If one is burdened with the blood of another,
he will be a fugitive until death;
let no one help him.
How serious is the crime of murder? The Scriptures speak quite clearly that to take one man’s blood requires that that man give his life for the innocent (Exodus 9:6). There is, too, consequences for the guilty…
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.
I remember reading the testimony of Chuck Colson, the political aide of Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandals in the 1970’s. Colson described his intense desire to be accepted by Nixon as a “lust for power.” Colson described how the more power…
Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
If you remember some history, you may be able to identify several qualities of a wicked ruler. You need not go too far back in history to discover such a man—they certainly are not hard to find. The Scriptures speak about a “wise” ruler and…
Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always,
but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.
What do you really fear? The Bible speaks of a proper fear, namely a reverence and great respect for who God is and what he has done. We tend to think that to be truly happy, fear should be absent. The opposite is…
Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Have you ever had to deal with unconfessed sin your life? You knew what you did was not right, but refused to make it right with God or with others. It is miserable. It feels like it is there all the time and just…
When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.
Who would you rather have ruling over you? A good man or a wicked man? Obviously, we all would desire to see the righteous one over us. We can trust that ruler and we feel protected and cared for.
In Proverbs 28:12, the…
A rich man is wise in his own eyes,
but a poor man who has understanding will find him out.
"There are no greater fools than those who see their folly as wisdom."—New Geneva Study Bible
In Luke 12, the rich farmer who had abundant crops built bigger barns to contain his prosperity. What’s wrong with that? It seems rather…
Whoever misleads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit,
but the blameless will have a goodly inheritance.
In Deuteronomy 6 and 7—and throughout the Old Testament—Israel is warned not to turn aside and go after other gods. Israel suffered from amnesia and distractions. We like Israel suffer from amnesia and distractions. Jason Bourne suffered from amnesia and struggled…
If one turns away his ear from hearing the law,
even his prayer is an abomination.
“I prayed, but it didn’t work.” How many times have you heard someone say this—or maybe even have said or thought it yourself?
“Great reason there is that God will refuse to hear him who refuses to hear God.” (Bishop Reynolds).
The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding,
but a companion of gluttons shames his father.
There are natural consequences to our actions. A son who has understanding will, in most cases, seek to honor God with his attitude and actions. The one who lacks understanding and eats or drinks to excess will embarrass himself and shame his parents.
Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.
Aristides, a wise and just Athenian of long ago, was a great enemy to greedy men in government. As treasurer of Athens, he hated covetousness. He lived and died poor by choice. Once, reproached by an evil banker, he answered, "Thy riches do…
Evil men do not understand justice,
but those who seek the LORD understand it completely.
Included in Webster’s Dictionary definition of justice is, "Fairness, justness, fair play, fair-mindedness, equity, evenhandedness, impartiality, objectivity, neutrality, honesty, and righteousness." None of these values are on the "map" of an evil-doer. Evil people have no desire to be fair. They do not even see why someone should want to be…
Those who forsake the law praise the wicked,
but those who keep the law strive against them.
I remember before my conversion to Christ that I took pleasure in the works of darkness and my rebellion against God. I even praised those working in it. How I wanted more! That was then. Now, we who respect the law of God do not want evil people…
A poor man who oppresses the poor
is a beating rain that leaves no food.
There are times when a poor man becomes a leader. People raise such a person, poor like themselves, to power. But he does not use his power fairly. He is cruel. He does not remember that he is like the other poor people. He thinks that he is…
When a land transgresses, it has many rulers,
but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.
When a nation or people transgress they usually require a heavier hand, whether that takes the form of more police or more government workers overseeing many regulations. They require many leaders or officials showing them what to do and enforcing the…
The wicked flee when no one pursues,
but the righteous are bold as a lion.
The wicked lose strength and courage when the odds are stacked against them. They thrive when they can lie, cheat, ambush, and rely on greater numbers to fight and win their battles. Their confidence lies in what they see and experience. When they are alone or cannot…
Know well the conditions of your flocks,
and give attention to your herds,
for riches do not last forever;
and does a crown endure to all generations?
