31 Days Through Proverbs

Day 12, April 12 – Proverbs 12

12 Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but he who hates reproof is stupid.
A good man obtains favor from the Lord,
    but a man of evil devices he condemns.
No one is established by wickedness,
    but the root of the righteous will never be moved.
An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
    but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones.
The thoughts of the righteous are just;
    the counsels of the wicked are deceitful.
The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
    but the mouth of the upright delivers them.
The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
    but the house of the righteous will stand.
A man is commended according to his good sense,
    but one of twisted mind is despised.
Better to be lowly and have a servant
    than to play the great man and lack bread.
10 Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
    but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.
11 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense.
12 Whoever is wicked covets the spoil of evildoers,
    but the root of the righteous bears fruit.
13 An evil man is ensnared by the transgression of his lips,[a]
    but the righteous escapes from trouble.
14 From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good,
    and the work of a man’s hand comes back to him.
15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
    but a wise man listens to advice.
16 The vexation of a fool is known at once,
    but the prudent ignores an insult.
17 Whoever speaks[b] the truth gives honest evidence,
    but a false witness utters deceit.
18 There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts,
    but the tongue of the wise brings healing.
19 Truthful lips endure forever,
    but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
20 Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil,
    but those who plan peace have joy.
21 No ill befalls the righteous,
    but the wicked are filled with trouble.
22 Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.
23 A prudent man conceals knowledge,
    but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
24 The hand of the diligent will rule,
    while the slothful will be put to forced labor.
25 Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
    but a good word makes him glad.
26 One who is righteous is a guide to his neighbor,[c]
    but the way of the wicked leads them astray.
27 Whoever is slothful will not roast his game,
    but the diligent man will get precious wealth.[d]
28 In the path of righteousness is life,
    and in its pathway there is no death.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 12:13 Or In the transgression of the lips, there is an evil snare
  2. Proverbs 12:17 Hebrew breathes out
  3. Proverbs 12:26 Or The righteous chooses his friends carefully
  4. Proverbs 12:27 Or but diligence is precious wealth

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

Chapter 12 is another chapter of general proverbs. There are several themes touched on in this chapter—from working hard, to avoiding evil, to how to treat others—but the topic that gets the most emphasis is how we are to use our words for good and not for harm.

In the New Testament, the book of James (sometimes called “the Proverbs of the New Testament”) also has very specific instructions for us about how we should use our words to glorify God and build up others.

By my count, there are seven verses that specifically deal with our words and how they build up or harm others (6, 13, 14, 17, 18, 19, and 22). If you count the effects of listening to the words of others, you can add three more verse (15, 16, and 25).

Words are very powerful. Whoever came up with the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was either self–deceived, a verbal abuser himself / herself, or both. The saying is utter nonsense.

How are you using your words with your spouse, with your children or parents, with your co–workers, and about your boss or employees? We have an opportunity each day to use our words to build up others, to encourage and comfort others, to point people toward the love and grace of Jesus, and to bring glory to God.

How will you use your words today?

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Day 11, April 1 – Proverbs 11

11 A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
    but a just weight is his delight.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with the humble is wisdom.
The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
    but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
    but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
    but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
When the wicked dies, his hope will perish,
    and the expectation of wealth[a] perishes too.
The righteous is delivered from trouble,
    and the wicked walks into it instead.
With his mouth the godless man would destroy his neighbor,
    but by knowledge the righteous are delivered.
10 When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
    and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness.
11 By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted,
    but by the mouth of the wicked it is overthrown.
12 Whoever belittles his neighbor lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding remains silent.
13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets,
    but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered.
14 Where there is no guidance, a people falls,
    but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
15 Whoever puts up security for a stranger will surely suffer harm,
    but he who hates striking hands in pledge is secure.
16 A gracious woman gets honor,
    and violent men get riches.
17 A man who is kind benefits himself,
    but a cruel man hurts himself.
18 The wicked earns deceptive wages,
    but one who sows righteousness gets a sure reward.
19 Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live,
    but he who pursues evil will die.
20 Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those of blameless ways are his delight.
21 Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished,
    but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered.
22 Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout
    is a beautiful woman without discretion.
23 The desire of the righteous ends only in good,
    the expectation of the wicked in wrath.
24 One gives freely, yet grows all the richer;
    another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want.
25 Whoever brings blessing will be enriched,
    and one who waters will himself be watered.
26 The people curse him who holds back grain,
    but a blessing is on the head of him who sells it.
27 Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor,[b]
    but evil comes to him who searches for it.
28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall,
    but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf.
29 Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind,
    and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart.
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
    and whoever captures souls is wise.
31 If the righteous is repaid on earth,
    how much more the wicked and the sinner!

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 11:7 Or of his strength, or of iniquity
  2. Proverbs 11:27 Or acceptance

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

I like to call Proverbs 11 a chapter of contrasts. Many of these proverbs follow a consistent pattern where two different ways of living or two different attitudes of the heart are contrasted. In these examples of contrast, wisdom and godly living are shown to be completely superior to worldly desires and habits—often in ways that seem counter–intuitive at first glance.

