PROVERBS 4:1 – 6:35 and 1 THESSALONIANS 3:1–13
The first 10 verses have so much meaning that its contents can fill a book in of itself. What do we have in these verses? There is the relationship between children and their parents. Solomon acknowledges Himself as the son of a real spiritual father who has instructed him well. The tenets of the Law were part of the instruction given to the Son as seen in verse 2. David, as his father, understood the importance of setting a good example. He meticulously instructed Solomon knowing that he was being prepared to be the future king. The Holy Spirit attributes of wisdom and understanding are emphasized on numerous occasions as essentials keys in coming into prominence for God’s glory. Solomon indeed put these instructions into practice in the early years of his reign. He heeded the advice of seeking wisdom above all things (1 Kings 4). He quickly came to know the fruits of his pursuit of wisdom as the glory of the Lord encompassed him and his reign. The words that were given to Solomon in verse 9 literally came to pass. So what went wrong in the life of Solomon? We will investigate this in greater length when we get to the Book of Ecclesiastes. We will also gain some insights concerning this question when we study the Song of Solomon. It is a very real warning for anyone who has started strong in their walk with God. The failure of Solomon helps to makes us understand that no one is immune from falling.
The path that one takes are brought out in verses 11-18. A path leads somewhere so the question is which path are we on? If we take heed to the counsel brought out in the first 10 verses, we will be kept and preserved on the path that leads to righteousness. The path of the evil man is ever calling out to the believers. This path is never satisfied and always looks for opportunities to draw aside the faithful pilgrims. The Bible speaks of these paths as never losing sleep, they are ever lurking (vs 16). The pilgrim who seeks the Lord with a whole heart must be ever vigilant and help ensure that his guard is never let down. All it takes is one moment of weakness for calamity to strike. God is there to help us; He knows our frame and vulnerabilities and is Faithful in warning us or bringing about circumstances to help get our attention. In the end however we choose whether we want to listen or go our own way.
Verse 18 has been a meaningful one for my wife and I. It was a verse the Lord gave to us in 1993 before we left for the Mission Field. The immediate pathway ahead is often murky and unclear. It requires faith and assurance from God and others in order to take those initial steps. It is a time when the enemy will seek to intimidate by trying to get our focus on circumstances as opposed to what God is speaking for one to do. As we learn to take steps of obedience, one at a time, the pathway then becomes clearer and a bit easier to navigate. On a cloudy day one cannot see the sun while standing upon the ground. If that person begins to ascend one step at a time he comes to the place where he is above the clouds where he sees the sun without hindrance. One does not have to experience a plane take off to understand this. At the Zion fellowship headquarters in Waverly New York there are times when a thick fog covers the Valley. In the valley you cannot see the sun but by climbing Zion’s hill you literally can ascend above the fog and thus see the sun. This is the pathway God lays out before the believer. It is the Word of God that can serve as a Lamp unto our feet to help show us the path as well as being kept upon it (Psa 119:105). The path that the Lord placed before my wife and I in 1993 is unlike any path we would have imagined. It was an unveiling that came one step at a time. This verse continues to have meaning in the lead-up to the last days.
Solomon goes back to some similar themes in verses 19-22. In verse 23 there is a verse that should be eternally etched in our spirit. It is a verse we taught all our Indian children when we lived among them in the Indian state of Orissa. If you asked any of the kids the one verse that was always emphasized they would tell you Pro 4:23.
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
The Christian experience can all be summarised as a matter of the heart. The things we do, the things we think about all emanate from what comes forth from the inner chambers of the heart. We are clever in being able to disguise and cover-up issues of the heart but the time will come when all will be exposed. In essence, we are the product of that which is in our heart. This is why there needs to be an understanding of what the New Covenant is all about. It gets to the root of where all sin originates. This is why many people shun knowledge and truth. They simply do not like being exposed. This is what happened to Korah and his band when Moses began to lift up a higher standard (Num 16:1-3). They claimed that everyone was holy which clearly was not the case. Their inability or unwillingness to live up to the higher standard exposed what was actually in their heart. Jeremiah came to know the evil potential of his own heart (Jer 17:9). This is what the Law, and the pursuit of godly knowledge will address. Do we really want to serve God with a whole heart? It’s a question that is being brought before the churches today. Finally, instruction is given to ponder the path that is before us. The Lord will establish His people if they allow the Word to become the standard in how they live. They will be established if they take to heart the instruction that was given to Solomon in this chapter.
Solomon opens this chapter along similar lines of chapter 4 but will then focus on an entirely different subject. The subject of the strange woman is addressed throughout this chapter. Who is the strange woman? It is one of Satan’s most potent tools against those who have a high call of God upon their lives. It certainly is not limited to such people seeing that is an issue in every strata of life. The Lord gave Moses specific instruction or Laws that were to serve as guidelines in reigning as kings. Israel still had no king when this law was given and they would not have a king for some time to come. Here was one of the laws and we will see how it relates to this chapter.
“Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away:…” (Deu 17:17)
This of course was one of the things that led to Solomon’s downfall later on his life. David was one who violated the law of kings seeing that he also had several wives. The instructions that David is passing down to Solomon has come at a great price. What is it about immorality that strikes daggers into the heart of man unlike any other sin? How is it that the pleasure that comes from a quick moment of indulgence can be so sought after when weighed with its consequences; oftentimes with eternal ramifications? Are there not similarities with Esau when in a moment of an unbridled appetite sold his birth right for soup? Don’t you think he would like to have that moment to relive once again? The point here is to understand how easy it can be to indulge in something forbidden without taking time to measure the consequences. Let’s go back even further to the garden. The enemy’s subtle words brought Adam and Eve to the point of partaking of forbidden fruit without taking heed to the consequences that God spoke earlier. This to me is the primary problem. A moment’s pleasure and a fleeting indulgence is not properly weighed upon eternal scales. This points to one of the most clever and diabolical tools of the enemy. Today it is playing out through doctrine that makes allowances for all kinds of abominations. As we go through this and other chapters in the Proverbs let us be mindful of this tactic. We have got to understand and make known the consequences of sin. The tree of immorality (tree of knowledge and good and evil Gen 3:6) has been sugar-coated in a way that makes sin more palatable, pleasing to the eye and acceptable. It happens when we allow God’s Word to be redefined in areas of doctrine.
In verses 15-19 instruction is given in how to be satisfied with the provisions that God has given. This can relate to anything in life. Solomon came to know that one of the greatest treasures in life was the ability to enjoy the works of one’s labour. This means coming to the end of the day and being able to celebrate that which one has and to be satisfied with it. This would also include the wife of one’s youth. He makes clear that we are not to be envious of what others have and to avoid at all costs the wiles of the strange woman. Solomon later failed in these areas of instruction that he is giving to others. He gave himself to know what it was that man sought after which resulted in his being apprehended by the spirit of the world and the strange woman.
In both Proverbs and Revelation, you have a contrasting of two manner of women. You have both the virtuous woman and the strange woman in the Proverbs while in Revelation you have the good woman (the church) contrasted with the evil woman (False church). The very warnings that David is giving to Solomon came to pass in his life. Solomon in his middle years allowed himself to be led astray resulting in a life of misery, shame and unspeakable reproach. He is writing these instructions as a young man who had the very best of foundations established for him. He had wisdom that was unparalled along with the glory and splendour of the kingdom in his early years upon the throne. We can honor Solomon by taking to heart the very real lessons and warnings that he is providing here coupled with the lessons gleaned from his life. If these things could happen to Solomon they can certainly happen to us. Let’s give very particular heed to the writings seen in these proverbs.
The subject of taking responsibility for another man’s debts is touched upon throughout this chapter. It is one thing to help and give a hand to a brother in need but there is considerable warning given about being a surety for another person. If one has become surety for another then instruction is given to help him follow through in paying back otherwise that unfulfilled debt will be placed upon the lender. If this is not dealt with quickly then the borrower will feel less inclined to meet the terms. It does not help him and it only further encumbers the lender.
The direction now goes in the consideration of the ant and how he handles his business (vs 6-8). The ways and tendencies of the ant are qualities that need to be applied in the life of a believer. An ant prepares ahead of time and is not reliant upon others when the winter season comes. There are parallels that can be made with the 10 virgins, 5 of which paid the price and were prepared with oil when the call of the bridegroom came forth (Math 25:1-13). When one looks at the economies of the world today one cannot help but see debt at every juncture. Why is Solomon spending so much time on this subject? The admonition seems to be more upon the lender than the borrower. Perhaps he is speaking to the inducing of debt, the willingness to contribute further to a problem that has no solution if immediate and drastic measures are not taken. The intent may be honourable in helping out a brother in the area of a loan however if not administered properly it can further exacerbate the problem. The account of the ant speaks to the approach we as believers need to take in life and in our relationship with God. The believer of today is to be proactive, alert and one who prepares. The danger of not doing this can result in becoming sluggards and indifferent. Such a person will let down their guard and become vulnerable to the enemy’s tactics.
There are some added fruits that are seen in those who become spiritually dull. Solomon mentions a wicked mouth that sows discord and a heart that becomes hardened and devious (vs 12-14). If not corrected such a person can cross a threshold where he reaches a point of no return. There are 6 things mentioned that the Lord hates in verses 16-19. These characteristics should be noted and avoided at all costs. These six things are not relative to Solomon’s day only but are warnings for us today. What is the remedy for these maladies; how can we counter and protect ourselves from being contaminated by them? The key is found in verses 20-23 which speaks of the keeping of the Laws and Commandments of God. We are told to bind them to our heart and tie them around our neck (vs 21). The blessings of keeping the Law results in a light shining upon our paths and to keep one from the evil woman. Why is it then that the Law of God is such a controversial issue in the church? The answer is that men do not like the Truth. The Law gets to the core of the heart where all sin originates. We have become so clever today in redefining Truth and grace. This redefining makes allowances for sin to creep in; it begins subtly but quickly gains ground as the enemy gains a greater foothold within a man. This is how a man can become vulnerable and fall prey to the evil woman who flatters with her tongue.
