Stripes that wound scour away evil, And strokes reach the innermost parts. Proverbs 20:30
Physical punishment . . . here is a topic that brings out the most strident opposition in a lot of people. When it refers to children some call it child abuse - and when it comes to the punishment of those who break the law the phrase "cruel and unusual punishment" is used. So what exactly is God's take on the idea of corporal punishment and some kind of physical response to disobedience and criminal activity?
There are two levels to understand this Proverb - that of the physical and the responsibility of parents and the state - and a purely spiritual level and how it relates to our growth in a relationship with the Lord. I'll begin with what is being addressed most clearly here - which is the response of parents and governing officials to disobedience and crime.
Our justice system has turned away from the biblical view of crime and punishment. We try to rehabilitate criminals without thought that they need to acknowledge that they've stepped over a very serious line in their behavior. The results are not encouraging at all. We have overcrowded jails and prisons where repeat offenders abound. We've gotten to the point where we have more people interested in the rights of the criminals than in the rights of those they infringed upon with their godless behavior. Our prisons therefore have revolving doors on them - and with the present focus, there are few who are rehabilitated while incarcerated. Put our current record next to one of a modern state that practices physical punishment for a crime. Several years ago a young American citizen was arrested from a crime in one of these states. He was convicted and sentenced to a caning. People in the United States, especially among liberals, went ballistic. Yet the facts should be viewed without all the hysteria. Their crime rates are much lower than ours. What they see currently and have seen in the past is that truly stripes and strokes do scour away evil in the heart. They do reach the innermost parts of a person. They are a very powerful deterrent to crime and disobedience.
The spiritual level is little diffeerent. God disciplines those He loves and, according to Hebrews 12, He scourges every son He accepts. How does God deal with His own children? He disciplines them with scourgings - stripes and strokes that scour away the evil of our hearts and make us think twice about being disobedient again. We are fallen beings and have a sad tendency to ignore God and His commandments and turn instead to what our flesh cries out for constantly. The way God deals with this is to bring us into discipline. Anyone who has ever experienced this discipline knows that it is stern but loving. There is no doubt that God loves us when He disciplines us - but He is dead serious about it too. He knows what is at stake - and is wanting to deter us from walking in rebellion and sin. These things will hurt us - and in some cases even destroy us - therefore He takes it very seriously a trip to the proverbial spiritual woodshed. But do not ever be mistaken . . . God does these things because He loves us. The same should be said for parents and for a society that crafts effective physical punsihments for those who break the law.
Physical punishment and corporal punishment may be unpopular with the liberal elements of our society - but in all honesty, they are wrong. Yes there need to be limits put in place - there needs to be a humane way to practice the death penalty - and there should be wisdom in a parents administration of discipline. Yet there also should be a full acknowledgement that the sinful nature of man will not respond to a call to reform alone. It is in the best interests of a family - and indeed a society to practice physical and corporal punishment. How do we know? The Word of God informs us.
The glory of young men is their strength, And the honor of old men is their gray hair. Proverbs 20:29
Today's proverb gives us some valued information about both young men and old men. This is not a proverb that compares them against each other. It gives us the best view of what is wonderful about them - and what they should strive for in their youthful zeal - as well as their older, wiser days.
There are some great words used here to describe the younger man and his pursuit in the things of God - and in life in general. Note that God's wisdom tells us there is a "glory of young men." When you are younger in years you seek after the glory of something. This is not meant to be a negative statement - as if the younger man is usurping the glory of God. They just have an appetite for glory. The best way to describe this is that they yearn for rewards in life. If you place a goal with a reward that grants glory for something - young men will pursue it with great passion. These are the years when trophies, plaques, awards, and bonuses mean the most. Put a goal in front of these young men - and they will be greatly motivated to reach it. This is why the movement to make everyone equal at a young age is not good for our children. The whole, "we don't keep score" and "everyone is a winner" is not a realistic view of life. Granted we don't want competition to become an all-consuming desire to where morals and character don't seem to matter any longer - but the fact of life is that there is going to be competition. There are going to be winners and losers chosen in almost every area of life. Solomon warns that this can become vanity - when competition becomes the only thing that matters - but at the same time God's Word exhorts us to run the race "so as to win." Only one person gets the prize (or one team) but a wise parent encourages his children to excell at what they do - even if all they have to measure their success is their own previous performance.
