Proverbs 28 – The Proud

He who is of a proud heart stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will be prospered. He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.- Proverbs 28:25-26 (ESV)

 Suppose you took your car into the repair shop and after explaining the problem you were experiencing with your vehicle, you were told by the mechanic, “These newer cars can be kinda tricky. I don’t know if I can fix that problem, but I’ll drop your engine, rip open your transmission and have a look.”  My guess is you would find another mechanic.

Same with a surgeon. “I don’t know if I’m up to doing that operation. This takes someone who really knows what their doing. But hey I’ll give it a try!” Those are not the words you want to hear when you go under the knife.

Self-confidence and arrogance  are different. In both of the previous situations, I want someone who has the self-confidence to handle a difficult task. But arrogance is another story.

You’ve probably been around arrogant people. People who think they they knew it all or worse, they love to let everyone know they knew it all. Always complaining or criticizing and at the same time, rarely offering to help accomplish something unless it was done their way. Nobody wants to be around that kind of strife. The next verse says how an individual who trusts in his own heart is a fool. Strong warning about being so self-reliant where one can’t see any way but their way in a situation.

I wonder however, if this is easier to see in others than ourselves. Is it possible that complaining about “how things need to be done ‘round here” comes off to others as arrogance as opposed to helpful critic?

In contrast to the person with a prideful heart, is the person who trusts in the LORD. That person is said to be prospered followed by the idea of the person who walks wisely being delivered. What exactly does this mean in context?

The person who trusts in the LORD is the person who knows they do not have all the answers. They understand they don’t know all the “why’s” but they are still trusting God for the result. This same person walks in the wisdom of the LORD which implies submission and surrender to His direction. The wise person knows it’s God’s will that one must follow, not our own feelings.

The prideful demands their rights, their way and they demand recognition. The person trusting God submits his daily walk, his regular tasks to God’s direction and will. It’s not about me, it’s all about Him.

Like many of these Proverbs, this isn’t always easy to follow. However, over the long term, if one operates this way and makes submission to God their number one goal, they will find God’s prosperity and deliverance.

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Proverbs 27 – The Distraction

Like a bird that wanders from its nest is a man who wanders from his place. – Proverbs 27:8(ESV)

When I was just a small boy, I remember getting lost in a department store. My mother took my brother and I the city to shop in one of their large department stores. I cannot remember what diverted my attention but I suppose it was some sort of toy truck, car or tractor. There was not a toy truck, car or tractor made that I didn’t want. After what I thought was only a brief few seconds admiring a shiny new item I wanted to add to my toy box, I realized I couldn’t see my mom.

In just a few moments, I went from a state of total security, to complete panic. I was alone, in a large store, in a large town – completely unfamiliar with my surroundings. I remember running down the isle, looking left and right desperately looking for my mom. I couldn’t see her. I checked other isles with no positive results until finally I remember calling out for her. When I heard her call my name, I quickly left the toy department and went back to her side. I stayed pretty close to her the rest of the trip.

Being out-of-place can take on a few different meanings. You may feel physically out-of-place or away from home or distant from comfortable surroundings; or you may feel this way when you’re being ignored or forgotten. Either way, feeling out-of-place is a difficult experience. I think however, here Solomon is not speaking so much of being physically away from home. I think he is speaking about an emotional or spiritual struggle.

It is interesting to me that Solomon uses the phrase “wander from his place” or some versions use the words “stray from his home.” This seems to indicate the person was distracted and experienced an incremental distancing or we might say, “drift” from what was comfortable or familiar to the sudden realization they were far away.

Wandering or drifting out-of-place slowly occurs over time. It’s the little decisions that seem benign at the time but set us on a slow course away from our “place” or “home.” Whether it’s small points of compromise around biblical principles or neglecting normal spiritual disciplines, this drift is hardly noticeable – at first. But, at some point, suddenly there is the realization that home is a long distance away.

The writer of Hebrews states, “Therefore we must give earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (Hebrews 2:1).  Clearly, this is a warning to us. The drift or wandering can be subtle but it is real and quite dangerous. We are to expend effort in keeping ourselves close to Him, to not drift away.

Therefore, spiritual disciplines are important to the life of a believer. Bible study, prayer, church attendance, are all necessary disciplines and you could probably add fellowship and personal accountability to the list. The point is drifting or straying away is easy and it is only with a concerted effort on our part, do we remain close to God.

Don’t let those shiny new toys distract you. You might wander away from the safety of the nest.

 

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Proverbs 26 – The Quarrel

He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own Is like one who takes a dog by the ears.- Proverbs 26:17 (ESV)

This chapter of Proverbs might be my most favorite as the wisdom about life just flows from every verse.  The first 12 verses give us warnings about a foolish person. Verse 13-16 cover a lazy person and from verse 17 to the end of the chapter is rich with warning about gossip along with a few other things.

