The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 20:9

  In asking the Lord for a text for this evening, I kept coming back to verse 9. But this lends itself to a gospel message more fitting for a Sunday morning, and you are all familiar with the gospel. So let’s approach this a little differently. Let’s pretend that I have written a gospel tract, and I am asking you to proofread and improve it. It is a small tri-fold designed to whet the appetite – not to thoroughly explain all the nuances of salvation. Some people need a full broadside with the gospel, while others can endure only drips and drops. This is for the second group. It is printed on glossy white paper, with an interesting illustration and information about our church. The title quotes this verse – “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?” Turning the page you find a reference to Matthew 23 where the Lord Jesus addresses a crowd of people. His theme is the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. Matthew 23:25 – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites. for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” The principle is obvious – if the inside of anything – including a human being – is filthy, then it doesn’t matter in what condition the outside appears to be – the thing is dirty. If the heart is wicked, then the...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 20:1

  Yesterday morning I was sitting at my desk with my Bible still unopened, but ready to look at Proverbs for a devotional for this evening when my phone rang. I picked it up and found that it was Sister Sharon Richardson calling from Lewiston. After the usual greetings she, said that the preacher of the church where she attends had a message last Sunday on the “Marriage in Cana” in which he said that Jesus made wine for the wedding guests. Sharon couldn’t believe that Christ would make something alcoholic. Perhaps I need to point out that Sister Richardson hates any references to Greek and Hebrew. To her, the King James Bible is printed in gold letters. So in other words, she was stuck with “wine.” And in truth so are we. Anyway, I explained my position on the subject, and she seemed somewhat mollified. After we hung up, I opened my Bible to the next verse in our on-going study. “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging; and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” I didn’t have to pray about a theme for today; the Lord slapped me in the face with it. I begin by saying it is a difficult thing to absolutely condemn the drinking of wine, using only the Bible. Nevertheless that is what I will try to do this evening. It is difficult, but not impossible, especially when speaking to people who are the children of God. Drinking wine does not appear to be explicitly condemned in God’s Word, and in fact it seems to be encouraged under certain very special...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 19:22-29

  There were no verses at the end of this chapter which jumped out and demanded “preach me!” There are no verses of deep theological significance. They are all typically practical in Solomon’s style. One verse would make a good evangelistic text, but that would be better for a Sunday morning than a Wednesday evening. But rather than just skip right over into chapter 20, I’ve decided to offer a few comments on each of the remaining verses. I pray that they will be a blessing to us – and instructive as they remind us of obvious truth. “The desire of a man is his kindness: and a poor man is better than a liar.” Gill suggests that there are two ways to understand the first half of this statement. He says that “HIS kindness” refers to the Lord – The desire of a man is to receive God’s kindness. But not even Gill was excited about that interpretation. When looking for an antecedent for the pronoun, we can’t find the Lord in the context. Second, the desire of the average man usually has nothing to do with God – it is more secular. And third, wouldn’t the Holy Spirit first speak about God’s grace or mercy before His kindness? This isn’t talking about God’s kindness, but the kindness of certain kinds of people. But then again, we have problems. Grammatically, this doesn’t make much sense. The best solution comes by starting at the end and working forward. A man who refuses to cheat or lie, is better than the average rich man. It is better to earn respect...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 19:21

  The most obvious Biblical truths must be taught as often as the most difficult and complicated. Perhaps they need to be taught even more, because we might assume that our neighbors understand them as clearly as we do, when that is not always the case. Sometimes a verse opens up one of those foundational doctrines so easily that the teacher can’t ignore it. We have that here. This scripture compares God’s omnipotence to man’s impotence. We hear God’s sovereignty expressed in Solomon’s typical poetical style. It may be called “Hebrew parallelism” when in fact there is nothing parallel about this comparison. The flight of a Boeing 747 may be roughly the same direction as that of a bumble bee, but one is at 36,000 feet above the ground and the other is at one foot. One weighs 800,000 pounds and the other half a gram. One is nearly impossible to stop while the other can be squashed like a bug. This verse suggests five areas of great difference between the devices of man and the counsel of God. There is an obvious difference in the SOURCE of these devices and counsels. “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” We are comparing men and God. A moment ago I mentioned a Boeing 747 and a bee. Doing the math, the aircraft is about 363 million times heavier than the Bumble bee. That doesn’t begin to properly express God’s “weight” above ours. “What is man that God should be mindful of him?” Man and God aren’t in the same universe...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 19:18

