An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. Proverbs 31:10
We begin with this verse our introduction into what many call the Proverbs 31
woman. This first verse in this section lets us know the women we are going to get to know. We are also told the worth of such a woman.
The Proverbs 31
woman is called "an excellent wife." The word "excellent" is the Hebrew word "chayil." It speaks of someone who has strength, efficiency, capability, power, and substance. The word, according to Zhodiates, hsa the babsic idea of strength and influence. The word is used of individual, nations, and even armies. What is being said here is that this is a strong woman - but her strength is from her character and her godly practices. That will be apparent as we look further into this section of Scripture in future posts.
The excellent wife is the wife who is both strong and influential. When speaking of a woman this word often speaks of a virtuous character. That is the kind of woman who is an excellent wife. She is one who has a strength and power that comes from godly character traits. She draws her strength from her relationship with God - and views her family as the first and foremost place where that strength is spent. Throughout this section of Scripture we read how she works to bless and build up her family. The praise she receives in this passage comes primarily from her husband and her children. This is the praise that she desires.
Before we are through with this passage we will see this godly lady doing a wide variety of things with her time and her energy. Chief though in all of them is that she fears the Lord. Her lifestyle choices therefore are not directed by worldly influences. They are directed by a desire to glorify and honor God. If she can accomplish this - she is happy. She views being a wife and mother as the two highest callings that she could ever receive. She also views those callings from a biblical vantage point. That means, to put it bluntly, that she is not influenced by the National Organization of Women - or any other organization that views femininity with suspicion.
Such a woman, according to Proverbs, has a worth far above jewels. Her worth to her husband is incalculable - even though some well-meaning folks have tried to figure out how much we would pay to have someone do what a stay at home mother does. The cost of that estimate was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. But what we cannot figure into any monetary value is the stability and the grace that a godly wife brings to her family. We also cannot imagine the costs that would be incurred to future generations if that godly influence were not in the home. Godly wives are a blessing as well spiritually (in fact that is where their greatest value is seen) which is something we cannot rate in dollars and cents. Suffice it to say that a godly wife and mother is worthy far more than any army of accountants could figure out in the end. If you have one - as either a wife or a mom - you should be eternally grateful!
There are three things which are too wonderful for me, Four which I do not understand: The way of an eagle in the sky, The way of a serpent on a rock, The way of a ship in the middle of the sea, And the way of a man with a maid. Proverbs 30:18-19
Agur here did not fully grasp these things - and to be honest with you, there are some of these same things which amaze me. Unfortunately for us, the man of science today would respond with an air of superiority and quickly describe for us the scientific reason for these things. Our culture has lost that sense of wonder that once existed as we look at things - and personally, I think it is at a great loss to us.
When I look at an eagle in the sky as it soars ever higher with what seems to be no effort whatsoever, I too consider it wonderful. The eagle is riding on thermals which lift it up into the sky. Another awesome picture is how an eagle flies directly into a storm - allowing those same wind currents to lift it above the storm. Even though I know these things - I still like to look in wonder at an eagle rising in on the horizon.
The way of a serpent on a rock is not so wonderful to me. That is because one thing comes between me and snakes - distance. But it is interesting to see how a snake warms himself on a rock - and keeps his cold blooded body warm. He can look so peaceful as he is coiled on the rock - yet if we were to agitate him - we could wind up facing a very terrifying foe as he readies himself to strike.
The next on our list is the way of a man with a maid. If you have ever watched a guy when a girl comes around you fully grasp what Agur is saying. I work with young men a lot. One of the most interesting things I deal with is helping them with determining when they need to begin pursuing a young lady as a bride. When they are not within God's will, this situation can be a complete disaster. It is astounding how a focused young man can just about lose his mind when this happens. By this I am not referring to true insanity - but rather the kind of goofiness that we attribute to love - or at least someone who thinks they are in love. Anyway . . . in the end we understand why Agur said what he said - and we agree with him.
