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First of all, we want to see the theme of this book, which we can say is found in Proverbs 9:10 - "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” There are three words found here: wisdom, knowledge, and understanding . These three words are found very frequently in the book of Proverbs and are basically all interconnected. These three words are found together in the New Testament as well in Colossians 1:9 which says, "...we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding." We can say that wisdom means to act and to speak in a divine way - in the way God would act and speak and the way God wants us to act and speak. Knowledge is to know God, which is eternal life. John 17:3 says, "This is life eternal, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." In a sense, we can say that the book of Proverbs is a New Covenant book in the Old Testament, because there's a lot in this book that relates to us in the New Covenant as we will see as we go on. The book of Proverbs has a number of things to say about fools. Jesus spoke about the foolish man in a number of places. And the book of Proverbs, more than any other book in the Old Testament, speaks about fools. In fact, throughout this book, it says sixty-six things about fools. It also says twenty-eight things about lazy people or sluggards. Sluggards are those who are not wholehearted and spiritually lazy. If we keep just these two things in mind, we find that Proverbs speaks about those who are not wholehearted and those who are not wise. And when we look at Psalms and Proverbs, which are side by side in the Old Testament, we see that the Psalms are mainly about man communing with God through prayer or praise or Old Testament worship, but the Proverbs are dealing more with how we are to behave in relation to our fellow man. Two commandments that Jesus gave are that we are to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbour as ourselves. These two commandments are brought together in the book of Psalms and Proverbs.

Unless otherwise noted, verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB). I frequently refer to verses in the Good News Translation (GNT) and The Living Bible (TLB) translations. Particularly for the book of Proverbs, I recommend using these two translations. They really bring out the meaning of some verses.

Chapter 1
Chapter 1

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

To know wisdom and instruction,
To discern the sayings of understanding,
To receive instruction in wise behavior,
Righteousness, justice, and integrity;

Prov 1:1-3

To the best of our knowledge, Solomon wrote twenty-nine chapters in the book of Proverbs with the last two chapters being written by someone else. This is the purpose of Proverbs: to receive instruction in wise behavior. To have wisdom is to behave in a godly, divine way; to speak to people in a godly, divine way; to write to people in a godly, divine way. We don't have these things in us, because nothing good dwells in our flesh. But God's will and purpose is that increasingly we learn to speak, behave and conduct ourselves in a godly way - in the same way that God would act and speak - and to deal with other people in a divine way. The sad thing is when many years go by in our life, and we still speak in a human way. Very often you still find that husbands and wives, even after ten or fifteen years of hearing these truths, still speak in such an Adamic way to each other. Then we know that they don't really have any wisdom at all. When people speak to one another in such a human, Adamic way, then you know that they really need to go into the book of Proverbs and cry out for wisdom, because they don't have it. So, the purpose of Proverbs is to receive instruction in wise behavior.

        They can teach you how to live intelligently and how to be honest,
        just, and fair.

    Prov 1:3, GNT

Righteousness, justice, and equity speak of being honest, just, and fair. That is divine, wise behavior.

    To give prudence to the naive,
    To the youth knowledge and discretion

    Prov 1:4

The simple person is the one who is inexperienced and particularly the one who is open to every influence. Somebody says one thing, and he's influenced by that. Tomorrow, somebody says something else, and he's influenced by that. That's how most young people are. They are influenced so much by what they read in the newspapers, what their friends say, or what their relatives say. That is a simple person. We read about that type of person in Ephesians 4:14, where it speaks of children tossed about with every wind of doctrine. They are never sure, never stable. It says here that this book has been written to give prudence and wisdom to that simple-minded, unstable, unsteady person, so that he can be stable, steady, and mature. Therefore, the book of Proverbs has been particularly written for young people. It says in the latter part of verse 4, "to the youth..." Here is a book written particularly for young people, to give them knowledge and discretion, and wisdom in dealing with situations and people - particularly, the opposite sex. We find tremendous stupidity among young people in many of these areas, which they themselves don't realize. If they take the book of Proverbs seriously, they can become wise, even while they are young. They don't have to wait until they are fifty to become wise. There are many people who are seventy who are still quite foolish and simple; simple in a bad sense - in the sense that they have no steadiness in their life. They haven't acquired wisdom even though they are seventy years old. And yet, a person who is twenty to twenty-five can be wise if he takes the instructions of this book seriously.

    A wise man will hear and increase in learning,
    And a man of understanding will acquire wise counsel

    Prov 1:5

This verse tells us that this book is not only for simple people. It's also for wise people - people who already have a certain amount of wisdom. They will hear and they will increase in learning. One mark of a wise man is that he is teachable; he has an ear that is willing to hear and willing to be taught. Therefore, he can acquire even more wisdom. "A man of understanding will acquire wise counsel." In one translation, the second part of this verse says that a man of understanding will get a steersman to steer his life. Wisdom will become like a man who steers the ship. A man of understanding has wisdom to steer his ship.

    To understand a proverb and a figure,
    The words of the wise and their riddles.

    Prov 1:6

Proverbs can give us understanding into the spiritual truths of God's word. The first six verses outline the purpose that Solomon wrote this book. You remember that God asked Solomon, "What do you want?" (1 Kings 3:5). Solomon didn't ask for wealth, he didn't ask for honor, but he asked God for wisdom. And it says God was pleased with this request and gave it to him. Of course, the sad thing is that later Solomon drifted away, which teaches us that you can even write a book like Proverbs and still drift away if you're not wholehearted. The life of Solomon is a tremendous warning when we read the book of Proverbs, that even the man who wrote this fantastic book finally drifted away. We can preach to others and be disqualified ourselves if we don't remain in humility and the fear of the Lord, which Solomon speaks so much about. It's not just a question of understanding this book, but of living out this book all our days and enduring until the end. Here Solomon is a frightening warning to all who think that they're something, or think that they have come somewhere, or think that they have achieved something. We can even be used to write Scripture and bless thousands and still drift away if we don't hold fast to the end!

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

    Prov 1:7

This is the first Proverb. It is very significant that this is the first Proverb. When it says the beginning of knowledge, we can say this is referring to the foundation. Later on in Proverbs 9:10, it says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." Knowledge and wisdom are really interconnected, because knowledge does not mean bible knowledge. It means the knowledge of God. When we read of knowledge, it doesn't mean academic knowledge of the bible. Because the devil has that, and he doesn't have the fear of the Lord. So it's obvious that verse 7 is not referring to bible knowledge. The knowledge spoken of here is the knowledge of God! That's quite different from bible knowledge. A lot of people who have bible knowledge have no knowledge of God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. "This is life eternal, that they might know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent" (John 17:3). To know more and more of what God is like. Paul said that was the great longing of his life: "...that I may know him..." (Philippians 3:10). That is, he wanted to know God more and more and more and more. To know more and more of what God is like, how God looks at people, how God looks at circumstances, how God looks at things - then Paul could change his own mind to that way of thinking. That is the knowledge spoken of here. And it says here that the first step to know God is to fear him; to have a reverence for him. To hate sin and to love righteousness. That is to fear God. And then we can know him better and better. That's why it's not a question of how much intelligence we have, but rather how much fear of God we have which determines how much we increase in spiritual knowledge and spiritual wisdom. So that's right at the beginning - the foundation, the cornerstone, whatever you want to call it - the fear of the Lord. It's the starting line of the race. If you don't get there, you don't get anywhere. We can also say that it's the essence of all knowledge. The main part of all knowledge is the fear of God, and the day I lose the fear of God, I can't get any more understanding of God or wisdom. The way to increase in wisdom is to increase in the fear of God. The way to increase in the knowledge of God is to increase in the fear of the Lord.

We also understand from this verse who a fool is. When the bible speaks about a fool, it's not speaking about someone who got fifteen percent in mathematics and ten percent in science. A person who got those scores may still be wise according to the scriptures if they have the fear of God. When the bible speaks about a fool, it's not speaking about someone who is bad in his studies. It's speaking about someone who does not have the fear of the Lord - a person who can lust after women and not mourn over it, not weep over it. He's a fool even if he gets ninety percent in math and science! He's an absolute fool, and he's the person about whom Solomon has written sixty-six things in the book of Proverbs. This is the type of person who doesn't have any fear of God when it comes to sin - when it comes to telling lies or signing false statements or committing all types of other sins. The one who is not disturbed in his heart about such things. Solomon has written sixty-six things about such fools. Fools are those who despise wisdom and instruction. They do not have the understanding to look at things from God's viewpoint. We can say that wisdom is to look at people and things and the whole world the way God looks at them. The more wisdom I have, the more I should look at people the way God looks at them - with tenderness, compassion, love and purity. If I can't look at people with tenderness, compassion, love and purity, I'm not getting wisdom, however much I may be increasing in bible knowledge (which the devil has more of than me in any case). That's where we need to see that the fool that the bible speaks of is the fool that does not fear God, who does not have a reverence for God in his life, who does not hate sin, and who does not love righteousness. So that's the first thing: to fear God.

    Hear, my son, your father's instruction
    And do not forsake your mother's teaching;
    Indeed, they are a graceful wreath to your head
    And ornaments about your neck.

    Prov 1:8-9

Once we have the foundation of the fear of God laid, Solomon begins his instruction in the home of a child with its father and mother. Notice how Proverbs links that together. Verse 7 is about the fear of the Lord, and verse 8 is about honoring your father and mother. I'll tell you something I've seen through the short years of my life: those who never learned to sincerely, wholeheartedly honor their earthly father and mother never, never, never acquire wisdom. Even though they may increase fantastically in bible knowledge, they never become wise. I've seen that again and again and again and again. The first commandment with a promise was to honor your father and mother (Ephesians 6:2). That's why if we want children to grow up into the wisdom of the book of Proverbs, we have to first teach them to obey their parents. It's no use sending your children to school if they haven't learned to obey daddy and mommy at home. It's an absolute waste of time. You haven't given them the education they need first of all. That's what we need to tell our children: "Hear, my little son, listen to what your father tells you. Listen to what your mother is telling you." That's where we have to begin. And that's where all wisdom begins with that little child at home. If it begins like that, as they grow up, this can promote them to honor.

Notice in verse 9 this word "grace" comes. A wreath of grace to your head. It's very interesting to see. I mentioned that the book of Proverbs is like a New Covenant book in the Old Testament. The word "grace" comes a number of times in the book of Proverbs. It also comes in Zechariah 12:10, where it says, "I will pour out upon them a spirit of grace..." And in that New Testament sense, we can say it is found mostly only in Proverbs and Zechariah. Consider, for example, Proverbs 3:34, which Peter and James quote - "God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble." That was written by Solomon in the Old Testament long before Peter and James wrote it in the New Testament. In fact, Peter and James quoted from Solomon in the Old Testament. "He scoffs at the scoffers but gives grace to the afflicted." That means he resists the proud and gives grace to the humble. And so, we find this word "grace" coming in the book of Proverbs. And that's why this is a book we need to study carefully, those of us who have come into the New Covenant.

We need to pay attention when Solomon says "my son" in Proverbs 1:10, 1:15, 2:1, 3:1, etc. He's speaking to someone who is willing to submit to him as a father. He's not speaking to people who have not understood the principle of submission. If we have not understood the principle of submission as a child to our earthly parents and in the church to those who are spiritually like fathers to us, we'll never get wisdom. It's written to those who are able to hear an exhortation which says, "my son". Can you listen to that? Not when God says it, but when a man whom God has appointed over you says it; at home - an earthly father or mother; in the church - those who are above us in the Lord. That's a very important principle. I've come to see as of late how so much revolves around this principle of submission to authority, and how God would do ALMOST ANYTHING for a man or woman who has understood that one principle. God will do ALMOST ANYTHING for a child who has learned to submit to his parents or a wife who has learned to submit to her husband or a person who has learned to submit to spiritual leadership in the church. ALMOST ANYTHING. That's a fundamental principle. That's why the devil always tries to move us out from that place of submission, so that God can do ALMOST NOTHING for us. And we also deprive ourselves of God's blessing, because God gives grace to the humble. And the humble are those who have learned submission to authority.

    My son, if sinners entice you,
    Do not consent.
    If they say, "Come with us,
    Let us lie in wait for blood,
    Let us ambush the innocent without cause;
    Let us swallow them alive like Sheol,
    Even whole, as those who go down to the pit;
    We will find all kinds of precious wealth,
    We will fill our houses with spoil;
    Throw in your lot with us,
    We shall all have one purse,"

    Prov 1:10-14

If the first place we have to learn wisdom is the home (verses 8-9), then the second place where we have to be careful is with our friends (verses 10-19). Verses 8-9 are referring to the child at home, and verse 10 is referring to the young man who has now gone to school and is growing up around other companions of his who are enticing him and inviting him to sin. Just like it says that the lusts of the flesh entice us, here are friends enticing this young man to sin. Sinners. Sinners are those who don't have the fear of God, who entice the young man through flattery, saying something nice to him so that they can entice him away from the way of truth. They say, "Be a man! Smoke a cigarette if you're a man! Have a drink with me if you're a man! Prove that you're a man!" This young person who wants to be a man is tempted so much. He says to himself, "Oh! I'm willing to show this person that I am also a man." And thus, he is enticed into sin. The word of God addresses those who are out of the home and out with their friends now. If those friends are trying to entice you, do not consent! Don't be deceived by their flattery! Don't be deceived by their challenges to be a man or a woman. No. You show that you're a man by saying, "No, I'm not going to do what you say. I fear God." That's the proof that we have courage and that we are men and women of God.

Verses 11-12 are speaking about some extreme circumstances of a gang of murderers inviting some young man. They say, "Come. Let's be like highway robbers and murder and kill people. Let's lie in wait for them and ambush them and kill them to get their money." There we see that they are enticing him to come and commit murder. Now, I don't think anyone here is in danger of being enticed to join some gang of murderers. How shall we apply this to ourselves? We can apply it in this way: this is a backbiter inviting you to come and backbite against a brother. That is the New Covenant equivalent of murder: to shed a brother or sister's blood when he or she is not there. "Come. Let's talk about so and so - something bad about so and so." Listen to the word of God which says, "My son, when sinners entice you to backbite, do not consent." Take a stand. Don't participate with them. That's the warning for us.

In Verse 13, why are these murderers and robbers after these innocent people? With one aim: to make themselves rich. But it need not be murder. People do all types of things to get wealth and fill their houses. There are people who take bribes in order to fill their houses with television sets and video recorders and refrigerators and cars which they got unrighteously. There are people who cheat the government of taxes in order to fill their houses with mixers and pressure cookers, which they've been able to buy because they cheated the government of taxes. There are so many ways. It doesn't have to be murder, but to fill my house with a lot of things using unrighteous money is warned against here. It's a warning against covetousness. It's a warning against the lust to fill our houses with things when Jesus has said that a man's life does not consist in the abundance of things he has in his home. If God gives you the ability to get things that are useful, get them. But if he has chosen not to give you that ability, we have to learn godliness with contentment and have no desire to acquire anything unrighteously or be covetous in order to fill our houses.

Do you know that this phrase in verse 14 - "we shall all have one purse"- is not Christianity? It's communism. And it's put here in the mouth of sinners: "We shall all have one purse." There are some groups of people that think it is spirituality for everyone to live together and just have one purse. But you never find that anywhere in the word of God. In fact, it's a misunderstanding of Acts 2 and Acts 4. If you read carefully in Acts 2 and Acts 4, it never says they all had one purse. It said they had all things in common - in the sense that if a man had something, his brother was quite entitled to use it. That's right. "All things in common" means if you have a bike or a scooter, it must be perfectly available for another brother to use if he needs it. That's the meaning of having all things in common; not that we all have one purse. Because if we pull all our resources and have one purse, none of us would be able to learn faithfulness with money. It would just encourage all the lazy people to join us. No. "We shall all have one purse" is not Christianity. It's communism. And we are never to get into that deception. Some people have and found it doesn't work, because God never intended that type of communism to be found among Christians. But to not possess anything as exclusively our own and to give according to peoples' needs, that is Christianity. I just mention that in passing. To share with the needy is Christianity, but to have a common purse is communism.

This also gives us a warning about ungodly business partnerships. It's wrong for a believer to join hands with a man who doesn't have the fear of God in any business partnership. That's also the meaning here of 'We shall all have one purse.' "Let's get into this business enterprise together, and we will be partners and share together in what we get. We shall share the profit together." That's the meaning. And when you join hands with those who don't have the fear of God, it's going to lead you into calamity. There we need to hear the word of God which says, "My son, when a sinner invites you into a joint business enterprise, do not consent."

    My son, do not walk in the way with them.
    Keep your feet from their path,
    For their feet run to evil
    And they hasten to shed blood.

    Prov 1:15-16

In other words, break off those relationships which are leading you astray. "Their feet run to evil" means they don't have any principles in the way they do business. You'll be entangled in their ways if you go with them.

Then it goes on to say something very interesting. It uses a picture about what it means to be greedy: "They hasten to shed blood." This speaks of a young man growing up and trying to make money quickly. Therefore, he is enticed by those who say, "Come, we'll show you how to make money quickly." Young people can take a warning from this, particularly when they are newly married. They suddenly desire to have all the things in their home which many others have who have been married for fifteen or twenty years. They can be tempted in so many ways to do things that are unrighteous.

        It does no good to spread a net when the bird you want to catch is
        watching, but people like that are setting a trap for themselves, a
        trap in which they will die.

    Prov 1:17-18, GNT

There's no use spreading a net when the bird is watching, because the bird is not going to come into that net. It's watching you spread the trap. BUT greedy men are more stupid than that bird in the sense that they are setting a trap for themselves - a trap in which they will die because of their own greed. Verses 17-18 mean that a man who is covetous, who has not conquered in his own flesh the lust to possess more and more, and to have what this person has or that person has, doesn't realize that he's more stupid than a bird! A bird sees that trap and avoids it; but the greedy, covetous man is making a trap, through his greed, by which he's going to destroy and ruin his own life. The word of God speaks in 1 Timothy 6:10 about those who have the love of money piercing themselves. It's very interesting to see how the book of Proverbs begins. It begins with practical instruction concerning the pursuit of mammon and the desire to acquire it quickly. That's how young people can be tempted.

    So are the ways of everyone who gains by violence;
    It takes away the life of its possessors.

    Prov 1:19

Such is the fate of all who seek to make more money in unrighteous ways. They lose their life.

    Wisdom shouts in the street,
    She lifts her voice in the square;
    At the head of the noisy streets she cries out;
    At the entrance of the gates in the city she utters her sayings:
    "How long, O naive ones, will you love being simple-minded?
    And scoffers delight themselves in scoffing
    And fools hate knowledge?

    Prov 1:20-22

Here is a contrast to everything prior involving the sinner inviting the young person. Here is another person inviting the young man. Wisdom. In verse 10, sinners are inviting the young man. In verse 20, wisdom is inviting the young man and saying, "Young man/woman, why don't you listen to me?" Wisdom is SHOUTING in the street, trying to draw those young people away from foolish ways. And that's what we must do in the church. Wisdom must SHOUT and lift her voice. Wisdom is pictured here as a woman - as a godly woman - and in that sense, the bride of Christ is inviting people - shouting and inviting people away from folly. Wherever she finds young people going astray, she's shouting and warning them.

Notice in this verse that there are three stages of going down into the pit. First, you are simple. That means you're easily influenced. We can say the simple person in the book of Proverbs is the person who is easily influenced. We know that many young people are like that - easily influenced by people in their schools and colleges. That's where it starts. After some time, if they continue like that and don't listen to wisdom, they will enter the second stage: becoming scoffers. They will think, "You know, that's a bit old-fashioned what they preach in the church. It's too rigid and narrow-minded." Now he's gone a step further and become a scoffer. That's the second stage. The third stage is where he becomes a fool in God's eyes. We saw in verse 7 that a fool is one who has no fear of God. Notice these three stages. First, you are easily influenced. Second, you become a scoffer and begin to look down and laugh at those things that are spoken by godly brothers in the church. And then the third is completely losing the fear of God. I want to warn all young people of these three steps. Be careful. Don't be easily influenced. And be much more careful if you've gone beyond that stage to the place where you think this is all old-fashioned, religious stuff and that those in the church are so narrow-minded. If you've gone that far, you're very close to the third stage: losing the fear of God altogether. Turn around! Turn around!

    Turn to my reproof,
    Behold, I will pour out my spirit on you;
    I will make my words known to you.

    Prov 1:23

This verse tells us to turn around from going down the path in verse 22. Turn around, whichever stage you are in. If you're in the third stage, turn quickly. If you're in that second stage, turn! You might fall into the third stage easily. But the best is to turn when you are in the first stage itself. Wisdom says, "Turn to my reproof. Repent!" And what will we get? Not bible knowledge. Wisdom says, "I will pour out my spirit on you." Here is a New Covenant experience. Wisdom will pour out on you the Holy Spirit, who in Ephesians 1:17 is called "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the full knowledge of God." That's the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of wisdom and revelation who gives us the full knowledge of God. Wisdom says, "I will pour out my spirit upon you." In other words, I will change your way of thinking on the inside. I'm not just going to teach you how to behave and act on the outside, like an actor who's pretending to be wise. No! I'll pour out my spirit within you so that your inside will change.

Wisdom then says, "I will make my words known to you." In other words, she will teach you the word of God. There are two things we need in our lives: the Holy Spirit and the word of God. That's what we see in verse 23. To get wisdom, we need the Holy Spirit and the word of God. God needs to pour out his Spirit upon us and then he can make known his words to us. You find right from the beginning when God recreated the heavens and the earth, it says the Spirit of God brooded upon the waters, and the word of God went forth and said, "Let there be light" (Genesis 1). The joint operation of the Holy Spirit and God's word changed the face of the earth. And it says here that the joint operation of the Holy Spirit and the word of God can change our lives from foolish to wise if we turn when wisdom reproves us. Our lives can be changed when we get a word of reproof or rebuke in the church from an older brother who has a little more wisdom than you! If you don't get offended at that word but turn, that can be your salvation. That can be our salvation when we turn at a word of rebuke or reproof that comes either directly through the Holy Spirit or through a brother who may have a little more wisdom than us. But the sad thing is that most people don't take that seriously, particularly when they are young. Therefore, wisdom has to say these sad words we'll see in verse 24.

    Because I called and you refused,
    I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention;
    And you neglected all my counsel
    And did not want my reproof;
    I will also laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when your dread comes,
    When your dread comes like a storm
    And your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    When distress and anguish come upon you.

    Prov 1:24-17

How did wisdom call? Wisdom SHOUTED. She shouted and shouted and shouted. But he wouldn't listen. He says, "I know how to take care of myself." That's the spirit of self confidence in young people who have not been shattered and broken, and they refuse to take heed. They refuse the warnings of godly older people. Wisdom stretches out her hand and says, "Come, let me lead you." But they won't pay attention. And all her counsel they neglect. Wisdom advised them, warned them, and told them, but they just wouldn't listen. Think of young brothers and sisters who are growing up like that: listening to exhortations and warnings in the church but not taking it seriously. Wisdom says, " You did not want my rebuke. You got offended when somebody rebuked you. You hung around the brothers who were always saying nice things to you, and you avoided the people who rebuked and corrected you. Alright. One day calamity will hit you like a sudden flood or cyclone." We hear about that in the papers - suddenly people living on an island are all washed away. Suddenly a tidal wave came and hit them. Wisdom says, "When your calamity comes and hits you, I'll just stand back and laugh. I'll mock when dread comes upon you. And your dread will come like a storm, like a sudden cyclone. Your calamity will come like a whirlwind, and distress and anguish will come upon you." Wisdom says that. Those who go astray from God's paths, one day or the other, distress and anguish will certainly come upon.

    Then they will call on me, but I will not answer;
    They will seek me diligently but they will not find me,
    Because they hated knowledge
    And did not choose the fear of the Lord.
    "They would not accept my counsel,
    They spurned all my reproof.
    "So they shall eat of the fruit of their own way
    And be satiated with their own devices.

    Prov 1:28-31

Do you know that a day can come when it is too late to get wisdom? Thank God that day hasn't yet come. Brothers and sisters, now we can turn. Those are serious words. "They will seek me diligently at that time!" They had no time to seek her diligently at the right time. But later on, after they've made a mess of their life and it's too late, they will seek diligently, but they won't find her. We can find her now. But a day will come when we will not be able to find her, because we hated the knowledge of God. We may have been interested in bible knowledge, but we hated the knowledge of God which is pure and good and loving. We did not choose the fear of the Lord. "They would not accept my counsel. They spurned all my reproof." They got offended when they were reproved and rebuked. Notice how often the word 'reproof' comes. So, what's going to happen to them? They are going to reap what they sow. That's all. It's not that wisdom is going to go and punish them. No. They are just going to reap what they themselves have sown. Wisdom is only standing back and watching the whole thing. They shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and they will be satiated with their own devices. Their own cleverness is finally going to lead them astray, and they're going to reap the corruption that comes as a result of sowing to the flesh.

    For the waywardness of the naive will kill them,
    And the complacency of fools will destroy them.

    Prov 1:32

Here we see two dangers: waywardness and complacency. Waywardness means that you don't go along the right path. You sort of drift a little bit this way and that. And complacency means that you sit back and say, "Everything's alright with me. Nothing's going to happen to me. I'm alright." In other words, there's no fear and trembling in your life in relation to working out your own salvation. You're quite complacent and happy with your own condition. Two dangers: the waywardness of the simple, and then that simple person who has become wayward gradually becomes a fool who is quite satisfied in his waywardness. That is the second stage. That's the final stage which he reaches, and which finally destroys him. The thief has come to steal and kill and destroy, and the way he steals and kills and destroys is by allowing a person to be influenced by his surroundings and finally allowing him to be satisfied with his condition.

    But he who listens to me shall live securely
    And will be at ease from the dread of evil.

    Prov 1:33

Thank God that day in verse 32 has not yet come. You can still listen to wisdom, it says in verse 33. This is a great word for the insecure days we are living in in the world and in our country. Security comes through listening to God speaking through his spirit. Wisdom says, "If you listen to me, you will not only live securely, but you will have no fear in your life. You will be at ease from the dread of evil." There is no fear in love - the kind of fear that something evil will happen to me. Do any of us have that fear: something evil may hit me or my family at some point? It says here you need not have that fear if you make it a habit in your life to say, "Lord, I want to listen to you. I want to do what Mary did: sit at your feet and listen." That is the one thing needed.

Chapter 2
Chapter 2

    My son, if you will receive my words
    And treasure my commandments within you,
    Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
    Incline your heart to understanding;
    For if you cry for discernment,
    Lift your voice for understanding;
    If you seek her as silver
    And search for her as for hidden treasures;

    Prov 2:1-4

Again, he's speaking to those who have learned submission; those who have understood submission to authority. This is for those who are willing to turn at the reproof of wisdom. Wisdom has shouted. She has warned those people who don't listen to what's going to happen to them, and now she's speaking to those who are willing to listen. She says, "Okay, here is the first thing you need to do. You need to receive my word and treasure my commandments." In other words, when you come to the word of God, you need to look for the commandments, not just for the promises. You need to take those commandments and treasure them, not count them as a burden but take them as a treasure. "Oh! Here is a commandment. I have become rich! And one more commandment, and one more commandment! I'm increasing in treasure." Treasure my commandments: That's the first step - a right attitude towards God's word. Learn to look for the commandments in God's word. Do you want wisdom? Here it is. "If"...There's a big "if" there.

Make your ear attentive or attuned to wisdom. In other words, just like you tune your radio set to a particular frequency, here it says tune your ear to the frequency called "God's wisdom". Always be listening for that and incline your heart to understanding - not your mind, but your heart.

There are three ifs here. I want you to notice these three ifs. They are three steps to wisdom. Anyone who fulfills these three conditions will get wisdom. That's clear. And we can meditate on these three conditions. If people don't have wisdom, it's because they haven't fulfilled these three conditions. It's very clear: if... if...if...

  1. Verse 1: Learn to value God's commandments. If you receive God's word and treasure his commandments.
  2. Verse 3: Pray earnestly. Cry out with all your heart, because God is a rewarder of those who seek him diligently. If you cry for discernment and lift up your voice for understanding.
  3. Verse 4: If you forsake everything else that you consider valuable on the earth and seek for wisdom as the main thing. You must value wisdom more than anything else on the earth; more than your job, more than your wife, more than your children, more than your house, more than your property, more than anything else on earth! If you seek for her as silver and search for her like hidden treasures. Wisdom is called hidden treasures.
    Then you will discern the fear of the Lord
    And discover 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 He preserves the way of His godly ones.
    Then you will discern righteousness and justice
    And equity and every good course.
    For wisdom will enter your heart
    And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;
    Discretion will guard you,
    Understanding will watch over you,

    Prov 2:5-11

These verses are the promises to those who fulfill the conditions mentioned in verses 1-4. This is what we get if we fulfill the three previous ifs. The fear of the Lord is not something that we just have. God has to give it to us. We have to discern it. And we discern it when we fulfill those conditions in verses 1-4. We will also discover the knowledge of God if we fulfill the conditions in those first four verses of chapter two. Here's what all will happen if you fulfill those three conditions: You will discern the fear of the Lord. You will become a God-fearing brother/sister. You will discover the knowledge of God. You will know more and more what God is like and your life will become more and more secure, because it is the Lord who gives wisdom. No human being can give us wisdom. This clearly teaches that coming to Bible studies on the book of Proverbs will not give us wisdom. That can only show us the way to get wisdom, but it is the Lord who gives wisdom. James 1:5 says, "If any man lacks wisdom, let him go to the meetings." No. It says, "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask God." Let him ask God because every good and perfect gift comes from the Father. So, we can't get it from man.

Verse 6b says, "From His mouth come knowledge and understanding." Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word which proceeds from God's mouth, and from His mouth comes knowledge and understanding.

Verse 7: Now here are some wonderful promises. God has stored up (which means he has reserved) sound wisdom for the upright. The upright are those who are not crooked, those who don't bend in the moment of temptation and compromise, but who stand straight. Upright. Straight. The devil tries to bend them, but they won't bend. God has reserved some wisdom for them. He has some treasure to give them.

Verse 8a: Here's another promise. It says that God is a shield to protect those who walk in integrity. That is those who walk straight forward, who are honest. God protects them and helps them. He helps those who guard the paths of justice. You have to read verses 7 and 8 together. He's a shield to those who walk in integrity and who guard the paths of justice.

Verse 8a in the Good News Translation says, "He protects those who treat others fairly." Justice means that we treat others with fairness. God protects a person who treats other people with fairness. That's wisdom: to do to others as you want others to do to you; not to cheat them, not to do anything that will harm them in any way. Those who treat other people with fairness and kindness find God's protection over their life.

Verse 8b says, "He preserves the way of his godly ones." That means he keeps them from falling. The Good News Translation says, "He guards those who are devoted to him."

Verse 9 (The Living Bible): When you fulfill the conditions in verses 1-4, here's yet another promise: "God will help you to distinguish right from wrong." That's what we read in Hebrews 5:14 - "to discern between good and evil." That is wisdom. Wisdom is to discern between good and evil; to discern what a human way of reacting is but say, "I don't want to be human. I want to be divine", or to discern what a human way of speaking is but say, "I want to be divine." God will show you how to distinguish right from wrong and he will show you how to find the right decision every time! Think of that - how to find the right decision every time. In the mind of a soulish, carnal believer, he immediately thinks about this verse in relation to which job to take and which person to marry, but Solomon is not talking about such decisions. He's talking about decisions regarding how to live a godly life, and the spiritual person is thinking about that too - how to live a godly life. God will show us how to find the right decision every time. In some of the complicated decisions in life you will say, "What shall we do now? What is the divine way to react?" God will show you if you fulfill the conditions in verses 1-4 - if you treasure his commandments, if you cry out for knowledge, and if you desire wisdom more than anything else on the face of the earth.

Verse 10: Here are more promises offered to the person who fulfills those conditions. "Wisdom will enter your heart." Or as another translation says, "Wisdom will make herself at home in your heart." That means that Wisdom will not be a visitor, coming and going, but Wisdom will come and settle down permanently and make a home in your heart and dwell there. That's a wonderful thing when we don't have a reputation for occasionally acting wisely but most of the time acting foolishly, but that Wisdom has made a permanent home in our heart. Think of that. And it says, "Knowledge will be pleasant to your soul." To know God will be the thing that gives you pleasure more than any earthly pleasure.

Verse 11 says, "Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you." That's a tremendous thing for young people when you think of the number of foolish things young people can do. Think of a promise like this, that discretion will guard you and understanding will watch over you. You will be safe from folly if you submit to the teaching of Wisdom.

    To deliver you from the way of evil,
    From the man who speaks perverse things;
    From those who leave the paths of uprightness
    To walk in the ways of darkness;
    Who delight in doing evil
    And rejoice in the perversity of evil;
    Whose paths are crooked,
    And who are devious in their ways;
    To deliver you from the strange woman,
    From the adulteress who flatters with her words;
    That leaves the companion of her youth
    And forgets the covenant of her God;
    For her house sinks down to death
    And her tracks lead to the dead;
    None who go to her return again,
    Nor do they reach the paths of life.
    So you will walk in the way of good men
    And keep to the paths of the righteous.
    For the upright will live in the land
    And the blameless will remain in it;
    But the wicked will be cut off from the land
    And the treacherous will be uprooted from it.

    Prov 2:12-22

Now we come to the third area spoken of in chapters one and two. The first area we saw was the home in Proverbs 1:8, where the child must obey his parents. The second area we saw was in Proverbs 1:10, where the child grows up to be a young person going to school or college, and the other young people (his companions) are enticing him. The third area is the whole world, where there are evil men and evil, seductive women. Verses 12-15 speak of the evil men and verses 16-19 speak of the evil women.

In verses 12-15, it says that God can deliver you from the way of evil - "from the man who speaks perverse things." That is the man who is proud, the man who "leaves the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness", the crooked man, the man who is not straightforward. God can deliver you from that. There's a beautiful translation of this in the GNT. It says God can save you from those people who "stir up trouble by what they say." Have you met people like that, who have a tremendous ability to stir up trouble by the words they speak? They have a great ability to go into a home and say something and stir up trouble. Don't be such a foolish, stupid man or a foolish, stupid husband who has a great ability to stir up trouble by the way he speaks, or a wife who has a great ability to stir up trouble by the way she speaks and the words she speaks. Brothers and sisters, let's be delivered from that folly. God will keep you from such people who stir up trouble by what they say; those who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of doing evil, whose paths are crooked, who are not straightforward, who are devious in their ways. Dear young people, steer clear of these ungodly friends who will lead you astray. Seek your fellowship with God-fearing young people. That's the warning of the book of Proverbs.

Verses 16-19 speak about being delivered from the strange woman. That's for young people. Be careful about those attractive young girls who are trying to draw you. How will they draw you? With flattery (verse 16). They will say nice things about you - "Oh, you look so nice." That's enough for that young man. He's finished. Or she says, "He sings so nicely." Finished! And he runs like a sheep for the slaughter behind that girl who has flattered him. God can deliver you! Wisdom can deliver you from the adulteress. She's an adulteress! She's leading you away from God into spiritual adultery and physical adultery. She's part of Babylon which flatters. Beware of flattery young people. Beware of flattery. It says, "She leaves the companion of her youth." She leaves her husband and forgets the marriage covenant which she made before God. "Her house bows down to death" or "inclines to death" means that when you go after such girls, you're on a downward slope. It's only a matter of time before you hit the bottom. Be careful that you don't get onto that downward slope and go right down. "Her tracks lead to the dead", to Sheol, to Hell. It's a downward slope. "None who go to her return again, nor do they reach the paths of life." What does that mean? That means once you have started fooling around with girls, it will have a permanent effect on your life. You can recover from it, but you will never recover completely. There is some damage done that can never be rectified in all your life. Thank God if you're saved, but there's some damage done by all fooling around with the opposite sex. If it's only a little bit, a little damage is done. If more, more damage is done. But there's a permanent effect on our life. Remember that. All sexual sin has a permanent effect on our life. We can be forgiven but it has a permanent effect on our life. "None who go to her return again, nor do they reach the paths of life." Be careful in fooling around with the opposite sex and walk in the ways of godly people (verse 20).

Verses 20-22 in The Living Bible say, "Follow the steps of the godly instead, and stay on the right path, for only good men enjoy life to the full; evil men lose the good things they might have had, and they themselves shall be destroyed." The world is full of people who want to enjoy themselves, but they don't realize that true enjoyment comes only through righteousness. This is the great deception of Satan where he fools people into thinking that by cheating, telling lies, and committing sin, they can really enjoy life. Here is a word that goes against all that. Only righteous men enjoy life completely. This is one of the great truths that come in the book of Proverbs, that it is through righteousness, the fear of God, and humility that we can enjoy all the good things that God has prepared for those who love him.

Chapter 3
Chapter 3

    My son, do not forget my teaching,
    But let your heart keep my commandments;

    Prov 3:1

Here Solomon continues with his instruction to those who will submit to his teaching as a son to a father. He's addressing all those who will accept the principle of submission. He says, "My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments." I mentioned previously that the book of Proverbs is like a New Covenant book found in the middle of the Old Testament. We find a lot of New Covenant teaching, a foretaste of it anyway, in this Old Testament book. We find words like wisdom, grace, and faith in the book of Proverbs which are found in almost no other book in the entire Old Testament. That is why it has a special message for us in the times in which we live. It says here, "Let your heart keep my commandments." In other words, the Holy Spirit was trying to point out that keeping the commandments is not just an external thing. Obedience must be inside the heart. Here was a foretaste of what was going to be fulfilled in the New Covenant age of righteousness - that the law would be fulfilled inside. That's what the Spirit of God is saying here through Solomon: "Do not forget my law, but let your heart keep my commandments." He's saying that since the heart is the seat of love, your obedience to the commandments must come out of love. It must not be a legalistic obedience, but an obedience that comes from the heart. He speaks later on in verse 5 about faith that must come from the heart. We can say that he's speaking really about two things: faith and obedience, or the obedience of faith that comes from the heart. You can see so clearly that this is a New Testament concept. It is not found so clearly in the Old Testament, but here it comes through so clearly. Obey me from your heart and trust in the Lord with all your heart.

    For length of days and years of life
    And peace they will add to you.

    Prov 3:2

If you obey the commandments, you will receive length of days, years of life, and peace. Peace - inner peace - is another thing which is almost never mentioned in the other Old Testament books. And in that sense, Proverbs is unique. It speaks about this word which is distinctively a New Testament word: peace. If you keep the commandments, you will have peace. Jesus said, "Take my yoke upon you, and you will find rest for your souls."

    Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
    Bind them around your neck,
    Write them on the tablet of your heart.
    So you will find favor and a good reputation
    In the sight of God and man.

    Prov 3:3-4

Notice again that grace and truth, which came by Jesus Christ, are foretold here. He says to bind them around your neck and write them on the tablet of your heart. He doesn't say to write them on tablets of stone like we read of in the Old Testament, but to write them on the tablet of your heart. Solomon was the wisest man that lived. God told him there wouldn't be a man wiser than him. And he knew that God desires truth in the inward parts; kindness and truth in the heart. He says two things must characterize us: "Never forget to be truthful and kind. Hold these virtues tightly" (The Living Bible). We should always be kind and always be truthful. It's a wonderful thing if we can hold these two simple virtues in one area in particular: our speech. In the things that we say to one another in the home, office, neighborhood, and anywhere else, we can ask ourselves two questions: 1) Is what I'm saying truthful? 2) Is what I'm saying kind? This will cleanse our speech tremendously! Solomon says, "You want wisdom? Begin with cleansing your speech of things which are not truthful and things which are not kind." We must take these seriously. We must write them on the tablet of our heart. We must be gripped with them. It says to hold on to these virtues tightly. That's the meaning of binding them around your neck. Write them deep within your hearts. In other words, it's not just a question of appearing to be kind and truthful on the outside, but being really kind and truthful from within. For example, we can hear in a meeting that Jesus was kind to little children, and then we can try to imitate him and act kind to little children. But that kindness is merely on the outside. There may not be any kindness in our hearts toward them. That is just hypocrisy. And so, Solomon says, "Write them on the tablet of your heart." Let's begin there and judge ourselves and cleanse ourselves of unkind and untruthful attitudes toward others.

If we let kindness and truth cling to us closely, we will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man. It says about Jesus in his early days that He grew in favor with God and with man. And here it says we can grow in favor in the sight of God and man if we take care to be kind and true deep down from within our hearts.

    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 your paths straight.

Prov 3:5-6

Here again, the emphasis is on the heart. You'll find that this emphasis comes in the book of Proverbs often. Here we see that faith is not a matter of the mind. It's interesting that Solomon himself understood that in the Old Testament, but sometimes we can make that mistake. We can understand certain truths (i.e., God is a loving father or God loves the disciples of Jesus as much as he loves Jesus - not everybody by the way, and not even all believers, but disciples of Jesus who have forsaken everything), but they are things I may only understand in my head. In the moment of trial, I still get anxious, because I don't believe them from my heart. There's a lot of difference between believing something in my head, which is the type of faith the devil has, and trusting in the Lord with all my heart. For that, I need revelation of the Holy Spirit. To believe something in your head, all you need is a good bible teacher who will expound the subject well, and then you have understood it. We think that is faith, but in the moment of trial, we discover it's not faith at all. We think we have money, but when we go to the shop, we find that it's counterfeit currency. It's only a photograph of real money. It's not the real thing. The moment of trial reveals when our faith has not come from our heart, but merely from our head. That's why we have to pray much that God will give us revelation. That way our faith will not just sit in our mind but move deep down into our hearts. Then in the moment of trial, that faith holds us, and we don't shake. Trust in the Lord with all your heart!

Then he says, "Do not lean on your own understanding." Our own understanding is our reason which is in our mind. He says not to trust your mind! Instead, trust the Lord with all your heart. He's drawing a contrast here between the mind and the heart. He says, "Your mind is unreliable. Your mind tells you that you really believe that God is a loving father, but in the moment of trial, you get anxious. That proves you don't believe God is a loving father from your heart." This is what we have spoken of often in our church: that the number one enemy of faith is our own clever reasoning. That's why it's very difficult for clever people to come to faith. It's not impossible, but it is difficult, because they tend to lean on their own cleverness. And you find that clever people get anxious even though they understand so much of the scriptures. They can't come to victory over sin, because they don't have faith. They're clever and they lean on their own reasoning. This is the big mistake that all bible schools and bible colleges make. They teach people to do the very thing the word of God says not to do: lean on their own understanding in trying to understand and expound scripture. No emphasis is placed on the revelation of the Holy Spirit, and the result is that those who come out of bible schools and bible colleges become the biggest hindrances to God's work everywhere. It's because they violate this principle. You can't get faith by studying in a bible school. Faith comes by revelation from the Holy Spirit. And the same things apply in the church as well. We're not just to grasp doctrines intellectually and try to dish them out to other people. We have to be gripped by them in our hearts. Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean to your own understanding.

Verse 6 says, "In all your ways acknowledge him." In other words, give every area of your life over to God. Let him control your money matters, let him control what you read, let him control how you spend your time, let him control every area of your family life, let him control the ambitions you have for your children, let him control your profession, let him control you in every area. In all your ways! Then he will make your paths straight, direct your paths, and give you guidance. There are many people who would like guidance in a particular area of their life, and they say, "Lord, in this area, I'm willing to do anything you want me to do. Guide me." And the Lord says, "I can't guide you, because you don't acknowledge me in all your ways! Don't just acknowledge me in this area, but in every area. If you're willing to let me have control of your entire life, then I will guide you." If you want guidance only in one area, and you only yield that one area to God, there's no promise that you'll get guidance. But if in all your ways - in every single area of your life - you want to acknowledge him and let him direct our paths, then he will guide you. And not only guide you, but it also says he will "clear the road up for you." That road that's blocked with so many obstructions, he will clear it up for you. If you find in your life, brother or sister, that there are obstacles and all types of things hindering you in your onward path, just think of this word: if you acknowledge God in all your ways, and trust in him with all your heart, and don't lean to your own understanding, he will clear the road for you. You can't clear it yourself; you've tried so long. He will clear the road for you! Think of what a life we can live, where he clears the road up for us as we keep moving forward. That's the life of a man who trusts God with all his heart, doesn't lean on his own cleverness, and acknowledges God in every single area of his life.

    Do not be wise in your own eyes;
    Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
    It will be healing to your body
    And refreshment to your bones.

    Prov 3:7-8

This is a word which is also quoted in Romans 12:16. It is a New Testament exhortation: Don't be wise in your own eyes. This means that we should not think that we have wisdom. Another translation says, "Don't think of yourself as wise." You see, this is the trouble with so many people. God's word says, "If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask God," and we should be the first to jump up and say, "That's me! That's me, Lord. I lack wisdom." If we always have that attitude, then we can get wisdom. But we can sometimes think of ourselves as wise. I'll tell you where we're in danger of that: when we see another brother or sister doing something foolish. Then, when we begin to judge them, we have become wise in our own eyes. We say, "I would not do that. He may do it, but I would not." What is that saying? I have become wise in my own eyes compared to that brother. I've become a spiritual idiot according to 2 Corinthians 10:12. Those who compare themselves with others are spiritual idiots. Brothers and sisters, don't become a spiritual idiot by comparing yourself with other people. Always humble yourself.

There was a man called Socrates who lived years before Christ, and he had a reputation as one of the wisest men in Greece. Somebody asked him what the difference was between him and other people and he said something like, "The difference is this: all of us know nothing. They know nothing and I know nothing. The only difference is that I know that I know nothing." We can take a little lesson from Socrates for the church: a wise man is the man who recognizes that he really knows nothing compared to the ocean of God's wisdom. He has a few little drops inside his cup compared to God's ocean of wisdom. Solomon says, "Don't be wise in your own eyes." That's such a terrific danger. It's a hindrance. Don't think of yourself as wise, but concentrate on the fear of the Lord and on turning away from evil. Let that be your aim - not to find out how wise you are compared to other brothers. Rather, am I fearing the Lord more and more? Am I turning away from evil? Then you're alright.

If you do verse 7, then it says you'll get healing in your body. It will be healing to your body and refreshment to your bones. Not only will you get wisdom in your life, but the fear of the Lord brings health in our body. This is a good verse for physical healing. Fear the Lord, don't be wise in your own eyes, and humble yourself. Humility and the fear of the Lord can bring healing in your body and refreshment to your bones that are diseased. Wonderful!

    Honor the Lord from your wealth,
    And from the first of all your produce;
    Then your barns will be filled with plenty,
    And your vats will overflow with new wine.
    My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord
    Or loathe His rebuke,
    For whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
    Just as a father disciplines the son in whom he delights.

    Prov 3:9-12

Now it speaks about our attitude toward mammon. That's a big area where we need to acquire wisdom: in our attitude toward material wealth. The first thing that Solomon says in the book of Proverbs concerning material wealth is: "honor the Lord from your wealth." In other words, glorify God with your money. Can you take this exhortation to glorify God with your money? With any expenditure, can you say, "I'm spending this for the glory of God"? That will give us a quick answer as to whether we should spend our money in certain ways. Glorify God with your money and use all of your money to glorify God. Honor him from the first of all your produce . That means: give him the first part of all your income. I noticed one thing in Genesis 4 when I was reading it. In the offerings that Cain and Abel brought, we know that God accepted Abel's offering, but he didn't accept Cain's offering. There's one significant thing mentioned about the two offerings which indicated the heart attitude that Abel and Cain had. It says about Cain - the only thing that the Holy Spirit records about Cain's offering - that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground. It wasn't the best, it wasn't the first, but it was an offering. But when Abel brought an offering, he brought the first of the flock and of their fat portions. That means he brought the very best. And the Lord had regard for Abel because he brought the best. The Lord sees the heart attitude when we bring an offering to him. Even today in the church, people can bring an offering like Cain. They can put money in the box; they can bring an offering to God, but it's not their best. It's not that which has cost them something (2 Samuel 24:24). There are people who serve God today, but not out of their best. We must never bring to the Lord an offering like Cain - just a casual offering. Everything we offer to God must be the very best. That's the meaning here. That's the example we learn from Abel. He gave the best, and God accepted it because the attitude of his heart indicated, "God deserves the very best in my life." Cain's attitude was, "I have to give something to God, so I'll give something." You find these two attitudes even among believers - those who say, "God deserves the very best of my life. He deserves the best of my children. He deserves the best of my time and all my energy. He deserves the best!" And there are others who give something as a token to God. There you can think of Cain and Abel. It says, "Honor the Lord with your wealth" - with what God has given you. Honor Him! It also says, "...from the first of all your produce."

In Luke 12:21, Jesus told about the rich man who wanted to build up his barns because he had so much, and God said, "You fool! You're going to die tonight." Jesus said, "So will it be with everyone who is not rich towards God." That's the phrase he used: to be rich towards God. That's a wonderful phrase Jesus used. And we can ask ourselves a question: Am I rich towards God? Then I'm really a rich man. If I'm not rich towards God, then even if I'm a millionaire, I'm a poverty-stricken beggar in God's eyes. Be rich towards God. That's the exhortation of Solomon here. We get wisdom through being faithful in the use of money; through honoring God with the material things which he has blessed us with. That's how we grow in wisdom, and that's why mammon becomes a means by which God tests us, to see whether he can give us the true riches - that is, wisdom! Wisdom is the true riches. But He has to first see what my attitude is toward the false riches, called money, to see if I love it so much and I'm occupied with it. I may give a token offering to God, but my whole life is occupied with money. Then God will see that he cannot give me the true riches. We will come to that later in chapter 3.

Then God says if you obey verse 9, He will not be in debt to you. He will prosper you. It says, "Your barns will be filled with plenty and your vats will overflow with new wine." Seek first the kingdom of God and all the other things you need in life will be added to you. Verse 10 is a picture of prosperity. Then after God tests you with prosperity, he will test you with adversity.. He says, "My son, do not reject the discipline/chastening of the Lord or loathe his reproof." It is through the trial and the chastening and the adversity that follows the prosperity that he's going to teach you wisdom. After he's taught you how to abound, then he makes you suffer need.

Then it says, "For whom the Lord loves he reproves, even as a father the son in whom he delights." In Hebrews 12, you see that this scripture is quoted, and it's very interesting to see the context. Hebrews 12:5 says, "You have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons: 'My son...'" That exhortation is God speaking to us not as children, not as babies, but as mature sons! My son! Hebrews 12:7 says, "God deals with you as sons." That comes in the context of Hebrews 12:1-4 which speaks about following Jesus who resisted sin to the point of death and endured the cross. Giving the example of Jesus, he quotes this verse in Proverbs and says, "When the Lord takes you through trial and chastening, don't get discouraged. Don't get offended when God rebukes you and corrects you. Don't loathe his reproof." When God rebukes you, maybe not directly, but through an elder brother, don't loathe it. God doesn't always come to us directly. Do you remember the story of the man who wanted to collect the rent from the vineyard? He didn't come himself. He sent his servants to collect the rent. If he had come himself, they may have respected him. But he sent his servants and they despised them. But the man said, "If they despise my servants, they despise me." How do we know whether we get offended with God's reproof? We know when God reproves us through some servant of his and we get offended. That proves that we loathe God's correction. We love his prosperity in Proverbs 3:10. Oh yes! We like our barns to be filled with plenty and our vats to overflow (we don't have vats today, but we have bank accounts). We love our bank accounts overflowing, but what about his reproof? We can be pancakes cooked on one side, not turned over. God cooks us on one side with prosperity and then turns us over and cooks us on the other side with adversity and reproof and correction. Then we are fully developed. Otherwise, only half our character is developing. The other half is not growing properly. So, we see the balance here in Proverbs. Whom the Lord loves he reproves, because his aim is to give us wisdom. It says here in the Good News Translation, "Pay close attention when he reproves you." That means when God rebukes you or corrects you, maybe through some servant, listen carefully. If you listen carefully and pay attention, you can become wise. If you get offended, you remain without wisdom, because wisdom comes through chastening.

    Blessed is a person who finds wisdom,
    And one who obtains understanding.

    Prov 3:13

This is the man who has submitted to the reproof of God and humbled himself under the discipline of the Lord. How blessed is that man who finds wisdom and the man who gains understanding. The word here means to draw out understanding. It is like lowering a bucket into a deep well and drawing out water. It doesn't come just by opening a tap. It comes from drawing out understanding from the well that is in the scriptures - to go into it, to dig into it, to meditate on it, and to draw out spiritual understanding. How blessed is that man! Brothers and sisters, let me say one thing: let no bible study sessions deprive us of going to the well ourselves. We would like to be like big kings, sitting with our legs crossed outside the well, having somebody else draw out the water in the bucket and give it to us. But we miss something if it's always like that. We miss something if we don't know how to draw something from the well ourselves. That's a very healthy spiritual exercise - to go into the word of God and draw out understanding. How blessed is that man who finds wisdom and who has drawn out this understanding!

    For her profit is better than the profit of silver
    And her gain better than fine gold.
    She is more precious than jewels;
    And nothing you desire compares with her.

    Prov 3:14-15

Here are the true riches I was telling you about. We spoke earlier about the false riches - that is the wealth of this world. Here it says what the true riches are: "The profit of wisdom is better than the profit of silver, and its gain than fine gold." People keep gold and silver in their homes. Do you know why they keep gold and silver in their homes? Because they feel the value of gold will keep going up. If they store up gold and silver in their house, then ten years from now, the one thousand rupees that they spent will become five thousand rupees. The value of the same bit of gold has gone up, and they feel very happy when the price of gold and silver goes up in the market. Here it says that's all nothing compared to the profit and gain of wisdom. This is in contrast to what we were seeing earlier about earthly wealth.

Then it says, "She is more precious than jewels and nothing you desire compares with her." There is absolutely nothing in the whole world - no company shares, no gold, no silver, NOTHING - that can be compared to divine wisdom. And it comes to the man who submits himself to the discipline of the Lord (verse 11); who humbles himself under the Lord's reproof and rebukes, and obeys God's commandments from his heart (verse 1); who trusts in the Lord with all his heart (verse 5), and does not lean on his own cleverness; who acknowledges God in all his ways. That man is a blessed man. He really is a blessed man.

    Long life is in her right hand;
    In her left hand are riches and honor.
    Her ways are pleasant ways
    And all her paths are peace.

Prov 3:16-17

This means that when you're walking in the way of wisdom, you can never be at unrest in your heart at any time, because ALL her paths are peace. When I get into unrest, that means I have left the path of wisdom. Somewhere I veered off the path. If I spoke to a brother in a particular way, and I am very much at unrest about it, I must have left the path of wisdom. Or if somebody said something to me and I am very much in unrest, that means I have not reacted in the right way. That's why I am in unrest. That's not the way of wisdom, and it's God speaking to me through that unrest in my heart, saying, "You have left the way of wisdom, because ALL of wisdom's paths are always peace." That's why if you build a church with wisdom, there will always be peace in that church. There will never be fighting in that church. When we speak about a church where there hasn't been fighting for many years, people don't believe it. But it's possible if all wisdom's paths are peace and we proclaim wisdom in the church. There's bound to be peace, because all her paths are peace. It's when wisdom is not known and not proclaimed - just a lot of dry, old bible-knowledge is dished out - that you don't find peace there.

    She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her,
    And happy are all who hold her fast.

    Prov 3:18

Here we are told what that tree of life in the Garden of Eden really was. What was the tree of life? Wisdom! What was the other tree? The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Knowledge of good and evil is not the same as wisdom. By the knowledge of good and evil, one can be clever and say what's right and what's wrong, but wisdom is another thing altogether. People can have knowledge of good and evil and still fight with each other, but you can't have wisdom and fight with each other. That's impossible. The tree of life is wisdom. It's the divine nature. It's the wisdom described in James 3 which is first pure and then peaceable. This is the tree of life which Adam was not interested in, and which most believers today, unfortunately, are not interested in either. The difference between Adam and Christ is this: Christ was concerned with wisdom (the very first thing we read about Jesus when he was a child is that he grew in wisdom), but Adam was concerned with knowledge (he forgot about the tree of life and went after the tree of the knowledge of good and evil). Even today, most believers are interested in knowledge and not wisdom. But our pursuit must be wisdom.

The second part says, "Happy are all who hold her fast." To hold her fast speaks of the man who keeps on eating from this tree; the man who comes to this tree and realizes, "I haven't understood everything yet. I need to know more."

    The Lord by wisdom founded the earth,
    By understanding He established the heavens.
    By His knowledge the deeps were broken up
    And the skies drip with dew.
    My son, let them not vanish from your sight;
    Keep sound wisdom and discretion,
    So they will be life to your soul
    And adornment to your neck.
    Then you will walk in your way securely
    And your foot will not stumble.
    When you lie down, you will not be afraid;
    When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
    Do not be afraid of sudden fear
    Nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes;
    For the Lord will be your confidence
    And will keep your foot from being caught.

    Prov 3:19-26

There are three words used here which all, more or less, mean the same thing. Divine knowledge (not the knowledge of good and evil which brought death, but divine knowledge - the knowledge of God), understanding, and wisdom. It says God founded the earth and established the heavens, and the fountains of the earth were broken open and the skies poured out rain - all through God's wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. Now when you read Genesis 1, you know that it was through God's spoken word that these things happened. It was through God's spoken word that the heavens and earth were remade. So we see that God's wisdom is revealed to us through his word, and that is why it is only as we take God's word seriously that we can have an understanding of God's ways. Psalm 103:7 says, "God made known his ways to Moses, but his deeds (or his actions) to the sons of Israel." This difference can be seen even today among believers. There are those who see God's actions and are impressed with them - healing the sick or doing a miracle (a physical miracle, particularly). They follow in the footsteps of the sons of Israel who saw God's actions. But to Moses, God was able to reveal something more than that - his ways. God was able to teach Moses something of himself, of his nature, and of his wisdom. Do you remember when he told Moses, "I will show you my glory. I will show you all my goodness"? It's the goodness of God which is his glory. It's one thing to see the physical healing of the sick. It's quite another thing to see God's goodness and be gripped by that in our lives. You find most believers are occupied with these physical miracles and very few, like Moses, want to know God's ways. Here the book of Proverbs is not teaching us how to do miracles. It's teaching us about God's ways. The only person who will be interested - really interested - in knowing the depths there are in the book of Proverbs is one who wants to know God and his ways more. There's no verse here that tells us how to raise the dead or how to move a mountain out of the way, but it tells us what God's ways are.

Verses 21-22 say, "My son, don't let these (God's wisdom, understanding, and knowledge) depart from your sight. Keep sound wisdom and discretion, because they will be life to your soul and adornment to your neck." In other words, this is the greatest honor that you can ever get. No president of any country putting a medal around your neck can be as great an honor as getting wisdom. Solomon is using so many illustrations to try and show that wisdom is better than riches. Wisdom is better than getting the Param Vir Chakra (Presidential Medal of Freedom) or some medal tied around your neck. Here is the thing you need to have tied around your neck: wisdom! We must make it the main pursuit of our life.

Next he says, "Then you will walk securely and your foot will not stumble." This means that God will not allow your feet to fall into Satan's traps. He will keep you from falling into the traps which Satan has lined up for you. When Paul said, "We are not ignorant of Satan's schemes," that's because Paul had wisdom. "When you walk, your way will be secure and your foot will not stumble, and when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet." I want to tell you, brothers and sisters, that it is God's will for every one of us that our sleep should be sweet. Do you believe that? If you don't believe it, then according to your faith be it unto you. But if you believe it, according to your faith be it unto you. I believe it with all my heart. It says here that it's God's will for me that my sleep should be sweet; that I should not have any tension on my mind. Have you seen little children sleeping? Do you know why they sleep so well? They are not worried about anything concerning tomorrow. Think of that. God can bring us to a place where we have cast our burdens on the Lord so completely, trusted in the Lord with ALL our heart, acknowledged him in ALL our ways, and sought after wisdom more than anything else - more than riches and honor and all the rubbish which people seek after. Try it. When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. That is the will of God.

Verse 25 in The Living Bible translation says, "You need not be afraid of disaster and you won't be afraid of the plots of evil men." You won't be afraid of robbers coming to your house in the middle of the night or evil men plotting against you in your office when you go there tomorrow. You won't be afraid of a single thing. Your sleep will be sweet. We have to take this promise and say, "Lord, I want that." We won't be afraid of anything - freedom from ALL fear. That is the will of God for us. So we find that our sleep is also a pretty good test of the condition of our heart. We can think we're alright, but the fact that we are so restless at night proves that everything is not alright. Something is wrong, because your sleep is not sweet. We have to ask ourselves why. It's good to humble ourselves and go and ask God, "Lord, is there something which is causing me tension that I need to cast on you? I don't trust in you with all my heart, perhaps. I believe so many things in my head, but I don't trust in you with all my heart." I'm not saying this to condemn anybody. I'm just saying it to encourage everyone that this is your birthright. Don't let the devil take this away from us. Say, "Lord, my birthright is sweet sleep at night." Verses 25b-26 say not be afraid of sudden fear, because the Lord will be your confidence, and he will protect you from falling into Satan's traps. He will keep your foot from being caught by Satan and keep you from falling into a trap.

    Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    When it is in your power to do it.
    Do not say to your neighbor, "Go, and come back,
    And tomorrow I will give it,"
    When you have it with you.

    Prov 3:27-28

Here he gives us an exhortation about falling into debt. The Living Bible says, "Don't withhold any payment of your debts. Don't say, 'Some other time', when you can pay now." Do you want wisdom? How many of us are serious about getting wisdom? Pay back your debts! This business of getting wisdom is very practical. Pay back your debts! Don't say, "Next year" or "Next month" or "Some other time" if you can pay now. If you can pay the shopkeeper for that bar of soap now, don't tell him to put it in a credit book and that you'll pay him on the first of the month. You'll never become wise that way - I'll tell you that. This whole credit system is for fools, not for those who want divine wisdom. Those who want divine wisdom do not get into a credit system like that. They pay immediately when they have the money in their pockets. They don't get their name into the shopkeeper's book and get onto a credit list. That's the way people end up in a lot of folly later on. Don't say, "Some other time" or "On the first of next month when I get my pay" if you can pay now. That's something for us to remember.

We are not to be in debt to anyone, and this doesn't just apply to those from whom we have borrowed money. The book of Proverbs speaks later on of the debt we owe to our parents. Do you know that every one of us owes a debt to our parents? If we were to calculate all the money and time that our parents spent on us, we find we owe them a fantastic debt. And yet, so many believers can take such a casual, light attitude toward repaying the ones to whom they owe more than any other person on the face of the earth, perhaps. They owe so much! But they take it for granted. They don't realize that we must do what we can to repay our debt to our parents in their old age. A man who is wise will repay that debt.

This can also apply to debts owed to our neighbors or to the government in taxes. Taxes are a debt that we owe to the government until we pay them, and the wise man will have no difficulty in paying his taxes. He's glad to pay his taxes. He doesn't want to cheat the government with any type of tax. No. He pays his debt to the government, to his parents, to neighbors, and to fellow believers. He owes no man anything. He makes sure he behaves like God who's never in debt to anyone.

I just want to say one more aspect of debt which is mentioned in the New Testament. It says in Romans 13:8, "Owe no man anything except to love one another." This means that since God has given us so much love, we have a perpetual debt of love to others. We are to take every opportunity to clear that debt of love to other people in the church. That's the meaning of Romans 13:8. I have to look at a brother and I have to see that I owe him a debt of love, because God has given me something of his love, which I have to pass on. This concept is included in this verse too.

    Do not devise harm against your neighbor,
    While he lives securely beside you.
    Do not contend with a man without cause,
    If he has done you no harm.

    Prov 3:29-30

We see here that there are certain verses that make Proverbs an Old Testament book. Here's one verse like that. It says not to contend with a man without cause, if he has done you no harm. What if someone has done you harm? Then according to the Old Testament, you can do something about it. But according to the New Testament, you still can't do anything about it, because Jesus said, "If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn to him the other." I was interested to see this phrase: without a cause. That means back in the Old Testament, if there was a cause, you could get into a contention with a man. But when you turn over to the New Testament in Matthew 5, there's something very interesting. It says in Matthew 5:22, "But I say to you, everyone who gets angry with his brother shall be guilty with the court." Now, I'll tell you something about the people who copied the scriptures in the early days. They felt that what Jesus said can't be right. How can a man live without anger? So they inserted something from Proverbs 3:30 into that verse. Therefore in the King James Version, it reads like this: "I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother without cause shall be guilty..." Well, that's a very nice escape hole from which we can always escape when we get angry, because there's no one in the world who gets angry without a cause, unless he's a madman or somebody in a lunatic asylum. Everybody is angry with a cause. Have you ever heard of someone getting angry without a cause? Do you mean to say that all this fantastic teaching of Jesus was ultimately just to be watered down completely with one little phrase? It says in the margin of the New American Standard Bible, "Some manuscripts have inserted " without a cause". That's because they felt the standard of Jesus was too high, which teaches us one thing: if you don't have faith for it, you won't get it! If you have faith that you'll only get victory over anger without a cause, then that's all you'll get. But if we have faith that we'll get victory over anger, with or without a cause, then we'll get it. And that's what Jesus spoke about. But in the Old Testament, that wasn't the standard. In the Old Testament, the standard was not contending with a man without a cause. But in the New Testament, Jesus says, "I say to you, don't be angry with your brother. Otherwise you're guilty." So that's just an interesting thing we see here.

    Do not envy a man of violence
    And do not choose any of his ways.
    For the devious are an abomination to the Lord;
    But He is intimate with the upright.
    The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked,
    But He blesses the dwelling of the righteous.

    Prov 3:31-33

This is speaking of a lawless man - a man who doesn't keep the laws, who makes profit by cheating and telling lies. Don't envy him. Don't envy a lawless man. Do you find other people in your office doing things which are not righteous and making money from it? Maybe they are cheating the office or the government or whatever it is by schemes and methods which you, as an upright Christian, won't adopt. They're making money, and you're finding it difficult. Don't envy them. It's so easy to begin to think, "What a lot I'm losing by not doing what these other people are doing. Nobody's catching them." We can easily envy them. It says, "Don't choose any of his ways." Don't choose any of the ways of a man who's doing wrong. Students, when you see other people copying, when you know the question paper has leaked and there's a scramble to get the question paper, there you find the true Christian student says, "Never mind if it's leaked. I don't want to see it." What an attitude. You know that everybody else is going into the examination having seen the question paper, but you are following Jesus. Do you think Jesus would go looking for that leaked question paper? No. Well, neither are we going to do it. Don't choose his ways, because "the crooked man is an abomination to the Lord" (verse 32). Do you want to be an abomination to the Lord just to get high marks in the examination? Just to get a little more money in the office? The crooked man is an abomination to the Lord, "but he's intimate with the upright." He's a close friend of the upright. Do you want to be a close friend of God? Then be upright.

Verse 33 says, "The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous." You see, it's very easy to put up a plaque on the wall, saying, "Bless this house, O Lord, we pray." But he's not going to bless every house, even if you hang a plaque, because it says he only blesses the house of the righteous. It's the people who live in the house who determine whether God can bless the house. He's not interested in the windows and the walls and the doors. He's interested in the people who live there. If they are righteous, whether they have a plaque or not, God blesses the house. But if the people are not righteous, whatever number of plaques they hang on the wall, God's not going to bless them. That's just superstition. If you're righteous, the blessing comes automatically.

There's a difference in the word used here in the original Hebrew. There's a contrast. The "house of the wicked" means the great mansion of the wicked, and the "dwelling of the righteous" in the original Hebrew is a small, little cottage. The righteous person could not make so much money, but he has God's blessing. Think of that, brothers and sisters. Think of living in a house and having the blessing of the Lord upon us, because we seek to be righteous.

    Though He scoffs at the scoffers,
    Yet He gives grace to the afflicted.

    Prov 3:34

Here we see that New Testament word, grace. This is quoted by Peter in 1 Peter 5:5 and by James in James 4:6 - "He resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble." Grace is given by God. We don't need to speak much about that as we've spoken much about it in the church. God resists the proud, so don't seek the fellowship of the proud. He gives grace to the humble, so seek fellowship with the humble. As a godly man named Sirach once wrote in his book : When you touch tar, it dirties your hand in a way that makes it very difficult to remove. In just the same way, if you have fellowship with a proud man, it will defile you. His pride will enter into your spirit unconsciously - and you will not even be aware of it. So, it will be very difficult to get rid of it. Therefore if you're wise, you'll seek fellowship with humble and lowly-minded people, and you'll avoid contact with the proud and the haughty. This is a word of warning we need in our day.

        Wise people will gain an honorable reputation, but stupid people will
        only add to their own disgrace.

    Prov 3:35, GNT

Chapter 4
Chapter 4

    Hear, O sons, the instruction of a father,
    And give attention that you may gain understanding,
    For I give you sound teaching;
    Do not abandon my instruction.

    Prov 4:1-2

He says "Hear, O sons." Now he's speaking to a number of people, who are willing to take their position in submission. We notice this phrase: "Hear, O son" or "Listen, O son" coming again and again in these first few chapters. This indicates, as I mentioned in our last study, a principle of submission to spiritual authority, that God tests our submission in the home and in the church. When we are willing to humble ourselves and listen to those who have more wisdom than us, and don't become proud and wise in our own eyes, and we are willing to hear, and we are willing to take the place of a son under a father, and we don't think "That's disgraceful, how can I take that position?", then there is a possibility of our getting wisdom. There, our humility is tested. And it's not our heavenly Father, it's Solomon speaking: "And give attention, that you may gain understanding, for I give you sound teaching; Do not abandon my instruction."

    When I was a son to my father,
    Tender and the only son in the sight of my mother,
    Then he taught me and said to me,
    "Let your heart hold fast my words;
    Keep my commandments and live;

    Prov 4:3-4

Now he tells us something very interesting. Solomon says, "You know, there was also a time when I was young and I had to learn something from someone who was spiritually superior to me, and that was my father, David." And we know that David was a man after God's own heart. As far as we know (we don't know definitively, but as far as we know), Solomon was David's last son. And you know who his mother was...his mother was Bathsheba. Think of that, that the son of Bathsheba was the one whom God chose to be the next king. That was the tremendous grace of God, and Solomon never forgot that. Solomon knew how his mother got married to David. The whole history of that wasn't something to be proud of. There he saw something of the grace of God. Here it says that David was the one who first told Solomon to keep the commandments. Think of what a father he was. And you know, it's very interesting because when you turn to 1 Kings 1:6, we read that David had a number of other children, and one of those sons was named Adonijah. And it says about Adonijah in 1 Kings 1:6 that his father, David, never displeased him; he never pained him by asking him even once, "Why have you done that?" And David had another rebellious son like that named Absalom, and another wicked son, named Amnon, who raped his sister. Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah. David had a whole lot of sons, and perhaps he treated all of them like that. Wouldn't pain them, wouldn't rebuke them, and he saw the damage they brought in his home, and he decided to do it differently with his last son, Solomon. And no wonder God picked up Solomon, because his father brought up one of his sons rightly. So, there we can understand the background of what David tells Solomon.

    Acquire wisdom! Acquire understanding!
    Do not forget nor turn away from the words of my mouth.
    "Do not forsake her, and she will guard you;
    Love her, and she will watch over you.
    "The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom;
    And with all your acquiring, get understanding.
    "Prize her, and she will exalt you;
    She will honor you if you embrace her.
    "She will place on your head a garland of grace;
    She will present you with a crown of beauty."

    Prov 4:5-9

And when Solomon finally became the king and God asked him one night, "What do you want?", he said, "Lord, give me wisdom." Who taught him to pray that prayer? It was David. There we see, it wasn't Solomon's own idea; it was David who told him: "Acquire wisdom, acquire understanding! Don't forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Don't forsake wisdom! Wisdom will guard you! Love wisdom, and wisdom will watch over you! The beginning of wisdom is: acquire wisdom." This means the determination to be wise is the first step towards becoming wise (The Living Bible). Determination to be wise is the first step. I'm going to get wisdom at any cost. "And with all your acquiring, get understanding. Prize wisdom and she'll exalt you. She will honor you if you embrace her. She will place on your head a garland of grace and then you'll be a real king. She'll present you with a crown of beauty." There we understand how Solomon became wise, because his father instructed him. Think that we can be fathers like that to our children. David learned through all his folly with his other sons to train up one son right.

We saw in our last study how it was David who encouraged Solomon to seek for wisdom, and that comes out only in Proverbs 4, so that we understand why Solomon asked God for wisdom when God appeared to him one night and asked him what he wanted (1 Kings 3). Now we know that Solomon was the wisest man that lived, but David was the man after God's own heart. And even though Solomon built the temple of God, we see something in 1 Chronicles 28:11 which I don't know if you've noticed. It says that David gave to his son Solomon the plan of the porch of the temple, its buildings, its storehouses, upper rooms, inner rooms, the room for the mercy seat, and the plan of all that he had in mind for the courts of the house of the Lord, for the surrounding rooms, and everything. It goes on right down the list through 28:18. And then David says in 28:19, "All this the Lord made me understand in writing by his hand upon me all the details of this pattern." Now humanly speaking, we would think that if there are two people, you would choose the wiser man to make a plan for the temple, and Solomon was the wiser man. But it's very interesting that God did not give the plan of the temple to Solomon, the wisest man that lived, but to David, whose brain was not as good as Solomon's, but whose heart was better. And that's a very important thing for us to understand, that when God gives revelation of his will, he does not necessarily give it to the man who is clever, but to the man who is one after his own heart. So we can say that David was the architect and Solomon was only a sort of contractor, doing what the architect told him. We must never forget that. And even the wisdom that Solomon asked God for, we read in Proverbs 4 that it was David who exhorted him to seek for that wisdom, saying that this wisdom would really give him grace and glory. We read that in Proverbs 4:9. Consider that David was the one who told Solomon about these wonderful New Covenant words called "grace" and "glory." He says, "If you seek for wisdom, you'll get grace and glory." So that's a tremendous thing. And it teaches us, as I said, that God looks at the heart. And it's the man whose heart is right to whom God can give revelation. That's what we learn from David and Solomon.

    Hear, my son, and accept my sayings
    And the years of your life will be many.
    I have directed you in the way of wisdom;
    I have led you in upright paths.
    When you walk, your steps will not be impeded;
    And if you run, you will not stumble.
    Take hold of instruction; do not let go.
    Guard her, for she is your life.

    Prov 4:10-13

We find that Solomon, having received the influence of his godly father, now seeks to pass on the same instruction to the next generation. We read of Solomon exhorting the next generation, calling them, "My son…."

The Living Bible says, "I would have you to learn this great fact...." What is this great fact that Solomon wants us to learn? "...a life of doing what is right is the wisest life there is." The wisest life that any human being can ever live is a life of doing right. And if you live this life of doing right in all situations, turning away from what is wrong and doing what is right, which is the wisest life that one can ever live, then it says, "When you walk, your steps will not be impeded, and if you run, you will not stumble." Or, as the literal translation of the Hebrew of that verse says, "As you go, step by step, I will open up the way before you." That's the meaning of verse 12 - that if you choose the wisest life which any human being can ever live, which is a life of doing right (in other words, you keep a clear conscience in every step you take in life), then God's promise to all those who live by a clear conscience is: that as you move forward, it may look as though the way is closed up, but as you move forward, the doors will open by themselves (like the automatic doors which open by themselves when you come near). And you think the door in front of you is closed? It is. But as you go near it, that opens up too. It is never God's will that we get stuck somewhere. We get stuck when we haven't chosen a life of doing right, when we've gone against our conscience somewhere. So there's a wonderful promise for all those who keep a clear conscience: there will be enlargement in your life. "Your way will open up before you" means there will be enlargement and there will be no stumbling. He is able to keep us from stumbling. Therefore, Solomon exhorts the next generation in verse 13, "Take hold of instruction and do not let go. Guard her for she is your life."

    Do not enter the path of the wicked
    And do not proceed in the way of evil men.
    Avoid it, do not pass by it;
    Turn away from it and pass on.
    For they cannot sleep unless they do evil;
    And they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble.
    For they eat the bread of wickedness
    And drink the wine of violence.

    Prov 4:14-17

"Do not enter the path of the wicked and do not proceed in the way of evil men." You know that David had already said that in Psalm 1:1, "Blessed is the man who does not walk in the council of the ungodly, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers." He taught that to Solomon, and now Solomon says the same thing: "Don't enter the path of the wicked. Do not proceed in the way of evil men. Avoid it! Do not pass by it. Don't say, 'I'll go that way and I'll overcome.'" No, that's not the way. Avoid it altogether. Run away from temptation and do not proceed in the way of evil men. Turn away from it and pass on. Go some other way. If you find there's temptation down one street, take another street! That's what scripture says. Flee youthful lusts. For these evil men, they cannot sleep unless they do evil. So we must stay far away from the way they walk. Don't even go one step on it. Don't even say, "Well, I want to know what they do." The knowledge of iniquity is not wisdom. The knowledge of sin is not wisdom. We don't have to know what all sinful people do. Avoid it. Don't take one step on it for they are evil; they cannot sleep unless they do something evil and they are robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. Think of the opposite of that. Think if it can be said about us that they cannot sleep unless they have done some good to someone during the day. That's the opposite of verse 16, that a person cannot sleep unless he has done some good to someone. If the evil man is the one who cannot sleep unless they do evil, the righteous man is the one who cannot sleep unless he has done some good to someone. They're robbed of sleep unless they make someone stumble. Think of the opposite of that. They are robbed of sleep unless they really help someone to stand, or they encourage someone. "For they eat the bread of wickedness and drink the wine of violence."

    But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
    That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

    Prov 4:18

Here's another fantastic Old Testament verse. There are two beautiful verses in this chapter; one is verse 12, and the other is verse 18. This is really a New Covenant promise. The path of the righteous..." We know that a person is righteous only when he comes to faith in Christ, when his sins are forgiven and he's declared righteous by God, justified with the righteousness of Christ clothing him. But then, it's not God's will that his life should be only like the sunrise. It says, "The path of the righteous is like the sunrise..." But you know when the sun rises, there's light, but the sun is still not at its brightest. Think of the sun rising in the sky; this light shines brighter and brighter and brighter until the noonday position, when there is perfect brightness. We can say the shadows decrease as the sun rises; the shadow of our self-life keeps on decreasing, decreasing, decreasing, decreasing, and finally the sun is overhead where the shadow disappears altogether. And that is God's will for us. From the time we are born again, it is not God's will that any child of his should have an up and down experience.

Now, most Christians have an up and down experience, and when we hear that other people have up and down experiences, and some preacher has an up and down experience, then we are comforted in our defeat. We get our standard from some carnal believer or some carnal preacher instead of from the word of God, which says that the path of the righteous is not up and down. It's not bright and then dark, and then bright again and then dark again. On top of the mountain, then down in the dumps. Praising the Lord and rejoicing, then gloomy and miserable the next day. If that's our experience, I just want to say that's not God's will. That is not the path of the righteous. If a person is walking that way, we can clearly say he is not walking the path of the righteous.

The path of the righteous is called, in the New Testament, "The New and Living Way." It's not a doctrine to understand; it's the path of the righteous. Now, we hear of people who believe in the New and Living Way. I got a letter this week about someone who spoke about "New and Living Way brothers and sisters." What is a New and Living Way brother or sister? Not somebody who sits in Christian Fellowship Church. Not someone who understands the doctrine, but someone who is not going up and down. A person who is going up and down is not in the New and Living Way; that's the old dead way. The New and Living Way is brighter, brighter, brighter, brighter. That is the ONLY New and Living Way the New Testament speaks about: The path of the righteous. This "down in the dumps" business only proves that we have understood the doctrine, but we haven't gotten onto the actual way at all. The path of the righteous is like the sunrise that shines brighter and brighter; and the sun doesn't go back and forth. It doesn't change its mind suddenly. It just keeps going steadily, and that is God's will for our lives, brothers and sisters. That is the will of God that it becomes better and better and better and better. That means I get more and more light on what dwells in my flesh. I get light on what dwells in my flesh now which I did not know 6 months ago. If we are not in that condition, we are not on the path of the righteous. Let's learn that very clearly so that we don't deceive ourselves by just understanding some doctrine. No; it is the path where the light gets brighter and brighter and brighter and brighter, where I get more and more light on my flesh. Or like 1 John 1:7 says, "If we walk in the light as God is in the light..." God is light, and if I walk in that light, the closer I get to God; the light is getting brighter and brighter. That means I'm getting more and more light on what dwells in my flesh. I'm able to put more and more to death in my life and I'm becoming wiser. That is how Jesus grew in wisdom: he walked the New and Living Way. It says in Luke 2:52 that he grew in wisdom. And that's what Solomon is saying here, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

It says in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that the Holy Spirit shows us the glory of Jesus. That glory is a light, and it becomes brighter and brighter in our life as the Holy Spirit changes us into that same likeness from glory to glory. Proverbs 4:18 is the Old Testament verse which corresponds to 2 Corinthians 3:18. If you want to understand this verse, you have to turn to the corresponding verse in the New Testament, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and see there, "...from glory to glory to glory to glory." Brothers and sisters, if we accept this substandard, half depressed, half gloomy life as God's will for our lives, we'll always live there, defeated and thinking that's the New and Living Way. That's garbage! Throw it into the garbage bin. Say, "I know the doctrine but I'm not walking the way." If we walk the way, this is it. There is no question of someone finding you in a bad mood one day. There's no question of bad moods on the path of the righteous. No. There are many things we may not have light on. For those things, we'll get light as we walk along, but there's no question of going back, or of backsliding, or of going back to some sin which we had once conquered. That's not the path of the righteous. No; far from it. So that's something we have to keep very clearly before us.

    The way of the wicked is like darkness;
    They do not know over what they stumble.

    Prov 4:19

In contrast to verse 18, verse 19 is another path: the Old and Dead Way. "The way of the wicked," it's called; it's like darkness. You know how it is when you're walking in the darkness. It's all pitch dark, you can't see a thing, and you're walking steadily - and suddenly you stumble. And then you get up and you're walking steadily for some time - and suddenly you stumble again. You're not stumbling all the time. It's this up and down and up and down and up and down experience, stumbling and getting up, stumbling and getting up. That is called here "the way of the wicked." That's not the New and Living Way. That's the way of a person who's not wholehearted, who hasn't learned to hate his own self-life, who hasn't learned to hate the flesh. That's why he's stumbling. There's darkness there. Now, darkness doesn't mean not knowing God's will; even Jesus did not know God's will in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, "Father, if it is your will..." which means he didn't know God's will. "Should I drink this cup or not drink it?" So darkness does not mean perplexity concerning God's will. Darkness means that I don't keep a clear conscience. That's what brings darkness into my life. I don't hate myself. I hate the other person instead of hating myself. That's darkness! Whoever hates his brother walks in darkness. Whoever hates himself and puts his own flesh to death walks in the light. All those who are critical and judgmental of others, they're walking in darkness. They haven't understood to judge themselves. Then of course they stumble and get up, stumble and get up. They're depressed. They're happy one day and down in the dumps the next day. We have to see very clearly what God's word says in verse 18 and 19. Here's the New and Living Way and there's the Old and Dead Way, and we have to choose which way we want to go. But the way of the righteous is like light, and that's the way God wants us to walk, to be wholehearted and to hate only my own self-life, nothing else, no one else. Only my own flesh. And then it gets brighter and brighter and brighter and brighter. More and more victory, more and more light on areas in which I don't know anything yet. It's wonderful, this Old Testament book which teaches us about the New and Living Way.

    My son, give attention to my words;
    Incline your ear to my sayings.
    Do not let them depart from your sight;
    Keep them in the midst of your heart.
    For they are life to those who find them
    And health to all their body.

    Prov 4:20-22

"My son," (notice that word of submission to spiritual authority) - "My son, give attention to my words…" Those who have not learned to submit to spiritual authority can never come and understand wisdom. The book of Proverbs, more than any other book in the entire Old Testament, speaks about "My son...", "My son...", "My son..." It's the submission of a son to a spiritual father, submitting to spiritual authority. Solomon says, "My son, give attention to my words. Incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight. Keep them in the midst of your heart." Notice the emphasis again; it's not in your mind. It's not a question of understanding it. He got instructions from a man who was a man after God's own heart, his father David. And he told him to keep it in the midst, in the central place in your heart. Don't just think that you can just understand and explain the doctrine. That doesn't prove that we are any better than the devil. But to instead keep it in the midst of your heart, the central place.

And when we do that, it not only makes our path brighter and brighter and brighter, that our spiritual life goes from glory to glory to glory to glory; it also says in verse 22, not only is it life (that is spiritual life, eternal life, the divine nature) to all those who find them, but secondly, it is also help to their whole body. The word of God brings physical healing too. Obedience to God's word brings spiritual life and physical health. That's what God's word says. According to your faith be it unto you. Spiritual health and physical health. That's why when we get sick or when we have a physical problem, the first thing we need to do is to ask ourselves, "Have I disobeyed God's word somewhere, that health is not coming to my body?" That's a question we need to ask ourselves according to this verse.

    Watch over your heart with all diligence,
    For from it flow the springs of life.
    Put away from you a deceitful mouth
    And put devious speech far from you.
    Let your eyes look directly ahead
    And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.
    Watch the path of your feet
    And all your ways will be established.
    Do not turn to the right nor to the left;
    Turn your foot from evil.

    Prov 4:23-27

"Watch over your heart with all diligence." Notice again, the emphasis on the heart. "From the heart flow all the springs of life." It's just like Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." That's why after speaking about the heart in verse 23, he speaks about the mouth in verse 24: "Put away from you a deceitful mouth, put devious lips far from you," but he begins with the heart. And you really see that Solomon had some supernatural revelation that he could speak about these New Covenant concepts. "Watch your heart," he says. It's not just a question of doing right on the outside. It's not just a question of saying, "I've kept the commandments, but why am I still sick in my body?" Solomon says to just look into your heart and see if there's something wrong there, some wrong attitude towards someone, some wrong motive in something that you're doing. Watch your heart.

Then he says to be careful with your mouth. Like James says, if a man has religion, the proof of it is that he can control his tongue. If a person cannot control his tongue, James 1:26 says that the person's religion is worth zero. Any person who cannot control his tongue, whatever doctrine under the sun he preaches, God's word says in James 1:26 that his religion is worth zero. A person who cannot control his temper, who cannot control his tongue, his religion is worth nothing. He has absolutely only doctrine. "Put away from you a crooked mouth." No crooked or crafty speech or guile (saying things to give a wrong impression), deceitful mouth, devious lips.

Then he says to watch your eyes. This is just like the Sermon on the Mount. Watch your eyes. Look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Don't look to that side where you are tempted to look, because there's something attractive there which you know God has forbidden on that side. Don't look to that side. Look straight in front.

Notice here it gets to the heart of spirituality. Watch your heart, he says. Watch your tongue. Watch your eyes. And then watch the path of your feet: where you go, the homes you visit, the type of people you go and spend time with. If you can watch these: your heart (verse 23), your tongue (verse 24), your eyes (verse 25), your feet (verse 26, that you turn your feet away from evil, and don't turn right or left from the New and Living Way), you'll be a spiritual man, growing in wisdom. You see how much of this is really New Testament stuff? And so you see there in verses 26-27, watch each step, and think before you move forward, "Is this a right path for me to go?" Walk on that New and Living Way. Don't turn to the right or left. That's the time when you hear the voice of the Holy Spirit behind you saying, "No, you have missed the road there. Turn. Turn back." And when you hear that voice saying, "Humble yourself. Go and set that right. Turn back to the New and Living Way," come back to the New and Living Way. Don't turn right or left. Don't get sidetracked. Keep your goal. So many people start off well, but then they get sidetracked somewhere instead of keeping as their goal: "I have to become more and more like Jesus as each year goes by in my life." That is my goal in life. I press towards the mark like Paul says: "One thing I do." I don't have twenty-five things to do, only one thing: "I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." That's the meaning here. Don't turn to the right or left. "Turn your foot from evil" means to pull back your foot from danger and sin.

Chapter 5
Chapter 5

    My son, give attention to my wisdom,
    Incline your ear to my understanding;

    Prov 5:1

"Incline your ear to my understanding," means "bow down your ear." That teaches us that to get spiritual wisdom, we have to humble ourselves. We have to bow down our ear like James 1:21 says, "Receive with meekness the engrafted word." The word can be grafted into me if I receive it with meekness, like a branch grafted into another tree and the two become one. The word can be engrafted into me if I receive it with meekness. If I don't receive it with meekness, it's like the seed that falls on the path and the birds can take it away the next day. It's not engrafted. I must receive it with meekness and incline my ear and say, "Lord, I humble myself before your word. I want to tremble at your word. Teach me." Humble yourself. Humble your understanding particularly - your human cleverness. Incline your ear. Bow down.

Now he gives us a lot of instruction in the next two or three chapters about our relationship with the opposite sex. It's very interesting that Solomon has such a lot to say about relationships with the opposite sex. This is a very important area where we need wisdom, particularly young people. The book of Proverbs is mainly written for young people, and I encourage them to read the book of Proverbs. When you get into your teenage years, read the book of Proverbs again and again and again and again; both young men and young women.

    That you may observe discretion
    And your lips may reserve knowledge.

    Prov 5:2

In relation to the opposite sex, the first thing he says is, "That you may observe discretion." Discretion means to be discrete. That means to be a little reserved. You can be free with people of your own sex (the sisters with the sisters, and the brothers with the brothers), but when it comes to the opposite sex, be a little reserved. That's the meaning of discretion. That's the first thing he says. He says, "My son, do you really want some wisdom? Do you want to humble yourself? Do you want to bow down your ears? Then learn something. Be a little reserved in your relationship with the opposite sex."

