For men will be lovers of self, lovers of
lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (II Timothy 3:1).
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its
end is the way of death."
- The counterfeit of denominationalism
- The desire to schismatize is a reflection of the carnal
side of man. "Enmities, strife,
" are listed by the Holy
Spirit as those which will send someone to hell. The
deceitful workers who infiltrated the congregations of
the first century church brought with them a desire to
divide and conquer, and the false ways of salvation
connected with their false doctrines. Nearly every
epistle in what constitutes the writings of the New
Testament warns the brethren about such dangerous and
destructive false teachings. "Beloved," appeals
the aged John, "do not believe every spirit, but
test the spirits to see whether they are from God" (I John 4:1).
"There is a way which seems right to a man, but its
end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25).
Man needs revelation from God to know spiritual
truth. Ultimately this truth can only come from one Teacher.
"And no one has ascended into heaven," said lie,
"but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man"
(John 3:13). He is God's
beloved Son; listen to Him!
The Quicksand of a Quick Temper
A person who flies off the handle may find
himself sizzling in the fire. Make no mistake about it; the Lord
will not accept into the courts of the eternal kingdom those who
keep going ballistic on earth. The words of Paul are very clear:
those who have "outbursts of anger
shall not inherit
the kingdom of God " (Galatians 5:20,21). "A
quick-tempered man acts foolishly," posited Solomon,
"and a man of evil devices is hated" (Proverbs 14:17). "He who
is slow to anger has great understanding," is another
notation, "but he who is quick-tempered exalts folly" (Proverbs 14:29). When a man
loses his head in anger, he does a lot of fool things that he
later wishes he hadn't done, and says a bunch or fool things he
later wishes he could take back. Like the golfer who had an
outburst of anger and threw his clubs in a pool of water on the
golf course. When he cooled down and went back to retrieve them
he drowned trying to get them out.
Those who have to live around others who have
bad tempers are constantly walking on eggshells; they don't know
what tremor is going to trigger the next eruption. To produce
peaceful homes and convivial working relationships, the word of
God instructs: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger
and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all
malice" (Ephesians 4:31). How can this
- Recognize it's a matter of a new
picture - People act in accordance with the inner
picture of themselves. Jesus called it the
"treasure," and said that out of the treasure
the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:33-37). So
if our man has the picture that Italians always get angry
and yell, and he is of Italian descent, he will be a
quick-tempered man who hollers at his family and breaks
stuff in his wrath. When someone becomes a Christian, the
picture is changed. No longer is he of Italian descent,
for example, but he has arisen from the waters or
immersion with his past life hidden in Christ and now
walks in a totally new life. Now he is kind to others,
tender-hearted, forgiving others, always conscious that
Christ also has forgiven him.
- Recognize it's a matter of developing
new thought patterns - The new picture is developed
by a process of reprogramming the mind, sometimes termed
"internalizing the word of God." The Holy
Spirit instructs: "And do not be conformed to this
world, but be transformed by the renewing of your
mind" (Romans 12:2).
Rearranging entrenched thought patterns is not
necessarily a simple task, and thoughts cannot be
redirected with a systematic, disciplined approach. Those
who are serious about overcoming unrighteous anger will
find ways to incrementally alter their responses to
situations which tend to torch them off, pre-programming
their actions by a lot of mental, positive roll-playing.
- Recognize the consequences if change is
not made - Fear may not be the best long-term
motivator, but it is a major motivator nevertheless.
"The fear of the Lord," annotated Solomon,
"is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the
snares of death" (Proverbs 14:27). A
serious contemplation of the fires of hell will cool the
"But let everyone be quick to hear,"
is the exhortation from James, in contrast to having a quick
temper, and "slow to speak and slow to anger, for the anger
of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19,20). The man who
loses his temper had best make it a major priority to get that
temper under control with disciplined, systematic reprogramming
of his mind.
Individuals can become apostate; they can fall
away from the one faith of Christianity. "Take care,
brethren," cried the writer of Hebrews, "lest there
should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in
falling away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:12). If it is not
possible to fall away, why would God so explicitly warn against
The Lord desires that all men be saved and come
to the knowledge of the truth. And He desires likewise that they
stay saved. But not all hearts are good and honest, so the great
God allows for a time of testing that each heart might be exposed
as evil or good. God knows each heart: "Sheol and Abaddon
lie open before the Lord," stated Solomon, "how much
more the hearts of men!" (Proverbs 15:11). Backsliding
is therefore allowed, so that the fruit of the true heart might
be brought to light before the sons of men. "The backslider
in heart will have the fill of his own ways, but a good man will
be satisfied with his" (Proverbs 14:14).
- The fast flame-out - Jesus, knowing
the hearts of men, recognized that a certain percentage
of those who would obey the gospel would backslide when
pressured. Of the rocky soil in the parable of the sower,
the Lord noted, "This is the man who hears the word,
and immediately receives it with joy." Well begun is
half done. But it is only half done. "Yet he has no
firm root in himself but is only temporary, and when
affliction or persecution [or temptation] arises because
of the word, immediately he falls away" (Matthew 13:20,21). The
heart of this person is shallow; it has no firm root, no
staying power. This backslider buckles under pressure,
and quickly gets the fill of his own ways. The remorse of
such a Judas is often obvious.
- The creeping choke-out - A more
thorny issue is that of the man who is faithful, or
appears to be faithful, for a number of years. These are
those who, according to Jesus, "have heard, and as
they go on their way they are choked with worries and
riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to
maturity" (Luke 8:14). This
individual did not hack away at the weeds of destruction
taking root in his heart, and at some point the jungle of
the world overwhelmed the village of the Christianity in
his life. This type of backslider too has his fill, only
to find his merry way suddenly shocked by his descent
into fiery oblivion.
- The merchandising make-out - And
there are those who deliberately seek to destroy the
faith of others. "Now I urge you' brethren,"
was the appeal - of the wise apostle, "keep your eye
on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to
the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.
For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of
their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering
speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting"
"In their greed they will exploit you with false
words," appended Peter (II Peter 2:3). These
men merchandise a false gospel, and traffic in treachery.
These backsliders get their fill: "Their judgment
from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not
Faithful till death is the hallmark of the
righteous. "And the seed in the good soil, these are the
ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart,"
was the assessment of the Christ, "and hold it fast, and
bear fruit with perseverance" (Luke 8:15). Ah, yes, the
backslider in heart will reap the fill of his ways, "but a
good man will be satisfied with his" (Proverbs 14:14). But "a
man who wanders from the way of understanding will rest in the
assembly of the dead" (Proverbs 21:16). Beware, O
Liar, Liar, Soul on Fire!
The tongue is a powerful weapon for evil or for
good. Even the world recognizes its potency in the proverb,
"The pen [the written tongue] is mightier than the
sword." And the tongue is most destructive when it tells
lies. "A truthful witness saves lives," is a Biblical
proverb, "but he who speaks lies is treacherous" (Proverbs 14:25).
Lying is a big problem. When most of the
witnesses tell lies on the courtroom stand, then the justice
which upholds free society collapses and tyranny rises to fill
its place. When most of the businesses lie about their products
and provisions for meeting customer needs, and when most
consumers lie about the supposed inadequacies of the goods and
services from market outlets, then commerce will grind to a
crunching standstill. When husbands and wives are untruthful with
each other, trust is broken; when children are allowed to lie to
their parents, or parents set a poor example by their lack of
veracity with their children, then destruction of the family unit
is on its way. Lying is majorly destructive, and is a signal
characteristic of the great destroyer, Satan himself. "He
was a murderer from the beginning," explained Jesus of the
shadowy spirit, "and does not stand in the truth, because
there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks
from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of
lies" (John 8:44).
- Lies are used to unfairly destroy
opposition - The unregenerate human heart can plot at
deep levels to destroy an enemy. A lying tongue hates
those it crushes," is an illuminating statement from
Proverbs, "and a flattering mouth works ruin" (Proverbs 26:28). The
carrier of canards has an unseen agenda in working his
devastation, and often is found in the innards of the
church. These spies of Satan cover the poison of their
talk with the candy of pleasant-sounding words, and they
prey upon the weak and unsteady in the congregations of
the saints. The apostle Paul warned of "the smooth
and flattering speech" by which these sneaks operate
amongst God's people (Romans 16:18).
"They speak arrogantly," says Jude,
"flattering people for the sake of gaining an
advantage" (Jude 1:16). "He
who conceals hatred has lying lips" (Proverbs 10:18).
- Those who listen to lies reveal their
own character - Like it or not, people seek out
others of their own bent. The greedy are attracted to the
greedy, and are used by each other. "An evildoer
listens to wicked lips," is this nugget of wisdom,
and "a liar pays attention to a destructive
tongue" (Proverbs 17:4). The
truth-seeker sorts his way through the garbage of human
verbiage, but the liar himself is satisfied with lies.
"You are of your father the devil, and you want to
do the desires of your father," is the judgment of
Jesus (John 8:44).
- The worst liars are scripture-twisters
- Regardless of the patina of concern and a smile that
can be exhibited by any skeleton, those who tell others a
twisted way of salvation are anathema to the Lord,
and the worst of all liars. "Every word of God is
tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in
Him," is the encouragement from The Collector of
Proverbs. And he adds a warning: "Do not add to His
words, lest He reprove you, and you be proved a
liar" (Proverbs 30:5,6).
Even the revelation of God cannot come to a
close without a serious admonition: "But for the cowardly
and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons
and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will
be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the
second death" (Revelation 21:8). "Fear
Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell," and
"laying aside falsehood, speak truth" (Matthew 10:28; Ephesians 4:25).
There is nothing a wicked ruler fears more than
having his people revolt en masse against him. So such a
king uses intimidation tactics and downright terror to keep his
subjects paralyzed. "Like a roaring lion and a rushing
bear," is the simile of Solomon, "is a wicked ruler
over a poor people" (Proverbs 28:15). "Divide
and conquer," is the old axiom; and wicked rulers know the
value of their extended maxim, "Keep divided and keep
conquered." A totalitarian ruler, then, fears his people's
uniting against him.
Wise rulers also recognize the necessity of the
people's backing. David, who as the king served as the great
foreshadow of Jesus the Messiah, found favor with the people. As
the armies of Israel returned victoriously, the women met them
with dancing and the sound of tambourines, and saying, "Saul
has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands" (I Samuel 18:7). Saul
recognized the importance of this sort of backing, and commented.
"They have ascribed to David ten thousands, but to me they
have ascribed thousands. Now what more can he have but the
kingdom?" (I Samuel 18:8). David
continued to be conscious that he was a servant of the people,
and through the wisdom of the Spirit of God he progressively
united the sons of Israel behind his effort. At a moment when
tensions were high during the uniting of Israel, when Joab
(David's general from Judah) has assassinated a rival from
Israel, David fasted in honor of the slain. "Now all the
people took note of it, and it pleased them, just as everything
David did pleased all the people" (II Samuel 3:36).
- Jesus built His base among the people
- Even the great God, to begin the distribution of the
gospel, needed to establish a base of support among the
Jews. The first stage was to send John the Immerser as
His forerunner, to begin to prepare the way for the Lord.
Christ Himself followed the efforts of John by
concentrating His ministry in the region of Galilee.
"And Jesus was going about all Galilee,"
recorded Matthew, "teaching in the synagogues, and
proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every
kind of disease and sickness among the people" (Matthew 4:23). By
traveling and preaching, traveling and preaching,
traveling and preaching coupled with the advertising His
miracles provided, the Lord was able to establish a solid
base among the people.
- Crescendoing the movement - As
Jesus approached the time of His crucifixion, He
carefully crafted events to maximize His impact.
Deliberately letting Lazarus die, He then raised him from
the dead in such a way as to set the crowds coming in for
Passover to buzzing. Thus, when He rode into Jerusalem on
the donkey, the multitude thronged the route, and the
shock of His subsequent crucifixion reverberated
throughout the masses of the Jews.
- The importance of the people -
Christ Himself could have come with all His great
teachings on life and life eternal, and it would have had
no impact on the world. What caught the attention of the
Jewish authorities was the number of people who were
attentive to the message of Jesus, as the apostle John
noted when he recorded the Lord's appearance before
Caiaphas: "The high priest therefore questioned
Jesus about his disciples and about His teaching" (John 18:19).
The Lord, the Maker of man, knows how man
operates, and allowed the establishment of earthly kings to
communicate the principle of the importance of the people. Noting
the "stately march" of the strutting cock and the male
goat, the writer of Proverbs adds as a parallel, "And a king
when his army is with him" (Proverbs 30:31). "In a
multitude of people is a king's glory," is the observation,
"but in the dearth of people is a prince's ruin." (Proverbs 14:28).
The great King is desirous of being surrounded
by His people, and has chosen to move forward in the midst of His
army. The psalmist in Israel therefore prophesied that a
"people yet to be created" would praise Him. Each
Christian is therefore of critical importance; even the Lord
generates His multitudes one at a time.
Eyes of the Lord
God hears without ears, speaks without a mouth,
and thinks without a brain. Those pieces are machinery designed
for the body of man to connect that which does hear, speak, and
think with the material universe. So, when the scripture refers
to the "eyes of the Lord," it is alluding to His
ability to see, even in the darkness, all that happens on His
creation. "The eyes of the Lord," cautioned Solomon,
are in every place, watching the evil and the good" (Proverbs 15:3).
- Man's accountability before God -
The conscience of man gives the same testimony as was
written on stone for Moses and Israel. Every man knows it
is wrong to commit murder, to commit adultery, to steal,
to bear false witness and/ or to covet. Every individual
who violates those commandments has to throttle his
conscience deliberately in order to wrong his fellow man
and sin against God. Furthermore, the character of man
has not changed since Adam and Eve hid from the Lord in
the Garden of Eden; when man does wrong, he generally
tries to cover it up or misdirect the attention of others
while the transgression is being committed. Thus the
nature of man is such that he will most often carry out
his evil deeds under the cover of darkness, "Men
loved the darkness rather than the light," was the
emphasis of our Lord, "for their deeds were
evil" (John 3:19). "For
those who sleep do their sleeping at night," added
Paul, "and those who get drunk get drunk at
night" (I Thessalonians 5:7).
But every man, in spite of his attempt to run from God,
is still accountable to the Almighty, and nothing is
going to be hidden. "Sheol and Abaddon lie open
before the Lord," stated Solomon, "how much
more the hearts of men!" (Proverbs 15:11).
"And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but
all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with
whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13).
- God's carrying out His plan - In
the days of Zerubbabel, one of the ancestors of Jesus,
and one of the great foreshadows of the Lord, the temple
of God in Jerusalem was to be rebuilt. The work had come
to a stop due to intense opposition from the enemies of
Judah and litigation filed in the courts of the Persian
Empire. But the great God was adamant: "The hands of
Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and
his hands will finish it." And the word of the Lord
went on to say, "But these seven will be glad
when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel -
these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and
fro throughout the earth" (Zechariah 4:9,10). The
eyes of the Lord make sure that God's long term plan is
indeed executed on earth.
- God's watching over His word - When
Jeremiah was just getting into the prophet business, the
Lord called to him and gave him an object lesson.
"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'What
do you see, Jeremiah?' And I said, 'I see the rod of an
almond tree.' Then the Lord said to me, 'You have seen
well, for I am watching over My word to perform
it.'" (Jeremiah 1:11,12).
Those words were encouraging to Jeremiah and to anyone
else who proclaims the word of God; God's eyes are
watching to make sure that what He has proclaimed will be
The saint of God, who works assiduously to
build the kingdom and publish abroad the glad tidings, is greatly
encouraged to learn about the ranging eyes of the Lord. He is
glad to note that evil men do not slip past the Almighty
unnoticed; he rejoices that the eyes of the Lord see that God's
long term plan is executed; and he is excited to know that God
watches over His word, ensuring that those things preached by His
spokesmen will take place. "The eyes of the Lord preserve
knowledge," is the encouraging proverb, "but He
overthrows the words of the treacherous man" (Proverbs 22:12).
The Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry?
And why has your countenance fallen?" (Genesis 4:6). Cain knew that
he did not want to do the will of God; he was already harboring
sin in his heart, and the evil waiting to strike therein was
already showing on his face. "As in water face
reflects face," commented Solomon, "so also the heart
of man reflects man" (Proverbs 27:19). Since
"the heart of man is more deceitful than all else and is
desperately sick," then man in general is going to be
deceitful and sin-ridden, and this ultimately is going to show up
on his countenance (Jeremiah 17:9). But Christians
have a new heart, and this likewise will be reflected in their
faces. "The lamp of the body is the eye," was the
teaching of the Lord at the sermon on the mount. "If
therefore your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of
light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of
darkness. If therefore the light that is in you is darkness, how
great is that darkness" (Matthew 6:22,23).
- The false front - "Like an
earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross are burning
lips and a wicked heart" (Proverbs 26:23). The
wicked man or woman attempts to cover the evil nature,
but the earthen or profane nature cannot cover itself
with silver, only silver dross. "A wicked man shows
a bold face," is another observation (Proverbs 21:29). But
sooner or later what lies behind the mask will be
exposed. "Though his hatred covers itself with
guile, his wickedness will be revealed before the
assembly" (Proverbs 26:26).
- The rebellious heart - "Cursed
is the man," said the Lord through Jeremiah,
"who trusts in mankind and makes his flesh his
strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord"
(Jeremiah 17:5). When a
man knows the way of the Lord and hardens his heart, he
becomes very evil. "This people has a stubborn and
rebellious heart," was the analysis of the Holy
Spirit. "They have turned aside and departed" (Jeremiah 5:23). Their
spiritual descendants listened to the preaching of
Stephen as he recounted their rebellious history.
"You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in
heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you
are doing just as your fathers did" (Acts 7:51). And it is
easy to picture their countenances as Luke describes this
event: "Now when they heard this, they were cut to
the quick, and they began gnashing their teeth at
him" (Acts 7:54). The
rebellious heart produces a twisted visage and a fallen
- A broken spirit - When Nehemiah
heard of the broken down condition of Jerusalem's walls
and the distress of his people, he wept and mourned for
days. When he came into the presence of the king of
Persia, the emperor queried, "Why is your face sad
though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of
heart" (Nehemiah 2:2). A sad
heart and a broken spirit can be seen in the countenances
of those who are so suffering. "When the heart is
sad, the spirit is broken" (Proverbs 15:13).
- A joyful heart - "All the days
of the afflicted are bad," was the conclusion of the
sage, "but a cheerful heart has a continual
feast" (Proverbs 15:15). When a Christian is truly
filled with the Spirit, and his enthusiasm and joy are
radiating from his presence, then his countenance shines
also. "A joyful heart makes a cheerful face" (Proverbs 15:13).
The Christian, as an imitator of Christ, has
joy even in the midst of earth's turmoil and troubling
situations. "These things I have spoken to you." stated
the Lord Himself, "that My joy may be in you, and that your
joy may be made full" (John 15:11). May God's
children never exhibit a false face of hypocrisy nor the set and
twisted countenance of rebellion. When their hearts have a
tendency to be broken and the faces tending to be downcast, may
they instead focus their attention upward, and may their joyful
hearts be reflected in their cheerful faces.
Some Things That Are Better
Natural man has a tendency to think that more
is better. Happiness, in his vain imagination, is a bigger house,
softer beds, and thicker steaks. "If I can just achieve my
next goal," he thinks to himself, pondering more of this
life's goodies, "then I'll be happier." But the matters
of substance in the life of one of God's children are not found
in his properties, as Jesus Himself noted: "For not even
when one has an abundance does his life consist of his
possessions" (Luke 12:15).
What man needs to realize is that joy and
misery are internal conditions, and the circumstances that really
connect with both joy and misery are relationships -
relationships with people initially, and ultimately man's
relationship with God. Many is the family whose home life is
wretched, filled with alternate days of shouting or silence. But
there is a better way.
- Quiet and calm at home - A man's
home is his haven, his domicile, his castle, where the
felicities and peace of domestic life provide rest from
the wars. His children are to grow up in this nurturing
environment, and here the good wife reigns as queen,
beloved by all her subjects, adored by her noble husband.
"Better," said, Solomon, who would have known,
"is a dry morsel and quietness with it than a house
full of feasting and strife" (Proverbs 17:1). One of
the great sources of tension is strife. And when there is
strife at home, it doesn't matter how perfect the meal
is. But peanut butter sandwiches are great when all is
quiet on the home front.
