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.
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12
For the next week or so, we will look at the "excellent wife" as she is represented in Scripture. This portrayal is given by Solomon's mother, who sought to point him toward the right kind of godly woman to be his wife. Rather than try to give direct parallels to everything that is written in this chapter, I'm going to look at this excellent wife more by categories. That is because, due to culture and the times in which we live, we don't do some of these things any longer. I also do not believe that godliness in a woman is measured by whether she spins her own yarn or makes her own bread. Godliness is determined by issues of the heart - not by works that a woman does or does not do. So with that in mind - and with that as our backdrop - let us dive in and take a look at what God calls an excellent wife in His Word.
Solomon's mom begins by asking a question, "An excellent wife, who can find?" Good question. She is not the kind of mother who just wants her son to get married - no matter to whom. She wants her son to focus on excellence in a wife. She does that by presenting to him a number of character traits that are present in a wife who is excellent. He reminds her son that when he does find one - her worth is far above jewels. There is a hint here of just how difficult a task this may be. Jewels are not found lying around on the ground. You have to search for them. There are few precious jewels - but a lot of rocks. So also may be the search for an excellent wife.
There also may be just a little more than a tinge of pain here for Bathsheba as she writes this to her son. She was not an excellent wife to either Uriah or David. Unfortunately her wisdom was learned in the school of sinful, hard knocks. She betrayed her first husband by committing adultery - and eventually cost him his life in doing this with a very powerful man. Then she agreed to a sham marriage for the sake of covering up her indiscretions - that cost her the first born child of that union. She was a woman who was very beautiful outwardly - but that outward beauty was not indicative of the inward state of her heart. Now, her goal was to do all she could to keep her son from making a mistake like that his father made. She did this not out of bitterness or resentment - but as a recipient of grace. (see the post for Proverbs 31:1-2)
Even as she wrote the words in verse 11 there had to be pain in the penmanship. The heart of her husband trusts in her. He knows she will be faithful to him - and that truth resides in the core of his heart. The issue of faithfulness and trustworthy character is first on her list. An excellent wife is faithful and true to one man all her days. There are no thoughts lurking within him of her seeking out another man - no thoughts of adultery. Oh the peace that resides in a man's heart when this is true - and oh the torture that hunts a man's spirit when it is not. I've seen men destroyed by jealousy - even the point of doing the unthinkable - killing their wives and then themselves. Let me say that this faithfulness is a two way street and the man is held to no less standard as well.
He will have no lack of gain. Does this mean that if you get the right excellent wife you'll be rich? That is not what Bathsheba is saying to her son. She is saying to him that due to her influence and the spirit she brings to the home, he will know no lack of blessing. Go to a home of an excellent wife and what you will see if a woman who cheers on her husband if he is a CEO or a ditch-digger. He will feel as if he is a king in tthe way that appreciation and love flows to him. If there are good times in their lives - they will enjoy them together. If difficult times ensue - those will be embraced as well. In good times and bad - she will be there to let him know that all things will work together for them as they seek The Lord and follow Christ Jesus. As a result this man - whether he has a large bank account or just two pennies who keep each other company - knows that which this woman he has no lack of gain!
She does him good and not evil all the days of his life. Her heart is set on bringing good to him. In this it is first set on walking with God and knowing Him. Then it is set on whatever God's good, acceptable, and perfect will is for her, her husband, and their entire household. She uses her words to encourage and built him up according to the need of that hour - giving grace to him as he hears her. She looks to him to be a man - to reject passivity - accept responsiblity - to lead her courageously, and to look to God for his ultimate reward. And in any moment he shows an inkling of doing this - she cheers him on - letting him know it is a good work he does. She looks to good as God ultimately defines it and she applies herself to seeing that good given to her husband.
What kind of lady is an excellent wife? She is the lady who is faithful and true to her husband. She is the lady who puts his heart at ease for her eyes and heart are fully his. She is a lady who accepts God's direction and will walked out as wonderful gain - regardless of the financial bottom line it brings. She is a lady who seeks the face of God, knows the Word of God, and according to the will of God - brings good to her husband, shunning any and every evil impulse of her fallen heart. This is quite a wonderful woman. A diamond, a jewel, a rare jem whose worth is not measured by her wealth or her looks - the real gem here is a heart redeemed and remade by God. Find one of these - and you have become rich indeed.
