The book of Proverbs is about wisdom. Wisdom is the proper application of knowledge. It isn’t enough to have knowledge. We also need wisdom, which is the ability to use that knowledge in the right way. Wisdom comes from applying knowledge in such a way that you live according to God’s wise principles that the Creator has designed into this magnificent universe. Foolishness is the result of ignoring God’s wise principles. Wisdom results in favor and blessing and success in this life and ultimately eternal success in the Life-To-Come! Foolishness, the opposite of wisdom, results in harm and loss, and perhaps even eternal loss. Just because you believe in Messiah and you have faith and read the Bible, means that you have some wisdom, but it doesn’t mean you have wisdom in every area of life. Proverbs help us acquire wisdom for all of the many decisions we need to make in the varied areas of life.
If You Want Success, Submit Yourself To God And The Bible
16:1 The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. Human beings have their own thoughts and plans. Some will be beneficial and some will turn out to be harmful. If we want our thoughts and plans to be genuinely successful and beneficial, they need to meet with the Lord’s approval. If we want our words and answers to be profitable, they need the Lord’s blessing.
So, the way to be genuinely successful is to learn how to line up your thoughts, plans and words with the Lord’s thoughts, plans and words. To do this, it helps to practice the spiritual disciplines of taking in the Word of God, the contemplation of God’s design in the creation, prayer, worship, regular participation in the religious life of God’s community, giving to support the community, service in the community, and evangelism outside of the community.
16:3 Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established. Reality is that we live in a God-designed universe. The more we line up our efforts with the Lord, and with this God-designed reality, and submit to His moral and spiritual and physical and economic and other laws, the more likely we are to have success, genuine success, which means success in God’s valuation of things. So, the smart thing to do is know the Lord, and make sure your efforts line up with His wise principles.
16:20 He who gives attention to the Word will find good, and happy is he who trusts in the Lord. All the other foundational books of the religions and philosophies of the world are not divinely inspired and are not inerrant. They are a mixture of truth and error, and are therefore not reliable to guide our lives through this world and into the New Jerusalem. But, the Word of God is divinely inspired. It is inerrant. It is 100 percent truth unmixed with any error. Therefore the individual who gives attention to the Word of God will experience success in this life, and will be rewarded with the ultimate good – eternal life in the World To Come.
We live in satanically controlled and fallen world that is in rebellion against God and is under a curse. For most people, this world is an unhappy place. Their lives are ones of quiet desperation. They are surrounded by mental and physical and economic and other kinds of suffering.
In spite of that, we can still be happy in a world of suffering – if we trust in Adonai. Happy is he who trusts in the Lord. We can still be happy in a world of suffering if we realize that the Three-In-One God of Israel is real, and that He rewards the repentant and those who serve Him. We can still be happy in a world of suffering if we know that He is looking out for us, that He is committed to turning that which others mean for evil, to our good. We can still be happy in a world of suffering if we know that the Lord is just and fair and righteous and good, that He will make everything right, and that a day is coming when He will eliminate sorrow and sadness and suffering from the universe. We can still be happy in a world of suffering if we know that no matter what happens, we can trust our God. We can still be happy in a world of suffering if we know that all things work together for the good of the sons and daughters of God who love Him. So, since he who gives attention to the Word will find good, and happy is he who trusts in the Lord. pay attention to the Word of God. Line up your life by its wise and good teachings, and no matter what happens, trust the Lord!
The Difficulty Of Judging Ourselves
16:2 All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, but the Lord weighs the motives. Fallen human beings find it easy to overlook their own faults and justify their own behaviors. We have a blind spot when it comes to ourselves. We are inclined to credit ourselves with good motivations – even when they may be selfish or corrupt. Because we are flawed creatures who are biased in our own favor, it is very hard for us to honestly and fairly and accurately judge ourselves. We minimize our own shortcomings but readily find fault with others. We minimize the offenses of our friends and allies and maximize the flaws of our opponents.
