It’s OK to be a Wise Guy

Posted: May 14, 2015 in Proverbs, Route 66

Route 66: Proverbs, “It’s OK to be a Wise Guy”

“Don’t get smart with me!”  How many of us heard that as kids? Or said it to our own? Whether it was being a “wise-acre” (or worse!), it meant that we weren’t supposed to talk back to our parents, thinking we could outsmart them.  We weren’t supposed to be a wise-guy, and got in deep trouble if we were.

Of course REAL wisdom is wonderful, and it’s something to be desired.  Our Heavenly Father definitely does want us to be wise, and it’s OK to be a “wise guy” in that sense of the term.  Wisdom is hugely important in life, and it’s something that every mature person ought to seek. 

To look around at our world today, it doesn’t take long to see that there is a poverty of wisdom in our culture.  When people riot in the streets and loot stores, it’s downright wickedness based in utter foolishness.  Some of the stores that get looted are owned by their own friends and neighbors, but any thought of them is tossed out the window as the mob rules.  When politicians value pet causes rather than people, allowing babies to be killed in the name of abortion “rights,” or bankrupting Christian bakers for refusing to bake a cake for a homosexual wedding (just to pull two examples out of many), it becomes apparent that foolishness reigns in our nation instead of wisdom.

We are a people in need of wisdom!  And the Bible provides it.  Wisdom isn’t simply a compilation of facts, or a list of right vs. wrong – wisdom is the character of God put into action.  Wisdom is godliness in motion.

Think about it.  When problems arise, the answer isn’t always a found in a game of Bible trivia.  Sometimes what is needed at a particular moment is not necessarily advice, but action.  When a pipe bursts at your house, you don’t go flipping in your Bible to figure out a verse that might apply to your situation; you rush outside to turn off the water main.  The wisdom in this case is to act swiftly and responsibly…just do what needs to be done.  That’s what God does with us, in that He always does what is needed, without hesitation.  When we act as God would act, then that’s godliness in motion.

The challenge for us so often is connecting the dots between the two.  To be able to do the right thing at the right time, we have to know what the right thing is in the first place.  That’s where the book of Proverbs comes in.  Proverbs is a compendium of wisdom – an encyclopedia of advice.  It instructs the reader on godly character, and shows how to apply those character traits in real-life situations.  What is God’s view on responsibility, work ethic, parenthood, etc?  We can open up the book of Proverbs and find out.

BACKGROUND:
Most of the book is specifically attributed to Solomon, but the book also seems to have been compiled quite some time after his death.  Even with all of the proverbs contained in the book, it is only a bare partial collection of Solomon’s writings.  1 Kings 4:32-33 attributes 3000 proverbs to Solomon, in addition to 1000 songs, and other biological treatises regarding trees, fish, birds, and animals.  Where those other writings ended up are lost to history, as only a small portion is contained in the Bible between the books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.  As the wisest man in history (gifted by God to be so), Solomon was uniquely qualified to write the proverbs he did.  In a preview of what is to come in the Millennial Kingdom regarding Jesus, people would come from far away nations just to hear the wisdom of Solomon.  Sadly, it seems that Solomon (as wise as he was) didn’t put too much of his vast wisdom into practice.  The book of Kings records how Solomon fell into the sin of idolatry from his multiplication of wives and concubines, and the breakup of the kingdom into north (Israel) and south (Judah) came as a direct result of Solomon’s sin.

That being said, the principles Solomon taught are very true, even if personally unpracticed by him.  What we find in the proverbs are (primarily) a collection of pithy sayings, put in the normal Hebrew poetic format of parallelism.  Whereas in Psalms, many of the parallel lines amplified one another, in Proverbs they normally contrast.  The proverbs show as much as what NOT to do, as what TO do.  The point is illustration.  If the reader sees the results of the actions of the foolish, then the reader knows to do the opposite in wisdom.

