A slave will not be instructed by words alone; for though he understand, there will be no response. Proverbs 29:19
Ever wonder how to deal with someone who works for you - but is not really willing to listen all that well to what you tell them? That is what today's proverb addresses. It speaks of the workplace and relationships within it. This especially relates to those who have employees who are either not working - or - are guilty of slipshod work or work that is counterproductive to what the business is seeking to accomplish.
There are those who will not be instructed by words alone. Solomon speaks to his sons about this fact. Finding a good employee is often a difficult thing to do. There is an attitude that is being fostered today among those who are in the laboring class that will prove to do great damage to our nation - and in fact it already has. That attitude is one of jealousy and envy toward the business owner - and anyone else who makes more than they do for their work. This leads to an attitude where the worker does not listen to his boss when he instructs him on what to do. This brings about poor work habits - a poor work ethic - and an even poorer attitude toward authority. This will cost us millions in lost profit and the benefit that would come from it in future business expansion and growth.
The problem though is not in whether the employee can hear or not. Note from the passage before us that he hears fine - he even understands what has been said to him. The employee has a serious attitude problem though - and refuses to respond to his employer. This lack of respect will result in the worker also not taking the boss seriously. In the end he will do his work with the same attitude with which he listens. So what is an employer to do when these things happen to him?
First, the employer (at least the one in this culture) needs to know that such attitudes will always exist. As long as there is a sin nature in man there will be jealousy and envy in the work environment. The wise employer will work to defuse such things so that the work environment is more healthy. Decrying the sin in workers will do little good - because sin will always be present. What the employer needs to do is to find ways to defuse the problem.
A wise employer seeks to hire people of character. You do background checks and seek information from other employers for this reason. If someone has a bad attitude - don't hire them. They will only bring that bad attitude into your workplace as well. If someone has a history of causing problems in the workplace - they will have that same problem in your situation as well. When you have people with good character - reward them and do all you can to keep them around.
A wise employer also will incentivise his workplace. Just as no employer starts a business for the purpose of providing employment for others - no worker gets a job for the joy of working alone. The employer starts his business to make money. He puts in the hours, makes the sacrifice, and labors hard to make a profit for himself and for his family. He grows the business so that it will expand his profitability - so he can provide better for his family. The worker is motivated by the same thing. He does not work for the joy of working alone. He wants to provide for his family - and would like to see that provision become greater over time. When the workman knows that he will be blessed as the company is blessed - he will work hard. The wise employer will not merely instruct with words - he will make a case for his employees that if things become more profitable for the company, things will be more profitable for everyone who works for the company. Words alone won't elicit response - but a share of the bounty of the company over time will.
A wise employer will also build a servant's heart in his people. He will do this first by his own example. He will not be so detatched from his people that they think he does nothing but play and collect a check. He will spend time with his people - and will let them know that he is a servant to the company as well. They all work together to serve their clientel. That attitude needs to spread to every level of management in the company. It also needs to spread to everyone who works in any position there is. They are not there to be served (which will lead to a bad attitude as they want more and more done FOR them) but to serve, and by so serving to make the company more successful. They are a success when their clients are happy.
Ultimately - the wise employer will let his employees know and see that he does not work for himself - he works for God. This will only be for those employers who submit themselves to God and realize that everything they have is from God. Not only will their employees be judged for their performace - even they as an employer will be as well - by God. God warns both employee and employer that they are responsble to Him. They will have to answer for their actions in the end before His throne. When an employee sees that even his boss submits to God - and wrestles with what is right before Him - it will give the employee a sense of confidence and safety knowing that his boss is not a law unto himself.
Words alone do not often bring about a response when we speak them. Words and promises are cheap - when they are not backed up with character and action. But when we speak the basic self-interest that exists within all of us - and do so with character, godliness, and a servant's heart toward those we lead - we will see response where previously there has been none. Whether it is in reference to a slave - a paid worker - or even family and friends, people want to know that they are doing something that will matter - and will profit them in the end. The truly wise boss will do this - and will let his employees know that the ultimate goal of any business venture in which he is involved is to serve their clients unto the glory of God. Want to have them listen, hear, understand, and respond? Live like this!
A false witness will perish, But the man who listens to the truth will speak forever. Proverbs 21:28
How long do your words last? There are many people who sat a whole lot - but whose words don't last very long. There are others who actually spend more time listening than they do speaking. It seems that they obtain wisdom much more often - and that their words are remembered far longer.
