Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she smiles at the future. Proverbs 31:25
As we look at the excellent wife, we now turn to inner qualities in her life. These are discussed in verses 25-28 and once again represent a godly woman who takes her role seriously before God, before her family, and before the outside world around her. In verse 25 three things characterize the inner qualities of this godly wife.
First, she is a woman of strength. Keil and Delitzsch say this about the word strength here. "She is clothed with strength, which is the power over the changes of temporal circumstances, which easily shatter and bring to ruin a household resting on less solid foundations." Hers is an inner strength derived from a relationship with God - and from the Scriptures which guide those who know Him. Just as she would clothe herself daily with outward dress - she also turns each day to God for the inner strength she will need to face the world and love those in her family. When I think of what strength she functions from, Ephesians 6:10 comes to mind. "Be strong in The Lord and in the strength of His might." Any lady who has run a home knows that Keil and Delitzsch's comments are very true. The average home faces changing circumstances - especially when it comes to the people who live in it. The godly wife is a rock to her family - in that she faces the problems they face with the wisdom of God. The throes of a child's life - especially in the Junior and Senior High years are a roller-coaster of emotions, highs and lows, and wrestlings with the world seeking to influence them negatively. She faces every battle - every situation - every new trial with strength.
Secondly, we see that she faces these things with "dignity." The word here is "glory" which here points to a mindset that thinks above that which is low, little, or common. She does not look to life as just getting by or living for the things of this world. She thinks higher than that. She is clothed with a mind and a heart that reaches higher - that desires a life that glorifies God. Some live aspiring to no glory at all. They live in the mundane and think that is all that they will be able to do. But a godly woman knows that God wants to work in those around her - and she cooperates, knowing that in doing so a touch of glory will be on the lives of those around her as a result. She is both dignified - and lives with a dignity that has others look up to her.
Because of these things the godly wife smiles at the future. There is something that is needed today. Too many look at the future and grit their teeth as they await the devastation they figure is coming. The godly woman faces all things with God's strength seeking God's glory - and as a result smiles that although much may be wrong in the world - she sees things in light of growing closer to God and doing things that glorify Him. As a result, regardless of the circumstances, she smiles at the future knowing that getting closer to God - loving Him more - serving Him better - and selflessly giving herself for those around her is not governed by anyone other than herself as she responds to God Himself. That is why while all others seem to frown at the future - she stands smiling and looking to God for His work even in the midst of a crooked and godless generation.
The inner strength, character, and outlook of the excellent wife sets her apart from other women. She stands as a beacon of hope and joy in a world where too many struggle with depression and thoughts that everything stinks. Rather than let the world depress her - she seeks to live by God's purposes and designs - and then seeks to influence the world rather than let it influence her. What a delight it is to know such a woman - and an ever better one to have one blessing your home.
She extends her hand to the poor, And she stretches out her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household, For all her household are clothed with scarlet. She makes coverings for herself; Her clothing is fine linen and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, When he sits among the elders of the land. She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies belts to the tradesmen.
Proverbs 31:20-24The wise and godly woman here knows the taste of success. When it says that she "senses" her gain is good - God uses the word for tasting something. She works hard, which we see consistently in the previous verses. But more than that, she tastes that what she is doing it good. The things that she sells to the merchants brings her gain - it helps her to earn money. She knows and tastes the success that hard work brings. It is important that people experience the fruit of their labor. I am not one who believes in the economic systems of socialism or communism. Those two systems tout a false idea of community goods that are shared by all. The problem is that such systems kill the benefits of hard work and labor for the individual. In the end, the collective works only as hard as they want to - and since they receive nothing but the same allotment for their labors - they are not motivated to excell at them. The result of tasing the fruit of your labors will be far less labors. When we are allowed to taste that sweet fruit, we are motivated to labor harder, smarter, wiser for the good of our own benefit - and by that for the good of our family and others around us.
This godly woman knows that her gain is good. Here we have another confrontation with the current thoughts on economics. In our world gain is bad! How dare Capitalists relish the fact that they are making a profit. We wrongly call them evil - yet it is their "so-called profit that allows so many others to enjoy benefits. This godly lady knew in her heart that hard work would yield good things - and would bless her - bless her family - bless others who bought them - and eventually would bless her community. When governments try to "equalize" the playing field - what they mean is that they are going to promise everyone the same outcome - because that is what they say is fair. What is amazing is that they want an equal misery for the masses - but for themselves luxury. Every socialist and communist leader has evidenced the sin nature. They talk a certain egalitarianism among others - but they themselves will have the most. They will have the best of everything. What they deliver to the people is equal poverty and misery.
