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.
The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD. Proverbs 16:33
Today's Proverb is not so much about using a system of drawing straws to make a decision, as it is about the sovereignty of God over those decisions. A universal fact of life is that God ultimately has sovereignty over everything that happens. There is nothing that is not under His rule or reign. He takes all things that happen and uses them for His ultimate purposes.
The lot speaks of a system of drawing straws or pieces of wood, with one piece either shorter - or marked in some way to make it distinct from the others. This was one way that difficult decisions were made. It was also a way that God proved to His people that He indeed was sovereign. Take for example the sin of a man named, Achan, in the time of Joshua. Achan chose to take some of the things that were under the ban when they attacked and conquered the city of Jericho. When he did this - he hid what he took in his tent. But his act of disobedience and unfaithfulness caused the Lord to withhold His victory from their next opponent. As Israel wept thinking that God had left them - God said that their real problem was that there was sin in their midst.
God said that He would give a perfect lot to expose who did this. Think for a moment what this meant. There were well over a million to choose from in this lot. It would be impossible for God to show them one man out of a million - by drawing straws. Yet - that is exactly what God did. He did this by breaking Israel down by tribe, group, family, and individual - until God put His divinely sovereign finger directly upon Achan. No less than three different times did God choose one man out of an entire nation - by lot. Oh, and by the way, He was absolutely correct every time. This is no mere game of drawing straws.
What we learn from this is that God is truly sovereign over all things - and from what we read in this particular proverb - all decisions. If we will look to Him in the midst of every decision that we make - we can know He will be the one who guides us. This gives us so much more peace than to think we are at the whims of others - or just in a random world that will only exhibit randomness in every decision. We live in the world guided and directed by the hand of the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Sovereign God, Who knows exactly what He is doing - and where He is going.
So they will be life to your soul And adornment to your neck. Proverbs 3:22
We are looking at how God gives us both instruction in theological truths about His ways and Himself and how these are used to make practical decisions in life. Today, we will look at how God gives life to our souls – and how this is manifest in God working in our will to choose His way instead of another way.
Consider how God, who gives us knowledge is not just placing information into our minds, but is seeking to influence our wills as well. As we make choices - willing ourselves forward in life - those choices are bathed in a wonderful sauce that has both sound theology as well as sound practice as ingredients. Every choice has behind it the Scriptures and the ways of God as its foundation. Rather than shooting from the proverbial hip, we find ourselves shooting from "the Script." The Script I speak of is the Word of God - the guide for our lives that has been given to us by inspiration of the Holy Spirit - and now which is being taught to us daily by the same wonderful Holy Spirit as well.
Consider for a moment a scenario where you are facing a decision. Imagine with me that in the midst of making that decision that a thought comes into your mind to act. As you ponder that course of action suddenly another voice enters the picture. The first thought may be appealing to your flesh - it may have all the benefits of the world attached to it - and it may even have the approval of someone you desire to impress. But as this second voice or thought comes into the picture - you are instructed that "willing" that way would be contrary to God's Word. Making that choice would in effect be choosing sin. Now you have a choice - a true choice between two things - God's way or another way. Which will you choose?
This is how God's Word and God's wisdom works in your will. God said to Israel through Moses that God was setting before them life and death. This simply meant that they could choose the ways of the world - the ways of Egypt and Canaan where they were headed - or - they could choose God's ways which had been clearly taught to them in the Law. Moses said that a way of blessing or cursing was right before their eyes. Remember that often the way of sin is pleasant at first. It might taste good, feel good, look good - but later it is NOT GOOD! God's ways may involve not feeling so great at first - it even may involve saying, "No" to a desire that is strong within you. But God's work in your will is to fortify you with a knowledge of Him and His ways that will enable you to say, "No" to sin and "Yes" to righteousness. You will find life and power to make the proper choice. But, one thing to remember is that in the end - even though knowledge is there, even though a direction is made clear, and even though power is offered to complete the deal - you still must choose!
