Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Proverbs (Proverbs 16-18)
If you have already used the previous sets of Studies in Proverbs you will know the basis of these individual proverbs, as 10:1 tells us, is that they are the Proverbs of Solomon, the wisest man in the world.
If you have used the previous set of Studies you will know that with the individual proverbs we are using a slightly different approach to the Study style we usually use.
What we will do therefore is simply take three verses for each study with a comment. The notes provided here are, therefore, purely starters to stir your thinking.
Again, because of their nature, it is impossible to provide a “Recap” as we usually do in these studies, and so instead we will simply provide a few words summary at the end of each chapter, to just jog your memory.
The Frustration of these proverbs
The frustrating thing about Proverbs, at least in the main section that we are in from chapter 10 onwards, is that Solomon did not put them in neat order. No doubt if we had produced them today we might have tried to put them into categories, such as “The Use of the Tongue” or “The state of heart” or “God and Evil” and so on, but Solomon didn't!
What this means is that it is usually only the spiritually hungry or thirsty person who will take the trouble to work their way through the Proverbs. Another thing about the proverbs is that, by definition, a proverb is a short pithy saying which then requires you to think about it if you want to get anything out of it. We're often not very good at this today; we prefer to have it all laid out for us, but Proverbs doesn't allow for that! Be warned!
Chapter: Proverbs 16
Passage: Proverbs 16:1-3
A. Find Out:
1. What belongs to a man? v.1a
2. But what comes from the Lord? v1b
3. What seem innocent to a man? v.2a
4. But what does the Lord do? v.2b
5. What should we do? v.3a
6. And what will happen? v.3b
Plans & Words (v.1). A strange verse at first sight. First there is making plans. Our ‘heart' involves our intentions, our purpose, our motivation. So quite naturally, depending on the nature of our hearts, we make plans for our lives. It's part of everyday living. That side is easy – though we may still not get it right always. But then comes interaction with people, and that so often isn't so easy. What do we say in response to people's questions, the things people say to us generally? Suddenly we are in need of help and the Lord is always there ready to help the moment we ask. Suddenly we find we have a right and fitting answer. The Lord has provided for us.
Motivation (v.2). We plough on through life innocently, quite naively in fact, without a thought for what we do. We don't stop and analyse what we are doing, or why we are doing it. As far as we're concerned everything is fine – but the Lord watches and sees and knows. He knows exactly WHY we do what we do. He sees behind the actions to the motivations behind it. He knows what inner feelings, what fears, what anxieties, we have on the inside that are driving our actions. We can go years without realising anything is wrong on the inside until a crisis blows up and somehow our inner drives are revealed and we realise we need to do something about the inside!
Purpose and Plans (v.3). Here is an instruction that occurs more than once in Scripture. Commit what you are about to do to the Lord. In other words share with the Lord your intentions. When you do that you may find a check within you and need to alter your intentions. Telling God about your life is a good way of checking it out! Even as you speak it you know when something is not quite right. In such ways the Lord corrects us and puts us on the right path, so that He can then bless our activity and bring a good outcome. Do I do this daily? Do I “commit my way to Him” every day?
Chapter: Proverbs 16
Passage: Proverbs 16:4-6
A. Find Out:
1. What does the Lord do? v.4a
2. Who does that include? v.4b
3. Who does the Lord detest? v.5a
4. What will happen to them? v.5b
5. How is sin atoned? v.6a
6. How does a man avoid evil? v.6b
The Lord's Sovereignty (v.4). This is a powerful verse! There is no doubt in it – it is a bald statement of fact – God is at work in His world and He IS achieving all He wants to achieve. This is nothing less than the pure sovereignty of God. He IS all-wise, He IS all-powerful and therefore He CAN do whatever He pleases. Note first, “his own ends” – He has an end in mind, He is working towards something. He has goals and objectives and nothing and no one can stop His will being fulfilled! Note also that that includes also the wicked, so if you look at the world and are dismayed at the evil that you see, don't worry, God has a day for them. They will not “get away with it”! And realise that God will use even them in his purposes (see Acts 2:23, 4:28).
