Proverbs 29:26 Many seek the ruler's favor, but justice for man comes from the Lord.
Where do you get justice in our world? Today's proverb weighs in on this issue in a way that reminds us that we need to keep an eternal perspective on all things. This world may seek what they call justice from the officials who rule over it, but true justice for mankind comes from God.
Many do seek the ruler's favor - and consider that justice. The problem comes when you realize that rulers are not always righteous. There are rulers and officials who receive bribes and favors to turn justice toward the one who gave them. Another problem arises when you read the statement that "many" seek the ruler's favor. That means if your bribe is not high enough, you lose. If someone else comes along and offers something more or something better, justice goes to the highest bidder. Such was the case with Haman, Mordecai, and Esther. Haman, angry with Mordecai because he would not bow down to him, paid a ridiculous amount of money to the king to have "his justice" enforced. That justice did not involve punishment on Mordecai - but on the entire nation of Israel. He did not want Mordecai to be punished alone - he wanted the extermination of his entire race. The price was right - and a decree was made to have the Jews destroyed kingdom-wide. Thus goes justice when you seek the ruler's favor. The real problem for Haman though, was the justice he bought was not final. When Esther gave two banquets for the king, told him he was a Jew, and on top of all this the king later learned that Mordecai had saved his life - the price for this justice went much higher. In the end, justice from the king meant Haman's hanging, the destruction of his entire family, and the destruction of Israel's enemies in the city and throughout the kingdom.
God warns those He puts in authority repeatedly against taking bribes perverting justice for a price. Although power can corrupt - and absolute power can corrupt absolutely - God alone is the One Who cannot be corrupted. Therefore wisdom tells us that, "justice for man comes from the Lord." God's justice is based on His perfect righteousness and justice. He does not have such things - He IS such things. God does not base justice on a set of laws given by others - He is the Lawgiver, He is the Source of righteousness, and He is the Judge. His throne is founded on justice and righteousness. When He speaks, He speaks with absolute authority - and - with absolute, perfect just and right decisions. When He speaks and judges - His statements are final - and always beyond question. Here is what He said about Himself when revealing Himself to Moses. "The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generation." (Exodus 34:6-8) God is just - but our salvation is not His justice, but His mercy and grace.
Justice for man truly does come from The Lord. The gospel bears this out. God is just and the Justifier of the one who believes in Jesus Christ. He carried out His perfect, absolute justice when Jesus Christ was crucified on the cross. If there ever were a time when God might have set aside justice and righteousness - it would have been for His Son. But God's justice is perfect - and Christ had to die for sins for man to be forgiven and made righteous in God's sight. Thus the fullness of God's justice and wrath fell on His Son that day. But . . . as a result, justice for man comes from the Lord. We have a choice - to face the full brunt of God's wrath for our sins ourselves - or to turn to Jesus Christ, believe on Him, and receive grace and mercy. The Just God - had His justice satisfied by the death of His Son for sin. Now He will justify (declare righteous) anyone who turns to His Son in repentance and faith. No man can offer such a thing. Therefore the wise man is the one who seeks absolute justice, not from fickle men who can change justice as often as they change socks, but from God. He will not only give just decisions here on earth between men - but will give the ultimate justice to us in heaven - not based on us paying the price of our sins - but based on the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Proverbs 29:25 The fear of man brings a snare, But he who trusts in the LORD
will be exalted.
The proverb for today is one that I know quite well. It is one of the sins that is a very real stumbling block for me. Fearing man is something I've done too often in my life - and just as this proverb says, it is always a baited snare or trap that I trigger in the process. It is not hard to remember one of the very first principles of wisdom, which is that fearing God is how wisdom begins. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, fools despise wisdom and instruction." (Proverbs 1:8) With that as our backdrop, let's take a look for a few moments at the opposite, the fear of man - and the problems and traps that come with it.
The first thing we need to take note of here is that the word fear here is different than the one used in Proverbs 1:8. Proverbs 1:8 uses the Hebrew word "yirah" which is a positive word for fear because of its use in connection with fearing God. The word speaks of fearing to displease God and has with it the connotation of respecting and honoring Him. This fear acknowledges God's good intentions in His commandments and therefore motivates us to delight in them and in so doing Him. This fear is identified with wisdom, knowledge, discretion, and understanding and helps the one who has it to judge things properly and most of all restrains us from sin and rebellion against God. The word for fear in today's proverb is the Hebrew word "haradah," which speaks of a trembling, quaking, or shaking with fear. The word was used to speak of a physical shaking of Israel's enemies when God began to fight for them. It is not a good fear - but rather a shaking and trembling that come before someone flees or surrender's to another.
