PROVERBS 1:1 – 3:35 and 1 THESSALONIANS 2:1–20
How does one attempt to give a summary of Proverbs? Each of the verses can generate messages on their own. What is it about this Book that distinguishes it from all others? What is a Proverb? It’s a short “pithy” sentence that captures and conveys profound truths. The one who writes the Proverbs has to be one who has great wisdom, knowledge and understanding. We will see these (wisdom, knowledge and understanding) and the other characteristics of the Holy Spirit on full display throughout the 31 chapters of the Book. It indicates the working of the Holy Spirit giving instruction through the medium of man. The Book is primarily written by Solomon. In the first 9 chapters we see him echoing the instruction of his parents. David came to know what was entailed in being able to rule effectively as a king. He was aware of the price that had to be paid and the potential trappings and pitfalls that can undermine the reign of a king.
The Book of Proverbs is a book for Kings written by a king. This is one of the ministries that God is calling His last day church to. We are called to become Kings and Priests unto the most- high God. We see an example through the life of Melchizedek in Gen 14:18. Kings are not born they are made. We will understand this in a bit more detail when looking at the life of Solomon. He was born into privilege and did not have to qualify for kingship in much the way his father did. Still, he had an exceptional early reign and he exhibited great wisdom as seen in this wonderful book. Once again, kings are not born they are made and it is here where Solomon eventually failed. Let’s take note of Rev 1:6, 5:10 where it says that we are to be “made” kings and priests unto God. We all desire to rule and reign with Christ but there is a qualifying and the Book of Proverbs provides many of the necessary keys. We will seek to extract several of them as we journey along its contents.
The first 7 verses are loaded with precious insights. The 7 spirits of the Lord are prominently featured helping us to realize the importance of His role. The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. The fool is one who gives no heed to instruction of authority and the law of one’s mother. There is a concerning trend in many churches where the Law of God is becoming increasingly marginalised. This results in open doors for the enemy to gain a foothold. It is the anointing of the Fear of the Lord that helps to keep us in check.
We have to be aware that the enemy will always seek to use people to entice and draw away the saints (vs 10-11). We must have spiritual discernment in the evil days that are upon us. They will speak flattering words and seek to join hands for a common purpose. It will sound good perhaps even noble but it is a trap (vs 12-19). Their motive is one of greed and gain. If these areas are not properly circumcised out of our hearts, we may fall prey to their devices. It is sad to consider how Solomon eventually allowed little undealt with foxes to contaminate his spirit (Songs 2:15). If a man with such wisdom and insight is able to fail in these areas then what about us? It is the Fear of the Lord that can help keep us in check.
There are the warnings of reproofs given in verses 23-25 but they were disregarded. The Lord attempted on numerous occasions to reach out but they refused and shunned the counsel. The time came when the Lord ceased reaching out and gave no heed to them in the time of their calamity. This is a warning for all of us. Yes, God is a God of long-suffering and patience but there is a limit; there is a threshold that can be crossed and passed over (Rom 1:24-27). God does not answer their plea while in distress (vs 27-28). This is a sobering reminder for us today in a world where many have taken the blessings and protection of the Lord for granted. Why does this happen? The answer is found in verses 29-30.
“For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the Fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof.” Pro 1:29-30
Paul wrote about this in his letter to the Romans. They hated and refused the knowledge of God (Rom 1:28). The knowledge of God is an essential for the last day church. Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of the last days (Isa 33:6). The people of God are destroyed because of a lack of the knowledge of God (Hos 4:6). People do not like the knowledge of God because they do not like the Truth. This will be seen over and over throughout Proverbs. In many ways the Book of Proverbs is similar to the book of Deuteronomy. There are truths that are reinforced throughout these books to the point of redundancy. Still, they were not heeded or kept. Solomon’s problem resulted in his not keeping the law for kings (Deu 17:14-19). If the law for kings are not able to be kept then there is no ability to live by the Proverbs that are expressed.
Solomon continues to speak on several of the attributes of the Holy Spirit in the first 7 verses. The treasures of gaining knowledge, wisdom, understanding and the Fear of the Lord are reiterated on a consistent basis. The key is having a hunger and a desire for these attributes as seen in verse 2-4. The exhortation is for one to incline, or criest, or apply, or seek after these characteristics of the Holy Spirit so that one would develop in the things of the Lord. David had this kind of heart; he saw the Lord and the statutes of the Lord as greater treasures than gold (Psa 19:7-10). It all comes down to what our heart is longing after hence its needing to be guarded with all diligence. The fruits of this kind of heart are seen in verses 8-9. It is the Lord that will establish our path while preserving us in the ways of His kingdom. It will bring a perspective in understanding righteousness and judgement in one’s life and in the lives of others. Solomon had this quality in the early years of his reign. He exercised extraordinary wisdom in the matter of the two women laying claim over a child. His wisdom was unsurpassed as seen in the testimony of the Queen of Sheba. Solomon was a product of the very things he is speaking of in these verses in his early years. As we progress through the Proverbs we cannot help but take note of what happened to Solomon in his later years. The profound truths that he is expounding upon will be violated in his later years. The very things he warns about will apprehend him to his detriment. The range of contrast seen in Solomon from Proverbs to Ecclesiastes is a sobering reminder of what can happen to any of us.