This is a problem, because motivation for a person’s actions are an essential part of the deed itself. It is not meritorious to do the right thing for the wrong reason. And, the All-Knowing and All-Fair Lord will one day weigh all of our ways and deeds and our motives, and reward or punish human beings for the things we did that were properly or improperly motivated. Since we don’t want to be surprised on that day by having wrong motivations, we need to make sure that our motives are right. It is not easy to judge ourselves, but it is possible. Get close to God and make sure that the things you are doing or want to do are being done for the right reasons.
16:25 There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. We are a fallen species. Darkness covers the Earth and deep darkness the peoples of the world. That means that humanity is ignorant, confused, deceived, far from the One True And Living God, and far from the truth. We don’t know the truth about so many things. Many of the things that we think we are sure about – people, situations, concepts, turn out to be so terribly wrong, and that can lead to terrible results! That includes the way we are taking in life – which includes our worldview and our life direction and goals.
We don’t want to be confident that we know what life is all about, and what is the best way to live, and the right goals to pursue, and then turn out to have been terribly wrong! So, if you are wise, you will make absolutely sure that the way that seems right to you really is the right way! And, you can be sure it is the right way if it is God’s way. If it is not God’s way – the way of the Bible, the way of faith in the Three-in-one God, the way of loving of God and man, the way of serving God, the way of holiness and the spiritual disciplines, then you way is the wrong way that ends in disaster and your death.
There Is A Purpose For Everything
16:4 The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil (or disaster). The Lord is shrewd. He is clever. He is subtle. He didn’t create rebellion, sin or evil, but He is able to harness those forces and the men and angels who are under those influences, and make sure that they are fulfilling a part of His greater plan! That is way cool! Just because nothing disastrous has happened to the wicked yet, doesn’t mean that it won’t happen, and that there isn’t a God who brings judgment on the God-rebellious and the God-ignorers. So, if you are wise, you will fear the Lord and turn away from being wicked and start doing things God’s way, before you suffer disaster – and disaster and calamity and you will suffer – if not in this world, then certainly on the Day of Judgment!
The Danger Of Pride
16:5 Everyone who is proud in heart is detestable to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished. The proud man or woman is the one who has a rebellious and independent attitude toward the Creator. He refuses to turn to the Lord and turn away from his godless ways and submit to God and to His right ways. The proud individual acts as if he was God and the Lord is not! He will not make God’s will his will. That attitude is offensive to the great King of Heaven and ruinous to the creature living in a God-designed universe. Eventually, that creature will be punished.
If a human being detests you, it may not matter because he may not be able to harm you. But, if your Creator detests you, you should care! He has the power to punish you – and your punishment will be deserved. Don’t be that creature whom the Lord detests! Humble yourself at the core of your being, and recognize that the Lord is God, and you are not, that He is the King and you are one of His loyal subjects; that He has the right to command and you must obey.
16:18 Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling. Overconfidence, a high, arrogant, know-it-all attitude – leads to disaster. When we become proud we are not as careful as we should be. We think we are immune to problems. But, this world is filled with problems, and fallen human are deeply flawed creatures and we so easily make mistakes in so many areas. With humility we need to recognize this about ourselves and then check and then double-check our assumptions and calculations and positions. Consider the opinions of those who disagree with you. As iron sharpens iron, allow yourself to be sharpened by others.
And, this is especially true of our position with God. If we think we are OK with Him when we are not OK with Him; if we assume that we are in a right relationship with Him when we are not; if we presume that all is well when it is not, we are headed for a great stumble and destruction.
So, check and then double-check your attitude toward the Three-In-One God, and pay attention to those who really know Him, and make sure that you are humble, not proud; and that you don’t have a high, haughty attitude, but are poor in spirit.