The attention now turns again to the strange woman that was discussed in chapter 5. The account is covered here in verses 24-28. The strange woman is given a lifeline when man becomes lazy and sluggish. What happened to David when the men went to war and he let down his guard? A door of opportunity presented itself to him in a moment of vulnerability. The spirit that governs the heart of the strange woman is on the hunt for victims (vs 26). If this spirit finds a potential suitor it will work hard to find opportunity to strike. God is well able to preserve His own and He will to those who apply the attributes of an ant. Their diligence not only provides for their food in winter but also keeps them from ill-advised sleep (vs 9). I feel this is one of the pertinent messages that comes forth from this Proverb. Sad to say, it was not instruction that Solomon was able to personally apply. The very warnings he writes about as heard from his father and mother were not applied in his later years. He had a very good start but the Laws and Commandments were not bound in his heart nor tied around his neck. He forsook the instruction which opened the door to the very things he warns against here. Proverbs 6 has many messages but chief among them has to be that of vigilance and being prepared and on guard. If we learn to apply these principles it will help for all the other side messages of this chapter to fall in line.
1 Thes 3
Paul expressed joy in hearing how the Thessalonians church was doing. It needs to be understood that Paul spent only three weeks in Thessalonica when he moved through Macedonia. He had to wonder how the church would be doing after only a very short time spent in that region. This speaks to the greatness of Paul and his missionary approach. He came with authority and power; he came with the living Word, teaching it and living by it. His life and example spoke volumes to those whom he ministered to. He was passionate and filled with a burden to give and leave his very best for the time he spent there. He now recounts his joy in how they have built upon the foundation that he laid for them.
Paul, while he was in Athens sent Timothy to see how they were doing and to help encourage them. This was one of the beautiful ministries of Timothy. He was a true spiritual son who knew the heart of Paul while having an ability to reinforce that which Paul had established. It is such a blessing for Paul in having such a spiritual son. This frees him to serve and minister to other regions.
In verses 3-4 Paul was clear that the church would experience tribulation and trouble. We do people a great disservice in saying that suffering is not of God or part of kingdom living. Christ is rich in His generosity to the saints; He paid a debt we can never repay by way of salvation. Still, He has called us to a life of holiness which means a price is paid to truly know Christ and becoming more like Him. This is the problem with some of the kingdom now theology being taught today. There is some truth in its message but it’s not properly balanced. The kingdoms of the heart where the true strongholds exist tend not to be addressed. Paul did not mince his words in telling them the truth of what to expect.
In verse 5 there is mention made of the tempter. God does not tempt man but He does allow the enemy to test his own; to see what is really in the heart. Let us not forget what holiness requires which is one of the primary themes of this epistle. Holiness requires a “choosing” to be holy and it requires a testing. Remember, man was created in innocence but he was not created holy. The subject of holiness was introduced to man at the giving of God’s first commandment (Gen 2:16-17). Once the commandment was given to Adam he had a choice to make; either to obey or disobey God’s commandment. He was then tested on that law when the tempter approached Eve in Gen 3. Let’s make sure to have the tempter in the right perspective. God does allow him to test His own which sometimes will result in periods of suffering and pain. God does all things well and we must ask Him to help give light and perspective to our walk. Job is an example of what the enemy can accomplish in one’s life. It is also an example in how God allows him (the tempter) to have a ministry.
In verses 6-7 Paul rejoices in coming to know that his labour had not been in vain. Timothy furnishes an encouraging report which brought great comfort to Paul. The Apostle Paul went through periods of great suffering however he was sustained in large part by the reports of fruitfulness in the places where he laboured. This is his abundant joy, to present before the Lord a people prepared for the Lord. This is also Christ’s joy in bringing many people to glory. We should be faithful in continuing to sow in any situation for we never know what kind of fruit may one day come forth.
In verses 9-10 we see Paul’s desire in seeing this church come to perfection. Paul is burdened for them and prays for the church daily that they might prosper. It is amazing to think about what Paul accomplished in his few short years in that region. He is the model missionary for all time. A discerning leader knows what the needs are in the life of a church and of a believer. We must not make assumptions but always be in prayer to come to know the true needs in people’s lives.
“The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.” (Psa 138:8)
In verses 12-13 we see that holiness is the goal that God has established for this church. The key mentioned in these verses is the growing in the fruit of love. Not all Christians are righteous or holy. It is the fruit of love working within the fabric of a person that accentuates and releases the fruits of the Spirit. It is a high goal but it is achievable through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. It starts by responding with a simple “YES” to the Lord followed by a continual yielding along the pathway of our walk in Christ. Let’s be very clear that the goal of holiness remains the aim of the church today; are we hearing and responding?