What are you doing for New Year’s Eve? Have you considered spending the last night of the year in church? The New Year’s Eve Watch Night Service is a long tradition at Tenth, and a rare one in the Philadelphia area. It may have borrowed from the tradition of our African-American sister churches, which began on the eve of 1863, when the Emancipation Proclamation was to take effect.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to abundance,
but everyone who is hasty comes only to poverty.
This is a practical proverb to guide you today. It could make the difference between an action that leads to long-term blessing or long-term regret. Like a beautiful house built on poor land, many options look appealing but hide disastrous consequences. Many ideas seemed good "at the time," but proved…
Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
the lamp of the wicked, are sin.
Scripture makes clear God's displeasure of pride which is the root sin of the wicked. They will not humble themselves before God. This is played out in various ways, most notably through the violence committed against others.
The proverb reveals how pride mars their perspective on reality. Pride is the lamp by which the wicked…
To do righteousness and justice
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
For commentary, read these other scriptures:
"When you come to appear before me,
who has required of you this trampling of my courts?
Bring no more vain offerings;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations--
I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly.
Your new moons and your…
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
Note two insights in this proverb in relation to a Christian. First, a Christian will defend his behavior either through using scripture for justification or by appealing to conscience. There is the husband who defended being critical of his wife by appealing to Ephesians 5:25-27, which refers to Christ has sanctifying…
The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord;
he turns it wherever he will.
As a farmer irrigates his fields by creating canals to control the direction of the water, so the Lord provides for the fields of the earth by directing the hearts of rulers. Whether these rulers may be righteous or wicked, devout or profane, they nevertheless serve the deeper…
Blows that wound cleanse away evil;
strokes make clean the innermost parts.
Blows that come from one who loves you and hates the sin that binds you are essential for your welfare. It is right to be concerned with abuse, but it is as deadly to be denied the chastisement that awakens you to your sin and spurs you to action. It is deadly to be denied love…
The glory of young men is their strength,
but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
There is glory and joy in being young. It is good to be young and strong, and the young should delight in what their youthfulness gives them strength to do. They have vitality; they are idealistic. They act with passion. They are able to move mountains by their strength.
Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king,
and by steadfast love his throne is upheld.
This is certainly a different perspective from the world's understanding, which is that what preserves a king or anyone else in a position of power is power. Also needed are shrewdness, the willingness to eliminate the competition, a large ego to fuel the drive for fame and power.
Consider what this proverb…
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord,
searching all his innermost parts.
This spirit is our conscience which bears witness that the law of God is written on our hearts (Romans 2:15). God has placed within all of us - those inhabited by God's Spirit and those who are not - his inner moral compass, or, as this proverb notes, his inner moral lamp…
At the annual congregational meeting, Dr. Goligher reported the following decision of the Session—to propose to the congregation that Will Spokes be called as an Associate Minister of Tenth Church. Let me unpack what may be confusing.
Will has been serving as the minister of outreach at Tenth for more than a year now. What else needs to be done? Will was originally called by—i.e., he was hired…
A wise king winnows the wicked
and drives the wheel over them.
The wise king is able, first, to discern between the wicked and the righteous (or innocent). Secondly, he is able then to act against the wicked in judgment. Many rulers exercise power but do so indiscriminately, harming both wicked and righteous; indeed, many rulers are especially brutal against the righteous. And there are rulers who know…
It is a snare to say rashly, "it is holy,"
and to reflect only after making vows.
Be cautious in making vows. Be cautious saying that you will set something apart for God, which is what saying “it is holy” means. Be cautious because God takes seriously your word. He will hold you accountable for what you say.
Because we are only as good as our word, our…
A man's steps are from the Lord;
how then can man understand his way?
How can a man understand his way apart from the Lord who works all things for his glory and purposes? The secular philosopher, despite his intellectual prowess, takes the wrong first step in his contemplation as he tries to understand his way. One may build insight upon insight, but if the foundation is not…
Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord,
and false scales are not good.
Just thirteen verses before there is an almost identical proverb: "Unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord." Perhaps the repetition is to reinforce the seriousness which God attaches to cheating.
Consider this proverb with the one preceding it: "Do not say, ‘I will repay evil' wait for the…
Do not say, "I will repay evil";
wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you.
The sense here is not about bringing the wicked to justice, which we are to promote. It is about exacting our personal revenge. This is a proverb for the worker outmaneuvered unjustly for a job promotion. It is for the student who is beat out for an award because of another student…
An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning
will not be blessed in the end.