It is self-interest that will drive men and women to their best efforts. They must receive some reward for hard labor - and once they taste this fruit - they will want more. This results in hard work - work ethic as it is called. This woman knows that. Because she tastes that her gain is good - she works hard. She labors into the night as her lamp can testify. She stretches out her hands to make clothing - which is what the terms distaff and spiindle indicate. This is because she is working toward her own self-interest. In this case that means her own clothing - the clothing of her family - and clothing that can be sold to others to earn more money for the welfare of her home. This is the kind of work God encourages - and blesses. May He give us wisdom to reject the false philosophies that promote powerful government officials who speak of equality and egalitarianism - but who only deliver a corporate misery to the masses as they live high on the hog themselves. May we instead see the value of hard work, frugality, and wisdom in taking what God gives us and using it for the benefit of our families. The fascinating thing about this kind of life is that as families (Which are the basic unit of society in God's economy) multiply with these views, a village, city, region, and even nation is blessed and prosperous as a result.
Verse 21 introduces us to the way that this woman is generous toward her own household. She does this by knowing of their needs. She lives in a climate where snow and cold affect her children and family. Therefore she labors to make sure that they are clothed with scarlet. The imagry here is that of seeing the heaviness of the clothing she provides for her family. She makes sure that they are warm when it is cold outside. The word household even goes a step further. This word also referred to the servants one might have in and out of their home. She is gracious and kind enough to make sure that even they are warm and well taken care of especially when it is cold outside and they need warm clothing.This next verse may seem strange to us - but she also provides for herself. This indicates her frugality, as clothes made by her own hands would cost less than those made by others. But it also indicates that she cares about her appearance. Her clothing is fine linen and purple. These are expensive and fine fabrics she uses and it indicates that her household (who are all clothed in this fashion as well - from verse 21) are dressed as those who are proud of their appearance. This is not because they are clothed in the latest fashions from Gapstein, Eyptian Eagle, or Old Testament Navy. These are clothes their mother produced by the labor of her own hand. There is class here - but not class that arises out of buying things from others. It is the class that arises from quality made at home. In this way she blesses her children, her husband, and even herself.
The excellent wife is generous toward her husband as well. We find it said that eh is known in the gates and sits among the elders of the land. He is successful and wise. Working with and for him and her family is this godly woman who takes great joy in seeing her husband respected. That takes for granted that she herself respects him - and respect for him grows in concentric circles from what men see in her heart and actions. When a man's household is in order and respectable - men want him to rise to other positions of leadership where he can do the same. The wisdom and discretion they see in his choice of a wife makes them want him to lead them. His wife, in this way, is his crown (Proverbs 12:4).
We see this attitude in Ruth - who delighted in seeing her husband Boaz honored in the gates of the land. She was indeed an excellent wife, even though she was a Gentile. Those who saw and experienced her wisdom and servant heart praised her to Boaz - and spoke to her mother-in-law of how she was better to her than seven sons. To bring honor to those around us by the way we carry ourselves is a high task. Too many live only for the honor brought to themselves - and are content with the compliments being spent there. The true servant and generous person is the one who gives of herself with no thought of herself. She is content to receive praise by seeing those she loved praised. Truly that is a generous person.
The excellent wife is generous even in business with others. Her skill is such that she is not just able to make garments for her own family - but she makes them for others. The quality of her work creates a demand for what she makes. She sells garments she makes to others who desire them for their beauty and quality. Even the tradesmen want her products. This is quite a compliment because a tradesman is one who offers quality merchandise. They learn their trade and perfect it over years. What we have here is a woman of excellence - who makes garments excellently so that those who know excellent merchandise want it when they see it. She is generous even to them for what she makes . . . sells and sells well.
The excellent wife is a generous woman. That generosity moves out in circles blessing first those she loves and calls family. Eventually though, she is so skilled in what she does that the demand for her work is great. Being selfish most often hurts the one who is this way. But being generous will bless the one who is in ways that only someone who is truly giving can understand.
And you say, "How I have hated instruction! And my heart spurned reproof! Proverbs 5:12
Pride goes before a fall . . . into sexual sin. This entire chapter is a father's advice and counsel to his son. The issue which is being discussed is that of sexual immorality - with an emphasis on the adulterous and immoral woman. Toward the end of his instruction Solomon tells his sons that there will come a day when their aduiltery will be brought to light by God. When that day happens, we are told that the one who followed after these sins will not be truly repentant. Instead he will speak of how he hated all that teaching about adultery being sin. He ignored all that garbage that the Bible had to say about morals. He will say it even as his life is in shambled about him - due to his sexual immorality.
