Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit. Proverbs 25:28
Self-control is a fierce fruit - yet one that is absolutely essential for the man who desires to be godly. The one who lacks it is definitely in danger. Without it our defenses our down and the likelihood of having our base desires control our lives is high indeed.
The wall of a city was essential to it defenses. The wall was a barrier that allowed a city to withstand a far greater opponent with only a few warriors. But when the wall was breached, the cities defenses would themselves be breached. Once this happened, it was not difficult to conquer the city itself. The first picture painted for us by the Lord is that of a city that is broken into. The picture is of a city whose walls have been breached - and a break through of the enemy is happening. This is a dangerous moment because once the enemy is aware of such a breach, all of its might will be concentrated on that point to exploit it in the greatest measure. What begins as a small breach, if not dealt with quickly and decisively, will become a huge gaping hole through which the enemy will pour in a matter of days and hours.
This picture is compared to a man who has no control of his spirit. A man's spirit here is his inner fortitude. This is limited in the fallen condition of man, yet is greatly strengthened in salvation and in a continuing relaitonship with the Holy Spirit. A man who has no control over his spirit is unable to deal with his flesh. His selfish ego is ungoverned and unfortunately tells him what he shall do. The list of sins in Galatians 5:17-21 are a good list of what will come forth from this man. To say that this is not a pretty sight is an understatement. More and more the devil, the world, and his own godless ego will dominate his life. What is sad is that this situation grows over time. It may start as just a small fault early in life - yet when not dealt with decisively and completely it will develop into quite the breach in his defenses. A little temper while young can become a horrendous temper when older. A little deceit and lying can grow into a way of deceit as an adult. Oh, how we need to heed the Scriptures that sin must be dealt with viciously - with every effort and amount of strength needing to be focused on killing the flesh and its desires. As Paul said, "If we by the Spirit put to death the desires of the flesh, we will live."
The word used here as "control" is the Hebrew "matsar" which means restraint and control. There are those today who say that we should not seek control or restraint - but allow the Lord to give us victory. Yet the Word says again and again it is both that need to happen. We need to fight passionately against the flesh - while looking to the Lord as the source and strength for the victory. Looking alone will not do - just as striving alone will not either.
The second picture is much more grave - for it is the picture of our lives when a lack of self-control is fully matured in our hearts. The city without walls is a sitting duck, just waiting for the first enemy to come and wreak havoc upon it. Here is the man who has cultivated quite the harvest of self-indulgence. His city is without walls at all. Thus when the enemy attacks - there are no defenses. What a foolish strategy this is - yet that is what too many rely upon in life. They think that there is no battle - no fight - no enemy. All will be well - and all willl go perfectly. This is nothing more than an exercise in self-deception, and it is one that will cost the person who holds is everything.
We need to take Paul's attitude when it comes to how we fight against sin in our lives. "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:26-27) We do need to take this attitude toward our bodies and our spirit. If there is no control of our spirit - where whatever influence that comes upon us rules - we are doomed. Instead, we need to work daily to build high walls of the Word and godly living that will help us to repel the enemy when he comes. When we do this, we will find the blessing of a spirit that is cooperative with the Holy Spirit and a life that embraces the godliness laid out for us in the Scriptures.
If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you. Proverbs 25:21-22
Here is a proverb that is usually misunderstood because of the phrase that is used in it. The phrase to which I refer is where we are told that we will "heap burning coals on his head," when we are kind to our enemy. Of course, our intial thought is by doing good to our enemy - we will burn his head or melt it. Heaping burning coals on someone usually has that effect - scorching their head. But the phrase that is used does not mean this. It actually is a phrase that speaks of blessing another. Let's take a look at this phrase and how it counsels the wise man to act toward his enemies.
