31 Days Through Proverbs

Day 31, April 21 – Proverbs 31

31 The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him:

What are you doing, my son?[a] What are you doing, son of my womb?
    What are you doing, son of my vows?
Do not give your strength to women,
    your ways to those who destroy kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
    it is not for kings to drink wine,
    or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
    and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
    and wine to those in bitter distress;[b]
let them drink and forget their poverty
    and remember their misery no more.
Open your mouth for the mute,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.[c]
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

The Woman Who Fears the Lord

10 [d] An excellent wife who can find?
    She is far more precious than jewels.
11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
    and he will have no lack of gain.
12 She does him good, and not harm,
    all the days of her life.
13 She seeks wool and flax,
    and works with willing hands.
14 She is like the ships of the merchant;
    she brings her food from afar.
15 She rises while it is yet night
    and provides food for her household
    and portions for her maidens.
16 She considers a field and buys it;
    with the fruit of her hands she plants a vineyard.
17 She dresses herself[e] with strength
    and makes her arms strong.
18 She perceives that her merchandise is profitable.
    Her lamp does not go out at night.
19 She puts her hands to the distaff,
    and her hands hold the spindle.
20 She opens her hand to the poor
    and reaches out her hands to the needy.
21 She is not afraid of snow for her household,
    for all her household are clothed in scarlet.[f]
22 She makes bed coverings for herself;
    her clothing is fine linen and purple.
23 Her husband is known in the gates
    when he sits among the elders of the land.
24 She makes linen garments and sells them;
    she delivers sashes to the merchant.
25 Strength and dignity are her clothing,
    and she laughs at the time to come.
26 She opens her mouth with wisdom,
    and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She looks well to the ways of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
28 Her children rise up and call her blessed;
    her husband also, and he praises her:
29 “Many women have done excellently,
    but you surpass them all.”
30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain,
    but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
31 Give her of the fruit of her hands,
    and let her works praise her in the gates.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 31:2 Hebrew What, my son?
  2. Proverbs 31:6 Hebrew those bitter in soul
  3. Proverbs 31:8 Hebrew are sons of passing away
  4. Proverbs 31:10 Verses 10–31 are an acrostic poem, each verse beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet
  5. Proverbs 31:17 Hebrew She girds her loins
  6. Proverbs 31:21 Or in double thickness

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

Today, we bring our 31–day devotional journey through the book of Proverbs to a close. But here’s the good news: There’s nothing stopping you from reading back through the book again (and again, and again…). It is probably no coincidence that one of the wisest people that I know has read through the book of Proverbs hundreds of times. There are always new insights to glean from the Bible each time we read it. You don’t have to start back in Proverbs chapter one tomorrow, but I encourage you to read back through the book sometime soon. You’ll be amazed at the things that you’ll see for the first time, or understand with new significance, each time you revisit the proverbs.

As I wrote yesterday, chapter 31 includes the last two concluding sections of the book. The first nine verses are attributed to King Lemuel, as he recounts life lessons that his mother taught him. Even though the instructions are given to a boy who will one day be a king, they are still instructive for us. We should avoid loose living and pursue justice for those around us, especially the most vulnerable. Which instruction from verses 1–9 is the one that you most need to hear today?

We don’t know who wrote verses 10–31. The author might have been Lemuel, or Solomon, or someone else. We know that the Holy Spirit was obviously the actual author of these verses (and all Scripture) which is all that really matters.

The excellent wife described in verses 10–31 draws our memory back to the personification of wisdom as a woman in chapters 1–9. All of these positive characteristics of wisdom revealed to us in the description of the excellent wife stand in stark contrast to the adulteress and prostitute, women whose sinful ways we are repeatedly warned to avoid throughout the book of Proverbs. These immoral women stand in stark contrast to the godly woman of chapter 31, a woman whose character is praiseworthy.

In these last verses the proverbs are arranged to form an acrostic poem. In Hebrew, the first letters of each line are in alphabetical order, most likely to make them easier to memorize. Many of you ladies (in particular) know these verses well and may already have some of them memorized. How would you summarize the qualities of an excellent wife that are presented in verses 10–31?

Just as we can find wisdom that is applicable to us in verses 1–9—even though none of us is a king—you don’t have to be a wife to find applicable wisdom in verses 10–31. Whether you are married, single, widowed, or even a man, what is a general principle that you can apply to your life from these verses?

I’ll leave you with this final thought: Proverbs 1:7 states, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” The other bookend to this introductory thought comes in Proverbs 31:30, which reminds us that the fear of the LORD is praiseworthy.

My prayer is that, as we have read through the book of Proverbs, our worship of God has increased, our wisdom—in both practical knowledge and creative skill—has increased, and that it could truthfully be said that our lives are even more praiseworthy today than they were 31 days ago, to the glory of God.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 30, April 20 – Proverbs 30

30 The words of Agur son of Jakeh. The oracle.[a]

The man declares, I am weary, O God;
    I am weary, O God, and worn out.[b]
Surely I am too stupid to be a man.
    I have not the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
    nor have I knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
    Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?
    Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son’s name?
    Surely you know!

Every word of God proves true;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him.
Do not add to his words,
    lest he rebuke you and you be found a liar.

Two things I ask of you;
    deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
    give me neither poverty nor riches;
    feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you
    and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
    and profane the name of my God.

10 Do not slander a servant to his master,
    lest he curse you, and you be held guilty.

11 There are those[c] who curse their fathers
    and do not bless their mothers.
12 There are those who are clean in their own eyes
    but are not washed of their filth.
13 There are those—how lofty are their eyes,
    how high their eyelids lift!
14 There are those whose teeth are swords,
    whose fangs are knives,
to devour the poor from off the earth,
    the needy from among mankind.

15 The leech has two daughters:
    Give and Give.[d]
Three things are never satisfied;
    four never say, “Enough”:
16 Sheol, the barren womb,
    the land never satisfied with water,
    and the fire that never says, “Enough.”

17 The eye that mocks a father
    and scorns to obey a mother
will be picked out by the ravens of the valley
    and eaten by the vultures.

18 Three things are too wonderful for me;
    four I do not understand:
19 the way of an eagle in the sky,
    the way of a serpent on a rock,
the way of a ship on the high seas,
    and the way of a man with a virgin.

20 This is the way of an adulteress:
    she eats and wipes her mouth
    and says, “I have done no wrong.”

21 Under three things the earth trembles;
    under four it cannot bear up:
22 a slave when he becomes king,
    and a fool when he is filled with food;
23 an unloved woman when she gets a husband,
    and a maidservant when she displaces her mistress.

24 Four things on earth are small,
    but they are exceedingly wise:
25 the ants are a people not strong,
    yet they provide their food in the summer;
26 the rock badgers are a people not mighty,
    yet they make their homes in the cliffs;
27 the locusts have no king,
    yet all of them march in rank;
28 the lizard you can take in your hands,
    yet it is in kings’ palaces.

29 Three things are stately in their tread;
    four are stately in their stride:
30 the lion, which is mightiest among beasts
    and does not turn back before any;
31 the strutting rooster,[e] the he-goat,
    and a king whose army is with him.[f]

32 If you have been foolish, exalting yourself,
    or if you have been devising evil,
    put your hand on your mouth.
33 For pressing milk produces curds,
    pressing the nose produces blood,
    and pressing anger produces strife.

Footnotes

  1. Proverbs 30:1 Or Jakeh, the man of Massa
  2. Proverbs 30:1 Revocalization; Hebrew The man declares to Ithiel, to Ithiel and Ucal
  3. Proverbs 30:11 Hebrew There is a generation; also verses 121314
  4. Proverbs 30:15 Or “Give, give,” they cry
  5. Proverbs 30:31 Or the magpie, or the greyhound; Hebrew girt-of-loins
  6. Proverbs 30:31 Or against whom there is no rising up

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 book of Proverbs ends with a sort of three–part conclusion. The first section is attributed to Agur and comprises all of chapter 30, “Who is Agur?” you might be wondering. The short answer is that no one knows. Neither his nor his father’s name is Hebrew, and neither one of them is mentioned anywhere else in the Bible.

Although Agur’s background is a complete mystery to us, we do find out quite a bit about him in the first nine verses of Proverbs 30. He has a profound reverence for God, and he has a deep respect for humility. Read the first nine verses again. Could you pray Agur’s prayer in verses 8–9? Do you agree with it? Why, or why not? Does it remind you of anything that Jesus said?

