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COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART ELEVEN

SERMON PRESENTED ON 05-07-16

        This will be sermon number 11 in my continuing series on the book of Proverbs.  Last time we spent the entire sermon time on discussing Proverbs 10:19: where Solomon writes that “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.  We saw that Solomon has a great deal to say about the proper and improper use of the tongue as do several other authors of Scripture.  I think we covered much of the Scriptural narrative that relates to the proper and improper expression of language.

       The remainder of Proverbs 10 deals with issues we have already touched on in discussing various of the proverbs of Solomon to this point.  Solomon repeats some of his proverbs verbatim and often deals with the same issues from different perspectives. As you saw last time, there are sayings scattered throughout the Proverbs that deal with the tongue.  This being the case and in an effort to not repeat what has already been discussed, I will be somewhat eclectic in my treatment of the rest of Solomon’s Proverbs as we continue in this series. I will primarily deal with proverbs that teach an overall principle that is taught throughout the Scriptures. 

       With this in mind, today we will deal with two different principles.  One is introduced in Proverbs 11:1 and the other is addressed in Proverbs 11:2.  Let’s begin with verse one.

       Proverbs 11:1: The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.

       At our health food store we sell a number of bulk items such as different grains, beans, nut mixes, herbs, granolas and so forth. These products are priced according to so much per pound.  Customers can purchase several ounces of a product or several pounds, depending on what their needs may be.  Customers simply fill a bag with the product they want and bring it to the counter where we weight it in order to determine how much we should charge them for the product.

       The customer assumes the scale is providing the correct weight and they are being charged the correct price per pound.  We also purchase a number of items such as dried fruit, flour for baking and other such items in balk and them bag these items in our own Milk ‘N Honey labeled bags.  Here again the customer must assume that when a bag says a half pound, one pound or five pounds, this is the actual weight of the product they are purchasing.

       Therefore, Proverbs 11:1 has particular significance for us as we do everything we can to insure our scales are accurately measuring the weight of items purchased so that customers get what they pay for and that when we pre-bag product we put the correct number of ounces or pounds in the bag.

       It is apparent this matter of dishonest scales is a thing Solomon took special note of as he addresses this issue again in Proverbs chapter 20.

    Proverbs 20:23: The LORD detests differing weights, and dishonest scales do not please him.

       While Proverbs 11:1 and 20:23 specifically speaks to accurate weights, the overall principle being expressed here is honesty.  While God abhors dishonest scales, God abhors all forms of dishonesty.

       As the children of Israel were travelling toward the Promised Land, Moses would hold court where he would function as judge and jury to resolve conflicts between the people.  This became quite the burden for Moses so Moses took the advice of His father-in-law Jethro and appointed leaders to help with the task of governing the Israelites.  Notice what one of the requirements was.

       Exodus 18:21: But select capable men from all the people--men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain--and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

       A trustworthy man will not seek to obtain material possessions or status and position by dishonest behavior.  The prohibition against dishonest gain covers virtually every area of life.  The store owner who knowingly sets his scales to cheat his customers is just one example of dishonest gain.  A store owner who jacks up the price of an item above the normal retail for that item and them discounts it to the normal retail and tells the customer the product is on sale is an example of dishonest gain.  The customer is deceived into thinking they are getting a deal.

       Anyone who steals from his employer or neighbor is receiving dishonest gain. A person who sells a defective item to another person and fails to tell the person about the defect is engaging in dishonest gain.  A contractor who does shoddy work is engaging in dishonest gain.  An employer who fails to pay employees a proper wage for the work they do is engaging in dishonest gain.

       A person who tells falsehoods about someone else in an effort to enhance his own image is receiving dishonest gain.  We see this in the world of politics all the time. Falsely accusing another person of wrong doing is virtually ubiquitous in politics and is also common in the work place as people try to enhance their own image by bad mouthing others.

       I remember years ago when I had the responsibility of managing three divisions of Milwaukee County Government I would have managers come into my office, close the door and proceed to tell me how badly some other manager was performing.  I even had a manager secretly record the conversation of another manager and share such recording with me.  Usually there was little merit in these complaints and they were simple an effort by an employee to try to look better than someone else in my eyes, especially if there happened to be a job opening they had their eye on.

       God takes a dim view of all such behavior.  Avoiding dishonest gain is all part of being holy as God is holy.  When God gave instruction to Israel, such instruction was predicated on the Israelites being holy as God is holy.

