“The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power.”
Jehovah “is slow to anger.” Is a phrase that is familiar to us, and one that gladdens our hearts. Jehovah, of course, is Yahweh, that great name for God that appears 6519 times in the OT. In the English text it is given as “Lord”6510 times, and “God” four times, Jehovah 4 times and what we could call a “variant” the other single time. The phrase is, quite often used as it is in this verse, used along with the word for mercy and thus forming the fuller concept that suggests that He is both. Of course, there is no direct mention of the truth of God’s mercy.
“Slow” speaks of being “not lively” or being “slack” in the accomplishment of a task. Actually, the Greek word only appears in 2 Peter 3:9 where, actually, it speaks of the exact opposite of what is said here (in Nahum):
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
“…to anger” is quite an interesting word for us to think about. It is the Hebrew word “áppayim”. It is translated as “wrath” quite a number of times and refers mostly as the idea of the permanent attitude of the holy and just God when confronted by sin and evil. It is inadequate to regard this term merely as a description of ‘the inevitable process of cause and effect in a moral universe’ or as another way of speaking of the results of sin.
It is rather a personal quality, without which God would cease to be fully righteous and his love would degenerate into sentimentality. His wrath, however, even though like his love (insofar as it is character quality belonging fully to Him as that which can and will be demonstrated) it has to be described in human language, is not wayward, fitful or spasmodic, as human anger always is. It is as permanent and as consistent an element in his nature as is his love. Just like God is always loving and seeking to demonstrate and draw men to that love (John 3:16, et.al.); so also God is consistently wrathful toward sin and, according to the other 6510 times it is spoken of in the OT. I suspect it does not bring Him the joy and anticipation that love brings Him, but it is constant never the less.
There are many who descry the fact of God’s wrath and the coming result of that quality of His character. The claim that it is inconsistent and even terrible that God will one day punish the wicked with an everlasting punishment. It “isn’t loving” and “how could a loving God do such a thing”? “I don’t want to serve that kind of a God!”
How arrogant and self-serving such ideas are! How completely arrogant and utterly bold that is! I read this kind of nonsense a lot these days. I suspect the reason is that men think waaaay more of themselves than they ought and they have such little respect and regard for God and His Word that they think themselves free to vent their spleens’ anger whenever and in whatever fashion they fancy themselves.
We might conclude that God is every bit as consistent regarding His wrath as He is about His love. One writer said:
When mercy cometh into the world she driveth winged steeds; the axles of her chariot-wheels are red hot with speed; but when wrath goeth forth, it toileth on with tardy footsteps, for God taketh no pleasure in the sinner’s death. God’s rod of mercy is ever in his hands outstretched; his sword of justice is in its scabbard, held down by that pierced hand of love which bled for the sins of men.
We should note that Nahum says here “The Lord is slow to anger,” and tells us that this is because he is great in power. Quite a number of coomentators drew the conclusion:
He is truly great in power who hath power over himself. When God’s power doth restrain himself, then it is power indeed: the power that binds omnipotence is omnipotence surpassed. A man who has a strong mind can bear to be insulted long, and only resents the wrong when a sense of right demands his action. The weak mind is irritated at a little: the strong mind bears it like a rock which moveth not, though a thousand breakers dash upon it, and cast their pitiful malice in spray upon its summit. God marketh his enemies, and yet he bestirs not himself, but holdeth in his anger. If he were less divine than he is, he would long ere this have sent forth the whole of his thunders, and emptied the magazines of heaven; he would long ere this have blasted the earth with the wondrous fires of its lower regions, and man would have been utterly destroyed; but the greatness of his power brings us mercy. Dear reader, what is your state this evening? Can you by humble faith look to Jesus, and say, “My substitute, thou art my rock, my trust”? Then, beloved, be not afraid of God’s power; for by faith more terrify you, than the shield and sword of the warrior need terrify those whom he loves. Rather rejoice that he who is “great in power” is your Father and Friend.
“When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 (15:33; 16:18; 18:12).
We live in a time when the personal characteristic of Pride is held up and exalted. To many in this age, pride is everything, if we don’t have pride in ourselves, or whatever else is in mind, then we are, somehow lacking it is thought. The Holman Bible Dictionary defines pride, as it is defined in the Bible, like this:
An undue confidence in and attention to one’s own skills, accomplishments, state, possessions, or position. Pride is easier to recognize than to define, easier to recognize in others than in oneself. Many biblical words describe this concept, each with its own emphasis. Some of the synonyms for pride include
· arrogance, presumption, conceit, self-satisfaction, boasting, and high-mindedness.
It is the opposite of humility, the proper attitude one should have in relation to God. Pride is rebellion against God because it attributes to oneself the honor and glory due to God alone. Proud persons do not think it necessary to ask forgiveness because they do not admit their sinful condition. This attitude toward God finds expression in one’s attitude toward others, often causing people to have a low estimate of the ability and worth of others and therefore to treat them with either contempt or cruelty. Some have considered pride to be the root and essence of sin. Others consider it to be sin in its final form. In either case, it is a grievous sin.
The Biblical word “Boasting” can be committed only in the presence of other persons (1 John 2:16; James 4:16). “Haughtiness” or “arrogance” measures self as above others (Mark 7:23; Luke 1:51; Rom. 1:30; 2 Tim. 3:2; James 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). This word refers primarily to the attitude of one’s heart. First Timothy 3:6; 6:4; and 2 Tim. 3:4 use a word literally meaning “to wrap in smoke.” It emphasizes the plight of the one who has been blinded by personal pride. The idea that is sort of inherent in Pride is not only what is above, but contains the thought that the one having pride does not rightly see themselves in measure against the truth of God’s nature and of all that He has done as compared to our abilities.
Pride may appear in many forms. Some of the more common are
· pride of race, spiritual pride, and pride of riches.
Jesus denounced pride of race (Luke 3:8).
8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
The parable of the Pharisee and the publican was directed at those guilty of spiritual pride, the ones “who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else” (Luke 18:9). James 1:9-10, in his “Perspective of Rich and Poor”, warns the rich against the temptation to be lifted up with pride because of their wealth.
9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, 10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.
Pride is viewed as a great evil because it involves pretending to a greatness and glory that belong rightly to God alone. There is a good bit of info in the Scripture describing the sinfulness of pride in various terms:
1. It is condemned as evil (1Sa 15:23; Pr 21:4; Jas 4:16 See also Mk 7:22-23; Ro 1:29-30; 2Co 12:20; 2Ti 3:1-2; 1Jn 2:16)
2. It is a characteristic of Satan (Eze 28:2; 1Ti 3:6 See also 2Th 2:4 the antichrist)
3. Proud talk: 1Sa 2:3; Ps 12:2-3; Jer 9:23-24 Ps 5:5; 40:4; 138:6; Isa 5:21; Jer 13:15-17; Mt 23:12 pp Lk 14:11
As most believers know, there are a number of warnings against pride:
1. In the book of Proverbs Pr 16:5,18 See also Pr 3:7,34; 6:16-17; 11:2; 25:6-7,27; 26:12; 27:1; 29:23
2. Elsewhere in Scripture Ps 119:21 See also Lev 26:19
3. Our Lord Jesus Christ taught very definitively on pride; Ro 12:16; 1Co 10:12
In a more general sense, we’re told clearly that God opposes the proud: (1Pe 5:5; Jas 4:6; Pr 3:34)
· Peter advises in an excellent fashion for us to Submit to God and to Resist the Devil
5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.” (1 Peter 5:5)
In James 4:6 James warned that…
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says:
“God resists the proud,
But gives grace to the humble.”
