1The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.
1The wise woman builds her house,
But the foolish tears it down with her own hands.
The contrast in this verse, indicated by the word “but”, is between wisdom and foolishness concerning a house. Wisdom builds the house, but foolishness tears it down. “Her house” is not the building in which the wise woman lives, but it indicates her family. It concerns everything that she controls.
“The wise woman builds her house” in the fear of the LORD. She looks at her house with His eyes. She desires it to meet His intention with it, which is that it reflects heaven on earth and that in her house the peace of heaven is being enjoyed. The wise woman seeks to control her family and household in such a way, that God feels at home in it, just as He does in heaven. She makes sure that there is an atmosphere of love in it, which determines the interrelationship between the housemates.
“The foolish” woman, leads her family to ruin. She is not concerned about the well-being of her family. There is no fear of the LORD present with her. What she does is so awful, that she is called “foolish”. Without any sense of responsibility she lives for her own pleasure. She pursues pleasure, while she is wasting her time with doing the things she likes. She thinks only about herself and by doing so she tears her own house down “with her own hands”.
The importance of the woman’s role in the family is emphasized throughout the whole Scripture. For a stable family not only a wise father is necessary, but also a wise mother. It is necessary to emphasize that again and again, among other things because of the folly of feminism, which assumes this role to be stupid. The woman is supposed to make a career; she should defend herself. To the feminists the wise women are foolish women. In their view the wise woman who builds her house, is building a jail. This misinterpretation comes from the devil, who always turns matters upside down.
2He who walks in his uprightness fears the LORD,
But he who is devious in his ways despises Him.
Here the contrast is between the one who fears the LORD and the one who despises Him. The life that one leads proves whether he walks with God or not. From one’s conduct, which means his whole way of life, people can determine how his relation is towards God (cf. Lk 6:43-44a43For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.44For each tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they pick grapes from a briar bush.; Mt 7:2020So then, you will know them by their fruits.; 12:3333“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit.). It regards a habit, a consistent behavior and not an incidental, temporary event.
“He who walks in his uprightness”, is doing that because he fears God. There is absolutely no uprightness possible without the presence of respect and honor to God. Water does not flow without a source. Grace in the heart is the source of an upright walk. Samuel is an example of the first line of the verse and Saul of the second (1Sam 12:3-53Here I am; bear witness against me before the LORD and His anointed. Whose ox have I taken, or whose donkey have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or from whose hand have I taken a bribe to blind my eyes with it? I will restore [it] to you.”4They said, “You have not defrauded us or oppressed us or taken anything from any man’s hand.”5He said to them, “The LORD is witness against you, and His anointed is witness this day that you have found nothing in my hand.” And they said, “[He is] witness.”; 15:2222Samuel said,
“Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices
As in obeying the voice of the LORD?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,
[And] to heed than the fat of rams.
“He who is devious in his ways”, which means is devious from the ways that he should go, shows that he does not fear God, but on the contrary despises Him. To deviate means to turn away from keeping the commandments of the LORD. It regards all of his ways, whatever he does, wherever he goes, whatever he considers and says. He determines it entirely by himself, without considering God in any way. Therefore also here it is not about an incidental event, but about a continuous behavior which shows to be despising God continually. It doesn’t matter whether he is aware of it or not. Whoever lives his life by himself, despises God Who has given him life to live for Him.
3In the mouth of the foolish is a rod for [his] back [lit of pride],
But the lips of the wise will protect them.
With “the mouth of the foolish” the words are meant, which the foolish speaks. In all his words his “pride” resounds. He thinks great about himself. In everything that he says “a rod” is hidden. The contrast with the second line of the verse clarifies that his words bounds back like a boomerang “is a rod”, for whatever the wise say or not, it is to their own safety. Therefore the rod of the words of the fool does not affect others, but himself. By what he says he brings misery on himself. The thought is that the words of a fool are the instrument by which he himself suffers (cf. Psa 64:88So they will make him stumble;
Their own tongue is against them;
All who see them will shake the head.
With “the lips of the wise” the words that they speak are also meant. In their words there is no rod hidden, which would turn against them. They let themselves be guided by their wisdom in what they say or do not say. Their wisdom is that they pray: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psa 141:33Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth;
Keep watch over the door of my lips.
). This is how they know what should proceed from the door of their lips and what should not.
If we want to have ‘lips of the wise’ which are like guards, we do well by praying this prayer regularly. Only the Lord can keep us from saying words with which we later may be confronted and about which we have to be ashamed or which would even bring us into great trouble.
4Where no oxen are, the manger is clean,
But much revenue [comes] by the strength of the ox.
If we want to be productive we should use appropriate means. Oxen are indispensable for a farmer. The wise farmer will see to it that he has a lot of oxen and that they are in good condition. The grain harvest is parallel to the work that his oxen do. A clean manger is of course convenient. If he does not buy oxen, he does not have to fill the manger with food. The stable does not get dirty either, so that he does not have to clean anything (cf. Amos 4:6a6“But I gave you also cleanness of teeth in all your cities
And lack of bread in all your places,
Yet you have not returned to Me,” declares the LORD.
). These thoughts may be attractive to the lazybones, but it is a stupid thought to those who seek results.
This verse indicates that with a small investment a great harvest can be realized. An investment in the right means or in the right tool will pay itself back doubly. Likewise the efforts made for the maintenance of those means or the tool will be found in the effect of it and ultimately in the harvest. A productive ox is therefore by far to be preferred over a clean stable.
“Much revenue” means a multiple of income from the field after it has been ploughed by the ox as a plowing animal. And what is the harvest of the efforts of the ox? Food, life. That is the reward of taking care of the oxen. To gain a good result costs time, money and effort.
This also applies to gaining spiritual food. We will not gain that without effort and spending time, and reading and purchasing Bible study books, which (sometimes) costs money. To walk by faith sometimes causes difficulties. It does not happen naturally.