The context in which this fear happens is men. Proverbs warns against trembling and shaking in fear of mere men this way. Scripture tells us that we are not to fear the ones who can kill the body, yet do nothing to our souls. The One we are to fear is the One who when our bodies are dead can take our soul and cast it into hell. That rules out ALL men. Yet we fear and tremble before men. What does this tell us? I will equate the things we are "falling for" as the bait of a trap. That is what the word "snare" here means in the Hebrew. It referred to the trap and the snare that caught animals - but the reference was to the bait that was in the trap more than the trap itself. The trap would never be effective unless the animal was deceived by the bait. So what "bait" are we being deceived by in stepping into the trap of the fear of man?
First, we take the bait that our life consists of our possessions. We fear man because we think that man can take away our stuff. We think that ultimately our stuff defines us. That was the case with the rich farmer - who thought his life consisted of his possessions. He did all he could to protect his bumper crop so that he could retire securely. The problem for him was that he would die that very night - and all his stuff was gone anyway. All he was left with was how he had prepared for his meeting with God - for which he was eternally unprepared. You are not defined by your stuff - but when men make you think they can control your stuff (or your ability to earn so you can buy stuff) you will be tempted to fear them instead of God. When you do that, you've taken the bait - and stepped into a snare.
Second, we take the bait that men control our lives rather than the sovereignty of God. Some fear man because they think men control their destiny. Here is where I was guilty of the fear of man. I thought men controlled whether I was pastor or not - and feared their power. The fact is that God is ALWAYS ultimately in control of our lives - and to fear men is to put yourself into a very dangerous position. You begin to listen to men more than God. You can wind up lifting the thoughts of man above the Word of God. These are the traps you fall into when you take the bait that men control your destiny rather than God.
I will only go into a third bait that we often take when we fear men instead of God. That is that how men think of us is what is important. That is a lie - and one that controls the behavior of billions. Fashions and all aspects of culture function off of this lie. Immorality becomes acceptable because we fear what men will "think" of us if we hold to a biblical morality and standard. Our culture has embraced almost every and any kind of sin because they value what men think above what God thinks. We call sexual immorality - both heterosexual and homosexual - normal because we've valued what men think above what God says. We've embraced materialism, racism, as well as perverting sexual roles of men and women because we exalt current culture above God's eternal Word.
We are told that the cure to the fear of man is to trust in the Lord. That one, we are counseled, will be exalted. We trust the Lord when we read Scripture and value what God says, even if it has violent collisions with our current cultural norms. We trust the Lord when we realize that God moves the hearts of kings (and everyone else for that matter) wherever He wants them to go. We trust the Lord when we are willing to leave everything for the sake of God's will - knowing that the eternal eclipses the physical and temporal in life. Trusting the Lord is simply valuing God's view of things above that of anyone else's. That, by the way, is also the definition of wisdom - seeing things the way that God sees. That view of things will bless us - and - protect us from buying the lie of the bait that blinds us to the trap in which it is sent.
Proverbs 29:24 He who is a partner with a thief hates his own life; He hears the oath but tells nothing.
In our law courts we have something called, "being an accessory to a crime." This particular aspect of our law (as many of them do) has its roots in biblical law. The whole idea of being an accessory to a crime has to do with knowing or seeing that someone has committed a crime - and saying nothing about it when called to testify against them. For our courts the one who is with someone while they commit a crime - even if they are not involved - can be brought up on charges of being an accessory to the crime. Charges like this are dropped when the one who has seen the crime testifies against the one who committed it. Some call this ratting someone out or being a snitch. Reality is that they are speaking the truth about someone who has a complete disregard of the law, public safety, and the cohesiveness of the fabric of our society.
To be a partner with a thief here means to be one who divides or shares in his actions. Proverbs 1 speaks of ignoring someone when they make an offer like this. The thief says that they will all share in one purse as they steal and kill to take what is not theirs. The same word is used in that passage as it used here. We are warned that someone who will do this with a thief (who will be their watchman to warn them if someone is coming - who is the get-away driver - who turns the other way when they break into someone's home or business) is someone who "hates" their own life. Hate is the Hebrew word "sane" and it means to be hostile to, loathe, or dislike intensely. When we ignore the warnings of God - His commandments - and indeed even those of our society - we do damage to our souls.