  I really hesitated about addressing this verse tonight. Some of you have waded through deep snow , driving on ice, to meet here. Some will be getting home quite late and yet you still come. If this devotion is all you come away with, you might think the blessing hasn’t been worth the struggle. I don’t want anyone to feel that their time with us has been spent in vain. “The message tonight had nothing to do with me.” I heard a wise man say the other day that the preacher should always consider his audience. Do those here tonight need this message? Only the Lord knows for sure. But using the internet, I never really know who our audience might be. Whether in person or through some other means, these are reasons to pour our hearts into the musical worship part of the service. I hope you come with a desire to seek the face of God with other believers. To avoid this verse, I could have used the excuse that we’ve looked that this theme already. Proverbs 13:24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” But I can’t remember how much time I actually spent on that thought. And then as I meditated on this well-known verse here in chapter 19, it fell apart into four parts. It easily developed into an outline for study. Above it all, I feel that it’s the Lord’s will for us tonight, and we may skip over some of the related verses which come up later in this book. “Chasten...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 19:17

  At the meal where Mary anointed the feet of the Lord Jesus, there was some murmuring about waste. In Mary’s defense, Jesus said, “Let her alone; against the day of my burying hath she kept this. For the poor always ye have with you, but me ye have not always.” There are several items raised here, one of which is the existence of poverty. Back in Deuteronomy 15 God told Israel – “The poor shall never cease out of the land.” Why were there poor people living among the Israelites in the land of milk and honey? And why has God permitted poverty even in the midst of wealth such as we have in the United States? Politicians and social scientists have struggled with that question. They say, there must be a logical reason for poverty, and it’s our duty to find the cause and cure it. Self-centered, sinful humanity thinks we can somehow defeat the Lord’s declaration. So government, the media, and the entertainment world try to make us feel guilty that there are people less blessed than we are. The Robin Hoods of this world suggest we ought to steal from the rich and give to the poor – and Robin Hood is considered to be a good guy. Socialism, his evil governmental brother, passes decrees to steal from the rich while giving to the poor – or at least pretending to do so. Rarely does anyone consider that sin lays at the root of the problem, using sin to try to create a cure. I know that this thought is politically incorrect, but could it...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 19:15-16 (Whatever!)

  I don’t understand why, but in reading these proverbs I will pass over a few unimpressed to expound them. But then there will be another, expressing the same point, and it will slap me in the face. For example, we have read the word “slothful” in one form or other five times in earlier chapters, and I don’t remember stopping. Then last week as I read verse 15, a word popped into my head which isn’t found in the verse. But it seemed to demand that I consider it. In the back of my mind I heard “whatever.” The word is quite useful in many circumstances, but the way in which it is often used today it has become disgusting. How many people reply to good advice by saying “whatever!” ? The thought seems to be – “I don’t care what your thoughts might be, I’m going to do what I want.” “Keep your opinions, your Bible exhortations, and even your kind considerations to yourself.” Slothfulness expresses itself in many ways, but one current form is found in “whatever!” What is the source of this current “whatever“? Don’t I hear this word and attitude most often in teenagers – especially unregenerated teenagers? This “whatever” flows out of the self-centered heart and soul. “Say whatever you like, but I will judge what you tell me, rejecting it if it doesn’t suit me.” Generally speaking just about every act of sin can be traced back to self. Why did Eve eat that forbidden fruit? Satan told her that God was withholding something from her. What motivated Lucifer to rebel and...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 19:3 (Fretting)

