The tsunami traveled at a speed of about 200 miles per hour across the Pacific Ocean. That massive wave would kill sixty one people in Hawaii, one hundred and thirty eight in Japan, and thirty two in the Philippines. This Chilean earthquake which occurred on May 22, 1960, may be the largest earthquake ever recorded.
The word “vexed” is an old Latin word meaning “to quake/rumble” and although Latin isn’t the language that the Old Testament was written in, the Old English word was used by scholars when translating Ecclesiastes 1.18.
“For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.”
At first glance, it may seem like Solomon is discouraging one from pursuing knowledge— but the message is a lot deeper.
Some have taken the view that Solomon is speaking of an earthly knowledge. It’s true that the sort of knowledge the world offers isn’t going to bring you the kind of fulfillment that the wisdom God provides. The world’s understanding lacks the answers to major questions which are essential to our spiritual health. Where did we come from? What’s the purpose of life? What happens when we die? Is this all there is? Earthly wisdom will either provide one with answers with holes, answers that are depressing— or no answers at all.
However, God’s wisdom can bring much vexation as well.
With God’s wisdom you come to understand that the majority of people on earth aren’t pursuing Him. You discover that most people live their lives in a way that grieve Him. That sort of understanding also brings you closer to that God. When the Lord is upset, troubled, angered, frustrated, or vexed, then his faithful are going to feel similarly.
With much of God’s wisdom, comes much vexation. With much of the world’s wisdom, there’s much vexation. The question we should ask, is why do we want our souls to be troubled? You can be fulfilled and troubled at the same time because with God, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel.
The book of Proverbs contains helpful “dos and don’ts” for the gainfully employed working-age child of God.
Do (For Employees).
Develop the skills that will earn you the notice of your boss or customer base (Proverbs 22.29).
Work diligently to earn a promotion (Proverbs 12.24).
Profit by your industry, not grand schemes that never reach fruition (Proverbs 14.23).
Do (For Employers).
Be a planner (Proverbs 21.5).
Encourage the input of others (Proverbs 15.22).
Though not micromanaging, be aware of everything happening within your purview (Proverbs 27.23-27).
Champion the rights of your workers (Proverbs 29.7).
Treat your employees so well that they will love you (Proverbs 29.21).
Show your employees what is in it for them to work well (Proverbs 16.26).
Don’t (For Employees).
Don’t be lazy because you will irritate your employer (Proverbs 10.26).
Don’t be a slacker (Proverbs 18.9).
Don’t (For Employers).
Don’t be oppressive (Proverbs 28.16a).
I would be remiss if I did not address the 800-pound gorilla in America’s living room in closing. Our workforce has lost interest in working. Thus, they cannot profit from Solomon’s sage wisdom provided previously.
It is a biblical expectation that all of God’s children of working age will work for someone else or as their own boss (2 Thessalonians 3.6-12). God is good, sending rain on the righteous and unrighteous (Matthew 5.45), but He only promises Providence to those who seek His kingdom and righteousness first (Matthew 6.33). Such a person seeking God should be obedient to His commands, including those concerning the necessity of work. Furthermore, even if not for himself, a person should want to care for his family because failure makes him worse than an infidel (1 Timothy 5.8).
In November 2021, the US Chamber of Commerce conducted a poll. 8% of those polled said they would never work again! At the time of publication, more than half of those surveyed said they were not actively looking for work. And this is not a problem for young people. The respondents ranged in age from 25 to 45+. People said they hoped to change industries or were awaiting the allure of a large signing bonus. Despite media reports, theBureau of Labor Statistics shows little has changed.
It’s anecdotal, but I know of two local businesses that closed because no one showed up. Both were restaurants, even if they were not technically in the same industry (one is fast food and, thus, considered food and beverage, and the other is hospitality industry). I’ve previously discussed this issue in this forum, but it persists. There are still desperate burger joints offering above-minimum-wage pay for a guaranteed 40-hour week, and people aren’t applying. How is this possible?
These indolent who expect others to look after them cannot expect even God’s children to feel compassion for their self-inflicted plight. As Paul tells us, “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat” (2 Thessalonians 3.10 NASB).