Praise for humility also appears in verses 10–14 as either a main point or subpoint. The chapter ends with a condemnation of pride (the enemy of humility). Verses 15–31 are unique to the book of Proverbs. Agur looks around himself, at life, nature, people, and people’s habits, and he makes observations about what he sees, related to how humble or proud they are.

Since the main running theme of the chapter is praise for humility, read back through verses 15–31 and see if you can spot the ways that Agur is using positive examples of humility and negative examples of pride.

We will look at the final two sections of the three–part conclusion to the book tomorrow, in chapter 31. As we finish today, by which of Agur’s perspectives on humility are you most encouraged or challenged?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 29, April 19 – Proverbs 29

29 He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck,
    will suddenly be broken beyond healing.
When the righteous increase, the people rejoice,
    but when the wicked rule, the people groan.
He who loves wisdom makes his father glad,
    but a companion of prostitutes squanders his wealth.
By justice a king builds up the land,
    but he who exacts gifts[a] tears it down.
A man who flatters his neighbor
    spreads a net for his feet.
An evil man is ensnared in his transgression,
    but a righteous man sings and rejoices.
A righteous man knows the rights of the poor;
    a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.
Scoffers set a city aflame,
    but the wise turn away wrath.
If a wise man has an argument with a fool,
    the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
10 Bloodthirsty men hate one who is blameless
    and seek the life of the upright.[b]
11 A fool gives full vent to his spirit,
    but a wise man quietly holds it back.
12 If a ruler listens to falsehood,
    all his officials will be wicked.
13 The poor man and the oppressor meet together;
    the Lord gives light to the eyes of both.
14 If a king faithfully judges the poor,
    his throne will be established forever.
15 The rod and reproof give wisdom,
    but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.
16 When the wicked increase, transgression increases,
    but the righteous will look upon their downfall.
17 Discipline your son, and he will give you rest;
    he will give delight to your heart.
18 Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,[c]
    but blessed is he who keeps the law.
19 By mere words a servant is not disciplined,
    for though he understands, he will not respond.
20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him.
21 Whoever pampers his servant from childhood
    will in the end find him his heir.[d]
22 A man of wrath stirs up strife,
    and one given to anger causes much transgression.
23 One’s pride will bring him low,
    but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.
24 The partner of a thief hates his own life;
    he hears the curse, but discloses nothing.
25 The fear of man lays a snare,
    but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.
26 Many seek the face of a ruler,
    but it is from the Lord that a man gets justice.
27 An unjust man is an abomination to the righteous,
    but one whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked.

Footnotes

  1. Proverbs 29:4 Or who taxes heavily
  2. Proverbs 29:10 Or but the upright seek his soul
  3. Proverbs 29:18 Or the people are discouraged
  4. Proverbs 29:21 The meaning of the Hebrew word rendered his heir 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

Proverbs 29 covers several different themes. As I went through the chapter a few times, several stood out to me. There are more than I am going to list, but I want to point out four themes today for us to think through today.

I am going to list these four themes, and I want you to read back through the the chapter by reading as a group the verses that go together as each theme. As you do this, jot down a summary statement that covers the gist of each grouping.

  • Righteousness / Unrighteousness: Verses 2, 6, 7, 10, 12, 16, 27
  • Justice: Verses 4, 13, 14, 26
  • “Fools”: Verses 9, 11
  • Disciplining Children: 15, 17

What other theme(s) stood out to you in this chapter? What was at least one takeaway for you from chapter 29?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 28, April 18 – Proverbs 28

28 The wicked flee when no one pursues,
    but the righteous are bold as a lion.
When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
    but with a man of understanding and knowledge,
    its stability will long continue.
A poor man who oppresses the poor
    is a beating rain that leaves no food.
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
    but those who keep the law strive against them.
Evil men do not understand justice,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it completely.
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding,
    but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
Whoever multiplies his wealth by interest and profit[a]
    gathers it for him who is generous to the poor.
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
    even his prayer is an abomination.
10 Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way
    will fall into his own pit,
    but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
11 A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
    but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
12 When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
    but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
14 Blessed is the one who fears the Lord[b] always,
    but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
15 Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
    is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
16 A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
    but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
17 If one is burdened with the blood of another,
    he will be a fugitive until death;[c]
    let no one help him.
18 Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.
19 Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread,
    but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.
20 A faithful man will abound with blessings,
    but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.
21 To show partiality is not good,
    but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.
22 A stingy man[d] hastens after wealth
    and does not know that poverty will come upon him.
23 Whoever rebukes a man will afterward find more favor
    than he who flatters with his tongue.
24 Whoever robs his father or his mother
    and says, “That is no transgression,”
    is a companion to a man who destroys.
25 A greedy man stirs up strife,
    but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.
26 Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool,
    but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.
27 Whoever gives to the poor will not want,
    but he who hides his eyes will get many a curse.
28 When the wicked rise, people hide themselves,
    but when they perish, the righteous increase.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 28:8 That is, profit that comes from charging interest to the poor
  2. Proverbs 28:14 Hebrew lacks the Lord
  3. Proverbs 28:17 Hebrew until the pit
  4. Proverbs 28:22 Hebrew A man whose eye is evil

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

There are several themes in chapter 28. We see repetitions of calls to pursue justice, to care for the needy, to rely on wisdom rather than our desires, and we see that the paths of righteousness and evil have very different ends.

I want to focus on verses 6 and 18 today. Verse 6 says:

Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.

The proverb is using the extreme examples of poverty and wealth to make a point about character. In and of themselves, poverty isn’t being praised, nor is wealth being vilified. The two extremes of the economic spectrum are being used to illustrate how important, and ultimately fulfilling, honor and integrity are in a person’s life.

Verse 18 similarly states:

18 Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered,
    but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.

Character has a strong correlation with contentment. If you can find contentment in Jesus and hold fast to your Christian integrity, regardless of your circumstances, you will experience and sense God’s deliverance in your life. Conversely, if your character is crooked, though you might seem for a time to prosper, you’ll never find contentment, nor will you have the peace and certainty that come from living a life of devoted obedience to Jesus.

Regardless of your current financial situation, what is most important in your life? How would you rate your level of character and contentment? (I should probably include a friendly reminder that contentment is not the same thing as apathy. It’s not a lack of motivation or drive. Contentment is reached when you find your value and joy in Jesus above everything else—not that you don’t care, even deeply, about other things too.)

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 27, April 17 – Proverbs 27

27 Do not boast about tomorrow,
    for you do not know what a day may bring.
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
    a stranger, and not your own lips.
A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty,
    but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming,
    but who can stand before jealousy?
Better is open rebuke
    than hidden love.
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
    profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
One who is full loathes honey,
    but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.
Like a bird that strays from its nest
    is a man who strays from his home.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
    and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.[a]
10 Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
    and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is near
    than a brother who is far away.
11 Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,
    that I may answer him who reproaches me.
12 The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
    but the simple go on and suffer for it.
13 Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
    and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.[b]
14 Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice,
    rising early in the morning,
    will be counted as cursing.
15 A continual dripping on a rainy day
    and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
16 to restrain her is to restrain the wind
    or to grasp[c] oil in one’s right hand.
17 Iron sharpens iron,
    and one man sharpens another.[d]
18 Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
    and he who guards his master will be honored.
19 As in water face reflects face,
    so the heart of man reflects the man.
20 Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
    and never satisfied are the eyes of man.
21 The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
    and a man is tested by his praise.
22 Crush a fool in a mortar with a pestle
    along with crushed grain,
    yet his folly will not depart from him.

23 Know well the condition of your flocks,
    and give attention to your herds,
24 for riches do not last forever;
    and does a crown endure to all generations?
25 When the grass is gone and the new growth appears
    and the vegetation of the mountains is gathered,
26 the lambs will provide your clothing,
    and the goats the price of a field.
27 There will be enough goats’ milk for your food,
    for the food of your household
    and maintenance for your girls.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 27:9 Or and so does the sweetness of a friend that comes from his earnest counsel
  2. Proverbs 27:13 Hebrew a foreign woman; a slight emendation yields (compare Vulgate; see also 20:16foreigners
  3. Proverbs 27:16 Hebrew to meet with
  4. Proverbs 27:17 Hebrew sharpens the face of another

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

There are two proverbs in this chapter that can be particularly confusing. Let’s look at each one of them briefly.

10 Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend,
    and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity.
Better is a neighbor who is near
    than a brother who is far away.

This proverb seems to be saying that friends are better than family, but we know that’s not what it’s actually saying, So, what is the meaning of verse 10?