- Love as the home atmosphere - There
is a difference between love and tolerance. Many are
those who live under the same roof and generally put up
with each other. What a difference in the house when
husband and wife really love each other, enjoy spending
time with one another, and when the children in the house
appreciate the company of their siblings.
"Better," said the sage once again, "is a
dish of vegetables where love is, than a fattened ox and
hatred with it" (Proverbs 15:17). The
fare may be boiled cabbage, but that is better than
always having spoken words thrown back into the teeth.
- Tough going - "It is
better," marked the proverb, "to live in a
desert land, than with a contentious and vexing
woman" (Proverbs 21:19).
Presumably it is not so easy to dwell with an ignorant
and boorish husband either. Prayer is in order for the
Christian spouse, so that true repentance can take place
in the marriage partner, and home life upgraded.
- Integrity and Peace - In a world
where deals are cut with kickbacks and traffic on the
merchandise lane is greased with bribes, the honorable
man often seems to be at a disadvantage. But inner peace
and a clean conscience far outweigh a few extra dollars
and creature comforts, "It is better," was the
proverbial annotation, "to be a poor man than a
liar" (Proverbs 19:22).
- Blessings for the God-fearing -
Only true fellowship between a man and his God can
satisfy the deep longings of the heart. "He who
comes to Me shall no longer." was the matter-of-fact
statement by Jesus. "The fear of the Lord leads to
life," was the comment of Solomon, "so that one
may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil" (Proverbs 19:23).
"Better," said he, "is a little with the
fear of the Lord than great treasure with turmoil with
it" (Proverbs 15:16).
The things which produce joy and happiness on
earth and eternity in heaven have little to do with dollars and
cents. The great joys come from the "better" ways
delineated by God's word. "And I show you," stated the
apostle Paul, "a still more excellent way
love" (I Corinthians 12:3l;14:1).
The Power of Positive Words
The importance of words and their effect on
people cannot be overemphasized. Reason rides upon the carrier of
words; and words are the emissaries of love, the transport of
joy, and the pleadings of desired forgiveness. Let us focus
again, then, on the importance of edification and encouragement
eschewing the destruction attendant to deceiving words and bad
attitudes with their poison-tipped comments. "Like a madman
who throws firebrands, arrows, and death," was the
observation of Solomon, "so is the man who deceives his
neighbor, and says, 'was I not joking?'" (Proverbs 26:18,19). By
contrast the instruction of the Holy Spirit through the apostle
Paul is clear and concise: "Let no unwholesome word proceed
from your mouth, but oily such a word as is good for
edification" (Ephesians 4:29).
- Healing power in words -
Relationships are torn asunder by careless words, or
words spoken in anger. Not only does this happen in the
normal social intercourse among people who work or
associate together, but there are those who seek to split
open wounds which have begun to heal, who delight in
seeing the blood of broken fellowship flow. "A
worthless man digs for evil, while his words are as a
scorching fire. A perverse man spreads strife, and a
slanderer separates friends" (Proverbs 16:27,28).
But there are those who know how to build, how to inspire
confidence, and how to seal the ragged rent between
brother and brother. "Pleasant words are a
honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the
bones" (Proverbs 16:24).
- Transition power in words - In the
course of daily conversation, it is not unusual to
encounter an uncomfortable pause. This can be due to
insensitivity on the part of one of the conversants, a
crude or off-color remark, or irrelevant statements.
There are those who know how to gradously bridge those
gaps, put everyone in the party at ease, and steer the
talk in the right direction. "Like apples of gold in
settings of silver," states the transcription,
"is a word spoken in right circumstances" (Proverbs 25:11).
- Power in motivating words -
Brethren need to be motivated, and the charge is going to
come through the right words spoken at the right time.
"Encourage one another day after day," was one
exhortation from the letter to the Hebrew brethren (Hebrews 3:13).
"Consider how to stimulate one another to love and
good deeds," was another (Hebrews 10:24).
Solomon noted, "Anxiety in the heart of man weighs
it down, but a good word makes it glad" (Proverbs 12:25). The
wise one continued in his comments on the importance of
proper wording: "A man has joy in an apt answer, and
how delightful is a timely word" (Proverbs 15:23).
- Power in the word of God - As
golden as may be the nuggets of wisdom from the mouths of
the sages, they are but dross in comparison to the words
spoken by the Almighty. When God came as the Teacher of
men, even those sent to arrest Him returned empty-handed,
remarking, "Never did a man speak the way this man
speaks" (John 7:46). In the
words of Agur the oracle, "Every word of God is
tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Do not add to His words, lest He reprove you, and you be
proved a liar" (Proverbs 30:5,6). The
power of God to save is resident in His word. The power
of God to sustain the Christian is in His word, as well
as the power to increase his wisdom, cause him to grow
spiritually, give him words to use in his prayers, direct
him in the ways of the church, provide him with the
fellowship of the brethren, and resurrect him from the
dead. "He who gives attention to the word shall find
good," was Solomon's notation. "And blessed is
be who trusts in the Lord" (Proverbs 16:20).
There is power in words; power to save or to
destroy, power to build up or tear down. God wants His children
to he of disciplined tongue that they might exhibit the character
of Christ and spread His word. "The heart of the wise
teaches his mouth, and adds persuasiveness to his lips" (Proverbs 16:23). "The
wise in heart will be discerning, and sweetness of speech
increases persuasiveness" (Proverbs 16:21).
The Path of the Upright
Life is a journey. For most, rather than being
a short burst, it is a long trek, of traversing through
wastelands of despair, plunging through jungles of adversity,
wading through rivers of sickness and weakness, crossing high
ridges infested with entrenched opposition, and occasionally
passing through fruitful fields of high productivity. The key
question has not to do so much with the adventures of the journey
as where the trail comes to its end. "The path of life leads
upward for the wise," as the proverb, "that he may keep
from Sheol below" (Proverbs 15:24). A little
reflection establishes that the wisest thing a man can do is to
finish in heaven, and the stupidest thing he can do is to end up
"in Sheol below."
- Recognition of personal sin - The
pride of man is brought to naught by the gospel of the
righteous God. "Who can say," asks Solomon,
"I have cleansed my heart; I am pure from my
sin?" (Proverbs 20:9). Hence
it is that God, in His wisdom and mercy, established the
perpetual High Priestly ministry of Jesus, whose
sprinkling of His own blood offers cleansing for the
obedient. While the best of the Old Testament greats
could but desire such cleansing, the least of the New
Testament saints possesses such a purification. Praise be
to Jesus Christ.
- Following the counsel of the Lord -
"Many are the plans in a man's heart," was
Solomon's observation, "but the counsel of the Lord,
it will stand" (Proverbs 19:21). The
whole counsel of God tells a man what to do to be saved,
and what to do to stay saved. By obeying the gospel, the
pilgrim is granted remission of past sins and the
continued assistance of the indwelling Spirit. With a
clean conscience and increasing power from God, the saint
is now prepared to trek on victoriously in his following
the upward call of God. "The name of the Lord is
strong tower," recounted the sage, "The
righteous runs into it and is safe" (Proverbs 18:10).
- Fellowship in the church - The man
who decides to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ
develops a new lifestyle. "The highway of the
upright is to depart from evil" remarked Solomon in
his wisdom. "He who watches his way preserves his
life" (Proverbs 16:17). One
of the key ingredients in this new life is fellowship in
the church of the living God, by the design of the Lord
Himself. Indeed, those who made the kingdom of God the
highest priority in the first century were collectively
called "the Way" of life. Some Christians have
a more difficult time integrating into the body of Christ
than others, and, when faced with some of the personal
and emotional challenges of social interaction with the
brothers and sisters in Christ lust withdraw rather than
work through the situation in light of the word of God.
Here is the Lord's analysis: "He who separates
himself seeks his own desire; he quarrels against all
sound wisdom" (Proverbs 18:1).
"The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for
gold," was the object lesson, "but the Lord
tests the hearts" (Proverbs 17:3). The
church constitutes a major portion of the crucible in
which the disciple's character is reforged. Do not fail
Ultimately the sojourning on earth is designed
to produce and increase the faith of God's followers. "He
who walks blamelessly will be delivered," was the perception
of Solomon, "but he who is crooked will fall all at
once" (Proverbs 28:18). As the
observing saint moves through his earthly existence, he will note
the blessings of God for those who honestly strive to please Him,
and the curses which come upon those who plunge on in their own
way. "He who leads the upright astray will himself fall into
his own pit," was the annotation, "but the blameless
will inherit good" (Proverbs 28:10). The saint
will press on, then, following the upward call of God in Christ
Jesus. "The fear of man brings a snare, but he who trusts in
the Lord will be exalted" (Proverbs 29:25).
The Prayer of the Righteous
The things that are impossible for men are
possible for God. And projects which are too much for men are but
slight things in the eyes of the Almighty. But in His omnipotence
and omniscience, He often chooses not to move unless borne on the
wings of the saints' prayers.
The apostle Paul was particularly conscious of
the importance of the brethren's prayers. Writing to the church
in Corinth, he referred to his trials in the Roman province of
Asia, where his work was centered in Ephesus. "For we do not
want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to
us in Asia," he wrote, "that we were burdened
excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired of
life." Further describing the situation, the apostle
mentioned the full extent of their extremity, "indeed, we
had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we
should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the
dead." Paul then noted the coming rescue from God, and the
participation of the saints in that rescue. "And He will yet
deliver us, you also joining in helping through your
prayers" (II Corinthians 1:8-11).
Somehow, in the sovereign will of God, the saints' prayers were
necessary for Paul's deliverance.
- Man's plans - It has been well said
that the man who fails to plan actually plans to fail.
God expects sons of the new covenant to be mature enough
to exercise initiative and good judgment in working
within His guidelines to carry on the junctions of the
church and the promulgation of the gospel. "The
plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage,"
commented Solomon, "but everyone who is hasty comes
to poverty" (Proverbs 21:5). The
follower of Christ, however, also recognizes that, even
when he makes the best and most "air-tight" of
strategies, unless the Lord works with him, it will come
to naught. "The mind of man plans his ways, but the
Lord directs his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).
- Prayer for wisdom - Man in general
has an air of arrogance, a bit of bullheadedness, a pinch
of pride. God will do what He can, within limits He has
prescribed, to pull down the pride of man. "A man's
pride will bring him low," was the terse note of
Solomon, "but a humble spirit will obtain
honor" (Proverbs 29:23). So
when a Christian plans, his first consideration should be
his dependence upon the Almighty. "You ought to
say," was the exhortation from James, "If the
Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or
that."(James 4:15). Therefore
the Christian humbly prays for wisdom before charging
into his endeavors. "But if any of you lacks
wisdom," was another point from James, "let him
ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without
reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5).
- When God will answer - The Father
will not universally heed even the prayers of those
immersed into Christ. The prayer for wisdom must be asked
"in faith and without any doubting." If there
are doubts, then the individual has demonstrated his lack
of faith, and James notes the results of such
faithlessness: "For let not that man expect that he
will receive anything from the Lord" (James 1:7). And a
brother who hardens his heart to the word loses his
ability to be heard in heaven also: "He who turns
away his ear from listening to the law, even his prayer
is an abomination" (Proverbs 28:9).
God wants regular communication from those who
claim to be a part of His family. So He has chosen, in His
infinite wisdom, to work His mighty works when exhorted on by the
prayers of the saints. "Evil men do not understand
justice," asseverated sagely Solomon, "but those who
seek the Lord understand all things" (Proverbs 28:5). And those who
understand, pray "The Lord is far from the wicked, but He
hears the prayer of the righteous" (Proverbs 15:29).
News From Heaven
It is exciting, for all people for all times,
to hear good news! The birth of a child, the sound of wedding
bells, the word of a son safely home from war-all these stir the
heart with warmth from the fires of joy. "Bright eyes
gladden the heart; good news puts fat on the bones," was the
way Solomon phrased it (Proverbs 15:30). But as
heartwarming as news of any of earthly messages may be, their
purpose is to set the stage for the dawning of comprehension of
the joy in the message from heaven.
- Jesus came from heaven - Jesus did
not just go "next door" or across the street to
deliver His message; He had to traverse from heaven to
earth. "And no one has ascended to heaven,"
said He, "but He who descended from heaven even the
Son of Man" (John 3:13). As the
envoy from glory; Jesus was the great Missionary, the
great Apostle. "Therefore, holy brethren, partakers
of a heavenly calling," was the exordium of Hebrews'
author, "consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest
of our confession" (Hebrews 3:1). When the
brethren consider Jesus, they must consider that as the
Apostle of our confession (our total system of belief),
He was the One sent from heaven with the message to be
delivered on earth.
- The good news was prophesied in the Old
Testament - God promised Jerusalem a messenger, but
when He looked among the men of Israel His analysis was,
"All of them are false." But then His attention
shifted from earth to heaven and He saw His Son:
"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold, My chosen One in
whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon
Him..." This is the One to whom the Almighty looked
when He said, "I will give a messenger of good
news" (Isaiah 41:29-42:1).
- The incarnation of Christ - The
Jews had long expected the corning of the Messiah. But
when the angel heralded the birth of Jesus to the
shepherds, he made an amazing pronouncement:
"Behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which
shall be for all the people; for today in the city of
David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ
the Lord" (Luke 2:10,11). The
good news was that Jesus would be the Savior for all
peoples, not just the Jews, in accordance with Old
- Jesus announced good news on earth
- Early in the Lord's ministry, He returned to His home
synagogue in Nazareth. In accordance with His custom, He
was the one teaching that day, and when the scroll of
Isaiah was handed to Him, He found where these words were
written, and read them out loud: "The Spirit of the
Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the good
news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release
to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to
set free those who are downtrodden, to proclaim the
favorable year of the Lord" (Luke 4:18,19).
- Jesus announced the good news from
heaven - The ascended Lord was privileged to be the
first to preach the good news from His exalted position
on heaven's throne. The apostle Paul phrased the
announcement in these terms before King Agrippa:
"The Christ was to suffer, and ... by reason of His
resurrection from the dead He should be first to proclaim
light both to the Jewish people and to the
Gentiles" (Acts 26:23).
- The good news from heaven continues to
be heralded - "These things have been announced
to you," stated the apostle Peter, "through
those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit
sent from heaven" (I Peter 1:12). Thus,
in stages, the good news from heaven has been announced
on earth and set down in written form that the good news
of great joy might indeed be for all peoples.
"Like cold water to a weary soul,"
was the parallel of Solomon, "so is good news from a distant
land." (Proverbs 25:25). The greatest
of news - the gospel of God's Son - has come from the most
distant of lands, from heaven itself. Believe and obey!
Plans Will Be Established"
"Who has ascended into heaven and
descended?" is the opening salvo of Agur the oracle.
"Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the
waters in His garment? Who has established the ends of the earth?
What is His name, or His Son's name? Surely you know!" (Proverbs 30:4). Any serious
contemplation of God brings a man to a recognition of his own
smallness, weakness, and senselessness by comparison. The wise
man, therefore, looks to God for wisdom and guidance, and lets
the Lord instruct him in setting his priorities.
- God weighs the motives - Why a deed
is done is often more important than the deed itself.
Good deeds can hide an evil agenda or can be used to
further the gospel of God. "All the ways of a man
are clean in his own sight," was the commentary of
Proverbs on the nature of man. Man tends to decide what
it is that he will do, then goes to work to come up with
reasons to legitimatize his actions. These words bring
the rationalizer up short, if he will go back and
consider just who God is: "But the Lord weighs the
motives" (Proverbs 16:2). The
importance of underlying motive's thusly emphasized by
the apostle Paul. "To the pure," he noted,
"all things are pure; but to those who are defiled
and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and
conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by
their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and
disobedient, and worthless for any good deed" (Titus 1:15,16). Impure
motives render any accomplishment worthless; pure motives
render the action pure.
- The counsel of the Lord stands -
Man in his hubris tends to forget that there is a God in
heaven and makes his plans without regard to the
involvement of the Almighty. Pharaoh and his chariots,
for example, charged thoughtlessly over the beach's edge
and onto the exposed floor of the Red Sea. Pharaoh failed
to consider the problem God could cause for the chariot
wheels or the timing of the sea walls' collapse.
"There is no wisdom and no understanding and no
counsel against the Lord," was Solomon's observation
of those who would try to run athwart of God and His
ways. "The horse is prepared for battle, but the
victory belongs to the Lord" (Proverbs 21:31).
"Many are the plans in a man's heart he further
remarked, but the counsel of the Lord, it will
stand" (Proverbs 19:21). The
wise man learns the counsel of the Lord, then makes his
- All actions to be fueled by faith -
"Man's steps are ordained by the Lord,"
propounded the sage. "How can a man understand his
way?" (Proverbs 20:24). When
a Christian follows in the ways ordained by God, he must
walk by faith rather than by sight. All Biblical faith,
from the patriarchs to today's Christian, begins with a
picture given by the words of God; no one gets to imagine
his own picture and then expect God to have to honor it.
Following the example of Abraham, the disciple of Christ
must not grow weak in faith, but must believe that what
God has promised, God is able to perform. The apostle
Paul would then emphasize that everything that a
Christian does must be an outgrowth of that faith:
"Whatever is not from faith," he wrote,
"is sin" (Romans 14:23). "A
faithful man will abound with blessings," is the
promise (Proverbs 28:20).
The disciple of Christ, even though he often
does not understand his circumstances, will follow God's word
absolutely and resolutely. He will make certain that his motives
are pure, that he is following the counsel of God's will, and
that he is pressing on with all effort to be conformed to the
image of God's Son. "The fear of man brings a snare, but he
who trusts in the Lord will be exalted" (Proverbs 29:25). "Commit
your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established"
Honor and Respect the Aged
"You shall rise up before the
gray-headed," commanded Moses, "and honor the aged, and
you shall revere your God; I am the Lord" (Leviticus 19:32). Honor and
respect for the aged are tied to reverence for the one and only
God; a society which refuses to honor God and grant proper
respect for the old is a society on the verge of destruction. The
modern lack of respect for the aged has roots in a philosophy and
attitude about life on earth that is anti-God. The nature of man
and the economics of Karl Marx combine to produce a utilitarian
view of other people; others have value to "me" only so
long as they can be "used by me." Since the
hoary-headed have oft outlived much of their physical usefulness,
particularly as far as the young and impatient are concerned,
then they can be ignored or trashed. Of such a heartless
generation, the sacred writings of the New Testament speak: they
are "without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving,
unmerciful" (Romans 1:31). But to bring
families out of such a destructive atmosphere is one of the
purposes of the church of God, retraining them in the ways of the
- Respect for the aged - "Rise
up before the gray-headed," is the decree from God.
Such a requirement forces the young and self-centered to
become others-centered, and to begin to appreciate the
contributions of older generations, on whose shoulders
they stand. "A gray head is a crown of glory,"
was the declamation of Solomon. "It is found in the
way of righteousness" (Proverbs 16:31). The
general point communicated here is that the older
individual who has lived righteously and blamelessly, as
did the parents of John the Immerser, is worthy of
respect and is to be listened to very carefully. Wise men
of some years often give little advice, knowing that most
of the education of younger men is going to have to come
by their own experience in the school of hard knocks. So
when they speak, it is critical for younger men to heed
their advice. Such was the basis of the imploration of
Paul the apostle to Philemon: "For love's sake I
rather appeal to you - since I am Paul the aged (Philemon 9).
- Respect for parents - Coupled with
respect for the gray-headed is respect for parents, who
generally turn into the gray-headed over the lifetimes of
their children. "Listen to your father who begot
you," exhorted Solomon, "and do not despise
your mother when she is old" (Proverbs 23:22). The
first commandment with its promise - "Honor your
father and your mother." - had, as one is its key
components, the care and respect for aged parents.
- Respect for God - "We had
earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected
them," was the observation of Hebrews' author.
"Shall we not much rather be subject to the Father
of spirits, and live?" (Hebrews 12:9). Respect
for parents leads to respect for God, and general
disrespect for parents leads to general disrespect for
God. More than all others, the God who gives to everyone
life and breath and all things is worthy of the utmost of
respect and approbation. "Honor the Lord from your
wealth, and from the first of all your produce" (Proverbs 3:9). And a
person who fails to honor God with a tithe from the top
generally will not provide proper care for his aging
Satan is hard at work to destroy the family
unit because that breakup results in a general loss of honor
toward God, the One from whom every family derives its name. One
very powerful but simple habit that family heads can produce in
their children is respect for others, and one of the true tests
of whether that is being accomplished is their demeanor before
senior citizens. If they rise up before the gray-headed, then
they are well on the way to revering the Lord.
