What does the Preacher of Wisdom teach us today in Proverbs?
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out. We should not, however, hastily decide that we are the man of understanding. The thoughts deep inside a person are difficult to find out. We should not assume that we know anotherís thoughts. Christ could do this easily, who understood what was in the heart of man. Sometimes, by hard work and diligent study of wisdom, we may learn to know a little. But guard against the intuitive guesses which are the enemies of peace.
Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness, but a faithful man, who can find? Here we see the natural self-justification in us. Our first reaction to accusations is defensiveness. No, no, I am a good person, I would never do that. We almost always put up a good face for others and hide our sins. Everyone wants to be seen as a pleasant, loving person. But to be truly faithful is a rare gift. To be dependable and keep oneís promises is increasingly hard to find, even among Lutherans who seem so easily to abandon their churches.
The just man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him. A just man is righteous first of all through faith, but secondly the actions that flow from the new Adam. He does not simply put up an appearance for others. He strives for goodness because the Spirit works in his life. Children will notice integrity, and will follow suit, so long as they follow in the path of the Lordís righteousness in Christ Jesus.
A king that sits in the throne of judgment scatters away all evil with his eyes. Good men in government office are judges acting in the place of God. They sift through facts to find out truth, to punish the wicked and reward the just. May the Lord give us such upright men with eyes to separate between evil and good.
Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin? Moral purity is hard enough to find in external matters. It is impossible in the heart. We may work and clean and scrub at every stain of sin, but there is always more. Lord, have mercy upon us foolish sinners.
Diverse weights and diverse measures, both of them are alike abomination to the Lord. God despises dishonesty in business. Yet we are so subtle that we often hide our own dishonesty from our own eyes. We cut corners and think we are being fair. We press for profit at the expense of others and think that it is simply good business.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. People often assume that children are innocent. But no, the old Adam quickly gets to work, as soon as the baby takes his first breath. The ingrown original sin wastes no time revealing its presence in us all.
The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made even both of them. These wonderful senses are His gift to us undeserving creatures. May He give us grace to use eyes and ears for good, not for the wickedness that comes so easily to us, since the Creator of them will demand an accounting for what we have done with His gifts.
Love not sleep, lest you come to poverty; open your eyes, and you shall be satisfied with bread. The lazy man who loves to sleep late every day will not find an easy living. The man who is willing to pursue his vocation diligently, not sparing sweat and toil, will not lack for food. In America, we often go against this principle, giving welfare to the slothful and taxing the hard-working. Yet in the long run, this word of Scripture will not fail, even if we do not see its fulfillment with our eyes.
It is nothing, it is nothing, says the buyer, but when he is gone his way, then he boasts. This is another form of dishonest business. If you shrewdly drive down the price of something, pretending it is worthless, then you are really lying and stealing from your neighbor. Be honest and willing to part with a few dollars, since God sees your heart, even if your neighbor is fooled.
There is gold and a multitude of rubies, but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel. The knowledge spoken of here is not merely human wisdom, although that may have some value. But the true knowledge and wisdom of God begin in the fear of the Lord, which points to the Cross, and ends in life everlasting. As these gifts given by the Word are far more precious than gold and gems, so the mouth that speaks them is more valuable than much treasure.
Take his garment that is surety for a stranger, and take a pledge of him for a strange woman. This means that if you put up a security deposit for someone you do not know, then you might as well just throw it away. A strange person is not to be trusted. A strange woman will often use her wiles on men to manipulate them. Better to put up no deposit for such people, however generous you feel in the moment.
Bread of deceit is sweet to a man, but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel. Forbidden fruit may seem delicious at the time, but as Adam and Eve learned, it leads to the greatest bitterness and pain. By the pains of conscience, or by justice finding you out, or by the friends you alienate by your dishonesty; if not by these, then the judgment of God will find you.
Every purpose is established by counsel, and with good advice make war. In important and weighty matters, do not leap in on the shaky foundation of your own hasty wisdom. Let others advise you. Hear and take to heart what others say, which means being humble enough to admit the possibility that you are wrong. May we be so wise.
He that goes about as a talebearer reveals secrets; therefore meddle not with him that flatters with his lips. In other words, you can see how a gossip will treat you when you hear him speaking the secrets of others. In front of someone, he is full of compliments. Behind his back, it is otherwise. So do not entrust yourself to a flattering gossip.
Whoever curses his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness. Or as God revealed through Moses, those who honor father and mother will live long on the earth. Perhaps we will not see the destruction of such children who lash their parents with their tongues, as it may happen secretly, in a place of darkness that they have been driven to by their own wickedness. Let us pray that they turn from their ways and live.
An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning, but the end of it shall not be blessed. As in the parable of the prodigal son, some children squeeze their inheritance from their parents even while they are still alive. Such greedily grabbed riches will slip through their fingers. For God wants us to respect parents, and wish them long life.
Do not say, I will repay evil, but wait on the Lord, and He shall save you. Justice is in the hands of God. Unless we are in a position of authority to punish in the place of God, we are instead to let Him avenge the evil. Here we see how a desire to create good in the world so easily twists into evil. May we strive for patience to wait on the Lord and His time for all things, even if we do not see them happening with our eyes.
Diverse weights are an abomination unto the Lord, and a false balance is not good. This is the same as verse ten. It is so important that it bears repeating in such a short span of verses. That word ďabominationĒ is not to be brushed over lightly. It is reserved for especially twisted and perverse evil that God detests with a fiery wrath.
Manís going are of the Lord; how can a man, then, understand his own way? We are not masters of ourselves. Our own actions are sometimes a mystery to our minds. We can do nothing without God, and sometimes the actions He produces in us are surprising. For His Spirit is busy in each of His saints, to create good works that He has prepared in advance that we should walk in them.
It is a snare to the man who devotes that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry. A hasty promise should not be made to God, yet once made, must be kept. Then it is too late to reconsider. Better to make no oath before the Lord, since our weakness finds a hundred ways to break our word.
In these matters, we find wisdom a bewilderingly difficult concept. It is a standard too difficult for us to attain. Even we saints fall short often as we stumble in foolishness.
Yet Christ, the wisdom of God, has enacted Godís wisdom for us. He who is wisdom incarnate lived a perfectly wise life so that we could receive the reward of the wise. Christ was crucified so that we would not be destroyed in the obscure darkness of hell, the punishment of the foolish.
We do not usually see the justice of God with fleshly eyes. The world appears full of unfairness. Yet on the Cross, we see His full justice enacted upon His Son. All iniquity is punished. All abominations met their due in the fiery wrath of God. But we also see the free grace and forgiveness of God in the Blood of Christ. We see His righteousness that gives life.
May the Spirit continue to devote our hearts to the wisdom of the Word of God, and may He drive us to repentance whenever we stumble. Amen.
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