We begin today in my favorite chapter of Proverbs. It is the most theological chapter of the book. Though most of it is a collection of unrelated wisdom sayings, there is a common thread that runs throughout much of this chapter: God’s sovereignty. Right off the bat, we see in 16:1 that though we make plans in our hearts (as in, we intend to do this, that, or the other thing), what happens is what is decreed by God. This is not fatalism. This does not impugn the freedom of man. In fact, it shows how often we and God work synergistically in what we do. But we always need to remember that our judgment is quite fallible, whereas God’s is perfect. For example, we tend to judge what we do or plan to do to be right. But God is the One Who will decide that (v. 2). This is why, when we commit what we do to God, He will establish our plans (see 3:5-7). This is where God’s sovereignty and human responsibility work in tandem.
In verse 4, we see that there are no mistakes, ultimately. We may (and do) make them, but God uses even our mistakes for His good purposes. He has made the wicked to serve His purposes (see Rom 9:22-23). We cannot fully understand this. The finite cannot contain the infinite, as John Calvin said (it sounds cooler in Latin: Finitum Non Capax Infiniti). Verse 6 may be my favorite verse of the whole book. By hesed love and faithfulness, iniquity is atoned for. These are qualities that the Old Testament rightly assigns to God. In other words, He is the One Who atones for sin. The second half of the verse is the proper response to Him: repentance and faith. Fear of the Lord (obedience) and turning from sin. This verse sums up the Mosaic Law, and salvation by grace alone.
In verse 9, Solomon reestablishes what he asserted in verses 1. Verse 11 tells us that truth and justice in all its forms are from God. Verse 10 and 12-15 go together. God establishes earthly political power (see Rom 13:1). This power is designed to be wielded according to wisdom and righteousness. Anything less is an abomination to God. The king (or our elected officials) is in a unique position to speak and model wisdom that leads to life.
Verse 18 is one of the more famous verses of all of Scripture, though it is usually misquoted as “pride goes before a fall.” Pride doesn’t lead to a fall (literally, a “stumbling”). It’s logical ends is destruction. The pride is the heart issue. The “haughty spirit” is the disposition that results from the pride. That’s why the company we keep matters. It is better to be humble with the poor, than to enjoy worldly treasures with the proud (v. 19). In verse 20, the word “word” can be translated as “word” or “matter”. If “word”, then the idea is think before you speak (see 13:3 – and we can add to this 16:23-24). If “matter”, then the idea is think before you act (remember the foolishness of hasty reactions! – see 15:18). We can add to this 16:32.
Verse 28 is another warning against spreading rumors and gossiping. It doesn’t matter how we justify it (“I was just venting” “I was asking for prayer for him” “Oh, we tell each other everything!”), God sees these things as foolish and wicked (look at what Paul says in Rom 1:28-32). Before we rationalize, see 16:25. The chapter ends with another nod to the absolute sovereignty of God. This is why the Jews would cast lots to determine God’s will (this is not necessary or advisable after Christ’s first coming, which we will see when we get to the book of Acts – see also 18:18).
Chapter 17 begins by telling us that true value in our homes is found in peace. Verse 2 speaks to living out God’s wisdom. No matter who you are, a slave or an heir, you are not excepted from fearing the Lord and obeying Him. Verse 3 speaks to God’s purifying of the hearts of His people through trials. “What doesn’t kill me only makes me stronger” is only true for those who obey God. In verse 4, we see that liars like lies. Verse 9 speaks about the forgiving of offenses. When friendship ends, it is not usually because of the offense, it is because of the reaction to it (see 12:16).
Verse 10 is an interesting saying. It is similar to other sayings of Solomon about the wise heeding rebuke and the fool refusing to, but I believe this is coming at it from the other side. If you are to offer a rebuke, make sure you are rebuking one wise enough to receive it. It is true that some people never learn. Included in this is the witness of the Gospel. By all means try to save the sinner. Don’t give up easily. But at some point, you need to realize that it isn’t the seed your planting, it’s the soil (see Matt 7:6 and Matt 13:3-9). Go find other soil. This is strengthened by verse 12.
Verse 17 speaks of the unconditional love required of God’s people. Verse 18 again speaks of wise stewardship of what God has given us. Verse 21 is similar in verse 10 in that it shifts the perspective of previously given wisdom. We should heed the wisdom of parents (see v. 25 and 1:8-9), but here Solomon speaks of the responsibility of parents to raise a child according to wisdom. Verse 24 speak again of heavenly versus earthly treasures. Verses 27-28 again speak of rash reactions. This is another point Solomon really hammers home!
Chapter 18 begins by combining other wisdom we have already learned. In 18:1, this is not only speaking of willingly accepting rebukes instead of defending our own ideas (13:1), about seeking wise company (12:26), and about finding wisdom among many counselors (11:4), but it talks about our seeking our own desires so as to isolate ourselves, not necessarily physically, but relationally and intellectually. Verse 2 is every argument we’ve ever had. We like to win. We like our opinions to be agreed with. We like to be right. When we make this the goal of arguments/debates/disagreements, we are fools. Verse 6 goes along with this. This goes along with verses 13. Sometimes, “shut up and listen” is the wisest advice we can heed.
Verse 10 calls us to find our refuge in God and His Words. Do you want to be vindicated in your opinions? Then they better be rooted in God’s truth! Verse 12 echoes 16:18, but now adds the outcome of the humble heart. Verse 17 points us back to verses 2 and 13. Sometimes, both sides of a disagreement have merit. Make sure you understand both sides. Verse 19 again talks about our reactions to offense (see 17:9). Verse 21 tells us that we very often follow what we say. Our words will direct us on our path (see Jas 3:3-5).
I would like to end today with two shout outs. First, I may be in a better position than anyone on God’s earth to tell you how true verse 22 is. Being blessed by God with a true helpmate, with a person I am supremely proud to we one with, is the greatest blessing I have ever gotten apart from God reaching down and grabbing a hold of my heart. She is proof of God’s grace: an immeasurable blessing that I absolutely do not deserve. I can say with absolute certainty that God gave me my wife so that I could be a pastor. In her, He has given me everything I need in this world to be successful. I am lobbying Google to put up pictures of my wife when someone searches “better half.” For those of you that know us, I would bet that none of you want to argue with me on that…
Second, I am in a great position to verify the truth of verse 24 (and 17:17). From very early on in my walk – mere weeks after being saved by God – I met a brother in Christ who for some reason (by God’s grace) has devoted his ministry to helping me grow mine. He supported me in our first church when I started preaching and leading worship. He was my right hand man when I was youth pastor. He supported me when I came to a different understanding of the Bible than the tradition of that church and had to part ways, including spending some late Sunday nights helping me work through what God was saying to me, and for a long time sharing the pain of losing a church family. He was with me every step of the way when we started a church plant. It would be me and him every Sunday morning setting up our rented space for service, and me and him every afternoon cleaning up. He was the only deacon of our church and handled everything that wasn’t related to music, preaching, and teaching so I could focus 100% on my calling. He was for a very long time the only companion I had in contending for the faith. Now, he serves alongside me and does so, so many things that go on behind the scenes. He is, as I tell my wife (and God when I pray for him), the man who always has my back no matter what. I can say with absolute certainty that God brought him into my life to be my friend who sticks closer than a brother so that I could be a pastor.
If you have at all been blessed by my ministry, including this reading plan, please join me is saying:
Thank you Jenine.
Thank you Big Cat.
Thank you Jesus for blessing me with exactly what I need: Proverbs 16:6, 18:22, and 18:24.