Then he says, "that your lips may reserve knowledge." That means don't use your tongue so freely to crack jokes and be so familiar with people of the opposite sex. It's just practical wisdom. Don't become so familiar. Be careful. He doesn't say to be a monk and never see people of the opposite sex, he just says to be a little careful. Keep a little aloof. And if you find someone is being too free with you, just be a little cold so that they learn to keep their distance, and you won't regret it in later years. And if you are a brother desiring to be a man of God, have this testimony: that you are a brother who is reserved with the opposite sex; that those of the opposite sex feel that you're a little cold and aloof towards them. I've heard that accusation many, many times against me. I hope to live in that accusation all my life, that I am a little aloof and a little cold. Be a man of God. Keep that distance. Don't be too familiar. Take the book of Proverbs seriously. If you are wholehearted, take it seriously. Be a little reserved and keep a little distance. If you want to crack jokes, crack them with people of your own sex, not with people of the opposite sex. Be careful. Now that's not what the world says. The world says, "Oh, you're too narrow minded." Alright, you can choose the way of the world if you like, but just see what will happen after a few years. You'll come back in sorrow, wishing you had listened to the words of wisdom in the book of Proverbs. That's what he says later on.

    For the lips of an adulteress drip honey
    And smoother than oil is her speech;

    Prov 5:3

Next, he speaks about the lips of a strange woman (margin). They drop honey. This is the flirting type who says so many nice things to you, and it's difficult to keep that reserve. "Smoother than oil is her speech." When you see oil on the ground, what do you do? You walk carefully. When you find that someone's speech is smoother than oil, young men, be careful. Many have slipped here and fallen. Flattery. Honey flowing out from her lips - "Oh, you look so nice" or "You look so handsome." Finished. That's enough to knock out some young men, stupid young men who haven't taken the word of God seriously. Listen and be careful. We speak very frankly in the church about these things because we want to protect you. I also want to say that whenever you read about this strange woman in Proverbs, remember that it also refers to Babylon, the harlot; the mother of harlots. It refers to that flirtatious young girl who's trying to tempt you and it also refers to Babylon which is trying to tempt you and to lead you away from the true church, the bride of Christ. In Babylon they also speak nice things. Rebuke and correction are not found in that mother of harlots. It's found only in the true bride.

    But in the end she is bitter as wormwood,
    Sharp as a two-edged sword.
    Her feet go down to death,
    Her steps take hold of Sheol.
    She does not ponder the path of life;
    Her ways are unstable, she does not know it.

    Prov 5:4-6

This is what happens finally. Did you know the devil has a two-edged sword? We know what God's two-edged sword is. God's two-edged sword is the word of God which brings life; which cuts out the cancer and removes the evil. "The lips of a strange woman drip honey and smoother than oil is her speech." It all sounds so nice, but in the end she's bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. The devil's two-edged sword is a strange woman who leads you away from God. Young men, be careful. "Her feet go down to death, her steps take hold of Sheol." Through flattery, she leads people to Hell. Through rebuke and correction, God's word leads people to heaven, but through flattery, Babylon leads people into eternal darkness. She does not understand the path of life and people in Babylon do not understand the path of life. Their ways are unstable and they do not know it.

    Now then, my 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,
    Or you will give your vigor to others
    And your years to the cruel one;
    And strangers will be filled with your strength
    And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien;
    And you groan at your final end,
    When your flesh and your body are consumed;

    Prov 5:7-11

Whenever you see a flirtatious type of girl, keep well clear of her. There's oil there on the floor. There's honey dripping from her mouth. Be careful! Keep your way far from her! You may not be able to avoid her if you're in college or school or work with her, but steer clear. Be a little cold. Be a little aloof. Be a little reserved. Be a man of God. And don't go near the door of her house. Look at this exhortation. Don't go near her house. Avoid it, lest finally, you give your vigor (strength) to others, and your years to the cruel one (that's the devil). And strangers will be filled with your physical strength and your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien. In other words, if I were to paraphrase those words, this woman finally gets married to you and ruins your money. And you groan at your latter end when your flesh and your body are consumed. Sexual sin finally destroys the body and there are different degrees of it. Young men can play the fool in small ways in this area of sex. Their conscience disturbs them and they know it's wrong. They know there's something wrong there. It's sexual sin. But they say, "It's not so serious." It's destroying the body. Your flesh and your body will be consumed, because you're violating God's laws for the sake of that dirty habit. There are different degrees. You can go a little further, a little further, a little further and finally there are filthy forms of perversion. Avoid it right at the outset! Avoid it, lest your flesh and your body are consumed and you groan at your latter end and you waste your money. It's speaking of avoiding prostitutes and avoiding all types of women who seek to lead you astray from God. Keep a reserve. Speak to them, but keep a little reserve. Keep a little aloof. You have to keep your heart for God.

    And you say, "How I have hated instruction!
    And my heart spurned reproof!
    "I have not listened to the voice of my teachers,
    Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!
    "I was almost in utter ruin
    In the midst of the assembly and congregation."

    Prov 5:12-14

Then finally, when you suffer, you say, "How I have hated instruction." This is many years later. This teenager didn't care for what those who were older to him advised him. Finally, he suffers and his body is consumed. He gets some sickness, and he says, "I wish I had listened. How my heart spurned reproof." Brother, I want you to think of verse 12. Does your heart spurn correction? Our reaction to correction is a pretty good test of our spiritual condition when someone who is above us in the Lord corrects us. It's not a question of how pure you are on the outside. Outwardly, you don't spurn it. You act humble and you say, "Thank you brother." But in your heart, you don't take it seriously. Be careful. One day, calamity can strike. Reproofs are the way of life. The way of reproof and correction is the way of life. We come to that in Proverbs many times. Proverbs speaks about wisdom and I'll tell you this - one of the great contrasts in the book of Proverbs between Babylon, the strange woman, and Jerusalem, the bride, is flattery and reproof. Flattery is found with the strange woman, and reproof is found with the church. Flattery has never led anybody to wisdom. Reproof and correction have led many people to wisdom. And so, what's your reaction to correction? Those who hate correction are in danger.

Verse 13 says, "I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, and I have not inclined my heart (humbled myself) to my spiritual instructors." Who is your spiritual instructor? First of all, your father and your mother. Your first spiritual instructors are your father and your mother! Listen to them! Proverbs says that many times. You, young man, you who think you know everything and think you're very smart and that your father and mother are old and don't know anything, you don't know the first thing about wisdom. Wisdom is first of all humbling yourself and listening to those whom God has placed over you in your home - your father and mother. Then when you belong in the church, listen to those who are elder to you spiritually - not anyone who is older to you in age, but one you can inwardly acknowledge as someone who is spiritually ahead of you. Whether you're young or old in age makes no difference. If you accept a brother as an elder brother, then listen to him. If you don't accept it, then that's another thing, but God gives us older brothers for our protection; and he gives husbands as protection for wives. There are three relationships like this: parents to children, older brothers to younger brothers, and husbands to wives. How do you take a word of correction as a younger brother from an older brother, as a child from a parent, or as a wife from a husband? Can you take a word of correction from your husband and not despise it? Can you take a word of correction from your parents and accept it? Can you take correction from an older brother and accept it? Then you're on the way of life. It doesn't just apply to sexual sin, but so many areas. The way of correction is the way of life.

Verse 14 says that because I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, "I was almost in utter ruin in the midst of the assembly and congregation." This means that God allowed me to be disgraced and humiliated even publicly. And the ministry that I could have had in the assembly and the congregation, I lost because I did not take correction seriously. I wanted to listen to those who flatter me and say, "You're a wonderful brother," and "We're all ready for the rapture. Jesus is coming, and we're all going to be with him." We sit and listen to that and we don't realize which way we are going. We need the word of correction! Otherwise, we'll end up in ruin and we'll lose the ministry God has for us in the church.

    Drink water from your own cistern
    And fresh water from your own well.
    Should your springs be dispersed abroad,
    Streams of water in the streets?
    Let them be yours alone
    And not for strangers with you.
    Let your fountain be blessed,
    And rejoice in the wife of your youth.
    As a loving hind and a graceful doe,
    Let her breasts satisfy you at all times;
    Be exhilarated always with her love.
    For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress
    And embrace the bosom of a foreigner?
    For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord,
    And He watches all his paths.
    His own iniquities will capture the wicked,
    And he will be held with the cords of his sin.
    He will die for lack of instruction,
    And in the greatness of his folly he will go astray.

    Prov 5:15-23

These verses speak particularly to married people. First, a few words of exhortation to young teenagers and young people in their twenties, now to married people. There are words of exhortation here for married people. "Drink water from your own cistern" means that you have a well in your own house. Don't go to somebody else's well. Be satisfied with drinking water from the well you have in your own house. In other words, God has given you a wife. Be happy with her! Don't go around looking at other peoples' wives. Don't go around admiring other peoples' wives. You say, "Well, I never do that." Just a minute. Have you ever told your wife something like this: "Do you know what she does for her husband?" What is that? That's adultery in the mind. It's covetousness. It's coveting someone else's wife. You think, "She is better than my wife." What is that? It's sin. So what if she does that for her husband? You be satisfied with the one God has given you, with all her limitations and all her weaknesses and all her good points. That's the one God has chosen for you. And those who are newly married, I want to exhort you. You husbands, think to be able to live all through your life without ever, ever, ever telling your wife the good qualities of some other sister. Be satisfied with the one God has given you. "Drink from your own cistern and fresh water from your own well." In other words, your relationship with your wife should be that you are in love and you don't fool around with other women. That's the meaning of verse 16 - "Should your springs be dispersed abroad and your streams of water in the streets?" Don't be interested in other women down other streets. Be satisfied with the well God has put in your own house! It's a tremendous word of warning and exhortation to married people.

He goes on in verses 18 and 19 to say, "Let your fountain be blessed and rejoice in the wife of your youth. As a loving hind and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times. Be exhilarated always with her love." What that basically means is be thrilled with loving your wife - the wife who you married when she was young and you were young, the wife of your youth. Now you're not young and she's not young; she's not as attractive as she looked twenty years ago when you married her, and that's why some people want to turn their eyes and look at some other attractive young women. That proves right from the beginning that they were not spiritual. They did not understand that beauty is a temporary, empty thing that passes away. They never understood that. They got taken up with beauty and when their wife lost her beauty, they became interested in other women. It's a terrific warning! Rejoice in the wife of your youth. And it says here in the margin, "Be intoxicated with her love." What a word. Literally the word here is "intoxicated." You know the man who gets drunk? He gets so drunk he just wants to drink more and more, and every time he passes by the saloon, he wants to go and have another drink and another drink and he's never tired! He had one in the morning and at noon and it's night now and he wants another drink at the saloon. Think to love your wife like that. Just think of that drunken man as an example of the way to love your wife. It says you just get taken up with her morning, noon, and night. You have no time for other things. This drunken man doesn't even have time to go to work, he's so taken up with his intoxication. Think to be so taken up that we have absolutely no time or space in our heart to be taken up with any other woman. It's very down to earth and practical. "Be taken up with her embrace and her love." That means be occupied with loving her and seek to do that more and more as Christ loved the church.

Then he goes on and says here in verse 20, "For why should you, my son, be exhilarated with a strange woman and embrace the bosom of a foreigner (the one whom God has not given you)?" And then he gives a warning: "For the ways of a man (one translation says "the ways of all husbands") are before the eyes of the Lord." The Lord is watching all husbands even when their wives are not watching them. That's the meaning here. Your wife is not watching you at that moment, but the Lord is watching you, brother. And "He's watching all his ways" means that long before it speaks about the outward action in the second part of verse 21 (watching the man's paths), he watches the ways of his heart. Before the man ever takes a path, there are ways in his heart. He sits and plans, "I think I'll just go that way" or "I'll maybe drop in and visit that person", and the Lord is already watching. This thing that's going on in the mind of this husband, the Lord is watching and the Lord doesn't stop him. He doesn't bring an earthquake or some lightning to stop him. He says, "You can go. If you don't fear me, go anywhere you'd like, and you can go to Hell if you want." It's an amazing thing that God allows millions of people to go to Hell everyday. Have you thought of that? Every day. He sees millions of people going to Hell and he doesn't stop them, because he's given them the word. He sees believers living in Babylon, living after the lusts of their flesh, thinking they have accepted Christ but going to Hell, and he doesn't stop them. He says, "If you want to deceive yourself, deceive yourself and go. I've given you my word and you haven't taken it seriously."

Verse 22 says, "His own iniquities will capture the wicked." It's not that God sends him to Hell, his own iniquities take him there. Then it says, "And he will be held with the cords of his sin." That's another thing young people must remember - once you get into a sin, once you commit a sin once, it binds you. Then it draws you to do it again and it binds you once more. Again it draws you and binds you. Each time it forms one more knot, and one more knot, and one more knot, and one more knot. Think of that every time you sin in this area - a lustful thought or a dirty sexual deed. One more knot is formed, and one more, and one more. What an idiot a man has to be to give himself to the devil little by little by little by little. And the world is full of these people, even so called "Christians". I'm sorry to say that there is not the fear of God that there should be among believers. They don't see that God is watching them. They only know that their wife is not watching them. That's all. Alright, well the word of God says he will die (verse 23) because he didn't take correction. In the greatness of his own folly he will go astray into an eternal Hell, because anyone who lives after the flesh shall die. That's clear. It's a very strong warning that Solomon gives here to young people. Amazing. A very strong warning.

Before moving on, let me just say this in passing. The sad thing is that the man who wrote this know what happened to him. He did not live according to what he taught others. He said, "Don't go near those women. Control yourself. Don't go one step that way. Steer clear." You'd think this was a really wholehearted brother. Sometimes we can be deceived when we hear someone get up and share the word and we think they are a really wholehearted brother. If we had heard Solomon get up and preach something like this, we would have thought he was really wholehearted. Perhaps he was in the beginning, but he began to take it easy and slipped up and finally went in deep - more deep than any of the other kings; deep into the very sin that he warned other people against with women. What does this teach us? We can preach the greatest, highest-sounding doctrines in the whole world but if we don't keep our body under control, we can preach to others and be cast away ourselves. That's what Paul said, "...lest I preach to others and I be a castaway myself." So don't think that just because we understand this and we are sharing it with so many that we are spiritual. Far from it. The question is in my daily life, am I subduing my body? Am I controlling my eyes? Am I controlling my thoughts? Am I controlling my own tongue? Am I hating my self-life? Do I mourn? Do I hunger and thirst for righteousness? If I'm not doing all this, I can talk about more wonderful things than Solomon and end up worse than Solomon. And Solomon will rise up in judgment against me one day and say, "Hey, I didn't know about the New and Living Way. You fellas talked about something higher than even I and what was your final end? What type of life did you live in private? What type of thought-life did you have?" And Solomon will rise up in judgment against us. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Self-control is a very important aspect of wisdom. Verse 23 says, "He will die for lack of instruction," and some translations say, "He dies because he has no self-control in his life." No self-control. Brothers and sisters, the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. One of the most important verses for Charismatic, Pentecostal, Spirit-filled people is that the fruit of the Spirit is self-control; self-control over your tongue, self-control over your eyes, self-control over your thoughts, self-control in your eating, self-control in many, many things. The fruit of the Spirit is self-control. And he will die because he has no self-control in his life.

Chapter 6
Chapter 6

    My son, if you have become a guarantor for your neighbor,
    Or have given a handshake for a stranger,
    If you have been ensnared by the words of your mouth,
    Or caught by the words of your mouth,
    Then do this, my son, and save yourself:
    Since you have come into the hand of your neighbor,
    Go, humble yourself, and be urgent with your neighbor to free yourself.
    Give no sleep to your eyes,
    Nor slumber to your eyelids;
    Save yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand,
    And like a bird from the hand of the fowler.

    Prov 6:1-5

Now he moves on to another subject, and that is the subject of being a surety for a stranger. That means agreeing to pay someone else's debt. When someone wants an agreement signed for something, he often will need somebody who will stand as a guarantee. A person who is a guarantee is saying, "In case this fellow doesn't pay up, I will pay up." Doesn't that sound like a very loving thing to do? We have so much human understanding of love which is quite different from the divine understanding of love. He says, "My son, if you have become a guarantee for your neighbor or have given up a handshake (or pledge) for a stranger..." He's referring to a person you don't know very well. He's a friend, but yet at the same time he's a stranger. This is the type of person we have a relationship with most of the time - a person who lives next door. You can't say you don't know him at all and yet you don't know him that well either. He's a neighbor, but he's a stranger. That's what it says here. You have decided to stand guarantee for a neighbor even though he's a stranger. He says that's a stupid thing to do. Don't do it.

Have you been "ensnared by the words of your mouth" or "caught by the words of your mouth"? You sat there and your neighbor said so many nice things to you and the honey dripped from his mouth, so you just agreed to it. Then after you came back home, you realized you'd been caught. You'd been caught with the words of your own mouth. You gave your promise to that man and what shall you do now? The word of God says to go and retract that promise. Go back and tell him, "I'm sorry. Please forgive me. I can't do that. I gave it a little more thought." Don't be so foolish to think, "Oh, I gave my word. Now I have to stick to it." Well, you gave your word foolishly! After thinking about it, now you have a little more wisdom and you've realized it's a foolish thing to do. Go back! Do this, my son, and deliver yourself. It was not a mark of love but rather a foolish promise made. Go and retract it. Deliver yourself, because you have now come under the power of your neighbor! You have committed yourself and you are bound to that person now, and he has power over you. God does not ever want us to be under the power of another man. You have been bought with a price. Don't become the servants and slaves of men. It says, "Go, humble yourself, and be urgent with your neighbor to free yourself." This is the only book, I think, in the Old Testament where you see this New Testament exhortation: Humble yourself. It's really a New Covenant book. Go humble yourself! Don't stand on your dignity saying, "What will he think of me, that I'm a person who goes back on my word?" Never mind what he thinks of you! Go humble yourself and plead and beg with your neighbor, "I'm sorry for giving my word but please let me take it back."

When are you going to do it? Let's say you came back at 10:30pm after talking to this person and you say you'll go tomorrow morning. Solomon says, "No! Don't give sleep to your eyes. Go immediately" (verse 4). Don't give slumber to your eyelids. Go right now! Deliver yourself. Do you see how earnestly he pleads? Paying someone else's debts is not a mark of love. There's a lot of foolish, so-called love, especially in the area of money. We find a tremendous amount of folly in helping other people financially. This happens even among believers, particularly when they are young. They are so stupid and that's why you find in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 4, that those early believers never gave their money directly to the poor. They gave it to the apostles, and the apostles gave it to the poor because they had a little more wisdom. Of course, in today's times we think we are smart and don't need anyone else, so we do a lot of foolish things. Think about all of the times others have come into our own assembly and swindled people. When will we learn? Here's an area where we have to learn wisdom. All this foolish love. Humble yourself brother - you're quite stupid. you have a lot of money, but you have no wisdom. If you want to help the poor, give it to someone who has a little more wisdom than you so that you can help in a wise way. Don't think that it is love to say, "I will support you and I will take care of your debts." No! "Give no sleep to your eyes, Nor slumber to your eyelids; Save yourself like a gazelle from the hunter's hand, And like a bird from the hand of the fowler." This is urgent. You're in a trap. Don't get stuck there. Get out of it immediately. It's an exhortation if you have given a guarantee to support someone financially or to pay someone else's debts. Get out of it.

    Go to the ant, O sluggard,
    Observe her ways and be wise,
    Which, having no chief,
    Officer or ruler,
    Prepares her food in the summer
    And gathers her provision in the harvest
    How long will you lie down, O sluggard?
    When will you arise from your sleep?
    "A little sleep, a little slumber,
    A little folding of the hands to rest"-
    Your poverty will come in like a vagabond
    And your need like an armed man.

    Prov 6:6-11

Another area Solomon speaks about is laziness. The book of Proverbs has a lot to say about fools and lazy people. They both go together. Lazy people means spiritually lazy people. They are not wholehearted. He says, "Go to the ant, O sluggard" or like one translation says, "Go to school with the ant." Go to school with the ant and learn something from that ant. When God created Adam, He said, "You're going to have dominion over all the animals and birds and fish and everything," but it's a pretty pathetic state man has come to that he has to now go to the ant and say, "Please teach me sir. I have something to learn from you." Man has become such a fool spiritually. And this is particularly to those who are lazy and not wholehearted. "Observe her ways and be wise." Watch the ant and see how hard working it is. Do you want to learn wisdom? Learn it from the ant who has no elder brother or overseer (verse 7); nobody to give it any exhortations. And even without all of that, the ant does the job of preparing her food in the summer and gathering her provision in the harvest. That means this ant prepares for the future. The ant is such a small little thing and has such a small brain but it has a little bit of intelligence to say, "A time may come when there may not be much food around, so I better store up some." Without an exhortation or any older brother, it thinks about the future. Its future is just the winter because the ant's future is only here on this earth, but we are not ants. We have a future in eternity. Have you laid up some treasure for eternity or are you going to be a beggar for all eternity because you decided to just enjoy yourself now? That's the primary exhortation, to think about the future in terms of eternity.

But this also has a relation to our life on earth, because we're not going to die tonight. We may live for a few years and we want to think, "I don't want to live in such a way that I carelessly spend everything I get, so that six months from now, when I have an extra sudden need (like a hospitalization or an expenditure that can't be avoided), I have to beg and borrow and go to the money lenders, because I did not learn from the ant!" You thought you were so spiritual. You thought you were like George Muller and you discovered in the moment of need that you are worse than the ant when you have to beg and borrow because you don't know how to discipline yourself by laying up a little bit for the future. We find there's a tremendous need for this exhortation: "How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest" - finally you become poor and poverty grabs you. It's amazing what we can learn from the ant. In the heat of the summer it works hard.

I've seen two ants helping each other to carry a little piece of sugar, one bearing the load of the other. Without any overseer and without any exhortation, they know how to bear one another's burdens. They carry the food so they can eat it a little later. Observe her ways and be wise. They are hard working, always looking for where they can get something to eat and lay up something for the future. You should think to be like that in terms of eternity. Your prayer should be "Lord, I want to live for the future. I want to live for that which is eternal, not for that which is just going to pass away. I don't want to just enjoy my life and have a comfortable life here." Ask yourself, "Has my life counted for God? Have I laid up treasure in heaven?"

Then the question is (verse 9): "When will you arise from your sleep?" We can paraphrase it like this: When will you become wholehearted, brother? When will you become wholehearted about eternal things? When will we finish with being occupied with temporal things? When will we become wholehearted? There's a spiritual laziness that these words rebuke us out of. Think of eternity. Think of the future and lay up treasure like Jesus said, where moth and rust cannot corrupt and where we can have something when we go up into eternity.

It says in Proverbs 6:10 that a little carelessness, a little sleep, a little lack of zeal, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to take life easy, and your spiritual poverty will come like one who walks - that is, one who comes slowly. It doesn't hit us all of a sudden. "Like one who walks" means spiritual poverty comes slowly. We don't realize it right away, but when it comes, it will come like an "armed man." That is, powerfully. Spiritual poverty comes slowly but powerfully to knock us down if we are not wholehearted.

    A worthless person, a wicked man,
    Is the one who walks with a perverse mouth,
    Who winks with his eyes, who signals with his feet,
    Who points with his fingers;
    Who with perversity in his heart continually devises evil,
    Who spreads strife.
    Therefore his calamity will come suddenly;
    Instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing.

    Prov 6:12-15

Verses 12-15 describe the characteristics of a worthless, wicked person. Notice what the Holy Spirit describes as the characteristics of a wicked person. It's not so much that he goes around committing adultery and murder, rather it says a worthless, wicked man is one who "walks with a false mouth." In other words, he's a hypocrite. He has deceit in his lips. We see that in Jesus' earthly ministry, how he could forgive the adulteress and forgive the murderer on the cross, but he really spoke out against the hypocrites. We see here that the mark of a worthless person is primarily hypocrisy - one who walks with deceit in his mouth. And all of the actions that are described in these verses speak about deception and guile in words and actions. One who "winks with his eyes, signals with his feet, and points/instructs with his fingers" has deception and perversity in his heart. There is guile in his words and his actions and evil in his heart. He "continually devises evil and spreads strife" which means that he separates brothers from one another. So notice the characteristics of a wicked person: there's deception in his words and actions, there is crookedness and evil in his heart, and he goes around separating people by backbiting and gossiping against them. Jesus is in the business of uniting but a worthless person is in the business of dividing and separating people. We find that there are lots of so-called believers who fall into this category of wicked person, in whose life there is deception, whose hearts are not cleansed from evil, and who go around speaking words that instead of uniting people, separate people. Let's never forget these marks of a worthless person and a wicked person according to the Holy Spirit. Therefore, one who continues to do that, judgment will come on him suddenly, and instantly he will be broken and there will be no healing. That means God will suddenly bring judgment one day on hypocrites and on those who cause strife and division in the brotherhood.

    There are six things which the Lord hates,
    Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
    Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    And hands that shed innocent blood,
    A heart that devises wicked plans,
    Feet that run rapidly to evil,
    A false witness who utters lies,
    And one who spreads strife among brothers.

    Prov 6:16-19

Here, a further expansion of the characteristics of a wicked person are described as seven deadly sins. These are seven deadly sins that the Lord hates, and not only that he hates, but that are also an abomination to him.

  1. Pride: At the top of the list is pride. A pride that begins in the heart and that gradually manifests itself in the outward appearance. We can't hide for long what we are in our heart. It gradually begins to be manifest, particularly in our eyes. In the way we look at other people. Haughty eyes. A proud look. That is #1 on the list of things that God hates. Remember that the sin of pride, of lifting oneself up, was the first sin that came into the universe through Lucifer. It's #1 on the list of things God hates.
  2. Telling lies: A lying tongue. The tongue is very high on God's list because of its possibility of doing evil as well as doing good. As far as we know, lying was the second sin of Lucifer, when he told a lie to Eve saying, "You shall not die even if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil." So notice that the sins described here are characteristics of Satan, at least the first three. As you go through the book of Proverbs, you'll see how much he speaks about the misuse of the tongue, and I believe there are many people who go to an eternal Hell just because of one small member in their body - that is their tongue, which they never learned to control. I'll tell you something: you'll never make any spiritual progress until you begin to take seriously the words you speak with your tongue. If we don't take that seriously, God will just leave us as people who are not seriously interested in spiritual progress. We can become an abomination to him and one whom God hates. We have seen examples of people who have heard the word of God many, many times in this area and still have not taken this matter seriously. The word of God speaks much about it.
  3. Hands that shed innocent blood: That is, murder. Jesus said in John 8:44 that from the beginning, the devil has been a liar and a murderer. He told a lie to Eve and then he caused Cain to murder Abel in the very next chapter. Today, we don't take a big rock like Cain did but rather do things in a more civilized way. We use our tongue. There are many who have slain others with their tongue just as Cain slew Abel. Notice that these three are at the top of the list of things God hates - a proud look which has filtered through from the heart to the face, a lying tongue (deception on the lips), and hands (or a tongue) that sheds innocent blood.
  4. A heart that devises wicked plans: Evil plans in the heart
  5. Feet that run rapidly to evil: This means feet that run quickly to do something wrong and that don't run quickly to do something right.
  6. A false witness who utters lies: This probably refers to a court situation where the person does not speak the truth when called upon to witness concerning what has happened.
  7. One who spreads strife among the brothers: Notice there are a lot of similarities between these verses and the immediately preceding verses (12-15). There we see the repetition in verse 14 and verse 19 about the fact that one who divides others is an abomination to God. God hates those who separate two brothers. Suppose you say something to someone that's going to cause a distance between him and another brother or a sister that's going to separate one sister from another sister, according to God's word, God hates you. You are an abomination to God according to this verse. We have to be very careful when we say something to someone, that it does not make that sister or that brother go further away from that other person, but rather closer to that other person. In The Living Bible it states: "The one that sows discord." This refers to words that are sown that don't lead to unity but disunity. There we have to remember the words of Jesus in Luke 11:23, "The one who does not gather with me is actually scattering." In other words, there is the possibility of gathering together with Jesus (Jesus is in the business of getting people to be united), but if I don't do that, I'm scattering. If my whole heart is not set on uniting the body of Christ, I'm scattering. I'm doing the work of the devil. That's why we have to be so careful in our speech. We can see how guilty we've all been when we say something bad about an absent person to someone. What have you succeeded in doing? You've succeeded in making the person whom you are talking to a little more distant from that absent person. You become a person who brings division among believers and then you're an abomination to God! God hates you! No wonder you don't make spiritual progress in your life. And that's why, brothers and sisters, it's very important that we take this one sin of bringing discord among people very seriously, because it will bring upon us God's hatred and make us an abomination, a stinking abomination, to God, and all our prayers will be an absolute waste of time.
    My son, observe the commandment of your father
    And do not forsake the teaching of your mother;
    Bind them continually on your heart;
    Tie them around your neck.
    When you walk about, they will guide you;
    When you sleep, they will watch over you;
    And when you awake, they will talk to you.

    Prov 6:20-22

In contrast, Solomon says, "My son (the one who is willing to submit to my spiritual authority), observe the commandment of your father and do not forsake the teaching of your mother." Young children, respect the advice that your parents give you. Don't despise them as old fashioned. Their advice can protect you. "Bind them continually on your heart." Notice the emphasis throughout Proverbs on the heart. "Tie them around your neck. When you walk about, they will guide you; When you sleep, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk to you." This is God's word that is delivered through God fearing parents. There's a word for parents here as well. Can you honestly say to your children, "Observe the commandments of God that I have given you"? Or have we been so lazy that we've had no time to teach God's commandments to our children? That's a challenge to parents. It's not just our own bright ideas that we are to teach our children, but God's commandments. When he says, "My son, observe the commandment of your father", it's not some bright idea the father has in his own head. It's the commandment of God which a father gives to his son, according to what Moses told the Israelites: "You must teach your son these laws all the time, when you walk down the road, when you get up, when you sit down" (Deuteronomy 11:18-21). And that's what it says here, when you walk about, those words will guide you; when you sleep, those words will watch over you (they will even give you clean dreams at night); and when you wake up in the morning, God's word is there again to speak to you. There is tremendous importance given to God's word in the book of Proverbs. Proverbs is the book of wisdom and when we see the tremendous importance given to God's word, that teaches us that it's impossible to have wisdom unless we take the word of God seriously.

    For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is light;
    And reproofs for discipline are the way of life

    Prov 6:23

A lamp is like a torchlight. An individual command of God's word is like a torchlight, and the whole of God's word is like a streetlight on the road. That's the imagery used here - that each commandment shows you one step that you can take and all of it together brightens up life's path.

"Reproofs for discipline are the way of life", means that it is through correction and rebuke that we come to spiritual life. Throughout the book of Proverbs, we notice the contrast again and again between flattery and rebuke. Flattery is the mark of the spiritual harlot. Rebuke and correction are the way of life. If you listen to that rebuke and correction, it will protect you and keep you.

    To keep you from the evil woman,
    From the smooth tongue of the adulteress.

    Prov 6:24

It speaks here again about being kept from the evil woman. This is another thing we find again and again and again in the book of Proverbs. It's almost as though Solomon is never tired of warning young people to be particularly careful in their relationship with the opposite sex. If you tremble at God's word and take it seriously, it will keep you from that woman who can be Satan's agent to ruin and destroy your life! And if he doesn't succeed at ruining and destroying your life, he will at least try to destroy your spiritual usefulness to God as a man of God! There are people who are saved and yet fool around with women, and they have lost an entire ministry that God could have given to them! That's something we have to take seriously. It's not enough to say, "My sins are forgiven." Imagine standing in eternity and finding out that God had a ministry for you, and you lost it just because you weren't very careful in your relationships with the opposite sex. Think of standing in eternity and discovering that just for some silly little pleasure with some silly old girl, you lost a ministry that could have made all eternity glorious for yourself, but you lost it because you were such an idiot on earth. Think of the regret there will be in the hearts of many, many people on that day. Particularly when you're young, be careful. Take the book of Proverbs seriously. It will keep you from the evil woman, from that smooth tongue of the adulterous. Here's the contrast between the rebuke of verse 23 and the flattery of the smooth tongue. It is through flattery, as I've said, that most people fail and fall.

    Do not desire her beauty in your heart,
    Nor let her capture you with her eyelids.
    For on account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread,
    And an adulteress hunts for the precious life.

    Prov 6:25-26

In verse 25 God gives us a warning through Solomon through the Holy Spirit: "Do not desire her beauty in your heart." This almost looks like the New Covenant. It's the nearest verse in the entire bible to Matthew 5:28 where it says, do not lust after a woman in your heart. There's no other verse in the entire bible which is as close to Matthew 5:28 as Proverbs 6:25. There is wisdom. Adultery begins in the heart. It begins with just an admiration of beauty in the opposite sex. I want to emphasize this because there are Christians (believers) who teach that there's nothing wrong in admiring beauty. That is because they have no fear of God in their heart. The word of God says, "Do not desire her beauty in your heart."

Do you have a wrong understanding of physical beauty? Proverbs 31:30 says that physical beauty is an empty, hollow thing. Young men, I want to tell you this, if you don't keep before your mind that physical beauty is an empty, hollow, useless thing, you'll be deceived by it one day. You'll get married to the wrong person and suffer for it the rest of your life. Don't turn your eyes and look at beauty, saying, "Well, I'm not lusting. I'm only admiring the beauty." That is a terrific deception and God sees it! God may have called all such men to a ministry, but he puts them on the shelf and says, "You can't have it. I could have given a ministry to you, but you just fooled around with your eyes and called yourself a believer and talked about the New and Living Way, but you're not wholehearted in this area!" Do not desire her beauty even in your heart! This is not talking about adultery. This is just speaking about admiring physical beauty in a girl! Don't even admire it, it says. Well, that's wisdom if you want to take it. Be careful.

Then it says, "Don't let her capture you with her eyelids." The word of God is very practical. It says here that there's something about a woman's eyes which can catch a young man. And that's why we find that the devil has taught girls nowadays to paint their eyelids to make them more attractive - all those fancy colors, and in case you're one of those who want the mark of the beast on the hand so that you can have a good testimony in the assembly, I assume there are some colorless varieties also that you can put on your eyes and lips and all over the place so that you can make yourself attractive. It says here, "Don't let her catch you with her eyelids." I want to show you a verse in 2 Kings 9:30 that speaks of a girl with a painted face. That's Jezebel. You also read about her in Revelation 2. There's a Jezebel sitting in the church in Thyatira. It says in 2 Kings 9 when Jehu came to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she painted her eyes. Do you know there was mascara used hundreds of years before Christ? It's not a 20th century invention. Jezebel was the one who started that product. She painted her eyes and adorned her hair. I'm sure she painted the rest of her face too and looked out the window, and Jehu said in verse 33, "Throw her down!", and they threw her down and killed her. He wasn't impressed by a painted face, and neither should you be. Jehu was not even a God-fearing man, and yet he could withstand all that. Be careful in this area of painted faces, and the eyelids particularly.

"Don't let her catch you with her eyelids," he says, because "on account of a harlot the man is reduced to a loaf of bread", or as it says in another translation, "All that a harlot is interested in is a loaf of bread. There are two types of evil women spoken of in verse 26: One is the harlot - the regular prostitute who runs a business to make money and earn her living. The second is the adulteress. This is a woman who doesn't do it for a living but just does it for fun. This type is more dangerous because you are not on guard. The prostitute is only out to earn a loaf of bread, but this other woman is the flirtatious type. She's in or from a good home; maybe she's married, maybe she's not married, but she's the flirtatious type; there's flirting in her eyes. You have to be more careful of that one than of the prostitute. The prostitute you know is dangerous, so you don't go there, but this one, the one with the flirtatious eyes, the one who is probably a married woman and who does not know how to submit to her husband and how to be happy with her husband, you must be careful of.

    Can a man take fire in his bosom
    And his clothes not be burned?
    Or can a man walk on hot coals
    And his feet not be scorched?
    So is the one who goes in to his neighbor's wife;
    Whoever touches her will not go unpunished.

    Prov 6:27-29

Verses 27-29 speak about another man's wife. Touching her is like touching dynamite. "Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?" That's impossible. Can you put fire onto dynamite and it not blow up? So is the one who goes into his neighbor's wife and who fools around with the wife of another. Don't even touch another woman immodestly, because you will not go unpunished. Don't become too friendly and familiar with somebody else's wife.

    Men do not despise a thief if he steals
    To satisfy himself when he is hungry;
    But when he is found, he must repay sevenfold;
    He must give all the substance of his house.
    The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense;
    He who would destroy himself does it.

    Prov 6:30-32

Verses 30 & 31 say that even a thief who's stolen must repay and perhaps even give the entire substance of his house, but the one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense. He will destroy himself. In other words, looseness in this area is equal to spiritual suicide. Playing the fool in this area is like committing suicide. Notice the strong warnings that Solomon gives to young people in this area of fooling around with other women.

    Wounds and disgrace he will find,
    And his reproach will not be blotted out.
    For jealousy enrages a man,
    And he will not spare in the day of vengeance.
    He will not accept any ransom,
    Nor will he be satisfied though you give many gifts.

    Prov 6:33-35

Verses 33-35 say that there will be a permanent reproach upon the adulterer's life which can never be blotted out. God may forgive him, but he looks at him as the man who did this thing and lost his ministry for his whole life, because he just wasn't careful in this area. Furthermore, jealousy will enrage the man whose wife you fooled around with, and in the day he discovers it, the day of vengeance, he will not spare you. He will not accept any excuse, any ransom, nor will he be content though you give him many gifts. Then, on top of that, there is God's judgment too. The bible says in Hebrews 13:4 that God will judge all fornicators and all adulterers. God will judge severely all those who sinned sexually with unmarried and married women; much more if they call themselves believers.

Ironically, the greatest warning of all from Chapter 6 is that the man who gave all these exhortations finally fell himself; not once, but again and again and again. This teaches us that we can be so much of an expert in this area that we can listen to this word of God and say, "I don't need that. I'm quite careful in that area." Well, that's exactly what Solomon felt when he wrote this chapter. "He who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall." Solomon's fall is a tremendous warning for us. Do you know that in the entire Old Testament, there was nobody who fell in this area as much as Solomon? Now, I'll tell you something else. In the entire Old Testament, there was no person who wrote as many warnings to people in this area as Solomon. He was the one who ended up with seven-hundred wives and three-hundred concubines. Imagine the way he fell. That's there as a living warning, that you can know the theory of it, speak about it, and even warn and exhort others about it, but if you don't live in fear and trembling (regardless of your age, even if you are seventy years-old), you can fall. So be careful.

Chapter 7
Chapter 7

    My son, keep my words
    And treasure my commandments within you.
    Keep my commandments and live,
    And 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 understanding your intimate friend;
    That they may keep you from an adulteress,
    From the foreigner who flatters with her words.

    Prov 7:1-5

Chapter 7:1-5 continues on in the same theme. It's amazing how much Solomon wrote about it and warned others and then finally fell himself. "My son, keep my words. Treasure my commandments within you." In other words, treat God's word as a treasure. Value it. There are some who say they have a bad memory, but we don't have a bad memory for the loans we give other people, do we? Do you remember all the loans you gave to other people? Do you remember all the evil things other people have done to you? Sure you do. You can wake me up in the middle of the night and I can tell you who borrowed from me, when he borrowed from me, and how much he owes me today including the interest. The reason I can remember is because the rupees I lent are a treasure to me. That's why I remember it. But God's word which I heard last week, I can say "Ah brother, I have a poor memory. I can't remember it." Why is it that we have a bad memory for scripture? I'll tell you why. It's not a treasure. That's why I can't remember it! It's not something I take seriously. Therefore, he says, "My son, keep my words and treasure my commandments within you." Keep God's word like a treasure if you want to have wisdom! Otherwise we can live and die on this earth with money as our only treasure! Treat God's word as a treasure. Take each commandment and know it. That is God's will. Those who take God's word as a treasure, they will come to wisdom. Nobody else. "Keep my commandments and live! And my teaching as the apple of your eye." It says in the Good News Translation, "Be as careful to follow my teaching as you are to protect your eyes." If one speck of dust goes into our eye, it will keep on bothering us until we stop all our work and go and wash it out. We go to a brother and say, "Please blow my eye," when there's one speck of dust. God says, "Let me find someone who's interested in following my teaching in that way. He'll be wise very quickly." It's a matter of taking God's word seriously. It says here to take care of God's word like you take care of your eyes and then you'll become wise.

"Bind them on your fingers and write them on the tablet of your heart." That is referring to the outward life and the inner life. In The Living Bible version, verse 4 says, "Love wisdom like a sweetheart. Make her a beloved member of your family." A sweetheart is someone you love very much; a darling. Love wisdom like a sweetheart. Think of a young man who's so gripped with the desire to have God's wisdom, that wisdom has become his sweetheart. He longs for wisdom. That's what God's word says. "Call understanding your intimate friend." Your closest friend. Young people in the church should long to be with wisdom, wisdom in all situations, like a young man in the world wants to be with a sweetheart.

In verse 5, it states that it will keep you from the adulteress (again it speaks about the adulteress) or the strange woman, and her weapon is (again) flattery. Notice the number of times already in the first 7 chapters we've come across flattery as Satan's master weapon. If you young men and young women are careful about the flattering words that other people speak to you, then you can protect yourself. This includes young women too. Some young man can come and say flattering words to you and your defenses are gone and you yield. Be careful of flattery. Be careful of those who will say nice things to you.

This applies to the false church as well, because the strange woman here is also the false church - Babylon, the harlot whose weapon is also flattery. In Jerusalem, we don't hear flattery. What do we hear? Rebuke. Correction. People may get sick and tired of it, but it sanctifies them. The alternative is to go and sit and listen to flattering words and end up in Hell. And so it says here, beware of flattery. Beware of people who say things just to flatter you. We have no understanding of wisdom if our closest friends are those who flatter us. Ask yourself if you feel more happy with those who say nice things to you and flatter you or someone who rebukes you and corrects you and tells you the truth to your face. That's a pretty good test of whether you love wisdom or whether you love yourself. If I love myself, I'll seek the fellowship of those who only say nice things to me, smooth words and flattering words, and I'll say, "These are wonderful brothers and sisters." That shows how much I love myself. But if I love wisdom, and I see how little of it I have, I'll seek the fellowship of those who won't flatter me, but who will correct and rebuke me and tell me the truth that I need to hear! That's how we must have it in the church.

    For at the window of my house
    I looked out through my lattice,
    And I saw among the naive,
    And discerned among the youths
    A young man lacking sense,
    Passing through the street near her corner;
    And he takes the way to her house,
    In the twilight, in the evening,
    In the middle of the night and in the darkness.
    And behold, a woman comes to meet him,
    Dressed as a harlot and cunning of heart.
    She is boisterous and rebellious,
    Her feet do not remain at home;
    She is now in the streets, now in the squares,
    And lurks by every corner.
    So she seizes him and kisses him
    And with a brazen face she says to him:
    "I was due to offer peace offerings;
    Today I have paid my vows.
    "Therefore I have come out to meet you,
    To seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you.
    "I have spread my couch with coverings,
    With colored linens of Egypt.
    "I have sprinkled my bed
    With myrrh, aloes and cinnamon.
    "Come, let us drink our fill of love until morning;
    Let us delight ourselves with caresses.
    "For my husband is not at home,
    He has gone on a long journey;
    He has taken a bag of money with him,
    At the full moon he will come home."
    With her many persuasions she entices him;
    With her flattering lips she seduces him.
    Suddenly he follows her
    As an ox goes to the slaughter,
    Or as one in fetters to the discipline of a fool,
    Until an arrow pierces through his liver;
    As a bird hastens to the snare,
    So he does not know that it will cost him his life.
    Now therefore, my sons, listen to me,
    And pay attention to the words of my mouth.
    Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways,
    Do not stray into her paths.
    For many are the victims she has cast down,
    And numerous are all her slain.
    Her house is the way to Sheol,
    Descending to the chambers of death.

    Prov 7:6-27

Solomon then relays an instance of a young man. In verse 6, it states, "At the window of my house, I looked out through my lattice and I saw amongst all the simple people going down the roads, I saw one young man lacking sense." It's difficult for young people to realize that they lack wisdom. In Proverbs 4:7, it says, "The beginning of wisdom is to acquire wisdom." We can put it like this: The first step to acquire wisdom is to acknowledge that you don't have it. Don't just say that in false humility, "Oh, I lack wisdom," but really be gripped by that and say, "Lord, I just don't have it." That is very difficult for young people to acknowledge, because they say, "Yeah, yeah, I know how to take care of myself." They tell their parents, "You don't have to tell me, Daddy and Mommy. I know how to take care of myself." They don't and the sad thing is, they don't even realize their need. That's the condition of most young people in the world today. But if you're humble and you want to be a God-fearing person, acknowledge your need.

He says, "Among all the bunch of the young people going down the roads, I saw one young man really lacking sense." He was the worst of the lot. And it says, "He passed through the street, through her corner," because he knew there was a good looking girl over there. He thought, "You know, I think I'll just go for a walk," and he found his feet were taking him in a particular direction, and he took the bypass which goes near her house. Think of the folly in all of this. It was evening, twilight, and then the middle of the night. Young people, you should be very thankful if you have parents who tell you to be back home by 9:30 at night, so that you're protected from these loafer type of young people, who can go out in the evening and walk here and there. They are exposing themselves to temptation. The bible says, "Flee from youthful lusts." Don't put yourself in places where you can be tempted in the twilight, in the evening, in the middle of the night walking around, idle. It's a sad thing when young people are idle. Here was a young man with nothing to do. His father didn't have enough sense to give him some work to do at home. He didn't have enough to study, perhaps. Idle. It's good to give our children something to do so that they don't have time to loaf down the streets like this.

"And behold, a woman comes to meet him, dressed as a harlot…" It is possible not to be a harlot but to still dress like a harlot. Then you come under this category. Proverbs 7:10 says, "dressed as a harlot," which speaks of those who don't know how to dress modestly. Dressed as a harlot! Dear young sisters, don't let Proverbs 7:10 be a description of your dress at any time of your life. Unfortunately, there are believers who dress like harlots, who reveal their bodies.

Then it says she is cunning of heart. Young men, remember, a lot of young women out in the world are cunning of heart. They want to grab you. Don't be so stupid to fall prey to their trap. There are 3 things mentioned in verse 11 about this type of woman:

1. She's boisterous - That means she's noisy. It's not good for a woman to be noisy. A woman needs to speak a little softly and gently. It's alright if a man is a little noisy, but there is something odd about a woman being noisy.

2. Rebellious - A woman who does not know how to submit to her husband. That's a very sad thing.

3. Her feet do not remain at home -That's also very sad. This is a woman who wanders here and there, wasting time instead of taking care of her family.

Dressed as a harlot, boisterous, rebellious, and a wanderer. Let none of those things describe any of the sisters in the church.

In verses 12-15, we read that she is now in the streets and in the squares, visiting this house and that house, gossiping here and there and all over the place. She is a married woman, but she finds this young man and seizes him and kisses him with a bold face. She says to him, "I was due to offer peace offerings." Peace offerings were the offerings that Israelites had to offer to God in the Old Testament. We read about Moses laying down laws concerning these offerings in Leviticus 7. We see that this woman is the religious type who goes to the meetings and gives peace offerings. In the Good News Translation, they're called "fellowship offerings". She says, "I have offered my peace offerings. I am in fellowship with God. Everything's alright between me and God, and I've paid my vows to Him. I've done my religious duty. Now I can have some fun." There are lots of believers that think that just a little bit of religion can excuse all of their worldliness and sinful fun. This is the religious type! This is the one who goes to the meetings and probably sings in the choir. We have to be particularly careful about these religious types of women who are flirts. Don't think these flirts are only out there in the world. They can be sitting right in the assembly! They are not wholehearted and they do not have modesty. You can see it in their eyes, you can see it in the way they dress, you can see it in their noisiness, and you can see it in their wandering around to every house instead of learning to sit at home. Be careful of such girls because those are not the type of girls any wholehearted man should ever marry. She then says, "I've come to meet you, to seek your presence earnestly, and I have found you" There's the flattery. "I sought you. Ah, you were the brother I was seeking for fellowship." Beware of flattery. You may not go to the extent this woman went, but the seed of it can be there. We have to get rid of the serpent's egg as well. Love rebuke, young brothers and sisters! Love rebuke! Love it when your parents rebuke you and correct you! Then you will be protected.

She then says in verses 16-17, "I have spread my couch (that's my bed) with coverings, with colored linens from Egypt. I've sprinkled my bed with myrrh and aloes and cinnamon." All of that is luxury. Her foolish husband wasted his money getting these colored linens of Egypt when some ordinary bed sheet would have done, and wasted money on myrrh and aloes and cinnamon. There's evil in all this unnecessary luxury. His wife doesn't have to work hard with her hands to make ends meet in the home. She lies down on the colored linens of Egypt and has money to waste on myrrh and aloes and cinnamon. Be thankful, dear wives, that you have so much work in the home that you don't have time to waste like this. Be thankful if your husband cannot afford all the colored linens of Egypt and all these fancy perfumes. You're protected from many evils through hard work and through struggling to make ends meet. There are many evils in luxury and in high society. You might think that people in high society have such an easy time, but think of all the evil there is in that type of lifestyle. Even today you find such women in high society fooling around with other men.

She then says to this young man whom she has met, "Come, let us drink our fill of love!" It's not love, it's lust. When the cinemas speak about love, it's actually lust. Love is what was manifested on Calvary's cross. Jesus, in all his purity and obedience to the Father, loved us and gave his life for us. There's nothing else that's worth being called love. All the rest must be spelled "L" "U" "S" "T", even if it's called love in the world.

Then she says in verses 18-19: "Until morning, let us delight ourselves with caresses for my husband is not at home. He has gone on a long journey." I want to emphasize to all men: never visit a home and sit there when the husband is not there. Don't sit there and say, "Oh, but we are brothers and sisters." That's how it all begins. At the judgment seat of Christ, you'll see how many people fell into sin that way. Stay clear - even if it's a sister in the fellowship, even if it's a modest one, stay clear for the sake of your own testimony. I'm not saying they're evil. Even if you go to the home of the most wholehearted sister in the fellowship, in order to be a good example to others, stay out of her house if the husband is not there. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. It speaks in 2 Timothy 3:6 about men like Jannes and Jambres, who enter into households, who have a form of godliness (verse 5), who speak about the New and Living Way, but who don't have any fear of God. They enter into houses when the men are not there and captivate these weak women. These are the people who, like Jannes and Jambres, opposed Moses (verse 8). Don't fall into that category. Be wise.

In verse 20, we read that this woman managed to capture this young man and said, "My husband is not at home, He has gone on a long journey; He has taken a bag of money with him, At the full moon he will come home. " And then it says in verse 21, "With her many persuasions, she entices him." And this idiot fell, but only has himself to blame for hanging around there all of the time and exposing himself to temptation. This young chap didn't yield in the beginning, but she kept on with her flattery and prolonged the conversation until finally he fell. In Genesis 39 you read of Joseph and how Potiphar's wife tempted him and tempted him but he ran. That's the thing we have to do: run when you find temptation in your heart. "With her flattering lips she seduces him." I really believe, brothers, dear young brothers, if after all that you read in this book, in the day of judgment you find that you've fallen in this area, you'll have no excuse. You heard it clearly in the church again and again and again. Beware of flattery.

Then in verse 22, "Suddenly!" Gradually she weakens him and weakens him and weakens him, and then suddenly he falls as an ox goes to the slaughter. The poor ox doesn't know it's going to the slaughter house and this poor fellow doesn't know he's being led to the slaughter house by the devil. His whole life is ruined in a moment. It's like a bird seeing a trap and running into the trap. He does not know it will cost him his life. That's a pretty strong warning for those who have ears to hear.

Lastly it says in verse 24, "Now therefore, my sons (all those who are willing to listen), listen to me, pay attention to the words of my mouth. Do not let your heart turn aside to her ways." Long before your feet get there, your heart sits at home and thinks, "Maybe I'll go and visit her or I'll take a walk down her street." It starts in the heart. He says you must stop it there! Don't let your heart begin to long for someone's beauty. Then he says, if your heart has already acted, then at least stop your feet. "Because many (millions) are the victims she has cast down, and numerous (too numerous to number) are the ones she has slain. Her house is the way to Hell, descending to the chambers of death." Do you know what the way to Hell is? Flirting girls. It's pretty strong language the word of God uses. If only all the so-called Christian men in the world had taken these words seriously, they would have been protected from so much ruin and evil in their lives. "If you go to her house," the Good News Translation says, "you're on your way to Hell." If you choose to go to such a girl's house, you've already taken the first step to Hell.

Chapter 8
Chapter 8

    Does not wisdom call,
    And understanding lift up her voice?
    On top of the heights beside the way,
    Where the paths meet, she takes her stand;
    Beside the gates, at the opening to the city,
    At the entrance of the doors, she cries out:
    "To you, O men, I call,
    And my voice is to the sons of men.
    "O naive ones, understand prudence;
    And, O fools, understand wisdom.
    "Listen, for I will speak noble things;
    And the opening of my lips will reveal right things.
    "For my mouth will utter truth;
    And wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
    "All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness;
    There is nothing crooked or perverted in them.
    "They are all straightforward to him who understands,
    And right to those who find knowledge.

    Prov 8:1-9

Now in contrast to all this, it says in Proverbs 8:1-9, "Does not wisdom call?" Wisdom here is pictured as a pure young woman, calling people, calling young men. Love wisdom. Understanding lifts up her voice. Wisdom stands all over the place: "on the top of the heights, beside the way, where the paths meet (that's where you've come to a crossroads and you want to take the road to that strange woman's house - wisdom is there saying, 'Don't go!'), beside the gates (saying, 'Don't go in through that gate because it's not good for you'), at the opening of the city, at the entrance of the doors." In other words, she's all over the place! "To you, O men, I call, and my voice is to the sons of men. O simple ones, discern prudence." She's calling everyone. Wisdom calls everyone, everywhere. This is what wisdom is shouting out to all people: "Are you immature? Learn to be mature. Are you foolish? Learn to have some sense. Learn to be wise" (Good News Translation). That's the call of wisdom. She says, "Listen, for I will speak noble things; and the opening of my lips will reveal right things. For my mouth will utter truth and wickedness is an abomination to my lips." Wisdom says, "I'll teach you to stop gossiping. I'll teach you to stop telling lies. I'll get crookedness out of your conversation, because wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the utterances of my mouth are in righteousness." There is no guile or hypocrisy, nothing crooked or perverted in wisdom.

"They're all straightforward to him who understands, And right to those who find knowledge." Verse 9 is very beautifully paraphrased in The Living Bible, "My words are plain and clear to anyone with half a mind, if only it is open." Even if you only have half a mind (which means you're a bit of an idiot), if that half a mind is open, you can understand God's wisdom. You don't have to be clever. That's the point. Even if you are stupid and you didn't pass in your school final, it doesn't make any difference. You can be wise if your mind is open. We can see the reason why so many clever, intelligent people are so foolish when it comes to these things. They don't have any wisdom concerning eternal things because their mind is not open. Like Jesus said, "I thank you Father that you have hidden all these things from the wise and the clever and the intelligent people and you have revealed them to little babes who come in humility." It's very difficult sometimes for young people to be a little babe. There was a godly brother in Norway who got all the young people under 35 to stand up in a conference and repeat after him. He said, "I am young and I am stupid and I know almost nothing. Therefore, I will submit to my elders." He said, "Say that again - 'I am young and I am stupid and I know almost nothing. Therefore, I will submit to my elders.'" He said, "If you remember that, you'll be wise." It's very difficult for people under 35 to say that, because they think they know quite a lot, particularly if they are a little clever and are able to grasp the scriptures quickly. They know almost nothing. It's difficult to acknowledge unless they become like babes. If the mind is open, it can receive wisdom.

    Take my instruction and not silver,
    And knowledge rather than choicest gold.
    For wisdom is better than jewels;
    And all desirable things cannot compare with her.

    Prov 8:10-11

Here we read that we can get wisdom only if we value wisdom more than anything in this whole, wide world. Only if you value divine wisdom more than a promotion in your job, more than money, more than all the jewels and gold and silver and property, and more than everything you consider valuable. The people who get wisdom are those who say, "Lord, I want more than anything on this earth to have your wisdom in my life, to have your nature in my life, to have that purity and peaceableness and goodness (that are the characteristics of divine wisdom described in James 3:17) in my life.

    I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
    And I find knowledge and discretion.
    The fear of the Lord is to hate evil;
    Pride and arrogance and the evil way
    And the perverted mouth, I hate.

    Prov 8:12-13

There are two things we'll find again and again in the book of Proverbs: the fear of the Lord and humility. It is through the fear of God and humility that we get wisdom and if a church is to be built with wisdom, then we must be in a church that teaches us at least these two things. It doesn't matter if a church doesn't teach us all about the tribulation and the millennium and which side of the forehead the mark of the beast is going to be - the left side or right side. These are not important. But if a church can teach us the fear of God and humility, that's enough. Those are the main things. That's wisdom.

    Counsel is mine and sound wisdom;
    I am understanding, power is mine.
    By me kings reign,
    And rulers decree justice.
    By me princes rule, and nobles,
    All who judge rightly.

    Prov 8:14-16

All who are sensible rulers will seek God's wisdom. This also applies to fathers. Fathers are rulers in their home and if they are sensible fathers, they will get on their knees before God and say, "Oh God, please help me as a stupid, idiot of a father to have some wisdom to bring up my children rightly." Have you ever said that to God, fathers and mothers? "God, please help me. I am a bit of an idiot as a mother, but please help me to have wisdom." All those who judge rightly will seek wisdom.

    I love those who love me;
    And those who diligently seek me will find me.

    Prov 8:17

In verse 17, we see why many people don't find - because they do not seek diligently. The best time to seek for wisdom is when you're young so you will become a wise, mature young brother or sister; one who knows how to conduct himself in a godly way in all his relationships. If you see some older person behaving like a fool, don't imitate that person. If some older brother or sister is gossiping, don't get involved in that. Steer clear.

It says in the King James Version, "those who seek me early find me," which means it's good to seek for wisdom when we are young. It's a wonderful thing to begin the pursuit of wisdom from the age of 10-12, because it says about Jesus in Luke 2 that he grew in wisdom from the age of 12. We do not have to wait until we are 25 or 30 to seek for wisdom, but right from our childhood days we can seek for it. You can seek for it before you enter your teenage years which will protect you from a lot of folly.

    Riches and honor are with me,
    Enduring wealth and righteousness.
    My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold,
    And my yield better than choicest silver.
    I walk in the way of righteousness,
    In the midst of the paths of justice,
    To endow those who love me with wealth,
    That I may fill their treasuries.

    Prov 8:18-21

What do young people seek? Riches and honor. Wisdom says, "I'll give it to you." Not this empty, worldly stuff. The real stuff. It would be a wonderful thing if every young brother and sister in this church would seek for wisdom wholeheartedly right from their youth. The calling of this chapter is to seek those spiritual riches and honor that wisdom can give.

Verse 18 means that everything this world considers wealth and honor and riches is empty if we don't have wisdom. Wisdom is the real treasure of heaven. Jesus said to lay up treasures in heaven and not on the earth. We know what treasures on the earth are but the treasure of heaven is the wisdom of God. That is what we are to lay up while we are on earth. We won't get it all of a sudden up there in heaven. If we don't lay it up before we go there, we're not going to have it. Therefore, God allows us to go through various situations on earth so that we can lay up treasure, the real treasure of heaven, which is wisdom.

Verses 19-21 are ways in which the Holy Spirit is trying to emphasize to young people particularly, the tremendous necessity and importance of seeking for wisdom.

    The Lord possessed me at the beginning of His way,
    Before His works of old.
    From everlasting I was established,
    From the beginning, from the earliest times of the earth.
    When there were no depths I was brought forth,
    When there were no springs abounding with water.
    Before the mountains were settled,
    Before the hills I was brought forth;
    While He had not yet made the earth and the fields,
    Nor the first dust of the world.
    When He established the heavens, I was there,
    When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
    When He made firm the skies above,
    When the springs of the deep became fixed,
    When He set for the sea its boundary
    So that the water would not transgress His command,
    When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
    Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
    And I was daily His delight,
    Rejoicing always before Him,

    Prov 8:22-30

Verses 22-29 show that God's wisdom was there even before creation. "The Lord possessed me at the beginning of his way before his works of old. From everlasting I was established." In other words, long before there was anything of this universe or any material things created, wisdom was there. God had wisdom before material things. Of course, we know that wisdom is manifested to us through Jesus Christ. We read in 1 Corinthians 1:30, "Jesus Christ has been made the wisdom of God to us." Verse 23 states, "From everlasting I was established," (which means from the beginning; from the earliest times of the earth; from all eternity past).

It goes on to say that God inscribed a circle on the face of the deep. This is one of the verses in the Old Testament which tell us that the earth is not flat, but spherical. It's amazing that man only discovered it four-hundred years ago, but it was there in the Bible three-thousand years ago during Solomon's time. "When he inscribed the circle (or sphere) on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when the springs of the deep became fixed, when he set for the sea its boundary (speaking of the sand on the beaches which became the boundary for the sea so that the sea would not cross it) so that the water should not transgress his command (his command was, "Thus far shalt thou come and not further," which has been evident throughout the centuries - the tides rise and stop at a particular level so that the earth does not overflow with the sea), when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him as a master workman, and I was daily God's delight (God's delight was wisdom) rejoicing always before him."

The point of all this is that God possessed wisdom and wisdom existed before all material things. Therefore, one who seeks for material things more than for wisdom is foolish. He is stupid. One who values material things more than wisdom is really foolish, because wisdom existed long before these material things and it is through wisdom that these material things were created. "The first dust of the world," it says in verse 26 - whether that's the ordinary dust of the roads or the gold dust you find in gold mines, wisdom existed before that, and God valued wisdom more than all these material things he created. Therefore, if you are wise, you won't be like all the foolish idiots in the world running after money, running after material things, and thinking that if we have more material things we'll be happy. In Luke 12:15, Jesus Christ, who is the wisdom of God, speaks to us and says, "Do not think that a man's life is going to be happy when he has many material things." It's through wisdom that happiness and joy come. That's why our eyes need to be opened to see this, that wisdom is above, superior to, more important than, and prior to all things of this earth. That's why all the riches and honor of the earth are nothing compared to God's wisdom in our life.

    Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
    And having my delight in the sons of men.

    Prov 8:31

Verse 31 says that he rejoiced in the world, his earth, and that which was created. God made all this earth and he rejoiced in that, but wisdom finally was delighted and thrilled only when Adam and Eve were created. Why? Because wisdom could not communicate itself to the planets or to the sun or to the stars or to the mountains or to the trees or to the lions or to the elephants or to the horses. Though wisdom was happy to see all this, she could communicate to none of these things. Finally, when God made someone in his own image (Adam and Eve), it says wisdom was really thrilled and excited. At last there was someone created by God to whom wisdom could communicate herself. Here we see the sorrow that God has when man, whom he has created to acquire this wisdom, is foolish enough to be occupied with all these created things, and worships created things more than the creator. This brings grief in God's heart. "His delight was in the sons of men." In Ephesians 3:10, there's a wonderful verse which says God teaches his wisdom even to the angels through the church. It's an amazing verse that says even the angels have to learn God's wisdom through the church. We'll come to how that happens in a moment.

    Now therefore, O sons, listen to me,
    For blessed are they who keep my ways.
    Heed instruction and be wise,
    And do not neglect it.
    Blessed is the man who listens to me,
    Watching daily at my gates,
    Waiting at my doorposts.

    Prov 8:32-34

Verses 32-34 explain the point of it all. "Therefore, O sons, listen to me, for blessed are those who keep my ways." The word 'blessed' in the word of God always means 'happy'. Wisdom has certain laws and if you follow those laws, you will really be happy. "Heed instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed (Happy) is the man who listens to me (who listens carefully to what I have to say), watching daily at my gates..." Daily. Why does it say daily? Because I cannot get all of God's wisdom in one lump sum. We can only acquire it daily. Jesus said in Matthew 6:34, sufficient unto one day is the evil that there is in one day. Every day we are going to encounter a certain quota of evil from people, from our circumstances, from the devil, and from the lusts in our flesh. And if I want to acquire wisdom, I have to take up the cross everyday. Jesus said, "Let him deny himself and take up his cross daily," so that my daily quota of evil (instead of corrupting me and polluting me like it does the rest of humanity) turns into wisdom.

Do you know that diamonds are made from charcoal? It's the exact same substance as charcoal. It's carbon which has been put under the pressure of the earth for many centuries. The same substance which makes up charcoal also makes up a diamond. It's a question of converting that black, ugly charcoal into something that's precious and valuable. The parable there is that my daily quota of evil can be converted into God's wisdom and glory if I take up the cross daily. Happy is the man who listens and watches daily at Wisdom's gates, because wisdom can't be given to you all in one lump sum. Ephesians 5:15-16 speaks about wisdom: "Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as foolish men but as wise people, making the most of your time because every single day is evil." That's what it says here - every single day is evil. Therefore, make full use of this quota that comes to you each day. Don't miss one opportunity to die. If you miss one, you miss something of the glory of God. Take the quota that comes your way because God has determined it. He didn't determine it all of a sudden. The quota of evil that hit you today, although it may have been a surprise to you, it wasn't a surprise to God. That's the quota that was appointed to us before we were born so that we could acquire wisdom. There are very few who understand how to get wisdom because they don't understand the way of the cross. "Happy is the man who listens to me, who is watching daily at my gates, waiting at my doorposts." Just like an intern sitting outside the door of the managing director, waiting to hear. Be like that, waiting for wisdom each day. That should be our attitude right through the day: "Lord, give me wisdom today. That's all. I don't ask you to relieve me from suffering. I don't ask you to give me an easy way through life. Lord, give me wisdom. Help me to fulfill the plan you have purposed for me today."

    For he who finds me finds life
    And obtains favor from the Lord.

    Prov 8:35

How do you know God has blessed you? According to this verse, it's when you have acquired God's wisdom. It's not when you got a promotion or a better job or anything of this earth which is listed in verses 22-29 which was created after wisdom. No. It's when you get wisdom. Then you have obtained favor from the Lord. When you have acquired God's patience, purity, peaceableness, and his willingness to yield, which are the qualities of wisdom (James 3:17).

In verse 36 in the margin it says, "He who misses me injures himself." That means if you go through life and miss getting wisdom, then whatever we may have - even bible knowledge - we really wasted our life. We may have gotten a big job or were respectable members of some assembly, but we missed the main thing of life if we missed partaking of God's wisdom in our earthly course. If I've missed one day's portion of wisdom which God has appointed for me to acquire, I've lost it for eternity. I can never get it again. The wisdom that God wanted me to partake of yesterday, I cannot get it again. It's gone. God has appointed that I get a certain amount of wisdom each day, and if I don't get it, I've missed it. I've missed it for all eternity. I can get today's and I can get tomorrow's, but I can't get yesterday's. God himself can't give it back to me. That's why it says we have to make the most of the time because the days are evil. Let me learn to convert that evil into wisdom.

    But he who sins against me injures himself;
    All those who hate me love death.

    Prov 8:36

That means those who don't care for wisdom, those who are occupied with other things, actually love spiritual death even though they don't realize it. As we look through the book of Proverbs, we see that wisdom is the most important thing. And if only young people would start seeking for it when they are ten or twelve years-old, they wouldn't do a lot of the stupid things young people do when they are twenty or twenty-five. Why do young people do stupid things when they are twenty years old? Because they never sought earnestly for wisdom when they were twelve or thirteen. They were occupied with so many other things. It takes time to acquire wisdom. Think of people who do foolish things when they are forty. They are ruining themselves. They are injuring themselves. It's like committing suicide!

Chapter 9
Chapter 9

    Wisdom has built her house,
    She has hewn out her seven pillars;

    Prov 9:1

There's only one house that wisdom is building. It's not a temple or a physical building. It is the church of the living God which is the bride of Christ. Wisdom has built it, not bible knowledge. Wisdom has built the house, and the house is built on seven pillars which support it. Those seven pillars are listed for us in James 3:17 by the Holy Spirit:

1) Purity - the church, the true church, the body of Christ which is going to be the bride of Christ, is built firstly on purity. If there's no purity, that's not the church. We can apply the same thing to the home. Wisdom has built her house. Your home and my home must be built with wisdom and the first mark of wisdom is purity.

2) Peaceableness - We must have a nature that is seeking for peace as far as possible. Why do I say as far as possible? The word of God says in Romans 12:18, "As far as it lies in you, live peaceably with all men." As far as possible, there must be a desire for peace in our hearts. A longing for it as much as it depends on us. That's the second pillar of wisdom, and you can't have a church if you don't gather together people who have a desire to be at peace. In other words, not the quarrelsome type.

3) Gentle - We've thought much about this. There's no gentleness that dwells in our flesh. We're basically harsh, rude and unkind. So we have to take up the cross, sit outside wisdom's door, and say, "Oh God, teach me to be gentle. Help me to listen - to listen like the intern outside the director's office." We have to gather together a bunch of people who are fighting with their own flesh to become gentle in their life. Gentleness is the third pillar.

4) Willing to yield - The fourth pillar of wisdom is willingness to yield or like it says in the margin - reasonableness. Instead of being stubborn like a mule, say, "Okay, have it your way." Yield. That's how the church is built. We have to gather together people who learn how to yield. All these things are quite opposite of the world. In the world, people have impurity. That's the pillar on which the house of folly (Babylon) is built. The second pillar of Babylon is quarreling. The third pillar of Babylon is harshness and rudeness. And the fourth pillar of Babylon is unwillingness to yield on any point.

5) Full of mercy - Not just theoretical mercy. It says, "and good fruits." That means a willingness to forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive. It doesn't say, "full of" in relation to the other things, but when it comes to mercy, it specifically mentions that it has to be "full of mercy". It can't just be ninety percent - it has to be full because there's a tremendous need for mercy with one another to build the church. Wisdom is full of mercy and full of mercy's good fruits - kindness towards those who are evil towards us and forgiving those who have harmed us immediately, totally, and completely. A fullness. It's not that we forgive somebody and then our level of mercy drops. No. Even after we've forgiven, our level of mercy must still be full because it's always overflowing. God anoints our head with oil and our cup keeps on overflowing. He's so merciful to us so we keep on being merciful to others. Full of mercy and its good fruits.

6) Unwavering - Not shaking, steady, steadfast, uncompromising, straight. God has shown you something and you stand for it. The devil can't get you to bend on a small point or little advantage. You are full of mercy but you don't compromise. Straight. That's a pillar of wisdom. Unwavering is also translated as "without partiality" in one of the translations, which is also one aspect of being unwavering. You don't lean towards somebody because he is your special friend and move away from someone else because you don't like him very much. You can't build a church with such types of people. Without wavering means no partiality and all are just the same to you.

7) Without hypocrisy - Finally, the seventh pillar is without hypocrisy. That means to be true. You may not be perfect, but you are not pretending to be something you are not. You are striving for something and you are sincerely striving for it. You are not pretending to strive for it.

Here are the seven pillars of wisdom. We could spend a lot of time on these but we can meditate on them on our own. But let's never forget that every true church and every true home that's godly can only be built on these pillars. We have to concentrate on these seven and see how many of these seven we have in our church. The mark of a true church is that it is built on these seven pillars.

    She has prepared her food, she has mixed her wine;
    She has also set her table;
    She has sent out her maidens, she calls
    From the tops of the heights of the city:
    "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here!"
    To him who lacks understanding she says,
    "Come, eat of my food
    And drink of the wine I have mixed."

    Prov 9:2-5

There is food in the church prepared by wisdom. It is the food of wisdom, not just bible knowledge. "She has mixed her wine, she has set her table." All things are ready. Come and eat. She has sent out her maiden. Wisdom has her servants who "call from the tops of the height of the city." Everywhere they are calling out, 'Whoever is simple (whoever is willing to acknowledge that he doesn't have wisdom), let him turn in here.' Isn't it wonderful that you need only one qualification to be invited? Acknowledge that you're a foolish person. That's why so many people can't come in - because it's quite humbling to acknowledge that we don't have wisdom. However, the name on the invitation card is only for such people. Whoever is simple, let him come. Whoever lacks wisdom, come. Jesus didn't call the righteous. He came to call sinners. Wisdom hasn't come to call all those who think they are wise and clever, but she's come to call the babes. That's why all these things are hidden from the clever and intelligent, because they don't feel their need. But those who are like babes and don't know anything are invited. "And to him who lacks understanding..." If you lack understanding, brother or sister, your name is on the invitation card. You're welcome to come.

She says, "Come. Eat of my food and drink of the wine which I have mixed. Come and eat." We know that bread and wine speak of what we partake of in the Lord's table. They speak of the cross. That's what wisdom has at her table, and she says, "Come. Let's partake of this bread and wine. Let's partake in a fellowship of the cross." And that is the food that's served in the church. That is the rich food, the word of the cross that is proclaimed in the true Jerusalem.

    Forsake your folly and live,
    And proceed in the way of understanding.

    Prov 9:6

You may be stupid, you may be foolish, but come in with a willingness to give up all that folly. What is folly? It is the opposite of the seven things that we saw in James 3:17. Go through James 3:17 and write down all the opposites. That's folly. "Forsake it and live and proceed in the way of understanding." That is God's will - to proceed in the way of understanding.

    He who corrects a scoffer gets dishonor for himself,
    And he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself.
    Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you,
    Reprove a wise man and he will love you.
    Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser,
    Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning.

    Prov 9:7-9

There are people who are not interested in wisdom. They are scoffers. They despise all these things. Jesus said, "Don't cast your pearls before swine. Don't give that which is holy to the dogs." And while wisdom is speaking the message of the cross and pointing out the seven pillars on which the house is built, there are those who are not interested in this message. There are those who scoff and say, "Yeah, yeah, these are not the main things." There are people who despise it, and it says here not to offer it to such people.

We learn something further in verses 7-9 about correction. Correction is one of the purposes with which God's word has been given. We read that in 2 Timothy 3:16: "All scripture is given by God and is profitable for...correction and for instruction in righteousness." We also see in the book of Proverbs that a very important way that wisdom is communicated to us is through correction. But not all can be corrected. Many people never acquire wisdom because when they are corrected, they get offended. Most believers get offended when you correct them. If you flatter them and say they are wonderful, spiritual, and wholehearted, they become all puffed up and are very friendly with you. If you tell them there's something wrong in what they are doing and point it out specifically, they get offended, they get hurt, they are cold towards you, they are disturbed about it, and they lose their sleep. They are not bothered about the thing that needs to be corrected in their life but instead they are disturbed that somebody has pointed them out as carnal. Such people can live year after year after year and never become wise. I would say that one of the main reasons why many believers never become wise is because they get offended when they are corrected. Many young people only hang around those who flatter them and praise them. Even though they may sit in so-called New Testament churches, they have the spirit of Babylon in them, because they're only interested in flattery and not correction. If I'm only interested in flattery and not in correction, I can sit in the most spiritual assembly in the whole world and be a Babylonian through and through. Correcting a person who doesn't want wisdom is a waste of time and "he who reproves a wicked man gets insults for himself. Do not reprove a scoffer lest he hate you. Reprove a wise man."

Here's the mark of a wise man: correct him or rebuke him, and he will love you. Every one of us can sit and ask ourselves whether we are wise or not. Here is some homework. Think of somebody who has corrected you. It could be a father, a mother, a husband, or maybe an elder brother. Do you really love him with all your heart? If so, then you are wise. All wise people love correction. That's how they became wise. The main reason why it's so difficult for young people to get out of their folly is because they don't love correction. Beware of the brothers and sisters who just say nice things. They're not going to help you to be wise. You don't see that wisdom flatters anyone in the book of Proverbs or in the whole Scripture. The word of God is not given for flattery, it's given for correction.

Verse 9 says, "Give instruction to the wise man and he will be still wiser." Why does the wise man love correction? Because he wants to be even wiser. He knows that he hasn't attained to the wisdom of God yet and so he wants to be still wiser. Therefore he receives correction and reproof. If you give an already righteous man an exhortation like, "Flee from the love of money, brother", he doesn't get offended that you think he loves money. He takes it. Think of what Paul wrote to Timothy: "Brother, flee from youthful lusts." Timothy didn't get offended. He didn't think, "Does Paul think I'm running after youthful lusts?" No, he took it - "Thank you brother for that exhortation. It's good for me. I need it." And he becomes still more free from youthful lusts and the love of money.

The poor in spirit alone can become wise. The poor in spirit are those who are willing to be corrected and who see their need of being more like Jesus and having more of God's purity, peaceableness, and goodness in their life. A test of whether we are growing in wisdom or not is whether there's a love for those who correct us. If we are open to rebuke and correction and we long for it and we want it, then we are wise. And if we are not wanting it, we can say we are sort of stagnant. We are not really growing in wisdom at all. But the more wise we are, the more we long for correction and more wisdom. We see here that our attitude to correction is not only a test of our wisdom, it's a test of our humility, and it's humility which receives the grace of God.

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

    Prov 9:10

The previous verses were a warning to not go to those who despise correction. There are people who don't want it and who are not interested and say, "This is all bondage." Leave them alone. Go to those who are interested in correction and tell them Proverbs 9:10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy one is understanding." What is the beginning of wisdom? The fear of the Lord. A sensitivity to sin. A hatred of sin. A hating of evil. The fear of the Lord is the beginning (ABCs) of wisdom, and the knowledge of the holy one is to know God in his nature; to know God is full of mercy; to know him more like that personally and to experience it; to know that God is love and that he's never evil toward anyone; to know that he's good, always good; to know that he's kind to unthankful people; to know God more and more. That is understanding. This is the central verse of Proverbs, and we can say that all of wisdom is summed up here: to fear the Lord and to know him more and more and more.

    For by me your days will be multiplied,
    And years of life will be added to you.

    Prov 9:11
    I, Wisdom, will make the hours of your day more profitable and the
        years of your life more fruitful.

    Prov 9:11, TLB

That means no year or even day in your life will be wasted if you make wisdom your main aim in life day by day. The hours of your day will be profitable (won't be wasted) and the years of your life will be fruitful if you make wisdom the main pursuit of your life.

    If you are wise, you are wise for yourself,
    And if you scoff, you alone will bear it.

    Prov 9:12

Wisdom is saying, "Do you know why I'm exhorting you to be wise? It's not that I get anything out of it. It's for your own good." Just like a loving father will tell his children, "Look, I'm telling you this for your own good. It's not that I get anything out of it. For your own good I'm telling you this!" That's what wisdom says in this verse: "If you're wise, that's for yourself! Who's going to get the benefit out of that? Not me. You! And if you scoff and you remain foolish, who's going to suffer? I'm not going to suffer. You'll suffer." And so Solomon exhorts us to be sensitive. Wisdom is for our own good. Amazing. Right through these first nine chapters, the Holy Spirit is trying to emphasize the tremendous importance of having wisdom in our lives.

    The woman of folly is boisterous,
    She is naive and knows nothing.
    She sits at the doorway of her house,
    On a seat by the high places of the city,
    Calling to those who pass by,
    Who are making their paths straight:
    "Whoever is naive, let him turn in here,"
    And to him who lacks understanding she says,
    "Stolen water is sweet;
    And bread eaten in secret is pleasant."
    But he does not know that the dead are there,
    That her guests are in the depths of Sheol.

    Prov 9:13-18

This is a picture of the foolish woman. But it's also a picture of the harlot church which is the opposite of wisdom and represents the entire Babylonian system. And it says here the woman of folly is boisterous. Noisiness. Making a lot of noise is the mark of a foolish woman. She's not going to build a godly house. Impossible. She doesn't have the #1 qualification: wisdom. She's just noisy and makes too much noise. She doesn't know how to have a gentle and quiet spirit. How in the world can she build her house as a godly home? One of the first things she needs to know before building a godly home is how to turn down the volume knob on her mouth so that her voice level comes down a bit. That's one of the first marks of wisdom. Think if all of you sisters begin to do that - if your speech becomes a little softer and a little more gentle. Then you won't end up in the category of this woman who's boisterous and noisy. A lot of women are like that. It says, "She is simple and knows nothing." All she knows how to do is blow her top and make a lot of noise - but she really knows nothing.

Proverbs 9 is a picture of what we read of in Revelation: a picture of Jerusalem and Babylon. These two churches are pictured here in Proverbs. It says, "She sits in the doorway of her house on a seat..." We can say she's sitting on a throne. She's set up a throne of high thoughts about herself and sits by the high places of the city. She's calling all those who pass by, who are making their paths straight. These are simple people who are walking on the straight way. Do you know what she says to them? She says exactly the same thing that wisdom said in verse 4. The same words. In verse 4, Wisdom said, "Whoever is simple let him turn in here. Him who lacks understanding." Here we see the same thing. The words are so similar. She takes the same bible and uses the same words, but it's another spirit.

Those who are seeking for wisdom can sit in a Babylonian system and say, "I don't seem to get much wisdom here. It's the same bible. The same words - but I don't get the revelation of the Holy Spirit here." Why? Because it is stolen water. That means it's borrowed messages. They read hidden treasures and preach the messages. They don't get any direct revelation from God. It's stolen from somewhere else. Cooked up. Borrowed from a lot of books and magazines. There's a very interesting verse in Jeremiah 23:29 about this which says: "My word is like a hammer which breaks the rock in pieces - which shatters the rock. And my word is like a fire that burns everything up." Do you know what the next verse is? It's very important to know the next verse which is after that. In the next verse, the Lord says, "I am against those preachers who steal my messages from other preachers." Did you know that? God says, "I am against all those preachers who borrow their messages from some other preacher. Then that's not my word. No rock is going to be shattered and nothing is going to burn." Most of Christendom is like that today - all borrowed messages, stolen water, and stolen bread. And the sad thing is, it's all being eaten. That's Babylon. We have to emphasize the revelation of the Holy Spirit! And we must be true men and women of God who get the true revelation of the Holy Spirit on God's word. Where there is no revelation, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).

Everything that comes from the foolish woman is deception. In contrast to all this, you see Wisdom. In verse 2, it says that Wisdom has revelation. She prepares her own food. She hasn't gone and borrowed it from someone else and stolen it from somewhere else - from some other book or magazine. She's mixed her own wine and prepared her own food! She has been on her knees and sought for revelation and the Holy Spirit has given it. That's wisdom, and that's how Jerusalem is built. All borrowed messages and getting up to preach something from reading it elsewhere is honor seeking. It's to show other people, "Look what I have," although you didn't get it yourself. You stole it, but you wouldn't tell them that, because you want the honor. Beware of that. That's Babylon. That spirit must never be found in the church. We don't have any stolen water in our church and we prepare our own food. God gives it to us through his word - the bread that God gives. Everything is out in the open and nothing is secret.

It says, "Bread eaten in secret is pleasant." Paul speaks about that in 2 Corinthians 2:17 and says, "We've given up all those things of dishonesty. We speak things of sincerity." 2 Corinthians 4:2 says, "We have renounced the hidden things, and we walk in the light." It is very important that there's nothing secretive about anything in our ministry that we would have to deceive someone or cheat someone. It's all straight-forward and open.

Verse 18 concludes that all this is the way to Hell. We saw a verse like this previously about what the way to Hell is: a flattering woman. Here again, the way to Hell is being incorporated into the Babylonian system. Be assured, if you are a part of the Babylonian system, it'll finally lead you to Hell since it's not genuine and it's not true. It's not following God's word in total obedience.

These nine chapters are like an introduction to the whole book of Proverbs. We can say that the whole book of Proverbs is like a big building, and the first nine chapters are just the porch. We are just getting ready to go into the house and examine all the rooms. Now from Proverbs 10:1 onwards, we begin to enter the house itself and explore the various rooms of wisdom. The first nine chapters are just trying to emphasize to us the tremendous importance of wisdom. It says in Proverbs 10:1, "The Proverbs of Solomon..." Think how much time he has taken in all these chapters just to show us the importance of acquiring wisdom. He doesn't want to start off with chapter 10 verse 1 in the beginning. He could have started the proverbs right in the first chapter and said, "Okay, here are the proverbs," but that would have been casting pearls before swine. That would be giving that which is holy to the dogs. No. He wants to find out first of all, "Are you really interested in becoming wise? If so, then I'll teach you something." And only to those who are really eagerly seeking for wisdom, he says, "Now, I'll tell you something." Take these next chapters seriously.

Chapter 10
Chapter 10


PROVERBS 10:1-22:16

The proverbs of Solomon are from chapter 10 through chapter 29. Chapters 30 and 31 are written by others. If we take these words seriously, it can change our church life, our home life, and our personal life. Chapter 10 is basically a contrast between the righteous and the wicked.

    A wise son makes a father glad,
    But a foolish son is a grief to his mother.

    Prov 10:1

Solomon is speaking to those who will take the position of sons (in submission to him). He says, "The only way you can make me happy is if you become wise - not by earning money or by getting a big job." Any parent should be happy with their children only if their children have become wise. We have a whole lot of stupid parents all over the world who are happy that their children have big jobs, have married somebody nice, and have a big house. They haven't read Proverbs 8 which says that wisdom was created before all these houses and gold and silver and everything else. A real parent will be happy when his children are acquiring divine wisdom, beginning with obedience to daddy and mommy at home. That's the first thing. If obedience is not there, whatever marks they get in school are of no use, even if they come first in the class, are very good in athletics, etc. It's all useless if they don't know the number one thing of wisdom for children: obey daddy and mommy at home. Let's remember that. Let no father or mother be proud of children who are doing well out in the world if they don't have the first mark of wisdom in their life. Children, remember that. All your accomplishments in school are useless if you don't know how to obey your daddy and mommy at home. Absolutely worthless. "A wise son makes a father glad but a foolish son is a grief to his mother." We have to rejoice only when our children have that wisdom. I never find joy in anything else.

    Ill-gotten gains do not profit,
    But righteousness delivers from death.
    The Lord will not allow the righteous to hunger,
    But He will reject the craving of the wicked.

    Prov 10:2-3

Next, he speaks in verses 2-3 about money. See, money is a very important thing. Proverbs has a lot to say about money and the use of money. He says, "Ill-gotten gain does not profit." That means profit which I don't get righteously can never bring any lasting happiness in my life. Maybe I've cheated someone to get a little money or cheated the government of some taxes to get a little extra money. It will never bring any benefit in my life. Impossible. Let's remember that.

Then it says that righteousness delivers from death. Money acquired righteously, even if it's a little, delivers from death. If I earn my money righteously, God himself will take care of me. It goes on in the next verse to say that the Lord will not allow me to hunger. David says in Psalm 37:25, "I've been young, and now I am an old man, but in all these years, I've never seen a righteous man begging for bread or his children begging for bread." The Lord will not allow the righteous man to hunger. He'll take care of him. If he seeks the kingdom of God first and His righteousness, all the other things he needs will be added to him.

Then it says, "But he will thrust aside the craving of the wicked." God will allow that craving - the lust that the wicked man has for more and more and more and more - to finally ruin his life. Like the rich man who said, "I will build bigger barns" and finally, God said, "You fool! I will take away your soul this very night. What's the use of all that?"

    Poor is he who works with a negligent hand,
    But the hand of the diligent makes rich.
    He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely,
    But he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully.

    Prov 10:4-5

The next thing he speaks about in verses 4-5 is hard work. He speaks about money and then he speaks about hard work. One of the first things God told Adam in the garden of Eden was, "By the sweat of your brow, you will earn your bread." That means hard work. Hard work is something God has appointed for us. "Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, for the hand of the diligent makes rich." Have you noticed in the gospels that in every recorded case of Jesus calling one of the apostles, they were working somewhere when he called them? He never called some fellow who was just relaxing at home; he never called unemployed graduates, sitting at home, waiting for something. You never find such a thing in the gospels. Those people are all in the bible schools today, but Jesus never found such people to be his apostles - not even once. Where were Peter and Andrew? They were fishing. Why didn't Jesus wait until the evening after they went home? Then we wouldn't know if they were just unemployed graduates sitting at home or whether they were working men. That's why Jesus called them at their places of work: so that it would be recorded in the gospels that they were working people, and hard-working people at that. What about James and John? At their place of work. What about Matthew? One would think that Jesus would at least have waited for Matthew to finish counting his money before calling him. No. He called him right in the middle of work to show that Jesus is only going to call those who are diligent and faithful in their secular occupations. These things are written for our instruction. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. This is why I say we are one-hundred percent against this wretched Babylonian system that calls a whole lot of people who just finished high school (and usually failed) to go and serve the Lord. That's a lot of garbage. You never find that anywhere from Genesis to Revelation, except perhaps in the false prophets. Nowhere else. God doesn't call such people. God never calls those who are lazy.

Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, "You yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you, nor did we eat anyone's bread without paying for it, but with labor and hardship, we work night and day so that we might not be a burden to any of you." Hard work is the way people become rich out in the business world and spiritually too! It takes diligence. "He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, and he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully." Now is the time of summer and harvest when we are to gather. The time will come when we cannot gather any more. Now is the time to gather glory so that when the opportunity to gather the harvest is over, we have acquired something during our earthly life. So make full use of the opportunity. Be diligent day by day by day - be diligent to acquire what God wants you to acquire in your daily life.

    Blessings are on the head of the righteous,
    But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

    Prov 10:6

That means that one mark of a wicked man is vicious words. Hurting words, evil words come out of his lips. Do you ever speak words that are meant to hurt somebody - maybe to hurt your wife or your husband or a brother or a sister or anyone? Then according to this verse, you're a wicked person. You can call yourself a New and Living Way believer or whatever you'd like, but the word of God says you're a wicked person. That's because vicious words come out of your mouth; words that are meant to hurt; words that are designed to hurt. This is not talking about the accidental slip of the tongue in a moment of pressure. No. Calculated words. You thought, "If I put it like this, it will really hurt that person. I'm going to say it like that." You're a wicked person! Call yourself a believer or spiritual or New and Living Way or whatever you'd like, but the word of God says you're a wicked person if you are like that! Calculating words to hurt - that's the mark of a wicked person. There are lots of so-called believers that actually should be called wicked brothers and sisters. Wicked. Their mouth conceals this violence. It sounds so nice, but there's a violence concealed in it to hurt!

