Proverbs 31:16-29 She considers a field and buys it; From her earnings she plants a vineyard. She girds herself with strength And makes her arms strong. She senses that her gain is good; Her lamp does not go out at night. She stretches out her hands to the distaff, And her hands grasp the spindle.
This is the third day that we have looked at qualities of the excellent wife. In the verses we look at today we see that this particular woman that Bathsheba is describing for her son is an industrious woman. Let’s look at the ways that she walks out her industriousness.
First we see that she knows real estate – or at least how to “consider” a field in which she plans to plant a vineyard. The word here for “consider” is “zamam” and it means to speak to oneself in a low voice or a quiet one. The concept here is that of deliberating on something. It meant to formulate a plan of action – from beginning to end – and then counsel with yourself to make sure that the plan is a good one. It represents the inner thought process one has as they seek God and even converse within themselves when making a very important decision. For the excellent wife, this decision concerns whether a field is worth purchasing. This includes the thought of whether the field is acceptable for agriculture (in this case to plant a vineyard). Then it moves on to whether she has the money to make the purchase – as well as whether the field is going to be profitable in the endeavor. This lady is not a wall-flower – and neither is she so delicate that she shuns hard work.
The second thing we see is that this woman is strong. She has girded her arms with strength. This strength is not from going to the gym all the time – but rather from good, old-fashioned hard work. She is planting a vineyard – working a field, then coming home to grasp the distaff and spindle to make yarn and eventually fabric from which to clothe and bless her family. Whatever the work – it is a good thing to have a wife who knows how to work hard. All this is delightful to her – for she senses that her work is good. She sees that the things she is doing are going to be a blessing to her family. She is earning money from which they can be blessed. She is planting a vineyard from which they can get grapes, grape juice, and wine. She is working hard to turn the lamb and sheep’s wool and cotton into cloth and eventually garments for her, her family, her servants, and even those to whom she sells them later in the passage. She even works in the evening time – not having her lamp go out at night for the purpose of blessing those whom she loves.
The excellent wife knows work – knows strength that comes from work – and senses and knows that a good work ethic is a blessing to her and to her family. First there is the direct gain to herself that comes from it. It is a good thing to desire to bless ourselves with our work. There is a self-interest that God has built into each of us that is beneficial to us if we use it to work hard. That self-interest though must go to bless others around us as well. The excellent wife wanted to bless her husband, her children, her servants, and even the men and women in the city as she worked hard to produce things of benefit. That selfless self-interest is what drives a beneficial economy. Things like socialism and communism have NEVER blessed a country and its economy. That is because they do not encourage work ethic. They do not encourage a selfless self-interest to be productive. They encourage instead a growing dependence on government as the driver of all things – and the one that determines who gets what in the end. Everywhere that has been practiced it has encouraged laziness and greater dependence on someone to give us more and more – even if we did not work to get it. The excellent wife knows that her example of hard work will do more than give the family a few more shekels. She will promote that same hard working ethic in her children and in others around her. She will provide goods for others – and will show people that hard work and frugality does bring blessing on those who practice it. In the end, the excellent wife knows that there is more to this than raising grapes . . . she needs to raise children and their children to many generations with the same hard-working mindset. That will last far longer than a bunch of grapes or any other products she labors to produce.
When the grass disappears, the new growth is seen, And the herbs of the mountains are gathered in, The lambs will be for your clothing, And the goats will bring the price of a field, And there will be goats' milk enough for your food, For the food of your household, And sustenance for your maidens. Proverbs 27:25-27
These last three verses of Proverbs 27 are additional commentary on verses 23-24. Thus they deal with keeping watch or being aware of your flocks and herds. These verses are practical commentary on that activity. They are also very helpful to us who desire to build and maintain a godly work ethic in ours or any other society.