Cost of Quarrels
The key to any offensive thrust, be it
athletics or war, is for the offensive unit to work smoothly,
like a well-oiled machine. The smart defensive units, be it
athletics or war, do their nastiest and most effective work when
they get right in the middle of the offensive units, and break up
the offensive salvos from the inside. When the church of the
living God is engaged in serious warfare - fighting the good
fight of faith, spreading the message of the good confession, and
rescuing sinners from the fires of hell - then the devil works to
break up the offensive thrust.
But how will Satan be able to get inside the
church of God? The apostle Peter knew, and warned Christians
about the warfare: "Beloved, I urge you as strangers and
aliens to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the
soul" (I Peter 2:11). The war is
being waged from as close quarters as it can, working through any
remnants of fleshly-mindedness in the saints. "What is the
source of quarrels and conflicts among you?" asks James.
"Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your
members?" (James 4:1) The Destroyer likes
for the church to be quarreling among itself; then no offensive
forward moves against the dark domain can be accomplished. By
contrast, "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to
dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1).
- Killing time - "Do not be
foolish," said Paul to the Ephesian brethren,
"but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17). The
will of the Lord clearly is to make the most of time. But
the lazy and unproductive (which are characteristic of
those who have undisciplined flesh) look for ways to kill
time instead of being good stewards of time, and often
provoke a fight or argument to accomplish that purpose.
The devil is gleeful over such unspiritual action because
it furthers his cause. The wisdom of God says,
"Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, but
any fool will quarrel" (Proverbs 20:3).
- Big fights come from little fights
- How often has a friendly living room scuffle between
two older lads escalated to something serious! How often
has a feud between Fuodia and Syntyche spread so that the
whole congregation takes sides, and now incapable of
carrying out a united effort in spreading the gospel to
the lost? "The beginning of strife is like letting
out water, so abandon the quarrel before it breaks
out" (Proverbs 17:14).
- Quarrels redirect the discussion -
One of the tactics members of the fallen race use when
feeling the pressure of complying with scripture is to
provoke a quarrel so as to divert attention from
themselves and their need for repentance. The Christian,
working to save such a one, is given this instruction:
"But refuse foolish and ignorant speculations,
knowing that they produce quarrels. And the Lord's
bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all,
able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness
correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God
may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the
truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from
the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him
to do his will" (II Timothy 2:23-26).
Carnal Christians often fall into this same quarreling
diversion, and thus can be used by Satan.
The solution is for the Christian to crucify
the flesh with its passions and desires. "For since there is
jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and walking
like mere men?" (I Corinthians 3:3). "And
beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of
unity" (Colossians 3:14).
Any Country's Best Citizens
The strength of a nation is the moral fiber of
her people. When there is rot in the warp and woof of society's
fabric, then the bonds, which hold her together are thin and
frayed, and the slightest stress will rend asunder her free
institutions. A characteristic of what the Bible calls "the
wicked" is that they are "lawless"; by definition
they are both moral and political anarchists, and in exhibiting
the same traits as their spiritual father, the devil and Satan,
they come only to steal and kill and destroy. By contrast, those
who walk humbly with their God love kindness and "do
justice" (Micah 6:8). "But let
justice roll down like waters," cried the voice of another
prophet, "and righteousness like an ever-flowing
stream" (Amos 5:24). "When the
wicked increase, transgressions increase," was the
evaluation of Solomon (Proverbs 29:16). As
righteousness ceases to flame from the pulpits of America's
churches, in the words of French observer de Tocqueville, America
will cease to be good. And as America ceases to be good, she
ceases to be great.
- Wickedness in high offices - Men in
high office are "men of influence." Unless
checked by stable institutions and rule by law, corrupt
men in high office therefore corrupt entire societies.
"The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe,"
was Micah's observation. "And the great man speaks
the desire of his soul; so they weave it together" (Micah 7:3). What they
weave is not good for the freedom of the common man.
"The king gives stability to the land by justice,
but a man who takes bribes overthrows it" (Proverbs 29:4).
"A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom,"
was another comment from wisdom, "to pervert the
ways of justice" (Proverbs 17:23).
- God delights in justice - "And
the strength of the King loves justice," were the
words of the Psalmist (Psalms 99:4). Justice
is a characteristic of the goodness of God, and is in
direct conflict with those who desire to serve evil.
"An unjust man is abominable td the righteous,"
remarked Solomon, "and he who is upright in the way
is abominable to the wicked" (Proverbs 29:27).
Herein is the source of eternal conflict: the upright, in
whom God delights, is a total abomination to the wicked,
and any progress toward a God-ordained, peaceful society
is violently opposed by those who do not intend to follow
God's standards of justice and morality. "He who
justifies the wicked and condemns the righteous, both of
them alike are an abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 17:15).
- The case for moral outrage -
"Abhor what is evil," was the charge of the
apostle Paul. "cling to what is good" (Romans 12:9).
Christians, therefore, are not to be neutral in issues of
right and wrong. The writer of proverbs notes the
character of the godly: "Those who forsake the law
praise the wicked, but those who keep the law strive with
them" (Proverbs 28:4). The
saints work hard to provide a sense of moral justice and
uprightness in their communities and nations, knowing
that immoral nations cannot long remain free and that the
gospel would therefore be hindered. "If you are
slack in the day of distress," perceived Solomon,
"your strength is limited" (Proverbs 24:10).
- The solution - The long-term
solution is for all people to be turned to God by being
taught the Bible. "Where there is no vision,"
was Solomon's statement regarding the revelation of God's
message to men, "the people are unrestrained, but
happy is he who keeps the Law" (Proverbs 29:18). The
lack of moral restraint sinks nations.
Christians are any nation's best citizens.
Because they hold a higher citizenship than any that earth's
realms can offer, disciples of Christ teach others to observe all
that Jesus commanded, and they are not afraid to die in spreading
the word of righteousness.
"He who finds a wife finds a good
thing," stated Solomon, "and obtains favor from the
Lord" (Proverbs 18:22). Later the
sage poses a question: "An excellent wife, who can
find?" (Proverbs 31:10). The theme of
"finding a wife runs like a mighty river throughout all
aspects of human life. It is the underlying current in romance
novels, its waves lap along the edges of adventure stories and
"flicks, and its magnetic power is bent and twisted by Satan
to serve perverted and political ends. Indeed, the theme pervades
even "the greatest story ever told," the Bible itself.
- An emphasis on "find" - A
wife is very valuable. She is a treasure, a precious
jewel, and as such, she must be sought with diligence and
fervency. A single man has to search through many
prospective "situations" to locate his match;
if he lacks the confidence or desire to seek, he will not
- A prudent wife - Both Christian men
and women of marriageable availability need to remember
Solomon's injunction: "Charm is deceitful and beauty
is vain (Proverbs 31:30). There
are many women who are stunning in their appearance, and
who know how to turn on the charm when attracting their
prey. But such women can be extremely dangerous to a man
who would desire to keep his spiritual focus. A woman who
puts an inordinate amount of attention to externals
neglects internals, and ends up a beautiful but hollow
ornament; from such women the smart Christian man flees!
The counsel of the Almighty is: "House and wealth
are an inheritance from fathers, but a prudent wife is
from the Lord" (Proverbs 19:14). A
wife who is spiritually on track, who can handle
finances, who has discipline and mental toughness, and
who has a realistic perspective on life and its vagaries
is a prudent wife; such a woman is of inestimable worth
and to be sought after by intelligent men seeking
Christian marital companionship.
- The prudent wile as a gift - House
and wealth, in the context of the proverb, are an
inheritance; a prudent wife is a gift from God. When a
faithful man finds such an excellent wife, he must be
continually thankful to the Father for such a gift and
treat his wife with more care than could be awarded a
valuable and sentimental treasure. And the lady making
the claim to godliness, if she desires to be presented as
a precious gift to the right God-fearing man, must
prepare herself in the matter of being prudent. She must
discipline herself in financial matters, and prepare
herself as a practical repository of love.
- A prudent woman knows about men - A
prudent woman, by definition, is one who uses her head
when it comes to being romantically involved with a man.
Just because a man is a Christian, or claims to be a
Christian, does not mean that he has developed the
discipline and character necessary to be a good husband.
A truly prudent woman will recognize when a man is not
ready to take on husbandly responsibilities as the Lord
directs, and will run from that situation as fast as her
legs will carry her.
- Finding the lost - Those who have
ever taken the trip down the romantic trail have an
understanding of the intensity of the nature of "the
search" for a wife or husband. The goal of God is
that brethren use that experience to understand the
intensity with which Christ looks to find his bride, and
which is to be translated into the fervor with which the
saint seeks for the lost.
The words of the Lord still ring with
encouragement: "Seek, and you shall find" (Matthew 7:7). If a man wants a
wife, he must seek with the assurance that he will find. If a
saint wants to seek the lost, he must seek with the assurance
that he will find.
Developing Disciplined Children
Raising up children who are a glory to God is
no small task or minor accomplishment. Parents who successfully
guide their children through the teenage years and on in to
productive and godly lives are not only to be commended, but
imitated. Ultimately, the children are the Lord's and He is
therefore able to issue this diction from on high: "Train up
a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not
depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). Parents -
especially Christian parents - have a responsibility given to
them by God, and they are therefore answerable to Him in regard
to how well they carried out this responsibility.
- Disciplined minds and bodies - The
road to success, in both the material and spiritual
realm, is the road of discipline. Because, in the wisdom
of God, a child is not an adult and needs training, it is
the parents' responsibility to help their offspring
develop control over their emotions, attitudes, and
actions. The wise parent justly and unflinchingly imposes
controls and corrections from the moment of birth. In
wisdom he provides much praise in the midst of the
childs struggling attempts to throw off the molted
skins of earlier childhood, tempering punishment with
intelligent grace. "Discipline your son while there
is hope," were the words of Solomon the wise,
"and do not desire his death" (Proverbs 19:18). The
goal is to produce young people who have the inner
strength to withstand temptation, overcome challenges,
and carry out the gospel of God.
- The flesh tends to be undisciplined - The
body, when it gets to do what it pleases, does the
opposite of what it is supposed to do. The word of God is
full of warnings in Proverbs about such lack of
discipline: "Do not love sleep," says one,
"lest you become poor" (Proverbs 20:13).
"Laziness casts into a deep sleep," says
another, "and an idle man will suffer hunger" (Proverbs 19:15). Not
only must the mind overcome the bodys laziness, but
also its desire for pleasure. "He who loves pleasure
will become a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will
not become rich" (Proverbs 21:17).
Discipline in priorities and use of time is enjoined:
"Prepare your work outside, and make it ready for
yourself in the field," were the words to an
agricultural people about making the ground ready for
planting. "Afterwards, then, build your house"
"Like a city that is broken into and without walls
is a man who has no control over his spirit" (Proverbs 25:28).
- Parents help children discipline
themselves - The goal of true parental discipline is
self-discipline, so that as the child moves into
adulthood, he has the self-control necessary for a good
attitude and high performance. "The rod and reproof
give wisdom," noted Solomon, "but a child who
gets his own way brings shame to its mother" (Proverbs 29:15).
"Do not hold back discipline from the child,"
encourages wisdom, "although you beat him with the
rod, he will not die. You shall beat him with the rod,
and deliver his soul from Sheol" (Proverbs 23:13,14).
All discipline is not mere corporal punishment:
"Cease listening, my son, to discipline,"
wisdom continues, "and you will stray from the words
of knowledge" (Proverbs 19:27).
The wisdom of good Christian parents is
exhibited in their unwavering consistency in enforcing the rules
and providing positive praise and incentives. Inconsistent moms
and dads, who praise and punish for a little while and then quit
- who dont have the personal discipline themselves to
withhold reward when the child hasn't earned it - confuse their
children and produce uncurried tendencies in their offspring.
"Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; he will
also delight your soul" (Proverbs 29:17).
Is A Mocker
There are those who love their wine. There are
those who love their social drinking. And there are those who
wish they had never seen or heard of alcoholic beverages because
of the destruction wrought in their lives and their loved ones.
"Listen, my son, and be wise," was the advice of
Solomon, "and direct your heart in the way. Do not be with
heavy drinkers or wine, or with gluttonous eaters of meat; for
the heavy drinker and glutton will come to poverty, and
drowsiness will clothe a man with rags" (Proverbs 23:19-21). Poverty is
not the only calamity to befall the heavy drinkers; families come
apart, domestic violence is rampant, and crime and misery
increase. So who thinks wine is a good thing?
- Alcohol has claws - From the
earliest history of man, alcohol has been a problem. Old
Noah got drunk with wine from one of the early gatherings
of his grape crop, made a fool of himself, and ended by
pronouncing a curse on his grandson, Canaan. "Wine
is a mocker, strong drink is a brawler," noted
Solomon, who had conducted experiments on himself with
alcohol, "and whoever is intoxicated by it is not
wise" (Proverbs 20:1). Those
parties, where the television ads show everyone happy
together, end with a few passed out on the floor, others
brawling outside, and still others leaving with someone
else's wife. A brief look at the police reports in any
daily newspaper will show the web of trouble following
the nights partying. Alcohol has claws.
- The velvet covering - The points on
alcohol's claws do not appear immediately. The velvet of
pleasure precedes the reign of pain, and booze's
short-term effects slowly pull its imbibers into
long-term destruction. "Who has woe?" asks the
proverb of party-goers. "Who has sorrow?" is
the question for revelers. "Who has contentions? Who
has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has
redness of eyes?" The answer comes for people who
rationalize their participation in social drinking.
"Those who linger long over wine, those who go to
taste mixed wine." The inspired advice now arrives:
"Do not look on the wine when it's red, when it
sparkles in the cup, when it goes down smoothly; at the
last it bites like a serpent, and stings like a
viper." As the claws dig in, bleary-eyed confusion
takes over the mind of the drinker. "Your eyes will
see strange things, and your mind will utter perverse
things. And you will be like one who lies down in the
middle of the sea, or like one who lies down on the top
of a mast." Now a fallen-down drunk who lies in a
stupor on the street, our once-proud hero in mixing
drinks is easy prey for vandals. "They struck me,
but I did not become ill; they beat me, but I did not
know it." Crawling out of the gutter, the drunk
starts the cycle all over again, "When shall I
awake?" he asks from his fogginess. "I will
seek another drink" (Proverbs 23:29-35).
Boozers are losers. King Lemuel recalled the
wise words of his mother: "It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it
is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to desire strong
drink, lest they drink and forget what is decreed, and pervert
the rights of all the afflicted" (Proverbs 31:4,5). If mere
earthly kings were exhorted not to drink wine, what about
spiritual kings of heavenly citizenship? "It is good not to
eat meat or drink wine or do anything by which your brother
stumbles," stated Paul (Romans 14:21). In America,
where beer costs less than water and wine coolers crowd grocery
store and mini-market shelves, the Christian can be a positive
force by abstaining from all alcoholic beverages. Wine is a
mocker, and its laughter is hollow and fiendish at the end.
Words are used to tell the truth. But words can
also be used to promote lies, schemes, and massive fraud. The god
of confusion, Satan, twists the straight rod of truth to produce
a web of distortion and a labyrinth of mesmerization so intricate
that often only the very astute among honest men are able to keep
their bearings. It is critical, therefore, that such men and
women be able to communicate true understanding and expose the
objections of those who oppose the truth. The affairs of nations
rise or fall based on the populaces having a general
understanding of important political and economic truth and a
willingness to follow that understanding; how much more
significant are the eternal truths which produce salvation?
"Have I not written to you excellent things of counsels and
knowledge," queried Solomon, "to make you know the
certainty of the words of truth that you may correctly answer to
Him who sent you?" (Proverbs 22:20,21).
- Civilization must be built on truth -
A general honesty must pervade the justice system of any
country; corruption in the judicial process produces
disorder in the political arena and chaos in the market
place. "If a ruler pays attention to
falsehood," was the comment of Solomon, "all
his ministers become wicked" (Proverbs 29:12). When
the crooks can operate with impurity in commerce, then
honest men have no incentive to produce. When the claims
of advertisers can no longer be regarded as true, and
quality workmanship ceases to be guaranteed, then the
brakes of corruption are applied to the fly-wheel of
economic production, and a return to a primitive economy
is looming on the horizon. When legalized plunder is the
driving force of the political system, then various
echelons of thugs move into the governmental arena, and
honest men and able statesmen are driven into obscurity.
Without the men who stand for righteousness and justice,
the political system rapidly decays into a giant series
of kangaroo courts, the more ruthless and savage of men
govern for personal profit, and the law of the jungle
replaces the peace of orderly civilization.
- Salvation must be built on truth - The
deceiver, the father of lies, brings falsehood to the
world, and this pressures those who would tell the truth
about salvation. During the days of our Lords
earthly sojourn, His character, teaching, and miracles
convinced even the leaders of some of the synagogues that
He was the Messiah and Savior. "Nevertheless,"
wrote the apostle John, "many even of the rulers
believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were
not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the
synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than
the approval of God" (John 12:42,43). The
same pressure is on today to persuade men not to tell the
truth about immersion being for forgiveness of sins, and
that the Spirit be granted in that immersion.
- Practices of the church must be built
on truth - Jesus did say that He would build His
church (Matthew 16:18). The
practices of the church, to use the language of Paul (I Corinthians 11:16),
are dictated by the writings of the New Testament. The
pressure is on to make the church conform to the world
rather than follow the teachings of Jesus and the
apostles (the role of women, for example).
What is needed is men who have the knowledge
and the courage to expound upon the counsels of God in these
areas, and bring in the certainty of truth and explode
Satans realm. Who will give the correct answers?
Dont Move The Boundary
Each family in Israel had its property. God
said that He really owned the land, and, when Israel took control
of the property, God apportioned the land by lot to the various
tribes, and distributed the acreage family by family. To ensure
that the property stayed with the family in perpetuity, the
Almighty even had provisions for a man to raise up children for
his brother if that brother died childless. Thus each family had
its inheritance in Israel, and marked the boundaries of the
property. In that connection, the sage, the son of David, wrote:
"Do not move the ancient boundary which your fathers have
set" (Proverbs 22:28). Since God
allocated the property, man did not have the right to change the
- Ahab and Jezebel - Ahab, the rotten
king of Israel, married Jezebel, the daughter of the king
of Sidon, and she brought with her the worship of Baal.
Having thus really rejected God, it was comparatively
easy for them to mess with the ancient boundaries.
Wanting the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for their
own garden, they became upset with Naboth because he
could not and would not give up the property. Jezabel
conspired to have him killed; so when Ahab went to take
possession, Elijah the prophet met him. "In the
place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth,"
he said, "the dogs shall lick up your blood, even
yours" (I Kings 21:19). God
doesnt like people messing with the boundaries -
the ancient boundaries.
- Boundaries of morality - The Father
has written the standards of right and wrong on every
human heart. Those boundaries were set in the days of
Adam and Eve, emphasized in the flood of Noah, codified
in the law of Moses, and preached to the world through
the gospel of Christ. Every mouth has been shut, and all
mankind is without excuse before God. But there are those
who want to move the boundaries. There are those who want
to remove the limits placed on the sexual relationship
between men and women, who want to promote every kind of
immorality and perversion, who even want to abolish the
family. "Woe," He says, "to those who call
evil good, and good evil" (Isaiah 5:20). God
doesnt like people messing with the boundaries -
the ancient boundaries.
- Boundaries of doctrine - "All
scripture," stated the apostle Paul, "is
inspired by God and is profitable for doctrine" (II Timothy 3:16).
Man-made doctrine, according to this same apostle, is
designed to tickle the ears of the hearers. Over and over
the scripture emphasizes what it calls "sound
doctrine". Again there are those who want to move
the boundaries, who do not want the church to function
within the confines of the scripture. There are those who
couldnt really care less about what Gods word
says about elders, the role of women in the church, or a
whole host of other topics. But God doesnt like
people messing with the boundaries - the ancient
- Boundaries of salvation - Salvation
is a doctrine, but we wanted to break it out of the pack
for special emphasis. Gods terms for salvation are
clearly given in the teachings of Jesus and the apostles.
It is clear: each hearer must believe in Jesus and all
the teaching concerning His life, crucifixion, and
resurrection; each must be moved to repent; each must
confess Christ as Lord; and each must be immersed by the
authority of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and to
receive the Holy Spirit. But there are those who want to
move the boundaries and change the terms of pardon, who
want to broaden the narrow gate that leads to salvation.