The ox is a picture of someone who is engaged with spiritual work (1Cor 9:9-119For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing.” God is not concerned about oxen, is He?10Or is He speaking altogether for our sake? Yes, for our sake it was written, because the plowman ought to plow in hope, and the thresher [to thresh] in hope of sharing [the crops].11If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?). The fellow believers are to take good care of such a person. When there are no oxen in spiritual terms, it will all be desolation and infertility. In a broader application it is about using the power available, which every believer has. ‘Troublesome’ believers should not be avoided or even be removed, but they are to be taken care of. The purpose of that is that they will start to work again for the Lord by passing on the gospel or encouraging those who belong to God’s church.
5A trustworthy witness will not lie,
But a false witness utters lies.
This saying is about “a trustworthy witness” and “a false witness” (Pro 6:1919A false witness [who] utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.; 12:1717He who speaks truth tells what is right,
But a false witness, deceit.
). It deals with the age-old problem of false witnesses in the court who are delaying the determination of truth. It is not just about rendering the facts rightly or deceitfully, but about one’s character, which becomes apparent from his testimony. To be trustworthy and to lie do not belong together.
A trustworthy witness cannot be bribed and cannot be influenced by promises or threats, in order to deviate from the truth. You can take him at his word. He is clear and transparent in his testimony. This can only be said of someone who has the Divine nature. God cannot lie. It is not present in His nature and therefore neither in the new nature of the believer which he has received. There is “no lie … of the truth” (1Jn 2:2121I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.).
The opposite is the false witness; he is a real child of the father of lies and shows his character (Jn 8:4444You are of [your] father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own [nature], for he is a liar and the father of lies.; 1Kgs 21:1313Then the two worthless men came in and sat before him; and the worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth, before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.). He “utters lies”. His spiritual lungs are full of lies. What he exhales are lies. He lies with the naturalness of his breathing. You do not notice one’s breathing, it is unnoticeable. What a person breathes out, spreads unnoticed to all sides. That’s how a false witness works. But the ‘breathalyzer’ of God’s Word shows its forgery.
The Lord Jesus is called “the faithful witness” (Rev 1:55and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood—). We are called to be faithful witnesses, such as for the message of salvation. We show that both in our words and also in our deeds. Our example ought to be a testimony of Him Whom we serve (1Tim 4:1212Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but [rather] in speech, conduct, love, faith [and] purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.).
A false witness distorts the truth of the gospel (Gal 1:77which is [really] not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.). The soldiers that guarded the grave of the Lord Jesus were bribed in order to be false witnesses by telling lies about the resurrection of the Lord (Mt 28:11-1411Now while they were on their way, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened.12And when they had assembled with the elders and consulted together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers,13and said, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’14And if this should come to the governor’s ears, we will win him over and keep you out of trouble.”). There were many false witnesses like that in the trial of the Lord (Mk 14:56-5856For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent.57Some stood up and [began] to give false testimony against Him, saying,58“We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’”). In order to make Stephen to be convicted, false witnesses were also put forward (Acts 6:1313They put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law;).
6A scoffer seeks wisdom and [finds] none,
But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.
7Leave the presence of a fool,
Or you will not discern words of knowledge.
8The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,
But the foolishness of fools is deceit.
9Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is good will.
The contrast in verse 66A scoffer seeks wisdom and [finds] none,
But knowledge is easy to one who has understanding.
regards “a scoffer” and the “one who has understanding”. A “scoffer” is intellectually arrogant and therefore lacks all serious interest in wisdom. He actually wants to search for wisdom, but does that in a superficial way. The important thing for him is to impress others with his wisdom.
A scoffer who is searching for wisdom, will not find it because he is searching in the wrong place. That’s because he lacks the fear of God. He does not want, so to speak, to receive the kingdom of God as a child. He is hindering himself. He is someone who always learns to get wise, but never comes to the knowledge of truth (2Tim 3:77always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.). Therefore the wisdom that he is searching is nowhere to be found by him.
The “one with understanding” on the contrary has a relationship with God. In that way he is related to the Source of all knowledge and he can easily attain it. He does not presume anything and takes the position of a child. With the ease or receptiveness with which a child learns, he attains knowledge. He doesn’t demand any condition in advance, but submits himself to God’s lesson program to become wise.
The eunuch was a man of understanding. He read the Word of God and was taught by Philip, which was the way for him to attain knowledge about Christ (Acts 8:26-3026But an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip saying, “Get up and go south to the road that descends from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a desert [road].)27So he got up and went; and there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure; and he had come to Jerusalem to worship,28and he was returning and sitting in his chariot, and was reading the prophet Isaiah.29Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go up and join this chariot.”30Philip ran up and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and said, “Do you understand what you are reading?”). It was not a difficult task for him, but it went “easy” because he was that wise to admit that he needed Christ. The scoffer thinks that he can go his way without Christ (Rom 3:1111There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God;).
It is impossible for one to increase his knowledge when he is in the presence of a fool (verse 77Leave the presence of a fool,
Or you will not discern words of knowledge.
). The first line of the verse instructs us to leave the presence of a foolish person. The second line of the verse explains the reason why. The verse instructs men to leave the fools because they do not gain knowledge from what the fools say. We should not stay in the presence of people who, despite that they speak a lot, have nothing to say. Such people do not make us wiser. Nothing comes out of nothingness.
Paul gives Timothy the order to turn away from people who hold to a form of Godliness, although they have denied its power (2Tim 3:55holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these.). He also appeals to come out from the midst of people who mix truth and lie (2Cor 6:1717“Therefore, COME OUT FROM THEIR MIDST AND BE SEPARATE,” says the Lord. “AND DO NOT TOUCH WHAT IS UNCLEAN; And I will welcome you.). Besides that, it is a waste of time, it is also dangerous to be in a company of foolish men. We will save us many disappointments if we mind this verse.