  I wonder how many people born after the year 1984 know the meaning of the verb “to fret?” I picked 1984 because that is the year which begins the age group sometimes called the “Millennials.” Those are people who began growing up about the turn of the century – the millennium. I wonder how many Millennials know the verb “fret”? They might use the noun when speaking of the frets on the neck of a guitar, but what about the verb? Our English word is usually given one of three definitions. To fret is “to continually worry – to be anxious. “To cause others to worry.” And it sometimes refers to “gradually wearing something away through rubbing or gnawing.” The English word in the second half of verse 3 says, “The heart of the foolish man worries or wears away against the Lord.” Worry, of course, is a common subject in the Word of God. The sin of worry is so common even among God’s people, it should be preached against more often than it is. Worry is the antithesis of faith. It is a cancer which destroys the lives and effectiveness of millions. We saw a Biblical example of it in Elijah when he fled to Horeb after the victory at Mount Carmel. In foolishness the great prophet of God fretted against the Lord. Even though our theme this evening is “worry” or “anxiety,” I’d like us to focus on the verb “to fret.” There are things about that word as it is used in the Bible which surprised me. For example it is found twelve times...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 18:22

  A month ago when I first noticed this verse looming on the horizon I mentally groaned. How can I teach this verse without in some way hurting those men who don’t have good wives? And what about our unmarried ladies? I certainly don’t want them to think they are not good Christians because of their situation. But actually my first thought was – how can I teach this verse without embarrassing my wife? Is there some way to bring out Solomon’s intentions without Judy thinking I’m speaking about her. Is there some way to keep her from thinking that the rest of you are thinking about her? This is somewhat like last week’s verse 19 – was there any way for us not to think of specific individuals “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city.” I didn’t mention a single name, but I’m sure you may have thought of at least two. Monday I at first thought, “Well, I’ll just skip over verse 22. And if anyone asks, I’ll just say that we’ve touched on it already.” And I believe we have – very briefly and very superficially considered this theme. But it was SO superficially, that would not really have been a good excuse not to at least point to it. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it is the will of God to address this verse tonight, even though it will not be with any great depth. So let’s all turn around and look at Judy for a moment and get that out of our system. This is not about...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 18:19

  Jacob and Esau were about as closely related as physical brothers could ever be. They were the twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah. We can probably assume that, for the most part, their first few years were nearly identical. They played together, learned together and worked together as much as brothers ever could. But they did have different personalities, and over time Esau’s nature appealed to his father. Perhaps as a reaction, but then again it might have been quite natural – Rebekah leaned toward Jacob. Eventually there was the despicable deception whereby Jacob stole the birthright and blessing of the family’s eldest child. Esau was so offended that he became livid with anger. “And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him: and Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then will I slay my brother Jacob.” When their mother heard about the situation, she urged Jacob to visit distant relatives – to flee. Rebekah knew the principle of Proverbs 18:19 – “A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” Despite her age and experience, I don’t believe she gave her younger son the best counsel. Anyway, Jacob went away to live in Haran with this uncle Laban. He married and became the father of his own family. Then eventually felt led to return home. It was with fear that he and his family slowly headed south, assuming all along that Esau was still furious. As he approached the northern tier...

Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 18:14

  Some people think that the Christian ministry is limited to a select few – like pastors and missionaries. But in truth the Lord dispenses His gifts and responsibilities in packages of fives, tens and even singles to all His children. And the King of kings expects us to use our various talents – not to bury them “for safe keeping.” Preaching and teaching are two forms of ministry, but so are comfort, prayer, support and encouragement. This verse must first be read and understood stating a simple pair of facts. “The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?” But from there it should be used to encourage one of those “lesser” ministries which is no little thing at all. I’m speaking of “encouragement.” As we all quickly learn, the world is a dangerous place. In fact, the very nature of life is dangerous because of the general effects of sin and the curse for sin. Can it be said that we cause our arthritis or osteoporosis, and that baby brought about her own crib death? Can we necessarily stop a man with influenza or some other infection from shaking our hand because we have divine knowledge that he is contagious? Can we prevent the drunk or doped-up driver from running us down? Such things happen, and some times good people are hurt. But the dangers and injuries of life are not just physical; they come in emotional forms as well. A friend or loved-one may try to say something in jest, but it comes out wrong and you are hurt....