If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever. Proverbs 29:14
Just recently we finished an election cycle in the United States. The pattern for many years now has been that the candidate with the most money usually wins the election. Thus, for an American leader, the addage is that whoever can court the most wealthy people and gather the most money will rule over the land. It is not so much how one will rule - or what they plan to do in this country - as it is how many of the wealthy come to their $5000 a plate each fundraisers. One must keep the wealthy happy - or else you will no longer have the money to win an election.
Things were not always like this - in fact, today's proverb gives wise guidance to the leader or king who will hear it. That advice is not based upon men making you or keeping you as their leader. It is insted about caring for things like compassion toward the poor and truth. These are things that have long been trampled under the foot of American political process and theory. Yet God still considers them very important in a leader.
The king is to judge the poor with truth. That is his responsibility. It is an easy thing to forget - especially when the poor do not have the means to protest or challenge an unfair ruling in the courts. It is even more difficult when the one you rule against is rich. The wealthy don't appreciate truth in those situations. But a ruler may not face a challenge greater than maintaining truth when it comes to disputes between the wealthy and the poor. God's wisdom is to judge with truth - then it will not matter what a man's position in life is. Only one thing matters - and that is that truth is upheld.
The promise of God is equally as clear. When you judge the poor with truth - your throne will be established forever. God rewards the king who qppreciates truth and justice more than power and position. The people of that nation will greatly appreciate their king, and will joyfully support him. It is hard to overthrow a king who acts this way because he is very popular among the people.
There was a king in Israel named Ahab who decided that he wanted a piece of land next to his palace. The land was owned by a man who took great pride in his families' inheritance. Though the king offered to purchase the land, the man refused because he desired to keep the land in his family. At this point the king pouted like a two year old because he did not get his way. Others acted on his behalf and got him the land - although it meant departing from the truth and judging unrighteously. So aggregious was this situation that they chose to have the man killed in a false court proceeding. When the king was informed that the dirty deed was done, he went to claim his new garden next to his palace. He was met by the prophet Elijah whom God informed of the entire sordid affair. What was going to be a time of rejoicing over his new land - turned into a horror story. The prophet informed the king that God was going to judge him and his wife for their wickedness - and their unwillingness to treat the poor with truth and justice. Jezebel, the queen, would be eaten by dogs - and the king and all his entire family would be killed and not allowed to rule Israel any longer. This is what happened when the king decided to oppress and abuse the poor. He, his kingdom, and even his legacy were destroyed.
Leaders can get cocky and decide that they are beyond the reach of justice and truth. Nothing could be further from the truth. God will eventually bring even kings and rulers under his bar of justice. Therefore it is good for kings to know that one of the measures of the fitness of their kingdoms is how they treat the poor. Do that with justice and your kingdom will endure. Cast justice to the curb - and you might just find yourself sitting next to those who have previously robbed of justice.
He who gives to the poor will never want, but he who shuts his eyes will have many curses. Proverbs 28:27
One of the things the Scriptures are certain about is the responsibility of the people of God to give to the poor. This proverb relates this responsibility in a way that reminds us of the Covenant God made with His people. That covenant often gets a bad reputation for being all about "thou shalt nots." Some think it is a religious buzz-kill - that only tells us what we cannot do. Those who think this way don't realize that there is great deal in the Old Testament Law that speaks of showing compassion and mercy.
Israel was an agrarian society - and as such there were a number of laws that encouraged them to provide for the poor. One of the things that they were told was to only harvest the land once - and not go over it a second time. This was the case with ground crops as well as things like olives and fruit which are grown on trees. The extra was to be left for the poor. This was one way they gave to the poor - as well as with what were called, "alms" which were specific financial gifts given to care for the poor in society.
God intended for the poor to receive more than just money or food. The church is better equipped morally to help the poor than the government. Governments most often just give out money. Unfortunately this leads to government programs that do more to harm than help the poor. The phrase a hand up - rather than just a hand out comes to mind. Government has made laws that actually award immoral behavior by offering more help to those who have children out of wedlock. These kind of laws may help with the hand out - but they have a bad tendency to lock people into assisted living - rather than help them to eventually become self-reliant and self-sustaining. When the church offers help, they can address immoral behavior in a way that government cannot do. This is the way God desires for the poor to be blessed. He desires for a person's moral choices to be addressed, for often a mroal choice leads to a blight on our financial state.
