Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Proverbs (Proverbs 16-18)|
Chapter: Proverbs 17/18
Passage: Proverbs 17:28-18:2
A. Find Out:
1. How can a fool be thought wise? v.28a
2. How will he appear discerning? v.28b
3. What does an unfriendly man do? v.1a
4. What does this lead him to do? v.1b
5. What doesn't a fool get pleasure from? v.2a
6. But what does he enjoy doing? v.2b
Appearances of Restraint (v.28). This is really the second half of verse 27 which speaks about the wisdom of sometimes limiting your words. If we know what we're about, we know that many words achieve little, but even more we can communicate what we do know with few words. This is indeed wisdom, and not only that it is often seen as that, which means that even a fool could show the appearance of wisdom if only he kept quiet. If he held back speaking, people would think that he was discerning and that was the reason he held back. So, if even a fool gives the appearance of wisdom by holding back, how much more so the person who is genuinely wise.
Selfish Rashness (v.1). An unfriendly man is one who cares little for others. He doesn't put himself out for others and is only concerned to work for his own self-centred ends. The result of this is that he doesn't have others that he can refer to, he doesn't have others to use as counsellors, and therefore he ploughs on in life without restraint and says and does things that defy sound judgement, that are clearly foolish – but he hasn't got a friend to check him. It all goes back to his lack of friends, because he is unfriendly.
The pleasures of a fool (v.2). The person who is a fool shows it in a variety of ways. Here are just two of them, one negative, and one positive. The negative is that working things out and coming to a place of understanding brings no pleasure to him. He gets no satisfaction in working things out and coming to understand meaning; he just likes airing his own opinions which, by inference, means light, shallow and possibly wrong views that lack understanding. How easy it is to comment upon modern life and simply use the old clichés without bothering to look deeply into the truth; how easy it is just to express a shallow biased opinion that has little worth because it is based on little understanding! But that is the way of the fool!
Chapter: Proverbs 18
Passage: Proverbs 18:3-5
A. Find Out:
1. What comes with wickedness? v.3a
2. What comes with shame? v.3b
3. What are a man's words like? v.4a
4. What is a fountain of wisdom like? v.4b
5. To whom is it not good to be partial to? v.5a
6. What also is it not good to do? v.5b
Fruits of Wrongdoing (v.3) We sometimes think a sin stands on its own. It doesn't; it is always accompanied by other things. Sin in this verse is referred to as wickedness, a purposeful wrongdoing. Note the word ‘purposeful' for it is accompanied by the attitude of contempt for the Law and for God. A person who purposefully does wrong is one who holds God in contempt. The other side of the coin is that with wrongdoing, when it is found out, there comes shame and disgrace. Shame is what we feel and disgrace is about how the rest of the world thinks about us. We may be contemptuous about the Law, but the world will still view us badly – and that is right.
Many Words (v.4). Yet again Solomon refers to our speech. First he speaks about people generally, and so when he refers to their words being like deep waters, he means that they are plentiful. Oh yes, as you go through life, just listen to people, listen to the many words. However, if you want wisdom, if will be like a ‘bubbling brook' which means shallow, or few. What this says is that in life generally you will hear many words, but few of them flow forth from wisdom. As 17:27 said, ‘the man of knowledge uses words with restraint.' Words may be many, but wisdom is limited.
Accepting wrong (v.5). To speak of being partial to the wicked means to be casual about their wickedness, to take it for granted, to be easy about them. When we have films or TV programmes that are comedy and are about those doing wrong, we make light of that wrongdoing. If we have a light attitude towards those who do wrong, we will also probably be careless or unconcerned about those who are wrongly accused, those who are innocent. The innocent may also apply to those who are harmed by the wrong doer and for whom we may be casual. Being casual about the wrongdoer and the innocent who are harmed by them, is wrong.
