She looks well to the ways of her household, And does not eat the bread of idleness. Proverbs 31:27
The excellent wife is a woman who watches and makes sure that she knows the spiritual condition of those in her household. This particular verse we will examine today says this in a wonderful way that will remind us that as a parent we truly need to know the state of our families' hearts.
We read first that the excellent wife "looks well" to the ways of her household. The Hebrew word for "looks well" is "tsaphah" and it means to look about, keep watch, even to spy on another. This word originally meant to watch or keep guard over soemthing or someone. The word is used of God watching over people, over nations, and even over situations that are happening at the time. The idea behind this watch was that of being a "watchman" who would look far out over the horizon, and warn of danger that was coming. Here is where the excellent wife and godly mother is so valuable to her family. She watches over everyone in the house to make sure that danger is not arising in a way that will catch the family off-guard. She watches for the enemy - and warns everyone in the family of its approach.
What does this woman "watch" for in her family? The word that expresses what she watches for is that she is watching the "ways of her household." This phrase refers to watching someone travel. She is watching as her family walks along the paths of life. She watches becuase she knows from expderience as well as from Scripture that these ways are not always easy. They are often fraught with danger and with problems. If no one is there watching to warn of the traps and the snares of the wicked one - it is far easier to be caught in them. She does what the Scriptures commend us to do as she both "watches and prays" for those whom she loves.
What is interesting to me is the second half of this proverb about the excellent wife. It reads this way, "And does does eat the bread of idleness." The danger her is that a woman will begin to be sluggish and even lazy about watching and praying for her family. What a reminder this is to the ladies of the church (and honestly to the men as well) that the whole task of marriage and family is not one that can be successfully carried out without watching and praying. Why is this the case? Because the enemy of our souls and our families is setting snares and traps for our loved ones. The wise parent knows this - and prays regularly for his or her child. They also watch for telltale signs that the child is not doing well spiritually. They do this so that they can both pray and offer further parenting as needed.
Just a note on the end of today's post. My oldeest child is 29 and my youngest is 18. One would think, according to conventional wisdom, that for me and my wife our parenting duties are almost over. Those who think like this don't grasp that for the excellent wife and the exemplary husband - their time as a parent is never finished until they depart for heaven. The wisest among parents continue to watch and pray long after they have an empty nest. The evil one does not put down his firey darts just because your child has married and left home. Roles may have changed - but the role of intercessor for your child is one that lasts for a lifetime - at least for the wise and understanding.
The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to the LORD. Proverbs 21:31
May 1940 was a defining moment for the western world. These were the days that opened the 2nd World War. Hitler's Blitzkrieg had destoyed the French lines and were quickly encircling the English army for the purpose of anihilating it. That is why His Majesty King George IV requested that May 26th should be observed as a day of prayer as they committed their cause to God. The scene that Sunday was breath-taking. Churches were full beyond measure - and lines ran outside their buildings and into the streets. Their cries went up to God - and God acted in His power to grant victory to those who honored Him.
Today's proverb has to do with victory in battle. God is sovereign - even over the battles and wars that are fought on this planet. And the evacuation from Dunkirk is an example of God working miraculously to determine just who would win WW2. If the Germans had destroyed the English Expeditionary Force in those days - the battle for Europe would have effectively been over. But God engineered several miracles to determine who would win the battle that day.
Three major miraculous events took place because of the prayer offered that day. First was Hitler's halt of the Panzer divisions that could have crushed the British. They were less than 10 miles from overrunning them and destroying them when Hitler, who had been ruthless in his pursuit and quick "Blitzkrieg" tactics, suddenly had them stop. He would rely on air power to finish the job. The second miracle was that a storm came up over Flanders that was so severe that it effectively grounded the entire German air-force. The Luftwaffe could not opeate in this area - and stayed on the air fields. The third miracle was that an unnatural calm came over the English Channel between England and France - in spite of the storms raging on the French side. This calm enabled the English to bring every boat conceivable to Dunkirk to ferry the Elglish Expeditionary force back to England. These boats along with the rest of the English Navy took British soldiers over the channel for three days - as they were covered in a dense fog that prevented the German Luftwaffe from flying and destroying them as they crossed.