The two words used in this verse are instructive to us about what our attitude becomes toward God's call for holy living. The first word is "sane" which means to hate. The word means to loathe, dislike, and even despise another, their actions or their words. Here the sexually immoral man hates the instruction of the Bible on sex. He also "spurns" reproof. The word for "spurn" is the Hebrew word "na'as" which means to revile, reject, and scorn. This word has the idea that the one doing this is very unhappy and angry as they do this. Thus when reproof comes their way - they can spew angry and unhappy words as they hate what they are hearing. I've had the unfortunate responsiblity to confront people about sexual immorality - and have faced the vitriol that comes toward those who dare to speak against the spirit of this age, which fully embraces a full and free expression of sexuality without any limits.
A quick look at the Biblical record of people who were given over to sexual immorality shows that they were very rebellious to the message of God's Word. Whether that was an appeal to the Law of God - or the appeal of one of God's prophets, they hated when they were rebuked. Just like this passage says, they spurned God's reproof and would not listen to the teachers God sent them. Sexual sin blinds us to the truth - and the further we go into it - the worse that blindness becomes. All that is visible is the desire for more that knaws at those who reject the morality God calls us to follow.
God warns us in Romans chapter 1 that ignoring His commands concerning sexuality, (Which are simply this - sex is only acceptable in a marriage relationship between a man and a woman - all other sexual activity - heterosexual immorality, monosexuality, or homosexuality are sin) ignoring them is sin. When we reject this - God gives us over to our sin - first in more bondage to fornication heterosexually - and eventually to homosexuality, as a sign that we are further being given over to our sin. What is a little frightening is that by the end of Romans - we have a society that has rejected pretty much all that God commands - and heartily approve of others who live as they do - rejecting God's way. There is a steady move away from God, away from listening to Him and His Word, and away from any kind of teachable mindset.
A wise man sees far enough into a sexually immoral lifestyle to know that it will hurt him in many ways. We've seen from prior verses that health and relationships are destroyed by it. Now we see that one's relationship to truth is greatly harmed by it - as well as their relationship with the God Who gave His Word to us. Some think they can tinker with immorality without consequence to their relationship with God. After reading and looking at today's proverb - the wise man knows better, and instead submits himself to God's Word. The stakes are just too high to ignore what God says here.
The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes Than seven men who can give a discreet answer.
The fourth verse we come to about the sluggard has to do with how his lack of any work ethic eventually affects his reason as well as his ego. He is wise in his own eyes - even though he does not put any work into what he thinks. He is a stranger to hard physical work - but now we learn he is also one to mental work as well. When he looks to someone for wisdom - he looks to himself. This is because of his ego - which is vastly overgrown while having no real reason to be so. He is too lazy to study - yet he thinks he knows far more than those who do. He is wiser than seven men who give a reasoned, well-studied, well-thought out answer. He is a genius in his own estimation - while his supposed genius is honestly ignorance of anything other than what he himself thinks. A legend in his own mind, he mentally gives himself the Nobel prize for everything.
Anyone who has ever done good academic work knows that this is no place for the sluggard. Good quality academic work requires painstaking study and hours of sacrifice both thinking and writing (not to mention re-writing). Someone who has expertice in a subject area has put in years of effort in order to have it. The whole idea of a "masters" degree is that someone has "mastered" a subject area. The seminary I attended required that we read a 300-500 page text for each course taken. But, this was not all we were required to do. We also were required to do extensive reading while preparing papers as well as do 1500 pages of outside reading on the subject. Even after all this effort, we were just barely beyond ignorant in the subjects we studied. Most areas of theology had literally thousands of texts written on it -some had hundreds of thousands.
The mental sluggard stands against seven men who work hard at honing their minds - and mocks all of them. He will take what little learning he has and string it together so as to think he is a mental heavyweight - when he doesn't even tip the scales of learning at a single pound. He spouts his opinion and then closes his mind to anything other than his highly self-valued moronity. He has no need to listen to others since his own ultimate genius has been voiced. Thus the mental sluggard continues his self-imposed banishment to ignorance in a miniature land of his own making.
