Four things are small on the earth, But they are exceedingly wise: the ants are not a strong people, But they prepare their food in the summer; Proverbs 30:24-25
Here is a section in Proverbs that urges us to look at the glory of God in nature - as well as the lessons that He wants to teach us from what He has made in the animal kingdom. God has the writer call our attention to four animals that are small, yet exceedingly wise. Therefore our job is to look at these animals and glean what we can from their habits and their actions. This is also a kind of shot at the "bigger is always better" mentality that exists in our world. The saying should be "wiser is better." Since that is true in almost every situation, why don't we apply ourselves to learning from the ants, shapharim, locusts, and lizard for a few days.
We are first called to look at ants. This is kind of funny, because among the boys that I hung out with as a child, we all looked at ants. We were amazed at them as they worked hard - and as they marched on in their single line to and from a food source until they had gathered every last bit of it and taken it to their home. This is what we are called to see from the ant their wisdom in preparing food when it is a season to do so - and preparing it for a time when there will be no sowing and reaping because winter has come and the growing cycle is dormant.
We are reminded of a previous proverb in chatper 6:6-8 telling us to go to the ant and learn from her ways so that we will not be sluggards - so that we will not be lazy and undisciplined in providing for our families. The wisdom of the ant is that he prepares when he can for a time when he will need what he has prepared. This makes the ant exceedingly wise.
In this life we need to be wise in preparing for the future as best we can. That meant for me getting life insurance to put my wife's heart at ease in the event I die before her. That meant learning to manage our finances, paying off debt, and then seeking to stay out of debt. It meant living within our means - and when possible and within the will of God - working hard at additional things to provide additional funds for things like our children's education and paying off our home early. Please understand that the example of the ant is that he works HARD when he can to provide. That is the other exceedingly wise thing we should learn - that it is godly to work HARD to provide for your family. This also should remind us of this responsiblity in spiritual things as well. Are we "working hard" spiritually for our families - growing in the Lord, studying the Scriptures, praying, being a godly example? Your children need to see this EARLY in our lives - because there will come a day when they will decide which direction they are going in life. Know this, they will far more follow our example that they will what we've told them to do - especially when these two things did not match up in our lives.
I want to relate a passage I read from J. Vernon McGee on the ant. He wrote about the emperor Hadrian, who was a wicked ruler in the Roman empire. It was related that he said the following when he was dying,
"No more crown for this head, no more beauty for these eyes, no more music for these ears, and no morefood for this stomach of mine. But my soul, oh, my soul, what is to become of you?"
The reason I share this is because wisdom prepares now for something that you cannot prepare for in the future after it has come. The Word of God lets us know in Hebrews 9:27 that after we die physically there will be a judgment. Jesus informs us in the gospels that we will be judged for every idle word that we speak. Romans informs us that if we want to live by the Law, we will be judged by it - and that no one is ever made righteous by the Law. Instead they are made painfully aware of their heart of rebellion and their sin. So the question for us is also this. Have we made preparation for the future by drawing near to God and running to His remedy for our souls in the gospel of Jesus Christ? There is no other way for men to be made right with God. There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved. There is no other way, truth, of life - except Jesus Christ - and He is the only way to come to the Father except through Him. To delay in this is foolishness of the ultimate kind. Be exceedingly wise like the ant - and while it is a time to work - work hard. While it is a time to grow spiritually - apply yourself wholly to this task. Finally, while it is the day of salvation - repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Go to the ant, O sluggard, Observe her ways and be wise, which, having no chief, Officer or ruler, prepares her food in the summer And gathers her provision in the harvest. Proverbs 6:6-8
Ants are good teachers for us when it comes to avoiding laziness and a lack of discipline in our lives. The father here uses ants to teach his son a lesson about avoiding the sin of laziness.
