Proverbs 20

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Proverbs 20:1-4

Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler;
whoever is led astray by them is not wise.
2 A king’s wrath strikes terror like the roar of a lion;
those who anger him forfeit their lives.
3 It is to one’s honor to avoid strife,
but every fool is quick to quarrel.
4 Sluggards do not plow in season;
so at harvest time they look but find nothing.
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Over indulgence in alcohol is a killer. It robbed me of a lot of time, money and focus in my late teens and early twenties. I was carted off to hospital in ambulance on one occasion. On another I walked 5 miles home in just a vomit covered shirt on a freezing cold night in November. How I got home I will never know. It impairs judgment and makes you a slave. I barely enjoy alcohol these days. An occasional beer, glass of wine or fruit cider is enough. I think one or two units per month is where I am at. I saw destroyed lives in the addiction recovery programme that I ran for almost 3 years. All as a result of alcohol and other substances. Of course any man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. I have been mastered by sex and money. It’s not pretty either.

Verse 2 is an instruction not to mess with authority. The ultimate authority is God but honour the King, respect your bosses etc., I know I am rebellious and want to assert my own will. It’s a battle.

Verse 3 is a warning to not get caught up in unnecessary arguments. Choose your battles. I like the rule of thumb …does it need to be said? Does it need to be said by me? Does it need to be said now? …that deals with pretty much every situation.

In verse 4 we read about a lazy and stupid farmer who doesn’t bother to plough his fields and is surprised to find nothing at harvest time. Any farmer knows that he needs to plough his fields but the knowledge alone will not produce a crop. He has to do something.
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Proverbs 20:5-9
5 The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters,
but one who has insight draws them out.
6 Many claim to have unfailing love,
but a faithful person who can find?
7 The righteous lead blameless lives;
blessed are their children after them.
8 When a king sits on his throne to judge,
he winnows out all evil with his eyes.
9 Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure;
I am clean and without sin”?
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It takes time and a great deal of patience to draw water from a deep well. We live in a world of fast paced snap judgments and soundbyte interpretations but the Bible informs us that relationships take time to build trust, to draw out meaning and purpose.

Faithfulness is not tested in the good times but when trouble comes. It is when the heat is on that our hearts are truly revealed.

Children will learn from a parent’s example. They will become like us. Whilst this not absolute it is a general truth. My righteousness, my faith will have an impact on my children. My sins also will have an impact on my children.

In Solomon’s time, the king was also a judge. God is the ultimate king and judge. I have been in a Court Room on a number of occasions accompanying rehab clients. It is a room that has an atmosphere of respect and authority. The judge listens attentively to all of the information and evidence, he asks some questions to clarify understanding and then makes a decision with the primary focus to purge the evil.

There is no one that can claim to be without sin, no one with pure motives. We are all selfish to the core of our being. My rebellion is the same as someone’s religious pride. It is all trusting self over God. It is a decision to do things my way rather than God’s way. It is a decision that says “I don’t trust you God, I don’t believe that you have my best interest at heart so I am going to take care of these needs my way and not yours”. God accepts authenticity in lieu of perfection. That is more than amazing!
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Proverbs 20:10-12

10 Differing weights and differing measures—
the Lord detests them both.
11 Even small children are known by their actions,
so is their conduct really pure and upright?
12 Ears that hear and eyes that see—
the Lord has made them both.
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When I left school and worked at the carpet shop, we sometimes would get a visit from the trading standards weights and measures departments. The rules stated we should use an authorised yardstick to measure carpets that were being sold off the roll and not tape measures. It was completely impractical but we always had a yardstick on display should they show up. Dishonest weights and measures is an ancient trading problem and these days is more subtle in the form of marketing and advertising that sells a feeling or a certain awakening of the senses and attaches it to a product. It is important to do business with integrity and transparency. That’s what matters for our own conscience and what people really want.

In verse 11 we are reminded that we test children by their actions and that is also how we are tested. What we do says more about us than words can say. Our words should match our actions. God hates hypocrisy. What we hear and what we see should match.

I lived a long time in hypocrisy. It is painful, heavy and energy sapping. Today I feel free.
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Proverbs 20:13-18

13 Do not love sleep or you will grow poor;
stay awake and you will have food to spare.
14 “It’s no good, it’s no good!” says the buyer—
then goes off and boasts about the purchase.
15 Gold there is, and rubies in abundance,
but lips that speak knowledge are a rare jewel.
16 Take the garment of one who puts up security for a stranger;
hold it in pledge if it is done for an outsider.
17 Food gained by fraud tastes sweet,
but one ends up with a mouth full of gravel.
18 Plans are established by seeking advice;
so if you wage war, obtain guidance.
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Verse 13 is a good one for this morning. Sleep is good but don’t love it too much. This morning I have a longing to go back to bed. However this proverb is more about laziness and being unproductive. A fair days work for a fair days wage is about right.

Verse 14 gives us a short narrative of a commonplace dishonesty. They report one thing to one person and something different to another about the exact situation. Always it is to suit whatever their motives are. To the seller he wants a bargain and to his friend he wants to demonstrate that he is a skilful negotiator and can find something at a price that the average person cannot do. We have all done something similar. It has been a trade mark of my life to be what I need to be to get the best outcome from a situation.

Verse 15 tells us the true value of bling. It might look attractive but it contains no true value. Wisdom is more precious than treasure.