Why is this put in Proverbs though? It is because I believe a wise man knows that not everything can be explained in life. There are some things we should just enjoy being amazed about in life. Not that we should lose our curiosity or desire to learn, but honestly - there are just some things that will never cease to amaze us. These are the things that keep wonder alive in our hearts. A wise man knows that a little wonder goes a long way as we move through life. Try it some time . . . you'll like it.
A fool always loses his temper, But a wise man holds it back. Proverbs 29:11
Anger is a difficult thing to manage because too often it is upon us before we realize it - and then we face the task of having to hold it back - to keep it from rising to the surface and exploding. We are told in this passage that a fool always loses his temper. That means that he has no control over his spirit. Words like "always" and "never" are not used lightly in the Scriptures - so we see that someone who is always losing their temper - truly is a fool.
A very wise man once told me that the reason we become angry (in a sinful way) is because we cannot control something we desperately want to control. Therefore when we become angry in a particular situation, it is because we want to control that situation - and are not content to submit ourselves to God's sovereignty and providence. When we become angry with someone - it is because they are acting in a way that we cannot control. We are not content to submit ourselves to God in serving them - even if they do not act in a way that is consistent with how "WE" would control them if we could. Needless to say, I suddenly understood the core problem with much of my anger. I was a fool who wanted to control everything according to my will - rather than living according to God's will. I was not willing to thank God for all things and in all things. I found His providence annoying - at least to the way that I would have been God if I could be. Much conviction ensued - followed by repentance for thinking I was wiser than God. Time and space does not permit me to relate how often after that I was able, by submission and surrender to God's perfect wisdom and control of my providence, to hold back my temper and anger by the working of His Spirit.
What is interesting about this proverb is that we are told that the wise man "holds" his temper back. The word used for the holding back of our temper is the Hebrew word "shabach," which means to soothe or to still something. Here it is used of anger that rises up within us. The actual word for "temper" here is "ruach" which means spirit. We learn to hold back our spirit when it wants to react in anger. We should know from the rest of Scripture that more than one spirit can be expressed through us. When James and John wanted to call down fire on some who rejected Jesus - our Lord responded by rebuking the two brothers. He told them that they did not know what "spirit" they were of when they made that request. Peter, when he told Jesus He could never go to the cross, was called Satan - because that is whose spirit was expressed through Peter. The wise man therefore knows how to hold back the wrong kind of spirit from coming forth from him. When angry it is easy to not soothe and control what kind of spirit comes forth from us - but we still need to soothe our spirits and make sure that what comes forth from us is not the flesh, not the wrong demonicly inspired spirit. We need to have the spirit of God - who is patient, kind, and full of self-control - soothe our anger and keep us from reacting in rage or anger. A wise man knows this - and practices it when he senses anger begin to rise up within him.
When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, But when the wicked rise, men hide themselves. Proverbs 28:12
The Bible does not know anything about a political environment where issues of godliness and righteousness are not considered. Since God is sovereign over all things - He is also sovereign over all political entities. So, even though our worldly wisdom counsels us never to mix politics and religion - God knows no such artificial division.
Our proverb today tells us that when the righteous triumph, there is great glory. When godly men rule a nation according to God's ways and laws - that nation will be blessed. We read in the psalms that the nation is truly blessed whose God is the Lord. Too many consider the righteous ruling to be an oppressive thing. Yet we see that it is not godly men who oppress but sinful ones. Sin brings bondage and injustice to a society - whereas godliness brings justice and truth to bear on all that happens there. Solomon gave a godly judgment when the two women were fighting over whether the child was there child or not. But in the end, it was not pure justice that let Solomon know the truth - it was which woman was willing to show mercy. Godly rulers will know both how to administer justice and how to show great mercy.
But when the wicked rise in power - men hide themselves. Consider the history of the despots who have ruled over the affairs of men. Godless men make the populace fear for their lives. They are terrified of a man who knows nothing except his own immediate self-interest. They cringe when his mode of justice knows little beyond swift and terrifying judgment. Very seldom is there mercy manifest. Consider Daniel and his judgment for praying to God rather than to the king. For his supposed crime he was thrown into a lion's den. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were cast into a firey furnace because they refused to worship the image of the king. These men were not shown mercy - but were judged swiftly without it.
