This is part twenty four 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 riches are fleeting, so to work myself to exhaustion in order to acquire them is foolish. I also learned that sin is addictive and though initially it provides joy, it always ends up bringing sorrowful consequences. I should avoid sin, trusting that with God’s power I can overcome it.
Verses 5 and 6 raise a theme that we have seen before in Proverbs. “A wise man is strong, Yes, a man of knowledge increases strength; For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” Several times the author has stressed the value of heeding the wise counsel of friends or advisors. As I read this today I was reminded of a story Bill Perkins relates in his book “Six Battles Every Man Must Win.” He says that when he speaks at men’s conferences he always calls the four biggest men in the audience up to the stage. He’ll walk up to these huge men one-by-one and give them a soft shove on the chest. Each one of them will stumble backwards, for it takes only a small push on the chest to knock a man off-balance. But then he will instruct the men to form a circle and link arms. When they do this he can push them as hard as he wants and they will not budge. There is strength in numbers and security in “linking arms.” I need to surround myself with trusted, wise people with whom I can link arms, trusting them to support me when I need their counsel.
Verse 7 reads “Wisdom is too lofty for a fool; He does not open his mouth in the gate.” A foolish man is out of his league when around wise men. When wise men gather (as they used to gather at the city gate) the foolish man will have nothing to offer, for anything he says will only prove his folly. Evidently the opposite must be a true – a wise man will be trusted for his wise counsel.
“He who plots to do evil will be called a schemer. The devising of foolishness is sin, and the scoffer is an abomination to men.” When I read these verses I thought of a friend of mine, who derived great pleasure from “plotting evil.” Though he never intended to carry out any of his schemes, he used to enjoy figuring out how he could rob casinos without getting caught or how he could avoid having to pay taxes. One day he realized that all of his plotting was just giving his mind over to evil thoughts and he made a conscious effort to avoid thinking about such things. I did not really think much about it, but after reading these verses I can see that he showed wisdom in doing so. This passage also made me ponder television and movies. If I am not to ponder evil schemes, why should I watch them unfold on the screen?
God tests our faith through times of adversity. After reading the tenth verse, it seems wisdom is also proven during times of trial. “If you faint in the day of adversity, Your strength is small.” Though I may display wisdom during times of “smooth-sailing” it is when facing difficulty that I will really see whether I not only have wisdom but can apply it as well.
Verses 11 and 12 say “Deliver those who are drawn toward death, And hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds?” These verses seem to say that God regards helping other people as one of my foremost responsibilities. He places such emphasis on this that even ignorance on my part is not a valid excuse. I may say “surely I did not know this” but God may still hold me responsible. Now evidently God will not punish me for not helping in matters I could not possibly know about, but the point is clear – I need to not just wait for opportunities to serve others, but actively seek them out. This clearly foreshadows Jesus’ teaching that I am to love my neighbor as myself.
I will close with verses 17 and 18. They read “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; Lest the LORD see it, and it displease Him, and He turn away His wrath from him.” Though my natural reaction is to rejoice at the afflictions of my enemy, God tells me not to do this. If I truly am to love others as myself then I should never derive pleasure from another man’s pain. I can never entirely remove compassion from him. God looks at this with such disfavor that it may cause Him to turn from punishing my enemy and instead chasten me. Truly God’s standards are so different from our flawed, human standards! When I read this passage I am reminded of Jesus’ words. As His was nailed to the cross He asked for His Father to forgive those who were causing Him such pain. What an example of the way we ought to treat our enemies!
The objective for this study is to learn godly wisdom and discernment. Based on the twenty fourth chapter of Proverbs, here is what I have learned:
- If I am to be wise I need to surround myself with other wise people who can provide me with godly counsel.
- Just as I should not commit evil acts, so I should not waste my time pondering evils acts, even if I have no intention of carrying them out.
- I am to exhibit love and concern for all men and actively seek out those I can help. I am to show concern for my enemy as much as my friend.