Category Archives: Warnings

Flood of Trouble

Proverbs 17:14

“The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water: therefore leave off contention, before it be meddled with.”
“Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.” – NIV

Flood Gates

Not far from where I used to live is the Tennessee River. When it rains for days on end, as it did not long ago, the river level rises, which causes the dams across the river to have to open their gates. I have seen the water come through those gates with ferocious power.

Sometimes dams fail. When that happens, depending on the size of the dam, lots of property is damaged and people are killed. When the Kaloko Dam in Johnstown, Pennsylvania burst in 1889, a whole town was washed away, along with 2,200 lives.

In some cases, human error was the cause of dams bursting. And according to Solomon, it’s not always water that destroys.

Dam Meddler

People who start arguments for no reason, or keep one going when it could have faded away, are like those who meddle with a weak dam. If nothing else, they are as those who would open a floodgate, but not know how to shut it.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Just back away and count to ten?” I wonder how many lives could have been saved had they heeded Solomon’s warning?

You never know what hell is waiting to be unleashed when a quarrel is started. It is far, far better to simply walk away than to chip away at a crack in the dam. Drowning in the waters of strife is for fools.

The above video was taken at the Chickamauga Dam, Chattanooga. It was finished in 1939 and President Roosevelt was there for the dedication. But even though this video is impressive, I’ve seen it when all the gates were all the way open. On a normal day, the water’s not too rough below the dam. But on days like this, the power can shake your bones.

What a sobering reminder of how dangerous meddling can be. 


Do I Hear Nathan?

Proverbs 17:13

“Whoso rewardeth evil for good, evil shall not depart from his house.”

Did Solomon Remember?

I can’t help but wonder if Solomon was thinking of his own house when he wrote this. How well did he know the words that Nathan spoke unto his father, King David?

Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and have taken his wife to be your wife and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife.” – 2 Samuel 12:9-10 ESV

Uriah had been nothing but a loyal, devoted soldier. Even when David tried to get him to go home to be with his wife, Uriah couldn’t bear the thought of being comfortable while his fellow soldiers were sleeping on the battlefield (2 Samuel 11:11). And what did Uriah receive in return for his loyalty? A death sentence.

Was Solomon thinking of his brother, Absalom, the one who tried to kill his father? Did he think of his sister, Tamar, who was raped by her brother, Amnon (2 Samuel 13:10-20)? I wonder what he thought when he looked around at his family. Did he ever think to himself, “Why, dad? Why?”

Do I Hear Nathan?

It is one thing to reward evil with evil. Most people understand the concept of “an eye for an eye.” However, it is a vile, ruthless, selfish man who accepts good from another, only to give evil in return. He deserves whatever bad may come.

That should make all of us think. Has God been good to us? What have we given Him in return?

The prophet Nathan told David, “Thou art the man” (2 Samuel 12:7). What would he tell us?

By the Way

On a different note, some say the Bible cannot be the Word of God because it defames the character of the prophets. They (Muslims) say stories like the one told in 2 Samuel 11 and 12 are proof the Bible is a fabrication. The Koran, they say, would never, never allow the moral character of a prophet to be questioned, but would hold such role models in high esteem, blotting out any record of sin.

Fortunately for us, the Bible IS true. It doesn’t candy-coat the bad but shows how God can work through flawed, fallen men. The Bible, because it is true, highlights the goodness and grace of God, not the righteousness of man.

David was “the man,” but David was human. Unlike the “perfect prophets” in other religions, David prayed, “Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin [emphasis added]” (Psalm 51:2).

Don’t let evil move into your house.


The Bear Facts about Fools

Proverbs 17:12

“Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man, rather than a fool in his folly.”

“Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs rather than a fool in his folly.” – ESV

Dangerous Bears

There are a lot of people who go hiking in forests where big, furry, and not-so-cuddly bears live. There are also people who swim in the ocean where razor-toothed guppies the size of cars hunt surfboards. Hey, whatever floats your boat.

Personally, I prefer to swim in chlorinated kiddie pools rather than in a shark’s kitchen. And when it comes to hiking, well, I prefer forests where the bears ain’t. Otherwise, I’m taking a 12 gauge with slugs in it.

You see, it’s like this: bears are dangerous. They especially don’t like it when people pretend to be Goldilocks and mess with baby bear. Believe me, it’s better to stay away from Little Red Riding Hood’s back yard unless you seriously know what you are doing; otherwise, you may end up Pooh poo.

Dangerous Fools

But no matter how dangerous a she-bear is, Fuzzy Wuzzilina is nothing compared to a fool caught in his foolishness.