Solomon, very familiarly and I suspect building of his own experience, says in Proverbs 3:34
34 Surely He scorns the scornful,
But gives grace to the humble.
Likewise we can easily see that the gospel excludes pride (Ro 3:27 See also Lk 18:9-14; Ro 4:2-3; 11:17-20; 1Co 1:26-31; Eph 2:8-9). Interestingly and thoughtfully, it is also clear that godliness involves rejecting pride (Pr 8:13 See also Ps 101:5; 131:1; Ro 12:3; 1Co 13:4; Gal 6:14).
Thus we can easily see that pride is not something to be cultivated and exalted, as it is in our country and our society. Rather, it is humility, or lowliness that we must be seeking. There are a number of reasons that the Bible gives for this. Solomon touched on a couple of them in this passage (though there a host more).
“When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2 (15:33; 16:18; 18:12).
First, though we know, and know well, for believers, pride really ought NOT come! “When” is a time or circumstance word in the OT, as well as in the NT. It seems surely that the “pride comes” is that which, under better circumstances and if the one it comes to was taking proper care, it would have been avoided.
Second, it seems clear that the coming of pride always has what is an unacceptable result; unacceptable to any and all. That result is the arising of shame. Shame appears some 190 times in the OT and another 46 times in the NT. Biblically, shame is not just a matter of feeling bad about a decision or something similar. Rather is speaking of dishonor, disgrace, ignominy, or some sense of thee known failure that brings dishonor that is visible to anyone watching.
Third we want to notice that these two undesirable things seem to build on one another. This is why Solomon puts it the way that he does. If pride is the inappropriate esteem and promotion of self for matters and talents and qualities that are not truly worthy of being held in such a fashion.
Fourthly here, we need to recognize that God distains pride in His children, and, correspondingly, humility, or lowliness is the much more preferable character trait to be developed in His people.
Fifly, and related to the prior point, not only is humility (lowliness) preferred by God and to be embraced by His people; it is wise to do so! Wisdom, as we noted in past posts, refers to being knowledgeable (in the Bible…regarding spiritual matters), skillful, clever, and such in the application and accomplishment of tasks. A wise man is able to see, figure out and make sense of matters from God’s biblical point of view, and then put that knowledge to use in a God please fashion.
Lastly, it seems that the cultivation of lowliness is the very demonstration of wisdom while allowing ourselves to demonstrate and be known for our pride is the height of foolishness. Not a very pleasant matter to consider, is it?
Arrogance is inevitably succeeded by shame. Elation of spirit precedes a downfall (Proverbs 16:18).
18 Pride goes before destruction,
And a haughty spirit before a fall.
But with the humble is wisdom. The wisdom which is itself honor, which confers honor, which saves from disgrace, - this follows upon and is the result of humility (Proverbs 15:33; Cp. Ps. 25).
33 The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom,
And before honor is humility.
Holy Scripture teems with illustrations of the above.
· The judgment upon Korah and his party;
· the signal downfall of Haman;
· the disgrace which fell upon Nebuchadnezzar, “while the word (of arrogance) was in the king’s mouth;”
· the miserable end of Herod accepting honor due to God only; -
All these are proofs that the “proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord” (16:5). On the contrary,
· David’s humility in waiting was rewarded with a throne.
· Gideon who thought himself “least” in his father’s house” (Judg. 6:15), and
· St. Paul who owned himself “less than the least of all saints” (Eph. 3:8),
These were enabled to do a great and glorious work in their several ways.
“When Ephraim spake trembling, he exalted himself in Israel”
The Lord Jesus, as a Child, sitting at the feet of His own creatures, saw all of them astonished by His wisdom.
An ancient writer said that the terrible thing about pride is that man was “not made for pride”. Yet it was man’s first sin, and is generally the last to be got rid of. It vanquished angels. To vanquish it the Son of God came down from heaven. Through His humiliation, man, prostrated by pride, ascends again to God. But what is pride? The thinking of oneself more highly than one ought to think. From this results the claiming of respect undue, the denying of that which is due. And this brings shame in time. It is expensive, and lands in ruin. It is contentious, and leads to reprisals. It is blind, and ere long stumbles. It is unbecoming, and calls down reproach. It is a complicated wickedness God hates and counterworks and takes the punishment of into His own hands. It touches His honor to humble it. And it is appropriately punished by ignominy, by error in counsel, by failure in event. “This man began to build, and was not able to finish.” Through prosperity remissness follows, through carnal security encroachments. Never do we fall into a great sin but first there has been pride. Man hates it too - in others. All men cry shame upon pride. It attracts reproach, it courts confusion. How much wiser, safer, happier, to be humble! To whom hath God respect but to the lowly? Whom do men delight to honor but such as shrink from honor? Who so safe from downfall as they who shun the heights? Who so peaceful as they who have no ambition but to be good?
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Letting our “light shine before men” accomplishes a real purpose that is essential to the Christian life. It allows them (the unredeemed around us that God has sent us to bear witness of God’s goodness and glory) as Matthew say that it is for the purpose of them to see our “good works”. Many have defined the primary meaning of these “good works” as doing good things for others, for society, etc. But I believe that, Biblically, these good works can best be defined as living and walking in such a way as it is clear that the beauty of the glory, grace and power of the Lord that has worked in us.
One writer said that to see our good works is seeing the character of God by means of us, and this is to see Christ in us. That’s why Jesus says, “Let your light shine.” It is not something we create or make up, but something that God has both begun and continued in us as we allow the Lord to do things through us. It is God’s light; our choice is whether to hide it or let it shine.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
There are a couple of implications in the verse that we need to see.
· First, we need to see that this light is something that God has “placed” inside of us, or enabled us to have shine forth. When we came to Christ, God indwelt us with His Spirit and that Holy Spirit began a work in us that builds the capacity to serve and to bear witness effectively within the plan of God. In other word, from the time we become born again, God has equipped us with the “tools” necessary to bear an effective witness. This is NOT to say that we do not have to apply ourselves and put in the work and effort needful to cultivate that gift of God so that it can be as brilliant as is can be done.
· Now, we should also note that this isn’t something that simply “shines” out from us, but something that can shine, and, in fact, might also be somewhat less than “shining” if we do not hold up our end of the agreement (so to speak). It is a light that God has given us, but something that we must “let” shine out from us. It may also be that there is a sort of comparison drawn here. The word shine can speak of a “beam” of light and was often used of the brilliant shining of the sun or some other brilliancy produce thing. So Matthew is saying here that we must see to it that we are “letting” our light shine “like” or in the fashion of the beaming source of light of which everyone would know.
· We should also see that, because we ae told to “let” our light shine, it is implied as possible that we might, unknowingly, because of our nature, prevent or decrease the shining of this light. It is imperative, then, that we see to it that are not hindering and, instead seeing to it that we are doing all we can and that God and His Word tell us that we are able to do in the shining forth of the light.
· It is also a light that can shine in different ways and perhaps even differing degrees, depending on our own submission to God and His diving purposes for our use. W are to let our light “so”, in such a fashion, to shine. It doesn’t just shine forth, at a given degree or brightness.
We allow God’s light to shine through us so God will receive the praise and the glory for what He has done and for for what He has enabled us to be. Our intent should be that in what we are and what we do, others may see God and “glorify [our] Father who is in heaven.”
Our good works should magnify God’s grace and power. That is the supreme calling of life: glorifying God. Everything we do is to cause others to give praise to God, the source of all that is good. The way we live ought to lead those around us to glorify our heavenly Father.
However, when what we do causes people to be attracted to us rather than to God, to see our human character rather than His divine character, we can be sure that what they see is not His light. We must make sure our deeds point people to God, the author of those deeds.