“The wisdom of the sensible” gives him understanding how he should live (verse 88The wisdom of the sensible is to understand his way,
But the foolishness of fools is deceit.
). Due to his wisdom he organizes his life in such a way that it is good; that it is in accordance with God’s thoughts. Therefore he has to know how God thinks about everything. God’s thoughts are written in His Word. Everything is written in it that is necessary for a life in a world that is full of traps and looks like a labyrinth.
The fool looks only at the here and now. That is his folly. The materialism determines his life. That is his god of lies. He does not let himself to be guided by the principles of God’s Word, but by deception. The fool does not notice that his own folly leads him to ruin because he considers his own way to be right, while he has no idea of it. He is living in lies and deception.
To get understanding of our way is only to be gained by a relationship with the Lord Jesus and to listen to God’s Word. Christ understood His way perfectly by His relationship with the Father, by listening to Him. If we follow Him therein, we will not be people who are being tossed to and fro and up and down with the changing circumstances of life. It will also keep us from disappointments.
The fool does not take sin seriously (verse 99Fools mock at sin,
But among the upright there is good will.). He “mocks at sin”, which implies that he denies every guilty feeling of both himself and anyone else. He rejects every instruction: ‘I haven’t done anything wrong. Anyhow, it seems nothing if you compare it to what others do. There are a lot of people who are worse than I am. By the way, who determines whether something is wrong or not?’ On the contrary, the fool considers sinning to be a nice way of entertainment. He will never apologize for it, but will always justify sin or deny sin as if it is no sin.
If we deny guilt, if we deny that we have sinned, we make God a liar (1Jn 1:1010If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.). It is the picture of mocking at the substitutionary atonement of Christ, which speaks of the guilt offering. We find this in our time when many ridicule the atonement work of Christ.
Among “the upright” there is “good will” on the basis of the guilt sacrifice, which is mocked at by the fool. The upright are not innocent people, but people who have confessed their guilt and whose guilt therefore has been forgiven by God. They know the value of the sacrifice of Christ. In Him they are accepted by God in good will. In that good will the upright also accept one another and relate to one another. Everybody is of good will towards the other.
There is “bitterness” and there is “joy” which can not to be shared with another, how much understanding and compassion the other may have. Here it is about the deepest emotion a man can have, regarding emotions of bitterness and emotions of joy. Those are emotions which are only to be understood by the person who has them (cf. 1Cor 2:11a11For who among men knows the [thoughts] of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the [thoughts] of God no one knows except the Spirit of God.).
This proverb warns us about all unnatural or compelled attempts to express our empathy. We should not try to follow another person to the bottom of his emotions, for it is not possible to do that. Emotions belong to man, but the experience of it is very personal. There are limits to share the joy or sorrow of someone else.
Only to God there is no limit. He is the One “Who knows the hearts of all men” (Acts 1:2424And they prayed and said, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all men, show which one of these two You have chosen). In Christ, Who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin (Heb 4:1515For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as [we are, yet] without sin.; Isa 63:99In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old.
), He is able to share it completely. No one has been able to share the bitterness of the Lord Jesus, yet He knows the heart of each person and also its bitterness.
If we sometimes absolutely do not know how to express certain feelings, do not have words to do that, and can only groan, God’s Spirit helps us and intercedes before God what we feel (Rom 8:26-2726In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for [us] with groanings too deep for words;27and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to [the will of] God.). The text “rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:1515Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.), can only be practiced by us through the Holy Spirit Who enables us to. Heaven is heaven among others things, because in that place we all share the same joy in a perfect way.
11The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
12There is a way [which seems] right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
13Even in laughter the heart may be in pain,
And the end of joy may be grief.
In verse 1111The house of the wicked will be destroyed,
But the tent of the upright will flourish.
we find three contradictions: “house” – “tent”; “wicked” – “upright”; “be destroyed” – “flourish”. The wicked dwell in a house. That indicates a picture of sustainability, safety and comfort. The upright dwell in a tent. That indicates a picture of a house which can be blown over just like that, which offers limited safety and comfort. Appearances are deceiving here, for the house of the wicked will be destroyed, while the tent of the upright will flourish.
It is about what a house or a family characterizes. A house looks strong and permanent, yet it will be destroyed. A tent looks weak and temporary, yet it flourishes. It is not so much about the material, but about the inhabitant. A house radiates wealth, a tent radiates poverty. The house of the rich seems to survive many generations; the tent of the poor seems destined to the short existence of only one generation. But the reverse appears to be true. The reason is that the wicked do not consider God and His laws, while the upright do and in that way honor God. He will honor those who honor Him.
Verse 1212There is a way [which seems] right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.
is repeated in Proverbs 16 (Pro 16:2525There is a way [which seems] right to a man,
But its end is the way of death.), which underlines the importance of it. In the first line of the verse it is not said that the way which looks right is a wrong way, but the second line of the verse clarifies that. The picture which is used is that of a traveler who follows a right way. He seems to be on the right way, but he is on the wrong way, because it is literally a dead end. That way leads him to death.
It is remarkable that Solomon literally speaks about "ways" (plural) of death. It indicates that the way which looks right leads to numerous ways and that all those ways have one destination, which is death. It is therefore important to leave that way which seems to be right, before it is too late.
An example of a way which looks right to a person, but which ends up in death, is the way of the good works, such as the roman-catholic church teaches. Another example is doing works of the law on the assumption to receive salvation in that way. After all, keeping the law is related to life (Lev 18:55So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.). But nobody is able to keep the law. The law turns out to be a ministry of death and of judgment (2Cor 3:7,97But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading [as] it was,9For if the ministry of condemnation has glory, much more does the ministry of righteousness abound in glory.).
