By the transgression of a land many are its princes, But by a man of understanding and knowledge, so it endures. Proverbs 28:2
Those of us who live in the United States have never experienced a coup in our lifetimes. The most disturbing event of our republic has been the Civil War in the 1860's. There has been a remarkable stability that God has allowed in this nation when it comes to how we deal with our rulers and the peaceful transition of power down through the years. That is what this particular proverb comments upon - what brings about the stabilty and enduring character of a nation.
The transgression of a land brings it many princes. Transgression here means a breach of trust or rebellion. Understanding that we are reading Scripture - we need to grasp that the rebellion spoken of here is that which is against God. When a nation begins rebelling against God - trouble is brewing for it. Contrary to our current psuedo-constitutional view of separation of church and state - (which is interpreted more like separation of state and the God of the Bible) - our nation is under God. That fact exists regardless of whether that phrase is printed on our money or recited in our public school classrooms. All nations are under God Who is Sovereign over the universe. Thus God holds all nations to His moral law. When a nation rejects Him and His moral law - a measure of chaos results which grows over time. If a nation continues on its path of rejecting God and His ways - soon there will be rumblings of the coming moral and political earthquake that will hit society.
In our nation we began to reject God's ways in the early part of the 20th century. That continued through the teen's and 30's - where we faced the first world war and the beginnings of the great depression. God was trying to get our attention, but we ignored Him for the most part. The 40's brought another world war - even more horrific than the first. Europe, who rejected the Lord in greater measure than the U.S. was doing, faced devastation from this war. Unfortunately, we really didn't learn much from their example either. There was relative prosperity in the 50's but the moral rumblings were gathering to become an earthquake. Parents who chased the American dream - soon found in their children of the 60's the American nightmare. Those children rejected the idol of money their parents served and toked up, tuned out, and rebelled against everything their parents stood for in life. They also embraced publically what their parents had done privately. The 50's and 60's saw the rise of private indiscretion and adultery - the practice of keeping mistresses (though secretly for the most part) and the beginning of the divorce culture in our nation. The children of these parents rejected marriage altogether and embraced what they called, "free love" which was just the bondage of fornication. This culture of sexual immorality then gave rise to easily accessible abortion as a convenient way to deal with problem pregnancies in the early 70's. Just as Scripture tells us in Romans chapter 1 the heterosexual immorality of the 50's, 60's, and 70's gave way to the homosexual immorality of the 80's and 90's. But during this time we saw another thing begin to happen. The political dialogue, which has always had a tendency to be contentious, began to be toxic. There also began was a great rise in the number of politicians who no longer cared about any kind of long term benefit or damage to our country, as long as they could be re-elected and consolidate their power. Decisions were made and money was spent without thought to the problem their debt was causing for our future. This kind of careless and selfish rule has given rise to our current political climate. Our current situation is that our country is badly divided over political and moral issues. The rift is about 50/50 - and the radicalism of those opposing each other is rising - as is the rhetoric used to describe one another. Could it be that a coup or a revolution could be in our future. I certainly hope not - but our proverb today tells us to the contrary.
The "many princes" spoken of at the first part of our proverb do not refer to our current type of government with many leaders serving within it. It refers to the problem of coups and overthrows. It speaks of those usurping power. When a land or country begins having a total disregard for the Lord and His Laws - that country is headed for trouble.
The proverb also tells us how to have a nation endure. It endures by having a man of understanding and knowledge around. The two words used here are vital to us grasping what God is saying here. Understanding is the Hebrew word "bin" and it means to be discerning, to be able to perceive, to pay attention to things - having the ability to apply God's wisdom to a situation in life. The second word, knowledge, is the Hebrew word "yada" and it means to know - and here it refers to the ability to discriminate between what is right or wrong, good or bad. It also has the idea along with it of knowing what to do - which in this case refers to what God desires that the nation do. Consider these two words - their overt reference to God's wisdom - and the current way God is viewed by our elected leaders. Do you see much of a chance outside of God's intervention in revival for us to have leaders like this?
A wise and discerning counsellor or leader is able to help a nation endure. Think for a moment about our founding fathers and the documents they gave to us in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States. These were for the most part godly men - or at least God fearing men. Their wisdom and desire to honor God in this nation resulted in a document that has guided our nation for over 200 years! Considering the history of democracies and constitutional republics, this is nothing short of astounding.
There have also been wise counsellors that were able to help out even godless dictatorships to prosper for a season. Men like Daniel and Joseph offered wise, godly counsel that allowed the nation in which they lived to prosper greatly for a season. Such nations would have imploded were it not for the direction given by these wise sages who gave wisdom according to God's direction. Oh, that such a man would rise up in our day and give much needed direction to our leaders in the midst of their political and legislative quagmire.
