John T. Willis

Friday, August 03, 2007

Proverbs 14:23-28

Proverbs 14:23-28 contain proverbs on various subjects with an emphasis on the contrast between the wise and the foolish and on the fear of the Lord.

Verse 23--In all toil there is profit,
but mere talk leads only to poverty.

Verse 24--The crown of the wise is their wisdom,
but folly is the garland of fools.

Verse 25--A truthful witness saves lives,
but one who utters lies is a betrayer.

Verse 26--In the fear of the Lord one has great confidence,
and one's children will have a refuge.

Verse 27--The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life,
so that one may avoid the snares of death.

Verse 28--The glory of a king is a multitude of people;
without people a prince is ruined.

What may one seeking to serve God learn from these thoughts to help one grow spiritually, become more godlike, and serve others better?
1. It is one thing to talk about working, to assure a boss or co-worker or spouse or children that one is going to work hard from now on. It is quite another thing to actually get a job and work diligently. Honest work will enable one to provide for oneself and one's family, but mere promises to work lead to poverty.
2. A good biblical example of the teaching in verse 25 is the story of Naboth in
1 Kings 21. Jezebel bribed two men to testify in court that Naboth had cursed God and the king so that her husband Ahab could confiscate Naboth's vineyard, and the authorities executed Naboth. This kind of testimony is gross injustice, and hurts innocent people needlessly.
3. "The fear [awe, honor, high regard, respect] of the Lord" is the core of godly living. It is an attitude of heart which seeks to put God first in every aspect of life. This is the theme which permeates Old Testament Wisdom Literature [Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes], and lies behind all righteous deeds.
4. No one can lead groups of people unless those people believe in and support that individual. Unfortunately, history is dotted with stories of leaders who controlled thousands or millions of people because they had a relatively few wicked influential persons who were able to keep the people under control. God's true followers are actually "servants" and desire that God alone through Christ be the "leader"--see Mark 10:42-45; 1 Corinthians 3:5-10.

John Willis

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Proverbs 14:17-22

Proverbs 14:17-22 deal with attitudes of the heart toward others, especially the good and the poor.

Verse 17--One who is quick-tempered acts foolishly,
and the schemer is hated.

Verse 18--The simple are adorned with folly,
but the clever are crowned with knowledge.

Verse 19--The evil bow down before the good,
the wicked at the gates of the righteous.

Verse 20--The poor are disliked even by their neighbors,
but the rich have many friends.

Verse 21--Those who despise their neighbors are sinners,
but happy are those who are kind to the poor.

Verse 22--Do they not err that plan evil?
Those who plan good find loyalty and faithfulness.

What do these maxims teach about living the godly life?
1. Anger is a heart problem. Anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible often speaks of God's anger (Romans 2:1-5; 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; and often). The Bible describes Jesus' anger with those who took advantage of worshippers at the temple, who bought and sold animals and birds for sacrifice at a profit, and thus drove them out of the temple area (Mark 11:15-19). The anger condemned in the Bible is uncontrolled, irrational, self-centered anger (see Proverbs 17:27-28).
2. Because God is in control, the wicked are destined for defeat, and thus to serve the righteous. The righteous will prevail, because they submit themselves to God and to his way. Often, this is not immediately obvious, but in time it becomes apparent.
3. It is too much of a burden for many to take on the troubles and trials of the poor. It is so much easier to befriend the rich. But does not God have this very problem with all of us? It would be much easier for God to ignore the troubles and trials of human beings; but because of his great love and compassion, he is our constant comfort (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-7). If we follow God's example, we will learn to gladly "bear one another's burdens" (Galatians 6:2). When the help the poor, we enjoy an unexpected serendipity: we find great happiness in our hearts--a surprising deep gift of God.
4. Before one DOES evil, he/she DEVISES or PLANS evil in the heart. The same scenario happens when one does good. Micah 2:1-2 describes this in vivid detail:
Alas for those who DEVISE wickedness
and evil deeds on their beds!
When the morning dawns, they PERFORM it,
because it is in their power.
They COVET fields, and SEIZE them;
houses, and TAKE them AWAY;
they OPPRESS householder and house,
people and their inheritance.

John Willis