We are told here that the one who gives to the poor will never want. Another proverb states that when we give to the poor, we are lending to the Lord. When we do this - God will be sure to bless us and meet our needs. The second half of this proverb addresses what often happens when the poor are neglected. We do this by closing our eyes to the problem and to their needs. We simply shut our eyes - and then shut our hearts to their plight. This, according to God's Word, will bring to the one who does it, many curses. First there is the curse which comes from not obeying God's law. That comes with a withdrawal of blessings from God. But there is also a curse that comes from the poor as well. They watch as the rich pamper themselves and ignore their situation. In some situations this reaches a fever pitch and results in revolutions and other violent confrontations. The French Revolution was such a reaction to the abuses of the rich.
God desires for His people - and His church - to care for and love the poor. Because the church has adbicated her role in this - the government has taken over this task. The result of our disobedience in this area is that the government begins to take greater and greater amounts of money to give to the poor. In the end, we are cursed with over-reaching government intrustion into our finances and our lives. We are also cursed with a government which in time realizes it can control the people through ever increasing gifts to the poor. This leads to a curse on those with any level of financial security in society, because the government must increase its revenues to continue the giveaways. This is why God wants His Word to govern such charity - because without something to guide us - our natural sinful tendencies will lead us to use our gifts to secure power or influence.
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion. Proverbs 28:13
Here is a proverb that agrees perfectly with what is said in the New Testament. We read in 1 John 1:9 that if we confess our sins God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. This is the truth of 1 John 1:9 stated in another way. Whereas the 1 John passage states this truth in the positive only, this proverb also warns us of the consequences and danger of not dealing with our sins.
The Concealer . . . First we are told about the fate of the one who conceals his transgressions. The word "conceal" means to cover - and has the idea of a cover up. This man is hiding his transgressions (word meaning a sin or rebellion - here against God and His Law and His way). Thus the concealer is not willing to bring his sin to light before God. He therefore hides his rebellion thinking that God does not see him. This same word was used to describe how Joseph's brothers tried to hide their sin when they dipped his coat in goat's blood and brought to Jacob. There was an attempted cover up by Joseph's brothers which eventually came to light. In the same way, we are warned against covering up our sins. They will come to light - and the way this happens in by a loss of the blessing of God.
Psalm 32:5 also speaks of his particular sin of hiding and trying to cover up our sin. The Psalmist says, "I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I did not hide; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord"; And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah." When he was trying to hide his sin from God, the Psalmist had nothing but grief and pain. When he faced his sin before God he received forgiveness. Hiding our sins is not only counterproductive - it is also ridiculously foolish. We serve a God Who is omniscient. He knows all things. When Adam and Eve tried to hide in the garden - it was out of shame and rebellion. The problem for them was that God could still see them - and did even as they committed the first sin. Cain answered God rebelliously when God asked where his brother Abel was. Cain must have thought God did not see - but he did - and Abel's blood was crying out to God from the ground. Moses thought he could kill the Egyptian and hide him in the piles of grain - but God saw - as well as some other Hebrews. HEre is a fact you should always remember. We can never hide our sin from a holy, omniscient God. He truly sees all! He warns his people, "Be sure that your sins will find you out!"
Proverbs tells us that this man who is trying to conceal his sin will not prosper. Prosper is the Hebrew word "tsalach" which means to succeed or to be victorious. This word has the idea of breaking out or breaking through - and has a military aspect to it. It spoke of how an army would break through their enemies - which was a sure sign that they were about to win the battle and defeat them. Proverbs says to us is that concealing our sins is way to ensure we will NOT PROSPER. God wants us to confess and forsake our sin. When we choose rebellion and sin against God, we are in serious trouble. We are facing judgment if we do not know Christ - or discipline if we do. What we need is grace - we need God's compassion. That is exactly what Proverbs is wanting to teach us. God wants us to know how to obtain His compassion when we sin?