God blesses nations - and He also humbles nations. Scripture tells us that the nation is blessed whose God is the Lord. I know that this goes against the grain of the constitutionally ignorant in our nation, who believe the lies of the separation of church and state crowd. Our nation prospered and was blessed not due to liberals and the godless. It prospered and endured because of the godly men of understanding and knowledge - our discerning forefathers and those who followed the design they laid out for our nation. May God have mercy upon the United States of America and give us more men like them in the very near future!
Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2Reading this proverb makes me think of a rewrite of the Beatles song "Yesterday." My version goes like this . . .
"Vanity, all I ever do is think of me, I'm the greatest person that I see, Cause I'm so filled with vanity."
Proverbs tells us here to "let another praise you, and not your own mouth." When it comes to compliments and praise - it is always wise to let them flow from other people - than to spend time praising yourself. Self-praise is nothing more than arrogance and self-promotion. When you live this way - you will fall into the trap of believing your own press. Since you are the one who writes your own press - there is no objectivity in what is being said. The real danger over time is that in belieiving and writing your own press, you will become less and less responsive to any constructive criticism offered. Do this long enough and you will have a little tyrant in your heart who, when it comes to those who try to help you identify character flaws and imperfections, rejects everything that is said out of hand.
One of the keys to a healthy psyche is the ability to look at yourself honestly and offer self-critique. The ability to receive correction and teaching from yourself and others is vital to not only good psychological health, but more importantly good spiritual health.
The other thing we learn from this passage is when praise matters. Proverbs tells us that the praise we should consider is when a stranger praises us. What is a stranger? It is someone who surprises you with kind words. Another way of defining this person is that they are a person who you don't realize is watching you and examining your works. When they praise you - you are assured that the way you were living was not an act. You were relaxed and living the way you normally would. Thus when they offer praise - it is true praise. What they see is the closest to when you are living without trying to impress anyone.
A personal story that illustrates this is in order. This happened when I was at Auburn University. Unfortunately, I have a normal amount of vanity in my heart that God wants me to overcome by His grace. Sooo - although its embarassing to admit - there are times when I try harder when people are looking to be a better Christian. My desire is for God to deliver me from such pride - and instead, I would live to please and honor God alone. One day, during a testimony meeting at church, a brother stood up and spoke of how he desired to follow the Lord due to the example he saw of God's grace in my life. Boy was I shocked! I had spoken to him a couple of times - but was not particularly close to him. It not only shocked me, but it also concerned me as well. The thought went through my mind immediately, "I didn't know he was watching and looking for an example from how I lived." Rather than feel proud - I actually felt a little freaked out. Another thought went racing through my head, "I wonder who else is watching?" At that moment the Lord sent a third thought across the bow, "I am!" Suddenly all other praise from men went silent. There was only One before Whom I should walk and live. If I had His praise and approval - that of mere mortals meant nothing. Even better than this - the lack of praise from mere mortals would not affect me negatively - for I wouldn't be seeking it. By the end of this event a lot had changed in my heart. I was thankful for the gracious words of my brother - but there was a more important Person Whose praise I truly desired. This kind stranger had been a blessing in two ways: first, he offered encouragement that I was growing and honoring God in what I was doing, but second, he was used by God to turn my eyes away from any other praise than that which comes from above - and which is true in every way.
Here is wisdom for today . . . live not for praise that originates from your own vanity - or from those before you can perform. Live for the praise of those who watch from the secret places of your life - who cheer from the wings. But most of all - live for the evaluation that will come at the end - when each man will receive the "true praise" which is due him from God.
For lack of wood the fire goes out, And where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. Proverbs 26:20This is a proverb where something in nature is described, and then God compares it with a spiritual truth about life. Here we find a fire described in practical terms no one can deny - but in the end this fire that is going out is compared to what the Bible calls "the whisperer." Let's take a look at what we can learn here.
"For lack of wood the fire goes out." Here is the practical truth that no one can deny. When you have a fire, you have to continue putting wood on it if you want it to continue to burn. No wood means no fire. It will go out in a matter of hours. Just like this is true, God wants us to grasp something about contention among people. This contention is often due to someone called "a whisperer." Who is this whisperer - and what does he or she do that helps to keep contention alive?