As we study the proverbs, we need to keep in mind that a proverb is a general principle; not necessarily a promise.  It can be easy to misinterpret the proverbs as we read them.  For example: Proverbs 22:6, "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it."  At a first glance, it would seem to say that if we raise our children as Christians, then we can trust that our children will always be Christians when they mature.  (And indeed, that’s how many people interpret this verse.)  However, we know through experience that although that is every parent’s hope, it’s not always true.  If we were to interpret proverbs as promises, then this would be a false promise, the Bible would be wrong & thus untrustworthy.  Obviously the Bible isn’t wrong, and it is totally trustworthy.  The problem isn’t with the Bible; it’s with our interpretation.  It’s possible to interpret “the way he should go,” as “according to his bend,” meaning, in the way that God has designed him/her to be – and thus, the child won’t depart from that.  But even then, we can take that interpretation too far.  After all, isn’t God’s desire that everyone be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth? (Yes!)  The best way to treat this is as a proverb – a precept – a general rule of thumb – as wisdom.  Yes, instruct a child in the manner God has designed him/her, by teaching them the fear and knowledge of God – entrust your child to God, praying for them, and keep praying that when they mature they will remain in (or return to) the instruction they were given.

Of course, that’s just one example.  There are many proverbs that speak to material wealth and other forms of prosperity & influence.  Again, those are precepts & principles; not necessarily promises.  There are times that the wicked do indeed prosper (and the Bible acknowledges as such), yet those examples do not disprove the proverbs.  Those examples demonstrate the world’s war against the wisdom of God.  What the proverbs show are God’s designs for God-honoring living; how people actually live is often far different.

GENERAL OUTLINE
The book of Proverbs actually provides the reader with its own structure, based upon the author of the section that is being read.

  • Introduction: “The proverbs of Solomon” (1:1) (1-9)
  • Solomon’s 1st collection: “The proverbs of Solomon” (10:1) (10:1 – 22:16)
  • General wisdom: “The words of the wise” (22:17) (22:17 – 24:34)
  • Solomon’s 2nd collection: “These are also proverbs of Solomon” (25:1) (25-29)
  • The words of Agur (30)
  • The words of King Lemuel (31:1-9)
  • Epilogue: the virtuous woman (31:10-31)

How it divides up beyond that point becomes rather random.  There is a general structure to the introduction, but the individual collections are simply that: collections of proverbs.  There are several recurring themes that pop up throughout, and we’ll look at some examples of those themes as we come to them.

As for the identification of Agur and Lemuel, and who exactly were the “wise” who wrote the 30 sayings of middle proverbs, no one knows.   Some have conjectured that Agur and Lemuel were of non-Israelite origin, but it’s impossible to say for sure.  Also, we should not that there is no specific phrase separating the words of Lemuel from the description of the virtuous woman, but the style and structure is so drastically different (the “woman” being an acrostic poem), a division seems rather naturally placed.

TEXT
Introduction: “The proverbs of Solomon the son of David” (1:1) (1-9)
Prologue (1:1-7) – As might be expected, the prologue sets the theme of the rest of the book…
Proverbs 1:1–7, "(1) The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel: (2) To know wisdom and instruction, To perceive the words of understanding, (3) To receive the instruction of wisdom, Justice, judgment, and equity; (4) To give prudence to the simple, To the young man knowledge and discretion— (5) A wise man will hear and increase learning, And a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, (6) To understand a proverb and an enigma, The words of the wise and their riddles. (7) The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction." .

  • This is where it all begins!  Of the things Solomon wanted to teach in vss. 2-4 (17 synonyms, depending how you count them), all of them have the same starting point: “the fear of the LORD.”  Want true wisdom?  Want wisdom as the Lord desires to give to His people?  You’ve got to start with the proper fear and reverence of the Lord Himself.
  • So what does it mean to fear the LORD?  Basically, it means to see God for who He truly is, and then act upon that belief.  Sometimes people today have a tough time with the idea of fearing God, because the Bible makes it plain that God loves us.  Yes, God loves us – but may we never forget who this God IS.  This is the Almighty Everlasting All-knowing Creator God.  This is the God of infinite holiness and righteousness.  This is the God who is the righteous Judge over all the earth.  This is the God who not only spoke the universe into existence, but personally knit you together in your mother’s womb.  This is the God whom you will personally face on judgment day.  This is the God who loves you with an everlasting love and freely offered you His grace and forgiveness through Jesus Christ when you least deserved it.  This is a God to be feared, in a good sense.  Understanding His all-encompassing power, and His ever-restraining mercy, we are invited to come to Him and worship.  When we believe upon Him through Jesus Christ, worshipping Him – THAT is when we fear the Lord.  When we refuse to take God for granted giving Him the casual nod-of-the-head or lip-service in our prayer, that is when we fear the Lord.  When we see God like that, that is when we start to take His instruction with the utmost seriousness…thus that is the “beginning of knowledge.

