"Many daughters have done nobly, But you excel them all." Proverbs 31:29
There is an influence that the excellent wife has that few consider - and yet it is an influence that reaches to the ends of the earth. William Ross Wallace wrote, "The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world." He wrote that in his famous poem entitled, "What Rules the World," in 1865. In that wonderful poem Wallace lauds true godly motherhood. He understood the influence that a godly woman can have. He may or may not have known that Solomon said such a thing centuries earlier at the close of his section on the excellent wife. Let's look at what he said.
Solomon begins by promising the excellent wife that her huband will say to her the following statement, "Many daughters have done nobly." A couple of things catch my eye as I look at these words. First, the husband gives a shout out to his mother-in-law. He speaks of "daughters" that have done nobly. The reason they usually do nobly is that they were taught by example and by precept how to be an exemplary wife by their mothers. It is a wise man who praises his mother-in-law for the work that she has done with his wife. Second, the godly husband speaks of how his wife has done "nobly." The word used here is "hayil" and it means to have strength and influence. When it is used of his wife, he uses it to speak of her exemplary character and godliness. He speaks of her virtuous character. The word is used to speak often of either military, financial, or numerical influence. When the husband uses it he speaks of his wife's influence with the family and others. That influence is due to godliness and an excellent work ethic.
The next thing the husband does is compare his wife to others around her. This may seem unwise at first - but he only says that his precious wife excels all others that are around her. He speaks glowingly of her as a jewel among all others. She is his rare gem and is as precious to him and to the family as any gem would be to its owner. In fact, Solomon states elsewhere in proverbs that she is worth more than multiple gems and silver and gold. The wise man does not let his wife wonder if she is being godly and leading the family aright in her husband's absence. HE knows- and he is delighted at what her godly character has brought to his family - and to others around her.
Men . . . your wife needs to hear such things from you! She is, for the most part, ignored and stepped upon by the society around her. Some may even speak well of her actions, but more than anything she wants to hear these things from your mouth! Let her know that in your eyes she excels any other woman. Remind her that the things she is investing in her children will yield great influence as they grow to love Christ and share Him with others. This is the high and noble work of a woman - in fact I believe Scripture indicates it is the highest and noblest work she could aspire to in her life! If she is doing that work - acknowledge it man - acknowledge it!
NOTE: Just a brief word here for single moms who are doing it all alone. It is a sad thing that you will probably not here such a thing from your husband - esepcially if you are a single mom due to his unfaithfulness. But know this - all will receive their reward in the end. Know that your heavenly Father sees all - and He will speak such words of encouragement to your heart as you do this hard work by His grace. But there will be a day when before His throne you will hear so much more. You will hear it because you chose to be an exemplary mother - even when the father of your children has been far less than exemplary. But for now precious ladies - You too have done nobly - excelling others with your sacifice, your humility, and your Christ-honoring attitude and actions! Well done - dear ladies - well done!
She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. Proverbs 31:26
The excellent wife is a doer, which we have seen throughout this entire portrait. But we learn in verse 26 that she is also a teacher - and one whose words are a blessing to all those who hear them. Let's take a look at the two pictures that are painted for us, describing this aspect of the excellent wife.
First we see that she speaks wisdom. The picture that is painted for us is a woman who when she sees the need of breaking silence with her mouth - speaks and wisdom pours from her. The phrase "opens her mouth," is a Hebraism meaning what is under her tongue or ready to proceed from her mouth. It has the idea that as soon as her mouth opens to speak - wisdom pours forth from it. The Jewish scholars believed that this woman's heart was so filled with this wisdom from God that the moment she opened her mouth it naturally flowed from it. This is the kind of woman yiou want to be around when she did speak. She was the female embodiment of E.F. Hutton - who when she speaks - you should listen!
The second thing we learn about her is that "the teaching of kindness is on her tongue." There are two ways of reading this - and honestly I think either is correct. The first way would be to say that she teaches of kindness to others. The word for kindness here is the Hebrew word "chesed." This word is the one that is closest to the New Testaement concept of agape love that we have in the Old Testament. The word meant both goodness and kindness - and referred to God's covenant love. She taught of God's great covenant love. She taught of a God who loved His people, showing them His kindness and His goodness to them. But the second way of seeing this is that she was loving as she taught. The reason I feel that either is applicable is that they compliment each other so well. One who teaches of God's love would, of course, be one who showed it as well even as she taught.