    The memory of the righteous is blessed,
    But the name of the wicked will rot.

    Prov 10:7

This teaches us that even after a righteous person is dead and gone, like Abel, though he's dead, yet he speaks. We have to live such a righteous life that the memory of our life even after we are gone should bless others. Or if we have lived in a particular town, after we have left that town, people think of us as one who has been a blessing there. Brother, sister, be one like that. That is our calling. The name of the wicked will just stink.

    The wise of heart will receive commands,
    But a babbling fool will be ruined.

    Prov 10:8

Another mark of a wise person is that he's willing to receive commands. Or to put it another way, as another translation has it: "willing to submit to authority." To give commands is easy. All foolish people are ready to do that. But it's the wise of heart that are willing to receive commands, beginning with the children. When the father gives a command, wise children are willing to receive it. And as we grow up, God places authority over us in different situations. If we are wise in heart , we'll be willing to receive the commands of those who are in authority over us. The emphasis in Proverbs is always on the heart. If we are wise in our heart, we'll be willing to submit to authority, or as another translation puts it: "willing to receive correction." Willingness to receive correction from someone in authority is the mark we see again and again of those who are wise. They are willing to accept correction and submit to authority. But a babbling fool is one who just keeps on talking, talking, talking as if he knows such a lot. There are people who just don't know how to close the tap, and once their mouth is open, they keep on talking, talking, talking. They'll just be cast out.

    He who walks in integrity walks securely,
    But he who perverts his ways will be found out.

    Prov 10:9
    A good man has firm footing, but a crook will slip and fall.

    Prov 10:9, TLB

The man of integrity is the man who's sincere. He may have many mistakes in him, but to the best of his knowledge, he's seeking to walk in the light. He's sincere. He has a firm footing even though there are so many mistakes in his life. He has a firm footing at every point because he walks in integrity. He walks securely. But he who perverts his way will be found out. The word of God says, "Be sure your sin will find you out" (Numbers 32:23), and a man who's a crook, who's trying to deceive, who's trying to come into the congregation of the saints with some ulterior motives - he may sit there for some time, but one day he will be exposed. But the man of integrity has a firm footing.

    He who winks the eye causes trouble,
    And a babbling fool will be ruined.

    Prov 10:10

This speaks again about the man who is deceptive - the man who winks with his eye. He's not straightforward. There's something wrong. You know when you have some deception in your mind, you can't look people straight in the face. There's something this man is trying to hide. He causes trouble. But a babbling fool - one who keeps on talking - is even worse than the man who winks. He will be thrown down completely.

    The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life,
    But the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.

    Prov 10:11

This is about our speech. We've considered money, hard work, deception and integrity, submission to authority, and receiving correction. Now here's another area where the righteous and the wicked can be discerned: their speech. There is a lot mentioned about speech in the rest of this chapter. It says, "The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence." This is what we considered earlier about suspicious language. But the mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life which means that the words that come out of our mouth are kind, good, bless others, speak good about others, and are not evil. They come out like a fountain. That's a fountain of life. That's the mark of a righteous man. By his mouth you can know him. By the fruit of his mouth, you can know whether he's righteous or wicked. Just listen to the words of his mouth when he's off guard. You'll know exactly what type of person he is.

    Hatred stirs up strife,
    But love covers all transgressions.

    Prov 10:12
    Hatred stirs old quarrels, but love overlooks insults.

    Prov 10:12, TLB

This is a verse we've considered much. It's quoted in 1 Peter 4:8, "Love covers a multitude of sins." Long before Peter said it, Solomon said it. And one translation has it like this, "Love draws a veil over all sins." It puts a sheet across all sins. When we read the Living Bible paraphrase we can easily know whether we are children of God or children of the devil. God is love and the devil is a murderer; and the children of God are identified by the love of God in their hearts toward one another, and the children of the devil are identified by hatred. It's very easy to find out which quality we have in our heart by the words we speak with our tongue. Of course, everybody speaks about love. Out in the world they speak about love too - but there is a test. If you are a person who stirs up old quarrels - that means you bring up the remembrance of something that happened in the past when you have a disagreement with a person - then however much you may speak about love, you have hatred in your heart according to the word of God. Love never brings up old quarrels. That is hatred. That doesn't mean you've forgotten about all your old quarrels, but love covers them. Love draws a veil over all sins. So this is a very good verse by which we can find out if we have love or hatred in our hearts, so that we don't deceive ourselves.

The mark of a person who has hatred is that he's always ready to pick up a quarrel; pick up a quarrel with a brother, pick up a quarrel with a sister, pick up a quarrel with his marriage partner. That is the clear mark of a person with hatred in his heart, whatever he may say about himself, whatever religious language he speaks. It's good that he faces up to it and realizes what the condition of his heart is lest he wake up in eternity and discover that he was deceiving himself concerning his Christianity all through his life. This verse says "stirs up" which means he sort of brings it up from the bottom. Here's something which was sinking to the bottom, but hatred stirs it all up and brings it right up to the top. It says, "You did this and you did that. That time you said this and the other thing." That's the mark of a man who's full of hatred.

We can find out whether we have love in our heart by what we do when we see some sin in another person. Love will draw a veil over it. "Love covers a multitude of sins" can also be looked at in another way: when a person commits a sin, love seeks to cover it in the sense that love seeks to attach a good motive to it. Love says, "Maybe he said or did that with a good intention or a good motive." Maybe it turned out badly, but love seeks to cover the possibility of sin there. If sin is there, let God expose it. But our attitude should be to put a good construction to the action and put a good intention behind it. That is the mark of the fact that we've been delivered from the kingdom of darkness. In our olden days, when we were children of Adam, we were specialists in putting the worst possible motive on everything that other people said and did. We were experts at that, and if we have not been cured of that habit, that shows that we have not been working out our salvation with fear and trembling in this area. I believe this is one of the greatest areas where we need to work out our salvation. It's from the heart that this evil comes up. Therefore, if we don't work out our salvation, we'll never be free from it. The book of Proverbs speaks about wisdom, and wisdom begins in cleansing our heart of all hatred by working out our own salvation. You see, Wisdom is happy when everything is done in love. It may not be done perfectly, but if it is done in love, there can be progress toward perfection. Even what we do in love can be done foolishly, but at least it is done with love so that there is the possibility of growth towards perfection. But if we haven't even gotten that far, such that we're still doing things with hatred, then there is absolutely no possibility of growth in wisdom. This is why so many Christians never seem to make progress throughout their entire life: because they've never cleansed out this hatred and the wrong attitudes toward others in their heart.

    On the lips of the discerning, wisdom is found,
    But a rod is for the back of him who lacks understanding.

    Prov 10:13

A rod to the back is the way God seeks to give us wisdom. If I lack wisdom, I need to say, "Lord, I am one of those people who lack wisdom. I qualify for the rod. I need a rod on my back to teach me." Just like it says about children that foolishness is bound up in their hearts, but the rod of correction will drive out that foolishness (Proverbs 22:15). I need to see that spiritually I am like a little child. I do all types of things out of selfishness and I stir up old quarrels and many other things which in God's eyes are much worse than a child spilling milk or breaking something in the house. A million times worse. What do I need? I need a rod. This teaches us that it is through chastening that we get wisdom. It is impossible to get God's wisdom without God disciplining us. That is why it says that every son whom the Lord receives and whom he loves, he disciplines (Proverbs 3:11-12, Hebrews 12:6). He allows circumstances, sicknesses, financial difficulties, trials, people to oppress us, and difficult neighbors. There are so many ways in which God disciplines us. And the purpose is that we might get wisdom, because we lack understanding.

    Wise men store up knowledge,
    But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand.

    Prov 10:14
    A wise man holds his tongue. Only a fool blurts out everything he
        knows; that only leads to sorrow and trouble.

    Prov 10:14, TLB

In the midst of a bunch of people who are always babbling, it's easy to find out who is wise: the one who knows how to control his tongue and keep quiet. This verse teaches us that if we are wise, we will not blurt out everything we know. There are some people who have this foolish idea that the only way to have fellowship is to be absolutely honest with one another - to tell each other everything that we know. You never find a verse like that in scripture. That's what the psychiatrists say. It's a mark of folly in scripture. It says the wise man knows how to hold his tongue. It's only the fool who blurts out everything he knows. He thinks he's being honest, but it does not lead to fellowship. It leads to sorrow and trouble. The wise man knows how to be quiet.

    The rich man's wealth is his fortress,
    The ruin of the poor is their poverty.

    Prov 10:15
    The rich man's wealth is his only strength. The poor man's poverty is
        his only curse.

    Prov 10:15, TLB

Notice that in the Proverbs, there's no connection in one sense between one verse and the next. However, one connection that runs right through the entire book is: the book of Proverbs teaches us how to be wise and it teaches us what the marks of a fool are.

Verse 15 is trying to tell us how wealth and poverty on this earth really don't have much value. There's a verse in Proverbs 18:11 which amplifies this a little more so that we understand it better. It says, "A rich man's wealth is his strong city and like a high wall in his own imagination." It's in the rich man's own imagination that he thinks, "My riches are a fortress to protect me." The world is full of such people, and the sad thing is there are a lot of believers like that too, who think their fortress and their security from problems and from want and from difficulty is their money. That's the mark of a fool. He may be rich, but his wealth is his fortress only in his imagination. If a man is poor, he may have difficulties on the earth - that's true. But he can still be wise even though he is poor. We know that Jesus himself did not have a place to lay his head for the last three years of his life, but he was the wisest man who walked on the earth.

    The wages of the righteous is life,
    The income of the wicked, punishment.

    Prov 10:16
    The good man's earnings advance the cause of righteousness. The evil
        man squanders his on sin.

    Prov 10:16, TLB

We could replace sin with selfishness as well: The evil man squanders his on selfish desires. You see, the way we use our money is also another indication of whether we are wise or foolish. The good man's earnings advance the cause of righteousness. This is a contrast to the previous verse. The previous verse was about a rich man who doesn't use his money to advance the cause of righteousness, but tries to build a fortress for himself with all his money. He thinks that he's safe, but really he's foolish. But the righteous man doesn't try to build a fortress for himself with his money. He uses it for advancing the cause of righteousness. That's wisdom. He uses his wages to advance the cause of righteousness and that leads to life. Whereas the evil man squanders his on sin.

    He is on the path of life who heeds instruction,
    But he who ignores reproof goes astray.

    Prov 10:17
    Anyone willing to be corrected is on the pathway to life. Anyone
        refusing has lost his chance.

    Prov 10:17, TLB

This is what we considered earlier about chastening. If we are willing to be corrected, that is a mark that we are on the path to life. It's amazing how much the book of Proverbs says about correction, and it's not only about parents correcting their children. There's no book in the bible which speaks as much about parents correcting their children as the book of Proverbs. But it also speaks much about foolish people becoming wise through one simple habit: being willing to be corrected. I tell you brothers and sisters, that is a test of whether we have even a little bit of desire to become wise. How do you feel when somebody corrects you? Flattery is the mark of Babylon, and all those who love flattery, even if they talk about the New and Living Way, are actually Babylonian in spirit. If I love other people coming and telling me, "You're a wholehearted brother. We really appreciate you, brother. You're wonderful. You're zealous," then whatever theology or doctrine I may believe, my spirit is Babylonian. But if my spirit is one that recognizes, "Lord, I lack wisdom tremendously," and I long to be corrected and instructed, then I will not be interested in the flattery of other people who come and say that I'm a wholehearted brother. Their opinion is fit for the garbage bin. I want correction. I want instruction. If we don't learn anything else from the book of Proverbs, I'd encourage you to learn this - particularly young people.

Even though this is primarily for young people, it's also for older people. It's a sad thing if we become old and we don't know how to take correction. We can think we are willing to take correction until somebody actually comes and corrects us and rebukes us. Then we get so offended. We think about it all night, we can't sleep, we get hurt, and we have a bad opinion about that brother or sister. That shows what absolute idiots and fools we are even though we speak so much high-sounding, spiritual language. Brothers and sisters, the mark of a man who's really longing to be wise is not just that he accepts correction but that he longs for it. He longs for it - "I want it. I'm longing to be corrected because I'm so stupid. I do so many foolish things." And so we see, the one who is willing to be corrected is on the pathway to life and anyone who refuses correction goes astray. That's how so many believers have gone astray. Many have gone astray without even knowing it just because of one simple thing: when they were corrected, they got offended. And God doesn't always correct us himself. Sometimes he does that, but sometimes he corrects us through another brother. Then it's more difficult to accept. People get offended when they get corrected by someone and they go astray and ruin their life. It's impossible to walk the New and Living Way if we are unwilling to receive correction without getting offended.

He who conceals hatred has lying lips,

And he who spreads slander is a fool.

Prov 10:18

There are two things mentioned here. First is to hide hatred and to pretend to love. Such a person is a liar. That's why in the New Testament in Romans 12:9 it says, "Let love be without hypocrisy." Why does it say that? Because it's so easy for love to be with hypocrisy - just this nice smile and words and pretending, while inside we think evil thoughts about the other person and we have something bitter against him. But on the outside, a smile. There's nothing wrong with the other person. The whole problem is with me, and the word of God says I am a liar. I'm just pretending to show love while inside I have some hatred, some bitterness. I have something against that person. What am I? A liar! Any mistake he may have made is nothing compared to my mistake of being an absolute, downright liar. God's word is strong.

The second thing is to spread slander. That speaks of one who doesn't just keep hatred in his heart - he goes one step further and spreads slander. This is one mark of a fool. There are many marks of fools in the book of Proverbs, and one who speaks evil about others - goes to another home and speaks evil about another person - is a fool! Whatever his knowledge may be, whatever his doctrine may be, he's a fool. In 1 Timothy 3:11 and 2 Timothy 3:3, the word "slanderer" in the Greek language is a word called "diabolos" from which we get the English word "diabolical" or "satanic". "Diabolos" is translated in the New Testament in two ways: one is "Satan" and the other is "slanderer". Never forget that the word "diabolos" means Satan, and it means one who goes around speaking evil about others. In other words, all those who speak evil about others are actually little satans. Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and those who speak evil of others behind their backs are hand in hand with Satan doing his job. So the next time I sit with somebody and I speak evil about someone else, let me remember this: here I am, a little diabolos, holding hands with my master, Satan. I may speak about the New and Living Way in the meetings, but I'm holding hands with the devil and I'm a slanderer and a gossip who will one day be exposed for the evil hypocrite that I am - if not in this life, then at the judgment seat of Christ. Let me never forget this. The word of God is very strong against slandering and speaking evil. I'm sorry to say that most Christians have never seen the satanic, diabolical, evil nature of this filthy sin. It's not adultery which is called diabolical in the New Testament - it is slander and speaking evil of others.

    When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable,
    But he who restrains his lips is wise.

    Prov 10:19
    The more you talk, the more likely you are to sin. If you are wise, you
        will keep quiet.

    Prov 10:19, GNT
    Don't talk so much. You keep putting your foot in your mouth. Be
        sensible and turn off the flow!

    Prov 10:19, TLB

That's a very good thing to do: to be sensible and turn off the flow. Your mouth is flowing quite a lot. Just turn the tap and close it a bit. That's exactly what a lot of people need to do. Now this is exactly opposite of what's out in the world. Out in the world, if you keep quiet, do you know what they call you? They don't call you wise, they call you unsociable. "Oh, he's a quiet type." Unsociable. You know what the word of God calls such a person? Wise. That's not surprising. The world's ideas are exactly the opposite of God's ideas. The sad thing is when believers get more influenced by the ideas of the world than the ideas of God. It says here, "The more you talk, the more likely you are to sin." If you're wise, you'll keep quiet. That doesn't mean that we just never say anything. We can go to an extreme on this. It doesn't mean the wise person never says anything. It means he has control. He doesn't just keep on jabbering, jabbering, chattering, chattering, chattering all the time. Talking, talking, talking, talking, talking.

I feel particularly that women have a greater temptation here than men, especially when they visit one another. The word of God says very clearly in 1 Timothy 4:13 that this is a danger particularly for sisters. And I believe this a verse that sisters need to take more seriously than anything else. In the multitude of words, sin is unavoidable. It's easy to see that. That's why John Wesley, when he gave instructions to those who were converted through his ministry, said, "When you visit one another, it's not wise to spend more than one hour in anybody's home. Beyond that, you will sin." This verse is the basis of his instruction. It's not impossible. You can sit for two or three hours in somebody's home without sinning, but you have to be tremendously godly. The word of God doesn't say one hour is the limit, but you have to be tremendously godly to speak for two or three hours with a person and not sin. The average believer, after forty-five minutes, starts talking about some evil or some gossip about another person and begins to sin. That's true. And one who is really wholehearted about this will say, "I don't want to ruin my life by speaking evil." If you are godly, by all means, spend any amount of time with another person. But when you find you have moved away from talking about neutral things or good things or spiritual things, and you have begun to talk about evil things and about other people, you know it's time to say goodbye and go home. Some people begin sinning after fifteen minutes, some people a little later. But wherever our limit is, we need to stop and say, "Now, beyond this, I feel that sin is unavoidable. I need to get up and go home." Remember that, particularly sisters. Those who have ears to hear, let him hear. The rest will go astray.

    The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver,
    The heart of the wicked is worth little.

    Prov 10:20
    A good person's words are like pure silver; a wicked person's ideas are

    Prov 10:20, GNT

There's no book in the bible which speaks as much about the tongue and about our speech as the book of Proverbs. It's amazing to see how many things are emphasized in the book of Proverbs repeatedly: correction, the use of the tongue, the use of money, etc. These are some of the ways in which God seeks to lead us to wisdom. "The tongue of the righteous is like silver and the heart of the wicked is worthless." That is, it's rubbish. In fact, one translation says that the heart of the wicked is worth so little that it's just like rubbish. His ideas are all like rubbish, because he's a wicked man. He may be intelligent, but his ideas as far as godliness goes are absolute rubbish, because he has not understood how to live in purity. But a righteous man, his words are like choice silver. You see, when it comes to hearing somebody expounding the word of God, I would rather listen to an unintelligent righteous man than to a highly intelligent man who's living a defeated life. A great bible scholar who doesn't have victory over sin, this verse says all his sermons are worth nothing. You might as well throw them in the garbage bin, and you have to be an idiot to sit one hour listening to that type of trash. But the few words a person speaks who has victory over sin in his life is like silver. So brothers and sisters, what is it that's going to give value to the words that we speak? It's not how much knowledge we have or how much we can say. It's a question of how much righteousness we have in our life. The more righteousness there is, the more value to the words that we speak.

    The lips of the righteous feed many,
    But fools die for lack of understanding.

    Prov 10:21

The lips of the righteous, which are like pure silver like we say in verse 20, feed many. The word "feed" here is like a shepherd feeding his flock. The lips of the righteous, like a shepherd feeding his flock, feed many. But fools die for lack of understanding. In other words, you can kill yourself with stupidity.

    It is the blessing of the Lord that makes rich,
    And He adds no sorrow to it.

    Prov 10:22

It's the Lord's blessing that makes us wealthy. And in that blessing, "he adds no sorrow to it." Now this is a verse that we need to contrast with a New Testament verse, because the words "riches" and "sorrow" come together, as far as I can recollect, in only two verses in scripture. One is Proverbs 10:22 where it says, "The blessing of the Lord makes you rich and there is no sorrow in it." The other is 1 Timothy 6:10 where it says, "The love of money is the root of all evil and some, by longing for it, have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many a sorrow." So we see that you can get riches with sorrow or riches without sorrow. Riches bring sorrow if we love those riches, longing for them, scheming, planning, aiming to get rich, and finally getting them. That's the way all business men and a lot of other people in the world get riches, and along with those riches comes sorrow. There's another way to get riches which is described in Proverbs 10:22. It says the blessing of the Lord can also make you rich. It may not make you a millionaire. In fact, it's also a blessing that you don't become a millionaire, because you're protected from a lot of things that will harm you. The blessing of the Lord will make you rich - rich enough to meet all your needs. It says in Philippians 4:19, "My God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." That's a tremendous promise. He has not promised all that I want, but he has promised all that I need. The blessing of the Lord can make us rich, and there is no sorrow in it. That's the wonderful thing about the blessing of the Lord.

Another translation puts it like this: "Hard word work cannot make you any richer." It's not by hard word work alone that we get rich. There are some people that think by slogging, slogging, slogging they'll make money. No. Hard work is emphasized in the book of Proverbs, but it's the blessing of the Lord ultimately that meets our needs.

    Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool,
    And so is wisdom to a man of understanding.

    Prov 10:23
    A fool's fun is being bad; a wise man's fun is being wise!

    Prov 10:23, TLB

In other words, foolish people enjoy hurting others. Read it like that: "A fool enjoys hurting other people." Now, we all lack wisdom and sometimes we may say something that hurts someone and only afterward realize it. "Oh, I feel so bad. I didn't mean to hurt him, but in my folly, I said something and he got hurt." He's not talking about such people. He's talking about those who enjoy saying something that will hurt somebody. You find that in schools and colleges, how children and teenage boys and girls like to tease others and make fun of them in a way that will hurt them., Children grow up and develop that habit. That perverted sense of humor gets sharpened to say something funny that will hurt other people. That's the mark of a fool. That's the mark of a spiritual idiot. He loves to hurt others. It may not be with humor. It may be with other words that he schemes and plans. "I'll say this, because if I say this, it will really hurt him." That's the mark of a spiritual idiot. It's like a sport. It's a joke to him to hurt another. But a man of understanding takes pleasure in wisdom, and wisdom is manifested in saying something good. We want to find our humor and our fun in being wise and being good in what we say to others.

    What the wicked fears will come upon him,
    But the desire of the righteous will be granted.

    Prov 10:24
    The wicked man's fears will all come true and so will the good man's

    Prov 10:24, TLB
    The righteous get what they want, but the wicked will get what they
        fear most.

    Prov 10:24, GNT

What the wicked person fears will come upon him. In contrast, the good man has hopes, not fears. His hopes will also come true. We find that we can apply this practically to our life. We all have fears and hopes in terms of the future, and this verse teaches us that it's our character that determines what will come true for us. What we will get depends on whether we are wicked or righteous.

    When the whirlwind passes, the wicked is no more,
    But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.

    Prov 10:25

This reminds us of the foolish and the wise builders whom Jesus spoke about: the man who built his house on the rock and the man who built his house on the sand. Jesus read through the book of Proverbs, and there's no doubt he based what he said on this. Jesus explained in Matthew 7:24 that the righteous people who have an everlasting foundation are "those who hear these words of mine and do them." When we hear the words of Jesus and obey them, we become wise. You know, God's wisdom is like a great, massive ocean. Think of an ocean. God's wisdom is like an ocean, and I cannot receive all of it at once, but I can receive it drop by drop by drop by drop. If you think about it, the whole ocean is just a bunch of drops put together. And we can say those drops are God's commandments. I take one commandment and I obey it. Then I take another one and I obey it. I take another one and I obey it. And little by little, drop by drop, I am accumulating in my vessel the ocean of God's wisdom. It's a wise man who builds his house on the rock little by little through obedience. That's why it takes time to become wise. A fool is one who does not understand obedience. And when the whirlwind has passed, the righteous still stands because no type of disaster will ever shake the righteous.

    Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes,
    So is the lazy one to those who send him.

    Prov 10:26
    Never get a lazy person to do something for you; he will be as
        irritating as vinegar on your teeth or smoke in your eyes.

    Prov 10:26, GNT

God never picks up lazy people for his ministry. You find in the gospels that whenever Jesus called the apostles, they were always people who were working hard in their place of work - whether it was Peter, Andrew, James, or John out in the fishing boat or Matthew sitting in his tax-collecting office, he always called people who were working hard in their secular jobs. Take Elisha for example. Elijah called him when he was working hard in the field. You never find in the scriptures God calling even one lazy person. Never. You never find an example of a lazy person being called to ministry from Genesis to Revelation, and you won't find it happening even today. Such people would be like vinegar on God's teeth and smoke in his eyes, and God doesn't want that. We find that the word of God, particularly the book of Proverbs, has a lot to say about diligence.

In Proverbs 25:13 you see the opposite of this verse: "Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest (which is a good thing) is a faithful messenger to those who send him, for he refreshes the soul of his masters." This is the opposite of this lazy person in Proverbs 10:26. Faithfulness.

    Obey the Lord, and you will live longer. The wicked die before their

    Prov 10:27, GNT

It is possible to die before one's time. There are people who are drunkards who die long before God intends them to. That's a very obvious case. But a person can also kill himself with bitterness and hatred and envy. Those things also shorten life. But through obedience to God's commandments, we can live longer. The wicked die before their time because of their wickedness. God has made us in such a way that even our physical life is affected by wrong attitudes and sin in our heart.

    The hope of the righteous is gladness,
    But the expectation of the wicked perishes.

    Prov 10:28

In other words, the hopes of good men lead to joy, but the wicked person can really look forward to nothing.

    The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the upright,
    But ruin to the workers of iniquity.

    Prov 10:29

The same way is a strength to one and destruction to another. The way of the Lord for the upright is their stronghold. You see the contrast with verse 15, where it said the rich man thinks his wealth is his stronghold. But what is the fortress of the upright person? That to the best of his knowledge, according to the light he has in his conscience, he is seeking to walk in the way of the Lord. But that exact same way is a ruin to the workers of iniquity - those who seek to be hypocrites in seeking to talk about this way and not walk in it.

    The righteous will never be shaken,
    But the wicked will not dwell in the land.

    Prov 10:30
        Righteous people will always have security, but the wicked will not
        survive in the land.

    Prov 10:30, GNT
        The good shall never lose God's blessings, but the wicked shall lose

    Prov 10:30, TLB

These are wonderful translations to consider.

    The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom,
    But the perverted tongue will be cut out.

    Prov 10:31

It's a beautiful word here: flows. Think of a tap that's flowing. Think, brothers and sisters, that we can so live in the fear of the Lord the whole day long, that whenever we open our mouths, wisdom flows out (because the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom). Good, clean water. We don't always open our tap like the fools who constantly dish out rubbish from their hearts. We only open it once in a while, but when it is open, it is clean water that is flowing out because it is coming from a heart that is living the whole day in the fear of the Lord. "The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom." This is something we need to really covet. Think if we have a church where every brother and sister has come to this life: that they only open their mouths to flow with wisdom. What a church that will be. I tell you, the gates of Hell will never prevail against that church.

    The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable,
    But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.

    Prov 10:32
        Righteous people know the kind thing to say, but the wicked are always
        saying things that hurt.
    Prov 10:32, GNT

This is how we know whether we are righteous or wicked. Righteous people know the kind thing to say. That means they think before they speak. They say, "If I say it like that, that will hurt him." So they don't say it, because they know the kind thing to say and they live in the fear of God. But the wicked couldn't care less for the fear of God and do not believe that they'll give an account on the day of judgment for every idle word they speak. They couldn't care less for the judgment seat of Christ or any such thing. They are ALWAYS (not just once in a while) saying things that hurt others. That's quite a standard that the word of God lays down in the book of Proverbs, and it shows us whether we are righteous or wicked.

I'm reminded of the Apostle John when I read these verses in the book of Proverbs - the cut and dry things he said. He said things like, "The children of God are like this and the children of the devil are like this." "If you do righteousness, you're a child of God. If you don't do righteousness, whatever you talk about, you're a child of the devil." "If you don't love your brothers, you're a child of the devil. If you love your brothers wholeheartedly, you're a child of God." It's cut and dry. And here it says, "If you're a righteous person, you know the kind thing to say. If you are saying things that hurt, you're a wicked person." That's all. The Holy Spirit that wrote the book of Proverbs and the book of 1 John is the same Spirit. We need to see that.

We notice in the last verse of chapter 10 that the tongue is the test of our character. That idea comes in James 3 as well. The tongue is the test of our character. Never forget that, because out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. You know what's in a man's heart by listening to what comes forth from his tongue.

Chapter 11
Chapter 11

    A false balance is an abomination to the Lord,
    But a just weight is His delight.

    Prov 11:1

As part of the law that was given through Moses, Deuteronomy 25:13-15 records a law which says, "You shall not have in your bag differing weights, a large and a small." Having different types of weights means when you want to go and buy something, you take out the large weight, and when you want to sell something to someone, you take out the small one - always working in terms of your profit. This is wrong. The law continues, saying "You shall have a correct and honest weight, you shall have a correct and honest measure, so that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you." In your house, you must not have different measures. Instead, there must be righteousness in business matters - absolute righteousness. In buying and selling, there's a tremendous amount of sin. There was a wise man called Joshua the son of Sirach who compiled the sayings of Sirach, and it says in that book, "As a nail sticks fast between two stones, so sin sticks between buying and selling." The saying is true - there's such a great deal of sin and unrighteousness in buying and selling. There's an illustration of a righteous man who sells fish that goes like this: a righteous man who sells fish in the market has three boxes. One for "Today's fish", one for "Yesterday's fish", and a third for "Still older fish." It's almost impossible to find anyone who will be so righteous. But that's the mark of a righteous man. He doesn't try to fool people. It's not necessarily a question of weights. It may be a question of fish or something else. But the principle is that when we sell something, we must be absolutely honest, without any cheating. If somebody gives you back a little more change, maybe in a shop, then be diligent to give it back as soon as possible. Do not postpone it to tomorrow or the next day, but return it quickly. Seek to be righteous in this area. The Lord HATES cheating. So you can imagine how he hates when he sees so much of it in people's dealings with one another who call themselves his children. But God DELIGHTS in honesty. He delights in people who are absolutely honest even though it means loss for them. What do we gain by making a little extra money and at the end the Lord hates us? That's not gain. That's a fantastic loss. Let's learn to get the Lord's delight on us by practicing honesty in all business matters.

    When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
    But with the humble is wisdom.

    Prov 11:2

This teaches us that wisdom is given to humble people. Here we also find that this is almost like a New Covenant book, with the idea that wisdom is found among humble people. If you want wisdom, mix with humble people. You'll never get wisdom by mixing with proud people. A proud person can never be wise, even if he's a bible scholar. If you meet a man who's a bible scholar and there's a haughtiness about him, you can be sure he doesn't have much wisdom. Don't waste your time hanging around such people. Don't waste your time mingling with believers who diffuse an air of pride and haughtiness. That applies for any type of pride. The most stinking of the lot is spiritual pride. That's the worst type of pride there is. But wisdom is with the humble. You can be sure that the more wisdom a man gets, the more humble he is. The humblest man is the wisest man. Jesus was the humblest and he was the wisest. He was poor, he wasn't accepted by the world, but he was wise. Wisdom is with the humble and the humbler we are, the more we have wisdom. As far as God is concerned, it's only shame and dishonor that he will bring to the proud.

    The integrity of the upright will guide them,
    But the crookedness of the treacherous will destroy them.

    Prov 11:3

This proverb teaches us that those who have integrity (sincerity and honesty) are in a good place even if they are not very wise. You see, we can't all start with wisdom. Nobody can start with wisdom, because we don't have it initially. But where we can and must start is with sincerity and honesty. The proverb continues, saying that sincerity will guide you! The sincerity and integrity of the upright will guide them into God's perfect will. The reason why so many people find it difficult to find God's will in different areas is due to a lack of basic sincerity in their life. There's some hypocrisy in our lives and the more hypocritical we are, the more difficult it is to know God's will and the greater amount of time we live as fools without wisdom. So we need to begin with sincerity and honesty. That is what will guide us.

Then it speaks of crookedness. Crookedness basically means hypocrisy. The hypocrisy of the treacherous will finally destroy them. It's very easy, brothers and sisters, to sit in an assembly where people speak about very high-sounding, spiritual stuff and be an absolute hypocrite. I tell you, it's much easier to be a hypocrite sitting in CFC than it is out there in some Roman Catholic church. I might as well tell you that quite honestly. There is a thousand times greater danger of hypocrisy for people sitting in CFC than someone in a Roman Catholic church. If we are wise, we'll be alert to that danger and say, "Lord, maybe I'm in danger of hypocrisy - speaking things which are so high but not really true. I'm not sincere. I'm not honest." If that's the case, it says I'll go astray and my hypocrisy will finally destroy me.

    Your riches won't help you on Judgment Day; only righteousness counts

    Prov 11:4, TLB

The first part is very easy to understand. Your riches will not help you on judgment day. I think all of us believe that. We know we can't impress God with our money or how much we earn. But we must also understand the second part: it is only righteousness that will have any value on that day. It is not bible knowledge, nor the number of meetings we attended, nor how many songs we sang, nor how zealous we were in the meetings, nor any such thing that will have value, but righteousness! On the day of judgment the only thing that will have value is a man walking in righteousness in his life. That delivers from death.

        Honesty makes a good person's life easier, but the wicked will cause
        their own downfall. Righteousness rescues those who are honest, but
        those who can't be trusted are trapped by their own greed.

    Prov 11:5-6, GNT

He's speaking here about righteous people whose honesty rescues them and makes their life easier. An honest man's life is easy. He doesn't have to think up thoughts like, "What lie shall I say to protect myself from this?" or "What lie shall I say to gain something here?" He only has to be honest and speak the truth. The promise in this proverb is that his honesty will rescue him. His righteousness rescues him. But a wicked man who can't be trusted will cause his own downfall. His greed will one day trap him. Many people tell lies because of their greed. There are people who sign false statements in government offices to make a little more money and cheat various people by signing statements that are not true. One day their greed traps them. This is something we need to keep in mind.

        When an evil man dies, his hopes all perish, for they are based upon
        this earthly life.

    Prov 11:7, TLB

His hopes perish because all his hopes were based on what he was on this earth. That's self-explanatory.

    The righteous is delivered from trouble,
    But the wicked takes his place.

    Prov 11:8
        God rescues good men from danger while letting the wicked fall into it.

    Prov 11:8, TLB

When the red sea was opened up, the Israelites went through it, but the Egyptians drowned in that very same Red Sea. That's a good visual of this verse. We find another fulfillment of this verse in the story of Haman and Mordecai in the book of Esther. Haman prepared a gallows to hang Mordecai on, but finally hung on it himself. The righteous is delivered and the wicked takes the place of the righteous. It's a great encouragement to us to read the book of Proverbs and see that God rescues good men from danger and turns the tables on Satan when Satan seeks to do something to us. If I humble myself and live in righteousness before God, God is able to rescue me from any danger. This includes the things that evil people may plot or scheme against me. God rescues good men from danger.

I heard a very beautiful story of John Wesley who preached righteousness and was hated by many people in England. He led so many people away from drinking that the sale of alcohol went down. He was hated for exposing religious harlotry. There is a story of some people who tried to kill him, although they wanted to do it without being caught. John Wesley used to ride all over England on a horse, and these people knew he'd be riding through a particular place one night. They tied a strong but thin rope across two trees on the path through which John Wesley was going to ride, hoping that he wouldn't be able to see this rope in the night. The plan was for the rope to throw him off the horse and kill him. Sure enough, John Wesley came riding down the path and just a few seconds before he reached the rope, an ant bit him on his foot. He bent down to scratch his foot and safely passed under the rope and came out the other side. You see, God is the God of the ants. We may wonder why God created ants, but we'll discover in eternity that they saved the life of a man of God. And likewise with mosquitoes and all the other things which we sometimes wonder why they exist. We'll discover at the judgment seat of Christ how all these served a function to help somebody or the other. God rescues good men from danger. John Wesley used to say, "I'm a man sent from God. Nobody can kill me till my time is finished." We must have that faith if we walk in righteousness and humility before God's face. Nothing that other people do or scheme can ever touch us. Impossible. It's God almighty who is in charge.

    With his mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor
    But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered.

    Prov 11:9
    Evil words destroy; godly skill rebuilds.

    Prov 11:9, TLB

There's a connection between this verse and the previous verse. The meaning here is that the godless man may try to kill a man of God in the way as I just discussed regarding John Wesley, but he may also try to destroy a person with words. The godless man tries to destroy you with his words by slandering and saying all types of evil against you. But the righteous will not fall into that trap. It says, "Through knowledge the righteous will be delivered." Through the knowledge of what? The righteous person has a knowledge of God's promises. For example, Isaiah 54:17 says, "No weapon that is formed against you will prosper and every tongue that will rise up in judgment against you, you shall condemn." He knows that all the words that people speak against him can never harm him. Therefore he's delivered. He also knows Romans 8:28, which says that all things will work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. If we have knowledge of that, through that knowledge we are delivered from all these evil words that people may speak against us.

In the margin of The Living Bible, it says, "When a godless man slanders his neighbor, the charges won't stick because everyone knows his reputation." If you have lived in righteousness for many years and have built up a reputation, whatever evil the devil may try to attribute to you through godless people won't stick, because people know who you are. So why should you waste your time defending yourself? Leave that to God.

    When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices,
    And when the wicked perish, there is joyful shouting.
    By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted.
    But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down.

    Prov 11:10-11

When a person is good, the whole city celebrates his success. When a man is good to others, his success is appreciated. But even more than that, verse 11 says that the influence of godly people causes a city to prosper. By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted. We believe that the best thing a city can have is a living church of Jesus Christ in its midst. That is the only thing in a city that can bind all the evil spirits and bless that city. It's the blessing of the upright by which a city is exalted and also protected from demons. Think of the case of Sodom. If there were ten righteous people in the entire city, God told Abraham he would spare the city. But there were not ten righteous people and so the city could not be spared. That teaches us, brothers and sisters, what a tremendous thing it is to be a righteous, upright man. You may not be famous or a chief minister or have influential contacts or any such thing, but I believe this verse is true for any city. Take Bangalore for example, where CFC was started. On the day when we stand before the Lord and we look back over the history of the whole world as God sees it, we'll see that Bangalore was blessed the most by the righteous people who lived there. God knows who they are. Whoever they are, it will have been through their righteousness, uprightness, and godliness that a blessing was brought upon the city which chief ministers, police officials, and the jing-bang-lot could never bring. We'll see that in eternity. It is the blessing of the upright which exalts a city. That's why God calls us to be upright and righteous and not a bunch of compromisers talking high-sounding religious language.

    He who despises his neighbor lacks sense,
    But a man of understanding keeps silent.

    Prov 11:12
        It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are smart, you will
        keep quiet.

    Prov 11:12, GNT

The mark of a fool is that he belittles other people. It is foolish to speak scornfully of others. If you are sensible, you will keep quiet. When you speak scornfully about another person, what does it prove? It proves one thing: that you're a fool. It may or may not prove anything about the other person, but one thing it proves very clearly is that you're a spiritual idiot who despises his neighbor. Whenever we despise someone because of their lack of education, or they cannot pronounce certain words right, or their appearance looks a bit funny, or they walk in a funny way, or anything, it shows we are spiritual idiots. It may be true that he walks in a funny way, or he's a bit ugly, but you're a spiritual idiot. That's much worse. And that's what you don't realize when you despise another person for something like that. Never forget this: it's foolish to speak scornfully about other people and to despise them. We don't have any wisdom at all when we despise another person. It doesn't have to be another believer. It could even be an unbeliever. Leave them alone, brothers and sisters. If there's folly or evil in others, leave them alone. Don't despise them. This is a wonderful verse.

Proverbs repeatedly speaks about the man of understanding holding his tongue. It's amazing how right through the book of Proverbs, you see that one mark of wisdom is remaining quiet even when all the others around you are despising or speaking evil of someone. You'll be the man of wisdom when you refuse to despise others like the people around you do. This is a good word particularly for those who are in schools and colleges, and other places where you find people doing so many evil things.

I believe the only time, perhaps, we need to give a bad report about someone is when someone has asked our opinion of that person for the purpose of entering into a business relationship or marriage or something of that nature. Then we need to give an honest opinion. But most of the time when people air their opinion about someone else, it has no purpose behind it at all. That only reveals that they are fools themselves. If we are wise, we will keep quiet.

    He who goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets,
    But he who is trustworthy conceals a matter.

    Prov 11:13
        No one who gossips can be trusted with a secret, but you can put
        confidence in someone who is trustworthy.

    Prov 11:13, GNT

The vast majority of people in the world can't be trusted with a secret because they gossip so much. But you can put confidence in someone who is trustworthy. One mark of maturity is that when someone shares something with us, we know how to keep it to ourselves. Another mark of a fool is that he hears something and he can't keep it to himself. Have you ever felt like that? You feel an itch, "I must tell someone about this exciting thing I just heard." Yet someone may have told it to us in confidence. Brothers and sisters, we are to grow up to maturity and learn to keep things secret that other people tell us or that we know. A man that is faithful conceals a matter. That's one mark of a faithful man.

    Where there is no guidance the people fall,
    But in abundance of counselors there is victory.

    Prov 11:14

This just means that when we are considering a course of action, it's good for us to have small thoughts about ourselves. One mark of our having small thoughts about ourselves is that we seek advice from others who have more wisdom and maturity - not necessarily just from one person, but from many. Of course, we can only get counsel from those who have some wisdom and maturity themselves. It doesn't say, "In an abundance of fools there is victory." That would bring confusion. It means in the abundance of wise counselors there is safety. We can be protected from a wrong path. That is why it is a privilege to be able to have fellowship with others whom we can consult. That keeps us safe, but where there is no guidance, it's easy to fall. It's very easy, brothers and sisters, to take the fellowship and the word of God that we have in the church for granted. There are many who do not have the opportunities for fellowship and guidance that we have. That's something that we need to always be thankful for. Where there is no guidance people fall into various types of folly.

        If you promise to pay a stranger's debit, you will regret it. You are
        better off if you don't get involved.

    Prov 11:15, GNT

We must never think that love means going to the extent of being a surety for someone in whom we have no confidence. I believe that we can come into a relationship in the brotherhood where a brother becomes a part of you, like a member of your own body. But that takes time. It doesn't mean you merely sit in the same congregation. There are a lot of people who sit in the same congregation who are not integrated with one another as members of a body. I, for one, would not become a surety for such a person even if he sits in the same church. It's a question of being integrated with someone in the body of Christ. That was not possible in the Old Testament. Only where such a relationship has formed between two brothers is it alright to commit to large sums of money. Otherwise, in most cases, it is wisest not to get into financial relationships with strangers, promising to pay their debt or stand surety for them. This is something the book of Proverbs speaks so often about. If you refuse someone, he may go around saying, "This brother doesn't have any love." Well, we could care less what he thinks about us. We are going to obey the word of God. We're not going to be bothered about his opinion of us. If we are wise, we will be careful in this area so that we don't suffer later on. If we hate being surety, then we will be safe.

    Honor goes to kind and gracious women, mere money to cruel men.

    Prov 11:16, TLB

Cruel, violent men like thieves and robbers make money. But God gives honor to those who are kind and gracious. The contrast is drawn here is between a man and a woman, but the same thing applies to kind and gracious men. In God's eyes, a woman, a sister, whether young or old, is honorable if she has become kind and gracious. In 1 Peter 3:4 it speaks about women having a meek and a quiet spirit. Take that seriously and say, "Lord, help me to be a sister like this - kind and gracious in all my words and actions." Then the honor of God will certainly come down upon you.

        You do yourself a favor when you are kind. If you are cruel, you only
        hurt yourself.

    Prov 11:17, GNT

This is continuing on from the previous verse. All of God's laws are for our good. When we are kind, we are not really doing the other person a favor as much as we're doing ourselves a favor. Kind people are at rest and have more peace in their heart. Their digestive system works better, their health is better, and everything is better for a person who is free from bitterness, cruelty, and anger. When you are cruel and evil, you need to see that you are hurting yourself much more than the other person. And when you love someone, you're not really blessing him as much as you're blessing yourself. This a wonderful verse. This is where we see the folly of all the people in the world. They don't realize that they are harming themselves when they are cruel to other people.

    The wicked earns deceptive wages,
    But he who sows righteousness gets a true reward.

    Prov 11:18

This is exactly what we read in Galatians 6:9 - we reap what we sow. If we sow righteousness, we reap eternal life. The wicked, it says, earns deceptive wages. What are deceptive wages? Money. Money is called a deceptive wage. That means you think it is very valuable, but there's a deception in it. Jesus spoke in Mark 4:19 about the deceitfulness of riches. Now, we all know that we need money to live on this earth, and for most of us, it is a struggle to make ends meet each month. There is a discipline inherent in that which is good. But whether we make a lot or a little, we must always remember that there is a deceitfulness in riches. When I get paid, I must say, "Lord, I need to use this money because I live in the world, but let me never forget there's something deceptive about this. It can make me happy when I get a lot but it's a hollow happiness. And it can make me so sad when I lose it, but there's a deception in that too." It's a wonderful thing if our eyes are opened to see this. We will see it clearly in eternity, but then it'll be too late. It's good for us to realize this now.

    He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life,
    And he who pursues evil will bring about his own death.

    Prov 11:19

This means that you can't just start the race well. Being steadfast in righteousness means you're righteous today, tomorrow, next week, next month, the rest of the year, next year, and beyond. The one who endures until the end will attain to life. There are people who can be stirred up to righteousness by hearing a sermon, but it doesn't last. Here it speaks about those who are steadfast in righteousness. Then it says, "...he who pursues evil will bring about his own death." As Romans 8:13 says, "If we live according to the flesh, we shall die." That's exactly what this is saying.

    The perverse in heart are an abomination to the Lord,
    But the blameless in their walk are His delight.

    Prov 11:20

Notice those who are an abomination to the Lord: not those who are necessarily perverse on the outside. There are people who can be clean on the outside but perverse in heart. That means their motives and intentions in life are different than what they appear to be on the outside. These are an abomination to the Lord. It is the attitude in the heart that matters. It is the goal and aim for which I live which determines God's opinion about me. I'll tell you something that's encouraged my heart much and it'll encourage you too: little mistakes that we make in our external life don't disturb God so much. Think of your own child trying to help you in some way, and in trying to help, it makes a few mistakes. If you're a good father or mother, you won't get upset at that child at all even if they mess up something, because the child's intention was to help you. We have to realize that God is much more understanding than any earthly father or mother. Therefore, when we are seeking to live for him and serve him, and we slip up here and there, it doesn't disturb him. It is the one who is perverse in heart, who has ulterior motives who is an abomination to the Lord. The person who appears religious on the outside and does so many spiritual things, but deep down his ambitions and goals are not for the glory of God, but to get something for himself. If I'm seeking my own, I'm perverse in heart. If I appear to be religious on the outside but deep down I'm seeking my own, I'm an abomination to the Lord. If I'm not seeking my own and I say, "Lord, I want to live for your glory. I want to seek your kingdom and your will," and then I stumble and make a few mistakes, God just ignores them. They don't disturb him. Think of that. That's why it's so important that we're not perverse or crooked in our heart, but that we're honest and sincere. We must say, "Lord, my only ambition and goal in life is to glorify you, to seek your kingdom, and to be pure and holy before you."

Then it speaks about those who are blameless in their walk. That means they are wholehearted. The opposite of being perverse in heart is being wholehearted according to the light that we have. It's not that we don't make any mistakes. Say a five year-old child writes a letter to you on your birthday. There will be so many spelling mistakes in it, but it doesn't disturb you because the letter is a blameless letter. It's not a perfect letter, because there are a lot of spelling mistakes and grammar mistakes which can be corrected. But it's a blameless letter, because it came with such a good heart. We have to see that it's the same with God. There is a difference between being blameless and being perfect. We may not be perfect, but we can be blameless in the sense that our intentions are good.

For example, sometimes we try to help one another and we're not wise. Maybe we do something foolishly. That doesn't disturb God if our intention was really to seek the good of another person, even if the other person did not understand our intention. I'm not saying we shouldn't learn from our mistakes. We also have to humble ourselves and say, "Lord, give me more wisdom next time." But always make sure that the intentions of your heart are for the glory of God and the good of others. Then many of our external mistakes don't really matter that much. We are blameless, and it says here that blameless people are God's delight. Zephaniah 3:17 says, "The Lord your God will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." Whom does he rejoice over? He doesn't rejoice over religious hypocrites who come and sit in the church to get a reputation for holiness, but are actually seeking their own. He doesn't rejoice over those who are seeking money, honor, gain for themselves in the world, and want to have a religious white-wash all the time to cover it up. God's certainly not rejoicing over such people. They are an abomination to him, and the sad thing is that most of them don't even realize it. Most people who are seeking their own think themselves to be quite spiritual, because they have a religious white-wash on the outside. But we need to see that it's those whose hearts are seeking God's glory, who are sincere in heart and blameless in their way, who are God's delight, even if they have a few spelling and grammar mistakes, figuratively speaking.

    Assuredly, the evil man will not go unpunished,
    But the descendants of the righteous will be delivered.

    Prov 11:21

This reminds me of Numbers 32:23 which is a wonderful verse: "Be sure that your sin will find you out." That's a verse we need to remember. In other words, you may think that nobody saw the sin you committed, but you can be sure that one day that sin will catch up with you. It will expose you and bring you reproach. That's what it says here in verse 21: "Assuredly!" Or like the modern slang says: "You can bet on it." You can be absolutely sure that the one who is evil will one day be found out.

In contrast, it says not only will the righteous be delivered, but the descendants of the righteous will be delivered. It's amazing how righteousness not only blesses one generation, but blesses even the next generation. The bible says that the seed of the righteous will never beg for bread (Psalm 37:25). If a father is a righteous man, something of that blessing overflows to the children. At least as far as earthly things go, God provides for the needs of the seed of the righteous. Righteousness and godliness have promise not only in the life to come, but also in this life (1 Timothy 4:8). In the days when inflation drives up the value of things, the best things to seek for are righteousness and the kingdom of God. There are pension benefits, family benefits, children benefits, and everything needed for those who seek the kingdom of God and his righteousness. All things will be added unto you. The descendants of the righteous will be delivered and will be blessed. In other words, God will rescue the children of the godly.

    As a ring of gold in a swine's snout
    So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion.

    Prov 11:22

This is a good verse for all young people when they consider marriage and also for young women to have a proper opinion of themselves. The basic meaning of discretion is modesty. Women should have a modesty which men need not have. But it's necessary for women. A woman who doesn't have modesty but is very good looking in the face is really a pig. It's modesty which changes a woman from being a pig into someone attractive to God. Her beautiful face is just like a golden ring hanging on the nose of a pig. It's very good for young men, when they look at the opposite sex and consider marriage, not just to see this golden ring (beautiful face) and get taken up with that. Otherwise, they'll end up marrying a pig. Do you see the folly of this? The point of this proverb is: you have to be a real fool to go and marry a pig just because you want to get the golden ring hanging on its nose. You're going to live with that pig for the rest of your life. Think of the strong language the word of God uses for a woman who's pretty but lacks modesty. Think of the opinion that the book of Proverbs has about physical beauty! What is physical beauty without spiritual character? It is only a golden ring. It has some value on earth, but the person is a pig - spiritually dirty.

It's good for young sisters also to remember that even if you look into the mirror and you find that the mirror on the wall tells you that you're the fairest girl in your city, you have to say, "That's just a golden ring." Don't think too much of yourself because there's a golden ring in the mirror. It's your character which determines whether you're a pig or a child of God in God's eyes. God values a meek and quiet spirit, a certain modesty and reserve, a discretion. In the margin, it uses the word "taste." In the world they speak about having good taste for things. People have good taste in the sarees they choose, good taste in the way they decorate their houses, and good taste in their colors and all that. Here it speaks about a spiritual taste that people need to have, particularly women. How should a spiritual, God-fearing sister be? Have a good taste for that. If a woman doesn't have that, she's like a golden ring in a pig's nose. This is a very important verse for young brothers and sisters, particularly.

    The desire of the righteous is only good,
    But the expectation of the wicked is wrath.

    Prov 11:23

I read it like this: one mark of a righteous man is that if you open up his heart, you'll find that his desire for every other person is only good. He desires good for everybody he knows. He may not be able to do so much for them. That's another thing. But his desire is only that something good might come to them. He's not happy when something bad comes to someone else. That's not a righteous man. The man who's happy when something bad happens to someone else may not be a wicked person, but there's some wickedness in him that needs to be cleansed out. We discover based on our reaction in various situations when we hear some news about other brothers or sisters, whether it's good or bad, whether we really desire the very best for others. The mark of a righteous man is that he desires the very best for others. The desire of the righteous is ONLY GOOD.

Then it says, "But the expectation of the wicked is wrath", which means that the wicked can only look forward to judgment. We can also look at that verse another way: the good man can look forward to blessing and happiness himself, but the wicked man can only look forward to judgment.

    There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more,
        And there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results
        only in want.
    The generous man will be prosperous,
    And he who waters will himself be watered.

    Prov 11:24-25
        It is possible to give away and become richer! It is also possible to
        hold on too tightly and lose everything. Yes, the liberal man shall be
        rich! By watering others, he waters himself.

    Prov 11:24-25, TLB

Verses 24 and 25 are wonderful. They really teach the same thing. These are some of those important verses in Proverbs that we all need to know. One who is concerned about the needs of others and is not stingy, but generous toward God and toward his children, will never lack in his life. When it speaks about scattering, the picture is of a sower who has a whole bag of seed. The seed represents all our material resources such as money and other things that we have that God has given us. I can just store up all that for myself, but at harvest time, what do I have? Just some seed. Some of it has become rotten, some of it has been eaten by insects - it's much less than what I started out with one year ago. The bag has become quite small. But another person who had the same size bag didn't just store it up in his house. He scattered it! Then at harvest time he collects, and he has a hundred bags. That's the picture here. It's also the picture used in 2 Corinthians 9 where it says if we are liberal and open-handed with what God gives us, God will be open-handed with us. Even though you think you're giving, you're actually going to end up having more. But if you are stingy, you end up only in want.

When it says, "One who withholds what is justly due," it's speaking of one who does not pay his debts or taxes. I heard something about a brother in our church. He was speaking about rejoicing in doing righteousness and he said, "I rejoice to fill out an income tax form. It's a great delight for me to fill it out exactly and correctly and to pay my taxes. It's not something I complain and grumble about. It's joy for me to do it." That is what it means to rejoice in doing righteousness - to pay what is justly, righteously due to someone else. Or if I borrowed something from someone and it righteously belongs to him, I don't just sit on it lazily. Or it could be that God demands that I should share something that I have with someone. That is also due to that person and I should give it. If I don't do these things, I can be in want myself. This is one reason why some believers are in want.

The last part means if we take care to bless others, God will take care to bless us. And it's not necessarily only money that it's talking about. Sometimes our mind can just think in terms of money. Think of being a blessing in terms of words and goodness, and God will water us in return. What a tremendous thing. Brothers and sisters, just go around encouraging others and see how much God encourages you. If you feel condemned so much, just ask yourself whether you're going around condemning others yourself. Stop all that condemning of others and start encouraging them and see how much God encourages you. If you water others, the same water will fall back on your head from God one day. That's a spiritual law. So it's good to water others. To water others means that you find a tree that's dry and pour some water on it. It's encouragement. If you see a brother or sister who's depressed and gloomy, just give a word of encouragement, and God will water you.

    He who withholds grain, the people will curse him,
    But blessing will be on the head of him who sells it.

    Prov 11:26

This is speaking of when there is a shortage of something and you have plenty of it and you hold on to it. In those days they were in business and they would hold on to grain till the prices went up. "Oh, there's a shortage of grain. Wonderful!" says the man who has grain in his house. "I'll wait till it gets a little more scarce and the prices go up, and then I'll make my money." Such a man can never be a believer. It's impossible for a man with such an attitude to be a child of God. People are in such terrific need, and he's hanging on to something which is necessary for their living just because he wants to make more money. We may not be selling grain, but we need to take this verse and apply it to our own professions and our own situations to see whether we have such selfishness in our attitudes. We have something which we are not using and someone else needs it, and we just sit on it. The person's probably desperately in need of it and I just hang on to it. We can be so selfish. And when people know someone is doing this, they'll curse such a man.

Then it says that blessing will be on the head of him who sells it. We need to look at this carefully. He doesn't have to give it away for free. The man may not be rich enough to say, "Alright. Here you are. Take it all." He sells it, but he sells it at a reasonable price. He doesn't sell it in order to make a lot of money for himself. No. There will be a blessing on him if he sells it.

    He who diligently seeks good seeks favor,
    But he who seeks evil, evil will come to him.

    Prov 11:27
        If you search for good, you will find God's favor; if you search for
        evil, you will find his curse.

    Prov 11:27, TLB

This means if you're always seeking how you can do good in your own life and toward other people, God's blessing will be on your life. But if you search for evil, you will find his curse. That's clear.

        Those who depend on their wealth will fall like the leaves of autumn,
        but the righteous will prosper like the leaves of summer.

    Prov 11:28, GNT
        Trust in your money and down you go! Trust in God and flourish as a

    Prov 11:28, TLB

Jesus spoke of two masters: money and God. If you trust in money, you're bound to go down. Money was never given to be trusted in or loved or hoarded. Money was given to be used, never to be loved or depended upon. That's the mistake of a lot of people in the world. The opposite of trusting in money is to trust in God. In Proverbs 3 we read, "Don't trust in your own understanding, but trust in the Lord." Here it says, "Don't trust in money, but trust in the Lord." The two things we should not trust in are our own cleverness and money. We trust in God.

        The fool who provokes his family to anger and resentment will finally
        have nothing worthwhile left. He shall be the servant of a wiser man.

    Prov 11:29, TLB

This refers to a man who acts like a big dictator in his house, always provoking his wife and children to anger and resentment, making demands on them and shouting at them. Finally he won't have a home left. He'll have nothing worthwhile left. He'll be the servant of a wiser man. A wise man is one who knows how to bless his house.

    The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
    And he who is wise wins souls.

    Prov 11:30

It's amazing that we read of the tree of life a number of times in Proverbs - the same tree of life that we read of in Genesis. It says here that the fruit that comes forth from the life of one righteous man can be like a tree of life for other people. Think of that challenge: we can be like a tree of life to other people. And it says a wise person wins souls or people. He is a blessing to other people.

    If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth,
    How much more the wicked and the sinner!

    Prov 11:31

I believe this is the verse that Peter quotes in 1 Peter 4:18, where it says, "If it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless and the sinner?" The meaning is this: that even a righteous person, when he does something wrong, is disciplined by God. A righteous man! Then, it says, you can imagine what's going to be the fate of the wicked and the sinner, finally. Think of Moses. He was such a righteous man and yet once he smote the rock instead of speaking to the rock, and God punished him so severely, saying, "You're not to enter the land of Canaan." We get examples in the scripture of how strictly God dealt with righteous people. And here he says you can get a picture of how severe the judgment will be on the ungodly and the sinner in the final day. It doesn't appear on the earth now. They appear to be having a cushy time. But if even the righteous get a reward on this earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner.

I can show you another verse before we move on: 1 Timothy 5:24-25 says, "The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment. For others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed." What this means is there are some people who are such obvious sinners that you know that they are going to judgment. But there are other people who appear to be so religious. Their sins are all concealed inside, but one day they'll be exposed. Then it says that in the same way, there are some people who are so obviously good that you know that God has such a fantastic reward lined up for them. Equally, there are some people whose goodness you cannot see, because most of the things they do are in secret. We're going to get a surprise when we see how God rewards them too. So it says here there are people whose goodness and evil can be hidden, and God will reward each person according to the deeds done in his body.

Chapter 12
Chapter 12

    Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    But he who hates reproof is stupid.

    Prov 12:1

This is one of the things that we've looked at before: that in order to become wise God has to discipline us. There is no way to get wisdom apart from discipline. When God disciplines you, and you love it (not just submit to it but love it) and say, "Thank you, Lord. I accept that," then you're really loving wisdom. And I just want to say this, brothers and sisters: a number of times in the book of Proverbs, it speaks about loving correction. And if you hate correction, it says in the King James Version that you are brutish. Brutish means you are like an animal. That's something. You find that children so often get offended when they are corrected. That animal nature is there. That's something we need to grow out of quickly. Those of us who are parents know that when we correct our children, it is for their good, but they often don't understand it. Very often it's exactly the same with us who are grown up. When we hear a word of correction - it may be from God directly through his Spirit, it may be from some brother in the meeting, or it may be directly from someone older than us - then I can think about it, and if I don't like it very much, I get a little offended and a little hurt inside. What does that show? That shows that I'm not really interested in wisdom. If I were interested in wisdom, I would say, "Thank you for that. Lord, thank you for what you spoke to me through that brother or sister. That's something I really need to take heed to."

I heard about one brother in Norway who spoke in a conference. He said, "My wife told me one day: 'You seek your own right up to your ears.'" That means he was sunk in seeking his own. That is quite a strong thing to hear from your wife. Of course, she knows you better than anybody else. So he thought to himself, "She must be right that I've been seeking my own in a lot of things," and he took it to heart. And he began judging himself and cleansing himself from it. That's really something. Sometimes our wives tell us the truth. Don't think, "Oh, she's just angry with me." Usually it's when she's angry that she tells you the truth. When she's not angry, she may just say nice things to you. So hear it, hear it. There's a word that perhaps you need that will lead you to wisdom.

    A good man will obtain favor from the Lord,
    But He will condemn a man who devises evil.

    Prov 12:2

This is something that we considered earlier that it is the intention of the heart that God sees. If that basic intention of the heart is good, that man will obtain favor from the Lord.

    A man will not be established by wickedness,
    But the root of the righteous will not be moved.

    Prov 12:3

Here again it speaks about the root - this thing that we see much of in the New Testament. The heart. The root. When you get into the Old Testament, it's only in the book of Proverbs where you find that emphasis coming out. That's why I said the book of Proverbs has something of a New Covenant taste and spirit in it. "The root of the righteous..." Check your roots, because your security and your steadfastness are dependent on righteousness in the roots. The root of the righteous will be unshaken.

    An excellent wife is the crown of her husband,
    But she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones.

    Prov 12:4
        A good wife is her husband's pride and joy; but a wife who brings shame
        on her husband is like a cancer in his bones.

    Prov 12:4, GNT

This excellent wife (or virtuous woman) is described later on in Proverbs 31. We can define a virtuous woman as one who has the virtues of Christ, or is increasingly having them. Nobody has them in full, but the virtuous woman is seeking them more and more, realizing her own lack in poverty of spirit. Do you know what such a virtuous woman really is? She becomes the crown for her husband. That means it's a woman who ultimately makes a man a king in his home. That's a tremendous challenge to all wives. You can make your husband a king if you're a virtuous woman. And if your husband is like a slave and not a king, it's because you're not a virtuous woman. You can be a crown to your husband. And the word used for 'husband' here in the original Hebrew is the word for 'master'. The virtuous woman is the crown for her master husband. She is one who recognizes that her husband is her master. I wonder if you wives realize that God's word calls you to recognize your husband as your master, and there's no disgrace there. Jesus was a servant, and that's the example that all wives have to follow. Your husband is your master.

In the GNT it speaks about a wife who brings shame on her husband by something she does. Maybe your husband is a god-fearing, upright, righteous man, and the way you behave and conduct yourself brings shame on your husband. It says that a wife who brings shame on her husband is like a cancer in his bones. Cancer inside the bones of your husband. Think of that. The opposite of that is to be marrow inside the bones of your husband. And I want to tell you something about marrow: if we don't have marrow inside our bones, do you know that we can't live? Do you know that the blood cells are produced in the marrow within the bones? That's where the blood cells are produced that keep us living. When a person gets cancer inside his bones, you can write him off. He can't defend himself against germs. And a woman can be like that to her husband, it says - like cancer inside his bones. It can be by the way she treats him, or by the way she speaks of him in the presence of the children or in some other situation. Like a cancer. And the poor man's resistance to spiritual disease weakens. Instead of that, think that you can be a wife who's like marrow, strengthening your husband and ultimately strengthening the whole home, including yourself. There are many exhortations to wives in the book of Proverbs. It's good to take these seriously.

        A good man's mind is filled with honest thoughts. An evil man's mind is
        crammed with lies.

    Prov 12:5, TLB
    The words of the wicked lie in wait for blood,
    But the mouth of the upright will deliver them.
    The wicked are overthrown and are no more,
    But the house of the righteous will stand.

    Prov 12:6-7

In verses 5, 6, and 7 we see something very interesting. Verse 5 speaks about thoughts, verse 6 speaks about words, and verse 7 speaks of the result of those thoughts and words.

Here again in verse 5 you find an emphasis on the inner life - the thoughts we think. Our thoughts determine whether we are good or bad: "An evil man's mind is crammed with lies." And you find out particularly when you're in a difficult situation and you wonder what the senior officer in the office or factory is going to ask. You're thinking, "What shall I say? Shall I say it like this or say it like that?" And there you see the possibility of lies coming in. Whereas a good man says, "Well, I've just got to speak the truth. That's all." There's no question of, "Shall I say this or shall I say that?" And yet we know that the natural tendency in our flesh is to think and scheme and say a lot of white lies in order to escape some difficult situation. "An evil man's mind is crammed with lies."

Now verse 6 speaks about words. Our thoughts lead to words. What does it mean to lie in wait for blood? In Luke 20:20-21, it speaks about how the scribes and chief priests watched Jesus and sent spies who pretended to be righteous in order that they might catch him in some statement. That's it. The words of the wicked are lying in wait for blood. It says it was "in order to catch him in some statement, so as to deliver him up to the rule and the authority of the governor. And they questioned him saying, 'Teacher, we know that you speak and teach correctly and that you are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth.'" That happened to me some years ago when the local leader of Operation Mobilisation brought one of the OM people to my house, pretending to want to know about the New and Living Way and all that. All the time he was taking notes. Later on, it became evident that his only intention was to warn everybody in OM against this doctrine. Well, he could have been honest about it. I don't believe the blessing of God can ever be upon someone who is deceptive. I mean even if you disagree with someone, be honest. That deception itself shows that you're an agent of the devil, not an agent of God. An agent of God will never be deceptive. He may not agree with some doctrine. That's fine. But there will be no deception, pretending to be righteous and wanting to know the truth, while actually spying with some other motive. That's a serious thing. Then it says that the mouth of the upright will deliver him. That means that the words of the upright will justify him. Jesus said, "By your words you'll be justified, and by your words you'll be condemned in the final day."

The final result of our thoughts and words is in verse 7: "The wicked are overthrown..." That's like the foolish man who built his house on the sand. His thoughts were foolish, his words were foolish, and his house was finally overthrown. "But the house of the righteous will stand." That's the house that the wise man built on the rock - the hidden life. The foundation. The thoughts and the words. That house will stand. So we are never to become the scheming type of people, speaking words to get some information out of people or to put them in some trap. No. We have to be upright. No crookedness in our words. No scheming and deception.

    A man will be praised according to his insight,
    But one of perverse mind will be despised.

    Prov 12:8

That's a good exhortation, brothers and sisters. Let me put it like this: gain the confidence of other people. Live in such a way, speak in such a way, conduct yourself in such a way that people will begin to have confidence in you because of your wisdom and your insight. If you find that brothers and sisters don't have confidence in you - well, that's not a good thing. It's usually an indication of something in your own character. Because I believe if you're godly, you may be despised out there by carnal Christianity, but the brothers and sisters in the church will be able to recognize one who is wise. They are able to discern one who is humble, one who has insight. So it's good, particularly for young people, to really conduct ourselves in such a way that over a period of years, people begin to have confidence in us. This is a great goal that you should have in mind, so that you can help others. It's not so that we can have honor, but so that we can help others.

        It is better to get your hands dirty-and eat, than to be too proud to
        work-and starve.

    Prov 12:9, TLB
        It is better to be an ordinary person working for a living than to play
        the part of someone great but go hungry.

    Prov 12:9, GNT

In other words, don't stand on all your dignity and then not have anything to eat. You might as well do some dirty job and earn a living and support yourself than stand on all this false dignity and prestige. You find a lot of that in the world: people who try to pretend to be very great, but really there's a lack in their lives. It's better to be an ordinary man willing to do dirty jobs in order to earn a living than to stand on prestige.

    A righteous man has regard for the life of his animal,
    But even the compassion of the wicked is cruel.

    Prov 12:10

What does it mean to have regard for an animal? You see, we don't have animals in our houses nowadays, but in those days every home had animals. They had sheep, cows, donkeys to carry the load, and various other animals. Every house needed them. And how would the donkey know whether his master was righteous or unrighteous? By just one thing: Does he have any concern for me? You know, you can keep on loading all the luggage on top of that poor donkey, but it says a righteous man has concern even for his animals. That's something. We may think that animals have no souls, so we can throw stones at them and kick them, particularly if they're weaker than us. That's not good. It's alright to defend yourself from some dog that is coming to bite you, but otherwise it's not good to be cruel. You can see cruelty even in the way a man treats animals. That's the point of this verse. He has regard for the safety and the needs of his animals.

Now, we can say, "We don't have animals today." Well, what do we have? We have servants who work in our homes. And the righteous man has a concern for the needs and the safety of the one who serves him. But the wicked person, when he shows a little compassion, there's cruelty even in that compassion. That's what it says here. So, we can apply this to our own situations.

        A hard-working farmer has plenty to eat, but it is stupid to waste time
        on useless projects.

    Prov 12:11

There's a lot that the word of God speaks regarding hard work and diligence. We can apply that to the Christian life, that the one who is a hard-working farmer as Paul tells Timothy, gets a good harvest and gets it quickly. And it's righteous of God to do that for him.

        Crooks are jealous of each other's loot, while good men long to help
        each other.

    Prov 12:12, TLB

You know how crooks are. If you have two bunches of thieves, one bunch is jealous that the other bunch got more loot. But righteous people are not like that. We can put it like this: that a wicked man - a robber - what does he desire? He desires other peoples' things. We may not be robbers, but we may desire other peoples' things too. We can go into somebody's house and desire his things. We're not so bad that we'll rob it. We're just one step short of that. But we're basically facing in the same direction as that robber. The only thing is that we don't take the next step of actually robbing it. But it's really the same desire in the heart. A wicked man desires other peoples' things, but a righteous person - a good man - longs to help others. That's the opposite. He doesn't think in terms of what he can get from another person, but in terms of what he can give to help him.

        Lies will get any man into trouble, but honesty is its own defense.
        Telling the truth gives a man great satisfaction, and hard work returns
        many blessings to him.

    Prov 12:13-14, TLB
        The wicked are trapped by their own words, but honest people get
        themselves out of trouble. Your reward depends on what you say and what
        you do; you will get what you deserve.

    Prov 12:13-14, GNT

This is also a good verse for us to bear in mind. Once you tell a lie, you get yourself into so many difficulties that you have to tell another lie to cover the first one, and it goes on and on. This is all practical advice for daily life. Whereas if you're honest, even if you get into a little difficulty, that is its own defense. Finally, the truth will protect you.

Verse 14 relates to the same thing. Notice the emphasis again on our words and on our actions. What you say and what you do will determine your reward. You will get what you deserve.

        Stupid people always think they are right. Wise people listen to

    Prov 12:15, GNT

It's a mark of stupidity to think that we are always right. And one mark of a wise man is (we can put it like this) that he knows he has certain blind spots. One mark of wisdom will be that I realize that there are certain areas of my life where I'm not right, but I'm unaware of them. That's a mark of wisdom! Whereas a stupid person says, "No, I am right in every area." A wise man is humble. He realizes that even when his intentions are right, and to the best of his knowledge he's doing right, there are still a whole lot of areas in his life where he may not be right. And that's why he's glad to receive correction from somebody else.

    The vexation of a fool is known at once,
    but the prudent ignores an insult.

    Prov 12:16, ESV
    He who speaks truth tells what is right,
    But a false witness, deceit.

    Prov 12:17
        A good man is known by his truthfulness; a false man by deceit and

    Prov 12:17, TLB

In the margin of the New American Standard Bible it says, "He who breathes truth." In other words, truth has become so much a part of a person's life that he's breathing it. It's wonderful. Once upon a time, we breathed lies. Our whole life was full of lies. Think that we can so cleanse ourselves that not only our words are truth, but we breathe truth. Then we'll be in the category of the 144,000 in Revelation 14, who follow the lamb wherever he goes, and no guile is found in their mouths because they cleansed themselves. There's a tremendous lot that the word of God speaks about being truthful.

        Some people like to make cutting remarks, but the words of the wise
        soothe and heal.

    Prov 12:18, TLB

Here's another mark of a foolish man: he likes to say something cutting, something that will wound. He knows that it's going to wound, and he says it in order to wound. He says it in a sharp way. There may be truth in it, but he says it in a sharp way. It's said with the intention of hurting. That shows he's a fool. But the words of the wise, they soothe and heal. They don't keep quiet. They speak. But they speak in a way that is soothing and healing. Here's another contrast between the wise and the wicked. It's very interesting to see in the book of Proverbs a tremendous contrast in the words of the wise and the wicked. Words. Words determine whether we are wise or whether we are foolish.

    Truth stands the test of time; lies are soon exposed.

    Prov 12:19, TLB

It's always best to speak the truth, because finally the truth will be proven - if not here, finally. It stands the test of time. But lies are soon exposed.

        Deceit fills hearts that are plotting for evil; joy fills hearts that
        are planning for good!

    Prov 12:20, TLB

This is like how God told Cain, "If your intention is evil, then it's going to be bad with you. But if you intend good, then your face won't be cast down." That's a good verse: that if our hearts are planning for good, then there will be joy in our faces and our faces will be lifted up. But if our hearts are planning something that is not good, then we are deceptive.

        No real harm befalls the good, but there is constant trouble for the

    Prov 12:21, TLB

Here's a wonderful verse. It's good for us to remember this: No real harm can ever come to a righteous person. Never. Even that which appears to be harmful is not really harmful. God makes it work for good to those who love him, who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

    Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    But those who deal faithfully are his delight.

    Prov 12:22
        God delights in those who keep their promises and abhors those who

    Prov 12:22, TLB

The book of Proverbs has a great deal to speak about those who tell lies. In Revelation 21:8, it says that the liars will find their place in the lake of fire. God places a great importance on truthfulness in our speech. Just think of that latter part of this verse, how you can bring delight to the heart of God if you speak faithfully. It's also a very serious thing to give a promise to someone, as it says in The Living Bible. God delights in those who keep their promises, those who keep their word. Unless of course we find out the words that we've given to a person are contrary to what we see in God's word. Then we have every right to break them. But if they do not break some teaching of God's word, it is the will of God that we keep our word which we have given to others. He delights in such people.

        Smart people keep quiet about what they know, but stupid people
        advertise their ignorance.

    Prov 12:23, GNT

This just means that a wise person does not display his knowledge. When we have knowledge, we want to display it. Say in a group bible study, we want to display our knowledge. That's usually the indication of a fool. The wise person knows how to share it without showing off his knowledge. A person who wants to show off even bible knowledge is actually a fool. You see that particularly in new believers. They get a little bite of bible knowledge and they're always trying to show it off somewhere or the other. It just goes to show they're still fools. Now, that's alright when we begin, but we should grow out of that stage of always wanting to display our knowledge. Wise people keep quiet. They share when there's a necessity for it, but never to show other people how much they know of the scriptures or how clever they are.

    Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed.

    Prov 12:24, TLB

Now, there are many people who'd like to be leaders in the Christian church, but it involves being faithful in working out our own salvation in fear and trembling. It's a principle in all areas out in the world. People prosper by working hard and being diligent. That applies spiritually too. God never gives responsibility to those who are lazy. He only gives it to those who are hard-working in the situations in which he finds them. And I believe that's one reason why he chose fishermen to be his apostles. If you've seen fishermen, you know that it's one of the hardest professions on the face of the earth. Almost every other profession - all the professions any of us have - are ten times easier than the profession of a fisherman. He has to work so hard day and night in order to catch fish and earn a living, and he has to take risks. Jesus chose such people to be his apostles, teaching us that diligence and hard work are something that he looks for in those who will be his disciples. And he gives responsibility only to such people.

        Anxious hearts are very heavy, but a word of encouragement does

    Prov 12:25, TLB
    Worry can rob you of happiness, but kind words will cheer you up.

    Prov 12:25, GNT

This is a word that all of us need to take to heart - certainly the first part. Unnecessary worry (every type of worry is unnecessary for a Christian, because the word of God says, "Be anxious for nothing") robs us of our joy, but the word of encouragement does wonders. I've thought of a word of encouragement as that one talent which the man in Jesus' parable in Matthew 25 wrapped up in a napkin and buried somewhere and never used. Most of us don't have five talents. Most of us don't even have two. But is there a single believer who can say, "I don't even have the ability to speak a word of encouragement to somebody else"? There is not such a believer under the sun. But what do most believers do with this ability to speak a word of encouragement? Have you ever thought of speaking a word of encouragement to your husband or your wife or your children? Of course, we scold our children for a thousand and one things. But a word of encouragement - that is usually the talent we wrap up in a napkin and keep buried until the time the Lord comes. I really believe that. There would be a tremendous difference if people unwrapped this napkin and started using this talent with their marriage partners and their children. One word. Sometimes a postcard. A word of encouragement does wonders and changes situations tremendously. Those of us who don't have other spectacular gifts, I want to encourage you to think of exercising this gift toward other people. The world is full of people, and there are people even in our own home, who just need a word of encouragement in the midst of all the exhortations and scolding and rebuke that they get.

    The righteous is a guide to his neighbor,
    But the way of the wicked leads them astray.

    Prov 12:26

That is the calling of every righteous person, even if he cannot preach or teach or explain the bible or explain doctrine. At least he can be a guide in the sense that he can say to his neighbor, "Follow me." He may not say it in many words, but his life should be an example which his neighbor can follow. The righteous should be a guide to his neighbor - a forerunner - if his neighbor wants to follow, of course. That is the calling of the righteous, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

    A lazy man does not roast his prey,
    But the precious possession of a man is diligence.

    Prov 12:27
        A lazy man won't even dress the game he gets while hunting, but the
        diligent man makes good use of everything he finds.

    Prov 12:27, TLB

I've thought of this as a very beautiful picture of evangelism without disciple-making. A man goes hunting and he shoots a deer and then just leaves that deer to rot. Have you ever heard of a hunter like that - who shoots a deer and then just leaves it for the flesh to waste away? I've never heard of a hunter like this. A hunter usually takes the deer back, and his whole aim is finally to cook it and make it into a meal. And when people engage in evangelism without disciple-making, we can say they've caught souls - they've shot the deer - but they leave those souls to rot. That's exactly what it says here. It's easy to do evangelism. You just go and shoot the deer. But it takes time to dress it, cut it and cook it, just like it takes time to make disciples. To shoot is the easy part. And here I see a beautiful picture of what the word of God thinks about evangelism without disciple-making. In the church, we believe in leading those who have been brought into the kingdom into discipleship. "The precious possession of a man is diligence." You'll notice as we go through the book of Proverbs that it has a lot to say about certain subjects such as diligence and the use of the tongue. And it's a lazy man who engages in evangelism without disciple-making.

    The path of the godly leads to life. So why fear death?

    Prov 12:28, TLB

This means there is no need for a truly godly person to ever be afraid of death. The fear of death is the possession of an ungodly person. There is never a need for any godly person to be afraid as to when he's going to die, how he's going to die or where he's going to die. "When will I die? How will I die? Where will I die?" These are not the thoughts that should go through a godly person's mind. Rather, "How can I increasingly use all the circumstances that God allows to come across my life to partake more of his nature, his goodness, his kindness and his humility?" Leave all matters of death to God. The path of the godly leads to life. So why should he fear death?

Chapter 13
Chapter 13

        A wise youth accepts his father's rebuke. A young mocker does not even
        listen to rebuke.

    Prov 13:1, TLB

I believe that our pride is tested when we are corrected. Young people find it so difficult to receive correction from a father only because of one reason: there is so much pride in them. So much pride which makes them think, "I know which way to go." Pride is what prevents us from receiving correction from an older brother. We need correction. And our response to correction is usually an indication of whether there's pride in our hearts. We can find out about ourselves by our response to correction. Some are quick to respond wholeheartedly to correction and to correct immediately and exactly as told. Others take correction, but they are quite clever, and they like to still do things in their own way. Lurking in them is a pride which makes them unwilling to wholeheartedly accept correction. Correction often exposes the pride that lurks in the hearts of people who think they are humble.

"A wise son accepts his father's discipline," it says in NASB. Not just verbal correction but discipline. Humility is to accept the chastening God sends our way because that is the only way to become wise.

When someone older than you corrects you, you have an opportunity to see - however much you may think you're humble - to see the real condition of your heart. I believe there's almost nothing that tests our pride like that.

    From the fruit of a man's mouth he enjoys good,
    But the desire of the treacherous is violence.

    Prov 13:2

In other words, we reap what we sow. We sow words with our tongues. We have to look at our words like seeds. Like a sower sowing seeds. Right through the day, I am sowing seeds - in my home, in my office, in the church. Each word I speak is a seed, and once it has gone out, I can't take it back. I can repent of it, but I can't take it back. A man who has been very careful with the words he has sown naturally reaps good, finally. That's not because God favors him, it's just the law. Those who sow words wisely reap good and peace, whereas it says a wicked person - an evil person - desires only to fight. His tongue is ready to sow something that'll cause a fight. That's the mark of an evil person. We have to be very careful, brothers and sisters, that we don't come under the category of people who are ready to have a fight. The world is full of people who are ready to have a fight. You see that particularly on the roads. When two people disobey the traffic laws and hit one another or something, you see very clearly what human nature is like. And there we can also recognize a god-fearing person. We are not interested in fighting. It always takes two people to have a quarrel and if only one person is interested in a quarrel, there cannot be a quarrel. It's impossible.

    The one who guards his mouth preserves his life;
    The one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.

    Prov 13:3

Again this is talking about speech. We can preserve our life by guarding our mouths. Be careful with what you say, and you can protect your own life. In TLB it says, "Self control means controlling the tongue." The word of God says one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) is self-control. Love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, patience, self-control. How do I know whether I have self-control? Primarily through the use of the tongue. That's how I know whether I'm filled with the fruit of the Spirit of self-control. In contrast, a quick retort which comes to the ungodly person can ruin everything. The one who opens wide his lips means the one who's quick to open up his lips to say something. He ends up in ruin. Let's ask God for grace in this area.

    The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing,
     but the soul of the diligent is made fat.

    Prov 13:4

Here again it speaks about the lazy person and the hard-working person. The expression "the soul of the diligent is made fat" can mean "the soul of the diligent prospers." Now in the Old Testament, that prosperity was material. A lazy person remained poor and a hard-working person became rich. But for us in the New Covenant, that prosperity, and that poverty is primarily spiritual. And we can say a lazy person is one who craves but never does anything about it. "Oh God, I'd like to have victory over sin. I'd like to have it. This bad habit, I'd like to get rid of it." He craves it. He desires it. He spends 10 years desiring it. But he never gets victory, because he doesn't work towards it! He's not wholehearted about cleansing himself and putting something to death in his life. He just says, "Oh Lord, I desire this. I desire it. I desire it." And I tell you this verse tells us that I can desire all my life for something and never get it because I'm spiritually lazy.

The soul of the lazy man craves. Craves is a strong word. That means he strongly desires and he still gets nothing. Think of a man who's strongly desiring and still getting nothing because he's fundamentally lazy spiritually. Think of his attitude to the word of God for example. He may have spare time, but he doesn't have time to study the word. He's lazy in his attitude to the word, and he remains ignorant to the word. Therefore he's not strong. He doesn't know the things God has said to help him in the moment of temptation. Think if Jesus had been like that. When the devil came to tempt him, he wouldn't have had a word of reply to drive away the devil. He wouldn't have had the sword of the Spirit in his hands. Christ would have been like that if he'd been lazy. He could have craved for victory, but he would not have received it if he had been lazy.

But Jesus was not like that. The soul of the diligent - of the wholehearted - really works hard toward achieving what he wants. He will prosper, desiring victory and then working towards it. Laziness may be the reason why some people never come to victory.

    A good man hates lies; wicked men lie constantly and come to shame

    Prov 13:5, TLB

You hear that? It is the mark of a righteous person: "A good man hates lies." Hates telling lies. Hates saying what is wrong. Hates signing a false statement even if somebody else asks him to do it. He hates it! That's the mark of a righteous man. And a man who doesn't hate lies, you can't put him in the category of a righteous man.

Wicked men, on the other hand, tell lies constantly. People who tell lies don't just lie once or twice. It's a constant process, and eventually they come to shame - those who will write false accounts and make false statements. Lying is not just a once in a while thing. It becomes a habit, and after a while, the conscience doesn't even bother liars. Finally the word of God promises them that they will come to shame, if not on earth, certainly in eternity. The world is full of people who tell lies. The world is full of people who write false accounts and sign false statements. And in the midst of this ungodly, dark generation, God has placed a few who are upright - even if it means they become poor - who stand up for the truth, who will not tell lies.

        A man's goodness helps him all through life, while evil men are being
        destroyed by their wickedness.

    Prov 13:6, TLB

This is true. Again, it's a question of reaping what we've sown. If the whole desire of our hearts is to be good towards others, the word of God says that good attitude that desires to help others and be good to others will help me all through my life. That's why it's very, very important to bless those who curse us, to do good to those who hate us, to pray for those who persecute us. Never to desire anything evil for another person, but always to desire the best even for our enemies. To desire that something good will happen to them. That's really difficult, you know. When somebody has done something evil towards you and some calamity strikes him, the natural reaction is to think, "God has judged him for treating me, God's child, so badly." Well, that may be true, but that's God's business. That's not my business. My business is to desire good for him, not to desire evil. That is the spirit of the Christian, and if I keep that attitude of goodness, it'll help me all through my life. But if I have wrong attitudes toward other people, I will myself become evil, and will destroy myself by my wicked attitude.

        Some people pretend to be rich but have nothing, others pretend to be
        poor and they own a fortune.

    Prov 13:7, GNT

Here is a very true statement which indicates the amount of hypocrisy there is in the world. You see both these categories of people in the world. There are poor people who are a bit ashamed of their poverty and are always trying to act as though they are big people and great people and rich people. You find such people in the world. And then there are very rich people who are always acting as though they are trying to make both ends meet and they are very poor and they don't have enough and yet they have millions stacked away somewhere. Both these types of people are basically hypocrites. While one group is rich and the other poor, they hold hypocrisy in common. When the poor person tries to pretend he's great and rich, and the rich person is always trying to act poor, we have in one case pride and the other case false humility.

    Being kidnapped and held for ransom never worries the poor man!

    Prov 13:8, TLB

The poor man may have many disadvantages, but one advantage he has is that nobody's going to kidnap him and hold him for ransom. The book of Proverbs is telling us: "Don't think it's all advantages to being rich." They have many things to be afraid of. They have to be afraid of the tax people; they have to be afraid of the market crashing and losing all the value in their houses or people holding their children under ransom - so many things which a poor man doesn't have to worry about at all. Earthly riches don't only bring blessing; there is a bit of a curse in wealth when we have more than what we need.

        The righteous are like a light shining brightly, the wicked are like a
        lamp flickering out.

    Prov 13:9, GNT

This reminds us of the five wise virgins and the five foolish virgins. Some whose lights were shining brightly and some whose lamps were flickering out. This verse tells us why some who appear to be virgins are actually wicked. Their lamps were flickering out. They didn't have oil. They had no hidden life within - which is what the oil symbolizes. But the mark of a righteous person is that he has an inner life - the oil which makes his lamp burn more and more and more. The light is the life of Jesus. "In Him was life and that life was the light of men." We see that the wicked only appear to have the life of Jesus, and it flickers out in the moment of trial and temptation. But the righteous, in the moment of trial, you see their lights burning brightly. The life of Jesus comes forth because they've worked out their own salvation in their hidden life.

    Pride leads to arguments; be humble, take advice, and be wise.

    Prov 13:10, TLB

Here we see the cause of all the strife and arguments in the whole world: pride. We are exhorted to "be humble, take advice, and become wise." When somebody gives us advice, there again we have an opportunity to test the attitude in our hearts in relation to pride or humility. It's not easy to take advice if we are proud, because we think we know so much already. But it says here, be humble: take advice from someone who knows a little more than you and you'll become wise. Even if you are so wise already, you'll become wiser still. What's wrong in taking advice?

When someone gives us advice, if we argue and say, "It's like this," and "It is because of this," that's usually an indication of pride. This verse also shows us that all the arguments and strife that comes in homes between husband and wife are basically due to pride. Pride. When the servants of Abraham and Lot had strife which was due to pride, we see Abraham's humility in solving that strife. He said to Lot, "You want something? Take it. You have your right first." Think what benefit we might gain if we can be wise like Abraham. "Brother, take what you want first. I'll take what's left over." Children don't have this humility. Children grab. Humility is being willing to yield and give way to the other.

    Wealth obtained by fraud dwindles,
    But the one who gathers by labor increases it.

    Prov 13:11

In other words, if we have cheated the government or somebody else and increased our bank account, God's blessing will not be on that wealth. But if we have worked hard in honesty, God's blessing is on it. And I'll tell you something. It's better to have 100 rupees a month with God's blessing than 1,000 rupees by cheating someone without God's blessing. People don't realize that. God's blessing can make a tremendous difference in the little that we earn. It can save us unnecessary hospital expenses, for example. A little can go a long way if it's earned honestly and God's blessing is upon it and we earn it with labor. In fact, God's word says that he who does not work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10-12). God has determined that those who are not willing to work should not be paid, and that is something that we must also remember when we think in terms of giving gifts to the poor. We have to see whether they are people who are making faithful use of what we give, whether they are willing to work hard. If they're lazy and careless and extravagant with the gifts we give them, then it's foolish to continue giving. Maybe they are poor because they are so extravagant or because they're not willing to work hard.

    Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    But a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

    Prov 13:12

Of course, what that basically means is that when a wish comes true, it fills your heart with joy. For us, the greatest longing in our hearts is to partake of God's nature and to have victory over sin, and that is not a hope that God puts before us which cannot be fulfilled. It is a hope that can be fulfilled, and when it is fulfilled, it becomes like a tree of life to us that we can partake increasingly of God's nature.

    The one who despises the word will be in debt to it,
    But the one who fears the commandment will be rewarded.

    Prov 13:13

And this is why all sinners are pictured as debtors to God. Every sin, every disobedience to God's word is a debt that I owe to God. It's like going and buying something from a shop without paying for it. Every disobedience to a commandment is like buying something from a shop without paying for it. I am in debt. As it says in the Bible, it is this debt which Jesus paid for us on the cross: we have despised so many words in the Bible and we have become debtors, and Jesus has cleared our debt with the intention that in the future, we do not despise the word anymore. There is forgiveness with God so that He may be feared. "The one who fears the commandments will be rewarded."

    The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life,
    To turn aside from the snares of death.

    Prov 13:14

It is a very beautiful verse that our speech and the words we speak to others can become like a spring of fresh water. And that is the place towards which we should work, controlling our tongues, judging ourselves, and increasing in wisdom in our private lives, so that when we share with people and we speak to people, what we say will be like a spring of fresh water. As I said, the book of Proverbs has a lot to say about speech, and in the midst of a world which is full of people who speak sinful things and useless things, it is God's will that there should be a few who are like springs of living water who speak forth that which is refreshing. Think to be a brother or sister who people feel that anything you say whether in a meeting or in private conversation or anywhere is always so refreshing compared to the words of people out in the world which are so heavy and bitter. I want to exhort everyone here to be a brother or sister like that, to have a testimony like that. That people long to hear what you have to say because your words are like a spring that refreshes. That can be our portion: the teaching of the wise. If we are willing to be wise according to the book of Proverbs, our words can be like that and we can turn others aside from the snares of death.

    Good understanding produces favor,
    But the way of the treacherous is hard.

    Prov 13:15

This verse is somewhat similar to what we said earlier: that a man with wisdom is appreciated by others naturally because his wisdom wins the respect of others. "But the way of the treacherous is hard." The way of a sinner is hard. It may look smooth and easy, but it turns out, finally, to be hard. And that is not the way that we desire to walk.

     A wise man thinks ahead; a fool doesn't and even brags about it!

    Prov 13:16, TLB

To think ahead and to plan ahead is the mark of a wise person. A lot of people who just say, "I'm trusting in the Lord," are actually fools. There is a trusting in the Lord which is genuine, but most people whom I have seen who speak high-sounding language about trusting in the Lord are actually just downright fools who don't think ahead and boast about it.

But a wise man, he realizes that God has given him a mind. God hasn't made him like a stone or a brick. He's given him wisdom; he's given him intelligence; and he's given him the Holy Spirit; and he wants him to think ahead. There's nothing wrong in that. A wise man thinks ahead. It says in John 7 that when the people wanted to kill Jesus in Judea, he didn't go there. That was wisdom. It would have been folly to say, "Oh yeah, I trust in the Lord and I'm going there." That would have been the mark of a fool, but Jesus was wise and sensible.

A wise man thinks ahead, and God wants all of us to think and plan ahead: "How is it going to go if I do this? How will it be in 4 or 5 years if I go this way?" Particularly in spiritual things. If you keep on nagging your husband, how will it be after 5 years? What will your home be like? If you keep on criticizing your wife, how will it be 5 years from now? What will your home be like? It'll be a ruin. It'll be a wilderness. Think ahead. Think ahead in all the things that we do and say. Be wise. The wise man thinks ahead and says, "I have to deny myself a little here so that there will be some good fruit later on." But a fool just displays his folly.

        Unreliable messengers cause trouble but those who can be trusted bring

    Prov 13:17, GNT

God does not commit himself to unreliable messengers. It's very important that all of us come quickly to the place where God can find us to be trustworthy messengers who bring peace, not unreliable messengers who cause trouble.

    Poverty and shame will come to him who neglects discipline,
    But he who regards reproof will be honored.

    Prov 13:18

Here it speaks about poverty and shame coming to the one who neglects discipline, or, as TLB says, "If you refuse criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace." Now the thing is, we may think that we already have quite a bit of wisdom compared to a lot of other people around us. That may be true. And that may be the reason why we are too proud to receive any more correction. We may discover in eternity that we could have been a lot wiser if we had humbled ourselves and accepted correction. But we never became any wiser because we were proud that we are already so much better than so many other believers.

I want to say, brothers and sisters, be particularly careful when people come to you for advice. When somebody comes to you for advice and you give them advice, and then someone else comes, and someone else comes, then gradually you begin to think of yourself as a little storehouse of wisdom. And that pride is what can prevent you, brother or sister, from getting any more wisdom. You think that you're one of those who already has won the confidence of others. People come to you, and you don't need much correction now. That's a dangerous thing. True, you are wise. But you could've been wiser if you had humbled yourself and been willing to receive correction and discipline.

"If you refuse criticism, you will end in poverty and disgrace; if you accept criticism, you are on the road to (spiritual) fame" (TLB). Think to be all your life a receiver of correction. Say, "Lord, there are blind spots in me that I don't see, and I need my brothers." There's a song in which one line goes, "Lord, your Spirit and my brothers are showing me where I have to change." That's a good attitude to have till the end of our lives - if we have it, we can grow in wisdom.

        It is pleasant to see plans develop. That is why fools refuse to give
        them up even when they are wrong.

    Prov 13:19, TLB

It is one mark of a fool that even when someone points out to him, "These plans that you have made, they're not very wise," his pride refuses to make him change his plans even when they are wrong, and the matter develops to his ruin. As the NASB puts it, "it is an abomination to fools to turn away from evil." Basically speaking, when a fool is shown that this way is not the best way, and that some other way is better, he refuses to receive correction from someone with a little more wisdom than himself simply because the first way is the way he has chosen. It's amazing how long it takes for us to get that humility which is willing to be corrected.

    He who walks with wise men will be wise,
    But the companion of fools will suffer harm.

    Prov 13:20

This verse speaks of the type of the company we keep. If you keep company with stupid people, you'll be ruined. In other words, the type of company we keep is a pretty good indication of what's going to happen to us, finally. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 it says, "Don't be deceived. 'Bad company will corrupt good morals.'" I believe there's a word here - particularly for us as believers - about the type of people we spend our time with, either through our visiting their homes or their visiting our homes. Tell me the type of people you visit and the type of people who visit you and with whom you spend most of your time, and I'll tell you fairly well what type of person you are. We can think, "No, I'm not going to be affected," but it says in 1 Corinthians 15:33 not to be deceived. Bad company will corrupt your good morals. That's the word of God. To think otherwise is how you can be deceived.

Particularly young people face risks in the company they keep. You may think, "I'm a wholehearted, zealous brother." If you are, as far as possible, keep company with zealous brothers. I'm not saying we shouldn't talk to anyone else. You have to go to school, college, your place of work, meet with others, but let your longing be to be with the wholehearted, not with the half-hearted and the worldly. You may think that they don't affect you, but their company will affect you! Don't be deceived. Particularly young brothers and sisters, listen to that very carefully. Learn that lesson in youth so that you don't make a fool of yourself and do stupid things when you're grown up. Seek the company of the wholehearted. Let that be your greatest longing and desire, not the company of fools and the half-hearted. The companion of fools will suffer harm.

    Adversity pursues sinners,
    But the righteous will be rewarded with prosperity.

    Prov 13:21

Again, we apply this verse spiritually. It is basically the same thing as the Bible says in Galatians 6:9, and it's a theme that recurs again and again in Proverbs: what we sow we will reap. Usually whatever we sow, we have to reap ten, thirty, sixty, or one-hundred times as much. Whatever it is, it's going to be much more than what we have sown. And here's a simple principle that we must keep in mind: that we cannot avoid sowing. Let me use a very simple illustration. Suppose I'm a farmer and I sow potatoes at the time of sowing, and then near harvest time I say, "I don't want potatoes. I want tomatoes." And I kneel down and I have prayer meetings, fasting and prayer, and I say, "Oh God, please give me tomatoes. Do a miracle and give me tomatoes at harvest time." You're not going to get tomatoes, despite all the fasting and prayer. You can say, "Lord, please forgive me for sowing those potatoes." God will forgive you, but what will come forth is still potatoes. We mustn't forget that even when God forgives us there is still a reaping of what we have sown in the past.

Let me give you an example of how "adversity pursues sinners.". Here is a young man who has indulged in reading dirty, sexual novels and read pornographic books and seen pornographic pictures - and indulged in them, and indulged in them, and indulged in them, and indulged in them, and indulged in them - say up to the age of twenty-five. And here's another young man who avoided all that and was a morally good person. Both were not converted. Then both got converted at the same time at the age of twenty-five. And you find this person who had not indulged in all this pornographic literature has an easier time later on as a Christian with his dreams and his thoughts than that other person who indulged in it so much. Both are forgiven, but one person is constantly harassed in his thoughts and his dreams by the potatoes that he has sown for so many years. This is why you have to be very careful what you read and what you look at. Each book you read and picture you put in your mind is like a seed sown there. It's going to come back 10x later on in life; later in life when you wish that you could be free from some of these things. God forgives you, but the reaping is still going to be there. It's not going to be tomatoes, it's going to be potatoes even though you're forgiven. And that's the thing that should put a fear into our hearts about what we sow, because it says, "Adversity pursues sinners." This harvest of adversity sort of runs after the seed of sin that was sown.

But it can be the other way around too, if we sow good. When we fill our minds with the word of God and more of the word of God; when we fill our minds with something good; and we're thinking good thoughts about others; and we avoid all that's evil - good choices also produce a harvest - a harvest of good. "The righteous will be rewarded with prosperity."

So forgiveness is not everything. We can be forgiven and still be tremendously harassed by the memory of our past life, and there we can think what a wonderful inheritance it is for young people to grow up without all this sexually polluting literature and dirty thoughts. I'll tell you this, ten years from now, some of you who are in your teens today will be thankful if you listen to what you read today. If the Lord tarries, you'll be very thankful - when you become a wholehearted brother or sister - that you kept your early youth pure from all the filthy things that others in your school and college are indulging in. Be careful in this area.

    A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children,
    And the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous.

    Prov 13:22

Well, this was certainly true in the Old Testament. What Abraham gave to Isaac - what Abraham had when he died - even descended to Jacob. And we can apply this also in the New Testament spiritually: that if you live a God-fearing, upright, righteous life, you can give an inheritance that not only affects your children, but also your grandchildren. And the influence of a godly life is really the greatest inheritance that a man can leave not only his children but his grandchildren. The influence of a godly life: the memory that a son or daughter has of a father who was God-fearing, a father who wouldn't tell lies, a father who did not yell at his wife, a mother who knew how to submit to her husband as a church to Christ. Think what an inheritance such an example can be to children - certainly one worth much more than money! A father who was upright, who wouldn't do anything wrong to make money. A father who was righteous; a father who longed to obey the word of God. A mother who longed to obey the word of God. Such parents can leave an inheritance to their children, and it'll affect those children in such a way that it'll be manifest in their grandchildren. A wonderful inheritance.

"But the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous." Not perhaps in this life, but it's certainly going to be true in the next life. All that this earth has that sinners consider as their wealth is finally going to be taken by God and handed over to the righteous. The meek will inherit the earth and everything in it.

    Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor,
    But it is swept away by injustice.

    Prov 13:23

Now, I understand this verse to mean that a poor man may have a small, little farm and he may think that nothing much can come out of it, but it says here a tremendous lot can come out of the little that a poor man has. Like I said earlier about the one talent: the poor man is a man with one talent, and he says, "Oh, what can come out of this one talent?" A tremendous lot can come out of that one talent! Suppose the poor man's one talent is a word of encouragement. What a lot can come out of that one talent! You can produce 100 talents with that one talent if you use it and don't wrap it up in a napkin and bury it so that you spend year after year after year never giving a word of encouragement to anybody either in your home or outside your home.

In many other areas too, all of us can tend to think we have so little. We have so little of gifts, we have so little abilities, we have so little of this, that, and the other, but a tremendous lot can come out of the little we have. I thought of that in relation to a drama we once did in our church, how the expense of it if it were out there in the world would have been some fantastic figure, but we made do with old curtains and so many other things, and, in the end, so much could be produced out of so little.

Out of so little we can produce so much, provided we do not ruin our whole lives by being unrighteous. If a man is unrighteous, it says, then whether he has little or much it's just going to be ruined. It's all going to be ruined. But a tremendous lot can come out of the little resources you have, the little abilities you have, the little wisdom you have, the little spirituality you have, the little you have of gifts and talents - a tremendous lot can come out of it. There's abundant food possible out of what we have, if we humble ourselves and use it faithfully for the glory of God. Much can come from the little that you possess. For example, even materially you may have little compared to some other brothers, but you can use that little so carefully that not only much comes out of that little that you have but much character develops in your life by being careful in the use of material things, while a rich person never develops that character. He can tend to be more free and loose with things, buying a whole lot of things that are unnecessary. Abundant food is in the fallow ground of the poor, provided that it's not wasted through unrighteousness.

    He who withholds his rod hates his son,
    But he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

    Prov 13:24

This is a verse repeated many times in the book of Proverbs concerning discipline for children. The Living Bible says, "If you refuse to discipline your son, that is the clearest proof you don't love him." Did you know that? How do you know that a father does not love his son? He doesn't discipline him. He doesn't punish him. He never uses the rod on him. That is the clearest proof that a father does not love his son. How do you know a father loves his son? He beats him with a rod. If you love him, it says here, you will be diligent, that means you will be wholehearted with that rod in disciplining him. You will not say, "No, he's just so darling." No, but you'll be wholehearted in disciplining your son. That's what it says. Diligently. Just like we're to seek God diligently. Think to be a wholehearted, loving father like that.

Many worldly ideas can creep into us so easily, but in our parenting we need to follow the teaching of the word of God. The discipline of our children is the proof of love. That's because you don't want your child to grow up to be a nuisance to society, a nuisance to the church, a nuisance in the home, a nuisance to the neighbors, and finally land in the lap of the devil for all eternity. You don't want that. And therefore, because you love your son, you want your son to be a testimony, to be an example - therefore you discipline him. You teach him obedience, you teach him to obey when you have spoken one word. That's how we must teach our children discipline. They may not all grow up to be wholehearted brothers and sisters. They have to take their own decision when they grow up in life. But as long as they are in our homes, they must know that father's and mother's words have to be obeyed. There is no two ways about that. They must know who is in authority in the home. It's the proof of love. They don't understand it, just like believers sometimes don't understand it when God disciplines them and chastens them, but discipline is the mark of love.

    The righteous has enough to satisfy his appetite,
    But the stomach of the wicked is in need.

    Prov 13:25
    The righteous man eats to live and the evil man lives to eat.

    Prov 13:25, TLB

This is very beautifully paraphrased in The Living Bible. There's a world of difference between eating in order to live which is the mark of a righteous man and the unrighteous man who just lives to eat: "Ahh, another chance to eat." But the righteous man says, "I have to be careful about what I eat." And particularly in the days in which we live, I don't know how many of us have a lot of opportunities for exercise. Almost none of us. Is there anybody carrying bricks here? Perhaps such a person would have opportunity, but most of us, we really are not going to have much opportunity to exercise, and therefore we have to really be more careful in this area that we don't live to eat, but eat in order to live.

In the margin of The Living Bible it says, "the wicked never get enough." The wicked are never satisfied no matter how much is on their plate. Particularly if it's good, tasty food, they're never, never satisfied no matter how much there is. And that teaches us that one mark of a righteous man is that he knows how to discipline himself in the area of eating. You see, we can discipline ourselves in public in eating just to have a good testimony. After all, it'll look horrible if I just go and grab everything I want. But public discipline in eating is not necessarily a proof of righteousness. I may just want to keep my testimony, and that's quite different from desiring righteousness in my heart. And that is the thing which I need to see. It's not a question of what I'm doing in order to get a good reputation before the brothers of being self-denying and not eating much, but rather, what do I desire in my heart? Supposing nobody was looking? Would I gobble up, or would I say, "Well, I want to eat to live." I believe it's a very important area because the New Testament speaks about those whose belly is their God. They are so particular about tasty food. "How can we possibly live without having this food or that in our home?" they ask. "How can we do that?" The thing is, so many people do do that. They do live without so many things. But we can become so crazy after certain types of food that we think we can't live without it. "How can my children live without these things?" And then our belly can become our God, and it says in Philippians 3:18-19 that such people are enemies of the cross. We are not to be enemies of the cross while speaking about the New and Living Way.

Chapter 14
Chapter 14

    The wise woman builds her house,
    But the foolish woman tears it down with her own hands.

    Prov 14:1

This teaches us that it's not the man primarily that builds the house. Do you see that? It's the woman. And why does it speak about the wife instead of the husband when it comes to building the house? I'll tell you a simple reason: the wife spends more than double the time at home than her husband does in most cases. The whole atmosphere of a home to a large extent is influenced by the wife, by what she desires. The mother spends much more time with the children than the father in most cases. And that's why there's tremendous need for a woman who's married to be wise, because she's either building her home or she's not wise and she's tearing it down with her own hands. Now, no woman would be so foolish as to take a hammer and chisel and break down the walls of her own house, but I tell you, those brick walls are nothing compared to the spiritual home that you wives are building, that you mothers are building inside that brick home. And that spiritual home is the thing we can easily tear down by foolishness, by doing all types of foolish things and saying all types of foolish things. It's just like taking a hammer and chisel and breaking the house to pieces. Be wise. You know what the beginning of wisdom is? The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. I'll tell you, if there's one person in every house that needs to have the fear of God it's the wife/mother, because she's the one that has to build the house. A wise woman builds her house by her god-fearing attitude. I can't remember the number of stories I've read, true stories, of people, men of God, who spoke about a god-fearing, praying mother who influenced them tremendously in their life. Think of this, dear sisters, that you can leave your children an inheritance, that they know you as a god-fearing, praying mother. Build your home. Build your home. So much depends on you according to the word of God. So much.

And our homes, of course, finally affect the church as well. You can say the sisters don't have much of a ministry in the church. I tell you they have a fantastic ministry in the church: because the strength of a church is the strength of its homes. It's not all about the number of seats that are filled up. I couldn't care less for that or the size of the building. The strength of each home represented in the church is the strength of the church and that is sort of an invisible thing. And who's building those homes? The women. Who says sisters don't have a ministry in our church? I believe they have one of the most important ministries towards their husbands and their children. Tremendous. That's why you need to pray for the fear of God upon your life so that you can be a wise woman.

        Be honest and you show that you have reverence for the LORD; Be
        dishonest and you show that you do not.

    Prov 14:2, GNT

Again, it's a question of lies and truthfulness, honesty and dishonesty. By honesty we show that we fear God. By dishonesty, whatever we may say, we show that we don't fear God at all.

    Proud fools talk too much; the words of the wise protect them.

    Prov 14:3, GNT

We've considered before that one mark of a fool is that he speaks a lot. In Ecclesiastes 5:3, there's a beautiful verse to the effect that you can recognize the voice of a fool by the many words that he speaks. You'll find that in a group of people, the person that speaks the most (I don't mean God-fearing things from scripture, but general conversation in which the person has the maximum to speak about useless things), that person is the greatest fool in that crowd. "The voice of a fool [comes] through many words" (Ecclesiastes 5:3). A wise man's words, on the other hand, protect him. Our words are not only seeds, but a means by which we build a citadel which protects us.

    Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
    But much revenue comes by the strength of the ox.

    Prov 14:4

That basically means that if you're too lazy to clean all the dung that will be there when you have oxen and cows, you can say, "My stable is very clean," but you don't get much profit out of it either. In the Old Testament, this applies in a material way, but in the New, it applies to us in a spiritual way. If you want oxen, you have to suffer a certain amount of inconvenience to keep the stable clean as well. And if you want to become spiritually rich, it involves a certain amount of inconvenience. If I'm always thinking of a convenient life with no disturbance to what I want to do in my life, then of course I am like that man who doesn't want any oxen because it's too much nuisance to clean all that dung and to clean all that mess they make in the stable. But, in the end, such a man won't be rich. He'll be a poor man. The reason why many people are spiritually poor is because when it comes to a little bit of inconvenience in their life, they avoid going that way. They like to have spirituality if it does not disturb their ambitions in life and their basic convenience. And I believe more and more that this is the fundamental reason why the vast majority of believers remain spiritually poor: they're always thinking, "How will this disturb my convenience and my comfort if I go wholeheartedly for God in this? If I do this and I do that, it's going to make life a little difficult." And so they avoid that difficult path and they remain spiritually poor. The sad thing is, they'll wake up in eternity and discover what a fantastic loss was theirs just because they sought a little comfort and convenience in their earthly life. That'll be a sad day. That's why the word of God warns us now, it's better to have a little inconvenience in the stable and be rich.

    A faithful witness will not lie:
    but a false witness will utter lies.

    Prov 14:5, KJV

We speak much about faithfulness in the church. One tremendous area of faithfulness is absolute honesty. The book of Proverbs has a tremendous lot to speak about absolute truthfulness. If we speak about being faithful, that means being absolutely faithful in the matter of speaking the truth. A faithful witness will not tell lies, but if a person speaks lies, he's a false witness. So this is the test of our faithfulness. Let's not think in terms of faithfulness in other things if we are being unfaithful in this matter of speaking the absolute truth.

    A scoffer seeks wisdom and finds none,
    But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.

    Prov 14:6

A scoffer is one who is arrogant and proud. Jesus said that the things of God are hidden from the wise and intelligent, not because they are wise and intelligent but because they are proud of their wisdom and intelligence. You find people like that even among Christians who are inwardly proud of the fact that they are a little clever and a little smart and a little sharp. Invariably, I have found in my life that such people never have spiritual revelation. Simple people have revelation which these clever, smart, sharp people never get. They remain spiritually blind year after year after year. Because of their arrogance God refuses to give them wisdom. They seek wisdom but they don't get it. Of course, they think that they are very spiritually wise, but anyone who's mature can make out that they're just deceiving themselves. But to one who comes like a little babe, knowledge is easy. It's easy to understand the scriptures if we come to it like a little babe without any cleverness of our own to lean upon. It's impossible to get the wisdom which the book of Proverbs speaks about if we don't approach it with humility.

     If you are looking for advice, stay away from fools.

    Prov 14:7, TLB

This means that if you really want godly wisdom, don't go to a man who's clever in earthly things. He's a fool when it comes to spiritual things. We can't get wisdom from an earthly wise man. No. Leave the presence of a fool, because from him you cannot get advice that will lead you in the way of God.

    The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,
    But the foolishness of fools is deceit.

    Prov 14:8
        The wise man looks ahead. The fool attempts to fool himself and won't
        face facts.

    Prov 14:8, TLB

This means the wise man is one who considers, as it says here, his own way. The wisdom of the wise man is to understand his own way, not somebody else's. He seeks to see the way ahead for himself. In other words, he judges himself so that he can find the right way for himself. He's not a busybody in other people's matters. That doesn't mean he's not concerned about others. No. But he knows he cannot help others if he hasn't found the way for himself. As he finds the way for himself, then he can help the others by being a forerunner for them.

So the wisdom of the wise man is to understand the way God wants you to go. Never mind about all the other people. If you are wise, gradually others will have confidence in you, and they will want to follow your example. But the fool, he does not face facts. He wants to fool himself that he's alright and deceives himself. The New Testament speaks a tremendous amount about how easy it is for believers to deceive themselves about their spiritual condition. My own personal conviction is that 90% of believers or more are thoroughly deceived about their own spiritual condition. They think they are much more spiritual than they really are, and they'll wake up in eternity to get a terrific shock when they discover what God's evaluation of them was. And you find that in us, with all of us who have heard about the New and Living Way, how easy it is for us to have higher thoughts about our own spirituality than are really true. I would say that most of us have a higher opinion of our own spirituality than is really true. There's a tremendous need for deliverance from that type of deception - so that we can live before God's face. A high opinion of our own spiritual condition clings to us so tightly, even though we clothe it with words of humility and all that. To hold to such an opinion is the folly of a fool - not to face facts.

        The common bond of rebels is their guilt. The common bond of godly
        people is goodwill.

    Prov 14:9, TLB

The thing that makes all people the same - unbelievers and all the rebels in the world - the thing that makes them exactly the same in God's eyes is their guilt. They're all guilty to a greater or lesser degree.

The common bond of godly people, on the other hand, is their goodwill. In other words, the mark of a godly person is that he desires good for other people. If you are one who desires good for others, then you have a bond with other godly people. But if you are jealous of somebody else who has something better than you, then you don't have any bond that binds you with godly people. The common bond of godly people is that each of them has goodwill toward the other. A godly man desires good for the other person. He's happy when it goes well with somebody else materially or spiritually or any other way. And that is what brings a bond among the truly godly people and makes them one. When this attitude is lacking in a person's life, he doesn't have any bond with other godly people.

        Only the person involved can know his own bitterness or joy - no one
        else can really share it.

    Prov 14:10, TLB

A stranger cannot share your joy, and that is really true. The joy of the Lord is something we can only experience personally. It's not something I can experience merely because I sit in an assembly where there are some people who have come into this experience. It's something I can experience personally if I have really and truly forsaken all. I am convinced that when there's no joy in a person's life, it's an indication that there's something in his life which he has not forsaken, usually some earthly thing. Some ambition. Something which is not forsaken which robs him of his joy. Those who have forsaken all have experienced that joy in its fullness.

    The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
    But the tent of the upright will flourish.

    Prov 14:11

Jesus expanded on this in the sermon on the mount when he said that the wise man who obeys what Jesus taught builds his house on the rock. That house will remain forever. But the one who builds on sand is the one who hears and does not obey. The house built on sand is the house of the wicked which will finally be destroyed.

    There is a way which seems right to a man,
    But its end is the way of death.

    Prov 14:12

Jesus also spoke about the broad way and the narrow way. The broad way is what most people think is right, but its end is death. The narrow way is what leads to life. We can look at it in many ways; I just want to mention one of the possible ways. You know what Jesus said to Peter: "Your mind is set on man's interests and not God's interests." We can say man's interests are the broad way and God's interests are the narrow way. And what are man's interests? My comfort and my convenience. God's interest is my character. When I seek my comfort and my convenience, I'm on the broad way even if I appear to be spiritual. When I seek for my character to be what God wants it to be, then I go through the narrow way.

There is a way which seems right to a man. It looks alright - I'm not committing any sin, I'm not doing any harm to anyone - but why does it seem right to a man? You see, you can't commit adultery and it seem right to you. You can't tell lies and it seem right to you. You can't do evil to somebody else and it seem right to you. What is this way that seems right where I'm not harming anybody, where I'm not doing anything consciously evil and it seems right? It's the way of seeking my own. Underneath it all I'm seeking my own. My own honor, my own convenience. That leads to death. That's the thing we have to be careful about.

        Laughter cannot mask a heavy heart. When the laughter ends, the grief

    Prov 14:13, TLB

Laughter is something which is never spoken of in the New Testament. In the world, they speak about laughter. In the New Testament, it speaks about joy, and joy is different from laughter. You never read once in the gospels that Jesus laughed, but you do read much about the joy that he had. There's a world of difference between joy and laughter. People go get some entertainment, and they laugh. But it says here that when the laughter is finished, the grief is still there. They have to go find another form of entertainment the next day to forget about their sorrow. That's not the godly way. You can try and cover up a heavy heart with laughter but when the laughter is over, and you come back from that entertainment, the heaviness is still there. You become like a man who goes to the drinking saloon. There are a lot of charismatic meetings like that where people go and feel very happy and laugh for two or three hours and then come back home and they're still heavy. They haven't understood how to rejoice in the Lord always. To rejoice in the Lord always is not a question of clapping the hands and raising the hands and speaking in tongues and singing in tongues. It's a question of taking up the cross and dying. The cross is the secret of joy and the only way to it. In the world they speak about laughter; in the church we speak about joy - the joy which comes through the cross.

    The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways,
    But a good man will be satisfied with his.

    Prov 14:14

It's very interesting, this is a word we use very often: the backslider. Now I'll tell you something. This is the only place in the entire bible where you find the word backslider. It's just something interesting we can keep in mind. The Living Bible paraphrase is very beautiful. It says, "The backslider gets bored with himself, but the godly man's life is exciting."

How is the godly man's life exciting? Because every day, in each situation he says, "It's wonderful to see how God is going to sanctify me through this situation. This complicated situation here, it's wonderful to see how the Lord has brought it across my path. I didn't expect this today, but it's come across my path." That which would depress the person in the world, the godly man takes as a challenge. "There's some new opportunity for me to take up the cross, and for the Holy Spirit to work mightily to deliver me. This is my quota of evil."

Jesus said every day has its appointed quota of evil in Matthew 6:34. We have to recognize our quota of evil for the day and convert it to glory in some way. So life is exciting because each day, the godly man looks forward to how he can take up the cross and overcome! But the backslider, the person who has gone back - it speaks in Hebrews 10 about "if anyone draws back, my soul will have no pleasure in him." You know that's, in a sense, the backslider. The person who draws back in the moment of temptation. In the meeting he's very zealous, "Oh, praise you Lord in this meeting! Though all men deny thee, I will not deny thee," and all that. But then before the cock has crowed twice, he's already denied the Lord three times after he's gone out from the meeting. In the moment of temptation, he draws back. That's the backslider: the man who pulls back from suffering and denying himself in the moment of temptation, though he praises God loudly in the meeting. His life is really boring. Out there in the world they say, "We want to have fun." Well I'll tell you, you can never have as much fun - real fun - as you can have by being a godly man. His life is exciting. The type of fun they have out in the world brings disease, it brings problems, it brings difficulties, it brings depression, occasionally they have spurts of laughter, but the godly man's life is the really exciting life.

I mentioned that this word "backslider" appears only once in the bible (in the Old Testament in the books of Jeremiah and Hosea "backsliding" appears 16 times or so, but the word "backslider" is only found here). There is no mention of backsliders in the New Testament. The New Testament speaks much more about carnal people and lukewarm people. We shouldn't think there's such a thing as backsliding and going forward, backsliding and going forward, in the Christian life. You know, we need to understand that the New Testament doesn't speak of that type of life. The New Testament says if you are living that type of life you are carnal! You're not just backsliding and coming back to the Lord in the meeting, you're fundamentally carnal. You're fundamentally lukewarm. There's something in your life you haven't forsaken. There's not a wholehearted acceptance of the cross in your life. We call it backsliding, but it's not backsliding. The fundamental reason is: I am carnal. I am lukewarm. There's a fire missing in my life, and I try to cover it up by saying, "I just backslid a little bit there, but I'm coming back to the Lord again on Sunday." No. That's why the New Testament doesn't speak about backsliding, but it speaks about people who are carnal and lukewarm.

    The naive believes everything,
    But the sensible man considers his steps.

    Prov 14:15

Don't think there's any virtue in believing everything you hear. That is the mark of a fool. When the book of Proverbs speaks of the naive or the simple, it is speaking about a fool. A simple man or a naive man or a fool is the same thing. One who is spiritually stupid. He believes everything. Jesus didn't do that. It says he didn't go by what his ears heard or what his eyes saw. He listened to the father. We hear something about another brother and we believe it. That shows we are fools. Particularly if it's something bad, we're quick to believe it which shows what great fools we really are. The simple believe everything, but the prudent man, he considers. He checks to see where he's going. "Am I going in the right direction here?" He's careful. A wise man is very careful about taking a step in life. He doesn't believe everything.

    A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
        But a fool is arrogant and careless.

    Prov 14:16

A wise man is careful because he says, "I may step forward here and do something wrong." For example, I heard a brother say, "Whenever I have to write a letter or take a decision, I always say to myself, 'I have a flesh in which there dwells nothing good. Let me be careful now how I speak and how I act, because this flesh in which dwells nothing good can make me say things the wrong way, write things in wrong way, do things in a wrong way.'" And then he's careful. A prudent man considers because he has a flesh in which dwells no good thing. He's careful about each step he takes, but a fool, he's arrogant and he's careless. He's careless in his speech and careless in his actions.

    A quick tempered man acts foolishly,
    And a man of evil devices is hated.

    Prov 14:17
        People with a hot temper do foolish things; wiser people remain calm.

    Prov 14:17, GNT

We've considered the verse in Ecclesiastes 7:9 which says, "Anger dwells (or resides. Resides means it has a permanent house) in the bosom of fools." One way you can make out a fool is by the fact that he loses his temper. A person who loses his temper has something that has made a permanent house inside his heart, and that thing is anger. And by that anger coming forth, the person proves to everyone that he is a fool. When you hear someone shouting and losing his temper, listen carefully and you'll hear what he's saying, "I am a fool! Did you hear it? Hear it again. I am a fool!" That's what a person is saying when he loses his temper. That which is residing inside has popped its head out of the house. The fool may put it back in for a little while, but it's still living there. Anger resides permanently in the heart of a fool. We have to drive it out! Otherwise we'll never be wise. Never. That's why we have to humble ourselves and ask for grace. Don't let that wretched evil thing build a permanent home inside you, brother or sister. It's made a permanent home in all the millions of the children of Adam, but once we become children of God, it is God's intention that we drive that thing out by the Holy Spirit.

        The simpleton is crowned with folly; the wise man is crowned with

    Prov 14:18, TLB

You see, we can crown ourselves by our foolishness and the stupidity with which we say things and do things, or we can crown ourselves with wisdom, with the peaceableness and gentleness with which we do things. That's a crown. It's the fool's crown and the wise man's crown.

    The evil will bow down before the good,
    And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

    Prov 14:19

Of course that's going to take place in eternity. "...And the wicked at the gates of the righteous." That is a word which will be fulfilled when Jesus sets up his kingdom on this earth.

    The poor is hated even by his neighbor,
    But those who love the rich are many.

    Prov 14:20

Why do people love the rich? Because they love money. That's all. Those who love rich people must know very clearly that they love money. And those who don't love poor people must also know that they love money. That's the reason. That's why the world is full of people who love the rich and don't care for the poor, because they love money. And a church in which the rich person is given a special place like we read in James 2, and the poor person is despised because of his poverty, we can say that is a church whose God is money. It is. Even though they speak about Jesus Christ. Actually Jesus Christ is outside the door of such a church. Their God is money because they give place to the person who has money. That's a description of the world. That shouldn't be a description of the church. Unfortunately it is a description of a lot of Christendom today, but we praise God that that spirit will have no place in our midst.

    He who despises his neighbor sins,
    But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.

    Prov 14:21

God has allowed poor people to exist so that he can test us. If he had made everybody equal like Communism tries to do, there would be a test which God would not be able to apply to many people. In the Old Testament in Deuteronomy 15, there's an amazing apparent contradiction. Deuteronomy 15:4 says, "There will be no poor among you." You hear that? That is the will of God. In the Old Testament, it was not God's will for any person to be poor. If a man honored the Lord with his substance, the Lord would bless his barns. If he dishonored the Lord, that was the reason for his poverty. "There will be no poor among you, since the Lord will surely bless you in the land... if only you listen obediently to the voice of the Lord your God" (verses 4-5). Of course, if they didn't listen, then the condition would not be fulfilled. Since God knew that most of them wouldn't listen, therefore he said in verse 11, "The poor will never cease to be in the land." You see that? It looks contradictory, but it isn't. What God was saying was, "There will be no poor people in your midst, if you obey the word of God. But unfortunately since I already know that most of you are not interested in obeying, there will be some poor people always in your midst. But when you see that man, be merciful to him and open your hand and bless him." Of course, do this with wisdom. Don't be foolish in your giving. But generosity is the test for us when we consider those who are in need. "Happy is he who is gracious to the poor." "It is more blessed to give than to receive."

    Will they not go astray who devise evil?
    But kindness and truth will be to those who devise good.

    Prov 14:22

This verse is referring to what we scheme and plan. The word of God says in Hebrews 10:24 that we are to consider in our minds how to provoke one another to love and good works. It speaks there in the previous verses about the New and Living Way (Hebrews 10:20), entering the most holy place by the blood of Jesus - who is our high priest - and then it tells us in verse 24 what we are to do once we get inside the most holy place. What are we to do there? We have to consider how to do some good to someone else. How can I stir up some love by doing some good to someone? That's what's spoken of in this proverb: kindness and truth. Or grace and truth. Grace and truth is the divine nature which will be given to those who desire good and who devise good - who are scheming and planning something good like God silently plans in love for us. To plan and to think of something good that we can do for one another. On the opposite side are those who plan and scheme for evil. They have the spirit of the world, and that is why they go astray. You see, if our mind is dwelling upon good, then God is able to lead us down the right path.

    In all labor there is profit,
     But mere talk leads only to poverty.

    Prov 14:23

Here is a verse that tells us that there is only one type of labor in the whole world which does not bring any profit or any results. All types of labor in the world bring profit, but there's one type of labor which brings poverty: when we labor to use our tongue. And the more we have the habit of speaking and speaking and speaking and speaking and never stopping - when we have no control over our tongue - that, Solomon says, is the surest way to become poor. It's the only labor in the whole world which brings no profit at all. In all labor there is profit, except in constant talking.

    The crown of the wise is their riches,
    But the folly of fools is foolishness.

    Prov 14:24

The crown of the wise is their spiritual riches. Similar to what we considered earlier, that wisdom is like a crown. In other words, when the New Testament speaks about our being kings and priests, it is wisdom that makes us a king. We can be kings, but if we act foolishly, we don't have a crown. The crown of the wise is their spiritual wealth. And so we see wisdom is what makes us kings.

    A truthful witness saves lives,
    But he who utters lies is treacherous.

    Prov 14:25

Notice again the emphasis in the book of Proverbs on speaking the truth. Speaking the truth is one of the things that's emphasized again and again in the book of Proverbs. When we come across something in the book of Proverbs which is repeated a number of times, we know that that's something which the Holy Spirit is really trying to emphasize. Telling the truth does not come naturally to us. We speak the truth when it is convenient, but in a tight spot we face the test of whether we are really truthful. The test of whether we are truthful or not is when we are in a difficult situation and we can easily tell a lie and get out. That's the time we are tested whether we are truthful or not.

    In the fear of the Lord, there is strong confidence,
    And his children will have refuge.

    Prov 14:26
    Reverence for the Lord gives confidence and security to a man and his

    Prov 14:26, GNT

This is the type of thing which the life insurance corporation tries to tell you they can give you. But Proverbs tells us here, it's the fear and reverence for the Lord which alone can give a man confidence and security - not only for himself but for his family. This is one thing that comes very often in the scriptures: that when a man fears God and lives in reverence for God in his life, the blessing which comes upon his life not only affects him, it affects his whole family. It's a very blessed family indeed that has at the head of that home a man who has reverence for God, who's careful to fear God in his speech and to fear God in obedience to his commandments in the home. Such a home will truly be blessed. Reverence for the Lord brings confidence and security. There's no insecurity in the lives of those who fear God. There need not be in their families either. Their children have a refuge, it says. Think about the blessing which we can bring upon our children if we fear God, even if we don't have much money to give them.

    The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
    That one may avoid the snares of death.

    Prov 14:27

He's speaking about the same thing again: that the fear of the Lord is like a bubbling spring that keeps on springing up that protects us from all the snares of death. The devil's got many traps laid out ahead of us. We don't know all those traps, but the fear of the Lord protects us from all of them. I remember when I was in the Navy and our ships used to come into unknown harbors, harbors that we had never come to before - new harbors in some foreign country - and on the chart there would be marked out a channel. And when you looked out into the harbor, there were buoys marking the left and the right side, and in between those two buoys was the safe channel. That way we didn't need to know where all the rocks were. There may have been a rock there, there may not have been a rock there. It didn't disturb me because if we stuck in the safe channel, we didn't need to know where the rocks were or where the shallow ground was. We didn't hit any of them because the safe channel was marked out by those buoys, and by staying between them you would reach the harbor safely. I've often thought of that. There may be a million traps that the devil has for believers. When am I going to discover all of them? It may take me a lifetime to discover all of them, but I don't need to know where all those million traps are. If I know the safe channel, I will avoid all those rocks and shallow ground on which I can make shipwreck of my life. And that safe channel, it says here, is the fear of the Lord. You can avoid all these traps which the devil has for us by fearing of the Lord.

    In a multitude of people is a king's glory,
    But in the dearth of people is a prince's ruin.

    Prov 14:28

That is absolutely true of people in the world. They glory in numbers, in quantity. A company glories in its output in terms of quantity, income, profit, numbers. Churches glory in their numbers and their offerings. That's a mark that those churches have become like worldly companies. But that's not true for those of us who have come into the New Covenant. No. In the New Covenant, what is it that we glory in?

In the Good News Translation, the verse says: "A king's greatness depends on how many people he rules." In the world, if a king rules over 10 million people, that's a big thing. But how does that apply to us in the New Covenant? We are also kings, spiritual kings. We can read it like this. The spiritual kings of the New Covenant, their greatness depends on how many lusts in their own flesh they rule, how many lusts in their own flesh they have conquered. This is the mark of a New Covenant king. That this lust and that lust and the other lust - I'm ruling over them now. And how poor a king he is who can count only two or three things he's conquered in his life. Think of those who have conquered almost nothing after being believers for so many years. "In the dearth of people is a prince's ruin." Without them he's nothing! Haven't conquered anything? Don't rule over anything? You're nothing. That is what we must remember as kings.

    If you stay calm, you are wise, but if you have a hot temper, you only
        show how stupid you are.

    Prov 14:29, GNT

We already considered this before. This is another thing that the book of Proverbs repeats. Think that the Holy Spirit has seen fit to repeat it in the same chapter again: when you lose your temper, you are proclaiming loudly, "I am a fool! You hear that? I am a fool!" And I lose my temper again, and I'm yelling to everybody, "I am a fool! You didn't hear me last time? I'm telling you again. I am a fool!" The mark of a person who's a fool.

In The Living Bible it says, "A wise man controls his temper. He knows that anger causes mistakes." It can make him make mistakes, and that's why he controls it. He really learns to die here. See, he knows that he can do so many foolish things that can ruin relationships, ruin his life, ruin the glory that can be his in eternity. Therefore, he's wise.

    A tranquil heart is life to the body,
    But passion is rottenness to the bones.

    Prov 14:30
    A relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life; jealousy rots it away.

    Prov 14:30, TLB

Passion kills you. We speak in the church about entering into God's rest. When we enter into rest, it affects not only our spirit, it affects our body too. I mean even the doctors have discovered that when you're tense and worked up, it can work up allergies in your system, aggravate allergies and cause asthma and rheumatoid arthritis and migraines and so many other things. I'm not saying passion is the only cause, but some of these things like arthritis and migraines and asthma get aggravated by passion and uncontrolled lusts. It's good for us to judge ourselves and see if we are at rest, so that even if we have certain physical infirmities in our body, they are not due to spiritual causes. I'm not saying that every sickness is due to a spiritual cause, but I do say that a lot of sicknesses get aggravated by spiritual causes. There may be a physical cause, but the spiritual cause puts some more fuel into the fire and it becomes worse. It's really true - even doctors have discovered that. So it's good to enter into rest. A relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life. Jealousy and passion and tension and anger against someone - they are like a cancer. That's what the GNT says: jealousy is like a cancer. If you're jealous of someone, you covet what he has, you're not happy with what he has - you don't realize that's a cancer, eating away your life.

    He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
    But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.

    Prov 14:31

Here's one way we can honor God: by considering the poor and the needy.

    The wicked is thrust down (that is into Hell) by his wrongdoing,
    But the righteous has a refuge (in paradise, the presence of God) when
        he dies.

    Prov 14:32

In other words, it's not God who sends a man to Hell. It says in verse 32 the wicked is thrust down by what? By his own sins! He himself! His own sins push him down into an eternal separation from God. But the righteous has a refuge when he dies.

    Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding,
    But in the hearts of fools it is made known.

    Prov 14:33
    Wisdom is in every thought of intelligent people; fools know nothing
        about wisdom.

    Prov 14:33, GNT

The Good News Translation provides a very beautiful paraphrase. Think, brothers and sisters, to be able to come to that place where in every thought I'm seeking to find out, "Is that the wisest way to do it? Is that the wisest way to speak? Is that the wisest way to speak to my neighbor who's causing that problem? Is that the wisest way to speak to my husband or my wife? Is that the wisest way to speak to my children? Here is a way. It's a good way. But is it the wisest way?" That is what a wise man is always seeking, to press on to perfection until wisdom comes into his every thought. That's really wonderful.

Another translation says, "Wisdom feels comfortable in a wise man's heart, but very uncomfortable in the heart of a fool." Wisdom doesn't seem to find a place in this foolish man who claims to be a believer and who speaks all types of stupid things. Wisdom the whole time is getting very uncomfortable because this person is losing his temper and getting jealous about somebody else and backbiting against someone else. Here is wisdom trying to dwell in the heart of this believer but is always uncomfortable. We need to ask ourselves, "Does wisdom feel at home in my heart? Does wisdom feel comfortable and at home in the way I speak, the way I behave, the way I conduct myself?" If not, wisdom may not leave me - because she still loves me - but she's feeling very uncomfortable. You know how it is: you go and live in somebody's house, and you see the husband yelling at the wife and the wife yelling at the husband, and you feel a bit uncomfortable sitting there listening to all of it. Think how wisdom must be feeling in the hearts of some people. It's not a question of whether some other believer from the church is sitting there and hearing all that is going on, but wisdom is there and feels uneasy, uncomfortable. Think, brothers and sisters, that we can have a heart and a home where wisdom feels comfortable. "I'm happy to live with this person, because this person is seeking to have me in every thought." That's a tremendous thing. Wonderful.

    Righteousness exalts a nation,
    But sin is a disgrace to any people.

    Prov 14:34

In the Old Covenant, it speaks about a nation. In the New Covenant, we say church. Righteousness exalts a church in God's eyes, but sin in a church is a disgrace. It's an absolute disgrace. If sin is judged and spoken against and rooted out so that when sinners come into the midst of that church, they feel uncomfortable and hypocrites feel uncomfortable, that is the church that God loves. Righteousness exalts a church! When we speak about a church, we know it's not a building, it's people. And when each person in a church is righteous, that exalts a church in God's eyes. As far as nations go, you look at all the more than 200 nations in the world today, and it is impossible to find even one where there is righteousness. All the nations are going down.

    The king's favor is toward a servant who acts wisely,
    But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.

    Prov 14:35

We can think of a King's favor as that of King Jesus - his favor. The Lord is pleased with and seeks to bless those who act wisely. That's why God could say about Jesus, "This is my son in whom I am well pleased." God watched him for 30 years, and God saw that in everything, Jesus sought to act in the wisest way. He had a flesh with lusts and desires just like you and me, but he mortified those lusts when they tempted him to say something or do something in a wrong way and he sought the Spirit for wisdom and did things in the wisest way and the Father was pleased.

"The King's favor is toward a servant who acts wisely, but his anger is toward him who acts shamefully." It's not an easy thing to be a servant of God. There are a lot of people who claim to be servants of God. The most important thing about a servant is that he has some wisdom. Otherwise, he'll be an absolute disgrace to this God who he claims to represent. Wisdom in his words and his actions, and that can't come unless there's wisdom in his heart and in his thoughts first.

Chapter 15
Chapter 15

    A gentle answer turns away wrath,
    But a harsh word stirs up anger.

    Prov 15:1

I think all of us have enough experience in this area to have written that ourselves. When someone is angry, the easiest thing to do (and what a fool does) is to be angry and speak a harsh word in return. Sometimes we can be good Buddhists and control ourselves and control ourselves and control ourselves for the last twenty-five things that a person said against us. But eventually one sentence comes out! That's enough to ruin all the twenty-five times I controlled myself prior. That one sentence is concentrated poison at the end of a dart. Sometimes it can be just one harsh word! And there we see our great need to die - to partake of the dying of Jesus - so that when people are angry and upset with us, we are not boiling up on the inside. We are cool inside. That person is not able to switch on my stove. It's impossible for him to make me boil. Why in the world do you let him turn on your stove? If he wants to turn on his stove, that's his business. But I'm not going to let mine boil. I'm going to die there.

This verse is also not just saying to keep quiet. Keeping quiet can be another type of Buddhism. Christianity is to speak. When somebody's angry with you, it's much easier to keep quiet than to speak. To speak a gentle, good word in return is one-hundred times harder than keeping quiet. When you keep quiet, you treat him like a dog. You're basically saying, "I am the great, godly man here. You're just a dog." Humble yourself. That person also has a flesh just like you. Humble yourself and speak a good word, gently and softly. When a shopkeeper loses his temper, or your boss in the office loses his temper, it's arrogant to just keep quiet and go away. That's not the thing to do. Speak a good word there - a good and humble word. That shows that we are eager to walk in the way that Jesus walked. The opposite of a harsh word is not silence. The opposite of a harsh word is a good, gentle word. And that's what turns away wrath.

        When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive, but stupid
        people spout nonsense.

    Prov 15:2, GNT

We must not imagine that everyone who claims to be a believer is wise. It says here that when a wise person speaks, he makes knowledge attractive. He doesn't make the word of God boring. Since we all have the opportunity to share the word of God in the church, we must take this word to heart that whether we speak for one minute or one hour, we must not make ourselves boring to people. That only proves that we are stupid fools. I think in every church in the whole world, there are people who don't have light on this. I remember when I was in the church in Switzerland, somebody asked me, "Brother, do you have any brothers in your church who get up and just bore everyone with what they say?" I realize that this is a universal problem. And to make matters worse, the people who do it don't have any light on the fact that they are boring everyone. They go up and speak a whole lot of nonsense, even though they are quoting the scriptures here and there. We must not develop a reputation for being boring. You may not know what your reputation is in the church because other brothers and sisters are kind enough to bear with you, and they don't tell you the truth. If that's the case, you need to go and ask your wife, because she will be a little more honest. She'll probably tell you, "You were a bit boring today and you spoke too long." Or you can go and listen to a recording and see if what you said was attractive.

When is it that we become boring? I'll tell you when: when we go outside of our calling. For example, if God has not called us to teach, and we begin to teach, then we go outside of our calling. We will also become boring if we go beyond the level of our experience or our faith. Romans 12:6 (King James Version) says, "Let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith." But often, we don't do that. We want to try and show that we are mighty, wholehearted, great men of God next to the level of Peter and John and all the other apostles, and then people are bored. They're not fooled. They don't think we are equal to Peter or John or any such person. They just sit and bear with us till we get some light on ourselves. Brothers and sisters, we must reduce the number of such people in our midst. We must have light to understand that wisdom makes knowledge attractive. If I only have the grace to speak for two minutes in an attractive way, that's enough. I should speak for two minutes and sit down. As we grow, God will be able to give us more grace. If we really, earnestly desire the gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy, then God will give us grace. If we are too lazy to seek God for spiritual gifts, and we are not wholehearted about bearing the cross in our daily lives, then of course we'll have nothing to say. If we are not bearing the cross in our daily situations, we won't have wisdom. It is only those who bear the cross in their daily lives who receive wisdom from God so that they can speak and present what knowledge they have in an attractive way. Let's remember this verse. When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive.

There are two passages of scripture which often come to my mind when it comes to speaking the word of God. I want to share them with all those whom God calls to speak the word in the meetings. Take them seriously, dear brothers. I don't want to condemn anyone, but I want to encourage everyone to press on to perfection in this area. One passage is Luke 24 - the story of Jesus and two of His disciples walking on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection. He walked with those two disciples to Emmaus, and spoke with them for hours. We don't know exactly how long he spoke to them, but they weren't bored! It says in verse 32 that after Jesus left, they said to one another, "Were our hearts not burning within us when he was speaking to us on the road?" What a wonderful word that must have been! When Jesus speaks, people's hearts burn. And when Jesus speaks in the church today, peoples' hearts burn. But when it is just some man who thinks too much of himself who gets up and airs his ideas, then people are bored. You can't be bored when your heart is burning. Dear brothers, particularly the brothers who have the ministry and the responsibility of speaking in the church, we must really pray that God will give us the grace to humble ourselves and recognize our limitations. We must pray that God will give us such grace that it will be Jesus speaking through us, so that peoples' hearts will burn when they hear us.

The other word is 1 Samuel 3:19: "Now Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him, and he let none of his words fail." These two passages have been in my mind for many years. I've thought much about these verses and cried out to God and prayed, "Lord, grant that it will be like that with my words. I want to humble myself, the stupid idiot that I am. Please let these words be true in my life so that when I speak, peoples' hearts will burn. Like it was with Samuel, I want my words never to fall to the ground (as it says in the margin)." It's a tremendous thing if I can speak ten words and have not even one fall to the ground. That's quite a high standard to reach: that every word hits home! To attain that standard, we must humble ourselves, seek God, and be faithful in our hidden lives. When wise people speak, they make knowledge attractive, but stupid people just spout nonsense (just a lot of ideas that don't help anyone).

Ecclesiastes 12:10 says (The Living Bible), "For the Preacher was not only a wise man but a good teacher; he not only taught what he knew to the people, but taught them in an interesting manner." The mark of a good teacher, even in secular teaching, is the ability to teach in an interesting way. Wherever God gives us the opportunity to minister the word, it should be our desire to not just teach, but teach in an interesting way so that people are gripped. That's very important. A wise man makes knowledge attractive. Let's covet this more and more, brothers and sisters. God will give us grace when we work on this, when we are wholehearted in working out our own salvation, and when we are diligent in meditating on the word of God. No man can do this on his own, but God gives us grace.

        The Lord sees what happens everywhere; he is watching us, whether we do
        good or evil.

    Prov 15:3, GNT

This is a wonderful truth for saints. It brings us comfort that, "He knows every detail of what is happening to me," like it says in Job 23:10 (The Living Bible). He hasn't forgotten about me or my trial or my sorrow or my difficulty. He knows. The Lord's eyes are watching. This knowledge also helps us live before God's face.

It's this same truth that brings terror into the hearts of the sinner and the hypocrite when they realize that God is watching them. However much they may fool other believers into thinking that that they are wholehearted people, God sees the hypocrisy in their lives. God sees the unrighteous things they do in their private lives. God sees. The Lord is watching in every place - watching the evil and the good.

    A soothing tongue is a tree of life,
    But perversion in it crushes the spirit.

    Prov 15:4

Think of that: a tree of life in the Garden of Eden, and a tree of life right inside our mouths. How wonderful! But our tongues will not automatically be trees of life. They can also be, as James says, on fire with the fire of Hell. These two possibilities lie within the tongue: it can be the fire of Hell or it can be a tree of life. Consider that God's own nature can come forth through the words that we speak. And the Scripture says that all you need is a healing, gentle tongue. You don't have to have great, clever revelations from Scripture to have your tongue be a tree of life. You just have to develop the habit of speaking a little more gently. Say the truth, but with gentleness and a desire to bring healing. Seek to have a healing tongue, not a tongue that worsens the wound. A healing tongue is a tree of life. It's amazing how much the book of Proverbs has to say about the tongue. It's good for us to read it again and again to see the importance given to the tongue.

Then it says that perversion in the tongue crushes the spirit. A perverted tongue can crush the spirit of other people and finally ruin my own spirit as well. This is a good verse for us to consider.

    A fool rejects his father's discipline,
    But he who regards reproof is prudent.

    Prov 15:5
        Only a fool despises his father's advice; a wise son considers each

    Prov 15:5, TLB

The mark of wisdom is to be willing to receive correction and advice from earthly fathers and spiritual fathers, and to consider each suggestion seriously. That requires humility, but that is the way to wisdom. But a fool doesn't care for his father's discipline. He thinks that he knows everything. But the one who considers and regards reproof values it. He who values correction will become wise. Value correction, brothers and sisters. That's the way to wisdom. Many have missed the path to wisdom because they have despised words of correction, rebuke, and reproof.

We've noticed from the first chapter of Proverbs the emphasis on the submission of a son to a father. This applies not only in a home, but also in the church. If we recognize that someone has more wisdom than us, it's good to submit to the authority of such a person.

    Great wealth is in the house of the righteous,
    But trouble is in the income of the wicked.

    Prov 15:6

When it says that there is great wealth in the house of the righteous, how much is 'great'? A very saintly man once said, "All the wealth in the world is not enough to satisfy the greed of one man." A greedy man, even when he has everything there is to have in the world, is still not satisfied. So how does a righteous man have great wealth in his house? For the righteous man, great wealth means enough to meet all his earthly needs. That's it. My God will supply all your needs, not all your wants. When we have enough to meet all our earthly needs, then we can say we have great wealth. And all of it is earned righteously. But the income of the wicked is earned by cheating, stealing, borrowing without returning, and all types of wrong methods. There is trouble that accompanies that income. And when the trouble comes, there's no use in the wicked person asking God to help him, because he has to reap what he has sown. It's good to be satisfied with God's provision for our needs. We should be thankful with whatever wealth we have, as long as it is righteously earned and doesn't belong to anybody else.

        Only the good can give good advice. Rebels can't.

    Prov 15:7, TLB

Romans 15:14 says, "I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another." That's what it says here too. We would all like to give good advice to others, and that's a very good treasure to have - to be able to help other people spiritually - but there is a requirement that must be met first. The basic requirement is that our hearts are rooted in goodness. So we see that the wise man is a man whom you cannot move out of goodness no matter what you do or say. If we can be moved away from goodness towards other people, it proves we are not wise. Basically, wisdom consists of goodness. Only the good can give good advice but rebels, they can't do that. So we see that goodness precedes wisdom.

        The Lord hates the gifts of the wicked but delights in the prayers of
        his people.

    Prov, 15:8, TLB

This is a principle we need to understand very clearly and stand for steadfastly in the church. God cannot receive a gift from a person who has not first given him his life and his heart. That means if we know a person is unconverted and he comes and gives gifts for God's work, we should not receive them. We should not receive such gifts because we stand as representatives of God. God doesn't receive gifts from those who are unconverted, therefore neither should his representatives. In this we see the folly of all these Christian organizations that send out magazines to everybody saying, "Please send us your donations and gifts for this particular project we have." Then all types of people send them money, and they're not bothered about who sends it in. They just receive it. They're just happy when they get some money, but they don't care to find out if the person who is giving is someone who is even entitled to give to God.

In the New Testament, 3 John verse 7 says of the early Christians, of those who were full-time Christian workers in the first century, that "they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles" (which is a name for unbelievers). They received nothing from unbelievers. That is a principle of the church: accepting nothing from the Gentiles. We don't want anything from unbelievers, because unbelievers are not permitted to contribute to God's work or put money into the offering box. We can't help it if they do it without our knowledge, but we'd like to make this principle clear so that people realize we don't want their money. God wants their hearts. He cannot take money from a person who has not first given him his heart and life. This was a principle the early apostles were very careful to follow: accept nothing from unbelievers. We must be very careful to follow the same principle.

The same principle applies to getting some heathen man to come play a musical instrument or sing a solo in the church simply because he has a good voice. Much music under the label of "Christian music" is being produced now, particularly in South India, by different cinema stars and popular musicians. Do you think God can accept that? No. That is a gift of the wicked. This music is an abomination to the Lord. He cannot accept it. We need to see that very clearly. God hates this, but he delights in the prayers of his people. The prayers of the upright, it says in verse 8, are his delight - not everybody's prayers. We know from James 5:16 (King James Version) that "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." A righteous man's prayer has more power before God than that of some believer who is not so righteous. The prayer of a believer who is not so righteous does not have the same effectiveness. Here it says that the prayer of the upright is God's delight. Not all believers' prayers are equal in God's eyes. Everybody can pray, but if a believer is more upright and more righteous, their prayer is more effective. That's a principle in Scripture and we can't get around it. It's a fact.

  1. Are you a born-again child of God?
  2. Do you have enough for your family's needs?
  3. Are you free from debt (other than a house loan)?
  4. Are you reconciled with all people?
  5. Are you giving cheerfully?
  6. More information on these points and the verses from which they are derived can be found at
    The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord,
    But He loves the one who pursues righteousness.

    Proverbs 15:9

This is along the same theme as verse 8, that though the way of a wicked person is an abomination to the Lord, God loves in a special way those who pursue righteousness. Or as one translation has it, the one who is "bent on honesty." Think of a believer who is bent on being absolutely honest. God loves him in a special way in which he does not love another believer who is a bit of a crook, having schemes up his sleeves and clever plans in his mind to seek some gain for himself. He can claim the title of "believer", but God doesn't love him in the same way. This teaches us that God does not love all people in the same way. God does not even love all believers equally. It is a fantastic deception to believe that God loves all of us equally, because not all believers are bent on honesty or are pursuing after righteousness to the same degree.

Jesus said in John 14:21, "He who has my commandments and keeps them is the one who loves me; And he who loves me (in this way) will be loved by my father, and I will love him." We see here that God specially loves those who keep the commandments of Jesus, and that it is righteous of God to love some believers more than others. We have to face the fact that God does not love all of us equally. He loves some of us more than he loves others. This is not because he likes the appearance of some believers more or any such partiality, but because he sees the hidden life of those believers that we cannot see. God sees some people who, in their hidden lives, are bent on uprightness and who are pursuing after righteousness, and he loves them more. You cannot blame God for that. That is righteous. That is a law. It's a fact that he loves some brothers more than he loves others, and he loves some sisters more than he loves others. He is a loving father, but he loves some more than the others because the Scripture says, "He loves him who pursues righteousness."

Therefore, God does certain things for those whom he loves in that special way which he does not do for other believers. God did a lot of things for Jesus, because Jesus loved the father supremely. But we can't assume that he'll do everything for us that he did for Jesus if we are not walking in the same way that Jesus walked. It's very easy to say that God will do for us what He did for Jesus. It's true - we can potentially say that, but for God to do that for us, we have to love the Father in the same way that Jesus did. Then he will certainly do the same for us that He did for Jesus. All this means is that there is no partiality with God. What he did for Jesus, he can and will do for me if I fulfill the same conditions. And what he has done for another brother in the church, he will do for me if I love God in the same way as that brother. If I forsake everything in the way that other brother has forsaken everything, God will love me and bless me in the same way - not otherwise. He loves the one who pursues righteousness, the one who is bent on honesty, and the one who is bent on cleansing the guile from his life.

    Stern discipline is for him who forsakes the way;
    He who hates reproof will die.

    Prov 15:10

The word of God, especially the book of Proverbs, says much about reproof and correction. If we hate correction and we get offended whenever we are corrected, we are like a patient whom the doctor examines and says, "Well, I can't give much hope that he will recover. I think he'll die." There's not much hope for a person who hates correction. And it's not a matter of getting offended at the correction. I may keep quiet and receive it, but I may not like it. That's what it's speaking about here. I might be able to keep from saying anything back to someone who corrects me, but still be offended on the inside. Then I come under the category of those who hate correction, even though I kept quiet. The question is: do I love correction and view it as something that keeps me on the way of life? If we judge ourselves, we will not be judged. We read in 1 Corinthians 11:31-32 that when God judges us, he disciplines us so that we may not be judged with the world. And so strong, stern discipline is for the one who strays off the way of life, but whom God delights in. God does not discipline those who are not his sons, but those who are his sons he disciplines very strongly. This is because he does not want them to miss the way and be judged with the rest of the world.

    Sheol [Hell] and Abaddon [destruction] lie open before the Lord,
    How much more the hearts of mankind!

    Prov 15:11

This means that even Hell and the bottomless pit lie bare before the Lord. He sees it just like it's open. We don't see it, or even know where it is, but before God it is all visible. And it says if even Hell is open before God, "how much more the hearts of mankind!" Think of that. We may say in response, "Well, this is not some very great truth. This is something I already know: that God knows everything in our hearts." What I have come to see is that if I really believe this - that God knows everything in our hearts - then I will have a hidden life of purity. That is the test of whether I really believe that my heart is completely stripped open before God all the time or not. Morning, noon, and night, the ambitions and desires of my heart, and the motives with which I speak, write, and do - everything is just open before the Lord. Regardless of what words I may say to a brother, God sees the attitudes and the motives that are underneath. All of our hidden lives are stripped open before God, and he sees everything. He sees the motives with which I visit people and the motives with which I invite people to my home. He sees every single thing. If I really, really, really believe this, it will make a fantastic difference to my hidden life. Even though people say they know this verse, the vast majority of believers don't believe it at all. They don't really believe that their hearts are open before the Lord, and that He sees every single thing. There's not a single thing hidden in any corner which is not open before the Lord. We can conceal things from every single brother and sister in the church, maybe even from our own wife or husband for fifty years, but God is not deceived even for a second. He sees through everything. If I can live in this realization, what a fantastic desire there will be in me for purity in the hidden life!

     A scoffer does not love one who rebukes him,
    He will not go to the wise.

    Prov 15:12
    A mocker stays away from wise men because he hates to be scolded.

    Prov 15:12, TLB

I prefer the use of the word "rebuke" in the New American Standard Bible. The word "scolding" has a bad connotation. James 1:5 says that God never scolds. There's a difference between scolding and rebuking which even our children can understand. Scolding a child and rebuking a child are not the same thing. God rebukes but he doesn't scold. And so rebuking is a better word here.

A mocker (one who is not really interested in wisdom) stays away from wise men, because he hates to be rebuked. One reason why some people get offended and leave the church is because they do not like to be rebuked even in the general meeting, let alone personally. It requires tremendous grace to receive correction personally, but there are people who can't even accept it in a meeting through the messages. They get upset and disturbed over a word of correction, and then they steer clear of wise people and mingle with fools who will just flatter them and say nice things to them - all because they don't like to be rebuked. Therefore they miss the way of wisdom. It's interesting that the book of Proverbs places such tremendous emphasis on this matter of receiving correction. This is good for us to bear in mind.

If you consider a person to be wiser than you, and he rebukes you in some situation, my advice to you would be: humble yourself and accept the rebuke. If not, you must admit that you don't believe that person is wiser than you. Of course, we don't have to receive correction from someone who may be carnal. If you think that someone is carnal, then there's no need to receive correction from him because he may not know what is right. But if you think that someone is wiser and more spiritual than you are, then the wisest thing to do is to accept correction from them.

    A joyful heart makes a cheerful face,
    But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.

    Prov 15:13

There's a lot of connection between the heart and the face. Very often, you can see the feelings of a person's heart by the expression on his face. This has been true right from the days of Cain when God asked Cain, "Why has your face fallen? Something is wrong in your life." It's always true that when there's discouragement and depression, and your face has fallen, that something is wrong somewhere. A joyful heart is one that has found its joy not in money, honor, or earthly pleasure, but in the Lord, and therefore has an unchanging joy. A heart of joy makes a cheerful face. This doesn't mean that you'll always be laughing, but there will be a gladness in your face. You won't be in a bad mood. But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. Discouragement breaks the spirit in a wrong way, in a bad way, so that we cannot be effective for the Lord. This is something that we can ponder on.

I believe you could even think of this in terms of the gift of humor. The Bible does speak about foolish jesting as something to be avoided, as well as dirty jokes and jokes which are cracked at the expense of others. These are unchristian. But there is also a humor which is Christian, which is a gift of God. Humor is not something that Satan invented. It's something that God gave to man. But just like all of God's other gifts, it has been abused so that humor now is mostly dirty jokes and jokes cracked at the expense of others. But there is a clean humor which is a very good thing for us to have. It's the sort of thing which is very often the mark of a good relationship between people. I've personally felt that you know that a husband and wife have a good relationship with each other when they can joke with one another, not necessarily when they can pray with one another. It's possible that a husband and wife can pray with one another and still not have a good relationship. But if they can have a good laugh with one another, then you know they have a clear and good relationship. Humor is very often the test of a relationship. Seriousness all the time indicates that there's something wrong. A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, and I believe clean humor, which is not at the expense of others, is something which we need to have. I just mention this in passing.

    A wise man is hungry for truth, while the mocker feeds on trash.

    Prov 15:14, TLB

Trash means garbage or rubbish. For example, there are a lot of useless novels that are available these days which come under the category of trash. One mark of a fool is that he spends his time reading all these useless novels. Any person who is seriously interested in being wise would never waste his time reading the useless novels that are being written these days. It's alright for young children to read these, but once we have grown out of the stage of being children, we are not to spend our time reading them. A wise man is hungry for truth while the mocker feeds on trash, particularly the types of books that are being written these days.

        When a man is gloomy, everything seems to go wrong; when he is
        cheerful, everything seems right!

    Prov 15:15, TLB

For a miserable man, every day is unhappy. Something or the other is wrong every day because his basic attitude is miserable. There are some people who are generally miserable most of the time for no reason. This is because they haven't understood the secret of rejoicing in the Lord. They don't believe with all their hearts the truth of Romans 8:28 - that God makes all things work together for good to those who love him, to those who are called according to his purpose. There is never any need for a true child of God to be gloomy and sad. It's because of his wrong attitude toward life that he finds that everything seems to go wrong. But when he's cheerful because he's found his joy in the Lord, and he believes that everything that happens to him is working for good, then everything turns out right.

    Better is a little with the fear of the Lord
    Than great treasure, and turmoil with it.

    Prov 15:16

This means that if, as a result of being honest, you become poor, it is better to be poor than to have that little extra money which you might have gained by dishonesty. It is better to be poor than to be wealthy and have turmoil; turmoil in your conscience and turmoil outside that can come into your life and into your home. Better is a little earned honestly, in a God-fearing way with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure. When we accumulate much more than we need by cheating and doing all types of sinful things, turmoil will accompany those riches. Any sensible person will know that honesty is the right way to go. It's interesting that this subject comes again and again in the book of Proverbs, that it's better to be honest and poor than dishonest and rich.

    Better is a dish of vegetables where love is
    Than a fattened ox served with hatred.

    Prov 15:17

This verse mentions vegetables, but in the margin it says something worse than that. It says herbs. You know what herbs are? It's the stuff that medicines are made of. It's not very tasty! Better is a dish of herbs where love is. You see, vegetables can be made very tasty. They can even taste better than some non-vegetarian dishes, but herbs...think of that. Better is a dish of herbs where love is than roasted beef and hatred with it.

Imagine a non-vegetarian husband nagging his wife to cook a fattened ox all the time. He's quite content to stir up problems in the house as long as he gets his beef! It doesn't matter if love disappears from the home, because that's not important to him. He's an idiot! Better have a dish of herbs and have love than non-vegetarian, fancy meals and unrest. I'm not saying that if you have non-vegetarian, fancy meals you will have unrest, but what the word of God is saying is that love is more important than the type of food that your wife can cook or that you get in a home. It's speaking about a home, you see. In a home, something might be cooked that's not up to the mark. Never mind! If you love one another, even if it's just herbs on the table, praise the Lord! You say, "Well, all my wife knows how to cook is herbs. It's okay. We'll enjoy it and love one another!" That's what the word of God says. This is better than having a fattened ox and creating unrest in the house. It is far better to have fellowship with your wife than to convert her into a good cook. Fellowship is much more important, never mind if she can't cook so well!

    Hot tempers cause arguments, but patience brings peace.

    Prov 15:18, GNT

All arguments are caused by somebody who has a hot temper. The only way to bring peace is through patience, and the only people who can bring peace are the people who have acquired patience through circumstances in their lives. Patience is one of the most important things that we have to acquire if we want to be men of peace. We pray, "Lord, make us men and women of peace." Well, it says patience brings peace. God has to teach me patience through the difficult situations of life. That's how I get patience. "Tribulation worketh patience," it says in Romans 5.

     The way of the sluggard is as a hedge of thorns,
    But the path of the upright is a highway.

    Prov 15:19

This is pretty clear. Laziness, it says here, is like thorns. The laziness of a man puts thorns along his pathway, and he can't walk because of the thorns of his laziness. Notice here in verse 19 that the opposite of the lazy man is not a hard-working man; rather it contrasts "the way of the sluggard" with "the path of the upright." We can find contrasts like this in many passages of Scripture. You see here that the opposite of a lazy man is an upright man. This means that if I'm upright, I can't be lazy. If I'm lazy, I'm not upright.

    A wise son makes a father glad,
    But a foolish man despises his mother.

    Prov 15:20

The book of Proverbs has a tremendous amount to say about despising one's parents. Particularly when young people are able to stand on their own two feet and their parents have become old is when they begin to despise their parents. Some people despise their parents because the parents are not cultured. For instance, think of an old mother who has been brought up in a village and is now living with her children. She may not know how to behave in a cultured way with her children's friends, and so they despise her. If you do this, it shows that you are a fool. You can despise your parents because they are not educated, or because they are not as spiritual and wholehearted as you are. There are various reasons for which we can despise parents. It can be for physical, intellectual, cultural, or spiritual reasons, but ANYONE who despises his mother is a big fool, no matter what wisdom he thinks he has. A person who speaks rudely to his father or mother has no wisdom whatsoever. A wise son makes a father glad, and even if he has to disagree with his father, he will do it graciously and gently. We may have to disagree sometimes with our parents. But do it with graciousness and gentleness, never in a harsh, hard way.

    Folly is joy to him who lacks sense,
    But a man of understanding walks straight.

    Prov 15:21

This is stated clearly. A man of wisdom goes in a straight path, like it says in Isaiah 30:21, "Your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, 'This is the way.'" When you're thinking of a particular course of action and you think you'll go one way because you sense you can get a little advantage there, you may feel something in your conscience or your spirit saying, "No. Not that way." That's the voice of the Holy Spirit saying, "Don't go that way. Go the straight way." The man of wisdom will listen to that voice and walk the straight way. But if he ignores that voice because he thinks, "If I go this way, I'll get a little gain for myself", he's really a fool. He has turned to the right or the left and missed the path.

I was reading the other day in a magazine of a preacher who said that he was speaking in a meeting as a young man. He had on a watch which was given to him by his father, and it was a very fancy type of watch for those days and for the simple people who he was preaching to. The whole time he was preaching, the people were just looking at his watch. He felt a witness in his spirit saying, "Take that off." And he thought, "Can't I wear what my dad has given me?" But he realized that if it was a hindrance to other people, he should take it off, even a small thing like that. He said that there the Spirit of God began to teach him to be sensitive to small things that may cause others to stumble. Therefore, God could lead him on and bless him later in life. So that's it - a man of understanding hears that voice saying, "No, don't do that" or "Do this", and he walks straight, in obedience.

    Without consultation, plans are frustrated,
    But with many counselors they succeed.

    Prov 15:22

This is another thing we've read a number of times in Proverbs: be humble enough to receive advice from others. We should not think that we are so clever and spiritual that we can just go ahead with our plans without taking advice from anyone. Without consultation, our plans can be frustrated. It's good to consult others who are wiser so that they can give us wisdom.

        Everyone enjoys giving good advice, and how wonderful it is to be able
        to say the right thing at the right time!

    Prov 15:23, TLB

The first part is true: everyone enjoys giving good advice. We all like to be those who give advice to people. When somebody comes to us and says, "Brother, I'd like to ask your advice on something," we feel a little nice. We secretly feel, "I'm glad this brother came to me for advice now. I'm really somebody." Not too fast. The second part of the verse speaks about saying the right thing at the right time. To say the right thing at the right time, that is the mark of maturity and wisdom. You see, there's not only the matter of saying the right thing. There is also saying it at the right time. Sometimes it may be necessary to speak to a brother about something. Wisdom is to know the right time to say it. To say the right thing at the right time - that's a wonderful thing. A timely word requires a great sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit says, 'No,' you hold back. If you want to write something to someone, and the Holy Spirit says, 'No,' you tear it up. You wrote it, but you're not going to send it, because you don't sense that it's the right time. It may be the right thing, but it's not the right time. We really need to seek God for this sensitivity.

Isaiah 50:4 says about Jesus that his ears were open in the morning to hear what the Father had to say so that he had a word in season for the weary person. He was in touch with the Father every day. Therefore he had the right word at the right time for anybody who happened to come across his way. See, brothers and sisters, we can sometimes think that the only ministry in the church is standing up on the platform and speaking. That's not true. In any case, we have only about three meetings per week, so the maximum number of times you could stand up here and speak is three times a week. But if we are in the habit of listening to what the Father has to say, we can have a right word for anyone whom the Lord brings across our paths, seven days a week. Every day! And that is really the greatest ministry, to be able to hear from the Lord and be a blessing to those who come across our path, even if we never have the gift to stand up on the stage and preach. So don't have a lust to stand up in front of everyone and preach. Let's have a great longing to have this ability to hear from God and to have a word in season for the weary ones who come across our path each day. That is a far more important thing.

    The path of life leads upward for the wise
    That he may keep away from Sheol below.

    Prov 15:24

This means there are two ways: one going up and one going down. We know that God created Adam from the dust of the ground. That dust, belonging to the ground, pulls us downward. The dust from which we are made is attracted to the dust of the earth. For example, the dust we are made of is attracted to gold which is another type of dust. Because we are creatures of dust, we are attracted to other creatures of dust, and our attractions are earthly.

But God also put inside Adam a spirit which is attracted upward. So now, we find in ourselves one pull upward and one pull downward. In the situations of daily life, we decide which pull in our soul to follow. Our soul, we can say, stands in between the body and the spirit, deciding, "Which way shall I respond? Shall I respond only to earthly things, or shall I respond to the upward pull of the spirit?" This verse says, "The path of life leads upward for the wise." The path of life is to respond to the pull of the spirit. Madame Guyon once said that the life of God which he puts into our spirit has such fantastic power to shoot upward to God. She didn't use the word 'rocket,' but that is what kind of power it has. God has put that life in us, and if our lives are not shooting upward, it's because we are allowing all types of weights to keep us down. It's not so much that we have to try really hard to shoot up to God. It's just a question of throwing out the weights that keep us down. Then, the life of God will automatically shoot us upward toward God. That is the secret. It's because of weights that progress is so slow with some believers. It's not a matter of telling them, "Brothers, be more zealous!" No, it's a matter of throwing out some of the weights. Otherwise, even if he becomes more zealous, his journey upward will still be slow because there are weights keeping him down. The way of life is upward for the wise that he may keep away from Hell below.

    The Lord will tear down the house of the proud,
    But He will establish the boundary of the widow.

    Prov 15:25

God is not our adversary, as we read in the margin of Isaiah 63:10. He was not an adversary to them, but here it tells us that he is an adversary to some people - to the proud. If you are proud and haughty and think too much of yourself, we have to say that God is your enemy. I'm sorry to say that, but God is your enemy if you're proud of anything, because it says that God will tear down the house of the proud. Imagine that: it doesn't just say he will ignore the proud and leave them to themselves. That would be bad enough. No! He tears down their house! In other words, Satan is against them, and God is also against them. Poor people.

But it says that he will establish the boundary of the widow. The Bible speaks much about God's care for widows, orphans, and strangers, because they are the helpless people in society. If those helpless people in society will trust in the living God, the Scripture says he will establish them. A principle we see right through both the Old Testament and the New Testament is that God helps those who cannot help themselves. In the world they say, "God helps those who help themselves." That's a lie. The truth is, God helps those who cannot help themselves. To those who are helping themselves, God says, "Alright. Go ahead. You take care of yourself." But God is on the side of those who come to such a place of need that they can say, "Lord, we have nobody who will help us. We are absolutely helpless." He establishes the boundary of the widow. Imagine there is a widow who has a little plot of land, but there are strong, powerful men who are trying to encroach onto her land. God establishes that boundary and protects her home.

        The Lord hates evil thoughts, but He is pleased with friendly words.

    Prov 15:26, GNT

This means that God is interested in our thoughts and in our words. The way we speak to people is important, because friendly words bring God's pleasure upon our life. We must develop the habit of speaking friendly words to one another.

        Dishonest money brings grief to all the family, but hating bribes
        brings happiness (you will live).

    Prov 15:27, TLB

As we saw earlier, dishonest money brings turmoil to the conscience. But not only that, it also ruins the whole home! There's no blessing in dishonest money. It's far better to have honest money.

It also says here that if you want to live, you must not take bribes. You must hate bribes. Hate bribes and you will live! What a word. What does bribing do? It makes a man partial. When a man gets a bribe from someone, he does a favor for this person and ignores what is right or just in the situation. Since taking bribes makes a man partial, fundamentally, this verse is warning us about being partial. Don't be partial, whether you get a bribe or not. Don't be partial towards your children, loving one and despising the other, or showing partiality in any other way. Impartiality is the nature of God, and that is the nature we are to partake of. We should strive to be absolutely impartial, treating all people equally.

In the King James Version, the last part reads, "He that hateth gifts shall live." That is really something, to come to the place where we hate gifts. As children of Adam, we love gifts. It is in our flesh. We love to receive. We hate to give, but we love to receive. And even when we say we don't want gifts, we are secretly disappointed when nobody gives them to us. That is how it is in our flesh. But in the Scriptures, we can see how Jesus was. We can't say Jesus never received any gifts. A woman poured an alabaster box of ointment on his feet, and he didn't say, "No, no, no. I hate all that." He was normal and natural, able to receive from others. But he never loved it. It's not a question of receiving or not receiving. It's a question of loving or hating gifts. God may put us in a situation where we need to receive, but if we are in that position, we have to ask ourselves this question: "Do I love this? Is there delight in my heart in getting this?" Then I need to work out my salvation. It's good for all of us to develop this habit. Even if I keep the gift, I need to work out my salvation so that as time goes on, I don't find that same delight in me when somebody gives a gift. That's the way of life. "He who hates gifts will live," because it's a law of God that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I cannot change that law. Nobody can change that law. There is a blessing in giving and there is no blessing in receiving. So, when I receive something, I have to say, "Alright, since somebody's given me this, I'll take it. But let me remember there's no blessing in this." There's no word of God which says there is any blessing in receiving. I can take a gift, but I shouldn't love it. There is, however, a blessing in giving. Jesus himself said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). There is a blessing there. Remember that God can change us so thoroughly from the race of Adam that we can become the exact opposite of the race of Adam, loving to give rather than to receive. That is a fantastic position to come to, and we should not think that we have reached there easily. No. It takes quite a bit of working out our salvation to be able to come to the place where I do not think in terms of getting, getting, getting all the time, but I can reverse my way of thinking and love to give.

        A good man thinks before he speaks; the evil man pours out his evil
        words without a thought.

    Prov 15:28, TLB

This is really good advice for a lot of people who need to be taught to think before they speak. A modern paraphrase of it would go something like this: Put your mind in gear before opening your mouth. Don't just open your mouth before your mind is in gear. That means you need to think. What do I need to think of before I speak? Think: is this thing that I'm going to say kind? Is it a kind thing to say to this person? Is it really true, or is there a little bit of exaggeration in it? Is it just something I heard? Let me think. I find that when my mind is in gear, I may have to keep my mouth shut. It says words just keep on coming out of an evil man - words, words, words, words! This is the mark of a fool. The Proverbs speak much about this. An evil man can just keep on speaking, and he has an opinion about every single thing. Particularly when people are young, they have a tendency to have a strong opinion about everything under the sun. And they are quick to express their opinions too. But that is the mark of a fool. A good man thinks and asks himself before he speaks whether his words are necessary. He thinks before he speaks.

    The Lord is far from the wicked,
    But he hears the prayer of the righteous.

    Prov 15:29

This proves that the Lord is not near everyone. If a man is living in sin, the Lord is not near him, even if he calls himself a believer. The Lord is FAR from a wicked man, but he hears the prayer of a righteous man. We see again here the same truth that everybody's prayers don't have the same value. When we come to a prayer meeting, everybody can pray, but there is a difference in the way God hears each person's prayer. It's good for us to remember that. We can come here on Sunday morning and lift up our hands and praise God, but God is not listening to all of us in exactly the same way. The Scripture says he listens to the prayers of the righteous. He sees the life behind that man who's raising his hands and raising his voice in the meeting, and based on his life, the Lord decides how much he can listen to him. He's not the same to everyone. He listens to the prayers of the righteous.

    Bright eyes gladden the heart;
    Good news puts fat on the bones.

    Prov 15:30

That basically means that our physical health is dependent on good, righteous attitudes, and on having clean eyes (eyes that don't lust and that are bright and clear). Having a righteous life even affects our physical health. Stop criticizing and speaking evil of others. Have good attitudes toward all people no matter what their attitudes are toward you. This will positively affect our physical health and deliver us from a lot of things which doctors can never heal us from.

    He whose ear listens to the life-giving reproof
    Will dwell among the wise.
    He who neglects discipline despises himself,
    But he who listens to reproof acquires understanding.

    Prov 15:31-32
        If you profit from constructive criticism, you will be elected to the
        wise man's hall of fame. But to reject criticism is to harm yourself
        and your own best interests.

    Prov 15:31-32, TLB

Here we are back again to the subject which Solomon, the wisest man of the Old Testament, never got tired of speaking on: reproof. The ear that listens to life-giving reproof or correction will dwell among the wise, but he who neglects discipline, or he who rejects criticism, harms himself.

In The Living Bible, this verse reads, "To reject criticism is to harm yourself." Then the New American Standard Bible says, "but he who listens to reproof acquires understanding." The New Living Translation says, "If you listen to constructive criticism, you will be at home among the wise." It's wonderful to feel at home with wise people, but that can only happen if we're willing to receive correction.

    The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom,
    And before honor comes humility.

    Prov 15:33

This verse tells us what I believe are the two most important qualities for true spirituality and wisdom: the fear of the Lord and humility. Humility and the fear of God will make you wise and give you honor in God's eyes.

Chapter 16
Chapter 16

    We may make our plans, but God has the last word.

    Prov 16:1, GNT

This means that God is able to alter our plans through circumstances and through situations by which he prevents us from doing what we would normally want to do. He has the last word. And it is good for us to humble ourselves and submit to his ways. We wanted to plan, we wanted to do this, but God suddenly altered our plan and according to the circumstances, we ended up doing something else. We must humble ourselves and accept it.

    You may think everything you do is right, but the Lord judges your

    Prov 16:2, GNT

You see, here it's so clear what the Lord judges. Externally, I can say that everything I do is right. You may think, "That's clear to me. I'm doing it right." But a humble man, a God-fearing man, a wise man will say, "Even though I don't see anything wrong with what I'm doing, I recognize that I have blind spots." I don't know whether you've seen one of those optical illusions where there's a little mark on a piece of paper. You can try it yourself. As the little mark passes in front of your eye, at one particular point, you can't see it. You can see it, and then at one particular point, you can't see it. There is a blind spot even in our physical eye. When you put the paper at that particular point, even though there's a mark on it, you just can't see it, and there's nothing wrong with your vision. Any eye doctor will tell you that it's a blind spot. And how much more in our heart and in our spirit? A humble man is one who recognizes, "To the best of my knowledge, I'm doing it right, but there may be something wrong. Lord, give me light."

A humble man prays the prayer of the Psalmist in Psalm 36:9: "Lord, in your light, I will see light. Otherwise, I won't see light at all." It's not a question of being a good Buddhist and cleansing my own soul through the power of my own soul. That's not the New and Living Way. The New and Living Way says, "If we walk in the light as He is in the light" (1 John 1:7), not the light of my own soul. It's God's word that divides between soul and spirit! It's God's word that is the light, and that gives me light on what I don't have myself! I cannot judge myself if I am not going into the word of God! A lot of people try to judge themselves who don't read the word of God. They're Buddhists. They may be able to cleanse themselves like the Buddhists are doing, but that's not Christianity. Christianity comes through reading God's word, walking in the light of that word, and getting light by which I can judge and cleanse myself! So he who neglects the word of God will not be a true Christian. That's clear.

In the King James Version it says, "The Lord weighs our spirits", and that's a good word. That means that the Lord has a fine balance like what you would weigh gold in. Those gold balances are very delicate, and I may think, "My motive is good", but I come into God's light and I discover that even though most of my motive was good, it was mixed with a little bit of selfishness or a little bit of a desire to just hit that person. And the Lord weighs my motives in this delicate balance. Brothers and sisters, if we are humble and honest, we will recognize that there's a tremendous amount of mixture in our motives; in what we say and how we do things, even in our dealings with one another as brothers and sisters. Why does it say in Colossians 3:9, "Don't tell lies to one another"? Do you think we are getting up and telling lies to each other blatantly? No - but it is in the motives with which we say and do things to one another that there's a lying element. There's a guile there, and the Lord weighs it. If I'm only bothered by that human being's testimony then I'm alright, but if I look at the Lord's balance and I see that it's not exactly in the center (it's in God's light that I see light - Psalm 36:9), and I say, "Lord, there was a little bit of a mixed motive there," and if I cleanse myself, a day will come when that balance will be straight. And it will be written of me as it is written of the 144,000 in Revelation 14:5 (King James Version), that in their mouth there was found no guile. How is that? They watched this balance and cleansed themselves. Praise God for that possibility.

    Commit your works to the Lord
    And your plans will be established.

    Prov 16:3

This means that you submit to the will of God in every aspect of your future: marriage, job, and everything else in the future. Commit your whole life to the Lord, and he will establish the plans for your life.

    The Lord has made everything for His own purpose,
    Even the wicked for the day of evil.

    Prov 16:4

We read that God could use even Pharaoh to fulfill a particular purpose to show the greatness of God in the land of Egypt. Even evil people, God uses to fulfill his purpose! That is a wonderful thing that we see right through the scriptures, that God always turns the tables on Satan, and that the evil that people seek to do against God's children, God turns it back upon them and he uses everything for the fulfillment of his purpose. And in the final day, these wicked people will be judged permanently.

"The Lord has made everything for His own purpose." That means that God is sovereign, that all of creation is in his sovereign hands, fulfilling the purpose that he has appointed for each one. This is why we believe that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose, because the sovereignty of God controls all people and all things, and even the wicked are in his hands, finally to be judged in the day of evil. We can also apply this to when we as believers may find ourselves at the hands of wicked people on this earth; even that evil which is done to us by them, we must see that the Lord has even made that wicked person to accomplish some purpose in allowing us to be tempted so that we can be overcomers.

    Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
    Assuredly, he will not be unpunished.

    Prov 16:5

Many people in the world do not consider pride as a sin. That is because of spiritual blindness. Murder, adultery, telling lies, and stealing are all considered sins. But the word of God speaks much more about God being the enemy of the proud. There's no verse in the whole bible which speaks about God being the enemy of the adulteress or the enemy of the murderer or the enemy of the thief or the enemy of the liar, but there is more than one verse that tells us that God is the enemy of the proud person. And that is why you find that Jesus could forgive the adulteress and the thief on the cross, but he told the Pharisees that they were bound for Hell because of their arrogant pride. Spiritual pride is not different from any other type of pride. Anyone who has spiritual pride because of what God has accomplished in his life can go to this verse and find out that he's an abomination to the Lord. He's an abomination. God is his enemy! Satan is already his enemy, but God also becomes his enemy when he becomes puffed up. And that is why we have to fear pride almost more than we fear anything else. It says, "Assuredly he will not be unpunished." And the reason why many believers do not get the grace of God in their life is fundamentally due to this fact - that they are proud of something or the other in their life. They are proud and that is why the grace of God is withheld from them in their time of need.

    By lovingkindness (or mercy) and truth iniquity is atoned for,
    And by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil.

    Prov 16:6

We can say that that verse has two parts: first is God's part, because God alone can atone for our iniquity. We can never atone for our own iniquity; it is by God's lovingkindness and truth (like it says Jesus came with grace and truth). We read in Psalms 85:10 KJV, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace has kissed each other." That's already done on the cross, where God's lovingkindness and truth completely atoned for all our sins when he offered Jesus as a sacrifice. Lovingkindness because it was love that sent him to the cross, and truth in the sense that God could not shut his eyes to our sins. He had to face up to the truth that we were sinners, so he had to find a sacrifice. So we find that lovingkindness and truth were both there on Calvary.

But then comes our part: "By the fear of the Lord, one keeps away from evil." That is man's part. God has done his part, now our part is this: to keep away from the evil which Jesus died for on the cross. That is why when a person comes to Calvary's cross, if he does not really repent and turn from his sin, he hasn't understood that Jesus has died for his sins. He hasn't seen that it was his own sins which nailed Jesus to the cross. You cannot come to Calvary's cross without true repentance. I mean, any belief in Jesus without repentance is just a hoax. It's a deception of the devil. Such a person has not seen that his sin crucified Jesus on the cross, because once we see that, we cannot love sin anymore. We'll turn away from it automatically.

    When a man's ways are pleasing to the Lord,
    He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.

    Prov 16:7

There are many people who try to harm us in many ways. But it says here that when our ways are pleasing to the Lord, God who is in sovereign control of everything (as we saw in verse 4), is able even to control our enemies and their reactions and actions, so that he can make even his enemies be at peace with him. This teaches us that God has a sovereign control even over our enemies, over those who are seeking to harm us. He has power over them. We must have faith to believe that if I please the Lord, all my enemies are in God's hands. He'll take care of them without exception.

    A little gained honestly is better than great wealth gotten by
        dishonest means.

    Prov 16:8, TLB

There are very few people in the world who really believe this, that a little bit of money with honesty is far better than accumulating a great treasure by dishonest methods. But anyone who has the fear of the Lord understands that clearly.

    The mind of man plans his way,
    But the Lord directs his steps.

    Prov 16:9
    We should make plans - counting on God to direct us.

    Prov 16:9, TLB

In other words, God wants us not to just sit down in an easy chair and say, "Lord, show me what I should do." It's good to pray that, but God does not always speak from heaven like he did in Old Testament times through a prophet or through a voice. He now treats us not like babies, but like sons. Do you know the difference between small children - four or five years old - and grown up sons? When a four or five year old crosses the road, you have to tell him, "Look to the left, look to the right," after every step. "Brush your teeth. Time to go to bed." But when a son is 20 years old, you don't tell him all that. You treat him like a mature adult. That's why we find that sometimes God gives specific direction to babies. But the more we grow up, he seems to speak to us a little less in these specific matters and leaves it to us to decide. That's because he wants to treat us like mature adults. So don't envy the person who is always hearing some leading saying, "Go here, go there." That's not the highest way of guidance. The highest way of guidance is where God trusts us to make right decisions - which means we must make plans!

Of course, we make plans to do this or do that, to go here or go there, seeking the kingdom of God first and weighing spiritual factors in all things. BUT in all those plans, we have to say like James says, "If the Lord wills, we shall go to this city tomorrow and do this." Everything is: "if the Lord wills." That's what it says here, "counting on God to direct us." He may direct us by making us miss the train, perhaps, or in some way hindering something, or making some door close when we try to go in, or we get turned down in an interview for a job. We make plans, we try to go for that job, but God closes the door. A marriage proposal doesn't go through. We make plans, but we are to trust God to direct us by circumstances. That is the way the Christian is guided. He seeks the kingdom of God first and his righteousness and he makes plans, but in all of his plans he says, "Lord, I want your will. Block me where I'm not going in the right direction and open the door for me where I am going in the right direction."

    A divine decision is in the lips of the king;
    His mouth should not err (make a mistake) in judgment.

    Prov 16:10

This is a very important verse for when a person has become a king. It means he has a tremendous amount of responsibility and he has to make decisions concerning others - like King Solomon did concerning which of the two women was the real mother of the baby. "His mouth should not make a mistake in judgment." That teaches us that the more authority we have, the more careful we have to be with our words. It's alright for young people who don't have any responsibility or authority to speak carelessly and say all types of things since they don't have wisdom. But the more authority we have - the king is the highest level of authority, but below the king there are so many levels - the more we have to be very careful with what we say. We need wisdom in our decisions.

For example, think of a father in a house. A father can't talk in the stupid way that his children talk. No. A father has authority. He can't even descend to the level of his wife. He has more authority. The more authority he has, the more he needs wisdom in making decisions. Think of an instance where God gives responsibility for leadership in a little local church. One has to be extremely careful. That's why I believe God trains young people to see whether they're growing in wisdom; to see whether they're being careful with their lips before he can commit any responsibility to them. This is the reason why God can't commit responsibility to a lot of people whether they are young or old: because they don't seem to be growing in wisdom. They take all types of foolish decisions without waiting on God and seeking for his guidance in humility. So we have to be very careful. The king's mouth should not make a mistake in judgment. The more responsibility we have, the more careful we have to be in decisions that we make.

    A just balance and scales belong to the Lord;
    All the weights of the bag are His concern.

    Prov 16:11
    The Lord demands fairness in every business deal. He established this

    Prov 16:11, TLB

There is a fantastic amount of sin in buying and selling. We have to be very careful, particularly when we are selling something. If somebody else cheats us, we don't have to worry. That's not so serious. If we cheat another person, that's serious. If you've cheated one person of one rupee, do you know that that is much more serious than another person having cheated you of 1,000 rupees? But out in the world, people don't look at it like that. They get more concerned when somebody else cheats them of 1,000 rupees, and they are not at all disturbed when they cheat someone else of one rupee. But for a true God-fearing Christian, it's exactly the opposite. He's more disturbed that he has cheated a person of fifty paise than if somebody else cheated him of 1,000 rupees. Fairness. The Lord demands fairness. Let the people out in the world live as they like, but God's people have to go by this principle. It says he has established this principle. All balances and scales are the Lord's and the weights in the bag are his. He wants to see that they are accurate. He's talking about Christians who are doing business. Don't copy the other businessmen and do what they do.

I remember a story of a Christian cobbler who always used the best leather to repair his shoes, unlike all the other cobblers who were using cheap leather. One day his assistant asked him, "Why do you do that? You're losing such a lot of money." And he said, "I believe in the day of judgment when I stand before Christ, there will be a big pile of shoes there - all the shoes that I repaired. And Jesus will pick them up one by one and say, 'John, that wasn't a good job you did on this shoe.' What will I answer to Him - that all the other cobblers did that? No. I'm not living just to make a few rupees more like the other cobblers. I'm thinking of what Jesus will say when he picks up that shoe in the day of judgment and examines it and asks me about my work." That was his work. He wasn't a preacher. He was a cobbler. And as much as each preacher has to give an account for every sermon he preaches, each cobbler has to give an account for every shoe that he makes. And whatever your job is, you have to give an account to God of the way you've done your job.

The Lord demands fairness in every business deal. He's established this as a principle. That means that in every area where we are involved in money, buying or selling, we have to see to it that we are fair. We even have to be fair to the person from whom we are buying something. After all, he also has to make some profit in order to live. Put yourself in his shoes. He's not going around, selling things as a social service. He's selling things because he has to earn a living and support his family. And I must think of that and be fair to him. I also must be fair when I sell anything to another person. As we've often said: if something is not working properly, tell the person frankly. "This is not working. So you can fix a price for that." Absolute honesty. It's far better to get a little honestly than to get a little more dishonestly. These are the marks of a God-fearing man.

    It is a horrible thing for a king to do evil. His right to rule depends
        upon his fairness.

    Prov 16:12, TLB

This is connected with verse 11. The Lord demands fairness. Do you call yourself a king since Jesus has made us kings and priests unto God the Father (Revelation 1:6)? Well, if you're a king, it's a horrible thing for you to be unfair in a business deal. Consider that. It's terrible. It's an abomination for a king to go around cheating someone. His right to rule in the millennium depends upon his fairness now. The New American Standard Bible says, "His throne is established on righteousness." In other words, God doesn't give me the right to rule in the millennium if he finds that during my time on earth, I was not absolutely honest. That's how a lot of people are going to lose their throne. There are many instances in the Old Testament of kings of Israel and Judah who lost their thrones. God removed them from their thrones, beginning with Saul. All this is written for our instruction. If we are unfaithful, God will take away the throne from us. We can't automatically assume that we'll be sitting on the throne when Jesus comes. That throne is established on righteousness, it says. That's why he is testing us on the earth today: "In an unrighteous world, let me see who will be righteous." Those are the people that are fit to rule in that new kingdom where "righteousness is at home" as we read in 2 Peter 3:13.

    Righteous lips are the delight of kings,
    And he who speaks right is loved.

    Prov 16:13

We can look at God as a king here. God, the king of the universe, delights in righteous lips. And he who speaks what is right is loved by the king of the universe. So that is something we can long for - that the king of the universe would love us. And he loves those who speak what is right. Notice in the book of Proverbs what a fantastic emphasis is placed on the tongue. There is no Old Testament book that speaks so much about the tongue as the book of Proverbs. And that's why I said that this is like a New Covenant book in the middle of the Old Testament. There's a spirit of the New Covenant in the book of Proverbs. That's why it tells us to seek wisdom. It's a book of wisdom. And wisdom has such a tremendous amount to do with our speech. That's why we've been exhorted again and again in the church: be careful with the words you say.

I want to write especially to sisters, because the New Testament says that women have a particular weakness in this area. They have a tendency of becoming gossips and scandalmongers, going around carrying tales and stories. It's a particular weakness of women. It's not me saying that - the Holy Spirit has said it. The creator who created man and women has said that the woman has a tendency of becoming a gossip. And when women see that, they will be more careful. Just like men are tempted more in the area of sex than women are - in the same way, women are tempted much more in the area of the tongue. That is their weak spot. They have to be careful just like men have to be careful with their eyes. Women have to be careful with their tongues. There are specific weaknesses like this in men and women. So that's a word that sisters should particularly take care of - that God loves those who have so disciplined their tongues as to speak what is right and good at all times.

    The fury of the king is like messengers of death,
    But a wise man will appease it.

    Prov 16:14

We can look at it like this: let's say that the king is your boss in your office. A wise man will know how to handle a situation when the boss is angry. Let's say you find your unconverted boss in the office full of wrath one morning - wrath as strong as messengers of death. If you're a wise man, that's where your wisdom is tested. You go to the office and see him like this, and God gives you wisdom to cool him down. Think of that. Think of that ministry that we can have in the heathen offices in the city. That's a tremendous thing. We need to take that seriously. A wise man will know how to quieten that wrath. That's wisdom. Here we see our need and our lack of wisdom, and we can cry out to God.

    In the light of a king's face is life,
    And his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain.

    Prov 16:15

We can think again of God as the king of the universe, and in the light of his face (that means his favor and his presence and the fact that he looks upon us with favor) there is light. God's favor is like a cloud with the spring rain that waters the parched ground. Many believers are like the parched, dry fields. They haven't received any rain. They're not green and fresh. But it says here that when God's favor is upon us, as we stand in his presence, it's like a cloud with the spring rain. This speaks of the latter rain - the freshness that comes through the Holy Spirit that makes us green like the green fields.

    How much better it is to get wisdom than gold!
    And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver.

    Prov 16:16

This teaches us what we've considered many times in the book of Proverbs: that true wealth is wisdom. In other words, do you want to know how rich you are? We're not to be so foolish as to calculate our bank account or our earthly assets to find out how rich we are. We are as rich as we have divine wisdom in our life. That is: purity, peaceableness, gentleness, mercy, willingness to yield, impartiality, freedom from hypocrisy - everything listed in James 3:17, the marks of divine wisdom. As much as I have those qualities in my life, I'm rich. That's why the Lord has to say to many believers, "You do not know that you are poor and blind and naked. You have so much bible knowledge and a large ministry and gifts to do so many things. You have so many talents - musical talents and other talents. And you think that you are rich, but you do not know that in terms of heaven's riches, you're a poor man." It's a sad thing when we live in ignorance of our poverty. Wisdom is the true wealth, it tells us here. Very few people understand that it's better to get wisdom than gold and better to choose wisdom than silver.

Think of marriages in India where people think in terms of money. How much money is the man earning? How much money will the woman bring in marriage? Even among believers. What does it show? They haven't understood this verse. They don't think, "How much divine wisdom does this man have? How much divine wisdom does this girl have?" That's secondary. That's the blindness in Christendom today, and that is where the church stands as an island in the middle of this ocean of folly. We must see that riches are not the main thing.

    The highway of the upright is to depart from evil;
    He who watches his way preserves his life.

    Prov 16:17

The way of the upright is called a highway. And it becomes a highway by departing from evil. That's all there is to it. Here it says we have to watch that we walk on this way. In other words, we have to be on the alert. Jesus often used the words, "watch and pray." What does it mean to watch? It just means be on the alert. Don't go to sleep spiritually. Be on the alert! Be sensitive where your conscience is pricking you about that thing. Be alert! You may fall off the way altogether if you ignore that prick of conscience in that decision you're taking. Be on the alert about your way, and thus you can preserve your life. Be alert about your walk.

    Pride goes before destruction,
    And a haughty spirit before stumbling.

    Prov 16:18

Before a man falls into sin, you can be sure there's some pride in him. Because if he didn't have pride and he was humble, God would have given him grace in the time of temptation. God gives his grace to the humble. Why didn't that man get grace? Grace would have made him overcome sin. Sin cannot have dominion over those who are under grace (Romans 6:14). Why didn't the man get grace in the moment of temptation? Because God saw, even if the man didn't realize it himself, some pride in him. And so we can say pride is the cause of falling into sin. That's all it says here. Pride goes before that final destruction in Hell and a haughty spirit before stumbling.

In Luke 16, we read about Lazarus and the rich man who was in Hell. That rich man saw Lazarus sitting in Abraham's bosom, and Abraham told the rich man, "There's a big gulf between you and us. You can't cross here, and we can't cross there." What was that gulf? That gulf is pride! That's the thing that sends people to Hell. You can't cross over into heaven if you have pride. It's not that people in Hell necessarily murdered and committed adultery. We'll be surprised to see the number of murderers and adulteresses and thieves in heaven. And you'll also be surprised (but I won't be) when we see bishops in Hell. I hope you won't be either. They're going to be there. Lots of them. Arch bishops and popes by the hundreds, because of their pride in their religion. Pride goes before destruction; and a haughty spirit before stumbling. You see that haughty spirit even in so-called Christian leaders. That's why they lose their temper and can't get victory over lust and are defeated by sin. It's all because of their pride and their high thoughts about themselves. If there's one thing that God detests in the universe, it's pride. And it's worse when it's religious pride.

    It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly
    Than to divide the spoil with the proud.

    Prov 16:19

This is in contrast to the previous verse. It is telling us, brothers and sisters, to mingle with humble brothers and sisters. Don't spend your time with all the proud, haughty people of the world. Mingle with the humble brothers and sisters. Now, there's a false understanding of humility in the world. Some people think being humble means being poor. No. There are a lot of poor people who are very proud. There's no connection between humility and material poverty. Mingle with humble people and with lowly people. It is better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly - those who have small thoughts about themselves - because that spirit can rub off on us when we mingle with them. When we mingle with people who are proud, their spirit can rub off on us too. There's a wise man who once said, "When you mingle with proud people, it's just like touching tar." Tar is the stuff you put on the road. If you touch tar, it's so difficult to get it off your hand. Just try it sometime. Get tar on your hand and try to take it off. It's quite a task to get rid of it. If you mingle with proud people, it will rub off on you and after some time, you will get that spirit. So steer clear of these haughty, proud people in the world and this high-society that people want to mingle in. Avoid that! It affects your spirit. Mingle with lowly people and with the humble people of the world. God is with them. That's a good exhortation. It says it's better to do that "…than to divide the spoil with the proud." That means to sit there for the fantastic meals that the rich, proud people can offer. We don't want to spend all our time with high-society people and catch that spirit. It's an infection. We have to avoid it.

    He who gives attention to the word will find good,
    And blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.

    Prov 16:20
    God blesses those who obey him; happy is the man who puts his trust in
        the Lord.

    Prov 16:20, TLB

This is telling us the two main things of the New Testament: trust and obey. God has given us his word basically for two purposes: that we might obey it and that we might trust him (because of the promises he's given us in his word). If we have learned through his word to trust him and to obey him, we can say we are coming to know the scriptures. We can't say we're coming to know the scriptures when we can quote a reference or when we've understood a doctrine. We can understand all the doctrines of the bible and quote all the references in the bible and be the devil himself in our characters. The devil can quote all the references and he knows all the doctrines. God has not given us his word for that, but that we might obey and trust him. So the more we obey him and the more we trust him through his word, we can say the more we're coming to know the word of God. That's the test.

    A wise, mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant
        his words, the more persuasive he is.

    Prov 16:21, GNT

In other words, it's easier to convince people through pleasant words than through harsh words. And wisdom and maturity are manifested in the fact that we know how to speak pleasantly to people, instead of getting upset and getting in a bad mood. Those are the marks of an immature, foolish, stupid person. But if we know how to be pleasant with our words, we can persuade people much more than by getting upset. That's a mark of wisdom and maturity.

    Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it,
    But the discipline of fools is folly.

    Prov 16:22
    Wisdom is a fountain of life to the wise, but trying to educate stupid
        people is a waste of time.

    Prov 16:22, GNT

Jesus said, "Don't cast your pearls before swine and don't give that which is holy to the dogs." Whenever we speak to people, we need to first discern: does this person have a heart for the things of the Lord? If he does not have a heart for the things of the Lord, there's no use sharing spiritual things with him. It's an absolute waste of time trying to speak to him all types of spiritual things. It's like throwing pearls before swine or giving that which is holy to a dog.

    The heart of the wise instructs his mouth
    And adds persuasiveness to his lips.

    Prov 16:23

Notice the connection here to what we read in Romans 10:9: that what man believes in the heart, he confesses with his mouth. And also what Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks." And like we read in Acts 2:4 that on the day of Pentecost, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit in their hearts, the overflow came through their mouths - speaking in other tongues. There's a very close connection between the heart and the mouth. You can't believe in the heart without confessing with your mouth. You can't be filled in the heart without overflowing through the mouth. So what this basically means is: I have to see to it that my heart is right if I want my tongue to be right. It's not just a question of controlling the tongue like a good Buddhist. It's a question of having a good heart. The heart teaches the mouth what to say. I think about what I say. I don't just pour out words without thinking. That's how it must be.

    Pleasant (or kind) words are a honeycomb,
    Sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

    Prov 16:24

This tells us about the type of words that come from a good heart: that is kind words. Kind words don't come naturally to us. We have to be kind in our hearts before we can speak kind words to people. Basically, all of us have a flesh in which kindness does not dwell. Have we discovered that? Have we discovered that there's not one atom of kindness that dwells in our flesh? I'll tell you why: because kindness is a good thing, and the bible says that no good thing dwells in my flesh. That means there's not even one atom of kindness that dwells in my flesh. What dwells in our fleshes then? Harshness, evil, and unkindness. That's what dwells in our fleshes. All these qualities are trying to get inside our hearts each moment. And once they have gotten inside our hearts, they will begin to overflow through our mouths. The mouth is the overflow valve of the heart. I know what's gotten into my heart by seeing what's coming out from my tongue. If I find unkindness and evil and harshness coming out from my tongue, then I know these things got into my heart first. I can't be talking about spiritual victory and all that if this is the case. I really have to take up the battle here and see that God wants me to be kind. Speak words of encouragement to people.

    There is a way which seems right to a man,
    But its end is the way of death.

    Prov 16:25

We considered this earlier in Proverbs 14:12. This is the broad way - the way whereby you don't have to go through the narrow gate. You don't have to take up the cross everyday. Jesus said, "If you want to follow me, you have to take up the cross everyday." But in the world, there are even many Christians who think they can follow Jesus without taking up the cross everyday. That is one of the greatest deceptions that Satan has perpetrated on the Christian world today - telling people that they can follow Jesus without taking up the cross everyday. You can't find that in the New Testament. They think it's alright: "I'm doing good. I'm witnessing, evangelizing, sacrificing, giving money to the Lord. I've even become a full-time worker." It looks alright on the surface, but Jesus said it's impossible to follow him unless we take up the cross everyday. That's clear. Luke 9:23 is so clear. And yet there is a way that seems right to a man. But in the end you will discover this way is death because it is not the way of the cross. The way of the cross is the way that leads to life.

    Hunger is good - if it makes you work to satisfy it!

    Prov 16:26, TLB

This means we shouldn't be lazy. If a man does not work, neither should he eat. We have to be careful that we do not encourage people to eat who do not want to work, because God's word forbids it. If a man's not willing to work, he should not eat.

I feel there's an application here in a country like India where we have this fantastic problem of beggars. I see that there are two types of beggars: There are those who are maimed, lame, have leprosy, or unable to work because of age. Such beggars deserve our kindness and our help. But then there are others - small boys who are hail and hearty, who are just being sent off by their parents to beg. In that case, it's not at all a good thing to give them money. It's far better to encourage a boy who wants to do some work, even if it's polishing your shoes or looking after your scooter. Something! He must be willing to do some work! We can give him something to do - it's a principle. It's not the complete solution to this problem, but this simple principle is good for us to keep in mind. Hunger is good if it makes you work to satisfy it.

    Idle hands are the devil's workshop; idle lips are his mouthpiece.

    Prov 16:27, TLB
    Evil people look for ways to harm others; even their words burn with

    Prov 16:27, GNT

This is in contrast to verse 26. Idle hands are the devil's workshop and idle lips are his mouthpiece. But there's something more in this verse which I want to share. The Good News Translation says that evil people's words burn with evil. Whose words? Evil people's. Now, what I need to ask myself is not, "Am I an evil man? Am I an evil woman?" Every one of us would say no. "I'm not an evil man. I'm not an evil woman." That's not where we should start when meditating on this verse. Start at the other end of the verse and say, "Do I ever speak words that burn other people?" If so, whether I know it or not, I am an evil person. Start at the other end of the verse and work backwards, and you'll discover you are an evil person. Because you're speaking words that are meant to BURN that other person! We discover that we don't know our spiritual condition. That's the mark of an evil person.

The New American Standard Bible says, "A worthless person digs up evil." Think of that. And in the margin it says, "A man of Belial digs up evil." That means a demonic man. Belial is a name for the devil. A demonic man is one who digs up evil! That means the evil was already buried. For example, someone did something against you three months ago or six months ago, and you were moved in some revival meeting in the church two weeks ago to bury it. You decided to be finished with dwelling on it. You knelt down and said, "Lord, I forgive that man. I've finished dwelling on it. I forgive him." But now the revival is gone, and you're back to normal now. You're digging up that thing which you said you buried two weeks ago. It's back again! A demonic man does that. God has forgiven it. And you said before God that day that you had forgiven it too. But still you look at that person and dig up that time he said this thing and the other time he did that thing. Think of that. Even husbands and wives sometimes dig up things which they said they had forgiven one another for. They haven't forgiven one another! They're still digging it up. They have a big fight and then they dig up everything. This is a man of Belial and a woman of Belial calling themselves believers - demonic men and women! The world is full of them. They are demonic because they are accusers, and Satan is the accuser of the brethren. Brothers and sisters, I pray that there won't be one man or woman of Belial in the church who's so demonic as to be an accuser; who digs up what God has forgiven and what you yourself said you had forgiven. It's gone. You buried it. Forget it now. Look at that person with the new mercies with which God looks upon you. That's good. That's to be divine.

When a worthless man digs up evil, it says his words become like a scorching fire. Like James says: "His tongue is set on fire with the fire of Hell." It's amazing how one moment the tongue can be set on fire with Hell and then with the same mouth, we bless God. The speaking in tongues and the tongue of fire which was on the apostles on the day of Pentecost was the heavenly fire. How can we then come out with the fire of Hell and curse our fellow men? One time this fire, and the other time that fire. This is confusion. It shouldn't be like that. It should always be that heavenly fire that purifies my speech. The words of the Lord are refined in the furnace seven times, it says in Psalms 12:6. I've thought of it like this: that before you speak a word, think about it. Put it in the furnace. Take it out. Put it in the furnace. Take it out. Seven times. "Lord, should I say that?" You may find that after the fourth or fifth time, God says, "There's no need to say that." Then you don't say it, because the Lord said not to. The words of the Lord are pure words, purified seven times. That's how God wants us to speak or write letters. The words we speak must not be this scorching fire, but the purity of the fire of heaven. It's very simple if we can just be a little patient before we speak. Humble yourself and say, "Let me put it in the Lord's furnace and see whether it's pure enough to speak to my brother or sister or my husband or wife or anyone." Then we'll find that we'll be saved from a fantastic amount of stupidity and folly and broken relationships and 1,001 other things. Our life would be so glorious if we only followed this simple rule.

    A perverse man spreads strife,
    And a slanderer separates intimate friends.

    Prov 16:28

Here's another mark of an evil man or an evil woman. He goes to somebody's house and says something about brother X or sister Y. At the end of that half hour conversation about that brother X or sister Y, ask yourself, "After this person's visit, did he succeed in bringing my family closer to brother X and closer to sister Y or a little further away from them? Has he succeeded in making us love one another more or has he succeeded in making us despise that person a little more?" There we can see so much of the conversations that go on are just to paint a bad picture of another person. Such a person is a perverse man/woman - another man/woman of Belial. They separate intimate friends by saying something that's not good. Terrible. It's terrible when it is found in the congregation of the righteous. The word of God is very clear on these matters, and we have to be very careful we don't fall into this category.

    A man of violence entices his neighbor
    And leads him in a way that is not good.

    Prov 16:29
    Violent people deceive their friends and lead them to disaster.

    Prov 16:29, GNT
    Wickedness loves company - and leads others into sin.

    Prov 16:29, TLB

I believe this is something which particularly young people need to bear in mind. Be careful about the type of company you keep and that they don't lead you into sin. They begin with just dirty jokes. Then it gradually moves on to a little drink, and then to other things. Bad company can lead to so many problems. Steer clear of them. Blessed are those young people who, from their school days, have known to stay away from those who are not seeking a godly life. I'm not saying not to talk to them, but keep a little distance. Don't get too friendly with those who are worldly minded, that they can lead you astray from God. Beware of your company. And if you fellowship with an angry man, you can get into trouble yourself one day. Beware of fellowship with violent, angry people.

    He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things;
    He who compresses his lips brings evil to pass.

    Prov 16:30
    Watch out for people who grin and wink at you; they have thought of
        something evil.

    Prov 16:30, GNT

These are your friends who are grinning at you and winking at you, and they have something evil in mind. Be careful about these people who try to act so friendly, but are really seeking to get some company for their sin.

    A grey head is a crown of glory;
    If it is found in the way of righteousness.

    Prov 16:31

This means that it's wonderful, as a brother or a sister, to grow old and for your hair to become grey. It says it's a crown of glory. Think of that. Who in the world doesn't want to have a crown of glory? But it says here, "A grey head is a crown of glory." All these men and women who dye their hair, they don't believe this or know this. They don't believe grey hair is a crown of glory at all. They believe it's a disgrace. That's the trouble with a whole lot of people in the world: they all like to look young. But here it says that a grey head is a crown of glory. But not automatically. No. There are a lot of grey-headed, 70 year-old men still lusting after women, I'm sorry to say. There are a lot of grey-headed, 70 year-old women who are grumpy, miserable, and make life miserable for everybody around them. There's no glory there. There's just the grey hair, but no glory at all. But if grey hair is found in the way of righteousness, then it is a crown of glory! Think of that.

Think of a man who was wholeheartedly gripped with the New and Living Way when he was young. He faithfully, faithfully, faithfully walked that way so that when he grows old, he's so considerate; he's so desirous not to make himself a bother to others - because he spent his whole life trying to deny himself and live for the glory of God. Think of a saint like that. What a glory there is there. Even young people want to be with such a man to know more of God. That's a wonderful thing. And I just want to say, dear sisters, when you see a grumpy, miserable, old woman somewhere, think of yourself. One day you'll be like that if you don't deny yourself now when you're young. Brothers, when you see a self-centered, miserable, critical old man, be careful. You can end up like that if you don't start denying yourself when you're young. If you think you can start denying yourself when you're 60, it's too late. Start now so that you can grow old gracefully and graciously. When people get old, they have so many aches and pains and weaknesses and physical infirmities, insecurities, and so many things. And with all that, if you see an older person cheerful, good-natured, kind, good, not complaining, you can see that God has done a work in such a person. It's wonderful to grow old like that. A grey head is a crown of glory if it is found in the way of righteousness. So that's a wonderful thing. If you want to be wise later on, it's good to start on that way when you're young.

    He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
    And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.

    Prov 16:32

There are two conquerors mentioned: this great conqueror who could conquer so many cities, and the other man who could conquer the lusts in his own flesh. It says the man who conquered the lusts in his flesh is a greater conqueror in God's eyes. It's easy to conquer a city. It's more difficult to conquer your anger. Be a conqueror! You can be a greater conqueror than Alexander the Great if you can conquer the lusts in your flesh and overcome that vile temper of yours. To be patient. To be slow to anger means to be patient. A patient man is greater than a world conqueror. And he who rules his spirit - that means in all circumstances he has control over his spirit. He's calm. Better than any conqueror of anything.

    The lot is cast into the lap,
   But its every decision is from the Lord.

    Prov 16:33

This verse tells us about the way they used to have guidance in Old Testament times. They did not have the Holy Spirit in those days to guide them. The only way they could find guidance was like how people toss a coin today (heads or tails). They cast the lot into the lap to find out what to do. Even before the day of Pentecost, when they wanted to find out who was to be the twelfth apostle, they cast the lot and picked. That is not God's way after the coming of the Holy Spirit. The last time they cast lots was in Acts 1. Now God has given us the Holy Spirit. He leads us into all the truth through the word of God.

Chapter 17
Chapter 17

    Better is a dry morsel and quietness with it
    Than a house full of feasting with strife.

    Prov 17:1
    Better to eat a dry crust of bread with peace of mind than have a
        banquet in a house full of trouble.

    Prov 17:1, GNT

This verse comes back to what we considered earlier about the type of food we eat in the house. In Proverbs 15:17, it was talking about herbs - now we have dry crusts of bread. You know the crust itself is pretty hard and on top of that it's dry. But Solomon says it's better to sit and eat a dry crust of bread in a house where there is quietness. There aren't many houses where there's quietness, where there's no YELLING!! And SCREAMING!! It's alright for children to do that because they don't have wisdom. But it's a terrible thing when the adults in the house are yelling and screaming. Where there's quietness and the adults also know how to stop the little children from yelling and screaming, that's good. Compare a house where there's quietness with a house full of feasting with fantastic food but there is strife, bitterness and quarrels between the husband and wife. What's the use of a grand meal if there's quarreling between the husband and the wife? It's better to have a dry crust of bread. That shows us the great importance of peace.

In another translation the house is called "a house full of sacrifices" (it says in the margin: sacrifices of strife). That means religious sacrifices. This is a religious house but there's strife there. There are arguments in the middle of all their religion, prayers and bible reading. That's a sad thing. It is far better to eat a dry crust with peace. The bible places great importance on having quietness and peace at home.

    A servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who acts shamefully,
    And will share in the inheritance among brothers.

    Prov 17:2

In the Old Testament they were called servants (Galatians 4:1-7). In the New Covenant we are called sons. And you know there's a difference in your home between a servant and a son. That's the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. You may care for your servant. However, there's a lot of difference between your care for your son and your care for a servant. But let's not sit and think that we are greater than Abraham, Jacob and David and all these Old Covenant people, because it says a servant who acts wisely will rule over a son who claims to be in the New Covenant and then acts more shamefully than that servant under the Old Covenant. There are lots of so-called sons today who act disgracefully - in a way which would make Elijah and Elisha cover their faces in shame. God is righteous to give that rulership to a servant who acts wisely instead. The first will be last and the last will be first. That teaches us also that in the church, as we've often considered, somebody could have been in the church for a number of years - a senior brother - and some younger brother can overtake him spiritually because that senior brother is not denying himself in his private life. He's not humbling himself, he's not judging himself, he's not walking in the light. It's a sad thing. That happens all over the world: where those who have come in later spiritually progress ahead of those who have been in the church from the beginning. The servant overtakes that son. The first has become last and the last has become first, and the elders have now become "youngers" even though their age is higher. They haven't become wiser or more mature or humbler or more patient. That's sad. God is righteous. There's no partiality with him. He gives to all equally. He doesn't look at a man for his seniority in service. There is no seniority in service in the kingdom of God, especially in the areas of maturity and the fear of God and wisdom.

    The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold,
    But the Lord tests hearts.

    Prov 17:3

God is called the God who tests the righteous (Jeremiah 20:12). He doesn't tempt us, but he tests us like he tested Abraham and Peter and David. He tests us before he commits a responsibility to us. And that's why he puts us in the fire - so that he can improve us. It says "refining pot." The refining pot is not for destroying the silver but for purifying it. That teaches us that when the Lord tests us and puts us in the fire, it's not for destroying us - it's for purifying us. That way he can commit a ministry to us. Just like silver and gold are refined, the Lord refines the righteous and tests their hearts.

    An evildoer listens to wicked lips;
    A liar pays attention to a destructive tongue.

    Prov 17:4

This teaches us that gossipers listen to other gossipers. Birds of a feather flock together. The reason why gossipers come to your home and gossip, whether you realize it or not, is because you're a gossiper yourself. There is a law in economics that says that supply always matches demand. That means if there's a demand for something, it'll be supplied. So the reason why gossip is supplied in your house is because people sense that you like it.

It says, "An evil doer listens to wicked lips..." It's not just speaking evil things that makes a person guilty. It doesn't say here that an evil doer has wicked lips. It says here that an evil doer listens to wicked lips. That means the person who is listening to gossip is as guilty as the person who is gossiping. Listening to gossip is an evil action. As we considered before, supply meets demand, which means: because people find that in a certain home the people are glad to listen to juicy gossip about others, they come to such homes. But they know in certain other homes, the people are not interested in such gossip and so they don't go to such homes. So if you find a lot of gossipers coming to your home, you can be pretty sure that there's something in your spirit that attracts them. Birds of a feather flock together, and the gossiper is supplying a demand that he senses in your spirit. That's why someone who listens to wicked lips is called an 'evildoer'. And it is a liar who pays attention to a destructive tongue. A person who's tearing another person to pieces with his tongue is paid attention to only by a person who is a liar and a deceiver himself.

    He who mocks the poor taunts his Maker;
    He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished.

    Prov 17:5

This can apply to mocking a person for any infirmity that he has. Maybe the way a person walks or the way a person talks or the way a person conducts himself in some way that is peculiar. Maybe he has an infirmity, maybe he has a weakness, maybe he stammers, maybe he limps, and somebody else sits and laughs at it. Small children, who have no wisdom, laughing is one thing, but when parents who call themselves believers also laugh with children at the infirmity of another person or at the poverty of another person, they are actually reproaching his Maker. Poverty can be of money or of speech or of grammar or of so many other things. When we laugh at the poverty of another person in any area, we are reproaching his Maker. Never forget that. When we mock a person, we are mocking the person's Maker. And that's why a really God-fearing Christian will never mock another person. We have to be careful about our children making fun of teachers and encouraging that type of behavior. No - that's not healthy. There's a little bit of a spirit of rebellion in that which we have to make sure we don't tolerate in our homes. And usually we mock others in some area where we ourselves are good.

Then it says, "He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished." Now I'll tell you that in all of our flesh, there dwells this evil thing. Not that we are happy when a misfortune falls upon somebody else, but we're not entirely sad. That's a sad thing. We're not entirely sad when some misfortune happens to somebody else. That's how it is in the flesh. We're very sad if it happens to us, but we're not entirely sad when it happens to someone else. That attitude dwells in our flesh, and we have to be ruthless with it. It says, "He who rejoices at calamity will not go unpunished."

Let me show you a verse in the book of Obadiah - one of the lesser known books in the Old Testament. Obadiah comes after Hosea, Joel, and then Amos. In Obadiah 1:11-12, God spoke to Edom who was a descendant of Esau, the brother of Jacob. Edom should have been concerned when he saw Israel suffering, but it says, "On the day that you stood aloof, on the day that strangers carried off his wealth…Do not gloat over your brother's day, the day of his misfortune. And do not rejoice over the sons of Judah on the day of their destruction; Yes, do not boast on the day of their distress." Some calamity happened to the Israelites, and the Edomites just watched it and rejoiced. Then it goes on to say how the Lord was going to punish them for that. We can be just a wee bit happy when things don't go well with somebody else, particularly if that other person is someone with whom you don't have a very good relationship. If we have a very good relationship with someone, we'll never be happy when things don't go well for them. But if there's just a little bit of coldness, then we find that we can detect it when something goes wrong. We may not be rejoicing over it, but we're not entirely unhappy. The word of God says not to rejoice when something unfortunate happens to someone else - some calamity - because the punishment can come upon you.

    Grandparents are proud of their grandchildren, just as children are
        proud of their parents.

    Prov 17:6, GNT

That's very clear. I think all grandfathers in the world are proud of their grandchildren. Now, let me put the verse another way so that we can try to understand the second part: "Let your son be proud of you just as grandfathers are proud of their children." In other words, if you're a father, live in such a way that your son or daughter can be proud that you're his or her father - in the same way that grandparents are proud of their grandchildren. Think of that. Think of being such a father or such a mother. Think of your children never having any cause for reproach or reason to be ashamed of their parents in any way.

    Excellent speech is not fitting for a fool,
    Much less are lying lips to a prince.

    Prov 17:7
    Truth from a rebel or lies from a king are both unexpected.

    Prov 17:7, TLB

We know that a person who's foolish really does not have the ability to bring forth excellent speech. Equally, there is another thing that is quite unfitting: a person who claims that Jesus Christ has made him a king and a priest, but tells a lie in some situation. For a person who calls himself a king and a prince in the kingdom of God to tell a lie or give a false impression or say something which is not truthful or exaggerate something (which is just another form of lying) is quite unfitting. Quite unfitting.

    Some people think a bribe works like magic; they believe it can do

    Prov 17:8, GNT

There are many verses in the book of Proverbs and other portions of scripture about those who receive bribes - that one should not receive a bribe. But this is one of the few, if not the only verse, which refers to those who give bribes. It says people who give bribes think that a bribe works like magic - like a precious stone or a charm - and they believe it can do anything. That's what they say in the world: "Money can do anything." What they mean by "money" is a bribe. "A bribe can do anything." That's exactly what the book of Proverbs says that people in the world are like. They have a bribe in their hand and it's like a magic stone. It can accomplish anything they want. That is the mark of the people in the world.

But in the New Testament, Jesus taught us that God can do anything - that he who has faith in God can do anything. And that is the great conflict. Satan says money can do anything, and then God has his representatives who say that God can do anything. God's true representatives are very few, because many who claim to be his representatives also believe that money can do anything. But there are a few among his representatives that believe God can do anything. It is a fantastic thing to be a person about whom God can say, "There's a man who proves that I can do anything. He does not depend on mammon like people out there in the world." So this is a verse that speaks about those who give bribes.

    He who conceals a transgression seeks love,
    But he who repeats a matter separates intimate friends.

    Prov 17:9

We have considered this many times - that one of the clearest marks of love is that when you see a transgression, you want to cover it. You don't want to talk about it. When you see something in a brother that's wrong, if at all you do speak, you go to that brother himself. It says that very clearly in Matthew 18:15. This is one of those commands of Jesus which almost no believers obey at all. Very few believers obey the command which says: if your brother sins against you, go and speak to him alone. Most believers go and talk about it to someone else, some other believer, some other brother or sister in the church. They say, "This brother came to my house and did this," or, "That person did that." Why don't you go to that person himself like Jesus said you must do? One who is God-fearing will not repeat a matter. One who repeats a matter is either seeking self-pity or trying to justify himself. Both are equally Satanic and evil. On top of that, he is separating these brothers/sisters who may have been good friends.

We need wisdom - we don't need to say everything that we know. Even if we know something, we don't have to repeat it. Let it die with us. Or let us do what it says in 1 John 5:16: if anyone sees his brother sin, what must he do? Let him ask God and God will give him life! That also hardly anybody does. Those are the two things the word of God says: Go and speak to him privately (Matthew 18:15) or pray for him if you can't speak to him (1 John 5:16). Pray for him that God will forgive him and give him life. One of these two. But to repeat it to somebody else is forbidden UNLESS it is a sin which you want to help him from but you feel you aren't able to. Then you should go and speak to one of the elder brothers who has responsibility over that person and the elder brothers can help him. That is the only case in which it is acceptable to tell someone else. In that case, you have spoken with a good spirit to help that person. Otherwise, all repeating of matters to others is evil.

    A rebuke goes deeper into one who has understanding
    Than a hundred blows into a fool.

    Prov 17:10

The book of Proverbs speaks so much about our attitude to rebuke and correction as one of the marks of wisdom. It's amazing how many times it comes in the book of Proverbs. A rebuke from God or a rebuke from a brother or a rebuke from a father. And think - this verse says that if I'm really a wise man, then just those few words will have a far deeper effect on me than a person getting 100 lashes on his back. In Islamic countries even nowadays they do public lashings to frighten people from stealing. And think that 100 lashes cannot teach a fool more than one word of rebuke can teach a wise man. That's the mark of a wise man - that he's quick to respond to rebuke and correction.

How is it, children, when your fathers correct you? Is one word of correction enough? Or 100 beatings don't accomplish it? That's the difference between a wise child and a foolish child. What about a wife? Think about if your husband points out something in you. Do you get so offended that you won't speak to him for the next one week? Then you are a fool indeed. 100 lashes would be better for you. That's a sad thing. God wants wise children, wise wives, wise brothers and sisters. He desires wisdom in our homes - where a word of correction can really be taken seriously so that we grow wiser. Why do we get so offended? Because we think, "Oh, that person thinks so little of me." Well, why should that bother us? Why not humble ourselves and see if there's any truth in that word of correction or rebuke? Maybe there is! If our interest is cleansing ourselves, we'll be glad to receive correction. But if our interest is honor-seeking, then we will get very offended. That's when we find that a word of correction exposes what we're really seeking in life. So, correction is a very wonderful exposer of our real motives and desires in life.

    Death will come like a cruel messenger to wicked people who are always
        stirring up trouble.

    Prov 17:11, GNT

The cruel messenger is death, and the person who continues to create trouble and rebel against God and do things which are contrary to his word - God will speak to him through his word first, then God will speak to him through sickness, then through more sickness, and if he still doesn't listen, then death will be sent as a cruel messenger to those who are always stirring up trouble. God loves those who seek for peace.

    Let a man meet a bear robbed of her cubs,
    Rather than a fool in his folly.

    Prov 17:12

Think of the way the Holy Spirit describes a man who is not wise - a fool in his folly. What is it particularly referring to here? If you were to meet a bear in a jungle who has been robbed - a mother bear who has just been robbed of her newly born cubs - what sort of attitude do you expect to meet in that mother bear? FURY! ANGER THAT WILL TEAR YOU TO PIECES! And it says a fool who loses his temper is like that. But it's better to meet that bear than to face someone who calls himself a human being or calls herself a human being and behaves like that bear who's been robbed of her cubs.

What are we usually robbed of which causes us to lose our temper? Our rights. "I have a right to be respected and to be honored." This person robbed me of my rights and my honor and now I'm like this bear - robbed of that which is most precious to me. The kingdom of God is not the most precious for me, but rather my rights, my honor, my reputation. I've been robbed. There's a saying in English which says, "Anger is temporary madness." It's true. For a few moments, a person goes insane. He doesn't know what he's saying or what he's doing. He behaves like an animal. The word of God speaks much about anger. That's why Jesus spoke about our having victory over it in Matthew 5.

    He who returns evil for good,
    Evil will not depart from his house.

    Prov 17:13

Now that's a terrible thing. Jesus taught us to return good for evil. Overcome evil with good. You see, evil has tremendous power in the world and the only power greater than evil is not more evil, but good. Good has greater power than evil, and if you want to overcome the evil in a person, the only way to overcome it is with good. We can try any number of ways to overcome evil. For 6,000 years, from the days of Cain, people have tried other ways of overcoming evil and have never succeeded. But good overcomes evil.

Think of this: a person can be so bad that when someone has treated him kindly, he returns evil to him. We can sit there and say, "Oh, I'll never do such a horrible thing." Just wait a minute before you judge someone else. Think, brothers and sisters. Have you had kindness shown to you by someone? Maybe you took it for granted that that person should show you kindness. And then, perhaps at some time you've spoken words which are not kind concerning that person who has shown you kindness. That is returning evil for good and it can happen in the brotherhood. That person's only been good to you, but you've said things not at all good and kind concerning that person. That's returning evil for good. It says here that that's a terrible thing. Evil will not depart from your house. Think that such a calamity can come upon us. God forbid that it should ever happen. We reap what we sow. We throw it out and like a boomerang it comes back. It's good to walk in humility and peace and be rooted in goodness. Let's examine our lives and see whether we have ever been evil or said that which is evil to people who have done some kindness or good to us. Usually it's because we've sat back and said, "They have to do that. After all, that's what the brothers and sisters are here for. They have to do that for me." That's terrible. May God save us from such a calamity.

    The start of an argument is like the first break in a dam; stop it
        before it goes any further.

    Prov 17:14, GNT

Sometimes you read in the papers of a dam that burst and the waters flooded a village and drowned many people. But the dam didn't break all of a sudden. It started with a little crack. And the engineers and the people who were responsible for that dam never took it seriously. Just a little crack. And it says here that the start of an argument is like that little crack in a dam. The argument could be between a husband and a wife. You know how the argument starts? With one sentence. With one sentence you've started an argument, and blessed is the man or woman who knows how to patch up that crack immediately. We are to avoid arguments like we avoid hellfire or like we would avoid leprosy. We have to HATE arguments. Nobody was ever built up spiritually through arguments - not even through religious arguments on doctrinal matters. We speak the truth but we do not argue with anyone, because it's the Holy Spirit who has to open a man's blind eyes. It's not by arguing. We must consider this particularly in our homes, dear brothers and sisters. The start of an argument is like the crack in a dam! Remember that next time when an argument begins in your home - there's a crack in the dam now. If you add to it, you're taking a chisel and hammer and making that hole bigger and then only death can come. Like all dams when they burst, they bring death. The only result can be death, so let's take the word of God seriously.

    He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous,
    Both of them alike are an abomination to the Lord.

    Prov 17:15

If we have not cleansed ourselves from partiality, we can justify a wicked person and condemn a righteous just because this person happens to be our special friend. Sometimes parents can be foolish like that. They can be partial towards some of their children and take sides with one child against another. The scar caused by a parent's partiality can affect that child for years as it grows up - all because of a foolish father or mother who had a favorite son. Maybe that son was good-looking or clever or smart - usually some worldly characteristic. Or maybe one child was spiritual, and the father or mother isn't wise enough to love a son who is not spiritual - like the father who could love the prodigal son. Think of what a father he was. Think to have no partiality against our children. That's a wonderful thing. That requires a godly nature. Even if one child is converted and one is utterly worldly - no partiality. "They're my sons. That's my son and that's my son. There's no difference as far as I'm concerned. I love them equally." That's godliness.

We can also take sides when we think of this brother and that brother, and we see there's a little conflict. That can happen in assemblies. I can take sides and that's the way an assembly is destroyed: because I have not cleansed myself from partiality. Why do I take sides with this person and I can't see the error in him? I only see the error in that other person. Then this verse applies. I'm justifying the wicked and condemning the righteous, because this person happens to be a little closer to me than that person. There I haven't been godly enough to be righteous.

Let me turn you to an Old Testament law in the book of Exodus. God was very careful in the instructions he gave to Israel to be righteous in their judgments. Exodus 23:2 is an amazing verse: "You shall not follow a multitude in doing evil." That means when most of the brothers are taking the side of this man, I also take his side. Don't do that! Most of the brothers are carnal! You must be a spiritual man. In every assembly, most people are carnal. Very few are wise, godly, spiritual and free from partiality. All the sisters are taking that person's side or are against that person, so I'll stand with all the sisters. Don't be such a stupid idiot. "Do not follow a multitude in doing evil. Nor shall you testify in a dispute so as to turn aside after a multitude in order to pervert justice." Stand alone for the truth.

Exodus 23:3 is another great danger: "Nor shall you be partial to a poor man in his dispute." What does that mean? That means: here is a rich man and here is a poor man, and you feel sorry for the poor man and you become partial. You think that is godliness. You think, "God must be on the side of the poor, so I'll take the side of the poor." It's ungodliness! God says not to take the side of that poor man. Seek for justice. In the world they do that. You see that out in the streets. If a scooterist knocks down a pedestrian, who's wrong? Always the scooterist. Always. Even if it was 100% the pedestrian's fault. Out in the world, it's like that. But we're not to be so stupid. What is the reason for that "justice" in the example of the scooterist? Because they say the scooterist is richer. This man's walking so he must be poorer and therefore he must be right. That's the very thing God condemned in the Old Testament law. He says to be careful that you don't take sides with a poor man just because he's poor. That means you're ungodly. God doesn't do that; he's righteous. At the same time, the other side is in Exodus 23:6: "You shall not pervert the justice due to the poor man in the dispute." There are two sides. Don't take the side of the rich man just because he's rich, and don't take the side of the poor man just because he's poor. No. Be just.

    Why is there a price in the hand of a fool to buy wisdom,
    When he has no sense?

    Prov 17:16

People get Bachelor's and Master's Degrees in Theology and all the other degrees, doctrines of devils and everything else. They study all that just to deceive all the poor Christians in this country. What's the use of money? You can't get wisdom with money or with education. Simon came to Peter and said, "If I give you money, give me the power that I can lead people to the baptism of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 8:18-19). And Peter said, "Your money perishes with you. You're in the bondage of iniquity" (v20-23). No. What's the use of money in the hands of a fool? He doesn't have a heart for wisdom. There's no way of getting wisdom unless we have a heart for it. We can't get it with money. A person who charges money for his services is a fool. And he's gathering other fools.

    A friend loves at all times,
    And a brother is born for adversity.

    Prov 17:17

The word of God really searches the thoughts and intents of the heart like it says in Hebrews 4:12. How do you react when you read a verse like this? "A friend loves at all times..." Do you say, "That's how I know who my true friends are. They love me at all times"? That shows you're a fool because you apply this verse to somebody else. You apply this verse to see how other people love you. And you say, "The one who loves me at all times - that's a real friend." And, "That friend doesn't love me all the time - that's not a real friend." That's the MARK OF A FOOL!! The fool doesn't read the word of God to see, "How does this apply to me?" He tries to find out how it applies to other people and judges all the other people in the assembly to see who are his real friends and who are the real brothers who stand by him.

Then it speaks about a brother who is born for adversity. And you say, "I was in a difficult situation and that brother came and helped me." What a FOOL and a SPIRITUAL IDIOT I am that after all these years I still don't know how to apply these verses to myself! The verse is for me. The volume of the book is not written about any other man under the sun - it's written about me. If I consider myself a friend, do I love? Am I a brother born to help a person in adversity? This is really a verse which searches us out. All of the sudden, you come across a verse that really searches out the thoughts and intentions of your heart. We're not to use it to expect other people to treat us like this. No. We're to look at it and see how we are to behave towards others.

Another translation of this verse reads like this: "The friend becomes a brother in the time of adversity." The friend gets converted into a brother during the time of adversity, meaning that through trial, God brings believers closer to each other and their bonds of fellowship as brothers become closer.

    A man lacking in sense pledges
    And becomes guarantor in the presence of his neighbor.

    Prov 17:18

This is another thing which the book of Proverbs speaks about: that is to stand guarantee for another person. Somebody comes to you and says, "Brother, will you stand guarantee for me? That if I don't pay up this debt which I'm buying a scooter or a house with, you'll take care of it?" And you say, "Well, as a Christian I have to be loving," and you go and stand guarantee for that person. It says here that that is love without wisdom. A man without sense. Think of that! Why do you want to go and get into debt like that so foolishly? The Bible says, "Owe no man anything." If that brother wants to be so stupid as to go and borrow money and get into debt, don't you go and hold hands with him and be a guarantor in signing that debt certificate along with him to show love. There's a fantastic amount of foolishness in many believers when it comes to this matter of money. They think it is love to go around helping people like this and keep giving and giving. They don't have any wisdom and they actually hinder God's word instead of helping. A tremendous amount of wisdom is needed. Wisdom is the mother of love. Remember that. That means that if love is like a child, wisdom must guide the love as to which way it goes so that it can do the right thing. And there's a lot of love without wisdom.

    He who loves transgression loves strife;
    He who raises his door seeks destruction.

    Prov 17:19
    To like sin is to like making trouble. If you brag all the time, you
        are asking for trouble.

    Prov 17:19, GNT

The Bible speaks about Jesus hating iniquity (Hebrews 1:9). How do we know whether instead of hating iniquity, we love iniquity? One mark is that we go around making trouble. Don't be a brother that goes around creating confusion. Don't be a sister who goes around visiting other homes and creating confusion. Get out of that! Get a reputation for wisdom, brothers and sisters. Particularly sisters, because there can be a tremendous amount of folly in this area - going around creating confusion instead of seeking peace. Seek God for wisdom. Those who make trouble are those who love to sin.

Then the other part of that verse says, "He who raises his door seeks destruction." That is somebody who is trying to build a fancy house. In other words, one who exalts himself in some way, boasting in some way - if you brag, making a show of your wealth, you're asking for trouble. And there's so much of that in the world today, trying to make a show of vanity. So many things are purchased without any function to be fulfilled, only for show, for vanity. They're asking for trouble.

    He who has a crooked mind finds no good,
    And he who is perverted in his language falls into evil.

    Prov 17:20
    An evil man is suspicious of everyone and tumbles into constant

    Prov 17:20, TLB

A crooked mind does not find anything good in anyone. And if you find that your attitude is such that you're always a bit suspicious of every brother/sister - something wrong with this person, something wrong with that person; this thing is wrong here, that thing is wrong in the other brother/sister - there's one thing that kind of an attitude shows very clearly: That you yourself are a very evil brother/sister, if you can even be called a brother/sister. It says in Titus 1:15 that "for the pure, all things are pure, but to the perverted, everything is perverted." Do you know what that means? You see someone doing something and you're suspicious. You say, "I know what his motive is in doing that." You don't say it but you think it, because you're an evil person in your thoughts. You say, "I know why he's doing that." And then the other person does something else and you say, "I know why he's doing that." And that sister does something and you say, "Yes, yes, I know why that sister's doing that." You're just there judging and always assuming a bad motive. It's always suspicious. There's nobody sincere except yourself in your eyes. And it's that conceit which robs people of the grace of God so that they don't get grace in their time of need. They're defeated in sin and that's God shouting at them, "You're not getting grace because you're too proud and haughty!" You think you're the only sincere person and that everybody else is insincere. Suspicious of this person, suspicious of that person - that's the mark of an evil person.

Brothers and sisters, this evil dwells in our flesh. We can never think that someone does something with a good motive. Therefore we suffer. When will we learn?! When will we learn to humble ourselves and get God's grace? "An evil man is suspicious of everyone and tumbles into constant trouble." He goes into trouble all the time. So let's learn to get rid of that habit. Why in the world would we want to judge another person? Like we've considered, Almighty God himself has decided to judge a man only at the end of his life. If God can be patient and wait for a man to finish his life before judging him, hoping that at least when he's 70 years old he may repent, why can't we? God is willing to blot out all the 70 years of that man's sinful life. But we are such impatient creatures. We can't wait for a man to finish his life. We have to judge him right now. That shows how ungodly we are if we are like that. Praise God that we can cleanse ourselves from this ungodliness that dwells in our flesh so that we can be godly. God in any case is the one who judges. Why in the world do I have to suspect others of so many things and be so evil myself?

The second part of the verse speaks about our language and our speech. Be careful of the perversion that comes into our language because of the suspicions that dwell in our hearts. Sometimes it can be so subtle in the way we express it.

    He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow,
    And the father of a fool has no joy.

    Prov 17:21

We can apply it like this: that when a person calls himself a child of God and behaves like an absolute fool spiritually, that brings no joy to our heavenly father. It brings sorrow. Think of the sorrow in God's heart when he sees so many people around the world calling themselves his children and behaving in such ungodly ways. That's a challenge for us.

    A joyful heart is good medicine,
    But a broken spirit dries up the bones.

    Prov 17:22
    A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one

    Prov 17:22, TLB

There are a lot of illnesses that can never be cured with pills and injections. They can only be cured by the joy of the Lord and with a cheerful heart that rejoices in the Lord - a heart that is not always suspicious (like we considered in verse 20), not always judging other people, not always grumbling and complaining about not having this, that, or the other thing. It'll make your life miserable, and you get sick in the body too! A cheerful heart. Desire to be like that! So what if something is broken, something's lost, and something's gone? Why should you lose your joy and get sick because of all these things? If it's gone, it's gone. Let it go! If it's broken, it's broken. Let it be broken! Everything on this earth is corruptible. If somebody cheated you, alright. He cheated me of my money but he's not going to cheat me of my joy! A cheerful heart! Otherwise I can have all types of ailments which pills and injections can never cure me of.

The Good News Translation puts it like this: "Being cheerful keeps you healthy." That's really true. I think even a doctor will tell you that. "...and to be gloomy is actually slow death." Did you know that? To be gloomy and grumpy - that is actually a slow form of committing suicide. It's not this quick thing by putting your head under the train. It's a slow form of committing suicide over a long period of time. This gloomy attitude of, "Everything is going bad, brother." Always miserable. No! Our attitude affects our body. Let's learn to leave other peoples' business to themselves. That's very often what makes us gloomy. We get so occupied with what other peoples' business is instead of worrying about our own salvation. Another thing that can make people gloomy is such a terrific love for material things. Something's broken, something's lost, something's cheated and all my joy is gone. Brothers and sisters, let's take the word of God seriously.

    A wicked man receives a bribe from the bosom
    To pervert the ways of justice.

    Prov 17:23

Here it speaks about those who receive a bribe in contrast to what we saw in verse 8 about those who give a bribe. The one who receives a bribe is wicked because he perverts the way of justice. We say, "Well, I've never taken any bribes." Maybe that's right, but supposing somebody has done you a favor - not a bribe - somebody helped you very much. Maybe a brother in the church helped you very much at a time when you were in great need in your family practically or monetarily or something. Then later on, you find in some situation, there's a bit of a fight between that brother and another brother. You tend to take sides with the brother who helped you. Why? Because you got a bribe from him! He helped you when you were in difficulty six months ago, so you're on his side now. You've been bribed to be ungodly! It can be so subtle, this business of bribing. I didn't look for it. But the fact that somebody helped me and I took his side means that I received a bribe, whether I knew it or not. If we look into our flesh, there's much we can cleanse ourselves from in these areas.

    Wisdom is in the presence of the one who has understanding,
    But the eyes of a fool are on the ends of the earth.

    Prov 17:24
    Wisdom is the main pursuit of sensible men, but a fool's goals are at
        the ends of the earth!

    Prov 17:24, TLB
    An intelligent person aims at wise action, but a fool starts off in
        many directions.

    Prov 17:24, GNT

We can look at this verse in a number of ways. It's a very interesting verse. Firstly, it can mean that wisdom is right in front of you if you are one who has understanding! That means that in your daily situations in life as a wife, as a mother, as a person in the place of work, you have the opportunity to grow in wisdom. But the foolish person's eyes are on the ends of the earth. He says, "If I go to Norway I can become wise; or if I go to some other country, there I can get wisdom; or there in the midst of those godly brothers I can get wisdom." Some people in other parts of India think that only if you come to Bangalore you'll get wisdom. Well, they just have to come and see all the fools that live in Bangalore to know that you can live in Bangalore and still not get wisdom! It's not a question of hearing and hearing and hearing. So many people can hear and hear and hear and never become wise. But a person who has understanding knows, "Wherever I am, if God has arranged my circumstances like this, then right in front of me today I have the opportunity to become wise. My eyes don't have to be to the ends of the earth." We thank God for the opportunity to gather at conferences and meet others, but I don't need that to become wise. That is to be a fool: to have my eyes to the ends of the earth and to think that's the way to become wise. No!! Right in my presence is wisdom. When evil comes my way and I overcome it with good, I get wisdom. When temptations come my way and I seek God for grace to overcome them, I get wisdom. It's right in my presence. But a fool looks for it at the ends of the earth.

The same verse in The Living Bible gives a slightly different meaning, but it's also implied in the NASB: "Wisdom is the main pursuit of sensible men, but a fool's goals are at the ends of the earth." That means that a sensible man's main goal in life is to acquire wisdom. But a fool, his goal is not wisdom. He has things like comfort and money. "Where can I get a little more comfort? Where can I make a little more money?" That's the mark of a fool. But a really sensible child of God who does not bring sorrow to his heavenly father, his main goal in life is to acquire wisdom. "Lord, how can I get wisdom?" And God says, "Right in front of you, where you are, where you live, right in your home. You don't have to go anywhere. You don't have to go to the ends of the earth. Right where you are, in front of you, in your daily situations you can acquire wisdom. You can be wise! Seek me for grace!" God is the one who gives wisdom.

It's good to look at the Good News Translation too, so that we understand another shade of meaning in this verse: "An intelligent person aims at wise action…" Wise action means to have wisdom in all our actions. "...but a fool starts off in many directions." That's the mark of a fool. He doesn't have a single goal. He's into this and into that, and he's sitting on that committee and the other committee like so many evangelicals are. They're doing this and that and the other thing instead of pursuing wisdom as the main thing. I can accomplish much more if I have wisdom, even in doing a little bit, than doing a whole lot of things without wisdom. Paul said, "One thing I do..." (Philippians 3:13). Paul didn't do 25 things. Otherwise, he would have wasted his life. He said, "One thing I do..." And Jesus said, "Seek one thing first: God's kingdom and his righteousness." That's the mark of a wise person: He seeks God's kingdom and righteousness with all his heart. So let's take all these shades of meaning and exhortations in this verse seriously. It's a very profitable verse for us to meditate on.

    A foolish son is a grief to his father
    And bitterness to her who bore him.

    Prov 17:25

We can ask ourselves, "How many parents are there who grieve over their unconverted children?" They should. They should have sorrow even if their children are big in the world and have big jobs. There are many parents who will grieve when their children don't have a job. Mothers who say, "I hope my son will get a job!" What about your son getting converted and becoming spiritual?! "Yeah, yeah, that also if possible." That is a foolish mother and a foolish father. What's the use, even if he gets a big job and makes a lot of money, if he's not converted? Or even if he's converted, if he's carnal, worldly, interested in worldly things, and not wholehearted? Oh, that's a challenge to us as parents.

Many of our children are not grown up. If our children are small, we can keep that in mind as our children are growing up, that our burden will be not only that they will be converted, but that they'll grow up in wisdom. Wisdom. That should be a burden in our hearts. It will be a grief to the father and a bitterness to the mother that they carry unitedly before God. They don't blame each other, saying, "You're the cause of that," like Adam and Eve did. Rather they are united in their grief and sorrow, seeking God for the conversion of their children and that their children will be wholehearted. That's a good thing for us to seek God for.

    It is also not good to fine the righteous,
    Nor to strike the noble for their uprightness.

    Prov 17:26

We know that it's foolish to give a fine to a righteous person or to strike the noble person for being upright, but that is the injustice that is found in this foolish world and that Jesus suffered. They struck him - the noble person - on the face and they condemned the righteous person to death. As long as we are in the world, we must be willing to face the same injustice from a foolish world. Don't be surprised when we face injustice. We can seek for justice, but sometimes it won't be given to us. When that happens, we just have to humble ourselves and follow in the footsteps of Jesus and commit our cause to Him who judges righteously. He will sort it all out in the final day.

    Those who are sure of themselves do not talk all the time. People who
        stay calm have real insight.

    Prov 17:27, GNT

A talkative person is never a wise person. There's no exception to that rule. Not even one exception. There is no wisdom in always opening your mouth and passing an opinion. That's alright for someone who is a spiritual baby. Sometimes spiritual babies are like that, but we should grow out of that talkativeness very soon. You see that sometimes with young brothers and sometimes young sisters too - always so talkative. Ask yourself: when you sit with other brothers or sisters, who is the one who talks the most? If you find that you're the one who always talks the most, then put your name down on the head of the list of fools in that fellowship. #1 at the top of the list is you. Always talking the most. There's never a time when you can keep your mouth shut. A wise person knows how to control himself. He doesn't have to speak all the time. He has knowledge. He doesn't have to boast about his knowledge and show that he knows so many things in the bible. Even in a meeting, we don't have to share everything that we know. Wisdom means to know what to speak - not to show off our bible knowledge. That is foolishness. But to know what to share and when to keep quiet is tremendous wisdom. And yet, there can be such a lust in a person when he wants to speak again and again and again. It's all because he thinks he's such an important person! Usually when believers are very young and immature, they are like that. But we must get out of that folly quickly and be wise, particularly in private conversations. Don't be the one who dominates the conversation so that you don't give a chance to other people to open their mouths.

    Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;
    When he closes his lips, he is considered prudent.

    Prov 17:28

This verse speaks again about a familiar topic. Even if you're a fool, if you keep silent, people may think you're a wise brother. Think of that. That's the first step to wisdom. When he closes his lips, he's considered wise. Now, many of us are very eager to say, "I am foolish." But then it says if you are foolish, why don't you keep your mouth shut a little bit? Why do you talk so much? You keep on talking, talking, talking. I don't mean in the meeting. It's the other way around sometimes in the meetings - that people don't share enough. People are usually too shy and quiet in meetings, but in private conversations, they are the opposite. Some of these sisters who you think are so quiet - oh if only you could meet them when they're in their own company! Boy, you'd get quite a different opinion! Think of that: to be so foolish as to talk and talk and talk excessively. Say something edifying. Have a little more control over your tongue. The word of God speaks much about that. If we acknowledge that we are fools and we continue to speak such a lot, then we have to say we are absolute hypocrites. We don't really believe that we are fools, because if we believed it, we'd try to control our tongues a little more.

Chapter 18
Chapter 18

    He who separates himself seeks his own desire,
    He quarrels against all sound wisdom.

    Prov 18:1
    People who do not get along with others are interested only in
        themselves; they will disagree with what everyone else knows is right.

    Prov 18:1, GNT

There are two types of separation. One type is the separation we read of in Genesis 1, where God separated the light from the darkness. The other is the separation that you read of in Genesis 3-4, where Satan separated Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel. One is a godly separation; the other is satanic. There is a separation which is godly. Like it says in 2 Corinthians 6:17, "Come out from among them. Be separate and touch not the unclean thing." There is also a separation that is spoken of in the book of Jude in verse 19, which says, "These are they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit" (King James Version). Indian Christianity is FULL of such people who have come out of some denomination, separating themselves because they couldn't get along with somebody. They wanted to be the elders. Don't ever be deceived into thinking that just because somebody came out of some dead denomination, he is interested in the truth. No. He may be in the category of one who has separated himself according to Jude 19 and not according to 2 Corinthians 6:17. Those who separate themselves without the leading of the Holy Spirit are seeking their own. They wanted some honor, some position, some title - something which they didn't get. They got offended and they separated themselves. Of course, they won't say that this is the reason. Instead they'll say, "This is a doctrinal matter, brother! We have to stand for the truth in these days of compromise." We must not be such fools that we believe all these people who have separated themselves. We have to see and sense, "What is the spirit in this man?" I've come across a lot of people myself who want to fellowship with us, but I can sense the spirit in some of them is wrong. They've separated themselves with some other motive. Be careful because the book of Jude speaks about those who separate themselves and seek their own. It says in this verse, "he quarrels against all sound wisdom." They have a pretext for everything. There's a reason why they won't listen.

The Good News Translation says that if you're a person who cannot get along with others, that clearly proves that you're only interested in yourself. That's a strong word. And they will disagree with that which everybody else knows is right. So we're not to think that everybody who separates themselves is necessarily spiritual.

    A fool does not care whether he understands a thing or not; all he
        wants to do is to show how clever he is.

    Prov 18:2, GNT

This is another mark of a fool. He does not bother about whether this is according to the truth or according to wisdom. He just wants to show how clever he is, how much he knows of the scriptures, how spiritual he is. That's always the mark of a fool. He opens his mouth to show how spiritual he is, and thereby he shows he's a fool.

    Sin and shame go together. Lose your honor, and you will get scorn in
        its place.

    Prov 18:3, GNT

When we sin, and shame, contempt, dishonor, and reproach come as a result, we've just got to admit, "I'm reaping what I've sown. This is the result of my sin." One of the results of sin is that we lose our testimony before others. Once we have lost our testimony, it's very difficult to regain it. And that's why we have to be watchful that we don't bring reproach upon the Lord's name.

    The words of a man's mouth are deep waters;
    The fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.

    Prov 18:4

There are two things spoken of here: one is depth and the other is freshness (like a spring). It says that the words of our mouth should have a depth in them, and there should be a freshness in them. That is one of the results of wisdom: that the more we acquire the wisdom that's spoken of in the book of Proverbs, the more value there is in the words that we speak, and there will be a freshness in what God gives to us to share with others. Our goal whenever we speak or share God's word to one another - not just in the church, but the many times we meet and talk together - should be to have a depth in our words. The world is characterized by a tremendous shallowness in their speech. They are only interested in shallow, earthly things. And even with believers, that is the case most of the time. And not only depth, but freshness. When we are in touch with God, there won't be anything stale or stinking in what we have to say. There will be a freshness.

    To show partiality to the wicked is not good,
    Nor to thrust aside the righteous in judgment.

    Prov 18:5

Now this is very plain and self-evident. This is a description of how folly has taken over in the courts of law in this world. This was clearly manifested in the case of the judgment of Jesus himself, where the righteous was thrust aside in judgment.

    A fool gets into constant fights. His mouth is his undoing! His words
        endanger him.

    Prov 18:6-7, TLB
    When some fool starts an argument, he is asking for a beating. When a
        fool speaks, he is ruining himself; he gets caught in the trap of his
        own words.

    Prov 18:6-7, GNT

As we've seen, the book of Proverbs has much to say about the use of our tongue. Here it says a fool gets into fights because of the way he uses his tongue. None of us would like to consider ourselves as fools according to the teaching of Proverbs. But if we create a fight by our words, then we have to remember that the word of God calls us fools. If you kick up a row with a shopkeeper with the words you speak, you're a fool. Or if you kick up a row with your husband or wife by the words you speak, then according to God's word, you're a fool. A fool gets into constant fights, and people who get into fights, the word of God says, are fools. It's amazing how we can deceive ourselves tremendously in this area. The Holy Spirit had to emphasize through James, "Let no one deceive yourself. If a man cannot control his tongue, his religion is worth zero whatever doctrine he may believe" (James 1:26 - paraphrase). And here is where the devil deceives people: because of an increase in knowledge of scripture, you are becoming spiritual. It is not an increase in the knowledge of scripture that makes us spiritual - it's the control of our tongue. So we have to take these words seriously. A fool is one who gets into constant fights. His mouth is his undoing. His words endanger him.

The Good News Translation says, "When a fool speaks, he's ruining himself." That's something we don't realize: that our words pollute us. Jesus said, "By our words we will be justified and by our words we will be condemned." The fool ruins himself and he gets caught in the trap of his own words. So words are something that the book of Proverbs speaks much about, and we need to take this seriously if we are interested in wisdom.

    What dainty morsels rumors are. They are eaten with great relish!

    Prov 18:8, TLB
    Gossip is so tasty - how we love to swallow it!

    Prov 18:8, GNT

Like we've considered before, if we find gossip tasty, then that is perhaps why people supply it constantly to our house. It's just like various vegetable vendors, fishmongers, and people who sell meat or any other thing stop by our house because they have found from past experience that we regularly buy from them. In the same way, gossip-mongers also stop by those houses where they find people who are regularly giving a ready ear to their gossip. Supply meets demand. We cannot blame only the person who spreads the gossip. We have to see that this particular person has come to my house because he has found from past experience that I give my ear to his gossip. He knows that gossip is tasty to me, and I love to swallow it. So when a gossip-monger comes repeatedly to my place, then I have to see that as an indication of my condition. You see, a fishmonger will never keep coming to your house if every time he comes, you turn him away at the gate and say, "We don't want any fish." After a few days, he won't come. The supply is because there is a demand from within that house. That's something we must remember. That's how we drive all these gossip-mongers far from us: we show that we are not interested in what they have. We do not consider gossip tasty. And yet the word of God says it is like that to many people.

    A lazy person is as bad as someone who is destructive.

    Prov 18:9, GNT

We wouldn't think of putting a person who is destroying property in the same category as a lazy person, but the Bible does. It says a person who is lazy is exactly the same as a person who is destructive, and hard work is one of the themes which the book of Proverbs brings forth again and again. It's very good that we can read words like this again and again. When something is repeated again and again, it's like a father writing a letter to a son who's far away and repeating something many, many times in the letter. Then you know that's something important. Something very important. Here we see hard work and diligence are things that Proverbs emphasizes tremendously.

    The name of the Lord is a strong tower;
    The righteous runs into it and is safe.
    A rich man's wealth is his strong city,
    And like a high wall in his own imagination.

    Prov 18:10-11

Proverbs 18:10 is a beautiful verse. Our security is in the name of the Lord. In the Old Testament, the Lord's name represented the nature of God. The nature of God is love and that's also his name. God is love. His name is Father. His name is Jesus. Those are his names. And we know that all those names symbolize things that bring security to us. They are like a tower. We run into that tower and say, "Jesus, I see who you are in the scriptures. Father, I see who you are in the scriptures. I know you are love, perfect love, and I find my security in you. Therefore I don't have any fear."

I recently read something encouraging which talked about how Christians can very often be tortured by preachers who tell them, "God's not doing anything for you because of your unbelief," even though they are crying out to God for help. This type of preaching can bring many people into bondage. The author used this illustration: if my son was lying in a pit and crying out to me for help, I wouldn't dream of asking, "Do you trust me? Let me see if you have faith." I wouldn't even think of asking all that. I would immediately go and help him. The very fact that he calls out to me proves that he believes I can help him. We don't have to torture ourselves by thinking, "Do I have faith?" If I call out to the Lord, that proves I trust him. That's why I call out to him. His name is love. Sometimes we can get the idea that God is sort of a tyrant. Here I am lying in the pit saying, "Daddy, help me!" and he says, "Let me see if you have faith. Oh, I see a little bit of unbelief. Sorry, you have to stay in the pit." It's an insult to think that God is like that when even an earthly father won't treat his own son like that. It's easy to get into that type of bondage - "Oh, there's a wee bit of unbelief in my heart, so God is going to leave me in the pit." That's ridiculous. The name and nature of the Lord is love. Let me never forget that and let me find my security in that. The strong tower. I run into it and I'm safe, and the doors are wide open. Praise God.

Then in verse 11 we see a contrast to verse 10. Do you know who Jesus said the two masters are that we can serve? God and mammon. So, the rich man's strong tower is his money. But it's only in his imagination. In other words, he thinks that he's getting security in money. For the righteous, his security is in the name and the nature of the Lord. He knows God is love. But for the person of the world, his security is in money and in earthly things. So we find that this is an area where we can profitably examine ourselves to see where we find our security. Is our security in the nature of a God who is perfect love or in something earthly? In my imagination I can say, "This earthly thing is what will protect me. I have a job in an office or a factory from which I cannot be terminated because of the wonderful trade unions that are in place. What security I have!" It's amazing how believers can have more confidence in trade unions than in the living God. Often, they don't even join the trade unions. But they're thankful that they're there, because they provide security for their job in the office or factory. The bottom line is that their trust is not in God. It isn't. In their imagination they say, "It is this earthly thing that protects me, that gives me leave travel concession. It gives me provision for medical expenses and so many other things. My security is found in this." It's amazing how easily the flesh has such a tremendous tendency to lean upon the arm of flesh. There's a curse, the bible says, upon those who lean upon the arm of flesh (Jeremiah 17:5, 2 Chronicles 32:8). But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. Blessed are you if your confidence is not in anything earthly, but in the Lord and the Lord alone. Say, "My security is in him. If I seek his kingdom first and his righteousness, I don't need any trade unions or leave travel concessions or medical benefits, etc. The name of the Lord is more than sufficient." I have to be very careful that my wall of security around me and my family is not the terms and conditions laid down in my appointment order. Then I'm serving the wrong master, and I can never make progress in my Christian life. The blessing is upon those who lean upon the Lord and trust in him.

    Pride ends in destruction; humility ends in honor.

    Prov 18:12, TLB

We see this clearly in the case of Jesus: humility ended in honor. In the case of Satan, pride ended in destruction. Those are two ways described in this verse - two ways in which all the people of the world are going - either in pride which leads to destruction or in humility which leads to honor.

    Listen before you answer. If you don't, you're being stupid and

    Prov 18:13, GNT

I wonder whether you have noticed people who, while you're speaking to them and saying something, don't even wait for you to finish. They are quick to say something. It is an unconscious sin. But it's an unconscious sin that we should get light on quickly. To interrupt another person when he is saying something means that I am not interested in listening but I want to answer; I want to say something. That's usually an indication of how important I consider myself to be. It's extremely sad when this is found in a person who is supposed to be wise and mature. It's alright when it's seen in a person who is a new convert and doesn't have light on his flesh, but this is an area where we really need to ask God for grace if we have a weakness here. Listen before you answer, and when someone is speaking to you, don't interrupt. That's not good manners. Wait until he or she finishes speaking and then speak - unless of course the other person is a chatterbox and you have to interject to make the person keep quiet. That's a different thing. But if a person is trying to say something to you, a principle to follow is: listen before you answer.

    Your will to live can sustain you when you are sick, but if you lose
        it, your last hope is gone.

    Prov 18:14, GNT
    A man's courage can sustain his broken body, but when courage dies,
        what hope is left?

    Prov 18:14, TLB

We know that those who commit suicide are actually taking away a life which they have no right to take away. Therefore they are in the same category as murderers. It's just that they murdered themselves. And we know that the word of God says no murderer has eternal life. So we know that no person who commits suicide can be saved. He has no eternal life. And when a person longs to die and says, "Oh, I'm sick and tired of life, and I'd like to die," it is actually the same spirit. That's the spirit of suicide that's influencing a person to say that. We must remember that. There's actually no difference between the spirit that led that man to put his head under the train and kill himself and the spirit that makes you say, "I'm sick and tired of life. I'd rather die." Elijah prayed that he might die in 1 Kings 19:4. That was the spirit of suicide that he was listening to at the time. It's wrong to listen to that spirit. The word of God says in 1 Corinthians 15:26 that death is an enemy, and that's something we need to understand very clearly. 1 Corinthians 15:25 speaks about how Jesus must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. Let's think of a battle ground. On one side is Jesus and on the other side are his enemies who he is going to defeat. And it says there's one enemy who's going to hold out for quite a long time against Jesus and that is mentioned in verse 26. The last enemy fighting against Jesus that will be abolished is death. So death is an enemy of Jesus according to 1 Corinthians 15:26. How then can you welcome it? Can you welcome an enemy of Jesus into your home? Into your life? No! It is not the will of God that we welcome death. We must be ready to die at all times - that's another thing. My conscience must be clear so that I don't need any preparation time either for death or for the Lord's coming. But to welcome death is one hundred percent wrong. That is to welcome an enemy of Jesus into my life.

This is why we need to see that sickness and death are to be resisted in the name of Jesus Christ so that I say, "Lord, I want to live on earth as long as you want me to live. I don't want to die too soon. I want to die when your time for me is up." "The number of your days I will fulfill," the Lord has said in Exodus 23:26. I have to take that seriously. God has a certain number of days for me and I want to fulfill all of them. Out in the world people talk so lightly about death, and we can be infected by that spirit. We are to be different. We don't look for death. We look for the coming of Jesus Christ always. Even if you're one hundred years old, you're to look for the coming of Jesus Christ - not for death by any means. And so the will to live can sustain you when you're sick. We must have a will to live - not for ourselves, certainly not, but for the glory of God! Say, "Lord, I want to make use of my earthly life for your glory." That can sustain you if you don't capitulate and give in to the enemy of death. Don't say, "Oh well. I'm going to die now." No. If you lose the will to live and you don't see that death is an enemy, your last hope is gone. This teaches us what our attitude should be towards death.

The Living Bible paraphrase teaches us that when we get discouraged, our case becomes hopeless. The opposite of being discouraged is to have courage - to say, "Yes, God is going to help me even now." Those are words of courage. As long as such a spirit is there, even a broken body can be sustained. But when that courage dies and discouragement sets in, there's no hope left. There are people who die very soon physically when they are discouraged and don't receive encouragement from others.

    Intelligent people are always eager and ready to learn.

    Prov 18:15, GNT

Another thing that the book of Proverbs says is that a person who is wise is a person who has a willingness to learn. He recognizes that he knows so little. Like Socrates said, "I know that I know nothing." If I'm wiser than others, it's only because I know that I know nothing. All the others also know nothing, but they don't know it. That's the only difference. If we know that we know nothing, then we are willing to learn.

    A man's gift makes room for him
    And brings him before great men.

    Prov 18:16
    A bribe does wonders; it will bring you before men of importance!

    Prov 18:16, TLB

We can look at this verse in two ways: The first is in relation to The Living Bible paraphrase. When the book of Proverbs speaks about gifts, it can also be referring to bribes. We know that in the world they say if you give a bribe, it can bring you before great men so that you can get something accomplished. And if we keep a sensitive conscience, we'll find sometimes that there's a very thin line between giving a gift and giving a bribe. That's something we need to give a little thought to, because if you find yourself in such a situation, it's easy to justify yourself by saying, "That's only a gift." But it may be a bribe that I'm giving or receiving. The thing I need to ask myself is: Am I influenced in any way by this thing that I have received so that I become partial towards the giver in some situation? Then it is a bribe, even if it's called a gift. Or if you're giving, ask yourself, "Am I giving this with the intention that he will be influenced in some way towards me? Then it's a bribe. You see how we can give gifts in the church to one another which are given with the intention of wanting that brother to be attached to me. What is that? That's a bribe. It's a bribe to try and get that brother attached to me. It's a bribe to get that brother to be a special friend of mine. A tremendous amount of bribing can go on even under the guise of giving. So we have to remember that there's a very thin line between a gift and a bribe. We need to keep our conscience sensitive here that gifts given are not bribes and gifts received are not bribes.

The other way we can look at this verse is spiritually - that a man's gift makes room for him and brings him before great men. That means, there is no need for any person to sit and think, "Well, I've not been given an opportunity to do something for the Lord." There are people who say that. They say, "In my church, my pastor never gives me an opportunity to serve the Lord. He's always suppressing me." If a man has a gift from God, no human being can ever suppress it. That's impossible. Unless the God he believes in is some powerless, helpless God. But if it's the almighty God the Bible speaks of, and he has given a man a gift of the Holy Spirit, no amount of men can stop that man's gift from making room for him. His gift can expand his sphere of ministry. It won't matter if anybody tries to suppress us. It won't matter if others seem to have more opportunity than we have. The fact of the matter is that God gives each man a different gift, and it's pointless coveting another man's gift. A man's gift makes room for him, and that's why we can be at rest. If God has given you a gift, that will make room for you spiritually. But if we covet, we only end up in frustration and criticism and jealousy.

    The first to plead his case seems right,
    Until another comes and examines him.

    Prov 18:17

That's true. Those of us who are fathers and mothers have plenty of experience with this, especially if you have more than one child. Suppose one child comes and says one thing and the other child comes and says something completely different. That's why God has given us two ears so that we can hear one side, and then we can hear the other side. Then we can arrive at a judgment. We must not live as people who only have one ear - that's partiality. No. I must listen to both sides and then I can make the right decision.

When it says, "The first to plead his case seems right," why is that? Because he presents his case in such a way that he hides all the mistakes he did and only presents the mistakes the other person did. That's how children are: "He did this, he did this!" And the other child will come and say, "He did this, he did this!" Both of what they said is absolutely true. The only thing is, it's not the whole truth. They've concealed what they themselves did. Now that's alright with children. They haven't come under grace. But how sad it is when grown-up believers, who understand the New and Living Way, also have this spirit of self-justification. It is sad when we do not understand how to be absolutely righteous in presenting a case: "This is what that person did, but this is what I did as well. I also did some foolish things there." It's almost impossible to find a believer who will present a case like that. But there are a few who judge and cleanse themselves from this self-justifying spirit which runs in our flesh, so that they are no longer interested in justifying themselves but rather in honesty and truthfulness. That's something we must develop, brothers and sisters - that when we present a particular case or describe a situation, we are so truthful that we will speak absolutely honestly about our own blunders, failures, and wretched things that we did so that this verse will not apply to us anymore. That way, when the first puts forward his case, he has spoken the whole truth. Think of that. Think to be a believer like that - that after I've put across the truth, there's nothing more for my opponent to say, because I've said his side also. I've said everything that I did. It's wonderful if we can be so upright and love righteousness so much. But in the world it is quite different. Everybody speaks in such a way that his case seems right until the other person comes and pleads his case.

    The cast lot puts an end to strife
    And decides between the mighty ones.

    Prov 18:18

In the Old Testament, this was the way they settled disputes. It's related to verse 17. Two people are quarreling and haven't been able to come to an agreement, so they cast lots. Casting lots is like flipping a coin. Heads or tails. But praise God in the New Testament, we don't have to flip a coin. Jesus has taught us something far better, and that is: when there is a contention, you yield. Having the grace to yield is the mark of a really spiritual person. Like in the case of the two women who came to Solomon with one baby, and Solomon said, "Let's cut it into two." Who yielded? The real mother. She said, "No, let her have it." That's always the proof of the real mother. That's always the proof of a more mature, spiritual person: "Brother, have it your way." Think of that story of the real mother. It's a tremendous lesson in yielding. Let's say husband and wife are locked in some battle just like those two mothers before Solomon. They're even willing to cut something into two. Nobody is willing to yield. Even believers find themselves in such situations. Learn to yield. It's not by a coin toss that we end our arguments in the New Covenant. It's by the way of the cross.

    It is harder to win back the friendship of an offended brother than to
        capture a fortified city. His anger shuts you out like iron bars.

    Prov 18:19, TLB

We can ask ourselves: if someone has said something to me or done something and I am offended, is it now very difficult for me to have fellowship with that person? What is this like? It's like the bars of a castle and the strong city surrounded by walls. Do you know what this is referring to? It's a cold attitude towards a brother. That's what it is referring to. I see another brother and there's just a little coldness in me towards him because I haven't forgotten what he said to me five years ago. I have these bars, this wall around me. Of course, he's a good brother and I stand up and say, "I have nothing against anybody. I praise you, Lord. My heart is clear. I have nothing against anyone." But there is a slight coldness towards somebody. A slight coldness towards a particular sister. Bars, bars, bars. When will we get over it? Who are we ruining? We're not ruining the other person. We're only ruining ourselves. I really believe with all my heart the reason why many believers do not grow spiritually is because of some little resentment that is not completely cleansed out.

It's like people who get a sickness like Typhoid. They get over it and then they relapse. Then they get over it and they relapse again. There are believers like that who have a resentment. They get over it, then there is a relapse - always towards the same person. Why is that? Just like in the case of Typhoid or Cholera or Jaundice or any other type of sickness, it indicates there's a root which has never been completely cured. It was just a superficial recovery from the disease, but they very soon relapsed. And we really need to be radical if we find that we have wonderful fellowship (so we think) with somebody and then every now and again we relapse back to a little resentment against them. That means there is something underneath that we need to cleanse out. We're not to spend the rest of the time till Jesus comes in this relapse and recovery, relapse and recovery, relapse and recovery. No! There are some bars! We always thought this verse referred to somebody else who got offended, but we've discovered it applies to ourselves.

Maybe my pride was hurt in the way another person spoke or did something to me and I cannot completely eradicate it. I may have forgiven him and ninety-nine percent of my resentment is gone, but that little one percent keeps on causing a relapse every time some new provocation comes up in relation to that brother or sister. We have to be very careful, dear brothers and sisters. Here's how we can check whether we are offended or not: if I'm cold towards one human being, I know I have been offended. Somewhere along the line I have been offended. My pride has been hurt, and it's a tremendous amount of garbage when I say I am not offended. That's a lot of rot. It's an absolute lie. I'm just deceiving myself. I am offended. That's why I'm a bit cold toward that person. But because in the church we say we shouldn't get offended, I get up and testify that I'm not offended, but I'm just fooling myself.

