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Gaining Wisdom

ìFor Jehovah giveth wisdom; Out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding: He layeth up

sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to them

that walk in integrity;

.î (Proverbs 2:6, 7; ASV).

INTRODUCTION

Wisdom, Solomon said, has ìbuilded her houseî; she has ìfurnished her table.î She now ìcries aloudî inviting the needy to ìeat and drinkî what she has carefully prepared, to give heed to her ìthoughtsî and ìwords.î These are figurative expressions indicating what scholars and scientists recognizeónamely, that knowl- edge comes through patiently researching the laws of God in nature and holy Scripture. God Himself is a spiritual being. He resides in a different realm. What we know of Him comes to us through various material manifestations.

I. THROUGH NATURE

We can know something of His glory and majesty by observing the beauty and order of nature:

The heavens declare the glory of God: and the firmament showeth his handiwork (Psalms 19:1; KJV).

Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature; namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made (Romans 1:20; RSV).

Seeing Godís deity in nature is not done with the naked eye; it is perceived with the mind, much as we perceive otherwise invisible natural phenomena. For example, the ever present force of gravity is something every school child knows about, but it remained unrecognized until two centuries ago. When the force was finally re- vealed by Newton, the discovery was heralded as a milestone in the history of science. In the same way, the Lordís wisdom is not readily apparent with our eyes, and the Lord has His own lofty reasons why He does not make Him-

self and His wisdom easily known. Solomon mentions one:

It is the glory of God to conceal things, but the glory of kings is to search things out (Proverbs 25:2; KJV).

The Lord has hidden His blueprints in the elements and it is an advantage for rulers to encourage research. Solomon assures us the an- swers to our questions and the solutions to our problems do exist. In fact, as we have seen, they are eagerly waiting for us to discover them. Of course, the process is often slow and laborious, coming only by ìthe sweat of our brow.î Such is the case with mankind collectively, and so it is with each of us individually. Life involves a struggle to know what are the right and good things to do; but in the process, we develop a better appreciation for the magnificent wisdom of God. Philosophers, scholars, and scientists have debated and tested many ways to aid in the search for knowledge and understanding. They have developed many ingenious ways to un- ravel the mysteries of the Lord in the world and to uncover the latent knowledge we need to live and progress. Much has already been uncov- ered. Over the centuries mankind has been accu- mulating a vast reservoir of knowledge which is contained either in records of various kinds or in the minds of knowledgeable people. These sources of wisdom, knowledge, and understand- ing can be found whenever and wherever there are opportunities to learn. Wisdom, Solomon said, can be heard at these places:

. in the streets

in the opening of the gates: in the city (Proverbs

1:20-22; KJV).

in the chief places of concourse,

. in the top of high places, by the way in the

at the gates, at the entry of

the city, at the coming in at the doors (Proverbs 8:2, 3; KJV).

places of the paths

What Solomon means is that knowledge is as freely available to us as is food and drink. It is no less essential for our survival and good health. When we are young, the major source of both our physical and our mental nurturance is our par- ents. Therefore, Solomon repeatedly urged chil- dren to appreciate the value of parental wisdom and take advantage of that excellent resource:

Hear, my son, your fatherís instruction, and reject not your motherís teaching (Proverbs 1:8; RSV).

My son,

commandments with

receive my words, and lay up my

(Proverbs 2:1; ASV).

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart

keep my

(Proverbs 3:1;

KJV).

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my fatherís son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words; keep my commandments, and live (Proverbs 4:1-4; KJV).

Hear, O my son, and receive my (Proverbs 4:10; KJV).

My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart (Proverbs 4:20; KJV).

My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine

ear to my understanding

(Proverbs 5:1; KJV).

My son, keep thy fatherís commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck (Proverbs 6:20, 21; KJV).

My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my

(Proverbs 7:1; KJV).

commandments, and

Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth (Proverbs 7:24; KJV).

Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old (Proverbs 23:22; KJV).

My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways (Proverbs 23:26; KJV).

Of course the Lord is the Father of us all, and He is the ultimate source of all our nurturance.

For the Lord giveth wisdom; out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding (KJV).

He layeth up sound wisdom for the upright; he is

a shield to them that walk in integrity (ASV) (Proverbs 2:6, 7).

The collective reservoir of human knowl- edge is now very large and there is no way for any individual to grasp it all. We must be selec- tive. Perhaps, attempting to understand every- thing is like trying to eat too much; it is un- healthy. Nevertheless, Solomon warned:

do not make yourself overwise; why should you destroy yourself? (Ecclesiastes 7:16; RSV).

The most serious problem, however, is that our library of human knowledge (like the world around us) is a jungle of conflict. Too often truth and error are mixed up as a dark thicket. Virtu- ally every area of human endeavor not only contains knowledge generally recognized (which may or may not be true); but there is also much in dispute. Therefore, attempting to accept hu- man knowledge indiscriminately is naive and childish; it is like one going out and eating what- ever he can put in his mouth. Much of what goes for knowledge is garbage at best and poison at worst. Consequently, we must use prudence and caution, accepting only wise counsel and veri- fied knowledge, seeking to develop correct un- derstanding. Solomon advised to look for authentic truths and sound wisdom. It can be seen wherever you find knowledge of ìexcellent things,î knowl- edge of ìclever inventions,î information about the ìways of righteousnessî and the ìpaths of justice.î (See Proverbs 8.) The Lordís wisdom is about all things noble, constructive, and bene- ficial. It contributes to the uplifting and advance- ment of mankind.

Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things (Proverbs 8:6; KJV).

I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out

knowledge of witty inventions (Proverbs 8:12;

KJV).

Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength (Proverbs 8:14; KJV).

It can be seen, for example, in the knowledge men use to build and manufacture successfully. Notice how they create all the precious goods of human enterprise.

Through wisdom is a house builded; and by understanding it is established; and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches (Proverbs 24:3, 4; KJV).

The Lordís wisdom can also be seen at work in the behavior of successful leaders and au- thorities. Whenever possible, associate with wise men and learn from them. Notice how they at- tend to their affairs and reach their decisions. Solomon said their use of wisdom gives them power to succeed:

By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth (Proverbs 8:15, 16; KJV).

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20; KJV).

No less important is a hatred of evil of all forms. Wickedness is an abomination to the wis- dom of the Lord. Solomon said that you will find nothing proud, arrogant, contrary, or perverse in truth. We can learn a lesson from the body. As our body is attracted to the pleasing odor of good food, so it is repelled by the stench of garbage. Wisdom says:

For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them (Proverbs 8:7, 8; KJV).

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate (Proverbs 8:13; KJV).

Happily, once seen, truth becomes clear, and sometimes even simple.

They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge (Proverbs 8:9; KJV).

As we have seen, because of the problem of false knowledge and erroneous understanding, it is vital that we acquire the ability to discrimi- nate the good from the bad, what is true from what is false, the helpful from the harmful. In- deed, this skill is what Solomon specifically re- quested from the Lord when he first spoke to Himóthe ability to judge rightly. He prayed, saying:

Give thy servant therefore an understanding mind to govern thy people, that I may discern between

good and evil

(1 Kings 3:9; RSV).

There is one other problem with human knowledge that should be recognized: The world is dynamic and ever changing, and our knowl- edge changes with it. Much (perhaps most) of human knowledge is relevant only to a particu- lar place and/or time. One could even say, like the things of nature, it lives for a time and then dies. Some knowledge survives for but a mo- ment (like much of the advice about the stock market); other knowledge may remain true and relevant for years, perhaps even for centuries. Some truths are timeless.

II. THROUGH THE BIBLE

Solomon wrote much more than we have contained in the Bible.

And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and largeness of mind like the sand on the seashore, so that Solomonís wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all people of the east, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Cakol, and Oarda, the sons of Mahol; and his fame was in all the nations round about. He also uttered three thousand proverbs; and his songs were a thousand and five. He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall:

he spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. And men came from all peoples to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34; RSV).

Concerning Solomonís writings, the nine- teenth century Bible scholar Adam Clarke said:

Of the three thousand proverbs which Solomon spoke, we have only those contained in [The Proverbs] and in Ecclesiastes; and of the one thousand and five songs which he made, only the Canticles [Song of Solomon] have been preserved: or, in other words, of all his numerous works in divinity, philosophy, morality, and natural history, only the three above mentioned, bearing his name, have been admitted into the sacred cannon. His natural history of trees and plants, of beasts, fowls, and fishes, (for on all these he wrote), is totally lost. Curiosity, which never says, It is enough, would give up the three we have for those on the animal and vegetable kingdom, which are lost. What God judged of importance to the eternal interests of mankind, is

1

What the Lord chose to preserve from Solomonís writing contains lasting truthóto help every generation be wise.

The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel; to know wisdom and instruction; to perceive the words of understanding; to perceive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion (KJV). The wise man also may hear and increase in learning, and the man of understanding acquire skill to understand a proverb and a figure, the words of the wise and their riddles (RSV) (Proverbs 1:1-6).

Have not I written unto thee excellent things of counsels and knowledge; to make thee know the certainty of the words of truth, that thou mayest carry back words of truth to them that send thee (Proverbs 22:20, 21; KJV).

And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd (Ecclesiastes 12:9-11; KJV).

The Bibleóthe Word of Godóis unexcelled in the quality of its wisdom. Throughout its pages we can find knowledge that is always true and ever relevant. Its wisdom may be applied to every culture in every age. Indeed, both Moses and Jesus said it must be applied:

man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the father (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; RSV).

Within the Bible we find the Lordís stan- dards for us to use in judging right and wrong. It also explains the meaning and purpose of our existence. It contains both direct instructions on how to live and many examples or illustrations of ways of livingóboth good and evilówith their corresponding consequences. It is our great common tutor from our great common Father. It alone contains the key to understand how we should live to prepare for true lifeóeternal life. Paul wrote:

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; RSV).

The author of the Hebrew letter said there is no other source of knowledge about the human mind that penetrates deeper than the Bible:

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Hebrews 4:12; RSV).

The world is constantly generating new ideas and opinions. They come and go, but the Lordís book is always relevant. We should each begin with it and use its high standards to judge the merit of other knowledge. All authentic knowl- edge and sound wisdom ultimately originate with the Lord, the one Shepherd. Use discretion and seek for it:

Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30:5; KJV).

The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings which are given by one Shepherd. My son, beware of anything beyond these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh (Ecclesiastes 12:11, 12; KJV).

CONCLUSION

As the knowledge of the world continues to increase, adding to the collective wisdom of mankind, we are able to tap deeper into the vast cosmic wisdom of the Lord and become increasingly able to share in His infinite cre- ative power. As our individual wisdom grows, we will be able to live more successfully, to achieve more, to advance higher, and to make a greater contribution to the progress of the world.

óWalter Porter

FOOTNOTE 1 Adam Clarke, Introduction to the Proverbs of Solomon, A Commentary and Critical Notes: The Old Testament, vol. 3 (New York: Abingdon Press), p. 699.

ILLUSTRATION

A Good Piece of Advice

A man congratulated his son who had just become a father. He added this piece of advice:

ìTeach her as many of the seven hundred thousand words of the English language as you have time, but be sure she knows that:

the greatest word is God; the longest word is Eternity;

the swiftest word is Time; the nearest word is Now; the worst word is Sin; the deepest word is Soul the meanest word is Hypocrisy.

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Blessings of Wisdom

ìHe that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul:

(Proverbs 19:8; KJV).

.î

INTRODUCTION

The gifts of wisdom cannot be surpassed because it is by the use of wisdom that all good things become possible. Through wisdom comes life and health, happiness, grace and honor, material prosperity, power and strength, confi- dence and security, and, best of all, the Lordís favor. Solomon said:

Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding (KJV): for the gain from it is better than gain from silver, and its profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her (RSV). Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her, and happy is everyone that retaineth her (KJV) (Proverbs 3:13-18).

Who is as the wise? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? The wisdom of man causeth his face to shine, and the hardness of his face is changed (Ecclesiastes 8:1; YLT).

Many times over Solomon listed her benefits, for to love wisdom is to love oneself.

He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul: he that keepeth understanding shall find good (Proverbs 19:8; KJV).

I. WISDOM BRINGS LIFE

Wisdom brings lifeóa long, healthy, happy one.

For length of days, and long life, and peace; shall they add to thee (Proverbs 3:2; KJV).

. it will be healing to your body and nourishment to your bones (Proverbs 3:8; MLB).

Happy is the man that findeth (Proverbs 3:13; KJV).

. happy is everyone that retaineth her (Proverbs 3:18; KJV).

So shall they be life unto the 3:22; KJV).

(Proverbs

Hear, my son, accept what I say, and the years of

your life will be

(Proverbs 4:10; KJV).

For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh (Proverbs 4:22; KJV).

For whoso findeth me findeth 8:35; KJV).

(Proverbs

For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased (Proverbs 9:11; KJV).

The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life, that one may avoid the snares of death (Proverbs 13:14; KJV).

To the wise the way of life goeth upward, that he may depart from Sheol beneath (Proverbs 15:24; ASV).

Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that

hath it

(Proverbs 16:22; KJV).

II. WISDOM BRINGS MATERIAL PROSPERITY

Wisdom, the Grand Lady, brings material prosperity.

I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice; that I may cause those that love me to inherit substance, and that I may fill their treasuries (proverbs 8: 20, 21; ASV).

The crown of the wise is their 14:24; KJV).

(Proverbs

A servant that dealeth wisely shall have rule over

a son that causeth shame, and shall have part in

the inheritance among the brethren (Proverbs 17:2;

ASV).

There is precious treasure and oil in the dwelling

of the

(Proverbs 21:20; ASV).

Indeed, wisdom is better than riches:

Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold. For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be

desired are not to be compared to it (Proverbs 8:10, 11; KJV).

Riches and honor are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver (Proverbs 8: 18, 19; KJV).

To get wisdom is better than gold; to get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver (Proverbs 16:16; RSV).

There is gold, and a multitude of rubies; but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel (Proverbs 20: 15; KJV).

III. WISDOM BRINGS

STRENGTH AND POWER

Wisdom gives strength and power:

By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth (Proverbs 8: 15, 16; KJV).

A wise man scales the city of the mighty and brings

down the stronghold in which they trust (Proverbs

21:22; RSV).

A wise man is mightier than a strong man, and a

man of knowledge than he who has strength; for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counsel for there is victory (Proverbs 24:5, 6: RSV).

Wisdom gives strength to the wise man more than ten rulers that are in a city (Ecclesiastes 7:19; RSV).

Wisdom is better than weapons of (Ecclesiastes 9:18; KJV).

IV. WISDOM BRINGS

FAVOR AND HONOR

Wisdom also brings us favor and honor.

. for they are a fair garland for your head, and pendants for your neck (Proverbs 1:9; RSV).

So shalt thou find favour and good understanding

in the sight of God and man (Proverbs 3:4; KJV).

. in her left hand [are] riches and honour (Proverbs 3:16; KJV).

The wise shall inherit

(Proverbs 3:35; KJV).

She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace:

a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee (Proverbs 4:9; KJV).

Riches and honour are with KJV).

(Proverbs 8:18;

For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord (Proverbs 8:35; KJV).

A man shall be commended according to his (Proverbs 12:8; KJV).

Good understanding giveth 13:15; KJV).

(Proverbs

The wise heart is called a man of (Proverbs 16:21; RSV).

The words of a wise manís mouth win him (Ecclesiastes 10:12; RSV).

Wisdom not only brings good to those who possess her, she also combats evil.

V. WISDOM BRINGS SAFETY

Through her power comes safety.

Wisdom is as good as an inheritance; yea, more

excellent is it for them that see the sun. For wisdom

is a defense, even as money is a defense; but the

excellency of knowledge is that wisdom preserveth the life of him that hath it (Ecclesiastes 7:11, 12; ASV).

VI. WISDOM BRINGS SECURITY

Wisdom insures lasting security.

[you] will dwell secure, and be at ease, without dread of evil (Proverbs 1:33; RSV).

So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy

neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken (Proverbs 3:22-26; KJV).

Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many (KJV). On the way of wisdom I direct you, I lead you on straightforward paths. When you walk your step will not be impeded, and should you run, you will not stumble (NAB) (Proverbs 4:10-12).

When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and when thou wakest,

it shall talk with thee. For the commandment is a

lamp; and the law a light; and the reproofs of instruction are the way of life: to keep thee from

the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of

a strange woman (Proverbs 6:22-24; KJV).

When we face a crisis, Solomon said, the Grand Lady comes to our rescue.

When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee; understanding shall keep thee.

To deliver thee from the way of the evil (Proverbs 2:10-12; KJV).

It will save you from the 2:16; NEB).

(Proverbs

. he who walks in wisdom will be delivered (Proverbs 28:26; RSV).

CONCLUSION

In summary, Solomon said:

. nothing you desire can compare with her (Proverbs 3:15; RSV).

