16 To humans belong the plans of the heart,
but from the Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
2 All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
but motives are weighed by the Lord.
3 Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
and he will establish your plans.
4 The Lord works out everything to its proper end—
even the wicked for a day of disaster.
5 The Lord detests all the proud of heart.
Be sure of this: They will not go unpunished.
6 Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for;
through the fear of the Lord evil is avoided.
7 When the Lord takes pleasure in anyone’s way,
he causes their enemies to make peace with them.
8 Better a little with righteousness
than much gain with injustice.
9 In their hearts humans plan their course,
but the Lord establishes their steps.
The focus of the Proverbs now take a turn from comparing an evil man and a good man or wise actions and evil actions.
Chapters 16 to 22 do not place any emphasis on good vs evil but focus more on what’s right and true. What wise living looks like.
These 9 verses present a picture of whatever is going on, our role and our calling is to trust God. The Lord works out everything to it’s proper end. The proud will be dealt with. Human’s plan their course but God establishes their steps. We may well be charting our own course in many respects but the hand of God is present at all times and he will use even our saddest and most destructive actions to make his presence known.
These proverbs are clear. It is better to do what is right. It’s the way that God wants us to live. He wants us to make decisions of love, faith and trust in him. Our plans may fail but God’s plans will succeed. God can use an animal (Numbers 22:21-28). Or God can use a stone (Luke 3:8). Or God can use a foreign king (Ezra 1:1).
He will use nations to discipline nations (Daniel 1:1-2). He will work from surprising places. It doesn’t mean that he approves of the nations or the people that he uses but he uses our human mess to bring about good. We are the clay, he is the potter.
10 The lips of a king speak as an oracle,
and his mouth does not betray justice.
11 Honest scales and balances belong to the Lord;
all the weights in the bag are of his making.
12 Kings detest wrongdoing,
for a throne is established through righteousness.
13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips;
they value the one who speaks what is right.
14 A king’s wrath is a messenger of death,
but the wise will appease it.
15 When a king’s face brightens, it means life;
his favor is like a rain cloud in spring.
Solomon understood the responsibilities of Kingship. In verses 10-15, he explains how kings and other rulers behave.
God has given authority to kings. Their decisions are important and affect many people. So a king must always be responsible.
At the time of King Solomon, the king was also a judge (see 1 Kings 3:16-28). This is why the king makes a ‘judgement’.
God is the ultimate sovereign and really the one true king but he made a concession to Israel allowing a human king like their neighbours and Solomon was the third such king.
Honesty and integrity is important to God. If the king lacks honesty or is bent on evil then the nation will suffer. A good king or leader is an honest king who models and promotes upright behaviour. His laws are fair and his governance is not simply self interest but of benefit to the nation as a whole.
Verses 13 – 15 talk about honest words from a servant. The servant might bring bad news. His honest words might upset the king. But the king needs honest servants to speak wise words of advice. If the adviser is not honest, then he cannot help the king. Compare the advisers in 1 Kings 12:6-16.
Many people may suffer if the king is unhappy (Matthew 2:16). When the king is angry, his servants must call a wise man. The wise man will know what to say to the king. Then the king will make a wise decision, instead of a rash and destructive decision.
A king needs trustworthy advisors who are not afraid to bring bad news but also understand the king sufficiently so they know how to deliver the bad news. They will be able to do it in such a way that he can be objective and will make good decisions. He will care about his people. He will serve God and act fairly.
There is something in these verses both for the leader and the servant. We all fulfilled both roles in life in many different ways. I need people around me who understand me but can deliver bad news in such a way that I can hear it. I also need to be one of those people who deliver the bad news but do it in a way that I do not bruise the person I am bringing the news to. I do it with gentleness and respect.
16 How much better to get wisdom than gold,
to get insight rather than silver!
17 The highway of the upright avoids evil;
those who guard their ways preserve their lives.
18 Pride goes before destruction,
a haughty spirit before a fall.