Over time who segments of the population hide from the king - terrified not just of his justice, but of his anger. There were wicked kings who killed men for being sad in their presence. Others were murdered because the king either did not like them - or thought that they might be an adversary in the future - whether it was true or not. They hide themselves because a wicked king or ruler is untrustworthy in his judgment. They don't know what might come next - or who might be killed for just looking a little suspicious.
The wise man desires a righteous man to triumph. Such a man is far easier to understand - because his decisions will be made on the basis of justice and righteousness. He will judge based upon truth - and it is truth that does not change. You see it again and again in the books of Kings and Chronicles. It is far better to have a righteous king who speaks, lives, and judges according to the truth - than it is to have a wicked king who will ultimately rule on his own authority alone.
He who blesses his friend with a loud voice early in the morning, It will be reckoned a curse to him. Proverbs 27:14
Ah, we come to the proverb written to remind morning people like myself that not everyone else is a morning person. It is also written to remind us that some wake up and become conscious at a much slower rate than others. This also means that they are far more sensitive to sound and obnoxious morning people than we who are the obnoxious morning people realize. Thus, for the sake of their early morning sanity - as well as for the sake of our susceptibility to being hit by a accurately thrown alarm clock - it is wise for us to be gracious to the non-morning person.
This proverb really has special meaning to me. I am what is called a "disgusting morning person." That is the person who doesn't just wake up early in the morning - but - who can wake up and within about 30 seconds be in a good mood, whistling as I walk down the hallway to the kitchen. This trait, although a blessing to me, is viewed by the typical non-morning person as - well - as what Proverbs says it is here - a curse.
Yes, I've been guilty of awakening the members of my very patient family with my loudness in the morning hours. I've learned that the following actions are not welcome in the morning. Singing in the shower - especially the happy type of songs I tend to sing at that hour of the morning. Awakening people with the statement, "Rise and shine!" Being incredulous that everyone else in the house does not awaken with a spring in their step. Walking with "said springy step" down the hallway (which has wooden floors) with any kind of shoes that make noise. Any whistling whatsoever - before the second coming of Christ. I jest about these things because they've been brought up at least 10 times by those around me. I was once labeled by the sweetest lady I've ever known besides my wife - as the loudest man in the world in the mornings.
The wisdom in this proverb is for those of us who are morning people - and for those who wake up first in a household - as well as amongst friends. It has to do with being considerate and courteous. When we act like this early in the morning - we are being rude to those who do not wake up early. Just as we who rise early would not appreciate someone playing loud music and stomping around the house past midnight (for me past about 10:30 p.m.) because it would keep us awake, so our counterparts who are night owls do not appreciate us not just rising with the early bird, but trying to outsing him before the sun rises. It is just a matter of kindness and good manners.
The guy we wake up with a loud voice - even if we are speaking a blessing - will not appeciate our "Sally-sunshine" comments. We are to live iwth others according to THEIR need - not our desire. Learning this wisdom will save you from a myriad of problems - not just with non-morning people - but with anyone who is not exactly like you.
Like a dog that returns to its vomit Is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26:11
Today's proverb ranks as one of the most vivid, if not gross, proverbs that are in the book. But, it also ranks as one of the most important in that its vivid, gross picture sticks with us reminding us to turn from sin, rather than turn back to it.
I will try my best not to revel in the grotesqueness of today's proverb. That being said, we have to grasp what is said here. I've had a number of dogs - and one of the things that truly grosses me out is the fact that every one of them would vomit - and return and lick up the mess they just regurgitated. It is something that is very graphic to me - and something I can promise you I do not intend ever to mimic. Just the thought of doing what a dog does turns my stomach - and honestly - makes me want to vomit. But isn't that the purpose of the writer - and God. He is placing before us something so disgusting that we all unanimously chime in that we would never want to do something so sick. Then the Lord blows our mind with the second part of the proverb.