Instructions to “my son” #1 (1:8 – 3:26)

  • Introduction (1:8-9).  The various discourses are all addressed to “my son.”  Whether this was Solomon referring specifically to Rehoboam (who is historically known for ignoring the wisdom left to him by his father), or if Solomon simply was using a rhetorical device to address the reader is unknown.  Either way, there’s an intimacy implied.  A father cares for his son and wants the best for him.  Solomon wanted the best for his readers (even if he didn’t apply it personally).  God most definitely wants the best for us.  He would far prefer we learn the lessons of life the easy way, rather than the hard way.  Too often, we choose the harder road.
  • Avoid sinners, respond to Wisdom’s call (1:10-33).  Going to see a personification of wisdom as a woman, often in opposition to a harlot.  They might be termed Lady Wisdom and Lady Folly. Here, Lady Wisdom cries out, but does anyone hear?  She invites all to come to her, but not all do.  Some choose to remain apart from wisdom, and they will reap the results that come.
    • Much the same can be said in regards to the gospel.  The invitation has gone out into all the world, but who heeds?  Many hear, but reject it.  They have the same opportunity to be saved as anyone else, and they will be held responsible for the choice they made to turn away from the grace of God.
    • Of course the context is of general Biblical wisdom.  How many times do we know the right thing to do, only to turn around and do something else?  Wisdom is crying out in the streets – listen!  When the Holy Spirit brings conviction to your heart, listen – respond!  When the word of God brings conviction, don’t ignore it – let it come.  Let God do His work in you through His word, and we too “will dwell safely, and will be secure, without fear of evil.” (1:33)
  • Value wisdom (2:1-22).  Solomon makes the repeated point that wisdom comes from the Lord, when we fear the Lord (2:5-6), and this wisdom is something we ought to seek like hidden treasure (2:4).  The great promise to the Christian regarding wisdom is that it is only a single prayer away.  James 1:5–6, "(5) If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. (6) But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." . There is no born-again Christian that should ever lack wisdom!  All we need to do is seek the Lord in faith, ask for it, and believe that we will receive it.  That doesn’t mean we’ll see an angelic hand writing on the wall – but God will give us the wisdom we seek, no doubt.  It might be confirmation as we read the Scripture – it might be through another Godly brother or sister in Christ – it might be through any number of means, but we can trust that God will give it.  God doesn’t want His children in the dark as to how to live this life; He promises to give the wisdom that we need.
  • Do not neglect wisdom (3:1-10).  Wisdom was not to be forgotten (3:1), it was to be bound around his neck & written upon his heart (3:3-4).  If the son simply entrusted himself to the Lord God, there was no doubt that God would direct His steps (3:5-6).  Wisdom needs to be a priority for the Christian; it is essential for all that we do.  After all, we don’t come to faith in Christ and then sit down on a mountain somewhere waiting for Jesus to return – we’re to be active in life, engaging with other people testifying of the grace of God through Jesus.  We’re to witness to our families, friends, neighbors, etc.  That becomes impossible when we act like fools.  If we don’t walk in wisdom, we cannot do what Jesus specifically commissioned us to do.  Paul wrote to the Colossians that they were to walk in wisdom towards those who are outside the church, redeeming the time (Col 4:5).  We’re to take advantage of every opportunity we have to glorify God, and we can only do that through the wisdom of God.
  • Do not despise chastening (3:11-20).  As we live life, we sometimes make mistakes.  A wise person receives the discipline that comes from God in order to learn from those mistakes & not make them again.  3:11-12 are quoted by the author of Hebrews (12:5-6) as a proof of the love of God for us.  Parents don’t often discipline children that aren’t their own (especially in this day & age!), but they certainly discipline the children they love the most.  When God spanks us, we ought to receive it, but thank Him.  Those are the things that keep us walking in safety, and thus out of sin.
  • Focus upon wisdom (3:21-26).  Solomon rounds out this section telling his son to not even let his eyes depart from wisdom.  Let it be at the forefront of everything you do.  When we do, then God is our confidence (3:26).

Practical examples (3:27-35)
Solomon takes a brief break from his exhortations to his son, and gives some opportunities to put wisdom into action.  Those who fear the Lord and act in godly wisdom are generous to the poor (3:27) – they live at peace with their neighbors (3:29) – they choose to follow the Lord rather than the wicked man (3:31-32) – and they humble themselves before the Lord, trusting God to exalt them in due time (3:34-35).