In verses 11-20 Solomon speaks of the need for discretion and understanding so as to be kept from the evil path. The evil path is a slippery slope that begins in subtle departures from the good path; it soon draws its victim into its tightening grip of wickedness. Once upon this path one becomes vulnerable to the strange woman who flatters with her words (vs 16). Further warning is given concerning her in verses 17-19 and where one ends up if caught in her web. Solomon will have much more to share on this subject as the journey through Proverbs continues.
He ends by making a distinction between the good men and the wicked. The good man shall be established and sustained in the land. It is a picture of what is seen of those who come out of Babylon who have allowed God to do a work in their heart. The prophet Jeremiah says that they will be planted and established with no man being able to uproot them. It is a group that knows the heart of God (Jer 24:6-7). This is in stark contrast to the wicked who will be cut off and uprooted. God desires a people who are intimate with Him; a people who love Him, His way and His laws. This was the exhortation that Moses was giving to the people as they were about to enter their inheritance. They did not give heed. This is the message that Solomon is presenting to future kings that will enable them to be rooted and established in their respective land. For Solomon and for Israel’s future kings this did not become a reality. What about us? What about the priests and kings that God is looking to be made and come forth today? Will Solomon’s message be heeded and will his experience serve as a warning to us?
Solomon sounds out similar themes that were seen in the first two chapters. The exhortation of forgetting not the Law is certainly not new. It was echoed throughout the Book of Deuteronomy and several other places in scripture. Why did Ephraim turn back in the day of battle? It was due to forsaking God’s laws and commandments (Psa 78:9-10). How many times have we already seen the linkage of mercy and truth? It is mentioned here again and both are to be binded to the neck and written upon the heart. The fruits of applying these instructions are the favor of God and a long life. Solomon only lived to about age 59.
If we learn to trust the Lord and acknowledge Him in all our ways He then can direct our paths. So many people today look for direction and guidance for their lives and the clues are clearly given here. We have a hard time learning to let go and trusting God in situations. We tend to be the captain of our ship, steering and charting our course. The problem is that it usually is on our terms which can be a recipe for disaster. Can we come to the place of acknowledging the Lord in all things; to acknowledge and respond to Truth? This is usually the problem; we don’t like the Truth.
The principle of tithing is mentioned in verses 9-10. If we learn to honor the Lord with the first-fruits of our substance, we shall never be in want. This again comes down to trusting the Lord. Can we let go and be willing to give to the Lord the very best of what we have? It may sound feasible in theory but extremely costly in its reality. In verses 11-12 the message of chastening and correction is referenced. It is an act of love when administered correctly because it addresses a nature that can get in the way of knowing God in His fullness. Sadly, we are seeing today the fruits of a pampered society. When discipline is administered it is often done out of frustration and of a wrong spirit. On the other hand, those who seek to bring up their children according to Biblical standards run the risk of child abuse in today’s politically correct culture.
The treasure of wisdom is expressed in verses 13-19. It is worth so much more than rubies, gold or silver. It also carries with it the promise of a long life. It appears that this promise is conditional based on what happened to Solomon. It is just like our salvation, it is something that can be lost if it is not nurtured and tended to. There are so many virtues of wisdom illustrated in these verses such as knowing the Peace of God and being a tree of life. We are reminded that it was by wisdom that God established the earth. This same wisdom is available to those who pursue after it; to display a willingness to forsake all other things so as to obtain the prize. The attributes of knowledge and understanding are again seen alongside wisdom (vs 19-20).
When one walks in wisdom they are not to fear in the midst of trouble. How reassuring this promise is as we look at the volatility throughout the world. The fruit of wisdom leads God’s people into that place of protection and covering (Psa 91). It is the Lord who is the confidence of His people; He will not allow His people to stumble. Here again it all comes back to trust. We are warned not to envy those who oppress or live not for God (vs 30-31). Do not choose their ways nor seek to be like them. This is a mistake that many in the church are making as they try to live for God and the world simultaneously. The day and the hour will not allow for a middle ground approach; a choice will have to be made. It may not be an obvious turning away at first but more a subtle veering from Truth. If this goes unchecked, it may well lead down a path towards destruction. One little fox is all it takes to start the ball rolling. It increases in intensity and eventually becomes like an avalanche of power and force. These tendencies need to be nipped in the bud while they are still in seed form. Once they begin to grow it becomes all that more difficult to extract; especially in these last days.
