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.
An excellent wife, who can find? For her worth is far above jewels. 11 The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. 12 She does him good and not evil all the days of her life. Proverbs 31:10-12
For the next week or so, we will look at the "excellent wife" as she is represented in Scripture. This portrayal is given by Solomon's mother, who sought to point him toward the right kind of godly woman to be his wife. Rather than try to give direct parallels to everything that is written in this chapter, I'm going to look at this excellent wife more by categories. That is because, due to culture and the times in which we live, we don't do some of these things any longer. I also do not believe that godliness in a woman is measured by whether she spins her own yarn or makes her own bread. Godliness is determined by issues of the heart - not by works that a woman does or does not do. So with that in mind - and with that as our backdrop - let us dive in and take a look at what God calls an excellent wife in His Word.
Solomon's mom begins by asking a question, "An excellent wife, who can find?" Good question. She is not the kind of mother who just wants her son to get married - no matter to whom. She wants her son to focus on excellence in a wife. She does that by presenting to him a number of character traits that are present in a wife who is excellent. He reminds her son that when he does find one - her worth is far above jewels. There is a hint here of just how difficult a task this may be. Jewels are not found lying around on the ground. You have to search for them. There are few precious jewels - but a lot of rocks. So also may be the search for an excellent wife.
There also may be just a little more than a tinge of pain here for Bathsheba as she writes this to her son. She was not an excellent wife to either Uriah or David. Unfortunately her wisdom was learned in the school of sinful, hard knocks. She betrayed her first husband by committing adultery - and eventually cost him his life in doing this with a very powerful man. Then she agreed to a sham marriage for the sake of covering up her indiscretions - that cost her the first born child of that union. She was a woman who was very beautiful outwardly - but that outward beauty was not indicative of the inward state of her heart. Now, her goal was to do all she could to keep her son from making a mistake like that his father made. She did this not out of bitterness or resentment - but as a recipient of grace. (see the post for Proverbs 31:1-2)
Even as she wrote the words in verse 11 there had to be pain in the penmanship. The heart of her husband trusts in her. He knows she will be faithful to him - and that truth resides in the core of his heart. The issue of faithfulness and trustworthy character is first on her list. An excellent wife is faithful and true to one man all her days. There are no thoughts lurking within him of her seeking out another man - no thoughts of adultery. Oh the peace that resides in a man's heart when this is true - and oh the torture that hunts a man's spirit when it is not. I've seen men destroyed by jealousy - even the point of doing the unthinkable - killing their wives and then themselves. Let me say that this faithfulness is a two way street and the man is held to no less standard as well.
He will have no lack of gain. Does this mean that if you get the right excellent wife you'll be rich? That is not what Bathsheba is saying to her son. She is saying to him that due to her influence and the spirit she brings to the home, he will know no lack of blessing. Go to a home of an excellent wife and what you will see if a woman who cheers on her husband if he is a CEO or a ditch-digger. He will feel as if he is a king in tthe way that appreciation and love flows to him. If there are good times in their lives - they will enjoy them together. If difficult times ensue - those will be embraced as well. In good times and bad - she will be there to let him know that all things will work together for them as they seek The Lord and follow Christ Jesus. As a result this man - whether he has a large bank account or just two pennies who keep each other company - knows that which this woman he has no lack of gain!
She does him good and not evil all the days of his life. Her heart is set on bringing good to him. In this it is first set on walking with God and knowing Him. Then it is set on whatever God's good, acceptable, and perfect will is for her, her husband, and their entire household. She uses her words to encourage and built him up according to the need of that hour - giving grace to him as he hears her. She looks to him to be a man - to reject passivity - accept responsiblity - to lead her courageously, and to look to God for his ultimate reward. And in any moment he shows an inkling of doing this - she cheers him on - letting him know it is a good work he does. She looks to good as God ultimately defines it and she applies herself to seeing that good given to her husband.
