It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law and not give justice to the oppressed. Proverbs 31v4-5 (NLT)
Aside from having to watch The Lion King film too many times when my kids were young, I actually rather enjoyed it.
One of the most moving scenes is where Rafiki, the wise Baboon, walks Simba, the foolish Lion cub, to a watering hole and encourages him to study the reflection in the water.
Rafiki says the reflection shows Simba’s father (the late King) but all Simba sees is himself. Rafiki makes Simba look harder and then Simba sees the image of his father. Rafiki says “You see? He lives in you”. Then Simba hears his father’s voice saying “Simba, you have forgotten me… You have forgotten who you are and so have forgotten me. Look inside yourself Simba. You are more than what you have become”.
Being wise, focused and responsible like a king is not meant to be an optional extra. It is who we are meant to be. We are our Father’s children and must seek to remember that and respond to that. We are not meant to surrender our responsibility and duties for the “fleeting pleasures” or “tough times” in Egypt.
As I conclude my 31 day journey into Proverbs I am reminded to start again. Every day, every month and every year… because only by wisdom can I do what I have been born to do, and foolishness will harm me and hurt others. None more so than the Father who made me.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Proverbs 31v4-5 (ESV)
Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be destroyed beyond recovery. Proverbs 29v1 (NLT)
I love these kind of Proverbs. The reason is simple, because criticism is painful and hard to take. I guess it is for most people.
Last night my daughter was discussing personality types and she concluded that I don’t take criticism personally. I am not sure that is true! Whilst I take a degree of comfort that I may have a degree of resilience to criticism which helps me, but the other side of that coin is that it can make me stubborn and unyielding. Over the long haul that is dangerous territory. Key to criticism acceptance is identifying a core of people who have free reign to criticise you. You must know, before the criticism begins, these people are for you, love you and want you to win. Don’t let the criticism change your perception of that. I have seen too many people confidently declare a trust in people, only to distrust them when the criticism comes.
He who is often reproved, yet stiffens his neck, will suddenly be broken beyond healing. Proverbs 29v1 (ESV)
A poor person who oppresses the poor is like a pounding rain that destroys the crops. Proverbs 28v3 (NLT)
I read this Proverb and think it says that anyone who oppresses anyone, going through a similar experience as them, should know better. Rain should be good for the crops. It should not destroy.
In the past year I have seen acts of kindness and acts of selfishness or oppression of others. Some people should know better and some should definitely know better – especially those in the same boat.
There is no excuse for oppressing the poor, and less so if you are poor yourself. This principle applies to any number of circumstances (see the parable in Matthew 18).
We should stand up to bullies and lay firm boundaries in their lives regardless of their background. Background may explain bullying, but it should not excuse it.
A poor man who oppresses the poor is a beating rain that leaves no food. Proverbs 28v3 (ESV)
The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense. Proverbs 27v9 (NLT)
This is a short one today. It has been a long one and a good one.
Just a moment is needed to reflect on the blessing of genuine friendship. When this proverb was written “oil and perfume” or “perfume and incense” would have been considered valuable commodities. Therefore so should the input and advice of those people you know love you and are for you. Value friendship because friends are valuable, especially when their friendship is demonstrated by honest communication.
Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel. Proverbs 27v9 (ESV)
As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. Proverbs 26v11 (NLT)
This has always been one of my favourite and most helpful Proverbs – which might seem strange as I am not a fan of dogs! It screams out to me learn from your mistakes.
Like a dog we will vomit out our mistakes, don’t be surprised when that happens. The key is to reflect and review why the mistake happened. Be rigorous about it, don’t settle for the first answer your ego provides to protect you!
Once whilst being away in a city where I could barely speak the language (barely is me being kind to myself), I had a pathetic grasp of their culture and felt out of my depth in tackling the everyday things.
This meant several “mistakes” which cost me money. Some I could immediately learn from and so revise my plan for the following day. Others lessons would have to wait for the next time I leave my country.
On reflection, the mistakes and consequences (on my wallet) hurt and were annoying, but now I come to see that these things are inevitable and caused by a willingness to step into new things. Making a mistake does not make me a fool, but repeating one does.
