Proverbs 20:16-30: Wise Up!
September 5, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
“Take a man’s garment when he has put up security for a stranger, and hold it in pledge when he puts up security for foreigners” (20:16).
Soft-hearted is good; soft-brained is not. Lord, give us tender hearts and tough minds! Thick skin and gentle disposition. Being good and weak accomplishes little; we need to be good and strong!
“Bread gained by deceit is sweet to a man, but afterward his mouth will be full of gravel” (20:17).
Oh the shortcut, the easy road, the deliciousness of having cheated our way to the top—and no one noticed! Look at those poor simpletons working so hard, when we lied on our résumé/CV to get where we are! Watch out: soon enough it will all turn to gravel. Better take the long road, the patient path, and trust God to give you what success you can handle (and not too much that you cannot).
“Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war” (20:18).
Proverbs has no place for the lone ranger, the solo genius, or the charismatic hero who has no need of anyone else. No, we all do better in community. Especially when it comes to spiritual war: take advice, my friend, take advice—and heed it!
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (20:19).
Wise advice, indeed! How pleasant it can seem to be brought into the inner circle of a person who shares secrets with us about other people. But beware! Such a person is in all likelihood sharing your secrets too.
“If one curses his father or his mother, his lamp will be put out in utter darkness” (20:20).
Why would anyone curse their father or mother, you ask? I say, is it not true that whole philosophies and psychologies do all they can to blame everything on our parents? There is no doubt that parents can have a detrimental impact on our lives. There is also no doubt that most parents would do anything they can to help you. Therefore, respect them, honor them, that it might go well with you and you would enjoy long life in the land!
“An inheritance gained hastily in the beginning will not be blessed in the end” (20:21).
Oh, how we long for a quick buck, a fast route to fame and glory! And how we struggle against the discipline of early mornings and late nights, and steady bit by bit gain and impact. But note the impact of compound interest: the same is true in our lives. Start now, start early, and build slowly. The tortoise will outrun the hare.
“Do not say, ‘I will repay evil’; wait for the Lord, and he will deliver you” (20:22).
Easy to say, but hard to do, especially when we have been brutally hurt. What can we do to stop ourselves giving in to the bitterness of wanting revenge? Remember that God will deliver us. That way we will have our victory, but not also have the poison of anger and hate. And it also reminds us that we too have hurt people ourselves. Pray God for mercy on our own lives!
“Unequal weights are an abomination to the Lord, and false scales are not good” (20:23).
This is one of those repeated refrains in Proverbs. Do not cheat at business! God notices! God cares! Don’t do it!
“A man’s steps are from the Lord; how then can man understand his way?” (20:24).
Sometimes a good question is worth a thousand pages of prose. How can a man understand his way if his steps are guided by God? Good question. What is the answer? To seek God and seek to understand God. It is wise, as the ancients would say, to seek to know thyself; it is even wiser to seek to know the God who is Lord of yourself!
“It is a snare to say rashly, ‘It is holy,’ and to reflect only after making vows” (20:25).
Piety and enthusiasm after listening to a powerful sermon or hearing a moving piece of music is good, but it should not lead us to un-thought-through commitments. When you make a vow to God, do it carefully and deliberately. And then keep that vow.
“A wise king winnows the wicked and drives the wheel over them” (20:26).
Political leadership at the highest level is not for wimps. There is a role to play as the protector. Think of the military leaders serving to guard and protect. What we should aim at, though, is justice: a just war is still war, and horrible for all that, but at least it is just.
“The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, searching all his innermost parts” (20:27).
This verse has a sketchy history to its interpretation and was the fuel for some slightly over-blown meanderings and musings. What does it mean? It is talking of conscience. God, by His Spirit, convicts of sin and guilt and righteousness in order to lead us to Christ.
“Steadfast love and faithfulness preserve the king, and by steadfast love his throne is upheld” (20:28).
Listen to this, Machiavelli! The throne is not maintained by manipulation or fear, but by love. Not weak love, but strong love. Still, though, it is steadfast love that preserves the rule.
“The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair” (20:29).
Sad about becoming old? There is a splendor to old age. With it comes wisdom, honor, perspective. Treat the aged with dignity. Frustrated about being young? There is a glory to youth. With youth comes strength. Use it well; it will not last forever.
“Blows that wound cleanse away evil; strokes make clean the innermost parts” (20:30).
Discipline from God is not pleasant. None of us like it, but in the end, it produces a harvest of righteousness (Hebrews 12:11).
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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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