What kind of lady is an excellent wife? She is the lady who is faithful and true to her husband. She is the lady who puts his heart at ease for her eyes and heart are fully his. She is a lady who accepts God's direction and will walked out as wonderful gain - regardless of the financial bottom line it brings. She is a lady who seeks the face of God, knows the Word of God, and according to the will of God - brings good to her husband, shunning any and every evil impulse of her fallen heart. This is quite a wonderful woman. A diamond, a jewel, a rare jem whose worth is not measured by her wealth or her looks - the real gem here is a heart redeemed and remade by God. Find one of these - and you have become rich indeed.
There are three things which are too wonderful for me, four which I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky, the way of a serpent on a rock, the way of a ship in the middle of the sea, and the way of a man with a maid. Proverbs 30:18-19
In today's proverb of the day, I want to expound on what the Bible teaches is the perfect way to understand a woman. This is especially the case when a guy is trying to woo the woman to be his. There are a set of inescaptable rules and things you have to do - and if you do them - you will win any woman you approach. Those who have not yet detected the dripping sarcasm in this first statement on today's proverb - I need to let you in on the fact that I am not using dripping sarcasm - I am using sarcasm that is running like the Mississippi River at full flood stage. Any man who has gained any wisdom on the topic of women and how to understand them perfectly knows that such a body of information does not exist. If it did - and the women of our world learned of its existence, they would immediately change their behavior in such a way as to make the author of that book truly look ridiculous.
Today's proverb uses a common Hebraism of relating a series of things together that have a common thread. It was common to have people speak of three things that had common elements - and use them to relate to the fourth, which is the true focus of the proverb. Here, we see that the true focus of this proverb is that of a man with a maid. What the writer is telling us is that the way of love between a man and a woman is something that at some level will have to be left as a mystery. The typical, "Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus" mentality that overflows from our societies' bookshelves, will break down eventually. Regardless of the number of degrees held by a psychologist or psychiatrist, no one knows everything there is to know about relationships between men and women.
God tells us through this writer that there are three things on earth which were wonderful to him - and even four which he does not understand. The science of our day would proudly announce that they have solved these mysteries by explaining the flight of the eagle by a sophisticaled grasp of Bernoulli's Prinicple. They would equally pride themselves on an understanding of neuromuscular and skeletal activity to explain to us ignorant pleebs the way of a snake on a rock. They might laugh at our utter simplicity and stupidity by explaining to us the principle of water displacement that allows such a heavy ship to float in the middle of the sea - and would enlighten us as to how to harness the power of the wind and sails to propel the ship through water.
I am very grateful for the things that investigation and the disciplines of science have helped us to understand. But for all the wonderful discoveries that I do enjoy - the one thing I have come to despise is the arrogance of scientists who seem to think that the whole concept of wonder either doesn't exist any longer. Or they feel that those who express poetic wonder, as the writer of proverbs does here, are simpletons. That I've grown to hate - because a world without wonder, awe, and mystery is a world that overflows with the overbearing pride of fools who no longer realize that though they were to pursue it for a trillion lifetimes - they will never fully grasp all that there is to understand about the universe. Honestly - it is not just the universe they will misunderstand - but the joy of life itself - which they will want to reduce down to a formula or two.
The eagle flies on the wind - and can rise and fall with it for hours having never to flap its wings. Its ability to do this while staring at the sun (with special eyelid covers which keep it from going blind) ultimately is a wonder and a mystery to me. The way of a serpent on a rock - its seemingly safe and sedate look - which can instantly turn deadly in a moment. The fact that something so deadly - cannot survive without heat - and how it draws it from the rock as it bakes in the sun one moment - and the next the snake hides in its shade to avoid being dehydrated and burned to a crisp is wonderful to me. To see a massive boat - even those in our day that are made of mutiple thousands of tons of steel (which doesn't have the capacity to float on its own) sit in the ocean, bobbing up and down in the water which would sink it within minutes were the hull to be pierced - is still amazing to me. And all these principles that men have discovered and proudly named after themselves - who designed the world so that these things would be true? Ah, to have mystery is to still live in a world of color and astonishment.