Sudden wealth, whether it be through inheritance or winning the lottery or some scheme, as often as not creates trouble. Wealth, as with power and fame, carries its own dangers of corrupting the owner and creating anxiety over its protection. Jesus noted how difficult it was for a rich man to enter the kingdom…
If one curses his father or his mother,
his lamp will be put out in utter darkness.
Should this proverb be interpreted to mean if a child curses his good father or mother? Certainly the Scriptures instruct fathers and mothers to be good, and the premise in Proverbs is that fathers and mothers have wisdom that their children should heed. Even so, it is the specific family bond…
Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets;
therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
Be a realist when it comes to confiding in certain people. The proverb does not advise that we be careful how we tell something confidential to a babbler. We are not given tips on how to assure that the babbler will not reveal our secrets. We are simply to stay away from him. We…
Plans are established by counsel;
by wise guidance wage war.
What are the benefits of counsel? One, the mere act of pausing to seek counsel reduces impulsive behavior. You are likely to give the matter more serious attention and to think more deliberately. Two, consulting with others sharpens your thinking as you explain your thoughts and as you listen to the thinking of others.
But this proverb is…
Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man,
but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel.
Consider the gravel. There is the gravel of a painful conscience. What at the moment seemed to be exciting comes back to haunt the heart that is not given fully to wickedness. The transgressor worries about breaking God's law and its consequences. If he is not too far gone, he…
There is gold and abundance of costly stones,
but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Like the previous proverb, this one presents a scenario that goes against the common wisdom of the marketplace. There are those who train to become experts in identifying pure gold and costly jewels. Such items are valued for their beauty, but their market value is based on their rarity. However beautiful…
"Bad, Bad," says the buyer,
but when he goes away, then he boasts.
The savvy shopper does not reveal how much he truly values the object he wants. He is critical of the object. He points out its flaws. He doesn't need it and certainly can't afford what is being asked. All the while he inwardly prizes it. When he does acquire the object, he then may boast…
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty;
open your eyes, and you will have plenty of bread.
Don't suffer sleep deprivation, that is, the sleep that deprives you of being industrious. It is healthy to get a "good night's" sleep, but it is hurtful to linger in bed and block the sun out of your eyes. However comfortable you may feel for the moment, you are robbing…
The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the Lord has made them both.
"Who has made man's mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" So spoke the Lord to Moses (cf Exodus 4:10-12). What do we have that is not from the Lord? And what has he given us that is not to be used for his glory…
Even a child makes himself known by his acts,
by whether his conduct is pure and upright.
How do we "make known" what is in our hearts? How do we reveal our faith? By our behavior.
But one can deceive through his actions. One can pretend to be pure and upright. Not a child. He invariably gives himself away even if he wants to deceive. And not even…
Unequal weights and unequal measures
are both alike an abomination to the Lord.
Cheating customers is an abomination to the Lord; so is cheating clients and cheating anyone to gain an advantage. What is particularly offensive here is cheating through means that of themselves signify fair play. What can be trusted if we abuse the very seals and symbols that are meant to guarantee good faith?
Who can say, "I have made my heart pure;
I am clean from my sin"?
Let us give thanks now that there is one man who in his human nature was able to say this - Jesus Christ. And because he was able to do so, he qualified to be our sacrificial lamb who made atonement for our sins. Because his heart was pure, he was able to…
A king who sits on the throne of judgment
winnows all evil with his eyes.
So is the task of a just king or a just judge. He listens well and he is a keen observer. He notes the wink or eyes averting his gaze. He sees the smile of arrogance and the nervous twitching of the liar. He sees through the exterior into the heart. Such is…
The righteous who walks in his integrity -
blessed are his children after him!
Blessed are his children who grow up in a home under his influence. They have a father who models the righteous life before them. They have a father who instructs them in the way of righteousness. They have a father who shows them steadfast love and faithfulness, who loves his wife, and who fears…
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find?
This is a proverb that would have been as an arrow into the heart of Peter, who after proclaiming his willingness to die for his Lord, denied him a few hours later. It is a proverb that haunts us all. Over and again we profess our steadfast love for God, and then each…
The purpose in a man's heart is like deep water,
but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Every counselor should know this verse by heart. But the skill is not reserved for professional counselors. It is for anyone with understanding - understanding of what? The biblical teaching about the human heart. That it is sinful and deceptive even to the owner of the heart. That even…
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn;
he will seek at harvest and have nothing.