    With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied;
    He will be satisfied with the product of his lips.
    Death and life are in the power of the tongue,
    And those who love it will eat its fruit.

    Prov 18:20-21
    You will have to live with the consequences of everything you say. What
        you say can preserve life or destroy it; so you must accept the
        consequences of your words.

    Prov 18:20-21, GNT

We can say that the words that we speak are like seeds sown. Of course, we can repent of the words we speak, but let me tell you something: repentance does not remove the consequences of those words. I can feel sorry for what I said, but I cannot remove the consequences of those words. The consequences are there forever. Suppose, for example, somebody told me something and said, "Brother, this is confidential. Please keep it to yourself. Don't tell anyone about it." Then I went and told someone about it. Of course, I'll tell the person who I'm telling, "Brother, this is confidential. Please don't tell anyone about it. I'm only telling it to you." Then afterwards, having told it to that person, it went around and did some terrific damage to the brother who told me. Then he comes to me about it and I say, "I'm sorry. I told one person. I'm really sorry, brother, for what I did." I've repented, but the consequences for my words are still there. There's a certain confidence in me that he's lost which he won't be able to regain for twenty-five years, perhaps. He can't trust me in the same way he trusted me before, even though he's forgiven me and I've repented. And the consequences that affect him are still there even though he's forgiven me and we are in good fellowship. We must remember that though we can repent and God forgives us and men forgive us, there are consequences of the way we speak that we will have to live with. That's why I say to young people: be very careful about the way you speak as you grow up, because gradually you will get a testimony in the church that so-and-so is such-and-such a type of person. People will have heard reports of your speech. Of course, you can repent and you can feel sorry, but you have to live with the consequences of that testimony that you earned during the many years you were that type of person. You can't do anything about it afterwards. That's why we have to be very careful that we don't say a lot of foolish things. Our words are like seeds sown. I can repent of them, but the seeds will still bring forth fruit.

This is something God has permitted so that we become extremely careful about the way we speak. Jesus said some amazing words which I'm sure most believers in the world just do not believe. In Matthew 12:37 he said, "By your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned." Did you know that? In other words, when I stand before the Lord, the words I've spoken will be played back. Then I can decide whether I deserve to be justified or condemned. We have to take the words we speak very seriously. Jesus said this right after the verse which says we will give an account for every idle word we speak in the day of judgment. We have to be very, very careful about our speech.

It says in the New American Standard Bible, "With the fruit of a man's mouth his stomach will be satisfied." In the Old Testament, "stomach" refers to the conscience. Proverbs 20:27 says, "The spirit of a man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all the innermost chambers of the body." This is an expression that symbolizes the conscience. Therefore one meaning of this verse could be that my conscience should be satisfied by the words I've spoken - that they are truthful, kind, and necessary.

Verse 21 refers to the power that my tongue has. It has the capacity to be filled with the fire of heaven as we read in Acts 2:4 - how tongues of fire came upon them. In the whole book of Acts, the main instrument of the apostles that God used thereafter was their tongues. Through their tongues they brought life to people all over the world. At the same time, in James 3 it says your tongue can be set on fire with another fire: the fire of Hell. In Acts 2 we have the fire of heaven in the tongue, and in James 3 we have the fire of Hell in the tongue. I am the one who makes the choice as to which fire is in my tongue. I can have my tongue set on fire with the fire of heaven or I can have my tongue set on fire with the fire of Hell. I have to be very careful that it's always the fire of heaven that burns on my tongue, so that the words I speak are words which are fiery in love, not fiery with the nature of Satan (evil, bitterness, etc.).

    He who finds a wife finds a good thing
    And obtains favor from the Lord.

    Prov 18:22

This is speaking of a wife whom the Lord has appointed for you. When God gave Eve to Adam, he didn't just give any woman. He gave him a wife to be a helpmate for him. A lot of people just look around and find a woman - maybe a woman with a graduate degree, maybe a good-looking woman, etc., but a woman nonetheless. But here it says, "He who finds a wife (a God-given wife) finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord." That's a tremendous favor from the Lord that he gives not just some woman from out of the two billion women there are in the world, but a wife - a helpmate like he gave to Adam. If you get a wife like that, you can say the Lord has blessed you. It's a favor from the Lord. And think also, sisters, of your calling if you're married: to so live and so bless your husband that God can describe you as a favor (or a blessing) that he has granted to your husband. Think that you can be called by the Lord "a blessing" to your husband. Fantastic! Think of a title like that - to be a wife like that to your husband. There is a calling that you can really seek for and a goal that you can press on towards.

    The poor man utters supplications,
    But the rich man answers roughly.

    Prov 18:23

In other words, the rich man is rude. But when the poor man speaks he has to beg politely. What does this teach us? It teaches us a tremendous truth about what money does to the character of a person. Money tends to make a man haughty. Remember that, dear brothers and sisters. We're not talking about people out in the world. We're talking about believers. We can talk about people right in the middle of our church. The more money we have, the more we are in danger of being independent of others and being haughty (an "I don't need you" type of attitude). A little arrogance can come into our speech if we don't work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

On the other hand, think of a brother who's really poor. He doesn't have enough money and maybe many other brothers in the assembly always have to help him financially. Just think how he will speak. There would be a humility in his speech because he's so helpless. But we can be one of those who think, "Nobody in the assembly needs to help me. I'm quite alright. In fact, I have so much to give to all the others." There can be arrogance in my spirit because of my wealth which can corrupt me and which can withdraw the grace of God from me, because God gives his grace to the humble. For those of us who have more than enough for our needs (and many of us are in this category), I just want to say that this verse teaches us that we are in terrific danger - much more than those poor brothers who never have enough to meet their needs and are always dependent on others. You can see it! There's a helpless, polite asking with a poor brother, whereas with a rich brother, there can be an arrogance since he has everything he needs.

I'm not saying it has to be like that. I'm saying if we are not aware of this danger, it can affect our spirit. It can be like an unconscious sin which only other people notice. But we need to be aware of this danger so that we cleanse ourselves and say, "Lord, I fall into this category of a person who is not really poor. I have more than enough for my needs. In fact, I have enough to help others. Therefore I am in danger of having a little roughness in my spirit, a little arrogance in my attitude and speech, a little bit of the spirit of independence which hinders me from receiving God's grace. That's why I'm defeated in so many areas of my life: because your grace is withdrawn." Let me just see if this is not the reason: that I'm earning quite a bit. He who has ears can hear. Those who are in financial need can thank God for some blessing that comes out of that: a sense of helplessness which makes it easier to receive God's grace.

    A man of many friends comes to ruin,
    But there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.

    Prov 18:24

This means it's dangerous to have too many friends. It's good to have brothers and sisters, but if we have too many friends, it's going to ruin us. Then it speaks about the friend that sticks closer than a brother. In contrast to all these friends, here is a brother (Jesus), a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

In the AMP translation, it reads like this: "A man of many friends will prove himself to be a bad friend to you." That's just a little warning to be careful not to be a person who has too many unnecessary friends out there in the world. It's brothers that we need - brothers and sisters in the church. There's a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and there are many - those who have the likeness to Jesus more and more - who are also brothers and sisters. These are the ones with whom we have to cultivate our fellowship.

Chapter 19
Chapter 19

    Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity
    Than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.

    Prov 19:1
    Better to be poor and honest than rich and dishonest.

    Prov 19:1, TLB

A person who is perverse in his speech is one who tells lies in order to gain some money and make some profit, and by doing so he becomes rich. I would say that the vast majority, if not all, the rich businessmen in India have become rich by lying. And here's a word which says it's far better to speak the truth, even if it makes you a little poor, than tell a lie and make a little profit. The book of Proverbs has much to say about this subject.

    Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge,
    And he who hurries his footsteps errs.

    Prov 19:2
    Enthusiasm without knowledge is not good; impatience will get you into

    Prov 19:2, GNT

Here it teaches us the importance of knowing God, knowing the scriptures, having wisdom, and not making haste. When we are young, we usually have a lot of enthusiasm (or zeal) but not so much wisdom. And that zeal is good, but we need to grow in wisdom for it to go in the right direction. That's why when we have a lot of zeal, we find that we are critical of many things and judgmental of everyone. It's good not to rush with our feet into a judgment, but rather to just wait and think. Ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is manifested in patience, not in haste. A lot of hasty action that believers take is invariably the result of their tremendous lack of wisdom.

    Some people ruin themselves by their own stupid actions and then blame
        the Lord.

    Prov 19:3, GNT

I'm sure we've come across cases like this where we do something stupid and we suffer for it and then say, "Lord, why have you allowed this thing to happen to me?" as if it was the Lord's fault. No. It's the result of our own stupidity. For example, someone may say, "Why, Lord, have you allowed me not to have a good testimony in the church?" Did the Lord do that? It's your own stupidity that's caused you to have a bad testimony in the church. Don't blame the Lord for that. You humble yourself and say, "Lord, that was my own stupidity." There is so much of blaming the Lord for things we ourselves have done. We need to humble ourselves, and then God can help us.

    Wealth adds many friends,
    But a poor man is separated from his friend.

    Prov 19:4

This is true in the world: that a wealthy man has many friends. It's possible also for that spirit to creep into the church where we can try to make friends for ourselves with our money. That's a misunderstanding of what Jesus said in Luke 16:9, when he said, "Make friends for yourselves with the mammon of unrighteousness." He didn't mean that we should draw people to ourselves. He meant that we should seek friends for eternity; we should seek their eternal profit. But it's very easy for us to draw people to ourselves and make friends with material things. That type of friendship is not the fellowship of the body of Christ. We're not to make friends for ourselves with money. That's the spirit of the world. If God has given us wealth, we're not to use it to make friends. We're to use it to build the church, not add people to my own crowd of admirers. It's very easy to build a crowd of admirers around me who admire me because of my generosity towards them. There I can hinder the building of the body of Christ.

    A false witness will not go unpunished,
    And he who tells lies will not escape.

    Prov 19:5

The Bible says in Numbers 32:23, "Be sure your sin will find you out." So if a person has given a false witness or has told lies, one day or the other, his sin will catch up with him - if not in this world, certainly at the judgment seat of Christ. This is a law of God: what we sow, we have to reap. If a person's sin does not catch up with him in this life, it will certainly catch up with him in the day of judgment. It is impossible for a person to sin and get away with it. And it is because people do not believe this that the whole of mankind sins so much in secret and in private. They feel that they have gotten away with it. They tell lies and they think they will escape, but the word of God says that he who tells lies will not escape. A false witness will not go unpunished even though he may escape punishment on this earth.

    Many will seek the favor of a generous man,
    And every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.

    Prov 19:6

It is very easy to be a friend to some brother who gives us gifts. And if we give gifts to people, it is easy to win their friendship, but such friendships do not last. In the body of Christ, we are not to build friendships with gifts and money. We are to build fellowship, which is through the Holy Spirit. The requirement for that is laid down in 1 John 1:7 - that I must walk in the light and you must walk in the light. Both of us must walk in the light in our private lives, and then we'll have wonderful fellowship whether we give gifts or not. But a unity between brothers which is merely on the basis of gifts not only doesn't glorify God, it is also a hindrance to the building of the body of Christ. We have to be careful we do not build friendships and destroy the body of Christ through gifts. This is why we see many times in the early church that they never gave gifts directly to each other, but went through the leadership of the church. That way, there would not be any unnatural bond between believers. That was wisdom on the part of those early Christians, and no doubt they were instructed by the apostles. "Every man is a friend to him who gives gifts." We're not to be deceived by such friendships that we accumulate for ourselves through giving gifts to others. In the church we desire to build fellowship which requires the cross in between us.

    All the brothers of the poor man hate him;
    How much more do his friends abandon him!
    He pursues them with words, but they are gone.

    Prov 19:7

God has chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith (James 2:5). Yet, as we look around, we find so many poor people who are not rich in faith at all. Many of them don't have any faith at all. That shows that they have not used their poverty to increase their faith. The vast majority of poor people in India have no faith at all. They only depend on men for their support. The tragedy is the vast majority of poor believers also have no faith. They also look to men for help. Looking to men for help is to have no faith. James 2:5 says that God has chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith. Therefore one would expect that the people who are the richest in faith would be the people who are really poor financially. Why is it not like that? Because they have not used their poverty to turn to God. Instead, the devil has deceived them and made their poverty a means to lean on other men. Other foolish believers have also encouraged them to lean on men. Therefore they have never developed faith. Even though the world may disregard the poor person, he can use his circumstances to trust in the living God, thereby becoming spiritually rich. That is what we read about in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, it was a curse to be poor, but not in the New Testament. Jesus was poor, Paul was poor, and many of the apostles were poor, but they were rich in faith! These great men of God in the New Testament are tremendous examples to follow for those whose financial circumstances are difficult.

    He who gets wisdom loves his own soul;
    He who keeps understanding will find good.

    Prov 19:8
    Do yourself a favor and learn all you can; then remember what you learn
        and you will prosper.

    Prov 19:8, GNT

This verse relates to the word of God. Through God's word, we get wisdom for our daily life, and when we get wisdom, we are actually doing ourselves a favor. When we have the wisdom of God through his word, it helps our whole life to be more peaceful and brings more of God's blessing and happiness into our life.

    A false witness will not go unpunished,
    And he who tells lies will perish.

    Prov 19:9

Jesus said, "I am the truth." Truth is the very nature of God. Jesus also said that the devil is the father of lies. God and Satan are on opposite sides just like truth and falsehood are on opposite sides. Therefore he who tells lies will perish. We know that the vast majority of people in the world don't believe that. But this is true. It's not only (as it says in verse 5) that he will not escape, but beyond that, it says here that he will perish. It's amazing how much the New Testament also has to say on being truthful, not telling lies, and not deceiving people with falsehood.

    Luxury is not fitting for a fool;
    Much less for a slave to rule over princes.

    Prov 19:10

Luxury and wealth can ruin a person who doesn't know how to handle it. A fool, a spiritual fool, is someone who does not know how to handle the money that God has given him. He ruins himself through wastage and unnecessary luxuries in life that serve no purpose, and therefore he spoils himself. We need to bear this in mind, particularly in relation to children. It's very easy to spoil children by giving them things that are not necessary for them to have. Maybe we can afford to give our children things other people can't afford to give to their children, but we can ruin them if we are not wise. It requires wisdom to handle money wisely, especially when we have a lot of it. Luxury is not fitting for a fool.

Then it says it's even less fitting for a slave to rule over princes. We can apply this to the New Testament: that if one is a slave to sin in his own life, he cannot have authority over others. No one can be an elder brother if he has not been freed from the slavery of sin. And this is something that we need to remember as fathers and mothers too, in relation to our children. We all like to rule over our children, but I have to ask myself, "Have I learned to rule over sin in my own flesh? Have I been freed from that slavery?" That qualifies me to be a good father and mother - to rule over my children. It's not fitting otherwise for a slave of sin to rule over others.

    A man's discretion makes him slow to anger,
    And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

    Prov 19:11

This is something we've spoken of much in the church: that God gives us grace to overcome anger. That which comes so quickly to normal human beings, by the power of the Holy Spirit and the grace of God, we can overcome. Being slow to anger means there is a time when we are to be angry righteously, but we should not lose control of ourselves. Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be angry and do not sin." I heard someone say (I think it was a father to a child), "I want to beat you, but I can't do that yet because I'm still angry. I have to wait till I overcome my anger, and then I'll punish you." That's wisdom. To punish a child in anger proves that the father himself is a fool. No. We are to wait. Say like that father, "I can't beat you yet because I'm still angry. Let me overcome my anger first. Then, of course, you deserve a punishment, and I'll give it to you." That's wisdom. That's to be slow to anger and yet to do what is right.

The verse also says, "it is his glory to overlook a transgression." This is a tremendous verse. The glory of a human being is to overlook the sin that another person commits against him. If someone insults you, your glory is to overlook the insult and love him. If I can't do that, I've lost something of the glory of God in my life. It's my glory to overlook, not just to say, "Alright, I forgive you," but then sort of keep it in my mind and constantly remember it. No, but to overlook it and say, "That's fine." That shows that I've really acquired wisdom. It's the glory of a man of wisdom to overlook a transgression. Love covers a multitude of faults and sins in other people.

    The King's wrath is like the roaring of a lion,
    But his favor is like the dew on grass.

    Prov 19:12

We can apply this to God. God's anger, when it is turned against those who live in sin and rebellion against him, is like the roaring of a lion. People don't understand that. The roaring of a lion is an absolutely terrifying thing. I've heard it sometimes in a zoo, and you still get terrified even though the lion is behind the bars. You can imagine how much more scary it would be if there were no bars. That's the picture that the word of God uses to show God's anger against sin and against rebellion against him.

On the contrary, God's favor is like the dew that falls on the grass early in the morning that keeps it fresh and green. Our attitude should be to say, "Lord, I want your favor like dew upon the grass on my life every morning. I don't want to face your wrath at any time."

    A foolish son is destruction to his father,
    And the contentions of a wife are a constant dripping.

    Prov 19:13

Now that means that a wife who is constantly nagging her husband is like a leak in the roof in the middle of the rainy season that's dripping, dripping, dripping, dripping, dripping. It's not a downpour and then it stops. It's this constant nagging, nagging, nagging, nagging, nagging. Drip, drip, drip. And what is the result of a home where you have a wife who's like that morning till night? The result is a foolish, rebellious son. The wife brings the spirit of rebellion into the home through her attitude to her husband, and it's like a contagious disease. The children catch that spirit quickly, and then there's rebellion in the children. So these two things are connected - the foolish son and the nagging wife. One comes as a result of the other. That's why the word of God says, as we've considered earlier in another chapter in Proverbs, that it is a wise woman who builds her house. That means the most important person in the building of a home is the wife, because it's through submission to her husband and overcoming the spirit of rebellion that she's able to pass on that same spirit to her children. The children also learn to live in submission to their parents, and God's blessing can be upon them, and they do not grow up to be foolish.

    A father can give his sons homes and riches, but only the Lord can give
        them understanding wives.

    Prov 19:14, TLB
    A man can inherit a house and money from his parents, but only the Lord
        can give him a sensible wife.

    Prov 19:14, GNT

A father cannot give his sons understanding wives; only God can give that. The most that a father can give to his sons are houses, lands, and riches, but to get a wife who is understanding, wise, and prudent, a man has to seek the Lord. This is a tremendous thing for young sisters to take as a challenge: to be one of those wives and understanding sisters whom God can pick out from all the millions of women in this country to give to God-fearing brothers. And for young brothers who are seeking the Lord for marriage, remember that no one, no elder brother, no man can give you a good wife. Only God can do that. This doesn't just apply to fathers. Even elder brothers in the church cannot give you an understanding wife. Only the Lord, it says, can give you a wise wife. That's why you have to seek God and say, "Lord, you are my Father. Give me the one who will be a helpmate for me."

The Living Bible translates it as an "understanding" wife and the Good News Translation says "sensible". An understanding or sensible wife is a tremendous gift in the sense that she's one who understands her husband. She understands her husband's weaknesses and strong points and seeks to be a helpmate. We have seen that a husband and wife are to be like two halves of an egg shell. When you break an egg shell, there are uneven projections on each side. But when you put them together, there are no gaps. That's how it must be with husbands and wives. Where there's a depression in one, there's a projection in the other. And an understanding wife means one who recognizes where there is a depression in her husband and seeks to fill up that lack. Of course, this applies vice versa too. But that's a tremendous type of wife to be towards your husband.

    Laziness casts into a deep sleep,
    And an idle man will suffer hunger.

    Prov 19:15
    Go ahead and be lazy; sleep on, but you will go hungry.

    Prov 19:15, GNT

This is just one of the many exhortations about diligence that are found in the book of Proverbs, and this emphasis that comes again and again proves that God places great value on hard work. There is no place for laziness in God's kingdom in any area. God never commits a ministry to the lazy, but to those who have a sense of responsibility to use their time profitably in diligence. We can apply the Good News Translation also in our attitude to the study of God's word. If we are lazy and lethargic in our attitude to study the word of God, we'll find that we remain hungry and poverty stricken, spiritually speaking.

    Keep God's laws and you will live longer; if you ignore them, you will die.

    Prov 19:16, GNT

This proves that God's laws are for our good. The more people disobey God's laws, the more they actually shorten their own life. Deuteronomy 5:16 says, "Honor your father and mother, that it may go well with you and that you may live long on the earth." That teaches us that God is in control even over the length of our life. When we keep God's commandments, we are actually doing ourselves good.

When you help the poor you are lending to the Lord - and he pays wonderful interest on your loan! Prov 19:17, TLB

That's a word which reminds me of the story of George Muller, the great man of God who lived a hundred years ago, who looked after the poor orphans in England in the name of Jesus Christ. He cared for them and he spent all his savings, his personal money, and everything that he had on those orphans. And when he was about to die, he had only (as far as I remember) one child, a daughter, and he hadn't left any savings for her. If I remember the story right, he told his daughter on his deathbed, "I don't have any money to leave you, because I gave everything that I had to help these poor orphans." But on the basis of this verse, Proverbs 19:17, he said, "If you're ever in need at any time in your life, just go to God and say, 'Lord, my father gave you some money on loan when he was alive. Would you give me some of the interest on that?'" I'm sure she never lacked in her life. That is the word of God. Of course, we need a lot of wisdom in this area of helping the poor, as we have often spoken about. Otherwise, we can do it in a foolish way. But if we seek God for wisdom and do it in a wise way, there is the blessing of the Lord on it.

    Discipline your son while there is hope,
    And do not desire his death.

    Prov 19:18
    Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you
        don't, you are helping them destroy themselves.

    Prov 19:18, GNT

We see in the Good News Translation that when it says, "...while there is hope", that means "...while they are young enough to learn." There's no use waking up when your son is twenty years-old and saying, "Oh, I need to discipline my children." No. You need to start disciplining your children when they are two. Begin when they are two while there's still hope, so that they don't grow up to be a nuisance to society, but rather a credit to society. Discipline your children while they are young enough to learn. If you don't do that, you are helping your children to destroy themselves. There are a lot of parents who think that their love for their children is shown in sparing them and not being too hard on them. But actually, the word of God says that you're actually helping your children to destroy themselves when you don't discipline them.

There is a marginal rendering of this verse in the Good News Translation which gives an alternate meaning: "Discipline your children, but don't beat them so hard that you kill them." You see, there are two extremes to this. We know there are some unconverted parents, who, in a fit of anger, can beat their children so hard. There's a lot of that around the world. In western countries it gets a lot of publicity. There's a lot of abuse of children - some terrible stories of the way parents have beat their children so badly. One extreme is to just let them do anything they like and to never correct them or punish them. The other extreme is to be so violent so as to really injure them. The word of God says there's a middle way between these two extremes that the godly, wise man walks.

    A man of great anger must bear the penalty,
    For if you rescue him, you will only have to do it again.

    Prov 19:19
    If someone has a hot temper, let him take the consequences. If you get
        him out of trouble once, you'll have to do it again.

    Prov 19:19, GNT

This is connected to verse 18, because you'll notice that the words "A man of…" are written in italics, which means they are not in the original Hebrew. Instead, we could put "A child of…" If you read it like that, you'll see that it's connected to the previous verse. In other words, if your child has tantrums of anger, don't spare him. If you spare him now, he'll do it again and he'll rule over you. It's very important that fathers and mothers do not allow their children to have tantrums of anger, and that children recognize that they'll be severely punished if they throw up a tantrum. If you spare them, they'll give you trouble again. You'll have to punish them another time. You might as well do it the first time.

Of course, this verse applies to adults too. It's foolish to help an angry man. It's good that he faces the consequences once so that he'll realize the result of losing his temper.

    Listen to counsel and accept discipline,
    That you may be wise the rest of your days.

    Prov 19:20

We can be wise all of our life if we do these two things: 1) if we are willing to receive the instruction of God's word day by day, and 2) if we are willing to accept God's discipline in the circumstances of life where he humbles us and brings us down in various situations.

    Many are the plans in a man's heart,
    But the counsel of the Lord will stand.

    Prov 19:21

This means that we can make many plans, but God can so arrange circumstances and situations unexpectedly that our plans don't materialize. Our plans don't work out as we expect them to. What should we do in such times? That is the time to humble ourselves under God's mighty hand and say, "Lord, I do not rebel. I bow in submission to your alteration of the plans that I had for my life. The counsel of the Lord will stand." This is the mark of a wise man. When his plans don't materialize, he's quite happy as long as the counsel of the Lord is fulfilled in his life, even though it may have gone completely against what he had planned for himself.

    Kindness makes a man attractive. And it is better to be poor than

    Prov 19:22, TLB

What is it that makes a man attractive? The film world has deceived humanity into thinking that attractiveness is a matter of good looks. And so we have men and women all over the world thinking that it's good features and a good color of skin that makes them attractive. That is one of the greatest deceptions of the devil. We know there are many good looking people who are very evil in their heart. This verse says that it's kindness that makes a man attractive. Therefore, every one of us has the opportunity to be really good looking and attractive. There's a beautiful word in the last part of Ecclesiastes 8:1 (The Living Bible): "Wisdom lights up man's face, softening his hardness." Basically, all of us have a hardness in our flesh. That's why it's easier for us to be strict and harsh than it is for us to be kind. We need the power of the Holy Spirit and grace from God to overcome this harshness and hardness. And that verse says when we become wise, it softens the hardness in us. When our hardness is softened, we become more kind which makes us attractive.

The second part of the verse says, "It's better to be poor than to be dishonest." That is, "It's better to be a poor man than a liar." That means it's possible to make money by telling lies, but it's not worth it. The result of being truthful is that one may not make as much money as one could have made by telling lies, but the word of God says it's better to be poor and honest than rich and dishonest. Character comes through truthfulness. This, you notice, is repeated a number of times in the book of Proverbs.

    Reverence for God gives life, happiness, and protection from harm.

    Prov 19:23, TLB

We read in Isaiah 8:13 (The Living Bible), "If you fear God, you need fear nothing else." When we fear something on this earth or we fear some person, that shows that we don't fear God. When we fear human beings, it's because we don't fear God. When we fear sickness or the devil or danger or death or anything, it's a proof of the fact that we don't fear God enough. If we feared God sufficiently, it would eliminate ALL other fears from our life. If we fear God, it'll give us life, happiness, and protection from harm. Those are the things the world's really seeking after, but they're seeking them in the wrong places. They seek for them through money and pleasure. The word of God says you get it through the fear of God, through the reverence for God.

    The sluggard buries his hand in the dish,
    But will not even bring it back to his mouth.

    Prov 19:24

Of course, it's not literally like that. You would never find a man like that. Solomon is using sarcasm and exaggeration to show how people can have such a lazy attitude. Even though it may not literally apply to a plate of rice, you do find this happen when it comes to the study of God's word, which is another type of food for our souls. A person can take the word of God, put his hand into it (which means he reads it), but he doesn't have the patience to meditate on it and receive something for his spirit. He's too lazy for that. He wants to go off and do something else. His whole attitude to God's word is exactly as is described here. He puts his hand into it and is too lazy to try and get something out of it to feed himself. He wants to go to the meeting and always be fed by somebody else. Meetings are good. We need the meetings. We need help from one another. But we also need to learn how to put our hand into the dish and bring something out of it to feed ourselves in addition to all the meetings we go to.

    Punish a mocker and others will learn from his example. Reprove a wise
        man, and he will be the wiser.

    Prov 19:25, TLB

1 Timothy 5:20 says for those who keep on sinning, rebuke them publicly so that others may also fear. There is a place for rebuking one who continues in sin publicly in the church, so that others will fear. Paul was telling Timothy in 1 Timothy 3:15, "I've written these things to you so that you know how to conduct yourself in the church of God." One of the things that Paul told Timothy in relation to how he should conduct himself in the church of God is 1 Timothy 5:20: those who continue in sin, rebuke in the presence of all. There is a place for rebuking a person privately. That's the first step. But if a person doesn't take that seriously, then he must be rebuked publicly so that others also may be afraid of sinning. The church is a place where God's holiness must always be maintained. So there are certain things that we have to do publicly in the church which are not only for the benefit of the person whom we are correcting, but also for the benefit of those who are watching. Then everyone will realize they can't play the fool with God and the church.

On the other hand, we read in Proverbs 19:25 that if you rebuke a wise man, he will be still wiser. When somebody rebukes you or corrects you, the way you receive it determines whether you're going to grow wiser or you're going to remain a fool. A wise person receives a word of correction or a word of rebuke, and the result is he becomes still wiser. That's a tremendous piece of wisdom you can get when you're a child. For the children who read this: when your father or mother correct you and you receive it, you can grow wiser. Or maybe a wife is being corrected by her husband. If that wife can receive it, she will grow wiser. If you get offended, you can remain in your folly.

    Only a shameful, disgraceful person would mistreat his father or turn
        his mother away from his home.

    Prov 19:26, GNT

It is a shameful thing to ill-treat our parents or to turn them away from our home. It says only a shameful, disgraceful person will ever do that. May it never be said of any of us that we fall under that category of being shameful and disgraceful by ill-treating our parents. One way of ill-treating our parents is by exposing their nakedness to others. That's what Ham did when he exposed the nakedness of his father, Noah. He went and told others about some weakness he saw in his father. Maybe you see a weakness in your father or mother. Keep it to yourself; pray for them; but never go around speaking about it to others. That's the reason why some people don't get God's blessing upon their life: because they speak so badly about their parents. Maybe they have light and wisdom and understanding, but then they see their aged parents who don't have the same wisdom they have, and they speak about them in a bad way. I believe that there's something of God's blessing that you lose when you ill-treat your father or mother in that way or do something that turns they away from your home.

    Cease listening, my son, to discipline,
    And you will stray from the words of knowledge.

    Prov 19:27
    Stop listening to teaching that you know contradicts what is right.

    Prov 19:27, TLB

In other words, when God disciplines us and punishes us through the circumstances of life, the purpose is that we might understand the words of knowledge. If you don't accept the disciplines of life, you cannot understand the word of God. We can't understand God's word merely by studying it with our brain. We also have to allow God, through the Holy Spirit, to discipline us in the daily circumstances of life so that God's word becomes living to us. If we don't accept God's discipline, it says we will stray from the words of knowledge.

The Living Bible paraphrase gives another possible meaning of this verse. For example, when seeking for the baptism in the Holy Spirit, there are people who may say, "Well, I'd like to read both sides of the subject." The result is when they read one side of the subject which is according to God's word, they get faith. Then, in order to be what they think is balanced, they read the other side of the subject, and they get filled with unbelief. The result is they never get baptized in the Holy Spirit! This should not be. We are to stop listening to teaching which we know contradicts what we know is right, particularly when we are young believers. Most of us can't handle both sides of a subject till we are past a certain degree of maturity. In the earlier part of our life it's good to listen to that which stirs up faith. Instead, people go here and there listening to all types of preachers, many of whom sow unbelief into their hearts. Take victory over sin, for example. Someone can hear about victory over sin one day and then the next day they hear or read something else that tells them such a life is not possible. The result is they don't have faith for such a life, and it takes a long, long time for them to ever come to victory over sin. All this was because they listened to teaching or read books which sowed unbelief in their heart. We must always throw away those books which sow unbelief in our heart. We must not listen to preachers who put unbelief in our heart toward God's word. We must stop listening to teaching that contradicts what we know is right.

    A rascally witness makes a mockery of justice,
    And the mouth of the wicked spreads iniquity.

    Prov 19:28
    There is no justice where a witness is determined to hurt someone.
        Wicked people love the taste of evil.

    Prov 19:28, GNT

The sad thing in the world is that there is no justice in the courts of law. Jesus said that the world is not going to treat us (his disciples) any better than they treated him, and we know that he was treated so unjustly right through the end of his life. That is the treatment we can expect as well. There will be a lot of injustice on earth. The latter part of this verse in the Good News Translation says, "Wicked people love the taste of evil." That teaches us that if we are really righteous, it's not just that we avoid what is evil - we don't even want to taste it. A little bit of evil on our tongue will immediately be rejected. We know how sensitive our tongue is to taste. We can put something on our tongue - just a wee, tiny bit - and we say, "That's a terrible taste." That must be our attitude toward evil: exactly the opposite of the wicked. I don't even want to have a little bit of it - not even a taste of it in my life.

    Judgments are prepared for scoffers,
    And blows for the back of fools.

    Prov 19:29

The word of God says in Hebrews 9:27 that it's appointed unto men once to die and after that, the judgment. Here it speaks about the certainty of judgment; judgment has been prepared. When the book of Proverbs speaks about a scoffer, it's speaking about a man who is rebelling against the truth of God's word. For him judgment is certain. It's appointed unto men once to die, and after death comes the judgment where we will have to give an account to God of every single thing that we have done in our body - every single word we have spoken, our attitudes, our thoughts, and everything.

Chapter 20
Chapter 20

    Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler,
    And whoever is intoxicated by it is not wise.

    Prov 20:1

Here it speaks about alcoholic drinks: "Wine is a mocker." In other words, wine deceives you. It deceives people who get drunk with it. And, "strong drink is a brawler," means that strong drink leads people into fights. Whoever is intoxicated by alcohol is not wise.

We know that people drink alcoholic drinks and wine mainly because they want to satisfy their bodily longings. They ignore the fact that it makes them disobey God's word. Sin came into the world through Eve's desire for food. She saw that it was something that appealed to her body. Jesus was also tempted through food. Now, most of us may not have any problem with alcoholic drinks or intoxicating liquor. We know that they are harmful. Then what shall we gain from this verse? I believe in the necessity of self-control when it comes to bodily lusts, even in the area of food and drink. God calls us to discipline and self-control over our bodily lusts, even in the matter of eating and drinking.

    The terror of a king is like the roaring of a lion;
    He who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life.

    Prov 20:2

Again this is a verse that tells us about God's wrath being like the roaring of a lion. God is the king of the universe. It says if we provoke God to anger, we forfeit his own life. We've considered before the terribleness of God's wrath against sin. I believe that the vast majority of people, even many Christians, don't have an understanding of the terribleness of God's wrath against sin. In a sense, God's wrath against sin is like the roaring of a lion.

    Any fool can start arguments; the honorable thing is to stay out of

    Prov 20:3, GNT

This teaches us that a person who starts an argument is a fool, and a person who continues an argument, with the person who has started it, is equally a fool. The honorable thing is to avoid arguments altogether. That's a word that we really need to take seriously. Even when we are proclaiming the gospel to others, we are not to get caught up into an argument about the truth of the gospel. We have to proclaim the truth but never argue, because nobody gets convinced of the truth through argument. It's not by human cleverness that we can lead people to God's truth. People can understand God's truth only by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. If they have a sense of need in their life, if they are sincere, if they are humble, then the Spirit of God can reveal to them that Christ died for their sins. He can reveal the New and Living Way to them and many other things, but it's not by human argument or cleverness. Therefore, even when it comes to preaching the gospel, we are to only proclaim truth.

This verse also applies to all other areas of life. For example, consider a husband and wife. The one who starts the argument is a fool, whether it is the husband or the wife. And if the other person continues it, we can say both are fools. Blessed is the home where at least one of the two is wise. Even more blessed is the home where both are wise, where there are no arguments at all. Any fool can start an argument. Any idiot in the whole world can start an argument. That's the easiest thing in the world! The wise thing is to stay out of them and to keep away from all strife. It's an honor for a man to do that.

    The lazy one does not plow after the autumn,
    So he begs during the harvest and has nothing.

    Prov 20:4

Again, here is another word about diligence and hard work. At the time when this man should have sown the seed, he said, "Oh, it's too cold today. I can't go and sow the seed today." He'll find some excuse not to sow seed, and the result is that when harvest comes and other people who worked hard during the sowing time reap a harvest, his own fields will have produced no crops. He was too lazy to sow during sowing time, and he becomes a beggar. This teaches us about the importance of faithfulness in the time when we should be sowing seed (e.g., our present earthly life). Our whole earthly life is actually a sowing time. We don't really have a spiritual harvest here on the earth. The harvest time is after we leave the world and go into eternity. Our entire life on earth is just a sowing time.

Because we sow and sow and we don't get an immediate harvest, we can tend to get discouraged and give up. That's why the word of God tells us in Galatians 6:8 to sow to the Spirit. Then it says in verse 9, "Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." When people are evil to us, that's the time to sow a good seed in return. When people curse us, that's the time to sow a good seed by blessing them. When people hate us, that's the time to sow a good seed by doing good to them. You may say, "When shall we get a harvest?" Maybe never in our earthly lifetime, but we'll get a harvest in eternity. That is definite! It is impossible for a person to sow and not get a harvest. It says in Galatians 6:8, "If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life!" So let's not become weary in this earthly life of sowing! Sow a kind word, sow a good action, sow good in return for the evil someone does to you. We're not to just sit back and say, "Alright, I forgive him." When somebody has done evil to us, it's good if I have forgiven him, but I haven't sown a seed yet. To sow a seed, I have to do good to that person who has done evil to me. That's why Jesus said, "Do good to those who hate you." He didn't say, "Forgive those who curse you." He said, "Bless those who curse you." Sow a seed and then at the time of harvest, we will not be poor. At the judgment seat of Christ, when Jesus comes back, we shall be rich, because we have used our life for sowing seeds of goodness to the glory of God.

    A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water,
    But a man of understanding draws it out.

    Prov 20:5
    Though good advice lies deep within a counselor's heart, the wise man
        will draw it out.

    Prov 20:5, TLB

I believe the meaning of this verse is that a really wise man may have a lot of good advice deep down in his heart, but it's like a deep well. Do you know the difference between a well and a spring? From a well, you have to draw the water out, whereas from a spring, the water just flows out all the time. Here it says good advice is deep down in a wise man's heart, like a well. In other words, a wise man does not go around giving advice to everyone he meets. That's a foolish man. A foolish man is always gushing out his advice like a spring! He has a piece of advice for every person he meets. He has an opinion on everything! That's the mark of a fool! A wise man on the other hand, realizes people are doing a lot of foolish things, but still doesn't come forth with advice till he sees that they have a sense of need for it. If you want advice, you have to get it out of that wise person. He doesn't just give it out easily, even when you go to him for advice. He's hesitant to give it, because he may see that you have no interest in obeying it in any case.

For example, in Jeremiah 42, the people went to Jeremiah to find out God's will and asked, "Should we go to Egypt? Find out if it's God's will that we should go to Egypt or not." And Jeremiah said, "Alright, I'll find out, but I'm sure you fellas won't obey me in any case." They responded, "Oh yes, we'll obey you." Then Jeremiah went and found God's will and said, "Thus says the Lord, 'You shall not go to Egypt.'" And the people said, "No, you haven't heard God correctly!" That's how it is with a lot of people. They don't really want to do what God says, and a wise man realizes that. He senses who is really willing to receive God's word and who isn't.

Another reason a wise man is hesitant to give advice is that he does not really want to thrust his opinion on other people. It's a foolish man who always wants to control other people with his advice. A wise person has advice deep down within his heart, and if another person really values it, he'll come and pull it out. That's the meaning of this verse.

    Many a man proclaims his own loyalty,
    But who can find a trustworthy man?

    Prov 20:6

In other words, everyone talks about how faithful he himself is, but just try finding someone who is really faithful. Now, I don't think any of us go around saying to others, "I'm quite faithful, you know." But it says here many men do proclaim their own faithfulness. It doesn't come out in those words, but it comes in very subtle ways. It can come out, for example, in the giving of a testimony in a meeting. I can give a testimony in a meeting about a particular situation that I faced in my home or in the office or in the factory, and the whole burden of the testimony is to show other people how faithful I was. Many people proclaim their own faithfulness, but not in crude words, saying, "I am a faithful brother in the church." Nobody is stupid enough to lose his reputation for humility in that way. We're all wise to preserve our reputation for humility, so we have clever ways of proclaiming our own faithfulness. Sometimes it's just with one sentence where I'm trying to add to some exposition of the word of God. Everybody's thinking that I'm explaining the word of God, but actually I've put in a little illustration or a little sentence just to show how faithful I am. The world is full of such people who want to show how faithful they are.

And quite apart from that, I think most of us proclaim our faithfulness to ourselves even if we don't proclaim it to other people. Generally speaking, it is true that most believers have a higher opinion about their own faithfulness than is actually the case. I believe one of the biggest hindrances to spiritual growth is when we don't have a sober estimate about our own spiritual condition. We think, "I'm a pretty good believer. I'm a pretty faithful brother." The proof of such a thought pattern is when I hear that somebody has said something about me which is not very good, I get worked up about it. It is then that I should realize what a high opinion I have about myself. We quote Romans 7:24, which says, "Oh, wretched man that I am," but we don't really believe it deep down in our heart. The proof is that when somebody else says I am wretched, I get a little upset for a couple of days or a couple of hours perhaps. Most men think that they are faithful, but who can find a trustworthy man who is really honest before God, faithful in secret, seeks to judge himself, and seeks to see himself clearly in God's light. It says, "Who can find one?" It is rare. The very fact that the Holy Spirit, through the word of God, says, "Who can find a trustworthy man?" shows that it's not easy to find someone who really has a sober and sensible estimate of his own spiritual condition.

I believe a trustworthy man is one who is longing to see himself as God sees him at all times. I want to ask you, dear brothers and sisters: do you have a great longing to know your true spiritual condition as God sees you? Not what brother x, y, or z thinks about you. You can throw that in the garbage. Even what the elder brothers think about you, you can just throw that into the bottom of the garbage. That's worth nothing! I believe we must have a fantastic longing for this. I know I've cried out to God with all my heart many times, saying, "Lord, I don't want to deceive myself. I want to know what you think about me. Really! Tell me the truth! I really want to know what you think about my spirituality. If you think I'm just a rotten deceiver, tell me so! I really want to know! I don't want to deceive myself." Ask God to show you and he will arrange circumstances to reveal your true spiritual condition to you.

Brothers and sisters, our desire should be to be among those few who God can say are really trustworthy, and who have a sober, sensible opinion about their own spiritual condition - the same opinion as God has. This should be our longing: to see ourselves as God sees us.

    Children are fortunate if they have a father who is honest and does
        what is right.

    Prov 20:7, GNT

The book of Proverbs and much of the New Testament place a great value on being honest. Honesty about our true condition is really the first step towards spirituality. And, of course, that means being honest in all areas of life. The word of God says that your children are really blessed if you are an honest father - not if you're a clever one, or a rich one, or one who has a big job, or one who can give them many things, but if you're honest and you do what is right. Righteousness blesses our children. If your children can see as they grow up that you always do what is right according to your conscience, how blessed are your children.

    A king sitting as judge weighs all the evidence carefully,
        distinguishing the true from false.

    Prov 20:8, TLB

It speaks here of the necessity of having discernment wherever we have any responsibility. We can begin as parents in the home. A father is a king in his home and often has to sit as a judge in various situations. This applies to wherever God gives us responsibility such as in our work situations or in a church. The great need is to be able to discern as to what is true and what is false. A king sitting as judge weighs all the evidence carefully and distinguishes the true from the false.

    Who can say, "I have cleansed my heart,
    I am pure from my sin"?

    Prov 20:9

In the Old Testament, where the book of Proverbs is found, no one could say, "I have cleansed my heart." In the Old Testament, you don't see the distinction between the heart and the flesh. The Holy Spirit had not come, and they did not have light in this area at all. But it's quite foolish for someone who is living in the New Covenant age to go back to Proverbs 20:9 and to say, "Who can say, 'I've cleansed my heart'?" This is because it is the will of God today that we have a clean heart: blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8). We have a heart which is sprinkled clean from an evil conscience as it says in Hebrews 10:22. We are cleansed by the blood of Christ so that there is nothing that defiles our heart. It is important that we see this distinction. Even though nothing good dwells in our flesh, we can keep our heart clean and our heart pure from all sin.

    Differing weights and differing measures,
    Both of them are abominable to the Lord.

    Prov 20:10

This refers to any type of cheating related to buying and selling. It's interesting to see how many times in the book of Proverbs it speaks about being unrighteous in buying and selling. There's a lot of that in the world, and we have to be very careful as believers. We are never to be involved in any type of unrighteousness related to buying and selling. What differing weights and measures means is that if you are a businessman selling something in a shop, and someone buys one kilogram of something, you must give him one kilogram. Now, most of us are not selling things in a shop, but the bible speaks about giving what is due to those who have worked for us. It says in James 5:4 "Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth." This teaches us that it's possible even for believers not to be righteous in paying what is due to those who have worked for them. Of course, it's a very common thing in the world, where people try to get work out of people and pay them the minimum possible. But God is a righteous judge who sees whether we take advantage of the poor who work for us. If we do that, it says in James 5:4 that their cry of our unrighteousness against them reaches the ears of the Lord, with whom there is no partiality. So we have to be very careful. Just like the businessman has to give 1 kilogram to the person who is buying 1 kilogram, we have to be careful that we give what is due to those who work for us. It's better to err on the side of giving a little more rather than less, especially when we think of the seriousness of our accountability in this matter on the day of judgment.

    The character of even a child can be known by the way he acts-whether
        what he does is pure and right.

    Prov 20:11, TLB

This is basically what Jesus said in Matthew 7:16, that by their fruits you shall know them. Even for a child, his character is known by the way he behaves. By their fruits you shall know them right from childhood onwards.

    The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
    The Lord has made both of them.

    Prov 20:12
    If you have good eyesight and good hearing, thank God who gave them to

    Prov 20:12, TLB

There are many people in the world who do not have good eyesight or good hearing. Those which we can take for granted, it says to thank God who gave them to you. And of course, the implication is to use the eyesight and hearing ability which God gave you for his glory. When we are tempted with our eyes particularly, it's good to ask ourselves: "How would it be if God had struck me blind? Thankfully, he hasn't done that. He has given me eyesight, but it's not for me to lust with. It's for me to use for his glory." If God has given you good eyesight, remember it's God's gift. If he's given you good hearing, thank him and don't take it for granted. Remember that he gave it to you that you might use them both, for his glory alone and for no other purpose.

    If you love sleep, you will end in poverty. Stay awake, work hard, and
        there will be plenty to eat!

    Prov 20:13, TLB

This is one of the many exhortations in the book of Proverbs relating to diligence and hard work. Both are emphasized so many times in the book of Proverbs. This teaches that God has no place for lazy people in his kingdom. Either in earthly matters or in spiritual things, there is no place for laziness. Spirituality does not come if a man is not willing to work at it. Just like in the earthly realm, a man cannot have a crop if he does not work hard, even so spiritually. Remember what Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:6, "The hardworking farmer has to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything." It is only righteous that a hard working farmer gets the first share of the crops. Paul is not telling Timothy how to farm a field. He's teaching a spiritual lesson to be diligent and serious about plowing up the fallow ground and sowing righteousness. This is one of the many exhortations in Proverbs about diligence which shows the great importance of it in our spiritual life.

    "Bad, bad," says the buyer,
    But when he goes his way, then he boasts.

    Prov 20:14

This verse speaks about the deceit that can be in our speech. It's referring to a very common technique employed by people when they want to bargain. The buyer says, "It's bad, it's bad. It's useless. It's good for nothing." Thereby he beats the seller down to a lower price and when he gets it, he goes back home and boasts, "See what a bargain I got this wonderful thing for." There was a deception there. It's alright for worldly people to engage in this type of deception, but not Christians. This verse is not teaching us that we shouldn't bargain or that we should sell something for any price that people ask. By all means, get the price down. All this verse is saying is: don't tell a lie in order to do it. Don't lie by saying it's useless when you know very well it's not useless, just because you want him to bring the price down. You say it's bad or that you can get a better one somewhere else when you know very well that you can't. It's not worth it to be deceptive. Here we find how believers can be so careless in their speech in little things. Their motive may be good in trying to get a person to come to a reasonable price for something, but the method they adopt is sinful in saying something which is not really true. When the bible says that we have to love the truth, it means that we have to love the truth in all areas, particularly in our speech. We have to cleanse ourselves from all lying, even in this area of buying and selling.

    There is gold, and an abundance of jewels;
    But lips of knowledge are a more precious thing.

    Prov 20:15
    If you know what you are talking about, you have something more
        valuable than gold or jewels.

    Prov 20:15, GNT

This verse is very similar to what we read in 1 Peter 3:3-4: women are not to adorn themselves with gold or ornaments or fancy clothes, but with a meek and quiet spirit, which is of great value in God's eyes. Such a meek and quiet spirit is far more valuable than gold. And here it says when we speak, if we are speaking from what we have lived and experienced, then it is far more precious than gold or jewels. It's really referring to wisdom.

    Anyone stupid enough to promise to be responsible for a stranger's
        debts ought to have their own property held to guarantee payment.

    Prov 20:16, GNT

This is one of the many exhortations found in the book of Proverbs against standing as guarantee for someone who is unknown. It speaks here about a "stranger" - someone with whom you haven't come into a relationship. I believe it is right to stand guarantee for those with whom we have come to a committed relationship in the body of Christ. When I say that, I don't mean everyone who sits in the same assembly. Many can sit in an assembly whom you may not have come into a committed relationship with. It's one thing to have confidence in a person and it's another thing to have fellowship with a person. We have fellowship with all brothers, but we don't necessarily have confidence in all brothers. That's because some of them are not very stable yet. We have nothing against them, but they are not very steady. We're to be careful that we don't stand guarantee for someone whom we do not have confidence in in the guise of a false love. It's a stupid thing to promise to pay somebody else's debts when the word of God tells us that we ourselves are not to be in debt: "Owe no man anything" (Romans 13:8). Here it's speaking about somebody who wants to borrow something and come to you to stand guarantee for him. If you consent out of a false understanding of love, the word of God says you're so stupid that you deserve to have your property taken away from you.

    What you get by dishonesty you may enjoy like the finest food, but
        sooner or later it will be like a mouthful of sand.

    Prov 20:17, GNT

You know how it is to have a mouthful of sand. It's not at all a good feeling to have, and yet it says here that is the result of acquiring things by dishonesty. In the beginning, what you gain by cheating or dishonesty or any such method, you can enjoy like the finest food. But afterward it becomes like gravel in your mouth.

    Prepare plans by consultation,
    And make war by wise guidance.

    Prov 20:18
    Get good advice and you will succeed; don't go charging into battle
        without a plan.

    Prov 20:18, GNT

This basically means that we should seek for advice in our life from those who have more experience, maturity, and wisdom. That will protect us from many follies. If only those who were younger in experience and age would take some of these exhortations seriously, it would save them from a tremendous amount of folly. There are many young people who make absolute fools of themselves in many things that they do, because they do not seek for correction or advice from those who have a little more maturity and wisdom than themselves. And then of course, the sad thing is they can do so many foolish things that people gradually begin to lose confidence in them altogether. They need not have become like that, if only they had been a little humble and sought for advice. Prepare plans by consultation. It's good to consult and take advice before we take a step forward, particularly in marriage matters. There is such a lot of folly in boy/girl relationships. Perhaps this is the area I've seen the most amount of folly among young people, simply because they won't take advice and they think they know everything. Then they make fools of themselves and everybody loses confidence in them. We could speak of many other areas as well, even in the church. It's good to seek for advice. It's good to humble ourselves and acknowledge that we lack wisdom in so many different areas.

    A gossip can never keep a secret. Stay away from people who talk too

    Prov 20:19, GNT
    Don't tell your secrets to a gossip unless you want them broadcast to
        the world.

    Prov 20:19, TLB

This is a very good exhortation. If you find a person who is always talking too much, it's good not to keep company with him, because he will only defile you. He can never be a help to you. It says, "Stay away from people who talk too much." When people talk so much, they sin. In the multitude of words, it's impossible to avoid sin (Proverbs 10:19). Seek fellowship with those who don't talk so much. Those are the people who have more wisdom. A fool's voice is known by much speaking (Ecclesiastes 5:3).

I have found throughout the years, in spite of all the exhortations we give relating to gossiping and backbiting, there are very few who take them so seriously so as to eliminate them completely from their lives. Most people don't take them seriously enough. They have to give an account to God for every idle word they speak in the final day. Therefore we have to be particularly careful not to share secrets with someone who is not taking this matter very seriously. Many, many people do not know how to keep a secret or how to keep something confidential. There are very few people, even in the church, who know how to keep something entirely to themselves. Very, very few. So we are not to be foolish in sharing our problems, difficulties, or anything confidential with people who do not know how to keep things to themselves. Don't share something that's in your heart to anybody and everybody, not even in the church. Most of them don't have understanding in this area.

    He who curses his father or his mother,
    His lamp will go out in time of darkness.

    Prov 20:20

The "time of darkness" means a person's time of need. During the time of darkness, there will not be a lamp to light the way if you curse your father or your mother. This can even be cursing your parents behind their backs like Ham, the son of Noah, did. We read in Genesis 9 that Ham spoke bad about his father to his brothers. God took that very seriously, and a curse came not only upon Ham, but upon his children also. He had the spirit of rebellion in doing that. This teaches us that it's a very dangerous thing to speak bad behind your parents' backs, even if you see some weakness in them. We always need to cover our parents' nakedness with a sheet like Shem and Japheth did. If you have seen some weakness in your parents, cover it. We can also say this applies to your father-in-law or your mother-in-law, because they are your spouse's parents. People can be less careful with their in-laws even though they are very careful when it comes to their own parents.

We see from this that God tests each person's faithfulness. It's in the little things that God sees if a man is faithful. Like we read in Proverbs 20:6, everybody is ready to think that he is very faithful, but when God examines a person according to all the little things written in the book of Proverbs, he finds there are very few who are really trustworthy and faithful before his face in secret. But the world is full of believers who think that they are very faithful and wholehearted and zealous and all that. They are deceiving themselves. We have to take all these little things seriously and live before God's face, because we have to give an account to him finally. Like it says here, if we curse our father or mother, then in our time of need, we'll find there is no light along our path. Our lamps will go out in time of darkness just like the foolish virgins whose lamps went out when the darkness came.

    The more easily you get your wealth, the less good it will do you.

    Prov 20:21, GNT

Don't envy a man who has earned a fantastic inheritance. That's not necessarily the best way to get money. The word of God places much emphasis on working and earning your money. Also, don't make a fortune through dishonesty or cheating. It's not worth it. You'll find there's a curse that comes along with your wealth. And that curse can be passed down to your family who inherits that cheated, dishonest money.

    Do not say, "I will repay evil";
    Wait for the Lord, and He will save you.

    Prov 20:22
    Don't repay evil for evil. Wait for the Lord to handle the matter.

    Prov 20:22, TLB

In other words, we are not to take vengeance on anyone. We are to let the Lord handle the matter. One of the best examples of this in the Old Testament was David. King Saul was after his life, and yet he never tried to take Saul's life in return, even when Saul was at his mercy. David let God handle the matter. God took care of Saul and dealt with him in his own time, and he put David on the throne. We need to see, dear brothers and sisters, that there is a great lust in our flesh to take revenge. If you say that lust is not in you, that only shows you have not yet seen what dwells in your flesh. There is a fantastic lust in us to take revenge. You may think it is only to take revenge on those you hate. No. Very often we can take revenge on loved ones. A husband can take revenge on his wife, not by killing her or some other crude way, but in very subtle ways in the home. A father or mother can take revenge on their children for inconveniencing them in some way. There are many ways that we try to repay evil with evil, and we need to cleanse out that vengeful nature which dwells in our flesh which is constantly seeking to come into our heart.

A little delight when something bad happens to someone who has not treated you well. What is that? That is a manifestation of this same vengeful spirit. When David heard that Saul had died, he didn't even inwardly rejoice at the news. In 2 Samuel 1, you can see that there was such a clean spirit in him, and he was an Old Covenant man who didn't know anything about judging himself or about the New and Living Way. What a fantastically clean spirit he had in relation to Saul, that he never coveted the throne nor was he happy when something bad happened to the person who had treated him so badly all through his life. I'm not surprised that God called David, "a man after my own heart." It's easy, brothers and sisters, to think we are in the New Covenant and greater than David. We need to see how much more God is going to require from us in this area of revenge. We need to cleanse ourselves thoroughly. Don't ever take it upon yourself to repay wrong. Trust in the Lord and he will make it alright.

    Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord,
    And a false scale is not good.

    Prov 20:23

We considered this before in Proverbs 20:10. This is one of those things repeated again and again in the book of Proverbs. I want to apply this in a spiritual way. Jesus said, "In the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you." All of us by nature have a tendency to judge others more severely than we judge ourselves. When we do something wrong, we tend to take it lightly. But when someone else makes that same mistake for which we gave ourselves leniency, we can be so severe in our judgment of them. What is that? We have differing measures like it says in this verse. I use one measure to judge that person and a different measure to judge myself. That's an abomination to the Lord. If we ever have differing weights, it should be that we judge ourselves more severely and others more lightly. That will help us in the day of judgment, because it says God will judge us by the same measure that we have judged others in the final day.

    Man's steps are ordained by the Lord,
    How then can man understand his way?

    Prov 20:24
    Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything
        that happens along the way?

    Prov 20:24, TLB

We can't understand everything that happens along the way. It says in Romans 8:26 that we do not know what to pray for or how to pray as we should. But we do know that God works everything for good for those who love him (Romans 8:28). There are many of God's dealings with us which we cannot understand. We don't have to understand. All we have to do is humble ourselves under God's mighty hand. Since the Lord is directing our steps, why try to understand everything that happens along the way? It's enough to know that God is working for our good.

    It is foolish and rash to make a promise to the Lord before counting
        the cost.

    Prov 20:25, TLB

This is another tendency man has. In some moment of trial or pressure or crisis he says, "Oh God, I'll do this for you," or "I'll give this to you!" Then when that crisis is over, he takes lightly what he has said. That's not right. It says it's foolish and rash to make a promise like that before counting the cost. Jesus said, "Sit down and count the cost" (Luke 14:28). That's a good word. Don't make a decision while you're standing. Sit down, relax, think about it, count the cost, and then decide whether you want to move forward, or commit yourself, or give whatever you're thinking about to the Lord. You find that those who take their decisions in this way have much more steadiness and stability in their spiritual life, growth, and progress, because they have really thought through what it means to be a disciple. When I make a decision, I think of all these things. I say, "Lord, I have sat down. I have counted the cost, and I want to be a disciple." But there are many who don't sit down and count the cost. They just get excited in a meeting and say, "Yes, I'm excited to follow the Lord." You find these people are always taking decisions, and yet, year after year after year you never see much progress in their spiritual lives. That's because they haven't really sat down before God and counted the cost of being a disciple. I want to encourage every one of us to take that command of Jesus seriously: sit down. Before the Lord, think of all that being a disciple means. Then decide whether you want to be one or not. Lightly saying, "Yes, I want to do this," can be mere empty words. They don't impress the Lord and they are actually harmful to us.

    A wise king stamps out crime by severe punishment.

    Prov 20:26, TLB

This refers to God who is the wise king. He is going to stamp out all sin in this world with the lake of fire that he has prepared for the wicked. That is perfectly righteous of God to do. It's part of his wisdom, it says here. A wise king eradicates crime by severe punishment. There is a movement gradually spreading all over the world to eradicate capital punishment. That basically means that we shouldn't hang murderers anymore. Many countries don't hang people anymore. A person can murder someone, and he is not hung anymore. The result of this lack of severe punishment, which is due to a human idea of love and goodness, is that crime increases. But in the countries where punishment is very severe and strict, you find less crime. We shouldn't have any false ideas of love, even with our own children. Strict punishment is the way we can eliminate a lot of evil in their lives.

    A man's conscience is the Lord's searchlight exposing his hidden

    Prov 20:27, TLB

God has given each of us a conscience, and that conscience is like a searchlight. When you shine a searchlight into a corner under the bed, you see things which you didn't see when you looked without a searchlight. So it is with a man's conscience. A man's conscience is God's searchlight that exposes our hidden motives. It's good to keep that searchlight burning. Keep the battery charged. Keep that searchlight always alive and alert so that it can help you to cleanse yourself. Since we have a conscience, it is very easy for us to judge ourselves if we want. Our conscience alerts us about our entire conscious area. We don't have to worry about our unconscious areas. God doesn't ask us to do that. But in our conscious area, our conscience will tell us clearly, "This is wrong. Never mind if you see some other brother doing it. This is wrong for you." Or, "You are doing this with a wrong motive." If I can listen to that voice of conscience every time, then I can cleanse myself and keep the Lord's searchlight in me burning brightly. I believe this is one of the great secrets of spiritual progress in our lives: to keep that searchlight always brightly burning. Don't let it dim. For example, when you find that you're no longer convicted today about things that you were disturbed about four or five years ago, that means the power of your searchlight has become dimmer. Once upon a time something bothered you, but it doesn't bother you now. That's an indication that something is wrong. It's the beginning of backsliding when we lose sensitivity in our conscience.

    Loyalty and truth preserve the king,
    And he upholds his throne by righteousness.

    Prov 20:28

We can think again of our position as kings in our homes and in other places where God gives us responsibility. It says that we uphold our throne by righteousness and by truth. There could be many applications of this verse, but one is that we keep our promises to our children. That's a very important thing, and I find that we have to be careful to cleanse ourselves in this area. If we have promised something to our children, we should keep our word. We uphold our thrones in our homes as fathers, as kings of the home, by righteousness. If you have promised to do something for your child, then do it - if, of course, the conditions are fulfilled. If you have promised to punish your child if it does something, then you have to keep your promise and punish the child when it does that thing. Don't just ignore it. Keep your word to uphold your throne by righteousness as fathers.

    The glory of young men is their strength,
    And the honor of old men is their gray hair.

    Prov 20:29

Grey hair refers to wisdom. The expectation is that as we grow older, we should become wiser. It's easy to get grey hair on your head. You just grow older, and the grey hair comes automatically, whether you're wise or not. But the expectation is that as the grey hairs come, wisdom is increasingly found in our life. That, we know, cannot come overnight. That is why it is important to work on our salvation right from our youth, so that we don't end up as fools even when we have grey hair.

What are the examples of folly given in the book of Proverbs? There are many. For example, a man who is old and still doesn't know how to control his tongue, who still speaks much like when he was young. Ecclesiastes 5:3 says, "A fool's voice is known in the multitude of his words." Or a person who grows old and still loses his temper. Ecclesiastes 7:9 says, "Anger dwells in the bosom of fools." The man has grey hair on his head, but he still gets upset and irritated and loses his temper. That is a man who has not become wise yet. These are examples of things that we are to grow out of, so that by the time grey hair begins to be found on our head, the marks of wisdom are also there. That's why it's important that we really pursue after wisdom right from the time that we are young. It takes a lifetime to acquire it. That's why we really have to take this seriously. Otherwise, we'll never make progress.

Young men's strength is their zeal. Sometimes young men can think that strength is the great thing, and so they despise those who are not so strong even though they have wisdom. But the word of God says that wisdom is better than strength. Both are needed. Both young men and old people are needed in the church. In 1 John 2:13-14, John writes to the children, to the young men that are strong, and to the fathers who know God and his ways. So there is a need for all in the church - for young men with their zeal (even if they don't have much wisdom) and for older people who are wise. By older people, I don't mean old in age. A man can have a head full of grey hair and have no wisdom at all, yet there may be another young brother who doesn't have one grey hair but he has wisdom. Spirituality does not depend on physical age. A person can be a spiritual father when he's thirty or thirty-five - a spiritual father! Much more than someone else who is seventy if he hasn't progressed in the way of patience and wisdom. But it is God's will that there are those who have wisdom in the church and young men with their strength. It's very important to be zealous when we are young. It's a sad thing when young men are lukewarm spiritually. There's not much hope for them.

    Punishment that hurts chases evil from the heart.

    Prov 20:30, TLB
    Sometimes it takes a painful experience to make us change our ways.

    Prov 20:30, GNT

We could apply to God's chastening over our life. Sometimes that is the only way for us to learn a lesson, just as we find with our own children. We have to punish them before they learn a lesson. God also finds with us that in order to chase away evil from our hearts, he has to give us a punishment that hurts us. When God wants us to change our ways in some area, and he has spoken to us, but we haven't heard him or obeyed what he's told us, then he gives us a painful experience - maybe a sickness, maybe a trial, maybe testing us in our home, maybe some painful experience. That's exactly like a father disciplining his children in such a way that it hurts. Our Father is chastening us with the intention that we might change our ways.

Chapter 21
Chapter 21

    Just as water is turned into irrigation ditches, so the Lord directs
        the king's thoughts. He turns them wherever he wants to.

    Prov 21:1, TLB

This is speaking about the sovereignty of God over all people. It refers to the king because in those days, the king was the most powerful person in a country. It says here that the Lord can make even the most powerful person in a country change his thoughts just like water is turned in irrigation ditches. When a farmer wants to irrigate his land, usually there is a canal flowing nearby, and he makes a little irrigation ditch connecting to that canal so that he can make that water flow into any part of his farm - north, south, east, or west. He slopes the irrigation ditch in such a way that the water will come, and it says just as easily, the Lord can make powerful people in the world change their decisions. He controls their thoughts, and he can turn them wherever he wishes. I don't know whether there's any verse in the whole bible which speaks of the absolute sovereignty of God over the world authorities as definitively and powerfully as this verse. And when we are in living connection with such a God, this truth eliminates all fear from our hearts completely. God can do amazing things with your boss in your office who is much smaller than a king, or with the landlord, or anyone else. We must have faith in a living God - in a loving father who has control over all these things. He can remove people from power, put people in power, and turn people's opinions and decisions. This is the God we worship. This is what makes us more than conquerors in all situations.

There are many instances of this in the Old Testament: how God made Pharaoh release the Israelites from Egypt, or how he made the Persian king in the book of Esther turn his decision so that the Jews' lives were spared, and many, many other instances. I've also read about the history of the second world war. At different points in the war, God worked in answer to prayer to turn the armies of Hitler, that demon possessed man, into defeat. God worked in all these situations and made them take foolish decisions so that they would lose. It's amazing to see God's hand working all throughout history.

    Every man's way is right in his own eyes,
    But the Lord weighs the heart.

    Prov 21:2
    We can justify our every deed, but God looks at our motives.

    Prov 21:2, TLB

This verse cuts in two directions. It's a two-edged sword. First of all, let me tell you the encouraging part of this verse: when we have done something that seemed right to us, but someone else feels that it was not right, we can be disturbed because of the opinion of that other person. There's no need to be disturbed. It says here that God sees our motive. Go to God and say, "Lord, those brothers don't understand. But you know with what motive I did that." Then you can be free. You don't have to live in condemnation or depression anymore. That's the encouraging part of this verse. God sees the motive. Never mind what other people think about your action.

The other side of the sword is a warning. That is, it's not enough that we prove to other people from some verse or other self-justification that there was something right in what we did. God sees the motive with which I did something, and the motive may have been bad. There may have been some corruption in the motive. So this verse cuts in both ways. And I just want to say this, dear brothers and sisters, we have to be very careful in this area of motives. It is in the area of motives that we sin the most. It is in the area of motives that ultimately our judgment will come.

According to 1 Corinthians 4:5, in the final day, the Lord will bring to light the hidden motives of men's hearts, and then every man will have praise from God. That man did not understand why you did something, but on the final day, God will show him and everybody else that you did it for his glory. God will say, "I don't care what your opinion is about what he did." And likewise that day will also be sad for some people - that so many things which appeared to be good before others, when their motives are finally exposed, it'll be quite sad.

I believe it will be because of their motives that many who are first will be last and many who are last in the eyes of others will be first. So we need to watch our motives at all times, particularly in matters that we are in doubt about: is it right or is it wrong? Can I do this or can I not do this? Ask yourself, "What is my motive? Can I do it for the glory of God? Can I do it in the name of the Lord Jesus?" Then you are right in doing it, even if everybody else thinks you are wrong. It makes no difference to God. According to your light, you are right. Of course, as time goes on we will get greater light, but God judges us according to the light we have at a particular moment. He does not judge me by the light I'm going to have ten years from now. Praise God that he judges me today by the light I have today. And he judges you today, not by the light I have but by the light you have. That's why I cannot judge you. I would be a stupid idiot if I judge you according to the light I have because that may not be the light you have. That is why in matters that are not written clearly about in scripture, we have to give one another freedom. I've found, brothers and sisters, that so many people who pursue righteousness end up as downright pharisees. That's the way the devil leads them astray, because they begin to judge others in areas which are not clearly written about in scripture. Give freedom. God judges that person's motive in all such matters. This is very important.

    To do righteousness and justice
    Is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.

    Prov 21:3

This is something Samuel also said: "To obey is better than sacrifice" (1 Samuel 15:22). To do the will of God, to love mercy, and to be righteous, kind, fair, and upright are much more important to God than all the sacrifices we give to him in the meetings. These are far more important than sacrificing time to come to the meetings or to do something for the church, especially if I'm doing those things while neglecting righteousness and fairness. For example, think of a husband who is not righteous and fair toward his wife at home. What is the use of him doing so many things in the church if he is not righteous and fair in considering his wife's needs at home? The Lord wants righteousness and fairness much more than all the sacrifice that you say you're going to do for his church. This is very important because we have a tendency to think, "That was for the Lord I made that sacrifice, so it doesn't matter if I'm not so righteous and fair at home." No. To be righteous and fair is much more important. That's what the Lord desires more than all those sacrifices.

    Haughty eyes and a proud heart,
    The lamp of the wicked, is sin.

    Prov 21:4

Haughty eyes and a proud heart usually go together. A prideful heart manifests itself in a prideful look. It also says that the lamp of the wicked is sin. We saw earlier in Proverbs 20:27 that the conscience of a man is the lamp or searchlight of the Lord. Here it refers to a wicked man's conscience and the standards by which he lives which are sinful. This teaches that if a man's conscience is not educated by the word of God and he doesn't seek to bring his conscience more in line with scripture, his conscience can even lead him into sin. The lamp of the wicked is sin. This is why we need to align our conscience with the teaching of God's word. This is why it's so important to know what God's word teaches on a number of subjects. All scripture is given that the man of God might be perfect, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage,
    But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty.

    Prov 21:5

Again, this is one of those repeated emphases in the book of Proverbs: hard work and wise planning that leads to prosperity, and hastiness in matters which usually leads to spiritual poverty.

21:6 TLB, speaks about dishonest gain. "Dishonest gain will never last. They'll soon disappear and they will also lead you into the jaws of death

    Dishonest gain will never last, so why take the risk?

    Prov 21:6, TLB
    The riches you get by dishonesty soon disappear, but not before they
        lead you into the jaws of death.

    Prov 21:6, GNT

Proverbs emphasizes much on money that we make dishonestly. It will never, never bring a blessing.

    Because the wicked are unfair, their violence boomerangs and destroys

    Prov 21:7, TLB

That which wicked people do as evil to other people, like a boomerang finally comes back and hits them and knocks them out. Have you noticed that sometimes? Maybe you find fault with someone in some area and you judge him, and one day you find yourself doing exactly the same thing as that brother whom you previously judged? That thing has boomeranged back on you. You judged that brother and thought you were more spiritual, and then one day it boomeranged back on you. God has put you in that awkward position where you are doing the same thing yourself. This way God teaches us not to judge others. He says, "You leave their judgment to me. It's enough if you judge yourself." The violence of the wicked boomerangs and finally destroys them. If we don't learn a lesson through these things, finally these boomerangs that come back and hit us will destroy us. I believe there are many who are sick because they have not judged themselves in this area. That's something we have to be careful about: that we don't have boomerangs of judgment coming back upon us.

    A man is known by his actions. An evil man lives an evil life; a good
        man lives a godly life.

    Prov 21:8, TLB

This, of course, is related to what Jesus said: "By their fruits you shall know them." In other words, we do not judge the inward man or his motives. A man is only known by his actions. We are to only look at the fruit in a man's life. Are they good or are they bad? NEVER are we to judge the inside and say, "I know why he's doing that." Well, if you're God, then you know why he's doing it. But since you're not God, you don't know why he's doing it, and it's good for us to humble ourselves and say, "I'm not God. I don't want to be like Lucifer who wants to be God. I don't know why he's doing it. I'm only called to judge by his external actions, and I refuse to judge his thoughts or his motives." Take that position, brothers and sisters, and it'll save you from a tremendous amount of evil and from a tremendous amount of boomerangs coming and ruining yourself. They will destroy your life and destroy your spiritual progress.

    It is better to live in a corner of a roof
    Than in a house shared with a contentious woman.

    Prov 21:9
    Better to live on the roof than share the house with a nagging wife.

    Prov 21:9, GNT

Even though it's uncomfortable to live on the roof, particularly when it rains, the word of God says even that is preferable to living inside the house if there is a wife who is constantly nagging. This is a verse that should be a challenge to all sisters who are married in the church. They should never allow their home to be like this. We saw in Proverbs 14:1 how it's a wise woman who builds her house, and since it's a woman who is in the house more than any other member of a normal family - more than the husband and the children - it's the woman who has a very important part in building the atmosphere of a house and ensuring that it is a place where wisdom is found. Nagging is the very opposite of wisdom.

    Wicked people are always hungry for evil; they have no mercy on anyone.

    Prov 21:10, GNT

This basically means that if you want to find fault, you can find fault with anyone in the whole world. You know that the Pharisees found plenty of fault even with Jesus. There was one person who walked on this earth who was absolutely perfect, with whom even God almighty could find no fault. He said, "This is my beloved son, with whom I am well pleased." But the Pharisees were always finding fault with him, so you can imagine what religion does to people. It can make a person so cockeyed and crooked in his thinking that he can find fault with a man whom even God is happy with. It's easy to find fault if we want to, which basically indicates that within all of us there is an unmerciful attitude. When we find ourselves picking out faults in others easily, that is a pretty good indication of the fact that we are unmerciful. Wicked people are always hungry for evil and eager to find fault. They have mercy on no one.

    The wise man learns by listening; the simpleton can learn only by
        seeing scorners punished.

    Prov 21:11, TLB

This verse says there are two ways to learn: one is by hearing what God has to say about a subject and the other is by seeing scorners punished. This is why the word of God says that there is a place for public rebuke in the church. We read in 1 Timothy 5:20 that if anyone continues to sin, he should be rebuked publicly so that others also may fear. They should be rebuked in the presence of everyone, it says, so that others also may be fearful of sinning. There is a place for private counsel, but if private counsel is not received by a person and he continues in sin or rebellion, then there is a need for public rebuke so that others will fear to sin in the church. This verse is referring to that. Some people learn only when they see others punished.

    God, the righteous one, knows what goes on in the homes of the wicked,
        and he will bring the wicked down to ruin.

    Prov 21:12, GNT

The righteous one referred to here is obviously God himself, because he is the only one who understands what goes on inside the house of a wicked person. This teaches us that God knows what goes on in everybody's home. That's what it says here, and this shows that he's interested in what goes on in our homes. God is not deceived by the impression that people give to others. He knows what goes on in different people's homes.

    He who shuts his ear to the cry of the poor
    Will also cry himself and not be answered.

    Prov 21:13

We read about this in many portions of scripture: Blessed are the merciful for they shall find mercy (Matthew 5:7); he who has not shown mercy will not find mercy from God (James 2:13); the measure in which we treat others is the same measure with which God treats us (Matthew 7:1-2). This is one of those verses that tells us that God treats us in the same way we treat other people in need who come across our path. This is something we have to bear in mind. When we find that God's treating us in a particular way, it's good for us to examine ourselves and see whether we've treated some other human being in that same way. Perhaps we're just reaping in the same measure. God's using the same measure we used on others to measure it out to us. These are verses that should put a fear in our hearts and in our relationships with other human beings in general - not just with believers, but with human beings in general.

    If someone is angry with you, a gift given secretly will calm him down.

    Prov 21:14, GNT

This is really a very practical exhortation. This can happen even in our relationship with different people. You may find that someone has sort of cooled off toward you for some reason or the other. Obviously when somebody cools off toward you, he's carnal or soulish; he's not spiritual. No spiritual person cools off toward any other brother. That's clear. But carnal people, spiritual babies who don't have victory, can sometimes cool off in their relationship toward us. This can happen even in the church, because there are spiritual babies in the church. There are also carnal people in the church, and they can tend to cool off toward others in various ways.

Then it mentions a practical way, if you're interested, to overcome evil with good, and that is to give a gift. It refers to a gift given secretly, which means not publicly. Of course, the person knows that you gave it, but you don't embarrass him by giving it publicly. In fact, all gifts should be given secretly. A gift given in secret can calm someone down and change his attitude. All people love gifts, particularly worldly people, carnal Christians, and spiritual babies. When such people receive a gift, they tend to change their attitude. This is one of those instances of using the mammon of unrighteousness to make friends for ourselves, so that we can have friends in those eternal habitations (Luke 16:9).

    The exercise of justice is joy for the righteous,
    But is terror to the workers of iniquity.

    Prov 21:15

A righteous person is always happy when justice is done, because he loves righteousness and justice. This verse is really just referring to that. But the execution of justice is a terror to the workers of iniquity.

    A man who wanders from the way of understanding
    Will rest in the assembly of the dead.

    Prov 21:16

There is an assembly called the assembly of the dead. That's obviously Babylon - spiritual Babylon. When a person wanders away from the way of understanding, he'll end up in spiritual Babylon. The way of understanding is called by many names in the word of God. It's called the way of wisdom (Proverbs 4:11), the path of the righteous (Proverbs 4:18), the way of holiness (Isaiah 35:8), the New and Living Way (Hebrews 10:20), and the way of righteousness (2 Peter 2:21). It has many titles, but they all refer to the same way. And a man who wanders from this way, who does not take heed to the voice of the Spirit that tells him when he drifts to the left or right, will end up in the assembly of the dead.

    He who loves pleasure will become a poor man;
    He who loves wine and oil will not become rich.

    Prov 21:17

This refers to becoming a slave to material things, to food, drink and a comfortable, easy life that involves no self denial. We can apply this spiritually by saying that self denial is the way to spiritual wealth. One who denies himself is the one who really becomes spiritually rich. It also teaches us that these things which God has created are things to be used but not to be our masters. There are many pleasures that we can enjoy. Here, however, it speaks about those who love pleasure, not those who merely enjoy it. God gives us pleasure in many, many things in life. He has given us richly all things to enjoy, but we have to ask ourselves if we love it. It says in the last days that men will be lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:4). Here it speaks about loving good food. It's not a question of eating good food, but of loving good food. Loving good food means a person has been mastered by it. Paul said, "All things are lawful, but I will not be mastered by anything" (1 Corinthians 6:12). That's what it's referring to here. We must not allow any of these things on the earth to master us if we want to be spiritually rich.

    The wicked is a ransom for the righteous,
    And the treacherous is in the place of the upright.

    Prov 21:18, GNT

This is similar to what we considered in an earlier study: what the wicked does boomerangs back on him (Proverbs 21:7, The Living Bible). It's like the Old Testament story of Haman. He prepared a gallows to hang Mordecai on, and God turned the tables in such a way that finally Haman hung on it. We can apply this to ourselves in that when we seek to do something which is not good to another person, we may find later on in life (sometimes years later) that that very thing comes back upon us. For example, here's a young person who in his zeal and lack of wisdom criticizes an older brother or even a servant of God for something he sees and doesn't agree with. Maybe he criticizes him for being lukewarm or carnal or something like that, and God makes a record of it. Then, maybe five years later, that young person will find himself in exactly the same situation. If he has ears to hear, he will hear the Spirit saying, "You are reaping what you have sown." We bring on ourselves the suffering that we try to cause good people, and criticism of others is included. That's why it's always safest to not be a busybody in other people's matters and to leave them to themselves. Let God take care of them. Why do you want to criticize or find fault with someone for something? One day it'll come back on you.

Another example is that a young person can criticize the way someone else brings up his children. Then ten years later, when that young person himself is married and has children, he may find that his children are much worse than the children he criticized from that other family. He's just reaping what he sowed in his younger years. It's very important that we don't sow such stupid things in our younger years and reap a harvest of sorrow and misfortune ten years later. These are unavoidable laws of God. This applies to the suffering we cause to good people in ANY way. Maybe you hurt someone by the words you speak and that person's a good person - God can't overlook it. One day the boomerang will take its course and come back on you. It's really true. That's why we need to radically repent of these things.

I've come to see more and more that the proof that I've repented of something is that I don't do it again. If I do it again, that proves that I didn't really repent. I just said words to God. Very often we find that we hear a message on something like this and we say, "Lord, I'm sorry for all that I've done in the past." Then the next year I go and do the same thing all over again, which shows that I didn't really repent. I just felt sorry that this boomerang may hit me five years later, but I wasn't really convicted of the guilt of causing suffering to some good person by something I said or did. We have to be very careful that we don't cause any suffering to others by the words we speak. It'll boomerang on us one day or the other.

    Better to live out in the desert than with a nagging, complaining wife.

    Prov 21:19, GNT

This is a further step from verse 9. We left off verse 9 with this man running off to the roof, but now we find that his wife has followed him to the roof as well. Here he's left the house altogether and has gone off to the desert. It's a sad thing that the poor man didn't get peace on the roof either and had to even leave from there. This is really something which sisters should take seriously. It's not that we're against women or that Solomon was against women or Paul was against women. A lot of people have those ideas. The Holy Spirit speaks about a nagging wife, and it's interesting that he never speaks about a nagging husband. There may be a few exceptions, but generally speaking, it's a nagging wife who is referred to. Another verse we considered described her as a dripping faucet. There is the possibility of making life difficult for your husband at home. He seeks for peace somewhere in some corner of the house or in the desert. Today it may not be in the desert since there are no deserts nearby, but he may go off to some other place and dread coming back home. It must never be like that, dear sisters. When you're married, you have the responsibility to make your home such a place that your husband and children long to return to. It should be the most wonderful place they can ever imagine being. Think of building a house like that.

This verse speaks of words spoken of a nagging, complaining wife. Nagging means to constantly be after your husband for some little thing - not a big major thing. Usually it's some issue here, some issue there, complaining about this, complaining about that. It's a peculiar temptation that comes to sisters/married women. Therefore you need to ask God for grace to overcome it. Say, "Lord, make me a wise woman who can build my house so that it is a place of peace." Jesus told his disciples, "When you enter a house, first of all say, 'Peace be to this house.'" That is the fruit of wisdom, and that's a tremendous responsibility for sisters. The book of Proverbs has much to say about women. In fact, the book of Proverbs closes with nearly a whole chapter on the virtuous woman (chapter 31), which sisters should take very seriously. Sisters should never turn their home into a place where people don't feel happy, not even one day of their life. Take that seriously.

    The wise man saves for the future, but the foolish man spends whatever
        he gets.

    Prov 21:20, TLB

We can apply this in two ways: first in relation to earthly things. The wise man thinks, "Well, I'm not God who knows the future." It says in James 4:14 that we don't even know what's going to happen tomorrow. James says, "You can't even say, 'Tomorrow I will go to that city, and I will do business and come back.'" He says you must say, 'If the Lord wills,' for we do not know what one day can bring forth, even believers. Therefore a wise man thinks, "I may have some need tomorrow. Either I must have faith that God will provide my need, or if my faith is not that great, we have to humble ourselves and say, "Lord, I don't have that measure of faith. Maybe I need to save a little money so that during my time of need next month, I don't have to rush to the brothers and sisters for help or go to some money-lender to borrow or expect somebody to come to me with a gift." All of these things are unworthy of a Christian. God has allotted to each person a different measure of faith, and he may not have allotted to you and me the measure of faith that he allotted to George Muller or Hudson Taylor. Therefore, we should humble ourselves and save for the future. It can be a foolish thing to spend everything I get and not have any forethought about the future. Then I will have to depend on gifts and become sort of a dignified beggar, because I've been foolish. We should learn to manage our expenses within our income.

I am also foolish when I compare myself with other people. It says that in 2 Corinthians 10:12 that those who compare themselves with others are foolish. We can say, "I want to live like that person," but I can't manage that level of expenditure with my level of income, and the end result is I fall into debt. The wise man saves for the future. We can say that wisdom is to be frugal (e.g., not wasting anything unnecessarily). That is wisdom. Then we can have something in our time of need.

We can also apply this verse spiritually: like the wise virgins who had reserves of oil that kept them ready to meet the bridegroom when he came. Of course, we can understand the meaning of that.

    He who pursues righteousness and loyalty
    Finds life, righteousness and honor.

    Prov 21:21

This is very similar to what Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, "Seek the kingdom of God first and his righteousness and all these other things will be added to you." And what he said in Matthew 5:6, "All those who thirst after righteousness will be satisfied." In other words, it's those who pursue after righteousness that get it. If you don't pursue after it, it's not going to come to anyone who sits back in an easy chair expecting God to give it to him.

    A wise man scales the city of the mighty
    And brings down the stronghold in which they trust.

    Prov 21:22

There is a similar verse in Ecclesiastes 9:16 where it says that wisdom is better than strength. That has an application to many, many areas in life. Wisdom is able to overcome mighty walls that people have built. We read in Proverbs 18:19 that a brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city. But a man of wisdom knows how to scale the walls of that city and win his offended brother back. But very few people have wisdom. They usually try to hammer against the walls which only ends up in that brother making the walls a little stronger. It's not by strength that we bring down the walls. It's not necessarily by rebuke, but by goodness. Here we see what a need we have for wisdom so that we will be able to scale the city of the mighty. It is by good that we overcome evil. Wisdom is better than strength. If you have a wife who's offended, what's the solution to that? She's decided she's not going to talk to you. Well, you can tackle strength with strength and say, "Alright, I won't talk to you either. Fine. We'll see how long this lasts." What is that? That is only folly. The woman's a fool, and the man's a greater fool. No. What he needs is wisdom to scale this wall that his wife has built between him and her. "How can I scale this with wisdom? Strength won't do it. Wisdom is better than strength." Or it can be the other way. Think of a wise woman who can scale the wall that her husband builds. This has many applications. A wise man can scale the city of the mighty, bring down the stronghold, and build a relationship! Wonderful.

    Keep your mouth closed and you'll stay out of trouble.

    Prov 21:23, TLB

This is really true. A lot of people get into trouble just because they open their mouths. Keep your mouth shut and you'll stay out of a lot of trouble. I think all of us can look back at our past life, and recount an experience in this area. Think of the different situations where if you had just kept your mouth shut, some problem would never have arisen. But because you went ahead and opened your mouth, it caused more trouble. Particularly when we are young, we need to see that even a fool can be wise if he just keeps his mouth shut. What a lot of problems we cause just because we cannot keep our mouths shut. We lose our testimonies, we mess up things, we spoil things, we make a mess of things - all because we don't keep our mouths shut. Keep your mouth shut and you can stay out of a lot of trouble.

Now the thing is, we can hear this but we have to be gripped by it. Otherwise, we'll still go ahead and do the same old thing. God's intention is that we at least learn from our past follies so that we know in the future, particularly when we are in unrest about something, to keep our mouths shut. My dear brothers and sisters, we don't make laws in the church, but I'll give you one simple principle to live by: when you are in unrest, KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT. This applies to old and young. Until you have come to rest, even if it takes one week, keep your mouth shut - particularly when you are in the presence of the person who is causing that unrest in you. Very important. It's a simple principle, but we haven't followed it in the past and have gotten into a lot of trouble and ruined our lives. At least we can start doing this in the future.

    Show me a conceited person and I will show you someone who is arrogant,
        proud, and inconsiderate.

    Prov 21:24, GNT

A conceited person is a person who thinks too much about himself, who has higher thoughts about his own spirituality and his own work than he should (which is the case with most people). This conceit is what makes him inconsiderate about the feelings and needs of other people. One of the most important principles for good relationships in the church and for wisdom in how to live with one another and get along with one another is being considerate. Consider the feelings of that person when you speak a certain way. Why is it that we find it so difficult to be considerate? It's because of conceit. That's what this verse says. It's conceit that makes us inconsiderate towards the feelings of other people. There's a certain pride in us and that's why we don't have light on being considerate toward others. For example, when a few people are sitting together and one person dominates the conversation, usually that is the most conceited person in that group, because he has no consideration for others. That's a folly that all young people should get rid of. It's one thing if it's someone who has wisdom to share, but very often it's just a tremendous lack of consideration. That's just one small area, but there can be many other areas where we can be inconsiderate toward the conveniences of other people. We think only in terms of our own convenience and that is purely a result of conceit. I think I'm so important that other peoples' convenience must be secondary to mine. This is conceit. It's good to have small thoughts about ourselves where we think more about other people's conveniences than my own. That is humility.

    Lazy people who refuse to work are only killing themselves; all they do
        is think about what they would like to have. The righteous, however,
        can give, and give generously.

    Prov 21:25-26, GNT

It is the will of God that all of us become righteous, though we may not begin righteous. In the beginning, we do not know how to give. We are dependent on other people giving to us, but we should never think that we should live in that condition all our life. We are to move out of that. Think, for example, of Ephesians 4:28 which speaks about a thief who's converted. Usually thieves are poor people who steal because of their poverty. There are some rich thieves but most thieves are poor. When a thief gets converted and comes into the church, what should he do? It says in Ephesians 4:28, "Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need." In other words, even if a person started off coming to church as a thief, his aim should be not only to give up stealing, but to go beyond taking care of his own financial need to be able to give to someone else who has less than him. This should always be our goal: to give generously. And if we say, "Lord, this is what scripture says. I want to make this my goal in life," then we will find that we experience the blessing which Jesus mentioned in Acts 20:35, "It's more blessed to give than to receive." It also speaks in this verse about the diligence necessary to achieve this goal.

    The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination,
    How much more when he brings it with evil intent!