We read here that the young man's glory is his strength. Young men want to be strong in some way. Some choose physical strength - others mental prowess. Whatever way they choose, they love being seen as strong in something. There is a wisdom that takes this desire and channels it in ways that are very constructive. Encourage your young men to find something they enjoy - or an area in which they can excell. Put goals and lofty aspirations before them in this - and then encourage the daylights out of them as they strive toward it. Let me give you a small example of this. Too often we do not challenge our young men - and this is a detriment that cripples them later in life. We are so given to the fear that they will have their self-image damaged - that we do not see that it already is because as young men they are not being challenged to do great things. One summer I took the high school guys I work with and challenged them to read the New Testament once a month - and memorize 8-10 verses a week. They were to do this in June, July, and August. Some might be concerned that I was "setting them up to fail" and that their poor little self worth would be damaged as a result. But that was not the case. They rose to the task with youthful vigor and strength! They loved it - and as a result were blown away at what God did in their hearts as they strove for something challenging. They each felt their strength as they were challenged to do something that was a huge challenge. They would come in week by week having met the challenge - or needing to step up and do what needed to be done to meet it. These young men gloried in the strength to do something hard for God.
What about old men? What is it that motivates and moves them. Note first that the word glory is removed and the word honor is inserted. Older men desire honor - but once again let me state that they do not desire God's honor in an ungodly way. Their desire is for others to realize that they have lived a godly, honorable life - and due to this should be respected and honored for their years of labor and wisdom. The proverb says that older men are honored due to their grey hair. Grey hair is achieved by . . . getting older It means that you've lived for a while. We joke that grey hair comes because of walking through the difficulties and challenges of life. That may not be as much of a joke as we think. Grey hair means you are no longer a young man plowing through life's difficulties. It means you've walked through them - and honestly - know ways that are wiser and better. Grey hair comes with battle scars and with proven character in the difficult trials that life throws your way. Grey hair means you've been around for a while - you've been knocked down a lot - but it also means that you've gotten back up and continued in the way a little better and a little wiser. There is a phrase older men know - you learn to work smarter, not just harder. This comes from wisdom - and it is a reason to be honored. Honor comes when people listen to you. They listen, not because you love to talk and because you have a thousand stories you repeat again and again. They listen because you are wise and becasue you truly have something to say. They listen because you not only know the road - but you know the good short-cuts. You know the the short-cuts that work - and those that will result in disasters. You also know that some things are only learned over time - and that there are no short-cuts to them. They also listen because you've walked with God for years - have survived the pitfalls and ambushes of life - and have come out a godly man.
There is a lack of wisdom that unwisely pits younger men against older men. It devalues one or the other while trying to make the case that one is more important than the other. The truth - and wisdom tells us that both are needed. The military needs strong young men who can fight - yet it also relies on older, seasoned men to strategize the best ways to fight and defend the land. Business needs young, strong men who can work hard and cover a lot of things - yet it also relies on older, wiser men to navigate the dangerous paths that can often destroy a business. Both are needed - if they understand their roles and don't succumb to jealousy. Blessed is the business, organization, and nation who grasps this - who values the strength of young men and the grey hair of older ones. They will receive the best of both ends of the age spectrum - and will prepare the next generation of older men to do the same. The fact is this - the younger men of today are becoming the older men of tomorrow. Oh that we will learn to value the contributions of both - and will find ourselves continuously training the next group of older men who will lead and appreciate the younger.
Loyalty and truth preserve the king, And he upholds his throne by righteousness. Proverbs 20:28
What preserves the king or the president of any society? According to today's proverb - which presents to us the wisdom of God - it is loyalty, truth, and righteousness. Now I hear what is happening there where you are reading this - you are rolling on the floor laughing uncontrollably. But regardless of what our current society thinks or practices, this proverb is true. So, let's take a look at what is taught here - because good leaders follow these principles.
Loyalty is the first principle we will look at today. A good leader knows that loyalty preserves him and blesses him. But the Bible does not refer to blind loyalty. This begins as loyalty to God and to His principles in Scripture. That loyalty will create in others who see it a desire to follow and be loyal to their leader. The best example of this is king David in the Old Testament. A group of men gathered themselves around David and served him in every situation imaginable. They did this because they watched David be loyal to God's principles first. His loyalty to God showed his men that they could rely on him to be loyal to them. This engendered the most amazing loyalty in them. Therefore the best of leaders do not seek loyalty by commanding it - but rather by being an example of it in their relationship with God.