A wise man knows that he does not yet know as he should know. He is teachable above all things - and is willing to spend more time gathering information than spouting it to others. He who holds his tongue and opens his mind is wise! He may not agree with what is said to him - yet he takes all things in an effort to become wiser still. He does not see himself as wise in his own eyes. He sees God as ultimately wise - and is actively looking for those who will speak according to God's wisdom. If you are a mental sluggard beware of lacking the wisdom of seeing yourself as not yet wise. Few things can dwarf your intellect and your spiritual acumen like being wise in your own eyes. It is proof that your field of spiritual and mental vision is extremely narrow.
By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, And a soft tongue breaks the bone. Proverbs 25:15
Today's proverb has to do with the power of persuasion - especially when the one who is to be persuaded is someone in authority, like a ruler or a king. How is it that we persuade someone so high in office? The answer might shock you, because the Lord says that it is not the forceful man that will win the day. Patience and gentleness have much greater power to persuade than a blustery, arrogant person.
Forbearance is what is needed, according to our proverb. The Hebrew word here is "orek" and it means something long or lengthy. It describes physical measurements. The word used to describe the length of Noah's ark as well as to describe things like large land measurements. But what is measured as long in this passage is the patience and willingness to stick with one's cause before someone in authority. The idea is that a person forbears the fact that the ruler has a different opinion - and seeks to bring the powers of persuasion to bear on him over time. Most rulers are not given to quick swings in opinion - and when they do - it has the danger of not lasing long. The influence of the wise man is applied to a decision over a long period of time. That is one reason he is effective in getting the ruler to think and reason as he does. William Wilberforce spent his entire lifetime forbearing with those who differed with him on the issue of slavery. Yet he held to his views and continued to persuade men by holding them no matter what the outcome of votes within Parliment. In the end, his willingness to remain in the fight and stay there for years won the day for him and his cause.
There is a second tool that a wise man uses in persuading a ruler. We are instructed that a soft or gentle tongue can break a bone. What a powerful picture that is for us - and yet how contrary to the way that many of us are wired to think. It is not boisterousness and bravado that win the day with the ruler. It is the wise, soft spoken and gentle man who can eventually persuade the king on a matter. Consider Daniel for a moment on this matter. He was a very wise man who had tremendous influence on the king. Yet we do not have a single passage where Daniel speaks impassioned words to the king. Joseph was the same way. He was a man of controlled passions when it came to his dealings with Pharaoh. This kind of strength under control allies great power. The king and the Pharaoh came to have great confidence in these godly men. Their words - though gentle in their presentation - were powerful and could accomplish much.
Of those who led with forbearance and gentle words, Jesus stands more significant among all. He was patient with His disciples - and submitted Himself to God and even to others when He Himself had once sat at the right hand of God Himself. He spoke in ways that made men marvel - and commanded even the elements to submit to His will. When standing before a corrupt pseudo-court of man - Jesus was able to be quiet - even amazing His captors with His behavior. And when it came to raw displays of power - His simple words, "I am He," in the garden caused a wicked mob to stagger backwards and fall to the ground on their backs. Gentleness bearing great power - Jesus was the epitome of it in life.
Too many in our day think that to be influential you have to be a jerk. They see power as something wielded with an iron fist. You don't take anything from anybody - even someone in a position of authority. Such behavior may get you a temporary rung higher on the corporate ladder, but it will NOT bode well for you long into the future. The "gentle-tongued" man does not make the kind of enemies that the man with the macho attitude. He does not leave a trail of crushed egos and smashed careers along the way. The man who triumphs with power and a lack of gentleness will have many who will cheer for his fall. The gentle man learns to break a bone with the gentle and controlled way that he quietly and consistently speaks for his principles. Thus he comes to the point of persuasioin without all the baggage of his blustery counterparts.
Learn to influence others wisely. Learn to stand in positions of principle steadfastly. Learn to persuade others with soft, gentle, bone-crushing power. The power you access in the process will not be that of the fleshly elite of this world, whose kingdoms are passing away. The power you access will be that of the Son of God - Who remained silent as a lamb before His shearers - and yet who crushed death and hell under the weight of His godly obedience to His Father. There, dear saints, is power!
There is no wisdom and no understanding And no counsel against the Lord. Proverbs 21:30
This has got to be one of the most discouraging passages for an atheist or an agnostic. Here they are doing all that they do against the Lord - thinking there is a wisdom that they can have that is not of God - an understanding apart from Him and counsel that goes against what He says.
Yet the facts speak for themselves . . .