Having a friend that we can confide in and rely on for sound advice is invaluable, but we should be picky about who we choose as friends. Solomon says, “The righteous person is a guide to his neighbor, But the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (Proverbs 12.26 NASB).
Thus, we will begin with those negative characteristics Solomon says one should avoid when befriending people. Do not befriend:
A gossip (Proverbs 20.19).
The short-tempered (Proverbs 22.24-25).
Drunks and gluttons (Proverbs 23.20-21).
The “unsteady” (Proverbs 24.21-22). [To fully understand this, you may need to check the Hebrew. For example, in one translation, a person “given to change” may join “rebellious officials” in another. This difference is because the Hebrew “shanah” implies repetition (“to repeat, do again”). So, Solomon speaks of those not willing to grow from their mistakes or have fickle loyalties. Hence, such people are unstable in their ways.]
Liars (Proverbs 25.18).
The untrustworthy (Proverbs 25.19).
The inconsiderate (Proverbs 25.20).
The violent (Proverbs 1.10-19).
Those whom Solomon says to befriend comprise a shorter list. Befriend those:
Who display wisdom (Proverbs 13.20).
Who will point you in the right direction (Proverbs 13.14).
In addition to telling us who to befriend and who to shun, Solomon gives us wisdom about how we can be better friends with others. This wisdom begins with telling us to avoid certain disruptive practices.
Don’t repeat everything you hear (Proverbs 17.9).
Avoid senseless arguments (Proverbs 14.14).
Don’t overstay your welcome (Proverbs 25.17).
Don’t intrude on others’ arguments (Proverbs 26.17). [Solomon likens this to yanking a dog’s ears.]
Don’t call mistakes and misdeeds a failed attempt at humor (Proverbs 26.18-19). [“I was joking!”]
Don’t gossip (Proverbs 26.20). [Look up Socrates’ three filters: Is it true? Is it good? Is it useful?.]
Don’t be cranky (Proverbs 26.21).
Don’t be inconsiderate (Proverbs 27.14).
According to Solomon, then, these are the causes of discord among friends. It may be difficult to recover a friend’s trust if they have lost faith in us. Solomon warns, “An offended friend is harder to win back than a fortified city. Arguments separate friends like a gate locked with bars” (Proverbs 18.19 NLT). Solomon, though, advises those of us who have harmed our relationships. If we need to repair a friendship, we must:
Get our relationship right with God, and then others will change their perspective of us (Proverbs 16.7).
Be slow to anger (Proverbs 15.18, cf. James 1.19).
Not speculate (Proverbs 18.13).
Not quarrel (Proverbs 20.3).
Speak gently (Proverbs 15.1).
Speak less (Proverbs 10.19).
Be loving (Proverbs 10.12).
Offer honest criticism instead of flattery (Proverbs 28.23).
Yes, correctly applying God’s wisdom can ensure that we enjoy the blessings of good friends in this life. And there is a blessing in a friendship that Solomon reminds us of in Ecclesiastes 4.9-12:
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart.” (Ecclesiastes 4.9-12 NASB1995)
Following the arc featuring the “story” of Lady Wisdom and Ms. Folly, we notice a stylistic change in the book of wisdom, ostensibly collected by King Solomon. Beginning in chapter ten, King Solomon wields a shotgun and pelts us with wisdom’s birdshot. Manufacturers make birdshot by packing numerous steel or tungsten balls into a cartridge. The steel balls scatter when fired. This design increases the likelihood of striking a flying bird and keeps game fowl from being completely obliterated by the shot.
So, beginning with Proverbs 10, the reader is confronted with numerous truths that do not form a cohesive narrative like Lady Wisdom and Miss Folly but are practical words of wisdom that enrich life. As a result, it is often best to approach the rest of Proverbs as a topical study. “The fear of the Lord” is an excellent place to start our topical overview of Proverbs. Solomon defined fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1.7; 9.10).
As with the word “fool,” the Biblical definition of “fear” is not what one typically associates with the term. I oft tout Webster’s original 1828 dictionary since it often frames words within a Biblical context. Here is Webster’s subentry for the word “fear.”
