The book of Proverbs is a collection of short and wise principles for living from some of the wisest men who ever lived. Why is this book important? God designed the universe out of His great wisdom and understanding. The universe reflects His wisdom. We need wisdom to live lives that will successfully work in this God-created universe. The subject of Proverbs is wisdom.
The subject of Proverbs is wisdom. Wisdom is knowledge that is properly applied to a situation. First you have to know the right information, but then you have to apply it correctly. There is an essential prerequisite for wisdom: yirat Adonai – the fear of the Lord. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. A human being must know that God exists, and who the true God, the God of Israel is, that He is the Supreme Being, great and powerful and wise, righteous and just, and He judges the righteous and wicked, rewards the righteous and punishes the bad. In addition, since God the Father sent Messiah the Son, to be wise, a human being must accept Yeshua as the Messiah, and receive the Holy Spirit, and be saved.
Some human beings are wise about the way that the world works, but are ignorant of the ways of God. Some human beings are knowledgeable about spiritual things – about God and Messiah and salvation, but not wise about the way the world works. Proverbs helps us to be wise in the ways of God, and wise in the ways of the world. The spiritual world and the physical world meet in a special way here on Earth. Heaven is where God’s throne is at, but Earth is His footstool. Man is a combination of physical and spiritual. He is made from the dust of the Earth, but also the Lord breathed into him the breathe of life. Proverbs has wisdom for both successful spiritual life and successful physical life. It helps us to be well rounded, balanced, successful human beings.
We are going to start with chapter 10, with the proverbs of Solomon. These proverbs are almost 3,000 years old, and truly are ancient wisdom, but even though they are so old, they are just as relevant today as they were 3,000 years ago, since God hasn’t changed, and human nature hasn’t changed. And, they were written by one of the very wisest men who ever lived.
A proverb is a principle that is generally true, but not always in every circumstance true. For example, the first proverb in chapter 1 is generally, but not always, true. 10:1 A wise son makes a father glad, but a foolish son is a grief to his mother. Most fathers and mothers are happy when their children are wise and do well, but there are exceptions. There might a father or mother who is immoral or corrupt, and are happy when their children follow them into corruption. But, that is the exception. The general rule for parents living in Jewish society is that they are happy when their children are wise, and saddened by foolish children.
If wisdom is the proper application of knowledge, then foolishness is the opposite – not knowing or not applying knowledge. It is grievous to see a child making foolish decisions that will harm their lives, or the lives of others. What you do, and who you become, affects those around you, especially those who love you. So, if you love those around you, make godly choices and wise decisions. Don’t just live for yourself, but take into consideration how your choices will affect others.
The proverbs found in 4-5 teach us about the importance of good hard work. 10:4-5 Poor is he who works with a negligent hand, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. He who gathers in summer is a son who acts wisely, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who acts shamefully. Human beings don’t like to work hard. Hard work is hard! We don’t enjoy the consequence of the Fall – having to toil the cursed ground, eating food by the sweat of our face. We would prefer to live the kind of life that was in Eden before the Fall – without having to do hard work. But, if you are going to have a successful life in this world, you must be willing to work regularly, work hard, and work especially hard when there is extra work to do – like gathering the crops when they are ready, since there is limited time for the harvest. There will be times that you will have to work harder than others. To encourage us to be good workers, Solomon lets us know that good results come to those who work regularly and diligently, and work hard when there is extra work to do. They will become rich. They will have more than enough for themselves and for their families. And, to encourage us not to act shamefully, he warns us that there are bad consequences for the lazy and negligent – they will not have enough for themselves and their families. They will become poor.
10:7 The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot. Just like what you do, and who you are, and who you become, affects those who love you in the present – like father and mother, so your life will affect those who come after you. In the future, when people think of you, they can think of you as someone whose life was rich and meaningful and successful, or someone whose life was like a rotten piece of meat. Don’t live just for the present. Live for beyond this life. Live your life in such a way that those who come after you will praise God for your life that was well-lived, your good character, your wise choices, and your blessed memory.