Its all too true that what we accrue in our lives, we can't take with us in death (Ecclesiastes 5:15). Christ had a very clear warning in Luke 12:15—"Take care and be…
Sheol and Abaddon are never satisfied,
and never satisfied are the eyes of man.
In the 1948 Humphrey Bogart classic, Key Largo, the Bogart character says to the gangster, Rocco, played by Edward G. Robinson, “What does Rocco want?” Rocco is not the sharpest knife in the drawer and he has difficulty answering the question. Bogart helps him out by saying…
As in water face reflects face,
so the heart of man reflects the man.
Some, like Forrest Gump, would reduce a person to his or her actions. Others might reduce a person to his or her motives, “Well she meant well,” someone might say. Still others might reduce a person to words, “But you said…………..” What all of these have in common…
Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit,
and he who guards his master will be honored.
This seems strange. Shouldn’t we be watching out for the little guy? Can’t the big guy (the master, so to speak) take care of himself? Why does Proverbs admonish the wise person to watch out for (to guard) his master? And how is it…
Iron sharpens iron,
and one man sharpens another.
One good book written by Christians about how to watch movies as a Christian makes the claim that the reason why superhero movies are so popular is because American culture today has given up on real solutions to real problems. They claim that this gives rise to the tendency to look to the fantasy…
A continual dripping on a rainy day
and a quarrelsome wife are alike;
to restrain her is to restrain the wind
or to grasp oil in one's right hand.
Once again, I find myself a cultural dinosaur. For those few of you who remember Henny Youngman, the title of this essay makes sense. For the rest of you, there…
Whoever blesses his neighbor with a loud voice,
rising early in the morning,
will be counted as cursing.
A bit of encouragement and recognition goes a long way. This is true of ourselves as well as others whom we love and work with. Too much undue encouragement, however, is not helpful; sometimes it can be very damaging.…
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.
Some years ago a former student of mine did work for me over a series of years. This young man, I believed, was so trustworthy that at one time I said to my wife that I…
The prudent sees danger and hides himself,
but the simple go on and suffer for it.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must confess that at some times in our lives, we have been able to see evil coming. Can you think of a time when this was true in your experience? This is not always the case; sometimes, we…
Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,
that I may answer him who reproaches me.
It is always a blessing to see my 27 year old son make right decisions. Only recently, he agreed to do some work for a friend. When he got into the job, he realized it was much more involved and would take more time and…
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.
One of the great joys of the summer months is seeing family members as well as special friends. In many of…
Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.
Friendship is often portrayed on sitcoms as a group of people continually taking verbal jabs at one another or laughing at someone’s expense. That is not friendship.
God brings you gifts in the form of true friends to enjoy life with and…
Like a bird that strays from its nest
is a man who strays from his home.
The bird’s nest is for protection from predators and shelter from the elements. It is for raising the young in security. The home is also a place of security, trust, and support. Anyone that strays from home will, like a bird, be alone, likely end up…
One who is full loathes honey,
but to one who is hungry everything bitter is sweet.
I am sure many of us can recall a time when we were “stuffed”. Maybe it was a Thanksgiving dinner or other holiday eating occasion; perhaps it was a second (or third?) dessert that you lived to regret. Kids can stuff themselves with candy and spoil…
Faithful are the wounds of a friend;
profuse are the kisses of an enemy.
Yesterday pitted a secret unspoken love versus an open reprimand. Today turns the tables to place the reader on the receiving end… and the relationship it defines. How would you define friendship? There is a saying about friendship I found online which is rather pithy:
Wrath is cruel, anger is overwhelming,
but who can stand before jealousy?
We all know how it feels to be angry and to have those emotions rage within. Some of us know the state of wrath when, vengeful, we want to get even with someone who has hurt us. Both anger and wrath can be strong and consuming, and the verse says…
A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty,
but a fool’s provocation is heavier than both.
Fools have no common sense or self-control. They do not govern their actions. Thus, when the foolish person is provoked, he/she doesn’t care about the "weightiness" of thoughtless words or deeds. The natural consequences of foolish actions affect everyone nearby—like the heavy burden of a great stone…
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
a stranger, and not your own lips.
