PROVERBS 13:1 – 15:33 and 2 THESSALONIANS 1:1–12
A wise son hears the instruction of His father while a scorner fails to hear rebuke. This is an interesting contrast and one we should evaluate on a personal basis. Do we have the tendency to criticize and fault find in the lives of others? If so, we are in danger of failing to hear needed rebuke and correction. This is true at many levels; it can apply to new believers and also apply to seasoned ministers. A wise son submits to father figures and allows himself to be accountable. This is a follow up to the thought of surrounding ourselves around wise counsellors (Pro 11:14). Even in ministry we see leaders casting judgement upon others while neglecting needed areas in their own lives. The priests of God are called to judge situations but they first have to allow God to judge their own lives. We do not want to be a scorner.
Solomon again reminds us of the words that we speak or choose to hold and keep. Wisdom is required in knowing what to say, when to say it and how to say it. The Lord is the personification of wisdom who knows all things. It is to our benefit to bring the Lord into every area of our lives. This results in seeing a bigger picture regarding matters concerning us and others. We need to seek the Lord to help us in the area of the things we say.
In verse 4 we see the contrast of the sluggard with the diligent. God requires a people who are diligent and hard working. At the same time man needs to know how to rest and step away from his work. A strong work ethic says much about one’s character. A sluggish person desires the things of life but fails in committing himself to do what is required to make it a reality. A sluggish person is always seeking an easier way and the enemy is all too willing to assist. A spiritually sluggish person is one who may opt for an easier doctrine; teaching that does not require the paying of a price.
Righteousness is required for one to stay on the path that leads to life (vs 6). In verse 7 we will later see Solomon being the fulfilment of his own proverb. He was a man who acquired untold wealth but ended up empty and miserable at the end of his life. In verse 9 we see the light of the righteous and wicked contrasted. Once again the parable of the 10 virgins comes to mind here. There were the wise and diligent virgins who prepared for the call from the bridegroom. They had oil and light. The foolish had their light extinguished simply because they did not prepare. Will we have the necessary light to shine in the time of gross darkness that is soon coming to the earth or will we blend into the darkness due to not having the oil and anointing? A beautiful verse that had ministered to me on a personal basis is seen in verse 12.
Prov 13:12 Hope deferred maketh the heart sick: but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.
The Lord gave this verse to me in a powerful way when I was yet single. Many of my friends were married and serving in ministry and I was beginning to wonder if my time would ever come. Through it all I sought the Lord for the young lady of His choosing. The timing of the Lord came about a bit later for me than others but there is no denying the fulfilment of this verse. It has helped me in the counselling of others on important matters and issues in their lives. When you pay a price for truth it has value and it allows you to have something to give to others.
Another important verse is given regarding the importance of God’s Word and Laws (vs 13). Sad to say that the Word of God is lightly regarded in many churches today. Many of those same churches have problems upholding or interpreting the Laws of God. It is through the Word of God where knowledge is seen and understood. If there is a lack of knowledge there is the danger of being destroyed (Hos 4:6). If a people learn to have a holy Fear of the commandments of God they will be rewarded and blessed. The laws of the wise are likened to a fountain that gives life and helps to insulate from the snares and trappings that lead to death. Another repeated Proverb speaks of the wisdom of walking with the wise. If you stay close to people who succeed; who have it in their heart to serve God faithfully you cannot help but be influenced by their example. These kinds of people provoke and inspire others to greater heights. The reverse is also very much the case. We must always seek to be salt and light to the unsaved but we must know and establish proper boundaries of association. What is so sad in these beautiful pearls of wisdom is the one who is instructing will be the one who violated that which he teaches.
A final consideration in this Proverb is the kind of inheritance and legacy we will be leaving to future generations (vs 22). A good man invests in the generations to come by having vision of the greater things that they will accomplish. Jesus had this principle in mind as He was planning His succession to the early church in the lead-up to the Cross.
