Zeal and knowledge are two qualities that some pit in opposition to each other, but in reality, Christians are to have both. On the one hand, the church in Laodicea was lukewarm, neither cold nor hot (Rev. 3:14-16). They thought they had everything they needed in life but were wrong (v. 17), so Jesus told them to "be zealous and repent" (vv. 18-19, NKJV). Without zeal to do God's will, anything else about them was meaningless.
On the other hand, the apostle Paul shows the need for knowledge. Because of his misdirected zeal, he said, "I myself thought I must do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth" (Acts 26:9). He wrote to the Romans in chapter 10 how Israel suffered a similar problem. "For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge" (v. 2). This was insufficient. "For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God" (v. 3).
Where do you find yourself in relation to God? May we all be zealous FOR the knowledge of the truth, "for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6).
Bible Recall: POINTS IN PROVERBS
KEY PASSAGE: Proverbs 11:31, “If the righteous will be recompensed on the earth, How much more the ungodly and the sinner.”
The dominant key features of chapter 11 are righteousness (what is just and upright) and wickedness (what is perverse and unfaithful).
- THE BLESSINGS OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (Prov. 11:1-11)
Name the benefit associated with being upright or the trouble associated with wickedness.
- A just weight brings delight to whom (11:1)? __________________________________________________
- What follows pride (11:2)? ______________________________________________________________________
- The integrity of the upright does what (11:3)? _________________________________________________
- Righteous delivers from what (11:4)? ___________________________________________________________
- The righteousness of the blameless will do what (11:5)? _______________________________________
- Where the unfaithful will be caught in their lust, what does righteousness do (11:6)? __________________________________________________________________________________________________
- What perishes with a wicked person’s death (11:7)? ___________________________________________
- What will the righteous one be delivered from (11:8)? _________________________________________
- By what can the righteous escape the destroying mouth of the hypocrite (11:9)?
- Name two things that cause joy (11:10). _______________________________________________________
- What is so powerful to overthrow a city (11:11)? _______________________________________________
In the beginning of this chapter the two vices identified to source so much trouble are greed and pride (11:1, 2). Riches prove feckless in the day of wrath (11:4; cf. Lk. 6:24, 25; 12:16-21; 16:19-25). The wicked lose their expectation and hope at death because all their dreams were tied to the things of this life. The righteous have a glorious hope and expectation that extends beyond this life and is anchored in heaven itself (Col. 3:1ff; Heb. 6:19).
“…godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” (1 Tim. 4:8).
- LOVING YOUR NEIGHBOR (Prov. 11:9-15)
This theme overlaps the previous section. The hypocrite destroys his neighbor (11:9). What he finds fault with he likely practices in another form. The one devoid of heart despises his neighbor while the righteous one holds his peace (11:12, 13; cf. Rom. 13:10).
- SOWING AND REAPING (Prov. 11:16-31)
At the outset of this section is the contrast between a gracious woman (11:16) and a man of mercy (11:17) versus a ruthless and cruel man. In her compassion, she gains and retains honor, likely from others. However, the ruthless man’s pursuit of gain and “cruel” schemes troubles his own flesh (11:17). He may be rich with wealth but is a pauper when it comes to friendship. Remember the story of Ebenezer Scrooge? Mercy and ruthlessness are different seeds that can be sown and each will bring forth their own unique field to be reaped.
A wicked man does (produces) deceptive work (translated wages in Leviticus 19:13). If you work deception, you will be deceived. The righteous, on the other hand, sow seeds of righteousness and have a sure (firm, reliable) reward or wages (11:18). One kind of seed leads to life and the other to a deceptive and destructive death (11:19).
There is also the teaching of sowing bountifully in Proverbs 11:24-26. People typically despise proud and selfish people. The irony is that greedy and stingy people eventually lose what they are so energetically hoarding while the generous receives more than he scatters or gives away.
In the end, every person is sowing seeds of wickedness and deceit or seeds of righteousness and eternal life. One person will trouble his house by the decisions and goals he sets before him (11:29). Another person will build his house up.
“Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth: much more the wicked and the sinner” (Prov. 11:31).
What a conclusion to this chapter! If the righteous will be rewarded on earth, how much more the sinner? The apostle of our Lord also referenced this passage to show that judgment can come upon the house of God in this life through trials suffered. If a righteous man is permitted to face such persecution from the wicked, what must the end of the ungodly be like (1 Pet. 4:17, 18)? It’s a sobering thought. Let us commit our souls to God as a faithful Creator in sowing good seed (1 Pet. 4:19; Prov. 11:19). The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and he who wins souls is wise (11:30)!
