A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22
There is a healing effect when we are joyful, cheerful people. We read in today's proverb that a joyful heart is good medicine. The word used for "joyful" here is the Hebrew word "sameah" which means, 'to be glad, happy, or joyful.' The idea behind this word is that someone is choosing to rejoice - to consider the good that God has done, rather than the misery and the opportunity to be sad and depressed. That is why we are to seek to maintain a "joyful" heart.
The number of medical studies that reveal to us this principle is nothing short of amazing. Dr. Hans Seyle, former director of the University of Montreal's Institute of Experimental Medicine and Surgery, discovered that when rats are subjected to cold, fatigue, frustration, noise, and other stressful conditions, they develop physical symptoms. Their blood pressure soars, their vital adrenal glands become grossly enlarged, their thymus and lymphatic glands shrink, and they develop peptic ulcers. Research done by the American Medical Association by a Dr Seyle showed that in animals emotional stress causes fats to be drawn from the body, dumped into the blood, and deposited along artery walls. The lethal results are atherosclerosis and coronary-artery disease. According to Dr. Seyle, hatred, frustration, and anxiety are the worst stresses. If you forcefully restrain a normally active rat, deadly frustration results. If you put a mouse and a cat in adjoining cages, the mouse will die of anxiety.
This kind of "broken spirit" will, according to the Lord, dry up the bones. This is a horrible condition because our bones are not only our main source of strength and stability, but they are also the place where our blood is produced. Without our bones we will surely die in short order. What is difficult though is that we cannot go up to someone who is dried up in their affections and tell them to be joyful. That does not help them. They know they are without joy - and can sense the drying up of their vitality. An admontion to stop this is like asking the sun to stop shining simply by requesting it. What they need is a supernatural infusion of joy - or even better an infusing of a joy producing principle that will not go away with the seasons or the up and down existance of being alive.
Where can we obtain joy? That is the million dollar question. Fortunately, we are instructed in where to find joy in the gospels. When Jesus was born the angels made an amazing statement. "But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people, for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord." (Luke 2:10-11)
Joy comes when we are brought into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The true source of a dried up spirit is that we are separated fom God by our sin. The weight of our guilt along with the prospect of judgment and separation from God for all eternity will bring great pain and sorrow.
Jesus, when He came on the scene publically, read the following passage from Isaiah to the people in Gallilee. "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; To proclaim the favorable year of the LORD And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, To grant those who mourn in
Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting." (Isaiah 61:1-3)
For those afflicted with sorrow, sighing, sadness, and a broken spirit there is wonderful news. Jesus came to bring great joy. He came to give us the oil of joy poured upon our heads rather than a spirit of fainting. The cause of the broken spirit is our separation from God - and its remedy is turning to God through Jesus Christ. That is how we can have our sorrow turned to laughter and our gloom to everlasting joy.
Joy is not just laughter. Some use this verse to promote Christian comediens. But I will say that although I enjoy their humor greatly - they are not the source of bringing men from sorrow to joy. Solomon also wrote Ecclesastes 2 which says, "I said to myself, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure. So enjoy yourself." And behold, it too was futility. I said of laughter, "It is madness," and of pleasure, "What does it accomplish?" (Ecclesiastes 2:1-2)
So just getting someone to laugh will not solve the cause of a broken heart. David said it best when in the midst of his confession of sin he said, "Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation!" Joy comes from knowing God - knowing your sins are forgiven - knowing that you will stand in the judgment. When this aspect of our lives is not right - nothing will be.
The way to a joyful heart is by knowing God through Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and resurrected from the dead. It is by coming to God in repentance and faith and turning from a self-centered life to one centered in Him. God offers such a gift freely to us - therefore joy is truly available to men. The problem is that they turn to other things than Him and His gospel to obtain it.
He who sires a fool does so to his sorrow, And the father of a fool has no joy. Proverbs 17:21
Wisdom knows that children can be a source of great joy - and also a source of incredible sorrow. This particular proverb points us to the fact that a man who has a child - and that child becomes a fool - is a man who will have a great deal or sorrow, pain, and difficulty. There are a couple of things we should note, though, in this statement.
When a man sires a fool - it is not just the process of having a child that is meant here. God calls us to rear our children according to His Word - making sure that we first live it before them - and also that we spend time teaching them this Word as well. Listen to what God says in Deuteronomy on this issue.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. “These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. “You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. “You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
It is so important to see here a call to reality in our own spiritual walk first. We are to love God with all our heart, soul, and might. We are to put His Word on OUR hearts first. Then right after this is the command to teach these things DILIGENTLY to our children. The way this is said givbes the impression that this is to be part of our lifestyle. When we do not do this - we are paving the way to be one who has sired a fool. But the reality is that the foolishness was not inherent in the child - it often is a learned response. Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child, proverbs tells us, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him. Often a fool is created by one who thinks that discipline and correction are too strident for a child. The fact is leave these things out of a child's life - and you will sire a fool before it is over.