Wisdom is key (4:1-19)
This is almost a second introduction to the book, full of exhortations for the son to pay attention to the wisdom of his father Solomon.  Solomon had also learned from his father, and he was told that “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom.” (4:7)  Historically, that’s what he did.  When offered by God to be granted anything Solomon desired, Solomon did not ask for gold or glory; he asked for wisdom.  And God gave it in abundance, and gave him everything he didn’t ask for as well.  Wisdom is key! 

  • It still is!  Not for material blessing per se, but for life.  If we don’t have wisdom, we’re not much good for anything else.  There’s a great scene from the old Indiana Jones movie “The Last Crusade,” in which the museum curator is sent to Egypt with a valuable diary that the Nazis are looking for.  The problem was that for all the book knowledge the man had, he had no practical wisdom for travel, and he stood out like a sore thumb.  Christians can get the same way.  When we fill up on worship and Bible studies, but neglect wisdom, it’s nearly impossible to relate the good news of Jesus to the world.  We don’t even know how to talk to them.  We need the wisdom of God…it’s absolutely key!

Instructions to “my son” #2 (4:20 – 7:5)

  • Another introduction, “pay attention.” (4:20-27)  Solomon continues with his plea, but in his more formalized “my son” discourse.  Wisdom was to be like life & health to the man. (4:22)  Through wisdom, God would guide his steps (4:26-27).
  • Avoid immorality (5:1-23).  This begins some more practical examples, each addressed to “my son.”  The immoral woman (Lady Folly) is introduced, shown to be a temptress, but the wise son is to flee her.  Practically speaking, what is described is the accurate effects of fornication.  So much of what Solomon writes here can be applied to those who are tempted by modern pornography.  It kills, it strips people of their honor, and it consumes lives (both those who watch it & those who are victimized into participating in it).
  • Avoid debt, laziness, and sin (6:1-19).  More practical examples are given by Solomon to his son.  Better to work hard than end up in debt.  Laziness would bring poverty, and sin would bring calamity.
  • Avoid adultery (6:20-35).  Immorality is addressed once more (Solomon understood his family history well…he was the son of David and Bathsheba!), and sternly warned his son away from adultery.  There would be no pity upon the adulterous man; it would surely be found out and exposed.
  • Treasure wisdom (7:1-5).  Solomon concludes the “my son” sayings with a final exhortation to treasure the wisdom he gave. They would keep his son from sin.
    • Ultimately, isn’t that one of the chief values of wisdom?  Not so much as to gain wealth or other prosperity, but to help us walk in righteousness & away from sin.  Wisdom is a guardian from the Lord, protecting us from slipping into our own sinful tendencies.

Parable of the harlot (7:6-27).  Once more, sin & folly is personified as a woman, specifically as a prostitute.  As Lady Wisdom did, the harlot also called to the men of the town to come to her, brazenly taking them and tempting them to come commit adultery.  The fool who went to her went “as an ox goes to the slaughter,” (7:22) down to his own destruction.  This is always the result of sin.  The wages of sin is death, and we’re fooling ourselves if we think we can play around with it and not experience the dire consequences that result.

Wisdom’s call (8:1-36).  The contrast to the harlot is Lady Wisdom who continued to cry out as well, calling the men of the town to come to understanding.  She declared that her instruction was better than silver, her knowledge better than gold, and her wisdom better than rubies – nothing that could be desired compared with her (8:10-11).

  • There’s a bit of debate as to the personification itself, in that 8:22-31 seems to describe the Pre-incarnate Christ in many ways.  Wisdom speaks of God possessing her, having been established from the beginning, and being there as God formed the earth – even being a master craftsman through whom God formed the earth.  There’s not really enough from the text to come to a firm stand one way or the other.  Some believe this speaks of Jesus, others believe this speaks of the Holy Spirit, still others think it is simply a rhetorical device referring to the wisdom that is innate to God’s person.
  • One this that is unmistakable from this chapter is God’s sovereign role in creation.  Genesis 1-2 is affirmed in poetic format, without any hint of evolution or millions of years.  Creation was simply an act of God, and that was enough.