Many years ago, this was one of the first Bible verses I ever memorized on my own without being forced to for a Sunday School class when I was a child. As I was just beginning to read and study the Bible as a young adult, I remember finding this verse. It struck me as so applicable, I was able to quickly commit it to memory.

The word picture Solomon presents us is quite vivid. Imagine a dog passing by your residence and you decide to go out and grab it by the ears! There is a strong likelihood you come away from that encounter with some wounds. Solomon says this is what it is like to inject yourself into a quarrel that does not concern you.

The key term here is “meddle.” There are times when we do need to intervene in a stressful or even hostile situation in an attempt to resolve the conflict. Here however, the intent of the person entering the situation isn’t positive. They meddle, possibly encouraging the conflict between the two (or more) parties. Instead of working to help solve the point of disagreement, they make the conflict worse. It may be possible they are looking to validate a separate issue in their life or they could just wish to be perceived as the great solver of relationships.

I find it interesting that this verse is found in this chapter talking about foolish and lazy people, followed by gossipers, called “talebearers” in verse 22, along with those who give false praise from verse 23 to 26.  Yet right here in the middle of all these various warnings, this verse appears about not getting yourself into a quarrel that isn’t any of your business. Could it be the “meddling” is not unlike being foolish, lazy and insincere? Do we really understand the damage that can be done by sharing our opinion about someone else’s conflict?

We’d all agree gossip has no place in the life of a believer. But I wonder if we understand how meddling in a conflict can be just as dangerous?

It is only under rare circumstances should one enter into a conflict in which you are not a participant. If you do, you might find yourself in a dogfight.

 

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Proverbs 25 – The Faithful

Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a bad tooth or a foot out of joint – Proverbs 25:19 (ESV)

 I’ve not had the experience very often, but years ago I did have a bad tooth ache. Bad enough that I decided I needed to get some medical help. Of course, it was on a weekend and my dentist wasn’t going to be available for another 36 hours or more. It was a long and painful weekend.

I also broke my leg once. For almost three months I couldn’t put any weight on it and for another three months I could not put my full weight on it. Walking with crutches was difficult. Stairs were complicated and the fear of falling down – again – nearly petrified me.

The images used here by King Solomon are simple and profound.  In a time of trouble, stress and/or uncertainty, seeking help from an unfaithful man (or woman) is painful, complicated and unreliable. He makes the case of having confidence in an unfaithful person is as fruitless endeavor.

The message is clear; be careful who you seek for counsel and help. If that person has demonstrated less than stellar behavior in times past, there is a good chance the behavior will continue. If they’ve betrayed a confidence of yours before, it doesn’t make sense to share more confidential information with them.

Like a tooth ache or a broken ankle, the pain is only part of the issue. You can’t eat your normal diet with a serious tooth ache and getting around is a substantial problem on a gimpy leg. So too is an “unfaithful” person in a time of trial. Not only is their counsel suspect but you may end up with more problems than you originally faced!

There is another side of this proverb which reminds me of a passage of Scripture from Matthew where Jesus teaches on faithfulness. In Matthew 25:14 He begins a teaching with a man who is going to be traveling far away and leaves his three servants in charge of his affairs. To one he leaves five “talents” to another two and a third he left just one. When he returns, the one whom he leaves five talents, made five more and gave his master ten.  The servant whom was left two, he also made two additional talents.  Both of those servants were commended and told how faithful they were as they demonstrated they could be trusted with even more.

But the servant who was given one talent did nothing with it and was rebuked and called “unprofitable.”  We could say, “unfaithful.” He wasn’t trustworthy. You do not want to be that guy, the person who is untrustworthy, unfaithful, someone that cannot be relied upon in touchy situations. Who wants to be compared to a tooth ache or a broken ankle?

So, we must ask ourselves a few questions:  One, who do we turn to in times of need? Are we trusting in the right people whom have demonstrated their true character?  And what kind of person are we?  Can we be considered by others as faithful, trustworthy, someone who can be relied upon?

 

 

 

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Proverbs 24 – The Preparation

Prepare your work outside; get everything ready for yourself in the field, and after that build your house.  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man. – Proverbs 24:27, 33-34 (ESV)

 

I am not much of a painter. In fact I would say it’s a task I despise and avoid. I just do not like it and I find I’m really not good at it. It’s not so much the application of paint, but the prep work and the clean up are my problems. I find it tedious, dirty and frustrating. This is especially true when I need to remove wall paper.

But as I have painfully discovered, the better my prep work is, the better – and easier – the actual application of paint occurs.

Here, King Solomon says we need to “prepare your work” and then “build your house.” In context he is talking about getting a plot of land and preparing the ground before you start to do much else with your house. But most of us don’t think too much of land preparation or building a foundation. We love to look at the final project. But just like painting, preparation and making a solid foundation, are keys to a successful building project.