There seem to be three thoughts in this proverb, First, it is important to value good friendships highly. The third thought gives a practical example of why this is true: Close friends (neighbors) are better in your time of need than a relative who is too far away to offer any real assistance. Therefore, keep up your relationships with your friends who are geographically close to you, because for many of life’s pressing needs, the proximity of your helpers is of critical importance.

The middle thought in the proverb that warns against going to a brother’s house in the day of calamity should be understood in the context of the example being used. This hypothetical brother doesn’t live close by and isn’t going to be able to offer the help you would need within the time–frame you would need it.

Again, we have to remember that proverbs almost always offer general truths, not absolute truths. So, if your brother lives next door to you, and he is your best friend, it doesn’t make the proverb untrue. Your situation would simply be the exception to the rule. The proverb isn’t downplaying the significance, importance, or love of family, it is simply pointing out the value in investing in good friendships.

The second proverb that is often considered difficult to understand is verse 13.

13 Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
    and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for an adulteress.

This same proverbial thought has come up in several other places in the chapters of Proverbs that we have read so far, but we haven’t considered its meaning yet. To understand this proverb, we have to understand the nature of what is signified by taking a person’s coat. The Mosaic Law gave very specific rules for taking and restoring a person’s garment used as collateral for a loan. The point of the proverb is that we should be prudent and wise in our dealings with unknown or unsavory characters.

In the example that the proverb is using, there are three people. First, there is the person of questionable or poor moral character who has gotten a loan. Second, there is the person guaranteeing the loan for the first person. We would call this person a co–signer today. Third, there is you, the loan–giver. The proverb is saying that as the one giving a loan to a high–risk person, be sure to hold the collateral being offered by the guarantor (the second person / co–signer) of the loan.

Chapter 27 also includes several proverbs that are quite well known, Verses 1, 2, 6, and 17 are some of the “classic” examples of proverbs in the Bible. Pick out one of those proverbs and put it into your own words. Then write down a specific way that the proverb does or should apply to you. Finally, make a not of how you are already or should be putting the truth of the proverb to work in your life.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 26, April 16 – Proverbs 26

26 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest,
    so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying,
    a curse that is causeless does not alight.
A whip for the horse, a bridle for the donkey,
    and a rod for the back of fools.
Answer not a fool according to his folly,
    lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    lest he be wise in his own eyes.
Whoever sends a message by the hand of a fool
    cuts off his own feet and drinks violence.
Like a lame man’s legs, which hang useless,
    is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
Like one who binds the stone in the sling
    is one who gives honor to a fool.
Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard
    is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
10 Like an archer who wounds everyone
    is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.[a]
11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit
    is a fool who repeats his folly.
12 Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him.
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
    There is a lion in the streets!”
14 As a door turns on its hinges,
    so does a sluggard on his bed.
15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
    it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
    than seven men who can answer sensibly.
17 Whoever meddles in a quarrel not his own
    is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.
18 Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
19 is the man who deceives his neighbor
    and says, “I am only joking!”
20 For lack of wood the fire goes out,
    and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
21 As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
    so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
22 The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
    they go down into the inner parts of the body.
23 Like the glaze[b] covering an earthen vessel
    are fervent lips with an evil heart.
24 Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
    and harbors deceit in his heart;
25 when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
    for there are seven abominations in his heart;
26 though his hatred be covered with deception,
    his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
27 Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
    and a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
28 A lying tongue hates its victims,
    and a flattering mouth works ruin.

Footnotes

  1. Proverbs 26:10 Or hires a fool or passersby
  2. Proverbs 26:23 By revocalization; Hebrew silver of dross

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

If i had to pick a favorite chapter in the book of Proverbs, it would probably be chapter 26. If you thought that chapter 25 included some vivid imagery, chapter 26 must have bowled you over. It would actually be easier to list the proverbs in this chapter that don’t cause us to immediately visualize them. Some of the most memorable word pictures are painted in verses 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, and 27.

There are so many literary devices used to make these proverbs memorable. For example, verse 10 uses humor, while verse 11 uses a simile designed to turn our stomachs.

10 Like an archer who wounds everyone
    is one who hires a passing fool or drunkard.
11 Like a dog that returns to his vomit
    is a fool who repeats his folly.

One of the recurring themes in the book of Proverbs is the danger and sinfulness of laziness or slothfulness. In this chapter, we see the longest continually running section of verses on this topic in verses 13–16.

13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
    There is a lion in the streets!”
14 As a door turns on its hinges,
    so does a sluggard on his bed.
15 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
    it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.
16 The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
    than seven men who can answer sensibly.

Verse 13 confuses many people. The point of it is that the sluggard is using self–deception to justify his laziness. There isn’t actually a lion in the street. It would be perfectly acceptable to stay in if there were a lion outside, so he sells himself on the lie, to avoid feeling bad about his slothfulness.

I don’t want to skip over verses 4 and 5. They can be confusing, because they seem to directly contradict each other. What should we make of these verses?

Answer not a fool according to his folly,
    lest you be like him yourself.
Answer a fool according to his folly,
    lest he be wise in his own eyes.

I think it’s helpful to think of two different fools. I’ll give you a minute to think of them. Just kidding. Just kidding. I obviously mean that you should think of two kinds (categories) of foolish people. There are some foolish people whom you should know better than to try to reason with. They don’t engage fairly or honestly, and to engage with them requires you to stoop to their level (so to speak). Those are the people verse 4 is addressing. It’s wise to leave them alone.

The foolish people in verse 5 are the ones whom you need to correct. They need to be shown the error of their ways so that they may learn from their mistakes, experience some humility, and see the folly of the position of which they have been so proud, so as not to lead others astray. It is wise to correct these people.

The point of these two proverbs is that we need to rightly discern the types of foolish people—and our engagement with or disengagement from them—lest we join them in their foolishness or accidentally allow the spread of their foolishness to others.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 25, April 15 – Proverbs 25

25 These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied.

It is the glory of God to conceal things,
    but the glory of kings is to search things out.
As the heavens for height, and the earth for depth,
    so the heart of kings is unsearchable.
Take away the dross from the silver,
    and the smith has material for a vessel;
take away the wicked from the presence of the king,
    and his throne will be established in righteousness.
Do not put yourself forward in the king’s presence
    or stand in the place of the great,
for it is better to be told, “Come up here,”
    than to be put lower in the presence of a noble.

What your eyes have seen
    do not hastily bring into court,[a]
for[b] what will you do in the end,
    when your neighbor puts you to shame?
Argue your case with your neighbor himself,
    and do not reveal another’s secret,
10 lest he who hears you bring shame upon you,
    and your ill repute have no end.

11 A word fitly spoken
    is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.
12 Like a gold ring or an ornament of gold
    is a wise reprover to a listening ear.
13 Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest
    is a faithful messenger to those who send him;
    he refreshes the soul of his masters.
14 Like clouds and wind without rain
    is a man who boasts of a gift he does not give.

15 With patience a ruler may be persuaded,
    and a soft tongue will break a bone.
16 If you have found honey, eat only enough for you,
    lest you have your fill of it and vomit it.
17 Let your foot be seldom in your neighbor’s house,
    lest he have his fill of you and hate you.
18 A man who bears false witness against his neighbor
    is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow.
19 Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
    is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.
20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
    is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
    and like vinegar on soda.
21 If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat,
    and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink,
22 for you will heap burning coals on his head,
    and the Lord will reward you.
23 The north wind brings forth rain,
    and a backbiting tongue, angry looks.
24 It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
    than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
25 Like cold water to a thirsty soul,
    so is good news from a far country.
26 Like a muddied spring or a polluted fountain
    is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.
27 It is not good to eat much honey,
    nor is it glorious to seek one’s own glory.[c]
28 A man without self-control
    is like a city broken into and left without walls.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 25:8 Or presence of a noble, as your eyes have seen. 8Do not go hastily out to court
  2. Proverbs 25:8 Hebrew or else
  3. Proverbs 25:27 The meaning of the Hebrew line 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

In chapter 25 we are given a special treat. Not only are these proverbs passed down from Solomon himself, they include some of the most striking and memorable imagery found anywhere in this book. We also see a plethora of advice on how people should get along, with examples relating to marriage, neighbors, leaders, and those who are sad.

In my thoughts on Proverbs 12, I said, “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.”

Now, you don’t have to take my word for it. In verse 15, Solomon says, “With patience a ruler may be persuaded, and a soft tongue will break a bone.” That last bit might sound like a strange turn–of–phrase, It simply means that words—interestingly, in this case, positive ones—can overcome what might seem like overwhelmingly difficult circumstances. Even thought Solomon is presenting this bone–breaking as a victory over difficult circumstances, it’s not hard to imagine the harm that can come through abusive language. If soft words can break hard bones, what damage could hard words cause?