—Steven J. Wallace
Bible Recall: POINTS IN PROVERBS
KEY PASSAGE: Proverbs 10:25, “As the passing by of a hurricane, So the wicked is not, And the righteous is a foundation age-during” (YLT).
Chapters 10-15 are largely filled with proverbs that are framed as contrasting parallelisms. These proverbs state something which is sharply contrasted with the word “but.”
“The Proverbs of Solomon: A wise son makes a glad father, But a foolish son is the grief of his mother” (Prov. 10:1, emp. added).
Chapters 16-22 primarily have synonymous parallelisms. Clause one is restated in another form in clause two. Although it is not always the case, these are often joined by the word “and.”
“In the light of the king’s face is life, And his favor is like a cloud of the latter rain” (Prov. 16:15, emp. added).
“Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18, emp. added).
Additionally, progressive parallelisms are found at times where clause one is further developed in clause two. For example, Proverbs 16:25 reads,
“There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.”
Proverbs 10-15 has more contrasting sayings. Proverbs 16-22 has more synonymous maxims.
For our study, let us appreciate from chapter 10 some moral virtues that can sustain us while noting the contrasting destructive traits.
- RIGHTEOUSNESS (Prov. 10:1-3)
The righteous man:
- Brings joy to his parents (10:1).
- Delivers himself from death (10:2). The fears of the wicked will not be upon the one who is honest in his dealings.
- Will not starve (10:3). God always provides the necessities to His people (see Psa. 34:9, 10; 37:3, 19, 25; Matt. 6:30).
Contrast the above facts with the foolish person in Proverbs 10:1-3. *Compare also the treasures of wickedness with 1 Timothy 6:9, 10. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
- DILIGENCE (Prov. 10:4, 5)
The hand of the diligent makes rich—he gathers in the summer. He takes advantage of the opportunities and will be able to provide for his family.
The object in this text is “the hand.” The hand is designed to grab, to build, to work, to create but can also be used to destroy, and can be given to idleness. The wicked “has a slack hand.” The wicked are slothful and spurn good opportunities for sleeping while the diligent succeed. What a man uses his hands for will be revealed in the life he lives.
- A CONTROLLED TONGUE (Prov. 10:6-14)
The one who controls his tongue will find blessings on his head (10:6), leave behind a blessed memory of his example (10:7), own a heart blessed to receive commands (10:8), walk a walk that is blessed with security (10:9), possess a mouth that is viewed as a wellspring of life that covers all sins (10:11, 12). Like Jesus in the New Testament, Solomon places a direct correlation between the heart of man and his use of the tongue (Matt. 12:34; Lk. 6:45).
On the other hand, a person who does not control his/her tongue will have a mouth that is
- Covered by violence (10:6). The fool will not conceal a matter but will indiscreetly publish the errors of another to cause strife. This person will not talk to the person about his error but is happy to talk about the person.
- Near destruction (10:14). When people use their words as swords to cut people up and down, they are also slicing to pieces their own reputation and leaving their own name to rot before men (10:7). The tongue that cuts up will be cut out (10:31)! The one who brings slander to you will often bear forth slander about you. Hence their mouth is near destruction as they use it to destroy others. As a man sows, so he will reap (Gal. 6:7, 8).
Why are these morals to be sought for? The balance of Proverbs 10 answers. One, righteousness leads to life (10:15-17). Two, the training of the tongue is as choice silver and with it, many are fed (10:18-21). Three, security is found in life (10:22-32).
—Steven J. Wallace
Bible Recall: POINTS IN PROVERBS
Chapter 9 places two contrasting invitations before the reader. Proverbs 9:1-6 calls the passerby to turn in and feast on the banquet of understanding. Proverbs 9:13-18 portrays folly seeking to seduce bystanders to turn in.
WISDOM’S INVITATION (Prov. 9:1-6)
- Wisdom builds her house with strength—seven pillars (9:1). This is similar to the Lord’s call, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock:” (Matt. 7:24). The sayings of Jesus are the pillars of a strong and healthy life! In Proverbs, the woman of wisdom is contrasted with the foolish woman. “The wise woman builds her house, But the foolish pulls it down with her hands” (Prov. 14:1).
- Wisdom prepares her table with the best food to fill those who are hungry for knowledge (9:2). Similarly, Jesus called out to others saying, “Blessed [are] those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled” (Matt. 5:6).
- Wisdom sends out her maidens (9:3). They cry out from the highest places of the city to enlighten others. The invitation is for everyone! This should remind us of the Lord’s teaching of the wedding feast that a king prepared for his son in Matthew 22:1ff. He sent out his message but sadly, it was ignored and made light of by some (Matt. 22:3-5). Some even became violent against the heralds of the feast (Matt. 22:6)!
