PROVERBS 16:1 – 18:24 and 2 THESSALONIANS 2:1–17
When you look at verse 3 you cannot help but think upon one of David’s famous Psalms.
Psa 37:5 Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.
When we learn to commit our works and our ways unto the Lord he then has the ability to establish our thoughts. When we commit our thoughts unto Him He then can establish our path. They are all related. It is a matter of Trusting God in all things. No matter what situation we may find ourselves in He can be trusted to make a way where there is no way. This requires a choosing on our part; an ability to make right decisions at crucial times. The pathway to righteousness and holiness is paved by the making of right choices. How do we come to the place of making right choices? The study and reading of God’s Word coupled with an intimate walk with God. An awareness of His presence helps to instil the Fear of the Lord which aids in making those right choices. If God is not a high priority, then the decisions that are made will reflect that.
In verse 6 we once again see the linking of Truth and Mercy. “All the paths of the Lord are Mercy and Truth” (Psa 25:10). In this case we see that iniquity can be purged as Mercy and Truth work together. The Truth of who we are can be sobering; the Truth of our inability to change ourselves can bring a sense of hopelessness yet it is the Mercy of God that brings the balance. The Mercy of God reaches out to us as sinners even though we do not deserve it. The Mercy of God gives strength and hope to open the doors for grace so that we can be changed. Each of these attributes (MERCY and TRUTH) are essential and they must be in balance. When properly understood and administered we come to know how they can help a believer in all of his walk and in all of their paths. This is why the Grace message today must be balanced with Truth. It is a false message and Gospel when it stands alone. The same goes for Truth. We need to be faithful in how we present Truth. If all we do is major on Truth without accompanying Mercy we can destroy people and undermine God’s message of Restoration. “All the paths of the Lord are Mercy and Truth” (Psa 25:10).
In verse 7 we see a beautiful truth as to how the Lord can bestow favor upon His own. When one walks before God in a pleasing way He can make those who might normally be an enemy be at peace with them. We see many examples of how certain ones could find favor with both God and man. Joseph, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah and even the Lord Himself had this anointing. The key is that the Lord will work on behalf of those who seek Him and honor Him in their lives. He has the ability to move upon the hearts of kings to accommodate His purpose. This suggests to us the importance of discovering God’s will and purpose for our lives. It also suggests the need to have a heart that seeks to know what is on His heart and to go about doing it.
In verses 10-15 Solomon speaks on some of the dos and don’ts in performing the functions of a king. The words and judgments of a king are weighty and must be considered carefully. We are called to be kings so we must take note of this great responsibility. The words that come forth should be Words that come as a divine sentence from the throne of God. A true king cannot afford to be rash in their judgments (vs 10). There is no room for a king to commit abominations seeing that the throne and platform from which he is ruling is established in righteousness. This is why we must be careful in making statements that say because we are born again we are automatically kings and priests before God. No, kings and priests are made and must be qualified (Rev 5:10). We are all called to be kings and priests but not all will qualify. The children of Israel were all called to be priests but they chose to disqualify themselves from this privilege at the giving of the Law (Exo 20:18). Sadly, the same scenario is taking place today. Many in the church find the Law and Commandments of God as offensive and binding. This result in doctrines and teachings that circumvent the weightier matters of the law by way of easier teachings; the very same teachings that the Apostle Paul warns against in the last days (2 Tim 4:3).
A final truth from this chapter is concerning the importance of temperance (vs 32). A man who has the ability to control his spirit and temper is better than one who can take a city. Temperance is one of the fruits of the Spirit and it is a far greater weapon than we realize. The enemy is always seeking to provoke rash responses because it feeds into his strength. He thrives on anger, rage and fear. One who has these attributes can still have the means to take a city or nation but how much better it is to take control over one’s own spirit. This is the fruit that was on full display when Jesus was dying upon the Cross. He had the strength to destroy his accusers by summoning legions of heavenly hosts. He had the power to come down from the Cross but he chose to yield Himself and His will to the Father. The power Jesus exhibited at the Cross by exhibiting temperance is far greater than what would have happened if He yielded to human tendencies in destroying His tormentors. We need to pray for this beautiful fruit to be produced in each of us in these volatile days. Remember, the enemy will always seek the means in trying to provoke towards ill responses.
One of the characteristics that the Lord despises is that of a mocker. The Lord takes special note of the poor and observes the way people treat them. If we neglect or make a mockery of the poor, we are doing so against the Lord. The Bible also warns about being glad at calamities. Why is our news cycle today always filled with reports of tragedies, scandals and violence? This is the kind of news that sells. This is what people have a heart and appetite for. The fact that there is an obsession towards these things says something about us as a people. Are we those who are part of the problem? Do we continue to feed into this trend by always talking about tragedies or we are those who pray for those affected? Do we become touched with what others are going through? We should view these events of life as opportunities to be part of the solution. Jesus made it clear that when we give a cup of water to a needy person we are doing as unto Him. If we do nothing we are not only neglecting the need but we are in fact neglecting God, seeing that he is their maker and creator. We need to check our attitude and honestly assess our response to the poor. We also should seek to be a people who sigh and grieve over the sins and woes of a nation (Eze 9:4).