I’ll share a couple of my favorite verses from this chapter, whose imagery is particularly striking (which makes them easier to remember and memorize).

19 Trusting in a treacherous man in time of trouble
    is like a bad tooth or a foot that slips.

Who hasn’t known the excruciating pain of a problem tooth, or the frustration and pain of a slippery deck, stairs, pair of shoes, or frozen sidewalk? Trusting in the untrustworthy is similarly painful and frustrating.

I could list several more verses that use similarly powerful imagery to get the points of those proverbs across, but I’ll limit myself to just one more verse, verse 20.

20 Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart
    is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day,
    and like vinegar on soda.

When you read that verse, it’s likely that you think of a person who sort of struggles with tone–deaf or inappropriately–timed comments. As Christians, we never want to be like that. We want to be people who know what to say, and just as importantly, when to say it. This proverb provides such a memorable way to remember that truth.

What stood out to you in this chapter? What truth from Proverbs 25 will you apply to life today?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 24, April 14 – Proverbs 24

24 Be not envious of evil men,
    nor desire to be with them,
for their hearts devise violence,
    and their lips talk of trouble.

By wisdom a house is built,
    and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled
    with all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is full of strength,
    and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
    and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Wisdom is too high for a fool;
    in the gate he does not open his mouth.

Whoever plans to do evil
    will be called a schemer.
The devising[a] of folly is sin,
    and the scoffer is an abomination to mankind.

10 If you faint in the day of adversity,
    your strength is small.
11 Rescue those who are being taken away to death;
    hold back those who are stumbling to the slaughter.
12 If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it,
    and will he not repay man according to his work?

13 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
    and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
    if you find it, there will be a future,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

15 Lie not in wait as a wicked man against the dwelling of the righteous;
    do no violence to his home;
16 for the righteous falls seven times and rises again,
    but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.

17 Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
    and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles,
18 lest the Lord see it and be displeased,
    and turn away his anger from him.

19 Fret not yourself because of evildoers,
    and be not envious of the wicked,
20 for the evil man has no future;
    the lamp of the wicked will be put out.

21 My son, fear the Lord and the king,
    and do not join with those who do otherwise,
22 for disaster will arise suddenly from them,
    and who knows the ruin that will come from them both?

More Sayings of the Wise

23 These also are sayings of the wise.

Partiality in judging is not good.
24 Whoever says to the wicked, “You are in the right,”
    will be cursed by peoples, abhorred by nations,
25 but those who rebuke the wicked will have delight,
    and a good blessing will come upon them.
26 Whoever gives an honest answer
    kisses the lips.

27 Prepare your work outside;
    get everything ready for yourself in the field,
    and after that build your house.

28 Be not a witness against your neighbor without cause,
    and do not deceive with your lips.
29 Do not say, “I will do to him as he has done to me;
    I will pay the man back for what he has done.”

30 I passed by the field of a sluggard,
    by the vineyard of a man lacking sense,
31 and behold, it was all overgrown with thorns;
    the ground was covered with nettles,
    and its stone wall was broken down.
32 Then I saw and considered it;
    I looked and received instruction.
33 A little sleep, a little slumber,
    a little folding of the hands to rest,
34 and poverty will come upon you like a robber,
    and want like an armed man.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 24:9 Or scheming

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 this chapter we see the final proverbs that make up the 30 wise sayings that began in chapter 22. A unique literary form that I haven’t mentioned anything specific about yet is the proverb as metaphor (something that is symbolic or representative of something else). There are two good examples of this kind of figurative language in chapter 24.

The first example is found in verses 3–4.

By wisdom a house is built,
    and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled
    with all precious and pleasant riches.

If we miss the metaphor, we will search for the significance of architectural design, or the skill of a general contractor, or the flourishes of an interior designer. The imagery of building and furnishing a house is used to represent the intentionality and hard work that go into living a life that is marked by godly wisdom. Wisdom and knowledge provide stability and safe–shelter, and they overflow as blessings in a person’s life.

The second example is found in verses 13–14.

13 My son, eat honey, for it is good,
    and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste.
14 Know that wisdom is such to your soul;
    if you find it, there will be a future,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

In this example, verse 14 explains the metaphor presented in verse 13. Wisdom is presented as being sweet, delightful, and satisfying to a person’s soul. How does wisdom provide hope for the future? There are several ways. I’ll mention two. First, wisdom provides hope by being able to see past the current crisis of the day. Second, wisdom provides an awareness that God is in control, and the assurance that he will never abandon his own. The ability to not be controlled by the chaos of life and to keep an eye toward eternity are two things that those who are wise in the ways of the LORD are able to do but are elusive to the less wise.

Take a moment and focus on a proverb or two that you need to be reminded of today, and ask God to remind you of those truths throughout the day.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 23, April 13 – Proverbs 23

23 When you sit down to eat with a ruler,
    observe carefully what[a] is before you,
and put a knife to your throat
    if you are given to appetite.
Do not desire his delicacies,
    for they are deceptive food.
Do not toil to acquire wealth;
    be discerning enough to desist.
When your eyes light on it, it is gone,
    for suddenly it sprouts wings,
    flying like an eagle toward heaven.
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;[b]
    do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.[c]
    “Eat and drink!” he says to you,
    but his heart is not with you.
You will vomit up the morsels that you have eaten,
    and waste your pleasant words.
Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
    for he will despise the good sense of your words.
10 Do not move an ancient landmark
    or enter the fields of the fatherless,
11 for their Redeemer is strong;
    he will plead their cause against you.
12 Apply your heart to instruction
    and your ear to words of knowledge.
13 Do not withhold discipline from a child;
    if you strike him with a rod, he will not die.
14 If you strike him with the rod,
    you will save his soul from Sheol.
15 My son, if your heart is wise,
    my heart too will be glad.
16 My inmost being[d] will exult
    when your lips speak what is right.
17 Let not your heart envy sinners,
    but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day.
18 Surely there is a future,
    and your hope will not be cut off.

19 Hear, my son, and be wise,
    and direct your heart in the way.
20 Be not among drunkards[e]
    or among gluttonous eaters of meat,
21 for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty,
    and slumber will clothe them with rags.

22 Listen to your father who gave you life,
    and do not despise your mother when she is old.
23 Buy truth, and do not sell it;
    buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
24 The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
    he who fathers a wise son will be glad in him.
25 Let your father and mother be glad;
    let her who bore you rejoice.

26 My son, give me your heart,
    and let your eyes observe[f] my ways.
27 For a prostitute is a deep pit;
    an adulteress[g] is a narrow well.
28 She lies in wait like a robber
    and increases the traitors among mankind.

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
    Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
    Who has redness of eyes?
30 Those who tarry long over wine;
    those who go to try mixed wine.
31 Do not look at wine when it is red,
    when it sparkles in the cup
    and goes down smoothly.
32 In the end it bites like a serpent
    and stings like an adder.
33 Your eyes will see strange things,
    and your heart utter perverse things.
34 You will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
    like one who lies on the top of a mast.[h]
35 “They struck me,” you will say,[i] “but I was not hurt;
    they beat me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake?
    I must have another drink.”

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 23:1 Or who
  2. Proverbs 23:6 Hebrew whose eye is evil
  3. Proverbs 23:7 Or for as he calculates in his soul, so is he
  4. Proverbs 23:16 Hebrew My kidneys
  5. Proverbs 23:20 Hebrew those who drink too much wine
  6. Proverbs 23:26 Or delight in
  7. Proverbs 23:27 Hebrew a foreign woman
  8. Proverbs 23:34 Or of the rigging
  9. Proverbs 23:35 Hebrew lacks you will say

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

Beginning in the last chapter, we were told that the writer is going to give us 30 wise sayings. There is some disagreement over exactly how to number those sayings, but the list of wise sayings continues into chapter 24.

The first three verses of chapter 23 deal with the potential dangers of being around wealthy, high–society types. There are allusions to the danger of what might be required of you in return for their “hospitality” toward you.

Verse 4 isn’t against making money or doing well in business. It is a warning against letting money and the desire for wealth control you. This is advice that is similarly found in 1 Timothy 6:6–10:

6 But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Many of the proverbs in this chapter deal with the theme of contentment. The ability to be satisfied in your circumstances protects you from many of the poor choices that come from always wanting more, or what we might describe as having a “broken wanter.”

This chapter ends with a long warning against the dangers of drunkenness and alcoholism in verses 29–35. There is some very vivid imagery included in the warnings, culminating in the story of the drunkard who endures physical abuse, and in a stupor, can still only think about the next drink.