As we’ve seen before, some will respond to your good deeds with derision and persecution, but others will shower praise on you for your acts of Christian character. How do you respond to those who give you credit for your servant’s heart and faithful obedience? How do you deflect that praise to God so it doesn’t nestle down in your own heart? We must surely see to it that it is God Who receives the praise and glory.
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
(Much, but not entirely original)
“O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy upon Jerusalem? … And the Lord answered the angel … with good words and comfortable words.” - Zechariah 1:12,13
It is interesting to see the various places in the Bible where cries were lifted up to God and the answer is sent down in response. Of course, we all want, and pretty much do believe that God answers such cries when His children offer them up to Him. Now, we would never make such a bold claim as to state that God always answers the prayers of His people, but we are bold enough to proclaim that God’s answer to such cries are immediate and in such a fashion as to please of satisfy the ones making the cry. For instance, over in Exodus 2:23 we see mention of the cry of the Hebrew Slaves in Egypt to God:
23 Now it happened in the process of time that the king of Egypt died. Then the children of Israel groaned because of the bondage, and they cried out; and their cry came up to God because of the bondage.
They cried out in the midst of their terrible suffering and surely enough, God answered them by sending a deliverer in the person of Moses. In a very real and encouraging way, this stands as an example for us to take to heart even in this day and age.
The principle of crying out and being answered by God is also used in a negative fashion as well. Judges 10:14 speaks of yet another time when Israel, in the time of the Judges, was out “serving” the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines. They had been crying out to God for deliverance (something they had done before and received answers from God). But here God chooses to allow them to remain in the situation they were in:
14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in your time of distress.”
It underscores the dramatic difference between crying out to the one true and living God and to all of those who are and do cry out to some other “rescuer”. God not only does not answer in any way that would be considered positive, but rather, He gives them over to the pursuit of their fascination with false and pagan gods. He tells them to go and pursue their false gods with the clear implication that this will show them that there is no “rescue” to be found in any of them or even in them all together!
In 2 Kings 4:38-40 we read the account of Elisha purifying the post ofstew to rescue Israel:
38 And Elisha returned to Gilgal, and there was a famine in the land. Now the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said to his servant, “Put on the large pot, and boil stew for the sons of the prophets.” 39 So one went out into the field to gather herbs, and found a wild vine, and gathered from it a lapful of wild gourds, and came and sliced them into the pot of stew, though they did not know what they were. 40 Then they served it to the men to eat. Now it happened, as they were eating the stew, that they cried out and said, “Man of God, there is death in the pot!” And they could not eat it.
Elisha did what was necessary to make the food edible and thus demonstrated his office as a representative of God and a Prophet of God. The people had cried out to him (and thus to God) for help and through him God had. answered. Thus we can call his response as, in a very real way, a response from God.
In 1 Kings 17 we have the familiar account of the raising of the widow’s son by Elijah. God had sent Elijah to Zerephath to dwell for a while. He (God) said that a widow would provide for him while there. He went and introduced himself to this widow and found that she knew of the God of Israel and was in extremely poor situation-wise. Elijah told her to go and make provision for He and she and her son. He told her that her supplies would not fall short in the time that he was with them. As a result, they (all of the household) at for “many days” – v15-16). Just after that, God tells Elijah
The passage says that “after these things”, that is after the “many days” that the widow’s son became sick and the sickness was “so serious” -serious meaning “urgent” in the original language – that he stopped breathing, namely that he died of the illness.
The widow was, quite understandably, a bit stressed by the death of her son and she proclaims, in verse 18, “What have I to do with you, O man of God? Have you come to me to bring my sin to remembrance, and to kill my son?” It is very evident that her grief is profound.
Elijah’s response is for her to give him her son. He carries him to the upper room of the house “…where he was staying”. And laid him out on “his won bed” there. There, as we have been considering, the passages says;
20 Then he cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, have You also brought tragedy on the widow with whom I lodge, by killing her son?” 21 And he stretched himself out on the child three times, and cried out to the Lord and said, “O Lord my God, I pray, let this child’s soul come back to him.” 22 Then the Lord heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived. (1 Kings 17:20–22)
He “cried out to the Lord” with his cry give to us in specific terms. We’re told further that “…the Lord “…heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him…”
Thus, once again we see one of God’s people “calling out to the Lord” and God both receiving/hearing that calling and answering it. Now, as we have said, God does not ALWAYS answer in the dramatic and positive fashion we see here in 1 Kings 17. It sometimes is true that He hears and chooses to, for reasons of his own, NOT to answer at all, or not to answer in the positive. But He DOES hear.
There are many today that lay the ability for a positive answer on the back of the one making the petition. If you do not get the answer that is desired, the fault is yours! You have not had the faith to bring it to pass. You need to believe and it will occur. Additionally, there are many today that place themselves in a place over the people of God in the place being able to cause things to occur. You just have to contribute to the offing, (thus showing your faith and willingness to believe that God will answer – so they say). The sadness of such malarkey is that this is categorically NOT what God’s word tells or is the pattern demonstrated in the Word. It is a figment of the self-oriented imagination of people who want fame, money or the acclaim of men. That is so, so very sad.
On the other hand, what a sweet answer to an anxious enquiry! This night let us rejoice in it. O Zion, there are good things in store for thee; thy time of travail shall soon be over; thy children shall be brought forth; thy captivity shall end. Bear patiently the rod for a season, and under the darkness still trust in God, for his love burneth towards thee. God loves the church with a love too deep for human imagination: he loves her with all his infinite heart. Therefore, let her sons be of good courage; she cannot be far from prosperity to whom God speaketh “good words and comfortable words.” What these comfortable words are the prophet goes on to tell us: “I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.” The Lord loves his church so much that he cannot bear that she should go astray to others; and when she has done so, he cannot endure that she should suffer too much or too heavily. He will not have his enemies afflict her: he is displeased with them because they increase her misery. When God seems most to leave his church, his heart is warm towards her. History shows that whenever God uses a rod to chasten his servants, he always breaks it afterwards, as if he loathed the rod which gave his children pain. “Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him.” God hath not forgotten us because he smites—his blows are no evidences of want of love. If this is true of his church collectively, it is of necessity true also of each individual member. You may fear that the Lord has passed you by, but it is not so: he who counts the stars, and calls them by their names, is in no danger of forgetting his own children. He knows your case as thoroughly as if you were the only creature he ever made, or the only saint he ever loved. Approach him and be at peace.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
We’ve spoken before about the use of the term “way” in Proverbs. It speaks of the habit of a life, or portion of such. It is an active word and speaks of the manner in which someone speaks, or thinks or behaves for some period of being. We have also said that “man” is not speaking of males, but is a general reference to adult people. So, this is saying then, when an adult person’s manner of conducting themselves, either in total or in some portion of living is pleasing to the Lord…
We should also not that “When” is a time word. It can speak of any amount of time in view, either in a relatively short sense, of doing a thing that is pleasing to God and reaping the reward from God for it. Or, it could speak of the life’s habit and reaping the reward and blessing of God tthat He promises over that period of time.
We also need to keep in mind a couple other things:
· We are not talking about an earned blessing here.
· Nor are we speaking of a thing demanded by God, or else, no dinner tonight! It is not that sort of thing.