The beauty of these proverbs is that even though they go against conventional thinking, as soon as we read them, we nod in agreement with them. Even as Christians, we need to be reminded that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and that the path of righteousness that he places before us is the only path that can actually satisfy us.

Take a minute to pray that God would encourage you with a proverb or two from this chapter, the truth of which you need to be reminded of today. Then read back through the chapter and make a note of the proverb(s) that God lays on your heart.

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Day 10, March 31 – Proverbs 10

The Proverbs of Solomon

10 The proverbs of Solomon.

A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
Treasures gained by wickedness do not profit,
    but righteousness delivers from death.
The Lord does not let the righteous go hungry,
    but he thwarts the craving of the wicked.
A slack hand causes poverty,
    but the hand of the diligent makes rich.
He who gathers in summer is a prudent son,
    but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame.
Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.[a]
The memory of the righteous is a blessing,
    but the name of the wicked will rot.
The wise of heart will receive commandments,
    but a babbling fool will come to ruin.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely,
    but he who makes his ways crooked will be found out.
10 Whoever winks the eye causes trouble,
    and a babbling fool will come to ruin.
11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.
12 Hatred stirs up strife,
    but love covers all offenses.
13 On the lips of him who has understanding, wisdom is found,
    but a rod is for the back of him who lacks sense.
14 The wise lay up knowledge,
    but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
15 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city;
    the poverty of the poor is their ruin.
16 The wage of the righteous leads to life,
    the gain of the wicked to sin.
17 Whoever heeds instruction is on the path to life,
    but he who rejects reproof leads others astray.
18 The one who conceals hatred has lying lips,
    and whoever utters slander is a fool.
19 When words are many, transgression is not lacking,
    but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.
20 The tongue of the righteous is choice silver;
    the heart of the wicked is of little worth.
21 The lips of the righteous feed many,
    but fools die for lack of sense.
22 The blessing of the Lord makes rich,
    and he adds no sorrow with it.[b]
23 Doing wrong is like a joke to a fool,
    but wisdom is pleasure to a man of understanding.
24 What the wicked dreads will come upon him,
    but the desire of the righteous will be granted.
25 When the tempest passes, the wicked is no more,
    but the righteous is established forever.
26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
    so is the sluggard to those who send him.
27 The fear of the Lord prolongs life,
    but the years of the wicked will be short.
28 The hope of the righteous brings joy,
    but the expectation of the wicked will perish.
29 The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the blameless,
    but destruction to evildoers.
30 The righteous will never be removed,
    but the wicked will not dwell in the land.
31 The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom,
    but the perverse tongue will be cut off.
32 The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable,
    but the mouth of the wicked, what is perverse.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 10:6 Or but violence covers the mouth of the wicked; also verse 11
  2. Proverbs 10:22 Or and toil adds nothing to it

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

Proverbs 10 is not neatly arranged like Proverbs 9 is, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any structure. It kind of reminds me of what I’ve always called a “clip–show.” Some of you will know what I’m talking about. I don’t think this really happens today, but in the 1980s and 1990s, it was common for television shows to occasionally air an episode that was made up mostly or entirely of clips from previous episodes.

People usually had one of two reactions to these clip–shows. They either disliked them, because they had taken the time to tune in to the show, and they expected an all–new episode, or they loved them, because it let them relive some of their favorite memories of the show so far. The more I think about these shows, the more I think that they were often designed to reinforce character development and plot–lines.

I think God is doing something similar through Solomon in Proverbs 10. He is reminding us of some big–picture categories of wisdom that we have already seen, and preparing us for further exploration of other themes that will be covered in greater detail later in the book.

Proverbs 10 gives us a buffet of wisdom from which to feast. (If you just caught the tie–in from Proverbs 9’s invitation to wisdom’s feast, give yourself five bonus points.) There are a few themes that we could focus on, but I just want to point out one theme today.

Read back through the chapter and focus on these verses: 6,8,10, 11, 13, 14, 18–21, 31, 32. What is the theme of these verses? Will you find the proverb from these verses that is most convicting to you, and ask God to impress it upon your heart today?

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Day 9, March 30 – Proverbs 9

The Way of Wisdom

Wisdom has built her house;
    she has hewn her seven pillars.
She has slaughtered her beasts; she has mixed her wine;
    she has also set her table.
She has sent out her young women to call
    from the highest places in the town,
“Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    To him who lacks sense she says,
“Come, eat of my bread
    and drink of the wine I have mixed.
Leave your simple ways,[a] and live,
    and walk in the way of insight.”

Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse,
    and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury.
Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you;
    reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
Give instruction[b] to a wise man, and he will be still wiser;
    teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.
11 For by me your days will be multiplied,
    and years will be added to your life.
12 If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;
    if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

The Way of Folly

13 The woman Folly is loud;
    she is seductive[c] and knows nothing.
14 She sits at the door of her house;
    she takes a seat on the highest places of the town,
15 calling to those who pass by,
    who are going straight on their way,
16 “Whoever is simple, let him turn in here!”
    And to him who lacks sense she says,
17 “Stolen water is sweet,
    and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”
18 But he does not know that the dead[d] are there,
    that her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 9:6 Or Leave the company of the simple
  2. Proverbs 9:9 Hebrew lacks instruction
  3. Proverbs 9:13 Or full of simpleness
  4. Proverbs 9:18 Hebrew Rephaim

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

The structure of Proverbs 9 is symmetrical. There are three sections, each comprised of six verses. The first section and the last section show contrasting invitations to feasts hosted by wisdom and folly. The middle six verses are character studies of the two kinds of people who follow either wisdom or folly—the wise and the scoffers.

Read back through verses 1–6 and 13–18. What are some of the contrasts that stand out to you between the way of wisdom and the way of folly?

Read back through verses 7–12. Think about a time when you tried to correct a “scoffer” and a time when you gave instruction to someone who was wise. Did their responses follow the general pattern shown in these verses?

Verse 12 can be confusing. Derek Kidner, an expert on the book of Proverbs, explains that while this verse is strongly individualistic in nature, we shouldn’t understand it to be saying that people and their choices don’t affect others. They obviously do. The point of this verse, he writes, is that, “Your character is the one thing you cannot borrow, lend, or escape, for it is you.”

In Matthew 7:6, Jesus says, “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you,” which sounds a whole lot like what the writer of Proverbs 9 is saying in verses 7–12. The point of both of these passages is that godly wisdom and discretion go hand–in–hand, Wisdom and discretion are two things which are certainly worth praying and striving for. If we don’t have godly discretion, we’re liable to accept the wrong invitation, which would be a mistake that none of us can afford to make.


Day 8, March 29 – Proverbs 8

The Blessings of Wisdom

Does not wisdom call?
    Does not understanding raise her voice?
On the heights beside the way,
    at the crossroads she takes her stand;
beside the gates in front of the town,
    at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:
“To you, O men, I call,
    and my cry is to the children of man.
O simple ones, learn prudence;
    O fools, learn sense.
Hear, for I will speak noble things,
    and from my lips will come what is right,
for my mouth will utter truth;
    wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are righteous;
    there is nothing twisted or crooked in them.
They are all straight to him who understands,
    and right to those who find knowledge.
10 Take my instruction instead of silver,
    and knowledge rather than choice gold,
11 for wisdom is better than jewels,
    and all that you may desire cannot compare with her.

12 “I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
    and I find knowledge and discretion.
13 The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.
Pride and arrogance and the way of evil
    and perverted speech I hate.
14 I have counsel and sound wisdom;
    I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign,
    and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me princes rule,
    and nobles, all who govern justly.[a]
17 I love those who love me,
    and those who seek me diligently find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me,
    enduring wealth and righteousness.
19 My fruit is better than gold, even fine gold,
    and my yield than choice silver.
20 I walk in the way of righteousness,
    in the paths of justice,
21 granting an inheritance to those who love me,
    and filling their treasuries.

22 “The Lord possessed[b] me at the beginning of his work,[c]
    the first of his acts of old.
23 Ages ago I was set up,
    at the first, before the beginning of the earth.
24 When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    when there were no springs abounding with water.
25 Before the mountains had been shaped,
    before the hills, I was brought forth,
26 before he had made the earth with its fields,
    or the first of the dust of the world.
27 When he established the heavens, I was there;
    when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,
28 when he made firm the skies above,
    when he established[d] the fountains of the deep,
29 when he assigned to the sea its limit,
    so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
30     then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his[e] delight,
    rejoicing before him always,
31 rejoicing in his inhabited world
    and delighting in the children of man.

32 “And now, O sons, listen to me:
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Hear instruction and be wise,
    and do not neglect it.
34 Blessed is the one who listens to me,
    watching daily at my gates,
    waiting beside my doors.
35 For whoever finds me finds life
    and obtains favor from the Lord,
36 but he who fails to find me injures himself;
    all who hate me love death.”

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 8:16 Most Hebrew manuscripts; many Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint govern the earth
  2. Proverbs 8:22 Or fathered; Septuagint created
  3. Proverbs 8:22 Hebrew way
  4. Proverbs 8:28 The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain
  5. Proverbs 8:30 Or daily filled with

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

In Proverbs 8, we again see wisdom personified as a person. From verse four on, wisdom personified explains the benefits of living a life informed by godly (biblical) wisdom. In verses 22–31, wisdom personified explains that God had wisdom from his first acts of creation. Again, like in chapter three, we see that wisdom is a combination of practical knowledge and applied skills.

  • What do you think the significance is of wisdom accompanying God’s creative acts?
  • In an ordinary day do, you hear wisdom calling (verses 1–3)? If so, how?
  • What is something that you can do today to be more attuned to wisdom’s voice?

