In the Lord’s hand the king’s heart is a stream of water
that he channels toward all who please him.
2 A person may think their own ways are right,
but the Lord weighs the heart.
3 To do what is right and just
is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice.
Verse 1 reminds us that God directs both good and evil kings. He works through all authority to bring about his will and purposes. His will being to reveal himself to us.
God directed King Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem. This was to discipline his people. (2 Chronicles 36:15-17; Daniel 1:2).
Later, God gave a dream to Nebuchadnezzar. This dream was about the future (Daniel 2:28). Later, when Nebuchadnezzar became proud, God humbled him (Daniel 4:28-34).
Afterwards, Nebuchadnezzar wrote, ‘God is always king. He always rules in heaven.’ (Daniel 4:34).
Nebuchadnezzar served foreign God’s (Daniel 3:5-6). But in the end, he praised the true God (Daniel 4:37). God had worked through him and in him for Nebuchadnezzar to recognise him as the living God and something different to the false God’s that he served.
Verse 2 reminds me that I can be so deceived and do the right things on the surface, do what is right for the benefit of other people seeing but my heart be in a completely different place. God sees what really is and looks beyond what things look like.
Verse 3 says that obedience is more valuable than sacrifice. To do what is right and just is more valuable than making an offering. The offering will be flawed if our heart is not right. It makes me think about the story of Abel & Cain.
4 Haughty eyes and a proud heart—
the unploughed field of the wicked—produce sin.
5 The plans of the diligent lead to profit
as surely as haste leads to poverty.
6 A fortune made by a lying tongue
is a fleeting vapour and a deadly snare.
7 The violence of the wicked will drag them away,
for they refuse to do what is right.
8 The way of the guilty is devious,
but the conduct of the innocent is upright.
9 Better to live on a corner of the roof
than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.
10 The wicked crave evil;
their neighbours get no mercy from them.
11 When a mocker is punished, the simple gain wisdom;
by paying attention to the wise they get knowledge.
12 The Righteous One takes note of the house of the wicked
and brings the wicked to ruin.
Verse 4 reminds us that pride is destructive and fruitless. People who look down on others or consider themselves as self sufficient is like an unploughed field. Lots of potential but just weeds grow there.
Verse 5 informs us that decisions in haste or on impulse are unlikely to produce the outcome we are looking for. A decision needs to be considered and thought through to be profitable.
Verses 6, 7 & 8 tell us that whatever we gain through deception, manipulation or violence will ultimately be our downfall. It won’t end well.
Verse 9 is comical. A nagging and an argumentative wife can drive a man to the corner of the roof. Nowadays we have sheds, garages, lofts to go to but times have not changed that much. Solomon does not say that this is an appropriate action. It is merely an observation.
Verse 10 describes a man who does not want to help others but is consumed with his own agenda and intentions.
Verse 11 tells us that the man who insults might not learn from his punishment. But other people can learn. It uses the term “simple” which is not the insult that it might appear today. Simple just means someone who is not educated and easily led. It could almost be a childlike quality. A visible punishment may have a positive impact on their future behaviour.
Verse 12 is notice that God sees everything. Nothing is missed. He is just and fair and everything will be dealt with in an appropriate manner at the right time.
13 Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
will also cry out and not be answered.
14 A gift given in secret soothes anger,
and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.
15 When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous
but terror to evildoers.
16 Whoever strays from the path of prudence
comes to rest in the company of the dead.
17 Whoever loves pleasure will become poor;
whoever loves wine and olive oil will never be rich.
18 The wicked become a ransom for the righteous,
and the unfaithful for the upright.
Verse 13 reminds us of his heart for the poor and vulnerable. He calls us to have our ears, eyes and hearts open to them. To not be so consumed with our own lives that we do not see their need. It is important to remember how blessed I am.
Verse 14 reminds us not to be bullied by anger into paying a bribe. The principle is true about other ways in which we may let anger or vociferous people control us.
This is something I have had to work on and think about in my own life. In some ways the firestorm in the church and my time running the addiction recovery programme helped me on the road with this but it is an unfinished work.
In verse 15 we read a continuation of the bribery scenario. If we shoot for what’s right no matter what the heat is like or the pressure from others, the outcome will be better and ultimately the bully, the bribe, the cheat will be in his rightful place.
Verse 16 tells us to stay on the straight and narrow. The company of the dead doesn’t sound so inviting.
Verse 17 addresses consumerism and pleasure seeking. This is a great ill of this world and something that has had me in its grip. Since controlling our finances I am amazed at how little we can live on and how much money I have wasted over the years.
Verse 18 reminds us that God’s justice is not done on human terms but on his terms and his timetable. It is not about the here and now. God is just and God is fair. He will sort everything out in the end and it will be in a way that we will praise his wisdom and his clarity. Stuff that happens here and now can confuse us or cause us to question the love of God.