No wisdom against God . . . When you hear words that contradict those of the living God in Scripture - it is not a wise thing you are hearing. There may be people who say things that accidently agree with God's Word in the midst of their foolish ramblings. Some may consider them wise - but only because they agreed with a principle found in the pages of Scripture. But when they contradict God's Word - there is no wisdom in that.
No understanding against God . . . Understanding means a discernment, a reasoning or a skill with facts that gives one the ability to see what is coming. Since God is the One Who is from all eternity - and Who knows the beginning from the end and the end from the beginning - one would think we would get the fact that He is all-knowing. Thus . . . He knows the future - and His Word will always reveal the best course - the one in keeping with understanding. Ever wonder why the so-called "experts" can take all their studies - all their learning - and come up with such inane conclusions? Ever wonder why all the prognosticators get it wrong again and again? It is because they do not turn to God for wisdom - and out of that wisdom gain understanding. They think they can come up with conclusions that disagree with God and still be right. But there is no understanding that is against the Lord. Let them make their forcasts - but we know from the Word of God how all things will go and even more important - how they will all end.
No counsel against the Lord . . . The word counsel here means advice - but even more than that - a plan or a plot. There are those to whom the world goes seeking advice. People like Dr. Phil and Oprah and her constant lineup of false prophets seem so wise - so understanding - and therefore the masses cling to them and to their plans. They think that they will be blessed by following them. But the fact is that there is no plan against the Lord. Oh there are actually thousands of plans and plots against Him - but none that will succeed in the end. I find it fascinating that Oprah and all her spiritual advisers come up with the same basic idea - that we are god and can make our own truth. As we accept that and work within it, we will become better, more balanced people. What do I find fascinating about this? It is the same advice given in the garden. "You will not surely die, for God knows that in the day that you eat, you will become like God, knowing good and evil." That is the same lie that Satan used to deceive Eve. That counsel did not work then - and surprise - won't work now either.
There is something that truly irks me is when I go to a movie or see a show or read an article that drips with man's arrogant self-congratulation over his own counsel. The arrogance of mankind is astounding when we think of how man gathers his own wisdom - makes his own forecasts - and then sets out on a plan - yet God is nowhere mentioned or accessed. Generations have come and will march into dust so sure of themselves and their plans. Yet the ultimate test is the judgment seat of Christ. It is the day when all the plans of man will come to an end. On that day we will know as we have never known before that there is no wisdom, no understanding, and no counsel against the Lord.
I hear the words of the psalmist ringing in my ears:
"Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the Lord with reverence And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in
the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him! Psalms 2:10-12
Now there is wisdom - there is understanding - and good counsel that will stand well throughout eternity. Get ready to face the Son - honor the Son - worship the Son - for in the end the only wisdom, understanding, and counsel that will matter is that which is in agreement with His.
The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair. Proverbs 20:29
Today's proverb gives us some valued information about both young men and old men. This is not a proverb that compares them against each other. It gives us the best view of what is wonderful about them - and what they should strive for in their youthful zeal - as well as their older, wiser days.
There are some great words used here to describe the younger man and his pursuit in the things of God - and in life in general. Note that God's wisdom tells us there is a "glory of young men." When you are younger in years you seek after the glory of something. This is not meant to be a negative statement - as if the younger man is usurping the glory of God. They just have an appetite for glory. The best way to describe this is that they yearn for rewards in life. If you place a goal with a reward that grants glory for something - young men will pursue it with great passion. These are the years when trophies, plaques, awards, and bonuses mean the most. Put a goal in front of these young men - and they will be greatly motivated to reach it. This is why the movement to make everyone equal at a young age is not good for our children. The whole, "we don't keep score" and "everyone is a winner" is not a realistic view of life. Granted we don't want competition to become an all-consuming desire to where morals and character don't seem to matter any longer - but the fact of life is that there is going to be competition. There are going to be winners and losers chosen in almost every area of life. Solomon warns that this can become vanity - when competition becomes the only thing that matters - but at the same time God's Word exhorts us to run the race "so as to win." Only one person gets the prize (or one team) but a wise parent encourages his children to excell at what they do - even if all they have to measure their success is their own previous performance.