The call for the wise man is to give his enemy food when he is hungry and water if he is thirsty. The reason he is to do this is to act with mercy and with love - even toward someone who considers him an enemy. This is a way that the world sees that we are radically different than they are. We do not seek revenge on our enemies, but rather to show mercy - even as we have been shown mercy by God. It is important for us to remember that at one time we were enemies with God. He did not pour out his wrath upon us, rather He gave us mercy and grace. He had His wrath poured out upon His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ - and instead gives us grace to be made righteous in His sight. Therefore the call to be merciful and loving toward our enemies is a call to be like God Himself.
The problem comes when we look at why we do this. The passage says that by doing this we will pour burning coals upon our enemies - upon their foreheads. When we do this, God rewards us for acting in this way. One view of this is that conviction is in order - and that is what happens when the burning coals are put on our enemies. Thus this phrase is seen as judgment on them - because let's be honest - who wants their forehead burned up with burning coals? But the phrase used here is a Hebraism - a Hebrew expression they would understand - but we would not.
The picture here is of a very loving, very merciful deed toward our enemies. The idea here is of placing coals that are already hot into a clay pot or some other kind of insulated container. That container would then be carried, often on the head, to the person's fire pit, which has been extinguished. They would then take the coals and re-ignite their fire so that they could cook their food. This was a very loving and merciful act on their behalf, because it was not an easy thing to have a fire of coals lit for someone. This act of mercy and love would be very beneficial to the enemy - and would help to melt their hardened heart against the one who acted with such grace.
The wise man knows that winning an enemy is a difficult thing. He also knows that prolonging a fight is not to his advantage unless there is no way to reach his enemy - or his enemy is actively seeking to destroy him. In these cases one must defend himself. But if possible it is better to win over your enemy. There is a picture of this in the book of 2 Kings in the life of Elisha. The king of Aram was furious that Elisha could predict by God's power everywhere the Arameans would prepare to attack Israel. In a rage he sent his entire army to kill Elisha. As the army approached Elisha prayed that they would all be struck blind. Then he led them into Samaria where Israel could destroy them. But look at what God led them to do - and the result.
"When they had come into Samaria, Elisha said, “O Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see.” So the Lord opened their eyes and they saw; and behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. Then the king of Israel when he saw them, said to Elisha, “My father, shall I kill them? Shall I kill them?” He answered, “You shall not kill them. Would you kill those you have taken captive with your sword and with your bow? Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” So he prepared a great feast for them; and when they had eaten and drunk he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the marauding bands of Arameans did not come again into the land of Israel." It would have been easy to destroy the Arameans, but instead God led Elisha to counsel them to feed them with a feast. When they did so - it made their enemies turn away from their destrutive ways - and they no longer sent marauding bands into Israel any longer. Remember this, for it is wisdom of the highest order, mercy triumphs over judgment. Therefore God paid the judgment, and showed us mercy in Christ. Oh that we would be wise enough to do the same with our enemies. When we do, they will see a glorious display of the very gospel that is at the heart of what God is and does among men.
Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, And do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Or the LORD will see it and be displeased, And turn His anger away from him. Proverbs 24:17-18Here is a reminder to be gracious and merciful to our enemies. We should have mercy on our enemies - even when God is the One who is bringing the judgment upon them. That may seem a little strange to us at first, but if you will give me just a few moments, you will soon see why this is wise for us.When we are walking with God, we will have enemies. That is a given in our fallen world. But when God displays His anger toward someone - we should not be on the sidelines cheering for their judgment. We can cheer God's justice - but we should do so with a measure of fear and trembling. The reason for this is because we need to remember who WE are.We are beneficiaries of God's mercy - not His judgment. If God were to judge us for our actions - we would quickly learn that we too, apart from His grace, are His enemies. There is something to grasp - and it is important that we keep it fresh in our minds. Were it not for what God did in Jesus Christ, we would be under His wrath and anger as well. It is only because of Jesus Christ and His death on the cross that we are not currently under God's anger. Therefore, we do not need to rejoice when our enemy stumbles and falls. We need to remember that except for the grace of God, we would be enemies as well. To dance and sing over someone's destruction also is not what God desires from us. Paul was mercilessly persecuted by the Jews as he preached the gospel. He faced opposition in many cities - and in one he was dragged out and stoned. They sought to have him condemned in court once he was arrested by the soldiers of Rome - and that arrest was because of their wrongful accusation of him. Yet how did Paul respond to them? Did he desire their destruction? Did he cheer when they were judged and destroyed? Paul's response in Romans was that he wished himself accursed for their sakes - if only that would result in their salvation. That does not sound like someone who is rejoicing over the anger of God against his enemies. That sounds like someone who grasps that he is the chief of sinners. That sounds like a man who grasps that apart from grace he took would be accursed, damned if you will because of his sin. And it was this grasp of spiritual realities that led Paul to respond with mercy - not rejoicing over his enemies and their position before God.The Lord sees when men rejoice over the stumbling and falling of their enemy - and it displeases Him. He is judging with a righteous judgment - but we have no standing upon which to take joy in another's fall. We all would face the same fate as they, were it not for a merciful God. When God watches us rejoice over someone else's destruction - He is displeased. The Bible also tells us that He will turn away His anger from them. What is pretty frightening is that most likely His displeasure might be refocused - on us! When I consider this passage - I remember a historical event from 2 Kings chapter 6. Elisha was prophet at the time, and it enraged the king of Aram that Elisha knew his secret war counsels and would warn Israel where Aram was about to attack. The king of Aram sent his army to surround Elisha in order to capture or kill him. Elisha saw the armies of Aram surround his city and prayed that God would strike the entire army with blindness. God answered Elisha - and he told the blind army to follow him. He led the army into the center of Israel's territory where they were now surrounded by Israel, who readied themselves for the slaughter. But when Elisha prayed that their eyes would be opened - the king of Israel asked if he should kill Aram's armies? I love God's response in this matter. Elisha told the king of Israel not to kill them - but to make a feast for them - showing them the ultimate mercy. This ended their hostilities. What a great picture of God's ways. God is angry with us due to our sins - He is angry every day with the wicked. But . . . He does not bring judgment - but shows mercy. It is His mercy that leads us to repentance - and He desires for us to show the same mercy to our enemies that He shows to us. What a glorious picture of His grace this leaves us. Therefore we should not rejoice at the fall of our enemy. We should pour love on them in Jesus name, no matter what their response. This is wisdom. This is God's way. This is the power of God that brings men to salvation - and to a change in how He views them. What He desires is for us to rejoice in mercy - and tremble at the display of His anger. It is a solemn reminder of what could have been ours, if we had not been saved by His grace.
Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not destroy his resting place; For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of
calamity. Proverbs 24:15-1
There are times when you wonder about the providence of God. These are times when you look at the wicked - how they strut about on the earth - and how they attack the righteous and seek to destroy them. Asaph had one of these times in Psalm 73
. He struggled mightily with the prosperity of the wicked and the difficulties and trials of the godly. Yet in the end, when he considered eternity and the end of the ungodly, David returned to his sanity and found himself worshipping God - and pitying the wicked.
Here we have a warning given to the wicked - or at least the wicked man who thinks he can destroy the godly. He is warned not to lie in wait against the dwelling of the righteous. Here we have someone who is planning to do something destructive. The word used for "lie in wait" is a single Hebrew word that means to ambush, to lurk, or to lie in ambush as a military tactic. In the military context it always has the meaning of also doing this for the purpose of killing another.
I don't want to make you stay awake at night worrying, but there are very sinister forces today that are lying in wait against the righteous. Radical Islam is one of them. For years the 9/11 terrorists were waiting and training for their one day of evil. It was spooky to say the least to learn just how long they were among us - acting like nothing was going on - and all the while they were planning the worst terrorist attack in history against us. It was even scarier to read an article that listed the top 10 ways that Muslim terrorists were planning to attack us. The article was written by someone from the homeland security department. This list blew my mind because the attack that they are planning currently makes the 9/11 attacks look timid in comparison. In addition to the threat from radical Islamic terrorists, there are also threats from the far left. The radical homosexual movement wants to destroy conservative Christianity, making it illegal to hold views that are consistent with Scripture. There are those among the religious and academic elites who think that Christianity should be relegated to the ash heap of ideas - with laws enacted and enforced to make sure this happens. Like I said, this is disturbing to know - that there are those who are plotting and planning our demise.