Now to the way of a man with a maid. I've discipled enough young men and women to know that this is something I'll never fully grasp. How the most logical young man I've ever known can pretty much lose his mind and all of his logic because of a young woman who captures him with a single glance from her eyes - yeah, there's a formula for that! Love is something science has tried to quantify - even measuring pheremones and electro-magnetic impulses - but has failed miserably in trying to do so. These things are for the most part unexplainable - and wonderful. There is wisdom that will guide us in them - but not to the point of missing the creativity and glory of God in the process. There are principles that we should follow in pursuing a young lady - and others that the young lady is wise in maintaining as she runs just long enough and slow enough for the young man in pursuit to catch her (but not until he wins her and commits to her for life). The thing is that in the midst of the principles - in the midst of the pursuit - we don't ever need to lose the wonder and joy of a blush - of a heart that is ready to explode from emotion - or of a heart-sickness in having to be away from the one we love. To lose those things would be to lose our humanity. A wise man knows that losing that means losing something that mere science can never replace. God meant for some things to simply inspire wonder, awe, amazement - and honestly - a sense of God and His glory in this world.
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.
It is a trap for a man to say rashly, “It is holy!” And after the vows to make inquiry. Proverbs 20:25
A wise man is one who when he makes a vow to the Lord keeps it. That is what is spoken of in today's proverb of the day. When the man in this proverb makes the statement, "It is holy!" he is stating that what he mentions is separated unto God. This was what the Bible refers to as making a vow to God. This may be a vow to give something to the Lord or it may be to dedicate a certain amount of time or even some relationship to God. Of course included in this situation is the vow of marriage as well.
Once a vow is made before God - it stands. We read of this warning in the book of Ecclesiastes, "When you make a vow to God, do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. Do not let your speech cause you to sin and do not say in the presence of the messenger of God that it was a mistake. Why should God be angry on account of your voice and destroy the work of your hands? For in many dreams and in many words there is emptiness. Rather, fear God." (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7) Once the vow is made before God - all that is left to the one making it is to fulfill it.
Too often people make vows rashly. They make them in the midst of an emotional moment - with no thought to what it will take to fulfill the vows they made. I've watched in some youth meetings a speaker work up a group of youth into an emotional moment where he then asks them to make a vow. The classic that I've seen is to preach a message against dating - and then get all the youth present to make a vow not to date - unless it is the person they are going to marry. As I've watched - I wanted to scream, "Stop!" I wanted to get on stage and read this passage from Ecclesiastes as well as this one from Proverbs. Someone needs to warn these kids against making vows - especially when they are made either emotionally or rashly. When I do pre-marital counselling prior to a wedding I do everything I can to get the couple to realize the extreme intensity and solemnity with which they need to make their marriage vows to their spouse. Vows should NEVER be made lightly - or in all honesty - emotionally or quickly.
This passage in Proverbs states that the one who made these rash vows feels a regret for making them. But that regret comes at the wrong time. They "make inquiry" only after they have made the vow. They do not think before they make it - only afterward when the have to pay the price of their foolish vow. For many it is only afterward, when the emotions wear off, that they begin to see the cost of what they vowed. Unfortunately this is true in marriages as well. When things are sweet and romantic they make the vow. When things get rough and they learn that marraige is indeed for life - they ask their questions and want out. How many divorces could have been avoided if only the couple had of considered the LONG TERM aspect of getting married?
The wise man thinks and considers what he is about to do when entering into a vow. Solomon warns that in many words and dreams there is emptiness. All our emotion and strong religious words "in the mmoment" are honestly nothing more than empty promises. We are so prone to promise something in the heat of a moment that will not ever be carried out in the end. God is seeking to keep us from such foolishness here. He wants us to "fear God." What God is saying to us is that in that moment of power and emotion - be quiet! Get before God and humble yourself - seeking His face and listening. We want to pour out words - when it would be better to be silent and listen to what He is saying. Our response should be humble worship - not boastful vows. Humble worship and submission will do far more to bless us in the end. Vows tend toward pride and the thought we can do something for God. Humility and worship express the kind of dependence on God that will be blessed in that moment - and for a whole lifetime to come.