How do we obtain God's compassion and restoration? First, we confess our sins and rebellion. What is fascinating here is the word that God uses to describe confession. The Hebrew word is "yadah." This word means to throw towards - to cast something towards. Here it means to throw off our sin and cast it towards God. It means that we are throwing all our sin and rebellion to God - with a desire for Him to show us forgiveness and compassion. What is wild is that this same word is used for praising God - meaning that we are casting our hands up into the air and casting our praises toward God. God does not want us to try to hold our sins close to us - He wants us to cast those sins away from us and toward Him for His compassion and grace!
There is a second thing that puts us in line for God's compassion and forgiveness. Some teach that all we need to do is to confess our sins and everything is fine with God. That is partially true. There is suppose to be a second attitude present. If it is not - I do not believe the Bible says that we will receive forgiveness. That attitude or action is to forsake our sins. This word means to abandon, desert, leave behind, completely neglect and STOP. When we come to God seeking His compassion and forgiveness - we need to come with a heart that says, "Please forgive me God . . . and I also want to forsake and abandon my sin." This is the kind of heart that finds compassion and forgiveness before God.
This verse is vital in us knowing the fellowship and grace of God. It is so important for us to grasp the call of God to deal with our sins and rebellion. I honestly believe that just as 1 John 1:9 is such a blessed verse - this verse in Proverbs 28:13 is as well. Oh that we would hear this and heed it as well. It would throw open to us the door to God's grace, mercy, and compassion that we need every day of our lives.
When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, The lambs will be for your clothing, And the goats will bring the price of a field, And there will be goats' milk enough for your food, For the food of your household, And sustenance for your maidens. Proverbs 27:25-27
These last three verses of Proverbs 27 are additional commentary on verses 23-24. Thus they deal with keeping watch or being aware of your flocks and herds. These verses are practical commentary on that activity. They are also very helpful to us who desire to build and maintain a godly work ethic in ours or any other society.
The first statement here seems like common sense to us. It speaks of the fact of the seasons and how one who tills the ground needs to be aware of them. When the grasss disappears, then the new growth is seen. There will be a time each year when the grass of the field dies in the fall and winter. The farmer is also reminded that during this time the herbs of the mountains need to be gathered into the barns. Again, this may seem like something that does not need to be said. The reason it is said is because, due to the fall, men are undisciplined and lazy. There is only a brief window of time that this can be done - and if not done at this time - the farmer will lose yield. If left undone for a long period of time - he will lose everything to decay, mildew, and decomposition.
This has something to say to us. We may not have grass oriented crops like hay, wheat, or barley. We may not have herbs on the mountains that should be gathered and put away for use in the next year. We do have responsibilities that fall to us though. Many of these things need to be done promptly. How many have received a late notice on a bill because we did not pay it "in season." Will this keep us out of heaven? No it won't, but for many it will mean anywhere from 20-50 dollars of lost wealth because we did not act "in season" to get something done that requires diligence in a certain time line.
More is said to us in verses 26-27, this time about principles of building and using wealth. Note that we are told that the lambs will be for our clothing. There is a reason to do all that the farmer does. He does not just grow grass. He diversifies into raising livestock. He has lambs that are for clothing. He has goats he milks not just for his own family to drink, but to sell so that he can buy a field with the profit. There is the wisdom of provision for oneself, and for the continued growth of wealth and provision for a family and a growing number of people who are dependent on your growing enterprises. Mentioned here are one's own household as well as one's maidens. Thus a wise man knows that the current level of wealth and provision today needs to be expanded as he expands his family and his business. What does this require? Hard work - and an attention to detail - at least an attention to doing things as they need to be done.
What is the wisdom for us today then, in light of these verses? The first wise thing we are to learn is that opportunity for blessings comes and goes. If we are not alert to the seasons of God's working, we will miss the blessing being unaware or lazy. Within the framework of His seasons, we need to act and work hard. The second piece of wisdom offered is this, our work blesses us for today - and for the future. The lifestyle lived from paycheck to paycheck is not a wise way to live. We work in such a way to bless us with today's provision - and to make wise choices for expansion of that provision as God blesses. The wise man lives in the moment and is thankful for what God has given him. There can be a danger of having greed enter our minds so that we make Nabalish choices to be selfish and self-centered. The rich farmer who thought his riches were only for his current enjoyment and pleasure found his soul in hell because he was not living for eternity. This, though, does not justify us in being foolish in expanding what we do for the sake of added family provision. There will be children and grandchildren. There will be expanded business opportunity that will bless additional employees. There will be changes in the market - changes in society - and changes even in the weather and providence. We should be wise enough to learn how to read such things and make adequate provision for them as God guides us.