God warns such people that this is not a wise thing to do. Remember saints, that God considers us the apple of His eye - and warns against those who would seek to harm us. He warns that such things are very unwise and will elicit his judgment. God warns specificially against seeking to destroy the "resting place" of the righteous. It is true that some want to destroy our "physical" dwelling places - but there is also the fact that those who oppose us among academia and the marketplace of ideas - want to destroy the Biblical Christian worldview and the philosophy that goes along with it. They fight us on the front of creation and science - saying that only their view is acceptable and that creation science is no science at all. They fight us on the moral front, saying that our views on morality from a biblical standpoint are outdated and should be cast aside for more modern (read immoral here) standards, which wind up being no standards at all. They fight us in the arena of human value - as they push abortion, euthanasia, and population control. They fight us in the arena of God's purpose as they exalt the earth with their environmentalism - even saying that humans are a blight upon the planet and should be culled back from our current 7 billion to no more than 300 to 500 million people. All these things are attacks on our "dwelling place" and "resting place" in the Lord God and in His Word as the ultimate source of truth.
One could get the to the point of living in fear if he or she did not read the rest of this proverb. The relentless attacks have not been just in this generation. They have existed all throughout history. Whether it has been the emperors like Nero, Diocletian, and Galerius or the attacks of the currently worldly educated like Darwin, Nietzsche, Hitchens, Harris and Freud, Christianity is amazing just for the fact that it is still around and still considered even a marginally valid worldview. But it is far more that that. The Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to transform millions every year - and provide for them a resting place for their faith and their lives.
We should take heart though, because this proverb gives us great hope - even though we are beset on all sides by those who seek to destroy us. God tells the wicked that even though a righteous man falls seven times - he will rise again. We have the peace of knowing that He Who began this good work in us, will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. He will not allow us to be destroyed and decimated. Even in death His martyrs speak - and the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of His church. We may fall seven times - but He will pick us up and make us to stand because of His grace and work in us.
But this proverb comes also with a warning. The wicked are warned that they will stumble in times of calamity. When difficult times come - when evil befalls because of their wickedness or because of God's judgment in their lives - they will stumble in it. The word for "stumble" here means to stagger, to totter, to be brought down or cast down. The word is used in the Old Testament to describe not just the fall of individuals, but the fall of cities and nations who fall because of the evil and wickedness that they've committed. So we come full circle on this proverb to what I began saying in this article. Asaph almost stumbled when he considered the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73
. But in the end, he remembered the judgment and the sovereignty of God. He considered their end - and how they were consumed all at once in their wickedness and iniquity. This moved him to two things. First it moved him to worship God, who is truly sovereign over all things. He worshipped God because he knew there was more to this life than - well, just this life here on earth. In light of the fear and terror of God in judgment, he worshipped with trembling as he considered the end of the wicked. Second, he was moved to pity and mercy towards the wicked. Seeing their latter end, he pitied them and grieved over their destruction. Finally, he was thankful for God's grace and love for him.