It is a wonderful thing to see that God is wanting to work in your will. His sound wisdom and practical application will come to you as the Holy Spirit teaches you. He will come to offer instruction to you - and that instruction will inveritably involve a choice. You must choose His way - and until you do the fullness of that power will not be released. But know this - in doing this God has freed you to make a choice - and to be blessed as you choose His way. You are not in bondage to sin or self in these moments. You will choose - and He is working to help you choose sound wisdom to make that choice - and practical instruction to know how to carry it out. What a wonderful thing to experience God in this way! What a wonderful opportunity to do what is good and right. In those moments dear saints let me give you a biblical admonition - just do it!
"Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; Proverbs 1:24
We are examining the first chapter of Proverbs and seeing why it is not always the best thing to only have positive messages in the church and in our Christian lives. Here we see the reality that some do not receive what God is saying to them. They refuse to turn to God as He issues a call to them through His Word and His wisdom.
Too many get bent out of shape when they hear that God has to call us for us to be saved. They pretty much freak out when they are told that on their own they would never come to God because they are dead in their sins. They do not realize that God in His mercy does call men to Himself. But the truth is that even when God calls - men reject Him. Even when He allows them to hear His counsel, His reproof, His encouragment to turn from their sin to follow Him - they reject it. That is what is made clear here in this section of Scripture. God tells us that he called - but the fool refuses that call. The idea of refusal here involves a rejection not just of the message - but also of the Messenger.
God is showing great mercy and grace to men in stretching out His hand to them. Their sin should receive a stretched out hand - to discipline and bring them under God's judgment. But that is not what the Lord is trying to do here. He is wanting to instruct - to make His words known to those He calls (vs. 23). As He stretches out His hand in mercy, what does He receive? Nothing . . . no one pays any attention to what He is saying. This coincides with the truth in the New Testsament that, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23
). It also is a testament to Romans 3:10-12
which says, ". . . as it is written, there is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one." Men, by their very nature reject God. Due to their deadness in sin, they will refuse Him and reject Him. But there is an even more amazing truth that this.
It is an amazing thing to read here that men reject and refuse God. It is astounding that they do not even pay attention to what He is saying. But what is more amazing is that immediately after He is rejected God does not let judgment fall in that very moment. But God is merciful in that He responds with further mercy. But this passage is not a reminder of that mercy. It is meant to be a stark reminder of how foolish it is to reject God when He does stretch out His hand and offer counsel, reproof, and instruction.
What should we learn from today's Proverb of the day? We learn that to receive God's wisdom and offer of instruction is the greatest of mercies. We learn that Jehovah God does this over and over again - offering mercy and grace that is rejected by sinful men. But the real question for us today is what are WE going to do when we are aware that God is wanting to give us His Words - and correct us from a way that is not in accordance with His will? Are we going to refuse and reject Him? Are we going to see His outstretched arms - and not even pay attention?
It might benefit us greatly to read a passage from Hebrews 2
that offers a warning to us - a warning that we should pay "much closer attention" to the times where God is speaking to us. Hebrews 2:1-3
offers us this godly counsel on this matter, "For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it.
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?" May we learn to listen with great passion and intensity when the Lord speaks to us - and may we not be guilty of neglecting so great a salvation when God offers not just His grace in Christ initially - but when He continues to save us from sin as He sanctifies us daily by His Word and His Spirit.
For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body. Proverbs 4:22
The wise father will place before his sons that fact that living according to God's ways and commands is the very best way to live. Living this way is how to experience, "Life and life abundantly" as Jesus said in John 10:10
. He will also let them know that God's ways are also the most healthy way to live for their physical bodies as well. This should be almost a "no-brainer" when we grasp that God, Who is omniscient and all-wise, would of course know the very best way for us to conduct ourselves for the most healthy and meaningful life the few years we have on this planet.
The father begins by frankly telling his son that the ways of God are life to those who find them. Jesus warned us in John that the thief, who is the devil, comes to kill, steal, and destroy. We should take note that also in 1 John we read that the world lies in the power of the evil one. Therefore it should be no surprise to us that the world and its ways are destructive to our health and well-being. To follow the world is to ultimately harm ourselves. God made the world around us to function in a certain way. To follow Him is to follow the designer and creator of all that we see and know. When God gave His Law to Israel He said something very powerful in Deuteronomy 30,
"See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply . . . I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days . . ." (Deuteronomy 30:15-16,19-20)
God made it clear to His people that His ways were best - actually they were penultimate over all other ways of living. To love, serve, and obey Him would bring them great blessing and life. Again, He tells Israel this in Deuteronomy 32:46-47 when He says, "Take to your heart all the words with which I am warning you today, which you shall command your sons to observe carefully, even
all the words of this law. For it is not an idle word for you; indeed it is your life."