Chapter: Proverbs 18
Passage: Proverbs 18:6-8
A. Find Out:
1. A fool's lips do what? v.6a
2. Inviting what? v.6b
3. A fool's mouth is what? v.7a
4. And what are his lips? v.7b
5. What are words of gossip like? v.8a
6. Where do they go? v.8b
A fool's mouth (v.6,7). The interchanging of lips and mouth are just two alternate ways of referring to speech. As we have seen in previous proverbs, speech has a high profile in Solomon's mind. He knows the potential for both good and evil by the use of our mouths. Here two verses cover the same thing: the speech of a fool. A fool we have noted previously is a self-centred, unwise person who is ungodly and therefore unrighteous. Because they have never come in submission to God, their lives are unrestrained, and the mouth merely reveals to all and sundry what goes on inside them. Jesus said, “ out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks .” (Lk 6:45).
So, here we see the outworkings of the words of a fool, this unrestrained and ungodly person. First of all we're told they bring him strife and invite a beating (v.6). In other words the words that come out of the heart, and thus the mouth, of a fool, provoke and insult other people and stir them up against the fool. The fool cannot help himself because he is unrestrained and thus he speaks his folly and gets the penalty of others being against him. Put another way, his mouth is his undoing (v.7). He would want to be at peace with the world, he would want to be well thought of (as we all do) but in fact his soul is brought down (snared) by his unrestrained words and he is left feeling down by the opposition he receives.
Gossip (v.8). While foolish words are on his mind, Solomon moves on to speak about the folly of gossip. Gossip is simply chattering on about what is happening in others' lives – usually in a negative way. We like to know what is going on in other people's lives and so when we are given little tit-bits of information about others, they are like tasty morsels that we chew over together. But more than that they go down inside us and affect what we're like on the inside – and it isn't good. We're left being lesser people because of it. Beware!
Chapter: Proverbs 18
Passage: Proverbs 18:9-11
A. Find Out:
1. Of whom is spoken? v.9a
2. Of whom is he the ‘brother'? v.9b
3. What is the name of the Lord? v.10a
4. Who do what with it? v.10b
5. What is the wealth of the rich like? v.11a
6. How do they imagine it? v.11b
Casualness in work (v.9). First of all, the person who is slack in their work. To be slack means to be casual or careless. This is indicative of a negative attitude about work. It means we don't have any sense of purpose or calling in our work, but the key issue here is the effect this has. Interestingly Solomon doesn't say any thing specific about this person beyond the fact that they are related to the person who brings destruction. In other words, being casual about your work means you are veering towards destruction. Your casualness invites things to go wrong and one day, it could go badly wrong.
The name of the Lord (v.10). We are all known by name and the Lord is no different. We are identified by our name and when people hear our name immediately they get an image or impression of us. When we hear the name of the Lord, we think of greatness, power, holiness, love, faithfulness and perhaps many other such characteristics. When we hear His name we think of a place of security. We run to the Lord and we find protection. In the world we feel insecure and vulnerable but then we are reminded of the Lord and we turn to Him and immediately everything changes. We are safe with Him. Hallelujah!
Deception of Wealth (v.11) Deception is not actually mentioned here, but it is implied. The rich person who has much wealth feels secure. Their riches are like a fortified city for them, a place that provides security against the perils of life in this world. Riches we feel will act as a buffer, more than that, an unscalable wall, over or through which the perils of the world cannot reach us. Riches will be there to provide for us; whatever we need we can have. The deception is that riches do not shield us from relational breakdowns, from us being hurt by others' rejection of us. Riches do not shield us from serious illnesses or serious accidents or death. No, riches make us feel good, but the truth is that we are still as vulnerable to these sorts of things.
Chapter: Proverbs 18
Passage: Proverbs 18:12-14
A. Find Out:
1. When is a man's heart proud? v.12a
2. When does honour come? v.12b
3. Who suffers folly and shame? v.13
4. How is a man sustained in sickness? v14a
5. But what about a crushed spirit? v.14b
Pride & Humility (v.12) Pride is always on the sidelines of life, waiting to take hold. It is an element of sin, just waiting there to distort our thinking about ourselves. It makes us think we are greater than we are, and it can carry on like that, this deception, until suddenly we are brought down by a catastrophe and suddenly we are humbled, suddenly we realise our frailty and weakness. The man who is humble doesn't seek greatness for himself but his humility will be seen and acknowledged and he will be honoured. Don't look for it and it will come.