The whisperer is one who murmurs. The Hebrew word is "ragan" and it means to murmur or to whisper. The murmuring that is going on with the whisperer is that of grumbling, criticizing, complaining, and slandering. Zhodiates says it refers to gossipping and complaining. The word is used in Psalm 106:25 to describe how Israel murmured and complained in their tents against the Lord in the time of Moses. Those who were the murmurers and whisperers were the trouble makers - the gossips - the ones who fomented rebellion in the hearts of the people of Israel. Their murmuring helped to destroy an entire generation - who became infected with it. This whispering here is what is causing problems - causing the contention that exists here. There are serious relational problems developing because of the actions of the whisperer.
Let me give a practical illustration. The whisperer does not like something done by leadership in the church. Instead of taking their problems to the leadership, which is the biblical way to deal with problems, they begin talking to a brother or sister about what they see and perceive. Soon, there are two people who are upset with leadership - and their number grows as the whispering campaign continues to grow and flourish. Soon small groups of whisperers get together from time to time and have roast pastor or elder - a delicacy that is loved by whisperers and gossips. Before long the majority of the church is being infected with this gossip that begins to gain steam around the fellowship. Until the whisperers are quieted and rebuked, there will be plenty of contention to go around. Some may leave the fellowship - while others stick around for the eventual power play to usurp the authority of the pastor/elder and take over themselves. There will be plenty of anger and frustration build as long as the whisperers ply their trade. The only hope for the fellowship is that they are silenced. When there is no whisperer, contention quiets down. There is the truth to be learned. Just like a fire without wood will die down - so a contention or church fight will die down if the whisperers can be silenced or removed.
How about you? Are you a whisperer? Does there seem to be contention around you all the time? If you whisper to others about the problems and the discontentment you have - don't be surprised if soon you have a circle of other malcontents who will aid and abet you in setting the church or friendship or marriage on fire. For those who love ashes and destruction - this is almost impossible to resist - but oh how we should resist it. No one ever gains by tearing something donwn and destroying it. Instead of whispering to men - try interceding to God. The difference in the result may shock you! As long as their are whisperers - there will be no real, long-term growth and blessing in the church. Next time you are tempted to become a whisperer - don't do it. Stop yourself in your tracks and fall to your knees in prayer. If you resist the destructive nature of gossip and whispering - you will find that the opposite of it is intercession and crying out to God. One creates contention - the other creates peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Which one will you choose?
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. Proverbs 25:2Why is it that God conceals Himself and the things He says so often? Think about this for a moment in regard to Scripture. The later half of Old Testament Scripture is prophecy, in which much of what God said was hidden for their time - and some remains to be fulfilled in ours. Think about Jesus Christ and His statement that much of what He said would be in parables, so that seeing they would not see and hearing they would not hear. Then there's the common practice of Jesus to answer a question with another question. What's that all about? That is what this proverb helps us to understand. Let's take a look at it today.
It is the glory of God to conceal a matter. So we learn that it is actually to God's glory that He reveals Himself by parables, prophecies, allegories, metaphors, and similitudes. God reveals His will and His ways in the Word of God. He Himself tells us in Isaiah 55 that "My ways are above your ways, and My thoughts your thoughts." In fact God describes His own ways as being so much higher, that the only example that is fitting is of how much higher the heavens are than the earth. Contrary to popular opinion today, God is not just "the man upstairs" or "our divine buddy." It is entirely fitting to honor God and properly think of His majesty and glory. If we see the pomp and glory afforded an earthly king or president, which is fitting for their position and station in life - how much more honor, majesty, and glory should be given to the King of the universe - the very God of creation itself?
In keeping with the majesty of God - the Lord makes known His ways and wisdom by putting it in a way that must be seriously studied to be understood. This is so that we will prize the wisdom and will of God when we discover it. God Himself is unsearchable and unfathomable, thus aspects of His being and ways would never be understandable to us if we spent a myriad of lifetimes studying Him. Thus we are to be filled with awe and wonder as we consider how He has revealed Himself - how He reveals His will - and how He reveals His ultimate purposes. Paul, when receiving a little light on God's ultimate purposes with the salvation of Israel and the Gentiles, found himself in such awe that at the close of Romans 11 he wrote the following:
"Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD , OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen."
Thus we see one of the greatest minds in all of history bursting with spontaneous praise at the consideration of the mind of the Lord. It is a sad thing to see many in our culture wanting to drag God down to our level - or having no sense of awe or honor of Him at all. We need to see God as He is - Someone higher and more glorious than ourselves and our own limited finite minds. We need to consider the vast limitedness of our own comprehension of things. Think about this a second - can you fathom the glories of the universe God has given us? Do you fully grasp how very little we know of it. Yet manking has an unbounded pride in his pitiful little accomplishments. Pardon my Shakespearian moment but, Methinks we glory in the pittance of our knowledge too much. God knows all that there is to know in every corner of the universe. Our tiny halls of learning are but a single utterance, a mere passing thought, compared to the eternally infinite lecture that God could give based upon His perfect knowledge of all things everywhere. He conceals matters because we would understand them about as well as an infant would understand a lecture on Newtonian physics. He calls us to learn - to study - to mine His Word to gather the vast array of priceless jewels of wisdom available to us. It is to His glory and everlasting praise that He does so.