    Prov 21:27

In other words, the Lord hates it when wicked men offer him sacrifices, particularly if they are doing it with evil motives. It's a hypocritical sacrifice when we sacrifice with a wrong motive, even if it costs us something. I can do something, for example, in the church which is a sacrifice, and yet I can do the whole thing with a selfish motive for my own gain. The Lord hates it. It looks like a sacrifice that I have made. The other brothers and sisters see what I'm doing and they really think I've sacrificed. But the Lord who sees the inner motive and all the hidden things, sees that there's some corrupt motive even in that sacrifice that has gained the esteem of so many other brothers and sisters. The Lord hates it when people offer him sacrifices with wrong motives.

    The testimony of a liar is not believed, but the word of someone who
        thinks matters through is accepted.

    Prov 21:28, GNT

We must not get a testimony that we are not truthful. I just want to say it's very easy to get that testimony if we don't hate lying in every form in our lives. The word of God says in Colossians 3:9, "Don't tell lies to one another." In other words, it's possible to tell a lie to a brother in the church by giving him the impression that I'm spiritual. Let's say in some particular situation I say something which is not one-hundred percent true. I've given that person a wrong impression, because I want him to think I'm spiritual. If I tell him the real truth, it will put me in a bad light. It's so easy to tell a lie which shows that I don't love the truth. It's far better that I become small in that brother's eyes and love the truth rather than remaining big in his eyes and God seeing me as a liar. That happens a lot, and if we really are honest, we will see a fantastic amount of lying even in our conduct with one another. If you haven't seen that yet, brother and sister, I'd just say you're not judging yourself sufficiently. Maybe that's why you haven't seen it. But when we judge ourselves, we discover what a fantastic amount of lying there can be in our conduct and in the words which we say to one another in the church. We need a radical cleansing from all lying because it says here the testimony of a liar is not believed. Whatever testimony I give cannot have power if I have not cleansed myself from lying. "But the word of someone who thinks matters through is accepted." The man who loves the truth, his word will be accepted.

    A wicked man displays a bold face,
    But as for the upright, he makes his way sure.

    Prov 21:29
    An evil man is stubborn, but a godly man will reconsider.

    Prov 21:29, TLB

This is a good verse to think of: to be stubborn about some decision we have taken or some thing we have done and to say, "That is right", can sometimes be the mark of an evil man. But a godly man is one who is humble enough to say, "I'm not God. I may have been mistaken." Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:12, "I don't know myself fully. I don't know myself perfectly." We should be willing to say, "Okay brother, I'll think about what you say. Maybe I shouldn't have said that. Maybe I shouldn't have done that." This must always be the attitude. A godly man is willing to reconsider. It says, "He makes his way sure." This means he tries to find out which is the perfect way. Every man who is not perfect must be willing to reconsider his way. None of us are perfect. To press on to perfection means to find that perfect middle path and to say, "I may be drifting - maybe only half a degree, but a little off from the center regardless. I just want to consider that I could be wrong." Maybe you got a hard letter from someone who hates you. Take it before the Lord because sometimes our enemies tell more truth about us than our friends - even the friends who speak straight to us. It's good to think, "Is there some truth in that? Let me think about it before God."

    Human wisdom, brilliance, insight-they are of no help if the Lord is
        against you.

    Prov 21:30, GNT

Think of that. All our human wisdom, all our brilliance, and all our insight - all of it is of absolutely no use if the Lord is against us. We know that the word of God says God is against the proud (1 Peter 5:5). If I am proud, then all my brilliance and cleverness and wisdom and everything, even spiritual wisdom and brilliance, is of no use since God is against me. It's far better to have God on my side than all this human cleverness and everything else.

    The horse is prepared for the day of battle,
    But victory belongs to the Lord.

    Prov 21:31

It says here you can get the horses ready for battle, but it's the Lord alone who can give you the victory. In 2 Chronicles 14:9-11, there's a very beautiful story that can be an encouragement to us. There was a king in the Old Testament called Asa. He was a man who started off very well but did not end very well. When he started off, he trusted in the Lord. We read in 2 Chronicles 14:9 that the Ethiopian army came out against Asa with an army of one million men and three-hundred chariots. Think of that. Asa went out to meet him and in verse 11 it says, "Asa called to the Lord his God and said, 'Lord, there is no one beside Thee to help in the battle. So help us, O Lord, for we trust in Thee.'" Then in verse 12 the Lord defeated these one million Ethiopians and they fled. These things are written for our encouragement. Even if one million people come against us, if we humble ourselves and say, "Lord, I don't trust in my horses. I don't trust in my chariots. I don't trust in my influence or my power or my ability. I trust only in you. I ask you, Lord, to help me." The God who helped Asa will help us too.

But then a little later in chapter 16, we read that when the king of Israel, who had much less than one million people, came against Asa, he did not seek the Lord for help. It says he went and asked for help from the king of Syria. Then a prophet came to Asa in verse 7 and said, "Because you relied on the king of Syria and did not rely on the Lord, therefore you will not be able to overcome this army. Were not the Ethiopians an immense army and yet because you relied on the Lord, he delivered them into your hand." Then in this context comes the verse that we're all familiar with: "Because the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth to strongly support those whose heart is completely his." When you read the context, you understand what it means to have our heart be completely his. It means those whose hearts are completely relying on his help alone and who are not depending on human help. Since Asa relied on the King of Syria, the prophet says, "But here you have acted foolishly, so from now on you'll have wars." Then Asa did something even more stupid. It says he became angry with the prophet and put him in prison. Getting angry with the person who tells you the truth doesn't solve the problem, but that's how many people act even today. Many preachers today have the same fate as that prophet. They go up to someone and tell him the truth, and the man gets angry instead of judging himself. But there is a lesson in this passage. It's possible to start out like Asa, trusting in the Lord in difficult situations, and then after some time, move on to the place where we lean upon the arm of flesh. There is a curse on those who lean upon the arm of flesh (Jeremiah 17:5).

Chapter 22
Chapter 22:1-16

    If you must choose, take a good name rather than great riches; for to
        be held in loving esteem is better than silver and gold.

    Prov 22:1, TLB

It's far better to have a good testimony in your locality than to be known as a rich man. It's far better to have a testimony in your locality that you are righteous, upright, humble, good, loving, kind, and pure, rather than to have a testimony that you are wealthy and have many possessions. That's basically what that verse means.

    The rich and the poor have a common bond,
    The Lord is the Maker of them all.

    Prov 22:2

This verse basically teaches us that all human beings are equal in God's eyes. If in my thinking, I despise any human being - either because of his community or his background or his education or his intelligence or his culture or his barbarism or anything else like that, that shows that I have not understood the first thing about God. God is the one who has made all people. If I haven't understood that, there's not much hope that I'll understand anything else about God. That's one of the first things I need to understand: that God has made all people and he's made them all equal. There are differences of wealth, intelligence, color and culture, but in God's eyes they're all the same. We need to look at every single human being - particularly poor people and those who are far beneath us in social level - as equal in God's eyes. I'm not talking about our neighbors. They're usually around the same social level. I'm talking about people who are much lower than us in society. That's something we must always keep in mind. That person may be poor and I may be rich, but in God's eyes, we are just the same. And one day when we stand before the judgment seat, no person will be on a higher level than another person. All are going to stand on the same level ground. It's good to keep that in mind always.

    The prudent sees the evil and hides himself,
    But the naive go on, and are punished for it.

    Prov 22:3

Wisdom is to think ahead and to consider: if I go this way, there could be some snare of the devil. The prudent person sees the evil ahead and avoids it, whereas the simple person just goes on simply and falls into the pit the devil has made. Jesus said that we are to be shrewd as serpents. To think ahead and to see what will happen if I continue along this way. What will happen if we do this? That is wisdom. Forethought is wisdom. The wise man sees the evil and avoids it. That can have many applications in our practical and spiritual lives. We should ask God to help us see what will happen if we go a certain way. What will happen if I bring up my children like this? What will happen if I run my home like this? What will happen if I continue doing this in my office or involving myself in these types of conversations? What will happen if I continue this friendship with this particular person? Where is it finally going to lead to? The wise person is the one who thinks about all these things and takes precautions beforehand. But the simple person is the one who says, "The Lord will take care of it." He has spiritual language for his foolishness and goes ahead and falls.

    The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord
    Are riches, honor and life.

    Prov 22:4

Humility and the fear of the Lord are the two most important qualities for the soil in which the fruit of the Spirit is to grow. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. However, in the fruit of the Spirit we don't see humility or the fear of God. Why is that? Because humility and the fear of God are the soil on which the fruit grows. Love is the greatest fruit, but it only grows in the soil of humility and the fear of God.

By humility and the fear of the Lord are all spiritual riches, all spiritual honor, and all spiritual life. We have to cultivate these qualities. This is to dig up the fallow ground (Hosea 10:12): humbling ourselves and fearing God. Then the fruit of the Spirit can grow forth in our life.

    Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse;
    He who guards himself will be far from them.

    Prov 22:5

This verse speaks about something else that can grow up if we don't have the soil of humility and the fear of God. Jesus spoke in the parable of the sower about the man in whose ground the seed brought forth fruit, but then afterwards thorns grew up. Thorns can't grow up in a soil that has humility and the fear of God. No. It's because of a lack of humility and a lack of the fear of God that these thorns grow up - the lusts for so many things, the deceitfulness of riches, the cares of this world - and crush and crowd out the fruit that God is seeking to grow in our lives. "Thorns and snares are in the way of the perverse, but he who guards himself will be far from them." That means a person has to guard himself in order to stay far away from these thorns. He has to proactively pull out the weeds.

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

    Prov 22:6

This verse doesn't tell us how many years a person is a child, but it doesn't say train up a young man. It says train up a child. I would think it's probably referring to the first twelve years of a person's life. The first twelve years of a person's life, he is a child. After that, he or she grows up to be a young man or a young woman. God gives those first twelve years to parents to discipline, teach, correct, rebuke, punish, encourage, strengthen, challenge, and to train that child in the way he should go. And even if the child drifts away for a while, what we have labored and sowed in all those years will one day bring that child back to the Lord. So those early years of a person's life are very important. A father and mother who have no time to teach their children the way of the Lord in those first twelve years, who leave it to the Sunday School or the church to teach them, will have to reap the consequences in later years. And that's a sad thing we see today so often. You see situations where parents are too busy, sometimes out at work while the child is alone at home. They're busy making money, but money is not what their child needs in the first twelve years. It can do with a little less. The child needs a mother who has time to instruct him or her in those early years. Those of you who have growing children should never think that time spent with those children in those first twelve years is a waste at all. It's the most important investment we can ever make in all of our life as parents.

    The rich rules over the poor,
    And the borrower becomes the lender's slave.

    Prov 22:7

This is basically the result of getting into debt. When we get into debt, it says we become a slave, and it's not God's will that any of us should become slaves. That's why the word of God says in Romans 13:8, "Owe no man anything." If we are not wholehearted to take this exhortation seriously, then we shall remain slaves. It says here that the borrower is a slave to the lender. If I'm in debt, I'm a slave and I have to cry out to God and say, "Lord, all my spirituality and all my knowledge is just a lot of garbage as long as I'm a slave. Help me be free from this slavery and never to be in this slavery at any time of my life." Let no one deceive himself here. Keep out of debt.

There's a sad story we read of in 2 Kings 4 - the story of the widow who came to Elisha. Elisha told her to go and borrow vessels from all her neighbors and to pour the little oil that she had into them. Leaving aside the miracle, what was her problem? Her problem was that her husband had died and left her in debt. And he was a preacher. Think of that. He was a man who spoke the word of God and he left his wife in debt. That's a shameful thing to do. We should never do such a thing. That's why it's very important that we never get into debt at all.

    The unjust tyrant will reap disaster, and his reign of terror shall

    Prov 22:8, TLB

We can see this happening in many countries around the world in Asia and Africa, where some unjust tyrant dominates the people. Then finally he is assassinated and his reign of terror ends. Now, we are not in that type of danger because we are not going to rule any countries. But we can apply this to ourselves in areas where we tend to be tyrants toward somebody else. It says here that "the rod of his fury will perish." We can look at it like this: that the time can come if I haven't overcome my anger in my younger days - when I'm older and physically, mentally and emotionally weaker - that this anger just overpowers and frustrates me. In my younger days, I could explode in anger and get people to do what I wanted - like a father who's a tyrant over his children. Then I grow old and my body becomes weak, but there is still anger inside my heart that I haven't overcome. That can be frustrating and it can make me irritable and hinder my spiritual life. It's good to overcome anger quickly. And it's good not to be a tyrant over anyone - not over our children, not over servants, not over anyone. We should learn to overcome our anger.

    He who is generous will be blessed,
    For he gives some of his food to the poor.

    Prov 22:9

This is a truth we have already considered on a number of occasions. Notice that the book of Proverbs repeats some truths over and over again for emphasis. It's more blessed to give than to receive. There's a blessing in being generous.

    Drive out the scoffer, and contention will go out,
    Even strife and dishonor will cease.

    Prov 22:10

Get rid of the conceited person and then there will be no more arguments or quarreling or strife. There must be no place for a proud person in the church of the living God. All strife comes through proud people, and the preaching of the word must always be of such a nature that proud, conceited people have no place in the church. That's how we can keep the church free from strife.

    He who loves purity of heart
    And whose speech is gracious, the king is his friend.

    Prov 22:11

There are two things here: a pure heart and gracious speech. Jesus said, "Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks." So when our hearts are pure, there will be graciousness in our speech. And when there is purity in the heart and graciousness in our speech, then the Lord, the King, will be our friend.

    The Lord sees to it that truth is kept safe by disproving the words of

    Prov 22:12, GNT
    The Lord preserves the upright but ruins the plans of the wicked.

    Prov 22:12, TLB

God is on the side of truth, so when I speak the truth (even when it lands me into trouble here on this earth), I can have the comfort of knowing that God is on my side. When I tell a lie, it may save me from some trouble here on this earth, but I have the discomfort of knowing that God is not on my side. God sees to it that truth is kept safe by disproving the words of liars.

We can also think of the scriptures - the truth of God that He has kept safe for us through all these centuries. God has kept the scriptures safe even when so many liars and treacherous people have tried to destroy it and take it away from God's people.

The Living Bible presents another possible translation of this verse and is also something that comforts us. If we walk in uprightness, the Lord will preserve us. But if there's wickedness somewhere within, whatever plans we make, the Lord will see that they come to ruin.

    The sluggard says, "There is a lion outside;
    I will be killed in the streets!"

    Prov 22:13

This is just one of the many excuses that lazy people make for not going to work. It's an exaggeration. Of course, nobody actually says it like this, but it highlights the fact that people often make so many silly excuses for their own lack of diligence in any area - whether it is a matter of diligence in the study of scriptures or any other thing. In the word of God, particularly in the book of Proverbs, we see repeatedly that the sluggard, the lazy man, is put in the same category as the fool.

    The mouth of an adulteress is a deep pit;
    He who is cursed of the Lord will fall into it.

    Prov 22:14
    Adultery is a trap - it catches those with whom the Lord is angry.

    Prov 22:14, GNT

Here is the reason why people fall into adultery. It's a very serious verse. When we hear of preachers falling into adultery, can we take it lightly? No. You have to say that the Lord must have been angry with that man. The Lord must have hated that man. That's why he allowed that fellow to fall into that trap. If the person were humble, God would have protected him. But because he was not humble, God allowed him to fall into adultery. Once a person falls into adultery, it's almost impossible to recover one's testimony completely. You can recover it to some extent, but never completely. Not even David could do it; much less someone in the New Covenant. This is something we have to fear tremendously, and when we hear it happen to someone who calls himself a Christian, remember this verse: He who is cursed of the Lord falls into that open mouth of the adulteress woman. God would have protected him if he were humble and God-fearing.

    Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child;
    The rod of discipline will remove it far from him.

    Prov 22:15
    Children just naturally do silly, careless things, but a good spanking
        will teach them how to behave.

    Prov 22:15, GNT
    A youngster's heart is filled with rebellion, but punishment will drive
        it out of him.

    Prov 22:15, TLB

It's amazing. This is the wisdom of God: that it's only by inflicting pain - physical pain - on a child that you can remove the foolishness which is inside its heart. It says that foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and there is no child in the world that is excluded here. Every child in the world has foolishness in its heart, and it's good for every father and mother to realize that - particularly those who think, "My child can never do anything wrong." Well, then your child must be an exception to what is written in Proverbs 22:15, but for all other human beings this is true. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, and it's very dangerous to defend our children. That's the way we can ruin them. We have to face up to the fact that our children, however good, lovely darlings we think they are, have foolishness bound up in their heart. Why? Because God's word says so. Never mind what I think. Set aside my reason. God's word says it. And God has called me as a parent to drive that foolishness out of their hearts. God says, "I appoint you, father and mother, to drive out that folly from the hearts of your children." And it says the only way is by using the rod of discipline - not the rod of anger. The rod of anger won't drive it out. Fathers and mothers can use the rod of anger, but here it's speaking about the rod of discipline. And fathers and mothers must also be disciplined themselves, using the rod in a disciplined way for the purpose of discipline. The rod of discipline will remove foolishness far from your child.

The verse reads like this in the Good News Translation: "Children just naturally do silly, careless things, but a good spanking will teach them how to behave." Now, when a father and mother do not give that spanking to their children when they are small, the result is that the children grow up and still do silly, careless things even when they are adults. What a sad thing that parents have allowed their children to grow up and do silly, careless things even when they are grown up.

It says in The Living Bible it says, "A youngsters heart is filled with rebellion..." That's also true. There's a spirit of rebellion because he's unconverted in his heart, but punishment will drive it out of him. We are to see even small acts of disobedience as basically manifestations of the spirit of rebellion. And that's why we are to take them seriously and not allow even a small disobedience to be taken lightly. We do this because we want to help our children to be free from that spirit of Lucifer which is manifested in rebellion.

    He who oppresses the poor to make more for himself
    Or who gives to the rich, will only come to poverty.

    Prov 22:16
    He who gains by oppressing the poor or by bribing the rich shall end in

    Prov 22:16, TLB

In James 5:4, it speaks about those who don't pay their servants properly. That's a serious thing when servants work and we don't pay them properly. That's to oppress the poor so that I can have a little more of a bank balance. James speaks about the judgment that will come upon people who increase their bank balance at the cost of not properly paying those who have worked for them. There will be quite a huge number of people who will be judged just on that one verse. And they will come to poverty - to spiritual poverty. And ultimately, even financially, God will make sure they suffer.

It also speaks of those who give to the rich. Giving to the rich can sometimes be with an end in view. Jesus spoke about inviting a person for a meal knowing that you'll be invited back by them. Likewise, we can give a gift to a person because we know that when our turn comes, he'll come back with a gift to us. That is giving a gift to the rich and it's a form of bribing. We can be so afraid of bribing, but here in The Living Bible it says, "He who gains by oppressing the poor or by bribing the rich shall end in poverty." God watches these things, and it's always in the realm of the motive that God sees. What is the motive? It's not a question of whether I'm giving to a rich or a poor person, but what is the motive behind it? And here is an opportunity for us to cleanse our motives in both our giving of gifts and in our paying those who work for us. It's an opportunity to check that our motives are righteous.

Chapter 22
Chapter 22:17-29


PROVERBS 22:17-24:34

    Listen to this wise advice; follow it closely, for it will do you good,
        and you can pass it on to others: Trust in the Lord.

    Prov 22:17-19, TLB

This section begins with similar words to Proverbs 2. And his advice is this: to trust in the Lord. That's the advice he gives! At all times, in all circumstances, under all situations, whatever may happen, trust in the Lord. Just think of having those four words as a motto for one's life. That's basically what he's trying to say: just take a little motto like this with you all through life. Whatever may happen in the world around you, trust in the Lord. He'll bring you through. He'll lift you up. He'll make you stand. Trust in the Lord. When things are difficult, when things look impossible, trust in the Lord. It's a fantastic thing to live by, and he's basically summing up what he's trying to say in this section.

    Have I not written to you excellent things
    Of counsels and knowledge,
    To make you know the certainty of the words of truth
    That you may correctly answer him who sent you?

    Prov 22:20-21
    In the past, haven't I been right? Then believe what I am telling you
        now and share it with others.

    Prov 22:20-21, TLB
    I want you to put your trust in the Lord; That is why I am going to
        tell them to you now. I have written down thirty sayings for you. They
        contain knowledge and good advice, and will teach you what the truth
        really is. Then when you are sent to find it out, you will bring back
        the right answer.

    Prov 22:19-21, GNT

We have confidence in a person when we find that what he has told us in the past has proven to be right. Then we know that person has wisdom. And that's what the writer is saying: "In the past, haven't I been right? Then believe what I am telling you now and share it with others: trust in the Lord." God wants the younger generation also to be wise, so that they can share this truth with others.

In the New American Standard Bible it says, "To make you know the certainty of the words of truth." That means to be convinced of the truth of God's word, because we have experienced its reality and its power in our life. We are CONVINCED and certain of the truth of God's word.

In the Good News Translation, we see that these thirty sayings are like a mini book of Proverbs in the middle of the book of Proverbs. He tells us to take heed to these thirty different statements on various subjects. And he sums everything up with a heading for the section: Trust in the Lord. But in practical terms, he tells us what we should do to trust in the Lord by giving us these thirty bits of advice. So let's look at these thirty bits of advice.

    1) Don't take advantage of the poor just because you can; don't take
        advantage of those who stand helpless in court. The Lord will argue
        their case for them and threaten the life of anyone who threatens

    Prov 22:22-23, GNT

Notice where he begins when he gives these thirty bits of advice in the remaining two chapters. What is the first of all these thirty sayings? We can sum it up in two words: be merciful. Be merciful towards another person who at this particular time happens to be under your power or under your authority. Don't try to lord it over him. Don't take advantage of the fact that that person is under you in any way. Be merciful. That is the very first thing. In the flesh, there is a tremendous lust to take advantage of those who are under us in any way, and we have to fear it. That's why it says to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Be merciful because you will find that the Lord is fighting for the case of the poor. It's dangerous to have the Lord fighting someone's case against me. It's good to be merciful. It's interesting that this is the very first thing he says.

    2) Don't make friends with people who have hot, violent tempers. You
        might learn their habits and not be able to change.

    Prov 22:24-25, GNT

The second statement/instruction/teaching can also be summed up in two words: avoid anger. It's very practical. He basically says to trust in the Lord, but this trusting in the Lord works down to very practical applications of daily life. First of all, be merciful to the poor, and secondly, avoid anger.

It's dangerous to be friendly with a man who doesn't have control of his temper, because you might learn his habits and then you may not be able to change. It's interesting that the word of God says that. In other words, anger can be contagious. Are you afraid of going too close to someone who has leprosy? Well, be careful of being too friendly with people who have hot, violent tempers. It's not at all a good thing. You might learn their habits and you may not be able to change. God requires first that we are merciful to others. And then God really desires that we fight and overcome this hot, violent temper that dwells in our flesh. He wants us to bring it under the control of the Holy Spirit.

    3) Don't promise to be responsible for someone else's debts. If you
        should be unable to pay, they will take away even your bed.

    Prov 22:26-27, GNT

In other words, don't stand as a guarantee for someone else. That is a dangerous thing. As I said when we considered this earlier in the book of Proverbs, I believe that it would be proper to stand as guarantee for a person if we have come into such a relationship where the person has really become one with us in the body of Christ. Not that he sits in the same congregation, listening to the same message, believing the same doctrine, but that you've entered into a covenant relationship in one body. Then it would be right. But otherwise, even if the person calls himself a believer or a brother; even if he is in the same meeting place; take the word of God and don't stand guarantee.

This verse also, I think, implies that we should be wise in our giving and lending money to others. Imagine that when the writer of Proverbs is thinking of thirty important things to say, he speaks about mercy; he speaks about anger; and then, all of the sudden, he speaks about lending money and standing guarantee. It's one of those things which can lead people into a lot of trouble. He's telling people, "Be wise here. Be wise in lending and giving money. It requires a lot of wisdom."

    4) Do not move the ancient boundary
    Which your fathers have set.

    Prov 22:28

We see even today, little marking stones in empty plots of ground that mark the boundary of that plot. And in the middle of the night, you can move that stone out - maybe six feet to the other side. What you have done is you have gone into somebody else's territory. This has a practical application, of course: that we don't cheat one another in any way. But also it has an application in relation to the spiritual boundaries that we consider often in the church. We respect the boundary that God has drawn around another person. We must not only respect a person's physical plot of land and property, but also the boundary that God has drawn around another person. We should treat that person with respect, because God has drawn a certain boundary around them. The world is full of people who are going into people's territories - being a busybody in other peoples' matters. They're always putting their nose into things which don't concern them at all. That is to move the boundary mark. God has given that person a particular boundary.

For example, let's say you see the way someone's children are being brought up. Is that within your boundary? It is not. It is a million miles away from you. God has put a boundary around that father and mother and given those children to them. It is foolish for me to sit in my house and talk about how they are bringing up their children. That is none of my business. If they come to me for advice, then I can give it. But otherwise it's none of my business to go and move their boundary and put it on my side and act as a busybody in their matters. I should not tell them how they should bring up their children or how they should do anything in their home! If they come to you for advice and have confidence in you, give it to them. Otherwise, my dear brothers and sisters, we can save ourselves a lot of trouble, and a lot of foolishness, and a lot of unnecessary problems, if we just respect our boundaries and respect the boundaries of other people. Don't move them. God has put them. Respect them. Simple wisdom.

    5) Do you know a hard-working man? He shall be successful and stand
        before kings!

    Prov 22:29, TLB

Of course, we are not interested in standing before earthly kings. That was a big thing in the Old Testament, because God's promises to Israel were earthly. The earthly king was the representative of God in Israel. But today - for us in the New Covenant - we have only one king: the King of kings, Jesus Christ our Lord. And here it tells us how we can stand before him. If we are wholehearted, like the hardworking farmer in 2 Timothy 2:6, we'll get the first share of the crops. The one who really works hard (within his own boundary according to verse 28), he will stand before the king.

Consider the sons of Zadok in Ezekiel 44 - they were permitted to stand before the Lord and minister to him. There were a whole lot of other priests to whom God said, "I'll give you a ministry, but you can't have that highest ministry of standing before me. You can have a ministry of serving the people." There are different categories of ministries even in the New Testament, but the highest of all is to stand before God's face. Every one of us can have that if we work hard on our flesh within our own boundary.

Chapter 23
Chapter 23

    When dining with a rich man, be on your guard and don't stuff yourself,
        though it all tastes so good; for he is trying to bribe you, and no
        good is going to come of his invitation.

    Prov 23:1-3, TLB

The reason we must be on guard when dining with a rich or influential person is because there can be so many temptations there. Two things we can consider are: don't be a slave to food and don't be a slave to rich people.

It says not to be a slave to good food. We can think of Daniel - how he was at the king's table and he wouldn't eat the food lest he compromise his position. Temptation came to Daniel initially through food. Temptation came to Eve in the garden through food, Temptation also came to Jesus first in the wilderness through food. It's interesting that so many of the important temptations mentioned in the scriptures came through food. And here also it is telling us not to be a slave of food.

At the same time, it speaks about being careful when we are invited by the rich. That can be a dangerous thing. Having been invited by the rich, we have put ourselves in a compromising position that we have to please them. There's something we have to be careful about: that we don't place ourselves under obligation to some rich person because he's given us dinner or something else. If we really want to serve the Lord, we have to be free from all men, so that we are not under any obligation to a single human being. Not at all. We must be free before the Lord to speak the truth to them and offend them. What an exhortation this is. If Christian workers and pastors and all were taking this seriously, there would be purer churches in the world today. We are never to come under obligation to people. Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9:19, "I am free from all men." And we must always keep ourselves like that, so that we don't put ourselves under obligation to anyone - particularly to the rich who would like to control us in some way.

    7) Do not weary yourself to gain wealth,
     Cease from your consideration of it.
     When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.
     For wealth certainly makes itself wings
     Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.

    Prov 23:4-5

This verse is not against earning a living, but the pursuit of wealth - trying to get more and more money beyond what I need. It's not speaking about earning what I need to live. "Cease from your consideration of it" means to stop thinking about making more money than you need. Because when people have begun to think about that, they finally land into all types of troubles and difficulties. It says in 1 Timothy 6:10 that those who want to be rich have pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Not only that, but it says here when you set your eyes on it, it is gone. Don't think that just because you make more, you'll have more. Usually the people who make more end up spending more. They really don't have more, "for wealth certainly makes itself wings like an eagle that flies towards the heavens." That's what God's word says about riches - it flies off like an eagle. Think of that. It doesn't just slowly go away. It suddenly goes. And if my heart is set on riches, I can be tremendously disappointed. So here's practical wisdom: Don't weary yourself. Stop thinking about becoming rich. Be content with having enough for your needs - for yourself and your family.

    8) Do not eat the bread of a selfish man,
    Or desire his delicacies;
    For as he thinks within himself, so he is.
    He says to you, "Eat and drink!"
    But his heart is not with you.
    You will vomit up the morsel you have eaten,
    And waste your compliments.

    Prov 23:6-8

This is speaking of a stingy man. In other words, don't go where people are not eager to have you. In simple words, it means that. We should really only go where people are happy and eager to have us. It is folly to visit a person even if he said, "Yeah, brother - please come." You have to sense whether he was really sincere and is eager to have you or whether he is just being courteous. There has been and there still is a lot of folly among believers in this area, and it's not just in the matter of going for a meal. For example, when we go to different places (now CFC has fellowships in different parts of the country), I can think that of course other fellowships are definitely eager to have me, because I am such a brother who brings blessings wherever I go. We can have such high thoughts about ourselves, but the other person may not have the same thoughts about you. It is so easy for us to have such high thoughts and think that everybody is eager to have us just because they sent an invitation. They may have sent an invitation, but their hearts weren't really in it. We must not be so stupid or foolish to think that everybody who invites us is necessarily eager for our company or our fellowship. We have to sense that. If I have high thoughts about myself, then I will think, "Yes, they are really eager to have me." But if I have small thoughts about myself, I will say, "That invitation may just be out of courtesy." I have to think.

We are not to make fools of ourselves and grow up with a testimony for folly in this area. Really seek God for wisdom and humility. If a person is really eager to have you, he will keep on asking you. It won't be just once. He will really want you, and that's the best time to go. We'll have far more to give when people are really eager to have us somewhere, rather than if we just get a casual invitation. Since we are rich and have money to travel, we jump onto a train or a bus and off we are. That is folly. We have to be careful that we don't do such stupid things. Be careful in accepting invitations. See that people are really eager to have you first before visiting. Let's not thrust ourselves on people who are not so eager to have us. That's simple wisdom.

He then says, "Eat and drink." Of course, he has to be courteous, but his heart is not really with you. It means he is not really sincere in what he says. Of course, it's wrong on his part, but never mind about him. We are not to be foolish.

    9) Do not speak in the hearing of a fool,
    For he will despise the wisdom of your words.

    Prov 23:9

This is just like what Jesus said in Matthew 7:6: "Don't throw your pearls before swine. Don't give that which is holy to dogs." We are to think when we speak: "These people who are listening to me, what sort of people are they?" I can't just start off on the New and Living Way and about Christ manifest in the flesh and all types of things without a single thought about who the audience is. I mean, are these the people to whom I should be saying this? Wisdom is required. Otherwise, we are fools if we think that just because we have some knowledge, we should dish it out to anyone who comes our way. No. We are not to share with those who despise the wisdom of our words. For example, this may not just be about doctrine. It can be to someone in the church. You give some advice to them, some wisdom, and they despise it. They don't care for it, because in their own opinion, they are wiser. If you are wise, next time you will not give them advice. Let them go and do what they'd like. Do not speak to a fool. A fool is one who despises the wisdom of your words. You have to sense, "Do I feel that this person doesn't think there's any wisdom in my words? Maybe he thinks I'm a fool. Okay, fine. I'm not offended by that." But I have to make sure that I don't go and unnecessarily trouble him with more advice in the future. Just leave him, because he's despised the wisdom of your words. We have to be sensitive and sensible here, and not just go around saying anything to everyone. This is really, really practical wisdom. If we take it seriously, we will grow up to be wise instead of foolish.

    10) Do not move the ancient boundary
    Or go into the fields of the fatherless,
    For their Redeemer is strong;
    He will plead their case against you.

    Prov 23:10-11

Here is a repetition again about moving the boundary. It's almost as though he hasn't had enough by saying it once. He probably knows what busybodies the children of Adam are, and so he has to repeat it. There are certain things repeated in these 30 sayings that we would be wise to pay attention to.

The fatherless represent a combination of the poor and the helpless. Beware of injuring the helpless. That's basically what he's saying. Those who are weak, those who cannot fight back, those who cannot go to court against you, those who have nobody to fight their cause for them. That's basically what it says about the fatherless - nobody to fight their cause, weak, they are under you in some way. Beware that you don't go into their boundary. Respect a boundary that almighty God has placed around that human being, "for their redeemer is strong and he will plead their case against you."

We can look at it another way: that is if you are one of those helpless people somebody else is taking advantage of, think of this verse. You have a powerful defender (as it says in the Good News Translation) - a powerful defender who will fight your case for you, since you have no one else to fight your case. You are helpless. This is a tremendous word of encouragement to those who find themselves in some helpless situation in life. You can feel like a fatherless person in some situations. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself and ending up defiled with the spirit of self-pity, you can say to yourself: "Well, it says here that if I'm helpless, then I am in a very blessed position actually, because I have a mighty guardian who will fight my case for me." What better position is there than that? That is not any cause for self-pity. Self-pity is always because of UNBELIEF. Always because of unbelief. Only atheists can have self-pity. You say, "No, I've seen believers who have self-pity." Well, those believers become atheists at that moment. That means they don't believe in a heavenly Father; they don't believe that God is almighty; they don't believe that God is going to do anything for them. At that moment, they've lost all faith, and that's why they end up in self-pity. Only an atheist who doesn't have a heavenly Father can have self-pity. But one who has a heavenly Father, how can he ever have self-pity when he is in the most powerful position? The believer says, "I'm helpless, humanly speaking. But my almighty guardian is going to take care of it all." Think of a wife who is always being troubled by her husband in 101 ways. She can wallow in self-pity or she can rejoice that there's a powerful guardian who will fight her cause. It's the same with any other person like that who is in a difficult situation. A word of encouragement.

    11) Apply your heart to discipline
     And your ears to words of knowledge.

     Prov 23:12
    Don't refuse to accept criticism; get all the help you can.

    Prov 23:12, TLB

In other words, when you get some criticism, what should you do? Apply your heart to it. I heard a brother tell a story once about one time when the phone rang. He picked it up, and some person who was mad with him began to tell him all types of mean things: "You're like this and you're like that." And the brother thought, "I have to press the phone really close to my ear now and listen carefully to this, because this is going to help me to work out my salvation with fear and trembling." That's a godly person. He wants to listen carefully lest he miss one word of all this criticism that's coming over the phone. Think of that. It was a godly brother who told that story. You won't find such a person ending up as a fool, because when he hears something, he says: "I know there's nothing good in my flesh, and here's somebody who's helping me to find something which I may not have found myself yet." I really believe, brothers, that we are not as wholehearted as we often think in wanting to find out what dwells in our flesh. We say, "Yes, I'm wholehearted. I want to find out what dwells in my flesh." Then when someone tells me what dwells in my flesh, I get all upset. That shows I'm not really wholehearted in wanting to find out. But here was a brother who was wholehearted. He wanted to find out! And the proof of it was that when somebody criticized him, he wanted to hear every word of it. There we find out whether we are really wholehearted or whether we are deceiving ourselves. So, accept all the criticism you get and apply your heart to it! The Living Bible says that this criticism is a help to us. It's a help if we are really interested in a godly life.

    12) Do not hold back discipline from the child,
    Although you strike him with the rod, he will not die.
    You shall strike him with the rod
    And rescue his soul from Sheol.

    Prov 23:13-14

Again, here it speaks about something the book of Proverbs repeats many times: the need for discipline for children. Think of this. What does this mean? This means that it's quite a painful beating, not just a little tap. There's no danger of him dying with just a little tap. But he says when you beat him with a rod, he will not die. That means he's thinking of quite a severe beating. He won't die, don't worry. God's provided sufficient flesh on that part of the body for just this purpose. That will protect him from injury and death. That's the wisdom of God, and he will not die. You will beat him with the rod and you will deliver his soul from Hell. That's what God's word says. You will teach him obedience when he is small, and you will deliver his soul from Hell when he grows up. But if you are soft with him, you'll see him grow up to go to Hell. Or if you are angry with him and beat him with the rod of anger, he may still go to Hell. But if you humble yourself and use the rod of discipline and really make him feel the pain, you can save his soul from Hell. What a need there is for us to be delivered from a foolish softness with our children.

I think of the words of the father of Samson. I don't know whether you've noticed them. I believe it's a prayer that every father and mother who have small children should pray. Particularly, as we've considered before, for children under twelve. In Judges 13, there was an angel who came to Samson's parents and foretold them about the birth of Samson. Manoah, Samson's father, then prayed and said, "O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born" (verse 8). Or as The Living Bible says, "O Lord, please let the man from God come back to us again and give us more instructions about the child you are going to give us." And then when the man of God came, Manoah said to him in verse 12 (TLB), "Can you give us any special instructions about how we should raise the baby after he is born?" What a prayer to pray to God. "Lord, can you please give me some special instructions on how to bring up this child when he is born?" Pray that prayer, brothers and sisters who are married and have children. "Lord, I pray the prayer of Manoah. Please give me instructions on how to raise this child. And I will also follow your instructions which I read in Proverbs."

    13) My child, if you become wise, I will be very happy. I will be proud
        when I hear you speaking words of wisdom.

    Prov 23:15-16, GNT

This is a continuation of number twelve. The father has disciplined his child and saved him from Hell. And not only that - now the father's speaking to the son directly. We considered in the beginning of the book of Proverbs that this is the older generation in the church speaking to the younger generation. They're saying, "Son, if you become wise, I'll be really happy. I won't be so happy if you just get a good job or get a good house or get a good wife or a good husband. These are not the main things; but if you become wise, then I'll be really happy. There's nothing that will delight my heart as much as you becoming wise. Even if you don't come first in your class, if you become wise - spiritually wise - in your life, I'll be really happy." We can see that there are very few fathers who are really eager for that. But we pray that in the church we will have a generation of fathers and mothers who, even if they don't say it, long for this in their hearts. "Son, daughter, we'll really be happy if you become wise. We'll be proud of you when we hear you speaking words of wisdom; when we see you, our son, growing up and speaking with wisdom. Not a whole lot of stupid things that unbelievers and carnal believers talk about - but when we see you speaking with wisdom. When we see that you don't gossip when other people around you do; when we see that you speak words of goodness and gentleness and kindness, we'll be proud of you, our son - whatever other defects may be in you as far as the world is concerned." That is the goal we should have for our children.

    14) Don't envy evil men but continue to reverence the Lord all the
        time, for surely you have a wonderful future ahead of you. There is
        hope for you yet!

    Prov 23:17-18, TLB

When we fear the Lord, there are many things on earth that we lose. But we see that evil men who don't fear the Lord get those things by cheating and telling lies. And then, sometimes even unconsciously, a little envy can come in us, that if we did it like that we could also have those benefits. Here the word of God must come to our minds: don't envy that evil man - that unrighteous man - but reverence the Lord all the time! Be in the fear of the Lord always! Live in the fear of the Lord always. What an exhortation. I believe that Jesus obeyed that exhortation. It's one of the things the bible says we must do all the time: Live in the fear of the Lord all the time. We get up in the morning and say, "Here is another day I must live in the fear of the Lord right through from morning to night. In what I say, in what I do, I have to live in the fear of the Lord. I have to live as one who recognizes that I must give an account of what I do in my body to God, and I want to live in the fear of the Lord the whole day. Blessed are those who live like that.

It goes on to say here that if you live like that: surely you have a wonderful future ahead of you. And that's absolutely true. As far as God's concerned, there's a wonderful future ahead of those who live in the fear of the Lord always. And there's a wonderful little sentence at the end of this in The Living Bible: "There is hope for you yet!" That's a word of encouragement for those who have failed and stumbled and done many foolish things in the past. This word of encouragement comes: There is still hope for you! If even now you begin to live in the fear of the Lord always, there is still hope for you.

    15) O my son, be wise and stay in God's paths; don't carouse with
        drunkards and gluttons, for they are on their way to poverty. And
        remember that too much sleep clothes a man with rags.

    Prov 23:19-21, TLB

This is really telling us to overcome the love of food again and to overcome the love of sleep. Overcome the love of food and overcome the love of sleep. We need food. We need to sleep. There's nothing wrong with them. God gives us food to eat, and God gives us sleep so that we can be refreshed. But he's speaking about those who love it so much that they do not fulfill their responsibilities on earth or to God.

    16) Listen to your father; without him you would not exist. When your
        mother is old, show her your appreciation.
    Truth, wisdom, learning, and good sense - these are worth paying for,
        but too valuable for you to sell.
    A righteous person's parents have good reason to be happy. You can take
        pride in a wise child.
    Let your father and mother be proud of you; give your mother that

    Prov 23:22-25, GNT

These are very good words. This speaks about a man's relationship to his parents, and that's another area where the book of Proverbs has much to say. Honoring your father and mother is the first commandment with a promise attached to it (Ephesians 6:1-3). It says here, "Listen to your father; without him you would not exist. When your mother is old, show her your appreciation." Good exhortations for all of us to follow. "Truth, wisdom, learning, and good sense - these are worth paying for, but too valuable for you to sell." Of course, in the context it means you receive these things from God-fearing parents. "A righteous person's parents have good reason to be happy. You can take pride in a wise child." Make your father and mother proud of you. Give your mother happiness. These are words that we need to take seriously, because the book of Proverbs repeats them again and again and again. This is particularly important when we find that sometimes parents don't have the same light that we have on various truths. Then we may have to disagree with them on certain things. All the more reason why we have to be careful to honor them in other areas, even though we have to take a stand for the truth in many areas that may cause offense. The Living Bible says in verse 22: "Listen to your father's advice and don't despise an old mother's experience."

I just want to say a word about verse 23. There's something special here that applies not only to truth that we receive from God-fearing parents, but truth that we get in the New Covenant from the Holy Spirit. It says in the New American Standard Bible, "Buy the truth, and do not sell it." There are two things here: In order to get truth, I have to pay a price. And that price may be that I lose my reputation. I may even lose my job. I may lose friends. I may lose many things. I must say, "Lord, I'm willing to pay that price in order to get the truth and hold on to it." And once you get the truth, don't sell it! Don't compromise at any cost! It's a fantastic verse. Don't ever give up the truth just because you're going to get a little profit here or a little gain there if you compromise on the truth. Buy the truth! Pay any price to get the whole truth of God! And once you get it, don't ever give it up to please your wife or to please your relatives or to please anyone else. Never! Never sell it. That is the mark of a wholehearted person in one sentence. He's willing to pay any price to get the truth, and once he gets it, he will never part with it no matter what he's going to lose. There are so many things we could gain by compromising. It may not be money. It may be that I get somebody's good pleasure if I keep quiet on something, and I end up as a compromiser. Maybe you've sold the truth for the sake of friendship with someone. No. Stand for it at any cost.

We can also look at this another way. Another aspect of not selling the truth means that we must give it freely, and not put a fee on it and charge people. That's why we believe in preaching the gospel freely and never taking a collection in our meetings. One reason is this: because we don't believe that anyone has to pay a charge, even ten cents in the collection bag, in order to listen to the truth. He can come and listen comfortably knowing that there is no collection bag going to be passed around at any time during the meeting. No. It's free. All are welcome to receive it freely. No collection is going to be taken. That's how it must be - always offered freely. Never a charge for the truth. We don't sell it. We give it freely.

    17) Give me your heart, my son,
     And let your eyes delight in my ways.
     For a harlot is a deep pit
     And an adulterous woman is a narrow well.
     Surely she lurks as a robber,
     And increases the faithless among men.

    Prov 23:26-28

We read in Proverbs 22:11 about our hearts and our mouths/speech. Here it speaks about our hearts and our eyes. In this context, it says that an adulterous woman is a deep pit. The problem with a deep pit is that you can't climb out. A small pit you could climb out of, but a harlot or a seductive woman is a deep pit. Be careful, there are many deep pits around you. In school, in college, in your place of work, there are deep pits - women who don't dress properly, women who are flirting types. Think of them always as deep pits. You have to walk in the office or in your place of work so carefully. Think about how you would walk in a place where there were deep pits all around you. You'd be an idiot if you just walked carelessly there. You have to be careful in relation to women too.

The adulterous woman is a narrow well, and there's not much hope of anybody pulling you out of that either. She lurks as a robber - one who wants to rob you of your physical health; one who wants to rob you spiritually. She increases the number of unfaithful people among men. The number of men who are unfaithful to their wives is increased by these deep pits and these narrow wells. Be careful in your neighborhood, in your office, among your relatives, on the streets, everywhere. Be careful of these deep pits and these narrow wells, and don't make a fool of yourself. How should we protect ourselves? The Lord says, "Give me your heart, that you don't allow your heart to think about these things. And give me your eyes, that your eyes will be under my control." That's it. Your heart and your eyes - give them to God. Then you need not fear these deep pits and narrow wells anymore. Very practical instruction.

This also applies to spiritual harlotry - those who fall into Babylon the harlot. That is also a deep pit and a narrow well, and it's not easy to come out when we are in a harlot system. If God has delivered us, be careful that we don't fall back into that all over again by the way we live.

    18) Whose heart is filled with anguish and sorrow? Who is always
        fighting and quarreling? Who is the man with bloodshot eyes and many
        wounds? It is the one who spends long hours in the taverns, trying out
        new mixtures. Don't let the sparkle and the smooth taste of strong wine
        deceive you. For in the end it bites like a poisonous serpent; it
        stings like an adder. You will see hallucinations and have delirium
        tremens, and you will say foolish, silly things that would embarrass
        you to no end when sober. You will stagger like a sailor tossed at sea,
        clinging to a swaying mast. And afterwards you will say, "I didn't even
        know it when they beat me up. . . . Let's go and have another drink!"

    Prov 23:29-35, TLB

These verses speak about the evils of drink. Most of us probably don't have any problem here, but it is a problem for many people. The word of God speaks much about this evil of drinking. Jesus spoke in Luke 21:34 about our hearts being drunk. The heart gets drunk with worldliness, and many believers get drunk in this way spoken of by Jesus - a drunkenness on worldliness. A drunkenness that comes one sip at a time. Slowly, slowly, slowly, slowly the heart gets weighed down with drunkenness. We can apply these verses in Proverbs to that type of drunkenness too. A little sip of worldliness at a time can gradually lead, as it says, to biting like a snake and stinging like a viper. Your eyes will see strange things and your mind utter perverse things, and so on. And yet, though a person experiences this, he seems to still want to go for another drink after it all.

Chapter 24
Chapter 24

    19) Do not be envious of evil men,
    Nor desire to be with them;
    For their minds devise violence,
    And their lips talk of trouble.

    Prov 24:1-2
    Don't be envious of evil people, and don't try to make friends with
        them. Causing trouble is all they ever think about; every time they
        open their mouth someone is going to be hurt.

    Prov 24:1-2, GNT

It's very interesting that when it speaks about an evil person, it speaks about the way he uses his mouth and the words that he speaks. As human beings and children of Adam, our definition of an evil man is someone who is out to kill people or cheat people or harm people in some way. But the word of God says that a person who uses his mouth to say something bad about another person is an evil person. The thing is, our conscience is not sensitive enough. Sin has not become exceedingly sinful (Romans 7:13, KJV) so that we think of such a person as an evil person. Most believers don't think of a gossiper as an evil man who is in the same category as a murderer. Why is that? Because sin has not become exceedingly sinful in their eyes. That's why we think of a murderer as an evil person, but one who speaks evil about others with his tongue, we don't think of as an evil person. Sin must become exceedingly sinful in our eyes if we are to have the same understanding as God's word.

And don't try to make friends with an evil man. Don't envy a man who has certain advantages that you don't have. We seek to follow the Lord, not to be friends with evil men.

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

    Prov 24:3-4

There are three words here: wisdom, understanding, and knowledge. We are told how a house is built. This can refer to God's house, the church, or our homes. Here we see that the most important requirement to build a home or a church is not knowledge. We can say that knowledge is like furniture. You put the furniture in after the house is built. So knowledge is needed. We need a knowledge of God's word, but that is to fill the rooms after the rooms have been constructed. The rooms are filled with all pleasant and precious riches, which includes tables and chairs and beds and all that. We can say that a church which is built with just bible knowledge - without the wisdom which comes from the fear of God - is like a man who puts all his furniture out on an empty plot of land and is living there. No rooms, no roof, no walls, but he has all the furniture. He just keeps increasing the amount of furniture. That's the danger of increasing in knowledge without wisdom. It's a very beautiful picture. Think of a man trying to live on an open plot of land, constantly increasing his furniture - buying expensive paintings and various things to beautify the house - and the whole thing's exposed to the sun and the rain. It's just as stupid to increase in knowledge without a corresponding increase in wisdom. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and it says here it's by wisdom that a house is built. Wisdom is the most important thing.

Another house we are building is our own personal life. For that also, the first requirement is wisdom. And wisdom is, we can say, God's nature. We read in James 3:17 the different characteristics of wisdom which are all a description of God's nature. Then, after the house is built by wisdom, it's by understanding that it is established. We can say that understanding is an understanding of God's ways. We read in Psalm 103:7 that God made known his ways to Moses. To partake of God's nature is wisdom and to understand God's ways is understanding. Lastly, God's word is knowledge. So we can say that God's nature, God's ways, and God's word are how a house is built, established, and furnished, respectively. When we have a balance of all these, then we can say we have a house with walls, a roof, a floor, and furniture inside. Then that's a place that can be used by people to live.

    21) A wise man is mightier than a strong man. Wisdom is mightier than
        strength. Don't go to war without wise guidance; there is safety in
        many counselors.

    Prov 24:5-6, TLB

When you are young, you are strong but not wise. In that strength of youth and zeal, a lot of foolish things can be done if wisdom does not accompany it. By young, I don't mean young just in age, but young spiritually. Wisdom is mightier than strength, and all that zeal of young people is not as good as the wisdom of a mature saint. So don't go to war (don't try to proceed in this Christian life which is a war) without wise guidance. If we ourselves are not wise, we need to seek wise guidance from others in whom we have confidence. That's a very important principle in the church. It's not just a question of accepting somebody who claims to be an elder or thinks that he's an elder, but rather that we have confidence that someone has wisdom. Such a person we would go to for guidance. There is safety in many counselors. It's good to humble ourselves and go and seek advice from those whom we believe and have confidence that they have more wisdom than us. That's the way to conduct our warfare.

    22) Wisdom is too exalted for a fool,
     He does not open his mouth in the gate.

     Prov 24:7
    Wise sayings are too deep for stupid people to understand. They have
        nothing to say when important matters are being discussed.

    Prov 24:7, GNT

This phrase "in the gate" is an Old Testament expression which indicates the counsel of the elders. The elders always sat in the gate of the city. "He does not open his mouth in the gate" means the fool doesn't have anything to say (at least anything valuable to say). Of course, he has a multitude of words by which his voice is known as a fool's voice. But he has nothing important to say - nothing of content to contribute when important matters are being discussed. Wisdom is too high for a fool. In the beginning, we are all like that. Here is where we really need to pursue after wisdom, so that content increases in our lives. Then we can have things to contribute that can be of help to others.

    23) If you are always planning evil, you will earn a reputation as a
        troublemaker. Any scheme a fool thinks up is sinful. People hate a
        person who has nothing but scorn for others.

    Prov 24:8-9, GNT

This is particularly the case for people who don't have wisdom, and yet are busy bodies in other people's affairs or try to go around giving advice to others. Many young people are like that. Not even all those who have wisdom are careful here. It's very easy to earn a reputation as a busy body and a nuisance and a constant source of trouble. It's a very bad thing to earn a reputation like that. There we need to humble ourselves and cleanse ourselves.

It says here that this poor reputation comes through planning evil. In other words, one is not cleansing oneself from the evil that is in one's flesh. It's because a person is not living in self-judgment and self-cleansing that he or she goes around doing a whole lot of stupid things with other people and other families. Gradually, over a period of time, that person begins to get a reputation for being a real nuisance. But if we live in constant self-judgment and self-cleansing, we will never earn such a reputation. That's because if we do a foolish thing once, we won't repeat it. The sad thing is when we keep on repeating the same foolish thing year after year after year.

It says in verse 9, "Any scheme a fool thinks up is sinful. People hate a person who has nothing but scorn for others." When a fool thinks up a scheme, it's sinful and it's useless, because he's not cleansing himself. It's good for us to recognize that nothing good dwells in our flesh. People hate a person who has nothing but scorn for others. That's how the children of Adam are. It's very difficult for us to find something to appreciate in others. It's a pretty good test of our spiritual condition - if, when you think of a particular brother or sister who is not so spiritual in your eyes (I don't mean the ones who you think are more spiritual. It's easy to think of something good to say about them), you can't find even one good thing to say about them, that's an indication that you are in a pretty sad spiritual condition. That even applies for a carnal believer! Very sad. You only have scorn for that person. Think that Jesus has accepted that person and found something good in them. He or she may not be perfect, but there we can see how much the thinking of Adam governs our attitudes toward others. Someone who only has scorn for others, such a person is a fool himself.

    24) If you are faint in the day of adversity,
     Your strength is small.

    Prov 24:10
    You are a poor specimen if you can't stand the pressure of adversity.

    Prov 24:10, TLB

It's in the time of testing and adversity that we really discover whether we are strong or not. That's one reason why God has to allow trials and adversity to come across our path: because that's when we really discover whether we are spiritual or not. Most people, even among believers, faint in the day of adversity. That means their strength is small. What should they do when they discover that? They should humble themselves and say, "Lord, why did I faint in the day of adversity? That means that I was deceiving myself all along, thinking that I was spiritually strong when there was no pressure. When the pressure came, I fainted, I got upset, I got irritated, I got into unrest. That proves that all my life that has been my spiritual state, and I just never discovered it. Thank God for that adversity and that trial which showed me my condition."

Like Amy Carmichael said: "For a cup brimful of sweet water cannot spill even one drop of bitter water, however suddenly jolted." If someone shakes us strongly, and out from our mouth comes all types of hard words and bitter words, what does that indicate? That indicates that all through my life, I was carrying a glass full of bitter water. I didn't know it, because nobody shook me till now, but when somebody shook me, then I discovered what was inside. So instead of getting upset with that person for shaking me and upsetting me, I should say, "Thank you, my dear brother, my dear friend, because through you I discovered what otherwise I would be living in self-deception about. I discovered that I was carrying bitter water inside me all this time." We need to see it like that. If in the day of adversity, I faint and I fail, I am a poor specimen, the word of God says. God wants to show me to the angels and say, "See how this child of mine behaves - not when things are going easy, but see how he behaves when the pressure is on, in times of adversity - see how he speaks, how wisdom comes forth from his tongue."

So dear brothers and sisters, we must take this very seriously. I don't believe that anyone can be spiritual if he does not see what his true condition is in the time of pressure and judge himself in light of that. It's so easy to deceive ourselves when there's no pressure, thinking we are highly spiritual because we have so much knowledge. But the day of testing reveals our true condition, and we must be honest about it and humble ourselves. We should say, "Lord, help me so that the next time I face that type of pressure, my reaction will not be like that anymore!" That's the person who's really going to make progress from glory to glory.

So we praise God for the day of adversity. We praise God that he allows the evil day to come to us here on this earth, so that we don't spend our whole lives deceiving ourselves. Think about if we just had a smooth life. So many believers would like to have a smooth passage through life - no trials, no testing, nobody backbites against them, no one says anything against them, everything is easy, no financial difficulty, no sickness, no nothing. We can live 50 years and think we are spiritual and wake up at the judgment seat of Christ to discover perhaps that we are not even converted - or if we are converted, that we are thoroughly carnal. Isn't it good that God doesn't allow us to be deceived for 50 years? He shakes us up after five or ten years. He allows some situation which makes us collapse into unrest and irritability and grumbling against God and against people. God is saying, "I love you. I'm just trying to show you your true condition so that you don't deceive yourself. I've come to help you so that you can do something about it before you stand at the judgment seat of Christ." And we should say, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you for that trial. It's helped me to see my condition. I really want to cleanse myself. I really want to make use of this opportunity so that in the days to come, before I leave this earth, I've really partaken of your nature." Praise God for the day of adversity.

    25) Don't hesitate to rescue someone who is about to be executed
        unjustly. You may say that it is none of your business, but God knows
        and judges your motives. He keeps watch on you; he knows. And he will
        reward you according to what you do.

    Prov 24:11-12, GNT

God knows that you knew some person was innocent, and yet you allowed him to be judged in the court. Now he's going out to be hanged. You know he didn't commit the murder, but you keep quiet because the whole crowd says he's guilty. We can think of when Jesus was crucified, and how the whole crowd said, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Think of a mob shouting, "Crucify him!" And you are one wholehearted disciple there, and you know Jesus is not guilty. Think of being able to raise a voice in the middle of that mob and say, "No! Don't crucify him, because he's not guilty." That mob might crucify you if you do that. It's not easy to take a stand for something that's unpopular. It's not easy to take a stand when everybody else is saying something wrong. It's not easy to be willing to be unpopular for the sake of the truth. But God knows and he will reward you according to what you do. Don't join the crowd. Be willing to stand distinct.

That's a word for children in schools and colleges and for those working in offices. If all the mob is saying one thing and you know it's wrong, be willing to stand against it. Say, "No, it's wrong to treat that person like that." We don't have to give an opinion on everything in the office or everything that's happening under the sun. But when you find particularly that someone who is innocent is being accused and is going to be punished, there we have a right and an obligation to stand up for the truth.

Of course, this has many other applications regarding our willingness to be unpopular. The vast majority of Christians need to be unpopular for the sake of the truth. I do not believe God will ever use a man in his service who is afraid of becoming unpopular for the sake of the truth. I just want to tell you that the vast majority of Christian preachers are. They are unwilling to be unpopular for the sake of the truth. Popularity and what the crowd says means so much to them. Therefore God puts them on the shelf and says, "You can't be my servant."

    26) My son, honey whets the appetite and so does wisdom! When you enjoy
        becoming wise, there is hope for you! A bright future lies ahead!

    Prov 24:13-14, TLB

This verse compares wisdom to honey. Honey was the thing which was used to sweeten foods in those days when there was no refined sugar or jam or other sweeteners. Honey was the big thing. You can imagine how much honey meant in a day when there were no chocolates or ice cream or jams or any such things. It says our desire for wisdom should be like that. And when you enjoy becoming wise and say, "Lord, I don't want to be a fool. I want to become wise!"; when you really long for wisdom; when you're willing to receive correction and you're willing to be disciplined by the Lord, then there is a beautiful promise: there is hope for you! There is hope for you! A bright future lies ahead. You know, we like to say there's hope for everybody. But there isn't hope for everybody. There is hope for those who enjoy becoming wise - not for anybody and everybody.

When it speaks about enjoying becoming wise, we must enjoy the process by which God makes us wise and be willing to accept it. It is through the cross that God leads us to wisdom, and we must be willing to accept it.

    27) O evil man, leave the upright man alone and quit trying to cheat
        him out of his rights. Don't you know that this good man, though you
        trip him up seven times, will each time rise again? But one calamity is
        enough to lay you low.

    Prov 24:15-16, TLB

This is a wonderful encouragement for those who are seeking to live before God's face - those who are humble and who are righteous. Even if they fall seven times, they will get up. Seven is the number of perfection. We can say this verse actually means any number of times. It's like a rubber ball which you throw down - not like a stone which you throw down and it just lies there. If you throw a rubber ball down, it doesn't stay there. It bounces up! Again if you throw it down, it bounces up. That's how a righteous man is. In other words, he's not discouraged, he's not depressed, he's not down in the dumps when he has fallen. He gets up! That's how we must be. If we've fallen, we must humble ourselves, repent, mourn, cry out to God for mercy and grace, and bounce up! That's the mark of a righteous man. He falls seven times or any number of times, and he rises again. But the wicked falls one time and that's enough.

We read in Psalm 37:23-24 the reason why the righteous man is lifted up: "The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and he delights in his way; when he falls, he shall not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the one who holds his hand." Even this righteous man will fall. The man whose steps are established by the Lord can fall, because in some situation, he's not so faithful. But he will not be hurled headlong. That means his head - the most sensitive part of his body - won't crash. And in this connection he says, "I've been young and now I'm old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken." He says he has not seen a situation where the Lord did not hold a righteous man's hand. Think of that, brothers and sisters. It's because the Lord holds my hand that my head doesn't crash. And that's why it's so important to remain in the place of humility with a clear conscience, where the Lord can hold my hand. Then, even if I fall, he lifts me up. I fall and he lifts me up. Praise God for that.

There's a beautiful verse in Romans 14:4. I don't know if you've noticed it. Very beautiful verse/phrase. The context is judging a weaker brother. You are a strong brother, spiritually, and you judge a weaker brother. "Who are you to judge the servant of another?" he says. "To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, because the Lord is able to make him stand." That's the same thing we read here in Proverbs. That weaker brother will stand. Don't be a fool to criticize him. The Lord will make him stand one day, and you'll look like a fool then.

    28) Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the
    Do not destroy his resting place;

    Prov 24:15
    Do not rejoice when your enemy falls,
    And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles;
    Or the Lord will see it and be displeased,
    And turn His anger away from him.

    Prov 24:17-18

What does it mean to lie in wait? It says about Jesus that the Pharisees were always waiting to catch him in his words. Who is the person who lies in wait for the righteous man to fall? Do you know that whenever a person preaches victory over sin wholeheartedly, with all of his heart - not just with a weak, timid voice, but wholeheartedly - there are many believers who don't like it and call it heresy, because they themselves are defeated. Do you know what such believers are waiting for? They are waiting for this man who preaches victory to fall. And what does the Bible, the word of God, call someone who lies in wait for a righteous man to fall? A wicked man! Is he a believer? Far from it. He's a wicked man! Whenever you wait for someone to fall, you're a wicked person! That can happen. You don't like something in someone, and then he falls and you are a bit happy. You are a wicked person! Don't call yourself a believer. You are a wicked person waiting for someone to fall.

It goes on to say in verses 17-18, "Don't rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the Lord will see it..." Do you think the Lord doesn't see it? Do you think the Lord doesn't see that little spark of delight that came into your heart when someone else fell? Instead of being grieved, you were a little happy when some misfortune came upon someone with whom you didn't have a good relationship. Beware of that, brothers and sisters. Who is our enemy in this verse? It could be a brother in the church with whom your relationship is a little bit cold. That can happen to any of us, particularly when that person has done or said something against us. Do you know what we should do when that happens? This is what I do. I say, "Lord, help me here! Help me in my relationship with this person, because I fear that I will fall!" Take that seriously. It's very, very dangerous when you are a righteous person and someone has done something against you. You need to cry out to God for help in such a situation that there will not even be a slight discoloration in your attitude toward that person. That will show that you're a God-fearing man or woman. Have you cried out like that? I've done that. If I heard someone had said something or did something against me, I would say, "O my God, please help me now!" It's easy to say I have nothing against him and that may be true, but I don't fully know the corruption that dwells in my flesh. "Please help me Lord that I shall now behave like Jesus Christ toward that person from now on. Let me be careful to really behave like Jesus toward that particular person." Otherwise, I'll pollute myself, I'll corrupt myself, and I'll just go around like a humbug and a hypocrite, having a good testimony and saying I have nothing against anybody. Humbug! It's so easy for wrong attitudes to come and that's happened in our midst, brothers and sisters. You know it's happened to you. And why did it happen? Because you think you are strong. If you had a sense of your own weakness and cried out to God for help, God would have helped you and you wouldn't have fallen. But you fell into a wrong attitude which eventually came out in words.

When will we learn? When will we learn?! How many years have gone by and we still haven't realized that we are so weak and so corrupt that we need to cry out to God for help immediately. That was why God heard Jesus' prayers. He was so weak that he cried out for help all the time because he feared sinning even in a wrong attitude, even in a slight discoloration or unloving attitude toward another person. Very important. Do not rejoice when your enemy falls. Do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles, lest the Lord see it. He sees it and he's displeased! With whom? The person that fell? No. Displeased with this person who is watching, who has been lying in wait. He will no longer be angry with that person for falling, but will be angry with me now for lying in wait and rejoicing when he fell.

You see, this spirit of vengeance is there very deeply in our flesh. When someone has done something against me or said something against me, I need to realize how weak I am at that moment. "Lord, vengeance dwells in my flesh. Please help me!" We won't take revenge by killing him. We're not so crude. It's in subtle ways. It can just be in being a little happy when he falls. It's the same spirit as that man who commits murder in vengeance. No different. The only thing is, we don't go that far. We stop with just a little delight when something goes wrong with that person who's done something against us. He who has ears to hear let him hear. He who is interested in keeping his heart clean, who wants a testimony from his conscience - not a testimony from people - let him hear. Remember this, my dear brothers and sisters: we are MOST IN DANGER when someone has said or done something against us. We are in danger of really becoming polluted in our heart toward that person, unless we live in fear and cry out to God to help us in our weakness. Let no one think that he will stand, because on his own he will fall. Very important.

This vengeance comes out in so many ways. SO MANY WAYS I TELL YOU! If we get light on it, we will see how husbands take revenge on their wives - not by killing them. You read about people who burn their wives, because the wives didn't bring dowry. We shrink back and say, "Oh, how terrible! I would never do such a thing!" But we can take revenge on our wives in so many other ways without burning them. It's the same spirit that made that fellow burn his wife! We do it in more refined ways where the police can't catch us. But God sees it. Why did you say that to your wife or husband? Wasn't that revenge for what he/she did yesterday or what he/she said the day before yesterday? Revenge. Maybe you serve the food late or cold, purposefully. So many things. And of course, you have excuses for it (e.g., I have so much other work to do), but you know that's not the real reason. It's subtly trying to hit back. The New and Living Way type of hitting back. Humbug! Hypocrisy! Deception! Brothers and sisters, ask God for light on all these things. I find that vengeance is something that doesn't go away easily. It can manifest itself in so many subtle ways if we don't see our weakness here and cry out for help. Against our own children we can take vengeance, and they are helpless. A wife or husband can hit back, but what about children? They can't hit back. We can take revenge on them, because they made life inconvenient for us in some way. So many things! Or against brothers and sisters. Let not someone think that he is free from this danger. We are all in tremendous danger in this area. If we don't realize our weakness and cry out for help, we shall fall.

    29) Do not fret because of evildoers
    Or be envious of the wicked;
    For there will be no future for the evil man;
    The lamp of the wicked will be put out.

    Prov 24:19-20

Here we see again the same thing mentioned in Proverbs 24:1 - the danger of being envious because of another person who's unrighteous. Let's say somebody who's unrighteous in the office who seems to have it easier. Life is so difficult for you, because you are righteous. You won't give money for that Hindu festival, so life becomes a little more difficult for you. It would be easier if you were unrighteous and gave money for that Hindu festival. Don't be envious, because there is no future for that evil man. Finally, the lamp of the wicked will be put out. It's better to suffer a little and stand for righteousness.

Psalm 17:13-14 (The Living Bible) says, "Lord, arise and stand against them. Push them back! Come and save me from these men of the world whose only concern is earthly gain-these men whom you have filled with your treasures so that their children and grandchildren are rich and prosperous." Yes, God has allowed them, their children, and their grandchildren to be rich and prosperous. But then David says, "But as for me, my contentment is not in wealth but in seeing you and knowing all is well between us. And when I awake in heaven, I will be fully satisfied, for I will see you face-to-face" (verse 15). Blessed is the New Covenant brother who can say what that Old Covenant brother said with lesser light: never to compare our lot with the unrighteous man.

    30) Have reverence for the Lord, my child, and honor the king. Have
        nothing to do with people who rebel against them; such people could be
        ruined in a moment. Do you realize the disaster that God or the king
        can cause?

    Prov 24:21-22, GNT

This means: fear God first and submit to secular authority. It may not be the king. It may be the boss in your office. Honor him. Fear the Lord and the king. And listen to this - a word for our day: "Have nothing to do with people who rebel against God or who rebel against the boss." Don't have fellowship with them. That's why I say it's very dangerous for a Christian to join a trade union if it involves the spirit of rebellion against authority. This is the last statement he mentions in the thirty wise sayings: have nothing to do with the spirit of rebellion. Be careful about rebellion against your parents. Your father is king in the home. Children, be careful that you don't rebel against your father or mother. Be careful, wives, that you don't rebel against the one whom God has placed as king over you in your house. I don't know how many wives see their husbands as the king God has placed over them. Be careful. Have nothing to do with that spirit of rebellion.

Rebellion can also be found in the church. We read about Korah, Dathan, and Abiram who stood against Moses. They said, "Who does this Moses think he is? He's not the only one through whom God speaks. God speaks through us also." Moses just kept quiet and fell on his face. And God said, "Alright, I'll teach these fellas a lesson. I'll teach them through whom I speak." And Moses said, "Let all the congregation of Israel stand back." And that's the only case recorded in the Bible where a man went alive into Hell. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Alive into Hell. Just like how Enoch and Elijah went straight up to heaven. There's only one case of that in the scriptures and it was the result of the spirit of rebellion against authority. Be careful, be careful. It's good to humble ourselves before God. Be careful because this spirit of rebellion is spreading all over homes, schools, colleges, factories, and churches everywhere. We have to be careful.

Chapter 25

Concluding Statements & Additional Proverbs

Here are some additional proverbs:

    It is wrong to sentence the poor and let the rich go free. He who says
        to the wicked, "You are innocent," shall be cursed by many people of
        many nations; but blessings shall be showered on those who rebuke sin

    Prov 24:23-25, TLB

That's a wonderful word for those who preach the word of God: "Blessings will be showered on those who rebuke sin fearlessly." That's our calling in the church.

Verse 23 in the New American Standard Bible says, "To show partiality in showing judgment is not good." It's very easy to be partial. Just like vengeance, as I discussed earlier quite strongly, dwells very close to us in our flesh. I also want to say the spirit of partiality is very close to us in our flesh. We like certain brothers and we don't like certain brothers. We like certain sisters and we don't like certain sisters. And when there is conflict between those two, unconsciously we take the side of the one whom we like. Why? Because we don't have the divine nature which is impartial. We live according to our Adamic nature which is partial. "I like this brother, so he must be right. I don't like that brother, so he must be wrong." I've seen that. I've seen that right in the midst of the church. I've seen a brother come and tell me a complaint against another brother. Yes, what that other brother did was wrong, but I could sense that this brother didn't like that other brother. That's why he was making this complaint. Then a few weeks later, I found this brother facing the same situation with another brother and then, of course, he had no complaint at all - even though a similar situation occurred. I said, "Now I know why there's no complaint: because he likes that brother. That's why there's no complaint." When the first brother had done this thing, he had a complaint. But now, it's a brother he likes who did it, so it's alright. "We have to bear with one another in love. We have to forgive," he would say. That's an example of partiality. How long are we going to take to cleanse ourselves from it? When in the world are we going to get light on it? If we haven't gotten light after sitting in the church for so many years, I would say that chances are we won't get light even in the next fifty years. The light has shown pretty brightly in our midst all these years, and if we still haven't gotten light, when are we going to wake up? Take that seriously, brothers and sisters. To show partiality is evil, and in making a judgment, it's so easy to be partial. We have to cry out to God, "Help me, Lord, to form a right assessment here!"

Verse 23 in the Good News Translation says, "It is wrong for judges to be prejudiced." To be prejudiced means to have a little more weight toward one person than another. What would you think of a Christian who was selling vegetables or fruit in a shop, and he put a little extra weight underneath the vegetables and fruit so that he doesn't have to sell as much? But the same brother talks about the New and Living Way. He's a humbug! Well, you are a humbug too when you have a little extra weight toward one brother over another in forming an assessment. It's the same thing. That is prejudice: to have a little weight in favor of one person over another. You who tell another person that he's a humbug, aren't you being a humbug yourself?! There's great safety in judging ourselves alone and not being a busybody in other peoples' matters. Wonderful. This is the way of salvation.

    He kisses the lips
    Who gives a right answer.

    Prov 24:26
    An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.

    Prov 24:26, GNT
    It is an honor to receive a frank reply.

    Prov 24:26, TLB

Kissing the lips is used as a metaphor for intimate friendship. It means that when you speak the truth to somebody, that is the sign that you're a real friend to that person. If you're a diplomat, always beating around the bush, never telling the person the truth, you're not his friend at all. A real friend is one who speaks the truth straight. An honest answer is a sign of true friendship. "Brother, do you think what I shared in the meeting was too long?" "Yes, it was too long and very boring also. You just kept repeating the same thing so many times. You need to cleanse yourself from that." That's a sign of true friendship: an honest answer. Instead of "Yeah, brother, it's good. We appreciated it," and all this humbug. No. We need to learn to be honest with each other and get over all this diplomacy. Walk in the light. That's the secret of fellowship.

    Prepare your work outside
    And make it ready for yourself in the field;
    Afterwards, then, build your house.

    Prov 24:27
    Don't build your house and establish a home until your fields are
        ready, and you are sure that you can earn a living.

    Prov 24:27, GNT

This is a wonderful word for those who are planning to get married - particularly men. This is clear, isn't it? In those days, the only way they earned a living was through working in fields. He says not to establish a home unless you're sure that you can earn a living.

We can say that this also could apply to the fact that we need to think of our necessities first and luxuries afterwards. To earn a living is a necessity, and marriage can be a luxury. The necessity must come first so that we don't become beggars. We seek to find support for ourselves. But you say, "It's so difficult these days with so much unemployment in our country." I'll tell you one group of people who will never have a problem in this area: those who obey Matthew 6:33 which says, "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and ALL your material needs will be added to you." This applies even where unemployment is very high. That's the solution to unemployment. Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all your material needs will be added to you. Then God will give you a wife as well. So that's the way. In marriage, we must be established financially first. Otherwise, we can be like the man who Jesus said started to build a tower but didn't have enough to finish. Some will say, "Yeah, I'll get married and trust the Lord." This phrase, "Trust the Lord" has become so abused and devalued. Halfway through, the man could not complete the tower, and now he has to beg and borrow and he gets into all types of problems. Be wise.

    Don't give evidence against others without good reason, or say
        misleading things about them. Don't say, "I'll do to them just what
        they did to me! I'll get even with them!"

    Prov 24:28-29, GNT

Here again is the spirit of vengeance - that when you're asked to give a testimony in a court, you say, "Now is my chance to really paint it black! I won't tell any lies, but I'll color it in such a way that it will really put him in a difficult situation." That can happen. You may not go to court, but we can have other applications for this. Sometimes we don't have a very good relationship with someone - you're a bit cold toward someone or someone is a bit cold toward you. Let's say you are called in some situation to talk to a brother, and the topic of brother X comes up, with whom you don't have a very good relationship. Then, of course, we point out something we saw, some stupid thing that brother X did which we have retained in our file to bring out at the right time. That's because I want to take my vengeance, and I can't say something good. "I'll do to him what he has done to me." Beware of that spirit. Beware of that demonic, evil, Luciferian spirit: "I'll do to him as he did to me." That's a million miles away, on the other side of the universe, from the spirit of Christ.

    I passed by the field of the sluggard
    And by the vineyard of the man lacking sense,
    And behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles;
    Its surface was covered with nettles,
    And its stone wall was broken down.
    When I saw, I reflected upon it;
    I looked, and received instruction.
    "A little sleep, a little slumber,
    A little folding of the hands to rest,"
    Then your poverty will come as a robber
    And your want like an armed man.

    Prov 24:30-34

When Solomon saw this lazy man's field, what did he do? I can tell you what he did not do: he did not criticize this lazy man. Praise God! He judged himself! He learned a lesson for himself! He reflected upon it and learned a lesson for himself. We have to learn from the follies of others. I want to say to all young people: when you see another young brother or sister doing a stupid thing, and as a result, over a period of time, that person loses their testimony in the church - there are weeds and thorns in their testimony and walls are broken down - what should you do? Don't waste your time criticizing that person. Solomon didn't criticize. There's no use criticizing. Just sit down and think about it and say, "Lord, I have a flesh exactly like that person. Help me that I don't go around and become such a fool myself with weeds and thorns growing all over and walls broken down. Help me!" Reflect on it! It's good to think about these things when we see them - to look and to learn. Learn from the mistakes of others, so that you don't make the same mistakes yourself. We can learn from mistakes, but it's far better if we learn from the mistakes we see other people making. Then we can avoid making them ourselves. The wise person is the person who observes the blunders and follies of others and says to himself, "I don't have to make the same mistake myself, because I saw that person do it." Think of how many things we can save ourselves from. In so many areas in the world, we are careful. We see somebody doing a stupid thing, and we make sure that we don't do it ourselves. How much more careful should we be in the area of the spiritual life? It says in verse 32 in The Living Bible, "I learned…" Beautiful phrase: I learned. We can say a wise man is one who observes the follies of foolish people and learns from them. And a foolish person is one who does not observe the good qualities in wise people and learn from them.

What are these thorns mentioned? We can say they are the lusts that overpower a person, because he's been lazy. He's not been wholehearted in judging himself. He's been careless. And what's the wall? We can say the wall represents God's commandments - like we see with Nehemiah's wall representing the commandments of God. Many bricks make up a wall. Here is a person who has been careless in his attitude towards God's commandments, and the wall is broken down. Learn a lesson. Learn a lesson from the final fate which comes upon such people - the spiritual poverty that people finally come into. Their poverty has come upon them suddenly like a robber and violently like a bandit. Suddenly you hear someone has fallen! Suddenly you see someone flaring up and losing his temper! Poverty! Spiritual poverty! Suddenly it comes! Not slowly, but suddenly. Because the person has been lazy in judging himself all through his life.

I remember hearing of a brother who had responsibility in one of the churches in Europe, and he was much respected. But he was not working on his own salvation and one day, his folly became manifest to everybody because he publicly lost his temper. That was all. One event. One time of publicly losing one's temper is enough for God to reveal a person's folly to everyone and to indicate to the whole world that this person was not working on his own salvation in his private life despite all his knowledge of the New and Living Way. And that brother was a man who could explain the New and Living Way better than you or me. He was a teacher. He was a man who was respected and had a wonderful family with God-fearing children. He lost his testimony by flaring up once and losing his temper. What does this indicate? It's not just a question of him losing his temper one time. It's an indication of a serious problem that's been there for years! That the person was not working on his own salvation and judging himself. He had high thoughts about himself and never cleansed himself. Therefore he finally got upset and flared up publicly. God allows that to happen. And when that happens, there's no use criticizing them. We have to think and say, "Lord, that can happen to me."

When you see an old person who is irritable, bitter, cranky, and demanding, we must say, "God have mercy on me so that I don't become an old person like that." Stupid, foolish, demanding, cranky. Then you see other old people who are so wise, so gracious, so good. There's much for us to think about when we see these things around us. To say, "Lord, help me. I have the same flesh. Help me to grow up to be more like Jesus, so that in my old age, people will see that there's something of wisdom instead of all the wretched nature of Adam that's been cherished and nourished for years." When should we start working in order to grow up and be a saint when we're old? You have to start working probably when you're ten. And if we've crossed that age, we better hurry up and start at least now. Be wholehearted! Think of the poverty of so many believers around us. Don't criticize them. Just look and learn a lesson: that a little laziness in working out one's own salvation, a little sleepiness in judging one's self, being a busybody in other people's matters, and my own stone wall will be broken down and thorns will cover my life. Here's much opportunity for us to repent, be wholehearted, and be diligent.

We discussed before about how wisdom is necessary for our personal life, our home life, and our church life. Therefore, these verses can be a picture of a barren personal life which has neglected discipline and neglected God's word. It can be a picture of a barren family relationship between husband and wife which was supposed to be like the garden of Eden, but has ended up like a wilderness. Or it can also be a picture of a church which was meant to be the garden of the Lord, but has become a wilderness. In all three areas, we can learn a lesson from what we see here.

Chapter 26
Chapter 25



    These also are proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of
        Judah, transcribed.

    Prov 25:1

These are obviously Proverbs that were discovered during the revival of the time of King Hezekiah. That's just a picture to us of how God preserves his word when we believe that God's word is inspired. There are some very precious verses in these chapters which are the Proverbs of Solomon. They were apparently lost until the time of Hezekiah which was some hundreds of years later. Yet they were God's inspired word, so God made sure they were found so that they could be included in the Bible. That's also the way God has preserved his word through all these centuries so that we can have it in our hands. That which God has intended for man to have from him, even if it is lost, God will make sure it is found.

    It is the glory of God to conceal a matter,
    But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

    Prov 25:2

This verse can apply to the hidden treasures in the word of God. There are treasures that are hidden in God's word which God has concealed and hidden. That's his glory. It's part of the glory of God to conceal a matter, because it's when he conceals a matter that he can find out who are the ones who are diligent and not lazy. He can find out who are the ones who are wholeheartedly seeking and who will dig in order to find those treasures. And just like it is the glory of God to conceal a matter, it says it's the glory of a king to find out that which God has hidden. That should be our attitude to the word of God: that when we go to his word, we seek to find out what God has hidden so that we can become rich.

    As the heavens for height and the earth for depth,
    So the heart of kings is unsearchable.

    Prov 25:3

In other words, you don't know the thoughts that are going through the mind of a king. We could apply this in a New Testament way to New Testament kings. In 1 Corinthians 2:15 it says, "He who is spiritual can evaluate (or appraise) all things, yet he himself cannot be evaluated by any man." A carnal person usually cannot evaluate a spiritual person, because his carnal level of thinking cannot understand the reason why that spiritually-minded person does or says certain things. That's how this verse applies. That's why it's foolish to try and judge those who have more wisdom than we have.

    Take away the dross from the silver,
    And there comes out a vessel for the smith;
    Take away the wicked before the king,
    And his throne will be established in righteousness.

    Prov 25:4-5

This of course has application to Old Testament situations where wicked people in the king's court could corrupt a king. Applying it in the New Testament, we see there is a place for discipline and judgment in the church. That way the testimony of the whole church is not spoiled. As we read in 1 Corinthians 5, Paul wrote to the Corinthians that there was even a need for a man to be put out of the church. That's quite a serious thing when someone has to be put out of the church. Yet we read here in the word of God that there can even be a necessity for that, so that the church can be established in righteousness.

    Do not claim honor in the presence of the king,
    And do not stand in the place of great men;
    For it is better that it be said to you, "Come up here",
    Than for you to be placed lower in the presence of the prince,
    Whom your eyes have seen.

    Prov 25:6-7

We know from Luke 14:8-9 that Jesus repeated these words when he said, "When you go to a feast, don't take the highest seat but the lower one, so that it can be said to you, 'Come up higher.'" But it's very interesting to see that that was not something new Jesus said. We see it's something that was written by Solomon. It was in the book of Proverbs, and Jesus had obviously read it in the book of Proverbs. And he was only pointing out to those Pharisees that they were not obeying what they themselves had read in the book of Proverbs. It was written here: "Don't go up there to the higher seat," and yet that's exactly what those Pharisees were doing. It's possible to know the scriptures like the Pharisees, and yet disobey it. That is why Jesus pointed out that it was written, and yet they were not doing it. This shows that despite their knowledge of the scriptures, the Pharisees were really quite careless about taking each word seriously. Whereas with Jesus, a word like this in Proverbs 25 was serious enough to repeat.

    Don't be hot headed and rush to court. You may start something you
        cannot finish and then go down before your neighbor in shameful defeat.
        So discuss the matter with your neighbor privately. Don't tell anyone
        else lest he accuse you of slander and you can't withdraw what you

    Prov 25:8-10, TLB
    Don't be too quick to go to court about something you have seen. If
        another witness later proves you wrong, what will you do then?
    If you and your neighbor have a difference of opinion, settle it
        between ourselves and do not reveal any secrets. Otherwise everyone
        will learn that you can't keep a secret, and you will never live down
        the shame.

    Prov 25:8-10, GNT

This is another thing Jesus repeated in the New Testament in Matthew 25:25. The last part of Proverbs 25:7 really goes along with verse 8. Putting them together, it says, "Whom your eyes have seen, don't go out hastily to argue your case." Or as the Good News Translation says, "Don't be too quick to go to court about something you have seen." This is connected to verse 8. You've seen something and you want to rush to court about it. No, he says. You may start something that your neighbor proves to be wrong and then you go down in shameful defeat before him.

Verses 9-10 in the Good News Translation say, "If you and your neighbor have a difference of opinion, settle it between yourselves and don't reveal any secrets. Otherwise everyone will learn that you can't keep a secret and you never live down the shame." Now, there are a couple of things we can learn here. When we have a difference of opinion with someone, we have to be very careful. When we find that someone doesn't agree with us on something, we have to be particularly careful in our heart's attitude toward that person, because we have a flesh in which dwells nothing good. We have a flesh which just does not like other people disagreeing with us. Do you know that there's such a lust in your flesh? I know there is such a lust in my flesh. I've discovered it. I hope you have discovered it in yours because your flesh is the same. We just don't like someone disagreeing with us. That's because, in our flesh, we think we are Almighty God and that if someone disagrees with us, it's a crime. But it's not such a crime if somebody disagrees with us. We need to humble ourselves to realize that. Therefore, we need to be particularly careful when someone disagrees with us. There's a tendency to reveal something secret about that person to others which puts that person in a bad light, which we will easily do if we are not very watchful and careful in our attitude toward those with whom we have a difference of opinion. Don't reveal any secrets, it says, in such a case.

The second thing here is that this is actually a type of revenge. That person has done something or said something which has brought a little difficulty for us, and then we can take revenge on them - not in crude ways by killing him. Just by exposing some folly of his. I can expose some folly of that person and it may be absolutely true, but the intent behind it was to get some revenge on that person who did or said something against me. We have to be very watchful here.

The other thing it says here is in verse 10: If you reveal secrets, everyone will learn that you can't keep a secret, and you'll never live down the shame. It's possible for us to gradually build up a reputation (even in the church) as someone who is always gossiping and speaking all types of useless things. Gradually, everybody comes to know that such a person is always going around talking and making themself a busybody in other peoples' matters. Then it says you'll never live down the shame. It's very difficult once we have ruined our testimony before others to get rid of the shame. We need to be very cautious so that we don't earn such a reputation in the church. You will never live down the shame. Think of that. It will be difficult for people to have confidence in you ever again. There are cases like that, so we need to be careful we don't go the same way.

    Like apples of gold in settings of silver
    Is a word spoken in right circumstances.

    Prov 25:11

Think of giving a person a gift of a beautiful silver plate with golden apples fixed on it. What an expensive gift that would be, costing many thousands of dollars to make. And he says here if you can give a word in the right circumstances, just a brief few words at the right time to the right person, it is like presenting him with a gift of golden apples - real, solid gold - on a silver plate. It's a very expensive gift to be able to say the right word at the right time. We read in Isaiah 50:4 about Jesus: "The Lord God has given me the tongue of disciples, so that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens me morning by morning, he awakens my ear to listen as a disciple." Jesus had the ability to give a word in season only because of one reason: that his spiritual antenna was always up. He was tuned to listen to what the Father was transmitting. He could receive and then he could give what he received. That was all. And that's where we can follow him. Going to a person and giving him a whole lot of exhortations and teaching from this verse, that verse and the other verse which I read in the morning, any idiot can do. But to give the right word at the right time and not burden a person with a whole lot of verses that are flowing around in my mind, that's quite a different thing. That requires wisdom. It requires hearing. I don't need to hear God to dump a whole lot of verses on somebody. I just need to have a good memory. But to give a word in season (sometimes it could just be one sentence), that is to have the ministry of Melchizedek. Melchizedek came to Abraham, gave a few words, and disappeared. And his name is recorded throughout history just for that one event. Think of being a part of that priesthood.

    A warning given by an experienced person to someone willing to listen
        is more valuable than gold rings or jewelry made of the finest gold.

    Prov 25:12, GNT

Verse 11 speaks of a gold gift as a word in season, and verse 12 speaks of words of warning/correction. Words of warning: be careful that you don't do that or go that way. That can also be like a golden ring or jewelry made of the finest gold - if we are willing to listen. It's a good thing to have an ear to listen to those who have more wisdom than us. Our attitude toward them should be like someone coming to us with a very expensive gift. Consider if somebody came to you on your birthday and gave you a word of rebuke as a gift. You'd think, "What a person he is to rebuke me on my birthday. Couldn't he have waited for another day?" But think if a person came to you on your birthday and gave you a gift worth $1,000. It says here that a word of correction is worth more than that gift of $1,000. Think to take it like that. Why do I think that on my birthday a person shouldn't give me any word of correction? Because I don't think it's a good thing. That's why I think it's not fit for birthdays. "That's for other days. On my birthday, I should be happy." But it is to make us happy that a wise person gives us something which is good. A warning given by a wise person is an extremely valuable gift, provided we have a listening ear as it says in verse 12.

    A reliable messenger is refreshing to the one who sends him, like cold
        water in the heat of harvest time.

    Prov 25:13, GNT
    A faithful employee is as refreshing as a cool day in the hot

    Prov 25:13, TLB

Harvest time, or summertime, is a very hot time, and a drink of ice-cold water is so refreshing in the hot summertime. In exactly the same way, it says a faithful messenger is equally refreshing to the one who sends him.