- Wisdom calls the naive (9:4-6). This call is not to take advantage of the simple, but to educate them and communicate to them the way of understanding. Her bread and wine satisfy. In the New Testament, we can reflect on how Jesus is the bread from heaven (Jn. 6:32-35). He provides nourishment for the soul. We can think of how in Cana of Galilee, He took water and turned it to sweet unfermented wine at a wedding (Jn. 2:1-12). Jesus took what was good and made it better. The world takes what is good and makes it evil. Their intoxicating drink mocks man, and dulls his senses, and turn gentlemen into brawlers (Prov. 20:1).
Similarly, God’s design of marriage makes a man and a woman better (Heb. 13:4). Yet the world takes it and defines it as a ball and chain relationship. The world establishes their own views of marriage and relishes in forbidden pleasures and uncommitted love: “Stolen water is sweet, And bread [eaten] in secret is pleasant” (Prov. 9:14).
TWO KINDS OF INVITEES (9:7-9)
The scoffer, when corrected, only makes a bad situation worse. He who corrects a scoffer gets shame for himself; he harms himself. The scoffer hates the corrector (9:8). He counts him as his personal enemy. Remember Ahab’s view of Elijah?
“So Ahab said to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ And he answered, ‘I have found [you], because you have sold yourself to do evil…” (1 Kin. 21:20).
Question: “How do I respond when I am corrected?” Is my pathway self-justification? Is it in a direction that attacks the messenger and shifts the focus to a perceived flaw? Is it in hatred? The wise respond in humility and sober thinking?
Jesus commanded His disciples to not throw the pearls of the gospel toward the dogs and hogs or unreasonable men (Matt. 7:6). The reason, they will trample the pearls under their feet and they will turn against the bearer of these pearls, tearing him to pieces. Because of their attitude, they prove themselves unworthy of heaven’s riches. This is seen in the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22:8 and in the lives of the apostles. “Then Paul and Barnabas grew bold and said, ‘It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; but since you reject it, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles’” (Acts 13:46). “Attitude,” not “intellect,” is what makes men worthy/unworthy of heaven’s message.
Unlike the scoffer, the wise man loves the one who corrects his misunderstanding (Prov. 9:8, 9). He loves; he becomes wiser; he increases in learning.
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY (Prov. 9:10-12)
The knowledge of God results in gaining a good understanding and length of life. The place for learning can be well prepared, well researched with a message that is true but it requires an individual's will to take advantage of it. Gospel preaching will not benefit anyone where it falls on deaf ears. Proverbs 9:12:
“If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you will bear it alone.”
FOLLY’S INVITATION (Prov. 9:13-18)
- Where wisdom calls out to the simple ones to come in and gain understanding (9:4-6), folly cries out to those who are going straight on their way to detour (9:16). Folly doesn’t want to improve, but rather it seeks to exploit and destroy. Rather than providing “my bread” (9:5) folly takes delight in stolen water and bread eaten in secret (9:17). Such a course of life is observed by the multitudes. Adam Clarke observed, “illicit pleasures are sweeter than those which are legal.”
- The contrast is real!
- The woman of folly is clamorous, simple, and knows nothing (cf. Prov. 7:11a). The wise woman imparts understanding.
- The woman of folly seeks to be noticed by sitting on the highest places of the city. Even her feet do not stay home (7:11b). The woman of folly seeks to distract those who “go straight on their way.” Impudently she hunts and catches the passersby with kisses (7:13).
- The woman of wisdom offers legal pleasures of her bread and wine where the woman of folly delights in stolen water—come let us take our love until morning…for my husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey (Prov. 7:19).
- The woman of wisdom cries out to impart knowledge in the fear of God that adds life and length of days. However, the woman of folly has an enticing message built up with flattery that is, at last, a place for the dead to gather (7:21-23, 26, 27; 9:18).
Life is filled with decisions and differing invitations. The invitations we accept or refuse will have an impact on our eternal dwelling place. What will your answer be when folly or wisdom calls out for your name?
I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, [that] I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the LORD your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He [is] your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them. Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
—Steven J. Wallace
Our title stems from Proverbs 8:30:
“Then I was beside Him as a master craftsman; And I was daily His delight, Rejoicing always before Him.”
Juxtaposed to the path of folly and its verge of total ruin (Prov. 5-7), chapter 8 turns our attention to the value of wisdom and its positive benefits in building up our lives. Rather than the woman of folly, wisdom is personified as a woman of understanding who cries out to all.
WHERE, TO WHOM, AND WITH WHAT DOES WISDOM CALL (Prov. 8:1-11)?