Day 7, March 28 – Proverbs 7

Warning Against the Adulteress

My son, keep my words
    and treasure up my commandments with you;
keep my commandments and live;
    keep my teaching as the apple of your eye;
bind them on your fingers;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,”
    and call insight your intimate friend,
to keep you from the forbidden[a] woman,
    from the adulteress[b] with her smooth words.

For at the window of my house
    I have looked out through my lattice,
and I have seen among the simple,
    I have perceived among the youths,
    a young man lacking sense,
passing along the street near her corner,
    taking the road to her house
in the twilight, in the evening,
    at the time of night and darkness.

10 And behold, the woman meets him,
    dressed as a prostitute, wily of heart.[c]
11 She is loud and wayward;
    her feet do not stay at home;
12 now in the street, now in the market,
    and at every corner she lies in wait.
13 She seizes him and kisses him,
    and with bold face she says to him,
14 “I had to offer sacrifices,[d]
    and today I have paid my vows;
15 so now I have come out to meet you,
    to seek you eagerly, and I have found you.
16 I have spread my couch with coverings,
    colored linens from Egyptian linen;
17 I have perfumed my bed with myrrh,
    aloes, and cinnamon.
18 Come, let us take our fill of love till morning;
    let us delight ourselves with love.
19 For my husband is not at home;
    he has gone on a long journey;
20 he took a bag of money with him;
    at full moon he will come home.”

21 With much seductive speech she persuades him;
    with her smooth talk she compels him.
22 All at once he follows her,
    as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast[e]
23     till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
    he does not know that it will cost him his life.

24 And now, O sons, listen to me,
    and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
25 Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
    do not stray into her paths,
26 for many a victim has she laid low,
    and all her slain are a mighty throng.
27 Her house is the way to Sheol,
    going down to the chambers of death.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 7:5 Hebrew strange
  2. Proverbs 7:5 Hebrew the foreign woman
  3. Proverbs 7:10 Hebrew guarded in heart
  4. Proverbs 7:14 Hebrew peace offerings
  5. Proverbs 7:22 Probable reading (compare Septuagint, Vulgate, Syriac); Hebrew as a chain to discipline a fool

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

Proverbs 7 is unique. It is really an extended morality tale. It reminds me of a story that you might find in The Book of Virtues by William Bennett.

I don’t know if you’ve ever read any of that book, but as the sub–title says, it’s “a treasury of great moral stories.” It’s a good read for children and adults.

In Proverbs 7, we are given a vivid morality story about the dangers and evils of the sin of adultery. The tale comes to a crescendo in verses 21–23 when the father lays out for his son the devastating and even deadly consequences of adultery. It’s a powerful lesson.

Now, I know some of you are thinking that this doesn’t have anything to do with you, because you’re never going to commit adultery. I assume most Christians who have fallen into sexual sin also told themselves that they would never do the things that they did either, so it’s never a bad thing to be on guard.

However, you do have a point that there are further applications to the warnings in 22b–23. You could substitute most sins there and learn a valuable lesson: pride, anger, covetousness, substance abuse, harsh language, etc. Any controlling sin leads to similar self–destruction and harm to others.

Spend a few moments reading verses 21–27 again. Be honest with yourself, and ask God to give you a strong distaste for any stubborn sin in your life, so you may avoid the damage that it does to you and to others.


Day 6, March 27 – Proverbs 6

Practical Warnings

My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor,
    have given your pledge for a stranger,
if you are snared in the words of your mouth,
    caught in the words of your mouth,
then do this, my son, and save yourself,
    for you have come into the hand of your neighbor:
    go, hasten,[a] and plead urgently with your neighbor.
Give your eyes no sleep
    and your eyelids no slumber;
save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter,[b]
    like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

Go to the ant, O sluggard;
    consider her ways, and be wise.
Without having any chief,
    officer, or ruler,
she prepares her bread in summer
    and gathers her food in harvest.
How long will you lie there, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
10 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
11 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

12 A worthless person, a wicked man,
    goes about with crooked speech,
13 winks with his eyes, signals[c] with his feet,
    points with his finger,
14 with perverted heart devises evil,
    continually sowing discord;
15 therefore calamity will come upon him suddenly;
    in a moment he will be broken beyond healing.

16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and one who sows discord among brothers.