Spiritually, I am afraid our modern church culture tends to produce many unprepared Christians. We tend to gravitate to all the fun things but neglect some foundational preparation steps. Someone in our church has a great life change moment and we are quick to give them a microphone and have them give their testimony when they really aren’t prepared.

For me, it’s the on-going small tasks in my spiritual walk that prepares me. Personal quiet time, serious study of His Word and prayer are the preparatory tasks I must do on a regular basis to make my time of worship life-transforming. Translation, I get so much more out of church when I have myself prepared.

Even more importantly, I contribute much more to any worship gathering when I am prepared.

Notice how verses 33 and 34 say how when we neglect this effort, we end up in a state of poverty. I know the context is the physical activity of work, but I think there is an application to our spiritual life from this same theme. My prep work, my diligence in spiritual matters and disciplines does enable me to better experience Him. My worship of Him and my sensitivity to His voice is so much better when I have done my prep work.

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Proverbs 23 – The Perspective

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off. – Proverbs 23:17-18 (ESV)

  

My father often took my brother and I on deer hunting excursions. He taught us how to look for the tracks of those animals. He also taught how important it was to be looking ahead, splitting our attention between what was on the ground right in front of us, along with looking ahead to see the bigger picture.  I often had this problem where I was so enamored with the tracks that I walked up on a deer. I would only catch a fleeting glimpse of the animal’s tail as it bounded away from me. I missed the seeing the deer because I was overly consumed with its’ tracks. I can still hear my father telling me, “Get your head up!”

Too many times we look at people around us who are openly not walking with God – or even hostile to Christianity – and wonder why things seem to go so well for them? Watching people like that there is a strong temptation to become envious even though there is no room in their life for things of the LORD.

The warning from Proverbs is clear; do not become envious of people – especially those who seem to ignoring God. Our role is to trust God, to respect Him and His authority because He holds the future.

When we are just looking at the tracks of others, we’ll miss the bigger picture. While important, this life isn’t all there is. My view can’t just be the short-term items directly in front of me. I must always remember, even though sometimes the tracks of life lead in one direction, I must God because He is the one who holds my future.  I must look to and trust in Him.

The same theme is mentioned in Psalm 73. The writer makes a long lament about how well the wicked are getting along.  But then he comes to verse 17 of Psalm 73 and his attitude changes. He gains a different perspective. He realizes there is so much more to us than just this life. Here, King Solomon says there is a future or there is a hereafter.

When we concentrate on unbelievers around us, we take our eyes off Him. When we look at them, we easily miss what He is doing. We are not responsible to make sure life is fair. But we are responsible to live a life glorifying to Him, which means getting our focus right. Maintaining the proper perspective on life and not being envious of others.

This life isn’t all there is and when our earthly existence doesn’t seem fair — and maybe it’s not — we cannot envy those who don’t know Him. We can trust Him even in the light of the unfairness of life. We adjust our perspective and look at things from the correct angle.  Get your head up and take an eternal perspective to our situation.

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Proverbs 22 – The Truth

Have I not written for you thirty sayings of counsel and knowledge, to make you know what is right and true, that you may give a true answer to those who sent you? – Proverbs 22:20-21(ESV)

 “I just don’t know what to say!”

Saying the right thing at the right time is something some folks are better at than the rest of us.  Whether it’s at a funeral, emergency hospital situation or other times of bad news, we often find ourselves in that awkward position where we don’t know what to say.

There is also the challenge of answering someone’s spiritual question.

Here, Proverbs is giving us some simple preparatory steps. Some versions say these are “excellent” sayings of counsel and knowledge.  I like the idea that God has provided answers for us. But usually His answers aren’t a list of “how to’s.” The answers most often don’t address our “why’s,” but the answers He provides will address our relationship with Him.

His Word stands alone as the source of truth.

That statement causes some to be defensive and make arguments about the Bible not being a text book.  I for one, am very glad the Bible isn’t a text book. Those are changed so quickly and what was truth one day is replaced with another “truth” later. His Word, however, is the lens that we need to look through to view the world in which we live. Our worldview needs to be defined and filtered through His Word.

How do we answer suffering, disappointment, hurt, sin and death in our world? How does one understand what true joy is? If one doesn’t approach those questions from a foundational standpoint of His Word, we really don’t have much in the way of solid answers. We may come up with opinions, but that’s all they really are – opinions.

How do we know what is right and true? Do we check someone’s opinion or His Word?

Opinions change over time. Scientific theory constantly changes. Even what is considered “moral” by social cultures will change over the years, but is there something solid we can base our morals standards? Yes there is….. His Word.

His Word must be our source for life’s questions. His Word must define our morals. His Word will give us our moral compass. Not popular opinion, latest fades or cultural norms. His Word is the source of what is right and true.  That will never change!

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