John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
Jesus was selfless in His love for the church. This is the example we must have in looking forward to all that God will yet do. A person who only thinks of himself leaves no inheritance to his posterity; it will be given to the just in the end. The bottom line is that all wealth is the Lord’s and it ends up serving his purposes. The spirit of the world today only serves the interests of this current generation hence the enormous debts being placed upon the children and grandchildren of those to come. May we be those who willingly and lovingly spend time investing into the lives of future generations. There is a rich reward for those who do so.
The wise woman is featured in verse 1 as one who builds up her house. Her influence cannot be understated. She literally can make or break the fabric of the home and extended community. The nurturing instincts of a mother help to shape the lives of the children under her care. Her demeanour and response in the way that she dwells alongside her husband helps to determine the makeup of a home. The wise woman knows how to seek the Lord for right responses in a home environment where the husband may be difficult to deal with. God can work through any situation where you have a wise woman in a home. She is contrasted with the foolish woman whom seeks her own way outside the ordained parameters that God has established for her. The world trumpets and celebrates liberation from the model of the nuclear family which sadly has captivated many women into its flow. The fault lies collectively with all of us who have allowed for a redefinition of values of that which matters in life. The wise woman will be featured in future Proverbs leading up to the well-known “virtuous woman” of Proverbs 31.
In verses 6-8 we see a link between wisdom, knowledge and understanding. A scorner may seek after wisdom but he will not find it due to his being critical of others. He represents the kind of person who constantly fault-finds in the lives of others. This indicates a wrong attitude of heart. True, it is a good thing to seek after wisdom but our heart and motive must be pure. Knowledge comes easy to those who have understanding; they are people who have the wisdom of God at work in their lives (vs 6, 8). A foolish person desires to have these attributes of the 7 Spirits of God but will never obtain them. In the New Testament you would find examples of those who would seek to duplicate the supernatural power of God that was upon the apostles. Simon the Sorcerer and the sons of Sceva come to mind (Acts 8:18, 19:14-16). What is our motive when it comes to the things of the supernatural? It is God’s intention that we grow in wisdom, knowledge and understanding, especially in the days that we are currently living in. We certainly need and desire the supernatural however it must all be in balance. The knowledge of the Holy should be the primary aim; the rest will come and flow naturally as we walk in the fear of the Lord.
Prov 9:10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.
One of the more popular scriptures is presented to us in verse 12. There is a way which seemeth right unto a man but the end thereof are the ways of death. This truth needs to be emphasized over and over and over again. Even to us in the church there are times when a certain decision or path seems right but what really matters is WHAT DOES GOD SAY? We can easily justify our positions by pointing out evidence of fruit and success. No doubt Saul and his supporters felt this way when they experienced victory over the Ammonites (1 Sam 11). Many of them even chided Samuel because he did not subscribe to them in having a king. Saul probably felt confident in the way he handled the matter of the Amalekites; they had victory, they had the spoils and they had their king (Agag). Surely he was right and had favor with God wouldn’t you think? The sad truth was he did not do what God told him to do which was to destroy everything pertaining to Agag and the Amalekites. What looked right to Saul eventually led to his death in future years at the hands of an Amalekite. Let us not make the mistake of applying verse 12 to something that only pertains to people outside the church; its true message and warning is to the church.