1 Thes 2
We see several father like qualities on display in chapter 2. There is the gentleness of Paul coupled with his willingness to lay down his life for the church. He also labours on their behalf without charge and provides an example of holy living. He begins by letting them know that his initial efforts among them have not been in vain. Paul warned about starting well only to falter later in one’s walk. He reminds them of the suffering that they experienced in prison on their behalf. The account is seen in Acts 16:23. Their suffering helped to bring life to the church. One can suffer due to the choices that they have made. This was not the case here with Paul. He saw God as being with him at all times and through his ordeals was able to bring life, strength and encouragement to others.
Paul will now convey many ministerial insights as to how one should conduct themselves (vs 3-11). The pulpit and the life of a minister has far greater influence than we realize. The motive for ministry must be pure and upright. It is a position of great trust where integrity has to be at its core. Paul is further establishing his credentials to have the right to speak into their lives. The Lord is looking for people, ministers who serve without guile or deceit. There is so much manipulation that can take place from the pulpit. A minister wields great influence and the motive and intent of heart must be pure and clean. Those who reign upon Mt. Zion with the Lamb will be those without deceit or guile (Rev 14:5). As ministers speaking from the pulpit we need to be careful about promoting uncleanness. Sometimes the illustration that are used can convey thoughts or images that stir the inward passions; our former manner of life can glamorize things that are not fruitful etc. (Eph 5:12).
In verses 4-5 we must be reminded that we are speaking for God to man. The things we share must reflect that which God desires to say and not want man may want to hear. This is one of the primary dividing lines between the two manners of priests emerging in today’s church. One who is more concerned to speak what God is saying as opposed to speaking what people want to hear. Having said the above, we must learn to share the truth in love and not in an abrasive way. One can speak the Truth but do so in a way that unnecessarily alienates people. Paul also warns about flattery; the speaking of things to a person to elicit a response that benefits the speaker. There is a difference between flattering a person as opposed to edifying one. When we edify we are building up others without seeking for any personalized gain.
A faithful minister seeks to have the applause of God and not of men. So many today are insecure in their positions as leaders. They are constantly seeking to validate themselves and their achievements. They survive by the amount of “likes” they receive from the congregation, and other affiliated network of Christian circles. What is it that God is saying; should not this be our aim? Is that not enough to hold us steady when our words and ministry prove offensive to some people? It is a testing ground and it will become all the more apparent in the days to come.
In verses 7-8 Paul speaks as being one who was gentle among them. This is a quality that is not achieved over night. People can be like sheep which means there will be sensitivity issues that will need to be addressed from time to time. The flock that God brings under your care will help to develop this needed quality of gentleness. David came to know the gentleness of God in great measure (Psa 18:35). Paul was one who majored on speaking truth but he had the capacities of being able to minister Truth in love. This is a quality that gets developed into the life of a leader over the course of time. In verse 11 Paul summarizes this portion by saying that pastoring is like parenting. He as a father had the responsibility of nurturing and developing children; to bring them to a place of maturity and strength so that they can in turn become fruitful.
In verses 12-13 Paul speaks to the church as having received the Living Word. They were privileged to receive the Word as not coming from men, but from God. They received the Living Word that was brought forth from Paul and others who suffered and paid a price. The Word must be received by “faith” otherwise it becomes letter and lifeless. In verses 14-16 we see that the Thessalonians also had the reputation of being a suffering church. It is suffering and becoming acquainted with the fellowship of Christ’s suffering that qualifies us to reign (2 Tim 2:12). The Thessalonians saw the value of suffering; they understood the concept of seeking to obtain the “Pearl of great price” (Mt 13:45-46). This message is lost on many churches and believers today. No one of course likes or enjoys suffering but if it is in God it is something to be embraced due to its great value and what it can ultimately produce.
Paul writes and makes mention of Satan hindering his ability in being able to come to them. Let us never forget that Satan is a created being and an instrument used of God to help “perfect” the saints. His power must be respected but at the same time never to be seen as someone who is greater than God. He is a defeated foe and he is left here for the purpose of testing and preparing the saints. He seeks to destroy and thwart the efforts of the church and he only succeeds when we turn aside from God’s instruction and divine plan. We must allow God to help show us the big picture. There will come a time in eternity when we will thank the Lord for allowing him (as the defeated foe) to yet linger throughout the 2000-year church age. It will be through his devices and attacks that a people are perfected and brought more into the likeness of Christ. Seeing the big picture helps us to know how to live as well as channel our prayer and energies. This is why our “Doctrine” and what we believe is of vital importance. There are many doctrines today that summarily dismisses any hints of a “suffering church”. There is a suffering that God allows that helps pave the way for a fellowshipping of that which Christ went through. It is a suffering that Paul came to know and a suffering that the Thessalonians have become partakers of.
The ultimate reward for any leader is the privilege of being able to present something of value before the Lord. The spiritual investment we make into the lives of others is that which endures and it is that which brings great honor and glory to God. Paul’s desire was not only to see souls brought into the kingdom but that they would be presented holy and faultless before the throne of God.