To be an accessory to a crime means we need to hurt our souls. We begin with our minds. We need to convince ourselves that God's laws and those of our society do not apply to us. We need to ignore the Word of God and its calls to us - as we ignore the Holy Spirit and our conscience. We then move to our emotions. Due to the Work of the Spirit in our consciences, we will begin to have adverse emotions. We will feel guilty (because we are guilty). We will also have to put to death things like mercy, compassion, and kindness in order to act in those ways toward whoever is being robbed. Finally, our will is affected. We set our course direction with our will and our choices. We intentionally chose against God's way - and in agreement with our flesh and the devil (who by the way loves it when we sin). Now we see the damage to our soul - or the way that we disdain the work of God within it.
The Bible speaks of hearing an admonition or oath - but saying nothing. This speaks of the Law in Leviticus 5:1 which says, "Now if a person sins after he hears a public adjuration to testify when he is a witness, whether he has seen or otherwise known, if he does not tell it, then he will bear his guilt." There it is plain and simple - the law against withholding information and in so doing helping a thief, murderer, or any kind of criminal who is acting outside of the law. Wisdom tells us that we should speak up on these matters - not to be a snitch or someone who is telling on everyone about everything possible - but rather as someone who desires for a society to hold together on the basis of law. This passage is speaking of clear cut crimes being committed. It also speaks of us being made aware of those crimes - being called to testify - and then choosing to withhold our testimony so as to be in league with the crime and the one who committed it. That is never wise. God's desire - and indeed the healthiest thing we can do for our souls - is to be a friend and ally of the truth. That is the position of wisdom - and of loving our souls, not hating them.
Proverbs 29:23 A man's pride will bring him low, But a humble spirit will obtain honor.
A prideful man will always eventually pay for his arrogance with forced humility. Let me explain what I mean by forced humility. I can speak of this because I am unfortunately somewhat of an expert in this field - and with no sense of pride in bearing that title.
The word "pride" in this proverb is the Hebrew word "ga'awah" and it means to be prideful, arrogance, and oddly enough - enraged. The word is used of a sea that is in the midst of a storm and whose waters are raging or swelling up and down as the storm rages. Pride is seen here as something swelling within our hearts - and it causes us to rage against others who do not seem to recognize that we are as awesome as we think. This word is used to speak of the haughty, prideful attitude of the wicked - just before he is destroyed. Thus it seems to speak of pride at its highest point - enraged at the lack of respect, the lack of honor, and the lack of others serving us. When we embrace this kind of over-inflated view of ourselves, we are about to be brought very low. That is the warning of this proverb.
The idea of being brought low is taken from a Hebrew word that mean to humiliate or to bring down. It speaks of something that is sinking down. The word was used to speak of bringing down trees. The fall of a tree is something powerful and quick. It is a well-known event - as the falling of the tree makes a huge sound in the forest. This word was also used of how influential people would fall before the eyes of people in a society. It described the process of their humiliation as they were brought much lower. The ultimate humiliation is when God has to remind us that we are not nearly what we think we are. In fact - without Him we can do nothing that will be of any eternal value.
We read that the humble spirit will obtain honor. Humble is the word "sapal" which means to be low, meek, and of a contrite spirit. A meek man is not a weak man - contrary to that conception, the word actually means strength under control. God has given to man great strength and the ability to manifest power here on earth. But if that power is out from under God's control - it's effects can be disastrous. A humble man realizes that whatever power and authority he has is a gift from God and is to be used at His sovereign direction. The other telling part of this definition is the word "contrite." That word indicates that someone is broken and is seeking forgiveness. The humble man understands that he is fallen. He is sinful - and he has sinned against God. Knowing this, the humble man recognizes that he is fallible and needs guidance. He is wicked and needs righteous direction. Thus he is contrite over his sins and fallen condition - and turns to God for forgiveness, for grace, and for leadership in what he does. When a man takes that direction in life - he will obtain honor.
Recently I've been reading a biography of George Washington. The one thing above all others that has amazed me about this man is the humility he maintained. The humility that allowed him to listen closely to all his commanders - and even his soldiers was a strength, not a weakness. The way that he carried himself, as a humble servant of his soldiers and of the people of the Colonies, was why he earned the trust of his soldiers in some of the worst moments of the war. It is also what led him to decline the idea of him becoming king - or even gathering to himself too much power by only serving two terms as president. He constantly deferred praise to others and shunned being lifted up and honored. What did our first president receive for such actions? He obtained honor that has lasted for hundreds of years.