Truth is the second principle that preserves the king. This follows the first principle because we see that what a leader is becomes far more important than what he requests or demands of his followers. When those who are around him realize that he is an honest man who values truth - they will see that they serve an honorable man. This love of truth will protect and preserve him no matter what happens. Consider Daniel for a moment when thinking about this proverb. Daniel loved the truth of God more than anything else in his life. Therefore when he faced either living according to God's truth - or that of a king corrupted by his officials - Daniel chose God. He prayed to God even though the king made a law saying one could not pray to anyone but him. But what at first seemed to get Daniel in trouble - became the manifestation of how far his God, to whom he prayed, would go to protect and honor him. In the end - even the king pledged to protect not just him - but even the honor due to his God.
Righteousness is the last principle tha preserves the king, This particular promise even states that God will uphold the throne - or seat of power - of one who embraces what it right. In our society we question whether there even is an absolute standard of right beyond what we ourselves choose to make our own personal standard. Thus, over time, we've embraced things that oppose God's standards and are trying to make them right - even though they will be the very things that undermine the pillars of our society and make it crumble. The godly leader realizes that God is the One with absolute authority to determine matters of right and wrong. He also realizes that God has revealed Himself through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament in the Bible. Therefore a wise leader holds to things like the 10 commandments as a basis of good law. He sees the value of using the Bible in case law to help determine what is right and wrong. As a result, such leaders have God's very standard of right upon which to build stability in a nation. Granted such things require the rule of law, which can be hard to embrace. Without it though, a society will become lawless and will degenerate to however the flesh desires to live. If you read the latter part of Romans 1 and Galatians 5:16-20, you will see that such a state will be very lawless indeed.
Rule by true loyalty to God, truth, and righteousness is a rule that God Himself will support. There is no guarantee that such a rule will not face difficulties, but at least one knows that God's support and deliverance will be there to help such a nation survive the worst of times as well as the best of them. How wonderful it would be if such wise leadership would return to our nation. The way we can support such a move is to first establish these three principles in our own lives - and then teach and widen their influence as God grants us favor. We cannot establish them from a top down election. At this point in our history, such a thing would result in wide-spread revolution. What we need it revival of such things first in the church among our leaders and people. Then as the wisdom of our ways is seen - we can hope and pray that God will allow them to spread through revival and through seeing others embrace them as they embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the way to establish godly leadership. First it comes individually - and then through influence it spreads to larger groups. May we be wise enough to embrace it now - and pray that it spreads through the grace of God to His glory - and our benefit.
The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. Proverbs 20:27
Here is a proverb that wisely reveals to us the workings of the Spirit of God within a man. One might ask how this imparts wisdom to us. We must remember though the definition of wisdom. That definition is seeing things as God sees them - and thus making decisions that are in concert with His will and purposes. With wisdom defined in this way we can easily see why a verse showing us the workings of the Holy Spirit in man is very valuable to grasping wisdom in our lives. Such information allows us to better understand how God imparts and gives us His wisdom.
The first thing we learn is that the "spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord." A lamp is something we use to give us light. What is being said to us is that the lamp of God is the spirit of man. When God wants to reveal Himself and make Himself and His wisdom known to man, He does so in and through our spirit. By the working of the Holy Spirit - Who speaks in our spirit - we are made aware of the mind and heart of God. Watchman Nee in his amazing volume on the working of the Holy Spirit, The Spiritual Man, spoke of how the Holy Spirit worked in us through our intuition, our conscience, and through something I'll call "our knower." Let's take a look at these three features of our spirit in concert with God's Spirit.
God reveals Himself to us primarily through His Word. As we read and know His revelation of Himself in the Word, the Holy Spirit will speak to our conscience. This might also be referred to as conviction. We are convicted of truth and our conscience speaks to us. This is not some kind of "devil on one shoulder - angel on the other" kind of experience. Instead is it a settled understanding of some things. First is might be that soemthing it true - true about God - true about who we are in Christ - true morally - true in any number of ways. Our conscience speaks to us and we know that it is true (because we see it in God's Word). We also might see that something is sinful. God's Word points out an action, an attitude, a word spoken - and our conscience bothers us as we come to the settled conviction that either we have sinned, or that something is sin. Another way this works is when we are convicted about something as the will of God. Our conscience prods us to act - to speak - to turn away from some temptation or toward an act of obedience - serving in some way - witnessing - and any number of other aspects of walking in obedience with God.