But Kings . . . there is a different thought presented here referring to them. "But the glory of kings is to search out a matter." The purpose of a king is to be wise in matters of state so as to create a stable soceity in which his subjects can prosper in relative safety. Being finite in nature, a king needs to search out matters. He should confer with wise counsellors when making decisions in the best interests of the kingdom. Presidents and potentates should be learned men who possess both knowledge from men and the knowledge of God. It is a blessed country who has such - and who has a king who applies such wisdom (especially the wisdom of God) to the matters pertaining to the state.
When kings and presidents do not properly search out matters great harm comes to their kingdoms and countries. One of the great plagues of state is a king or president who is filled with pride and an agenda not based upon God's wisdom or truth. Pride causes kings to be more concerned about maintaining power than manifesting prudence. They make decisions that concentrate their power and absolute rule over the populace, which unfortunately leads to abuse. They mistake domination for dominion, and surround themselves with sycophants rather than sages. In a representative republic like our own, you have a recipe for disaster when rulers decide it is more in their interest to maintain power than make prudent decisions in the public welfare.
Consider, for a moment, the recent incidents of climate fraud that permeate the psuedo-science of the global warming hoax. Rulers who desired power more than truth surrounded themselves with supposed men of science to justify their radical plans. We learn later that these scientists did not submit themselves to peer review, they falsified findings, and destroyed data that did not fit their pre-determined conclusions. Presidents and kings should "search out" a matter - not pre-determine it and make their plans regardless of the facts. Here is why having a leader committed to truth regardless of the consequences, political or otherwise, is important.
The glory of God and kings is important both to understand and honor. It may seem difficult to the king to study out matters diligently before making decisions - but truth is always an ally to the wise man. It also may seem troublesome at times to faithfully search out the mysteries of God - but as we have learned from Proverbs itself - the knowledge of the Lord is wisdom!
Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; 2 For their minds devise violence, And their lips talk of trouble. Proverbs 24:1-2There are certain things that are repeated in Proverbs - certain aspects of life - certain issues that require reminders. One of those areas is the one addressed in these two verses. We need to beware of envying the wicked. But why would we envy them? One of the best places to grasp why is in Psalm 73 where the Psalmist temporarily lost his footing while envying the wicked.
We envy wicked men because in this world their lives seem to be much easier and better. Often wicked men are successful in this age. Some achieve this because they cheat, steal, and claw their way to the top. Others just set their hearts on this world and what it offers - and don't take no for an answer till they have what they want. The psalmist looked at their lives and wondered why things were like this - how come the wicked seem to be catching all the breaks? The answer he came to only arrived when he went into the sanctuary and remembered God. Remembering God and the end of things brought sanity back to the psalmist. He considered the end of such men. They fell all at once - and their fall was often spectacular. They were consumed in an instant by death - and what awaits them beyone the grave is true, absolute justice. After seeing such horrific sights in God's presence the Psalmist decided it was better to serve God without all the worldly success - than to be evil, successful now - but ultimately impoverished and destroyed.
God forbids jealousy toward evil men. Jealousy is easy when you see the successes here and now of the wicked. Their lives seem to be paved with butter and pastries. They have things we'd like to have - they have pleasures we think we would want. But God forbids this. When we become envious of the wicked - we start to want what they have. We think they have it made. Then we decide to hang around them because we like their stuff - their lifestyle - their buttered steps. Spiritual reality tells a different story though. The things they have that we want - how many of those things are the will of God for us? Men look at the playboy - or more recently the bachelor - and think, "Man, I'd love to have all those women fawning over me!" We look at the rich and famous and think, "If only I could have their wealth, their fame, their stuff - then I'd be happy."
Here's a truth to remember - even they are not happy! They have their emptiness. At the highest point of my life in sin - I would come home from the parties - from the sex - from the pinacle of popularity and turn my face to the wall at night and long for something real. I would call out to God - asking Him to take away the emptiness of my heart. But here is another truth to remember - the more we look at them - and focus our thoughts and desires on what they have - the more we feed our flesh. In time, we will walk away from God, thinking that if we had a little of what they have - we'd be better off - happier. Oh, the devastation that comes from learning otherwise.