This dog imagery is there to compare how disgusting it is for a fool to repeat his folly. This is a proverb about our sin - and the foolishness we engage in when we sin against God. But even more, it is about when we sin, repent (hopefully) and then return to the same folly a second, third, fourth time. That picture, when we first encounter it, we don't see as disgusting. We have terms we would rather use for such a situation. Let me mention a few for our instruction.
I slipped up. Here is a common one. It doesn't really confront the sin and the foolishness at all. In too many ways it down plays the seriousness of sin. This was not a "slip-up" - it was a choice to sin and rebel against God's commandments. No one ever "slips" into sin - they walk into it - or at least are deceived into thinking it is not as heinous as it is.
I'm struggling with a problem - or with sin. Here is another common cop-out on sin. If we were struggling, shouldn't we be fighting against the sin, having yet to do it? I know that when I say that I'm "struggling with some things," what I honestly should be saying is, "I'm sinning against God - and I'm struggling with surrender and submission to His will." My struggle - as I put it - is with whether I WANT to obey God - or whether I WANT to do what my flesh says instead. A more forthright way of phrasing this would be to say, "I'm struggling with whether I want to submit to Jesus as Lord of my life. I would rather be Lord and do what I want right now."
I'm having a hard time right now. This one mistakes a hard time due to circumstances that are beyond my control - with circumstances that are absolutely under my control - because whether I choose to sin or not IS something I can do in Christ. This one is in my arsenal of stupid excuses because it often elicits a merciful response from others. I would much rather have that merciful response rather than face the truth. The truth is my sins are what have caused my circumstances 99% of the time - at least the ones with which I am having a hard time. Scripture tells me the way of the transgressor is HARD! Sin leads to God's discipline - and God's discipline often leads to HARD or DIFFICULT times as He seeks to get me to stop returning to my own vomit.
Please understand that I know that the things I am writing today are hard to hear. I say that because it is hard to write them. That difficulty is because I've heard them from the Lord as He seeks to get me to stop dealing with my sin with kid gloves. THIS PROVERB IS MEANT TO SHOCK US! God wants us to look at the fact that we return to folly and sin as something utterly disgusting a gross. He is hoping that such a shocking picture will make us not just gross out at the dog - but hopefully we gross out at our own foolishness. The Lord is not doing this to be mean to us. He does it out of love and a desire to deliver us from sin. Sometimes that means putting an example before us that shakes things up in our thinking - and hopefully in our hearts.
Grossed out at the picture of a dog returning to eat his own vomit? Then use that shock value to also address any return to sin and foolishness in your life. And . . . may that picture force its way into your mind's eye every time you are about to make a decision that will return you to any former sin of your past. Do this - and this proverb will have accomplished what God intended for it to do. He did not intend for it to be a joke as much of our "potty" humor today is. He meant it to be a picture and a spiritual knee-jerk reaction to keep us from sin.
apples of gold in settings of silver Is a word spoken in right circumstances. Proverbs 25:11
There are certain people who know just what to say at the perfect moment. Something needs desperately to be said and they are the ones who usually say it. Whether you know it or not, it is wisdom that gives them the ability to say these kinds of things.
Like apples of gold in settings of silver. Now there is something that is worth a little. You can imagine this artwork as not only being beautiful to the eye - but also of amazing wealth as well. It is the kind of thing one would hang on a wall as a decoration, but would also have listed as a very valuable asset too. This is equated to how very valuable a word spoken just at the right time is. This statement speaks of how appropriate words used just at the right moment in time can be invaluable to someone.
We see Jesus doing this again and again in His life. When attacked by the Pharisees and Saducees with a question they think is unanswerable without incrimination, Jesus speaks the perfect word at the perfect time. This kind of ability and skill is a wonderful thing to have when counselling or when offering comfort to those who are hurting or have just lost a loved one.
In order to be able to say these kinds of things we need to have an ear open in two directions. First, we need to have our ears open to God. He is the One who can give us the perfect thing to say - because He is the One who can see into every heart and know just what to say. Knowing and being able to communicate God's Word in one-on-one situations is such a blessing to those who receive it. But to know these kinds of statements, we must walk close to God. Second, we need to have our ears open to those around us. Far too many people are never able to speak these kinds of words, because they don't even know that others around them need to hear them. So preoccupied are they with their own trials and troubles - or honestly with their own desires - that they don't hear the hearts of those who are struggling and in desperate need of a word of encouragement and edification.