· The two, taken together, point to the truth that blessing and the good gifts of God are the result of His mercy and grace, not a matter of our earnings. We don’t “work for”, earning the blessing and rewards that come at the various “whens” in the course of life. Our Master in heaven is good and loving and gives to us.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
We need also recognize that the verse implies that God is always watching over His people. Here, when He sees what He likes/approves He chooses to reward. The blessing given by God is that even the enemies of the one obeying come to be “at peace” with him. Enemies here speaks of one person of opposes or sets himself against another. In the OT it spoke of the “enemies” of the nation of Israel; even to the point of its’ very existence. It is taken to be axiomatic that the reason for this opposition was that had been proved to be the channel of God’s blessed presence in the world. Israel fought against them, not just for territory or because they (Israel) wanted what the other nations had; though this a reason much voiced today. They were those who set themselves against God and His Divine right to make choices and set chains of events in motion.
The OT story of Israel makes it very clear that these chains, quite frequently, involved God acting to the detriment of other nations, while acting to the blessing and benefit of His chosen ones, Israel. Solomon makes it clear that the way of war is not the common way for God’s people. Rather, as this passage makes clear; if one of His children, (or, by implication) a nation or large group are faithful and obedient to their God, the God of Heaven and of all men, then God will make even those who set themselves to be enemies of God’s “men”, He will make to be “at peace” with them, namely the “men” in view.
Of course, we must take view here that what is being said is NOT an absolute statement. It is not saying wither of two things:
1. First, it is not a statement of absolute favor for the people of God. “If you do such and so, there will be no conflict in your life.” In fact, the Lord Jesus told us that those who are Godly and obedient to God can really expect to experience conflict in this world!
2. Neither is it meant say any such absolute thing about entire nations and group. Those groups can apply the idea to their pursuits in life. But the blessing of God is not an absolute promise in all the affairs that touch the matters in which the nation or group are involved.
3. There is no absolute promise here. If you are a good boy, you won’t run into, or have to tolerate anyone who would, otherwise be one whom you would have conflict with or not “be at peace”. Such a man, conceivably, cold see such a thing happen, but likely “one at a time”.
4. A fourth idea that is present here is that the “enemies” here, those who are in conflict or not getting along with the man in view, are one sort of “extra” difficult to be at peace with; even under normal circumstances. Thus, it underscores, in this context, the working of God’s hand is especially needed to accomplish that peace. There are in fact, quite a number of things that require such help from God. Many men can live peaceably with those around him; but when it comes to those who are living openly and clearly for Christ, it seems certain that they will draw the animosity of the world around them and thus the intercession of God will be necessary.
“When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
5. It is interesting that the passage also seems to imply that as a result of the believers’ obedience and “pleasing” of his God, God will “make” their enemies to come to a state of peace with them. It is not the man himself that is directly responsible for the result of peace. Though the man is surely responsible indirectly, as it was his actions that God was pleased with and which God desired to bless by bringing peace with those who were enemies.
But the implication is that is doing something in/to them that is the real “cause” of their change of demeanor/attitude. It isn’t just a matter of them observing their behavior and saying something like “You know, that a really nice person…I was wrong about him… I think I’ll start being nicer to him!” Now, we have no way of knowing anything about the actual mindset and the ruminations therein of the “enemy” involved. But we can suffice it to say that God does and that men, by and large do that which their minds direct them to do. Surely there is a sense in which some of man’s behavior is conditioned and thus automatic; but the view given here is what effects the autonomic behavior in the “enemy” that God changes. Rather, it has to do with the way this “enemy” thinks and feels.
Interestingly (and, hopefully, briefly) this is the way that we can see God works in all of those that do what they do as a result of God “making” them do it. Here, the enemy chooses to be a peace. That much is clear from the context and general idea here. God is NOT twisting their arms behind them and threatening them with terrible punishment if they do not do what he tells them concerning being at peace with the man in view. Rather, God works in their thoughts and emotions to choose to be at peace.
This is much like what God tells us about how men come to Christ in matter of salvation and redemption. There are some who seem to think that God, because salvation is pre-ordained from before the foundation of the world and God knew the very names of his coming people, that, when the time came for their redemption, He simply forced them to agree and submit. But that is the truth. He forces no one to accept salvation. Rather, like in this instance, He simply works within the mind and the emotions to cause the recipients of His grace to both desire and choose to receive the Lord.
The same is true in this Proverb (16:7). God does not smash the “enemies” in view here. He simply works in their minds and hearts and causes them to desire to be at peace with the men in view. What a fabulous demonstration of both the grace and goodness of God, as well as His great power among the children of men.
Illustrations. · Esau, on Jacob’s ways becoming pleasing to God, was made to be at peace with him whose life he had once sought.
· Laban, who followed Jacob as an enemy, departed from him a friend.
· By an overruling providence, the nations surrounding Israel were restrained from desiring their land when they went up at the appointed seasons to appear before the Lord their God (Exod. 34:22, etc.).
· How was King Saul won over for a time by David’s magnanimity, and the proofs of God being on his side!
· And Saul of Tarsus, from breathing forth threatenings and slaughter, how was his heart turned, in the hands of God, towards the Christians whom he persecuted!
Application. It must not be supposed that this text contradicts others which tell me that “all who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.” Both are true, as God’s words always must be. The one shows the native enmity of the human heart as against God, so also against His people. The other, the divine restraint which curbs that enmity, so that it shall not really “harm those that are followers of that which is good” (1 Pet. 3:13), and shall in the end work their good (Rom. 8:28), and also be for ever subdued (1 Cor. 15:25). I must expect enemies, and probably of my own household, if I make it always my first aim to please God. The Church will never be without them, yet has she her times of “rest,” and “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against her. I, too, as a member of the Church, must expect to share her lot. Let me not make foes gratuitously by injudicious, needless, ill-tempered opposition. Let me always have a conciliatory bearing, and to be ready to return evil with good. But if for conscience’ sake I am opposed, threatened, ill-treated, slandered, let me “commit myself to Him that judgeth righteously.” Let me hold fast my principles “without wavering,” and it may be God will so convince my enemies that He is with me, or so turn their hearts, that in time they shall become my friends. Or He will overrule their malignity for my good. In the end they shall come and worship at my feet, and know that He has loved me (Rev. 3:9).
“The horse is prepared against the day of battle; but safety” (victory) “is of the Lord.” – Proverbs 21:31.
As is true in many passages in Proverbs there is here what amounts to a fairly obvious comparison for the purpose of clear illustration. The horse, as used in battle, would have been a figure familiar to all who would have read this passage. Surely there may have been a number of farm horses that could have been familiar to people as well. But that is not the figure used here. This a military figure that is used to setup the end of the verse, which seems to be the major point.
The word “horse” is not a particularly often used word in the OT, most likely because OT Israel was not an equine based society. Even the farmers were far more apt to use an ox or even mule for plowing and moving materials or supplies. The Hebrew word appears 140 times, translated as “horse” 133 of those times. Believe it or not, it is given as “swallow, or crane” twice, likely because of the beauty inherent in the two species, it is put forth 2 other times as “horseback” and horseback plus another word filling out the usages.
The “day of battle” is universally used to speak of an horrific and anticipated time of warfare that is expected, though it can also be descriptive of one that has already passed. This is the central thought of the verse. There is an future time of battle, of fighting coming. Its’ approach is known and the effects that will arise are easily anticipated.
A horse, likely a trained war horse may be in view here, can be prepared for such a battle, given wrappings and that make it better able to endure and convey the rider through the midst of such a battle. But, we must note that the use of the horse was forbidden to be used in battle among the Jews (Deut. 17:16), in order that they might ascribe the glory of their victories to Jehovah. Hence it was that Joshua hamstrung all the horses taken in battle (Josh. 11:6, 9). The war-horse, so eulogized by the Creator (Job 39:19–25), is a splendid sight as it stands caparisoned for battle; how much more a well-mounted force of cavalry! Yet shall these utterly fail to achieve victory unless God will it.
