It’s All In God’s Hands

Proverbs 11:28

He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous shall flourish as a branch.

It Isn’t Ours

I have been self-employed for the last twenty years. Income in 1992 when I started out was modest, but I believe that over the years God has blessed the business and blessed my family. In turn I have tried to bless others. I have not amassed cash to any extent, other than making provision to eventually pay off the mortgage on the family home through endowment policies and savings. I would not say I have trusted in my financial assets, but I believe that I may have become increasingly complacent, and forgotten one small detail: None of it belongs to me.

A Reminder

Whatever we have on earth we have because God allows us to have it. Over the last three years my income has fallen and it has become increasingly difficult to get paid. While prayers have been answered I have had to dip deeply into savings as it takes longer and longer to receive payment for invoices. I have also had to review my giving. While that has been difficult I have been reminded that it was never mine in the first place. God has challenged me about becoming proud about what I have given.

Temporary Benefit

We cannot and must not rely on or trust in the temporary benefits associated with worldly wealth. We leave the world in the same way that we arrive. Empty handed. Even if we are blessed with monetary riches, nothing can be considered permanent, as many a person who has fallen on hard times can testify. The challenge we face as human beings is to be wise in our choices, and wise in our use of everything God has placed into our hands. It doesn’t matter if the world considers us rich or poor in terms of possessions. What matters most is what God sees in us.

How to Flourish?

So how can we flourish? Jesus spoke about branches that flourish and those that do not. He said:

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples. (John 15:1-8 NIV)


What Are Your Expectations?

Proverbs 11:23

“The desire of the righteous is only good: but the expectation of the wicked is wrath.”

Righteous People

When we think of the term “righteous,” think of someone who is fair and just, for that is what the word entails. We’re not necessarily talking about a pious saint, or something, but a decent, God-fearing man or woman.

What are the characteristics of this type of person? The proverb says they “desire…only good.”

Now, some interpret this verse in such a way as to say, “The godly can look forward to a reward,” as in the New Living Translation. The ESV says that the desire of the righteous “ends only in good.” But I think it is better to interpret this verse as saying, “The object of the desire of the righteous is good.”

Righteous people are good people; they want good things to happen. And usually, because of their desires, good is the result.

Wicked People

Wicked people, on the other hand, want no such thing; all they want is trouble. What is good for the wicked is bad for everyone else. Wrath is what they hope for.

Again, some interpreters want to convey the idea that what the wicked will receive in the end is wrath. In other words, wrath is what they should expect in the end. That may be so, but there is something here in this verse worth noting.

Hope and Desire

The word translated “expectation” is also the Hebrew word for “cord,” as in a “line” of scarlet thread. Yes, it can mean “hope,” but interestingly it was the same word used in Joshua 2:18 that is translated “line,” as in the scarlet thread that Rehab hung from her window.

The word translated “desire” has more to do with a strong passion for something. Literally, it is the good version of lust. Lust is the wanting of something bad. In this case, desire is the longing of one’s heart for good.

It may not be a huge difference, but this is what I see; these are my “thoughts.” The only hope that a wicked, sinful heart has is the hope of selfish gain, even at the expense of every one else.

The desire of the righteous is for good, and that selfless desire is a result of the Hope they have within.

Practically Speaking

Do you see all those people burning cars and beating people in the name of religion? Do you see them calling for the destruction of others in order to bring about their desires? As they rejoice over the death of innocents, they prove they are wicked.

Do you see those who walk into the fire to rescue the perishing? Do you see those who pray for peace? As others seek their destruction, they pray for the salvation of their souls. They are the righteous.

So the question is: what are your expectations?


Don’t Be Pig Jewelry

Proverbs 11:22

“As a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion.”

Proverb or Nonverb?

If you want to run a great quiz round, make up a load of proverbs, mix them in with little beauties like this, and then ask which is the genuine article. I guarantee you will catch some people out. But just because a Proverb sounds made up doesn’t mean it lacks wisdom, or indeed a lesson for us to learn.

Pig Jewelry

As we look into this idea of pig adornment, we discover a theme repeated throughout the Bible: the contrast between the image we present and the person we are. Despite this, we spend an inordinate amount of time working on the outside rather than the inside, and yet the outside makes up for so little of who we are and is often easy to see past.

Consider how small the gold ring is compared to the pig. It may catch our eye, initially (after all it is gold), but let’s be honest, no amount of gold is going to hide the fact it is stuck on a pig.