The second tool used by the Holy Spirit is our intuition. This really also fits the idea of our "knower." This is when the Spirit of God works in our spirit to help us just 'know' that soemthig is true. This would speak to the working of God to simply through an intuitive knowledge - to bear witness with the truth. One thing about this 'intuitive' aspect of God's working must be said. That is that God's Spirit will NEVER contradict God's Word in what He grants us as intuitive knowledge. Probably the best way I can describe this working is that we have a sense that someting is wrong - or something is warning us that we are about to sin. There is also a way where we just know that something is God's will and that we should act. Again - this is one of the more subjective ways the Spirit of God works - so this must be tested with God's Word - and a working knowledge of it.
We need to note how God's lamp works in this proverb. We read that it, "searches all the innermost parts of our being." God's lamp - our spirit as the Holy Spirit reveals truth to us - searches us out. Even to the very innermost parts of our being this lamp lights things up within us. The reason this is needed is at least in part because sin has made it difficult to know our own hearts. Jeremiah 17:9 reminds us that the heart is deceitful above all else and is dsperately wicked. We are told immediately afterward, "I the Lord search the heart." Thus this working by God's lamp is vital to us knowing the truth.
It is wise to regularly - even daily or hourly - submit to the teaching, leading, and searching of the Holy Spirit of God. This work that God does is so very important if we want to know the truth. When we surrender to Him and allow Him to teach us - we know the truth. When we surrender to Him and allow Him to lead us - we will walk in the will and ways of God consistently. When we surrender to Him and allow Him to search us - we will be delivered from sin and from deceiving ourselves by following our hearts instead of being led by the Spirit and the Word. Wisdom - yes this proverb gives us great wisdom indeed.
A wise king winnows the wicked, And drives the threshing wheel over them. Proverbs 20:26
If a leader of a nation is wise - he will know that leaving the wicked alone to do what they want will ultimately be very bad for that nation. To do otherwise is to leave a group of people who have no regard for law or for any kind of self-restraint for the good of others around them. The wicked do not care if their actions cause problems and suffering for others - they just have a will to do what they want to do. This is why we the king is told that he needs to winnow the wicked and drive a threshing wheel over them. Let's take a look at what these two pictures reveal to us.
The word "winnow" is an agricultural term. It means to separate the wheat from the chaff in processing grains. The word came from the word for wind - because often the process for this involved beating the wheat on a threshing floor - and then tossing it into the air where the wind would blow away the chaff and the wheat kernels would fall to the floor where they would be gathered to make flour for bread. Because of this process, the word winnow came to mean other processes used to separate what is worthless from what is of value. That is what it means in our proverb today. The wise king uses the law to winnow the wicked in his society. He establishes and enforces law in order to separate the worthless elements from society. This makes for a law-abiding culture which can prosper. If he does not winnow out these elements of society - there will be a very detrimental effect on the culture. People who lie and are untrustworthy in life - will be this way in business. Some might wonder why this is important - until they see the kinds of things we have seen in the financial world where stock brokers bilk people out of their entire life savings by setting up a ponzi scheme to take other people's money. Dishonesty and a lack of integrity actually will cost a society . . . actually billions of dollars . . . which we've actually seen.
The king is also encouraged to drive a threshing wheel over the wicked as well. Whereas the word winnow has a separating aspect to it, the word does not bring to mind much violence. This is not the case with the threshing wheel. This was a heavy stone wheel that was pulled by oxen or horses (or in Samson's case, by a man) that would roll in a circle over wheat or corn that was put in its path. As the heavy wheel rolled over the grain it would crush the grain separating the wheat from the chaff. This was then further "winnowed" by letting the wind blow away the chaff as the grain fell to the floor. The picture though here with the threshing wheel was a violent one. It involved punishment and a crushing process. Thus a wise king will set up law so that it punishes the wicked for their actions. This will further eliminate the elements of a society that are evil and wicked - while preserving the godly who will submit to the law.