“In scripture, fear is used to express a filial or a slavish passion. In good men, the fear of God is a holy awe or reverence of God and his laws, which springs from a just view and real love of the divine character, leading the subjects of it to hate and shun every thing that can offend such a holy being, and inclining them to aim at perfect obedience. This is filial fear
I will put my fear in their hearts. Jeremiah 32.39.
Slavish fear is the effect or consequence of guilt; it is the painful apprehension of merited punishment. Romans 8.15.
Regarding the beginning of knowledge and wisdom, we understand that this is because we respect and revere God. We acknowledge His authority and thus trust His knowledge and judgment. Beyond its role in enlightening us, the fear of the Lord will accomplish other positive things as well.
We will hate evil. (Proverbs 8.13).
One cannot truly despise evil without also cherishing good, and just as an aversion to wrongdoing motivates people to turn away from it, so does a desire to do what is right in God’s eyes. In this context, “fear of the Lord” refers to the essence of religious practice.
We will prolong life. (Proverbs 10.27)
Mature individuals can recall numerous cases of the wicked whose lives were cut short and ended due to their evil actions—fatalities caused by drunk drivers, robbers who police have shot, adulterers killed by cuckolded husbands, etc.
We have strong confidence and a fountain of life. (Proverbs 14.26-27)
The traps of death include not only the pitfalls and dangers of our current lives on Earth but also the unfathomable terrors of the “second death.” James Moffat translated the Scriptures in 1929 and rendered the passage: “Reverence for the Eternal is a fount of life; it shows how to avoid the nets of Death.” He capitalized the “d” in “death” to show that it was eternal condemnation.
The fear of the Lord will prompt us to depart from evil. (Proverbs 16.6)
No matter how well done, mercy and truth cannot save people from sin unless genuine repentance and a change of heart toward God’s will accompany them. People refrain from doing bad things because they are afraid of the Lord, and this fear affects them. Those with holy fear and reverence for God in their hearts will not sin against him.
We will have a satisfying life, spared from much evil. (Proverbs 19.23)
According to this verse, the only way to be “satisfied” is to fear and serve God. On the tomb of William Rockefeller in New York’s Tarrytown Cemetery, there is a quote from Augustine that reads, “Our souls, O God, were made for Thee, and never shall they rest until they rest in Thee.” Men will never find happiness elsewhere, no matter how hard they try. Only in Jesus Christ can we find the fullness of life that God provides.
We will enjoy riches, honor, and life! (Proverbs 22.4)
This verse, which discusses humility and reverence for God, sums up several of the principal lessons of Proverbs. In addition, it provides a concise overview of the fundamental requirements for human survival on this planet.
True religion, as demonstrated by “the fear of the Lord.” is synonymous with humility. The signs of humility are being dependent on God, having a low opinion of oneself, surrendering one’s will, and convincing ourselves of sin. They are all summed up in the phrase “the fear of God,” which is the source of all virtues and blessings: riches, honor, and life.
We deprive ourselves of God’s wisdom and knowledge treasures when we do not fear the Lord. We will tempt fate and let ourselves get corrupted by mingling with evil. Our refusal to listen to God’s word will likely shorten our lives (e.g., suffering sexually transmitted diseases if we do not heed His Word on sexual relationships). We will not come to know God’s love, which provides assurance and confidence in salvation. We are not motivated to repent or turn to God when we sin! We will not be inspired to “work out our salvation.” This outcome from lacking the fear of the Lord sounds dreadful.
To be truly wise, we must first learn to fear the Lord. Let us understand this fear, appreciate it, and incorporate it into our lives as God’s children!
Solomon takes two primary approaches in the first nine chapters of Proverbs to encourage us to become wiser. First, Solomon assumes the role of a father instructing his sons to heed his sage counsel (Proverbs 1.8; 4.1). Second, Solomon uses the personification of wisdom as a woman to provide his students with something tangible to follow (Proverbs 1.20; 8.1).