Paul also thought that he was on the right way when he persecuted the Christians, but it was a way to death (Acts 26:99“So then, I thought to myself that I had to do many things hostile to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.; Jn 16:22They will make you outcasts from the synagogue, but an hour is coming for everyone who kills you to think that he is offering service to God.). If Christ had not stopped him on that way, he would have ended up in eternal death. The hypocritical Pharisees and scribes in the time of the Lord Jesus were boasting in their own righteousness. They thought that they were walking on the right way, but Christ pronounced the ‘woe’ against them (Mt 23:13,15,16,23,25,27,2913“But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.15“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.16“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘Whoever swears by the temple, [that] is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple is obligated.’23“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.25“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.29“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous,).
Verse 1313Even in laughter the heart may be in pain,
And the end of joy may be grief. says that in superficial joy there may be an underlying pain sometimes. In those cases the joy may disappear once, but the pain is still there. People may laugh in the company of others, but when they are alone at home, the pain of sorrow is gnawing. One can look happy and laugh, while his heart is suffering from pain. What we see does not always reflect the underlying reality. We do not know what is going on within a person. We are being deceived when we rely on the external.
Pain, whatever its cause may be, cannot be laughed off. When there is no solution for the pain, grief will be the end to that kind of joy. The end of joy is always sorrow for the wicked. That joy is temporal and changes in an endless sorrow. The joy of those who live in fellowship with God has no end, but is complete and eternal (1Jn 1:3-43what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.4These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete.).
God is the God of hope. He can fill the believer with a joy which does not hide something, but which can go together with grief (Rom 15:1313Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.; 2Cor 6:1010as sorrowful yet always rejoicing, as poor yet making many rich, as having nothing yet possessing all things.). Pain and grief will not be found anymore when a new heaven and a new earth have been established (Rev 21:4-54and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be [any] death; there will no longer be [any] mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”5And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”).
14The backslider in heart will have his fill of his own ways,
But a good man will [be satisfied] with his.
“The backslider” is someone who first went the way of faith, but has returned to his earlier condition of unbelief. That return may be caused by the fear of suffering, but also by the vulgar pleasure which had controlled him in the past. Anyway, he is tired of the things of God, which in his sight are narrow-minded. He returns to a life in sin, like the dog that turns back to his own vomit and the pig to the wallowing in the mud (2Pet 2:2222It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to its own vomit,” and, “A sow, after washing, [returns] to wallowing in the mire.”).
The ultimate saturation of those ways will be a saturation of misery. The Israelites were backsliding in heart when they got tired of the manna and longed to go back to Egypt. Backsliding in heart arises when the confidence in God is revoked, because we do not understand His ways with us. Then we go back to do our own way, of which we think they are better. The disillusionment will be great.
The “good man” clings to God and continues to trust Him, even in bad times. Such a person will be satisfied abundantly because of the choice he made for God. God gives him a deep inner satisfaction of having made the right choice. He experiences that satisfaction again and again in everything that he does. What he does is good, because he is good, a good man. He is good, not from himself, but because he has chosen a life with God.
15The naive believes everything,
But the sensible man considers his steps.
This verse puts “the naive” and “the sensible man” opposite to each other. A naive person is someone who is not exercised to discern things, while a sensible man has the ability to discern critically. The naive is inexperienced and believes everything that others tell him. One may say that he is his friend and wants to borrow money from him, which he will surely pay back. Without any guarantee this stupid person lends him the money. He also believes the weirdest sayings, because he does not check it with the Bible. We can think of the current news which is presented to us daily. It is stupid to swallow everything that is offered to us.
The sensible man however, considers every step he takes. He walks cautiously; he probes and walks carefully, because he is aware of walking in a mine field. He is cautious because he lives in fellowship with God. Therefore he is aware how unfaithful men can be and that he cannot let them lead his life.
It is about having fellowship or not having fellowship with God. He who does not live in fellowship with God, is open for the craziest ideas. It makes him to be an easy prey of doctrines of demons and of men (cf. Rom 16:1818For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.). A lack of confidence in God makes him to trust those who are not worthy of being trusted. Unbelieving scientists are not to be fully trusted for the results of their research because they ignore the Bible. Many who reject the Bible as a book full of fables believe the greatest follies and fables.
The sensible man has learnt by training to “discern both the good and the evil” (Heb 5:1414But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.). He “examines everything” and “holds fast to which is good” (1Thes 5:2121But examine everything [carefully]; hold fast to that which is good;). He therefore examines who is behind the words by testing the spirits “whether they are from God” (1Jn 4:11Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.). We should examine and test based on God’s Word if what is said, agrees with it (Acts 17:1111Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily [to see] whether these things were so.; 1Cor 14:2929Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment.). Then we shall watch our steps and know on which way we should step.
16A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless.
17A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of evil devices is hated.
“A wise man” is cautious and not reckless (verse 1616A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil,
But a fool is arrogant and careless.
). The first line of the verse says a wise man fears because he sees the danger around him and also acknowledges his own weakness. Therefore he “turns away from evil”. The wise person is cautious because he fears about the consequences of obstinate deeds.
