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)