19 Better to be lowly in spirit along with the oppressed
than to share plunder with the proud.
20 Whoever gives heed to instruction prospers,
and blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord.
21 The wise in heart are called discerning,
and gracious words promote instruction.
22 Prudence is a fountain of life to the prudent,
but folly brings punishment to fools.
23 The hearts of the wise make their mouths prudent,
and their lips promote instruction.
24 Gracious words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.
25 There is a way that appears to be right,
but in the end it leads to death.
26 The appetite of laborers works for them;
their hunger drives them on.
Wisdom is the new gold … or actually the old gold or actually the most ancient gold. Wisdom is the most precious commodity of all. So much is invested in becoming rich when what we really want is to be wealthy and possess the relational connection with God and others, to be valued and valuable ourselves and the source of this is our spiritual wisdom.
In verse 17 Solomon writes about guarding our ways. It’s important that we know our values and that our values inform all that we do. People frequently talk about goals but rarely talk about values. To be focused on goals lacks substance but to have our values underpin our decisions not only protects us but actually will lead us to feel more fulfilled, connected and in tune with our defined purpose of life.
Verse 18 reminds us that human pride leads to an almighty crash. It’s a matter of time but pride works against us. It’s the way the universe has been built. It’s woven into the fabric of the universe. It’s incompatible DNA and sooner or later pride will be spit out.
Verse 19 continues the story that the oppressed and lowly in spirit are in a better position and more likely to share with each other than the proud and self sufficient.
The remainder of verses in this section inform us of some of the attitudes of wisdom and we read words such as discerning, prudence, gracious there are also implications of humility and faithfulness.
Verse 26 reminds us that the purpose of work is to eat and sustain our living. Labourers are driven to work because if they do not work they will be hungry.
There’s something in taking stock of values whenever tempted to set goals. It’s not that goals are bad necessarily but slavery to goals can be monumentally destructive. I want to live by values not by goals. It’s a more honest question to ask if I am being true to my purpose than whether I am achieving my goals.
27 A scoundrel plots evil,
and on their lips it is like a scorching fire.
28 A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends.
29 A violent person entices their neighbor
and leads them down a path that is not good.
30 Whoever winks with their eye is plotting perversity;
whoever purses their lips is bent on evil.
Verses 27-30 is a short encyclopaedia about different types of people who cause trouble and their methods:
· lies and insults (verse 27) …Solomon says that it’s even dangerous to listen to this man. His words are like a fire. You will get burned and if you allow him, he will destroy you.
· gossip and whispers (verse 28) This man will start arguments and turn even your best friends against you.
· the use of force (verse 29) The cruel men will influence others to behave in the same way through clever manipulation or bullying, even force. Not a good neighbour to have!
· silent signals and secrets (verse 30). This man does not give much away but maybe you will see signals from his body language, lack of eye contact or secretive behaviour. Everyone will suffer at his hands once he acts.
I see a bit of myself in all of these and it strikes terror into my soul that have the capacity to be so deeply selfish and cruel. The thought of hurting my family the way that I did is a wound to my own soul that is with me forever now. It saddens me a lot.
I am grateful that God has lifted me out of the pit enough to see it. The situation could have been far worse with lot’s of unresolved threads all over the place.
31 Gray hair is a crown of splendor;
it is attained in the way of righteousness.
32 Better a patient person than a warrior,
one with self-control than one who takes a city.
33 The lot is cast into the lap,
but its every decision is from the Lord.
Age and grey hair are a mark of wisdom. One would assume that everyone accumulates some wisdom as they get older. Most people become a bit more reflective when they begin to think about their mortality. We all have something to pass on and worth listening to.
Self control and patience are expressed as virtues over the ferocity and violence of a warrior.
Casting lots was a common way of making decisions in ancient times. The disciples even cast lots to discern the replacement for Judas. Solomon informs us that the hand of God is present in our decision making.