James encourages us to be quick to hear and slow to speak. That kind of wisdom will allow us to hear others - to hear their hurts and their problems - so that we can apply the Word of God in a way that brings healing and grace to them. It will be then that we can offer these apples of gold in settings of silver to those around us who desperately need to hear more than just words - they need to hear the right words - the perfect words for their circumstances.
Do not fret because of evildoers Or be envious of the wicked; For there will be no future for the evil man; The lamp of the wicked will be put out. Proverbs 24:19-20
Ever watch what is going on in the world and wonder if the evil and wicked are winning the day? It is difficult at times not to fret and become angry (even at God) when we watch the evil men and women of this world seemingly prosper and succeed during our lifetime. But the wise man knows the Word of God - and knows that God promises that He is just, and knows that in the end it will not go well for the wicked. His lamp may burn brightly for a season, but in the end his lamp - his influence - his power will be put out.
We are warned against two things in this passage. The first is that we do not fret because of evildoers. The word "fret" here actually does not refer to worry but rather to anger. The word for fret is the Hebrew word, "nahar" which means to burn, to be kindled and glow, or to grow warm. It refers to someone becoming angry. It was the word that was used of Potiphar's anger when he thought that Joseph had raped his wife. It is also used in Joshua 23:16
of God's anger toward those who disobey His Law. Here, we are being warned against becoming angry at God - because we watch evildoers prosper in this life. David struggled with this very thing in Psalm 73
. The more he looked at the wicked and the evildoers in this present life - the more his anger was being kindled. He reached the point in that psalm where he said that he almost betrayed his generation until he entered the sanctuary and saw the latter end of this wicked people. His betrayal would have been the things he said about God and His justice. David would have allowed his fretting to be manifested toward God. But he saw that all at once these prospering evil people fell - that they faced God's wrath with no recourse. He saw that they thought all was well until death or calamity crushed their world. Since they were only living for the here and now - that meant that their entire world was destroyed. David's fretting ceased - and instead he felt compassion toward them - and awe and fear toward God in his "ULTIMATE JUSTICE."
We are also warned not to become envious of the wicked. This second warning comes because we will watch the shrewdness of the worldlings as they use graft and corruption to gain wealth in this world. We may watch them seemingly succeed in regard to money, sex, and power. But once again we must see things from God's perspective. As they gather power, sex, and wealth to themselves - they are also storing up wrath for disobeying God's commandments and laws as well. Their supposed prosperity comes at an eternal price tag. In the end their future will be horrific - not blessed.
That is what these two verses in proverbs deals with in the second verse. We are told that there will be no future for the evil man. The word future is our old friend "acharith" which means the end of the matter. Though the wicked does all his evil desires, and seemingly prospers in them - he is not seeing long term. He may enjoy the moment - but the latter end of his life will be devastating. There is NO future - NO latter end - NO prosperity eternally. He will be damned for his rebellion and destroyed utterly for his wickedness.
Only someone who sees with a ridiculous short term vantage point would trade a few years of pleasure for infinite pain and suffering. God's Word refers to this life on earth as a mere breath while there is no end to our state in eternity. The other warning to us here is that the lamp of the wicked will be put out. As I said earlier, he may burn brightly for a little while - for a breath or two - but his light will be extinguished. Consider all the terrifying dictators of the past - Hitler, Ghengas Khan, Sadaam Hussein, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot - and a host of others throughout history. For a brief moment they seemd to have a bright light burning for themselves and their regime. Yet all are viewed as horrible men who committed disgusting crimes against humanity itself. God assured that these men do not live on as famous - but as infamous. So also will be the legacy of all those who oppose God and live out their wickedness. Their lights will go out - snuffed out by God Himself.