We read here that the young man's glory is his strength. Young men want to be strong in some way. Some choose physical strength - others mental prowess. Whatever way they choose, they love being seen as strong in something. There is a wisdom that takes this desire and channels it in ways that are very constructive. Encourage your young men to find something they enjoy - or an area in which they can excell. Put goals and lofty aspirations before them in this - and then encourage the daylights out of them as they strive toward it. Let me give you a small example of this. Too often we do not challenge our young men - and this is a detriment that cripples them later in life. We are so given to the fear that they will have their self-image damaged - that we do not see that it already is because as young men they are not being challenged to do great things. One summer I took the high school guys I work with and challenged them to read the New Testament once a month - and memorize 8-10 verses a week. They were to do this in June, July, and August. Some might be concerned that I was "setting them up to fail" and that their poor little self worth would be damaged as a result. But that was not the case. They rose to the task with youthful vigor and strength! They loved it - and as a result were blown away at what God did in their hearts as they strove for something challenging. They each felt their strength as they were challenged to do something that was a huge challenge. They would come in week by week having met the challenge - or needing to step up and do what needed to be done to meet it. These young men gloried in the strength to do something hard for God.
What about old men? What is it that motivates and moves them. Note first that the word glory is removed and the word honor is inserted. Older men desire honor - but once again let me state that they do not desire God's honor in an ungodly way. Their desire is for others to realize that they have lived a godly, honorable life - and due to this should be respected and honored for their years of labor and wisdom. The proverb says that older men are honored due to their grey hair. Grey hair is achieved by . . . getting older It means that you've lived for a while. We joke that grey hair comes because of walking through the difficulties and challenges of life. That may not be as much of a joke as we think. Grey hair means you are no longer a young man plowing through life's difficulties. It means you've walked through them - and honestly - know ways that are wiser and better. Grey hair comes with battle scars and with proven character in the difficult trials that life throws your way. Grey hair means you've been around for a while - you've been knocked down a lot - but it also means that you've gotten back up and continued in the way a little better and a little wiser. There is a phrase older men know - you learn to work smarter, not just harder. This comes from wisdom - and it is a reason to be honored. Honor comes when people listen to you. They listen, not because you love to talk and because you have a thousand stories you repeat again and again. They listen because you are wise and becasue you truly have something to say. They listen because you not only know the road - but you know the good short-cuts. You know the the short-cuts that work - and those that will result in disasters. You also know that some things are only learned over time - and that there are no short-cuts to them. They also listen because you've walked with God for years - have survived the pitfalls and ambushes of life - and have come out a godly man.
There is a lack of wisdom that unwisely pits younger men against older men. It devalues one or the other while trying to make the case that one is more important than the other. The truth - and wisdom tells us that both are needed. The military needs strong young men who can fight - yet it also relies on older, seasoned men to strategize the best ways to fight and defend the land. Business needs young, strong men who can work hard and cover a lot of things - yet it also relies on older, wiser men to navigate the dangerous paths that can often destroy a business. Both are needed - if they understand their roles and don't succumb to jealousy. Blessed is the business, organization, and nation who grasps this - who values the strength of young men and the grey hair of older ones. They will receive the best of both ends of the age spectrum - and will prepare the next generation of older men to do the same. The fact is this - the younger men of today are becoming the older men of tomorrow. Oh that we will learn to value the contributions of both - and will find ourselves continuously training the next group of older men who will lead and appreciate the younger.
Listen to counsel and accept discipline, That you may be wise the rest of your days. Proverbs 19:20
Two things that are key to being wise are counsel and discipline. If you will heed these two things in your life, you will be wise. According to today's proverb - your wisdom will be with you for the rest of your life.
The first of these two things that bring us wisdom is listening to counsel. The word for listen here is "sama" and it means listenting with a bent to obey what you hear. God used this word in Deuteronomy 6:4
when He said to Israel, "Hear O, Israel," and proceeded to call Israel to love Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This was not meant as advice that could be received or rejected. When God called His people to "hear," He meant to hear with a view to obeying what they were about to hear. Wise men "hear" counsel from God and others who love Him - and do so knowing that they will also obey. When we do this we are not listening in order to pass judgment - or to correct all the things that may be wrong in what is being said. We are listening so that we can gather action points which will result in a more specific and joyful obedience to God.
One of the blessings of my life has been having godly men there to teach me and give me good, biblical counsel. Another blessing has been that I had such respect for them as men of God that I rarely if ever thought of questioning anything they said. My heart was set on obeying them as soon as they spoke. They were godly men! Why should I question what they said? Men like John Dale, Brother Russell, and pastor Al spoke with great authority because they used Scripture to make their point. Hearing godly counsel always went hand in hand with obeying what I heard. I felt like I was not wise enough to question them . . . therefore obedience was what I expected to be my response.