The ultimate humility though is reserved for our Lord Jesus Christ. He humbled Himself to come as a man - and be a servant when He was every ounce God of the universe. He humbled Himself even to the point of death on a cross. It is a humility that will never again be matched by anything anyone could ever do. That humility was honored by His Father as Jesus was given the name above every other name. He was honored in being the Savior of all mankind. Oh, that we would learn from His example - and from others who embraced humility and were honored for it in the end. This is the way toward honor - and it always will be till the end of the age.
Proverbs 29:22 An angry man stirs up strife, and a hot-tempered man abounds in transgression.
A man who flares his nostrils and who is easily filled with passionate anger about things is not going to be a godly or wise man. That is what today's proverb teaches us. Let's look at how anger that is not controlled by the Spirit of God can be a very dangerous thing in our lives.
The "angry man" in this proverb is one who often flares his nostrils. That picture to the Hebrew was a picture of a man who often became angry. We read that this is not wise because such a man often stirs up strife. His easily angered temperament will be the source of much fighting. He will not be long suffering and patient. He will grumble and complain thereby stirring up strife and anger in others. This will lead to a situation where he seems to be constantly surrounded by others who are angry - or who have grievances against the ones he is angry with as well. There will be a controversy swirling about him that never seems to die down. Problems and broken relationships will be all around him as the proverbial pot is always being stirred.
This man is likened to a "hot-tempered" man. His temperament is set so that it will boil over very easily. He becomes angry quickly - and that anger will lead to arguments and problems often. Contrary to this is the man surrendered to the Holy Spirit whose fruit is peace, patience, gentleness - and - self-control. Slights and problems roll off the Spirit filled man like water off a duck's back. He is a peacemaker and as such is known as one of the sons of God.
King Saul had these bad traits in his life. He perceived a slight when the women sang that He had slain thousands and David ten thousands. Jealousy and envy bred anger in King Saul that boiled over in many angry and hot-tempered acts. He was well known for dealing with his anger not by patience and long-suffering, but by throwing spears. He threw them at David because of his jealousy. He threw them because he did not want to deal with his own sin - and came to hate David for how God was with him. He eventually threw them at his own son because he dared love and protect David. His hot-tempered ways led him to kill all the priests in the city of Nob because he raged against the priest seeking The Lord on David's behalf. His uncontrolled anger led him away from God and into abounding levels of transgression and sin. That is what our proverb warns against today. We are warned that an uncontrolled temper let loose in fits of anger will land us in an abundance of sin. If we are not careful we will wind up like Saul whom God would not answer - and whom God removed because of his sin.
Patience is a virtue. It is a godly thing to be able to handle a slight - an insult - a perceived put down - and act graciously and godly - without a descent into a fit of anger. A wise man knows that it is not the estimation of men that matters - but the Word of God. Be careful therefore to learn graciousness, kindness, and the ability to be slow to anger. That is the heart of our God - and when we are filled with His Spirit and instructed by His Word - ours as well.
Proverbs 29:21 He who pampers his slave from childhood will in the end find him to be a son.
What is the proper way to treat an employee? As we have done for most of the proverbs dealing with slavery - we look at them through the prism of employee and employer relationships. There is much wisdom for people who are in business and who have employees if they will learn from these proverbs. What can we learn from today's proverb in this respect?
The warning here is that an employer should not "pamper" their employees - just as the man in this proverb is told not to pamper his servants. The word "pamper" here means what is means today - to treat someone in a way where they are not disciplined and made to work as they should. There should be expectations on those who work for an employer. When I worked at UPS we were expected to load a certain number of packages per hour. When our work output went below that number - we were going to have a visit from a supervisor or boss - who would make it plain to us that we needed to work harder. This was not employer abuse - it was an employer making sure that we knew that we were expected to produce a certain amount of work for the hourly pay that we received.
What is dangerous is when an employee or servant is allowed to be lazy and undisciplined at work without any kind of repercussions. This is pampering a worker. Allowing a worker to do shoddy work without rebuke is pampering them. Allowing a worker to be consistently late to work without rebuke is pampering the worker. Allowing a worker to abuse their fellow workers and supervisors without rebuke and punishment is pampering the worker. These things will hurt a business - or even cause it to fail. There needs to be an understanding of proper workplace behavior and proper workplace expectations. But our society is beginning to implode on itself because it rejects such things. People are getting to the point where they expect a paycheck - but do not think that they should work hard for it. Ours is a world where people feel they are entitled to a living - and a good one at that.