The excellent wife is not just a worker - but a lover - and one who loves as God Himself does. She speaks wisdom and teaches of love. These are two wonderful aspects of God that every family member and especially the children need to learn. That is why the excellent wife is so ready to speak of such things whenever she opens her mouth. She is a source of blessing therefore not only in all that she does for this family - but also in all she speaks and teaches as well.
The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD will be exalted. Proverbs 29:25
The proverb for today is one that I know quite well. It is one of the sins that is a very real stumbling block for me. Fearing man is something I've done too often in my life - and just as this proverb says, it is always a baited snare or trap that I trigger in the process. It is not hard to remember one of the very first principles of wisdom, which is that fearing God is how wisdom begins. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:8) With that as our backdrop, let's take a look for a few moments at the opposite, the fear of man - and the problems and traps that come with it.
The first thing we need to take note of here is that the word fear here is different than the one used in Proverbs 1:8. Proverbs 1:8 uses the Hebrew word "yirah" which is a positive word for fear beasue of its use in connection with fearing God. The word speaks of fearing to displease God and has with it the connotation of respecting and honoring Him. This fear acknowledges God's good intentions in His commandments and therefore motivates us to delight in them and in so doing Him. This fear is identified with wisdom, knowledge, discretioin, and understanding and helps the one who has it to judge things properly and most of all restrains us from sin and rebellion against God. The word for fear in today's proverb is the Hebrew word "haradah," which speaks of a trembling, quaking, or shaking with fear. The word was used to speak of a physical shaking of Israel's enemies when God began to fight for them. It is not a good fear - but rather a shaking and trembling that come before someone flees or surrender's to another.
The context in which this fear happens is men. Proverbs warns against trembling and shaking in fear of mere men this way. Scripture tells us that we are not to fear the ones who can kill the body, yet do nothing to our souls. The One we are to fear is the One who when our bodies are dead can take our soul and cast it into hell. That rules out ALL men. Yet we fear and tremble before men. What does this tell us? I will equate the things we are "falling for" as the bait of a trap. That is what the word "snare" here means in the Hebrew. It referred to the trap and the snare that caught animals - but the reference was to the bait that was in the trap more than the trap itself. The trap would never be effective unless the animal was deceived by the bait. So what "bait" are we being deceived by in stepping into the trap of the fear of man?
First, we take the bait that our life consists of our possessions. We fear man because we think that man can take away our stuff. We think that ultimately our stuff defines us. That was the case with the rich farmer - who thought his life consisted of his possessions. He did all he could to protect his bumper crop so that he could retire securely. The problem for him was that he would die that very night - and all his stuff was gone anyway. All he was left with was how he had prepared for his meeting with God - for which he was eternally unprepared. You are not defined by your stuff - but when men make you think they can control your stuff (or your ability to earn so you can buy stuff) you will be tampted to fear them instead of God. When you do that, you've taken the bait - and stepped into a snare.
Second, we take the bait that men control our lives rather than the sovereignty of God. Some fear man because they think men control their destiny. Here is where I was guilty of the fear of man. I thought men controlled whether I was pastor or not - and feared their power. The fact is that God is ALWAYS ultimately in control of our lives - and to fear men is to put yourself into a very dangerous position. You begin to listen to men more than God. You can wind up lifting the thoughts of man above the Word of God. These are the traps you fall into when you take the bait that men control your destiny rather than God.
I will only go into a third bait that we often take when we fear men instead of God. That is that how men think of us is what is important. That is a lie - and one that controls the behavior of billions. Fashions and all aspects of culture function off of this lie. Immoralty becomes acceptable because we fear what men will "think" of us if we hold to a biblical morality and standard. Our culture has embraced almost every and any kind of sin because they value what men think above what God thinks. We call sexual immorality - both heterosexual and homosexual - normal because we've valued what men think above what God says. We've embraced materialism, racism, as well as perverting sexual roles of men and women because we exalt current culture above God's eternal Word.