I sit in my office and at the flick of my fingers and the turn of my hand I summon forth the beautiful music of a great orchestra. Indeed, I have my pick of many great orchestras. With other slight movements, I can talk with my par- ents who live one thousand miles away, or per- haps even with my friends, Frans and Gottfried, who live in Europe. I can do all of this without leaving my seat. In the comfort of my living room several years ago, I watched as the first man set foot upon the moon. I heard him as he spoke his first words there. In my home I can experience the sights and sounds of a mountain climbing expedition, watch what happens in- side a living body, or look back in history and see the German army conquer Europe and then suf- fer defeat. I can travel in comfort for hours at a time at twice the speed a horse can run, virtually anywhere in the land. For a modest fee, I can travel to almost anywhere in the world in less than a day or two, in comfort and ease. All these things are common everyday oc- currences in modern times. But what if I could somehow travel back in time to one thousand years ago to tell the people of that age all I could do in my office or in my living room. What if I had told them that millions of people in the world had watched the first man step out onto the surface of the moon. The list of wonders readily available to modern people is so great and so incredible that it is almost certain what would have been the peopleís reaction in this imaginary trip back in timeóI would have been declared mad. Yet, only a lunatic would deny them today. What made all these things possible for us? The

potential for music systems, televisions, auto- mobiles, air and space travel all existed then. The laws of nature have not changed. All this lay latent in the dirt under their feet. All that was needed was the knowledge and the under- standing of how to convert this dirtóthe raw materials of the earthóinto a usable material so as to construct the mechanisms desired. The ìplansî or potential for all these things have existed since the beginning of creation. Waiting patiently for us to put them into reality are the wonders that the Lord has already foreseen in His cosmic designówisdom. And who knows what other wonders await us lying latent in the ground beneath our feet? Nevertheless, remember Solomon said, in spite of its great power, wisdom cannot give complete freedom from sorrow and frustration because this is an imperfect world. Indeed, the wiser we may become, the more we will learn of the evils and sorrows here.

For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18; KJV).

And I saw that wisdom has the advantage over folly as much as light has the advantage over darkness. The wise man has eyes in his head, but the fool walks in darkness. Yet I knew the lot befalls both of them (Ecclesiastes 2:13, 14; NAB).

Moreover, unless it is used with love, wis- dom cannot benefit us. Paul said a man could have all wisdom, and still be nothing:

if I have prophetic powers, and understand all

but have not love,

mysteries and all

I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2; RSV).

óWalter Porter

ILLUSTRATION

The Next Million

J. P. Morgan was once asked the follow- ing question, ìWhen has a man made enough to be happy?î Morgan replied, with a smile, ìWhen he has made the next million.î

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Foundation of Wisdom

ìThe fear of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom; And the knowledge of the Holy One is understand- ingî (Proverbs 9:10; ASV). Becoming wise begins with a type of men- tal set, one consisting of a special emotional- motivational state or approach-avoidance ori- entation of mind. This type of basic mentality serves as the driving force for creating a wise mind. It consists of both a love and a hatred. In simplest terms, it is a love of good and a hatred of evil.

I. THE FOUNDATION OF HATRED

First, consider the hate. As beautiful and necessary as love is, love alone, lamentably, is inadequate in a world containing both good and evil. Evil will overcome good if we do not com- bat it. Therefore, we must also be willing to hate evil and have the courage to oppose it if we are to please the Lord. Speaking of Jesus, the Lord said:

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:9; NIV).

It is not enough, then, only, to love righteous- ness; like Jesus, we must also hate wickedness. God has created us in His image and has given us freedom of will; but, unlike the Lord, we are imperfect creatures and we have the propensity within us to commit evil. According to Solomon, the first step in becoming wise is developing a hatred of the evil that is both within us and around us.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7; KJV).

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding (Proverbs 9:10; KJV).

The fear of the Lord is training for wisdom (Proverbs 15:33; NAB).

Solomonís meaning of ìfear of the Lordî includes ìhatred of evil.î

The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I [wisdom] hate (Proverbs 8:13; KJV).

Several other references to the ìfear of the Lordî illustrate this connotation:

Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7; KJV).

The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death (Proverbs 14:27; KJV).

and by the fear of Jehovah men depart from evil (Proverbs 16:6; KJV).

Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day (Proverbs 23:17; RSV).

Job, quoting the Lord, said:

Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding (Job 28:28; RSV).

II. THE FOUNDATION OF DISCIPLINE

We are all born full of life and energy, but without intelligence. Yet, the infantís mind is not actually empty. Perhaps it is better to call it confused or primitive, like the earth at its begin- ningóchaotic and undeveloped. Infants do not know the difference between what is good and bad; thus they are helpless and dependent. They do not know how to communicate their needs and so they just yell loudly and hope. They cannot coordinate their bodies, so they just wiggle about and make messes. They live unwisely be- cause, as Solomon said:

Folly is bound up in the heart of a (Proverbs 22:15; RSV).

There is a natural joy and pleasure in being aliveódoing things and experiencing things. Be- ing unwise, babies try everything they can, good

and bad; and being full of energy, they possess potential for harm, both to themselves and oth-

ers. Hence, we must impose restrictions upon them. Consider gasoline. It contains energy and is

a valuable commodity providing a major source

of the energy that activates our economy. But raw gasoline is dangerous. Only when it is placed in a strong container and carefully metered out a little at a time can it be used for constructive purposes. So it is with life in the raw, this unchecked pride of life within us. All energy (including the energy of life) must be carefully restrained and channeled constructively a little at a time. There- fore, inhibition and self-control are fundamental qualities of the wise. The well-documented effect of intoxicating

liquors is to both dull the intellect and release the inhibitions. A drunk is a dangerous fool because he possesses the power of an adult with the mind of a child. The alcohol does not generate the dangerous behavior; it simply releases it. Only when a person is sober can recognition and re- morse emerge. The very first step in becoming wise, then, involves the inhibiting power of a special atti- tude. It is a certain emotional orientation or feeling that motivates us to reject whatever pro- duces failure and harm. It is the desire not to erróa hatred of evil. Solomon also revealed how

it is developed:

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him (Proverbs 22:15; RSV).

We learn to hate evil by experiencing the consequences of it. This is the purpose of punish- ment. It creates in us a healthy fear for whatever produces bad consequences. John wrote:

fear has to do with RSV).

(1 John 4:18,

Effective punishment produces discomfort (physical and/or mental). If wrong actions re- sult in discomfort, wrong actions will be feared. For example, knives cut. The careless use of knives cause pain. Therefore, we abhor the care- less use of knives. It is similar with guns or atomic energy. The Lord is the ultimate avenger of all wrong- doing. Fear of the Lord, then, means to abhor

wrongdoing and its consequences. It is devel- oped by recognizing the harm produced. It en- courages internalized controlóself-discipline. This orientation of mind enables wisdom to be- gin. Developing a healthy respect for the conse- quences of doing wrong serves to bottle up and to restrain behavior. It captures and contains the raw energy of a free life. It creates self-control by purifying and cleansing us of our natural wild- ness. It encourages humility, which opens the mind, making it more receptive for education. This purging of impulsiveness is like plow- ing a field to make it suitable for growing good crops. It is like refining ore in a furnace to purify the raw materials so that they can be shaped into useful products. It is like the pain of surgery that cuts out the diseased tissue. Punishment is de- signed to correct; its purpose is to improve and make a person better. To correct someone is an act of kindnessóand an expression of love. The Lordís wisdom includes correcting faults:

Give heed to my reproof; behold, I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you (Proverbs 1:23; RSV).

For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching

a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way

of life

(Proverbs 6:23; RSV).

He who winks at a fault causes trouble, but he who frankly reproves promotes peace (Proverbs 10:10; NAB).

He whose ear heeds wholesome admonition will

abide among the wise

he who heeds admonition

gains understanding (Proverbs 15:31, 32; RSV).

Smite a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence; and reprove one that hath understanding, and he will understand knowledge (Proverbs 19:25; ASV).

Stripes that wound cleanse away evil; and strokes reach the innermost parts (Proverbs 20:30; ASV).

As an earring of gold, and an ornament of fine gold so is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear (Proverbs 25:12; KJV).

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6; RSV).

He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favour than he that flattereth with the tongue (Proverbs 28:23; KJV).

Correction inevitably involves some initial pain or discomfort. Even gentle forms of correc- tion such as criticism or reproof hurt at the time;

but after the necessary improvement occurs, the feeling is made better. If I am going about igno- rantly committing some offense (say, in the way I look), a friend would inform me to help me correct it; then we could all relax and enjoy life more. On the other hand, an enemy (laughing behind my back) would flatter me on my fine appearance. Punishment is designed to correct error, to make right what is wrong. Its goal is healing. It is, in fact, simply a form of communication, a feedback mechanism, a control device to steer the deviating party back on the right path, a message regarding the value of actions to in- form both the offending party as well as all others who can learn by observing. Failure to administer just punishment deprives the indi- vidual of important information. It keeps him blind to the harmful consequences of what he is doing and so both retards maturity in children and interferes with intelligent behavior at any age. The chastenings of punishment are designed to encourage wisdom in us; and the Lord would have us wise. Indeed, nature ìpunishesî us when we transgress: that is, the Lord, through nature, disciplines us.

My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth (Proverbs 3:11, 12; KJV).

Its application is a necessary part of rearing children. Attempting to train a child without the use of any form of correction is like trying to build a house without hammers and saws. It may keep things quiet, but little that is construc- tive is accomplished.

He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him (Proverbs 13:24; RSV).

Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying (Proverbs 19:18; KJV).

Folly is bound up in the heart of a child: but the rod of discipline drives it far from him (Proverbs 22:15; RSV).

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. If you beat him with a rod you will save his life from Sheol (Proverbs 23:13, 14; RSV).

The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left

to himself bringeth his mother to shame (Proverbs

29:15; KJV).

Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul (Proverbs 29:17; KJV).

Punishment or correction takes many forms and its proper use depends upon a variety of circumstances. For example, words alone are ineffective for some:

By mere words a servant is not disciplined, for though he understands, he will not give heed (Proverbs 29:19; RSV).

Physical force is necessary for children, ani- mals, and fools. They need a stronger message.

. a fool [goes] to the correction of the (Proverbs 7:22; KJV).

. a rod is for the back of him that is void of understanding (Proverbs 10:13; KJV).

Condemnation is ready for scoffers, and flogging for the backs of fools (Proverbs 19:29; RSV).

A whip for the horse, a bridle for the ass, and a rod

for the foolís back (Proverbs 26:3; KJV).

Even though the application of strong pain may not penetrate the thick skull of some stub- born individuals, nevertheless, the demonstra- tion can benefit others.

Smite a scoffer, and the simple will learn prudence.

. (Proverbs 19:25; ASV).

When the scoffer is punished, the simple is made (Proverbs 21:11; ASV).

Neither observing nor experiencing the just application of punishment encourages violence. On the contrary, it generates healthy fear and restraint. However, gentle forms are all that are needed for the wise:

A reproof entereth more into a wise man than a

hundred stripes into a fool (Proverbs 17:10; KJV).

. reprove one that hath understanding, and he

will understand knowledge (Proverbs 19:25; KJV).

Indeed, being too forceful can be unjust.

. to flog noble men is wrong (Proverbs 17:26; RSV).

The wise application of punishment is the most powerful techinque available to restrain evil, both within the individual and within a community. Withholding punishment is like permitting the weeds to grow in a garden, or tolerating rust in a machine, or allowing an in- fection to remain in the body. Rightly used, it can be an act of mercy and kindness even to the point of saving lives. Indeed, psychologists have pun- ished infants with electric shock (in some cases less than ten months of age) to cure them of chronic ruminative vomiting (a life-threatening habit) when all other forms of treatment failed. Electric shock ( a source of pain considered to be more ìscientificî) has also been used, paradoxi- cally, to cure self-mutilation in children. Some, for example, would bite their fingers off, pull out their fingernails with their teeth, poke out their eyes, chew off their shoulders down to the bone. Before discovering the effectiveness of punish- ment, these children were kept in full body re- straints, often for years at a timeóa cruel form of prolonged bondage. Solomon recognized the paradox three thou- sand years ago:

Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you beat him with a rod, he will not die. If you beat him with a rod you will save his life from Sheol (Proverbs 23:13, 14; RSV).

It should be noted, however, that certain kinds of self-restraint and discipline involve only a form of pseudo-wisdom. Developing an irra- tional obedience to some legalistic system does not produce the kind of self-control necessary to combat evil. An example, perhaps, is the asceti- cism of some athletic and military training regi- mens. Paul alluded to this when he warned against a legalistic approach to religion:

Why do you submit to regulations, ìDo not handle, Do not taste, Do not touchî (referring to things which all perish as they are used) according to human precepts and doctrines? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting rigor of devotion and self-abasement and severity to the body, but they are of no value in checking the indulgence of the flesh (Colossians 2:20-23; RSV).

III. THE FOUNDATION OF LOVE

Fear of the Lordóhatred of evilóproduces self-restraint and discipline. But this is just the

beginning of wisdom. Plowing a field, refining ore, or removing diseased tissue accomplishes nothing useful unless crops are grown, goods are manufactured, or the wound heals. The next component of that fundamental emotional motivational state of mind necessary

to become wise is love: the energizing power of

a feeling, a certain positive emotional orienta-

tion, an attitude that motivates us to vigorously pursue knowledge and understanding, the de- sire for truth, a love of wisdom. This is what Solomon emphasized most. We have only a little control over the devel- opment of our body. It is primarily genetically determined. Its knowledge is fixed and built-in. But the Lord made our minds relatively free. We are born without knowledge and have great capacity to learn. Being free means that we have an independent will, and what we become in mind depends to a large extent on what we choose to become. If we would be wise, and so capable of productive living, we must set our hearts to get wisdom. Unlike the growth of our arms and legs, teeth and hair, it will not happen automatically. We must orient our will to get knowledge, understanding, wisdom. It is a per- sonal responsibility. No one can make me wise without my cooperation. Indeed, there is a natural disinclination to learn useful knowledge and to develop good understanding because it requires effort and hard work. The casual trivia that we experience and remember in our routine living rarely contrib- utes to the development of wisdom. It would be like junk food, which may be enjoyable but does not provide much nutrition. Paul wrote of cer- tain foolish sinners who were

ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7; KJV).

Therefore, Solomon repeatedly urged the

.î) to

cultivate the desire for knowledge and under-

standing. Fall in love with wisdom because she

is ìthe principle thing,î the means by which the

Lord gives us all things good. The following rather lengthy list of Scriptures from the Prov- erbs illustrates Solomonís major plea: ìSet your heart to get wisdomî:

reader (ìmy son

and ìye

A wise man will hear, and will increase learning;

and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise (Proverbs 1:5; KJV).

Hear, my son, your fatherís instruction, and reject

not your motherís

(Proverbs 1:8; RSV).

Hear, ye children, the instruction of a father, and attend to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, forsake ye not my law. For I was my fatherís son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother. He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding; forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth (Proverbs 4:1-5; KJV).

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all thy getting, get understanding. Exalt her and she shall promote thee; she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her (Proverbs 4:7, 8; KJV).

Hear, O my son, and receive my (Proverbs 4:10; KJV).

Take fast hold of KJV).

(Proverbs 4:13;

My son, attend unto my wisdom, and bow thine ear to my understanding: That thou mayest regard discretion, and that thy lips may keep knowledge (Proverbs 5:1, 2; KJV).

Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the words of my mouth (Proverbs 5:7; KJV).

Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children and attend to the words of my mouth (Proverbs 7:24; KJV).

I [wisdom] love them that love me; and those that

seek me early shall find me (Proverbs 8:17; KJV).

Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door (Proverbs 8:32-34; KJV).

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which

I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding (Proverbs 9:4-6; KJV).

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser; teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Proverbs 9:9; KJV).

The wise in heart will receive (Proverbs 10:8; KJV).

Wise men lay up KJV).

(Proverbs 10:14;

He who heeds instruction is on the path to life (Proverbs 10:17; RSV).

Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge (Proverbs 12:1; KJV).

. a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15; RSV).

A wise son heareth his fatherís

(Proverbs 13:1; KJV).

The mind of him who has understanding seeks (Proverbs 15:14; RSV).

Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22; RSV).

The heart of the prudent getteth knowledge; and the ear of the wise seeketh knowledge (Proverbs 18:15; KJV).

Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom for the future (Proverbs 19:20; RSV).

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge (KJV). For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee. If they be established together upon

(ASV)

thy lips. That thy trust may be in Jehovah (Proverbs 22:17-19).

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears

to the words of knowledge (Proverbs 23:12; KJV).

Hear thou my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way (Proverbs 23:19; KJV).

Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding (Proverbs 23:23; KJV).

My son, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings

of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know

that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be

cut off (Proverbs 24:13, 14; RSV).

As we gain wisdom, we should take great care to preserve it. Against his own advice Solo- mon allowed himself to be led astray in his later years. (See 1 Kings 11.)

My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep

my

(Proverbs 3:1; KJV).

Let not mercy and truth forsake thee; bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart (Proverbs 3:3; KJV).

My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion (Proverbs 3:21; KJV).