The Proud (v.5). This is bad news! God detests ALL the proud of heart. Are you proud? Do you know what pride is? A dictionary defines it as “a high or overbearing opinion of one's worth or importance”! If you are proud you have lost perspective and almost certainly don't realise your own frailty and God's greatness. Because this is blatant untruth, God detests it. The older versions said that it was an “abomination” to God, something loathsome and detestable. That's how strong God feels about pride. It is one of the central characteristics of Sin and it harms us and we harm others and as such it's like a destructive weed in a beautiful flower garden, and so God WILL deal with it.
Atoning Sin (v.6). How is sin dealt with? By God's love and Jesus' faithfulness. That is the only way Sin is atoned. Some versions have ‘mercy' instead of love, which emphasises more that it is entirely unmerited, this activity of God dealing with our sin. But how did Solomon see it? A life of loving God faithfully covers past sin. How do we avoid sinning? A sure way is to have a right respectful attitude towards God. Fearing His anger is a good deterrent!
Chapter: Proverbs 16
Passage: Proverbs 16:7-9
A. Find Out:
1. Which man is now identified? v.7a
2. What does the Lord do for him? v.7b
3. What is good to have? v.8a
4. What is that better than? v.8b
5. What does a man do? v.9a
6. Yet what is the reality? v.9b
The man who pleases God (v.7). The first question that arises is, how can a man's ways be pleasing to God? The answer has got to be, when he is righteous and obedient, seeking after God with all his heart. This will mean that he is also seeking to follow all of God's instructions and guidance. As he does this, the eyes of the Lord are upon him and the heart of the Lord is for him, and the blessing of the Lord follows, so that even those who might have been his enemies live at peace with him. It is almost a natural progression, but only because the Lord decrees it that way and specifically adds His decree of goodness to this man's life.
Contentment (v.8). There can be two aspects to our lives: peace of mind, and obtaining provision. One is in the mind, the other in our activity. We will have peace in our mind when we are living at peace with God (righteously). When that happens, we will be at peace with our provision – this is contentment. We can be happy with much or with little, for it is not the major issue in life. If we seek to gain much and use bad means along the way, that means dealing badly with others to achieve our ends, and we will lack peace and have ongoing issues with God which we will have to face one day.
Who is in control? (v.9). Our biggest temptation and error is to believe that we have total control of our lives. This is only the thinking of the unthinking person! We may plot and scheme, plan and work for goals – and in the short term they may be achieved – but if God's hand is upon our lives, then things happen that are beyond us. Think about the number of things that could happen to interrupt or change the flow of your life: illnesses, accidents, upsets, relational changes, circumstance changes that are beyond us. It is so easy for the Lord to guide our steps to lead us in His plans for us. It is only the unwise youth who believes they are the master of their destiny. The older we grow and the more we can look back, the more we can see the direction of God on our lives.
Chapter: Proverbs 16
Passage: Proverbs 16:10-12
A. Find Out:
1. How does a king speak? v.10a
2. So what should he not do? v.10b
3. What are from the Lord? v.11a
4. What has he made? v.11b
5. What do kings detest? v.12a
6. How is a throne established? v.12b
Leadership Responsibility (v.10). A king is a leader so perhaps we may expand our understanding of this verse to include all leaders, for it is a general principle. Because of who they are, when leaders speak people listen. An oracle in olden days was simply a divine revelation. When kings speak that was the level of significance that was given to their words. Leaders (in whatever sphere) have a responsibility to be careful what they say. In particular, in no way should they cause injustice by their words. Leaders should be the upholders of justice as God's representatives (see Rom 13:1-5).
Establishing Leaders (v.12). We're jumping a verse because of the linkage. Again let's enlarge our thinking to include all leaders. Leaders, we have just said, are there by God's will and have a responsibility to maintain justice and goodness. Therefore they will be against anything that seeks to undermine the office of leadership. The very office of a leader is established by right means, means that are acceptable in the eyes of others. A God-established rule or reign of leadership comes about as part of the will of God, i.e. through righteous means. Righteousness is at the heart of establishing leadership and of the rule of leadership.
Honesty in trading (v.11). Sandwiched between these two verses on leadership, we see this verse as very pertinent to the peace and harmony of a society or business or whatever other grouping. Scales and balances are used to establish fair trade, justice in dealings. If they are inaccurate then unfairness or injustice takes place and disharmony takes place, and society is upset. God has ordained the ways we live and He has put it into our minds how to trade. Yet He always desires righteousness in every aspect of life and works for it. Thus when leadership or government is responsible, that is conveyed into society and peace and harmony ensue from responsible and just business.