Opposite to the wise man is the reckless, self-assured, arrogant and careless fool. He lets himself be carried away, has no control and has plenty of fun. The fool is arrogant and trusts in himself, while he of all men should be most cautious. He trusts in his own feeling and a wisdom he pretends to have. Such a person was Sennacherib, the boasting king of Assyria (2Kgs 19:28-3728‘Because of you aging against Me, And because you aogance has come up to My eas, Theefoe I will put My hook in you nose, And My bidle in you lips, And I will tun you back by the way which you came.29‘Then this shall be the sign fo you: you will eat this yea what gows of itself, in the second yea what spings fom the same, and in the thid yea sow, eap, plant vineyads, and eat thei fuit.30The suviving emnant of the house of Judah will again take oot downwad and bea fuit upwad.31Fo out of Jeusalem will go foth a emnant, and out of Mount Zion suvivos. The zeal of the LORD will pefom this.32‘Theefoe thus says the LORD concening the king of Assyia, “He will not come to this city o shoot an aow thee; and he will not come befoe it with a shield o thow up a siege amp against it.33By the way that he came, by the same he will etun, and he shall not come to this city,”‘ declaes the LORD.34‘Fo I will defend this city to save it fo My own sake and fo My sevant David’s sake.’”35Then it happened that night that the angel of the LORD went out and stuck 185,000 in the camp of the Assyians; and when men ose ealy in the moning, behold, all of them wee dead.36So Sennacheib king of Assyia depated and etuned [home], and lived at Nineveh.37It came about as he was woshiping in the house of Nisoch his god, that Adammelech and Shaeze killed him with the swod; and they escaped into the land of Aaat. And Esahaddon his son became king in his place.). He imagined himself to be perfectly safe, inviolable for any enemy whosoever. The LORD was nothing more than a national idol to him, like all nations have their own idols. He deceived himself by that.
In verse 1717A quick-tempered man acts foolishly,
And a man of evil devices is hated. two characteristics are mentioned which are unpleasant to others. It is about two persons. The one is quick-tempered or hot-headed; it is someone with a short fuse. The other one is crafty. The first makes himself known directly, the latter works secretly; he avoids everything that could reveal his true plans.
The Scripture warns us not to be quick-tempered, but on the contrary, to be slow to anger (Tit 1:77For the overseer must be above reproach as God’s steward, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, not fond of sordid gain,; Jam 1:1919[This] you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak [and] slow to anger;). Quick-temperedness is the opposite of self-control which everyone needs, for nobody has a ‘fuse’ of an unlimited size. The hot-headed person acts foolishly at the least difficulty he has to face by pulling his hair out and by ranting and raving. We are not to, when we face difficulties, loose our patience, but to learn to persevere in evil times.
The “man of evil devices” may be the counterpart of the quick-tempered person. He is crafty in his intentions. His victim does not see quickly that he is being wronged. When he realizes that he has become victim, it is too late which results in hating that crafty person.
18The naive inherit foolishness,
But the sensible are crowned with knowledge.
“The naive” do not have to do anything for being foolish. That is something they are born with; they inherit it from their parents. It is a reference to the original sin, the sinful nature which everyone is born with from sinful parents, who in their turn pass it on to the children who are born of them.
But we have nothing to do with a fate. The presence of the original sin does not have to mean that one remains foolish. A person who has converted and believes in Christ and His work, gets a new nature, the new, eternal life. Then he becomes a sensible person and is crowned “with knowledge”.
He who was a fool in the past, knows God now. Through the knowledge of Him he has been granted “everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2Pet 1:33seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.). The knowledge of God enables him to live as a sensible man. He knows how to see all things in life, which means to see things like God sees them.
19The evil will bow down before the good,
And the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
Finally – for now it is still not so, generally speaking – “the evil will bow down before the good”, which are those who do good. “The wicked”, who chased the righteous away at their gates, will come to “the gates of the righteous” to ask them for a favor. The picture that is used here is that of a defeated nation that bows down before its conquerors, while awaiting their commands.
The brothers of Joseph bowed down before him (Gen 42:66Now Joseph was the ruler over the land; he was the one who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down to him with [their] faces to the ground.; 43:26,2826When Joseph came home, they brought into the house to him the present which was in their hand and bowed to the ground before him.28They said, “Your servant our father is well; he is still alive.” They bowed down in homage.). Although this proverb refers in the first place to triumphs in this life (e.g. Acts 16:3939and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city.), we can also think of the certain fulfillment of this proverb in the future (Phil 2:1010so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth,; Rev 3:99Behold, I will cause [those] of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and [make them] know that I have loved you.).
20The poor is hated even by his neighbor,
But those who love the rich are many.
21He who despises his neighbor sins,
But happy is he who is gracious to the poor.
It seems that verse 2020The poor is hated even by his neighbor,
But those who love the rich are many.
deals with a person who has become poor. Besides the loss of money and possessions, the poor also loses his friend. That friend was one of the kind who only has friendships for the advantage it can deliver. When the advantage disappears, then also the friendship disappears. Friendship changes in hatred or disregard.
The truth of it is to be observed every day. Everywhere we see that possessions determine how popular one is. People are often ashamed of poor family members because of their poor clothing, their poorly decorated house or their low education.
But “those who love the rich are many” or, as it also can be translated, “the friends of the rich are many”. Friendship based on wealth is not real friendship. It is all about to get something from the wealth of the other person. He who is wise will not let himself be led by that motive. The rich seem to be the favorite of heaven, but that is a lie.
A friend is someone of whom you trust that he always loves you, under all circumstances. Friendship should be about the person, not about what he possesses.
Verse 2121He who despises his neighbor sins,
But happy is he who is gracious to the poor. corresponds to verse 2020The poor is hated even by his neighbor,
But those who love the rich are many.
. We should not despise our neighbor, even if he is poor. What despising your neighbor means, is to sin against him and against God. One cannot sin against a neighbor and enjoy God’s blessings. To despise means to treat with disregard, to throw away as something worthless. James warns us about that (Jam 2:1-91My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with [an attitude of] personal favoritism.2For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes,3and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,”4have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?5Listen, my beloved brethren: did not God choose the poor of this world [to be] rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?6But you have dishonored the poor man. Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court?7Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?8If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.9But if you show partiality, you are committing sin [and] are convicted by the law as transgressors.; Job 36:55“Behold, God is mighty but does not despise [any];
[He is] mighty in strength of understanding.