Warnings Against Adultery

20 My son, keep your father’s commandment,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
21 Bind them on your heart always;
    tie them around your neck.
22 When you walk, they[d] will lead you;
    when you lie down, they will watch over you;
    and when you awake, they will talk with you.
23 For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
    and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life,
24 to preserve you from the evil woman,[e]
    from the smooth tongue of the adulteress.[f]
25 Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
    and do not let her capture you with her eyelashes;
26 for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread,[g]
    but a married woman[h] hunts down a precious life.
27 Can a man carry fire next to his chest
    and his clothes not be burned?
28 Or can one walk on hot coals
    and his feet not be scorched?
29 So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife;
    none who touches her will go unpunished.
30 People do not despise a thief if he steals
    to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
31 but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold;
    he will give all the goods of his house.
32 He who commits adultery lacks sense;
    he who does it destroys himself.
33 He will get wounds and dishonor,
    and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy makes a man furious,
    and he will not spare when he takes revenge.
35 He will accept no compensation;
    he will refuse though you multiply gifts.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 6:3 Or humble yourself
  2. Proverbs 6:5 Hebrew lacks of the hunter
  3. Proverbs 6:13 Hebrew scrapes
  4. Proverbs 6:22 Hebrew it; three times in this verse
  5. Proverbs 6:24 Revocalization (compare Septuagint) yields from the wife of a neighbor
  6. Proverbs 6:24 Hebrew the foreign woman
  7. Proverbs 6:26 Or (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate) for a prostitute leaves a man with nothing but a loaf of bread
  8. Proverbs 6:26 Hebrew a man’s wife

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

In the ESV translation that I’m using, the two editor–supplied headings are “Practical Warnings” and “Warnings Against Adultery.” As we consider the practical warnings of verses 1–19, we see that there are four identifiable sections (or topics) of instructions.

The first section deals with what to do if you’ve gotten into a jam with a neighbor. The second section shows us that motivation and hard work are the antidotes to laziness and self–inflected poverty. The third section reveals that character flaws (sins) will ultimately ruin a person’s life, and the fourth section builds on that truth by giving the theological reason that doing evil things brings ruin. It is because sinful attitudes and behaviors are in direct rebellion to the way in which God designed us to behave toward others and toward him, and God doesn’t bless sin.

In verses 20–35, the warnings against adultery tie back into similar warnings from chapter five and serve as a bridge to similar warnings in chapter seven. As you ponder Proverbs 6, consider these questions and encouragements:

  1. Which advice from the first four sections (verses 1–19) have you most recently put into practice (or wish that you had followed)?
  2. How have you experienced God’s blessings in your life when you have striven to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself?
  3. Which truth from verses 1–19 do you most need to be reminded of today? What about from verses 20–35?
  4. Spend a moment memorizing a verse or two from this chapter. Then, make it a point of emphasis to think about that passage throughout the day.

Day 5, March 26 – Proverbs 5

Warning Against Adultery

My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
    incline your ear to my understanding,
that you may keep discretion,
    and your lips may guard knowledge.
For the lips of a forbidden[a] woman drip honey,
    and her speech[b] is smoother than oil,
but in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
    sharp as a two-edged sword.
Her feet go down to death;
    her steps follow the path to[c] Sheol;
she does not ponder the path of life;
    her ways wander, and she does not know it.

And now, O sons, listen to me,
    and do not depart from the words of my mouth.
Keep your way far from her,
    and do not go near the door of her house,
lest you give your honor to others
    and your years to the merciless,
10 lest strangers take their fill of your strength,
    and your labors go to the house of a foreigner,
11 and at the end of your life you groan,
    when your flesh and body are consumed,
12 and you say, “How I hated discipline,
    and my heart despised reproof!
13 I did not listen to the voice of my teachers
    or incline my ear to my instructors.
14 I am at the brink of utter ruin
    in the assembled congregation.”

15 Drink water from your own cistern,
    flowing water from your own well.
16 Should your springs be scattered abroad,
    streams of water in the streets?
17 Let them be for yourself alone,
    and not for strangers with you.
18 Let your fountain be blessed,
    and rejoice in the wife of your youth,
19     a lovely deer, a graceful doe.
Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight;
    be intoxicated[d] always in her love.
20 Why should you be intoxicated, my son, with a forbidden woman
    and embrace the bosom of an adulteress?[e]
21 For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord,
    and he ponders[f] all his paths.
22 The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him,
    and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.
23 He dies for lack of discipline,
    and because of his great folly he is led astray.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 5:3 Hebrew strange; also verse 20
  2. Proverbs 5:3 Hebrew palate
  3. Proverbs 5:5 Hebrew lay hold of
  4. Proverbs 5:19 Hebrew be led astray; also verse 20
  5. Proverbs 5:20 Hebrew a foreign woman
  6. Proverbs 5:21 Or makes level

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

Chapters five and seven, along with about half of chapter six, focus on sexual purity. In chapter five, the emphasis is on avoiding adultery. As we make our way through this and the next couple of chapters of Proverbs, we will see repeatedly that godly wisdom demands that sexual infidelity in every form should be avoided.

In chapter five, we are encouraged to value and protect the sanctity of marriage. Far too many people can mournfully agree with these words of warning, having themselves been led astray by the great folly of marital infidelity in the past.

The Bible is consistent from beginning to end that God’s design for sexual intimacy is confined to a life–long commitment between a man and a woman (and that such a union is a really good thing). God restricts us from all deviations and perversions of his plan for sexual intimacy, not to keep something good out of our reach, but to protect us and others from the devastating harm that fornication and adultery always cause.