10:9 He who walks in integrity walks securely, but he who perverts his ways will be found out. Be a person of integrity. Function the way God intended human beings to operate – with good morals, good character, being honest, keeping your word, doing what you say, keeping your promises. What you claim to be in public, be in private. Who you are in private is a better indicator of your character than you who present yourself to be in public. If you do, you will have a clean conscience, and you won’t have to worry about getting caught and punished. You won’t be embarrassed to talk to God, or appear before Him on the Day of Judgment. Don’t pervert your ways. Don’t cheat, steal, lie. Don’t say one thing and do another. Keep yourself to God-ordained sexual expression within marriage. Keep in mind the one who perverts his ways will be found out. Your sins will find you out. Not only will your sins corrupt you, but they will be found out and embarrass you, so think about that before you do something wrong. That affair, that theft, that lie will come to light – if not in this life, than surely on the Day of Judgment.
10:11 The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals “chamas” – violence. The righteous – those who are right with God, who are in a right relationship with God, and are living the right way, and doing the right things, will be able to say wise things to others that will help them live a better life in this world, and enter into eternal life in the world to come. Wow! May the Lord help us to realize that our words can be used so greatly, so powerfully, for the good of others!
In contrast to the righteous and their good words are the words of the wicked – those who are still in a state of war with the Creator, who haven’t been reconciled to Him, and who don’t live the way He wants them to. The things they say will often conceal their real agenda – chamas – violence. Why are they hiding violence?
The criminal element who would steal from you, or take advantage of you, need to conceal their violence. Their words indicate that they are good citizens, but they employ violence in their arsenal of intimidation.
Governments can conceal violence. Communism employed violence against those unfortunate enough to be under its control, promising a utopian society, but death to those who won’t submit to the state. Something close to 100 million people were murdered in the 20th Century by Communist regimes, and the murder and the violence continues right now in places like China.
Religion can conceal violence. Islam uses words of peace to conceals its violence. Jihad, war and killing are part of its core beliefs. From its beginning until now, Islam has a long history of violence, war, conquest, intimidation and suppression. Islam has a history of making a treaty with a group of people and then breaking the treating and killing them, and declaring this to be justified. Al Queda is the norm, not the exception, and the fact that hundreds of millions of Muslims have a favorable opinion of Bin Laden, and view him as a hero, shows this to be true.
And, I find it fascinating and particularly instructive that this Hebrew word for violence is chamas, especially since a terrorist organization that insists that Israel be destroyed, and uses murder and suicide bombings of men, women and children, and justifies this in the name of Allah, is now the governing body of the Palestinian Authority. Anyone who tells you that Islam is a religion of peace is ignorant, or is telling you a lie.
10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all transgressions. Those motivated by hatred stir up strife. They are angry, and want to inflict pain on the ones they are angry with. And so they are unforgiving, and harsh. They try to cause trouble for the people they are angry with, so they give out information that will cause more problems; they attack with their words and actions and strategies. But, if you love someone, you don’t want to see them hurt. People want to help those they care for. It is natural to want to cover for the sins of those you love, to minimize the consequences of their actions. If you are a Republican, it is normal to want to go easy on a fellow Republican caught in some transgression; but if a Democrat is ensnared in a similar error, you want to really go after that Democrat. If he is a bad guy, well, at least he is your bad guy, and not so bad, and you can deal with it. Among the community of believers, we want to love everyone – especially our fellow believers. We want to help those we love. We want to see the sins and problems of others dealt with, but we want redemption extended wherever possible. If someone is caught in a transgression, and that situation can be redeemed, we want to do so. We try to ignore the slights of others, and be quick to forgive, and help those we love be redeemed from their transgressions.
10:15 The rich man’s wealth is his fortress, the ruin of the poor is their poverty. Believers are not to make attaining wealth their goal in life. However, wealth and poverty are realities of life, and they have advantages and disadvantages. Poverty can be ruinous – not having enough food or clothing or shelter, or access to doctors and medicine can cause real harm. The money of the rich can protect them from many of the problems that others face. They eat well, live well, have access to the best lawyers, send their children to the best schools, get the best medical care. Money can also become their god, and distract them from the true riches found in Heaven. They can also be kidnaped in order to get a ransom – something that won’t happen to the poor. I like the balanced attitude toward money expressed by Agur and found toward the end of this book. Here is Agur’s prayer: Lord, “give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is my portion, let I be full and deny You and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be in want and steal and profane the name of my God.”