Whether it’s money, power, food, licentiousness, or intoxicants, we are warned that chasing these things, in order to satisfy a hunger in our lives, will only leave us unsatisfied and wanting more. The only way to experience true contentment is by finding it in God.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 22, April 12 – Proverbs 22

22 A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
    and favor is better than silver or gold.
The rich and the poor meet together;
    the Lord is the Maker of them all.
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
    but the simple go on and suffer for it.
The reward for humility and fear of the Lord
    is riches and honor and life.[a]
Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
    whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
Train up a child in the way he should go;
    even when he is old he will not depart from it.
The rich rules over the poor,
    and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
    and the rod of his fury will fail.
Whoever has a bountiful[b] eye will be blessed,
    for he shares his bread with the poor.
10 Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
    and quarreling and abuse will cease.
11 He who loves purity of heart,
    and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
12 The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
    but he overthrows the words of the traitor.
13 The sluggard says, “There is a lion outside!
    I shall be killed in the streets!”
14 The mouth of forbidden[c] women is a deep pit;
    he with whom the Lord is angry will fall into it.
15 Folly is bound up in the heart of a child,
    but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.
16 Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
    or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

Words of the Wise

17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
    and apply your heart to my knowledge,
18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
    if all of them are ready on your lips.
19 That your trust may be in the Lord,
    I have made them known to you today, even to you.
20 Have I not written for you thirty sayings
    of counsel and knowledge,
21 to make you know what is right and true,
    that you may give a true answer to those who sent you?

22 Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
    or crush the afflicted at the gate,
23 for the Lord will plead their cause
    and rob of life those who rob them.
24 Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
    nor go with a wrathful man,
25 lest you learn his ways
    and entangle yourself in a snare.
26 Be not one of those who give pledges,
    who put up security for debts.
27 If you have nothing with which to pay,
    why should your bed be taken from under you?
28 Do not move the ancient landmark
    that your fathers have set.
29 Do you see a man skillful in his work?
    He will stand before kings;
    he will not stand before obscure men.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 22:4 Or The reward for humility is the fear of the Lord, riches and honor and life
  2. Proverbs 22:9 Hebrew good
  3. Proverbs 22:14 Hebrew strange

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

Twenty–one days ago I wrote:

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 twenty–one days.)

Well, we are finally to chapter 22. So, what is Proverbs 22:6 teaching? It’s teaching that, as a general rule, children respond well to godly parenting and struggle greatly to succeed under poor parenting. But, like I wrote earlier, we all know plenty of exceptions to this rule. However, the proverb is an accurate description of how things most often turn out.

So, what’s wrong with people taking the verse as a promise from God? Put simply, such people would be holding God to something that he hasn’t actually promised. I think we can all see where that could lead.

What this proverb should do is motivate us as parents to be intentional about raising our children in the “fear and admonition of the LORD,” which simply means to know and understand God rightly, and allow the Law to be the tutor that in short order helps them understand their need for a Savior and grace.

As a parent, you have more bearing on your child’s development than any other person of influence in your child’s life. Your job is to take your job seriously, and pray for God to work in your child’s life.

However, many a godly parent has beaten himself or herself up for the waywardness of an adult child because of a misunderstanding of this verse. If that’s you, consider this: If you can lay your head down on your pillow at night, knowing that you did your best to offer biblical instruction and be a Christ–like example to your child, then—regardless of how your child has turned out so far—you can rest in the knowledge that you did what God called you to do as a parent.

There are many more observations that I would like to make from this chapter, but I’ll limit myself to two.

  1. About twenty years ago, I read a devotional article on verse 13 that changed my life. Is there a gold nugget that you’ve picked up from the book of Proverbs so far that you think will always stick with you?
  2. Verses 17–19 are a great encouragement to us and reminder of the value of studying the book of Proverbs. I’ll leave you with those verses.

17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
    and apply your heart to my knowledge,
18 for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
    if all of them are ready on your lips.
19 That your trust may be in the Lord,
    I have made them known to you today, even to you.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 21, April 11 – Proverbs 21

21 The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
    he turns it wherever he will.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the heart.
To do righteousness and justice
    is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
    the lamp[a] of the wicked, are sin.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
    but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
    is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.[b]
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
    because they refuse to do what is just.
The way of the guilty is crooked,
    but the conduct of the pure is upright.
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
    than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
10 The soul of the wicked desires evil;
    his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
11 When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
    when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
12 The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
    he throws the wicked down to ruin.
13 Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
    will himself call out and not be answered.
14 A gift in secret averts anger,
    and a concealed bribe,[c] strong wrath.
15 When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
    but terror to evildoers.
16 One who wanders from the way of good sense
    will rest in the assembly of the dead.
17 Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
    he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
18 The wicked is a ransom for the righteous,
    and the traitor for the upright.
19 It is better to live in a desert land
    than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
20 Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man’s dwelling,
    but a foolish man devours it.
21 Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
    will find life, righteousness, and honor.
22 A wise man scales the city of the mighty
    and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
23 Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
    keeps himself out of trouble.
24 “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man
    who acts with arrogant pride.
25 The desire of the sluggard kills him,
    for his hands refuse to labor.
26 All day long he craves and craves,
    but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
27 The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
    how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
28 A false witness will perish,
    but the word of a man who hears will endure.
29 A wicked man puts on a bold face,
    but the upright gives thought to[d] his ways.
30 No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
    can avail against the Lord.
31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
    but the victory belongs to the Lord.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 21:4 Or the plowing
  2. Proverbs 21:6 Some Hebrew manuscripts, Septuagint, Latin; most Hebrew manuscripts vapor for those who seek death
  3. Proverbs 21:14 Hebrew a bribe in the bosom
  4. Proverbs 21:29 Or establishes

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

Before I get to my usual observations, let’s deal with some difficult proverbs first. I haven’t been spending much time on the tough proverbs because I wanted to stress that the meaning of most proverbs can be discerned with light to moderate effort. But we all know that there are some proverbs that are quite puzzling.

Verse 14 says:

14 A gift in secret averts anger,
    and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.

This verse doesn’t seen to condemn bribery, which is confusing. Overall, the Bible is very clear in its denunciation of bribery (Prov. 15:27; 17:23; Exod. 23:8; Deut. 16:19; 1 Sam. 12:3; Eccles. 7:7; Isa. 1:23; Amos 5:12), so we know that giving bribes is wrong. As we’ve seen before, we have a proverb here whose goal is simply to explain how the world often works, not to encourage us to operate according to those worldly principles. It is a sign of godly wisdom to understand how people often choose to act, even when their choices are sinful.

Verse 29 is another verse that is confusing.

29 A wicked man puts on a bold face,
    but the upright gives thought to his ways.

“Say what?” you might be thinking. We can see that the wicked man is being contrasted with righteous man, but the imagery is murky. What does this proverb mean? The proverb is addressing the differing attitudes of the wicked and the righteous. The wicked are entrenched in their evil, while the upright are marked by wise counsel and sober decisions. The evil person’s hard heart looks out onto the world with harshness. The righteous person’s soft heart turns to biblical truth and wise counsel and looks out onto the world with grace and favor.

As you wrap up your time in Proverbs 21, consider the power and providence of God in verses 1, 30, and 31.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 20, April 10 – Proverbs 20

20 Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
    and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.[a]
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
    whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
    but every fool will be quarreling.
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
    he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water,
    but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
    but a faithful man who can find?
The righteous who walks in his integrity—
    blessed are his children after him!
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
    winnows all evil with his eyes.
Who can say, “I have made my heart pure;
    I am clean from my sin”?
10 Unequal[b] weights and unequal measures
    are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
11 Even a child makes himself known by his acts,
    by whether his conduct is pure and upright.[c]
12 The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
    the Lord has made them both.
13 Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
    open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
14 “Bad, bad,” says the buyer,
    but when he goes away, then he boasts.
15 There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
    but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
16 Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger,
    and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners.[d]
17 Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
    but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
18 Plans are established by counsel;
    by wise guidance wage war.
19 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
    therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.[e]
20 If one curses his father or his mother,
    his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
21 An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning
    will not be blessed in the end.
22 Do not say, “I will repay evil”;
    wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
23 Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord,
    and false scales are not good.
24 A man’s steps are from the Lord;
    how then can man understand his way?
25 It is a snare to say rashly, “It is holy,”
    and to reflect only after making vows.
26 A wise king winnows the wicked
    and drives the wheel over them.
27 The spirit[f] of man is the lamp of the Lord,
    searching all his innermost parts.
28 Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king,
    and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.
29 The glory of young men is their strength,
    but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
30 Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
    strokes make clean the innermost parts.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 20:1 Or will not become wise
  2. Proverbs 20:10 Or Two kinds of; also verse 23
  3. Proverbs 20:11 Or Even a child can dissemble in his actions, though his conduct seems pure and upright
  4. Proverbs 20:16 Or for an adulteress (compare 27:13)
  5. Proverbs 20:19 Hebrew with one who is simple in his lips
  6. Proverbs 20:27 Hebrew breath

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

As I read through Proverbs 20, and I got to verse 23, I stopped and asked myself if I had just read that verse. So, I started reading through the chapter again, and I noticed that verse 10 is nearly identical. The next verse that caught my eye was verse 14.