Lady Wisdom vs. Lady Folly (9:1-18).  The two go head-to-head in Ch. 9, with Lady Wisdom offering life, and Lady Folly offering death.  The fear of the Lord is once more said to be the beginning of wisdom (9:10), and foolish sin is said to take people to the depths of hell (9:18).

Solomon’s 1st collection: “The proverbs of Solomon” (10:1) (10:1 – 22:16)
This begins what we typically think of as the “proverbs.”  By some counts there are 513 of these sayings written by Solomon in the book, and this section contains the first 2/3 or so.  Again, remember that what we’ll cover is not comprehensive…these are just some themes that pop up as the chapters progress.

–  Those who are wise are honest & righteous. 
Proverbs 10:30–32, "(30) The righteous will never be removed, But the wicked will not inhabit the earth. (31) The mouth of the righteous brings forth wisdom, But the perverse tongue will be cut out. (32) The lips of the righteous know what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverse." .  
Chapters 10-11 are filled with instructions and exhortations to honest living, and right judgment.  The same is seen here.  There is stability that comes to the righteous, that the wicked will never find.  Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount that the person who hears His word and does it, would be like a man who built his house upon a rock (Mt 7:24).  That person will never be removed.

 – Those who are wise value instruction & discipline. 
Proverbs 12:1, "Whoever loves instruction loves knowledge, But he who hates correction is stupid." Proverbs 13:1, "A wise son heeds his father’s instruction, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke." .  No one truly enjoys correction when it comes, but we shouldn’t despise it when it does come.  Again, the Lord only rebukes those whom He loves.  If you’ve been spanked a bit by the Lord, it’s a confirmation that you indeed belong to Him.  Beyond our relationship with God is our relationship with one another.  Every so often, we’re going to be corrected by one another.  The humble person is able to receive that correction, when offered in love.  Again, only a friend brings a loving rebuke – someone who truly cares.

 – Those who are wise control their words. 
Proverbs 15:1–2, "(1) A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. (2) The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness." .
Proverbs 16:27–30, "(27) An ungodly man digs up evil, And it is on his lips like a burning fire. (28) A perverse man sows strife, And a whisperer separates the best of friends. (29) A violent man entices his neighbor, And leads him in a way that is not good. (30) He winks his eye to devise perverse things; He purses his lips and brings about evil." .
Discretion is a rare virtue today.  Wisdom with our words includes not only having the right words to say, but the right way to say them.  You might have a right rebuke to bring to someone, but if you bring it in the wrong way, you’re the one who ends up in sin seeking forgiveness.  Likewise, discretion is necessary in seeking peace.  Especially in this day of social media, we need to remember that not everything needs to be copied/pasted on Facebook or Twitter.  There’s no reason to dig up evil among our friends, but rather seek the best for them.

– Those who are wise are kind.
Proverbs 17:5, "He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker; He who is glad at calamity will not go unpunished." Proverbs 17:9, "He who covers a transgression seeks love, But he who repeats a matter separates friends." Proverbs 19:17, "He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord, And He will pay back what he has given." .
Whether it’s to the poor, or to our friends, wise Christians are compassionate Christians.  We don’t have to take offense at every little thing.  If an offense can be easily covered over & dismissed, let it.  Not everything is a Matthew 18 issue.  In regards to the poor, God takes notice of them & so ought His people.  Wise Christians are generous Christians, knowing that whatever God leads us to do, He will be glorified in.

– Those who are wise are sober-minded & humble.
Proverbs 20:1–3, "(1) Wine is a mocker, Strong drink is a brawler, And whoever is led astray by it is not wise. (2) The wrath of a king is like the roaring of a lion; Whoever provokes him to anger sins against his own life. (3) It is honorable for a man to stop striving, Since any fool can start a quarrel." .
Proverbs 21:4, "A haughty look, a proud heart, And the plowing of the wicked are sin."
Proverbs 21:24, "A proud and haughty man—“Scoffer” is his name; He acts with arrogant pride."
Sober-mindedness applies to more than just liquor, but it certainly has application with it!  We need to be careful not to be led aside by anything, whether that’s alcoholic drinks or foolish pride that leads to strife with others.  Part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control. (Gal 5:23)

General wisdom: “The words of the wise” (22:17) (22:17 – 24:34)
Again, we’re not told who exactly wrote these.  There is certainly a possibility that all of these are of Solomon as well, or perhaps he was the one who originally compiled them together.  The structure does change a bit, arguing against Solomonic authorship, but in the end it’s unknown.  Perhaps this was the original end to the first book, which was latter appended with the other proverbs of Solomon.