Chapter: Proverbs 16
Passage: Proverbs 16:13-15
A. Find Out:
1. In what do kings take pleasure? v.13a
2. Who do they value? v.13b
3. What is a king's anger? v.14a
4. But what will a wise man do? v.14b
5. How does a king's face give him away? v.15a
6. What is his goodwill like? v.15b
Speak honestly with leaders (v.13). Again, because the principles can have a wider application, we're going to expand the application of these verses to include all leaders (for that, after all, is what kings are). Leaders are working with followers to achieve something (a king seeks top achieve a stable and prosperous kingdom), and so they want those who relate to them to be open and honest. A worker (or servant) who always speaks the truth can be trusted. If we are leader, do we have those around us who always speak the truth? Dare they do that?
The power of leaders (v.14). A king of old had the power to have people put to death. Leaders often have the power to exclude or even destroy others. They are human beings and sometimes they get angry. That anger may be justified or it may be a fit of peak. The wise man is the person who can speak words of peace to the angry leader to reduce the anger and help the leader see clearly and without adverse emotion. Leaders can be powerful in bad ways, but wise followers can speak words of change that also are powerful in a different way. If we are a leader, do we seek to avoid anger? If we are a follower, do we have words that appease and bring peace and order?
Smiles bode well (v.15). We're all human beings and we show what we're feeling by our faces. A scowl indicates all is not well. A smile indicates pleasure. When it comes to leaders, they are the same, so a smile on the face of a leader says much to those who follow. It means this is going to be a good day, and the leader can bring blessing to our lives. (Beware the smile of deception though!). The good will (favour) of a leader can bring blessing like the Spring rain brings new life to the ground. This is the power (and possibility) of a leader in a completely different way. If we are a leader we need to be aware of the possibilities and the responsibility that goes with those possibilities.
Chapter: Proverbs 16
Passage: Proverbs 16:16-18
A. Find Out:
1. What is better than gold? v.16a
2. What is better than silver? v.16b
3. What avoids evil? v.17a
4. Who guards his life? v.17b
5. What goes before destruction? v.18a
6. What goes before a fall? v.18b
The Value of Wisdom & Understanding (v.16). Living in a materialistic world we may struggle (honestly) with this verse. It sounds good at first reading, but can we honestly say we value wisdom and understanding more than material wealth? Material wealth certainly provides physical comfort but would we like to be rich unhappy, anxious, discontented people? Wisdom and understanding help us know how to live and have peace and contentment. Wisdom is the knowledge of “how to”, how to live at peace with God and with all people. Understanding is the awareness of the significance of wisdom. Both establish us in peace, harmony and contentment.
The path we walk (v.17). Life is often compared to a journey and day to day living as a path or highway. So, first of all, consider the highway of the upright. The upright, as we've said before, is a morally straight person, nothing crooked about them, a person who is honourable with no deceit, completely honest, full of integrity. The path or highway of this person, by definition, will avoid evil. The person who looks after his way, or is careful as to the way he walks, the way he lives, will guide his life and protect it from evil or harm. The fruit come with the person.
Pride (v.18). This is a well-known proverb: pride goes before a fall is how it is often abbreviated. Why? What is pride? Pride, as we've commented before, is defined in a dictionary as a high or overbearing opinion of oneself. Because that is so, a proud person will overstretch themselves and therefore put themselves in danger. A fall is likely because they have a false view of themselves that leads them into dangerous situations. A haughty person is just another way of describing a proud person. A haughty person is arrogantly disdainful of others, and so will not receive counsel from others and will therefore walk into dangerous situations that will bring their downfall. Both proud and haughty describe a person will an unreal perspective of themselves!