There were other miracles in those days. Some beaches were attacked in thsoe days - yet it was evident to miraculous proportions that the troops were being protected by the providential hand of God. When about 400 men were being machine-gunned and bombed, systematically, by about sixty enemy aircraft, one man who flung himself down with the rest reported that, after the strafing was over, he was amazed to find that there was not a single casualty. Another man, a chaplain, was likewise machine-gunned and bombed as he lay on the beach. After what seemed an eternity, he realized he had not been hit, and rose to his feet to find that the sand all around where he had been lying was pitted with bullet holes, and that his figure was outlined on the ground. Truly astounding things wre happening on every hand - and it was very apparent that God's intervening power was responsible for it. In the writings of Officers and men alike there were a myriad of statements that they were seeing the hand of God, powerful to save, delivering them from an enemy that should have destroyed them.
All England declared June 9th a day of Thanksgiving for God's mercies. On that day the people of England read and sang Psalm 124 which is a Psalm that speaks of God's deliverance. It was thought that it would be amazing if England could save 30,000 to 35,000 soldiers in their retreat. Yet God, by His sovereign power, allowed them to save over 335,000. No one doubted that God had worked miraculously on England's behalf.
This is what God is trying to say to us in Proverbs 21:31. The horse may be prepared for the day of battle, but Jehovah is the One Who will determine who will be victorious. Old Testament law forbid Israel from relying on horses in battle. So, when horses are mentioned here, it can be easily assumed that the armies of the wicked are using them - not Israel. These horses may be prepared for the day of battle - but they do not assure victory. Who is victorious is determined by God Himself. Hitler surely had the superior force - both in army and in air-force. But the British had God - Who answered their prayers when they humbled themselves before Him. Truly it was a Ninavesque day of repentance and prayer on May 26th, and God answered in like fashion to their prayers.
Victory was determined by God in the month of May 1940 - and God is still determining who will win in the end. God has not changed - nor will He - when it comes to the outcome of any and every event. The question is not whether God will work on our behalf. The question is whether we will turn to Him - believing that victory is not determined by how big the army or how awesome the supposed cause. Victory belongs to God - and He will give it to whomever He wishes. May we be wise to always seek His favor in everything we do.
The LORD is far from the wicked, But He hears the prayer of the righteous. Proverbs 15:29
This proverb explains for us who God is near and the ones from whom He keeps His distance. It is a frightening thing to me to read that Jehovah is far from the wicked. Note that this does not say that the wicked man is far from God - but that God is far from him. Since this proverb has to do with prayer - we are talking about a wicked man and his prayers (if he has any at all). The only prayer that God will hear from a wicked man is a prayer of repentance. Otherwise we can read in numerous other places that God is sickened and wants nothing to do with his praying. Later in Proverbs we learn that, "He who turnes away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination." (Proverbs 28:9
) A wicked man would frequent a prayer meeting as often as an at-large criminal would frequent a police station. But when the wicked do pray, God will not hear. We read another terrifying passage in Proverbs chapter 1 about the prayer of the wicked.
"Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; And you neglected all my counsel And did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes, When your dread comes like a storm And your calamity comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently but they will not find me, Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the LORD. "They would not accept my counsel, They spurned all my reproof." Proverbs 1:24-30
This passage warns those who think they can mock God and live with no fear of Him. It warns them that when calamity comes, they cannot turn to God only for deliverance from it. This is how the wicked pray - they turn to God when disaster comes, but then mock Him when everything is well. We read that God Himself will mock them in that day. He does not do so because He is vindictive. He does this because He knows that such praying rises from a heart that is wicked still. Therefore he will not hear. He is far from such praying. He even considers it an abomination to Him.