Here is wisdom . . . God is sovereign, even when it seems that the wicked are being destructive towards His people. We should not stumble over this reality - but rather realize that God is working, even in the moments when it seems like the world is out of control - or even worse - under the control of the wicked. Know this - God is working for His own glory. If He used a moment as horrific as the cross of Christ to redeem the world - believe me when I say that He can also use anything to eventually bring about His will in this life.
mouth the godless man destroys his neighbor, But through knowledge the righteous will be delivered. Proverbs 11:9
When words fly like daggers through the air you can be assured that you are dealing with a godless man. Ours is a day where it seems that the discourse in society is filled with such things. When you consider things like the news, politics, and the current climate for salcious gossip - it is a wonder that anyone in the public eye can survive it all. Many do not survive it - at least not without serious scars and damage to their character. Of course some, by their actions, deserve the things that are said about them, but others are lampooned and skewered mercilessly without cause. What we read here in today's proverb is that this kind of thing is not new to our particular time - but that there is a way that the righteous can be delivered from such things.
The godless man is the one who destroys his neighbor with his mouth. The term godless here refers to a man who is impious, filthy, and godless. The root of this word speaks of how he turns away and wants nothing to do with God. As a result we see in Scripture where one who is like this is morally unclean (Job 13:16
) and whose character lacks any of the positive aspects of godliness. Consider the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This man has NONE of these qualities. We also read in Scripture that because of this he often clashes and is in conflict with the righteous. And of course from what we read here, he is cruel to others. This godless man seeks to destroy his neighbor with his mouth. This destruction can be through perverting someone, corrupting them - but the eventual goal is to spoil or ruin or destroy them.
I hesitate to use politics as an example, except for the fact that we have watched our political discourse turn so bitterly vicious over the past 10-15 years. I know that some would assert that the political discourse has always been this way. You can read some pretty horrible things that were said about our political leaders in any generation - but - the way in which the two parties want to destroy each other has reached fever pitch in the last couple of decades. The way we speak of our President - whether he is a Republican or Democrat has really reached the level of gutter speech. I was able to vote for the first time in the Reagan election. Since that time I've watch EVERY president treated with greater disdain and with more incidiary rhetoric in the media since then. The goal is no longer to point out bad policy and direction for the country in what is said. The goal now seems to be to utterly destroy the person - and to do so with a scorched earth strategy. We seem oblivious to the fact that regardless of which side of the aisle this person sits - they are still our neighbor.
The greater problem that exists here is that what we see carried out in the public eye - is guaranteed to trickle down to the streets of our cities and the homes in which we live. When we tolerate and even participate in the open destruction of our leaders - we will not escape the climate of destructive speech that it creates in our entire society. We should learn from Paul the apostle that we are not to speak evil of a ruler of your people (Acts 23:5
). In that situation Paul was being treated wrongly in a trial by none other than the chief priest of Israel. Yet Paul rebuked himself when he responded with words that were not only critical of his actions, but filled with too much vitriol for biblical standards. He caught himself, prompted by the Spirit and the Word, and pulled himself back from the brink of being one who sought to destroy with his mouth. Some might assert that we need to fight fire with fire. When we do this - we only assure that everything will be burnt down in the end. Contrary to the spirit of this world, we fight fire with the gospel.
We read here that the rightous will be delivered through knowledge. I believe this deliverance is two-fold. First, we will be delivered from the godless who want to destroy us with their words. Several times in the New Testament we are urged to let our behavior be such that when the wicked seek to destroy us with accusations and lies - our actions and lifestyle will be such that it will answer their lies. The way we live consistently will be a rebuke to them. We will not have to answer or come back with our own attacks, because those around us will laugh them to scorn. They know us - and they will reject such attacks. That deliverance comes through "knowledge." Knowledge here is the word "daath" which means not just a head-knowledge, but one that results in discernment, insight, and wisdom. We get such knowledge from God's Word - and from a life spent seeking Him and walking with Him.
