PROVERBS 28:1 – 29:27 and 1 TIMOTHY 3:1–16
In reading verse 1 I am reminded of an account from Pilgrim’s Progress. There were a group of people who were running back from the path due to lions that were standing in the way. They warned Christian (the primary character) to not go further otherwise he would be devoured by these lions. Christian knew he was to continue down that path in spite of the lurking dangers. He remained steadfast as he approached the lions. Upon closer inspection he realized that the lions were chained on each side of the path. All he had to do was to stay on the path and he would be safe. Yes, our adversary is as a roaring lion. We are to be sober and vigilant but we are to be bold and not governed by fear (1 Pet 5:8). The righteous man has a boldness about him that enables him to forge ahead against obstacles for the kingdom’s sake.
Verse 2 gives insight as to how the Lord views the affairs of state. The elected leaders of a country are oftentimes a reflection of what is in the heart of the people. When a people begin to remove God from the daily discourse of life there will be a resulting lawlessness that will take hold (Isa 24:5). If not curtailed or checked it could result in a leader who embodies the heart of the electorate. This then begins the process of that particular nation’s cup of iniquity to rise. This is contrasted with the man who has wisdom and understanding that helps bring stability and blessing to his nation. Daniel was a man who by wisdom, knowledge and understanding brought comfort and stability to the king (Dan 2, 7). His actions also preserved the lives of many others. These are qualities that will need to emerge in the last days.
The consequences of not observing the law are illustrated in verse 4. The wicked and vile person is lifted up and esteemed. This is a particular danger and warning to the church. The laws of God are not to be altered, removed or redefined. Once this takes place a door is opened up to the enemy. The slackening of standards in the church is a real concern today. The cultural pressures of society are taking direct aim at the moral absolutes of God. It is not a sudden radical shift that is of concern but rather the slow chipping away of God’s standards that results in a new kind of theology. It is a theology that brings a clear line of demarcation between the soul and spirit. Those who seek to live by God’s standards end up contending with the lawless. There are further exhortations concerning the law as seen in verses 7 and 9. The ones who seek and keep the laws are likened unto wise sons while those who turn a deaf ear as being those whose prayers are never heard.
One of the primary sins seen at the beginning was man’s attempt to cover and hide his transgression (Gen 3:7-8). It is still the same today. What do we do when confronted with the Truth? The primary tendency in man is to hide, dismiss or place the blame elsewhere. In verse 13 Solomon makes clear that such a man will not prosper in their ways. If we were to acknowledge truth, confess the truth and forsake the old way we become candidates for mercy. This is a place where the Lord desires to bring His people. It is here where a divine exchange can take place. It is here where the truth can be interwoven into a man’s inward parts (Psa 51:6). It is here where the New Covenant can be a reality in the life of a believer (Jer 31:33). This is what it means to have the law of God written and established upon the heart. I realize certain themes such as this one seem redundant and like a broken record but I make no apologies. You find that Moses, David, Solomon and the Lord Himself doing very much the same thing. If we can hear and hearken to these instructions, we will experience good success (Jos 1:8).
The virtues of faithfulness are highlighted in verse 20. This person will come to know an abundance of blessings. It may not be seen at first but over time will be made manifest. When you look at a man’s faithfulness in the small day to day issues of life you will see a pattern develop that will last a lifetime. The virtue of faithfulness should never be minimized. It is a window and gauge as to where a person is at and the potential that he or she can achieve. This is contrasted with a person who is impatient and has to have things now. The haste to be rich indicates a heart that seeks an easier way, a short cut to obtain an objective. This is reflected in many doctrines today that circumvents the message and power of the Cross.
This is one of the primary tactics of the enemy. He takes truth and repackages it into a more palatable form. He even has the ability to understand and know a bit of one’s calling resulting in a presentation of an easier path in getting there. This was his approach when he sought to deflect Jesus off his appointed course to the Cross (Math 4:1-10). The remedy the Lord used to counter his attacks was the Word of God. The same is true for us. If we learn to love and embrace the Truth, it will liberate and set free. This is all predicated on the continuing in his Word (John 8:31-32). A final exhortation that Solomon gives is to have a heart that reaches out to the poor as seen in verse 27. In doing so we shall never lack. If we neglect and turn a blind eye to the poor, we become prey to the curse. In the last days there will be many curses and plagues that will come upon the earth in conjunction with the growth of self-absorbing narcissism. Let us be mindful of the poor and destitute around us knowing that the Lord dwells among them.