Being godly and wise does not mean throwing our brains away. We can acquire business acumen and wisdom concerning how to be more productive. We can build a business while trusting and relying upon the Lord. That is what is being said here. May God give us wisdom to look to Him day by day - and yet still be wise enough to provide for an expanded future of blessings all as we look to Him for the blessings of today's provision and tomorrow's expansion.
He who tends the fig tree will eat its fruit, And he who cares for his master will be honored.
Today's proverb will instruct us on how to be blessed by your master or your employer. For those who lived as slaves in the day in which this proverb was written, it applied to those who cared for their masters. In our day, when slavery is not practiced as it was in Biblical days, it refers to our relationship with our employers - of for that matter - anyone under whose authority we find oursevles.
The picture used here is that of someone who is tending a fig tree. The one who does this task will get to eat from the fruit of the fig tree. There may be an encouragment here to serve over a long period of time, due to the fact that a fig tree is a tree that lives a long time. It is also one that matures rather slowly. A great reminder for us who have been conditioned to think a certain way in our "fast-food" society. We think if we serve a week, or month, or even a year or two, we should be rewarded richly. The use of the fig tree should point us to faithful service over the long haul - not just a few weeks, months, or years. When we serve faithfully over a long period of time - our master or employer will consider us worthy to be honored. This is especially the case with wise employers.
The word used for "cares" in the second part of this verse is the Hebrew word "samar." This is a word that means to watch over, keep, preserve, or guard. The idea is not of grudging service. It points to a careful watchfulness. IT refers to those who pay closer attention to what their master needs. It also reminds us that this kind of "care" is not done with a bitter, resentful heart. It is done with a loving watchcare.
There is another reason to live this way towards those in authority over us. When we do this, we are leaving the sweet savory aroma of Christ with them. They watch how we love and serve them - and wonder at what it is that motivates us to live as we do. There will most likely be some kind of reward or blessing for that hard work - but there will be something far more valuable than silver, gold, or awards. There will be the questions that we can answer as they ask, "Why do you work harder than anyone else? Why is it that you work this way without complaining? Why do you live this way - with such a different work ethic as well as a desire to honor me as your employer?" These are the questions that they should be asking as we work as unto God in their business. When they do ask, our reply will be first to give glory to God for our work ethic - and then to turn to the gospel whereby our hearts were transformed to be different than the rest of the world. You see, our work ethic - our willingness to work as unto God - our desire to care for our master/employer with love and hard work - are all for the purpose of glorifying God and the gospel of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. So . . . let me ask you in closing - through your work ethic have you glorified God today? Has how you worked made a way for the gospel that has changed your heart? You see, we do not work to bless our master for the reward of his favor alone. We work for our Lord and Master first and foremost for the glory of His grace and mercy. The fact that our earthly master notices and rewards us are just perks that come as we live to make much of our Heavenly Master.
The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and each is tested by the praise accorded him. Proverbs 27:21
One of the wisest things ever said to me was said by a Australian professor at the seminary that I attended in Memphis, Tennessee. He told us that the most difficult test we will ever have in life is to experience praise and success. That will test you in ways you are not ready to handle - unless you have truly embraced the humility of Christ in your life. Today's proverb tell us the same thing - that we will be tested by the praise that is given to us.
The picture that is painted for us is that of a crucible and a furnace. These two things are used to refine silver and gold. The process begins with the base ore being put into the crucible. As the heat increases the valuable metal sinks into the crucible, while the junk rises to the top. The one refining the ore scraps the slag from the top of the crucible. Over time more impurities come to the top - and each time they are scraped off revealing purer and purer silver or gold. So the picture that is painted for us is that of a purifying process brought on by heat and stress on the metal.