Here we have the false witness presented to us first. He is the man who speaks lies. He may not be lying on purpose though. He may just be listening to those who do not know the truth. He also may have bought into a system that is based upon false knowledge - or one that denies the veracity of Scripture. False witnesses tend to gather to themselves a number of people who will listen to their words. Scripture warns about a time when people will not tolerate sound words. They will instead gather to themselves teachers who will give them what their itching ears what to hear. They don't want the truth because the truth will cost them. Therefore they prefer those who will tell them what they want to hear. The problem though with such false witnesses is that they will perish - and those who listen and follow them will perish alongside them. Paul warned young Timothy to watch his life and his doctrine closely. He said to persevere in these things - because by doing so he would not only guarantee his own salvation - but also the salvation of those who listen to him as well. That is the saddest aspect of those who listen and gather false witnesses to themselves. They will wind up with the same sins, the same judgment, and in the same hell as their teachers.
There is a second man presented to us in today's proverb . . . a wise man. He is one who listens to the truth. It is interesting that while the false witness is all about speaking, the wise man is far more about listening. He listens to the truth. What is being said here is that he listens to the Word of God. James told those in his letter to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. He knew that a wise man becomes wise because he chooses to listen far more than he does speak. Therefore he knows the truth - and can speak it when it is needed. We see that in today's proverb. While the false witness perishs - the wise man who listens to the truth speaks forever. His words far outlast his days. How can a man speak this way - having his words last forever? It is not through the wisdom of this world and the scholars who love this world. It is by speaking the Word of God. This man's words last forever because they are God's Words. God's Word is eternal. We read in Psalm 119, "Forever O Lord, your word is established in heaven." We read again in Peter's first letter, "The grass dies, and the flower fades, but the Word of our Lord endures forever." Want to speak in a way that will last? Then speak according to God's Word - or even better - just speak the Word itself. That is the way to speak lasting words that will truly impact those who hear you - not just for a day or a week - or even a year. God's Word lasts forever!
Cease listening, my son, to discipline, And you will stray from the words of knowledge. Proverbs 19:27
If you ever want to be wise and to walk consistently in the knowledge of God - you will have to embrace discipline. Ours is a world that wants things instantly - and it wants them with a real cost to us personally. We would like to have everything and pay nothing for it. Wisdom does not come like this - it comes with much time spent listening to God - and listening to wise men and women. It comes also, as we will learn from today's proverb, from listening to others who will correct us and help discipline us so that we listen to God - and not to our flesh, the world, or the devil.
The whole admonition for today is that we do not need to cease listening to discipline. Discipline here is the Hebrew word "mûsār" and it refers to teaching someone how to live correctly in the fear of the Lord, so that the we learn our lesson before temptation and testing. Thus we learn that this "discipline" is training for life and it is why it is so important that we pay attention - and do not cease to listen to this kind of training. The reason for this is because temptation and testing do not take a vacation. They come to us on a regular basis - daily - even hourly.
The goal in listening to this "life training" is to gather up words of knowledge. They function in our lives like sign posts. We appreciate a well placed sign post when we are driving. They warn us of bridges that are out or of roads that are closed. They remind us of the streets we are on and when to turn off a highway so that we get to where we are going. What God is reminding us of though is that there are moral sign posts - which are these words of knowledge - sayings that will help us remember what is a godly path and what is not a godly path. Proverbs speaks often of knowing where our choices will eventually take us.
When we cease to listen to the correction and the training that comes with being disciplined - we will not know where these sign posts will be. It would be like trying to get somewhere in a new city without a map and without any kind of signs to help us know where we are - and where we are going. That would make life very difficult - and frustrating. We would wind up taking the wrong road over and over again - until we eventually learned the hard way where everything is in that city. Just as frustrating as this is living life not really knowing where you are going morally or spiritually. That is why we should listen closely to wiser more godly men and women when they speak to us. That is why we should pay very close attention when God's Word speaks to us. This is our road map - these words of knowledge and godly counsel.
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.