The first statement here seems like common sense to us. It speaks of the fact of the seasons and how one who tills the ground needs to be aware of them. When the grasss disappears, then the new growth is seen. There will be a time each year when the grass of the field dies in the fall and winter. The farmer is also reminded that during this time the herbs of the mountains need to be gathered into the barns. Again, this may seem like something that does not need to be said. The reason it is said is because, due to the fall, men are undisciplined and lazy. There is only a brief window of time that this can be done - and if not done at this time - the farmer will lose yield. If left undone for a long period of time - he will lose everything to decay, mildew, and decomposition.
This has something to say to us. We may not have grass oriented crops like hay, wheat, or barley. We may not have herbs on the mountains that should be gathered and put away for use in the next year. We do have responsibilities that fall to us though. Many of these things need to be done promptly. How many have received a late notice on a bill because we did not pay it "in season." Will this keep us out of heaven? No it won't, but for many it will mean anywhere from 20-50 dollars of lost wealth because we did not act "in season" to get something done that requires diligence in a certain time line.
More is said to us in verses 26-27, this time about principles of building and using wealth. Note that we are told that the lambs will be for our clothing. There is a reason to do all that the farmer does. He does not just grow grass. He diversifies into raising livestock. He has lambs that are for clothing. He has goats he milks not just for his own family to drink, but to sell so that he can buy a field with the profit. There is the wisdom of provision for oneself, and for the continued growth of wealth and provision for a family and a growing number of people who are dependent on your growing enterprises. Mentioned here are one's own household as well as one's maidens. Thus a wise man knows that the current level of wealth and provision today needs to be expanded as he expands his family and his business. What does this require? Hard work - and an attention to detail - at least an attention to doing things as they need to be done.
What is the wisdom for us today then, in light of these verses? The first wise thing we are to learn is that opportunity for blessings comes and goes. If we are not alert to the seasons of God's working, we will miss the blessing being unaware or lazy. Within the framework of His seasons, we need to act and work hard. The second piece of wisdom offered is this, our work blesses us for today - and for the future. The lifestyle lived from paycheck to paycheck is not a wise way to live. We work in such a way to bless us with today's provision - and to make wise choices for expansion of that provision as God blesses. The wise man lives in the moment and is thankful for what God has given him. There can be a danger of having greed enter our minds so that we make Nabalish choices to be selfish and self-centered. The rich farmer who thought his riches were only for his current enjoyment and pleasure found his soul in hell because he was not living for eternity. This, though, does not justify us in being foolish in expanding what we do for the sake of added family provision. There will be children and grandchildren. There will be expanded business opportunity that will bless additional employees. There will be changes in the market - changes in society - and changes even in the weather and providence. We should be wise enough to learn how to read such things and make adequate provision for them as God guides us.
Being godly and wise does not mean throwing our brains away. We can acquire business acumen and wisdom concerning how to be more productive. We can build a business while trusting and relying upon the Lord. That is what is being said here. May God give us wisdom to look to Him day by day - and yet still be wise enough to provide for an expanded future of blessings all as we look to Him for the blessings of today's provision and tomorrow's expansion.
Know well the condition of your flocks, and pay attention to your herds; for riches are not forever, nor does a crown endure to all generations. Proverbs 27:23-24
This verse in Proverbs kicks off a section that deals with diligence, as well as the fact of change in life. The wisdom offered here is to pay attention to things in your life because the one thing that will never change is that there is going to be change in your life. Time will march on whether you are paying attention to the parade or not. The danger posed to us by this is that life will change, either financially, politically, or spiritually and we will be caught off-guard by it.
One of the most effective ministries anywhere in the world is the ministry of neglect. This is an unintended ministry where we get busy in our lives - and neglect to watch over our finances, our marriage, our children, our business - even our own spiritual growth. Over time the ministry of neglect grows. Most people do not grasp what this ministry is doing until they are jolted as to its presence by a "suddenly-serious" problem. These are things that have been building up (or breaking down in many circumstances) and then make their appearance suddenly to us.
