Category Archives: Wisdom

“Wind Your Neck In”

Proverbs 12:16

“A fool’s wrath is presently known: but a prudent man covereth shame.”

The Wisdom of Fools

For a book of wisdom, Proverbs, and indeed the Bible, contains an awful lot of “fool observation.” Which is good, because I (and I am vainly assuming you) fall into the “fool” category more often than not. Today we look at the fool and vanity.

Defense Mechanisms

The Bible urges us not to think too highly of ourselves, but this is something most of us fall prey to. I’ll be honest I don’t just want you to like this post – I want you to love it. Because if you do I can gain some sense of validation from that, I will feel good. But just as we seek validation from the things we produce we also become extremely defensive when under attack. If something we have done or produced is received in the wrong way, a way we never intended then we feel that urge to defend ourselves, to point out the folly of the other person, and achieve our validation once again.

A Multi-Headed Beast

We see this played out in a variety of ways, be it the straight up insult, the person who disagrees with our beliefs, the more subtle manipulator, what ever it is we cry out for God for justice, and God’s advice – wind your neck in. How much time do we waste over arguments that can never be won? Defending our ultimately indefensible self? Oh we freely admit that we are up there will Paul as a “chief of sinners” but when it comes down to it our judgments prove this a fallacy.

The Wisdom of Job

Job had a lot to be annoyed about…unfairly treated by God, hung out to dry by his “friends”… but when God comes to question Job we find an echo of this proverb in his reply:

Job 40:4-5 – ‘“I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. I spoke once, but I have no answer twice, but I will say no more.”

Next time you have been undermined, insulted, misunderstood, next time you have a burning desire to correct misunderstanding of your words, to defend you motives, to get annoyed at how wronged you have been – why not try being prudent for a change? It can’t hurt that much – can it?

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Vision or Fantasy?

Proverbs 12:11

“He that tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread: but he that followeth vain persons is void of understanding.”
Uh Oh

Hmmm. This is a proverb I usually avoid. Why? Because I have been labelled as a bit of a dreamer. Some have called me a visionary. That might sound great, but visionaries are often the one’s with ideas who never seen them through to completion! Who wants that?

Vision vs Fantasies

I guess there has to be a distinction between vision and fantasy. The Bible tells us that without vision the people perish. But how do we know that we have the right vision? Vision will give you food, and abundant food, it will also involve work – work for you to do.

But what if you are chasing the wrong vision? A man-made fantasy? Then there will be no pay of any real value. It will provide no sustenance. You will spend your days chasing one fantasy after another to try and find your fill, to make your million, and all to no avail.

Leaning on Webs

What about the times when we are pretty sure we have a God given vision and yet seem to be making no progress? Does that mean we are chasing fantasy? Don’t ask me! Go back to the source – ask God.

Have you stopped trusting in Him? Have you moved the goal posts? Cherish the vision He has given you. Work at it and never stop trusting.

“Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
    so perishes the hope of the godless.
What he trusts in is fragile;
    what he relies on is a spider’s web.
 He leans on his web, but it gives way;
    he clings to it, but it does not hold.” – Job 8:13-15 (NIV, edited)

Lean on God.


No Servant, No Problem

Proverbs 12:9

“[He that is] despised, and hath a servant, [is] better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread.”

Better to be a nobody and yet have a servant
    than pretend to be somebody and have no food. – NIV

Nobody Has a Servant!

This proverb had me musing for a while. Not many people I know have servants these days, even the well known ones. But digging a bit deeper and flicking across the translations we find a few varieties. The essence remains the same, and ends up sounding a bit like “count your blessings.”

What do You Have?

When Moses first got acquainted with God it’s safe to say old Mo’ was a bit insecure. God reminds him of a few things and then asks Moses what he has in his hand. Moses looks and sees his staff. Nothing special there he thinks, after all it’s just a tool I use everyday. But maybe that’s the point?

We think so much about what we don’t have, about the ways we could be blessed, that we miss the obvious – the ways we have already been blessed.

The Pretender

And then we fall into the trap revealed in the second part of the proverb – we start to pretend. Pretend we are more than we are, we have more than we are, we like what we don’t, we value what we despise, but yet what we actually have is nothing.