God doesnt like people messing with the boundaries
- the ancient boundaries.
If God was concerned about the boundaries of
Naboths property, He is infinitely more concerned about the
teaching of the boundaries on moral standards, doctrines
governing the church, and the way of salvation. And God has sent
His spokesmen to pronounce judgment upon the modern Ahabs and
Jezabels who in arrogance move those ancient boundaries.
"Do you see a man skilled in his
work?" asked Solomon. "He will stand before kings; he
will not stand before obscure men" (Proverbs 22:29). This is a
great promise to any craftsman or skilled laborer; men will
notice the quality of workmanship and will bring the workmanship
to the attention of kings and those in prominence. This proverb,
and the other teachings of the Word of God concerning quality
work, produces a Biblical work ethic, a hard working, do-it-right
atmosphere in individuals, families, and whole societies.
- Working for the glory of God - The
Biblical work ethic results when individuals have the
maturity and responsibility to take pride in their work.
When they show initiative and hustle, when they take
extra pain to make sure the "little things" are
done right, then increased efficiency and quality
products are on their way. Providing the foundation for
such initiative and care are the Biblical teachings that
all Christians, even slaves, are to do their work for the
notice of God. "Slaves, in all things obey those who
are your masters on earth," was the directive from
Paul the apostle, "not with external service, as
those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart,
fearing the Lord" (Colossians 3:22). When
a man is conscious that God is the quality inspector for
the job, then his perspective as a God-fearing man is
that the details had better be done correctly and the
work done in a timely fashion.
- Effect of the Biblical work ethic - With
the distribution of the Bible in the language of the
common man, western civilization developed, along with
what has been called the industrial revolution.
The industrial revolution was possible because of the
comparative political freedom that came as a result of
the desire for religious freedom, the concomitant
development of a free enterprise economic system, and the
personal morality connected with the Biblical work ethic.
This industrial revolution made possible the production
of high quality manufactured items at low cost. Western
Europe and her offspring, particularly the United States
of America, were thus lifted from the squalor of a third
world existence to produce the marvels of modern
- Loss of Biblical work ethic threatens
modern production - With the Bible ridiculed in
modern society, and God relegated to his box in heaven,
the upcoming generations have no reason to produce
quality work in a timely fashion. Businesses try to
compensate for this general incompetence by having
machines and computers bridge the gap. This can work for
a period of time, but the increasing loss of incentive
due to the replacement of the free enterprise system with
socialism and the rapidly eroding moral base will soon
override the stop gaps business has instituted.
- Workmen in the scriptures - The
loss of quality workmanship in the physical realm impacts
the spiritual realm as well. It is a basic scriptural
principle that man has to learn the lessons in the
physical before he can understand the application to the
spiritual. Christians and congregations the world over
need to establish the Biblical work ethic among their
people so that this scriptural imperative can be carried
out: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to
God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed,
handling accurately the word of truth" (II Timothy 2:15).
The greatest work in which to be skilled is
handling accurately the word of truth. And a man (or woman) who
does this will not be left in obscurity; he will stand before the
Advice on Men and Money
All is not always as it seems. The masters of
illusion sometimes perform their tricks on stage; most of the
outstanding masters tend to perform in the business arena or in
the places where political levers are pulled. Hence King Solomon
and the Holy Spirit cooperated to give some advice on illusion
and the masters of illusion.
- When the good times roll - When big
business decisions are on the line or when big political
deals are to be struck, those who arrange the setting
often create the "proper" atmosphere by staging
a meal. "When you sit down to dine with a
ruler," was the wisdom of Solomon, "consider
carefully what is before you; and put a knife to your
throat if you are a man of great appetite. Do not desire
his delicacies, for it is deceptive food" (Proverbs 23:1-3). The
movers and shakers put the "delicacies" out in
front of their victims as false incentives. When the
victim is sufficiently lulled into euphoria by the wine,
women, and song, then they strike the deal and, as they
say, the sheep is sheared.
- Sitting with a selfish man - When
the scripture says not to judge lest you be judged, it is
talking about putting a final condemnation upon people
without considering that they might change. But the word
of God always indicates that a careful analysis of the
character of others should be made. In the passage where
Jesus talked about not giving a final condemnation or
critical judgment, He also stated, "Do not give what
is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before
swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn
and tear you to pieces" (Matthew 7:6). Some are
dogs and some are swine, and the Christian has a
scriptural injunction to perceive who they are. Solomon
also warned: "Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
or desire his delicacies. For as he thinks within
himself, so he is. He says to you, Eat and
drink! But his heart is not with you. You will
vomit up the morsel you have eaten, and waste your
compliments" (Proverbs 23:6-8). The
selfish man knows nothing of cooperation; anything in
which he participates is going to serve his purposes,
regardless of how ruthless and heartless he may have to
- Money has wings - The scripture
emphasizes that no man can serve both God and mammon, and
that close personal relationships are far more important
than money. Natural disasters can destroy carefully built
up assets in a moment of time, and all property is
subject to robbery and confiscation. It is not even
profitable to be a thief: smart thieves are working to
steal on both small-scale and large-scale scams, smarter
thieves are working to steal from the smart thieves, and
the smartest thieves (who have been stealing from
everyone) suddenly die. "Do not worry yourself to
gain wealth; cease from your consideration of it. When
you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly
makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the
heavens" (Proverbs 23:4,5).
- Not all need to hear - A man can
have intelligence and still be a fool. When a man chooses
to say in his heart, "There is no God," then he
has become a fool, and he then tends to ridicule the
wisdom of God. "Do not speak in the hearing of a
fool," was Solomons counsel, "for he will
despise the wisdom of your words" (Proverbs 23:9). Choose
the time and place to give advice carefully.
Money and position are illusory. Few can climb
the ladder of deception to wealth and power, and most of those
who do die violent deaths. Skilled in the use of smoke and
mirrors, glitz and promotion, they can, however, deceive the
unsuspecting saint. Take Gods advice on men and money.
"As a Man Thinketh..."
A profound truth in a simple statement:
"For as he thinks within himself, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7). The writer of
Proverbs uses this point to establish that a man who views
himself as selfish is selfish. This general truth applies to all
aspects of a mans nature; if a man views himself as a
failure, he must fail, and if a man truly views himself as a
success, he must succeed. The performance of an individual is
based on his self-image; the key to changing behavior is to
change the image.
- Mans initial image - Man from
the beginning was different than the animals. Animals
consist at most of body and soul, whereas man is also a
spirit being. "Let us make man in our image,
according to our likeness," said God (Genesis 1:26). God is
Spirit, and man then is to be a spirit-being in
- Satan trifled with the image - Satan
told a big lie at the beginning. "You will be like
God," he said, "knowing good and evil" (Genesis 3:5). The
exact opposite was true; now children of flesh took on
Satans image, becoming liars and murderers.
"You are of your father the devil," Jesus told
a group of hostile Jews, "and you want to do the
desire of your father. He was a murderer from the
beginning , and does not stand in the truth, because
there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he
speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the
father of lies" (John 8:44). Man, to be
in the image of God, has - through deception and
rebellion - taken on the image of the devil. As he thinks
within himself, so he is. "With their tongues they
keep deceiving," quoted Paul. "Their feet are
swift to shed blood" (Romans 3:13,15).
- God more than restores fallen man - Not
only does God redeem man from his transgressions, but He
recreates him, this time in the image of Jesus the
triumphant rather than Adam the failure. "The first
man [Adam] is from the earth, earthy," noted Paul.
"The second man [Jesus] is from heaven. As is the
earthy, so also are those who are earthy, and as is the
heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. And just as
we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear
the image of the heavenly" (I Corinthians 15:47-49).
- Sinner or saint - Adam was a
sinner. Jesus, the Holy One of God, was the ultimate
saint. Those in the image of Adam are sinners; those
reformed in the image of Christ are saints. The letter of
I Corinthians, for example, is not addressed "to the
sinners in Corinth;" it is addressed "to those
who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by
calling" (I Corinthians 1:2).
- Renewing the mind - The testing
ground of an earthly sojourn is for the saint of God to
learn to walk by faith through the wilderness of sin. He
must - through scripture memory, prayer, teaching the
lost, and contemplating the word of God - keep his mind
focused on his image in Christ, or Satan will use the
world to destroy that which God has formed. "My
children," Paul pleaded with the Galatians,
"with whom I am again in labor until Christ is
formed in you" (Galatians 4:19).
"Be renewed in the spirit of your mind,"
exhorted the apostle, "and put on the new self which
in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness
and holiness of the truth" (Ephesians 4:23,24).
The Christian has been given a new image, the
image of Christ in glory. But this image must be constantly held
and worked on by the follower of Christ or it too will fade. As a
man thinks, so he is.
The Temporal Judgments of God
All men will stand before the great white
throne in judgment on the last day. But God does not wait until
the last day to execute all His judgments. He has the means in
place to call men and nations to account long before Jesus
returns with trumpet blast and archangel voice. Gods
witness Stephen noted the temporal judgment of God against the
nation of Egypt would be executed. Quoting from Moses, he
commented that Gods people "would be enslaved and
mistreated for four hundred years." And the Almighty noted
his upcoming judgment on Egypt, "And whatever nation to
which they shall be in bondage I Myself will judge" (Acts 7:6,7). Ancient Egypt was
judged in 1446 BC; God does not necessarily wait to the end of
time to execute wrath.
- God watches over those who cannot
defend themselves - The Father of the spirit of all
flesh watches over all the earth and executes His
justice. He is slow-moving, from mans perspective,
but He ultimately executes His temporal justice, righting
wrongs, filling the poor with good things, and sending
away the rich empty-handed. "Do not move the ancient
boundary," was the reminder, "or go into the
fields of the fatherless; for their Redeemer is strong;
He will plead their case against you" (Proverbs 23:10). God
has a basic principle which He imposes on the sons of
men: what you give out is what comes back to you. Those
who trample the rights of the poor and fatherless will be
trampled in turn.
- God watches over attitudes - The
Almighty wants those who claim His name to have good and
merciful attitudes toward all men. "Do not rejoice
when your enemy falls," was the advice from heaven,
"and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles,
lest the Lord see it and be displeased, and He turn away
His anger from him" (Proverbs 24:17,18). If
the Lord has someone in His "doghouse" on
account of you, and if you display gloating attitudes
toward him, then the Lord will let him out of the
doghouse. Instead, "if your enemy is hungry, give
him food to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to
drink; for you will heap burning coals on his head and
the Lord will reward you" (Proverbs 25:21,22).
- God watches troublemakers - There
are those who for some reason love to stir up strife, and
there are those who just have to "get even."
The Omnipotent says, "Do not be a witness against
your neighbor without cause, and do not deceive with your
lips. Do not say, Thus I will do to him as he has
done to me; I will render to the man according to his
work " (Proverbs 24:28,29).
Implicit is the temporal judgment of God, who said,
during the days of His earthly sojourn, "By your
standard of measure, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:2).
"And just as you want people to treat you," was
Lukes rendition of the Golden Rule, "treat
them in the same way" (Luke 6:31).
- God watches for justice - The
rewards and punishments for doing right or wrong are
built into the workings of man. "How blessed is the
man who fears [the Lord] always, but he who hardens his
heart will fall into calamity" (Proverbs 28:14).
"A man who is laden with the guilt of human blood
will be a fugitive until death; let no one support
him" (Proverbs 28:17).
The guilty ones try to pervert justice and
twist the scriptures to justify themselves. But God is not
necessarily going to wait until judgment day to sicken or even
put them to death. "Their judgment from long ago is not
idle, and their destruction is not asleep" (II Peter 2:3).
The writer of Proverbs keeps coming back to his
original theme. "Buy truth, and do not sell it," he
says. "Get wisdom and instruction and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23). The members
of the human race as a whole are selfish; they have a tendency to
want what they want when they want it, and will shove others
aside, trample people in the mud, and compromise principle to get
it. A violent and bloody race, they will in general choose the
easy way rather then the right way. When something called truth
stands as an obstacle in their course, they will shove it off
the road as an outmoded husk, moving on and motioning others
onward also. Hence Solomon cycles back to his theme: "Buy
truth and do not sell it."
- Truth as a foundation for all
relationships - All working relationships are built
on trust; destroy trust and the relationship is severed.
And one of the quickest ways to destroy trust is for
someone to lie. "Therefore, laying aside all
falsehood," was the urging of Paul, "speak
truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are
members of one another" (Ephesians 4:25).
- Satan works to destroy truth - Satan
is a liar, and is the driving impetus behind all lies.
Crafty and subtle that he is, he has gone to work, even
attacking the idea that there is truth. Functioning
through highly positioned college professors in big name
universities, Satan has posited Post-modern and
Deconstructionist philosophies, which in essence deny the
existence of truth. As this deception works its way from
the intellectual community outward into the general
populace, the public will have a pre-disposition that
anyone who claims he knows the truth (about anything
important) is automatically highly suspect.
- God upholds truth through the church - Week
after week the church assembles, through the Lords
Supper proclaiming Christs victory through His
death and resurrection, making proclamation until He
comes. This regular assembly of the saints, coupled with
mid-week assemblies and other teaching and preaching
meetings of the church, contributes mightily to the
momentum that there is truth and morality, and that Jesus
- Truth about the sovereignty of Jesus - The
deceiver, the god of this world, has a vested interest in
keeping mankind ignorant of the absolute sovereignty of
Jesus. The prophetic second Psalm, noting that God had
installed His Anointed on Zions throne, warned the
kings and judges of the earth to "do homage to the
Son" (Psalm 2:12). In giving
the great commission, the foundational remark of Jesus
was: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven
and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). The
church, as the pillar and support of the truth (I Timothy 3:15),
always establishes, as its first point, the Lordship of
- The truth about salvation - Jesus
the King took on the flesh of man to rescue the captives
from Satans domain. The ruler of darkness has no
more desire to see the release of the prisoners than did
Pharaoh desire to see the release of Israel under Moses.
Therefore he always does his utmost to deter the captives
from repentance, and to confuse people on the meaning of
immersion and its relation to salvation. The church, as
the pillar and support of truth, always establishes,
without qualification, the terms of pardon revealed in
- Worlds in conflict - The worlds of
truth and falsehood have collided, and battle is engaged.
There is nowhere to go to avoid the battle, and no one
can be uninvolved. "He who is not with Me is against
Me," were the words of the Christ, "and he who
does not gather with Me scatters" (Matthew 12:30).
"Buy truth and do not sell it." Never
before in the history of the world have so many forces combined
with the sole objective of obliterating truth. So buy, buy, buy
truth, brother, and do not sell it!
More on Wisdom and Folly
Foolishness is one of the evil things that
proceed from an unregenerate heart. It ranks right there with
others in this rank list: fornication, theft, murder, adultery,
sensuality, envy, and slander, among others. Because foolishness
is a product of the flesh, then it like the others has to be
overcome for one who wants to follow God. Hence Solomon the sage
had much to say about foolishness, especially to the young, and
appealed to Gods people to be wise. "My son," he
said, "eat honey, for it is good; yes, honey from the comb
is sweet to your taste." Having generated the appropriate
positive sensation in the taste buds, the writer goes on to
recommend wisdom. "Know that wisdom is thus for your soul.
If you find it, then there will be a future, and your hope will
not be cut off" (Proverbs 24:13,14).
- Making the time lag connection - One
of the major problems that fools have is that they fail
to see the end result of their initial follies. The fool
looks for the pleasure of the minute and ignores the
years of misery coming as a consequence. The young are
easily sucked in at "party time"; the beer and
booze commercials paint an indelible picture in the minds
of the gullible that fun and ethyl alcohol go together.
So our fun-loving fool is pulled into the habit of
drinking, not thinking about the end result: "Who
has woe? Who has sorrow"
Those who linger long
over wine" (Proverbs 23:29,30).
Similarly a young man is allured by the beauty and
sensual appeal of a woman (or vice-versa). A few
minutes of "pleasure" changes the moral
character of the participants and produces untold misery
down the road. "Give me you heart, my son,"
says wisdom, "and let your eyes delight in my ways.
For a harlot is a deep pit, and an adulterous woman is a
narrow well. Surely she lurks as a robber, and increases
the faithless among men" (Proverbs 23:26-28).
Deep pits and narrow wells are restrictive and
constrictive; those entrapped have a very difficult time
in extracting themselves. The fool doesnt make the
time lag connection; he makes a loud noise in the joy of
the minute, and then cant figure out why he is
engulfed in an avalanche of troubles following his
racket. The wise, however, heeds the warning of
scripture, and rides quietly through the pass of
- Selecting what has value - Building
a life is much like building a home. As a home must be
blue-printed and well thought out, so a life must be
visualized and sketched out in the mind. And just as
there are almost an infinite number of selections of
furniture and knick-knacks to be used in decorating a
home, so also are there an infinite number of choices to
be made for life in a free society. But the selection
must be narrowed down; "You can do anything, but you
cant do everything." So, "By wisdom a
house is built, and by understanding it is established;
and by knowledge the rooms are filled with precious and
pleasant riches" (Proverbs 24:3,4). The
life of the foolish is a claptrap structure, thrown
together on the spur of the moment without plan; the wise
has his act together.
- Understanding quiet strength - When
the Soviets would stage their May Day parades, a
percentage of the weaponry was often dummy equipment,
intended to produce a more ostentatious display of power
than was really there. Just so the man of folly often
puts on a false front, but when faced with an actual
challenge, he must back down. "A wise man is strong,
and a man of knowledge increases power" (Proverbs 24:5).
From beginning to end the book of Proverbs
derides folly and fools and extols the virtues of wisdom.
"Get wisdom and instruction and understanding" (Proverbs 23:23).
Even the world recognizes the general
differences between a success and a failure. The man or woman who
is a failure, after some disappointment or difficulty, says,
"I quit." The success is the person who picks himself
up one more time, dusts himself off, and presses on to victory.
Solomon expressed the issue thusly: "For a righteous man
falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in
time of calamity" (Proverbs 24:16). The word of
God is at work within believers to produce those who have the
will to win in the face of tremendous disappointment and external
- The grace of God - "We
have," said Paul, "obtained our introduction by
faith into this grace in which we stand" (Romans 5:2). Grace
from God has some encouraging and strengthening
components which move the descendant of Adam from being a
stumbling sinner to a triumphant trend-setter. The basic
initial effect of grace is that it allows the saint to be
absolutely honest with God. When he has fallen in abject
failure, the disciple can admit it without fear of
condemnation rather than engage in a delusion wherein he
pretends to be walking in victory when he in fact is
bogged down in the mud of despair. The grace of the King
allows the Christian then to set up incremental steps for
improvement in character, rather than requiring the all
or nothing leap characteristic of the law. All of this
combines to put all-important hope into the breast of the
pilgrim, and thus encourages him to continue onward and
- The word of God - Just because the
word is now written does not mean that it is without
potency. The scripture itself equates the written word
with the spoken word; when the writer of Hebrews quotes
the written word from Psalm 95, he prefaces the quote,
noting, "Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says
(Hebrews 3:7). When God
spoke in Genesis chapter one, the whole material universe
was brought into existence. When God spoke from Mt.
Sinai, the Ten Commandments were set in place as the core
of Israels law. When a new creature comes into
existence but being born again of the living and abiding
word of God, the Almighty exerts more power than He did
from Sinai or at the creation. Just because it cannot be
seen in the physical realm does not mean it is not real,
and just because it resulted from the written word does
not mean it is without the power of God. And the same
written word which creates the new creature in Christ
also sustains him; the word, which is called living
and active, can strengthen the saint and keep him
from stumbling. "You received from us the word of
Gods message," Paul wrote the Thessalonians,
the word of God, which also performs its
work in you who believe" (I Thessalonians 2:13).
- The Spirit of God - One of the
great overall lessons of the scripture is that man by
himself is pretty weak and pretty incapable of
accomplishing the important victories. Man, does not, by
himself, have a good track record of defeating sin and
Satan; God Himself as the Spirit within is the One who
steps into the fray. Paul prayed, "that He would
grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be
strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner
man" (Ephesians 3:16).
All these points and more combine to give the
stumbling sinner the strength and hope to pick himself up one
more time and to lay aside the sin which so easily besets him,
and enable him to now run with patience the race that is set
before him. This is true faith in God. "It is God who
is at work in you," emphasized Paul, "both to will and
to work for His good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13). He is
"able to keep you from stumbling" (Jude 24). So get up, and start
running the victory race!