Regarding this latter approach, Solomon even provides a foil to Lady Wisdom in the personification of folly. So, those who want to become wise have someone to follow and avoid. We have seen Miss Folly wield her influence over men and women in chapters one through eight, nearly coming out of the shadows in the form of the adulteress in Proverbs 7. Yet, in Proverbs 9, Miss Folly comes out into the open to extend her competing invitation alongside Lady Wisdom’s offer.
Wisdom and Folly compete for the same audience. They both desire to receive the companionship of the naïve and those lacking understanding (9.4). There is no need to compel the righteous or wise as they will already want to be in the companionship of Wisdom (9.8-9). But Wisdom opens her house and has her servants invite people to her feast (9.1-6).
Wisdom is a gracious hostess. She has a great house with seven pillars. In terms of the identity of these pillars, is it a coincidence that our Lord’s half-brother uses seven adjectives to describe the wisdom from above in James 3.17? If not, the pillars of Wisdom’s house are purity, peace, obedience, industry, impartiality, and sincerity. Indeed, these qualities are not inconsistent with the wisdom Solomon encourages others to possess. And entry into Wisdom’s house multiplies one’s days and adds years to their life (9.11).
Wisdom does more than send out her servants to garner the most attendants. Instead, she calls out to the people from a high vantage point above the city. Lady Wisdom is proactive in her approach, demonstrating her genuine concern for people. But despite how admirable her actions are, one realizes that she must be passionate because her enemy can accomplish much more while doing less.
Miss Folly ensures others can see her (9.14), but she does even get up out of her seat. As I read about Miss Folly’s approach, I could not help but think of a prostitute’s solicitation. For example, if one visits Amsterdam’s red-light district, he sees sex workers standing in store-front windows as if on display in lingerie, smiling and flirting with the passersby. Yes, if someone walks through the red-light district, he knows what he wants. I believe Miss Folly likely realizes this as well.
One has to put forth no effort to remain naïve. The wisdom-averse can continue to scoff and act wickedly (9.7). However, this one believes Miss Folly when she says, “Stolen water is sweet; And bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (9.17 NASB1995). In other words, Miss Folly requires no discipline from her guests. They do not have to reform themselves or strive to do and be better.
Miss Folly would be nothing more than a nuisance if it weren’t for her boisterousness attracting the attention of even those attempting to keep their paths straight (9.13-15). But, as Christians know, the alternative to the “strait gate” and narrow way is that colloquial “highway to hell” (Matthew 7.13-14). Solomon warns us that Miss Folly’s houseguests end up in the depths of Sheol (9.18). That is reason enough to avoid Miss Folly and attend Lady Wisdom’s feast.
We must choose which invitation to accept. We will listen to Lady Wisdom, who has done a lot of planning and always keeps her promises. Or Lady Folly, who promises much but delivers nothing? The choice should be obvious.
“My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.”
Hear: More than just the process of hearing words spoken. The idea is to do something with the valuable information given, i.e., follow it.
Instruction of your father: Just like ignoring proper building instructions/blueprints leads to an unstable house, ignoring wise instruction from the older and more experienced will lead to an unstable life.
And do not forsake the law of your mother: Solomon emphasizes the importance of God’s design for the family. It’s the duty of both father and mother to provide wisdom (James 3.17) in the form of instruction (Prov. 4.13, 8.33, 10.8, 10.17, 12.1, 19.20).
For they will be a graceful ornament on your head and chains about your neck: Training a child to fear the Lord begins with teaching children to have a proper fear (respect/reverence) of their parents and their seniors. For additional motivation, Solomon includes the maturing child’s reward. The ornaments and chains represent an upgrade in social status. As a general rule, godly teaching in the home, when combined with a willingness to hear— leads to financial and social success.
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.”
– Ex. 20:12
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother, that it may be well with you and you will live long on the earth.”
A woman is again the embodiment of Wisdom in Proverbs 8. And we find language similar to what we saw earlier in Proverbs 1.20-23: Wisdom desires to be heard by men (8.3-4). Not unlike other women, Wisdom craves attention and acknowledgment. However, Wisdom isn’t shy about raising her voice to get people’s attention.