I'm sure David thought that a night with the lovely Bathsheba would spice up his life. Samson proabably figured that a new relationship with that fox named Delilah is just what he needed to shake things up a bit. Absalom probably thought that being in charge himself would make his life better. Ahab figured that if he could just get Ahab's great garden spot he'd be content. Finally, Judas probably figured that he had those 30 pieces of silver coming to him after following Jesus 3 years - Jesus didn't seem to be offering a pay raise any time soon! Envying the wicked, their lifestyle and their stuff will get you into a load of trouble - because that's usually where they're headed - for trouble.
Verse 2 here puts it bluntly to us. Their minds are working to devise violence - the word for mind here is the Hebrew "leb" which speaks of the heart. The Jewish concept of the mind is that it flows from the workings of our heart - our innermost desires. What a great picture is painted for us by the words used here.
Devise is "hagah" and it means to growl, sigh, or mutter. It spoke figuratively of the meditation of the mind. In the wicked mind we hear growling. What are they growling about? We learn that their growling has to do with violence. The word here means violence, destruction - and is used to describe violence and havoc as social sins. This makes more sense to us when we put two and two together biblically. The evil man is living out the desires of his heart. His heart is given to himself and to the world and its desires. What he wants - he goes after - and he is absolutely committed to getting. Now take this reality and put it in the context of James chapter 4. "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." (James 4:1-2, NASB)
The evil man growls violence in his meditations because he cannot have what he wants - what he is lusting after - so he is willing to do violence (does not have to just be physical, could be moral as he does unethical things) to get them. This is the modus operadi for the evil man. Also his lips talk of trouble. Here is another interesting word in the Hebrew that describes the inner working of the evil man. Trouble is the word "amal" and it means something troubling. What is meant is that the evil man is constantly speaking of causing trouble. This guy is headed for trouble - and you hear him speak of it a lot. If you hang "with" him - you may "HANG" with him.
Evil men exist. One of the facts of life is that there are those who are looking for trouble - and who cause it in life. What is fascinating is that we cannot relegate this to a socio-economic status or race. There are poor and rich alike - people of every racial background who just seem to breed trouble with their actions and attitudes. Some of these people can also have a life that may look glamourous and exciting on the outside - but beware - to travel with them or envy their outward status will only lead you into the same trouble and disaster. Better to steer clear of having them as close friends - or of desiring what they have. In the end - what they have is a coming disaster. Ask David - question Samson and Absalom - queerie Judas on this one. They'll all have the same answer - guard your heart!
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, Cease from your consideration of it. 5 When you set your eyes on it, it is gone. For wealth certainly makes itself wings Like an eagle that flies toward the heavens. Proverbs 23:4-5God is not against people becoming wealthy. There are people in the history of the Bible who became wealthy because of God's specific blessing upon them. So God is not "anti-wealth" as some people would suppose. But, He is concerned with how people view money and wealth - and to be more specific how they pursue it. That is where the real danger lies.
Don't weary yourself to gain wealth. There is the first principle God puts before us. The word weary means to become weary with work. It indicates that the person is putting forth great effort and exhausting exertion to try to accomplish something. It should probably be noted here that God is for hard work. He wants us to work hard at the things we do. He wants us to offer excellence and effort to our jobs and in the things we do for Him and for others. The Lord is not encouraging laziness here. He is saying that those who put forth exhausting labor with the ultimate goal being to become wealthy are focusing on the wrong goal. I remember working at UPS in Seminary and watching one of my supervisors live this way. His goal in life was to work so hard when he is young, that he could retire when he was 45 as a millionaire. This poor guy was always at work. He had a wife and a couple of kids - but from the way he spoke of them to us - they were just obstacles to him getting where he wanted to go. I've watched men like this who labor so hard to become rich. They reach their goal - but find out that the loss of their marriage and the fact that their kids have no respect for them - costs far more than the millions they have to spend in their old age.
Proverbs tells us next that we are to cease from our consideraton of becoming wealthy. An interesting word is used for "consideration" here. It means to think hard about something. The result of this thinking should be a proper discernment of it. But according to what is being said here God is warning us against making wealth the thing we consider and think hard about in life. There are those who constantly chase the illusive goal of being rich. They read books about it - they listen to tapes that promise them the way to get there - they listen to radio shows that promise them that if they do what this man says - they'll be rich. There is even a "chrisitanized" version of this thinking. The health/wealth/prosperity teaching promises that God Himself is nothing but a divine sugar daddy. If we treat Him right - and confess the right things - we'll be rich! Wonder how that works for persecuted Christians behind the bamboo curtain who are in jail for their faith. If they confess the right words and really have faith, they'll get twice the gruel that their cellmate receives?