A. Find Out:
1. What is the good option given? v.19a
2. What is this better than? v.19b
3. Who prospers? v.20a
4. Who is blessed? v.20b
5. Who are called discerning? v.21a
6. What do pleasant words do? v.21b
Avoid pride (v.19). This verse really continues from the previous one which was about pride. There Solomon had warned that pride inevitably brings destruction or downfall. Now he's giving a comparison which really just says, whatever you do avoid pride! He uses two states for comparison. In the first he says it is better to be humble and oppressed, but who wants to be oppressed???? Well that, he says, is better than to be apparently victorious and proud. That's how bad pride is! In other words, it's better to be humble and in the worst of situations than to be proud and apparently victorious. Hear it!
Instruction & Trust (v.20). Instruction may be correction or it may not. It may be simple guidance. The person who has an open heart to receive the guidance, teaching and correction of the Lord is going to do well; that is the simple message here. Why? Because God knows best and we all need help from Him to make it through. The challenge here is, do I have a teachable spirit, am I open to change? As we trust in the Lord's guidance, direction and teaching, we WILL be blessed because that is how He's made things to work.
Discernment & Instruction (v.21). Discernment is that “ability to distinguish between” good and evil, right and wrong. Discernment is a key ability to provide protection against things that would pull us down and cause destruction. It lets us see what is bad for us so that we may avoid it. Is it some mystical thing that just comes? No, it is a fruit of wisdom. Wisdom in its simplest of definitions is the “ability to know how”, how to live rightly, what to do and how to do. The more we learn this as we go through life, the more we also learn to distinguish between what is good and what is bad. How to communicate instruction? By using ‘pleasant words,' words that build, encourage and bless. As we do this it will open hearts to receive instruction; it will help others receive from us the goodness of God. May it be so!
A. Find Out:
1. What is understanding? v.22a
2. What does folly do? v.22b
3. What does a wise man's heart do? v.23a
4. What does his tongue do? v.23b
5. What are like a honeycomb? v.24a
6. What effect do they have? v.24b
Understanding (v.22). What have we previously said understanding is? It is the awareness of the meaning or significance of things. It is knowing ‘why' and ‘how' and ‘when'. Understanding lets people say, “Ah, I see now!” Many people look but don't ‘see' in this way, but when we do ‘see' it enables us to appreciate the meaning of life, how life works, why things happen as they do. It is not something that everyone has, but for those who do it's a constant source of pleasure and enjoyment, of life awareness. It actually is a source of energy as well as peace for such a person, a fountain of life.
The words of a wise person (v.23). We've seen this before in the Proverbs, the words that come out of the mouth of a wise person don't just pour out, they are considered and careful. The heart of such a person means that they know and understand what is good or right or proper, and they want those things and therefore they will temper their speech accordingly. The heart of the wise man truly does guide what he will say. Because he is wise, he will want to help and bless others and will seek to help them in the way he speaks. Some of his speaking will be instruction, or will be persuasive because he will want to promote or encourage change in others, because he will have their well-being in mind.
The effect of pleasant words (v.24). As we've commented before, some of the proverbs seem incredibly obvious, yet they speak about things that many of us don't think about. If we did we'd change. This is simply saying that good words are nice and have good effect. A honeycomb is sweet and nutritious, bringing both pleasure and health. Our words also have that capability, of bringing pleasure, wellbeing and ultimately good health to others (by bringing peace and removing anxiety and stress). If we really believed that, we might go into the day ensuring that every word of ours has this effect. Try it today.
A. Find Out:
1. What is it that seems right to a man? v.25a
2. Yet what does it lead to? v.25b
3. What works for a labourer? v.26a
4. What does his hunger do? v.26b
5. Who plots evil? v.27a
6. And what is his speech like? v.27b
Deception (v.25). This is rather similar to verse 2 of this chapter. It's all about how we can be self-deceived. There are many people who just go their way through life, yet they are simply working towards death, eternal death. The way of the self-centred, godless life is just such a way. It is a pathway of darkness, without the illumination of God's love and God's wisdom, and although it seems the right way to the person concerned, it will only lead them to hell. There are many, many people who are walking this path.
Work Motivation (v.26). What is it that drives the manual labourer on? It is the thought of getting to the end of the job, having expended a lot of energy, and the food that awaits him. One might say it is the wages that enable him to buy food. When he goes hungry his thought is, “I must get work, earn some money to get food.” If we live in a modern state that protects us by providing financial support benefits then we are protected from this, but what Solomon is saying is that our appetites or desires act as a strong motivating force to energise us. Perhaps we might ask the question, what is it that energises me? It may simply be the desire for self-satisfaction of having a sense of achievement, but something will motivate each of us. What is it?