How To Minimize The Affects Of Sin
16:6 By love and truth iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one keeps away from evil. We are fallen human beings. We are totally depraved, which doesn’t mean that we are as bad as we possibly can be. It means that sin has affected every aspect of who we are. Our body, soul, mind, will, spirit, our love for God, our relationship to God all has been damaged. It is easy for us to sin. Sinning comes naturally to us. But, sin can be minimized! By choosing to love God and man, and by embracing more and more truth, we can sin less and less. By having a reverential respect for the Creator, evil can be avoided. So, if you want to sin less, and offend God less, and do less damage to yourself and others, choose to love God. Grow in your knowledge of God. Dwell on the fact that He is a great King and Judge and that you don’t want to offend Him. Cultivate affection for Him. Try not be selfish or self-absorbed. Make helping others, and doing good things for others a priority. Learn the truths found in the Word of God and then cling to those truth. If you do these things, you will not be damaging yourself or the universe; you will be overcoming evil with good, and the Lord, who loves what is good and hates what is evil, will bless you in this life and reward you in the Life To Come!
The Benefits Of Being Righteous And Upright
While yielding to sin, evil, iniquity, wickedness and rebelliousness damages us and others, being righteous – being in a right relationship with God and trying to consistently do the right things and being upright – morally straight, not twisted, brings benefits to ourselves and to others.
Being righteous brings protection from enemies. It brings peace
16:7 When a man’s ways are pleasing to the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. The Lord, who is the Source of Everything That Exists, and the Source of our Life, favors the righteous because He is righteous; and our righteousness pleases Him and advances His agenda for humanity. He wants the righteous around! He wants them to be salt and light in a flavorless and dark world. So, He works behind the scenes to remove the obstacles and enemies of the righteous. You want fewer and less powerful enemies? You want even your enemies to be at peace with you? Be righteous!
Being righteous brings love and respect
16:13 Righteous lips are the delight of kings, and he who speaks right is loved. People lie all the time. They conceal what they really are thinking and what they intend to do. They flatter. To find an honest man who speaks the truth is rare, and valuable to those who are committed to the truth – like a good leader.
So, if you want the love and respect of good leaders – and it’s a good thing to have some good men with some authority on your side – be righteous and speak the truth.
Being righteous results in a life with fewer problems caused by sin
16:17 The highway of the upright is to depart from evil; He who watches his way preserves his life. Those who are morally and spiritually straight, not twisted, can expect to have a smoother journey through life, like the person traveling on a nice highway. The reason is that sin is damaging and causes unnecessary problems. Many problems can be avoided by avoiding what is wrong and doing what is right. So, if you want a smoother, straighter journey through life, and if you want to get to the best and final destination – the New Jerusalem, pay attention to what you are doing! Stop doing bad things and do what is good! You will have a better life in this world, followed by eternal life in the World To Come!
Righteousness can bring a longer life
16:31 A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness. Our sick society places a premium on youth. Ancient Israeli society placed a premium on age. They understood that wisdom is more valuable than beauty or health or physical strength. They knew that the grey-headed elders have more life-experience and more wisdom.
And since the righteous follow the God-designed principles that the Creator has built into the universe, they tend to have fewer problems and live longer.
And since the Lord wants those who are in a right relationship with Him and who are doing the right things to succeed and prosper and influence others, He is inclined to keep them around longer. He wants them alive. So, if you want to have a good life and grow old, make sure you are in a right relationship with God and trying to consistently do the right things. You will be blessed, and you won’t regret it!
And, don’t forget the other benefits that come from being righteous: it brings protection from enemies; peace with enemies; results in a life with fewer problems caused by sin
it brings love and respect from good leaders.
Lord, with all these benefits that come from wisdom and righteousness, please make us wise and righteous!
Things That Are Better Than Money
Money is necessary for an advanced society to function. Money can buy good things, but it can’t buy everything. And, there are lots of things that are better than money!
16:8 Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice. To be righteous and poor is better than being wealthy and unjust. Righteousness – being in a right relationship with God and consistently doing the right things is what life is all about! The purpose of life is not to get rich, grow old and die in a big house in the suburbs! The purpose of life is to be reconciled to the God from whom all of humanity is estranged, and then live with Him forever and ever in the New Heavens and the New Earth where only the righteous will exist.
The Creator is just and fair, and is offended by human beings who are unjust. So, if you are smart, you will get right with God, and try to consistently do the right things. Don’t make getting rich your goal in life! And, never mistreat others or take advantage of others in your quest to advance or acquire wealth. It is not worth it.