Having told his son to go to the ant and observe her ways - he says that wisdom is with these little creatures. Their great wisdom is how they work hard without having to be supervised. They have no chief, officer, or ruler watching over all that they do - making them work. The ant knows that there is a time when gathering won't be possible - so he works hard when he can. He also knows to store things up - to prepare for the times when there will be no food.
The lessons for us are numerous. First, we need to have a self-driven work ethic. This is an ability to work hard - even when no one is looking. It means that when we know what to do - we do it. We don't need someone looking over our shoulders - or standing over us making sure that we work hard. We are motivated from within to do that. When I talk to the businessmen in my congregation my heart aches for them. They say that it is so difficult to find people who want to work. They tell me that most of the people they interview have great expectations for what they will be paid and how they will be treated - but almost no work ethic to do what they should do. What is even more sad to me is that they tell me that this is the case whether they are non-christians or christians. That is an indictment that we should not have laid at the feet of the church. We should have a work ethic driven by a desire to honor God.
The second lesson is also important for us to grasp. We need to be wise in how we deal with our money - setting aside funds for times when things are lean. History warns us that these time will come. Over and over again there have been lean times for humanity. The wise who store up for those times are ready, while those who simply spend all that they get - are unprepared for such times. I am not saying that we should be like the foolish farmer who stored up an abundance - and was not rich toward God. But I am saying that just like there are those examples, there are also others where God wanted His people to be wise in setting aside things for a lean time. Joseph was such an example - and his wisdom in setting aside the blessings of God - kept an entire region of the world from starvation and devastation.
A wise man knows the value of hard work - and of frugality. Both are character traits that God encourages us to embrace. Even though such things are mocked by the world around us, we should continue to speak in praise of them - and more importantly practice them to our future preparation and blessing.
The beginning of strife is like letting out water, So abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. Proverbs 17:14
Ever watch one of the movies where a small break in a dam takes place. You watch as the water is let out only in a trickle. The problem is that the pressure behind that trickle of water is tremendous. Soon the little place where the water is leaking cracks further under that pressure and becomes larger. More water is let out resulting in more pressure on that place. At some point there is a breaking point where the entire dam begins falling apart and the water begins careening out of the dam. Up until the point where the dam begins falling apart - there is an opportunity to stop the disaster. What is amazing is that when the earliest "letting out" of the water starts, the only real way of dealing with the problem is to release the water at the base of the dam and lessen the pressure on the breach in the dam. If this is not done - and the original crack is not repaired - the dam will eventually break and cause tremendous devastation. Now back to our Proverb today.
The beginning of strife is like the crack in the dam. This is not good because if left undealt with, it will make for a very serious 'breakout' of quarrelling. A fight is coming the longer that we do not deal with the very onset of strife in our hearts and minds. To leave it there is to embrace the coming quarrel and the problems it will engender.
The counsel God gives is to abandon the quarrel before it breaks out. That means that we should die to ourselves and to our desire to make our point. We should resist throwing a little guilt in someone's direction - or a little barb to get back a little for a slight we feel. We should abandon the wrong pursuit of this difficulty and instead, should allow the comment, the slight, the supposed or real insult, or just the grouchiness we feel to die as God takes it from us. Just one last thought though. If you have an entire dam of feelings and pent-up anger that is pressuring you to argue or quarrel, it would be wise to get with God to see what is at the root of your problem with this person. The reason I say this is that there are times when we truly do have issues that will require us to examine our hearts - examine our relationships with others - and draw down the water (i.e. the anger and resentment) that fills the dam so that the pressure to react and "let out" a dispute is lowered significantly. But in the meantime - just die to yourself and what you want to say. It is better to do that than to have the quarrel break out and with it have damage that is far worse to the relationship result.
And strangers will be filled with your strength And your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien; Proverbs 5:10
Here is an interesting and prophetic verse that deals with the aftermath of someone who pursues the immoral woman or adulteress. After stating that following this woman will guarantee that your latter years will be given to the cruel one - we read one of the ways that he will begin to wreak havoc in the adulterer's life.