One of the best ways to describe this is to make reference to my very patient, very gracious wife. As a guy, I have a tendency to get over-focused in my life. As a result, I have had a pretty amazing track record of having the ministry of neglect in a number of areas of my life. What usually happens is that my precious bride wakes me out of my responbility slumber and alerts me to a way in which my life is in the process of falling apart. Whether it is in regard to my relationship with her - the rearing of our children - our finances - or any number of other things, I am usually shocked to see that there are problems. This rude awakening is a reminder that I truly do need to pay attention to things - many things - far better. The rude awakening is followed by - regret - conviction - repentance - and a flurry of action to put things right. Oh, and occasionally by being mad. The anger is experienced two ways - first I'm mad that someone is interrupting my stupidity (because at the time I don't see how stupid I'm being). Second, I am mad at myself for being so stupid - and letting things fall into disrepair through my ministry of neglect.
For the next couple of days, I want to look deeper into what is means to avoid having the ministry of neglect in your life. Before we are done, we'll look at several areas where this is important. We will examine the ministry of neglect and its affect on our personal lives, on our family, on our jobs or businesses, on our churches, and finally even on our nation and those who rule over us in the political structures under which we live. The ministry of neglect can be a very dangerous thing - if we continue in it. It is my hope that over the next several days we can strengthen the ministry of diligence - or said in a more eye-opening way - the ministry of true love.
There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling of the wise, But a foolish man swallows it up. Proverbs 21:20
The wise man takes what God has given him and uses it wisely. He spends some and uses it for himself, his family, and his friends. He also saves some and puts it away for future use as well as for lean times. Today let's take a look at the acts of the wise man who saves for his future and the foolish man who simply swallows everything God grants to him.
We are told that precious treasure and oil are in the house of the wise man. Whether he received these things from the practices of industry and frugality - or whether he received them as an inheritance from godly, thoughtful parents - the wise man knows how to save. Precious treasure is an interesting word as it has two connotations. The first is from how the word is used to refer to things like gold, silver, and other commodities. He saves money, food, and other valuable things so that he will have access to them in the future. Why does he do this? Because a wise man knows that since the world in which we live is fallen and affected by sin - there will be times of shortage and leanness. Throughout all human history there have been both abundance and famine in our world. Joseph knew such things from God Himself when he interpreted the dreams of Pharaoh. He did not waste time in the purcuit of gluttony and over-indulgence. Joseph was a wise man and saved and stored much so that when the famine came he would be ready. His foresight and obedience to God saved all of Egypt, saved his own family, and made Egypt rich beyond their imaginations.
There is a second way this word "treasure" is used. The word can also mean "temple treasures." These spoke of treasures that were given so as to build up and maintain the worship of God in the temple. In the dwelling of the wise there is provision stored up not only for physical welfare - but for the spiritual welfare of the home as well. There is little more foolish among mankind than to think this world is all that there is. They live ignorant of God and ignorant of their responsiblity to Him. The wise man stores up for both the physical and the spiritual. There is in his house a physical inheritance - but also a spiritual one as well. He lives godly and rears his children to love and honor God. He makes sure that the Word dwells richly within their hearts - desiring for them to walk with God and know Him intimately.
Not only is there treasure within this house of the wise, there is also oil. When speaking of oil - this could speak of the olive oil that was used in almost every aspect of a Jewish family. They needed this for food preparation - for spiritual worship for annointing oil - and for medical reasons like softening wounds and helping them heal. There was also the idea of savings - because some oils were very expensive. Mary offered a container of very expensive oil as she annointed Jesus with it in preparation for His crucifixion and burial. This alabaster vial was worth a whole year's wages. When one of the prpohetic students of Elisha died, his widow was in debt and in danger of haring her chidlren sold into debt slavery. Elisha answered this by having her collect numerous vials which later were supernaturally filled with oil. This she sold, paid her debt, and even had plenty to kep her and her children alive and well. This kind of oil would signify that a family was preparint for their future - for the needs of their children and grandchildren. On a spiritual note - oil was a picture of the Holy Spirit - so one could even consider this the way that a family cherished the work of the Spirit in their lives and encouraged it in themselves and in their children.