God is faithful in bringing rebukes to those who go astray or who are in constant need of correction in their lives. There is a limit and point of no return if there is no willingness to turn from one’s evil ways. This was seen with the children of Israel through the reign of the Judges. Israel would constantly get into trouble only to call upon the Lord for deliverance. God would raise up a Judge on their behalf to bring them a victory only to see Israel return to their old ways. This cycle was eventually broken when God allowed His presence (The Ark) to be brought into the hands of the Philistines (1 Sam 4). Our God is a God of long-suffering however there is a limit to HIs patience. It is vital that we have a heart that allows for both reproof and needed correction.
In today’s world I stand amazed in seeing how a small minority can dictate the policy and culture of a nation. It helps to have an amplified media trumpeting on their behalf but it is astounding how so few can wield great influence and power. There are levers of power that provide them the needed platforms from which they do their work. The majority are silenced primarily due to conformity and a lack of vigilance as to what is happening around them. We get caught up in our own respective worlds while a mobilized minority with clear agendas goes about indoctrinating and inoculating a sleeping society with its poison. The fruits are now on full display for all to see. It is time for the righteous to arise. It is more than just politics, there needs to be a righteous cry in the church, from its priests. The standards of God must be resurrected and lifted high. I am finding that there is a hunger for Truth and the meat of God’s Word more than what is commonly reported. It is heartening to see such a cry in the hearts and minds of young people. There is a weariness with today’s fluff and hype seen in many churches. Let’s not view verse 2 as only pertaining to politics. The politics of a land only serves as a reflection of the heart condition of the church. This verse can and should be applied to the church. Let truth and righteousness arise.
In the past few Proverbs we see the cause of the poor being mentioned. In verse 7 the subject arises again. It is the righteous that has a sensitivity and heart for the needy. The contrasting group is those who turn a deaf ear to their needs; living as if the poor do not even exist. Later, in verse 14 it speaks of a king that faithfully judges the poor. The fruit of such an effort is the establishment of his throne forever. Let us never forget that the Lord can be found amongst this special group of people (Math 25:34-40).
In verse 9 we are instructed to not engage in debates or contentions with the foolish. The intentions may be good but the end result is no rest. There needs to be wisdom in knowing when to engage people with the truth; to have discussions on contrarian views. There is clearly a time when such dialogue is appropriate. There will be those who have no desire to have an open heart to the truth. They only want to debate and contend. You see many such people in media platforms today. They are skilled in stripping away the arguments of those who are advocating the Truth. They specialize in “what if” scenarios or place huge emphasis on emotionally charged issues. Their intent is to undermine those who advocate the truth; they have no open heart to receive the truth. This will only intensify in the last days as the spirit of antichrist becomes stronger in this age of lawlessness.
In verse 16 the rise of the wicked and their related transgressions are depicted. This is what we see happening throughout the world today. Righteous rule is breaking down everywhere with the appearance that evil is winning the day. It can be disheartening and wearying to those who seek to uphold righteous values. The verse concludes that the righteous in the end will prevail. Our role in the midst of such an environment is to be a “priestly” one; to cry out and mourn over the sins of the land and its people. The Bible indicates that such people are marked who undertake this burden. In the last days there is much talk and discussion about the taking the mark of the beast. There is a mark that we should strive for and it is a mark that Ezekiel alludes too:
Eze 9:4 And the LORD said unto him, Go through the midst of the city, through the midst of Jerusalem, and set a mark upon the foreheads of the men that sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst thereof
As mentioned on several other occasions it is the priestly role that needs to emerge and come forth. The increase of wickedness and transgression that is seen today is a call for the priests of God to emerge.
