Still Waters Run Deep

Proverbs 18:4 

“The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook.”

The deepest waters in our world are found in the Mariana Trench in the Pacific Ocean. The deepest point of the Mariana Trench is reported to be 6.831 miles below sea level. The trench has been explored during several scientific expeditions, but for most of us it is just a name on a map or chart, or an entry in Wikipedia. Despite the efforts of scientists the deepest parts of the ocean generally remain a mystery because of their inaccessibility.

rockpool 4But even a rock pool is a different world. Life is different in the water. There are strange creatures and unusual colors. To reach the best and deepest pools it is necessary to scramble out across the rocks at low tide. This is something I did regularly as a child. Although my friends and I returned often to our favorite rock pools, they were never the same. Each new tide brought changes, trapping different creatures.

And so it is necessary to explore and go deep when searching for words to use in our daily encounters with other human beings, and also with God. We have to be careful with words. We have to be wise users of language. We need to develop a wellspring of wisdom as a resource on which we can draw every time we speak.

Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (2 Timothy 2:16 NIV)
And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. (Matthew 6:7 NIV)

Hiding in Hatred

Proverbs 18:3

When the wicked cometh, then cometh also contempt, and with ignominy reproach.”
When wickedness comes, so does contempt, and with shame comes reproach.”

Sinning in plain sight

You probably know or know of someone who does whatever he or she wants. There is no apparent care about what others think, because they keep doing things that annoy/disturb/gross out/offend most everyone around.

You probably find yourself thinking unholy thoughts, such as “God, just smite him already!” or “I should just smack her!”

This is how contempt comes.

The good Christian wants to point out how this person is sinning. It is good to bring people to an awareness of sin in the hope that they repent.

However, if done with contempt, we should expect a backlash, for we are acting no better and not showing true love to our neighbor.

For shame!

Of course, when sin is exposed and guilt is felt, we may still see a backlash even if we confront sin in love.

When a person feels shame, the first reaction from our sinful nature is to justify, excuse, and defend. Often times this happens through attacks on the one who exposed the sin, such as the good Christian friend.

As Adam and Eve hid in the bushes, a sinner caught in sin hides in hatred and contempt.

If the sinner is called out in a moment of contempt, there comes a good, old-fashioned fight!

The Christian

When the Holy Spirit convicts us, how do we respond?

Do we respond out of shame, trying to justify, excuse, and defend our sin?

Do we respond instead out of reverence and thankfulness, repenting and praising God for His grace and love?

Gracious God, thank You for grace and forgiveness. Thank You for going to the cross in spite of our wickedness and contempt. Help us to love all, especially those who show contempt for Your Son and righteousness.


A People of Understanding

Proverbs 18:2

A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself.

Time after time the book of Proverbs has given us characteristics of a fool:

  • Fools despise wisdom & instruction (Proverbs 1:7) 
  • Fools hate knowledge (Proverbs 1:22)
  • Fools slander (Proverbs 10:18)
  • Fools cause mischief (Proverbs 10:23)
  • Fools are deceitful (Proverbs 14:8)

Our verse today adds one more characteristics – a fool is someone who does not want to understand.

Bla_Bla_Bla_by_explosiv22I knew a guy in college that was never wrong, even when he was wrong. He did not want to even consider the possibility of being wrong. He knew everything and had the answer to ever question that has ever been asked.

You know the type of person that I am talking about! They have no interest in hearing the truth but are speaking to hear themselves talk and to show others just how much they know.

The New Living says, “Fools have no interest in understanding; they only want to air their own opinions.” Fools want to talk all of the time and tell other people their opinions and how things should be done but don’t want to hear any instructions themselves because they know best. Many times, these people talk just to hear themselves, and all that the other people are hearing is “BLA, BLA, BLA”.

FULL CIRCLE

There are several verses in Proverbs that do this, but I believe that our verse today comes full circle with the whole theme of Proverbs. Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

As Christians, how can we expect to fear the Lord and grow in knowledge when we want to live our lives the way we want to and aren’t willing to submit to HIS will for our lives. We are saying to Him that I just don’t want to understand Your ways and I think that I can do better. If we are living our lives this way, we are nothing but fools, but I do it all the time!

Lord, I pray that you would help me and others to live our lives in such a way that we would not be fools with our lives. I pray that we would be willing to submit ourselves to you and understand Your ways. 


What I Thought Was a Good Thing Was Not

Proverbs 18:1

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh [and] intermeddleth with all wisdom.”

Embarrassing

When talking through the Proverbs on one Wednesday night at church, my own wife, sitting on the front row, asked a question that caused me a little embarrassment. I had just read the above verse from the King James Version and was about to give my thoughts when she asked, “Why does my version read so differently?”

You see, I encourage my congregation to compare translations when doing a verse-by-verse study of Scripture, for, like turning a faceted jewel, a different perspective can bring out color and sparkle never seen before. It’s the same flawless stone, but from a different angle. Granted, not all translations agree on every interpretation, but where one might be off, a group of translations will clarify the proper meaning of the text.

So, my wife’s version read: He who separates himself seeks [his own] desire, He quarrels against all sound wisdom(NASB). At that, another church member volunteered her version’s take: “Unfriendly people care only about themselves; they lash out at common sense” (NLT).

I didn’t have an answer. What’s even worse, my interpretation of Proverbs 18:1 and the application I was going to make was no where even close to the idea the other two versions were conveying. What we had here was a preacher who didn’t follow his own advise and got caught not doing his homework.

