This is part twenty one in my 31-day study through the book of Proverbs. The purpose of this study is to learn wisdom and discernment from God’s Word. Yesterday I learned that though any fool can begin an argument it takes a wise man to know when and how to apologize and cease fighting. I also learned that discipline, though it may be painful, should serve to force me to examine my life and see where I am not following God’s will. Today we turn to the twenty first chapter of Proverbs.
The chapter begins with an expression of the Lord’s omnipotence. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” Everyone is under God’s control, even kings and rulers who may not acknowledge Him. God’s sovereignty extends to all people of all times and they must do his bidding whether they realize it or not. At the same time we know that God will not force anyone into doing wrong since we are wholly responsible for our own sin. So though God may use our evil for His purposes, it does not excuse our sin. We are still responsible for carefully discerning right from wrong.
The next verse is similar to one found in chapter 16. “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the hearts.” I can attempt to justify my behavior before God, but ultimately He is the judge of what is right and wrong. It is easy to make myself believe that my behavior is morally correct, but God, who sees and knows everything, may disagree. I ought to be thankful to God that He has given His Word which instructs me in His ways. Through the Bible I have all the knowledge I need to be able to discern right from wrong and can rest assured that if my behavior is consistent with the Bible, the Lord will weigh my heart and see my obedience.
“The desire of the lazy man kills him, For his hands refuse to labor. He covets greedily all day long, But the righteous gives and does not spare.” I found this passage very intriguing. The author attributes wrong desires for killing a lazy man rather than his refusal to labor. Obviously the refusal to work stems from wrong desires, for the lazy man spends all his time dreaming about what he would like to have rather than laboring diligently to acquire it. An obvious application is that I need to set my desires on things that are attainable and please God and then go out and do it. Dreaming about what I would like to accomplish cannot make anything happen! The second part of the verse states that while this lazy mans spends his time in greedily desiring what he cannot have, the righteous man, having labored and acquired, is able to generously share his wealth.
“It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house with a quarrelsome wife. … It is better to live in a desert land than with a quarrelsome and fretful woman.” I think we all giggle just a little bit when we read these verses. After all, who among us hasn’t known someone who would be better off living on a corner of the rooftop of his house than with his quarrelsome wife. While this makes for a humorous reflection, it ought to make us consider our own hearts. The wisdom in these two verses, while written specifically about women, can be extended to men as well. A quarrelsome husband is no more of a delight to live with than a troublesome wife.
“The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.” This verse is reminiscent of the first, for it speaks of God’s sovereignty. While we are to make proper preparations for what we do, at the same time we need to realize that it is God who is ultimately in control. The general can prepare his armies, but God is the one who decides who will gain victory. This relationship between human responsibility and Divine sovereignty is a difficult one to understand, but one that is important to consider, especially in the light of evangelism, where we are called to participate in a work that only God can truly do. God’s sovereignty does not negate our responsibility to prepare and participate.