. never leave her, and she will guard you, love

her, and she will take care of you (Proverbs 4:6; MOFFATT).

let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life (Proverbs 4:13; KJV).

Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart (Proverbs 4:21; KJV).

Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life (Proverbs 4:23; KJV).

wisdom comes only to those who actively pur- sue her. Thus, the process of becoming wise begins with an orientation of will away from folly and evil toward knowledge and understanding. This mentality is the foundation that supports all the accumulated knowledge and skills a person ac- quires as he develops his intellect. óWalter Porter

My son, keep thy fatherís commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother; bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about thy neck (Proverbs 6:20, 21; KJV).

My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee. Keep my commandments, and live; and my law as the apple of thine eye. Bind them upon thy fingers, write them upon the table of thine heart. Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call

(Proverbs 7:1-

understanding thy kinswoman 4, KJV).

Cease, my son, to hear instruction only to stray from the words of knowledge (Proverbs 19:27; RSV).

Solomon emphasized the necessity of exer- cising our will because becoming wise involves an if-then, cause-and-effect relationship: from voluntary effort to wisdom.

My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding; yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding. He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly. He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep (Proverbs 2:1-11; KJV). (Italics mine.)

I love them that love me; and those that seek me diligently shall find me (Proverbs 8:17; ASV).

PREACHING WITH POEMS

What a Friend

I go to him when Iím feeling blue And lay my secrets bare, And I know that I never need to call twice For he is always there!

He knows the pain of a loved one lost When the hurtís too great to tell, So he comforts me like a father would And I know that all is well.

He loves me even though Iím weak And my lifeís been touched by sin, And heíll forgive me if I ask And lead me home again.

He left his home in heaven high And came to earth to give An example of a perfect life By which all men should live.

Then when we try

For men will always fail, He went to Calvary and died And shed his blood for all.

and still we fail,

If weíll just bathe in that great fount Which down from Calvary flows, His blood will wash away our sins And make us white as snow.

Heís done so much for you and me

CONCLUSION

Solomon most urged the cultivation of an intense love for wisdom (knowledge and under- standing). It should be oneís highest priority, for

6

And will

until the end,

So we must show by how we live

That Jesus is our friend! óMarion E. Lobaugh

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

The Common Qualities Of the Wise

ìFor the Lord giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understandingî (Proverbs 2:6; KJV). Added to the basic orientation are certain other qualities of mind common to all wise men. These qualities, together with the foundation attitude, appear to comprise what psychologists call the general factor of intelligence. Examining all that Solomon said about the wise reveals this general mentality.

I. THE BASIC QUALITIES OF THE WISE

Their hatred of evil makes them cautious.

. the prudent man looketh well to his going (KJV).

A wise man sees evil coming and avoids it

(Proverbs 14:15, 16).

(JB)

A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth (Proverbs 22:3; KJV).

A prudent man seeth the evil, and hideth (Proverbs 27:12; ASV).

The wise know the dangers of even a mo- mentary careless deed or word.

Dead flies make the perfumerís ointment give off an evil odor; so a little folly outweighs wisdom and honor (Ecclesiastes 10:1; RSV).

The desire of the wise not to err contributes to emotional control.

. a man of understanding holdeth his peace (Proverbs 11:12; KJV).

. a prudent man ignores an insult (Proverbs 12:16; MOFFATT).

He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding.

.

(Proverbs 14:29; KJV).

It

is an honor for a man to keep aloof from

. . (Proverbs 20:3; RSV).

. a wise man quietly holds it [anger] back (Proverbs 29:11; RSV).

The wise value knowledge and use it to live successfully.

Every prudent man worketh with (Proverbs 13:16; ASV).

The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his (Proverbs 14:8; KJV).

. a man of understanding maketh straight his going (Proverbs 15:21; ASV).

Without counsel plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22; RSV).

Wisdom is never out of sight of a discerning man

. (Proverbs 17:24; NEB).

Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war (Proverbs 20:18; RSV).

Whoso keepeth the law is a wise 28:7; KJV).

(Proverbs

The wise manís heart leads him (Ecclesiastes 10:2; JB).

As a manís wisdom increases, he becomes even more able to learn, and he increasingly enjoys the process.

. wisdom [is as sport] to a man of understanding (Proverbs 10:23; ASV).

. knowledge is easy for a man of understanding (Proverbs 14:6; RSV).

. the prudent are crowned with knowledge (Proverbs 14:18; KJV).

In the discerning heart, wisdom finds a resting (Proverbs 14:33; KNOX).

Their words reflect their mentalityócon- trolled, knowledgable, and effective.

. he that refraineth his lips is wise (Proverbs 10:19; KJV).

A prudent man concealeth (Proverbs 12:23; KJV).

a wise manís words are his safeguard (Proverbs 14:3; NEB).

The lips of the wise spread (Proverbs 15:7; RSV).

The mind of the wise makes his speech judicious, and adds persuasiveness to his lips (Proverbs 16:23; RSV).

The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools (Ecclesiastes 9:17; RSV).

II. THE GENERAL PICTURE OF THE WISE

The overall pattern looks like this: Wise men hate evil. They have no appreciation for sense- lessness. They look with distaste upon things that are wasteful and destructive. Physicians who work in hospital emergency wards loathe drunken drivers because they con- tinually face the misery it causes. Modern sur- geons seem to be fanatics about cleanliness, refusing even to touch the patient with their bare hands during the operation. Some have even gone so far as to totally enclose each pa- tient in a huge plastic balloon containing puri- fied air. Fanaticism? But, oh, how successful these modern wise men have been. It was not always so. Read the fine book, None of These Diseases, by S. I. McMillen 1 to see how long and how vigorously they resisted the ancient Bible teachings on the importance of cleanliness in dealing with disease. Manufacturers of those expensive earth satellites work with the same ìfanaticismî toward cleanliness. Scientists look with contempt upon careless research because it produces false, misleading information. Me- chanics hate to work on poorly designed, filthy, or abused machinery. Teachers lament when they must face a classroom of wild, rebellious students. A wise man is patient; he controls his emo- tions. If a quarrel erupts nearby, he does not get caught up in it. He quietly ignores an insult. Certainly he will remember and learn from the experience, but he will not be provoked into a meaningless fight, choosing instead to hold back his anger and to use his intellect to seek peace and reconciliation. Notice, for example, how great national lead- ers successfully field the challenges and criti- cisms hurled against them. Wise men neither

cause trouble nor look for it. Indeed, given the opportunity they will go out of their way to avoid it. When they see potential dangers, they prepare ways to avoid or escape from it. Hence, they pay attention to warnings. If instructions specify certain things to avoid, they prudently attend to the advice. If laws impose restrictions, they obey the laws. No matter how lofty their station in life may be, wise men are humble and eager to learn. They accept correction and try to change when proven wrong. Having discov- ered the power and beauty of truth, they listen to good counsel and receive teaching and edu- cation. They are especially careful to respect the advice and recommendations of experts and authorities. Indeed, they seek out many advis- ers and toil in the process of finding informa- tion and knowledge. They invest their time, money, and labor in the quest of learning. They enroll in courses of study and acquire libraries. As they continually accumulate their knowl- edge, they both increase their ability to learn and increase the pleasure they get in acquiring it. Indeed, education and learning become a form of recreation for them. Notice how suc- cessful, progressive nations and private com- panies promote activities to discover wiser ways to improve their efforts. They hire experts and invest in research; and as they make new dis- coveries, they carefully guard their knowledge, knowing that it enables them to survive and compete. The wise understand the true difference be- tween right and wrong, good and evil. They know the real meaning of justice and fair-play. They do not judge by appearances only, but they also see with depth. They have insight and fore- sight, enabling them to perceive both the under- lying dynamics of things while accurately antici- pating results and consequences. Therefore, they show good judgment and make correct deci- sions. Wise men are able to successfully perceive ahead because they have faith in the ultimate value of wisdom, even though for the moment it may seem to be ineffective or, perhaps, may even appear to be an obstacle; nevertheless, the wise know that in the end, the Lordís truth (whether in nature or Scripture) is always victorious. And so the wise are law-abiding, heedful of both natural law and social law. They can see far enough ahead to know the benefits of right liv-

ing. The penalties for violations are too costly, and penalties are inevitable, because Solomon said:

If the most righteous in the land are punished, how much more the wicked and the sinner (Proverbs 11:31; AAT).

Someone (a scientist, sportsman, business- man) may be tempted to cheat to gain fame and/ or fortune; but a wise man recognizes that time catches up with the guilty, and the humiliation and loss of credibility far outweigh the brief benefits. The wise are especially noted by their skill with words. First, they show self-control and restraint in their use of language. Realizing the power of words, they speak with great caution. When they do speak, what they say is true and relevant. Moreover, their words are both digni- fied and astute. What they say is uplifting and ennobling, bringing aid and comfort to others. Their wisdom and skill with words brings them security, honor, prosperity, and power.

ILLUSTRATIONS

What Is Wealth?

A man had just left a friendís house in his

Cadillac. The host watched enviously as he de- parted. ìSome day, honey, weíll be rich too,î he said to his wife. She reached out, took her husbandís hand, and replied: ìDarling, we are rich now. Someday weíll have money.î

A Strong Will

H. E. Luccock describes the importance of will power as follows: ìBehind an efficient body there must be a strong will. Behind a chisel you need a mallet to give it force and direction. A chisel without another tool to drive it is useless. The body is a chisel that needs a strong will to direct it. The man who can restrain his appetite and push on through discouragements and fail- ures is a good craftsman.î

CONCLUSION

Physical strength is no match for a well- developed mind. Men have long mastered the most powerful beasts. Countries that develop the national intellect have long towered over those that promote only physical prowess. There is no strength like wisdom and there are no great men like the wise.

óWalter Porter

FOOTNOTE 1 S. I. McMillen, None of These Diseases (New York:

Pyramid Books), 1967.

The Value of Wealth

A pious man was once asked whether wis-

dom was more important than wealth. He re- plied, ìCertainly.î Whereupon he was asked, ìWhy then do the wise wait on the rich, and not the rich on the wise?î He answered, ìBecause the wise, being wise, understand the value of wealth, whereas the rich, being merely rich, are ignorant of the value of wisdom.î

©Copyright, 1983, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

Growing in Wisdom

ìThe glory of young men is their strength, but the beauty of old men is their grey hairî (Proverbs 20:29; RSV).

INTRODUCTION

Growing in wisdom is a lifetime process. It is our duty to continue increasing our motiva- tion for truth, while developing our self-control and adding to our knowledge and understand- ing. Several times in the Bible a manís life (which, Jesus said, does not consist in the abundance of his possessions) and his mind are compared to the growth of a tree or the construction of a house. In these we can see the fundamental process involved in godly mental development. For example, in the first Psalm we find these words:

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (Psalms 1:1-3; RSV).

Solomon referred to the process of building a house, saying:

Through wisdom a house is builded; and by understanding it is established: and by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant riches (Proverbs 24:3, 4; KJV).

Perhaps these words also contain a meta- phorical meaning. In that case knowledge may refer to the elements of intellect: the facts and pieces of information that compose itóthe bricks, boards, and furniture of the building. Under- standing could refer to the relationships that hold the elements together. It gives meaning and comprehension to informationóthe mor- tar and nails of the building. Wisdom, perhaps, is the integration. That Grand Lady, Wisdom, said:

Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? (Proverbs 8:1; KJV).

I am

(Proverbs 8:14; KJV).

Our wisdom, then, would be the highest form of our understanding, that which provides the overall organization and integration to our various lower levels of knowledge and under- standingóour wisdom is the gestalt of our intel- lect.

I. GROWTH INVOLVES PERCEPTION

Growing in wisdom is a process involving a continuous interaction of the intellect with perception. Intellect comes from seeing, and seeing comes from intellect: the two work to- gether. The sense organs of the body are chan- nels through which information is sent for the mind to build our cognitive structure. Through use of the eyes and the ears (primarily) we have access to knowledge. But eyes and ears only transmit the elements of information. Understanding and wisdom are created in the mind. Helen Keller had neither working eyes nor ears, yet she acquired a college degree and be- came an accomplished speaker. Two people can view the same thing but may ìseeî something entirely different. Perceiving involves under- standing, and this is done in the mind from the information provided by the eyes. We use our eyes and ears together with the knowledge and understanding within our hearts to perceive the world around us. Far more important than healthy eyes and ears in determining what we see and hear is the nature of our minds. The author of the letter to the Hebrews spoke of the necessity of training our senses by comparing knowledge with food:

But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14; KJV).

II. GROWTH INVOLVES SOUNDNESS

Prejudiced minds or hardened hearts can make perception impossible. When the Lord began to give up on his people, ancient Israel, he told the prophet Isaiah:

Go, and say to this people: ìHear and hear, but do not understand; see and see, but do not perceive.î Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed (Isaiah 6:9, 10; RSV).

When the Bible mentions the eye, it often refers to the eye of the mindóthat part of the heart that enables us to understand. Jesus said:

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is sound, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is not sound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! (Matthew 6:22, 23; RSV).

We cannot perceive correctly if we do not have correct knowledge and sound understand- ing; nor can we obtain knowledge and under- standing if we do not perceive correctly. The information of the senses interacts with both the information and the attitude of the mind to give us the power to perceive and understand. This is one of the reasons why the ignorant learn so slowly and the educated learn so quickly. Per- haps these words of Jesus apply:

For to him who has will more be given; and from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away (Mark 4:25; RSV).

Solomon said that the wise manís eyes are in his head; but the fool and the wicked both walk in darkness. If the eye of the mind is sound, we understand correctly. If it is not sound, we either misperceive or misunderstand the information we receive by the senses. This is why Paul could say:

But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesusí sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:3-6; KJV).

Moreover, Solomon said:

An high look, and a proud heart, even the lamp of the wicked is sin (Proverbs 21:4; RV).

The lamp of the wicked is a proud heart misinforming them about their rightful place in the world, perverting their perception of right and wrong, leading them into rebellion against authority and causing them to commit selfish cruelty against others. Notice how Solomon uses the word eye:

There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes! and their eyelids are lifted up. There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men (Proverbs 30:13, 14; KJV).

The eye that mocketh at his father, and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it (Proverbs 30:17; KJV).

There is another way the eye of the mind can be pervertedóthrough a kind of lust. Perhaps the eye is to the heart as the mouth is to the stomach. As the mouth is never satisfied, the eye too is never full.

Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20; KJV).

All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it:

the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing (Ecclesiastes 1:8; KJV).

Like the mouth, the eye is a source of plea- sure.

The light of the eyes rejoiceth the neither (Proverbs 15:30; KJV).

eye,

Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is

for the eyes to behold the KJV).

(Ecclesiastes 11:7;

Moreover, like the mouth, it can become greedy to indulge in excess. The lust of the eye appears to fuel greed for possessions.

Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats: for as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee (Proverbs 23:6, 7; KJV).

He that hath an evil eye hasteth after (Proverbs 28:22; ASV).

Solomon said that having excess riches only serves to indulge the eye:

When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is thee to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? (Ecclesiastes 5:11; KJV).

Pride and greed both corrupt the eyes and ears of the mind making them blind and deaf to the needs of others.

The soul of the wicked desires evil; his neighbor finds no mercy in his eyes (Proverbs 21:10; RSV).

If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the helpless, he will cry for help himself and not be heard (Proverbs 21:13; NEB).

He whose eye is generous will be blessed, for he gives food to the poor (Proverbs 22:9; MLB).

He that giveth unto the poor shaIl not lack: but he that hideth his eyes shaIl have many a curse (Proverbs 28:27; KJV).

The Lord has given us our senses to use as tools to acquire knowledge so that we can live righteously, and Solomon encouraged us to use them well:

Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7; KJV).

Let your eyes look right in front, and your eyelids be directed straight ahead of you (Proverbs 4:25; AAT).

The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the Lord made even both of them (Proverbs 20:12; KJV).

The poor and the oppressor have a common bond:

the Lord gives light to the eyes of both (Proverbs 29:13; NAB).

CONCLUSION

Receptiveness to knowledge helps enlighten the eyes of the heart, thereby enabling it to grow in wisdom, which, in turn, increases its power to perceive. Paul wrote the Christians at Ephesus, saying:

For this reason because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope

to which he has called

RSV).

(Ephesians 1:15-18;

Our physical growth ends after fifteen or twenty years; our physical strength grows for twenty or thirty years and then declines; intel- lectual growth can continue almost to the end. The elderly may lose their youthful vigor and strength, but they make up for the loss in the quality of their wisdom (which is symbolized by grey hair).

A hoary head is a crown of glory; it is gained in a

righteous life (Proverbs 16:31; RSV).

The glory of young men is their strength, but the beauty of old men is their grey hair (Proverbs 20:29; RSV).

Nevertheless, no matter how much wisdom and/or strength we may acquire, the Lord, through Jeremiah the prophet, said that our true glory is understanding and knowing Him:

Thus says the Lord: ìLet not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness

in the earth; for in these things I delight, says the

Lordî (Jeremiah 9:23, 24; RSV).

Knowing the Lord is our glory because, Sol- omon said, the knowledge and strength of this world is vain:

And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:17, 18; KJV).