I've watched others though, who do question counsel. They do not listen with a bent to obey. They listen with a bent to question everything. In some situations this can be a positive thing - especially when the one counselling you is ungodly - or you get a quick check in your spirit about something that was said. But when you are with godly mentors and people who have consistently offered good counsel - it can be unwise. If we are busy questioning the counsel given - we probably won't know how to apply that counsel in practical ways.
The second thing mentioned here is to accept disciplline. "Musar" is the Hebrew word for discipline - and it is an old friend to us as we walk through Proverbs. Just as a reminder, it means child training from a father. The idea is that we are being not only instructed - but practically guided into a way of choosing. It means corrective as well as instructive discpline. When we move outside certain moral paths - there is corrective action and instruction to help us get back on track and away from moral failure. We are to accept this discipline - to receive it and take it on willingly. We are to be willing to be trained by it - even if the training can be painful at times.
The second half of this proverb actually offers the reward of these two actions. It is a Hebraism that speaks of being wise in the latter end of our lives. When we listen to obey godly counsel - our latter days will be blessed with wisdom. When we accept discpline and submit to the boundaries it provides we will be blessed to be wise in our latter days. The path of our lives will be blessed. The direction of our lives will be wise and filled with understanding. These are things people see in someone and want. They see a wiser man or woman and wish they were wise like them. The problem may come in that they think the wisdom came to them naturally - or was some kind of inherited trait. That is just not true. Wisdom comes when a person listens and obeys others wiser than themselves. It requires humbling ourselves and seeing problems and wrong ideas in our own thinking and working to change them. It requires being disciplined (even spanked when you were little) and learning from it. Wisdom comes to us because we choose to learn - even learn from very hard lessons and difficult moments. The path to wisdom is never easy - at least to the ones who are proud and who tend to bow-up when they are taught or corrected. But for the ones who humble themsevles under godly instruction - and submit themselves to painful lessons - wisdom abounds - and continues to do so all their days.
All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful heart has a continual feast. Proverbs 15:15 (NASB)
So, how is your attitude lately? Here in today's proverb we have an interesting truth that is being presented to us. The truth has to do with what is governing our hearts, or said another way, our choice to how we look at our circumstances in life. We can choose this, whether you know that or not, and it will truly govern what kind of day we are going to experience. Intrigued? Then let's take a look at the proverb today and learn how choosing our attitude each day in response to the grace of God can govern in many ways what kind of day we are going to have.
All the days of the afflicted are bad. This seems to be a "University of Duh" kind of statement, if there was not a second part to this proverb. But this is not speaking of those who are dealing with affliction and hardship and trouble alone. The second half of the proverb points us to what is ruling in a man's heart. The truth of the matter is that often feeling bad in the midst of affliction is far more a matter of the heart than it is just the circumstances in which we find ourselves. Let me explain.
There are those who in the midst of very difficult affliction seem to thrive and keep a great attitude - and - there are those who even in abundance, consider themselves afflicted. I've watched people face the most awful circumstances and still have a cheerful attitude. They are the kind of people you go visit in the hospital, and after leaving the room you wonder who came to encourage who? You can supposedly to encourage and lift their spirits - but leave honestly more encouraged by them. They seem to have an almost inconquerable spirit about them. The reason being is that they do not face life thinking they are afflicted. They do not look at the glass as always half empty. They look at things in light of the grace of God.
When you realize that you deserve hell and the wrath of God for your sin. When you grasp that you honestly deserve nothing but punishment and affliction for the choice to grieve God and live in rebellion to His will. Then you grasp that God in His mercy did NOT punish you - and then in infinite grace sent His Son to pay the price for your rebellion and sin. That you have been given life and life abundantly instead in Christ Jesus. Well, then nothing in this life can even begin to disturb you at your core. I am not saying that afflictions won't hurt and that problems might not get you down initially. But the fact of your salvation should blow your mind and bring you to where you have continually a cheerful heart. Paul warned the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord. He told them again that they should rejoice. This was to protect them from having the sense of an afflicted heart - that would eventually see a cloud inside of every silver lining. Instead we should see how God in His mercy had blessed us beyond all measure. When we see this, we should be filled with a happy heart - a redeemed heart - a joyful heart - and as we read here a cheerful heart. Grace and grace alone is ground to have this indominatable cheerfulness control and utterly dominate your demeanor.
