Wisdom is too high for a fool;
in the gate he does not open his mouth.
The image here is that of men sitting at the gate of a city. This is where the elders of the town gather to discuss the Law and judge disputes. The fool does not join in because he cannot follow the discussion. He cannot comprehend their logic.…
During the weeks leading up to Easter our pastoral staff will tackle theological topics related to the resurrection in a series we're calling "Easter's Gospel."
"To err is human; to forgive, divine," wrote Alexander Pope in his "Essay on Criticism." Pope wanted literary critics to be good natured in their criticism of poets, to be somewhat forgiving of writer’s mistakes. We want the same—we expect the same—of God.…
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.
The first half of the proverb seems to be extolling individual wisdom. The wise man alone is full of strength. But the latter half unveils more about wisdom. The…
My son, give me your heart,
and let your eyes observe my ways.
For a prostitute is a deep pit;
an adulteress is a narrow well.
She lies in wait like a robber
and increases the traitors among mankind.
Understand the motivation of the prostitute - it is to get your money. That is all she is about and…
Are you thawing out? Spring is only twelve days away. Time to come out of hibernation. Tenth Church can surely use you.
Were you greeted as you walked through the doors on Spruce Street? Good. We need more greeters so that new visitors in particular will feel welcomed. And we could use more volunteers to staff the Welcome Center table in the narthex. All that is needed for…
Do not eat the bread of a man who is stingy;
do not desire his delicacies,
for he is like one who is inwardly calculating.
"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.
We come back to…
Do not move the ancient landmark
that your fathers have set.
This refers to the property lines marking the property belonging to a family. Its application is that we are to honor all contracts and agreements made before us. We do not move property lines; we do not revise contracts - i.e. not without appropriate agreements. An appropriate agreement is not merely a…
Do not rob the poor, because he is poor,
or crush the afflicted at the gate,
for the Lord will plead their cause
and rob of life those who rob them.
How can one rob the poor? Why bother to crush the afflicted? Why bother, even if one is wicked, to do what brings no gain? Perhaps there is a robbery…
Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge,
for it will be pleasant if you keep them within you,
if all of them are ready on your lips.
That your trust may be in the LORD,
I have made them known to you today, even to you.
Have I not written…
Whoever oppresses the poor to increase his own wealth,
or gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.
Some become wealthy by taking advantage of the poor (i.e. those who do not how to or are incapable of making wealth). Some increase their wealth by knowing to whom to give and so open doors for getting even more back. Proverbs does not…
The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside!
I shall be killed in the streets!"
He does have a point. We may not worry about lions, but there are cars and trucks that could hit us. It may be best not to go outside to work. And, for that matter, there are dangers in the home - tripping down the stairs, stumbling over…
The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge,
but he overthrows the words of the traitor.
God watches over knowledge as a shepherd watches over his flock. Far from fearing knowledge, Christians should above all nurture it and strive to grow in knowledge, for God is the God of truth. It is good to grow in all the fields of knowledge, except…
He who loves purity of heart,
and whose speech is gracious,
will have the king as his friend.
Note the addition of gracious speech. Shouldn't purity of heart be enough for friendship, even with a king? It is speech that conveys what is in the heart. Speech can be used to deceive and other proverbs warn of flattery, but the point here…
Drive out a scoffer, and strife will go out,
and quarreling and abuse will cease.
This is a proverb that has been proven many times in all kinds of settings. One person can sow discord throughout a team, a staff, a class, any group. He does not have to be openly rebellious. All he needs to do is consistently say a few words…
Whoever sows injustice will reap calamity,
and the rod of his fury will fail.
We reap what we sow. The employer who sows injustice among his employees will reap poor performance. The seller who sows injustice among his customers will reap business failure. The parent who sows injustice within the family will see his children turn rebellious. The employer may threaten to fire,…
The rich rules over the poor,
and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
The rich man rules over the poor man who is dependent upon him. The lender has control over the man who borrows from him. This is the disadvantage we should strive to avoid. What difference does it make that I owe money to someone else? That someone else…
Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it.
Literally, the first line reads "according to the way he will go." Some then have interpreted the meaning to be that if you raise a child according to his inclination, he will set on a crooked path that he will not depart.…
Thorns and snares are in the way of the crooked;
whoever guards his soul will keep far from them.
This proverb has the similar message of 22:3: "The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it." The new contrast is between the crooked (the wicked) and the righteous who take care to guard their souls. But…
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
This is the same message as the proverb: Fools rush in where angels fear to dread. The simple "go on" either because they do not see the danger or because they estimate themselves too highly, thinking they can withstand harm.
The prudent does not hide…
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.
This is the lesson George Bailey learned in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." One earns a good name by living a good life, and that name becomes a sound investment. The person with a good name is more likely to receive help when…
The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but the victory belongs to the Lord.
It is good to make plans. It is good to prepare well for whatever battle one faces. But always remember that the victory belongs to the Lord. His will will be done. With such knowledge, you should:
1. Maintain an attitude of prayer throughout…
No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel
can avail against the Lord.
Let Psalm 2 provide the commentary for this proverb:
Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the LORD and against his anointed, saying,
"Let us burst their…
A wicked man puts on a bold face,
but the upright gives thought to his ways.
Wickedness does take a certain courage. After all, the wicked man risks getting caught and punished. He is willing to incur the wrath of others. He takes these things upon himself all for greed and spite. And so he puts on his bold face to deceive and…
A false witness will perish,
but the word of a man who hears will endure.