Lord, help us to look not to what we don’t have, but instead to the things You have already given us, and in doing so give glory and gratitude to You. 


Commended and Despised

Proverbs 12:8

“A man shall be commended according to his wisdom: but he that is of a perverse heart shall be despised.”

First Look

When I first read this verse, I thought “This is not how our world approaches a man of wisdom versus a man with a perverse heart.”

As of 2012 we can see a stark difference in how people see others.

Many people compare the 44th US President, Barack Obama, with the 40th US President, Ronald Reagan. Most Republicans view Reagan as one of the greatest leaders in American history, but most Democrats think he did horribly. Most Democrats view Obama as a great leader, but most Republicans think he has done horribly.

Depending on who you discuss these men with, they are either as seen as wise and adored or wicked and despised.

Second Look

Looking farther back, however, we see two different men generally respected. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President, is touted by both political parties as one of their own (even though he was the first Republican President), because he led the nation through a horrible civil war that helped free slaves (to an extent, at least). The other President, the 35th, John F. Kennedy, a Democrat, is also generally seen as a wise leader. He managed to handle the Cuban Missile Crisis and balance the Federal Budget. Both men were assassinated.

Both men had faults – no one denies that. These men also were able to lead well during difficult times through wisdom.

The Church

People generally have good qualities, even the worst of us, but it may be harder for some people to see them.

Sadly, we see this kind of division within the Church, as well.

There are strong leaders who are not known by most people. There are nearly demonic leaders revered by the masses. There are people all throughout the spectrum in between and reversed.

Most of us know names like Billy Graham and John Stott. We also know names like Fred Phelps of Westboro “Baptist Church” and Jim Bakker of “Praise the Lord” fame. The first set are seen as great, holy men of God. The second set are seen as wicked and … perverse.

There are men and women throughout the Church who fall under these descriptions.

We must show grace to all, because even the best of us are weak at times (Even the Apostle Paul admitted so in Romans 7). Trust is always earned, but we must still show love. (There are other posts for discussing the reasons we fail)

Our wise King, give us wisdom to tell the difference between wise and perverse leaders. Help us grow in wisdom that we may be loved and respected, to Your glory.


Standing Firm

Proverbs 12:7

“The wicked are overthrown, and [are] not: but the house of the righteous shall stand.”

The Wicked

The person that coined the phrase, “All good things must come to an end” must have never read Proverbs 12:7. According to this verse, it will be the wicked that come to an end. Or should I say, die and disappear. The ESV says our verse this way, “The wicked are overthrown and are no more, but the house of the righteous will stand.”

The Greek word for overthrown is “haphak” which means “to turn around or turn over; to overturn”. This is the same terminology that was used in Genesis 19:21,25,29, when God displayed His judgement on Sodom and Gomorrah.

God overthrew or overturned Sodom and Gomorrah because of the wickedness of the people and He has promised that same ending for the wicked today!

The Godly

There are two things here that I want to point out:

One, the godly have a firm foundation. There is a chorus entitled “Firm Foundation” that goes like this:

Jesus, you’re my firm foundation
I know I can stand secure
Jesus, you’re my firm foundation
I put my hope in your holy word
I put my hope in your holy word

Many of us have heard the great old hymn “How Firm a Foundation”. Two of the verses say these words:

When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.

Jesus is our firm foundation and the godly can take comfort in knowing that even when storms come our way, our foundation is secure! Matthew 16:18 says, “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Second, the way we live our lives affects not only us but also our family. We saw in Proverbs 12:3 how the righteous man can not be uprooted, but in our verse today we see how the actions of one man can affect his entire family.

I believe that it is important to point out here that this is one reason why Solomon continued to hammer home the idea of “My son, listen and obey my words and commandments”. Solomon knew the promise of the Lord in this verse.

When we live godly and right, we will reap the blessings of God.

Lord, my prayer is that each and every one of us would live a godly life. That we would make You our solid foundation. Help us to heed the words of wisdom from Solomon to listen and obey your commands.

Reference:

1. “Firm Foundation” – words and music by Jamie Harvill & Nancy Gordon

2. “How Firm A Foundation” – words by John Rippon / music by Joseph Funk


Stupid On Purpose

Proverbs 12:1

“Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge: but he that hateth reproof is brutish.”