The second way I believe we will be delivered is that we will not be led into "the fight." When someone tries to destroy you with their mouth - the natural thing to experience is a strong desire to launch a counter attack. They throw stones - we throw knives. They shoot bullets - we drop bombs. You can imagine where this all leads. The righteous is delivered in part by "killing your opponent with kindness." You do not respond in kind - you respond in kindness! This changes everything. They may continue to attack, and often will(sometimes kindness drives a person who is seeking to destroy you crazy with anger). But as those around us watch the proceedings - they see clearly the one who is acting godly - and the one who is spinning out of control. In the end, we are delivered from our greatest foe - and that is not the one attacking us. We are delivered from ourselves. Something deep within wants to rise up and take control - and by the way - that is our flesh. Instead, we need to have Christ in us respond. He will grant us power to respond with kindness and love - with mercy and forgiveness. Know this - respond like this and two things will happen. First, you will be delivered from your own worst aspects of your flesh. Second, you WILL win in the end. Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter - and as a sheep before His shearers is silent - so He did not open His mouth. That response, dear saints, won in the end. It did at the cross - and it will for everyone who embraces Him responding like that in their lives through His Spirit now.
When a man's ways are pleasing to the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Proverbs 16:7You mean to say that if my ways please God, I will never have an enemy? That is how too many people view this proverb. But the proverb itself assumes that we will have enemies when we are walking with the Lord. Then what does this proverb mean - and how can we know when God has done this on our behalf.
This passage teaches us that when our ways are pleasing to God that God does some wonderful things in our lives. He takes those who are our enemies and makes them to be at peace with us. It does not mean that we don't have enemies, it means that they are at peace with us instead of warring or seeking to destroy us. They may still be our enemy, but they will choose peace rather than to be in open conflict with us.
The stories of this are many in our society. J. Vernon McGee speaks of a man who hated him, but who was heard saying to others, "I hate the man, but he preaches the Word of God." That kind of thing is what this proverb is saying to us. The world will continue to hate us - but due to our lives being pleasing to God, they will see godly character in our lives. I know of situations where the ungodly came to the aid of believers not because they agreed with our theology or teaching, but simply because they knew the character of the person and vouched for them.
Let me take a moment here and say something about what this points to in the human condition. Why would the world be at peace with us when we choose God's ways? In fact, why should God's ways even be viewed positively? Ever wonder why our world values things like peace and joy and what we call good character? Think about it for a moment. Why, if we are supposed to be the result of survival of the fittest, do we not value a more cut throat kind of existance? Why would we value the weakest - and embrace values that would allow others to take advantage of us? Why shouldn't we value the thief and the one who crushes all others on his climb to the top? These should be things we value and admire if we are simply a process of evolutionary processes. Why shouldn't we admire Adolf Hitler and even thank him for trying to get rid of the more errant DNA in our worldwide gene pool? The truth is that we don't admire these things - we consider them evil and wrong - even among the most ardent evolutionists. Even thsoe who live this way have mighty struggles with their own behavior - somehow just knowing deep within themselves that they are not living right. But I want to ask this incredibly important question, "Who told them this?" The answer, though the world hates it, is in the Bible itself. Romans 2 speaks of the way that our conscience works in either approving and condemning our actions and attitudes. This is the mark of God in our world. It is the hidden proof that we are His workmanship - we are His creation. His original design - though badly marred by sin - still is written on our hearts. We may try to sear it from our memories and ignore it in our actions, but it still remains deeply written within us. When the ungodly are at peace with us due to our choice to act on God's character-transforming Word - it is only a testimony to this very spiritual DNA that is a remnant of His creative work before the fall.
God does not promise we won't have enemies. In fact just the opposite is told to us. If we desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, we will suffer persecution. Jesus faced enemies that desired and conspired to put Him to death. To say that God promises a carte blanche freedom from having enemies is to say that Jesus did not please the Father - and evidently His ways were not pleasing to God. Nothing could be further from the truth. God does not promise freedom from enemies - He promises that when we do have them - He will choose to even make our enemies to be at peace with us. This is why we should choose the wisdom of God's ways and walk in them. There is a desirable-ness in how we live. There is an honesty - a joy - a freedom - a peace that will make even our enemies say good things about us. When this happens, we can know that God in His grace has worked in our lives - taking even those who oppose us - and making them testify of His grace that works in us when our ways are pleasing to Him.