Although verse 14 might not seem to fit in with verses 10 and 23, it actually does. All three verses are dealing with the evil and detestable nature of unfair or devious business practices. These kinds of business practices are described as being abominations to God, meaning that they are intentionally evil. Unfair business dealings are called out in each of the three sections of the Old Testament—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings / Wisdom Literature.

Apparently getting ahead at all costs isn’t a new phenomenon. These verses are timely for our own culture. a culture that often goes beyond praising prudence and shrewdness in business by embracing the maxims: “If you aren’t cheating you aren’t trying,” and, “It’s only cheating if you get caught.”

Another verse that caught my eye is verse 29. This verse helpful and instructive for churches, in particular. The younger and the older both bring good and necessary gifts, skill–sets, experiences, and even preferences to the table. The more that we can all be appreciative and deferential to each other, the more we will all be blessed individually and corporately. The more we focus on having our own age–group’s preferences met, the more we sow division and discord within the church body, and the more we all miss out on the blessings that we experience when we embrace everyone’s strengths.

Let’s pray that God would continue to bless us with wisdom and understanding as we read and study Proverbs together and that we would all take some of these truths with us each day.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 19, April 9 – Proverbs 19

19 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
    than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.
Desire[a] without knowledge is not good,
    and whoever makes haste with his feet misses his way.
When a man’s folly brings his way to ruin,
    his heart rages against the Lord.
Wealth brings many new friends,
    but a poor man is deserted by his friend.
A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and he who breathes out lies will not escape.
Many seek the favor of a generous man,[b]
    and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts.
All a poor man’s brothers hate him;
    how much more do his friends go far from him!
He pursues them with words, but does not have them.[c]
Whoever gets sense loves his own soul;
    he who keeps understanding will discover good.
A false witness will not go unpunished,
    and he who breathes out lies will perish.
10 It is not fitting for a fool to live in luxury,
    much less for a slave to rule over princes.
11 Good sense makes one slow to anger,
    and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
12 A king’s wrath is like the growling of a lion,
    but his favor is like dew on the grass.
13 A foolish son is ruin to his father,
    and a wife’s quarreling is a continual dripping of rain.
14 House and wealth are inherited from fathers,
    but a prudent wife is from the Lord.
15 Slothfulness casts into a deep sleep,
    and an idle person will suffer hunger.
16 Whoever keeps the commandment keeps his life;
    he who despises his ways will die.
17 Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will repay him for his deed.
18 Discipline your son, for there is hope;
    do not set your heart on putting him to death.
19 A man of great wrath will pay the penalty,
    for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.
20 Listen to advice and accept instruction,
    that you may gain wisdom in the future.
21 Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
    but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
22 What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
    and a poor man is better than a liar.
23 The fear of the Lord leads to life,
    and whoever has it rests satisfied;
    he will not be visited by harm.
24 The sluggard buries his hand in the dish
    and will not even bring it back to his mouth.
25 Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
    reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
26 He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother
    is a son who brings shame and reproach.
27 Cease to hear instruction, my son,
    and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
28 A worthless witness mocks at justice,
    and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.
29 Condemnation is ready for scoffers,
    and beating for the backs of fools.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 19:2 Or A soul
  2. Proverbs 19:6 Or of a noble
  3. Proverbs 19:7 The meaning of the Hebrew sentence 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

I won’t point out all of the themes in chapter 19, but there are a few verses that I will draw our attention to, beginning with verses 1, 4, 7, and 22.

1 Better is a poor person who walks in his integrity
    than one who is crooked in speech and is a fool.

Wealth brings many new friends,
    but a poor man is deserted by his friend.

All a poor man’s brothers hate him;
    how much more do his friends go far from him!
He pursues them with words, but does not have them.

22 What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
    and a poor man is better than a liar.

You’ll notice that in verses 1 and 22 a moral point is being made. Even though being poor is undesirable, it is better to be poor than to try to get ahead through crooked speech or lies. Character and morality count for far more than riches.

We see examples in verses 4 and 7 of expressions about how things often are, not how they should be. These observations illustrate the principle that there is often a cost involved in living uprightly.

Read verse 20. Make a list of people whom you trust and have given you good, biblical, wise advice in the past. I find that it is good to keep a mental list of trustworthy advice–givers for those days when I need someone to impart some wisdom to me.

Finally, I think that the proverbs about sluggards (lazy people) conjure up some of the most vivid mental imagery of all of the proverbs. Look over verses 15 and 24. If you had to illustrate verse 24, how would you draw it?

If you haven’t picked a verse to think on throughout the day, verse 21 is a good one to consider.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 18, April 8 – Proverbs 18

18 Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire;
    he breaks out against all sound judgment.
A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
    but only in expressing his opinion.
When wickedness comes, contempt comes also,
    and with dishonor comes disgrace.
The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters;
    the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.
It is not good to be partial to[a] the wicked
    or to deprive the righteous of justice.
A fool’s lips walk into a fight,
    and his mouth invites a beating.
A fool’s mouth is his ruin,
    and his lips are a snare to his soul.
The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels;
    they go down into the inner parts of the body.
Whoever is slack in his work
    is a brother to him who destroys.
10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    the righteous man runs into it and is safe.
11 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city,
    and like a high wall in his imagination.
12 Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty,
    but humility comes before honor.
13 If one gives an answer before he hears,
    it is his folly and shame.
14 A man’s spirit will endure sickness,
    but a crushed spirit who can bear?
15 An intelligent heart acquires knowledge,
    and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.
16 A man’s gift makes room for him
    and brings him before the great.
17 The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.
18 The lot puts an end to quarrels
    and decides between powerful contenders.
19 A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city,
    and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
20 From the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach is satisfied;
    he is satisfied by the yield of his lips.
21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
    and those who love it will eat its fruits.
22 He who finds a wife finds a good thing
    and obtains favor from the Lord.
23 The poor use entreaties,
    but the rich answer roughly.
24 A man of many companions may come to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 18:5 Hebrew to lift the face of

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 18 is shorter than the last few chapters that we have read. There are several proverbs from this chapter that are probably familiar to many of you. I think of verses 2, 17, and 24.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding,
    but only in expressing his opinion.

17 The one who states his case first seems right,
    until the other comes and examines him.

24 A man of many companions may come to ruin,
    but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Even though chapter 18 is a collection of general proverbs, there are still themes that we can find. I have two brief exercises for you today:

  • First, review verses 10, 11, and 19. What common element or illustration runs through those three verses? How is the imagery used to make both positive and negative points? How would you summarize the basic message of these three proverbs?
  • Second, look back over verses 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 13, 20, and 21. What is the theme that connects each of these proverbs? How would you summarize the big–picture message of all of these proverbs in one or two sentences?