In fact, it was common to prepare such horses in a group and then use them together, almost as a unique style of weapon against an enemy. We must be careful that we do not think of the long lance and such as the kind of weapons used. Those type of cavalry weapons did not come to be until long after. At this time, they prepared the horse to be able to take club blows and perhaps a sword or knife blow in passing an enemy.
What is in view here in now makes the horse invulnerable or impossible to stop. It is simply a picture to cause the reader of the passage to think about what it is that one who faces such terrible threat and dangers. Further, it is challenging us to consider where, even given the tremendous security that such a prepared warhorse renders, our hope for real safety (and security) rests. This is a perfectly logical question to ask. I think it is clear that Solomon is not really speaking to the members of his military, though the point he is trying to make applies as much to them as it does to anyone else. Even the one who is well prepared to face the great difficulties and danger of life ought not really depend on the “things” that he carries or is equipped with, for they are not the real sources of his “safety” (or, here, “deliverance”) from these great difficulties.
“Deliverance” in the Hebrew, speaks of rescue from danger; and here it speaks of the very most general form that danger takes. Solomon wants us to grasp the point (with an aim, of course, of implementing it is our lives) that we need to both recognize and put into action the fact that we cannot look to our preparations, whatever and how great, or how successful they have been in our experience.
The reason for this is a least at least three-fold.
1. First, the Bible is very clear that we are not to depend on self, or human devices or abilities for doing or accomplishing the causes and purposes of God. We must do what is clearly and utterly of His strength, for our strength is totally inadequate and can easily be defeated.
2. Secondly, we look to God for our safety, deliverance, or rescue because it must be our desire to see God glorified in whatever “battles” we fight.
3. Third, there is also the matter of testimony to those who fight along with us, and even to those either being fought against or who are watching the battle. It is only when we rely on the preparation of God for the fighting of the battle that this testimony will be what it ought to be.
Illustrations. – As we noted, the horse was forbidden to be used in battle among the Jews (Deut. 17:16), in order that they might ascribe the glory of their victories to Jehovah. So, as we noted as well, Joshua hamstrung all the horses taken in battle (Josh. 11:6, 9). But Solomon violated this law. And the national glory in battle began to wane from the time when this forbidding of the use of horses in war was disregarded.
Defeat commenced from the very quarter of unwarranted confidence (comp. 1 Kings 10:26, 28, with 1 Kings 11:14–26 and 2 Chron. 12:8, 9). Sisera’s army, with its nine hundred chariots of iron, was easily defeated by Barak’s chosen force, not only without chariots or horses, but even disarmed (Judg. 5:8); so that the “victory” was seen to be “of the Lord.” The same was true of Gideon’s picked three hundred, and in both cases “their faith subdued kingdoms” (Heb. 11:32, 33). The renunciation of their confidence in horses marked a time of gracious acceptance for Israel (Hos. 14:3).
Application.—The newspapers often teem with speculations about war. But how seldom does the Lord of hosts appear to be taken into account! As a Christian, let us endeavor to supply the want I find in our Lord and His provision and defense. I ought to remember that safety, namely victory over the enemies and threats of life, is of God. True, the means must be employed, or God cannot be expected to bless our arms even in a righteous cause.
It is a part of His moral government that good results do not ordinarily flow except from well-considered efforts. Therefore, as long as war is a necessity, there must be armies kept up, well disciplined and equipped. But this is not all. God can save without armies, but armies cannot conquer without Him. Hence, national prayer should always accompany national warfare. And since the many pray not, those who are prayerful must supply their places by redoubling their prayers. The principle applies no less to the spiritual combat. Vain are our efforts (redoubled, it may be, in Lent) to conquer the enemies of the soul, if we are looking to those efforts for success. The secret of victory must lie in the motto,
“Through God we shall do great acts, and it is He that shall tread down our enemies.”
A number of the ideas and suggestions here were suggested on the GTY Website.
The more I read, the more I am upset and disheartened by the many, many writers out there who, in the name of what they call the “defense of a loving God” end up tearing down the accurate and true defense of the Word of that God in order to make up one for themselves that they think more appropriate and appealing to the world. In addition, they seek, many of them, to meld the evangelical understanding of the Lord with the Roman Catholic (as well as the Eastern Catholic) view of eternal destiny together, once again in order to make us abler to play nice together.
It seems as though they have the perception that Bible believers take pleasure in considering the Biblical view of the eternal destiny of the unsaved. But they couldn’t be more wrong. I don’t know that anyone likes to think about hell. With the exception of, perhaps a few of the fire breathing Baptist preacher types, no one takes pleasure in considering the wrath that awaits unrepentant sinners, and nor should they! Likewise, it is very obvious that no one ought enjoy considering the fullness of what the Bible means when it says very clearly that
“…it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
It seems that many, if they could, would tear that passage (and others like it) right out of the Bible and, once again, seek to make the Bible a more caramel apple sort of experience for its readers. Quite a number have even gone so far as to proclaim that the view of a God Who would demand the eternal, suffering punishment of those who die in an unredeemed state is a violation of His nature and that such a God cannot be the God of the Bible, but is one that is a construction of the hateful and prideful mentality of men.
The problem is that this is virtually the exact opposite of the truth. A God who does not lay forth and proclaim the coming judgment and punishment is the opposite of the One put forth in the fullness of the pages of Scripture. Likewise, it demonstrates very clearly what must be a deliberate and purposeful reshaping of the “face” of God. It seems obvious that this point of view is not so much ones’ honest and God honoring point of view that comes from the study and opinion forming categorical taking in of what God has actually said as it is the putting forth and honoring of ones’ own opinions and perception of what really ought to be.
It is fairly common for men to reshape the Biblical picture and definition of Who and what God is and what He is like into one that is shaped and active in man’s own image. How many times do we hear these days about how we’re all worshipping the same God and we need to learn to accept each other our religious differences. We need to be more like Jesus was, they say. One who condemned no one and taught a doctrine of the love of God for all men and condemned no one.
The late Clark Pinnock was one who put forth such a view. He was a terribly liberal theologian who was responsible, at least sharing the
How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness whose ways include inflicting everlasting torture upon His creatures, however sinful they may have been? Surely a God who would do such a thing is more nearly like Satan than like God, at least by any ordinary moral standards. . . . Surely the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is no fiend; torturing people without end is not what our God does. Does the one who told us to love our enemies intend to wreak vengeance on His own enemies for all eternity?
His opinion was not based on the clear, literal and plain testimony of God’s Word. Rather he began with his own thoughts, opinions and perspective about what God ought to like; based on what he perceived to be morality and what ought to be in the world he lived in and He thought that his perception of what was good and best ought to apply to God as well. Now that may make some sort of sense humanly speaking; but if and when we think of it from a solid Biblical point of view, we are forced to come to the conclusion that unless one’s worldly and even eternal point of view MUST come from the Word of God and that Word alone, or it is useless. I am not talking about a Christian traditional point of view. I am talking about an understanding of the world and eternity that finds it foundation and even its details in a literal understanding of what God has said in all of His Word the Bible.
Sadly, this is NOT the case in most evangelical understandings and/or portrayals of things today. More than anything, these portrayals are rooted and founded in human thinking and ponderances. The God’s of men, no matter if they are associated with a tradition with a lengthy history or not. Neither does it matter what they “say” they are rooted in. What matters is whether or not it is actually consistent with a literal and verbal content of the Bible. Many will (and have) protested that we have to “interpret” the Bible anyway, and much of what we understand is just a matter of our minds and their working through these things. What we understand, then, according to this perception, is only arrived at by means of our minds making the Bible say what they really want it to say.