The father here has no joy - because has to watch his son live like a fool. He watches his boy live a life that is very self-destructive. He also watches as the lack of his own parenting comes back to haunt him. Let me give a brief testimony concerning rearing children.
God has blessed me with 6 wonderful children - and a very, very godly wife. We are in the twilight of rearing our children. Child-rearing is not a spectator sport - and often is a full contact - heart-breaking activity. God has blessed us with very godly kids who have a heart for God. But this was NOT something that was like falling off of a log. There were times when we taught - times when we had to discipline - and times when we wondered if discipline even worked. But we trusted God's Word. There were also times when we had to confront our teenage children with their lifestyle choices. We faced times when we were the "uncool" parents - and even times when one would tell us that they hated us and that we were ruining their lives. Ah, good times . . . But there were also times when we would invest in our children - being at events - spending hours talking, listening, and even answering difficult questions. All this required time, effort, and at times very tough choices.
I am saying this to say that too many men are little more than sperm donors to their children. I know that is a rough statement - but rearing children requires a lifetime committment to them - and to God. By the way, it also requires learning how to walk with god yourself. There were times when God would call ME on the carpet - rebuke me - and correct me. Honestly - the best place to learn parenting is from how God dealt with His people. There were times when I would have to face the fact that I had been a hypocrite - and then would have to sit my children down and admit it to them! We were anything but "perfect parents." We were participants in the gospel and the grace of God. We were participants in growing up in the Lord. I know that at least I was a royal doofus many times. There are times when I wonder how any of my kids could turn out well when I look at the progression of my own heart. When I think of how often I fell - how often I failed - and how often I was on my face dealing with my own sin. I've had to face daily discipline from God - and from brothers who help me stay committed to the Lord. Without this - I would have utterly destroyed my testimony.
Here is what I am trying to say. Life is a full-contact sport. It is hard. It is difficult and often is exhausting. It also has a million blessings intersperced in it as well. To live it - we have to turn to God a billion times - often wondering when we will ever get it right. But this IS life. We sire fools when we do not both walk with them through this wonderful gauntlet - as well as teach them and cheer them on as they make their way through after us. It requires us to live our lives for God's purposes and plans - even in having children. It requires us to die daily to ourselves and live for God's glory in it all. Is this easy . . . NO! Is it possible . . . YES! Is it rewarding and awesome and amazing as we walk with God through it all . . . ABSOLUTELY! Therefore, I urge you men out there reading this to take the task of loving God, loving your wife, and siring and rearing children very seriously. It will take your whole life to do it - it will cost you everything to accomplish it - but it will mean everything to you when you look back on it with joy - seeing your kids follow Christ.
Bright eyes gladden the heart; Good news puts fat on the bones. Proverbs 15:30
It is a good thing to be bright-eyed and fat-boned as a Christian. Ok, there is a sentence you won't hear everyday. Yet the fact is that today's proverb tells us that this is a good thing - and that the wise man will fully embrace it. Therefore it would definitely be good to understand just what this proverb speaks about - so that we can be blessed in this way.
Bright-eyed . . . We hear of people who wake up each morning being "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed." This is an expression that refers to someone who wakes up and is truly awake. The idea of being bushy-tailed refers to a squirrel who when his tail is bushy means that he is fully alert. These are English expressions, but what we are dealing with here is a Hebraism. It was an expression that meant something to a Jewish person - just like our sayings mean something to us.
This proverb is a "restated" proverb, meaning that each half restates the other. Thus this brightening of the eyes - is similar to the good news that puts fat on the bones. So we can know that the effect on the eyes here is from seeing good things. What is fascinating though is looking at the word "bright" in the ways that it is used in other places in the Old Testament. The overwhelming use of this word is in reference to the light of the seven-fold lap in the tabernacle of Moses. The reason this is fascinating is because of the imagry that this picture. The lamp was filled with holy oil - a picture of the ministry and work of the Holy Spirit. The lamp was the only source of light in the Holy place. It illuminted two things in that room. There was the table of showbread - which is a type of God's Word. There was also the altar of incense - which is a type for us of prayer and worship. Now in light of these things, let's look at at this proverb again.
What is the news that fattens our heart? It is when we have the full measure of the illumining work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. When that is the case we have Him opening the Word to us. We have Him opening our hearts to pray and to worship God. This would definitely make our hearts glad. This is the best news of all - God is worthy - God wants us to make our requests known to Him - God wants to speak to us through His Word!