15:16 How much better it is to get wisdom than gold! And to get understanding is to be chosen above silver. Most people in the world want gold. Gold is good! It was created by God. It is heavy and beautiful. It is exceedingly precious, rare and therefore valuable. In all of human history, since gold was mentioned in the earliest chapters of Genesis, only 6 billion ounces have ever been found – about one ounce for every person who is now alive. Most of that gold remains to this day. Gold doesn’t deteriorate and human beings can’t make more of it. Therefore it is the best form of money and a reliable way to store wealth. It is the ultimate money. It is the supreme currency. The Creator also made silver, which is 15 times more abundant than gold, but still very precious and rate. And silver is also heavy and beautiful.
Having some gold or silver is good, and can buy many things, but wisdom is more valuable than the precious metals! It is better to acquire wisdom, which is knowledge and the proper way to utilize that knowledge – than to get gold and silver. Wisdom will result in a successful life in this world, and success on the Day of Judgment followed by eternal life in the World to Come! And, that is better than the things that gold can buy – even if it is currently at 1100 dollars an ounce – and in my opinion, likely to go much higher in the next couple of years!
16:19 It is better to be humble in spirit with the lowly than to divide the spoil with the proud. The proud – those with an attitude of independence toward the Creator and who disregard Him and His teachings, who become wealthy though war or crimes or unjust methods, will be the real losers in life! They think that they are successful and have everything, but it will turn out that those who recognize that God is God, and they are not; that it is right and good for the creature to submit to the will of the Creator – they will be the real winners in life! So, it is smarter and better to reject that attitude that ignores God and the pursuit of wealth and humble yourself. Don’t be ashamed to associate with those whom the world despises – the humble who aren’t impressed with those who have wealth and power but are impressed with those who are humble and faithful to God.
The Sovereignty And Providence Of God
16: 9 The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. We are not in control of things. It might seem that we are in control, but control is an illusion. Adonai, the great Lord of the universe, is in control of everyone and everything. We may have our desires, and we may have thoughts and plans to accomplish our desires, but The One Who Is In Control Of All Things will either approve or disapprove, allow or disallow, direct or redirect our steps. And, the Lord is good, and His will for us is good. And, He is wise and has a better plan for our lives than one we could come up with ourselves. Therefore, if we are smart, we will seek the Lord and His will for us, and try to submit our thoughts and plans to Him and find His direction for our lives.
16:33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord. There is no such thing as luck, or coincidence or random events. Everything is under the sovereign control of the infinitely wise and powerful Creator. That control of all forces, all powers, all beings, all creation is called Providence. Providence means that the Creator didn’t just create the universe and then walk away, leaving His creation to run on its own. No, Adon Olam, the Lord of the universe is very much involved in everything that takes place – even seemingly random events like the lot that is cast. Therefore, since we live in a God-designed, providential universe, if we are understanding, we will not look to luck or chance or fortune, but seek the Lord and try to find out His plans. Every decision we make will be based on the Word of God and the providential care of our loving and powerful Heavenly Father.
Being Honest In Financial and Business Matters
16:11 A just balance and scales belong to the Lord; all the weights of the bag are His concern. True religion isn’t limited to worship. The Lord is concerned with our financial dealings. Since the Lord is honest and fair, He doesn’t like liars and cheaters. They offend His nature, which is one of perfect justice. Therefore, to be truly religious means we must be honest in our business and financial affairs. So, if we are wise, we will be fair in our financial dealings. We won’t lie to, cheat or defraud those we are doing business with.
The Importance of Good Leadership
16:10 A divine decision is in the lips of the king; his mouth should not err in judgment. In ancient Israel, the government was led by the king. His position was established by God. He was the king, but he was subject to the King of Heaven. The responsibility of the king of Israel was to rule the nation of Israel for the High King of Heaven. As the one who was God’s representative, the king was to rule in a way that honored the Lord and upheld God’s laws. To be successful, the king had to be close to God and knowledgeable about the laws of God. To be successful, the king’s words and actions needed to be true to God and the Torah.