The foolish ones don't save any of these things - either physical or spiritual. Theirs is a consumer mentality. They swallow up whatever they receive with no thought of the future. They live by their lusts and desires - and therefore do not even consider anyone except themselves. The end of such a life is that they are broke, both physically and spiritually. The saddest example of this is the prodigal son. He took a large inheritance and wasted it on the party life. In the end he was broke. His so-called friends abandoned him and left him to fend for himself. This was only after he abandoned any kind of spiritual preparation for the future by rejecting his father and his father's God. He was left with nothing - except the grace his faher would give him in the end.
If we are wise we will realize we live in a fallen world. This will necessitate preparation for our future - both physically and spiritually. We will face famines physically that will require that lay up wise stores for that day in order for us and for our families to survive. But there is also a need to prepare spiritually - for there will also be a day when we will face being ready for the judgment of God. Oh to be wise and understanding so that our preparations will have our homes and lives filled with treasures both temporal and eternal so that we will be well provided for when the day comes that we need them. May God, in His grace, work in and deliver us from a life lived for self and for the moment. May we be ready for anything - famine in life - and fatal spiritual thinking in eternity.
Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand. Proverbs 19:21
There is a practice among Christians - and honestly - I am ashamed to admit that I have followed this practice at times in my life. The practice of which I speak is that of making plans - carrying them out - and then later blaming them on God or on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Let me give you an example of this practice. There was a time when I really wanted to do a certain thing. Over time this plan, which was in my heart, began to dominate my mind and my thinking. One day I decided that I would do it - and honestly - without really taking it to the Lord and seeing if it was His will or not. As "the plans of my heart" continued to be implemented, I would tell people that God had led me to do this - or that the Holy Spirit put this on my heart. Well, as with all plans of men that arise out of their flesh - the plans of my heart crashed and burned. But now my resposne was to tell people God was responsible for leading me into them.
This kind of thing happens again and again in the Christian world. There are people who promise and swear that God is the One who led them into a certain choice or action - when it is pretty clear from a study of Scripture that this choice is unscriptural. I've had people tell me that God was leading them to divorce their wife. I've had young ladies tell me that God was the one who led them to date a non-Christian. They joyfully asserted that God was going to bring their young man to Christ. In the end - someone was converted - but it was not the non-Christian. That is why today's proverb is so important for us to understand.
There are many plans in the hearts of men. These plans reside in a heart that is fallen - and in a heart and mind that desperately needs repentance. As a result, as Paul has said, their understanding is darkened - and they are unable to come to godly decisions. "But I am a Christian," some will assert - as if simply being a Christian guarantees that we will always make decisions in concert with the will of God. The fact is that if we are not renewing our minds with the Word of God we are prone to fatal errors in judgment. The fact is that if we are not denying ourselves, taking up our cross, and following Christ - we will be sadly mistaken about a myriad of things. The fact is that if we are not trusting in the Lord with all our heart, not leaning on our own understanding - acknowledging Him in all our ways - He will not be directing our paths. The fact is without these things happening daily - and even hourly - we will be directing our own paths. The "many plans" that dwell in our heart naturally - will be what lead us.
The proverb today tells us that it is, "the counsel of the Lord" that will stand in the end. What is the "counsel of the Lord?" In previous posts we have seen that this word "counsel" refers not to advice given that we can either choose to follow or not. It is not just God's opinion on something that we can reject. The word means counsel that is given that is expected to be followed. This is God's Word - the Scriptures - and when God offers His counsel on a matter - that matter is decided. To do anything else is now disobedience and rebellion against God. I know that sounds harsh to our post-modern way of thinking - but what has post-modernism brought us that will stand in the end?