This also makes wonderful sense when we see what the Hebraism, "fat-bones" means. This particular Hebraism means a sense of prosperity. When someone has fat on their bones - they are prosperous and blessed. It is good news that does this. Indeed there is a sense that this proverb can simple mean having eyes that are brightened by seing good things and ears that hear good things - makes us glad and prosperous. But there is also a deeper spiritual meaning that takes us to a different level. When we hear and see the good news that the Scripture tells us about God - it brings joy to our heart and spiritual fatness to our bones.
It is a wise thing when a man submits himself to the work of the Holy Spirit. This will brighten his eyes and bring great gladness to his heart. He will see the gospel, which indeed is good news. He will see the truth of God which will put some serious fat on his bones. He will find himself prospering greatly in the Lord - blessed with spiritual growth - and delghted in the goodness of God. No doubt about it - it is a good thing to start your day with a quiet time where you seek the Lord - and submit yourself to the Spirit of God as a teacher and guide. Doing that will truly make you a bright-eyed and fat-boned Christian!
A man has joy in an apt answer, And how delightful is a timely word! Proverbs 15:23
Don't you love it when you say the right thing - in the right way - at just the right time? That is what our proverb is about today. It is about being wise enough to know when to speak - and not only that - but what to speak when you have the opportunity.
The beginning of this proverb starts with a Hebraism about the mouth. There is joy in having an answer of the mouth, which the way that this Hebraism would read. It has to do with the ability to speak well - or in this case to speak what helps others. When speaking of Moses' complaint to God about his inability to speak, this similar Hebraism is used. Moses complained to God that he had a "heavy mouth." This meant that he stuttered and stammered when he spoke. This speech problem made Moses think he could not be a spokesman for God. God gave him Aaron to speak for him, but we see plainly that Moses did not struggle to speak when the Spirit of God moved upon him to confront Pharaoh. The mouth of the man here in proverbs knows no such problem. He brings joy to others as they here the "answer of his mouth," which means the perfect thing to say in the moment. Whether this is a word of teaching, reproof, correction, or training in righteousness - the best word to speak is one that is in agreement with God's Word on the matter.
The prophet Nathan spoke the perfect word to David to bring him to repentance over his adultery and cover-up of his sin. Joshua spoke the perfect word to the people of Israel as they needed to decide whether they would serve the Lord. David spoke the perfect word to Goliath to remind him that God was going to give David victory because of Goliath's mocking of God. Daniel had the perfect words to speak to Nebuchadnezzar when he needed his dream interpretted. Jesus always had the perfect word to speak to detractors, to those who were hungry for his Word, and to those who came to Him needy and longing for God's grace and healing.
A timely word is delightful - both to the one who speaks it and to the one who receives it. There are so many who come to church hurting who need to hear such words. They long for a word of encouragement - for someone to lift them up. Others who are complacent and full of themselves need rebuke. Others still may need exhortation because they are timid about following the Lord radically. And a few who are long term church members, but who do not know Christ, need someone to love them by sharing the gospel with them so they can move from just being religious - to being Christians. No matter what the need, God will give us these "answers of the mouth." He will do so as we surrender to Him and desire far more to speak the truth in love - than just to engage in small talk.
Folly is joy to him who lacks sense, But a man of understanding walks straight. Proverbs 15:21
All it takes is watching a normal evening of television to know that folly and fools are exalted in our entertainment. We see them every evening, ignoring the warnings of God's Word. Yet night by night we also sit and watch them and laugh at their antics. We laugh even though there are times when the direction of the program and its heros is absolutely contrary to Scripture. What happens in a nation when this is the case?
Ours used to be a culture that confirmed our values in our entertainment. Shows like, "Leave it to Beaver" and "The Andy Griffith Show" tended to confirm our values and beliefs about righteousness and godliness. They did not proclaim Christ, but they at least held to a certain standard on what was right and wrong. Then something started to happen in the 60's. Those in the entertainment industry abandoned godly values and things like strong families and morals. We exalted the anti-hero and began to plumb the depths of the depravity of man and call it entertainment. Then shows like "All in the Family" arose which allowed only hypocrites to be those who spoke of what had been known as family values. From there things continued to descend into the pit - as sexuality became a consistent theme. Now just about any and every vice is portrayed for us in dramas and sitcoms - and often they are extolled as main characters hold to these sins. All the while our culture sits and laughs and finds a false joy in all these parading fools and their folly.