Fortunately, this proverb does not end with the statement about the wicked. God reminds us that He does hear the prayer of the righteous. There is a twofold way we should understand this. First, we need to see it positionally. The "righteous" is not righteous because of his deeds. We read in multiple places throughout Scripture that the righteous man shall live by faith. He is made righteous by faith in God's provision for sin. He is granted righteousness as a gift of God's grace. He cannot make himself righteous because he is steeped in sin. All he is fit for is punishment and wrath. God, though, has come to the rescue with blood of a spotless lamb that speaks on his behalf. This lamb was a physical one in the Old Testament, but that was just a shadow of the glory of God's grace to come. God sent THE Lamb when Jesus Christ came to earth and gave His life on the cross for our sins. That was sufficient payment for us - and God offers with it the very righteousness of Christ as a gift of His glorious grace. That is why He hears the prayer of this man (or any man for that matter). He stands in a divinely-provided righteousness that speaks effectively for him. Thus God hears!
The second way this passage should be understood is by a practical understanding. God hears the prayer of the saved man who practially embraces the righteous ways of God. We cannot, even as Christians, ignore obedience to God and expect God to hear our prayers. We read in the Word that if we regard sin in our hearts, we know that God does not hear us. Some complain of much prayer that seems to be ignored by God. But prayer that is ignored is prayer to One that we've offended by our choice of sin rather than righteousness. It is only when we take refuge in 1 John 1:9
- confessing our sins - that we can once again be heard.
Our Father is a prayer-hearing, prayer-answering God. But we must understand that He is God, not a shabby version of Santa Claus. There are principles involved in how God hears and answers prayer. They are not complicated principles - but they are principles that are strictly adhered to as we approach Him. The key to answered prayer is walking and asking according to His will. If we allow sin to enter either our walk or our requests, we will find that our praying is ineffective. Embrace righteousness - both positionally and practially and you will find prayer a delight. You will also find a God who is eager to hear - eager to work - and eager to answer.
"Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but they will not find me, because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD. They would not accept my counsel, they spurned all my reproof." Proverbs 1:28-30
There is a time when prayer will not reach God - not will it do a person any good at all. That may sound like a strange thing to say - but it is true biblically. God warns those who reject His counsel and who turn away from His reproof that there will be a time when they pray and find that no one is listening.
Proverbs tells us that when our lifestyle is one that rejects God's Word and wisdom that there will be a time when due to the lack of it we will call on God and even seek Him diligently. The problem is that the reason they do this is because they want to be rescued from their bad decisions and from the consequences of their actions. Their call to God is not made out of any desire to repent and change how they are living. This kind of prayer will not receive God's answer - although it will receive His rejection.
The reason God rejects these kinds of prayers is because of the state of their hearts. These are the one who hated knowledge. They are not ignorant in human terms. In fact often those who hate knowledge are brilliant in the world's eyes. They just hate the knowledge that God has to offer to them. They hate the Word of God - and they hate the things that God has to say about the true state of humanity and the true state of this world. What I refer to is the worldview that sees mankind as fallen and sinful. There are scholars who absolutely reject that worldview. They see man as basically good. In their estimation what mankind needs is not salvation from sin - but to be resuced from those who make us feel bad about ourselves and tell us that we are sinful. They believe that if mankind was just educated properly and kept from the negativity of the Biblical view of mankind. If mankind were not told that anything was sin - but that man could claim their basic god-ness once again - then mankind would prosper and climb to a whole new level of evolution.
This was the view at the turn of the century as mankind pretty much rejected the biblical view of sin. The world thought it would rise to a whole new existance without war and without anything to hinder it. What we received from this new enlightened man was a century like no other in its ability to kill one another, make war, commit genocide, and perpetrate horrors upon one another in ways that seemed previously impossible.
When men reject God's knowledge - they also choose against the fear of God. They do not honor or respect Him - and they also do not tremble at His Word. When men do not believe God's Word - they are destined in every negative way to fulfill it. They truly will show the work of the fall of man in ways that will astound future generations. Actually future generations, just as blind as their fathers, will say that these things happened because they didn't quite do it right - or because they need an even more God-rejecting philosophy. In so doing they fulfill what verse 30 says. They would not accept God's counsel and they spurn all His reproof. Even as they watch the truth of God come to pass and His worldview upheld again and again, they reject it. Blind guides of the blind, they reject the existance of the very pit into which they lead one another as they continue in their rebellion.
