Proverbs 16:1-16: Choose Wisdom
August 22, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
This section appears to be subdivided into two broad areas: first, planning; second, justice. It ends with a summary statement regarding wisdom that expresses the conclusion that because of these themes, wisdom is very precious. Therefore, choose wisdom!
First, we have an area that addresses the matter of making plans:
The plans of the heart belong to man, but the answer of the tongue is from the Lord. All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the spirit. Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble. Everyone who is arrogant in heart is an abomination to the Lord; be assured, he will not go unpunished. By steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the Lord one turns away from evil. When a man’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him. Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (16:1-9)
To begin with, people can make plans, but the answer of the tongue belongs to God (16:1); that is, we may plan well, but what actually happens is up to God. This should breed in us a disposition of humility.
Then, with such plans, most people think that they are doing what is right, in their own eyes at least (16:2). If they did not think it was at some level the right thing to do, then they would not be doing it. But it is the Lord that weighs the real intentions of a person and what is truly right. Again, this should breed in us not just humility, but also openness of attitude towards correction by God from his Word.
How then should we plan? Verse 3 gives us the answer: Commit your work to the Lord. That means to pray about your work. It also means to use your work for the end of honoring God. That is how to have plans that are established. In your work, your cleaning, your business, your cooking, your employment, your deal-making, do all to the glory of God and in dependence upon God.
We might wonder then, why it is that wicked people and their plans still seem to flourish (16:4)? Well God has a plan for that too, and ultimately God will judge righteously. This is true of the actual deeds and plans, but also the heart of the arrogant; be assured such a person will not go unpunished (16:5). That may seem a harsh word, but there may well come a time when you are faced with true evil or real arrogance, when you will be glad to know that God will judge. You can leave it to him.
Naturally, we wonder how it is then that we can turn from evil? Perhaps this convicts us of a sinful habit or an arrogant disposition. What should we do? Verse 6 tells us. The steadfast love and faithfulness that atones for sin is only ultimately God’s love and faithfulness, finally and fully expressed at the cross. And it is by the fear of the Lord that someone turns from evil. If we wish to see a change of direction in our life or in someone’s else’s life, little will happen until we are persuaded that God knows, that God cares, that God will do something about it, that God is holy and just, and that outside of Christ we are under the wrath of the sovereign Lord. With that in mind, we will be quick to turn from our evil ways and do all that we can by the power of the Spirit to follow Christ.
Verse 7 calls us to account: if someone’s ways please God, even his enemies will live at peace with him. Therefore, live in such a way that pleases God! Follow his Word!
Verse 8 tells us what to plan for: better a little with righteousness than great revenues with injustice. Don’t plan to get rich if that plan means living unjustly; there is no joy, peace or reward in that. Better to earn little and live rightly and please God!
Verse 9 completes this section by returning to the same theme with which it started: a person can plan, but it is God who establishes the steps. The conclusion? Plan, by all means, but it is pointless to do so without prayerfully seeking the blessing of God through a life that pleases him.
Having touched on the theme of justice, this part of Proverbs now turns to that theme more directly:
An oracle is on the lips of a king; his mouth does not sin in judgment. A just balance and scales are the Lord’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. It is an abomination to kings to do evil, for the throne is established by righteousness. Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right. A king’s wrath is a messenger of death, and a wise man will appease it. In the light of a king’s face there is life, and his favor is like the clouds that bring the spring rain. (16:10-15)
A king, a good king, is meant to speak justly (16:10). In fact, the kings of the Old Testament, a theocracy, were meant to speak God’s words, an “oracle.” Christian leaders, presidents of Christian colleges, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries, speak the Word of God as if it is truly the Word of God – for it is! Have an “oracle” on your lips.
Verse 11 roots justice in the possession of God himself. Justice must be based in something, and this proverb claims it is based in God’s work. That is why when the biblical God is downgraded from our conversation in society, true justice begins to be marginalized.
Verse 12 tells us how politicians and all leaders should live and work. Don’t cut corners; don’t do evil. Why? For the rule or administration of a leader is established by righteousness. Therefore, seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness! Therefore, verse 13, a good king understands this and greatly delights and loves the one who speaks what is right. If a king is meant to deal justly, his anger can be a messenger of death (16:14). How do we deal with this when that justice is wrongly directed? A wise man will appease the wrath of a king. If a wrathful king is so dangerous, then a great ruler who is just and right, his favor is like the clouds that bring spring rain. A good leader gives opportunities for growth all around him.
And then another summary statement about the preciousness of wisdom in light of these themes already expressed:
“How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (16:16).
Wisdom is better than gold, understanding is better than silver. Therefore, choose wisdom!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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