When we read this proverb it might be easy to think that it refers to others, but I fear that it comes much closer to home. The devil has used this medium well to give us ample opportunity to sit and actually mock our own values. This is why it is so dangerous to have unfiltered viewing habits as to television and movies.
We read of another kind of person in this passage though. He is a man of understanding. This word speaks of someone who sees as he ought to see. He grasps the Word of God - understands it and grasps what it teaches. As a result he does not get off the path that God has for him - and indeed for all who desire to know and love Him. He walks straight - and does not turn his eyes or gaze to the right or to the left. He fixes his eyes on the goal - which is conformity to the character and the way of Jesus Christ. Even though the world may seek to get his attention and turn it from the Lord Jesus Christ - he does not listen. He deafens his ears to the siren call of the world which will only land a man on the rocks of destruction in the end. He has tuned his ears to hearing the voice of God. He has learned to be a sheep who hears the Great Shepherd - and follow Him. Wise indeed is the man who sets his heart and mind in this way.
Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, But counselors of peace have joy. Proverbs 12:20
What are you doing as you walk through life? Are you among those who are plotting evil or with the ones who are promoting peace. Today's proverb shows the contrast between these two things.
First we see those who are plotting evil. What is interesting about this is many who would fall into this category would not agree that they are plotting anything. Yet - because they choose to reject God's Word as truth - and instead make up an argument for their own truth - they are indeed plotting the demise of those with whom they speak. On the day of judgment they will learn the awful truth that their deceitful speaking misled many to where they now stand in the same judgment they do.
Our proverb describes the heart condition of those who devise evil. Their hearts are said to be filled with deceit. The word here is mirmah. It means to intentionally mislead someone by either distorting the truth or withholding the truth from them. The fact stands in all of history that God's Word IS truth. That eternal fact will never change. But there are those who do not acknowledge that God's Word is truth. They hold to another "truth" which is nothing more than error. Because they hold fast to their version of truth - they now hold fast to lies. This means that as they spread them - they are misleading others as to what is truth. They are also intentionally withholding from their students the truth of God's Word. This is deceitful - since truth is readily available to anyone who will read the Word of God with an open mind and heart. What is truly fascinating is the word used for the evil that these people devise. The word for "devise" used here means to plow or till the soil. Hosea uses this same metaphor when he speaks of how Israel was "plowing wickedness" and reaping God's justice as a reward for what they had sown (see Hosea 10:13
). The so-called truth of the ones who deny Scripture - is nothing more than a falsehood and lie that is deeply tilled into the hearts of those who are their students. This plowing with falsehood and evil will one day reap a harvest of judgment if God does not intervene. They are simply plowing evil into the hearts of men - and that plowing will one day reap the wrath of God.
The godly man or woman is one who is a "counsellor of peace." These are the ones who bring the truth from the Word of God and present it to men. They bring the gospel to those who realize that they are facing a dire future in their sins. To be a counsellor of peace is to be a man or woman who presents Christ to the lost. There is no peace for the wicked - but for those who humble themselves - there is great joy and peace. May God make each one of us a counsellor of peace - and an individual who works alonside the prince of peace so that the ultimate message of God's peace, the gospel, may be understood - received - and the cause of great joy to those who hear it with faith.
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken. Proverbs 15:13
The state of our hearts is vitally important to the way that we live - and whether we will live in joy or sadness. Also, as we will learn from this passage, the state of our countenance is also something about which we should be concerned. To say that we are Christians and know God's joy, yet for this joy never to reach our face (i.e. our countenance) is a bad testimony to those around us - and especially to the lost. This proverb holds a great deal of wisdom for us if we will open it and learn from it.
First, we have the joyful heart. This heart is the one filled with joy and as a result is exceedingly glad. This gladness does not come from mere human prosperity - but truly comes from and is maintained by the blessings of the Lord. In the New Testament this joy comes from knowing Christ Jesus and the salvation that He brings to us. It comes from knowing that God loves us and that we are saved from the wrath of God through Him. This is a joy that floods our hearts no matter what our outward circumstances. It is a joy, as Peter expresses it, that causes us to greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory. The foundation of this joy - obtaining the outcome of our faith - which is the salvation of our souls (1 Peter 1:8-9
). This joyful heart communicates with our countenance - and brings us to have a cheerful face. No matter our circumstances we can stop and remember that our sins are washed away - that we are made righteous in Christ - and that as a result - we are saved. That can bring a cheerful expression to any face.
I find it disturbing that some are what I would call, "lemon-sucking Christians." They seldom have a joyful or cheerful expression on their face. They always seem sour about something. It is almost that they are unwilling to be happy and joyful. This is a horrible witness to Christ and to the salvation that He brings. Sure there are things about which I am concerned - even heartbroken. But, in spite of everything that happens and can happen - the one constant is my salvation - that I will not face the wrath of God and I will enjoy fellowship with God here and now - and forever in heaven.
