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COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: PART THIRTY

                                                 SERMON PRESENTED ON 07-08-17  

       We concluded last time with Proverbs 26:24-25, where Solomon teaches that “A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart.”  This was the last in a series of Proverbs we discussed that deal with deception.  Solomon apparently saw deception as a major issue in life and dealt with it in a number of his Proverbs. 

       I concluded our discussion of deception by suggesting that in order to avoid being deceived; as much of a chore it may be, we may want to approach much of what we are told with a little skepticism.  This may be our best defense against falling prey to deceit.  This is especially true when it comes to considering the rhetoric of politicians, and in general the rhetoric of the advertising industry.  Let us now move to Proverbs, chapter 27 and verse one.

Proverb #1

       Proverbs 27:1:  Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.

       Let’s begin examining this Proverb by explaining what it is not saying. The teaching here is not that we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow but that we should not brag about what we have planned for tomorrow.  We all plan for tomorrow. Life would not function very well if we didn’t.  I think we all understand that.  But to boast or brag about our plans as if they are a done deal and nothing can or will interrupt such plans is not wise.  This is what Solomon is warning against.  Apostle James addressed this issue in his letter.  He may have had Solomon’s Proverb in mind.

       James 4:14-16: Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.

       As is true with Solomon, James is not saying we should not plan ahead.  What he is saying is that all our planning should be done within the context of understanding that our lives our very fragile. All we do is subject to God allowing us to live another day.  Therefore, all we do and all we plan to do should be done from the perspective that it will occur if God allows it to occur.  

       When James writes that we ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that," some may interpret this as God predetermining everything.  James isn’t saying that.  What he is saying is that all that happens in life happens within the framework of God’s will.  Scripture teaches part of this framework is that time and change, cause and effect happen to us all.  Solomon makes this clear in Ecclesiastes.        

       Ecclesiastes 9:11: I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.

       Time and chance happen to us all.  This past basketball season, Milwaukee Bucks player Jabari Parker was running down the court when his knee buckled and he was lost for the season with a torn ACL.  A month or so ago my grandson Logan was playing in a soccer game and as he was running down the field, he made a sudden turn and ended up missing a number of games because of a broken foot.  Neither one of these players got up that morning planning on being injured and unable to play for weeks to come.  That’s the way life is.  We don’t know what will happen tomorrow.   

       Several years ago Barb and I visited Churchill Downs in Kentucky were each year is run the Kentucky Derby, the Super Bowl of horse racing.  As you enter the grounds and approach the entrance to the vast stadium that is Churchill Downs, you see a large statue of a horse named Barbaro.  In 2006, Barbaro decisively won the Kentucky Derby.  Several weeks later in running at the Preakness Stakes, he shattered his right hind leg and his racing career was over.  After repeated surgeries to restore the leg without success, Barbaro was euthanized and is today buried at the front entrance to Churchill Downs.  As with humans, time and chance happen to animals as well.

       You can be a brave and decorated soldier and be cut down in an instant by a bullet. You can be very wealthy and fall on hard times and end up on skid row.  You can be well learned but never seemly able to attain the expected reward commensurate with your education.  Solomon observed thousands of years ago that there are no guarantees in life.  Much of life is fortuitous.  Time and change happen to us all.  Solomon goes on to say:

       Ecclesiastes 9:12: Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.

       A fish freely swimming in the water doesn’t expect to get caught in a net. A bird freely flying about doesn’t expect to be suddenly ensnared in some manner.  When we leave the house and are driving down the street, we don’t expect to get shot and killed by another driver experiencing road rage like recently happened to a young woman in Pennsylvania.  But that is how life is and the teaching of Scripture is that we need to be aware of this and not think that our plans for tomorrow are fail-safe 

       As Apostle James wrote, “You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  Because of this, our planning should always be tempered with the acknowledgement that life for us could end at any time. Luke records a parable told by Jesus that addresses this issue of planning for tomorrow while failing to recognize our human frailty.

       Luke 12:16-21: And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, `What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.'  "Then he said, `This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I'll say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry." ' "But God said to him, `You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?'  "This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God."

       Jesus is teaching that at any moment our physical life may come to an end and any plans we make should be done within the context of that awareness. We need to always be aware that God’s purpose will prevail. Jesus may have had Proverb 19:21 in mind when he gave this parable.

       Proverbs 19:21: Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.

       In this parable, Jesus pinpoints what our approach should.  He is not condemning planning ahead to insure we have the means to provide for ourselves and our families. He is not teaching we shouldn’t plan ahead.  He is teaching that our planning should be in the context of being rich toward God.  To be rich toward God is to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in and over our lives and to put the will of God first and foremost.  That includes practicing the Law of Love in all we do and realizing our lives are not measured in terms of the volume of possessions we may have but in how we use our possessions not only for ourselves but to help others as well.   

       In the parable under consideration, Jesus made it clear in the introduction to this parable that we should not be driven by greed and that our lives indeed do not consist in the abundance of our possessions

       Luke 12:15: Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions."