The cheerful heart, we read here, has a continual feast. Christians should have a great attitude - at all times. We should know that light and momentary discomforts (which when you read what Paul called light and momentary seem far from that description) are working for us an eternal weight of glory. We need to know that the varicolored trials and difficulties that we face are reason to rejoice exceedingly - for they are working endurance in our lives. This endurance will result in being mature and complete - lacking nothing in our lives. There is nothing - absolutely nothing that will ever separate us from the love of God that was given to us in Christ Jesus. Therefore even death is not a problem any more. We can walk through life knowing that the final foe is defeated. This, dear saints, is what can fill your heart with joy (i.e. here called cheerfulness) no matter what is going on in your life. I've even seen those facing death have a cheerfulness about their demeanor.
So, what will be your choice today? Will you walk about as one of the continually afflicted - manifesting an "Eyeore-ish" ability to see the reason to not rejoice? That will make every day that you live seem as if it has some bad aspect to it. There is another choice, which is to fill your heart with a joy that comes from the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul said it best in Romans chapter 5 when he said, "Therefore, having been made righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God."
Prepare your work outside And make it ready for yourself in the field; afterwards, then, build your house. Proverbs 24:27
This proverb addresses the need to make provision for oneself and one's family - before we begin to seek for personal comfort. This is spoken of from the view of an agricultural society - but the principles will work everywhere. This principle is often lost on our society which is tempted daily by commercials which tell us what we just absolutely have to get . . . immediately. Therefore this particular proverb may be a good one to not only read and consider - but also to apply to the problems that seem to be multiplying in our nation.
We are told here to begin life by working hard - by seeking a proper support for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. Please read and focus on "proper support" here - rather than the worldly standards that are set before us. Proper support means that we can provide food and clothing for ourselves and our family - as we look to the Lord to bless our efforts and our obedience. In the day in which this was written, this meant getting outside and preparing your fields or your flocks. It meant plowing the ground, obtaining seed, and then planting the seed and working the fields. This involved a lot of hard work - but we should realize that work was not part of the curse - weeds were. But regardless of whether there are weeds or not - God wants us to work - and work hard at what we do.
The instruction here is to FIRST prepare in the field - then you can build your house. For some this means building a business. For others it may mean working hard at a job and doing what is necessary to develop either their education or other marketable skills. But for all of us it means delaying gratification until we know that we can provide for ourselves and a family (if we have one - or - want one). Here is wisdom - delaying gratification - delaying all the perks you want in life - and even delaying marriage until you can provide for a wife.
Our society says, "You deserve it NOW!" But the facts are that we don't "deserve" anything for which we do not work. Never in Scripture is a "living" promised to us if we do not work hard. There is no instruction to governments to provide housing, provide transportation, provide health care, or provide food for those who are not working for it. There is no "poverty index" in Scripture that it is sinful for us to let others fall below. In fact - the facts of the Bible say that we should NOT feed those who can work - but will not do so. There should be little or nothing provided for the able-bodied who do not want to work hard. What has happened in the United States is that we've so "over-promised" a certain level of prosperity to everyone (politically - and unfortunately even religiously at times with the health, wealth, prosperity movement) that they have come to expect it. The think they are entitled to it - whether they work for it or not. The result has been a very poor work ethic - and a total lack of understanding of how business and how life works.
The proverb here says, 'AFTERWARD' you can build your house. The idea here is that a house is a luxury. One of the things that speaks volumes to me is watching a movie or show that reminds me how hard it was for the early settlers in the United States. They worked very hard to prepare the land - cutting down trees and pulling stumps. They worked very hard tilling the land and removing stones from it. They plowed, planted, and worked the land with tremendous effort and diligence. Then they would work even harder to build a house - after the land was planted. Until this was done, they lived in tents and in the wagon in which they came to the area. The reminder to me is that hard work is a fact of life.
We do ourselves and our children a great disservice to teach them a life of luxury. We are hurting them by not giving them work to do - and at times "hard" work to accomplish. We are undercutting the foundation of our society by not inclucating a work ethic into them. We are not preparing them for reality - and we are making them easy pickings for the political hacks who get their power by promising freebies. What this had led to is a society that is rotting from within because of a lack of work ethic - and an abundance of expectations that are demanded from the rest of society. God's way is to work hard at your outside work. God's way is to learn a work ethic that labors at what is good and what will provide for yourself and your family. Then when you have established such important, foundational things - then build your house - enjoy a little luxury . . . or maybe it would be better stated that you are then able to enjoy the fruits of your labor.