The fool is terribly fond of his lustful pursuits and passions, more so than a bear of her cubs. Threaten them, or take them away, and what you have on your hands is an angry, ferocious, indignant enemy determined to destroy.

Many years ago, when I was young, my father worked for a man who was having an affair. When my father and another employee witnessed the business owner having sex with his mistress at work, the man admitted what he was doing was wrong. However, as time went on, the businessman became indignant, hateful, and angry over the thought of giving up his relationships.

I still remember the drive-by shooting, the attempt to gun down my father behind the pulpit, and the phone calls saying, “I know where your wife and kids are, and when you’re not looking…

Eventually, as my father warned, sin’s payday would come. Sure enough, the husband of the mistress found my dad’s boss and the woman and killed them both.

Stay Away

Solomon must have had some experience with fools. Maybe we should heed his warning.

“A person who can accept criticism has an approachable personality and can function well in social interaction. People who cannot accept a rebuke, however, cause chaos in the public arena. It would be better to try to deal with an angry bear in search of her cubs!”*

*Duane A. Garrett, vol. 14, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 161.

 


Golden Calves

Proverbs 17:11  

“An evil man seeketh only rebellion: therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him.”
“Evil people are eager for rebellion, but they will be severely punished” (NLT).

History is full of stories of rebellion. Some succeeded, but many failed. While not all of those who rebel against authority are evil, motive is rarely taken into consideration when rebellions are crushed.

One famous incident in British history concerned six agricultural laborers who reacted to the unfair treatment that they and their colleagues suffered. They met together and under an oath of secrecy formed a trade union. The local squire was not happy about the prospect of a unionized workforce, and action was taken to stamp out this act of rebellion. Six workers were arrested and charged with taking an illegal oath. They were sentenced to transportation to Australia and seven years hard labor.

While many of us today would probably fancy a trip down under to take in the sights and the sun, this was no tourist trip. Transportation to Australia and the conditions for convicts who were sent to Australia were brutal. While few returned, the Tolpuddle Martyrs as they became known were pardoned and freed after three years. Freedom came after a huge campaign by the British working class, and the presentation of a petition containing 800,000 names to Parliament.

Rebelling against the establishment, or against the rulers of this world is one thing. But what about the rebellion of humanity against God? The Bible records many examples involving the people of Israel. Their attitude soon after their miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt seems unbelievable. After Moses climbed Mount Sinai to meet with God, the people persuaded Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship instead of God.

It is easy to judge others. We can look back in amazement at the golden calf incident without considering whether there are any golden calves in our lives. We may compare ourselves with the Tolpuddle Martyrs and think that because we are not engaging in an evil rebellion we will not receive a severe punishment. But consider a child receiving punishment from a loving parent. My own experience of punishment for childhood misdemeanors was that the hurt I saw in my parents’ eyes was more of a punishment than anything they devised to persuade me that I should mend my ways.

crossWe have a loving God in heaven who allows us to call Him Father. His Son took the severest punishment possible so that God did not have to punish us. So why do we rebel against Him? If we consider the hurt and the pain He suffers when we choose golden calves in our lives instead of Him, then perhaps we will begin to understand the extent and the cost of His love for us, and how much He values it when we return His love, and destroy our golden calves.


Bribery and Corruption

Proverbs 17:8 

A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it: whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth.
A bribe is like a lucky charm; whoever gives one will prosper! (NLT)

Other translations of this verse use the word bribe instead of gift. Strong’s translates the word as a donation, bribe, gift, present or reward. Matthew Henry’s take on this proverb is that: ‘Those who set their hearts upon money, will do any thing for it. What influence should the gifts of God have on our hearts!’ What influence indeed?

There is a further warning about gifts/bribes in the book of Exodus when the law was being given to the nation of Israel:

And thou shalt take no gift: for the gift blindeth the wise, and perverteth the words of the righteous. (Exodus 23:8 KJV)

My first experience of bribery occurred in the 1970s when there was port congestion in the Persian Gulf, and many ships and their crews waited months at anchor for a pilot and a berth in port to discharge or load cargo. I spent three weeks there at anchor in 1975. Each day a small boat would come out to us (and all the other ships) and a man in uniform would demand to see our Captain. Each day the request was the same, “200 cigarettes and a bottle of whisky, Captain, and you get your pilot tomorrow.” No doubt many captains were tempted to provide such a bribe, uncertain of whether the uniformed official had the power to provide a pilot. Our Captain refused to meet such requests. He had other plans. But similar challenges were often faced in other foreign ports when various officials expected to be paid to make things happen. Like the man in the uniform in the Persian Gulf, their hearts had become focused on what they could get in material terms.