       Leviticus 19: 1-2:   The LORD said to Moses, "Speak to the entire assembly of Israel and say to them: `Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.

       What does it mean to be holy?  To be holy is to behave in harmony with God’s moral law.  God goes on to list a number of unholy behaviors that when carefully evaluated are all behaviors that lead to dishonest gain.

       Leviticus 19:11, 13, 16, 35-36: Do not steal.   "`Do not lie.   "`Do not deceive one another.  "`Do not defraud your neighbor or rob him.   "`Do not hold back the wages of a hired man overnight.  Do not go about spreading slander among your people.  Do not use dishonest standards when measuring length, weight or quantity. Use honest scales and honest weights,

       Deuteronomy 25:13-16: Do not have two differing weights in your bag--one heavy, one light. Do not have two differing measures in your house--one large, one small. You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. For the LORD your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly.

       Here again we see prohibition against the use of dishonest standards in measuring out what is purchased or given to another person.  God ties this in to the overall issue of behaving dishonestly with your fellow man.  It is apparent that dishonest gain was a big problem in Israel as it has been throughout history and as it is today.

       1 Samuel 8:1-3: When Samuel grew old, he appointed his sons as judges for Israel. The name of his firstborn was Joel and the name of his second was Abijah, and they served at Beersheba. But his sons did not walk in his ways. They turned aside after dishonest gain and accepted bribes and perverted justice.

       Bribery and perverted justice are two prominent examples of dishonest gain. Bribery is paying someone off to protect oneself from having the truth revealed about their behavior.  Bribery is paying someone off to gain an advantage over someone else.  It is an attempt to acquire dishonest gain.  We see this occurring when contractors compete to gain a government contract. Bribing government officials has been going on throughout recorded history in an effort to gain an advantage.  Such bribery is an example of dishonest gain.

       In the legal justice system we find attorneys introducing false evidence to bolster their case so they can gain the upper hand in a court trial.  This is a classic example of dishonest gain. How many defendants have been sent to prison or set free based on false testimony from dishonest prosecutors and dishonest defense attorneys?

       We find in the OT that the prophets railed against dishonest gain.  We see Jeremiah chiding a king of Judah for engaging in dishonest gain and Ezekiel doing the same to the King of Tyre.

       Jeremiah 22:17: But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion."

       Ezekiel 28:18: By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries.

       In His letter to Timothy, Paul gives instruction as to what is required of a person who wants to be a leader in the church.  It is instructive that included in that instruction is a directive that such leader be not a person who pursues dishonest gain.  In his latter to Titus, Paul gives instruction as to the requirements of an elder in the church and here too we see the prohibition against dishonest gain.

       1 Timothy 3;8: Deacons, likewise, are to be men worthy of respect, sincere, not indulging in much wine, and not pursuing dishonest gain.

       Titus 1:7: Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless--not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain.

       Also in his letter to Titus, we see Paul laying into the Jews who were going about spreading false accusations against Christians in an effort to draw them away from following Christ.  Through the spreading of falsehoods about the Christian movement, Paul accuses these Jews of dishonest gain.

       Titus 1:11:  They must be silenced, because they are ruining whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach--and that for the sake of dishonest gain.

       As can be see, dishonest gain is addressed over and over again in Scripture.  It is considered behavior contrary to righteousness and is to be avoided at all costs.  Any behavior that brings about some type of gain to an individual through a failure to be completely honest about something is considered dishonest gain and must be avoided.

       The second principle I want to deal with today is found in Proverbs 11:2.  Here Solomon makes a profound statement that has been demonstrated to be the Achilles heel of many people throughout history. 

       Proverbs 11:2:  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

       The Scriptures speak of both a pride that is acceptable and the kind of pride that is not acceptable and results in unrighteous behavior. For example, Paul speaks of pride expressed in a positive manner.

       2 Corinthians 7:2-4: Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have exploited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

       2 Corinthians 8: 23-24: As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you; as for our brothers, they are representatives of the churches and an honor to Christ. Therefore show these men the proof of your love and the reason for our pride in you, so that the churches can see it.

       Here we see pride manifested in a proper manner in that it reflects a joy and satisfaction over the accomplishments of others.  Pride in the success and accomplishments of others is an acceptable response to such success and accomplishment.  It is also perfectly OK to be proud of your own accomplishments as well as the accomplishments of others.  There is nothing wrong with being satisfied with an accomplishment which is what pride is all about.