What OUGHT to be the source for how we understand the matters of eternal destiny, judgment and punishment of the unredeemed (as well as any other matter upon which service and obedience to God touches) stands simply demands to be what God has objectively said.
One truly distressing thing that we observe in our culture and in what is professed to be an understanding of God in many of these folks lives. The problem, as best I can see is that, like the ancient Babylonians and other Pagan nations, is that God is made over in the image of man, not man, recognizing that he is made in the image of God and submitting himself to the command and directions of God revealed in His Word. I suspect that is why so much of the religion around the world and around what passes for Christianity is humanistic and not truly holy and Christ oriented. I readily acknowledge that the way in which I have said this is clumsy, but I maintain that it is basically accurate in what it presents.
I strongly believe that the central issue in the differences between religions and spirituality is that men refuse to acknowledge the God Who is the Creator of all (not just white Americans) but it that they, virtually to a “man”, have reshaped God into man’s image (their own image btw). Their response in these matters is that God would or would never do such and so because that is just wrong to do, immoral, etc. The problem is that they have drawn their definition of what the wrongness or immorality from their own psyche rather than looking to the plain statements of the Bible to use as the foundation for their thinking. Thus, they twist and reshape what is there to fit that understanding so that their humanness is not threatened.
Judgment and punishment is one of those things most cited issues of what we are discussing. We already noted that Pinnock, among others, is very definite and, BTW, insulting to God and to His Word when he says things related to what we cited earlier. His very human point of view is very clear. The matter is that it is not at all Biblical. Even where he makes reference to the “love” of God he badly misunderstands and misrepresents just what that love is. Because HE would do or not do a thing, his mind and ego tells him that certainly God would not either. This is a terrible misrepresentation, and is very, very dangerous as well because Pinnock and others like him are widely read and heard as representatives of what God really thinks.
It is a perspective that is driven by sentiment and that ignores what the clear teaching of the Bible is, not to mention what Jesus Himself said on numerous occasions. The theory is that God’s love for mankind is so overwhelming that He can’t bear to surrender anyone to the due penalty of his or her sin. If He’s already gone to such great lengths to rescue sinners (John 3:16), why wouldn’t He finish the job? In this view, hell is often disregarded as a literal location, and seen instead as a state of being that describes the frustration and futility of sin.
Christ Himself said about hell: that it is a realm of “outer darkness” filled with “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12, 22:13). It’s a “furnace” (Matthew 13:42, 50) of unquenchable fires (Mark 9:48-49). It’s the endless torment (Luke 16:23-24) of spiritual and bodily destruction (Matthew 8:12).
Likewise, Scripture is clear that God takes sin seriously, and that we must, too.
“The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but He loves one who pursues righteousness” (Proverbs 15:9).
The prophet Isaiah declared,
“Woe to the wicked! It will go badly with him, for what he deserves will be done to him” (Isaiah 3:11).
Paul echoed that warning in his letter to the Romans:
“But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God” (Romans 2:5).
I remember when I was in school, one of the prevalent arguments that went round and round in larger Christianity was the idea of “universalism”, namely that all men will, one day, end up in heaven together. Everything from Hinduism and Confucianism to, sadly, even Roman and Orthodox Catholicism posit the idea in one way or another. There are many other groups that say the same thing as well. The heart of universalism is unbelief regarding the gospel. It’s a rejection of Christ as the only way of salvation (John 14:6), and a deadly downplaying of the severity of sin. A universalist sees no need to plead with others over the gospel, since his view negates the sinfulness of sin, the exclusivity of Christ, and the finality of the grave. Universalism is a repudiation of the gospel and salvation that makes God a weak-willed liar.
It is essential for us to allow the Bible to say what it says and to be sure that we hold those truths forward to a lost world so that God may use them to convict and call them to His presence. We dare not simply allow things to take their own way! That dishonors God and denies the efficacy of His Word and the essential power of His Spirit in the matter of regeneration. It also denies the crippling power of sin and the inherited disabling power of sins work inherited from Adam. We can do it ourselves right? Or, in the minds of many, we are never really that bad to begin with! Of course, the Catholic perspective is that God is going to provide an after the fact help to us in the presence of purgatory and the ability of the saints to aid and enable to faithful to correct those faults and sin that they did in and entered the afterlife still in possession of. Another idea is what is called “Annihilationism” which posits that all men, upon their death, or at some time thereafter, will simply, via the judgment of God, simply cease to be. If they die in sin, unrepentant, God will indeed judge them, but His judgment will be to make them vanish, as if they had never been.
Again, the matter here, for Christians, is the complete lack of any Biblical substance whatsoever. If the Scripture says anything about the matter, it proclaims loudly and forcefully that it (universalism/annihilationism) is untrue and that there will be many who will enter the afterlife of eternity future facing the everlasting judgement of God. As believers we must hold these ideas as the driving force for preaching and delivering the Gospel to the lost world.
Just as a final word, again, on the GTY website we are told that in his sermon “A Testimony of One Surprised to Be in Hell, Part 2,” John MacArthur explains why it’s so critical to believe in Scripture’s testimony to an eternal hell.
Punishment in hell is defined by the word aionios, which is the word eternal or everlasting. There are people who would like to redefine that word aionios and say, “Well, it doesn’t really mean forever.” But if you do that with hell, you’ve just done it with heaven, because the same word is used to describe both. If there is not an everlasting hell, then there is not an everlasting heaven. And I’ll go one beyond that. The same word is used to describe God. And so if there is not an everlasting hell, then there is not an everlasting heaven, nor is there an everlasting God. It is clear that God is eternal; and, therefore, that heaven is eternal, and so is hell.
Let’s be clear: any attempt to avoid or overturn the truth about hell is a direct assault on Scripture and the gospel. Those who champion such demonic lies are stripping the teeth from God’s judgment, subverting Scripture’s urgent calls for repentance, denying Christ’s own testimony to the reality of hell, underselling the severity of sin, promoting heinous unbelief, and questioning the very character and nature of God Himself.
Believers who profess allegiance to the truth cannot abide these forms of eternal compromise. As we stand together for the gospel, we must also stand together against these heretical corruptions of vital gospel truth.
“The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.”—Proverbs 15:3.
The phrase “eyes of the Lord” is not a very hard phrase to get a start on understanding. It is actually used some 20 times in the OT and a lone 1 time in he NT. Eye, of course, refers to the instrument of sight in human beings. It is what we look and see things through, and is one of the ways we “perceive” the world around us (but not the only or even the final one). It speaks of much more than just “seeing” the physical forms and makeup around us. As so, we must conclude that when it is used of God, it is speaking of the matter of perception and grasping a matter.
The Heb. word for eye, ‘ayin, with parallels in other Near Eastern languages, as we said, is used of the physical organ of man (Gn. 3:6) or beast (30:41), of God anthropomorphically (Ps. 33:18), and also of objects (Ezk. 1:18; cf. Rev. 4:6). The Gk. word ophthalmos has familiar derivations in English. We, for instance” get our word “ophthalmology” from this Greek form.
In Hebrew the physical organs are understood as acting semi-independently and possessing also psychical and moral qualities. Thus the eye not only has sight but is proud (Is. 5:15), has pity (Dt. 7:16), sleep (Gn. 31:40), delight (Ezk. 24:16), etc., and, while Paul emphasizes the interdependence of the physical organs (1 Cor. 12:16ff.), Mt. 5:29 preserves the Hebraic notion of the almost self-contained function of the organ. We also can see, via example in the Scriptures, that the terms is attributed to God with many of those same attributes.