Then there is the sad heart. The word used for "sad" here is "assebet" which clearly refers to emotional suffering - and not usually to pain or injury. This is a sadness of heart. It is truly fascinating to look at what brings on "assebet" in someone Scripturally. This kind of sadness or grief is caused by idolatry (Psalm 16:4
), by a fear of spiritual discipline over our sin (Job 9:28
), or by those who "wink the eye" in evil plots (Prov. 10:10
). Some might refer to this to speak of someone with a broken heart over sin or over the loss of a loved one - but that is not the way that "assebet" is used Scripturally. This is a sadness brought on by disobedience, sinfulness, and a walk contrary to the ways of God. This kind of sadness causes our spirits to be broken. The word "broken" here means that we are stricken, smited, or scourged. We have a bad situation in our lives due to sin - and our spirits are broken due to the consequences of our sin.
When you look at this proverb and the meanings of the words used in it, you see that wisdom therefore is to walk with God. When we do joy will come to us - and our countenance, our face will reflect it. But to walk in disobedience and rebellion is to invite a brokenness and sadness into our lives which will fill our hearts with emotional suffering. How many in our world walk in this kind of suffering every day. But, dear saints of God, we can alleviate this suffering by sharing the gospel with them and encouraging them to come to Christ - Who can deliver them from their sin and flood their hearts with His own joy. This Proverb truly helps us to see the difference between the lost and the saved - between those who embrace obedience to God versus those who mock such a lifestyle. The difference is the Source of their joy. The difference between a sad countenance - and a cheerful one - is the gospel and the joy of knowing that we are saved.
The heart knows its own bitterness, And a stranger does not share its joy. Proverbs 14:10
There are times when a person knows both a bitterness and a joy of soul that cannot be shared among humans. It is not that people do not try to empathize and sympathize with us, they do. It is just that certain experiences and certain things go so deep within us that the only One who can comfort and the only One who can understand is God Himself.
The heart knows its own bitterness. There is a pain that we can feel both in our physical realm - but much more - in the spiritual realm that is very deep. It is so deep that we need more than human comfort to deal with it. There are times when we face serious issues (often life threatening issues) that although we are possibly surrounded by human comforters, we need a superhuman comforter. It is in those moments when only God can offer us the comfort that we desperately need. The main reason we know this is because of how God used David to write songs about these moments.
Too often we forget that the recording studio that God used to record those songs were times of great suffering, sorrow, and trial. In those moments David expresses a depth of bitterness and sorrow that few have ever touched. He says things to God that make us step back and gasp when we read them. Truly he is in a "bitterness" of soul in the midst of such suffering and trial. And Job reminds us that when a man is suffering his words are like the wind. David is bitter of soul at times in the Psalms, but it is also in those times that he cries out to God with a passion that we may not know either. Remember this, it is those who go the deepest in suffering, sorrow, and struggle - who also know the deepest levels of passion for God.
David cries out to God with a bitterness of heart that can only be healed by God Himself. Actually, it is a blessing when God takes us to such depths because often it takes that kind of situation to make us wholly dependent upon Him. We see that, indeed as Jesus has told us in John 15
, "without Me you can do nothing." In that moment of complete helplessness we cry out to Him as we've never done before, and we find that He is also, indeed, able to deliver to the uttermost!
Thus we come to the second half of this proverb. A stranger does not share its joy. David not only speaks of the bitterness of heart that comes with excruciating trials, he also speaks of the joy of God's deliverance from those trials. After coming through some fairly deep trials and sorrows I've begun to touch the hem of the garment of such joy. Just as I cannot grasp the cries of David in his deepest pain, there is also a tinge of realization as I read the Psalms that I'm not sure I am getting the fullness of His joy either. A stranger to God's deliverance will never share the joy of knowing that God is the One who not only walked in the midst of our firey furnace, but He is the One who kept our clothes from being burned - or even smelling like smoke.
Oh, the joy of those who know His working. Oh the joy of those who know when He Who took them into the depths is also the One Who will bring them out again. Oh the joys of the ones who know that He will wound us, but He will also heal us. Oh the delight of soul that comes to the one who knows a depth of pain and bitterness of heart that goes beyond human comfort - but who also knows the only One Who can reach beyond human comprehension - beyond human ability - beyond mere human comfort - and can touch our deepest and most bitter wounds and heal them. May God bring wisdom to you this day, dear saint of God, and may He be your Deliverer and Comforter in your every distress!