óWalter Porter

ILLUSTRATION

The Three Wishes

A poor woodsman was granted three wishes by a fairy. Dazed by this gift, the man rushed home. When he arrived, he found that his wife had not yet finished preparing supper and so he said, without thinking, ìI wish I had a piece of

pudding before me.î Immediately, a bowl of pudding appeared on the table and the man explained the matter of the three wishes to his puzzled wife. His wife, furious at his folly in wasting a wish declared, ìYou are so foolish, I

wish the pudding would stick to your nose,î and up it flew to the poor manís nose. He tried to pull it off, but to no avail. They had no alternative but to use the final wish to have the pudding re- moved.

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

What Righteousness Includes

ìBetter is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.î (Proverbs 16:8; KJV).

INTRODUCTION

How does one go about becoming a righ- teous person? Does righteousness include other traits or is it a narrow concept? Solomon indicates that righteousness is sim- ply right living; he said it involves a broad ap- proach to life which includes various qualities of character.

I. WISDOM

Righteousness depends partly upon wisdom. We cannot live and act right if we do not know what is right. Just as a tornado passing through a lumberyard cannot build a house, so ignorance cannot create good. Neither random action nor impulsive living produce constructive human enterprise. Therefore, the righteous seek to learn, and the Lord adequately supplies them.

For the Lord gives wisdom; from his mouth come

knowledge and understanding; he stores up sound

wisdom for the

(Proverbs 2:6, 7; RSV).

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (Proverbs 9:9; KJV).

For God giveth to a man that is good in his sight

wisdom, and knowledge, and 2:26; KJV).

(Ecclesiastes

II. LOVE

Solomon emphasized that the very purpose of educating our minds is to enable us to live fruitful lives. It equips us to continue the cre- ation processóto produce good as the Lord does. But being righteous involves more than becom- ing wise. Wisdom is necessary but not sufficient for righteousness. There is another vital ele- ment. We must turn to Paul to learn more about it:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging

cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if

I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have

not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and

if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love,

I gain nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3; RSV).

We may have supreme skill with words; we may have all wisdom and all faith; and we may even make the ultimate sacrifice of giving up everything, including our lives. Yet, what does all this accomplish? All of these qualities are highly desirable if they lead to some good result, but in themselves they produce nothing. More- over, God has the power to create a machine (containing neither life nor love) capable of mag- nificent speech, knowledge, faithful obedience, and total self-sacrifice. Yet it would be only a machine deserving no special reward. Paul con- tinued, saying:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7; NIV).

That critical element required to make wis- dom (or words or faith or self-sacrifice) worth something is love. Love in a primitive form is simply an attraction or desire for something. Love in its most exalted form seeks harmony, unity, and constructive peaceóagape love. This kind of love is the force that works with wisdom to generate good. Notice how similar in basic nature it is to Wisdom, the Grand Lady that Solomon described: It contains no evil. It is not jealous, boastful, arrogant, rude, selfish, irri- table, or resentful. Neither does it rejoice in wrong. On the contrary, it rejoices in right. Love seeks to promote only goodness and righteous- ness. It is patient and kind. It always protects, trusts, hopes, perseveres. It is that quality of mind that permits wisdom to be fulfilled. John told how great it is when he said:

God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him (1 John 4:16; RSV).

III. TRUST

Having the highest form of loveóagape loveó means to abide in God. Therefore, Solomon ad- vised trust in the Lord:

Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones. Honour the Lord with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine increase: so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine (Proverbs 3:5-10; KJV).

The way of the Lord is strength to the upright (Proverbs 10:29: KJV).

He who walketh in his uprightness feareth the (Proverbs 14:2; KJV).

Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established (Proverbs 16:3; KJV).

He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good:

and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he (Proverbs 16:20; KJV).

The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10; KJV).

Agur agreed, saying:

[God] is a shield unto them that put their trust in him (Proverbs 30:5; KJV).

As individuals we are small and insignifi- cant in this vast and complicated universe. Our insight and our foresight are exceedingly lim- ited. Of necessity we must rely a great deal upon our trust in the reliability of other people and the things in our world. One benefit of knowledge is that it can increase our confidence in the Lord and His ways. We can increasingly recognize that His ways are the ways of victory because His wisdom enables us to ultimately succeed in our struggles.

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee: they shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee (Proverbs 22:17-19; KJV).

IV. CONFIDENCE

With this kind of trust, the righteous have confidence.

The fear of the Lord gives life: and he who has it will have need of nothing, no evil will come his way (Proverbs 19:23; BAS).

. the righteous are bold as a lion (Proverbs 28:1; KJV).

. he that putteth his trust in the Lord shall be made fat (Proverbs 28:25; KJV).

. he who trusts in the Lord is safe (Proverbs 29:25; RSV).

And the Lord has confidence in the righ- teous. Referring to Him, Solomon said:

. the upright are in his confidence (Proverbs 3:32; RSV).

. such as are upright in their way are his delight (Proverbs 11:20; KJV).

. the prayer of the upright is his delight (Proverbs 15:8; KJV).

. he loveth him that followeth after righteousness (Proverbs 15:9; KJV).

. he heareth the prayer of the righteous (Proverbs 15:29; KJV).

To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to Jehovah than sacrifice (Proverbs 21:3; ASV).

With that mutual trust the Lord permits us to enjoy increasingly greater freedom to unleash our creative potential. But being irresponsible limits our freedom. As we do not allow young children or drunks to drive automobiles, neither will the Lord free us beyond our level of matu- rity. As we mature in righteousness, we gain freedom. Jesus said:

If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free (John 8:31; RSV).

Paul wrote:

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1; RSV).

You, my friends, were called to be free men; only do not turn your freedom into license for your lower nature, but be servants to one another in love. For the whole law can be summed up in a single

commandment: ìLove your neighbor as yourself.î But if you go on fighting one another, tooth and nail, all you can expect is mutual destruction (Galatians 5:13-15; NEB).

V. GOODNESS

The righteous are the Lordís obedient chil- dren in the world. We love Him as the good Father He is and seek to imitate all the noble virtues of life personified by His Son Jesus: love, mercy, kindness, generosity, patience, humility, obedience, unselfishness, self-control, indus- triousness, etc. These are the qualities that build up and promote joy and peace. The righteous seek good in their thoughts.

The desire of the righteous is only (Proverbs 11:23; KJV).

He who eagerly seeks what is good finds much (Proverbs 11:27; NEB).

The thoughts of the righteous are (Proverbs 12:5; KJV).

The mind of the righteous ponders before (Proverbs 15:28; MLB).

. as for the upright, he gives thought to his way (Proverbs 21:29; BAS).

They use their speech to promote good.

The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of (Proverbs 10:11; RSV).

The tongue of the just is as choice (Proverbs 10:20; KJV).

The lips of the righteous feed 10:21; KJV).

(Proverbs

The lips of the righteous know what is (Proverbs 10:32; KJV).

. the speech of the upright saves them (Proverbs 12:6; NAB).

. the words of the pure are pleasant words (Proverbs 15:26; KJV).

Indeed they use all their efforts to promote what is right and good. They plan good works themselves and support the good works of others.

The labour of the righteous tendeth to (Proverbs 10:16; KJV).

The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that is wise winneth souls (Proverbs 11:30; KJV).

A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast (Proverbs 12:10; KJV).

. the root of the righteous yieldeth fruit (Proverbs 12:12; KJV).

The righteous is a guide to his (Proverbs 12:26; ASV).

. the conduct of the pure is right (Proverbs 21:8; RSV).

When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous (Proverbs 21:15; RSV).

When the righteous triumph, there is great glory

. (Proverbs 28:12; ASV).

When the righteous are in authority the people (Proverbs 29:2; KJV).

The just man has a care for the rights of the poor

. (Proverbs 29:7; NAB).

the upright plan how to protect him [the blameless man] (Proverbs 29:10; MOFFATT).

Like the Lord our eternal Father, the righ- teous hate evil and oppose it.

Arighteous man hates RSV).

(Proverbs 13:5;

The highway of the upright is to depart from (Proverbs 16:17; KJV).

. he that keepeth his soul shall be far from them

[the perverse] (Proverbs 22:5; ASV).

. those who convict the evildoer will fare well,

and on them will come the blessing of prosperity (Proverbs 24:25; NAB).

. such as keep the law contend with them [the wicked] (Proverbs 28:4; KJV).

An unjust man is an abomination to the (Proverbs 29:27; RSV).

CONCLUSION

In short, the righteous have a strong affection for the Lord and His noble ways, and so use both their minds and their bodies to carry out the Lordís plans to promote all the ways of godliness and oppose all the ways of ungodliness. óWalter Porter

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

The Rewards of Righteousness

ìHe that followeth after righteousness and mercy findeth life, righteousness and honor (Proverbs 21:21; KJV).

INTRODUCTION

Does righteousness pay? Are there benefits to right living? Solomon speaks of the intrinsic value of righteousness numerous times.

I. RIGHTEOUSNESS PROMOTES LIFE

He said righteousness promotes a long life of growth and progress, whose work continues to bear fruit even after death:

For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it (Proverbs 2:21; KJV).

. the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,

which shines brighter and brighter until full day (Proverbs 4:18; RSV).

The memory of the righteousness continues a (Proverbs 10:7; MLB).

. the righteous is established for ever (Proverbs 10:25; RSV).

Surely righteousness brings MLB).

(Proverbs 11:19;

. the house of the righteous shall stand (Proverbs 12:7; KJV).

Life is in the way of the righteous, a pathway where there is no death (Proverbs 12:28; MLB).

A righteous man that walketh in his integrity, blessed are his children after him (Proverbs 20:7; ASV).

He that pursueth righteousness and

lovingkindness shall find RHM).

(Proverbs 21:21;

II. RIGHTEOUSNESS PROMOTES JOY

A righteous life is a joyful life.

The hope of the righteous shall be (Proverbs 10:28; KJV).

The light of the righteous 13:9; KJV).

(Proverbs

Right living, he said, produces good things to enjoy.

. he [the Lord] blesseth the habitation of the just (Proverbs 3:33; KJV).

Blessings are upon the head of the 10:6; KJV).

(Proverbs

The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it (Proverbs 10:22; KJV).

. the desire of the righteous shall be granted (Proverbs 10:24; KJV).

. to him that soweth righteousness shall be a sure reward (Proverbs 11:18; KJV).

The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his (Proverbs 13:25; KJV).

. the dwelling of the upright shall prosper (Proverbs 14:11; ABPS).

In the house of the righteous is much (Proverbs 15:6; KJV).

. the blameless will have a goodly inheritance (Proverbs 28:10; RSV).

Blessed is the man who fears the Lord (Proverbs 28:14: RSV).

III. RIGHTEOUSNESS PROMOTES HONOR

Righteousness gives strength and favor.

The way of the Lord is strength to the (Proverbs 10:29; KJV).

A good man obtaineth favour of the (Proverbs 12:2; KJV).

He that pursueth righteousness and

lovingkindness shall find 21:21; RHM).

honour (Proverbs

IV. RIGHTEOUSNESS PROMOTES SECURITY

Godly living promotes peace and safety.

Whoso walketh uprightly, walketh (Proverbs 10:9; SPRL).

the seed of the righteous shall be delivered (Proverbs 11:21; KJV).

.

The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way (Proverbs 11:5; RSV).

When a manís ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him (Proverbs 16:7; KJV).

. he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul (Proverbs 16:17; KJV).

He that keepeth the commandment keepeth his (Proverbs 19:16; ASV).

Through righteousness comes lasting secu- rity.

The Lord does not let the righteous go (Proverbs 10:3; RSV).

The righteous shall never be 10:30; KJV).

(Proverbs

. the root of the righteous shall not be moved (Proverbs 12:3; KJV).

No ill befalls the RSV).

(Proverbs 12:21;

Righteousness rescues one from crisis.

. righteousness delivereth from death (Proverbs 10:2; KJV).

The righteous is delivered out of (Proverbs 11:8; KJV).

. the just shall come out of trouble (Proverbs 12:13; KJV).

In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge (Proverbs 14:26; KJV).

The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe (Proverbs 18:10; KJV).

Whoso walketh uprightly shall be (Proverbs 28:18; KJV).

CONCLUSION

Since the universal plans of the Lord include all the consequences of right living, therefore, the laws of nature insure blessings for righteous- ness. Indeed, the very actions of the godly ini- tiate a natural sequence of events designed by the Lord to return to them the good they per- formóa rebound effect intended to reward their efforts.

The integrity of the upright guides (Proverbs 11:3; RSV).

The merciful man doeth good to his own (Proverbs 11:17; KJV).

Righteousness guards him whose way is (Proverbs 13:6; RSV).

. the good man gets satisfaction from his [ways] (Proverbs 14:14; MLB).

. mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good (Proverbs 14:22; KJV).

. the righteous finds refuge through his integrity (Proverbs 14:32; RSV).

He that pursueth righteousness and lovingkindness shall (Proverbs 21:21; RHM).

All of these benefitsólong life, prosperity, good reputation, security, and healthóare natu- ral consequences of right living. The righteous are the industrious, good citizens of the world. They earn their wages; they deserve the respect of their friends and neighbors; they enjoy the protection of the law; they maintain both their environment and their own bodiesóall because of their manner of living. Moreover, they leave the world a better place. Nevertheless, Solomon said that even righ- teousness will not keep us from sorrow and pain. This is a world permeated with evil, and it is the Lordís will that we patiently endure.

Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all (Psalms 34:19; RSV).

For a righteous man falls seven times, and rises again; but the wicked are overthrown by calamity (Proverbs 24:16; RSV).

Moreover, the worldís injustice tends to de- feat the Lordís intention that righteousness be properly rewarded. Too often the Lord gives but the wicked take away. Solomon said, for ex- ample, that many righteous people are kept poor because of oppression.

The fallow ground of the poor yields much food, but it is swept away through injustice (Proverbs 13:23; RSV).

And our righteousness may even cost us our lives here on earth.

All things have I seen in the days of my vanity:

there is a just man that perisheth in his (Ecclesiastes 7:15; KJV).

Death was, in fact the fate of Jesus and His

apostles. But the Lord has a better life prepared for all the godly, no matter what happens here under the sun.

óWalter Porter

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

Who Is a Fool?

ìFolly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom:

but a man of understanding walketh uprightlyî (Prov- erbs 15:21; KJV). The introductory portion of The Proverbs (the first 9 chapters) is almost entirely a plea to get wisdom and to shun folly. Wisdom is per- sonified in the form of a lovely woman, the Grand Lady longing to supply our legitimate needs. In the last portion of the introduction (chapter 9) two pleas are heard. First, Wisdomís plea is this:

Wisdom has built her house, she has set up her seven pillars. She has slaughtered her beasts, she has mixed her wine, she has also set her table. She has sent out her maids to call from the highest places in the town, ìWhoever is simple, let him turn in here!î To him who is without sense she says, ìCome, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed. Leave simpleness, and live, and walk in the way of insight.î (Proverbs 9:1-6; RSV).

Then, another plea is heard, a similar plea by another kind of woman:

A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing (KJV). She sits at the door of her house, on a seat by the city highways, calling to those who pass by, who are keeping straight on their ways (AAT). Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell (KJV) (Proverbs 9:13-18).

Folly is behavior in violation of the Lordís divine plans, and it, too, is personified in the form of a woman; but this one is a seductive temptress offering immediate pleasure for sin to those ignorant of its deadly penalties. One of wisdomís benefits is that she will protect from this wicked woman whom I call ìdame Folly.î

You will be saved from the loose woman, from the adventuress with her smooth words, who forsakes the companion of her youth and forgets the covenant of her God; for her house sinks down to death, and her paths to the shades; none who go to

her come back nor do they regain the paths of life (Proverbs 2:16-19; RSV).

In other places in the Bible, sin in general is characterized as adultery against the Lord. For example, the prophet Isaiah rebuked the people of Jerusalem, saying:

How is the faithful city become an harlot! It was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: everyone loveth gifts [bribes], and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them (Isaiah 1:21-23; KJV).

And Jeremiah spoke these words:

The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah:

ìHave you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the harlot? And I thought, ëAfter she has done all this she will return to meí; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the harlot. Because harlotry was so light to her, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but in pretense, says the Lord.î (Jeremiah 3:6-10; RSV).

Ezekiel gave a more lengthy example. (See Ezekiel 23.) John, in his great vision told of,

Babylon the great, mother of harlots and of earthís abominations (Revelation 17:5; RSV).

Only the Lord is all-wise. Everyone is igno- rant of many things! Frequently, we do not know what to do: The wise man looks for someone who does have knowledge, and he learns from him. If this is not possible, and he is forced to act, the wise man will rely upon all he does know to suggest a solution; then he respondsóslowly and with caution. We may fail because of un-

avoidable ignorance or misinformation and suf- fer because of it, but there is no condemnation in not having knowledge. Jesus once told some Pharisees:

If you were blind, you would have no

(John 9:41; RSV).