In The Living Bible it says, "A faithful employee is as refreshing as a cool day in the hot summertime." In the hot summertime, we know how refreshing it is when we have one cool day. And we can apply this to our own calling as messengers of the Lord. The emphasis here is not on a clever messenger. If it spoke here about a clever messenger, many of us may not be clever and then God wouldn't use us. But it doesn't say a clever messenger, it says a faithful messenger. In other words, according to the light you have in your life, you are to be faithful to that light. You are a faithful messenger of the light you have if you take that light to others who don't have that light. You may not be clever or be able to express it very well, but you're faithful to pass it on to others. Then you're as refreshing to God as a glass of cold water. Jesus said, "Whoever gives a cup of cold water in my name will not lose his reward." And you're just as refreshing as a cup of cold water to God's heart.

A faithful messenger is also one who proclaims the whole counsel of God and doesn't hold back any part of God's message.

    Like clouds and wind without rain
    Is a man who boasts of his gifts falsely.

    Prov 25:14
    One who doesn't give the gift he promised is like a cloud blowing over
        a desert without dropping any rain.

    Prov 25:14, TLB

This is a very appropriate word for the days in which we live. What does it mean to boast of gifts falsely? There's a lot of it in India and in America and many parts of the world. People claim to have a gift of healing when they don't. Nobody wants the gift of helps because that's not so spectacular (1 Corinthians 12:28). But the gift of healing, particularly, people like to claim that they have. There are a lot of people like that, claiming to have certain gifts. But Jesus said by their fruits you shall know them. The evidence that a person has the gift of healing is that when he prays for the sick, the sick are healed. If a person prays for the sick and they're not healed, that means there is no gift there. There can be a tremendous amount of boasting of gifts falsely. I believe there are gifts of healing in the church throughout the world, but there are very few. But every Tom, Dick, and Harry nowadays wants to be a healer, so there is a lot of this boasting of gifts falsely. It says here that that's like a lot of black clouds coming over a dry parched area that hasn't had rain for many months. You say, "At last rain is coming!" You wait and then those clouds just pass on, and there's no rain. It's a disappointment. I've seen that in healing meetings. People come with great expectations and leave disappointed. I remember once sitting in a meeting about twenty years ago, and there was an American healer, and sitting next to me was a Hindu couple with two blind babies. The offering bag was passed around and naturally this couple would have put a handsome amount in the bag, because they would have thought in their Hindu minds that it was necessary to give for their children to be healed. Then, of course, those children were not healed, and I got so angry with that type of presentation of a Christ who is going to disappoint them. Clouds without rain. I think those people probably turned further away from the Lord. If there was any chance of them coming to the Lord before, that type of thing would ensure that they would never come to Christ. It's better to be humble and not to claim that we have some ability which we don't have. Be honest and humble: "Brother, I don't have the gift of healing, but I can pray that God will bless you. If it is His will, he'll heal you. But if not, I'll pray that he'll give you grace to bear it." Let those who have the gift of healing exercise their ministries. It's good to have small thoughts about ourselves instead of ending up like clouds with no rain, disappointing people and turning them away from the Lord.

The Living Bible paraphrase teaches us as parents that particularly toward our children, if we promise to give a gift for something they've done, we must make sure that we keep our word. It's wrong to promise something and then, when the time comes, back out of it and not keep our word. It's far better not to promise in such cases.

    By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded,
    And a soft tongue breaks the bone.

    Prov 25:15
    Patient persuasion can break down the strongest resistance and can even
        convince rulers.

    Prov 25:15, GNT

We are not going to get our way and accomplish what we want to by being hard, but by patience and goodness. It says here even a ruler can be persuaded with patience. That's a good word for us to bear in mind when dealing with any government authorities or with different people who are hard in various ways. It's alright for them to be hard, but we are not going to accomplish anything by being hard ourselves. It's better to be patient, and with patience and goodness it says, even a ruler can be persuaded.

I like the phrase in the New American Standard Bible: "a soft tongue." We don't receive a soft tongue when we are born. We are born with hard tongues. And when we are converted, our tongue doesn't become soft all of a sudden. But think of having that as a goal in life. Say, "Lord, I want those three beautiful words: a soft tongue." I want to make that my goal in life, to have a soft tongue toward all people. Very wonderful goal to have and to work towards.

    Never eat more honey than you need; too much may make you vomit. Don't
        visit your neighbors too often; they may get tired of you and come to
        hate you.

    Prov 25:16-17, GNT

Your fellowship with your neighbor can be just like honey. Wonderful! Very good fellowship, but if you have too much of it, and you go too frequently to that person's house, you'll end up vomiting each other out. Familiarity breeds contempt. Your neighbor may grow tired of you and come to hate you and want to vomit you out, because you're landing there all the time. This is not only in Christianity, it's basic good manners. I mean even non-Christians understand that. It's amazing to see how so many Christians don't seem to have the wisdom which non-Christians have in this area. It doesn't say, don't visit your neighbor at all. It just says, don't make the visits too frequent. You may say, "We are good friends." That's true, but don't eat too much honey. That can make you vomit. It's good to have restraint in these things. It's good to be disciplined just like in the matter of eating; you don't eat too much, you eat just enough. In the same way, visiting one another is a good thing. It's like honey - true fellowship is like honey. But we must be careful in visiting one another. There is wisdom that we need here, so we don't act foolishly.

There is a verse in 1 Timothy 5:13 that speaks about younger women. It says that when younger women are idle, they go around from house to house and become gossips and busybodies. That teaches us that in this particular matter, sisters are more in danger than brothers. When you read something like that in the word of God, every God fearing sister will really take it seriously and say, "Lord, I'm in greater danger here, because I'm a sister and I'm young and I have a lot of free time." If you're a sister and you're young and you have a lot of free time, then meditate a little while on 1 Timothy 5:13. You fall into all three categories: you're young, you're a sister, and you have a lot of free time. This danger applies particularly to you.

    Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow
    Is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.

    Prov 25:18
    A false accusation is as deadly as a sword, a club, or a sharp arrow.

    Prov 25:18

Backbiting. It often gives a false picture of the truth. What if we have been the ones who have suffered from someone else's sword or club or sharp arrow? Say somebody has backbitten against us, and it's like a club or a sword or a sharp arrow that hit us. Isaiah 54:17 says, "'No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that accuses you in judgment, you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication is from me,' declares the Lord." The Lord says, "I will stand up for you and prove that you are right. Leave that to me." So we can afford to be hit by the clubs and the arrows and the swords of others and not retaliate, because we know that God will ensure that none of those weapons will ever prosper against us. That's a tremendous verse.

I remember reading a true story of a missionary lady in China many years ago who was faced by a band of pirates on a ship. One of the pirates pulled out a pistol and came into her cabin on the ship and was about to fire at her, but she had such boldness. She turned around and told the man, "Put that pistol down, because it says that no weapon formed against me will ever prosper." The man was so terrified that he put the pistol down, and she came out alive from that situation. There's a fantastic power in the word of God if we have faith in it.

    Depending on an unreliable person in a crisis is like trying to chew
        with a loose tooth or walk with a crippled foot.

    Prov 25:19, GNT

This is the opposite of the faithful person we considered in Proverbs 25:13. This is an unfaithful person. Consider when you're trying to chew some food and there's a loose tooth, and it let's you down. Or you go to put your foot down and it's crippled. It's just like that to be an unfaithful messenger. Someone who is trying to share the word but is unfaithful in their life is like that. God finds you like a loose tooth with which he can't chew his food. We are not to be like that.

    Singing to a person who is depressed is like taking off a person's
        clothes on a cold day or rubbing salt in a wound.

    Prov 25:20, GNT

It's a foolish thing to go to a person who is depressed and slap him on the back and say, "Well, praise the Lord, brother! Just cheer up!" You need to understand what he's going through. Romans 12:15 says, "Weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice." There is no wisdom in always being a happy-go-lucky person around everyone. If a person is depressed, it's like taking off his clothes on a cold day or rubbing salt in a wound. There's a great need for wisdom in dealing with people who are depressed. We come across such people all the time who don't understand victory, who have not understood how to rejoice in the Lord always and how to keep the commandments. They haven't understood that sin will not have dominion over them which includes depression and discouragement. So we need to help them.

    If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
    And if he's thirsty, give him water to drink;
    For you will heap burning coals on his head,
    And the Lord will reward you.

    Prov 25:21-22

We know that these words were quoted by Paul in Romans 12:20-21. These are exactly the same words which teaches us that Paul also studied Proverbs just like Jesus did. The book of Proverbs is quoted by Jesus, Paul, Peter and James in the New Testament, teaching us that there are many things in Proverbs that are good for New Covenant believers to understand. This topic is something we've spoken about much in the church. We don't need to go too much into it. We are to love our enemies and seek to do good to them. If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat. In fact, a very good thing to do when you find somebody is your enemy and somebody hates you is to pray and say, "Lord, give me some opportunity to serve him; some opportunity to do good to him in a practical way." That's what it's speaking about here: to do good in a practical way to that person and to pray that God will give you that opportunity.

This matter of heaping burning coals on his head - what does it mean? We can think about if somebody actually put live coals on your head, how would you feel? You'd feel very uncomfortable. That's exactly what this means. When you show goodness to a person who has been evil to you, he will "burn with shame" (v22, Good News Translation). He will feel ashamed that he's treated you so badly, and that in his time of need, you went out to help him. He'll think back on how he treated you and he will burn with shame. He'll feel so uncomfortable that his relationship with you will be restored, perhaps, and the Lord will reward you.

    The north wind brings forth rain,
    And a backbiting tongue, an angry countenance.

    Prov 25:23

Most people in the world don't have victory over sin. Most believers don't even have victory over sin. Therefore, if you have backbitten against someone and that person doesn't have victory over sin, that person is going to be angry with you for having backbitten against him. Of course, you only have yourself to blame for that person losing his temper. That's basically the meaning here.

    It is better to live in the corner of a roof
    Than a house shared with a contentious wife.

    Prov 25:24

This is a repetition of what we saw in Proverbs 21:9. It's interesting to see that the men of Hezekiah decided that this was one of the Proverbs of Solomon that needed to be copied down once more in this chapter. Even though it was already recorded, they wanted to repeat it. It's interesting to see how many times it speaks of this nagging wife who's driving her husband up a wall (to the roof) and into the desert and all over the place. It's good for us to work on our salvation so that no sister in the church ever becomes a wife like that.

    Like cold water to a weary soul,
    So is good news from a distant land.

    Prov 25:25

I've thought of this verse in relation to children who go away from their parents to some distant town. It's so easy while they're there to not think of writing even a letter to their parents. They're selfish in a sense and enjoy their own happiness, and they don't think of the anxiety with which parents and loved ones are eager to hear news from them. Jesus spoke of giving a cup of cold water in His name. In such a situation, it says here that cup of cold water given to a weary soul is just sending a letter. If any of you have to go away from your parents in some situation, I'd advise you to give them a cup of cold water every once in a while. It's a very good thing to do. It costs almost nothing and yet many people neglect it. It's like not giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty person. There's a thirsty person waiting at the door, and you won't even give him a cup of cold water. He's not asking for some expensive drink - just a cup of cold water. Just a postcard. That's a good thing to keep in mind.

    Like a trampled spring and a polluted well
    Is a righteous man who gives way before the wicked.

    Prov 25:26
    If a godly man compromises with the wicked, it is like polluting a
        fountain or muddying a spring.

    Prov 25:26, TLB

We can say this is referring to a compromiser who gives in to the pressure of some wicked person. When a godly man compromises, it's like polluting a fountain. And that's the reason why the waters that are flowing in so many churches today are polluted waters - dirty waters - because there's been compromise in the leadership. And when a righteous person - one who is a leader - compromises, then the only waters that can flow out from him, whether in his home or in the church, will be muddy waters. It's not good for one who's called to be a righteous son of God to yield to the pressure of the wicked.

    Just as it is harmful to eat too much honey, so also it is bad for men
        to think and to keep on thinking about all the honors they deserve!

    Prov 25:27, TLB

In Proverbs 25:16-17, we considered eating too much honey in the context of visiting our neighbors. Here it's in the context of thinking about our own honor. You know, to sit down and think about how you've done something for this person and how you've done something for that other person; how so and so should be grateful to you for what you've done for them; how you helped these people here and did the other thing for those people there; to sit down and think about all this and pat oneself on the back is exactly the same as eating too much honey. Of course, in public we act humble and don't want anyone's honor. But it's all bogus and humbug, because when we are alone, we think of all the honor we deserve for what we have done for other people and what spiritual people we are. That's just as bad as visiting your neighbor too often. That has to be vomited out. Vomit out all such thoughts. It's not good to eat too much honey.

    If you cannot control your anger, you are as helpless as a city without
        walls, open to attack.

    Prov 25:28, GNT
    A man without self-control is as defenseless as a city with broken-down

    Prov 25:28, TLB

One of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control as it says in Galatians 5:23. And this teaches us that self-control is like a wall that protects us against Satan. If I don't have this wall around me, I'm defenseless. I can have knowledge of the bible, I can have activity, and I can do so many things for the Lord, but I'm helpless against the enemy's attacks, because I don't have this wall of self-control. I'm not able to control my anger.

We read in the word of God that even a mighty man like Moses, who was called the meekest man on the earth in Numbers 12, got angry with the people eight chapters later in Numbers 20. One would think that God should have condoned his anger because of the difficulty of taking care of two million people for forty years with all their complaints about everything. You know how difficult it can be to organize a small picnic just for one day for a few people (or to plan a wedding - what a lot of losing tempers can come from that). Imagine how difficult it was for Moses to manage two million people for forty years. One would think that just slipping up once would not be that bad, but God took it seriously. It only took one slip-up, and God said he couldn't enter the promised land. Consider that. That's written as a warning for us. There's much we can miss if we are not careful. God overlooks a lot of stupid thing particularly when we are young, inexperienced, and foolish, but as we grow older and we receive more wisdom, more is expected from us. Then if we get irritated and lose our tempers, that's a very serious thing - extremely serious. It's like not having any walls at all.

I read in a medical book that there was an experiment on dogs and cats, and they discovered that when they removed a certain part of a dog or cat's brain, they became very ornery. If you just touched the cat, suddenly it would scream and slash it's tail and its hair lifted up. That was very amusing for me to read, because when a person gets angry, he's acting like a brainless cat or dog. It's been physically proven that when you remove part of the brain of a cat, it becomes very ornery. Just a small, little thing and it gets worked up and upset. God has given us brains and no part of them is cut out, and yet we can act like that - getting so touchy and upset and irritated about small things. God wants us to have walls of self-control which are not broken down.

We read at the end of Proverbs 24, in verse 31, about a stone wall being broken down. Here at the end of Proverbs 25, we again see a man with walls broken down. In that case, it was due to laziness and in this case, it's due to a lack of discipline and self-control. God wants us to have walls around our lives - walls of obedience to God's word and walls of self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. And what encourages us is: if self-control was something we had to develop and grit our teeth to acquire, we'd say, "Lord, I don't seem to have it even after so many years." But we praise God for that wonderful word in Galatians 5:23 which says it is fruit which the Spirit produces. So I must say, "Lord, I want it. Produce it in my life. Here is the ground: humility and fear of the Lord in my life. I offer it to you. Produce self-control in my life! Build these walls so that I will be one who has defenses against the enemy.

Chapter 27
Chapter 26

Verses 1-12 are about fools. The book of Proverbs says much about fools (spiritual fools), but here in particular it says a few things about fools all together:

    Praise for a fool is out of place, like snow in summer or rain at
        harvest time.

    Prov 26:1, GNT

To praise a fool is as out of place as snow falling in summertime or rain falling at harvest time. Snow doesn't fall in the summertime and rain doesn't usually fall at harvest time, but to praise a fool and to give honor to a fool is just as out of place. This teaches us that we must be careful about who we give honor to. Don't be foolish and go around giving honor to people who cannot bear it, particularly to those who are young. It goes to their head and it puffs them up, and they have a spiritual fall from pride. Our giving them honor, even though it seems like a good thing, was out of place like snow falling in the summertime.

    Curses cannot hurt you unless you deserve them. They are like birds
        that fly by and never light.

    Prov 26:2, GNT

Curses cannot hurt you unless you deserve them. They are like birds that fly by but they don't settle down. Some people are afraid when somebody has cursed them or done some witchcraft on them (which is another form of curse). "Somebody's put some curse on me. Somebody has done some witchcraft on me," they say. But a curse can't harm you unless you deserve it. It is like a bird that is flying over your head. It's not able to come and settle down on your head. Similarly, a curse which is made against you can accomplish nothing.

In 1 Samuel 17:43, when David went to fight against Goliath, Goliath cursed David by his Philistine gods. But whatever he said, nothing happened to David. That curse just went back on Goliath. It was useless.

There is a very beautiful promise in Numbers 23:23 (the reference is very easy to remember). Balaam said about Israel, "No one can do any witchcraft against Israel." There is no bad omen that others can put on God's people. If that were true for people under the Old Covenant, how much more for those who are under Christ. That's something that we must have confidence in: that no one can put a curse on me because Jesus has become a curse for me and I have been freed. No witchcraft can be done on me because Jesus has overcome every single demon that exists in the universe. He has overcome them all and He is my Savior and my Lord. It cannot come upon my life as long as I live with a clear conscience. I need not be afraid of any of these things.

    A whip is for the horse, a bridle is for the donkey,
    And a rod for the back of fools.

     Prov 26:3

You have to whip a horse, bridle a donkey, and beat a fool. This is one reason why we have to punish children, because we have to drive folly out of their hearts. It's interesting to see the use of the whip and the bridle here. This shows us that one mark of a fool is this: a whip is to make the horse go when it's unwilling to go. A bridle is exactly the opposite - it's used to hold it back when it's running off. This has always been the tendency of man, to either run off in some direction without waiting for God to tell him to move or to not move when God tells him to do something. That's the mark of a fool - either this extreme or the other extreme; either running off without any leading from God and doing something, or refusing to do something even when God has spoken something clearly. That is the mark of a fool. We think of so many things which are clearly written down in the Word of God, and there are many people who don't obey. What they need is a whip because they are like a stubborn horse which won't move even though God has spoken.

    Do not answer a fool according to his folly;
    Or you will also be like him.
    Answer a fool as his folly deserves,
    That he not be wise in his own eyes.

    Prov 26:4-5

These are wonderful verses to stumble people who say there are contradictions in the Bible. Here are two verses which apparently say exactly the opposite. In one place it says if a fool speaks in a particular way, don't answer him. Keep quiet, otherwise you'll be like him. And the very next verse says to answer him as his folly deserves. That basically means give him some silly reply. Otherwise he will become conceited in his own eyes.

What does this teach us? It teaches us that to have wisdom means that we don't answer everyone in the same way. We're in a world which is full of fools, spiritually speaking. Wisdom teaches us to keep quiet with one person and to answer another. We know that Pilot and Herod were fools. But when Jesus stood before Pilot, he answered him and when he stood before Herod, he said nothing - not a word. That was wisdom - to know where to speak and where to stay silent and where to give a silly reply. Sometimes the Pharisees would come to Jesus with a question and he would ask them some other question in return. When they couldn't answer it, he said, "Well, neither am I going to answer your question." At other times, he wouldn't answer at all. He just ignored them. That teaches us that following the leading of the Spirit is not just following a book of rules. 'Thou shalt always answer fools' or 'Thou shalt never answer fools'. God has not made it like that for us. There is a time and a season for everything, and we need to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit to know what to do in each situation. These are very wonderful verses that teach the necessity of knowing how to reply. For example, if a fool boasts, we don't boast. Or if a fool gets angry, we don't get angry. At the same time, we are willing to earnestly contend for the faith.

    If you let a fool deliver a message, you might as well cut off your own
        feet; you are asking for trouble.

    Prov 26:6, GNT

Here again is a verse about God's need for wise messengers. A message has to be delivered, according to this verse, by a wise person. This applies spiritually in the sense that the extent which God can give his word through any of us is dependent on the level of our wisdom, not on the level of our knowledge. It is a very simple truth, but if only we can understand it, it can make a tremendous difference in our life. It is the level of our wisdom that determines how much God can communicate his word through us, not the level of our knowledge. Our knowledge level may be very high, but as far as God is concerned, he sees the level of our wisdom, and that is what determines how much God can communicate through us.

    Like the legs which hang down from the lame,
    so is a proverb in the mouth of fools.

    Prov 26:7

In the King James Version it says "uneven legs." Legs which are not of equal length, so is a proverb in the mouth of a fool. A person may be speaking a very wise proverb, but it's coming from the mouth of a fool. I think this refers to a person's life which does not match the words he speaks. It says that is like a man with uneven legs, a crippled man.

Paul told Timothy, "Pay attention to your life and to your teaching" (1 Timothy 4:16). We can say these are like two legs. When we are born, our legs are small but they are the same size. As we grow, the wonderful thing is that both legs grow together and are the same size. How terrible it would be if one grew longer than the other. Yet, that is the danger in Christianity. When we are initially converted, we have neither knowledge nor life. Our legs are small. But as we grow up, the great tendency in the vast majority of Christians is for the knowledge leg to grow so long and the life leg to be quite small. Then, of course, we are like this man with uneven legs.

    "Like one who binds a stone in a sling,
    So is he who gives honor to a fool."

    Prov 26:8
    "Praising someone who is stupid makes as much sense as tying a stone in
        a catapult."

    Prov 26:8, GNT

A stone is not meant to be bound in a sling. You don't tie a stone in a catapult. A stone must be loose in a catapult in order for it to fly out. If you tie the stone in the catapult, then however much you may stretch it, when you release the catapult the stone still sticks to it. I've tried to think about what the meaning of this is and I look at it like this: when you give praise to a person, if he's a wise man, he lets the praise shoot out unto God like the stone flies out from the catapult. But if the person is a fool, the praise sticks onto him and he meditates on it for the next few months. "This brother said this about me or thought that about me." The stone is stuck there and bound to the catapult. That's an indication of whether we are foolish or wise. When somebody praises us, we can think whether the stone is stuck to the catapult, tied up, or we are quick to let it fly out straight to God who deserves that honor. If we are wise, we won't keep it to ourselves because we don't deserve that honor. The Lord alone is worthy.

    "A rebel will misapply an illustration so that its point will no more
        be felt than a thorn in the hand of a drunkard."

    Prov 26:9, TLB

When a drunkard gets a thorn in his hand, he doesn't feel it because he is so drunk. In the same way a fool can listen to Proverbs and not apply it to himself. He says, "That's for so and so. That's for another brother or sister." He doesn't think it could be for him. He doesn't feel it just as a drunkard doesn't feel a thorn in his own hand. This teaches us to be humble, that when we go to the Word we don't misapply it. We say, "in the volume of the book, it is written of me" (Psalm 40:7). If there is a sharp point in a proverb, I feel it like a thorn getting into my hand. I am not so drunk with my own conceit that I think it's only for other people.

    "Like an archer who wounds everyone,
    So is he who hires a fool or hires those who pass by."

    Prov 26:10

An employer who hires a fool is only hurting everybody who is concerned. Here again, we read of the necessity of using wise people as messengers. Notice the repetition of this idea many times. God needs wise people to be his messengers.

    "Like a dog that returns to its vomit,
    So a fool who repeats his foolishness."

    Prov 26:11
    "A fool doing some stupid thing a second time is like a dog going back
        to its own vomit."

    Prov 26:11, GNT

This is quoted by Peter in 2 Peter 2:21-22. To know the word of righteousness and then go back from it is like a dog turning to its own vomit. In GNT, it says that a dog returning to its own vomit is like doing the same foolish thing a second time! That is the meaning. Therefore we should be wholehearted. If I do a foolish thing once and get light on it, I should say, "Lord, I never want to do that foolish thing a second time."

There is a word of encouragement here for us if we look carefully. It's not that we never make any mistakes or do any foolish things, but that though we are foolish and do a lot of foolish things, when we get light, we avoid repeating it. Then we don't come under the category of dogs returning to their vomit. A dog who returns to its vomit is one who does something foolish, gets light on it, vomits (which means rejects it and acknowledges it was wrong), repents and turns, and then after a little while goes right back to that foolish thing. It says in 2 Peter 2:21-22 that those who have known the way of righteousness and turned from it, it is better for them that they had not known it at all. So we see that Peter also studied the book of Proverbs just like Jesus and Paul. We can apply this to our own life and see how we can grow in wisdom by avoiding the repetition of folly on which we have received light. That should be our ambition in life. We must pray and say, "Lord help me to never do the same foolish thing twice." That's a good prayer to pray.

    "Do you see a man wise in his own eyes?
    There is more hope for a fool than for him."

    Prov 26: 12

Do you see a man who is conceited, who thinks much about himself? He is the worst of the lot. There is more hope for a fool than for him. I mentioned that the first twelve verses of chapter 26 are all about fools. Actually, having described various aspects of fools in verses 1-11, he finally says in verse 12 that of all the people, there is still someone who is worse than the fools described in the first 11 verses. That is the meaning of verse 12. This teaches us that conceit and having a high opinion about ourselves and our own spirituality makes us the worst fool on the list. There's more hope for a fool than for such a person. All the stupid things that are mentioned about fools in the first 11 verses are nothing compared to conceit which puts a man at the top of the list as the worst fool of the lot.

    "The sluggard says, 'There is a lion in the road!
    A lion is in the open square!'
    As the door turns on its hinges,
    So does the sluggard on his bed.
    The sluggard buries his hand in the dish;
    He is weary of bringing it to his mouth again.
    The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes
    Than seven men who can give a discrete answer."

    Prov 26:13-16

These verses are about sluggards or lazy people. We can say lazy people are those who don't have any discipline in their lives. Laziness is the same as being undisciplined. Jesus and the apostles lived disciplined lives. To be lazy is to not have any discipline in our lives.

Verse 13 tells us about all the silly excuses people can make to get out of doing their duty. It is really a silly excuse that there is a lion in the street or that I might be killed. The writer of Proverbs takes a ridiculous statement that comes out of the mouth of a lazy man to show there are silly excuses that people make for the reason why they don't do certain things. The real reason, of course, is that they are spiritually undisciplined and lazy.

Verse 14 in the Good News Translation says, "The lazy man turns over in bed. He gets no farther than a door swinging on its hinges." A door can keep swinging on its hinges and never make any progress in terms of distance. It says here that a lazy man is like that. There is no spiritual progress. There is movement. You can keep swinging a door on its hinges for days on end but it's still in the same place. There's movement without progress. So it is with a spiritually undisciplined, lazy man. It is also possible to be involved in activity and increase in the knowledge of the word without spiritual progress.

Verse 15 is a repetition of Proverbs 19:24. A number of these verses we have already seen in earlier chapters of Proverbs. We read that the men of Hezekiah copied these proverbs down again. Some were copied down again for a second time, because the Spirit of God wants to emphasize certain things. Here the Spirit of God wants to emphasize discipline and hard work. We can apply this verse to our attitude of God's word. Our attitude to God's word must not be one where we are always dependent on other people spoon feeding us. Who is this lazy man who buries his hand in the dish and doesn't bring it to his mouth? We see that sometimes in the way children eat their food. Their hand will be on the plate and they hardly ever bring it to their mouth. Half an hour or one hour later the food is still there. Then we have to take a spoon and feed that child and we ask ourselves, "When is that child going to grow up?" We can apply that to ourselves in relation to God's word. Spiritually it can be like this - an undisciplined, lazy attitude to God's Word. I have to be spoon fed. Each of us needs to go to God's Word and be able to feed ourselves from it regularly. It is impossible to become spiritual merely by listening to messages if we don't read the Word of God ourselves. Man shall not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. We need to hear that word that proceeds from God's mouth so that we can live by it.

In verse 16, we see that the tragedy of a sluggard is that even though he is a fool he doesn't realize it. That is one of the greatest accomplishments of Satan, that he can keep a believer spiritually foolish but make him think he is spiritually wise. A sluggard can even think that he is wiser than seven truly wise men. That is the deception with which the devil deceived the Pharisees of Jesus' day. They thought they were wise but they were absolute fools and didn't know it. When we read this in Scripture we need to remember that it can happen to us. It is possible for us to think we are wise even though we do one foolish thing after another. We can excuse ourselves saying, "That was just one slip up" and not realize these little incidents are meant to show us that we really don't have any wisdom at all. Yet in our own opinion, because we have knowledge, we can think that we are wiser than any number of other wise people.

    "Getting involved in an argument that is none of your business is like
        going down the street and grabbing a dog by the ears."

    Prov 26:17, GNT

This basically means don't be a busy-body in other peoples' matters as Peter said in 1 Peter 4:15. Where there is an argument that is none of your business or a problem between two people that is none of your business, don't get involved. To become a busybody in others' matters is exactly like seeing a dog walking down the other side of the street and having an itch to go across the street and yank its ears. Now if they come to you for help, you need to get involved. But if they haven't come to you for help and they are having their problems among themselves, you don't need to get involved. Do you know what will happen if you do that? The dog will turn and bite you. There are many cases of believers who have gotten into a lot of unnecessary sufferings and problems because they had an itch to go and get involved in somebody else's problems. There's an itch in our flesh because our flesh keeps telling us that we are specialists, that we're peacemakers, that we are the ones who have wisdom. Our flesh tells us we can go and solve that problem. Unnecessarily, a lot of believers go and do stupid things by getting involved in that which is not at all their business.

We have to be particularly careful when visiting others who don't have wisdom. They can tell you about their problems and this and that, and it's very easy to get involved in it. To say, 'You must do this and that and that person's like this and the other person's like that.' Think of this verse then. If a dog is peacefully passing by on the other side of the road, leave it alone. You walk peacefully on this side of the road and leave them to mind their own business. If they feel that you are such a specialist in wisdom, they will come to you for help. But otherwise, it is good for us not to be busy bodies in other peoples' matters and to crucify the itch to get involved with other peoples' affairs.

    A man who misleads someone and then claims he was only joking is like a
        madman playing with a deadly weapon.

    Prov 26:18-19, GNT

I trust that some of us older people will not be involved in such things. But children can do that - playing practical jokes on other people and deceiving them, and that can cause some suffering. Afterwards we can say, 'I was only joking.' The Bible says that such a person is a madman. Older people can also do things like this in the sense that they can say things to people unwisely and afterwards say, 'I was only joking.' But the other person didn't take it as a joke. The other person took it quite seriously and it caused them problems. That is why we need to be very careful, even if we are joking with someone, that the person realizes it was a joke and that we have a good enough relationship with that person to do so. I wouldn't advise you to joke with people with whom you don't have a good relationship, because they can misunderstand. Here we need some wisdom. To say something and then afterwards say we were only joking is to be a madman playing with a deadly weapon. This type of joking can be a deadly weapon according to this verse. It's a good thing to have humor just like it can be a good thing to have a pistol. Sometimes it is useful, but it's also a deadly weapon. We have to be careful that you don't hurt anyone with it. This verse teaches us that it is possible to hurt people with our jokes. It can be like a firebrand because we were not wise with what we said.

    "For lack of wood the fire goes out,
    And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down."

    Prov 26:20
    "Without wood, a fire goes out. Without gossip, quarreling stops.
        Charcoal keeps the ember glowing, wood keeps the fire burning, and
        trouble makers keep arguments alive. Gossip is so tasty, how we love to
        swallow it."

    Prov 26:20-22, GNT

Is there anyone who can say that gossip is not tasty? It is. It's tasty to the flesh to hear something about someone else. Like they say, "juicy gossip" about so and so. There's an itch, a desire in our flesh to hear it. There are people who are specialists in provoking that itch, saying, "I have some juicy news about someone." Then they act like they're not going to say it until that itch gets worked up and we are eager to receive it. Gossipers are specialists in whetting a person's appetite to receive gossip. When we realize it and see it is contrary to the law of love, we are to refuse it.

Do you know that the fruit on the tree of knowledge of good and evil was very tasty? It says that it was a desire to the eyes, and I'm sure it made Eve's mouth water. Her whole being was drawn towards it. But the thing is God said not to eat it. God has said that about gossip too. Whenever you think of someone coming to your house and giving you gossip, think of Eve giving Adam the fruit. To listen is to take and eat it. You didn't pluck it off the tree yourself. No. Eve did that. She's the gossiper. But you received it! If we can only keep this picture in our mind every time someone comes to us to gossip - I may not be like Eve plucking off the tree, but I'm like Adam receiving and enjoying it. We have to see that in our flesh (in all of us, our flesh is the same) and say, "Lord, my flesh loves to hear gossip." Unless I'm willing to say that first and be honest, I'll never get victory over it. I have to say, "Lord, my flesh loves to hear gossip. My flesh loves to eat of that tree which you have forbidden. But, you have said, 'No'. Therefore I will put it to death. I want to see that my heart is not interested even if my flesh is. I want to keep my heart pure."

It also says that a gossiper is exactly like wood in a fire. If you want the fire to go down and die, the only way is to make sure you pull out the wood. If you keep adding wood, it's just going to keep on burning. We have to be careful we don't encourage people to come and add wood to the fire in our homes.

    "Like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver impurities
    Are burning lips and a wicked heart."

    Prov 26:23
    "Insincere talk that hides what you're really thinking is like a fine
        glaze on a cheap clay pot."

    Prov 26:23, GNT

Burning lips means lips that are full of love - burning with love. They say such good words but inside the heart there is hatred. There is plenty of room here for all of us to cleanse ourselves, because as children of Adam we have learned to grow up being diplomatic and saying a lot of things which aren't really true. Now that we've come to see the New and Living Way, we have to cleanse our speech from all insincerity. It is just like silver gloss on top of an earthen vessel.

    "He who hates disguises it with his lips,
    But he lays up deceit in his heart.
    When he speaks graciously, do not believe him,
    For there are seven abominations in his heart.
    Though his hatred covers itself with guile,
    His wickedness will be revealed before the assembly."

    Prov 26:24-26
    "A hypocrite hides his hate behind flattering words. They may sound
        fine, but don't believe him, because his heart is filled to the brim
        with hate. He may disguise his hatred, but everyone will see the evil
        things he does."

    Prov 26:24-26, GNT

We see here that flattery is something we have to beware of. Whenever you find someone praising you a little too much, you can think of these verses. Think, "There is something dangerous here. Why is he saying so many nice things to me? Maybe he's not saying so many nice things about me behind my back and that is why he's saying so many nice things to my face." We are not to be deceived. Jesus said to be as shrewd as serpents. Don't be deceived by all of the nice things that people say to you. Chances are they don't say such things behind your back. A person who comes and rebukes you and tells you to your face what he thinks of you is someone who is at least honest. It is far better to keep a relationship with such people than with people who just say a lot of nice things because that can be a cover. Underneath it there can be an insincere, unloving attitude towards you.

    "One who digs a pit will fall into it,
    And one who rolls a stone, it will come back on him."

    Prov 26:27
    "People who set traps for others will get caught themselves. People who
        start landslides get crushed."

     Prov 26:27, GNT

This is what the New Testament means when it says you will reap what you sow. We know that Haman prepared a gallows for Mordecai and finally hung on it himself. This is a law of God - that we will ultimately reap what we sow. We cannot escape it. If not in this life, then when we finish this life. Either way, we cannot escape this law that we will reap what we sow. If we have done something with an insincere attitude towards someone else, it says here that one day it will come back on you.

Starting a landslide, for example. How can we start a landslide? It starts when you talk about something or some person and it multiplies. Finally, it will boomerang back on you. Those who start landslides finally get crushed under them themselves. When we get crushed under some landslide, it is good for us to ask ourselves, "Have I done that? Am I just reaping what I have sown?" We sow the wind and we reap the whirlwind. The trouble with a lot of believers is that when they begin to reap the whirlwind, they get upset with people instead of sitting down and thinking, "I may be only reaping what I have sown! Why should I get upset with God or with other human beings? I'm only reaping what I have sown." Therefore we need to be careful that we don't dig pits for anyone or roll stones down on anyone, which is usually done with our tongues.

    "A lying tongue hates those it crushes,
    And a flattering mouth works ruin."

    Prov 26:28
    "Flattery is a form of hatred and wounds cruelly."

    Prov 26:28, TLB

Flattery is a form of hatred. Let none of us ever be guilty of this form of hatred. Flattery is just saying a lot of nice things about someone which we don't really believe. We can hear in the church that we must always say nice things and honor people, and it can end up with some people as a form of flattery. It doesn't change their heart. We must only speak what's in our heart. If it's not in our heart, it is far better we don't say it, because otherwise it becomes flattery which is evil.

If you're really wise, you will beware of a flatterer. You will beware of a person who only says a lot of nice things. That's the stupidity of the world. The world is stupid in the sense that it appreciates those who say nice things about them and gets terribly offended with those who rebuke or correct them. But if we belong to the Lord and we are disciples of the Lord, it's going to be the other way around. We will beware of those who just say a lot of nice things to us, and we'll cling to those who love us enough to correct us and tell us the truth about ourselves as we will see further down in the next chapter.

Chapter 28
Chapter 27

    Do not boast about tomorrow,
    For you do not know what a day may bring.

    Prov 27:1

We read in James 4:13-15, "Don't say today or tomorrow we'll go to such and such a city and spend a year there and make a profit, for you do not know what your life is. Instead you should say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this and that.'" Think of the humility of James to think that he does not even know whether he will live tomorrow. "If the Lord wills..." It's not just if the Lord wills, I'll go there and make a profit. If the Lord wills, I'll be living tomorrow. Very often this passage of scripture is misunderstood as though all it means is, "I'm planning to go there and if the Lord wills, I'll go. Of course there's no doubt that I'll be living tomorrow." But notice carefully what it says: "If the Lord wills, I will be alive tomorrow...but I don't know." Think of his humility!

It really requires small thoughts about ourselves to think like that: "If the Lord wills, I shall live tomorrow, and I shall do this and I shall do that." It's a form of conceit as he says in James 4:16, "As it is, you boast in your arrogance and all such boasting is evil." What right do I have to think that there's no question that I will be living tomorrow or the day after? That is a form of high thinking according to James. "Do not boast about tomorrow," it says. It is good to walk with small thoughts about ourselves before God's face so that we say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live." At least if we don't say that in all our speech, it should be our attitude - that we don't think we can do this, that and the other thing. God has hidden the future from us with a purpose: he wants us to live with a helpless dependence upon him. If God had given us an understanding of what will happen tomorrow or next week or next year, the danger is that we would not depend so much upon him. But because even the most spiritual people don't know what is going to happen tomorrow (Even James didn't know if he would live the next day, so it is good for all of us to have that attitude), they also need to lean upon God in helplessness. That is why God has hidden the future from us, so that we can live by faith and lean more closely upon him than if we knew the whole future.

Think of the Israelites who came out of Egypt. God could have given them a map of the wilderness when they came out and said, "This is the way you need to go." But he didn't do that. He gave them a pillar of cloud and said, "You just follow that pillar of cloud." They didn't know where the pillar of cloud would take them the next day. They didn't know where it would take them the next week. If they'd had a map, they wouldn't have needed God. But since they didn't have a map, they needed God everyday. It's good to be in that place of helpless dependence where we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow, but we know God is still on the throne and he never forsakes his own. He rules the universe. He loves us. He said he will never forsake us or leave us. Therefore we have confidence in him, and our boast is not in tomorrow or in ourselves, but that we have a Father in heaven who cares for all the problems that tomorrow can bring. He will not allow us to face tomorrow before he himself has gone into it. He goes ahead of us. He's prepared it for us. He makes sure that all things that are going to happen tomorrow will work together for our good, so we go into tomorrow with confidence in God and not in ourselves. We do not know what a day may bring forth, and even after we become more spiritual, we still don't know what a day may bring forth. But we know that God knows, and therefore we lean in faith upon him.

    Let another praise you and not your own mouth.

    Prov 27:2

In Proverbs 25:27, we read, "It's not good to search one's own glory." These are similar words here. It's not good to praise ourselves. Now even in the world, it's very rare and almost impossible to find someone who crudely praises himself, saying, "This is what I'm like and this is how good I am." Nobody does stupid things like that because it looks very ugly. Everybody who does it does it in a very subtle way. It's done in such a way that we look humble, but at the same time we are saying something to draw peoples' attention to ourselves. It can happen even in a testimony! Of course, nobody would get up and give a testimony saying, "I am a very spiritual man and I'm a very wholehearted brother and have been a great blessing to the church for many years," or any stupid thing like that. We'd lose our testimony immediately and we know that. So we cover it all up with humility. It's in subtle ways! He who judges himself can get light on this. Ask yourself: was there any part of what I said that was merely to draw attention to myself or to what I did or to how faithful I was in some situation? The intention was not to let people see how wonderful God is or what wonderful things he can do. Very subtly the intention was to get people to maybe have some confidence in me or to think I'm some great man of God or something like that.

For example, you hear of these preachers and healers who get up and say, "When I was over there in the middle of Africa or somewhere in South America, there was this lame man and this happened and the other thing happened." If you look in the gospels, do you ever see Jesus talking like that? "The other day when I was walking down the road to Nain, I found a widow coming out with a dead body, and I just stopped the coffin and told the boy to get up!" Can you imagine Jesus saying things like that? Or Paul? Interjecting some miracle subtly, maybe in the letter to the Corinthians saying, "You know once when I was down there in Troas, I'll tell you something that happened. Somebody fell down from the window..." and then tell how he raised him from the dead. You never find Jesus or the apostles saying such things. There are a lot of preachers going around saying things like that very subtly. They say it is to stir up faith in people but actually it is just to praise themselves. There's a lot of it going on in very subtle ways. When we see it in others we can say, "That man has the same flesh as me. I also might be doing it, perhaps. Maybe not talking about the time I went to South America because I never went there, but in other subtle ways I may be doing it." I may say something or to add something here or there just to get people to think something about me. That's basically what this verse is talking about. Let another man praise you and not your own mouth, even in subtle ways. If a stranger sees something in you, let them speak about it, but don't try to get it all out to make people think you are somebody.

    A stone is heavy and the sand weighty,
    But the provocation of a fool is heavier than both of them.

    Prov 27:3
    The weight of stone and sand is nothing compared to the trouble that
        stupidity can cause.

    Prov 27:3, GNT

Think of that. To have stones fall on your head and have sand fall on your head is nothing compared to the trouble that stupid people can cause. That is why we really need to ask God to deliver us from stupidity and foolishness, so that we don't cause trouble to other people. It's like throwing stones and bags of sand around.

    Wrath is fierce and anger is a flood,
    But who can stand before jealousy?

     Prov 27:4
    Anger is cruel and destructive, but it is nothing compared to jealousy.

    Prov 27:4, GNT

This is a very interesting verse. Anger is one of those evil things the Bible speaks much about. But here it speaks of something worse than anger! When you listen to a man who is angry, it's like a flood coming out of his mouth. You know what happens when a flood comes. A flood destroys everything. It's not easy to stop. It keeps on coming. Anger really is like a flood. But it is nothing compared to jealousy. Anger is cruel and destructive like a flood but it's nothing compared to jealousy. Someone may say, "I got victory over anger." Good. But what about jealousy and envy? That is to feel a little unhappy that someone else has something you don't have - maybe some spiritual gift or some confidence from other brothers or some opportunity or a more peaceful life than you. Your life is always filled with trouble, trouble, trouble, but somebody else has a very comfortable life. That can cause a little envy and irritation. Or perhaps it's related to material things; somebody else has a better job or is getting promotions and here you are struggling with your income. There can be so many causes. Watch out for jealousy. Be careful! It dwells very much in our flesh and it is worse than the flood of anger.

    Open rebuke is better than secret love.

    Prov 27:5, KJV
    Better to correct someone openly than to let him think you don't care
        for him at all.

    Prov 27:5, GNT

This is the verse I was telling you about earlier when we covered Proverbs 26:28. Secret love is to let a person think you don't care for him. It is better to speak and correct someone, even openly. It's not speaking about private rebuke. Open rebuke is better than secret love. A wise man understands that. A person who is not wise thinks that that love is better than open rebuke, and that if a person loves there cannot be open rebuke. But the word of God says it is better to correct someone openly than to let him think that you don't care for him at all.

Think about when Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, you shouldn't go to the cross." Jesus could have said, "Listen, Peter. Come over here. I want to tell you something privately." And he could have whispered in his ear, "That was from the devil, that thought you just had." But he didn't do that. If he had said it privately, then what Jesus told Peter probably never would have been recorded in scripture. But he said to Peter openly in the presence of everyone, "Get behind me, Satan!" And see how much help that has been to us for two thousand years? For two thousand years, many Christians have been helped by that open rebuke of Jesus. Now we understand that to be interested in the things of man is to hear the voice of Satan. That's why the bible says that through open rebuke others are also helped besides just that one person. If Jesus had only spoken privately to Peter, only Peter would have been helped. But now it's not only him, but all others have been helped too.

    Friends mean well, even when they hurt you. But when an enemy puts his
        arm around your shoulder-watch out!

    Prov 27:6, GNT

We've seen many times in Proverbs and in the word of God words about rebuke. Jesus said in Revelation 3:19 that those whom he loves, he rebukes. So that's how it must be in the church as well.

    When you are full, you will refuse honey, but when you are hungry, even
        bitter food tastes sweet.

    Prov 27:7, GNT

A poor man doesn't have so much to eat. He eats very simple food, but is very thankful because he's only thinking about keeping his stomach from hunger. But a very rich person can be so selective: "The taste here is not so good. That has a little too much salt. This needs a little more chili here." This is a rich man who has so much. He is so particular, whereas a poor man is thankful to get something to fill his stomach. There is a danger with many of us, brothers and sisters, of not being thankful to God for small mercies. We can take so much for granted that we ruin ourselves. We need to learn to be thankful for whatever we get. We need to teach children to be thankful for whatever food is placed on the table and not to complain that it doesn't taste good and that they are having the same thing everyday. No. That's what they did in the wilderness in the Old Testament - "Everyday this wretched manna!" Have you heard that at home sometimes - children saying, "Everyday it's the same thing!"? Think about if you were getting the same old diet for forty years - three hundred and sixty-five days per year. Think that God did not vary the diet from heaven. And the Bible says it was a food they were not used to (Deuteronomy 8:3). They grumbled and complained, and it says that the serpents came and bit them. We need to protect our children from being bitten by the serpents because they complain about food. A poor man is just thankful that his stomach can be filled. We are not to become those who are so particular about our food, and we are not to allow our children to become like that either.

We can also apply this spiritually to the messages we receive in the church. It's very easy to take spiritually rich food for granted in the church and to think we deserve rich food every week. I've sometimes felt that people who have grown up in our midst and haven't been to other churches need to spend six months or a year in another denomination. Then they will sufficiently appreciate the word of God that is received in the church. Otherwise it can be just like this rich man, where even if you give him honey, he doesn't care for it. We have to be very careful, dear brothers and sisters, that we don't take God's mercies for granted. We can apply this verse spiritually to ourselves and see the application it has.

    Like a bird that wanders from her nest,
    So is a man who wanders from his home (or appointed place - margin)

    Prov 27:8

God has an appointed place for every one of us, and it is wise to be found there. It may not always be the most comfortable place; it may not always be the place where it's very convenient to our flesh, but it is the place God has appointed. I need to see the place that God has put me in the church and say, "Lord, I want to be in that place. You've given me a place, and I don't want to be like a bird wandering away from my nest. You have called me to this particular place. I want to find my salvation and my sanctification here and do the will of God. I'm not interested in looking at all the other people and seeing what they are doing. That's none of my business. You've given me this place. I'm so thankful you've given me a nest, a home, a spiritual home!" It is possible, because we've had our spiritual home for so many years, that we can begin to take it for granted and be critical of various things in the nest - "This thing is like that and that thing is like this." We have become so rich in our own self and critical and then we wander. Then we become targets for Satan. It is possible to sit physically in a meeting place with other believers and be critical. I just want to encourage you to beware of that spirit, because the loss will be yours. God has given to each of us a particular task, a particular place, a particular gift, and a particular calling. It's good for us to humble ourselves and accept it. For example, the Bible says that sisters have a place in the church under the brothers. It's good for a sister to take that place always. That's her appointed place. If she doesn't take that place, she'll become like a bird who wanders from her nest. Another example is a wife who submits to her husband at home. That's her place: submitting to her husband. If she does that, it will go well with her. If she doesn't, she's wandering away from the nest and she'll become a target of the arrows of those who are hunting birds.

    Oil and perfume make the heart glad,
    So a man's counsel is sweet to his friend.

    Prov 27:9
    Friendly suggestions are as pleasant as perfume.

    Prov 27:9, TLB

When we get a suggestion, it's very easy to accept it if we know that the person who is giving the suggestion is a friend. But if we are not so sure that person is a friend, then it is difficult to accept that suggestion. Isn't it like that? We can say, "This person who is giving that suggestion is a friend of mine. Okay, I'll take it. But this person who is giving that suggestion, I'm not too sure whether he really loves me or not. I won't take it." Isn't that right? Yes, this applies for all worldly people and for all worldly, carnal believers. But for those who are spiritually-minded, they don't bother whether it comes from a friend or someone who is not a friend. The only thing a spiritually-minded man asks himself is, "Is the thing which this person said right? If yes, let me take it. It doesn't matter who said it and whether he's my friend or not." I need to take heed to that. A person who is interested in his own sanctification is not bothered about who made the suggestion. He is only concerned about whether the suggestion can help to cleanse him and make him a more whole-hearted disciple of Jesus. That's all he's interested in. We need to change our way of thinking, so that when we hear advice from someone, we don't inwardly check, "Is this person a friend or not a friend?" We have to say, "That's unimportant. Was the advice good or bad? That's all that matters." That's the spiritual man's attitude. Here we can see how much carnality can be in us.

    Never abandon a friend-either yours or your father's. Then you won't
        need to go to a distant relative for help in your time of need.

    Prov 27:10, TLB

Ideally speaking, this is how it should be in the brotherhood in the church. The relationship between the brothers and between the sisters must be of such a nature that is far deeper than the relationship that we have with our own flesh and blood relatives. That is the goal toward which God is working to make his church: that our flesh and blood brothers are not the ones to whom we look for help as much as to the fellowship in the church. We pray that it will be like that in our midst.

But it says here not to forsake your friend or your father's friend. In other words, it's possible to have such a relationship only if you've cultivated spiritual friendship and fellowship with one another in the church. It's possible for us not to cultivate this type of relationship at all and then suddenly in our time of need, we expect everyone to come running to our help and we get very upset when someone doesn't come to help us. We have to ask ourselves, "Have I ever cultivated fellowship and relationships with my brothers and sisters?" If not, then why would I expect them all to come running when a mosquito bites me somewhere? That's just conceit and stupidity. But build up those relationships and those friendships and there will be a bond among brothers and among sisters. Then you don't need to go to your distant relatives for help. This is God's will: that we build up relationships and that we can stand by one another.

    Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad,
    That I may reply to him who reproaches me.

    Prov 27:11

We can take this as a word for ourselves. Think of God saying to each one of us, "Be wise, my son, my daughter, and make my heart glad. That way when Satan points out something in you to reproach me, I have a reply to give to him." When David sinned with Bathsheba, Nathan the prophet came to him and said, "Do you know, David, that by what you have done, you have given an occasion for the enemies of the Lord to reproach the Lord's name?" (2 Samuel 12:14). "By what you have done, the enemies of the Lord have a chance to say, 'Look what this so-called man of God, David, did.'" So the Lord says, "Be wise, my son, my daughter, that people can't point at you and say, 'See, this person talks about the New and Living Way but look at what they do.' Be wise, my son, and make my heart glad, so that when somebody reproaches me I will have a proper reply to give him."

    Sensible people will see trouble coming and avoid it, but an unthinking
        person will walk right into it and regret it later.

    Prov 27:12, GNT

When a wise person sees trouble coming, he'll avoid it, but a simple person walks right into it. How does this apply to us? We know that certain things can be sources of tremendous temptation. A wise person will be careful and avoid those things. For example, if you find that you tend to become very free and humorous in your conversations with the opposite sex - even more than with people of your own sex - then you need to say, "There is a danger for me there, and I can lose out spiritually. Let me be a little more careful about mingling with people of the opposite sex." Young people particularly need to be careful in this area. A wise person will see the danger and say, "I find that I become very light-hearted when I am with people of the opposite sex. I tend to lose that sense of seriousness." Be careful and don't get involved too much in those types of situations. It says in the Good News Translation that you'll regret it later. Afterwards you'll say, "That was a stupid thing that I did." That's sad. 2 Timothy 2:22 says, "Flee from youthful lusts." Be wise and avoid youthful lusts particularly. Flee from temptation like the word of God tells us.

    Take his garment when he becomes surety for a stranger;
    And for an adulterous woman hold him in pledge.

    Prov 27:13
    Any people stupid enough to promise to be responsible for a stranger's
        debts deserve to have their own property held to guarantee payment.

    Prov 27:13, GNT

This is referring to standing guarantee for someone. It's amazing the number of times in the book of Proverbs it says not to stand guarantee for a stranger. And here it also speaks about a strange woman. Sometimes it can be the charm that a woman has that you can fall for. Be very careful that we are not deceived - that we don't stand guarantee and think that it is a manifestation of love. It's not. It is amazing how many times this is repeated in the book of Proverbs.

    You might as well curse your friends as wake them up early in the
        morning with a loud greeting.

    Prov 27:14, GNT

Think of going outside someone's house at four-thirty in the morning and shouting out, "You're a wonderful brother!" and praising him with a loud voice. You're out there early in the morning and the chap is trying to sleep. This says that is just as bad as cursing him. We have to be sensible in our trying to be a blessing to others. You may want to be a blessing to your neighbor by saying something good, but don't do it at four-thirty in the morning. That's just an example. If you want to bless a brother in some way, you have to be wise in how you do it. Go at a more sensible time and say it.

This has many practical applications. For example, you say, "We must help one another in the church. I'm going to be one of those zealous brothers and sisters and help others." Then you can go to someone's house and make an absolute nuisance of yourself trying to be a blessing to them. That's right. If you go at four-thirty in the morning, you're going to be a nuisance to him rather than a blessing. It's as bad as cursing him. You're aim is to be a blessing, but it's done so stupidly that you might as well curse him. We need wisdom even in trying to be a blessing to other people. Say, "Lord, I want to be a blessing, but don't let me do it in such a stupid way that other people think of me as an absolute pest and a nuisance." If we take these simple exhortations in the word of God seriously, we can be protected from multitudes of stupidities. I've often said that if young people would take the book of Proverbs seriously, they can grow up without the reputation of being foolish. He who has ears to hear can hear.

    A constant dripping on a rainy day and a cranky woman are much alike!
        You can no more stop her complaints than you can stop the wind or hold
        onto anything with greasy hands.

    Prov 27;15-16, TLB

These men of Hezekiah were really keen on repeating this again and again. Think of the illustration that when a woman gets all upset and she's complaining about something, trying to stop her is like trying to stop the wind or trying to hold something with greasy hands. It just slips out. You can't do it. Let me just say that this is not a verse for the brothers to go home and hit their wives on the head with. This is a verse for the sisters. It is not for the brothers! The brothers can forget about this verse. This verse is for sisters to say, "Lord, help me so that I'll never be like this drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip, drip all the time in the house." Nag, Nag, Nag. This thing or the other thing. This thing is not done and that thing is not done and that other thing and that other thing and that other thing. Say, "Lord, help me that I should never be a wife like this."

    A friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks which fly when
        iron strikes iron.

    Prov 27:17, TLB
    People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.

    Prov 27:17, GNT

Iron sharpens iron. You can't sharpen iron with wood. That teaches us that God wants each of us to be strong in ourselves so that we can sharpen one another. When you sharpen one iron with another iron, there are some sparks, but both pieces of iron get sharpened. God wants each of us to have convictions and to be strong in the Lord, so that we can help one another and love one another enough to discuss something freely. A good question to ask ourselves is: Can you discuss something with someone who is of the complete opposite opinion as yourself and still love him? That's a good test of whether we have understood divine love or not. Or do I find that I only like to discuss things with those who agree with me in everything? That's the way to spiritual babyhood. That's like iron striking against clay. Sometimes we can have one strong-minded person (man or woman) who is always going around making an impression on all the clay around. But here it is not talking about iron and clay; it's talking about iron and iron. They love one another. They may disagree on some trivial things - that's unimportant. But they can speak freely to one another and still love one another! And both are sharp in their love for one another at the end of it all. It's wonderful when we can come to that maturity.

This is how God intends our relationships to be with one another. We can have strong convictions and be established in the Lord, and be like iron rather than weak like clay, and yet when we come together, it's not God's intention that we destroy one another. You can take one piece of iron and hammer another piece of iron with it and destroy it. That's what happens in fellowship between a lot of brothers. The other alternative is that one man is like iron and the other man is like clay, and they stay together and call it fellowship. It's not fellowship. It's just one iron putting its stamp on the clay. No. God's intention is that both of us can be like iron and yet that we don't destroy each other but sharpen each other. It's a wonderful thing when we can have a relationship like that, where "a friendly discussion is as stimulating as the sparks that fly when iron strikes iron." When iron strikes iron there are sparks, but that results in a sharpening. It's a wonderful thing when we can be strong, yet fervently in love with one another even if we don't see eye to eye on a whole lot of minor issues. Our love is not tested when we agree with one another, but when there are certain things we have slightly different opinions on. Then we can know whether we love one another or not.

    He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit,
    And he who cares for his master will be honored.

    Prov 27:18

There are two things here: first of all, the hardworking farmer will be the first to receive his share of the crops (2 Timothy 2:6). It is only righteous of God that those who have worked hard on their lives will naturally be the first to receive. They will be the firstfruits. And he who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit. He who watches his inner life will reap the benefit of having an inner life from which rivers of living water can flow. Of course, he who neglects his inner life and only cares for his external life will not be able to eat that fruit because he also will reap what he sows.

Secondly it says, "He who cares for his master will be honored." This means that we have to seek God's honor and not our own. We "care for our master" which means that we're not concerned about our own name but about the Lord's name. Here again God sees the inner attitude of a man.

    As in water, face reflects face,
    So the heart of man reflects man.

    Prov 27:19

This verse teaches us that just like how in water we can see our own face reflected, what we see in another person's heart is actually just a reflection of what is in our own heart. That is a very searching verse if you think about it. We all have the tendency to have opinions as to what another person is thinking or why a certain person did something. This verse is saying that if you think that the other person is selfish in what he did, it's because you yourself are so selfish. You think that everybody else must have some wretched, selfish motive just like yourself. Or when you feel that a person said something to hurt you, it's a reflection of the fact that in your own heart, you always have a wretched attitude of trying to hurt other people. Therefore you imagine that his heart is also like your filthy heart. But it may not be true. His heart may be good. We have that tendency to always imagine that other people have the same rotten motives that we ourselves have. Just remember that the next time you think some brother or sister has a rotten motive: you're actually looking in a mirror. You can't imagine that anybody can be purer than you are yourself. Just like in water, face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man. That's a very good way, when we judge another, to get light on the condition of our own heart! If I can only humble myself when that happens and say, "Lord, what I'm seeing is not his heart. I can't see his heart in any case. But I imagine that he has these things in his heart because that's the condition of my own heart." Then I can cleanse myself and purify myself.

    Sheol and Abadon are never satisfied,
    Nor are the eyes of man ever satisfied.

    Prov 27:20

Sheol is the place of the dead, and Abadon is the place of judgment and Hell. This is speaking about covetousness. When 1 John 2:16 speaks about the lust of the eyes, that is different from the lust of the flesh. Fornication is a lust of the flesh. The lust of the eyes is to desire material things which we see with our eyes. The Living Bible describes it as, "the ambition to buy everything that appeals to you" (1 John 2:16, TLB). That is what it's saying here. "The eyes of a man are never satisfied…" He sees something and wants it, he sees something else and wants it, he sees yet another thing and wants it - just like death and Hell are always waiting for more and more people to come into them. Hell is always waiting for more people to come and everyday Hell is receiving people by the thousands. In the same way, the eyes of man and covetousness are equated with the desire of Hell to always have more people.

So we see what a horrible thing covetousness is. As someone has said, "God provides enough for every man's need, but not enough for the greed of even one man." The more we get, the more we feel we should have. We can examine ourselves by looking back and seeing that some years ago we would have been quite satisfied with what we have today. But we may find that we are not satisfied with what we have today, because now we are always longing for something more. There is a continuous dissatisfaction in the life of the covetous person.

    The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold,
    And each is tested by the praise accorded him.

    Prov 27:21

This says that just like we put gold and silver into the fire to test it - to see whether it's real gold or silver - you can see the genuineness of a true man of God by his reaction when people praise him. We should know this verse so that we can know who the genuinely godly people are, even if other people don't have discernment. Of course, it's also true that when people criticize a godly man, that's also a test of his spirituality. But let's say he can pass that test (the test of being dead to the opinions of people) to such an extent that even if he hears that someone has said something bad about him or criticized him, it doesn't disturb him. Good. But here is an even higher test than criticism and opposition: praise. It's easier to face criticism than it is to face praise. When somebody says something good about us, and there is no flicker in our heart of a little satisfaction or a little happiness that someone has such a good opinion of me, then I have overcome in this area. If there is a flicker of happiness and joy when I hear someone has said something good about me, then I know there's still a little dross that needs to be melted away in the furnace. It's good to judge myself and cleanse myself of that dross which made me a little happy.

We are to come to the place where we so die with Christ that neither criticism nor praise produce any little flicker in our hearts. Then we are really living before the face of God. Only such people are continuously living in the most holy place before God's face. Most of us live there now and then, but then we come back to the place where we want the praise of men. So this is a tremendous verse that tells us a man is tested - and the real value of a man is seen - by his reaction to praise. That's something that another person cannot know. You don't know what I feel in my heart when somebody praises me, and I don't know what you feel in your heart when somebody praises you. So this is not a verse for us to judge one another. But it is a wonderful verse to judge ourselves by if we are whole-hearted! We can say, "Lord, here's a verse by which I can find out if I'm really whole-hearted in judging and cleansing myself."

    Though you pound a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed
    Yet his foolishness will not depart from him.

    Prov 27:22

A mortar with a pestle is that solid iron piece you put inside an iron vessel to crush various bits of grain and powdered chilies and things like that. He says even if you put a fool inside there and crush him and grind him down, his folly still doesn't depart from him. Compare this verse with Proverbs 22:15 which speaks about when this fool was a little child. Now this fool's folly won't depart from him even if he's put in a mortar with a pestle, but if his father had been a little more wise and used the rod a little more on him when he was a child, his folly would have departed from him long ago. When we see that young people grow up to do a whole lot of stupid, foolish things again and again, we have to say we feel sorry for those young people, because the folly is with the parents. The folly is with the parents who never drove out that folly when he was a little child. Now it's too late. The fool has grown up and no matter what you say, even if you hammer him with a word in the meeting, he'll still go and do the same foolish things.

But praise God, if we are whole-hearted, we can humble ourselves and really ask God to discipline us and do what our parents failed to do when we were young! If you're whole-hearted, there's hope for you. God has now become our Father and he'll take care of our discipline if we are really whole-hearted. We must come to him and say, "Lord, my parents didn't discipline me when I was small. They petted me and loved me and cared for me, and I grew up to be an absolute fool. Now, Lord, you take me in your hand and discipline me, so that I will not continue to be a fool in the coming years." Then there's hope for you. And this is a warning for all parents that you don't give your child a heritage of growing up to be a fool, that one day this verse has to be said about him. Let's take this seriously as parents so that we drive that out of our children when they are young, so that we don't give them an inheritance of foolishness. Parents are so concerned about giving their children an education. Think of a parent who is so concerned, saying, "I can't get my child into the best school for admission." They are so bothered about that. But here is the thing which they don't seem to be so concerned about. That's why we must take it more seriously that we teach our children wisdom when they are young.

    Know well the condition of your flocks,
    And pay attention to your herds;

    Prov 27:23

This is a very good verse for all those who have shepherding responsibilities. We know that in a church it's not feasible to only have one shepherd or pastor. I believe it's impossible for one pastor to look after more than about ten or eleven people. Jesus never tried to handle more than twelve. Jesus shepherded only twelve disciples and you have to be an absolute idiot to think you can be a pastor of a hundred and twenty people. There are multitudes of idiots in the world who think they can be pastors of a hundred, two hundred, three thousand, five thousand people. It's a lot of rot. Jesus, almighty son of God, who came down to earth as a man, the perfect One who never sinned, did not try to handle shepherding more than twelve people. He preached to multitudes but shepherded only twelve so that he could really work with them. That is why in the church, the body of Christ, God raises up many pastors and shepherds. They are not full-time workers. They're in secular jobs. And they are not all sixty and seventy years old. Some of them may be only twenty-two years old. Even young people can be a shepherd to those who are younger than them. A shepherd is one who cares for the sheep. Do you have to wait until you are seventy years old to care for sheep? You can care for those who are younger to you when you are twenty-five. Have a concern for those who are young in the Lord - to encourage them and bless them. Think if you can grow up to be a shepherd in the church and encourage some of the others.

This is a verse for all those who have a father's heart and a shepherd's heart. If God has given me a few people and in some way linked them to me, let me care for them. You can say, "We don't have a pastor in our church, but God has linked up some others to me and I can care for them. God has linked up that other brother to another brother in the church. So I'll let him care for that brother. We are not in competition, trying to attach people to ourselves. I'm trying to attach people to the Lord, but since it is humanly impossible for one man to take care of a hundred or more people, God has given me a few and that brother a few and another brother a few. Like that we can handle about ten or twelve people and encourage them and build them up." This verse is for such people. Know well the condition of your flock! If you take that responsibility, take it seriously. Don't just know it, but know it well it says. What is the spiritual condition of each of those brothers for whom you are taking responsibility? Do you know their spiritual conditions? Pay attention to your herd. See how it is going with them. Don't just say, "That's their responsibility." Of course it's their responsibility - but if God has given you a shepherd's heart, it's your responsibility too!

1 Peter 5:2 says to those who are shepherds and elders not to take this responsibility out of necessity and compulsion. Somebody should not say, "Brother, why don't you take responsibility for these brothers?" No! It says to do it voluntarily unto the Lord. Don't be so irresponsible. There are so many irresponsible people in the church. God wants those who will willingly take responsibility as a shepherd. There are multitudes of sheep walking around without a shepherd, and Jesus looks down upon them and is grieved like it says in Matthew 9:36. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. There are so many sheep but few shepherds. So what shall we do? Shall we appoint more shepherds? No! Jesus says to pray. Pray that God will send forth such shepherds into the harvest. Pray that God will stir up some of these irresponsible brothers who just drift along in the Christian life and are only interested in their own salvation and their own holiness, who just come once in a while to the meetings (or to all the meetings perhaps), but who don't have a shepherd's heart. They never care to say, "Well, let me at least care for a few to see how it's going with them!" Praise God when God can find someone in a church who, without anyone appointing him, without anyone telling him anything, he just has a concern for a few brothers and tries to help them. Maybe he writes to some of them who are not local because he has a concern for their spiritual development. Every such brother or sister who has a concern for other younger brothers and sisters is a shepherd. And I tell you, there is a tremendous reward for all those who do that duty faithfully. Peter says there will be a crown of glory waiting for those who say, "Lord, I offer myself to you with all my weaknesses to be a shepherd to a few people who are younger than me spiritually" (1 Peter 5:4); for those who don't live their life in an irresponsible way, selfishly thinking about their own salvation alone. God will accept their offering.

    For riches are not forever,
    Nor does a crown endure to all generations.
    When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen,
    And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in,
    The lambs will be for your clothing,
    And the goats will bring the price of a field,
    And there will be goats' milk enough for your food,
    For the food of your household,
    And sustenance for your maidens.

    Prov 27:24-27

He's talking about earthly wealth. He says, "That's not going to last forever." And even if you're a king, that doesn't guarantee your son will be a king. There may be a coup, and your kingdom will be overthrown. You may have to run out of the country altogether. That's happening in many parts of the world. "A crown does not endure to all generations." But if you work in the fields, he says, when the grass disappears, the new growth is seen. It's not like those riches and crowns that disappear. If you have a little field and you work on it and cultivate it, you'll get something from it. The herbs of the mountains are gathered in. You gather in a harvest from working on your own life, and you're going to get a reward for looking after the lambs and the sheep and the goats as well. Of course, it's speaking in an Old Testament way about not depending on earthly wealth. He says, "Do some work, work on your fields, look after your flocks and care for them. Then you can have a return for your labors. Avoid all these risky ways of making money like investing or winning the lottery." There are various ways of trying to make money quickly - avoid them! Be careful! It's far better to earn your living in simple ways and learn to live within your income.

Chapter 29
Chapter 28

    The wicked flee when no one is pursuing,
    But the righteous are bold as a lion.

    Prov 28:1

Why does the wicked man flee when no one is pursuing him? Because he has a guilty conscience. That's why. He's always thinking, "This chap is coming to catch me for that thing I did." A thief who has stolen something thinks every knock on the door is a policeman, and he is ready to run out the back door, even though it may just be a friend of his coming to see him. His guilty conscience makes him run out the back door. We're not thieves, but we can have guilty consciences in other ways. For example, if we're in debt to somebody, we don't want to see their face and so we avoid them. Or maybe you have hurt someone and your conscience bothers you about it, so you don't want to see him for a few days. You're fleeing from him like this verse says. Then you're a wicked person. No one is pursuing you, but your guilty conscience is taking all the courage out of your life and making you run from people.

A righteous person, on the other hand, whose conscience is clear, is bold. He can face everybody squarely. If there's anyone whom you cannot look straight in the eye, there's something wrong. I've met some believers who, when they talk to you, are always looking down. I'm always weary of those people who can't look you straight in your face. There's something fishy about a man who can't look straight into your face. Remember that. Cain's face was fallen because there was something wrong in his life. The Lord asked him, "Why has your face fallen?" There was a reason. He had done something wrong. But the righteous person is bold. He can look you straight in the face. He's not perfect, but he has a clear conscience. It's only righteousness in our conscience that gives us boldness. God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power and love and a sound mind and discipline, so that we can have a clear conscience and look people straight in the face. We don't have to avoid anyone because we don't have anything against anyone. When you have something against someone, isn't it difficult for you to look that person straight in the face with cheerfulness? That's because there's something wrong in your heart and it's reflecting on your countenance. Praise God that we can live with boldness if we have a clear conscience toward God and men at all times. That's how it should be.

    By the transgression of a land many are its princes,
    But by a man of understanding and knowledge, so it endures.

    Prov 28:2
    When there is moral rot within a nation, its government topples easily;
        but with honest, sensible leaders there is stability.

    Prov 28:2, TLB

In the Old Testament, the nation of Israel was God's people. Today, the equivalent of the nation of Israel is the church, and its government is the leadership in the church. There is stability in the church when the leadership in the church has understanding and is honest. When moral corruption comes into a church, as it has with so many denominations, this verse tells us you can trace the problem back to the leaders. There's no use saying, "Oh, the people are just corrupt." The people are corrupt because the leaders are corrupt in their private lives, even though you may not know it. The leaders are the ones who make the people corrupt. If only one or two people are corrupt, that's okay, but if the whole church becomes corrupt, you can be pretty sure that the leadership is corrupt. You can always assess the quality of the leadership of any church by looking at the general condition of the whole church. So when people say, "He's a good pastor, but the people just won't listen," they are deceiving themselves. It's because there's moral rot in the leaders that instability has come in the situation. That's why we have to be very careful in our own life if God gives us any responsibility over others. That responsibility could just be over Sunday School or over your family. There will be instability in a family if there is moral corruption in the father or mother.

    When a poor man oppresses those even poorer, he's like an unexpected
        flood sweeping away their last hope.

    Prov 28:3, TLB

One would expect that a rich, arrogant man would naturally oppress poor people when he comes to power, and a poor person who comes to power to understand the plight of other poor people. But that's not always the case. We find when some poor people come to power, they behave worse than all those other tyrants who were there before them. They bully weak people. Whenever a person desires to oppress those who are weaker than them, they are unfit to be a leader - unfit to lead as a father or mother in a home, unfit to lead as a boss who has people working under him in the factory, unfit to lead as a mistress who has a servant under her. If your desire is to oppress those who are weak, you're like a flood that takes away their last hope and leaves no bread. This gives us light on our own spiritual poverty. We need to be meek and merciful and kind to those who are under us in any way, whether children or laborers or anyone.

    If you have no regard for the law, you are on the side of the wicked;
        but if you obey it, you are against them.

    Prov 28:4, GNT

There's no use in a person saying, "I'm against all unrighteousness," if he doesn't obey God's commands. If you're against all unrighteousness, then you must have a regard for the commandments of God. If a person says, "The commandments of God's word are not important. We're all clothed in the righteousness of Christ. We don't have to bother about keeping all these little commands in God's word," this verse says he is on the side of the wicked, whether he knows it or not! But if you obey God's commandments, only then can you say you're against unrighteousness. Here we find that the vast majority of Christians are not really on God's side against unrighteousness, because they don't take God's commandments seriously. They don't take Colossians 3:19 seriously: "Husbands don't be bitter against your wives," so that they are never bitter. They don't take Romans 1:29-30 seriously which says gossipers are in the same category as haters of God. They don't take seriously that we'll have to give an account for every idle word in the day of judgment. They have no regard for God's commandments. It is foolish for such people to think they are on the side of righteousness because they are not.

    To complain about the law is to praise wickedness. To obey the law is
        to fight evil.

    Prov 28:4, TLB

If we want to fight evil, the first thing we need to do is obey the commandments. That's what this verse says. But to complain about the law is to praise wickedness. How do we complain about it? We say that it's a burden and that we are being tested beyond our ability. It really is a sad thing when a person complains about the law. God's word says that God will not allow us to be tested beyond our ability, but we complain that it's too much to bear. What we are really saying is that God has forgotten about us altogether. That means you're a wicked person! To complain about the law is to praise wickedness! Complaining against God's word is like praising all the drunkards and gamblers and murderers. It is the same thing, so we have to take this seriously. But if we obey the commandments, we fight evil. We don't fight evil by fighting against the drunkards and murderers. We obey God's commands and fight evil in our own flesh! That is the best thing we can do for God in a world full of wickedness.

    Evil men do not understand justice,
    But those who seek the Lord understand all things.

    Prov 28:5

Evil men might be clever, but they still don't understand. It isn't cleverness that makes us understand God's ways, but righteousness! Even if an evil man is very clever and intelligent and has a PhD, he cannot understand justice or righteousness. He doesn't have discernment, because God has hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and revealed them to babies (Matthew 11:25). So we see that it is evil which prevents us from understanding God's truth, not a lack of cleverness. Let no one ever think, "I am not clever enough to understand God's word." It's better to say, "I am not whole-hearted enough against the evil in my flesh to understand God's word. If I were a little more whole-hearted, I would understand God's word a little more. If I fought against sin a little more in my life, I would understand God's word more - even if I studied only up to the fourth standard."

Evil men do not understand, but those who seek the Lord, whether they are clever or haven't even been educated, understand all things. That is a fantastic word. "All things" doesn't mean everything about geography, chemistry and physics. The Bible isn't written about such subjects. God has given us all things pertaining to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). That is what we will understand if we seek the Lord, even if we can explain physics or chemistry. Those who seek the Lord will understand all things.

    Better to be poor and honest than rich and a cheater.

    Prov 28:6, TLB

This is repeated many times in the book of Proverbs. It is better to be a poor, honest, upright man who pays his taxes correctly and does everything righteously, than to be a rich person who cheats people and takes advantage of them, deceiving people, and cheating the government. It's not worth it. The word of God repeats this many times.

    He who keeps the law is a discerning son,
    But he who is a companion of gluttons humiliates his father.

    Prov 28:7

If this had spoken about being a companion of murderers, we would understand. None of us want to be a companion of murderers or thieves or liars. These are the things we think are quite serious. But here it speaks about those who are companions of gluttons. That refers to those who only think in terms of eating and eating, drinking and drinking, and eating and drinking. They don't want to kill or steal - they just want to eat and drink. Be careful of people who are only interested in eating and drinking. They humiliate their fathers. There are even Christians like this. If we announce that we're having chicken biryani at the church, how many people do you think will show up? And if we announce that we're having a prayer meeting, how many people do you think will show up? You can find out very quickly that there are Christians who are gluttons too - not just unbelievers. Why is it that there are more people when there is food served than when there is a prayer meeting arranged? It's good for us to cleanse ourselves and be free from gluttony. We don't want to judge other people, but we have to always judge ourselves.

    If you get rich by charging interest and taking advantage of people,
        your wealth will go to someone who is kind to the poor.

    Prov 28:8, GNT

This is speaking about taking advantage of people when they need money. You give the money and charge interest to take advantage of that poor person. There's a lot of this going on - not in our midst, but in the world around - where poor people are exploited by these money lenders like rent-to-own, bail bonds, and other shops lending at such high rates. God will judge them so that one day when they die (probably before their time), they will leave their wealth to someone else who is kind to the poor. One day, the meek will inherit the earth. Therefore all the wealth of the earth is going to be inherited by those who have learned to be kind to those who are needy. Jesus spoke much against trying to take advantage of your poor brothers. Suppose a brother borrowed something from you and couldn't pay it back. Forget it. Don't keep stepping on his neck and oppressing him, particularly if he is poor.

    He who turns away his ear from listening to the law,
    Even his prayer is an abomination.

    Prov 28:9

What this means is: if you hear God, God will hear you. That's only reasonable, isn't it? If I don't have time to listen to God, it's not unrighteous of God to say, "I don't have much time to listen to you either." There's a very wonderful verse in Psalm 18:25-26 that says, "With the kind you show yourself kind. With the blameless you show yourself blameless. With the pure you show yourself pure, and with the crooked you show yourself astute." That means if somebody is kind to others, God is kind to him. If somebody is merciful to others, God is very merciful to him. If a man really seeks to walk in uprightness, God is also very upright and straightforward with him. If I'm pure, God shows himself to me in purity. But with the crooked, God also shows himself to be a bit crooked toward them. Consider that. If I try to be a little crooked with some other person, I'll find later on in some situation in life God will also be a bit crooked toward me. I may wonder why and I'll have to think back and say, "Who was I crooked to in the last month or maybe even within the last six months? Maybe that's why God is acting a bit crooked toward me now."

If I don't bother to hear God's word, then when I kneel down to pray, he won't bother to hear me. Prayer is like communicating on the phone. If every time God rings me up on the phone, I just put the phone down and have no time to listen to him, then one day when I want to pick up the phone and ring him up, I'll find that he doesn't pick up either. He is crooked to those who are crooked. If I turn away my ear when God is speaking through his word, God will turn away his ear when I am trying to pray to him in my need. I believe this is the reason why so many prayers are not answered. We can understand when the prayers of Hindus, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and so many other unconverted people are not heard even though they pray millions of prayers, but what shall we say when believers' prayers are not heard? If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not…what? Answer me? No. He will not even hear me (Psalm 66:18). He won't even pick up the phone. He'll say, "Oh, that call is coming from someone who regards iniquity in his heart. I don't need to pick up the phone. No need to even find out what the request is." It's a serious thing to regard iniquity in our heart.

Hebrews 5:7 says that Jesus' prayers were heard because of his godly fear. He was so afraid of not listening when the Father was speaking. So afraid! "The Father is saying something! Let me drop everything and listen." Brothers and sisters, we can very profitably judge ourselves in this area. If I hear God's word, then when I speak God will hear me. Jesus said, "I thank you Father that you always hear me" (John 11:42). How was that possible? Because Jesus always heard the Father. It's exactly equal. If I listen to twenty percent of the things God tells me, he'll hear twenty percent of the things I tell him. Then eighty percent of my prayers are falling to the ground. But we can increase that percentage just by increasing the percentage of things we listen to when God speaks to us. That's why it's very important to hear God's word and receive it.

    He who leads the upright astray in an evil way
    Will himself fall into his own pit,

    Prov 28:10
    A curse is on those who lead astray the godly. But men who encourage
        the upright to do good shall be given a worthwhile reward.

    Prov 28:10, TLB

Jesus said, "If you stumble one of these little ones, it's better that you hang a millstone around your neck and go and drown in the sea" (Matthew 18:6). It's like he said, "Go jump in a river with a millstone around your neck." That is what Jesus said! If a parent stumbles one of these little ones, leading them astray, it is better that they go and tie a millstone around their neck and jump into a river. Maybe a child is very upright at the moment, but then goes astray into an evil path by some habit it sees its parents doing. There are children who have learned smoking and drinking from their parents. Some children learn evil habits like gossiping and backbiting from their parents, which are even worse than smoking and drinking. It is better that those parents go and tie millstones around their necks and jump into a river.

If someone is living an upright life and is polluted by your conversation, it's better that you go and put a millstone around your neck and jump into a river. It says you'll fall into a pit. That's why we are against so many preachers today who lead astray simple people in their congregation who are trying to live a godly life. The pastor or preacher who doesn't fear God preaches things that lead them astray. For example, he tells them there is no such thing as victory over sin. Sitting there are simple people who have come and are eager to hear, but they are led astray. There are lots of people like that. We must never be found in that number among those who lead people astray when they are trying to live a good life - especially due to something they see in our life. That should bring a fear into our hearts.

There was a man called Balaam who was a preacher in the Old Testament. Because he was offered money, he taught the King of Moab a scheme to pollute the Israelites. God would not allow him to curse the Israelites so he said, "I cannot curse them, because God has blessed them, but I'll tell you how you can make God himself curse them." Then in Numbers 25, he told the King of Moab to send some pretty looking Moabite girls - seductive ones - into the Israelite camp and let them tempt some of the men. The Israelite men would marry the women, and then God himself would curse them. That's how Israel was corrupted through Balaam. Of course, Balaam was killed for that. People may not be doing the exact same things today, but this is an illustration of someone who led others astray who were living an upright life. He led them astray by his own corruption and by justifying his sin.

Let's say I do something wrong and another brother asks me if it is alright to do that. Because I want to save my reputation, I justify it instead of saying, "Maybe I need to think about that. Maybe I was wrong in what I did." That would have helped him to be upright, but since I am an older brother, I justify it to prove that it was right. If I say, "No, brother - that was right. In such circumstances, we have to do that," what have I succeeded in doing? I've succeeded in leading him astray! I myself have gone into some corruption and now I am justifying that corruption and leading my brother astray also. It's very easy to do that! I should make sure I don't have any love for justifying myself. We must be willing to hear that we are wrong. It's good to be honest.

    The rich man is wise in his own eyes,
    But the poor who has understanding sees through him.

    Prov 28:11

Notice he doesn't say the poor man is blessed just because he's poor. We shouldn't think that. There are a lot of poor people in the world who are not spiritual and go to Hell just like rich people. But the poor man who has understanding (or wisdom) can see through the emptiness and the hollowness of this rich person who is very wise and spiritual in his own eyes. This poor, wise man sees through it. Therefore he doesn't covet any of his riches. When we covet what somebody else has, that proves we ourselves don't have any wisdom. We may be poor, but we are poor, foolish people just like the rich, foolish people. The point is not whether we are poor or rich, but whether we have wisdom.

    When the righteous triumph, there is great glory,
    But when the wicked rise, men hide themselves.

    Prov 28:12

When the righteous triumph, there may not be glory in this world, but there's certainly great glory in God's eyes. When a righteous person stands for righteousness, does not yield to temptation, and triumphs, there is a great glory in God's eyes. Never mind what people think. There is great glory in God's eyes every time I overcome a temptation.

We've all heard the story which Jesus told about the man who had a hundred sheep and lost one of them. Who did Jesus say the ninety-nine sheep symbolized? It says in Luke 15:7 that they symbolize ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance. Think of that. Think of being so careful in your daily life, cleansing yourself and judging yourself so immediately and constantly, that there is no repentance that you need in your life. That's a fantastic description given to those ninety-nine. When people say, "We must go for the one lost sheep," that is like evangelism. They focus on evangelism and act as though the ninety-nine sitting in the church are like these ninety-nine people who need no repentance. Far from it. Nowadays, it is more like one righteous person who needs no repentance and ninety-nine that are lost. So, we need to keep that in mind: sheep who need no repentance. If we read the scriptures carefully, we see what Jesus was talking about. It is a tremendous thing when the righteous triumph. It means they are living an overcoming life. But it's sad when the wicked rise. Men hide themselves, because the wicked person has power. It is a sad thing when men cannot be free.

    He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper,
    But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.

    Prov 28:13

This is a very wonderful verse in the Old Testament. Right from the time of Adam onwards, man has had the tendency to cover his transgression. The first thing Adam wanted to do after he sinned was hide. He didn't just hide behind a tree, he also hid behind some fig leaves that he stitched. Always trying to hide! All of false religion is basically man trying to hide his sin by giving money to the poor, going on some pilgrimage, shaving his head, doing this and that, attending meetings, singing in the choir, and doing something in order to be approved to God. It's all trying to cover one's sin! There will never be any prosperity that way. We try to cover up our sin by hiding it, pretending we never did it, or if I've hurt someone, never going and making restitution. If I don't go and apologize to someone I've hurt, what am I actually doing? For example, let's say I hurt my wife by what I say and I just act like it's alright and say, "We're good friends, aren't we?" What am I actually doing? I am concealing my transgression! Even if she is a very spiritual wife and just ignores it, because she's dying to herself in order to have a good relationship with you, you shouldn't be so stupid to think that you don't have to apologize. You still have to apologize even if you have a good relationship with her, because you did something wrong. You can't say, "Well, the relationship is good." The relationship is good because she was whole-hearted enough to die to herself.

Or it could be with a brother. Even if a brother has so denied himself that he has a good relationship with you, that does not mean your transgression is clear. You have still sinned and you should not cover it up. The only way to clear it up is by saying to that brother with whom you have an excellent relationship, "I'm sorry. I have sinned against you. Forgive me." He who conceals his transgression will not prosper. I tell you, the vast majority of believers have no interest in living to this standard of Christian life. That's why their lives are so shallow. But he who confesses - which requires humility toward God and man - and forsakes his transgression by giving it up will find mercy. And not only mercy, but grace also since we are in the New Covenant. In the Old Covenant it was only mercy. In the New Covenant, we'll find mercy and grace to help him in our time of need.

    How blessed is the man who fears always,
    But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity.

    Prov 28:14

This is connected with verse thirteen and speaks about after our sins are forgiven. Why does God forgive our sins? One of the most important verses in this respect is found in Psalm 130:4. It says God forgives us so that we may fear him. So after verse thirteen speaks about forgiveness, verse fourteen goes on to speak about fear. The devil has so many ways of keeping us from emphasizing this subject. He says, "No, we must think of God as love. There's nothing to fear." That is why people do such a lot of wrong things.

The important word here is 'always'. I can fear God for a long period of time, and then in one particular moment, not fear him and do such a sinful, shameful thing. In that moment, I can lose my testimony for my whole life. Isn't that how David looked at Bathsheba? He didn't fear God at that moment. Many other times he feared God. In fact, in Psalm 34:10 he tells people, "Come children, I will teach you the fear of the Lord." At one stage, he was the type of person who could teach people the fear of the Lord. But then he just became careless and his testimony was ruined not only for his life, but for all the generations after him that know his failure. Think of Joseph - tempted again and again by Potiphar's wife. He didn't sin. What if he had slipped up just for five minutes in his long life of one-hundred years? Just five minutes! What sort of Joseph would we think of today? I doubt if God would have ever made him the prime minister of Egypt. It's possible, brothers and sisters, that we slacken off and do one stupid thing that ruins our testimony almost for our whole life. How blessed is the man who fears the Lord always so that there is not even one moment of carelessness in his life.

Then it says, "But he who hardens his heart will fall into calamity." Hebrews 3:15 also says, "If you hear his voice, harden not your heart." To harden our heart is to hear God's voice and not respond or to postpone obeying. I heard of a very well-known evangelist in India who died many years ago. He testified when he was baptized in water at a very old age that when he was a young man, the Lord spoke to him about water baptism and he did not do it. He thought he would lose his position as an evangelist in his denomination which did not believe in adult baptism. The result was that some time later, after being a mighty preacher, he fell into adultery. He realized that one little disobedience had hardened his heart which finally led to something like adultery. It's a serious thing if we don't take it seriously when God speaks to us about something. He who hardens his heart will fall into calamity. Of course, the man repented and confessed his sin and obeyed the Lord, but that blot was on his character.

    Like a roaring lion and a rushing bear
    Is a wicked ruler over a poor people.

    Prov 28:15

This is also speaking about those who oppress, take advantage of, and rule over others. It can be with those who work under us. We are not to be like lions and bears to them that the very sight of us brings terror into their hearts. We are not to be like that toward our children either. That is why the Bible says we should use a rod to punish our children. We should not use our hand to hit them. For example, it is most unChristian for any mother or father to slap a child on the face. The hand is not given for slapping but stroking. When you lift your hand toward your child, he or she should be one-hundred percent certain that your hand is not coming to hit but stroke in love. We're not to oppress others so that the sight of us brings terror into their hearts.

    A leader who is a great oppressor lacks understanding,
    But he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days.

    Prov 28:16

If a leader or a father or an elder lords it over other people, bosses them around, and tries to control their life, we can say such a leader is a man without wisdom. Whatever else he may have, he doesn't have wisdom. In contrast, if a leader hates unjust gain, he will prolong his days. Unjust gain is seeking my own honor and profit to gain something for myself. For example, if I do something in the church and get some honor for myself, isn't that unjust gain? If we do something in the church, it must be for the glory of God. But if I do something in the church in order to get some honor for myself, that is unrighteous. I'm taking what should go to somebody else. That honor should go to God. It is unjust gain to seek anything personal for ourselves in the church. For a preacher to get up and preach to get something for himself is like a man who is trying to earn money unrighteously.

Now I'll tell you something that is even more dangerous, and those of us who sing on Sundays can think of this. It's much more difficult to sing and seek the glory of God than it is to preach and seek the glory of God. When we preach, we use our normal voice. But when we sing, we use a special type of voice and tune and melody. Those things are good, but I tell you if a person doesn't work out his own salvation when playing an instrument, he is in fantastic danger of seeking his own hono