“I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me”
“ “For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the Lord. But he who sins against me injures himself; All those who hate me love death.”– Proverbs 8:17; 35-36 (NASB)
This is the voice of Wisdom speaking. The first line of Proverbs 8 says “Does not wisdom call, and understanding lift up her voice?” The writer of these proverbs knew the value of wisdom and so in this and other chapters, Wisdom is given the voice. But it is truly the voice of our Lord God. We can know this from Proverbs 2:6 “For the LORD gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” All that God says is wise and worthy to be accepted as a way to live our lives. In today’s promise we find that Wisdom loves those who love her and it is to them that she guides in the way of the Lord. The contrary promise is that those who hate Wisdom, and many do so, we find that what they love is death. Perhaps they do not think so or know so but anyone hating wisdom, so as to spurn it, is acting as if he loves death. Life comes to those who seek and find Wisdom and take it in. Praise be to God who gives us the path to wisdom and Wisdom itself becomes our gift from God.
“My son, do not lose sight of these—keep sound wisdom and discretion, and they will be life for your soul and adornment for your neck. Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble.” – Proverbs 3:21-23 (ESV)
We might take a moment to think about how much our appearance is important to us. We, well most anyway, apply some effort to ‘look presentable’ in degrees from slight to excessive. While such effort has an effect on our outward appearances, we ought to put some thought into how we might appear according to our inner-self. This is best accomplished by observing today’s cautions. That is to maintain sound wisdom and discretion and not let them drop from our sight or attention. The promise, if we do is life for our soul and ‘adornment for our neck.’ The Hebrew word for ‘adornment’ speaks of maintaining a graceful or gracious attitude toward others. Such an effort will look good on our lives. People will notice that we are people who offer grace to others. Such people tend to be humble and popular because of their manner that shines from within. Additionally, there is a promise that such ‘adornment’ being as obvious as an attractive medallion hanging around our neck provides security and stability in our daily walk. This is the means to a life above reproach which is manifesting the grace of God in our lives.
“Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding,” – Proverbs 3:13 (ESV)
Our promise in this verse from Proverbs 3 is for a blessing or to be blessed. Often the word ‘happy’ is used as a synonym for ‘blessed. By understanding that ‘blessedness’ is a mark of supreme and perfect happiness, then this interpretation should fit. Seeking to be blessed is a good desire and action. We caution to not understand this ‘happiness’ the same as the what our world seems to offer up when a person is said to be happy. Such happiness is often the result of self-centered motivation. Blessed is deeper and much more rewarding. Who it is that receives this promise in fullness? It’s the ones who ‘find’ wisdom. It’s not an accidental or chance finding such as when we find money on the sidewalk. The greater meaning of the Hebrew word for find has the sense of ‘reaches’ what one wants through purposeful ‘seeking.’ The reward of blessing is ours by acquiring the understanding of the wisdom we seek. Of course we seek to find wisdom because we need the understanding and we ‘get’ or ‘draw out’ by digging for that understanding. We are blessed with the result of our search.
“Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” – Proverbs 31:8-9 (NASB)
The last chapter of Proverbs is made up of two poems which are generally attributed to a person named King Lemuel. The more familiar is the second one called “The Excellent Wife” verses 10-31. The first is “The Wise King” verses 2-9. We don’t know much about King Lemuel, other than what is revealed in Proverbs 31. The name Lemuel means “for God” or “devoted to God.” Based on this one passage we know that Lemuel was a king, he had a wise mother, and he wrote some poetry. Many commentators have surmised that Lemuel is actually King Solomon—in which case the mother would be Bathsheba. Others suggest King Hezekiah or that Lemuel and his mother are characters created Solomon as a picture of an ideal king and queen mother. The counsel from King Lemuel’s mother is good advice for any leader of men. Plead for those who cannot plead their own case, namely those who are otherwise ruined by their condition of weakness. A country’s leaders duty was to righteously uphold the case of the helpless in both physical (v. 6) and material (v. 9). May the Lord grant us many rulers like King Lemuel heeding this advice.
“Every word of God is tested; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words or He will reprove you, and you will be proved a liar.” – Proverbs 30:5-6 (NASB)
These are “the words of Agur the son of Jakeh the oracle.” We can only suggest that Agur was an otherwise unknown sage who could have been a student or teacher of wisdom at the time of Solomon. The words are identified as an oracle which was often used of the words of a prophet. The verses or proverbs we’ve selected compare the certainty of God’s revelation and the uncertainty of our speculation of what God’s words mean. Stating that every word of God is ‘tested’ is literally translated ‘tried’ in verse 5. The same teaching comes to us in Psalm 12:6 “The words of the Lord are pure words; As silver tried in a furnace on the earth, refined seven times.” Proverbs 30:6 delivers a powerful affirmation on the inspired nature of God’s canonical Word to Israel. To add to or subtract from God’s Word is to deny God as the standard of truth. The same instruction and warning are given in Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32. It is a first and frequent practice of false teachers to modify the words of God. The Bible concludes with the warning again in Revelation 22:18-19 with a more dire warning.