10:17 He is on the path of life who heeds instruction, but he who ignores reproof goes astray. Many people are so proud that they won’t take correction from others. Don’t be too proud to learn from, or receive correction from those who are giving you good advice. Be humble enough to learn from others. Learn how to recognize good advice when you are getting it, especially when t comes from the Word of God, or someone who is wiser than you are. If you do, you are on the path of life. Your life in this world will be better, and if you listen to those who are wise about salvation, you will be on the wondrous path that leads to the gates of the New Jerusalem.
10:19 When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise. Out of the mouth of human beings comes nonsense and silly things, hurtful statements, erroneous ideas. Why? Because stupidity, spite and errors are in our hearts. It is hard not to make mistakes when you talk. Think about what you say before you say it. Is what you want to say true? Is it helpful? What are the consequences if you say this? Are you saying this at the right time, in the right way, to the right person? Solomon’s advice: try to talk less. My grandmother used to tell me, “Loren, you have been born with two ears and one mouth. So listen twice as much as you talk.”
10:20 The tongue of the righteous is as choice silver, the heart of the wicked is worth little. I like that phrase – “choice silver.” Choice silver is excellent silver. It is silver that is refined and pure and silvery valuable. It is something that almost everybody that first read these words understood very well, but it is a concept that most Americans no longer understand very well, and here is why. In nature, silver is very rare, and therefore very precious. Because it is beautiful and rare, and easy to divide and transport, and lasts a long time, it formed the ideal money. People have tried to exchange goods and services using other things, but silver, along with gold, turned out to be the best forms of money. In fact, the Biblical world for money is kesef – silver. But, our nation, beginning in 1971 tried a novel experiment. In 1971 we stopped using gold and silver as the basis of our money. As a result, the last several generations don’t have much contact with or experience with silver, except for the silverware that grandmother may have had and that we might use on a formal dining occasion. Most of us don’t appreciate “choice silver.” Let me tell you more about silver.
The Lord in His wisdom created silver and gold in approximately a 17 to one ratio. In much of recent history, a person could exchange one ounce of gold for about 15 ounces of silver. Right now the ratio is 60 to one. With one ounce of gold you can buy 60 ounces of silver. That tells me that silver is cheap. It is undervalued. I expect the ratio to go back to 15 to one, or lower, because for the first time in human history there is less silver on Earth than gold! Silver is a great conductor of electricity, and it has been used in electrical applications. Silver responds to light, and it has been used in photography. Silver kills bacteria, and it has been used in medical applications. Over the past 30 to 40 years we have used up most of the silver that has been mined in the past several hundred years! There are about five billion ounces of gold on Earth, but right now there is less than one billion ounces of available silver left. In addition, there is a huge short position on silver on Comex, which is the main place that silver is publicly bought and sold in the United States. In addition, a new silver ETF (Exchange Traded Fund) could be available soon, which will make it very easy for investors to buy silver. With silver in very short supply, the price of silver could increase dramatically. I expect choice silver to become even more choice!
10:21 The lips of the righteous feed many, but fools die for lack of understanding. The righteous – those who are right with God, who are in a right relationship with Him, who believe in Him, and who are living the right way and doing the right things, know a lot, and out of their understanding are able to say things that will help, encourage, guide, direct, teach, building up and sustain many. Those are the righteous and those who listen to the righteous. Then there are fools. Fools die for lack of understanding, and their lack of understanding is their fault; it’s their responsibility, since wisdom and knowledge surround us everywhere. It is your responsibility to know the laws of God and the laws of man. It is your responsibility to know the laws of the road before you get on them. It is your responsibility to know how God has designed life to work. It is your responsibility to know about God and salvation and eternal life. It is your responsibility to seek out the truth. Don’t plead ignorance.