This proverb is kind of a warning to us. The warning is this . . . you have many plans in your heart. This fact is not denied. The problem is that your plans are not guaranteed to stand. They may be good ideas or they may be bad ones. You may even have plans that succeed according to the ways of this present world. But the fact is that the only plans that will stand are God's plans. Nothing else will stand - ever. And please understand that God is speaking on an eternal basis. It is one thing to have our plans blessed in the short term - but quite another for them to be blessed now, and forever more. Psalm 73 speaks of how David saw the wicked prospering and almost lost his faith over it. But then he came into the sanctuary and into God's counsel. He saw that although their plans were doing well for the short term - in the long term there were serious - even infinite problems with their way of living. In the end they were destroyed and consumed. They fell all at once - and there was no recovery for them. Their plans - all those plans that were in their heart - led them to a short term prosperity here and now . . . but to an eternal judgment in the long term because they had no regard for the counsel of the Lord.
Here is a quick way to make sure your plans are blessed beyond the short-term. Consider how your plans will fare at the judgment seat of Christ. Think using the Scriptures. Think and consider your plans with an eternal outlook. I can guarantee you that a billion years into the afterlife - no one will be patting themselves on the back in hell. They won't be joking about how good they had it back during the 60-70 years they were alive and doing their own thing - living according to the "plans that were in their own heart." They won't find it comforting to see how they "outsmarted God" for a few years while they ignored all His warnings about their choices and behavior. What will be of comfort for all eternity is the fact that God's counsel stood - and will stand forever. The plans of His heart will be established and therefore, it is that counsel and those plans that we should seek to know and follow.
He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things; He who compresses his lips brings evil to pass. Proverbs 16:30
A wise man can read people's faces and expressions - with the result being that of being warned against those who are planning perverse and evil things. In the Jewish world the winking of an eye was considered an evil thing. This kind of facial movement was consistently condemned as we read in Proverbs 6:13 as well as in Proverbs 10:10 where we learn that the one who winks an eye is doing so to cause trouble. Even in Psalm 35:19 this is seen as an ungodly thing, where we read of those who "wink maliciously" as they plot evil. Such a wink is considered part of the shiftiness of those who are plotting and scheming against others. Therefore the godly man who is wise will note such things and weigh their words on the basis of their signals.
Note that the "winker" is one who is devising "perverse things." The word for "perverse" is "tahpukah" which means to deviate and distort God's ways. It is interesting that when men are acting perverse, they are first seeking to pervert God's ways. They are deceptive in their intent and are corrupt as they speak. There is a perversity in their hearts that disregards God's Word and His ways as they plot their evil and their conquest of others.
We are also warned about those who "compress their lips." We are told that they do this to bring evil to pass. The picture that we should get is someone who is putting their lips together and pressing them tightly. This expression, as we are told by several Hebrew commentators, is a sight of anger, rage, bitterness, and disgust. The one who does this has no good planned. There will be an "evil" that will come to pass from such a man.
Wise men notice a man's visage and face. The face of those who are godly and loving will be one that is glowing and hides nothing from others. They are usually people filled with joy and with the peace that arises from having a relationship with God where they have been justified and declared righteous in His sight by the gift of His grace. The wicked man cannot hide the evil that resides in his heart. It is etched into his face - and in the tightness of one whose true motives cannot be brought to the surface for fear that they will be exposed for what they are - perverse and filled with misery and evil. Read a face, dear saints of God, and you will often understand a heart.
Without consultation, plans are frustrated, But with many counselors they succeed.
What needs to be done to make sure our plans succeed? Today's proverb gives us that information. We find that the counsel God gives us on this helps us to grasp that to be a good leader who is able to make and succeed in plans, we do not need to be someone who can do it all themselves. Contrary to that thought - a good leader is one who when making plans is willing to consult with others. A great leader is one who also regularly consults with God.
Counsel is absolutely necessary when making good plans. Our passage today reminds us that plans are broken and frustrated when we do not do this. The word for frustration here is "parar" which means to break, divide, or frustrate. What is interesting is that the Bible speaks several times to the effect that God is the One Who will frustrate our plans if we do not seek Him in the midst of making them. What is even more fascinating is that we read in Isaiah 14:27, that the Lord's purposes cannot be frustrated. This leads us to the conclusion that the best plans are those made in concert with the will of God. Those are the plans that will stand - and will be established.