- Where (8:1-3)? As a herald, wisdom stands everywhere beckoning everyone to come and hear (Prov. 8:1-5). She is on the hills, at the crossroads, at the city gates, and before the doors (cf. Prov. 1:20, 21). In like fashion, God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:3, 4; Rom. 16:26; Mk. 16:15, 16). Yet He never overrides man’s free will. He calls, but man must listen. He gives, but man must reach out and take. He saves, but man must obey.
- To whom (8:4, 5)? Wisdom calls out to everyone, including the simple ones (the naïve and gullible) as well as fools (those with little restraint and are stubborn). God is longsuffering toward us (2 Pet. 3:9).
- With what (8:6-11)? Wisdom calls out “excellent things,” “right things,” and “truth.” It calls out with the message of righteousness. There is nothing crooked or perverse in the call of wisdom. There is nothing deceitful in her. There are no cunning ploys, no bait and switch schemes, only plain instruction that is better than the rare and expensive materials found in this life such as silver, choice gold, and rubies.
THE BENEFITS OF WISDOM AS A MASTER CRAFTSMAN (Prov. 8:12-21).
Where sin breaks down and destroys, wisdom builds up and preserves. This section shows us some benefits that wisdom builds in us.
- Wisdom builds up the power of discernment (8:12-16). God desires that we have the ability to discern between evil and good (cf. Heb. 5:12-14).
“The ____________ of the LORD [is] to hate ____________; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate” (Prov. 8:13).
Being able to correctly judge something as right or wrong is not a sign of weakness, but strength. It is not from ignorance but from sound wisdom. Wisdom gives each person the ability to rule and decree correctly the justice of kings! Wisdom enables us to see evil for what it really is.
- “Pride” and “arrogance” are not the kind of confidence we are to aspire to have. “
- “The evil way” is not the road that we are to travel on.
- “The perverse mouth” expresses the kind of words we are not to utter (cf. Eph. 4:29; Jas. 1:26; 3:2). These things work against the wisdom that is from above. They are enemies of the truth (Jas. 3:13-18).
- Wisdom builds up enduring riches (8:17-21). Enduring riches are not riches of silver and gold. Those things can be with us today and gone tomorrow.
“Will you set your ____________ on that which is ____________? For ____________ certainly make themselves ____________; They ____________ away like an ____________ [toward] heaven” (Prov. 23:5).
Those who live for the main purpose of finding “fine gold” will not live in follow the “fine” way. Rather, they will pierce themselves through with many sorrows and regrets (1 Tim. 6:9-10). Righteousness is the key element in which to strike it rich. When we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we will not only have the things we physically need in this life but also possess the enduring riches of eternal life when this life ends (see Matt. 6:19, 20).
THE COMPANION OF THE CREATOR (Prov. 8:22-31)
Wisdom is personified as the master craftsman who worked as God’s companion in the creation. This text boldly affirms that the universe-project, including the earth and everything in it, is not a product of time, chance, and random processes, but rather of conscientious thought, carefully planned design, and purposed will. “For every house is built by someone, but He who built all things [is] God” (Heb. 3:4). This should underscore the following considerations in our minds.
- If God possesses wisdom, who is the man to disregard it (8:22)?
- If wisdom existed before the earth was created, who is the man to live on earth ignoring it (8:23-29)?
- If God works with wisdom, who is the man to work without it (8:30)?
- If wisdom rejoices in the sons of men, how can any man find lasting joy without it (8:31)?
WISDOM’S EXHORTATION—WATCH AND WAIT (Prov. 8:32-36).
Here describes the blessed man of Scripture. As wisdom calls men to listen, so it promises them blessings when they keep her ways. The blessed listener watches daily at her gates and waits for her doors to be opened (8:34). Watching and waiting could characterize a wife/mother who is waiting and looking for her husband or son to return home from war. Or perhaps it is the way a shipwrecked person watches and waits to be rescued from a barren island.
It is in that spirit one looks to be with and serve the Lord. We are to anticipate His return every day. The heavenly-minded scholar is earnest for heaven’s schoolroom to open! He stands at the post of her doors. His ear hinges on every word that falls from her lips (cf. 8:6, 7).
Watching and waiting is to characterize the disciples of Christ. Jesus taught this principle by a culmination of parables.
- The Faithful/evil servant (Matt. 24:45-51), are you watching for the Lord?
- Ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13), are you waiting for their Lord?
- The Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), are you working for the Lord?
- The Sheep/goats (Matt. 25:31-46), are you watching over those who are the Lord’s?
Let us view the Lord the way the blessed student views wisdom in Proverbs 8:32-36. Let us search for Him with our whole being, “For whoever finds me finds life, And obtains favor from the LORD; But he who sins against me wrongs his own soul; All those who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:35-36).
—Steven J. Wallace