True wisdom leads a person to rejoice in the love of his or her spouse alone (verses 15-19) and to heed the warnings against unfaithfulness (so as to not have to experience their devastating effects). For those who have learned the lessons of these proverbs the hard way, by God’s grace, wisdom may still be found through repentance and the commitment to develop the discipline of abstinence in singleness and faithfulness in marriage (verse 23).

We’ll be on this topic for a few days, so today, would you pray that God would encourage you to see the blessings and goodness of his design for intimacy? If you are currently wrestling with adulterous desires or thoughts, take the warnings of chapter five to heart, and avoid the snares of sexual sin that only lead to terrible consequences for you and great harm to others. Don’t believe Satan’s lies. Stay strong in the Lord.


Day 4, March 25 — Proverbs 4

A Father’s Wise Instruction

Hear, O sons, a father’s instruction,
    and be attentive, that you may gain[a] insight,
for I give you good precepts;
    do not forsake my teaching.
When I was a son with my father,
    tender, the only one in the sight of my mother,
he taught me and said to me,
“Let your heart hold fast my words;
    keep my commandments, and live.
Get wisdom; get insight;
    do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth.
Do not forsake her, and she will keep you;
    love her, and she will guard you.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom,
    and whatever you get, get insight.
Prize her highly, and she will exalt you;
    she will honor you if you embrace her.
She will place on your head a graceful garland;
    she will bestow on you a beautiful crown.”

10 Hear, my son, and accept my words,
    that the years of your life may be many.
11 I have taught you the way of wisdom;
    I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
12 When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
    and if you run, you will not stumble.
13 Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
    guard her, for she is your life.
14 Do not enter the path of the wicked,
    and do not walk in the way of the evil.
15 Avoid it; do not go on it;
    turn away from it and pass on.
16 For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
    they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
17 For they eat the bread of wickedness
    and drink the wine of violence.
18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
    which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
19 The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
    they do not know over what they stumble.

20 My son, be attentive to my words;
    incline your ear to my sayings.
21 Let them not escape from your sight;
    keep them within your heart.
22 For they are life to those who find them,
    and healing to all their[b] flesh.
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance,
    for from it flow the springs of life.
24 Put away from you crooked speech,
    and put devious talk far from you.
25 Let your eyes look directly forward,
    and your gaze be straight before you.
26 Ponder[c] the path of your feet;
    then all your ways will be sure.
27 Do not swerve to the right or to the left;
    turn your foot away from evil.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 4:1 Hebrew know
  2. Proverbs 4:22 Hebrew his
  3. Proverbs 4:26 Or Make level

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

In chapter four we return to wisdom in the “normal” sense of the word. Yesterday I wrote that there are different kinds of wisdom, and we focused on the practical skills and actions that are a part of wisdom. Throughout this chapter we see wisdom being equated with insight (particularly in verses 1, 5, and 7).

In verse 7 we see that insight is presented as the pinnacle of what we can attain when we gain wisdom.

Read back through chapter four. Make a note of specific instances of the father sharing insights with his son. Try to briefly summarize the categories of wise insights that are presented. (Helpful hint: If you get stuck, notice the breaks between the sections of verses.)

Take what you’ve written down, and find the insight that makes you most uncomfortable when you read it or the one that is the hardest for you to put into practice. Take a moment to ask God to give you the grace to embrace that hard truth and for increased insight into how following the advice in those verses will strengthen your faith in Jesus.


DAY 3, MARCH 24 — Proverbs 3

Trust in the Lord with All Your Heart

My son, do not forget my teaching,
    but let your heart keep my commandments,
for length of days and years of life
    and peace they will add to you.

Let not steadfast love and faithfulness forsake you;
    bind them around your neck;
    write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good success[a]
    in the sight of God and man.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh[b]
    and refreshment[c] to your bones.

Honor the Lord with your wealth
    and with the firstfruits of all your produce;
10 then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    and your vats will be bursting with wine.

11 My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline
    or be weary of his reproof,
12 for the Lord reproves him whom he loves,
    as a father the son in whom he delights.

Blessed Is the One Who Finds Wisdom

13 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom,
    and the one who gets understanding,
14 for the gain from her is better than gain from silver
    and her profit better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
    those who hold her fast are called blessed.

19 The Lord by wisdom founded the earth;
    by understanding he established the heavens;
20 by his knowledge the deeps broke open,
    and the clouds drop down the dew.

21 My son, do not lose sight of these—
    keep sound wisdom and discretion,
22 and they will be life for your soul
    and adornment for your neck.
23 Then you will walk on your way securely,
    and your foot will not stumble.
24 If you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden terror
    or of the ruin[d] of the wicked, when it comes,
26 for the Lord will be your confidence
    and will keep your foot from being caught.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,[e]
    when it is in your power to do it.