The scoundrel (v.27). Older versions speak of a godless man but the sense of meaning is of a worthless wrong-doer. Such a person will be ungodly and they constantly plot evil, because that's what they're like. And then we come to their speech again. We've said previously that words reflect the state of the heart. The heart of this man is destructive and his words have that effect. They inflame and upset, they are harsh and judgemental, because this is the nature of the man. We can't repeat it enough: it's what a person is like on the inside that produces the outward words or deeds. He is not a scoundrel because of his words, but his words are what they are because he is a scoundrel!
A. Find Out:
1. Who stirs up dissension? v.28a
2. What does a gossip do? v.28b
3. Who does what to his neighbour? v.29a
4. Where does he lead him? v.29b
5. Who plots what? v.30a
6. Who is bent on evil? v.30b
Bad hearts expressed (v.28). We have noted it many times before: a persons state of heart is reflected by their actions. This proverb shows two actions, and they both indicate a bad state of heart (although that is not mentioned). A perverse man, we have seen before – 10:31 ,32 speak of perverse speech and 11:20 speaks of a perverse heart. A perverse person is someone who deliberately goes off course, who is deliberately unrighteous. Such a person delights in causing upset. Then there is the gossip. We tend not to think so badly about a gossip but their influence is the same; they say things they shouldn't and they distort the truth so that they cause upset so that even close friends are led to think badly of each other. Stay away from these people. They're dangerous!
The violent man's direction (v.29). We often think occasional behaviour is one-off, but it actually indicates what that person is really like. A violent man is someone with a violent disposition and they may appear nice much of the time, but beware because violence is in their nature waiting to break out. More than that it warps their thinking so that they are plotting bad for others. If you get close to such a person, beware, for their bad plotting will come in your direction and you will be on the end of their badness. They will seek to lead you down a path that only causes mischief for you. Stay away from him. He's dangerous!
Bad body language (v.30). We've seen the winking person already in 10:10 . A wink usually conveys conspiracy and invites you to join in. This person is planning off beat (perverse) actions and when they wink at you they invite you to join them in their mischief. But if eyes can convey bad intentions, so can lips. So when a person purses their lips it conveys what they are feeling and it is a negative thing, and one way or another it is not good. We may not know what is in a person's heart when we initially meet them, but a reading of their body language can often convey a lot.
A. Find Out:
1. What is grey hair? v.31a
2. How is it attained? v.31b
3. Who is better than a warrior? v.32a
4. Who is better than a victor over a city? v.32b
5. What is cast? v33a
6. But how is the outcome decided? v.33b
Growing old gracefully (v.31). In a time in history when many people reach old age and have grey hair, we may lose something of the significance of this proverb. Perhaps we forget that years ago people often died much younger. To actually live until a point where your hair turned grey was in fact quite an achievement and grey hair was thus a sign (as today) of a long life. That, says Solomon, has to come from righteous living that (implied) receives the blessing of the Lord. Whether it is scientific advance or provision of good food, we still need to remember that long life is a gift of the Lord and be thankful.
Grace or power (v.32). Interesting comparisons! The latter comparison in both cases is a man of violence or of power. A soldier or victor, in context, can be a good man, which may suggest to us that you can be good, but there is always something better to aspire to. The better comparisons given are a patient man and one who controls their temper. The first comparison must surely indicate that it is better to wait patiently for a good outcome than go to war to achieve a speedier resolution. Surely the second one must be similar - where there is cause for upset it is better to take control of oneself than be provoked into a conflict. Can grace prevail, or will I allow another to stir me into hasty and possibly unwise conflict.
God's sovereignty over our plans (v.33). We may struggle over making decisions, says Solomon, but understand that the ultimate outcome is down to the Lord. We may spin a coin, draw lots, or perform some other ‘act of chance' but at the end of the day, the Lord is sovereign and He will exercise His sovereignty so that the outcome is finally according to His purposes. That may sound a big leap of faith to accept, but it is the truth, that the ultimate outcome from every apparent human decision will conform to the Lord's plans. That may need some more thinking about to accept, but it is true.
SUMMARY - Proverbs 16