Verse 16 has some connection with Exodus 22:26-27. It’s about taking collateral or surety against a loan or a pledge. I remember a friend skipping lessons in secondary school. One of his afternoon teachers saw him at lunch time in the corridors. He took his shoes from him and said he would give them back when he came to his lesson!

The fruits of fraud may look attractive on the surface but a mouthful of gravel is an apt description. What do I have to show for it? Nothing but disaster !!!

Verse 18 applies to any crucial or high stakes decisions. Honest advisers are important to a king when he contemplates war. People will lose lives. It’s not a decision to be made on a whim or an impulse. We make decisions occasionally that have the propensity to hurt others or have an impact on lifestyle or family culture. These decisions need to be considered and advice from trusted sources is part of that process. ____________________________

Proverbs 20:19-23

19 A gossip betrays a confidence;
so avoid anyone who talks too much.
20 If someone curses their father or mother,
their lamp will be snuffed out in pitch darkness.
21 An inheritance claimed too soon
will not be blessed at the end.
22 Do not say, “I’ll pay you back for this wrong!”
Wait for the Lord, and he will avenge you.
23 The Lord detests differing weights,
and dishonest scales do not please him.

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Gossip betrays confidence. I have enough trouble keeping my own side of the street clean to worry too much about what others are doing unless they are kicking the leaves to my side of the street. My business is to do what’s right and walk with God as best I can.

In verse 20 we are told in no uncertain terms that if we fail to respect our parents and treat them accordingly then our due punishment is death. This leads into a verse about claiming our inheritance too soon and it brings up the parable of the lost sons. We see in that parable the seriousness of the insult the son makes when requesting his inheritance early  against his father. It would have meant that he wished his father dead and wished him no further participation in influencing his sons’ life and decisions. It is a grave insult.

Verse 22 reminds us that is not our job to judge and punish but this is actually God’s business and is best left to him. He will do it with complete fairness. It’s easy for me to define what that fairness looks like in my head and it almost always proves to be wrong and biased towards favouring me!

Verse 23 is similar to verse 10. It may seem like a small thing to manipulate a deal favourably but if it is dishonest in any way it will be a violation against God. He desires transparency and transparency of motive is a powerful and freeing thing. I love being upfront about the way that I do business. Some of the staff have trouble about being honest that we are brokering skips because they know that the customers could go direct to the suppliers and get a better deal in some cases but I like to explain that we broker the skips and what they are paying for is the ease to which we cover anywhere in the UK for them and we manage the supplier so take the stress out of the job and handle any disputes. Most people understand why they pay a bit more to use us in a very price sensitive field.
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Proverbs 20:24-30

24 A person’s steps are directed by the Lord.
How then can anyone understand their own way?
25 It is a trap to dedicate something rashly
and only later to consider one’s vows.
26 A wise king winnows out the wicked;
he drives the threshing wheel over them.
27 The human spirit is the lamp of the Lord
that sheds light on one’s inmost being.
28 Love and faithfulness keep a king safe;
through love his throne is made secure.
29 The glory of young men is their strength,
gray hair the splendor of the old.
30 Blows and wounds scrub away evil,
and beatings purge the inmost being.
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Verse 24 is a reminder that though we try to attach meaning and purpose to events of our lives or even interpret God’s will through it. These are things that are not for us to know as this kind of knowledge just makes us arrogant and proud. This was Job’s struggle and this is our struggle. We want to label an action as God blessing us or God punishing us but God will not allow us that knowledge as all he wants is for us to be connected to him and walking with him. We never know how exactly God is working through us or what he is doing or not doing we only know that he loves us and that in all things he is working for our ultimate good by allowing events to form Christ in us.

Verse 25 echoes Judges 11:30-40. Jephthah promised to kill and to give to God, whatever greeted him first. He expected an animal to greet him. However, his daughter greeted him. Making vows and promises are not to be done lightly.

Verse 26 uses the illustration of a threshing wheel. The threshing wheel is driven over the wheat, to separate the grain from the straw. Then the grain is scattered, so that the wind blows away the straw. A king purges his land from evil in the same way. If the king does not kill the evil men, then they are scattered. If they fail to be purged out or scattered they may band together and create a threat to the nation. If they are scattered, they are isolated and weak.

In verse 27 we are informed that God sees everything in us from our spirit. We may see external things that give us limited insight into an individual but before God everything is laid bare. There is nothing hidden.

Verse 28 gives some insight into Solomon’s attitude about leadership. Love and faithfulness are the keys to great leadership. He was the leader of Israel’s golden age. Israel prospered under him, the borders were peaceful and the people were happy and content. Some people are more tyrannical as leaders. Some rulers think that they should be cruel. Solomon’s own son, Rehoboam, thought this (1 Kings 12:13-14). Cruelty and acts of bravado do not secure the throne. If a ruler is cruel, then it builds a resentment in the people that he leads and though he may get compliance for a while there is always the potential of a revolution. A great leader will protect his people. He will love them and ensure that they are secure.

In verse 29 we are reminded of how impressed we are with Athletes and sporting achievements, warrior like strength. Solomon reminds us of another kind of hero and champion. There is much to learn from the elderly, the experienced and the wise as they have lived life and have much to share.

Verse 30 makes a case for corporal punishment. The idea of physical punishment bringing about change in a person. The body will recover from a beating but it will be a deterrent from doing the same thing or something similar again both to the person receiving the punishment and any onlookers.

Jesus suffered this punishment in my place. He has not subject me to human judgment and punishment for all I have done but has decided to stand in the gap for me and take the punishment himself.

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