Tag Archives: Wisdom

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)

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?


Grieving Parents

Proverbs 17:25 

A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her that bare him.
Foolish children bring grief to their father and bitterness to the one who gave them birth. (NLT)

This is an easy one for me to write given the many times I brought grief to my parents. However, I could blame them. I could say that it was their fault for moving to England when I was eleven years old. Perhaps if we had remained in Guernsey I would have been a better student, and a more respectful son. The friends I left behind in the island all stayed on at school until they were eighteen, and then went to university. I don’t recall that any of them got into much trouble.

Surroundings and friends definitely played a part, but at the end of the day it was me who made the decisions. I chose to mix with the bad kids and mess around at school. I chose to start drinking alcohol at fifteen, and I chose to start smoking. I chose to bring grief to my parents. They must have been secretly relieved when I joined the Merchant Navy at sixteen. At least they could no longer see what I was getting up to. But that didn’t stop me from being a foolish son. What stopped me was the need to be responsible in a working environment that was dangerous at times.

Fast forward many years and I have four sons, one daughter, and one grandson. There may have been occasions when one or more them (but not the grandson) have caused grief, but fortunately not so many. That is something for which I am very grateful to my heavenly Father. We sometimes forget that we cause Him grief too when we act foolishly as sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers. It is a huge relief to know that He made a way for fools to be forgiven, and foolish behavior forgotten.


Facebook or Face-to-Face

Proverbs 17:17

“A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (KJV).

The Importance of Friendships

I can still remember the best friend I ever had in elementary school. His name was Jamie. His dad was the coach of our little league baseball team, and we did everything together. Friends have always been such an important part of my life, and I think that’s probably true of most people.

Social Networking?

However, in the world today, it seems like people are more isolated from one another than ever before. People may have 500 friends on Facebook, but how many of those connections are real life friends? It seems that in our social networking age, we’ve lost the art of face to face communication. Now don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here: I enjoy Facebook just as much as the next person, but we can’t allow our online friendships to become a substitute for real world interactions.

So how do those of us living in the 21st century maintain our important face to face friendships? By going back to the Book of Wisdom – Proverbs – and learning God’s keys for healthy relationships. We see three of them in the above Scriptures:

1.         A Friend Loves at All Times:

Did you ever notice that on the bottom left hand corner of your friends profile pages on Facebook that there is an “Unfriend” button? What a sign of the times! If your friend does something you don’t like, you just unfriend them. This is not how to keep and maintain healthy relationships. We must learn to love at all times and be loyal friends who stick closer than a brother. Jesus gave us that example of friendship when He said that He would never leave us nor forsake us (Heb. 13:5). Let’s love at all times…

2.         A Friend Helps His Friends When They’re in Trouble:

Solomon said that a brother is born for adversity. What does that mean? The NLT translation says, “A brother is born to help in a time of need.” A true friend will help their friends when they go through difficult times. Jesus is a great example for us in this: “Jesus didn’t make it easy for himself by avoiding people’s troubles, but waded right in and helped out.” (Romans 15:3, Message).

3.         If You Want Friends, Be Friendly:

Another Proverb says this about friendships: “A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Prov. 18:24). I love the common sense wisdom of the Bible: If you want to have friends, then simply start by being friendly! If you want to have a good friend, then be a good friend. Wisdom to live by…


Tibetan Bookstore

Proverbs 17:16

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it?” (KJV)
Why should fools have money in hand to buy wisdom, when they are not able to understand it?” (NIV)

Our world is constantly pursuing wisdom.

Just look in bookstores, on Amazon.com, and in many ads on TV and at bus stops.

There are numerous self-help books, videos, and seminars. New Age gurus push their spiritual teachings in each of these venues.

Dietitians sell their knowledge.

Parenting experts share their learning.

Pastors sell their understanding.

Financial experts sell their know-how.

Some people buy all of the expensive gear to climb the mountains of Tibet to buy a relic from Tibetan monks.

And yet we keep buying more.

Why?

Because we keep failing. We do not live up to the standards that are set. We do not see results quickly enough. We do not understand why it never works.

That is what this verse is speaking about today.

Our world wants wisdom, but we never want to take the time to understand it.

If we do seek to understand wisdom, we often take whatever is quickest, easiest, or most appealing to our wants, desires, or circumstances.

The catch is that we fail to turn to God with complete honesty.

If they can not be completely honest with God, if they admit He exists, then they do not truly wish to understand wisdom … no matter how much they are willing to pay.

What about you?

Creator God, guide us in all wisdom, and help us to understand. Help us realize that true wisdom is found in Your Son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.


Dam Busters

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)

In Proverbs 17:12 Solomon used ‘bear wisdom’ to make a point. While this verse advised that it was better to confront a bear robbed of her cubs than an idiot indulging in foolishness the point is the same. There are things we can say or do that once initiated are unstoppable. Get in the way of an angry bear searching for her cubs and you probably will not live to tell the tale. If you stand in front of a dam as it breaches you will get swept away, never to be seen again.

Dam 2Dam breaches have featured in several movies. The most obvious, and perhaps the most memorable for me, is the wartime story of The Dam Busters in which bouncing bombs were dropped to breach important dams with the aim of interrupting hydroelectric power generation and flooding an important German industrial area. Superman dealt with a dam breach in a movie, and X-Men 2 concluded with a dam breaching threatening lives and taking lives. Poor workmanship lead to a dam breach in the movie Evan Almighty, with a torrent of water flooding a valley and sweeping Evan’s Ark away and through the streets of Washington all the way to the United States Capitol.

The problem in comparing the movies with real life is that either we don’t get the full story, or it never quite happened/happens that way. The German dams that were breached were soon rebuilt as the Allies failed to carry out any follow-up raids. The other three movies mentioned above all involve fantasy rather than reality.

What is reality? Anyone who has ever had a heated argument knows the reality is that there are no winners, only losers. A wise person should understand that arguments do not deliver peace. With two opposing views, one person must always compromise.

Strife is never good. Not at home, not at college, not at work, and not at church. So drop the matter – before a dispute breaks out.


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.