"Friend, Move Up Higher"
"Let another praise you," were the
words of wise old Solomon, "and not your own mouth; a
stranger, and not your own lips" (Proverbs 27:2). The natural
tendency of man is to aggrandize himself and his family. A mother
would actually switch the places of a daughter and a
daughters friend in a final line at a 5 kilometer run, just
so the daughters name would appear before the friends
name in the printout of 5000 runners in the next days local
paper. A small thing, perhaps, but what is the difference between
that and the continual "self-promotion" that goes on at
the highest levels of government? The wisdom of God warns against
this natural tendency, calling for humility on the part of each
imitator of God.
- Jesus teaching the apostles - When
James and John tried to use their mother to get
themselves special spots in the what they considered to
be the upcoming physical kingdom of Jesus, the other ten
were bent out of shape because they thought the sons of
Zebedee might have gotten a step ahead of them. (These
guys were still fighting over who was going to be first
in the kingdom when Jesus was instituting the Lords
Supper immediately before His betrayal.) The Christ told
them, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord
it over them, and their great men exercise authority over
them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to
become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever
wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as
the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve,
and give His life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:25-28). The
Christian does not "budge" himself to the front
of the line; he is happy to stand back and serve.
- Wisdom from Solomon - Solomon also
cautioned against this type of self-promotion. As a king,
he no doubt had occasion to note those who were always
working to be up in the front, to keep their names right
before the king so that he would notice them. "Do
not claim honor in the presence of the king," was
his advice. "And do not stand in the place of great
men. For it is better that it should be said to you,
Come up here, than that you should be put
lower in the presence of the prince, whom your eyes have
seen" (Proverbs 25:6,7). The
message to the saint is: your works, your attitudes, and
your fruit will recommend themselves to others; you do
not have to blow your own horn.
- Parallel words of Jesus - The
inspired historian Luke sets the stage for us, describing
what was going on at the house of one of the leaders of
the Pharisees. Jesus began "speaking a parable to
the invited guests when He noticed how they had been
picking out the places of honor at the table." It is
always the same, the scramble by little people for some
little advantage or position. "When you are invited
by someone to a wedding feast," the Lord instructed
these scramblers, "do not take the place of
honor, lest someone more distinguished than you may have
been invited by him, and he who invited you both shall
come and say to you, Give place to this man,
and then in disgrace you proceed to occupy the last
place." O, what ignominy for the now red-faced
scrambler, to whom position is so important! "But
when you are invited, go and recline in the last place,
so that when the one who has invited you comes, he may
say to you, Friend, move up higher; then you
will have honor in the sight of all who are at table with
you. For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled,
and he who humbles himself shall be exalted" (Luke 14:7-11).
True exaltation comes to those who have so
humbled themselves that any glory to them would automatically be
deflected toward God, as exemplified by the Lord Jesus Himself.
And thus it will be when many come from east and west and recline
at table with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of
For good reason, Solomon just wont lay
off. As his majestic wisdom sweeps like a beacon over the
vagaries of humanity and the principles of God, periodically the
beam strikes the issue of the tongue and its fruit. The tongue is
the instrument which brings the saving good news to men, but that
which is designed to do the most good can also be the major
implement of destruction. So, Solomon, lay it on us one more
- The backbiting tongue - During the
Vietnam War, a practice developed among some of the
troops known as "fragging the lieutenant." If
the unit did not like the lieutenant, or orders were
given which the soldiers did not want to follow, at the
opportune moment the officer was shot by his own troops.
Imagine what that practice did for armed forces morale!
But the same principle applies within the church of the
living God. "The north wind brings forth rain,"
said Solomon, "and a backbiting tongue, an angry
countenance" (Proverbs 25:23). The
backbiting tongue is equivalent to "fragging the
lieutenant"; it stabs at the leadership from within.
But even if no one listens to the backbiter, look what
happens to the complainer himself. As surely as the rain
rides the storm winds from the north, so the countenance
of the backbiter will be twisted into a grimacing
- The whisperer - The whisperer
spreads destructive untruths or half-truths, usually
about someone in a position of responsibility. "For
lack of wood the fire goes out," was Solomons
illustration, "and where there is no whisperer,
contention quiets down" (Proverbs 26:20).
Contention is a severe problem; it greatly hinders the
forward progress of the gospel in that it ties up the
time of those who want to spread the word, and in some
cases it brings the whole train to a crunching halt.
"Like charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,"
runs the parallel proverb, "so is a contentious man
to kindle fire" (Proverbs 26:21). A
contentious man does not want to solve a problem; a
contentious man wants to use the problem to further his
agenda. The natural tendency of man is to want to believe
in salacious details even if they are not true (Exhibit A
all the magazines staring customers in the face at
the grocery store check out line). The contentious prey
on this fleshly tendency and use it to drive untruths and
nasty rumors into the hearts of those who stick around to
listen. "The words of a whisperer are like dainty
morsels, and they go down into the innermost parts of the
body" (Proverbs 26:22).
- The flattering mouth - The writings
of the New Testament contain warnings about flatterers.
Paul gave the church in Rome a "heads-up" about
those who would come in and cause dissensions contrary to
the teachings of the New Covenant. "By their smooth
and flattering speech," were the words of the
apostle, "they deceive the hearts of the
unsuspecting" (Romans 16:18).
"These are grumblers," added Jude,
"finding fault, following after their own lusts;
they speak arrogantly, flattering people for the sake of
gaining an advantage" (Jude 16). These
workers of iniquity are there for some selfish motive,
and ultimately destroy much of the work of the church.
"A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a
flattering mouth works ruin" (Proverbs 26:28).
Brethren must learn to guard the tongue at all
times. In those private, intimate conversations, in the presence
of children, amongst friends, or in public, the tongue must be
carefully directed so that it does not strike with any of those
contentious, destructive, weaseling tactics. Let the tongue be
edifying, a glory to God and a blessing to man.
Green Gills of Jealousy
There is a proper time to be jealous about
proper things. God, for example, is a jealous God. Paul wrote the
church of Corinth, "For I am jealous for you with a godly
jealousy; for I betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I
might present you as a pure virgin" (II Corinthians 11:2). Jealous
and zealous have the same Greek root, and both convey
a burning intensity. Positive jealousy has an intense desire to
protect the flock from the wolves of false doctrine, and to help
the sheep be spiritual and moral.
But there is a jealousy which is ungodly and
which is evilly destructive. Jealousy may be the driving
motivation for Satans hatred of God and his desire to
destroy all of Gods good work. "Wrath is fierce and
anger is a flood," observed Davids wise son, "but
who can stand before jealousy?" (Proverbs 27:4).
- Personal jealousy - Being jealous
of another person - angry because of his spouse, his
position, his following - is one of the deeds of the
flesh listed by the apostle Paul (Galatians 5:20).
Closely allied with its evil twin envy, jealousy
produces a perspective of another individual in which no
good is seen. The jealous person slaps a filter over his
sense gates, and everything which comes through that
filter casts a mustard-green light on anything the object
of jealousy does. The leaders of the Pharisees,
Sadducees, and Herodians were clearly jealous of Jesus;
His ability to perform miracles, His marvelous teachings,
and His true concern for each of the lost sheep of the
house of Israel rapidly attracted a following which no
other could match. "The scribes and Pharisees were
watching Him closely," recorded Luke of one
gathering in a synagogue where there was a man with a
withered hand. They were checking to see "if He
healed on the Sabbath, in order that they might find
reason to accuse Him." And when He in fact healed
the man, instead of rejoicing with the one who was
healed, "they themselves were filled with
rage," and "counseled together against Him as
to how they might destroy Him" (Luke 6:7-10; Matthew 12:14). Notice
the blind rage, oblivious of reason, which results from
harbored jealousy. The saint needs to learn to praise God
for any positive performance or possession of any son or
daughter of Adam and Eve.
- Expect the jealousy - All
high performance individuals, in any walk of life,
experience jealousy from a percentage of people in their
influence circle. Men who fail, or feel as if they had
failed, often - instead of accepting responsibility for
their failures - turn jealous of others who have
succeeded. The disciple of Christ, as he picks up his
cross and marches forward in the footsteps of Jesus,
becomes a high level performer. And some of those in his
circle of influence will become jealous as they are
confronted thusly by their own lack of performance. Paul
and Barnabas preached in the synagogue in Antioch of
Pisidia: "And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city
assembled to hear the word of God. But when the Jews saw
the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and
began contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were
blaspheming" (Acts 13:44,45). Was
there any good reason for contradicting Paul? No; the
hidden driving force was jealousy.
Jealousy is, like a stream of water out of
control, a powerful destructive force. "Who can stand before
jealousy?" was Solomons probing question. Be on guard
for those who incite jealousy in others, and use them to feed the
fires that would destroy those who proclaim the word of truth.
There are two sides to criticism: giving it and
taking it. The scripture does not speak of criticism per se, but
generally uses words such as rebuke and reprove instead.
"Better is open rebuke," observed Solomon, "than
love that is concealed. Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but
deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Proverbs 27:5,6). Many of the
major blow-ups among the members of the human race (even among
members of the body of Christ) occur in this matter of
giving/receiving criticism. Husband-wife relationships often
break down because of the highly charged emotional atmosphere
connected with giving and receiving rebukes and corrections in
"working things out." As expected, the word of God has
sound advice both for those who need to pass on some constructive
criticism and for those who need to accept it.
- Constructive criticism - The phrase
constructive criticism has come into existence
because of its counterpart identified as destructive
criticism. The person who engages in destructive
criticism is angry and/or hurt, who is often
defensive, and who leaves a tornado-like path of wreckage
in his swath. "These are grumblers," Jude said,
"finding fault" (Jude 16). Constructive
criticism, by contrast, is going to come from someone
who is looking for a way to solve a problem and to
preserve the dignity of each of the others involved. The
words of Paul to the Ephesians still ring as great
instruction: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from
your mouth, but only such a word as is good for
edification according to the need of the moment, that it
may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29). Every
word and every setting for the words of rebuke or
edification need to be thoughtfully considered and
carefully weighed out. Appreciation for the other person
needs to radiate from the one offering words of
constructive criticism, and a sense of "were
in this together" is very helpful. The great example
is that of our Lord who did not come to tear down people,
but to edify them and join in partnership with each
- Accepting criticism - Adam and Eve
hid in the garden, avoiding the expected rebuke from God,
and Cain killed his brother upon being remonstrated by
the Lord. Mankind naturally is defensive when its actions
are about to be scrutinized or criticized. But the
Christian is no longer a natural man. So each follower of
Christ must be objective when analyzing the criticism.
Constructive criticism is easier to handle. Here, at
least, is a sense of building and working toward the
achievement of some goal. Destructive criticism is more
difficult because of the personal attack lying in the
vituperation. To be able to listen to the pointed barbs,
and to sort out what is legitimate and what is not, and
still to maintain a cool and gracious attitude is a great
challenge. "While being reviled," Peter said of
the Christ, "He did not revile in return; while
suffering He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting
Himself to Him who judges righteously" (I Peter 2:23). Peter
himself suffered public reproof from Paul in Antioch of
Syria, Paul exposing the hypocrisy of Peter (Galatians 2:11-21).
Did Peter split the church? Did he trump up some
imaginary fault of Paul, to "fight fire with
fire"? Did he go around afterward bad-mouthing Paul?
No. Indications are clear that Peter humbly accepted the
word of God and altered his action.
The kisses of a Judas are deceitful. By
contrast, well-meaning friend, a brother in Christ, or a spouse
may have something important of a somewhat critical nature to
say, but he may not say it well or handle the situation
perfectly. Remember the scripture: "Faithful are the wounds
of a friend." "Consider how," wrote the author of
Hebrews, "to stimulate one another to love and good
deeds" (Hebrews 10:24).
The curse that came upon Cain was that he would
be a vagabond. "When you cultivate the ground,"
announced God, "it shall no longer yield its strength to
you; you shall be a vagrant and a wanderer on earth" (Genesis 4:12). Cain, former
tiller of the ground, was now rootless, with nothing to hold him
in any one place for any length of time. Pointless wandering is
truly a curse, and how miserable indeed are those who, in a
series of bad decisions, have ended up homeless and purposeless
in the streets and byways of the earth. "Like a bird that
wanders from her nest," states the proverb, "so is a
man who wanders from his home" (Proverbs 27:8).
- Home is where the heart is - The
great God who designed man engineered him to be a
creature with a home. Home is the place of security for
children; home is the happy headquarters for the
scripturally domesticated wife; and home is the
husbands castle, refuge from the wars of the world
and location of relaxed felicity. Even our own poets have
said that the common man does not go to war for the
high-sounding phrases of patriotism or for the furling
flag snapping in the breeze; he goes to war to protect a
house with flowers planted in the front yard and the
wondering eyes of children peeking through its windows.
"It is not good for the man to be alone," was
the analysis of the Creator; "I will make him a
helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). Adam
and Eve were the first family, and established the first
home, and all who bear their image have the same nesting
need. A man who wanders from his home is as disoriented
as a chick separated from its nest; the man who maintains
his attachment to home is more secure and directed.
- Man goes to his long home - This
earth, however, is not mans final home. From the
tombs of the ancient kings to the jokes of modern
conversation, it is clear that man is conscious of an
afterlife, that something about man lives on while the
body moulders. "For man goes to his eternal
home," solemnized Solomon, "while mourners go
about in the street." Man is to remember his God
before the machinery that is his body shuts down, and
"then the dust will return to earth as it was, and
the spirit will return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:5,7).
"I have seen the task which God has given the sons
of men with which to occupy themselves," noted the
Preacher. "He also set eternity in their heart"
- Cut loose from the eternal home - If
the perception of emptiness is great when a man is
distanced from his earthly home, think of the sense of
loss those will experience who are cut off from eternal
dwellings. What a feeling, to plunge on and on and on in
eternal darkness, crying in agony because there will
never again be contact with anyone at "home";
no letters, cards, or phone calls will ever come or ever
be received; and no one will ever send out a tracer to
find a lost loved one. Those who go astray from the will
of God, and those who preach destructive heresies
"are springs without water, and mists driven by a
storm, for whom the black darkness has been
reserved" (II Peter 2:17). Jude
says that these are "wandering stars, for
whom the black darkness has been reserved forever" (Jude 13).
- Do not drift away - When men are
cut loose from their moorings, then they drift and
wander. To prevent Christians from plunging into
darkness, the writer of Hebrews exhorted, "For this
reason we must pay close attention to what we have heard,
lest we drift away" (Hebrews 2:1). The
drifter at first has no consciousness of movement;
everything in the immediate surroundings is moving at the
same speed and in the same direction as he. But before
long a curve is rounded, and the home and moorings are
lost to view. How shall we escape awesome judgment, was
the query to the Hebrews, "if we neglect so great a
salvation?" (Hebrews 2:3).
"My punishment is too great to bear!"
was the pleading of Cain when he was pronounced a wanderer on
earth. Too late! He had committed the crime without considering
the consequences. May each of us secure his salvation before it
is too late, or we become wandering stars in the black darkness
Common Sense Relationships
There are challenges in all person-to-person
relationships. Husbands and wives, for example, have had their
difficulties to work through ever since mankind was created. When
the Pharisees asked the Lord if it was lawful for a man to
divorce his wife "for any cause at all," the Lord
responded with a short commentary on Genesis chapter 2. Noting
that God created mankind male and female from the beginning, and
that the two were to become one flesh, He added,
"Consequently, they are no longer two, but one flesh. What
therefore God has joined together, let no man separate" (Matthew 19:6). In other words,
it was never Gods intention that man and wife shold
divorce, although He made a provison for such in the Law because
of the hardness of their hearts. The obvious difficulties in
marriage relationships were on the apostles minds as they
contemplated this essentially "no divorce" clause in
upcoming Christianity: "If the relationship of the man with
his wife is like this," they said, "it is better not to
marry" (Matthew 19:10). There are
challenges in husband-wife relationships, and by extension, to
all person-to-person interaction.
So, how are the challenges to be handled? A lot
of wisdom is tucked away in the words of this proverb: "Do
not forsake your friend or your fathers friend; and do not
go to your brothers house in the day of calamity; better is
a neighbor who is near than a brother far away" (Proverbs 27:10).
- Use em and lose em - For
many life is a stage on which they continually play in
the limelight, and other people are simply viewed as
props, backdrops for their own performance, plastic
mannequins to be trotted out for use and then shelved
until needed again. The classic example is the
"modern" career-type woman who has a child or
children to make her own life more complete. She uses the
children when she wants them for one of her own personal
experiences, then shoves them off on a nanny who has the
real relationship with the kids. Or the man who
establishes relationships with people only to use them
for extending his business contacts. Such users of other
people dump them in the memory holes when they calculate
that they are done using them. Scripture warns: "Do
not forsake your friend or your fathers
friend." Each individual is precious, made in the
image of God, and when people are "dumped" or
"forsaken" just because they are no longer
useful, then scripture is violated and relationships are
- Running from problems - The human
race as a whole has never had a good track record of
facing its responsibilities, most of which are
relational. One of the techniques used in ducking
responsibility is anger, and using that anger to
intimidate others into avoiding making the angered one
accountable. Of course, the situation is always the other
persons fault; "You make me mad," are the
underlying words. Another technique for shifting
responsibility is to just walk out on the conversation
wherein issues are being settled. "I dont have
to listen to this," are the key words here. In
either case, the situation is not resolved and the
barrier exists between neighbors. Now when the day of
"calamity" comes, the neighbor who caused the
rift cannot go for help to the folks close by; he can
only go to his brother who is far off.
- Mending fences - "If possible,
so far as it depends on you," was the inspired
injunction of Paul, "live at peace with all
men" (Romans 12:18). Other
people are sometimes in such moods as it is not possible
to make reconciliation with them. But the Christian is to
live in such a way that he can be at peace with the
neighbor who is near.
The natural tendency of man is to have his
emotions blot out common sense in building and maintaining
relationships with other people. Hurt feelings and pettiness must
be set aside, and mature conversation needs to take place to
secure friendships. In a day of calamity the neighbor who is near
can be of help; the brother who is far off cannot often even be
Truth has no fear of questions. Fools
gold fears the fire, sputtering and smelling sulfurous in the
crucible, but pure gold knows it will pass through the
refiners fire with its purity intact. So when the iron
sharpeners come to town, iron is ready and willing to be
sharpened. "Iron sharpens iron," was the wisdom of
Solomon, "so one man sharpens another" (Proverbs 27:17).
- Sharpening doctrine - There
was a ruckus in the early church when the Gentiles
started becoming Christians in measurable numbers. When
the teaching of the apostle Paul was not sufficient to
settle the issue of Gentile acceptance without
circumcision and observance of Jewish customs,
representatives of the church in Antioch were sent to
Jerusalem "to the apostles and elders concerning
this issue" (Acts 15:2). So how did
the apostles and elders handle this? First, open
discussion of the issue was allowed: "And after
there had been much debate
" was what the
scripture records. Then the issue was settled by
Gods standard modus operandi: the eyewitness
account (given by Peter on the falling of the Spirit upon
Cornelius), the verifying miracles (account given by Paul
and Barnabas of signs accompanying the Gentiles
becoming Christians without circumcision, et. al.),
and Old Testament prophecy (given by James). These men
were allowed by God to sort out a major doctrine by
debate and discussion. Iron was used to sharpen iron.
That not all agreed or understood is evident from the
history recorded in the rest of Acts and in the doctrinal
discussions in the epistles. But that is the method God
has chosen, and brethren today need to be of a mind to
calmly carry out such discussions in the Spirit of Christ
to get to Gods truth in important matters.
- Sharpening procedures - What
to believe is one thing; how to execute is another. The
elders in the church in Jerusalem, for example, knew they
had a problem when the apostle Paul showed up in town.
The brethren from the ranks of the circumcision had been
given some false information regarding this apostle to
the Gentiles, saying "that you [Paul] are teaching
all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses,
telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk
according to custom" (Acts 21:21). So the
leadership had to come to some kind of consesus,
agreeable to Paul, as to what positive procedure was to
be implemented. Iron sharpened procedural iron, and Paul
entered the temple to take purification vows with four
other brethren as a demonstration that he walked
"orderly, keeping the law" (Acts 21:24).
