Monday, September 12, 2011

Good Advice

In our lessons through Sunday, October 23rd, 2011, we will focus on everyday human wisdom transmitted from experience and tradition. They are words of wisdom passed on from one generation to another. The background Scripture for today's lesson is found in Proverbs 10:1-15:33. This passage of Scripture uses two-part verses throughout the passage to demonstrate contrasts between righteousness (good) and wickedness (evil). The book of Proverbs highlights positive outcomes including sufficiency, abundance, honor, peace, and security; it also shows the negative outcomes that include shame, discord, and violence. The lesson today focuses on Proverbs 15:21-33.

'Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom...' Prov. 15:21a It is the character of a fool to take pleasure in evil. It is to his delight. A stupid man enjoys his stupidity. He does not know anything better. Although man's law makes provision for the mentally impaired, such as guardianship matters in Probate Courts, there is no such help for those who are spiritually impaired. He is as a pig who loves wallowing in the mud. '...but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.' Prov. 1521b The man of understanding has opened his eyes and knows he has the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit. He does all that he can to be within the perfect will of God. This is his joy and delight. It causes him grief to be off track.

Major decisions require advice. When men act without counsel of others (advisors), their purposes are disappointed because the task is much more difficult. '...but in the multitude of counselors they are established.' Prov. 15:22b Men of wisdom have learned they must put away pride as they do not know everything. They need to seek consultants. 'Only by pride cometh contention: but with the well advised is wisdom.' Prov. 13:10 Men who have had experience can warn against dangers to be avoided, can suggest the best methods, etc. Only God knows everything and the Holy Spirit will empower us to say the right thing to the right person at the right time. 'A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season...'Prov 15:23a It feels good to make a decision seasonably...not too soon nor too late...and to speak and/or act on your decision.

There are only two paths in life. The wise man chooses eternal life in contrast to the foolish path to hell. (verse 24) The upward way is associated with a prosperous life and eventually a heavenly reward. 'There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.' Romans 8:1,2 The downward path is associated with death and destruction. 'For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.' Romans 8:13

'The Lord will destroy the house of the proud:...' Prov. 15:25a God has no problem destroying the estate of those who have elevated themselves by trampling others. '... he will establish the border of the widows.' Prov. 15:25b In ancient Israel, a landmark was a stone placed in a field to indicate the boundary of one's land. These could be moved secretly at night to expand one's farm, at the same time cheating one's neighbor. (see Deut. 19:14) God will protect the widows and the defenseless from those who had more power. (see Deut. 10:18 and Jer 49:11)

'The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord:...' Prov. 15:26a "Good" and "evil" are common themes in the book of Proverbs. God hates the very thoughts of the wicked. As thoughts are actually words to God, we can actually say that God hates the words and thoughts of the wicked. He detests their wicked plans. '... the words of the pure are pleasant words.' Prov. 15:26b God is pleased with the words and thoughts of the pure. They are pleasant to Him. David fully understood there were no "private thoughts" in Psalm 19:14 when he prayed that the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart would be acceptable in God's sight.

'He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house;...' Prov. 15:27a He that is greedy to swell his bank account has a tendency to bring trouble unlimited to his household. Perhaps it seems minor, such as simply rising up very early, going to bed very late, and never at home with the family. It may be more serious, such as taking bribes for illicit gain, pursuing money unlawfully, etc. There is a danger in trying to gain riches by any means necessary. '...godliness with contentment is great gain; For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out...For the love of money is the root of all evil...' I Tim 6:6,7,10a God is pleased with the man who refuses to have anything to do with bribes, unlawful pursuit of monies, spends quality time with family, etc. 'he that hateth gifts shall live.' Prov. 15:27b

Verse 28 illustrates the difference between knowing a wise man and a foolish man from their speech. A wise man thinks before he speaks. He meditates on what to say, when, where and how to speak. A foolish man simply opens his mouth without contemplating his conversation. Anything is subject to come out of his mouth, to include profanity and evil things to the dishonor of God. Out of the mouth comes the issues of the heart. 'Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity:...But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison...Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men,...Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.' James 3:5-6, 9-10 The wise man knows the importance of thinking before he speaks with the powerful tongue.

'The Lord is far from the wicked:, but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.' Prov. 15:29 The wicked have chosen to not seek the face of the Lord. God will grant them their request. He will not require you to accept Him. He is there for them should they turn their life around. But while they continue in their nonacceptance of Him, iniquities and refusal to seek Him in prayer, God shall be far from them and their evil. Believers, on the other hand, have an instant audience with the Lord. '...God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.' John 9:31

Two pleasant things are pronounced in verse 30. The proverb speaks to a person's beaming countenance by looking at the light of his eyes. It is pleasant to the heart of everyone he meets. Happiness, or a happy heart, is healthier than depression, or a broken heart. It is also pleasant to the heart to receive a good report. It makes a person's whole body feel good to the bones.

'The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.' Prov. 15:31 Not everyone wants to listen when they are disciplined with wisdom. They are not teachable and are headed in the wrong direction. The teaching of the Bible in general and the gospel in particular is life-giving counsel. 'He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.' Prov. 15:32 The problem with the wicked is they undermine the value of their soul. They gamble away its worth. The wise man hears the rebuke and applies it to his best interest. The wise man fears the Lord and has reverence for Him, whereas the foolish man does not. 'The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honor is humility.' Prov. 15:33 The wise humble themselves and shall be honored here and hereafter. They shall receive honor and respect because they know how to receive correction as serving God.

Do you count yourself among the wise or the foolish?

Deborah C. Davis

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