The God who gave these very frank statements to Israel - also commanded the fathers of that nation to impress those same words upon the hearts of their sons. So all we are reading here in Proverbs is a restatement of what God has commanded previously.
The father also seeks to say to his son that obeying the Lord's commands is also "health" to the body. Here is where things get fascinating. I attended Auburn University for my undergraduate work. While there I knew a couple of brothers in Christ who endeavored to study the Scriptures and test the Old Testament dietary laws to see why God gave them. Later I also read extensive articles out of a ministry in Chicago where doctors began treating patients based upon God's dietary and cleanliness laws. Both groups adamantly stated to me that what God gave in the Old Testament is the most astounding public health system known to mankind. If these commands were followed, it would lead to a marvelously healthy society. When the Jewish slums followed these laws in Europe - the beubonic plague did not affect their populations. Another way to say this is - the commandments of God are health to our bodies.
Dads, we need to speak frankly to our sons concerning life - and what enhances and offers life to them. The world will not tell them such things, in fact, the world will tell them the opposite. We are the ones God has designed to speak such things to them. Actually, we are commanded to do so. Blessed is the son who has a wise father who will speak frankly with him about life - and life abundantly!
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, And he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. Let your father and your mother be glad, And let her rejoice who gave birth to you. Proverbs 23:24-25
God has blessed my wife and I with 6 children, of which 2 of them are sons. Our testimony as a family is an interesting one because it involves being caught up in religious, church-y living - and then later being in relationship with a very merciful, loving God. Please bear with me, because all this actually relates to the proverb for today.
Solomon tells us that the father of the righteous will greatly rejoice, and he who sires a wise son will be glad in him. At present I am the father of two sons who are righteous - and who are seeking to live their lives according to God's wisdom. Oh, by the way - I also greatly rejoice in God's goodness for giving me such sons. To write such things can be extremely dangerous, so let me explain what all this means - giving all the glory to God.
I am a pastor. I have been one for some 20+ years. During that time God has been very gracious to me - showing me mercy extensively in the midst of a great deal of stupidity. There were times that I was so given to "the ministry" that I did not love my family as I should have loved them. I also was so caught up in trying to have a "great church" in the eyes of men - that I was a horrible example of what a man of God should be - not just to my family, but to the people of Calvary Chapel. A lot of this came crashing down when a biblical discipline situation arose in our fellowship - and spiritual carnage resulted. What I (and yes I emphasize I) had built came crashing down just like Jesus said it would in Matthew 7:27-28
. This not only happened at the church, but my own sons were rejecting it as well.
Then God broke me - wonderfully, graciously, mercifully broke me. I spent about 2 months weeping, confessing sin to my wife and my children - and to the church as well. It was during that time that I laid all my plans for me being a great pastor and preacher at the feet of Jesus - and decided I just wanted to love, know, and obey Him. God was so merciful in responding that the repentance and brokenness by drawing my two sons to Himself and making them righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. He slowly began to transform my sons, my family, and the fellowship He so graciously allowed me to continue to pastor. We are far from perfect - but as long as we seek Him and do what He says - things will go well.
This Proverb says that the father of the righteous will greatly rejoice. That does not mean that the father rears his sons to be righteous in themselves - for that would only be self-righteousness. He rears his sons to see that the only way they can be righteous is to turn in repentance and faith to Jesus Christ. Having their righteousness in Him - they can begin to walk as godly men - looking to and trusting Him at all times. What the father seeks to do is to be sure that he has "wise" sons. Since we know that wisdom is seeing all things from God's perspective - and making choices according to that way of seeing things - this means that his boys learn to have a biblical worldview, and live according to God's will rather than their own. If a father sees this - he rejoices. That wonderful gift has been given to me two times over. It also has been given to me in spite of my early years of stupidity and self-driven living.