Please understand that I know that such writing as this is very depressing. But it is only depressing if we continue to reject God's Word and the counsel, knowledge, understanding, and truth that comes from it. For those who accept God's counsel there is an answer to the futility of mankind and the stupidity of his ways. There is the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. There is a savlation that God grants us and offers to us through His Son. There is a hope that when we embrace God's ultimate worldview - we not only see our sinfulness - but we are also allowed to see our Savior as well. God graces us with forgiveness, regeneration, and His ongoing work of sanctification. We are redeemed, literally bought from the slave market of sin and given the glorious hope of heaven and fellowship with God for all eternity.
There have been and will continue to be those who scorn the negative message that MUST come to mankind for there to be hope. They will say that it is the negative message itself that is the problem - and that if we would just rid ourselves of it - all would be well. But they do not understand that the so-called negative-ness of that message is absolutely necessary in order for us to get the most glorious message of the ages - God's salvation through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ! You cannot have one without the other. If you reject the message that we are sinners - and choose instead to spurn God's truth and counsel - all that awaits you is deception, destruction, and ultimately death.
By the blessing of the upright a city is exalted, But by the mouth of the wicked it is torn down. Proverbs 11:11
The upright and the wicked have a way of affecting the cities in which they live. The upright are said to exalt a city by the way they speak. They bless the city. The word for bless here is "berakah" and it means to bestow favor upon something or speak well of it. What is interesting about this word is that its root form has the idea of kneeling and blessing. What I see here is that the upright may doesn't just speak blessings over his city - he primarily blesses it when he falls to his knees and prays for it. The blessing here is when a city has many praying, godly men within it.
I know a story of a small town in Alabama where three precious grandmothers began to have great concern for their city. Their concern was that the spiritual climate in the city was going down year after year. They watched with broken hearts as the children of the city grew up and no longer were concerned about spiritual things. Their response to this was to ask a local Methodist minister if they could pray at the altar of their church each night. The ladies began praying at 10 o'clock each evening and ended at 11. Soon, though, they could not finish their prayers at 11 so they prayed longer. Before long the ladies were praying through the night - night after night - crying out for the youth of the city - and for God to bring revival. God answered these prayers when an outpouring of the Holy Spirit came upon the city - first in that little Methodist church - then moving the meeting to the Baptist church because it could seat more people - and eventually to the local High School football field because only it could hold the people who began coming. They watched the entire atmosphere of that city radically changed because hundreds of children and youth came to Christ. Truly these little ladies - "the upright" - had blessed the city with their words of prayer and intercession.
The wicked though, have no such blessing. They only tear a city down with their actions and words. It is telling what this passage calls these people. They are called, "the wicked" which is the Hebrew word "rasha." This term refers to the wicked - and one of the ways they are described is as the "criminally wicked." These men not only do not bless the city - they are taking from it - and promoting a criminal and lawless lifestyle. No wonder that the city is torn down by their actions. Their actions promote people disobeying the law and living a selfish and self-centered lifestyle.
Our nation is in the midst of this very proverb today. For too many years we have had elected officials that disregard the laws they are elected to uphold and establish. Congress actually has the gall to exempt themselves from the laws they pass. If that were not bad enough, we seem to have an endless parade of Congressmen and Senators who are thrown into jail for breaking the law. What have these leaders given to us over the years? They have torn down the very country that was given to them. Instead of protecting and defending it - they are tearing it down with their very hands. It is absolutely essential for the future of our nation that we see this - and correct it immediately. It is essential that we learn about our leaders and hold them accountable to be men and women of character and integrity. If they prove to be other than this - we need to boot them out of office at the next election possible. We need men and women in office who will bless our land once again by their godly, praying leadership. Until we see this happen - we can only expect our nation to continue to spiral downward toward destruction.
He who turns away his ear from listening to the law, Even his prayer is an abomination. Proverbs 28:9So, how does God view the prayers of those of us who are actively disobeying His Word? That is what we learn today in the proverb of the day. This is going to be a proverb that confronts those who think God hears their prayers - when they are actively disboeying a command of the Word of God. It is
also going to be a time when we realize that God sees issues of obedience to His Word in stark black and white - not in a plethora of grey.