At this point I must make a point - especially because of the day in which I am writing this post. We currently have a very foolish president in the United States. I say this because he has recently made it clear that he has no respect for the laws of our land - or the Constitutional process by which they are established. He has chosen in recent months to disregard laws concerning the sale, distribution, and use of mariuanna. He has decided in dictatorial fashion that this is not good for us - and has decided on his own (with no act of congressional approval - or the approval of the courts) to not enforce the law. Almost every study ever done on the long-term affects of this drug is that it is a gateway drug to more serious and harmful involvement in the use of illegal drugs. He has also decided not to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act - because he sees it as unfair. This is even though the law was passed with overwhelming support - and was signed by a fellow Democrat. He has unilaterally decided to also give amnesty to illegal aliens who have come into our country illegally (Yes that was bad grammar, but felt the need to emphasize the word illegal - meaning not legal - or said another way - breaking the law). These are just three things he has done - unfortunately the lack of any respect for the law is rampant in his administration. He has effectively made himself a law unto himself - choosing enforcement options at his own whims - with a complete disrespect for any kind of constitutional prccess. This is foolishness - and will damage our nation in the end. The populace will follow his example - and will also have a disregard for the law as well - except the parts they agree with - and want to keep. As a result there will be a rapidly growing wickedness that will at first creep into our society - but then later will flow into it like water from a broken dam. Pray with me for our president. Pray that he will be wise - and will see the wisdom in enforcing the laws as given - not just as he wants them to be at the time. Pray that he will see the wisdom of enforcing all our laws - regardless of whether he personally likes them or not. Oh, also pray one other thing - that the people of the United States will have wisdom this November to not re-elect anyone who does not show respect for our laws - and our constitution.
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.
Man's steps are ordained by the Lord, How then can man understand his way? Proverbs 20:24
Wisdom acknowledges the sovereignty of God. God is omniscient - which means He knows all things past, present, and future. God also is working all things together to bring about His will that all things work together for good - and also work together for His own greatest glory. These are basic truths hat we learn from the Scriptures. Passages like Romans 8:38 and Romans 11:34-36 make these things very clear.
We read here in Proverbs that a man's steps are ordained by the Lord. I wish I could write a pithy little article that would once and for all solve the problem that seems to exist between our seeming ability to make choices - and God's ultimate soveriegnty over all things. But if such an article could be written it would already have been by men far more educated and godly than I am. But let me lay before you a few facts. First - you are going to have to make a whole series of choices today. It would be better if you made them in concert with God's will. Second - God is working in your life even if you choose today to be a rebellious little toot. Third - God will ultimately get everything that He desires and is working toward. And finally fourth - there is nothing you can do to thwart God's ultimate plans for His own glory and for the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are things that are true - will continue to be true - and are even true if you choose to think they are not.
God ordains our steps - He guides our way. For some this is relatively easy because they see God's will portrayed in the Scriptures and quickly submit - receive His power to do them - and enjoy bringing glory to God. Others are not so muh this way. For them the process of God working in their lives involves more than a fair share of rebellion, self-will, and self-seeking. Thus for them the will of God is a process of guidance through the Word - and guidance through discipline. In the end God receives what He desires both ways - one just takes longer - and often involves more pain and hard-learned lessons. Regardless of how you come to His desired ends - they will be accomplished.
The second half of this verse asks us a question, "How then can man understand his way?" This question is meant to be answered two ways. First of all, there is no real way for us to understand our way - at least in our own thinking. Consider for a moment Job. He walked with God - was considered blameless - yet he faced incredible suffering for God's ultimate purposes. The entire book of Job deals with him and his friends trying to "understand God's way." It consists of his friends telling him he was ungodly - that was why he had to suffer. It also consists of Job wrestling with the reasonf for his suffering Himself. There is little light of day in all these wranglings until 30 plus chapters into the book. Then God, first through Elihu, and then through His direct revelation asks Job a serious of questions. In all honesty these questions do not really answer the burning inquiry that Job - and those of us who read this historical account - have within our hearts. In the end, we come to the conclusion that God is God, God is good, and therefore no matter what happens in our lives - God ultimately purposes it for our good and His glory. We are left with the explanation of Proverbs - how can a man understand his way?
There is an encouragement in all this though. That is the second answer to this question. How can a man understand His way? The answer is that he can only understand his way in relation to God. People spend their entire lives living for things that are worthless. Their lives are summed up as a cautionary tale for us to learn from in life. Consider the rich farmer who thought only of himself all his life. Some 30-50 years were spent allowing this man to accumulate a fortune. At the end of his life he had a bumper crop unlike any he ever had, and wondered what to do with it. His ungodly, ill-informed reply was to tear down his existing barns and build bigger ones. Then he could keep everything for himself - and retire rich and full. God then broke in on the scene informing him that he would die that night - and that all his wealth would mean nothing - except as a warning to all others who did not choose to be "rich toward God." What we would consider a total waste - God used to warn any generations about greed and self-serving living.