The writer of Proverbs says to the sons that they should let their father and mother be glad - especially the mother who gave birth to them. Too many children spend their lives trying to please their parents by doing whatever they want them to do. That may seem like a contradiction to what I just said - but it is not. If a parent is wise in the way that they rear their child, they will make certain that their child knows that the most important thing in life is to live by God's will - not just by what their parents desire. Of course, this includes the commandment to honor and obey parents. But a wise mom and dad are certain to direct their child only to hear their voice as a precursor to listening to God's voice. The wise parent also knows that during their teen years their children need to transition from just listening to a parent - to listening to God and doing as He says. A child who remains dependent upon a parent throughout their lives will not be a wise child. They have to come to the point of starting their own family - and rearing another generation of kids who start by listening to their parents, and who later in life transfer that teachability to God's voice and the Scriptures.
My wife and I have strived to do this with our children. We've failed as often as we've succeeded - with all successes being due to following God's counsel. But know this - it is not easy - and parenting is not for cowards. If you do this properly - your children will marry - and will leave the home. If we rear them to treasure the gospel and take seriously their responsiblity to God and to the world for proclaiming it - there is a good chance they may take seriously that command to go to all the nations. We've already watched three do this - and a fourth is probably on her way. That means as we rejoice, there is also a little bit of heart-ache as we send them to the ends of the earth - not knowing if they will ever return. But then again, what greater joy can we have as parents than to follow the example of God Himself, Who gave His Son away so that the nations might be saved?
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12
Today's proverb is placing before us a truth - that when we hope for something and that hope is indefinitely put off - we can become heart-sick for that thing. When we want something very badly, we begin to set our sights upon it and long for it. If that thing does not come to us - the longing increases to the point where we cannot get it out of our minds. From that point there is an increasing burden upon our hearts for the thing we long for in life. But if what we long for is not within our grasp - and we cannot bring it within our grasp - our hearts will grow sick over it. Soon, we find ourselves in a morose and depressed state over this thing - where it dominates our lives. If there is not a relieiving of that situation - we will lose hope altogether - which is a sad state to be in as we walk through life. I'm sure we've all met someone who has utterly lost hope - embittered against someone, something, even against God - they live a life defined not by what they have - but by the one thing they did not get. They are a bitter, resentful, horrid lot - and very difficult to be around.
The opposite of this is also true - that a desire fulfilled is a tree of life. There is something about a desire that is met that thrills and envigorates the soul. We find ourselves overjoyed at the realization of that which we desired - and it only encourages us to desire and work toward other things. Please see and grasp that word, "work" here. Jacob had a desire to marry Rachel - and was willing to work 7 years for that desire to be realized. The Word tells us that the 7 years seemed but days because of his great love for her. Even after his father in law deceived him and gave him Leah first, Jacob still worked another seven years for Rachel. There is something about a desire that can be realized, that will make us work hard for it. There is something about the accomplishment of a task - one that helps us realize a goal - that will help us to work joyfully toward it. That is why it is so wise to live by understanding that comes from knowing and pursuing God's will rather than our own. Romans 12:1-2
urges us to present our very bodies to God as a living sacrifice. We are exhorted to be conformed to God, and not to this world. And in this divine pursuit we are promised that we will find the will of God to be good, acceptable, and perfect. There is wisdom indeed! The desire fulfilled here is a reference to God's will being the source and the center of our desires. We do not allow the world to lead us by the nose through its lusts. That, too often, will lead to heart sickness over a hope deferred again and again. What is astounding is the heart sickness is over that which is outside God's will for us. When we make the mistake of being conformed to this world, our desires are conformed to its lusts as well. Then we find ourselves in opposition to God's will and longing for things God does not desire to give to us. Just like with the Israelites, He may give them to us - but send a leanness to our souls in the process. This means that God will usually say, "No!" to those desires. If we continue to want them, we will find that our "ungodly hope" will be deferred again and again.
God's deferral is for our own good - but that is not the way that we will see it. We will continue to writhe in anguish in the grasp of God's controlling and sovereign hand - finding ourselves miserable in the will of God. Our heart sickness will eventually turn us against Him - making us think He is withholding from us that which is good or best. This, dear saints, is the same lie that was told to Eve in the garden. God knows that in the day you eat of this forbidden fruit your eyes will be opened. He is trying to keep you from being just like Him. Just like Eve, we will too often believe the lie - and allow our heart sickness to lead to a soul sickness - and death.