We are told that the cure to the fear of man is to trust in the Lord. That one, we are counselled, will be exalted. We trust the Lord when we read Scripture and value what God says, even if it has violent collisions with our current cultural norms. We trust the Lord when we realize that God moves the hearts of kings (and everyone else for that matter) wherever He wants them to go. We trust the Lord when we are willing to leave everything for the sake of God's will - knowing that the eternal eclipses the physcial and temporal in life. Trusting the Lord is simply valuing God's view of things above that of anyone else's. That, by the way, is also the definition of wisdom - seeing things the way that God sees. That view of things will bless us - and - protect us from buying the lie of the bait that blinds us to the trap in which it is sent.
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.
By forbearance a ruler may be persuaded, And a soft tongue breaks the bone. Proverbs 25:15
Today's proverb has to do with the power of persuasion - especially when the one who is to be persuaded is someone in authority, like a ruler or a king. How is it that we persuade someone so high in office? The answer might shock you, because the Lord says that it is not the forceful man that will win the day. Patience and gentleness have much greater power to persuade than a blustery, arrogant person.
Forbearance is what is needed, according to our proverb. The Hebrew word here is "orek" and it means something long or lengthy. It describes physical measurements. The word used to describe the length of Noah's ark as well as to describe things like large land measurements. But what is measured as long in this passage is the patience and willingness to stick with one's cause before someone in authority. The idea is that a person forbears the fact that the ruler has a different opinion - and seeks to bring the powers of persuasion to bear on him over time. Most rulers are not given to quick swings in opinion - and when they do - it has the danger of not lasing long. The influence of the wise man is applied to a decision over a long period of time. That is one reason he is effective in getting the ruler to think and reason as he does. William Wilberforce spent his entire lifetime forbearing with those who differed with him on the issue of slavery. Yet he held to his views and continued to persuade men by holding them no matter what the outcome of votes within Parliment. In the end, his willingness to remain in the fight and stay there for years won the day for him and his cause.
There is a second tool that a wise man uses in persuading a ruler. We are instructed that a soft or gentle tongue can break a bone. What a powerful picture that is for us - and yet how contrary to the way that many of us are wired to think. It is not boisterousness and bravado that win the day with the ruler. It is the wise, soft spoken and gentle man who can eventually persuade the king on a matter. Consider Daniel for a moment on this matter. He was a very wise man who had tremendous influence on the king. Yet we do not have a single passage where Daniel speaks impassioned words to the king. Joseph was the same way. He was a man of controlled passions when it came to his dealings with Pharaoh. This kind of strength under control allies great power. The king and the Pharaoh came to have great confidence in these godly men. Their words - though gentle in their presentation - were powerful and could accomplish much.
Of those who led with forbearance and gentle words, Jesus stands more significant among all. He was patient with His disciples - and submitted Himself to God and even to others when He Himself had once sat at the right hand of God Himself. He spoke in ways that made men marvel - and commanded even the elements to submit to His will. When standing before a corrupt pseudo-court of man - Jesus was able to be quiet - even amazing His captors with His behavior. And when it came to raw displays of power - His simple words, "I am He," in the garden caused a wicked mob to stagger backwards and fall to the ground on their backs. Gentleness bearing great power - Jesus was the epitome of it in life.
Too many in our day think that to be influential you have to be a jerk. They see power as something wielded with an iron fist. You don't take anything from anybody - even someone in a position of authority. Such behavior may get you a temporary rung higher on the corporate ladder, but it will NOT bode well for you long into the future. The "gentle-tongued" man does not make the kind of enemies that the man with the macho attitude. He does not leave a trail of crushed egos and smashed careers along the way. The man who triumphs with power and a lack of gentleness will have many who will cheer for his fall. The gentle man learns to break a bone with the gentle and controlled way that he quietly and consistently speaks for his principles. Thus he comes to the point of persuasioin without all the baggage of his blustery counterparts.
Learn to influence others wisely. Learn to stand in positions of principle steadfastly. Learn to persuade others with soft, gentle, bone-crushing power. The power you access in the process will not be that of the fleshly elite of this world, whose kingdoms are passing away. The power you access will be that of the Son of God - Who remained silent as a lamb before His shearers - and yet who crushed death and hell under the weight of His godly obedience to His Father. There, dear saints, is power!