The second word that is interesting, especially in light of our plans and purposes needing to be those of God, is the word "consultation." This word is the Hebrew word, "sod" which means counsel or advice. The word has with it the concept of confidentiality and intimacy. Thus this refers to what some would call, "intimate counsel." The idea is that of great intimacy with the one from whom you are receiving counsel. Thus we come to the conclusion that in order to make solid, successful plans we need to have an intimacy with God. This takes planning out of a boring, man-centered process - and puts it into the category of fellowship and intimacy with God. If we lack this intimacy with God in planning - seeking His heart and His purposes to be fullfilled - we can expect some level of frustration and a fracturing of our plans.
When we have many counselors our plans succeed. The reason for this is because many counselors will help us to see our thinking and our personal planning from multiple perspectives. This will help us not fall into the trap of our own personal agenda taking over our plans. Another way of saying this is it keeps us from planning in the flesh. There will be enough feedback and counsel to rescue us from just doing what we want.
Planning is a good thing, but it breaks down when we make it too "me-centric." We are not farsighted enough to see everything that needs to be seen. We are too selfish not to see that we need multimple perspectives on a planned undertaking. The wise man therefore surrounds himself with a group of people who will help him see through another perspective than his own. The wiser man also spends much time in the presence of the Lord as he seeks to know what is the best course of action - and the best way to make his plans. This man will succeed.
A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil, But a fool is arrogant and careless. Proverbs 14:16
Why is it wise to be cautious in our choices and decisions in life? It is because we live in a world that has fallen. I know that those of you who read this regularly in these posts may think that I emphasize this too often, but I fear that we do not fully grasp at times what mankind's rebellion against God has wrought in this world.
Today's proverb tells us that a wise man fears. That is the literal translation of the word "cautious" here. It refers to the fact that the wise man fears God. He fears God becasue he reads of God's Word - God's glory, power, majesty, and holiness - and he fears displeasing and dishonoring Him. Wisdom tells us to fear God's displeasure. Wisdom also tells us that there is a way that is evil.
Here is where we run into some very serious worldview problems with the world and its philosophies. The majority of worldviews do not take into account the fall of man into sin and the subsequent ruin of this world. They consider man's basic nature as good. As a result you will hear people tell others to, "Just trust what is in your heart." That is not wise or good advice. What is in our hearts is rebellion toward God and a bent toward sin. We will choose with an astounding regularity contrary to God's ways. This is because there is within us a bent toward selfishness - and a bent away from God. The wise man knows this - and as a result is cautious - and does fear making decisions and choices that run contrary to God's Word. This is the place he turns for wisdom - to the Word - because it gives us an objective revelation of Who God is and what He has said. Thus he takes time in making those decisions to check for God's will and favor in things.
The fool though is said to be arrogant and careless. He is arrogant because he thinks he does not need anything to make wise decisions. He doesn't need anyone to tell him what to do - especially a "God" Who knows all things. He considers the Bible to be an ancient document that has no bearing on his life or his decisions. His arrogance is manifest by how he views himself - as just fine and having NO need of refinement - let alone a fundamental change in who he is or how he makes decisons. Therefore he is careless - he does not care about God, about God's Word, about God's will. He will make his own way. His favorite verse is an interesting rendition of Proverbs 3:4-5. It goes something like this, "Trust in yourself, and lean heavily on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge yourself and what you want. Forge your own path - make it what you want."
These two paths definitely diverge from one another. One heads toward God and sees God's Word as a road map and a guide for decisions - for life itself. The other sees nothing but self and a pursuit of what the world says is valuable. Even in instances where the world is not used as the standard - this one turns to his own desires and his own ways. Correspondingly, one path leads to destruction and misery - the other to life and life abundantly.
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 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.
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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