God wants us to have our minds fixed on other things than our own financial bottom line. If we truly had discernment we'd know that our bank account will matter only in how we used it for God's glory. Our "consideration" should be of the Lord Himself and what His will is for us in life. To have a constant consideration of wealth is to waste our minds on things that are not eternal.
There is another reason we should not be chasing wealth. That reason is that wealth is often illusive. In the simplest terms - take the example of the guy buying lottery tickets thinking he is going to win and get rich. This proves two things - first, this guy is not very good at Math - and second, he is focused on the wrong things. He thinks that money will solve his problems. If he only took the time to study previous big winners of the lottery he'd learn that it usually causes more problems than it solves. Then there is the person who is chasing the illusive goal of inventing something that will make him rich. Too often the inventions don't pan out and the guy pursuing them for wealth winds up broke - and broken because of his failure to "make it to the big time."
Wealth takes wings like an eagle -flying off into the heavens. What a picture for us to remember! This is true in so many ways. What was just covered is one of the ways that wealth takes wings - but there is another that is even more important for us to remember. Ask a rich man how much money he needs to be content. His answer will be, "Just a little more than I have now." That is the most deceptive part of wealth. When we "get there" to our stated goal - we'll find it is not enough to bring peace and satisfaction to us. So, we figure we'll set our goal a little higher - only to find that when we get there we still don't feel satisfied. Some folks spend their entire lives chasing the eagle as it soars higher and higher into the air. They die richer than they ever dreamed - but learning that the dream becomes a nightmare because of the lack of satisfaction in their wealth.
One last thing needs to be said of a life spent chasing after wealth and riches. The ultimate bummer for the rich man is when he dies. He leaves everything behind. There are no "rich people" in heaven or hell. The basis of success or ultimate failure has to do with being able to stand before God in the judgment. Jesus tells the story of the rich farmer who has a bumper crop. He wonders what to do with his untold wealth. He finally decides that he will tear down his barns and build bigger ones. Then he will store his abundance and say to his soul that he has much wealth and can rest. Jesus' words here are frightening. He says, "You fool! Tonight your soul is required of you - and how will mere wealth help you?" We can be as wealthy as 10 Solomons - and still find ourselves eternally impoverished if we don't have forgiveness and salvation in Jesus Christ. We can chase wealth into the heavens like that eagle - only to find that iin the end the descent into infinite poverty lasts not a human lifetime - it lasts for all eternity. Here true wisdom - be rich toward God - that wealth will last beyond what can be stolen or rust away.
The rich and the poor have a common bond, The LORD is the maker of them all. Proverbs 22:2 There are many inequities in this world. One of them is the difference between the rich and the poor. These differences can drive people to the point of revolution and violence. There are entire political and economic ideologies formulated to try to bring some kind of balance to this situation. They want to create an equity between men that is enforced. But these ideologies will never work because of the fallen state of man. Communism was one of these ideologies that tried to bring equity among men. The problem was that while communism sounded good to many in theory - in the end it only bred a ruling class of rich oligarchs and a class of serfs who did the work of the state in a common poverty. If it were possible for sinful man to mutually share all things - including the work to produce them - we might be able to create a paradise here on earth. As long as the fallen, sinful state of man continues though - all these wonderful and fanciful concepts will break down as selfishness and self-centered living will take over. In the end, we will wind up with the rich and the poor once again. One of the most maddening inequities of the difference between the rich and poor is the whole practice of justice among them. Our own justice system has a statue that supposedly represents what our ideal is. That is a woman with a pair of scales who is blindfolded. The picture represents that justice is blind to differences in those who come to receive it. True justice is this way - but unfortunately all human systems will eventually break down due, once again, to the innate selfishness of mankind. Thus we have the problem of how the rich are represented at the bar of justice. If you have money - lots of money - you will fare better in our justice system. If you are dirt poor - and to be honest - black or a minority - often you will have a more difficult time in our justice system. To those who would argue against this by saying that more of these people commit crime, I would respond by saying that poverty itself often breeds crime. So, how do we bring a sense of justice to all this? Are we forever to face inequities between the rich and the poor? Is there no place where the rich and poor are treated alike? This proverb - written by a very rich man - gives us God's answer. Before God all men are viewed the same. There is a statement of doctrine which says, "God is no respecter of persons." If God is Who the Bible says He is, then this is comforting to those who cringe at the basic inequities of this world. Being infinite and eternal - needing nothing and possessing everything there is - being all wise and having infinite understanding - being perfect and beyond any kind of corruption - we can trust Him. Also, if He already owns all things - who, praytell is going to impress Him or offer any kind of bribe or influence that would affect Him at all? At this juncture I must make a differentiation between God Himself and how His church has conducted herself. Shamefully, the churches' history is replete with examples of bribery and influence peddling. James warned us in