Truth is everywhere. Sublime nature, all of this glorious creation, all of the universe, from the mighty galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles tells us about the reality, wisdom and power of God! The history of Israel is the voice of God speaking to this world. The history of the Church is God telling us the truth. Hundreds of millions of Bibles, translated into hundreds of languages, have been printed and are available everywhere. There are millions of wise religious books in print. There are churches and Messianic Congregations preaching the truth in many parts of the world. If that weren’t enough, on radio, TV and the Internet there are teachings by godly pastors and rabbis. There are good religious songs on the radio. There are friends who tell you the truth. There are evangelists and missionaries who come to your area. There are people who will hand you a pamphlet while you are out on the street. Wisdom surrounds us. Ignorance is no excuse. You are not an innocent victim!
10:23 Doing wickedness is like sport to a fool, and so is wisdom to a man of understanding. Just as many people get a thrill out of sports, so there are people who get a thrill from doing bad things. They get pleasure from stealing, from committing adultery, from defying authorities, from engaging in all kinds of illegal activities. And likewise, those who strive to become wise derive pleasure from knowing God and His ways, and seeing that knowledge successfully applied to their own and others lives. The older they are, the more they learn, the more they know, and their wisdom grows and becomes more powerful, and that brings them pleasure.
10:25 When the whirlwind passes, ayn rasha – the wicked is no more, but the righteous has y’sod olam – an everlasting foundation. The wicked – those who defy God and His ways, who live in a world dominated by the Wicked One – the god of this world, usually rise to the top. They seem so strong and powerful, and so much in control. They seem successful and invincible. The righteous – those who are in a right relationship with the Lord, and are living the right way, can seem so powerless, so weak, so vulnerable. But that is only the outward appearance of things. The reality of the situation is that in this chaotic and unstable world, the righteous are stronger, their lives are more secure, their existence has more stability, and they have greater enduring power, especially since God has designed the universe so that the righteous have an everlasting foundation. They will live forever because their lives are built on the foundation of the everlasting God the Father who loves us, the ever-existing Messiah the Son who cares for us so much that He died for us, the eternal Holy Spirit who indwells us; their lives are built on the foundation of truth, which endures forever. The wicked, who seem so powerful, so successful – well, one day, ayn rasha – the wicked will simply be no more.
10:26 Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, (or like chalk or fingernails scratching the chalkboard – annoying, unsettling, unpleasant, just let it stop!) so is the lazy one to those who send him. Make sure that you pick a diligent, faithful person to get a job done. Don’t use a lazy man for an important task. Just as it is not good to be lazy a man, so too it is not good to have lazy jobs. Here is an example: The UAW negotiated a deal with GM which includes a do-nothing job. Here is the job: a person sits at a desk in front of a GM company gym, and makes sure that people sign in before using the facility. The work is very light – almost non-existent, yet that person, with benefits, is getting paid 60 dollars an hour. The individual might be a hard worker, but the job itself is a lazy job. This kind of attitude is one of the reasons why US manufacturers are finding it increasingly difficult to compete in the global economy.
10:27 The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be shortened. The fear of the Lord brings peace to the soul and wisdom to the mind, and wisdom results in good living, and living properly means that, in general, you will live longer and be happier.
10:29 The way of the Lord is a stronghold to the tohm – the upright (those who live a life of integrity), but ruin to the workers of iniquity. The Lord is perfect, and out of His moral and spiritual and other perfections He designed this universe. The universe reflects the Lord. The Lord has a way, and His way benefits the upright. His way favors those who are moral and honest and faithful and true. Life simply works better for them. In spite of the occasional twists and turns and setbacks that everyone encounters in life, everything ultimately winds up going in the right direction, because the upright has lined himself up with the Lord and His way. So, live in a way that is upright, that is righteous, a life of integrity.
In contrast, the way of the Lord is against, is opposed to, will ultimately reduce to nothing, those who do aven – iniquity. There are about a dozen Hebrew words for sin, and each word emphasizes a different aspect of sin. Aven emphasizes that aspect of sin that turns out to be unprofitable for the one who does it. Aven shows evil to be false, shallow, unreal, unrewarding, empty, meaningless. The one who defies the Lord and His way, and engages in iniquity will find that the universe works against Him. He will not attain happiness or find ultimate meaning. His life, which could have been eternally meaningful, will be ruined; it will turn out to be empty and insignificant.