What will you take with you today from Proverbs 18?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 17, April 7 – Proverbs 17

17 Better is a dry morsel with quiet
    than a house full of feasting[a] with strife.
A servant who deals wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully
    and will share the inheritance as one of the brothers.
The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold,
    and the Lord tests hearts.
An evildoer listens to wicked lips,
    and a liar gives ear to a mischievous tongue.
Whoever mocks the poor insults his Maker;
    he who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished.
Grandchildren are the crown of the aged,
    and the glory of children is their fathers.
Fine speech is not becoming to a fool;
    still less is false speech to a prince.
A bribe is like a magic[b] stone in the eyes of the one who gives it;
    wherever he turns he prospers.
Whoever covers an offense seeks love,
    but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
10 A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding
    than a hundred blows into a fool.
11 An evil man seeks only rebellion,
    and a cruel messenger will be sent against him.
12 Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs
    rather than a fool in his folly.
13 If anyone returns evil for good,
    evil will not depart from his house.
14 The beginning of strife is like letting out water,
    so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
15 He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous
    are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
16 Why should a fool have money in his hand to buy wisdom
    when he has no sense?
17 A friend loves at all times,
    and a brother is born for adversity.
18 One who lacks sense gives a pledge
    and puts up security in the presence of his neighbor.
19 Whoever loves transgression loves strife;
    he who makes his door high seeks destruction.
20 A man of crooked heart does not discover good,
    and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.
21 He who sires a fool gets himself sorrow,
    and the father of a fool has no joy.
22 A joyful heart is good medicine,
    but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.
23 The wicked accepts a bribe in secret[c]
    to pervert the ways of justice.
24 The discerning sets his face toward wisdom,
    but the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.
25 A foolish son is a grief to his father
    and bitterness to her who bore him.
26 To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good,
    nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.
27 Whoever restrains his words has knowledge,
    and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.
28 Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise;
    when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 17:1 Hebrew sacrifices
  2. Proverbs 17:8 Or precious
  3. Proverbs 17:23 Hebrew a bribe from the bosom

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

As you read through chapter 17, you are now probably in the habit of seeing connections to proverbs that you have already read and of proverbs throughout this chapter.

Before I make some observations, I’d like you to jot down the proverb or two that initially caught your attention. Doubtless some of you picked out a verse or two that you are familiar with or that you can easily put into practice today. That is great. Some of you probably picked out a proverb which confuses you.

A few verses stood out to me. Verse 9 says, “Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.” There is a similar proverb in chapter 16, verse 28. Verse 9 is about forgiveness, although it doesn’t use that word. It’s not talking about covering up a crime or anything sinister. It’s just a poetic way to describe absorbing a wrong done to you.

From what we know from the rest of the Bible, forgiveness and repentance go hand–in–hand. So, in this proverb, it’s assumed that the wrong–doer has asked for forgiveness. We see an encouragement to seek forgiveness and peace. I think that most of us would say that this comes less naturally to us than we’d like to admit. Most people seem to like the ideas of justice and getting even more than forgiveness. We need the reminder of verse 9.

The opposite response, of stirring up discord, is discouraged because it brings about the opposite result than does forgiveness. Why? Because it doesn’t seek love. It seeks selfishness or self–righteousness, and it leads to broken relationships.

At first glance, verse 8 seems to be condoning bribery. This confuses many people. It doesn’t take long for us to get straightened out, as we find in verse 23 that bribery is indeed bad, and that verse 8 is simply explaining how things often operate, not that they should operate that way. So, if you intended to go on a bribing spree, rest assured that you shouldn’t, because the prosperity that you might get from it will be short–lived and certainly not worth the consequences.

I am going to focus on verse 15 today: “He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.” Any time that something is described as “an abomination to the LORD,” it catches my attention. Which verse or verses will you focus on today?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 16, April 6 – Proverbs 16

16 The plans of the heart belong to man,
    but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord.
All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes,
    but the Lord weighs the spirit.[a]
Commit your work to the Lord,
    and your plans will be established.
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
    even the wicked for the day of trouble.
Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    be assured, he will not go unpunished.
By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for,
    and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil.
When a man’s ways please the Lord,
    he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness
    than great revenues with injustice.
The heart of man plans his way,
    but the Lord establishes his steps.
10 An oracle is on the lips of a king;
    his mouth does not sin in judgment.
11 A just balance and scales are the Lord’s;
    all the weights in the bag are his work.
12 It is an abomination to kings to do evil,
    for the throne is established by righteousness.
13 Righteous lips are the delight of a king,
    and he loves him who speaks what is right.
14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
    and a wise man will appease it.
15 In the light of a king’s face there is life,
    and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain.
16 How much better to get wisdom than gold!
    To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver.
17 The highway of the upright turns aside from evil;
    whoever guards his way preserves his life.
18 Pride goes before destruction,
    and a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor
    than to divide the spoil with the proud.
20 Whoever gives thought to the word[b] will discover good,
    and blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.
21 The wise of heart is called discerning,
    and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness.
22 Good sense is a fountain of life to him who has it,
    but the instruction of fools is folly.
23 The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious
    and adds persuasiveness to his lips.
24 Gracious words are like a honeycomb,
    sweetness to the soul and health to the body.
25 There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death.[c]
26 A worker’s appetite works for him;
    his mouth urges him on.
27 A worthless man plots evil,
    and his speech[d] is like a scorching fire.
28 A dishonest man spreads strife,
    and a whisperer separates close friends.
29 A man of violence entices his neighbor
    and leads him in a way that is not good.
30 Whoever winks his eyes plans[e] dishonest things;
    he who purses his lips brings evil to pass.
31 Gray hair is a crown of glory;
    it is gained in a righteous life.
32 Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
    and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
    but its every decision is from the Lord.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 16:2 Or spirits
  2. Proverbs 16:20 Or to a matter
  3. Proverbs 16:25 Hebrew ways of death
  4. Proverbs 16:27 Hebrew what is on his lips
  5. Proverbs 16:30 Hebrew to plan

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 first nine verses of chapter 16 (with the exception of verse 8) center on the fact that God is sovereign over all. Verses 10–15 shift into a focus on the idea of God’s delegated authority to rulers. Now, we must remember that these proverbs are dealing with general truths, and poor examples of leadership don’t make the proverbs fail, they simply prove the general rules shown in verses 10–15.

Beyond the first 15 verses, it’s difficult to outline the rest of the chapter. Some people see general proverbs from verse 16 on. Others see a section stretching into chapter 19, which deals with the contrasts of the ways of wisdom vs. the ways of death. However you might outline it, there are several proverbs from the second half of this chapter that stand out to many people (verses 18, 19, and 31).

Read back through the first nine verses, and from them write out a short statement explaining God’s sovereignty.

From what you know of the book of Proverbs so far, why do you think verse 19 is true?

Pick out a verse or a theme that you can think through and pray over today, and ask the Lord to begin to work its truth into your life.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 15, April 5 – Proverbs 15

15 A soft answer turns away wrath,
    but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise commends knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools pour out folly.
The eyes of the Lord are in every place,
    keeping watch on the evil and the good.
A gentle[a] tongue is a tree of life,
    but perverseness in it breaks the spirit.
A fool despises his father’s instruction,
    but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.
In the house of the righteous there is much treasure,
    but trouble befalls the income of the wicked.
The lips of the wise spread knowledge;
    not so the hearts of fools.[b]
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him.
The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    but he loves him who pursues righteousness.
10 There is severe discipline for him who forsakes the way;
    whoever hates reproof will die.
11 Sheol and Abaddon lie open before the Lord;
    how much more the hearts of the children of man!
12 A scoffer does not like to be reproved;
    he will not go to the wise.
13 A glad heart makes a cheerful face,
    but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.
14 The heart of him who has understanding seeks knowledge,
    but the mouths of fools feed on folly.
15 All the days of the afflicted are evil,
    but the cheerful of heart has a continual feast.
16 Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
    than great treasure and trouble with it.
17 Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
    than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
18 A hot-tempered man stirs up strife,
    but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.
19 The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns,
    but the path of the upright is a level highway.
20 A wise son makes a glad father,
    but a foolish man despises his mother.
21 Folly is a joy to him who lacks sense,
    but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.
22 Without counsel plans fail,
    but with many advisers they succeed.
23 To make an apt answer is a joy to a man,
    and a word in season, how good it is!
24 The path of life leads upward for the prudent,
    that he may turn away from Sheol beneath.
25 The Lord tears down the house of the proud
    but maintains the widow’s boundaries.
26 The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord,
    but gracious words are pure.
27 Whoever is greedy for unjust gain troubles his own household,
    but he who hates bribes will live.
28 The heart of the righteous ponders how to answer,
    but the mouth of the wicked pours out evil things.
29 The Lord is far from the wicked,
    but he hears the prayer of the righteous.
30 The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,
    and good news refreshes[c] the bones.
31 The ear that listens to life-giving reproof
    will dwell among the wise.
32 Whoever ignores instruction despises himself,
    but he who listens to reproof gains intelligence.
33 The fear of the Lord is instruction in wisdom,
    and humility comes before honor.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 15:4 Or healing
  2. Proverbs 15:7 Or the hearts of fools are not steadfast
  3. Proverbs 15:30 Hebrew makes fat

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

Before I tell you what stood out to me in this chapter, take a few minutes to write down what stood out to you. It could be a pattern, a theme, an old favorite verse, or a new favorite verse.

I’m curious what caught your eye. I wonder if anyone wrote down that there are two proverbs that say that your inward attitude or character shows up on the outside (verses 13 and 30). Or, if anyone put verses 3 and 29 together. There are some interesting truths to ponder there.