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. Proverbs 20:27
Here is a proverb that wisely reveals to us the workings of the Spirit of God within a man. One might ask how this imparts wisdom to us. We must remember though the definition of wisdom. That definition is seeing things as God sees them - and thus making decisions that are in concert with His will and purposes. With wisdom defined in this way we can easily see why a verse showing us the workings of the Holy Spirit in man is very valuable to grasping wisdom in our lives. Such information allows us to better understand how God imparts and gives us His wisdom.
The first thing we learn is that the "spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord." A lamp is something we use to give us light. What is being said to us is that the lamp of God is the spirit of man. When God wants to reveal Himself and make Himself and His wisdom known to man, He does so in and through our spirit. By the working of the Holy Spirit - Who speaks in our spirit - we are made aware of the mind and heart of God. Watchman Nee in his amazing volume on the working of the Holy Spirit, The Spiritual Man, spoke of how the Holy Spirit worked in us through our intuition, our conscience, and through something I'll call "our knower." Let's take a look at these three features of our spirit in concert with God's Spirit.
God reveals Himself to us primarily through His Word. As we read and know His revelation of Himself in the Word, the Holy Spirit will speak to our conscience. This might also be referred to as conviction. We are convicted of truth and our conscience speaks to us. This is not some kind of "devil on one shoulder - angel on the other" kind of experience. Instead is it a settled understanding of some things. First is might be that soemthing it true - true about God - true about who we are in Christ - true morally - true in any number of ways. Our conscience speaks to us and we know that it is true (because we see it in God's Word). We also might see that something is sinful. God's Word points out an action, an attitude, a word spoken - and our conscience bothers us as we come to the settled conviction that either we have sinned, or that something is sin. Another way this works is when we are convicted about something as the will of God. Our conscience prods us to act - to speak - to turn away from some temptation or toward an act of obedience - serving in some way - witnessing - and any number of other aspects of walking in obedience with God.
The second tool used by the Holy Spirit is our intuition. This really also fits the idea of our "knower." This is when the Spirit of God works in our spirit to help us just 'know' that soemthig is true. This would speak to the working of God to simply through an intuitive knowledge - to bear witness with the truth. One thing about this 'intuitive' aspect of God's working must be said. That is that God's Spirit will NEVER contradict God's Word in what He grants us as intuitive knowledge. Probably the best way I can describe this working is that we have a sense that someting is wrong - or something is warning us that we are about to sin. There is also a way where we just know that something is God's will and that we should act. Again - this is one of the more subjective ways the Spirit of God works - so this must be tested with God's Word - and a working knowledge of it.
We need to note how God's lamp works in this proverb. We read that it, "searches all the innermost parts of our being." God's lamp - our spirit as the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us - searches us out. Even to the very innermost parts of our being this lamp lights things up within us. The reason this is needed is at least in part because sin has made it difficult to know our own hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that the heart is deceitful above all else and is dsperately wicked. We are told immediately afterward, "I the Lord search the heart." Thus this working by God's lamp is vital to us knowing the truth.
It is wise to regularly - even daily or hourly - submit to the teaching, leading, and searching of the Holy Spirit of God. This work that God does is so very important if we want to know the truth. When we surrender to Him and allow Him to teach us - we know the truth. When we surrender to Him and allow Him to lead us - we will walk in the will and ways of God consistently. When we surrender to Him and allow Him to search us - we will be delivered from sin and from deceiving ourselves by following our hearts instead of being led by the Spirit and the Word. Wisdom - yes this proverb gives us great wisdom indeed.
A man of violence entices his neighbor And leads him in a way that is not good. Proverbs 16:29
This proverb has to do with those who are considered, "men of violence." It would be good to understand what this title or name means before we go further in understanding this particular proverb.
The "man of violence" is an interesting term - since this term is actuially used as the name for a terrorist group or organization. The word for violence is "hamas." The word means an action of violence or wrong-doing. The word implies cruelty, damage, and injustice. It is often coupled with words that speak of physical violence involving the use of a weapon - and is also used to describe acts of oppression and violence that could be described as extremely evil in nature and intent. Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament commentary on this verse mentions that the violent purpose behind such actions often included felonies, robbery, extortion, and even murder).