We do not want the false fruit of the tree of our own and this world's evil desires. What we should want is the fruit of the tree of life. Interesting isn't it how this passage points us to that fateful decision that was made in the garden. That decision deferred the hope of life for generations - and unleashed on the earth sin, suffering, and death that would reign over men until the second Adam, Jesus Christ, made His appearance and destroyed the lie. Oh, saints of God, do not give your life to worldly and fleshly hopes that will only take you toward heart sickness. Embrace God's ways and paths. Surrender to His will and His Spirit's guiding. In that you will find a tree of life that will yield not just an earthly satisfaction now - but an eternal one that will last forevermore.
Do not lie in wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the righteous; Do not destroy his resting place; For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, But the wicked stumble in time of
calamity. Proverbs 24:15-1
There are times when you wonder about the providence of God. These are times when you look at the wicked - how they strut about on the earth - and how they attack the righteous and seek to destroy them. Asaph had one of these times in Psalm 73
. He struggled mightily with the prosperity of the wicked and the difficulties and trials of the godly. Yet in the end, when he considered eternity and the end of the ungodly, David returned to his sanity and found himself worshipping God - and pitying the wicked.
Here we have a warning given to the wicked - or at least the wicked man who thinks he can destroy the godly. He is warned not to lie in wait against the dwelling of the righteous. Here we have someone who is planning to do something destructive. The word used for "lie in wait" is a single Hebrew word that means to ambush, to lurk, or to lie in ambush as a military tactic. In the military context it always has the meaning of also doing this for the purpose of killing another.
I don't want to make you stay awake at night worrying, but there are very sinister forces today that are lying in wait against the righteous. Radical Islam is one of them. For years the 9/11 terrorists were waiting and training for their one day of evil. It was spooky to say the least to learn just how long they were among us - acting like nothing was going on - and all the while they were planning the worst terrorist attack in history against us. It was even scarier to read an article that listed the top 10 ways that Muslim terrorists were planning to attack us. The article was written by someone from the homeland security department. This list blew my mind because the attack that they are planning currently makes the 9/11 attacks look timid in comparison. In addition to the threat from radical Islamic terrorists, there are also threats from the far left. The radical homosexual movement wants to destroy conservative Christianity, making it illegal to hold views that are consistent with Scripture. There are those among the religious and academic elites who think that Christianity should be relegated to the ash heap of ideas - with laws enacted and enforced to make sure this happens. Like I said, this is disturbing to know - that there are those who are plotting and planning our demise.
God warns such people that this is not a wise thing to do. Remember saints, that God considers us the apple of His eye - and warns against those who would seek to harm us. He warns that such things are very unwise and will elicit his judgment. God warns specificially against seeking to destroy the "resting place" of the righteous. It is true that some want to destroy our "physical" dwelling places - but there is also the fact that those who oppose us among academia and the marketplace of ideas - want to destroy the Biblical Christian worldview and the philosophy that goes along with it. They fight us on the front of creation and science - saying that only their view is acceptable and that creation science is no science at all. They fight us on the moral front, saying that our views on morality from a biblical standpoint are outdated and should be cast aside for more modern (read immoral here) standards, which wind up being no standards at all. They fight us in the arena of human value - as they push abortion, euthanasia, and population control. They fight us in the arena of God's purpose as they exalt the earth with their environmentalism - even saying that humans are a blight upon the planet and should be culled back from our current 7 billion to no more than 300 to 500 million people. All these things are attacks on our "dwelling place" and "resting place" in the Lord God and in His Word as the ultimate source of truth.
One could get the to the point of living in fear if he or she did not read the rest of this proverb. The relentless attacks have not been just in this generation. They have existed all throughout history. Whether it has been the emperors like Nero, Diocletian, and Galerius or the attacks of the currently worldly educated like Darwin, Nietzsche, Hitchens, Harris and Freud, Christianity is amazing just for the fact that it is still around and still considered even a marginally valid worldview. But it is far more that that. The Word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ continues to transform millions every year - and provide for them a resting place for their faith and their lives.