). To love God and to love your neighbor are inseparably related to each other (Mt 22:37-4037And He said to him, “ ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’38This is the great and foremost commandment.39The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’40On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”).
In the second line of the verse the neighbor is presumed to be poor, or in any case to be needy. The opposite of hating your neighbor is to be gracious to him. He who does that is called “blessed”. He will be rewarded by God for that (Psa 41:2-32The LORD will protect him and keep him alive,
And he shall be called blessed upon the earth;
And do not give him over to the desire of his enemies.
3The LORD will sustain him upon his sickbed;
In his illness, You restore him to health.
3Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel,
From everlasting to everlasting.
Amen and Amen.). Regarding that the Lord Jesus says as follows: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Mt 5:77“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.).
22Will they not go astray who devise evil?
But kindness and truth [will be to] those who devise good.
The contrast is between “devise evil” and “devise good”. The result of the first is wandering and of the second is showing kindness or love and truth. “Those who devise evil”, are consciously devising something evil. Those who do so, are doing wrong and are on the wrong way. They are wandering without any doubt. God does not invent the evil and He neither devises it. He wants to do good to man and He wants men to do good to one another.
Those “who devise good”, those who so to speak ‘devise’ good plans, show in their actions that they are guided by “kindness and truth”. Both of these characteristics are features of the Lord Jesus and God. But they are also expressed in those who are related with Them (Isa 32:88But the noble man devises noble plans;
And by noble plans he stands.
When the Lord Jesus was on earth, the religious leaders did nothing but devising evil against Him. They were always seeking to catch Him in a word. How did they wander. The Lord says to the sadducees who had a trick question for Him: “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?” (Mk 12:2424Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?).
23In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk [leads] only to poverty.
24The crown of the wise is their riches,
[But] the folly of fools is foolishness.
In order to make an advantage or profit from something we have to work hard (verse 2323In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk [leads] only to poverty.
). Meaningless talk, chitchat, delivers only poverty. “Labor” or hard work means that effort must be delivered. But it will profit, even more than you need. There is so much “profit”, that you can do good to others.
What we apply to daily activities, we can also apply spiritually. In order to learn to know God’s Word we will have to labor. The profit will be more than enough for our spiritual growth. We not only profit from it ourselves, but we can also serve others with it.
People should be more afraid of mere talk than of hard work. By endless meetings and continuous talking we can hardly work out something. The final result is “poverty”, because there is only a lot of talk without knowing practice. There may be some investments, but the money simply disappears into a bottomless pit and only debts remain.
We can apply some (Dutch) proverbs to the second line of the verse. The first is ‘empty vessels make the most noise’, which means that those with the least knowledge, speak out their opinion the loudest. The second one is: ‘actions speak louder than words’, which means that we cannot just talk and do nothing; we have to show deeds.
“Riches” is a “crown” for those who use wisdom properly (verse 2424The crown of the wise is their riches,
[But] the folly of fools is foolishness.). It adorns the wise who is rich, whom due to his wisdom, uses it to do good to others. In that way they are followers of God, Whom with His riches also does only good. He lavishes on those who are His, according to the riches of His grace, out of His wisdom and insight (Eph 1:7-87In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace8which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight).
The second line of the verse seems to say that fools have only their foolishness. When a fool is rich, it doesn’t make him a better person. The way he spends his riches shows that his foolishness is incorrigible. Riches of the wise increases their appearance, while fools will always remain fools, even if they are rich. A swine remains a swine even if he has a nose ring.
25A truthful witness saves lives,
But he who utters lies is treacherous.
“A truthful witness” tells the truth and therefore saves the life of someone who on the ground of a false accusation would be killed. The opposite is the “treacherous”, the one who “utters lies”. He deceives judges and causes ruin. He is not an occasional deceiver, but the personification of deceit. That’s because he is a descendant of the father of lies, the devil, whose nature he reveals.
A truthful witness is someone who brings the gospel. He testifies of the truth of his own salvation. Whoever hears his testimony and follows his advice to turn to the Savior also, gets saved through him, as it were. He casts unto him the lifesaver ring in the gospel. He is not the lifesaver ring itself, but casts it unto him. The Lord Jesus is in the fullest sense of the word the faithful and truthful Witness and therefore the Savior of lives.
26In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And his children will have refuge.
27The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
That one may avoid the snares of death.
In these two verses the righteous are encouraged by pointing out to them two special characteristics of the fear of the LORD. The first characteristic is that those who fear the LORD, who have the reverence for Him, go their way in “strong confidence” in Him (verse 2626In the fear of the LORD there is strong confidence,
And his children will have refuge.
). It is about ‘children of the fear of the LORD’, not about children of the LORD. The respectful fear of the LORD is a certain protection against the dangers that threaten on all sides.
The picture is of a fortress to which the righteous flee and are safe there. It is also the picture of a father who protects his children against powers that are stronger than the child, but not stronger than the father. God is a refuge and strength, a help in trouble (Psa 46:11For the choir director. [A Psalm] of the sons of Korah, set to Alamoth. A Song.
God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
). In ourselves we have no power, but in Him is all the power we need. Those who are His take their refuge in Him for protection against the enemy.
The fear of the LORD not only offers protection. The second characteristic is that respectful fear for the LORD brings life (verse 2727The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life,
That one may avoid the snares of death.). This life is life in its full and endless duration, for death cannot come near it. God is the Source of all life. He who by faith has a connection with Him, lives in a living relationship with Him. Beside Him there is no life. Fellowship with Him is life. In that way the temptations which lead to death, are recognized and avoided.
Both characteristics are necessary in a world that seeks to do us evil and in which we want to live to the honor of God. Here we see prevention from the two aspects of the evil: violence and temptation. The devil attacks us with violence or he wants to tempt us with his guiles. This is according to his two appearances. He comes to us “as a roaring lion” (1Pet 5:88Be of sober [spirit], be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.) or “as an angel of light” (2Cor 11:1414No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.).