A man understands his way in relationship with God. That is the only way to do this. A man understands his way by studying and understanding the Scriptures - which reveal to us the mind and heart of God. A man understands his way by turning to God and seeking to live for His ultimate purposes and plans. Philosophers may spend a lifetime trying to grasp a life of meaning and purpose - yet - if they only use their own understanding are like the blind leading the blind. As the Word of God itself tells us, if a man does not see according to God's light and revelation as given by the Holy Spirit in the Word - that man does not have the light of day. The truth is that God has been and still is working in this world to accomplish His desire and work toward His end. Life will be so much better for us if we acknowledge this - submit to it - and seek to walk surrendered to His sovereignty and His eternal plans.
Differing weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false scale is not good. Proverbs 20:23
It is interesting to see how seriously God takes the business dealings of His people. God desires for His people to be an example of His grace - and a testimony to things like honesty and integrity. There is no better place to see this than in the business dealings of a wise and godly man. Too often I run into the attitude that a man's business life is separate from his religious one. The fact of Scripture is that Jesus is Lord - not just of our "church-time," but of every moment we are alive. This means that the way that we act in business should also reflect God's glory to others.
In the society of Solomon's time everything was measured with weights and scales. Since it was primarily an agrarian society farmers and those who raised livestock would bring their goods to market where the crops and the animals would be weighed and valued. Once the price was established - even the money they were paid would then be weighed out so that they could be paid. When you realize this you can see why God speaks of differing weights and false scales. This was what unscrupulous businessmen would do to cheat the system. Their scales would have weights that were supposed to weight a certain amount, yet they would have two sets of weights - one accurate and another that would cheat their customers by being lighter than they should be. Others would have false scales that would underweigh whatever was put on them.
There are ways that men cheat today in business - and they are as varied as the ungodly men and women who use them. Some use kickbacks to get business - while others "cook the books" to embezzle money from their bosses. Some just steal from their business and hope no one catches them. But God is not just interested in the big-time offenders, He hates even the little embezzlements that happen and are overlooked. In fact God uses the word "abomination" to describe how He views dishonesty and a lack of integrity. This word means something utterly loathesome and hated. How does God feel about dishonesty and a lack of business integrity? He despises it - hates it - and considers it loathesome. Really can't be much more clear about something than that now can we?
God's character is impeccable. He is faithful and true. He has never failed to fulfill any of His promises or judgments for that matter. When He says something He means it - and you can bet your very life on it. He is infinitely honest and throughout all eternity He has a perfect record of integrity. Remember dear saints of God that God desires for us to reflect His glory to this world. It was why we were created - to know Him and to reveal His character and love to the world that is all around us. This is why the business world is a key place for a godly witness of integrity and honesty for Him. Rather than think that God separates this part of our lives from our relationship with Him - we should see that this is a perfect place to know Him - and make Him known. When I say this I am not referring to leading a Bible study or sitting down to share the gospel with co-workers - although these things are important in time. But before you do these things it is so important to be a godly example in front of all your colleagues. They need to see your faith as well as hear it. And being a man of integrity and honesty - a man whose word is his bond - a man who can be trusted to care not just for his own interests, but also for those of his customers - being that kind of man is how to truly glorify God in the workplace.
Do not say, “I will repay evil”; Wait for the Lord, and He will save you. Proverbs 20:22
Revenge is something that is very dangerous. We are told by today's proverb not to say that we ourselves will repay the evil done to us. Instead we are to wait for the Lord to be the One who saves us. There are two interesting examples of this - and Solomon was well aware of both of them. These two examples were Saul and David. They were the opposite ends of this issue of taking our own vengeance and repaying the evil done to us. They are also the difference between blessing and destruction.