– Wisdom is trusting God
Proverbs 22:19, "(19) So that your trust may be in the Lord; I have instructed you today, even you."
That was the whole purpose that these wise men wrote.  Trust the Lord!  That is foundational beyond all else.  If wisdom is the principal thing, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, then guess what we have to start with?  Trusting God!

– Wisdom is fearing God
Proverbs 22:22–23, "(22) Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Nor oppress the afflicted at the gate; (23) For the Lord will plead their cause, And plunder the soul of those who plunder them."
We have good reason to be compassionate: we will give an account to God!  Those who oppress the poor (and others) will have to answer for that one day.  Even as Christians saved by the grace of Jesus, the fear of the Lord is never something we can take for granted.

– Wisdom is having the right priorities
Proverbs 23:4–5, "(4) Do not overwork to be rich; Because of your own understanding, cease! (5) Will you set your eyes on that which is not? For riches certainly make themselves wings; They fly away like an eagle toward heaven."
Jesus spoke of something similar in the parable of the rich fool (Lk 12:13-21).  A man built bigger barns for all his grain and wealth, and found it was all worthless when the moment came that his life was demanded of him.  We are to seek first God’s kingdom, and then allow everything else to fall into place.

– Wisdom is restraining from envy
Proverbs 24:1–2, "(1) Do not be envious of evil men, Nor desire to be with them; (2) For their heart devises violence, And their lips talk of troublemaking."
The wicked do indeed prosper at times, but that’s not something to envy.  Even if they never face judgment in this life, they will certainly face it in eternity.  The tradeoff simply isn’t worth it.

– Wisdom is being diligent
Proverbs 24:30–34, "(30) I went by the field of the lazy man, And by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; (31) And there it was, all overgrown with thorns; Its surface was covered with nettles; Its stone wall was broken down. (32) When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: (33) A little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to rest; (34) So shall your poverty come like a prowler, And your need like an armed man."
Both the words of the wise and Solomon have much to say about diligence and a solid work ethic.  Whatever it is we do, we are to do it heartily as unto the Lord & not unto men.

Solomon’s 2nd collection: “These are also proverbs of Solomon” (25:1) (25-29)
These are specifically said to have been collected during the days of Hezekiah.  This doesn’t mean that Solomon isn’t the author; only that they weren’t originally compiled together with his other written works (remember, he wrote over 3000 proverbs).  The reign of Hezekiah was one of revival, so it only makes sense that scribes were looking through written records & came across a treasure trove of Solomon’s proverbs.  Thus, these were also included in the book as it was compiled.

– Dealing with government
Proverbs 25:2–3, "(2) It is the glory of God to conceal a matter, But the glory of kings is to search out a matter. (3) As the heavens for height and the earth for depth, So the heart of kings is unsearchable."
The kings were in the God-ordained position of judgment.  Even in democratic republics, God is the One who raises up leaders and puts them down, and Christians are supposed to submit to every governing institution (1 Pet 2:13), whether or not we agree with them.

– Dealing with conflict
Proverbs 25:21–22, "(21) If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink; (22) For so you will heap coals of fire on his head, And the Lord will reward you."
Compassion is a powerful thing!  As Paul writes to the Romans (and quotes this verse in the process), vengeance belongs to the Lord (Rom 12:19-20).  Let God be God, and us be us.  We are called to turn the other cheek and show mercy, so we do so.

– Dealing with fools
Proverbs 26:3–5, "(3) A whip for the horse, A bridle for the donkey, And a rod for the fool’s back. (4) Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Lest you also be like him. (5) Answer a fool according to his folly, Lest he be wise in his own eyes."
Fools require discipline, but don’t always receive it.  Sometimes, there’s no good outcome when dealing with a fool.  That’s just something to be aware of in advance.

– Dealing with gossip & deceit
Proverbs 26:20–22, "(20) Where there is no wood, the fire goes out; And where there is no talebearer, strife ceases. (21) As charcoal is to burning coals, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to kindle strife. (22) The words of a talebearer are like tasty trifles, And they go down into the inmost body."
The best way to deal with gossip is not to engage it.  Wise Christians desire to build up one another, not tear them down.  Tale-bearing & gossip does nothing but destroy.