The problem in studying the Proverbs is you can easily take one verse of contrasts and extrapolate exhaustive messages. One of the keys in studying through the Proverbs is to seek out common themes that are threaded throughout its 31 chapters. There are the attributes of the 7 Spirits of the Lord seen consistently in the Proverbs. The pursuit of wisdom, knowledge and understanding undergirded with an anchoring walk in the Fear of the Lord will always hold a person in good stead before the Lord. If we make this a priority it will enhance and enable us to glean the salient messages coming forth from the Proverbs. If we understand the contrast of the two women (Strange woman and woman represented as wisdom) we will adequately discern the two streams flowing through the church in the last days. One other key that will prove helpful is to know the issues and matters of the heart. We saw earlier that it is from the heart where all the issues of life come forth (Pro 4:23). The message of Proverbs is one that gets to the core of the heart but the question is whether we receive it or not. In verse 30 Solomon again speaks of the importance of having a sound heart. He presents it as being the life of the flesh. This is contrasted with “envy” which he goes on to describe as the rottenness of the bones. The spirit of envy and jealousy must be eradicated from the hearts of believers. If these seeds are allowed to lurk within a heart it will draw and entice its host away from the purposes of God. Such a person will take issue with what God is doing in another’s life while losing focus on what he or she should be doing. The spirit of envy is like a rotting disease; it strips a person of joy and purpose. It finds its satisfaction in the tearing down of the person who has become the object of their envying. It is a sound heart, a merry heart, a heart that seeks after the living God that will be immune from such a poison. Let us learn to guard our hearts with all diligence and make it fertile ground for the planting of the good seeds of the kingdom.
The tongue and how we answer people is featured in the opening verses of this proverb. How one answers or speaks in the midst of a difficult situation can make all the difference. In my years as a salesperson I learned the power of words and how an atmosphere can be changed by how one speaks and handle situations. This truth became real to me on one occasion when I heard a testimony from one of my co-workers about our boss and how he viewed me. My boss was one who had a temper and at times would berate and stir up his staff. He thrived on contention and it was his method of motivating and challenging his team of workers to better perform. The other members on our staff would respond in kind and you would often hear yelling, arguing and yes cursing going on behind closed doors. He would unload on me on occasion but I would just sit there and take it. (Don’t get me wrong, there were times I truly felt like firing back but God helped me) He finally said to one of my colleague’s that I took the fight out of him in the way he dealt with me. I did not add fuel to his rants by responding in kind. Our relationship developed and grew into a close one in my years working under him.
The enemy is strong when we provide fuel to his fire. He thrives on fear; he loves to intimidate and when he has a people in fear it empowers him. If we are saturated in the Word of God and not governed by our circumstances it destroys his power and influence. The enemy thrives on trying to get us to be provoked to say things which may result in damage. This is a real challenge for a minister. A minister must be true in upholding Truth but he must be careful in becoming unnecessarily provoked. Peter comes to mind as an example. We all know the accounts but do we know how much we are like him in this regard?
One of my Biblical heroes is Hannah, the mother of Samuel. The enemy sought to provoke her during her time of suffering and barrenness through Penninah, the other wife of her husband Elkanah. The enemy tried to use Penninah to elicit an ill response from Hannah because he knew that there was a man-child, a new order of king/priest that was about to be introduced to Israel. If Hannah could be provoked to respond through bitterness it would prohibit the consecrated prayer where she cried out for a man-child who would be dedicated to the Lord all the days of his life (1 Sam 1:11). Though she was misunderstood and barren she was able to respond properly and the fruit of course was a man named Samuel who introduced a whole new order of king and priest. We need to pray that God enables us to be a people who speak gracious and goodly words and know how to respond when provoked (Gen 49:21, Luke 4:22).
A merry and healthy heart is addressed in verses 13-17. It brings overall strength and joy to those have it. In addition, it helps pave the way for growth in knowledge and understanding. A merry heart is satisfied at all times and not dependent upon continuous riches. It can rejoice in times of plenty or in times of want (vs 16-17). A merry heart is like a medicine that sustains the life of a believer (Pro 17:22). This is a subject that Solomon will revisit in his later years when he pens Ecclesiastes. It will be another truth he will come to know all too well due to indulging his heart in so many other matters.
There are several other Proverbs of note that Solomon will revisit which serves to reinforce their potency. The truth about surrounding oneself with counsellors is brought out in verse 22. This truth was earlier emphasized in Pro 11:14. The importance of the mouth in speaking a Word in season is highlighted in verses 23 and 26 as seen in earlier in verses 1-2. The eyes are to be enlightened by its focus upon good things which results in a happy and healthy heart (vs 30). The observance of God’s creation with its splendour and its beauty can result in an amazement that rejoices ones being. The ear that is open to reproof and correction will help ensure that he or she abides amongst the wise. Those who refuse such correction have little regard for the consequence of their soul (vs 31-32).