“A man who hardens his neck after much reproof will suddenly be broken beyond remedy.” – Proverbs 29:1 (NASB)
It was during the reign of King Hezekiah that 137 proverbs spoken by Solomon were copied into the collection in chapters 25–29. Solomon warns us of the danger of fighting God’s will in our life. Resistance can leave us useless. In Exodus 4:21 is the first mention of a heart being hardened. The Lord’s direct and personal involvement in the affairs of men to accomplish His purposes is revealed when God informed Moses what would happen with Pharaoh. Pharaoh was also warned that his own refusal would bring judgment on him (Exodus 4:23). God told Moses that Pharaoh would certainly refuse* (Exodus 3:19). In the letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul used this hardening as an example of God’s enigmatic will and absolute power to intervene as He chooses, yet never without loss of personal responsibility for actions taken (Romans 9:16–18). The theological conundrum posed by such interplay of God’s acting and Pharaoh’s acting can only be resolved by accepting the Biblical record as it stands and by taking affirmative refuge in the omniscience and omnipotence of God who planned and delivered Israel from Egypt, and in so doing also judged Pharaoh’s sinfulness.
* This interplay between God’s hardening and Pharaoh’s hardening his heart must be kept in balance. Ten times (Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12; 10:1, 20, 27; 11:10; 14:4, 8, 17) the historical record notes specifically that God hardened the king’s heart, and ten times (Exodus 7:13, 14, 22; 8:15, 19, 32; 9:7, 34, 35; 13:15) the record indicates Pharaoh hardened his own heart.
“When a land transgresses, it has many rulers, but with a man of understanding and knowledge, its stability will long continue.” – Proverbs 28:2 (ESV)
Another promise that warns of bad actions. This is meant for the land or country ruled by unrighteous leaders. Unrighteousness in a nation produces political instability, with many vying for power. The tenure of each leader is shortened. But wisdom promotes social order and long rule. Poor leadership creates instability on a national level. This is not only true in the current state of most countries today but it has been true over the centuries before and since these proverbs were written. Avarice leads to greed for power and control. False promises abound to the point that the people of a land cease to trust what their leadership says. Does any of this sound familiar these days? There is a promise that is good and true in the second part of the proverb. We can acknowledge God’s hand in the perpetuation of the state led by men of understanding and knowledge. The long and prosperous reigns of the kings of Judah – the Southern Kingdom are strongly contrasted with the records of Israel after the ten tribes split and formed the Northern Kingdom where not a single king is called Good.
“The crucible is for silver and the furnace for gold, and each is tested by the praise accorded him.” – Proverbs 27:21 (NASB)
Praise is enjoyable often sought after as a means to shape bolster our self-image and confirm that we have what we desire from others. It is a part of our natural man to desire acclimation and approval from others. Some seek it diligently and strategically and others take it as it comes and do not live for it. No matter, we each find it very difficult to perform before others without doing the self-evaluation on “how we did.” We want to be found worthwhile, capable and proficient to do our assigned tasks. We do not attain excellence every time and sometimes we flop miserably. With our proverb today is another with a similar lesson. Proverbs 27:19; “As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects man.” Not only do we seek affirmation from our peers and the congregations but we seek it from ourselves. Our hearts reflect what we are. Looking for acceptance and even celebrity status is like spending too much time in front of a mirror fretting over our appearance. The looking glass will only return what we really are just as our heart reveal our true motivations.
“Like a madman who throws firebrands, arrows and death, so is the man who deceives his neighbor, and says, “Was I not joking?” For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, contention quiets down.” – Proverbs 26:18-20 (NASB)
Perhaps we can recognize in today’s proverb verses the effect of the anonymity that social media provides. It is too easy for one to be reckless with our words and when challenged claim “this is sarcasm.” The wild and reckless archer is referred to first in verse 10 and is a picture a troublemaker. After deceiving his neighbor he tries to duck responsibility when accused by saying “I was only joking.” But that is humor in bad taste. Deceptive words and harsh conversation, like deadly arrows, the damage to another’s reputation has already been done and rarely can be recovered. Our promise is a warning against the damage course jesting or speaking in sarcastic or disingenuous form. Rather we are encouraged to act wisely and to not add any fuel to a simmering temper and so let hard feeling calm down. Even more, keep it close to our chests and not give it the wings of gossip by whispering it in hushed tones. The better way to respond is to not employ a busy tongue which makes trouble where it does not find any.
“If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap burning coals on his head, And the Lord will reward you.” – Proverbs 25:21-22 (NASB)
Today the Proverb we look at may likely be one of the more familiar and frequently heard. The Apostle Paul quotes this in Romans 12:13 as part of his instruction for us to not seek revenge for wrongs. It is better Paul says to “leave room for the wrath of God.” What is our promise for today? It is the promise of a reward we receive by choosing a ‘better way,’ a way God has given to us on how we should be dealing with the conflicts others bring into our life. The heathen code of morals doe not contain this perfection of love. Ultimately every system concedes to selfishness which is found in the heart of every person. The common principle was to love those that love us. Enemies were expected and it was hatred and revenge that was understood by all while this principle of “heaping hot coals,” through an expression of love, resulting in an enemy’s softening was not understood. This principal was taught by Jesus as how to live ‘Kingdom life’ in Matthew 5:43-48.