Saul started out his career being wise in this way. When he became king some scoffed at him - and did not bring him any kind of present - on a day when presents were in order. Shortly after this God allowed a situation where Saul proved his worth - and showed that he indeed was fit and called to be king. When some wanted to bring vengeance on these men who rebuffed Solomon, his response was wise. He said that no one was going to be put to death, because God was gracious and had been good to His people. Thus Solomon allowed the Lord to defend him. But later in life Saul no longer followed the Lord - and began to be rebellious to God's purposes. When he faced a supposed wrong by the priests of the Lord - he reacted violently. Even though the priests acted without any knowledge of any kind of rebellion, Saul had the entire city, men, women, and children put to death. Thus was his reign marred by a continual desire to repay any suspected slight or evil done to him.
David was much different. He was wronged repeatedly by Saul and by those who followed him. Yet twice David rejected the opportunity to kill Saul - even when God put the opporutnity to do so. He saw Saul as God's annointed and therefore a man to be honored. His statement to the men with him who desired to put Saul to death was that God would be the One to bring Saul down - but David would not take his own vengeance and repay the evils done to him. David was blessed greatly because of this -a nd God greatly prospered his kingdom. God also blessed David with deliverance after deliverance.
Saul . . . he experienced something much diffferent than David. Saul went crazy - he was mad - he lost his mind. This is what happens to us when we think we have to defend ourselves against every slight and every evil done to us. This is a responsibility and a weight on our minds that we cannot carry. Soon the world itself is against us - and everyone and everything is suspect. This will make you lose your mind - just like Saul did. The way to peace is through forgiveness.
When we choose to forgive the evils done to us we are blessed. We are adopting the mind and heart of God, Who chose to forgive even though it cost His Son His life to do so. Our minds, when we forgive, are loosed from the constant torture of remembering the wrongs done to us. They are set free from bitterness which will consume our sanity like a dry forest is consumed by a fire driven by dry winds. We are free to give all our slights to God and allow Him Who sits on the throne to determine how to measure out justice and righteousness. Since there is only one ultimate throne in this universe - with only One Who sits upon it - truly, only He can mete out perfect justice. We are liberated from decisions taht are beyond our ability to make.
As long as we live in a fallen world there are going to be slights, problems, evils, and injustices that come our way. The wisdom that God offers to us today recognizes these things and gives us a way to deal with them without losing our minds. In the process we are protected from the deeper damage these things can do to us - and we are given the glorious priviledge of forgiving others - which is when we reflect both His character and His glory most.
An inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning will not be blessed in the end. Proverbs 20:21Quick money is often thought of as a blessing - but often is more like a curse. This proverb is all about warning us of the dangers of greed and quickly gaining money and wealth without having the character to deal with what we receive. The best example of this is the prodigal son. His father gave him his inheritance, but he was not ready morally to handle it. What happened next is an altogether too often heard story. He wasted his inheritance on loose living and partying with his new-found friends. He only learns when the money is gone that he has no real friends among the sycophants who have gathered around him. He only has regrets and abject poverty. The inheritance gained hurriedly at the beginning - was not blessed in the end.
Note here that the problem is "hurriedly" gaining this inheritance. A wise man will prepare his children and his children's children for the inheritance that they will most likely receive at his death. He does this by teaching them the value of work. This work ethic that is built into them gives them a proper perspective toward money. They see money earned and see that they do not waste all their hard work on silly and frivilous pursuits. When the inheritance comes - they learn to spend it and invest it in ways that will bring long-term blessing rather than just a short-term high.
The best way to prepare a person for an inheritance is to have them focused on God rather than on money. They see an inheritance is a blessing to pass on rather than to be wasted on their lusts and desires. They want to see the family wealth passed to many generations. This is called generational wealth - and it can bless multiple generations of one family. But even more important than this is passing on to children the truth that the things of this world are passing away. Therefore the wise man invests and sees real wealth in terms of becoming rich toward God. This means investing in the kingdom of God - investing in good works - and investing in buiilding up disciples of Jesus Christ who can bless multiple generations. Ultimately the wise man teaches his children that the greatest inheritance is that given to us by God. We are blessed with a heavenly inheritance in Christ Jesus our Lord. That inheritance will never pass away - and is reserved in heaven for us.
Wealth - especially sudden, hurriedly gained wealth will test us sorely. We will be tested in our values - in our view of what is truly valuable - and in our view toward eternally valuable things. The man whose master is money (mammon in Scripture) will cling to that master and hate any others who rival him. The man whose master is the Lord will be blessed not just in the short term as he receives an inheritance, he will be blessed in his own generation - in multiple generations afterward - and ultimately, he will be blessed in the presence of God forever. Now there is an inheritance worth living for in life!