And Paul wrote:

I formerly blasphemed and persecuted and

insulted Him [Jesus]; but I received mercy because

I had acted ignorantly in 1:13; RSV).

(1 Timothy

I. FOLLY DEFINED

The word fool, in its broadest sense, refers to those who think or act without knowledge and understanding. Such behavior may be limited to

a particular circumstance. For example, it is re- corded that Jesus called some of his beloved disciples ìfoolsî when they could not believe that He had risen from the dead. Jesus admon- ished them, saying:

O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the

prophets have spoken! (Luke 24:25; KJV).

On other occasions He referred to people as fools when they did not think right. For example, Matthew recorded an occasion when He sternly chastised the scribes and Pharisees, saying:

Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ìIf anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.î You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ìIf anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing; but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.î You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? (Matthew 23:16-19; RSV).

Everyone is a fool in the sense that everyone

is a sinneróno one is perfect. Whenever one acts

unthinkingly, he deserves that title. Neverthe- less, not everyone is a chronic fool any more than everyone is a chronic sinner. Chronic fools are those who willingly and persistently reject and forsake the Lordís wisdom. It can occur in child- hood or in adult life. Chronic fools deserve con- demnation. They have willfully refused to ac- cept the gifts of the Grand Lady of God and have, instead, chosen to consort with dame Folly. But

Jesus also warned against uttering that accusa- tion rashly against a brother. He said:

But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, ìYou fool!î shall be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:22; RSV).

II. FOLLY SYMBOLIZED

One-fourth of the introduction to Proverbs consists of a warning against adultery; not sim- ply the sex-act, but the whole process of folly and evil. The cost of ignoring wisdom is not merely the loss of her benefits. There are severe penal- ties: distress and panic, fear and anguish, pov- erty and disgrace, calamity, destruction, even death. Their cries for mercy will be ignored in the same way they ignored the cries of wisdom.

Wisdom cries aloud in the street; in the markets she raises her voice; on the top of the walls she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:

ìHow long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof; behold, I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, and you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacence of fools destroys them; but he who listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of evil.î (Proverbs 1:20-32; RSV).

. shame shall be the promotion of fools (Proverbs 3:35; KJV).

But he that sinneth against me [wisdom] wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death (Proverbs 8:36; KJV).

. a prating fool shall fall (Proverbs 10:8; KJV).

. fools die for want of wisdom (Proverbs 10:21; KJV).

. the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart (Proverbs 11:29; KJV).

. he that hateth reproof is brutish (Proverbs 12:1; KJV).

Whoso despiseth the word shall be (Proverbs 13:13; KJV).

Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores (Proverbs 13:18; RSV).

. the correction of fools is their folly (Proverbs 16:22; ASV).

Also, that the soul be without knowledge, it is not (Proverbs 19:2; KJV).

It is not fitting for a fool to live in (Proverbs 19:10; RSV).

. he that is careless in his ways shall die (Proverbs 19:16; ASV).

Cease, my son, to hear instruction only to stray from the words of knowledge (Proverbs 19:27; RSV).

The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall rest in the assembly of the dead (Proverbs 21:16; ASV).

He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination (Proverbs 28:9; KJV).

III. FOLLY CLASSIFIED

Fools are those who have both the potential and the opportunity to learn, but either refuse to learn, to begin with, or, after having once learned, abandon wisdom and return back into folly. These I call developmental and regressive fools, respectively. Regressive fools are those who, having developed their minds with knowledge and understanding, abandon it and indulge themselves in dissipation with dame Folly. A special kind of fool is, perhaps, the most tragic of allóthe spiritual fool. He is the man who ignores knowledge about his spiritual life and refuses to prepare for his soulís eternal des- tiny. No matter how brilliant a manís intellect, or how skilled he may be in worldly affairs, if he pays no attention to the gospel of Jesus, he is a spiritual fool. Jesus told this parable to warn against being spiritually foolish:

Then the kingdom of heaven shall be compared to ten maidens who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise

took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ìBehold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.î Then all those maidens rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ìGive us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.î But the wise replied, ìPerhaps there will not be enough for us and for you; go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.î And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast; and the door was shut. Afterward the other maidens came also, saying, ìLord, lord, open to us.î But he replied, ìTruly, I say to you, I do not know you.î Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour (Matthew 25:1-13; RSV)

Children may be said to be of the acute developmental type of fool, but the Bible does not actually classify them fools. Children, in whose heart Solomon said folly abounds, are not called fools because they have not had the op- portunities of time and experience to learn right and wrong. They are simple-minded, undevel- oped, naive, gullible. They are inexperienced to the dangers of the worldótoo trusting and too careless.

The simple believeth every 14:15; KJV).

(Proverbs

. the simple pass on and are punished (Proverbs 22:3; KJV).

. the simple pass on, and suffer for it (Proverbs 27:12; ASV).

Unless children are disciplined and trained, their development becomes stagnant; and they degenerate into a state of mental barbarism, hav- ing mature bodies with primitive mindsóthe chronic developmental fool.

The simple inherit

(Proverbs 14:18; KJV).

CONCLUSION

Two paths diverge in front of each man: the path of foolishness and the path of wisdom. One leads to ruin; the other leads to happiness and joy. Which will you take?

óWalter Porter

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

The Evolution of Sin

ìCan one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?î (Proverbs 6:28; KJV). Wisdom (in its fullest sense) refers to all the ways of performing righteousness; folly refers to all of the ways of committing sin. Since adultery personifies folly, we may, therefore, generalize the dynamics of adultery to all forms of sin. Examining the process of adultery, described by Solomon, reveals an interesting pattern involv- ing what appears to be three stages.

I. THE FIRST STAGE: VULNERABILITY

For any one kind of sin, the folly process begins with a state of mindóone lacking under- standing about the sin. But a lack of understand- ing does not necessarily mean complete igno- rance about it. Often those who succumb to the sin have acquired an intellectual awareness of its forbidden nature. What is lacking is an accep- tance of, or trust in the knowledge. This lack of conviction may be the result of either a tempo- rary lapse from wisdom or it may reflect a chronic state of rejection. But whether for a foolish mo- ment or a lifetime, when wisdom is forsaken the mind becomes defenseless; and, thus, vulner- able to temptation. Dame Folly calls the simpleó those without understanding:

For at the window of my house I looked through my casement: and beheld among the simple ones, I discerned among the youths, a young man void of understanding, passing through the street near her corner; and he went the way to her house. In the twilight, in the evening, in the black and dark (Proverbs 7:6-9; KJV).

ìWhoever is simple, let him turn in here!î And to

him who is without sense she 9:16; RSV).

(Proverbs

Paul said that the Lord always provides a way of escape from temptation:

There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to

escape, that ye may be able to bear it (1 Corinthians 10:13; KJV).

A wise mind heeds warnings. But rejecting wisdom creates a mentality that fails to appreci- ate the dangers of illicit pleasure. Solomon made this plea:

And now O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. Let not your heart turn aside to her ways, do not stray into her (Proverbs 7:24, 25; RSV).

Solomon also described how those who are victimized by dame Folly often reflect back to the beginning and make confession of their re- bellious attitude:

And thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed, and say, How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof; and have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined my ear to them that instructed me! (Proverbs 5:11-13; KJV).

The final step in the first stage involves expe- riencing alluring temptations (to be found wher- ever the spirit of Satan is active) which arouse the appetites. Sin is said to be deceitful (see Hebrews 3:13) because it misleads its victims. It offers an immediate reward, like bait on a hook. Thus refusal to recognize warnings, plus height- ened arousal equals little resistance. Dame Folly (the ìstrange womanî) flatters and seduces with a variety of smooth tactics, all designed to attract and captivate.

. [wisdom will]

woman, even from the stranger which fIattereth

with her

deliver thee from the strange

(Proverbs 2:16; KJV).

For the lips of a strange woman drop as an honeycomb, and her mouth is smoother than oil

. . (Proverbs 5:3; KJV).

With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him (RSV). He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks (KJV) (Proverbs 7:21, 22).

II. THE SECOND STAGE: INDULGENCE

Thus the stage is set for committing the for- bidden deed, which, in turn, opens the curtain for act two of the morbid drama. When sin is committed, it then gives its rewardóimmediate pleasureóto reinforce the sin. Dame Folly says:

Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant (Proverbs 9:17; KJV).

Each time the particular sin is committed, resistance to temptation is lowered until the behavior becomes so habitual that the person loses his power of choice. Pleasure and appetite go together, and indulging one heightens the other. Thus the victim no longer needs to be lured or enticed because he has become caught in the grip of his own feelingsóhis cultivated appetite has become a craving which cannot be ignored. He is entrapped in a deep, narrow ìpit.î His sin is now a depraved need which has be- come so much a part of his body that, somehow, even its healthy physiochemical system is al- tered (ìpierced by an arrowî).

till an arrow pierces its entrails: as a bird rushes into a snare: he does not know that it will cost him his life (Proverbs 7:23; RSV).

The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the Lord shall fall therein (Proverbs 22:14; KJV).

For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit (Proverbs 23:27; KJV).

The behavior is now practiced, not only for the pleasure it gives, but also to escape the pain of resistance or abstinence. The most familiar modern example of this process may be seen in those who are addicted to various drugs (being such a common moral plague today). Yet addic- tion to drugs is only one of many ways a person can fall victim to dame Folly. Indeed, the Bible teaches that all habitual sin will enslave. Jesus said emphatically:

Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin (John 8:34; RSV).

And Paul said:

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. Do not yield your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but

yield yourselves to God as men who have been brought from death to life, and your members to

God as instruments of righteousness. For sin will

Do you not know

that if you yield yourselves to any one as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification. When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But then what return did you get from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:12-14, 16-23; RSV).

have no dominion over

Peter wrote a similar warning:

those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion

and despise

creatures of instinct, born to be caught and killed, reviling in matters of which they are For, uttering loud boasts of folly, they entice with licentious passions of the flesh men who have barely escaped from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption; for whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:10, 12, 18, 19; RSV).

like irrational animals,

In addition to adultery Solomon mentions the most famous addictionóalcoholism:

Struck me, have they? But Iím not hurt. Beaten me?

I donít feel anything. When shall I wake up? ask for more of it (Proverbs 23:35; JB).

Iíll

But Solomonís words suggest other addic- tions or compulsions not often considered to be such. He told, for example, of the craving that motivates those addicted to the excitement of predation. He also mentioned the habitual hot- head. He spoke of the slothful man who wants to earn a living, but, being addicted to idleness, he loses the struggle with his body.

For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence (Proverbs 4:16, 17; KJV).

A man of great wrath will pay the penalty; for if

you deliver him, you will only have to do it again

(Proverbs 19:19; RSV).

The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labor (Proverbs 21:25; KJV).

III. THE THIRD STAGE: DEGENERATION

The last stage in the folly process involves the cumulative consequences of folly on the ad- dict. Continuing with the analysis of adulteryó the general model of follyóconsider Solomonís description of its tragic climax:

in the end she [dame Folly] is bitter as wormwood, sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps take hold on Sheol (Proverbs 5:4, 5; ASV).

Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruel: lest strangers be filled with

thy wealth: and thy labours be in the house of a stranger; and thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh

(Proverbs 5:9-11;

and thy body are KJV).

A wound and dishonor shall he get; and his

reproach shall not be wiped away (Proverbs 6:33;

KJV).

Folly, being a general term for diseases of the spirit, is a degenerative process that ultimately leads to death. Speaking about dame Folly Solo- mon said:

None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life (Proverbs 2:19; KJV).

For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, all her slain are a mighty host (ASV). Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death (KJV) (Proverbs 7:26, 27).

As a process, Solomonís description of dame Folly reminds me of the pitcher plantóa car- nivorous one that feeds on insects. It attracts them by displaying a colorful appearance and secreting sweet nectar at the region of its mouth. The nectar serves two other functions: it has an anesthetizing effect, and it lubricates the area making it very slippery. There are also hair pro- jections oriented toward and down the throat making entrance easy but escape difficult. Once lured inside, the victim is drawn down by the force of gravity (accelerated by its own activity), eventually falling into a pool of digestive fluid. In another way, perhaps, we can look upon the entire process as something like a descend-

ing spiral or a vortex. The ignorant and foolish ride along the edge enjoying the pleasure, flirt- ing with its dangers. But once over the edge, the descent begins. Each time the cycle of lust-sin- pleasure is repeated, they swirl downward sink- ing deeper into the dark hole, losing control of themselves. They have flirted with folly and lost. They have forsaken wisdom and made them- selves foolsóregressive fools. Indulging in sin leads to the development of addictions, compulsions, and foolish habits. There are, of course, an enormous variety of ways in which to sin. Moreover, there are many predisposing factors and unique circumstances which can lead a person to become enslaved to a particular sin. But the basic pattern appears com- mon: ignorance (promoted by refusing to heed warnings) creates vulnerability to temptation which leads to sin. The pleasures of sin then encourage habitual indulgence, which eventu- ally develops into a compulsion that threatens the health and well-being of the individual.

CONCLUSION

It appears that this process which I call the ìfolly vortexî is the common denominator un- derlying every way to indulge in follyówhether

in mind or in body, whether in the perversion of some natural good or in the creation of some unnatural evil, whether in a neglect or in some excess (even, it seems, in gaining wisdom and performing righteousness if other important duties are neglected). (See Ecclesiastes 7:16.) Whether it concerns the way we think, reason, feel, talk; or the way we react to our bodyís needs, appetites, and impulses; or the way we deal with material possessions and peopleóin any aspect of our lifeóhabitual sin enslaves. The folly process also explains, more clearly I believe, the relationship between personal re- sponsibility and the disease components within many forms of mental illness. In the past few years some health professionals have begun to notice the addiction threat in some of the more common contemporary vices. William R. Miller, author of The Addictive Behaviours: Treatment of Alcoholism, Drug Abuse, Smoking, & Obesity, pub- lished in 1980, wrote about the growing aware-

ness of

seemingly diverse problems.î 1 More recently, Patrick Carnes published The Sexual Addiction, in

possible commonalities among these

which he makes the following statement: ìFirst, addiction taps into the most fundamental hu- man process. Whether the need is to be high, to be sexual, to eat, or even to workóthe addictive process can turn creative, life-giving energy into destructive, demoralizing compulsivity.î 2 Al- though sin can create mental disease, the chronic sinner who becomes helplessly addicted to his sin, is no more innocent than the burglar found trapped inside the chimney of a house he was trying to enter and rob. Regarding madness, Solomon said that it is an extreme form of folly:

I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness

and

(Ecclesiastes 7:25; KJV).

The beginning of the words of his mouth [the foolís] is foolishness: and the end of his talk is mischievous madness (Ecclesiastes 10:13; KJV).

It seems in this world we are never free from the potential for madness. Like the germs in and around our bodies, madness is ever ready to undermine our health. Solomon said:

Surely oppression maketh a wise man (Ecclesiastes 7:7; KJV).

the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead (Ecclesiastes 9:3; KJV).

The modern term for chronic madness is ìpsychosis,î and the most prevalent psychosis is schizophrenia. Perhaps many cases of schizo- phrenia involve the folly-vortex. For example, individuals who overindulge in careless fanta- sies may become addicted to fantasizing, thereby losing control of their thought processes. Of course, just as in physical disease, the severity of a particular compulsion on the personís life will vary, depending primarily upon the nature of the behaviour itself. Some addic- tions may be only mildly irritating bad habits, whereas others may develop into devastating addictions. Moreover, some may be obvious to all, whereas others may remain hidden. Paul mentioned this, saying:

Remember that some menís sins are obvious, and are equally obviously bringing them to judgment. The sins of other men are not apparent, but are dogging them, nevertheless, under the surface. Similarly some virtues are plain to see, while others,

though not at all conspicuous, will eventually become known (1 Timothy 5:24, 25; PME).

Treatment for those who are addicted to folly appears to differ little from that used to cure folly in children: a spirit of humility with the right mental orientation (penitence); a willingness to endure much suffering; and the establishment of good habits of living. These are the basic ingredi- ents in the Lordís prescription for everyoneís spiritual health. This message permeates the Bible. The key to cure, however, is the state of a personís will. How a person chooses to live has a certain effect on the health of his body, but it has an even more profound effect on the health of his soul. The courageous efforts of a physician (or a team of physicians) can save the life of a man whose body is in critical condition only if the body cooperates. No amount of effort in the part of another (no! not even the Lord) can save oneís soul unless his spirit chooses to cooperate. It is the nature of freedom. For example, Jeremiah said:

For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men (Lamentations 3:31-33; RSV).

Ezekiel said:

Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the Lord God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live? (Ezekiel 18:23; RSV).

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways, says the Lord God. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord God; so turn, and live (Ezekiel 18:30-32; RSV).

The Lord cannot save us without our coop- eration because He has voluntarily limited His omnipotence. He has limited Himself in order to share His divinity with us, so that we can be- come sons of God. But in order to fulfill that potential, we must use the freedom He has given us to model His holiness. Peter wrote these words of encouragement:

Therefore gird up your minds, be sober, set your hope fully upon the grace that is coming to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former

ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, ìYou shall be holy, for I am holyî (1 Peter 1:13-16; RSV).