Perhaps the most popular verse in this Proverb is found in verse 18. “Where there is no vision the people perish…” The Word of God helps to give a believer perspective and the ability to see the big picture. It lifts him up above the here and now of every day circumstances. True vision allows a believer to not be solely governed by his soul but by his spirit. Like many other verses in the Word of God this verse has a tendency to be promoted without expression of its full content. The balance of the verse reads “…but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.” It is wonderful to have vision and to see the bigger picture but it means nothing if God’s law is not honoured and kept. In the end this was one of Solomon’s primary downfalls. He did not keep God’s law, the law that he esteemed over and over throughout the Proverbs. Let us never fail to forget the warnings of Moses and the exhortations of both David and Solomon. To rule and reign as a king with the Lord we must be a people who upholds the law of kings (Deu 17:14-20).
1 Tim 3
The first 7 verses are qualifications that are required for bishops. We can apply these qualities to the senior pastors of churches as well. He must be a man who is faithful to one wife. This should be a given but there are many cases of adultery, divorce and remarriage amongst leaders in ministry. The standards for a bishop or senior pastor are very high. Their lives and example set a precedent of behaviour to the church. If these standards are not upheld from the leadership position then how can we address the flock in these matters? The bishop must be vigilant and sober. This is one of the primary qualities we observe in Nehemiah. He had a strong work ethic in conjunction with being alert and on guard against the wiles of the enemy. Bishops are called to be shepherds and it is imperative of them to know the state of their flocks. He must have a generous heart in being able to accommodate guests and members of the church. This means that his schedule may be turned upside down from time to time. A leader does need to set aside time for himself and his family but there also has to be the ability to mobilize himself and others to make strangers and visitors feel at home. A good example is the woman who provided a room for Elisha.
2 Ki 4:10 Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither.
A bishop and or senior pastor must have an ability to teach. This is another element that seems to be missing from many of today’s churches. Programs and events have become the new norm oftentimes at the expense of systematic teaching of God’s Word. Programs and events certainly have their place but they are no substitute to consistent, in depth Bible Teaching. Where are the modern day Bereans?
Paul gives some other qualities that speak to the make-up of bishops in verse 3. They are not to be drinkers of wine nor covetous. They are not to be greedy for money or known for being brawlers. In verse 4 one of the most important qualities is given which speaks as to how he governs and rules in his own home. If a leader’s house is out of order it should be no surprise that there would be areas in the church that would reflect this. It all starts in the home. This is why the enemy works so hard in targeting the home life of a leader. We must pray for people in leadership and for their homes and family. They face pressures and attacks that others cannot fully appreciate.
In verse 6 Paul speaks about the danger of appointing a novice to a leadership role. As leaders we must have the presence of mind to appoint people who have been tested and who are seasoned. We can do great damage to a novice if he is put into a leadership role prematurely. The problem with many novices is not for lack of gifting’s and ability it is more a lack of experience and having been tested. We have seen this take place on many occasions throughout the years. A novice who has been promoted before being tested and qualified for a position can end up being filled with pride. The issue in many such cases is that they have not yet paid a price to properly understand their role and responsibility.
In verses 8-13 the instructions and qualifications are given regarding the office of a deacon. The primary role of a deacon is to look after the internal affairs of the church. They are to help ensure that services run smoothly by administering communion, helping prayer and care teams before and after services along with other church related functions. These other functions could be house blessings, funerals and hospital visits. This ministry is vital to the strength and growth of the church and those who are appointed to this office must be people of proven character. They must have ability to share and minister out of a pure conscience. They must be able to know, uphold and teach the doctrinal positions of the church to the people whom they would be ministering to. A deacon needs to be a person who is above reproach (vs 9-10). The relationship with their spouse and children must be orderly seeing that their lives serve as an example of the church. If there is disharmony and breakdowns in a deacon’s family it would not reflect well upon the church and its testimony of Christ. The deaconship of a church is an honourable one. The makeup and work of the deacon ministry will help determine the success of the church. They are called to serve as a bridge between the people and the leadership of the church.
Paul was not sure if he would be able to come to them but he wanted to get to this letter out so that they would be instructed in how to behave concerning the things of God (vs 15). Paul recognized that it was the church that had the responsibility of being the “pillar” and establishment of truth. If true, it would then take faithful ministers to be the example from which Truth would take root and be discussed. The bishops, senior pastors and deacons have been given a very high trust and responsibility. This is why Paul is going to great lengths to instil within his junior ministers the foundations of true pastoral ministry. The Lord has given the mandate to the church to be the expression of the manifest wisdom of God (Eph 3:10) in conjunction with being the witness of Truth (vs 15-16).