The Bible is clear on the fact that, "if a man won't work - don't let him eat." There are also verses that say to let someone get hungry - and they will be willing to work. The business world is rough - and if we are going to have a strong economy people need to know that HARD work is required. We act today as if the words "hard work" are curse words - when in fact they are blessed words. It is good for us to have to work hard.
When an employer does not have the proper expectations on his laborers, he will in the end wind up with sons rather than employees. What is meant by this is a certain kind of son - a spoiled one. He will wind up with people who do not want to work - but expect to be well paid and well cared for by their employer. One might call this the "spoiled brat" syndrome. You treat laborers a certain way and before long they will not be workers - but rather spoiled brats who constantly complain about their wages, about their work load, about their work environment - and just about anything else they can think of to complain about. No matter what the employer does, it is not enough.
A good employer knows the balance between caring for his employees and calling them to work. He knows that he does need to be considerate and wise with things like workplace conditions and wages. He wants to bless his labor force - but he also wants them to work. There are Scripture passages that call the employer to be gracious and kind to his workers - but here he is warned of the dangers of having a plant filled with spoiled brats - rather than people who know how to work hard so that the business will be profitable. It is a delicate balance - but one that needs a serious swing toward a stronger work ethic in our day.
Proverbs 29:20 Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
There is a saying that is used to help people see that they need to think before they do something. That phrase is, "Look before you leap." After reading this proverb I think there should be a second phrase developed and used to help us keep from sticking our foot in our mouth - saying things that hurt others and damage our testimony. That phrase is, "Think before you speak!"
There is great wisdom in taking a moment to think about what you are going to say. It may slow you down in communicating, but in the end it will keep you from saying things that you will regret later. Proverbs 10:19 tells us, "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but a wise man restrains his words." It won't hurt us to take a moment to think about what we are about to say - it will actually bless us - and keep us from sin. It might be helpful on a test to write down the first answer that comes to our mind - but it is usually not helpful to speak the first thing that comes into our heads. I know many times in my life that doing that would have seriously damaged relationships.
The wise thing to say is the thing we have contemplated or thought about. When we are hasty in our words we will be careless in them as well. That can lead to hurtful words being spoken. It is wise for us to remember that we are fallen, sinful men and women. It is also wise for us to remember that we can speak out of our flesh or out of God's Spirit. Let me quote Galatians 5 to give you an idea of what will come from each of these two sources.
The flesh will yield these things. "Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God." There is a list we want to avoid at all costs. These are the things that damage and possibly even end relationships. Our mouths do not need to speak from the flesh. Here is why we do not want to be hasty in our words. Stop and consider the source - and if it resembles these kinds of words - don't say anything. This is even more important when we are angry or we feel hurt or misunderstood. Better to take our time communicating before we speak in these circumstances. It may even be wise to ask clarifying questions like, "What did you mean when you said this?" Often we receive slight where slight was not meant to be communicated to us. Thinking before we speak will allow us to step back and clarify what we heard before we decide to respond to it.
Speaking out of the Spirit involves yielding ourselves to the Holy Spirit. It means stopping and listening to the counsel of the Spirit as He guides us through every situation we face. Here is what we can expect to come out of our mouths when we do this. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Two benefits from stopping and listening to the Holy Spirit will be first, the much better words that will come from us - words of love and the other wonderful characteristics that are mentioned here. But a second benefit will also be the way our "passions and desires" will be crucified as we do not yield to the flesh, but walk in the Spirit.
I am what is called a "verbal processor," which means I do better when I can talk through things. That comes with some pretty dangerous territory, because if I do this with someone I can say some pretty stupid things before I reason through my feelings and my attitudes. That is why God has greatly encouraged me to verbally process with Him - and not so much with everyone else. David verbally processed with God often in the Psalms. It is why some of them seem to say pretty rough things at first - but end in praising God and David submitting himself to God. The Lord can handle this where humans cannot. So, if you need to talk - talk to God - about your difficult things - about everything. But be careful to "think before you speak" with men. Solomon tells us that if we don't do this - there is more hope for a fool than for us. That is a pretty tough thing to face - but then again - I've faced some pretty difficult things because I was too foolish to "think before I speak."
Proverb a Day
Each day, we'll take a look at a verse from the chapter of Proverbs for the day. Our hope is to gain wisdom each day - and from that wisdom - to have understanding to make godly decisions in the throes of everyday life.
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