óWalter Porter

FOOTNOTES 1 William Miller, The Addictive Behaviors: Treatment of Alcoholism, Drug Abuse, Smoking, & Obesity (New York:

Pergamon Press, 1980). 2 Patrick Carnes, The Sexual Addiction (Minneapolis:

Compucare Publications, 1983).

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

The Portrait of a Fool

ìA wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his motherî (Proverbs 15:20; KJV). When a man so utterly rejects wisdom as a youth he retains the mentality of a child. This state of mind has its root in a reversal of the desired orientation of will: one that loves what it should hate and rejects what it should receive. His emotional-motivational orientation is in the wrong direction.

I. THE CHARACTERISTICS OF A FOOL

From the first chapter of Proverbs, we find that fools blindly reject all knowledge, advice, and counsel. They hate knowledge; refuse to listen and fail to heed; spurn advice and have nothing to do with wisdomís reproof; and do not choose the fear of the Lord; have none of wisdomís counsel and despise all her reproof; turn away from wisdom and remain complacent in ignorance. Notice their resistance to learning:

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Give heed to my reproof; behold, I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded, and you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you, when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord, would have none of my counsel, and despised all

my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices. For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the

(Proverbs

complacence of fools destroys 1:22-31; RSV).

Afool despises his fatherís 15:5; KJV).

(Proverbs

Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way; and he that hateth reproof shall die (Proverbs 15:10; KJV).

He that refuseth correction despiseth his own (Proverbs 15:32; ASV).

A

fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only

in

expressing his opinion (Proverbs 18:2; RSV).

Fools hate discipline and education; instead, what they love is what they should hate.

It is as sport to a fool to do

10:23; KJV).

(Proverbs

. it is abomination to fools to depart from evil (Proverbs 13:19; KJV).

Folly is joy to him that is void of (Proverbs 15:21; ASV).

As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth

to his folly (Proverbs 26:11; KJV).

Having a backwards mental orientation, fools are incapable of acquiring knowledge and un- derstanding.

. in the heart of fools it [wisdom] is not discernable (Proverbs 14:33; LXX).

Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom, seeing he hath no heart to it (Proverbs 17:16; KJV).

Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in the gate (Proverbs 24:7; KJV).

Thus, fools lack self-control and are slaves of their primitive impulses and urges.

. a fool throws off restraint and is careless. A man

 

of quick temper acts

(Proverbs 14:16,

Solomon continued, saying:

17; RSV).

. he who rejects reproof goes astray (Proverbs 10:17; RSV).

. he that hateth reproof is brutish (Proverbs 12:1; KJV).

. he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly (Proverbs 14:29; KJV).

. every fool will be quarrelling (Proverbs 20:3; ASV).

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool

only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet

(Proverbs 29:9; RSV).

A fool gives full vent to his

29:11; RSV).

(Proverbs

Be

not quick to anger, for anger lodges in the bosom

of

fools (Ecclesiastes 7:9; RSV).

Their impulsiveness gives them immediate gratification and thereby, it deceives them.

. the folly of fools is deceiving (Proverbs 14:8; RSV).

Like children they are transparent, easily exposed as fools.

A fool shows instantly that he is

12:16; MOFFATT).

(Proverbs

.

fools proclaim their folly (Proverbs 12:23; RSV).

.

a fool flaunteth his folly (Proverbs 13:16; ASV).

.

folly is the garland of fools (Proverbs 14:24; RSV).

that which is in the inward part of fools is made known (Proverbs 14:33; RV).

.

A

fool has only to walk along the road and, having

no sense, he makes plain to all what a fool he is

(Ecclesiastes 10:3; MLB).

Their primitive minds are egocentricóinca- pable of objective judgment about right and wrong.

The way of a fool is right in his own (Proverbs 12:15; KJV).

The foolish scoff at

(Proverbs 14:9; RHM).

. the fool rageth and is confident (Proverbs 14:16; KJV).

When a manís folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord (Proverbs 19:3; RSV).

He who trusts in his own mind is a (Proverbs 28:26; RSV).

Fools lack both the will and the ability to perform concentrated labor, preferring to chase wild schemes.

. he who follows worthless pursuits has no sense (Proverbs 12:11; RSV).

. a stupid manís eyes are roving everywhere (Proverbs 17:24; NEB).

The fool folds his hands together and consumes his own flesh (Ecclesiastes 4:5; JB).

The toil of a fool wearies him, so that he does not know the way to the city (Ecclesiastes 10:15; RSV).

Having mature bodies governed by a childís mentality makes them troublesome, destructive, and dangerous.

Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands (Proverbs 14:1; KJV).

Let a man meet a she-bear robbed of her cubs, rather than a fool in his folly (Proverbs 17:12; RSV).

. a foolish man swalloweth it [precious treasure] up (Proverbs 21:20; ASV).

A stone is heavy, and sand is weighty, but a foolís

provocation is heavier than both (Proverbs 27:3;

RSV).

Their speech mirrors their nature: primitive, unrestrained, useless and/or destructive. Like a wildfire, it wanders about both generating heat and feeding upon it; and, because of the rebound effect, it is a major cause of their own grief.

. the mouth of the foolish hastens ruin (Proverbs 10:14; MLB).

. he that uttereth a slander is a fool (Proverbs 10:18; RV).

The speech of a fool is a rod for his (Proverbs 14:3; NEB).

. the mouth of fools poureth out folly (Proverbs 15:2; ASV).

. the mouths of fools feed on folly (Proverbs 15:14; RSV).

Fine speech is not becoming to a fool; still less is false speech to a prince (Proverbs 17:7; RSV).

A foolís lips bring strife, and his mouth invites a

flogging. A foolís mouth is his ruin, and his lips

are a snare to himself (Proverbs 18:6, 7; RSV).

He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it

is folly and shame unto him (Proverbs 18:13; KJV).

He who goes about gossiping reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with one who speaks foolishly (Proverbs 20:19; RSV).

Like a lame manís legs, which hang useless, is a proverb in the mouth of fools (Proverbs 26:7; RSV).

As a thorn goeth up into the hand of a drunkard,

so is a parable in the mouth of fools (Proverbs 26:9; KJV).

If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet (Proverbs 29:9; RSV).

the lips of a fool consume him. The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness, and the end of his talk is wicked madness. A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him? (Ecclesiastes 10:12-14; RSV).

II. THE COMPOSITE PICTURE

The complete picture looks something like this: Fools are those who resist developing their minds. They are proud, self-satisfied, compla- cent individuals who are just too lazy to put forth the effort to develop. They hate good ad- vice because it condemns their way of life, and in their pride they cannot endure criticism. They only abuse those who try to correct them. Their dreaded enemy is pain. They cannot bear disci- pline and the discomfort that goes along with it. Therefore, they cannot endure work or study. Knowledge is just too tiresome to achieve, and so they ignore all opportunities to learn and gain an education. Indeed, they prefer the easy way of remaining ignorant. Their primitive minds de- ceive them into thinking that they know best what is good for them; and what is good for them is immediate pleasure. Their god is pleasure, and they devote their lives to it. They live for the moment. Whatever makes them feel good, what- ever brings the most enjoyment the quickest way is what they doóbe it drug abuse, sexual license, reckless driving, vandalism, brutality, theft, senseless talk, or simply lazy idleness. They love the wild abandon of unrestrained freedom. It gives them a thrill to vandalize, deface, plunder, injure, and destroy. They perceive life to be a crazy game, and they love to laugh at it. They live impulsively, and their impulsiveness and lack of sense make them victims of circumstances. Their brutish minds cannot think. They have no intellect to direct them or to help them solve problems. And so, faced with difficulty, they become frustrated, helpless, invalid. Under stress they become agitated. If the stress is threatening, they like cattle, panic and go berserk. When provoked, they instantly show their wrath and give full vent to it; and they are easily provoked. They are ìthin-skinned,î ìtouchy,î and ìhot- temperedî as a matter of temperament. Beware of them! At the slightest provocation they are

liable to erupt into a fit, and create violence of one kind or another, depending upon whatever impulse most directs them. Being totally self- centered, their disregard for the feelings of oth- ers naturally generates friction. Thus, they are quarrelsome and often in conflict with others. They are easily recognized because they are so transparent. They expose themselves like little children. They are as obvious as a raucous, stag- gering drunk man in a saloon. They announce to all that they are dumb, immature, stupid, sense- less dolts. They broadcast the message that they are clowns and fools. They donít have sense enough to care. They cannot see far enough ahead to know the grief that they bring upon themselves. If forced to labor, they quickly be- come exhausted and confused. They require con- stant oversight and supervision, which is deeply resented. The results of their efforts are usually bungling failures. Like hogs in oneís house, they are out of place with, and unfit for, fine things. Properly cared for, goods can last for years; but at their hands, they age and wear out overnight. Like everything else about them their language is unrestrained, excessive, abusive, vulgar, and senseless. Having no intelligent knowledge, they talk of stupidity and comedy. It is unproductive and unhealthy; it is without redeeming value. Worst, it is provocative and irritating, like the constant barking of dogs. They hate anyone who speaks intelligently of knowledgeable things; not understanding, they just mock and laugh in response. Their unrestrained use of talk often gets them into trouble simply because it is so irritating and insulting.

CONCLUSION

These kinds of people may look funny on a screen; but in real life they are miserable to be around. Their lives involve a constant tumultu- ous cycle between the thrills of pleasure and the sorrows of grief. They are tragic, pathetic crea- tures both to be pitied and condemned because they are at once blind victims of their primitive nature, while at the same time, they have freely chosen to live that way; and they hurt everyone who tries to improve them. This type of compos- ite mentality appears to be such a threat to child- hood that almost the entire introduction to Prov- erbs (consisting of one-third of the book) is a plea directed toward the young, urging them to ac-

quire wisdomóthe only treatment that will ei- ther prevent or cure the malady. Solomonís words ìmy son, sons, childrenî are used to address the reader about twenty times within those first six pages of Proverbs. Solomon warned the young against indulging in a devil-may-care, happy- go-lucky life. Do not play it away in ignorance and pleasure, he said:

Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God

will bring thee into judgment (KJV). Therefore, remove anger from your heart, and put away evil from your flesh; for youth and ignorance are vanity (LAM) (Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10).

Developing oneís mind is a responsibility that is decidedly personal; and so, too, are the consequences.

If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shall bear it (Proverbs 9:12; KJV).

óWalter Porter

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

What to Do with Fools

ìAnswer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto himî (Proverbs 26:4; KJV).

INTRODUCTION

Solomon gave instructions on dealing with fools. His instructions at places seem to be a contradiction, but when they are viewed in con- text there is harmony.

I. DO NOT GO DOWN TO THEIR LEVEL

Solomon said to not go down to their level. He said to give them what they deserve, if it is within your power, otherwise simply avoid them.

a companion of fools shall be destroyed (Proverbs 13:20; KJV).

Leave the presence of a man who is a fool, for you will not discern words of knowledge there (Proverbs 14:7; MLB).

Speak not in the ears of a fool; for he will despise the wisdom of thy words (Proverbs 23:9; KJV).

Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him. Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit (Proverbs 26:4, 5; KJV).

II. DO NOT GIVE THEM RESPONSIBILITY

He also advised to neither praise them nor give them responsibility. You will only suffer for your efforts.

Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool (Proverbs 26:1; RSV).

He who sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off his own feet and drinks violence (Proverbs 26:6; RSV).

As he that bindeth a stone in a sling, so is he that giveth honour to a fool (Proverbs 26:8; KJV).

As an archer that woundeth all, so is he that hireth

a fool and he that hireth them that pass by (Proverbs 26:10; ASV).

III. DO NOT EXCUSE THEM

If you are in authority and are required to maintain order, it is your responsibility to pun- ish and control fools. This is especially true of parents, because they share in the fruits of their childrenís behavior.

A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is

a sorrow to his mother (Proverbs 10:1; RSV).

A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man

despiseth his mother (Proverbs 15:20; KJV).

Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son: but he that is

a companion of riotous men shameth his father (Proverbs 28:7; KJV).

But no matter how much fools may be pun- ished, the ultimate cure for this malady does not come from without.

Though you should pound the fool to bits with the pestle, amid the grits in a mortar, his folly would not go out of him (Proverbs 27:22; NAB).

CONCLUSION

The fool, of his own free will, must initiate an attitude change. External consequences can only offer encouraging incentives. If, and when, he reverses his mental orientation and becomes motivated to shun folly and love learning, he is no longer a fool. He can then begin the long and arduous task of mental development. óWalter Porter

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

The Portrait of the Wicked

ìHe plots mischief while in his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he spurns not evilî (Psalms 36:4; KJV). One of wisdomís benefits is that wisdom protects from the wicked man.

To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their (Proverbs 2:12-15; KJV).

The wicked are the very antithesis of the righteous. They contrast in a special way be- cause of their primary nature; the righteous ap- ply the Lordís wisdom correctly, whereas the wicked pervert and misapply it. The wicked man is a special type of regressive foolóone who uses his intelligence to create folly. King David said:

. he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He

plots mischief while in his bed; he sets himself in a way that is no good; he spurns not evil (Psalms

36:3, 4; RSV).

Jesus told of their origin. Speaking to His enemies He said:

You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your fatherís desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44; RSV).

I. A DECEITFUL MAN

Deceit is the major weapon of the wicked man, and with it he gains power; power he uses to prey upon others. John spoke of Satan as follows:

. that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole (Revelation 12:9; RSV).

Peter wrote this warning:

Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your (1 Peter 5:8, 9; RSV).

This mysterious, powerful adversary of righ- teousness, father of all the wicked is no ordinary fool. He may be very subtle, but he is not wise. Better words would be ìcunning,î ìsly,î ìcrafty,î ìshrewd,î ìwilyî; and so too are those men who imitate his waysóthe wicked of the world. But no matter how intelligent a wicked man may appear to us, in the sight of the Lord he is, indeed, a great fool.

For the ways of man are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings. His own iniquities shall take the wicked himself, and he shall be holden with the cords of his sins. He shall die without instruction: and in the greatness of his folly he shall go astray (Proverbs 5:21-23; KJV).

Remember, Solomon said:

To premeditate folly is

(Proverbs 24:9; SPRL).

It is the wicked man who premeditates folly.

. [the wicked] deviseth evil (Proverbs 6:14; ASV).

A worthless man plots

RSV).

(Proverbs 16:27;

He [a violent man] shutteth his eyes to devise

froward

(Proverbs 16:30; KJV).

. for their minds devise 24:2; RSV).

(Proverbs

Wisdom, Solomon said, is something like money; it is a resource. Knowledge and under- standing are assets. They give strength.

A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge

increaseth strength (Proverbs 24:5; KJV).

For wisdom is a defense; even as money is a (Ecclesiastes 7:12; ASV).

II. A PERVERSIVE MAN

A wicked man is one who takes this resource and uses it wrongfully. Sound wisdom cannot be used wrongfully. What the wicked man does is to take what he knows of the divine plans of the Lordís truth and he makes changes here and alterations there, producing an inferior muta- tion. His knowledge, therefore, becomes per- verted. Wisdom is somewhat like an apple. An apple is food providing nourishment and energy for the body. But an apple can rot. When it rots, we no longer call it food. The wicked manís mind is rotten, no longer worthy to be called truly wise. Because these kinds of men have freely chosen to corrupt His truth, they are an abomina- tion to God even more than a rotten apple is to us.

Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways; for the perverse man is an

abomination to the the house of the

The Lordís curse is on (Proverbs 3:31-33; RSV).

.

in whose heart is perverseness, who deviseth

evil

(Proverbs 6:14; ASV).

.

[the Lord hates] a heart that devises wicked (Proverbs 6:18; RSV).

the heart of the wicked is little worth (Proverbs 10:20; KJV).

.

Men of perverse mind are an abomination to the (Proverbs 11:20; RSV).

. a man of wicked devices will he condemn (Proverbs 12:2; KJV).

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination unto

the

(Proverbs 15:8; KJV).

The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the (Proverbs 15:9; KJV).

The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to

the

(Proverbs 15:26; KJV).

The Lord is far from the KJV).

(Proverbs 15:29;

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with evil intent (Proverbs 21:27; MLB).

The eyes of the Lord preserve knowledge, and he overthroweth the words of the transgressor (Proverbs 22:12; KJV).

Like the fool, the wicked man is a product of a defective will. By their own choice, the wicked pervert their minds away from sound wisdom to

pursue the transient pleasures of sin. Their men- tal orientation is similar to that of all foolsó backwards from what it should be. They love what they should hate, and they hate what they should love.

. [they] rejoice in doing evil and delight in the perverseness of evil (Proverbs 2:14; ASV).

For they sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall. For they eat the bread of wickedness, and drink the wine of violence (Proverbs 4:16, 17; KJV).

. he [the Lord] thwarts the craving of the wicked (Proverbs 10:3; RSV).

. the hope of the wicked is transgression (Proverbs 11:23; YLT).

The wicked desires to do LAM).

(Proverbs 12:12;

. he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him [the Lord] (Proverbs 14:2; KJV).