We should take heart though, because this proverb gives us great hope - even though we are beset on all sides by those who seek to destroy us. God tells the wicked that even though a righteous man falls seven times - he will rise again. We have the peace of knowing that He Who began this good work in us, will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus. He will not allow us to be destroyed and decimated. Even in death His martyrs speak - and the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of His church. We may fall seven times - but He will pick us up and make us to stand because of His grace and work in us.
But this proverb comes also with a warning. The wicked are warned that they will stumble in times of calamity. When difficult times come - when evil befalls because of their wickedness or because of God's judgment in their lives - they will stumble in it. The word for "stumble" here means to stagger, to totter, to be brought down or cast down. The word is used in the Old Testament to describe not just the fall of individuals, but the fall of cities and nations who fall because of the evil and wickedness that they've committed. So we come full circle on this proverb to what I began saying in this article. Asaph almost stumbled when he considered the prosperity of the wicked in Psalm 73
. But in the end, he remembered the judgment and the sovereignty of God. He considered their end - and how they were consumed all at once in their wickedness and iniquity. This moved him to two things. First it moved him to worship God, who is truly sovereign over all things. He worshipped God because he knew there was more to this life than - well, just this life here on earth. In light of the fear and terror of God in judgment, he worshipped with trembling as he considered the end of the wicked. Second, he was moved to pity and mercy towards the wicked. Seeing their latter end, he pitied them and grieved over their destruction. Finally, he was thankful for God's grace and love for him.
Here is wisdom . . . God is sovereign, even when it seems that the wicked are being destructive towards His people. We should not stumble over this reality - but rather realize that God is working, even in the moments when it seems like the world is out of control - or even worse - under the control of the wicked. Know this - God is working for His own glory. If He used a moment as horrific as the cross of Christ to redeem the world - believe me when I say that He can also use anything to eventually bring about His will in this life.
He who gets wisdom loves his own soul; He who keeps understanding will find good. Proverbs 19:8
How does the Bible teach us to love ourselves? Here is an interesting question because there are some who think that before we can ever love someone else, we have to love ourselves. Personally, I find that kind of teaching to be contrary to sound wisdom. The reason I feel this way is because those who are taught such things spend all their time going deeper inward to determine if they love themselves enough. The problem with this kind of psycho-babble is that happiness comes when we are no longer consumed with ourselves and learn to give our lives for others and for the glory of God. A person who constantly goes inward to determine if they love themselves properly will have precious little time to love others. It is usually a downward spiral that can lead to a person being consumed by a desire for their own happiness. Jesus said that if we love our lives we will lose them - but if we lose our lives for Him and for His kingdom's sake, we will gain them for all eternity. But this passage in Proverbs genuinely speaks of loving our own soul. So what exactly is God teaching us here?
The translation here reads, "He who gets wisdom . . . " yet the actual word translated wisdom is the Hebrew word, "leb" which refers to the heart. What Solomon was seeking to say is that the one who gets a heart - the right kind of heart - loves his own soul. Here is where we need to grasp what the Bible says about our hearts. We learn from the whole counsel of Scripture some very interesting things about the human heart.
First, we learn that our hearts are messed up due to the fall of man into sin. Jeremiah tells us that the heart is wicked and desperately evil, and is impossible to understand with our own wisdom. (Jeremiah 17:9
) To plumb the depths of our hearts - without grasping the wickedness of sinful man - will get you no where. That is why secular psychology will yield very little in dealing with the true human condition. None of the major psychological constructs admits that man is a sinner - and that the real problem with humanity is a sin problem - a rebellion against God. The next thing we learn is that God Almighty can understand the heart - and has done what is necessary to change it and transform it. The change for the heart is available by faith in Jesus Christ. God takes out of us our heart of stone, that does not respond to God's Word or commandments. In its place God miraculously puts a heart of flesh that has the very commandments of God written upon it. Thus we are regenerated in Christ with a new heart and a desire to do what He commands. The other lesson that God teaches us in His Word is that once we are saved, our hearts and minds need to be renewed by the Word and the work of His Spirit. While we are here on earth, we will face temptation and a constant battle with the three enemies of our soul, the world-system, the flesh, and the devil. Because of the way that these three things want to influence our minds toward sin, it is imperative that we renew our minds with the truth - which is God's Word. Actually, this is the way we "get heart."