In contrast to the harlot in the previous chapter (Folly?), Wisdom does not play coy. Instead, she chooses to be in the spotlight. As a result, she is the center of attention. She perches herself on the rise overlooking the gateway to the city below (8.3). Wisdom does not want to be heard by a select few; she wants to be heard by everyone, whether the sons of men (8.4) or the fools (8.5). She hopes to impart wisdom to anyone open to hearing it.
Wisdom gives us praiseworthy and righteous counsel (8.6), words of truth and righteousness (8.7-8), and a straightforward and virtuous way of thinking (8.9). The benefits of wisdom are priceless, far exceeding the value of any material possession (8.10-11).
Thus, Wisdom implores everyone to listen so that she may impart her excellent knowledge. But even if that weren’t impressive enough, verse 12 shows that she is wise, knowledgeable, and has good judgment. Consequently, Wisdom hates conceit, lust, and evil because she respects God (8.13). That’s why she’s a reliable source of guidance, wisdom, and resolve (8.14).
Wisdom delights in providing these things to everyone, including those to whom God has given earthly authority. Wisdom will bestow riches, honor, righteousness, justice, and wealth on those who love her (8.15-16). She makes it possible for kings, princes, nobles, and judges to rule justly (8.17-21).
Wisdom testifies that she was God’s companion even before He made the world. Therefore, she existed before the cosmos (8.22). So, according to Solomon, Wisdom is eternal (8.23). Indeed, Wisdom is “older than dirt” (8.26), existing before the oceans, mountains, and hills (8.24). So, Wisdom was present to see the Lord at work, creating the universe. Wisdom saw God create the heavens and the world (27-29) and stood beside Him as a master craftsman, rejoicing in His creation (8.30-31).
Those who are open to Wisdom’s advice will prosper (8.32). Therefore, instead of disregarding her message, we should listen to her advice and act wisely (8.33). Those listening to her with care will be blessed (8.34a). They’ll sometimes have to wait for her (8.34b), but she’ll bring those who are patient new life and the Lord’s favor in return (8.35). However, those whose sins bring dishonor to her suffer spiritual damage (8.36a).
Those hating Wisdom demonstrate a desire to die (8.36b). This mindset means that people who like death will get what they want. Thus, wisdom implores us to listen to her so that she may impart wisdom, knowledge, truth, and righteousness; and endow our lives with wealth and glory, especially as the Lord bestows.
To quote Wisdom:
“Blessed is the man who listens to me, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at my doorposts. For he who finds me finds life And obtains favor from the Lord.” (Proverbs 8.34-35 NASB1995)
In Proverbs 6, Solomon offers five items of advice. These five protective measures encompass everything from financial decisions to sexual purity.
In verses 1-5, Solomon advises his sons not to take on someone else’s debt. Please remember that this is not a reference to the compassion God expects from His people. This guidance isn’t even about assisting a family member in need. The crucial distinction occurs in the second verse. According to Solomon, this is an example of speaking before thinking. The victim fell into a trap he created with his own words. One can only speculate why someone would make such a hasty pledge. It could be for appearances or because you believe the other person will do something good for you in the future.
This warning makes me think of what Paul told the young preacher Timothy. “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others; keep yourself free from sin” (1 Timothy 5.22 NASB1995). We should remember that if we praise someone before we know what kind of person they are, they may hurt our reputation if they turn out to be less than good. “Guilt by association” is something that a lot of people think is true. Think about the damage that someone else’s debt can cause. If they don’t pay, you’ll be on the hook for a debt you never owed in the first place! The person who doesn’t do what he needs to do could ruin your finances.
Solomon says to go immediately and ask the other party to remove you from the pledge. It would be best if you didn’t go to sleep until the other person lets you out of the promise. Solomon even says that if you have to, you should beg. Then, even though it’s unpleasant, you deliver yourself like a prey escaping the hunter. (This part of Proverbs 6 makes me want to talk about the “entitlement mentality” and how helping others isn’t always best for their personal growth, and how they should live within their means, but I’ll be good and stay on task.)