       Some may point to Jesus saying in the Sermon on the Mount that we should not take thought about tomorrow.  The Greek in that passage means to be anxious. We are not to be anxious about tomorrow but have faith that God will meet our needs.  Jesus is not saying we shouldn’t plan for tomorrow.  Scripture shows that Jesus, himself, made plans for tomorrow during His ministry.

Proverb #2

       The next Proverb we want to consider is somewhat related to our discussion about boasting or bragging about what we are doing or planning on doing

       Proverbs 27:2: Let another praise you, and not your own mouth; someone else, and not your own lips.

       It is instructive that the Hebrew word translated as “praise” in this passage is the same Hebrew word that is translated as boast in Proverbs 27:1. Therefore, we could read Proverbs 27:2 as “Let another boast on your behalf and not that you should boast about yourself.”

       This teaching is important for several reasons.  First of all, it is difficult for us humans to see ourselves objectively. We tend to have a higher view of ourselves than may be warranted. While others may not see us objectively either, there still is a better chance of others seeing us more realistically than we see ourselves which will result in a more valid bestowal of praise than if such praise comes from our own lips.

       Secondly, self-praising may come about as a result of personal insecurity.  A person may be lacking in confidence and may feel they have to toot their own horn in order to be seen by others as having merit. This approach can backfire, however, in that a person who praises himself may be looked upon as self-centered, arrogant and egotistical.  This can result in negative vibes and lead to there being an even greater insecurity problem.  As Solomon wrote, it is best to let others praise you and not yourself.

Proverb #3

       Proverbs 27:12: The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

       As already discussed, much of what happens in life is fortuitous in that time and chance and cause and effect happen to us all.  Solomon recognized this and gave much instruction as to how best to handle and respond to the fortuitous nature of life.  Here he writes that the prudent recognize the signs of danger and take the necessary precautions to avoid the consequences of such danger.  The simple or foolish person, as the Hebrew can be translated, doesn’t recognize the signs of danger and falls prey to the negative consequences of such danger.  Solomon visited this issue earlier in the Proverbs.

       Proverbs 22:3:  A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.

       Hundreds of examples could be given as to how the recognition of danger and its avoidance can result in safety whereas a failure to recognize danger can result in suffering.  How many auto accidents have been caused by people failing to adjust to changing weather conditions?  A prudent person will slow down in a rain or snow storm and be extra vigilant.  The foolish person will continue driving as though nothing has changed and all of a sudden finds himself in a ditch or worse yet skidding into another vehicle or two.

       Every winter lives and/or equipment are lost when ice fishermen drive out on thin ice. The failure to insure that the ice is thick enough to support a vehicle and a shanty has resulted in many tragedies over the years.  

       I earlier alluded to the road rage incident in Pennsylvania. Here two drivers were apparently driving in close proximity to each other on a two lane street when the two lanes blended in a single lane.  In this case, both drivers may be considered foolish in that it is apparent neither one was willing to allow the other to be first to access the single lane.  The one driver became so enraged over the other driver not backing off that he pulls out a gun and shoots her in the head.

       While being shot in the head could not be anticipated, what should have been anticipated by both drivers is that they both could not blend into the single lane at the same time and one of them should have exercised the prudence to back off.

       Prudence has to do with looking at the dynamics of a situation, considering the risks and then making an informed decision as to how to proceed.  For example, if you are planning to drive your car on a 7000 mile vacation trip, it would be prudent to have the oil changed, the battery checked and the tires looked at to determine whether there is an appropriate amount of remaining tread on the tires to make such a trip.  It would be foolish to embark on such a trip with badly worn tires.  That would be asking for trouble.

       Prudence often involves weighing risks against benefits.  Driving 7000 miles certainly increases the chances of having something go wrong with the car or having an accident.  However, the benefits of having a great vacation outweigh such risks provided you have done the necessary maintenance on your car and not just blindly embark on the trip without proper preparation. 

       Exercising prudence does not equate with failing to take chances. Life is full of chance taking.  Prudence is taking the necessary measures to avoid unnecessary and unforeseen troubles that may occur in association with the chances we take.

       After Paul’s conversion as recorded in Acts chapter 9, Paul powerfully preached Christ to the Jews living in Damascus.  There was obvious risk in doing this.  Many Jews were vehemently opposed to the developing Christian community.  They had seen Paul as an ally in this opposition and now Paul was supporting the Christian movement.  After many days of Paul preaching Christ to the Jews, a group of them conspired to kill him.

       Now Paul needed to leave Damascus and travel to Jerusalem to see the Apostles. It’s recorded that the Jews kept close watch on the city gates both day and night hoping to catch Paul trying to leave the city and in so doing kill him.  Paul became aware of their plan and exercised prudence in not trying to somehow sneak past them and leave through one of he city gates.

       Instead he took a chance on escaping the city by being lowered in a basket through a wall at night.  Now there certainly was risk in doing this.  Somebody could have seen what was going on and notified the Jews who were out to kill Paul.  The rope on the basked could have broken.  The basket could have broken and Paul could have been injured.  But the basket worked and Paul was able to get past the Jews trying to kill him.