Strangers will be filled with your strength. This is an interesting verse because it has to do with the cost of adultery. We need to remember that under Old Testament law an adulterer would be put to death if caught having adultery. So this speaks of a more merciful sentence - possibly a financial one. But as the adulterer toils away to pay the cost of his sexual escapades, he sees that the promise of pleasure has turned into a cost that was far more than he thought it would be. Even if he is not given the death sentence, he is forced to pay and pay dearly.
The second thing that happens is that your hard-earned goods will go to the house of an alien. Once again this pictures punishment financially for having sex with another man's wife. The adulterer works hard - but he does not receive any of the benefit of his labor. Instead, he has to face the fact that all his hard work is worthless - because it is going to someone else.
Today, we do not have adultery laws that promise death to the one caught in adultery. But these verses are still true today. Now we have something called alimony and child support. The man who commits adultery will have to deal with the fact that his former wife may divorce him. Since sexual infidelity is the reason for it - often the courts will make the man pay for his misconduct - literally pay. They will set child support and alimony for his actions to destroy his marriage. Now, when he works hard to bring home a paycheck - he does not see it coming to him - to make him wealthier. Instead he watches as it is given to others - not himself. Many divorced men lose up to 50% of their income when this happens.
Wisdom allows us to see the long term liabilities of sexual immorality and adultery. Some only hear the siren song of the adulteress - and are deaf to the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks where they soon will be destroyed. Wisdom opens our eyes to what this is going to cost us - and that price is steep indeed. Some still plunge on into the abyss and pay for it later. But my hope is that many will read these words and see that nothing good can come of an adulterous relationship. And hopefully seeing these things will wisen them up to make a good decision when they are faced with sexual temptations. Hopefully they will see the destruction down the road and avoid that exit altogether.
The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps. Proverbs 16:9
Who controls the events of this world? Ever wonder that in an ultimate way? Solomon had great wisdom in this regard because he had a good grasp on reality. He understood that though a man may think he determines his own way by planning and by careful thought - that ultimately God is the One who directs his steps. To some this is a very disturbing reality.
James wrote about this same thing when he said, "Come now, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.' Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. "
What an interesting thing we have before our eyes here. God wants us to consider His will and plans ultimate in our lives. We are not to think that we can plan to do whatever we want and thus think our way is made plain. We are to say, "Lord, if it is Your will, I will do this - and may it be for Your glory and to adance Your agenda and purposes on earth." James then warns us that we cannot move our lives in any direction unless God is pleased with that choice. The fact that we have another day to live is a gift from Him - and we should never take that for granted. The truth is that when we take our days for granted - we are guilty of arrogant boasting before God.
Men plan their way. That is a simple fact of life. God is not against planning - just against those who think that they determine their lives by their planning alone. Plans can be good things when they are submitted to the Lord. They become bad things when they are contrary to what God desires in your life. He still may allow you to plan your way and work your plan. Yet, He will direct your steps. You are not a free agent to do whatever you want or please. Your way will ultimately be directed by Almighty God - and whether you serve Him or not - He will even take your rebellion and clothe Himself in it - to prove to you and everyone else that His purposes are the ones that will stand in the end. Anyone who thinks otherwise will no longer think that way when they face the ultimate judgment at His throne.
History is littered with examples of men who thought they could conquer and change the world. In the end their lives were brought to their end - and God even used their arrogance in His ultimate plans and purposes to bring Jesus Christ to this world to die for sin and be raised to life. The Pharisees and Saducees thought that they would control things - and planned to kill Him by having the Romans crucify Him. Even that supposed plan of men was used by our sovereign God to accomplish salvation for His people. No man ultimately controls his steps. They are directed by God to achieve what He desires in this world. What a wise man would do when faced with this self-disturbing truth is humble himself and turn to the Lord. He would learn to live by the will of God. This way his works will be profitable - as He does the will of God. He can enjoy being God's workmanship, created for good works that the Lord has planned beforehand - so that he may walk in them. This way no aspect of life is wasted on the lie that a man controls his own destiny.