On this earth, good people sometimes suffer, even when wicked people do not suffer (Psalm 22:7-8). Sometimes innocent people suffer (Luke 13:1-5). Jesus is the ultimate example of this. I am quite certain that in the minds of the early disciples the resurrection had greater prominence than the cross. In the 21st century we tend to focus on the cross as the end of the story and the resurrection is downplayed.
19 Better to live in a desert
than with a quarrelsome and nagging wife.
20 The wise store up choice food and olive oil,
but fools gulp theirs down.
21 Whoever pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity and honour.
22 One who is wise can go up against the city of the mighty
and pull down the stronghold in which they trust.
23 Those who guard their mouths and their tongues
keep themselves from calamity.
Verse 19 is similar to verse 9. There is something comical about the comment.
Verse 20 describes the man who lives only for the present moment will end up in trouble. He is described as a fool. A wise man uses his resources wisely. I remember a lesson on money from a much respected Biblical teacher and a great influence on the way I engage with theology. The message was “Spend some, share some & save some” . ..seems to make sense except that my imaginary pot of money was always bigger than my actual pot of money. Living how we live now is very revealing about how little we actually need and also very empowering.
In verse 21, Solomon suggests that the successful life is underpinned by love and doing what’s right.
In verse 22, we read that wisdom is better than strength. In moments of wisdom I can stand confidently against anger and aggression but there are times I really struggle with it too. The common denominator is connected with my walk with God in that moment. If I feel spiritually alive I can take on the world with peace and security but if I have allowed something to erode my heart and am distracted from my spiritual walk I can be blown about by the slightest breeze.
Solomon tells a similar story in Ecclesiastes 9:13-16. In that passage, the wise man defends his city, when a strong man attacks.
Both passages remind us about Jesus. Jesus describes the devil as a ‘strong man’ in Mark 3:26-27. When Jesus died for us, he defeated the devil (Hebrews 2:14). God’s wisdom defeated the power of the devil (Ephesians 2:1-5).
Verse 23 is echoed in James 3:1-12. Managing what we say, how we say it and when we say it. Even should we say it!
24 The proud and arrogant person—“Mocker” is his name—
behaves with insolent fury.
25 The craving of a sluggard will be the death of him,
because his hands refuse to work.
26 All day long he craves for more,
but the righteous give without sparing.
27 The sacrifice of the wicked is detestable—
how much more so when brought with evil intent!
28 A false witness will perish,
but a careful listener will testify successfully.
29 The wicked put up a bold front,
but the upright give thought to their ways.
Verse 24 explains how to identify a proud person. A proud person does not respect anyone else. He only thinks about himself. God calls us to be humble. His incarnation as a carpenter from an obscure backwater in the Middle East is our perfect example. He subjected himself to our experience of life.
Verses 25-26 deal with a common theme in the Proverbs. Being lazy and wanting more will lead to a lot of disappointment. It will not end in a good place. The righteous work hard and give generously.
In verse 27 we read that giving with false motives is worthless. I did a lot of giving to “keep up with the Jones’s'” so to speak. To avoid being singled out and at times it was a lot more than I could afford. This was not pleasing to God and immature on my part. I should have stood my ground and suffered the consequences. To give or serve or do any religious deed without the heart to do so will end in a dark place. I have come to detest this kind of religiousness in me.
Verse 28 informs us that we should listen carefully in disputes or difficult situations. It’s easy to pick sides on the basis of our prejudices, preferences and comfortable worldview. A careful listener will put all this aside and give accurate testimony. Anything less is to be a false witness and is manipulative. Solomon says that the outcome for this person is not good.
Verse 29 reminds me a lot of arrogant, aggressive men who rely on their pushy nature and hard front to move things in the way they want them. They are bullies, stupid and cannot be reached or reasoned with. They may seem bold but it is all a front. To be truly bold is to give careful thought to your ways, be honest and straight forward. Those people are refreshing and inspiring to be around.
30 There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan
that can succeed against the Lord.
31 The horse is made ready for the day of battle,
but victory rests with the Lord.
Verse 30 & 31 point to the absolute sovereignty of God. He is not like the mythical Gods of Rome and Greece or the Pagan Gods of the nations that surrounded Solomon’s Israel. The God of Israel is the creator of the universe, all seeing, all knowing and all powerful. Human wisdom falls way short. Our wisdom is often underpinned by arrogance and pride and any truth that falls out of it belongs to God.
A horse was strong and fast in a battle. Horses need food, water and exercise. Soldiers trained the horses for the battle. But the strength of the horses could not win the battle. A large, powerful army does not always win the war, even modern battle history shows many against the odds victories. God always determines the outcome of human conflict. He will use our mistakes. Even the greatest military strategists will make mistakes and errors of judgment. History is littered with such situations. Nobody can usurp the living God in the spiritual or earthly realms. See 1 Samuel 14:6-15, Joshua 5:13-6:25 and 1 Samuel 17.
It is quite incredible that I get to walk with this all powerful God every day. I talk to him as I pass the roadside flowers in the morning on the way to work.