Like a dog that returns to his vomit is a fool who repeats his folly. Proverbs 26v11 (ESV)
Trustworthy messengers refresh like snow in summer. They revive the spirit of their employer. Proverbs 25v13 (NLT)
Years ago, I was given a financial gift from someone. It was perfectly timed and I really need that exact amount. I have thanks to God for the giver and the gift. I saw it as provision. A mistake that I began to make shortly afterwards was that I began to “hold” onto the cash – prior to the gift I had known real need and the gift really met that need. I likened it to the account of manna from heaven (God’s meeting his people’s need, see Exodus 16). If you read that story you will see that they weren’t meant to hold onto it – that would be robbing them of the opportunity of trusting God every day. This does not mean don’t be a good steward and having savings etc. But it does mean don’t put your security in the gift rather than the giver. In God’s economy regarding the matter of provision, as with manna, there is always more!
If we live like that then we will experience the refreshing timing and reminder of “snow” again and again as God meets our need neither too late or too early. That is refreshing to the soul.
Like the cold of snow in the time of harvest is a faithful messenger to those who send him; he refreshes the soul of his masters. Proverbs 25v13 (ESV)
If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. Proverbs 24v10 (NLT)
Too many may read this and focus primarily on the word fail. Interestingly the ESV translation uses the phrase faint.
I think that faint captures the heart of the wisdom much better. After all, as the adage goes “real failure, may be failure to try”.
Resilience is a really important trait especially in those pressure circumstances we might find ourselves in. It could be any number of situations! Resilience stops us fainting. We are able to resist it.
This proverb stood out immediately to me because I feel I am learning about calmness in the face of pressure – when the odds are stacked against me.
It is a slow journey of learning and asking God to change me. It matters most when I disagree with someone, they rub me up the wrong way or don’t do what I expected or wanted. I have spent so much time in Psalm 23 this year because it is the antidote to weak strength in the face of strong pressure. The key to strength is knowing that God is with me. His rod and his staff they comfort me etc.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. Psalm 23v1-6 (ESV)
If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small. Proverbs 24v10 (ESV)
Wow! I am loving this month. Partly the joy of discovering a little nugget that I have never seen before. Then the joy of the wisdom nugget itself.
While dining with a ruler, pay attention to what is put before you. If you are a big eater, put a knife to your throat; don’t desire all the delicacies, for he might be trying to trick you. Don’t wear yourself out trying to get rich. Be wise enough to know when to quit. Proverbs 23v1-4
This latest one seems to be a cautionary warning against the lure of power, status and wealth. These things in themselves are not bad, after all God is the most powerful, most important and most wealthy in the world.
The real challenge lies in being able to handle what I have been given or entrusted with. I can learn a lot from observing others, and then observing my own desire and response to what others have. The Bible teaches that wealth is deceptive and those who pursue it can fall into many harmful desires. Paul understood this, hopefully Timothy listened. I pray that I do also.
But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 1 Timothy 6v6-9
Living in the U.K and mid-way through my fourth decade I need to hear these warnings again and again, especially as the more I have seems to grow or could grow. Balance, perspective and priorities are vital.
When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you, and put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food. Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist. Proverbs 23v1-4
Whoever loves a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king as a friend. Proverbs 22v11 (NLT)
Loving a pure heart is about a sincere desire to do what is right. It is not about always being right. The same applies to gracious speech. Our sentences should be filled more with words that win others over not cause them to wince.
The tongue is the most accessible weapon on the planet and perhaps has done the most harm. The sheer power of the word to build up or destroy is frightening.
This small nugget of wisdom says that if kind, generous words gain us access, acceptance and a hearing with the most powerful of people, it will surely do the same or more for our peers etc.
He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend. Proverbs 22v11 (ESV)
The Lord is more pleased when we do what is right and just than when we offer him sacrifices. Proverbs 21v3
I am deeply provoked and sobered that I could miss the really important things in following Jesus. In addition I could spend too long and too much effort on the things that matter a whole lot less.
Jesus really was unflattering about those who talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. What these folk taught or said might be true, but it needed to be demonstrated not just declared. Failing to do this may make us guilty of “crushing people with unbearable religious demands and never lifting a finger to ease the burden” (Matthew 23v4).