the New Testament that there would be the evil of favoring the rich and dishonoring the poor just because they were rich or poor. The Old Testament prophets thundered God's judgments against those who dishonored the poor while catering to the rich. But do not equate to God Himself the poor example that His children - or those who claim to be His children offer. Take God at His Word. This proverb tells us that the rich and poor meet together at one place. This is what that common bond is (The literal Hebrew here means "to meet at a common place). They both meet before almighty God as His creation. The Lord is the maker of them all. I realize that many in this world will scoff at the thought of a creator God. But I would propose that you think about something if you want equity in the world. If all that there is came about through evolutionary processes - what basis is there for equity in the world. One of the fundamental principles of evolution is survival of the fittest. This means the strong survive and the weak are weeded out. If this is the case and is a principle upon which the survival of our species exists - then we shouldn't want equity for the poor. We should cheer the rich and their ability to maintain power and control. There is NO basis for any kind of selfless morality in evolution. There is only the fight to continue the species. So, if the poor gets in your way - evolutionary theory says to crush them because they will only weaken the species. This is what animated Adolf Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and any other horrific leader who took evolutionary thought to its logical conclusion. Those who propose some kind of equity in the world from it - are being utterly contradictory to their own theory of origin. Let's return back to the proverb now. What is the place where rich and poor meet together? They meet at the point where God is maker of all. Both Judaism and Christianity teach that the point of ultimate equity is the throne of God. All men will stand here - and all will receive the justice due them for their actions. When we look at this biblical reality - it is a powerful motivator to use one's riches in a way that does not simply energize our innate selfishness. Your 70 or so years here on earth will yield you an eternity that will truly manifest true equity. Some will ignore this - and continue on their selfish path - but that path will only lead to destruction. True, the person may amass a fortune that impresses men - even impressing judges and rulers. But - God is unfazed by any amount of wealth that can ever be amassed by any individual, corporation, or nation-state. He continues to call us to obedience to His moral code. In the end - without any of the advantages of wealth, power, or human influence - both the rich and poor will come before their maker. They will be judged according to His standards - and will receive an ultimate future according to their deeds - according to the results of their actions. Solomon wrote in his farewell address, the book of Ecclesiastes, of the inequity of rich and poor. He said that often in the place of justice there is inequity and corruption. He also spoke of the transitory nature of riches - and how they too often deceive their possessors of ultimate reality - that they will face true justice in the end. He closed that last teaching with this statement. "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14) Sounds to me like the richest man on earth, who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote these very words about the place where rich and poor ultimately meet for justice - knew very well that place. He knew that the justice due all men - regardless of their financial bottom line - lay at the feet of their Creator. We would do well to remember this in all our dealings - both financial and moral.
The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes. Proverbs 21:1Do kings and rulers make their decisions and run their kings totally independent from the Lord? Some would think so, but the truth is that God is ultimately sovereign over the king. What is interesting about this particular proverb is that we see the king as an instrument of the Lord - and the Lord can direct this king's actions in whatever way He chooses. Can this be true? Can God honestly direct a king's heart like a channel of water?
We turn again to the pages of Scripture. We see again and again that God controls the heart of the king. For those who struggle with authority and think they constantly have to take things into their own hands, this passage is a reminder that God can work in any person's heart to accomplish His purpose. To see this, we only need to turn to the book of Esther and watch how God works in the heart of king Ahasuerus. The nation of Israel was on the brink of extinction within the kingdom, due to the wicked influence of Haman on the king. Esther has been praying for three days before entering the presence of the king - fearing that if he is displeased with her entrance - she could face death. Haman has his plot in place - ready to not just punish Mordecai, but to destroy his people as well. All seems to be moving to this horrific end for Israel - until God moves on the king's heart. Providentially, the king cannot sleep and asks for the anals of the kingdom to be read to him. Coming across an oversight on his part - he learns that Mordecai had rescued him from a plot to overthrown his rule and reign. As the king hears of this kindness we see the hand of the Lord turning the water course wherever He desires. Soon, we watch a complete reversal and now Mordecai is the spiritual leader - and Esther is honorred as Queen
There are those who fear that their lives are just being used as a pawn in a large chess game need to be encouraged as to the outcome. But we are not just cosmic pawns put in a game where higher powers move us to and fro. We are ultimately a part of what God is doing in bringing His own purpose and plan about each and every day. What is best for us is to search out and know God's purpose for our lives. If that purpose seems to be thwarted -even by royalty - we need to remember that our God directs kings and guides them like a husbandman directs a vine which he grows. Never lose heart - because God is ultimately in control - even over the highest office imaginable.