Will they not go astray who devise evil? But kindness and truth will be to
those who devise good. Proverbs 14:22
Today's proverb has to do with the payoff for both evil and good. There is a pay day for living in a way that is morally wrong. God uses quite an interesting picture of the one who is planning and devising evil. The word used here is "haras" which means to plow or to till the soil. The kind of plowing that is being done is plowing and planting evil. The evil is both moral and ethical in its reach. The fool spends his time plowing this way - and planting a very morally perverse crop into the ground of his life. The proverb tells us that the ones who live this way - will err. They will wander about and go astray. They will be intoxicated with their sin and as a result wander off not really realizing the danger of their actions. In the end they go the wrong way and wander into a moral wasteland.
Unfortunately I've watched this kind of moral wandering many times. They begin to plow the fields of their life with questionable morals and ethics. As they do this they speak of their freedom to do what they want - and usually disparage the Word of God for its straight-laced moral views. But in the end they wind up wanding off into things they did not intend to do. They only realize this when they've gone much father than they expected - or when something devastating happens to them because of their moral blindness. It is a sad thing to watch - because as those counselled by Scripture, we see where they are going. That is why this is voiced to us in a rhetorical way. The rhetorical question is that they are going to wander and err who plan and plow evil in their lifestyle.
To counter this erring way, we are also given a strong statement about what awaits those who plow what is good in their lives. This good (Hebrew word "tobah") is something that is well-pleasing, fruitful, proper, and morally correct. Of course all these things are referring to how God's Word affirms the moral direction that they are taking. What is promised to those plowing in this way is mercy and truth. Let's take a closer look at these two words.
Kindness is the Hebrew word "chesed." That word means to receive mercy and lovingkindness. The word is used of God's love constantly in the Old Testament. It is the closest kin to the Greek word agape in the New Testatment. It refers to God's covenant love with His people. When we choose to plow in a way that is morally in agreement with God's Word, God loves us - and will shower us with His grace, mercy, faithfulness, and goodness. That is what awaits right moral choices. The second word is "truth" which is the Hebrew word "emet." It refers to faithfulness - and is often combined with ideas like God's righteousness and peace. When we plow our lives with godliness and moral rectitiude, there will be a harvest of peace and righteousness that will come to us. Rather than the wandering destructive ways that come to those who plow evil, there is a blessing that showers on those who seek a crop of good things. That blessing is a righteous life - a peaceful existance where we know where we are going. There will be the smile of God and the light of His presence upon this person's path. He sows to godliness and reaps an abundance of joy, light, and life as a result.
When I consider this proverb I cannot but come away from it without remembering the promise of God that we will reap what we sow. To the one who is plowing and sowing evil this comes as a warning that his ways are not good. He will eventually be led to wander and even be destroyed by his ungodly moral choices. To the one plowing and sowing good there is the confident expectation that a good crop will grow - yielding 30, 60, and 100 fold fruit to the glory of God - and to his own blessing and welfare. So the question to ask is simply this, "How are you plowing the fields of your life and future?"
He who despises his neighbor sins, But happy is he who is gracious to the poor. Proverbs 14:21
We continue to be counselled here on our attitude and actions toward the poor. God is truly concerned that we are gracious to the poor, for He Himself was gracious to us when we were poorer than any level of poverty could ever reach. He granted us His very riches in Christ through the gospel - therefore we too should respond with grace and with mercy to those who have little or nothing around us.
This proverb speaks of those who "despise" their neighbor. The one who despises his neighbor looks at his poverty and hates it. He sees no need for mercy or for kindness. He will most likely point out all the reasons why this one is in poverty - and say that is the reason why he should not do anything for the poor. While it is true that we need to give to the poor in a way that does not enable them to continue in sin, there is a need for them to receive genuine love and mercy from those who can help them.