The wise man does not become angry with God over such men and women. He certainly does not envy them. What we should do is pity such men. We should pity them and pray that they would repent and turn to God. We should also realize that God is showing them great mercy by not consuming them instantly in His wrath. He is offering them another day of mercy during which time they have opportunity to hear the gospel and repent. But know that beyond any shadow of doubt the day is drawing near for them to be judged according to God's law. Envious? Angry? - no . . . we should pity them - and we should tremble before the awesome, exact justice of our holy God. And as wise men - we should depart from their ways and fully embrace those of our Lord.
The eyes of the LORD preserve knowledge, But He overthrows the words of the treacherous man. Proverbs 22:12
When you consider what kind of opposition the Bible has had throughout history, it is a wonder that any of it has been preserved to our day. Yet just as this proverb says, God had preserved His knowledge - as well as the writings of many other godly men - even though it has often been attempted to be destroyed by evil men.
What is often lost to us are the words of the treacherous men who have lived throughout history. But even more than that we see that their very words themselves have been overthrown. The "who's who" list of evil men who have predicted the demise of God and His Word is so long that I would not have room to list them all in a post here - yet all their words have been overthrown. They have risen to predict that God would be destroyed - only to see Him remain and continue to change history through His Word and His church.
How frustrating it has to be to see generation after generation continuing to be transformed by the gospel. How frustrating to see the very same gospel that they've hated for generations stand in another generation as their wicked philosophies were thrown on the trash heap of history.
It is wonderful to see the stories of men like John Hus and John Wycliffe and how God preserved their works - especially their translations of the Bible. Both men saw the false church react strongly to their translation of the Scriptures - especially since their translations were trying to put God's Word into the language of the people. The false church killed John Hus - and were so disgusted with Wycliffe that over 40 years after his death dug up his bones and burned them and condemned him. But God preserved the writings and knowledge that these men gave to us - eventually using both of them as precursors to the Reformation. Rather than destroy the knowledge that they brought to us - God preserved it and used it to overthrow all the treacherous words and actions of the godless church that tried to overthrow the Word of God.
Here is wisdom . . . realizing that God's Word will stand when everything else has faded away. As Peter said, 'All flesh is like grass, and all its flory like the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever." (1 Peter 1:24-25
The soul of the wicked desires evil; His neighbor finds no favor in his eyes. Proverbs 21:10
Have you ever considered the thoughts and desires of a very wicked man - who seems to truly consider nothing other than himself. I realize that theologically we all are wicked and we all are consumed by our own selfishness. Yet God in His mercy has blessed us with societal restraints and parental restraints - and even conscience-driven restraints that keep us from fully manifesting our wickedness. But there are those who whether by searing their conscience as with a hot iron - or by giving themselves to every wicked impulse of their hearts - have unlocked the depths of wickedness in their hearts like no one else. They may be the mass murderers or the wicked rulers of a nation - or just someone who seems to not have an ounce of mercy in their being. Whatever it is - it is truly terrifying to think what it is that brings someone to that level of having their wicked desires rule their thinking and their heart.
The wicked man has a soul that desires evil. That means he desires it at the level of his mind in his thinking, at the level of his will in how he chooses to live his life, and in his emotions in that he truly delights in evil and in what is contrary to God's Word. It should be no shock to us then to see that his neighbor finds no favor whatsoever in his eyes. He has no proclivity to show grace and favor to anyone except himself. Ultimately his desire is for himself and what he wants. If it looks like he is showing favor - it is only because that is what will get him what he wants in the end.
Wisdom realizes that we need to shun evil - and have nothing to do with it. The reason that this is so is because evil will never be neutral in our lives. If we give in to it, evil will seek to expand its influence in our hearts and minds - and ultimately will work its ways in our wills. You cannot choose to do evil and have evil be sequestered to only that area of your life. Evil will expand - evil will grow - and left undealt with - it will eventually dominate our lives. This proverb should be sufficient to remind us that this is true. That the wicked man's appetite for evil will end with there being no favor for anyone or anything except that which will support the expansion of evil in his doings. Steer clear of evil - reject it - hate it - that is the course of the wise.