In verse 9 we are instructed to be among those who do not expose a brother who is involved in a transgression. This does not mean that we cover up sin and wrong-doing. The implication here is that we do not exploit another man’s weakness for personal gain. This is what Ham did when he exposed his father (Gen 9:22). We will have opportunities where we will choose to either be a Ham a Japheth or Shem. Japheth and Shem covered their father; they honoured him in his moment of vulnerability. Do we uphold and pray for leadership and those who are over us or do we take aim at them when perhaps they are vulnerable? There is a warning about being involved in matters of contention in verse 14. We need to be very careful about getting caught up in other people’s offenses in addition to our own. There is a danger in meddling in something that does not pertain to us. This can happen to the best of men. One king that comes to mind is Josiah who meddled into a matter that did not involve him (2 Chron 35:21-22). We must have the ability to discern the mind of the Lord in such matters.
We see the fruits and benefits of a having a dear brother or sister in the Lord as a friend. This is a person who knows you and will stand with you through thick and thin. I have such relationships and they are invaluable. They help to give perspective and they give strength in times of real need. You come to know the value of such friendships when going through a period of adversity. They can do so because they oftentimes have gone through similar situations. Everyone needs to have such a brother or sister in the Lord. There is no room for fair weather friends in the kingdom of God.
The thought of a merry heart is repeated in verse 22. Here it is presented as a medicine to counter the ills that come the way of a believer. The spirit of depression and hopelessness is real and it seems to be gaining in strength as days go by. People seek the help of man by way of psychiatry and medicines to address their problem. This oftentimes results in greater problems seeing that the root issues never get addressed. A merry and joyful heart is a medicine that releases the poison and hidden issues that plague the heart. Man is seeking remedy through entertainment and other means which at best only brings temporary relief. Unless the root is addressed the depression and sense of hopelessness will only increase. Is it any wonder today that suicides are on the rise? A merry heart helps to bring forth the joy of the Lord.
A noble pursuit is to be one who has an excellent spirit (vs 27). This was a characterization that was given to Daniel at a critical period in Babylon’s history (Dan 5:12, 6:3). He had knowledge and understanding of the times and was one who gave answers when others could not. This is why the Proverbs puts such emphasis on growing in these 7 Spirit of God attributes. Wisdom and Knowledge will be the stability of the times (Isa 33:6). God is looking for men and women who are of an excellent spirit in these last days which are before us. Solomon is presenting to us the keys in coming into that level of relationship of God. There needs to be the raising up of Daniel’s for our generation; men and women of an excellent spirit.
There is further instruction again given regarding the words that a man speaks. In verse 4 we see depicted a man of wisdom whose words are like those that come from a deep internal resource of life. The words have such a powerful effect that they continue on and carry forward like water in a brook. The Lord is “wisdom” personified so it’s no wonder that words that are sourced in wisdom can have such an effect. The Lord spoke the worlds into existence by His Words so we can see its power and potential. We must learn to give time for the Lord to speak, especially in critical times of decision so that wisdom prevails. Too often we are hasty in our words whether it is for counselling or speaking into one’s life without giving the chance for wisdom to speak. There is a way that seems right to man but the end can result in death and destruction (Pro 16:25). Let wisdom speak and let wisdom prevail!
In verses 6-8 we see warnings concerning many of the words we speak. We just saw the blessings that come when words come forth from wisdom; here the opposite is seen. The words of the fool can usually be found where there are contentions and strife. Such a person does not realize that they are entrapping their own soul and setting themselves up for judgement. A talebearer does great damage to the person of whom he is speaking of but even more damage to himself. What goes around comes around and we need to be careful in what we say and think about other people.
Another warning concerning slothfulness is given in verse 9. Time is a precious gift and how we spend “time” will one day be accounted for. Moses, as great as he was prayed that the Lord would help him to number his days; that they would be spent in wisdom knowing that time is short. We do not want to be a waster seeing that “time” is running out. How we spend “time” will determine our eternity. This is a sobering thought worthy of being pondered over. We want to make our time on this earth count and we need to be like Moses and like Paul who did all they could to hit the mark and finish their ordained course for life. We need to be honest in and allow for a proper inventory to be made in our lives in this area.
A beautiful verse that has real meaning in recent days is found in verse 16. What is the gifting and calling that God has placed upon your life? He is our creator and it is He who has given us gifting’s and abilities. If we learn to come into that place of discovery, we begin to sense more of His pleasure and direction for our lives. If we faithfully seek after God, we can then come into a position of Rest knowing that God is the one who is able to open doors and bring us into the place where that gift can find its fullest expression. If God is in it He can then prepare and make the way.
It is the enemy who works hard in trying to strip and rob people of their identity in Christ. He does this because he knows the potential of what God can accomplish through His own. The power of an offense is seen in verse 19. This verse indicates that we need to do all we can to avoid being offended as well as being an instrument of offense to others. Sometimes we cannot avoid offending people but we can choose to not let an offense take root. The enemy seizes hard upon opportunities where a potential offense can be exploited. This is a real testing area for a believer. People who are offended often gather around others who have been hurt or offended in some way themselves. They have common ground and they choose to unite on that basis. Let us not underestimate the power of an offense while doing all we can to steer as far away from them as possible.