I see more than ever that a relentless pursuit against performance and pretence will be good for me and for others I share life with. God is not fooled. He knows what we do for show and what we do for Him. He knows whether we operate in the Kingdom or out of it. I want to help people discover, follow and serve the Jesus of Matthew 23. He said it as it was, saw it as it is and changes us despite ourselves.
Therefore, I am learning in a new way the high value Jesus places on justice, mercy and faith. These are matters of the heart (Matthew 23v23). That is wisdom!
To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice. Proverbs 21v3
Those too lazy to plow in the right season will have no food at the harvest. Proverbs 20v4 (NLT)
The longer I have followed Christ the more I have come to appreciate the need to engage with the Bible and have self-discipline. Both are so important. We might not feel great at either but even a small amount of ploughing will at some point reap a harvest.
My lesson today is start working the garden of your life today. My experience is that doing something in my life is always better than nothing.
The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing. Proverbs 20v4 (ESV)
Many seek favours from a ruler; everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts! Proverbs 19v6 (NLT)
I suspect I am not the only one who often reads a Proverb and goes “huh?” What does that mean?
Then I might read another translation and have more questions – is it a ruler (NLT) or a generous man (ESV)? Maybe it doesn’t matter, maybe it does?
So what might be the wisdom here?
Perhaps the ruler is intended as a contrast to the generous man. The ruler is in demand due to his position and authority. His role does not mean he is generous.
However the generous man is liked because of what he gives. It is universal. Whereas the ruler role is limited to one or a few but the generous role, and its benefits, are unlimited.
But is it not limited to means? Only if we read generous as just relating to material possessions. What if I could be generous in words, encouragement, time and service? Surely that kind of generosity will serve me just as well as others.
Many seek the favour of a generous man, and everyone is a friend to a man who gives gifts. Proverbs 19v6 (ESV)
I have been married 18 years and quite early in our marriage my wife pointed out that I often interrupt. This was sobering news to me. It was tough to hear, but she was right. It was present in our relationship and reared its head in other conversations. It was a weakness and is still a weakness.
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. Proverbs 18v13 (NLT)
Ever since that piece of advice (or rebuke) I have sought to be increasingly alert to that weakness in order to ‘nip it in the bud’ as soon as possible. One way I have done that is to carry around a little prompt with me to remind me of the wisdom of reducing that weakness in my life. You can see my little prompt card below.
Wisdom is only effective if it is applied. It must be applied consistently and in actual day-to-day scenarios. Do whatever it takes in your life to make that happen.
Anything less is just theory and not much else. I invite any who read this post – who know me, and who witness that weakness in me – to speak up in love and make me aware when I do it. By doing so you help me from avoiding isolation and breaking out against all sound judgment (Proverbs 18v1).
If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. Proverbs 18v13 (ESV)
A single rebuke does more for a person of understanding than a hundred lashes on the back of a fool. Proverbs 17v10 (NLT)
How do I respond to feedback from a trusted friend? I think it has to be a trusted friend – one who has deposited more into our friendship than withdrawn.
Over the years, particularly as a church leader, I have ‘deposited’ numerous times into other people only to have them respond badly to the first or second relationship ‘withdrawal’ I make. I have also experienced people approaching me with an immediate ‘withdrawal’ attitude, perhaps thinking I can take it or deserve it.
However, I have also had trusted proven friends speak “hard” words in my life. When they do, I am immediately listening. Not because I like what I hear, but because I know they are for me. Their agenda is for my good. If you find someone who is for your good, then listen well even when it is tough.
So I answer the original question above by saying that it should leave a lasting impression that I never forget. It should do more for me than I ever expected. It should humble me. It will probably hurt me. It should help me understand who I am and how I appear to others. It should cause me to reflect deeply, ask questions and where needed clarify what I should do to change. It should not take years and years of being told the same thing over and over by numerous people before I realise the issue.
As for my friend – I should thank him or her for their kindness, love, courage and honesty. I welcome that kind of friendship. It is good for my soul.