The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, But everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty. Proverbs 21:5
Planning, to some this word is a blessing - to others (and honestly, I have to say I'm among this number) it is a difficult area of their lives. Yet the Lord has some very pointed things to say here to us about the blessing that comes from diligent planning rather than hastily put together things that happen at the last minute.
We read first here that the plans of the diligent surely lead to advantage. The word "plans" will help us to see what is meant here. The word means a thought, purpose, or intention. The idea is that we are thinking through things - considering their purpose and intention - and therefore laying plans that will not only plan an event - but also plan it with a sense of purpose in what it is to accomplish. Here is something which every believer should seriously consider.
God has given us the few years we have on this earth as a gift - but also as a responsibility and a trust. How we use these years are important. Do we have a purpose behind the things we are doing? Are they working for us an eternal destiny and an eternal reward - or are we just committing "chonicide" (just killing time). Too many times our lives are just being lived with no real purpose or intention behind what we are doing. That leads to a wasted life.
Solomon is telling us that the plans laid with a sense of purpose and intention to live for God's glory and purposes - are beneficial to us. But they are not just haphazard plans - these are plans that are set in place with "diligence." This word means something sharp and industrious. It refers to those people who are living industrious lives that are sharp in their focus and intent. The root word for this referred to a sharp threshing sledge. This was used to cut the harvest - and was sharpened to make the job easier and more effective. One might complain of the time spend with a wetstone or file sharpening the metal. This is hard work after all - and it takes time to sharpen something well. But if you are having to cut entire fields of grain - you know that the few moments spent sharpening your tool can save hours of time and much additional effort. So plans laid by someone who thinks through purpose and intent can make living life much easier and more focused.
These kind of plans lead surely to advantage. Here is one of the times when I prefer the King James translation to the NASB. The word here means an abundance. It refers to an abundance of profit, materials, harvest, or whatever the word refers to and modifies. It can also mean advantage or a more favorable position - a superior one to someone who has not planned and thought through their actions. When you plan - you will have abundance and advantage over those who have not thought these things through well. Planning does not negate labor and faithful effort at a task. But it does halp ensure that the labor and effort invested is leading to a desired end.
This way of living is compared to someone who is hasty. The hasty man is the one who prefers reacting to life - than planning it. The problem is that reacting to our circumstances can have us being led, not by our purpose and intent, but rather by whatever happens. Circumstances begin being our leader - rather than us seeking to control many of our circumstances by moving in a planned direction and way. When you live this way, the result is poverty. Just as the plans of the diligent man will surely lead to an abundance and advantage - the lack of planning and diligent effort doing something well - will eventually lead us to poverty.
God wants us to live on purpose. He does not want us to spend our lives just reacting to whatever happens. We can do much to guide our lives according to His principles if we will just spend time learning them and directing our lives according to them. We will find that God's Word gives us a path - gives us counsel on how to live and how to plan to do things that God desires. This will ensure that we live a life God blesses - not just one that He tries to guide through whatever emergency happens next. To do this - with diligence and purpose . . . is wisdom indeed.
When a wicked man dies, his expectation will perish, And the hope of strong men perishes. Proverbs 11:7
The true test of a man and his choices is how he dies. More accurately it is what happens to him after he dies. That is what this proverb addresses today.
When a wicked man dies - everything dies with him. He has no expectations beyond this world. During his life he lived for the things of this world - and now that he is dead - he has to face the fact that he lost everything at the moment he died. You leave it ALL behind. The wicked man's expectation was centered in this world. He bet his entire life that this was all that there is - that there is no afterlife. He figured that all he did will speak for him on that day.