What I find fascinating is that this passage warns that this "man of violence" will seek to entice his neighbor to get involved with him and with his acts of evil. When caught this will mean that this neighbor will be an accessory to his crimes. That is why there is a warning to stay away from a man who is talking about such things.
Be careful WHO leads you - and know WHERE they are headed before you agree to go with them. The phrase, "A way that is not good," used here meand one that is in stark contrast to the good way - the way of God. We are also warned that it is altogether evil and destructive in where it goes.
One other thing I want to throw in at this point is a warning about a man who begins going down a path of anger. He will begin this path with passion and with many complaints against those whom he feels have not been fair with him. Since we are in a presidential election year - I want to offer some advice to all of us who are in the process of determining who will lead us for the next four years. I am very concerned with what our President is currently doing. There is a lot of time being spent dividing groups of people - the haves and have nots - the races - the religious and non-religious. A great deal of time is being spend whipping up a great deal of anger against various groups of people who are being painted as scape goats. No truly wise leader goes down this path. It is a path that will lead first to the marginalization of various groups - but will eventually go to the point of demonizing these groups. In the end - even violence will be permitted against these groups because they have become the enemy of a political party or candidate. This is also why I am leary of Governor Romney - and to some extent many on the Republican side of this equation. Too many are using negative attacks against their opponent - calling them names - and using political epithets that are not going to help calm our political discourse. As this verbal virtiol continues it will do NO ONE in our nation any good in the end.
A word of warning is wise at this point. We need to learn from history - that the way we are going - with men of violence starting their attacks with words - will only turn to eventual attacks physically upon others in the end. If we choose to ignore this now - we will only pay the price later when these men of violence entice us to act out upon those we think are responsible for our national demise - or honestly - our personal one. Very few of these men care anything about our nation - or else they would not turn to such godless ways. They would know that a nation divided against itself cannot stand. But then again when they turn to be men of violence they are only interested in themselves. In the end they will lead us in a way that is not good - and one that will only satisfy their own lust for power.
Wise men shun those who call for violence - in their words or in their deeds. They know that To be led by men like this is only to start down a path that is not in agreement with that of God our Father. They would choose instead to be sons of God - peacemakers if you will - whose greatest desire is to see peace exalted through the work of Jesus Christ. May God give us men like that to lead us!
The wise in heart will be called understanding, And sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Proverbs 16:21
How can we increase our influence and persuasiveness with people? That is the question that Solomon answers today in our proverb. It has to do with being wise in our hearts before we decide to open our mouths. It also involves us learning to discern what do say in different situations in life - then saying it competently.
The wise in heart will be called understanding. Wisdom enters our hearts when we turn to the Lord as our primary source for learning and understanding our world around us. Proverbs chapter 2 reminds us that as we seek God for His wisdom and open our hearts to what He desires to teach us, "Wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul. Discretion will guard you, understanding will watch over you." (Proverbs 2:10-11
) When we have wisdom enter our hearts - we will be able to distinguish between things that honor and please God, and things that are worldly and please our flesh. When we have this ability the Spirit of God will teach and train us in the way of wisdom. The passage here says that we will gain a reputation over time - of being a discerning person. That is what the word "understanding" means here. It means to be someone who due to wisdom - can now understand situations and circumstances that cannot ordinarily be understood from human wisdom alone.
As this discernment increases and begins to catch the attention of others, There will also be multiple opportunities to speak that wisdom to benefit those around us. But Solomon offers us a little instruction. If we will use pleasant and sweet speech when speaking that wisdom to others - we will have our persuasive abilities increased. A harsh word or a mean-spirited one will stop communication before we can ever communicate wisdom. That is why we are warned to increase our persuasiveness by speaking with kindness. We are to speak the truth - but speak it in love. If we do not - often we will be tuned out and our opportunity to influence people for the Lord will be stopped.
We need to be men and women both of wisdom and of gracious communication of it. That will allow us to have the maximum amount of persuasiveness as we share the truth. Too often people want to share truth - but with too harsh an edge. Love people and speak the truth to them. As you do you will gain a repuatation for speaking sound and good things in your counsel. You also will have that counsel regarded - and appreciated by many who will call you a person of great discernment.