The foundation of the Fear of the Lord opens the door for wisdom. It is also the foundation for growing in knowledge and understanding (Psa 111:10, Pro 1:7, Pro 9:10). The last line in this Proverb is one of the most important truths to grasp. Before God’s honor can be bestowed and appropriated there has to first be the fruit of humility. This is one of the 10 garments that Paul instructed the Colossian church to put on in going forward towards holiness (Col 3:12). The fruit of “humbleness of mind” will always keep us aware that whatever may become of our life it is solely due to the grace of God.
1 Cor 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
2 Thes 1
Paul opens this 2nd letter to the Thessalonian church with his familiar greetings of grace and peace to all of the brethren. This letter was written to address some of the misconceptions that resulted in his 1st letter when he spoke concerning the 2nd coming of Christ. There were many who saw the Lord’s coming as imminent and at hand resulting in confusion in how people were to live and carry on with their lives. If such a situation is not addressed quickly and properly it could undermine the Gospel message causing many people to lose heart.
Paul first addresses his thankfulness to the church and cites the growth in their faith and in their charitable giving to the brethren (vs 3). Paul was able to speak of their example to others by way of their patience, faith and tribulation that they were able to endure. This was a church that had gone through suffering and Paul commended them for their patience and godly example in this regard. Their love had grown in the midst of great tribulation and yet this church was only one-year-old. Can you imagine the joy of Paul in seeing such a quick maturity in this area of their development? This was a new church plant that was standing against the winds of adversity. When persecution comes upon a church it brings forth a decision that has to be made. It will either enhance one’s faith making it burn brighter or it will turn people away from God and His purposes. It is a decision that will have to be made. Oftentimes it is a decision that does not result in an immediate turning from God but rather a lessening of His standards which will invariably lead one astray from God in the end.
Paul makes clear in verse 6 that suffering is a token of God’s righteous judgement. When Paul is writing to Timothy he makes the point that if we suffer with him we shall also reign with Him (2 Tim 2:13). It is a suffering that we do not endure alone for He is with us.
Rom 8:17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together (See also 1 Pet 4:13-14).
In verse 7 Paul jumps to the righteous judgments of God that will come upon the enemies in the last days. He is citing the suffering and persecution that is upon the Thessalonian church as a portrayal of what will be seen in the last days. What the Thessalonians are experiencing are examples of what the last day church will go through. Remember, Paul is going to later correct some misconceptions about the 2nd coming of the Lord that was affecting this church. Before he does so he establishes a truth that will be seen in the last day church. The true church in the last days will endure suffering and persecution much along the lines of what they were going through. Paul is encouraging them seeing that they serve as a pattern as how the church is to hold steady and endure. They were an example of a church that is experiencing the “righteous” judgments of God. This example of the Thessalonians is a message to the church of our day. Paul is exhorting the church to “Rest” with him and the other suffering brethren for the Lord will vindicate and repay (Rev 6:9-11).
In verses 8-9 we see a picture of what it will be truly like at the time of His 2nd coming. The mountains and hills will melt like wax. Paul is about to address the problem of their view of the 2nd coming. He is making the point that what they were going through is a picture of what the 2nd coming will be like while making clear that it is yet for an appointed time in the future. Before he addresses their misconception of the 2nd coming he highly cites their godly example of enduring suffering and persecution. We need to appreciate and learn from the Thessalonian example for our day. The ultimate objective is that Christ would be glorified and seen in His saints. It was Paul’s prayer that the Thessalonians would be counted worthy of His calling and that they would fulfil all his good pleasure and goodness (vs 11). This can be accomplished through his faith and power as grace is allowed to be poured out in abundance. The last day church must radiate his glory; Christ desires to be seen through His bride and the Thessalonian church had elements of these qualities. This was Paul’s prayer and desire for this wonderful church.