The fact is that the moment the wicked man dies - things will never get any better than the moment before his death. Any good perishes the moment he perishes. All that he can look forward to from that moment on is the wrath of God. Jesus spoke to the rich man who was in torment in flame after death. He reminded him that he received his good things in this life. He rejected God - rejected serving God - and rejected living for God rather than for his own selfish agenda. He bet that God did not exist - that heaven was just a state of mind - that judgment day was just a device used by Christian preaches to get people to walk down the aisle at church. He was radically wrong! God is real - and He is holy and just. The strong man and the complete weakling are identical before the throne of God. The strong man does not want to humble himself before the Lord. But no matter what he does - his hope and his expectation perish before the Lord.
There are times when we can learn from the wicked. The first two funerals I ever did were for two people who were lost. As I worked through the service - I felt completely helpless and unable to offer a lot of hope for those who had died. This was because the hope and expectation of the wicked perish when they do. When death made its play for them they lost everything. The lesson I learned from them was to be prepared for the ultimate loss of all earthly things. Death will rob a wicked man of everything he owns and everything he has hoped for in life. I learned that I need to live for things that last beyond the grave. I need to live for the spiritual reality that will continue throughout eternity. I need to be prepared to die - and to have an expectation that goes beyond my trip to the funeral hope and graveyard. Jesus promises life eternal - a reward that goes beyond the grave. The wise man . . . places his hope and expectation in Jesus Christ.
The sluggard does not plow after the autumn, So he begs during the harvest and has nothing. Proverbs 20:4
Planning and preparation for the future provision is something that God encourages. Here we read about the sluggard and lazy man again. We read about how he does not want to work when he should be working. In the autumn a good farmer should be plowing so that he is ready to put in a crop. The sluggard does not want to plow - because he cannot see past the nose on his face when it comes to the future. Instead the sluggard has many more important things he thinks he needs to be doing. Most likely these things are play rather than work. So he applies himself to his own lazy pursuits and pays for it dearly in the end.
We read that when the harvest comes, the sluggard is begging for food. He has nothing because he has done nothing. While those who have planned and worked hard reap the fruits of their labor, the sluggard is looking at the big pile of nothing his laziness has provided for him. He is out begging - and playing the poor, pitiful me card.
I'm about to say something that needs to be said in our society. There are two kinds of needy people in the world today. There are the truly needy who have fallen on hard times. They are willing to work and desire to do the right thing - but for reasons beyond their control either health or other factors have put them in need. These people deserve our help and support through their difficult times. We want to offer them a hand up - because that is what they truly want - a hand up - as they regain their footing. They do not want a hand out - because their desire in the end is to be working and being self-sufficient once again. The second kind of needy person is the sluggard. He is the one who is needy because of his own lack of character and neglect. He does not work hard - he doesn't want to work at all. He is lazy and preoccupied with his leisure and desire for others to provide for him. To help this man is to hurt him in the end. What this man needs is to experience hunger and true desperation. He will cry out that others who are diligent and hard working have an unfair advantage. He will cry out that they get all the breaks - while he gets nothing. He will cry out that what government should do is tax and take from the diligent and give to those less fortunate. The problem is his "less-fortunate-ness" is his own doing - or lack of doing as this verse points out. To reward him with provision is to simply encourage him to continue in his laziness. What the sluggard needs is not a hand out - but a hand upside his head. He needs a serious reality check - and some hard knocks that will shake him out of his lethargy.
Scripture never begrudges providing for the truly poor and needy. But the same Bible that speaks of giving to the poor - also warns us that some of the poor are that way by slothful choice. These are the ones who need more than just some help financially - they need a serious fundamental moral change when it comes to their work ethic. When we offer them THAT help - we are truly helping them where their need is greatest.