In a similar way, we are tested when praise and success comes our way. We are faced with a choice when this happens. We can either believe our own press and think we really are awesome - or - we can be realistic about things and know that any goodness in us is solely due to God's grace and goodness. The opposite of this response is pride. We begin to take pride in ourselves and our accomplishments. We have the audacity to think we are the cause and the wisdom of our own works. Yet any good thing seen in us is the grace of God at work.
I've watched this process in the my own life and in the lives of others. Nothing tests us like praise that comes our way. I watched a very successful church that was praised begin to think they deserved the praise for what they were going. It was a trerrifying thing to watch God first remove His presence from the church - and then begin to discipline the church for their arrogance and pride. The moment we think that anything but God's grace is responsible for our success and praise, in that moment we have miserably failed the test.
A wise man knows that his first response to praise should be one of two things. Either he expresses gratefulness to the one who had praised him - or he immediately deflects the praise offered to God Who is truly responsible for what has happened. Let us therefore be wise and immediately take any praise given to us - and give it to God. May we realize that truly any good seen in us is a result of the grace and mercy of God. That is the way to pass the test of praise offered to us.
The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the LORD. Proverbs 21:31
May 1940 was a defining moment for the western world. These were the days that opened the 2nd World War. Hitler's Blitzkrieg had destoyed the French lines and were quickly encircling the English army for the purpose of anihilating it. That is why His Majesty King George IV requested that May 26th should be observed as a day of prayer as they committed their cause to God. The scene that Sunday was breath-taking. Churches were full beyond measure - and lines ran outside their buildings and into the streets. Their cries went up to God - and God acted in His power to grant victory to those who honored Him.
Today's proverb has to do with victory in battle. God is sovereign - even over the battles and wars that are fought on this planet. And the evacuation from Dunkirk is an example of God working miraculously to determine just who would win WW2. If the Germans had destroyed the English Expeditionary Force in those days - the battle for Europe would have effectively been over. But God engineered several miracles to determine who would win the battle that day.
Three major miraculous events took place because of the prayer offered that day. First was Hitler's halt of the Panzer divisions that could have crushed the British. They were less than 10 miles from overrunning them and destroying them when Hitler, who had been ruthless in his pursuit and quick "Blitzkrieg" tactics, suddenly had them stop. He would rely on air power to finish the job. The second miracle was that a storm came up over Flanders that was so severe that it effectively grounded the entire German air-force. The Luftwaffe could not opeate in this area - and stayed on the air fields. The third miracle was that an unnatural calm came over the English Channel between England and France - in spite of the storms raging on the French side. This calm enabled the English to bring every boat conceivable to Dunkirk to ferry the Elglish Expeditionary force back to England. These boats along with the rest of the English Navy took British soldiers over the channel for three days - as they were covered in a dense fog that prevented the German Luftwaffe from flying and destroying them as they crossed.
There were other miracles in those days. Some beaches were attacked in thsoe days - yet it was evident to miraculous proportions that the troops were being protected by the providential hand of God. When about 400 men were being machine-gunned and bombed, systematically, by about sixty enemy aircraft, one man who flung himself down with the rest reported that, after the strafing was over, he was amazed to find that there was not a single casualty. Another man, a chaplain, was likewise machine-gunned and bombed as he lay on the beach. After what seemed an eternity, he realized he had not been hit, and rose to his feet to find that the sand all around where he had been lying was pitted with bullet holes, and that his figure was outlined on the ground. Truly astounding things wre happening on every hand - and it was very apparent that God's intervening power was responsible for it. In the writings of Officers and men alike there were a myriad of statements that they were seeing the hand of God, powerful to save, delivering them from an enemy that should have destroyed them.
All England declared June 9th a day of Thanksgiving for God's mercies. On that day the people of England read and sang Psalm 124 which is a Psalm that speaks of God's deliverance. It was thought that it would be amazing if England could save 30,000 to 35,000 soldiers in their retreat. Yet God, by His sovereign power, allowed them to save over 335,000. No one doubted that God had worked miraculously on England's behalf.