The power of our words is once again addressed in verse 21. It sounds like a rather strong statement to say that death and life are in the power of the tongue but when played out over time it is true. The tongue is an expression of that which is in the heart. What is the source of the motive of our words, what is truly in our heart? Today’s culture takes special pleasure in “fault finding” and cutting people down with words. The debates that candidates undertake to become elected to office have become spectacles as to who can throw the best dagger, to say the best one-liner that undercuts others while promoting themselves. The enemy has the title of being the “accuser of the brethren” and we are seeing that attribute on full display in these changing times (Rev 12:10). Let us not get caught up in this flowing stream of poison but rather be those who speak words of life that build and edify.
2 Thess 2
Paul is now going to address the matter of the 2nd coming and clarify some of the misconceptions that were troubling the minds of many believers. In verses 1-3 he assures them that the day of Christ is not yet at hand and that there are many things that first need to take place. There needs to be a clear polarization of those who love truth as opposed to those who embrace a lie. In John 8 we come to know Jesus as being the Truth (John 8:32) and Satan as being the father of lies (John 8:44). In the last days we will gravitate to one side or the other. We see how this can be possible by noting the digression in Romans 1. We see the righteousness of God being revealed from faith to faith; there is a choosing required in order to grow more into the likeness of Christ. On the other hand, the wrath of God comes upon those who misrepresent the Truth in the way they live (Rom 1:18). This digression can begin with an attitude of unthankfulness (vs 21). If unchecked this attitude can lead to turning the truth of God into a lie (vs 25). It does not happen immediately but progresses and becomes stronger if it is not dealt with. Paul understands the progression of a hardened and indifferent heart down this dangerous path and he seeks to warn the Thessalonians of its dangers. He makes clear that there needs to be a falling away or a time where there is no moral restraint in order for the man of sin to come into prominence. This is the time when lawlessness will be abounding everywhere. It will be a time when there is a removal of moral absolutes that serves as a benchmark and point of reference.
In reading Paul’s response to the Thessalonians we come to see that its message is really for our day today. With each passing day we see a further stripping away of God’s moral law; the 10 commandments have been rendered irrelevant by man and substituted by his own ways and agendas. Have we not learned from history how these things end up? The way today is being paved for the antichrist. There is a sequence of events that must first play out before this comes to pass. Jesus spoke concerning this in Math 24. He speaks of an event that Daniel the prophet referred to known as the Abomination of Desolation. This event will take place in the midst of the last 7-year period that Daniel refers to as the 70th week (Dan 9:27). It is a time when the antichrist will sit in the temple and offer a sacrifice and present himself as God to the earth (2 Thess 2:4). Now there are certain things that would have already taken place at this time. First, the beast (antichrist) would have already killed the two witnesses as seen in Rev 11:7.
Who are the two witnesses? They are clearly identified as being Moses and Elijah (Rev 11:6, Mal 4:4-6). They will have a ministry of approximately 3 ½ years as seen in Rev.11:3. If they are killed in the midst of the last week (7 years) it means that their ministry would have begun at the beginning of the last week (7 years). There also needs to be a literal temple in Jerusalem that needs to be constructed; this is the temple that the antichrist will use to perform the sacrifice and purport himself as God. The point in all of this is to make clear that many things have to first come to pass before the Lord’s return at the 2nd coming. This is not only instructive to the Thessalonians of Paul’s day but even more so for us seeing that we are entering into this period. The reality of Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians is that it serves a two-fold purpose; it clarifies misconceptions they had at that time while providing vital keys and insights to us today. The stage is being set before us today in line with what Paul is writing to the Thessalonians.
The power of deceit and delusion is gaining traction due to men no longer having a love for Truth (vs 10-11). This is a delusion that does not just apply to the world but actually has stronger implications for the church. The truth of God has been altered and redefined under the auspices of the church. Once a small crack is made in an absolute of God’s moral law it is only a matter of time before the floodgates open. The lawlessness that will take hold in the last days (and has already taken hold) is primarily due to the church making allowance for compromise. There is protection upon a people who seek to live by God’s laws and statutes; it is a promise that God has made with Israel and His people throughout the generations but has it been heeded? The sad reality is that it is the people of God who have allowed Truth to be redefined into a lie. We can once again go back to our Genesis example where this all originated. The Truth of God’s Word as seen declared in Gen 2:16-17 was redefined into something else by Satan as seen in Gen 3:6. What we are seeing expressed in Paul’s 2nd letter to the Thessalonians is the culmination of the fruits and consequences of that event.
Paul closes this 2nd chapter by exhorting the church to stand strong and hold fast to the foundational teachings that they have received. Don’t be shaken by false prophets and reports that seek to trouble and disturb the church. This is good advice for us as well. The difference however is that we are on the threshold of all that Paul is referring to in this chapter. Do we fully appreciate the privilege and responsibility we have in living in these days?