The terror of a king is like the growling of a lion; He who provokes him to anger forfeits his own life. Proverbs 20:2It is not very wise to make a king angry - unless it is a command from God that you speak in this way. Proverbs was written in the time when kings ruled over the land and their word was law. In some kingdoms a king could put anyone he wanted to death for any reason that he desired. This is why we are being advised not to provoke a king to anger.
When I read about the "terror of a king" I think of the book of Esther and the fabled anger of king Ahasuerus. This kind was known for his anger. When he became angry the phrase "heads will roll" was more than just a phrase. He became angry with his wife and deposed her from the throne. So there was no one out of his reach. In this situation it was extremely unwise to make this man angry. That was why Esther was hesitant to come before him without being asked to appear. His anger was so dangerous that a law was put into place that anyone who did this would be put to death unless the king extended his golden scepter to that person. It wouldn't take long to realize that nobody wanted to bother the king - and those who did - might not live very long to tell of it. Yet God needed Esther to come and plead for her people. She risked the anger of her king and was delivered by the Lord because of it. Not as much could be said for Haman - whose plot, once revealed made the king leave a banquet in anger. When he returned, Haman was begging for his life while falling at the couch of Esther. When the king saw this - he saw it as Haman assaulting her - and his fury rose. As the word went forth from his mouth - Haman's head was covered with a black hood - and not much more than moments later he was hanged at the gallows he intended for someone else. Definitely we see here that the anger of the king, when provoked, will cause a man to forfeit his life.
There is a principle here that can go beyond just relationships with kings and royalty. It has to do with how we speak and treat our boss in life. The boss-man has the power - and that power can mean you have a job or you don't have one. So speak with respect and with deference to a person in high levels of authority. Their anger is not like a normal person's anger. They have power and authority and when angry can use that authority to punish whoever it ticking them off. So . . . act with resepct and with reverence to those in authority. Show them respect and treat them as the position deserves. To do otherwise might cost you more than you think.
Wealth adds many friends, But a poor man is separated from his friend. Proverbs 19:4There are proverbs that God gives us that are just statements of truth. They are not meant to be approving of what is said - just a simple statement of what will be true in this fallen world. What we learn from them is often discerned as we seek the Lord. Today's proverb is one of these.
Wealth adds many friends. What a loaded statement. When a man is wealthy he has many friends. Ask anyone who has ever won a lot of money - they will tell you that suddenly friends come out of the woodwork. Watch the rich and famous sports figure - he has an entourage of friends who follow him and do his bidding wherever he goes. The word used for friend in the Hebrew is a very general word which can mean anything from a close friend or lover - to someone who is only an aquaintance. For the wealthy man, the trick is to know which is which. He will have those who become his friend because he is rich and the know they will live well when around him. These are the sycophants and human leaches of society. They are around when you are doing well and when gifts flow freely. When this flow stops - or the promise of some payback no longer is there - they are gone.
The second half of this proverb is telling. A poor man is separated from his friend. The word for poor man here is very interesting. It is the Hebrew word, "dal," which means to be poor or weak. these are people who are on the opposite social scale from the rich. The emphasis here is on their poverty and their weakness. Keil and Delitzsch describe this word as meaning reduced, or as "one who has fallen into a tottering condition, who has no resources, and who possesses no means. This man is in the process of being reduced. He may have had wealth - or at least enough - but due to his circumstances and problems he is now being reduced. His condition has become one of a tottering man who is in the process of going down - of falling. This is the man who is separated from his friend. Unfortunately he has fair-weather friends who are around for the ride - who are a friend because of what they "get" from the relationship. Once things start going down - this kind of friend makes himself or herself scarce. This is a lousy friend - and we are being warned here that such friends exist in our world.
What we should learn from this passage is that friends come and go - at least some friends do. The true friend is the one who sticks around even when we are being "reduced." Scripture tells us that there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. There are those who stay with us even when we are at our lowest and most vulnerable. If you have a friend like this - thank God for him or her - because such friends are not abundant in a fallen world where most are more concerned about themselves than about those around them. Lastly, we should realize that Christ is the ultimate friend. We were absolutely reduced by sin and by our fallen nature. There was NOTHING attractive or alluring about us in God's sight - yet the Lord loved us. We read in Romans 5:8 that "God demonstrated His own love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Christ is our absolute friend. He loved us while we were in rebellion against Him. In this world we will have friends that disappoint us. But take heart because in the Lord Jesus Christ you have a friend that will never leave you or forsake you. When you have no other friend to turn to - you are still not alone - turn to Him for comfort and for encouragement. He will always be there regardless of whether you are rich . . . or reduced.