The Eye of the Beholder

Similarly beautiful women may turn a man’s head, but my experience is that if there is no substance beneath the beauty, no discretion, then the attraction is waning. I may tolerate them, but it is clear they are a pig – so to speak.

But what happens when I turn this mirror to my own life? Do I see a gold ring, or a pig? Is my “beauty” being wasted on a muddy snout?

Beauty for Ashes

In truth, it matters little what I see, but how God sees me. Can I believe that Jesus loves me despite myself? It may be hard to believe, but he does! That’s the truth on which I will stand.

Isaiah 61:3 “to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes…”


Sometimes Unity Isn’t Enough

Proverbs 11:21

“Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.”
Not Enough Space

Honestly, there is not enough space allowed in this entry to adequately cover all the things that could be gleaned from this proverb. Because we desire that these posts be published one day, if every “thought” was a thousand words, the final book would look like the Encyclopedia Britannica.

At the time of this writing, it is a Sunday evening, and I just preached a forty-five minute sermon on this very text. It was such a blessing, and the result was that a young lady came forward tonight and asked if I could show her how to be saved.  If I were to go into all that I preached, I don’t know how long this post would be.

So, what I am going to do is share some highlights. I would encourage you to take the time, as with all these verses in Proverbs, to study them for yourself.

“We are the World”

Do you remember that Michael Jackson classic, We are the World? Have you seen all the different organizations and activist groups that use pictures of people holding hands to send a message of unity? Have you ever played the game where kids stood in a line with their arms locked together and said, “Red rover, red rover, send some idiot right over?”

Well, the wicked of this world have the idea that if they stand together in a united front against the True God of the universe, all will go their way. You can see it plastered across all the news networks. Flames are rising around the planet as followers of a false god rise up against the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and against Christianity.

They are united. They are hand in hand. They are the world.

Won’t Make a Difference

But even though the wicked stand hand in hand, it won’t make the outcome any different. The whole world joined together in one voice before the Deluge, yet they still drowned. Their unity couldn’t hold back the judgment of God.

Even now, militants are rising up, seeking the destruction of the righteous, but, “The Lord shall laugh at him: for he seeth that his day is coming” (Psa. 37:13).

The Promise

Many look at history and ask, “If God’s word is true, then why do the righteous die as martyrs? Why are Christians persecuted and killed? Why does it look like the ‘wicked’ are getting their way?”

Here’s the answer: it ain’t over, yet.

Isa 27:13 ESV – “And in that day a great trumpet will be blown, and those who were lost in the land of Assyria and those who were driven out to the land of Egypt will come and worship the LORD on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.”

Deliverance may not come in the way we think it should, but it will come. It may not even be in this life, but it will come. And one day, when that “great trumpet will be blown,” the righteous will all worship on His holy mountain in Jerusalem.


Warning Signs

Proverbs 11:19
As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death.

Multiple Warnings

As a child, one of the things that I learned very quickly was that if my parents told me “To Do” or “Not To Do” something over and over again, I knew that it must be important, and I either better do it or not do it. In the same way as my parents, Solomon is giving us multiple warnings about which path we should choose – righteousness or evil. Here are just a few of the examples:

  • Proverbs 10:6 – “Blessings are upon the head of the just: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked.”
  • Proverbs 12:2 – “A good man obtaineth favour of the Lord: but a man of wicked devices will he condemn”
  • Proverbs 14:11 – “The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.”

The warnings are out there and we must heed them with all our heart!

It’s Our Choice

Even if we can clearly see the warning signs that are out there, it is still our choice to live a righteous life or to “pursue evil”. We can see in this verse that “he” made a choice to go after evil. The word “pursue” has several meanings:

  1. To follow in order to catch or attack
  2. Seek to attain or accomplish
  3. Continue or proceed along a path
  4. Engage in

In each one of these definitions there is one constant – there is a choice that must be made! We must make the choice daily to run in the opposite direction of sin and run into the arms of a loving and gracious God. We need to remember the words of James 1:15 that says, “Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” If we continue down the path toward evil, it will eventually lead us to death!

The warning signs are all around us, but it is still up to us to make the right choice as to which path our lives will lead. Will we take the path of righteousness or will we pursue evil? I hope each one of us can live out the words that Joshua said in Joshua 24:15,

“And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

Lord, help us to pursue YOU with all our heart! No matter what may come our way, help us to choose YOU! Help us to stand firm on our Word and make you our refuge until that glorious appearing of our Great God and Savior!