- Sharpening enthusiasm - The word of
God contains numerous illustrations about overcoming
discouragement, which the scripture often calls
"losing heart." Here again, the sharpening
influence of the brethren for developing enthusiasm
cannot be overemphasized."But encourage one another
day after day," is the record of the Writ, "as
long as it is still called Today, lest any
one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin"
"Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without
wavering," is another recommendation, "for He
who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to
stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not
forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of
some, but encouraging one another, and all the
more, as you see the day drawing near" (Hebrews 10:23-25).
When iron sharpens iron, there is a piercing
noise that really grates on peoples nerves. But without the
grating of iron against iron, there is no sharpening. Let the
grating, then, be accepted, that the brethren may be sharpened in
sound doctrine, that they may be tempered for correct and
specific procedures, and that they may be honed to a high pitch
Gods Use of Wealth
God is opposed to mens charging their
fellow countrymen interest. "He who increases his wealth by
interest and usury," were the words of Solomon the wise,
"gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor" (Proverbs 28:8). This
re-emphasized the instructions given to Israel in the Pentateuch,
as exemplified in this quotation from Deuteronomy: "You
shall not charge interest to your countrymen: interest on money,
food, or anything that may be loaned at interest. You may charge
interest to a foreigner, but to your countryman you shall not
charge interest, so that the Lord your God may bless you in all
you undertake in the land which you are about to possess" (Deuteronomy 23:19,20).
Because of these scriptures, Roman Catholicism
forbade the collecting of interest between Catholics. The Jews
(not, most likely, descended from those who lived in ancient
Israel) who resided in Western Europe were under no such
compunction, and, in lending to the Catholics, developed their
big banking houses, such as the Bank of Rothschild. Eventually
controlling the economies of Europe, they then set their sights
on the New World, especially in the developing United States of
America. Before the British Colonies in America even became free
from England, these same financial interests had worked to set up
the equivalent of a national bank for the colonies. After the
United States became an independent republic, the 1st U.S. Bank
and then the 2nd U.S. Bank were national banks controlled by
these same international banking houses of Western Europe. Andrew
Jackson, in his campaign for the Presidency in 1828, ran on a
platform of abolishing the national bank, and, after being
elected, actually kept his campaign pledge to the people. So the
United States was without a national bank from 1829 to 1913, and
the nation went from a third-world backwater to the worlds
most robust and advanced economy.
But with the sad mis-education coming with the
development of the "public" school systems following
the Civil War, the American people accepted a national bank in
the form of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, also controlled
by those same Western European banking interests. The Federal
Reserve System has a monopoly on paper and electronic currency
and is able to expand or contract the economy at will. With this
monopoly on currency, the Fed is the only institution that can
create inflation, and it is an absolute lie for their officers
and their lackeys in the national media to pretend that they are
going to slow down inflation by interest rate increases. In the
meantime, they have persuaded Americans to go into debt somewhere
above their gills, are collecting interest and compound interest,
and slowly reducing the citizenry to the level of slavery. God,
knowing the ability of these types of shysters to eventually
extract their pound of flesh, forbade the collecting of interest
in Israel, eliminated all debt every seven years, and called for
the return of landed property to the original families every
Christians need to recognize that these banking
interests are virulent, though subtle, enemies of the gospel.
"Is it not the rich who oppress you," James reminded
his readers, "and personally drag you into court? Do they
not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?"
(James 2:6,7). Of those rich
this bond-servant of the Lord notes, "You have condemned and
put to death the righteous man" (James 5:6). It is instructive
that God does not necessarily protect the Christian from being
dragged into court or even put to death by these forces of evil.
The Christian must remain faithful, especially in these
Just as the wealth of Egypt was taken by Israel
and used to build the tabernacle of the Lord in the wilderness,
so the Almighty will plunder the banking houses at the most
strategic time, in His own way and for His own purposes. "He
who increases his wealth by interest and usury gathers it for him
who is gracious to the poor."
Blotting out Transgressions
The great God is quite interested in restoring
fellowship with fallen man. "God was in Christ reconciling
the world to Himself," were some poignant words from the
former Saul the persecutor, "not counting their trespasses
against them" (II Corinthians 5:19). It is a
munificent One indeed who will forgive the transgressions of His
enemies, and, furthermore, pay the price for their iniquities
But is this great forgiveness indiscriminately
distributed, ladled out upon the entire race without regard to
their individual responses to the mercies tendered by His
Majesty? Both the Old and New Covenant writings are conclusive
that man must be an active participant in the remission process.
"He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,"
was the statement from the wisdom of Proverbs, "but he who
confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. How blessed is
the man who fears always, but he who hardens his heart will fall
into calamity" (Proverbs 28:13,14).
- Concealing transgressions - From
the sneaking maid who cleans motel rooms to the very
office of the Presidency of the United States, mankind
does not want to get caught in its indiscretions. Often
the motive for concealment comes from the desire of the
individual to do what he wants to do and yet not suffer
the consequences. Occasionally, however, one of the race
recognizes his guilty conscience and is willing to
acknowledge this to the Almighty and All-knowing.
"If we say that we have not sinned," was the
admonition of John the aged, "we make Him a liar,
and His word is not in us" (I John 1:10).
- Confessing and forsaking - When men
are in the process of becoming Christians, they are
required to recognize that "all have sinned and fall
short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23), and the
confession they make focuses their attention past their
sins and on to the Lordship of Jesus. Following their
immersions to wash away their sins, then confession of
sin is a requirement for continued forgiveness. "If
we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to
forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness" (I John 1:9). "He
who confesses and forsakes [his sins] will find
compassion," were the words of Solomon, and with
this the apostles agree. "God raised up His
Servant," stated Peter, "and sent Him to bless
you by turning every one of you from your wicked
ways" (Acts 3:26). The new
covenant is the "perfect law," allowing
Christians to pick off his bad habits one by one, but the
"forsaking" must be under way.
- Fear the Lord always - A healthy
fear of the Lord is a positive requirement for all action
for those who live godly in Christ Jesus. "Therefore
knowing the fear of the Lord," commented Paul,
"we persuade men" (II Corinthians 5:11).
Those who want to emphasize only the "positive and
palatable" aspects of the word have really lost
their fear of the Lord, and thus start down the slippery
slope of pleasing men rather than God. Biblical fear of
God will bring a person into compliance with whatever He
requires for remission of sins, and with whatever He
requires to be preached and taught.
- A hardened heart - Some will
continue to be spoiled brats, even in the face of the
clear word of God. "God must forgive me on my
terms," is their thought. Whether this supposed
forgiveness is rooted in some denominational sprinkling
rite or an unscriptural "accepting Jesus into your
heart," the individual has hardened himself against
The great God is willing to blot out the
transgressions of the humble in heart. If they will truly repent
and submit to Him in immersion for the forgiveness of their sins
and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit, He will forgive to the
uttermost. If they will continue to confess and forsake their
sins, He will grant the greatest of clemency. But if they
continue to try to play games, He will execute His wrath and then
they will experience the greatest of all calamity.
Present Evil Age
The leaders of Western Civilization have
deliberately turned their backs on God. Western Civilization has
gone through the Bible with a fine-toothed comb; from the soaring
music of Handels Messiah to the Biblical truths
underlying the formation of the American republic to the
conversation of the common man, larded with expressions derived
from both the Old and New Testament writings, it is clear that
the shout of the King was heard among them. As the applied
principles of scripture produced wealth in accordance with the
blessings of God, the monetary powers-that-be in their arrogance
set to work to finance the destruction of Western Civilization
and Christianity, calling their coming age the novus ordo
seclorum or the new world order. When the gates of
Satans abyss were thus voluntarily opened, legions of evil
spirits ascended like bats out of a cave at evening, and the
hellish events of the 1900s transpired. You see, the
century just past was the bloodiest in the history of the world
since Noahs day; those put to death in Hitlers
holocaust (the numbers of which are often exaggerated) were but a
trifle compared to the hundred million plus exterminated by the
likes of Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, the Khmer Rouge, and Fidel
Castro. And, as mankind perches on the cliff of the twenty-first
century, there is a black, frowning, foreboding that much worse
is to come.
But there is the great God who is still able to
rescue the Noah, the Daniel, and the Moses among men, and cause
the bodies of modern Herods to be eaten with worms while the
crowds are directed by Nashville-style cue cards to shout,
"The voice of a god, and not a man."
- Driven by guilt - Those who get to
the top stay at the top in todays political climate
get there by god-father style executions of their
opposition and those who have important information
(check out the Clinton body count, for example). While
those men (or women) try to ignore the existence of God,
they cannot totally suppress the nagging pricks of the
guilty conscience which the Almighty placed within them.
"A man who is laden with the guilt of human
blood," is the position of Proverbs, "will be a
fugitive until death; let no one support him" (Proverbs 28:17).
Hitler became increasingly crazed, and Stalin, it is
said, died in abject terror as his soul went to meet his
- The fate of oppressors - Unhappy is
the land which has rejected the foundations of truth,
morality, and freedom. "Like a roaring lion and a
rushing bear," is Solomons analogy, "is a
wicked ruler over a poor people" (Proverbs 28:15). When
a government has achieved the power to become pervasive,
then the crooks come in and take over the government.
These guys are short-sighted and interested only in
personal gain, and thus subjugate the people to get what
they the rulers want. The long arm of Gods justice
eventually catches them, but in the meantime, the people
are still oppressed. "A leader who is a great
suppressor lacks understanding, but he who hates unjust
gain will prolong his days" (Proverbs 28:16).
- The rescue of the righteous - The
Lord knows how to rescue the righteous and to deliver the
godly. But He works slowly, developing faith and
persistence in His followers, in many cases not
exonerating them until the age to come. The disciple of
Christ needs to be faithful until death, firm until the
end, not following trendy rushes to destruction.
"How blessed is the man who fears always, but
he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity" (Proverbs 28:14).
"He who walks blamelessly will be delivered, but he
who is crooked will fall all at once" (Proverbs 28:18).
When the signs of the times shake the nations,
then the son of God will want to crank his faith up several
notches. In the face of increasing pressure to conform to the
world, he must resolutely determine to serve God regardless of
cost. "He who turns away from listening to the law, even his
prayer is an abomination. He who leads the upright astray in an
evil way will himself fall into his own pit, but the blameless
will inherit good" (Proverbs 28:9,10). Now is the time to
steel the will and strengthen determination; when the crisis
comes, it is too late.
There is a natural tendency in man to get
excited about the flamboyant. Moderns are often not so different
from the ancient Athenians, wanting to hear or tell something
new. It reminds me of a presentation I once saw by a man who was
extremely skilled in blowing bubbles. He had developed a soap
film which was very strong, which would hold its shape and would
not pop. The magnificent high point of his demonstration was his
blowing twelve bubbles of precisely the same size and positioning
them perfectly so that within was a regular dodecahedron, made to
stand out by the cigarette smoke which he blew into the internal
bubble with a straw. Flamboyant? Perhaps. Worthless? Absolutely!
Working on the old farm can be pretty routine.
Audiences dont gather in awe at the planting of the crop,
and crowds dont roar in repeated standing ovations at the
bringing in of the last load of the harvest. The proverb contains
a great and pervasive lesson: "He who tills his land will
have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have
plenty of poverty" (Proverbs 28:19). Doing the
solid basics is productive; following the flamboyant is trivial
- Basic doctrine - Most preaching and
teaching most of the time needs to concentrate on basic,
sound doctrine. Once in awhile it is good to explore the
nuances of Revelation 17 and 18, or discuss the
ramifications of Zechariah 3 in relation to the church,
but the tilling of spiritual ground is going to come in
the basics concerning Christ, the church, salvation, and
the work of the Holy Spirit. Among young men there is
sometimes a tendency to want to preach on something new,
different, or out of the ordinary. While I would not want
to be one to quell burbling enthusiasm, I would just
remind each of them that the harvest of souls is going to
come from routine tilling the ground rather than empty by
unusual spiritual trivial pursuit.
- Basic assembling - The assemblage
of the saints is designed and demanded by God for the
benefit of the brethren and the construction and spread
of the kingdom. Since the regular assembly for the
breaking of the loaf has been in effect for nearly 2000
years, there is nothing particularly "new or
exciting" to be done to improve the Lords
design. The mega-church movements attempt to
produce a weekly professional entertainment special
without "dead air" does nothing to enhance true
spirituality; indeed, it actually hinders spiritual
progress in truth-seeking individuals. God wants brethren
to continue to till the ground with the regular assembly,
breaking bread and thus proclaiming the Lords death
until He comes.
- Basic evangelism - The Lord has
never rescinded or modified His instructions for
evangelism, stated very clearly at the close of
Matthews gospel account. Any substitute for
training, equipping, and motivating the saints so that
each of them can make disciples is, in the long run, a
trivial exercise and will result in spiritual poverty,
the church being desolate of any true disciples of
Christ. Regular tilling the ground with individual Bible
studies will reap a harvest for the Lord; the playing of
a harmonica on a busy street to try to attract others to
Christ is fruitless action.
- Basic lifestyle - Christianity is
referred to as "the way" and "this
life" in the scriptures. Brethren are exhorted to
pray that they "may lead a tranquil and quiet life
in all godliness and dignity" (I Timothy 2:2). A
solid, steady lifestyle is much more effective and
efficient than the flamboyant which seems to attract so
God really honors the routine, consistent,
practical efforts of spiritual men. Discard the tendencies toward
attention-getting, and instead get down to steady business.
The young lady who follows her heart instead of
her head is generally in for a long and miserable life. The tall
and handsome stranger who captures her emotions can be a
dangerous man who makes his way through the world preying on
females who can be played like a bass fiddle. These are
"those who enter into households and captivate weak women
weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses" (II Timothy 3:6). The men are
dangerous; the women follow their emotional impulses rather than
carefully thinking the situation through.
But the charlatans are not limited to men who
captivate weak women for use in the physical realm. There are
those who play on the emotions of others in the realm of
religion, jerking their heart strings so that they will reject
sensible truth and follow the sweet siren song to hell. "He
who trusts in his heart is a fool," was Solomons
observation, "but he who walks wisely will be
delivered" (Proverbs 28:26). The great
God, as is fitting for Him who communicates His truths to man in
written form, appealed for men to use their heads! "Come
now, and let us reason together," was His call, "though
your sins are as scarlet, they will be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).
- The problem with the heart - The
heart of man is often directed by vain hope and
unreasonable fear. Anyone who has ever listened to the
"Dr. Laura" radio program for even a few phone
calls cannot but notice the almost unbroken regularity of
callers whose emotions are directing them into that which
can never be and blinding them to the reality that is.
The words of Jeremiah are worth repeating and
remembering: "The heart of man is more deceitful
than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand
it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
- Emotions and sound doctrine - Sound
doctrine has to be endured and its truths run counter to
the desires of man in general (II Timothy 4:3). The
individual who seeks for truth has to command his
emotions to stand at attention off to the side and apply
his reason to ascertain the facts of scriptural doctrine.
The modern "Alexander coppersmiths" skillfully
manipulate the emotions of their hearers, directing them
away from the truth of the gospel and persuading them to
accept false teaching. A classic example is the so-called
"death-bed confession"; the emotional jerkers
prey on the highly charged emotions of people who have
lost loved ones in order to get them to reject the idea
that each person must be scripturally immersed to have
their sins forgiven.
- Wisely walking - The descendants of
Adam who follow their emotions rather than truth are
wicked persons. They are willing to come under the spell
of a deluding influence. They "believe what is
false, in order that they may all be judged who did not
believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness"
(II Timothy 2:12). By
contrast, "he who practices the truth comes to the
light" (John 3:21). "If
we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light,"
stated the aged John, "we have fellowship with one
another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from
all sin" (I John 1:7). The one
who thus walks wisely will be delivered.
Emotion misapplied is the technique most used
by Satan to block the publics mind in understanding the
gospel. That is why the Lords bond-servants, in working
with people on a personal basis, "must not be quarrelsome,
but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with
gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God
may grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the
truth" (II Timothy 2:24,25).
The Danger of Stiff Necks
Some people are S-T-U-B-B-O-R-N. When it comes
to doing the will of God and following the teaching of scripture,
they can become as balky as a recalcitrant donkey or immovable as
an ox. But hear the wisdom of Solomon: "A man who hardens
his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken without
remedy" (Proverbs 29:1). Bow to the
will of God voluntarily now, or be broken and bow to the will of
- The need for reproof - Learning to
do Gods will instead of our own is a process. "If
by the Spirit," said Paul, "you are putting to
death the deeds of the body, you will live" (Romans 8:13). Being
saved is the way brethren are described in the
scripture (Acts 2:47). Because
doing Gods will is a learning process, the brethren
need a lot of reproof along the way. "Preach the
word, " was Pauls instruction to Timothy.
"Be ready in season and out of season; reprove,
rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction"
(II Timothy 4:2).
Translation: each of us is the one who needs a lot
of reproof along the way. "All scripture is inspired
by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for
correction, for training in righteousness; that the man
of God may be adequate, equipped for every good
work" (II Timothy 3:16,17).
- The hardening process - The writer
of Hebrews is trying to prepare the Judean brethren of
65-66 AD for the oncoming Roman armies which would
destroy Judaism and totally disrupt the lives of
Christians caught in the foray. Those brethren would need
to be spiritually prepared to face this massive
disruption. "But encourage one another day after
day," he wrote, "as long as it is still called
Today, lest any one of you be hardened by the
deceitfulness of sin" (Hebrews 3:13). What
hardens a person is the continuing willingness to
participate in sin. Understanding Gods plan of
salvation and mechanism for overcoming sin is not a
matter of intellect so much as it is a matter of
morality. As the individual continues to harden his neck
against the word of God, the habit is more entrenched and
the fleshly mind-set is more determined.
- Breaking the neck - In spite of
mans protestations, there is a God who governs all
aspects of the universe, even letting Satan do his thing
so that men have a choice of whom they will serve. The
All-knowing has therefore set in motion all sorts of
disciplining situations whose purpose is to work in
conjunction with the word of God so that the disciplined
makes straight paths for his feet. The discipline comes
through preaching, through teachers of the word, through
sowing and reaping, and through the vicissitudes of daily
living. The great God even determines the appointed times
and boundaries for each of the nations that men may seek
Him. But if the man continually hardens himself in spite
of the discipline, God eventually breaks him. When the
twelve spies returned from Canaan in the days of Moses,
ten of the twelve brought back a bad report. "As for
the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land and who
returned and made all the congregation grumble against
him by bringing out a bad report concerning the land,
even those men who brought out the very bad report of the
land died by a plague before the Lord" (Numbers 14:36,37).
- Without remedy - There is a point
where the opportunity for repentance passes (Hebrews 6:4-6); and
where there is no opportunity for repentance, there is no
remedy for the sin-hardened castaway who must now face
Jesus the Judge.
The warning from scripture is clear: be open to
the reproofs which God sends through scripture and circumstance.
The man whose neck is hardened will surely perish; the man whose
heart is open to the preachments of God will live.
Troubler in Israel
Ahab and Jezebel put to death the prophets of
Jehovah in Israel. When, by the word of the Lord, Elijah went to
confront Ahab, Ahabs words to Elijah were, "Is this
you, you troubler of Israel?" (I Kings 18:17). Elijahs
response is obvious to us who can stand 2800 years away and have
all history in which to look back on the days of this
conversation. But to someone standing there at that time, all he
could have seen was the controversy between the prophet and the
king. Elijah replied, "I have not troubled Israel, but you
and your fathers house have, because you have forsaken the
commandments of the Lord
" (I Kings 18:18). Who really was
the problem here?
"When a wise man has a controversy with a
foolish man," says the proverb, "the foolish man either
rages or laughs, and there is no rest" (Proverbs 29:9). The reason the
conflict is not resolved because the foolish man really refused
to deal with the issues; his rage or his laughter is his means of
ducking out without directly appearing to do so. Elijah and Ahab?
Ahab raged while Elijah continued to press home the issues of
righteousness and the worship of the only true God. Which one of
those was wise would be clear from the way in which each handled
- Continuing controversy - So long as
earth exists, there will be controversy. The real
troubler of Israel is the outcast angel of darkness, and
he will not quit until he has been cast into the eternal
fire. So the wise brother recognizes this and factors it
into his expectations when he considers the progress of
the gospel. Where will the controversy come from? It will
come from every direction - up-front and from the blind
side, from the outside and from the inside. Our Lord, who
was the most controversial figure ever to tread this sod,
continually tried to warn His apostles about the
controversy concerning Him and how it would end:
"The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of
men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed,
He will rise three days later" (Mark 9:31). However,
"they did not understand this statement, and they
were afraid to ask Him" (Mark 9:32).