28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan evil against your neighbor,
    who dwells trustingly beside you.
30 Do not contend with a man for no reason,
    when he has done you no harm.
31 Do not envy a man of violence
    and do not choose any of his ways,
32 for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
    but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful,
    but to the humble he gives favor.[f]
35 The wise will inherit honor,
    but fools get[g] disgrace.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 3:4 Or repute
  2. Proverbs 3:8 Hebrew navel
  3. Proverbs 3:8 Or medicine
  4. Proverbs 3:25 Hebrew storm
  5. Proverbs 3:27 Hebrew Do not withhold good from its owners
  6. Proverbs 3:34 Or grace
  7. Proverbs 3:35 The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

Wisdom is personified several times throughout the book of Proverbs, the first time is here in chapter three. This chapter also has some of the most memorable proverbs, especially in the first twelve verses.

Remember that proverbs convey general truths. They are not concerned with the exceptions that will inevitably occur. They simply convey a general sense of the way things operate. They offer sound advice for the careful observer. Just because you trust in God, trust his word more than your own calculations, and acknowledge him as Lord in every area of your life, the Bible is not promising that you’ll never have to make a difficult decision or that other people’s sins against you won’t jam up your path from time–to–time. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t great hope in Proverbs 3:5–6. There is!

When we honor, trust, and rely on God in the way that those verses describe, the trajectories of our lives smooth out (and this is the really important part to realize), even if our levels of earthly suffering skyrocket. From an eternal perspective, our paths couldn’t be straighter, because our attitudes and actions are focused on living for God. As Christians living Proverbs 3:5–6 lives, we aren’t held hostage by our circumstances. No matter the roadblocks thrown into our paths, they are straight in Jesus.

If we will heed the advice of the biblical proverbs, we will grow in wisdom. We all agree with that statement, but what does it really mean? The concept of wisdom in the Old Testament is somewhat different from the way some people think of the term today. It’s common for people to think of wisdom in terms of intelligence and good judgment. People aren’t wrong to think of wisdom that way, but the Hebrew word for “wisdom” also conveys a strong sense of practical knowledge, leading to applied skills in real–life situations. Take a moment to carefully reread verses 19–20. Wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are each used to describe God’s creative power.

When you pray for wisdom, what are you requesting? Are you asking God to make you smarter? That’s likely what most people mean when they pray for wisdom. It’s probably most common for people to ask God for wisdom when they have a big decision to make (and that’s good). However, it might surprise you that the word translated as “wisdom” in verse 19 has six definitions in Hebrew. The most common meaning of the word is actually “skill in technical matters.” After considering verses 19–20 again, how might your prayers for wisdom (or your expectations for God’s answer) change?

When we read about wisdom in the Bible, sometimes the verses are addressing a mental acuity that is good at weighing facts and making good decisions. At other times, the Bible mentions wisdom in different ways. We all know people who might not think that they are all that smart. They might not have been exceptional students, nor have done well on standardized tests, but they have an exceptional ability to make, create, or design things, or creatively solve problems. More importantly, in the context of these biblical proverbs, we see them use their technical skills for the advancement of God’s kingdom. They are displaying a type of godly wisdom when they do that.

Wisdom starts with acknowledging and honoring God as the creator and sustainer of all things. As a person who is made in God’s image, what forms of skillful wisdom can you thank God for blessing you with today? What is at least one practical way that you can use those gifts to honor God?

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Day 2, March 23 — Proverbs 2

The Value of Wisdom

My son, if you receive my words
    and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
    and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
    and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
    he is a shield to those who walk in integrity,
guarding the paths of justice
    and watching over the way of his saints.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity, every good path;
10 for wisdom will come into your heart,
    and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
11 discretion will watch over you,
    understanding will guard you,
12 delivering you from the way of evil,
    from men of perverted speech,
13 who forsake the paths of uprightness
    to walk in the ways of darkness,
14 who rejoice in doing evil
    and delight in the perverseness of evil,
15 men whose paths are crooked,
    and who are devious in their ways.

16 So you will be delivered from the forbidden[a] woman,
    from the adulteress[b] with her smooth words,
17 who forsakes the companion of her youth
    and forgets the covenant of her God;
18 for her house sinks down to death,
    and her paths to the departed;[c]
19 none who go to her come back,
    nor do they regain the paths of life.

20 So you will walk in the way of the good
    and keep to the paths of the righteous.
21 For the upright will inhabit the land,
    and those with integrity will remain in it,
22 but the wicked will be cut off from the land,
    and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 2:16 Hebrew strange
  2. Proverbs 2:16 Hebrew foreign woman
  3. Proverbs 2:18 Hebrew to the Rephaim

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Pastoral Thoughts

We learn from these verses that (as a general truth) wisdom from the Lord serves to protect us from evil and sinful choices.

Read back through the verses and jot down some specific things that those who embrace godly wisdom and holy living should avoid. Some things will jump right out at you, others you might have to ponder for a moment or put together from a few different verses. Take your time.