The practice of putting out the eyes of a defeated enemy was common in the East (Jdg. 16:21; 2 Ki. 25:7). This was a symbolic at to underscore and act as a symbol of the effect of the victory over enemies.
The phrase ‘the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him’ (Ps. 33:18) is significant of God’s watchful care (cf. Ps. 1:6).Here in Proverbs 15:3, we see it also symbolic or the omniscience of God as He does that watching over all of men, good and evil both.
Other phrases are:
· ‘eye for eye’ (Lv. 24:20);
· ‘face to face’, literally ‘eye to eye’ (Nu. 14:14);
· ‘before their eyes’, i.e., in full view (Gn. 42:24; cf. Je. 32:12);
· and ‘between your eyes’, i.e., on the forehead (Ex. 13:9), of the phylactery.
Derived usages are: ‘face of the land’ (Heb. Face is the Heb. Word ‘ayin or eye) (Ex. 10:5), and ‘gleaming’ or ‘sparkling’ (Ezek. 1:4; Pr. 23:31) which speaks of pleasure or joy/happiness.
We are forced here to see this as an anthropomorphism, or a humanized idea applies to God. Here Solomon is speaking of the ability of the heavenly God too exercise vigilance over all men at the same time. It has teaching value illustrative of a thing that God does as a part of His nature as Lord over all men.
1. For the evil (the Hebrew word means “to spoil or to break in pieces), there is the implication of accountability on the behalf of all men to God because of the things in their lives that demonstrate this failed or rotten quality they have. This is a matter that all men MUST recognize and submit themselves to.
2. For what Solomon here calls “the good”, meaning those are pleasing, joyful, or agreeable to Him, the implication is that of protection or reward.
“Watch” is a word that refers to keeping lookout over a thing. It was frequently used of military “watches”, looking out for threats or enemies. The idea here is that God keeps “watch” over both the wicked and the good. He is looking to see both the harmful things that the wicked do, keeping them accountable for their actions, as well as the good and their place and function in the plan of God.
In adaptation to human understanding, the omniscience of the Deity is here and elsewhere compared to eyes - “seven eyes,” indicating perfectness (2 Chron. 16:9; Zech. 4:10). They are said to observe, to examine, to behold (as from a watch-tower) the evil and the good everywhere. The doctrine has both its alarming and its comfortable side, but as it is intended first to warn, “the evil” are first spoken of.
The omniscient eye of God observed our first parents in the garden, Joseph and Manasseh in prison, Achan within his tent, Hezekiah on his sick-bed, Nebuchadnezzar in his palace, the three youths in the furnace, Jonah in the whale, Nathanael under the fig-tree, St. Peter on the housetop, Herod on his throne, Lydia by the river-side, St. Paul in the tempest and before Nero, St. John in exile.
It is evident from Holy Scripture that nothing escapes the penetrating eye of God. He sees not only every man, but all his doings and all his thoughts. As our Governor, above all as our Judge, it is essential all should be “naked and open” to His Eyes. He must know all, that He may “rule in righteousness” and “judge righteous judgment.” Man in his sinfulness would prefer an impersonal God, would make of the machinery of Nature a God which he might observe without being himself observed. But the proofs of God’s all-seeing Eye are too irrefutable, and conscience bears witness to It too feelingly, to allow of there being as much atheism spoken as is acted. Yet the inner spirit of the guilty, until reconciled, is atheistic, and he saith with Job’s adulterer, “No eye shall see me” (Job 24:15). The same man would call upon God in time of danger. So easy is it to own omniscience and yet live “without God.” But, indeed, the thought of the all-seeing Eye is too terrible, when realized, to be endured unless we recognize in It the beamings of compassionate love. Am I, in the spirit of adoption, able to look up to God and cry, “Abba, Father”? Then, while the certainty that at every moment “Thou, God, seest me,” will make me watchful not to offend, in private as well as in public, in the church, in the counting-house, in the shop, in the street, wherever I am, it will not fill me with dismay. For I shall remember that He sees “the good” as well as “the evil,” and will reward the honest effort of His child to be good. He sees my faults. He sees my repentance also. He sees me “in the Beloved,” and accepts me for His sake.
“Wise men lay up knowledge: but the mouth of the foolish is near destruction.”--
Proverbs 10:14 (12:23; 13:3).
We start with one of the more interesting aspects of this verse… You’ll notice that the word “people” is italicized here, indicating that the actual ‘word’ men is not present in the original language (so to speak). Where it actually comes from is the word ‘wise” that starts the verse. This is a form that we see quite a number of times in both the OT and the NT. It is a portion (or implication) of the ‘wise’ itself. “Wise” is really an adjective, a descriptive word and is in the plural. If it was with a noun (for instance, ‘Pastor’) it could be singular and be talking about each individual Pastor and be describing his ‘wisdom’. As is it is making a general statement about all those who can be described as wise. Then the verse tells us who may be considered a part of the group defined as ‘wise’. Once again we note (as in prior studies on Proverbs) that ‘men’ here does not speak of males, but rather of anyone who fills the standard laid out in the verse.
That standard is a simple one. It has to do with recognizing knowledge. Knowledge, in this passage, is the Hebrew word “da’at”. It does not speak of things like knowing how to physically do things, mow a lawn., fix a roof, etc. It is speaking of more intangible things, like philosophy, theology, the basic way that the world and the universe works. The idea is the hard things that makes life and living in it make sense. As far as spiritual matters go, it would speak of theology, the way that God does things in the world, etc.
“Lay up…” is the Hebrew word ‘yi͙spĕnû (yispaynoo) and refers to the “storing up” of a quantity or supply of a thing for use later. Interestingly, it is in what is called the “imperfect” tense that speaks of a past action that has abiding effect into the present. It seems perfectly logical given the content of the verse here that gives us the idea of what it is that Solomon is telling us should be the object of our “storing up"”(or laying up as some versions put it).
It is the act of a wise person to store up or layup knowledge, the understanding of how the world works and how God interacts with His people. Conversely, he tells us, it is the act of a “fool”. As we have seen before, the “fool” speaks of the stupid person, or one perhaps a senseless act (would be rendered “foolishness” in that context). In the Bible, the single most foolish person is the one who denies the reality of God in the world.
This makes wonderful sense mated with the first part of the verse. The “wise” man is one who seeks the knowledge of God and stores that knowledge up, gaining and gaining s deeper understand of the God of all men. On the other hand it is the foolish one who does not. He is, as Solomon says here, near to destruction, we have to conclude, Solomon is speaking both
· The destruction of being unable to function is a way that brings God’s blessing and fruitfulness as His child.
· Likewise, it brings one nearer and nearer to eternal destruction and God judgment that will fall on those are the “foolish ones”.
I think we can agree that, on the one-hand, that is the very definition of the foolish person. On the other hand, it pretty much defines one who is wise! The contrast is between the wisdom of those who store up knowledge, keeping it in reserve, to deal out as may befit time and circumstances, and the folly of those who, out of their emptiness, blurt out continually words fraught with mischief to themselves or others. The word “near” being an adjective, the last clause may be more intelligibly rendered, “The mouth of the fool is (a) near (speedy) destruction,” an ever-present source of danger.
· Jacob and Daniel, and Mary, the mother of our Lord, all did wisely in laying up in their hearts knowledge which it would have been unseemly to proclaim at the time.
· Historically, Stephen and Paul had both stored up learning, which, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, was of great service in their disputations as Christian teachers.