28In a multitude of people is a king’s glory,
But in the dearth of people is a prince’s ruin.
The power of a king depends on the number of subordinates of his kingdom. This statement is generally true for kingdoms. From a human point of view political power is based on the number of people that are members of the party. In the first line of the verse it is not about power or influence, but about “a king’s glory”. This assumes a king who reigns as a blessing to his subordinates. His people are numerous because every subordinate likes to belong to that king.
We see that perfectly expressed in the kingdom of peace. Then the Lord Jesus will be publicly King of Israel. He will reign as the true Solomon over His people and all nations. From Him blessing will flow to all over whom He reigns.
The title and high position of a king become worthless when he has no or just a few subordinates. Then he has no say or power or control at all. No one regards him. If he loses his people, he is ruined.
Satan, and the antichrist in his wake, is the great loser. He will have no people and no followers anymore at all in the kingdom of peace. That also applies to the antichrist who will deceive many and will be accepted by the Israelites as their king. Satan will be totally alone in his captivity, without any power to exert over anyone whatsoever. Also in eternity he will be alone, like everyone in hell will also be alone, however high his position, power and influence were on earth. At the coming of the Lord Jesus to judge, the antichrist will directly be thrown into hell, together with the beast, the dictator of Europe (Rev 19:2020And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone.).
29He who is slow to anger has great understanding,
But he who is quick-tempered exalts folly.
“He who is slow to anger”, proves that he has “great understanding” of the circumstances of life and the future. Otherwise one cannot be slow to anger. He realizes that the things on earth are not yet the way they should be, like God wants them to be. That time will surely come, but now it is not time yet to implement changes, with force if necessary. The righteous sees and undergoes much suffering. He has much understanding in the cause of it, which is owed to man who has deviated from God and lives in rebellion against Him.
James calls us to be patient in tolerating injustice (Jam 5:7-117Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains.8You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.9Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door.10As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.11We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and [is] merciful.). He uses the word patience in those few verses no less than four times. Thereby he speaks about the coming of the Lord and about perseverance which was also so typical for the prophets. He who is patient or slow to anger has much understanding in the coming of the Lord. He is looking forward to it and waits patiently and persistently for it.
The opposite is “quick-tempered”. Such a person does not think about the future. He wants to live here and now and directly have pleasure. As soon as he comes across someone who hinders him or tries to make it impossible for him therein, he explodes. He “exalts folly” to the true standard of life. Of course, as he thinks, you are allowed to explode when your happiness is being interrupted.
To be slow to anger is something from God and from those who belong to Him. Patience is a feature of the work of the Holy Spirit and a part of His fruit (Gal 5:2222But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,). God is also slow to anger, which we see in postponing His wrath (2Pet 3:99The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.).
30A tranquil heart is life to the body,
But passion is rottenness to the bones.
A tranquil heart is a heart in which lusts do not reign, but in which Christ reigns. Peter says to us: “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts” (1Pet 3:1515but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always [being] ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;). If Christ has the place of Lord in our hearts, it means that we have given Him the control over our lives in His hands. That has a tranquilizing effect on the body. He who lives with Christ, does not do things that bring the well-being of his body in danger.
That must not cause us to draw the conclusion that he who is ill has not given Christ the authority over his life. If we do that, we will look like Job’s friends who considered Job’s illness to be an evident of hidden sins. Here it is about what is generally true, without saying that it is always true.
Indeed it is always true that “passion” or envy is “rottenness to the bones”. To be envious of the neighbor’s prosperity, of the other one’s happiness, eats up the power from the bones (cf. Psa 112:1010The wicked will see it and be vexed,
He will gnash his teeth and melt away;
The desire of the wicked will perish.). It is the original sin of satan and of man. It has brought man in the greatest misery, out of which he cannot possibly liberate himself. The bones, which ought to give stability to his walk, lack the power. Nothing in his life is to the honor of God.
It begins with ungratefulness or dissatisfaction, the displeasure about one’s own possessions or the own qualities. Then an unhealthy attention arises to the possession or the qualities of others, with the desire to possess those. The result is that the stability of his existence in a grateful attitude towards the Lord is totally affected. His existence is determined by what others have.
31He who oppresses the poor taunts his Maker,
But he who is gracious to the needy honors Him.
The way a person treats the poor, shows whether he considers the Creator or not. He who “oppresses the poor”, shows despise to the Maker of the poor Who has also made the oppressor. Like the oppressor the poor has been made after the picture of God (cf. Job 31:1515“Did not He who made me in the womb make him,
And the same one fashion us in the womb?
; Pro 22:22The rich and the poor have a common bond,
The LORD is the maker of them all.). He who oppresses a poor man is saying that God should not have made him and therefore slanders God’s work.
In the world in which we live, the rich reign over the poor. Money means power, influence and status, according to the world’s view. One’s value, however, does not depend on his social status or his bank account, but on the fact that he has been made by God.
The opposite of him who oppresses the poor, is “he who is gracious to the needy”. He does not slander the Creator, but “honors Him”. To show grace, proves that one is righteous (Psa 37:2121The wicked borrows and does not pay back,
But the righteous is gracious and gives.
). He does not do that only once in a while, but “all day long he is gracious and lends” (Psa 37:2626All day long he is gracious and lends,
And his descendants are a blessing.
). God is being honored wherever He sees one of His features in His own. Here it is about being gracious. God is the God Who is gracious and merciful (Rom 9:1616So then it [does] not [depend] on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.; Exo 2:2525God saw the sons of Israel, and God took notice [of them].). He has also been gracious to us, poor ones, in Christ.