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 18:11-12

  Why isn’t the world flocking to the Lord for salvation? Of course there is man’s native depravity and the hatred of the Lord which automatically comes from that. But these two things are expressed in a variety of ways often in an effort to deny the reality. We hear, “The churches are filled with hypocrites.” “The miracles of the Bible, and the Bible itself, are not logical.’ “Christianity is so negative; all I ever hear is ‘Don’t to this, don’t do that.’” There are probably a couple dozen answers to my question. Some of those are uttered by the unbeliever himself. And others are either not recognized or not spoken. And one of the unspoken answers is suggested in this pair of proverbs. Why should someone turn to the Lord for salvation, when he has no concept of his need for salvation? If that man refuses to recognize sin – HIS sin in particular…. If he has no perception of the holiness of God, or of God’s hatred toward sin….. If he doesn’t admit to God’s omnipotence and sovereignty…… Why should he give a second thought to running into the City of Refuge to avoid the avenger of blood? If that sinner perceives himself to be in a secure place, he will not beg to enter the Ark, even when the storm clouds are building and the ground under him is rumbling and gurgling. “The rich man’s wealth is his strong city, and as an high wall in his own conceit. Before destruction the heart of man is haughty.” Sinners have lots of strong cities with high walls...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 18:10

  How many of you have visited the Tower of London? I haven’t either. That so-called “tower” is a thousand year old castle in the heart of England’s capital. From the pictures it looks to be no more than 4 or 5 storey’s high. The first segment of the fortress was begun in 1066 after the arrival of William the Conqueror. It now has walls, several buildings and has provided a wide variety of services down through the years. For example, the Tower of London is the official Royal Palace, although Elizabeth doesn’t live in it. And it either has been, or still is, an armory, a zoo, the Royal Mint, and a prison. Several famous people have been executed in this tower. Much of the Royal jewel collection is housed there. Today it is a huge tourist destination. The minimum ticket price is $32.33 per person. This evening I’d like to briefly tie together the tower of verse 10 and the Tower of London. “The name of the Lord is a strong tower.” I have never been to London, but I have read a lot about it – and seen pictures. It is a place filled with history, both good and bad. It was the home of William Kiffin, John Gill and Charles Spurgeon, as well as Henry VIII and Queen Mary. Some people believe that the Apostle Paul visited England, and if so he must have included London. The city is filled with historical structures, some of which go back to the days of Rome. One might say that London stands out among the great cities of...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 17:24

  Once again we have a comparison between the wise man and the fool. How often has that been thus far in Proverbs? I have no idea and no desire to try to count. Let’s just say that it has been many, many times. But with that being true, how important is this subject and the comparison? We can conclude that this is extremely important or the Holy Spirit wouldn’t bring it before us so often. When it comes to this verse, it doesn’t matter whether we are talking about secular wisdom or spiritual. How accurate is this definition – “Wisdom is the ability to properly apply knowledge to everyday life”? Isn’t it true that generally speaking a wise man knows how to make good decisions – decisions which impact his daily life? Christians know better, but the world might say that even an atheist can be wise in regard to daily life. But then there is the man who is wise in the spiritual sense. The Bible leads us to believe that true wisdom is found in the LORD – only in the Lord. Only a saved man is truly wise. And in fact a man may not be very intelligent or smart in the things of the world and yet be wise enough in Christ to outshine the Rhodes scholar and the members of Mensa. Despite the differences between secular and spiritual wisdom let’s tie the two together before separating them again. This verse is true either way. Wisdom is often right in front of a person, but is he interested in it? He knows full well...

The Proverbs of Solomon – Proverbs 17:22

  Our bodies and lives are so complex that it takes a great many things to keep us alive. For example, if we don’t get enough oxygen to the cells which make up our bodies, we will get sick and die. So this means we have to have air to breathe, and lungs to collect and process that air. There must be God’s miraculous means of transferring oxygen to our red blood cells and then the transporting of that oxygen-enriched blood to every one of those other kinds of thirsty cells. We have to have good food, and deficiencies in certain areas might cause a dozen different ailments. And even though we aren’t plants, we need some sunlight to stay healthy, plus we need exercise. Going off in other directions, we need mental stimulation; we also need friends; we need activities. And of course, our greatest necessity is the blessing of the Lord to bring everything together. Near perfection in every other area, but without the grace of God, means death and even worse. This proverb highlights one of the necessities of life. Something about these Proverbs is that they are often patently true. Over and over again, I only need to point to a verse, because you already understand what it says. Some Proverbs are so obviously true that it’s not necessary to find them in the pages of the inspired Word. We knew them to be true even when our grandmothers told us so many years ago. And one of those proverbial Proverbs is found in this verse. How often have we have experienced the medication which...