Yet another unexpected contrast. We would think the second clause to say something like, "but the word of a man who tells the truth will endure." This contrast draws out the heart condition of the false witness. Such a person lies because he is not interested in a…
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination;
how much more when he brings it with evil intent.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination even when he does so with (in his mind) good intent. The wicked will contribute to charity. They will attend church and contribute to its causes. They will offer up prayers and even volunteer to help others. But because they do…
The desire of the sluggard kills him,
for his hands refuse to labor.
All day long he craves and craves,
but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
How is it that desire kills the sluggard? Being lazy is the obvious cause. Being a slacker is a serious flaw, to be sure, but combining that flaw with ungodly desire is…
"Scoffer" is the name of the arrogant, haughty man
who acts with arrogant pride.
The arrogance of the scoffer goes beyond believing that he is better than others. Even the prideful man can respect the accomplishments and ability of others. Indeed, his pride grows greater with the more credit he gives to those who come in second to him. The scoffer disdains others.…
Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue
keeps himself out of trouble.
Do you seem to get enmeshed in trouble a lot? The problem may be your tongue. Don't be quick to deny it. The denier claims that the real problem is that he is misunderstood. Other people are too sensitive. They misread his intentions and need to examine themselves. He is sure…
A wise man scales the city of the mighty
and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.
Wisdom is stronger than physical strength. In sports, the smarter team is more likely to defeat the better athletic team. So it is in the military. In business, it is the company that is cleverer that wins over the company with more money and resources.…
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness
will find life, righteousness, and honor.
This is the promise of the Gospel - our pursuit of righteousness and kindness will not be in vain. However you may feel at the moment; if you despair of good winning out; if you see about you only death, wickedness, and shame; know that life, righteousness, and honor is what you…
Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling,
but a foolish man devours it.
The wise person saves and exercises restraint. For that reason he accumulates an abundance. The fool consumes whatever he gets.
Compare this proverb with verse 17: "Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man; he who loves wine and oil will not be rich." The…
It is better to live in a desert land
than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.
Consider Peter's counsel to wives in light of this proverb:
"Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- when they see your…
The wicked is a ransom for the righteous,
and the traitor for the upright.
There is a sense in which the wicked receive the punishment that was to have been visited on others, including the righteous. Thus, Judah was spared when Sennacherib was moved by God to attack the Egyptians rather than his covenant people. And God could say,
Whoever loves pleasure will be a poor man;
he who loves wine and oil will not be rich.
This would seem to be a proverb supporting the ascetic, stoic life. Its emphasis, however, is not contrasting pleasure with stoicism, but warning about a life devoted to physical pleasure. In such a pursuit the individual loses common sense. He thinks only of today and…
One who wanders from the way of good sense
will rest in the assembly of the dead.
Do you want rest? Do you want to escape the hassles of life? Then wander away from good sense. Throw off your responsibilities and act according to instinct, and you can live a contented life. It is fairly easy to be contented when you have no…
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous
but terror to evildoers.
When justice is done, the righteous are vindicated and the wicked are punished. But the righteous also rejoice in justice for its own sake. They do not obey God's laws to keep from being punished, but because they actually delight in God's law. The wicked fear punishment, but they also are disheartened to…
A gift in secret averts anger,
and a concealed bribe, strong wrath.
This proverb speaks of a specific purpose in the use of bribes – averting anger. Most likely the situation is that of averting unjust anger. The king, or some other authority, has become overly angry and is about to harm someone. The offender, or a friend who steps in, gives the gift that appeases that anger.
Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor
will himself call out and not be answered.
In a way, this proverb is more sobering than the previous one that warns of being ruined. There is a unique fear of being alone, of calling out for help and receiving only silence. The wicked may scoff at such a thought but that is only because they have yet…
The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked;
he throws the wicked down to ruin.
The critical mistake of the wicked is to believe that he is keeping unobserved. Think of the image of law officials staking out a house hoping to see or hear something that might give evidence of the wicked's guilt. The great challenge of the law is to come up with clear evidence…
When a scoffer is punished, the simple becomes wise;
when a wise man is instructed, he gains knowledge.
This proverb parallels 19:25:
"Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge."
Punishment has its place, though its effect will differ according to the individual. The scoffer is punished and at best is restricted from further wicked behavior. His…
The soul of the wicked desires evil;
his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes.
Some people are simply mean-spirited. They laugh at the misery of others. They derive pleasure at insulting anyone. They revel in being bullies, connivers, and cheaters. To see a neighbor in need arouses spite rather than sympathy.
It is our responsibility to protect others from them and to seek justice against them. And…
It is better to live in a corner of the housetop
than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife.
Husbands, of course, can also be quarrelsome, but since this proverb speaks specifically of the wife; let's consider her case. Someone has made the wry comment: "A man marries a woman and is surprised to find that she changes. A woman marries a man and is surprised that…
The way of the guilty is crooked,
but the conduct of the pure is upright.
What is within us will come out in our behavior. The guilty's way will be crooked; the conduct of the pure will show in their very demeanor - standing upright with a clear conscience. The guilty must lurk about, hiding in the shadows, checking their backs, slipping across from side to side of…
The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just.
As we have learned in other proverbs, the wicked bring on themselves their own destruction. They suffer the consequences of their own violence. It is easy enough to see how they create trouble for themselves, but the consequence is that they place themselves under the judgment of God who will not…
The getting of treasures by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.
The liar thinks he is setting a snare or escaping it by lying. To gain treasure he thinks he escapes like a fleeting vapor. He tells his lies in order to snatch the treasure. But he is merely setting up his own snare and insuring that his treasure will escape. Ask…