The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29
This proverb explains for us who God is near and the ones from whom He keeps His distance. It is a frightening thing to me to read that Jehovah is far from the wicked. Note that this does not say that the wicked man is far from God - but that God is far from him. Since this proverb has to do with prayer - we are talking about a wicked man and his prayers (if he has any at all). The only prayer that God will hear from a wicked man is a prayer of repentance. Otherwise we can read in numerous other places that God is sickened and wants nothing to do with his praying. Later in Proverbs we learn that, "He who turnes away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." (Proverbs 28:9
) A wicked man would frequent a prayer meeting as often as an at-large criminal would frequent a police station. But when the wicked do pray, God will not hear. We read another terrifying passage in Proverbs chapter 1 about the prayer of the wicked.
"Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD. "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof." Proverbs 1:24-30
This passage warns those who think they can mock God and live with no fear of Him. It warns them that when calamity comes, they cannot turn to God only for deliverance from it. This is how the wicked pray - they turn to God when disaster comes, but then mock Him when everything is well. We read that God Himself will mock them in that day. He does not do so because He is vindictive. He does this because He knows that such praying rises from a heart that is wicked still. Therefore he will not hear. He is far from such praying. He even considers it an abomination to Him.
Fortunately, this proverb does not end with the statement about the wicked. God reminds us that He does hear the prayer of the righteous. There is a twofold way we should understand this. First, we need to see it positionally. The "righteous" is not righteous because of his deeds. We read in multiple places throughout Scripture that the righteous man shall live by faith. He is made righteous by faith in God's provision for sin. He is granted righteousness as a gift of God's grace. He cannot make himself righteous because he is steeped in sin. All he is fit for is punishment and wrath. God, though, has come to the rescue with blood of a spotless lamb that speaks on his behalf. This lamb was a physical one in the Old Testament, but that was just a shadow of the glory of God's grace to come. God sent THE Lamb when Jesus Christ came to earth and gave His life on the cross for our sins. That was sufficient payment for us - and God offers with it the very righteousness of Christ as a gift of His glorious grace. That is why He hears the prayer of this man (or any man for that matter). He stands in a divinely-provided righteousness that speaks effectively for him. Thus God hears!
The second way this passage should be understood is by a practical understanding. God hears the prayer of the saved man who practially embraces the righteous ways of God. We cannot, even as Christians, ignore obedience to God and expect God to hear our prayers. We read in the Word that if we regard sin in our hearts, we know that God does not hear us. Some complain of much prayer that seems to be ignored by God. But prayer that is ignored is prayer to One that we've offended by our choice of sin rather than righteousness. It is only when we take refuge in 1 John 1:9
- confessing our sins - that we can once again be heard.
Our Father is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God. But we must understand that He is God, not a shabby version of Santa Claus. There are principles involved in how God hears and answers prayer. They are not complicated principles - but they are principles that are strictly adhered to as we approach Him. The key to answered prayer is walking and asking according to His will. If we allow sin to enter either our walk or our requests, we will find that our praying is ineffective. Embrace righteousness - both positionally and practially and you will find prayer a delight. You will also find a God who is eager to hear - eager to work - and eager to answer.
For it will be pleasant if you keep them within you, That they may be ready on your lips. Proverbs 22:18
How can wisdom help ensure that you have a pleasant life? That is what we have presented for us today as we continue to look at God's call to Wisdom. We are offered a promise by God here - that if we keep the words of wisdom within us - it will be pleasant for us. The word pleasant is the Hebrew word "naem" which means to be sweet, beautiful, comfortable, delightful, and enjoyable. So wisdom kept within us - wisdom that we gain by listening to wise men and women - wisdom that we let knock about in our heads as we think on what it is saying to us - and the understanding that comes through it - will make our lives pleasant.
This is not promising us that we will never have any problems - but it is saying that wisdom will make even problems and difficulties more pleasant because we will know God's direction and leadership in the midst of them. Note here that this is true if we "keep them within" us. This is saying that just a casual aquaintence with wisdom is not enough. We have taken the time to either memorize or extensively meditate on these godly principles. In fact we have thought about them enough that they are "ready on our lips." There is enough confidence in what we've learned that we are ready to speak of them - and that they have become principles "rooted" deep within us. This passage reminds us of God's promise to Joshua that says, "This book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night - so that you may be careful to do all that is in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success." (Joshua 1:8
, NASB) There is a blessing that will come to us - that will make our lives very pleasant if we will take to ourselves the Word of the Lord - keep it in our hearts and minds - and begin to do all that we do based on the wisdom that God grants us from His Word.
Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise, And apply your mind to my knowledge; Proverbs 22:17
All throughout the book of Proverbs we have little sections devoted to calling people to wisdsom. Here is another one. From this verse all the way through verse 21 we are called to give ourselves to the "words of the wise" as we walk through life.
The call here is to hear what the wise are saying. Something that we should realize is that as we walk through life God is going to bless us with those who are wise. Unfortunately the cutlure of the west has turned from learning from the elderly - and thus has cut off from ourselves a wealth of wisdom and understanding in the process. There is much to learn from someone who has walked through life many years. If nothing else -we can learn from the fact that they've faced things we have not - and that they are failed at things and learned form their mistakes.
The call is to incline our ear and hear these words. This is in some ways a call to humility. We have to submit ourselves to their words if we are going to learn anything. If we think that we are the fountanhead of wisdom itself - we will be too arrogant and too apt to "lean on our own understanding" to listen to what someone else has to say. There is much to simply learning to shut one's own mouth and hear what others have to say. That is why God admonishes us through the book of James to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. The wise old saying goes that God gave us two ears but only one mouth. By this He is saying that we need to listen twice as much as talk. That one thought alone, if adhered to, would grant us a great deal of wisdom.
The thing though that the wise old sage offers to the youth is that not only should he listen, but he shoud also apply himself to understanding what he has heard. This is where a great deal of wisdom is gleaned. We not only listen, but then later we take the time to mull over what has been said with a view to truly understanding it and applying it to the various situations that we face in life. It is not enough just to listen - we must apply what we've heard as well. This application process happens as we also truly seek to grasp the very root truth of what we've heard. This means going to the level of the worldview that wisdom teaches us. That worldview is one of knowing and valuing to the utmost what God has to say to us. Wisdom is best defined as seeing things like God sees them. This means that we take what we've learned from God not just as information, but as a framework to understanding everything in the world around us. This is the way to wisdom - to see and to grasp things from God's perspective - and then to live as He would direct us.
"I have not listened to the voice of my teachers, Nor inclined my ear to my instructors!" Proverbs 5:13
There are consequences for sexual sin in the lives of those who commit it. These two verses in Proverbs chapter 5 relate to us what some of these consequences are for the immoral person. What is fascinating is that these two things are not exactly on the what's what list for sexual immorality - and yet they are both problems that will come for those who practice this kind of lifestyle and choice in life.
It would be wise for us to briefly remember the context of these verses. These are in the context of a father warning a son not to consort with prostitutes and with women who commit adultery. The warnings are dire but are in no way hyperbole. The things being said to this young man are true warnings and they contain true consequences for his actions. This is why the one who commits adultery later laments that he did not listen to the voice of his teachers - nor pay attention of incline his ear to hear how they were seeking to instruct him.
There is very real ruin and disgrace that attends adultery. Anyone who has watched a marriage and a family disintegrate under the weight of it knows this to be true. Yet, even with all the examples that we have before us of these things, men and women still enter into relationships and commit adultery. The siren call of pleasure drowns out the voice of teachers and instructors who have warned them of the rocky shores upon which they will wreck their lives and the lives of their families. The only cry they will lift is unfortunately the one that comes from the battered survivors who cry in pain in the midst of their wreckage.
That is what we have here before us - the cry of the destroyed. I did not listen to my teachers! I did not incline my ear to my instructors! I am ruined due to my sin and my indiscretions! The cries come from the rocks and from the ruins of lives that have ventured too far into those dangerous waters. They have ignored the warning of the lighthouse of Scripture that tells them what will happen. Rebellious and unteachable - their lesson will only be learned the hard way. They will add their names to the long list of cautionary characters who faced ruin in opposing and thinking they can get past the Scriptures and God's warnings. All this can seem like too much - but tomorrow we will see a ray of hope in what is said in verse 14. So if you are on the verge of despair - there is hope - there is mercy - and there is grace!