· Samson, by rashness of speech, “swallowed up himself” (Judg. 16:17; Eccles. 10:12), and
· Nabal’s churlish, ignorant words, which were “as a burning fire” of dissension, proved a quickly destroying agency against himself, having been disrespectful to someone he ought not have messed with!
Application.—Happy he who early in life perceives the value of useful knowledge. No need to urge him to take pains to acquire it. As a miser is intent upon his savings, so will the studious youth be intent upon mental stores. Nor will he put them, as too many do, into an unretentive memory, “a bag” (as it were) “with holes.” No, for the exercise of memory will add strength to it, and he will retain at least a good residuum of what is thus accumulated. And then his wisdom will be not to display but to use this knowledge seasonably, for the instruction and benefit of others, rather than for his own glory; and to use what he has as a means of gaining more. Whatever my position in life, all useful knowledge will be of service, and tend to improve that position. There is a knowledge, moreover, which is acquired not from books but from men, from observation, from experience, and this is the most calculated to make wise; above all, if it be “sanctified by the Word of God, and prayer.” “The priest’s lips should keep knowledge.” The good steward will bring forth “out of the good treasure of his heart,” “things new” as well as “old,”—will be always increasing knowledge and experience. This, which applies primarily to the clergy, reaches to the laity as priests also in their degree (1 Pet. 2:9). By thus storing the mind and governing the lips, I shall be preserved, moreover, from the fate of those empty-headed praters who open their mouths continually, and always to do mischief (though it may be unintentionally), if not to others, to themselves.
“Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” –
We need to start our consideration of this verse with a look at just what it is that Solomon is urging/advising us to do here. There is, obviously a two step instruction here. To buy in Hebrew (qěne̅) means to get or acquire as a valuable or desirable thing. It can also speak, in some contexts, of creating a thing that is needed, even necessary. It can even mean to “redeem” a thing that is desired and has real value. The matter is found in the thing itself and not in the wanting of it. Rather, we can see that the wanting of it occurs because of the inherent value or worth of the thing. Just by way of mention, the verb “to buy” is in the Imperative voice and is a command, or more properly here, an urging of the part of one who has authority. Thus, we can conclude that Solomon, as the great man of God, speaking for the Spirit of God, is urging us to hear and obey what God has laid on his heart to say.
He is urging us to buy “the truth”, which can mean anything along the line of that which speaks of what is consistently agreeable to what God has commanded and/or revealed. It can speak in a number of senses; truth, trustworthiness, firmness, constancy, and even adequate duration. Most often in the OT, it is used to point to that which is true, which is known to accurate or is indeed or surely true. As we noted, it often speaks of moral or revealed truth from God, or that which is consistent with known truth.
The point here is the Solomon is giving a strong urging for his listeners to “buy into” known revealed truth. He is not necessarily talking about abstract truth, or truths like what is thrown up in the air will fall to the ground. That is known to be true, but is not along the line of what is being spoken of here.
Conversely, Solomon speaks of “selling” (Hebrew Timko̅r) actually, “not selling” that which has been acquired. The urging includes the acquiring of the thing in view, here... truth. It is important to understand that Solomon is not saying that anyone can “make” truth or that any action on our part affects whether it is true or not. He is talking about the acquiring of that truth by his hearers.
So the point here is that we are to pursue truth (and the other two items mentioned) with zeal and great effort. It is interesting that it is assumed that once that “truth” is acquired, and then, once we have acquired this truth, we must grasp and hold onto it as with an unwillingness to let it go.
Wisdom, understanding and instruction are three terms used many times before in Proverbs and they mean essentially the same thing here as in their other locations. Once again the point here is not so much what we invest our efforts and resource in “buying” as it is on being sure that we do not cast it way carelessly, as if selling it for some personal gain. Of course, we ought to note that none of these four can actually be purchased in the real sense, and thus cannot be truly sold in the real, human sense either. For all 4 of them, once they are acquired, they are ours and aere not really things that can be discarded.
Interpretation – One writer noted that, omitting the word “also,” which is not in the original, we have here three properties of truth enumerated: “wisdom, instruction, and understanding.”
By “wisdom” is meant solid knowledge of God’s Word as opposed to superficial. By “instruction,” or “discipline,” moral culture. By “understanding,” the faculty of discerning good and evil (Heb. 5:14).
14 But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
In these truth is to be apprehended, not without pains and sacrifice. And having been so won, no consideration should induce a man to part with her again.
Illustrations - Moses, obtaining the truth as then revealed in Jehovah, and St. Paul as revealed in God’s dear Son, both, at the cost of all this world could offer them, never parted with it, but, like the three favored Apostles, forsook all to follow it; like the Hebrew Christians, took joyfully, for Christ’s sake, the spoiling of their goods (Heb. 10:34), or what was an equivalent; like all the martyrs, “loved not their lives” (Rev. 12:11) in comparison with the truth. Unlike these, Herod, having truth presented to him, would not have it at the price of his sensuality, nor Pilate at the price of his popularity, nor the young ruler at the price of his wealth. Esau bartered! it for present gratifications; Judas for the price of a field; Demas for some worldly gain.
A few days after the birth of Isaac Watts, his father, a clothier, began a jail sentence in Southampton because he believed he had the right to worship in the fellowship led by the Reverend Nathaniel Robinson rather than in the established Church of England. The elder Mr. Watts’s stand for truth did not disgrace or divide his family. Quite the opposite! Every day Mrs. Watts took tiny Isaac to the prison, and, seated on a horse block outside, fed him in sight of his incarcerated father. When Isaac was nine months old, his father began another six month’s imprisonment for the same cause—religious freedom! Was it not love of truth, love of freedom, love of family, love of Christ, that impelled Watts to demonstrate such demanding integrity? Was young Isaac absorbing homilies of truth to be expressed later in his magnificent hymns?
There is an old legend which maintains that when Jesus was a baby growing up in Nazareth, the neighbors used to say when they were discouraged or depressed, “Let us go and see Mary’s child.” After looking upon the precious One, sunshine and peace returned and the distraught souls returned to their tasks with high heart. This is the effect that Truth can have on us as the people of God and the knowers of He and the reality of His Redemption.
The late Martin Niemöller was one of Hitler’s prized prisoners. The famous German minister vigorously resisted tyranny. He was imprisoned for seven-and-a-half years at a camp where 238,756 persons were put to death. Yet he carried on a daring ministry at Dachau. Pastor Niemöller was more than a former prisoner of war. He was a living testimony to truth. To talk with Niemöller was to visit a man who looked death in the face day after day and knew the power of the resurrected Christ. His remarkable life reassures us of the triumph of truth.
Application - “I am the Truth,” says Jesus, and promises the Holy Spirit to “lead into all truth.” A sound knowledge of Jesus, His character, His work, His doctrine, is what I should aim at, and hope for, as within reach. And whatever measure of it I attain to, let me hold fast. Thus, have I become convinced of the twofold nature of the Christ—that He is God-man? Let no sneers, or arguments, or appeals to my reason induce me to let go that precious portion of the truth. Am I persuaded that love was an essential element of the character which He set before me as an example? Let nothing hinder me from perpetually striving and praying after Christian charity. Do I really believe in an atonement made upon the cross, and in the continual commemoration of that atoning sacrifice in the Holy Eucharist?’ Let me hold fast that precious truth, and never give it up, however unpopular it may be. This I shall be more likely to do, if I have not received my religion merely from tradition, but verified each article of it myself, at the cost of labour, self-sacrifice, it may be persecution. How dear to me will Church principles thus bought be! How little likely to be parted with! How strengthened and confirmed by every act in consonance with them!
And may He who taught me so much teach me more!