I have to believe that some of you wrote down verses 1 and 4, both of which speak of the value of being soft–spoken, and verses 16 and 17, both of which tell us that having everything the world wants actually comes up short of what will truly satisfy us.

Let’s thank God for the wisdom that we have access to in these proverbs, and may each of us apply at least one of these truths to our own life today.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 14, April 4 – Proverbs 14

14 The wisest of women builds her house,
    but folly with her own hands tears it down.
Whoever walks in uprightness fears the Lord,
    but he who is devious in his ways despises him.
By the mouth of a fool comes a rod for his back,[a]
    but the lips of the wise will preserve them.
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.
A faithful witness does not lie,
    but a false witness breathes out lies.
A scoffer seeks wisdom in vain,
    but knowledge is easy for a man of understanding.
Leave the presence of a fool,
    for there you do not meet words of knowledge.
The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way,
    but the folly of fools is deceiving.
Fools mock at the guilt offering,
    but the upright enjoy acceptance.[b]
10 The heart knows its own bitterness,
    and no stranger shares its joy.
11 The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
    but the tent of the upright will flourish.
12 There is a way that seems right to a man,
    but its end is the way to death.[c]
13 Even in laughter the heart may ache,
    and the end of joy may be grief.
14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
    and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.
15 The simple believes everything,
    but the prudent gives thought to his steps.
16 One who is wise is cautious[d] and turns away from evil,
    but a fool is reckless and careless.
17 A man of quick temper acts foolishly,
    and a man of evil devices is hated.
18 The simple inherit folly,
    but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
19 The evil bow down before the good,
    the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
20 The poor is disliked even by his neighbor,
    but the rich has many friends.
21 Whoever despises his neighbor is a sinner,
    but blessed is he who is generous to the poor.
22 Do they not go astray who devise evil?
    Those who devise good meet[e] steadfast love and faithfulness.
23 In all toil there is profit,
    but mere talk tends only to poverty.
24 The crown of the wise is their wealth,
    but the folly of fools brings folly.
25 A truthful witness saves lives,
    but one who breathes out lies is deceitful.
26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence,
    and his children will have a refuge.
27 The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.
28 In a multitude of people is the glory of a king,
    but without people a prince is ruined.
29 Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding,
    but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.
30 A tranquil[f] heart gives life to the flesh,
    but envy[g] makes the bones rot.
31 Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker,
    but he who is generous to the needy honors him.
32 The wicked is overthrown through his evildoing,
    but the righteous finds refuge in his death.
33 Wisdom rests in the heart of a man of understanding,
    but it makes itself known even in the midst of fools.[h]
34 Righteousness exalts a nation,
    but sin is a reproach to any people.
35 A servant who deals wisely has the king’s favor,
    but his wrath falls on one who acts shamefully.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 14:3 Or In the mouth of a fool is a rod of pride
  2. Proverbs 14:9 Hebrew but among the upright is acceptance
  3. Proverbs 14:12 Hebrew ways of death
  4. Proverbs 14:16 Or fears [the Lord]
  5. Proverbs 14:22 Or show
  6. Proverbs 14:30 Or healing
  7. Proverbs 14:30 Or jealousy
  8. Proverbs 14:33 Or Wisdom rests quietly in the heart of a man of understanding, but makes itself known in the midst of fools

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 are nearing the half–way point in the book of Proverbs. Chapter 14 is another chapter of general proverbs.

Over the past decade or so, people have become more comfortable asking for clarification about something like this: “Explain it to me like I’m five.” I’m pretty sure that this started out as a joke, but it is fairly commonplace today, even in corporate environments. With a four–year–old and a six–year–old at home, Amber and I do a lot of explaining things like we are talking to a five–year–old.

One of the reasons that this concept has caught on in the business world is that when money is on the line, clarity is very important. It’s not about talking down to the client or customer, it’s about making sure that a complicated message can be made accessible to those who don’t know all of the insider jargon.

Today, I’m going to give you four proverbs to consider closely. I want you to rephrase them in your own words, in a way that keeps the meaning of the verses but uses the vocabulary of today.

1 The wisest of women builds her house,
    but folly with her own hands tears it down.

Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean,
    but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.

14 The backslider in heart will be filled with the fruit of his ways,
    and a good man will be filled with the fruit of his ways.

30 A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh,
    but envy makes the bones rot.

Which proverb was the most difficult for you to understand or reword? Why? Share your insights from at least one of these proverbs with someone else today.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 13, April 3 – Proverbs 13

13 A wise son hears his father’s instruction,
    but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
From the fruit of his mouth a man eats what is good,
    but the desire of the treacherous is for violence.
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life;
    he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
    while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.
The righteous hates falsehood,
    but the wicked brings shame[a] and disgrace.
Righteousness guards him whose way is blameless,
    but sin overthrows the wicked.
One pretends to be rich,[b] yet has nothing;
    another pretends to be poor,[c] yet has great wealth.
The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth,
    but a poor man hears no threat.
The light of the righteous rejoices,
    but the lamp of the wicked will be put out.
10 By insolence comes nothing but strife,
    but with those who take advice is wisdom.
11 Wealth gained hastily[d] will dwindle,
    but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
13 Whoever despises the word[e] brings destruction on himself,
    but he who reveres the commandment[f] will be rewarded.
14 The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
    that one may turn away from the snares of death.
15 Good sense wins favor,
    but the way of the treacherous is their ruin.[g]
16 Every prudent man acts with knowledge,
    but a fool flaunts his folly.
17 A wicked messenger falls into trouble,
    but a faithful envoy brings healing.
18 Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction,
    but whoever heeds reproof is honored.
19 A desire fulfilled is sweet to the soul,
    but to turn away from evil is an abomination to fools.
20 Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
    but the companion of fools will suffer harm.
21 Disaster[h] pursues sinners,
    but the righteous are rewarded with good.
22 A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children,
    but the sinner’s wealth is laid up for the righteous.
23 The fallow ground of the poor would yield much food,
    but it is swept away through injustice.
24 Whoever spares the rod hates his son,
    but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.[i]
25 The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
    but the belly of the wicked suffers want.

Footnotes:

  1. Proverbs 13:5 Or stench
  2. Proverbs 13:7 Or One makes himself rich
  3. Proverbs 13:7 Or another makes himself poor
  4. Proverbs 13:11 Or by fraud
  5. Proverbs 13:13 Or a word
  6. Proverbs 13:13 Or a commandment
  7. Proverbs 13:15 Probable reading (compare Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate); Hebrew is rugged, or is an enduring rut
  8. Proverbs 13:21 Or Evil
  9. Proverbs 13:24 Or who loves him disciplines him early

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 13 is another chapter of general proverbs. I might be struck by something different each time I read through this chapter. Today, I noticed that poverty is mentioned several times. That in and of itself isn’t necessarily odd, but the thing that stood out to me was that sometimes in this chapter poverty is presented as a good thing and other times as a bad thing.

Read back through the chapter and make a list of each time that poverty is presented negatively or positively.

Here’s what I came up with: verses 7, 8, 11, and 18. As I pondered those verses, I saw an underlying theme in these proverbs. Poverty can be both good and bad. Poverty is bad in the obvious sense. Being poor limits what a person is able to do and enjoy. However, earthly poverty can actually lead to great spiritual blessing and contentment.

Just like having much can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your attitude toward God, so too limited financial and material means can be a blessing or a curse, again, depending on your attitude toward God.

Are you able to find contentment, regardless of your financial circumstances? Paul explains the secret to these proverbs in Philippians 4:11-13, where he writes, “11b I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Paul is saying that Jesus is always enough for us.

Do you have plenty? Great. Thank God, and keep your trust in Jesus. Are you struggling? Trust in Jesus. If he is your Savior, you have more in him than you could find in all earthly treasures combined. Finding contentment is as easy as trusting in Jesus.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

Day 12, April 2 – 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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

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?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is yOLbQP4rM-xTGvUn3XikYWvlt1hmSl3M1JdpYdQ-ACkTuwmfxAHtS3Ub-KuBLPt6zgFzI9n4qnxUYkfsw2RFs0d2PJWcU1tFQw8e1kRnPc7YwYnhlyi3Rzo8p6qY8FsXOeT9sTtDVvCwtoiNx7MwEBwfrWApGF2wP7soUC7Xirxy4lFUXwGotInqRNkfoL-hgcJCdbpkFPqBzQM3vQ=s0-d-e1-ft

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 twenty–one 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.