– Humility
Proverbs 27:1–2, "(1) Do not boast about tomorrow, For you do not know what a day may bring forth. (2) Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger, and not your own lips."
James also taught not to boast about tomorrow (4:13-17), perhaps thinking of these verses.  We don’t know when our last day on earth might be, and so we need to humble ourselves in the eyes of God. (And men…)

– The righteous vs. the wicked
Proverbs 28:4–6, "(4) Those who forsake the law praise the wicked, But such as keep the law contend with them. (5) Evil men do not understand justice, But those who seek the Lord understand all. (6) Better is the poor who walks in his integrity Than one perverse in his ways, though he be rich."
This could summarize much of the book of Proverbs.  Wise Christians seek to walk in integrity in all things, in order that God might be glorified.

The words of Agur (30)
We don’t know Agur’s identity apart from the one remark of him in 30:1.  As to why his writings are included at all, it’s uncertain.  However, it becomes quickly clear that what he has to say is on par with other Biblical wisdom.  It seems that this was recognized by the Hebrews and his words (as well as Lemuel’s) were added as a bit of an appendix on to Solomon’s compilation.

Stupidity vs. knowledge (2-3).  He begins bluntly with one doozy of a memory verse: Proverbs 30:2–3, "(2) Surely I am more stupid than any man, And do not have the understanding of a man. (3) I neither learned wisdom Nor have knowledge of the Holy One." .  It might not be PC to say, but how true!  Without the knowledge of the One True God, it doesn’t matter how much else you know, you’re still stuck on stupid.  The fool says in his heart there is no God (Ps 14:1) – to deny the existence of the Creator is the height of foolishness, and (apart from repentance) preemptively dooms someone to an eternity in hell.  Agur understood where he came from & how he needed to change.

Knowing God and His word (4-10).  Thankfully, Agur didn’t remain in his stupidity, but saw the evidence of God in creation, and understood the value of the word of God as a shield to those who trust Him.  His one desire was to always know God, and be guided by His word.

At this point, he engages in a bit of social commentary.  He’s appalled by what he once was, and what he now observes around him.  So much of the actions of men were based in foolishness; it was the animal kingdom that acted better.

  • The foolish generation (11-14).
  • Greed (15-16).  If there’s a word that could summarize the foolish generation, it is greed.
  • Contrast of the wonderful and sinful (17-20).
  • Contrast of the foolish people and wise animals (21-31).

The result of foolishness (32-33).  In a word, pain.  Some lessons hurt to learn, and prideful greed is one of them.

The words of King Lemuel (31:1-9)
Some have conjectured that Lemuel might be another name for Solomon, but there is really no way of knowing.  The only thing we do know is that although King Lemuel wrote the words down, they originated with his mother.  This was the counsel she gave to her son.

  • Be sober-minded (2-5).  Think clearly in regards to women & alcohol.
  • Be merciful (6-7).  Strong drink could be medicine for those in need.
  • Be just (8-9). The king was in the position to act righteously, so he should do it.

Epilogue: the virtuous woman (31:10-31)
This has been the prize and bane of women’s studies everywhere. Some love it; others hate it.  Some see it as a paragon of virtue, and others see it as a guilt trip they can never live up to.  In all likelihood, we might be looking at it the wrong way.  Remember that Lady Wisdom was personified earlier in the book.  Here at the end, we probably see a description of how Lady Wisdom would act.  She is the ultimate example of a godly woman, but also the ultimate example to every man and woman in the church.  After all, we are the Bride of Christ.  What the virtuous woman does is what the Lord has done in her.  She has been transformed by the grace of God into an example to her whole community.  That’s what Jesus does with us.  He transforms us by His grace, washing us in the water of the word, and we will be glorified by Him in eternity as an example to the rest of creation.

  • She is valuable (10)
  • She is diligent and skillful (11-19)
  • She is compassionate and righteous (20-27)
  • She is praised by all (28-31)

Conclusion:
Wisdom!  Wisdom is beautiful – wisdom transforms – wisdom is key.  The wise woman is a virtuous woman, and the wise Christian is a virtuous Christian beautified by our Lord Jesus.  How we need to respond to the wisdom He offers to us!  We need to walk according to the wisdom He makes available.  We need to ask for the wisdom we lack, and trust that we will receive it.  Wisdom is the principle thing; get wisdom!

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