We are not living in a theocracy today, but good leadership is still very important for a nation to be successful. Bad leaders, who go against the moral and religious and other principles in the Bible, will bring harm to their people. We need to elect men and women who know the Lord and are committed to make their decisions in agreement with the Word of God. We need to get rid of those leaders who don’t know that a divine decision is in the lips of the king and therefore make errors in their judgments. Sadly, much of our leadership over the past 40 years have not given divine decisions and have produced erroneous judgments that are leading us to catastrophe.
16:12 It is an abomination for kings to commit wicked acts, for a throne is established on righteousness. The Lord is not only all powerful but He is all righteous. Wickedness offends His righteous nature and causes damage to a God-designed universe. Good leaders whose decisions line up with the wise principles the Creator has designed into the universe, please the Lord and bring many good benefits tends to their people. The Lord wants human beings, who are made in His image, to be led by leaders who are committed to doing what is right. Since a leader of a nation affects so many others, it is essential for him to be righteous – to be in a right relationship with God and consistently do the right things. So, make sure you are supporting those who are committed to righteousness – not just in the area of economics, but also in the areas of Biblical morality and religion.
Don’t Antagonize Those In Power
16:14 The fury of a king is like messengers of death, but a wise man will appease it. Try not to annoy those who are in positions of power who can harm you. If you do manage to offend them, if you are smart you will try to figure out quickly how to pacify them before they take their anger out on you!
Try To Get On The Good Side Of Those In Power
16:15 In the light of a king’s face is life, and his favor is like a cloud with the spring rain. Those in positions of authority often have power to benefit those who please them. When a good king is happy with someone, he lights up when he sees him. And, he is inclined to do good things for him. He benefits his life, like a cloud full of rain benefits the thirsty soil and makes it productive. So, if a leader is a good, it would be wise and beneficial to get on their good side. Do so by being good and trustworthy and helping the leader.
Now, the eternal God is the ultimate Leader! He is in the position of ultimate authority. He has ultimate power. He can do amazingly good things for those who He is pleased with. He can benefit their lives to the ultimate degree! And, He can harm those He is angry with – to the ultimate degree. So, if you are intelligent, you will make sure that He is pleased with you because you are good and loyal to Him and trustworthy and helping Him out. If you do that, He will benefit your life in this world and in the World to Come!
The Benefits Of Being Wise
16:21 The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. A person can have a Masters degree or have a Doctor of Philosophy from one of our top universities, and may have acquired expertise in a number of fields, but still not be wise at the core of his being and not have genuine understanding. A person needs to know the Creator and have respect for the Lord at the center of who he is to really understand life. That is why it is better to be a simple Christian or Messianic Jew who can read and write and have basic math skills rather than a well-educated agnostic or secular humanist.
The wise in heart will be called understanding, and sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness. Words can be powerful because they can influence others. While in some cases, like when dealing with a tough, stubborn person, hard words may be necessary to motivate them to move in the right direction, in most cases nice words will influence more people more often. Since we catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and since our words can be powerful to help others, let’s use wisdom with the words we use and the tone we use when we want to persuade others to embrace wisdom.
16:23 The heart of the wise instructs his mouth and adds persuasiveness to his lips. If we are wise in heart, and have understanding at the core of who were are, we will be able to see where others are lacking wisdom in some area, and be able to use the right concepts and words to persuade them to make the necessary changes in their thoughts, positions, choices, directions that will help them.
16:22 Understanding is a fountain of life to one who has it, but the discipline of fools is foolishness. A fountain that produces abundant life is a fantastic thing! Imagine living in a hot dry place, but you have a fountain that produces lots of cool and clean water – enough for you and your family, and for your animals and all of your crops. What a tremendous thing that fountain would be! That is what wisdom and understanding are like! Knowing the truths about God and the Bible, and being able to apply them to each situation that you face results in a productive, blessed life. Chose to go that way, and not the way of foolishness – foolishness being the rejection of the wise principles for living that are found in the Word of God. Foolishness results in mistake after mistake being made, mistakes that create dissonance and trouble in a God-designed universe; foolishness produces a non-productive life, like a dry land without a fountain of water.