- Conduct of the foolish man - When
it comes to "show time," the foolish man is all
show and no substance. He therefore uses anger to drive
his opposition from the stage and cast a brooding pall
over all further discussion. Or he may use the tactic of
roistering laughter, tryng to diffuse and confuse the
issues with an apparently humorous but irrelevant series
of comments. In either case the foolish man has avoided
the issue, there is no resolution, and the conflict must
- How the wise handles himself - "The
wisdom from above is first pure," said the
half-brother of the Lord (James 3:17). The truly
wise has, as his pure motive, only the salvation of the
other individual and the bringing of truth to light.
Without purity of motive, there is no wisdom from above.
The wise man presses on to the resolution of the
conflict, being reasonable and reasoning clearly. He is a
peaceable man, willing to forgive and dealing gently with
his opposition, but unwavering in his stance. And he must
be entirely without hypocrisy. Such a man is a formidable
foe to the foolish opposition, for the ad hominem attacks
of raging or laughing will fall upon the deaf ears of
those who know the character of the wise.
"Scorners set a city aflame, but wise men
turn away anger" (Proverbs 29:8). Those who are
driven by personal ambition really dont care what they tear
down; the wise men are edifiers.
The family is the training ground of the future
elder. The patience and intelligent guidance required to help
young people through their early years and on into savvy and
spiritual adulthood is the same as that required of Biblical
elders in helping Christians under their charge grow into
maturity in Christ. When children are very small, parents can
dictate; when children are older, parents can direct; but, at
some point, all parents can do is to stand back, give advice when
asked, and trust that their good example stands as the type of
life-style their children would want to choose. An elder has a
proven track record of knowing "how to manage his own
household," and will therefore know how to take care of the
church of God (I Timothy 3:5). The elders,
pastors of the sheep, have learned in this process not to lord it
over those allotted to their charge, but to prove "to be
examples of the flock" (I Peter 5:3).
But the process of raising children up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord is best started early on.
Mom and dad have to work as a unified and communicating unit, and
pray for lots of wisdom as well as studying the scriptures and
seeking advice from those who know how to get it done. The book
of Proverbs therefore continues to speak about that wisdom:
"The rod and reproof give correction," is one
statement, "but a child who gets his own way brings shame to
his mother" (Proverbs 29:15). Following on
those heels is this jewel: "Correct your son, and he will
give you comfort; he will also delight your soul" (Proverbs 29:17).
- The child who gets his own way - "Foolishness
is bound up in the heart of a child" (Proverbs 22:15). The
natural tendency of anything in the physical realm is to
resist movement or change of direction. A body at rest
tends to stay at rest, and it takes the application of
force to change the direction of a body in motion.
Because of these natural laws, horses have to be
"broke," dogs have to be disciplined, and
children have to be trained. The difference between
children and the animals is that childrens training
encompasses moral and intellectual training, with the
idea that as adults, they will have the capacity to
direct their own bodies. A child who gets his own way is
like an unbroken horse or undisciplined dog in some
senses. But because people have an infinitely greater
capacity for good, they also have an infinitely greater
capacity for evil when they stray from the disciplined
principles of Gods goodness and justice. Children
who are used to getting their own way have a great
challenge as adults when they now have the maturity to
truly desire to be obedient to God.
- Correct your son - The scripture
uses words like "rod" and "reproof."
Stupid use of the rod produces anger and frustration in
children; they have a pretty good sense of when
punishment matches the crime. The primary
"force" parents apply in providing direction is
the force of reproof; always building the proper images
in children, always inculcating the direction they should
go, sometimes showing the children that they are pointed
in the wrong direction, and using the rod as a last
resort when the child is clearly defiant or rebellious.
Again, the main thrust of scripture is to "train up
a child in the way he should go" (Proverbs 22:6). The
emphasis is by far on the positive as contrasted with the
- Delight your soul - The scripture
is consistent; a mother, whose heart is bound up with her
child always, will feel intense shame when the fruit of
letting a child have his own way is evidenced in his
adult life. By contrast, the adult who lives an upright
life in Christ is a joy and comfort to his parents,
especially if they have the proper Biblical focus.
Ultimately, the Father sets forth the
principles of what He calls the "new creation" to bring
His spiritual children into conformity with the image of His Son.
Those same principles apply to parents who are raising children
in their images; and false religious principles as a basis for
rearing families are guaranteed to be destructive. Learn from God
and from godly examples. And be a delight to the Fathers
When someone is blinded in an accident, his
life changes. No longer able to see for himself, he must depend
upon other people for many things; he must be driven by someone
else, and someone else must provide his surroundings so that he
can function with some degree of self-sufficiency. But what would
happen is everyone were struck blind at the same time? There is
an old saying something to the effect that a one-eyed man is king
in the colony of the blind.
The scripture uses blindness in the physical
realm to bring an understanding of blindness in the spiritual
realm. The Gentiles of this world, according to the apostle Paul,
"walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in
their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because
of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of
their heart" (Ephesians 4:17,18). Thus it is
written, that "the god of this world has blinded the minds
of the unbelieving" (II Corinthians 4:3,4). Men
need enlightenment from God, or their whole civilization
perishes. "Where there is no vision," was the proverb
of Solomon in reference to the prophets receiving
revelation from God to guide the children of Israel, "the
people are unrestrained, but happy is he who keeps the law"
- Blessed are those whose God is the Lord
- The first century church, by the plan and hand of
God, left behind a historical legacy and the set of
written documents known as the New Testament. The
suffering which those saints underwent is a matter of
historical record, and their lives and preaching swept
the man-made idols of the Greeks and Romans into the
trash heap of the past. But with the ascendancy of
Catholicism and the non-distribution of scripture,
tradition and superstition obscured the word of God, and
the West was plunged into the Dark Ages. "Where
there is no vision, the people are unrestrained."
Through the invention of movable type and the printing
press about 1450 AD, the word of God began to spread
throughout Europe. In a lecture given in Cincinnati in
1836, Alexander Campbell is summarized by Robert
Richardson as connecting "the rapid march of
improvement with the spirit of inquiry produced by the
Protestant Reformation" (Memoirs of Alexander
Campbell, p. 422). The enlightenment which comes with
the Bible restrains the unbridled passions of the people,
and provides a moral base for the development of a
self-governing, orderly society. But the continued
trashing of the Bible by the intellectual elitists and
the left-leaning media is producing loss of vision in
western culture, and with the restraints of Biblical
morality disappearing, its
- Keeping the faith - As western
culture becomes increasingly corrosive, Christians have a
tremendous obligation to be morally pure, and to keep the
moral filth out of their homes. The fare on television
and in the movie houses will continue to be increasingly
raunchy and will increasingly promote the immoral and
homosexual agendas. Sports will become more and more
violent, and the crowds will get rowdier and rowdier. The
public is being entertained into debauchery and slavery.
Each Christian, then, must make those decisions to flee
from immorality and not to be led into temptation. The
saint must learn to focus his attention on the King in
His beauty and learn how to please Him in all respects.
The modern church is built on the foundation of
those nameless (to us) brethren in the first century who lived
morally pure lives and who died rather than to yield to the
culture of their day. Their combined legacy is the basis for
modern faith in Jesus, as a mountain is no more than a mass of
individual stones. The Christian keeps the revelation of God
alive, and "happy is he who keeps the law."
Do Not Alter Gods Words
"Every word of God is tested," were
the words of Agur the oracle. "He is a shield to those who
take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words lest He reprove you,
and you be proved a liar" (Proverbs 30:5,6). The Almighty
stands like a sentry, guarding His word, preserving it through
the centuries. Those who have raged against it and beat on its
monolithic consistency have withered, and in the end will be
judged by its unadulterated contents. The mockers with their
mocking pass like a flitting shadow through history, a flicker in
the sunlight of eons; by contrast, as Jesus said, "Heaven
and earth shall pass away, but My words shall not pass away"
(Matthew 24:35). The smart
guys, like Moses, choose "rather to endure ill-treatment
with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures
of sin; considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than
the treasures of Egypt" (Hebrews 11:25,26).
- Every word is tested - The great
God is a great communicator, but He does it in such a way
as to develop faith in the communicatee. The Bible,
penned by the hand of man, with none of the original
copies extant, is often discounted by snooty
intellectuals who cant see the forest of Gods
revelation for their own figmentary trees. Old Testament
prophecies of history overwhelmingly establish that God
wrote the Old Testament; Old Testament prophecies of the
Messiah, including His resurrection to a heavenly throne,
clearly establish that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are
authored by God; and Old Testament prophecies of the
church establish that Acts through Revelation are the
word of God. Those who try to hide from the force of the
raising of Jesus from the dead by quibbling over the
dimensions of the laver before Solomons temple are
in for quite a surprise on the day of judgment. Every
word of God, coming ultimately from Jesus Himself, has
stood the test. "The word I spoke," He said,
"is what will judge [each person] at the last
day" (John 12:48).
- Do not alter His words - "You
shall not add to the word which I am commanding
you," were words to Israel from Moses, "nor
take away from it
" (Deuteronomy 4:2). The
hackers are definitely out there, chopping away at the
parts of the Bible which dont appeal to them. At
the same time masters of confusion are busily stitching
their "revelations" on to the word of God and
trying to sell the public on the legitimacy of their
false teachings. The truth-seeker will sort his way
through the hackers and stitchers, and be content with
the sixty-six books of the Bible. Those who subtract as
well as those who are proven liars.
- A shield for believers - "By
faith we understand," noted the writer of Hebrews,
"that the worlds were prepared by the word of God
" (Hebrews 11:3). The
physical creation was brought into existence by the word
of God, and it is upheld "by the word of His
power" (Hebrews 1:3). In the
spiritual realm "He brought us forth by the word of
" (James 1:18), and we
are sustained first by the "milk" then by the
"meat" of the word. There is no such thing as
trusting God apart from belief in and obedience to
Gods word, a word that is living, active, and
powerful. Through His word God is a shield to those who
take refuge in Him.
Preach and teach, then, the whole counsel of
God. Do not shrink from declaring anything that is profitable,
and do not hide from declaring the whole purpose of God. Do not
throw in an admixture of human contrivance, and tell the whole
truth about salvation, that men may take refuge in God.
Agur the son of Jakeh was wise enough for his
words to be included by the Holy Spirit in the book of Proverbs.
"Two things I asked of You," he recorded of his
requests to God. "Do not refuse me," he added,
"before I die" (Proverbs 30:7). Those two
things are worthy of each Christians consideration as he
contemplates his own eternity.
- Deception and lies The first
request is a simple statement: "Keep deception and
lies far from me" (Proverbs 30:8). Often
some of the best targets for salesmen are other salesmen;
they work so hard to be positive that sometimes they are
positively good buyers because they sympathize with the
other salesman. Similarly, liars can be lied to, and
deceivers can be deceived. "But evil men and
imposters," was one of Pauls warnings to
Timothy, "will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving
and being deceived" (II Timothy 3:13). The
deceivers are deceived by Satan, and the liars are lied
to by the father of lies. So the prayer for being kept
away from deception and lies is two-fold; the individual
himself is asking to be protected from falling into those
character weaknesses, and he is petitioning to be
barricaded from their influences.
- Riches "Give me neither
poverty nor riches," was Agurs second request.
Having too much is a problem. "Truly I say to you,
it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of
heaven," said our Lord Jesus Christ. "And again
I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the
eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom
of God" (Matthew 19:23,24).
When a member of the human race has an abundance, his
natural tendency is to forget his dependence upon God,
and become, as James put it, a "rich man in the
midst of his pursuits" (James 1:11).
"Feed me with the food that is my portion,"
Agur requested, "lest I be full and deny You and
say, Who is the Lord? " (Proverbs 30:8,9). Not
only do individuals fall into the prosperity trap, but
nations as a whole tend to take the plunge. The Lord
speaks of Judahs ungratefulness when He had
"fed them to the full": "Why should I
pardon you?" says the great Judge through His
servant Jeremiah. "Your sons have forsaken Me and
sworn by those who are not gods. When I had fed them
to the full, they committed adultery and trooped to
the harlots house. They were well-fed lusty
horses, each one neighing after his neighbors
wife" (Jeremiah 5:7,8). The
American Christian should take serious warning; is there
a possibility that material abundance is dulling his
- Poverty Poverty has its
problems also. When a man has sunk to subsistence level
or less, he is so concerned about mere survival that his
natural tendency is to forget about God and not take any
time for spiritual pursuits. Agur requested not to be
placed into poverty, "lest I be in want and steal,
and profane the name of my God" (Proverbs 30:9). Trust
in God is learned, and many in poverty weaken, and have
already stolen before they have come to have sufficient
faith in God. The modern Christian also needs to recall
that all the social welfare programs are
"legitimatized stealing" wherein the government
takes the money from someones wallet and gives it
to the cooperating gang member, the welfare recipient.
Whole countries have sunk into poverty because of
socialism; God help many of those people to become
Mans material welfare has an impact on
his overall spirituality. The Christian would do well to ponder
Agurs words about not having too much nor too little.
"I have learned," recorded the apostle Paul, "to
be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get
along with humble means, and I also know how to live in
prosperity" (Philippians 4:11,12).
Is A Kind of Man
The Bible not only teaches man about God, but
it also teaches man about men. "There is a kind of
man," says scripture, "who curses his father, and who
does not bless his mother. There is a kind who is pure in his own
eyes, yet not washed from his filthiness. There is a kind - oh
how lofty are his eyes! And his eyelids are raised in arrogance.
There is a kind of man who teeth are like
swords, and his jaw teeth like knives, to devour the afflicted
from the earth and the needy from among men" (Proverbs 30:11-14). These are
kinds of men which exhibit different forms of rebellion against
the kind, just, and loving God. A Christian needs to examine
himself first of all, to make sure he has expunged such
tendencies from his own thinking. Secondly, these men are
dangerous to the body of Christ when they come in, and each
follower of Christ needs to recognize them when they darken the
doors of the saints fellowship. Believers, and especially
church leadership, must figure out how to be proactive in
bringing these men to repentance, or to protect the body of
Christ from them.
- Ungrateful souls - The first
commandment with a promise requires the sons of men to
honor their parents. The kind of man who curses his
father and does not bless his mother is an ungrateful
wretch. This mind-set produces bitterness and
destruction, backbiting and complaining, wherever it
- Dishonest rationalizers - The kind
who is "pure in his own eyes" has set himself
up as the standard. This is the root of all legalism (a
strict adherence to the New Testament is not legalism).
The Pharisees were examples of this kind of man; they
had, in the words of Jesus, "seated themselves in
the chair of Moses" (Matthew 23:2). By
setting themselves up as the standard, they tied up heavy
loads and laid them on mens shoulders, doing all
their deeds to be noticed by men. As whitewashed
sepulchres, they looked good on the outside, but inwardly
they were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness (Matthew 23:28). Their
spiritual descendants, the Judaizers who came into the
churches of Galatia, were of the same caliber; they
wanted "to make a good showing in the flesh" by
carrying out and imposing certain outward conformities,
but they were in fact unwashed within and dead in their
sins (Galatians 6:12).
- The lofty lordships - Those who
raise their eyelids in arrogance are actually small men
who, lacking character themselves, take refuge in their
names, inherited socio-economic status, or in diplomas in
order to put other people down. These are destructive
within the church, and can usually be found vying for
positions of influence and authority without following
the scriptural principles of sacrifice and humility.
- The ruthless swordfish - There are
certain men driven by overweening ambition. Intelligent,
dangerous, ruthless, and cunning, they have no compassion
for others at all, willing to use the poor and
down-trodden as cannon fodder for their revolutions and
quest for power. "You know that the rulers of the
Gentiles lord it over them," explained Jesus,
"and their great men exercise authority over
them" (Matthew 20:25). No
wonder the propounder of the proverb described this kind
of man as having teeth like swords and knives. These
enemies of Christ of are most likely to be found outside
the church, working Satans plan to destroy
Christianity by suppression, using their control of
government to grind the human face with the jackboot of
These types of unregenerate man, whether found
inside the dragnet of the church or not, have a fleshly mind-set
and are therefore hostile to God, regardless of their
protestations to the contrary. The saint of God must learn to be
wise, recognizing that not all men are what they claim to be.
"By their fruit you shall know them," was some very
wise counsel. Those who walk by the Spirit do not come to be
served but to serve, and to give their lives as a ransom for
Treaties are like pie crusts, said Lenin, made
to be broken. In other words, a Communist has no intention of
ceasing his revolutionary and incendiary activities; he agrees to
a peace treaty to put his opposition to sleep while he proceeds
apace with his agenda. Never satisfied. That is why negotiations
with the Palestine Liberation Organization in Israel will come to
naught, why peace accords with the Irish Republican Army will be
broken, and why the stationing of "peace keepers" in
the midst of territory claimed by the Kosovo Liberation Army will
accomplish nothing. They can never be satisfied, only temporarily
Agur the oracle, retrospecting on his
experience with men, produced a list of those, similar to Lenin,
who cannot be satisfied. The child of God will take note, and
conduct himself with wisdom, learning the lessons and knowing how
to handle these situations as they arise.
- Dealing with the leech - "The
leech has two daughters," were words driven by the
sage. Their names? "Give," and
"Give," (Proverbs 30:15). Some
people have learned to be very productive, but some have
learned the art of playing on peoples sympathies,
working the publics emotions like a maestro
churning away on a violin. When the bands preventing the
Republic from stealing from the productive citizen to
give to the leeches were snapped, the whines of those who
now think they have "welfare rights" have been
orchestrated, and the second, third, and fourth
generations of welfare families will never be satisfied.
"Work or starve" is the scriptural solution for
the leech and his daughters.
- Sheols maw - "There are
three things that will not be satisfied," states
Agur, as he gets into his rhythm, "four that will
not say, Enough: Sheol, and the barren womb,
earth that is never satisfied with water, and fire that
never says, Enough " (Proverbs 30:15,16).
Sheol, the Old Testament word for the realm beyond the
grave, has opened wide her mouth. In the United States of
America alone, the Armed Forces can no longer participate
in military burials for WWII vets for a very simple
reason: 1000 vets per day are passing from this
life into Sheols maw. And she is never satisfied.
- The barren womb - It
is frustrating when a married woman want to be a mother
and cannot conceive. "Give me children, or else I
die," were Rachels words to Jacob (Genesis 30:1). There
is an intense longing there that the sage is using to
make his point.
- Dry earth - Some of the ground I
used to help irrigate when I was a teenager was gravel,
with lots of rocks. When the dam was placed in the ditch
and 75 "miners inches" of water flowed
out onto the pasture, the flood would sweep into the
field and sink. Earth that was never satisfied with
- Spreading fire - When a fire is
burning in dry timber or grassland, it cries for,
"More, more!" One stand of trees will break out
in raging fire, sparks will fly into a new section,
smolder for awhile, then erupt into a new blaze. The fire
never says, "Enough."
The fleshly-minded man is never contented for
very long. Like the leechs daughters and the big four which
cannot be satisfied, yesterdays dosage of sensuality was
not enough. Todays portion of heroin has to be a bit more
than yesterdays to produce the same high. Yesterdays
party has to be supplanted by something new and unusual in
todays to crank up the same level of excitement;
yesterdays envelope has to be pushed a bit further to
produce the same "rush." Ah, but Jesus through His
Spirit can be enough, if the man will on turn to Him on His
terms. "Why do you spend money for what is not bread?"
asks the Lord through His prophet. "And your wages for what
does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2).
The sagacious Agur was an observant man, with a
bit of dry humor glistening in his eye as he put forth his droll
proverbs. "There are three things too wonderful for
me," he said, speaking in his cadence, "four things
which I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the
way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the middle of
the sea, and the way of a man with a maid" (Proverbs 30:18,19). All of
these have to do with movement. It is an inspiring sight, to
stand on a mountain peak and the see the great bald eagle soaring
in the breeze, searching in sweeping circles for his prey. There
is a hypnotic effect in the sinusoidal movement of a snake
working his way across a rock, and a sense of wonder and longing
is generated by a ship as she tacks her way to the edge of the
horizon. But the humor of Agur comes in the observance of a young
man trying to make his moves on the young lady of his proffered
affections. Like an eagle soaring - elevation! Like a serpent
over a rock - caution! Like a ship tacking her way over the sea -
But it isnt only the men who make their
moves toward the maidens; there can be sinister stuff from the
female side as well. "This is the way of an adulterous
woman: she eats and wipes her mouth, and says, I have done
nothing wrong. " (Proverbs 30:20). Boredom,
emptiness, love hunger, or misguided desire to build self-esteem
all contribute to the way of an adulteress as she makes her
inroads on her target. The real message for the Christian here is
to be aware of the spiritual adulteress working, appealing
to fleshly desires and pulling the targets away from devotion to
God, and turning the bride of Christ into a sensual harlot.