A rebuke goes deeper into a man of understanding than a hundred blows into a fool. Proverbs 17v10 (ESV)
The Lord demands accurate scales and balances; he sets the standards for fairness. Proverbs 16v11 (NLT)
A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work. Proverbs 16v11 (ESV)
This proverb strikes me as a beautiful description of the sovereignty of the cross. The justice, mercy, love and wrath displayed on the cross – God’s chosen means to administer justice and apply forgiveness through the sacrifice of the second Adam (Jesus) in order to deal with the sin of the first Adam.
- The cross is right
- The cross is just
- The cross is His work not ours
Let us boast in the bag entitled “the Cross of Christ” not the one with our name on it.
It is my experience, and there is some evidence in the Bible to support this, that the prayers God delights in are not often fanciful words, long petitions or doctrine punctuated monologues. Of course, long words, petitions or sentences are not wrong de facto, but the thing I have discovered that counts most – more than time, tone or vocabulary – is the heart.
The Lord detests the sacrifice of the wicked, but he delights in the prayers of the upright. Proverbs 15v8 (NLT)
When I speak to God does my heart mean it? Of course upright should be understood as having the right heart in prayer, but also I take it to mean the kind of uprightness that could only be accomplished through the promise and power of Jesus Christ.
Don't let prayer be limited by the clock, your knowledge or your ability to construct fluent sentences. Just speak to the Lord when the moment comes using the words that come – relying that the acceptable prayer is one that is made through faith in Christ Jesus, not our way with words. God will delight in that!
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. Proverbs 15v8 (ESV)
I often think that the place the church meets should be regarded as less 'temple' and more 'mountainside' or 'public square'.
The reason is that the more I read the New Testament the more I read about crowds, noise and mess.
Without oxen a stable stays clean, but you need a strong ox for a large harvest. Proverbs 14v4 (NLT)
If we want a good efficient and effective harvest, then we need a strong large oxen. Does anybody seriously imagine that the stable where the oxen is kept will be clean! The mess is an indicator for an abundant harvest.
Graveyards are quiet, tidy and dead! Everybody stays where they and does what they are suppose to do. Everything is neatly labelled and the flowers are beautiful! But it is dead. Whereas the labour ward is full of blood, poo, screaming, pain, pain relief and joy! Whilst it is packed with noise, mess, it is also overflowing with new life!
1 Corinthians 14 verse 40 encourages the spiritual togetherness of the church to be done in a fitting and orderly way, but that is more about ensuring the "oxen" are all pulling in the same direction than anything else. So don't let that instruction rob us of a harvest reaping church!
Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox. Proverbs 14v4 (ESV)
This afternoon I spoke on how we keep growing in maturity – emotional and spiritual. Things like:
- Understanding our identity
- Exposure to God’s Word
- Involvement with His people
- Asking questions
- Listening well
- Obedience and submission to authority
- Reliance upon His grace
Wealth from get-rich-quick schemes quickly disappears; wealth from hard work grows over time. Proverbs 13v11 (NLT)
Some people want to grow fit, rich and important. We want to grow in wisdom, stature and grace. The principle from Proverbs 13v11 applies to both.
In the talk I mentioned a little survey that I have used, and found helpful, to help me take a snapshot of my overall emotional maturity. You can access it here. How am I (Emotional and Spiritual Health.
Wealth gained hastily will dwindle, but whoever gathers little by little will increase it. Proverbs 13v11 (ESV)
I have just watched the film trailer of Dunkirk. One of the screen shots is labelled with the phrase “Hope is a weapon“. During the past year I have learnt a lot about hope.
Hope is life-giving. Hope is not easily quantified. I have often described hope as a spectrum (a horizontal line). There is hope for eternity (one end of the line), but there is also the need for hope in this life, hope for tomorrow, hope for today and even just hope for now (the other end of the line).
Whilst the good news of Jesus Christ is an indestructible hope, we need to give sufficient hope to people where we find them. Here lies the sheer power of an encouraging word or a word of affirmation.
Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up. Proverbs 12v25 (NLT)
The first type (encouragement) calls people to lift their chin and press on. This is the “You can do this” word.
The second type (affirmation) declares what is already present in that person which shows the world they are made in the image of God. This is the “You are this” word.
Both are weapons in the hands of the righteous. Encourage what can be, and affirm what is. People need the hope of both.
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12v25 (ESV)