There are many great and provocative statements among these proverbs. We could build a message around so many of them – some being stronger than others. Many are as obvious as the sun in our eyes, or the blast of a blizzard in our face. Yesterday, I jotted town five verses in this chapter which deserve our consideration. But I think I’ll just point to a few of them and move on.
Verse 6 – “Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way.” Is “righteousness” in this verse personified – does it speak of the Lord with His arm around us, leading down the right path? Or assuming this person is a Christian, do this talk of Christian character? His heart won’t permit him to walk down the broad road. The “way” is not defined for us, but we have no trouble understanding what the word means.
Verse 13 – “Whoso despiseth the word shall be destroyed: but he that feareth the commandment shall be rewarded.” Isn’t it interesting that Solomon didn’t explain what he meant by “the word”? I think that it is precisely how we use that word when speaking of the Word of God. The man who ignores or despises what God has revealed about Himself and about sin, shall be destroyed – he may or may not die young but eventually he will be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Verse 20 is an oft quoted scripture – “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.” We could think about the many different ways a person may walk with wise men. It doesn’t have to be around the park or down Centennial Trail; it can be in our reading or viewing. Or it might be at a men’s retreat.
And then there is verse 24 – “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” If I was to develop that verse for our devotion tonight, it would have two primary points. Parents must train and discipline their children, but it must be with wisdom and love. And at the same time those parents must be prepared for the Lord’s rod themselves. Hebrews 12:6 – “Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”
Out of these and a couple other verses in this chapter, it’s verse 12 where I would like camp for a few minutes. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” Preacher, why would you make that your text, when its meaning is so obvious? Some other verses here are more obscure, and we might benefit from some time spent on them. True, but this is the one the Lord laid upon my heart. Let’s develop this point just a couple of steps beyond the obvious. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.”
Since this is true, make sure that yours is a hope worth the potential heart-ache.
Solomon makes an obvious general statement, no matter for what we might hope. “I hope to retire at 65; I hope it doesn’t rain during camp; I hope the Koreans don’t attack us.” As I’ve said many times, the blessed hope in the Word of God is different in nature from these. There are fleshly hopes, which may not be sinful in themselves, but they ARE fleshly and secular. Ultimately, they are nothing but wishes. Fleshly hopes are nothing but human yearning. But then there are hopes which are based upon the promise of God. A Biblical hope is something guaranteed by the omnipotent God, but as yet it hasn’t been received. Solomon’s general statement applies to both kinds of hopes. Therefore, if heart-ache is a potential risk, shouldn’t we make sure ours is a hope worth that risk? Which is better – to hope for an early retirement or to hope for the Lord’s return? Should I lose sleep wondering if the sun is going to shine on the mountains in Colorado next week, when we all could see the sunshine of the face of Christ by mid-night tonight? We need to choose our hopes as carefully as we choose our battles.
Someone might assume that since “hope deferred maketh the heart sick” then perhaps we should avoid hoping for anything. No, no. The Bible uplifts the Christian’s hope, calling it good and “blessed.” Titus 2 teaches that it is by the grace of God we have a hope. And that same grace causes us to look “for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Just as we fall in love and marry knowing that together we are going to suffer a variety of heart-aches, the right kind of hope is worth whatever pain it might bring.
But at the same time, that pain can be mitigated somewhat.
The Lord may intensify the heart-ache of our sinful, fleshly hopes, with the intention of turning us from them. But I’m not sure that He wants us heart-sick over the blessed hope or any other which He might give us. What can we do to keep that heart-ache to a minimum?
We need to root in faith upon whatever we set our hearts. We need to tie our hopes and dreams to the Lord, who loves us and saved us. And I’m referring to both kinds of hopes – secular and eternal. As it stands right now, meteorologists are saying that the northern Colorado mountains can expect thunder storms most of next week. I have been hoping – besides the evening devotionals and brotherly fellowship, to be able to do some hiking, some photography, and maybe some fishing. But I trust the Lord to know if those things are what I, or any of the other men, really need. Maybe we need to be driven into our yurts for day-long periods of Bible study and prayer. I think I can trust the Lord to control and direct things better than I could do it.
One of the great hopes of the Christian is the finalizing of our salvation in “the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” Can a saint of God become so consumed with thoughts of the return of Christ or his translation and deliverance from this world, that he become heart-sick? Sure he can. Is there anything he can do to ameliorate his heart pain without forsaking that hope? Yes there is. He can leave both the return of Christ and the direction of his life, in God’s hands and time-table. Our Saviour knows exactly through what we are going in this world. And the man of faith can take comfort in that thought. Yes, you long for the blessed hope, but when that hope is deferred, take comfort in some of the other hopes which the Spirit has provided. For example, “There hath no temptation (trial, problem or persecuation) taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” “Our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
We can even be strengthened in our hope by the terminology of Solomon’s statement. “Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” Beloved, the hopes which God gives us are all guaranteed. And if you haven’t received your hope yet, recognize that it is only a “hope deferred.” It hasn’t been canceled; God has not given up or been defeated. The hope which God gives hasn’t even been delayed. Because you and I live in the realm of time, our hope may appear delayed or deferred, but it will arrive at the precise hour when God intended it.
How can we ease the heart-ache of a hope deferred? We can pray for patience to augment our prayer for greater faith. I know that sometimes it said that to pray for patience is dangerous. Paul says in Romans 5 – “we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope.” But is tribulation the only avenue to the house of patience? And anyway, isn’t our current heart-ache a kind of tribulation? There is nothing wrong with praying for patience, particularly if our subject is something as blessed as hope.
When we are talking about a Godly and blessed hope, we are discussing a really good thing.
It is not our desire to avoid this particular kind of hope; we don’t want to destroy or minimize it. We want it to grow in strength, especially if at the same time, we can limit the pain it might produce.
Years ago, in the midst of a cold Alberta winter, I contracted pneumonia followed by pleurisy. Judy sometimes reminds me that the doctor said I might have compromised lungs and carry a weakness for future forms of pneumonia. Similarly what is the likelihood the man who has had a heart-attack might be at greater risk for another attack? Aren’t there are certain diseases which weaken the body, creating future dangers? But isn’t the opposite is also sometimes true? It is almost impossible for me to break my leg in exactly the same place where it was broken before. As my femur healed extra calcium and bone tissue surrounded the site of the original break. We might be able to think of other areas of the body, where former damage has created greater strength.
“Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.” I believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is going to call His saints unto himself – translating them as He himself was translated before the eyes of Peter, James and John. That is a hope which I have had since shortly after I was saved, fifty years ago. The Lord has not come during that half century, but my hope has not diminished or been tarnished. In fact, it should be obvious that we are now 50 years closer to the Lord’s coming than we were in 1967. The deferring of my hope may make me yearn for His appearing, but my faith and heart are not weaker – together they are far stronger.
And as the second part of this verse suggests, when it comes to pass – when our hope is fulfilled – it shall be sweet. In fact, it will likely be more sweet and blessed the longer it is deferred. It will be sweeter – IF we are dealing with that deferral scripturally.