Self-centred talkers (v.13) Have you come across those people who clearly aren't listening to a word you are saying, who are only concerned to get in their bit? It's a common failing, this inability to listen to others and Solomon has clearly seen it as well. Such people are really foolish and don't realise how they come over. They are clearly seen as self-centred and not concerned about anyone else, and thus they are spoken about negatively. It is both wise and caring to be a listener!
Strength of heart (v.14) It's a strange thing, the ‘heart', as it is referred to in the Bible. It's not actually that valve-pump that keeps pushing blood around the body, it's that innermost sense of being, it's about how we feel about ourselves. A strong hearted person is one who feels good about who God has made them, and they usually have resolve and purpose and a good feeling about life. That innermost feeling determines how our physical body reacts. Those who feel bad about themselves are often prone to sickness but the person with a strong heart, even though in this Fallen World they may suffer sickness, they are not brought down by it. Yes a strong heart is of immense value, but then there comes times of betrayal and hurt and anguish when it seems we are rejected and put down and our heart or spirit seems crushed within us. At those times we feel we have no resources to cope. We are helpless. Fortunately we have One who is always there for us. Hallelujah!
Chapter: Proverbs 18
Passage: Proverbs 18:15-17
A. Find Out:
1. Who acquires knowledge? v.15a
2. Who seeks it out? v.15b
3. What does a gift do? v.16a
4. Where does it take him? v.16b
5. What seems right at first sight? v.17a
6. How might that be changed? v.17b
A Seeking Heart (v.15) There are many people for whom reading is a boring pastime. Really, they can't see any point in it. These are people who are happy with ignorance. Yet, says Solomon, the discerning person will seek for knowledge. Why? Because we realise that knowledge is a means of determining right and wrong, of distinguishing between good and evil. Knowledge is a means of establishing the truth. The wise person has their ears open to catch the truth. We live in an age of opinions, but when it comes to spiritual matters those opinions are so often based on ignorance. No, the wise person will go searching for the truth, will be alert to learn, will have ears that listen for that which enlightens.
Diplomatic Giving (v.16) The Queen of England has a tremendous store of presents, things that have been given by visiting world leaders and diplomats. When you give someone a present they feel good about you. A gift takes down the barriers of the heart. A gift opens up the heart and indeed may open up the way into the presence of ‘big people'. Yet the greatest of all is God and we know that “the Lord loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7). A person with a generous heart is a person worth knowing and the Lord's heart is open to such people as well. When we have a giving mentality, we find ourselves ushered into the presence of the King of Kings.
Hasty One-Sided Assessments (v.17) It is easy to jump to conclusions by only hearing one side of an argument. One person presents their case and it is very easy to be swayed by them and carried away by what they say. It's only when another view is presented or someone wisely questions what is being said, that we sometimes come to a balanced and more correct view of the truth of a situation. Beware listening to gossip that presents a negative view. Beware making hasty assessments after hearing just one side.
A. Find Out:
1. What does casting lots do? v.18a
2. What also can it achieve? v.18b
3. What is an offended brother like? v.19a
4. What are disputes like? v.19b
5. How is a man's stomach filled? v.20a
6. How is he satisfied? v.20b
Disputes and Opposition (v.18) Living in a Fallen World things go wrong, or we get things wrong and so often that means we are in dispute with another person. The courts are filled with disputes. Life is filled with disputes where one person feels one thing and another person feels something else and both are demanding ‘their rights'. In such situations it gets heated and the two people clash head to head. At such times common sense doesn't always prevail. The modern version of ‘casting lots' is probably spinning a coin. This, says Solomon, is sometimes the simplest and easiest method of solving a dispute: “Gentlemen will you be happy to decide it on the toss of a coin?”