I think Matthew Henry got the meaning of this verse absolutely correct. If money and the like are what warm your heart, then eventually you may do anything for the sake of money or gifts. What influence should the gifts of God have on our lives? How are we investing these gifts, and how are they changing our values? Jesus taught that it was more important to seek the Kingdom of Heaven than anything else:

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46 NIV)

Making Fun of the Poor

Proverbs 17:5

“Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.”

Me? Poor?

I live in one of the richest countries on the planet, so who am I to talk about being poor? Compared to some people, I am rich as a king. Even though I may not have the best of everything, or even the third or fourth best, I am still better off than people who have to live in cardboard boxes under a bridge.

Even thought I may not be rich, there are plenty of people worse off than me. However, I do know a little about what it’s like to be mocked. My sister and I were made fun of because my parents couldn’t always afford to buy their children new clothes. When we lived in a house that had no electricity or running water, and one could see the sky through the walls, we were mocked. I know how that feels.

For that matter, I know how it feels to drive a school bus full of public high school football players to a game at a private school where the tuition for one student exceeds $40,ooo a year, not to mention room and board. Not only do the football players get sneered at, but bus drivers like me get treated as “common help.”

Me? Like God?

The lesson that Solomon wants us to learn is that when we mock or make fun of those who poorer than us, we make ourselves out to be better than God. “What? How’s that possible?” you ask.

What if God treated us the way we sometimes treat others? Seriously, is the richest man in the world, even if he owned the whole world, as rich as the Maker of the Universe? The richest of the rich in this world are living in inestimable poverty before the King of Heaven. Aren’t we glad He doesn’t make fun of us?

Thankfully we have a loving Lord who humbled Himself unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8), that we, the poorest of all, could become fellow-heirs with Christ (Eph. 3:6). If He doesn’t feel it proper to mock lowly sinners such as I, then who am I to mock one less fortunate than me?

Wishing Bad

But what if you have never been one to make fun of the poor, or the rich? Does that get you off the hook? Maybe. That is, unless you’ve ever been one to talk of the rich with words like, “I hope they go broke,” or, “I’d love to see them crash that fancy car!”

I asked my daughter, “How do rich people make fun of poor people?” She said, “I don’t know…all I ever hear is all the poor people griping and whining about the rich.” Hmmm.

What did Solomon say? “He that is glad at calamities will not go unpunished.” Maybe we all would be a little better off if we learned to be content.


What Are You Listening To?

Proverbs 17:4

“A wicked doer giveth heed to false lips; and a liar giveth ear to a naughty tongue.” (KJV).

Be Careful What You Hear:

There is an old Sunday school song that says, “Oh be careful little ears what you hear!” It’s a fun song, but it also promotes a very Biblical principle. Jesus Himself said, “Therefore take heed how you hear.” (Luke 8:18a). To take heed means to be careful. We need to be careful what we choose to listen to! Words are powerful, and words can either bring life or death into people’s lives.

In today’s Scripture, Solomon gives us warnings about two different kinds of people: Wicked people, and liars. He tells us that a wicked person will give heed – or listen – to false lips, and a liar will give ear – or listen – to a naughty (malicious, spiteful, destructive) tongue. We know that as Christians, God doesn’t want us to be a wicked person or a liar. Therefore, we would be wise to not listen to false lips or naughty tongues.

False Lips and Naughty Tongues:

There are many false lips and naughty tongues in the world today. Wicked people and liars will use their lips and tongues to tell lies, slander people, gossip about others, and stir up strife and disunity – in families, churches, and indeed all relationships. Therefore, we must be on our guard against such people! It’s sad to say that you can even find those people… in the church. As a pastor, I can tell you that there is nothing more dangerous or harmful in a church than people who will stir up strife and division through their negative words!

So what do we do when we find ourselves surrounded by people with false lips and naughty tongues? We can’t just go and bury our heads in the sand or move into a monastery, can we? Of course not. However, we must still guard our hearts from such negative words. Elsewhere in Proverbs, Solomon gives us this warning: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23). (Click HERE to read Jason’s devotional about this Scripture). Our ears and eyes are the windows to the heart, so we must be careful what we put into them.

How to Guard the Heart:

How can we keep our heart from being affected by hearing negative words – lying, strife, gossip, slander and more? First of all, make a decision that you will not allow your heart to be a garbage can for other people’s negative words. The next time someone starts gossiping to you, or talking negatively about someone else, refuse to listen to it. (And remember this – if someone will gossip to you, they will gossip about you! This is not the kind of friend you need…). And secondly, make a decision that you will watch your words, and make sure that no negative speech comes out of your mouth. Use your words to bring life to people!

Here’s a link to a youtube video of the old Sunday school song Oh Be Careful Little Eyes: