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A Bowl of Lentil Soup

She does not ponder the path of life; her ways wander, and she does not know it. Proverbs 5:6     The book of Proverbs has so much to say about sexual sin because sexuality says so much about us.  How we think and act in this area is how we think and act in every other area.  This explains why Paul taught as he did in Thessalonica—a world like ours, saturated with sex.  He wanted those new believers to see that sanctification and sexual purity go hand in hand.  Read it (1 Thess. 4:2-6)!  Paul preached on the topic a lot (see Tit....

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Miss H. L.

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22     A hundred years before Freud, the famed physician and Founding Father Benjamin Rush wrote a book on “the diseases of the mind.”  Among many cases, he tells the story of a “Miss H. L.,” admitted to Pennsylvania Hospital for derangement in 1800.  After weeks of treatment with only slight improvement, “On a certain day she acknowledged” renewed love for the father she hated, and “soon after she was discharged cured.”   We might say Dr. Rush saw this proverb with his own eyes.  Emotions can make you sick...

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Of Counsels and Counselors

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety. Proverbs 11:14     In the King James translation, this proverb has suffered a lot of abuse.  Years ago, on a lonely stretch of highway in South Carolina, about dawn on a Sunday morning, my old am radio picked up a health-and-wealth preacher in the area.  He was interviewing a man who said that when he was down and out, he sent money to “Rev ______,” and now—glory be!—he was a successful ophthalmologist.  To which the “Reverend” responded—“And we need more ophthalmologists, because you know what the...

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I Have Taught You

I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.  Proverbs 4:11     Can you say what Solomon says here?  Can you say it with integrity, with sincerity, with certainty?  Can you say it of your children or grandchildren.  Can you say it of those you influence?  Can you say it?—I have taught you the way of wisdom; I have led you in the paths of uprightness.    Before you answer, let’s take a close look at what Solomon says.  First, he claims that he has taught faithfully.  He did not leave his son to his...

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When the Righteous Triumph

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves. Proverbs 28:12     How rare a thing it is When the righteous triumph!  Occasionally we see godly leaders elected or appointed (though they often disappoint us in the end!), but for most of history, the wicked triumph by hook and crook.  The righteous rarely triumph, they just get a toehold here and there.   The Protestant Reformation 500 years ago might classify as a triumph; and it certainly brought into existence a world the world had never seen before.  Nowadays, people get fired for biblical convictions.  But 250 years...

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When the Wicked Rise

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory, but when the wicked rise, people hide themselves.  When the wicked rise, people hide themselves, but when they perish, the righteous increase. Proverbs 28:12, 28     In our ESV, the end of verse 12 and the beginning of verse 28 are identical; When the wicked rise, men hide themselves.  The verses themselves (vv. 12, 28) replay a theme that weaves its way all through the book of Proverbs (cf. 11:10, 11; 29:2)—life is good when the righteous rule; but when the wicked hold the reigns, watch out!  You can’t elect scoundrels and expect Shangri-la!  Solomon...

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The End of Joy

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13     We live in a fallen world, and this fallen world is full of sorrow.  We feel Job’s lament in the marrow of our bones: Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (Job 14:1).  Life has its joys, to be sure, but sorrow reigns supreme, until in the new heavens and new earth, God wipes every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).  Till then, the joys are always mixed with sorrow.  Not without good reason does Solomon say,...

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Time and Place

. . . and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house . . . Proverbs 7:7-8     In a recent study, researchers at Ohio State University suggest that the human brain records experiences by time and place.  A memory will include many details, of course, but the hippocampus component of the brain apparently saves the “gist” of memory in terms of “where” and “when.”  (Interestingly, in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the hippocampus appears to degrade first.)  According to...

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Clothed with Rags

For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. Proverbs 23:21   Since long before WebMD or mayoclinic.org, human beings have known about hangovers and couch potatoes.  They practiced gluttony and drunkenness, of course, just like modern folk, but they knew full well that drinking and eating to excess lead to lethargy, sluggishness, drowsiness—or as Solomon says it here, slumber.   Studies have shown, by the way, that a lot of other things we do have the same effect, like watching television, playing video games, doing drugs, or surfing the web. (Thirty years ago, Mary Winn warned...

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The Way That Seems Right

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 16:25     If you’re interested, there are approximately 900 proverbs in the book of Proverbs.  (Of course, even if you’re not interested, it’s still 900.)  Of those 900 proverbs, as far as I can tell, only one is repeated verbatim: Proverbs 14:12 is identical to Proverbs 16:25, in English and in Hebrew.  Two other proverbs (12:15; 21:2) have similar beginnings—they too warn about the way that seems right.  God Himself, it seems, is driving home a point.   And the point is that what seems right...

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Wise for Yourself

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it. Proverbs 9:12     Choice is the heart and soul of Proverbs—especially here in chapter nine.  Two voices, two paths, two ways of life, two futures—the way of insight that leads to life (9:6); the way of Folly, that leads to the depths of Sheol (9:18).  No in-between.  No gray area.  Here, as everywhere in Scripture, the choice is life and blessing, or cursing and death (cf. Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:15).    The world is full of skeptics who imagine that this biblical message is some kind of...

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If

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you. Proverbs 2:1     Hebrew scholars tell us that the word if in this chapter (2:1, 3, 4) comes with an exclamation mark.  Not if, as in, “If I get this new job, I can buy a new car;” but if as in, “If I can just get a job, we can keep our house!”   The word if looks to the future, doesn’t it?  It contemplates what might happen (or not) and what the results will be.  The word if can trouble our hearts and minds.  “If that storm hits, we’ll...

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The Sluggard and Sam Cooke

  The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly. Proverbs 26:16     An old song by Sam Cooke sums up a lot of lives: “Don’t know much about history; Don’t know much biology, Don’t know much about a science book; Don’t know much about the French I took . . . But I do know that I love you; And I know that if you love me too, what a wonderful world this would be.”   That’s the sluggard in a nutshell.  He may work hard at a career or a craft, but not at truth.  He may...

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A Man of Understanding

Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.  Proverbs 19:25     Without realizing it, researchers have confirmed this remarkable observation: Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence.  Dr. Paul Howard-Jones and Dr. Rafal Bogacz at Bristol University in England used a computer game and brain scanning technology to show that people learn more from others’ mistakes than from their own mistakes (or successes).  Cutting edge psychology plays catch-up to King Solomon!   It’s true—even a simple-minded man knows better than to repeat what got somebody else in hot water; but that doesn’t...

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Caring What People Think

A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of twisted mind is despised. Proverbs 12:8     Do you care what people think about you?  Should you care?  Many would say, “no,” you shouldn’t.  In fact, it’s become pretty fashionable these days not to care what people think—complete with books, articles, websites, and how-to (or how-not-to) videos.  How not to care what people think has become something of a cottage industry.   Of all people, Christians might have reason not to care.  We have heroic biblical examples to inspire us—Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, Daniel flaunting his prayers, Paul on Mars Hill,...

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All Your Paths

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.  He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. Proverbs 5:21-23     Even fairly casual readers of Proverbs will notice that Solomon has a lot to say about sexual temptation and sexual sin.  Let me count the ways—Proverbs 2:16-19; Proverbs 6:20-35; Proverbs 7:1-27; and here, Proverbs, chapter 5, and other proverbs here and there.  Skeptics might suggest that all this talk...

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In the Mouth of Fools

Like a thorn that goes up into the hand of a drunkard is a proverb in the mouth of fools. Proverbs 26:9     The thorn here is probably the thorn bush so common in Israel.  They grow high as a man’s head and will perform surgery on an unsuspecting passerby.  (I know from experience!)  In the hand of a drunkard they could be a weapon of mass destruction or self-inflicted trauma.   Such is God’s truth when it is mishandled, misused, misappropriated in the mouth of fools.  And their name is legion.  There are pastors—no names, please—who use different translations to make Scripture say...

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Christ over Cricket

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.  Proverbs 19:21     Read the blogs, follow the tweets, like it on Facebook—modern people love the idea of new ideas.  The leadership gurus drone on and on about their power, but they smugly suggest new ideas flow from a kind of creative genius that ordinary folk just don’t have.  To paraphrase one well-known scientist, for having new ideas, it helps to be a little weird.  But as Solomon points out, ideas are not just for brilliant eccentrics—many are the plans in the...

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Powerful Silence

A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly. Proverbs 12:23     What’s the difference between these two men?  Randall has just completed a doctor’s degree; Crandall just got his as well.  Randall worked very hard for many months—lots of late nights that nobody saw.  Crandall, the same.  Randall sacrificed to earn his degree; Crandall, no less.    But six weeks before graduation, Crandall began assuming the title.  He had business cards printed up with “Dr.” before his name.  He answered the phone the same way.  A reception was planned to honor his upcoming honor, more or less orchestrated by Crandall...

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Your Own Cistern

Drink water from your own cistern, flowing water from your own well. Proverbs 5:15     On the south shores of the Dead Sea stands the amazing fortress Masada.  Built by Herod the Great as a refuge, Masada could hold out for months in the middle of the Judean desert, where almost nothing grows and it almost never rains.  But Herod’s engineers built granaries for food and cisterns to collect water from the occasional flash floods.  Jewish rebels holed up there after the fall of Jerusalem in A. D. 70.  When the Roman Tenth Legion laid siege to Masada three years later, the rebels...

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When the Servant becomes an Heir

Whoever pampers his servant from childhood  will in the end find him his heir. Proverbs 29:21     Even though you probably don’t have servants as Solomon did, you probably can imagine how a master might take a liking to one particular servant—just as the boss might “like” some employee more than others.  So he pampers his servant.  The fence of formality comes down between master and servant, employer and employee, superior and subordinate, worker and foreman, and little by little expectations change.  The servant no longer feels bound by hierarchical rules of employment, and perhaps no longer feels threatened by a pink slip. ...

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Ancient Landmarks

Do not move the ancient landmark that your fathers have set (Prov. 22:28).     C. S. Lewis once said that the modern age loves anything new . . . and devalues, “disses,” or even despises anything old.  It’s true, isn’t it?  “Traditional” has become a four-letter word.   Solomon exposes that modern heresy here.  He pictures a plot of land, marked by boundary stones (like surveyor’s monuments today).  But it’s not the land or the markers that really matter.  Notice, first, the landmark was set by your fathers.  Solomon means that the owner and his neighbors agreed on the boundaries, and witnesses attested to...

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Nobody Laughs

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him (Prov. 15:8).     The far-famed philosopher and theologian Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) claimed he had a mission to expose the hypocrisy and pretense of the Church in his native Denmark.  His biographers tell us that he once unleashed his sarcasm on a learned hypocritical bishop.  Decked out in beautiful robes, mounting the pulpit of a massive cathedral, surrounded by the rich and powerful, a select circle of select people, he opens a gilded Bible, and sermonizes on the text—“God has chosen the...

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The Pinnacle of Wisdom

When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep (Prov. 8:27).   Someone has said that Romans is the mountain range of doctrine in the Bible, and that chapter 8 is the highest peak.  Likewise, we might say, Proverbs is the mountain range of wisdom in the Bible, and chapter eight is the pinnacle.   The words of this chapter encourage us.  They show us that God’s wisdom is not esoteric, enigmatic, or inaccessible.  You don’t need a degree in philosophy to get it.  No!  Wisdom calls out to everyone, my cry is to...

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The Hardest Resolution

If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you (Prov. 1:23).     Some resolutions are harder than others.  Carol and I have a friend in Alabama who had the makings of a world-class violinist.  He served as the worship leader of our church while he practiced his craft; but his teacher made it clear to him that at some point he would have to choose—the church, or the music (there aren’t many Bachs who can do both!).  To achieve his dream, Barry must resolve to devote his life...

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Clowns at a Funeral

Whoever sings songs to a heavy heart is like one who takes off a garment on a cold day, and like vinegar on soda (Prov. 25:20).     Christmas is all about music.  On that score, the most hardened cynic and the most fervent believer can agree.  A few days ago I read of a diner in St. Augustine, Florida, who scrawled this complaint on the back of his receipt: “Christmas music was offensive.  Consider playing ‘holiday’ music or less religious themed.”  Notice—he wanted different music—but not no music.  The Christmas . . . er, “Holiday” . . . Season is still all...

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Oprah with Religion

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion (Prov. 18:2).   We live in a “talk-show” world.  In the talk-show world, anybody’s and everybody’s opinion takes on the status of a papal bull.   In talk-show culture, mindless drivel—blissfully free of insight or even basic facts—can get a round of applause from the studio audience, or have them dabbing their tearful eyes with hankies.  It doesn’t take much of this sort of thing to prove Solomon’s point: A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.  You don’t know whether to laugh, cry, get...

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Anxiety for Good

Whoever diligently seeks good seeks favor, but evil comes to him who searches for it (Prov. 11:27).     Have you ever been so excited about something you couldn’t sleep?  And when you finally drifted off, you woke up an hour early?  The Hebrew language has a word for that kind of eagerness—shachar (shah-KAR).  Originally it meant, “look for dawn,” i.e., look anxiously for the first light of day so I can get started!   Solomon uses that word shachar here—translated, diligently seeks.  Solomon describes someone who diligently seeks good, but it’s as if he had said “whoever looks anxiously for a new day to...

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Love Her

Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you (Prov. 4:6).     In Proverbs chapter four, Solomon scours the dictionary to inflame our hearts for wisdom: “be attentive,” “hold fast,” “get wisdom,” “prize her,” “keep hold of instruction; do not let go.”  But one word stands out amidst this varied vocabulary of appeal: love her, Solomon says, love wisdom.   Love makes it personal, doesn’t it?  Those other words might suggest Bible studies and seminars; but love goes straight to the heart.  Love is affection joined to faithfulness; and sure enough (read it again), this proverb sounds...

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Face Reflects Face

As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man (Prov. 27:19).   Water was the mirror of the ancient world.  The mirror that we know today—glass over reflective metal—was invented by the Romans.  Before that it was a fuzzy image in polished bronze—shaving in a skillet, so to speak.  If you really wanted to see yourself, water worked best—for as Solomon says, in water, face reflects face.  Of course, Solomon isn’t really concerned about personal grooming here.  He’s using the image to tell us something important about life.  If you want to see your face, look in...

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Stages

The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair (Prov. 20:29).     Gail Sheehy made a splash 40 years ago with a book entitled Passages.  The title tells it all.  Human beings live through stages, fairly predictable stages at that—from starting school (and finishing!), to getting married and having children, to mid-life (and its crisis?), to retirement, old age, and grief.   For all the hype, Gail Sheehy didn’t tell us anything we don’t already know!  “All the world’s a stage” said Shakespeare’s melancholy Jaques (“As You Like It”)—“and one man in his time plays...

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A Poor Man Hears No Threat

The ransom of a man’s life is his wealth, but a poor man hears no threat (Prov. 13.8).     In the days of the Exile, Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, appointed Gedaliah as governor.  But a certain Ishmael (not Abraham’s son) conspired against Gedaliah and murdered him, along with everybody else he considered a threat, including eighty innocent bystanders who simply came to offer sacrifices at Mizpah.  Or rather seventy innocent bystanders—because ten of those men had money, and they struck a bargain with Ishmael: Do not put us to death, for we have stores of wheat, barley, oil, and honey hidden in...

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For All of Life

When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you (Prov. 6:22).     Time and again, Solomon reminds us that wisdom—God’s truth for life—is meant . . . for life.  All of life.  Without exception.  Every thought, every act, every attitude, every relationship, every priority, every value.  Not just the big ticket items like death and judgment.  And not just in vague generalities like go to church, be honest, and don’t get greedy—no, God’s Word speaks to every molecule of your life and mine.   And that’s a good...

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This Is It

This is the way of an adulteress: she eats and wipes her mouth and says, “I have done no wrong” (Prov. 30:20).     Romantic love is an incomparable gift of God.  Three things are too wonderful for me, says Agur, four I do not understand.  He wonders at the miracle of flight, the marvelous movement of a serpent, the striking phenomenon of a ship and all its cargo afloat in the heart of the sea.  But, above all, he marvels at the gift of sexual, romantic love—in the beautiful language of the King James Bible, the way of a man with a...

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The Opposite of Error

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day (Prov. 23:17).     Almost no one, not believers anyway, would claim to envy sinners.  That’s too brazen.  A dying man once told me, “I’m going to hell, and I don’t care.”  A crude professor used to say jokingly (or was he serious?), “the devil is a dirty rat, but he’s a _____ of a good sport!”  And some people flaunt their sin, or slough it off, or glorify liars and thieves; but very few would come right out and say that they themselves aspire to...

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The Throne Established

It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness (Prov. 16:12).     King Solomon died and his son Rehoboam stood next in line for the throne.  But (contrary to popular opinion) an ancient king almost never took the throne automatically.  He wasn’t up for election, of course, but a king without a kingdom is like a captain without a ship or a general without an army.  Somehow, some way, the king must establish his throne.  David did (2 Sam. 5:12), Solomon did (1 Ki. 2:12), and Rehoboam tried.   But he did it all wrong.  His father...

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Wise for Yourself

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it (Prov. 9:12).     We hear it constantly in this political season.  “The choice before us is clear.  The decision we make on Election Day will shape the future of our country, perhaps for generations.”  Who will disagree?   But we must never forget.  Every human being of every age and place faces a choice infinitely more significant than the one we face next month.  That choice is the heart and soul of Proverbs, chapter nine.  Two voices, two paths, two ways of life, two futures—the way of...

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Inhabit the Land

For the upright will inhabit the land, and those with integrity will remain in it (Prov. 2:21).     God called Abraham from his homeland . . . and made promises to him.  God promised to make him a great nation, even though his wife had never been able to have a child.  He promised to give Abraham a great name, and make him a blessing to the nations.  And as the sign and seal of these other promises, God made one more promise: to your offspring I will give this land (Gen. 12:1-7).   For us, real estate is a commodity we buy...

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The Club, the Sword, and the Arrow

A man who bears false witness against his neighbor is like a war club, or a sword, or a sharp arrow (Prov. 25:18).     Last summer, British police investigated allegations of sexual abuse against a well-known British singer, who is also well-known as a Christian.  The investigation turned up nothing and the singer was exonerated.  The BBC apologized to him for their reports.  The police apologized as well, and in fact arrested a man for making false accusations.  But of course, no apology could ever erase the marks on his character.  As he said in an interview, “I was hung out like...

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The Bars of a Castle

A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle (Prov. 18:19).   If you’ve ever visited Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Florida, or one of those picturesque castles of Europe, you’ve had an object lesson in relationships.  Castles were built for defense, not entertaining.  There was no welcome mat, only moats and bars and glacis walls to keep intruders out.  So it is with relationships—quarreling is like the bars of a castle. You’ve seen it with your own eyes.  A married couple living in silence after years of unresolved conflict.  (Cliff...

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When the Wicked Perish

When it goes well with the righteous, the city rejoices, and when the wicked perish there are shouts of gladness  (Prov. 11:10).     Like many other proverbs, this one seems to fly in the face of reality.  Think of unscrupulous politicians who get re-elected term after term, often by landslide margins—fawned over by the media and financed by special interests.  Then they rob the righteous of their rights, condemn them for their righteousness, or like the men of Sodom, vex their souls (2 Pet. 2:7) by making idols of sin and demanding that the upright bow down to Baal.  So let’s face...

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The Parable of the Rower

 . . . for I give you good precepts; do not forsake my teaching.  When I was a son with my father, tender, the only one in the sight of my mother, he taught me . . . (Prov. 4:2-4a).     If you travel overseas, you know that what locals consider must-see TV can seem awfully odd to us.  Overnight last month in Sydney, the “sports” networks featured rugby (not bad), a dart tournament (in a jam-packed arena!), and sculling (rowing a very long “boat”).  Even so, I got caught up in a sculling race.  The commentator kept saying that the rower...

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Shame Is a Witness

The one who keeps the law is a son with understanding, but a companion of gluttons shames his father (Prov. 28:7).     Most of the proverbs put two ideas together in order to teach one truth.  The two ideas can take many forms, and sometimes they don’t seem related to each other at all.  As in this proverb.  What on earth does the one who keeps the law have to do with a companion of gluttons?  And what does a son with understanding have to do with the son who shames his father?    The word law gives us a hint.  It’s the...

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Right Makes Might

A wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways (Prov. 21:29).     An old commercial for anti-perspirant ended with the camera trained on a man straight off the pages of GQ.  He oozes self-confidence.  He looks straight at you, and says, “never let ‘em see you sweat.”  The ad didn’t tell you much about anti-perspirant, but a lot about human nature.  Especially sinful self-confidence.   Self-confidence as such is not a sin, of course.  Indeed, as any athlete knows, a lack of confidence can snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.  But confidence can also be a...

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The Evil Bow Down

The evil bow down before the good, the wicked at the gates of the righteous (Prov. 14:19).     No one will blame you for scratching your head over this proverb.  Really?  The evil bow down before the good?  History seems to say “no, it doesn’t”—just read John Foxe’s famous Book of Martyrs.  Someday, of course, evil will bow down before the good.  Someday, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:10-11).  Someday.  But now?   Yes, now.  Even in this present evil age, in sometimes dramatic and sometimes subtle ways, the evil bow down before the...

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Kissing Your Sister

Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call insight your intimate friend (Prov. 7:4).     We use it to describe almost anything that lacks pizzazz—like a job “promotion” that adds more work but not more pay.  It’s like “kissing your sister,” we say.  God’s wisdom is anything but “kissing your sister;” but you probably wonder what on earth Solomon means by urging us: Say to wisdom, “You are my sister”?  How is God’s wisdom like a “sister?”   Perhaps the sister of Moses can help us. Because of Pharaoh’s dreadful edict to kill every male child of the Hebrew people (Ex. 1:16), his...

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Charm Is Deceitful

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised (Prov. 31:30).       We forever need to be reminded (don’t we?) just how different God’s ways are from our ways (Is. 55:8).  Take this word, charm.  Charm is just attractiveness.  In America we pay big bucks for it.  From haircare and lip gloss to colognes, mouthwash, and Rogaine, we spend 70 billion dollars a year and more to be handsome and beautiful . . . charming.  And that doesn’t count the effort we pour into how we dress, win friends, and influence people.  And...

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A Little Sleep

A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a rubber; and want like an armed man  (Prov. 24:33-34).     A professor I had years ago was encouraging us not to be discouraged learning Hebrew and warning us not to let failures become final.  As a student himself, he said, reminiscing, he would sometimes fail to make his first class—he overslept, he stayed up too late the night before, he pushed the snooze button once too often, he rationalized that he could afford missing just one class.  But then, he said,...

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A Fine on the Righteous

To impose a fine on a righteous man is not good, nor to strike the noble for their uprightness (Prov. 17:26).   On June 28, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear a case of religious freedom—thus allowing to stand a chilling bureaucratic regulation in Washington State.  The case (Stormans v. Wiesman) involves the Christian owners of a family pharmacy who refuse to dispense the so-called “morning after” pill.  These drugs prevent pregnancy after conception, and the Stormans’ are pro-life as a matter of Christian conviction. Even though the Stormans’ referred patients to other pharmacies, which state law permits for...

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What You Do with Your Dislike

The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool (Prov. 10:18).    Everybody dislikes somebody.  A lot or a little; all the time or once in a while; from time to time, even someone you dearly love—your wife, husband, friend, son or daughter, or even (gasp!) your grandchild.  What do you do with your dislike? One option is to conceal your hatred. Laugh it off while you seethe inside.  Plot your revenge for just the right moment.  Bite your tongue but nurse your bitterness.  Avoid contact, ignore behavior, or maybe even vaguely pray . . ....

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God Is not an Enabler

  The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous (Prov. 3:33).    Here is one of the most consistent themes of Scripture: The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked, but he blesses the dwelling of the righteous.  It’s true for individuals—remember the sin of Achan (Joshua 7)?  And it’s true for nations—read God’s warnings and promises to the nations in Genesis 12:1-3. Of course, creation itself is under the Lord’s curse because of sin (Gen. 3:17-19).  But in this fallen world, God warns of a still greater curse, the...

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The End of Joy

Even in laughter the heart may ache, and the end of joy may be grief. Proverbs 14:13     We live in a fallen world, and this fallen world is full of sorrow.  We feel Job’s lament in the marrow of our bones: Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (Job 14:1).  Life has its joys, to be sure, but sorrow reigns supreme, until in the new heavens and new earth, God wipes every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).  Till then, the joys are always mixed with sorrow.  Not without good reason does Solomon say,...

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Time and Place

. . . and I have seen among the simple, I have perceived among the youths, a young man lacking sense, passing along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house . . . Proverbs 7:7-8     In a recent study, researchers at Ohio State University suggest that the human brain records experiences by time and place.  A memory will include many details, of course, but the hippocampus component of the brain apparently saves the “gist” of memory in terms of “where” and “when.”  (Interestingly, in Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the hippocampus appears to degrade first.)  According to...

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Clothed with Rags

For the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and slumber will clothe them with rags. Proverbs 23:21   Since long before WebMD or mayoclinic.org, human beings have known about hangovers and couch potatoes.  They practiced gluttony and drunkenness, of course, just like modern folk, but they knew full well that drinking and eating to excess lead to lethargy, sluggishness, drowsiness—or as Solomon says it here, slumber.   Studies have shown, by the way, that a lot of other things we do have the same effect, like watching television, playing video games, doing drugs, or surfing the web. (Thirty years ago, Mary Winn warned...

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The Way That Seems Right

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 16:25     If you’re interested, there are approximately 900 proverbs in the book of Proverbs.  (Of course, even if you’re not interested, it’s still 900.)  Of those 900 proverbs, as far as I can tell, only one is repeated verbatim: Proverbs 14:12 is identical to Proverbs 16:25, in English and in Hebrew.  Two other proverbs (12:15; 21:2) have similar beginnings—they too warn about the way that seems right.  God Himself, it seems, is driving home a point.   And the point is that what seems right...

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Wise for Yourself

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself; if you scoff, you alone will bear it. Proverbs 9:12     Choice is the heart and soul of Proverbs—especially here in chapter nine.  Two voices, two paths, two ways of life, two futures—the way of insight that leads to life (9:6); the way of Folly, that leads to the depths of Sheol (9:18).  No in-between.  No gray area.  Here, as everywhere in Scripture, the choice is life and blessing, or cursing and death (cf. Deut. 30:19; Josh. 24:15).    The world is full of skeptics who imagine that this biblical message is some kind of...

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If

My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you. Proverbs 2:1     Hebrew scholars tell us that the word if in this chapter (2:1, 3, 4) comes with an exclamation mark.  Not if, as in, “If I get this new job, I can buy a new car;” but if as in, “If I can just get a job, we can keep our house!”   The word if looks to the future, doesn’t it?  It contemplates what might happen (or not) and what the results will be.  The word if can trouble our hearts and minds.  “If that storm hits, we’ll...

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The Sluggard and Sam Cooke

  The sluggard is wiser in his own eyes than seven men who can answer sensibly. Proverbs 26:16     An old song by Sam Cooke sums up a lot of lives: “Don’t know much about history; Don’t know much biology, Don’t know much about a science book; Don’t know much about the French I took . . . But I do know that I love you; And I know that if you love me too, what a wonderful world this would be.”   That’s the sluggard in a nutshell.  He may work hard at a career or a craft, but not at truth.  He may...

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A Man of Understanding

Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; reprove a man of understanding, and he will gain knowledge.  Proverbs 19:25     Without realizing it, researchers have confirmed this remarkable observation: Strike a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence.  Dr. Paul Howard-Jones and Dr. Rafal Bogacz at Bristol University in England used a computer game and brain scanning technology to show that people learn more from others’ mistakes than from their own mistakes (or successes).  Cutting edge psychology plays catch-up to King Solomon!   It’s true—even a simple-minded man knows better than to repeat what got somebody else in hot water; but that doesn’t...

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Caring What People Think

A man is commended according to his good sense, but one of twisted mind is despised. Proverbs 12:8     Do you care what people think about you?  Should you care?  Many would say, “no,” you shouldn’t.  In fact, it’s become pretty fashionable these days not to care what people think—complete with books, articles, websites, and how-to (or how-not-to) videos.  How not to care what people think has become something of a cottage industry.   Of all people, Christians might have reason not to care.  We have heroic biblical examples to inspire us—Peter and John before the Sanhedrin, Daniel flaunting his prayers, Paul on Mars Hill,...

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All Your Paths

For a man’s ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he ponders all his paths.  The iniquities of the wicked ensnare him, and he is held fast in the cords of his sin.  He dies for lack of discipline, and because of his great folly he is led astray. Proverbs 5:21-23     Even fairly casual readers of Proverbs will notice that Solomon has a lot to say about sexual temptation and sexual sin.  Let me count the ways—Proverbs 2:16-19; Proverbs 6:20-35; Proverbs 7:1-27; and here, Proverbs, chapter 5, and other proverbs here and there.  Skeptics might suggest that all this talk...

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