In verses 6 through 11, we are told not to be lazy. In this passage, Solomon tells us to look at the ant. Solomon praises the ant’s tenacity in the absence of a leader. Even though ants have a queen and use pheromones to talk to each other, this doesn’t change Solomon’s point. If you’ve ever watched ants, you know that they don’t need taskmasters to watch over them all the time. The ants take charge. Whatever the queen tells them to do, they do it right away. The bigger ant doesn’t crack his whip to make the smaller ones work harder. Even the Greek Aesop noticed this, using an ant as the main character in one of his stories. The ant worked hard to prepare for winter, while the grasshopper (originally a cicada) preferred to play. When winter came, the ants were happy, but the grasshopper came to ask for food. (It’s important to note that the ant showed no kindness in the early versions of the story. The grasshopper, or cicada, got to “reap what he had sown.”)
Again, the New Testament has a cousin to our text. Paul tells the people of Thessalonica that people who don’t work shouldn’t be allowed to eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). Laziness creates poverty. Solomon says that if one is “twiddling his thumbs,” poverty appears as a “vagabond.” As an American, I prefer to use the term “hobo” rather than “vagabond” because it conjures a more familiar image for my fellow citizens. I don’t know if hobos still exist today, but there were many of them during the Great Depression. Trains took these (mostly) men all over the country. They would never “hit a straight lick with a crooked stick.” They even made a hieroglyphic language that they left for other hobos. These symbols told you which houses would give you food, which would share food in exchange for work, and which places would give you food if you talked about religion. (In some respects, I cannot help but compare this to the recent “Great Resignation. The hobos decided to take advantage of the economic downturn to abandon society. In some ways, the same is true of those who choose not to report to work after COVID-19 disruptions.)
In verses 12–15, Solomon tells us to look out for bad people. Solomon says you can find “tells” about these people if you look for them. Most of the time, we use the word “tell” in the context of poker. If someone gets a good hand, he might make a specific face. In the same way, other players know when he has a good hand. The same is true for his facial expressions or body language when he gets a bad hand. The wicked’s body language may show they want to do bad things. Their offensive language can also show who they are. As another implication, tells can also be used to talk to a partner. For example, a bad guy might communicate to a partner how to best ambush you. Solomon has already said we should avoid these situations at all costs.
Now we get to the part of Proverbs 6 that most of us know: the seven things that God hates (6.16-19). These sins are interesting because they start in the heart and take over the sinner’s actions. A haughty expression means more than just arrogance. It means that a person thinks he or she is better than others. And if he is better than other people, his will comes first. Even his whims are more important than what you need. So, his pride, shown by his eyes, comes out in his lying tongue. People who lie do it to get the upper hand in a situation or avoid getting in trouble if caught. See how arrogance leads to lying! Because people often tell lies to save their necks, the sinner shows that he cares more about himself than his neighbors. So, if he has to shed the blood of innocent people to help his cause, he will.
Once a sinner gets to this point, he plans to do bad things and is willing to put in whatever effort is needed to make them happen. After that, he will tell any lie, even if it means lying about someone else. Lastly, this sinner is ready to ruin other people’s relationships to get what he wants. You’ve probably heard that all seven of these sins were done by those betraying Christ, giving Him to the Romans. It shouldn’t be a surprise. Can you think of Caiaphas? He said that Jesus should die instead of the entire nation of Israel (John 11.47-53; 18.14). Caiaphas, Judas, and the religious leaders of the Jews all do things that are on the list of seven things that God hates. It may take more thought to put the pieces together, but I’m sure other sins will follow the same pattern (e.g., abortion).
The remainder of Proverbs 6 is devoted to sexual immorality. We’ve already said that young men like the thrill of new experiences that a “strange woman,” like a prostitute or an adulteress, can give them. Solomon spends some time here explaining why adultery is the more expensive of the two encounters. Although he does not condone illicit relationships with prostitutes, adultery is worse than those relationships. Adultery is a sin against God, the lawful spouse, the adulterous woman, and oneself. Prostitution is a sin against God, the prostitute, and oneself. (Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6.18-19 that sexual immorality is a sin against oneself. We don’t always think of ourselves as people who could be hurt.) “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” (6.27). Of course, this is not true. Any sexual sin will hurt him.