"You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the
world is hostility toward God" (James 4:4).
"Four things are small on the earth,"
is one of the parallel pictures of Agur, "but they are
exceedingly wise: the ants are not a strong folk, but they
prepare their food in the summer; the badgers are not a mighty
folk, yet they make their houses in the rocks; the locusts have
no king, yet all of them go out in ranks; the lizard you may
grasp with the hand, yet it is in kings palaces" (Proverbs 30:24-28). Wise folk,
eh? Exceedingly wise folk! Ants prepare their food during
the summer when they can. Do those much superior humans make
their preparations ahead of time? And those engineering badgers
know how to build houses in the rocks of cliffs and mountains. Do
those homo sapiens know how to build a happy home out of
some rocky situations? Locusts go out in ranks voluntarily; can
those of the race of men take their places and march together to
get might projects done? The panting lizards, no matter how
lizard-proof the building, get in somehow. Do those descendants
of Adam know the principle that where there is a will, there is a
The ones who really need to be wise and
wonderful in their movements are the sons of God. The ants
prepare; the saints have their feet shod with the preparation of
the gospel of peace. The badgers build houses in the rocks;
Christians build their "houses" on the Rock. Locusts go
out in ranks; the disciples of Jesus do in fact have a King, and
function in harmony within the body of Christ. Lizards are found
in kings palaces; the brethren are like leaven, leavening
the whole earth. As far as wonderful is concerned: the way of a
teacher of the word of God as he works to establish a disciple of
Christ exceeds the flight of an eagle on the wing. And there is a
way of life, which is more wonderful than the movement of
a ship at sea. But the most wonderful of all is the way of the
Lord Jesus with His bride, greatly overshadowing the way of a man
with a maid
Even when they grow up, members of the human
race dont get very far from the playroom. In the playroom a
pecking order has to be established among the children, and there
is a lot of squabbling until that issue is sorted out. Then there
is the kid who makes a lot of racket when everyone is supposed to
be quiet and take his nap. Of course there is the continual
scramble over toys, there are the temper tantrums, and there is
the shunting aside of some children as outcasts. The adult
playroom is a little larger and encompasses a few more people;
but it is essentially the same small world.
Agur the oracle, looking at the pettiness of
the bubblespheres of his day, noted: "Under three things the
earth quakes, and under four it cannot bear up: under a slave
when he becomes king, and a fool when he is satisfied with food,
under an unloved woman when she gets a husband, and a maidservant
when she supplants her mistress" (Proverbs 30:21-23).
- A slave becoming a king - The idea
here is that the individual in servitude smolders with
resentment at the treatment endured. Plotting, planning,
progressing with his revolution, he finally becomes king.
Driven by revenge, he is going to show all the other kids
in the playroom what it is like to be a slave, and he
becomes a despotic tyrant under which the earth quakes.
- A fool satisfied with food - Picture
a castle of medireview Europe. The lord of the castle
comes in, sits down, and bangs on the table for FOOD.
Snorting, guzzling, and snuffing his way down the trough,
he finally has enough. Then he begins to bellow at the
underlings in the playroom to go get this, to bring him
that, and to provide him with some entertainment. Night
after night the table monster breaks out, under which it
is hard to bear up.
- The unloved getting a husband - With
women, more so than with men in general, things are so
personal, particularly in "romantic
matters," or matters of the heart. When a woman is
"unloved," or has gone through a couple of
failed relationships ("hell hath no fury like a
woman scorned" is the old quotation), she can get
mighty green around the gills when her associates are
being married off one by one. But look out when she
finally gets a husband. She parades him around the
playroom; and, of course, there is nothing else in the
world to talk about; and the earth quakes having to bear
- The serving girl supplants her mistress
- In the playroom there is jockeying for the hunk of
a husband or the bodacious bride. Once the bodacious
bride has passed her prime, men of "power and
influence" have a tendency to dump the old girl in
exchange for some fresh, flowering wench. If the wench is
the handy maidservant, and thus has her ambition
realized, she has now become the squealing superior in
the female section of the playroom. And since these
things tend to be so personal, the earth quakes
under the burden.
Agur the oracle is not going to let the
spectacle of the playroom pass without one other illustration of
petty pomposity. "There are three things which are stately
in their march," he notes, "even four when they walk:
the lion which is mighty among beasts and does not retreat before
any, the strutting cock, the male goat also, and a king when his
army is with him" (Proverbs 30:29-31).
Christians must recognize that they are now
citizens of the heavenly realm. There is no need for them to
engage in petty playroom games, and if they should sink so low as
to participate, recognize it and change their behavior so that
their comport is befitting mature sons of the great King.
for the Helpless
"For the wrath of God," says Paul,
"is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and
unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in
unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). God, after all,
is a God of justice, and is rightly incensed when justice is
suppressed by the unrighteous of the earth. "Woe to you,
scribes and Pharisees!" was the excoriation of our Lord
Jesus. "For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have
neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and
mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have
done without neglecting the others" (Matthew 23:23). God always
regarded the seeing the execution of justice as a high priority,
much more so than making sure that one out each ten tiny seeds
was set aside as a tithe for the storehouse.
Such a principle was foremost in Pauls
mind when the commander of the Roman cohort, Claudius Lysias, had
the apostle brought before the Sanhedrin in an attempt to find
out why the Jews were so violently upset at his gospel preaching.
"Brethren," Paul stated, "I have lived my life
with a perfectly good conscience before God up to this day."
The high priest, Ananias, a younger pup than the original Ananias
of the days of Jesus crucifixion and early persecution of
the church, commanded those standing near to strike him on the
mouth. The apostle, knowledgeable of the justice required in the
Law, responded, "God is going to strike you, you whitewashed
wall! And do you sit to try me according to the Law, and in
violation of the Law order me to be struck?" (Acts 21:1-3).
"Open your mouth for the dumb," said
King Lemuel of Proverbs fame, "for the rights of all
the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend
the rights of the needy" (Proverbs 31:8,9). Wherever the
Bible goes - including wherever it is taken by Gods people
- it teaches how to establish governments, setting forth, as
first of all, the principles of righteousness and justice.
- The rights of the unfortunate - Do
people really have a right to medical care from the
largesse of government? Old age pensions? Free education,
etc.? Justice requires the government only to do in the
collective what the individual may do for himself. If I,
for example, cannot steal $1000 from my neighbor to pay
for my mothers operation, then the government
likewise cannot steal from my neighbor to pay for my
mothers operation. A "just" government is
defined as one which executes justice in meeting out
"just" punishment for clearly defined crimes
such as theft, murder, perjury, etc. Government only acts
after a crime is committed; otherwise, by being so-called
pro-active, it moves progressively into the realm of
tyranny. The basic rights of the individual - the
collection of Biblical teaching on this subject - boil
down to what is well-expressed in the Fifth Amendment to
the U.S. Constitution: life, liberty, and property.
- Open your mouth - The evil and
rapacious of this world have always grabbed for power at
the expense of justice for the poor and needy. "Can
I justify wicked scales," cried the Lord through the
prophet Micah to a sinking Jerusalem, "and a bag of
deceptive weights? For the rich men of the city are full
of violence, her residents speak lies, and their tongue
is deceitful in their mouth" (Micah 6:11,12). So
what do Gods spokesmen do? They speak out! Yes, in
the past it cost them their lives, but God still wanted
them to speak out for justice. The call today: open your
God brought Christians into existence as new
creatures with a sort of noblesse oblige on behalf of the
down-trodden of the earth. Saints of God are not afraid to die
physically; therefore they bring Gods standards of justice
and righteousness to the attention of the world; they open their
Heart Trusts Her
Marriage must be built on trust. Destruction of
trust is what destroys marriages. Hence it is that any couple who
really desire a happy and successful marriage must place their
highest priority on the development of trusting in each other;
each must work hard to demonstrate that he/she is trustworthy and
"An excellent wife," queries the
king, "who can find?" Where would a man look to find an
excellent wife? At a saloon, perhaps, where the faithful and
responsible characteristics of the bar crowd are well known? At a
beach party, maybe, where his future bride has laid the
foundation for trust by her modest apparel before all those other
men? Over at the gambling casino, possibly, where her
trustworthiness in finances can be firmly assured? A man has to
remember that for poison to sell, it must be attractively
The worth of an excellent wife, says the author
of this section of Proverbs, "is far above jewels. The heart
of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.
She does him good and not evil all the days of her life" (Proverbs 31:10-12). Who is
she, and what does she do that makes her husbands heart
- She knows what she is worth - One
of the major reasons women get into trouble with a man is
that they sell themselves too cheaply. A woman who
consents sexually outside of marriage or who co-habitates
with a man outside the bounds of wedlock is a woman who
assigns herself the value of used furniture. Since she
does not perceive herself as having high value, she
allows herself to be knocked around and not handled
carefully, and she is more likely to be discarded in the
trash when a newer model comes along. The excellent
woman, however, knows that she is a high value item, and
whoever wins her favor is going to have to demonstrate
his willingness to pay a high price, just as Christ was
willing to sacrifice Himself for the sake of His bride.
She is not about to grant sexual favors cheaply; she is
an honorable woman with high spiritual standards and
would be highly offended at some jerk for even making the
wrong suggestion. She therefore dresses modestly at all
times, being quite content that a sensible, spiritual man
will be rightly attracted to her for her gentle and quiet
spirit, being able to detect the precious value of the
hidden person of her heart.
- She does no evil to her husband - This
woman knows that anything evil is instantly destructive
to the elevation of trust. One of the first things she
does is to guard her tongue from evil, knowing that sharp
barbs wound the soul; she does not say embarrassing
things about her husband in public or in private. She
does not engage in malicious gossip, nor does she go on
spending sprees. She does not try to manage her husband,
nor does she try to set aside the God-ordained role of
being a helper and a homemaker.
- She does him good all the days of her
life - She stands with her husband in alll that is
right and godly. She works beside him when necessary, and
for him when necessary. She encourages him through the
hard times, always expressing her confidence in him. She
communicates to him in her wide and creative variety of
ways that he is and always has been the one for her. She
coordinates her plans with his, and jointly works to stay
within the financial plan. She is a great mother to her
children, operating under her husbands general
oversight of all family things. She is a great team
player, and puts the kingdom of God first as befits a
Such a woman! The heart of her husband would
joyfully trust her, and as a result the two really could become
one flesh as God intended. This is joy and bliss worth whatever
discipline is necessary to achieve it.
Some women "eat the bread of
idleness." The apostle Paul warned of this tendency in young
widows, encouraging them to marry and get busy. "And at the
same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from
house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and
busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention" (I Timothy 5:13). Not the Proverbs 31 woman! Shes up before
dawn, getting stuff done.
- Feeding the family - In
modern America, it is possible to get everybody fed
without expending a great deal of effort. There are
microwaves and electric ovens; there are gas stoves,
electric stoves, and instant grills. Food comes fresh,
frozen, or convenience-packed. And if all that is not
easy enough, there are plenty of fast-food restaurants.
But in other countries and in other times, this feeding
the family is not or has not been so easy. So the
Proverbs 31 woman isnt going to be able to buy her
fruits and veggies at the nearby supermarket. She
"considers a field and buys it; from her earnings
she plants a vineyard." In the household of the
Proverbs 31 woman, the woman not only has to take charge
of feeding her own family, but all the household servants
have to be provided for as well. "She is like
merchant ships; she brings her food from afar. She rises
while it is still night, and gives food to her household,
and portions to her maidens."
- Clothing the crew - Modern
clothing by comparison is also cheap. Big mills run out
cloth by the hundreds of yards, and manufacturers produce
all grades of variegated wear. But in the days of the
Proverbs 31 woman, all clothing was essentially
home-spun. Not only did this lady have to do all the work
to make sure her household was fed, but she had to
produce clothing from wool and linen from flax. "She
looks for wool and flax, and works with her hands in
delight." "She stretches out her hands to the
distaff, and her hands grasp the spindle." This gal
is on top of things, prepared ahead of time. "She is
not afraid of the snow for her household," observes
the writer, "for all her household are clothed with
scarlet." And the lady has put enough aside to have
some finery when she needs it. "She makes coverings
for herself; her clothing is fine linen and purple."
- Enterprise for the entity
- The system of economics commended by the Bible is
known as the free enterprise system. Profit is
regarded as the wages of the person who engages in
business, the result of hard work, good service, and good
business judgment. The lady buys fields, and from her
profits she plants vineyards. "She makes linen
garments and sells them, and supplies belts to the
tradesmen." "She senses that her gain is good;
her lamp does not go out at night." When the free
enterprise system is allowed to operate, then there are
resources for sharing with those who could use some
assistance. Our heroine of Proverbs 31 has these extra
resources due to her industry, integrity, and the
blessing of the Lord. So she "extends her hand to
the poor; and she stretches out her hands to the
- Vigor for vicissitudes - This
hard-working woman is on the go from sun-up to sun-down.
Overseeing her family operation, she is not afraid to get
her hands dirty. "She works with her hands,"
and she "stretches out her hands to the
distaff." No need for her to go the gym every day to
stay in shape. "She girds herself with strength, and
makes her arms strong." But her external puissance
is merely a reflection of what is within; it is her inner
character and trust in the Lord which help her to carry
on through the trials of life. "Strength and dignity
are her clothing, and she smiles at the future."
Again, we say, "Such a
woman!" She deserves respect and emulation from her sisters.
"Give her the product of her hands, and let works praise her
in the gates" (Proverbs 31:31).
The book of Proverbs begins with teaching on
wisdom and the blessings that come from being wise. The book
likewise ends with the example of the wise and blessed Proverbs
31 woman. "She opens her mouth in wisdom," states the
good King Lemuel, "and the teaching of kindness is on her
tongue" (Proverbs 31:26). As one
"who looks well to the ways of her household," she
passes her wisdom on to her children and to other members of the
household. This, of course, is the greatest wisdom of all - to
pass the wisdom on to succeeding generations. Thus God, to
communicate His wisdom even to the Gentiles, sent the Christ,
"who became to us wisdom from God" (I Corinthians 1:30).
Wherefore, "we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling
block, and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the
called, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of
God" (I Corinthians 1:23,24). The
modern Proverbs 31 woman accordingly will help all within her
influence to know this Christ, in whom are hidden all the wisdom
and treasures of the great God.
- Wisdom in knowing God as Creator - "The
Lord by wisdom founded the earth," was the
asseveration of Solomon. "By understanding He
established the heavens. By His knowledge the deeps were
broken up, and the skies drip with dew" (Proverbs 4:19,20).
"The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His
way," said Wisdom, "before His woks of old.
From everlasting I was established, from the beginning,
from the earliest times of the earth. When there were no
depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs
abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled,
before the hills, I was brought forth; while He had not
yet made the earth and fields, nor the first dust of the
world. When He established the heavens, I was there; when
He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep; when He
made firm the skies above; when the springs of the deep
became fixed; when He set for the sea its boundary, so
that the water should not transgress His command; when He
marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was
beside Him, as a master workman; and I was daily His
delight, rejoicing always before Him, rejoicing in His
world, His earth, and having my delight in the sons of
men" (Proverbs 8:23-31).
Knowing that God is Creator of all, and that all are
accountable to Him is the beginning of wisdom, and the
Proverbs 31 woman passes that knowledge on by precept and
- Wisdom in knowing God as Savior - "He
who finds me finds life," says Wisdom, "and
obtains favor from the Lord" (Proverbs 8:35). This
favor is earnestly to be desired, for without it a man
will certainly perish for all eternity. "A truthful
witness saves lives," is another of wisdoms
nuggets. So it is not unexpected that Jesus Christ is
"the faithful witness, the first-born of the dead,
and ruler of the kings of earth." It is He "who
loves us; and released us from our sins by His
blood" (Revelation 1:5). His
gospel produces the obedience of faith among the
Gentiles, and the wise woman knows that all must repent
and be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the
forgiveness of their sins in order to receive the
indwelling Spirit, and to thus know God as Savior.
- Wisdom in following Gods morality
- The wise woman shows filial fidelity, loving her
husband, and being a repository of love for him. She is
the "fountain" by which he is
"blessed"; she is the wife of his youth with
whom he rejoices. She is aware of the ways of the wicked
woman, and conscious of the dangers of handsome
strangers. She knows it is better for both she and her
husband to be exhilarated always in each others
love; and this wisdom, too, she passes on to her
"Her children rise up and bless her; her
husband also, and he praises her, saying, Many daughters
have done nobly, but you excel them all. " (Proverbs 31:28,29). Excel
still more, ladies, excel still more!
Proverbs 31 Woman & The Church
When God first found Israel, she was squirming
in her blood. God rescued Jerusalem, helped her to grow up,
clothed her nakedness, and prepared her as a bride for Himself.
But she was unfaithful and played the harlot with her
neighbors gods, so the Almighty divorced her. Because the
promise in Israel was by physical inheritance rather than by the
faith of the individual, devotion to God was lacking; Jerusalem
of earth was sent into slavery with her children.
When God first found the church, she was
already dead, her sins and her trespasses having carried her into
darkness. But God had a plan for His Son to marry the deadened
orphan girl. Jesus Himself had to die to bring her to life; He
had to put away His life in exchange for hers, to take her
sinfulness upon Himself and give her His righteousness in its
place. And she is faithful, for only those who are
righteous through faith are a part of her. "For this
reason," says Paul of the justification which comes to true
saints, "it is by faith, that it might be in accordance with
grace, in order that the promise may be certain to all the
descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to
those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us
all" (Romans 4:16). As a faithful
bride for the Son, her devotion to her Lord is evident in the
foreshadows of the Proverbs 31 woman.
- Food for the family - The family of
God needs spiritual food. Brethren therefore are exhorted
to "long for the pure milk of the word" (I Peter 2:2). But who
shall supply? Like the woman of Proverbs 31 who
"brings her food from afar," so the teachers
and preachers of the church bring the message of
salvation of the Lord to the lost throughout the world.
"How shall they hear without a preacher?" is
the plaintive query from Paul. "And how shall they
preach unless they are sent?" So the church sends
out her preachers and teachers into the world of the
lost, calling them from darkness into the Kings
marvelous light. They then follow up that message with
solid meat of the word to sustain the saved. The church
has her shepherds to feed the flock, as Paul exhorted the
elders in Ephesus to follow his example in bringing to
the brethren "the whole purpose of God."
"I did not shrink," he said, "from
declaring to you anything that was unprofitable" (Acts 20:27,20).
- Clothing the crew - The church does
not hold the distaff nor do her hands cleave to the
spindle, but she is concerned about providing proper
clothing nonetheless. Her adherents are first
"clothed with Christ" in the waters of
immersion. She continues to help her offspring to be
clothed with "the armor of light" and to put on
"the whole armor of God." Thus adorned,
"she smiles at the future."
- Enterprise for the entity - Like
the Proverbs 31 woman, her members are noted for their
good work ethic. The do not work just so that the job
looks good, "by way of eyeservice"; they do
their work for the glory of the Lord. Her businessmen
give good service at competitive prices, being entrusted
with a stewardship from the King Himself. Her offspring
do "not eat the bread of idleness"; they rather
look well to the ways of the household, doing "good
to all men, and especially to those who are of the
household of faith" (Galatians 6:10).
- Vigor for vicissitudes - The
Proverbs 31 lady was a strong, vibrant woman, capable of
handling stress and difficulty. But the bride of Christ
must be several magnitudes stronger, for her character is
forged in her suffering. The apostle points out that
Christians are "heirs of God and fellow heirs with
Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that
we may also be glorified with Him" (Romans 8:17). Because
of what she endures, she "is strengthened with power
through the Spirit" (Ephesians 3:16), and
meets her trials in the strength of her Lord.
The Proverbs 31 lady stands as a foreshadow of
the greatest lady of all, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many daughters have done nobly, but she indeed excels them all,
and will thus be greatly honored at the marriage supper of the