Some despise their poor neighbor because their poverty calls for generosity - and that is hard to have when one is in bondage to a worldview where they are all that matters. They want much for themselves and therefore to give to another is an unwanted trouble. Therefore they despise the poor - and refuse to be gracious and give to their neighbor in need. We are told that such an attitude is sinful. It misses the mark that God has made for us to hit.
It is truly important to see the nature and the actions of God to see why this is such a sinful, wicked attitude. When we refuse to give, we are very much unlike God. He gives to the poor and to the unfortunate. As was said at the beginning of this post, God gave His Son for the poorest of all creatures - sinful man. That should help us understand His basic nature - that He is gracious and giving. We, therefore, should be gracious and giving as well. To be and to do anything else is just sinful.
He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently. Proverbs 13:24
Child discipline is an issue today that is quickly being taken over by worldly psychologists and child-advocates who think that spanking a child or administering any kind of coporal punishment is child abuse. Yet from what we see in Proverbs today, child abuse should be defined a little differently. It should be defined as those who refuse to apply the rod of discipline to their children in a loving way so as to train them to be unselfish.
The rod is mentioned here - and is it mentioned because the parent is supposed to apply the rod to the child's rear-end in a controlled way for the purpose of training that child properly. This is to be done without a fit of anger or rage - for disciplining under that kind of spirit will often lead to over-disciplining a child - or hitting them out of anger - rather than out of a desire to train and teach. The wise man and woman discipline their child - because to refrain from discipline is to hate your child. These are strong words - and need to be examined.
When we refuse to discipline a child - we are leaving them to the dictates of their sinful nature. Contrary to the world-view of modern psychology, the Bible does not teach that man is basically good. The Bible teaches that we are evil because of man's fall into sin. Because of that event - and the effect it had on all mankind - we are basically selfish and self-centered. Left on our own, we will become little monsters who demand our own way. There is also another problem with the sinful nature and the way it works in our hearts. The natural man does not submit himself to rules or authority very well. A child will learn to say, "No" early in life, and needs to be trained to submit to authority and to rules. Our sinfulness has us react to rules by wanting to buck them and do our own thing. This needs to be an area of child training. We need to teach our children to obey - and to submit to the authority that is over them. Without this they will not function well in society. When a child learns to be obedient, learns to be respectful, learns to work hard and be selfless in his attitude and actions it is a blessing to all those around him. Consider what an entire society would look like with this kind of parenting?
The Bible says that we need to discipline our children "diligently." I will be honest with you - that this is difficult to do. At times I would only discipline my children when they annoyed me enough to merit my all-important time and effort. Hope you got the sarcasm in that statement. Disciplining your children diligently requires a full commitment to seeing character and godliness developed in them. You cannot just discipline them when you get mad because they are making your life difficult. Discipline requires a full commitment of your life.
This may seem like a lot, but let me give another testimony about this kind of child-rearing. We have 6 children - 2 guys and 4 girls. We are not model parents by any stretch of the word. God has given us much grace as we stumbled and tried our best in this whole thing called parenting. But one thing we have noticed is that when you give yourself to parenting after this model - you truly enjoy being with your children throughout your life. We love being with our kids - and have the best time when we are. They are a delight to our hearts. I remember sharing with someone in a grocery store that we have 6 children. Her response was whether we were still sane - and how much Prozac we needed to handle that many kids. I smiled when she said this, but quickly stated that our kids were a delight - and that God gave us much grace and that is what helped us rear 6 kids. That is the joy of living this way and rearing your children. It is a blessing not only to your children as they mature - but it is a blessing to you and your wife as well. The truth is that God is maturing not just your kids - He is maturing you as well.
Better is a dish of vegetables where love is than a fattened ox served
with hatred. Proverbs 15:17
Some might think that this particular proverb is reason to preach vegetarianism - but the point of this proverb is the spirit in which you partake of your meals. The dish of vegetables is actually seen as far less sumptuous fare than the fattened ox. The difference here is what is going on while you are sharing your meal with others. The vegetables, though not nearly as fancy as the fattened ox, are better because they are seasoned with love. As a pastor I've had the joy of sharing meals with families. Some of the most precious meals I've enjoyed in my 22 years as a pastor have been shared with some of the poorest of people. The meals, though simple, were liberally seasoned with love and precious fellowship. It was such a blessing to sit at such a table.