Offences and Disputes (v.19) Solomon really understands life! He knows that when you offend someone close to you, then to get them to climb down is almost impossible. He's as unyielding as a closed up castle, we might say. There's no way you're going to breach his defences and make him back down or feel all right about you. Well of course there is one way, we know, and that is to say sorry and to seek his forgiveness. When a dispute arises it seems it's almost impossible to get through it. It's like a massive barred gate that nothing can get through. It is only the wisdom and grace of the Lord, together with a willingness to say sorry that can break through.
Provision from Wise Lips (v.20) In a day when manual labour produced crops this seems an unusual proverb, yet it is Solomon's recognition that whatever we do involves interaction with other people and that interaction involves us speaking to them. So yes, there is a sense that whatever we earn, whatever we work for, comes ultimately as a result of us using our mouths. How important our words are therefore, if they determine what and how much we will earn. Perhaps it sounds so obvious that we've never thought about it, but the truth is that what we say and how we say it, determines such outcomes. Think on it.
A. Find Out:
1. What does the tongue have power over? v.21a
2. Who will eat its fruit? v.21b
3. Who finds what is good? v.22a
4. What also do they receive? v.22b
5. Who pleads for mercy? v.23a
6. Who answers harshly? v.23b
Fruits of the Tongue - again (v.21) Solomon had a lot to say about the use of the tongue, but perhaps this verse is the most serious of them all. It can speak life or death. "How do you find the defendant? Guilty or not guilty?" "Guilty, my Lord." So come words of judgement, but we also judge one another and so speak ciondemnation or death (of a reputation?) over them. The atheist speaks words of death, of self-condemnationbefore God, words of eternal death. The person coming to conviction says, "I believe. Please forgive me." Words that release life from heaven! The terribel thing is that we tend to love the nature of the words, and what is worse we will eat the fruit of what we say. If we speak evil we will reap evil. If we speak good we will reap good.
Marriage (v.22) This is as simple as it gets, yet the modern world scorns it and reaps the fruit of their scorn. The reality is that God has designed us to be husband and wife when we become adults. He has made us so that we complement each other and that means we are designed to bless one another. That is why he “finds what is good” and he “receives favour from the Lord.” God has designed us to enjoy one another and yet sin so often spoils that. God has designed us to help and encourage one another, yet so often sin spoils that too.
Responses by station (v.23) Solomon envisages a situation when a man is under pressure from others. He imagines a poor man who has no personal worth and feels he has nothing with which to answer, and so such a man pleads for mercy from those who are against him. The other man, he imagines, is rich but when he comes under pressure he simply snarls back. This is a man who thinks much of himself because of his wealth and answers accordingly. Is there a picture here of men standing before the judgement throne of God? Which one do you think will find mercy and which one will be judged?
SUMMARY - Proverbs 18
The Difficulty with Proverbs
We commented at the beginning of this particular set of studies that it is difficult to categorise Proverbs because Solomon didn't. For instance in this set, in Chapter 16, of the first nine, eight refer to the Lord, but in the next six, the theme is about the king in five of them, so we may get some grouping but even that is not complete. When you look at chapter 18 you get the impression there is a lot there about the use of the tongue, but in fact only 9 of the 24 verses are about speech.
The Challenge that comes with Proverbs
Again at the beginning we commented that it is only the hungry or thirsty person who seeks out the meaning of the proverbs. They, almost more than any other part of Scripture, require lots of thought if you are to get value from them. Anyone can take them at face value and say, “Oh yes,” and leave it there, but it is only the seeker after spiritual truths who spends time in the Proverbs seeking to consider what Solomon really meant with each one. Perhaps you have only dipped in and have just jumped to the end – that is understandable, but sad!
Here's a challenge. Why don't you take a proverb and day and write your own thoughts about it. Meditate on it and see what the Lord enables you to bring out of it. We have only done a very brief introduction to each one. We've shown you the way perhaps, so now why don't you take this as a real faith learning exercise. Don't use a commentary or even these notes. Take a notebook and write your own thoughts. The more you do it the easier it will become – but it will probably take more effort (and more prayer?) than perhaps you've ever put into Bible study - you'll never be the same again!