What do these verses teach us about the nature of poor choices and sinful actions?

Read back through the chapter one more time. This time, look for the flow of thought. Let me show you what I mean. Verse 2 begins what we call a conditional statement (if something, then something). The “ifs” continue through verse 4. Then in verse 5 we see the “then.” If a person does the things listed in the first four verses, then that person “will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

In verses 6—15 you’ll notice that the proverbs go back and forth between further explaining why a person should live and act wisely (the “for” expressions) and further expanding the positive results that living and acting wisely generally provide in a person’s life (the “then” expressions). The word translated “for” can also be translated “because.” If you use the word “because,” the pattern might be even easier to see.

Both of the final two sections begin with “So.” These sections show some practical examples of results that come from understanding the value of godly wisdom.

The flow of the chapter is actually pretty simple, once we see it: if / then (conditional statements), for (explains why the conditional statements are true), so (explains what the positive and negative results are for embracing and rejecting wisdom).

We can describe the flow of the chapter like this: If you do this, then that will happen. You should do this for these reasons. I’m telling you this so that you will avoid some things and gain other things.

Take a minute to summarize the “if / then, for, so” message of the chapter in a sentence or two that you can write down and apply to your life today.

Pray that God would encourage you today with your take–away from Proverbs 2.


DAY ONE, March 22 — PROVERBS 1

THE BEGINNING OF KNOWLEDGE

The proverbs of Solomon, son of David, king of Israel:

To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight,
to receive instruction in wise dealing,
    in righteousness, justice, and equity;
to give prudence to the simple,
    knowledge and discretion to the youth—
Let the wise hear and increase in learning,
    and the one who understands obtain guidance,
to understand a proverb and a saying,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

THE ENTICEMENT OF SINNERS

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction,
    and forsake not your mother’s teaching,
for they are a graceful garland for your head
    and pendants for your neck.
10 My son, if sinners entice you,
    do not consent.
11 If they say, “Come with us, let us lie in wait for blood;
    let us ambush the innocent without reason;
12 like Sheol let us swallow them alive,
    and whole, like those who go down to the pit;
13 we shall find all precious goods,
    we shall fill our houses with plunder;
14 throw in your lot among us;
    we will all have one purse”—
15 my son, do not walk in the way with them;
    hold back your foot from their paths,
16 for their feet run to evil,
    and they make haste to shed blood.
17 For in vain is a net spread
    in the sight of any bird,
18 but these men lie in wait for their own blood;
    they set an ambush for their own lives.
19 Such are the ways of everyone who is greedy for unjust gain;
    it takes away the life of its possessors.

THE CALL OF WISDOM

20 Wisdom cries aloud in the street,
    in the markets she raises her voice;
21 at the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 If you turn at my reproof,[a]
behold, I will pour out my spirit to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused to listen,
    have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,
25 because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when terror strikes you,
27 when terror strikes you like a storm
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel
    and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
    and have their fill of their own devices.
32 For the simple are killed by their turning away,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
    and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 1:23 Or Will you turn away at my reproof?

English Standard Version (ESV)

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


PASTORAL THOUGHTS:

Biblical proverbs are short, pithy statements that convey a general truth from a God–honoring perspective. This means that proverbs, as a form of expression, are often not meant to be understood as universally true (although some proverbs are obviously universally true). If we misunderstand the general form of a proverb, we will very likely misunderstand the point that it is intended to convey.

For example, most of us know Proverbs 22:6 —

Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it
.

Now, we probably all know folks who were great, godly parents. They loved, taught, and disciplined their children well. However, as those kids became adults, they strayed far from the path of righteousness. We probably also know some parents who seemed to do all of the wrong things in raising their children, yet those children grew into fine, upstanding Christian adults. Neither of those scenarios disproves Proverbs 22:6, because it is generally true that parents who raise their children according to biblical precepts will see those children blossom into great adults.

However, if we demand that the proverb be understood as universally true, we would force it to go beyond what it was meant to teach. If we were to demand that the proverb be universally true, it might lead us to (in our own error) question the Bible when we see one of the two exceptions I mentioned above, or to make us think that how our children turn out is solely based on us as parents. In each of these cases, we would have missed the point of the proverb. Proverbs 22:6 isn’t teaching any of those things. (More on that in 21 days.)

As we read through the book of Proverbs, our goal will be to take in its truths and ponder them from a God–honoring perspective. When we do this, we will grow in our understanding of God, his design for us, and in biblical wisdom.

Questions for today:

  1. Which proverbs from chapter one were most encouraging to you?
  2. How can you implement the truths from those proverbs into your life today?
  3. Which proverbs were the most challenging to you?
  4. Will you pray right now that God would give you the grace to see his love and kindness in the hard truths that you just read?

James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Let’s pray that God will bless us with wisdom as we read the book of Proverbs together, and that we will be able to worship side–by–side again very soon.