"It's about you!" is a phrase often heard. For Christians, especially, our goal is to give God all the glory. Our Lord tells us, "Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven"…
Do not boast about tomorrow,
for you do not know what a day may bring.
It is common sense to know we are not guaranteed tomorrow. The epistle of James 4:13-16 reads, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit'— yet you do…
A lying tongue hates its victims,
and a flattering mouth works ruin.
Occasions arise where we have the opportunity to choose how we use our words: to help or to harm, to bless or to curse. Yet many mean-spirited people use words to hurt others at any given moment, deliberately hurling verbal slings and arrows at their victims. It becomes a lifestyle. Their…
Whoever digs a pit will fall into it,
And a stone will come back on him who starts it rolling.
We have all heard the saying, “He who lives by the sword, dies by the sword”. This proverb is a variation on that theme. He who starts trouble will eventually get caught up in its web. There are too many variables at…
Whoever hates disguises himself with his lips
and harbors deceit in his heart;
when he speaks graciously, believe him not,
for there are seven abominations in his heart;
though his hatred be covered with deception,
his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly.
We have a person described here who is hateful, yet covers up the…
Like the glaze covering an earthen vessel
are fervent lips with an evil heart.
Glaze can cover and hide what is underneath while giving the appearance of revealing its inner substance. We can see the clay, but the glaze covers over any imperfections and causes the clay to have an alluring shine that it really doesn’t possess itself. In the same way…
The words of a talebearer are as wounds,
and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
Having worked with high school students for over 40 years, I have often heard students discussing what they have overheard others saying about them. It may be a friend talking to another friend or a teacher talking to another teacher about a student. The words…
As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire,
so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.
Have you ever watched the TV show, “My Wife and Kids?” One thing that strikes me about that show is the constant arguing between the husband and wife. Think of how each response adds to hostility between the couple. No doubt, every spousal abuse had…
For lack of wood the fire goes out,
and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases.
Have you ever gotten caught inadvertently gossiping? It is not a pleasant scene. It is very embarrassing and even more shameful that one can do little to make amends for the wrongs. It only begins a more dangerous route of division and strife between people. Contention…
Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows, and death
is the man who deceives his neighbor and then says “I was only joking”
What a strange and disturbing picture this is. A fire brand is a piece of burning wood. Throwing that or an arrow at a neighbor would surely declare an intent to harm. How then could someone throw these at…
The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
it wears him out to bring it back to his mouth.
Could these proverbs—these didactic words of wisdom—be about me, the sinner? I easily assume that this sluggard is someone else, not me. I picture Jabba the Hut from Star Wars. Now that’s a sluggard. He can hardly lift his hand to even feed…
As a door turns on its hinges,
so does a sluggard on his bed.
The thing about doors is that they don’t actually go anywhere. People will go in and out of doors. People will get somewhere, but the door itself just swings back and forth—open and shut and open again. Doors don’t get out much. They don’t accomplish much. People and life, so…
The sluggard says, “There is a lion in the road!
There is a lion in the streets!”
The writer of Proverbs has some pretty uncomplimentary things to say about the fool and the myopian (the person who is wise in his own eyes). He also sets his sights against the sluggard—the lazy person. Here, the sluggard is described as one who won't…
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes?
There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Who in the world could be in a more precarious spiritual condition than the fool? Remember, the fool is the one who says in his heart that there is no God. Apparently, there is one who even outshines (so to…
Like a dog that returns to his vomit
is a fool who repeats his folly.
If you have ever seen a dog slurp up its own vomit, you will not need to be reminded what a disgusting sight it is! We will not dwell on this part of the verse.
Rather, we will move on to ask the question: how is…
Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard
is a proverb in the mouth of fools.
One would not normally think of a thorn bush as a weapon of choice. Here, the drunk is not merely grabbing a thorn bush and injuring himself. Rather, this insensible man somehow gets hold of a prickly thorn bush and starts flinging…
Like one who binds the stone in the sling is one who gives honor to a fool.
In the continuing rant regarding fools, the writer now promotes a smart proverb about honoring fools: he is against the idea. As one commentator pithily wrote, “the stone is there to be slung out. So is the fool.” (Kidner, Tyndale OT, p. 155)
So how are…