When we disobey the Word - we are in effect turning our ears away from listening to it. Here in Christian America, we think that having heard the word with the ear alone is akin to having obeyed it. The most rebellious places in America are not the bars or the strip joints. The most rebellious places in America are the parking lots of her churches. This is where far too many saints of God go after hearing the truth preached by their pastors - and justify letting it go into one ear and out the other. They hear the Word - but it never penetrates their hearts. Some will even justify their present disobedience - while praising what was said by the preacher. Thus the American practice of thinking we've obeyed, when we have only heard something - is continued weekly.
When we do not obey - we are turning our ear from listening to the truth. The term here for turn away means that we go away from the Word - we desert it - we quit the Word, meaning that we hear, but do not DO it. We turn aside from it and do not allow it to do a work in our hearts.
When we do not obey the Word - God considers our prayers and abomination. Whoa now! Did we read that right! God considers prayers uttered by the disobedient to be an abomination. We thought that word was just reserved for homosexuals - didn't we. But God is holy - not just anti-homosexual. He is pro-holiness all the way. Thus, when we are not pro-holiness (read here pro-obedience, pro-godly, pro-doing what God says when He says it) - we are in effect, anti-God. He is shocked and appalled by our lack of listening and obeying. He is horrified that we would actually turn a deaf ear to what He has said. He considers such things an abomination!
There were a group of people that Jesus was hardest upon in the gospel accounts. To the shock of most people, this group was not the classic sinners. He was not hardest on the prostitutes, the tax collectors, the scum of society, or the usually suspects we consider when we wonder who a "hell-fire-and-brimstone" preacher would single out in his preaching. Jesus was hardest on religious hypocrites. He reserved His most scathing comments for those who practiced religion outwardly, but inwardly ignored the Word. By the way - this is where the pray-er, but not obey-er would be put by our Lord. The one who turns his ear from listening to the Law, by not obeying it - IS the hypocrite. And contrary to our popular habit of thinking that the hypocrite is anyone other than us - it IS us. Whenever we engage in pious prayers - without having obeyed the Word that God has spoken to us recently - we are an abomination.
Wisdom tells us that we are to hear and heed the Word of God. This will give our prayers wings that will fly them to the very throne of God. May we always watch our hearts to make sure that we are hearing, obeying - then praying. This is the proper order of things.
Keep deception and lies far from me, Give me neither poverty nor riches; Feed me with the food that is my portion, That I not be full and deny You and say, "Who is the LORD?" Or that I not be in want and steal, And profane the name of my God. Proverbs 30:8-9
Here is the request of a wise man. It is a very wise request because it deals in two things that will derail a life that is seeking to be guided by God. It deals with deception and greed. As you seek to walk through this world in a way that pleases and honors God - you will find that these two things are snares that often will seek to trip your feet and make you stumble. The man who watches for them - and cries out for God to deliver him from them - is wise indeed.
His first request deals with deception. He cries out to God to keep deception and lies far from him. If we are going to live a godly life, we are going to have to have truth. The wise man has come to know that there is an absolue truth that God gives in His Word. He will cling to it. Jesus prayed for His disciples, "Santify them in the truth. Your Word is truth." If we are going to be purified and preserved in this life - it will be because God has kept us from deception and lies. There is one sure cure for lies - and it is the truth. Why should we be in God's Word every day? Why should it dwell richly within us? Why should we hide that Word in our hearts? It is so that we know the truth - because it is only that truth that will set us free. The most secure prison in the world is nothing compared to a man who enslaves himself by believing lies and deception.
The wise man's second request has to deal with the sin of greed. The best way to describe the danger of greed is by sharing the answer of a man who was very wealthy. He was asked how much money it would take for him to be content. His answer was telling because it did not refer to a specific, fixed amount. He sad, "Just a little more." There is the danger of greed. No amount is enough because we will be deceived into thinking that a little more will give us the illusive happiness that we seek from money. Our problem is that we were not made for money. Elsewhere in Scripture we are warned that when we set our eyes on wealth - it takes wings and flies to the heavens - always just a little beyond our reach. This pursuit will take forever - and will never end in contentment. The truth is that we were made for God - and until we find our contentment in Him - we will never be truly content.
The writer of Proverbs cries out and asks for neither poverty or riches. He knows that both of those situations leaves him in want. Poverty in a want for enough - and riches in a want for just a little more. What he asks for is the food that is his portion. Ah, a wise man he is indeed. His words parallel those of Jesus in His teaching on prayer. "Give us THIS DAY our DAILY BREAD!" There is wisdom - give me what I need today - and keep me in need of only one thing constantly. Keep me constantly needing You, Lord! That is the prayer of the wise man.
Next the wise man states why this request for enough for today is truly wisdom. First, he knows that too often the rich man thinks he does not need God. He looks to his riches and foolish thinks he does not need God. Such was the case for the rich farmer in the parable of the rich fool told by our Lord. He thought his bumper crop meant that he was set for life. His problem though was that he was not set for death. God came to him and called him a fool. That night he was to die - and he would suddenly have nothing. All his wealth was left behind - and since he did not prepare to meet God - he faced a horrific fate. He was about to enter into eternal poverty - having decided that storing up treasures in heaven was not a worthy pursuit. Here on earth his riches deceived him into thinking, "Who is the Lord?" The answer to that question is one that does not need to be put off until after death. It needs to be answered here and now - because the one who puts it off - or ignores it altogether - will spend all eternity in a poverty that will consume his flesh with fire forever and ever as the smoke of his torment will never cease to rise in an epitaph revealing his eternal stupidity.
The second reason he asks God for enough is because he knows that hunger may deceive a man into thinking that stealing is a way of getting enough. Want often leads men to profane God's name by their thievery. They steal thinking that God has not provided and therefore they need to take things into their own hands.
Here is a wise man - praying. He seeks God for what is necessary for that day. He also knows that the best thing for him is to have to do this each and every day. His stomach may be full - and possibly can be provided for well into the future. But - he knows that his need of the Lord will never subside. He needs God continuously. May it be the wisdom of that need that guides us to our knees daily to ask for God's mercy and grace to deliver us from the twin foes of deception and greed.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, But the prayer of the upright is His delight. Proverbs 15:8
Here we once again have the upright and the wicked contrasted with one another. The scope of this comparison and contrast is in the realm of their religious activities. Thus the focus of the wisdom that God wants to offer to us today is in relation to how we approach Him. Let's take a look and see what we can learn.
First thing we read about is the sacrifice of the wicked. There are a couple of things we need to see to understand wisdom in approaching God. First, we see that this man is wicked. Now before you begin to think that I believe we can approach God without sin and wickedness being and issue, know that I believe that man is ruined due to sin. When we approach God to be saved - one of the things we have to know is that we are wicked. We have sinned against God. His commandments should make that clear to us. And it is not just "little slips" of which we are guilty - the 10 commandments alone will convict us of things like adultery, blasphemy, murder, and perjury. That is why we need a Savior! But the wicked in this passage is a wicked man who does not intend to turn from his wickedness. His sacrifice is an abomination to God because it is offered without repentance and a desire to change. It is offered as a religious plattitude - and something to placate God - to have God be satisfied with his little pittance of religion.
God considers such religious obligations (without true repentance) to be an abomination. That is why we read in Isaiah chapter one God saying,
"What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?" Says the LORD. "I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams And the fat of fed cattle; And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs or goats. "When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? "Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies. I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. "I hate your new moon festivals
and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them.
If you think that you are tired of dead religious activities, think about how God feels about them. Israel had become a group of people all about their religious observances - and nothing about God. Isaiah later tells them that God wants repentance and a desire to live godly. The sacrifice of the wicked is hated by God because it assumes that our sin means very little. Considering that sin required the death on the cross of the Son of God - the shedding of His blood - the crushing of His body - God does not like it at all when we think lightly about our sin. When we get so religious that we feel that our religious practices done without any heart or repentance whatsoever are sufficient to placate the wrath of God - God is angry. He sees such things as an absolute abomination to Him.
Wisdom therefore is seeing the emptiness of mere religious observance. As God taught Samuel, we are not to look at the outward appearance of things. Man judges like that, but God judges by what is in the heart.