But the young man pays a different price for his extramarital sex. Most English translations use awkward language in verse 26, making it hard to understand what Solomon meant. “…for the price of a prostitute is only a loaf of bread, but a married woman hunts down a precious life,” says the English Standard Version. In other words, a meeting with a prostitute is a transaction, meaning one exchanges goods or money for “services.” Solomon says that the prostitute will only cost you a loaf of bread, by comparison. But how can you make things up to the man whose wife you slept with? Sadly, the answer is that you cannot. The Law said that if the young man stole property, he had to pay back the total amount. But he can’t compensate for what he stole by sleeping with another man’s wife. Maybe this is why God made adultery a crime punishable by death in the Law.
In chapter seven, Solomon warns his sons about “Lady Folly.” We’ll look at this chapter again next time, Lord willing.
Five hens were safely back in the coop, but one would not go back inside. When the man and his wife tried to coax her back in, she began darting left and right and back and forth. The closer the couple came to her, the more frantic she grew. She darted away from her house toward the woods. When the man went after her, she flew over the fence and deeper into the neighbor’s woods. The man and his wife went inside their home and waited. Later, the hen was back outside the coop. Her sisters were pacing inside their run and she was trying to go head first through the small square of the welded wire to join them. The man and his wife herded her into the corner where the coop meets the run. The man caught the frantic hen as she tried to fly away. As he held her and tossed her inside the coop, she squawked and wailed the whole way. A few minutes later, she was mindlessly and meekly scratching and pacing with the rest of the girls.
It was tempting to let her go, to conclude that she asked for that. But, we thought about the feed and care that has gone into her, the fact that she is just about ready to start laying eggs, but also the humane aspect. There are so many predators on or near our place–foxes, raccoons, snakes, hawks, coyotes, a bobcat, and even an occasional long-tailed weasel. We also have seen the carnage that befell a Green Egger in this current flock. So, we did not give up on Pearl. She’s safely home and doing the things hens do, scratching, pacing, eating, and so forth.
I could not help but think how often I act like Pearl. My Father has given me so much. He supplies my every need (Phil. 4:19), and then some! He takes care of me (Mat. 6:25-32) and has my best interest at heart. He has invested more into me than I can possibly comprehend (John 3:16). Yet, so often I fail to trust Him and even run away from Him in favor of my own, misguided way (Prov. 3:5; 14:12). When I go astray and get into harmful predicaments, I reveal a rejection of His wisdom in favor of my own folly. I don’t have near the excuse of a chicken. Despite journal articles outlining the spatial capacities, very basic arithmetic capacities, complex communication system, and complex emotions of chickens, the most generous assessment is that they are, at best, of average intelligence in the animal world and not remotely comparable to humans. Of all God’s creation, only we are made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Only we were valuable enough to Him that He devised a plan to save us from our sins.
Why would I run from Him? Why would I evade His care and His guidance? Why would I protest and fight His efforts to help me and bring out my best good? While the parable in Luke 15 and the 23rd Psalm are about sheep rather than poultry, the reminder is spot on: “He makes me lie down…He leads me…He restores my soul…He guides me in the paths of righteousness” (Psa. 23:2-3). He is with me, He comforts me, He generously provides for me, and He heals me (Psa. 23:4-5). The Bible helps me see the big picture, to see beyond the desires of the flesh and the perceived need of the moment. God wants me to trust Him and follow His way. May I be “smart” enough to know that and never run away!
Solomon begins chapter four by recalling his childhood and his parents’ lessons about living a godly life. Then he sets a good example for his students, addressing himself as their father. We understand this in the context of Timothy and Titus being Paul’s sons. However, this non-familial relationship does not preclude affection between teacher and student. On the contrary, Paul carried that burden for all the Christians under his tutelage (cf. 2 Corinthians 11.28).