32The wicked is thrust down by his wrongdoing,
But the righteous has a refuge when he dies.
This verse shows the difference between “the wicked” and “the righteous” when they leave the world. In life the wicked may seem powerful and successful. But when the time comes for him to leave the world he is “thrust down”. He holds on to this life with his hands and feet and does not want to let it go, but is forced to. There is nothing that can hinder this moment. He has loved sin and dies in it. His own wrongdoing brings this judgment over him and follows him in the judgment. He takes it with him to the other world, the world of pain and remorse, which he can never leave.
How totally different does the righteous leave the world. He may suffer and die, but he has a refuge, even in death. We see a beautiful example of that when Stephen dies (Acts 7:5959They went on stoning Stephen as he called on [the Lord] and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”). Those who trust in the Lord and obey Him, are safe, whatever disaster may strike them.
Therefore it can be said of those who die in the great tribulation for the sake of the Name of the Lord: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord, from now on” (Rev 14:1313And I heard a voice from heaven, saying, “Write, ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “so that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.”). They will rise, like Stephen, to reign together with the Lord Jesus in the kingdom of peace. Then they will be rewarded for the works of faith which they have done, of which God will not forget any.
33Wisdom rests in the heart of one who has understanding,
But in the hearts of fools it is made known.
“The one who has understanding” does not display his wisdom. He will not boast in it. “Wisdom rests in the heart” and guides his life in words and deeds. The heart is the place of choices. Without God only sins come forth. If Christ, the wisdom of God, dwells in the heart, the wise knows what he should and should not say and do. He will consider whether something is to God’s glory or not.
“Fools” actually do display their wisdom, which means what they consider to be wisdom. From their “heart” comes no wisdom, for it is not to be found there because nothing reminds them of God. In their heart lives folly, which they make known, they speak of it all around them. Fools love to be considered wise and to be treated as wise. They blabber what they think to be wisdom, but it appears to be folly.
34Righteousness exalts a nation,
But sin is a disgrace to [any] people.
The prosperity and the power of the nation depend on its “righteousness”. The verb “exalt” means that the state of the people in that country is exalted. They get a high place. This promise is given by God to His people if they “would keep all His commandments”, for then He will give them a place “high above all nations which He has made, for praise, name and honor” (Deu 26:18-1918The LORD has today declared you to be His people, a treasured possession, as He promised you, and that you should keep all His commandments;19and that He will set you high above all nations which He has made, for praise, fame, and honor; and that you shall be a consecrated people to the LORD your God, as He has spoken.”).
But the principle applies to all nations. Every nation of which each member gives his compatriot and the stranger who lives with him, what he is entitled to, will receive honor. This is only to be practiced when a nation submits to God and His will. To do right to other people is only possible when above all justice is done to God, which means that He is being recognized in His sovereign rights.
The opposite of a nation that does righteousness, are the nations that give room to sin and do not exert righteousness over it by judging it. An example of it is that in an increasing number of countries, of which the Netherlands are at the fore front, homosexual relationships are not considered a sin, but is defended as an acceptable form of cohabitation. This sin contradicts God’s creation order completely and is “a disgrace” to all nations where homosexual relationships are allowed.
Of course the nations, where this sin or other immoralities are being tolerated or even being stimulated, will not see it as a disgrace. They would, on the contrary, see it as a victory over the, in their sight, ‘narrow minded’ Christian faith. Freedom of speech: to say everything you like to, and freedom of attitude, is the greatest good. They strongly distance themselves from God and His Word.
But God remains God and His Word remains true, even if the governments of the countries of the European Union in particular, are frantically trying to eliminate Him and His Word from the society, or anyway to silence Him. All those nations will see to their dismay on the day of Christ how much they have lived in rebellion against God.
35The king’s favor is toward a servant who acts wisely,
But his anger is toward him who acts shamefully.
The king knows one who serves him with devotion and skill. “A servant who acts wisely” will always seek the well-being of the king and his kingdom. The most important thing to the king, however, will not be an increase of his possessions or influence, but the inner satisfaction that one serves him faithfully. That is the “king’s favor”, it is a joy to his heart. A wise servant is a pleasure to him. Joseph and Daniel are examples of wise servants in whom the king they served, found pleasure.
The opposite of that is the unable servant, the shirker. He deals with the king’s matters as an incompetent, as one who does not care about anything. He has no awareness of responsibility towards the king and is not impressed by his majesty. He operates recklessly and in that way his king is exposed to shame and criticism.
This proverb contains a warning to serve the king faithfully and rightly and not to provoke him to anger. In a spiritual sense this also applies to us. The Lord Jesus will reward His servants, who have served Him faithfully and wisely. But His anger will strike all who have added their own interpretations to His orders (Lk 19:11-2711While they were listening to these things, Jesus went on to tell a parable, because He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately.12So He said, “A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and [then] return.13And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas and said to them, ‘Do business [with this] until I come [back].’14But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’15When he returned, after receiving the kingdom, he ordered that these slaves, to whom he had given the money, be called to him so that he might know what business they had done.16The first appeared, saying, ‘Master, your mina has made ten minas more.’17And he said to him, ‘Well done, good slave, because you have been faithful in a very little thing, you are to be in authority over ten cities.’18The second came, saying, ‘Your mina, master, has made five minas.’19And he said to him also, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’20Another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I kept put away in a handkerchief;21for I was afraid of you, because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow.’22He *said to him, ‘By your own words I will judge you, you worthless slave. Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?23Then why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest?’24Then he said to the bystanders, ‘Take the mina away from him and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’25And they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas [already].’26I tell you that to everyone who has, more shall be given, but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.27But these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence.”).
In a literal sense this proverb applies to every government. Each government has been appointed by God (Rom 13:11Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.). The government has received the power from God to reward and punish (Rom 13:3-43For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same;4for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.).