We "get heart" when we begin to understand God's wisdom and God's ways. We no longer try in our own strength to deal with the myriad of temptations and trials that come to our hearts. We know that such an endeavor is doomed to be fruitless. Instead, we embrace what God has done in Jesus Christ. We embrace godly wisdom and understanding. As we do this we are actively loving our own soul! Remember that Jesus said that if we want to save our "fleshly" lives in this world - we will lose them. But the one who chooses to lose his soul - who dies to self - and who embraces a regenerated heart - that man loves himself in the end. He embraces an understanding of life that has conversion and regeneration at its core. As he does this - he finds good! He learns to die to himself - and die to the desires of the flesh. He learns that when his heart is drawn by temptation to a worldly point of view that he needs to reject it. He chooses instead to "not love the world or the things of the world." He goes to the Word of God to renew his mind so that he proves that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect. He faces the lies and deceit of the devil and learns to expose them for what they are. He chooses instead a life instructed by the Scriptures. He spends time in the Word so that he is walking with "understanding" at all times.
The two words "keeps understanding" are very beneficial to know here. He "keeps" understanding points to the fact that he watches over it - guards it - and is constantly on the lookout for anything that would detract from God's ways and will in his life. He keeps "understanding" points to the fact that he desires a discernment from God on all things. The word "understanding" is the Hebrew "tebunah" which means to discern or understand how things differ. He looks at every choice wanting to discern the difference between his flesh and the Spirit of God. He wants to discern the difference between the kingdoms of this world vs. the kingdom of our Lord and His Christ. He longs to discern the difference between his own desires and those given by the Lord. He yearns to grasp the difference between sin and righteousness - between glorifying self and glorifying God.
This is the way to love yourself. You love your own soul by protecting and guarding it from the tyranny of self. You choose instead to embrace God's wisdom in the heart. You decide that you will guard and protect yourself from anything that turns you even slightly from a life lived for the glory of God - from a life lived for the kingdom of God - and a life lived by the Spirit of God as He teaches and leads you by the Word of God. Want to love yourself? That is the way to do it!
To do righteousness and justice Is desired by the LORD more than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3 This proverb reminds me of the story of Saul and the Amalekites. Saul was commanded by the Lord to destroy and utterly wipe out the Amalekites. They are a picture of our flesh - and we are reminded that our flesh can in no way be compatible with the working of God's Spirit within us. Therefore we need to learn to do what God desires. We need two things. We need to embrace righteousness - which is simply viewing what God says as right as right - and justice - which means that we believe that God's judgments on things are true and just. Saul decided rather than doing what God said (what is right) and executing God's judgment on the Amalekites (what is just) - he would have his own self-styled obedience. He got rid of everything despised and bad in his own eyes among the Amalekites - but kept all the good stuff (at least what his flesh thought was good) alive. When caught in this sin by Samuel, Saul said that he kept it so that he could sacrifice it to the Lord. Samuel's statement to Saul was that God desires obedience rather than sacrifice. What the Lord desires is our obedience to His righteousness - and His righteous commands - rather than any kind of self-styled 10 commandments we would write out for ourselves. The Lord is the wise One and He knows what is right. Our own hearts and wicked and desperately sick - so how can we honestly even know what is right without His revelation to us? The Lord also desires justice. He knows what is just - and calls us to call 'em like He sees 'em. This is what he wants - rather than our pretended sacrifice. Most sacrifices that are done with no real thought for righteousness and justice in God's sight are done for show rather than for true sacrifice. The nature of our flesh is just like Saul's actions. We will gladly label what WE think is wrong and bad and dispose of it. We'll pick the really bad looking stuff - and be rid of it - while the deeper most insidious corruptions of the flesh remain untouched. This is why we need the Spirit of God to work in the process of sanctification. Without His work in our soul we will avoid the real deeper issues of purity and godliness. But when He works to reveal what is right and just in us - He will guide us in a true sacrifice of self to the Lord. This will be the kind of choices and the kind of lifestyle that will truly please the Lord - and - the one that most reflects the righteousness and justice the Lord desires in us.