The Importance Of Good Words
16:24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones. Words can be powerful. They can change us for the better and produce good things in us. Words that are pleasant because they are true, and because they bring divine wisdom to a situation, can bring healing and happiness. So, since we are gifted with the ability to speak, let’s learn the truth, and then learn how to speak the truth at the right time and in the right way. We will benefit ourselves and others, and the Lord who is the Creator of pleasant words, will reward us.
The Value Of Hard Work
16:26 A worker’s appetite works for him, for his hunger urges him on. It is God’s will for us to work, and to work hard. The sweat of our brow – hard work, is required to survive in this fallen, cursed world. But, not everyone wants to work hard. Some are lazy. Hunger will motivate people to work – and that is a good thing. If you don’t want to be hungry, go find some work. If you think that is cruel, reflect on the fact that the New Testament teaches the same thing. The one who is not willing to work should not be fed. The reason is simple – if you subsidize people not to work, you will get people who don’t work. But if you do nothing and people must work, they will work.
The danger of long term government welfare programs is that they interfere with this natural motivation and reinforce the unwillingness to work and can help create bad character. And, they are expensive.
Now, there are times when someone is willing to work but there simply is no work. Then family, friends, the church, charities and maybe even the government can step in for a limited time to meet the need until work can be found.
The Danger Of Evil Men
Very often, human beings are influenced by the people we spend time with. So, if we are wise we will not associate with bad people.
Avoid people who spread evil.
16:27 A worthless man digs up evil, while his words are like scorching fire. Good people try to protect others. They try to cover the sins of others, to save them from exposure, unnecessary pain and embarrassment. Avoid people whose actions and words expose and harm innocent people.
16:28 A perverse man spreads strife, and a slanderer separates intimate friends. Good people are peacemakers. Avoid those who by their words and actions create dissension.
Avoid people who use violence for bad purposes.
16:29 A man of violence entices his neighbor and leads him in a way that is not good. Good people bring peace, not violence. Violence is permitted in a just war, or by those in positions of governmental authority, like police officers. The use of violence is not permitted for private individuals in order to intimidate or steal from others. Avoid those who threaten or use violence for their own selfish goals.
Avoid people who are planning to do bad things.
16:30 He who winks his eyes does so to devise perverse things; he who compresses his lips brings evil to pass. This reminds me of the new TV show, Lie To Me, which Martha and I find fascinating. Its premise is that facial expressions and body language often reveal whether someone is lying or plotting something bad. Someone observed: Often people who are planning wicked things betray themselves with malicious expressions. Two expressions are depicted here – winking the eye and compressing the lips. How someone shakes your hand, or whether they look you in the eye when they speak to you can tell you something about who they are and what they are up to. Wise individuals look for the clues of deviousness, secretiveness in those who are hiding things. If you detect those clues, it means that they are usually up to no good and should be avoided.
The Value Of Self-Control
16:32 He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city. Human beings look to the outward things to determine a person’s value – things like accomplishments and wealth and status. It is generally not easy to capture a city. So, the one who captures a city has a major accomplishment and gains a lot of status and probably a lot of wealth. But, the one who is wise knows that it is harder to conquer oneself and its corrupt desires than conquer a well defended city.
Not everyone will have the opportunity to plan and then implement the conquering of a city. Everyone will have the opportunity to plan and conquer his sinful inclinations.
Since it is harder to control oneself and one’s own temper and words and sinful inclinations than successfully plan and then accomplish the defeat of a city, therefore that is more praiseworthy and more worthy of a reward from God. Therefore we should focus on conquering and controlling self rather than conquering and controlling others.
And, we can conquer ourselves by getting close to God, and being filled with the Spirit. The person who is filled with the Spirit of God, which means he is close to God, will have the extra grace and power he needs to overcome the temptations and weaknesses of his corrupt nature. He will be blessed with the precious ability of self-control – something that the wise treasure more than victory in external conflicts.