       Paul had exercised the proper prudence in taking the necessary measures to avoid unnecessary and unforeseen troubles that may have occurred if he would simply had tried to sneak past the Jews at one of the city gates. Yet there still was risk involved in his escape in a basket being lowered through a hole in a wall.  Here the benefit outweighed the risk for Paul as He had to get to Jerusalem one way or another.

       Again, prudence is taking the necessary measures to avoid unnecessary and unforeseen troubles that may occur in association with the chances we take. Sitting in a sailboat anchored in a harbor is relatively safe.  There is little chance of it capsizing or anything happening to it that could cause you harm. Once in open water, however, it can capsize or malfunction in some way to cause potential harm.  Therefore, is it the exercise of prudence to never take a sailboat out on open water because of the possible danger involved?

       Of course not!  A sail boat isn’t built to stay in a harbor.  It is built to be taken out on the open water.  However, here is where prudence must be exercised. The prudent thing to do is not avoid sailing because of the risks involved but to minimize such risk.  The prudent thing to do is check the weather before you leave the harbor.  We don’t go sailing if the weather forecasters are predicting storms and high seas.  That would not be prudent.  That would be foolish. Even if the weather looks good and the waters are calm, the prudent thing to do is to insure everyone on board is wearing a life jacket just in case the boat becomes buffeted by an unforeseen storm. 

       Prudence is doing our best to plan for the unforeseen.  Seeing danger in advance of it becoming a reality affecting our lives is the message of the Proverbs we are discussing.

Proverb #4

       Proverbs 27:14: If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse.

       It is somewhat difficult to determine exactly what it is Solomon is teaching with this Proverb. The various commentaries I consulted regarding this Proverb seem to be in general agreement that Solomon is most probably referring to someone who is being extravagant in his praises of another person with the intent of being granted some kind of favor.  He gets up early in the morning so that he can be ahead of others who also may be looking for a favor.  To the recipient of this early morning flattery, it is a curse as he is being wakened out of sleep or possibly having his early morning routine interrupted by this person. 

       The Septuagint, Syriac, and Arabic versions of this Proverb render it in such manner as to suggest that the person offering up the early morning praise is no different from one who curses and that such early morning flattery can become a curse if the person being flattered allows such fluttery to influence his behavior. 

       In the NT we have the example of people raising up early in the morning to praise Herod Agrippa the first who was a grandson of Herod the Great who was king over Israel when Christ was born.  That this was early in the morning is witnessed by Josephus, in his Jewish Antiquities where he writes of the people offering praise to Herod early in the morning as the sun was raising

       Herod apparently gobbled up the praise offered to him and appears to accept the worship of the people rather than direct their worship to the one and only God. Luke records what happened next.   

       Acts 12:23: Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died.

       So here we see where praise directed toward a person became a curse to that person resulting in that person’s death.

Proverb #5

       Proverbs 27:15-16: A quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping on a rainy day; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.

       Proverbs 19:13: A foolish son is his father's ruin, and a quarrelsome wife is like a constant dripping.

       We don’t know whether Solomon was speaking from personal experience or was simply reflecting on observations he had made of others.  Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. I would think he may have had a few quarrelsome wives in the mix.  This must have been a great irritation to him, as he addresses this issue several times in the Proverbs.

       Proverbs 21:9: Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

       Proverbs 21:19: Better to live in a desert than with a quarrelsome and ill-tempered wife.

       Proverbs 25:24: Better to live on a corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome wife.

       Many of us have experienced the dripping of a facet.  It can virtually keep us awake at night.  It becomes almost hypnotic.  It certainly can be quite irritating.  Solomon analogies this to a quarrelsome wife.   While Solomon speaks of a quarrelsome wife being like a constant dripping on a raining day, this could also apply to a husband, a parent, a child or just about anyone you live with that is quarrelsome.  Solomon also addresses the issue of being quarrelsome as it pertains to a man.

       Proverbs 26:21: As charcoal to embers and as wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife.

       Solomon writes that restraining such person is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.  Well, we know we can’t do either of these. So in essence he is saying it is impossible to restrain such a person.  Such a person will just go on and on and on and nothing you say or do will shut them up. 

       To be quarrelsome is to be argumentative to the point of being unreasonable. A quarrelsome person will not let go of an issue.  He or she will continue pushing their perspective to the point of ad nauseam which means to a disgusting extent.  That is why Solomon likens being quarrelsome to adding charcoal to embers and wood to a fire.  Both charcoal and wood will flare up when added to hot embers.  A quarrelsome person will heat up an argument to the point of kindling strife.

       Being quarrelsome differs from being argumentative in that you can have an argument with someone over an issue and be civil in doing so.  You can disagree on an issue and still walk away as friends.   A quarrelsome person can’t be civil. A quarrelsome person separates friends.  Such person makes an argument over an issue a personal matter and isn’t satisfied unless you see things their way.  It is their way or the highway.

       Solomon strongly denounces this kind of attitude, showing how it can lead to strife and discord.  What we should learn here is that while we may disagree with someone over an issue, we shouldn’t be disagreeable.  That is, we should not allow a disagreement, regardless how strong, to create animosities and strife.  Such behavior is contrary to righteousness.     

PART THIRTY-ONE