The sluggard does not plow in the time when the cold begins merely because it feels cold. No season is a good time for him to plow. Either it is too cold or too hot; too dry or too wet. And if the weather is ever right, then it is too nice…
It is an honor for a man to keep aloof from strife,
but every fool will be quarreling.
To a fool it is dishonor to walk away from a fight. It is shameful to "back down." The fool believes he is protecting his dignity to respond to every perceived slight. The fool believes that he must correct every perceived error, that he must argue every point. He is…
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion;
whoever provokes him to anger forfeits his life.
This proverb is giving warning to those subject to another's power. Just as the person with power should take heed not to be provoked, so the person under their power needs to exercise proper wisdom not to provoke. Many persons have lost jobs, they claim because of principle…
Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.
The drinker takes on the personality of what he drinks. He becomes silly, turns foolish, and loses all sense of control so that he becomes a brawler. Many drink because alcohol releases natural inhibition. The shy person becomes extroverted, but he also loses control of his common sense. He may…
Condemnation is ready for scoffers,
and beating for the backs of fools.
Condemnation and beating is what scoffers and fools prepare for themselves. Scoffers will not win hearers (unless they are other scoffers and fools). For a brief time, some may try to listen to them, but will quickly realize that the scoffers have nothing constructive to say. They will see that scoffers delight in mocking rather than…
A worthless witness mocks at justice,
and the mouth of the wicked devours iniquity.
This is yet another proverb recognizing the inner nature of the wicked. They do not act wickedly out of ignorance. They do not have a misguided sense of justice. Showing them the error of their ways does not bring repentance. Rather, they are pleased that the error of their ways is receiving recognition.
Cease to hear instruction, my son,
and you will stray from the words of knowledge.
Stop hearing instruction and you will not only stop learning more, but you will stray from the path of knowledge. Ceasing to learn more is not a matter of slowing down and letting others pass you by. Rather, it is straying off the path of knowledge altogether. A patient who stops receiving physical…
He who does violence to his father and chases away his mother
is a son who brings shame and reproach.
Rebellion against parents is an especially grievous offense in scriptures. Striking one's father or mother is punishable by death. Rebellion against proper authority is wrong, but there something more involved in the rebellion against parents. Proverbs speaks of the sorrow, bitterness, and shame that parents of a foolish…
Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence;
reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.
Strike the scoffer and at best he will curtail his behavior; yet he will not learn. As Proverbs 9:7, 8 note: “Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse...Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you.” A scoffer is someone to be controlled. His attitude prevents him from…
Scripture teaches us to rejoice with those who rejoice and to weep with those who weep. And so, with our former associate pastor Rick Phillips, the church staff rejoices in the Boston Red Sox victory in the World Series. And with our former senior minister Phil Ryken, we weep, well we try to weep, actually we chuckle a bit over the defeat of the St. Louis Cardinals.
The fear of the Lord leads to life,
and whoever has it rests satisfied;
he will not be visited by harm.
The "fear of the Lord" is not a popular concept in modern Christianity. We associate such an idea with pagan religion in which worshippers cringe before an idol in terror or a slave trembling before a cruel master. And yet Scripture portrays the fear of the Lord…
What is desired in a man is steadfast love,
and a poor man is better than a liar.
It is better to have a poor friend who shows steadfast love through all circumstances than to have wealthy friends who are false. It is better to be a person who shows such love than to attain wealth and friends through deception. Money cannot compare in value to friendship, and…
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
What a humbling and comforting statement. It is humbling to remember that, however clever and powerful we may think we are, our plans only serve the plan of the Lord. The rebellion of the wicked serves God's purposes. The service of the righteous is carried out…
Listen to advice and accept instruction,
that you may gain wisdom in the future.
The wise understand this principle, for it is what led them to a higher plane of wisdom. Their desire to learn allowed them to seek instruction in the first place. Their interest is not in being perceived as knowledgeable, but rather they value knowledge itself. Furthermore, they understand that what may seem to be…
A man of great wrath will pay the penalty,
for if you deliver him, you will only have to do it again.
You will have to bail the angry man out of jail again, or defend him in the principal's office again, or speak up for him at work again, or whatever the circumstance may be. A person whose temper explodes gets himself into trouble time and again…
Discipline your son, for there is hope;
do not set your heart on putting him to death.
The principal of a high school learned the ability to discern which poorly performing students had potential of turning things around and which were likely to remain mired in their self-defeating behavior. It was the response of their parents to discipline. If their parents were…