Solomon tells us that wisdom and understanding are commodities that we can buy and sell (cf. Proverbs 23.23), similar to the “pearl of great price” mentioned in Matthew 13.46. As a result, our spiritual father leaves wise words to the student as a valuable heirloom. The main idea in Proverbs 4.6 is that proverbs are the way to become wise. Solomon once said that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord. Solomon now instructs us on the first step we should take. Acquire. It is that simple. You must first identify wisdom. We’ve already accomplished this task by recognizing God’s Word as our primary source and our godly parents as our secondary source. (Tertiary sources are only permitted if they closely parallel the primary source.) Then you must go to any length to obtain it, even if it means selling everything we own (cf. Matthew 13.44-46).
Lady Wisdom will make you look good as a reward for your efforts (4.8-9). In his book, His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage, Willard F. Harley identified affection as a woman’s number one need. 1 Now, I understand that we can only anthropomorphize wisdom so far, but since Scripture depicts wisdom as a lady, we can see that she shares some characteristics with the fairer sex. One of the characteristics shared by Lady Wisdom and human ladies is the wish to be desired. That is analogous to affection in this context. Those who have read Harley’s book understand that the point is that couples can protect their marriages by meeting each other’s needs. When a husband shows affection to his wife, she gives him what he most desires from her. In this case, the young man’s affection for Lady Wisdom prompts her to lavish him with her beauty, which is essentially the third manly need identified by Harley (i.e., an attractive spouse). 2
The path of wisdom leads to enlightenment, whereas the path of righteousness adheres to what is good and right. If the young person continues on this path, he will not have to worry about getting lost or walking in the dark. He will not stumble and fall over an unexpected obstacle if he flies along his path. Nonetheless, Solomon issues a warning. He warns young men not to cross the course of the wicked. In verses 14 and 15, notice the expressions “do not enter,” “do not proceed,” “avoid it,” “do not pass by it,” “turn away from it,” and “pass on.” You’ve probably heard the phrase “evil never sleeps.” In verses 16 and 17, Solomon frames it in this manner. If one goes near the sinful path, he will encounter people who will not rest until they have done evil. And these shady characters are only out to corrupt you. So your options are binary (4.18-19). You will take either the lighted or the dark path. You can only find wisdom along the illuminated way.
Our Proverbs study has already discussed how obeying God leads to a longer life. Under Moses’ Law, this indeed means that they did not have their lives cut short by the death penalty, which God instituted for many offenses. Disobeying your parents? That’s a stoning! But we’ve also seen that sin can have physical consequences, some of which Solomon will discuss in the next chapter. However, wisdom is similar to physical nourishment. You cannot survive by eating infrequently and skipping meals most of the time. Wisdom is something that the student must constantly strive for. As an ileostomate and diabetic, doctors and nutritionists frequently advise me to divide my three daily meals into six smaller ones, with snacks in between. We must approach wisdom in the same way. We can say we don’t have time to read the Bible or listen to God’s Word, but we know that’s an excuse. We can find minutes throughout the day to read, study, and pray rather than being overwhelmed by a full plate three days a week for a couple of hours.
And we must guard our hearts as well (4.23). “Heart” does not refer to the organ that circulates blood but the location of our intellect, feelings, and will. Beliefs influence a person’s moral conduct, actions, attitudes, and goals. As a result, it should come as no surprise that Jesus later tells us that what comes from our hearts can defile us (Mark 7.20). We must practice self-discipline now that we are aware of the truth. Proverbs four’s final verses address training our heart, mouth, eyes, and feet. Why were those parts chosen? Consider how each is vulnerable to the devil’s three temptations: lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2.16).
However, by exercising “thought-control,” we take the first step toward being morally correct and honest. Is this why Paul tells us to focus our thoughts on certain things? (According to Philippians 4.8) This training will keep us on the path and out of the ditches. We must walk forward with our eyes straight ahead. Looking ahead implies that we will not allow sensual, earthly, selfish, or material temptations to cause us to lose sight of the true goal and focus on other things. Furthermore, we will only find extremism on both sides. So, like Josiah, we must follow God’s path without deviating to the “Left or Right” ( 2 Chronicles 34.2).
In chapter five, Solomon discusses the dangers of giving in to the body’s desires. We’ll look at this next week if the Lord allows.