An evil man seeketh only rebellion (Proverbs 17:11; KJV).

The soul of the wicked desires 21:10; RSV).

(Proverbs

III. A HAUGHTY MAN

The wicked are men who have acquired some understanding and have come to appreciate the value of knowledge, but they have become puffed up with pride. Solomon said:

Be not wise in thine own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil (Proverbs 3:7; KJV).

An high look, and a proud heart, even the lamp of the wicked is sin (Proverbs 21:4; RV).

Paul said:

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up (1 Corinthians 8:1; NIV).

IV. A HYPOCRITICAL MAN

The wicked think that with the power of their knowledge they can sin with impunity. They use their major weaponódeceitóto prey upon oth- ers. Wisdom is light; it informs, it reveals what is true and right. Paul defined light in this broad sense, saying:

. whatsoever doth make manifest is light

(Ephesians 5:13; KJV).

Darkness, then, is either absence of informa- tion or misinformation. The fool gropes in dark- ness because he lacks knowledge. The wicked man lurks in darkness because he creates it; he deliberately misinforms to gain advantage. I do not know whether it is possible to deceive inani- mate matter (now that science speaks of machine intelligence), but living things are vulnerable to misinformation. The wicked misinform in order to weaken and to manipulate others (to ìsoften them upî) and in order to escape the just conse- quences of what they do. Magicians and actors also use deception (al- though they are not necessarily deceitful). But I respect them both because they admit doing so. They do so to entertain and/or to educate. The wicked are hypocrites pretending to be what they are not, in order to gain selfish advantageó to prey upon the unsuspecting. They are the vermin of human society. Beware of what they say. The messages they send out are designed to entice, to lure, to mislead. Their signals are treach- erous ones. They are the proverbial wolves in sheepís clothing. Paul warned:

. even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.

So it is not strange if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds (2 Corinthians 11:14, 15; RSV).

Solomon said:

. the mouth of the wicked conceals violence (Proverbs 10:6; MLB).

. the mouth of the wicked concealeth violence (Proverbs 10:11; JPS).

. the mouth of the wicked speaks perverse things (Proverbs 10:32; LAM).

An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his (Proverbs 11:9; RV).

. the counsels of the wicked are deceit (KJV). The

words of the wicked are a deadly (NAB) (Proverbs 12:5, 6).

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise (Proverbs 12:20; RSV).

. the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things (Proverbs 15:28; KJV).

. his [the worthless manís] speech is like a scorching fire (Proverbs 16:27; RSV).

A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into a way that is not good. He shutteth his

eyes to devise froward things; moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass (Proverbs 16:29, 30; KJV).

An evil-doer giveth heed to wicked lips; and a liar giveth ear to a mischievous tongue (Proverbs 17:4; ASV).

. and their [evil menís] lips talk of mischief (Proverbs 24:2; KJV).

. when he speaks graciously, believe him not, for

there are seven abominations in his heart; though his hatred be covered with guile, his wickedness will be exposed in the assembly (Proverbs 26:25; RSV).

They are ìtwo-facedî people who speak with a ìforked-tongue.î They utilize an underground language to communicate with their accomplices, while misleading their hapless victims.

A worthless person, a wicked man, goes about with

crooked speech. He winks with his eyes, he signals

with his feet, he makes signs with his fingers (Proverbs 6:12, 13; LAM).

He that winketh with the eye causeth (Proverbs 10:10; KJV).

V. A VIOLENT MAN

Doing violence does not always refer to a literal attack against the body of another. There are more subtle, indirect ways to ìshed blood.î There are (for want of a better expression) ìwhite- collarî ways to devour others: tactics especially popular with the better educated predators of the world, such as plundering, oppressing, and destroying peopleís lives without laying a hand upon them. Of course, in most cases it is all perfectly ìlegal,î that is, according to human law. These include ways to commit ìviolence with oneís mouth,î such as the use of obscure or ambiguous laws, fine print agreements, half- truths, innuendo, gossip, flattery, and the like. Isaiah rebuked the leaders of Israel, saying:

The Lord has taken his place to contend, he stands

to judge his people. The Lord enters into judgment

with the elders and princes of his people: ìIt is you who have devoured the vineyard, the spoil of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?î says the Lord God of hosts (Isaiah 3:13-15; RSV).

Micah said:

Woe to those who devise wickedness and work evil upon their beds! When the morning dawns, they

perform it, because it is in the power of their hand. They covet fields, and seize them; and houses, and take them away; they oppress a man and his house, a man and his inheritance (Micah 2:1, 2; RSV).

And I [the Lord] said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?óyou who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people, and their flesh from off their bones; who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces, and chop them up like meat in a kettle, like flesh in a caldron. Then they will cry to the Lord, but he will not answer them; he will hide his face from them at that time, because they have made their deeds evil (Micah 3:1-4; RSV).

To a later generation Ezekiel said:

Thus says the Lord God: Enough, O princes of Israel! Put away violence and oppression, and execute justice and righteousness; cease your evictions of my people, says the Lord God (Ezekiel 45:9; RSV).

VI. A CROOKED MAN

Life, recall, is like a journey in the night. The way of righteousness is like a pathway; and if we walk in the light of truth, our steps will not wander from it. But (like all fools) the wicked man vacillates his behavior; here obedient and lawful, there rebellious and criminal. They may live right or live wrong at any one time, depend- ing upon purely selfish goals. They feel free to walk the path of righteousness or to deviate into darkness as the situation requires. Right and wrong have no objective meaning for them; whatever benefits them personally counts. There- fore, they live crooked lives.

To deliver thee from the way to the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths (Proverbs 2:12-15; KJV).

Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men, avoid it, pass not by it, turn from it, and pass away (Proverbs 4:14, 15; KJV).

. the hands of the wicked produce sins (Proverbs 10:16; LXX).

. a wicked man acts shamefully and disgracefully (Proverbs 13:5; RSV).

The way of the guilty is RSV).

(Proverbs 21:8;

VII. A CRUEL MAN

These men of perverted mind neither know the meaning of real justice,

A

wicked man receiveth a bribe out of the bosom,

to

pervert the ways of justice (Proverbs 17:23; ASV).

but [justice done is] dismay to evildoers (Proverbs 21:15; RSV).

.

Evil men understand not justice (Proverbs 28:5; ASV).

nor do they show mercy;

. he [the wicked man] soweth discord (Proverbs 6:14; KJV).

. the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel (Proverbs 12:10; KJV).

. his neighbor finds no mercy in his [the wicked manís] eyes (Proverbs 21:10; RSV).

. the wicked man has no such concern [for the

rights of the poor] (Proverbs 29:7; NAB).

and they hate the upright.

The bloodthirsty hate the 29:10; KJV).

(Proverbs

. he whose way is straight is an abomination to the wicked (Proverbs 29:27; RSV).

CONCLUSION

The way of the wicked is an abomination to God, because they use both their minds and their bodies to bring harm and sorrow to the innocent. Solomon said:

These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that seeketh lies, and he who soweth discord among brethren (Proverbs 6:16-19; KJV).

In two of Davidís psalms, there is a good summary description of these kinds of men:

In arrogance the wicked hotly pursue the poor; let

them be caught in the schemes which they have devised. For the wicked boasts of the desires of his

heart, and the man greedy for gain curses and renounces the Lord. In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek him; all his thoughts are, ìThere is no God.î His ways prosper at all times; thy judgments are on high, out of his sight; as for

all his foes, he puffs at them. He thinks in his heart, ìI shall not be moved; throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.î His mouth is filled with cursing and deceit and oppression; under his tongue are mischief and iniquity. He sits in ambush in the villages; in hiding places he murders the innocent. His eyes stealthily watch for the hapless, he lurks in secret like a lion in his covert; he lurks that he may seize the poor, he seizes the poor when he draws him into his net. The hapless is crushed, sinks down, and falls by his might. He thinks in his heart, ìGod has forgotten, he has hidden his face, he will never see itî (Psalms 10:2-11; RSV).

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes. For he flatters himself in his own eyes that his iniquity cannot be found out and hated. The words of his mouth are mischief and deceit; he has ceased to act wisely and do good. He plots mischief while on his bed; he sets himself in a way that is not good; he spurns not evil (Psalms 36:1-4; RSV).

Until the individual gains enough insight to understand its deadly nature, there can be temp- tation to enter their paths and to walk in their ways. Observing their successes can make one envious. Solomon pleaded:

Be thou not envious against evil men; neither desire to be with them (Proverbs 24:1; KJV).

Fret not thyself because of evil-doers; neither be thou envious at the wicked. For there shall be no reward to the evil man: the lamp of the wicked shall be put out (Proverbs 24:19, 20; ASV).

One of the Psalmists describes the tempta- tion with greater detail:

Truly God is good to the upright, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had well nigh slipped. For I was envious of the arrogant, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For they have no pangs; their bodies are sound and sleek. They are not in trouble as other men are; they are not stricken like other men. Therefore pride is their necklace; violence covers them as a garment. Their eyes swell out with fatness, their hearts overflow with follies. They scoff and speak with malice; loftily they threaten oppression. They set their mouths against the heavens, and their tongue struts through the earth. Therefore the people turn and praise them, and find no fault in them. And they say, ìHow can God know? Is there knowledge in the Most High?î Behold, these are the wicked; always at ease, they increase in riches. All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence. For all the day long I have been stricken, and chastened every morning. If I had said, ìI will speak thus,î I would have been untrue to the generation of thy children. But when I thought how to understand this, it seemed to me a wearisome task, until I went

into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Truly thou dost set them in slippery places; thou dost make them fall to ruin. How they are destroyed in a moment, swept away utterly by terrors! They are like a dream when one awakes, on awaking you despise their phantoms. When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was stupid and ignorant, I was like a beast toward thee. Nevertheless I am continually with thee; thou dost hold my right hand. Thou dost guide me with thy counsel, and afterward thou wilt receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is nothing upon earth that I desire besides thee. My flesh and my heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever. For lo, those who are far from thee shall perish; thou dost put an end to those who are false to thee. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all thy works (Psalm 73; RSV).

When we are young and lacking in much wisdom, we seem especially vulnerable to join- ing in league with the more physical kind. It takes less skill, and they seem to offer such an easy way to get rich. Solomon said:

My son, if sinners entice you, do not consent. If they say. ìCome with us, let us lie in wait for blood, let us wantonly ambush the innocent; like Sheol let us swallow them alive and whole, like those who go down to the Pit; we shall find all precious goods, we shall fill our houses with spoil; throw in your lot among us, we will all have one purseî (Proverbs 1:10-14; RSV).

Solomon went on to warn those who may be tempted, to look ahead toward the future:

my son, do not walk in the way with them, hold back your foot from their paths; for their feet run to evil, and they make hast to shed blood. For in vain is a net spread in the sight of any bird; but these men lie in wait for their own blood. They set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of all who get gain by violence; it takes away the life of its possessors (Proverbs 1:15-19; RSV).

The wicked are, indeed, shortsighted fools; playing a deadly game of Russian roulette. For any one act the odds are in their favor. Thus, they usually get away with their mischief for a while. But the longer they indulge in it, and the more they play the vicious game, sooner or later the hammer finds the full chamber. Jesus issued a special warning about certain kinds of wicked men who prey upon others, while claiming to speak for God. They can be detected by the way they live and by the results of their manner of living.

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheepís clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20; RSV).

óWalter Porter

ILLUSTRATION

From Tomorrow On

A Child in the Warsaw Ghetto left this inspi-

rational thought in a poem which she called ìMotele.î

From tomorrow on,

I shall be sad

From tomorrow on! Today I shall be gay. What is the use of sadnessótell me that? óBecause these evil winds begin to blow? Why should I grieve tomorrowótoday? Tomorrow may be so good, so sunny, Tomorrow the sun may shine for us again, We will no longer need to be sad. From tomorrow on, I shall be sad From tomorrow on! Not today; no! today I will be glad.

And every day, no matter how bitter it be,

I shall say:

From tomorrow on, I shall be sad.

Not today!

©Copyright, 1984, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

The Punishment of the Wicked

ìThough hand join in hand, the wicked shall not

be unpunished:

Solomon expressed many times over the vari- ous harsh penalties to expect for those who lived wickedly. He also said their punishment is guar- anteed (see Proverbs 14:22; 24:20).

.î (Proverbs 11:21; KJV).

. certainly the evil-doer will not go free from (Proverbs 11:21; BAS).

A man shall not be established by

(Proverbs 12:3; KJV).

Like fast-growing weeds, the wicked may quickly become big and overbearingódepend- ing upon their opportunities and their cunningó but their ìsuccessesî are deceptive because they have no future (see Proverbs 10:24, 28; 11:7, 18; 15:6; 17:20).

Treasures of wickedness profit (Proverbs 10:2; KJV).

I. THE WICKED ARE REJECTED BY THE LORD

If the Lord sees any hope for a man, in His great mercy and patience He will try to correct him. But if he continually rebels, even the Lord will give up on him (see Proverbs 28:14; 29:1).

My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: for whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son

in whom he delighteth (Proverbs 3:11, 12; KJV).

When the Lordís wrath descends upon them, their end will be swift. Catastrophe will strike them from any one of a host of directionsólegal or ìillegal,î human or ìaccidentalî (see Prov- erbs 3:25; 10:25; 28:18).

. therefore calamity will come upon them

suddenly; in a moment he will be broken beyond

healing (Proverbs 6:15; RSV).

These kinds of transgressors know they are doing wrong, and they know there are many

risks. But they are incapable of either anticipat- ing or preventing what will ruin them because they walk in darkness surrounded by traps (see Proverbs 13:15, 21; 24:15, 16; 28:1).

The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble (Proverbs 4:19; KJV).

The crooked manís path is set with snares and (Proverbs 22:5; NEB).

But the wicked are eventually exposed to people and justly condemned (see Proverbs 12:8; 18:3; 24:8).

he who perverts his ways will be found out (Proverbs 10:9; RSV).

II. THE WICKED ARE PURSUED BY THE LAW

The power of law enforcement and the jus- tice system is designed to oppose and punish them (see Proverbs 17:11; 21:15).

A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them (Proverbs 20:26; KJV).

Most awesome is the curse of God that is upon the wicked (see Proverbs 10:3; 12:2; 15:29; 22:12).

The curse of the Lord is in the house of the (Proverbs 3:33; KJV).

III. THE WICKED ARE AFFLICTED BY EVIL

Indeed, having anticipated rebellion, the Lord made provision within His divine plans for deal- ing with the rebellious. Remember, Solomon said:

The Lord hath made all things for himself; yea, even the wicked for the day of evil (Proverbs 16:4; KJV).

Paul also said:

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction,

in order to make known the riches of his glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom he had called,

. (Romans 9:22-24; RSV).

In his infinite wisdom the Lord has built into the laws of nature the consequences of wicked- ness, even as the rewards of righteousness are built into the universal design plans of God. Ironically, the very behavior of the wicked ini- tiates their own punishment; it sets in motion a train of events (often imperceptible to us) that causes the evil they create to rebound upon their own heads. It may be years in coming, but the consequences are as inevitable as are the growth of crops when the farmer buries seeds beneath the surface (see Proverbs 11:3, 5, 6, 17, 19, 27; 12:13, 26; 13:6; 14:14, 32; 21:7; 22:8; 28:10; 29:6).

. these men lie in wait for their own blood, they

set an ambush for their own lives. Such are the ways of all who get gain by violence; it takes away the life of its possessors (Proverbs 1:18, 19; RSV).

By his own iniquities the wicked man will be caught, in the meshes of his own sin he will be held fast (Proverbs 5:22; NAB).

IV. THE WICKED ARE HAUNTED BY THE FUTURE

Like the Nazis of Germany, the glory of the wicked soon perishes and fades into a contemptuous memory (see Proverbs 10:29, 30; 12:7; 13:9; 14:11).

. the wicked shall be cut off from the land, and

the treacherous shall be rooted out of it (Proverbs

2:22; ASV).

. the name of the wicked shall rot (Proverbs 10:7; KJV).

. the years of the wicked will be shortened (Proverbs 10:27; KJV).

V. THE WICKED ARE CURSED BY ETERNITY

Those that do survive lose their freedom, and whatever goods they may have accumulated are given to the righteous (see Proverbs 21:12, 18).

. the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just (Proverbs 13:22; KJV).

The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous (Proverbs 14: 19; KJV).

But remember, in this vain world, there are

exceptions to everything; and a wicked man may live long and prosper (see Ecclesiastes 8:14).

In my vain life I have seen everything; there is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evil-doings (Ecclesiastes 7:15; RSV).

Yet Solomon said the days of the wicked are numbered:

Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:

but it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God (Ecclesiastes 8:12, 13; KJV).

Even though crooked men may escape their punishment here on earth, hell awaits them in the next life. Jesus uttered a curse upon these kinds of men (Matthew 23:23-33).