My Original Thoughts

My original thoughts on Proverbs 18:1, based simply on a cursory reading of English I thought made perfect sense, went something like this:

“Through desire,” because a man has to have the desire or drive to do something worthwhile, a man who wants to learn sometimes has to get alone, push aside distractions, and “separate himself.” It’s something that takes commitment – you have to want it. But it’s not simply the “getting alone” that makes all the difference; it’s the seeking of wisdom from multiple disciplines that gives one understanding in more than one area of life. Or, you could just say that learning takes hard work, but you can’t be lazy – you have to work for it.

But that wasn’t what this verse is saying.

The Real Meaning

Please understand, the King James Version’s translation of verse 1 is not incorrect; the way we say things and how we use our words have changed, that’s all.

The other translations I mentioned rendered Proverbs 18:1 in a way modern readers, such as myself, could better understand the original text. Where I thought “desire” and “separated himself” meant something noble, the actual meaning of the original text (and the way an Elizabethan reader would have understood the KJV) was something selfish and arrogant.

Where I thought “intermeddleth with all wisdom” was saying the man checked out more than one book in the library, the word “intermeddleth” means to “to expose, lay bare,” or “quarrel with anyone, especially in dice, drinking, or in dividing an inheritance” (Gesenius’ Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon).

So, another way you could interpret Proverbs 18:1 might go like this:

“Loners and arrogant know-it-alls think they’re in a class all to themselves and make few friends. They also have contempt for any wisdom that doesn’t come from themselves and are always trying to meddle with or subvert it to gain an advantage.”

Would you have interpreted it differently?


Don’t Hit Send

Proverbs 17:28 

Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.
Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent; with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. (NLT)

Most of us have encountered fools in our lives. Some of us have been fools. One of the most annoying things in life is a fool who just won’t shut up. I have encountered a few. On one ship I served on we had an engineer cadet who was nicknamed ‘the village idiot’ because of the stupid things he said. It wasn’t that he was unintelligent, just that he never ever put his brain in gear before opening his mouth. As a cadet it was doubly stupid to make himself so visible through saying stuff that identified him as a fool. In my day cadets had to know when to speak and when not to speak.

The same thing is true for us all. We need to know when to speak, how to speak, and when to hold our tongues, however difficult that may be in a given situation. Such wisdom extends also to the written word. How easy it is to write an angry email or text message and hit the send button before we have properly considered the words we have used, and their potential impact. I once hit reply instead of forward on an email in which I had used the words ‘lazy Lenny’ to describe the Swedish individual whose email I thought I was forwarding. Imagine my shock when he replied a minute later advising me, “I am not ‘lazy Lenny lying on the beach all day drinking beer.” However, he did respond very quickly with the translation he had told me would take him at least two weeks.

So if a fool can appear wise just by keeping his mouth shut (or by not immediately hitting the send button on a mail programme or cellphone) then there is hope for all of us, especially those of us who would never consider ourselves to be foolish.

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. (James 1:19 NIV)
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. (James 3:9-12 NIV)

Let Our Words Be Few

Proverbs 17:27

“He that hath knowledge spareth his words: and a man of understanding is of an excellent spirit.”

Our Words

For years, it was said that women would speak about 20,000 words per day while men only speak around 7,000. But, more and more research is showing that nowadays men and women are both speaking around 16,000 words per day.

Some of those words that are spoken are very well thought out, while others are just blurted out.

Mark Twain said,

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

Solomon is warning us to learn how to restrain our words and to keep a level head. The ESV says our verse this way, “Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.”

Proverbs, and the Bible for that matter, is full of wisdom on how we should use our words.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 reiterates Proverbs 17:27, “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.”

The words in Ecclesiastes are talking about making promises or saying hasty words straight to God but I believe that we can carry this over to our communication with those around us. We should take the time to think about our words and not just “shoot off” at the mouth.

Keep Calm

As I was child I played baseball for years at a local recreational park. Each year I hoped that I would not be on one particular coach’s team simply because every call that did not go his way he would just go off on the umpires. To the point that many games he was tossed from the game! I guess you could say that he had a very short fuse. We all know something like that.

Solomon is saying in the second part of our verse that a man of understanding has an “excellent spirit” or has a “cool spirit”. Having a cool spirit means that one is not soon angry, but is calm,  and not easily provoked to wrath.

Are you a person of “few” words and of an “excellent spirit”?

Lord, I pray that you would make us all men and women of knowledge and understanding. May our words be thought out and spoken wisely and may our demeanors be calm and not easily provoked. May we live our lives in a way that would be pleasing to You!


The Weighed-Down and the Beaten

Proverbs 17:26

Also to punish the just is not good, nor to strike princes for equity.”
If imposing a fine on the innocent is not good, surely to flog honest officials is not right.” (NIV)

There are many ways to go with this verse.

We could look at the injustices between the rich and the poor, the government and the people, or families.

Here is another track:

Religious Leaders

Jesus said, “And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.” (Luke 11:46, NIV)

Many people may think of the likes of the Catholic Church with all of its rules and traditions. Others may think of cults with their crazy rules and restrictions.

In some cases this may be true. However, any leader from the Pope all the way down to mom and dad at home can place restrictions on people that may be unfair or difficult, things which they may be exempt from obeying.

The other danger comes from giving too much freedom.

It is as though we all take Paul’s words to heart: “Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21)

All we get from this much freedom, without any restriction, gives us the old burden of our sin. We still have no freedom.

Our Lord

The only true freedom we get comes from Jesus Christ, our good and perfect Judge.

And how did we treat Him:

But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed.
Isaiah 53:5

The Prince of Peace and the highest official in the universe, the only One righteous, was flogged, beaten, struck by us.

It may not have been right, but God used it for our sake and His glory. He used our hatred and violence to show His love, forgiveness, and grace to us.

Righteous Father, thank You for redeeming our hatred and violence with Your sacrifice. Teach us to be just and merciful. Help us to love each other, even when we are unjust, by Your power.