There is another who approaches God in this proverb. He is the upright man - and he offers the prayer of the upright to God. The Lord God delights in such prayers. But what is the prayer of the upright? In order to understand this we might want to look at a New Testament passage. In the gospels Jesus relayed a story of a Pharisee and a Publican. The Pharisee was of the spirit of the first part of this proverb. His was the prayer of the wicked. He stood before God and prayed to himself. Actually, he was praying to his god - because as a thoroughly wicked man who thought only of himself and loved himself dearly - he was his own god. As he prayed to himself, he mentioned all the great things he had done - religious things. He thanked God in the midst of his long list of righteous acts that he was nothing like the Publican who was near him. He spoke with great disdain of him - and how his own works made him so much better than the poor man who was bowed before God next to him. We learn from Jesus that this Pharisee went home unrighteous - unjustified. He was lost and His prayer was an abomination to God.
The Publican had a far different prayer. He had the prayer of the upright. He bowed before God, not even desiring to lift his head. As he tried to formulate words - he could only do so as he beat his own chest. He cried out for God to have mercy upon him - a sinner. Jesus instructs us that this man is the one who had the prayer of the upright in his mouth and heart.
Jews in that day would have been horrified by this description. They would cry foul at the thought of a publican being called upright . . . ever. The Pharisee was the religious man of the hour! He was the equivalent to an evangelist or a pastor in our day. The publican . . . well the publican was nothing more than scum - a traitor - a turncoat and a thief! Surely Jesus was mistaken. But it was the Jews who were so mistaken. God is not calling this person upright who is praying. He is calling the prayer of this person upright. It was not the person who prayed being called upright because something in him made the prayer upright. It was the nature of the prayer that made the person upright. There was a brokenness about this prayer - a turning from sin - a coming to God empty and hopeless in self. He was not playing religion. He was crying out to God for help and for hope. He was not faking a prayer as he complimented himself on how many good things he had done. He was praying that someone would make him good!
The Lord hates mere religion. If our hearts are not engaged in our singing and praying, and preaching - He wants no part of it. The Lord delights in the prayer of the man who desires to be upright. He desires this upright standing due to what God does in answer to his cry. He knows he cannot be upright except for God's wonderful mercy and grace. The Lord is always listening for that kind of prayer, that kind of call. When He hears it He answers - and He delights in doing so every time. That is why the truly wise will be careful that their religious observances are always done with a heart to know and to love God. They know that anything short of this will receive God's disdain.
For if you cry for discernment, Lift your voice for understanding; Proverbs 2:3 What do you do when you just don't seem to have the wisdom and the understanding to deal with a situation? Simple . . . you cry out to God for it. Proverbs tells us that we need to "cry for discernment." The word "cry" here is the Hebrew word that means to call out or to summon. Now, we cannot summon God - but we can request His presence and His ability to see things. This is the best thing to do when you don't know what to do. Cry out to God for the ability to determine the difference between things. That is what discernment is - the ability to distinguish between two things that are different. Some times this is not as easy as it is on Sesame street when they ask which things are different. Some times there is a subtlety to our choices - and often that subtlety is there by design of the devil, who desires to deceive us. That is why we need God's discernment to know the difference between things - especially when it is between settling for what we want - and striving for God's best. The second thing we are told to do is to "lift our voice for understanding." Lifting your voice here means to "give" it for the sake of understanding things. We give our voices for a number of things in life - but do we give it for understanding. The word for understanding here means "insight into things." It is one thing to just take the world as it comes to us - but it is another to begin to gain insight into what is happening in our own lives as well as the lives of others. That requires grasping the purposes and plans of God - as well as His commandments. When we look at things through His prism - suddenly what seemed to be merely white light - is broken into numerous components. We see motives - we see the problem of our own heart - we see a world fallen and sinful. Understanding means that we see things far better than when we approach them with our human wisdom alone. There is the problem that often besets us - we are approaching things from our own perspective rather than from Gods perspective. That is the reason why we need to call out to Him and give our voice to asking questions and seeking answers from His mind - from His Word - from His heart. When we do this - then we are living according to wisdom.