CONCLUSION

Many people have been deceived into thinking that since the coming of Christ, the Lord is more tolerant and forgiving toward sin. Such is not the case. Jesus often told of the greater strictness de- manded of the Christian life. For example, He said:

You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ìYou shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgmentî But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the counsel, and whoever says, ìYou fool!î shall be liable to the hell of fire (Matthew 5:21, 22; RSV).

You have heard that it was said, ìYou shall not commit adultery.î But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matthew 5:27, 28; RSV).

The letter to the Hebrews was written to contrast the old (Mosaic) and the new (Chris- tian) covenants. Its writer warned of the fate of those who reject Jesus (see Hebrews 10:26-31; 12:25). How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?

For if the message declared by angels was valid and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his own will (Hebrews 2:2-4; RSV).

óWalter Porter

2

©Copyright, 1985, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

Feelings: Self-Love

ìAnd the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyselfî (Matthew 22:39; KJV).

INTRODUCTION

Feelings are a vital part of the mind, helping to arouse the body to action. A wise man will know how and when to express them.

a time to weep,

and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain

dance;

from embracing;

hate;

a time to love, and a time to

To everything there is a season,

(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4, 8; KJV).

A wise man will also know how and when to restrain them. Self-control is a fundamental part of living wisely; and, Solomon said, without it a man is weak and defenseless.

A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls (Proverbs 25:28; RSV).

Happiness/unhappiness involves feelings of joy and pleasure, sorrow and pain, which are related to the state of the soul. Hope and fear refer to anticipated happiness/unhappiness. Pride, humility, anger, jealousy, and envy all involve forms of love and hate. The concept of love (like wisdom) has a very deep meaning. Indeed it appears that love is even greater than wisdom, for the Lord Himself is said to personify love (see 1 John 4:8, 16). It would require a whole book to even attempt to do justice to this great concept. Love involves a force that works with wisdom to manifest productive behavior. Solomon urged that we cultivate our loves and hates carefully and wisely. Loving and hating by instinct, reflex, and ìchemistryî are the ways of fools. Loving and hating with hypocrisy are the ways of the wicked. As with every kind of force, love should be restrained and directed properly; but Solomon said that prolonged restraint is undesirable:

Better is open rebuke than secret love (Proverbs 27:5; KJV).

Love of self is a desirable quality. We have worthógreat worth. The value of one human soul exceeds that of all the wealth of the world. Remember, Jesus said:

For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall the man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26; KJV).

I. THE ARROGANT SPIRIT

Excessive self-love is a vice. We call it pride and arrogance. It includes an emotional compo- nent called a haughty spirit, which generates aggressiveness, rashness, and wantonness that leads to strife and trouble. It also includes an intellectual componentóexcessive self-esteemó which is a value judgment about self-worth that reflects a false perception of oneís strengths and weaknesses. Being a false perception, it inevita- bly leads to conflicts with reality. Arrogance typically includes belittling other people, caus- ing one to behave unjustly by overstepping proper bounds and restrictions. When people discover it, they naturally resent it and oppose its unfairness (see Proverbs 3:34; 11:2; 12:9; 15:25; 16:5, 18; 17:19; 18:12; 26:12; 29:23; 30:32).

He that is of a proud heart stirreth up (Proverbs 28:25; KJV).

The scoffer appears to be a special kind of proud man. He is another type of foolóone who not only rejects knowledge, but also actively and openly opposes it (see Proverbs 1:22; 14:6; 21:24). Scoffers are especially troublesome and dan- gerous (see Proverbs 22:10; 24:9).

Scoffers set a city in

(Proverbs 29:8; ASV).

However, as in dealing with ordinary fools, unless one is in a position of authority, it is not

advisable to contend with fools (see Proverbs 9:7, 8; 13:1; 15:12). Pride is probably the most deadly vice of the mind. It appears to be a root cause of rebellion against the Lord.

A high look, and a proud heart, even the lamp of the wicked is sin (Proverbs 21:4; RV).

Pride (the ìlamp of the wickedî) leads one away from the paths of righteousness. Satanó that powerful dragon who sent an army, a bolt of lightning, and a tornado against all that Job possessedówas described by the Lord as,

. king over all the children of pride (Job 41:34; RSV).

When Paul wrote Timothy, warning him against exalting someone prematurely, he said:

. pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned (1 Timothy 3:6; JB).

II. THE HUMBLE SPIRIT

Humility involves the right kind of self- love, and it is a vital quality of the mind if one is to be wise and righteous. Humility includes an accurate self-perception, a realistic and hon- est appraisal of oneís strengths and weak- nesses, an appreciation for oneís relative in- significance in this vast universe. But humility goes beyond simple self-perception. It also includes a subdued, submissive, and gentle spirit reflecting self-control of feelingsóa qual- ity of maturity that Jesus praised, saying that kind of spirit will inherit both heaven and earth:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3; KJV).

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5; KJV).

An honest self-concept, a gentle spirit, and an attitude of submission are all qualities of humility that make for a willingness to elevate others over oneself for a higher good. A humble spirit reflects a wise mind; and, in gratitude, others will reward and honor the humble man as he becomes known (see Proverbs 16:19; 18:12; 22:4; 25:27; 27:2; 29:23; Ecclesiastes 7:8).

to the humble he [the Lord] shows favor (Proverbs 3:34; RSV).

.

with the humble is wisdom (Proverbs 11:2; RSV).

.

before honour is humility (Proverbs 15:33; KJV).

Humility does not involve timidity or cow- ardice. Jesus was certainly not timid, and Paul was not a coward. For example, Paul once wrote:

I, Paul, myself entreat you, by the meekness and gentleness of ChristóI who am humble when face to face with you, but bold to you when I am away!óI beg of you that when I am present I may not have to show boldness with such confidence as I count on showing against some who suspect us of acting in worldly fashion (2 Corinthians 10:1, 2; RSV).

There is danger in receiving more than we are prepared to receive. Remember, Paul said that knowledge puffs up; and both Solomon and Agur said that wealth brings pride. Agur added ìheady successî (see Proverbs 30:1-4, 7-9, 18, 19,

21-23).

The rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who is intelligent sees through him (Proverbs 28:11; NAB).

Agurís meaning is unclear to me, but I sug- gest the following: He is greatly humbled by his terrible ignorance; he cannot know the Lord and His Son who created all things, nor can he under- stand all of the complexity of even the simplest ordinary things. Perhaps the lesson, then, is that the facts of reality should be enough to keep each of us humble. No matter how much we may learn, we still know so little.

Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth (Proverbs 27:1; KJV).

Paul wrote in like manner to discourage us from insisting on understanding the deepest mys- teries:

Do not say in your heart, ìWho will ascend into heaven?î (that is, to bring Christ down) or ìWho will descend into the abyss?î (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead) (Romans 10:6, 7; RSV).

III. THE BROKEN SPIRIT

Humility appears to be a balance between two extremes: pride, which involves excessive

self-love, and a broken spirit, that involves a loss of self-love, which can be a tragic disease of the soul.

A manís spirit will endure sickness; but a broken

spirit who can bear? (Proverbs 18:14; RSV).

Not only can a broken spirit paralyze the mind, but it can also afflict the body.

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine; but a

broken spirit drieth the bones (Proverbs 17:22; KJV).

There appears to be only one circumstance when a broken spirit is desirable, and that is during penance following guilt, when self- mortification is necessary. After Davidís great sin, he asked the Lordís forgiveness. That prayer was recorded in one of the Psalms where he said:

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise (Psalm 51:17; RSV).

Normally, however, a broken spirit is not a healthy reaction. But like many aspects of this troubled life, it is an ever present threat, and all of the things that cause sorrow predispose us to it.

A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance; but

by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken (Proverbs 15:13; KJV).

And the loss of hope is a major contributor to a broken spirit.

Hope deferred maketh the heart sick; but when the desire cometh, it is a tree of life (Proverbs 13:12; KJV).

Remember the tragedy Solomon spoke about that broke a manís spirit?

There is a grievous evil which I have seen under

the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture; and he

is a father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand.

As he came from his motherís womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil, which he may carry away in his hand. This also is a grievous evil: just as he came, so shall he go; and what gain has he that he toiled for the wind, and spent all his days in darkness and grief,

in much vexation and sickness and resentment?

(Ecclesiastes 5:13-17; RSV).

Remember, too, that excessive punishment can break the spirit. It takes not only love and wisdom, but also courage to apply just punish- ment, because the application of punishment hurts its administrator as well as its recipient. When Paul wrote his first letter to the Corinthian church, it contained many criticisms against them. In his second letter, he revealed the sorrow he felt as he wrote that first letter:

For if I cause you pain, who is there to make me glad but the one whom I have pained? And I wrote as I did, so that when I come I might not be pained by those who should have made me rejoice, for I felt sure of all of you, that my joy would be the joy of you all. For I wrote you out of much affliction and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to cause you pain but to let you know the abundant love that I have for you (2 Corinthians 2:2-4; RSV).

Paul knew that excessive or unjust punish- ment can break the spirit, because to another church he said:

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21; RSV).

Therefore, when Paul wrote the Corinthian church later, he gave these instructions regard- ing a man that he had rebuked:

But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but in some measureónot to put it too severelyóto you all. For such a one this punishment by the majority is enough; so you should rather turn to forgive and comfort him, or he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I beg you to reaffirm your love for him (2 Corinthians 2:5-8; RSV).

IV. THE PERFECTIONIST SPIRIT

There is another threat. Perfectionism results in never-ending feelings of dissatisfaction, which can destroy self-esteem. Perhaps this is included in the meaning of these words:

Be not righteous over much, and do not make yourself overwise; why should you destroy yourself? (Ecclesiastes 7:16; RSV).

But Solomon also warned against going too far in the other direction:

Be not wicked over much, neither be a fool; why should you die before your time? (Ecclesiastes 7:17; RSV).

CONCLUSION

A wholesome self-respect and love is neces- sary for happy and righteous living. Jesus said, ìLove your neighbor as yourselfî (Matthew 22:39). He implied that a kind of self-love is proper.

We must take care that the right kind of self- love is created and developed. The wrong kind can destroy; the right kind can bring happiness and balance.

óWalter Porter

©Copyright, 1985, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

Feelings: The Anger Triplets

ìHe that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down, and without wallsî (Prov- erbs 25:28; KJV).

INTRODUCTION

Anger, jealousy, and envy are related. There- fore we will call them the anger triplets. Solomon discusses each of these triplets.

I. ANGER

Anger appears to be a type of hatred. It is an emotion of displeasure, and is a natural reaction to being offended. There is no sin in becoming angry (although uncontrolled anger, such as rage, is wrong). The Bible mentions many times the wrath of God. For example the prophet Zephaniah said:

ìTherefore wait for me,î says the Lord, ìfor the day when I arise as a witness. For my decision is to gather nations, to assemble kingdoms, to pour out upon them in indignation, all the heat of my anger:

for in the fire of my jealous wrath all the earth shall be consumedî (Zephaniah 3:8; RSV).

But whether justified or not, our anger rarely motivates constructive or creative enterprises. It typically fuels punishment and destructiveness. James said:

Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God (James 1:19, 20; RSV).

Anger can be painfully violent. Wise men will seek ways to turn it away (see Proverbs 27:4;

29:8).

The wrath of a king is as messengers of death; but a wise man will pacify it (Proverbs 16:14; KJV).

Solomon said the best defense against wrath, once aroused, is to calm it down, perhaps with a gentle word, or perhaps by providing compen- sation privately for the offense that provoked it:

A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous

words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1; KJV).

A gift in secret pacifieth anger; and a reward in the

bosom strong wrath (Proverbs 21:14; KJV).

Many times daily we experience irritations and frustrations. The wise keep control of their emotions, but there are those who indulge themselves in ventilating their wrath. They are fools, easily provoked, who carry anger to excess. It becomes an addiction. They create much trouble for themselves and for others. Those who try to correct them waste their time. Solomon also warned others against frat- ernizing with them lest they, too, succumb to the vice (see Proverbs 14:17, 29; 19:19; Ecclesi- astes 7:9).

A fool shows instantly that he is

12:16; MOFFATT).

(Proverbs

Make no friendship with a man that is given to anger; and with a wrathful man thou shalt not go; lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul (Proverbs 22:24, 25; ASV).

These men are always fomenting trouble and strife (see Proverbs 29:22).

A hot tempered man stirs up

15:18; RSV).

(Proverbs

The right use of anger takes great self- control. Understanding helps a man be slow in developing it. For example, infants and young children quickly become angry at things because they do not understand the basic laws of nature, whereas adults rarely become angry at things. Wise men also understand the basic nature of people, and it is a mark of distinction for them to overlook an offense. Patience has always been a characteristic of wisdom (see Proverbs 16:32; 19:11; Ecclesiastes 7:9).

He

that

is

slow

wrath

(Proverbs 14:29; KJV).

to

is

of

great

And Paul warned against harboring anger:

Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26; RSV).

II. JEALOUSY

Jealousy and envy appear to be compound emotions involving both anger and love. Jealousy is a desirable emotion when used to guard lawful relationships. In the Bible, the Lord is often said to be jealous of His people. Husbands are justly jealous of their wives and children when someone or something threatens the relationship. Jealousy can be the most fierce emotion. Solomon said:

Fury is fierce, and anger is overflowing; but who standeth before jealousy (Proverbs 27:4; ASV).

jealousy is cruel as the grave:

Solomon 8:6; RSV).

(Song of

When Solomon warned about adultery, he said:

He who commits adultery has no sense; he who does it destroys himself. Wounds and dishonor will he get, and his disgrace will not be wiped away. For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no

compensation nor be appeased though you multiply gifts (Proverbs 6:32-35; RSV).

III. ENVY

Envy is undesirable since it involves unjusti- fied anger and love. Solomon especially warned against envying the wicked who may appear successful and happy (see Proverbs 24:1, 19).

Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways (Proverbs 3:31; KJV).

Let not thine heart envy sinners; but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long (Proverbs 23:17; KJV).

Envy is an unhealthy state of mind that can afflict the body like a deadly disease. A wise man will keep it out of his heart.

The life of the body is a tranquil heart, but envy is a cancer in the bones (Proverbs 14:30; JB).

CONCLUSION

Let us take care that the anger triplets are not our downfall. We have been adequately warned by Solomon. The wise listen to the words of Scripture.

óWalter Porter

©Copyright, 1985, 2004 by Truth for Today ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

PREACHING FROM WISDOM LITERATURE

Feelings: Happiness and Sorrow

ìThere is nothing better for a man than that he

find enjoyment in his toilî (Ecclesiastes

should

2:24; RSV).

INTRODUCTION

Joy and pleasure, sorrow and pain are oppo- site feelings related to the state of the body and the spirit. Solomon mentioned many honorable sources of joy and pleasure. Most important is the happiness obtained through acquiring wisdom.

I. HAPPINESS AND THE EVERYDAY JOYS OF LIFE

Remember our common everyday sources of comfort. Of course they do not comprise the whole of life, but the Lord has provided them for us all to help compensate for the sorrows of existence in this world. These include: the satis- faction of our daily needs (see Ecclesiastes 3:12, 13; 5:18; 8:15; 9:7),

There is nothing better for a man than that he

should eat and

(Ecclesiastes 2:24; KJV).

our work (see Ecclesiastes 3:13, 22; 5:18),

There is nothing better for a man than that he

should

find enjoyment in his toil (Ecclesiastes

2:24; RSV).

our possessions (see Ecclesiastes 9:8),

Any man to whom God gives riches and property, and grants power to partake of them, so that he receives his lot and finds joy in the fruits of his toil, has a gift from God. For he will hardly dwell on the shortness of his life, because God lets him busy himself with the joy of his heart (Ecclesiastes 5:19, 20; NAB).

and our wives.

Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life, which he has given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun (Ecclesiastes 9:9; RSV).

Other sources of joy that Solomon mentions (which I quote under separate headings) include good words, wise children, successful achieve- ment, various other physical comfortsóindeed, all the fruits of righteousness are designed to bring us the kind of joy and happiness that the pleasure-seeking sinner cannot experience (see Ecclesiastes 2:26).

The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that is cruel troubleth his own flesh (Proverbs 11:17; KJV).

II. SORROW AND THE COMMON STRUGGLES OF LIFE

There are senseless, wasteful forms of plea- sure.

For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity (Ecclesiastes 7:6; KJV).

There are pleasures that eventually cause sorrow and lead to grief. These are the many different vices practiced by foolsóthose imme- diate pleasures which eventually add to the sor- rows of the world and bring grief to those who indulge in them. There are many sources of sorrow and pain. Indeed, this whole existence is a perpetual state of sorrow mixed with joy. Even the greatest of our pleasures are inevitably accompanied with some degree of discomfort.

Even in laughter the heart is sad, and the end of joy is grief (Proverbs 14:13; RSV).

And the more we ìexpand our conscious- nessî of reality, the more we experience sorrow. Remember these words:

For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow (Ecclesiastes 1:18; KJV).

Yet there is value in sorrow. It tends to make us more serious, and life is best taken seriously.

The wise do not let themselves forget that sor- row is a natural part of this life, and every manís earthly happiness ends in the tragedy of death.

It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart. Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better. The heart of the wis