This is what God is trying to say to us in Proverbs 21:31. The horse may be prepared for the day of battle, but Jehovah is the One Who will determine who will be victorious. Old Testament law forbid Israel from relying on horses in battle. So, when horses are mentioned here, it can be easily assumed that the armies of the wicked are using them - not Israel. These horses may be prepared for the day of battle - but they do not assure victory. Who is victorious is determined by God Himself. Hitler surely had the superior force - both in army and in air-force. But the British had God - Who answered their prayers when they humbled themselves before Him. Truly it was a Ninavesque day of repentance and prayer on May 26th, and God answered in like fashion to their prayers.
Victory was determined by God in the month of May 1940 - and God is still determining who will win in the end. God has not changed - nor will He - when it comes to the outcome of any and every event. The question is not whether God will work on our behalf. The question is whether we will turn to Him - believing that victory is not determined by how big the army or how awesome the supposed cause. Victory belongs to God - and He will give it to whomever He wishes. May we be wise to always seek His favor in everything we do.
Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness. Proverbs 20:28
What preserves the king or the president of any society? According to today's proverb - which presents to us the wisdom of God - it is loyalty, truth, and righteousness. Now I hear what is happening there where you are reading this - you are rolling on the floor laughing uncontrollably. But regardless of what our current society thinks or practices, this proverb is true. So, let's take a look at what is taught here - because good leaders follow these principles.
Loyalty is the first principle we will look at today. A good leader knows that loyalty preserves him and blesses him. But the Bible does not refer to blind loyalty. This begins as loyalty to God and to His principles in Scripture. That loyalty will create in others who see it a desire to follow and be loyal to their leader. The best example of this is king David in the Old Testament. A group of men gathered themselves around David and served him in every situation imaginable. They did this because they watched David be loyal to God's principles first. His loyalty to God showed his men that they could rely on him to be loyal to them. This engendered the most amazing loyalty in them. Therefore the best of leaders do not seek loyalty by commanding it - but rather by being an example of it in their relationship with God.
Truth is the second principle that preserves the king. This follows the first principle because we see that what a leader is becomes far more important than what he requests or demands of his followers. When those who are around him realize that he is an honest man who values truth - they will see that they serve an honorable man. This love of truth will protect and preserve him no matter what happens. Consider Daniel for a moment when thinking about this proverb. Daniel loved the truth of God more than anything else in his life. Therefore when he faced either living according to God's truth - or that of a king corrupted by his officials - Daniel chose God. He prayed to God even though the king made a law saying one could not pray to anyone but him. But what at first seemed to get Daniel in trouble - became the manifestation of how far his God, to whom he prayed, would go to protect and honor him. In the end - even the king pledged to protect not just him - but even the honor due to his God.
Righteousness is the last principle tha preserves the king, This particular promise even states that God will uphold the throne - or seat of power - of one who embraces what it right. In our society we question whether there even is an absolute standard of right beyond what we ourselves choose to make our own personal standard. Thus, over time, we've embraced things that oppose God's standards and are trying to make them right - even though they will be the very things that undermine the pillars of our society and make it crumble. The godly leader realizes that God is the One with absolute authority to determine matters of right and wrong. He also realizes that God has revealed Himself through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament in the Bible. Therefore a wise leader holds to things like the 10 commandments as a basis of good law. He sees the value of using the Bible in case law to help determine what is right and wrong. As a result, such leaders have God's very standard of right upon which to build stability in a nation. Granted such things require the rule of law, which can be hard to embrace. Without it though, a society will become lawless and will degenerate to however the flesh desires to live. If you read the latter part of Romans 1 and Galatians 5:16-20, you will see that such a state will be very lawless indeed.
Rule by true loyalty to God, truth, and righteousness is a rule that God Himself will support. There is no guarantee that such a rule will not face difficulties, but at least one knows that God's support and deliverance will be there to help such a nation survive the worst of times as well as the best of them. How wonderful it would be if such wise leadership would return to our nation. The way we can support such a move is to first establish these three principles in our own lives - and then teach and widen their influence as God grants us favor. We cannot establish them from a top down election. At this point in our history, such a thing would result in wide-spread revolution. What we need it revival of such things first in the church among our leaders and people. Then as the wisdom of our ways is seen - we can hope and pray that God will allow them to spread through revival and through seeing others embrace them as they embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the way to establish godly leadership. First it comes individually - and then through influence it spreads to larger groups. May we be wise enough to embrace it now - and pray that it spreads through the grace of God to His glory - and our benefit.