The proverb compares the simple fare of a dish of vegetables with the food of a rich man's feast. To have a fattened ox was about as special as it could get in Israel. If you remember, the father of the prodigal son ordered that the fattened calf be served when his son came home. It was a time of glorious celebration - and only the best was to be served. But what this proverb tells us is that this fattened ox was seasoned with hatred. Though a wonderful meal of food was served - it was served by someone who hated their guests. There are those who practice a strange hospitality indeed. They have guests - but only to get what they can from them. They invite their guests to their high-class affairs to put them in their debt - so that at a later date they can collect what they are owed. The worst of these parties are the ones that are done for people they absolutely despise - but they do it anyway because then everyone there will owe them favors. This is a meal destined for relational indigestion. The food may taste good - but it will only sour in their stomach as the problem of having to deal with their host comes to the surface. There is no love - only hatred and a desire to be owed.
So our writer warns us that in such situations it is better to go for the vegetables than for the most expensive item on the menu. This is not for reasons of frugality. It is a warning against false hospitality and the expectations that come with it. It is a warning to partake of true fellowship - even if it is over celery and water. In the end, fellowship with love will always trump hatred and fine dining. One may fill your stomach - but the other fills your soul.
Let your fountain be blessed, And rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18
A call to moral sanity will always involve a call to rejoice in marriage. In studying to comment on this passage I noticed an interesting dichotomy among commentators. Many shied away from speaking of sexual love in marriage when referring to things in this passage. They wanted to make all the allusions and word pictures within it refer to children instead. I found this a little sad, because between this passage and the entire book of Song of Solomon, God does not even remotely shy away from the subject of the joys of physical intimacy within marriage. In the past too many in the church felt to speak of such things was dirty or out of bounds. But in donig so we relegated the idea of physical pleasure in sex to those who engaged in it outside the bounds of marriage. Now I am not advocating that we go into explicit detail about such things, because God has informed us in Hebrews that we are to keep the marriage bed holy, but I am saying that where God's Word addresses such things, we should not be afraid to address them as well.
What we are encouraged to do here in this passage is to rejoice in the wife of our youth. We are told that to enjoy physical intimacy with our wife is to allow our fountain to be blessed. The fountain here is a picture of a life-giving source - and the blessed result of sexual intimacy within marriage is that children are produced - which continues the cycle of life. But God is not just speaking of having a child - He is speaking of the process of intimacy which is enjoyed within the sexual union of a married couple. He says that this should be a time when we are blessed. That means God, who made us sexual beings - and who also designed our sexual organs - knew that this was going to be an enjoyable act. He commands us here, through the father speaking to His son, that we should rejoice in the wife of our youth. It is clear that what is said in the following verses refers to love-making between a husband and wife. God wants that to be enjoyable.
Please remember though the context of this passage. This is a father instructing his son about the dangers of sexual immorality and warning him to stay away from adultery and from fornication. It is wonderful to see that in the midst of a talk on moral sanity that a father would tell his son that God's intent for sex is that it be thoroughly enjoyed within the framework of biblical marriage. This is sexual sanity - and it is ignored only to the detriment and hurt of those who do so. But for those who grasp God's view of sex - who see it as God intended for it to be enjoyed - this talk between father and son is wonderfully liberating. It lets us know that God did create sex - and He created the biological reality that sex is very pleasurable. But it tells us such things within the context of God's intent for sexual union. And that can ONLY be blessed within the bonds of marriage. Within that union there is no guilt, no STD's, no prospect of illegitimacy, and no sense of sin. But when we get outside the boundaries which God has set for sexual intimacy, such things abound. That is why it is so vital that we speak with our sons and daughters of such things - because to leave those topics to others is only to surrender them to the sexual insanity that now rules the greater part of mankind.