Instruction

We see over and over again in the book of Proverbs how Solomon is giving us instructions on how we should live our lives. He deals with different topics from money to adultery, from the fear of the Lord to temptation, from pride and humility to the wicked that are in the world. Each time he discusses a topic, he gives us instructions on how we need to handle each situation.

Instructions are very important. Instructions will guide us and help us to complete the task that is set before us. The Bible is our instruction manual and will guide us with ever step we take.

BUT…we must be willing to heed the Word of God and the instructions it gives. If we are to be more and more like Christ, then we must follow the instructions that are given to us in God’s Word.

Reproof

Dictionary.com defines the word reproof as, “An expression of censure or rebuke”. II Timothy 3:16 says, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”. This is what the Bible is here for – to keep us on the right path (Psalm 119:105).

How we accept instructions from God and receive reproof for the things we have done wrong, says a lot about a person. Dr. Warren Wiersbe puts it this way, “How we receive reproof and counsel is a test of our relationship to the Lord and our willingness to live by His Word.” (1)

We can see from past “Proverbial Thoughts”, that wise men love reproof – Proverbs 9:8 | Proverbs 9:9. Reproof by God’s Word helps us to stay focused on Him and to accomplish His will for our lives. Reproof helps the godly to mature in Christ.

Don’t Be Stupid

No one wants to be stupid (or at least not be stupid on purpose). But there are many people today that are living a life that is, well,  stupid. Why? Because they are not willing to take instructions or rebuke from God’s Word. The New Living Translation says our verse this way, “To learn, you must love discipline; it is stupid to hate correction.”

When we are not willing to listen to the wisdom of God and apply it to our own lives, we are actually saying that we know better than God on how we need to run our lives. We are pretty much telling Him to not worry about anything – that we have everything under control – and we don’t need Him! How stupid is that?

We must be willing to let God mold us and make us into what He wants us to be. Without His instructions (God’s Word), there is no way we will ever be able to be more like Him.

God, help us to love your instructions and have a willingness to heed Your words. Help us not to hate it when you rebuke us when we have done wrong against You. Help us to be godly men and women who seek your face and want to be more and more like You. 

Reference:

(1) Dr. Warren Wiersbe – (The Wiersbe Bible Commentary – page 539)


The Fruit of Your Tree

Proverbs 11:30

“The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.”

Connected Wisdom

This blog is all about gleaning wisdom from the book of proverbs. What is interesting is that in terms of the Bible proverbs is quite a strange book. There isn’t really another book like it. We have these couplets some that link to others, some that can stand alone, others make perfect first glance sense while others still talk about pigs and women. It all seems a bit random… at first but look long enough and you will start to see the connections.

Finding the Threads

One thing I have been diligent at over the last couple of years is reading through the Bible. Every six out of seven days I sit and I make time for it. Not an awful lot of time but time. And something has happened. I know the Bible better than I ever have done. I remember bits of it. I know my way around it. And when I read proverbs like this my mind is draw on a journey through the Bible to get to the truth.

The Truth

So let’s take a look – ‘The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life’, the first thing is that this is talking about a tree of life not the tree of life. So the verse seems to be implying that the righteous will bring life by their fruit. In John 10:10 Jesus tells us that He has come to bring ‘life to the fullest’ so it’s a good bet that the fruit of the righteous involves Jesus. In fact in John 15 Jesus Himself tells us that the way to produce this fruit is to remain in Him. What does this mean? Quite simply that if we plant ourselves in Jesus then we are more likely to produce His fruit which will bring life to all who taste it.

Of course we still have a choice. We can stubbornly remain in Jesus or gladly remain in Him. Which ever we do will shape the type of fruit we produce and therefore the type of life we are bringing to others. I wonder what type of fruit others are getting from you? Nice to look at but bland in taste? Or fresh and full of freedom?

Soulsome Fruit

The second part of the verse is also a theme clearly picked up by Jesus – that of building eternally rather than temporarily.

Stop reading and think about all the things that were on your mind before you started reading. Now on a piece of paper draw two columns one for temporary and one for eternal. List the things you were thinking off in the correct category. How did you do? Balanced? More on earth than heaven? I could go on but I’m guessing your list will be challenge enough for today.

Matt 6:19-21 ‘ “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”‘