He who gives an answer before he hears, It is folly and shame to him. Proverbs 18:13
When I read this proverb, I immediately was reminded of a problem that I have when it comes to listening skills. There are times in a conversation with others that I don't listen as closely as I should. What I do is begin to frame in my mind what I am going to say next - before the other person has finished what they are saying. Another problem I have is that at times I won't wait for someone to finish what they are saying - because I have convinced myself that I know what they are going to say or finish saying. Thus I interrupt and rudely start with what I want to say. Whether this is a common malady among people is not for me to say. What I can say though is that my lack of listening skills has hurt me from time to time exactly like this proverb says. I have either been seen as a fool for speaking before I heard the other person - or - I've made had to be ashamed later of something that I've said when listening more intently would have delivered me from the embarassment of that situaiton.
Why would we speak before we hear? Well, since this is one of my own sins, I feel that I am somewhat an authority on the "whys" of it. I speak before I listen because I am filled with pride. I think what I have to say has to be far more important than what the other person is saying at the time. I consider myself smarter and better informed - or I'm just rude and do not value what someone else has to say. The one thing I am sure of is that whatever my reasons, they do not hold water - and certainly do not survive the Philippians 2
test (consider others better than yourself). Lack of character on my part is the overwhelming answer here.
I remember one incident that woke me up to my lack of listening skills. It was a time when I was witnessing to students at the University of Memphis. One student invited us into his room to talk. As we shared I was amazed at his ability to concentrate on whatever was being said at the time. At first I equated this to the work of the Holy Spirit in drawing him to Christ. But after three visits I was seeing the same thing again and again. Finally, I couldn't resist asking him why he seemed so interested in what we were saying when we came to visit. His answer blew me away. He said that over the past couple of years he had consciously worked on listening intently to whatever conversation he was a part of so that he could better know what to say - and when to keep his mouth shut.
What astounded me about this interview was that he was not a believer - yet his character far better reflected love than mind did when it came to listening to others. Those visits did far more to change me than I think they changed him. I was confronted with my horrible lack of listening skills and how they had brought both shame and foolishness to me. I remember making a commitment to develop the kind of skills this young man had. But what motivated me most was remembering the way that talking to him made me feel. His concentration on what I had to say made me feel important - and yes - loved. It was and is a reminder to me to this very day that listening well to someone is vitally important. It can mean the difference between them feeling loved - or - feeling like they are talking to someone rude and foolish. As someone who longs to be wise, it is my hope to give an answer ONLY after I've heard - not just with my ears, but with understanding and love.
The hearing ear and the seeing eye, The LORD has made both of them. Proverbs 20:12
This last day we will spend on this verse has to do not just with the physical creation of our ears and eyes, but rather with some philosophic and religious implications of this fact. What should we learn from the fact that God has made our ears and eyes? Psalm 94:9
will help us here with these things. Psalm 94
is written to help us see that God is Who He is - GOD! Psalm 94
is a psalm about God's judgment that is coming upon a disobedient people. It is about people who ignore God's warnings about pride and rebellion. As these people do their wicked acts, they do so with the attitude that "The Lord coes not see, nor does the God of Jacob pay heed." Their attitude is that God doesn't have the ability to see their actions and their deeds.
The answer that God gives them is given in verse 8-10 which read as follows, "Pay heed, you senseless among the people; And when will you understand, stupid ones? He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see? He who chastens the nations, will He not rebuke, Even
He who teaches man knowledge?"
God's philosophical question to these people is this. The God Who made us in His image - and who made us with ears that hear and eyes that see - do you not think that He can hear and see? To think that this is not the case is really stupid and senseless. God hears and sees. But what is terrifying is to grasp that as an infinite being God's hearing and sight are not limited to time and space like our own. He hears and sees ALL THINGS! There is nothing that is beyond His perview - and as such - all will give an account to Him. Verse 10 tells us that the God who chastens nations - will he not also chasten the individual?
This says something to us that we absolutely need to hear. God is God - He made the hearing ear and the seeing eye. Since we are made in His image - that means that He too can both hear and see. That is why a simple assertion in Proverbs chapter 20 should make us step back and consider such a thing. It should also help us to embrace wisdom. Wisdom is living in such a way that we realize that we are walking in God's sight - walking before Him. What He says we should heed - what He commands we should do - and what we think we can hide - we should wake up and know that even our most hidden actions, thoughts, and words are as clear as day in His sight. Knowing this helps a wise man to live "pleasing" in His sight. Rejecting it is the ultimate insult to God. We equate to Him and blindness and deafness that dishonors Him greatly. But the fact is that men and women who do not acknowledge His omniscience are the ones blind and deaf.