       Galatians 6:4-5: Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else, for each one should carry his own load.

       We all have felt pride at personal accomplishments as well as the accomplishments of our children and grandchildren. We often speak to each other about how proud we are of our children and grandchildren. Children express pride in their parents and grandparents. This kind of expression of pride is perfectly acceptable and expected. Solomon shows this kind of pride to be right and proper.

       Proverbs 17:6: Children's children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children.

       Where pride becomes a negative factor in human behavior is when it leads to self exaltation and behavior that reflects such self exaltation. In Scripture we see pride as a negative dynamic of human behavior when it is expressed in arrogance. We often see in Scripture where pride and arrogance are seen as two sides of the same coin.

       Psalm 10: 2-4: In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.

       The wrong kind of pride is when one fails to recognize the source of his accomplishments and successes. It is God who has given us life and the wherewithal to do what we do.  The glory for personal success and accomplishment should always be directed to God.  It is when we come to believe that our successes and accomplishments are all the result of our own efforts and only we are responsible for successes and accomplishments is when pride is a negative dynamic of behavior and can lead to behavior that can result in our downfall.

       The classic Scriptural example of this happening is the account of King Nebuchadnezzar’s fall.  In the book of Daniel is described how God gave to Nebuchadnezzar the power and authority and kingdom that he had.  Daniel had warned Nebuchadnezzar that if he failed to repent of his arrogance and pride God would remove him from power.  Twelve months after being warned by Daniel Nebuchadnezzar was walking on the roof of the royal palace of Babylon, and here is what he said.

       Daniel 45:30: "Is not this the great Babylon I have built as the royal residence, by my mighty power and for the glory of my majesty?"

       Scripture records that while these words wre still on his lips, a voice came from heaven, telling Nebuchadnezzar that his royal authority has been taken from him and he would be driven away from his people and live with the wild animals.  For seven years he would live like an animal until he acknowledged that the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.  So what do we see after seven years?

       Daniel 4:37: Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble.

       Nebuchadnezzar came to understand and acknowledge that it was his arrogant pride that had led to his downfall.  He had failed to give God the glory for his success.  We see the same thing with his successor Belshazzar.   Belshazzar had the arrogance to bring in the gold and silver goblets that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken from the temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Babylonian captivity of Judah so that he and his nobles, his wives and his concubines could drink from them. As they drank the wine, they praised the gods of gold and silver, of bronze, iron, wood and stone.  We know the rest of the story.

       We have the famous handwriting on the wall event and Daniel’s interpretation of the handwriting showing that Belshazzar was about to lose his kingdom to the Mede’s and the Persian’s.  In interpreting the handwriting Daniel says this:

       Daniel 5:18-23: "O king, the Most High God gave your father Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; and those he wanted to humble, he humbled. But when his heart became arrogant and hardened with pride, he was deposed from his royal throne and stripped of his glory. He was driven away from people and given the mind of an animal; he lived with the wild donkeys and ate grass like cattle; and his body was drenched with the dew of heaven, until he acknowledged that the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes. "But you his son, O Belshazzar, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead, you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven. You had the goblets from his temple brought to you, and you and your nobles, your wives and your concubines drank wine from them. You praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood and stone, which cannot see or hear or understand. But you did not honor the God who holds in his hand your life and all your ways.

       The lesson here is clear. We are to honor God who is sovereign over all things.  God holds in His hands our very lives and all our ways.  Any thoughts or behaviors that fail to recognize God as sovereign over our lives is arrogant and a form of pride that is unacceptable to God. Solomon had a lot to say about this.

       Proverbs 8:13: To fear the LORD is to hate evil; I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.

       Proverbs 16:18: When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

       Proverbs 21:24: The proud and arrogant man--"Mocker" is his name; he behaves with overweening pride.

       Proverbs 29:23: A man's pride brings him low, but a man of lowly spirit gains honor.

       Being lowly in spirit should be our goal.  To be lowly in spirit is to be humble in spirit.  The Scriptures make it clear that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.  During his ministry Jesus taught that whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. Our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus is the epitome of this teaching.

       Philippians 2:8-9: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name.

         Jesus humbled himself by setting aside the power and authority God had given Him and in obedience to the will of the Father He suffered the excruciating death of crucifixion so we could have the opportunity to live for ever.

PART TWELVE