But in the end she is bitter as wormwood, Sharp as a two-edged sword. Proverbs 5:4
Where does immorality and adultery take you? What do they leave you in the end? This is what is told to us today in the proverb of the day. It is wise for us to think about this soberly - because in the heat of the moment - sexual immorality and adultery seem to hold so much promise - promise of sensual pleasure - a feeling of being loved and cared for by someone who thinks your special - a promise that someone really thinks you are sexy. All these things dominate the mind at the moment - and they cloud it terribly so that we cannot see the horror that will come in the end. The end . . . there is a reminder all by itself. "Acharith" is the Hebrew word for "the end." It is a word that means after it is over, or, in the latter end. It speaks of thinking of where all this is going to end. What will be the result of my actions and attitudes? What will all this lead to in the end? What a great question for everything we do - but especially for the one who is being led by his or her own desires into sexual immorality and adultery.
Note in the previous verse we learn that the adulteress' speech is "smoother than oil" and that her words "drip honey." She is quite the winder of words, the adulteress is. The problem is that in all the honey-dripping promise - her words deliver something quite different in the end. The latter end of her words are "bitter as wormword." Wormwood is the most bitter taste you can imagine. Commentators say wormwood is excessively bitter. She leaves a bitter taste in your mouth in the end. All promise at the beginning - all bitterness and pain in the end. Think about the broken family - about the STD - about the divorce - about the shame and disgrace. These are the things that will taste like wormwood and cut like a two-edged sword. We don't think like this about sexual immorality because the enemy is doing all he can to keep us from thinking wisely like this. Only think about your pleasure - but never mind the pain that will last for days and years - for what - 15 minutes of pleasure. Pretty stupid trade off if you ask anyone. But we don't think of the consequences of our actions. Instead too many just stumble along like an animal led to slaughter. And they will continue stumbling along - blind to the end of the matter. But the wise will think - will consider - will weigh things not just by the instant gratification they hold - but more importantly by how things will feel a day, a week, a month, or a year later. They will also realize that enough of these "instant pleasure trips" will amount to a lifetime of pain and regret. That is what we need to help us turn away from the adulteress - not matter how much honey she uses to season her lying words.
Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:26-27
Wondering in advance is one of the practices of those who are wise. It helps us to consider what is ahead of us when we make certain decisions. As we see the future laid out before us - and we see the consequences of our actions, both good and bad, suddenly choices that we have to make are much easier to make.
Watch means to weight out or to ponder. The idea here is that someone is pondering evil and then choosing to avoid it. It means to seriously think about the path your feet are going to take - and choose to take them in a direction pleasing to the Lord. Sometimes we don't think enough about the path of our feet. We just act and go along with our lives. We don't take the time to think about where we're going - what we're doing - and where it is going to lead when things reach a conclusion.
We are told that if we will do this we will have all our ways established. Ways is "derek" which again is the Hebrew word that refers to our lifestyle - the way we're going in life. To have that way or that lifestyle established means to have it firm and fixed. It means our lifestyle is one that is upright and good. We will have a life that matters and just as important - one that will be steadfast in what pleases and honors the Lord. There is also a sense in which we are being told our lives will last - whereas the worldling and the wicked man will only be temporary.
When we look at the way of our feet, we need to know not to turn to the right or the left. This is assuming that our feet are on God's paths and ways and not our own. When we turn to the right or the left, we are choosing to depart from God's paths and walk in our own, the world's ways, or those of the devil. Which ever of these three are true, we will find ourselves in a way that is wrong - and ultimately a way that will hurt and cost us.
The only turn we should make in life is one away from evil. The word "turn" here is a Hebrew word that means to go away from something, to desert it, to quit, to keep far away. When we see evil we need to remove ourselves from it - depart - honesly - RUN! To hang around evil is to court its greater influence in our lives. When we see evil we should hide ourselves from it. The longer we remain in the presence of evil, the more likely we are to participate in it. Thus the wise man runs from evil.
Think about where you're going. It is important to do this - to consider our lives and examine them from time to time. It is too easy to begin to wander from the ways of God - too easy to take a path that leads us away from the Lord. That is why this Proverb helps us so much - it encourages us to think through where our journey reaches its destination. We think about the end of things. When we do this - we will see the wisdom of turning away from evil and keeping clear of the wicked one and his ways.
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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