A Sure Reward

Proverbs 11:18

“The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward.”

Criminal Justice

National and international systems of justice and punishment exist to deter citizens from engaging in criminal behavior. Yet despite the threat of fines, imprisonment, or even death, there are those who believe that they can escape justice and live their lives at odds with society. On the basis that not all criminals are caught and punished it could be argued that the first part of the above proverb is not true.

Temporary Benefit

Where this proverb is correct is in its assessment of the rewards that criminals can expect. Take the case of Mr Eddie Maher. Mr Maher used to drive an armored vehicle in the UK. He disappeared along with more than £1.3 million back in 1993, but was later arrested in the USA (February 2012) and ultimately sentenced to five years jail time in the UK after a plea deal (March 2013). It seems that Mr Maher (or Fast Eddie as the press calls him) had not been living a life of luxury while hiding from justice. When arrested by the FBI he was working as a broadband cable technician. It appears that Fast Eddie had spent the last nineteen years moving from one small US town to another, constantly looking over his shoulder. I wonder what happened to the money? Did it all get blown in the first year?

Eternity

Despite his conviction, all is not lost for Fast Eddie. Being found guilty, he will have to accept the punishment handed down by the judge, but there is still hope. It says so in the second part of Proverbs 11:18, which speaks of a reward that none of us deserve. Because when God looks at our hearts, none of us score any higher than Fast Eddie. But God loves us so much, that he sent His Son to take our punishment.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

There is a sure reward. It is not like the reward that Fast Eddie’s daughter-in-law is trying to claim for turning him in (£100,000). It is a reward that none of us deserve. It is a reward of forgiveness. It is the reward of eternal life. But, we have to consider what we are sowing:

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:7-10 (NIV)


Strong Mercy

Proverbs 11:17

“The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh.”

“I Pardon You”

As I thought about this verse, a scene from a movie came to mind. In Schindler’s List, the 1993 masterpiece by Steven Spielburg, two characters, Oskar Schindler and Amon Goeth, discuss what should be done with Jewish prisoners.

Seeing that Goeth (Ralph Fiennes) was a cruel and sadistic concentration camp commander, Schindler (Liam Neeson) tries to convince him that the greatest exhibition of power is not in killing people, but pardoning them.

Schindler:  They fear us because we have the power to kill arbitrarily. A man commits a crime, he should know better. We have him killed and we feel pretty good about it. Or we kill him ourselves and we feel even better. That’s not power, though, that’s justice. That’s different than power. Power is when we have every justification to kill – and we don’t.

Goeth: You think that’s power.

Schindler: That’s what the emperors had. A man stole something, he’s brought in before the emperor, he throws himself down on the ground, he begs for mercy, he knows he’s going to die. And the emperor pardons him. This worthless man, he lets him go.

Goeth: I think you are drunk.

Schindler: That’s power, Amon. That is power. (Schindler gestures toward Goeth as a merciful emperor) Amon, the Good.

Later in the film, Goeth almost decides to not punish a young boy for not cleaning his bath tub well enough. Instead of beating him, he looks at the boy (remembering Schindler’s words), and says, “I pardon you.” The boy then runs outside as Goeth begings to stare into the mirror, pointing to himself like a Michelangelo painting, and repeating the words, “I pardon you.”

It was only a moment later that Goeth notices a stain on the bath tub. His anger boiled as he picked up his rifle and shot the boy who was now walking to his barracks.

Mercy is Medicine

Just the other day, even though I was broke, I gave the last $20 I had to a man and his wife who had nothing. I am not writing this in order to get a pat on the back, but in order to make a point. The point is that I had no problem sleeping that night. My kindness was a small sacrifice.

However, to show mercy to someone who has wronged you, to someone who has hurt you, can be a tremendous sacrifice. Showing mercy means you give up something, like justice, payback, and revenge. But, there is no greater salve to the soul than showing mercy to the one who least deserves it.

The cruel person feels justified for his actions. But cruelty, no matter how it is rationalized, whether it be towards man or beast, is an acid that eats away at the soul.

Are you suffering from the effects of bitterness? Are you troubled by your anger? There is a cure. It’s called mercy.

He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?” – Micah 6:8 (NKJV)

Maybe some of those demanding “justice” should think about this.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,317 other followers